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I can hardly believe Valentine’s Day is behind us and we are barreling full-speed towards Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter.

DSC01314Lent, as you probably know, is just four days away and in our house there is a lot of talk about what each of us is giving up for the next forty days. My husband is going with the Irish “usual”: he is giving up drink. The kids and I have agreed on sugar. By that I mean to say we are giving up minerals (soft drinks), chocolate, ice cream, and all sweets. Furthermore, from Ash Wednesday (5th March) to Good Friday (18th April), I promise to not make any puddings (deserts), biscuits (cookies), cupcakes, cakes or other tasty treats that have sugar…white or brown…as an added ingredient. The exception for all of us, of course, is Saint Patrick’s Day, which is when we Irish get a chance to break the fast of Lent for one day.

There is another form of abstinence that our little family will participate in during Lent and that is giving up meat on Fridays.  According to Catholic Canon Law, a person between the ages of 14 and 59 should abstain from eating meat on Fridays {every Friday throughout the year} in honour of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. While most Catholics ignore this rule, many take it up during the season of Lent. In keeping with strict Catholic tradition, we will also not eat meat on Ash Wednesday. To keep us on track, I am putting together a collection of meat-free recipes and will post them as Lenten Challenges: Meat-Free Friday posts for you to enjoy.

Speaking of Ash Wednesday…it’s the 5th of March, which is this Wednesday. It’s the day you see Catholics everywhere walking around with the sign of the cross, made from ashes, on their foreheads. The ashes have had different meanings at different times throughout history. Today is symbolises our baptismal promise to reject sin and profess our faith.

Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday, which is on the 4th of March this year. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive”, which means to confess and receive absolution. Shrove Tuesday is, therefore, a day that many Catholics will go to confession at their local church to ask forgiveness for and be absolved of their sins. According to the Dublin Diocese’s education website, “This tradition is very old. Over 1,000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him. ~ Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes”. 

Shrove Tuesday is also known in Ireland as Pancake Tuesday. The significance of the “pancake” is tied up in the religious custom of abstaining from meat, butter, eggs, and dairy during Lent. So that no food would be wasted, Irish families would feast on Shrove Tuesday and use up all the foods that would not keep for forty days. Pancakes use up many of the items Catholics were not allowed to eat during Lent in past times, hence its association with Shrove Tuesday and the start of Lent. Last year, I posted a traditional Irish pancake recipe on this blog: you will find it here.

Trocaire 2014 Lenten Box

Trocaire 2014 Lenten Box

There are so many traditions surrounding Lent, as you can see from above, one of the more modern ones you may not know about if you live outside of Ireland is the Trócaire box. If you don’t know it, the Trócaire box is a small cardboard box used for collecting change. It is given to school age children across the country, who then take it home and fill it over Lent. The money raised goes directly to Trócaire, the official overseas development agency set up by the Catholic Church in Ireland that aids some of the world’s poorest people. The competition amongst school children to have the heaviest box is fierce. Up until recently, we always had to have two boxes in our house to keep the peace. This year’s campaign focuses on the global water crisis and explores water as a social justice issue.

Another modern custom, this one involving technology, is the Irish Jesuit’s online spiritual Retreat for Lent. It is part of the Irish Jesuit’s hugely popular website called Sacred Space. Sacred Space serves five million people annually, from all around the world, by guiding them through ten-minute segments of daily prayer via the computer. While it might seem odd to pray in front of a computer or mobile device, it makes prayer on “the go” or prayer for busy people {isn’t that all of us?} possible.  The theme of this year’s “Retreat for Lent” program is Called to be Saints. It draws inspiration from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is a pocket-size book, Sacred Space for Lent 2014, to compliment the website. If you are interested, it is available from Amazon and all good bookstores around the world.

DSC_0387And, finally, to round out today’s post on Lenten traditions, there’s one more custom we keep in our home during Lent and that is the baking and eating of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. Why they are associated with Good Friday, specifically, is really unknown but some say an Anglican monk placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honour Christ’s suffering on the cross on Good Friday. Nearly everyone is familiar with the old nursery rhyme, “One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns…if you have no daughter’s give them to your sons…One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns”…but there is also a sweet rhyme for friendship that goes, “Half for you and half for me, between us two good luck shall be”.

I will post my favourite hot cross bun another day for you to try. In the meantime, good luck to you as you begin your season of Lent. God bless.

Related Articles:

Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2014 at http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2014/02/04/pope-francis-message-lent-2014/

Reflecting on the Lent Season from Loyola Press at: http://www.loyolapress.com/reflecting-on-the-lent-season.htm

Baileys Irish Cream Pancakes with Whiskey Maple Syrup at http://www.college-cooking.com/2013/03/10/baileys-irish-cream-crepes-and-baileys-irish-cream-pancakes-with-whisky-maple-syrup/

Chocolate Stout Crepes with Irish Cream Whip at http://www.countrycleaver.com/2012/03/chocolate-stout-crepes-and-irish-cream-whip.html

Hot Apple and Apricot Crepe recipe from The Wineport  Restaurant in Glasson, Co. Westmeath at http://www.irishheart.ie/iopen24/apple-apricot-crepe-t-7_22_91_186.html

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DSC02920Dinner…what to do, what to do…hmmm.

Nearly ever week I find myself asking my little family, “What do you want for dinner”?

More often than not…my husband and two children say…”Salmon Pesto Pasta, please!!!”

Salmon Pesto Pasta is  almost more popular in our house than homemade pizza. No. Really. It is. And, what cracks me up, is it’s a recipe I threw together one evening after opening the fridge and discovering, with utter frustration, that I had about a 1/2 lb of cooked salmon leftover from our Wednesday Family Dinner night.

Wednesday Family Dinner night is a tradition we started in our home when our eldest daughter was about a year old. The concept was simple: every Wednesday night, without fail, my husband’s mother, brothers, sister, and extended family were invited over for a meal. The intention was simple too: bring everyone together once a week so our daughter would get to know her extremely large family and vice versa. 

In the beginning, it was all a bit awkward. Everyone wanted to bring something or wanted to lend a hand or felt they had to do act like a guest at a dinner party but, in time, we settled into a lovely routine that turned a “hump-night-meal” into something very special…family time.

Salmon Pesto PastaMy mother-in-law, who’s now nearly 90, adores salmon. For her, I try to make it at least two Wednesday nights a month. The first time I made Delia Smith’s Salmon Fillet with Pesto and Pecorino, I knew I was on to a winner. Not only did Mama eat her serving but she asked for seconds! And, what’s more, everyone else liked it too. From that night on, the dish became a favourite “go-to-recipe”.

But then there was that one Wednesday night when I over-bought and ended up with too much leftover salmon in the fridge. Unwilling to throw it out on Thursday night, I started playing with ingredients…a bit more pesto…a bit more pecorino…throw in some Cannellini beans and some oven roasted tomatoes…and voila…a new dish was born…Salmon Pesto Pasta. My little family loved it. The test, however, was Wednesday Family Dinner night…would everyone else like it?

Without exception, the answer was…”Yes!”

I still remember the first time I brought it to the table. It was a beautiful spring day…the salmon was served in a big white bowl, with a lush green salad and some crusty garlic bread on the side. “What’s this, Kim?”, my sister-in-law asked. Before I had a chance to answer, I heard someone say, “Wow! This is gorgeous!!” That’s all it took. Salmon Pesto Pasta was created from a “waste not want not” belief but it’s staying power is all in its taste.

I’ve since figured out how to make this dish from scratch, not using leftovers. I’m sure you’re going to love it. With Lent coming up it’s the perfect Friday night meat-free meal, but it’s also just right for any family dinner night. Make it and let me know how you get on or what changes you’d make. Cheers!

Salmon Pesto Pasta

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1lb/16oz salmon

2 tablespoons lemon

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons pesto, plus another ¼ cup/2oz pesto {that’s fluid oz.}

2 rounded tablespoons pecorino cheese, plus another 3 cups/3oz

½ lb/8oz Farfalle pasta (bow tie style)

1 cup/4oz frozen peas

2oz oven-roasted tomatoes

1 can/15oz/425g cannellini beans

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8. Line a baking tray with aluminium and top with a sheet of parchment paper.

2. Rinse the salmon, pat dry with kitchen roll (paper towel), and, if needed, remove any bones you can feel when you run your hand across the top of the salmon.

3. Put the salmon on the parchment paper and pour the lemon juice over it.

4. Salt and pepper, as desired.

5. Top the salmon with 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons pecorino.

6. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked all the way through.

7. While the salmon is baking, cook up the pasta as per the directions on the box.

8. Cook up the frozen peas. {Tip: I do this in the same pot as the pasta, towards the end of the pasta cooking time.}

9. When the pasta is al dente, drain, and put in a large mixing bowl.

10. When the peas are cooked through, drain, and add to the mixing bowl.

11. When the salmon is done, let it cool slightly, shred with two forks, add to the mixing bowl, discarding the skin.

12. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, the cannellini beans, the remaining pesto, and the pecorino. Mix well, taste, add more pesto, pecorino, salt and pepper, if desired.

13. Top with a grating of pecorino and serve immediately.

Related Articles:

Delia Smith’s Salmon Fillet with Pesto and Pecorino at http://inanirishhome.com/2013/02/23/salmon-fillets-with-pesto-and-pecorino-topping/

Lenten Challenge: Friday Meat-Free Meal at http://inanirishhome.com/2013/03/01/lenten-challenge-friday-meat-free-meal/

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Hey! Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that The Tonight Show, America’s longest running late night talk show, is once again being hosted by someone with more than a passing connection to Ireland?

Photo Credit: NBC.com

Photo Credit: NBC.com

‘Tis true. Jimmy Fallon’s Monday night takeover of the The Tonight Show…henceforth called “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon”…marks the return of an Irish American at the helm of this legendary programme. Now in its 60th year, the show has had six permanent hosts…four of them with roots firmly planted in the ould sod.

1. Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen, aka Steve Allen, 1954-1957. In his début show from NBC Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Center, Allen jokingly commented, “…this show is going to go on forever…”. How right he was! Back in the mid-50′s no one expected much from late night television, but Allen’s winning formula of monologue + comedy sketch + playful banter with audience and guests was a huge success. Everyone now, from David Letterman to Steven Colbert, owes a debt to Allen and his comedic innovation. Allen’s Irish roots came through his mother Isabelle Donohue, who went by the stage name Belle Montrose when she worked in vaudeville.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

2. Johnny Carson, 1962-1992. For thirty years, the last person millions of Americans saw before they turned-in for the evening was Johnny Carson. Revered for his affable personality and quick wit, Carson made his first appearance on The Tonight Show at the tender age of 33, as a guest host for Jack Paar. He took over the programme four years later and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. With Carson in command the show moved from New York to California, became a prime-time hit and a permanent fixture of American pop culture history. For his efforts, Carson was crowned “King of Late Night” television, received six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson’s Irish roots came from his mother, Ruth Hook Carson.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Zemanta

3. Conan O’Brien, June 2009-January 2010. Though his gig as host of The Tonight Show lasted only seven months, Conan O’Brien was funny and gracious right up to the very end. “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get,” he said, “But if you work really hard and you’re kind…amazing things will happen.” And so it was for O’Brien who, in a bizarre turn of events, replaced Jay Leno (who took over from Johnny Carson) and then handed back the reigns after both he and Leno failed to keep their ratings high enough for NBC executives. Leaving with a whopping $30-$45 million {most records of the event say he left with $42 million, but that’s never been confirmed} and his head held high, Conan turned his bitter-sweet time at The Tonight Show into a victory. He moved to TBS and is still there today. O’Brien’s Irish roots can be traced back through both his parents: Dr. Thomas O’Brien, a noted epidemiologist and Harvard professor, and Ruth Reardon O’Brien, a retired partner at the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP.

Photo Credit: Teamcoco.com

Photo Credit: Teamcoco.com

4. Jimmy Fallon February 2014 to Present. It’s only been a week but already things are looking well for Jimmy Fallon. With just the right mix of positivity, humour, honesty and energy…not to mention great guests…he has averaged 8.5 million viewers per night, making his version of The Tonight Show the most watched version of the franchise in 20 years.

On his first night as host, Fallon paid homage to his Irish-ness in a variety of ways: 1) delivering his monologue on a four-leaf clover etched into the floor of his newly refurbished studio {technically it should have been a three-leafed shamrock!}; 2) moving the show back to New York City {after 40 years of being in Burbank, California}, to Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Center…the original home of The Tonight Show {Irish superstitiousness}; and 3). having, as special guests, Irish band U2 perform their song “Invisible” at sunset on the rooftop of Rockefeller Center {quite stunning} and, later, “Ordinary Love” in studio. Fallon closed out his week with another musical icon, this time not Irish {best I can tell}, Justin Timberlake.

The two the  launched into the fifth edition of their popular “History of Rap” series from “Late Night” and the audience went wild. All in all…it was an excellent first week for Fallon and a solid furthering of America’s best late night show. Fallon, whose Irish roots stretch all the way back to Cork, Galway, Leitrim and Longford, come through his father’s side.

Notes:

Articles about the hosts of The Tonight Show here and here.

An excellent article about Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show in Vanity Fair at : http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/02/johnny-carson-the-tonight-show

Megan Smolenyak’s excellent article for Irish America magazine tracing the roots of Jimmy Fallon at: http://issuu.com/irishamerica/docs/fm14_complete_issue_r

Article in the Los Angeles Times online edition about U2′s performance at Jimmy Fallon’s inaugural night at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-u2-brings-its-knack-for-spectacle-to-jimmy-fallon-20140218,0,3101612.story#ixzz2tkTLQI00

Article about Jimmy Fallon’s first night guests at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-jimmy-fallon-tonight-show-debut-20140218,0,3134783.story#ixzz2tjWtSwtZ

Article in Today Entertainment online about how Justin Timberlake helps Jimmy Fallon close out his first week as host of The Tonight Show at http://www.today.com/entertainment/justin-timberlake-closes-jimmy-fallons-first-week-hosting-tonight-show-2D12155522

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Still looking for something to do today or tired of the “usual” Valentine’s Day activities? If you answer “Yes!” to either of these questions, then perhaps you’ll want to  join one of the many flash mobs participating in the global  One Billion Rising movement.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 8.45.42 AM

You may remember from my Valentine’s Day post of 2013, One Billion Rising is a global movement promoting an end to violence against woman and girls, initiated by the American playwright Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues .

Ireland's Mary Robinson lends her support to One Billion Rising.

Ireland’s Mary Robinson lends her support to One Billion Rising.

Ensler introduced her anti-violence V-Day campaign in 1998, when UN figures showed one in three women was beaten or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, which amounted to one billion women worldwide. Sadly, 16 years later, the casualty count remains pretty much unchanged. In response, last year locally organised events on Valentine’s Day saw one billion women and men from 200 countries gather to promote action and awareness.

If you’re in Ireland, a One Billion Rising flash mob will be meeting shortly on Grafton Street (outside St.Stephens Green Shopping Centre) at 5pm. The event is being organised by Amnesty International UCD. Check out the dance moves here:

Another event is being held tomorrow from 6.00-10.00pm at Tai Chi Ireland. More details here:

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 8.44.07 AMTo find an event in your part of the world, please visit the One Billion Rising website.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.11.49 AM

Notes:

One Billion Rising Irish Website here: https://www.facebook.com/VDayOneBillionRisingIreland

UCD Amnesty International Website here: https://www.facebook.com/amnestyinternational.ucd

Hilary Fannin’s article in the Irish Times mentioning One Billion Rising event in Ireland here: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/happy-loved-up-lemmings-day-here-s-your-card-1.1690678

One Billion Rising blog posts at: http://www.jackizehner.com/2014/02/13/one-billion-rising-for-justice-rise-release-dance/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristi-york-wooten/eve-ensler-more-than-a-bi_b_4775067.html .

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Valentine’s Day in an Irish home looks much the same as it does anywhere else. There are the pink and red cards with hearts all over them exchanged, the box of chocolates gooey and sweet, the flowers, the bottle of wine shared over dinner, and plenty of smoochin’ going on {if you’re into that kind of thing…which we definitely are!}.

Being a hopeless romantic and a foodie, I always try to find ways to make the day extra special for everyone. Starting with breakfast.

Valentine Breakfast 2014 1

DSC_0042

My husband likes an egg in the morning. Our girls prefer pancakes. With the aid of my trusty heart-shaped cookie cutter there’s no trouble whipping up both on Valentine’s morning.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.46.07 AM

Valentines Day Breakfast Ideas 2014 2

Cranberry Banana Smoothie

All four of us love smoothies, especially this bright-pink and deep-red, healthy cranberry banana blend. Cranberries are one of the most antioxidant-packed berries around. I buy extra bags of them in November when they’re readily available in the supermarket and keep them in the freezer for the rest of the year. You get the most benefits from eating them raw, so adding them to a smoothie is a very healthy choice. Can I get a whoo hoo and a yummm…..?

Valentine's Day 2014 Katie

Valentines Day 2014 Sarah

And, sure, it takes a little extra time in the morning to pull it all together {15 minutes, perhaps} but the smiles I get for the extra effort warms my heart and makes it so very worth it!

From our little Irish home to yours…Happy Valentine’s Day. Cheers!

Cranberry Banana Smoothie

Makes 4

Ingredients

8oz/1 cup apple juice

12oz/2 cups whole cranberries (I use frozen)

1 large banana

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions

1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Taste and add more  maple syrup, if needed. Serve immediately.

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there’s a rush in our Irish home to get decorations up and plans made. I don’t know about you, but we don’t buy into the whole commercial-ness of the celebration. We prefer, instead, to get back to our roots and do it “old style”.

Banish the over-priced roses and bring back the free-flowing bouquets of long ago. Forgotten flowers  like calla lilies, peonies, hydrangea, ranunculus, astilbe, and dahlias are simply stunning and less expensive too.

Valentine's Day Flowers 2

Photo Credit: The Knot

Write a letter and fill it with love. Whether it’s you doing the writing or it’s your kids making a card, a personally penned poem or heart-felt sentiment is so much nicer than a Hallmark card.

Great Kids Crafts from Pinterest.

Great Kids Crafts from Pinterest.

Turn up the tunes and dance in your sitting (living) room.  When was the last time you stopped everything and took your beloved in your arms for a good old-fashioned waltz around the kitchen? It may sound silly but it’s those little moments, when we step outside of our comfort zones, that we remember most. A dance is free but the memory is priceless.

Check out this playlist from 8 Tracks Radio. Photo Credit: 8tracks.com.

Check out this playlist from 8 Tracks Radio.
Photo Credit: 8tracks.com

If the weather allows, gather up some comfy blankets, fill up those hot water bottles, grab a bottle of your favourite bubbly (nonalcoholic for the kids…of course!) and head out to the back garden for a bit of stargazing. If you have a small fire pit, all the better, stoke it up and share stories of days gone by and roast marshmallows while you’re at it.

Champagne from Brown Thomas, Blankets from Avoca Handweavers and Hot Water Bottle from Dunnes Stores.

Champagne from Brown Thomas, Blankets from Avoca Handweavers and Hot Water Bottle from Dunnes Stores.

And finally, for a bit of long-forgotten romance with a spiritual twist, attend mass on Valentine’s Day at the Catholic church on Whitefriar Street. The mass in honour of St. Valentine, whose relics have been enshrined in the church since 1836, and a special blessing of wedding rings immediately following is one way to pay homage to the vows you made on the day you wed…and it’s great historical trip for families with young children too.

Photo Credit: The Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites

Photo Credit: The Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites

Notes:

Just in case you couldn’t see the links, here they are again:

Love song playlist at 8tracks.com

Heart-shaped hot water bottle from Dunnes Stores

Details of Valentine’s Day mass at Whitefriar Street Church

Champagne and Lauderee Macarons at Brown Thomas

Gorgeous throws and blankets at Avoca Handweavers

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How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Mine went out the window because of Sundance, but now, with the bags unpacked, I am desperate to get back to my intentions.

I like the word “intentions” rather than “resolutions”, do you? It feels more positive. ”I intend to worry less/get more fit/be more grateful” rather than “I will worry less/get more fit/be more grateful”….yes, for sure, it’s more positive, less harsh, and more forgiving. Sometimes forgiveness is important where resolutions and intentions are concerned.

I put on 1.3 kilo (3lbs) while at Sundance. I suppose sitting in films all day long, snacking, and drinking more alcohol than usual will do that. 1.3 kilo seems a small amount but you know yourself how quickly it adds up. I am rededicating myself for the next few weeks to getting back to my New Year’s Eve intentions for 2014 {see below}. My target is mid-term break. I’m thinking swimwear…tan…looking good…are you with me?

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 12.37.18 PM

My Colourful New Year’s Resolution Reminder

~~~

To help get things back on track, I’ve signed up for a free ten-day subscription to Gaiam TV. Ever heard of it? It’s a streaming video subscription service offering over 5,000 films and documentaries dedicated to yoga, fitness, conscious media, personal growth and spirituality. I’m interested in the yoga, fitness, food/nutrition, and healthy living. If I don’t like it, the cancellation seems as simple as pressing a button. I’ll let you know how it goes.

For years I’ve mostly exercised at home. I’m hopeful the addition of Gaiam TV will help reinvigorate my resolve and keep me moving in the right direction. It takes a lot of discipline to exercise at home but, for me, it beats putting on my runners {sneakers} and driving over to the local fitness centre.

A friend recently asked for a list of the equipment and exercises I use so she too could start her own home-based fitness programme. So, Dawn, me auld segosha, this is for you. You go girl!

DSC_0045

What I love about exercising at home is just how simple it is. From the photo above you can see there isn’t a lot of expense or equipment required.

The equipment above includes a high density foam roller to stretch out tight muscles {it’s the long black skinny thing in the back}, a yoga mat, block and strap, two three-pound weights, Cindy Crawford’s The Next Challenge video. You may be thinking the Cindy Crawford video is not very on-trend but I use it for the segments that focus on toning arms and back. But, you know, if it’s good enough for Cindy…it’s good enough for me! I mean, seriously, have you seen how great the woman looks?! You’ll also see several yoga videos. I especially love Stress Relief Yoga because it’s quick and it does the job. If you no longer have a vcr, all these videos are also available on dvd.

Outside of what you see above, the only other exercise I take regularly is a 45-60 brisk minute walk. I think of it as my “Irish Ladies Exercise” because in Ireland you see women out walking everywhere…the sea front, the hillsides, and the neighbourhoods…no matter the weather.

~~~

My colourful intention/resolution chart above also reminds me to “worry less”, “breathe”, and “be more thankful”. I find these things are only achievable when I slow down. To that end, I have added some meditation to my daily routine.

Years ago I qualified as a Relaxation Response Tutor through the Irish Mind Medicine Academy. If you’re not familiar with the “Relaxation Response”, it is a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. The “response” is defined as our personal ability to encourage our body to release chemicals and brains signals that make our muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain.

In layman terms, it’s a helpful way to turn off the fight or flight response our body has to stressful situations {and who doesn’t have some of those every day} and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. Dr. Benson describes the Relaxation Response as a physical state of deep relaxation which, when done regularly, can help with many health problems caused or exacerbated by chronic stress such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal ailments, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety disorders, and others.

I have found some very helpful online mediation practices ranging from 3-19 minutes in length through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. They are free to use. Perhaps they will be helpful to you too.

~~~

A month into 2014 and I can see {thanks to a WordPress blogging tool} that many of you are also interested in keeping up with your resolutions to stay healthy. I’ve had a good few requests for Irish smoothies, and also for porridge. I’m not aware of any “traditional” recipes as such, but I am happy to share with you the ones that have become popular in our Irish home here and here. Also, the IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union) has a fact sheet of smoothie recipes you may find interesting here. The latest recipe to be added to our morning routine is the one below. You porridge fans will like this:

Fruit & Oat Smoothie

Serves One

Ingredients

1 tablespoon uncooked McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal

8oz/1 cup skim milk

1 large banana

1 cup frozen fruit (e.g. frozen strawberries, raspberries)

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute until smooth.

If desired, sweeten to taste.

~~~

So, there you have it, getting back on track In an Irish Home. What are you doing to stay with your New Year’s Eve resolutions/intentions? Are you on track or have you thrown in the towel. Do tell!

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