Thursday, November 13, 2014

Great Explorations

I've written a bit here before about my love of travel.  Pre-kids I was lucky enough to live briefly and travel extensively in Malta, America, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. My time in these places ranged from two to fourteen months so I had an opportunity to get to know the country I was staying in far more than I could ever have done on a two week package deal.

When I watched the promo for the new Netflix Original - Marco Polo I was struck again by the power of travel - whatever age you are or whatever age you live in.  The quote that jumped out at me was that 'Marco had this passion for people and cultures...' - and that to me is really what travel should be about.

Immersing yourself in a country and it's culture, and getting to know the people who live there is an amazing life experience. One of the very best.

In Mexico I was fortunate to spend enough time there to learn the language. I lived amongst a powerful group of 'givers'. I visited homes made of mud and corrugated iron, and stayed with families who gave up their only bed to me and shared their modest meals with me. I played with their beautiful children, spent time with their teenage misfits and happily walked their dusty streets for many months. In that time I went from being a stranger in a strange land to becoming a part of their lives, and they mine.


They taught me that poverty does not stunt generosity, that laughter must be found wherever it can be, and that hope is essential to keeping the human spirit alive. That's a pretty powerful lesson for anyone - let alone a young Irish girl straight out of college.


In Australia I met other travellers from Israel, Holland, Japan and England and we bonded over stubbies of VB and our love of this vast new country we found ourselves in. We spent sun soaked days and warm tropical nights with Australian friends as they shared tales covering politics, racism and past lives lived as flower-haired woodland hippies of the 70's.


Later that year I got a job and moved into a flat by the beach with my new Australian film editor friend. We made terrible attempts to learn to surf together and she spent countless hazy nights on our balcony explaining the Aboriginal culture to me. I was living and learning Australia - past and present, and I was loving every minute of it.


In New Zealand I drove the North and South islands trying to find my niche. I swam with dolphins, jumped into deep, dark underground rivers and had many adventures.


But it wasn't until I spent time working on a farm for an older Kiwi couple that it really came alive to me. Rather than all the bungy jumping and white water rafting - it was among the homemade jams, shared dinners and rolling green hills that I found my New Zealand.


Malta, America, Thailand all had their own stories to tell me too, and the countries that left the most mark were the ones where I had the opportunity to explore not just their beautiful landscapes - but the people and their way of life too.




The stories of Marco Polo are all about travel, exploration and adventure. They are about people, places and passion. They are about being out of your comfort zone and the amazing lessons in life that can bring.

But if all that doesn't tempt you to watch the new series - how about this:

Lorenzo Richelmy who plays Marco Polo in the film
Photo credit.

Yep. Thought so.



This post is for the Netflix Stream Team. Marco Polo premières on Netflix in December. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

51 thoughts every mother has about a rare night out.

Credit

1. God I'm so sick of this shit. All I do is cook and clean and look after children. No one appreciates me.

2. What I need is a night out.

3. I wonder what the girls are doing on Saturday...

4. Mashed banana on the sofa?! Are you kidding me? Right that's it. I'm going to organise a big girls night. Get the hell out of here for awhile. Have some fun.

5. They said yes! I can't wait. This is going to be brilliant.

6. What will I talk about? I have no news. I know no news. All I can talk about is babies.

7. I really don't want to be one of those women who only talk about babies.

8. It'll be fine. I'll just listen to all their news. Everyone likes a good listener.

9. What will I wear?

10. Jesus my stomach isn't really that size is it?

11. I'm sure I heard someone say double denim was back in again...

12. Shite. Taxi is in 30 minutes and I haven't even fed the baby yet.

13. I remember when getting ready to go out was part of the fun... Bath, blow dry, music, wine...

14. OK fuck the bath, where are the wet wipes?

15. 20 minutes?!

16. This was a terrible idea.

17. What about my poor babies? Will they be ok without me?

18. I don't want to go.

19. Ok well I'm out now so I might as well try to enjoy myself.

20. I'll just ring once to make sure everything's ok.

21. Everything's ok.

22. But is it really? They wouldn't tell me even if it wasn't would they?

23. I need another drink to relax.

24. A double? Well why not.

25. Actually this is nice. It's good to reconnect with old friends.

26. They all look great though. I look like shit.

27. Oh another drink! Good idea.

28. Wow I love this music.

29. We should totally do this every month.

30. I love my friends.

31. Or even every week!

32. Nothing beats a good night out. Why did I not do this sooner?! This is exactly what I needed.

33. Shit. I think I just spent the last hour talking about my babies. Now they all think I'm really boring.

34. Must prove I'm not boring.

35. Yes! Lets dance on the table!

36. I am THE BEST fun!

37. Ouch. Falling off tables is actually really sore.

38. I looked damn hot up there though.

39. Why do I have to get in the taxi?

40. Where's my other shoe?

41. They all hate me.

42. Oh thank God I'm home. I missed my babies so much.

43. I wonder if they're still awake...

44. Once I try every key I've ever owned in this lock here I'll go up and see them.

45. Oh look! They are so gorgeous when they're sleeping. Who needs stupid nights out when you have this?

46. Actually that cot looks really cosy.

47. I wonder if I could just squeeze in there beside him...

48. Why is someone jumping on my head?

49. 6am?! Are you fucking joking?

50. I think today may actually be the day that I die.

51. I am never, ever, ever, ever doing this again.

Monday, November 3, 2014

10 Best Highstreet Boots

Boots.

Obsessed with them I am. Surely one of the sweeter parts of impending winter - don't you think?

Since Office discontinued my all time favourites I have been slightly obsessed with finding a replacement pair. Recently I've even been known to run up to unknown people and breathlessly ask them there they got theirs. I did think it was flattering at first, but after watching them either recoiling in horror or giving me a deadpan 'New York' before turning on their perfect heel and gliding away - I'm thinking maybe it's not such a good ploy after all.

I've spent hours online flicking through pages and pages of black, brown, ankle, biker, mid heel, low heel, no heel pairs that I almost lost my mind and gave up entirely. Imagine!

But then I saw this post from all round funny gorgeous girl Suzy and the search was reignited. I googled her boots, popped them in my basket and then just as I was about to pay realised I already had a pair in there.

Clicking on them what did I see but my perfect boot. Soft black leather, mid heel, ankle boots by Red or Dead. 

I think the weeks of searching had taken their toll and the choice range must have rendered me incapable of decision making. 

So I've decided to save you the same fate and bring you my 10 best boots on the highstreet. You're welcome.



Top 10 High-street Boots



I may now own three of these pairs. Entirely reasonable I think, don't you?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween at Kilruddery House and Gardens

This weekend Kilruddery House in Bray, Co. Wicklow opened it's gates for some Halloween fun in their gorgeous gardens.



The Pumpkin Patch, which I was reliably informed lay claim to over one thousand pumpkinswas set up so that families could choose and design their own pumpkin, before dropping it off to be perfectly cut out by a team of hard-working experts. 

The kids loved rummaging through them all, taking the utmost care to pick the biggest, bestest one. 



Next it was design time. Just look at the concentration.






Then, whilst someone else did all the hard work we got to wander around the stunning gardens and meet the scarecrows that had been lovingly created by others over the weekend. 








Some of them were incredibly life like too.



Once we were done wandering we picked up our finished pumpkins and off we went...






.... leaving any misbehaving children behind of course.



 What do you mean that's not what they're used for?


 For more on Killruddery House and Gardens and their seasonal events go here. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life

Life.

Most of the time we are all so busy rushing around, doing school runs, making lunches, going shopping, tidying the house and cramming work in - that life is one big whirlwind. We live day to day with the tasks of those next 24 hours in our heads, hoping frantically that we don't forget any of them.

Imagine if you didn't make it to the parent\teacher meeting, or the dinner didn't get made, or you missed your work deadline, or your insurance didn't get renewed...We stress about each little task ahead of us and much of the time - that is just Life.

And then something happens that knocks you off that franticly paced road. You stop and stare at the new ground ahead of you. Slightly stunned. Slightly off kilter. And you realise that none of that other stuff is important at all. It's all just dust falling around you. And the real stuff, the LIFE stuff are all the people who you have been dashing past along the side of the road - sometimes hurriedly carrying them to the next crossroads, sometimes stopping for a brief moment to chat, sometimes getting annoyed with them for going to slow, but rarely jumping off the fast lane to just stop, connect and really, really see what Life is all about.

Some people learn this the hard way, when one of those precious people at the side of the road get taken away from them.

Others among us are lucky enough to learn the lesson through them. Watching the heartbreak and having the chance to jump off the road to hold our loved ones close.

Last night heaven gained an angel. And he is beautiful.

Credit



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Almond Power Bars

These Almond Power Bars are amazing. A perfect pre-workout \ post-workout \ lunchbox \ elevenses snack.

Incredibly delicious it's hard to believe they are actually healthy. But they are.



Almonds help boost energy. Hazelnuts are stuffed full of B vitamins. Sunflower seeds give us Vitamin E and folic acid. Coconut oil helps boost metabolism. Honey aids our immune system. And cacao is packed with antioxidants.

This recipe below is adapted from this one by the very lovely Emily at The Nest, who in turn adapted it from this one.

So see what you have in the cupboard, pick the one that suits you best and then go ahead and make then. I promise you wont be disappointed. Isn't that right Emily?

Bars:

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted) 
2 - 3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put the dry ingredients along with the almond butter into a food processor and pulse for approx 20 seconds. Mix the melted oil and honey into the mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into a square baking dish and place into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Topping:
1/2 cup cacao powder (I used Natasha's Living Food cacao)
6 tablespoons organic coconut oil (melted)
2 tablespoon organic raw honey

When the bars are ready to come out of the freezer, mix the topping ingredients together and then pour over the bars. Even out the topping and place back into the freezer for another 20 minutes. 

Store in the fridge (dangerous), or freezer (mildly safer). They won't last long either way though. 




Monday, October 13, 2014

Nintendo DS2 and Nintendo 3DS XL Review


Nintendo has long been loved by children everywhere. I remember playing Tertris on a friend's Nintendo Gameboy as a teen and being ever so jealous that I didn't have one myself. When I told my kids this their eyes widened in wonder that they actually had Nintendo consoles 'in the olden days'. 

Thanks kids. 

But things have moved on quite a bit since those Tertris playing times it seems, so Nintendo sent us out a few consoles to test out and put through their paces. Kaya (10) and Marley (8) both received a Nintendo 3DS XL and Baxter (6) received the Nintendo DS2 to review. 



A set of games were also tested - Mario Kart 7, Tomadachi Life, Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper and Super Mario Bros 2. Yes, Christmas came early this year. To say they were excited was the understatement of the century. 

Once the screaming and running around the house was finished we got to work setting them up. Now I say work, but in fact these are the ultimate plug and play consoles - and for a not very technically minded mum that is a huge plus. On both the DS2 and the 3DS XL you simply switch them on and within a few simple instructions (inputting name \ date etc) you are ready to go. The set up option also gives you the chance to set parental controls and wifi details, but naturally my kids weren't patient enough for all that so we chose the 'set up later' option. 



The Console.

The consoles come with a Mii Maker similar to the Nintendo Wii. All three of mine jumped straight in creating themselves, their friends and each other.

Also available is StreetPass - an online world where their characters can connect to each other over the internet. Very clever and they had a lot of fun exploring it. This feature can be fully controlled and switched off if you are not comfortable with it (or if your kids aren't very fond of each other and don't want their brothers Mii character following them around the plaza...) 


Both the Nintendo DS2 and Nintendo 3DS XL have cameras that can be played around with, and Marley in particular enjoyed the Face Raiders preloaded game where you get to blast your siblings faces out of the sky. Also - did you know that you can actually take 3D pictures with the 3DS XL? Me neither. *mind explodes*


There's a heap of other stuff loaded onto the consoles too that the kids enjoyed finding and exploring. 



The eShop. 

The eShop allows you to browse and download games via your console. This is a brilliant feature for pocket money spends or even birthday gifts from grandparents who might not know what to buy for them. Games can be paid for via a voucher code or credit \ debit card, and again parental controls can be set to ensure no unexpected purchases are made. 



The Games

Mario Kart 7
Baxter the 6 year old adores car \ racing games so I knew this would be a hit with him. His older brother however was a bit put out until they discovered that - wait for it - if you have 2 consoles you can use the Download Play feature to explore local multi-player using just the one game cartridge! Amazing! No more fights over whose turn it is anymore (just fights over who is winning this time).





Tomodachi Life
A simulated life game that really taps into their creative juices! It's great for any child who likes role-play and imagination so Kaya loved it.  The more this game is played the more that is unlocked.


Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip & Kipper
I was delighted that my youngest Baxter received this game. His entry into school life was when we were living in Spain so he missed out on the first half of the year's learning back here. Although he's caught up with most things his foundation into phonics was delayed, so he struggles a little with this. Having a game to play rather than sitting down at a table for extra homework is a very welcome option and we're looking forward to moving through the range of games available. 

Super Mario Bros 2
Impossible to fault, Kids of all ages adore it. Probably Marley's favourite game of all - but they've all been Mario fans for quite a while now.  


What I liked best.

I have to say there were loads of aspects about the Nintendo consoles that I love. 

As mentioned the set up and use of both were incredibly easy. I've found other devices far more difficult to get up and running with - and the stress of it almost takes away from the joy of their 'new toy'. 

I love the sturdiness of the Nintendo DS2 and the double screen design of the 3DS XL. The 3D feature of the 3DS XL really needs to be seen to be believed. No glasses are required and the quality of, erm, 3D-ness is amazing. You can also control the level of 3D that is used, or turn it off entirely. 



The activity log feature is also fantastic. So simple but so affective. Basically it allows you to monitor what they have been playing and - joy of joys - for how long.




Parental controls is another feature that I love. I find computers, ipods, iphone and ipads all very scary when is comes to setting restrictions and often it is really only an 'all or nothing' choice. With Nintendo however it is far easier and more straightforward. You can set restrictions on the eShop, on friends through the internet feature, and on age range for downloads. I feel much safer knowing that they are playing on the Nintendo unsupervised than I would with any of the devices listed above. 

One of the great aspects about the Nintendo consoles is that all the old games can be played on the new ones. So if you are upgrading your child console their existing games aren't rendered useless. There are so many money-making schemes employed by other manufacturers that mean an upgrade of one thing requires an upgrade of everything, so as a parent it's really nice to see that Nintendo have bucked this trend. 

I also loved the fact that I got a Sunday morning in bed in peace whilst they all played together perfectly. 




The only thing I did find strange is that the re-charging kit isn't included with purchase of the console.

What the kids liked best. 

Kaya nearly burst with excitement when she saw Tomadachi Life.
'What's Tomadachi Life?' I asked.
'Well, you get to make people, create your own world and The Vamps play it!' she squeeled in response.
I couldn't quite bring myself to ask who The Vamps were. I am so not down with the youth.

Kaya loves coming in from school, getting her homework done, and then settling in for a little wind down session before dinner. 


Marley loves the Mii Maker, the online features and how amazing the 3D is. He's adding new games to his Christmas list already. 'Do I really have to turn it off? But I've only made 51 Mii characters!'

Baxter loves just about everything but especially Mario Kart 7 and the fact that he now has his very own games console.



The consoles are all so handy and portable, they can be brought along to the different activities they all do, so that when one is say playing football in the rain the other two can keep themselves amused inside the clubhouse while I have a relaxing coffee. Double win.

They are also a great way for the kids to have some downtime at home without me worrying about what they might be doing on their screen time. 

Recommended?

100%. The only thing I think that may put some parents or children off the Nintendo DS2 or 3DS XL is that technology on other devices has moved on so quickly. But for children up to 11 or 12 I think the Nintendo consoles are perfect. As a mother I don't want to have to be worrying about what my kids are inadvertently viewing online. Or that younger siblings are being drawn into older siblings more extreme online games. The Nintendo's allow this age group to have their very own, safe, portable, fun and educational device, that can be easily controlled by a parent and has a long life span due to the range and affordability of many of the games on offer. 

If only we'd had such a thing ourselves way back in the olden days....





This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:


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