good company

The Blog Awards 2013

I’ve just uploaded my “nominated” badge to my blog. What a truly wonderful feeling.


Thank you so much for the nominations guys, and girls!

I am so proud to be nominated in the Eco/Green category, and also to be among such amazing company in this category which is sponsered by ESB ecars

An excerpt from their Facebook status earlier today:
ESB ecars is delighted to sponsor the Best Green/Eco blog award at the Blog Awards Ireland in 2013. We would like to wish all of the nominees the very best of luck and hope to see you all at the award show on October 12th. For more details see
Photo: ESB ecars is delighted to sponsor the Best Green/Eco blog award at the Blog Awards Ireland in 2013. We would like to wish all of the nominees the very best of luck and hope to see you all at the award show on October 12th. For more details see

Again pride swelled this morning when I saw this tweet by AnTaisce

Congrats for @BlogAwardsIE Eco/Green nominations to @_secretgarden_ @VOICE_Ireland @Smartheat @oliveobrien @DoneganGardens @giyireland

One of the nicest thing about the awards is the lists of great blog posts on every subject from sport and politics to beauty, health and food, and lots more.  Reading material for lots of hours ahead throughout the long winter evenings.

A fabulous read is the blog by my wonderful cousin Fionn.


12 year old boy with aspergers gives some views through his eyes…

I have also entered the Glenisk recipe competition with my post Glenisk and Me At little bit about my weight loss challenge, so I’m now looking forward to next month with bated breath to see if I am included in the Blog Awards short list and indeed the Glenisk finalists!

So until then I hope you will follow this blog, and say hello if you wish. I love feedback! Chat soon.


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Flying high

In 1932 Amelia Earhart completed the first female cross Atlantic solo flight, landing in Derry.

On January 11, 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California.  

Fifty seven years later, on January 11th.  1992, I completed my first solo flight at Dublin Airport. It is a memory that will stay with me always.

I was lucky enough to train at IONA National Airways flight school, which meant that most of my flying throughout my training was from Dublin Airport, an experience in itself!

This was the third time my solo flight had been scheduled, but due to adverse weather conditions, the previous two were cancelled, so it was finally happening today. On my way to the airport I sang loudly to a tape of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”

Weather conditions were right. I was ready. This was my day.

The 30 odd hours of flying lessons, where on more than occasion, I swore I would never again sit in a small plane; the night classes at Iona flight school, followed by long hours of studying where I learned how the engine worked; aviation law; navigation and meteorology had brought me to this point. This was what it was all about.

After logging my flight plan, I headed out to my trusty Cessna 152, EI-BRO, with my foam pillow. The seats of a Cessna are not so easily adjusted for the vertically challenged!


Runway 11/29, the shortest and one of the oldest runways, is now closed to allow overspill aircraft parking. This runway will disappear under the new parallel runway 10/28 in due course.

I completed my pre-flight checks, checked the weather and got my instructions from the control tower and took off from runway 29 and practiced a few circuits, taking off, approaching and landing again, with the chief flying instructor, Ollie O’Neill.

Then it was time. We taxied on to the apron, Ollie got out.

I was on my own!

So what was it like? Short and intense!

My one thought was had I the radio mike switched off when I screamed YESSSSSS at the top of my lungs after a successful take off! And then it was time to do my pre landing checks and make contact with the tower again (the speaker was OFF!) to get permission to go around again. Three more circuits and it was over.

first-solo-flightWhat was I feeling? I think there was no room for thoughts or feelings because my smile was bigger than me.

Words can’t describe it. Whatever it was, I had never felt it before. I had never experienced such a great accomplishment. 18 months after my first flight, I had finally soloed an airplane.

I could finally call myself a pilot.

I was now cleared to train solo at my leisure, with the next big challenge being the 5 hour cross country flight, (150nm flight with two intermediate full stop landings)

But my first Solo flight will always be the one that I remember most clearly, and days like today, the anniversary of my heroine’s big achievement, always bring me right back to my moment in time!

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there’s always tomorrow

blogger's block

Image courtesy of

I have written many blog posts over the past 6 months…..all in my head, but never on paper, or to be accurate on my PC!  If any doctor needs a locum, my handwriting should certainly qualify me for the position! Although I am not a “writer”, I think I had writer’s block, or again for accuracy, “blogger’s block”

The problem was that some of the ramblings in my brain had nothing to do with my “living comfortably” blog. I asked the experts on #BlogChatIE, a twitter forum for bloggers.

unlock the block

The advice I got was keep blogging, but separate the posts into two categories, so here I am!

I found the key and I have unlocked me!

How often will I post? I don’t know, but when you see a new post you will know that I’m probably supposed to be doing something else! You see, I’ve got a great friend called procrastination, but I’ll tell you about that later!

In one sense this will also relate to my business, because after all, people buy from people, and this blog should give an insight into the complicated being that is me! On second thoughts this might be a disadvantage, but it’s a chance I will have to take!

So what’s today’s topic? New beginnings.


Cure for morning Grump

When I awoke this morning, I had my morning cuppa, brought to me, as always, by Gilbert, my beloved husband.

He doesn’t cook, so our deal is that he brings me coffee and toast to bed every morning, and I provide the rest of the meals. I feel I am getting the better end of the bargain, because I don’t like mornings.

But there’s method in his madness. This way he gets a “fairly” pleasant wife every day!

As usual I checked into Twitter, and someone tweeted:

“What a beautiful day to start the rest of your life”

And it was ….. A beautiful day; sun shining, blue sky and tulips and daffodils waving gaily in the gentle April breeze. I love my garden.

And it was…. The start of the rest of my life, so I made a resolution:

Every day I will try do at least 50% of the things I have to do, and at least 50% of the things  I want to do. Note the word “TRY”.  I also made a resolution in January not to do guilt anymore, so I try, and if I don’t get there, as my great friend procrastination always says, there is always tomorrow!

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2012 in review…. a reason to start blogging again!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Wellys and Wood in Wexford!

On Wednesday I attended the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross in Wexford. Wet gear, jeans, wellys, and a big smile on my face all I needed for the day.

What can I say about the ploughing that hasn’t already been said or written?, except that every man woman and child in this country should be given a pair of wellys, a rain poncho and a ticket for a day at the ploughing championships. We would have an energised, happy proud nation of people ready for whatever comes our way!

The official reason for my visit was in my capacity of Chair of the  WFQA Oversight Committee, a title I carry with pride.

The occasion?

The Minister of State for Forestry at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Shane McEntee, TD attended to present certificates to the latest wood fuel producers to secure membership of the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland.

WFQA Presentation 2012

See Press Release from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

So what is the WFQA?

Wood Fuel Quality Assurance scheme for Ireland

Wood Fuel Quality Assurance scheme for Ireland

The full title is the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland.

Mainland Europe has never moved away from using wood fuel for heating, but here in Ireland we embraced the idea of automatic oil and gas central heating systems in the late 50’s /early 60’s. Wood was relegated to the open fire along with turf and coal.

However, early in the new millennium, with fears over the long term availability of oil and gas, using wood fuel for heating started to make a comeback, but in modernised, more automated systems, using wood chip and wood pellet.

And as is usual, when new technology hits the marketplace, it brings its fair share of “ne’er do wells!” The wood fuel sector was no exception to the rule!

Shoddy equipment appeared on the shelves, the cowboy army came marching through the land and some very dubious “Wood Fuels” made their way in to stoves and boilers.

During this time a great deal of damage was done to the reputation of wood fuel industry.

It is important moving forward that we base the growth of the wood fuel sector firmly on quality – this is what WFQA is all about. Our plan is to make our bright flame logo something that customers will increasingly look for when buying wood pellets, wood chip, wood briquettes or indeed firewood.

In 2011 the firewood market alone was worth over €30 million euro to our economy.

In January 2009, a voluntary working group was assembled to produce a quality assurance scheme for wood fuels. The group consisted of industry and consumer representatives and delegates from public bodies and associations such at WIT; SEAI; IrBEA; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and NSAI

WFQA Working Group

Over two years we met, we worked, considered, discarded, argued and agreed!  My role in the working group was to represent the consumer, the end-user of wood fuels. I got to know some great people, had the opportunity to work with some amazing minds, and the working group finally produced National Workshop Agreement (NWA4) Agreement, the fourth such agreement in place in this country.

The agreement forms the basis of a quality assurance scheme for wood fuels, using very strict criteria to ensure that wood fuel that carries the WFQA and NSAI labels are

  • Carbon Neutral
  • Sourced from Sustainably Managed  Forests
  • Compliant with relevant Irish and EU standards
  • Independently tested and certified in Ireland.

So what happens in this process?

There are various Irish and European standards in place for Wood Pellet, Wood Chip, Wood Briquettes, and indeed Firewood.

These standards mean little to the end user, who just wants to know that the wood fuel they are purchasing is suitable for the heating appliance.

The WFQA doesn’t set the standard that the fuels ascribe to, but rather test the fuel on a random basis to ensure that whatever standard the producer claims to have, is in fact correct. In other words: “That it does what it says on the tin!”

The fuel is collected from site, as per European Testing Standards, and tested in a state of the art test and research facility for wood fuels in Waterford Institute of Technology.

In the meantime the quality processes of the company are audited by NSAI inspectors. This includes tax,  insurance and safety compliance, felling licences, chain of custody documentation, delivery and storage procedures etc. to name but a few.

When all of this is in place the NSAI certifies the company to carry both the WFQA and the NSAI labels on their packaging and documentation.

It is quite a robust process, and reflects very positively on companies attaining certification under the scheme.

There are now 6 companies certified under the scheme, with several more in the pipeline, who will complete the certification process over the coming months.

Full details of the scheme are available at

So what’s next for the WFQA? The scheme is now known throughout the industry. It’s now the turn of you, the reader, the consumer, the end user to look for the label.

Ask your wood fuel retailer if they stock WFQA fuels. Ask your wood fuel supplier if they are certified by WFQA? Ask why not?

You deserve to have quality assured wood fuel to heat your home.

Look for the label….WFQA Label

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Tidy Town Award 2012 Ireland

Lovely post about Abbeyshrule #TidyTowns #Longford

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…to the burning question?

Scared by the rising cost of home heating oil? You are not alone.

More and more people are becoming concerned about the cost of heating their homes. And no wonder. The chart shows how the cost of heating oil has almost doubled in 3 years.

Cost of home heating oil

In fact I have receipts from 15/12/2001 (yes, I’m a hoarder!) showing the price of Kerosene at 35.65 cent per litre.

                 So, what’s the answer to the burning question?Burning question

 Where do we turn for heat?

 The answer is forward to the past………

We can heat our homes with wood, but using new technology to increase efficiency and take the hard work out of the process by using a wood gasification boiler.

I hear you ask? a what? a wood what? Well, here’s the science bit!

Wood gasification boilers provide a convenient, safe, and environmentally responsible way to heat your home and hot water. Wood gasification boiler owners are ensured of high heating efficiency, low heating costs, and use of an abundant, locally available, renewable fuel. The wood gasification combustion technology is the most efficient way to burn firewood.  Additionally, this high efficiency burn technology produces little or no creosote, virtually eliminating the risk of a chimney fire and greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In conventional wood fired boilers, after the initial burning of the fuel, a large amount of combustible gas is released.  This gas accounts for an amazing 50% of the wood fuel energy.
Unfortunately, due to inefficient combustion, conventional wood boilers fail to capitalize on this abundant fuel energy; in fact most of it is lost up the flue!

A Wood gasification boiler utilizes a combustion technology called ‘Gasification’ to capture, extract and transfer this energy that standard wood boilers simply waste.

The gasification process..Wood Gasification ProcessAs the wood is burned in the firebox, fresh air is blown through the logs.  As this hot smoke and air mixture is forced into the combustion chamber, it is mixed with a second jet of super-heated air.
This results in a torch like combustion of the retained gases, at spectacular temperatures exceeding 1800 degrees.

The result: almost all the gases are burned, with little residual soot or creosote, and the extra energy extracted is transferred to a full jacket heat exchanger. This extraordinary process allows wood gasification boilers to achieve overall thermal efficiencies of greater than 90%!

This translates quite simply into more hot water for heating and domestic use, almost complete fuel efficiency, and significant savings in your annual fuel bill.

The right choice of the accumulator (or buffer) tank plays an important role when heating with wood. Every heating system must be large enough to cope with the coldest days of the year. During most of the heating period, however, only part of the heat produced is required immediately. Accumulator tanks ensure that no valuable energy is lost by storing the excess heat and releasing it back into the heating system or the hot-water tank as required.

As a result, you can get through the day with fewer heating intervals, and will benefit from heating in the optimum operating condition for longer. Another advantage of using the buffer tank is the cozy warmth which is still there early in the morning, without having to re-stoke the boiler.

Wood gasification heating system

Wood gasification heating system

A wood gasification boiler can only operate with high efficiency and low emissions if your wood has the right moisture content. Properly seasoned firewood should have a moisture content of less than 20 per cent (maximum 25%)

Burning wet wood will result in poor performance and is one of the top barriers to pleasurable, efficient wood burning. It is also very important to split the wood to the proper size for your burner chamber, in order to stack it correctly for efficient combustion.

My post “wood …the natural answer”  has all the information on how to choose and season the wood fuel for your boiler.

And remember always look for the labelWood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland

The Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland provides a simple but reliable way for consumers to purchase quality wood fuels that are accurately described and meet the supplier’s stated product specifications.
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….all I need is the air that I breathe

One of my favourite songs is “The air that I Breathe” by the Hollies.  Showing my age, I know, but like the song, I’m a classic! For those of you too young to know it and for the rest of us that recall the “slow sets” of the 70’s here it is

Fresh air

We can manage without food for a length of time and even without water, but without air our body closes down, fast.

So it stands to reason that the quality of the air that we breathe is important.

Fresh air is full of negative ions, which cleans your lungs giving you more energy and a sharper mind; improved digestion; improved blood pressure and heart rate and a strengthened immune system.

And best of all ….It makes you happier 

The amount of serotonin is affected by the amount of oxygen you inhale.

Serotonin can significantly lighten your mood and promote a sense of happiness and well-being.

Fresh air will leave you feeling more refreshed and relaxed.

The air that we breathe inside is not as fresh as we need it to be. Dust is a fact of everyday life. It collects on every surface, and we breathe it in.

The Dust Mite

And then, there’s the dust mite. They are not parasitic and do not bite. The concern about dust mites is people are allergic to them. The dust mite allergen is their tiny feces and body fragments which are components of dust. These particles are so small they can become airborne and inhaled when dust is disturbed. Allergy symptoms  include sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, nasal stuffiness, runny nose, stuffy ears, respiratory problems, eczema and (in severe cases) asthma. Many people notice these symptoms when they stir dust during cleaning activities.

Indoor air is also polluted by combustion gases from cooking appliances, fires and stoves. Also, chemicals from furniture, cleaning products, paints, smog, pollen, mildew and cooking fumes, to name but a few. 

Natural ventilation such as trickle vents, wall vents are often closed to prevent heat loss, but even while open will only give about 1-2 air changes per day. Opening windows offers a similar result, and in good weather allow pollen to enter the home.

The result of this poor ventilation often manifests itself in the form of excess condensation mildew and mould.

With the rising cost of heating fuel and our growing awareness of energy conservation, we are  sealing our homes to prevent heat loss, to enhance our comfort and reduce fuel bills.

However this is having a detrimental effect on the quality of our indoor air and subsequently our health. When air is breathed several times a day it becomes stale and lacks oxygen, causing headaches, dizziness, colds, infections and unexplainable fatigue.

Stale air is the number one cause of asthmatic and allergy conditions, and repeated exposure to polluted air over the years can result in such conditions as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness.

What to do?

Fresh indoor air

Installing a Positive Input Ventilation unit, will provide up to twelve air changes per day.

DRIMASTER  Positive Input Ventilation units provide a continuous supply of fresh filtered air into your home by way of positive pressurisation. A gradual pressure is built up forcing moisture and indoor air pollutants out through natural leakage points found in every home, in turn creating an atmosphere in which condensation and mould growth cannot exist.

The unit is fitted in your attic and will operate at an almost imperceptible noise level. You will hardly know it’s there. The input air enters your home at ceiling level, either hallway or landing. This method re-circulates the warm air that rises and collects there and re-distributes it throughout the home thus collecting and removing old contaminated air from stagnant corners, wardrobes, storage areas etc.

The only maintenance required is the replacement of filters every 5 years (under normal conditions)

A Drimaster Positive Input Ventilation is the most cost effective way of creating a healthy living environment in your home.  It will reduce the air moisture content to a healthy 50%-60% leading to improved air quality, and providesolutions to condensation, mildew and poor air quality problems in both new and existing properties.  Drimaster will also help reducing any build-up of poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide and will reduce radon gas.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is both colourless and odourless which can enter buildings from the ground and can expose occupants to doses of radiation. High concentrations of radon particles, once ingested, increase the possibility of damage to tissues and in extreme cases the risk of lung cancer. It is estimated that 100,000 homes have higher than average concentrations of radon above the safe levels of 200 Becquerel per m2.  See  for more information and check the map to see if your home is in a High Radon Area.

Positive input ventilation is a recognized method of Radon control, increasing the internal air pressure will reduce radon entry into a dwelling and increase dilution of indoor radon (because of increased ventilation).

In short installing a Drimaster in your home will

  • Continuously creates a healthier indoor environment.
  • Protect the fabric of a dwelling from damage caused by mould and condensation
  • Reduce the maintenance costs of the property.
  • Prevent external pollutants from entering a dwelling and suppress unwanted draughts.
  • Minimise the loss of heat in a loft space by recirculating the air, providing a significant net energy gain.

Last but not least, I can attest to two of the most positive results of having a Drimaster Positive Input Ventilation unit fitted in your home.

Dust is reduced ……Therefore dusting is reduced

And ………..DRUM ROLL ……… Improved air quality can also improve the problem of Snoring

 Restoring harmony, and perhaps stirring up romance like when you danced to your song…

……all I need is the air that I breathe…..

Note: This article uses 10-point Century Gothic font to reduce your ink footprint should you wish to print it.
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cold women need warm hearths

In my last post, I mentioned that I need heat. I am a cold woman! So, if asked what is my favourite item in my home, I will reply, without hesitation “Monica”!

Monica Pellet Stove
Monica Pellet Stove by Ravelli
Monica is my Italian pellet stove by Ravelli. She sits quietly in the corner of my kitchen and keeps me warm through cold winters, miserable Irish weather and chilly summer evenings. She is elegant and her flickering flame offers visual comfort and a warm welcome to those who visit our home.
Monica has been  keeping our family warm since 2005.
Modern wood pellet stoves offer the warmth and comfort of wood heating but are highly efficient, clean burning and totally automatic, saving you time and money.
Wood Pellet
Wood Pellet

Wood pellets are a clean, dry fuel made from a mixture of sawdust and wood shavings. Wood pellets are a high energy, smoke free fuel. Unlike other solid fuels, they are easy to handle and create almost no ash.

carbon cycle

carbon cycle

Wood pellets are a renewable source of energy and do not contribute to climate change.The carbon dioxide that is released when pellets are burned is equal to the amount the tree consumed when it was growing. Wood pellets are manufactured with wood from sustainable forests. Only buy pellets with a quality mark and a complete fuel analysis printed on the bags. Look for the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) labelWood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland

How a Pellet Stove Works

How a pellet stove worksHow a pellet stove works

1. Front/rear air switching lever
2. Rear air output pipe
3. Pellet hopper
4. Smoke flue
5. Tube heat exchanger
6. Smoke extractor  
7. Graphic Display 
8. Majolica top
9. Humidifier tray
10. Front hot air exit grate
11.Glass-cleaning air duct
12. Steel flame guard 
13.Glass-ceramic window, heat resistance 750°C
14. Firex 600
15. Stainless steel burner
16. Primary air intake
17. Ash pan
18. Majolica sides
When the stove is switched on, the flame lights following the combined action of three elements:
  1.  Air that enters the stove via a primary air input duct (19) and reaches the burner (17)
  2.  The pellet that is taken from the hopper (3) and dropped into the burner (17) via the screw
  3.  The resistance, that activates combustion as it heats up
Combustion generates smoke which, coming into contact with the exchanger (5), releases all its heat. The released heat is then conveyed to the room through the hot air output front grill (10). The combustion smoke then continues to circulate through the smoke duct (4), before being expelled by the extractor (6).
The whole mechanism is monitored by an electronic board fitted with a microprocessor which, by means of the various sensors and probes inside the stove, regulates the air flow and feed so as to optimise combustion.
In this case, the stove is ducted, the hot air also passes through the rear (2) before been conveyed to adjacent rooms. The quantity of front & rear air is regulated by lever (1)

Quality is of paramount importance when choosing a pellet stove and sourcing pellets. Pellet stoves can either be free standing or fireplace inserts. Wood pellet stoves are also available with a back boiler to feed into your central heating A simple control panel on the appliance or on an adjacent wall allows you to set the temperature required in the room. The latest innovation allows remote control by mobile phone. By simply making a short call on your way home, you can return to a warm living room.

If you would like more information on pellet stoves just visit our stove website  
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enough… about me

There is some debate whether the old adage ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’  refers to the end of May or the blooming of the hawthorn “May” blossom. Since neither have arrived yet, I wrap up well, and sit on my garden bench to enjoy the glorious sunshine.

mid day sky

Simpson’s sky

I sit here under a “Simpson’s” sky, listening to the hoarse coo coo of the pigeons, the trilling of the birds and the vaguely irritating hum of a mower in the background,  compensated by the sweet smell of cut grass, and I think about what is enough.

Enough is different for all of us. As I have grown older; I refuse to don the title “middle aged”, I realise what is important to me.

The obvious suspects, of course, my family. Hubby, daughters and grand-daughters. Healthy, and most importantly very happy. Some good friends, and one great friend. Always there.

Taylor 3 months

My puppy, Taylor, my early birthday gift, runs in idiotic circles around the garden. She is 3 months old, named after the boxer “Katy”.  She also answers readily to gobshite! No prizes for guessing why.

The chestnut trees accross the road that give our home it’s name, “Chestnut View”. During the boom time a developer (one who develops his/her pockets) wanted to build 250 yellow boxes here. Unneeded, unwanted and unsustainable. And the Chestnut trees? Would have stood in the way of progress.

Chestnut trees

Chestnut View

Hubby and I fought all the way to An Bord Pleanala and back for 5 stressful  years. Lost the battle on a few occasions, lost a few “friends????” along the way,  but won the war. “Our” chestnut trees stand tall and proud and the countryside  is minus another ghost estate. A very proud achievement in my life!

The plants that I have nurtured from babies. I keep singing “see the tree how big it’s grown” as my hubby rolls his eyes to heaven, but I am proud of them. I love planting seeds and seeing the results.

apple blossom

apple blossom


” if I win the lotto I will buy a farm with a stream  and plant trees, flowers and windmills”     

 My greenhouse. A rescue, bent and broken, that my Dad repaired and put together for me the spring before he died. I can carry on his tradition of supplying the family with fresh tomatoes every summer.

HEAT. the one thing I cannot survive without. Be it from the sun or from a stove, fire or central heating. I cannot cope with being cold. I know that I am not the only heat junkie out there, hence my business, Smartheat sells heat.

And shoes, red black tan green nude , high low suede leather, strappy, boots……. in fact they deserve a post all by themselves!

Everthing else is a bonus.

Nice clothes? I’ve probably accumulated enough to last two lifetimes. New shoes will give them new life! Designer bags? Prefer this one, it says a lot more about me! and it cost € 3!

Holidays? would be nice, but having spent the past 7 years building a business and surviving a recession, I realize that they are not necessities!

Everything else? surplus to enough.

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