Friday, 11 December 2015

How Lovely Are Your Branches // Glenealy Christmas Tree Farm Review


What is Christmas without the center of it all- the glorious tree? With so much attention put on the main attraction, the real versus artificial debate comes up every year. As much as I love the idea of a fake tree, with it's perfectly symmetrical shape and easy maintenance, there really is no debate in my opinion. For me, it comes down to tradition and that includes a real tree.  I love the look of a real tree and it's wonderful aroma, but mostly it's the experience of finding the tree that is my favourite part. As a child, my parents bundled us 3 kids up every year to go cut down our own tree. I will never forget those days. The excitement of choosing the "perfect" tree, my dad lying on the cold ground, sawing away, the whirring sound as the tree baler spun. And of course now that I'm a parent, I hope to create those same wonderful memories with my own children. 

Feeling homesick after an uneventful Thanksgiving holiday last year, a google search brought me to the website of the Glenealy Christmas Tree Farm. If you haven't yet picked up your tree this year, then I suggest you carve out some time this weekend to take the quick drive to GCTF for a special experience. Located in Wicklow, this family owned and operated business specializes in Noble and Nordman Firs, and offers a variety of other choices. But it isn't just their selection of trees that makes this place so great, it's the family friendly atmosphere and holiday cheer just radiating from the moment you enter. There are twinkly lights down the driveway. The sounds of Christmas classics being played on the grand piano. Santa even left his red sleigh parked in the shed for a handy little photo opportunity too. Owners and brothers Dave and James are there to help you chop and wrap the tree, assist with the rope tying, or entertain you with their Irish humour. The lads genuinely seem to love what they're doing, but sure, who couldn't love being such a magical part of the Christmas experience? With 6 acres of land to roam, the hardest part of selecting is remembering where that other tree you thought you wanted is located. 

So many trees to choose from
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!
Waiting in the sleigh, enjoying a sweet while the tree is netted 

Once you've made your final choice, if you're keen to handle an axe, by all means, chop away. If you prefer to keep all your fingers in tact, simply flag down one of the employees. They will cut the tree and even help you transport it to the shed where each tree is wrapped for takeaway.  My insider tip to you- wear your wellies as the ground is quite mucky from this rainy season we've had. And thanks to the 3 sheep on site that mind the grass and weeds, there's a fair amount of their droppings you would want to avoid stepping in with your fancy runners. 

Feeding the sheep last year

Here are the two trees we hand selected from Glenealy Christmas Tree Farm, in 2014 and 2015. I love them both and all the charming imperfections that come with a real tree- particularly the unevenly spaced branches and the new ladybug neighbors that have taken up residence in my living room. 

December 2015

Xmas Eve, 2014

GCTF hours of operation as found on their website:
Tues 1st December through Sunday 20th of December
  • 10am - 6pm; Mon - Thur
  • 10am - 7pm: Fridays 
  • 9am - 7pm: Sat & Sun
Be sure to check out their Facebook page for the most up to date information along with opening times. And please remember to recycle your tree once the holidays are over. 

Decorating is a bit easier with some help 

Love those chubby little hands handling the ornaments

Our Elf on the Shelf, Alfie, loves the tree

Monday, 30 November 2015

24 Days of Surprises // DIY Advent Calendar


Tomorrow is the start of advent and I'm so excited to share our DIY calendar! Advent calendars are used to celebrate each day leading up to Christmas Day on the 25th of December. Last year we picked up a rectangular cardboard calendar that had 24 windows. Each day of the month a new window was opened, revealing a piece of chocolate behind the flap. Our two children each had a calendar and after dinner they would open their individual advents. It was a big hit with both and the calendars served as extra motivators to get them though dinnertime that month. 

This year I wanted to change it up a bit and make my own version of an advent calendar. Turning to Pinterest for inspiration, a quick search on the site shows hundreds of DIY advents. Some of the calendars are simple, others require some serious preparation, but they're all excellent ways to participate in the festivities. I especially love a few, including... 


It was when I saw this super adorable image of a woodland advent calendar on the Snug Studio blog, that I was instantly inspired. I immediately knew I had to make my own version. While I love the woodsy forest theme that the original designer used, I wanted to create a more Christmassy scene. 


Firstly, I wrote out the figures, characters and other parts to the Christmas scene I wanted to create. The 24 parts include:

  • Santa 
  • Snowman
  • Elf (2)
  • Reindeer
  • Yeti
  • Snow Capped Mountains (2)
  • Pine Trees of varying sizes (4)
  • Birch Trees of varying sizes (2)
  • Birch Logs (3)
  • Snowflake (2)
  • Star 
  • Mushrooms (2)
  • Candy Cane 
  • Wrapped Present 

Next I wrote a list of the number of days (December 1st - 24th) and filled each date with a corresponding part from the Christmas scene.


Now it was time to pick out paper. Using a couple of paper pads from Michaels and Target, I was able to find a suitable combination of complimentary patterns and colours. Each part of the Advent scene was assigned a piece of paper. 


Plenty of patterns and colors in the paper

Paper pads form craft stores 

Instructions for the Mountains: 

  • Trace a triangle on plain paper 
  • Cut out the triangle 
  • Using the first triangle as a template, trace a second triangle on patterned paper 
  • Cut around the second triangle, leaving space on each side of the triangle for a tab 
  • Score the lines of your triangle 
  • Fold up the three tabs where your scored 
  • Apply glue to two of the tabs 
  • Attach the two tabs to the backside of the patterned triangle, creating a pocket by lining up the two triangles evenly 
  • Insert a small gift to the pocket 
  • Add glue to the third tab and attach to the backside of the patterned paper 

Draw the triangle 

Two triangles, one includes space to fold the tabs

Folded tabs to glue to the other triangle


Follow these steps to create additional Mountains, as well as the Pine Trees. 


For the Snowflakes and Star, cut out the respective shape on the patterned paper. Cut out a smaller circle with tabs that can attach to the back of the patterned shape. 


Cut out snowflakes

Glue the circular ouch to the back of the snowflake to hold coins
Score 5 lines in the star as shown to create a 3-dimensional look



For the Candy Cane, cut out the shape on patterned paper. Cut out a smaller rectangle with tabs that can attach to the back of the patterned Candy Cane shape. 


Instructions for the Santa:

  • Choose a cardboard tube and trim to the appropriate height
  • Trace the bottom of the tube onto plain paper
  • Add 3 tabs to the circle
  • Cut out the circle, leaving the 3 tabs attached
  • Place the circular paper on the bottom of the tube and attach with scotch tape
  • Now cut out a piece of patterned paper to cover the tube
  • Attach to the back of the tube with scotch tape
  • Now cut out a small circle for Santa’s face and draw his eyes, nose, mustache details with a black marker
  • Cut out a teardrop shape for his beard
  • Attach both pieces to the tube with scotch tape
  • Insert two small gifts into the center of the tube
Trace bottom of tube on paper


Draw 3 tabs to the circle


Cut out circle, leaving 3 tabs attached


Tape the circle to the bottom of the tube


Repeat these steps for the other paper tube characters: Elves, Snowman, Yeti, Reindeer, Logs, Birch Trees and Mushrooms. Add paper cone hats, paper faces, small twigs and other embellishments where necessary. 

For Santa’s hat: 

  • Cut out a small circle from a second piece of patterned paper
  • Remove a small wedge from the side of the circle
  • Wrap the paper into a cone and secure with a piece of scotch tape
  • Add a small white strip and a tiny piece for the pom to add details to the hat
  • Cover the Santa tube with the hat
  • Here's a link from wikihow with directions to make a paper cone if you need it 

Each day the children will discover small gifts in the various advent pieces. Examples of some of the items include:

  • Blind bags of favourite miniature characters (Doc McStuffins, Littlest Pet Shop)
  • Small bags of Lego mini figurines  
  • Chocolate coins
  • Candy or sweets
  • Euro coins
  • Christmas themed Stickers
Blind bags are hidden in the cardboard tubes


Smaller chocolate treats are found in the miniature pine trees


Mushrooms hold chocolate coins


I made sure to include two items in each of the 24 parts, so there are a total of 48 items in our advent. I did this because I have two young children and wanted to make sure they each received something every day, to keep things fair. 


Our 2015 Christmas Advent Calendar

The cast of colourful characters

A walk through the magical woodland

Is that Rudolf with Santa?


Snow capped mountains in the background

Snowflakes fall from the sky

Little Elfy hangs by the birch logs

Number each of your items 1 through 24

It's an abominable snowman!!

The Yeti, Snowman and Reindeer

The Elves and Santa 

Reindeer, Santa and the Yeti hiding among the pines

I’ll be sure to update this post with the details of this year’s advent calendar, but I can almost guarantee its success already! Do you make or give your child an advent calendar? Did you open one as a child? I’d love to hear any advent stories you can remember, just post them in the comments section below! And for more advent ideas and inspiration, check out Pies & Gents on Pinterest. We have a holiday board dedicated to the cutest advent calendars around!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Twirling in Space // Fashion for Girls


Today Emme & I stopped by the Dublin launch party for the Hello Bezlo dress line. We browsed a gorgeous collection of dresses, learned a bit about CoderDojo's amazing coding community and we did some serious glitter crafting. All in all, a successful day for us! 

After a quick greeting with Clodagh Connell, the founder of Hello Bezlo, we went straight to the dress collection. The line is stylish, inspiring, original and wearable! The durable fabric would surely hold up on our toughest outdoor adventures. And I have never seen a dress designed with binary code before but Hello Bezlo discovered a way to make 1s and 0s look cool and chic. There's detachable tutus and capes too- perfect for everyday dress-up.

Hello Bezlo Dresses: Rocket Girl, Girl Code with Detachable Tutu, Rocket Girl with Detachable Cape
Image via Hello Bezlo

A nurse by day, Clodagh was inspired to create this line of dresses when she was shopping for her niece. Finding rocket ships on clothes without entering the boys department was proving difficult. So what did this super aunty do? She found a designer to produce her ideas and introduced us to the Bezlo Girl, of course! A loving, ambitious, and determined aunt! We're impressed!

Closeup of the Rocket Girl Dress 

I love Hello Bezlo's description of their girl. She's spirited. Adventurous. Fearless. They're dresses for the girls who fall in that space just between the "super girly girl" and the "tomboy". I imagine the Bezlo Girl is very similar to my own daughter- an imaginative girl who wouldn't bat an eyelash as she rips her tights on a race through the woods with her pals.  

My own Bezlo Girl <3
These 4 beautiful Bezlo Girls at the launch party
Details from the event: coding & crafting

Check out Hello Bezlo's Kickstarter campaign here, and if you have a little girl aged 2-10 who dreams of becoming an astronaut while twirling in a pretty dress, then definitely consider funding this project. With just 5 days to go, our fingers are crossed for Hello Bezlo's success. We wish you the very best of luck during these final days and can't wait to see what else you have in store for us!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // Magic at the Disney Store


Our daughter recently turned 4. The occasion was marked with a family and friends birthday party on the weekend along with a smaller celebration at school during the week and a cake on her actual birth date.  Yesterday my husband and I treated her to one final activity to close out the week by taking her to the Disney Store. 

As one of the newest 4-year olds walking down Grafton Street, our daughter was already thrilled to have arrived into town via the Luas. As she stepped off the train I swear Emme seemed that much taller, prouder, and mature. But as we approached the Disney Store, there was that wonderfully magic sense of childlike wonder still very present. 


Examining the colourful window display


Every single morning the Disney Store has an "Unlock the Magic" ceremony where one lucky child is chosen to open the shop. The cast members (staff) open the door and line up to begin the fanfare. The lead announced there was a birthday girl present and asked Emme if she was the child. As Emme shyly nodded and held up 4 fingers (the only proof needed that she was indeed the birthday girl), another cast member marched out of the store, holding an over sized key above her head. This key was then placed into an equally large lock. Emme was asked to assist in the turning of the key to unlock the store. As the staff called out the countdown, our shy girl, along with the help of her dad, turned the key, causing the velvet ropes to drop. 


The magical lock 

The unlocking ceremony

The key sits back in its display case until tomorrow morning

Because you cannot book this special little ritual, it is purely the luck of the chosen one. Fortunately for us, there were no other children present on this particular Thursday in November, so Emme was the golden girl to create the magic. I had taken no risks and as an added safety measure had called ahead that morning to kindly request if at all possible to chose her, as we were celebrating her birthday. They had very kindly obliged. 

In addition to the grand opening, there are several other magical elements located throughout the store that are so quintessentially Disney. Inside the Princesses room are two magic mirrors that flank the wall. With a container of wands to choose from, children are encouraged to wave the wands, activating the motion sensors. Video clips from Rapunzel to Merlin the Wizard appear on the mirror, as if speaking to the child. 

Waving her magical wand

A "mini" theatre, featuring a 12' screen is located on the top floor. This area offers children a chance to choose from approximately 50 classic movie scenes. These clips included one of my favourites, The Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea" song, along with one of Emme's favourites, "Let It Go" from Frozen. We were both thrilled to belt out our respective songs! The theatre also offers a table of toys that are available to play with, so Mickey's train set and Doc McStuffins' medical bag both got some use. Just outside of the theatre area is a replica Mickey Mouse Clubhouse where children can go inside and even turn a wheel to make the yellow gear move. 

We couldn't leave without hearing "Let It Go"
The theatre includes a table of toys to enjoy 
Has anyone seen where Emme is hiding?
A sparkly blue trail leads visitors through the entire store. This trail has obviously been sprinkled with Pixie Dust by the magical team of Disney Fairies. Stunning lucite trees line the pathway, faintly glowing and color changing. 

Lucite trees line the Pixie Dust trail
Several life sized statues line the walls and stairwells, and a couple also stand proudly in the window displays. Anna and Sven were a huge hit with my daughter, but I know several kids who would absolutely love Marvel's Spiderman, Captain America and Incredible Hulk. There were also a couple of Storm Troopers located throughout the building. 

The softest Sven we've ever seen

Incredible Hulk and his very green presence

Spiderman hangs from the ceiling. Captain America and a Storm Trooper stand tall

While you are not obligated to make a purchase after participating in the unlocking ceremony, or after spending over an hour (!!!) exploring the entire building, do keep in mind that this is of course the Disney STORE. There is merchandise available for purchase over the 3 levels and I would challenge anyone to find it easy to depart the store without one final birthday gift for their daughter! Emme chose a Doc McStuffins Mini Figurine Hospital Set for herself and a die cast Lightning McQueen car for her brother. Every Disney character you can imagine, from classic Pluto to any of the Disney Princesses, the Star Wars crew, to the Fairies and Pooh Bear too, can all be found on a huge selection of toys, collectibles and clothes too. And from what I could tell, prices were competitive with local toy shops like Smyths and Argos. 

In addition to the new Doc and Cars toys, Emme also left the store with a generous bag of goodies that the staff so kindly treated her to. Along with a replica of the unlocking key, she received several sheets of Mickey, Minnie and Frozen stickers, a hand signed birthday card filled with gold Mickey Mouse confetti, and a cardboard set of Mouse ears.

Stickers, Mouse Ears and a Birthday Card 
Closeup of the replica key- can you see Cinderella's Castle on the end?
I do have to mention that the staff at this Disney Store are a truly exceptional cast. Everyone we encountered was particularly friendly, incredibly helpful, and all were so clearly passionate for their job and the Disney company, it was truly impressive. One member also kindly informed us that the store offers daily activities at 3pm. Everything from learning to draw a Star Wars character, to writing a letter to Santa to drop in their North Pole post box. Activities vary daily so we look forward to returning soon for the fun!

More decorative elements overlooking Grafton Street 


The birthday celebrations for our little four year old are officially over, but not without a very special couple of days of celebrations. And while she insists that she is now a "big girl", you can trust that she is still most definitely my baby girl! A baby that I can no longer cradle in my arms, but one I can still make very special memories with. Memories like our fun day out, that I will forever cherish in my heart. Happy Birthday my sweetest girl!


The Dublin Disney Store is located in the heart of the city at 60-61 Grafton Street. Check their website for opening times and store details or contact your local store to see if they participate in the Unlocking Ceremony- it's well worth the trip! 
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