End of Summer …..Again….

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Family / Life / Life's small pleasures / Life, Love, Family / Love

School is back! It has to be my least favourite time of the year. Routine, structure, living life watching the clock………..the dreaded school lunches! Being torn between wanting to be the perfect parent sending your young off with a lunch box laden with healthy options or just giving in an handing them a jar of Nutella and a spoon (if the dentist or orthodontist is reading this I have no Nutella in the house……….ever!).

Today is not only back to school here at Crabtree Cottage, it is first day in secondary school for my youngest. He set of for school this morning looking cool, calm and collected. He walked up to the double doors without a backward glance while I sat in the car watching and remembering all the firsts we have been through together.

My hopes for him are no different than they have been on other big days in his life.

I hope that he remains a loyal and true friend, extending the hand of friendship to those who may find the next few days and weeks a bit of a struggle.

I hope he remembers that we are all different and that difference does not make someone less or more, the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.

I hope he remembers that a smile and a simple hello can make a huge difference in someone’s day.

I hope that this new chapter doesn’t chip away his happy go lucky nature, education is important but it isn’t the be all and end all. School is not a competition. I hope he remembers that the only one he is working to impress is himself.

I hope he enjoys his time in secondary school and he finds what he is interested in so that he can plan the next step of his journey in a considered and informed way.

I hope he returns home later this afternoon full of chat and excited about all the new things he is about to experience.

I hope we as parents have given him the tools he needs to stroll through this new chapter relaxed and at ease.

I look at him and I can’t believe that the time has come for him to go to secondary school, I can still remember the day he was placed in my arms and thinking just how tiny he was. Now he is as tall as me!

My friend shared the following quote with me yesterday and I hope she doesn’t mind me using it here as it describes exactly how I feel when I look at my two at the kitchen table every morning;

‘you went to bed small and woke up kitchen table tall’ ~ Rita Ann Higgins.

I really hope I managed to do the following!

A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings. ~ William Hodding Carter (1907-1972).

Blue skies and frosty mornings

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Life, Love, Family


Since January I have been in a bit of a slump and have been putting it down to the weather, my workload and the general hum drum of everyday living.

Then something quite magical happened on Monday (not like hocus  pocus magic, I might be getting a little over dramatic but stay with me!). As I set off for work on Monday evening I was delighted to notice that it wasn’t yet dark and although it was cold there was no rain hammering against the windscreen. I could feel an instant change in my disposition which I immediately put down to the grand stretch I was witnessing in the evening (plus I get to listen to George Hook and Ciara on the medical slot on newstalk which really does liven up my drive).

Then, on Tuesday morning as I struggled to fight of the death  grip the duvet had on me I noticed the light coming through the bedroom curtains, sure it was like someone flipped a switch inside my head! The gloom and dreariness that had been plaguing me vanished. And you know something…….I’m feckin delighted it has taken a hike! I was sick of myself for the past few weeks.

So what have I been doing? Well working away mostly………..well trying to work away is a more honest description. You see I get terribly distracted so the fact that I work away at the laptop is a huge disaster as is the fact that I get all consumed by what I’m doing so even when I’m not at the laptop I am thinking I should be at the laptop. It really is an awful affliction………I wake with work on my mind and I fall into bed with work on my mind. My poor family get the vaguest of answers to the questions they ask if they get an answer at all!

I’m hoping the grand stretch in the evenings and the bright mornings will encourage me to get outside more, taking my mind off work. And sure look, haven’t I started blogging again. If there’s anyone out there say hi………..I love an auld chat, a bit of distraction makes my day 🙂

Now I really must get some work done, slán agus beannacht.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

~C. Northcote Parkinson, 1958



Sea Breezes

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Life, Love, Family

There is nothing quite like the draw of the sea. Every month I travel to Sligo to bring one or other or both of my kids to the orthdondist. I love the drive. Once we pass the turn off for Boyle the scenery becomes more and more majestic  and my shoulders relax and as I watch the fields unfold and the mountains grow bigger any tension I hold starts to seep away.

I try if at all pssible to combine these routine dental appoinments with trips to the sea. You see, I find the swell of the sea and wild sea breeze theraputic. It never fails to calm my soul and still my mind. Leaving me feeling relaxed and energised. Ready for whatever it is that Karen does next!

Today was no different. After getting the mouth metal sorted we took of to Strandhill with the intention of having something to eat in Shells but to our dismay it  wasn’t open. However, all was not lost as the lovely ice cream parlour on the corner, Mammy Johnston’s   was open for business and looked warm and inviting.

A delicious array of treats greeted us as we approached the counter, kids couldn’t resist the smell of the warm crepes smoothered in nutella (don’t tell the dentist, what’s seldom is wonderful!)

After our lovely lunch in a cosy corner of Mammy Johnston’s  we went for a walk along the beach. The air was crisp and the sky was calm and blue as the waves crashed onlong the shore. Peace and tranquility   enveloped me as I walked behind my two lovelies, their heads together, plotting untold mischief.

After a while we headed back to the warmth of the car and headed for home. A perfect afternoon having been spent in nature’s theraputic arms.

As I write I’m hungrily waiting for dinner, fish pie in keeping with the sea theme that was today!

Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think. ~Robert Henri

Hope your Tuesday is treating you well,

Slán agus beannacht,

Karen x




Rainy Day Ramblings

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Family / Life / Love

My blog has been badly neglected over the past month or so. Creativity bootcamp finished up at the end of October and while I miss the constant interaction with the lovely bunch of creative, innovative and talented folk who took part, I am finding that a break from social media and the internet is doing me good.

I enjoyed the bootcamp immensely and have made some wonderful connections that are blossoming into friendships outside of the highly charged creative space which was made available to us by the wonderful charismatic Jane from That Curious Love of Green

The positivity and genuine encouragement, suggestions and advise that was offered from people from all corners of the globe was amazing. As a member of bootcamp you committed to journaling writing each day and performing a creative task and sharing it with the group.

I have to admit to feeling slightly intimidated by the wonderful art, poetry, mixed media pieces and creative writing pieces that appeared in my timeline. However, on joining the group I had decided to either commit fully or not at all. So up went my very basic sketches and my first attempts at painting with watercolours.

I have to admit that I felt much more at home with the journaling and am still writing my morning pages and gratitude lists each day.

I found the process of creating  deeply satisfying and calming.  I have never had a burning love for  poetry yet during the bootcamp I managed to write a number of poems. As I wrote, edited and redrafted them it felt as if they had always been there. Tucked away just beneath my conscious thought, waiting patiently for a chance to be committed to paper. I was very apprehensive about sharing these very personal ramblings but am delighted I did.

It is never easy to bare your soul to strangers but then this merry gang of bootcampers had ceased to be strangers almost as soon as bootcamp began. Dialogue, discussion and debate was a common occurence during those October days. Meaningful and deep conversations combined with witty banter meant that all awkwardness and shyness dissolved very early on resulting in the inevitable sense of loss that was felt by all as October drew to a close.

So what next?  Although bootcamp has come to an end Jane has launched a  Creativity Salon, once again providing a very welcome space for those who wanted to continue their creative journey surrounded by like-minded artists, writers and creative hearts.

I have mentioned before that since December last I have been extremely lucky where work is concerned. The downside of this is that I found it quite a challenge to juggle  the boootcamp, work commitments and life commitments. So I haven’t signed to the Salon just yet.

I also found that I was hyper aware of my Facebook notifications when I was taking part in the bootcamp. I loved seeing what was going on around the world as people logged in and left delicious pictures of their latest creative endeavour. The energy and positivity that flowed freely was quite a powerful and addictive force.

So, for now at least I am trying to take a little break from socail media. I am slowly beginning to aclimatise to the tidal wave of creativity that flowed freely through my Facebook timeline during October slowing to a trickle.

I have joined a Yoga class. I actually managed to enter the building this time and take part in the class. (During the summer my attempt at joining a yoga group resulted in me driving for a half hour, find a parking space and drive home again. Yes, I never got out of the car!)

It is extremely relaxing and calming and exactly what I need at the moment as it’s helping me with my work/life balance. I’m also slowly getting back into stoicism which kinda fell by the wayside for a few months. I loved the feeling of well-being that practising stoicism gave me and I’m working hard to reestablish that pattern in my everyday routines.

At the moment I’m bundled up in bed fighting off infection and listening to the wind and rain do battle outside my window. I hope you all have had a peaceful weekend with those who are dear to you.

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.

Leo Tolstoy

Slán agus beannacht,



Creativity, it’s Cathartic

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Family / Life / Love

I’ve been immersing myself in creativity and self-expression.

Sounds like I have notions doesn’t it? I’m sure I do, lots of them and sure why shouldn’t I?

My second week of creativity bootcamp is coming to an end and what have I got to show for it? Has the house descended into chaos and are the children and Darren starving for want of a good dinner and a bit of attention? Not at all!

If anything  the creativity bug has rubbed of on the eldest and she is producing paintings almost by the hour, she’s made some lovely little Halloween pieces from clay.

The youngest is doing just grand, helping out a bit more than usual which is always a plus.

And me, what have I been doing?

Stoicism has made a comeback and I’ve started running again. It’s early days but the promise of a stronger mind and body is kicking my self-control into gear.

I have also started knitting an advent calendar made up of 24 tiny socks, painted and written a bit of poetry.

I’m loving the painting but can admit in all honesty that my five year old self would have produced better. The thing is it’s not really about the finished piece. It’s more about the process, allowing myself the time to do something that I would normally feel is unproductive. It’s relaxing and it is good fun!

The poetry. Well here’s the thing. The poetry is different. I can’t quite explain how. It’s closer to the bone and much more personal. It seems so clichéd to say but it is cathartic.

April Came Too Soon  

It descended in August,

Made itself at home between your heart and lung.

Silently crept upwards into your brain

Slowly robbing us of you, you of us.

Relatives seldom seen flocked to your bedside,

Once strangers, now they seemed to own our home.

So little time,

Greedily stolen by interlopers.

April came too soon.

By Karen Shiels 2015

Slán agus Beannact,

Karen x

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Life, Love, Family

Hello, it’s been a while.

I’m a week into Creativity Bootcamp hosted by That Curious Love of Green and am enjoying the experience immensely.

I have recently fallen from my stoicism bandwagon and have been very hard on myself about my lack of commitment. So yeah, I did what any reason and sane person might do. Jumped into a new commitment!

A commitment that asked for two daily actions, one was daily journaling and the other was to challenge yourself to try something new, creativity wise.

Before I go on I have to admit to believing that I am the least creative person in this house (if I’m honest in the world!). Nevertheless I jumped right in to bootcamp with both feet and sure once I start something I’m loath to admit defeat and give up (I’m only on  a break from the stoicism, I’ll be back on track before you know it).

So here I am,  a week in and not only have I kept up with my everyday commitments, I have also journaled daily, written poetry (for those who know me this is huge!), sketched and painted.

The sketching did result in a little meltdown I’m ashamed to say. How very dare I not be able to sketch like a pro the minute I sit with pencil and paper!

However, the painting was great. I don’t mean what I painted was great rather the process and act of painting was very relaxing and made me smile. I decided to just play with the paints and enjoy the messiness of them. It seemed to work, freeing me from having to produce a master piece first time round.

The daily journaling has revealed lots of thoughts that where swimming just out of reach, little revelations that have improved my way of thinking or my approach to things. While I won’t emerge from bootcamp a creative genius I will emerge a better person for the experience. We do not allow ourselves many moments in adult life to just play, maybe that’s why childhood seems to be ending sooner and sooner. Maybe we have forgotten the importance of play to our general development,  health, happiness and well – being.

So yeah, boot camp is going well.

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do.

Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. 

Mark Twain

Slán agus beannacht,

Karen x

What’s new at Crabtree Cottage?

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Family / Life / Love

Hello and welcome to anyone who joined me recently,

I’ve been swamped with work related tasks and while it’s time consuming it pays the bills and sure isn’t it fantastic that my hours are increasing? Wouldn’t I be singing a different tune if they were being cut?

It just means what time I have left is divided between family, house keeping and friends. Past times  are not getting a look in at all lately and I’m feeling the effect of it in my day  to day life.

I’m missing taking up my needles and creating something beautiful from a length of wool. I’m missing sitting down and writing even if it is only for my eyes. I’m missing practising mindfulness and the peace of mind that it afforded me.

At the moment I am trying very hard to claw back the time to sit quietly and reflect on what has happened throughout my day. To take up a worry turn it over and return it to the recesses of mind knowing that once it has been reshelved it won’t weigh as much.

So what else is happening here? I have signed up for That Curious Love of Green’s Creative Boot Camp which is taking place during the entire month of October. Jane over at That  Curious Love of Green is running this creative affair which involves two actions per day for the month of October. The first action is daily journaling and the second action is to undertake a  creative activity every day and share it with the group, which is a private group set up for this purpose.

I am excited, nervous, anxious and so very looking forward to the month ahead all in equal measures.

Today I had to remind myself that this journey I am taking is for me and my own wellbeing. I am positive there will be an immense amount of personal learning involved. I started my daily journal over the weekend and can see signs of personal growth and learning already. So while I am a little reluctant to let go and display my creative (or not so creative) side to the group I am truly looking forward to being part of something that is so inspiring, something that has brought a group of like minded, talented and awe-inspiring individuals together to share, support and encourage one another in a common endeavour.

Head over to Jane’s page if you’re interested in taking part, there is still time to join us! I’ll keep you posted on my progress…….I forgot to mention, I’m going to practise sketching to begin with. I have always wanted to paint a skyline…..maybe this is my chance.

All art requires courage. ~Anne Tucker

Slán agus beannacht,


Another World

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Family / Life / Love

I have the privilege of working with people who I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to chat with in everyday life. On a personal level I have benefited greatly from these working relationships and I am constantly learning about myself and the world around me.

Today I learned that it is a special day within the Muslim calendar year. A day that would be similar to our Christmas. A day when family get dressed up and come together to share food and gifts.

I wasn’t aware of this until I got into conversation over my tea break today. I would have let this lovely gentle person depart from my company without wishing her a lovely afternoon and evening with her family.

What always strikes me as I go through my working day is not the differences that exist between me and those I work with. It’s the similarities, the threads that we have in common.

The differences make for interesting conversation and inform me about issues that I might otherwise never have thought about. They help shape my understanding and preception of the world. The similarities, they bring us together.

Lately I have had a quote stuck in my head.

‘Another world is not only

possible, she is on her way.

On a quiet day, I can hear

her breath.’

Arundati Roy, World Social Forum, 2003.

Lately I have been straining extra heard to hear her breath, we are in need of that other world, we really are.

Slán agus beannacht.

Karen x

A change is as good as a rest!

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Family / Life / Love

It’s been a while. Who knew back to school and work would result in no time for writing!

As for stoicism, well it has taken a back seat of late. Self control has completely vacated the building however I’ve managed to hang on to letting go what is beyond my control.

I made a little promise to myself that I would be up at 7 every morning to see the change in the season as summer deserts us and autumn settles in.

I’ve managed to keep this promise even over the weekend and I’m enjoying seeing the difference in the skyline over Crabtree Cottage each morning.

(just some of my morning views)

Other than that I’m busy getting my two out to school and me out to work every morning. Another new experience for me, up until this year I have only had two mornings work a week.

My organisational skills and ability to forward plan are really being put to the test.

So that’s all that’s been happening here over the last while.

Shedding late-summer tears for the end of cherry season. Patiently and hopefully waiting for pumpkin pie season. ~Terri Guillemets

Thanks for reading,

Slán agus beannacht,


Dresses, dreams and a good spoon of forgetfulness!

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Life, Love, Family

Last year the lovely people at Fanny Crown asked me if I would write a blog about a dress I would wear from their site. There would be a prize for the best blog, a voucher to spend on their fabulous site.

So I did, and I got a prize! A €100 voucher to spend on the dress of my dreams.

I was delighted to say the least  as I love a nice gúna. The dresses on the Fanny Crown website are exquisite and not what you’d be wearing swanning to and from work. I decided to wait until an occassion arose and then I’d have fun choosing a nice frock.

And as you do, I kinda forgot about my voucher and the lovely dresses that were waiting  for me to choose.

And now it’s September 9th and the voucher is void after September 11th ……..silly me.

If anyone one of you lovely readers is in the process of buying a nice dress and happen to stop at Fanny Crown let me know….voucher looking for good home………..however must be used in 2 days!!

I like my money right where I can see it – hanging in my closet. 

~From the television show Sex and the City

Slán agus beannacht,


ps. don’t be shy, get in touch if you’d use the voucher!!