Sunday, 28 June 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // White Rock Beach


We're back with the Dublin, Our Playground series. The previous post in this installment highlighted our love for Sandymount Strand, a favourite seaside location, especially for shell hunting. For this post, we're sticking along the coastline, moving south to Killiney and landing at White Rock Beach. 

Accessible by the Killiney DART, it's a good 10-15 minute walk from the station. I recommend driving to Vico Road where there is limited street parking available. Before you head down to the sandy beach, stop to take in the stunning panoramic views of Killiney Bay, along with the picturesque Bray Head, Sorrento Terrace and Dalkey Island.

White Rock offers views of Sorrento Terrace and Dalkey Island 

There is an approximately 200 step descent from the road to the beach. It's not so bad going down, but pack light because it's a daunting hike back up!

Crossing over the Dart line on a pedestrian footpath, it's great fun for the kids when the train is passing through and they can cheer from above. But if you miss viewing the train here, there are plenty of opportunities to watch the green cars cut through the hillsides from the sand below.

Watching the green Dart train pass by the beach

There are no amenities at this beach, which means there are no bathrooms, no cafes, no lifeguards and no water fountains present. And there are the occasional nude bathers, but they keep to themselves, mostly hidden by the coverage of the cliffs. There is a swimming platform that has been carved into the rock, so when the tide comes in, swimmers use the platform for diving into the sea. 

A little beach yoga on a sunny October morning in 2014 

Tidal Pools form as the water is pulled out across the bay. The shallow pools that form among seaweed-covered rocks create the perfect spots for seashell searching, crab hunting and barnacle viewing.

Searching for sea creatures among the rocks


When the tide is out, White Rock can be reached from Killiney Beach, but this extension of the main beach feels very separately it's own special patch of paradise. With significantly less rocks than nearby Killiney Beach's stoney strip, White Rock feel more like your own private beach. In part due to it's "off-the beaten path" location, the slightly difficult descent, and it's reputation as a nude beach, one can understand why it's not as populated as some of Dublin's better-known beaches, but to be completely honest, I'm perfectly happy with saving this hidden gem to myself (and to all of you, of course!). You can expect our summer will be packed with plenty of trips here- especially this week considering the "heat wave" that is expected.


Looking for another beach suggestion? Check out my review for Sandymount Strand here. And what to do with all those seashells you've discovered on your beach adventures? How about a fun, little craft like this one found here? Current tide charts are found on this website

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Last Minute Father's Day Idea // Family Traditions


Tomorrow is Father's Day, a day in which we celebrate our father's, as well as our very own baby daddy's.

If you need a last minute idea for a special, personalized card, I've got just the WRITE (yes I went there!) idea for you.


What you Need:
Paper
Markers
Paint
Scissors
Googly Eyes
Glue
And a participating child!

Instructions:
Cut out a paper figurine. Have your child paint and decorate the figure to look like their daddy. While my children painted, we talked about their dad. First we talked about his appearance. I asked what color eyes does he have? His hair color? What clothes does he like to wear? And while their creations may not exactly reflect their answers, their descriptions of their dad were right on. It was their sweet and honest answers to the list of interview questions that was the heart-melting moment for me, though.

Example Interview Questions:
1. What's your daddy's name?
2. How old is your daddy?
3. Where does your daddy work?
4. What's daddy's favorite food?
5. What's daddy's favorite sport?
6. What's daddy's favorite thing to do with you?
7. What makes daddy sad?
8. What makes daddy happy?
9. Why do you love your daddy?

Feel free to adjust these questions as most appropriate for your child and the child's father. And make sure you write down the response exactly as your child states it! The more honest, the better! And for those of you with young children who might not be able to answer the questions, it might still be fun to fill in responses that you've written on behalf of the baby.

Harry's responses
Emme's answers to the interview questions
Add your interview questions and their responses along with the daddy figure to a folded sheet of cardstock and ta-da! Your homeade, personalized Father's Day Card. Incredibly simple, yet very special. 

While this project can be used as a simple and quick Father's Day addition, I'm really looking forward to incorporating these interview questions as a new family tradition. Every year I plan to ask the same set of questions to the kids and I'll keep them presented in a folder for my husband and I to look back and reflect on. But I'm also planning to ask my husband to give answers for the same questions regarding the kids. I'll do the same. You see, I lost my own dad a few months ago and I can't begin to describe the heartbreak I feel, waking up every day and being reminded that I'll never again hear his voice, see his gap-toothed smile, or create another memory with him. It truly feels like a part of my soul is gone. I know right now it's still early in the grieving process, but I also know that this pain I'm feeling will never go away. 

I quite selfishly wish I had my own dad's answers to these very questions, to see just what he thought about me, year after year. I know I would smile at his answers, even laugh at them as he was a bit of a jokester and he would've thrown something funny in for me. While I know I will never get those answers, I can imagine what he would've said and use that as inspiration to create something small, with minimal effort, for my own children to someday appreciate when the time comes. They're only short, sweet snippets from a quick moment-in-time, but I hope that one day we will all enjoy reading and rereading them together. 

I didn't mean to get quite so serious discussing my own dad just there, but sometimes you've got to show those tough emotions. So there you go- I'm still missing my dad and still learning to deal with his loss. Luckily I have an incredibly supportive, loving husband who has been incredible through the whole process. He would also be completely mortified if he knew I was writing a blog post about him! But if I'm still being honest, no Father's Day post would be complete without the addition of a couple of my favorite photos of my husband in his best role yet... as a dad to our two amazing kids. 
To Alan- you have always been the love of my life, but I'm thrilled to share that unconditional love with the two children who love you as much as I do! Thank you for everything you do, and everything you are. We are so very lucky to have you in our lives. XOXO

His first day as a DAD! November 2011

Dad status x 2! April 2013

This fun-loving, cool dude takes after his dad :)

He's selfless and will do whatever it takes to ensure his children's happiness.

Daddy loving on his two minis!
Wishing all you hard-working, loving and devoted dad's all the very best for a special Father's Day- you all deserve it! 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

DIY Display Shelf // Kids' Bedroom Details


A quick browse on my Pinterest page will tell you that 1. I spend far too much time browsing the internet and 2. that I have a bit of an affinity for children's rooms. I love the decor, bedding, accessories and all the special details that go into designing a kid's space. 

My two children share a bedroom. Their space is a converted attic, so there is a decent amount of room for the two beds along with some toys and a reading nook too. With two skylights, the bright room experiences loads of natural light, and it has easily become my favourite room in the house.  



There are many things I love about this room, especially the artwork hung above Emme's bed. On the surface, it might look like a bit of a mishmash, but each piece is quite meaningful to us!
  • Ladybug Print by Rifle Paper Co. (Emme is her Grandma's little bug)
  • Mick Jagger image found on Google images ("Jagger" is Emme's middle name)
  • Happy Girls Print by The Painted Arrow (because it's gorgeous!)
  • Handpainted "Emme" Print by Elizabeth Dixon at ejd design  (her Instagram Hashtag)
  • Changeable Letter Banner Kit from npw (fun to change out the sayings)
I'm always on the lookout for ways to add to or improve on the room and recently I've had my eye on the most gorgeous acrylic doll house from Mint Rhapsody.  This doll house would be an amazing addition to the bedroom. The only problem with this one is that it's a wee bit pricey! So a bit more searching online and I discovered this other really cool acrylic house on Etsy. While this one is more in my price range, it wouldn't solve the hanging display piece I was hoping to find. Lucky for me, I see every bit of product packaging and would-be trash as potential craft supplies ! :) 

In February my husband was in London and brought back diecast cars as gifts for the kids. The kids were delighted with their presents, and I kept the clear plastic packaging aside in our rainy day box. And more recently, a friend gifted me a box of the most delicious candy treats from Sugarfina, similar to this Bringing Home the Bacon giftset. (Seriously, how bad do you want to indulge in that trio of delectable sweets right now?!)  I've held onto the three acrylic cubes since the candies' sweet departure. With these different sizes clear boxes on hand, I set out to create my own version of an acrylic display doll house. 


Supplies Needed:
Different sized clear boxes
Paper (to line boxes with)
Scissors
Washi Tape
Pencil

Directions:
1. Clean your boxes of any fingerprints or glue residue.
2. Arrange your boxes in a manner you are pleased with. I arranged the 4 boxes to create an indoor house and an outdoor scene.


3. Choose paper to be used as your background. I selected a mix of plain pastels and a print from a page from an old children's book to compliment the existing artwork on the wall. 


4. Using the pencil, trace the boxes onto the paper for each backdrop. 


5. Using the scissors, cut your shapes out. 
6. Arrange the boxes with their paper backgrounds to confirm your layout. 


7. Remove paper from boxes and following the basic instructions listed on the 3M Command strip packaging, affix the strips to the back of the boxes and then onto the wall. 


8. Line the boxes with their corresponding paper backgrounds. Depending on the weight of your paper, you may need to use a small piece of Scotch tape on the back to prevent the paper from falling over. 
9. Use the Washi tape to decorate, like adding a "roof".
10. Display miniature toys or other lightweight items. 


This was a project that was very easy to assemble, fun to display, and apart from the 3M Strips which I already had in my supply kit, this was a free project to make. I love recycled projects! But most of all, I loved seeing my daughter's thrilled reaction as she jumped up and down on her bed yelling "Oh wow, I LOVE it SO much"! You can't go wrong when the kids' are happy ;) 

What do you think of this project? I'd love to hear your feedback and as always, I look forward to your review in the comment section below! Happy crafting! 


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Pond Creatures and Wooly Pets // Weekend Recap



This weekend our family availed of some pretty fantastic free events held around South Dublin, that I'd like to share with our Pies and Gents friends!

Saturday was the first of dlr County Council's "Exploring Nature" Biodiversity Events taking place from June through August. This particular event just so happened to be on in our local Cabinteely Park. "Life in a Pond" was a family event run by the OWLS organisation, a club for kids and families to learn more about nature. Approximately 40 children and adults of all ages, arrived to have some fun and get a little dirty. Using the nets that the OWLS leader, Clare, provided for us, we scooped water, grasses, sand, rocks and lots of tiny creatures from the duck pond. As we inspected the gatherings from our nets, we'd add any live specimens to white basins situated around the site, forming a collection of inspection areas.  For the hour and a half, we happily scooped, inspected and attempted to identify our findings- with a little help from Clare and her handy pocket identification guides.

Figuring out how this net works!

She was determined to find loads of creatures!

The OWLS leader explaining the discoveries

A Damselfly floats above it's picture in the identification guide
There are several more Biodiversity Events being held over the upcoming summer months and after seeing how well organized this particular event was, I'm really looking forward to attending a few more. The "Discover Rock Pooling", "Mini Beast Hunt" and "War of the Beach Sculptures" events all sound perfect for the kids, but there are other events organized through BirdWatch Ireland and Bat Conservation Ireland that also sound pretty interesting! I'm really impressed by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County's biodiversity event efforts. 

Many of the events require pre-booking so be sure to check out the dlr events page for more information.

Peeking in the basin to see more creatures
Sunday we got in the car and drove towards Rathfarnham to Marlay Park. You really don't need a special reason to visit the 247-acre Marlay Park, as it's a fabulous park with two playgrounds, walking trails, tennis courts, duck ponds, football pitches and so much more on offer. On Saturdays and Sundays, Marlay hosts an open farmer's market in the house's courtyard as part of the dlr County Council CoCo Markets program.

Marlay House in the background hosts the CoCo Market in its courtyard

For this sunny weekend day though, we went in search of some friendly, furry creatures that were set up as part of the Wooly Wards mobile petting farm. Lambs, ducks, guinea pigs and more animals were all on display for a hands-on experience. The kids could sit and hold a rabbit, groom a goat or watch the llama, as it kept a watchful eye on the kids! With plenty of Wooly Wards staff within the enclosure, the supervised area provided much enjoyment for all the families.

Thanks Wooly Ward Farms for a great experience!

Grooming a goat 

Harry was delighted to get so close to the animals

Guinea Pigs and Bunnies are held by children 

After about 30 minutes of animal fun, we headed towards the market area to grab lunch and enjoy a picnic. A kick around with the football and some bike riding and scootering for the kids rounded out the afternoon just in time for a nap.

Plenty of space and a beautiful backdrop for a picnic 
If you haven't checked out Marlay Park yet, you should definitely get over there! And luckily, it's not too late to enjoy the Wooly Wards petting farm. There are still 4 more upcoming dates in June and August. For more information on the Wooly Wards dates, check out the dlr events page.  

Hope you all enjoyed a fabulous weekend too and feel free to comment below with any upcoming events that might be of interest to me or my family! I love hearing your recommendations and appreciate all suggestions! 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Seashells from the Irish Sea Shore // Kid's Craft


Inspired by our recent visits collecting sea shells along the Sandymount Strand, my daughter and I worked on a fun little craft yesterday.

Items Needed:
Sea Shells (Cleaned of sand and grit)
Construction Paper
Scissors
Colored Markers
Craft Glue
Washi Tape



Instructions:
1. Use the scissors to cut different sized rectangles
2. Draw several styled frames on your sheets of paper (Inspiration here)
3. Create several prompts to inspire the drawings. While you don't have to use the prompts, it was nice for us to have a bit of direction for this project.
The following are the prompts I prepared for a 3-year old:
  • I added black spots to the shells // she colored the shells in red to look like ladybugs and added a grassy field
  • I drew blue waves for the sea // she colored the shells in green to look like turtles and added a yellow sun
  • I glued the shell dress on a hand-drawn body // she added hair and dress details
  • I glued four shells in the shape of a butterfly and drew the body // she added details to the insect
  • I drew tall green grass // she added shells throughout the field to resemble butterflies
4. Use your markers to add hand drawn details to the shells and paper
5. Use the craft glue to attach the shells to the paper
6. Once the shells are dried, arrange the frames in a gallery display
7. Use washi tape to affix drawings to the wall

Four shells create the butterfly's wings

The green grass needs some visitors... 

Butterflies fluttering through the field

Her placement of the family of turtles all lined in a row

"It looks like a flower, mom!" 

Interesting hair style we've got going here

Coloring the shells in red

Pressing down on the glue to get the ladybug to stick to the grassy field

TA-DA! The finished pieces

Close-ups of our seashell project 
This was a considerably easy, low cost craft to create. As we worked on the project, we talked about our visits to the sea shore and what we found when we were there. I can see many more of these seashell prompted pieces in our future! 

Do you craft with shells, rocks, sea glass or any other items you might find along the sea shores? I'd love to hear about what you're making in the comments section below. Or feel free to send me an email at pies.and.gents@gmail.com with your ideas. As always, thanks so much for reading along!!!! 
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