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Family Life

Our Summer Bucket List – How it Went and Why We’ll Do it Again

summer bucket list

At the start of the summer we felt inspired and created our Summer 2017 Bucket List.  Our list contained some aspirational ideas like camping (because we have never camped before) to the more mundane (like going out for a Sunday dinner). We tried to include as many cheap (if not free) ideas of what we could do together (like have a water fight at home).

Some people thought the idea of a summer ’to do’ list would defeat the idea of lazy summer days and pressure our family into always ‘doing.’

In contrast we found our summer bucket list allowed us to be cognizant of the summer weeks flying by.

We checked over our list from time to time of the summer.

Sometimes it was inspiration for us to get out and find an adventure.  Some days we used it as an excuse to be lazy and camp out on the couch with bowls of popcorn.

More often than not we decided to do something ELSE – something that wasn’t on the list.

Most of all it kept our family together over the summer.  Choosing (or not chosing) from our list was something we did together.  Whatever we ended up doing (or not doing) we did it together.

With the start of school looming next week we sat down to see if we achieved everything we set out to do.

We didn’t complete 100% of what was on our list this summer.  (I’m not sure we even covered 70%) Some of the things made more sense to wait for autumn/winter months. Sometimes we just didn’t want to do what was on the list.

It wasn’t about success rate or ticking off a ‘to – do list.’ Our summer bucket list was meant for a bit of fun and to remind us to make the most of summer any way we chose.

There were other positives about our list that I hadn’t expected.

  • The kids loved the idea of sitting down together and being part of the decision-making and planning on how we would spend our time.
  • Because it was our family list…there wasn’t any arguing that we were doing what one kid wanted to do more than the other.
  • We learned something about each other.  I had no idea the kids wanted to try some of the things they listed.
  • The kids learned the benefits of having a plan while being flexible to go with the flow.

While we didn’t complete 100% of our list. Our Bucket List did exactly what we set out for it to do.

It was never intended to pressure us into staying overwhelmingly busy over the summer and it didn’t.

It was meant to inspire us to find things to enjoy together.  And it so did.

Family Life

Irish Summer Car Kit

Irish Summer Car Kit

Before school let out when the weather was fine the kids and I got a notion for a spontaneous after school picnic.  Not wanting to travel home to get picnic supplies I opted for a quick spin around The Range UK for equipment and the local Spar for provisions.  While it doesn’t take much for me to come up with an excuse for a trip to The Range, the truth is I spent nearly €50 I didn’t need to spend.  If I had been better prepared with an Irish Summer Car Kit I wouldn’t have spent money unnecessarily.

Nonetheless, we had a fab spontaneous picnic at Fota House and Gardens.  While the spontaneous adventures always end up being the best, I realised I could be better prepared for our spontaneity. Drawing inspiration from Simply Kierste I started to think about what we would need to have on hand to be ready for anything this summer.

When we got home I spent some time making our Irish Summer Car Kit.    And while Simply Kierste has it all pretty in a storage box – all I had to hand was an oversized bag from The Range.  So with our Irish Summer Car Kit in the back of the car we are all set for what ever summer throws our way.

Here’s a list of everything in our Irish Summer Car Kit….have I forgotten anything?

Irish Summer Car Kit:

  • Spare clothes for all of us.  Especially Mom & Dad.  I usually have spare clothes for the kids but have often found myself holding back so not to get wet or mucky myself   – no more excuses now.
  • Wellies or spare shoes
  • Jumpers / Raincoats
  • Sunscreen & Sun hats
  • Picnic Blanket
  • Towels
  • Bubbles
  • Hurleys
  • Frisbee
  • Soccer Ball
  • Wipes
  • Baby Powder  (because it really DOES remove sand)
  • Loose change to cover the cost of ice-creams because I never have cash it seems
  • Plasters

It’s been a few weeks since we put our Irish Summer Car Kit in the car and I have no idea why I didn’t do it sooner.  We have pulled just about everything out of it already and its been so nice to not have to think too hard to ‘pack’ the car before we go off for the day.  I will say though –  that huge The Range bag is a bit of a disaster.  It is too big and tough to find things in. At some point I will put it all in a nice organised box…or probably not – I’ll probably spend the summer rummaging through the big Range bag.

Is there any must have I’ve left out of our Irish Summer Car Kit?

Family Life

Our Easter Traditions

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!

 

Family Life

Winning the War on Head Lice

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.

Family Life

Parenting Through the Next 4 Years

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

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

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

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

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!!

Family Life

3 Simple Christmas Traditions for the Whole Family

3 Simple Christmas Traditions

 

I absolutely love this time of year.  Christmas time is full of memories and traditions.  There are so many Christmas traditions in our house- but the ones that make us all smile are the most simple.

December is full of nonstop fun with visits to Santa, trips to the panto,  parties,  meeting up with friends,  I love ALL of it.

There is another side to Christmas though-  the stress of a never ending to do list. The pressure of wanting to make the holiday great for the whole family.

Stressful or not it is our traditions that bring us together as a family.  Some of those traditions take time and hard-work, but through the years we have found that it is the SIMPLEST of traditions that bring the most joy.

1)  Christmas Lights Tour

simple christmas tradition christmas light tourGrowing up in Upstate NY we went each year to the local ‘Lights on the Lake’ where you drove a few miles to look at Christmas light installments.  I haven’t found anything similar in Cork so we improvised and have come up with one of our easiest, most fun traditions.  One night every year around now- when the weather is dry- we get the kids all cosy in their pyjamas and ready for bed.  Once they are all tucked in and we have said goodnight we rush back into their bedrooms, toss back the covers, throw on slippers and rush them down the stairs and into a warm and cozy car!!  The kids at this point are squeeling with delight- we spend the next hour driving around singing Chistmas songs, checking out lights and eating Christmas cookies.

2)  A Christmas Eve Present

I spent my childhood (ok let’s be honest my ENTIRE LIFE) begging my mom and dad to let me open JUST ONE Christmas present on Christmas Eve.  JUST ONE!!  Every year they would reply the same “when it’s your house and your traditions you can open one but we don’t open presents on Christmas Eve.”

christmas eve present simple traditions

Well now it IS my house and OUR traditions so you bet there is a present opened on Christmas Eve!!!  In our house on Christmas Eve the children exchange their presents with each other.  (I totally stole this from my sister after spending Christmas with them one year before I even had kids of my own.)  Christmas eve tends to be that bit more relaxing and quiet for us.  We have a chance to slow down and the kids are entirely present as they give and receive their gifts to each other.  The undivided attention coupled with the excitement of the first gift of Christmas is a guaranteed win. Each year the kids love this tradition of exchanging gifts.  Their gifts for each other don’t get loss in the mayhem Christmas morning and they are guaranteed to share a sweet moment together.

3)  The Waiting…

Our kids aren’t allowed downstairs until the entire family is awake and ready.  Once everyone is up the kids sit not so patiently at the top of the stairs while mom and dad have a minute to wake up and grab a cup of coffee ( & the camera).  As the excitement builds we position ourselves perfectly so we can catch that magic moment when they first see Santa has been.  We also take turns opening presents so we can see what Santa brings everyone.  The waiting helps add to the excitement and make the morning last even just a few minutes longer.

 

We love those simple family traditions-  we also love the ‘harder’ traditions like baking and wrapping etc.  We love having so many traditions but the easy ones are the best by far.

Leave a comment with your favourite tradition!