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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

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 New Year 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!

 

 

 

Family Life

Elf on the Shelf ideas in 60 seconds or less

Elf on the Shelf in 60 Seconds

It’s getting to be that time of year again!! I love Christmas and ALL the traditions that go with it.

These years of magic when the kids are little are short lived so I love making the most of it.

That being said I do have a  love/hate relationship with Elf on the Shelf or as he’s known in this house…Bruno.

Bruno came to us when ThisIrishGirl was 1.  In fact we hauled him back from the US (along with a few others for friends) before they were readily available across Ireland.

I love Bruno for the little bit of magic he brings to the house every morning in December.

I hate Bruno because at least 5 times a week I end up making a mad dash out of my warm bed in the darkness of night to move him.

So this year I plan on setting a nightly alarm on my phone to remind us and have put in a bit of forward planning.

After extensive research on Pinterest I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have enough annual leave left this year in work to pull off ANY of that so I’ve come up with some ideas to pull off  the Elf on the Shelf  in 60 seconds or less:

  1. For the big arrival on 1 December Bruno is bringing with him Christmas activity books I found at Aldi  (I’m trying these in lieu of Advent calendars this year)  I also really like the idea of the elf brining breakfast with Christmas cereal bowls.
  2. Hiding in the fridge
  3. Slumber party with the dolls on the doll bunk beds
  4. Staring out from the washing machine  (I might do this twice only because it gets me out of laundry for the day right!)
  5. Squeezed into a glass in the press
  6. Taking Barbie for a spin in the Barbie car
  7. A fun message on the white board
  8. Holding onto the medicine dispenser next to the Calpol (this was a hit last year when the kids were sick) if we have a few spare minutes we’ll add the thermometer and a bunched up tissues.
  9. Climbing the ladder on the fire truck
  10. Having a cup of tea with the tea set
  11. Building with legos
  12. Hanging off the rear view mirror in the car
  13. Reading a bed time story to teddies
  14. Drawing silly faces on framed photos with dry erase marker
  15. Sitting in the Christmas wreath
  16. Driving Santa’s sleigh – a Christmas decoration
  17. Hiding behind Captain America’s shield and/or fighting with some Ninja Turtles
  18. Whispering into Santa’s ear
  19. Calling Santa on the toy phone

That takes care of most of the month with some opportunity for us to get creative on a few other nights- if we have the time and maybe after a glass or two of mulled wine!

AND if you are more ambitious or have more time check out ThisIrishFamily on Pinterest where I’ve pinned plenty of ideas….none of which I will probably ever do myself!!!

Have any other 60 seconds or less E.O.T.S. ideas for me?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Family Life

Falling for Autumn: 5 Reasons to Love this time of Year

Falling for Autumn 5 reasons to love this time of yearI have always loved the Fall.  Give me crisp evenings, snuggly jumpers and boots over heat and flip flops any day.   I’m not too sure where my love for all things autumnal comes from.   It could be from my days in Marching Band where I spent chilly fall nights marching on a football field.  Or maybe it is because Upstate NY is one of the most beautiful places on earth in the Fall  (I dragged ThisIrishDad and his family home to get married during one autumn).  Who knows,  my entire life I have loved all this time of year.

I could go on and on about all the things I love about this time of year but instead  I’ve recapped 5 of my favourite things about Autumn (although it’s really hard to chose five):

Sports Under the Lights

Whether its American Football ‘Friday Night Lights’ style or catching an evening  Munster match there is something special about watching any sport under the lights.  Autumn is a HUGE time for sport and  going to sporting events with the family is always fun.  And if you don’t feel like venturing out there are always plenty of sports on television to watch this time of year!

Roaring Fires

Nothing beats coming home to a roaring fire on a chilly day.  It’s when you smell fire in the air that you know Autumn has finally arrived.  It’s taken me almost a decade to really hone my fire starting skills in Ireland, but now I can’t imagine life without an open fire or stove.

Slow Cooker Chilli

What else is there to eat while watching sports sitting by the fire but Chilli! It easily serves a crowd and can be made as spicy (or as bland) as the kids will eat it!  We love the slow cooker in this house and it really comes into it’s own in the Fall with recipes like chilli, soups and stews.  Slow cookers let you enjoy a healthy family dinner even if you choose to be lazy on the couch or outside running through the leaves for the day!! By the way my go to for slow cooking is Stephanie at http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com   (she cooked for an entire year using only a slow cooker & she has a ton of easy recipes) but really the beauty of  a slow cooker is you don’t even need a recipe!

Pumpkins!!

ThisIrishDad Pumpkin Carving

Every September America is taken over by pumpkins!  There is  pumpkin in everything and I love it all!!! While it hasn’t quite caught on as much in Ireland I still love baking pumpkin bread, sipping pumpkin spiced lattes and of course  enjoying pumpkin pie (I also search hard for pumpkin ale).  By the way if you get your hands on tinned pumpkin puree (sometimes Aldi/Lidl stock it) shoot me an email I have one thousand recipes you need to try!!! (and if you spot it anywhere definitely let me know where so I can go buy it all).

Of course we can’t forget carving pumpkins at Halloween!!!   It wasn’t until he met me that ThisIrishDad carved his first pumpkin – and he has upped his game year after year.  We’ve fallen into our own pumpkin carving roles in our family and goes a little like this:

TheseIrishKids:  idea & concept

ThisIrishMom:  cleaning pumpkin insides and the all important pumpkin seed roasting

ThisIrishDad:  carving for hours to create the masterpiece of the year

Want my very secret pumpkin seed roasting recipe??? click here.

Apple Picking

applepicking

I searched high and low for years as to where we could go apple picking in Ireland.  And I have to give a shout out to one of my favourite places the Apple Farm in Cahir, Co Tipp.  The Apple Farm is open for pick your own apples the October Bank holiday weekend.  There is nothing that says Fall like Apple picking.  Hot apple cider, apple crisp, apple sauce……apple everything!!!

The Jazz

Autumn in Cork wouldn’t be complete without the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival in October!  Like most parents of young kids ‘the jazz’ has changed for us over the years.  ThisIrishBoy can’t hear a beat without starting to move so going ‘jazzing’ with the kids has become one of  my favourite ThisIrishFamily Autumn traditions.   We usually wonder around town on the Saturday afternoon and listen to some of the street jazz before heading over to the gigs in the Metropole Hotel. If you haven’t done the Jazz with the kids you’re totally missing out!

 

I could go on and on about everything else I love,  scarves, boots, walking on fallen leaves etc etc and maybe I will over the next few weeks but if you have a favourite autumn thing we should be doing drop me a comment and let me know!!

 

Also follow ThisIrishFamily on IG here and check out all the other awesome fall things we’re getting up to!

Family Life

Week 1 is Done!

First Day of School

Hooray for Friday!!!!

We survived our week one of school this year-  just about anyway- but I still feel like celebrating.

One week down how many until midterm?

I had the very best of intentions to hit the ground running and all that.

Tuesday we all had a lovely hot breakfast together as a family.  It was a complete chilled out nourishing breakfast before first day photos & piling into the car.  After school we skipped into the door and I was delighted to be back into the routine.  With the start of school, life would once again become  normal bed times and well balanced meals!

Well balanced prepared meals that were still rock solid frozen in the freezer.  OOOPS!

Day 1 of a new school year and we were already eating takeaway.

By Wednesday morning a hot family breakfast was a dream and with a birthday in the house there was plenty of birthday cake and sugar consumed that evening….but we were reasonably close to bedtime and hadn’t exactly eaten takeaway so lets consider that a win.

By Thursday I figured out we had the completely wrong religion book and was now on my third attempt to source the correct one. Thank god Friday was tracksuit day because who has time for laundry.

And here we are on Friday with the sun shining, another religion book on its way and the weekend stretched out before us.  AND I have finally managed to put a home cooked, ‘balanced’ meal on the table.

meatloaf

So week one wasn’t our best start.

No one starved at least.

Next week I’ll arm myself with a meal plan and fire up the slow cooker.

8 weeks till midterm.

Family Life

What I Wish I knew at the Start of Junior Infants….

The August bank holiday  weekend is approaching and summer seems to be flying by.

Not long to go until we are back to school and I have yet to buy books or uniforms…

This time last year we were preparing for Junior Infants and of course I had everything bought in June.  We managed to survive Junior Infants and obviously I’ve mellowed a bit this year already.

Being a parent to a Junior Infant the first time around is a lot like being a Junior Infant.  It is a little bit scary, there is a lot to learn and you surprise yourself a little with every new friend you make.

Now that I’m clearly a pro at this school thing I thought I’d share a few things I wish someone had told me this time last year:

1)  Keep cash in the house

Not just any cash, small notes and coins.  I never seem to have cash on me.  (I know, I know this is horrible for budgeting and saving but whatever-I never have cash).  After being caught more than once with an unexpected cake sale at school, or a last minute non-uniform day to fundraise for a worthy cause we learned that to keep cash….particurly €1 and €2 coins around.

2)  What you’ll need beyond the Junior Infant book list & uniform.

No doubt if you’re reading this you’re starting to get ready. You might actually already have the uniform and books already!  Don’t forget these other essentials:

  • Something Green:  There is bound to be some day where you’re child will be expected to dress in green.  Plan ahead…it might not be St. Patrick’s day so be ready.
  • County Colours:  Everyone is hoping their county will be in the All-Ireland Final,  and if they get remotely close you can be sure school children will be sporting the county colours instead of their uniform some day in September.
  • A Sports Jersey:  Now if you have a jersey in your county colours that covers your for both!  But be ready for some sports day/week which will end in a Jersey day!!   (This might be linked with a fund raiser so have your euros ready!)
  • Fancy Dress:  From here on out you’re going to want to hang on to anything that can be anyway used as a fancy dress accessory.  There will be World Book Day, Crazy Hair Day, Halloween, Imagination Day, Movie Star Day- you name it.
  • Extra Water Bottle & Lunch Box:  You’ve probably already gotten all extra uniform bits but don’t forget to have a back up water bottle.  It’s bound to be 8:00 at night before you realise a drinks bottle is lost.

3) Name Tags

You’re going to want to label everything.  We used www.nametags.ie which came with enough labels to last for a few years & they haven’t come off at all.  Have your Junior Infant help make the label & pick an icon and colours they are likely to identify quickly.  Not only will the name tags help from things getting lost but they’ll also minimise class room arguments over jumpers and books.

4) Skip the school jacket (if it’s optional)

Most schools have the winter jacket as an option.  If you can hold off until they are older….having their own jacket they can easily identify will make sure they wear them.  It can be a mad rush to get jackets on and out to the yard- don’t expect teachers to make sure each kid is dressed for outside…this is ‘big school’ now. If you do love the school jackets (they can be so cute!!!) or have to buy it for your school,  consider getting the child’s name embroidered on either the front of back.  If you are likely to have other kids wearing the jacket in future (if it lasts that long) embroider the surname only.

5)   There will be plenty of communication…

just none of it will be from your child.

With email and text it is easy for the school to communicate with parents regularly.  Sometimes too regularly- but the multiple emails from the school about things perhaps irrelevant to your child will be welcome information because you’re likely to get very little from your kid!

I often find cuddling at bedtime is when I get the most information about the day, but if you REALLY want some information drive another kid in your car.  Whether its home for a play date or carpooling, without fail if there is an extra kid in the car the stories all get told!

Most of all, like the rest of their childhood the year is going to go by so fast so stop enjoy it.  Every sticker they bring home,  every time they have learned something new, every new friend they make. Savour it all.

And when there are bad days just remember….summer will be back soon!