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A natural approach for good health – for Mama & baby

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Picnic Alfresco In The Forest… In The Rain! (Donegal, Ireland) by Natural Health Mama


Last week’s Steemit Culinary Challenge theme inspired me to have my own ‘picnic alfresco’, and despite the rain we had a wonderful time!  Since my wee man isn’t yet 2 I cook and bake all his food from scratch so I know exactly what’s going into his body.  For this picnic I made a selection of different savoury and sweet items, all made with natural organic ingredients suitable for little ‘uns:

– Mini khorasan soda farles

– Aduki falafels

– Salad skewers

– Curly potato crisps/chips

– Potato and red onion salad

– Pecan & date gingerbread men (no sugar)

– Cinnamon cookies (no sugar)

I will be sharing my recipes for these things in due course… I figured it’d make the post ridiculously long if I included all the food preparation too.  So for now I hope you enjoy viewing my picnic photos.  I live on the edge of Ards Forest in County Donegal, Ireland, and so picnics are a common occurrence for me, my husband and son Sky.  I had been hoping for a sunny day, but Donegal is a decidedly damp county and overcast drizzly grey skies are more the norm than summery days, even in summer.  Oh well!  Armed with a brolly and booted with wellies we found a good sheltered spot beneath the forest canopy, and so even though the drizzle continued we remained fairly dry 🙂  Well, until the heavens opened that is and we had to make a mad dash for home!  I got a few photos of the torrential rain, you can see at the end.  Thank goodness for umbrellas!

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After a couple months of this kind of weather I think we’re due some sunshine, because when you live beside a forest you’re practically obliged to be wild, and never too old to be swinging from trees! Or maybe that’s just me 🙂

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All photos in this post are my own original, taken with my Fujifilm Finepix S8200.


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Simple Homemade Wreath Part 1 – Gathering and Preparing Fir Cones & Evergreens by Natural Health Mama


One of my favourite ways to get the house feeling festive is to bring the outdoors in.  Luckily, living on the edge of a forest makes this pretty easy!  If you live in the city you might have to drive into the countryside to do your gathering – alternatively you can order evergreens and fir cones online, just do a simple internet search for what’s available for delivery to your local area.

A couple weeks ago I took advantage of a dry and sunny afternoon – armed with a basket and a garden cutters.  As I said, i live on the edge of a forest in County Donegal, Ireland, and my garden literally merges with the forest so all I have to do is walk out my door and into the trees 🙂



The first thing I spotted that I needed was fir cones, just lying there on the forest floor for me to gather.  One of my ‘forest cats’ Happy Monday came to see what I was up to…




Then I started to cut bits of holly, which grows in abundance here.




As it had been very stormy a few days previous I noticed branches from an evergreen tree were lying there on the ground, so I thought why not use them too?




Ivy – a beautiful yet destructive plant that wraps around anything it comes across.  I cut a few bits from the base of my favourite tree that is outside my bedroom window… Not wanting to sound crazy but I do get the impression She is a she, and somehow is aware of me too!




Once I’d gathered enough cones and bits of greenery, I brought the lot inside to sort out.




The evergreen cuttings can simply be hung up somewhere dry.  I just wrapped bits of garden wire around the stalks and hung them from a string line I put up in the spare bedroom.  They have been hanging for about 3 weeks now and they haven’t rotted or become mouldy, so as long as the place you hang them is dry there should be no problems.




With the fir cones I first picked all the ‘bits’ that were stuck to them…




I then cleaned them by soaking them in a basin with half water, half vinegar, for about 20 minutes, giving them a swish around every now and then…




I then lined a baking tray with foil and put the fir cones in.  I then covered them over with foil and popped them into a hot oven (about 200 degrees Celcius) for about 1 hour 30 minutes.  When fir cones are wet they are closed like this, but when properly dry they open up.




When the fir cones have dried and opened up, they are ready to use for whatever crafty things you want.  You can paint or spray them different colours, varnish them, or simply leave them natural as they are.




In part 2 I will be demonstrating how to make the wreath from all these bits we’ve gathered and prepared, so please stay tuned!


If you liked this post, please follow me for more seasonal healthy recipes and crafts throughout December!


Many thanks.


All photos in this post are my own original.


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Winter Solstice “Return of the Light” Countdown Calendar – An Original Homemade Creation by Natural Health Mama

What has creativity to do with health, you may wonder?  Well… a lot!  Creativity is about expressing something of yourself, it can be done as a shared activity and so is a good way to be social, and it can be very therapeutic both in company or if done alone.   Throughout this month I will be sharing seasonal crafts as well as recipes, and hope you enjoy them!






I have just finished making this – an alternative to the popular advent calendar.  I love the festive season but much about it has become too commercial, and so I like to create my own traditions that feel meaningful and real.  The focus of my celebrations: people I love, nature’s provisions, and creative expression.  My thinking behind this piece is that one purple segment is pulled back each day until the Solstice on the 21st, and when the final piece is pulled back we have a complete sun: this symbolises how the winter darkness gives way to the sunlight.  We will then light the candle in the centre and celebrate the return of the light.

Winter Solstice is a very simple tradition which looks forward to the returning sunlight and longer days.  Many people burn a Yule Log, light candles, gather with friends around a fire… all sorts of light-focused symbolism. You can read more about it here if you wish.

I know the Return of the Light is a pagan tradition, but I’m not a pagan.  I was raised Christian – I even did a degree in Christian Ministry & Ethics – but these days I feel I can no longer assign myself to that or any other religion.  At the core I guess I’d be Taoist, but I don’t even call myself that… I don’t think in terms of labels and boxes.  Truth is truth is truth, no matter who said it or what religion/way it ‘belongs’ to.

Since becoming a mother I give much consideration to what values I want to nurture. Only in recent years did I even hear about this idea of celebrating the return of the light, and I thought – what a lovely thing: to honour the sun that is absolutely essential to our very existence.  Taking the time to appreciate something that isn’t about man or material.  I don’t know what I think about advent and the nativity anymore, but I do know that I’m very thankful for the sunlight.  So it seems to me celebrating the return of longer days is a wonderful tradition, centred around gratitude and love – and away from presents and gorging on rich food!  I suppose my family traditions are a bit mix-and-match now, as we will celebrate Christmas day as well as the Return of the Light, but to me that’s part of a spiritual connection with the wider community – sharing in the unavoidable atmosphere of merriment this time of year, and smiling at the smiles of strangers.  It’s all good 🙂

Also having something to ‘countdown’ means my son isn’t going to miss out whilst other children are counting down with their advent calendars.  The Christian Christmas, or indeed the commercial Christmas, isn’t the only way to bring excitement into the season.  When I was pregnant I had a conversation with a friend about Father Christmas – I was saying that I had no intention of pretending to my son that this character exists, as it’s not truthful.  But she seemed to be of the opinion that this would deny him some of the excitement of Christmas, as Santa is an important part of childhood experience.  But honestly I don’t agree at all.  I think excitement comes from the traditions you create together as a family, the time you spend with each other, and having the experience of something you feel is special and important.  To me, the festive season is a time for expressing what we carry in our hearts the rest of the year.

Anyway, in case any of you like my calendar enough to make your own I will show you, and it really isn’t difficult.  This is something children can help to make too with adult’s help.


What you will need:


Thick card (eg taken from a fruit & veg box)

Bathroom tissue

PVA glue


Stanley knife or strong scissors

Paint – gold, yellow, red, blue


Candle (I got one in a gold tin with a lid)

Fir cones (either bought or prepare your own)

Small cable ties

Snowflake or stars stickers

Glitter – red and gold




Cut out two circles of the same size from the thick card.  I drew around a 9″ cake tin, but the size isn’t too important.




Divide one of the circles into 24 equal segments, and cut using a ruler and stanley knife or strong scissors.  Sounds odd, but discard 3 of the pieces (or keep as spares).  Once the pieces are covered in paper mache, they will be larger and I found that doing this left me with the perfect amount of space for 21 segments to ‘open’ from the base.






In a suitable container mix together 2 parts PVA glue to 1 part water, I don’t know the exact quantities but you’ll need quite a bit!  You can always mix more if needed.  Tear off strips of bathroom tissue and dip into the glue mixture, and cover all the cardboard segments and the other cardboard circle.  Once dry this will make all the pieces nice and firm and textured.  Leave to dry somewhere warm – mine took about 2-3 days to dry, but it will depend how warm your house is (mine is cold!)  I used an old dish-drying rack to stand the pieces up in.






Once the pieces are dry you can now paint them.  I half-mixed gold, yellow and red paint together (I like a bit of streakiness).





At this point I decided I wanted the circle more textured, so I got my PVA glue and bathroom tissue again and formed a spiral.  I painted the circle the same colours as the segments, and left them all to dry for another day.





Now for the final bit of painting – neatly paint one side of the segments a ‘night time’ colour, I mixed gold, blue and red paint together which gave me a lovely shimmering midnight-purple colour.  I did this one evening and they were dry by the following morning.




Place your candle in the centre of the circle (unattached so it can be replaced), and around it firmly glue on the fir cones using a glue gun or super glue.  Maybe let the adults do this part, as super-glued or glue-burnt fingers is no fun!




Now to attach the segments: I used a screwdriver to push small holes in the bottom of each segment, and in corresponding places in the circle base.  Using the cable ties, secure the segments to the base.  Don’t pull them too tight – they need to be able to move freely outwards as the ‘sun opens up’.  Tape the cable ends underneath the base.




I then mounted the whole thing (using superglue) on yet another thick cardboard circle, a little bigger though, and I spread PVA glue around the rim and sprinkled with gold and red glitter.  I also glued snowflake stickers on the purple side of the segments, as this is the ‘winter sky’.  I had intended the segments to rest straight up against the candle, but they naturally fell to one side, giving a lovely spiral effect.  It looks way better like this!

Now it’s ready to use as a calendar!








If you enjoyed this post, please follow me for more seasonal crafts and healthy recipes throughout December!


Many thanks.


All ideas and photos in this post are my own original.


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Taking Care of my Mental Health

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It’s a wonderful thing to wake up to a sunny day and say “Let’s go to the beach!” Another wonderful thing is knowing you’ll likely have the beach all to yourself, as is often the case on the west coast of Ireland.

It’s not birth or chance or luck that I ended up in a place I love – remote, quiet, beautiful. It was choice. It was realising the fact that although we can’t control everything in our lives, we can control some of it.

At 19 I found living in an English city exhilarating. By 25 it had become exhausting. I found myself slipping into daydreams more and more as the months and years went by, yearning for a simpler life, a slower pace, a chance for a breather. I spent more time in dreamland than in the here and now, running on autopilot, avoiding the reality of a day-to-day existence that I could barely tolerate; dreaming because it was the only way I could get through the day.

I didn’t care about most of the things other people seemed to base their whole lives around – career, a lovely house, a car, annual holidays, new jeans, a lawnmower. I couldn’t have cared less about a pat on the head from an employer, or what the neighbours thought of my garden. I longed for the untamed – for trees, plants, crashing waves, wild storms, animals that weren’t pets, people that weren’t always in such a hurry. I wanted to gallop in lush fields that didn’t bare signs saying ‘private land, no trespassing’. I wanted a life I could live, not just endure.

Each day had become a matter of survival. I felt like I was trapped and couldn’t escape, and it was all-consuming. At the end of the working day, despite being able to return to the company of my wonderfully calm (and calming) husband, my home was not my sanctuary. I’d been following the herd for so long, listening to everyone saying “This way. This is the way,” never considering the fact that I could actually have the alternatives I constantly fantasised about.

The thing is – if a person is in a constant state of tension, the autonomic nervous system becomes ineffective at calming the body and thus ceases to work properly. Also a sustained increase in stress hormones actually suppresses the immune system, which means a person is more susceptible to physical infection. Therefore it stands to reason that finding ways to be content in our lives is as important for maintaining good mental health as it is for preventing physical health problems.

So one day, after a near-breakdown, it all suddenly became crystal clear – our lives are largely the result of choices we make – this or that, yes or no, every day. And I could re-shape it by making different choices. The changes could be as drastic as I wanted, all I needed was courage. As perceived restrictions started to melt away I was filled with joy. In my heart I knew what I had to do.

Thankfully my husband is a similar soul with similar dreams, and so we decided to take our chances on the wild west coast of Ireland, regardless of never having been there before. Within 2 months I had quit my jobs, sold some but mostly given away all our furniture, packed up only essential and precious posessions (including the cat), and bid farewell to the city and to England. All the stuff we’d accumulated over the years… I watched it all being carried away out the front door by family and friends, and I didn’t feel remotely upset or regretful. It was the single most liberating feeling of my life. To unburden myself of ‘stuff’, with that wonderful incomparable thrill of becoming ever-lighter, no longer hindered by the weight and worry of excess clutter.

In no time at all I was living the dream. When I awoke on a morning I no longer looked out upon a dreary street, but instead the open Atlantic ocean and a rugged landscape. No longer sounds of traffic and people bustling about, but waves on the wind, donkeys braying, birds chattering. It was bliss.



I know there’s a lot of us feeling like we’re living under a dark cloud. Feeling like if something doesn’t change soon we’ll go mad. So why don’t we change something? Why do we feel our choices are limited, that we can’t have the life we want and so are doomed to be miserable? Why do we deny ourselves the option of fulfilling our dreams, of being who we really are?

I think most of the time the answer is fear. Fear of tomorrow. Fear of the reactions of other people. Fear that change will somehow bring about hardship or pain. Fear that things won’t work out, that we’ll fail, that we’ll end up full of regret. We find it overwhelming to work out the details and practicalities entailed. We’re too tired to think about it right now. Wouldn’t know where to start.

We get used to a certain routine, a certain rhythm. We get comfortable. We convince ourselves there’s no alternative, no way out. We rely on the exact amount on our pay cheque. The hours suit us. This reason, that reason. Some of them valid, many of them not. We’re great at putting up with things and having a good moan, and yet are rubbish at actions for improvements.

With a little creative thinking there’s usually a way to trade misery for contentment. We need to stop listening so intently to the opinions of our families, friends, colleagues, media, and instead embrace our own ideals for our own lives. Remind ourselves of the fact many people are envious of courage, and would rather see you as a miserable ally than happy when they’re not! Often our problem is overthinking to the point of inaction. My attitude now is if you hate it, change it. What’s the worst that could happen?

It might just be the greatest adventure of your entire life.