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.


making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Some tips on how to transform your stress this holiday season

We all know that Christmas is a big opportunity for stress—the combination of having to appear to be having fun, while coping with all the frustrations and extra work can be a real downer.

One of the things we need to know about stress is that it closes things down. It’s hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you are stressed. We tend to close in on ourselves and set up a kind of survival regime to get us through. Maybe it does help us to struggle along but it does not help us to care for ourselves, to open our hearts to others, to learn anything about the habits that lead to the stress in the first place.

Let’s take a look at some ways we could set about making connections this Christmas instead of going into survival mode.

Connecting with yourself first of all

 making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Do you ever feel like this gingerbread person at Christmas—all in your festive gear but not able to communicate how you are really feeling? The holidays can be a strangely lonely time, even when you are surrounded by people.

As the lead up to Christmas gathers pace, why not take some time to check in with yourself and see what you are hoping for from the holidays.

Whether you are religious, or not you can ask yourself what is important to you about this holiday. Is it having family around and lots of good things to eat and presents to share? Or is it about having a few days off from work and routine in the middle of winter. Whatever it is, it will help you to set an intention for yourself—a kind of inspiration for the holiday.

Then at the other end of the scale, try to see what it is that triggers stress for you. Take a moment to sit quietly and then ask yourself these questions:

  • At what times do I experience a high level of frustration over relatively small events?
  • How does it feel in my body?
  • What do I do about it?

Going through this exercise will help you to identify the times when stress can creep up on you, so you can prepare for it and hopefully, avoid it. Allowing yourself to use your body like a stress barometer shows you the effect that stress has on you. Spending time thinking about how you deal with stress helps to get you off the survival treadmill and really consider how you can ease your stress.

Connecting with the present moment

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, cake

So often when we are busy our minds are just rushing away with us thinking ahead of all there is still to do. That’s particularly sad at Christmas when there are so many enjoyable rituals in getting ready—like making the cake.

So one way we can ease a feeling of stress is to connect with the present moment. For example, instead of hurrying to make the cake while worrying about the mince pies, a present for grandma and whether you have enough wine in the house, try focusing on simply sorting your ingredients for the cake, weighing and adding them in the correct order and mixing it all to a delicious consistency. Take time to smell the fruits and the brandy. Allow yourself to enjoy the texture of batter. Remember to make your wish and just be with the making of the cake. When it is in the oven, you can go on to the next task and approach it in the same way. 

Connecting with a sense of enjoyment and celebration

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

The more we can get our stress into perspective, the more chance we have to enjoy some of the magic that there can be around Christmas. We said earlier that stress closes things down and one of the first things to go is any sense of enjoyment and celebration.

Allow yourself time to look around you and see the things you enjoy. I am a big fan of Christmas trees both indoors and out in the open. There is something about all the lights and glitter on a dark winter evening that just says home and love to me.

What is it that you enjoy most at Christmas? 

Connecting with family and friends

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Probably if we are honest, one of the biggest sources of stress is how the family is going to manage together over the holidays. It can get complicated with all the in-laws and the extended family. We all know that awful tense feeling that can come when uncle George manages to come out with the opinions that we know will drive our teenage daughter to distraction, or when grandma insists that we don’t know how to out on a Christmas like they did in her day. You dread the moment when your sister-in-law, who always manages to make you feel like bargain-basement wife, arrives for dinner looking as if she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, along with her two immaculate children. You, on the other hand, hot and bothered from the kitchen feel less than glamorous.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind while the family dinner is underway.

Everyone around the table wants to be happy—just like you do. None of them want to be anxious, or worried, or miserable and yet, inevitably they all have times when they are—just like you. Chances are that each one of them have their own insecurities about the family gathering—just like you do. Perhaps some of them are even intimidated by aspects of your behavior–what a good cook you are, how you juggle family and career—who knows? It can help so much if before your irritation arises you can put yourself in the shoes of the person irritating you—perhaps they are more like you than you think.

Connecting with the rest of the world

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, As well as closing things down, stress makes us loose perspective. Whatever is going on with us seems so much more important than anything else that is happening in the world—which in the scheme of things, really does not make sense.

During the holiday period you can counter-act any tendency to feel that getting the lights working on the tree is more important than, say, global warming by consciously allowing yourself time to think about what is going on for everyone else in the world. Many millions of other people are celebrating Christmas around the world, with traditions that may be very different from your own. There are also millions who are not celebrating Christmas and it is just another ordinary day for them. Then there are the millions who whether or not they wish to celebrate Christmas are not able to because of poverty, or war, or persecution. Keep them in mind also.

So, a very merry stress-free Christmas to everyone!


Maureen Cooper is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress. She combines more than thirty years of experience as a professional educator and senior manager in a non-profit organization with a hands-on education in Buddhism. In 2004 Maureen founded Awareness in Action, a consultancy dedicated to the secular application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in the workplace.

So only four more sleeps till Santa gets here and as this is also the time of year when we can lose our way a bit, this mindful monday i’ve decided to share my Top 5 Tips for staying on track this holiday season


Keeping hydrated is important every day but over Christmas you might need a bit extra if you have been out at your Christmas party. Your kidney’s and liver will thank you for the helping hand. Starting your day with warm lemon is a great idea and then try and remember to drink water throughout the day.


It’s so important that we get out and get some fresh air over Christmas especially on Christmas day. Even a 10-minute walk will work wonders and help you digest or indeed prepare for your Christmas dinner. If you are prone to depression and feeling low its imperative that you get up and get out especially during Christmas and remember it’s only a short walk because small changes make a big difference.


I use the 80/20 rule in my daily life and it has helped me to break negative patterns that I have been struggling with for years. It has finally enabled me to have some balance. So enjoy your Christmas dinner (80%) and have some dessert (20%) just try and find a balance so you don’t feel bad. Christmas is a time to rest, relax and be happy. It is certainly not the time to make yourself feel bad about the decisions you make.


Breathing is essential for survival but it can also come in handy to survive Christmas when someone pushes your buttons (family, in laws!) or when you feel stressed. Simply count to 5 on your in breath and do the same on your out breath. I do this 10 times and I find it helps enormously!


Yes enjoy yourself! Try and be present and enjoy the simple things like time with your loved ones and if you are a parent enjoy seeing the magic of Christmas come alive through your child’s eyes. The real spirit of Christmas comes from our hearts and not from what we give to each other so open your heart to both let love in and share the love you have in there too.

Ali xxx

Catherine edwards, naturally animals, animal health, christmas presents for pets, keeping animals safe at christmas, cats, dogs, what is suitable for animals at christmas, holistic animal care

Christmas is nearly here and all of us sharing our lives with animals are probably looking at what we can get our special friend at this time of year! Christmas is a time for giving and sharing times with loved ones, but it is important to keep your pets safe and happy this Christmas! Here are some tips below that I hope will help:


Cats LOVE exploring, and we have all heard the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’. A discarded box from presents makes the perfect Christmas gift for your cats, but they also love catnip, valerian root, rose petals and lavender to roll in to name but a few!

Unfortunately Christmas tree lights can be dangerous for cats – climbing the tree, or knocking it over or chewing on the lights all present risks to our feline friends, so please always ensure that you don’t leave lights plugged in when you are not there!

Many people also burn scented candles / oils at Christmas. This can be great, but cats are missing a key enzyme in their liver that metabolises certain chemicals, so whereas essential oils can be amazing when used properly by self-selection with cats, shutting a cat in a room with oils burning (even worse if there are artificial chemicals involved) can cause serious health issues with cats, so always ensure your cats can leave the room if they choose. Cooked bones (which will splinter) are also very dangerous for cats so please keep that Turkey carcass well out of reach! ;


Dogs LOVE Christmas and many people buy treats as Christmas presents for their waggy friends. However did you know that the following Christmas foods are poisonous to dogs, so please ensure that they are kept well out of reach?

  • Grapes & raisins (so this includes mince pies and Christmas cake);
  • cooked bones;
  • mushrooms & onions;
  • Peanuts & Macadamia nuts
  • Peach & Nectarine stones
  • Chocolate
  • Christmas decorations!

In addition many dog treats & hide chews contain harmful chemicals, so always choose a healthy treat – your dogs will appreciate it!

Horses, small animals, reptiles and birds all love a thoughtful present, but try and make it a healthy one – no one wants a vet’s bill over Christmas. Keeping guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens etc. safe and warm in the winter months is key, and horses and small animals alike will appreciate their share of your lovely festive organic fruit, vegetables and herbs!

But perhaps one of the most important gifts that we can give all our loved ones over Christmas is our time and love – so have an amazing and safe Christmas for all our beautiful


Welcome to #MindfulMonday and this week I’m introducing my theme for December which is #betrue to you and others this holiday season.

December is a month that fascinates me for so many reasons primarily because most of us let ourselves get so stressed, burn the candle at both ends and we tend to leave ourselves depleted both mentally and physically that by the end of the month which is the end of the year, we can’t wait to ring in the new year so that we can overhaul our lifestyle and get thin, happy and healthy!!

Sound familiar? Well the paragraph above certainly has two extremes in action but unfortunately that’s how most of us live our lives these days. But extremes don’t work and as someone who has either been too high or too low for most of my life I now realize that true contentment comes with balance.

You can still have fun, spend time with friends and family, enjoy the holidays and keep balance in your life. Having balance is not boring in fact it’s a very exciting place to be because when you have balance in your life happiness and contentment usually follow and flow.

The first step to achieving balance in our lives is to change the conversation in our head with ourselves and that’s all I want you to do this month – watch how you speak to yourself! It might sound simple but it can actually be quite challenging because we are all so used to putting ourselves down that it’s not until we pay attention that we realize this.

I promise you when you try this you will see major changes and understand just how powerful it is. Pick an affirmation and every day set alarms on your phone, put a post it on your computer, write it on your mirror and keep repeating it over and over to yourself.

I am strong

I am capable

I am worthy

I am loved

I am enough

Or choose a positive affirmation you are comfortable with and one that relates to you and your current situation.

The reason I am asking you to do this is because Christmas brings up a lot of emotional issues for people because it’s a time where we examine ourselves more deeply, reflect on our year, miss loved ones and it can also be an incredibly lonely time for so many leading us to be quite tough on ourselves unnecessarily.

We tend to be very hard on ourselves anyway in life and most of the time this is down to the fact that most of us very simply just don’t think that we are good enough.

On top of that over the holidays we spread ourselves very thin to please everyone, overspend, drink too much, eat too much and the list goes on so I came up with the #betrue hashtag because this month I would love you to try and be true to YOU and your hopes, dreams, feelings and needs this holiday season.

Try and be honest with yourself and others and take time for yourself when you need it. You don’t have to go to every party and if you can’t be in three places at once on Christmas day speak up and say so.

So this Christmas try and STRESS LESS and watch everyone around you stress less too. Take little breaks and make 10 minutes just for you each day.

DECEMBER, MINDFUL MONDAY, STRESS LESS, BE TRUE, BE COMPLETE, ALISON CANAVAN, MOTIVATION FOR DECEMBER, INSPIRATION, STRESS MANAGEMENT, **Christmas is also a really important time to give back and help those less fortunate. If every family that could afford it helped even one family have a better and less stressful Christmas imagine the difference it would make???? Give presents, toys, food, clothes or whatever you can to your local charity like Society of St Vincent de Paul or even donate your time. Every little helps and it is very much appreciated.







New beginnings, I like to break my life down into these. For me it’s never focusing on the negative and starting afresh every day. I love Mondays, as they are the beginning of a new week, which means anything can happen and anything is possible. If I’m having a really bad day I’ll break my little formula into days or at worst hours (yes this has happened)!!


It’s my own personal survival plan that works for me but every year as we move deeper and deeper into December my emotions always seem to take over. I find myself missing my Dad more and more every year as I hit different stages in my life I’d love to share with him. I find myself sifting through old memories of childhood and thinking about my grandfather who I called James after. He was an incredibly kind man who had a deep lasting impression on my life. I even find myself struggling with the fact I’m a single parent because as James becomes more aware of Dad’s I wonder what effect not meeting his own father is having on him. I feel overwhelmed and consumed with responsibility. We are a great team though and like every mum I’m doing my best but I can’t help thinking how I am a product of my upbringing and those old catholic “make you feel bad about everything traits” are still in there somewhere however misguided.


For a lot of new little people it’s their first Christmas but at the same time for a lot of people it’s their first Christmas without a loved one. Tis the season to be jolly but it can be a very lonely time for a lot of people. Charities are out in force, advertising is at an all time high, traffic is chaotic and our life can spiral out of control very quickly. I see so many people getting into serious debt to provide their family with expensive gifts for Christmas. Having come through an awful few years I simply cannot afford to let myself get caught in the avalanche of overspending at Christmas and I simply can’t afford to start 2015 in debt.


Christmas is about family or at least it should be but sometimes we get so wrapped up in what Christmas has now become that we forget about presence and just focus on presents. Christmas is a time to shut off your phone and spend time with those you love. This is the only time of the year most of us can do this at the same time. Time is not our friend these days it’s our foe so when we’re given it we should use it wisely.


To help ward off feeling sad and in an effort to focus on the positives, I have now begun a process I will carry into the new year which is write down one thing I’m grateful for every day. The first thing on my list is being grateful for all my emotions bubbling to the surface. As overwhelming as this might be, it’s an opportunity to deal with these emotions, especially those that have been buried for years. This can be extremely hard and very painful especially if you’re hurting, grieving or on your own this Christmas. But try not to push your feelings back down till next year because you need that space for new hopes and dreams and new beginnings. Take baby steps into the future even if those steps are hard. There is always light after darkness.


As I continue my list of being grateful I suddenly remember an angel that was sent into my life just over four years ago when there was a lot of darkness and not much light. He has saved my life in so many ways. I have grown more in four years than my previous 32 on this planet so this Christmas Santa will come down our chimney and I plan on giving James an awful lot of my presence as that’s what Christmas is all about.


So please this Christmas be kind to yourself and be kind to others and remember when someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure you can remember forever.


Calling all parents… enter the incredible world of make believe this christmas with Santa’s little buddy. It’s ideal for children aged 4-12 years and is definitely one of the most exciting products I have seen this year! 

This is the brain child of Joanna Fortune  (Director, Solamh Parent-Child Relationship Clinic).

Santa’s little buddy is a unique pack designed to explore magical play. It includes a daily journal for the month of December, a Christmas story, a magic poem, a wall chart with stickers and a step by step guide written by Joanna which explains in detail to parents, how to make the most of the pack.

“Using imagination enables children to develop on their impulse controls, reasoning skills, patience and the importance of emotional self regulation”, explains Joanna.

“With the help of SANTA’S LITTLE BUDDY, parents can utilise the magic of Christmas to invest in their child’s development of these life skills and at the same time reinforce and encourage good behaviour rather than threatening to report back on bad behavior”.

So this year, let this wonderful product allow you the opportunity to invest in your child’s development of crucial life skills and also help you to regulate the long over-stimulated Christmas build up!

Line up the Teddy’s, take out the magic poem and lets see what giggle magic is created in your house this December!

IMG_0739James chose his seal to be Santa’s little buddy as he’s used to the cold! As you can see he is clinging to the seal now for dear life.






My favourite part of this pack is spending real quality time with your kids and sharing some magical memories you’ll have forever.

The SANTA’S LITTLE BUDDY pack is €26 and for all my readers if you enter my name into the comments box when you order they will automatically send you a bumper pack!

They can be purchased on-line at with FREE Standard Postage within ROI. The pack can also be purchased directly from the Solamh Clinic.

5% of profits will go to To Russia With Love and Aoibhinn’s Pink Tie

Its Christmas, we’re getting sentimental and every charity out there wants and needs help. One twelfth of the year most of us will soul search and give for many reasons but unfortunately sometimes to make ourselves feel better. The people you think you’re helping however need help all year round, maybe not for presents or a big Christmas dinner but simply to survive.

Find a charity close to your heart and ask every question you should like:

What exactly do you stand for?

Where does the money go and more importantly

Does it make a real difference?

The only way in my opinion to make a real difference is at community level. The situation a child is born into is should not define the person they become. Nearly every parent on this planet and no I’m not naive wants to do the best for their child but we can only do what we can. How can we expect to break cycles when parents don’t have the tools to pass onto their kids?

Education is the most powerful way to give people choices, chances and a belief in themselves that they can do more, be more and aim for more. Every child in this country deserves a great education because education brings with it choices. The parents of our children also need support as sometimes we all need help and parenting is most definitely the most difficult job in the world.

Modern day life brings such incredible stress to almost everyone on a daily basis that we sometimes forget that communication, time and just being there can change a life forever.

Every voice counts, every action makes a difference. Never think that you won’t matter because there is only one of you and you have the power to make someone smile every day. A smile might seem like a small gesture but to a stranger who’s having a bad day that smile could change their world. Changes happen slowly but if you were to sit in a tub with two coloured balls you might not feel their presence but if you sat in a tub with a thousand balls that bath would overflow now just imagine that happening with smiles??

Small things do make a difference so do something small this Christmas to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Happy Christmas everyone xxx

Make  statement with Jewellery from Coast this festive season..
Since my sisters wedding a couple of weeks ago I have developed a love (obsession) with pearls. Lauras wedding was vintage themed and pearls were the order of the day. Coast have an incredible range of affordable jewellery guaranteed to put the finishing touch on any outfit.

Wynne Pearls €58

If your Looking for earring that can take you from day to night the Badra are perfect. They look great with jeans or a classic LBD.. The choice is yours but at this price they’re my must have and a perfect stocking filler.

Badra Earrings €19

I also love the rest of the Badra family

Badra Necklace €50

and this beautiful bracelet

Badra Bracelet €38

But thats not all these Tamara earrings are a steal at €19. Whoever said great style had to cost a lot of money??