2 Years and counting…

I can’t believe we’ve been married for 2 years.

2 years.

And now I’m on bridesmaid duties for my little sister!

Where does the time go? If you’d asked me 2 years ago where I thought we’d be now… it probably wouldn’t have been living in a mobile home in my parent’s garden with a sassy pomeranian. That’s just it though- we can plan all we want but it might not work out as we expect it to, and our wedding pretty much went that way too.

About 10 weeks before our wedding date my lovely Granda was diagnosed with a brain tumour – the third time in his life that he’d had cancer, and although he’d beaten it before, deep down we all knew what it meant. So the wedding was off, then it was on, then it was off, then it was on…off, on, off, on, off… and finally we sat down with Nanny and asked what we should do, because literally no-one could give us an answer. She told us Granda wouldn’t have wanted us to postpone the wedding and to go ahead, twelve short days after he passed away in the wonderful Southern Area Hospice.

The next morning was weird. All of a sudden there were no more hospital visits, no more days in the hospice, no more visitors trailing constantly through the door and we had to get into wedding mode. We had to get excited, or at least try. My plan all along had been to make a lot of things by hand myself and whilst I’d been futtering (footering? How do we spell that one?) at what I could, there was still a lot to do and it was a bit of a scramble to get to all together.

We wanted a wedding that was sparky and festive but, as per usual,  we didn’t want it to break the bank, and somehow we achieved it, despite it all. It was strange day without Granda, but we managed to enjoy it and find ways to honour his memory, including a collection for the hospice that looked after him so carefully.

My dress was a sample dress- originally a £1400 strapless fishtail that I had altered to a fit and flare with a boatneck top and sheer sleeves, and the bridesmaid dresses came from eBay, collectively costing about half the original price of my dress. I didn’t go looking for a sample sale, but I was chuffed at finding my dress that way.

The week before the wedding saw many 2am bedtimes (so much for ‘beauty sleep’ before the big day) as I sat making the crocheted flower hairpieces and assembling the bouquets for bridesmaids and flower girls from the bags of white crochet flowers my aunt had been helping me with. I wanted something unique for my bouquet so made it entirely from roses that I crocheted myself, with lace, pearls and angelina fibres woven through it- and I still love it.

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Paddy and I had gone down to our church the day before and decorated it with holly and ivy around the front steps, tea lights in jam jars decorated with silver bells on the window sills and baby’s breath sprayed with sparkling, silver glitter held on the end of each pew by a floaty white organza bow.

Our reception was held at The Mill at Ballydugan, a beautifully renovated old 18th century mill, with rustic stone walls and low wooden beams. We had little to do to get the look we wanted as they had already decorated with Christmas trees and garlands, but we made our mark with DIY centre pieces (glittery baby’s breath in a jar of diamonte and glitter water, sitting on a log slice surrounded by tea lights),  our seating plan was a 4ft tree (featuring Santa and his reindeer) and our favours were little personalised wooden decorations.

The biggest hand-made hurdle of all was the cake; with the help of a talented friend, it too was homemade. We spent 13 and a half pain-staking hours, baking, icing and decorating our wedding cake. If you take nothing else from this post, remember this: never, ever make your own wedding cake. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but nothing is worth that level of stress. And then you realise you have to transport the thing.

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Our wedding wasn’t exactly cheap as chips, but it wasn’t the £20,000-£50,000 extravaganza that weddings can be, and we still have lots of the little bits and pieces we made for the wedding floating about the house (well… mobile… you get the drift). How many brides can say they still have their wedding bouquet sitting in their living room? It was lots of hard work, stress, tears and a couple of tantrums but it was so completely worth it to say we made our day ourselves.  Strangely enough, we’re just as married, and just as happy as everyone who spent 5 times the amount we did, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

It was a weird, exciting, sad, happy, joy-filled, tear-filled, LOVE-filled day that we’ll always cherish.

Gillian x

P.S. If you make a charitable donation at Christmas, please consider a local hospice – they help the families through difficult times as much as they do patients.

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Disneyland at 25

  For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Disneyland. I still remember the adverts showing the family the night before their trip- the mum shouting at the kids to go to sleep, with the kids replying that they couldn’t, because they were too excited, closely followed by their father making the same admission.
  Disneyland was only a small part of our trip to Paris and I had imagined that I’d be slightly less excited at the prospect of going at the ripe old age of 25, but that wasn’t so. In the least creepy way possible, I turned into a little girl again the moment I stepped off the train. I couldn’t contain it, I was buzzing with excitement and beaming from ear to ear.
  The park is celebrating being around for as long as I have, and a part of me thought it would show that age a little with the daily wear and tear of thousands of visitors, but I was wrong about that too. In the moments during the day where I realised I was actually an adult (few and far between as they were- in fairness, I am the height of some children), I couldn’t get over how clean it all was. Even the ground was immaculate; we were able to sit on the pavement and there was barely dust on our jeans. There wasn’t a plant out of place, a spot of chipped paint or a light left unshone. There was nothing that wasn’t pristine- nothing that could risk breaking the illusion.

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  We were amazed by how every cast member maintained character, their whole attitude and demeanour mirrored exactly those that we see on screen, to the point where you could forget that they weren’t real. It’s the kind of place you can forget your adult responsibilities and truly enjoy what’s around you- I literally found myself grabbing Paddy and saying “Oh look! There’s Micky and Minnie!”, when realistically I know it’s just a short dude in a mouse costume; you get caught up in the ‘magic’ and forget.
  The park is so untouched by the world outside it’s bounds it’s hard to remember that it isn’t real life. (Shout out to everyone who works there, because honestly, if I had to be that perky all the time, I would crack UP.) There’s nothing sad, nothing scary (unless you don’t like giant mice/people in costumes/rollercoasters) – only joy, excitement, colour and fun!
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  We spent the day exploring each of the ‘lands’ in the park, hopping on the rides, meeting Micky Mouse (obviously, who disapproved of Paddy’s outfit of choice, apparently he’s a French rugby fan) and enjoying the most elaborate float parade we’ve ever seen and the ‘Disney Illuminations’ at the end of the day. There’s no point in trying to explain it all: you just have to go for yourself to see it! I guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time, in fact I think I nearly have the family convinced we need another trip!
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It really is the happiest place on earth – we can’t wait to go again!
Gillian x

The Country Blog Retreat

A couple of months back, one of my favourite bloggers, Emma (@littlewoodlife) started chatting in her insta stories about doing a blog retreat, but also mentioned that she’s had overwhelming response to the idea and there was more interest than there was tickets, so to be quick to snap one up when they went up for sale.

Well, that’s that then. I missed the boat.

A couple of weeks later I was on Instagram again (honestly, I do more than just sit on Instagram all day), and Emma mentioned that there were a few tickets left. So I went straight to her website and looked at the itinerary before asking Paddy what he thought of me going. I half expected him to laugh; I’d only started, I wasn’t a ‘real’ blogger, and why would I want to go on my own to sit in a room of people I’d never met? To my surprise he said ‘buy your ticket and go!’, and had to endure the next 7 weeks or so of my count down. (Again, I do get out.)

So off I set on Sunday morning, leaving my sick husband in bed, stricken with the man flu, and the mobile in a mess in the vain hope the cleaning fairies would visit while I was out being fancy. (Spoiler: they didn’t.) When I arrived at the beautiful Larchfield Estate I sat in the car for a few minutes for fear that I was a fish out of water.

Everyone around me looked amazing. To put it into country terms: there was some style, hey. Not one person hadn’t made an exceptional effort and they were all so glamorous. All these women that I had been following and admiring were in there and who was I to walk in by myself and try to be part of their crowd? There’s almost a perception that bloggers can be catty, their friendships fraudulent and their lives so perfect they’re untouchable.

And how wrong that perception is.

We spent the afternoon chatting, taking photos (obviously!), wandering around the stunning walled garden of the estate, enjoying a gourmet afternoon tea and learning from the best of Northern Ireland’s bloggers (@blossomingbirds, @sisters_and_sons, @melwiggins, @thebretonbird, @all.thats.pretty), who admitted to their own nerves at the thought of having to speak. All in a room lit with fairy lights. It was wonderful.

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It turns out, when you put 140 or so women – and few brave men – into a room together it doesn’t look like a scene from Mean Girls; they encourage each other, they encourage creativity, they chat, they laugh, they take photos, they make friends and then they go home with their goody bags and Instagram about it!

Two months ago I was scared of writing my blog, and more so of people reading it. Now, I feel part of this strange little community in Northern Ireland and inspired (now we’re getting soppy) to keep writing on my little corner of the internet.

Gillian x

The Budget Wedding Guest

Weddings are expensive. No matter what part you play in it, they still cost. I’m always honoured to be invited to anyone’s wedding, but there’s always an expectation there. It may not even be from the bride and groom, but when we are invited to a wedding, we as guests spend money on a new dress, new shoes, a new clutch, new jewellery, a fascinator or hairpiece, an up-do, a tan, a professional makeup job, nails… it goes on.  Simply because we feel we have to. It almost seems rude not to make the effort for the couple on their Big Day. As much as I would love to spend money on all of that, I simply can’t. I can’t justify using what would be on a whole months savings on looking good for one day.

I was invited to my very good friend’s wedding on the 24th of August. I’ve known her since I started secondary school and couldn’t have been more excited to be there to celebrate with her. It was a beautiful wedding, and I’ve never seen a groom with more admiration for his new wife. Tissues were required.

Obviously I wanted to keep up with the crowd and look my best, but I had to keep it within a savings-friendly budget. Here’s how I put myself together for the big day:

Dress

I was going to wear something I already had and decided to pick something from either my own wardrobe or my two sisters’ wardrobes closer to the time, but we ended up finding a little floral shift dress in the Marks and Spencer sale for a very extravagant £11. I’m a solid 10 and at a (generous) size 8 it was a bit of a squeeze, but I couldn’t resist buying something new for the sake of a tenner. If it zips, it fits.

Fascinator

Ebay. I reaaaaally struggled to find a fascinator that was the right colour, and, to be frank, didn’t look like something had landed on my head and died. Why is it you can never find something when you’re looking for it? I ended up googling it, which has lead me to some great bargains in the past. I tentatively ordered one from a UK based seller for £16.99, hoping it would arrive looking like the picture. To my surprise, it actually did, and came with both a headband and a clip to accommodate the hairstyle I hadn’t yet thought of.

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Shoes

Pink, satin, peep-toe stilettos, bought in the Karen Millan shop sale in Kildare outlet village about 4 years ago for about 40 euros. I’m pretty sure a light shone on those shoes the moment I walked into the shop. I didn’t need them then, but I wanted them. I can’t lie, they hurt so bad after about 2 hours, but they’re perfect for an event where there’s lots of sitting and where it’s later acceptable to remove them.

I’d show you a close-up, but they’re a little scuffed. 😬

Hair, Nails and Makeup

DIY. As I’ve said before, I’m no ‘MUA’ but I can put my face on fairly well, especially when I’m taking my time with it. I tried my first cut crease using pink and plum tones – nothing like trying something new 2 hours before a wedding- and it wasn’t awful.  My hair had been in benders the night before to curl it so was a little bit out-of-control by the time I got them out, but after a minor meltdown and the help of my sister it submitted into a soft, half-up style with a bit of a vintage vibe to it. Jenny also did my nails with gel polish in fuchsia pink to match my shoes and fascinator – who needs a salon when you have sisters?!

And there you have it – total cost: £27.99 and favours owed. And without wanting to sound narcissistic, I think I looked as well as everyone else.

Gillian x

Donard Carfest

For the past few years, my church (Newcastle Baptist Church) has ran a charity car show called ‘Donard Carfest’, and today was the third show in aid of our local charity the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. It’s gotten to be pretty big in the short time its been running and we get lots of cars coming from all over Northern Ireland to win the trophy prize awarded to the best of the cars, selected from a modified and classic section.

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It’s one of my favourite church events, not only because we get to share our love of cars (and our family really does looooove cars), but also our faith – and even just getting to chat to so many people we’d normally never really stop and have a conversation with in our own community is one of the perks of the day.

My position so far has been around the ‘tea tent’. Besides the fact that I get to nibble buns all day … I lost count after the 4th, but I’m pretty sure I’m in double figures at this point… offering people tea and coffee with a bun is something I really enjoy. (Also, I can’t direct cars, stewarding is not for me. Tray-bakes are.)

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I know in this modern world of feminism and equality people get agitated and upset at the thought of the women dealing with the food whilst the men do manly things like checking cars, but I don’t do it because it’s expected of me, I do it out of choice. (And I’m not saying that men can’t do it either.) I enjoy greeting people with a smile, seeing them smile back, and sharing some light hearted banter whilst I explain to them which buns I have tried and approved of. (Quality control is important).

It’s a simple task, but I feel like it can add to somebody’s day, and even break down the perceived barrier between the people in the church and the community around us. We’re no different; we aren’t holier-than-thou, we aren’t self-righteous, and our tea and buns don’t taste any better because we made them, we’re just normal people who love God, and want to show love to the people around us. And if that means I’m a woman in a stereotypical role making tea, so be it!

Gillian x

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P.S. We raised just over £1,000 for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. Yay!

P.P.S. Yes, that’s an Aston Martin DB6. A girl can’t miss the opportunity for a photo in James Bond’s car.

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