An Alternative Way to Support Children and Families this Christmas

This year Barnardos children’s charity is not asking for toys – but for donations to allow the organisation provide more practical gifts for the families they work with. Barnardos ‘Gifts for Good’ are an alternative gift for family or friends this Christmas.

By purchasing a ‘Gift for Good’ on behalf of a loved one in lieu of a present, you are both directly benefiting a child or family Barnardos works with – and your loved one will receive a card that shows the importance and impact of that support.

Barnardos ‘Gifts for Good’:

  1. PJs, bed socks and slippers – to provide warmth and wellbeing.
  2. Food Voucher – to feed children & their potential.
  3. Filled Soap bag for a family – for health and independence.
  4. Books – providing a new chapter of opportunity.
  5. Duvet, Pillow & Covers – to cover a good night’s sleep.


Each ‘Gift for Good’ that is purchased this Christmas will go directly to one of the thousands of children and families Barnardos’ works with all year round. Each family has different needs to the next – your donation will allow the organisation to direct your help how each need it most.

How much does it/they cost?

  1. PJs, bed socks and slippers €18

With this gift you could provide the comfort and cosiness of warm pyjamas and keep tiny toes toasty warm at night. This gift will help keep children warm giving them a better chance to stay healthy and thrive.


  1. Food Voucher  €25

With this gift you could provide lunches to children in our early year’s programme, or you could provide breakfasts to children in our services, setting them up with a warm full tummy ready for a day of learning at school. This gift will give a child the best start to the day (and to their young lives!)


  1. Filled Soap bag for a family €28

With this gift, you could help provide essential toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, facecloth, sponge, soap, shampoo, brush and comb that many families in our services are not in a position to provide or regularly replace.


  1. Books €35

With this gift you could help support work in our amazing early years’ programme, which includes encouragement of language development among pre-schoolers through dialogic reading. This gift will open a new chapter in life for young children who need a little extra help to bring their development up to par with their peers so that they are ready to start mainstream school.


  1. Duvet, Pillow & Covers €50  

With this gift you could help create a comfortable and warm place for a child to get the rest they need at night. In winter months especially, some of the families we work with may not be in a position to heat their homes. With this gift you will help a child get a good, warm and comfortable night’s sleep, which is key to their learning and behaviour.

You can buy Barnardos ‘Gifts for Good’ today at or by calling 01 7080 429 to place your order. For each ‘Gift for Good’ you buy, you’ll be sent an individual card with envelope to pass on to a loved one in lieu of presents this year.

Sleep, bumps and cuts, caroline jackman, essential oils for kids, essential health, calm child, parenting, holistic parenting, alison canavan, be complete, lavender, wild orange

Like most parents, I go to great lengths to look after my child’s health and work hard to support her physical and emotional well-being. The world is an exciting place for any growing child but also full of its own challenges for immature immune systems and developing emotions. Essential oils provide a wonderful way to help support a child’s health and in my own home have become a first line of defence for the majority of typical childhood concerns. There are of course occasions where medical attention is needed but for minor injuries and illnesses, essential oils can provide effective relief. Children are very responsive to aromas and essential oils can also be a wonderful way to support children dealing with emotional upset. Here are some tips for beginning to use essential oils with children.

Bumps & Cuts

Cuts & scrapes can sometimes be an everyday occurrence for parents of adventurous kids. Using natural remedies can effectively help with healing and at the same time the aroma of the oils helps to calm emotions. Melaleuca essential oil is a great natural disinfectant which helps healing when applied to cuts & scrapes. I like to mix Melaleuca, Lavender & Frankincense together and spray on cut knees. Lavender is comforting & soothing and Frankincense supports skin regeneration.


When a child is suffering with any minor illness, it is difficult for a parent to deal with, especially if it interferes with the child’s appetite and sleep. Once a child attends crèche or starts socialising with other children, illnesses like coughs & colds can become a common occurrence. Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and lemon used topically and aromatically can help with coughs and congestion. Diffusing these types of supportive oils in a child’s room at night is a helpful way to open airways for a more restful sleep. Lavender used topically can provide relief to rashes, earaches, headaches and can also help soothe a teething baby. Diffusing or exposing a child to essential oils like wild orange, clove, cinnamon & rosemary can all help to boost a their immune system in a safe and natural way.

Emotional health

Lavender and citrus oils like lemon, bergamot and wild orange can help manage anger or stress for little ones. Rubbing oils between the palms of your hands, cupping them over a child’s face (without touching skin) and letting them inhale the aroma is a really effective way for them to benefit from the positive effects. Choosing oils like spruce, vetiver and Frankincense can help children deal with mood swings or new social environments like the first day of school.


Create a positive and happy learning atmosphere for a child doing homework or study by diffusing or inhaling an essential oil like rosemary, which helps to balance emotions and combat mental fatigue. Lemon essential oil can help concentration, reduces stress and is a refreshing scent that will elevate a child’s mood.


Whether you have an infant who hates nap time or an older child scared of the dark, essential oils with calming and sedative properties can help everyone in the family get a good night’s sleep. Diffusing essential oils is an easy and effective way to help balance children’s emotions and create a more peaceful space for sleeping. Lavender, roman chamomile and vetiver are some of the many oils which can help children to wind down and sleep soundly.

When using essential oils on children, it is important to first apply a small amount of oil to test for skin or other sensitivity. Avoid using essential oil on a child’s hand as they may easily transfer it to their eyes or mouth. Always use 100% pure therapeutic grade oils.


‘Calm Child Blend’

Diffuser Recipe

3 drops lavender

3 drops wild orange


Essential oils can be used aromatically to affect mood and open airways; topically for quick absorption into the body through the skin, and internally for immune & digestive support. It is important to select therapeutic grade oils free from synthetics.

Essential oils are a great way to improve your health easily and quickly. Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more about using essential oils or where to purchase 100% pure oils.…


Theres nothing better than starting your day the right way. Porridge is quick and easy and a simple way of adding extra nutrition is to add your favourite fruit and some sprinkles (James word not mine) and we change our sprinkles every day. Today we chose Linwoods flaxseed with bio cultures and vitamin D.

The vitamin D helps to absorb calcium and grow and maintain strong teeth and bones. Omega 3 is an “essential” fatty acid that the body cannot make on its own. The sprinkles also provide calcium, iron and zinc and can be added to any food at any time of the day including yogurts, baking, scrambled eggs and much more.

Flaxseed is considered by some to be one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence from studies that it may even help reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. This teeny tiny seed has been around for ceturies in fact it can be traced back to Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it!!! Imagine a law requiring you to do something healthy (now thats a thought) Now, thirteen centuries later, some experts say we have preliminary research to back up what Charlemagne suspected so give it a go. It certainly can’t hurt

Would love to hear what you think so please comment below,

Thanks Ali xxxx

photo 1






photo 2

brekkie face

linwoods brekkie

Myself and James


Q: Has James asked about his dad?  My child’s father doesn’t see her, I don’t know how I’ll explain this when she asks

It’s probably the most heartbreaking and difficult question that I’ve had to deal with. I remember when James was a tiny baby, looking into his blue eyes and thinking to myself, ‘I hope this situation works itself out as I really don’t know what to say to this little angel.’

Then I figured I had a couple of years, at least, before the question would come up and — surely — by that stage I’d have it all figured out.

James makes every day worthwhile and never fails to make me laugh. He gives the best hugs and has changed my life in positive ways that I never thought possible. I often feel sad that his dad has missed watching this amazing little person sit, crawl, walk and talk.

I’m lucky to have great friends and  family — and indeed a counsellor — who have all talked me through the bad days when I feel guilty and sad that his dad isn’t around.

One thing I’m very sure of is that I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I have a very happy little boy who smiles from morning until night.

However, children go to pre-school and then they go to school and it’s around this time that those tough questions start to be asked.

James is nearly four years old and the only child in his pre-school that doesn’t have a dad at home however, we have spoken about how much his dad loves him but that he lives far away for work. James did ask me why he didn’t want to meet him but I reassured him that of course he does and hopefully will one day soon.

I felt that was appropriate for now and my sister Laura also spoke to him at length about all the
amazing people in his life that love him and how lucky he is to have such a big family. He seemed delighted and for days kept talking about — and listing off — all the people that love him. He kept telling me the list was so long and that he kept forgetting people.

But recently, we went to Wexford for two days and had an incredible time building sandcastles at the beach. After we returned, his teacher Rosie — who is his idol — asked to speak to me because James had told his class that he had been away with his dad.

My heart sank. I know he only said it because everyone else in the class was saying that, but it doesn’t make it any easier. My advice is to be as age-appropriate and honest as you can. If you’re finding it hard to communicate, ask for help. But remember: love, stability and security are what a child needs and if you’re providing those, then you’re doing a great job.

One thing I would love to see is all parents talking to their kids about the different types of families that exist nowadays. I didn’t give single parents a second thought before I had James. I know that some parents don’t feel it’s their responsibility because they’re happily married, with perfectly adjusted children (yes, this was actually said to me) but times are changing. Whether you agree with how people live or not, teaching kids to be accepting and non-judgmental can only be a good thing for them and our communities.






This is a question I had myself when I was a new mum and ­­recently I was able to get the answer from the lovely Siobhan Matthews, who is the owner of a children’s shoe shop called Little Piggy’s Shoes For Kids in Trim, Co. Meath.

As a qualified nurse and mother of three children, she believes that well-fitting shoes will benefit your child on their long road ahead.

She is an expert in this area and had some very interesting advice. The bones in children’s feet are mainly cartilage and do not develop into hard bone structure until the age of five.

As we all know cartilage is a firm tissue but is softer and more flexible than bone, so when a baby is sitting up and ­
not moving around shoes are generally not required, unless advised by ­
a physiotherapist.

Most podiatrist and physiotherapists say that ‘barefoot is best’ — as it allows toddlers to expand and develop the muscles and nerve endings in their feet. But we all know for practical reasons this is not always possible.

Little feet can get cold and damaged with rough surfaces both outdoors, and indoors especially on tiles and wooden floors.

Siobhan would generally recommend a pair of ­­
pre-walker shoes for your toddler when they start to pull themselves up on furniture and begin cruising.

The gripped sole is soft enough to allow them to mobilise naturally and comfortably while also providing them with a little confidence to get going.

She recommends that children should have their feet measured at this stage to ensure that the ­­
pre-walker fits perfectly on your child’s particular shape of feet. The main reason for this being that, at this stage, you want to prevent any unnecessary
injuries to the foot.

Shoes that are ill-fitting can prevent natural growth, cause discomfort and lead to foot problems.

As every child is different, it’s tough to say how long their shoes will last. James goes through growth spurts and once increased a size in six weeks, but his current shoes have lasted much longer.

Children grow at such a rapid rate, especially up to three years of age. Growth rate for the first year can be up to three sizes. Therefore, the general rule of thumb would be to have your little one’s feet measured at least every six weeks. This can be an expensive time but is a very important time in the development of a child’s foot. Remember that their feet will slow down in growth after the age of three.


1.  Have their feet measured by a trained shoe fitter, ensuring they are wearing the correct size.

2.  Economically it makes more sense to have one good quality perfectly fitting leather shoe rather than having to purchase may pairs of ill-fitting flimsy shoes.

3.  Caring for your child’s feet especially up to twelve years of age will pay dividends in the long run, reducing foot problem’s leading to back and hip pain in adulthood.




My daughter is doing her Leaving Cert and feeling really stressed. To be honest I am too. Can you help?


Oh, I REMEMBER my exams like it was yesterday — snapping the head off everyone and cramming three years’ work into one night. People also forget how stressed and helpless parents can feel too.


Remember, though, that a little stress can be a good thing. It has the power to motivate and stimulate us, pushing us to do better, triggering our adrenaline and keeping us focused. Without stress, life would simply be dull and boring. Not knowing how to manage stress, though, particularly during exam time, is what can cause sleepless nights, panic attacks and feelings of anxiety.


Some of the most common factors contributing to stress in the build-up to exams are the long hours of study, the tensions between you and your kids, revision classes, all-nighters, lost notes, deleted documents and early morning starts.


Whenever I’m doing talks or studying, which I have been at night for many years, I use Bach Rescue Remedy. It might not give you all the answers but it may help both you and your daughter to relax, focus and feel reassured in the build-up to exams.


I also meditate, exercise, try to eat well and avoid too much sugar. If your daughter is up all night hitting the books, the lack of sleep will really affect her concentration and there will come a point in the evening when her brain won’t soak up any more information.


I often find it tough to sleep when I have a lot on my mind but getting enough sleep — the recommended amount is eight hours — in the run-up to the exams is really important. The Bach Rescue Remedy Night range with white chestnut is a great sleep aid. It helps the mind to switch off from unwanted thoughts, so your daughter can enjoy a restful night’s sleep and have more energy and a clearer head in the morning.

Encourage her to go to bed earlier as she will achieve more the next day with a clear and rested head.

Ask your daughter if she’d like to try a 10-minute guided meditation every day which will really help her to stay calm and focused. You can download samples from websites such as


THE Bach Rescue Remedy range includes Rescue Night Drops 10ml, RRP €7.95, Rescue Liquid Melts, RRP €9.95 and Rescue Night Spray 10ml, RRP €10.95

RRP €9.95 and Rescue Night Spray 10ml


1. EXERCISE releases endorphins which make us feel happy, making it easier to concentrate and study.

 2EAT a balanced diet full of green vegetables, nuts and fruits little and often during the day to keep energy levels up. You should take Omega 3 fish oils, drink plenty of water and avoid stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks.

 3.GET plenty of sleep

 4. REMEMBER there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but they won’t last forever.

Avene skincare and its benefits for eczema and psoriasis prone skin

Avene skincare and its benefits for eczema and psoriasis prone skin

Q: Any tips on packing for your hospital bag. I always bring to much!

I panicked about absolutely everything when I was pregnant especially packing my hospital bag. As a model I travelled a lot through the years. So packing is something that really should have been second nature to me. I blame my severe problem of procrastinating about everything. I have a knack of making the simplest things like washing plates, hanging out washing or emptying the bin into enormous tasks, so you can imagine the panic I was experiencing pre-birth. I was most certainly short-circuiting but the good news is I survived.

My first tip is shrinking all your toiletries to travel size. Boots are great and stock nearly all the good brands in travel size now. Bring three or four changes of nightwear. The hospitals can be very warm and I wanted to change quite frequently to feel fresh. Take arnica two weeks before your due dates and make sure to pack some to help with bruising and discomfort after birth. If you are planning on giving breastfeeding a go I would pack a breast pump as I had terrible problems and the breast pump saved me and enabled me to eventually feed. The medela swing is light, battery operated and very efficient. I also brought glucose tablets for that extra push, hair ties and a water spray. If your phone is like mine and the battery lasts 5 seconds you will need to remember your charger to announce the good news and take that first pic!

If you want to take all the hassle and worry away, mum of three Karen Snyder in England has created myHospitalBag. The bag contains over 30 products including a toilet bag with: miniature shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, lip salve, hairbands, shower cap, toothbrush, toothpaste and lip salve. The bag also includes comfortable knickers, maternity sanitary towels, breastpads, facial wipes and antibacterial hand gel, along with flip flops, bed socks, a laundry bag and a pocket pad and pen. To help aid recovery there is a small bottle of Arnica pills that I mentioned earlier.

For your newborn she has included babygrows, vests, hats, mitts and muslin squares all in neutral white, newborn nappies, nappy bags, wipes, cotton wool, disposable changing mat and Sudocrem.

The bag is even big enough to ensure that you have space to add a few home comforts.

If you are interested in buying one, the cost is £85 (€102.67) including delivery of €12 to Ireland which is cheaper and more convenient than buying it all separately.



• Have your bag packed at 35 weeks as junior might want to make an early arrival

• For your going home outfit comfort is key. I wore a maternity dress with tights. have a great checklist

• Disposable or old undies and nipple cream also top my list

• Pre-wash all your baby clothes in non-bio washing powder

• Enjoy every second, you’re about to create a miracle