Monday, 25 February 2013

A polar bear in the park...

Sunny here at the moment, we are getting out in it as much as possible and soaking up the vitamin D while we have the chance. It's cold but beautiful.

Yesterday we went to the park. The swings and slide were fun, but what Miss E really wanted to do was explore.

She wandered through bushes and clambered over branches. She told me there was a polar bear there, and a snake.

A little while later, we met some friends. I told them of E's adventures in the little forest.
"There were even polar bears there, " I grinned as my friends nodded knowingly.
"No, " E interjected. "There was only one polar bear."

If she's already so well able to correct me at just 27 months old, she's going to be a very clever and very, very argumentative teenager. Plus, if she continues as she started, she's going to win a lot of those arguments.

Oh well, it's certainly going to make for an interesting life!

Sunday, 24 February 2013


I found it very interesting to read recently that a study by San Francisco State University has found that spending money on life experiences makes us happier than buying stuff (can't find a link to the study itself, just this report on it).

Fascinating stuff. Common sense, in some ways. I mean, in twenty years, are we going to think back on that brilliant holiday, or how awesome that TV, that was at the time top notch, was?

Sure, some stuff is great. I do love my TV shows, but I don't need a massive LED screen that takes up half my sitting room to watch them on. I love my books, but there are only a handful (ok, several armfuls) that I would genuinely feel sad if I no longer hand, and they're mostly books that have some sentimental value for me.

Holidays, dinner parties, events where we can meet new people and perhaps make new friends - they are truly special. Sights that stick with us for the rest of our lives, be they local or far across the world from home. Education, to me at least, is also a life experience worth spending money on. Learning and the pursuit of knowledge are precious to me.

I miss having a car, but it is only a small part to do with the car itself (I had a sporty Fiat Punto). Mostly, I miss that feeling of being able to get in the car and drive, to be able to go anywhere. Bear in mind that I live in Donegal, which is poorly served by public transport, so a car is more of an essential than an optional item really, though I am coping without. But ultimately the car relates to experiences. It brings me to see friends and family. It brings me to the beach, the forests, the parks. It brings my daughter on playdates and to the zoo and all the exciting places that she loves to experience. 

What makes you happy - are there material things you couldn't be without? What are your favourite experiences? If you won the lotto, what would you spend the money on that you think would make you happier, or that you would enjoy? What do you save money for?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Untitled Poem

This isn't based on any of my personal experiences, but some thoughts that were going around in my head recently based on various news stories both in Ireland and the USA.

It's untitled, as I think it works better without a title. The whole poem speaks for itself, I hope.

She considers getting the boat,
Then decides to book a Ryanair flight instead.
It’s not the seventies anymore, after all. Not in how she can choose to travel at least.
Though perhaps, she thinks, in the fact she has to travel at all.

No need to book a bag, carry on allowance will be fine –
Sure what will she need, phone charger, a change of clothes, probably some sanitary towels.
She isn’t really sure. Maybe a book.
To distract her from thinking about it.
Because she has thought of nothing else up to now, but the decision is made.

She kisses her littlest boy goodbye, and wonders as she delivers him into her own mother’s arms,
Whether she knows the real reason for the trip to England.
Wonders whether it is shame or something else
That keeps the wall of silence standing between them.

“I should be there with you,” her husband pleads.
She shakes her head. “You can’t afford to take the time off work,” she reminds him.
Half the reason for this decision being made in the first place.
“I’ll be fine,” she reassures him, then hates him briefly for needing her to do so. Even now,
She must be the strong one. She must hold the family together.

She leaves lunches for the older kids in the fridge before she goes. Does the online check in.
Tries to write a note but can’t get the words out, can’t put lies to paper as easily as she seemed to be able to tell them.
It is hard, she thinks as she waits in the airport, clutching her bag.
It is hard, but it has to be done.

What must the neighbours think...

I have real neighbours for the first time in years. For a long time I've had a car, so I was able to live a little outside town, in a detached house. No one to complain about dogs barking, or loud music.

Now I live in a house with two flats adjoining. Real neighbours. I can hear a TV from my bathroom. I can hear conversations. Not exactly what's being said, but that people are talking to each other.

This same bathroom is the scene of occasional (ok, almost nightly) tantrums from E, the talkative and precocious two year old. Every night we have the same routine, she sits on the toilet and brushes her teeth, then I wash her face and she washes her own hands.

Then, I get a cloth and give her crotch and bum a good wipe to make sure they're clean. I reckon it's good, responsible parenting to do so.

E still mixes up personal pronouns - she says "your" for stuff to do with her, i.e. when she means "my" and when she says "my" she is actually referring to the person she's talking to.

So when she screams, "NOT YOUR BUM! ONLY YOUR CROTCH!" she actually means she only wants me to wipe around her vulva, not her anus. Think this is a throwback to times when teething caused raw skin nappy-rash.

Still, I do wonder what the neighbours think, if they can hear. I'm pretty sure social services are going to knock on my door one of these days...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Italian inspired 2 course meal

Mmm, sorry but there are no photographs of this one as it got eaten too quickly.

For the first course (primi): Pasta with cheesy tomato and mushroom sauce.

I used pasta spirals for this. I put them on at the same time as the secundi (second course) - see below.

First, I prepared the sauce - chopped an onion and half each a yellow and green pepper and saute├ęd them while I chopped some button mushrooms. Added the mushrooms as the onion was just starting to brown and let them cook, then added one 500ml carton of tomato passata and one tin of chopped tomatoes. Then added a good shake of powdered garlic and some dried basil, brought to the boil then turned down to simmer.

Next, I put on the pasta.

For the second course (secundi): Herby chicken thighs with sweet potato wedges and basilly green beans.

I peeled and sliced the sweet potatoes into good chunky wedges, then put a little sunflower oil on them and put them in the oven with the chicken thighs, slathered in herbs, all in one tray, at about 200 degrees C.

Meanwhile I put on a pot of frozen green beans on to boil.

As that all cooked away by itself I prepared a salad to go with the pasta - a selection of leaves (mostly baby spinach and rocket), tomato, cucumber, chunks of red pepper and olives stuffed with little wedges of fresh garlic. Dressed with a splash each of Donegal rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar.

When the beans were done I drained them and left them aside.

Next, I grated half a block of Burren gold cheese into the tomato sauce. Any cheese would do really! When the pasta was al dente, after draining and leaving it for a minute to soak up any last bit of water, I threw it in along with the sauce and grated a little more cheese into it, then served it with the salad on the side.


After the first course, I had time to heat a drop of oil in a frying pan, season it with plenty of basil and black pepper, and quickly stir fry the green beans in it to give them a lovely flavour. When the chicken and sweet potatoes were ready I just served them with the green beans on the side. The second course isn't exactly Italian the way the first was, but it is inspired by the Italian way of having a first course with pasta (or rice) and a second course of meat and vegetables on the side without a starchy carb.

We had just enough room left afterwards for a little ice cream. So it was pretty much a perfect dinner.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Clowning around town...

This is the only hat that E would agree to wear today. At least it's a hat - I reckon it's not a bad outcome considering she got out of bed on the argumentative side this morning!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Break up songs...

My break up music is rooted in the 1990s. Probably because it was the 90s last time I actually broke up with someone...well, actually I think it was January 2000. But close enough!

Now that I finally have all my stuff out of the house, I feel like I've closed a door on things a bit and can actually start to deal with the fact that a 12.5 year relationship has ended. My marriage has fallen apart.

I'm angry, but I'm also sad. There were dreams of a future that have been torn away from me. Hopes and expectations left to languish. I have to say goodbye not just to the man I have loved for more than a third of my life, but to the person I was when I was with him. To my role as wife, as partner. To the life that I had, that we shared.

My emotions are suitably mixed around it. The anger is quite well taken care of my this Alanis Morrissette classic, about a cheating ex - though my ex didn't exactly cheat on me, the fury she feels and feeds into her music here captures a lot of what I'm feeling.

Continuing the theme of anger, here is the only non-90s song to feature in this playlist, so far - So What by Pink, about a bad breakup. She's strong and independent or at least that's what she's showing the world!

And still feeling angry, this was recommended to me by my sister who is a huge Fiona Apple fan:

And as I passed through all the anger and embraced it and rocked out to it, so it was that I came to feel sad. Really bloody sad. And for the first time I properly acknowledged that.

These were both my breakup songs in the 90s, not that I had a lot of relationships - not long term ones anyway - but they did see me through a couple of sad man-related occasions.

No Doubt - Don't Speak:

And Hello (Turn Your Radio On) by Shakespeare Sister. Don't think this is about a breakup. Actually I have no idea what it's about, but it was played on repeat for at least a day when I broke up with a boyfriend of 6 weeks back in the summer of '99, so to me it's a breakup song.

And finally, to finish - a song about looking forward. I got my hair done today, a new look for a new life! The fabulous Ella Fitzgerald's version of I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right out of my Hair. Actually, this isn't a 90s song either - it's way older, and it sure has stood the test of time!

Monday, 4 February 2013

A blog I read

I find the Meming of Life blog by Dale McGowan a great read. He's the editor and author of a number of books on atheism and secular parenting in particular. I am a big fan of the book Parenting Beyond Belief, in which various different atheist and agnostic people discuss how they addressed issues confronting secular parents.

In particular I loved how the book presents different options and opinions, sometimes conflicting ones, and assumes the readers are perfectly capable of deciding what will work best for them.

I really loved this recent post. It's an answer to a reader's question about the comfort that religion can bring, and how secular parents can replace this in their child's lives.

The answer suggested is real people, real relationships. The support networks of friends and family.

I've certainly found that, through my recent crisis. My friends and family have gotten me through it. It has been difficult, but had I been alone, it would have been impossible.

Thank you, dearest mother, sister and wider circle of support. I love you all. You are where I draw my strength and inspiration from, and I know that you are there for my daughter as well, and will be into the future. No matter what life throws at us, we will be fine, because we have you. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Poem - A Sense of Consequence

A Sense of Consequence

Even in a dream, I am still me. I cannot
Escape the sense of consequence that so easily eludes him.

In my dream he grabs me, tries to hold me down, sneers at me daring to tell him no.
I fight back, I shrug off the grip he has upon my wrists. I reach my phone and call the Gardai,
But they don’t come. I await sirens and saviours, but there is just him, sneering.
I reach for the nearest thing, an extension lead, and beat him to death with it.
Partly in self-defence.
Partly in fury and anger as I feel a banshee rise up inside me.

I check his neck for a pulse, and feel only my own heartbeat racing through my fingertips.
I phone the Gardai again. I tell them what has happened – what I have done.
No sense of glory, no feeling that I’ve won.
I feel sick. I am free from him, but facing another horrible fate.

As I draw toward wakening, I am sitting in the back of a Garda car, while
Massachusetts by the BeeGees plays on the radio. I am facing jail.
Facing the consequences of my actions. Even in a dream where I am strong,
I cannot escape reality. I wake up with that song swimming round in my head.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Lorna's Tree

This is the hardest thing to leave behind. The tree planted in memory of the baby I lost.
I'll drive past, in the spring, and see her flowers.