A bank holiday weekend in Ireland

Ever since I was a little girl I've had a fascination with Ireland. I couldn't tell you why as I have zero Irish heritage and I don't even think my parents have ever stepped foot on the Emerald Isle. I once declared to my mum that I was going to have an Irish husband. I don't know how the obsessession started but I just knew it was going to be a country that I would love before I even had a chance to visit. I totally didn't only start talking to my boyfriend when I realised his very Irish name is due to the fact his dad is Irish... Now thanks to his Irish heritage I've been across the water quite a few times now and it really is one of my happy places. A place where I can never grow tired of visiting.  As soon as I see those rolling green hills I feel all my troubles just melt away.

My friend Hannah is also Northern Irish and her parents have a holiday home along the Causeway Coast. They very kindly let us gatecrash for the bank holiday weekend. And it was glorious! Along with Sarah and Michelle, we based ourselves just outside Bushmills for a weekend of exploring the Causeway Coast which has to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

I'm going to go into more details on my favourites parts in other posts so this is just an overview. We crammed a hell of a lot into a weekend! So where did we visit? No trip to this part of the world is complete without witnessing the wonder of the Giant's Causeway. It really is stunning. We saw lots of castle ruins, Kinbane Castle, Carrickfergus Castle and Dunluce castle spring to mind. We spent the afternoon in Belfast eating burgers and exploring the Botanic Gardens and seeing the Game of thrones tapestry at the Ulster Museum. We stopped for a delicious red velvet slab of cake at Ballintoy Harbour and had a tasty ice cream in Ballycastle. We went on a pretty special hike in Glenariff Forest Park to see some amazing waterfalls. And we made sure we stuffed ourselves silly on Taytos. If you don't know what they are then you are missing out!

I had such an incredible weekend away with some of the best girls I know. It's so nice to spend a weekend with people on the same wavelength as me - and are just as little piggies as me! Surround yourself with girls who see cake stops as vital stops on a road trip. I'm actually back in Belfast again in two weeks to see Biffy Clyro so I'll see you soon Ireland!


Buying a house 101: what to consider when you buy a doer upper home

When we were looking at a home to buy, we came to the conclusion that we could either buy a really nice flat which didn't need much doing to it or buy a house which needed a LOT of work. We came to the conclusion that we would eventually have to move from a flat within a few years, it was never going to be a 'forever' home. Whereas we could buy a two bedroom house and really be able to stay there and build a home. We could take our time really doing it up to our tastes without having to worry about spending all the money and then having to room because we would outgrow it.  Taking on a doer upper is a huge task and at times it can feel too much. It's not for the lighthearted at all! But if you want to go down the same path as us then there are a few things I think you should consider...

1. Work out what your budget is to do the renovations and double it. We were pretty lucky that my dad is very handy so we have saved a hell of a lot on labour costs. But not everyone has this resource! Labour is probably the most expensive part of saving for a house and it's very easy to forget about it. Costs tend to spiral out of control and you have to be prepared for it!

2.  Dealing with structural issues is so much more expensive than dealing with cosmetic issues. make sure you have a full survey if you're buying a doer upper. That way you don't have any nasty surprises waiting for you when you start the work.

3. Consider which rooms are the most important to you and which rooms you can live without doing. For us we wanted to make sure the downstairs looked ok so we decided to concentrate on the kitchen and the living room. You'll have to accept that it won't all get done at once and it will be a work in progress. You have to order each room in importance.

4. Be prepared to live in a building site for a while. The reality is you simply won't have the money to overhaul the house completely - unless you're very lucky! We ran out of money within a few months and now have to live in a half done house for at least a year in order for is to save up to do another project.

5. We used a few tradesmen for jobs that my dad couldn't do such as plastering and electrics. Always make sure you get a tradesman that someone has used before and has been recommended. Don't just pick one out of the yellow pages. Ask around friends and family to find people you can trust.


Five ways to make time for each other when you live together

It's funny isn't it that when you move in with a partner you never really see them despite living with them? Although I see Connor every day, I don't really spend much time with him. We both work long hours, come in from work and have dinner, chat for about an hour then go about our business that we need to do in order to get ready for the next day and off to bed we go, ready to do it all again the next day. It's very rare that we spend quality time together, we're usually rushing around. My cousin's girlfriend once said to me that you need to schedule in time with each other when you live together. At the time I thought it was the most absurd thing but it is so true. You need to otherwise you're very much in danger in becoming ships that pass in the night. Here are five ways to make time for each other when you live together.

Sunday night film club
This was actually Connor's idea but we haven't quite it into practise yet as we've been out every Sunday since he suggested it. But it is a brilliant idea! Each week have an early dinner, choose a film from Amazon or Netflix and settle down to watch it. I know you don't talk during films but it encourages you to leave your phone upstairs and spend some time together on the sofa.

Go for a walk after dinner
We're lucky enough to live right on the common and it's a great place to have a stroll. There's even a cracking pub about a ten minute walk away which is a great incentive! We really do need to make more of an effort to visit it. Make the most of the warmer evenings and lighter nights by taking a little walk after you've eaten.

Have a gin tasting evening indoors
Or vodka. Or whiskey. Or whatever spirit tickles your fancy. I'm lucky enough to be part of the Sipsmith Sipping Society* which means I get sent two special edition bottles of gin every other month. They come with cocktail recipes and recommendations of what to pair them with.

Eat dinner at the table
This might sound like a silly one but I mean really eat at the table. We eat every night at the table but as soon as we scoff our food, we pop the plates in the dishwasher and go turn separate ways in the house. On a weekend make it into more of a big deal. Use your nicest crockery, pop a bunch of flowers or candles on the table, open a bottle of wine and really sit there and talk. Treat it as if you're in a restaurant if you will. Pout your phones away and really sit and chat away until your hearts content.

Go for a drive
Sometimes you just need to get out of the four walls. We used to do the a lot and it seems to have fallen by the wayside at the minute but I'm keen to get it back started again. If we had a spare afternoon at the weekend, we'd jump in the car and go for a drive around our county of Essex. It could be somewhere we've been before or somewhere we've heard someone mention. It usually consists of a nice pub trip for lunch and a wander around the town or village. You can make it as cheap or as expensive as you like.

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