Howth

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This week I’m doing a #throwback to when the weather was reflective of the season and Stephen and I visited Howth.

It was warm enough and sunny enough to warrant wearing sunblock, shorts and sunglasses, so a day trip to the coast seemed like the perfect plan.

We left Blanchardstown in the early afternoon and followed Google Maps’ directions to Howth’s waterfront.

We parked near the cliffs and strolled down to the town, passing a whole range of people from American tourists to scantily-clad teenagers soaking up the sun.

Stephen had brought a lunchbox of fruit that we enjoyed as a starter on our way to Crabby Jo’s restaurant for lunch. Watermelon, grapes and strawberries taste nicer than usual when it’s over 20°C.

Lunch was delicious. I ordered a juicy beef burger with cheese and relish while Stephen had a classic fish and chips (“How can you come to Howth and not have fish and chips?!” he had said).

After lunch we sat on the pier, watching boats come and go across the Irish Sea.

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I had an obligatory 99 cone with strawberry syrup on our way from the pier to climb the cliffs. But when we reached the top a little spider crawled on top of me and I almost lost my life with the fright. So it was time to go home.

If the good weather returns I’d love to go back. C’mon mother nature and bring us some sun!

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Protein Pancakes

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Instagram is jammers with hashtags like #fitfam, #proteinjunkie, and #fitspo – and as a severe sufferer of FOMO (fear of missing out) I’ve decided to see what all the fuss is about.

Beautifully filtered pictures of even more beautiful protein pancakes made my stomach grumble so I decided to experiment with those. After a few days of researching various protein powders, I settled on vanilla flavoured whey protein. I had toyed with the idea of chocolate flavour – but the helpful sales assistant in Holland & Barrett (not an ad) advised me that I’m better off sticking to vanilla and adding chocolate toppings if desired. That was brilliant advice, because I haven’t desired chocolate pancakes once since then. Instead, I’ve been adding fruit (raspberries and bananas) and coconut.

The first batch of pancakes I made looked less like pancakes and more like an omlette that had been run over by a car. I made them by combining two eggs, some baking powder, a banana, and two spoonfuls of protein powder.

The mixture was too runny and didn’t stay in a pretty round shape. Each supposed-to-be pancake ran off in different directions on the pan, leaving me with some little and some large splat-shaped cakes.

My friend Ana is a protein-pancake-pro and suggested I add some oats to my mixture to thicken it up. This worked miracles. Second time around, my pancakes were not only round, but extra fluffy too! Nom nom.

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The recipe for these is as follows:

Ingredients:
-2 eggs (hold the yolks if you’re cholesterol conscious)
-A scoop and a half of Flahavens Quick Oats
-2 tbsp of vanilla flavour whey protein powder
-Coconut oil
-Raspberries (optional for toppings)

Method:
-Prepare eggs, powder and oats in a bowl by whisking together with a fork until well-combined
-Heat a pan with some coconut oil, and once hot, add the mixture to the pan using a tablespoon.
-Cook each pancake on either side for 20-30 seconds until brown then pop onto a plate and serve with raspberries.

These pancakes are my new addiction and they’re so good when served with a strong cup of Barry’s tea.

I completely understand the hype on Instagram now and am more than happy to have hopped on the bandwagon. It’s not often that healthy food feels like a treat so I’m going to be scoffing these all the time without the post-meal guilt.

Quick and easy cookies

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This how to make strawberry and oat cookies really quickly and super easily!

You’re welcome 😘

Not that I can take full responsibility for these babies, as I made them straight from a jar by Bake It Easy.

It came as part of a gift bag from the lovely Emma O’Farrell at this year’s BloggerConf in the Marker Hotel, and contained a mix of strawberry pieces, coconut, oats, and madagascan vanilla! Nom!

All the dry ingredients are included in the jar, and all that’s required to bake the cookies is a spoonful of honey, one egg and some butter! Easy-peasy.

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Prepare the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another. The dry stuff comes out in clumps after being compressed in the jar for so long, so you’ve gotta break it up with a spoon until it looks a bit like dry porridge.

Then add your wet bowl to the dry bowl and stir it all together with a wooden spoon until it looks a bit like cooked porridge.

Like so:

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Use a teaspoon to make 15 little cookies on an ungreased baking tray and pop the whole lot in a preheated oven at 180° for 12 minutes!

What I really like about this Bake It Easy product is that it’s all 100% made in Ireland. From way down south in Knockngoshel, Co Kerry, comes the niftiest, tastiest sweet treat.

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I’m in love with these cookies, and I even got a thumbs up from dad for them (he’s usually against any snack that isn’t an apple so that’s really saying something!)

If you live in Munster, Bake It Easy is stocked in a wide range of stores, the full list of which you can find here.

But if you live anywhere else in Ireland or the UK, you can order these handy jars online for just a fiver. There’s free delivery too, so you’ve no excuse not to order some! (This is not an ad, btw. I just really like the cookies) You can do so here.

The strawberry and oat ones I made today are heavenly so I’ll definitely be ordering another jar of that soon – but I also want to try out their Choca Bloc cookies because, well, it’s chocolate and like, yum yum.

Rating out of 10? Definitely 10.

(P.S. My house smells like a bakery and I’m suddenly the happiest girl in the world 😍)

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Wheelchair accessibility in Ireland

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Wheelchair accessibility doesn’t really exist in Ireland.

Many restaurants, hotels, and even footpaths in this country are not suitable for wheelchair users, including my own father, at all.

The term ‘inequality’ is brandished about a lot these days in relation to gender and sexuality. But what about disability?

My dad cannot access his local shop, church, or doctor unless he brings his wheelchair out onto the main road alongside heavy traffic. Yes, there are footpaths in the area – but he cannot use them because a step is required to get on and off them.

The council, when constructing these footpaths around the Dublin 15 area, seemed to forget that wheelchair users cannot simply ‘step up’ onto a raised path.

A gentle slope of concrete is all that’s needed to make dad’s journey to Centra a safe one.

Disabled people should not be made feel different or unwelcome, particularly in their own community – but wheelchair inaccessibility does just that.

Hotels and restaurants, particularly fancy-pants modern ones, tend to have rather low tables that people in wheelchairs cannot make use of.

Wheelchairs are taller than standard chairs. So while friends and family pull their seats close to the table so as not to spill their food or drinks, the wheelchair user must sit further back, because their legs come up too high to pull in any closer.

Sometimes it’s a case that the legs of the table are too close together, and not wide enough to allow the wheelchair in. Either way, the person with the disability is singled out as being different – as if life wasn’t already hard enough.

What’s worse is when the toilet facilities are either up or down a flight of stairs.

Yes, owners are entitled to design their establishments in any way that they want, but a bit of consideration for people with disabilities would go a long way.

Cinemas also have limited wheelchair accessibility.

Sure, my dad could go to see a movie in Odeon, but only if he’s prepared to sit right at the front of the theatre and strain his neck looking up to the screen.

Why can’t ramps be made available within the theatre so that cinema-goers who are confined to a wheelchair can sit further back alongside everyone else?

It’s not good enough for them to be cordoned off to a small seating area directly in front of the screen. I would like to call on all cinema owners to consider the implementation of ramps in the future.

This isn’t solely an Irish problem. Wheelchair inaccessibility is a global issue – even in well-established cities like New York. When I was there in 2014, I noticed that a large percentage of subway stations had no wheelchair access at all. I don’t know how transport officials in New York expect people in wheelchairs to get from A to B, but the subway certainly isn’t an option.

Luckily, here in Dublin at least, public transport is becoming more accessible with kneeling buses that have extendable wheelchair ramps. This gives people like my dad an opportunity to be independent and go out-and-about around the city like everyone else.

I don’t know whether it’s arrogance or ignorance that has led to a lack of wheelchair accessibility in Ireland. Is it that people don’t care about the issue as long as it doesn’t affect them? Or is it that they simply don’t realise it’s an issue at all?

This is a problem that can be easily solved if the right people were given a voice. Able-bodied business people should not be deciding if a place is ‘wheelchair friendly’. Only wheelchair users can make that decision.

I am calling on my local council to invest in wheelchair accessibility, and to engage with people who use wheelchairs on a daily basis to explain their specific needs. Similarly, I would like to ask business owners throughout the country to consider wheelchair accessibility when designing the layout of their premises and the furniture to go into the premises.

Lastly, I am pleading with anyone who reads this to do the same. People with disabilities have enough troubles in their lives without being physically shut-off from their own community. We need to be more inclusive as a society and make the people around us feel accepted and welcome, regardless of physical, mental, gender or sexual differences.

We are all equal, and now is the time to show it.

Please check out the Irish Wheelchair Association website for advice on how to make life easier and more inclusive for wheelchair users.

Embrace Your Local Charity Shop

Charity shops are often overlooked by shoppers bustling down the high street, and seen only as the final resting place for unwanted Christmas gifts and clothes that just don’t fit anymore.

But behind the rail of itchy jumpers and beyond the stack of ancient DVDs, lies a treasure-trove of high quality items for a fraction of the retail price.

 

Yes, it might seem like an overwhelming task to sort through an array of items in search of that ‘Ta-Dah’ piece – but when you find it, it’s completely worth it. Consider it a mini-TK Max, if you will.

The charity shop – be it Oxfam or St Vincent de Paul – always does its best to make sure the clothes it’s selling are of good quality.

If the staff wouldn’t wear it, they certainly won’t sell it.

The items in these shops are usually super organised, either by colour, item type or size – which makes finding that special something a little bit easier.

Of course Lady Luck plays a part in it, too.

Take @HollyShortall for example, who found this Ralph Lauren skirt in her local Dublin charity shop for the tiny price of €2.

That’s cheaper than most people’s bus fares into town and about 99% cheaper than any Ralph Lauren item you can find in Brown Thomas.

Or what about this brand-spanking-new pair of Timberland boots that was picked up by @AidaSue in her local charity shop?

These are top quality items that would cost most of us hundreds of euros, but they’re available for far less than that if we’d just venture off the beaten track and pick them up second-hand.

People leave bags of goods into various charity shops every day of the week, so if you’re lucky you’ll pop into the right one at the right time, preferably right after someone’s dropped off their designer gear.

Not only that, but once you purchase these once-loved clothes, you can enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling having helped out a charity in desperate need of funds.

Lots of people are already picking up bargains in their local charity shops all over the country – with Oxfam Ireland taking in over €6 million euro in 2014 alone.

But now, as we near the halfway point of 2016, we need to seriously improve on that. With environmental issues such a global warming becoming increasingly important, what better way to play a part in saving the planet than re-using trendy clothes?

Instead of nipping to Penneys for bits’n’bobs for your holidays, why not pop into shops in aid of Barnardos, Enable Ireland or the Irish Cancer Society? The quality of the clothes on sale in these places is just as good, if not better, and you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint in the process. Win, win!
This is a lifestyle change that all of us can get on board with. It doesn’t mean giving up your favourite shops for good, but it does involve making wise choices about where you spend that hard-earned dosh.

Plus charity shops can be enjoyed by everyone – not just those on tight budgets.

We can make charity shopping a fun experience by sharing it with our family and pals. If the date is inching closer to birthdays or anniversaries, why not agree upon a spending limit with those you love and see what special items can be found for one another beneath that price threshold.

Be it clothes, footwear, or even books – our local charity shops are definitely worth a gander.

The sun is out! Must be exam season!

Dublin – you’re lookin’ well!

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There’s something about sunshine that makes everything and everyone look better, and Dublin is looking pretty damn fine in this bright 20° heat.

Suddenly it feels like any other European city; and it’s finally acceptable to sit outdoors drinking coffee, eating meals or sipping cold pints of cider. Woohoo!

If it weren’t for the milky-skinned Irish lads strolling around with their tops off, you could easily be in Barcelona or Florence.

While the majority of the population soak up the rare availability of vitamin d, thousands of students are stuck inside dark libraries, studying for upcoming exams and dreaming of the sunny world outside.

Their time will come to enjoy the good weather though… shame it will be next year when the new exam season rolls around.

As an auburn-haired, freckle-covered Dublin native, I’m taking these glorious days to top up my gingerness for winter. My hair becomes ginger in the sun, but goes dark in the winter. I like to keep the red hues in it for as long as possible, so I’m embracing the bleaching qualities of the sun’s rays this week. (But lathering myself in Factor 50 suncream so as not to end up like these poor souls…)

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So my thesis is done – but now what?

Writing my thesis was a massive challenge. From trying to schedule interviews to researching for months in the library to trying to complete a tonne of other assignments at the same time – I was kept super busy and didn’t have a second to relax.

But yesterday I got it printed and bound (thank you Thesis Centre on Camden Street) and now I officially have no college work to do.

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So now what?

When I woke at 9am this morning I felt unsettled by the lack of pressure weighing down on my conscience. There was no little voice telling me to redraft my literature review or to edit my chapter three.

Rolling over to the cold side of the bed, I stretched and tried to go back to sleep.

But something just felt odd (and not because my dog was taking up all the leg space).

It was time to get up and do something. But what?

I caught up on all my favourite Snapchat stories, scrolled through dozens of click-bait Facebook posts and checked out the drama between Zayn Malik and Azealia Banks on Twitter.

I’ve since wandered in and out of the kitchen, sat on the sofa, got back up again, made a cup of tea and twiddled my thumbs.

I’m not used to having nothing to do – and I really want to keep busy.

Today I’ll trawl the Internet in search of inspiration. Be it a new class to take, or a new hobby to take up – I have no idea (yet). But I’ll figure it out.

Suggestions are welcome!

Wish me luck!