Leaping Back In

IMG_1514Hello there! I took a much longer break from blogging during our move to Bristol (which went fine, thanks) and found myself with a bit of a block. So, I have decided to take this extra day (Feb 29, Leap Day) to not just binge on Oscar dresses (Saoirse Ronan won hands down in my book) and binge on after-school gelato (yes, I am the Best Mom Ever) but to just hit ‘publish’ and push myself into the blogging world. I do miss it a lot–writing, planning, taking pictures–and I miss the community I’d found, especially in Dublin. A few of you faithful lot have watched our new adventures on Instagram and I hope to catch up a little bit on that story eventually. But for now, I’ll leave this just a gentle nudge to take a big leap and kick start this blogging thing again. Bristol is really awesome, there’s just too much fun stuff here not to share, so I’m pretty much contractually obliged as an over-sharing mother in this town to write about it.

Has anyone else felt the urge to do something unexpected or brave on this extra day? It might be a bit silly, but the best things usually are in my book.

ps: this is a picture of the boys on the Clifton Suspension Bridge in early October when we first moved over,which is why they don’t have coats (I’m not that crazy of a mother!) 


We’re Moving to Bristol!

bristol vintage postcard

I let the cat out of the bag (which is a colloquialism that doesn’t seem to have an explanation, fascinating!) earlier this week on Instagram that we are moving to Bristol. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people as we were house hunting here in Ireland, but to us it seems like the next best move. And I’m really excited! Bristol seems amazing, ready to tick all our boxes for a vibrant city life full of culture but also close to beaches, forests and countryside for the boys to explore.

We’re well aware of how complicated and stressful big moves can be, but Chris and I are both prone to making huge leaps of faith when it feels right (and we both tend to labour over simple decisions, like what to order at a restaraunt). Of course we’ll miss Ireland and our friends and family here, but it’s really not that far away. In return we get balloons, bridges and Banksy. We get to be subjects of a queen (which is pretty novel to this American) and can finally take advantage of free UK shipping. And instead of moving out to the burbs and facing a long drive to work, Chris can continue to cycle. So really, it’s an easy fit for us. We hope so at least, as neither Chris nor I have been there!

Meanwhile, trying to figure out our next move in Ireland has felt like squashing square pegs into round holes. We were sale agreed on our fourth house, which would have fallen through anyway. Just as we were calling to say we were pulling out of the sale, the vendor took the house off the market. That’s a sign if I ever saw one! The other houses we pulled out of due to inspection reports that showed poorly built renovations and extensions with major fire safety concerns that we couldn’t afford to fix (houses 1 & 2) and because the legal process of buying foreclosure takes way, way too long (house 3). It’s almost as if Ireland was telling us not to buy here.

We won’t be moving until October (and will likely spend some time in London before we settle in Bristol), so we are content to spend our summer by the seaside and fulfilling our last few grand plans of life in and around Dublin. The nice thing is that our list of things to do is pretty short. We can leave knowing we really made the most of our time in the Emerald Isle and that we’ll be back to visit often!

blogging, review

Blogtacular 2015

Blogtacular 2015 Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks Mollie Makes (709)Last weekend I attended Blogtacular for the 2nd year and even though my expectations were pretty high after the attending the first conference last year, I was totally blown away. Kat Molesworth and Kat Goldin have built a beautiful community of kind-hearted creatives that fill the Royal Institute with positivity, empowerment and inspiration. I’m always impressed by the generosity that flows from the Blogtacular crowd, and that all comes from the Kat’s vision of a world where bloggers are allies, not competitors.

Blogtacular 2015 Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks Mollie Makes

We’re personally in a bit of a crossroads as a family, trying to decide where to live and (sob) getting ready to send the first kid to big school. I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like because life has just been too real, and the hours honestly very short. In a way, the biggest lessons I learned from this year’s Blogtacular have more to do with personal empowerment than the business of blogging. The two keynotes bookended the conference perfectly: Grace Boney from Design Sponge talked about how to embrace fear and change; and Anthony Peters, designer and director of Made You Look, reminded us that creative endeavours are just as valid as anything else. His closing slide struck home for most of us. He asked “Are you doing what you love or just what is expected of you?” I think I know a little better how to build a road map to What I Want to be When I Grow Up without feeling too guilty about it. And like I said, big family crossroads.

Blogtacular 2015Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks Mollie Makes

In between these two fist pumping, self-affirming speeches there were lots of amazing skill building workshops for bloggers: tips on Instagram, Pinterest, photography and styling; how to find your voice and build online community; how to pitch to travel companies and work with PRs; etc. Running parallel was the Creative Genius Bar, a place to do crafty things and get advice from experts. I really wish I could have attended everything and have heard glowing reports from sessions I missed, so I think I’ll have to buy the virtual conference this year.

Blogtacular 2015 3

But above all, the very best thing about Blogtacular is the people. I’m not often in the company of adults, and only adults, so it was a treat to just have conversations from beginning to end without a smallie interrupting. But what a bonus that everyone was so kind and fun and creative! I’ve found so many more wonderful blogs to read and Instagram accounts to follow. It’s the kind of atmosphere where people are open to share their fears, their successes and just laugh and have fun without self-consciousness. Maybe it’s because it was my second year and I knew a handful of people there, but I didn’t get that first-day-of-school-jitters feeling that I usually get as a shy introvert that hangs out with toddlers all day.

Blogtacular 2015 Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks Mollie Makes (621)

And I can’t neglect the outstanding goodie bag. As I said before, the Blogtacular folks really know how to fill a bag. This year we got Nikki McWilliams totes filled to the brim with magazine, books, crafty supplies, prints, a super cute broach, candy and more! We also got a preview sample of the new Blogtacular x Lolipop Life Planner that you can pre-order soon. Check out my instagram for the full contents of the goodie bags and the super kind companies that contributed.

Blogtacular 2015 Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks Mollie Makes (652)

So thanks everyone (the Kats, sponsors, speakers, creative geniuses and of course attendees) Y’all make this this great! If you’re sad you missed Blogtacular this year, you can purchase a ticket to the virtual conference and can buy a limited number of goodie bags (UK postage only, so use Parcel Motel if you’re Irish).

All photos in this post are by Piers MacDonald with thanks to Mollie Makes. From top to bottom they are: 1) Awesome goodie bags by Nikki McWilliams; 2) Styling session with Betty Magazine; 3) Grace Boney’s keynote; 4) Davina and Hannah from Seeds and Stitches helping us take a craft break; 4) Ellie from Yellow Lolly helping me during a styling challenge; 5) Anthony Peters closing Blogtacular.

adventures, family

How to Have Fun on a Soggy Bank Holiday

Ah yes, the beautiful Irish summer. Time to slip on your thermals and wellies and head into town for all sorts of June bank holiday festivities. Usually a jam-packed weekend, this year had so much on offer and so much rain. Nevertheless, we got out and about (and got wet) and had great fun at Bloom Fringe and Riverfest.

Bloom Fringe is the Dublin city centre spin-off to the Bloom garden festival in Phoenix Park. I’ve never been to Bloom as I’m black-thumbed and not too fond of crowds, so I was glad to see there were eco-events around town that we could get to easily with the kids. On Saturday we went to the Recreate workshop in Dublin Castle to make our own creepy crawlies out of their hoard of recycled materials. I’d heard that Recreate is an impressive place, an Aladdin’s cave of crafting supplies, and I’ve been meaning to look into them for a while. The workshop was great, the very friendly staff gave us some quick ideas of what we could make and then unleashed the kids to find their materials, glue, stick, cut and make whatever mess they fancied. All four of us had a great time using our imaginations and creating things without really worrying about the mess (or making dinner, doing the laundry, house hunting, etc). As much fun as the kids had, it was so really cathartic for Chris and I to just be with the kids for a few hours. In our own home we’re going to have lots of messy fun (without worrying about security deposits).



Riverfest is the annual North Wall event organised by the Dublin Port Company that brings the tall ships to our shores. We went a few years ago, just after Alex was born, and got a bit overwhelmed with the crowds (as we should have expected with a 1 year old and newborn). This year, crowds were not a problem thanks to this fine weather (although I heard the previous, sunnier day had record crowds).


We got out early and took the Luas into town, and had a really nice time (just missing the late afternoon downpour). The tall ships are incredible and most allowed visitors onboard for free tours of the ships, which our little buccaneers loved. There is something about the wet weather that made it all seem a bit more authentic, especially when the gangplank nearly broke away from the ship! The Barren Carrousel street performers were real troupers, doing barefoot acrobatics in the rain and a lovely group of old sailors kept all of our spirits up with sea shanties. Nate loved Brian Daly the magician and keeps repeating his jokes “kids: don’t try this at home, try it at school” (buh-dum-ching) Chris loved the tugboat dance, which was pretty fun to watch even if we did get sprayed with seawater at the finale. I’m not sure if that was part of the act or due to the rain, but the kids learned a lesson about saltwater today! Alex loved the teacup ride. Lord help me, he loved the teacup ride twice (and I’m still dizzy). There was your usual array of food stalls and fairground rides that were a bit pricey (€5 for a burger & €4 for chips, €2.50 per regular ride, €3 for the carousel) and usual pirate souvenirs and face painting.


adventures, family, travel

24 Hours in Belfast (with kids)

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed our little adventure to Belfast last March. Chris woke us up bright and early on a Thursday morning with Top Secret file filled with our plans for the day. We took the 9am train up (a train! Is there anything better when you’re a toddler!) and returned the following evening. In total, our trip included 2 trains, 2 busses, 2 taxis. We could have done just that and the kids would have been thrilled.

What to do

W5 – Interactive Discovery Centre

The ‘Play Museum’ (as the boys call it), also known as W5 is an amazing place for all ages to explore and learn in hands-on exhibits. We arrived about 2pm on a weekday and it was really quiet. The incredibly friendly staff told us that mornings are usually busiest with school tours, so if you want the run of the place with little people, go off peak like us. We explored around the main exhibits, learning about wind and tides and sound and air pressure. Chris built an electric car and Nate got to help out with a presentation about the world’s most dangerous creatures. He is now an expert on the difference between venomous and poisonous animals. Spoiler alert: the most dangerous creature is the mosquito. Most of the museum is great for all ages (including grown ups) but our little guys most enjoyed the under 8s Discovery area. We played trains, danced to the best mix of toddler show tunes (we’re talking Jake and the Neverland theme tune, Everything is Awesome, ZingZillas, Olaf’s song from Frozen and more!), played shop and cafe, built a car and got completely soaked in the awesome water play area. While there are smocks, if your kids are anything like mine around water, bring a change of clothes. It’s a huge facility with lots of space to explore and so many things to learn. There are tons of toilets and changing facilities, as well as lockers so that you don’t have to drag your gear all over the museum. And very conveniently, there’s a cafe inside the museum so you can spend all your time there!

There’s actually quite a lot to do in Belfast for kids and we’ll need to go back again to actually do them because all the boys wanted to was hang out at W5 (and as this was a holiday just for them, we obliged). We went Thursday afternoon AND Friday morning and have been asked over and over when we’re going back.

w5 belfast

Where to stay

Premier Inn

I’ve seen the adverts for Premier Inn (where everything is premier but the price) and always thought it was a marketing gimmick. I’ve stayed at my fair share of budget hotels and motels in the US, so I was pretty sceptical at what we’d get for the price. Boy was I wrong! The Premier Inn in the Cathedral Quarter was outstanding. The family room was a great size with room for a double bed and two single beds and it was exceptionally clean. The staff were friendly and helpful and even made my kids laugh, which always sets you off in a good mood. There’s a quiet time policy in place, so guests are reminded to keep it down after 11pm. If you have ever stayed in a hotel with a stag party and a baby, you’ll appreciate how fantastic this is!

But the absolute show stopper was the breakfast–hands down the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had! Kids eat free when adults purchase a full breakfast, and my kids totally made the most of it. Though they are tiny, my boys can pack it in. It was your usual fare–hot breakfast foods like eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes and continental style porridge, pastries, cereal and fruit, but it was all really good quality, fresh and delicious. I think we spent well over an hour eating breakfast!

premier inn cathedral quarter belfast

Where to eat

Alley Cat

We pigged out at Alley Cat, a super delicious modern greasy spoon where we introduced the kids to mozzarella cheese sticks. It was a proud moment for me. I had a trio of sliders special (McKitty, Pig Out and Posh Burger) and I found out, after 30 something years of eating burgers, that I like pickles on them! The kids had hot dogs and now that’s all they want from a restaurant. I’m still pretty disappointed I was too stuffed after my meal to get a salted caramel thick shake. What’s wrong with my priorities? Definitely time to book another trip back!

Little Wing Pizzaria

I am a total pizza snob and it takes a lot to impress me, but this was seriously good pizza and a really fun atmosphere. Little Wing is home to Ireland’s largest pizza, coming in at 24 cheesy inches. That’s some pizza! For lunch, you can get a giant slice or a 6 inch pizza and salad for £4.75. Kids get starter, main and dessert for £5.95 (Although don’t tell my kids! We were running late for the train, so we skipped dessert. There was much desert regret on this trip)

alley cat belfast