Wednesday, November 30, 2011


We have a looming ’austerity’ budget, a possible ‘Address to the Nation’ by our Taoiseach (which is clearly not to tell us that all is well), and apparently we are facing possible economic Armageddon with the demise of the Euro. Has anyone else had enough of this current tidal wave of bad news? Our media is just full of the gloom and doom – from individual stories of hardship and pain to the ‘celebrity’ economists who are currently kept fierce busy as they whizz from TV stations to radio studios. “ Agghhhh” I want to scream. “I have had enough. STOP!” I have reached saturation point. I can take no more.

This morning I dipped in and out of radio programmes but could find nothing to raise my spirits. I had gone to bed last night having stupidly watched both RTE’s Frontline and TV3’s Vincent Browne. Thankfully I cannot remember my dreams but my spirit was still sagging from the avalanche of awfulness that is, apparently fast approaching us.

So having walked the dog through a beautiful morning sunrise I came home to bake for a bit and then I took refuge in Twitter. “Please cheer me up” I cried, well I tweeted but you know what I mean. “Tell me how you distract yourself from the negativity without spending a fortune.” And Twitter being Twitter soon my screen was filling up with wonderful cheap ideas to protect your sanity and to balance the negativity. I just had to share them.

So here they are.. in no particular order, the very best suggestions on how to raise your spirits when all around you seems to be going south!

  • Reading a book by an open fire
  • A walk by the sea, (Dun Laoghaire Pier was a particular favourite of twitterers) followed perhaps by a Hot Port
  • A long soak in a hot bath – candles, wine and a book are optional extras.
  • A coffee in your favourite cafe (with cake) and a spot of people watching.
  • Blast your favourite music loudly and dance like a mad thing around your kitchen or office.
  • The Botanic Gardens – free and full of squirrels
  • A browse in a charity shop or around car boot sale – you never know what you might find.
  • A good natter with a friend.
  • A visit to your local library – free books and a repository of all kinds of interesting information.
  • Make a big pot of stew which you then devour followed by a tin of Quality Street (a very retro feel good idea, but I love it).
  • Switch to Lyric FM
  • Learn how to crochet and make something nice.
  • Birdsong
  • Visit an animal sanctuary and help out – walk the dogs or pet the cats etc.
  • Watch ‘the best of wipe-out’ clips on YouTube
  • A cycle in the Phoenix Park which apparently is only €10 for 3 hours – free deer, birds and monuments.
  • A walk in the mountains – remind yourself of just how really beautiful Ireland is.
  • Time spent with a pet – borrow one if you don’t have one of your own.
  • Finally, join a choir and sing your heart and lungs out.

I would have never included the choir suggestion as I am not much of a singer, but last weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the #twitterxmassingle. For those of you not on Twitter, this was the brainchild of one Brenda Drumm who within a week put together a choir, musicians, producers and technicians and last Sunday we all came together to record a very special version of Wintersong. The single will be released on Twitter in the coming days and will be available for download. All proceeds going to the Neonatal Unit of the National Maternity Hospital in Holes Street. I will be blogging in more detail about this when the song is ready to buy. But let me tell you that as someone who was intending just to help out in some capacity last Sunday, I ended up ‘in the choir’ and did my best to sing along. And I can tell you it was the most uplifting and fun experience I have had in ages. So yes I say – think of joining a choir to lift your spirits along with your voice.

So there you have it... some of the best ideas that Twitter offered me to cheer me up. Sex was also mentioned but whereas I happily concur that this is an instant pick me up (no pun intended) for the boys, there are a myriad of other factors to be taken into account for the wimmins... basically that is probably a different blog post.

But if none of the above rings your bell, get yourself on Twitter – there’s a whole load of people waiting to entertain and make you laugh. They’d cheer a body up ! Thank you Twitter friends for sharing your wisdom.

Photo by of Lough Dan in Co Wicklow - one of my very favourite places to walk.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As I cruise effortlessly (yep, no effort required) towards the completion of my half century my mind has been exercised recently on what I have learned thus far and what I need to change for the coming decades.

I am a very lucky girl (?) as my oldest friend lives right across the road from me. We have known each other since we were both 7 and .... wait for it.... we are exactly the same age. We will both celebrate our big 50 on the 11th January 2012 (stick that in your diary now – although I promise I will give you plenty of reminders beforehand). So my pal, Rita and I have spent many hours discussing what being 50 means. It is an ongoing conversation and we have not come to any great conclusions just yet, but there are two small things we agree on... so far.

Firstly is that we have vowed to never ever ask “is this it?” From her on we intend grabbing life, taking every opportunity offered, doing stuff for the hell of it and moving ourselves out of our comfort zone on our regular basis.

The second vow we have made is that from now on we will always have a bottle of champagne or proscecco in the fridge. Why? Because we’re worth it. It’s our version of wearing your good knickers every day!

So when my dear husband phoned me yesterday to ask if I was up for a trip to the Opera that night Rita’s wisdom floated to the surface. Opera? OK – so far I would have never really been that taken with Opera but at nearly 50, maybe I am finally old enough to appreciate it. And it was in the Grand Canal Theatre and I love the Grand Canal Theatre. “OK”, says I to him “let me see if I can organise it.” Babysitter, dinner for kids and organising a lift to the Dart for myself was organised in jig time and I raced to get suitably glammed up for a Night at the Opera. We were going to see La Traviata. A quick call to the mother who is a serious Opera Buff and I had an outline of the story.

It was like Date Night. He met me in town and we had time for a drink at the bar before taking our seats in the auditorium. I relaxed as the wine did its work and I settled down giving myself over to the music and the spectacle. Within ten minutes I was asleep. I came to again towards the first interval when the hunger pangs began to gnaw.... I of course had no time for dinner.

Sensing the danger of a hungry wife, who is generally a grumpy wife, himself went off to get me some interval ice cream. The sugar worked and as the production began again I concentrated on following the action. I really did try. The RTE National Symphony Orchestra were great. The singers could definitely sing. The leading man bore a disconcerting resemblance to Neil Oliver, that cute Scottish guy who presents Coast on the BBC. But while the music enthralled the majority of the audience I could feel my spirit soaring up and around the auditorium looking for diversion while physically I gave in to sleep again. By the time I came to for the second interval, I was really hungry and hoping that himself was as bored as I was and that we could knock back our interval drinks and head out for pizza. But although he wasn’t exactly waxing lyrically about it, he was determined to stay. I texted my kids wondering what was happening on I’m A Celebrity..

So, the morning after the night before, I can now categorically state that I do not like Opera. It leaves me unmoved, totally. Seeing Aida performed live in Verona is now off my bucket list. My mother is trying to come to terms with the fact that she has, in her words, a Philistine for a daughter.

As we headed for the chipper, I thought how proud Rita will be of me; I moved out of my comfort zone and jumped at an opportunity without much hesitation. Although the experience did leave me asking – “is that it?”

Photo of The Grand Canal Theatre plaza at night by Damien Synnott on Flickr

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


NOON - 24th November - THANK YOU DAY
The winner of the Thank You Book is Alison Wells!
Congratulations Alison...
And HUGE THANK YOU to the Irish Hospice Foundation for the prize and for the wonderful concept of THANK YOU DAY

Just for today I will not worry

Just for today I will not anger

Today I will do my work honestly

Today I will give thanks for my many blessings

Today I will be kind to all living things

I love these principles. They are the 5 principles of the healing art of Reiki. You can keep your commandments, - these are my kind of ‘rules’ mainly because they are not rules but aspirations and they focus on the positive.

I would love to be able to tell you that I live by these tenets. I do try. I usually fail. Wouldn’t it be great to ‘never worry’? I find the ‘being kind of living things’ the easiest to accomplish – particularly kindness to living things with four legs – they tend not to give backchat which definitely makes them easier to be kind to! ‘Giving thanks for my many blessings’ is probably one of the easiest to forget to do regularly and although it sounds easy, it takes a little an effort to achieve.

I often think back to the first few months after I ‘retired’ from the world of full time work to become a stay at home mother (or lazy sponger according to Emer O Kelly). When I no longer had to race at breakneck speed through my days, juggling childcare, domestic chores and the demands of full time working, I suddenly began to notice the small things that previously I had been blind to. I began to get glimpses of the world through the eyes of my children. Like a cartoon character slowing down, the background of my life suddenly became vivid and wonderfully eclectic. I began to notice the small things that lent colour and texture to my days. I made a list. I called it My Simple Pleasures.

  • A warm fragrant bubble bath before bed.
  • Coming home to find my cats all curled up and content in various corners of the house.
  • The silence that slowly envelopes the house, as humans and animals take to sleep.
  • Fresh bed linen.
  • A walk in the rain
  • Watching the birds feed from the feeders hanging from the tree just outside the window.
  • The smell of baking.
  • The taste of chocolate cake about 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven.
  • The comfort of knowing that everyone is in on a stormy winter night.
  • The chatter of family conversation over Sunday roast.
  • Seeing a washing line full of washing on a bright and breezy day.
  • Coming across a squirrel while on a walk in the park.
  • A warm sunny summer afternoon spent reading in the garden.
  • Our postmen – who seem to always be cheerful.
  • Going for a walk and realising that Ireland is still a country where strangers often smile and say hello as they pass by.
  • Fridays – no homework, no cooking and no school lunches till Monday.
  • Coffee and a scone at the kitchen table, while reading the paper, having completed the weekly marathon of grocery shopping.
  • How beautiful my garden looks on a frosty bright winter morning.
  • A sunrise walk on Dun Laoghaire Pier.
  • Listening to my kids deep in childish conversation, oblivious to my presence.

If I am having a bad day or am just feeling down, I sometimes take out this list and remind myself of these little things that make life worthwhile. I am determined to never again be so harried that I miss the beauty and simple pleasures that are all around.

The Hospice Foundation has cottoned on to this ‘attitude of gratitude’. They say that “gratitude is good for you” and that there is scientific evidence to back this up. So, in their wisdom they have designated next Thursday 24th November as National Thank You Day and to help us to practice gratitude in our day to day lives, they have produced a Thank You Book.

This book is a journal, full of blank pages in which to record your own gratitude, your thankfulness for the things which make you smile, which lift your spirits, which make your life good. To help you get started there is a wise and gentle forward written by Roisin Ingle and the first few pages feature simple messages of gratitude from some well known personalities.

The nice people at The Hospice Foundation kindly sent me a Thank You Book so I could test drive a daily practice of gratitude. “Piece of cake”, I thought, “I’ve done Reiki don’tchya know, I know all about this gratitude stuff.” Well two weeks in, let me tell you it’s not quite as easy as it might seem.

I began by placing my lovely Thank You book on my bedside table in order to record my gratitude for good things that happened at the end of the day. But one week in, I found that I kept recording variations of the same thing. “Today I am grateful for my warm, cosy bed.” “Thank you for the gift of a good night’s sleep.” Then there were a few nights when I was so tired getting into bed that I just couldn’t manage to record anything. So I have now taken my Thank You Book and placed it on my desk. The idea being that first thing in the morning before I turn on my laptop, I take my journal and I record a simple pleasure.

They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so I guess I am starting again now. So I hereby undertake for the next 21 days I will write down at least one thing every morning. After that it should be a walk in the park! And hopefully I will have shifted some gear in my brain which will cause me to look at life, most of the time, with a ‘glass half full’ mentality. Ohhh I wish that didn’t remind me of chocolate! But there you go – my entry for today. “Thank you for chocolate – especially Green & Black’s Mint Chocolate.” Gosh – I hope I am doing this right!

If you want to experiment with the ‘attitude of gratitude’ – believe me it really does make a difference – check out

STOP PRESS: To mark Thank You Day the Irish Hospice Foundation have given me another copy of The Thank You Book to give away from My Kitchen Table. To be in with a chance to win this gorgeous book which will kick start your own gratitude habit, just leave me a comment. A winner will be chosen on Thank You Day which is 24th November. Good Luck!

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have written before about Women on Air – a great bunch of women who believe we should have more female voices on the airwaves in Ireland. I am on the organizing committee.

Women on Air began as a one off seminar to encourage and educate women on making themselves available to broadcast media. Such was the success of that first event just over a year ago, that Women on Air seminars are now regular events. However our most interesting seminar is happening this week and is open to all… and like all WOA events, the lads are most welcome too.

So if you have ever wondered how top broadcasters and journalists juggle family life with a high-flying career, now's your chance to turn the tables and ask the journalist those very questions. On Wednesday night we'd be delighted if you joined us to hear Prime Time's Miriam O'Callaghan talk about her life in broadcasting. Everyone is welcome to this Women on Air event at Independent Colleges, Dawson Street, Dublin 2 at 6pm on Wednesday. To book your €6 ticket (cash or card) please just follow this link:

We're looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Winter lunchtime in a grey, dank and murky Dublin.

The Concert Hall swallows us up,

gathering us into the elegant auditorium.

We settle ourselves into our seats,

making nests of our heavy winter coats.

The Symphony Orchestra filter out onto the stage.

Men and women, looking like they have been randomly gathered up from various jobs around the city.

A motorbike mechanic, the chairman of the board, a banker, a lollipop lady, a school mom, a hairdresser…..

Their musical apparatus is all that sets them apart.

The cacophony of tuning up, of muted conversations and shuffling of feet dies away.

Hushed anticipation.

Instruments raised, they become one,

As music bursts forth like some magnificent fireworks display.

Firey notes of red and orange glow as they land all around us.

Electrifying the air.

Transporting us away from our grey city to icy Russian landscapes.

And then gentler tones of soft greens and blues float up into the air.

The conductor knitting up the airborne notes into a multicoloured fabric of sound.

Softer and softer until all that is heard is a lone harpist.

Dropping gentle notes like raindrops splashing onto a glass lake.

Crystal clear drops of ancient music catching the light and scattering vivid rainbows here and there.

The motley crew of musicians are transformed into mystical creatures,

Clothed in satins and velvets of deep hues.

Russet and ochre.

Purple and gold.

As they shower us in this lyrical magnificence.

A wholly unexpected and sublime joy.