7 Goals for 2016

Can you believe its almost 2016? Yes, Twenty Sixteen! Have you made any new year’s resolutions yet? Here are 7 of mine:

7 goals for 2016 New Year Resolutions Talking About Family

  1. Pray Pray Pray

Spend time every day with God. Read Scripture. Read my Magnificat. Do a bible study. Pray as a family / couple every day. Continue to journal.

2. Find a place for everything

I’m really trying to declutter, downsize and get organised. I made a big effort to donate items and clear out during Advent, and I have no plans to stop. Its too easy to get attached to things of this world and accumulate stuff. My goal is to find a place for everything, or throw it out!

3. Health and Fitness

I lost quite a few pounds in 2015, through a combination of diet and exercise. As I have somewhat abandoned the diet, the weigh loss has plateaued, so I intend to get back on track in 2016 and lose the last stone!

I also aim to run at last 15k a week (3 x 5k), and complete a 10k in the first half of the year. I took up running after having my daughter, and did my first 10k last year- hopefully I will complete it in a faster time this year!

4. Find a place for technology

My number one resolution for 2015 was to read more on paper than on screen, which I think I achieved. As a mother of a growing girl, I am increasingly aware of the impact of my tech use on her life. I am also currently reading Reclaiming Conversation by psychologist Sherry Turkle. This podcast is well worth a listen.

 

So, 2016 will involve a digital detox, and hopefully I will find a happy, practical balance.

5. Read Read Read

In 2016, I hope to rediscover my inner bookworm, which I lost while doing my BA, about 15 years ago.

Reading list to follow!

One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp6. Be Grateful

I am (also) currently reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Voskamp’s perspective and life is transformed when she starts counting her gifts and graces, even amid the pain that life throws up.

In 2016, I am going to start counting my own gifts, the things I am grateful for.

7. Learn 1000 words in Irish

My husband is fluent in Irish and speaks as Gaeilge to our daughter. I don’t want to miss anything!

Also, I hope to learn several prayers and parts of the Mass including:

  • Hail Mary
  • Lamb of God
  • the second part of the ‘Our Father’
  • Holy Holy

This will come in handy when the priest slips into Irish, as occasionally happens here in Ireland!

Do you have any goals for 2016? I would love to hear from you 🙂 Happy new year!

For more quick takes, visit This Aint the Lyceum.

 

7 ways to prepare for Christmas simply

A simple Advent7 ideas

Christmas glitter and sparkle has been in our shops now for months. In the last few weeks, the Christmas songs have been turned up and people began wishing each other “Happy Christmas” on 1st December!

But wait!

Advent is a time for waiting, during which we prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ, our Saviour. I find it easy to be swept away by not only the consumer culture, and the idea of a Pinterest-perfect Christmas, but also by preparations; I want to have an Advent wreath, make Advent and Christmas decorations, celebrate the feast days, make my own Jesse tree… I am just realising that these things, celebrations and traditions are built over years rather than in a single Advent.

So, this year, I am living Advent simply. Here are 7 simple ideas (that don’t include glitter, baking or glue!) to help make the most of Advent;

  1. Prayer and reflection
    • Do you have a regular prayer time? Maybe now is the time to start
    • Do you do an advent reflection? This year, I signed up for Matthew Kelly’s Best Advent Ever. Its been very good so far- I recommend it!
    • Read a book. My reading list includes
      • Joy to the World by Scott Hahn
      • A Feast for Advent by Delia Smith
      • Advent and Christmas with the Saints compiled by Anthony F. Chiffolo
  2. Give up something
    • Simple as that. And offer it up! This year I am giving up coffee
  3. Prepare your home
    • Resist the temptation to put the decorations up straight away. See how long you can hold out- I am aiming for Gaudaute Sunday (aka pink candle Sunday or the Third Sunday of Advent!)
    • In the meantime, how about a “Advent clean”? Make a list and tick one thing off every day. Tidy the spare room, wash the skirting boards, and do those jobs that you put on the long finger!
  4. Donate to charity
    • While doing your “Advent clean”, its a great opportunity to declutter and donate to charity. Set yourself a target of things to throw out or give away, like one bag or 10 things a day.
    • Be ruthless- are there things you can give out that would make nice gifts? Do you have a cosy wooly jumper you no longer wear and could keep someone else warm?
  5. Get Christmas shopping done early
    • I did most of my Christmas shopping by 1st December. That way, I have more time for Advent reading and reflection
  6. Hold off on the Christmas music
    • I love Christmas carols and music. In Ireland, we have a station called Christmas FM, which my car radio is permanently tuned to during December. This year, however, I am making a concerted, although not grinch-ish, effort to avoid Christmas music until Christmas.
    • I recently listened to Haley and Christy of the Fountains of Carrots podcast discuss Advent music and the Advent playlists- a great idea
  7. Be Christ to others
    • It’s what we are called to do as Christians! With a to-do list as long as your arm, and the increasing hustle and bustle in town, take time to help someone in need, visit someone who is sick, in a home, or housebound, or simply give the gift of a smile to a passing stranger.

What are you doing this Advent? Do you feel overwhelmed by Christmas preparations? I would love to hear your ideas and comments 🙂

This post is part of the 7 quick takes link up at This Aint The Lyceum. Thank you to Kelly for hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All Things New

All Things New

Linking up with Kelly over at This Aint the Lyceum for another 7 quick takes!

Here’s what happened chez nous

1. I went to my first ever football match (or soccer match, if you are reading this on the other side of The Pond!). Premier League giants Liverpool vs a local Irish team, Waterford United. Talk about David and Goliath! I didn’t really know what to expect, but I enjoyed the match, the cheering from the stands and the family-friendly atmosphere. And, in case you were wondering, Liverpool won, 6 – 0.

2. Its been a bit quiet on the blog for a while… I have been beavering away finishing an essay for my studies, which was about how the EU and the UN shape the socio-political context of the family. It was an eye-opener to see how radical groups that often represent a minority can influence policy.

3. Things I’ve done since the pressure of an essay deadline has been lifted– relaxed on the sofa with my husband, a family trip to the park, tidied the craft room and tonight, maybe even an episode of the West Wing!

4. My Kikki.K planner arrived! #Kikkikplannerlove abound! Its blue, with gold polka dots and now I am going to be the most organised girl in town!

5. T got something new this week too…  Her first pair of shoes! She’s 15 months old and has been cruising and walking while holding my hand for a while. Now she has her new shoes she is even more keen to practice her walking skills and I wonder if she will ever sit in the pram again?

6. We don’t always make it to Mass during the week. Sometimes, it seems impossible to get out of the door on time, its too wet or there is simply too much to do. I know, all rubbish excuses, right? Well this week was one of those grace-filled weeks where, despite the rain and the business, we managed to to Church. Thank you, Lord!

7. With my essay in the post, its time to move on to a new module– Love, Marriage and Family: A Psychological Perspective. I am totally new to psychology but really looking forward to getting stuck into this module. Watch out for a few psychology-related posts in the next weeks!

How was your week? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Head on over to This Aint the Lyceum for more 7QTs!

7 tips for running your first 10k

7 tips for running your first 10kI took up running this year as a way to exercise with a baby. It has its benefits- its free, baby can come with you and, in the time you would spend driving to the gym, getting changed and showered and coming home, your workout is done! And it burns LOADS of calories! Since becoming a runner (I guess I can call myself a runner now, eh?!) I feel fitter, my body has changed shape (in a good way!) and I have more energy.

I started using a Couch 2 5k programme, running and walking, and gradually increasing the running each week. When I completed it, I did not want my hard work to go to waste so I set myself a challenge to ensure I kept running- I signed up for a 10k race!

As there are couch 2 5k programmes, so there are couch to 10k programmes, and bridge 2 10k programmes available on apps and podcasts etc. I spent so long umming and ahhing as to which one to use, I just kept running and made my own programme up along the way. So, here are my top 7 bridge 2 10k tips

  1. Firstly, congratulate yourself on becoming a runner. Let’s face it, going from couch potato to a regular runner takes a lot of hard work and discipline. You have built running into your routine and it is important to keep running three times a week.
  2. Continuing on the theme of celebrations- treat yourself to a new piece of kit! Did you do the couch 2 5k in your old trainers? New properly fitted trainers are a worthwhile investment. I did my whole couch 2 5k clutching my phone in my palm, so I got myself a phone arm-band… which went a little way to making me feel like a proper runner!
  3. Sign up for a race. This will keep your eye on the prize and keep you motivated! http://www.runireland.com is a great website for Irish runners.
  4. Back to the actual training… I did three runs a week; one fast half hour run, a 5k run and a long run. I had about 8 weeks before my race, so every week, I increased the distance of my long run by half a kilometre.
  5. Doing the longer runs mixes things up a bit- I ran new routes (using http://www.mapmyrun.com to plan them first) and started running in the evening, so I wasn’t under pressure for time. Changing the route and time of day keeps your running routine fresh and prevents you from getting bored!
  6. Think about your posture and form. How are your feet hitting the ground? Are is your back straight or hunched? Where are your shoulders? That was the thing I had to keep reminding myself about- they were oftentimes up round my ears. Lowering them made me feel instantly more relaxed and I enjoyed a better run.
  7. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad run. Don’t be disheartened if you had a slow run, or you feel you are not improving. You have done so well coming this far. Getting out and having an off run is far better than sitting on the sofa!

Are you a new runner? Or a seasoned one? I would love to hear your comments, questions or tips!

This post is part of Kelly’s 7 quick takes link up, hosted at This Aint the Lyceum. Head on over there for more quick takes!

7 Best Toys for Baby’s First Year

7 Best Toys

hoarding-toysDo you find it overwhelming choosing toys for little ones? There are so many available! As a new mum, I didn’t know where to begin when it came to toys. What was good to have? What was useful and fun? What was a waste of money? I had a vision of a room in my house several years down the line, bursting with toys… not a nice play room but a room from a secret hoarders TV programme!

I thought I would share 7 small toys we found to be the best buys and biggest hits. We try to steer clear of electronic all singing all dancing toys for now. I hope it will be useful for other new parents and anyone shopping for a new baby!

1. Bath Toys

Bath friends make bath time so much fun and are a baby toy essential! The first bath toy we got was the trusty old rubber duck. We got a fancy one with a sensor on to tell you when the bath was too hot- we never used that, I trust my elbows more than any duck! We also got a few extra bath animal friends, which also make good toys for teething babies!

2. Stacking cups

We had, and still have, endless fun with these. You can stack them inside each other, build a tower, bang them together, and bring them in the bath! The ones we  have have four small holes in the bottom, which provide extra bath time entertainment!

sophie Giraffe book

Baby T’s favourite book!

3. Sophie the Giraffe

What list of baby’s toys would be complete without Sophie? She is a bestseller when it comes to teething toys! And she squeaks too! However, I must confess that after hearing other parents rave about her, I did expect her to be a bigger hit than she was (sorry Soph!). Nonetheless, she has provided hours of chewing and, now T is a bit older she loves reading about Sophie’s adventures (I recommend the books by the way!)

4. NUK Butterfly Rattle

This was our number one toy! When she was a few months old, she chewed it. As she got a bit older she shook it. Later, she became fascinated with the yellow and orange rotating ball and would take my hand to make me turn it for her. Now she turns it herself. The Butterfly rattle is also a great church toy, as it is so engaging and the rattle is very gentle.

5. Lamaze Panda

This was another big hit from the early days. The black and white catch baby’s developing eyesight, and it also has a small rattle. Baby T loved the bamboo ribbon! This is also another favourite toy to bring to church.

6. Lamaze Freddy the Firefly

Freddy is the number one toy! Oh wait, I’ve already said the butterfly was number one… well, they are joint number one! Or the butterfly is the number one teething toy and the firefly is the best all round toy. There. That settles it!

Freddy is packed with features- textures, colours, teething rings, flaps, a mirror, a squeaker (so not a great church toy!), he crinkles, and there is a little ring so you can attach him to the pram or car seat. Freddy is a toy packed with small toys. He also grew a personality and turns out he is a very sociable little creature. Other people like playing with him too. When friends and relatives are peering into the pram, entertaining baby, or trying to get a smile, Freddy is a great help!

7. A ball

I was surprised how young T was when she took an interest in balls. We had soft tennis-sized ball, a big multi-sensory ball (which didn’t roll very well), and a beach ball. The best balls turned out to be a set of sensory discovery balls from the Early Learning Centre. There’s plenty textures and noises to keep them interested and they are the perfect size for baby to hold and to roll, which makes them great for chasing after when baby is starting to crawl!

That’s it! Seven top toys for the first year! There are a few bigger things missing from this list- a bouncer, a baby gym, a walker, but I consider those to be more essential baby items than toys! Except the walker. That is the first thing I give away!

And one extra thing…

little lady bagWe received this as a present when Baby T went on her first holiday. Its small, cute and great for packing her favourite toys into when we are on the go or visiting. I never realised how much babies like to take things out of bags and, occasionally, put them back in! This bag is a great way to keep the toys together, and undoing the zip and taking the toys out is just as exciting and fun as playing with them!

What are your favourite toys for children under one year? Any recommendations for the 1-2 age bracket? I would love to hear from you!

Find more 7QT at This Aint the Lyceum!

7 Meatless Meals That Make Great Toddler Finger Food

I’m linking up with Kelly at This Aint the Lyceum for 7QTs. This week’s 7QTs are all about the toddler kitchen!

7 Meatless Meals vegetarian baby toddler pescaratian talking about family

So, we’ve been through the weaning process… we’ve blitzed the parsnip purée, mashed the sweet potato, served the lumpy lentils. Now our little baby is a a toddler she is only interested in feeding herself. Its great she’s so independent and enthusiastic about food, but sometimes its a challenge to cook one meal to suit everyone and that can be eaten without a spoon and with minimal mess. Here are a few meatless family meal ideas that suit everyone, even the little person who whats to eat with their fingers!

Baby pasta shells1. Pasta Finding really small pasta shells for babies at the supermarket can be hard. These Roma pasta shells to be the perfect size for everyone, and they cook quickly too. I make them up with a simple tomato-based sauce, usually mushroom or tuna, and add a sprinkling of cheese. Sometimes I serve them with garlic bread, which our little toddler enjoys!

2. Fish and vegetables My Dad cooks lovely salmon or white fish in a tomato sauce and serves it with steamed vegetables. Teresa loves sweet potato cubes, broccoli florets, carrot slices and green beans. Its super healthy and super yummy If you are not into cooking fish in a pan, you could easily steam, broil or oven cook it.

3. Cheese sandwich This is something Teresa has started to enjoy for lunch if we are out or on a picnic. Its as simple as it sounds. I just cut the sandwich up into bite size pieces and it disappears as quickly as you made it!

4. Omelette / Spanish Omelette / Scrambled Eggs Make your regular egg dish and throw in baby’s favourite vegetables. Teresa’s omelettes usually have a cheese and tomato theme. The great thing about Spanish omelette is that you can use up any leftover potato, and it tastes great cold, so you can keep it in the fridge and eat it the next day.

5. Fish fingers, vegetables and chips This is a quick, easy meal for when the cupboard is bare but there’s a few essentials in the freezer! Fish fingers, mixed frozen vegetables and oven chips! Peas and sweetcorn make great finger food.

6. Homemade pizza I love learning to make my own pizza. Teresa seems to enjoy it too, as she wolfs it down. Instead of making the dough from scratch, you could spread tomato purée on top of pitta bread and add your baby’s favourite toppings before cooking under the grill

giant couscous7. Giant couscous Another quick and healthy meal. Just throw in a low salt stock cube and some broccoli, and any other veg you fancy. We often have this for lunch and flake some baked salmon on the couscous too. The size of the couscous means its a lot easier to eat as finger food in comparison to regular couscous!

What’s your toddler’s favourite finger food? What meatless dishes to you serve up to your little one? I’d love to hear your ideas!

7QT: Travels, Studying and Toddler Life

7QT Talking about Family Travels Studying and toddler life talking about familyAnother week has flown by.  I’m linking up with Kelly at This Aint the Lyceum for 7 quick takes of the week. These are my quickest ever takes. Hold tight. Here we go!

  1. Flying- Last weekend I flew with a new airline at my local airport called FlyVLM. What a wonderful surprise I had on board- the plane took off and landed early, it was a great flight and we had complementary drinks, sandwiches and chocolate! Ooh, and the views. Check out the view of County Wexford, Ireland, above. Beautiful, huh?!
  2. Maryvale– Did I mention I am doing a MA in Marriage and Family? Well, the purpose of my trip was a study weekend in Maryvale Institute, a Catholic distance learning college. I had a blessed and joyful weekend with the students, staff and Bridgetine sisters.
  3. they say i say talking about familyThey Say, I Say– I am not academically minded by a long shot. I love reading but when it comes to essay writing, I struggle. My tutor suggested this little pocket book which has really helped me get my head around academic writing. I totally recommend it!
  4. Naptimes– Back to real life, baby Teresa is figuring a new nap schedule. Two days this week, she had a monster two hour nap. Just when I was thinking “I could get used to this”, she napped for 30 minutes. The whole day. One half an hour nap!
  5. Sweetcorn fritters– My new favourite food, and Teresa’s too! We’re addicted! I tried these for the first time a couple of weeks ago but have made a double batch of them. They are so yummy, for toddlers and adults alike! They freeze well and you can cook them from frozen in 8 minutes.
  6. Running– still running, post couch 2 5k! Mixing up my runs, doing some 30 minute runs, some 5k+ runs and chopping and changing my routes.
  7. Card making– Ah! Gone are the day-long card making sessions, experimenting with design ideas and making a host cards for different people and occasions. When I have the opportunity, or the necessity, to make cards, I come to the craft table knowing exactly what I am going to make and make ten of the same, simple design. Keep it simple, do it well!

Thank you for hosting, Kelly! Why not head on over to check out more quick takes!