Monday, 11 November 2013

10 Things to love about Winter

The leaves are done falling, the temperature is dropping and everything feels a little different. It can only mean one thing. Winter is here!

Let's face it. Living in a country with such a spontaneously varied climate (*cough* RAIN! *cough*) like Ireland can make the simplest thing like deciding what to wear when venturing outdoors a task in itself. But let's turn this on its head and focus on what wonderful things Winter has to offer and why we should embrace the season:

1. An excuse to stay in and put your feet up.

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Long gone are the Summer days when you felt guilty about playing around on your laptop indoors when the sun was splitting the stones. Now that the weather has taken a turn you've the perfect excuse to stay in and just relax! Catch up on a boxset, play a board game or video game or catch up on books you've been meaning to read. You've got the time!

2. Halloween
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It's one of those holidays where there's something for everyone. Sweets for the kids (and big kids!), Halloween parties and horror movies for the grown ups and Irish folklore about our links to Samhain for everyone in the audience. Plus, who doesn't like to dress up once in a while? Each year brings new and innovative costumes.

3. Being cosy
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Onesies. Fluffy socks. Blankets. Hot water bottles. Electric blankets. Winter duvets. Hot chocolate. Need I say more?

4. Christmas
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Every year the adverts seem to get closer and closer to Halloween, but the commercialism of modern day Christmas has been noted. When you get to the core of it, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts and watching the odd cheesy Christmas movie whilst vowing to never eat Brussels sprouts again.

5. The Late Late Toy Show
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One can't talk about commercialism and Christmas without talking about the Toy Show.. I jest!

The Late Late Toy Show is an institution at this point, where children and adults alike tune in each year to see the must have toys, talented Irish children (be it dancing, singing, or being a mini Culchie), or even what festive sweater Tubs dons. It's part of our cultural heritage, and I for one am a fan.

6. Happy New Year!
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Bubbly! Parties! Ringing in the New Year with loved ones and making resolutions. Gotta love that optimism!

7. January Sales
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After all the celebrating that comes with Christmas and New Years, it's time to treat yourself. It's a great feeling when you find something you want.. In your size.. In the sale.. For at least 50% off. Victory!

8. Snow
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Every now and again, it makes an appearance in Ireland in varying abundance. And admittedly it can cause chaos, but there is an ethereal beauty to watching snow fall and wondering if there'll be enough for building a snow man or at least gathering enough snow to make a snowball or two. Snowball fight!

9. Sitting in front of a roaring fire
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There's nothing to make you feel quite as snug and festive as watching a roaring fire, even if the wind and rain are howling outside. And the ambitious marshmallow roasting if the mood is right.
(Also as someone who loves open fires but isn't skilled at building them, a huge thank you to whoever invented firelogs!)

10. Feelgood festive ads
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It's at this magical time of the year that the feel good vibes wiggle across broadcasting systems and make us go "Aw!" Whether it's 'the' Coca Cola ad which puts the smile on your face or something more touchy feely like this year's nostalgic Tesco ad or tales of Friendships from the formidable advertising which is John Lewis. Embrace it. Everybody has one.

These are my top things to love about Winter. What are yours? :)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Lisa Bakes: Gnarly witches fingers

After I'd made the Spooky Pumpkin and walnut bread, I still had lots of pumpkin and baking supplies. So I decided to try my hand at some more baking.

All in all I made three batches and found that speed when moulding the fingers into shape was key. The first batch expanded the most, whereas the next two batches came out much better as I hadn't handled them as much. Mr. Ree and a few friends were more than happy to provide some quality control.

I'd also made pumpkin and cinnamon cookies which were really yummy. Nothing beats a fresh squidgy cookie!

We went out to a Halloween party last night and brought both cookies along with us. They seemed to go down well and it wasn't long before they started disappearing! (Which is the best compliment in my book!) If you'd like to try making your own witch finger biscuits, I've attached the recipe below. Happy baking! :)

The fruits of my labour!

Gnarly Witches Fingers

  • 225g (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 125g (4 1/2 oz) icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 350g (12 oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100g (4 oz) whole almonds
  1. Combine the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat together with an electric mixer. Then gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt, continually beating; chill for 20 to 30 minutes. (The longer the better really!)
  2. Preheat oven to 160C. 
  3. Lightly grease baking trays.
  4. Remove dough from fridge in small amounts. Scoop 1 heaping teaspoon at a time onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Use the paper to roll the dough into a thin finger-shaped biscuit. Press one almond into one end of each biscuit to give the appearance of a long fingernail. 
  5. Squeeze biscuit near the tip and again near the centre of each to give the impression of knuckles. You can also cut into the dough with a sharp knife at the same points to help give a more finger-like appearance. Arrange the shaped biscuits on the baking trays.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the biscuits are slightly golden in colour, 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Lisa Bakes: Spooky Pumpkin and Walnut bread

Whatever it is about the Autumn and Winter time, I just love all things cosy. All the foodie people I know say to use seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible so with Halloween, there's an abundance of pumpkins! When better to try my hand at making pumpkin bread?

So with cautious optimism, I took to the kitchen after trekking through the baking aisle in Tesco for supplies. Also, baking question - are baking powder and baking soda the same or is there a difference?
Ready to be whipped together to make some tasty bread!
For this recipe, I needed to make pumpkin puree. I had read a few different ways online and opted for the microwave method, which was the same way I cook potatoes, so no new territory there! I used about half of a small cooking pumpkin for this recipe which made about twice the puree I needed, so in future I'd probably only need a quarter of the pumpkin.

I chopped them into roughly the same size, put them and some water (about 1/4 of the dish) into a pyrex dish, covered and microwaved it for 11 minutes. Before stirring and microwaving for a further 5 minutes. The skin came away fairly easily from the the pumpkin and then it was just a case of mashing away!

My Mum always taught me to put all the ingredients to one side of the main mixing bowl, and then once the ingredients go in, to move them to the other side of the bowl. It makes it easier to check what has gone in the mixture at a glance.

I mixed the dry ingredients together, then added all the liquid ingredients. When I was mixing, it seemed to be a bit runny. But maybe this is normal?
Mm.. Er.. Squidgy!
Ready for its maiden voyage to the oven!
I lubed up a baking tin with a knob of butter, poured the mixture in and hoped for the best.

And it started to rise!

And then it rose some more! I was actually worried it was going to reach the top of the oven. Note to self: move oven tray down.

The smell of the bread baking filled the apartment and it created a wonderful festive ambience. But I wasn't done yet!

The first time I took the bread out to check if it was baked, it seemed a little squidgy so I popped it back in to oven. I didn't want it to be overbaked or burnt.

From watching programmes like the Great British Bake Off, I remember they would leave bread to cool on a wire rack. I had to settle for a steamer. Well, it has holes in it and should allow air to circulate. Needs must and all that jazz!

Then the best part of any baking adventure - tasting what you've made! It got a big thumbs up from Mr. Ree and the spices really made it tingle the tastebuds. It was moist and the top had a lovely sweet crunch to it from the brown sugar. Next time I might add a bit more walnut though, but that's just me! Although I had inadvertently bought walnut halves which required a bit more chopping, but it was worth it. Next time I'll be buying walnuts of the chopped variety!

All in all, I came out fairly unscathed from this recipe. It wasn't difficult to make either. Definitely one to try again!

Fancy giving it a go yourself? Here's the recipe. Good luck and happy baking! :)

Pumpkin and Walnut Bread

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 eggs        
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda        
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg    
  • 250g pumpkin puree    
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar        
  • 75ml water
  • 30g chopped walnuts    
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon    
  • 300g caster sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180C
2. Put sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices into a large bowl. Stir to blend.
3. Add pumpkin puree, water, oil, eggs and walnuts. Beat until well combined.
4. Pour mixture into greased bread tin.
5. Sprinkle brown sugar on top.
5. Bake for 50-60 mins. Skewer with knife/skewer through centre of loaf. Once it comes out clear, it's done!
6. Take it out of the tin and leave to cool. How you enjoy it is completely up to you! :)

Friday, 25 October 2013

Job hunting Challenge

There are some things in life that we expect to be stressful: Exams, moving house, planning a wedding, having a baby etc., but I've got a new one to add to the list: Looking for a job.

At the moment I'm working part-time/freelance between two jobs but I'm trying to find something more full time in the city.

So I've been looking for a job. I've hit the usual job sites, the #Jobfairy hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, joined an agency and been applying for a variety of different positions, ranging from Marketing to retail.

At this point, I've not had any luck.

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If anything I count myself lucky if I get a rejection email, it's better than being ignored and left wondering if I'm still in the running.

With all this in mind, how can one see the funny side in rejection emails and indifferent silences?

For me, I've adopted the attitude of stubborn dedication. I've accepted that some jobs won't be a good fit, so I move on and keep looking. But I firmly believe there has to be more than one job out there for me.

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On one day I might apply for ten jobs, the next day it might be only one or two. The job market is tough out there at the moment, but I don't want to use that as an excuse.

I hope that if I think positively and refuse to give up, then the right job will be worth the wait!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Catching up!

This poor blog has begun to gather dust! But I have an excuse to be fair.

I've only gone and got married! Yes really :) If you'd like to read all about it, simply click here.

In the last 11 days, I've got married, went on Honeymoon and celebrated my birthday so it has been all systems go!

As you can imagine, I can see the funny side all over the place and am on an absolute high. Today I'm going to write about the importance of family and friends.

We always knew that we were blessed with great families and loyal friends, but it really hammered it home on the wedding day when we were literally surrounded by our nearest and dearest. All there to wish us well and celebrate our big day with us.

We had family surprise us on the day with a Piper, a sweet table and some pretty awesome dance moves! In the run up to the day, we had so many friends and family approach us asking if there was anything we needed help with, which really meant so much to us.

When we realised what an amazing support network we had, it made the task of planning a wedding and ensuring it all went to plan seem a lot easier. On the day itself, we relied on our wedding party and parents to sign off on last minute details, so I can definitely vouch for the joys of delegating! All we had to do was ask someone if they'd mind doing a quick job for us and it was done. This completely took the stress off us and we could then relax with our guests. By the end of the night, everyone had said that it was such a fun relaxed day, which was a joy to hear.

We were so impressed by all the staff at the hotel too. The timings went off without a hitch, the food was delicious and both the band and DJ were amazing. The hours flew by whilst we celebrated with everyone. It was unlike any other day we have spent on this planet, and one that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Stress O'Clock

Every now and then we go through stressful periods in our lives. At this moment in time, I am no different. For me there's just a lot of balancing going on between planning a wedding, money issues, worries about work and lots more besides.

I think one of the main things that people worry about is money. At the moment, most of our money is being gobbled up by the wedding, so talk has now turned to post wedding life. To have a little disposable income again will be such a novelty. To say we can't wait is an understatement! Bring it on, I say!

Because stress affects so many people, I've put together a list of ways to help combat it. Hope it helps!

1. Talk about it.

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Seriously. Don't bottle it up. It will just manifest in other ways. Have a good rant every now and again, it's wonderfully cathartic. 

2. Exercise.
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OK, You don't need to tie yourself to a treadmill or do 50 sit ups during The Great British Bake Off or anything. But get out and move! Walk, dance, swim, join a gym, skip. Anaerobic exercise can help fight stress and anxiety, plus your body will release endorphins to give you a 'feel good feeling'.

3. Make time for you.

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If you love chilling in a bath with a good book, pottering around the shops or playing video games, then make time to do it. It gives you time just to unwind and focus on yourself. Enjoy!

4. YELL!
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Sometimes you just can't verbalise the stress, anger or anxiety. Grab a pillow and yell it out. You'll feel better.

5. Do something daft every day.

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Instead of walking down the hall, why not skip? Pull a face in public. Snort at a silly knock knock joke.The sillier the better. I bet you'll at least smile at the daftness of it all! 

6. Laugh!
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Watch a funny movie. Look at videos on Youtube. Laugh at things you're not supposed to. Whatever tickles your funny bone. Just throw your head back and have a good laugh!

It's not all bad news. Even though we all have to deal with stress at varying degrees throughout our lives, how we deal with it can make all the difference!

That's how I deal with stress. What tips can you add?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

'Trying to see the funny side' is now on Facebook!

I have done it!

After blogging, editing and tweeting like a trooper. I have created a page for 'Trying to see the funny side' on Facebook. There will be lots more pictures, things to put a smile on your face and blog posts galore!

Want to join in the fun on Facebook? Click here.


The world's eyes are on Russia after they introduced a new law, which makes homosexuality illegal.

Yes, you read that correctly.


And no, you haven't tripped and fallen into a time travel machine, it is still 2013.

This isn't an issue for a government body to "step in" and dictate what is "OK" or socially acceptable regarding the gay community.

If my soon to be husband and I went to Russia in the morning and chose to hold hands around the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg or anywhere else across 17,000 or so km that Russia spans across, we wouldn't be judged. If we were to share a kiss or an embrace, we wouldn't be scowled at or physically assaulted. Yet if I had been born male, or he a female, then this would be an issue. For this to even be an issue across the world in which we inhabite is nonsensical to me.

When we find someone we share a deep connection with, have strong feelings for or fall in love, the natural thing is to shout it out. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Let them share in your excitement!

Yet photographs of Pride parades across Russia have been posted online and have been met with opposition and violence. In a word this is vile. Not the fact that people wish to walk with their heads held high showing the world who they are, not at all. But the fact that they would be judged negatively for it.

Firstly, why is it ANYONE else's business about who you share a bed with? Or how people live their lives? If a same-sex couple wish to have a child or raise a family together, why is this still an issue? Studies have shown that children in same-sex parent homes grow up and develop into fully functioning human beings just fine. Links? Here and here, to name just two.

Similarly to women smashing through the glass ceiling, equality is still a dream. An achieveable dream?

I would like to think so.

But the public need to demand change. If I want to have a career, be a mother and try and strike a balance between that and family life then I think this should be an option. Whether or not I'll succeed is another matter, but the choice should be there. And that is what is key. Choice.

I dream of a world where there is no need for Pride parades or protest for same sex marriage. It should be a non-issue. We are all human beings. Who we choose to spend our time with, love and create a family with should be no one elses business. Although Russia has a rich culture and is steeped in history, I will personally not travel to Russia to support their infrastructure until they sort out their human rights issue regarding the LGBT community. I just cannot support a country where the rights of all citizens are not upheld.

Recently, the wonderfully eloquent Stephen Fry waded into the debate with an open letter to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and David Cameron. Haven't read it yet? Give it a read here. Similarly, Wentworth Miller declined an invite to a Russian film festival in an open letter where he came out as a gay man. There are now calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in 2014, which are due to be held in Russia. Only can time can tell if it will come into effect.

So why am I writing about this when my blog is all about 'Trying to see the funny side'? I can only hope that both I and modern society will have the last laugh when change finally happens. I hope that I can live in a world where people are educated to be accepting of others and spread that acceptance and understanding onto the next generation so that this is no longer an issue. I live in hope!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

How to be a big kid

Sometimes grown up life can be stressful. There are bills, rent and mortgages to pay, work stress and lots more. It's at times like this that I feel envious of kid me, life was carefree back then!

But why leave the fun stuff behind you? Why not bring back some of that carefree nature to combat serious grown up stuff? Here are some of my personal recommendations on how to be a big kid:

1. Build a fort.
 Seriously. There is so much fun to be had in a fort!

2. Have a picnic (indoors if the weather isn't good)

3. Play kids games, like hopscotch, Snap or Tag.
There's a reason you had so much fun playing them as a child!

4. Laugh and giggle over silly things.

5. Have a pyjama day.
They're comfy, just try not to let them become outerwear. They're not that cosy!

6. Have a movie day.
Watch the films that you loved as a child, you'd be surprised how much you might still love them!

7. Play with Lego.
Why not use it to make something practical for grown up you?

8. Sing!
It doesn't matter if you can sing or not. You'll feel happier and carefree after it!

9. Friends Forever.
Do all of the above with your friends. Some of the happiest memories I  have involves silly times with friends. There's a reason for that.

Got any more tips on how to be a big kid? Comment below or come join me on Twitter!

Monday, 17 June 2013


For the last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about time.

It doesn't seem like that long ago since I was living at home with my parents where my biggest decision was what colour to paint my bedroom wall. Just tonight Mr. Ree and I watched a movie which was made in 1998. In my mind that's not long ago. It's 15 years. FIFTEEN! I don't think my brain accepts that the noughties happened, instead it adopts the mentality of 1,2, skip a few, 99, 100!

My 'little' sister recently turned 21. Yet in my mind's eye, I still see her as a child who would begrudgingly watch Scooby Doo with me each morning, emerging from the foot of her duvet before announcing that the only new character was the ghost, ghoul or general baddy of the episode. As most kids do, we used to put on shows which our parents were made sit through and run around in our non-slip socks*. Yet the years have passed and she's now a grown up, with responsibilities and a bank account!

*Which begs the question, are there non-slip socks for adults? Grown ups can slip too yknow!
Safety first kids, with style!
As time passes I see friends getting married, having children and traveling around the world. But there is nothing that defines time passing more than when you see a kid you used to babysit getting a pint in the local pub. Whilst trying to maintain a cool demeanor, all you can think of is "I used to read you bedtime stories!"

With regard to timing, I often wonder about the 'Sliding Doors' scenario and think about how my life would have turned out if I had made different choices. Nothing major, but if I hadn't lived on campus during my first year in University, if I hadn't got the results I did in the Leaving Cert, if I had done a Gap year etc. If any of those variables were to change, chances are I wouldn't have met the man I'm going to marry in a mere four months (Eek!) Nor would I have the same network of friends, traveled to the countries I have or have the same memories and experiences.

One can't talk about time passing and timing without the notion of aging creeping into the discussion. It's an area I based my dissertation on as it's something that, as a woman, is discussed ad nauseum in so many different magazines, TV shows, films etc. There are so many lotions and potions that are supposed to hold back the sands of time, chemicals to inject into our faces to paralyse wrinkles and copious amounts of surgeries to pull the skin taut to maintain a more youthful appearance. But let's cut through the crap and deal with the issue of aging.

It happens. You are aging right now.

But let's scale back. Since when is aging necessarily a bad thing?

Aging is a natural biological progression. Aging is a sign that we have lived. Our bodies are vessels in which we are supposed to sail through life in. Surely it's only natural to get a bit of wear and tear as time passes. So for every stretchmark, scar, wrinkle and everything in between, live life to the full in your body. Embrace the aging process and get as much mileage out of your body as possible!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Crafty longings

For as long as I can remember, I've always had an appreciation for handmade goods. I really like the idea of someone putting their time and imagination into something and being able to bring it home.

With all of my enthusiasm, I figured I would be pretty good at crafting. I had the gist, surely that coupled with a giddy splurge on a rainbow of various wools and some ambitious hat and scarf combo ideas would be all I would need to get started.

I was wrong.

Bit of background - In primary school, we were taught to knit and sew. Not just the girls, boys too. Our teacher's logic was that anyone could be a fashion designer, seamstress or simply enjoy creating their own crafts. I remember being OK at knitting. What had faded from my memory was the ability to start knitting and how to finish or 'cast off'. The bit in the middle I was grand at.

So maybe knitting isn't for me. What about jewellery making? Maybe! Pottery? I once made a punk style ceramic cat, it now serves as an ugly jewellery stand. Maybe not. But then I see something like this and get all inspired again. I could definitely make zombie cups, or mug shaped hands or some sort of quirky door stop.

If anyone would like to treat me to this, you can get it from Etsy
You can only imagine my excitement when I came across a shop in Temple Bar called MayFly who specialise in handmade curiosities, including (but certainly not limited to!) handcrafted jewellery, felted teddies, repurposed crafts and lots of one off pieces.

I know where I'm heading on pay day. At least until I magically become accomplished at crafting. Until then, I'm perusing Pinterest, May Fly and Etsy. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

More shame for the Catholic Church

This week, a report on the Magdalene Laundries is due to be published. In recent years, there have been more and more scandals being unveiled which the Catholic church is responsible for. I was raised Catholic, and hit all my religious milestones. I was even an altar girl! As I got older, I was able to understand more, research and form my own opinions on things. One of the things that shook me to the core, and continues to do so is the Catholic church and the stronghold it has had in Ireland for decades.

I have a major problem with the Catholic church's view on women. Regarding abortion, it's a no-go area for the church. Life is sacred, and for them, life begins at conception. Personally, I just can't condone supporting a cause that values a foetus above a woman, wife, sister, aunt etc. The sexual abuse which those acting under the Vatican have committed. There are no female priests or Popes, the Vatican even went so far as to call "attempted ordination" of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law." They then placed their foot firmly in their mouth by stating "The change put the "offence" on a par with the sex abuse of minors" That, in itself, speaks volumes about how out of touch they really are. I also think it's fucking rich of them to bring up sex abuse of minors as a case study to quell the notion of female clergy. Their messiah Jesus didn't seem to have any beef with women, although the only majorly positive emphasis is put on his mother Mary and martyred female saints, who chose God over all else. If that's not leading the proverbial lamb to slaughter, I'm not sure what is. 

Basically, this.

I want to make it clear that I'm not anti-Catholic in my views, many of my friends follow the Catholic teachings and are proud of their faith. My issue is with the Catholic church as an institution. For years there have been cover ups regarding sexual abuse, institutions for 'shamed' or 'fallen' women, physical and emotional abuse from those in power, it just goes on. Granted the Catholic church has done some good in the way of educating and feeding those in the third world, but for a price. Become Catholic and we'll help you. Food and education in exchange for a soul, if you believe such a thing exists.  

Neither my fiance or I are religious. We're getting married this year and will not be having a church wedding, there will be no mention of Catholic sentiment and that's how we want it. I don't go to mass, I do not plan to baptise any of my children and I certainly won't be giving the church any money on our wedding day. Although we're not religious, we live by a basic ethos of respecting people and expecting the same respect back. If you're an asshole to me, I won't turn the other cheek and forgive you. I'll think you're an asshole and probably think less of you, because let's face it. That's human nature. 

Magdalene laundry

Today TheJournal published an article about the daughter of a woman who had been incarcerated by the Magdalene laundries. On Twitter, the hashtag #JusticeforMagdalenesNOW is trending, which I'm glad to see. This is one of the most recent shameful scandals that the Catholic church has to answer to. People should talk about this and ensure that this is something that is never forgotten. 

On this blog, I try to put a positive slant on things, so where, in all this negativity and shame can there be a positive note? The good thing that I have taken from this, is that change is happening. More people are becoming informed, they're making informed decisions and not following an ethos mindlessly. Catholic numbers are in decline, less people are attending mass. The Pope has turned to Twitter in an attempt to reconnect! People are speaking out about their experiences in the church and discussion is happening. Through the use of technology, stories and experiences are being shared and recorded so that hopefully, future generations will not witness such atrocities from a body of power in their lifetime. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Ringing in the New Year with Wedding bells!

Happy New Year everyone! Hopefully the hangovers are starting to ebb away and hopes and plans are being made for 2013.

This year should be an exciting one chez Ree as this is the year we are to be married. We've been slowly but surely putting money aside but this year is when everything comes to a head. I like to write about positive things on my blog or try to put a positive spin on things, but as most people know, wedding planning can be stressful.

Must remember to remain calm..

With this in mind, I decided to start a separate blog for the wedding related ups and downs. Let's face it, stress and positivity don't tend to hang out in the same crowds. It's called Lisa Ree plans a Wedding. Check it out and let me know what you think. Any feedback would be welcome!