Sunday, 13 May 2018

Martinhal Cascais, Portugal. A Family Five Star Hotel - Review

Two weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of attending Martinhal's Luxury Family Brand Event and stay as a guest in their stunning Cascais Hotel (Total pinch me moment!!). I had heard many amazing things about the hotels before but I had never been lucky enough to experience it myself. But, the great things that I had been told about the hotel didn't even begin to scratch the surface on how fantastic it really is.




Martinhal is a hotel chain that have luxury family hotels across Portugal. Martinhals motto is "Martinhal is a place where parents get to drink their cappuccino with the foam still on it"
If that isn't every parents dream I don't know what is! So, from their supervised play area in the restaurant, to their fantastic kids club, playgrounds, pools, trampolines, astro pitches and basketball courts - Martinhal really has you and your little ones covered.


I want to gush all in one go about what a fantastic time I had but instead I will tell you about my experience bit by bit. The childcare, the conference and the hotel.


The Childcare
Milla is six months old and breastfed so she came along too (She really is becoming quite the blogger!). The day care in Martinhal accept babies from six months old so it was perfect. As most mothers, I was a little apprehensive about leaving her especially with strangers and in a different country. We had a dinner the first night where Milla would stay in the hotel with a babysitter and then she would spend the full next day in the baby room of the kids club/day care. She is also fed on demand and in no structured routine so I was a little unsure of how it would all work out. But from the moment we arrived all those fears disappeared.

When we first arrived we were given a tour of the hotel (Which I will get into more detail a little later). We were having a look around the fantastic playground and two of the women who work in the kids club happened to be walking passed and stopped me. "Is this Milla?" She was in my arms and I said "yes" the woman replied and said "I'm Rita, I will be looking after her tonight". Immediately I sighed with relief. There was a lovely sense of calm about her and the resort and for her to already know Milla's name before we even arrived and to come and introduce herself was just the icing on the cake for me.
Rita arrived at our room just after I had gotten Milla to sleep in the bed. We co-sleep so this is always the easiest option to ensure she falls asleep easily. I mentioned to Rita that we don't let Milla cry-it-out or self-soothe and that if she woke up it was fine to just play with her or hold her till I got back. And out I ran. I left my number just in case. Rita text me about an hour later just to let me know that Milla was still fast asleep. Amazing. The relief I felt from that one little text. I was so grateful! When I got back Milla was awake and so happy and content with Rita. Truth be told I think I was happier to see Milla than her with me!

The next morning when I dropped Milla into the baby room I was thrilled to see Rita was there as I was just so happy with how she had looked after Milla the night before. I gave another amazing woman Elsa her rough schedule and my number to text me when she needed a breastfeed. I also mentioned that she wasn't used to a cot and probably (most definitely) wouldn't nap in it for them. I left her buggy and again ran out the door. With genuinely not a worry about a thing! I felt like my baby would be very safe. You cannot pay for that kind of ease. I text every now and again and Rita would reply "text as much as you want, that's what we are here for" I also received this picture as I was sitting in the conference...



Honestly, can you ask for better than that?! I got a text to breastfeed her a few times, they also made her some homemade puree which she devoured. I popped over twice unannounced too- if we had a coffee break or if i felt my milk come in!! One of the times I popped over she was asleep in one of the girls arms. The girl was rocking her and I was just ecstatic. They really listened to what I had told them about Milla and respected it and I was thrilled.

I genuinely feel like the child care is just outstanding in Martinhal. To say all my child's needs were met doesn't half cover it. She was cared for in the exact manner that I as her mum would care for her. Not only is that very rare to come by its also priceless. I have never come across anything like it. This for me sets Martinhal high above the rest.

The conference
I had never been to a conference like this before. I have to say I was so inspired hearing all the speakers. All entrepreneurs and all with a different story to tell. A fantastic way for family brands to network but also a fantastic way to feel inspired!

Olivia Cannon was MC for the conference and is so inspiring in herself. She was fantastic! We heard from Rob Law-owner and founder of the now hugely successful brank Trunki  He told us about how a hugely bad Dragons Den pitch ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him and how he has managed to make a hugely success business on the back of that bad press.

We heard from a panel of bloggers which my lovely friend Tracey was a part of. She had us all smiling and also crying laughing. Hugely inspiring again to hear how bloggers have made their own brand and built it through social media amongst other things.

We heard from Andrew Dent who is founder of Family Traveller Magazine. He actually told us how last year he attended the conference and through networking he met a man who helped him break American with Family Traveller Magazine. How amazing is that??

The hotel
As soon as I walked through the door (that had been opened for me by a beautiful member of staff) I noticed the fresh scent. Martinhal have a unique scent in their hotels. How amazingly unique is that? I also noticed how incredibly clean every where is. It was SPOTLESS which is also true for all of the kids toys, playgrounds and the kids club. Which, with four kids at home I was impressed to see!
The hotel is scattered with friendly staff all more than happy to help you with anything or for just a friendly hello. I noticed every staff member I ran into whether it be in the reception, the restaurant, the playground or even in the spa all took the time to say hello to Milla too. Not that a six month old baby would specifically notice, but I did. And it left me with a really lovely feeling.

As Im sure you can gather I loved every second of my stay. My one and only con of the whole experience was not sharing it with my three other little ones and my husband. They would have loved it as much as I did. Maybe one day?

If you have been or are planning to go I would love to hear about it!

**I was invited to stay as a guest in Martinhal. But, as always my opinions and thoughts are mine entirely.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Haaka and Cocoona baby Review

As a mum of four, I'd like to think I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way... That I knew all the must haves and the essentials but evidently I did not. I am suprised to say since having my fourth I have found two must haves that I didn't have on the others... I don't know how I survived without them!!!

The haakaa

I'm not a fan of pumping. Never was, never will be. So when I saw all the talk of this new must have I was eager to try. The haakaa breast pump is a handheld, portable milk expression device. It’s small and discreet allowing mum to express without the noise and fuss of an electrical pump. According to the manufacturer, it accommodates different breast sizes and collects up to 4 oz of milk. I've only ever got max 3oz when I've used it. 
It is a godsend. I have an over supply. Which, most people would kill for. But I also have a A/B cup bra size. So combined together makes for some extremely painful let downs. In the early days the haaka was a godsend for releaving a little bit of pressure from a letdown. 
The haaka works best attached to the opposite breast while breastfeeding. There is a knack to it, you suction your breast into the opening and it suctions on. It catches your let down and it is an amazingly easy way to store some milk in those early days. I am still using my haaka and Milla is now 6 months. As I mentioned though I do have a fantastic supply. Every breastfeeding journey is different but they say it works best up to 3/4 months. It is dishwasher safe and BPA free. It is the only reason i have a freezer full of frozen breast milk. A 10/10 from me. I got mine from Earth Mother and it is on sale at the moment for 24.99euro. For me it is worth every cent hands down. Its is discreet, makes no noise and also above all else does all the hard work effortlessly. All you have to do is try not to spill the liquid gold!!!

Cocoona baby 
The Cocoona baby is also something I never used on my other three babies. It is a sleep aid. A comfortable newborn nest with added health benefits to reduce Plagiocephaly, reflux and colic - but it does come with a large price tag. At 169.99 I was sceptical as to weather my little one would even sleep in it or not. Her favourite spot was stuck to my chest, where she stayed for two weeks straight! 
The Cocoona baby I feel helps newborns transition from the womb to the world very easily. Due to its ergonomic design and its perfect for your little ones physical and emotional well being through the fourth trimester. 
You may have read recent reports about the safety of baby sleep positioners, anti-roll products, baby wedges and baby nests. But Lullaby Trust came out and clarified the issue by saying sleep positioners are different to baby nests/pods. Therefore confirming the Cocoona baby safe to use. 
Milla loved it from the get go. She was so snug and content in it. Its as if when she lay in it she sunk down and it moulded around her. There is also a firm base so i always felt as if she was very safe in it. The wedge is a great extra in it and it allowed her legs to bend in a very natural way. She was as content in it as when i was holding her asleep. Except for the added benefit of me being able to get some rest too. When she would fall asleep if i lay her on a mattress she would wake STRAIGHT away, with the Cocoona baby she would stir a little when I lay her down but she would snuggle straight in. 

The Cocoona baby is not meant for co sleeping. They recommend using it in a cot or the floor for naps and day time sleeping. It is also worth noting they recommend the Cocoona baby to be 20cm lower than the top of the cot you are using. 
We used it for co sleeping. We took into account that this is against the safety regulations that Cocoona baby recommend but we made an educated and informed decision to co sleep with it. I loved this aspect of it. We placed it between our pillows and Milla slept that little bit higher than us both. It meant for me, (who would have been co sleeping anyway) that she was higher than our pillows and also out of reach for duvet to cover anything other than her feet.

It is recomended that you stop using it when baby starts to roll over! Which for my lazy lump was 6 months old!!

Would i pay 169.99 for it?
Yes, I would. Granted I would try get some cash as gifts and use it or if a family member wanted to but it for her. I understand it is expensive but from a busy mum of four can you ever put a price on a good nights sleep?? 

My cocoona baby was also from Earth Mother. A small Irish owned company who I would order all my must haves and baby bots from in a second in a second. Siobhan the owner is so lovely and helpful to deal with. You could contact her with any questions you might have.


The haaka was gifted to me from Earth Mother and Siobhan from Earth Mother kindly lent me the Cocoona Baby. But, as always my opinions of the products and the company is mine entirely. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Luggwoods Enchanted Forest Easter Train

On Sunday we had the absolute pleasure of visiting Luggwoods again for their Easter Train. If you remember we visited at Christmas and it has been our favourite Christmas day out to date. 

Luggwoods Enchanted Forest is a family run business located just outside of Saggart Village in Co.Dublin about a 30 min drive from the airport! 

Just like their Christmas train there is face painting before hand! Little whiskers and a bunny nose for all the kids (and adults!) and they also sell bunny ears (2 for €5) all while you wait to board. We were just on time, arriving at 4pm (our train was at 4) which is something I really regret. Couldn't be helped for us but one huge bit of advise I would give is DO NOT be late and better that come 20 mins early. Get the kids face painted buy the bunny ears and give them a chance to get excited as they wait! 

We hoped on board at 4pm and there was music and lots of chat from the fantastically enthusiastic girls on the train. We saw a fairy village and spotted letters all laid out throughout the forest!! Noa is just learning letters at the mo and loved this part! All the letters we found spelt "HAPPY EASTER" We hoped off mid-way for an Easter egg hunt! All the little ones were given a basket and they were to fill them with plastic eggs! 

As soon as the bunting was lifted all the kids made a run for it! My 8 year old was sorted he was first to get some eggs followed a little slower by my 3 year old who still managed to get some then came my 2 year old who by the time she got over the bumps and dips there were barely any eggs left. Her sister give her a few and she was none the wiser! 
But, this is where my only criticism lies! I spoke to one of the owners afterwards and had mentioned maybe giving the kids a little more time with the hunt and also letting the little ones go first or in a seperate area. She totally agreed and said going forward they are going to make two trails from where the hunt begins. One up the left and one on the right. Allowing children under 5 to take route and children over 5 take another. That way they will all be able to collect the eggs. Perfect solution and it will take the experience to a 10/10 from me!

We hoped back onboard and made our way to Big Red Barn. We saw luggwoods breathtaking view of Dublin which suprisingly for me, looks just as beautiful during the day as it did at night!  
We arrived to the barn and met some unbelievable characters! A mad hatter and mad he was! He was FANTASTIC. He told the kids a story when we got there, had a tea party and showed the kids some serious moves! Moves that even had some of the parents up dancing! While each family waited to see the Easter bunny the mad hatter entertained the rest and he also gets a 10/10 from me! Dancing, colouring and making the kids laugh. Noa (3) didn't want to leave she absolutely loved it! 

We got to meet the Easter bunny next and got the opportunity to get a family picture! A rarity with 4 little ones! One thing I love about luggwoods is that there is absolutely no rush when getting a picture. The girls are so patient and accommodating. Each child got an Easter egg too!

Pictures are available to buy there and then for €10 for 1 or 2 for €15. Refreshments are available at this point too! 

Had we not been invited along, this day out would have cost the 6 of us €53.96 (including booking) under ones go free! This does not include bunny ears or your picture! So remember to bring cash for that! They do accept cards for the pictures! 

Was it worth it? 100%. I was an hour an 25 mins and that was jam packed with things for the kids. The were engaged and enjoying it for every second of that! 

I was sceptical as to how the Easter Train could possibly live up to the Christmas Train we loved so much! I honestly didn't think it was possible to enjoy it as much as I did the Christmas Train. But I left feeling just as warm inside as I did at Christmas. Totally different experience but still as lovely and warm. Kids loved it just as much! A really fantastic day out with the kids for over the Easter holidays! I highly recommend it! 

We were kindly invited by luggwoods to hop on board the Easter Train free of charge. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Everything Irish on Netflix


Are you staying in this St Patrick’s Weekend? I know I am! With snow showers and freezing cold temperatures forecast , many will stay cosy indoors! If you’re one of them, what better way to spend it than with Netflix and its extensive library of Irish content while some brave souls may venture out to celebrate or attend a parade.

St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate everything Irish and the great time to catch up on an Irish movies or spend time with your favourite Irish actors – whether it’s Sinead Cusack, Victoria Smurfit, Ruth Kearney, Dominique McElligott, Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, Chris O’Dowd, Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Pierce Brosnan or Liam Neeson.

Beannacht  Fhéile Pádraig!

For the Kids

The Smurfs 2

Hoping to harness the magical Smurf-essence, evil wizard Gargamel creates a pair of Smurflike creatures, called Naughties. However, only a real Smurf can give Gargamelwhat he wants, so he kidnaps Smurfette to force her to cast a spell that will transform the Naughties into Smurfs. Papa, Clumsy and the rest of the Smurfs reunite with their human friends Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), Grace (JaymaMays) and Victor (Brendan Gleeson) to rescue Smurfettefrom the wizard's clutches. 



For the Adults

Irish Films & Documentaries on Netflix

The Hardy Bucks Movie

Party-loving Irelanders plan a road trip to Poland to take in some soccer and sights. But their journey veers way off course when they hit Amsterdam.


Cardboard Gangsters

Cardboard Gangsters follows the story of a group of young lads in Darndale, led by Jay Connolly (John Connors), who sell drugs to make a living. They set out in a bid to gain more money and power and enter the big leagues of the drug trade.

Sing Street

In 1980s Dublin, a teen whose family is falling apart transfers to a tough school, where he forms a rock band to fit in and win a girl's attention.  Stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton and Jack Reynor 







The Young Offenders

Hugely popular at the moment
Never ones to think things through, two Irish teens steal bicycles and set off to the coast to find a bale of cocaine from a smugglers capsized ship.





Handsome Devil

Self described outsider is sent to a rugby-obsessed boarding school, where is forms an unexpected bond with the star player.   Stars Fionn O’Shea, Nicolas Galitzine, Andrew Scott and Moe Dunford.

The Siege of Jadotville

Winner of four IFTAs, The Siege of Jadotville tells the true story of Irish Soldiers who were besieged by overwhelming enemy forces while on a UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo.  The heroes led by Commandant Pat Quinlan fought for five days and heroically defended their outpost.   A Netflix Original film, based on the book Siege at Jadotville : The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle by Declan Power.  Stars Jamie Dornan, Jason O’Mara, Mark Strong, Sam Keeley and Fionn O’Shea.

Movies

In Bruges

After a particularly difficult job, hit men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) head to Belgium to hide out until things cool down. Ray hates the medieval city they land in, but Ken finds its beauty and peacefulness enchanting. Their experiences become increasingly surreal and possibly life-changing as they encounter tourists, locals, an American dwarf and a potential romance for Ray.




The Irish Mob

This documentary crime series charts the rise of the Irish Mob in America, from urban immigrant poverty to political power and wealth.


Bad Day For The Cut

A mild-mannered , middle-aged Irish farmer embarks on a bloody quest to avenge his mother's murder. He soon discovers her dark past while wading through the criminal underworld of Belfast.


The Secret Scripture

An Irish film directed by Jim Sheridan, from a screenplay by Sheridan and Johnny Ferguson, which is based on the 2008 novel of the same name. A psychiatrist examines Roseanne McNulty, an elderly Irish woman living in a mental institution, and learns more about her past in the process. Rooney Mara plays McNulty as a young woman, in flashbacks that detail her love triangle with a fighter pilot and a priest.


The Boys and Girls From County Clare

John Joe and his traditional Celtic folk band are ready to defend their championship at County Clare's annual All-Ireland Traditional Music Competition when his prodigal brother, Jimmy, returns home from Liverpool with his new band. The sibling rivalry is further complicated by embittered piano player Maisie, the mother of Jimmy's abandoned child, and the burgeoning romance between rival band members, Anne  and Teddy.


Hunger

Focusing on the 1981 hunger strikes by Republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. Bobby Sands is one of a group of prisoners who first "took to the blanket" with a "dirty protest" in pursuit of their claims for recognition as political prisoners. Sands then became the first one of the group to embark on a hunger strike that was to end in his death.


Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope

A darkly comic drama about two young women, as one of them starts to spiral out of control. Aisling is used to getting her own way, while Danielle is never one to hog the spotlight. Reality is about to hit them, and hit them hard.


The Magdalene Sisters

In 1964, three teenage Irish girls are sent to a Magdalene asylum, an archaic home for "fallen women," though their crimes aren't criminal. Rose is pregnant out of wedlock, Bernadette has been caught flirting with a boy at school, and Margaret is sentenced for having been raped by a family member. There, the girls perform hard laboursupervised by cruel nuns, led by the sneering Sister Bridget - and dream of escape.


Calvary

An honest and good-hearted priest (Brendan Gleeson) wrestles with a cynical, spiteful community after he receives a death threat from an unknown parishioner.


Evelyn

When the mother of young Evelyn Doyle (Sophie Vavasseur) abandons her family, her devastated father Desmond (Pierce Brosnan), is left to care for Evelyn and her brothers on his own. Because Irish laws forbid children to be raised in a home without two parents, Evelyn and her brothers are removed from Desmond's care and sent to separate orphanages. Desmond, who is out of work and abusing alcohol, will have to challenge the Irish courts to bring his children home.


Standby

A luckless tourist aid at Dublin airport reconnects with this love of eight years earlier, who is on standby for a flight back to the US.   Stars Jessica Pare, Brian Gleeson and Stanley Townsend.

Gold

A man returns home after a 10 year absence to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter, but finds them living with his domineering former PE teacher.

Stars James Nesbitt, Kerry Condon, Patrick Gibson and Maisie Williams

Ondine

A fisherman’s (Colin Farrell) life is transformed when he catches a mysterious woman in his nets.  His daughter come to believe that the woman is magical creature.


Hostage to the Devil

Follow the eerie story of Father Malachi Martin, a disenchanted priest whose belief in demonic possession would lead him to conduct several exorcisms


Films & TV Shows Featuring Irish Actors

Cillian Murphy

Peaky Blinders  - Cillian Murphy stars as ambitious gang leader Thomas Shelby who recognises an opportunity to move up in the world thanks to a missing crate of guns. (Seasons 1 - 3 are Available now).    Cillian also stars in Anthropoid which is now available on Netflix .



Chris O’Dowd

The Cloverfield Paradox

In the near future, a group of international astronauts on a space station are working to solve a massive energy crisis on Earth. The experimental technology aboard the station has an unexpected result, leaving the team isolated and fighting for their survival.

Chris O’Dowd also stars in The Incredible Jessica James, The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids, Mascots, Puffin Rock and Calvary on Netflix


Domhnall Gleeson

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Domhnall Gleeson stars in this exploration of the troubled life and ground-breaking career of "National Lampoon" co-founder Doug Kenney.

Based on the book A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever by Josh Karp, the movie was adapted by Michael Colton and John Aboud and focuses on the troubled life and career of Kenney and how National Lampoon influenced the comedy scene in America in the ’70s and ’80s.

Domhnall Gleeson stars in The Revenant, Star Wars - The Force Awakens, Calvary, Black Mirror and Unbroken.


Brendan Gleeson

In Bruges

After a particularly difficult job, hit men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) head to Belgium to hide out until things cool down. Ray hates the medieval city they land in, but Ken finds its beauty and peacefulness enchanting. Their experiences become increasingly surreal and possibly life-changing as they encounter tourists, locals, an American dwarf and a potential romance for Ray.


Brendan also stars in Trespass Against Us, Alone InBerlin, Green Zone and Calvary which are available to watch on Netflix.
Colin Farrell also stars in The Way Back and Ondinewhich are available on Netflix

Patrick Gibson

The OA - Young Dubliner Patrick Gibson plays the part of Steve Winchell, a conflicted, antisocial and at times violent teen bully, who strikes up a friendship with Prairie (Brit Marling) in this Netflix Original.    Patrick also stars in Gold.




Dominique McElligott

House of Cards -  Dubliner Dominique McElligott  joinedHouse of cards in Season 4 as Hannah Conway wife of William "Will" Conway, the current Governor of New York and the Republican nominee.  Will is Frank's chief opponent in the race for the Presidency in 2016.   Hannah and Will have two kids Charlie and Lilly. Their youth and strong values pose a huge threat to Frank who is middle age, having marital problems, and has no kids.  Seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix.



Kerry Condon

Better Call Saul – Tipperary Actress Kerry Condon plays the part of Stacey Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul.  Stacey was married to Matt, Mike Ehrmantraut’s son and has one Daugther Kayla. Matt was eventually killed after working for two years as a police officer in the State of Philadelphia, Stacey then moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Season 1 - 3 are available on Netflix.



Victoria Smurfit

Victoria Smurfit stars as the woman you love to hate in Once Upon A Time - Cruella De Vil.   Cruella originates from the Disney animated movie "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" and is one of the most evil women on Earth!  New episodes of Once Upon A Time launch every week on Netflix.



Liam Neeson

Love Actually

Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are David (Hugh Grant), the handsome newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young junior staffer (Martine McCutcheon). Harry (Alan Rickman) who is comfortably married to his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), but is tempted by his attractive new secretary. Daniel (Liam Neeson), who mourns the recent death of his wife Joanna, as he tries to raise his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) alone. Sam has fallen for an American classmate, also named Joanna, and, after discussion with his stepfather, decides to learn the drums so that he can accompany her in the big finale for their school's Christmas pageant (the same one that David's nephew and Karen and Harry's children are in).

Liam Neeson stars in Schindler’s List, Run All Night, Rob Roy and A Prayer For The Dying which are all on Netflix.


Steve Jobs

With public anticipation running high, Apple Inc. co-founders Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve "Woz" Wozniak get ready to unveil the first Macintosh in 1984. Jobs must also deal with personal issues related to ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their young daughter Lisa. Eventually fired, Jobs launches NeXT Inc. and prepares to release a new computer model in 1988. Ten years later, Jobs is back at Apple Inc. and about to revolutionize the industry once again with the iMac.

Michael Fassbender also stars in Trespass Against Us and Hunger.

James Nesbitt

Babylon - The Met’s new director of communications, Liz Garvey, faces a baptism by fire when a sniper goes on a shooting spree during her first day on the job.    James Nesbit also appears in Gold and Match Point which are available on Netflix.


Happy Watching!

Laura x