The Coombe – A big thumbs up!

Maternity hospitals and units in Ireland have hit the headlines for all the wrong reason of late. And rightly so. What some parents had to endure is unspeakable and I can’t begin to imagine their grief and their anger. So many families have been affected by adverse outcomes in our maternity services over the past number of years. I am not one of them. Thankfully. It’s all thanks to The Coombe. Continue reading

Product review: Heavenly Tasty Organics

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So the kind folks at Heavenly Tasty Organics recently picked Aidan and Sarah to be part of their ‘Heavenly Tasters’ gang and last week a hamper full of yummy goodies arrived on our doorstep. My two munchkins have been slowly working their way through the delivery and their little thumbs are up!  Continue reading

Play centres; the good, the bad and the ugly

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Sarah enjoying herself in a local playcentre recently

Play Centres. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are great for a rainy day when cabin fever strikes and outdoors isn’t an option. They are also a great place to meet fellow parents for a catch up because the adults can have a sit down, a chat and a coffee, while the little ones head off for a play.

However, so many of them leave a lot to be desired. Not all are overly clean, some aren’t even that practical, while the food and beverages served in some, well, is just downright vile.

I’ve been to play centres in Meath, Galway, Dublin and Kildare and all have their own merits.

In Kildare we’ve visited Joey’s, The Fun Factory and Jungle Den in Naas, we’ve been to Tricky Tricksters in Tougher’s Business Park and we’ve been to Playzone in Celbridge. Other establishments we’ve been to close by include Energy in Rathcoole and the Playhouse Cafe, which is in Lucan Sarsfields GAA Club but can’t really be classed as a playcentre.

So, what’s the lowdown, what are the good, the bad and the ugly? Well I’m not in the habit of simply having a go for the sake of it so I’m not going to target any of them individually because at the end of the day they all have good and bad points.

I’m going to start with the good. Top of the Kildare pile, by a mile, is Playzone in Celbridge. I’ve only been once but the place made a lasting impression. My friend Laura, who is mammy to the gorgeous Matthew, lives in Swords so we picked Celbridge as a halfway meeting point. Aside from the fact that there’s toddler events every morning and it’s spotless, Playzone has a lovely cafe and when they say they offer a healthy option for children’s meals, they do. Also their baby soft play area is the best around. Under twos aren’t allowed in, which is the case in a lot of places but the difference here is, they have a proper gate on it that, for the most part, can only be opened by adults.

One of my bugbears with other places is, there are always older and more boisterous kids in the baby area and it’s impossible to relax for fear of Sarah getting hurt. I really wish the staff in these places would enforce this rule because I always feel bad ordering older kids out. They are not mine to discipline at the end of the day.

Getting back to the food served in play centres. There’s a real divide here. Some are okay, some are downright disgusting and some are brilliant. I visited one play centre in Naas for the first time last week, and while the place itself was brilliant for playing, the food was horrendous. I ordered a panini and chips, Aidan had sausages and chips, while Sarah had lasagne and holy cow, the amount of grease on the food had to be seen to be believed. These days all Aidan eats is sausages and chips and even he turned up his nose at this fare.

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting back with a cup of coffee or tea that has been served to you and while some of the local play centres serve up lovely hot beverages, others serve muck. And do you know what annoys the hell out of me? Maybe it’s commonplace but in one local play centre I ordered a herbal tea and they whipped out a packet of green tea bags from Aldi and brewed it up. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with the herbal tea range from Aldi but what is wrong is charging €1.50 for a cup of herbal tea when you could probably buy two whole packs of tea-bags for that price in Aldi.

Now that Sarah is over one, she’s actually knocking a bit of craic out of the soft play areas but when she was younger I loved going to centres that had baby bouncers and sit-in activity centres. Most are fine in this regard but there’s one place that offered dirty, ancient and ripped bouncers and activity centres. Is it too much to ask to keep them clean and replace them when they get a bit battered? Surely not.

It’s not all bad though. Joey’s in Naas is great as it’s much smaller than other places, meaning you can sit down with your coffee and still see the kids at all times. which is a great idea. As I mentioned Playzone, is just super, while most of them have toddler activities such as arts and crafts and music classes mid-week.

But to the not so great ones, please, please sort out the food situation, clean up your act, police the baby areas because I bet if you did you’d have even more heads through your doors.

Continue reading

Magical trail-blazing in Athy

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‘Tis the season and all that! Christmas time has taken on a real special meaning in the Chambers’ household since the two smallies arrived. And this year is the first year that Aidan gets the concept of Santa. He’s still a small bit sketchy on all the details but he knows who the big man in the red suit with the beard is and more importantly he knows that he brings presents.

So last Sunday we made our annual pilgrimage to visit the man himself and this year we tried somewhere different.

The kind folks at Santa’s Magical Trail in the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy welcomed myself, Daddy Chambers, Aidan and Sarah last weekend and I must admit we had a brilliant afternoon.

All week Aidan was well aware he was visiting Santa’s ‘house’ and when the time came to finally leave for Athy, he was hyped up to the hilt. When we arrived we had to register/check in, while Aidan had great craic playing with the giant Connect Four game. Before we embarked on the trail we had a family photo taken, which was all lovely apart from myself of course, who, once again, was pulling an awful demented looking face!

Anyway, on to the trail; the best bit. We were guided by the elves the whole way through and I must say they were hilarious. They really acted the maggot and the kids lapped it up. First up we visited the elves’ workshop and then we paid a visit to Mrs Claus, before heading off to meet Lazy Bones the Elf in his bedroom. Aidan, at this point, decided it would be a great idea to tuck himself up in one of the elves’ beds and bid his fellow trailblazers night, night!

One of the real highlights for Aidan was helping the elves make reindeer food and himself and Sarah even got to bring a bag home so we can leave it out on Christmas Eve.

Our next stop was into a room with a big wishing tree, where Aidan got to make a wish and hang it on the tree in the hope that Santa spots it on time.

At this point we put our coats back on and another elf whizzed up in a very festive golf buggy and took us for a spin. The golf buggy made Aidan’s afternoon. His blonde tresses were blowing wild in the wind and he was in his element.

After a short spin we had a wee walk up a mysterious corridor and at the end we met a small petting farm with alpacas, poor unfortunate turkeys, donkeys, ponies and of course some reindeer. Sarah was particularly taken with the alpacas! Amazed even.

After the pet farm we were escorted to another room where we all got to throw snowballs at each other and in general have a bit of a laugh but a few minutes later when an elf called Sarah and Aidan to tell them Santa wanted to see them, the latter almost wet himself with excitement. Actually, considering he is still in nappies, he probably did wet himself with excitement!

I really thought Aidan would lose the plot when he saw Santa and although at first he wasn’t sure, he was hugging him by the time we left. Santa was just brilliant and his softly spoken ways really put the kids at ease. Sarah wasn’t as easily convinced of him as her brother was but she was really brave about sitting beside Santa from the comfort of her daddy’s arms!

Of course we tried to get the perfect family shot of us all with the big man but Aidan had a bit of a coughing fit in the middle of it and the rest of us weren’t even looking at the camera! But that just seems to be par for the course every year!

After we finished up with Santa our carriage (golf buggy) was outside waiting for us as we were whisked back to base where we were all met by Snow White, who served us up some hot chocolate and marshmallows. And that was the end of the trail.

We’ve only ever visited three Santa experiences, all in Kildare, but this was hands down the best. The trail was over an hour long and there was loads to keep Aidan entertained. He loved it. The elves were amazing, while Santa himself was a big hit.

To top off our evening we headed to the bar for dinner, which again was very child friendly. Perhaps that was the best part for me as it meant I didn’t have to cook!

Thanks a million to Mary Fennin, the brainchild behind Santa’s Magical Trail, for having us! It really was magical.

So folks if you’re yet to visit the man with the beard this year come see Daddy Chambers in Newbridge! Only kidding! Seriously though you won’t be disappointed by Santa’s Magical Trail in Athy.

Update: I’m getting Fit with Brid

Sarah with her wings on, dressed up as a fairy princess for Halloween and Daddy Chambers as mammy and Aidan went trick or treating and returned home with way too much junk.

Sarah with her wings on, dressed up as a fairy princess for Halloween and Daddy Chambers as mammy and Aidan went trick or treating and returned home with way too much junk.

A few weeks back I wrote about ‘Operation Lose the Spare Tyre’ and how I embarked on a journey to lose my baby weight. Except it wasn’t baby weight; it was I ate all the pies and subsequently sat on my arse weight! Well, as I write I am currently eight weeks into that journey so I said I’d update you all on how I’m getting on.  Continue reading

I’m getting Fit With Brid

This is the picture that really upset me and made me realise I needed to change things.

This is the picture that really upset me and made me realise I needed to change things.

Do you remember a few years back Hector Ó hEochagáin did an ad campaign for Horse Racing Ireland and his catchphrase was ‘let yourself go’? Well, living in Kildare and only a stone’s throw from The Curragh, I have fully embraced letting myself go. Except my version has nothing whatsoever to do with horses. In fact if a horse seen me coming I reckon he or she would bolt.

As you know I’m a mammy of two, a two-year-old and a ten month old, and despite midriff evidence to the contrary, I’m not about to have a third anytime soon! For months now i’ve been referring to my oh so wobbly bits as baby weight but the truth is it’s too much food and no exercise weight. A spade is a spade after all.

A few weeks back myself and Daddy Chambers spent a week in Galway with the kids and one of the days we took a trip to the amusements in Salthill. I took Aidan on the bumping cars, as Daddy Chambers played photographer on the sidelines. That evening, as I enjoyed a glass of wine, I had a look at the pictures and to say I didn’t like what was in front of me is an understatement. Chardonnay fuelled tears followed as I proclaimed myself fat, unfit and unhappy.

The reality is I haven’t properly exercised since myself and Daddy Chambers got married back in May of 2012. On honeymoon in the States I ate my own body weight in food every day and that’s when it all began to spiral.

I got gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy and instead of facing facts I blamed genetics. My mother is a diabetic and although the gestational kind is more likely if a family member suffers from it, I most likely contracted it due to having an above average BMI. After Aidan was born I made a half arsed attempt to lose some weight, and while I did, as soon as I got pregnant with Sarah I really embraced eating for two.

Strangely I didn’t get gestational diabetes second time round but in some ways that was worse because instead of watching what I ate, I scoffed everything in front of me and then some more.

Anyway, as aforementioned, it all came to a head that evening in Galway. Practical as ever, Daddy Chambers encouraged me to make a change rather than sitting around and crying into a glass of vino. So the following day I got on the research trail.

I don’t have time for the gym and to be honest I don’t like gyms anyway. I always feel intimated in them. However, my research led me to a girl by the name of Brid McGill, a fellow working mammy with absolutely no wobbly bits at all! Brid runs her own business called Fit with Brid (www.fitwithbrid.ie) that specialises in fitness for mammys, fitness that fits into everyday life. She’s based in Laois but I was delighted to discover she runs online courses too so I signed on the dotted line and last week started a twelve week course that will see me as svelte as can be by the time Santa arrives.

Now there are plenty of people that will tell me I don’t need to sign up to any course to reach my goals. They will tell me if I eat right and exercise I’ll be where I want to be by the festive season but I’m just not one of those people. I need help, I need someone whipping my ass, someone measuring me every month, someone telling me what exactly I should and shouldn’t be eating and someone to hand me exercise instructions.

So as you read this I’m well over a week into the course and I must admit I’m really enjoying it and I never thought I’d say that!

Starting out my main concerns were finding time for cooking and time for exercising but Brid has definitely thought this one through. There’s no supplements, no fancy smoothies or juices to make, no meal replacements and no caffeine bans. The diet is not organic, gluten free or paleo thank God but the best thing is I don’t have to leave the house to exercise. I just pack the kids off to bed at 7pm, throw on the runners and do it all in my living room in no more than 40 minutes (with the curtains closed mind you as it’s not something the neighbours need to see!).

She sends me videos of the various exercises I have to do each week (five days on and two days off) and she makes it look so easy. I haven’t exercised properly in over three years and on the first night when I proclaimed to Daddy Chambers I was about to die with the pain half way through, he kindly reminded me that I gave birth without pain relief and instructed me to cop on! That’s the polite version of what he said by the way!

Cop on I did and I finished and while it’s still as tough as hell, I’m getting better. The whole house is now eating the same meals for the first time ever and it’s actually saving me time. In truth none of Brid’s plan is rocket science and nor does she claim it is. It’s balanced nutrition with exercise. She’s a great motivator though, a great communicator and as a fellow mother she relates to just how busy I am.

I’m putting it out there that I’m not going to fail this time and I’m not going to give up like I have done so many times before. I want to be able to play with Aidan and Sarah without wheezing. I want to set an example for them. I want to feel happy about standing beside them for a Kodak moment.

My plan is to blog about my journey with Fit With Brid to help keep me motivated as the winter nights set in and to review the course as a whole. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I’m on the lookout for recipes all the time so please get in touch if you have any and if you happen to see me indulging in something I shouldn’t be, grab it and run!

You can check out Brid’s work on: FacebookFit With Brid and Instagram.

Top Five Family Days Out Kildare

Kilcullen Playground Kildare

Sarah enjoying the baby swings in Kilcullen playground in Kildare

I’m living in Kildare almost eight years now. Having moved from Tullamore I initially lived in Newbridge, then moved to Naas, followed by a move to Johnstown. Three years ago we finally put roots down and bought a house in Newbridge. But it wasn’t until Aidan and Sarah came along that we fully embraced local life. Continue reading