This week, in our Friends of The Happy Pear series, we chat with Today FM presenter, Alison Curtis, about her foodie faves, life as a busy mum, and her rather special Halloween traditions! We also get a few ideas from Alison, for keeping kids entertained over the mid-term break, as well as some tips for encouraging them to eat a healthy diet. This is a great interview, that we hope you’ll enjoy!
When and why did you become a vegetarian?
I never liked eating meat. I have so many memories of trying to get through a pork chop and my parents saying, “Just one more bite!”. I stopped eating it completely when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and my mother was supportive of my decision.
Do you enjoy cooking and what kind of meals do you like to make?
I do enjoy cooking and I do my best to keep things interesting. Dinner time is a bit of a challenge in our household though; my daughter usually eats much earlier than us and my husband isn’t a veggie, so it can be tricky trying to come up with a dish that suits us all!
What is your favourite meal of the day?
I find lunches are good. I work from home, and my daughter is in school, so I can make whatever I like. It is usually hummus, nice bread, and salad.
You have a six-year-old daughter, Joan. Do you ever struggle to get her to eat healthily? What would your advice be for parents when it comes to fussy eaters?
I do struggle with Joan, as she has a sweet tooth! Breakfast is the hardest time of the day to get something into her because she doesn’t seem to develop her appetite until later on in the day. However, she is good with fruit and veg, and I want to introduce more of a variety of these into her diet. I find that a great tip is letting your kids choose their own food when you are out shopping together.
When it comes to kids’ lunch boxes, do you have any tips for keeping them interesting?
I usually cook Joan some pasta in the morning, with peas and cheese, and she loves that. For her snacks at school, she loves black olives, strawberries, and apples. I think cutting things into different shapes (even if it is the same food) helps to trick kids into eating it!
Most mums and dads are busy juggling careers, alongside the demands of parenthood. How do you work towards finding balance and taking care of your own health and well-being?
I am really lucky, in that I work from home most days of the week. I have my mornings to myself, and I try to get out for a run at least twice, ideally three times, a week. I have also started at-home exercises that I can do in between firing off emails. They are great for getting the heart pumping. I do need to log off more and spend more time reading, as you can get wound up if you are on Twitter for hours at a time!
How do you look after your mental health?
I am naturally a very anxious person and I have to work daily to keep this in check. I did a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) about three years ago, and I try to apply those skills for keeping my anxiety low. I do try and meditate but it is an effort for me to really slow my mind down – I should do it more.
How important is sleep to you?
Very. I make an effort to get into bed pretty early each night. Joan has never been easy to get to sleep, but she is bubbly and happy during the day, so her natural body clock is just late to sleep and late to rise. My favourite time of the day is when the two of us are in bed reading, for about an hour before she falls asleep, around 9pm. I am usually back in bed myself at around 10:30pm.
Do you have a morning routine?
We usually get up around 7am. I prep Joan’s lunch and breakfast, while my husband helps her to get dressed, and they have a bit of a play. She is out the door for school at 8:10am, and I then eat my breakfast, look at emails, and set up the day.
Do you have any advice for keeping kids entertained over the mid-term break?
I love the idea of helping kids to use their imagination. Joan and I have started making her own book and we keep adding different pages to it. It’s also a secret diary, just for her! One of our other favourite pastimes is baking, which is a great thing to do with the kids – if you don’t mind the mess!
What are your Halloween plans with Joan this year? Do you have any Halloween traditions?
Growing up, Halloween was always a special time, as my twin and I celebrate our birthday on November 1st. Each year, we would go trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood, with our parents, dressed in amazing costumes. Then, on our birthday, we were allowed to eat all the sweets we got, for breakfast! Now, in our household, we begin celebrations early, and carve out pumpkins a week before. We also cook and eat the seeds, which are yum! We usually dress up more than once over the Halloween period!
You are a keen reader. Do you have any recommendations for mid-term break reading?
There have been so many great Irish books released this year. If you haven’t read it already, I cannot recommend enough ‘Oh My God What a Complete Aisling’, by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen. It’s brilliant!