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14 months and 20 days later

Under water girl

It has been 14 months and 20 days since my son died but it is only recently that I have realised that grief is going to be part of my life, of me, of who I am until I die.

Yes, I did read the books, listened to the stories, talked to other bereaved parents but it has only recently become obvious to me that grief is never going to leave my life and that it is here to stay.

For good.

That I will have good days always followed, as a rule, by bad, really bad days.

That I will get ill much more often than I even did before.

That my mind will never be the same; that I have become a head sieve. I forget often and I need constant reminders of appointments and meetings. Loads and loads of patience and understanding too.

That I will be sad. Often and deeply and sometimes furiously.

That anger will be my closest companion. An existential anger that cannot be directed at any-one, as the only One who could answer my questions lives in a different dimension.

That the story I so believed, that there is a God who heals and has compassion and makes sense,  a god who mends our wounds is only a man-made fantasy, created to give false comfort to the ones who are too afraid to face the real story and real life.

That pain triggers are everywhere.

In a lesson plan, in a rainbow, in a splash of colour, in a smell, in a drawer, in the autumn days that my son never got to feel, in the flicker of a candle, in the innocent yet so poignant, for me, episode of curious George.

That there will never be heart healing, that there will never be complete peace, that there will never be a day while I am still here, on earth, that I will not miss my departed child.

That living with such chronic heart pain requires huge amounts of courage but never looks heroic as the battle is not against a palpable, definite enemy but it is a daily struggle of squelching through the mud of apathy and pain and despair.

That there is never, ever a break from the heartache. It is a throbbing, drilling, numbing sort of ache that has taken the rhythm of my breath and the pace of my heart and it has become part of me.


It has become ME.

I am a woman of sorrows and forever shall be…

Culture Night Belfast, 2015

cnb15_logoLast Friday, we attended our first ever Culture Night in Belfast.

For my readers in Europe and the UK, a Culture Night may not sound like a big deal, given the frequency and the history of such events.  On the other hand, for Northern Ireland, a relatively small country which has been through so much politically, this is a HUGE thing and such a positive step forward and hopefully, away from its tormented past and towards a future full of hope and unity!

There was an impressive number of events(over 200!) taking place in Belfast last Friday; over 50,000 people took to the streets to celebrate the country’s rich past and present culture and enjoy the “mighty craic”, all in the well-known by now jovial Irish way, accompanied by family, friends and of course, beer!

015 (2)The weather decided to play nice too and we enjoyed a lovely, mild autumn evening out as a family crafting in the Cathedral’s quarters with Emma, strolling through the very crowded streets, observing passionately quiet games of chess and enjoying divine tunes inside Saint Anne’s cathedral:

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We also crafted messages of hope for the future, to go into a virtual bottle, which will be opened in a decade from now.

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I do hope all those dreams and hopes come true and in 10 years from now, Belfast will be even more vibrant and blossoming with culture and art and beauty.

My regrets?

That I didn’t get to see and try it all: the gorgeous octopi display, a meal out in the MAC quarters and being part of the parade at the end are on the menu for next year!

11866217_500040786821261_6503550269546828823_n cnb BeatnDrum samba belfast harbourMy overall impression?

That it was amazing display of creativity, joy and talent and that I am very happy to see Belfast coming into its own when it comes to culture.

Even the city hall celebrated and dressed up for the occasion, such an improvement from the last year’s negative publicity related to the flag issues:

019 (2)I am already looking forward to next year’s edition, as I have this feeling that things can only get better when it come to cultural events in Belfast!

Gifts with a difference from..I Just Love It!

Once in a while, I get to review things that are for grown-ups too!

I am very excited to bring to your attention I Just Love It today, an online haven which could be described at the epitome of quality personalised gifting!

Formerly known as Gone Digging, the shop retails the most impressive collection of personalised gifts, suitable for 0 to 99 year olds.

We were offered a voucher and left loose in the shop, so to say, and this is what I picked for my wee family:

  • personalised craft beer for Alex. Not only do you get to put the lucky person’s name on the label, you can also add a message of your choice on it, to make it even more personal. Mine was “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder”, to reflect Alex’s recent preference for good quality, craft beer.

The labels were a very well received surprise and the beer did not disappoint either! Alex wants to order now for his male friends and surprise them when they come over for a meal!

The three personalised beer bottles retail at £9.99 on the website, very reasonably priced, in my opinion, given the extras!


  • Both Alex and myself are coffee drinkers and can go through gallons of the stuff each day so the next gift had to be related to our daily habit! The next gifts were chosen to reflect our personality in a mug, so to say, and with me fancying myself a writer and Alex constantly being at the local gym, the choice was clear!

  • A cup of tea(or coffee) has to always be accompanied by a matching coaster, so when I saw that the website provides them, I had to add them to the shopping basket too!

018Don’t they look the part and don’t they match perfectly our coffee mugs?

If you got jealous, head over to the website. The mugs retail at £7.99 each and the classy Victoriana coaster set, which has replaced the shabby and well worn out ones we had in the kitchen, retail at £6.99.

Emma was not forgotten and the two last gifts I chose were for her.

  • One was the practical, personalised gift of labelled colouring pencils. Her school has asked us this year to send in pencils labeled individually so this set would save any busy parent the painstaking task of sticking labels on a whole set of pencils. The 20 colouring pencil set we ordered retails at £8.99.

020The website has a whole variety of personalised school stationery and the best value for money would be, in my humble opinion, their 145-piece personalised stationery set, which includes on top of personalised rulers, pencils and markers 100 personalised name labels! And all for £23.99! Next summer, I know where I am going to order Emma her personalised school stationery set!145-Piece-Personalised-Stationery-Set-pink-1

  • Last to arrive but, by far, Emma’s favourite item from the website was her personalised Frozen clock!

075Emma is soon to be 6 and very interested in learning about time so this seemed like the logical choice of present for her room.

My only advice is, if you consider buying your little one a personalised present from I Just Love It, is to check dispatch time frames.

Emma’s clock took two weeks to arrive, as the website did inform us it would, when we ordered so do leave plenty of time for the presents to arrive, to avoid delivery stress and disappointment.

The clock retails at £14.99, is silent so can be used even inside the room of very light sleepers, very light and makes a beautiful addition to any Disney princess fan room!

The company wants to extend kindness to my readers and is offering a 15% discount on all purchases, with the code Thanks15.

Do you used gift shops to purchase presents for your loved ones on special occasions and which of the products above would you choose for yourself or your family?

Disclaimer: we were sent vouchers to purchase products on the website for the purpose of this review. As always, the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

International Peace Day – 21st September 2015

“I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

It has never been more pressing to speak about peace as it has been this year, this month, this moment!

As I write this, at this very instant, an unprecedented number of refugees from Syria and other conflict-ridden countries, are trying to make their way into a civilised Europe, which has, to its shame, turned a blind eye to their plea for help and their suffering.

I have written several posts in the past months about the Syrian crisis.

I wish for and believe in peace.

I believe in a peace that streams not only from government-imposed decrees, but also a more subtle peace that comes from acceptance, empathy and love for one another.

Wars, more often than not, are instigated by small political fractions or pockets.

But do you know what makes wars into the utterly destructive force they become, erasing whole countries off the map, eradicating nations or minority groups and killing the hopes and dreams of millions ?

We do.

Actually, our prejudices and our inability to make peace with simple facts of life such as:

  • skin colour does not make one intrinsically different from us.
  • religion or beliefs do not make one intrinsically different from us.
  •  sexuality orientation, life experiences, money(or the lack of it) does not make one intrinsically different from us.
  • ethnicity or political preference do not make one intrinsically different from us.

If, as human beings, we had been taught from the crib these very basic truths, I believe we wouldn’t have had to witness and cause all this human suffering and misery throughout the centuries.

If, from when we were very young, we had been told that in order to feel happy and feel at peace with ourselves and the world, we need to first seek inner peace, strive for peace within our close family circle and in our relationships, I think the world would look totally different.

Finding inner peace should be subject of conversation in school and main focus in the home,and teaching children, from when they are small, how to practically let anger and sadness out should be on the curriculum instead of other cumbersome and less useful subjects.

History would have looked un-recognizably different if, alongside our three Rs, we would have been taught respect, in the deepest sense, for life and happiness, if we had been raised with the only real religion of reliance on each other and we had grown up to recognise that the world is large enough to contain ALL our opinions, beliefs, religions, sexual and political orientations.

Could we rewind history?

Could we re-write, starting from now, a history in which family, spirituality, love, inner peace are the basis of unity and not hatred, wars and destruction?

Could we start with this generation?

It is not too late, it is never too late to teach respect, recognition of diversity and love of peace and other!

Seagulls Unsplash

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post. The opinions expressed are entirely self-formed and entirely assumed as our own.

Emma’s September Reviews

As usual, Emma has been very lucky this month as a blogger’s kid and has received loads of things to play with and review.

The most impressive item she received this month was the Animation Studio from HUE.

This simple yet very clever creative kit has received numerous awards in the past and is known to be the best stop motion animation studio for non-professional use there is around.

The studio comes with a flexible neck camera with a built-in microphone and animation software that can easily be downloaded into any computer or laptop.

There is a school version for the software as well and older children can use small toys, Lego and modelling clay to create unique scenarios they can film and process themselves into short movies.

We did not create anything worth making public just as yet but Emma has been very eager to put her imagination and role play into film and I can see her using the HUE Animation Studio loads as she grows up.

The kit retails at £49.95 , can be bought here and it makes the perfect gift for the budding artist and film maker who dreams of expressing himself visually more than anything.

Moving on to items that always come high on our preference list, Emma has been sent two books to review this month.

The first, the brand new (for the UK readership, that is)  Sam and Dave Dig A Hole is the story of two friends and a dog who set out to dig a hole and are very close to discovering a treasure. The fact that they do not work together and use various strategies instead of agreeing on one common effort spoils their chances of ever finding the real treasure. The book’s simple yet effective message to its young readership is that perseverance and common effort work better than diverse yet inefficient strategies.

The book retails at £5.99 with Prime on Amazon and makes for a pleasant evening read and can be a good cue for resolving conflict conversations.

I have found also, for the teachers amongst us, a lesson plan based on the book, do give me a shout if you want to borrow the book and use it in the classroom at any time!

005The second book we received for reviewing impressed Emma the most, as it is a personalised version of the well-known and now classical tale of The Snowman and the Snowdog.

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Penwizard has come up with this very clever idea of personalising children’s books and have a whole collection of popular books in which your little one can feature as the star character. Being able to change the gender, the skin and hair colour and the name of the main character makes the books extremely appealing to a small child and Emma did ask in awe, again and again, about how I managed to make her appear in the book :-).

This is the second time we review books for Penwizard, I was both time impressed with the customer support, the prompt delivery and the quality of the books.

The personalised version of The Snowman and The Snowdog retails at £17.50 usually but for a limited time, Penwizard offers two personalised books for only £25! The make gorgeous Christmas presents, for sure!

Another thing we loved reviewing this month, for Mumsnet this time, and as part of their  Summer Audiobook Club, was The Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy.


This was our first audiobook ever and we were truly impressed by how enjoyable a long trip to Newcastle became thanks to the story we listened to on CD!

I found it very useful and worth investing in, as Emma didn’t go on her iPad at all during the trip. She was also exposed to new vocabulary and retained loads of new and impressive words and used them in the right context in the following days. The story provided for interesting conversations on the way back and for loads of laughs as we were listening to the CD!

I am on the lookout for more audiobooks that are appropriate for Emma’s age at the moment, as I do think they are highly beneficial for vocabulary enrichment.

The last, but not least, review product on this month’s list is Professor Scrubbington’s Magically Foaming Hand and Face Wash.

HandwashEmma actually got this in the goodies’ bag we all received at Britmums Live as bloggers but I never got to reviewing it.

Emma loves the handy pump and the amazing smell and makes it a point of using it every morning before going into school. She takes pleasure in walking out of the house with a squeaky clean face and I am proud to see her become interested in personal hygiene and looking(and smelling!) like a proper wee madam.

The washing foam retails at £5.oo and I hope to be soon able to offer my readers a divinely smelling bundle from Professor Scrubbington’s, so stay tuned!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our lovely review items, please do get in touch if you are a PR or company and want to see your own products featured in the next month’s round of reviews.

Win Christmas 2015 at Coombe Mill

I have known of Coombe Mill for years, probably ever since I started blogging.

I have always dreamt of spending a holiday in the heart of Cornwall and felt even more drawn to the farm when I realised that Farmer Nick is actually Farmer Nico, Greek descendant and that Alex and him would probably get on quite well, since they share the same country of origin and love for good food and Greek feasts :-).

When Georgie was born, I imagined a holiday as a complete family at Coombe Mill but it was never meant to be, Georgie never made it to Christmas and what should have been a magical holiday last year transformed into a dreary and endless season of mourning.

I dread the thought of another Christmas at home now.

I would love us to be able to win a Christmas stay at Coombe Mill and stay in their cozy Trevarno Scandinavian lodge this year.


I imagine ourselves arriving to a fairyland of lights and snow. (Yes, they had snow last year and I dare dream of a repeat this year also!)

I imagine walking into a well heated lodge, a log fire, a grocery box full of goodies from the farm nearby and feeling immediately at ease.

I imagine wintery activities for Emma and magical preparations for the Big Man’s arrival,  feeding reindeer and decorating the lodge with fragrant conifers and Christmas tree branches.

I imagine waking up on Christmas morning to presents and cheer and noise, loads of happy noises and children enjoying their presents from Santa!

I imagine Farmer Nick babbling away with Alex over mulled wine and mince pies. Or the Greek version of things :-).

I imagine us taking long strolls in the forest, picking mistletoe and working up an appetite for an all organic, farm reared lunch.

I imagine feeling less lonely and less sad than last year’s Christmas. I imagine the memory of a little boy not hanging over us heavily but being with us cheerfully, in the smiles of the children running around, in the heat of the log fire and in the vibrant green of the Christmas tree.

I can easily imagine us there this Christmas!

PicMonkey Collage

This is our entry to the Win Christmas 2015 at Coombe Mill. I truly hope we win!

Building Blocks with House of Fraser- A Review

This is the third time I work with House of Fraser as a blogger and, as I have said it before, I absolutely love the prompt delivery and the clear and fast communication on their side, which make them the ideal merchant, time and time again, in my eyes!

This time, we were asked to choose and review some items from the building blocks and construction toy range.  I jumped at the opportunity as I had seen a couple of girly Mega Blocks sets that were hugely discounted (The Barbie Build ‘N Style Beach House is still down to £14.99 from £39.99!) and I knew Emma would love them as part of her ever growing collection of construction toys.

IMG_3981I must admit, I hadn’t realised that Mega Blocks has a whole range of construction toys for older children too. I was thrilled to see that Emma would be able to not only have a new Barbie playhouse that she could put together herself but that, she would also own her first Smurfette abode, all due to the great prices House of Fraser had both sets at!

As expected, as soon as the toys arrived, Emma got down to putting the sets together and playing with them. It took some serious coaxing to get her out of her uniform, she was all to eager to just get stuck into it all!

IMG_3982I supervised from afar and I noticed that, compared to a similar Lego set, Emma found it a bit easier to follow the instructions and put the Barbie set together so if you are debating on getting either a Lego or a Mega Block set for your little one and independence is very much an issue in your household, as it is in ours at the moment, then I would recommend the Mega Blocks.

Emma got her two sets up and running within an hour, with very little help from me and they have been her main source of entertainment when I cook dinner and she wants to be close by. Although I am not a big fan of Barbie myself, the Mega Block set has been useful in helping Emma develop those all too important fine motor skills, much needed now for writing in school.

The Smurfette house, a bit smaller but as equally useful for imaginative play, has been the backdrop and set for numerous imaginary games already. Again, the set is still on sale at the moment, from £19.99 to £9.99 and it is, in our view, quite the sturdy but easy to store away construction toy to have around.


What are the go to toys your children use time and time again?

Disclaimer: we were sent the two sets for review. The opinions expressed are entirely our own.