Boring, but necessary

It’s been a long while since I posted. I’ve had a rubbish winter full of viruses and exhaustion, so I just haven’t felt up to much writing or changing, to be honest. But spring has finally sprung, and we are making changes day by day, so back in the saddle I go!

This is a fairly mundane change that we need to make but something which will hopefully mean more spare cash and more flexibility. We are going to change our mortgage provider. This means a ton of tedious paperwork and a lot of legal fees but the bank we are currently with has let us down on more than one occasion, and we have had enough.

The latest was when we asked them for a three month payment break (planned, in advance, with a fixed date when we would resume full payments) so my husband could take parental leave and stay at home with our daughter before she went to a childminder. A few of our friends had done this with their own mortgage providers, with no problems whatsoever, so we were confident our straightforward situation was going to be a no-brainer.

We were strung along for months, with most customer service agents indicating it wouldn’t be a problem, only for them to finally reply only two days before the agreement was to take effect with an “interest only” offer, which would have saved us less than €200 a month, and wasn’t the point. They also made the comment that “lifestyle choices like having children were not the bank’s problem”. That is an actual quote! Plus, they took the opportunity to rewrite the loan agreement with a number of new clauses. Thankfully, I have a very savvy friend in the business who was able to translate the incomprehensible legalese which was the new agreement and advised me that it wasn’t a good idea to sign. The documents were returned with a big “NOT ACCEPTED” written all over them and we used our hard-earned savings to get us through my husband’s unpaid leave instead.

Also, their interest rates are the highest in the country and they are one of the very few banks who haven’t passed on the last few ECB rate cuts. So, bye bye, bank!

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Bread, glorious bread

A quick Sunday night post.

I’ve been making my own bread for several months now, ever since we got a bread machine. It’s changed our lies! So easy and we have fresh, additive free bread; we know exactly what’s in it and can omit all sugar and limit the salt. I usually make it using half wholemeal/half white flour, and sometimes add seeds, herbs, sundried tomatoes, etc, depending on what’s in the kitchen. I’ve also made dough for focaccia and pizza. Lovely!

I’ve been reading more and more about sourdough. This bread is made using a “starter”, flour and water left to ferment to a wild yeast. This is apparently excellent because essentially the gluten is already partially “digested”, and it’s much easier on the system than standard yeast-leavened breads, which can leave you bloated and uncomfortable. Starters can be passed on generation to generation; the longer it’s kept and fed properly, the better the bread.

Unfortunately I don’t have a granny who baked so I have just made my own starter, which is now sitting on the kitchen counter.

It couldn’t have been simpler: 4 ounces flour (I just used plain white) and 4 ounces water (weighed), mixed well, and left in a Kilner jar. For the next four days I will “feed” it using the same quantities of flour and water; then, depending on the kitchen temperature (central heating is on), by Friday it should be ready to use. It’s ready when the bubbles are evident and it smells quite sour. Once I start using it, I need to replace whatever I use with more flour and water. I also have to feed it once a week regardless of whether I use it or not. Looked after this way, it should be the one and only time I ever need to make it.

The tricky bit seems to be actually making the bread. I’m all about simplicity; so far, I’ve only found fairly complex instructions. However, my bread machine has a sourdough cycle on it; I shall investigate this. No doubt it will be nowhere near as nice (or authentic) as the handmade loaf but let’s see.

Coughs and colds may break my bones…

This week has brought with it the return of the traditional winter cold…runny nose, headaches, exhaustion and worst of all, a horrible cough. I particularly get caught out with the cough – long after the other symptoms are gone, I am left with the most annoying tickle and cough my lungs up for weeks. A long while ago, after a cold, I had a chronic cough for two YEARS; after eventually having a chest xray, which was clear, I worked my way through steroids and every over the counter cough syrup known to man, but it was only a hefty dose of industrial strength codeine finally killed it. This time around, I want to stay away from synthetic medications as far as possible and try to allow my body to work with natural products and heal gently. (Unless I go mad with the lack of sleep and need a quicker fix! Although I have to be careful with codeine while I am breastfeeding – it has a negative effect on milk supply, which is the last thing I want.)

Ideally I should take my time about getting better and rest at home, under a lovely duvet, with a hot cup of tea or three; but with a 15 month old, a full time job, a house to keep in order, and precious few free weekends left until Christmas, there’s little chance of that.
While the cough is “productive” (sorry for the imagery) I would be wise to let it run its course as there is obviously a good reason for it. It’s when it becomes that stupid tickly dry cough that I need to nip it in the bud, and fast.

I have been investigating alternative remedies for coughs and some surprising answers have come up. Apparently seaweed (specifically Carrageen moss, which is handy since it grows right here in Ireland) is a good remedy for respiratory troubles. Here is a link on how to make a Cough and Cold remedy with it.

Unfortunately I don’t have seaweed around the house and Lidl doesn’t stock it – yet – so I will have to wait until I can get my hands on some to test it out.

Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties, and can apparently suppress coughs much better than cough syrups. It fights infections and kills bacteria, and helpfully also contains nearly 50% of the daily requirement for Vitamin C intake. Plus, it reminds me of my fabulous holiday in Bali a few years ago, so win-win. I juiced one and drank some last night, and while I can’t hand on heart say it cured me just yet, it was tasty and healthy!

Thyme is also said to be good as the extracts from the plant have broncho-dilatory effects – good for that tight, wheezy feeling. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which boosts blood flow, and turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which have been the subject of numerous biomedical studies over the years. Here’s a recipe which includes all three plus the usual favourites of honey and lemon.

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I had all that so I brewed up a cup. Word of warning – NOT for the faint hearted! The cayenne pepper is hot. It was not very pleasant at all but I “took my medicine” and managed to get most of it down!

I didn’t cough at all after that (body scared of any more natural remedies?) and fell asleep comfortably. Unfortunately I woke a few hours later with a really bad coughing fit which I just had to ride out (it was midnight and there was no way I was going to go all the way downstairs to do something about it!).

Other than that, I can also try steaming with the addition of essential oils, for example, eucalyptus, peppermint or lavender (this last would also be lovely and relaxing). Here is some information on how they work.  I had a lovely hot bath with some eucalyptus oil I bought a while ago for my daughter’s congestion.

Ultimately, the only thing I can do is treat the symptoms and wait out the virus. However, I’m very hopeful that if I treat my body gently I will hurry the process along somewhat!

A BIG change in the making!

I’m posting this as I know that if I’ve written it down, on the internet!, I’m far more likely to stick to the plan.

I’ve been back at work after maternity leave since March this year. My little girl was 7 months old then (I took an extra month unpaid leave on top of my six month entitlement – leave that is, in my opinion, shamefully short, particularly if you, like me, are continuing to breastfeed), but thankfully my husband was able to stay at home with her for a few months. This really helped us all ease into leaving her with her wonderful childminder, who she loves, at 10 months. I was working four days a week and the day off in the middle was fantastic; but I’ve gone back to a full five days since October.

I am finding this extremely hard. I am only seeing my delightful little girl for a maximum of an hour and a half a day, and in the evenings we are both very tired. Now that it’s winter, I am commuting for around two hours a day (because of traffic!), leaving home and returning in the dark, and spending more and more money just to get to work and keep S with the cm for ten hours a day. The weekends are half wasted trying to keep on top of house “stuff” instead of really enjoying the time off. She is at an age where every day is filled with massive learning and I’m missing almost all of it. She comes home with new words and gestures and I wasn’t the one to teach her.

This is ridiculous madness. The madness of modern mammyhood, as someone put it!

I want to be with my child more; but we need my salary, unfortunately, to cover all the giant bills we have. Also I do want to keep working in some capacity; and S genuinely loves going to see her friends at the cm’s, so I wouldn’t stop her from going at least a few days a week.

So I need to come up with a plan to keep earning some money but in a way that allows me to maximise my time at home. This would tie in so well with my whole plan to “unprocess” our lives.

I’m working with a lovely lady who is helping me put together a six week plan to “escape”. I’m in week 1 as I type, so I have a lot of work to do. I’m excited, and very nervous! But when I think about the alternative…this mind-numbing, soul-destroying apart-ness that is tearing my heart out every day – it’s a no brainer.

Edit: Here are that lovely lady’s details! http://www.undercoverescape.com

First off, I need to seriously save some household money. This evening’s plan is to pull out all the insurance policies and see what I can do there!

The first step – starting from the top!

The first thing we’ve decided to do is ditch the shampoo and conditioner. 


My hair is extremely fine and flyaway, and no matter what I do, it never holds a style. My scalp shows through unless it’s teased to within an inch of its life. Over the years I’ve coloured and treated it a lot, in an effort to be less self-conscious about it, but it hasn’t improved – in fact, when I look at photos of myself from years ago, it’s evident that things used to be fuller-looking! 


I heard about the “no poo” method a couple of months ago, and the more I read about it, the more intrigued I was. It was this page which finally pushed me over the edge. 


Shampoos and conditioners contain many chemicals and some of the ingredients they usually use, particularly sulfates, will still strip away the oils from your hair, ironically causing your scalp to overproduce oils. After I washed and conditioned my hair, it would feel clean, but totally weightless (not a good thing when your hair is already in danger of leaving your scalp altogether); within less than a day, it would be lank and limp. 


I last used commercial shampoo about three weeks ago. For two weeks, I only rinsed my hair with water, and brushed and brushed it to get the oils moving through the hair from the scalp. Immediately, my hair felt better – thicker and more glossy, since I was leaving everything in the hair. It wasn’t at all apparent that I’d ditched conventional shampoo, even on the smell test, but this may be different for different people. I just tied my hair up as usual. 


Then, I used the baking soda “shampoo” and apple cider vinegar “conditioner” (both mixed 50/50 with water, as suggested in the Hairpin’s blog above). 


Well – what a revelation. Firstly it was really easy to use, and secondly – just look at the shine. No tangles – not one – and no smell of salad dressing. I was really pleased. 

I will wash my hair with this once, maybe twice a week, but the rest of the time just use plain water. I am really excited to see what happens over the next few months!


My husband decided to join me. As mentioned in my first post, his seborrhoeic dermatitis particularly affects his scalp. He has been using Head & Shoulders shampoo for years as it’s been the only product which has kept it under control, so he was understandably very nervous of ditching it. The last few times he didn’t wash his hair his scalp got unbearably itchy. He is also very active and sweats a lot, so again something which he was worried about. 


Nonetheless he started (or stopped!) a few days ago and has made sure that he rinses his hair thoroughly with plain water every day (which he didn’t do in the past, if he skipped a hair wash he just left it dry), and is brushing the oils through with his fingers. It’s early days, but he has experienced no itching or increased flakiness at all. His hair also feels softer and his scalp far less tingly. He said that one of the effects of the shampoo was to make his scalp tingle, which now we know is actually the stripping of all the natural oils! 


I will keep you updated! 

Small beginnings!

I’m a 34 year old living in Dublin city. I’m married to a wonderful man and have an amazing little 15 month old girl (where did the time go??). While we were always pretty healthy, we have got better since our baby was born, and especially since our little girl started eating solids in January, we’ve upped the ante even more: for example, we hardly add salt to our food, don’t eat much refined sugar, we are much more conscious of getting our “5 a day”, we have a steam mop for our tiles, and we use reusable wipes at home. I know there’s a long, long way to go, though!

Lately I’ve been getting more and more uncomfortable with all the chemicals, additives and other nasties in our food, drink and skin and cleaning products, particularly as I watch my perfect child develop little patches of dry skin here and there, some rashes, and so on. Nothing serious, since she was exclusively breastfed to six months, and is still breastfed alongside the healthy foods, which is helping a lot, but she doesn’t only eat at home, and we are all exposed to so many environmental toxins during our day to day lives, it’s somewhat inevitable that reactions will present. I have eczema which flares up badly during times of stress and when the seasons change; and my husband suffers from seborrhoeic dermatitis which affects his scalp badly with a lot of itching and flaking, and flares up on his body from time to time, causing him great grief. Both of our complexions could be a lot better; we are certainly not glowing! I could definitely lose some weight and we both need more pep in our step, generally.
I recently joined a Facebook page called “Unprocessed Ireland” and have been getting some really good ideas. This has prompted me to finally succumb to the pleasures (dangers?) of Pinterest and I’ve been pinning like a mad thing. I’ve decided to dedicate myself to making one small change a month, or more if I can, to go as “unprocessed” as possible in our day to day lives.
Please feel free to comment and give me ideas on what do to, or perhaps if there’s something you want to try and haven’t been able to yet, see if I’m game!
Wish me luck 🙂