Sunday, August 14, 2016

Top Model

It's been a busy summer so far. The work, life, kids juggle is even more tricky without school, so we've been trying to make the most of the down days and weekends when they come around.

This week the middle boy turned 10. Double figures and obviously cause for celebration.

To coincide with this, George at Asda got in touch to offer me and my daughter the chance to pick some outfits from their ever expanding range. We spent a lovely evening lying in bed fine tuning our choices before sending through the order. (Did you know Asda now ship to Ireland too? An excellent discovery on my previously unaware part.)

So amidst the weekend of cake and presents and sleepovers at Grandma's house we got to take some pictures of our new threads.

It's very obvious that only one of us is a pro here, so please don't judge too harshly.

Not so Mini Me

The 8 year old practising his photography skills

 And that's a wrap.

Disclosure: All clothes were provided free of charge as part of the #GeorgeMiniMe campaign.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My hometown

The other week I read the lovely Where wishes come from's ode to her hometown, a town which happens to neighbour mine.

Since then I've had a stream of words and memories tumbling around my head that have been waiting to find a place on a page, or a screen at the very least.

So seeing as I only have a small amount of space in my brain left these days, I think it's probably time that I made room for some of the more pressing matters in my life - such as who is minding my kids this week and when the hell am I going to get the time to wash those clothes.


My hometown. It's not hard to pop on the rose tinted glasses and get all nostalgic about it, because the fact is it was very much a fairy tale place to grow up in.

We lived in a house with a big garden right in the centre of the village. My earliest memories are of sun soaked summers, walking barefoot down the main street and over the iron bridge to the beach. The old brown bridge provided it's own entertainment for many years - each step was patterned with one of three designs and we would race each other over it shouting diamonds! fishes! holes! fishes! fishes! diamonds! until we tripped over ourselves or our words and someone was declared the winner.

On the other side of the bridge we entered my most important world. The sea. But only after trying to figure out the absolute centre stone in that weird stone circle thing by the public toilets first.

As kids we would jump through the waves screaming with cold and delight. Later years saw us graduate to 'the mens' where we would dare each other to jump and dive from ever more dangerous places. The board, the bridge, the blue spot, the mini blue, the wall.. Somehow we survived it all, though looking back I'm not exactly sure how.

In those early days there was also a raft there. I used to look longingly at it as it bobbed up and down in the distance, so far away even for a decent swimmer like me. The older, cooler teenagers would take it in turns to swim one handed out to it, carrying cigarettes that they would then light up as they lolled around sunbathing. I promised myself that one day I would make it out there, but I never did. The raft got broken up in a storm and was never replaced. Years later I saw a photo of that raft - it sat about 20 feet from the rocks we jumped off. It felt like going back to primary school and sitting on tiny plastic chairs that had seemed so big at the time.

The barefoot walk would then continue round to Mrs. Mooney's to buy Mr.Freezes, then back home over the hump back bridge with an inevitable stubbed toe along the way.

Those years are filled with many, many more half memories.

The old tramp that lived in the rundown outhouse in the church yard. We called him the The Tailor and he would sometimes call to the house and sit on a chair on the front porch while my father delicately gave him a shave, the sharp blade glinting in the sunshine. I remember the look of peace and gratitude as his face was gently wiped down with a warm towel. Human touch.

Whole days were spent playing tip the can with all the neighbourhood kids. Den building. Spying on the 'secret society' that were definitely plotting something in the old Masonic building. Sliding down the roof of the CSSM tent and getting caught. The Octagon. Borrowing boats from the harbour. Crunching our way through snow to the top of the golf course, coal bags in hand, watching with wonder and fear as older and bold kids upgraded their form of transport to a car roof. Penny sweets from Eugenes, quarters of lemon sherbets from the La Touche, picking up friends orders from Forget-me-knots on the way back to school after running home for lunch.

When I hit my teens the basketball courts took over from the beach and I would spend long days playing with friends and - very importantly - boys, until it got too dark to see the hoop and we would all amble happily home together.

So very wholesome and healthy, but of course it wasn't long until we were drinking in D'arcy's field and showing fake ID in The Burnaby. Cabanas and The Stables were a foregone conclusion, and I don't think we could have had more fun anywhere else in the world. We still regale each other with tales from that time, memories bonding us forevermore.

During college I moved away to a new town, returning weekends to work the bar in the new nightclub back home. I spent Friday and Saturday nights watching my friends drinking and dancing and felt myself suspended - one foot in each place - not quite belonging in either.

The town was changing and I wasn't really a part of it. New shops popped up, new estates filled with families I didn't know, houses turned into business, and everything shifted.

The years following saw me living in places as diverse as Dublin, Sydney, London, Bristol, Aughrim and Spain. I nearly made a life in some of them, but none ever felt like home. I would always come back to visit of course. Driving from the airport I would get a pain in my heart when I reached the crest of the hill coming into the town, to see the harbour and the sea and the houses twinkling below me. My town.

And then I came home for good. And it felt like a deep exhale. Like stepping back into a pair of old comfortable shoes. Like belonging. Like family. Well, like coming home.

And now I hope the fairy tale continues with my own kids. And maybe one day when I'm old and infirm their kids will push me up the main street, while I moan and give out and ask where Scuffles is and what happened to Loves Supermarket and who are all these blow ins anyway?

Let's hope so.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jobs, juggling and turning corners

So yeah, I got a job. It's not that I forgot to write about it. I just wanted to have something to write about when I did.

And now I do.

Two months ago I began working with the wonderful Zahra Media Group who produce lots of big Irish magazines like Easy Parenting, Easy Food and xPose Magazine. Somehow the stars aligned and I was given the opportunity to become their Digital Manager for Parenting - a title that seems a little too grand but one that I am very happy to take on.

So I slipped on some heels, slipped out the door and became a proper working mum that goes to an actual office.

And what an office it is.

I have to say it's been pretty wonderful. There's obviously the juggling business and that tricky believing in yourself lark, but the commute is just a twenty minute drive and the people are completely awesome. 

So anyway - drumroll please - this week sees the launch of the new website I've been brought in to get off the ground and make amazing. It's a slightly terrifying prospect, but someone told me recently I was a badass so I'm doing my best to believe it. 

Obviously there were cupcakes purchased.

And then we all had a sugar rush and started to look ridiculous.

We're a professional bunch though. Promise.

Fancy a look? The website is and we're Easy Parenting on Facebook. 

Do pop over and say hello, I have cake don't you know...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cruise Control

Every thought of a cruise for your next family holiday? Chances are you probably haven't. It's not really the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we're planning that precious week or two in the sun.

For one there's the expense, and then there's all the old people, not to mention being stuck on a boat with no escape. And lets not even get into the thoughts of one of the kids going overboard...

But just hang on a moment, because it seems that cruises have changed significantly in recent years.

Ships are now catering to whole families with multiple pools, kids clubs, spas, a choice of restaurants and basically anything you'd expect from a great hotel abroad - but with the added benefit of seeing the world and exploring different ports while you're at it.

Having had tour and lunch onboard the Caribbean Princess which was recently docked in Dublin I have to admit it's a tempting option.

The scale of the operation is truly awe inspiring. Not even close to being one of the biggest cruise ships out there the Caribbean Princess caters to over 3000 guests with over 1000 staff. That's a jaw dropping 1 :3 ratio of staff to guest.

But the size doesn't mean the quality is compromised. The food on offer is varied, great quality and caters to every need and whim.

Case in point - these hand made chocolates. And yes - they do taste as good as they look.

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable, happy and fun to be around. But sure why wouldn't they be - they get to sail the high seas and travel the world for a living. 

So what's on offer? 

Even though this isn't one of the largest ships there is so much to see and do. Multiple restaurants and bars, theatres, spas, gyms, kids clubs, pools, casinos and relaxation areas. The cabins are cosy and cleaned twice a day. There's 24 hour room service too. Oh, and did I mention that all your food is included in the price?

I visited the ship on a rainy, wet day in Dublin and was still impressed. The thoughts of lying by the pool with blue skies, sunshine and the ocean spreading our all around me has me reaching for my captain's hat. Let's just hope for your sake I'm not piloting your one...

The Carribean Princess is part of Princess Cruises and was visiting Duiblin as part of their British Isles tour. There is loads of great information on their website and you can get lost in their itineraries of cruises to everywhere from Alaska to New Zealand. Prices begin in the region of £450 pp.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camping with kids

There's something about camping. The space, the freedom, the crisp mornings and dark evenings. The getting back to nature and bonding over the silence and simplicity of living for a short time under a flimsy piece to material and a few poles.

I remember camping as a child and have nothing but amazing memories of it, and since it's a practically free mini family holiday I want to make sure my kids get the same experience.

What I needed was a tent that would hold myself and the three kids, and was easy enough to put up myself without having to go into damsel in distress mode.

Fortunately the lovely people at Millets chose the perfect one by Vango for me - spacious, comfy and simple.

We had our first test run last weekend at Body & Soul and it was big smiles and thumbs up from all of us.

What camping gives kids is the freedom to roam and explore. To lasso their imagination and shoot for the moon. To toast marshmallows and spend time star gazing. To wear wellie boots, pyjamas and dirty faces and play outside until darkness descends. To develop their independence and take on new tasks - carrying dirty dishes across great swathes of countryside to the communal kitchen all by their own self. To make new friends and spend endless hours kicking balls, flying kites and rolling down hills over and over and over again.

Somehow I had almost forgotten all that. This summer I intend to spend many mini trips reminding myself of it. 

Disclosure: I was sent a tent and camping chairs by Millets in exchange for my views. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Body & Soul 2016

We do love a good festival - and Body & Soul 2016 did not disappoint. 

Despite the weather being a bit of a mixed bag it's safe to say we all had an amazing weekend. The thing about festivals is that you pack so much into such a short space of time that it's almost impossible to know where to start explaining what you got up to. So when people ask you 'So, how was Body & Soul?' Your mind races through about ten thousand adventures that you got up to and then you give a very uninspiring 'Yeah, brilliant' response. 

So really it's probably better to just show some pictures and list some of the most memorable parts. Here goes...

Family camping area - tonnes of space!

Dance workshop

Free facepainting courtesy of Nobo

This is just a tiny bit of what we got up to...

Woodland walks and hidden stages
Aeroplane chairs and Helter Skelters
Crazy hay fights
Face painting
All the hats
Bonding with neighbouring tent dwellers
Good bands and bad dancing
Hot coffee and early mornings
PJs and wellie boots
Food trucks
Light shows
Experimental German accordian players
The girl with the big smile and the light up shoes
Bloody Marys
Crazy goggles
Hugs from strangers
That Swedish bloke from Trim (don't ask)
Giant bean bags and aching limbs
Hiding out for quiet time
And plenty of strangers with good karma coming their way

Despite the fact that I managed to miss every band I wanted to see, I came back supremely happy.

The overriding memories will be of quality time spent connecting with the kids and the goodness of so many of the young people that were there. Whether it was joining in armies of hay fighters, asking for cuddles from the kids, handing over money when the nine year old didn't have enough to buy his chosen bracelet, giving the 7 year old a packet of Oreos just for being cute, or, most importantly convincing the 12 year old she had cool parents (unheard of!) - this young generation of festival revellers had their hearts in the right place.

It was a lovely lesson in how I'd like to see my kids go through their teenage years (and we'll just bypass the ones that didn't go to bed at all, collapsed partially clothed on top of their actual tent, fell headfirst in the mud and stayed there for the entire day, got lost for the entire weekend dressed in a silver homemade fairy outfit, or got escorted from the toilets by Security, unconscious, dressed as Beetlejuice.). I guess their parents had high hopes from them too...

So thanks Body & Soul. It was a real experience!

Disclosure: I was provided with a weekend family pass in exchange for an honest review. All words, opinions and pictures are my own.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Saving money and the planet with IKEA

It's time for a final update on my Live Lagom challenge with IKEA. 

Back in December last year I was invited to take part in a sustainability project run by IKEA. It involved (responsibly *cough*) shopping for good in their store that would help me and my family to save money and save the planet by taking little steps on a journey towards sustainability. This is me with my haul. Spoilt brat I know.

I tried to focus on energy saving and making the home a warm and cosy place to be. Armed with rugs, duvets, lightbulbs, and state of the art cooking equipment it wasn't hard to do.

This is the shame of my bedroom before the project began. New bedding and green plants transformed the space from mess to rest. 



Sidelights with energy saving LED lightbulbs are now used all over the house, as well as extension leads that can be turned off easily with the flick of a switch so power saving mode isn't continually used, and rechargeable batteries. Heating was also turned down and cooking times reduced significantly (by as much as 80% in fact). I haven't managed to calculate the exact savings due to the temperature of different months and the fact that I also changed to a cheaper supplier (one of the knock on effects of the project).

Another saving I've made is switching my bin collection from every two weeks to - wait for it - every 2 months, simply by being more organised and recycling properly.

However one of the major bonus for me was the aesthetic 'hygae' that the project brought. My home is now simply a cosier, nicer place to be. And, amazingly for me, is more organised too.

The kids are fully on board, running around shouting at each other for leaving lights on and having a real understanding of why a rechargeable battery is so much better than a throw-away-pollute-the-planet one. 

And we've ever started planting stuff. My favourite, Sweet Pea is currently taking root, and tomatoes, basil and parsley are all well under way. I have to say it's a little addictive. 

Looking back on all those baby steps I'd say we've come a long way with zero pain and lots of pleasure along the way. If you get a chance to Live Lagom a little I'd highly recommend you embrace it. There are tons of tips on Hubbub who are IKEAs charity partners on the mission. 

Enjoy and adjo.
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