Saturday, November 28, 2015

'Tis The Season...... Almost.

Not that it feels much like it at the moment but the silly season that heralds what can be the mayhem of Christmas is right around the corner. It must be, as the calendar tells me so.

 I do love Christmas, don't get me wrong, but I have been rather bah-humbuggy about it all so far this year. It really turns me right off the season of goodwill when the retailers decorations go up immediately after Hallowe'en. In fact that tends to make me rebel a little!

That said, the closer we get to December 1st the more I start to feel a little of the Christmas joy and fun that is hopefully to come.

Of course while 'bah-humbugging' all around me I have been secretly plotting ahead, just a little, in recent weeks. Well, Christmas gifts, baking delights and a decorated house don't happen by magic you know. Though some may believe that that's exactly how it happens!

The last couple of weeks have gone by in a bit of a flurry of forays for the odd gift or two, ahead of time, just to take a bit of pressure off. Although had I realised how big 'Black Friday' has become in Ireland I might have planned yesterday's foray for another day entirely. And because I enjoy it so much I must also admit to have gotten myself lost in a bit of  a Christmas knitting and crocheting frenzy recently. Which, if you follow me on social media you might be aware of. I had to post the odd photo you see, otherwise people might think I'd disappeared completely and at least it somewhat explains my absence from here too!

I now go forward into the lovely month of December in a positive frame of mind. Determined not to stress or obsess about the buying of gifts and the food preparations. It is only one day in the year after all and Christmas is about far more than that. It is nice to buy nice gifts for family and some friends but in so doing you don't have to break the bank. It is also nice to simply spend time with the people in your life. In fact my friends and I don't exchange gifts at all, preferring instead to just meet up for a catch-up and a bit of Christmas cheer. My diary is starting to fill up already!

The more I write the more I can feel that Christmassy feeling invade my being. I think this invasion may have gotten a bit of a kickstart with last night's viewing of Ireland's legendary annual Late Late Toy Show on RTE last night. This year I had the enjoyable company of my very amusing teenager, to whom this TV offering has become cool to view again. Now that he can laugh at it all that is! It was a fun night, I have to say, and as always I enjoyed the many talented children who gave us some wonderful live performances, including this one which I truly adored.

Okay, so now that I've written talked myself around I'm really starting to get excited! I want to put up my Christmas tree and deck the rooms with tinsel and baubles. And lots of sparkly lights. But I need more seasonal screen offerings to keep my now slightly evident Christmas spirit intact. One simply cannot be expected to deck any tree or room with anything without a Christmas movie on in the background, now can one?

As this will be my first Christmas with them I've turned to Netflix to see what Christmas movie delights they have to offer, at any time I choose. Quite a few as it turns out. There's the usual and wonderfully timeless 'It's a Wonderful Life' and the funnies like 'Scrooged' and 'Beethoven's Christmas Adventure' for example and some animated children's ones too. And on December 4th we will all be wished a very #MurrayChristmas in the humorous style of Bill Murray when his movie 'A Very Murray Christmas' airs exclusively on Netflix! This start-studded comedy is based on a classic variety show organised by Bill Murray (played by himself) but he harbours fears that no-one will turn up due to bad weather conditions. The show must go on I'd say and I very much look forward to watching it happen. It sounds right up my street. Oh, and if you're stuck for a last minute gift this year then Netflix can help you out with the launch of their Gift Cards available in GameStop stores!

So, that's what I'll be viewing next week.

You'll know where I am if I go missing again.

Just follow the Netflix and knitting wool trail and there I'll be.

Wrapped in twinkling baubles and knitted delights, with perhaps a little glass of something sparkly by my side!

I do hope some Christmas cheer is right around the corner for you too.

DISCLAIMER: As a member of the worldwide #Netflix #StreamTeam I received a years subscription and an Apple TV device in exchange for some reviews. All opinions, thoughts and words however are honest and mine alone. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

There Will Always Be Reasons to Say 'No'.....

I so admire mothers who also work outside the home, for it is not an easy task to juggle everything. And to be all things to all people, at both home and employment.

As a stay-at-home-mum you are all things to all people all the time too, but at home only. So as busy as life can be, simply by virtue of the fact that you are available for all sorts of tasks that no-one else is, it can be possible to find time to do things that you want or need to do for yourself.

As a stay-at-home-mum you have given up, either by choice or necessity, paid employment to be at home for your children.

You give them, and family life, your time. Children grow up, eventually becoming fairly independent teenagers - transitioning to the adults they believe they already are - and you may then begin to notice that you have some additional time on your hands.

Time is precious. You have happily gifted some of yours and now some of it is being gifted back to you. How to treat this gift, in between the lessening but still required parenting?

Taking some of this time for yourself does not always mean simply partaking in a favourite activity; like going for a walk, a swim or attending a dance class. Nor, it must be said, does it necessarily mean an increased housework load! Some of this time can be used to take a short trip or to put a skill set or an interest you may have to good use. Because you want to. For you.

So you have a think and make some plans, then make arrangements to attend an event to facilitate these plans of yours. But this may require some additional 'out of hours' time, so to speak.

Then you promptly find as many reasons as you can as to why you should just scupper the whole thing and simply say 'no'.

         1) It's the weekend and too many alternative arrangements will have to be                made.          
         2) It's just easier to say no .......  For whom? 

          3) Too many questions will need answering.

          4) Who will make the required meals that you won't be there for?

          5) It's just not worth the hassle.

That was how I felt getting up for my organised event yesterday. I had been looking forward to it but now I just didn't want to go. However, I had made a commitment to attend so go I must.

And on the way I began to think of the many reasons I should more readily say 'YES' to these things.

       1) Weekends and outside school hours are for stay-at-home-mums too.

       2) Shared parenting is a partnership so there are no problems. I am lucky                  this is so.

       3) The more you do it the less questions will arise and 
             more independence will be created.

       4) There is a reason why microwaves and takeaways exist. And cook books                 and YouTube. Anyone can learn.

       5) If I can't make this day happen then I can't make anything               
            that results from it happen either.

       6) I am NOT entirely indispensable.

This is just one of a number of scenarios that I have recently found myself looking for all the reasons I should say no.

Is that simply because I've just gotten used to it? Has staying at home all these years made me 'dependent'? Or perhaps just everyone else around me? Has the status quo been fixed in cement? All without anyone realising....

The actual answers to these questions I pose are unimportant, but dealing with them, for me, is not.

As it happens I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday's event and was glad I made the effort. Everyone survived and I found more reasons to say 'YES' than 'no'.

I think perhaps that teenagers are not the only ones in transition around here ;)

So this is my new motto......


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Stunning Sligo

Little did we know last August, when we were touring The Burren, that it wouldn't be our only viewing along Ireland's extremely scenic Wild Atlantic Way this year.

Along came the October Midterm break and suddenly we found ourselves on the Sligo section of this 2,500 km natural beauty trail.

We based ourselves in the very nice Sligo Park Hotel this time, where we enjoyed gorgeous food and a super view of Benbulben - Ireland's own Table Mountain - from our room. It sat there looking at us, enticing us to come closer to view it's amazing structure.

So we took ourselves off on a little tour of the area with this mountain almost always in sight and getting ever closer....

On the way we paid a visit to the beautiful Rosses Point, which was looking very resplendent on this gloriously sunny day.

While there we spotted the Metal Man, a derelict house and a land-lubbed bouy!

Then we stopped off at the quaint fishing harbour of Mullaghmore to admire the view there. A bird's eye view, one might say!

And spotted this building - rather hard to miss in fairness - that houses the 'Eithne's By The Sea' restaurant.........

                                 I reckon the artist had a field day painting this!

From there we had a quick stop-off to view the final resting place of William Butler Yeats. Following that we went for a short forest walk in Gortarowey, at the foothills of Benbulben where, within minutes, we spotted the North face of this limestone and shale mountain just peeping at us through the trees.

We walked on and got closer still....


And eventually, at the end of our little stroll, the stunning Benbulben was revealed to us in all it's splendour.

The following day dawned a little less brightly, with rain threatening any further touring. We got lucky however and managed to do a little more sightseeing, in between the raindrops.

Our first stop was the beautiful Dooney Rock with some dense forestation. We quite liked following the little signs that lay here and there, describing the different trees inhabiting this forest.

We also enjoyed the beautiful views of the lake, through drooping branches which trailed the gently lapping waters....

Our final stop was Strandhill Beach which was also very beautiful, even on this grey day, and while there we were treated to some crashing waves.

Sligo of course was home to one of Ireland's renowned poets William Butler Yeats , and naturally there are reminders of this everywhere you go.

So, in that vein I'll leave you with this plaque we noticed near Strandhill Beach inscribed with the words of this famous poet.

I think it's safe to say that with both of our trips this year we have certainly immersed ourselves in the Wild Atlantic Way!

Yet there is still more to be seen.

Another time then.......

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#Netflix #Streamteam: How I Watch Mine......

I'm relatively new to the Netflix party and have had fun finding my way through their quite extensive catalog of  viewing material for the past two months.

I do tend to be such a creature of habit though and for most of this time I've stuck to the same series, and the same method of viewing.

Apple TV

This has been my preferred viewing choice until recently and is ideal for Netflix Nights with my teenage son. So far we've continued what we started and have completed the Breaking Bad series which enthralled us entirely. We've since moved on to....

Narcos - A natural progression you might say! And yes, it's similar. Yet different too. This is a serialised portrayal of the drug lord Pablo Escobar and is quite exciting and dramatic. It's rated as 15s so it seems more appropriately aged for us, however I do wonder at this rating. We like that it's based on true events and, after some discussion, agree that half the programme being sub-titled lends more authenticity to the wonderful telling of this story. If you like to knit or crochet while Netflix viewing than an easier project would be best for this one! I did wonder if there was enough material for a second season though, and based on this article it would seem that there is. Good news then!

Better Call Saul - Oh, just a bit of harmless fun. The boy enjoys it and I guess I do too. I can certainly get more knitting done! We've only watched a couple of episodes so far but hope to catch up more during this midterm break. I'm quite interested to see how and why 'Jimmy' becomes Saul.....

House of Cards - This one was my personal viewing time and having just completed viewing all three seasons, I can tell you that I adored it. The story lines were quite shocking at times and the acting always superb. Kevin Spacey was amazing in it and hooked me right in from episode one. He'll stop at nothing, which made for some unbelievable plot lines, but his timing and delivery was always spot on. I absolutely loved his mostly one-liner asides to camera too. Robin Wright was such a cold fish, I didn't like her at all. Which I guess is totally the point. She played her character brilliantly and directed a number of the episodes too. I cannot wait for Season 4.......


Of course watching Netflix on one screen only in the house is completely missing the point. So I finally got my act together and set it up on my laptop. And now I really can watch it any time, any where. It also means that if your partner has different TV viewing preferences then you can both stay in the same room, albeit viewing different screens. You just have to pop those earphones in and try not laugh out too loudly! Especially at my following new-found delight....

Grace and Frankie - I cannot believe that I didn't get hooked on this one sooner. No-one told me that it starred Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin you see. Such fabulous, accomplished actors, sure any series with those two in it would have to be successful. And with Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston joining them it's totally brilliant.

The first episode totally captured my attention and made me laugh. From the 'shocking news' the ladies receive, the hippy-dippiness of it all, the hilarious beach hallucinations to the 'peeing in Ryan Gosling' they had me giggling away! Quietly ... earphones, remember?! And of course the final episode of the series was such a goodie. I tell ya, whatever about bronco-bucking a large inflated pink phalanx, I most definitely want to get up on a bar and dance!

Oh, I so wanna be Grace and Frankie when I grow up...... either one. And I can't wait for season two.

Naturally the teenager has Netflix downloaded on his laptop also, which is handy for a little evening viewing when we go away on hotel breaks.

No laptop Netflix viewing at bedtime though. For me especially. I have prohibited myself from all online activity from 9.30 pm onwards, in deference to my raging insomnia.


And then I thought..... 'sod that'. I don't sleep too great whether or not I turn off screens, so in retaliation I downloaded the Netflix app to my iPhone anyway! Take that, insomnia. It won't cure my insomnia, it may even make it worse, but it will certainly relieve the relentless boredom. And is also great for hotel breaks away. When I can't exactly play my usual 'musical chairs' with beds and sofas. Well, I could try I guess but it might get me into a lot of trouble!

I am calling this  my Nocturnal Netflix viewing. Not to be confused with our Netflix Nights above, which is a very different kettle of programmes entirely. I have lined up some, hopefully, calming nature programmes like the Blue Planet and some music ones too, in order to encourage sleep.

I have to say, although I wouldn't do it too often, I quite like watching Netflix on my phone!

So there you have it, our Netflix on the go; whenever and wherever we want it.

This is how I watch mine.

How do watch yours?

Do tell, I'd love to know.

DISCLAIMERAs a member of the worldwide #Netflix #StreamTeam I received a years subscription and an Apple TV device in exchange for some reviews. All opinions, thoughts and words are honest and mine alone. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A 'Halo' of Autumnal Hues......

Well as the dreariness of the October Bank Holiday Monday seamlessly flowed into Tuesday, we concurred that 'so what'?, we still had some place to be, an important task to be fulfilled. So as the early morning arrived off we went walking, the teen wonder and I; wind and rain be damned.

We completed our most important task first then followed that with a much needed breakfast, before beginning our return walk home.

Miserable is as miserable does so we totally ignored the rain, preferring instead to wonder at the autumnal beauty that surrounded us.

We admired the enormous height of these ancient big-trunked trees that stretched eerily into the low grey skies....

And loved how they all lined up in their various shades of autumnal shedding....

We particularly admired the lovely panoramic view that lay just inside the park gates. Just as much as we enjoyed playing with my new iPhone camera in fact!

The colourful blanket of once crisp leaves that now lay seeping on the ground, yet emitting a sense of great comfort, was gorgeous.....

We adored the beautiful 'secret passageway' that creeps behind the trees in the park, and that kindly offered us some welcome shelter from the rain. We also marveled at how much we actually like to be close to nature, and even vowed to do this more often!

Although we were quite happy to be strolling along in this weather we did feel sorry for these horses, left out in the rain that was now falling with intent...

And so it was that we slowly meandered our way home, walking and talking as we went. The rain fell more insistently and our conversation flowed, keeping pace. How lucky we are to live where we do, we mused.

I really enjoyed this early start to our day and the chats that we had but as his presence will only be felt for essential feeding and such like in the next 24 hours, I may need to live off this memory for a while. 

You see there was a reason for this morning's early adventure. No doubt you were wondering at how on earth I got a teenager out in this weather at that hour of the morning.... and had him enjoy it too?

Well, today was a special day in the life of Gamers with the release of Halo 5. There was only one copy of the much-coveted limited edition being delivered to our local Gamestop store. 'First come first served' and all that.

Today was therefore a life lesson to my teenager - there is more to life than a screen and the early bird is sure to catch the best 'worm'!

Oh and gaming can, albeit very indirectly, promote healthy exercise and good interaction ;)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful: Flashback Perfume, a Happy Dance... and more!

It's been a while since I've shared moments that have made me smile, despite there being plenty of them. They certainly outnumbered the ones that made me frown, and that's always a good thing. So, what recent reasons do I have to be cheerful then? Let me see .....

Flashback Perfume 

Well, there was the finally opened Christmas 2014 present of a perfume fragranced with a hint of nostalgia. That definitely turned any frown I may have had upside down! A spritz of this flashback perfume is enough to hurl me back to the heady days of the late 80's and early 90's, at warp speed I might add, to a time when this was my perfume of choice.  Without the padded shoulders and permed hair of the time you'll no doubt be glad to hear!

Happy Dance Day

Standing on a weighing scales to find that - after many ups and downs, determination and false starts - you have reached your weight loss target and are finally down one whole stone since Christmas! That's 14 lbs in old money. Not only that but the psychological achievement of getting barely below the 9 stone mark, for the first time in two years, is the real cause of my Happy Weight Loss Dance this week! My current cholesterol lowering healthy eating regime seems to be keeping me on track. However this will be challenged by  an upcoming Bank Holiday weekend and a school midterm break, which will hopefully be filled with meals out and, let's be honest, a glass or two of wine! A short-term, mini abandonment of my regime is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I have to 'live' too you know! 

TY Midterm

All of a sudden we seem to have come to the end of the first school term. It has gone by in a flurry of uniform pressing and lunch making, with tons of emails and phone calls sent and made with enough regularity to make your head spin. These work experience opportunities and the Gaisce President's Award challenges don't land themselves at your front door, after all. I am happy to report that the apparent general consensus out there about Transition Year being a 'doss year' is clearly mis-informed! Organisational skills aside this school year has gotten off to a great start with the teenagers at our school being kept very busy in lots of areas. Lots of checking their own phones for text messages and making their own way on public transport to meet up in Dublin city centre for a charity collection, or in a nearby town for a course for example. Opportunities for opening their minds to new experiences, new found lunch venues with school friends, burgeoning independence and self confidence abound. Confident enough even to insist on going to school on the bus today, wearing a daring yet ridiculous Hallowe'een costume of an all-in-one  - that's head-to-toe-to-fingertips people - body skin for the final day of term. In purple! It was so naff it was extremely cool! 

Sea Views

I don't like to bore you with yet another sea view, honestly I don't. But living so close to these readily available, anytime any day views, I simply cannot resist. I will never tire of them and they will never fail to put a smile on my face!

I wish you all a very cheerful, pre- Hallowe'en, October Bank Holiday weekend, wherever you are in this world.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What I Have Learned From My A & E Experiences.....

The issue of overcrowding in Irish Emergency hospital departments have been very newsworthy stories for some years now. Stories that never seem to go away. So much so that nurses in a certain Dublin hospital engaged in a work-to-rule this week - an activity that allowed them to make their point without risking patient safety - in order to bring this overcrowding issue to the attention of the Government once more. I support them in their efforts. particularly since this week's budget did nothing to relieve this burden.

That said I have had on four separate occasions in the past year, in respect of both myself and an elderly loved-one, cause to experience this particular Emergency department. And I have learned the following from these experiences.......

Although there was overcrowding evident on all my visits here, and medical staff always seemed very busy, there was never a sense of panic, with calmness and professionalism being the order of the day.

I noticed that there was a lot of clerical work involved for our nurses, with the same nurses sitting at the same computers for the hours that I spent there. On one of my visits I also noticed two doctors engaged in a lengthy conversation with an ex-patient with regard to some forms that required signing. Well, locating first, then signing.

From my personal experience in this hospital it appeared that medical decisions are made on a very clinical basis and are, understandably I suppose, dependent on their considered best use of the resources available on any given day and not necessarily on all patients' immediate needs.

It appeared to me that patients, like me, may not be considered 'bad enough' for a hospital bed - perhaps with reference to beds available and in comparison to other patients' needs on the day? They may, despite a referral from their GP stressing some urgency, be sent home (on two separate occasions) to continue to be cared for at home and by said GP. Even though this may be entirely unsuitable for someone with an extremely painful back injury. I base these conclusions of mine on my ultimate referral, due to the request that I finally had the sense to make when I was being sent home on the second occasion, to the nearby Private wing of this hospital; where I was retained for the three whole weeks that it took to bring my condition and pain levels under control.

I learned that the well known method of judging such over-crowding is not fully reflected by the number of bodies on trolleys alone. They need also to consider those sent home who are actually in need of hospital care. Sending as many patients home as you can is, after all, one way to deal with some of the overcrowding. This could perhaps be measured with reference to the number of necessary patient re-visits and the ultimate need for hospitalisation? In any hospital, not necessarily the one they initially presented to.

I learned to be very, very grateful for my basic private health insurance and vow to never let it go. It is very wrong that this can be a necessity in order to receive proper medical attention. I honestly believe that having this cover prevented some unnecessary complications for me, and perhaps even the ultimate need for a back operation, had I stayed under public care.

I also learned that although elderly stroke-survivor patients are dealt with respect and kindness they are not guaranteed any special treatment, and will also be dealt with on a very clinical basis. These patients can definitely expect to be sent back to their homes, or nursing homes, if at all possible. And this I do understand, as it is far better for them to be in their familiar surroundings if a hospital stay is not necessary.

Although it went unsaid it did appear to me that medical decisions are very clinically made with regard to 'likely outcomes', or the considered 'ultimate prognosis', of these patients. This I also understand to an extent, but sending a patient, who has a severely reduced capacity to swallow, home with a prescription for oral antibiotics at 5.30 pm of an evening might need a re-think.

I learned that there does not appear to be any facility for dealing with the personal care needs of such incapacitated elderly patients. On a clinical level, I suppose, Emergency departments are there to primarily deal with a patient's medical needs, feeding them if necessary, but if these compromised elderly patients have to join the lengthy queues like everyone else then this issue needs addressing.

I learned that although the catering staff are lovely there are no special food menus in this Emergency department for these patients, who cannot even sip water that has not been specially prepared for them. If you have the presence of mind to think of it do bring some Nutilis powder with you, so at least you can thicken drinks for them, if they are allowed fluids.

I learned that when these elderly patients are discharged after spending many hours on a trolley they then have to join the equally lengthy queue for an ambulance transfer, which is the only suitable transport option for some of them. This can take up to (and possibly more than) six hours. Yep, you read that right. Six hours. Although ready to go home, where they need to be to have their nutritional and personal care needs properly attended to, they face the likely possibility of waiting many more hours. And being very clinical, that's six more hours that a valuable trolley is being unnecessarily occupied. I have no idea how this issue can be dealt with but it clearly needs addressing.

I therefore learned that those who can afford it can of course book a private ambulance with the wonderful, and relatively reasonable, Lifeline Ambulance people.

I learned that it is a good idea for all patients in our emergency departments to have someone with them to act as their advocate. To speak up for them when maybe they are not able to think straight, especially the elderly patients who may be unable to speak for themselves at all.

These are my personal thoughts from my personal experiences here. It is written with honesty, whilst also protecting privacy.

I support all nurses and doctors in our hospitals who work in such difficult circumstances. I understand, but don't always agree with, the need for the clinical decisions as they must make the best use they can of the resources available to them.

It's the available resources that I have a problem with.

I note that earlier this week, according to the article I linked to at the top of this piece, the nurses at this hospital's Emergency Department withdrew from 'clerical work, non-nursing duties and the use of computers and non-emergency phones as part of the industrial action.'

While I do not have any answers for our overcrowding issues I do wonder if, based on one of my observations above, some cannot be found in the nature of the duties the nurses withdrew from this week?