I had planned to go on 'maternity' about week 32 so I could rest and try and get through the 6 weeks after but unexpected delays and hospital stays meant I was unable to finish up quite so early.
I suppose at the moment technically I'm now on maternity leave but being self employed is a bit like parenthood you never really get a break from it. You can plan as much as possible to take a step back and get people in to give you lots of help but at the end of the day it's your baby. No one will love it as much as you, no one will know it as well as you and no one will think about it as much as you do.
What's the saying it takes a village to raise a child, much like that it takes a communal effort to keep a business going. I recently advertised for a part time position to cover my maternity leave and was bowled over by the response I got. Over 30 applications and I was really spoilt for choice. It was a tough decision but I was delighted that I was able to get in some people that would add and grow my Lúnasa team. We are a small business that is made up of many parts, gifts, crafting, classes, cooking, baking, and to get a team together that can cover it all is a tough call.
So I though I introduce the team to you all. Breege, Amy, Sinéad, Maureen and of course Francesca. I won't embarrass them by giving a list of their likes, dislikes and hobbies but I will say that I'm lucky to have found them.
Each of the new Lúnasa team bring somethings different to it and allows me to be able to take that back seat and feel like it's in safe hands. I'm very lucky as I will definitely have my hands full but like any parent I'll never be too far away from my lovey little store and I will be looking forward to getting back into it as soon as I can work out how to juggle!
The 10th of October is World Mental Health Day. It is thought that one in four people in Ireland will experience metal health problems which is around 1.2 million.
I suppose at some point major life events put us under pressure and things like coping with grief can be very hard.
I'm a big believer in small things that we can build into our day to keep our heads in a good place. It's different for everyone one but things like waking, exercise, crafting and art are great places to start.
For me crafting is a huge thing. I was introduced to the idea of mindfulness a few years ago and before that I knew crafting had a great calming effect but couldn't articulate why. Mindfulness is about living in the moment. Not worrying about what's coming tomorrow or the next day and not mulling over what happened yesterday.
When you do something creative or crafty it occupies your mind and usually your hands.
And because of this you are being present in the moment thinking about the task that you are doing. This has been proven to reduce stress and improve mental health.
This week we will do a craft Activity in our crafternoon class with the kids that I came across on a course a few years ago. It's designed to promote a positive self image and I was thinking that us adults might be able to use of some of the other activities I did so I thought I'd share them. One is to understand ourselves a bit better, what we are good at and where we need help and the other is things that we like to try and build them into everyday.
Do something every day that keeps you head in a good place and I'll leave you with something that was said to me that stuck or and has helped me feel 'normal' on some bad days....
'you can be blessed and still be struggling. Everyone has ups and downs that's part of life'.
On the 7th of July we relocated our premises after 2 years in Church Street to Carter Square. At the time I had recently found out that I was pregnant and the prospect of moving seemed like a mammoth task. However, every cloud and the move has been fantastic for the business.
One of the huge advantages to the move is the addition of the small but tasty tea room. This was something I'd always planned for Lúnasa but the facilities weren't there in Church Road and so the move was the perfect opportunity.
I had done business and retail for many years and the food aspect of the business, while I'd had some experience with it, I found it very daunting. I knew what I wanted to do good tea, superb coffee and homemade cakes and soup. And I'm very happy that I've achieved it. I can tell my customers exactly what is in my soups because we make them all and try to make them as health as possible. We can't say the same about our cakes but they do taste good!
The thing I love most about the Tea Room is the social aspect. I've lost count of how many people I've sent to Erris Head and how many maps I've given out. I love to see familiar faces and give them their choice of Farmer's Friend or Buzz Bomb (our Irish roasted coffee). We've had our cooking club and now for the summer have our family cook outs.
One huge thing for us which I love is the personalised gifts. It give us the chance to make something every day which I could get lost in. And there are lots of exciting things happening there. We now have lots of disney designs to add to the already huge selection that we have.
So two years on we are still changing and moving. The new premises reduced the space for the classes and the up-cycled furniture but thankfully we've recently figured that out as well. And I'm extremely thank full to all the customers who continue to support our business and spread the word about us. Without you we wouldn't be here 4 years on. Time is flying and the next 12 months will certainly be a huge personal challenge and I try and juggle my expanding family with my expanding business. I've been lucky to find some great people to work with me and help achieve my simple dream and they will tell you we don't stay still for long and there are more exciting things to come.
I look at this funny website that tells me what days are celebrated on each day and each month and it tells me that May is photo month.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and looking at some of the amazing photos taken over the almost 200 years that photography has been known to man, it may sometimes seem that a picture can be worth ever so many more.
Photography has been around for 200 years and what used to be a sign of wealth, getting your photo taken, it's now a way that people broadcast a view of their lives to the world. The earliest surviving photo of nature was taken in 1827 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. At that time, it took days of exposure for a photo to be ready.
Over the years there have been some iconic photographs, the horrors or war, amazing acts of humanity, and over the years I've taken thousands of photos of my own. The tragedy of the new digital age is we rarely produce a physical photograph. I still have all my old developing equipment and my plan is to get back to it some time soon.
As I'm sorting out my belongings In readiness to move house later this year I keep getting distracted by all my photos. Places I've been, people who touched my lives, projects I did and all those wonderful memories I picked up along the way. Life is busy and you get caught up in the everyday and looking back at photos helps me remember - even just looking back at photos of Francesca.
Photo Month is a time to appreciate all the things photography has done for humanity and continue that glorious tradition, so get out your camera and your photo albums, share them with your friends and get celebrating! And here are a few of my photos to share with you including one of the shop moons ago from Mary Needham x
People ask me what my businesses and I hesitate for a second. It's hard to describe it in a few words when there is so much that we do. So I usually say a craft and gift shop with a little tea room which I often think doesn't really do it justice.
I guess the ethos of the business is about the value that goes into something that is handmade over something that's massmade in a country far far away where the workers probably get very underpaid in very poor conditions.
As life becomes a faster pace and IT becomes more and more involved in it I think it's a really important to take time to appreciate the value of what is around us. It's crazy that so many kids in the world today don't know the milk comes from cows and eggs come from chickens.
They think it all just appears in the supermarket.
I often wonder if I would be able to survive on produce that was only made in Mayo. Could we go back to the olden times where we didn't use imported goods and things that we got we knew where they came from.
We try and put people back in touch with things that are handmade. It's always great to see the satisfaction when people realise that they've just picked up a gift that was made in the county or the town or that they have just painted or sewn something and made it themselves.
And I take great pleasure when I serve someone and I can tell them that everything they are eating is made in Mayo. The scones are made in the shop with butter milk from Balla, the jam is made in Westport, the butter is made in also from Balla.
And so for Mayo Day this weekend I just want to celebrate some of the fantastic things that are made around the county that we sell in the shop.
Well we've almost survived what is deemed the most depressing day of the year - the third Monday of Jan. I suppose we are still a few weeks from pay day, the festive high is over, and the money has run out so we are using up all the food in the freezer. And if that wasn't bad enough with recent world events, Brexit, Trump and all the recent celebrity deaths this one could be the most depressing yet.
And just to top it all off tomorrow is 'Drop your New Years Resolution Day'. But don't be sucked in. Apparently only 8% of people stick to their resolution so if you've made one and you have made it this far....don't give up now. Or maybe defy it and make a new resolution or revisit the one you were trying to keep. Don'e be so hard on yourself - especially if it's something about eating healthy and you just scoffed chocolate to cheer yourself up on Blue Monday.
This time of year is a great time to get out and do something new and social. It's easy to lock the door, light the fire and shut yourself away from the world but that's ok for a day or two but any more than that isn't good. Get out and try something new - there is Sean nos dancing classes on and we are starting a cooking club.
A cooking club is a group of people who gather together on a regular basis to take on a cooking project or explore an new cuisine. But really, the main reason is that there's enormous fun to be had when a group of people gather together, roll up their collective sleeves, and get something delicious done.
We are going to try and meet up once a month and try healthy meals. Our gatherings will be around eight to twelve people and our skill levels mainly amateur.
We will meet at Lúnasa and information will be on the Lúnasa Club Facebook page. Rosaleen will organise the night, figure out how to scale the recipe to make enough for the group, organize the shopping, and figure out equipment needs and the group will help cook it.
Finally the day arrives when we gather, cook, and make a merry mess. Before we depart we clear up and then go on our merry way.
Before the night depending on whats cooking you will be asked to bring some things with you but as a rule always bring an apron, a knife and a chopping board.
When we were kids on Christmas day we would open presents, go to mass, eat our dinner about 12.30 and then sit down to watch TV. My mam would want to watch the Queen's speech and the rest of the family would groan. She would point out that she never watched anything else on TV and so we would conceed and sit through it. As I got older I found I was sitting down to watch it myself the same as the other traditions we have at Christmas only now with Sky plus so the Queen can fit around our day. After mass, visiting family and a huge dinner we sat round and watched herself.
I suppose you don't get to 90 in any walk of life without gathering pearls of wisdom and this year she talked a good bit about inspiration. 2016 has been an amazing year for us yet for many around us the end of the year can't come quick enough. At this time of the year we are looking ahead to the new year and looking for inspiration. The Queen said that the word 'inspire' literlly means 'to breath in' and this week is the time to pause and take a breath, think about the highs and lows of the closing year before we get too caught up in what we want to do in new year. All of us in our own way will have overcome, achieved and to the rest of the world have done something extraordinay (even if to us it just felt ordinary).
Our recent run of workshops and courses reminded me of one of the things I hoped to achieve through Lúnasa and one of the things, that for me, was hard to find when I first moved here. It was simply a regular coming together, not necessarily to learn, but simply to meet, to enjoy, and maybe to expand my social circle. So with that in mind I will be doing some events in 2017 that will achieve this starting with out swishing event in Jan. More about that later but for now a few days reflection and a final quote from Mother Teresa, from this year Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said 'not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.'
Seasons greeting to you and your loved ones x
The second of Feb is Candlemass day. To be honest before we moved to Belmullet I'd never heard about it. So I used my friend google to find out what it's all about and found out it's the mid point of winter - between the shortest day and the equinox. It's a nice thing to mark because everyday after gives a promise of Spring which will be closer than autumn!
On these dark winter nights it's nice to have something to look forward to. I read that there are some superstitions about the weather on this day and the signs for things to come for the rest of the winter. I'm not sure how much attention I would pay to that but it gave me an idea of a nice project to do with the kids.
Making candles is an easy project for all the family. Simply buy the wax sheets, warm them up slightly with a hair dryer or in from of the fire which make them softer and easier to roll. Place the wick in the middle and roll. It really is that simple. The great thing about is as well is that it's made from beeswax. Many candles these days are made using paraffin which is a by product of petroleum so it releases toxins when you burn them.
More candles are made with soy which is a more natural product but the purest is the beeswax. This is because beeswax is a natural air purifier. Beeswax releases negative ions when it burns and as pollen, dirt, pollutants and all the other junk carry a positive charge, the beeswax neutralises all these things. (This is the same idea used in air purifiers and water filters that use negative ion technology).
Burning beeswax has been suggested to help with conditions like asthma and allergies due to the purification nature. So on the 2nd of Feb if you are going to light a candle maybe make a beeswax one! And if you are looking for something to do with the kids this weekend that's where we can help with out candle making kit!
Click here for our candle making kits
Do you remember when you were kids and you used to make paper fortune tellers...you know, pick a colour. Or when you made paper aeroplanes - we didn't realise it but we were doing origami - making things out of paper.
I remember the day I discovered origami. I was working in the south of France as an Au Pair when I was 18 and I went out for Chinese with my host family. On the table were this fabulous water lilies napkins under the glasses and I was fascinated to see how they were done. I took several home and after many attempts I worked out how to do it. I've never forgotten and still use it to decorate the table for dinner sometimes.
Origami comes from the words 'ore' meaning folding and 'kami' meaning paper and I think it has it origins in Japan. I only recently learned that traditionally in Japan they would use Washi paper for origami, a paper made from fibres of the tree bark and it's tougher than normal paper.
It was while I was having a conversation about Washi tape, something that's coming to the store in the new year, which is basically strong sticky tape made from the bark of bamboo or hemp and has the most fabulous design on them.
I think in traditional Japanese origami you didn't use cuts or glue but now the term seem to refer to all type of paper folding. It's amazing what you can make from a flat piece of paper. I've mentioned before that I believe doing something creative, whatever it is, is a great way to relax and relieve stress. What's brilliant about origami is you can use it take a break and use the paper off the printer or the napkin off the table. A great way to loose yourself for as little or as long as you like.
Want to try it? Come along to our seasonal origami Tuesday and learn more. It's great fun - it will have you in creases!! ha ha ha