A Normal Day

This food tasted 100 times better than it looks in this photo. I’m on a week off so took myself into Dublin city centre for a day out. It. Was. Bliss. As I messaged one friend, it was like a weekend away. It was great to be more than 5km away from home, by myself, eating food I didn’t make and drinking a latte for the first time in a long time. It really is the little things that make me very, very happy.

A Normal Day

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Finding the loveliest set for the Mini Orchids to help with cooking prep.

A bunch of paper flowers, thanks to Eldest Orchid.

The results of a major playroom declutter and reorganisation, and the happiness of sending things to new homes.

The results of a major wardrobe clearout for Tiny Orchid, and the happiness of sending things to cousins.

An easy, cheerful read. I have a stack of library books to get through and this one really hit the spot.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

That Person Is Not An Expert

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

To quote Marjorie, this post is no brief in favour of buying self help advice. Be it buying a book, buying it via social media or buying it from conferences hosted by people like Rachel Hollis. There is no quality control in this space. There is no filtering of expertise. Anyone can sell their truth, and tell you how you too can be just like them. Be that thin, successful, rich or happy.

I have bought books and consumed media in an attempt to “improve” myself. In college I bought The Rules as a deeply insecure 19 year old with no boyfriend. I have watched YouTube videos on how to put together a capsule wardrobe, or pare my closet down to 30 items, or enjoy life as a parent of a new baby. I’ve scrolled through Instagram perfection, wondering why I don’t look like that, why my home doesn’t look like that, or why my life doesn’t feel like that.

I’m a little (okay a lot) ashamed to say how easily I’ve been fooled by people who make their living online from telling you how to live. I haven’t spent a lot of money, but I have spent a lot of my time looking at people who confidently tell us all how to live, while making a lot of money doing it.

This past week this video has been on my mind a lot. I’m writing this while watching it again. I’m thinking of the women cleaning toilets, and getting up at 4am, and working hard, who might have spent their money funding an empire founded by someone who’s made a living telling us all how to “fix” ourselves to be more like her.

Its probably somewhat ironic to write about how someone isn’t an expert, because I’m fully aware this makes me sound like I feel like somewhat of an expert. I’m not. I’m just a random person with a blog and a small social media presence. I don’t have any special talent or wisdom to impart. I haven’t founded an empire, sold my “truth” or told anyone how to live. This post can be discarded by anyone who feels the Hollisation of the internet serves them.

These people are not your friends. They don’t have a community of which you’re a part. They are salespeople, first and foremost, and THEY NEED YOUR MONEY. Its up to each and every one of us to decide if they deserve our money.

I don’t think most of them do.

That Person Is Not An Expert

Tiny Sparks of Joy

More art from Eldest Orchid, made from anything and everything.

A battered but beautiful street sign on my daily walk, reattached and useful despite the cracks.

New bedlinen. Bliss.

A chocolate cake because we didn’t have enough chocolate on Easter Sunday.

Drinks outside on our new garden table on the sunniest Saturday of March. A much needed treat after a busy week.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Undoing

My sister sent me this picture the other day. I’m about four or five here, in my homeknitted jumper and Vivienne Westwood-esque skirt. I have a hairstyle I’m pretty envious of right now, given that my fringe has been lost due to hairdressing services being unavailable for months now. I can’t remember this photo being taken, but I do remember those trees and that house. We lived there until I was twelve and I still have fairly regular dreams about it.

This photo made me think about my life when I was this age, and how different my children’s lives are in so many ways. I’ve made some very different choices about how I parent. I’ve grown increasingly confident about these decisions as the years have gone by. Sometimes I wonder if I over-analyse the choices we’re making about our children, but I feel this is still better than just leaving things to chance or not analysing the decisions at all.

I’ve had to undo some of the things I grew up with, and add in some of the things I didn’t. I’m always grateful than himself and I were on the same page about so many of the big decisions around having and raising children before we even got pregnant. It seems to have made things a lot easier and we don’t disagree about how we’re raising them at all. It’s difficult to reject some of the things that as a child seemed solid and immutable, and rebuild some aspects of your decision making process and thoughts about things. But I feel better and more secure for doing this, and I think my children are better for it to.

And I never thought I looked like my daughter but it turns out I do. She is so very much more confident and sure of herself than I remember being at this age, and older. So I guess we’re doing something right.

Undoing

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Trying some new recipes to use up what we have and stretch out the time between visits to Lidl or Aldi.

Evening walks alone after dinner. I put my headphones in, listen to a podcast and enjoy the time and exercise.

Doing weights every morning. I only manage about 20 minutes but I’ve realised it makes the whole day so much better.

Back to our normal date night menu after a couple of weeks of indulgence. Yum.

Art, art and more art. I’ve become much better at ignoring the mess and dreading the tidying up, because the creation is the important bit.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Such A Perfect Day

I realised when I started setting up this blog post that this was pretty much the only semi-interesting photo I took yesterday. A sign of how much time we spent not looking at our phones, which was a very good thing.

We’re both off this week and have been catching up on small and medium-sized jobs like tidying up these pots, sorting out the small disaster area that is the tiny space that holds our coats, cleaning products, vacuum cleaner, mop and a hundred other items that fit nicely there, finding a wallet after said tidying, and fixing the garden hose. In between these jobs we’ve had plenty of time for reading, enjoying ice cream, having the first BBQ of the year (in March! What?!), coffees and pastries and bike rides.

Yesterday was perfect. A couple of extra hours in bed, some nice sausages and rashers for breakfast, lunch that required no prep and an evening of smoky tasting chicken and healthy salad. A couple of evening cocktails and an early night. And waking up today knowing we could do it all over again. The discovery of a forgotten bottle of pink gin was most welcome.

Such A Perfect Day

Weekend

It was one of those really, really good weekends. Every week it feels good to reach Friday and feel like maybe we’re a week closer to the beginning of some sort of end to level 5 and lockdowns.

We had the most delicious meal from Uno Mas. We have ordered from here before, and it was really good. This time we went for a duck feast and it truly was a feast. We had leftovers for lunch on Monday and saved our dessert for Sunday evening’s Antiques Roadshow.

I also caught up on a few small jobs like clearing my wardrobe of anything that hasn’t been worn since March last year. Mainly work dresses and clothes that don’t fit because of All The Eating and Drinking since March last year. I also found the beautiful cardigan my mother made for me in 1994. I’d wear it now if it came in my size.

I marked one year of This Shitty Situation with banana bread. I used up some questionable dates and very old frozen bananas. It was delicious and just what we needed with our afternoon coffee.

Mother’s Day was such a lovely day. For breakfast I reheated potato cakes on the cast iron pans that are my favourite kitchen equipment-every time I use them I exclaim how much I love them and how I can’t believe I left them unused in a cupboard for so long. Flowers, cards and homemade treats were all very welcome.

Finally, I’ve been listening to a lot of You’re Wrong About, especially after That Interview. This copy of the Sloane Ranger has been amusing me.

Weekend

12 March, 2020

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.comi

I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing this time last year. I was in work, during a nice, quiet period, catching up on all the things I can’t usually get done when there aren’t enough hours in the work day. We had planned drinks after work and I was hoping to have one last night out because at that point it was obvious things were getting serious.

We watched Leo Varadkar making the announcement from Washington that normal life was going to cease, effective immediately. I started wondering how the hell we were going to homeschool and work without any childcare. I didn’t own a facemask but in a fit of unease I had stocked up on hand sanitiser.

I went to Boots on my lunchbreak to stock up on medicine. There was a huge queue and we weren’t standing 2 m apart. I don’t remember anyone wearing a mask and there wasn’t any hand sanitiser at the door. I had made a habit of going to a few pharmacies every day for the previous week or so, buying things I thought we might really need if covid crossed our door.

A gang of us went to a pub after work, and it was packed. It felt like one last big night out. I felt a little uneasy at time, wondering if the place was too busy. I tried to keep away from strangers and we huddled together across a few tables. Most of the colleagues I spoke to that night I haven’t seen in person since. I drank a bit too much mediocre red wine in a clumsy attempt to quell the feeling of growing panic.

My backpack was full of work stuff as we had been told to work from home, for the first time in our section’s history, for the next few weeks. I heaved it onto my shoulders and went home. I think it was raining. Life wasn’t normal any more, and I’ve almost forgotten what ‘normal’ feels like.

12 March, 2020

I Learned the Truth from Just Seventeen…

Photo by EVG Culture on Pexels.com

I stumbled across this Instagram account a week ago and I’ve been unable to stop reminiscing (mostly to myself because social contact is obviously limited) ever since. I adored teen magazines, as I’ve written before, but I’d forgotten just how many of them there were. Like any other blast from the past the feelings of happy nostalgia became tinged with a bit of wistfulness as I scrolled through the pictures and remembered having read several of the articles featured as an unhappy teen.

I wasn’t a pretty teenager. I had the usual glasses and braces, and variations on a theme of a hairstyle that didn’t suit me. The opportunities for ugly-duckling-type transformations were limited, if not non-existent. I didn’t have a gang of friends to giggle over makeup with and I wasn’t going anywhere exciting enough to warrant a full face of slap, as the mags called it.

Still, I bought and poured over these magazines, wondering if such exotic brands as Hennes and Mauritz would ever make their way to Ireland and marveling at the confident British teenagers with their sense of style and boyfriends. I think I hoped a bit of the gloss and polish these magazines exuded would somehow rub off on me, and that suddenly the glasses-and-braces combo would dissolve and leave me with glowing skin I could festoon with Boots Natural Collection eyeshadows and Miss Selfridge glittery lipbalm and hair that would be fashionably highlighted.

The big draw for me, and I suspect most teenage girls living in a country where a few scant years before the people had voted to ban almost all abortions and where contraceptive availability still depended on where you lives and what kind of god bothering the local GP or pharmacist indulged in, were the problem pages. I puzzled over advice to check in with the Brook Clinic and to remember the age for sex was 16. I vividly remember a 16 year old writing in to ask if her 24-year-old boyfriend’s use of Nutella during oral sex might have caused an STD (it didn’t, was the sage advice, but I can’t help wonder why a 24-year-old was going out with a child and when this became cause for concern). I wasn’t having oral, or any other kind of sex, but I told myself it was good to have all these facts tucked away so I would be ready to go when the time came and wouldn’t need to trouble Bliss or Sugar with my woes.

Needless to say, by the time I had the sort of confidence I once hoped these magazines would give me and had a sex life of sorts I was well beyond the age for Just Seventeen and Shout. But this past week, I was transported back to those years in the mid-1990s when a new issue would appear in Keogh’s newsagents and I’d spend my pocket or babysitting money on a shiny magazine with a free gift and for a few hours I’d feel like maybe, just maybe, this issue would have the Top Tip that would propel me into the life I thought was just a hair mascara wand away.

I Learned the Truth from Just Seventeen…