A Week at Home

Last week was holiday week here. In other words Mr. Simply Homemade was on annual leave. The summer budget was invisible this year so we were on a mission to make the best of the week regardless of finances.

We made a loose plan at the start of the week which involved days out with picnics, afternoons out & general chilling out.

So, is it possible to have a good week at home with an invisible budget?

Mount Leinster

For our first day out we packed a picnic with delicious homemade food, a flask of coffee & bottles of water. We went to Mount Leinster which is just past Bunclody on the Wexford/Carlow border. The drive up here is breathtaking with incredible views. There were lots of wows from the children & the small two in particular couldn’t wait to get out and see the sheep!! There is plenty of parking available, along with some picnic tables. We went for a walk first, however we did need to be mindful of how far the small two could go. It was cold and very cloudy so we ate in the car and then decided to ramble up another part of the mountain. It was beautiful; unfortunately we had to cut it short though as it rained, not just a light shower, it pelted down.

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Mount Leinster

On the whole it was a lovely day out, we cannot control the weather and we can’t sit in waiting on the sun to shine either!

Points worth noting

  • A visit here can involve lots of walking, be mindful of that if you have very young children.
  • The higher up you go, the colder it gets, bring a jacket!!
  • Drive slowly, Mount Leinster gets alot of visitors….and sheep.
  • Mind the sheep poo!!!

Hook Head & Tintern Abbey

Our next picnic day saw us head down to Hook Head first. If you’ve yet to see Hook Lighthouse, make it a priority, it is stunning. Situated on the Hook Peninsula, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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As we passed by Ireland’s most haunted house, Loftus Hall, I couldn’t help but giggle at the tween as she exclaimed her horror at the sight of it. Having heard many tales, she wasn’t taking any chances, she won’t be visiting anytime soon!

Following our visit to Hook Lighthouse we went on to visit Tintern Abbey. This was our first visit here, it had come highly recommended. It’s not difficult to see why. The grounds here have been lovingly restored and are now open to the public, free of charge. There are tours of the Abbey & Walled Gardens which do have a charge however there are acres of grounds, including old ruins, forest walks and adventures all completely free. There are also tea rooms on site which I have heard good things about but as we are on a budget, we had our picnic and off we went.

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I cannot sing the praises of Tintern Abbey enough; the children loved it, they could run wild & use their imaginations to tell us what they thought of various buildings and ruins. Even the teen enjoyed herself (Pokémon Go may have had something to do with that though I’d prefer to think it was the location!) We will without a shadow of doubt be returning to Tintern Abbey.

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Tintern Abbey

Points worth noting

  • You can avail of Tours of the Lighthouse at Hook Head
  • There is also a cafe here along with some picnic tables
  • The lovely seaside village of Duncannon is close by with lots of amenities, find out more about those from Bumbles of Rice.
  • You can avail of tours of Tintern Abbey and the Walled Gardens for a charge.
  • There is a Tea Room on site at Tintern Abbey.

Wells House

Wells House in Gorey is simply fantastic. We prepared a picnic & set off in the morning for a fun filled  day knocking on fairy doors, spotting characters from The Gruffalo, playing in the brilliant playground, archery, finding bears in the wood, making wishes, loving trolls, admiring the dainty little shops & thoroughly enjoying every minute.

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Wells House

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A selection of the Courtyard shops

If this sounds like an expensive day out, it really isn’t, €8 per car; any money you spend after that is your own choice. The archery is €3 per person, two of the children did that. I promised the small boy months ago that I would get him a yellow fairy door & I kept my promise. The fairy doors in the Faerywood Shop in Wells House are only €5 and they are beautiful. He was the happiest little boy putting his fairy door in his window, sprinkling it with magic dust that would make ‘deams come true’!

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Fairy Doors in Faerywood

Points worth noting

  • There is a restaurant here with indoor and outdoor seating. There is also a smaller shop with ice cream and take away coffee.
  • There are no shortage of picnic tables if that is what you would prefer to do.
  • Wells House is home to a huge playground that will keep kids entertained for an age!
  • Both walks are not too long or tiring, even the smallest of walkers will be able for them and the added bonus of fairy doors and woodland creatures will keep them entertained and distract from how much walking they’re doing anyway.
  • There is also a small animal area.
  • Keep an eye on the Wells House facebook page, they regularly host different events.

Duncormick/Cullenstown

We went, spur of the moment, for a drive one afternoon and we decided we’d venture to Cullenstown Strand. On the way we passed through Duncormick Village, stopping here for a few moments to enjoy a lovely riverside walk. This area has been beautifully enhanced and would make a lovely picnic spot, in particular as the walkway is dotted with lovely picnic tables.

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Following our walk we went on to Cullenstown Strand. We had never been here with the children, in fact I hadn’t been here since my own childhood when I recall my Mam bringing us to see the ‘Shell Cottage’.

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Shell Cottage

Isn’t it beautiful?

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We spent a lovely, albeit windy, hour here playing on the beach, making more memories.

Enniscorthy Castle/Vinegar Hill

Enniscorthy Castle in the heart of Enniscorthy was our next day out and yet another picnic day. We paid €10 admission price to the castle and had a lovely time exploring the 13th century home to knights, armies, rebels, prisoners and of course, families.

Now home to various exhibitions including that of Eileen Gray and Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, the castle is an interesting visit.

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Enniscorthy Castle

The children were particularly fascinated with the old styling of the bedrooms in the rooms designed to depict how the Roche family would have lived here.

Another huge bonus in their eyes was accessing the roof top. The views here are spectacular.

Following our tour of Enniscorthy Castle, we ventured up to Vinegar Hill where we had our picnic tables just off the carpark at the bottom of the hill before making our way to the top to explore.

The Battle of Vinegar Hill occured during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 on 21 June 1798 when over 15,000 British soldiers launched an attack on Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy. It marked a turning point in the rebellion, as it the last attempt by the rebels to hold and defend ground against the British military-www.vinegarhill.ie

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Vinegar Hill

The views here again are stunning, the children had great fun running around, though they were a little underwhelmed by it.

For the days we didn’t venture too far, we are lucky enough to live where we live, so we went to the beach for ice cream, checked on the fairy doors in The Secret Garden and of course chilled out in our own garden too!

The highlight of the days out for them was without doubt Wells House, it’s a place I don’t think any family would ever tire of visiting.

Overall however, we did manage to have a lovely week in Wexford with our invisible budget.There are so many things to do that don’t cost the earth.

An afternoon in Kilmore Quay never fails to entertain with the beautiful memorial garden and a super playground overlooking the Saltee Islands. A wander by the river in Edenvale or a ramble through the forest in Raven Woods in Curracloe are usually full of adventures. For the smaller children, they love looking at the ducks in Wexford Widlfowl Reserve; and that is just a small selection of things to do.

We are very lucky in this beautiful county of ours.

Where am I?

Blog posts aren’t coming thick and fast from me at the moment. Let me explain why.

A couple of weeks ago I went to turn on my beloved laptop and despite the little light telling me it had come on, nothing was happening. Off it went to laptop hospital and it never came home. Well actually it has come home, in the same way it went, dead as a door nail.

I won’t lie to you, I did shed a tear. I love my laptop. It’s only two years old, in my naivety I thought paying almost €500 for something meant I would have it for quite a long time. I was the only one to use it, it was minded like one of the children….even better they may argue. Alas, like many other appliances and electronics that we have forked out large sums of hard earned, and often hard to come by, cash for in recent years, it just was not to be, it would seem we are living in a very expensive ‘throw away’ society.

I do have an old family desk top pc with a dodgy mouse that is limping along at a snails pace, and ordering me more carrots than I need with my weekly shop, so bear with me as I struggle not to throw that through the window and get posts published.

After all I need to tell you about our week at home on an invisible budget. I did have some lovely picnic food to show you, the photos of course were on the laptop….maybe next year. I have tips coming up for cooking with children, healthy kitchen swaps and a lovely crafty piece from the tween.

So, I’m here, things are just going to be a little slower, in the meantime perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket!!

There is some good news however; I am delighted to have been shortlisted in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016 in the Food& Drink category, if you like what I do and would like to give me your vote, just click here.

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Shortlist

Do check out the other categories also, they are jam packed with some seriously good bloggers.

Thank you, chat to you soon!

Raw Coconut Energy Balls

A number of weeks ago the lovely people at Cocofina got in touch to see if I would like to try some of their coconut products. As you are aware coconut features in quite a few of the recipes I produce so I was delighted to have the opportunity to try some new ingredients.

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They sent me Coconut Blossom Nectar, Coconut Chips & Coconut Oil. I have never used Coconut Blossom Nectar before so I was excited to try something new.

Cocofina products

 

At first glance I was very impressed with the Cocofina packaging. It is striking and effective, with very clear labelling.

Coconut Balls

As well as cooking ingredients Cocofina provide a super selection of healthier snacks and coconut water drinks.

ABOUT COCOFINA – In 2004, Our founder Jacob Thundil was relaxing on a beach in Brazil sipping a coconut when he came up with the idea to bottle coconut water. He was contemplating a new start-up and given his passion for coconuts, starting was easy! Jacob’s journey began when he set out to find the best tasting coconuts! His discovery of a special species of coconuts created history. His goal was to provide the finest of the finest coconuts for his customers. Cocofina received its first Excellence in Food and Drink Award in 2005. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed using the Cocofina products. I used the Coconut Chips in my Homemade Granola, they were delicious. They also make a delicious snack with some seeds and raisins.

Cocofina Granola

Keen to try something with the Blossom Nectar, I made some Bounty Bites that I’d been meaning to try for a while. They were so good and the nectar adds a very subtle sweetness, it worked perfectly for these.

Cocofina Bounty Bites

Cocofina kindly supplied some recipes along with their products and one that stood out for me was the Coconut Energy Balls. I make a lot of energy balls, they are fantastic snacks for all the family, ideal for lunchboxes or when out and about so I decided to make them. We were not disappointed.

Cocofina

I used both the Coconut Oil and the Coconut Blossom Nectar for this recipe. The Coconut Oil, which is cold pressed, virgin and unrefined is beautiful and retains the most divine fragrance, which I happen to love so I was delighted with this.
Coconut Blossom Nectar is a sweet syrup made from the sap of the coconut blossom which is the sweetest and most nutritious part of the palm tree. It doesn’t have an over powering sweet scent and I have found using it, that it is quite subtle, which is ideal and doesn’t compromise other flavours.

Coconut Energy Balls

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100g Ground Almonds
1 tsp Coconut Oil
2 tsp Coconut Blossom Nectar
2 tbsp Desiccated Coconut

Method

  • Add the almonds to a food processor along with the coconut oil and blend together until the form a butter like consistency.
  • Add the blossom nectar and blend again.
  • Roll small amounts of the mixture between the palms of your hands to form little balls.
  • Roll each ball in the desiccated coconut. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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These should keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days; except in my house,they’d never last that long here!! They were delicious!

Energy Balls

I have to say I was very impressed with the Cocofina products, I found their website, www.cocofina.com, to be very informative and easy to navigate and with Cocofina now being sold in 3000 speciality and healthy outlets in the UK and 28 countries worldwide, their products are easily accessible. It is not difficult to see why they have been awarded   ‘great taste’ awards four years running.

Cocofina kindly supplied with complimentary products for the purpose of this review, as always, all opinions expressed are my own honest views.

 

 

 

Breakfast Sundaes

As you are well aware at this stage, just over a year ago I tackled the amount of breakfast cereal being consumed by my family and launched my own little crusade; #betterbreakfasts.

I have been chuffed with the changes we’ve made, admittedly holiday times are easier than school terms. That of course is perfectly fine, it’s about balance, a sensible attitude and not an all out ban on Weetabix & Cornflakes.

I think I can honestly say now breakfast is my absolute favourite meal of the day; with the whole family looking forward to Sunday morning when we have an extra indulgent breakfast.

The breakfast featured here, was posted to Instagram without a name. The children asked for it again a week later, describing it as the breakfast that looked like dessert. The Breakfast Sundae was born.

Breakfast

To call this a recipe is rather ambitious, really it is a selection of things layered in a glass. I’ll share what went in mine, you choose what you like, build your own and enjoy.

Ingredients

Honey/Highbank Orchards Apple Syrup*Breakfast Sundae
Fresh Berries-Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries
Porridge Oats, toasted
Milled Linseed
Chia Seeds
Greek Style Yogurt/Glenisk Vanilla Protein Yogurt*
Banana

Method

  • If using strawberries, hull and quarter them.
  • Toast the porridge oats in a dry pan until they are golden brown. Don’t let them burn, they’ll become bitter.
  • Start with a little honey/syrup in the bottom of the glass, then add some berries, a sprinkling of both seeds, oats and yogurt. Repeat the process until you fill the glass.
  • Add banana pennies to the top and drizzle with more honey/syrup.
  • Serve & savour.

*Disclaimer: I was not asked to use or mention Highbank Orchards or Glenisk for these recipe, both the syrup and the vanilla yogurt are our preferred choices for this recipe.

Beat Bugs

It’s not often I dedicate a blog post to one show, however, this is one that is worth getting excited about. No, it isn’t Making a Murderer, (which will be back – Yes!!) or Stranger Things which is frightfully good; no, this is Beat Bugs!

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This Wednesday, the 3rd of August, Beat Bugs, inspired by the music of The Beatles,  will be available on Netflix.

Meet the Beat Bugs: Jay, Kumi, Crick, Buzz and Walter, all with the charm and energy of five knockabout, lovable kids. They are best friends who band together to explore and learn in an overgrown suburban backyard, which to them is their entire universe.    Beat Bugs incorporates songs from the Lennon/McCartney ‘Northern Songs’ catalogue sung by some of the most popular musicians from today.

I think this is just marvellous, a whole cartoon series inspired by the Beatles. I cannot wait to sit down with the children and watch this and we will binge watch!!

To coincide with Beat Bugs launch, Republic Records will release the official soundtrack for Season 1 of Beat Bugs exclusively with Apple Music.  Split into two volumes, Season 1 will include a total of 27 tracks with the music from the series and special guest artists like P!nk, James Corden, Aloe Blacc, Sia and Eddie Vedder.

Check out some of the Beat Bugs songs & the lovely animation; highly impressive I think you’ll agree.

Honey Pie – The Lumineers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cm-Flk–xk

Good Day Sunshine – Robbie Williams

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Col7Ym1Y2aw

With season 2 all set for November, Beat Bugs promises to be a huge hit for Netflix. Add it to your list, watch it with your little people and let me know what you think!

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Any questions regarding shows currently running or coming to Netflix, send them on and I will do my best to get them answered for you.

As a member of the Netflix Ireland Stream Team I have received complimentary Netflix membership and in return will be featuring Netflix related blog posts. All opinions are my own!

 

 

 

Home? Where My Heart Is

I have always lived in the sunny southeast, in this beautiful corner of Ireland. In different parts of it yes, but always in Wexford.

We moved twice when I was a child, once that I have no recollection of and the second time when I was 11, a preteen, so the bulk of my childhood memories centre mainly around my Nana’s house in town. She lived in a quaint little cottage on the river Slaney, with the railway line running right at the back of the house.  We knew the train times, we knew when it was safe to climb over the wall and go ‘up the Point’ with Grandad or Uncle Tom if he was home from Wales. We could safely go across the road for 10 penny sweets and cigarettes for whoever requested them, because it was perfectly normal for children to buy cigarettes in the 80’s. Walking to town past the Boat Club and the old Cattle Mart which is now a housing estate, through the carpark (or running along the small wall that surrounded it!) at Redmond Square where Dunnes now stands.Walking out towards  Ferrycarrig and around by the old hospital picking sloes along the way. Always outdoors in those memories, sun always shining; well except for the year it snowed so heavily walking the couple of miles probably wasn’t such a good idea but Mam and her brother (who lived further away from Nana than we did!) decided sure,  ‘it’ll be grand’. We were nearly frozen solid by the time we reached home, my brother and I knee deep in snow. I’m sure my uncle must have resembled a Yeti by the time he got home!

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L-R Carcur, the home of many childhood memories; Jack climbing the wall in the same spot we did as kids; the railway line with ‘the point’ in the background

When we moved, it was a huge change, going from just outside town to the depths of the country side. Home to our other Nana. Moving was quite hard for me, I felt sick for two weeks, it was a huge change. It didn’t take long to adjust though and we were home again. Throughout those fraught teenage years I had the most fantastic allies in my Nana & my Auntie; anything troubling me I knew I could wander in to my Nana’s kitchen and comfort was there. It can be awkward during those years to confide in parents and I hope when my children need a confidante and they can’t quite find the words for me that they can turn to older family members. Country life was very different to what I had grown up with to this point. We were surrounded by fields and when we couldn’t be driven, our feet got us to where we wanted to go; which is no bad thing. We walked for miles, sunbathed in empty fields, played pool at ‘the cross’ ( not a religious reference but a poolroom in the back room of the pub on a crossroads), picked strawberries to earn money – for a day- I was better at babysitting!! Then there were the annual events; the Garden Fete, the Field Day and not forgetting the annual Duck Race (I kid you not, this still happens on a Wednesday evening in July now!!)

On the 9th of September 1997, I loaded my suitcase into the boot of the car. I was moving again. This time however, it was just me. My Mam was so upset. It’s for all the world like she knew, although I’d be back for weekends when work allowed; really I was moving, away from the countryside and I wouldn’t ever be back to live in my family home again.

I was still staying in the same county, but Wexford is a big place. In 1997 it was nearly as quick to drive to Waterford as it was Rosslare Harbour. Yes folks, I was coming home. Of course back then I didn’t know where I was going to be a year from then however at a time when I was seriously considering moving on again, fate stepped in. You know the story; you meet the man, the man becomes your one for life and almost 20 years on we have moved, 10 minutes up the road; we built our nest, our nest is home.

I do love where I live. It was never our plan to live here but we rented a house on this road for a while and then a site came up for sale on it. We’d made some very happy memories in that house, we were happy living here so we jumped at the opportunity to make our home here.

It’s a beautiful place, rural but yet close enough to everything we need. Right in the middle of some of the most beautiful parts of Wexford. No matter which way we go we are close to outstanding beaches. As I wander down the road on which I live for my walk I am greeted  by the most fabulous view of the sea, of Wexford town, of Rosslare Strand. On a clear day we look out our windows and we can see the windmills in Carne on one side, Forth Mountain on the other.

sea view

As our family have grown we have really come to appreciate what’s on our doorstep, to actually live here. All too often we can take our surroundings for granted, now we appreciate them. There is never any shortage of things to do. Depending on the season it can be coffee & hot chocolate or ice cream on the beach in Rosslare Strand. Rambling down to the Burrow taking in the sights of Wexford across the way. The children love being on the bank in Rosslare Harbour, watching the boats come and go; I share a smile with Mr. Simply Homemade as we recall a time where evenings on the bank meant drinks in the hotel as opposed to ice creams with our children – how times have changed. When the boats aren’t in there are always fairy doors just waiting for you to knock in The Secret Garden.

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When we were a family of five, every day Mr. Simply Homemade was off and the children were in school we would park the car in St Helens and off we’d go, through the coves, over rocks, across the cliff tops until we reached the road again and once back on the road we’d look back out to Carne in the distance, Tuskar Rock Lighthouse in front, watching over the Irish Sea. Now we’re a family of seven, parking the car in St. Helen’s means we’re off to explore the coves and the rock pools. Skimming stones, watching out for crabs, squelching in sea weed, becoming a stranded pirate on a lone rock, anything is possible here, years of adventures just waiting to be had.

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For calmer days with lots of running we venture to Ballytrent. Wellies are adorned to keep feet dry as the children splash through the waves. The sound of little feet sloshing usually means wellies are soaked; the wide grins on happy faces mean that’s okay and we make a mental note for the next visit. The mental note usually gets lost.

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Then there’s home, our own little haven. When we stop, take stock, look at what we’ve achieved; no it’s not perfect and it never will be, but we don’t strive for perfection we strive for happiness. And happiness is homemade in our perfectly imperfect space. I found my one in Rosslare Harbour, it will always have a special little place in my heart, however my heart is firmly planted in my home and my home is here in my little homemade house at the top of the hill.

This post is inspired by Live Where You Live; a beautiful post from Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From, celebrating her home town. When you have enjoyed Sadhbh’s post you will find links to many others at the bottom of her post.