Ireland for Families

Uncle Pete’s Pizzeria

April 12, 2017

Welcome to Uncle Pete'sOne of our favourite places to go for pizza in Cork City is Uncle Pete’s on Paul Street.  ThisIrishGirl and I first went there on one of our girlie dates and after careful consideration we decided it was time to share this little gem with the boys.

Uncle Pete’s is a small cafe that feels familiar the second you enter. The friendly staff is never too busy to make recommendations and chat with customers.  Every time we are there it seems there is a balanced mix of tourists and locals. There are even a few faces we see there most times we visit so Uncle Pete’s certainly has its loyal regulars.  It’s one of those places where everyone is chatting across tables to each other and including the kids.  (and they fill their wine to the brim!)

The menu is simple yet varied with pasta, burgers, sandwiches, traditional Irish dishes and of Uncle Pete's Pizzeriacourse PIZZA!  There is also a decent number of gluten-free options if you need. Uncle Pete’s is great value for money.  Kids pizza’s were less than €5,  with 8inch pizzas mostly under €10.  For 2 kids pizzas, 2 8-inch pizzas, a side order of chips and two glasses of milk  we spent €32.

The pizzas do not disappoint. I have to be honest we haven’t tried anything else on the menu.  However, on our last visit there we noticed at least FOUR parties came in to enquire about the Irish Stew.  Unfortunately the stew had run out much to the disappointment of some.

Have you been to Uncle Pete’s? Let us know in the comments what you think of the place and if you’ve tried the stew!  We’ll be back soon to try it since it sends people in asking for more!!

We love to eat out as a family – what local places do you love to bring the kids for a meal?

Family Fun

Our Easter Traditions

April 12, 2017

I love Easter.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are from Easter.  Springtime. Chocolate.  Cute little bunnies and chicks. Easter egg hunts.  What kid doesn’t love all of that?

As a parent I might just love Easter even more.

In our house Easter morning is a very close second to Christmas morning.  It’s just about as magical as Christmas……for way less effort!!

The kids have been buzzing about Easter for weeks (with a brief hiatus to buzz about St. Patrick’s Day of course).  Now that the parade is over Easter is all they can talk about.

We do Easter big in this house….there are decorations to be put up, baking with the kids to do, decoratng Easter eggs and a few other simple traditions.

Simple traditions that make truly lovely family time and lasting memories.

Feel like trying something new this Easter with the kids?

Here are 5 simple traditions that you can start with your family this Easter to make memories that will last a lifetime.

1.  Decorate Easter Eggs

Every year growing up we dyed hard boiled eggs into bright colours and tried our best to make colourful designs on them without breaking them.  Today there are egg colouring kits in about every Euro shop around.  Each kit seems to differ a bit from the others but for the most part just boil some eggs and follow the directions.  I’ve also spotted kits with styrofoam eggs to paint which is a great idea for small kids & kids with egg allergies.

Our tradition is to boil about a dozen eggs and dye them a day or two before Easter.  I seem to be the only one in the house that actually eats the hard boiled eggs so I end up with plenty of egg mayonnaise for the week.

I found egg dyes in Lidl last week for cheap so we’ll give them a go this year!

2.  Make your own Easter Chocolates

It wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate.  Of course the kids will have plenty of Easter eggs but the kids love to make their own Easter chocolates too.  The beauty of making your own Easter chocs is it can be as simple or difficult as you want.

  1.  melt down milk chocolate….you could melt a variety of coloured chocolates make the chocolates really pretty, but in my life simple is success.
  2. fill plastic chocolate molds (again I’ve spotted these in most euro shops this year)
  3. freeze until solid, pop out of the molds & enjoy.

These  handmade chocolates are perfect for sharing & make a special gift for just about anyone you can think of.

Try to find the molds that make small chocolates.  The small pieces make it easier limit the chocolate consumption.  Limiting the kids to  1 or 2 pieces is easier than wrestling a whole Easter egg from them.

Here’s a tip:  Only wash those plastic chocolate molds with warm water (no soap)  it will make sure your chocolates have a lovely shine to them.

3. Plant a Jellybean Garden

This one is pure magic!  My kids have been begging to get out in the garden & plant something for weeks.  With the weather finally warming up it’s certainly time to get out there and get planting.

Imagine their excitement if you plant a handful of jellybeans that magically grow into lollipops over night!!!  The beauty of this jellybean garden is it can be done in a pot on the window sill  or outside in the garden.  Once the kids are asleep mom and dad ‘help’ the growing along by placing lollipops in the soil.  The next morning the kids find their jellybean garden has magically grown and given them lollipops over night!  Check out Beauty & Bedlam   for more info on how to plant your own magic jellybean garden.

4.  Leave a Treat for the the Easter Bunny

When she was about three my daughter questioned why Santa was left a treat of milk & cookies and the Easter Bunny who had virtually the same job didn’t get left anything.  We couldn’t argue her logic & asked her what she thought the Easter Bunny would like to eat.  Without hesitation she answered “jam sandwiches and carrots” and a tradition was born.

5.  Have an Easter Egg Hunt

Imagine the excitement early Easter morning when the little people in your life wake to find the Easter bunny came and hid eggs all over!!  When we leave a treat for the Easter Bunny the night before Easter the kids also leave their Easter Baskets and empty plastic Easter eggs for the Easter Bunny to put treats in and hide.  We love the plastic fillable eggs because you can put so many things inside them.  Each year we fill our eggs with:

  • Jellybeans
  • Marshmallows
  • MiniEggseaster egg hunt
  • Hair ties
  • Hair clips
  • Tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Money
  • Funky socks!
  • Toy Cars
  • Lego

There really are so many things OTHER than chocolate you can fit into them.  The Easter bunny fills a basket for each kid and hides that too.  Usually small presents…books, bubbles, colour sets etc….

There are plenty of ways to have an egg hunt.  No matter what way you do it make sure you count the eggs before you hide them.  You will then know for certain if all the eggs have been found.  My kids do love it when they stumble across one or two well hidden ones in the days/weeks after Easter.

We hope whatever you get up to over Easter that you enjoy it & share it with with friends and family!

 

Book of the Week

Big Little Lies – Book of the Week

February 23, 2017
Book of the Week reading together

 

This week’s book is for all the mom’s out there who are in the mood for an easy page turning read.  Once a month I go to my Americans in Cork Book Club where I can be unabashedly American, laugh with some great American expats and stuff my face with a lot of American food. I love that I’ve gotten back into reading for myself over the past few months, but let’s be honest- our mommy me time is limited so it has to be something good….and if it’s not I am quite possibly going to fall asleep before I finish a chapter!

This month we read Big Little Lies By Liane Moriarty and I couldn’t put it down.

Big Little Lies is about a group of women finding their social position within the modern day social class system that is: school moms.  On it’s surface this group of kindergarten moms has all the cliché cliques you would expect,  working moms, stay-at-home moms, the moms who do everything, the moms who rather not be involved etc.  Once you get into the book you soon realise Liane Moriarty has once again given us likeable complex characters that are all facing some sort of crossroads in their life.  In doing so she creates a book full of characters that everyone is bound to relate to at least a little bit.  What struck me was despite it being set in a coastal Australian town- the story could easily have happened in Cork.  The dynamic among these moms all sending their children off to school for the first time quite possibly happens the world over.

If complex, likeable characters weren’t enough, there is also a murder.  From the very early pages you are aware something tragic has happened at the school’s trivia night.  Throughout the book you are led through a web of lies that keeps the reader wondering who did what to whom. I was kept guessing to the very end which I loved.

Throughout the course of the book friendships are formed through the challenges each of the main characters face.  Moriarty’s glimpse into the character’s lives is a thought provoking view into the lies that people tell to protect their friends and family.

Most of all Big Little Lies is an easy,  enjoyable read that obviously resonates with women across the world making it not only an international bestselling book but also an HBO mini-series coming to Sky Atlantic in March with an all-star cast.

 

*This post contains affiliate links for Bookdepository.  That means if you purchase any book through link provided I get a small percentage.  It doesn’t mean they have asked me to recommend any specific books, the books I mention are all ones we know and love in our house.  It doesn’t matter where you get your books just get them!!!  BUT….bookdepository does offer FREE shipping to just about everywhere..who doesn’t love FREE?!?

**  Since January 2016 joining all city and public libraries in Cork are FREE!  You really have no excuse not to check out some new books!

 

Family Life

Winning the War on Head Lice

February 12, 2017
Winning the war on head lice

 

Warning:  If your head isn’t already itching it’s about to.  

School emailed at least twice this week warning of head lice in some classes.  The calm, rational side of my brain knows in the grand scheme of things head lice is so not a big deal – – – the panicky bug hating side of my brain wants to grab the kids and start picking through their heads like a momma monkey.

The panicky bug hating side won.  I hate all bugs.

Wait!
Didn’t both kids share a pillow with me for at least one night within the past week??
Daddy monkey better get over here and start picking through my hair.

Ugh?!?!  All jokes aside we have lived through head lice before and if we have to fight it again in this house ThisIrishFamily is armed and ready.

Our Preventative Head Lice Regime:

Since having head lice in the house two summers ago we’ve been militant with our preventative regime.

  • Use a shampoo that contains natural head lice repellents.

We use Vosene 3-in-1 conditioning shampoo because it’s pretty readily available and contains tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus but there are plenty of products out there.  ThisIrishBoy tends to break out in eczema so when we find something that works and doesn’t give him a break out we stick with it.

  • Use a daily defence spray

Again our go to is the Vosene Daily Conditioning Defence Spray.  If I’m honest it doesn’t smell the best but I just haven’t gotten around to finding something new.  I can be pretty hit and miss if the kids get a squirt behind the ears or not before school. Since the school has emailed the spray is in plain sight so we don’t forget….and we ALWAYS spray the kids before we head to an indoor play area.

  • Always tie hair up

ThisIrishGirl knows by now wearing her hair down at school is just not an option.

  • Regularly Comb Hair with the Nitty Gritty Nit Free Comb

If you don’t have one of these combs and you have a kid in primary school you need to invest in one. They are about €15 and worth every penny.  When the school emails about an outbreak the kids get a good comb through after showers 1-2 times per week.  If there are any creepy crawlers in their it pulls them right out hopefully before they lay any eggs.  The Nitty Gritty comb was developed by mums and is really the best  anti-lice comb I’ve come across.

NittyGritty NitFree Comb

Our go to NittyGritty Nit Free Comb

Waging War on Head Lice:

It happens to the best of us- head lice is unavoidable.  So here’s how to wage war if you do find head lice.  By way of warning though….two summers ago three of us in the house ended up with head lice (myself included).  We all know I am a bug hating germaphobe so I potentially went a bit overboard in my battle – but we got rid of them!  All of the following steps were after very careful and thorough Pinterest review on the topic.  Turns out the BIGGEST difficulty with head lice is re-infestation so it’s important not to let your defences down.

  1. Chemical Treatment:  It’s up to you as a parent if you want to put the chemical treatment on your kids heads.  By the time I realised what was going on we were in a bit of a bad way…and we had our summer holidays coming up.  The Nitty Gritty comb is an excellent alternative if you want to avoid chemical use.  ALSO – there are chemical resistant head lice in North America….that is the stuff nightmares are made of!!!
  2. Wash all hair combs and brushes in the top shelf of the dishwasher. It will be hot enough to kill all bugs and hopefully won’t melt brushes.  We did lose one brush melted in the dishwasher. I eventually replaced them all anyway but on a late week night I wasn’t too worried I would re-contaminate chemically treated hair with infested brushes the next morning. It’s really important not to share brushes either.
  3. Single Use Towels for about a week anytime a towel was used on a head in the house it was washed immediately to avoid re-infestation
  4. Hot wash all bed linen and hoover all carpets, bed mattresses and sofas. I totally went bananas with the hoover for about a week.
  5. Tumble dry pillows and cushions for at least 15 minutes HOT to kill any bugs
  6. Place all stuffed animals in a black rubbish bag and tie tightly for 10 days.  This one broke my heart a little bit so the kids picked one small teddy and I through it in the tumble drier for a while and hoped for the best. All the others were bagged and stored.
  7. Keep Combing Everyone was showered and got a good comb-through with The Nitty Gritty comb every single evening for 5-7 days.  After that it was every 2 days for about two weeks- even when we were on our holidays.  I would be totally lying if I said my kids were compliant and didn’t complain about this. In the end they got precious iPad time while they were being combed. Needs must right?!

Honestly this was a time-consuming regime especially with two working parents. I was so thankful for ThisIrishDad patiently combing out my hair at night. I also straightened my hair every day that week with hot straightening iron- – – – I found no concrete evidence in my ‘research’ indicating this had a positive effect on killing head lice or their shells but I did it anyway.

Without a doubt head lice is one of those horrible kid things that most of us will go through.  In hindsight it was more time-consuming than anything.  Considering we didn’t get a rebound infestation I would spend all the time again if I ever have to.

I hate these little suckers…if you have any tips to win the war against head lice let me know in the comments!

**Disclaimer:  There is nothing to disclaim with this post, no compensation was received all products were recommended because we use them in our house.

Ireland for Families

Cork Burger Festival

February 2, 2017

Happening this week in Cork is the very first Cork Burger Festival brought to us by Eimear and Ernest from FestivalCork.  

With over 30 venues across Cork city and county participating there is no excuse to not get out there and sample some of the best burgers on offer before the 5 February.  

Yellow Sub Cork Cork Burger Festival

Sliders and chocolate brownie with toasted marshmallows from Yellow Sub Cork

ThisIrishFamily was lucky enough to snag an invite to the Bloggers and Burgers launch Wednesday night at Yellow Sub CorkLocated on the boardwalk on South Mall,  Yellow Sub serves sliders from 5pm until late Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the perfect location for meeting friends for a quick bite before (or after) heading out for the night.  Yellow Sub treated 30+ bloggers to samples from their slider menu, including a special Burger Festival slider topped with bacon, quail egg and beetroot. As if sliders weren’t enough they were also serving up macaroni and cheese which is 100% pure comfort food to my American heart. All of that followed by a warm chocolate brownie with toasted marshmallows for dessert!

Montenotte Hotel Cork Burger Festival

Welcome to the Montenotte Hotel

ThisIrishFamily was also offered the opportunity to sample the burgers from The Montenotte Hotel.  With a very special thanks to Nan and Grandad for babysitting, ThisIrishDad and myself were treated to a mid-week meal without the kids!!  If you haven’t been to The Montenotte Hotel in the past year or so it has been completely renovated.  The bar and restaurant continue to offer a beautiful view overlooking the River Lee but in far more updated surroundings.  Despite its trendy decor the friendly staff and innovative menu provide a relaxing atmosphere for a meal.  The Cork Burger Festival menu offered a choice between a gourmet beef burger with cheddar and streaky bacon on a brioche bun or a fried onion and rosemary lamb burger served with semi sweet tomato mayo, brie and smoked bacon.  ThisIrishDad and I ordered both and shared.  The gourmet beef burger was fab but without a doubt the lamb burger with brie was out of this world.  I’m not usually a lover of lamb and ThisIrishDad isn’t too keen on brie cheese but we both agree that paired together they made a phenomenal burger. We even had time to linger over coffee served up on the cutest matching china.

cork burger festival montenotte hotel

So if you’re looking to sample a burger this week we can recommend both the Yellow Sub and The Montenotte Hotel.  As I said before the Yellow Sub would make a great meeting spot in town.  The Montenotte Hotel offers free parking and a spacious laid back atmosphere which certainly comes in handy when dining with kids.

FestivalCork has some great plans to bring new, fun festivals celebrating food and drink across the county. Be sure to keep an eye out for future events. We’re particularly keen to check out the Cork Whiskey Festival this Spring.

**Disclaimer: ThisIrishFamily received no monetary compensation for this post however food sampled from Yellow Sub and Montenotte Hotel was provided free of charge.  All opinions are 100% my own with some input from ThisIrishDad  

Parenting

Parenting Through the Next 4 Years

January 20, 2017
A Plan to Parent through this presidency

 

I’ve had so many thoughts and emotions flying around my head the past several months and I wasn’t sure I was going to write about it.  But whatever-  if you can’t express yourself on your own blog what’s the point?

If you’ve been following ThisIrishFamily for any time you know that 3/5 of us are American.  ThisIrishGirl and ThisIrishBoy have the unique experience of dual citizenship by birth.  And since their birth we have strived hard to be sure they identify as both Irish and American.   We combine both cultures in pretty much everything we do.

Despite over 12 years living as an expat in Ireland I continue to have strong ties with America and identify as American.  This means that this past November I too cast my ballot and watched along closely to the US Presidential election.

I spent a very sleepless night November 8th watching the US news and keeping up with friends back home via social media and WhatsApp.  And as night slipped into morning here I wept.

With the dawn ThisIrishGirl ran into our bedroom asking “Did she win? Did she win?”    You see in our house we for weeks we had been talking about how our behaviour is viewed by others and there was no better teaching than the US election.  ThisIrishGirl was very clear who was better behaved.

“Did she win?  Did she win?”

I scooped her up in my arms and under the duvet  and told ThisIrishGirl that no, she did not win.

For the first time I felt the great sadness and concern that hasn’t left me since.  In that moment I very seriously questioned what kind of world my darling girl would grow up in.  And again I cried.

Life went on and we went about our day here. I did my best not to engage in US election talk at work, or at least get wrapped up in the emotion of it all.  After all this would effect the entire world so of course every Irish person had an opinion. I just wasn’t ready to talk about it. I grappled with the mixed emotions of  wanting to be at home in NY and feeling glad that there was an ocean between us.

Over dinner that night,  both ThisIrishGirl and ThisIrishBoy had their own thoughts on “Donald Duck”  (at 3 we had to clarify some things  for ThisIrishBoy).

Both children were adamant in their disdain for the President Elect.  

In their innocent 3 and 6 year old minds, fair questions were being asked.  ‘Why build a wall if those people need help?’  ‘Why does he always shout and talk angry to others?’ Tough questions  that deserved honest answers.

But I am an American and grew up with the value that the American Presidency is to be respected.  So I firmly explained that while we didn’t agree with much of what the President Elect valued we as a family would respect him as our President come January.

It’s January now.

It’s January now and a BIG part of me wishes I never had told the kids they needed to respect the President Elect. For the past two months we have watched as the President Elect has consistently acted in a manner that shows a blatant disregard and disrespect of the very values we are raising our kids to hold sacred:

Be kind always.

Be gracious when you are wrong.

Be thankful for all you have and do what you can for those who are less fortunate.

Education is important.

Be honest in your words and actions.

Embrace diversity.

Think before you act.

How can I as a parent in one breath expect the above from my children and in the next honour a man who’s behaviour is in direct contradiction?

I’m not sure I can.  

While I have always been proud to identify as an American and will continue to do so,  now more than ever I will focus on being a PARENT.

I will put all my efforts on ensuring my children witness daily acts of kindness and acceptance.

They will see us embrace diversity and respect others.

We will continue to set examples of love, honesty and fairness.

We will teach them daily right from wrong.

We will make them feel safe, valued and loved.

And if every parent across the world does the same then I have great great hope in our future.

And to you Mr. President,  the children are watching, the world is watching and we are all hoping.

Family Life

January 11, 2017
Easy slow Cooker Meals the Kids will Love

 

Everyone who knows me knows I have a slight (ok BIG) obsession with our slow cooker. I can’t help it,  I love the idea of easy homemade meals.   Tonight I came home to the smell of a savoury beef stew ready and waiting.  Perfect for a cold, windy January night.

If you don’t already have a slow cooker you need one!  You can find a decent one for about €20 which is totally reasonable.

The possibilities are endless with slow cookers but if you are looking for a place to start here are This Irish Families go-to recipes; guaranteed to please the whole family.

Slow Cooker Sunday Roast

Nothing beats a good old Sunday roast around the table…..except maybe one you haven’t had to slave over for hours.  Whatever meat you have throw in the slow cooker, add some veg and your favourite seasoning and FORGET ABOUT IT!!!! The beauty of a slow cooker is cheaper cuts of meat come out tender and juicy.  We love some roast beef with root vegetables, throw in some beef stock or gravy granules on low 6-8 hours or high 4-5 hours and dinner is served!!!  If we are around the house I wait and put the potatoes in for the last two hours or so, but if we’re gone for the day I leave them as big as they are and keep them on the top so they don’t turn to mush.

Chilli Con Carne

Every time I make chilli it is entirely different.  Sometimes its con carne, sometimes not.  Sometimes there is sweet corn,  or not.  Sometimes spicy and sometimes not so much.  However you make your chilli just throw it in the slow cooker and forget about it….letting it cook for hours lets the flavours really come out.  Never tried chilli???? Brown some mince (beef, turkey or even pork), onion, tinned tomatoes, tinned kidney beans and any other veg you fancy and whatever curry paste or powder plus some salt to taste.  Adding a little grated carrot is a great way to sneak in some extra veg.  If mince is on sale I make a big batch and freeze some for another day!!  Chilli is one of those things that freezes well. Oh and shredded cooked chicken is a great substitute for mince if you want to try something new.   Garnish with a bit of shredded cheese, sour cream and fresh coriander if you’re feeling fancy (but generally the kids don’t see the point of coriander).

We usually serve our chilli over rice and with a green salad, but if we’re feeling bold (or like the AMAZING parents our kids believe us to be) we serve it over tortilla chips!  Yum

Stephanie O’Dea’s Meat Loaf

Meatloaf in the slow cooker?!?!?!  I have fond memories of meatloaf and mashed potatoes as an ultimate comfort food from my childhood but mine always ended up tasting dry.  But this recipe from Stephanie O’Dea is always perfect.   **I use substitute the A1 sauce for worcestershire sauce.

Stephanie is kind of my slow cooker idol.  She once cooked for a whole year on a slow cooker and made a business empire from it!! AND all her recipes are gluten free.  You should totally check her out at http://stephanieodea.com

BBQ Pulled Pork/Chicken

Serving beer and BBQ in Northern Virginia helped me pay my way through grad school.  The BBQ was so good the cat would try BBQ pulled porkto eat my hair any after I worked a shift.  BBQ pork, BBQ chicken, BBQ beef brisket…sweet, smokey you name it  I do love BBQ.  There is no simpler slow cooker dish than BBQ.  Throw the meat of your choice in the slow cooker and dump your favourite BBQ sauce on top.  Cook 6-8 hours on low…about an hour or 30 minutes before you want to eat shred the meat using two forks.  We serve ours on slider buns. Memphis-style with coleslaw on top.

 

Let us know your go to easy dinner for the kids-  we’re always looking to expand our menu!

Family Life

How to Save Money on Food Spending

January 1, 2017
how to save money on food spending

Well it’s New Year’s Day which means I am sitting here with my coffee looking forward to a fresh start like the rest of us.  I for one have over indulged on just about everything the past few weeks over Christmas:

  • over-ate
  • over-drank
  • over-spent
  • over-binged watched Netflix

Today is the start of a whole new year so I’m ready to set some priorities and get back into some sort of routine.  Since we’ve over indulged in December, January is a good month to reign it in.  Each January we try to reset our eating and spending food habits.

Over the years we’ve tried a bunch of things but there are a few we do each year to lower our spending and get us back to eating better:

1)  Eat from the Press

Remember last week when the grocery stores closed for two days over Christmas?  Anyone else succumb to the fear of running out of food those few days and buy double the food its possible to actually eat?!?!?

Totally ridiculous I know but my excessive December grocery shopping has left me with presses and a freezer pretty well stockpiled.  It’s a perfect opportunity to undergo a Pantry Challenge.  

A Pantry Challenge is really just making a commitment to eat what you have on hand as much as possible.  Chances are you have a plenty of staples in the press to make a good few meals and reduce your grocery budget for the next few weeks. Sure you’ll need to buy fresh stuff but you can still cut down on your spending if you try to eat what you actually have. GoodCheapEats.com has a great post on how to have a Pantry Challenge in your own home, but you can make is as simple or complex as suits you and your family.

2) The Grocery Money Envelope

We really could be better at budgeting around here-especially when it comes to food shopping.  It is so easy for me to throw things into the trolley absentmindedly; or buy ingredients to try a new recipe but never actually make the recipe.

During both my maternity leaves we kept to a tight grocery budget by taking a set amount of cash out at the start of the month and putting it in a grocery fund envelope. All month we would shop only using cash from that envelope. We’d even use the envelope for those quick trips to the shop where you go in for bread and milk and come out having spend €20!  By spending cold hard cash we were more intentional with our spending and thought twice particularly during those mid-week quick trips.  If we had anything left over at the end of the month we treated ourselves somehow….it was good motivation for us to stick to our budget.

Right now we probably don’t have a lump sum of cash to carry us through the month but we can definitely decide on a set amount for this week and put it in the envelope.

A few years ago we managed to spend €400 a month on groceries and household items (excluding nappies) but that was long before ThisIrishBoy started eating like a teenager so we’re going to have to think about what will work for us this year.

3) Meal Planning

Throughout the years meal planning has been hands down THE single most successful strategy to reducing our food spending budget.  By setting a meal plan we not only spend less but eat healthier and are less stressed during the week.  Having a good meal plan cuts down on the last minute midweek chipper runs.

If we have a plan whoever is home first in the evening can get dinner started without thinking too hard.  Meal planning also allows us to sit down to dinner regularly as a family which is important to us.

There are 10 million resources on meal planning on the internet- especially Pinterest.  You can find dozens of pretty printables to get started if thats your thing, OR you can grab a pen and a blank piece of paper and start meal planning right now.

  • Without thinking too hard write down all you go to family dinner meals.

We all have a repitoire of dinners that are our go to so make a long master list. Now add those recipes you tried once or twice before that were a hit for the family but you forget to keep making.  Next add a few new recipes you’ve been meaning to try.

  • Decide how long you will plan for.  

One week? Two?  A whole month?  You decide.  We sometimes go week by week and other times we can plan loosely for a whole month.  Knowing we have the ingredients in the freezer means we can change our meals around to suit what fancies us on the day.

  • Get out your family calendar/diary

What do the next few weeks look like?  When do you need to plan light and simple meals because of the kids activities?  Do you have a big work meeting you know you won’t want to come home and cook after?  What about birthday celebrations that might need a special meal?  Meal planning has to work for you.  At least once a week we can’t have a ‘proper dinner’ – that’s  life.  Having a meal plan means we have omelettes or quesadillas for dinner instead of MacDonald’s on those nights.

  • Write it down.

Make a plan of what you’re going to eat for however long you chose and write it down.  Print off one of those pretty Pinterest printables, write it in your diary or on paper.  Write it somewhere.

  • Shop of what you need and GO FOR IT.  

Check your presses and shop for only what you need and try out your plan.  Our biggest downfall to this day is forgetting to take things out of the freezer so be careful with that:)

I enjoy cooking on the weekends when we have more time and can be more creative. Cooking midweek for the purpose of feeding the family after a long day drains me. During the week I need simple and nutritious and meal planning helps me achieve this. Whenever life seems to get too rushed and I feel overwhelmed I always come back to meal planning to bring some order into out lives.

Truth be told we can’t stick to these all the time, but whenever we find ourselves low on cash and needing to save we start with saving on food spending using some or all of the above….and this January is certainly one of those times for ThisIrishFamily.

We’re always looking for ways to save so drop us a line in the comments section and let us know how you save this time of year!

 

Family Life

A New Year’s Eve Celebration for Kids

December 28, 2016
New Year's Eve with Kids

 

Remember when New Year’s Eve actually meant getting all dressed up and going out??  God we had some great New Year’s Eve back in the day…one time we even spent AN ENTIRE WEEKEND in rental house with about 30 of our closest mates (because New Year’s Eve required more celebrating than just one night). That was the weekend after ThisIrishDad proposed so we celebrated ALL weekend long.

It seems like those New Year’s Eves were a life time ago…I can’t say that I mind much.  While I loved the NYE’s we spent celebrating at house parties I never was a fan of the crowded pub scene for the New Year. Then of course when the kids came along we started to chose to stay and celebrate as a family.

The only problem with celebrating New Year’s Eve with the youngest people in your life is that it is probably the only holiday not focused on the kids, or at least not in Cork.   The lack of family friendly New Year’s Eve events in Cork is a missed opportunity in my opinion.  It seems if you want any sense of family New Year’s festival you need to head to Dublin.

So on New Year’s Eve 2013 we took matters into our own hands and started creating our own family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration.

Through the power of Pinterest I came across the idea for Countdown Bags  from Amy at The Idea Room…and our New Year’s Eve tradition was born.

Now the Idea Room activities and craftiness were great but that first year I was working pretty last minute and wanting to create a party atmosphere for a toddler.  So we created ‘Countdown Envelopes’ (with no crafting involved) and started at 2:00 so we could still make bed time at 7:00!  We placed cards inside each envelope with surprise activities and handed them to her throughout the afternoon.  It turns out toddlers get pretty damn excited about opening blank envelopes if there is promise of a surprise inside!

It doesn't get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!

It doesn’t get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!

And in true ‘start as you mean to go on’ fashion, when New Year’s Eve 2014 came around and we were in America visiting family and ThisIrishGirl wanted New Year’s Eve blank envelopes.  Last year we added actual times to the front of the envelopes but that is about it!  The  activities have changed  from year to year with some simple and some more creative but the kids love the anticipation of seeing what’s next in each envelope.  As they are getting bigger we are hoping to add a “Year in Review” or “New Years Resolution” activity.

Below is a list of very simple activities if you’re looking to try a ‘Countdown Envelope’ celebration of your own.

Our only rule is mandatory participation in all activities for the whole family.   We’ve kept it simple with our activities but i would love some fresh ideas if you’ve got them!

  • Paint our nails
  • Play dress up
    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!

    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!

     

  • Dance Party
  • Look at old family photos and talk about the past
  • Bake a New Year’s treat
  • Order take-a-way and go get it!                                                                                                       IMG_0498
  • Indoor picnic
  • Make a gingerbread house

    Know any good roofers?

    Know any good roofers?

  • Play a board game
  • Make a fort
  • Pillow fight
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Flash light Tag
  • Movie                                                                                                                           
  • It’s Midnight somewhere!!  We always end on this one which involves watching New Year’s Eve celebrations on the news or YouTube, playing Auld Lang Syne and ‘midnight’ kisses before bed. Recently Netflix has done one better with their own  Netflix New Year’s Even Countdown which you can show whenever you are ready for it to be midnight!

I’ve personally had enough Pinterest fails in my time to put in the effort to go overboard but if crafting is your thing definitely check out this Countdown Bags  post from Amy at The Idea Room.

Whatever you’re up to this New Year’s Eve hope your starting off a happy and healthy 2017 with friends and family!

Family Life

This Irish Family’s Christmas Mix

December 20, 2016

christmas mixIf you’re following ThisIrishFamily on Instagram you know I posted a photo of our Christmas Mix on Sunday.  It’s Tuesday now – there isn’t a chance of it lasting the week!

And let’s be honest- the kids can’t reach it…

Christmas is as much about food as it is about giving.

I spend more time baking in December than I do the remaining 11 months of the year combined.  And since I am not a HUGE baker, I don’t stray to far from the Christmas cookies I grew up baking.  But every so often a new recipe comes my way- something virtually fool proof.   And since Christmas Mix is actually assembly mores than baking it is fool proof.

Before I launch into the ‘recipe’ to assemble Christmas Mix.  I have to give  all the credit to my neighbour back home, Mrs. E.

Mrs E is the neighbour across the street from where I grew up.  She’s one of those hallmarks of my childhood that I never paid much attention too until I was old & wise enough to realise neighbours like that are worth cherishing.  She is just one of the best.

You don’t have to look too hard around the house at home to see her presence.   Even here in Ireland we all have a handmade fleece blanket from her.  Those that are the special kind of gifts that were carry-on only when we flew home with each of them.  Over the years she made sure mom got a break from us kids by hosting craft classes or attending local craft fairs and she was always around to keep a watchful eye on us. Our visits with her every time we go home to NY are so special to us that  ThisIrishGirl sent Mrs E her own Christmas card this year.

So all of this is to say a big thank-you to Mrs E for the part she has played in ThisIrishFamily’s Christmas traditions and also to encourage everyone reading this who may a life long neighbour –  be sure to call in for a cup of tea with them this Christmas.

Now….let’s get to it.


Christmas Mix:

*disclaimer: this is our ‘recipe’ that uses no measurements- I’ve put some idea of quantities down but you really can’t go wrong

1) In the biggest bowl you’ve got mix:

  • a festive crowd pleasing treat Christmas mix4-6 cups Shreddies (I used the Aldi brand)
  • 1-2 bags M&Ms (or the cheap knock-off from you know where)
  • 1-2 bags salted peanuts
  • 1 bag of pretzels (if they are sticks I break them).

2) Melt 4-5 bars of white chocolate (the cooking chocolate is easiest)

3) Once melted stir the chocolate into the big bowl and make sure it coats all the good stuff.  Spread it all out on sheets of baking paper.

You have to work fast here and mix it before the chocolate starts to harden.

festive treat everyone will love Christmas Mix

4) Let the chocolate harden and then break into pieces.

You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process but its not necessary.

5) Store in an air tight container.

Share with your friends, OR, eat it all yourself-but remember it IS Christmas.

Try it and tag us on Instagram & tell us what you think.

 

**  Disclaimer: there are about 1000 different recipes for this with 100 different names on line but we call it Christmas Mix-  possibly to remind us to ONLY make it at Christmas or else we would make it EVERY DAY!!