London Calling 

My mum and dad recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and to mark this momentous occasion they decided they wanted to do a family dinner together – in London! 

After lots of research, followed by lots of planning (mainly done by my sister, and organiser extraordinaire Gail), the time came to pack our bags and jet off on our first family excursion across the water to land of Westminster, Big Ben and red buses. 

Thankfully everything went like clockwork during our flight from Belfast International Airport and just over an hour later we touched down in Gatwick where we caught the Gatwick Express train, followed by the Tube, to make our way to our home for the weekend, the Corus Hotel. Situated beside Hyde Park, and beside the Lancaster Gate tube station, this hotel could not have been better located. After checking in to our rooms, which were cosy, modern and boasted all the mod cons needed including very welcoming air conditioning, we headed to the in house restaurant for something to eat. The menu consisted of traditional options as well as spicy dishes ensuring there was something for all palates. As well as delicious, flavour bursting food the staff, who found out it was also my mum’s birthday that day, presented her with a complimentary dessert, garnished with a candle, which they presented whilst singing Happy Birthday to her. 

London is one of those cities that no matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to do. This time round, I got to experience lots of firsts, these were my top five from this trip:

1. STATE ROOMS AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE 

I have been to the gates of Buckingham Palace several times but this was the first time I got to step inside during a tour of the building’s State Rooms. As we toured through the Grand Hall to the Throne Room as well as the White Drawing Room to the Music Room not to mention the jaw dropping Ballroom, to name only a few, we not only got to glimpse the fabulous spaces in which the Royal Family conduct official business as well as entertain guests, but also got to see the current Royal Gifts exhibition, which tells the story of the Queen’s reign through a vast display of official gifts presented through the past 65 years. Once we completed our tour we enjoyed a cup of tea in the Buckingham Palace Garden Cafe, which really was a spectacular way to finish this particular adventure. 

2. KENSINGTON PALACE

Our visit to London coincided with the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Although we saw a special exhibition in her honour on display at Buckingham Palace, showcasing some of her never before seen personal effects as selected by Princes William and Harry, it seemed remiss not to also visit her former residence, Kensington Palace during our stay. One of London’s central Royal residences, the Palace boasts a stunning architecture as well as a remarkable history that definitely makes it well worth a visit. 

3. MOTOWN AT THE SHAFTESBURY THEATRE 

My mum is a huge fan of Motown and so my sister and I were raised on hits such as ‘My Girl’ and ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’. To celebrate mum and dad’s anniversary, we wanted to spend the night at the West End and so tickets to see Motown the Musical were a must. Motown tells the story of Gordy Berry, a man who broke barriers and fought against the odds to define the sound of a generation with the creation of Motown Records. With a cast that gives passionate and raw performances and a soundtrack bursting with hits from legendary Motown artists such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye and The Temptation, this show had me captivated from start to finish and dancing in my seat. 

4. HYDE PARK 

With Hyde Park situated right on the doorstep of our hotel, it was definitely high on our list of things to do. With beautiful buildings and wonderfully crafted structures such as The Serpentine Bridge, the Diana Memorial Fountain, the Peter Pan statue, the Serenity sculpture, and the Joy of Life fountain, Hyde Park and all it encompasses is a truly exquisite space that offers everything from walking / jogging routes, boating, swimming as well as areas to simply sit and soak up the atmosphere. On Sundays the Bayswater Road side of the Park also becomes the home to a wonderful street art exhibition where the artists display their works which are also available to purchase. 

5. DRINKS AT THE SWAN  

The Swan is a typically English pub which was neighbours with our hotel. With lots of outdoor seating and hanging baskets, this was a colourful spot to soak up some of the late summer sunshine we experienced during our trip. With an extensive list of cask ales and world wines, in addition to friendly and welcoming staff, I genuinely fell in love with this spot.

London is a city that never gets old however my favourite first of all during this trip was getting to explore this fabulous place with the people that mean the most to me. 

Posted: 4/9/2017

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It’s my birthday – I can blog if I want to… 

So when it comes to birthdays in your 30s, it’s hard not to feel a little down about how old you are getting and evaluating what have you done with your increasing years on this earth. Today is my birthday and so I am refusing to do that and so this is why my birthday was the best:

  1. I woke up to a load of birthday messages from my family, close friends and a gorgeous video message from my two-year-old niece that put a smile on my face before the day even began. 
  2. I was working this morning and when I arrived in the office I was greeted by a desk decorated with confetti filled balloons by my lovely work colleagues – I am tempted to keep my work space like this all year round!
  3. Once it hit 11am (aka tea break time) I heard a chorus singing Happy Birthday before being presented by the most awesome Green Day birthday cake from my amazing desk buddy Gemma. She certainly knows how to make a girl feel special. 
  4. I finished on a half day and as I had been showered with some lovely gifts, I thought it was only right time give something back and so I met my sister to donate blood at the NI Blood Transfusion Service at Belfast City Hospital. 
  5. After our good deed for the day, we headed to treat ourselves by visiting The Gallery on Dublin Road, Belfast for lunch. This building is impressive on the outside but simply stunning on the inside. With walls adorned with fabulous artwork, ceilings boasting exquisite chandeliers and floor to ceiling windows ensuring it is bathed in natural light, it is already my new favourite place in Belfast. The customer service was professional yet personal, the food was delicious and portions were immense and the prices were reasonable. And, with a bill with a personalised birthday message, I can’t wait to go back.
  6. I got to spend the evening with the husband sipping chilled Cava and generally getting spoilt with a fabulous present (tickets to see the Pixies, my face has fallen off with excitement), a homemade dinner and a Red Velvet cake. I’m a happy girl. 

So from start to finish I have had an amazing day and yes, I am getting older, but I am doing it whilst riding a sugar high and being surrounded by an amazing family, husband and group of friends! Sure, you couldn’t ask for any more! 

Posted: 22/06/2017

Happy Father’s Day 

I am very lucky that my parents are also my best friends; I adore spending time with them. There is no place like home home to get any problems I’m having off my chest, to get advice on any situations that are bothering me as well as to have a good, stomach-aching giggle. My parents are my role models and on Mother’s Day I embarrassed my mum with a blog post dedicated to her, so I felt it was only fair to do the same to my dad. 

Ever since I was little my dad has always been my go to person if something broke. From toys to jewellery, he could mend most things. As I’ve gotten older he is still the first person I call when something needs assembled, fixed or replaced. He has also taught me so much; not just how to drive a car, check my oil or to change a fuse (although that was a good one as I reckon my house has a Guinness World Record for blowing fuses), but also major life lessons such as to have confidence in myself, to follow my dreams and to believe I can do anything I put my mind to, and most importantly, he has taught me that there are few things more important than family. From his relationship with his own mother as well as his connection with his mother and father-in-law, he was always so selfless with his time and went above and beyond to help them anyway he could. When it comes to my mum, sister and me, not to mention his son in laws and, of course, granddaughter, I can honestly say there’s isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for us. 

As well as being loving, caring and supportive, my dad is also one of the bravest people I know. There have been a few serious potholes in his life’s journey that have rattled him, but he always keeps going. He is smart, creative (if you need proof see here) and the best haggler you will meet. He is sharp as a tack and has a wickedly good sense of humour. 

My dad has always set an example to me of what a good man is. As a result, when it came to dating I wasn’t one of those girls looking for a bad boy. I understand it’s the good ones that will look after you and, when he isn’t being a lunatic, I am pretty sure I married a good one. 

So today, when it’s all about the daddies, I just wanted to say happy father’s day to mine, I love you and I am very proud to be your daughter. 

Posted: 19/06/2017

Mum’s The Word

Me with my amazing mum.

My mum is without a doubt one of my favourite people; she is fun, kind, generous, caring, honest and has the most amazing sense of humour. 
Since I was a kid I knew my mum wasn’t like a lot of other mothers: she has never embarrassed me, in fact I am pretty sure she is, and always has been, way cooler than me. My mum coloured my hair for me as a teenager; she bought me CDs of my favourite bands as well as introducing me to music from some her favourites, from T Rex to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; she has an eye for fashion and she still always buys me and my sister gorgeous clothes, in fact I always get more compliments when I am wearing something she has bought me, rather than something I’ve picked myself. 

I moved to Belfast when I was 18 to go to university and as much as I loved going out with my friends in the city at weekends, I also loved heading home to hang out with my mum and dad. As I’ve got older I can honestly say our relationship has evolved, as well as being parent and child, my mum is genuinely one of best friends. I can talk to her about anything and whether we having a chat or dancing round the living room, she makes me laugh, without fail, until my sides, face and stomach hurt. 

My mum is my role model. Ever since I was little I have witnessed my mum caring for others; from my dad, sister and myself, to my grandparents, great uncle and neighbours, she has been a rock to so many people and is always so generous with not only her time but her heart. She has always supported me with everything I’ve set out to do with my life and she has always been there when I need advice, a shoulder to cry on or huggles! I have always said if I ever have tiny humans of my own I want to be the same kind of mother to them as my mum has been to me. I not only love her to pieces but I have 100% respect for her and I am so proud to say she’s my mum.

Today is mother’s day, and my mum bought me a bunch of flowers, that’s just the kind of thoughtful woman she is! Although I have already said it to her in person today, I such want to wish my mum, and all the other brilliant mothers out there, a happy mother’s day – although they might not tell you all the time, you are all legends to your children, trust me! 

The flowers my mum bought me for mother’s day.

Posted: 26/03/2017

Family Tree

Christmas is only two weeks away and so it was about time for the festivities to get rolled out. Last night, I was home home and so I helped my parents decorate their Christmas tree. I love the process of decorating the tree, and how it changes with each new item placed on it. What I particularly love about decorating my mum and dad’s Christmas tree however, is the story it tells. And before you ask, it is not a talking Christmas tree, that would be cool and creepy all at once. Rather than uniform decorations, each ornament that has a home on their tree has a story behind it. From the glitter reindeer I was given (and LOVED) as a child, which now, even though half the glitter is missing and it has a wee bald face, still makes an annual appearance on the tree, to the Belfast City Hall bauble we bought during a family outing to the Continental Market, each item, when placed on the tree, brings back a memory. From family outings, such as a trip to the Guinness factory in Dublin to places we’ve been on our travels (from New York and San Francisco to Hong Kong and Iceland as well as Edinburgh and Berlin), my parents really have a well travelled tree. As well as documenting our travels, it also charts how we have grown and evolved, with a bauble, for example, dedicated to their first grandchild, Rachel. However when the tiny human sees the tree there is a chance that none of the baubles will survive!

Whilst a coordinated tree is gorgeous to look at, I adore that each ornament on my mum and dad’s tree is unique, and each person in the family is represented and as a result their tree tells the story of us and of who we are and where we have been. After all, Christmas is a time for family and what better way to decorate your tree than to turn it into a family tree. 


Posted: 11/12/2016