Tag Archives: northern ireland

There’s no such thing as a gruffalo!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a talk with Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo, Tyrannosaurus Drip, A Squash and a Squeeze, and Rosie’s Hat to name a few) and the Laureate na nÓg, Siobhán Parkinson (author of Amelia, Kate, All Shining in the Spring and Sisters-No Way!).

Two inspirational and interesting women who not only write fantastic children’s books but champion reading and writing for children and support the importance of local libraries.

The event was held in the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry, produced by Dog Ears and presented by Marie-Louise Muir from BBC Ulster’s Arts Extra.

It was a fab event for aspiring writers, lovers of literature and of course the infamous Gruffalo! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two writers and their experiences, their attitude to their own writing as well as others.

I was really struck by Siobhán, her humour and openness and her attitude to writing- especially when she described the time in her life when she considered herself a ‘secret writer’ and with which I could identify. I asked her more about this time of her career and how she got the courage to show people her writing. She opened up about her first book and how dear it was to her- a very special and emotional moment for us all in the room.

Both are clearly intelligent, passionate about what they do and at the same time, humble with their success. And Julia was sweet enough to stay behind and sign the books of those who came to see her. A truly lovely event and huge thanks to all the organisers!

My signed copy

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Hot Tickets to cure New Year blues

Doesn’t it feel like we start January with such positivity and motivation, then by the second and third week that revitalised feeling is already beginning to wane? For me, I decided several years ago to stop doing new years resolutions which has helped me with this. Instead, I write a list of aims, hopes and goals for the year. Some things are simple like making more time for my husband or to watch less TV, others may include developing new skills such as my photography or writing. It’s therapeutic to make positive changes that are not limiting like banning alcohol and fatty foods.

The other thing I like to do in January is make plans and think about events or activities that I would like to do- another way of keeping motivated. I’ve been surfing the internet, looking to see what’s on and found some amazing gigs and films that I hope to see in the next two months.

First being a visit to QFT in Belfast (http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com/) They have some great films showing this month including the much lauded The Artist and Shame. Both films are already nominated for several Golden Globes and no doubt Oscar nods to follow. (And I do love a good award season!)

Dublin has some unreal gigs coming up in the next few weeks with big names such as Florence and the Machine, Snow Patrol, newcomers Christina Perri and Maverick Sabre to name a few. I have already suggested to my other half that a good birthday pressie for me would be tickets to see instrumental duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela in The Olympia Theatre on Sunday 19th February. Tickets are €39.05 plus booking fee.

The other gig that I would love to go to is on Friday 2nd March at The Academy and is my latest discovery, Ben Howard whose 2011 was huge with his album Every Kingdom and is only set for bigger and bigger things in 2012. Tickets are great value at €16.50 plus booking fee. Definite must!

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Day Out to the Ulster Museum

Having been off work for two whole weeks, I committed myself to do one of the things that I have been intending to do for too long- visit the refurbished Ulster Museum in Belfast. It reopened in 2009 and houses various exhibitions in a contemporary space.

The history of Ireland was the highlight for me, from medieval times right through to the troubles. I enjoy learning about history but strangely I only remember learning about World War II, Vietnam War, Cold War between USA and Russia, in school. This could be terrible memory on my part or perhaps the history of our Island is too dividing or contentious but it is so interesting and important to know about our own past. It helped put a lot into context for me, in terms of understanding the troubles better. Shameful to admit but much of the exhibition was new information to me, or perhaps felt new because of it’s presentation. In timeline format, I found it fascinating to work my way through the centuries to the present day. I would seriously recommend a visit to anyone who, like me, enjoys history and is a bit sketchy on some details of Irish past.

A visiting exhibition, The Queen: Art and Image, was one that I found quite interesting too although did not like the layout of the exhibition at all. It contained various photos of the Queen since her coronation. Some photos are documentary and more informal, others are official portraits taken by Annie Leibowitz (love her!) and Cecil Beaton. There are also art pieces from Andy Warhol and Chris Levine. The content was good but the timeline through the decades wasn’t clear and chopped and changed from wall to wall- it didn’t flow well and was unclearly marked. However that aside, I enjoyed studying the photographs.

Through this exhibition and into another space, we were met with more modern art works under the title Silent Echoes. The title is taken from a recent acquisition Silent Echoes, Ohara (2008), a sound sculpture by American artist Bill Fontana made by recording the sounds echoing within a Japanese temple bell when it is ‘silent’. This piece could feel a little strange to some but I thought it was truly lovely. As you sit in darkness looking at the film of a bell- unmoving, the room is filled with sounds from within it. This drew particular emotions from me as it reminded me of someone dear who died in 2011. The sound and the apparent lack of movement- to the naked eye at least- was calming and warm.

There are many other areas of the Museum dedicated to the Living World with animal replicas and Ancient Egypt. We didn’t see everything during this visit so plan to go back again soon. The bonus is it is FREE admission- yay! Perfect for those of us on a budget and kids would also love much of the content in the exhibitions as well as us grown ups. There is a restaurant and shop, and the museum is located right beside Botanic Gardens so very easy to get to. You can usually find parking on a side street (depending on time of visit).

A thumbs up from me on the Ulster Museum! Our next stop is Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh….

                     

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Meet Lola

I have neglected this blog over Christmas and New Year, too busy eating rich food and drinking red wine. I’m still off work, not back until 9th January- yay! This week I’ve been spending some quality time with my gorgeous two year old ‘shiranian‘ (cross between a shi tzu and a pomeranian) called Lola. I thought it was about time that I introduce her. She is seriously sweet, hilariously comedic and I am convinced at times part-human. I thought I’d post a small gallery of photos because who doesn’t love a cute doggy pic?

Today we braved the storm outside and went for a short walk along an open lane near the golf course close to our home. I got completely soaked through but she had a blast in the huge puddles- the things we do for love haha. We’ve been cosying up in the house all evening now with candles lit and music on while I cooked and Lola slept. Believe it or not, I didn’t like dogs until we got Lola. Now I am a changed woman; a true dog lover.

Here’s some photos to ‘awww’ over…

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Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing…a ring

I’m thinking of what to add to my Christmas Wish List this year. It’s always good to help my beloved by collating ideas of things I might like to get as a gift on the 25th December.

I have swayed back and forth from, “But I don’t need anything” to “there are so many people going without any gifts this year” to ” f**k it, I work damn hard all year I deserve a little something under the tree!”

And so the research has begun. My husband has already chosen his golf club and so with our £100-ish limit in mind, I’m really liking some of these treats.

Even though I would love anything from the list above, it is important to remember those less fortunate- especially with the state of the economy right now. My hubby and I have had a very tough year but I know that I am lucky and I am grateful for all that I have in my life. So if you, like me, want to help those who are in a tougher place this Christmas, I suggest donating to St Vincent de Paul. A great charity that helps local people.

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Matrimonial muffin tops

The definition of a muffin top, quoting from Urban Dictionary is: “When your love handles burst out over the top of your tight pants, giving your lower back the appearance of a muffin.”

Or my personal favourite: “A word used to describe one whose fat is desperately trying to escape the suffocation from tight jeans resulting in the fat tumbling over.”

My husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in May. We first met in 1994 in secondary school but it wasn’t until we were 17 that I began to really notice him. As shy teenagers, we spent a year of gazing from afar before we fell in love during the last few months of our final year.

And so our love story truly began. Oh bleurgh, sorry, that was too gushy! Let me just say that after eight years of long distance and hard work my now hubby got down on bended knee to propose with the New York skyline as our backdrop. It was perfect, the ring was perfect and we had the perfect wedding day in November last year (Perfect in our eyes in anyway). Photographed by the awesome Erica Irvine Photography.

In planning our wedding, I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to look the most exquisite, elegant and naturally beautiful that I have ever, or will ever look. Big expectations huh? I’ve actually always been a little insecure of my looks, especially my body so my reasoning for this aspiration came down to this:

The number of times that I had seen other people’s wedding photographs, including my parents’ from 30 years ago, and one of the threads that linked them all was how the bride saw herself in them. Of course, we all float through the day, deliriously happy and in love but once the newlywed glow wears off, a new perspective is realised. Some reminisce about how they felt at their most beautiful that day, others (my mother for one) nitpick over every detail of their veil/flowers/hair or how their dress wasn’t ‘the one’. I yearned to be the first scenario. I too often critique photos of myself, tearing them apart body part by body part, blemish and wrinkle…and it gets tiring! I was committed to the marriage, to spending the rest of my life with my man and our wedding was the one day that I knew I would treasure, always.

I am aware that I am not now, nor ever have been obese. I’m usually a size 10-12 but I fluctuate. Three months before the big day, I returned to Weight Watchers. I’d first joined in 2006 when I lost almost a stone. Yes, I understand it isn’t much when others in the group are faced with the long struggle to lose three, four or five stone. And yes, I often felt my cheeks blush when I queued up to be weighed, somewhat guilty and feeling like the others there might think I was mocking the programme. But, I wanted to lose weight as much as them and importantly be healthy in doing so.

It didn’t take long to lose those golden ten pounds for the wedding day and I felt fantastic. I had the dress of my dreams, my hair styled exactly the way I like and make up done to perfection. And good news- I love how I looked on that day so mission accomplished.

Once the excitement of the big day died down, my new hubby and I settled into a married life which wasn’t so different to before. We knew everything about each other and we already lived together BUT being a newlywed reignited the passion, intensified the intimacy and confirmed our commitment to each other. We felt closer than ever.

Which may be part of the reason I am writing a blog about matrimonial muffin tops…if you are married you can see where I am going with this. Once married, we wanted to be together all of the time, we stayed in on weekends cuddling on the sofa with a DVD, a bottle of red, a tub of pringles, maybe some chocolate too…or if we were feeling like a special treat, some cheese and crackers…yum yum. And this would happen after the chinese takeaway or a slap up meal that I slaved over all afternoon.

Domestic goddessAs a newly wedded wife, we tend to nest and strive to be the good wife. We clean, we iron, we cook, we even start baking more because we know that our beloved has a penchant for scones and shortbread. Nigella Lawson hasn’t a look in!

The downfall of this in my case is: Hubby is 6ft 1″ athletic body and I am 5ft 4″ (almost) erm…not athletic body.

I bake for him but I also eat some, I cook delicious dinners which I also eat, and admittedly the portion sizes aren’t in keeping with the above mentioned ratio. We treat ourselves to wine and nibbles, to desserts and treats. No longer faced with the panic of everyone looking at the bride on the wedding day, I also eat without guilt or fear.

And as for exercise, ha! I’ve been too busy training in domesticity to think about any other physical activity. Hence the last time I weighed myself I had returned to my pre-wedding figure. That was several months ago and the eating hasn’t abated. I have very slowly felt my belly swell (and not because of a baby before anyone suggests it), feeling it more prominently when I sit down in my ever-tighter jeans. In recognition of the growing muffin top being ‘suffocated’ whilst trying to ‘escape’, I have been promising myself for three weeks to go to a Zumba class. I haven’t made it yet.

Even though I see my bigger belly, my muffin top, my chubbier arms, the strangest thing has happened. It doesn’t bother me that much. For someone who has been quite obsessive over her looks since teenage years, it feels bizarre. It’s refreshing and a relief. It’s not a case of ‘letting myself go’ now that I’m married because I still care about what my husband thinks of me, that he still finds me attractive.

Then why the new relaxed attitude? I’m not sure. I would like to lose a few pounds to feel a little healthier again but I like the fact that there is no looming deadline clouding over me. I will go to a Zumba class (soon!), I will bake less (sorry Mr Bryden) and I will look forward to knowing there is no pressure to lose weight but to just be. And as our first anniversary approaches, I will delight in the joy of being married to a wonderful man who loves me no matter how many jam doughnuts I can eat in one day (for the record it was 4).

So here’s to the matrimonial muffin top- a physical sign of contentment, wedded bliss and baking ability!

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Hi,

Welcome to my blog. I will slowly update it with interesting snippets of my life and style. Click on INtroducing to find out a bit more about me and my thoughts for this site.

Hope you enjoy!

Sarah x

Welcome

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