Reflection and Forward Optimism: Happy New Year 2016



It's that time of year again. Time to bid farewell to the year that has been and to greet the new one with hope and optimistic appreciation. Time also to reflect a little on the year that is just about to pass and to maybe savour a few of the positive moments, while letting the more negative ones float away having learned all we can from them.

I do hope your year has been a good one. When I look back on mine, as reflected here on this blog, 2015 really has been pretty good to me. I start each year by listing some aims and aspirations - not to be confused with resolutions! - for the year to come, finding that it's interesting to look back at year-end to see what's been achieved, with no recriminations whatsoever for what is not. I like ticking off lists I guess!

Me being me I have somehow misplaced my written aims for 2015 - it's most likely in my 'safe place' along with all my other misplaced items! However I can remember some of them. For starters I achieved my recovery goal last April by being finally 'Over The Hill',  eventually going on to getting back dancing again - even if it is Honky Tonk dancing! And while it may have taken the whole year I did get my version of a Healthy Eating Plan in place, finally reaching my much desired goal weight just before Christmas! Admittedly I kind of abandoned my regime over the last week or so but am pleasantly surprised to see, now that I'm back on track, that any 'damage' has been relatively minimal. Phew! 
I'm also very pleased to have completed some knitting and crochet projects in 2015; most notably the crib featured below, which was some months in the making!





The Teen Wonder has had a great year with some fantastic achievements too I must say, and we're naturally very proud of him. He put in the work for his Junior Certificate getting great results, built his own PC from scratch and had some independence-building trips away without his Parents!

This year we've been very lucky to enjoy some lovely little trips away, including my Netflix prize-winner launch trip to London last March! Our trips this year were mostly in Ireland and I share some photos here highlighting some lovely scenic moments forever etched on our memories.


     From l to r: Gold Coast Dungarvan,  Lanzarote, Sligo, Glendalough and the Cliffs of Moher.


No year goes perfectly for everybody and there are always things concerning us and people we worry about, floating away in the backs of our minds. But we cherish the good and try to learn from the not so good.

Personally I have been very lucky to have mostly enjoyed this year 2015, and I do indeed look forward to 2016 with much hope and positivity. As usual I have some things noted to aim for; most notably to finally solve my penchant for losing things and to reconnect and meet up with friends more.

On a global level 2015 has brought some great hardships for people in this world; from the new generation of homeless in Ireland (including entire families), to the terror reigned upon Paris, Belgium and other countries, to the awful, unfathomable situation in Syria.

But we must always remember too that there is much, much good in this world.

So, as the sky colours up for the final descent of the sun this year I give you my wish for all in 2016....




It is relatively simple: understanding and tolerance of all our neighbour's beliefs and traditions, be they in the house next to us or the village, town or country. With education and compromise delivered where necessary. If we all practice this, and return this tolerance and understanding to each other then hopefully some form of peace will grow?

Or to put it more succinctly in twitter-speak ......

#NewYearsResolutionsIn5Words : Education, Understanding, Tolerance, Compromise, Peace.


May 2016 be good to you all and bring you much joy and peace.


Take care......




The Lull


After all the toing and froing the craziness of Christmas seems to tumult by in a heartbeat, doesn't it? That's certainly how it seemed here.

Of course our craziness of Christmas was punctuated with a 16th Birthday - a mere three days before the big day itself -  for a certain young man who has undergone many blog name-changes here as he grew up right before our very eyes. Time simply had to be found to celebrate this in the fashion it truly deserved; even if the makers of boy 16th cards, banners and balloons do not concur. I must therefore personally thank the makers of the new Star Wars movie: The Force Awakens for fortuitously releasing their masterpiece in the week of his birthday! That was much appreciated and provided the perfect platform for cinema evening of celebrations with some school friends! Which was promptly followed a day later with a lovely family Chinese meal. All parceled up with a much coveted birthday/Christmas present. Happiness reigned.




Before we knew it a busy Christmas Eve was upon us with many preparations to be completed. Then suddenly we were at Midnight Mass - which in Ireland is at any time other than actual Midnight - where I found myself wallowing in not just the peaceful Christmas atmosphere, but in the fact that I was actually sitting down for the first time that day! For a full hour! Oh, heaven indeed. A lovely and relatively brief, given the night that was in it, get together with some good friends afterwards rounded off this lovely day.

Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day were swallowed up with family get togethers, lovely gifts and scrumptious meals. And a deluge of precipitation as it bucketed down for two days solidly! But not even that could dampen our Christmas spirits, not in in the least. The loveliest thing to happen in those two days was a very fleeting visit with my mam. These visits can be very difficult but not on this Christmas Day, which saw her in the best form I've seen in a long time and resulted in the taking of a much cherished photo, that I cannot really publish here. I like to think of this visit as a well deserved Christmas Gift from above, for which I'm most grateful :)

So, here we are two days after Christmas and this day dawned with no rain and the more seasonal feel of frost on the ground. We are officially in the lull between Christmas and New Year's Day, when things calm somewhat and there is more time to chill and to enjoy.

And with those thoughts firmly in mind I took myself off for a long walk this morning. A proper walk, the first one in weeks. Outdoors in the open air, rather than a frenzied haul around a very large shopping mall or nearby town grabbing some presents here, some gifts there and some forgotten food item from wherever I happened to be. With no thoughts of the lengthy and daily to-do-lists of late clouding my brain; just the peace and calmness of a lovely stroll.

Down the lane to the beach I ambled, smiling and happily greeting all the joggers - most especially the singing-out-loud one! - dog walkers and family strollers as I went. There was even a pleasant 'Good Day' to a local well-known politician I met. I will never, ever vote for him or his party again but today he was a person out walking, not a politician; and it's his Christmas too. Peace and Goodwill to all..... 

I joined my fellow sea-gazers down at the beach. Just standing there we were, staring; allowing our senses to fill up with the maritime sounds and sights, washing  away the cabin-fever of the previous two days. Watching the brown churning and slightly frothy sea come crashing in over the stony beach; sounding for all the world like car-wheels crunching over gravel. And glancing through eyes hooded with hands at the sun gleaming on the waters ahead. Beautiful.




After that it was a lengthy walk through the park with more people and dogs to greet! The day was chillier than of late and was the first day this winter that I have felt the need for scarf and gloves. It was perfectly bright and fresh. Although evidence of the previous days' deluge abounded with 'lakes' where lakes where never meant to be!






It's been a fabulous Christmas followed by a lovely relaxing day today. I'm enjoying this lull very much. There are still family gatherings and days out ahead but these are now at a much more relaxed pace and we must drag this festive spirit out for as long as we can.

After all, once this lull is over what's next?

Normalcy and a dark, dreary January?

Enjoy the lull and the festivities, for as long as you can,  I say!

Take care,






Present Yet Absent.......


Christmas is truly my favourite time of year, but glancing through my social media timelines recently made me realise how difficult this time of year can be for some people. I have seen some lovely, meaningful thoughts and messages from people who will be missing a loved one this Christmas. For some it may even be the first Christmas without them. And that is quite sad.

This forced my mind to wander to places I really wished it hadn't. 

You see there are two absent parents that we will keep in our thoughts this Christmas, as usual, but there's also another parent to consider. The one who is present, yet also absent.

Which made me ponder on how we're supposed to deal with our loved ones who live in this limbo? This limbo of neither here nor there-ness? A limbo swathed in a foggy confusion that clouds the mind; making them wonder not only who you are to them but who they are themselves. A confusion that sends them back into their past, muddling what their present age is - on any given day - who's alive and who deceased, and how did they 'end up in this place' anyway? A limbo, therefore, of blame and sometimes pain, without the words to convey their thoughts coherently.

Sadly they are no longer the people we once knew. The mothers who nurtured, the fathers who protected, or the spouses who loved are no longer available to us. They are seemingly replaced by a discombobulated version of their former beings. This version will still lovingly remind you to 'be careful' or to 'keep your chest warm' (a favourite saying here!) when it's cold out, at one point of a conversation, yet revert to calling you their 'mammy' at another. It is very difficult. Being the 'child' of a loved one who has mentally and emotionally traded places with you....

How are we supposed to cope with this? Do we mourn the person they once were - while they're still present, still alive? Or do we wait until the inevitable finally occurs, and their confused and tortured minds and bodies are allowed to leave this earth? 

Perhaps we get to mourn these special loved ones twice. 

It is a very sad situation. This 'present yet absent' lark. Heartbreaking. To watch this person you knew and loved - and still do, just differently - fall deeper and deeper into this unyielding abyss. 

You really do mourn what has been lost. Not only the person they once were but the older person they should have been allowed to become. The fuller life that they deserved to have, after all their child-rearing and house-cleaning years. A fulfilling life that would have allowed them to enjoy their family, mother and daughter days and nights out and to thoroughly enjoy the one and only grandchild that they have. The grandson who perpetually remains 'the little fella' in her mind, but in reality will turn sixteen next week. The grandson she therefore never recognises when he visits. 

Life is cruel. So, sometimes is living. And life, if this teaches us anything, is also very, very short.

Life also goes on, and so therefore must we. 

We deal with this as best we can, while we can. 

We compartmentalise. Or at least I do, it's the best survival skill in my ever-growing arsenal. 

We clutch at the good days, because there are some. These good days glow with such joy and warmth that you grab them greedily, like Christmas Gifts from the gods. 

You soak up the funny moments too, because they also exist, and you stretch them out for as long as they will last.

You just get on with it. Try and leave any mourning until a later date. 

While I found it quite therapeutic to give these thoughts and emotions of mine a brief and rare airing, I am very glad to now place them back in the Pandora's Box that I unwittingly seemed to have opened.

We will absolutely have a lovely Christmas, and I wish that for you too - especially if you find yourself in a similar situation.

And while we attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and gather round the dinner table on Christmas Day, we will remember with love those who are no longer with us.

And those who are present, yet absent.....










NOTE: Here are some links that you may find helpful and informative: Dementia, Understanding and caring for Stroke Patients Stroke Information and Carer's Association. 

Peace, Goodwill, Cheery Thoughts and a Charity Single....



Yet again I find that time has run away on me and the last two weeks has flown by in yet another blur. A more tinsel-filled blur, it must be said, yet some time was always found to look around and smell the roses. Here are some of the moments that made me smile in that time -insanely smile even - and some of the thoughts that ran through my head....


PEACE AND GOODWILL

We are living in a world that is sometimes  quite worrying. Christmas time is a very special time of year that is about more than a fabulous Christmas Tree, food, drink and the crazy present buying. It is an ideal time of year to reflect; to spread some peace, goodwill and tolerance. Whenever and wherever we can. Even when partaking in the crazy present buying and grocery shopping forays. Tempers fray as queues lengthen, and the blood boiling reaches dangerous levels. Far better to diffuse than fall prey, I thought to myself as I watched one woman flip the bird at another on entering a very packed shopping mall on one very busy morning. She hadn't even got as far as the actual shops, where she'd face even more queues. How else could the rest of her day, and the day of those around her go, I pondered? So, I immediately counteracted this by letting the next person in ahead of me. A strangely mind-blowing moment from such a simple action, I surprisingly found. I tried it again a few days later when approaching some temporary, and hugely inconveniencing traffic lights, by following my muttered stream of obscenities, hurled with fervour at the raging scarlet orb up ahead, with the words 'and smile'. And smile I did, immediately lowering the gradually rising blood boiling levels! Wow. Quite earth-shattering! I henceforth seriously recommend this approach to one and all, most especially if you're under pressure on the road or in shops or eateries. Do spare a thought for all shop assistants and servers too. Honestly, try it. After all peace and goodwill to our fellow man has to start somewhere, doesn't it?


THRILLED SKINNY

While I haven't had time to fully update you on the healthy eating journey I recently embarked upon I can give you a little snippet of how it's all going. The best news of all is that I finally reached my weight loss goal just over a week ago! Christmas time is both a brilliant and difficult time of year to be where you want to be health wise. Healthier eating is for life though, and not just for Christmas, so I will soldier on as best I can. No doubt there will be a couple of increased pounds over this festive period but so long as I'm back at this point by mid-January I'll be happy. At which point the blood cholesterol levels will be checked and I'll give you a more complete 'Thrilled Skinny' update!
There, that should motivate and keep me in line ;-) 


CRAFTY JAZZY

As sad and all as this may seem, seeing some of the Christmas crafts I've recently  endeavoured to make, start to look like the patterns I follow never fails to fill me with both surprise and joy alike. I was like a big child when I saw these two projects, for example, starting to come together recently. There may even be an update on these Christmas knits and crochets of mine to bore you with in the New Year!




THE TREE

Because sometimes Christmas is all about a fabulous Christmas Tree let me share a photo of mine with you! Well, it's fabulous to me anyway and being adorned as it is with my new multi-function and multi-fun coloured lights, it brings me great joy and a sense of calm. It also brightens the fewer but still existent sleepless nights. Oh, and it's also an oasis of calm and delight for our very pretty and equally curious cat, who has taken to sleeping under it. On one of my crocheted aforementioned Christmas crafts that she seems to think was made for her and her alone! Cheeky cat.....






THE CHARITY STOCKING FILLER

On the one hand this is yet another charity single brought out at Christmas time in aid of a very worthy cause. On the other hand, for me at least, it is also full of meaning and nostalgia. Let me explain....

This 'When I Grow Up' charity single, featuring Shane Filan and the wonderful Grace Lee, was recorded at the AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies) 50th Anniversary show in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on October 25th last. It was a fabulous show featuring the very best of Irish musical talent, North and South, both upcoming and those who have taken the leap from the Irish amateur stage to the bright West End lights of London. The audience was filled mostly with those of us who had performed in various musicals through the years (including those of us who had danced in both the AIMS 21st and 25th Anniversary shows!!), some who are still performing and those who had choreographed and directed them. It was quite the eclectic, nostalgic and hugely entertaining night I must say! We were like an excited horde of children waiting to join in with the chorus, who's stage disciplinary training immediately switched on when the time came to record the single. The stage filled with a children's choir (including, as I later found out, my cousin's child), the wonderful youth and adult AIMS singers before being joined by Shane and Grace for their duet. It was a very, very special moment. Grace is only 10 years old and has had countless operations for a heart condition. She also has a wonderful singing voice......




'When I Grow Up' is in support of  the CMRF (Children's Medical Research Foundation) Crumlin and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. It is available in HMV and XtraVision stores and can also be purchased on iTunes, GooglePlay and Amazon.

It really is the perfect stocking filler! Do buy this single if you can, to support both of these wonderful charities.....and to get it to top the Irish Charts ahead of anything X Factor might produce!





For fear of time dragging me away from here yet again I will now take this opportunity to wish you and yours a  Merry Christmas and a very peaceful New Year to come.

And remember, like charity, Peace and Goodwill begins at home...... and when you're out and about ;-)






'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. 



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......












               












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.......








#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.......


Laptop

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.


iPhone


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. 

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 ;)







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.








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?















Healthy Eating Journey.....


I really don't like the words 'I'm on a diet', do you? They conjure up such unsavoury thoughts of deprivation, starvation and the absolute need for a will of iron, don't they?

I far prefer the words 'I'm on a healthy eating plan'. I'm not just playing with words here, trying to convince myself. Honestly! While shedding some pounds is a nice feeling it is just a bonus to eating healthily, there are lots of other benefits too. And it is with this belief and attitude that I began the year 2015....

I've just had to remind myself of this by having an interesting read-back of my Slim With Tina blog posts from this January, written at a time when I was full of  New Year cheer and determination.

Tina's approach to healthy eating and a healthier lifestyle really is commendable but I have to be honest and tell you that, although it consistently resides in the recesses of my mind, I didn't continue with it. I did need to continue my post-injury healthy journey to a better lifestyle though, with the added bonus of some lost pounds, but I also needed to apply some control and a method of ensuring that I stay on track, and for me that meant trying something else.

I did rather well on my programme of choice, until the summer family holiday beckoned and most of my progress was written off..... in a mere two weeks! But to my mind that was okay - I had a wonderful time, enjoyed my food and beverages and got back on track pretty soon after. Although things have been up and down since then I am now almost back to where I was before the holiday.

And a 10 lb weight loss - even if it is a boomerang 10 lbs - is not to be sniffed at!

But it is not enough. Like I say eating healthily is about more than weight loss, and when you're in your nifty fifties there are additional health issues for consideration! Certain weight-loss plans will keep you on track, allowing you additional weekly points or syns etc to treat yourself so that you don't feel deprived. And they work too. On paper at least. However, contrary to any advice given by course leaders, one can easily let these plans fool one into a sense of achievement. Personally I found that I could be really good from Monday to Thursday and really, really, bad for the weekend and still lose a pound or a half-a-pound.

See, losing weight does not always mean making healthier choices - it's easy to limit the foodstuffs that are good for you in order to allow the treat stuff, and still lose weight. A very bad habit to easily slip into. The result being that yes you may be a little slimmer but what about other health indicators?

In my case there may well have been a weight loss but there has also been a slight elevation in my, already slightly elevated, cholesterol readings. And this despite being quite active and including lecithin, and more recently Benecol,  in my diet.

So, now it's time to tackle this. I've started with a little google research on cholesterol reducing foods and some cholesterol friendly recipies and have made a start with this lot....





There will be porridge, or wholewheat delights and the occasional egg for breakfasts and I will need to make far healthier choices for snack-times. That 'something nice' with a cup of tea and the savouries that seem obligatory with a glass of wine, which has undergone a colour-change, also needs some re-thinking!

As you can see I don't intend on being entirely virtuous! I need to 'live' too and this plan I develop for myself needs to be sustainable in the long term.

It will not be easy to lose weight on this cholesterol reducing plan of mine as foods that contain the necessary 'good fats' are also high in calories. But it can be done. It is possible to include the good fats in your diet and still lose some weight.

I will also be re-reading my Slim With Tina book as there are some healthy recipes (and thoughts) that are also quite tasty in there. For me I think that combining some of her programme with some of my other one might be a successful way forward.

As I like challenges and find that keeping track helps me to succeed I also intend taking the Flora challenge! They have some lovely recipes too.

I will of course be continuing to exercise which I enjoy, especially my honky tonk line dancing!

So, having done my research, made my plans and having shared them here it's time to set off on my challenge.

While I am not entirely comfortable sharing my journey I do hope that doing so will make it more likely for me to succeed.

After all, I'll have to let you know how I get on now, won't I?

I have just under three months to my next check .......








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