I am Some Packy Hackies Mum

It’s almost Holibop Season!

Hurrah!

Packing is something that I am good at.  I enjoy it and generally once I have my lists done, it doesn’t take long.  I’m a light packer.  I can pack myself and Himself into one case for a week away.  If we’re doing a weekend trip, one small bag is plenty.  And I can do a trip alone with tiny carry on.  I have been known to arrive in London with my toothbrush, clean knickers and a tee-shirt tucked into my handbag.

Packing for the four of us to go on holidays has never been hard either.  Simply because we’ve never ventured beyond Ireland, and so we’ve had the luxury of the boot of the car and as much space as we need.

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So last year, going on our first sun holiday as a family,  presented Mammy with a new challenge.  And I must say that thanks to the Mammies on my blog, I  gathered some super tips to add to my own packy-hacks:  Each of these worked a charm, and I’ll be doing the exact same this year.

  • Lists: Plan ahead.  I write down what will be worn/needed by everyone for the number of nights we’re away.  Then I add a spare outfit for the girls, just incase.
  • Mix up the bags: I had planned on a case for us and a case for the girls. We have one each, but I’m not lugging 4 cases through the airports.  Loads of Mums told me to mix all of the clothes between the cases, and if one gets lost or delayed, at least everyone still has clothes when we arrive.
  • Check-in? If you arrive at your resort early, your room/apartment might not be ready. Pack swimming gear and sun cream in one of the carry on bags so that you can go straight to the pool while you wait for your check-in.
  • Ziplock bags: THIS has changed my life Ladybelles.  Thanks to Davina from Jim for this one. She advised me to pack the kids clothes into these.  So for each evening, I have their dresses, underwear, socks etc that they’ll need for going out for dinner in little bags. It will avoid the suitcases turning into chaotic pits of “I can’t find it!”  I have their shorts and Tees and Swimmers and PJs labeled in their bags too, so The Him will be able to easily find things too.  (I’ve since been directed to little sets of case organisers that can be bought in different colours and have it on good authority that they are super.  I never did get around to buying them however!)
  • Pop-up tent:  My mate is a serial beach goer.  This is her tip. Bring a little pop up tent. We have a little wigwam in the hall. It cost a tenner. It folds down to nothing and if it fits, it’s going into one of the cases. It’ll provide shade for the girls, means they can play in it if it gets too hot on the beach and it was perfect last year for changing nappies!  Genius.
  •  Backpacks:  Now, my girls have flown a few times, but only short flights.  I’ve always packed little colouring books and some snacks into their bags to keep them occupied.  This time, I’ve packed a few more and have a few wee surprises for them for emergency distractions! (Euroshops are Wicked for this kind of stuff.)
  • Downloads:  Did you know that you can download from your Netflix account? I have my tablet stocked up with episodes of Paw Patrol and a few movies.
  • Snack packs:  Now this one I initially scoffed at, but let’s face it, children eat ALL DAY and snacks are expensive.  So, I have done up a snack pack for each day; popcorn, raisins, pops, Haribo, Biscuits; their favourites.  And while of course we’ll be able to get this stuff there, to know that I have the bags ready to pop into the buggy each morning is great.  And the whole lot cost me €7.  So we’ll save our money for drinks and ice-creams.
  • Lollipops and chewy sweets:  Life saver for the ears of the Minions on take-off and landing.
  • Travel sized stuff:  Who doesn’t love mini-stuff?  Over the past few weeks, I’ve picked up my moisturiser and some of my makeup bits simply by asking for samples at the counters. There’s enough suncream to carry without jars and pots.  I even got a lovely face mask from one lovely lady.   I tend to leave the makeup at home on hols, opting instead for basic concealer, bronzer and mascara. And I decant my shampoo and conditioner into the little plastic bottles too.
  • Keep hand luggage minimal. The girls have their little bags, I have my handbag, and Him will have a small carry on with a change of clothes for both girls, calpol and more snacks… and ALWAYS, the Babywipes!
  • Midnight Flit?  If you are lifting your minions out of bed to travel, either put them to bed in their tracksuits or comfies. (If you can!)
  • Pillow Cases:  Pack 2 pillowcases.  Use them as laundry bags; one for lights, one for darks/colours.  Easier to carry the washing home and easier to unpack. (I swear by this one. Works a treat.)
  • Beds:  Before we go, I’ll change the beds. Pain in the posterier as you try to get out the door, but just think of how lovely it is to get back into your own nice, clean bed after a week away. I’ll be glad of it when we return.

 

These are only a few of the many, many I got sent.  I’m sure there are many more you would add.   Some might tut at my over preparation, but I’m one of those people who needs my shit to be together, for my mind to stay together.

I’ll relax more knowing that I have the essentials sorted. And anything that we forgot can be bought there.  Mammies tend to do all the sorting don’t we? But this Mammy believes that preparation is key and I know that when we get there, I WILL relax, because I’ve put in the work at home!

All I need to do now is to make sure there’s a few beers in the fridge for the Big Wee Brother who’s moving in to babysit the Furbaby. And get there!

Happy Holidays to you if you’re going away. Share away at your own packing-hacks!

 

Summer Fun in Donegal

 

Summer!

It’s finally here and in fairness, apart from the odd dodgy day, it’s already shaping up to be a cracker.

And now that Mammy and Daddy are done with rehearsals and the mayhem that Spring brings each year, our weekly Sunday Fundays must commence! Up in the morning, dress for whatever the weather is doing (layers layers layers so it can change its mind 32 times in 4 hours as usual eh?!), into the car and go!

Adventures and fun cost money, and while there are of course hundreds of things you can do with your minions, here are 10 of my favourite things to do right here at home. They range from absolutely free to the not so free but no matter how often we do these things or go to these places, the girls always enjoy them and feel like they’ve been somewhere special.

In no particular order:

Glenveagh – Now those of you who follow my blog, know that Glenveagh National Park is a firm favourite in our little family. 

We go there 2 or 3 times a month and myself and The Him love it just as much as the girls do.  It’s only a short drive from Letterkenny, has absolutely NO phone coverage and has THE most stunning landscape in the country.  NOWHERE beats Glenveagh for beauty.

The best thing is that entry to the park is absolutely FREE. You can bring a picnic or try some of the insanely good cakes and food in the tearooms there.  We walk the 4k to the castle every and usually take the bus back up as Princess’s legs aren’t quite able for 8K just yet!

Bikes are available to hire from Grassroutes in the carpark too and you can get one of the little buggy-trailers for the minions.  The castle grounds are beautiful and while ours are too young to do the full bridal path, there is lots to occupy them (and their imaginations) in the gardens.  

(Tell your minions that the gates with the stag heads are the Gates to Santa’s summer house.  Never gets old!)

The Beach – We are so blessed to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps. Lisfannon Beach in Fahan is possibly my favourite place in the world.  It’s not only where I often escape for some sneaky Mam-me time, (seriously, some life changing decisions have been made on this beach), it’s also where I take the girls if we want to have some good old fashioned free fun. 

It’s only 15 minutes from my house, but the girls feel like they’ve had such a treat, even if we only stop for a 20 minute run-about.  Over the summer, I keep a blanket and buckets in the car, so if we find ourselves nearby, it’s easy to stop here.  I also keep a bag with a change of clothes and a towel in the boot, just incase it’s warm enough for a paddle.  There’s loads of parking and in the summertime, there’s usually an ice-cream van in the carpark.

We’ve recently found Tank & Skinny’s on the pier in Buncrana too and it’s amazing for a coffee or brunch after wandering on the beach. So worth a visit.

Nature Walks – The girls love these.  They spend a lot of time outside in the garden, but the excitement of getting to go beyond the gate is immense! We live in the back-end of beyond, so in fairness, even a play in the garden can be a learning curve, but if I really want to occupy them for an hour, we just go walkies! 

Mini-Me can point out some of the tree types (reminding me  of things that I used to know!) and there’s a gate at the end of our farm where I once told her the fairy kingdom begins, so she loves to visit there.  She stands on the side of the road talking to the gate, but in her head, she’s on a serious adventure! Fun fun fun and FREE FREE FREE!

Parks – Letterkenny has two fab parks. The town park is great but it’s lacking parking, so if it’s too busy, we often opt for Ballymacool Park.  Just outside the town, it’s peaceful and quiet, even when busy.  It’s easy to park, has lovely trails for walking and beautiful views. The little playpark is wonderful; clean and full of playthings for kids of all ages.  The best thing about this little area is that it’s fully fenced off, and so no matter what direction Princess runs in, she’s safe (and enclosed!).  

Ards Forest Park  –  Simply pay €5 to park and go get lost in the woods before strolling back along the most beautiful beach. The play park is gorgeous, there’s a coffee shop and there’s even a stretch of boardwalk. Very beautiful and lots of scope for stories and imagination in the forest.  The Fairies live there you know.  And the Grufallo comes on holidays sometimes so keep your eyes peeled for footprints. 🙂

Soft Play – Some days, Soft play is the only answer isn’t it? Especially with the summer weather we get here! The most exciting thing about going to soft play, is going to soft play with OTHER minions.  It’s win:win; A catch up for the mums, excitement (and a guaranteed successful bedtime) for the kids.  Arena 7 has recently had an overhaul and looks amazing! Century Play has everything you need for a fun few hours too. Both are wonderful and have different features that the kids love, AND they all serve good coffee.  Keep an eye on their pages for deals and rates.

 

Oakfield Park  –  As you all know, we LOVE Oakfield Park and have done for many, many years. (It used to be our roseymantic strolling spot before it got huge and before we had kids!0

It’s only 10 minutes from where we live and great for family Sunday-fundays, but also for random afternoons over the holidays. There is a charge to get in of course, but what I love about this place is that every year when they reopen, something new and wonderful has been added to the park. They add to the facility constantly. 

The Buffers Tea rooms/restaurant is lovely, but you can also bring a picnic along with you. We always bought the annual pass as it’s great value if you use the park often. I’m delighted to be a Park Ambassador for Oakfield now. The park truly is stunning, so well kept and beautifully presented.  There’s a play park and the Fairy tree is a favourite of Mini-Me’s.  The steam train never gets old.

Oakfield Park also hosts events and celebrations throughout the season, so keep an eye on their pages for details.  

Lurgy Brack Farm has expanded so much and is really a world of fun!  We visited last month for the first time in many years and I couldn’t believe how big it was and how much they have added since our last trip.  There’s a charge to get it, and when we go back, we’ll aim to spend the whole day.  (We were meeting mates for a coffee and quick play so paying full price for the three of us for two hours seemed pricey, but when I saw exactly what is there, it was worth every penny.)  I would definitely pack a picnic and a change of clothes and go for the full day next time!  They have put so much thought and energy into creating a lovely escape on the outskirts of Letterkenny and it’s definitely somewhere we’ll be spending more time this summer.

We have a to-do list for summer 2019 started and I’ll add anywhere that we discover to this list as we go through.

So there you go.  These are just our top go-to days out and activities in and around Letterkenny, all year round. I’m sure you could all add your own to this list.

Here’s to a fun Sunday Fundays and some sort of Springtime weather!

I am Stop Measuring Your Time on Someone Else’s Clock Mum

It’s August; which if you believe the Interweb and the Instafluencers, means it’s practically January already.

So apparently it’s time for Happy New Year already?

Eh. No.

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I did laugh at this. It’s funny coz it’s true…sort of.

Ok, I will agree that once the 1st of August arrives, I get a bellyflip of panic.  It means the long (and for once glorious!) summer is almost over.   It means it’s high time I was sorting Mini-Me for Back to School.  It means that I now only have 3 weeks to get through the mile long to-do in the summer list I wrote on the first day of her holidays.  It means everyone trying to cram all the things on the Summer lists into 3 weekends.

But it also means return to routine, which if your house is anything like mine, is something that I can not deny missing.

And then begins September; a month of sunshine and still long evenings where the dust settles on the chaos of the summer months and where Fridays take on a whole new meaning.

Then comes October, with the crisp coolness and warm colours and the excitement and build up to Halloween.

And then we have November, the month which will last 498 days and drive us all to stews and hot whiskeys and panics about how it’s nearly time for Santa Season and we haven’t even “started yet”…

And then it’s December and there’s a whole month of glitter and Christmas and Grinches and never-ending darkness and fires and heating blasting and cold and ice…

And we have ALL of that to do before we even think about next year.

So while YES, once August arrives, the end of the year does suddenly seem right around the corner, in reality, we still have 5 whole months until then.  5 whole months of birthdays and new beginnings and fighting and eating and laughing and growing and sniffling and working and parenting and everything else that our lives entail.

So take it easy on allowing memes and such online images to make you feel like you’re losing time.  You’re not.

You didn’t make it to every waterfall or family day out you’d planned.  Your kids didn’t get to go on nature walks every day.  You didn’t get that catch up with your cousin that you’ve been promising each other all year.  You didn’t actually get that night out with your besties that you’ve been putting off until summer since January.  You didn’t get your children to the top of a mountain. You didn’t make it to the beach and the fancy picnic basket remains unused since last year…

So what?

Who says these things have to be done in summer?  What’s wrong with getting that family trip in September if it suits your work better?  Why can’t you go to Glenveagh or to the beach in October? Who says that all of these things have to be done within school holidays?

So while these images and memes are quirky and cute and we find ourselves laughing or nodding in inst-agreement, they’re just another example of how we’re letting strangers online affect our own perceptions of our own lives.  Instead of thinking “sure the year’s nearly over”, ask yourself what you can still do and fit in and enjoy in the 5 months that are left…until next year, where guess what? We start all over again!

Scrap the summer bucket list and make up a new one for yourself and your family that doesn’t have a deadline.

Because yes, summer is limited, but thankfully, there are 3 other seasons and no one is measuring you, except yourself.

 

Are you following The S-Mum Blog on Social Media?  Find her Facebook here and read her blog here.

 

 

I am Sun & Fun in Salou Mum

Well we ventured abroad for a week with the girls, and despite my fears and worries, it was fantastic. (So fantastic in fact that we are probably going to book the exact same hotel again for next summer!)

The girls in Atlantic Travel in Letterkenny were brilliant when I went in. I wanted short flights, short transfer, central location and good food. Within a few minutes, I was looking at Family Life Avenida Suites in Costa Dorada in Salou.

Atlantic were able to recommend it, having visited it and from customer reviews, so we booked it, trusting their recommendation.

And it was everything they said it would be.

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We flew from Belfast which is only 80 minutes from our home. Flights were 2.5 hours and transfer was only 20 minutes. We were the first stop for the bus and everything was so easy.

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Arriving at the hotel at 10am meant that rooms were not quite ready for most of the families in front of us. There was no problem with this as they were simply invited to leave cases and the hotel phoned them once their rooms were available. Now, here is where Atlantic Travel impressed me most. When I went to check in, at the end of the queue, our room was ready! Emma had requested “early check-in” on our booking. Ingrid at reception was so lovely and we were delighted to get in to our suite. We were at the poolside by 11am.

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The main foyer

This resort is beautiful. It’s clean, it’s well organised and it’s fully geared towards families. The suites are incredible. A double bed, kitchenette, wardrobe spaces and shelves. (Not one square inch is wasted…shelves everywhere!).

Then a huge bathroom with bath and shower and massive mirror area AND a separate twin bedroom for the girls. We had a double balcony and were on the first floor. Room service made beds and did a quick clean of bathroom each day and on 2 mornings, they changed full beds for us where a nappy incident had occurred. No problem at all.

Now, our room was directly above the bar and while it was noisy at night, the suites are quite well soundproofed. My girls sleep through anything, however if your kids are light sleepers, it might be an idea to request a quieter room, but you might lose the pool view. For us, it was perfect. And everything was quiet by midnight anyway.

Family Life Avenida has everything you could imagine for the kids. There are 2 kids’ clubs, a creche facility, just inside the pool door there was a huge baby changing room, a room with chairs for feeding and cots for napping babies with chairs next to each for parents. Mini-Me joined the @611 club which ran from 10-12 and from 2-4pm each day. She went for 3 of our 7 days and LOVED it.

The resort is exclusive to English and Irish families, and while I missed the lilt of different accents around me, it did mean that Mini-Me and Princess had no problem making friends. There is a huge pool area with a separate baby pool, a bar, a cafe terrace and loads of play areas for the kids. It was only a 5 minute walk from the centre of Salou, where the pier and the fountain are a must see.

The food was exceptional; The breakfast buffet was so impressive, fresh and varied each day. Fruit, breads, cereals, full fry-up, porridge… anything you wanted. (Even bubbles for Buck’s Fizz for Mammy!)

The dinner buffet was also impressive. Again, unlike some resorts I’ve stayed in where Tuesday night’s dinner was a mash up of Monday’s left overs, the spread here was brilliant. So fresh and very tasty. We had the option of booking the a la carte restaurant for one of our nights, but the food was so good in the buffet and the girls were so happy that we didn’t bother. There was a little mini hot plate area for children to get their own food, which the girls just loved.

We were half board so we bought lunch each day. 2 pizzas, 2 chips and some drinks and beers was usually around €32. Ice-creams and drinks were all we had to buy, but with a pint and a wine costing less than €5, we weren’t too badly hit. All inclusive however, would be cost effective if your kids are a bit older. Then, the soft drinks and icecreams are unlimited.

What really makes this hotel however, is the staff.

From the room maintenance, to the front desk, to the restaurant staff, they were second to none. A special mention must go to Ana, the lady who met us at the desk morning and night. She was an absolute lady and gave the girls a coloured straw every time we entered, Might sound silly, but it was one of the little touches which made our girls feel special.

But the TUI staff themselves, what can I say?

Those guys work, work, work, but at no point did we see any one of them without a smile. They remembered names. They high-fived. They stopped to have conversations and their energy was contagious. And their talent? Now, I am not easily starstruck. My ‘theatre’ background means I am critical enough of “talent”, but these guys were phenomenal.

Our first night was a Magic of the Musicals night. We could have been sitting in the West End for some of the scenes. Francis in particular was exceptional. This guy could transform from clown, to chimney sweep to Jean Valjean in the blink of an eye. His voice, his acting and his dancing were superb. Izzy and Taylor were equally as talented. They did the Musicals show, a cabaret show of all TUI staff, and a Disney night which was fantastic.

The schedule of entertainment was varied and fun. At 7.20pm, a few episodes of Paw Patrol are shown on the screen. (Cue every parent sighing as they sup on a glass and breath!) Then the team entertainment starts with ‘Download’, a virtual interactive gameshow where the kids and parents get competitive. Other various pieces were mixed up throughout the week, with outside acts coming in on alternate nights; acrobats, Michael Jackson tributes etc.

The hotel was full of young families, with most kids seemingly under 12. We travelled at the end of June. The hotel was comfortably busy for the first 4 days, but it did become very busy on our last 2 days. The pool and restaurants were much more crowded by the end of the week with the UK hoildays beginning, and there was suddenly a queue for loungers at 8am, which hadn’t been the case on our first days. This is not a complaint by any means, but an observation which has convinced us to travel earlier next year if we can.

We spent most of the holiday in the resort, visiting the main town and promenade a few times, venturing to the beach once, and going to PortAventura World on the Tuesday. This was great, but expensive and tiring for our little kids. They’ll enjoy it more as they get older, but it’s a great day out.

And then, it was suddenly time to start packing up to come home.

Our journey home was as easy as our journey there. Bus pick-up was at 8am for our 10.30am flight. Check in at Ruess airport was incredibly slow and we were worried we’d be late for the flight, but with very little to do and limited seating in the airport, it was fine. Again TUI staff were on hand to assist.

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We’ll be back

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable week of amazing family time. Our fear of sun holidays with the kids has been dispelled forever and I’m going to book our return trip to Avenida Suites as soon as I can.

5 stars from Mammy… a great spot for young families

The S-Mum is an Irish Mammy Blogger and writer. No compensation was received for this review. I write it simply because I was impressed by the Family Life Avenida Suites and the whole TUI experience. These are my own thoughts and I am obliged to nobody.

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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