Beech Hill Country House – a Review Peace & Tranquility on the Edge of the City

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to spend Easter Weekend at Beech Hill Country House, just outside Derry.

58382126_330281170963028_2649199213300154368_n

The beautiful Beech Hill Country House

Nestled in the hillside of Ardmore, Beech Hill is a hidden haven of peace and tranquillity, despite being only a stone’s throw from the main Derry to Belfast road.  It is quite literally on the cusp of the city and only a 20 minute drive from our home.

Recently taken over by Sam Harding, Barry Kemp and Adam Kemp, the new owners of country house have vowed to turn it into Northern Ireland’s best four-star hotel.

The 32-acre estate has a rich history which is beautifully catalogued and shown both inside the hotel and on plaques throughout the forests; it was taken over by US Marines during WWII as a base for soldiers, before being transformed into a hotel in 1989.

What is a grand and stately building, filled with history and character, is being gently moulded into a modern hotel to compete with any of its contemporaries.  The natural beauty of the grounds combined with the quaint decor is indeed stately and classic, and yet the restaurant and bedrooms are modern and fresh.     What is also traditional and classic, is the staff and how they interact with the guest; polite, helpful and professional.

We brought the two girls along for a family switch-off and catch-up weekend!

Check in was easy and friendly.  Our family room brought us on a trek through the many little corridors and rooms, all well signposted and filled with history and photographs.  A lift brought us to the first floor and then a small flight of stairs brought us to the room.  If you had a buggy however, there is plenty space to safely leave it if you don’t want to carry it to the room.

The family room was huge!  A massive double bed, with a single bed and a fold-out bed for the toddler, these beds were incredibly comfortable.  There was a sofa and resting chairs in front of the TV and lots of space for a family of 4. 

58441328_350249849168354_597512706303459328_n

The bathroom, gleamingly clean, had a bath which is so essential when travelling with kiddies.

The forests provided a beautiful playground for the four of us.  We spent over two hours running and playing on the grounds before dinner and another hour on Sunday morning in a completely different part of the forest.

We had booked dinner for 6.30pm.  The restaurant is bright and has gorgeous views over the little lake and gardens.  Again, the staff were incredibly pleasant and efficient.

The food was beautiful.  I had mussels to start; a subtle portion as opposed to the unnecessarily huge bowl that is so often served.  I then had pork belly, which was served with a perfect balance of flavours and again, was a perfect size.  Himself had a meat terrine to start, and then the steak, perfectly cooked and seasoned.  Both were served with potato and veg.   Dessert was sorbet for Him and a cheeseboard (yes, as usual) for me.  It didn’t disappoint.

I was particularly impressed by the kids’ menu and the freshness of the food served to them.  No beige frozen or processed food for the kiddies at Beech Hill.  The chicken tenders were obviously freshly battered in breadcrumbs and the burger would have been acceptable on any adult menu!  The hand-cut chips still had skin and the girls devoured their meals.

I would love to see some crayons and colours for kids next time we visit.  In fairness, we managed over two hours with the girls, with no crayons or books or screens! They were quite happy to sit and chat and eat with us.  Mini-Me loved feeling grown up when her food was served on proper plates, the same as ours.

They were full of stories from the forest and were so suspiciously well behaved that we even ventured into the gorgeous bar for a drink before bed.  Special shout out to Aaron, the lovely barman who really knew his stuff.  He was able to recommend a beer to Himself and proceeded to explain the difference between different types of draft.  When I asked for an Espresso Martini, he asked if I’d like it bitter or sweet and was able to tell me the history of where the instapopular cocktail originated.

My favourite meal as always was breakfast; I get very excited about breakfast!

I love the selection and variety of fruit and cereal and baked treats, but what particularly excites me is when there is a menu and someone brings you a lovely plate of cooked joy!  I am not a fan of having to plate up and serve myself.  Maybe it comes from working as a waitress for many years, but when I am out for any meal, I truly appreciate it being brought to me at the table. This is unusual in hotels nowadays, but a definite tick in my book.

58379543_430642161027119_4049889409753939968_n

We had the most relaxed 24 hours.  And to only have to drive a short distance to find such a beautiful escape, means that we will certainly be back.  Beech Hill House is wonderful for a family switch-off.  The TV in the room didn’t get switched on and the girls were so happy exploring the forests and the corridors.

It would also be perfect for a romantic sneakaway or a girly break.  I’m looking forward to visiting again many times and to seeing how the new owners develop and grow this beautiful estate.

 

Mammy and her family were invited to review the hotel.  As always however, Mammy was under no obligation to write anything, maintains her honesty and all views and comments are my own.  

 

Happy Mother’s Day

From a Mammy on Mother’s Day

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I love you each second of every day.

And even when sometimes I grumble and scold

I hope that you know that even if you’re being bold,

I trust you, I get you, I love you so much

I’ve loved you since the minute I first felt your touch,

(Whether at birth or first meeting, It matters not how

became your Mammy, I’m your Mammy now.)

My total existence revolves around you;

Your growth and your wellness, everything that you do.

I’m thinking about you, awake and asleep

And even if I’m not with you, please know that I keep

you so close in my heart and always on my mind.

You’re my reason for living, the reason I find

to get up on the mornings where there’s been no sleeping

to keep smiling and going, when I just feel like weeping.

But always, no matter how much I may struggle

The world can be fixed with just one little “cuggle”.

When I look at you sleeping, so pure and calm,

I love you with everything that I am.

I’ll push you, protect you and help you to grow,

I’ll make sure you know all the things you should know.

I’ll keep you as safe as I possibly can

I’ll make sure you know just how proud that I am

To be raising a child who’s so brilliant and clever

and to be your wee Mammy, forever and ever.

So how do I love you, let me count the ways.

Every day Darling, not just on Mother’s Day.”

To a Mammy on Mother’s Day

How to I love thee, well count I cannot,

But I don’t need my numbers to tell you a lot, 

I love you for reasons that do not need words,

For the fact that you’re mine since I came to this world.

Because you love me every day and each night,

When I’m being my best, or I’m giving you frights

I know that you sometimes are worried and scared

But you don’t let me see that, You’re too busy being there

When I need you for playtime or stories or songs,

When I call in the night, and you carry me long,

long into the hours where we should be asleep,

runjulia

When I hide from the monsters or cry or hurt deep.

When I eat all my dindins or throw it you

When I giggle and cry, when you’re covered in poo.

It really doesn’t matter what I do or I say,

You are my Mammy and I’ll simply love you always.

Much love to all the Mammies of any Babbies, all over the world.

The S-Mum xxxx

I am S is for Special – Happy World Down’s Syndrome Day

It’s World Downs Syndrome Day. ❤❤

It’s a day to celebrate the extra chromosome that makes some people just a little bit more special.
One of the first images I saw on Facebook today was of my good friend Lee Gooch’s handsome little man Noah.

And oh! How it melted my heart.

What an angelic, gorgeous and perfect little face.  There is mischief in those eyes.

FB_IMG_1553159958953.jpg

Photo with permission from Lee Gooch

This image, like all of the beautiful images on my Timelines today, melts my heart, not only because of the joy it shows, but also because of the memories it provokes in me.
Lee and his family are blessed.

I know this, because my family too were blessed. Actually, we still are.

A child with Downs Syndrome isn’t just their extra chromosome.

A child with Downs, is special.
Special in every sense of the word.
My own Aunty Carmel was special.
She was beautiful, mischievous and intelligent. She held more love in the tip of her finger than ANYONE I have ever known. She was witty, bold and an absolute rascal, loving nothing more than to get the craic going with whoever was visiting.

She loved to dress up, adored The Rose of Tralee and loved to dance.  Every single person who walked through the door of my Grandparents’ home, fell head over heels in love with her. She was the most head-strong, determined and fearless Ladybelle I’ve ever met.  She kept our family on our toes.


And she taught me many lessons.

The main one being that we are all different and that different is good.
I remember being in the Shopping Centre with her and my other Aunty when I was about 5.

Other kids were staring at Carmel. It was the first time I realised that she was different because I suddenly became aware of other people’s reactions to her.

Her reaction to one teenage boy who stopped to look at her? She stuck out her tongue at him, laughed her hearty laugh and waved at him mischievously as we pushed her past.😂😂
There and then, I was proud of her. Even at that young age, she taught me that you must NEVER let anyone bring you down, that you must be YOU, and that there IS no other You to be.
She was perfect.

She was the strongest woman I ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Carmel had no tolerance for nonsense, seeing the world without political correctness or prejudice. She also had no filter! (I take after her like that!)  She simply saw people.  She recognized and delighted in kindness. She had no time for people who were not kind.

She was more brave and more caring and more wonderful than I could ever put into words and I miss her every day.

She was indeed my Special Aunty, but for so many more reasons than her Downs Syndrome.

Special doesn’t even start to describe her or the love that she gave or more importantly, the love that she demanded.

Love.

Pure and true…

Like the love on wee Noah’s face in that photograph and every day.
A family who have been blessed with an extra chromosome, know a love that is beyond words.
So there.

We miss Carmel every day and she lives on in our hearts and in our memories. Knowing and loving her is responsible for so much of who I am today.
And I send my love and respect to every single family who are fighting every day for the rights of Downs Syndrome children, and who are helping to make people realise that the “S” in DS should not stand for “Syndrome”…

It stands for “Strong”.

It stands for “Smile”

…and it stands for Special.
#worlddownsyndromeday #smile #love #special

(Lee has given me permission to post this pic. Thanks Lovely. And kisses to Noah.)
Follow me on Facebook @the.s.mum and instagram @the.s.mum 

Seriously? Yes. Seriously!

So it seems this picture is doing the rounds again. I wrote a response to it a few years ago… it stands true!

Read the extract from 1950 Home Economics Book below. 👇👇👇👇👇

🙄Have Dinner Ready🙄

Plan ahead, even the night before, to have some sort of food in the house for your family, possibly including your husband, not because you have been thinking about him or give a continental shite about his needs, but because YOU need food so he might as well get fed too.

Most men are hungry when they get home, but most men are well able to get their own feckin dinner, and make you some while they’re at it.

🤨Prepare yourself🤨

Take a 15 minutes rest if you can. Or, sneeze so your eyes close briefly. Just make sure you remove the key from inside the front door so he doesn’t waken you with the doorbell as he lets himself into the house.
Your man should think you’re the prettiest thing he’s ever seen, even when you haven’t worn makeup for 5 days, stink like a badger’s arse and have forgotten what a razor looks like. If he suggests putting a ribbon in your hair or spraying perfume, threaten to bobbit him with said ribbon, spray the perfume in his eyes and use a pointy stiletto to give his day a little lift. Smile gayly while doing so. It’ll make his day more interesting and less boring.

😆Clear away the Clutter.😆

If you can make it from one end of the living room to the other without stepping on lego or tripping on a Paw Patrol weeble, your house is perfect. Tidying everything up before he gets home only leads to a false impression that the kids have NOT destroyed EVERYTHING on sight since 7am. Reality is good.
The messier the house, the more chance there is that He will run you a bath, or pour you a gin, realising what kind of afternoon/day you must have had with his Holy Terrors. Your Husband will probably not notice either way as he’ll be too busy answering very important emails or catching up on Bookface to give a crap. If he wants a haven of rest and order, he can just give you a hand to lift everything of the floor.
Equal rights and all that.

😑Prepare the Children😑
Do try to wash the children’s hands and faces, if only to avoid spaghetti bolognese stains on your duvets. Do not attempt to comb hair in the evening, unless you are really in the mood for a screaming match. Do not under any circumstances change their clothes. Feck that. You’re just creating more washing for your bottomless basket. Actually, remove their clothes before dinner and cover them in bin bags. You might even get another day out of their outfits if you’re really clever.

They are his little treasures, so let him play the part. Toddle off to the cinema with your mamma squad (or on your own!) and let Him do bath time and bedtime. Let’s see how much clutter has been lifted by the time you get home eh?

🤗Minimise all noise.🤗
Scrap this. Turn on all appliances before he arrives home, just to emphasise your absolute busy-mummy-ness, because unless he sees it being done, he often won’t realise it’s been done! Let the children scream and shout at each other, turn up the Tellybox and any other devices and do not attempt to hush them. Actually, if you are heading out shopping or to, like a sewing class, give them sugar before you leave. Greet him with a warm smile, be glad to see him and run out that fecking door as fast as your feet can carry you.

🤨Some Don’ts🤨
Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Wait until he is having his dinner and the kids are listening and casually remind him of what you’ve asked him 309 times to do already.
Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. It’s him who’ll have to eat it cold, not you. Why give a hoot? Save complaints or ranting for after the kids have gone to bed, so you swear more effectively.
Men love a passionate woman who knows her mind. If his day can trump being covered in poonami, screamed at incessantly by a teething toddler or puked on 3 times, then in fairness, be nice. And then tell him he needs to change jobs.

😋Make him comfortable.😋
Indeed, wait until he’s comfortable before telling him the bin needs to go out. Stomp about screaming “Fine then I’ll do it myself!” until he gets up to do it… If you catch him lying down in the bedroom while there are still children at large, throw a cold drink over him and tell him it’ll be hot next time. Threaten to arrange the pillow on his face while he is sleeping if he doesn’t get up RIGHT NOW to help with bedtime. Speak in low, soothing, threatening tones.
It’s much more effective.

🤣Listen to him🤣
You may have a list of things to tell him. Write that list down so that you don’t forget all of the things, and then email, text and stick that list onto his forehead, before still having to repeat the same list tonorrow. Wait until he has his coat off, or better still, catch him on the toilet. He has no escape from there.

🤔Make the evening his🤔
Oh, Feck off 1950.

😄The Goal😄
Try to make your home a place where you can both manage to keep the children alive and teach them not to be completely feral and grumpy little shits, while (the odd time) having some down time together to remember that you actually do like each other.

Oh. And you can see why the man who wrote this was so anally retentive and ridiculous… there is no mention of SEX anywhere. 😂😂

Stop Asking THAT Question

I’ve written about this before but it seems that it’s like non parents parking in mother and baby spots or people feeling the need to comment on how your baby is fed; it doesn’t go away!

STOP ASKING PEOPLE when they’re going to start a family or going to ‘go again’.

I know people don’t mean any harm when they insist on telling you that you should “be going again” or “getting a move on”, and yet often, these innocently thrown statements can stab a couple through the heart.

Firstly, why do people think it’s OK to assume that everyone wants to have more Babies? Or actually, even A baby for that matter.  Many people make the conscious decision that parenthood is not for them; that they are quite fulfilled and happy as they are.

Then there are the people who, no sooner have you popped out little Charlie or Nancy, but they’re telling you it’s time to get working on Jeremiah or Jezebel.  Why, oh WHY, do people think that it’s OK to ASK why a couple aren’t “going for number 3″… or 4, or 8?

And as for the people who tease a newly married couple, or indeed ANY childless couple, about ‘getting a move on’, well that is just a whole other level of silly beggar.

Here are 6 reasons to NOT comment on a couple’s NON pregnant state:
1. It’s none of your business.

2. You don’t know their situation. You don’t know if they’ve had a miscarriage recently. People don’t generally go around announcing that do they? In fact, we good Irish still fall into the trap of thinking that we aren’t allowed to tell anyone until the sacred 12 week mark, and so when things go wrong, couples often have no one to share their grief or help them through it.

3. 1 in 6 Irish couples currently struggle with fertility. How do you know if the person you are innocently teasing about “going for another one” or “filling that big house” isn’t one of those couples? You don’t know if they’re trying EVERYTHING and being constantly heartbroken. You don’t know if she’s injecting herself daily, undergoing physical and emotional and mental turmoil to try to help matters. You don’t know if he’s struggling with the fact that his sperm count is low. You don’t know if they’ve put every penny they have (and don’t have) into rounds of treatment, over and over again. You don’t know how deep your playful, well-intentioned words can cut.

4. Not EVERY couple WANTS to have a baby, or another Baby. For their own reasons. That they don’t have to explain to you.  And when a couple tells you that they’re all done or quite happy with their lot thank you, do not raise your eyebrow in a smug and all-knowing, “we’ll see” or tut at their ‘nonsense’.  You’re in murky waters now and you need to paddle back Dear.

5. Maybe that couple are in the process of adoption, or surrogacy. Maybe that couple are at breaking point, physically and emotionally and maybe…

6. …it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Of course people mean no harm when we joke about “filling that big car” or “getting a wee brother for Nancy”, but like all things Parent related, innocent comments and harmless questions can cut through people like a bolt of lightning. We shouldn’t comment. End of.

So next time you find yourself about to joke or jest or ask someone about the state of their baby situation, consider this:  If they asked you about the state or your uterus, or indeed your sperm situation, how would you feel? Would you be comfortable if that person sighed and answered with “Well actually, we’re on our third round of IVF and we’re emotionally and physically exhausted and I’d love to tell you about it”?  Or if they said, “Well actually, we’ve had three miscarriages in the last 18 months” or “Well no, becuase we’re pretty sure we won’t be together this time next year.” If you would be able to deal with those answers, you possibly know the person well enough to know not to ask anyway.

If not, don’t ask and don’t comment.

Simples.