A Powerscourt ‘Estately’ Weekend

We were lucky enough to be invited to attend both family friendly events in Powerscourt Estate over the October Bank Holiday weekend.

First up was “Frightmare” which was run on the grounds of Powerscourt Estate by a team from Imaginosity. I genuinely didn’t know what to expect – usually the Imaginosity events are very well run but as they are aimed at children, I didn’t think it would be scary enough for my Addams Family-esque children.

Well, we were in for a treat! At the outset we were given a map and sent off the beaten track to look for clues, the first clue confirmed as being under a witch’s hat. The walk was decorated to scare, with black bags containing suspicious shapes, cobwebs, broken police cordons, and scattered debris making it instantly atmospheric.

Off the beaten track.

Off the beaten track.

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There were some great touches – rather than using a static clue, we found a real live witch who said she could ‘smell the children coming’ – fantastic! We had to repeat a few spells in German before we could see the clue. All the clues had an interactive aspect, and we met spiders, rats and pirates as we continued on our journey, with each characters giving us chilling warnings to ’look out behind’ and ‘trust no one’ etc.

Who's afraid of the big,bad witch?

Who’s afraid of the big,bad witch?

The grand finale came at the Pet Cemetery where we met the absolutely brilliant Tina Vamp and her macabre ‘dead toy tea party’. She introduced us to a vampire who played the “Monster Mash” on keyboards while Tina taught the children to dance along. Unfortunately, vampires will be vampires and so it ended with him chasing all the children to shrieks of delighted terror. Where did the final clue lead us? Back to the main house for a sweet treat, of course.

Really creepy!

Really creepy!

The Monster Mash!

The Monster Mash!

Verdict: The children were just the right level of spooked, although the vampire chase was a little too much for my three-year-old who was frightened and asked to ‘go home now!’ If you are looking for a family friendly scare at Hallowe’en, I would highly recommend this.

'I want to go home now!'

‘I want to go home now!’

    

We headed back up to Powerscourt on the rainy bank holiday Monday for the ‘Make a Scarecrow’ at The Garden Pavilion event. This was brilliantly organised and again the team working at it were excellent at instructing the children on what to do. We had Monica helping us out, whose enthusiasm was absolutely infectious.

The wonderful Monica!

The wonderful Monica!

The children were invited to make and style their very own scarecrows, with a central supply of clothes and straw provided along with hessian, string and accessories left out at each family’s workstation.Now, I am not usually one for getting involved children’s activities, but this was so much fun that the entire family got stuck in! If we were unsure of the next step there was always someone on hand to help.

Stuffing our scarecrows!

Stuffing our scarecrows!

Sorting at our 'work-station'.

Sorting at our ‘work-station’.

We started with a bamboo cross for each scarecrow, and after much stuffing, tying and gluing ended up with three actual scarecrows. They are suitably creepy and will finish off our decorations for the 31st perfectly!

SCARE-crows!

SCARE-crows!

Our verdict: Well worth the trip, the Pavilion staff put a lot into making this a fun, successful and interesting class.

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the above events for the purpose of this review. However all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Healthy Fast Food – A Review

I am forever looking for inspiration for new recipes, foodstuffs and flavours for the children that are tasty and healthy. Then, when I find one, I spend a small fortune getting all the necessary extra ingredients for said recipe (who has tamari in their store cupboard??) Once the exotic ingredients are secured and after I’ve slaved over the new dish, more often than not I have it returned to me. This is after they’ve choked down a few obligatory mouthfuls (they have to at least try the new dish), typically followed by requests for ‘pasta pesto’ or ‘pesto pasta’ or some other variant.

What? Something 'NEW' for dinner?

What? Something ‘NEW’ for dinner?

So although I was delighted when I was sent a few samples from Quinola Mothergrain of their quinoa-based kids’ meals, I was pretty sure that the children would instantly reject something that was not the norm. But guess what? The older two loved them and asked for more. They tried all three flavours and liked them all. I even offered one to my husband the other day, which he grudgingly agreed was quite nice.

They couldn’t be easier to use. You literally zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds and bam, healthy meal, ready to eat. Don’t have 30 seconds? No problem, they can be eaten cold too although we’ve only eaten them heated so far.

Fast, tasty, healthy!

Fast, tasty, healthy!

I’m definitely going to stock up on a few packets as they make a healthy change from the baked beans and instant noodles that I usually have on standby. In addition, I’ll get to lord it over other mothers when my children ask if they can have quinoa for dinner! Except for my youngest who still requests pasta pesto EVERY meal time.

Disclaimer: I was sent some samples for the purpose of this review but all thoughts and words are my own.

Detecting Nature at Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

I love Powerscourt Waterfall and have been there a few times over the last couple of years with the children; however, we haven’t been there as a family for over four years. So I was delighted when we were invited to attend the Imaginosity event ‘Nature Detectives’ at Powerscourt Waterfall yesterday!

We intended on arriving early and having a quick play at the playground before meeting up with the Imaginosity team by ‘the big tree’ as instructed on the ticket. Of course, best laid plans meant that we arrived breathless and just in time. I was smiling brightly and trying to ignore the – ‘I am too old for this’ and ‘talk about a good walk ruined’ comments from our eldest and Mr Dad.

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Rainbow parachute initiation.

Quite aptly for the weekend that was in it, the meeting place was clearly marked by a bright rainbow coloured parachute which was laid out on the ground. Martina – one of the three Imaginosity staff present – welcomed us all warmly and chatted animatedly about our plans for the day. You could not help but be infused with a little of her boundless enthusiasm (which was still there at the end of the day, even when some brats children were getting  a little rambunctious).

Magnificent Martina!

Magnificent Martina!

All the children were given a sheet of clues and a pencil, told where to start and what time to return and then we were off! It was all a bit crowded and manic at the start but by the time we had reached the third clue we had all spread out and were happily going at our own pace. Everyone, that is, except my boy Conan who is nothing if not competitive.  He was bailing along following the trail and ticking off all the clues without a backward glance to us. Paul had to catch up with him and encourage him to wait for the rest of his team (a.k.a. his family) to catch up!

Bark rubbing!

Bark rubbing!

Getting caught in the 'spider web'.

Getting caught in the ‘spider web’.

Caoimhe, who was ‘too old’, didn’t take long to get into the spirit of things and was soon caught up in the trail and discovering a few fun facts that were laid out along the way. Did you know the air up at Powerscourt Waterfall is negatively charged, so breathing it in promotes a refreshed and relaxed feeling?? I do now!

We fairly powered through the nature trail and discovered a few things that were not on the list, such as the Fairy Tree which was pointed out to us by Martina – the staff didn’t rest on their laurels but popped up here and there along the trail to keep us on track. Importantly, they also gave us space to enjoy ourselves as a family.The trail ended at the waterfall where we hung out for a while, climbing and exploring, before meeting back with the rest of the crew at the appointed time.

Listening to the leaves crunch!

Listening to the leaves crunch!

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Making a wish at the bridge!

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The Fairy Tree.

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Exploring the Waterfall.

Martina and crew had some samples of wild flowers and plastic insects and bugs which were laid out for the children to examine with magnifying glasses.  Caoimhe and Conan delighted in putting  the bugs in the magnifying jar and examining them in great detail.20150524_150151

The best part of the event, according to my children, were the games at the end; they got to have sack races and play organised games with the parachute, laughing and giggling throughout. The best part according to me was that the children really did stop to look at and examine the natural world around them.

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Then it was time to say goodbye to the very popular Imaginosity team who really did deserve medals (or at least an ice-cream). Our day didn’t end there. We headed up to the fantastic playground where the children played happily for a good hour before we shared a tub of candy floss and headed home, tired but happy.  We will definitely be making a few trips back there over the Summer!

The Playground!

The Playground!

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend ‘Nature Detectives’ for the purpose of this review. However all thoughts and words are my own.

Easter Sunshine at Powerscourt!

We went to the Easter ‘Hop’n’Hunt’ in Powerscourt Gardens this year. Having spent Easter Sunday feasting and watching television, a trip up to Powerscourt was a great excuse to get out, stretch our legs and most importantly, to STOP eating chocolate!

We were booked in to the 12.30pm time-slot , and were greeted on arrival by a very friendly Easter chick who chatted to the children and happily posed for photos. We were then directed to the walled garden where two ladies from Imaginosity

The Easter Chick.

The Easter Chick.

were just starting the warm-up exercises to prepare for the hunt. The sun was shining, the children were excited and before we knew it we were donning bunny ears and climbing into sacks to hop around the garden finding clues that would lead to the eventual pay off at the ‘treasure table’.

And we're off, once we fix our ears of course!

And we’re off, once we fix our ears of course!

Our eldest volunteered to hop (a member of the family had to be ‘hopping’ at all times), while her little brother offered to write down all the letters that the clues revealed (good educational fun!) and my youngest was happy just running around in the sunshine following the herd.

The sunshine, the location and the staff from Imaginosity all helped make this a very enjoyable event. There was a slight backlash from the children though. I had told them we were going on an egg hunt, so they were a bit whingey disappointed that the clues were so easy to find. The pay-off at the end was a bit meagre too – they all received a small (but brightly wrapped) hollow egg, and the parents received a tea cake. My son felt cheated as he thought after all the clue collection and the promise of a Treasure Table, he would be leaving with armfuls of goodies!

The Treasure!

The Treasure!

So would I recommend it to others? Now, I’m not a fan of adults paying to go to kids events. However, in this case, the €25 family ticket included the egg hunt and full access to the gardens for the day. In my opinion, this ‘package’ makes it well worth the money (particularly as the sun was beaming).There is so much to do and explore in the gardens that even when your child gives out about the small egg, they’re easily distracted by a trip up Pepperpot Tower or to the Japanese Garden.

It may be a thought for next year though to put together a little basket of goodies per family, rather than choosing an egg or tea cake from a plastic tub, but that is just my opinion. Now where did I stash the children’s Easter haul??

A success!

A success!

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the Hop ‘n’ Hunt for the purpose of this review, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

KoolioBandz – Review and Give-away

Have you heard of KoolioBandz? I hadn’t either, until Aisling from the ISPCC contacted me to see if I would like to review them for the blog. As always, the simplest ideas are usually the best. KoolioBandz are basically very simple children’s identity wristbands.  What I like about them is that no personal data is displayed – you simply buy a two-pack (costs less than €10) and activate them on www.kooliobandz.com.  If your child gets lost, whoever finds them can get a message to you by just logging on to the website and entering the unique code on your child’s wristbands and, in the era of smartphones, that can all be done very quickly.

Don't want to cramp their sense of adventure!

Don’t want to cramp their sense of adventure!

Now I am not known for buying into the fear that the media constantly sells us. My children scoot without helmets, get dirty, have many bumps and bruises and generally act like children. However, when it comes to losing them, I have a very real fear. You see, we lost Conan once.

Hindsight is such a wonderful gift. Of course, going to a betrothal ceremony (not my own, mind you) seven days after my daughter was born was utter madness. Of course, leaving a very capable eight-year-old in charge of my five-year-old and three-year-old was beyond stupid. Still that is exactly what we did!

One of the many joys of breast-feeding is that you can be versatile from day one. Forget the exhaustion and fuzziness that comes with the early days after giving birth. So, the five of us rocked up to beautiful, Kilruddery House in Bray, County Wicklow for the ceremony, which was lovely by the way. However, by the end of it, the children couldn’t wait to get out and play and so off we sent them. Glancing out occasionally from the glass-fronted Orangery, until maybe a half hour later when the very responsible 8-year-old came up to my husband, ashen-faced, saying she couldn’t find Conan.  I was shielded from this by my husband but could tell just by looking at him that something was up. Then himself and his two best mates disappeared outside at pace. I tried to ignore this unusual behaviour for, oh, about 40 seconds and then went to find out what was up.

Kilruddery House is lovely and well worth a visit but it has a good few unprotected, deep ponds. I was told to sit down and the men would search for him. I did. I tried to distract myself but just kept picturing him floating face down in one of the ponds. After maybe five long minutes, I looked out of the reception room to see the three men standing gazing down the slope at the children playing, all the children but Conan that is. I dashed outside using some very choice language as to where my son might be. They had in fact found him, and just neglected to tell me. Nearly three years on, less said about that the better! Paul (husband) had found him on the far side of a very deep pond. Although all was well and we escaped with a very severe warning to ourselves, my fingers are trembling writing this. So, when it comes to losing a child, I have a very real fear.

Conan off on another adventure!

Conan off on another adventure!

I will most definitely be getting my younger two to wear their KoolioBandz whenever we go on a day trip or on holidays. Even though I don’t expect I will ever take my eyes off any of them long enough for them to get lost again, the peace of mind that comes from having a back-up plan is well worth €10! (My eldest knows our mobile numbers by heart, so probably no need for the band.) Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention they are an Irish invention and a donation from each pack sold goes to Childline!

I also have a pack to give away for children aged 2-5, so if you fancy getting your hands on it just comment below and you are in with a good chance! Will draw a name out of a hat on Friday 27th March.

Just comment below, to be in with a chance to win this pack!

Just comment below, to be in with a chance to win this pack!

Thanks for reading

Aisling

A Magical Visit to Santa

‘I wish we were going to see Santa in his grotto this year!’said Conan longingly. ‘Well maybe we will ‘ says I. ‘No, Mum, I don’t mean Santa on the bus, I mean the real Santa’ continued Conan. ‘So do I’ I said delightedly. (Our residents’ committee organises for Santa to visit our estate on a red bus each year, and he gives out selection boxes to all the children – we know he is only one of Santa’s helpers though).

Fab decorations!

Fab decorations!

So a week later we found ourselves up in Avoca @ Powerscourt, Enniskerry to visit the ‘real’ Santa. I always forget just how lovely Powerscourt is even when it is not beautifully decked out for Christmas. Our appointment with the Big Fella was for 3.15pm – we checked in and there were a few people ahead of us, so we went for a little wander around Avoca. The children were enthralled with all the decorations, and very very excited at this stage. After my fourth ‘look with your eyes, not your hands’, I decided to bring them up to Tara’s Palace, which is a lovely children’s museum upstairs in Powerscourt. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go in to the museum but the entrance hall to Tara’s Palace had plenty to distract them for a few minutes. We will be going back for a proper visit over the Christmas holidays!

Who is coming down the chimney?

Who is coming down the chimney?

We went back to the Santa waiting area, which was really nicely decorated and had a television playing Disney’s Frozen with plenty of seating and cushions on the floor for the children. Then, as Caoimhe put it, ‘a pretty lady’ gave us a decoration – one for each child – and the children settled down to watch Frozen until Mrs Claus came to collect us.

Mrs Claus was so smiley and friendly and asked all the children their names before bringing us through a Narnian passageway and into Santa’s grotto. The children were a little anxious but once Santa addressed them all by name they relaxed and took their turns to have a chat. I anticipated Siofra, being only two, to be a little upset but no – she told Santa in no uncertain terms that she wanted a telephone for Christmas.

Entrance to Santa's Grotto.

Entrance to Santa’s Grotto.

Santa spent a lot of time with us and there was the option to have a professional photo taken, although even Santa’s magic could not get them all to smile at the same time!! Then Mrs Claus suggested a few presents that Santa would like to give them there and then. They were lovely quality gifts, beautifully presented and when Siofra shrieked ‘but where is my phone’ looking at her plush teddy, Santa took the time to explain that this was only a small gift and he would deliver her real present on Christmas eve. She has not let the teddy out of her sight since.

SANTA!!

SANTA!!

We said a cheerful goodbye to Santa, and we are pretty convinced that he was the real one. Our visit was not over yet though as we got to go and visit the animals in Santas Christmas stables and warm ourselves by a lovely open fire. Then we headed home full of beans and delighted with ourselves. At a cost of €10 per child and no charge for parents (an annoying add-on which seems to be coming the norm these days) we will definitely be going back next year!

Delighted!

Delighted!

Welcome fire at  Santa's Stables.

Welcome fire at Santa’s Stables.

Disclaimer – I was invited to bring my children to visit Santa and write about my experience. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

Have you visited Santa yet?

Thank s for reading.

Aisling

Santa’s Irish Adventure – A Book Review

I love all things Christmas, I really do, and when it comes to buying gifts I put a lot of thought into choosing them. So I was delighted when the good people at Digital Scribe invited me to review one of their Personalised Children’s Books.They are an Irish company based in Bray, just up the road from me, so without a second thought I said yes. You can follow them on Facebook here!

DigitalScribeLogo

I ordered one for my son, as he is the only child for whom we have not yet bought a personalised book (middle child and all that). I was very excited waiting for it to arrive and when the brown paper parcel arrived, I was over the moon. The weight of the package caused me a moment’s pause as it was very light. I had expected the book to be hardback, as our other two personalised books are, and the price of €15.99 led me to asssume as much. I was pretty dissapointed to discover that it is a paperback.

What did impress me when I opened the package however was the personalised letter for my son from none other than Santa! I know Conan will get a thrill when he sees it. Another plus was the photo of Conan that appears on the front cover, along with his name in the title – any child will be delighted to see their name in actual print as well as a photo! The book itself captures the excitement of Christmas really well, and the title character (Conan) is very involved in the story.

book3d

Unfortunately there are a couple of things that I think let this book down. The story itself is not adventurous and it ends very abruptly. The artwork is underwhelming – Santa’s elf is green for example – and the child appears as a hooded character  that is kind of creepy (although I am not sure children would find it so). I also think that having been marketed as a personalised book to treasure, the quality is poor – the fact that it is paperback is disappointing enough but the paper cover itself is cheap; I don’t think it would last longer than a few reads in my children’s hands. I also think that the RRP of €15.99 is way, way too high.

To finish on a positive, one of the great things about the story is that it takes the lead character all around Ireland from Newgrange to The Giants Causeway to The Cliffs of Moher and on to Dublin, so when we read it we can talk about those places and I am guessing the children will be pretty excited about having been to some of the same places as Santa!

I genuinely love the idea of this book, but don’t feel I can recommend it in its current incarnation. However, with a little tweaking and a hard cover, it would certainly be something I would consider sending to my nephews in Australia!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

Disclaimer: I received a free personalised copy of Santa’s Irish Adventure for the purpose of this review – all thoughts and opinions however are my own. I usually get the kids to read the books I review but as this is from Santa, I can’t give it to them before 25th December. I will of course update this review after the children have read it.

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