3 Walls That Have Me Stumped

Like anyone who appreciates pretty spaces, I’ve had oodles of fun creating spaces in our home that reflect our family’s style, interests and life stage.

And by “our family” I really mean “my” because face it, if I let my kids decorate our house we’d have posters of kittens on every wall and Nerf gun targets around every corner. Handy Husband probably wouldn’t even decorate, unless you count lots of computer monitors as decorating, because that would mean putting holes in perfectly nice walls that he’d have to patch later.

But I digress.

It takes time to create a pretty space. Ideas don’t happen overnight. Money doesn’t grow on trees…much to my dismay.

If you’re like me, just when you feel like a space is really starting to come together, you up and move.

Then nothing works in your new space. It’s like trying to complete a puzzle with all the wrong pieces. I say this like it’s a bad thing, but I really do enjoy the challenge of a new space.

Today, I thought I’d whine about have a rational discussion about three spaces in my home that have me scratching my head.

DINING ROOM

Our dining room perplexes me with its two doors, a large window and a petite fireplace.

undecorated-dining-room

It’s the fireplace wall that is throwing me off. My furniture is all taller and larger in scale than the fireplace. Plus, we keep stubbing our toes on the hearth. Why does that hurt so, so bad?

I was thinking some sort of gallery wall around the fireplace, but I’m not sure exactly what would make up that collection: plates, baskets, frames? I don’t have a collection of baskets or plates, so that would take time. I have frames, but I don’t know what I’d put in those frames. It seems like a weird place for family photos.

FAMILY ROOM

Next up! Our family room/living room. It is a long narrow space divided by a fireplace.

I went to the trouble to sketch the room’s layout on the back of a piece of junk mail.

Only the best for this blog.

living-room-sketch
Let’s not even talk about the fireplace. I’m ignoring the fireplace for now.

The wall I’m most concerned about is to the right of the fireplace. I’ve labeled this as the “problem area” on my super awesome sketch.

undecorated-living-room

This side of the room doesn’t really have a purpose. I could add seating, but we don’t need seating. Right now the area is home to a bunch of random things that have nowhere else to go at the moment. The kids use the floor space on this side of the room to spread out their Lego cities.

Since I snapped this picture, I cleared everything out of the area and it’s already looking better.

Sometimes all you need is a fresh start, a new perspective and other annoying clichés to get the ball rolling.

I still don’t have a purpose for this space, but shoving all the decor that doesn’t work in a closet is oddly satisfying!

KITCHEN

Last, but not least, is the kitchen. I affectionately refer to it as domestic purgatory. It’s the room I can’t escape – especially since my clothes washer is also in this space.

This is the opportunity wall. It features a radiator, a wall-mounted space heater, a corner shelf and various timers for the hot water. Try not to be jealous.

The middle part of the cabinet on the right holds our refrigerator.

undecorated-kitchen
I’m guessing the only reason you’d install a space heater above a radiator is that the radiator wasn’t getting the job done. Winter is coming…I guess I’ll find out! Woohoo!

I didn’t want to take up counter space for the microwave, so I used my son’s nightstand to hold it instead. His room really didn’t have space for the nightstand anyway. While this solution has been functional, I may have to do something else with the microwave. We’ll see.

On a disturbing note, I pulled the nightstand away from the wall to do a little cleaning and found a chocolate-covered raisin, an acorn and a whiffle ball. Huh. That’s about as random as the topics covered on this blog. And no, I didn’t eat the chocolate-covered raisin…but I did think about it.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I should put on this wall. Since I am keeping my dish towels in a basket on top of the microwave, I think it is safe to say I could really use something decorative, but functional.

Well, that wraps up this round of “walls that have me stumped.” You didn’t think there were just three walls, did you? Ha! I wish.

This chat has been therapeutic though. I feel so much better after airing my dirty laundry and overusing self-help clichés. The three problem walls already look completely different. Not done by any means, but there’s progress and that makes me happy.

 

 

The Happy List

Very sporadically I like to share some of the random things that put the happy in my day.

Here’s what I’m digging this week…


WOMEN WHO RULE – Netflix Ad

This. All of this.

Since getting rid of TV service 6 years ago, I don’t see a ton of TV commercials. It says a lot that I willingly watched an advertisement.

As a side note, if you want to have a television set in your home in Ireland, you have to pay an annual tax of 160 euros.


FREE BARBIE CLOTHING SEWING PATTERNS

I’m not sure if I should throw Barbie in here with Netflix’s strong women ad, but hey, I’m a complicated creature.

My daughter plays with Barbie dolls so infrequently that I wonder why I saved my Barbies and my mom’s Barbies just in the hopes that I would have a daughter to share them with.

To my surprise, my daughter hauled out the Barbies last week and wanted to make her own Barbie clothes. I remembered doing this as a girl with scraps of fabric. My obsession with non-sewing sewing probably started there.

I let my daughter cut up one of her old t-shirts to make a Barbie dress. She used hairbands to secure her creation on Barbie’s busty frame, which is something I would have done back in the day.

I Googled actual Barbie clothing patterns and this round-up of free patterns was fantastic. About the time I was ready to show my daughter what I had found and this great project we could work on together, Barbie was once again shoved in the bin and promptly forgotten. Whomp, whomp. I’ll have it ready for next time though!

10-free-barbie-sewing-patterns(source)


ICE, ICE BABY

You may find this hard to believe, but there are refrigerators in the world that don’t make ice. I have one of them.

Handy Husband found two different types of ice cube trays on Amazon and I have to say, ice cube trays have changed a lot since I was a kid.

These silicon trays make square-shaped ice cubes. Plus, each tray has a lid.

Next, we have ice balls. I’m sorry. I just…there are so many jokes…and I’m so immature…

Take my word for it. These silicon trays make really awesome, sphere-shaped ice.


TIPS FOR BAKING FRESH PEACH PIES

Serena from The Farm Chicks is a legend. She’s written for Country Living Magazine and has her own cookbooks. Plus, she puts on the annual The Farm Chicks Antiques Show in Spokane, Washington, which I’d love to attend someday.

If she has tips for baking with peaches, I’m all in. I’ve had my own delicious disasters trying to make peach jam, so I know peaches are tricky to work with.

6a010534adb750970b01b7c884bb42970b-650wi
(source)


PAINT STITCHED PUMPKINS

I’m loving all things hand-stitched and cross-stitched right now. I thought these paint stitched pumpkins from U-Create were a fun take on this idea.

If I’m being realistic, this is something I could master a lot more easily than actual hand sewing.

diypaintedpumpkins

(source)


That’s what I’m digging this week! Have a happy Friday!

Recipes to Try

Do you ever get in a recipe rut? I do, but that’s mainly because I could eat tacos five nights a week. Okay, it’s 7 nights a week, but who’s counting? Unfortunately, the children in my household aren’t as enamored with tacos as I am. Clearly, I’ve gone wrong somewhere in their child-rearing.

I ran across 3 intriguing recipes recently. One of them I tried and loved. Two of them I haven’t tried yet, but for mainly legit reasons.

Read on and I’ll justify my inaction…

NIGHT CEREAL: SAVORY QUINOA RECIPE

I use quinoa in my Dave’s Killer Bread CopyCat Recipe, but other than that, I don’t cook with it regularly.

This recipe from Alice and Lois has me thinking I should give it another try.

Plus, I’m a sucker for a pretty picture.

savory-quinoa-night-cereal-recipe-supplies

(image)


APPLE SPICE MUFFINS WITH BAKED BEANS

Beans in muffins? I can’t believe I typed that. It sounds so weird. Someone needs to try it and tell me if this recipe from TidyMom is for real.

I would do it myself, but there are some ingredients I can’t get in Ireland. Bush’s Honey Baked Beans are one of them. Who’s going to do it? Come on, help a girl out!

These Apple Spice muffins with Struesel Topping have a suprise ingredient that packs them with fiber!! Applesauce, spices, baked beans, crumb topping, vanilla glaze combine to create a delicious breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Bake a batch and enjoy the warm fall flavors! muffin recipe at TidyMom.net

These Apple Spice muffins with Struesel Topping have a suprise ingredient that packs them with fiber!! Applesauce, spices, baked beans, crumb topping, vanilla glaze combine to create a delicious breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Bake a batch and enjoy the warm fall flavors! muffin recipe at TidyMom.net

(image)


KOREAN BEEF BOWL

This is one recipe from the blog Damn Delicious that I tried and it was that delicious.

This was a fast, easy-to-make meal and an unexpected way to use ground beef. Plus, the ingredient list is small and includes items you most likely have on your shelf. For real.

Even my picky 6-year-old said he really liked this “chicken.” HAHAHAHAHA!

I think you could add some veggies to the recipe if you want to make it a one-pan meal, but you might need to increase the sauce.

img_9111edit1(image)


Try these recipes and let me know if they made your mouth smile and your belly happy. Or were they just too weird? Do I need to mention the beans in muffins again?

Jewelry Organizer From an Old Door

When you move, all of your organization systems are magically *poof* gone.

Then you find yourself untangling necklaces day after day that you’ve been storing in a sandwich baggie in the bottom of your carry-on luggage.

It’s a quick way to go mad.

So I decided not to go mad. At least that day anyway.

door-jewelry-organizer-2
My favorite salvage item from our house in Oregon are these doors. They were in our basement and when we remodeled, I didn’t want to get rid of them.

It’s not often that you find doors with cool details that have not had a circle drilled through them for a doorknob. It’s like winning the architectural salvage lottery. These doors had dummy knobs installed on them decades ago, so they were never ‘damaged’ in that way.

They were custom made for a wonky, not-level basement, so they are not absolutely identical. Although you have to look close to realize it.

Here’s what the doors originally looked like when I saved them.

Gross old door

Gross old door

Here’s how they looked after I spruced them up with white paint and chalkboard paint.

I’ve used the doors in my entry to hold wreaths.

entrywreaths3
I’ve also used the doors to hold wood arrows.

And way, way, way back I used them in Oregon to display my children’s artwork, but that was before I took pictures of every random thing.

As a side note, the funniest thing to me about these doors is that it confounds every single moving company that I’m packing doors. I have to imagine they’ve packed some crazy, weird stuff. Why this trips them up, I’m not sure. It’s not like I asked the movers to detach the doors from the doorframe.

goldarrow4
Anyway, now the doors are filling a blank wall in our master bedroom.

I wasn’t sure what function, if any, the doors were going to fill in this new space.

Which brings me back to the dang necklaces in a sandwich baggie.

I needed them to be untangled.

Really needed that. For my sanity.

door-jewelry-organizer-5
I decided the doors needed to do more than stand there and look pretty.

However, I couldn’t bear the thought of drilling holes in my precious doors. I haven’t even written on them with chalk and I painted them with chalkboard paint, for goodness sake.

But I wanted a jewelry display with fancy hooks that looked pretty. Fancy hooks would have to be screwed into the door though.

But I also needed to get my necklaces out of the sandwich bag right. that. instant.

Do you see the tug-of-war happening in my head?

I fully own my issues. And I share them with you.

door-jewelry-organizer-3
In the end, function trumped the need for form.

I used some Command Hooks, from my stash, that wouldn’t damage my precious babies doors to create my jewelry display.

And I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would.

Ha! How’s that for brutal honesty?

door-jewelry-organizer-4
I could probably use more hooks, but I had a package of 6, so that’s what I went with in the moment.

I didn’t even measure for placement, unless you count standing back and eyeballing it measuring. Which I do.

As you can see, I excel at planning, patience and delayed gratification.

door-jewelry-organizer-1
I also believe in the frequent use of sarcasm.

Now does anyone want to see what I did with my bracelets? Normally I’d be happy to show you, but I can’t decide if what I did was ingenious or embarrassing. Maybe embarrassingly ingenious.

P.S. I saved a 3rd door from our basement remodel and it serves as a gigantic frame for all of my husband’s running bibs and medals.

Friday Funnies

Who is ready for the weekend?

*raises both hands*

I’m always ready for the weekend, but September weekends are especially welcome.

This lady nails why September is the Worst and does so in a funny and relatable way. Since I’ve been completely serious halfway joking that I’m dying a slow death by homework, I appreciated her take on things.

1337178699390_9868839(source)


On our train ride home from school recently, my 6-year-old was reading aloud the advertisements inside the train car. He got to this particular ad.

It’s an important message. There’s no doubt about that.

train-poster
His finger was pointing to the words and he said them very deliberately and loud enough for everyone near us on the crowded train to hear.

6-year-old: We’re. All. Made. Of. The. Same Stuff.

Me: Good job, buddy.

6-year-old: (still pointing to the words) Say. No. To. RAISINS. On. Board.

6-year-old: What’s wrong with raisins?

Needless to say, everyone around us was chuckling.



i-wonder-if-heaven-is-like-being-at-target-by-yourself-with-a-latte-in-hand-and-endless-amounts-of-cash-in-an-envelope-18d50
(source)

Target is probably the #1 thing I’ve missed while living in Ireland. After my friends and family, of course. Only a shallow, materialistic, immature person would miss a store that has everything I never needed, but always wanted more than their own family. No sir, I am not that person.

Reading about some guy documenting his first week working at Target had me laughing out loud on the train. This is something a passenger riding by themselves does not do, but it was well worth the odd looks I received. I love that this guy saw the humor in a job many would consider mundane. And for the record, none of the people in his observations were me.


I’ve been missing my piano terribly, so I decided to learn how to play the guitar.

Makes sense, right?

If I recall correctly, I remember crying while learning the piano because I didn’t want to practice. I now feel like crying while learning the guitar because I am practicing and my fingertips are so tender.

So basically, with all the crying, I think I’m on track to learn this thing.

guitar

After getting the guitar, my 6-year-old says this to me, in all seriousness…

6-year-old: Mom. You can hold the guitar by this skinny part (pointing to the neck).

Me: Oh, yeah? Do you think that’s a good idea?

6-year-old: Well, you can hold it there, but you shouldn’t hold it over your head and then swing it and bang it on the ground. That could break the guitar.

Me: How did..? Wait…where did you learn…?

6-year-old: (pretends he doesn’t hear me as he head bangs to an imaginary rock song)


I hope you found some humor in your week too! Have a happy weekend!

Apple Oatmeal Muffins

My children’s new school wants the students to eat healthy.

How dare they.

Oh, wait. That’s a good thing.

apple-oatmeal-muffins-2
I wanted to come up with a healthy-ish, portable snack that would pass muster with my kids and conform to the school’s healthy eating policy.

Now listen.

I’ve baked some amazing muffins in my time. Delicious, eat-them-all-in-one-sitting muffins.

Healthy? Mmm. Not so much.

I think all of my muffin recipes fell off the healthy train somewhere between the powdered sugar glaze and the cinnamon sugar coating.

apple-oatmeal-muffins

I knew I wanted to incorporate apples and oatmeal into my healthy concoction.

I made this important decision while lying in bed one night. By the way, 11:30 p.m. is a really bad time to think about food.

I needed a starting point for my recipe though.

God bless the Internet. What would we do without it?

Interact with actual human beings? Perish the thought.

I found an Apple Oatmeal Muffin recipe on Food.com and with a few minor tweaks I was on my way to healthy snack land.

apple-oatmeal-muffins-3
Here’s my honest critique. These muffins tasted good and were very flavorful. However, they also definitely tasted WAY healthier than the muffins I dunk in butter and then roll in cinnamon and sugar. Does that make sense? It’s not really fair to compare the two.

My daughter loved the muffins. My husband had no trouble eating them. My son, the pickiest eater in our house, ate an entire one before realizing the muffins were loaded with apple chunks. Then he decided these weren’t the muffins for him. Never mind the fact that he eats apples every. single. day.

I’ll leave this hot mess of conflicting opinions for you to sort out. I am happy though to be on this path of finding ways to pack flavor and nutrients into portable lunch snacks. Who knows what I will bake next? No, really. Does anyone know? I need another idea.

(Recipe after all of these links to muffins I’ve dunked in glaze or straight-up sugar.)

——-

P.S. Here’s my Banana Blackberry Muffins with Vanilla Orange Glaze
P.P.S Here’s my Banana Muffins with Vanilla Glaze
P.P.S.S. Here’s my Apple Cider Muffins (I think these are the ones with cinnamon/sugar)
P.P.S.to the S.S. Here’s my Blueberry Zucchini Muffins (These must have a glaze too.)
P.P.P.S.S.S.S.S.S.S. I made carrot muffins with a glaze too. Totally forgot about that.

——

APPLE OATMEAL MUFFINS
(modified slightly from THIS rockin’ recipe on Food.com)

Ingredients
2 eggs
3⁄4 cup milk
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I used regular oats, quick cooking would be fine too)
1⁄3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder (THIS IS NOT A TYPO. Yes, one TABLESPOON.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 apples cored, peeled and chopped small. (I used Gala.)
Optional: Approximately 12 teaspoons of brown sugar to sprinkle on the muffins. I know, I know. I just couldn’t help myself. They needed a little something.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  3. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs; add milk and oils, stirring until just blended.
  4. Stir in flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon, mixing until only just moistened (do not go crazy with the mixing).
  5. Gently fold in the apples.
  6. Spoon batter into the muffin tin, dividing evenly among the cups.
  7. Sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar on the tops of the muffin batter.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  10. Serve warm or cool; store unused portions in an airtight container.

Boy Room Vignette

On Friday I showed you the display shelf I made from a silverware tray.

silverware-tray-makeover-7
Ready to see the rest of the wall?

Your wish is granted.

boy-room-vignette-11
Other than the dresser, which is from IKEA, all of the items on this wall are things we already owned.

The wood arrow was made with scrap wood.

The “T” is one of those cardboard letters from JoAnn’s. It has been painted and repainted over the last 5 years.

The step stool was made in high school shop class one million years ago and we finally gave it a makeover.

The bookshelf was a found object left in the trash.

That painting was made by a friend and the colors and theme work perfectly for this boy’s room!

In regard to the dresser, it is our first time purchasing this type of furniture from IKEA. I’m pleasantly surprised with how sturdy it is. I don’t know if I’ll customize it or not. Doing so isn’t high on my priority list at the moment.

boy-room-vignette-10
My son has a really tiny bedroom. It is approximately 6 ft wide x 10 ft long.

There’s room for a twin bed and a dresser, but not a lot else.

His bed is longer than the room is wide. Think about that for a moment.

When the movers set the bed up, I didn’t really stop to consider things like how the door swings open. The wrong way, in case you are wondering. Or how close the radiator would be to the bed. Too close, in case you are wondering.

It was only later, when we had settled into the house that I started to assess how to make the room function better.

I would like you to think that when I’m reading the same bedtime story with my son for the 4 millionth time, that I am fully engaged in this activity.

But, while my mouth is saying the words in the book by memory, my brain is thinking “hmm…what should we do with that wall and where could I hang XYZ and oh, wait…time to turn the page.”

boy-room-vignette-9

Handy Husband wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of moving a bed because it would mean taking the bed apart and a whole bunch of hassle. I really don’t blame him. Hassle was an understatement.

I decided I could move the bed without him. Of course I could! I would just flip it up on its end, rotate it, and flip it back down. Remember, this is the Pottery Barn knock-off bed Handy Husband made with real wood. It’s freaking heavy.

My thought process was sound, but the actual implementation was trickier than I anticipated mainly due to the ceiling light fixture getting in the way. Furthermore, I was worried at one point that I would either be trapped under the bed or in the room. But, in the end, with brute force and only a little damage to the wall hangings, I got the job done.

And I never told Handy Husband how I managed that feat.

And he never asked.

Now when I read my son a story at night I look at this wall and think to myself, “this feels good to me. It’s all coming together.” Is it finished? I haven’t a clue, but I’m happy with how it looks today. And there’s no way I’m moving that bed again.

Display Shelf from a Silverware Tray

Our kitchen in Ireland has no shallow drawer to hold a silverware tray.

It’s a conundrum.

Instead of throwing the silverware tray away, it was still sturdy and useable, I decided to put it in a box and wait for a silverware drawer to magically appear inspiration.

Most of my good ideas, like this one, came to me in the shower. We’ll just stop there because I don’t want to scar your mind.

My idea? I could turn that silverware tray on its end and make it into a shelf. SHAZAM!

Then I did a little dance and almost slipped in the shower. silverware-tray-makeover-1
The first thing I did was notice how truly beat up and gross this silverware tray had become over the years. As a girl without a silverware tray, let me tell you, they are the unsung heroes of the kitchen.

The bottom of the tray was stapled into the tray’s frame. I had every intention of pulling the staples out like a civilized person, but that turned out to be difficult. So I resorted to brute thumb strength and carefully pushed the bottom of the tray out.

Then I really realized how gross the tray had become. Ew.

After wiping the board clean I realized the staples had to come out. With a hammer, pliers and way too much time, I was able to liberate all of the teeny tiny staples from the board.
silverware-tray-makeover-5
That white surface of the tray was designed to be nice and wipeable, which meant it was as slick as a roller skating rink.

I didn’t think paint would adhere very well to it, unless I was using a primer. I wasn’t. This was an “use what you’ve got” project. I don’t have primer or spray paint at the moment.

I flipped the board over and decided to use the back because it wasn’t a coated surface. In my stash of craft paints, I had a sample paint can from Ace True Value. The color was close enough to what I had in mind, so that’s what I used.

The paint did bring out some of the imperfections in the board, but I didn’t think they’d be noticeable once I’d reassembled my shelf.

silverware-tray-makeover-2
I was going to call it good with the blue paint, but the wood frame looked pretty sad and beat up.

I didn’t have any stain, but I did have stain pen in my stash of office supplies. That’s a normal thing to keep with the Sharpies and the #2 pencils, right?

My daughter and son both took turns touching up the finish on the tray’s frame. You can see how badly the silverware had dinged up the tray’s finish after years and years of use.

silverware-tray-makeover-3

The last task was to reaffix the back of the silverware tray to its frame, which I did with a small bead of wood glue.

Thankfully, the marks left where I removed the staples were hidden by the frame.

It would have been easiest to clamp the board to the frame, but Handy Husband got rid of all our wood clamps when we moved, so I used a bunch of books to weigh it down in place while the glue dried.

silverware-tray-makeover-4
And here’s the finished result!

silverware-tray-makeover-6

I hung the shelf on the wall using my trusty Command Strips.

Right now my son has his Harry Potter wand, favorite Matchbox cars and Lego figures displayed on the shelf.

And the only reason I photographed his trophies is because we don’t live in that area any longer.

voy-room-vignette-5
What do you think? Does it look like a silverware tray now?

Or does it just look like a knick-knack, shadow box type shelf?

silverware-tray-makeover-7
No matter what the shelf looks like, it works!

On any given day, the knick-knacks might change, so my kiddo is having fun with it. I’m happy with how it filled in the space above his dresser. Now I wish I had another wood silverware tray to make a Shopkins display shelf for my daughter. Shopkins are right up there with Pokemon on the list of toys I don’t understand.

I’m Starting to Like Zucchini Because I Hide It In All the Foods

It’s true. I’m starting to like zucchini.

Not on its own.

Goodness no. I haven’t hopped on the crazy train. Yet.

I’ve been hiding zucchini in all sorts of meals for the past month or so and no one in my family has noticed. Not even “he who has the refined palate” aka Handy Husband.

The trick is to grate the zucchini up so that it blends in well! (I use my cheese grater for this task.) I’ve put grated zucchini in soup and chili, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza sauce and pesto. It blends really nice with the green pesto.

Last year I also put zucchini into blueberry muffins. That was more visually noticeable. I think I told my son the green flecks were “special flavoring.”

blueberryzucchini3
There was also the zucchini cornbread, which I should make again.

Zucchini, which are called courgettes here in Ireland, are super high in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium, among other nutrients. Things we all need to be healthy, but we don’t always enjoy consuming. Especially if you are my kids.

My 6-year-old recently asked me, in all seriousness, why no one has invented a portal to CandyLand. See what I’m working with here?

zucchinicornbread1

My latest zucchini creation occurred last week with my take on lasagna.

Here’s my question. Is lasagna called lasagna because of the flat wide noodles?

If so, I don’t really like lasagna noodles. They are kind of slimy and because of their size I have to cut them so my youngest can eat them without whining making a huge mess.

I haven’t seen lasagna noodles here in Ireland, but my regular grocery store is tiny, so they’re probably saving shelf space for important foods like duck fat and digestives.

Never fear pasta lovers. I have found just about every other type of noodle though.

lasagna-bake-1

Here’s where I went all rogue. I made lasagna with rotini noodles.

Shut your mouth.

I know. I know. Living on the edge over here.

My kids ate it up.

lasagna-bake-2

The best part? I didn’t have to chop up noodles into smaller bites.

The other best part? The kids and “he who has a refined palate” didn’t even notice I had grated up a small zucchini and incorporated that into the sauce.

I don’t have a recipe for my lasagna. I’m one of those cooks and this is one of those unhelpful blogs. My lasagna tastes different every time I make it, but I do use a fairly consistent sauce formula that combines ground meat/sausage, tomato/pasta sauce, garlic, onion, Italian spices and a grated zucchini. I layer the lasagna sauce with cottage cheese, pasta and mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Parmesan cheese too, if I have it on hand.

Use your favorite lasagna recipe, but just add a small, grated zucchini to the sauce. You won’t even notice, but the sauce will go farther and you’ll feel like this meal is oh, so healthy. If you ignore the fat and carbs, which I do, this meal has all of the 4 food groups. Score!

lasagna-bake-3
Hiding nutrient-dense ingredients, like zucchini, in our everyday meals has given me great personal amusement. Clearly, I need a hobby.

But it has also given me a little more freedom to be a “yes” mom at dinner. As a mom, there are days when I feel like I say “no” way too often. It’s not a happy feeling. I like to say “YES!” and my kids like it to. If I’ve packed a dish with veggies, whether they realize it or not, I feel like I can say “yes” to fewer “green things” at dinner because they are already eating them.

Moving to Ireland: Primary School 101

Last week my kids started school. In a foreign country.

I am the first to admit, over the course of my children’s lives, I have spent way too much time worrying thinking about their education. I really thought, at least as it relates to this topic, I had finally settled into my version of chill mom mode, but then we up and moved to Ireland.

Don’t get me wrong, Ireland is AWESOME and I don’t regret coming for a second. In fact, you should all join me here. But, I’m back to obsessing thinking about my kids’ education again.

Navigating the school enrollment landscape in Ireland has been tougher than I anticipated.

If you are moving to Ireland, or just curious, here are some important things we’ve learned about the Irish education system mainly as it relates to elementary or primary school. Please note: I’m not an expert. This is simply my experience thus far. At the end of this post, I’ll tell you what we decided to do.

school-books-1
TERMINOLOGY
Here is some terminology I found helpful.

1. Instead of grade, it is class. 1st class, 2nd class, etc.
2. Elementary school is called primary school and runs through class 6.
3. Instead of pre-k and kindergarten, they have junior and senior infant classes.
4. Instead of middle and high school, it’s called secondary school. It’s broken into cycles: junior cycle (3 years), transition year (1 year) and senior cycle (2 years). However, only the first 3 years are required (or until age 16).
5. Public schools are often called national schools – especially at the primary level.
6. Most primary schools are English speaking, but require Irish to be taught as a subject. You may hear the term Gaelscoil. This is an Irish language immersion school – there are close to 150 of them in the country.
7. Ireland still has some schools that are separated by gender. In other words, a girls school and a boys school.

Here are some links to helpful information:
Irish Department of Education

Brief Description of the Irish Education System

Wikipedia

IRELAND HAS NO SCHOOL DISTRICTS
Schools in Ireland are open enrollment. If you live in one town and want your kids to go to a school in another town – even a public school – you can!

The catch is you have to apply first.

It doesn’t matter what school you are applying to public or private, there will be an application process.

Now I’m going to rain on your parade and I hate to do that because I really love parades. If you have just moved to Ireland, chances are all the schools you want your kids to go to will be full. That’s because people will apply YEARS in advance for their child to attend a particular school. Our daughter is entering 4th class and we were told by several people that we need to start applying to secondary schools now.

No pressure.

school-books-2


PICK A SCHOOL FIRST OR A HOME FIRST?
Our relocation assistant often expressed sympathy for our dilemma of enrolling our kids in school. Do you look for a school first or do you look for a home first? Just because you find a home does not mean your child will have a place in a school nearby.

Now, I’ve heard that if ALL of the schools in your area are full, there are some public schools that can make an admissions exception. I just haven’t been able to get a real clear answer from anyone on that topic. If an exception is made to admit your child due to a proximity issue, it is safe to say that the school is going to be over-crowded. So that should factor into your enrollment decision.

Also, you can’t enroll your children in an Irish school until they have a PPS number, which is like an Irish Social Security number. They can’t get a PPS number until you are legally in the country and have some sort of permanent address. If you were planning on popping into the country for a week as a tourist and enrolling your kids in school – it’s not going to happen.

If you are moving to Ireland during the school year, you need to anticipate a several week lag in when you can enroll your kids in school. If you move during the summer, you need to anticipate that the school offices will be closed sometime around the first week of July. That means if you don’t have your child enrolled before the administration leaves for the summer, you won’t be able to get in touch with anyone to even see if you can enroll your child in that school. You may have more luck in finding the offices in a private school open during July/August, but it depends on the school.

school-books-5


THERE IS NO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IN EDUCATION
91.1% of schools in Ireland are run by the Roman Catholic church (source). These are government funded schools – public school. Children in these schools spend at least 2.5 hours per week on Catholic religious instruction, including preparing to take the sacrament (source).

When you apply to a school you will be asked your religion.

The school’s admission guidelines will, by and large, prioritize the acceptance of Catholic children over any other child.

If you want to opt your child out of religious instruction, you are able to do so. Accommodations for this request vary based on the resources of the school.

There is a movement underway in Ireland to remove the Roman Catholic church from public school management. As you can imagine, this is a sensitive and highly political subject. It’s safe to say it will be a long, slow process. In the meantime, non-denominational schools are growing in number, but comparatively speaking, are still a small percentage of the overall number of schools.

Here’s some additional information:
Irish Times article

Catholic Bishops Inclusion Good Practices PDF

school-books-6

SCHOOL LUNCH
In public primary school, all kids are provided a free lunch and snack. Lunch is some variation on a sandwich, piece of fruit and water. There is a menu where the kids can select if they want a ham sandwich, jam sandwich, etc. My understanding is that most kids, unless they have allergies, utilize this school benefit.

For private schools, you will have to inquire separately as to whether or not meals are provided.

TRANSPORTATION
There are no school buses in Ireland. It is assumed that kids will either live close enough to walk or ride bikes/scooters to school. Alternatively, many kids take public transportation to school.

I have heard about “walking school buses” in Dublin, but I haven’t heard of one in my area. A walking school bus is a route a volunteer will walk each day, “picking up” kids along the way so they aren’t walking to and from school unsupervised.

school-books-4

HIDDEN COSTS
If you are moving from the United States to Ireland – even if your kids are going to a free, public school – you need to be aware of some hidden primary school costs that you’re likely to incur in August before school goes back into session. 

In general, Irish kids are on summer holiday (vacation) during the calendar months of July and August.

Uniforms
All kids in Ireland wear uniforms to school. Departments stores sell the basics such as white shirts and grey trousers and the prices are very reasonable. A couple of Euros for a shirt, for instance. However, a lot of schools will require a special cardigan or jumper (sweater) with the school’s logo. These are purchased from a specially designated school uniform company of which there are 2 or 3 in Ireland. This is where things can get expensive – especially if the school requires a special jacket and tracksuit too. If this is the case, don’t be surprised if you are spending upwards of 200 euros per child, not including shoes, just for the bare minimum.

Speaking of shoes, almost all schools will require black school shoes on uniform days. On PE days, trainers (tennis shoes) are acceptable. Shoe stores in Ireland have entire sections devoted to black school shoes. And still, the selection isn’t that awesome.

Books and Supplies
All kids, regardless of whether you are going to a public or private school, pay for school supplies AND books. You will be issued a book list when your child is enrolled and informed which local store carries the books your child will need. In our first year here, we have spent approximately 130 euros per kid on books and supplies.

If your child ends up not writing in a particular book, you can sell it back to the bookstore. The reason they wouldn’t write in a book is that they will do all of the problems/work in a separate “copy or sum” book.

Activities
Depending on what type of school you go to, the kids may be asked to provide their own sports equipment. Our kids had to buy a field hockey stick, mouth guard and shin guards. This was around 45 euros per child.

school-books-3

WHAT DID WE DECIDE?
I’m so glad you asked! I never thought I’d say this, but we opted to send our kids to private school.

This is where I will digress and say if you are in Ireland on a short-term expat package, private school is a common benefit your family will receive. We are not here on an expat package. We are here as a permanent hire – for whatever that is worth in the corporate world. So our benefits package for moving did not include money specifically designated for years and years of on-going schooling.

Our reasons for sending our kids to private school are somewhat convoluted. It was one of those “this is the best decision for right now” moments and we will reevaluate our decision every year.

First, we found a private school sort of close to our home that a) had an opening for both children and b) we thought would be a great fit for our children from an educational, social and cultural perspective.

Second, private school is 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of what private school costs in the United States. This was a game changer for us.

Third, our kids were accepted into a local public school, but I had a really bad experience with the acceptance process. We were able to narrow in on a geographic location (for where we would live) on the last day of school. So when I called to see if the school had availability next year, I caught them at an understandably bad time. After the last day of school, the school office was only open for one week. I was told I could not come in to tour the school. I could not come in and meet the principal. After speaking with the school secretary, I got an email instructing me to “show up on the first day of school and we will figure out where to place your kids.” They couldn’t even tell me what grade they would be in. In fairness, I don’t know what would have happened if I had just shown up in person and knocked on the school door. Maybe I would have got that tour, maybe I wouldn’t have.

I’m not a helicopter parent, but that level of dismissivenss was just way over-the-top for me. They do know that I grew these humans in my stomach and I have dedicated my life to cutting the crusts off their bread, right?

But truly, I’m not a helicopter parent.

I’m sure it would have all worked out fine, but the school’s attitude just made all of my protective instincts scream out loud. Given that we had just moved to a new country, these protective instincts were already working overtime. Here I am trying my darnedest to reduce the amount of uncertainty my kids are experiencing with this move and the school was heaping more uncertainty into the mix. Maybe chalk it up to heightened emotions and an over-active imagination, but I wasn’t happy about the situation.

Last, the “Catholic church running the schools” issue is one I am still pondering because we aren’t Catholic. I thought I would be okay with it. After all, we knew moving here that the Roman Catholics ran the school system. I just didn’t quite realize that the first thing the school secretary would ask me is when my kids were baptized. My response? “We aren’t Catholic.” Her response? “Oh. Well then.”

Would my kids face discrimination because they aren’t Catholic? I don’t know. The Church makes efforts to say they are inclusive in documents like this one. I do know it is interesting to experience the separation of church and state issue from the viewpoint of the minority. And as a human being who is constantly trying to learn and grow, it is illuminating to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

BOTTOM LINE
Do your own research. Ask questions. Keep an open mind because your experience might be totally different than mine. And always trust your intuition. When you do, I’m sure you will be happy (or mostly so) with your decision. My kids had a great first day of school and I’m hoping they will have a great year as well.