Thursday, 21 July 2016

BLW cookies

A few months ago I came across a really simple recipe for banana-oat cookies using just those ingredients, mashed together and shaped onto a baking sheet. I made a batch, my boys liked them, but I didn't. I found them a little tasteless, but I loved the idea behind them. No measuring (yay), no sugar or wheat flour (double yay), my 5 year old finally eating oats (triple... I'll stop now). These have lots of fibre and you can add any fruit, nuts or seeds as you like.

Delicious with a glass of kefir.
So now that my baby is eating pretty much everything we eat, I thought I'd revisit them with a few additions to make them good for me as well as her.

Into a large bowl I put a banana, some pre-soaked mango pieces (I originally soaked them to remove the sulphur dioxide preservative which is not a healthy thing to eat), cinnamon, a little vanilla extract (not vanilla essence) and a pinch of Maldon salt. I added some jumbo organic oats and smushed it all together with my bare hands (kids would love this but I wasn't in the mood for the mess).

My mixture was too wet so I added more oats and when it was at the sticking-together-but-not-wet stage I shaped it into balls and flattened them onto a hastily greased baking sheet. Halfway through shaping them I remembered I'd wanted to add sultanas, so I did, mixing a handful into the last of the dough.

About 20 minutes in my oven (at 180'C? the thermostat headed for the hills a long time ago) and they were golden, crispy around the edges and kind of soft in the middle. Baby liked them, the boys did too, and I ate my own and all the leftovers.

These would be a great snack on the go, and should keep for a few days in an airtight container. You could even make a double batch and freeze half in a large sausage shape, wrapped in greaseproof paper, then all you need to do at a later time is defrost, cut into slices and bake.

The rest of the soaked mango was turned into muffins, I'll share that in a separate post. For now, get yourself some bananas, some oats and get smushing!

Nee x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Low maintenance grooming

I'm all for low maintenance these days. My kids can be grubby, my house can be messy, but I try to get myself groomed every day before I leave the house, and I usually succeed.

I'm going to take you through my low maintenance grooming routine so you too can be inspired to look presentable every day if you so wish. I find this has a knock-on effect and helps me feel good too.

I cut my hair myself and I don't colour it, I'm still growing out the bleach from 2 years ago after my "pink phase". Though everyone asks did I get balayage and says it suits me, so I may keep bleaching the lower parts. I have slightly wavy hair, and I hate styling it. I look weird with it up, or half up, so I just leave it down, a bit of dry shampoo and the odd scrunch with wet hands keeps it looking ok. Totally low maintenance. About once a week I shampoo and condition it and let it dry naturally and that's it. No products, no nothing. No brushing either. The dirtier it gets, the better it looks, that's a fact!

I was thinking about this earlier. In my pre-baby days I used to paint my fingernails most mornings, to match my outfit. Now I paint my toenails a deep coral and it does me most of the summer, I just add more when it gets chipped. (OPI brand, it's really hard-wearing on my toenails). My fingernails are a different story. There is no point me painting them these days, it never lasts even 24 hours without chipping plus I don't have the time to be removing and repainting it. I've also been reading about the dangerous chemicals in nail polish, so I think minimising my exposure to it is only a good thing too. Carrie from Sex and the City never had hers painted anyway...

Luckily I'm fair, so a lower leg shave does me a couple of weeks. Underarms too, that's all I do. I don't get near enough to a beach to warrant a bikini, and if I did I'd not do any hair removal, I have some vintage bikini bottoms which are modest enough not to need it, if you get my drift.

I don't wear any, haven't in years. Kind of like going "no poo" with your hair (google it) I don't seem to need deodorant much these days, plus I eat a better diet, which has something to do with it too.

Em... I wash off yesterday's makeup each morning with a little oil on a cotton pad, does that count? Then a small amount of organic face cream or face oil before my makeup is reapplied. I use a little body oil on my legs after shaving, and to keep my feet soft, but don't use body lotion as again the ingredients are not optimal for health. As I'm not soaping myself all over in the shower, I'm not washing off my body's natural oils so lotion isn't needed.

The baby was playing with my foundation recently and I haven't seen it in over a week, so I've gotten used to a bare face with a little concealer around the eyes, eye makeup (brown liner, dark grey mascara and brown brow pencil), lipstick and blush/bronzer. I have a bit of a tan and love wearing less in the summer anyway. If I am dressing up a bit more I'll wear some darker eyeliner, another coat of mascara and redder lipstick. My whole makeup routine takes less than 5 minutes and I'm used to doing it with baby in one arm.

Don't wear any, sometimes a dab of lavender essential oil. Normal perfumes and perfumed products disrupt your hormones, so I'm happy to do without. Especially while breastfeeding, I think it's important the baby gets to smell me, not my products.

I'm paring back my wardrobe as I lose the baby weight, so the clothes that got me through the last year are going back to the charity shops from whence they came. What I'm aiming to be left with is a capsule wardrobe which works year-round. It's going well and I'll blog separately about it.

That's it, I'm probably the lowest maintenance I've ever been except for my year in Oz where I eschewed razors and wore Thai fisherman pants with bare feet, thems were the days pals.

Nee x

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Travelling with children: Aran Islands / Doolin*

Just off the boat from Inis Oirr and I'm laughing at having to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame to keep baby's head from lolling back as she slept - lost the hood of the sling.
Last week we had a wonderful few days away as a family of 5. First we went to a friend's beach wedding on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It's a Gaeltacht area so we got to practise our Irish there with the locals and our friends. We'd been speaking Irish with the kids for the last few months in preparation for this, and they were able to feel part of conversations.

We stayed for the first time in a hostel, a lovely family room in the Bru Radharc na Mara. There was a double bed, a single bed and two single bunks in our ensuite room, which was more than adequate for us. It was right next to Tigh Ned where the wedding reception was held, really handy for popping back to get jackets / more whiskey / have a break from the party. We really fell in love with the island and want to return to camp later on in the summer. A semi-tame dolphin even swam at our legs while we were paddling in the sea!

At the wedding: counting our winnings, we guessed the length of the speeches to within 60 seconds. 75 euros paid for us to stay another night on the island!
The wedding day was amazing, island traditions met modernity in the most beautiful authentic way and we were all high on the LOVE for the next few days. The only snag was a wardrobe malfunction which saw me running around the hostel looking for a safety pin/needle and thread minutes before we were due to leave for the ceremony. Luckily a fellow hosteller Catherine came to the rescue with a needle and thread and I did not do a Janet during the day. Thank you Catherine, and enjoy the rest of your travels!

c/o Cliffs of Moher
The only bit of our trip I wasn't mad about was the boat from Doolin, only 30 minutes but I get really nervous on the water, so I stayed on my own each journey so I wouldn't transfer my nerves to the kids. I kept baby in the sling on my back each crossing, the safest way to travel on a boat with a baby I think. Cars aren't allowed on the island, which is great as the little roads are safer and it's way more picturesque that way. So we left our car in the ferry port in Doolin and took just a couple of clothes bags for the 2 nights (which we extended to 3 nights as the magic had caught us and we didn't want to leave) and a bag of food as we were self-catering and there's only a convenience store on the island. We ate a couple of meals out but also cooked in the hostel, and it was really easy and convenient.

Back in Doolin we arrived on Sunday at lunchtime, an hour before the Euros match of Ireland v. France. We were staying in Tony McGann's B&B, just a stone's throw up the road from the pubs. He met us there and showed us around, then we went to McGann's pub (which Tony and his brother set up) for the match and food. The atmosphere was brilliant, we had brought our flags for the kids to wave and everyone was in high spirits. The kids shared a plate of battered cod and chips and I had a few too many pints and some crisps, before we hit the vegetarian cafe across the road for a great meal after our defeat.

The Supermarket Cafe gave the kids a board game to play while waiting on lunch, a lovely touch. There are great places to eat in Doolin, all tastes are covered, including gluten free, vegan and plain ol' fussy (me).

We drove to the nearby town of Ennistymon one day and had a slap up lunch in Ginger Lou's, you have to visit if you're there. Lou herself is on the floor (as in working there) and the food is all locally sourced with gluten free, dairy free etc. options and an amazing brand of Baobab coffee (the decaf is decaffeinated with sparkling water, not chemicals, tastes like the real deal). We met a local artist and spent a while chatting with him and seeing his art works, it's a really artistic town. I bought some herbal teas in a health food shop to bring home as a souvenir and the kids enjoyed ice-creams in the newly opened O'Connor's ice-cream parlour.

Back up to McGann's B&B, we had two rooms for our use, one had a double and single bed with ensuite, the other had the same but a kitchenette and small seating area with patio doors and a view to die for. My photos don't do it justice, but sitting up in bed you could see out in 3 directions at the Atlantic, Inis Oirr, beautiful fuchsia in bloom, green fields and some other holiday homes. Tony gave us a warm welcome, cereal for our breakfasts, fruit for the kids and offered us a lift down to the town. He is the local taxi driver too. 

Proper free-range eggs :)

I could fit one of these in our small city garden, couldn't I?
Three lovely hens were wandering around the garden and Tony dropped in the most delicious eggs to us one day for our breakfast. The baby's favourite thing to do was to stand inside the patio doors shouting at the hens. There was a petrol station across the road with groceries and fresh produce on sale, plus a lovely weaver's shop selling Irish knits and tweeds, I had my eye on a few of them.

The entrance to our accommodation
Me and Tony in his Rambling House
Tony is setting up a Rambling House from his house in Doolin. He has a large bright dining/sitting room which seats 35. He is a top-class cook, known locally for the best Beef and Guinness stew, and he'll be hosting music nights with traditional Irish musicians. Visitors will get a great meal, his famous stew, homemade brown bread, colcannon, drinks and desserts. Tony will entertain them with local history and Irish cultural anecdotes in between the music pieces and the option to stay overnight is there.

Contact Tony on 087 242 2950 for more info or find him on Facebook here. If you just want to stay in his property like we did, his Airbnb page is here.

We'll certainly be going back, Doolin has loads to offer and we only scratched the surface. The cliffs of Moher were gorgeous both in the sun and in the mist of a drizzly day. This is a really magical part of Ireland, and it certainly had me wondering if a move to the country would be a good option for our family. The trad session in the pub on our last night was really memorable, lots of old and new songs for us to enjoy, chatting with other families and everyone passing round the baby like she was a box of chocolates at Christmas!

Back to reality today, but I'm trying to keep the Doolin magic alive a little longer. I bought a tin whistle and I'm YouTubing some trad tunes so the next time I'm near a seisiun I'll be able to join in!

Nee x

*This is a sponsored post but as always all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Full moon babies/boobs

We spent the run-up to this full moon camping with friends for 3 nights. This full moon falls on the Summer Solstice, the first time that has occurred in 70 years. I attribute the mania in my house this weekend to the added exposure to moonlight and not all the toasted campfire marshmallows. There, that's my preface to the following rant.

Oh my god, will you please leave my boobs alone?!

Between the 11 month old having her growth spurt last week, a mild fever for a couple of days, lots of naps, bigger teeth every day and new vocal sounds, and my 4 year old's intense fever last night which had me contorting in bed giving him skin-to-skin while simultaneously breastfeeding the baby, it's safe to say I'm done in.

I did not plan to spend today on the sofa watching endless Tom and Jerry episodes (the original, not the new one), I have laundry to catch up on, a house to clean, elderberry syrup half made, a face to wash, and I wanted some "me time" too. I have a college assignment to do and I feel so claustrophobic stuck here being sucked on.

The baby's got so heavy that I am wrecked carrying her around the house, so instead of getting up to go get a drink of water in the kitchen which means carrying her in too, I wait another hour on the sofa until my husband passes by and I ask him.

I don't think my boobs have had 5 minutes break in the last 24 hours.

I had a blocked duct which needed a homeopathic remedy to clear it, and it's almost gone, but I'm really scared that overdoing it will leave me with mastitis again. We also said today would be our official Father's Day celebration for my husband, but I don't think we'll get anything special done at this rate.

Usually the two younger ones play around on the floor, perfect rug rats. Today they are both touching me all the time. The baby just sat up after a long feed (I'm typing in the middle of the madness) and the older one asked for a boob. Sometimes it's both together. "No wonder you're tired" said the homeopath yesterday when she heard I'm tandem feeding. I could have cried.

(2 hours later)
I've had a long nap (hurray for my husband being around these days) and they have all left me in a quiet house. I did laundry (can't waste this good drying weather) and I'm sitting down to do my college assignment. Things are looking up for this lady. I think my late night browsing of the internet has to come to an end. I broke my resolve last night and spent way too long looking at things that are way too expensive so I paid for it today. Sleep is really the best medicine.

Hope you all are feeling good this Full Moon,
Nee x

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

One dress, two ways

I've often admired the lovely outfit collages on fashion blogs, and have just realised how they work. It's

I'm going to use it to style a dress I have my eye on as I figure it will need to work year-round to gain a place in my wardrobe. I'm really done with clothes that are one-look only, and I'd like all my items to be versatile and wearable through the seasons.

So I've chosen some items similar to what I already own, to see how I'd style the simple blue denim shirt dress. This is not a sponsored post, and if and when I do go shopping for a denim dress I'll be looking for preloved before new, but this is just to get the idea.

summer look
I started with a mid-blue denim dress, featuring long sleeves which can be rolled up in summer. I chose button-down for ease of breastfeeding. My ultimate dress would only have buttons to the waist, as I'd worry about tummy bulging the buttons after a heavy meal, but there was no such dress to be found on the database. So I added a yellow bag and yellow-ish sandals, as these are really summery and make me happy to wear. I've of course added shades and that's it, hopefully no more layers would be needed in summer. See below for the Autumn / Winter look:

Autumn styling

Here I've gone for tan leather accessories, always in style. Adding a chunky knit over the top which would still show off the dress. I like patterned wool tights when you just see a glimpse of them, and some colour in the scarf. I'd probably be wearing a vest underneath in an Oirish winter, and possibly a coat over the top too. And hat. You get the picture.

I love the idea of an all-year-round wardrobe, and as I get on in years I want less of the high-street trends and more classics.

Thanks to Cat for the style inspiration as always, we spent the day together and I always leave her with lots of ideas for blog posts and new additions to my wardrobe. I'm following the "one in, one out" rule now, so if I do invest in a new dress, an old one will go into the charity bag.

Any other ideas for styling it? Ooh I have one right now! Back to Polyvore...

Evening look

I love the idea of the pink Converse as a pop of colour in the rest of the classic outfit. Classic items, every one. I'd totally wear this for afternoon drinks in summer, which may turn to evening drinks... oh to be back in spontaneous drinking days... And no, I don't own a Chanel bag, but I did buy a pretty nice replica one on Depop recently. Only a tenner...

Anyway, I'm going to play around a bit more with it, and get a few more ideas together for you.
Add yours here, and if you have any links to good breastfeeding-friendly denim dresses please let me know!

Nee x

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Life lately

Summer is here and we're having a ball these days.
In the last month:

  • I visited a friend with her new baby, made her lunch and showed her how to tie a wrap sling. I LOVE the delight on new moms faces when they realise they can wear their baby close and have two hands free. 
  • We spent a glorious sunny lunchtime in a quiet park by the Liffey, picnic lunch, read the Sunday papers, watched the world go by.
  • We had a day with other home educating families, all unschoolers like ourselves. There's such a  shorthand when you meet other families with the same principles, home birthing, breastfeeding older children, nobody bats an eyelid and I love that. 
  • We spent a morning in Recreate, doing arts and crafts with our friends, the kids were so excited to get their hands on "real liquid paint". The few times a year my kids get to paint at home they have dry watercolour palettes as I'm allergic to messy poster paints. So they were in heaven this morning. 
  • I had a writer friend over for tea and a walk one evening. She's really inspiring, a true artist and spiritual lady who I learn loads from and need to spend more time with. 
  • I did lots of writing, stuff I'd procrastinated about for a week or so, just got it done.
  • I did lots of study, my college course has ramped up the pace and I'm feeling challenged and productive about it all.
  • I have a plan for the next 6 months and I'm excited to put it into action, not this week, but soon. It's my new business venture and it's morphing into something I'm really itching to 
  • I'm reading a proper book. I'm bringing it around the house with me and dipping in and out for 20 mins here and there, it's really brought a new dimension to my days.
  • I've cut back my Facebooking, hugely. I've told myself I'm only to be on it one hour per day and I'm sticking to it, and loving that.
  • I'm sleeping better, I used a nightlight for the last 11 months since the baby was born, and I've just started turning it off. Wow, way better sleep, and she and the 4 year old are sleeping through the night, well from 12-6am or thereabouts. 

  • I'm off caffeine again. I was on it a month ago for "research purposes", but it brought on the sugar cravings, the groggy mornings, the joint issues, so I cut it out this week and I feel so much lighter. 
  • I started volunteering in the Dublin Food Co-op. It is only a couple of hours every few weeks, but it's a nice outlet outside of the house for me, good experience in office work and gives us an extra 10% discount on our groceries each week.
  • I finally saw my husband in his play, so proud. Othello in the Abbey runs until 11 June.
  • We celebrated his birthday last weekend, and our eldest turns 8 this coming week! It's birthday season here, 4 in 5 weeks plus family and friend's birthdays, so we're buying presents, food, planning parties galore and arranging to meet family to spend these special times together.
  • Last week I caught up with a gorgeous friend and her family in their new house, beside a lake. We ate, talked, walked and caught up like no time had passed, though it had been a few years since we did this properly. 
  • I have sorted the boy's baby clothes and found some of my dresses from 1978, which my daughter is modelling right now. Polyester, pink gingham, lacy collars, it's high kitsch and I love it! She's wearing some of her brothers baby clothes, they were kitted out in rainbow stripes for most of their infancies, so it's really making me realise how fast time goes since they were that small.
  • I have been working with the National Implementation Steering Group for Home Birth services. This involves reading and giving feedback on policies being drafted in for home birth services by the HSE at meetings every few months. A lot of time and effort, but it's really important to me to still have a say in this, as I feel home birth services have a way to go before they are really woman-friendly. 
  • We've been eating lots of meals on our patio. The other morning my nearly 8 year old told me to wait there while he cooked a stack of french toast alone in the kitchen, even slicing the sourdough loaf! I am expecting a 3 course meal by his 9th birthday.
  • The baby is standing and so close to taking a step. She's signing and making herself understood, and knows so much of what we're saying.
  • My prolapse gave me no trouble for the last month, but I'm feeling it again this week. I think it's a combination of wearing the baby more plus her getting heavier. She's unwilling to be put down a lot of the time, so I'm just gonna have to pace myself. I did wonder what the heck when I realised I was scrubbing the kitchen floor this morning on all fours with her on my back in the sling...
  • The nearly 5 year old is showing a responsible side, minding his sister in bed while I go to the toilet, and taking the clothes in off the washing line. This bodes well for the future, but I say that very tentatively, as I think middle child syndrome is strong in this one.

  • Oh and I chopped my hair into an A-line bob, it's way better. I was getting bored with it.
Apart from that, I've no news. What have you been up to? Please let us know on my Facebook page, or leave a comment below.

Nee x

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Dealing with mastitis naturally

I did well avoiding mastitis for the past almost 8 years, but 2 weeks ago it got me!

It started with a blocked duct one afternoon, which I'm no stranger to. It was in a week where I'd been carrying Ms. Lump around on my left side a lot, pressed up to my left boob, so I assumed it was that to blame.

That evening I'd a friend over and as we chatted I was more aware of the lump, it was definitely sore and I started massaging it a little as I was nursing the baby.

That night the shivering started, I just could not get warm. I got into bed with lots of blankets and a hot water bottle, but nothing could warm my icy feet. I started shuddering so much I couldn't fall asleep, teeth chattering and my body jerking so much I kept waking the baby beside me. My head was burning up but my hands and feet were icy and my boob was feeling more and more tender. This continued all night, and I vomited too. My husband watched over me all night and I only slept in fits and starts, kept waking myself up with the shivering.

The next day I stayed in bed, my mom came to take care of the kids and bring the baby up and down to me for feeding. I kept hot and cold compresses on my breast, which was now rock hard all over half of it. I still had a fever but the shivering had stopped. I slept on and off and did a bit of staring out the window. I couldn't read or listen to anything, just a bit "out of it". I drank a rosemary infusion which I would like to think helped a little as rosemary deals with inflammation. I managed to eat a piece of sourdough toast but I had to force myself to eat it. I had no appetite. I also heard about cutting raw garlic cloves in smaller pieces and swallowing like pills. I did that a couple of times the first day, it was so disgusting but I knew I was going to treat it naturally, and garlic is a natural antibiotic.

I could barely lift my head off the pillow, even turning around to take a drink off the nightstand was too much effort sometimes. There was lots of advice sent to me via friends about taking showers, massaging the breast with a hairbrush (ouch!). using a nappy as a hot compress, but I was too drained to do any of that. So I just massaged it and kept the baby feeding off that side as much as possible.

I slept better the second night and was able to sit up in bed the second day. My boob was still the same, and I had a headache (could have been sugar withdrawal, as I'd been eating a fair bit before I came down with the mastitis - in fact I blame sugar for lowering my immune system, I've noticed I always get sick after a few days of being "naughty"). I noticed I had a lump in a gland under my arm the second day, plus a slight earache on the same side, so I figured the infection was spreading out from the boob. I took more garlic and drank lots of clear liquids, both hot herbal teas and cold water. I'd definitely been dehydrated the days before the mastitis hit too.

And mentally I'd been all over the place, worrying about friends, caring for my kids who had had a bug, working, writing, planning, doing way too much and not focusing on myself at all. All these factors led to me coming down with this infection.

On day 3 I was back tentatively on my feet, the lumpy boob and armpit were still there but not causing me too much pain and I was able to direct proceedings from the sofa, not my bed. So I rested there. Though I noticed when I tried writing I was making loads of typos, it was like the fever had addled my brain a bit and I needed another day or two to get it fully functioning again.

I definitely feel like since going on a "cleaner" diet and lifestyle that I am more susceptible to illness after a bout of eating badly and drinking alcohol. Previously my system was so used to that toxic stuff that it tolerated a lot, but now it doesn't. This means that when I'm well I enjoy better health than before, more energy and vitality, but it takes less to make me sick, if that makes sense. I have read that your gut flora repopulate in a different (better) way after a dietary change for the better, and that's why previously tolerated foods are suddenly triggers for other problems.

That's how I feel the balance is at the moment anyway. I know I definitely need to look closer at my diet and make sure I'm getting the full complement of vitamins I need, and I am making a point of looking after my basic needs: sleep, water, rest, exercise, sunshine - well trying to at least.

I thought the dreaded mastitis was back the other night, a twinge in my boob, nausea in my stomach, feeling generally "off" so I took to bed for 36 hours, continued feeling dodgy, but then realised it wasn't getting any worse. The kids all had a vomiting bug last week so I think I caught the tail-end of that.

Anyway, I'm going to get off the screen now, it's my bedtime. Have you any tips to deal with mastitis? I know I got a mild dose, only one boob, and only half of it inflamed. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with a worse case, it really is the pits. It takes so much out of you, like a flu.

Please leave your tips below, and take care of your boobs, mamas!
Nee x