I am Sleepover Club Mum – a Review

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The Sleepover Club is a new company set up by Letterkenny Mammy, Stevie Kleine. She brought her beautiful sleepover service to my girls recently and what a fablis service it is.

 

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How beautiful!?

Stevie arrives at your home and creates a stunning sleepover set-up; Handmade teepees, personalised with the names of the kids who are staying, trays, fairy lights and goodie bags for each child.

Everything is thought about and then she returns the next day to take everything away again.

The teepees are beautiful. Cath Kitsonesque patchwork with beautiful material and detailed stitching. They come with mattresses, pillows, sheets and little cushions. The teepees are joined with pretty bunting and fairy lights and each teepee has a little chalk board with names on.

Stevie has thought of everything. Trays, lanterns, LED candles, bottles and straws for their drinks, little colouring books with stickers and pencils, sweeties, a face cloth, a toothbrush and gorgeous eye masks. She even includes little boxes of cereal with a pink spoon tied to them for next morning.

 

 

 

On a serious note, the admin of The Sleepover Club is so professional. She arrives with a detailed legal contract for the hirer to read and sign. And her Child Safety guidelines and social media permissions are thorough and up to date. It’s clear where both parties stand before Stevie leaves the home. And obviously, it is up to the Hirer to inform the company about special requirements and to return the equipment in perfect condition.

 

 

Is it worth it? Well it’s not free obviously, but the magic that your little ones will experience is hard to explain. The Teepees are exquisite and there is a lot of work put into making your experience as perfect as it can be.  However, she can’t guarantee that the kids will sleep, but she can guarantee that they’ll feel like the most special princesses in the world.

My two LOVED the whole experience. Princess is still very little but she was beyond excited when they discovered the teepees set up. She’s been looking for them since Stevie collected them!

 

 

 

For a group of kids, aged 5 or 6 and up, this is a special and memorable way to celebrate a birthday, or even create memories. I would have had her cousins down for the night but it didn’t suit them, but it’s definitely a service I shall be using in the future.

Mini-Me and Princess had an evening of magic and memories. I’ll never forget their wee faces when they saw them set up… and THESE smiles the next morning are real.

 

 

You can get information on The Sleepover Club their Facebook page. They are also on Instagram and their email is thesleepoverclubdonegal@gmail.com

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My girls enjoyed this experience as a treat from The Sleepover Club, but as always, my reviews are honest and I am under no obligation to promote the service. 

I am So I’ve found my Marbles Mum

Marbles…

Just when I thought I was in danger of losing my last few, Himself whisked me off to the lovely Shandon Hotel & Spa in Dunfanaghy. We didn’t bother with the spa this time, just focused on some R&R… and finally got to try out their new restaurant, Marbles.

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I’ll keep this short and sweet.

It is Fablis.

Located upstairs from the bar, the restaurant is a lovely size. Tastefully decorated in silver and purple hues, it is fresh and comfortable. We gave our room number and were greeted by name. Simple but classy. And little touches like Cole & Mason table accessories and a traditional and classy cutlery setting let us know that this was a cut above before we’d even seen the menu.

The Menu is extensive without being overwhelming. A lovely variety of starters with all allergens and required info available. There is a choice of every meat for main which is something I find becoming rare in good restaurants.

We ordered a bottle of still water and a bottle of wine. Natalia was our server and when I asked for number 18, she instantly replied “The Malbec.” This is the kind of thing that makes Mammy happy. Having worked in restaurants for years, I always appreciate when staff not only do their job well, but show that they take it seriously. Instantly impressed.

We were offered the Shandon’s famous “Guinness Bread” and then served little prawn bites as Chef’s Amuse Bouche while we waited for our starters.

I opted for Pork Belly. Beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. I love the warmed grapes and puree on the plate. All flavours complimented. He had the fishcake and was equally impressed.

Then they served us a little passion fruit sorbet which was gorgeous.

I had the duck for my main course. It was very tasty and served with a little tarte tatin on top. Himself had the slow cooked beef which melted in the mouth. Sides were veg and creamed potatoes and the portions were plenty.

We asked if we could wait a while before ordering dessert and there was no problem at all. Is there anything worse than feeling rushed along in a restaurant? We weren’t at a window seat for our meal, but when one beside us became free, there was no issue in moving to it to enjoy the sunset. The pinks and purples inside suddenly made sense. The sky was the exact same colour and the whole effect was beautiful.

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My dress matched the decor perfectly!

The dessert menu posed a huge problem for me. I love a good cheese board when I’m eating out, and am rarely tempted by a sweet, but this menu was to die for. There is a trio of Creme Brulee which looked amazing. And yet, I always have cheese. Torn. Torn I tell you!

I stuck with the cheese and it was gorgeous. My one (and only) tiny criticism was that I asked for no nuts on the cheese board. (Sometimes walnuts etc are sprinkled on the plate.) The cheese board arrived, looking fab and with all of my favourites on it, but without crackers. The crackers served see, are homemade and have hazelnuts through them, and quite rightly, the chef couldn’t serve them to me.

Now, my intolerence is specific to coconut and almond, so I was able to have some sent out and I simply removed the hazelnuts. But I would suggest that even having some water biscuits or plain crackers on standby would be a clever move which would allow Nutty ones like myself to enjoy the cheese. The cheeseboard however was divine and I ate every bite of it (yes all by myself!). I shall be back for those Brulee!

Himself had the lemon tart, which I have on good authority was lovely. (Him doesn’t share desserts!) We then moved out to the adjoining bar to finish our drinks and relax some more.

The menu is simply priced at €40 per head. I LOVE THIS. Especially if out in a large group. No nit-picking at the splitting of the bill. It was worth every penny and I can’t wait to return.

Mammy gives Marbles a deserved 5 stars.

It books up quite quickly Ladybelles, so if you plan to visit over the summer months, it might do no harm to book in advance.

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(As always, my review is honest and true. We were paying guests in the Shandon and in Marbles and I am under no obligation to post this piece.)

I am Summer in the Park Mum

I am so very excited to announce that Mammy is a Park Ambassador for the very beautiful Oakfield Park for the 2018 season.

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Anyone who has followed me for a while will find nothing new in me posting from Oakfield Park. We spend a lot of time wandering through the gardens in Raphoe and we’re so lucky that it’s right beside us.

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It’s one of my favourite places to go fo family time and over the summer, the girls and I often pop up for a wander around while Daddy is at work.

It’s magical. Good old fashioned fun for the kids. Perfect for getting them away from screens.  From the minute we walk in the gates, not only do they run free, their imaginations do too.

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The Fairy tree is Mini-Me’s favourite.  She loves putting wishes onto it.   Princess is always mesmerized by the swans and ducks and the train ride never gets old, for any of us!

 

We have been spending Summer Sundays in Oakfield since before the girls came along (Oh for the days of Roseymantic picnics!) and I love that every Spring when we return, there is something new.

The Oakfield team are CONSTANTLY adding to the park. It’s seen huge changes in the past two years and I can only imagine what else is to come. The biggest new feature this year is the new maze which has just been planted and which will open soon.

 

My girls love the park. It’s safe to let Princess run and play. There are always new pathways to explore. The playpark has also had loads of new fun-features added to it this winter and seeing the park’s swans is always a treat.

 

But the park is not for only for Sundays.

Last year, we bought the annual pass. After only 4 visits, it had paid for itself and it was worth every penny. However, this year’s pass options are so much better. The Gold Pass  is brilliant value. It includes VIP access to gardens, access to special deals and UNLIMITED train rides which makes Mammy VERY happy. There will be lots of personalised treats over the season for gold pass holders.  There are loads of options and of course, you CAN pay as you go, but if you tend to visit often, the passes are worth a look.

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The Gold Pass includes unlimited train rides!

I found that once we had the pass, we got so much more use out of the park.  Rather than being limited to weekends and feeling like we HAD to spend a full day there each time, we were able to pop up and visit the fairy tree, or look for the swans, or just let the girls run around for an hour. We got so much more out of the park as we could go along when we felt like it.

 

The park is so child friendly; Playpark, changing facilities, summer picnics and lots of wide open spaces for them and their imaginations to run free. And tree swings! It’s also adult friendly; calm, quiet and coffee. And the backdrop for snapping pictures of your little ones is stunning. (Furbabies are welcome too as long as they are on their lead and cleaned up after!)

 

Buffers offers everything from a cuppa and cake to a full menu. The restaurant is licensed too and they cater for parties and functions.

If you’re looking for the ticket to a fun and healthy summer for your minis, look no further Mammies. The team at Oakfield Park have you covered.

The summer events schedule is full of teddy bear picnics and special events and competitions too.

Oakfield Park really is the hidden gem of Donegal. We can’t wait to spend sunshiny days (and indeed drizzly ones!) in Oakfield Park. It’s really quite beautiful in the rain too!

Hope to see you there,

Mammy

 

#ParkAmbassador

Giveaway – Babynow Teether Ball

The lovely Dan Connolly from Cork mailed me to see if I would like to review his product.  Now as my girls are past this and because I don’t do the whole “I’ll review if you pay me to craic”, I declined.  So instead he offered to send me 3 sets of these lovely wee teething balls to give away to my followers.

I agreed on the condition that I liked them.  If I didn’t, I’d be returning them.

And guess what, I like them.  I’m a bit sad actually that I hadn’t found them while Princess was in the hellish horrors of the slabbering and screaming a few months ago. And while she could still get some joy from them, at 2 and a half, she’d more likely to throw them, so I’ve kept her hands away from them.

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They’re colourful and the colours are neutral and bright.  The material and glue used are food grade silicone and safe to little mouths.  The jingle of the little bell is lovely and they are a sensory dream.  A beautiful product which would be a wonderful gift for a new parent.

31369352_10160151839550167_1761351695654191104_nNot only have I got some sets to give away, Dan has kindly reduced the price of them on his amazon page for my blog readers this weekend!

Usually retailing at over €40, they are available to you for  £24.95!

 

 

This price is only valid from Friday to Sunday Night , for my followers by clicking here here!

 

This item has been developed by www.babynowbrand.com run by Daniel Connolly from Cork. He is an ecommerce entrepreneur and focuses on selling globally via the amazon.com marketplace.

If you fancy winning a set, hit on my facebook page before 1pm Saturday.

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I am Salou, Here we Come Mum

So anyone who has been reading my ramblings for a while now, knows that I have not yet been brave enough to venture into the great unknown and unpredictable world of holidaying abroad…with the girls.

In fact, I last year wrote a few posts on how and why staycation-ing was the only option for myself and my wee squad.

And yet, this year, I have decided to go for it. Why?

Maybe it’s an unqualified confidence in the fact that Princess is no longer technically a Baby and so we’ll be graaaaaaaaaaand.  Maybe it’s that I looked at my sister’s family holiday snaps and some hidden longing for family-fun in the sun took over.  Maybe I’m just getting brave in my old age.  Maybe I’m off my head.

But regardless of why I’ve finally decided to jump head first into the blue azure of sunkissed and suncreamed frolicking, I have.  And I have ACTUALLY convinced The Him that it’s a good idea.

Now.  I am one of those Book-it-all-by-myself-online gals usually.  However, because taking the two girls away is such new territory to us, we decided to do the safe and sensible thing and went through a travel agent.

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So off I popped to Atlantic Travel here in Letterkenny.  I arrived in with NOT flexible dates, a strict budget and 324 specific requirements and 127 questions.

“Hi.  I am your WORST nightmare Lovely Travel Agent…I want to go somewhere hot but not too busy, with a flight that isn’t too long, with as short as possible a transfer on the other end, to a 2 roomed apartment in a family suitable resort, with indoor options for soft play, a children’s pool area, a kids’ club that is safe and reputable, in an area which isn’t too loud but still with some atmosphere… And the quiet and safe area must have some nice restaurants, a supermarket nearby AND be near public transport. ON THIS EXACT DATE.  Out of Belfast if possible… Please.”

Yeah, so they could have laughed and scoffed at me and my demands, but they didn’t. Within 20 minutes, the amazing Donna had 5 options printed off for me for all types of holiday in a few different places, within my date, budget and ridiculous specifications. No bother at all.

She was able to offer her own opinion on 3 of the resorts and had customer testimonies on the others. She was very open and honest with her advice about the options.  There was no pressure or obligation to book.  Just polite service with educated opinion.

I took some brochures, the printouts and her email address and off I went to peruse my options.

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Salou it is so.

Being me, I had to research some more and in doing so, found another hotel on the TUI website that ticked all of my boxes. A few emails to Evelyn with more “Ria” questions and prompt answers were exchanged over the course of the next three days and when I finally made up my mind, one phonecall booked the holiday.

Within a few days, all of our details had been posted to us.

I really feel more comfortable going away for the first time with the kids as we have booked a package and so everything is thought of for us; Flights, Transfers, Insurance, Accommodation and Board. The fact that there will be a Holiday Rep there is also putting my mind at ease.

Now all I have to do is look forward to it. And pack for everyone. And plan.  And save. And worry and get there…

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They say that the first step is always the hardest, but for this family holiday newbie, the first step was probably the easiest thanks to the ladies in Atlantic Travel.

Check out Atlantic Travel on  Facebook for more updates before the big event:

Call (074) 912 6193 or visit Atlantic Travel’s offices at Oliver Plunkett Road, Letterkenny to enquire about your holiday.

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Mammy has collaborated with Atlantic Travel but as always, my review and opinions are my own and honest.

I am Stunning Hotel Right on our Doorstep Mum – Roe Park Resort

Last weekend, we visited the Roe Park Resort in nearby Limavady in Northern Ireland. We were invited to stay overnight to relax and enjoy some family time…and relax and enjoy we did.

Limavady is only a 35 minute drive from Donegal and Roe Park is easily found. The driveway up to the resort is stunning. Long and lined with trees, it winds up through part of their golf course as it approaches the main building.

There’s lots of parking and the hotel is immediately impressive. The main courtyard is beautiful, well kept (and well lit at night), flanked by the two onsite restaurants and golf centre. Signpost ensure that the hotel reception is easily found. The receptionists were friendly and efficient and more than lovely to our two girls.

The hotel is clean and shiny and welcoming. The foyer is huge and tastefully decorated. I loved the decor in the O’ Cahan’s Bar, which had myths and legends scripted in beautiful font. Chandeliers and interesting wall decor (images, photographs etc) created a perfect balance of glamour and comfort. This is one of the parts of the hotel I would enjoy spending time in when we visit again (without the little ladies!).

We checked in to our family suite. Room 9 was, in a word, HUGE. This is the BIGGEST family room we have ever stayed in. (and trust me, we’ve tried many!) It was warm, clean and so well appointed. two single beds and a huge double bed, a large TV and a massive bathroom.

The room also had a small toilet room which Mini-Me claimed as “My very own toilet!”. A clever and welcome feature in a family room.

Although it was on the ground floor, the curtains allowed privacy throughout our stay. The room looked onto the golfcourse and driveway up to the hotel and so it was quite private anyway. There was a dinner dance in the hotel that night and yet we would never have known. The rooms are well situated for families.

The shower was fab and there were plenty towels, facecloths and toiletries. Mammy and Daddy had robes and slippers left on the bed too. (I do love me a fluffy robe. A hotel is not a hotel, without a fluffy robe!)

We were incredibly impressed by the little welcome gifts the management had left for us; a plate of strawberries, raspberries and chocolates, little toiletries for the girls, 4 x swimming hats (which I ALWAYS forget!) and bubbles for all of us! Four champagne flutes with a bottle of very lovely champers for us and a bottle of chilled Shloer for the girls.

Oh how grown up Mini-Me felt when Daddy poured for us to do a wee Cheers. Lovely touch.

After the girls had danced around the room and rearranged the furniture, we got ready to visit the pool in the Health Club. I’m a bad Mammy you know. Swimming is not something that makes it onto my To-Do list, I’m afraid. And so how excited the girls were about going swimming. The leisure centre is beautiful; large, clean and luxurious.

The pool is lovely, with separate Jacuzzi and kids pool. There is also a section of the main pool which has bubbles if you want them. Princess LOVED this.

Daddy and I took it in turns to try out the Steam Room and Sauna. The steam room is THE BEST we have EVER been in. It was like walking into a tub of Vicks Menthol! Wow!

The spa looks beautiful and it is award winning. Another thing for Mammy to look forward to on our next visit.

The changing rooms are well stocked and have lovely little stools in front of the mirrors with hairdryers. There was a little trouble with the lockers but I found one that worked and as we were leaving, the receptionist was on the ball informing maintenance of the issue, so I doubt it was an issue for very long in fairness. As with reception, the spa staff were lovely; very helpful and attentive to the girls.

We were booked in to The Coach House Brasserie for dinner at 5.30pm. Having spent a little too long in the pool, we rang to ask if we could change our booking until 6pm. No bother whatsoever. Dinner was fab. Roe Park’s website tells you that the “Brasserie provides a more casual alternative to the fine dining experience of Greens Restaurant.” Well, if the exuberant and busy atmosphere is more relaxed, the food is certainly more than fine! It was delicious.

Service was super. Staff were attentive (and patient with my little FussyBoots!). The wine list is extensive and well priced. The Menu caters for everyone and the atmosphere was perfect. I love when I can see into a kitchen and hear the Chefs. Having worked in hospitality for years, it reaffirms my belief that a good kitchen has nothing to hide. The energy coming from that Hatch was brilliant and Mini-Me was in awe watching the kitchen staff working.

My starter was garlic mushroom. The Him opted for the Carrot and Coriander soup.

His main was the Cock & Bull. Mine was the Hake on couscous… yum. The fish was so fresh. The Salt and Chilli fries are worth trying if you like a little spice. We opted for Entreflores wine. It was excellent.

The kids’ menu was extensive too and there was no problem when we asked them to bring bread for them and to bring their food as soon as it was ready. Their desserts were just class. Little sundaes of Icecream, smarties and chocolate sauce. Mini-Me ordered a “Big one”. One wink at the waitress and she was talking Mammy’s language. Two small sundaes arrived with one little scoop extra on hers to make her feel bigger!

But MY dessert ticked all the boxes. I went for the Cheese Board. Oh my Word! It was AMAZING. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. And yes, I did indeed eat it ALL.

All by myself!

Back to the room we went. The two Dollies were shattered but of course when we got back, there was a second lease of life. We tried our usual trick of putting them to bed and hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes but Princess was having none of it. Eventually, we climbed into bed with them until they slept…and then we all woke up ten hours later! Heavy blackout curtains ensured a sleep in until 8am (yay!). Heaven!

Daddy popped over to the gym for an hour while I sipped coffee in bed and the girls watched telly. (Mini-Me made the beds. I can’t get her to do this at home, but at Roe Park? Not a bother!)

The Him described the gym as “one of the better hotel gyms and well stocked”. This I can tell you is a compliment.

We went down for breakfast, this time to Green’s. Again, a busy and efficient restaurant set up with friendly staff and an excellent variety of EVERYTHING we love about hotel breakfasts. I loved that the tables had little booklets of suppliers and all produce was local. Fresh fruit, good coffee, breads and toast and muffins and cheese and cereals and porridge and an extensive hot food section… I could go on but you get the picture.

We packed up our mahoosive room and checked out with the ever so lovely and friendly Deirdre.

After a busy January and having had a lot going on, we didn’t quite realise how much we needed this little bit of family time until we got to Roe Park. Sometimes, the only way to relax and switch off is to actually go somewhere. With all the best of intentions, a quiet weekend at home is never that is it? No.

We certainly switched off here. When you visit Roe Park, the only option is to spend time together and focus on each other. It’s quiet and comfortable, but also has wifi and good entertainment options on the TVs in the rooms. Had we stayed for 2 nights, Mammy and Daddy would have taken it in turns to make use of the Spa. Daddy probably would have tried a round of golf too. But for an overnight break, it was perfect.

And Limavady really is the perfect springboard from which to explore the Causeway Coast. We left Roe Park and headed towards nearby Portstewart, Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway. It really was a lovely weekend.

Criticisms?

Honestly, if I had any, I would write them. That’s how I am. Other than there being no milk on the breakfast tables, I have nothing to suggest at all. (And that is me being pedantic! There was plenty of milk, I was just lazy!)

The hotel is ideal for a family getaway. It’s soooooo close to Donegal so no long car journey which is always a winner with kids.

Our youngest is still quite young and so when we do stay in a hotel, it tends to be an early night for everyone, but considering the pace of the life we lead, it’s more than welcome. If you are looking for a break close to home with something to offer for all ages, Roe Park is perfect.

Myself and The Him will certainly be returning very soon without the kids. There’s a bar and a spa and another Award Winning restaurant waiting for us to try.

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Thank you to the management and staff at Roe Park for a wonderful weekend in a beautiful hotel, right on our doorsteps.

The S-Mum xx

(The S-Mum, The Him and The two Dollies were invited guests of Roe Park Resort. However all opinions and observations are my own, and are as ever honest and based on our experiences.)

Keep an eye on the hotel’s platforms for offers and events:

I am Santa Experience at Rosnakill Mum

Before Christmas, we were invited to visit Santa at his magical wonderland at Rosnakill Community Centre in Donegal.  Having NO idea what to expect, we set off on an adventure one snowy, cold afternoon.

What we were going to, was possibly THE loveliest Santa Experience we’ve ever had.

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On arrival

The hall was decorated from the front hall. Trees and bunting and lights everywhere. Christmas music was playing and we were met at the door by lovely Elves.

 

We were led into Mrs Claus’s sitting room, where she called the roll.  I cannot tell you the SHOCK on Mini-Me’s face when their names were called out! Priceless.

Mrs Claus read them stories and then they were whisked off to ELF SCHOOL, where a cast of superbly talented young elfies reenacted some scenes from ELF, songs and all. Buddy even created his Candy Spaghetti…and ATE it! Yuck!  But the kids just LOVED it.  After “singing songs for all to hear” the kids were lead off through a magical tunnel to the next part of the journey.

 

I’ve never seen so many lights. Everything was covered and it truly was beautiful.

Off we went to the next room, where cookie decorating and colouring were set up.  Each family had their own personalise table, with more candy and sweeties than Buddy the Elf would have been able for.  The girls took to their tasks with gusto, and Mammy and Daddy helped too.

Then, the lovely Ladies went around with freshly cooked Pancakes! AND hot chocolate. The atmosphere in this room was electric as one by one, the elves called the different families in to meet Santa.

And then it was our turn.

Santa’s room was AMAZING! And Santa was soooooo lovely.  He took time to speak to the girls and laughed a bellylaugh when Mini-Me told him she was probably on BOTH lists because sometimes she forgot to be good.

We got more sweets, two gift bags and our photographs taken by an Elf. (I must give special mention to this little Elf.  Wise beyond her years and oh so eloquent and confident.  She was amazing!)

We returned to the room to collect our pictures and art. There were even calendars for them to colour in and take home, as well as little decorations.

The presents knocked me off my feet.  Personalised, handmade reindeer.  Each one with a little scarf that was hand-knit by a local Mammy.

ANd of course, Mammy got her photo taken with Santa too!

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Yes. I shall always end up on Santa’s knee 🙂

This is no ordinary village hall.  How could it be with the people who are running it?  The imagination, the attention to detail, the effort, the pride, the community spirit… The love that went into this project was infectious.    The group who ran it were working harder than any elves I’ve ever seen.  The atmosphere was incredible.

The visit lasted just under an hour, and we all left happy, fed and full of Christmas spirit. Then a few days afterwards, this photograph arrived in the post from Santa.

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Yes, she’s wearing wellies.

This experience books up quickly, and I see why.  We can’t wait to return next year.

Well done to all involved and thank you for having us.

The S-Mum

 

(Mammy and the family were invited guests of Santa, but all comments and reviews are honest and reflective of the experience we had.)

I am Special Fundraiser Mum

Well what can we say?

Today, we had the most festive few hours with the most wonderful people and raised lots of money for two very worthy charities.  The Jack and Jill Foundation and The Victoria Thompson Scholarship do such incredible work for so many families and children all over the country.  What better cause to do a fundraiser for before Christmas, than Children and their parents?

 

A few months ago, I commented to The Him that it’d be lovely to watch the Polar Express on the big screen again.  “Make it happen then” he said.  So I did.

 

Today, 220 smiling faces watched the Christmas Classic on the Biggest screen in Century Cinemas.

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The queues began to form at the cinema from before 11am, with the excited crowd clutching their golden tickets.

 

Tickets were punched by the Polar Express Conductor, (The Him does have a fun side outside of Jim!) and everyone, EVERYONE, received a little Jingle Bell, just like the bell in the movie, as they entered.  No one has any excuse not to believe now…

 

We thanked everone for coming and for supporting, before presenting a cheque to Sharon Thompson from the Victoria Thomspson Scholarship.

 

(We’re meeting a representative from Jack & Jill next week!) Then we told the girls and boys that the train needed some Christmas magic to get started, and so the crowd sang Jingle Bells before the much awaited feature.

 

And, just as we’d hoped, it was WONDERFUL!  It’s a beautiful movie and the runaway train scene was just as spectacular on the big screen as it was the first time we saw it.  The most magical part for me was when everyone started to jingle their little bells as Santa arrived.  It was AMAZING!

And this evening, I’m smiling from ear to ear at the photographs of families at the event, and of the kids hanging the bells on their trees at home.

Thanks to our followers and friends, we were able to present over €900 to EACH of our chosen charities; The Jack and Jill Foundation and The Victoria Thompson Scholarship.  But tonight, I can happily announce that the final total for each charity is a whopping €1000!  

The event was sponsored by Rushe Fitness and wouldn’t have happened without Anne-Marie, Pete and Mark in Century Cinemas.  Thank you all so much for supporting yet another one of my random ideas.

So that’s that… for now! It might just need to be an annual event apparently, but I’ll get tonight over me before I start planning anything else!

 

We do hope that everyone who joined us today had a wonderful time and once again, thank you to you all.

The S-Mum & The Conductor…

 

 

I am Sneak Peak of Santa Express Mum

The Santa Express at Oakfield Park was such a treat last year that I was probably one of the first to book for this year when it went on sale.  

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You all know how much I love this park, and one of my favourite things about it is that they add to it and improve it every winter.  Well, with the Santa Experience, they’ve done it again. It’s bigger and better than last year.

 We’re not going with the girls until later in the month, but Santa and his elves invited myself and The Him to pop over tonight for their opening night to have a sneak peak!  Oakfield Park has once again been transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland and if you have booked tickets, you are in for a treat.

We didn’t go on the train or meet Santa tonight as we want to save that for when the girls are with us.  We simply had a wander around the artisan market in the Plaza, which is new this year and full of fab stalls by local traders.

The atmosphere is perfect…cozy and excited. Christmas music lilts subtly through the park and the lights are spectacular, all over the park. The piano background music in Buffers is beautiful…very relaxing.

The Elves, like last year, were brilliant.  Lead by the marvellous Mollie Mistletoe, they were energetic, festive and fun. The Elf Workshop is running in the marquee with elves teaching visitors how to be an elf, arts and crafts and storytelling with Mrs Claus.

What can you expect when you get there?

 You shall board the train to go on a journey through the woodland to visit Santa and meet the elves. Keep an eye out along the way for surprises and secrets in the forest such as the elf washing line.

Children will receive a certificate to say they have been on the nice list as well as a small gift, and a mulled wine or hot chocolate for the adults is included in your ticket.

Things to know for your visit:

A photographer will be in Santa’s Grotto to capture the magical moment you meet Santa with prints available to purchase during your visit.  

Wrap up warm.  It was dry and mild tonight, but it was cold! Lots of layers and hats!.

 

Some of the artisans participating in the market are:

Amelia’s Irish DesignBallyholey Farm ShopBernie Murphy TextilesThe Counter Deli, Hammer & TongsMarina Hamilton Painter and Sculptor, Modern Eire (Printmaker and Designer), Rathlin Knitwear.

We’ve had a lovely date night tonight and are even more excited about coming to visit Santa later in the month now.  I can’t wait to see the wee faces on my two little Rascals.  Oakfield Park has once again created a magical experience for the whole family.

Tonight was the perfect start to our Christmassy weekend.  We have our Polar Express Fundraiser in Century tomorrow and then Sunday will be the Toy Show and decorating the house.  Any notion we had of waiting until next weekend has gone well and truly out the window after tonight.

     

I am Stunned by NYC Mum

NYC – The City of Dreams?

The Him and I have had one massive ambition for a long time… to get to NYC.

We tried and failed twice to book it. We’ve spent the last few years saying things like “We’ll go for your 40th” or “We’ll go for whatever…” In May this year a few things happened in the space of a week that made us realise that life was way too short to be putting things off over and over again.

He came home one night and said “See if your Mum will keep the girls. We’re going.” I swear to God Ladies, I had it booked within 24 hours. He was NOT getting a chance to change his mind!

And so off I trotted to a local Travel agent. (They quoted me an extortionate amount of money for basic flights and a very basic hotel. The price didn’t include any extras in flight, any taxes or charges in the hotel or any tickets to sights.)

Eh… no thanks!

A few hours at the laptop and I had the whole trip, with upgraded seats, a gorgeous hotel, AND tickets to ALL the main attractions in the city booked and paid for, for €250 LESS than the agent had been looking for for basic flights and hotel.

We had the time of our lives. It was honestly everything we’d ever expected it to be and more. Do you know when you’ve thought about something for so long, imagining every detail? And then it doesn’t turn out to be what you’d hoped? Yeah, that didn’t happen. From the second we landed in NYC, we were awestruck.

Our trip:

We flew with Air France carried by Delta. We paid extra for Comfort seats, which included extra leg room, priority boarding and free everything on board. It was €103 extra each, but even after adding this, the flights were STILL hundreds of euro cheaper than our “national” airline.

The flight was great. Good movies, decent food and very comfortable. We’ll definitely fly Delta again.

We arrived in JFK. What a cattle mart! We got the train into Penn Station. Landing into the middle of the Pride festival meant that we had quite the welcome to the city! What an AMAZING atmosphere! Because taxis, sorry cabs, weren’t running, we took off walking to our hotel. It was about 15 blocks and despite the heat and trying to drag cases through the festival filled streets, it was a brilliant way to start the visit.

Our hotel was gorgeous. The Time Hotel NY is just off Times Square, right next door to “The Book of Mormon” and “Chicago”.

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We were shown to our room and it was very cool; chic and well appointed, with a TV in the Mirror! (Seriously!?) The bottle of chilled bubbles awaiting us was much appreciated and enjoyed!

The hotel was so clean and the staff were incredibly attentive. We were told they could upgrade our room the next day, but we were quite happy with the room we’d been given and didn’t really intend to be in it too much anyway! It was at the back of the hotel and even amidst the noise of NYC, it was quiet, so we stayed put.

A quick change, a pop of the bubbles and off we went to begin our adventure. Our first stop was Times Square

We went straight to the top of the famous red steps and we must have stood there, breathing it all in and just watching and listening for at least an hour. The colours, the sounds, the smells, the sounds… What an experience. I can see why locals hate it, but as a tourist who wants to drink in the magic of the big city, it’s fricken awesome.

One of the best tips we received was to buy the 4 day “hop-on hop-off” Tour Bus Ticket. We did the Brooklyn tour at 7pm. It was brilliant. The tour guides know their city so well and the few we met were funny and engaging.

We saw so much of the city and Brooklyn, and then were treated to the sight of the city lights coming on as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at nightfall. This really is a brilliant way to do the tour. It was beautiful.

Next morning, we hit Ellen’s Stardust Diner. for breakfast. We were first in and the waffles are to die for. Our only regret was that it was very early and so quite quiet, so we didn’t get to enjoy the atmosphere that we’d anticipated, but the food was great and wow, the servers can sing!

We hopped on the bus downtown and took the cruise (which was included in our City Pass) out to meet Lady Liberty.

The cruise was amazing and The Statue of Liberty was gorgeous. We hadn’t intended getting off the boat, but are both so glad we did. It’s well worth taking an hour to wander around her. She’s spectacular.

We also visited the 9/11 Memorial

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9/11 caught me by surprise. I knew there was a museum, but I had no idea that the water memorial fountains where the two towers had stood, even existed. I got such a gunk when we walked around the corner to this. It’s a special place; sombre, emotional and appropriately solemn. It’s an eerie experience to suddenly experience such quiet amidst the noise of the city. I was so taken aback. The museum itself is incredible. After a while, I couldn’t take any more sadness. We left, full of sympathy for the people who will always be affected by it. It’s a wonderful tribute to the people and heroes who died.

We hadn’t intended to visit the new One World Observatory, but Himself decided that we should go up as we were there. Guys, THIS was possibly my favourite experience of the trip. The elevator up is shockingly fast and the experience at the top is breathtaking. It really is worth going up this building. We had lunch in the restaurant on floor 102, and while it is expensive, it was excellent. And it’s not everyday you can have lunch on top of the world is it? We even had binoculars on the table!

With the glass of wine costing $17, one was enough! Yes, the restaurant is expensive, but it really was worth every penny. Having lunch with The Him overlooking the city we’ve always wanted to visit, was a moment I’ll never forget.

After lunch, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, found Wall Street and Trump Tower and Tiffany and Co. before heading back to drink in some more of Time Square.

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We went back to the hotel to change for dinner at 7.30pm…and woke up at 6am next morning! The jet lag had hit, but it was actually great as we were full of energy and raring to go for Day 3.

We started off at the Top of the Rock. The The Rockefeller Centre is just class. It’s so beautiful and elegant and the views from the top ARE, without doubt, the best in the city.

We then headed towards Central Park, where we listened to a live string quartet, ate hotdogs and walked and walked! The weather was perfect for the whole trip.

Central Park is beautiful in summer, but I can’t wait to see it at Christmas some time very soon.

I fulfilled my ambition to run like Phoebe from Friends through the park. I did and it was wonderful!

We visited the The Met where we spent a few hours wandering around looking at loads of cool and funky things, before sipping bubbles on the lovely rooftop bar.

Then, we walked across the Park to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs and the whale. Once we’d seen these, and been suitably gobsmacked by their size, we headed back to the hotel.

We got ourselves dressed up and had a cocktail in the very cool hotel bar at The Time, before hitting the famous Buddakan for dinner.

Now, this place had been highly recommended to us. It is so chic and dark and loud and exciting, from the minute you arrive. It’s like the movies. The staff are supergroomed and supermodelly and the atmosphere is electric. Service was excellent to begin and we were impressed. The food was beautiful. (Try the sharing platter to start!) Described as Asian Fusion, the menu was comprehensive and interesting.

We had a hiccup when our sides didn’t arrive along with the main dishes, but after a while, a very apologetic manager tried his very best to make things up to us. He sent champagne and complimentary desserts to the table and really was very kind and pleasant, but the experience had been tainted a little. Having looked forward to this meal so much, and being such lovers of food and fine dining, we left a little disappointed. For the price of the restaurant, and the reviews we had been given, we didn’t expect the service to be so disappointing. But the food was superb and the place is very cool. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Day 4 was our last full day. We started with The Empire State Building. It was everything we expected. Incredible views. Again, hitting it early is advised.

Then we wandered around the streets for a bit. We found the Bluebell Cafe, which is owned by my friend’s sister Shiela. We had a lovely brunch with her. It’s a gorgeous establishment. Find itThen we found Macy’s (I walked in, looked around and left. It’s an inflated department store on a whole new level of chaos; the same as we have at home, but sooooooo loud and soooo busy. Great if you love to shop. Not so excited if you’re like me and have little interest in shopping when on holidays! Still, I’d love to see it at Christmas!)

There was a street food festival just off Times Square. We had lunch there (2 days in a row, that’s how good it was!) and headed towards NY Public Library We had a coffee on the steps before heading to 5th Avenue to meet my cousin for drinks. (I have one in every city!)

We had a few ($5 a glass was much more palatable!) at John Doe’s Bar before heading to the VERY cool 230 5th Avenue. Now, we had no idea where we were going. At 4.10pm, we toddled in and made ourselves comfortable to enjoy Happy hour. We had a few drinks and a bite to eat, enjoying the incredible views of the Empire State beside us.

There was a music video being recorded on the other side of the bar, and as the evening went on, we were surrounded by all the “beautiful ones”. You know those bars you see in the movies where everyone is tanned and fablis and quaffing and perfect? Yeah, that’s where we were; the three of us, sans makeup and in our shorts and teeshirts! But hey! We fitted in just as well hah! As we left at 6.30pm, there was a queue around the block, with at least 250 impeccibly dressed and very glam folks waiting to get in.

We headed once again for the red steps to the TKTS Ticket Booth . At 7.15pm we got two brilliant tickets for Phantom of the Opera. The queues here earlier in the day were savage. We really weren’t fussy about what to see. The new shows are booked up months in advance and tickets are either like gold-dust or ridiculously priced.

Do go see a show. You’re on Broadway for crying out loud! But unless you are determined to see something in particular, just go see what they have available before the theatres open and go with it! Phantom is one of our favourites, so we were delighted to see it again.

We finished off our final full day back at the Empire State Building. When you buy the City Pass Booklet, your ticket for the Empire State admits you back in at night time on the day of your visit. It is stunning at night and was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Our last day, we headed back down town. The Him took a helicopter ride over the city. I took a wander through the streets, then sat by the river freaking out at the sky bugs taking off and landing, people watching and eating cakes. Heaven!

We wandered back up through the city, before finishing the holiday where we had started; in the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

Our hearts bursting and our heads filled with memories, we headed back to the airport to go home to our little Princesses. The flight home was delayed as there had been a fire at the airport. If we can manage to avoid EVER flying into JFK again, we will. It’s a nightmare. But we got home and all was right with the world.

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How did we leave the girls for 5 days? With great guilt and huge trepidation. But was it worth it? To spend 5 whole days with your partner, remembering that you actually do enjoy each other’s company and genuinely like each other, is something that should not be underestimated. We live busy lives, and our worlds revolve around our babies. But in the midst of school and work and routines and dance classes and temperatures and worries and bills and the general chaos that is life with kids, we are still us, and this holiday was a great reminder of that.

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NYC was so good to us.

It was exciting and romantic and pretty amazing. The height of the buildings can’t be fathomed until you see them. The skylines. The sounds. The sirens! The smells. The buzz. The excitement. It is electric and exciting and yet, a calm and refreshing place. Around every corner is something new, something exciting and something wonderful.
My tips?

  • Book it yourself. You get so much more bang for your buck.
  • Book the hotel directly. Make sure the price includes taxes and charged and resort fees. Had we booked with the travel agent, we’d have been hit with a bill of over $150 on check out.
  • Buy the City Pass. It includes all of the big sites and attractions.
  • Plan your trip and do the big touristy things first thing in the morning. You don’t have time to be queueing in NYC!
  • Buy the 4 day ticket for the bus. Cabs aren’t expensive if you need to use them, but the buses go everywhere and are a great way to see the city.
  • Fit as much as possible in. Early starts are the way to go. We were up and out and had eaten breakfast by 8.30am each day. You can sleep on the flight home!
  • Plan. My friend had given me a map with the main attractions circled. We simply went to different areas each day and ticked off the things we wanted to do in that area.
  • The city is beautiful. Wander. Have a morning or afternoon where you have no plans and just see where you end up.
  • Finally, DO IT. Stop putting it off. If we’d put it off until next year, or the following year, we’d have found something else that needed done or paid for and made excuses. Go for it. NYC is a must see. And we only saw a fraction of it. I think a thousand trips wouldn’t cover it!

NYC has stolen our hearts. I’m almost afraid that if we were to return, it wouldn’t be as good, but I won’t let that stop me from booking to go back first chance we get… but I have a feeling it might need to be a Christmas trip next time.

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