Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Eve Eve

I cannot believe that it's December 23rd. It seems like only yesterday that it was the end of November and we were gently trundling towards the festivities, but things have just snowballed in the last few weeks. School was very busy but very exciting in the run up to the holidays - seeing the children's excited faces as they spoke animatedly about what Santa was going to bring them, decorating our classroom with fairy lights and baubles, singing Christmas carols, making clay Christmas decorations and counting down the days on our Advent chalkboard were just some of the highlights. We also went to see two different Christmas shows, 'Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer' with the little ones, and an 'Aladdin' pantomime with the older children, both of which I enjoyed just as much (if not more!) than the intended audience!
Most of our time, however, was dedicated to preparations for our Christmas nativity, which was held in the local church last Thursday night. It was a modern musical twist on the nativity called 'A Midwife Crisis', featuring singing sheep, dazzling angels, a frenzied midwife and her gormless donkey and of course, a very special baby boy. We practised and practised and practised the weeks beforehand. On the night, all went to plan (well, mostly!). One boy sadly got a case of stage fright just beforehand and decided that he wouldn't be making his acting debut after all! The adorable little boy who was cast as the star above the stable decided to take a stroll down to say hello to his parents mid-play! There were a few mixed up lines and giggles, but overall, the children did us proud. All things considered, the children and teachers were well ready for the break when our holidays began on Friday afternoon!
The last couple of days have been swallowed up with glorious preparations for December 25th. Last minute presents have been bought and wrapped, the Christmas cake has been iced and dug into, mince pies have been baked, some gifts have been exchanged, friends have been met, chocolates have been devoured, Christmas carols have been sung in our choir, cards have been sent and received, candles have been lit and memories have been recorded. Speaking of memories, I am very far behind on my JYC, however I have managed to write some journalling into a little copybook every day, so am planning a crafty catch up today. Also planned for today is making Mary Berry's gingerbread house with my sister. I've never made one before but was won over watching Mary and Paul construct their masterpiece on the Great British Bake Off Christmas special on last Tuesday night. I'll keep you updated on the progress! What have you been up to for the last few days?
Anyway, I'm off to get crafty with a cup of tea in one hand and a journalling pen in the other! Wishing you and yours a very merry run-up to Christmas - enjoy these few days of joyful anticipation, they always go by far too quickly!


P.S. My lovely friend Jenny has recently started her own blog over here. She is such a sweetheart and a brilliant writer and storyteller too - do pop by and say hello!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Journalling Christmas 2012...

Is is still too early to talk about Christmas?! I don't think so... I'm a huge Christmas fan, I love everything about the festive season - the preparations, the family time, the joy, the food, the giving, the hustle and bustle, the shopping, the traditions, the church-going, the prayers, the smells and sights and sounds. I could go on! For the last two years, Shimelle's annual Journal Your Christmas class has been an important part of my seasonal celebration. In 2011, thanks to lovely long holidays from university, coupled with being very organised, I was able to complete a daily entry in my journal, and LOVED the result. You can see my 2011 journal here, here and here.

Last year was a different story. I had just started in my first proper teaching job, and had applied to complete my teaching diploma (involving mountains of paperwork and planning, along with an impending inspector visit). I had no album, few festive supplies and extremely limited time. But I still wanted to journal my Christmas, so I decided on a whim to chop up some old Christmas and non-Christmas papers into 4x6 inch rectangles, and gather some assorted supplies into a pizza box for my own little kit.
Completing the album turned out to be an even bigger challenge than I'd anticipated, given the time constraints and pressures of a new job. Even during the holidays, I didn't dedicate the hours I'd hoped to catch up. The cards I did complete though, I popped into an old photo album in the expectation that sometime, I would get the chance to pull together my 2012 album.
And so, a couple of weeks ago, when I began to get excited about journalling Christmas 2013, I rooted out those cards. I found a little 4x6 photo album for €3 in a photo shop, pulled out photos from last December and made a simple cover. At last, almost a year later, it was finished!

Honestly, even though it's simple, even though I didn't respond to many of the prompts, even though it's short, I love how it turned out and I'm so glad I finished it. I like that it reflects and captures the unique little details of my Christmas last year, from preparing for a Christmas musical to working Christmas eve in the butchers, to visiting the famous English markets in Cork with the hanging plucked turkeys. I love that I have a record of these moments, and looking at my 2012 album, I already so excited for this year!
I am hoping to be more organised this December and January. I ordered my album at the weekend, along with treating myself to some new Christmas supplies (excitement!). After much deliberation, I went with a 6x8 album with divided page protectors. I like the idea that I can do some quick entries and pop in photos on the busy days, but I'll have more space for journalling on the 6x8 pages (I tend to write A LOT once I get started, and fitting in my sprawling memories and journalling was the one thing I didn't like about the small size last year). Now I'm just so excited for my parcel to arrive so I can get preparing and cutting and assembling my own little kit of supplies with things I have in my stash mixed in with a few new bits and pieces. December 1st 2013... Bring it on! :D


P.S. I have put the entries in collages rather than showing you single photos of each page, because it would take FOREVER to upload them at decent quality without compressing too much! Plus you'd probably be totally bored of scrolling down! :D

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Tea, Pumpkins and Crafting

So I've had a little bit of a (spontaneous and unintentional) blog break. My time has been swallowed up by my new job, lots of baking, a little scrapbooking, some TV watching, pumpkin carving, face-painting and socialising with friends... not necessarily in that order! Things have been busy, but I'm now in the middle of the glorious week off school for half-term (mid-term, as we call it here in Ireland) and I thought it was high time I invited you for tea and a catch up on the goings on in my very exciting life! It's also a chance to join in with Abi's monthly tea party... Better late than never :D So come on in, grab a slice of spiced apple cake with rum buttercream and a mug, and get yourself comfy by the roaring fire...

How is everything with you? My new job is going well, I'm slowly getting used to the insanity and chaos of a classroom with four classes and children ranging in age from four to eight! It's noisy and exhausting, and a bit mad at times, but I'm really enjoying the challenge. In the past five weeks, I've carved pumpkins, read 'Room on the Broom' several times, painted autumn trees and hedgehogs, woven spiderwebs, recited rhymes, sung songs, led a maths trail, pretended to be a banana (!), painted lots of little faces, mopped up a few tears, laughed out loud and stressed a lot! What have you been up to at work recently?

The new job has, however, been sucking up all my time, so crafting has suffered a little bit. The half-term has helped me redress that balance! I've almost finished that crochet blanket I showed you last time  we chatted, and thanks to a lovely day with a friend yesterday, I finished a double page layout that has been on my desk for far too long. I also carved another pumpkin and got the DSLR out for the first time in ages. Good times! Have you been crafting recently?
Something that hasn't suffered in the last few weeks is my obsession with the Great British Bake Off! I'm SO sad that it's over now, but am consoling myself with the masterclasses with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood this week, and doing lots of baking myself :D Thankfully, the Great Irish Bake Off will be on for another couple of weeks to fill the GBBO shaped hole in my TV schedule!
My goodness, time flies when we get together for tea! Thank you for joining me today :) And thanks Abi for the inspiration, as always. Until next month...


P.S. Happy Halloween!

Monday, 7 October 2013

At the Moment...

They say times flies when you're having fun... I think it should read, 'time flies when you're hectic-crazy-manic-exhausting busy!' The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, with the main news being that I have succeeded in getting a job, a maternity leave cover until mid March. I have just started into my third week now (whew!) and am very gradually adjusting to the massive change in pace and workload and trying to get used to a new workplace and routine. It's a positive kind of busy though, as I appreciate that I'm so lucky to have employment when so many others are out of work. Anyway, as a kind of ease-myself-back-into-blogging exercise, I thought it was high time for a 'right now' kind of post. So here goes...

Currently I am:
Reading primary school textbooks and fairytales to my class (with dramatic voices, obviously!) :D
Cooking lots of Jamie Oliver's meals from his most recent cookbook, the latest being a chicken and chorizo paella (which was divine, if I may say so myself!)
Drinking loads of tea with some coffee thrown in there too, as well as trying to sip more water
Typing school plans and PowerPoint presentations
Surfing crafty blogs, Pinterest and teaching resource sites
Watching Great British and Great Irish Bake Offs, Downton Abbey and Home and Away
Listening to OneRepublic and some radio
Celebrating my county winning the All-Ireland hurling final on September 28th - an EPIC weekend of celebrations!
Crafting a little bit of crochet every now and again (granny stripe blanket as seen above!)
Wanting to get more organised and fit in more time to scrapbook and bake
Chatting to friends on the phone a lot - the best way to de-stress is definitely to vent and rant a little :D
Worrying about getting everything I need done and gaining a work-life balance and mostly, succeeding in my new job
Wearing blazers, dark jeans, light knits and blouses - it's that in-between autumnal time when I don't know if I'm ready for winter woolies quite yet
Needing to buy some black comfy ankle boots for the winter that I can tuck my jeans into... impossible to find!
Thanking God for my friends and family who keep me sane (well, mostly!)

Hope to be back soon with a more substantial post :D

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Thoughts on Instagram

I was a slow starter with Instagram. I blame this on my phone, which is an Android model that is a little dated and on which the camera is not brilliant to say the least. I am saving my pennies for an iPhone! But anyway, my phone camera was my excuse not to Instagram. I rarely used the camera on my phone at all... This is definitely because I am in love with my DSLR and bring it almost everywhere with me. I  adore the brilliant quality and creative control of changing the aperture and shutter speed. Why would I need to take phone pictures at all?

However, in recent months, my attitude has changed. I am beginning to embrace my phone camera. I like the fact that I can use it to capture the things I wouldn't usually take photos of, like a meal I've made from a new cookbook, or an ice-cream in the car, or a coffee while I work on my laptop. These photos of the little things document the normality and routine of everyday life, not just day trips or holidays or adventures. I love flicking back through my Instagram photos to see the changing seasons and the mix of the exciting and the mundane.
An Instagram collage... First row (L-R): autumnal blackberries; summer lemonade; birthday flowers from Australia; cupcakes in my county colours. Second row (L-R): share a coke with Sinéad; Jamie Oliver's new book; boiled egg tea; Havianas for my holidays. Third row (L-R): coffee and Macbook; sunny road trip; cross stitching; stripy pumps and turned up jeans. Fourth row (L-R): hurling match; aquarium visiting; peas from the garden; first '99 cone of the summer.

I also really enjoy the social aspect of Instagram and the immediacy of it. It's like a cheekier, more in-your-face version of blogging, and I love the fact that I get a window into the daily lives of friends, bloggers, famous people and everyone in between!

You can follow me @sineadkirby, if you're so inclined :D What are your thoughts on Instagram?

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Cautious Cappuccino Drinker

My sister is not a coffee lover. Tea, on the other hand, she will drink all day long, strong with just a dash of milk, served in a big mug she can wrap her hands around. Sometimes, when we're in town, she will try coffee for a change, usually a light and milky latté, but even then, she usually regrets not getting tea!

I guess I am the coffee drinker of the family. Don't get me wrong, I could drink tea for Ireland, and when I'm at home, the kettle is rarely off the boil. But I do love my afternoon coffee for the boost it lends to a frazzled and tired mind. And when we were in Italy, I drank lots of coffee, from smooth americanos to frothy cappuccinos and powerful espressos.

On our last night on holidays, I convinced my sister she had to try a cappuccino. It would be a crime not to, in a place where the heavenly scent of whole-bean coffee lingered in the air every morning, and business people in posh suits drank espresso like it was water.
When the little chocolate dusted cup arrived topped with frothy milk, she was definitely sceptical (as you can see from the middle photo) and very cautious. The first few sips were tense... But I'm pleased to say she drank it all, and enjoyed it! Maybe I'll convert her to espressos yet!

This layout came together easily enough, using mostly supplies I got from my most recent Two Peas order (my favourites being those little star-shaped paperclips!), mixed in with a few older bits and pieces. Sometimes, I struggle with using this many photos on a single layout, as I find it difficult to fit in my journalling, title and embellishments, while still leaving a little white space. I think 3x4 cards are the answer - not only for Project Life! This is third layout I've done using these cards, and I'm happy with the effect. Also, by using small letter stickers rather than my customary favourites, Thickers, the title doesn't take up too much room.

What have you been scrapbooking recently?


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Storytelling Sunday: A Holiday Journal

Today, I am taking part in Sian's Storytelling Sunday. On the first Sunday of every month, Sian encourages bloggers from all over the world to tell the story behind the things that are precious to them. Climb up to see her High in the Sky and read the tales of other talented storytellers. This is my story of a holiday journal. It is not old or battered or dog-eared from thumbing through and reading. Actually, it is still new and clean, with crisp pages and neatly adhered memorabilia. However, it is still precious to me, and I hope that as time passes, it will only become more important and treasured.
I had never written a holiday journal before this summer. Since I started scrapbooking (and probably even before), I have collected things like tickets and memorabilia when I go anywhere new with the idea that I may use it on a layout one day. Of course, as time passes by, I often forget the story behind the precious receipts and little pieces of paper I amass during a holiday, and they often end up lurking at the bottom of a folder or basket of supplies, never to be used. Sad times!
This year, when we went to Italy for the first time, I was determined to keep a journal of some kind. This was partly because I wanted to remember all the little details, and partly because I had seen so many beautiful travel journals from scrapbookers and bloggers online that I wanted to get a piece of the action! I knew that if I brought loads of supplies with me, I wouldn't have the time or discipline to keep up. My scrapbooking style is slow and detailed, and this journal was all about the memories and journalling, not the design. So I set off with this lovely Papermania journal (which I got from a sweet friend for my birthday), a Freckled Fawn/Studio Calico green arrow washi tape and my favourite American Crafts journalling pen. Minimal supplies that fit neatly in my handbag.
And during the fabulous week we spent in Italy, I set aside some time most nights (usually when everyone else had collapsed into bed exhausted!) to sift through and record the tales behind the bits and pieces I had gathered during the day. Before I knew it, the pages were filling up with stories: the dramatic story of an expired passport, the story of a expensive and beautiful island, the story of the many cocktails we enjoyed, the story of a sweet Englishwoman that worked in our hotel, the story of a place steeped in history... Accompanying the stories were countless receipts, tickets, maps, postcards, stamps, brochures and even a sachet of sugar from a café on the isle of Capri that charged €7 for an orange juice. Yes, really!
I'll be honest. I didn't get it all finished when we were in Italy. I didn't write every single night. I definitely had some catching up to do when we got home. But the result is worth it. When I had written my last story and adhered my last ticket with that lovely green washi tape, I knew there was something else I wanted. Something that would make this journal really precious. So I went to my family and begged them to write something, something that would sum up their experience of the holiday. Having my Mum's love of family, my sister's humour and my Dad's almost illegible scrawl (!) as part of the journal make it even more important and special to me.
I am so doing this again!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Let's Sit for a Cup of Tea

Hello there, come on in, sit down and let's have a chat! It's so lovely to see you again, I do so enjoy our monthly catch up and cuppa. My favourite pot is full and I have baked some chocolate and vanilla marble cake which you're more than welcome to take a slice (or three!) of. Don't be shy - I'll be helping myself generously.

So how have things been with you? Can you believe that August is over and September is almost here?  It seems like only yesterday that the whole summer was stretching out ahead of us... And now I'm looking back wistfully that the lazy days of summer have elapsed! But there's something nice about autumn creeping up too. The blackberries have started to appear on the bushes, darkness is descending earlier and there is a definite chill in the air. I'm getting the urge to bake more and I even broke out the crochet hook and the chunky wool at the weekend and made a cowl/neck-warmer (the whole thing took two hours from start to finish and was so easy, my kind of project!). But enough of my ramblings, what are your thoughts on the changing seasons? Are you a bit nostalgic for the summer days, or ready for the crisp leaves and cosy fires of autumn?

Go on, have another cup of tea, and more cake? I promise I won't tell! September has always been a month of routine for me, getting back to school or university. However, since I qualified as a teacher last year, things have been a little different due to the challenging job situation here in Ireland. I was lucky enough to get a position in a little school I loved last November, but since it was a temporary contract I've spent my summer job-hunting again. Sadly, nothing has come up and it's been really disheartening and depressing. I feel like going into the streets with a sandwich board: "Somebody HIRE ME!!" Just kidding...maybe! I've sent tons of applications and got too many rejections... But I suppose I'm doing everything I can and just have to trust and pray that something will turn up. Rant over, I promise!

On a happier topic, I'm absolutely loving getting back to crafting these days! What are you creating at the moment? I tried cross stitch for the first time this week (slow progress but very pretty), I'm doing some crochet, and I've gotten massively back into scrapbooking. I got a big order in the post last week from Two Peas (seriously, it was like Christmas coming early!), and I also made a massive order of 170 photos from Photobox. I had piles of pictures, from Italy and London and meeting new and old friends and my school year and day trips and my birthday... It was so lovely when they all arrived! Do you order photos or print at home? I'd love to hear your recommendations about home printing!

Oh no, is that the time? I can't believe our tea has passed so quickly - but I'm afraid I've got to run. I'm trying to cram as much into these last few days of summer as I can, and that involves meeting up with school and uni friends, helping my sister move into her uni accommodation, taking impromptu shopping trips, crafting as much as possible, watching the Great British Bake Off, applying for more jobs, reading loads and drinking lots of tea and coffee in between! Thank you so much for coming for tea, and do promise you'll come again next month?

Today, I'm joining in with Abi's lovely meme about sharing a cup of tea over at Creating Paper Dreams. Pop over and say hi to Abi (she's the best!) and read the other tea tales from other bloggers from all over the world. 


Friday, 23 August 2013

Adventures in Macro Photography

I love macro photography, but it's always been a kind of admiration from afar, a bit like unrequited love if you like. I'd browse through beautiful macro shots online and marvel at the stunning detail they captured. I even used macro photos for a project during one of my teaching practice placements... One of those 'guess what this is' kind of games! But I knew the chances of me ever shooting macro photos was slim. For one thing, the lenses cost an absolute fortune, and I really wouldn't get enough use out of it to justify the price tag even if I could afford it.
Then this summer, I unexpectedly got my first taste of macro. After coming back from my cousin's wedding in June, I noticed these weird blue lines across the middle of the photos. The sensor was damaged (if I ever find out who dropped my camera, there'll be trouble!) and I was told it was going to take a few weeks to fix it. Sad times! I was so disappointed, but my uncle, a MAJOR photography enthusiast, came to the rescue. He loaned me his fancy Canon 600D, which is his backup camera (!), along with a macro lens for me to experiment with. I was so excited!
It was a huge learning curve... In the space of a few days, I had learned to use a new camera, I had messed around with a tripod, I had used manual focus for the first time and I had produced my first (very basic!) macro shots. It's a totally different type of photography than what I'm used to. It's slow and precise, and it takes a long time to set up a shot and get it perfect. The slightest shudder of movement and the picture is ruined. And I have to admit that, on my uncle's advice, I spent more than a few evenings chasing flies around, wielding a can of fly spray, trying to kill one for a photo! Yes, really! I got more up close and personal with things like wriggly caterpillars and slimy snails than I ever would have anticipated. And though my sister wasn't very impressed with how disgusting these creatures are when massively magnified, it was worth it for the pictures!
Sadly, the time has come to return the camera and lens, now that my own beloved model has returned in full working order. However, I have to say that I really enjoyed my flirtation with macro photography. Have you ever tried macro?

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Story of a Friendship

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Abi. She wrote a beautiful blog that I'm sure you are familiar with, where she shared tales of her life at boarding school, and later on her gap year and at uni in northern England. She posted stunning photos and inspiring craft projects, intermingled with snippets and slices of her everyday life. I found her home on the web through some other craft blogs and was instantly hooked by her limitless talent and the web of words she weaves. I was so excited to discover someone the same age as me, who had similar interests. There aren't many girls in their early twenties who have a passion for crafts and wool and blogging and storytelling! After a while, I plucked up the courage to comment on her posts. Before I knew it, we became Facebook friends, and then progressed from short Facebook messages to long emails. We shared stories of our day-to-day experiences... Abi told me about her uni life while I relayed stories about teaching and waiting for the inspector to arrive! We talked about everything and anything, and gradually the emails became longer and longer as we got to know each other better and shared more! I looked forward to a message from Abi popping up in my inbox, and enjoying her stories curled up with a cup of tea (what else?!). This blog wouldn't be here if it weren't for the gentle nagging and inspiration of Abi. True story!
So when my parents got me the present of a trip to London with my sister for my 21st birthday, I wondered if maybe we could meet. We had chatted so much online that I already felt I knew Abi even though we'd never met in real life. So I asked her in my next mammoth email if she'd be interested in coming to London during the summer when I'd be there. And she said she'd love to! I was so excited. We'd be able to chat about Project Life and uni and teaching and blogging and everything. It was going to be magic.
And last Wednesday, I finally got to meet the lovely lady who I have formed a friendship with through blogging and emailing. And though I was a little nervous as I saw her mustard cardigan coming through a crowded Covent Garden, I needn't have worried. We talked and talked the entire time, as we strolled around the streets of bustling London. We shared a real cup of tea (as opposed to a virtual one!) and lunch in a cute little place (once we got past all the sushi places London has to offer!). We took some photos (me with the SLR, she with the iPhone). It was magic. We never stopped talking, and Abi was just as sweet and friendly and lovely as I imagined. And all too soon, the hours had flown past and Abi had to go back to her train. So we walked to the tube station and shared a huge hug before she disappeared into the stream of Londoners.
Thank you for a wonderful afternoon Abi! I can't wait to meet again.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Scrapbooking with a Kit

Scrapbooking and crafting in general is one of the most relaxing things in the world for me. This academic year, school and work and the pressures of being a teacher in my first year of work meant that crafty endeavours were at an absolute minimum. Sad times. When the summer holidays rolled around, I was determined to get back to scrapbooking, where I can get lost in stories and patterns and photos for hours... But it was all a bit overwhelming when I hadn't crafted in so long. Luckily, it was Shimelle to the rescue, as she hosted a variety of challenges last Bank Holiday weekend aimed at using up kit supplies. So I created my own kit with the supplies I had at hand and decided on a few challenges that I would attempt using my kit only. Now, I am a slow scrapper... I look and change my mind and rearrange and layer and cluster and plan and journal... and that's all before I even start to stick things down! So limiting my supplies and having some challenges really helped to structure my scrapbooking.

This was an easy challenge for me to start with...three really is my magic number when it comes to scrapbooking. If I go through my albums, I come across countless layouts with three clusters of embellishment, further decorated by groups of three butterflies, wood veneers etc (as I've done here). This layout has a photo of my sister and I as flower girls at a few weddings when we were small - we felt like princesses! 

I know that 3x4 cards have become hugely popular with the advent of Project Life, but I love the idea of including these elements on a full 12x12 layout. These three cards were from a cut apart sheet, and I put them with photos from my cousin's wedding last September. The vintage car scheduled to bring the newly married couple to the reception broke down because the clever driver left his lights on for the whole ceremony! Definitely a moment for the scrapbook!

I'm not a big user of sketches, but anytime I do use one, I love the results and ask myself why I don't do it more often? Shimelle is the unchallenged queen of sketches (in my opinion anyway!), so I liked this challenge. I chose Shimelle's sketch number 10, entitled 'Busy Busy'. This layout records the quirky coolness of Le Centre Pompidou in Paris, where I visited with my friend last summer.

When I thought about scrapbooking with a dominant vertical line, I immediately thought of a journalling-heavy page (most of my layouts are journalling-heavy actually!). I had loads of space on this layout to describe a horrible short fringe I had cut in my hair in December 2011, and the MANY bad hair days that ensued! This is also a monochromatic aqua/turquoise layout...I can't get enough of that colour!

I'm back to scrapbooking with a vengeance! More layouts to share soon!

Sinéad xxx

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Storytelling Sunday: A Love of Books

Today, I am joining in with Sian's Storytelling Sunday. On the first Sunday of each month, she urges us to think of the little things that are precious to us, things that are part of the fabric of our lives, and to tell the story behind them. Join her High in the Sky for more stories!

I am a reader. I always have been and I probably always will be. I was the child that begged for trips to the bookshop with its endless shelves of crisp new books, waiting to be discovered. I was the child that was lucky enough to be read to every night before I went to sleep. I was the child that hid under the covers of my bed, reading until the early hours by the faint light of a torch. I was the child that devoured books in a single night, my eyes skimming the words faster than I could turn the pages.

As I grew up, things didn't change all that much. Though school, university and now working life can sometimes get in the way, I always return to books. When worries and fears threaten and loom, a book can take me away to a place inside my imagination. I usually end up getting totally engrossed and reading for far longer than I had intended!

Now, I pretty much read anything and everything. Do I follow trends? Yes, I have to admit that if I see a book climbing the bestsellers list, I am always tempted to see what the fuss is about. So I recently read 'Gone Girl' and 'The Hunger Games', and I bought 'A Game of Thrones' yesterday. Jumping on the bandwagon, I know! However, I'll give anything a try, from thrillers and classics, to mysteries and girly romances, and everything in between. I don't generally reread books (with the exception of 'Harry Potter', obviously!) and a book called 'The Night Before Christmas' by Alice Taylor, which evocatively describes the traditions and joy of an old-style Irish family Christmas - I try to read it during the festive season every year.

When I began to think about which books are precious to me, childhood reads immediately came to mind. Nowadays, in an era of Kindles and readers and cheap paperbacks, books have almost become disposable to an extent. I find this sad. While I can see the advantages of a Kindle (and I was sorry I didn't have one with me on holidays as I get through books far too quickly), there's nothing like the feel of a book in your hands, turning those smooth pages, creasing the spine for the first time.

So these are some of the books that I had as a child, in the days before 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' or 'The Gruffalo'. These are (some of the many) books that are battered and torn (some more than others!), and that I couldn't part with for the world. They certainly are more than precious to me, because each one brings with it a wealth of memories and stories, cuddles on the couch and sleepy bedtimes and reading lying on my tummy on the floor...
'Spot's Birthday Party', by Eric Hill: This beautiful hide and seek lift-the-flap book definitely falls into the category of very well read. It has been sellotaped together more times than I can imagine, especially all those flaps which were impatiently ripped up as opposed to gently lifted!

'The Elephant and the Bad Baby', by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs: This is another book embellished with trusty sellotape! A classic cumulative tale where one character chases after another and each page sees a new addition to the train, my favourite part of this book was the rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta refrain.

'The Tale of Georgie Grub', by Jeanne Willis: My Dad bought this book on a trip to America and brought it back as a gift when I was four. I can remember bringing it to school and asking my teacher to read it to the class. It's a fabulous rhyming cautionary story about a little boy who refuses to wash!

There were many more... Dr. Seuss' 'Cat in the Hat' and his other books, all the fairytales, 'Charlotte's Web', and later everything written by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson was read. Books are precious. No question!

Sinéad xxx

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Time for Tea... Or Espresso?

I'm a little late to the lovely Abi's monthly tea party, but I've been reading all of your tea stories and I said I'd join in anyway! Pop on over to Abi's home on the web to share a virtual cuppa with bloggers from all over the world.

Anyway, hello, come on in through the door, the kettle is on the boil - as it pretty much always is in our house! I'm so delighted you've decided to pop by for a chat and a catch up, it has been too long. Please do excuse the mess though, I just returned from a fabulous week of holidays in Italy with my family, and I'm still in the process of unpacking. So, would you like tea or coffee? To tell you the truth, I never used to be a coffee fan - I loved the strong, heady smell of freshly ground coffee beans, but found the taste acrid and bitter. However, my experience on a school staff of obsessive coffee drinkers this year has definitely converted me! I may be becoming a bit of a connoisseur (read: addict) at this much so, I even hit the hard stuff when we were in Italia, the home of good coffee, yes, I drank espresso. And lots of it, along with several creamy cappuccinos and lattes. I'm seriously tempted to get a coffee machine now that I'm home and the instant stuff isn't cutting it anymore! One thing Italy doesn't have going for it is the tea though. I was literally gasping for proper Irish tea when I got home, with just a small splash of milk and never any sugar (because I'm sweet enough already). It's the prefect accompaniment to everything and the answer to every problem! What are your coffee/tea preferences? Whatever you fancy, pour yourself a cup or three and make yourself comfortable. And go on, you know you want a scone, Mum just made them this morning!

So what's going on in your world since we chatted last? I've been busy, but it's been fantastic to be on holidays and get a bit of a break at last. I turned 21 earlier this month, and had a party in my local pub with some family and friends. It was fantastic to get together with some people that I hadn't seen in almost a year, and to get together with friends from secondary school and university, along with cousins and family. We danced and sang and did the Limbo and 'rocked the boat' and just had such a lovely time. I'll have to tell you all about it again sometime, and I promise I'll show you the photos too! And then of course, I was in stunning Sorrento on the coast of Italy with my parents and sister for the last week. It was just bliss...scorching sunshine, azure blue cloudless skies, breathtaking scenery, quaint dimly lit streets, tangy golden lemons, fascinating history and culture, sparkling turquoise waters, crisp cheesy pizza... I could go on! Have you ever been? Or are you going on holidays anywhere this year? I think it's really lovely to get a break if you can, see somewhere different, even take a day trip to get a change of scenery and a break away from reality.

Speaking of reality, now that I'm back in the Emerald Isle, I have to face just that, and the painful task that is applying for jobs once again. Sadly, the job that I was in for most of last year was only a temporary contract, so it's back to job hunting for September. I hate the uncertainty of not knowing where I'm going to be or what I'll be doing for the next academic year. It's scary and stressful, but I'm trying to trust that what's right for me will come along and not get too worried as I send in applications with crossed fingers! How is work for you at the moment? Have you ever experienced the disheartening task of sending applications and CVs to no avail? Anyway, sorry, I promise that's my rant over for today!

Another scone? More tea? Some Milka chocolate from the airport perhaps? Go on, you know you want to! I'll make another pot of tea, why not? It is the summer holidays after all. Though you wouldn't know it to look out the window here at the moment! It's been showery since I got back from sunny Italy yesterday, but I guess I can't complain. We enjoyed a glorious three weeks of sunshine here in Ireland before I went on holidays, and when I say sunshine, I mean PROPER sunshine. The kind of sunshine in which you simply cannot wear jeans (though you still see some people in their skinnies when the temperature is above 30 degrees, what's that all about?!) and need to slap on bottles of sticky suncream and can sit out in a little sundress at night and still feel warm. The kind of sunshine that demands you drink endless litres of water and slurp ice-cream constantly to cool you down. The kind of sunshine we hadn't had in a LONG time in Ireland! But of course, there are some people who aren't happy unless they're complaining, so no sooner than the sun had peeked through the clouds, people could be heard, "wouldn't you just kill for a drop of rain?!" Not me! Sun is all good, I'll take some more thank you very much! So what's the weather been like where you are at the moment?

It's been just so lovely to meet up for tea again after so long. I do love catching up with friends, and what better way than over a hot beverage and some baked goods. I can't wait to do it again soon. And now that I'm back from holidays, I truly hope that more regular blogging service can be resumed! I have lots to talk about (don't I always!) and loads to share.

Thanks again for joining me (and Abi) today...even if I am a little late!

Sinéad xxx

Monday, 1 July 2013

Back West

Oh my has been a while. Ok, it's been more than a while! But things have been busy, and I'll admit that the longer I went without blogging, the harder it got to sit down and write a post. However, the summer holidays are now here and school's out for a few weeks, so the time for procrastination is over at last!

I spent the last eight months teaching in a rural two teacher school on the west coast of Ireland. Now sometimes when people refer to the 'west of Ireland', they are alluding to the general area beyond the midlands remotely near the coast. So when I say I was teaching 'back west', I really mean west, in fact, that the adorable local pub was advertised with the tagline: 'Closest Bar to New York'! (As the crow flies, of course!) The little village I lived and worked in is located close to Loop Head, on the very tip of Co. Clare, the part of Ireland that juts erratically into the Atlantic Ocean. What a setting!
So while the setting of my first job was slightly isolated for a young 20-year-old teacher, I can't deny I loved living by the sea, seeing the wild crashing waves and the stunning sunsets, marvelling at the breathtaking scenery, and taking lots of photos along the way of course! Have I convinced you to visit yet?! The Loop Head peninsula was actually recently named as the best place to holiday in Ireland - I'd totally be your tour guide if you came to visit!

It's been some year - expect lots of school stories in the next few weeks!


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Catching Up Over Tea

Hello there!

Today I’m joining in with Abi’s lovely meme (a little late, but better late than never!), where she invites you to share a virtual cup of tea, perhaps some cake, and most importantly, a long overdue chat!

If I was meeting you today for a cuppa, I would invite you to come to one of my favourite coffee shops in my local town. As you walk through the door, I would greet you with a hug, and you’d comment on the quaint stove and cosy atmosphere. I’d giggle and tell you that this is the kind of place that you could comfortably spend more than a couple of hours and drink several pots of tea! Not that I’ve done that before…ahem! I’d also tell you that the name of the café ‘Cairde’, is the Irish word for ‘friends’ and is therefore highly appropriate for our rendezvous today.

As we poured our first cups of tea and tested the first forkfuls of our moist, juicy carrot cake (trust me, it’s amazing!), I’d tell you about how school has reached a new level of busy. I’d convey my exhaustion at the seemingly interminable wait for my dreaded inspector’s arrival, which could literally happen any day now. I’d probably sigh and grumble about the stress! Though I’m tired, I’d tell you how wonderfully rewarding the work is, and how I feel so lucky to be in this small school, with these children that make me laugh every day. I’d explain about the monthly themed projects we do, and share my delight at my class’s reaction and response to them. I even had a papier maché gas mask and real evacuee’s suitcase in last week for our World War II theme! I’d ask you how work is at the moment, whether you’re busy, and what motivates you?

As I poured the second cup of tea, I’d share with you my frustration at being such an erratic blogger. I’d let you in on the fact that I’m finding it impossible to get time to blog. I’d ask if you have seen Julie Kirk’s new Push-Up Bra Blogging course? I’d tell you that I’m hoping that I can put some of these tips into practice to improve this little blog! I might then ask you about your blog, and what got you into blogging in the beginning?

Talk might turn around to talk of Project Life, which has been appearing on blogs everywhere. I’d explain that though I’ve always loved the idea of PL and documenting the everyday, the paper version always seemed like just too much of a commitment. I’d talk about how the notion of digital PL has been a revolution for me, a person who was never that much of a fan of digital scrapping. I’d tell you that though I still love paper and embellishments, I’m coming around to the practicalities of going digital. I’d smile that seeing a certain someone’s beautiful layouts is probably a big part of this as well! I’d ask you about your opinions of PL, and whether you’re a fan of the digital or paper version?

With a reluctant sigh and a draining of the dregs of tea, I’d uncurl myself from the chair and tell you how good it’s been catching up! We’d part on a hug and wave, promising to do this again very soon.

Sinéad xxx