Disneyland Paris – our first ever visit.

Disneyland – the most magical place in earth; and it really is.

IMG_6228.jpgLike most 90’s kids, I grew up dreaming of a visit to Disneyland, to hug Mickey and Minnie, share a laugh with Donald and get dizzy on all the rides, before indulging in the pinkest of candy floss.

This year, due to circumstances out of our control, my hubby and I found ourselves with a vacation budget to use and our plans to go to Canada for the summer thwarted, so he had the most amazing idea – to go to Disneyland Paris!!! ❤ I was ecstatic!

In a nutshell, it really is the happiest place on earth. Even at 27 years old, it was so easy to suspend disbelief and just get swept up in the magic. The cast members, as they call their staff, are incredibly well trained, especially those playing the characters; it was surprising how swept up we got in everything.

The parks work like clockwork (what else would you expect), they are incredibly clean, fabulously efficient (with excellent systems, if you suss out how to use them) and there is something wonderful to discover, literally hiding around every corner.

IMG_6241My only regret is that I went while pregnant; the original documentation we looked through, made it look like there weren’t that many restrictions for pregnant women, however it turns out that even some of the most basic and slow rides are forbidden due to their use of a “lap bar” instead of a fabric seat belt. And while pregnant ladies were forbidden to enter rides for health and safety reasons, there was nowhere safe for us to enjoy events like the parade or illumination show, without getting jostled and bumped into by a whole bunch of people, even though that struck me as more dangerous than “Aladdin’s Carpet”… alas, I will endeavour to write a separate post about those particular experiences, and my thoughts, at another time. Suffice it to say for now, that if you are pregnant and planning on travelling far (i.e. from outside of France) especially for the trip to Disney, I would just not recommend doing so while pregnant. If you still really want to, be super careful in your research, so you don’t end up disappointed like I was.

Once I got over the shock, we had an all around really enchanting time. We got loads of character photos, and enjoyed almost all of the “walk through” experiences, such as Robinson Crusoe’s Tree House, Adventure Island’s Skull Rock and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which were all astoundingly detailed and fabulous to explore.

We stayed in a hotel on the complex, and were very surprised with how much we enjoyed the “full board” food package that they offered. Normally buffet style packages can turn out to be quite sad on these types of vacations, but these guys clearly know what they’re doing. The themed restaurants were not only fun to explore and visit, but the food was delicious at all of them.

As far as amenities and the overall experience was concerned, the only disappointing part was the Hotel Cheyenne that we stayed in. The bed was hard as wooden planks, and the room, while immaculately clean, lacked any sort of helpful amenities (no coffee maker or kettle to get going in the morning), and the housekeeping service was lacklustre in comparison to what we’ve experienced in other places, which is weird, because you would expect more from a place that prides itself in making everything magical. *sad face*

I would give the experience a 3.5 out of 5 stars; the parks, rides (that I was allowed on), live shows and surroundings were fabulous. Regrettably the quality of the hotel and the lacklustre welcome and helpfulness toward pregnant visitors, put a significant enough damper on the experience, for me to want to a) never recommend Disneyland to a pregnant lady and b) whenever we do go back, we might have to stay on a hotel outside of the complex.

But all in all, most certainly worth the visit, especially if you’re a fan of letting your inner child run loose, to bathe in nostalgia and soak in glee. (Just make sure to budget before you go. 😉 )

Advertisements

#ScrumptiousSunday – Family Dinner & Beef Wellington

Nothing beats a family dinner, especially a home cooked one, so whenever Derek and I get the chance to invite family for a meal, we jump at the chance. 😉 A few months back, my Dad’s brother Norbert and his wife Birgit (who happens to be my wonderful God Mother) came to Ireland for their first visit in many many years. As a part of that visit, Derek and I wanted to host them and my parents, in our little apartment that we had at the time, for dinner. There’s just something special about playing host to family members, who always hosted you as a child.

Dad6

Of course we wanted to serve up something very special, so we went with a recipe created by the man himself – Gordon Ramsay.

We found his very popular Beef Wellington Recipe online, after seeing it served over and over again in his various TV shows, and tried our best to recreate that for dinner for our family. The challenge? My parents don’t eat carbohydrates, so we needed to find a way to cook for them that didn’t include the usual puff pastry wrapping.

Original Recipe here: https://www.gordonramsay.com/gr/recipes/beef-wellington/

We followed the recipe precisely for my Aunty and Uncle and ourselves, but had to get creative with the dish for my parents. We wrapped the roast and mushroom layer in another layer of parma ham instead of puff pastry and then wrapped the whole thing in baking paper, which we tied tightly with oven safe string. This allowed the beef, flavours and mushroom layer to cook beautifully, at the same time as the normal Wellingtons, while keeping in all the juices and flavours, without burning the ham layer (and keeping it completely carb free 😀 ).

We served the Wellingtons with mashed potatoes (mashed cauliflower for my parents), chilly string beans and sautéed garlic mushrooms.

IMG_9605

For dessert? Chef Ramsay’s no-bake cheesecake (with the ground digestive biscuits replaced with fresh fruit, and the sugar replaced with Stevia sweetener for my parents). I regret that decision now… because now I can’t go to my Dad’s house for dinner, without having to make that dessert. 😉 hahahaha

It was a wonderful evening, and we had loads of fun recreating some of these iconic recipes. The preparation was actually really simple and yet the flavours so rich and complex, that the evening was a complete success. If you’ve ever struggled to find a show stopping Sunday recipe, this might be for you. 😀

 

#TravelTuesday – Review Edition – Virgin Atlantic Airlines

Finding flights to Mexico from Northern Ireland seemed like it would be quite a challenge, but, SkyScanner came to the rescue and suggested a great deal with an Airline we had never travelled with before – Virgin Atlantic.

IMG_6355

All in all, it was an excellent experience. The price was great, booking was easy and the flights themselves were wicked. What I only knew as “first class” luxuries, such as complimentary headphones, blankets, pillows, “comfort kits” (including toothbrush/paste, eye mask, socks and ear plugs) as well as an open Bar (!), were all included in the economy price.

The flight attendants were friendly and quick, in-flight entertainment was almost exhaustive and even the pre-flight safety video was not only informative but hilarious!

You can find the video review that I created for this flight, on my YouTube Channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQacWKMEj3E 

There were, however, a few not so great points, that in all fairness for a good review, I need to bring your attention to also.

Connection in London – Outbound 

Because we had to get from Belfast to Cancun, and Virgin only fly from London, our ticket included a transfer from Dublin to London, operated by British Airways. (Which turned out to be an AerLingus plane… very confusing…) However, once we got to London Gatwick (at T1) there were signs by British Airways (who technically provided our first flight) saying that passengers heading to Cancun, Mexico should please proceed to T2. Once we got to T2 however, we were told that this was wrong, since our connecting flight was Virgin Atlantic and that we needed to get back to T1. #HeartAttack

By the time we finally got back to T1 and through the second batch of security, we were run ragged and I was in quite a huff by the time we finally reached our plane.

Security Embarrassment 

Long story short, on the flight home, the gentleman in the seat in front of me appeared to be smoking an electric cigarette. I kept seeing puffs of smoke appear above his head, it smelt like the fruity e-cig filling, and so I was in a pickle. Would I tell the flight crew? Smoking e-cigs was prohibited, but more so for me, it’s punishable (if discovered) if you do not report an infraction. So, on my way back from the bathroom I decided to pop into the galley (which was in front of where we sat) to mention my suspicion to the crew. The lady whom I spoke with, was very reactive however, and rather than waiting to let me return to my seat, waiting a couple of minutes (and maybe even watching the Gent for a while to see if he really was using an e-cig) she just marched toward him, right ahead of me. She asked him to raise his hands as she searched his seat and belongings for the device. I was mortified! I specifically told her that I didn’t want to say anything to her because I hadn’t seen the device as such, just the smoke, and didn’t want to make false accusations… but she basically just charged at him! I slithered back into my seat, put on my eye mask and earplugs and tried not to listen to anything, because I was afraid that the man in front of me would know it had been me who said something and would get angry with me.  That was definitely the number 1 way to make sure that people like me are uncomfortable ever reporting anything.

Connection in London – inbound 

On the way home, we ended up with a 6 hour layover in London Gatwick, this wasn’t tragic since we found the Yotel Airport Hotel Service, which was an excellent way to rest and spend time at the airport, but it was just a shame, given that with all the flights going from London to Ireland daily, there was no better way for the combination ticket to get us home; especially considering that we had an additional 2 hour bus ride back to Belfast on the other end.

Conclusion

All in all though, it was an excellent experience, and we would be very happy, not only fly with Virgin Atlantic again in future, but to also wholeheartedly recommend them to others.

5 Board Games to jump right into!

We always say that we would love to do more with our families, do something that doesn’t involve screens and electronics. We say we should sit and chat, or maybe even play board games. Oh yeah! It’s been AGES since any of us played a board game, let’s set that up for this weekend. Great. But what game?

And right at that point the age old argument ensues, usually ending the ill-fated evening before it even begun. Common suggestions will include “Game of Life”, “Scrabble” and “Monopoly”. Some ambitious soul might even recommend “Risk” or some never before heard of German game with 20,000 pieces and a handbook thicker than the last Harry Potter!!!

However, while being drastically different (yet classic) games (with the exception of that obscure German title), the one thing all those games seem to have in common is that while everyone knows “of” them, no one seems to have really mastered any of them (except your geezer of a brother, who wins at Monopoly every single god damned time and would have been better named Ebenezer…), and thus one of two things happens: either, no one can agree on a game to play in the first place or the choice leaves experienced board game players bored and newbies lost, which is never a good way to spend a family evening.

My husband and I had exactly such a lofty thought about a year ago. Wouldn’t it be nice, to play some more board games? As avid gamers (usually of the electronic variety) we both wanted to spend some real quality time together, being present with one another as well as family and friends without screens and plug ins, so we started our very own quest in search of the most awesome board games to share.

On our adventure, we came across some real duds (as was to be expected), but also some genuine gems and we now have a collection that caters to all levels; from weathered-by-adventure board game experts to green-eared-never-rolled-a-dice-newbies.

The trick, is to find games to start everyone off with; games that will allow new players to pick up on the rules easily and play confidently, while being challenging and/or entertaining enough so that gaming veterans don’t get bored.

We think we’ve found at least 5 of these and I would like to introduce you to them now. They are pretty straight forward, and mostly “pick up and play”. If you’re looking for something that your geezer of a brother won’t instantly beat you at, but is also easy enough to introduce to that reclusive, eclectic family member, I hope this will be the list for you.

Just to be clear, I am not recommending blindly; I have played each and every one of these multiple times myself, with a variety of friends and family members. Very importantly there are no endorsements at play here, this is my personal list of recommended “beginner friendly” titles. Clear? Good. 🙂

Let’s get tucked in!

1) Labyrinth

An easy to set up and even easier to follow game, first released in 1986. The simple objective is to be the first player to find all their treasures in a treasure hunt; each player gets a deck of cards, where each card depicts a treasure which has a corresponding tile in the maze. To obtain the treasure, players have to manoeuvre their character pieces through the moving labyrinth.

Players locate their treasure on the board (without letting the others know what they’re looking for) and then plot the path their character piece must take to get to it. There are no dice and no maximum spaces one is allowed to move, however, players will most certainly find their path blocked by walls!

Why? Because the board moves! At the beginning of each player’s turn, they must “move the labyrinth”. In doing this, they will start freeing up the path to their own treasure while inadvertently (or maybe deliberately) blocking the paths of other players. 😉 To claim the treasure, players must simply reveal their treasure card once their token stands upon the corresponding tile.

The first to reach all their treasures wins!

Labyrinth

Statistics:

2-4 players  Ages: 7+  Average Time: 20-40 minutes

2) Greedy Greedy Goblins

Another “pick up and play” game, the 2016 title Greedy Greedy Goblins pitches players against each other as members of their own Goblin mining guilds. Each guild has a preferred gem for bonuses, but what’s most important (and exciting) about this game is that there are no turns!

Cards depicting the Mines (and the guild hall) are laid out in a circle on the table, and in the middle are all the face down “mining tiles”. On the count of three, each player rushes to pick up and inspect one tile at a time. As soon as they have seen what the tile contains (a gem, a minion, a torch, a monster or a stick of dynamite) they must place the tile (face down) on any one of the mines. At any point players may then place their own coloured tokens on a mine to “claim it as their own” and once that has happened, no one else may place any more tiles on that mine.

Once all  the mines have been claimed, players take informal turns revealing what their mines include. This is the risky part, since while players will know what they placed in the mine themselves, they have no idea what other players may have placed there!!! Gems give points, minions are helpers who get even more points (or mitigate damage), monsters rob you of your points and while single/double sticks of dynamite double your yield, too many (more than three) collapse the whole thing and that player pays a penalty.

It’s fast paced, laugh out loud adventure, where players have to choose whether to risk it all with an over-tiled mine or play it safe, with a mine that only contains 2 gems that they placed there themselves.

GGG

Statistics:

2-4 players, Ages: 14+ (that’s what the box says but I don’t see any reason why anyone 10+ couldn’t play this on their own, and I would even go as far as saying that 4+ could have an amazing time playing this with their family, as long as everyone plays with the understanding that the little kids are in teams with adults and the game is slowed down to allow them to make choices too!) Average time: 25-35 minutes

3) Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan, which was first released in 1995, is more in the vein of “classic board games” than the previous two, but it’s beautifully designed, easy to pick up and a lovely challenge!

As the name suggests, players play settlers in the fictional country of Catan. Each player starts with a pre-determined number of natural and refined resources, and as the game progresses they need to acquire and trade for even more resources, as these are needed to literally settle their areas. They need to grow wheat in fields, get lumber from forests and hay from grasslands, for example, to build cities and roads and eventually even connect to water based trade routes. Each settlement, road and structure is worth a certain number of points, and the first player to reach (typically) 10 points, wins.

This game is about strategic placements, trades and moves, while also making moral choices. You could send the robber to plunder other player’s settlements to get you ahead temporarily, but is it worth the possible retribution?

soc

Statistics:

3-4 players (standard) (2,5 or 6 players with expansion packs), ages 8+ Average time: 1 – 4 hours. (Personally, we have averaged out at 1.5 hours per session).

There are also some fun variations and expansions on the classic game, such as Catan Junior, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians.

4) Scotland Yard or NY Chase

The 1983 title Scotland Yard, pitches a team of up to 5 players (the detectives) against a single common enemy: Mr. X, played by a single player. The detectives of the London Metropolitan Police work together to track down Mr. X as he escapes across London.

The catch? Mr. X only appears on the board every couple of rounds and the player playing him has to write down his progress on a secret board for verification later. Mr. X and the police must use tickets for the Taxi, Bus and Underground routes to get around London and the detectives work cooperatively to do this with as much strategy as they can. Their only clue? What tickets Mr. X has been using. Taxis only move from one point to the next, bus stops might be several “spaces” apart, whereas the Underground can take him the furthest, along the predetermined routes.

Mr. X gets to also use a limited number of “secret tickets” which allows him to use any mode of transport he wants, or even take a boat along the river Thames. If the detectives manage to catch Mr. X before the turns run out, they win the game, but if he makes it through all of his turns without getting caught, he “gets away” and he wins.

NY Chase, is a variation on this game, which I am personally very fond of. It moved the chase to New York City, where the FBI are trying to catch Mr. X. The difference other than the location? The police get (limited but helpful) use of a helicopter and they have road blocks as well! I love this version, because I love playing Mr. X, and it makes it more challenging to escape!

NY Chase

Statistics: 

3-6 players (but I’ve also played it with 2 players, where one person was playing all the detectives at once!), Ages: 10+ , Average Time: 1 hour

5) Cranium

Last, but definitely not least, is the brain teaser Cranium. Designed to “challenge your whole brain” and including a variety of activities, this family fun favourite pitches teams of at least 2 against one another in a combination of challenges revolving around “creative activities”, “knowledge of data and facts”, “performing arts” and “spelling/word recognition”.

It’s an all around crowd pleaser, combining aspects of classic party games such as Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Name that Tune and more. It’s the perfect activity for a group of people who can’t decide what to play, since there’s a little something for everyone!

Cranium

Statistis:

4+ players, Age: 8+, Average time: >35 minutes.

_______________________________________________________________

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little list, and really hope you’ve found something that caught your eye. Maybe one of these will liven up your next dinner evening. 😉

Have you played any of these? Or are you planning to? I would love to know what you think! Please let me know, in the comments below.

Bye bye for now! x

Littering almost Killed my dog… again. 

So, there is no shortage of littering in the neighbourhood where I walk my dog, Riker. There are loads of festivals, carnivals, concerts and tourist attractions in the area all year long and while the need to do so is rage inducing, I have become quite adept at playing “dodge-the-death-pile” with Riker.

There have been overflowing garbage cans, garbage cans with holes in them or sometimes just not enough garbage cans for the amount of people (read trash) coming into the area. What ends up on the street and in our path when that happens? Well, next to the seemingly harmless paper wrappers and plastic bottles, there are used food containers (usually with left over, dirty, dangerous food waste) such as,  but by no means limited to: fish, sausage, bread, bubble gum, chips, crisps, chocolate and of course empty or even shattered alcohol bottles, the smell of which attracts dogs who don’t realize that both alcohol and glass can kill them. So we do our best to dodge these disasters.


But there doesn’t have to be an event for regular old ignorance to rear its ugly head and become the unwitting assistant to a swift doggy demise. Tonight’s attempted culprit? An entire bar of chocolate.

We were walking home along the back of the Odyssey Pavillon, when Riker went sniffing through what looked like fallen leaves. I had to bust into a sprint to get to him (he has an 8m long leash to allow for playing) when I saw one of the “leaves” go straight into his mouth. As I caught up to him he seemed super excited and anxious to stop me from wrestling what ever sneaky treat he’d found away from him. He jumped and twisted and even tried snapping at me, but that meant he had to open his mouth and that was just enough for me to get my hand in there – I had to go all the way back to his throat and I pulled out this monstrosity:


Here is the bar next to my hand for reference:

Do you know what chocolate and sugar do to dogs? If so, you’ll understand my horror… if not… let me break it down for you real quick:

“A small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea. With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog. The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.”

http://www.hillspet.com/en/us/dog-care/nutrition-feeding/is-chocolate-bad-for-dogs

And sugar:

Xylitol – A sugar alcohol found in gum, candies, baked goods, and other sugar-substituted items, Xylitol, while causing no apparent harm to humans, is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death for your pup.”

http://www.caninejournal.com/foods-not-to-feed-dog/

So yeah – leaving that lying around is DEADLY!!!

Here’s the deal, if you litter, not only are you an asshole who doesn’t care about societal norms and the environment, but in 99% of cases you are endangering animals, including other people’s pets. End of. No excuses.

Oh, it wasn’t you? You think your kid dropped it? I’m sorry if this is a little blunt for you, but if your offspring is too uncoordinated to eat and walk at the same time (or too little to just not throw junk out of their buggies) they shouldn’t be eating junk while travelling then!!! By all means, give your kids snacks if they’re hungry; apples, bananas, carrots, celery sticks… you get the picture?

If you insist that they DO need to be eating sugary junk while in transit, through shared public spaces, fine, but you better watch them like a hawk and pick up any mess they make. I pick up my dog’s faeces for the greater good of society around me for crying out loud, you can bloody well pick up any garbage your mini human throws around. It’s not just dirty, it’s bloody dangerous and yes I am swearing because I am f*cking livid!! If I hadn’t have wrestled that piece of garbage out of my dogs throat… omg … the possible consequences aren’t even thinkable!! Why did this happen? Because someone was an ignorant asshat!

Just know this: if you litter, you’re an asshole. If you encourage children to litter, you’re an even bigger asshole, nay a cunt even, and if I catch you doing either, I’ll make sure to publicly shame the shit out of you. We clear on that? 😡

Holy crap…

Now, to watch my poor puppers for the next couple hours to make sure he has no side effects from what ever he did manage to swallow. 😢

Control your dog!

So, there are unspoken but universally accepted rules to owning and walking a dog. Most of them, I thought, were inherently obvious such as “pick up your dog’s mess” and “keep your dog under control”. Apparently these things are not as obvious to other people as they are to my dog owning friends and myself, though. 😦

IMG_9422

Here is today’s tale: There’s this lady in our neighborhood in Belfast, with an oversized white fluffy dog; I know its name but for privacy reasons let’s just call the dog “D”. It’s a giant teddy bear of a thing, I can’t quite judge it’s breed, but he’s friendly as all things; he just has zero manners and she is 100% NOT in control, always getting dragged behind him like a rag doll.

A few weeks ago there was an incident where he was so rambunctious, that he tore his own leash, leaving her to wrestle him by the collar. My Derek, being the gentleman that he his, leant the lady our spare leash and told her to just bring it back once she’d bought herself a new one. She was all grateful, we got the leash back, no problem – end of that story.

However today, as in 30-ish minutes ago, I was walking Riker and saw her; today I have lots to do and do not have the patience for the leash tangled mess that always happens whenever we bump into them so I choose a different route. At the local main attraction though, where all the dogs go walking, I’m talking to my Mum on the phone, via my headset so that I have free hands for puppy, when suddenly my headphones are ripped out of my ears by Riker’s leash getting tangled in them as he tries to hide behind me!!!!

“D” was OFF LEASH and his never-in-control owner was about 60m away, near the street! Now, “D” wasn’t being aggressive or anything, but he’s 4 times the size of Riker and off leash, trying his best to get his nose right up in Rikers ass for a good sniff! Riker can’t get away fast enough and I’m completely tangled in leash, cable and foreign fur!!!

I call out to her asking for help; her reply? “Just stay still! It’s what dogs do!” I yell back that she has to control her dog and come help me, she says “I am!”… (?) … She then gets to us and pulls her dog away, so I say “if you can’t control your dog he belongs on a leash, that’s why mine’s not allowed off leash yet!” What does she reply? “Well maybe you need to train your dog better.” with a sneer.

Excuse me? I need to train MY dog better?? We just got accosted by YOUR beast and it scared the wits out of both my Riker and me!

She then has the audacity to pull her dog away, proclaiming loudly for all to hear “come on “D”, clearly that doggy’s not allowed to play.”

It took all my self control to not to start an all out screaming match. I was livid; still am!

I knew I was going to get ugly if I stayed, so I stormed away, cutting poor Riker’s walk short.

How dare she? Clearly she didn’t recognise me or Riker, because she normally plays all cute and coy when we meet her… good to see what people are really like when they don’t know who you are!

Lessons learned? Other people are still assholes; don’t let a coy misdemeanor fool you.

Please please please, if your dog can not be vocally controlled leave them on their leashes. It’s not safe for them (traffic, rivers, other maybe not so friendly dogs or dog owners) and it’s dangerous for other dogs and people. Some people and other dogs, can be terrified by your dog, have allergies or react aggressively in defense.

Please remember that not all dogs like to be approached like that! I’m lucky because Riker is very social and he didn’t react aggressively but that could have easily turned ugly and I blame her 100% for all the risk!!!

Here are two great little posters I found online that outlines safe dog approach rules, if you’re a dog owner, or live near dogs, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with these guidelines.


I really hope that this insane lady, gets a better grip (literally) on poor Big “D” before something awful were to happen to him. I am terrified that he might run into traffic, or the water or antagonize the wrong dog… it’s not his fault his owner doesn’t know how to handle him. 😦

Riker and I are now curled on the couch, where he’s sleeping off the small shock.


Thanks for reading and thanks for being responsible dog owners. xx 

What a year….

What a year it’s been; plenty of good lots of bad & sad and here I am, in December, facing down what’s supposed to be my favorite time of year, hiding under a blanket with my (albeit concerned looking) puppy and a bottle of fruit wine trying to remind myself that I’m an adult… but I can’t really hear myself through my childlike sobs. Yikes.

So I think I need to write all of this down, the good, the bad and the ugly to get some perspective. And then share it with all of you guys. Because heck, if a gal can’t share her deepest and most time consuming thoughts with an internet of strangers, then with whom else? Right? 😉

So, to start off with, I am concerned about the planet as a whole and my absolute inability to do anything about it. I am concerned about the bleak future we’re facing. The refugee crisis, the countless humanitarian crises, harmul hardcore feminism, persistant anti-LGBT laws in areas as advanced as the European Union,  Brexit, Putin in the East, and the West condemned to a minimum of 4 years of Trump; all while we’re doing fuck all about global warming, the inevitable food and water shortage and the epidemic uprising of diseases such as cancer. image1

All of this floats through my brain at one point or another, during almost every waking minute of every waking day. Not all at once mind you, and usually more like the faint buzzing of bees in the background of the garden of my mind, rather than the shredding lawnmower at the front and center of it, but they’re always there and manage to remind me that there’s nothing I can do about them being there. This scares me.

It scares me, because it’s the world I live in, and whenever I may die, whether I have the privilege of dying of old age asleep in my bed, or if a freak accident or illness were to take me sooner, it’s the world I’m leaving behind for generations to come. Maybe I’ll have kids someday. Maybe my brothers will. Some of my inlaws already do, I have two beautiful nephews, and two wonderful goddaughters for whom I want to create a better world. And I don’t know how to. I feel tiny, powerless and insignificant to change anything.

That being said, there are also the mundane pains and sorrows of my every day life, which seem almost childish and selfish to linger upon in the face of such global catastrophe, but I live with them every day. So affect me they do, and face them I must. (If you were wondering, these ones are the lawnmower and his buddies, the leaf blower and weed whacker.)

It’s been a long year. I’m 26 years old, almost 4 years married, have a dog and live in a nice apartment. However, this year has raced by so fast… painfully fast even; and it’s the first time that I’ve understood what my parents meant when they told me as a child to appreciate the time I have because soon it will be racing by.

I feel old. Not in the “god I’m almost 30” kind of way, I hear 30 is supposed to be an amazing age and I’m actually greatly looking forward too it. No, I feel old physically and mentally… wishing there were more hours in the day for me and what I want, rather than spending my precious hours on the futility of the rat race.

The fact that I never got on with kids my age as a child has come back to haunt me as an adult. It turns out I still don’t like most people my age.

Other 20-something year olds take themselves one of two ways: either far too seriously (making me feel aloof and childish for loving board games and video games so much) or they’re all free spirited go getters with no semblance of what a consequence might be, and stay out till obnoxious times of night drinking dizzying amounts of alcohol that make me tap out before they even think the night has even begun. This also means that I’m struggling to make friends.

 

I have several great acquaintances in Belfast, but no one that I could call up whenever to just hang with; not like my besties back home. My husband hasn’t really found anyone like that either. The one or other beer buddy, sure, but not the types of friends you can rely on at a moments notice.

 

We’ve been here almost 3 years, and we’re incredibly lonely. With barely enough time to spend on one another and our family never mind trying to go out and make friends.

That leads me to my professional situation. I’ve found myself stuck in an industry that I don’t much enjoy, with rules, regulations and goals that definitely do not align with my own, but due to my lack of a university education I am lucky to be where I am at all. I am stuck. Good and properly glued down. I come home and I’m exhausted, mentally and emotionally and haven’t the energy to as much as do the dishes…. I’ve even cried myself to sleep more often than I would really like to ever admit.

This leaves my personal life a bit of a shamble… I’m not caring for my home properly, leaving laundry to pile up like small mountain ranges and dishes to run wild in the kitchen, like dirty pasta sauce crusted monsters. That of course has the side effect of my not caring for myself properly either. Think there’s time for the gym? LOL

I did great on Weight Watchers earlier this year, losing almost 20lbs and being well on my way to looking fab, but I felt like shit. That always happens to me by the way… I hate the way I look and feel, so I go on an extreme diet… I’ve lost 20-35 lbs three separate times in my adult life now, just to then crash and burn like an emotional wreck. I end up missing a casual beer, pizza night and popcorn at the movies… being perpetually hungry and “that girl who only eats salad” makes me feel like shit… so then I convince myself that I don’t need to diet at all, and that it’s okay to love myself the way I am and then what happens? I yo-yo right back up and past my original weight… I have never weighed as much as I do right now, and I hate myself for it. Yes I do. I loathe the situation I am in. I just can’t figure this out and I don’t have the time to figure it out any better either!!!

I try my best to be confident and bright, my darling husband always says the one feature he likes about me even better than my eyes and boobs (lol) is my confidence… so I try my damndest not lose that. I’ve spent a fortune on bigger, better fitting clothes, in flattering shapes and colours, have been getting my hair dyed and regularly boost myself with my favorite makeup routine.
But then I see a mirror. Or a photo from a party where I am literally 2 times the size of every other person in the photo with me… and despite my best efforts, and investments, I feel the icy grip of self loathing upon my heart.

image4

To be honest, I’ve been restricting again lately… not eating during day, to prove to myself that I’m in control, just to then lose the battle with hunger at night and completely overindulge. I can always try again tomorrow, I tell myself. Trust me, it sucks.

All of this, and some other things that I don’t think need to take up more space at present, have lead to me being quite down this Christmas season (don’t even get me started on the fact that I desperately miss my younger brother who moved away with his wife… it’s the first ever Christmas in my life that I am spending without him, and even though he’s a pain in the ass at times, I miss him fiercely and have been very sad about it at all attempted traditions this year. 😦 ) (In the bad metaphor of my mind’s garden, that’s the hole in the corner where once a great tree stood… it’s been moved to another park and now the gap is achingly obvious.)

The tree is up, the candles lit… but it all seems very half hearted. I’ve not decorated the rest of my apartment properly, and I’ve not even bought a single present! Usually I am DONE by now, but I’ve not even started!! I haven’t baked a single minced pie (I’m afraid I’ll have a “snaccident” if I do) and I’ve not even put in the effort to watching a single one of my favorite Xmas movies. 

 

ALL Of THAT being said, I also had some great things happen this year, so now that I have vented some of my biggest heartaches off my chest, I want to share some of the amazing things that happened, that I am truly grateful for and will hopefully get me back in gear in time for Christmas in 2 weeks.

image6I have an amazing husband. He loves and supports me through everything and I think we’ve really found our stride this year. He knows that I’ve been struggling a little, with how untraditional and sometimes “unromantic” we have been (based on the classic template) but, funny story, we found a YouTube video that gave us some serious perspective. I know right?? I’ll share it for you here: https://youtu.be/jltM5qYn25w Let’s just say it showed us that we’re the new kind of romantic, and have our very own way of bonding over things and that’s okay. More than okay, I genuinely believe it’s helped us be the best us we’ve ever been.

We have Riker, our pugalier puppy. He’s a gem and a pain in the ass, but I wouldn’t be without him. He’s my companion on days such as these, when Derek’s at work and I don’t want to be alone. He gets me out of the house and is my snuggle bug. (He also drives my parents crazy and ate the leg off of my new dining room table when we first got him, but hey, no one’s perfect. 😉 )

image5

We have made our apartment our home. When we first moved in, it felt like a huge hotel room, but just that, a rented space… someone else’s space that we were borrowing. It took almost two years, but now when I come home it’s exactly that – coming home. And I love every awkward little inch of this space. It’s our first family home, Derek, Riker and I, and I love it.

I have a job. I don’t have to be in love with it every day, but I have the good fortune of being employed, and being able to bring home a generous paycheck (for an uneducated hick 😉 ) and I’m grateful for it.
We’re about to go on vacation. Derek’s family invited us to go to Mexico with them for the new year, and it’s going to be glorious. My inlaws are quirky (whose aren’t?) but I love them to bits and can’t wait to see them and spend time with them and see how happy my hubby is when he’s with them. mexico

And I have my family. Through thick and thin, crazy and crazier, madness and insanity. They’re mine. They’re generous, loving, welcoming people, with hearts of gold and sparkling humor. I don’t know what I would be without them, and I’d rather not think about that. 

So that’s it… those are (almost) all the things that are battling in my head for attention right now and also, the long list of reasons why I haven’t blogged in such a long time.

I’ve been battling my demons and didn’t feel like it was genuine to be posting my thoughts on recipes and travel destinations when I wasn’t really feeling it.

Huge shout out to my dear friend Richard who took it upon himself to write to me the other day, asking when I would blog again because he missed reading my posts; I am not sure this lengthy, self centered, sob-story rant is what he had in mind, but hey, his encouragement helped me take the time to sit down and type this and hopefully find my new blogging groove. So thanks buddy.
I hope if find my Christmas spirit, preferably before the end of the season, and I just want to thank you all very much for letting me download and deal with my feelings in such a weird way. It’s oddly therapeutic.

Hopefully I will be back soon, this time with proper happy posts concerning travel, recipes, Disney dissections and of course the occasional rant.

Thanks all! xx