Farmer’s Market Fun

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Sunday comes showery and changeable, so we’re off to visit a nearby Farmer’s Market. Every week we make the effort to scout these treasure troves of fresh fruit & veg, essential to a happy life in the country.  Summertime means it’s possible to do at least part of our weekly shop at the seasonally busy Markets (particularly the larger gatherings in towns like Listowel, Tralee or Dingle) and they do offer a different experience than just relying on the convenience of the supermarket. Market vegetables are fresh from the ground, the bread is fresh from the oven and the eggs are fresh from the hens bottom! We like to do our little bit to shorten our food miles!
‘Little P’ can wander around and explore in a place free from busy trolleys and the temptations of the sweetie aisle. There’s plenty of local accent, lively chat, and lovely relief from the piped music and plastic packaging. It’s a great place for little ones to see what real food looks like fresh out of the soil, with all the dangly bits still on, and not dressed up all fancy-like to sit in a pretty plastic bag! It’s also a great way to avoid over buying on supermarket specials that we might not really need.
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This morning we visited the villagemarket at Ardfert. Indoors at the Community Centre, stalls here offered a nice selection of local veg, a large variety of jams, delicious baked goodies and interesting craft stalls, selling handmade oilskin bags as well as other gifts. Ardfert Market is now our Little P’s favourite – not just because of the yummy cakes – but the best toddler friendly playground she’s seen is right across the road!
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You can find more about your local Farmer’s Market on http://www.bordbia.ie/consumer/aboutfood/farmersmarkets/Pages/default.aspx.

Mindfulness for Mermaids

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One of the best things about moving to the West for me is the Atlantic Ocean. I started swimming in the sea before I could walk. I have great memories of swimming lessons with my Dad on the beach. Once I could swim I would stay in the water for ages, long after all my friends had turned blue with the cold. I often wished I could become a mermaid so I wouldn’t ever have to get out of the sea!
I can’t imagine ever living away from the coast. There are some stunning beaches on the east coast of Ireland and I’ve probably been swimming on most of them but there’s something very special about swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. The water feels effervescent, full of life and energy and incredibly refreshing. Every day, no matter what the weather, I try to make time for a swim. The initial shock of the cold never really goes away and it’s like a jump start for the heart. Then, once I  fully immerse, my body temperature stabilises and I feel like I’m back in my natural habitat.
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Swimming is probably the best mindfulness therapy you could ever experience. During a swim you can really only think about staying afloat and getting to and from your watery destination. I swam all during my pregnancy up to the day Little P was born. I’m sure it was very good for my physical fitness but even more valuable to me were the psychological benefits. As a life long worrier pregnancy was a bit of a nightmare for me. I worried for nine months about everything, I even spent time worrying about the things I should be worrying about but didn’t actually know about yet. The only time I didn’t worry was when I was in the water. It was a lifeline just to shut down the anxiety and forget completely about pregnancy and the impending time bomb that was labour. My body went weightless so I even forgot about my bump for a short while.
 My first swim about 6 weeks after Little P was born was wonderful. I felt like me again and I’ve continued regularly since. It’s a thing I do just for myself and I think it’s important for everyone to have something like that in their life.
 Now I’m no Rachel Lee (fastest Irish swimmer of the English Channel and on my hero list) but I can swim and I can endure the cold. I need to work a lot harder on my technique and my fitness. There are some amazing men and women I watch during my daily swim that cover huge distances. I’m full of admiration for them.  So, feeling inspired, one of my new goals is to work on my stroke and my breathing and by next summer I can join them at least as far as the second swimming buoy!
I was also really hoping that Little P would like the water so I’ve been taking her to the beach since she was tiny. Now my difficulty is getting her out of it! She’s like a little mermaid herself and I’m looking forward to teaching her to swim just like my Dad taught me all those years ago.
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Are We Living the Dream?

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In the West of Ireland, seasons come and go with a special clarity. Summer spreads it’s wings the sweetest. This year the air seems super scented with elderflower, honeysuckle and wild rose, and the fuchsia has just flowered to satisfy even the fussiest butterfly and bee. Our local seaside village population balloons as holiday homes are opened out for the season. There’s a flurry of activity with boats and bikes, wetsuits and wave boards. We squeeze in every wild walk and swimming chance as Little P morphs into a summer bundle of salty curls and sandy toes – bliss!

I’ve wanted to live in the West for years and even now, almost three years in, I can’t believe we’re really here. I still get an ominous feeling that this is just a holiday, and come September we’ll have to pack up the car and leave along with the summer visitors. I need every night’s sleep to banish the unease and realise yes, we’re finally here to stay.
I first fell in love with the West on our annual holiday from our family home near Dublin to County Clare. The Atlantic landscapes were wild and open, the air was sea fresh and I felt such a sense of freedom. Everybody used to instantly relax the moment we arrived. When I started working, my job took me all over the country. I gradually discovered the rest of the West through Mayo, Sligo and Galway, eventually arriving upon glorious Kerry.

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Returning east to the suburbs of Dublin felt more and more cramped and claustrophobic, with cars and concrete too near, too often.

I met my partner who, as it turned out, just happened to be from Kerry. Weekends became our opportunity time to escape to the West, so over the years we developed our plans to make the move. We eventually found a house, packed up and left the East for the last time, settling in one month before Little P arrived and we were now a gang of three!

The move has been as positive an experience as we expected, but are we really ’living the dream’? Our new life is not without it’s challenges. But my family and friends notice them far more than me! They tell me as they visit how quiet it is, how isolated, there are not enough shops, the Atlantic is too stormy, too much wind, the rain is too wet……it goes on! But, although missing them is the one negative aspect in my moving experience, I’m not here to live their dream, or even THE dream. Now I realise, I’m here to live OUR dream.

For me it really is the most important thing that I wake up everyday in a place that makes me happy. Practically speaking, it may not tick all the old boxes. Living in rural Kerry or rural anywhere, doesn’t come with the same services or employment opportunities that we might have had in suburban Dublin. We don’t have high speed broadband, and sometimes even getting a radio signal here is a problem!

We have less disposable income now than we had before. We’re a long way from the National Gallery, Grafton Street or Dundrum Shopping Centre. So, if those places are important to you, then this is not the place to be.

Me? I prefer to be twenty paces from the ocean, where the air is sweet with wild flowers and little P can watch the bunnies from her window. This is our dream and every day we’ll try to live it and make it work for our little family.