Monday, 13 February 2017

Straight from the Heart-Some Valentine's Day Ideas

I always say that we don't make a big deal about Valentine's Day in our house but inevitably we end up buying cards and some sort of small gifts-and I love any excuse for a bit of pink and red. It's actually my stepson's birthday on Valentine's Day and I became very excited on Saturday when we received a phone call to say that he and his girlfriend were home from London for the weekend and would we like to meet them for lunch. I was immediately thinking, "Birthday, trip home, Valentine's Day, announcement?" They found this hilarious so we decided to drink a few bottles of wine anyway to 'celebrate'-though the day has just started so there is still time for an announcement, right?
I'm loving my Emma Bridgewater calendar which my lovely friend Rosemary bought me for Christmas-and luckily I looked at it a few weeks ago as I almost booked a trip away for us-until I realised I was the only one who had an entire week off!

I was delighted to waken up to this treat this morning-a great effort from Robbie with a bit of help from his dad, I imagine! I'm glad these cookie cutters are being put to good use with toast as I can't imagine we will be baking many cookies!

These pompoms stay up all year round but seem to get moved from room to room, depending on my mood and are currently in the main bathroom-which ironically is only used by the males in this house-what a waste!


It goes without saying that I am a big fan of TK Maxx so was delighted when I found this gorgeous Valentine's card there this week-and I plan to pop it into a  frame afterwards.


I tried to engage Robbie in some crafts after school yesterday which he normally loves but it's no surprise that he had no interest in gluing strips of polka dot paper into hearts. These were super easy to make-leftover strips from a previous Christmas paper chain making afternoon.




I spent yesterday morning at my friend Fiona's house for a coffee morning-I now have serious kitchen envy-and as I knew that she would be conjuring up some delicious homemade scones and cakes, I felt that this Emma Bridgewater lip balm was a better choice of gift-perfectly in keeping with the Palentine's or Galentine's Day.

Would it be too much of a cliche to wear my red Zara boots today and go shopping with my hearts bag?

I hope you all have a lovely day and are spending it with people you love and who love you- be it your friends, family or loved ones. Tx

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Perfect Pizza Party

I am always on the quest for ideas for birthdays-if it’s not for Robbie’s then it’s for friends and family’s ‘wee ones’ and am still trying to decide on the format for my own big one later this year-all suggestions on a postcard please! Anyway, we were recently invited to a friend’s son’s pizza party at Pizza Express Zac’s Moustache Bash- and I was more than  pleasantly surprised. The staff were exceptional when it came to dealing with 20+ children ageing between 6 months and 10 years-and then there’s the adults to consider.

The party was booked for 11am on a Saturday morning-perfect timing for some serious dough throwing before the restaurant opens to the public. After marching the children to the toilets for a wash up military style, each budding pizza chef was kitted out in their apron and hat-ready to pound and roll. 

The kids were given child friendly instructions from the staff who showed great patience-replacing pizza dough when some were rolled so thin, they became transparent! It was a great party to get the parents involved too-while they weren’t enjoying coffee with some homemade moustache themed cupcakes brought in by the birthday boy’s aunt.

The birthday boy Zac, adding his final touches!

Great fun was had as the kids chose their favourite toppings to adorn their handmade pizzas and while they cooked up nicely in the ovens, the party-goers tucked in to some activities at the tables while they munched their way through their dough balls and salad. 

The kids were delighted with their 'party bag pizza boxes' filled with chocolate moustaches, photo booth props as well as individual Polaroid snaps of the day-what's not to love?

I will definitely be considering Pizza Express for any future parties.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Tea by the Sea
Last month, we were invited to sample the Afternoon Tea at the Slieve Donard and we were not disappointed.  The plan was to have the tea and then spend the afternoon in the Resort Spa-that was until we arrived at the gorgeous County Down hotel to discover that we had left our swimming gear and changes of clothes at home! After a frosty exchange about whose fault it was –let’s just say it wasn’t mine-we were greeted by our waiter for the afternoon and settled down to the most scrumptious spread overlooking the amazing Mountains of Mourne. 2 cake stands appeared, overflowing with finger sandwiches such as egg mayonnaise with peppery rocket salad, organic smoked salmon on wheaten, baked ham with wholegrain mustard, to mention just a few. 

The patisserie selection consisted of a range of scones, lemon drizzle cake, chocolate pave as well as raspberry opera cake, strawberry tartlets and cappuccino gateau amongst other candy sweet treats. 
This was served alongside the most delicious clotted cream and fresh fruit to erase some of the guilt factor, washed down with endless pots of a range of Northern Irish teas from the multi award winning Thompson family. 

Robbie was ecstatic with his own individual cake stand, comprising fruit kebabs, mini sarnies, scones, chocolate cake and marshmallows on a stick to stir into his thick, creamy hot chocolate. What’s not to love? 

After savouring our delights as well as the views it was time to visit the spa-after the lovely staff came to our rescue and provided us with costumes which are available to buy from the spa. 
We have been major fans of the Slieve Donard for a number of years now and usually stay there at least once a year-which consists of filling the car from top to bottom with clothes for ‘just in case’-but not so, on this occasion. After spending the afternoon at the spa, I almost passed out when Lex suggested booking in and staying overnight! As it was the last weekend of the half term holiday, I didn’t hold out much hope so you can imagine our delight when we were offered a suite with sea views-for the price of a double room-result!  

After a quick dash to Tesco for some ‘basic necessities’, we settled into complete luxury before going out to dine at Villa Vinci-our favourite eating spot in Newcastle. 
 Our pre-dinner pastime in the hotel bar was to observe all of our fellow guests-and avoid them as much as possible at breakfast the following day so that they wouldn’t notice that we were clad in yesterday’s clothes!  And the downside to this little jaunt? I’m going to have difficulty explaining my numerous outfits, shoes and toiletries on any future trips away when I managed to survive quite easily with literally the clothes I was standing in!

I cannot recommend the Afternoon Tea highly enough and wouldn’t it make the perfect gift for friends and family? Slieve Donard, until the next time!

Check out the Hastings website for details and prices.

Although this post was written in collaboration with Hastings Hotel and they gifted us the afternoon tea, all opinions are my own. Tx 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Reminiscing about Rossharbour!

It's only the last day of September and I'm already looking forward to the Hallowe'en break. Our recent little 'stay-cation' was a weekend at Rossharbour cottages in Fermanagh to celebrate the joint 40th birthday of my lovely friend Cheryl and her husband David. It's strange to think that when I first started teaching, Cheryl was the head girl in the school, and 25 years later we are now great friends as well as close colleagues. Anyway, we were praying for good-or at least dry-weather for the weekend and we were not disappointed. Almost 75 of us descended on the tranquil shores of Lough Erne for 3 days of fun, family and friends, housed in the most amazing of 'cottages'-with one bedroom having its own jacuzzi! Rossharbour comprises 6 houses, decorated and equipped to the highest specifications, right on the lough's edge with boats for hire, barbecue areas, marquee, games room and its own hot tub-what's not to love? An idyllic weekend could have been had with just these facilities alone but add to the mix the military style organisation of one birthday girl, the fun loving family that she has and the planned activities, an amazing weekend was had by all. After drinks on the patio, followed by a barbecue on the first night, we awoke to a glorious morning of sunshine which was perfect for the biggest game of rounders ever on the lawn, boat rides across Lough Erne and even some swimming.
Each 'cottage' is furnished and finished to the highest specification.


                                                Marquee lights-similar from Home Bargains
                                               The birthday couple...

Some of the more adventurous took a dip in the lough!

Some very competitive family and friends!

The celebrations kicked off again on the Saturday night when we 'officially' celebrated the joint birthday in the gorgeous party room with the sun glistening over the lough. Some availed of the hot tub while others partied into the early hours of the morning!

                                                            Dress and boots from TK Maxx.
Spectacular views from the party room.

                   Two guys just chillin'....

The boat can also be hired for trips around the lough and to the neighbouring islands.

Oh, to be lapping up this sunshine at the minute...

Rossharbour is a fantastic destination for a break away-from a romantic trip for two in the newly constructed honeymoon cottage to a larger gathering like we had, occupying all of the cottages on site.
More information can be obtained from Rossharbour