School lunches in Ireland

A few weeks back, I wrote about school in Ireland and alluded to the differences in the lunch system between here and the US.  The few months leading up to Isaac starting school, I envisioned that Isaac would eat lunch in the cafeteria, just like I did in the US.  In fact, when I went to register him for school, it didn’t even occur to me to ask about lunches.  Of course he would either bring his lunch or eat at school – in the cafeteria!  Except…not.  Here in Ireland, most schools do not have a cafeteria, (also known as a canteen).  Instead, all students bring their lunch and eat in the classroom, at their desks. They can have a small portion of their lunch during their first break, and the rest during their lunch break.

The lunch must not need refrigeration, and there is no access to a microwave or kettle to heat up food.  Moreover, there are specific requirements for what can and cannot be included in the lunch.  Items not allowed include:

[checklist icon=”fa-times” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Nuts of any type, including peanut butter[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Sweets, including candy, cookies/biscuits, sweet buns, cakes, and chocolate[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Chips or crisps – this includes any similar “foil wrapped products like popcorn or pretzels[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]No fizzy (carbonated) drinks, including fruit-based drinks[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Juice is discouraged[/li_item]

What is most interesting to me is that this policy is enforced every day. All year.  As frustrating as it is that we don’t have another option except to pack a lunch for Isaac, I really do like that the school reinforces the eating habits we have established at home.  Easy on the sweets and junk food.  No carbonated drinks. Focus on whole foods.  It also begs the question – what exactly do you pack in your child’s lunch besides ham and cheese, that fits within these guidelines?  For someone who ate peanut butter and jam growing up, this is very challenging! After trial and error – here is what we have come up with for Isaac’s lunch:

[checklist icon=”fa-cutlery” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Ham and cheese[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Cream cheese and jam[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Egg salad or egg mayo[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Shredded carrot, shredded cheddar, and cream cheese sandwich[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Quesadillas[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Hamburger, turkey burger, or lentil burger (leftovers)[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Pitas, hummus and tzatziki[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Leftover fried rice[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Leftover frittata[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Mini Quiches[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]And Isaac’s favorite – Runzas, a stuffed pastry with ground beef and cabbage. Definitely related to Brad for this one![/li_item]

I usually include some chopped veggies such as carrot sticks, bell pepper sticks, cucumber or celery, along with fruit or yogurt.  He also takes a water bottle.  Obviously not every school has this policy.  I know of several schools that provide hot lunches, and schools in economically disadvantaged areas have also started breakfast clubs to ensure students have the opportunity to eat breakfast.  In general, parents do not come to school and eat lunch with their child, or bring fast food to share with their child.  The school day is much shorter anyway, so if I want to take Isaac to McDonald’s, I can do that after I collect him at 1:30.

School lunches in Ireland – yet another thing that I didn’t expect to be different, but we have grown to like it anyway.

Sunday Evening Reading

The costume creation was a success…until we arrived at the party in the middle of a rainstorm (ah Ireland).  The costumes held up in the rain, although I am going to fix a few things on Isaac’s costume before Round 2: School Halloween Day.  I have pictures of Liesl and Isaac. – basically running from car to car in “Trunk or Treat”.   All of the pictures of Patrick also have other kids in them, and I don’t want to post them online without permission from other parents.  We have two more Halloween events, so I’m sure I’ll get more pictures between now and then.

While I recover from my weekend of costume building and a Halloween candy-induced coma, some Sunday reading for you.


Oh, how I love McSweeney’s for a snarky dose of satire.

Lists like this one make the rounds every holiday season, but it is a great reminder that some of the best gifts aren’t toys.

Expat Life:

Nine Expats You’ll Meet Abroad.  I know several of these people, and a few more hit a little too close to home!

The Literary United States map.  I found this map fascinating!


We are making this tonight to go with our sliders, because Ireland has no shortage of potatoes…

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

x Rheagan

Halloween Costume Purgatory

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts this week.  Tonight, Brad and I have been in Halloween costume purgatory.  The annual expat Halloween party is tomorrow, and we hadn’t started finished the kids’ costumes.  This year, I made the mistake of asking the kids, “What would you like to be for Halloween?”  rather than suggesting some cheap/easy to find costumes.

  • Isaac requested Dusty from Planes. Super. That should be easy to find on this island.
  • Liesl requested Rosie from Thomas the Tank Engine. “Because purple is my favorite color!”
  • Patrick wanted to be a fire truck.  Never mind that perfectly good fireMAN costume we already have.  Oh no…if his siblings were going as something original, so was he.

So, Brad and I spent most of the evening cutting, painting, and sewing.

There was the cutting of the panels

The drying of the panels.

The realization that the paint was not drying, and thus an effort to speed it along.

The cutting, trimming, and raiding the Halloween candy stash.

And the carnage at the end.


We’re not done yet, but the paint has to dry overnight.  Next year, all the kids are going as ghosts.

Goodnight all, xRheagan

Friday Finds

I hope everyone has had a lovely week.  It was crazy busy around here, and my first attempt to post 3x in one week.  Hopefully I can keep it up.  The picture above is an old church turned into a Visitors Centre in the middle of Dublin. As the church-going population shrinks, the churches are being converted to other uses. Apparently this one was also slated to become a disco at some point in the past!

Here are a few links from around the internet this week:

I’m sure you have read about the comments Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft made about women asking for a raise. At a conference for women in technology!

Related, I found this article from Forbes about why women leave tech to be very interesting.  Perhaps Mr. Nadella should read it too.

My kids are experts at finding playgrounds while we’re traveling.  I’m just thankful that we haven’t found one of these!

I am NOT a crafty mom – at all, but living in Ireland forces us to find things to do inside when the weather is bad. We made this leaf craft this week while it poured outside.  It was low key, and required virtually no help from me!  Win Win!

Brad and I went on a date last Saturday night to a barbeque restaurant in town, Bison Bar.  Brad thinks Bison comes the closest to Texas barbeque, but I’m torn between it and Pitt Bros.  Either way – we’re always interested in trying out more barbeque joints!

I snapped this picture as we were waiting for our table.


#1day12pics joining @eqedad @@bisondublin for pre-dinner drinks. #datenight #almosthipster

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10 Tips for Flying with Infants

Terrified of flying the not-so-friendly skies with your infant? Relax – and go for it!  I personally think that, of all the ages and stages I have experienced so far, traveling with infants is the easiest.  They don’t need any toys, they can’t talk back, you don’t have to bring a year’s supply of snacks… I have flown with my kids as young as three weeks old.  I think that the smaller they are, the easier it is.  Here are my tips for a less-stressful experience:

[checklist icon=”fa-plane” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Check your stroller with your luggage.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive, right?  But it is so much easier to not worry about the stroller until you get to your destination.  No trying to fold a stroller one handed while holding your baby.  No worrying about whether the “gate checked” stroller will actually make it off the gate and onto the plane. Instead, carry your child in an ergo/sling/bjorn or other carrier that you like.   I like the Ergo because it has a zippered pocket in front where I kept my wallet, phone, passports and boarding passes. This will keep your hands free. Since you are flying with an infant, your stroller and car seat should be free to check.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Carry all your diaper bag supplies in a backpack.  That cute diaper bag you love, the one with one strap?  Pack it in your luggage.  It is so much easier to have both hands free, rather than trying to keep your diaper bag on your shoulder.  This is the less fashionable option, but definitely the most workable.  You can always carry your diaper bag or purse  when you get to your destination.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Sit on the row with the airplane bassinet, if possible.  If you are flying on a wide-body aircraft, and flying “infant in arms”, you should call the airline and ask to be seated on the bassinet row, if is available.  The bassinet row is the bulkhead row – sometimes the first row of coach – where you can attach a bassinet. The bassinet is this baby bed that attaches to the wall of the bulkhead, and you can place your child in it, as long as you are at cruising altitude, and everything is going smoothly.  Bring a blanket to put in the bassinet.  It makes a great place to put the baby while you rummage through your bag, stretch your arms, or have a snack. Even if you don’t use the bassinet, the extra space in the bulkhead row is so helpful![/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Wear slip-on shoes. At TSA checkpoints, you are basically on your own. They will help you put everything through the scanner, but they will not hold your baby while you take your shoes off, or anything else. If you have liquid baby items (diaper cream, etc), I usually keep them in their own plastic baggie. So I have one baggie for my stuff, and one baggie for infant stuff.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Nurse, feed, or offer a pacifier during take off and landing. This is a big one. To keep your child’s ears clear, you’ll want to feed him during take off and landing. If you’re not feeding him, definitely use a pacifier. The sucking that they do during feeding will keep their ears clear in the pressure changes. I try to hold off on feeding until we are taxiing to the runway. Bring a nursing cover if that makes you more comfortable, but it is 100% legal to nurse a baby uncovered on an airplane. I have hilarious stories of nursing on an airplane.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Bring disposable changing pad covers. Changing tables on airplanes and in airports can be gross. I pack several of these large disposable changing pad covers. That way, you can just change your baby and wrap everything up in the changing table cover, and toss it into the trash. You can get them at BabiesRUs, Target, BuyBuy Baby, and other places. (I buy them in the US, and bring them back to Ireland!)[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Pack just enough diapers to get you there. It’s tempting to plan for the absolute worst and bring 30 diapers and a full package of wipes with you. I usually bring enough diapers for 24 hours (more for international trips), about 10-12, and a half-used pack of wipes. I buy more diapers and wipes at my final destination. Or better yet – have whomever you are staying with buy diapers and wipes ahead of time! It is the kind of job that people LOVE.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Check the identification requirements. Infants may not need a picture ID for domestic flights, but you may need to bring a copy of the birth certificate. If you are flying internationally, your child must have a passport.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Water and snacks – FOR YOU. Especially if you are nursing, you can get super thirsty and hungry. I always bring a snack like trail mix that has a good mix of carbs and proteins. Luna bars are also good and can take a beating in your carryon. Rather than try to fill up a water bottle after security, I just buy one.[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Don’t worry if he starts crying. I know that is easier said than done, but take a few deep breaths and relax. Don’t worry about what everyone else is thinking. You don’t have to see them again anyway. I have traveled multiple times with infants, and not once has one of them cried the entire flight.[/li_item]

In my experience, the good far outweighs the bad when traveling with kids.  Traveling with kids takes work, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  I’ll follow-up with posts about flying with older infants and toddlers, and flying with young kids.

Did I miss anything?  Any advice you disagree with?  What tips would you offer?

How Travel Changes You

A few summers ago, we spend a week in Copenhagen.  It was our first vacation as a family of 5, and we stayed in another family’s apartment (via airbnb).  This family also had two young children, so the apartment met our needs perfectly.  We got to experience how the residents of Copenhagen live.  I loved the apartment – light-filled, airy, and simple. It put IKEA to shame! They had several large orchids and I loved how they brought a freshness to the room.  I figured if they could grow orchids in Denmark, surely I could grow them in Ireland.  (Since Denmark and Ireland are at similar latitudes, we get the same long summer days and short, dark winter days.)

(Baby) Patrick and the Orchids

The apartment had no formal dining room, rather an open kitchen with a long table that served as the dining table and also as additional kitchen prep space. I could go on and on, but you can look for yourself on their airbnb listing:

Copenhagen cosy familyappartment in Frederiksberg

Flat in Frederiksberg, Denmark. Large 134 square meter appartment, with a nice shared garden. In our appartment you will find toys, books, a large dining kitchen with all appliances and a possibility to relax after a long and hectic day as a tourist in Copenhagen. The bathroom … View all listings in Frederiksberg

Soon after we returned to Ireland, we bought some orchids (at IKEA, no less) and moved our long dining room table into our kitchen.  I was amazed at the difference those two simple changes made.  Our orchids flourished, despite my attempts to kill them off, and we enjoy having more space in the kitchen for everyone to hang out, chat, draw, etc.

I share this story, not to convince everyone to run out and buy an orchid, rearrange their kitchen, or take a trip to Denmark, but rather to emphasize how travel changes us.  By changing our environment, we change our perspective.  We see how things could be done differently, and then take those lessons and experiences and apply them to our lives.  We have stayed in apartments via airbnb several times, and each time, we have had a great experience.   It’s easy to stay comfortable at home, with our usual stores, restaurants, schedule, etc. Traveling – near or far – forces us out of our comfort zone.  Staying in someone’s home pushes us further into the local culture.   Just writing about it makes me want to plan another trip!  And my orchids are still living!


Friday Finds – Autumnal Equinox Edition

After a long and wonderful Indian summer, we have settled into fall here in Ireland.  The mornings are crisp, the temperatures cooler, and the nights are closing in fast.  The autumnal equinox was earlier this week, and we are losing over 4 minutes per day of daylight right now (30 minutes a week!)  We will continue to lose daylight until the winter solstice, but thankfully, the rate will slow down a bit.  While we savor what is left of of the fall weather, here are a few links for your weekend reading:


Jump into fall with this Butternut Squash dish.  We made it this week.  It’s perfect for cool days, but not too heavy.

We picked some more blackberries. (This is the last time…really…) We didn’t have any sugar, so I used this recipe to make a blackberry-pear crisp.

Expat Life:

I found a great expat blog, Taking Route, this week through a link from a friend of a friend. This post is particularly good.   Looking forward to seeing more from them!

How to Say Goodbye.  One of the things that most impresses me about my kids and this expat life, is how comfortable they are at saying goodbye.  Not that they don’t miss their friends and family in the US.  Not that they don’t get homesick.  They are just much better at living in the moment than adults are.

Other Randomness:

I don’t see much US television, but this video from John Oliver about the Miss America Pageant was hilarious.  Bonus!  He gives a plug for Society of Women Engineers, which could always use more scholarship donations.

At what point does “maintaining your brand” take over your life?  An honest look at blogging at the professional level from the New York Times.


Have a lovely weekend!  See you here on Monday!

x Rheagan