BOOK REVIEW: POSTSCRIPT BY CECELIA AHERN

Cecelia Ahern’s sequel to P.S. I Love you follows Holly Kennedy 7 years after the death of her husband.

Holly finds herself at a time of peace and contentment in her life when her sister Ciara asks her to partake in a podcast about the letters left for her by her husband Gerry.

Following the podcast, a group called the P.S. I Love You club form and ask Holly to help them write similar letters to their loved ones.

Postscript explores Holly’s emotional battle between the fears the group will demolish her happiness and her desires to help fulfil these people’s last wishes.

This emotional rollercoaster of a sequel is beautifully written by Cecilia Ahern and I found myself in tears at the stories of the P.S. I Love you club members. more than once, it made me think of my own morbidity and how i would react if given the time to plan.

The exploration of Holly’s relationship with each member of the club takes us through the crazy emotional whirlwind of grief, loss, friendship and love.

Alongside her relationships with those in the club, Holly’s relationships with her friends & her “tree man” are the epitome of empathy and unconditional love.

Once into the crux of the book, i couldn’t put this one down.

Cosmo, Belfast (Gifted)

The dreaded terrible two stage has officially hit the Hill household. Temper tantrums and a seriously sassy attitude are bad enough to deal with but worst of all has to be… food fussiness. My wonderful eater who would have tried anything has officially left the building and in her place is a irritable, highly-strung two year old who would happily watch me make two or three dinners each night until we establish what it is exactly that she wants to eat.

This left me jumping for joy when Distinctly PR contacted me and asked would I like to try out COSMO World Buffet Belfast. With live cooking stations and 150 dishes I knew the two year old diva would find something to eat that she liked and if not the chocolate fountain and “ice cream van” ice cream would definitely keep her entertained while her Dad and I got to eat a meal in peace.

Carl and I often bicker when it comes to planning a meal out; Chinese or Italian, Thai or Indian so COSMO suited us down to the ground in that he could have his sushi and I could have my pizza. Truth betold, when we got there, we had a little bit of everything!

I know from speaking to friends with little ones the same age as Annie or older children and teenagers that I am not the only mum struggling with a fussy eater so I couldn’t help but think how super COSMO is for families at birthday’s or other celebration. The city centre location (COSMO is inside Victoria Square), easy parking (they give you discount on your Victoria Square car parking ticket!) and food for all means even large groups could have everyone pleased. The choice really is second to none. From pizza to naan, Sunday roast to black bean you will not be disappointed with the choice.

COSMO was not only great for the choice but the relaxed atmosphere meant that as parents of two young children we could relax and not worry that they were too noisy. The staff were very kind to Annie and were more than accommodating when I needed a bottle heated up for Isa too!

A huge thank you to the team at COSMO World Buffet Belfast for inviting us down! We are already planning our next trip!

If you’d like to book a trip to COSMO you can do so by clicking here.

Low Protein Pizza

We are massive pizza lovers in our house so I knew when I created the #LowProForIsa hashtag that I had to make a pizza!

For me this is super special as it means Isa can pretty much eat the same as us at the dinner table (just with different toppings) but we all don’t eat the same toppings anyway.

P.S. this one is super fun to get the kids in on too! Annie loved it 🀩

So here goes….

Ingredients (per 4 people)

4 tortilla wraps

2 garlic cloves

Tin chopped tomatoes

Garlic Clove

Cheese (low protein cheese for those that need low pro)

Any toppings you’d like (Annie had ham, I had peppers & sweetcorn)

Method

1. Spritz your tortilla wraps with olive oil and rub in on both sides

2. Rub the tortilla wrap with a cut garlic clove

3.Crush one garlic clove into the tin of chopped tomatoes & mix. Spread the tomatos all over but leave a 1cm ring from the edge

4. Apply cheese & your toppings

5. Pop onto a baking sheet and into the oven at 200oc for 10-15 mins

Will you go #LowProForIsa

❕❗I WANT TO SET YOU A CHALLENGE!❕❗ .

If you follow my blog you will know that our world was turned upside down recently when our 3 week old baby girl Isabella was diagnosed with Homocystinuria.

As part of Isa’s treatment for HCU, she will have to follow a low protein diet 😣. For the rest of her life she will get a small amount of protein from her diet and the rest from a supplement. This means she can’t eat meat or animal products🚫.

Essentially she will be a very strict vegan AND gluten free. It means eating out & holidays will be a big challenge for herβ˜€οΈ.

HCU is very rare. In fact she is the 1st person to be diagnosed with HCU in N.I. in 17yrs! Carl and I would love to take it from her but obviously we can’t πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘§. It truly is the hardest thing in the world not to be able to do anything to help her BUT rather than moan about it we want to do as much as we can to make her life easier.


So! We are trying to raise awareness of all the Inherited Metabolic Disorders that have a low protein diet as part of treatment 😊 including HCU e.g. PKU, MCADD, IVA GA1, MSUD. .
As she gets older, we don’t want people to think we are forcing her to be a vegetarian or for people to look at her funny when she brings her own food to a restaurant to cook!

SO! We want to challenge you to cook a LOW PROTEIN meal! It can’t contain anymore than 6g of protein (that will be Isa’s daily maximum!) and we want you to share it on your social media with the hashtag #lowproforIsa

The aim is for as many people to discover that in a world where we want to increase our protein intake for lean bodies, some people need to eat as little protein as possible to stay healthy & alive 😡

Go #LowProForIsaImage by @angelphotographyni

What is Homocystinuria?

On Monday 30th September 2019, our family life was flipped turned upside down when our newborn baby girl was diagnosed with Homocystinuria. Having never heard of it we really had no clue what it meant for Isabella, or for our family. Almost a week later and we have finally had the time to process what this disorder means. We know we have a long road ahead of us but we are ready for it.

So many of you contacted me after I initially posted about Isa’s diagnosis and your well wishes and love was more appreciated that you will ever know. Just like us, many of you wondered what this disorder was and what it meant for our family and Isa in particular. For this reason I thought I would do a blog post on what Homocystinuria is.

Homocystinuria is one of many Inherited Metabolic Disorders.

The science-y bit…

When we eat protein like meat or fish, enzymes in our bodies act like scissors and break down the protein into amino acids. Normally any amino acids that aren’t needed are usually broken down and removed from your body. However people with HCU are missing an enzyme which means they cannot breakdown an amino acid called Methionine. This leads to a build up of Methionine & Homocysteine. It is these two things which cause the problems for Isa and others with HCU.

Isa inherited HCU from her dad and I. This is something I still can’t believe as we never knew (and never would have known) that we were both carriers. It means all our children will have a 25% chance of having HCU.

Isa’s HCU was picked up in her newborn screening (heel prick). If it hadn’t of been discovered her symptoms probably wouldn’t have developed until she was a little older. At that point we would have been looking at vision impairments, osteoporosis, bone and joint issues, blood clots, strokes, brain damage… the list goes on and it doesn’t bare to think about.

Thankfully though, Isa’s consultant has reassured us if her HCU is managed from an early stage, Isa should be ok. If we can keep her Methianine and Homocysteine levels low no symptoms should develop!

6 weeks down and through her treatment plan Isa’s levels are down to a safe range thankfully! It will be a lifelong process though of continual blood tests to make sure that her levels stay safe but we are so proud that she has done so well in such a short space of time!

Building Our Dream Home: Part Four

It is scary to think that this could potentially (probably) be the last Christmas in our current house before the big move to our self built home. When we started the process of applying for planning permission I said each year (with hope) that next year we would be in our new house but as the years passed and more stumbling blocks came our way, I stopped and began to doubt it ever would become reality. Now I say it with excitement that 2020 could be the year we move into our self build!

After our planning permission was passed in early December 2018 we were ecstatic to hit the ground running but *wham* I found out I was pregnant just after Christmas. We really debated whether to begin the build or hold off until after the baby arrived but thankfully with the encouragement of family we struck ground and our foundations began in February 2019. I’m so glad we listened to them. Although I was afraid that we were taking on too much, and of the financial strain, I’m so glad we didn’t waste these eight months.

A few months after the foundations began, our bricklayers had the shell of our house up and the roof started in August 2019. In fact, when I went into hospital for my c-section the roof was just wood and when I came out a couple of days later there was felt & tiles!

We are now almost 8 months from beginning the foundations and our roof is finished, bricklayers are done and the windows are ordered, in fact we will be watertight by Christmas!

Although this is meant to be the quick part, it has been somewhat slower for us as we have had the help of family and friends who work in the industry. This meant some of the work was completed during evenings and weekends but we didn’t mind the hold up- we are just thankful for the help!

Now that we have Isa’s diagnosis (you can read about it here) we are in much more of a hurry to speed things along than we previously were. We have the insulation lined up for the week the windows are done, first fix of electrics has started and the plumbing first fix should begin this week.

Before when people asked me had I an end date I joked “as long as I’m in it before I’m 35 – I’m 27) now I’m firmly set on April 2020 to allow us to move in before I go back to work from my maternity leave and before Isa truly starts on the more complex part of her weaning journey.

It is such an exciting journey for us and we are loving this stage of the build, especially in following along with other accounts on Instagram. I have been trying much harder to pop up on my stories when I’m in show rooms etc!

So here is to the next 7 months. May they fly by and may our home finally be finished 😊

Always look back on how far you’ve come

Sometimes you have to look back and realise how far you have come.

4 years ago I walked out of my job, newly married with no way to pay the bills. It was a job I hated & I dreaded going to work everyday. I had never taken risks before and honestly I still feel like it was the most ballsy thing I’ve ever done but I was petrified and felt like a failure. I got a part time job to make ends meet and 4 years later I now manage that organisation and adore my job, as well as the people I work with.

3 years ago we were facing the harsh realities of IVF and the fear we would never have children. I was petrified I would never get to hold my own baby or get to experience motherhood. Now I’m writing this cuddling my two beautiful girls.

2 years ago we got hit with the stark reality thay we couldn’t get a mortgage to build our family home due to the restrictions on our land. I had always wanted to build on our family land and have my children experience the incredible childhood I was lucky to experience. We thought, screw it we’ll just start and work it out as we go. 2 years later and we are over half we there and should be in by the end of 2020!

Now we’ve been hit with Isa’s diagnosis. This post could be depressing and a “feel sorry for me” post but it isn’t. You see, although Isa’s Homocystinuria diagnosis was the scariest experience to date, I know we can face it head on. We’ve tackled some mental things over the past 4 years but none of them have beaten us yet and none of them will.

No matter what you are going through you can deal with it. You are stronger than it and this curve ball won’t last long. I firmly believe every experience makes you stronger and we are proof that if you don’t give up, you will beat it.

I can look around me tonight and I know that despite the challenges I am hugely, hugely blessed and so are you.

Our New Normal

Our New Normal… Monday 30th September. The day things changed for us forever. It’s funny really. You wake up thinking the day is just like any other and in a split second everything you knew is whipped from beneath you.

Isa was 2 days of turning three weeks old when they told us. You know to panic when you get a call and an appointment with a consultant on the same day. Maybe that is why I don’t remember much, the panic.
Homocystinuria. Such a long name for something such a tiny person has. Something so complicated for someone whose life is so simple. I bet you haven’t heard of it. Either had we. That’s because it is so rare. There’s only a handful of people with it in N.I.

The first few days after Isa was diagnosed whizzed by. Truth be told we cried, googled and cried some more. Trying to process what this meant for our family and how we would move forward. The fear of what could happen to her swamped us.

Five days later and this has become our new normal. We know now life will consist of weekly blood tests and hospital appointments but that’s ok. Now the elephant in the room is actually a mouse and we are ready to tackle this head on. We have some huge challenges ahead of us but we know how lucky we are and how different this could have been if it hadn’t of been picked up early. We know there are many others worse off than us with worse diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plans. We have so much to be grateful for and we sure as hell are going to say thank you every day for the rest of our lives that we know how to keep our little girl safe.

Photography by Angel NI

Introducing Isabella Eve Hill

She’s here 🀩

Finally, after what seemed like the longest pregnancy ever, she is here. Baby Isabella (Isa) Eve Hill was born on 11th September and she has already transformed our little family.

Thankfully everything went well and Isa was born safe and sound via planned c-section in Craigavon Area Hospital (who I can’t thank enough!) – the staff are angels!

This time around we had a planned c-section (Annie was an emergency c-section) so I knew I was going in on Wednesday morning although I have to admit I was incredibly nervous. I had a fantastic experience having a c-section with Annie so throughout my pregnancy I wasn’t worried about the thought of another c-secton, but the night before I couldn’t help but be sick with worry. In fact, I barely spoke to Carl during the trip to the hospital at 6am on Wednesday 11th morning.

When we arrived on the morning of the c-section, everything went smoothly which helped to calm my nerves. We arrived at Craigavon around 6.30am, to give me some time to drink my pre-op drink. We headed into the maternity assessment unit around 7am where the midwives took me straight in to get changed into my gown. A short time later and I met with the midwives/anaethetists to discuss the surgery and sign paperwork. After a little waiting around, plenty of magazine flicking and not much chat, I was called first to surgery at 8.45am. Less than an hour later Isa was born with a little yelp at 9.35am happy and healthy.

Both Annie and Isa were born in Craigavon with the same doctor completing my operation but my goodness the c-section felt different the second time around! People did warn me that my recovery would be longer second time around but I felt the pulling and tugging in Isa’s c-section was definitely more pronounced than Annie’s – lets just say, after those feelings, I’ll not be rushing for a 3rd c-section any time soon!

Apart from being a little anaemic this time my recovery has been great, in fact we got to go home after only one night (two is recommended but I couldn’t wait to get home to Annie). I definitely forgot how much I was knocked off my feet the first time and I think I underestimated how tired I would feel this time around having a two year old and a newborn to look after but it is no more than expected – I couldn’t have a better reason to be tired.

Photography by Angel NI.

New Years Resolutions

This week I have been thinking a lot about my New Years Resolutions. I know as we get older a lot of people eye roll at the thought of setting New Years Resolutions but being honest, I eye roll at the eye rollers!

Why is setting goals and aspirations for the year ahead something to snigger at? Yes I appreciate many will set unrealistic, pointless New Years Resolutions but if they are used right, I think they are a really useful.

Each year around Christmas, I really try to use my time off to think over the past year; what went well, what didn’t go so well, what I loved and what I didn’t like so much. It is from this that I set my New Years Resolutions. From personal goals to work related targets, I think of it all.

Personal New Years Resolutions

Last year I set myself the resolution to plan one activity a month for me. Being a new mum it is easy to forget about you and very often no one else will think to drag you from your sick covered pj’s. Each month I planned something I wanted to do for me whether it was to relax or spend time with friends. I headed to Galgorm Resort and Spa with the girls one month and booked a day trip to Dublin with Carl for another. I really loved that I had something planned to look forward to each month and as it was planned in advance it was easy to organise childcare too! I’ll definitely be keeping this New Years Resolution in play this year!

This year however I want to do something I haven’t done in years; the arts. Recently I went along to Aly Hartes workshop in Boden Coffee Co and it really reignited my love for art. Honestly, since leaving school I think I have forgotten the things I used to love; music, art, drama, reading, writing. We are so wrapped up in our busy lives that we can often forget to take time for us to do something we enjoy just for the fun of it! So thanks to Aly, I’m setting myself the resolution of getting back into the arts! My paints & pencils are purchased, I asked family for some books that caught my eye and I’m looking at how I can work the others into hectic mum life!

Work Related New Years Resolutions

This has become so normal for me to think of aims and targets in work and with our home business. I truly believe in personal development and always striving for better, so much so that I do this every month!

This year though I am setting myself the goal to blog more about business. In work I manage a domiciliary business and at home I manage my husbands business. We both are crazy busy and juggling it all is hectic but both Carl and I love the chaos. I love encouraging others to try something new and to be the best them so I hope you’ll enjoy this new part of the blog.

Carl and I have set our targets for the year for the business for the new year and I have set mine for my job and for me in work – these are two totally different things and should be viewed individually. My goals for what courses I want to do or how I want to develop myself are different to the company goals.

I always keep these totally under wraps but I keep a dream board at home which lets me read my goals everyday and reminds me why I want to hit them. Nothing annoys me more than missing a goal so seeing these everyday is a massive driving force for me.

What are your thoughts on New Years Resolutions? Do you stick to them? Do you try? Are they realistic? Or do you just see them as a pointless activity?

Beauty Review: Dermaplane 24k Gold Facial

Lately I have been so bad at looking after my skin. The lead up to Christmas meant that my mind was focused on other things and even though I know better, I resorted back to soap & water, high street cheapie moisturisers and I’m pretty sure my make up brushes have a second skin (yuck!). I had been researching facials that were good for exfoliation and magically a few days later Tamlyn McNeilly contacted me to try out a Dermaplane 24k Gold Facial with her!

What is Dermaplane?

After researching different exfoliating facials Dermaplane jumped out at me for its deep exfoliation. Dermaplane is a manual exfoliation that removes up to three weeks worth of dead skin and peach fuzz or baby hair from your face without causing it to grow back thicker or darker.

What happens during a Dermaplane 24k Gold Facial?

After cleansing, a sterile, surgical scalpel is used to gently “shave” along the skins surface, removing the top layer of dead skin along with peach fuzz. This is totally pain free and actually relaxing! Afterwards a face mask is applied to sooth the skin – maximising the relaxation!

What are the benefits of Dermaplane?

After the treatment my skin felt silky smooth. My make up went on much easier (it even encouraged me to wash my brushes) as the treatment is designed to leave a flawless base for applying make up. It also has no downtime and the results last for up to 6 weeks – making my life much easier as trying to fit in time for facials at the minute is not easy! As it is a deep exfoliation it also helps your skin absorb any products applied afterwards. This helps to soothe and hydrate your skin afterwards.

Some other benefits include:-

  • Reducing the appearance of acne scars
  • Diminishing the look of fine lines
  • It works on most skin types (Tamlyn can advise you better on your skin type and if the treatment is suitable for you)

My skin has been insanely congested for around 3/4 months now but I noticed a huge difference post facial. Tamlyn showed me what came from my skin after the facial (prepare yourself!) and it is no wonder my skin feels smoother and my make up is applying easier.

Tamlyn was so kind throughout my treatment. It was obvious she wanted me to get the most relaxation from the treatment (perfect for mums with extreme exhaustion levels!) but I loved that she also talked me through the process so that I knew what to expect.

You can check out Tamlyn’s Instagram page here and her Facebook page here.

#gifted

Talking Bathrooms with Bassetts

Now that we have (finally!) got moving again on our self-build I am obsessing over interiors and dreaming of what our future home will look like. From bold bathrooms to quaint kitchens my mind is swamped thinking of what I want (and a little bit of what will be easiest to clean). With that being said, I was over the moon when Bassetts invited me down to check out some of their new bathroom pieces in their Boucher Road showroom.

Coming from a family of plumbers, Bassetts was a name that I grew up hearing a lot – if they could satisfy grumpy plumbers searching for bathroom pieces, surely they had to be good (disclaimer: I presume not all plumbers are grumpy, it could be just the plumbers in my childhood home?)

Here are my top three reasons why you should check out your local Bassetts showroom:

Great Customer Service

Klaire and Giles in Bassetts Boucher Rd showroom kindly showed me and Annie around when we called down and not only was I impressed with the range of bathroom suites on offer but they were very accommodating and kind to Annie and I. It isn’t easy taking a 17 month old around showrooms but they made it easy for me to have a good look around.

Something for Everyone

I was surprised to find there was something for everyone. From pastels to metallics, statement pieces to smaller pieces I loved that I could find something for all three bathrooms in our self build. Bassetts also regularly update their displays and a few of the displays I seen had only been recently placed in the showroom.

Wealth of Knowledge & Experience

From the outset, Claire took an interest in our self-build and helping us in our bathroom decisions. We chatted about how our ensuite is much smaller than we had first expected but she quickly showed me some displays and explained how we could maximise the space and have a beautiful bathroom. It was obvious she knew her stuff and was able to recommend pieces for each individual customer which I loved.

Self-building is no easy task but coming across people who want to help you make the best, informed decisions is fantastic. I really appreciated the team taking the time to talk over our bathroom dilemmas and help advise on possible solutions. Thankfully, I have a better idea on the style of bathrooms I want throughout the house now – a big benefit from having seen a wide range of styles and options today.

If you are on the hunt for a bathroom, Bassetts have showrooms in Portadown, Bangor, Belfast, Clady, Coleraine, Downpatrick, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Lisburn, L’derry, Mallusk, Newry or Omagh.

*A huge thank you to the team in Bassetts for inviting me down to check out their showroom. Although this was a paid post all opinions are my own and I am already planning another trip.