Blogtacular Meets Me

I am a terrible blogger of late, too busy being a real-life human being and house hunter to update regularly. It’s not the first or last time I’ll appoligise for that. I completely neglected to share my interview on the Blogtacular blog a few weeks ago. If you don’t know about Blogtacular, it’s an amazing conference for creative bloggers in London. I went last year and am going again in June. I learned so much about writing, blogging and myself at Blogtacular and keep drawing from the deep well of awesome that the organisers, Kat Molesworth and Kat Goldin, have cultivated. As part of their countdown to the 2015 conference, they’re interviewing attendees each week. If you want to learn more about me, why I blog and my plans for the future, you can read it all here

blogtacular meets the dare project

family, house tour, Interiors, New House Project

The New House Project

If you’ve noticed my absence from the online world the past few weeks, it’s for good reason. We have suddenly decided to jump in the deep-end of adulthood and buy a house! After a few months of watching the rental market sky-rocket in price (and plummet in quality, especially for families), we decided it was time to pool all our resources and make this happen. Yesterday we made an offer on an odd duck of a fixer upper, so now begins the long wait to see if it materialises. As the house is 30 years old, has been extended and has a flat roof, there are a few concerns about how much work will be required and how far we can push our finances. We’ll get the inspection report back next week and then we’ll know if the deal is set or not. In the meantime, I’ve started collecting ideas for how to make a bunch of random rectangle rooms into our colourful, quirky dream home. If you want to follow along, you know where to find  me (on Pinterest of course!) This is going to be one big adventure in thrifty, crafty DIY and we plan on sharing what we’ve learned along the way. Keep those fingers crossed for us (and our potential new roof)
Follow Lauren’s board New house ideas on Pinterest.

Oh, and if anyone in Dublin or Wicklow wants to recommend a solicitor, tradesman, surveyor, non standard construction insurer, moving company, bathroom designer, or anything else we haven’t thought of get in touch!

Update: We got the inspection report back, and it was worse than we thought. Although structurally sound, the house needed all new windows, new boiler and at least 10mm internal wall insulation. But that’s not the worst part, sometime in the past 20 years, it was remodelled inside and the stairs were moved into the kitchen making it a fire hazard according to current building regulations. This could make it difficult to insure, as well as dangerous.  We could solve the problem by building a fire door or remodeling it once again and putting the stairs somewhere else. It’s not the first property we’ve seen with stairs into the kitchen, so keep an eye out home buyers! Needless to say, all of these repairs are just too much for us to afford on top of the house price. The search continues!

books, family

World Book Day 2015

world book day

Ah, World Book Day, the best day of the year! We love stories and dressing up and themed events and celebrating for no particular reason, so of course it goes down well here! We have so many favourite books but this year, my little bookworms were the Gruffalo and Henry Hugglemonster (conveniently the warmest, cosiest costumes in the house). We read lots and lots of books, talked about books, made our own books (I’m saving Nate’s fascinating tale for another post) and even had book themed food. Well kind of, Chris made a cake and called it Hugglewug Cake although it’s not as awesome as Niamh Sharkey’s illustration, it was chocolate and we got to eat it for breakfast. Yum!

The thing is, I’m not sure the kids really noticed that World Book Day was any different than any other day because we pretty much devour books all the time. Sometimes I read them, sometimes the boys “read” their own version of books. Alex pretty much knows the Hugglewug song word for word. And don’t get me started on how many times we’ve “played” Gruffalo, acting out the entire story throughout the house. There’s nothing better than having my two little ones snuggle up next to me to share an exciting story. What are your favourite books to read with your kids?

world book day

family, Me and Mine

Me and Mine – February

Me and Mine February MeandMineFeb2

These are ridiculous pictures; definitely not the best and pretty cheesy set up. I nearly didn’t post them, because I thought maybe people would think ugh, terrible photos Lauren! What were you thinking? Then I remembered that most of y’all that read this blog are nice people and that it is my personal blog to keep track of all the little moments that make me laugh — including really silly photo set ups. So here we are, on Valentine’s Day, being total posers because I am the Queen of Hearts and Chris is my King of Hearts (I know, I know, it wouldn’t kill him to smile), Nate is totally ace and Alex is always the joker! This is me and these are mine, my silly, nerdy family that I have no other option but to love.

books, Food, review

Slim with Tina Results

slim with tina lessons

Last month, I completed the 4-week Slim with Tina online Kickstarter course and read her book by the same title. You might remember when I started, my goals weren’t about weight loss or dress sizes, but about adopting a healthier lifestyle. So how did it go? Thanks to Tina’s program I started yoga again, was out and running in the snow, whipping up delicious new meals for my family, spending less time fretting over meal planning and generally feeling better inside and out. I didn’t weigh myself or take measurements at the start, but I have noticed a difference in the way my clothes fit and a new energy and positive opinion of myself (that’s not based on size or comparing myself to others). I also kept a food diary that really opened up my eyes to emotional eating habits (like sneaking a biscuit just to spite my naughty children). Here are the top things I picked up from the course that have stuck now that the programme is completed.

1. Drink more water. Yep, we all know this. I’m terrible at this for some reason. Honestly, it has been so cold in the house and the water out of our tap is cold enough to give you brain freeze. So I’m not really into that. Tina suggested that I leave a jug water out to get to room temperature–simple and genius idea! Also, herbal teas count (not caffeinated black tea though) and I’ve found ginger tea to be my new favourite thing to warm up with.

2. Cut down on sugar (especially hidden sugar). I started the course thinking I had a pretty healthy, homemade diet, and I did except for all the things I ate off the books. You know, little nibbles here and there that you kind of forget you are actually eating. A lot of these things tended to be processed and contained more sugar than I assumed. And of course coming out of the Christmas season there were a lot of treats like cakes, cookies and chocolate in the house as well. I’ve replaced all sugary treats with fruit, occasionally make healthy treats (like these) and do keep good dark chocolate on hand for when the craving really strikes (a little nibble of Green & Blacks Fair Trade Dark 85% Cacao bar is so good, I couldn’t go back to a substandard chocolate bar anyway!) I also read the labels much more carefully and know exactly what I am getting in my diet. Beware of low fat items because they are often loaded with sugar!

3. Cut down on refined white flour. I have been reading a lot about gluten and benefits of a gluten-free diet, as well as articles that say it’s not really a big deal unless you have an actual intolerance or allergy. I’m still trying to figure out where I stand, but in an effort to rid processed food sugar, so goes a lot of white flour. It has been fun trying out replacements that really do add interesting texture and flavour to meals. We’ve added buckwheat semolina, quinoa, brown rice, and wholemeal pasta to our diet and have been experimenting with cooking and baking with ground almonds, buckwheat, spelt, wholewheat, rice flour and other gluten free alternatives. It’s fun to try new things and we really haven’t missed the sliced white pan.

4. Get outside and move more. I’m definitely a winter-phobic. Despite my 8 years in Boston and 6 years in Dublin, I’m a South Texan girl at heart and feel totally out of place when the temperature drops below short-shorts and flip-flops weather (which is all the time in Ireland, what am I doing here!?) I’ve also never been a terribly sporty person. So when I say I went running in the snow, it’s a big freaking deal. Once I started eating healthier, I had an energy boost and the confidence to start running again. After a really stressful day of toddler wrangling, I would usually look for comfort in cake, but now I find going for a run or walk much more therapeutic.

5. Be kind to myself and others. Tina’s book is really great at illuminating some of the cultural traps we fall into that perpetuate a disordered relationship with food. We don’t treat our bodies with the respect they deserve and can be very cruel to ourselves when looking in the mirror. I’m trying to avoid allowing negative comments to float around my brain, whether they be about me or snarky celebrity gossip. It doesn’t do anyone any good to tear people down. The more positive I feel about myself, the more I want to eat healthy food because I realise I deserve good health, not just a sugar rush.

6. Bulk up meals with green veg, not starch. This kind of goes along with cutting down on processed white flour. I realised so much of my meals where carbs or startch that was easy to prepare and fill up on. Now I fill my plate with as much green veg as possible and have a little of everything else too. I find that when I prioritise the veg, my portion sizes also go down. I feel just as satisfied (maybe more so because I’m putting the effort into much more flavourful meals) but a lot less full of bad stuff. Instead of eating pretty pathetic and bland ham sandwiches for lunch, I’m eating salad of baby spinach, avacado, tomatoes, peppers and nuts. I’ve also swapped uninspiring breakfast cereal for wholemilk yogurt, homemade museli and fresh fruit. It’s a lot tastier than malted wheat squares!

7. Have fun with food and enjoy nourishing my body! One thing I liked about Tina’s approach is that it isn’t guilt inducing in the least. It’s about learning to love food and learning what food is meant to do for your body. I think calorie counting and points can make you feel like you’re giving up something in order to loose weight or that healthy eating is a chore.The boys and I had fun in the first few weeks looking for new fruits to try making treats with ingredients I’d never heard of. Luckily healthy living is pretty trendy right now so there’s lots of resources and great recipes out there. I feel good about the direction my family is taking and excited about the health benefits we’ll reap, so any short lived enjoyment I might have gotten from a bag of crisps is suddenly gone. Junk food does taste like junk now and I find myself seeking craving healthier options. The kids are also getting really into learning about healthy food.

I definitely recommend the programme for anyone looking to make a lifestlye change. The book and course cover the same material, so if you are not able to join the online course or want to get started right away, I highly recommend the Slim with Tina book. It gives very clear, simple explanations of why we need to eat a balanced diet and how our body uses the different food we eat. I’ve always wanted to learn more about nutrition, but found that many things I read were for people with a scientific background and I got lost in the terminology. Finally I feel like I have an understanding of what’s happening inside my body and why I am choosing the food I eat. There are a lot of great recipes for every meal that are very easy to follow and delicious!

The Slim with Tina Kickstarter Course is conducted through a private Facebook group. To be honest, I’m not crazy about FB groups because it can be easy to miss a post or to come to a conversation long after it has ended. But I did find the group support aspect really helpful. It keeps you honest and allows you to ask questions directly about cooking with different ingredients or to share successful recipes, as well as clear up confusion about nutrition. Tina shared sections of her book, inspirational quotes and tips, recipes and gave us prompts for discussion or personal reflection. You don’t need to read the book to be on the course, but I think it helps to reinforce what the group chats are about. It’s also a good reference once the online course is completed.

If you’re interested in joining the next course, it starts March 24 and costs €49. It would be a great way to spring clean your lifestyle and get ready for sunnier days!