Turoe Pet Farm

Right, so, I’m in Clifden, Co. Galway for my Uncle Robbie’s wake and funeral not too long ago, and I’m sat in the hotel foyer, waiting for my parents to get changed out of the funeral garb and come down for dinner.  Lewis is with me, doing his usual ‘running round like a hurricane’ kinda thing.  To be fair, he’d been pretty great for the travel, wake and funeral and was just crying out to burn off some energy – so where better place to do it than the hotel lobby?!

All of a sudden, he appears next to me, with a flyer from the stand of tourist leaflets sat in the lobby.  ‘Mama, this looks fun’, he says to me sincerely.  Taking the leaflet from him, I expected some fuddy duddy tourist place, or a local beach or what not.  In actual fact? He’d picked a leaflet for Turoe Pet Farm – which had a ginormous bouncy castle on the front of it – and, true as his word? It looked like a lot of fun.

“Can we go mama?” He asked eagerly.

“Let mama check that it’s open first and that it’s on our way home,” I replied.

As it turns out, from November to April they only open on weekends, from May to November they’re open all week – AND they were only a few short Kms out of our way on our journey back up North.  The weather was due to suck, so our original Lettergesh beach plan had been shelved, and I decided that since Lewis had been AMAZING on the six hour car ride, and at both the wake and the funeral that we’d take him and give him some time to blow off a little steam.

It was very easy to find off the motorway (ok, so my GPS found it, but we didn’t get lost), two adults and two kids cost around thirty Euro – and, considering that granted you access to all areas in the place, bags of animal feed, and you could stay til closing? That was excellent value for money.

The place starts with a little ice cream shop, right next to a wee park, with a rather large sand box – it was pretty tough to convince Lewis that there was anything better to go play with, or see, than the sand box – the kid LOVES sand.

This leads you to a one-mile loop that you can walk around and feed the animals.  From cows and calves, to goats and donkeys – they’re all hungry and incredibly friendly when they see those white bags of feed.

At the end of the loop, there’s another park – a little bigger, and more modern.  We had a quick swing, before we headed over to check out the indoor side of things. The jungle gym section was totally packed, so Lewis didn’t go off exploring.  We ordered food at the restaurant/café – and, in spite of there being, like, ten kids parties there at that moment, the food was quick, hot and delicious – it, again, cost us maybe thirty Euro to feed the four of us including drinks and it was tasty.

Lewis’ favourite part of the whole day, was the indoor bouncy city.  He LOVED it.  The pictures don’t quite do it justice – it was ginormous! After his first trip down the sheer-drop slide, he didn’t want to come out.  He just kept going up those steps and sliding down the slide.

When it was time to go home, I had to go ask one of the women working there to go nab him for me.  The facility was excellent.  Spacious, plenty to do, reasonably priced, plenty of toilets and fascilities, on site restaurant with lots of seating and a total of three hours from us here in Larne (and two hours from my parents in Newry) – and it was worth the trip, for sure!

If you’re looking for something to do this summer – that covers both Summer and potential downpour, Baltic, winter weather? Half-term getaway?

Check this place out!

It says ‘Galway’, but it’s the nearside, about 110 miles from Newry for those of you in the hometown!

Throwing the ole 1,2 for the Southern Area Hospice…

“It’s not about winning, it’s about taking part”.

What absolute bollocks.

Everyone wants to win, and if they say they don’t? They’re lying.

That said? There’s any number of things to be said for taking part.  In Krav, our mentality is that if you can breathe, you can fight.  It was one of the first lessons I learned, and one that was repeated to me on manys an occasion during training.  Most notably? When I wanted to lie in the corner for an hour, panting uncontrollably and sweating in places I didn’t realise I could sweat.  If you can breathe, you can fight.  In many ways? The outcome is often irrelevant, it’s not about the outcome of the fight, it’s about stepping up to it.  In Krav, we learn many techniques and tools to throw in our tool belts to defend ourselves, and help us stay alive.  Even if you’re matched unevenly against an attacker, you learn how to defend yourself.

Earlier this year, my first cousin put up a post on Facebook, she was looking for people to join her in a fundraiser.  She was putting together a White Collar Boxing event, in memory of her mother, my aunt, Olive – who died late last year of cancer.  It was my aunt Olive’s dying wish for her family to raise money for our local hospice, as it helped her, and many other of our family members, through the end of her tough fight against cancer – my cousin Bernadette rose to the challenge and asked people to join her.

Picture credit: Paula Ann Curran

The Southern Area Hospice, provides invaluable support and care to people living within the local area who are suffering from Cancer, MS, MND and AIDS.  Their aim is to provide the best quality of life for their patients and their patients families.  According to research, approximately 1 in 3 people in Northern Ireland will develop cancer at some time in their lives and 1 in 4 will die from it.  Within the Newry locale? There are 30 (!) new cases of cancer diagnosed each week.

Their services are provided completely free of charge and they rely heavily on donations and volunteering to provide their care.  The hospice costs/spends almost seven thousand pounds per day to function – that’s a huge, huge, sum of money to raise to keep the place ticking over and providing their specialist care to those who need it most.

Having had family members live out their last weeks and days in the hospice, I can tell you, that it’s an extremely worthy place to send your spare change.

To find out more information about Newry hospice, how to fundraise, donate, or volunteer – please hit up their website here at www.southernareahospiceservices.org.  Any one over the age of 16 can volunteer can help, if you have time to spare, hours are flexible, some training may be needed (and provided) and references are required for all volunteer roles.

Having volunteered for 6 of my 7.5 years in Houston, I can tell you that it’s a very fulfilling thing to do.  My mum volunteered for the hospice a while back, and she loved it.

When I read Bernie’s Facebook post, I was hugely curious about participating, my Krav instructor in Houston, previously encouraged me to try some ‘pure boxing’, and when I saw this on my Facebook page, I took it as a sign to join up.  I was hesitant, though, self-deprecating and unsure.  While I’d trained in Krav in Houston, nobody on this side of the Atlantic really knew about my being an official badass.  I was concerned about stepping in to *another* new gym, I was concerned about the ‘fat girl assumptions’ based on my size and the derogatory looks, maybe even some comments and I was almost put off by the fact that I’d know, pretty much everyone in the room.

However, I got over myself, and I put my name forward.  I drove from Larne to Newry three, sometimes four nights a week and I hit the fundraising.  I took the training seriously, but, not too seriously, because, at the end of the day? It was a charity fight.  The aim of the game was to raise money for a worthwhile, local charity, but it was also about standing shoulder to shoulder with my family, The Currans, in my home town – it’d been a while since I’d done that.

Living in the US has made it hard for me to feel very connected to my family over the years, missed weddings, missed funerals and family events – it’s part and parcel of being an expat.  But, this? Especially having already had some training under my belt?  This was a no-brainer.

Picture credit: Paula Ann Curran

While I was beaten on the night? (I dread to watch back the footage, I should have adjusted my game-plan quicker as soon as I was told in the ring that our rounds were going to be shortened).  I learned a lot for my next fight, and will go in to things with a better understanding and expectation next time I take up a White Collar fight – or, any kind of fight, really.

As a system of training, I’m not sure I’m completely fully qualified to give an opinion on ‘pure’ boxing.  For the most part, training sessions were everything I hate.  A five-minute group warm up run, conditioning and fitness training, with only 10-15 minutes being on the bags, or pads with trainers – the technical stuff that I love.  In Fight Back Fit (Houston), it was the opposite.  A brisk 10-15 minute warm up to get the heart rate up, followed by an intense technical training in any number of offensive and defensive techniques.  Plus, the techniques for White Collar boxing versus ‘regular’ boxing, aren’t exactly the same.

That said, I most certainly liked the gym, the trainers and the group of people who came together to raise funds for the hospice.  And, without a shadow of a doubt, there’s not a snowballs chance in hell that I’d have signed up for the white collar in Newry, had it not been for the excellent (confidence) training in Houston.  Jeanna and the team truly coached me to believe that I could achieve anything I put my mind to – including a white collar boxing fight, in a ring, in the Canal Court in Newry with THOUSANDS of spectators.

This time last year, I’d have laughed in your face if you’d suggested any such thing as doing boxing training – legitimately.  Never mind a real-life fight, or some glam-boxing pictures.  I’ve grown and changed so much in such a short period of time.  I feel like these days, I’m in a constant state of personal development.

Credit to David Barr (lmp-pictures.co.uk)

Not only did I learn a lot about myself and the sport, though, I truly fell in with a good crowd.  Going to the group training sessions was the *single* best thing to come out of the entire process for me.  Going to the 7pm class meant that I met all of the Fit Club ‘regulars’, I got to train with a small group of good people, a good coach who didn’t mind a bit of banter and I wound up aching after training.  The actual White Collar training, was 8-9pm twice a week and had anywhere from 30-50 people in the room.  It was crazy, it was chaotic, it was hard, but most of all? It was fun.  And I got to meet and hang out with some really, really amazing people – most of whom had never thrown a punch in their lives before.  Some of whom? Actually wound up becoming pretty damn good fighters, too.

I surprised myself, I expected to fall apart and be a bag of nerves.  I expected not to be able to sleep, I expected to be beaten black and blue.  My aim was to not get knocked out, not fall on my face, and not need stitches – sounds simple enough, right? LOL!  I went in having missed 3/10 weeks of training (due to illness and travelling), I drove one hundred and twenty miles round-trip for every, single, training session I attended, I wound up getting home around 11pm every night with a two year old – who truly took it like a champ.  I ate more McDonalds and crappy meals in Newry than I care to admit (and that’s not even counting my weekly standing Friar Tucks date with Liz).

I went with good intentions, and determination not to let my family name down – considering that it was to raise money for the local Hospice in memory of my Aunt Olive and her husband, my father’s brother, Harry, it was important.

I went in wanting to raise five hundred pounds for the charity.

I went in thinking I was having a moment of insanity, that there was no way I could step in to a ring and fight in front of over twelve hundred people.

I came out with over a grand, over one thousand pounds, for Newry Hospice, I came out having boxed three rounds in front of over twelve hundred people, and I’m pretty sure my uncle Harry would have approved just fine – even though the result didn’t go my way.

What now?  Now I continue my search for some self defence training that’s local to me, easily accessible to me and helps me move forward.  It’s proving difficult and my faith that I’ll find somewhere is wavering, but I’m still trying.

To anyone who has the opportunity to try something they may think is beyond them, or just a little bit insane, or ‘out there’? Do it. Take the leap – especially if it involves something as epically badass as training like this.

Bernie recently presented a cheque to the Hospice for just over 34k – that’s a HUGE achievement for the entire Fit Club gang and White Collar Boxers!

On a final, and most important note, I’d like to take a moment to add a ginormous ‘thank-you’ to every single person who sponsored me – ESPECIALLY my Krav-Crew at Fight Back Fit in Houston – they sponsored me big, and they sponsored me the SECOND I put my name down, it was HUGE encouragement and a great show of support and faith in my skills, and some days it carried me through when my self-confidence waivered.

Thank-you all <3

Larne Baby Club

This morning I did something brave.

In Houston, I wouldn’t have called it brave, and I’m hoping in a few weeks, I won’t be calling it brave either.  However, right now, where I’m at? It felt, just a little bit brave.

Having done a little research about playgroups in Larne, I discovered that online, there wasn’t much information around – did that mean there were no playgroups? Kinda looked like it, but you never know.  Larne isn’t a huge city and typically a lot of things happen on Facebook and it gets a little tricky to search for church play groups or people’s names, when you don’t know what they are.  I happened upon the Larne Baby Club after talking to a family member, and have had it on the calendar for a couple weeks.

That’s been the way, you see.  My calendar? It’s full.  It looks as busy as it did just before I left Houston to move home.  I didn’t miss a beat on paper.

About a week after we landed home, I got organized, I found a choir (Larne), knitting group (Larne and Belfast) and some self-defense options for me to try out in Larne, Belfast and Newry.  I found Lewis play groups to try out in the same cities, and I even made a nice and pretty schedule.  Days of the week, cities and what options they have on offer – all on a white board in Lewis’ room.

Theoretically, I’ve been set for a fortnight.  I’ve had options in three cities, I’ve had my name on the car insurance for just over a week now, so I’ve had the capability and freedom to actually attend these things, and I just….haven’t.

I’m a social person, I’m an extrovert, I miss my large social circle in Houston every single day.  I’m not exactly shy, I’m outgoing and love meeting people, but since moving home? I’ve gotten caught up in my own mind, my ever growing to do list and stuck in the expat-repat haze, that I just haven’t taken the first step and walked through a door.

Until this morning.

This morning, I decided ‘screw it’, my kid needs to go play with other kids, and I decided to take him to the Larne Baby Club (LBC) after I dropped Col at the train station.

img_9380LBC meets weekly, on a Monday morning, 10am at the All Saints Church (131 Linn Road), and while they have a donation bowl sat out, it’s a free, ‘Sure Start’ program (with connections to the Action For Children Charity.)

I was tempted to stay in bed, hand my kiddo his tablet and let the screen parent him for the morning.  I was tempted to take him to indoor play, instead.  And even for a split second sitting in the car park outside the church? I contemplated not going in and just driving off.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, when I arrived there was only one other mum (Nicola) and her twin two year olds (Ellen and Johnny) and she quickly informed me that there was normally way more people there (it quickly filled out).  It took Lewis a few minutes to come around, but once he realized there was food on the go – he was set and sat to have breakfast with the twins.  And food there was! Cheese cubes, grapes, bananas, pancakes and two (!) types of swiss rolls, milk for the kiddos and tea for the grown-ups.

The two leaders of the group, Alison and Diane were lovely, very warm and welcoming, and any time Lewis was playing by himself, they dandered over to him to keep him company.  They knew all the kids names in the room, recognized that I was new and came over to talk to me a bit about Lewis and the other programmes offered, and before I left to go home, I got handed a little person goody bag (complete with face mask for mama!) and Alison had put together a list of other toddler groups in Larne for during the week for me to try – so nice!

img_9375Lewis enjoyed being there, he played on his own a little, but interacted well with the other kids – especially a couple of the infants, and he LOVED painting with the twins.  And I enjoyed spending time with grown-ups, mums, chatting and getting some information about nursery programs, play groups and even a kickboxing class I’m going to go try out soon!

Looking forward to getting to know the people at this play group better, and to trying out the other playgroups on the list, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll drag my butt out to try my local choir tomorrow night too.  Since I’m feeling brave and all 😉

img_9370PS: If anyone is doing a pre-Christmas purge of their kids toys – I know a playgroup who would love to have them! 😉

A Funky little Monkey.

img_8496I wrote this post last week – just haven’t had a moment to scratch, to finish it up and edit it.  Needless to say, this will be the first, of what I’m sure is many blog posts about being a mum here in Northern Ireland, facilities available for kids and other such things.

——————

As I look out over this magnificent vista… wait.  Wrong show.

img_8467As I sit here, on this hard plastic throne and listen to the screams of a hugely disgruntled child as his grandmother attempts to drag him from whatever life changing toy he was playing with, as I watch the two poles of ‘human experience’ unfold before my eyes and am impatiently wait for my chicken goujon lunch to appear, I thought, perhaps, that it was high time I wrote my first ‘mumsy’ post from sunny Costa del Larne.

For the record, by ‘human experience’, I mean both the best and the worst.

I’ve just witnessed an older girl, completely unprovoked, grab an older boy by his head and smash his head into the floor of the play area, while he was howling in pain, I, simultaneously, watched a little girl – who had previously been doing some epically good round kicks on those punch bag looking things – take my sons hands over top of an obstacle he was trying to scale, and attempt to help (gently) pull him across.

img_8483While it didn’t work, and I sat for a good eight or nine more minutes, patiently watching him try to figure out how to get his little self, up and over this foam blockade (you can just about make out his wee head over top of the blue foam thing in the picture), he figured it out himself and I gave him a quick thumbs up, before heading over to thank the mother of the little girl, for not raising a face-smashing little wench, but a caring and helpful little girl, a stranger to my son, who tried to help him when she saw him struggling.  I imagined her heart leapt when she saw someone coming over asking if that little girl was her little girl, but instead I got a ‘yeah, she told me’ and a ‘what the hell are you doing over here talking to me, lady’, kinda look.  Screw you.  Ugh.

img_8479While living in the US, we had a few indoor play areas that we loved, nine bucks (ish), unlimited play time, typically an in house café – with varying successes in food provided – and a very happy, exhausted and sweaty toddler at the end of it all.

Coming back to Northern Ireland, I quickly became aware that we weren’t in Texas any more Toto.  The going rate for indoor play here, is around five pounds, which, in ‘real money’ is about $8 before the pound tanked.  Sounds on par, right? Well.  When that $8 only covers 90 minutes, you see, friends, we have a problem.

The problem here is, friends, that I have a boisterous and energetic little boy.  I have a little boy, who could easily burn through three hours in an indoor play area, doing the same thing over and over, and over again, to his little hearts content.  Who would cry, and scream, and protest were I to try and remove him from his fortress of fun.

And then I read about Funky Monkey’s membership.

  • $12 per month (that’s pounds, but I’m on an American computer and can’t figure out where in the name of all things, the GBP sign is).
  • UNLIMITED entry to the center, 7 days a week.
  • UNLIMITED access to activity programmes
  • 10% off birthday parties
  • 10% off at their café

img_8476Not only that? But you can use this membership in ANY of their locations around the north, there’s one in Larne, Newtonabbey, Banbridge, Dondonald…I’m not sure where else.  All I know is that the ‘city pass’ as I’d call it in a Houston context, means that I can use any of their branches under my monthly membership.

Sunday, we took Lewis to the one in Dundonald.  We had Halloween activities planned, but the weather didn’t comply, so we opted to cross the car park from the place we had breakfast and throw him in to Funky Monkey’s for a while.

img_8500I’ve been sick since Sunday, til yesterday (Thursday) and today, we’re back, here at the one in Larne, where we have already made friends with one of the girls who work here, Megan – which, brings up another point, the staff in Funtastics were verging on being rude, even, not just standoffish.  I’ve not found the funky monkey’s crew to be like that at all.  They’re friendly, kind and helpful.

So, my advice to the mums of Northern Ireland? Grab a membership to Funky Monkeys – it’s worth it.  You cover your monthly membership, with less than one trip to indoor play a week.  And, if you happen to see your local blogger sitting trying to wrestle her hot chocolate out of the hands of her toddler? Come say hi.

img_8502But for now? I’m going to enjoy the dregs of this mug, that he graciously left me until it’s time to convince this child that a quick trip to Asda is more fun than those swinging punch bags – when all this Krav mama *really* wants to do, is go throw some combos! 😉

Many miles around Manchester…

From the Emerald Isle, we took an overnight ferry from Belfast to Birkenhead (after a nice dinner in Nando’s with Phil).  We disembarked, headed to Stonehouse for a few days where I lived in the dark ages, with no internet, while Col went to the office.

From there, we went to visit our favourite gang in Manchester.  We went…you guessed it… bowling! LOL! And, I even won! (no joke!)

Jenni, Tommy, Col, Becky and Matt

Also while in town, we went to one of Col’s favourite restaurants, Wagamama’s and enjoyed a delicious dinner.  If you’ve never been, it’s a Japanese restaurant, it’s quirky, it’s cool and it’s most definitely tasty grub.  I whole heartedly recommend the grilled chicken Katsu curry, Col normally has the yaki soba and we tend to preceed that with some tori kari age and we tried the negima yakitori this time too – it’s all nom-tastic!

The boys (Col’s in that blasted shirt, again!)

Boobs and I! <3

After our few days in Mancs, we headed further South, to London, Gatwick actually – where Col worked in another of his offices for a few days.  Here, at least, I had internet, which was a step-up from Stonehouse, and after spending the afternoon in a cubicle in the SLB office, we headed on our merry way back Northward, to a place called Stevenage for the night.

Once we checked in and dumped off our bags, we headed in to a local town to have dinner with a long-term pen-pal of mine, Laura.  We’ve been pen-pals for around eight years or so now, and it was FAB to finally meet her and we had a yummy dinner in Frankie and Benny’s.

Laura and I

She’s every bit as awesome as I expected her to be, and it’ll definitely not be another eight years until we see each other again, that’s for sure!

From Stevenage, it was back up to Manchester for a one night pit-stop to hang out with Becky and Matt, at their Eurovision party.  Everyone came as a country (Col was Italy and I was Ireland) and there was most definitely a drinking game!

Here commenceth your nightmares!

If your country got 8 points, you had to do a shot, 10 points, 2 shots, 12 points and you had to take 3 shots.  Needless to say, some of us got very drunk, some of us didn’t have any shots at all (*cough* Norway *cough* Bex).

Becky broke out the Prosecco!

And I am thrilled to have met the lovely Twitter-legend Jenni on our trip to the UK as well.  We’ve been chatting for a while (as per the recommendation of Bex) and we hit it off just as well in person as we did on Twitter.  She makes me LAWL.  As you can see, she went all out for the dress-up portion of the night!

Jenni and I

Bowling, St Georges Market and a jolly jaunt to Ballymena!

In all the hubbub of being on the ‘main land’ I fell behind on my keeping y’all up to date on the happenings here at home in sunny Norn Iron.  Normally I say that, dripping with sarcasm, however over the last seven weeks, the weather here has been fantastic – as the weather here goes!

Before we hit the mainland, we were all over the place, I’ve not been keeping very detailed records of what we did, but I most certainly have pictures!

Samson and Goliath, the H&W cranes – when I see these guys, I know I’m home! So much so, that I dragged Col and Rowan out of the car to have our picture taken in front of them.  It made me feel a bit better, that the person who took our picture, was also a home-grown Norn Irish lad!

Rowan, Col and I at the cranes (you can’t see the shivering!)

Bowling has been a big part of our trip home this time.  Col and I rarely, if ever, bowl as I’ve said before.  However, it’s been our go-to event while we have been home here, we’ve been a number of times, this time, was with our hockey friend Kath and Rowan.

Col and Rowan – sporting their new glasses!

Col and I – in his Charlie Sheen shirt!

My ‘baby’ brother!

Kathy and I!

Something I’ve wanted to do for the longest time, but never got round to it, was to go to St George’s market up in Belfast.  The market goes on for three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday every week.  I talked Nicky in to coming with me, dragged the boys and got up nice and early on Saturday morning to go for a wee dander.

“The City Food & Garden Market takes place in St George’s every Saturday from 9.00am to 3.00pm. Enjoy the best food tastes and smells brought by local producers, including beef from Armagh, award winning Irish Farmhouse Cheeses, free range eggs from Limavady, venison, pheasant in season and local organic vegetables from Culdrum Farm and Millbrook Farm.

In addition to these local delicacies, there is also a fusion of tempting continental and speciality foods from around the world. Included are such delights as wild boar, cured meats, venison, Spanish tapas, Caribbean foods, Mexican and Slavonic foods, continental coffees and teas, Italian olive oils with traditional French Crepes and extraordinary French pastries to mention just a few. Added to this plethora of tempting foods the Saturday market also encompasses flower stalls ensuring this Saturday market is a kaleidoscope of colour.

St. Georges City Food & Garden Market is more than just a shopping experience. Customers can sample the produce, relax with a coffee and a newspaper against a backdrop of live jazz or flamenco music. This market is a real Saturday treat and a great outing for all the family.”

One of the many, many cupcake stalls!

For the most part, the market is food, food and more food.  Which is mostly difficult when you’re trying to eat ‘good’.

However, Hot Lips curry lady, Jenny, makes this a little easier on you, by throwing together some syn-free stew and curries for you to enjoy while you’re strolling around the market.  She even puts out a weekly code on her twitter, which gives a free curry to the first person who quotes the code to her (the codes never cease to make me giggle!)

Tayto packet pencil cases

There are a few homemade craft stalls, selling wares, yarn, gifts etc.  In case you’re surprised, I came away with a few balls of yarn.

But, the biggest draw, would most definitely have to be the food – and I succumbed to the temptation…

The only kind of bap!

Breakfast!

I had potato bread with sausages and it was DELICIOUS, the boys had breakfast baps and they really are big enough to sink the Titanic!

Nom nom nom!!!

When we’d finished with the market and all it’s yummy treats, we bundled in to the car and headed up to Ballymena for an afternoon of shopping in Fairhill, followed by a wee visit to our friends Ann and Mahaa and their lovely family, for dinner and an afternoon of fun.

Me with the three Monkeys

Me with Nicky, Mahaa and Ann – The ladies!

The men-folk

My week, in pictures!

For the McMasters, ‘May day’ started with a trip to the US consulate for our visa interview, the 2nd, I went to see a chiropractor about a back adjustment.  That night, I joined Slimming World and we had dinner with Nicky, Rebecca, Ryan and little Daniel in our favourite Indian restaurant to eat at when we get home, the Indian Ocean

Col and I

Rowan and I – sporting our new specs!

After dinner at the Indian Ocean, Col, Rowan, Nicky and I decided to go bowling across the O, in the Odyssey Bowl.  We ended up playing three games for £7.50 a piece – pretty cheap, and Col liked the place cause they had hot nuts!

Col and Rowan – sporting their new specs!

Nicky has her own buff cheerleader!

(May 3rd) Colin, Rowan and I met up with the lovely Kerrie and Paul in the Crown bar, Belfast, for lunch.  I’d never eaten there before, but the food was lovely and cheap, and the inside of the bar, has individual little booth-room type things, that are quirky and fun!

Phil, Rowan and Col (with Shamu) playing words with friends!

(Marcy 4th) I met one of Col’s old friends from ‘back in the day’, Phil.  I’d heard a lot about him and we had a fun day hanging out with him, both up in Belfast, Thunderdome for lunch and down in the apartment in Larne for the afternoon.  I even made them a SW dinner, which went down better than expected!

(May 5th) My friend Nikki is getting married soon, so today was her hen day/night.  I went to the first part, her hen ‘high tea’.

The yummy delights!

The Hen herself!

Toilet paper dress-up

The ladies, rockin’ out!

Check out my rockin’ hat!

(May 7th) We headed out the coast to Bangor, a city I’ve maybe only ever been to once.  Our plan was to have a nice dinner and to go to the Goats Toe to watch a standup comedy show in aid of the NSPCC – it didn’t go quite to plan, the speakers were broken so we didn’t hear any comedy, but I did get to hang out with my friend Karen!

Rowan, trying to figure out how to attack his burger!

Karen and I at the Goats Toe – Bangor

Col and I at the Goats Toe 🙂

Stay tuned for our next installment of travelling, we’re heading over to the ‘mainland’, where we’re having a fortnight of Scotland, England and maybe even Wales!

The abridged version!

Instead of doing a day to day of our time here at home – because we’re going to be here for another month or so at least and y’all would get rather tired of a ‘we did this’ and ‘we did that’ – I decided that I’d just do a smattering of few highlights of the previous week or so, of our trip.

Rowan and I in Thunderdome

Col and I (with my Blue Lagoon)

Rowan wanted to watch a football game (spot the least football inclined person around), so we took him to Thunderdome for dessert and a beer while we hung out and watched the game.

We took Rowan to get his first pair of glasses 🙂

(March 25th) We’d booked in for 5pm, but Rowan and I went in a little earlier – because it normally takes me FOREVER to find glasses.  As soon as we walked in, our sales advisor approached us, and helped us try on glasses, give opinions on glasses, we didn’t have to wait long for our sight tests and before long, we were leaving having ordered five pairs of glasses between us!  Our sales advisor, Roseanne, I think she was called, was ACE!

Maggie Mays

(March 26th) Wednesday’s adventure, brought me back to my old nemesis-haunt, Queens University.  I had a somewhat chequered relationship with my University experience, however, one part of it was always worth the hassle and that was my friendship with my good friend Karen.  We had a delicious lunch in the ‘new’ Maggie Mays, the food was delicious, the ambiance (aside from the seriously loud blender) is good and it’s cheap!

Rowan, Col and I

(March 27th)  Rowan invited us oldies to tag along with him and his friends on a night out at Cobbles, Thursday night Karaoke.  I was a bit reticent, I didn’t want to cramp his style, (and, lemme tell ye, he’s got plenty of it!) but we decided what the hell, and off we went!

Rowan and I

Rowan, Stephen and Chan

As a venue, Cobbles was pretty good.  The night started off pretty empty, but it filled up as the night went on.  Strawberry daquiris are 3 for £12 and the karaoke isn’t bad, the DJ has all of the right artists, but, for me, all of the wrong songs, which was disappointing cause I normally love singing at those things!

Rowan and I

(March 28th) Rowan, Col, my sister’s other half James, Rowans friends Chan and Marty and I decided to go bowling in the Sheepbridge, just outside of Newry.  Col and I hadn’t been bowling in at least a year, maybe two even.  I tend to forget how much I enjoy it – in spite of my bowling fatigue.  My arms get tired pretty quickly.

As far as bowling goes, the Sheepbridge is all Newry has to offer, so I don’t have much to compare it to.  Glass bottled drinks make me feel like I’m being robbed when all I want is a glass of fizzy juice!

Col and I

As you can see, we are having lots of fun being home!

Days 11 and 12 – To infinity, and beyond!

Sunday 22nd April, we got up early – there are few things that get us out of our scratcher at a decent time on the weekends, Formula 1 is one of them!

We high-tailed it down the M1/A1 to Newry, where we monopolised my sisters TV so we could watch the Bahrain race – which, she rewarded with a HUGE Sunday roast dinner fit for a king (but consumed by my parents, my brother, my sister, soon to be brother in law, Col and I, and my brother’s friend Marty).  In short – it was HUGE!!

Sunday dinner!

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Days 7 and 8 – Commerce and Curry!

Wednesday morning, Nina and Mylo woke Col and I around 9.30am with bacon butties in-hand, honestly, all we’ve done since we got home, is eat, I’m sure the scales will attest to that!  But there’s so much food from here that we miss terribly, bacon is one of the main ones.

Fact: You cannot beat a bacon butty.

Around 11am, Helena was teaching my cousin Emma, so we got a chance to chat to my cousin Brendan’s wife Michelle for a while,  I’d not seen her in years and Col had never met them before.  After the teaching was finished, (and a quick chat with Emma and Michelle), we piled in to the Mini and went off down the road to my parents house (Col stayed home with Mylo and set up shop in James and Nina’s study to work for the day!)

I stole a Pinkerton sausage from daddy’s breakfast, (another food we miss desperately over the pond,) we picked up our mum and headed into Newry ‘city’ centre to do some shopping (mostly for me! LOL!) I tend to take my sister or my brother clothes shopping with me, when either of them are available.  Helena picks things up and makes me try things that I’d not normally try, Rowan has great honesty, if it looks like crap, he’ll say so.

I struck pay-dirt at an unsuspecting place – Marks and Spencer.

I’d always considered that place to be all fuddy duddy, dated and old, however, I came away with three lovely ‘going out’ tops (one of which has to go back cause it’s got a hole in it!) and I was very happy!

Top no.1 - looks nicer on than on the hanger!

Top no.2

We started with Dunnes and Marks and Spencers, before it was time to haul-ass across town to my beauty appointment with Helena’s friend Amy, at Serenity over on Marcus street.

In the US, I tend towards getting a Shellac manicure (as I’ve said before on my blog) and I’ve always been a threading fan (versus a wax fan) and I’ve only ever had my eyebrows waxed once before.

However, at Serenity I signed up for an eyebrow and upper lip wax and a ‘gel paint’ manicure.  My experience was great, I’d highly recommend Amy for both the manicure and the waxing.

I also learned something new, I learned that threading is more painful than waxing.

However, I’d pick the threading over waxing every day of the week, the re-growth rate is slower with threading and it’s just tidier, more accurate.  It’s a good alternative when I’m home away from home though!

During my hour of beautifying, Nina went to pick up my brother and when I was done, we all headed back over to the Buttercrane so we could shop a little more.  Primark, Evans and Wallis were the subject of our dandering this time around, but aside from seventeen pairs of socks and some gift bags, I came up empty.

For dinner, we had a delicious home-cooked Indian feast at my sisters house, it was a big ole spread and was my parents first ever experience with Indian food.  When dinner was over and the dishes were done, my parents sat and chatted for a while, before going home to look after their dogs.  Helena went to visit a friend, and I talked Rowan and Colin into coming out for ice cream with me, to another local institution, Mauds.

On the Warrenpoint road 🙂

Mauds ice cream was a huge treat for us as we were growing up, it was a special treat and a big deal in our house.  The ice cream is ‘home grown’, and though the cashier was as friendly as I imagine chlamydia being, the ice cream never lets you down.

It'll always be Pooh bear...

It was delicious, and a nice wee spin down the road was just enough to keep my boredom at bay, back at Nina’s house, I lit the fire (yes, me, lighting a successful fire) and watched The Apprentice with little Mylo while his mummy was out visiting a friend.  She came home and watched ‘You’re fired’ with us, before we all headed upstairs, where I did some late night emails, caught up on my blog-notes and my ‘early night’ became an almost 1am bed time!

Thursday was a lazy (10am) start, we got up (Col got a big breakfast courtesy of Nina, I wasn’t hungry), we headed to my parents house to say cheerio, (mum made me a bacon sandwich for ‘brunch’), I played with the dogs a little and we headed up the road to Larne.

En route, we took a somewhat extended pit-stop in Banbridge, to pay a wee visit to the Outlets.  I wanted to check out the Next outlet and the M&S outlet, I was reasonably successful, I came away with a smart/causal top, a checkered shirt (which, since moving to Texas I’ve become somewhat obsessed with).

From M&S I came away with four pairs of cut-offs, (or capris or 3/4 lengths depending on what you call them), two pairs for now (the size I currently am) and another two pairs in a size smaller for when I get my ass back in gear and start losing it (my ass that is!) as well as a pair of linen trousers for a not too bad total of $45.

Even in Walmart it’s hard to find a decent pair of ‘pants’ for $14, let alone ones of such good quality.  So, I stocked up – it is, after all, almost summer, and I’ll be wearing them til they fade, tear or stain! LOL!

Once we got to Larne, we totally flopped, neither of us wanted to move a muscle, tiredness had struck!

We unpacked, I sat trying to catch up with blogging, Col did a bit of work and then embarked on his ‘manly man’ duties, he ran the washing machine again, discovered that the tumble dryer sounds unwell and spent almost two hours trying to replace the part in the dishwasher, only to discover that the dishwasher is still broken.  Ugh.

For dinner, we ordered dinner from a new (to us) local Chinese restaurant ‘China Garden’.  I ordered chicken curry, a small tub of sweet and sour sauce, Col ordered honey chilli chicken, we got rice, chips and an appetiser of satay chicken.

The food arrived, some was hotter than the rest, the rice and chips needed reheated.  Col’s honey chilli chicken, was tough and elasticated, it was also spicier than we are used to getting.  My chicken curry, turned out to be beef curry, I didn’t get my sweet and sour and neither of us looked too kindly on the chicken satay.

Col didn’t eat his, my curry sauce was nice, but that’s not enough to justify buying dinner, even the friggin prawn crackers were ‘wrong’, they tasted sweet!!! In short, we won’t be back.

After dinner, we put on some TV, and agreed to stay awake for the first game of the Houston Aeros Round 1 play off run, due to start at 1.05am our time.  Around 1.10am we broke out the take-away menus, only to discover that nothing opens beyond 11.30pm on a Thursday.

So, since we were hungry, and set to be up until at least 3am, we stuck on the oven and whipped up some potato waffles and sausage rolls, for a 2am ‘snack’.

We stayed up til 4am cheering on our boys (who have since been kicked out of the Calder Cup run) but it’s all a bit of craic!