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I have been following the very funny and talented local Irish chef Martin Anderson on SnapChat for quite a few months now, so I was intrigued and very eager to try out his new restaurant Sonder as it is only a short twenty five minute drive from my home.

I had after all spent countless weeks watching on as he overseen the building being gutted,  completely transforming the previous premises, from a hair salon to a chic, modern restaurant. I sort of felt like I was part of the whole experience already!

Follow chef Martin anderson on snapchat

Follow chef Martin Anderson on snapchat for a daily dose of fun foodie related snaps

So a few weeks after Sonder opened on a beautiful sunny day I decided to take Cora my eldest child as a treat, after her school exams were over. We made the short journey over the border from Derry~Londonderry (Northern Ireland) to Letterkenny in Donegal (Ireland) and easily found the restaurant without having to go into the city centre – such a relief as I had baby Max with me too who had just woken up and the pressure was on to get him fed before he went into an almighty meltdown!

Outside view of the cafe

Outside view of the cafe

I could tell instantly from the outside and the high quality finish that Chef Martin is a bit of a perfectionist (I won’t lie I was beginning to get nervous at how much this ‘treat’ was going to cost me!)  In we went…

I was immediately impressed with the fact that the doors were wide as my Quinny Buzz pram is quite cumbersome and the wheels are forever getting caught in doorways! But not here, it boded well.

We got a big, warm welcome from the main man himself as soon as we walked through the door, he was chatting to some customers and ushered us in, showing us to our seat personally, which was lovely.

chef Martin anderson

chef Martin Anderson

It was almost like meeting a celebrity after watching his Snaps everyday! With a book already under his belt, Fat Chef Slim, the fun loving, inspirational chef has detailed his impressive five stone weight loss journey, giving tips and advice for others along the way. He is also a columnist for local newspaper The Donegal Daily, writing weekly healthy food recipes, and talks on local radio station, Highland Radio one day a week too.

Fat Chef Slim cookbook

Fat Chef Slim cookbook

He was every bit as friendly in person and was touched when I told him that we had travelled especially  just to sample his cooking!

 

more dining area sonder

As it was early in the morning we ordered off the breakfast menu. There was so much variety to choose from and there was something to suit all palettes or lifestyle choices – with Luca’s cow’s milk protein allergy, I am always on the look out for things that would suit him too. In the end (after a lot of eenie meany miney mo) we both settled on the vegetable omelette.

My breakfast ommlette

My breakfast omelette

From our vantage point, being near the counter we could watch as the food was being freshly prepared –   right infront of your eyes, from the prep stage to the plate!

Counter where food is prepared

Counter where food is prepared

Cora and I were both amazed at how good our food looked when it was served, the sheer amount of fresh vegetables on the plate was fantastic. The generous portion size was perfect – we love our food and Sonder didn’t disappoint! It was divine – by far the nicest, biggest, fluffiest, yummiest omelette I have ever tasted!

Sitting back we ate at our leisure, with some of the friendly staff coming over to check if everything was to our liking and taking time to play with baby Max which was so nice. It was a lovely, cosy atmosphere, light, bright and airy with the sound of happy, cheerful voices of the other customers and staff around us, adding to the ambience.

 

Full up from the yummy food

Full up from the yummy food

We each really enjoyed the food very much, I finished every last bite! (Cora nearly did too, give or take a few vegetables)  We stayed full up for hours after and it didn’t feel heavy in our tummies.

Just as I finished eating, right on cue Max woke up needing a nappy change so off to the toilets we went. I loved the bright quirky arty work on the toilet doors – not your typical toilet signs – which added a nice personal touch.

Ladies toilet

Ladies toilet door

 

men's toilet door

men’s toilet door

The baby changing/disabled toilet door had a picture of a man, woman and baby – I liked how it embraced the whole family -other shops take note, sometimes dads change nappies too!

Family/disabled toilet door

Family/disabled toilet door

We couldn’t leave without trying the tray-bakes, they were much too tempting! Displayed at the counter, that freshly baked smell was just way too good to resist, so we didn’t deny ourselves.

Chocolate treats

Chocolate treats

Tempting selection of treats

Tempting selection of treats

We chose the gluten and dairy free chocolate brownies to take home one each for everyone, so that little Luca wouldn’t be left out. The smell coming from the box was just so good we gobbled ours up in the car and had to hide the rest in the boot so we wouldn’t give in and eat them all too!

dairy and gluten free chocolate brownies

dairy and gluten free chocolate brownies

We were more than happy with the price – it wasn’t at all expensive like I expected, (especially when we tasted the high quality of the food) infact it was very reasonably priced!

Our verdict…..

5 star rating

Rated 5 star seal of approval!

 

We will definitely be back for more!

 

Pleas note: this is not an ad, just our honest opinion.

Max at five days old

                                                                                                      Max at five days old

Having children is without doubt both the greatest yet most difficult achievement of my entire life and am 100 % sure I will never do a tougher job. Ever.

The first few days, weeks and months are a time of hazy, mixed emotions, for me ranging from; relief, joy, amazement and love to fear, apprehension, pain and exhaustion, to name a few.

I’m always shocked at how unique each precious little baby is when they are born.  How they just know who their mother is in a room full of people. The way when they are born they immediately crawl up, root for and then latch on to the breast, and begin to suck the nourishing milk, their reward for all their hard work – is nothing short of a miracle.

These are things they have never been taught how to do or even have experienced anything like them before, yet they instinctively just know how to do. To me new babies are truly amazing!

That burst of all consuming love you feel for your tiny baby and the sense of pride that you have made someone so perfect that you just want to show them off to the whole world.

But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows…

I have to admit that this time around although people keep commenting that I must be a pro by now, of all my children somehow I felt more nervous than ever before about life with my new baby.

I was most worried about how I would juggle looking after a very clingy 19 month old with a newborn. It was difficult in the beginning, little Luca couldn’t understand why I was holding the new baby all day long and cried a very hurt cry which made me cry too. I bought him a baby boy doll and pram from baby Max when I was in hospital and for the early days this helped him understand (while keeping him distracted) about the new baby.

Responsibility

Baby Max on his very first car journey, on the way home from hospital

                                    Baby Max on his very first car journey, on the way home from hospital

When the adrenaline (or drugs) have worn off and the reality of being a new parent sets in, so does the sense of responsibility – and sometimes this feeling alone can be overwhelming. This little person that you made, who has happily lived inside you for the past nine months is now completely dependant on you and you have to ensure its safety for the rest of its life! Wow!

Leaving the hospital with each new baby I’ve always half expected to be stopped before I made it home (which wouldn’t be difficult as we only drive at 25 milers per hour maximum each time!) by a midwife and told to give the baby back to the hospital. I’m always amazed we don’t have to pass some sort of a test before we can go home with a whole tiny person to care for.

Nappies and Nourishment

One of Max's many pooxplosions

                                                                                              One of Max’s many poosplosions

Then come the constant stream of wet and dirty nappies, the decision of whether you want to breast or formula feed your baby has to be put into action and depending on which you choose, you have to learn the necessary skills to get the baby fed as safely and as quickly as possible.

Changing a nappy was something I had done lots of times before I had my own children, with babysitting cousins and coming from a big family I helped with my younger sisters. But nothing could have prepared me for Luca’s first nappy – we were both literally covered in pee and poo. I couldn’t stop screaming and laughing all at the same time!

I breastfed my two daughters for a few weeks each and then due to circumstances chose to then formula fed them. With  Luca I was determined to breastfeed him for longer. I ended up doing it much longer than I ever imagined -until he was 16 months old, due in part to his cows milk protein allergy and the close bond that we developed. He self-weaned quite abruptly when I was six months pregnant as my milk changed and he no longer liked the taste. So far I have breastfed Max and hope to continue until he is at least one year old.

But I haven’t found the experience as easy as I thought I would despite the fact that there was only a three month break between feeding my 16 month old pro and feeding a newborn. I had to relearn how to do it all over again going back to basics.

I also had all the same early day struggles and frustration this time. I had to learn how to position Max and get help with his latch. I still got sore, cracked nipples in the first few days, but this time round I knew how to handle the painful early days and wasn’t as stressed out or tense about it all as I was with Luca. As I have came through it before, I now know that any early pain is short-lived and the lovely, much easier times soon overshadow the difficult early days in much the same way as the pain of birth is soon forgotten too.

Don’t forget about yourself in the midst of all the madness, healthy parents equals a healthy baby. There may not be time to cook every meal (or any for a few weeks) but make sure to eat at regular intervals everyday.

Changing Clothes

The trouble I had changing him into his first tracksuit is indescribable, yet was hilarious!

                                  The trouble I had changing him into his first tracksuit is indescribable!

A new parent has to deal with changing their new baby’s clothes – a tricky task as the new baby is a bendy boned little wriggler.  This task is something that you will be doing quite a lot of, several times a day at least for quite a while!

I still find it difficult trying to master getting the other arm into the arm hole or a foot into a sleep suit and secretly take  pleasure in watching others as they struggle to dress baby too!

Max is the wriggliest baby I’ve ever had and often makes sudden jumpy, jerky movements which makes changing his outfits all the more fun – especially when he has had a massive poosplosion all the way to his neck. Fun times!

New mums may find that your wardrobe choices are still quite limited for the first few weeks. I’ve always used my maternity clothes for the first while as they are comfy and were the only things that fitted, plus new mums often go through nearly as many outfit changes as the baby when it spits up or pees over you!

Little Screamers

Little Max screaming the house down

                                                                                        Little Max screaming the house down

Figuring out what your baby wants when they begin their shrill, demanding cry that can escalate within a matter of seconds to decibels of such a high frequency that your ears drums feel they might actually burst, can be quite a challenge!

With Max I try to make sure that I respond to his hunger cues, like sucking his hands or making fists, as fast as possible before he gets himself worked up, or try changing his nappy or winding him. Mostly he just likes to be walked around and around instead of sitting down. It’s exhausting!

I cannot stand the sound of a baby’s piercing cry, it gets me upset for them so I always try to respond to it as soon as possible. Plus the escalating crying piles on the pressure and makes me snap at everyone else around me until calm is restored – a situation that nobody wants.

Staying calm is key to dealing with a screaming baby. If you find things are getting on top of you don’t be afraid to ask your partner, family members and friends for help, they will be more than willing and we all need time out sometimes.

Exhaustion

Tired Max out for the count

                                                                         Tired little Max 

All this while you yourself are healing can seem daunting. Sometimes you will reach levels of exhaustion that you never knew existed due to your tiny bundle’s constant feeding – their teeny tummies are so small that they need fed much more frequently than us.

This is where the baby wipes come in – not just an invention for cleaning babies’ bums, they are excellent keeper-awakerers, when rubbed just under your eyes – I have had to resort to doing this literally thousands of times over the years, both late at night and in the middle of the day,  just to stay awake. The stinging only adds to helping keep my treacherous eyes from closing. Must not fall asleep….

For the first time in my life I have started drinking coffee just to keep me awake when I hit a slump usually at midday or early evening time. I’ve never had to do this before, but with a new baby and a demanding toddler to attend to now I feel I need the extra energy it gives me.

On a more serious note…

The first year of a baby’s life can be a very vulnerable time for new parents. especially the mum as hormones change and surge around her body and sleep deprivation – used throughout history as a form of torture – can temporarily turn even the sweetest natured Snow White like woman into a foul mouthed witchy demon. This is to be expected as nobody can be a saint all of the time. But sometimes this can turn into more, a new mum is very susceptible to developing post natal depression, something she and her family should be aware of, to get as much support and help as soon as possible.

I have experienced one particularly bad bout of postnatal depression in the past, which really floored me for a while. I found it a very scary and debilitating situation at the time, but the fear of letting others know was one of the scariest parts of it. I was ashamed at the beginning and afraid that I would be labelled as crazy and an unfit mother. But none of those things happened, I simply went on a course of medication to help realign the chemicals in my brain. There is so much information and understanding now about postnatal depression and it is very treatable once it is diagnosed.

Please reach out to family friends and your doctor if you feel you may be affected. You are not crazy or a bad parent, this is out of your control, but if you get help you will once again be in control of your life. Things can only get better from that point on.

Everlasting Love

Sometimes the rush of all-consuming love doesn’t come straight away and it doesn’t make you any less of a mum if it doesn’t.

With my first three I felt that rush immediately, it was like someone punched me in the chest and winded me, I could barely breathe, each time.

However with Max it was more of a slow burner, for me the feeling was more that of amazement when I saw him for the first time after birth. The feeling of love took a few days to develop. I felt like the worst mum ever and worried if I’d ever really love him, telling only my partner and reluctantly at that. But then one day I felt fiercely protective of him when his brother threw a chair at his head.  I just knew after that experience that the love was definitely there (phew!)

Worth It!

Max and me

                                                                                      I’m totally besotted with my new baby

But all the struggles are worth it in the end when you get to sit down with your baby, relax and breathe in that beautiful newborn smell and give them lots of snuggles. Absolute bliss. There is no other feeling like it in the world.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences of the first few days with a new baby. Were they similar? Is there anything else that you think new parents need to know? Please get in touch and share your story below.

Thanks for reading,

Fionnuala xo

PORTRUSH TO

With the Mayday bank holiday weekend falling on the hottest week of the year so far, we decided to treat the kids to a mini break, using the opportunity to meet up with a friend and her beautiful daughter.

Our destination of choice was the picturesque North Coast of Northern Ireland. The Area of Outstanding Beauty has lots to do outdoors including walks on the blue flag beaches and the Giant’s Causeway – and indoors, particularly the iconic Barry’s amusements and award winning Ramore Winebar and Harbour Bar for food, the seaside town of Portrush was the ideal location.

We hit the jackpot when it came to accommodation with our friend suggesting a five star hostel Portrush Townhouse Boutique Hostel, an option I hadn’t even considered. But with four children in tow we gave it a go – and  were very pleasantly surprised!

Portrush Boutique Hostel

Portrush Boutique Hostel

Used to booking family rooms in hotels, keeping a toddler amused within the confined space never mind the many  hidden dangers (sharp cupboard edges, drinks cabinets, low drawers, to name a few) always proves quite a challenge.

Arriving at the hostel with a very warm welcome we were delighted to discover that the very grand looking Victorian townhouse has throughout its lively past accommodated many travellers from around the globe.

We were more than impressed that our studio apartment room in fact encompassed a whole wing of the house! We even had our very own lockable entrance door.

The extra space was such an unexpected luxury, enabling Eve and Luca some extra room for when they go through their nightly energetic stage (aka jumping around like lunatics, shouting and letting off steam before bed).

There was a small yet ample kitchen equipped with pots, pans, oven, sink – absolutely everything you need to cook up a meal or just make a cup of tea. All we had to do was bring the food.

A small corridor lead to the spacious main room itself which contained; a double bed and a set of bunk beds, a sofa and wicker chairs, a large TV and a dining table with chairs.

Studio apartment suite

Studio apartment suite

We also had an en-suite bathroom with a shower just off our main  room. The entire house was dripping in period detail which added to its unique charm.

The kitchen was ideal for keeping wandering little hands away from the kettle – a battle we struggle with each time we stay in a hotel.  The fridge was ideal for storing  perishable items, including Luca’s dairy free butter and milk – something we found very difficult to do in a hotel resulting in the food going off.

We were also able to rustle up some late night rounds of toast for supper and porridge made with dairy free milk in the morning for Luca – something that wouldn’t have been possible had we been in a hotel.

Everyone loved being in such close proximity to one another yet having a bit more personal space than a hotel room would allow! We could all easily watch the tv screen from the comfort of our beds – and boy were they comfortable, so comfortable and luxurious infact that I really struggled to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

There was free wifi and the option of breakfast which was located in the basement of the house, after descending a beautiful authentic black wrought iron  spiral staircase in the lounge room was another quirky feature adding to the character of the house.

As the hostel was so central all the main attractions were easily within walking distance.  After a long walk on the beach and around the town we had walked up an appetite which only the sea air can induce. We dined in the Portrush Atlantic Hotel and wolfed down every last bite of the food.

Portrush Atlantic Hotel

Exhausted from our adventures we settled back into the hostel for the night, making supper and a very much appreciated cup of tea before a movie in bed – that we were all much too exhausted to watch to the end.

After a lovely breakfast spent along with the other guests in the homely kitchen, where we helped ourselves to a basic breakfast (my second of the morning!) with tea, we were feeling refreshed and ready for action again.

We were all in unanimous agreement that the hostel was unlike any hotel we had ever stayed in, in fact our experience at the Portrush Boutique Townhouse Hostel was every bit as good as (if not better than)  staying in a five star hotel (minus the swimming pool).

The absolute best bit about it was the price! At an amazing £75 for our one night stay it is unbeatable value for money, especially for a family of six! We will most definitely come back again.

Saying a fond farewell to our friends we headed off on a long trek, taking in the breathtaking views along the coastal walk to the Ramore Head.

Ramore Head photo credit: travel.aol.co.uk

Ramore Head photo credit: travel.aol.co.uk

We again  walked up a ferocious appetite, and as the end of the walk way naturally brought us within close proximity to the nicest eatery around, the Ramore Harbour Bistro, we stopped off for a very delicious, truly sumptuous lunch – it would have been rude not to!

Ramore-Wine-Bar

With our tummies full we made a final stop off at the indoor funfair that is a major tourist attraction in Portrush – Barry’s Amusements  – in the blistering heat! What Eve wants Eve gets! I can’t say I was sorry to be in the shade, as I was worried about the boys getting the full effects of the sun at the hottest time of day. After wiling away a few hours (and more than a few pounds!) we set off for granny and granda’s house on the way home to tell them all about our travels.

BIG DIPPER

 

Disclaimer: This is in no way an ad, just our own honest opinions.

Finished chocolate cornflakes

Finished chocolate cornflakes

Keeping my 22 month old toddler entertained at home all day is proving to be increasingly harder each week.

Finally Luca is able to do, say and understand so much more, unfortunately all this has happened precisely when I have less time than ever before!

Looking after new baby Max has meant that spending time with Luca has become quite a juggling act!

Luckily Luca has become better at entertaining himself, but his need for more stimulation  is greater than before, plus he wants me to do every activity along with him.

Yesterday we grabbed the opportunity to get baking while Max took a quick power nap.

Using dairy free dark chocolate (Luca has CMPA) we melted the chocolate using boiling water and a plastic basin.

Luca donned his Little Helper hat and plastic apron and set out the bun cases into the bun tray.

 

image

Luca placing bun cases into the bun tray

 

When the chocolate was melted we added in cornflakes to the melted chocolate and  got to work crushing them up using spoons. Luca loved doing this! We had a play fight while doing it, until he got a little too loud and rough.

 

 

Thankfully it was time to put the mixture into the bun cases – which turned into a real battle of wills- Luca wanted to do if all by himself!

 

Ta dah! Luca's lovely dairy free chocolate cornflake buns

Ta dah! Luca’s lovely dairy free chocolate cornflake buns

 

After we placed the buns in the fridge to set Luca amused himself by scraping all the remaining chocolate cornflakes out of the bowl with his spoon,then licked the rest- my favourite part too! While I did the washing up.

 

Luca scrapesevery last bit of chocolate and cornflakes outof the bowl!

Luca scrapes every last bit of chocolate and cornflakes out of the bowl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Named me what?

Choosing the perfect name for your new baby is one of the first really important decisions you make as a parent, after all a name stays with you forever!

Names can determine how you experience life – it can immediately make you the focus of teasing and being made fun of – or it can mean you are instantly interesting and popular.

Some names are chosen because of the way they sound or are spelt, others because of their meanings.

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When choosing our new baby’s name there were a number of things that we felt were important to take into consideration;

  • Firstly how the name sounds and how easy is it to pronounce.
  • Next any abbreviations that the name is likely to get, so any potentially irksome or embarrassing nicknames  can be avoided.
  • Any meanings the name has and are the qualities I would like my child to have.
  • How the name fitted in along with my other children’s names – their names are all short and spelt in their simplest form.
  • Something a bit different – when checking out the list of most popular baby names we tend to lean more towards the less popular names – my baby is special to me and I want their name to reflect this.
  • The final consideration for my family was that it was a neutral name, living in Northern Ireland people immediately associate certain names with religious and political implications. As my partner and I are from differing religious backgrounds we didn’t want our children to be singled out as being from one particular background or culture.

Narrowing our options down to a select few names before the birth of our newest baby, we had three possible girl’s names and three boy’s names.

Usually as soon as I see my newborn baby I immediately know what I will call them, but this time we were at a loss as to which boy’s name we should choose!

After two days of trying it out we both agreed on Max, from the Latin meaning ‘greatest’.

I really love the name Max: I don’t know anyone else called it, it’s short, it’s easy to spell and easy to pronounce.

It suits him perfectly and fits in well with my other children’s names too!

 

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