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August 2017

Features

Top 5 Gardening Projects in 2017

Every gardener knows that for a flourishing summertime garden, you need to start planning and preparing the year before. That’s why gardening projects in 2017 will come into full bloom next summer.

But what garden projects could you undertake? And why is the tail end of summer the best time to do it? We found out with thanks to Rattan Direct.

#1 Update the Garden Furniture

Why now? Late summer deals mean you can pick up great quality items for use next summer but at a great price.

Budget: mid-range.

Enjoying an afternoon in the garden, either reading the latest novel or admiring your gardening prowess is the ideal way to relax. However, gone are the days when the only option was a striped deck chair or dining table set.

From day bed to sun loungers, the range of rattan garden furniture has increased considerably, giving you ample choice when it comes to creating a superb relaxation spot or an al fresco dining area.

#2 Create an Outdoor Kitchen

Why now? The building work involved means it needs to happen during good weather. It will overwinter well allowing you the look forward to spring and summer in the garden the following year.

Budget: mid-range +

This is one step up from BBQing in the garden – the garden kitchen is a ‘fitted’ kitchen, just like you would expect to have in a home.

Lower end budgets will still get a lot for their money with built-in cupboards and worktops, along with a fixed BBQ. Why not add a pizza oven to enjoy in the summer?

For shade, add a pergola with pretty, scented climbing plants to spread their aroma whilst you cook and eat outdoors.  

We’ve seen some exciting examples, of outdoor kitchens also been plumbed in too, with a sink and drainage making it a fully working kitchen for the outdoors. In the UK, we have always shied away from creating outside rooms, so look to Mediterranean countries for inspiration as cooking is usually done outside for the majority of the year.

#3 Add a Pond

Why now? Adding a pond to your garden now means it has a chance to get established before the main insect breeding season in spring. It also means that when you add fish, the environment is not hostile to their survival.

Budget: dependent on the size of the project

Gardeners the world over will tell you that nature is both your enemy and your friend. To get the most help from other nature, you need to create the best environment that you can in your garden.

That means offering an attractive place for good bugs and insects, along with garden birds to enjoy – and keep bad bugs away! A pond is a great idea because where there is water, there is bound to be slug and insect eating frogs. Damsel flies and dragon flies are also welcome garden visitors.

You can create your own unique pond with plenty of digging, pond liner and stones or you can choose a rigid pond liner for extra stability. Add a water fall to oxygenate the water for the fish as well as adding a relaxing sound to the garden.

#4 Create a Meadow

Why now? Spreading wild seeds in a part of your garden now will mean an attractive meadow for the buzzing bees in spring and summer.

Budget: minimal

We tend to think of gardens as being manicured and ordered but our favouring of some plants over others have meant the bees, an important crop pollinator, are struggling to find the sweet pollen they need.

Creating a meadow is simple and easy. Choose a spot in the garden. Dig over the soil, adding plenty of organic matter. Either roll out seeded mats or liberally scatter seed across the surface, covering with a thin layer of compost. Protect over winter with a layer of mulch and enjoy the dancing meadow of native wild plants from spring to late summer. Allow plants to go to see and scatter their seeds for the following year.

#5 Create an Outdoor Chandelier

Why now? As the summer drawers to a close, introducing solar lights means you can enjoy the evening for longer, huddle around the fire pit. But this idea takes solar lights to a new level. Just one of many craft ideas for the garden.

Budget: the cost of solar light, around £5 or less

If you have trees you need to prune, then this homemade chandelier will reuse the smaller, more malleable offcuts.

Create a circle, square or any shape you like by intertwining the small branches of the tree or shrub together. You may want to use small cable ties or twine to hold it in place. Once you have your band of twigs, wrap solar fairy lights around the shape. Use twine to create a hanging strap and fix to your pergola, allowing the homemade solar light chandelier to adorn the seating area in your garden.

Pack away when winter comes but enjoy the sparkling lights in spring once again.

 

Note: This is a collaborative post with Rattan Direct who stock a wide range of rattan garden furniture and other accessories, all ideal for any garden, no matter the shape or size.

Baba Reviews

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller Review

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller Toy

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller – Our Review

You have to picture the scene for this one…..you are four years old and love the TV show Paw Patrol and wait for it …..this lands through the door! I only wish I videoed his reaction. I can only liken his reaction to my own if I won the lotto!!

He is beyond thrilled as he had been eyeing it up on the TV ad for the last number of weeks.   The product itself is recommended for ages 3 plus and retails at a hefty €80.  So whats included for the price -key features include:

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller contents

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller contents

  •  The Sea Patroller itself can be converted to both a land and a sea vehicle quite easily (but its not a water toy!);
  • It does light up and make sounds (it takes  batteries but they are included);
  • It comes with Ryder and his quad or ATV as im reliably informed.  Not sure I knew what an ATV was at 4!
  • A cage to lower Ryder down for his rescues
  • A life ring launcher (this is what the kids totally love!!) – it quite literally launches the life ring when you push the button;
  • Its quite big, definitely much bigger than I expected but im not complaining –  it has the wow factor and its the ideal size of sharing and going on “secret missions” as my pair call them.

Mamma Fairy Verdict

I’m calling it now, I think this going to be one of the hot toys for 2017 – last year it was the Paw Patrol Air Patroller among my sons pre school friends and I sense this will be this years equivalent.  Its a big toy with lots of fun parts to it and therefore lots of opportunity for kids to let their imaginations run wild.

Just one word of caution though, it doesn’t come with any of the pups. My Paw Patrol fanatics already had most if not all of them so wasn’t an issue but perhaps something to keep in mind.  I think Santa will have his work cut out this year making Sea Patrollers and if the excitement here is anything to go by  I suspect this toy will be very well received.

It’s readily available both on line and in most toys shops.

 

Note: We were sent this toy for the purpose of this review however this in no way influences mine or the boys opinion where appropriate.

 

Cuddle Fairy
Baba Reviews

Big Beard Battle Review

Our review of Brainstom’s Big Beard Battle

Big Beard Battle Game

Big Beard Battle Game

Ready to play Big Beard Battle

Big Beard Battle – Ready to play

As you might have read, we recently went glamping.  A couple of weeks previous we had been sent Big Beard Battle by Brainstorm to review.  I decided to keep the game until our glamping adventure as I knew the kids would enjoy playing a fun game like this in the absence of all things techie! We are already board game fans in this house especially my oldest, he really loves them.

This game can accommodate up to four players but can be played by less players and not impact on the game.  There is a little bit of pre set up work required, simply to attach the velcro dots to the beards but that takes only a couple of  minutes to do.

The game itself is very simple, the aim being to grow the longest beard without it being cut or shaved off. Its so simple but so much fun, made all the funnier by the fact the Dada Fairy has an actual beard!! You start with the youngest player and spin the spinner that comes with it. The spinner determines you task, whether thats growing your own beard or shaving or cutting another players beard. The game is aimed at ages 4 and up however the littlest man (2 and half) got great fun out of it so it is really a game for all the family to take part.

Games like this are ideal for Christmas and at approx €15 not bad value at all, all the parts are very durable and well able to withstand our very own Mr Destruction.

If you too have a board game fan in your house, it a big thumbs up from us.

Note: We were sent the game for the purpose of the review however all opinion are my own or the boys where appropriate.

 

Baba Reviews

Brainstorm Toys Mega Globe Review

Brianstorm Toys Mega Globe Review

Mega Globe Inflatable

Mega Globe – Fintra Beach, Donegal

A couple of weeks back we were sent Brainstorm Toys Mega Globe to review – and it is indeed mega!! When inflated its about 50cm.

Mege Globe on the beach

Mega Globe – Fintra Beach, Donegal

It is packaged really neat so no issues transporting it. We took it with us to our usual holiday destination in Donegal and the kids had tonnes of fun playing on the beach with it. It is a great size and it wont get lost too easy. It is readily available both online and toy stores.

I sat back and watched the kids play and try to pin point their exact location on the map. We are a travel loving family and the kids are lucky to have been on many adventures both around Ireland and overseas.  They had so much fun locating the places they have been and the places we plan on going to next. The Dada Fairy even got involved in the action.  They ran, jumped and hopped after it.  While it comes with some suggested activities the kids just loved making up their own games with it.

One bit of advice is that you do need a pump or you may need to pop into the local petrol station to pump it up!!

It really made me think – they really do have the whole world in their hands to explore, to discover, to investigate.  And I hope they take full advantage of it.  I think im a tad sentimental these days with my oldest starting school 

Note: We were sent the Mega Globe for the purpose of this review, however all view are my own or the boys where appropriate.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Fairy Travels

Visit Kinnity – Glitraps Glamping Review

Visit Kinnity Giltraps Glamping – our review

When my oldest suggested we go camping for his birthday im sure he could see the look of fear in my face! Some frantic google searches ensued and I stumbled across Giltraps Glamping in Kinnity, Offaly.  Bingo I thought, this looks like the ideal comprise. The first line in their web pages called in luxurious glamping –  no further research needed – done!  I sent them an email and 2 weeks later we were off to Offaly for the night.

We were checked in by Julie, who I had been dealing with over email, she was incredibly helpful and accommodating, allying my fears about the upcoming Storm  Gerturde weather warnings!!

The setting itself is gorgeous 6 log cabins and a Mongalian Yurt.  Also on the site were pigs and chicken whom i don’t doubt will run in fear should my pair ever arrive down again.

The Cabin

The view from the cabin at Giltraps Glamping

Glamping at Giltraps

We stayed in cabin number 2 which had a double and 2 single beds, which was ideal for us.  The cabin was absolutely spotless. Bed linen and were towels supplied.  There was a little area outside with chairs where we sat while the kids happily played   When we arrived at the cabin they had put balloons and birthday banner up for my sons birthday which I thought was a really lovely touch. We opted for the breakfast hamper delivered the next morning – one word – AMAZING.  Around 9.30 the following morning a home cooked breakfast bap arrived at the door with a flask of tea.  We sat outside and ate the breakfast, seriously yum.

The glamping site lit up at night time was magical – (im choosing to ignore the 500 toilet breaks my oldest insisted he needed just to go outside to see it lit up!!) Speaking of which there was a number of shared toilets and showers again- spotlessly clean.  There was also a small kitchen which you could access any time of day or night.

The Area

Kinnity itself is only a small town probably best knows for the famous Kinnity Castle about a kilometre from the glamping site.  We had drinks in Giltraps pub on site.  This was like stepping back in time, it reminded me of my own family holidays as a child visiting my mothers home place in the West of Ireland.  The pub oozes old world charm, we were served by a really nice girl whose name I wish I had got.  She will most likely remember the crazy kids there last Saturday!! I loved the relaxed homely vibe, complimented totally by the staff. There was a coffee shop also on site however we didn’t get to visit this time around but it looked lovely.

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyed experience and we have vowed to come back next year as the oldest has decided this time he wants to stay in the Yurt! I wont be disagreeing. Service and attention to detail is top notch here and makes the ideal get away being only an hour and a half from Dublin.

Insider Tips

  • The town doesn’t have a bank machine – you can get cash back in the pub though
  • We brought snacks for the kids, this was a good call, options for shops locally are limited enough
  • There is great free playground within walking distance behind the church. Kids had it all to themselves Sunday morning and really enjoyed
  • Pop in to Kinnity Castle for drink – the Dungeon bar is lovely and such a novelty.

We booked direct which was the best value I could find, for further details see website

Note: This is not paid or sponsored, we paid for this ourselves, we are just  happy campers (sorry!!!!)

 

 

ethannevelyn.com

Country Kids

Baba Reviews

Spy Gear Ultimate Night Vision Goggles Review

Spy Gear Night Vision Googles – what we though

My oldest is going through a ninja phase where he is totally convinced he is a fully fledged Ninja! We were sent a pair of night vision goggles to try out and I couldn’t think of a better man for the job!

The package was torn open and away we went. For the first time since he was born he couldn’t wait for night time to try them out the back garden.  He wasn’t content with the curtains closed he wanted “black sky”!

Night vision googles

Spy Gear night vision googles

The googles (pic opposite) were really easy to assemble (bonus points from me for this!). I literally  had to slot the two parts together, insert 3 AAA batteries (not included) and away you go. The product description maintains its capable of  night vision at 30 feet away through the use of infrared LEDs.  We are both really eager to see these in operation.

Spy Gear Night Vision Googles

Spy Gear Night Vision Googles

We hid a number of objects in the back garden and set him off with the task of locating them in the dark! He was truly wowed, he just loved them.  The vision was surprisingly really clear and he had no problem locating the items hid.  The following weekend we headed to Donegal for the weekend and he was hyper waiting to show his grandad his night vision googles and to see them in action in the pitch dark away form city lights as it never really gets totally dark where we live with the street lights.

The Dada Fairy also gave them a go and affirms that he could in fact see around 30 feet away in the dark! I love toys like this – toys that get kids out and about and exploring. Toys that get kids using their imaginations.

The Verdict

He really loved these and I can see him gravitating towards these older toys now. They ticked the boxes for him – in his own works a proper big boy toy.  If I was to be totally critical two points come to mind – we had to go out to buy batteries, no biggy but at approx €30 I would have liked at least a test set to be included. They aren’t cheap but you do pay for the quality product.  The quality is really excellent – they are very durable. Durable enough to survive our two year old, who is affectionately know as Mr Destruction.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these as a gift for any budding spy’s or Ninja’s. I can see these and some of the other Spy Gear products in the range featuring heavily on Christmas lists this year. The night vision googles are made by Spin Master,  see here and here  for some other Spin Master products we loved.  The googles are readily available both online and toy shops.

 

Note: We were sent the Night Vision Googles for the purposes of this review however this in no way influences mine or the boys (where appropriate) views on the product.

 

 

Fairy Travels

Nights in Niagara Falls – Family travel review

Our Niagara Falls Family Trip

Its taken me far too long to write this post in reality because I just didn’t know where to start.  We arrived to Niagara Falls after a few wonderful few days spent in Toronto (trip report here).  There was no snow in Toronto but as we pulled up outside the Sheraton on the Falls a light dusting began to fall gently, there was mega excitement from the kids.  I don’t think they had ever seen snow before other than in films!!

Where we stayed

Sheraton on the Falls

Sheraton on the Falls

We stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls which is as its name suggests quite literally on the falls.  We were allocated a gorgeous room with a Juliette balcony when we opened the door we could feel the spray of the falls.  I am not exaggerating when I say the view was breath-taking and to hear the roar of the falls – magic.  Each evening the falls are lit up and we were able to enjoy the illuminations from the comfort of our room.  The kids were fast asleep and we sat and enjoyed some lovely local wine and watched the falls change into beautiful array of colours. In recent years a huge amount of investment has gone into these illuminations and it certainly shows.

 

The room itself has 2 doubles and a sofa bed.  Starbucks coffee was provided in the room and in keeping with the hotels Green Policy you could receive a $5 gift card in return for not required complete bedding changes each day.

View from our room at the Sheraton on the Falls

View from our room at the Sheraton on the Falls

We were more than happy to avail of this. Thee room isn’t big but then you don’t come to Niagara Falls to spend your time in the room.  The hotel is huge, I mean huge.  Coming from Ireland where we don’t have hotels of this scale its quite overwhelming and you do need to be prepared to queue for everything, check-in/out, concierge and lifts.  We were fortunate enough to have club access which really is great when you are travelling with kids. We ate our breakfast here each morning and popped in each evening for some snacks and drinks.

There are a number of restaurants in the hotel complex, we tried the Rainforest Café one of the evenings and the Hard Rock Café another, mainly because they were kid friendly! The adults could have a few drinks with  dinner and the kids enjoyed the entertainment.  The kids really enjoyed the Rainforest Café however like the hotel it was huge but service was good and the kids enjoyed the display of animals and the thunder storms!

There also is a floor with amusements in the hotel too which if im honest takes away a bit from the hotel, its manic!  There is an indoor waterpark attached to the hotel also however we didn’t avail of it on this visit. Despite the hotel being full  (all 22 story’s!) the staff did their best to move things along, they were efficient but not over friendly which  was fine as they were run off their feet.  The location and view here are unrivalled.

What we did

Aside from seeing the spectacular Falls which for me was a bucket list item ticked off. There is plenty to do in the vicinity.

  • Journey behind the falls – I was really excited about this.
    Journey behind the Falls

    Journey behind the Falls

    Because of the time of year the boat trips weren’t operating therefore this was my only chance to get up close and personal to this wonder of nature. It didn’t disappoint, despite the heavy snow we made our way down which was about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. You get a lift down (150 feet) and suddenly there you are standing in a 130 year old tunnel looking out from behind the falls, yes you do get wet, yes its cold and damp but is it so incredible. The roar!! Its quite remarkable to thing one fifth of the worlds fresh water is cascading in front of your eyes.

  • Niagara Fury – I sent the oldest and his dad to do this one as I  was afraid the youngest would be a little scared with the simulated thunder.  This is 4d, 360 degrees experience which takes you on a journey to experience the creation of the falls and to experience its sheer power.  You get a souvenir poncho  when you arrive and you do need it!!!! Ill say no more! Great fund, oldest really enjoyed and was able to share with me loads of fun facts on his return.
  • Butterfly Conservatory – all these attraction  are located in very close proximity to each other so its an ideal day out with limited travelling especially important with young kids. This is a lovely attraction 180 meters of pathway through a conservatory where you can observe many different species of butterfly.  They are such beautiful gentle creatures.
  • Clifton Hill – no visit would be complete with our doing the “sights” of Clifton Hill. Its typical touristy with slot machines, crazy golf and fast foot eateries. A summary of our highlights:
    • Wizard Golf – kids loved this.  Its all neon golf balls and painted inside. It was a welcome distraction from the cold and snow outside.
    • Guinness World Records Museum – Great fun, small but well worth the visit. Lots of cool facts and fun interactive parts
    • Captain Jacks Amusement – no more words needed, lots of amusements, games and slot machine, why are kids drawn to these places!!!!

 

Top tips:

This is Niagara Falls one of the words top  tourist attractions so be prepared to pay top dollar for everything. It is expensive however some tips from our experience:

  • Niagara Parks Activity Packages: If you are looking to do a number of the key attractions this is your cheapest option especially travelling with children.  There are a range of option depending on how many activities you wish to include. You can save up to 48% when compared to  booking individually.  A no brainer in my book – for FYI a lot of the attractions are free for kids under 5 which was ideal for us! For more information see here
  • Clifton Hill Pass – its going to be hard to avoid Clifton Hill when in Niagara Falls so my  advice is to buy the Fun Pass. It cover  5 attractions including the Sky Wheel (which was closed during our visit for maintenance much to the kids disappointment) which saves you about $25 per person. What I like about these passes are, we know what attractions we are going on, the price is paid in advance and it saves the inevitable arguments about what to go on. See here for more.
  • WeGo – wego is the transport system around Niagara Falls and its really efficient and easy to use. Our hotel provided us with 48 hour passes, so do ask your hotel most hotel do give them out I think. Its saves worrying about taxis and from my experience it arrives on time and no issues. Its state of the art and connects all major attractions.

Similarly accommodation can be very expensive particularly for a Fallsview room, however when you are going all that way I think it’s a must.  We got a great rate via booking.com

However there are a number of free attractions obviously the Falls itself, the fireworks, the illuminations, Niagara Parkway and Botanic Gardens. The above is only a tiny snap shot of what is available there were many other wonderful attractions which we didn’t get to but you never know we may return some day.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of looking at that incredible view.

Note: Massive thanks to Niagara Falls Tourism for all the advice and help with our trip and for providing us with the attraction passes. The help and guidance shown helped ensure we had a wonderful trip particular thanks to Jennifer whose is an absolute credit to Niagara Falls Tourism who truly knows and loves what she does.
Suitcases and Sandcastles