Wednesday, 31 December 2014

12 Things I Noticed This Christmas

How was your Christmas? Are you still recovering from the feast? It’s crazy to think that it’s come and gone that quickly - quite shocking. I’m not a massive Christmas person myself (I know, I know) but I hope yours was great, and that you spent it how you wanted to spend it. 

As the years have gone on, Christmas and everything that comes with it has changed. The transition from being a young’un to someone on the verge of adulthood is quite stark. Admittedly, it isn’t an easy time of year for me for my own reasons, but what Christmas meant to me 10 years ago is completely different to how it is now.

And while I am recovering from this God-awful dose of the flu (that half of Ireland has), I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of the quirky things I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks.  Let me know if you can relate to any of these!

Please bear in mind to take these pointers with a pinch of salt, and not to take them in their literal sense, it’s  just a bit of craic!

“I hope we have enough food for the gang that’s coming. They’ll want something in their belly when they come”
There is ALWAYS enough food, so Mammies of Ireland, don’t be fretting. At the best of times, there is even too much. This leads to second servings, feeding the visitors.
“We can’t let it go to waste”
It’s hard to win.

“We had a fine feed there in the gaf. 3 deserts I tell you, 3! You should have seen the size of the turkey, it’d feed half the village.”
Have you noticed that there is almost a competition to see who had the biggest feast? 
“We had a lovely bit of Christmas cake and some pudding. T’was gorgeous”
“Yeah? Well Mary landed down with some pavalova, homemade like, if you don’t mind. It was awfully filling; we had to give a slice to anyone that landed in the door.”

EVERYONE had a big feast, so EVERYONE wins. Happy?

At Christmas parties and nights out over the festive season, it’s inevitable that you had to shake the few hands over the past few weeks. I was told once that you can tell a lot about a person judging by their handshake. There are various types I have come across as of late:
A) Regular handshake: Lasts no more than about 5 seconds, good grip, dignified and confident, no fuss.
B) Cold and clammy
C) Weak: Am I not worthy of a decant hand shake? My hand is very small, and there is only so much that I can do. It’s a two way thing.
D) The Crusher: Squeezing so hard that they nearly cut off the blood supply.
E) The Hand Hug
F) Pull and Grab: This one has happened to me the most lately, and it’s hard to get it right without making a complete show of myself from once in a while. This is where you put your hand out for a handshake - that is all you are looking for. Then out of nowhere the other person grabs you over, no regard for personal space and pulls you into an embrace. It’s perfectly fine for people I know quite well. But honestly? I don’t really want to kiss 20 strangers’ faces, believe it or not. At times, it is the ultimate recipe for disaster.
‘Tis the season and all.

I don’t drink as I am still underage. But that doesn’t mean I don’t encounter those who do. I like to think I am a patient person, and a lot of the time I am, I like to listen to what people have to say. However, there comes a time when I have to switch off, smile politely, nod, sip from my Cidona, and come out with responses, such as:
“I know, yeah”
“Sure this is it!”
“Isn’t it the way?”
“That’s what I was thinking”
“And what did he say to you?”

For the first time, I have sent Christmas cards. I really feel like patting myself on the back. I sat down one evening, after gathering all of the addresses, and just did it. I was starting to feel bad really; ever since I can remember, we have been receiving umpteen cards to our house every year and we actually don’t send any. As it was me that bought the cards and sat down for the evening, I was either signing off the cards as Catherine or Catherine & family. My mother was lamenting that “It would take the bad luck off us”. It felt strange, but really good at the same time. It’s something so simple, though it’s quite rewarding to see your little pile of envelopes at the end. It’s just really lovely, alright?

I have met and shook hands with people I hardly know for the past month. And I honestly don’t mind, I love meeting new people when I can! As I live in a small community, whoever I’m with will try and explain who the person is - most of the time I catch on after a minute or two. But as I said when I was younger, I am not the postman who knows everyone. They will explain, as if to open the heavens in my mind and make a non-existent light bulb go off. I just look like a fish, racking my brain of every person I know. There is nothing worse than standing beside a local person who you don’t know. Nothing.
“Can you not hear me Catherine?”
“Yeah yeah, I can”
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“I’m thinking!”
The struggle is real.

The weather is an integral part to Irish life, and there is no exception in our house. It was just after the dinner on Christmas day that my mother commented; “You know, there’s a fine stretch in the evening, a better day to put the clothes out. Fine drying so it is”.
No truer words were ever spoken.

Usually, I can rely that there will be decant things on the box over the Christmas. But I noticed that there is hardly anything worth my viewing, and the rest of the house agree with me. Netflix has been the life-saver in this scenario.

“I paid through the nose for that turkey, and I am not letting it go to waste. Sure it was beautiful.”
This is a practical way in dealing with the supply of food left over. 

As you get older, this is something that becomes more apparent. But I also notice it with those around me. Presents are becoming less important to some of us. Yes, it is lovely to get some nice gifts, and I am grateful for everything I received – but really, I didn’t want anything, or as they say “I couldn’t give tuppence for a want of anything”. I much prefer seeing people and having a good catch-up, than receiving anything off them. It’s the way to be I think!

Gone are the days I wake up at 7 o’clock on Christmas morning. Why do that when you can stay in bed for another couple of hours? I’m sleeping in a lot over the last week or so. And I have no shame – I’m relishing every moment of it. 

When I was younger, I had no love for vouchers, because mainly I never made the effort to go to the specific shop and buy something. But as I’ve gotten older, and how the economy has turned out, spare cash to spend is coming few and far between – so you’re crazy if you’re not making use of your vouchers! In fact, I’ll be using mine in January so it’s out of the way, job done. 

Let me know what you got up to over the holidays.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Warrior Awaits | A Tribute to Conor McGregor

A Warrior Awaits
By Daithí O'Connor

A shadow cast on eight, the sides of test and tradition;
A warrior awaits.
Darkness, strobes, music and noise;
The change in tune, the tact in tone, always calm.

Emerging in strides, superior and significant;
Bare skinned, bearded, braided and born.
Tattooed and untainted, capped and comfortable;
a celebration of confidence and indulgence in honour.

A right hand raised, an emblem to roars;
the approval all round answers acceptance to accolades.
The face of focus; fuelled, ferocious and physical.
Relaxed and relishing raucousness', a revelling renewed in expected conquest.

Surrounded by stalwarts, saluting strength in their standing;
the goal always glorious, the going a grateful gift.
A fighter famed on feeding fiercely on the fallow; a freak of fearlessness inside the fence.

The pride pronounced previous to participation, a publicity in positivity and persistence;
A prize proudly personal and a promise... to his own person.

Bold and brash, a champion challenging collective conclusions of characters contained.

The tribal triggering, tastefully targeting those testing the temperament;
trials always trumpeted, a top flight performer present not to take part, but only to take over.

Inspiring, the self-respected ruthlessness that raises rancour;
Rushing relentlessly in triumph, an Irish artist, flawless, fine-tuned and firm.

Sweating in supremacy, selfishly succumbing to the stalks of success;
second to none in notions that nurture the needs of a nation,
No nonsense negotiations; 'I will win. I will win'.

The calculated carnage, the bellows of belief;
The narrow aisles, the path to righteous inevitably.

A warrior awaits, but not in the shadows.
The beaming light with eight sides around him;
Ready, zealous and namely, Notorious.

Daithí O'Connor is a blogger and writer from Dublin. He wrote this as a tribute to McGregor, an Irish mixed martial artist currently competing in the UFC's Featherweight division. You can read more from Daithí on his blog at Reeling in the Fears. You can also read's coverage on this piece here.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

My Year | In Music

I hope you all had a great Christmas, and enjoyed yourself however way you spent it. I am unfortunately suffering with the flu along with half of the country. While I'm recovering and getting back on my feet, I thought it would be a great idea to put together a playlist of ALL of my favourite tunes I have been listening to the past year. Some of these are new, oldies, and maybe some you haven't heard before. I have spoke about my music taste in previous posts - I have a slight acquired taste - but I hope you enjoy the tracks all the same!

You should find a direct Spotify widget of this playlist on the right hand side or click here. Or Click here to listen via Youtube. You'll also find the list of songs mentioned in this post.

Let me know what you think and be sure to let me know what music you've been listening to this year.

1.   All Those Friendly People - Funeral Suits
2.   Undercover Martyn - Two Door Cinema Club
3.   Jackie and Wilson - Hozier
4.   Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
5.   From Afar - Vance Joy
6.   Angry Hill - George Ezra
7.   Photograph - Ed Sheeran
8.   Budapest - George Ezra
9.   Latch (Today FM Live Version) - Kodaline
10. Cough Syrup - Young the Giant
11. Georgia - Vance Joy
12. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene - Hozier
13. She's So Fine - The Strypes
14. Angel Eyes - The Strypes
15. I Don't Want to Change You - Damien Rice
16. Afire Love - Ed Sheeran
17. Cherry Wine - Hozier
18. Not About Angels - Birdy
19. Called On - Hudson Taylor
20. Sail Away - David Gray
21. Left Alone - Hudson Taylor
22. Brand New Day - Kodaline
23. Way Down South - The Young Folk
24. Waiter - Heathers
25. JCB - Nizlopi
26. Never - All The Luck In The World
27. Weapons - Hudson Taylor
28. Nothing Arrived - Villagers
29. Welcome Home, Son - Radical Face
30. Flightless Bird, American Mouth - Iron and Wine
31. Naive - The Kooks
32. Falling Slowly - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
33. Do I Wanna Know? - Arctic Monkeys
34. Entertainment - Phoenix
35. Home - Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zones

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Blogging Business | Avalanche Designs | ArtNouv

Some time ago, I decided I would come up with a series that would help to support and promote Irish businesses. It is vitally important to support the enterprises around us, especially considering how times are at the minute. Each post will contain 2-3 businesses that you should be keeping an eye out for!


Avalanche Designs - founded in 2012, is a company that specialises in graphic design. It begun as a one man operation and have since expanded adding several more people as they have grown. I spoke to Aidan O'Carroll, its founder about the businesses' exciting ventures of late. 

1. In a nutshell, who and what are Avalanche Designs? 

Avalanche is a digital solutions firm operating from Kerry, Ireland. We are a team of six that primarily develop extraordinary websites for businesses all over the globe. The name 
Avalanche was chosen directly from our favourite video game, Final Fantasy VII. The group aims to change the world & we thought it was the perfect name for what we want to do! We are always looking for new projects that excite us and help us to make a real difference to people and help them reach their goals.

2. What makes you stand out from similar businesses? 

We believe that our design work is totally unique and it is for this reason we believe, exciting and innovative businesses choose us. We analyse all the little details that a lot of people overlook and instead of just providing a website/service we provide an experience. Our websites are totally unique and I think our design signature is very evident.

3. Avalanche Designs has been recognised worldwide by some VIPS! How does that 
make you feel?

We are of course delighted to welcome some big names such as Macklemore and Miley 
Cyrus to our client list but it is the SME’s in Ireland and beyond that are the spine of our 
business model. We love taking a small business and giving them an online presence, it is 
such a pleasure knowing that we are helping make a difference to so many small businesses.

4. How important is social media in the day-day runnings of your business?

It is imperative, I can honestly say that Avalanche would not be operational if it were not for social media. Upon founding Avalanche, I utilised social media as a low cost platform of advertising. Using our individual marketing model & the Highwind software I created. We have managed to grow our online following to over 20,000 people across all platforms. It is something we are very proud of at #teamavalanche

5. What are your plans for the future at Avalanche Designs?

We hope to keep growing and pushing boundaries. We have managed to hit all of our growth targets in the last two years so hopefully we can continue to do so. We are looking forward to the challenge ahead and hopefully we can go on to help a lot more small businesses.

We are a team of experts in digital solutions, at least that's what we like to tell people!
At Avalanche - We design websites and stuff! We put you online. It's what we do and we are good at it.


Originally founded in 2002 - ArtNouv has been converting memories into art - they use your photographs to make custom handmade paintings. They also take on any other commissions - such as abstracts done on paper or computer, landscapes or anything that means something special to you. All of their paintings are handmade by specially-commissioned talented experienced artists (ranging from €90 and commissioned works from €140) hired directly by ArtNouv. I got in contact with Kritika Ashok to find out more.

1. You guys saw a gap in the market for a product like yours, what made you have the initiative to set up "Art Nouv"?

The main reason ArtNouv came about is I wanted to get a painting of a penguin! The 2 co-founders and I were discussing that and realised with prices so high to get commissioned paintings, I would be unlikely to get it. However we also then realised that art is like wine - a person knows what they like or don't like but they don't necessarily know what's a good investment. 

2. How important is it for you to ensure your products are 100% handmade?

It's absolutely integral. We do now offer certain prints but these are also using a handmade method of carving the stencil and therefore, still true to our core. Should there be a need to change our plans in the future, we shall definitely reconsider it but, for now,  we don't to sell prints of paintings.

3.  What is the process from a photograph to a handmade oil painting?

It's a very simple process! You send us a photograph, we get it painted. We send drafts for approval through the process so there are no surpirses and you have been able to give real time feedback throughout. We want to ensure you absolutely love the painting when it arrives. We love it when people who get paintings as gifts hate parting with them because they have fallen in love with them themselves!

4.  How would it feel to have every house in Ireland with an "Art Nouv" piece on their walls?

We would have done something right if we have managed to spread the love of art to every home! For now, we are hoping that every 7th children born in Ireland for the next 5 years will be immortalised as a painting by us to help us achieve the one million people being affected by our art mission.

Get the conversation going by using the hashtag #BloggingBusiness

Friday, 5 December 2014

How To | Boost Your Immune System

Have you a tendency to become sick and unwell at this time of year? Coughs, colds, viruses are rampant at the minute. Prevention is key to help you stay on top of your game. I’ve compiled some tips to help keep you sniffle-free all winter long.

You hear people harping on about diet all of the time, and I’m afraid it applies here too. It’s a simple concept; what you put inside is going to affect your body’s output and functionality. Foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats aren’t doing your body any favours. Swapping these for healthier options will strengthen your immune system. Foods high in protein help the growth and repair of cells. If you have a feeling you're ran-down this winter, speak to your pharmacist/GP about the possible use of a tonic. Keeping an eye on your haemoglobin levels is important – remember that Vitamin C is necessary for the absorption of iron!
Some handy foods you can include in your diet are:

- Yoghurt : Probiotics, or the "live active cultures" found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs.
- Garlic : This potent onion relative contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.
- Shellfish : Selenium, plentiful in shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams, helps white blood cells produce cytokines—proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body.
- Mushrooms : Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection

Catch Enough Zzzs?
We underestimate the power of sleep and how important it is to help keep us fighting fit. You’ll often notice you’re more likely to fall ill after of period of lack of sleep. A lab experiment bears this out: When students at the University of Chicago were limited to only 4 hours of sleep a night for 6 nights and then given a flu vaccine, their immune systems made only half the normal number of antibodies. Also, it’s no wonder that this rises our stress levels at the same time. Usually 7-9 hours of sleep a night for an adult is key to good heath. Now for you!

Even a moderate 30 minute walk a day can do the world of good. Exercise boots that feel-good-factor and in turn helps you to sleep better at night. A win-win in my book.

Don’t be stressing:
Stress is unavoidable at times for most of us, but it does a great deal of harm over a long period of time. You’ll often find students “burn out” towards the end of their exams, or anyone who has had a particularly hectic few weeks or months at work. This makes you more vulnerable to illness, colds and some serious illnesses.
While you mightn’t be able to get rid of your stress completely – it’s important that you learn to manage it better:

- Find a hobby/activity that relaxes you
- Take a deep breath and slow down
- Seek advice, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Are you having the LOLs?
Ever hear that laughing is good for you? Well believe it or not, it’s true! It restricts the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection. Don’t believe me? According to one study, men were told 3 days in advance that they were going to watch a funny video. Their levels of stress hormones dropped. So go out and have a laugh once in a while!

Sometimes illness is unavoidable, but prevention is the best cure. This list is not exclusive, and I am sure there are many other handy tips out there. Be sure to wrap up over the next few weeks during the cold snap!

Have you your own tips to avoid coughs and colds?