#NoFilter:Dublin

I am so honoured to take part, once again, in the #NoFilter project, launched by London City airport. This month, the entries will be judged by Monica Stott, from The Travel Hack.

December’s city is one of our most loved citadels, a place we have visited numerous times, both as a couple and as a young family: Dublin! We actually have a trip planned to Dublin for this school holidays and the two days away will most likely be one of the highlights of our Christmas break, like it always is.

My love for Dublin blossomed in parallel with my love for Alex. They both charmed me very early on in our relationship with their mystery and handsomeness. Our courtship, one of a kind and very modern, relying heavily on Internet connections and Messenger chats, started on a sunny spring day in Dublin, with one very confident-looking Alex taking photos of himself in Saint Stephen’s Green:

DIGITAL IMAGEDublin airport, is where, not even a year later, we waited eagerly for my mum as newlyweds and took her around to show her this side of the world. Here we are, close to the Liffey river and one of its many bridges. It was during this trip that we discovered Malahide and a quirky little Greek restaurant Alex took to with gusto and that we visited several times in the years to come.

DSC00104Dublin is where we chose to get lost, on our first trip as a married couple on our way to visit the in-laws and spent an extra weekend basking in the sun and taking in the gorgeous coast view. Here is what we enjoyed, Easter 2009, in Dalkey, on the South coast of Dublin. We also enjoyed staying in a luxury four-star hotel,like any self-respecting childless couple would do :-). Dublin has plenty of beautiful and exclusive places to stay in and enjoy as a young and carefree couple.

Poze 390Fast-forward two years and we were again in Dublin, taking my mum back to the airport but as a trio this time. Emma had joined the family meanwhile and we stayed in a family-friendly hotel, close to amenities and the city center, with plenty of things to keep a small child occupied and happy.

Here is daddy and baby Emma, feeding the pigeons in Saint Stephen’s Green:

DSC04703Our trips to Dublin have evolved with Emma growing. We have discovered many relatively cheap hotels who cater for small families like ours and who don’t mind noisy children early on a Sunday morning (following a now funny memory of a failed attempt to enjoy breakfast in a five-star hotel at 35 euro per head with Emma generously sprinkling cereal around like confetti :-). We have realised a day is well spent in Dundrum Town Centre (the biggest shopping center in Dublin and with the most reasonably priced parking). We understood that a Disney movie matinee followed by a spot of lunch in Nando’s and a bit of shopping in Penneys (Primark for the UK reader) makes for a successful day when you have a small child in tow.

But we always keep the evenings for going back to the city center and have a handsomely delicious meal every single time, either in our favourite Asian or Greek restaurant and ending the day with a stroll by the river and with stories of how much we love Dublin as a city!

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The day I left church and decided to be church instead

No details, none necessary.

I am just at this point in my life where I can’t take any amount of unnecessary anythings.

Being in a building with people with whom I share only a name is not part of my life statement anymore.

Being somewhere just for the sake of being, just for the sake of filling in a morning every week does not sit well with me anymore.

I am here to help with whatever I can.

Alex and I will have our home open on Christmas evening to whoever feels down, lovely or friendless. If you have nowhere to go that evening, let us know and we will provide you with a warm meal and a friendly chat, here, in our home.

We have both agreed, after numerous and very open, heart to heart discussions, that we will use the experience of the past number of months to be church to people who need it most. But we cannot play church anymore. Seeing a son die sharpens your awareness to genuineness , sensitivity to suffering and leaves zero tolerance to “for the sake of…”

I do not know where this will lead.

I am not cutting our ties with the friends we have in church, the ones who have been there for us during, and most importantly, after Georgie died. But I am cutting my ties with an institution which for me has proved redundant in the front of grief, pain and failure.(We have been failures, we were unable to be and provide the community with a miracle.) An institution which has shrugged its shoulders once my boy died and left us where we were, with no answers and no comfort. It has been the general attitude, from over so many churches praying and so many ministers coming to visit with Georgie and pray over him for miracles and healing and…blah…blah…blah…do you know how many visited with us afterwards? NONE.

I do not know where this will lead.

I am grateful to the members of the church who showed us love and provided for our practical needs during our ordeal this year. Each and every name is inscribed into my heart and I will be forever in debt to them, for stepping in the way they did.

But for us now, sitting in church and listening to any sort of sermon only leads to more questions and more pain. Everything is filtered through the prism of our boy’s death. So any statements like “God is love” which we would have accepted without questioning before July is now met in our hearts with waves upon waves of…anger, heartache, doubt.

Maybe we need a church for the grieved only. For the hurt. For the maimed.

The church as it stands now is, at its best, a social club where people go to make/meet friends and exchange pleasantries. It is no longer the place for heartache. Pain, questioning, anger…they have no place in it anymore. There is no training courses in pain. I don’t think there should be any, anyway…There should be just hearts that care and ears that listen and hands that do. Simple as that.

I still love God. He is my only Hope. He holds my boy tight for me until the day I will see him again. He will, in His own time, show me the way out of this horrible, horrible, stabbing pain that has left me for dead, that has robbed me of any joy and desire to stay on this earth.

But for now, I am sorry, Lord, you will have to do. Only you. YOU deal with the rest. I can’t. I refuse to “be an example”, to “be strong”, to “be used” for your glory. Cause you know it for being true, what I am going to say, anyway. People don’t want to change. They like their lives as they have them. And I am done fighting for a lost cause. If you want them changed, you do it. Use THEIR experiences, not mine, to change them.

I am done.

I have had my share of pain, now it is time to step aside and take time to heal.

To just be with my memories.

To just be.

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On the sixth day of Christmas…

“On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”

We were privileged to be asked to review not one, not two but actually four companies that create photographic mementos and memories this December! I will try and do them all justice here and mention the unique way they have each blessed us as a family this Christmas.

I love Instagram and I use it constantly for my blog’s page so when Square Snaps approaches me and asked us to review their greeting cards, I could have jumped for joy! I take pictures via Instagram several times a day and these pictures are dear to my heart as they are sweet snippets of what our daily routine and life at the moment look like. Pictures that translate memories that could be easily forgotten since Instagram is such a fast moving photographic tool.

If you are a passionate Instagram user like me, you will see the advantage of using Square Snaps immediately:

  • easy, instant access to your Instagram shots
  • the possibility of personalising either greeting cards, Christmas cards or gift tags and the pleasure to present a loved one with a beautiful, unique memory you have created together only days before.
  • the possibility of creating 10 different personalised cards within the same order, due to a very simple to use but efficient program. It made into 10 very unique Christmas cards I was happy to send to various family members and friends.

I was impressed with:

  • the quality of the cards, good quality, glossy paper.
  • the personal service: the stuff was ever so helpful, on several occasions. My first choice of picture was not a good fit and they contacted me to say the quality of the photo on the Christmas card would be poor, and would I mind choosing a picture that would deliver a beautiful card?
  • the envelopes in which the orders are delivered: safe, sturdy and class looking, winners in my books!
  • the free delivery
  • the prompt delivery of my order, within days of having placed it.

10859998_1511958325756919_1279147703_nI wholeheartedly recommend Square Snaps for personalised and unique photographic memories, especially for Instagram users. We were send a voucher code that allowed us to create 10 free personalised Christmas cards. A set of 10 retails at £9.90, delivery is free and the last day to order your personalised snaps is the 18th of December, still time to order your in!

We were also invited this December to create and to review Christmas cards with myprint247.

The company specialises in a whole set of products, from business cards to leaflets and flyers to posters to office supplies like desk pads and personalised mugs and mouse sets. The name is self-explanatory, they promise prompt creation and delivery of an order within 24 hours, 7 days a week!

I would recommend the company for :

  • swift orders, as promised, ours was delivered within 24 hours.
  • bulk orders: we were sent a voucher code that allowed us to create 30 personalised A5 Christmas cards! Perfect for families who have a lot of relatives to send Christmas cards to or for parents like me who like to add a personalised touch to the school Christmas cards.
  • starting up or branding an existing small business, the company offers 50 FREE business cards.

10848138_1516404181971141_256650582_nI will be keeping in mind the company for our next year’s Christmas cards, I am sure Emma’s wee friends in school would love receiving a personalised card from her and it would save the mummies the “Who is it from?” question for sure!

The set of 30 A5 Christmas cards retails at £24 and we were sent a voucher code that allowed us to order a set for free, for the purpose of this review.

The last but not the least of the companies I need to mention in this review is eFRAME. I knew they were perfect for us as soon as they emailed with a review request.  As you all know, since Georgie died, I have adorned our home with memories of him and unashamedly continued to talk about our special baby boy who left us too soon. So, when eFrame offered us the opportunity to review one of their personalised framed creations, I knew what I would use it for:

10852996_1377081929255638_305893553_n10848388_633455816781885_810560720_nThis is the picture I used for our frame and it went on Georgie’s memory wall, to honour his memory this Christmas and soothe our pain by reminding us he is now a sweet dragonfly flying happily up above.

I would recommend eFrame for:

  • their vast choice of frames and mounts, to suit every budget. We were offered a £50 voucher,  and I was able to order my print and frame without exceeding the budget.
  • the personal and kind service.
  • the reasonably priced products.
  • the personalised options of creating a very unique picture and frame, using personal photographs and choice of frames.

A big thank you to all three companies for choosing to work with us, for gifting us the option of choice and for creating so many beautiful and personalised memories for us as a family!

Littlest Pet Shop Review

Show-titleThe latest in the review series on the blog has been generously provided by Hasbro via Tots100 and it is a whole set of the Littlest Pet Shop small toys: Blythe’s Bedroom (RRP £29.99), The Spa (RRP £14.99)and The Treat set (RRP £14.99).

10570118_1497890407167182_1735070060_nThe playset is inspired by the TV series with the same name, which is running on POP, the children’s TV channel. Blythe, the teenage protagonist of the series lives a great new life adventure when she moves into an flat above Littlest Pet Shop where she learns she can talk with the pets who hang out in the shop.

Emma is only 5 and the recommended age group for the Littlest Pet Shop sets is +6 but she took to them immediately. She, indeed, needed a bit of help assembling the structures (which, as you can see in the picture, come as flat packs) but had no issue letting her imagination run wild with them, as you can see in the picture below. We found the small bits a bit fiddly and the amount of accessories a bit overwhelming to start with but we had great fun recreating Blythe’s bedroom and the pets’ spa.

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I have downloaded the free Littlest Pet Shop app for Emma as well and there is a number of features we haven’t got to exploring yet, like scanning the pets with the mobile phone and having them teleport themselves into the virtual world! I am sure Emma will be absolutely fascinated, if not a little bit confused, with the possibility of putting real toys into the make-believe world of an app.

Disclaimer:We were sent the sets to review and keep but the opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely our own.

We are very grateful for the opportunity we were given by Tots 100 and Hasbro to review the playsets. We found them easy enough to assemble and they promise plenty of fun to be had by Emma, for the months and years to come!

On the fifth day of Christmas…

“On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Five golden rings
Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves and
A partridge in a pear tree.”

10787893_1027361323956241_1527273092_nEver since I got married and more so since I had Emma, I had wanted a nativity scene. There is something about the visual and the palpable that makes Christmas more real for everyone, especially when you have little ones in the house.
So I was delighted when we were invited to review for the Christmas Boutique and not only that, I was allowed to choose a product of my choice. As you can imagine, it didn’t take me long to decide on the product, it took me a bit longer to decide on the colour for our nativity set, as they come not only in burgundy but also in pink, green and black and gold.
As soon as I put it out, it got loads of attention and questions from Emma. She wanted to pet baby Jesus, to play with the wise men and know why baby Jesus was only covered with a little blankie while Mary had “a blanket” over herself. Very good conversation starters and opportunities to talk about different cultures, different times and eras…etc.
Our nativity set got a lot of compliments on Instagram and on my Facebook page as well. I had friends asking about it, its price and its quality. So, here goes: our burgundy set sells on the website for £34.99 but the green set is at the moment discounted and sells for only £24.49.
I had a look tonight at their sales page and I have my eye now on their silver mosaic star, a beautiful reminder for our precious little Star above:
silver-mosaic-hanging-star-ornament
Disclaimer: We were send the nativity scene to review and keep. We love it and would warmly recommend it as a quality product to any family with small children, as a sturdy and beautiful center piece for the Christmas table.

Frozen Crazy (Fun)

Emma, like any other 5 year old girl out there, loves Frozen.She knows the songs (and begs me NOT to sing when I try to, as I “embarrass her”, haha), she has the movie, both Anna and Elsa’s dresses, a number of outfits sporting the princess sisters, Frozen bedding, blankie and cushion. Santa will be bringing her an Elsa doll to keep Anna doll (the one she got for her birthday) company.

So when we were asked to review and get creative with a beautiful Anna and Elsa art set, guess what our response was?  Oh, yeah, you guessed it! Cause a girl can never have too many Anna and Elsa items, this we can agree on!

1741777_750046908407031_1235327125_nEmma got busy right away with it, as soon as it arrived, and it was declared her favourite and best art set ever :-). We printed some Frozen colouring in pages to start with:

1596955_1543477802566084_1037797915_nEmma loves drawing and recently, following her teacher’s prompting, she has started talking about “using her imagination” to create things. So, I wasn’t surprised when the next thing she came up with, following her creativity and her new art set, was a drawing of Elsa in her ice palace. Have a look, isn’t it so imaginative and cute, her interpretation:

10843673_766196840101898_1200644655_nLast night, she wrote a note to Julia, her elf in the shelf and thanked her for her recent gift of books and chocolate. Here is her drawing of Julia and our Christmas tree, the place where Julia usually leaves a wee something for Emma every morning:

10848351_1511152592493756_1363825727_nDisclaimer: Just like a family holiday away and the memories that are created then, Emma’s gifted art set is a present that will keep on giving, for the weeks and the months to come. It was sent to us by the lovely people at Florida4Less but the thoughts expressed in this post are entirely our own.

Silent Sunday – 07/12/2014

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Silent-Sunday

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