As the saying goes “I was born, bred & buttered” here in Northern Ireland and what a beautiful country she is. Sure, she comes with her history and her not-so-secret tragedies – but she is a true beauty nevertheless. The coast lines are sprinkled with stunning views and some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. One of those UK wonders is The Giants Causeway and recently we were invited along by National Trust NI to visit and to also have a delicious lunch in The Causeway Hotel.

The Causeway Hotel has the most beautiful location along the north coast of Northern Ireland and in all of my visits to the Causeway I had never eaten in there before, so I was excited to indulge. As we walked into the hotel it automatically gives you that home away from home kind of feel – which is personally {in my opinion} the best sort of feeling you can have when walking into a place to enjoy a meal. 

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

After speaking to the lovely lady on reception I was shocked to be told that we were being given our own private dining room – which felt very fancy and made us feel very spoiled.

The decor fits in perfectly with the history of the hotel which dates back to 1841 – which includes tall windows, antique brass wall lighting, ornate mantle clocks, high backed chairs and delicate chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. The room we were in had a really grand feeling to it but still emanated that feeling of home. 

As the menus were given to us I immediately noticed the kid’s menu was titled “Little Giants Menu” and if you know me at all you’ll know that I am a stickler for those little details. It’s such a cute name for a children’s menu when visiting the Giants Causeway.

Also, Grannies soup? An absolute winner of a dish to serve because if there is one thing I remember from my childhood, it was 100% my Grannies vegetable soup. The range of food on the kid’s menu was great – something for everyone and as per, Belle went with her staple choice of food – chicken goujons & chips.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

After we made our order, Belle was kindly given a packet of felt tips and a few colouring in pages to keep her occupied until her food arrived. She was so well behaved – which is all us parents want really when we take our kids out anywhere to eat.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

The space in the room we had was perfect for her to get down to play with her toys too if she got ants in her pants. Which, being four is what usually happens – so it was lovely for her to have that space.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

When the food arrived I won’t lie to you, I was jealous that my Husband went for the stew {which a side of homemade wheaten – Yum!} because it looked amazing! Just like how my Granny used to make and I even verified that it tasted unbelievable as well.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

The children’s portions are an impressive size and I was very happy with my own choice of chicken goujons and chilli diced potatoes. Everything tasted amazing, a really delicious home cooked meal, which, when you’re about to go out for a good walk around the Giants Causeway is just what everyone needs. 

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

The manager Jennifer, showed us around the hotel a little before we went on our search for Giants – she showed us the lovely ballroom that was in the process of being set up for an afternoon tea that afternoon. Such a beautiful room with breathtaking views of the causeway. 

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

The whole hotel had such a lovely cosy feel to it – the beautiful leather sofas and deliciously purple high-backed chairs in the bar area felt so inviting and I guess if you’ve just had a long walk you could ‘without a doubt’ relax in this area with a drink and a snack or meal as you rest up. 

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

Click through to see more photos from our amazing lunch at The Causeway Hotel.

I never took Jennifer up on her offer to view the rooms, but after leaving I really wish I had. If anything just to get an idea of the views they had – but I can see how staying there for a weekend {or longer} would be really inviting, and homely. Nothing would beat going out for long coastal walks and returning to the comforts of somewhere that truly is a home away from home. The costs for the food across the menus is very reasonable and the quality of food is wonderful. The service within the hotel was also of a very high standard which helped us have a really lovely lunch experience at the Causeway Hotel. 

Our next stop was the Giants Causeway on the search of some Giants…{post coming soon!}

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Disclosure: We were invited to eat at The Causeway Hotel in return for an honest review. All thoughts, photos & opinions are entirely my own. 

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Last year we reviewed a pair of Start-rite shoes for my youngest son, and I have raved about the brand ever since. My youngest boy is football mad, he’s also a fan of climbing and other such activities that will scuff the front of his school shoes. As must to my dismay! And before reviewing our first pair of Start-rite shoes, he was going through two, sometimes, three pairs of shoes throughout the school year. Amazingly, throughout P4 he wore his first pair of Start-rite shoes throughout the entire year. Not a toe scuff in sight! 

We’re excited to be working alongside Start-rite shoes again this year to share with you some of their new Back to School footwear range. Annabelle is reviewing the Princess Elza shoes with a gorgeous ‘Change my Charms’ feature and Jacob will be reviewing the Aqua Warrior shoes. 

The Princess Elza shoes are really pretty. They are black patent shoes and have a really delicate swirly design on the front of the shoe. They’re velcro straps {formally known as a riptide fastening}, they are quite lightweight and also come with the toe bumper on the front. I can swear by this toe bumper from Jacob wearing his Warrior shoes all last year. The toe bumper on these shoes makes all the difference in my opinion which also makes them scruff resistant. Music to any parents ears! 

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

These Princess Elza school shoes are really lovely and Annabelle is very excited about wearing them on her first day of school. The one feature in particular that she really loves, is the ‘Change my charms’ – the shoes come with two sets of metal charms that you can change when the notion takes you. Annabelle currently has both pairs on her shoes {naturally}. {RRP £47.99}

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Jacob chose the Aqua-rite Warrior ‘Scuff resistant’ shoes – they have velcro fastening, come in black leather and are also waterproof. I really love that these shoes are waterproof because walking to school through the colder months will be so much better getting to school with nice, dry feet. And because kids just can’t resist jumping in those puddles, right? 

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

Having previous experience with Start-rite footwear, I knew these Aqua Warrior shoes were going to be durable, comfortable and see my son through his next school year. I also really like the fact they come with removable insoles to allow you to keep those little feet nice & fresh. My son runs everywhere, plays football at every moment he can during his school day – so being able to remove the insoles to wash them frequently is really great.

Also, this is where the toe bumper ‘scuff resistant’ feature comes into comes into play – knowing that he can play football without ruining his school shoes is such a weight off my mind. All last year he played football, kicked himself off walls {boys!} and his school shoes still looked great and completely scuff free. {RRP £60.99}

Back to School with Start-rite - Click through to see more photos and what we think of these great shoes.

I could not shout about Start-rite shoes enough – they’re stylish, they keep my children’s feet comfortable and warm & they’re a really durable brand of footwear. Also, let’s not forget about the toe bumper – it’s a game changer for children’s footwear in my opinion. You have a great selection of choices, including waterproof and this recent ‘change my charms’ which is a sweet feature for little girls shoes.

Disclosure: We were sent these shoes for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, photos & opinions are entirely my own. 

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Keeping the kids busy & happy during the summer can be a daunting task. Out of nowhere they eat more, want to be outside more, go to fun & exciting places – I could go on. It can be a very expensive time of year, however, mixing things up throughout the Summer is a good plan. I set out a Summer bucket list before the kids finished for Summer holidays and so far {aside from the weather} we’ve had an amazing time. 

We have a good balance of pricey days out, some cheaper days out and we even have a selection of fun free days planned too. My kids love being outdoors and I’m the type of parent to try & get out whatever the weather. Your skin’s waterproof after all! And according to research, 85% of children wish they spent more time outdoors over their summer break. Which is why we try to get out and about as much as possible. 

Sun-Pat has a fabulous new competition offering families the chance to win one of 420 sports kits to help keep kids active this Summer. Each kit comes with a football, a skipping rope and a cricket set – all in a cool carrier bag. We were very kindly sent one of these kits to try out for ourselves and have been really enjoying it over the Summer so far. 

If you need a little inspiration of what to do with the kids this summer, Sun-Pat has put together a great activity guide featuring 42 cheap and/or free things for the kids this Summer. You can download a copy of that here as well as entering a competition to win a sports kit for yourself. 

Over this Summer some of our favourite activities to do have been body boarding, and hunting for Gruffalo’s, we’re hatching our own butterflies, had loads of picnics.

We have, in all honesty, had the best Summer so far – I’m quite sad that there are only a few weeks of it left. But I suppose the kids have to go back to school at some point, eh! But I think we will make the most of this last few weeks before that happens. 

How is your Summer going so far? Do you have a good balance of paid & free activities to keep the kids happy this Summer? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to! 

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Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Sun-Pat. 

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I don’t drive, which can be a bit of a pain at times. So when I was organising our trip to Dublin recently, I was approached with an amazing opportunity. When Blacklane got in touch, offering us their services I couldn’t believe it. I have never had a personal chauffeur before and the whole concept seemed pretty fancy if I am honest. But after reading up on their services it seemed like an opportunity that we had to check out for ourselves. 

My contact for Blacklane was really lovely and the whole process was pretty straightforward to organise. Everything is done via the Blacklane website and you receive text messages of your chosen driver & when they are en route etc as well as your confirmation email of your booking{s} & journey{s}. 

We travelled to Dublin via train – just the kids and I and our driver, John picked us up promptly at the time we requested. John was really lovely and he even gave us a little history of Dublin as he drove us to our hotel to drop off our bags. 

We were driven in a very comfortable, black BMW & the journey from Dublin Connolly train station to our hotel, Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge only took around 15mins. We quickly dropped off our bags and jumped back into the car to be driven to our next destination; Dublin Zoo.

Again, John shared whatever knowledge he knew about attractions & buildings we passed and if I learnt anything? It was Dublin has some really beautiful architecture. I’ve been to Dublin only once before, which was about 8+yrs ago, so it was lovely being able to see a little more of it. Inside the car was lovely and clean and there was also car seat & booster seat options for the children too. 

After our visit to Dublin Zoo, {which was amazing!} John kindly picked us up and drove us back to our hotel. Collaborating with Blacklane during our day in Dublin was a really lovely experience and I have to say, it also made us feel quite spoiled. The whole experience was a real treat and certainly made travelling around Dublin ten times easier with little ones. 

For business folk, I can see this service being really useful, but for a family – I do feel as though it’s on the expensive side. Our journey from Dublin Connolly to our hotel {alone} would have cost €63 – which for a 10-15min drive is very expensive. This sort of service is aimed at a particular clientele and for that it is perfect. Even with the choice of vehicles; from Business class {which we had}, Business Van/SUV & there is even a First class option. 

Blacklane operates around 250 countries including; UK, New York, Paris, Berlin and more. You can earn miles with Asia Miles & Miles & More via the Blacklane service which sounds very useful if you collect miles for either of those companies. Airport pickups include a free 60-minute waiting time to work around any flight delays or baggage claim hold-ups. All prices & rates are confirmed during the booking process – it was also comforting to know that our driver was fully regulated, licensed & insured. 

Click through to read up on our personal driver experience more.

We had a really lovely experience with Blacklane. It was something very different for us to try out and it was a real treat having our own personal driver for the day. A huge thank you to John, our driver, for being so lovely, informative about parts of Dublin and also being really cool with the kids. 

Disclosure: We were kindly offered the services of Blacklane in return for an honest review. All thoughts, photos & opinions are entirely my own. 

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A few weeks ago the kids & I indulged in something a little different. We made dinner over a campfire. Now, I get that campfire cooking is traditionally ideal for when you’re outdoors and camping etc. But it’s no different from having a BBQ really – and the bonus feature? You can be as creative as you like. You aren’t just limited to sausages, burgers and chicken kebabs. Oh no, campfire cooking is so much fun & it’s definitely something we will be doing more of. 

Now, this campaign with Simply Hike to put together a fun recipe for campfire cooking came at a pretty cool time, because, we’re actually planning a camping trip. I camped a month or so back with a friend for the Guns & Roses gig at Slane Castle. Which was epic! So this time, I wanted to take the family camping as a way to end off a pretty awesome Summer holiday. 

So in a way, this was like a try-out for what delicious meals we could cook whilst camping in a few weeks time. I decided to make two different meals; sausages and baby potatoes and BBQ chicken, baby potatoes and green beans. I wasn’t sure how the potatoes would cook on the campfire, whether I needed to pre-boil them first. But I guess the only way I was going to find out was to pop them on the fire and see what happens. 

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

I cooked our meals for about 30mins on the fire and I could not believe how they turned out. Everything was cooked to perfection – even the baby potatoes! I was very impressed and by this stage, we were all quite hungry {even more so after smelling the BBQ chicken!} and we couldn’t wait to get stuck in. 

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

We all absolutely devoured our meals and cooking our dinner in this way – just casually out in our back garden – opened a door for all kinds of meals to be made in this way. And quite frankly, that excited me. Initially, I thought campfires & BBQs were made for nothing but burgers, kebabs and sausages. Now I know that’s wrong and you can literally cook anything on them and knowing this excites me so much more for our camping trip in a few weeks time. 

After our dinner, there was only one thing left to do and that was to toast some marshmallows. Which, let’s face it, it’s a must-do thing with any campfire, right? 

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

I picked up these extendable forks from a local B&M store which were perfect for toasting marshmallows as well as staying at a safe distance from the fire. The kids absolutely loved toasting their own marshmallows and I think that gooey warm, marshmallow treat is hard to beat. 

Click through to see more photos of our Campfire cooking fun with Simply Hike

We really enjoyed our campfire cooked meal and eating it al fresco – I think when the weather is lovely you can’t beat that sort of dining. But then, having camped out in all kinds of places, in all kinds of weather – enjoying a delicious meal whatever the weather is an amazing experience too.

I cannot wait to start planning our camping trip in a few weeks time. We don’t drive, so getting everything we need to be carried between us should be a fun experience! Watch this space for our camping adventures {coming soon!}. 

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Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Simply Hike.

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I will admit, that up until a few weeks ago, we had never been fruit picking. Ever. As shocking as some of you may find that I do have a semi-valid excuse. There are very few places to pick fruit here in Northern Ireland – which is a massive shame. And before visiting Finlay’s Place in Killinchy, Comber, the only other place I knew of to pick fruit – where the blackberry bushes down the by the dam in Castlerock. 

So, with a fruit picking destination in mind, it wasn’t long before we were making our way there. Why fruit picking? Fruit Shoot got in touch and asked if we would like to get involved in their foraging for fruit campaign. Fruit Shoot has partnered up with foraging expert Fergus Drennan, to create a selection of top tips when foraging for fruit in your local area. It’s something we have never done before so we were keen to get on board. 

Fruit picking, in my opinion, is such a past time thing to do and it’s something that I certainly never did as a child. So I was excited to collaborate with Fruit Shoot and to take my own kids to pick their own fruit. My youngest daughter is an absolute fruit bat, so she was excited to choose her own fruit on our little foraging for fruit adventure. 

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Fruit shoot sent us out this fabulous hamper to help us with our foraging for fruit adventure. It included lots of helpful little bits, such as; gloves, a magnifying glass, a helpful ‘food for free’ booklet, ice lolly moulds, little jars and a few bottles of Summer fruits Fruit Shoot. 

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

We chose to travel out to Finlay’s Place in Killinchy, Comber to pick our fruit. It is a place we have never been before and if not for a good friend of mine, would never have been able to even get to the place. It was such a quaint place out in the countryside, birds chirping & surrounded by luscious green fields.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

We had a quick chat to one of the farmers on site, he gave us a few punnets to put our picked fruit into and told us what was currently available on the farm. We went in late July and the only pickable fruit available was red berries, black berries & gooseberries. Everything else had already been picked and was even available in store to purchase. But we wanted to pick our own and decided to head for the red & black berry bushes. 

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

My youngest daughter took a punnet and ran off into the fruit filled bushes to happily pick away. She had so much fun picking her own fruit and I have to say, it was really lovely watching her. All of the berries looked really delicious – growing our own fruit has always been a wish of mine – but the soil out our way isn’t the greatest. We are thankful there are places like Finlays to be able to go to pick our own if that’s what we wish to do. 

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

After our berries were picked, bought and transported home – Fruit Shoot gave us the challenge to come up with our own Fruit Shoot flavour. My youngest son chose the flavour ‘BlackBerry Burst’ and he got onto the task of designing the bottle & label.

Click through see more of our fruit picking adventures with Fruit Shoot UK

As he was doing that, I decided to make a selection of red & black berry ice lollies for the kids. 

Click through to see more photos on our Foraging for fruit adventure with Fruit Shoot.

Click through see more of our fruit picking adventures with Fruit Shoot UK

Foraging for fruit with Fruit Shoot UK was a really fun activity to add to our Summer bucket list. It’s something that I mentioned earlier in the post that we’d never done before but it will be something we will do again. We might try to go fruit picking a little earlier next summer – get some of those deliciously plump strawberries into our punnets. Fruit Shoot really prides themselves on having real fruit content in their drinks which makes for a great selection of fruit-based drinks. 

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Do you go fruit picking with your children? What fruits did you pick this summer? 

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Fruit Shoot. 

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A few weeks ago, the kids & I were invited to have an overnight stay at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge, Dublin. Which tied in perfectly for our day trip to Dublin zoo, which was on our Summer bucket list for this year – so being able to relax, rather than rushing to get transport home was a real luxury. 

We waited until after our time at Dublin Zoo before checking in and as we walked up to the hotel, the kids giggled to how to much it looked like Monsters University whereas I thought it resembled Hogwarts a little. Either of those assumptions aside it had a real old school feel to it and I looked forward to finding out a bit of its history later on. 

As we walked into the hotel my immediate thought was how instagrammable it all looked. High ceilings, grand chandeliers, marble floors, delicate plants, comfortable seating areas and so much natural light that my heart skipped. We were greeted at the desk by the lovely staff, they checked us in, gave us our hotel key cards and off we went to find our room. 

Photo courtesy of the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge website

We were up on the fifth floor and given 2 adjoining rooms. Initially, it was meant to be the three children, myself & my husband staying over. But due to him having to work away at the last minute, it ended up just being myself and the kids.

The adjoining rooms were really lovely, ‘fancy’ as the kids called them. Massive comfy beds, which the kids claimed which one they’d be sleeping in seconds after we entered the room. Each bedroom had one double bed & one single bed, a TV, bathroom, complimentary toiletries, a kettle & hot drink requirements as well as fresh towels. It had everything you could possibly need. As well as complimentary wifi – my eldest daughter loved that. 

After walking into the rooms and watching the kids scatter off to claim their beds, I noticed this super kind basket of treats left for us on the sideboard. The two ladies on reception, Lisa & Laura had made the kids & me a beautiful care package. It had popcorn & sweets, colouring in books, bottles of candy and even a cheeky little box of chocolates for myself. I thought this was just the sweetest touch and we really appreciated that. 

I loved the subtle lighting around the hotel rooms – the lamps above the beds just gave off that real cosy settling-down-for-the-night feel and I really liked that. However, before we could settle down for the evening, we had a dinner reservation in the hotel restaurant for 7pm. So we got our shoes on, freshened up and went downstairs for dinner. 

Entering the restaurant I did feel a little conscious having a four-year-old with me. There were shiny wine glasses everywhere; many breakable things – and that made me a little nervous. Once we were showed to our table the lady quipped that we wouldn’t be needing all the glasses – I could have kissed her! Anything that wasn’t needed got taken away because four-year-olds will be well, four-year-olds, right? I was able to breathe a little easier & enjoy our family dinner together. 

A lovely waiter took our drinks order; “And wine for you Madam?” he asked, “Oh, no, just water for me, thank you” I replied the look he gave me was so funny. Almost like an “are you sure?” look without actually saying it. The kids were given their menus which doubled up as colouring in pages – crayons were supplied and I had three content children. 

My two youngest chose to have chicken goujons & chips, and my eldest daughter chose to have sausages & mash – an epic choice. I, however, had a little difficulty choosing from the adult menu. Everything was just too…high-end for me. So when I asked if I could have one of the dishes from the kid’s menu, in an adult portion, it was no trouble at all. 

We all left clean plates – the food was really lovely. I could have eaten mine twice over it tasted so good. We decided to indulge in dessert and all chose to have the delicious warm brownie & ice-cream, and my youngest girl chose a trio of ice cream. 

After we had filled our bellies with a really delicious dinner, it was time to retire to our room for the night. We all had a pretty busy day, walking around Dublin Zoo in what felt like the hottest day imaginable – but now pyjamas, popcorn & a movie was calling us. 

We all slept very well. The beds were so comfortable and the next morning it was our four-year-old who was the last to get up. She even exclaimed that she had the “best night’s sleep EVER” – from the mouth’s of babes. So when everyone was finally awake *head-tilt to the littlest one* we were ready for breakfast. 

The hotel breakfast was down in the restaurant that we had dinner in the night before. It was a self-service breakfast and the kids were keen to be let loose to see what delights they could enjoy as their first meal of the day. Once they were settled with their food {sausages, pancakes & cereal} it meant I could have a look round – there was so much choice on offer; from a range of juices, a choice of bread & muffins, hot food, cereals, fruits, pancakes & pastries. There was a gluten free section with its own toaster which I thought was amazing. There was literally something for everyone. 

After a delicious breakfast, it was time to head back to our room to pack up our things and relax for a little while before starting our journey home to Belfast.

We had such a lovely stay at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge, Dublin. The service overall was amazing, the staff were so accommodating & helpful. The rooms we were given were lovely, really comfortable and it’s certainly a place we would love to come back to again sometime. 

A big thank you for Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge for inviting us to stay in return for this review. All thoughts, photos & opinions are entirely my own. 

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A few weekends ago, the kids & I attended a Minevention Plus event in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast. We are all huge Minecraft gamers in our household and it would cool to be attending an event evolved around that. 

Aside from it being Minecraft orientated, there was going to be gaming stations, retro gaming stations {my favourite!}, main stage build battles, gaming buses {one of which was a double decker!} with an amazing selection of YouTubers attending for meet & greets. There was also going to a costume contest, Bricks 4 Kidz, Cool FM keeping the beats going and much, much more. 

The amazing list of YouTubers that attended the event were:

The kids & I were kindly given Press passes to attend the event and my eldest girl decided to join in on the costume contest – which was to dress up as your favourite Youtuber or a Box head.

Ellie dressed up as Tomohawk, which isn’t just one of her favourite YouTubers in-game character, but Tomahawk was also going to be at Minevention for a meet & greet. If your kids follow Tomohawk they’ll appreciate it that her costume even included a biscuit – “You gotta risk it, for a biscuit”

The whole event was laid out & planned perfectly. There were timings for meet & greets with different groups of YouTubers, as well as all kinds of different things happening around the exhibition hall during the day. As soon as we walked into the hall, the kids spotted a few YouTubers that they knew doing signings, so naturally, that was the first thing we did. We hopped into a queue, that looked longer than it was {thankfully} and the kids got to meet an amazing bunch of YouTubers. 

Each YouTuber was so lovely and engaged with the children; having their photos taken, signing Minecraft swords, t-shirts etc. It was really lovely seeing that as well as so many little happy faces. Each Youtuber noticed Ellie’s costume and she really loved that they knew who she had dressed up as – but no one more than the man himself…

Tomohawk loved that Ellie came dressed up as him. So much so that he asked to have a photo taken with her and asked me if he could share it on his Instagram. You can only imagine her excitement when he actually shared it. You can check it out, here

I thought this stand was pretty cool – you were able to make, create & design your own kite for just £3. Ellie loves anything crafty, so this was a fun project for her. It didn’t take her long and it looked awesome once it was finished. 

Not one gaming bus, but TWO gaming buses. If my Husband had of been there with us, we would have lost him, for sure! Jacob got to go on both – the queues were incredibly long for these but they were so worth it once you got on board. And after chatting to the onboard supervisor for the Godmodex bus, I ended up booking the gaming bus for Jacobs surprise 9th birthday in a few weeks – sssssh!

Jacob loved going up on the Quacktopia stage and having a little creative build battle with someone else in the crowd. They had to create something space themed in Minecraft and both boys did an amazing job. 

After a few meet & greets we headed over to the main stage where after an amazing duel-cannon explosion and green shiny confetti going everywhere! We watched CaffCast introduce Martyn Little from IntheLittleWood and Grian have a Build swap. This was a lot of fun to watch & it’s a game the kids & I have started playing at home. 

Jacob having a bit of a play in the retro gaming section. They had such an amazing array of old consoles & games and I had to laugh when Jacob came up to me after and exclaimed “Mum! They had one that you needed a wee joystick to play it!”Aaah, Atari’s, how I miss those days!

Click through to see more photos from our Minevention 2017 experience!

When it came to the costume contest, there were some amazing creations. From an epic villager costume, a hand standing unicorn – because you really don’t see one of those, every day! We had multi-expression creepers, an Enderman on stilts & my little Tomohawk being cheered on by Tomohawk himself.

I think of all the moments that day, this topped them all. Going up on stage can be a daunting thing for anyone to do, let alone a shy, not-very-confident-in-herself preteen. So to be cheered on by one of your favourite YouTubers was without a doubt, amazing for her to experience. So, if by some strange twist of fate, Tomohawk, that you read this – thank you! 

When we arrived at Minevention that morning, at 10am. Not for a moment did I think we’d end up spending seven whole hours there; Playing games, watching build battles, waiting in queues, meeting Youtubers and just having an all round amazing time. But we did! There wasn’t a single moment of boredom & both kids left with the biggest smiles on the faces asking if we could go back again next year! 

PIN IT FOR LATER

Click through to see more photos and read about our first Minevention experience.

Disclaimer: I was offered press passes to attend this event and share our experience here on the blog. All thoughts, photos & opinions are entirely my own. 

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On the North Coast of Northern Ireland, in County Londonderry is a little seaside village called Castlerock. It’s a place I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in and it holds a special place in my heart. Sharing my favourite place in the world with my family has been lovely over the last few years and what makes this time more amazing, is teaching my children the very thing that my Dad taught me to do, all those years ago on that very same beach; body boarding. 

Like all of our day trips, we hopped on a train and off we went. Thankfully my kids love the train and with Castlerock beach only being around an hour & a half away, we were there in no time at all. On the day we went, I did check the weather and it was set to be overcast but around 18 degrees, which we can agree is really lovely. However, when we arrived it turned out the weather had shifted & we showed up on one of the hottest days of the week. 

It didn’t take the kids long to get into their wetsuits, get slathered in sun cream and off to the water than ran. It was so exciting seeing how excited they were to try body boarding. Due to it being a favourite past time of mine, it was just so lovely to share it with my kids and if they happened to love it too? Then that would be even more amazing. 

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Before their little feet hit that cold water of the giant blue, they needed a safety brief. I am not saying I am a life guard or anything like that, but come on, informing your kids of the dangers of the ocean is a no brainer. Only one of them can swim, and even then she is isn’t a strong one. So they all had specific instructions to be safe, stay in line with me as they would get swept away by the strong undercurrent and to not go in any higher than your knee for the two small ones and waist for my eldest girl. 

So, with the safety brief out of the way, they couldn’t wait to get into the water…

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

It was a pretty daunting task, trying to keep my three youngest children together and safe in the big blue, because, in a heartbeat, anything can happen. I literally coast guarded them the entire time. I acted as their ‘post’ to stay in line with as the current was really strong that day & I was constantly arm signalling for them to pick up their boards and to come back in line with me. I was so proud of them on how well they listened and able to be aware of their safety and each other, as well as having fun too. 

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Castlerock is honestly one of Northern Ireland’s gems. The beach along the coast is breathtaking and it doesn’t stop there either. This glorious beach stretches right round to Portrush & Portstewart too. I have honestly never seen another beach like it. So clean, it has the softest sand and perhaps I am being a little biased because 75% of my childhood was spent on that very beach – but it’s just such a beautiful place. 

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Annabelle kept facing her board to the water coming in at her, and no matter what I told her she was determined that she was right – who was I to tell a four-year old that she was wrong? She didn’t care that the waves were splashing into her face because she absolutely loved it. 

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

I was honestly so taken back by how much the kids took to the water – if I’m honest, they came out for 30mins to build sand castles & be buried and the rest of the time was spent in the sea. Ellie even showed her little sister how to catch a wave and it was honestly the cutest thing. It’s memories like that, that imprint in your mind and hopefully Annabelle’s too. I hope she will remember the summer that her Sister taught her to body board. 

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Join us on our latest trip to Castlerock & see what what we got up to! Click through to see more photos!

Before we knew it, in no time at all, it was time to come out of the water {as much to the children’s dismay}, get dried off, dressed and have some food before our train ride home. Naturally, ice-cream was consumed as soon as those wet suits were off, but that’s OK, it’s the summer – you can totally have ice-cream before dinner, right? 

So, what did I learn from taking the kids body boarding? We need body board backpacks! Carrying them was not easy as well as our trolley filled with towels, wetsuits, a picnic etc. Getting that over the incredibly soft sand was an experience {by which I mean, stressful!}

If you would like to check it out, the last time we visited Castlerock was way back in January and there was frost on the sand. Frost! It was all blue skies but bitterly cold – but our Castlerock adventure back then was very different. It’s called Our day trip to Castlerock {in Photos} if you fancy checking that out. 

I also promised myself at the start of the summer that I would try to vlog as much as I could – it’s harder than it looks! But I managed to make a little video of the kid’s body boarding adventures and I hope it is something we will keep looking back on as one of the best days of Summer 2017! 

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Ever since the Gruffalo trail opened at Colin Glen Forest in Belfast, we have wanted to go. But every time we tried, something else got in the way – as is life! But after I made our Summer Bucket List I made sure it was on our list. Then one day, we packed a picnic & off we went on a Gruffalo Hunt. 

The Gruffalo is a much-loved children’s book throughout the world and it’s also a favourite of my daughter’s. We love nothing more than sitting on her bed together, her little bare toes wriggling with excitement as I read her a bedtime tale.

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood”…

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure there was a caterpillar in the story {maybe I missed it?} but this was the first fun character we came across. Of course, it had to be sat on, and a photo posed for. Annabelle now does this hilarious thing where she will stand or lean up against something, shout “Cheese” and regardless of what I am doing – I have to take her picture. She’s so funny. 

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

Go down to the deep dark wood and go hunting for the terrifying GRUFFALO! Click hrough for loads of fun photos of our Gruffalo adventure!

The structures that we found throughout the ‘Deep Dark Wood’ were so much fun and of course, kids being kids had to stand, climb and crawl all over them. Annabelle refused to believe that she could not perch herself next to Owl. Oh, the determination of a preschooler! 

We set out to hunt for a Gruffalo and a Gruffalo we did find. The walk around Colin Glen was longer than a thought but made for a really lovely walk all the same. Thankfully, as gloomy as the weather was that day, it stayed dry. But after our trek around the forest, on our hunt for the Gruffalo we needed food – so we headed round to the little cafe at the front of the Glen. I was surprised to see this adorable little book nook – which the kids made use of – as I enjoyed a cup of tea & a cheeky chocolate muffin in peace. 

On this little day trip with the kids not only did we tick another exciting thing off our Summer bucket list – but I even managed to record and edit a little video. This is something I am trying to do over the summer, to capture our special memories together. So hopefully I’ll have a few more of these made over the summer to share but for now, I hope you enjoy this one. 

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It’s coming. Someone you love has a birthday soon. And, it’s not just any birthday. It’s a milestone birthday. Maybe it’s a 21st birthday or maybe a 50th birthday. It doesn’t matter. You know the old standby gifts just won’t do.

This year, it has to be special. Don’t worry. Whether you’re looking for birthday gift ideas for her, him, Mom, Dad or a child soon to turn 21, you have some great options. Here are a few clever and out of the ordinary gifts for that special someone.

Make It Personal

Milestone birthdays generate a lot of emotion. A young person turning 21 may not have ambivalent feelings about his birthday, but someone who’s turning 30 or 40 might.

Many who hit milestones evaluate where they are in life and, if they aren’t where they expected to be, they may not feel much like celebrating. What better way to lift the spirits than a personalised gift to show how much they mean to you?

A personalised birthday book is one of the most loving and unusual gifts you’ll find. You create a customised book which can be online only or printed in soft or hard cover. Ask friends and family to contribute favourite stories and photos about the recipient, choose a cover photo, arrange the book’s pages, select a title and order. A personalised book is a gift that celebrates a life. It’s a good bet your loved one will cherish it for years to come.

Books can be personalised in other ways as well. For example, you can order a New York Times Custom Birthday Book for your loved one’s milestone birthday. The book commemorates front pages from the Times each year since the recipient’s birth. Bound in a stately library binding, books featuring front pages from The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times are also available.

Other personalised items that make memorable gifts include throw pillows, life story framed art and “birth year to remember” prints.

Meaningful Gifts that Keep On Giving

The movement away from acquiring “things” toward more meaningful lives is a current trend. A milestone birthday is a perfect time to think not about giving a gift to someone who already has everything, but a gift that means something.

Here are a few great examples of gifts that won’t end up shut away in a dresser drawer.

  • Cooking Class: Perhaps your loved one loves to cook or would like to learn. Most communities offer classes to teach beginners and give experienced cooks new ideas. If cooking isn’t an interest, look into the other classes offered within your community. Classes are fun and the lessons learned last a lifetime.
  • Charitable Donations: Does your recipient love animals? How about making a generous donation to an animal rescue group in the birthday person’s honour? There are countless charities working for the greater good. One is sure to match the interests of your loved one. Check the validity of the charity before giving by visiting Charity Navigator first, however.
  • Herb Garden Kit: Herb garden kits come in various sizes that fit most living spaces. Kits supply everything the budding herbalist needs to plant and grow herbs, including container, potting soil and seeds. Other garden-related ideas include purchasing and planting perennials around the recipient’s home or a raised garden kit. Plants are a constant source of joy, sure to be appreciated for years to come.

Your loved one deserves a special gift on this most important of birthdays. Make sure yours shows them just how much you really care.

 

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