Monday, 27 May 2019

THE 7 BEST REASONS TO VOTE

                                                    The Irish Election: lives on the line.

I'M ABOUT to make a sweeping generalisation: brace yourselves.
Irish people love politics. In a world where people who can vote often don't bother, and where whole generations of voters respond only to soundbites and daily dramas in high places, we live for old-fashioned elections.

I should clarify this immediately by saying that I have no idea what happens to us when we leave our little parcel of land in the middle of the Atlantic. Maybe when we emigrate, we assimilate so well that if our fellow countrymen are indifferent, so are we. I'd like to think not, but I can't be sure.

But back to the 4.8 million right here in the Republic of Ireland. Give us an election: local, general or European and we're happy out. Promise us a referendum (which is how we voted in same-sex marriage and on Friday last, how we reduced the wait for divorce from four to two years) and we're fairly ecstatic.

Never mind the nay-sayers who give out about the election posters littering the lamp-posts the length and breadth of the country. Or the thousands of us disturbed in the middle of our dinner to greet canvassers and candidates on our doorstep. Who cares if we have spinach stuck in our teeth whilst we quiz them about our appalling housing crisis and climate change. Sure don't we love to have something to give out about?

And we're a small country. Not just population-wise. Land-wise, too. So it's easy to get around. Relatively. And we tend to know everyone. That's actually the truth. If we don't know someone, we'll quiz them until we discover someone they know, that we know as well. In fact, if you're not careful, you'll find that the person you've been quizzing is actually a distant relation. Or they sat beside you in school 30 years ago. Or they know someone you know, who you rather they didn't.

And Irish politicians are particularly skilled at discovering what's known as your 'seed and breed': who your parents are, where you grew up and with whom, and most importantly what your political allegiances are.

That works both ways, of course. We pride ourselves on knowing who our local councillors and TDs (members of DΓ‘il Eireann*) are. Because you never know when you might need them to sort something out. Or at the very least, make a fair fist of it. We expect them to be articulate, savvy and when needed, stately. But above all, they daren't forget their roots.

But lest there be any doubt about the reasons to be politically aware, and especially, the reasons to vote - here's the 7 best.

1. After you've voted, you get a sticker at the polling station which reads: 'I Voted!' You can wear it proudly for days afterwards. It's especially important to share it all over social media. Because if you don't, it obviously didn't happen.

2. You get to chat to complete strangers on your doorstep at the most inconvenient times. This can provide a number of benefits, not least of them social. A little story to demonstrate from the recent elections. The Middle One answered the door one evening to a new candidate running for local office. The young man put out his hand. "Lovely to meet you," he said. The Middle One got a little stuck on the first part of his greeting. "I love you too," she replied, before realising her mistake. To his credit, he pretended not to hear. Unlike his campaign aide who stood behind him, struggling to  keep a straight face.

3. You get to play Lois Lane on your doorstep as you interview would-be and well-established politicians on everything from dog poop on the local beach to when-the-fecking-hell-will-my-grownup-kids-be-able-to-afford-their-own-place with the state of the housing crisis?

4. For two whole months before the election, you get to examine the finer details of all the main runners, based purely on their posters. Naturally you judge them on their political strengths, policies, experience, political affiliation and their teeth.

5. Thanks to our system of voting, recounts can go on for weeks. Which provides endless fodder for the media, free entertainment for the rest of us and other things to talk about apart from the weather.

6. You can take a personal pride in your achievement when your candidate gets in. You put them there! If you're Irish, you won't forget it, either.

7. Aside from downing a Guinness, while belting out the national anthem, it's probably the closest you'll ever get to honouring your country.


* DΓ‘il Eireann: The Irish Parliament
.

                                                           *

Dear reader,

Thank you so much, as always, for dropping by to read my column. Now, a bit of exciting June news: The Night Owl Romance Summer Fun reader event is here!
 

Ready to Win? I’ve teamed up with Night Owl Romance and other authors to bring you the chance to win a Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite (USA ONLY) & Amazon Cards (Open to the World).

 
During this event I'm going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check out my novel, Going Against Type, along the way.

 
Enter the giveaway at:
https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Blog/Articles/Summer-Fun-2019-by-Night-Owl-Romance



Lots of luck!!

 
Please SHARE today's column. 

 
 
To get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. 

For all buy links for, Going Against Type, click here: Tirgearr Publishing
 


Happy reading, take care and see you next month.             
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 29 April 2019

THE GREAT IRISH SUMMER


                                                                Roll on the Summer




THE IRISH Summer of 2018 will go down in lore as one of the great Summers. The sort of Summer that James Joyce might have imagined for Ulysses' Leopold Bloom. But rather than one perfect day, we had weeks upon weeks of perfect days.

I'm talking about the sort of days that stood up to international scrutiny. The kind that delighted our visiting American third cousins and bewildered our annual influx of Spanish students, as they tucked their rain jackets back into the bottom of their suitcases. Day after day of sun, our green fields turning brown and brittle without rain.

We did mad, hedonistic things, like eating outside. Every day! Gardens and balconies, normally reserved for growing a few plants and bracing the cold just so we could boast of the odd barbeque, suddenly came into their own. The umbrella in the middle of my tiny patio table, stayed put for months. I'd sit there, basking in 20 degrees Celsius, and declare on a daily basis that it was like Being in The Mediterranean.

The farmers had a dreadful time of it, of course. The poor animals needed grass and water. And then there was the whole food growing bit. Which was difficult with water shortages. Believe me, I'm not making little of that.


But bear with me here. For the rest of us, it was amazing! A full, long, proper Summer. We'd booked to go away for a week to Spain. I've never resented all the stress around airports and flying as much as I did, when I'd have been happy to enjoy the sun on the Costa del Dublin.

Being Irish, we still managed to discuss the weather ALL SUMMER. In fact, it was all anybody talked about. Opinion in the street was firmly divided between those who thought it was too hot..."Ah, I've had enough of it now, we need a bit of rain to cool us all down," and the rest of us who figured we were well overdue a fabulous time of it, thanks very much.

And we did all sorts of un-Irish-y stuff. After about three weeks of The Good Weather, you couldn't get a garden patio set for love nor money. Hardware shops and DIY stores were sold out. The term 'outdoor living' started to creep into our vocabulary. Garden pride and the inevitable garden envy became a thing on Facebook and Instagram. We completely lost the run of ourselves.


It even trended on Twitter. The idea of decent Summer weather trending on Twitter anywhere, might seem unlikely. But it was a thing. And we were bloody well going to make the most of it while we could. So, in typical Irish fashion, the jokes began.


It started reasonably enough, with a tweet that ran something like 'I've got two washes on the line, lads. #IrishSummer #Summer 2018'. I should explain here, for anyone who doesn't know: Irish people are obsessed with GETTING CLOTHES DRY. Which is entirely understandable in a country where it rains a lot.


But Twitter was having its moment. Another person tweeted that they had all the bedsheets out on the line. Tomorrow, they'd be washing all the big towels. The sheer indulgence of it! And then one wit added that sheets and towels were nothing. They'd taken up their fitted carpets, washed them and hung them all outside to dry.

And suddenly, thanks to the great weather, there was nothing left to wash! The guilt I felt as I looked at an empty washing line ON A BEAUTIFUL SUNNY DAY, was nearly too much for me!

I got over it just as quickly. Just as I got over the mess of the house and the fact that I'd already moved half my furniture outside. Because wasn't I living there anyway?

We've got through this Winter, and lads, it wasn't too shabby. We're nearly in May. For weeks now, we've been trying to predict the Summer ahead. We got a taste of the good life at Easter. Four glorious days, when the temperatures soared and we hastily found a few warm-weather essentials and bared our goose-bumpy skin to the sun.

A neighbour told me we're due another Good Summer. "It comes in threes," he said. "Three good years and then three not-so-good ones." I didn't like to point out that there's never been a pattern. He was on a roll. "Once you have a good Easter, that's a sign of good weather for the Summer."

It's all about as scientific as placing a small, plastic statue of Our Lady of Prague outdoors, the night before you need good weather for a wedding. But hopes are riding high. I've already bought the sunscreen. Here's to our Irish Summer.

                                                         *



Dear reader,

April felt like the fastest month on record! I hope, wherever you are, it was a good one. 

Feel free to drop comments in the comments box below. (They're moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. 
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Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. 
If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. 

For all buy links for my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, click here: Tirgearr Publishing
To find out more about me, check out the links/information at the sidebar on the right.


Happy reading, take care and see you next month.             
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

 

Monday, 1 April 2019

THE PERFECT MODERN MOTHER







YESTERDAY was Mothers' Day here in Ireland. The day when those of us lucky enough to still have our mothers buy them flowers and chocolates and cards, and tell them that they're The Best Mother In The World.

And, with a bit of luck, those of us who are mothers get told the same thing. We're the best. For that day, anyway. Until the following day we're the worst again, because we've asked for something completely unfair and unreasonable like a tidy bedroom.

But there is a different species of mother alive today. She is the perfect mother: a sort of modern day Stepford Wife.

So who is she? The shiny-haired, perfectly made-up and amazingly thin woman in front of you at the checkout, three beautifully dressed and well-behaved children in tow?

What about that group of women in the coffee shop, who wear designer gym gear and sip skinny lattes while they exchange advice on the best nannies and schools?


Or is she the young mum who only posts airbrushed pictures of herself, her family and their wonderful meals and holidays on social media?


Is there a bit of her in all of us? Fuelled by an unspoken belief that as mothers, we must apply the standards expected in every other part of our intense, highly competitive 21st century life. 


I remember seeing the 1975 Stepford Wives movie when I was a child. It was funny and creepy and massively entertaining. But the weird thing was, I actually knew a Stepford Wife.


Of course, I was a child, so I didn't realise at the time that's what she was. Not even after seeing the movie. But she was perfect. At least, that's what she seemed to want everyone to think. She and her husband were friends of my parents. Not close friends, but the type who'd be invited to their house every now and again for drinks or afternoon tea.


They had two children: a boy and a girl. They were close enough in age to me and one of my siblings, so whenever my parents were invited up, we'd go along and hang out with them.

Their house, naturally enough, was perfect. It was pristinely clean. There was never anything out of place. At a time when there was no such thing in Ireland as playrooms for kids (the notions, because who the hell had that much stuff?), they lived in a FOUR BEDROOM house and had a whole bedroom just for their toys.


We just thought it was fierce posh (it was) and we were madly jealous. But it was more than that. They never seemed to fight. A brother and sister who never fought!! No matter how many times we asked them, they always denied it.


My siblings and I fought like cats and dogs. Or you know, brothers and sister. We couldn't get our heads around this perfect pair.


But I had an inkling where it all began. Once, shortly after one of those visits, I overheard my mother ask my father if she and my dad were doing anything right at all. Their friends seemed to be living a flawless, wonderful life.

She was always elegantly dressed, their children well behaved. Apparently, they were both doing wonderfully at school and excelled in everything they did. Not that we all did a lot of extra-curricular when I was growing up, (too many paper dolls to dress, balls to kick and trees to climb) but while most of us did one thing each, their kids seemed to do loads. 

And obviously, they were geniuses who would run the world when they grew up.


Looking back, she was the only person like this that I knew. I realise now what an enormous amount of pressure she put on herself. Not to mention on her family.


Fast forward to 2019 and we're surrounded by modern day Stepford Wives. Think about it: at a time when women have made incredible progress in workplace equality and female empowerment seems more tangible now than ever before, we make things as difficult as possible. For ourselves and for other women. How?


It's simple: women compete with other women. Whether or not we want to, whether or not we realise that we do it. And sometimes, the younger we are, the more insecure we are. We don't know whether we're getting it right. And we don't yet have the wisdom to know that sometimes it doesn't matter.


And this competition ratchets up a couple of notches as soon as we become mothers. The second we hold that small human in our arms, some weird transformation takes place. We compare ourselves with other new mums and find that we're not enough.


So we try to be it all, do it all - and do it perfectly. We hold down careers, or if we choose to stay at home, we turn the job of being at home into a business. If we can't be the best at our hard-won salaried careers, then we'll be bloody super women at home. And we'll make sure people know it.

So we don't just let our children play: we organise and supervise endless playdates. We ensure that our small humans days are filled with music lessons and Maths grinds, tennis and dance, football and art classes. Modern mothers are more far more focussed on their children's success than any previous generation.

Only it's not about our children: it's about us. Do we tick all the boxes? Fabulous job: check. Beautiful home: check. Instagram-perfect meals: check. Happy family: check. Accomplished kids: check. Toned body and groomed appearance: check.

The irony is, that in a society that increasingly hands out participation medals to children, their mothers daren't be ordinary. Because every advertiser, salesperson and media site - especially social media - equates ordinariness with failure. To be a success, we must be extraordinary.  


The reality is very different. Being a woman in 2019 is hard. (Being a man is hard too, but that's a column for another day). But being a woman, who must always pretend that everything is wonderful, is bloody exhausting.


On Mothers' Day, we celebrate and thank our wonderful mums for being just that: mothers. I don't have enough distance to know yet what sort of mother I've been to my own three children. I do know that if I'm half as good as my mother, I'll be happy.

Let's try to replace competitiveness with kindness.
And aim to live our best life, not our perfect one.

                                                                                *

Dear reader,

We've put the clocks forward here in Ireland for daylight saving, so we can look forward to brighter mornings for the next while. (Hoping it'll be easier to get out of my warm bed!) 

Feel free to drop comments in the comments box below. (They're moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. 
πŸ’š)

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. 
If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.

For all buy links for my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, click here: Tirgearr PublishingTo find out more about me, check out the links/information at the sidebar on the right.

Until next time, happy reading, take care and have a lovely April.            
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 4 March 2019

The Spring Clean


                          Spring cleaning: time to embrace older ways

DOES anyone spring clean anymore? How many of us use the changing of seasons as an excuse to give their house a thorough scrub? Or is it such an out-dated idea that we simply don’t consider it?

Have we all embraced the ideas of Feng Shui and Hygge, making our lives and homes streamlined, minimalist, clutter-free , always clean? As Japanese author and queen of clearing out, Mari Condo, urges us to ditch anything that doesn’t spark joy, the notion of the spring clean might seem laughably quaint.

It also might seem very late, but last time I blinked it was still January. February upped and ran away with itself, which is why I'm currently looking down the barrel of March and wondering if I could get away with doing nothing. I won't.

My own house is neither streamlined nor minimalist. I have read the Feng Shui bible and researched the Danish concept of Hygge, down to the last scented candle suggestion. I have dismissed Mari Condo’s advice, on the basis that I don’t believe in gently waking my books before I discard them. I’m not a masochist. And were I to get rid of clothes that don’t spark joy, I’d quickly find I’d nothing to wear and no money to replace them. Quite simply, I am useless at throwing out stuff. Which brings me back to the spring clean.

My mother always did a great spring clean. A keen gardener with a large garden, she hated the thought of spending fine days indoors, when she could be outside, digging and planting. No sooner had we taken down the Christmas tree on the 7th of January, than the cleaning products and special cloths would appear.
First, she would empty every press in the kitchen and the good sideboard in the dining room. She would wipe the inside surfaces with soapy water before putting everything neatly back.

When I asked her recently if she threw anything away, she looked astonished. It was difficult enough to get everything in the first place, she said. Why would she throw stuff away? The outside surfaces came next. Not for her the hasty cleaning with baby wipes. For at least a week, our house would smell of washing up liquid, special polish for brasses, another for silver, and Mr Sheen for the G-plan furniture.

Then came the floors: the lino washed, although in fairness it was washed frequently. Ditto the carpets and then hoovered until they were almost threadbare. Finally, she would wash all the windows, inside and out, with balled up newspaper and vinegar water before shining with an old linen cloth. No matter how cold it was, every window would be left open as carpets dried and the house aired.

My mother’s mother used to assign different cleaning tasks to different days of the week. Monday was wash day. My grandmother raised five children but never even owned a twin tub. Yet every Monday, she had a full line of clean clothes, that ran the whole length of her small, terraced garden. As someone who can barely wring out a t-towel, I wonder now at her sheer physical strength.  

But whilst the house was clean and tidy, she never de-cluttered. She was, like her daughter after her, part of the ‘keep it just in case’ generation. And if something wasn’t useful, it always seemed to have sentimental value.

When her own children left home, my grandmother would often take the bus to our house to help out. Her favourite job seemed to be scrubbing down all the painted white doors with Jif*, to rub away our small, grubby fingerprints. For weeks after, we’d find a residue of the stuff on our hands and clothes.

I have to admit that I never felt the need to clean a house from top to bottom, to usher in the new year or the better weather. Generations of women – it was always women – before me, wouldn’t understand. If I’m looking for excuses, I might say that I’m too busy, or I don’t have brasses or silver or furniture I need to see my face in.

Clearly, though, I have inherited my mother and grandmother’s tendency to hold onto things.

Maybe someday I’ll de-clutter. Until then, I won’t be too hard on myself. In the meantime, I need to do something. And this is the year. Sparkling windows and fresh carpets: a proper spring clean. It sounds quaint. I’m quite looking forward to it.

                                                           
*Brand of cream cleaner.


                                                                                 *

D
ear reader,

March is here and we're already getting some gorgeous days in Ireland: blue skies and warm weather. Long may it continue! 

Feel free to drop comments in the comments box below. (They're moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. 
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Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. 
If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.

Finally, March 3rd - 9th is READ AN E-BOOK WEEK. To celebrate, Tirgearr Publishing is having a half-price SALE on #Smashwords.

For just $2 you can download my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, the story of rival columnists who write under pen names, and unknowingly fall for their bitter enemy: each other.

Find the Smashwords link for all e-readers 
HERE and use the code EBW50 at checkout. 


Until next time, happy reading, take care and have a great March.           
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 4 February 2019

HOW TO LIVE FOREVER: ON LENTILS.




     Pulses, vegetables & fruit: is a plant-based diet the future?






IT'S happened again: they've changed all the rules about food. And I have to quickly admit here, that I don't even know who 'they' are. The World Health Organisation, maybe? At least I hope it's them. I can get on board with the W.H.O.

You've probably heard about it. 'Twas all anyone was talking about a couple of weeks ago. How we should eat. How much of it we should eat. How we'll all live to be 150 if we eat it.

OK, I made that last bit up. But you know the way these things tend to get a bit exaggerated. Just thought I'd do my bit. Ahem.
Where was I? Oh, right, the new food rules. Principals, if you like. Guidelines. Here goes:

1. Cut your meat and meat-related protein back to miniscule proportions.
I mean, this is not the exact wording, you understand. I'm popping in my own interpretation/bias/opinion.
But it's mad stuff. I mean, I don't eat huge amounts of meat or fish. But if I follow this, I'll be eating about half a chicken breast a week, and one tiny fillet of fish and like, one egg.*
Given that you're supposed to eat protein every day, I give you the second rule.

2. Substitute animal protein with plant based proteins.
We're talking beans and pulses, here, which I do eat. Usually in a casserole. With sausages. Then there's tofu. Anyone know what tofu tastes like? I asked someone who's eaten it. Nothing, they admitted. And it has a funny texture. You have to marinate it overnight.

They weren't exactly selling it to me. Then they said that it goes very well with Asian food. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit depressed when I heard that. It's not that I don't like Asian food. I'm just rubbish at cooking it.


3. Eat tonnes of vegetables and fruit.

Apparently, your main meal of the day should look something a bit like the following. Half of your plate should be veggies: the brighter, the better. Your carbs should be the size of a very tightly closed fist.

I had a look at that. It's not too bad if it's a potato. Like every Irish person, I love my spuds. But it's not an awful lot if you're talking about rice or pasta. Your protein, plant or animal based, should fit neatly into the palm of your hand.


You've probably gathered by now that I'm not one of those vegans. I know it's on trend right now, and I admire and respect their choices, but I think I'd find it hard to be vegetarian. I'm one of those strange, old fashioned types that loves everything. Meat and plants. Fish and fruit.

But increasingly, I'm feeling out of step. Omnivore has become a dirty word. Seriously like, if I said I go around beating people up (I don't) or telling children there are no unicorns (when obviously there are), I don't think I'd get such a hard time from certain quarters.


However....having said all that, and I have to say I'm feeling a bit better after my rant, I've given it a bit of thought. Not initially, obviously. I mean, the first morning I heard it on the news, I was searching for something to make for breakfast.

I have an appetite like a teenage boy in the mornings. Don't try to suggest a croissant and a bit of fruit to me, or I'll throw it at you. That morning, there were rashers in the fridge that had to be used up, so I grilled them with a fried egg.


But all the talk about how we should all be eating has sort of seeped into my brain. Osmosis at work. Or brainwashing. But the good sort of brainwashing, I suppose.


I had a salad for lunch yesterday. Admittedly, it was a bit cold, eating all that salad in the middle of winter. Vegetable soup will do just as well, apparently. Especially if it's homemade.


Live long and prosper. Maybe I'll make it to a hundred and ten.

*Not exact amounts.


                                                       *



Dear reader,

Anyone else feel there were about 275 days in January?? Anyway, here in Ireland, we celebrate St Bridget's Day on February 1st and hope that we'll get a kind Spring. Belated happy St Bridget's Day to you.

If you've anything you'd like to add to today's column, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop any comments in the comments box below. (They're moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. 
πŸ’š)

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)
 If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.

If you fancy a light, fun read for your e-reader, there's my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. See PAGES in the side bars, or go to Tirgearr Publishing.

Until next time, take care and have a lovely February.          
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 7 January 2019

NEW YEAR: DON'T PANIC.

                                             Make your resolutions work: keep them small!

YESTERDAY, I wrote a column entitled New Year, Old Me. At least, it felt like yesterday. In fact, it was over a year ago. It was my new year's blog for 2018.

That's how fast life is flicking past us. Or me, anyway.

I'm not sure if I kept any of my new year's resolutions for 2018. I certainly didn't keep the difficult ones, like Eat Less Chocolate. Or Walk Faster. Ahem.

Nobody noticed. Except my doctor, perhaps. And he's too lovely to mention it.

I know some people have probably made resolutions for 2019. And I know plenty of others who've made none. For those who've made none, I came across an idea that might work for us. It's called Do Small Things.


The idea has been around for some time, I imagine. And it can be applied to absolutely anything. Look at it this way. (If you're incredibly fit, skip over this bit!) If somebody said they'd give me a million euro, if I did a half-hour brisk walk EVERY SINGLE DAY for a year, I'd never get that money.

If the same person suggested I walk for one minute per day, I know I'd end up doing far more than that. No doubt I'd build up to the 30 minutes in no time at all.


Why? Because the idea of 1 minute of exercise doesn't intimidate me. Small things, lads. That's where it's at.

So that's where I'm at. Today I'll take every single thing off my dressing table. Laugh if you want to, but if you saw my dressing table, you'd understand that it'll be an achievement in itself.

I'll dump everything on to the bed and sort it into 3 piles. You all know this bit. It's been out there a while. Dreamt up by people far tidier than me. The 3 piles are: the throw-away pile, the charity pile, the keep pile. I'll try my best to make the last pile the smallest. I really will.


Tomorrow I might sort a drawer. Just one. Or a cupboard in the kitchen. Again, just one. And I'll do a bit of exercise. If either one takes me longer than five to ten minutes, I'll give up. That's not a threat. It's self-knowledge.

Look at me. We're only a week into the new year, and I'm filled with self-knowledge. Well, I have an idea about it.


Looks like it mightn't be a bad year after all.


Keep it simple. Keep it small. Have a happy new year.

                                                           *

D
ear reader,

I hope you had a lovely Christmas. If you've any ideas for keeping those New Year resolutions, let me know in the comments below. (They're moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. 
πŸ’š)

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)
 If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.

If you got a new e-reader for the holidays, why not check out my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. To find out more about it, see PAGES in the side bars, or go to Tirgearr Publishing.

I hope 2019 is peaceful and happy for us all. Have a great January.         
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 10 December 2018

I'm Dreaming of a Fright Christmas....

                                                  Last minute Christmas prep: bring it on.

I HAVE regular, recurring anxiety dreams. One is the Leaving Certificate* dream: I'm just about to sit the biggest exam of my life and I haven't studied for it. It's a common one, this. Every second person I meet, has the same dream.

Another is that I'm in a room full of people and I have to make an important speech and I don't know what I'm going to say. To add insult to injury, I realise I'm naked.

Finally, there's the Christmas dream. You know the one. You wake up on December 25th, to find you've forgotten it's Christmas. You haven't a single gift bought. In my dream, I begin a manic search for things I could quickly wrap and give as presents. I can't find anything.

In my darkest moment, when my mind can't take anymore dream trauma, I wake up. My heart rate slows, as I realise it's just a dream.


And almost immediately I start to worry because it's already December 10th and I haven't a single thing done for The Big Event. For those of you even worse at maths than I am, that's two weeks away.

Do all the eye rolling you want. Go on, I know you're at it. The fact is, since September - September!!!! - I have seen boasty posts all over social media. By people who claim they had all their Christmas shopping done by July.

Presumably they were buying Christmas crackers whilst the rest of us were working hard on our tans. (Where do you find Christmas crackers in July? WHY WOULD YOU BUY THEM?)

These same mythical creatures apparently wrap their gifts and leave them in neat piles in the spare room or attic or on top of their wardrobe. All ready to be taken down and laid out under their magical, Disney-style Christmas tree, when the time comes.

Which begs the question: what do these people do in the run up to Christmas? When I'm running around in a blind, last minute panic, wondering if I could just buy everyone book tokens and steak knives (don't ask)!


Are they baking their 7th Christmas cake? Or deep cleaning their carpets? Maybe they're just binge watching early Christmas telly and laughing at me for yet again, leaving everything to the last minute.

Because it's not like it's a movable feast, is it? We tend to celebrate Christmas around the same time every year. In fact, at exactly the same time, I've noticed.

But there's nothing like a looming deadline to concentrate the mind. When you've made a list twice as long as your arm, and have a single morning to buy for everyone from The Husband to the workplace Secret Santa, there's no faffing about.

Neither is there any pretending. I can honestly say that if I were doing Christmas shopping in September, I wouldn't have the nerve to admit it. Never mind how early the seasonal stuff arrives in the shops.
"Ah no, it's for my husband's birthday. He just loves flashing-nose Reindeer jumpers."

Fact is, when you've one week to The Big Event and you're suitably sweaty and stressed and trailing a massive list, there's no room for such niceties. I like to think shop assistants appreciate that. I tell them what I need. They tell me if they have it. I buy it and leave.

I don't like to sound immodest, but I'm pretty sure that makes me The Perfect Customer. That's a shocking realisation. But I could be a bit deluded: it's another distinct possibility.

To date, I haven't even thought about the tree or decorating the house, never mind anything else. What I have is a chaotic house that's in need of a good cleaning. Even I can appreciate that I'm in quite a small club.


It doesn't help that most of the houses on our road now boast wreaths on their doors and twinkling fir trees in their windows. Maybe our neighbours have assumed that our tree is at the back of the house this year. Or that we've changed religion. Or become the neighbourhood grinches.

My friends are quietly flabbergasted. For the moment, I stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly when yet another person tells me that they have everything done.

Because I know that any day now, it'll reach critical point and I'll spring into action. I've still time. Who knows, by then all the Christmas crackers could be half price.

Eggnog, anyone?


*Final exam taken by Irish school leavers, the results of which will determine further education/training/job prospects.
                                                                                 *


Dear reader,

I can't believe that we're almost at the end of 2018. Thank you so much for reading my monthly columns this year. 
πŸ’š

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)

I love to hear from you, so if you'd like to say hi, or leave a comment about anything just scroll down to the comment box below. Comments are moderated so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately. Your email address won't appear at all.
 

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THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.


If you're thinking of gifting e-books this Christmas, you might like to check out the Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. To find out more about it, see PAGES in the side bars, or go to Tirgearr Publishing.

Most importantly, have a peaceful and happy Christmas and I'll see you in 2019.        
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 12 November 2018

THE NOSE HAS IT


                                                     Hygge your home this Winter


IT'S THAT time of year again. And I'm not about to waffle on about Winter, or the cold weather. Although after the balmy October we had here in Ireland, it's worth a mention. Consider it done.

No, I'm talking about the time of year when I start getting notions. House notions, to be exact. Hygge*, to be more precise.


For those of you who regularly read this blog (thanks a million, by the way), you might be scratching your heads and wondering why this sounds familiar. It is: I've talked about Hygge before. I'm probably a bit obsessed. I'm just not very good at it.


Hygge simply means being cosy. The idea was apparently invented by the Danes, no doubt as compensation for their defeat by the Irish in the Battle of Clontarf, 1014.**

You can imagine their Viking ancestors after the defeat. Years of rape and pillage had left them with all this loot. The men intent on trading, until one woman, with a keen sense of aesthetic, thought those hand-woven shawls and gold goblets would look very well in the dining room, thanks very much. 


And a whole new concept was born. Hygge: being cosy. In the Winter. When it's cold and dark. It's a lot more than just staying in bed under the duvet all day. I checked. So how do the Danes (and in fairness, all the other Scandi countries) do Hygge?


First, they all aim to make their homes havens of peace and tranquillity. A lot of this involves getting rid of what they don't need. Massive clear outs, like. Believe me, I've tried that. There's salmon swimming upstream who have an easier time of it.

But I'm brilliant at some of the other stuff. The whole cosy thing means having warm throws for your sofas, scatter cushions...scattered, lamps for gentle, low lighting.

My home ticks all of these boxes, much to my slightly smug satisfaction, and The Husband's complete bewilderment.
"Why do we need all these blankets and cushions?" he demands regularly. Really, very regularly.

Hygge is also about creating ambiance. If you have a fireplace, you're supposed to use it. No arguments there. It's an old house, and if I don't light a fire, it's bloody freezing. Candles are important for mood. I'll tell you now, I have so many candles we could have a sΓ©ance every night for a year, and not run out. Were we so inclined.

So far, so Hygge, you might think. But you'd be wrong. Apparently, all this time I was shaking throws and lighting fires, I had overlooked one vital ingredient: scent.

I had dismissed this as the ultimate in mad notions, when the same person in the know, reminded me of estate agents, and how they frequently exploit our sense of smell to sell houses.

So if you're not falling in love with the place when you smell those flowers in that humungous hall display, you're ready to bid your life away by the time you're inhaling the bread baking and the coffee brewing in the kitchen. 

Thing is, positive scents make us happy and relaxed. And in my case, anything has to be better than the current situation, where, thanks to The Boy, the hall smells mainly of eau de sports kit and football boots.

"Try a diffuser," says my knowledgeable friend. I only have to mention it to my mother and she buys me one. Waterford crystal, no less.
"It'll look lovely on the hall table," says she. Her sense of relief is palpable.

Although the hall is sorted, it's a house with thick walls and high ceilings. I need more. So I'm delighted to find a box of massage oils. Laugh away: they were a gift. One I'd forgotten about, so they're completely unused, which is admittedly, a bit sad. I decide I have a better use for them. I open the first (tiny) bottle and take a sniff. I can't identify it.

"What does that say?" I ask The Eldest, who's just in from a hard day's teaching. "The print's too small."
She glances at the bottle.
"Geranium."
"Really? It doesn't smell like geranium." Or how I think geranium smells.

It doesn't matter. I study our miniscule downstairs loo. An arrangement of cream silk flowers sit in a white pot on the windowsill. It's dead tasteful, really. You'll have to take my word for it. The flowers are stuck into an oasis: perfect.

I tip the bottle of geranium scented oil upside down, and soak the oasis. It works. Already, I'm happier in the downstairs loo. For good measure, I top up the soap dispenser and change the towels.

I try another bottle: lemon. It'll probably work in the upstairs bathroom. The problem is, there's nowhere obvious to pour it. In the end, I soak a cloth, and just clean the bathroom with it. I feel like a domestic goddess.

But I don't get too carried away: nobody wants competing smells in every room. And to be perfectly honest, I don't really understand smelly oils. For example, the massage kit consists of six tiny bottles containing very strong smelling oils, and one big bottle of wheatgerm oil. Which smells of nothing! Are you supposed to mix them, I wonder.

It's all a bit academic now, given that I've found other uses for the small bottles. And the wheatgerm oil might bring up a nice shine on the furniture.

Renewed, I return to my desk and manage to work, convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that my productivity has improved, thanks to my newly scented house.

Nobody notices. I give them all a day, before I almost explode with frustration.
"Do you not notice anything different?" I demand. There's blank looks all round. "What about the hall?" I stare at The Husband. "You've a nose for these things."
Can the hints get any heavier?

He wanders out to the hall and looks around. Finally he turns to me.
"Did you put another light in the ceiling?"

Maybe it's enough that I know.
Have a Hygge November.


*Pronounced Hoogah.
** The Vikings were defeated at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, but the Hygge connection is pure imagination!

                                                                             *


Dear reader,

If you've any more Hygge ideas, I'd love to hear from you. (Seriously, anything that helps to get through the Winter, is completely wonderful!!) 
πŸ’š

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)
 

If you'd like to get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.


To check out my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, see PAGES in the side bars, or find sample chapters/all buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Until next month, have a happy, Hygge November.       
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 15 October 2018

Welcome Guest Author, Lj Ryan.


                                                             Irish author, Lj Ryan.


Good morning, lovely readers.

Please help me welcome guest author, and fellow Irish woman, Lj Ryan to my blog this month. Lj is an independent author, who published her debut, The View From Our Window, earlier this year.



Blurb:

Laurel Maguire Kennedy, successful entrepreneur and young widow runs away from Ireland for a new life and family values in France.
David Rousseau, famous actor leaves his very public life in Paris for his old family life in Marseille.
Paul Collins, Irish politician just wants his life back to normal; career he finds doesn’t always mean contentment.
But ghosts are rearing their ugly heads.
Laurel finds that not all in her family life can be new if phantoms regarding the circumstances of her husband’s death keep pulling her back to Ireland, risking the life she has slowly rebuilt with her two young children.
David watches as his old family values and the relationship he’s building with Laurel are lost as his acting career keeps dragging him back to his old ways, or as the gossip columns like to imagine are his old habits.
Paul just needs two important people in his life to work with him so the path he has chosen can stay on a smooth track.

Can these three friends work together to help close each individual’s problems? Or will those ghosts win and forever rule their lives….pop inside and enjoy their journey….


Buy: Amazon

Find LJ @ Facebook
                  Twitter
                  Amazon Author Page



                                                                                                  *


D
ear reader,

Hope you're enjoying Autumn (or Fall, depending on which side of the pond you're on!!). I'll be back with my usual column next month.
 
πŸ’š

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)
 

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.


To check out my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, see PAGES in the side bars, or find sample chapters/all buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Until next month, enjoy the rest of October, and have a safe and happy Halloween.      
Hugs,
Sharon. xx

Monday, 17 September 2018

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPS?

                                                    Don't get in a flap over your App.

WHO invented the App? Whoever it was, I'd like to shake their hand. And strangle them with an old fashioned telephone cord.

Remember those? Phones in the one place? Attached to a wall and, in our case, sitting neatly on a hall table. Dial-up digits. Phones that allowed you to ring someone, and allowed someone else to ring you back.


Nothing else. No texting. No photos. No live recording. No live streaming. No face to face chats. And definitely no Apps.

For the past few weeks, my smartphone has been sending me reminders that my storage is almost full and I need to delete files to free up space. I have lots of issues with this.

1. I have only a vague idea what files are on my phone, because it's always doing updates, and for all I know it could be downloading files it thinks I need. But I don't need them. Or at least, I don't know if I do. And even if I don't, I don't know what they are or where to find them, or how to delete them.
It's a bit tragic, but there you go.

2. I am terrified that if I allow my phone to make further decisions for me, I'll lose stuff I really want. Like photos of my kids. Or all my contacts.

3. I have to wonder how smart my smartphone really is? On the one hand, it can do constant updates without my permission. On the other, it can't sort out this minor problem without worrying me. Has it not figured out by now that I am a bit technically challenged?

But back to Apps. I freely admit there are a few I wouldn't be without. My parking App, for example. I can park anywhere around Dublin (and presumably in the rest of Ireland: I haven't tried it) without having to worry about having coins or feeding meters. Wherever I am, I can pay from my phone. I know it's just an App, but it feels like a magical power.

Then there's WhatsApp. Texting for free, lots of people in the same group, loads of different groups, hundreds of bloody notifications every day....Deep breath. No, it's all good. And when it gets too much, I can turn off my data.

Except I might miss an important message in one of the groups. And there lies the rub. Once an App draws you in, once you realise how vital it is, it has you. You can't escape: you're caught. Tied by technology. Tethered far tighter than the corded phones of our childhood. Or my childhood, at least.

But that's only the start. I am on Facebook and I have the App on my phone. Downloaded by the very helpful young man in the shop, after I went to get my phone fixed.

"You don't have a lot on it," said he, like it was a crime. "Would you like me to download a few Apps for you?"

What was the harm, I thought. I'd probably never use them, but it would be handy to have them. Just in case.

Now I have Twitter. And Instagram. And Messenger. I also have YouTube, for some strange reason. I definitely don't remember downloading that. I've never watched it on my phone. I'm not a fan. But I'm afraid to delete it in case one day I desperately need to watch a YouTube video to save someone's life.

I don't have Snapchat because I can't get my head around a messaging service whose content is wiped forever after mere seconds. My memory isn't that flipping good.

The problem - and it hardly needs pointing out - is that all these Apps suck time from your day like Dementors suck happiness from your body. Don't get me wrong. They're a great way of touching base with your online friends. And sometimes your real life friends.

But I've yet to meet anyone who manages it all. I might decide to drop into Facebook or Instagram, see what the world is up to, say hi to a few people. Ten minutes, max. When I come to, an hour has passed. And I'm not sure what I've done.

In the last week, I've also discovered another App. Or rather, The Eldest has introduced me to it. She has Boggle on her phone. Remember Boggle? You get a word and you have to find all the other words contained in it.

Harder than it looks. Especially if it only has one vowel. Or it's something like Recycle. And you have to make 8 words from it. (Or maybe it was 7. Please, don't spend your day looking for 8 words in Recycle, in case they don't exist!)

I'll tell you now: it's addictive. If you want to really see the competitive streak in me, give me a Boggle puzzle and set me against a clock. The Eldest wants to go out, but I won't give her back her phone. Not until I find every word. And beat the clock. It's my finest ten minutes. But not exactly my finest hour.


But there's hope for me. Because I won't be getting Boggle on my phone. It's one App I shall do without. Unfortunately, it's nothing to do with my iron clad discipline.

I've just no bloody room on my phone.

                                                    *

Dear reader,

Have you favourite Apps or ones you hate, but are afraid to ditch? Let me know in the comments below. (Your email address won't appear, and comments are moderated, so it may take an hour or two to see them.)
πŸ’š

Please take a moment to SHARE today's column. (Scroll down to the buttons below!)
 

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, just go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. No spamming - I promise.


To check out my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, see PAGES in the side bars, or find sample chapters/all buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely September.     
Hugs,
Sharon. xx