KidsLocalThings to Do in Dublin with Kids

Walking Killiney Hill

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As my kids grow older, I have really begun to embrace their school breaks in two ways. The first is I try to keep our days as clear as possible in order to allow the kids and myself to decompress, released from the yoke of the school schedule and the burden of daily homework. I know a lot of other parents frantically try to get their kids into day camps and activities during the breaks, especially the long summer break. The first summer we were in Dublin, I received a flyer for a local art camp and thought, “Hey! This will help the kids meet local kids and get out of the house. Signing the kids for art camp backfired when my 6-year-old daughter came home the second day and said “Mom, we don’t really do art at camp. We just sit around and wait for the teachers to tell us what step to do next and we just follow the instructions.” I had paid €300 for a week of carefully curated crafts and my children came home with three exact duplicate sets of the same paintings and sculptures.

Second, I really enjoy pottering around at home rather than planning day-outings. When the children were slightly younger, open days without plans usually resulted in me packing up a bag of snacks and drinks and loading up the kids into the car (or onto the LUAS our first year in Dublin) for an “adventure” of some sort. Sometimes, it was the park or the beach or a museum. Recently, our oldest at 10 years of age, told me that “wandering around” was really boring as he slumped defeated on the couch when I told him that we were going out for the day. I suppose the lovely European cafe culture was lost on the kids. But I understood what he was saying. That he wanted to relax after weeks of working hard at school and play some video games. Going on an educational trip to the local museum to wander around looking at exhibits and eating home-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was just as much work as school sometimes.

I no longer insist on going out for the day and we now only go to activities that genuinely interest the kids. I prefer carefully planned excursions to be received with joy and elation. Groaning and flopping back and forth on the couch before slumping to the floor definitely hinder my planning mojo. Jason, however does like a good hike and he and our oldest child have enjoyed longer hikes and have explored trails around Seattle and the Dingle Peninsula. This mid-term break, I decided we try out a hike on Killiney Hill Park in Dalkey.

Nestled in a residential area, Killiney Hill Park has a smallish car park at the top of a steep hill. I found out the hard way that it’s a one way loop and turned at the first row of cars only to find myself driving back down the hill. There were cars parked on the left along the edge of the lane, but I’m a little bit chicken when it comes to parallel parking on a steep hill with a manual. I can do it under duress, but on this occasion, we decided to drive back down to the main road and park along a quiet residential street and walk up.

First observation of the footpath in front of the enormous mansions is that there was a lot of dog poo. A. Lot. Of. Poo. There was also a lot of dog poo. So, if you are considering a visit and have young children (toddlers to preschoolers especially), beware the poo. There was a lot of it. Everywhere. I’m just saying. Nothing ruins an excursion like falling or walking in some dog poo. Fortunately, after living in the Dublin city centre for a month, the children were used to walking with an eye to the path and looking for poo on the ground!

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Winding our way up the path and taking detours, the children enjoyed exploring the small paths and taking turns choosing which fork to take. There were a lot of people out walking their dogs. Most interesting was all the off-leash dogs passing signs all over the park that specifically said that all dogs were required to be on a lead. Interesting. It made me wonder as I passed dog-owner after dog-owner carrying a dog lead while his dog ran about free. Do the Dalkey locals (Bono of U2 is supposedly a resident) not feel like the posted signs apply to them? Is picking up your own dog’s poo beneath you? Maybe they just expect someone else will come along and take care of it.

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Well, hello there, small off-lead dog.

 

We wound our way around counter-clockwise and passed people rock climbing in the quarry, took some picturesque photos of the sea from worrisome cliff-like terrain, explored a pine forest while doing a little parkour and balancing, visited the pyramid and Obelisk, and the came around for the finale of a hot coffee and hot chocolates at the Tower Tea Room.

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Posing atop the pyramid

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Don’t fall off!

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At the Tea Room, there are toilets outside and outside seating as well as indoor seating. The toilets and snack were both needed as the crew had already demolished all the snacks and rolls I had packed by the time we left the car. And, well you know, when you have four kids, someone always need the toilet. For a family of 6, it was a bit crowded at two tiny tables, but the kids enjoyed slurping hot chocolates, sampling a bit of brownie, and crunching on crisps on diminutive delicate china plates.

Refreshed, the kids launched themselves down to the playground. We’ve found that keeping the playground as the glistening carrot for the end of the walk always works better and the kids enjoyed zip-lining, and running about wildly from toy to toy as they are inclined to do. Exhausted, me not them, we walked down the path, careful to avoid the same giant poos we encountered when we first arrived, and returned to our car glad to miss the circus of circling vehicles in the upper car park. A Sunday afternoon well-spent.

 

 

 

FoodHomeMom HacksMoney Management

How to Feed 6 People on 100 Euro per week

Is it possible to feed six people a healthly, varied diet on 100 Euro per week?

Now, before anyone complains and writes negative comments, I was lucky enough to start out with a lot of basics and did not have to purchase all my spices and pantry items from scratch. With that said, we did have to do that when we first moved into a temporary flat for the first four weeks that we lived here. I will say that it IS possible to feed a family of 6 on 65 Euros or less in a small flat and shopping primarily at the Centra (a convenience store) and mini-Tesco down the road. Our menu was much more limited and did include a lot of rashers and potatoes. But it is POSSIBLE.

When we were considering a move to Ireland, we used hypothetical budgets to help us determine if it was a financially feasible move for us. With four kids, we had a lot of different factors to consider such as children’s activities, school fees, and transportation. Everything is multiplied when you have to consider that you be buying bus tickets or LUAS tickets for 6 rather than 2 or 3 people. One of the largest expense areas in our monthly budget is our grocery expenses. This area can fluctuate wildly from one month to the next if we make a lot of unplanned purchases and last minute stops to the shops.

To help keep this budget under control, I have found that the best way is for me to menu plan. I had experimented a little with this back in Seattle and found that it was much easier to stick my budget if I planned the week or month ahead. This way I was able to keep track of what I already had stocked in my freezer and pantry and then minimized my trips to the store by doing one big shop instead of going to the store several times a week.

In Ireland, I am lacking a deep freezer (which we had in Seattle) and a nice sized fridge (our fridge is on the small size), but I found that meal planning actually helped because then I was using up things before they went bad and also that generally one weekly shop filled up my fridge. I did not really have room to make ahead meals and make freezer meals, but I did have enough freezer space that I could stock up some meats if they were on sale to use for a different week if needed and to freeze some leftovers (like stock or soup) to use at another time.

I have also been trying to utilize our slow cooker more especially as we start to ramp up for after school activities. So, to start my menu planning, I surveyed the kids and husband to find out everyone’s top 3 meals that mom makes. It was actually interesting to hear what they all liked to eat and why. And interestingly, none of them were duplicates! With that information, I started to plan out our meals so that each person got have a preferred meal somewhere in week. As the kids get older, I will start having them help to learn to make some of their favorite meals. My oldest has already been making pancakes and french toast and all the kids help peel carrots and make garlic toast.So, here are my weekly meal plans for a few weeks. I tried to include some much loved meals and incorporated a slow cooker meal each week as well as 1 or 2 new recipes that I have been compiling on pinterest.

Weekly Grocery Budget: 100 Euro

Sample Menu Plan – Week #1:

Sunday – Stuffed Tofu, jasmine rice, stir fried broccoli
Monday – Spaghetti in Vodka Sauce, garlic bread, salad
Tuesday – Crockpot butter chicken, basmati rice, cucumber slices
Wednesday – MustGoes! (leftovers)
Thursday – Grilled cheese or buttered french bread, tomato basil soup, salad
Friday – Homemade tortilla pizzas or french bread pizzas
Saturday – leftovers

Sample Menu Plan – Week #2:
Sunday – Bacon and broccoli quiche
Monday – Vietnamese Braised pork, jasmine rice, stir fried bok choy
Tuesday – Mi Goi (Ramen noodles)
Wednesday – MustGoes! (leftovers)
Thursday – Crockpot French dips, salad, mash
Friday – Crockpot Pizza Lasagna
Saturday – leftovers

Sample Menu Plan – Week #3:
Sunday – Soboro don (Japanese Chicken/Egg Rice bowl), jasmine rice, tofu and green been stir fry
Monday – Slow cooker ravioli, salad
Tuesday – Slow cooker Indian butter chicken, basmati rice, garlic naan, cucumber/tomato salad
Wednesday – MustGoes! (leftovers)
Thursday – Irish sausages, potatoes, rolls, broccoli
Friday – Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole
Saturday – leftovers

Most of these meals allows for leftovers – enough for my husband to pack a lunch and also for leftover Wednesdays and Saturdays. Our weekly grocery shop also must include breakfast and lunch for the kids at school as well as afterschool snacks. So, in addition to our evening meal grocery items, I always buy:

Sandwich bread
Deli Ham
Cheese (either string cheese or miniBells)
Apples, Bananas, Plums or Pears (whatever is in season)
Tube Yogurt (These usually contain 9. Remember I have 4 lunches to pack each day. So, these only last for two lunches! So I have to buy 2-3)
Microwave popcorn
Cereal
Bagels & cream cheese
Sausage Rolls (for breakfast)
Scotch eggs
Small sweet treats like dried fruit leather or baked goods
Butter
Crackers

Even with all of this, I am usually able to stick to about 100 Euro per week. Some weeks I am slightly over if I purchase extra items on sale or make a special trip to the Asian grocery store to stock up on items. So, to be fair, I would say that I am spending about 100 Euro to 125 Euro per week on strictly groceries. This is pretty good for me! That brings my grocery budget to about 400 – 600 Euro per month even with special purchases.

You may have noticed that my budget didn’t include any beverages. We generally do not have juice or soda in our house. My kids do consume a LOT of milk though. While we lived in Seattle, we had our milk delivered weekly (loved it!) and were fortunate to have milk delivery in our area in Dublin as well. This is a huge time and budget saver. Even though the milk is slightly more expensive, it saves me a trip to the store (and often the additional spending it involves). When we didn’t have a car, this was a huge burden because walking with 3 bottles of milk was not fun. We spend 13 Euro per week on milk (5 2-litre bottles).

Tips for Keeping Your Grocery Budget Low in Ireland

Shop at Lidl and Aldi.
It is no joke. Stuff really is loads cheaper at Lidl and Aldi compared to Supervalu and Tesco for most things. For all my staples, I go to Lidl and/or Aldi first to buy things. Then, if there is a specialty item that they don’t carry, I will go to Supervalu or Tesco to buy those items. If I go to Supervalu or Tesco first, I also think that if I buy something there, the price is comparable and it will save me a second trip. But this ALWAYS leads me to spend more overall on my budget. For example, a bag of new potatoes at Lidl is 1Euro. This feeds my whole family for one meal plus leftovers. The exact same bag at Tesco is 3Euro. A pre-made pastry crust is 1.29Euro at Aldi and 3.99Euro at Tesco.

Buy in Season and on Sale
This seems obvious, but it really makes a huge difference. I usually buy one or two bags of small apples to pack for my kids lunches. If I check the sales at Lidl and Aldi, they often sell a fruit and a veg each week for a super value at 49cents or less. Their regular price is 1.99Euro. That’s a 75% savings! So, you could spend 1Euro on two bags or 4 Euro.

Avoids Processed/Pre-made foods
Again, obviously, the premade stuff is much more expensive. You pay for the convenience, but I like knowing the ingredients that go into my meals and what I am feeding the family. So, with a little bit of planning, you can avoid a lot of those additives and get huge savings by avoiding those foods.

Do Sign up For Club Memberships
Supervalu, Tesco, and Dunnes all have Club Memberships which basically means they will give you a card to scan when you make purchases and then send you vouchers (coupons) for a percentage of the amounts you spend. You can also collect stamps to buy special items at discount which can also be a very good discount (Pyrex, cast iron pots, etc.).

BeautyCreate SomethingGreen Living & CraftsLess Than 5

Craft Sewing: Make a Haramaki and Hide that Muffintop

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I have two sets of clothing in my dresser. The “before” babies clothing and the “after” babies clothing. I have whole drawer full of tiny t-shirts that used to skim the top of my cute low-rise jeans.

Now, those shirts mostly get shoved around while I look for long t-shirts that hide my muffintop, that special roll of extra skin and fat that still hangs around even though my youngest baby is already a toddler.

How to revive the life of those long-banished t-shirts? Make yourself a Haramaki! A haramaki is a japanese “belly-warmer” – but translate that into a cute, colorful way to create that layered look with a leg-warmer type garment made out of t-shirt material for your torso. PlanetJune has a great tutorial. Try cutting off the bottom of a different shirt that you might not wear much anymore; follow Domesticali’s simplified steps for an easy haramaki make-over for an old t-shirt. Not crafty? Try a Hip-T for that cute layered look without breaking out your sewing machine!

Hobonichi creates designer knit haramaki.

Hobonichi creates designer knit haramaki.

There are all these different benefits of wearing a haramaki – boosting circulation, relief for abdominal distress. Mostly, I’m just interested in their “muffintop” hiding abilities. They create a cute, coverup for that gap between the bottom of a cute, but too-short t-shirt and your low-rise jeans. Much cuter than some industrial strength Spanx exposed when you bend over!

First Photo by Domesticali.
Second Photo by Hobonichi.

BeautyCreate SomethingGreen Living & CraftsLess Than 5

Make Your Own Benetint

I love Benetint. As an asian girl with oily skin, I’ve always had trouble finding a blush that gives a natural pink glow that lasts more than an hour or that doesn’t wipe off easily on my white shirts or other pieces of clothing. Benetint offers the perfect solution. It’s a lovely cheek and lip stain that lasts all day and blends in naturally so that you actually look like that’s your natural color! It can be a bit expensive at $28 a bottle, but fortunately, it lasts a long time.

For those of you who are industrious but don’t have that $28 plus tax laying around, you can make your own Benetint at home! Luckily, it also requires less than five ingredients! You just some beet root, glycerine, a pot to boil it, and a bottle in which to keep it. Read the full instructions here by TimesOnline. The original recipe comes from The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, by Kyle Cathie. Thanks to BusyWork for finding this great idea.

Recipe Summary:

“You need 45g of grated raw beetroot and 3 tablespoons of vegetable glycerine (which you can get for £3.90 for 100ml at Neal’s Yard Remedies; www.nealsyardremedies.com). Combine the two in a double-boiler and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then pour into a sterilised pot. Dab onto the apples of your cheeks, blending well, or use as a lip stain.”

Create SomethingHomeLess Than 5Organizing

Free Printable Labels by PoppyTalk

Free Printable Red Labels by PoppyTalk

Free Printable Red Labels by PoppyTalk

I’m still in organizing mode, not that I’ve made much progress. But, I have been shredding documents going back to 2000 (I know! Who needs to keep paid bills that long!) and trying to organize and sort through the remaining documents and supplies in my crowded office. I will post a picture soon, but I can’t find the camera.

In the meantime, I’ve been organizing office supplies like cd label packs, address labels, and empty file folders into inexpensive, cardboard, white Ikea magazine holders on my bookcase. Of course, now I need labels! A row of blank, white magazine folders doesn’t really help in the organization process without an attractive labeling system.

Download a PDF of these gorgeous labels by PoppyTalk which can be easily printed on large label sheets (for instant stickiness) or onto nice cardstock to be trimmed and then taped or glued onto your chosen surface. Use them to organize and label file folders, magazine folders, containers, and more.

Image by Poppytalk.

Create SomethingHomeLess Than 5Style

Do-it-Yourself Gorgeous Paper Daisies

Easy to make paper rosettes by Paper Source
Fabulous Pink Flowers make the party.

Fabulous Pink Flowers make the party.

I saw these lovely Pink Paper Daisies in a post by Making it Lovely. Makes me swoon to think of hanging them in the baby’s room or at a wedding or shower to create a lovely sky of flowers. The paper flowers are about $2 at Lunar Bazaar, but if you want to customize them for a special color or size, you can easily make these yourself. My favorite colors are blue and aqua, but pick any color paper to make these delightful, inexpensive decorations to bring color and interest to your home, shop, or party.

For an easy tutorial, check out Paper Source’s Paper Rosette Tutorial for step-by-step instructions.Try using premium colored tissue paper which comes in a vast array of colors to create large, airy flowers. Scrapbooking papers are another source of endless designs and colors and would look lovely strung in a row on a string or ribbon. Of course, this project only takes less than 5 items: Paper, tape or clue, string or ribbon, and a hole punch! Perfect!

Easy to make paper rosettes by Paper Source

Easy to make paper rosettes by Paper Source

Check out how Stemparties created a fabulous pink baby shower theme using these lovely flowers. Seriously? Her party decor is amazing, but a little over the top. Who has time to make all that stuff? She must not have small children. However, her party decor gives some great ideas.

Pink Party Flowers photo by Stemparties
White Paper Rosette photo by Paper Source.

Create SomethingKidsLess Than 5Mom Hacks

Last Minute Printable Valentines

Adorable cards you can print for free.
Love printable Valentine's Day cards by Bunny Cakes.

Love printable Valentine’s Day cards by Bunny Cakes.

Don’t give up if you haven’t had a chance to get a card for your Valentine! Here are some gorgeous printable valentines from Bunny Cake. Her lovely designs make your home-made valentine classy and professional. Plus, you can do it all from your computer! Click here for the PDf file and instructions.

Adorable cards you can print for free.

Adorable cards you can print for free.

Photos by Bunny Cakes.

Create SomethingGreen Living & CraftsHomeKids

Get Ready for Spring with these Home-made Sun Jars

Solar Powered Home Made Sun Jars

Solar Powered Home Made Sun Jars

I know it’s still cold outside. I mean, Jeez. There WAS snow this week. But the days are starting to get longer and the sun is starting to shine to break through the gloomy Pacific Northwest sky. It makes me feel hopeful that spring and summer are just around the corner, and if you are anything like me, it might take a few months to organize and make enough of these to put around your deck or patio or even hang from the frence for those crisp nights when you WILL be sitting outside enjoying the beauty. Once again, this craft by Not Martha is a fave for me because it takes less than 5 items to make! Woohoo! This greatly increases the chances that I might actually make it!

Not Martha does a great job of breaking down the instructions for these Homemade Sun Jars based on the Sun Jar design by Tobias Wong. For your less than 5 items supply list, you’ll need a small Ikea glass jar, one solar garden light, glass frosting spray, and some Blue Tack. This great project will give you a solar-powered warm glow on your deck, porch or patio all summer-long. Save power! Make Home-made Sun Jars!

Photo by Not Martha.

Create SomethingGreen Living & CraftsHomeKidsLess Than 5

Make Fairy Flower Lights

Make Fairy Flower Lights from Recycled Egg Cartons

Make Fairy Flower Lights from Recycled Egg Cartons

This is an amazing repurposing craft! How adorable are these lights and you’ll be repurposing those egg cartons at the same time. This easy craft from Espirit Cabane has such a short suppply list (less than 5) that you probably already have lying around your house: egg cartons, scissors, a string of LED christmas lights, and a hole-punch (optional). What a creative way to repurpose egg cartons and make something lovely for your bedroom or to drape in your kid’s room for some twinkly fairy lights. Get the full instructions here.

Photo by Espirit Cabane.

HomeKids

Measure Up with this Stylish Growth Chart

With three kids 4 and under, I had scoured the stores for a cute growth chart. I didn’t really want a big clunky wall hanging. I just couldn’t seem to find something stylish and cute that would work easily in the kids small room. My husband had been tracking their height changes over the last couple of years on the door frame to the kitchen, but I wanted something a little more portable in case we ever moved. Besides, I also wanted to paint the door frame. So, I settled for a peel-n-stick wall decoration from Target.

Stylish Growth Chart by Bold and Noble

Stylish Growth Chart by Bold and Noble

I WISH I had found this sooner. This stylish growth chart by Bold and Noble is graphic and beautiful. Bold and Noble’s designs are hand pulled screen prints made in England by wife/husband team, Jane Tobitt and David Wardle. Gorgeous.