I am So, I’m in the Irish Examiner today Mum

Thank you so much to the lovely Denise O’Donoghue from The Irish Examiner for putting together this feature on me.  What a lovely way to start my week.
 Click the link to visit Irishexaminer.com
ONLINE LIVES   –   THE IRISH EXAMINER

Teacher Maria Rushe has been blogging as The S-Mum for almost three years about her life with her husband, Emmet, and their two daughters.

“I write about the realities of being a parent,” she said. “I try my best to dispel the false perfections and perceived ideals that are portrayed online. As mammies, we all do what is best for our own kids and what another mum thinks about your style of parenting is quite frankly, not your problem.

“I don’t hold back. I sometimes swear. I post and blog about the highs and the lows and I like to make people laugh.”

Maria describes blogging as “therapy” and she loves connecting with like-minded people.

“I enjoy the interaction on my Facebook page. My favourite thing ever is when I read a message or comment from another S-Mum saying how I’ve ‘read her mind’ or how she ‘could have written this’. To know that your words can have a positive impact is such a treat. And realising that I’m not the only one who feels like I’m about to lose my marbles helps too!”

The mum-of-two is cautious of social media but embraced blogging to better understand the students when she teaches English.

“Social media is our ‘Terrible Beauty’; it’s wonderful but so dangerous. I enjoy the communication and new people it brings to me, but I find it difficult to keep up with it all.

“Blogging helps me in my job as being submerged in Social Media definitely helps me to understand the world of my students. I try to teach them how to read it; how to recognise it as a genre, rather than a reality.”

Maria found remaining anonymous challenging and sometimes struggles with trolls online.

“At the beginning, I tried to remain anonymous. After a few months, that became difficult. I grew more confident in my writing and the response was encouraging.

“I do use my poetic licence sometimes. I have to inject a little bit of fiction into the S-Mum to prevent it from being too intrusive to our lives. I chose what to share. I chose what not to share.

“Your first hater or troll is a challenge too. I don’t take them on. I ban and block. End of.”

She says the support she received from fellow parent bloggers has been encouraging.

“I have found them to be such a supportive and honest bunch. It’s refreshing talking with like-minded people and it’s intriguing how many different avenues people take their blogs.

#irishexaminer #onlinelives #thesmum

 

I am Sportswear Mum

I always KNEW that Michael-of-the-Murphy would propose to me one day…

Well, it wasn’t as much a “proposal” as a proposition…

OK, HE didn’t call me himself, but one of his people did so it’s kind of the same thing no?

And it was more of an invitation than a proposal, but hey!  Perspective eh?

              Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure at Station Roundabout, Letterkenny

The lovely people at Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure in Letterkenny saw my post on Instagram about how my gym gear isn’t quite “cutting the mustard” or “hiding the hiney” when this Mammy drops it like it’s “squat”.  They invited me to come in and try on some of their Ladieswear in the store.  I’m already a customer so I agreed to pop in on Saturday morning.

Now, I have always bought my trainers here, but I must admit that I often sauntered straight to the footwear section, not quite paying attention to the training gear. I got quite the shock when I saw the full wall of Elle Sportswear. And when Laura began to show much how much of the store is actually dedicated to female clothing, I was impressed.

They even have it displayed with your needs in mind; so gym gear is on one wall, running wear on another, with leisure wear and hoodies beside these. Everything is positioned according to colours and brands, making mix and match very easy.

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“What are you looking for?” Laura asks me.

I tell her I need bottoms that won’t stretch to see-through in the gym. Whatever about The Him seeing that view, my gym buddies do NOT need to. (Note to everyone. Leggings in the gym do NOT work.)

I am also looking for some nice leisurewear that will be comfortable but still dressy.  You all know that I live in my trackies at the weekend. I wanted something that will look good in the gym or out and about, but also if we decide to go for lunch on a “Sunday Funday”.

She asked me my size in shoes and clothes and off she popped. 5 minutes later, the changing room is full of matching outfits. There’s even room for a buggy in the changing room Mammies, so you can easily try on a few bits with Michael of the Murphy keeping an eye on your minions. 🙂

 

I loved ALL of the gear. I don’t usually go for patterns, but was pleasantly surprised at these.

I came away with the very sassiful and sexiful ELLE top and bottoms and a gorgeous pair of PUMA runners, which I test drove in Glenveagh on Sunday.  The outfit was cozy and comfy and the shoes surprised me. (I wouldn’t have usually gone for that style, but I love them. I’ll be bringing them with me to traipse around London on school tour next weekend.)

I went BACK for the blue outfit during the week and am waiting for payday to get the ELLE jumper.  🙂  I may have to limit my visits…

Laura was so professional and so very honest, which I LOVE in a shop. Don’t tell me lies to get me to buy.

So yes Ladies.  If you thought Michael Murphys was just about GAA, GOLF and Menfolk, think again.  These Ladybelles know their fashion and I can’t wait to see the new stock. Laura’s face lit up as she was explaining what’s coming in over the Autumn. I look forward to seeing it.

Thanks Laura!

And Michael-of-the-Murphy?  Yes, my answer is YES!

22070497_10159244309215167_764079570_o(The Kiddy section is amazing too. )

#michaelmurphysportsandleisure  #collab #sp #Ellesports #puma #gymmum

I am sipping bubbles in the bubbles Mum-Review of The Shandon Hotel & Spa, Donegal

​Shandon Hotel and Spa, Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal.

The Him decided to finally whisk me off for a romantic break in The Shandon Hotel and Spa.

Since it reopened in March 2016, we’ve heard only gushing reports about it so have been very much looking forward to visiting ourselves.

We’re a fussy pair you know? When we do get a little time away on our own, we like exciting food, comfortable and clean surroundings and a little bit of luxury.  The Shandon gave us all this and more.

First Impressions:

Check-in was efficient and quick and friendly.  The foyer is beautiful; very tastefully decorated and perfect for relaxing with a paper or simply enjoying the amazing views of Sheephaven Bay.

Because we visited at Christmas, it had the added sparkle and romance of the Christmas trees and seasonal decorations; beautiful.

Our room was on the third floor. It was large, spacious and ever so clean. The bathroom was small but cleverly appointed, making excellent use of the space. Again, pristine cleanliness. (I love clean…did I mention that?) The window was massive, and like every room in the hotel, overlooked the bay and offered stunning views of the area.

Tea/coffee and shortbread, a safe and all the usual. The only thing I missed were robes, but no biggy.

​ (Our only issue on arrival was that when we got to the third floor, it became clear that there was major work/renovation being carried out upstairs. The noise was deafening. We checked with reception who immediately apologised and assured us that the workmen would be finished shortly and wouldn’t be starting until 10am the next morning. We were happy enough with this, but had we not been booked into the spa at 10am and had we been anticipating a lazy morning until Check out, I would not have been impressed. A small issue for us, but it might have beena disappointment for others, and perhaps we might have been made aware on booking that renovations are underway at certain times.)

But first impressions were good and we instantly relaxed, knowing that we were in for a perfect “switch off”.

Feed me Now!

The hotel bar is comfortable and cozy and has a full wall of window.

It seems that no matter where you go in the building, you are able to see the famous view. It’s wonderful. We enjoyed lunch in the bar and were treated to good conversation and excellent G&T by the lovely Gary.

There was absolutely no problem when I asked for a variation to the Gin menu. He was more than happy to accommodate Little Miss Fussy Knickers here.😂 After lunch, I ordered a glass of wine. I wanted a glass of Malbec, but it only came by the bottle. Gary suggested that he could open the bottle and have it in the restaurant for us for our dinner booking. This is the first time that I have ever been offered this in a busy hotel. We were hugely impressed, and true to his word, the bottle was in the restaurant for us when we arrived that night.

Lunch was superb. The menu is impressive and the wine list and gin menus are extensive. If you visit, you MUST try the Salt and Chilli Prawns. They were HUGE, perfectly cooked and subtly flavoured. The only other place I have had prawns that good, was in a seaside restaurant in Portugal. They were so good that I ordered them again for lunch the next day. The Him had Salmon which was also superb. (The Steak burger he had for lunch the following day was incredible too.) We figured that if lunch was this good, then we were in for a treat at dinner.

We figured right.

The service was perfect. The food was divine. I had a duck confit to start and Seabass (with more of those prawns!) for my main, followed by a Cheese board to match any I’ve had before. The Him had a Crab starter (yum!), a perfectly cooked steak and a lemon tart to finish. There was a sorbet between courses and the Guinness Bread to start was gorgeous.

(I don’t have pics of the dinner as we left the phones in the safe for the evening…imagine!? 😂💖)

The next morning.

Breakfast was excellent; your typical hotel breakfast, but again the standard was high, with lots of little touches like “Shandon Detox water” with lemon and cucumber and homemade smoothies. Very good.

Now!

The Shandon Spa​.

Oh!

      My!

          Word!

We had hoped to visit this on arrival, but it was fully booked. (Check with the spa for availability as early as possible to avoid disappointment.) In hindsight, it was a much better way to do it anyway as rather than have breakfast and head home, we felt like we had a second day away! We checked out after breakfast, threw the bags in the car and were in the spa as it opened at 10am. Again, it was superb; the Reception, the staff, the changing rooms (soooo clean! 😅) and atmosphere was  quiet, relaxing and gentle.

​ We were first into the Thermal Suite that morning.

Ladybelles, it is THE nicest spa I have been to in Ireland.

It is bright and spacious with a spectacular glass wall, again overlooking the bay. Jacuzzi, pressure/massage showers, tropical showers, a herb infused sauna and a little room filled with essential oil steam are only a few of the facilities. It is first class.

Sipping bubbles in the bubbles!

We spent an hour in the Thermal Suite and then headed out to the famous Hot Tub on the balcony. You know when you anticipate something for so long that it ends up a disappointment?

​ Yeah, well that did NOT happen.

We were brought two glasses of chilled prosecco and spent 20 glorious minutes sipping bubbles in the bubbles! It was baltic that morning; cars were frozen in the carpark; my wet hair was frozen by the time we got out; but we were toasty warm and afterwards, you can warm up on the heated marble loungers inside. The tub is magical. It is EVERYTHING I hoped it would be and EVERYONE needs to experience it.

We were then taken off for our treatments. The Him had booked the Spa Sensation Package so we were getting Full Body massages. My therapist was Rita and she was brilliant. The relaxation room offered fruit and water and more views of the bay. We stayed there for about 15 minutes before returning to the changing rooms. Afterwards, you can chill with a selection of teas and coffee in yet another room with sea views beside reception. There are also soft drinks, wine and prosecco available for purchase. What I loved most about this was the lack of rush.

So many other spas tend to want you to leave ASAP after your treatment. “When you’re ready” generally carries the subtext of “Hurry along now!”, but not in The Shandon. We could have sat there drinking tea and enjoying the view (yes again!) for as long as we liked. It really was the most relaxing few hours and I have it on good authority that The Him loved it every bit as much as I did.

Overall, The Shandon Hotel and Spa really is a jewel in the Wild Atlantic Way. It is beautifully appointed, well run and the food and service are equal to any we have enjoyed in any 5 star hotel, both at home and abroad. The spa is exceptional and the setting is perfect. And for us, the fact that it is only a 30 minute drive from home meant that we could escape for 24 hours and still be home quickly to the girls. 💖💖

We returned home completely relaxed and rejuvenated and ready to start the hectic New Year. For some quality time as a couple, it is the perfect location. We only wish we had been able to go over earlier on the first day so we might have gone for a walk on the gorgeous beach and had a look at the leisure centre and pool…

Next time!

We can’t wait to visit again, and might just have to make it an annual anniversary trip. (But I’m already planning a night with my Girls in February, because as romantic as it is, it would also be the perfect spot for a girly catch up, gossip and giggles and some first class pampering. Sssssh! I won’t tell Him just yet! 😂💙)

Congratulations to the Shandon team on creating a magical hideaway, right on our doorstep.

If you’d like more information, here’s their website. http://shandonhotelspa.com

And find me on Bookface @the.s.mum for polite and shy daily musings about motherhood… 😂

The Shandon Hotel and Spa gets a Super 💋💋💋💋💋from The S-Mum!

 Please note: I write this review simply because I feel like it and because the hotel deserves it.  We paid for our stay in full and I have no ulterior reason for my gushing, other than having had a wonderful time.

I am Summertime-Family-Fun at Castleknock Hotel.

Last week, The Him and I took Mini-Me and Princess to Castleknock Hotel and Country Club for a 3 night Staycation.  Situated on Porterstown Road, Castleknock, this hotel is perfectly located for exploring Dublin.

We booked the Family Fun Package, which included a family room, Breakfast, tickets to Tayto Park and the Zoo, a dinner and a packed lunch.

When we arrived, we were checked in by a truly lovely young man.  Stephen was his name as far as I remember. He was friendly and efficient. When we arrived in the room allocated to us however, we weren’t overly impressed.  It was at the far end of the hotel, looking out at the hotel bins.  My 4 year old’s first words about the room were “Look at the man working at the bins Mammy.” There was a single bed and a double bed, but no cot and there wasn’t enough room to fit one in.

I rang reception and asked for a different room.  Again, he was very friendly and said he would look into it.  I went back to reception after ten minutes where Stephen was working on trying to find us alternative room for the three nights.  He eventually moved us to a new room, which was a bit bigger and so the cot fit in and we still had room to move about.  This room was overlooking the carpark and above a flat roof, but was much better than the first.

The hotel is clean and the public lobby, bar and reception are spacious and comfortable.  (Gorgeous air freshener in the huge lobby!)  The outside patio area is beautiful and a playpark was very well received by Mini-Me each evening. One lovely touch was the table of blankets, suncream and sunglasses at the door to the outside area.  Very simple, but very thoughtful.

The gym is basic but functional and the pool area is beautiful. There are two pools suitable for young children.  They were a perfect temperature and open to children from 9am until 6pm each day. (I should say that this suited us with very young children, but had our kids been a bit older, or teenagers indeed, we would not have been impressed that they couldn’t avail of the pool after 6pm.)

A family changing room would be helpful in the leisure area also.  Yes, there is a baby changing room and changing tables near the entrance to the pool, but for a young family, a communal room where both parents can help the children dress would have been wonderful. (A suggestion rather than a criticism.)

Breakfast each morning was perfect.  Porridge, fruit, pastries, cheeses, smoked salmon and a hot buffet.  The toasting machine needs replaced asap however…infuriatingly slow and took three attempts to warm the bread before eventually burning it!  The staff were very accommodating each morning.  On the third morning, Trish had seen us coming down the stairs and by the time we got to the restaurant, had reset the table closest to the buffet, set up the highchair and had even left extra teaspoons on the table for feeding the baby.  This was a simple act, but again, made us feel welcome and looked after.

We had barfood on the first 2 nights.  It was tasty, with a varied menu and satisfying portions.  Again, staff were efficient and friendly, taking time to talk to Mini-Me.  On our final night, we used the included dinner in the very elegant restaurant.  Decor in this area is stunning; elegant, tasteful and classy.  Our server Christina was superb from beginning to end and the food was exellent.

Had the Him and I been in this beautiful restaurant on our own, we would have enjoyed it much more to be honest.  It was difficult to enjoy this meal to its full potential with a tired baby and a 4 year old who thought we were at a ball in her honour!  We were terrified she would break or spill something. We both agreed that a barfood voucher included in the package would have been much more beneficial in the family package.

The hotel is very close to the zoo; it’s only a 5 minute drive to Phoenix Park.  It’s also close to Tayto Park and the City Centre so it is ideal for a family adventure in the Capital.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our break. We have stayed in Family rooms in other hotels which had a small hall or reception area which allowed for us to watch a movie or even have a drink after the girls went to bed, but the fact that they go to bed early isn’t really the hotel’s fault is it!?  It is however something that we would consider if booking again.  Perhaps adjoining rooms or a suite would be worth paying the extra for.

The Castleknock Hotel was very pleasant and perfectly located, the grounds and golf course were lovely, the food was excellent and the staff were friendly.  We left with a tasty packed lunch to spend the day at the zoo and they even put down the red carpet for Mini-Me! (Obviously it was for her and not for the beautiful Bride that day. 😂)

We will be back, (but maybe we’ll try one of the couple’s packages next time!)

I am Summertime-Family-Fun Mum

Follow me on Facebook  @secretsofsmum, or instagram @the.s.mum and on twitter.
Contact me on secretsofsmum16@gmail.com

(Please note: S-Mum received No Renumeration for reviewing this hotel.  I do so simply to help other parents to decide if such a family break would suit them.  These simply are our experiences.)

I am So Floating Mum

Yesterday, I found a new favourite thing to do!
Yesterday, I went Floating.

“The Float Room” in the Finn Valley Centre, Stranorlar is recently established and going from strength to strength.

I’ve been meaning to try floating for ages now, having heard great reports, so I was delighted when Gary invited myself and the Hubby over to try out the floating chamber.

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I didn’t really know what to expect.  We arrived to a warm welcome from proprietor Gary Ramsay, who brought us through to the floating suite.  The room is spacious, well appointed and clean; a bathroom and shower adjoins the changing room.

In the centre of the room was a big white door.  The door looks like a fridge from a space ship, but inside is a little cocoon of blue loveliness.
Gary guided us through the process with simple instructions.

Once everything had been explained, he left us to it.  What I really enjoyed about the experience was that you are left alone.  You are completely in charge of your own experience.  When in a spa, you’re always aware that the therapist will return in just a few minutes.  Here, unless you need a member of staff, you are free to enjoy the experience at your own pace.  (there is of course an emergency button should you need assistance.  It’s never been pressed!)

The chamber is beautiful.  The blue lights are soothing and calming.  The ceiling has colour-changing LED lights which are a sensory treat. When you enter the bath, music plays for the first 15 minutes.  This is followed by 30 minutes of quiet and then the music gently returns when there is 15 minutes of your session left.  It is a clever system as you can allow yourself to forget time completely.
The bath itself is huge.  Two people can comfortably share the chamber. The water isn’t overly deep and is toasty warm, and once you lie into it, you do indeed float!  With over a tonne of Epsom salts in the tub, you are fully unable to sink. (I swim like a concrete block, so this was a very new experience for me!)

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The most difficult part of the experience is actually relaxing!  It took me quite a while to fully surrender to the water.  I had to fully focus on relaxing certain muscles.  My neck was automatically keeping my head above water, but when you consciously force it to relax, it’s incredible.

The lights on the ceiling can be controlled manually.  We chose to turn them off.  I think that when I go again, I’ll keep the music on throughout.  I enjoyed the silence of course, but the music was relaxing and added that spa-like feel to the experience.

At the end of the session, when the filter begins to clean the chamber, you begin to spin gently as if on a whirlpool.  This was weird, but fun!  I think that with a few more sessions, I’d get better at relaxing and get further benefit from the experience.

As a couple, we don’t often get a full hour of uninterrupted conversation. I thought that we’d have a chance to talk, but obviously when you’re floating, your ears are under water, so there was no chatting! There are neck cushions that can be used however if you do want to chat with your floating partner.  Goggles and earplugs are also available in the changing room.

The one piece of advice that I wish I’d paid more attention to, was to keep my hands away from my eyes!
Epsom salts + contact lenses = ouchee! But a dry towel beside the chamber door soon sorted that.

The shower room and changing room are fully equipped with robes, towels and toiletries.  There is a powerful hairdryer and a basket of everything you might have forgotten!  Bottles of water and “sucky sweets” were welcome after the float.

I have to say, by bedtime, my back and shoulders had the ache of having had a good massage.  I slept like a baby last night.

So all in all, the experience was a lovely one. It was different.  It was relaxing.  It was very enjoyable.
I would happily go back on my own, or with himself.  If nothing else, it meant that I knew that he had had a full hour of relaxation without his phone beeping!
I can fully understand why Floating can benefit everyone.  It is proven to have immense benefits for pregnancy and Gary tells me that he has a number of clients to who bring their autistic children along as a form of relaxation.

Gary will be at my Bump and Beyond event on April 3rd so will answer any questions.  Or if you can’t wait until then, call him on 0894428691 or email him on info@thefloatroom.ie

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I am So-floating Mum 😆

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