Thursday, May 25, 2017

Family Holiday Ideas | An Ocean Cruise ♥


I've shared some lovely family holiday ideas on the blog before, as well as our own family holidays over the years, but today I thought I'd write about a holiday we haven't experienced yet, but one which I think is ideal for families - ocean cruising.

Our annual family holiday is something we look forward to all year round - from the moment we get back from the holiday we've just had actually. Travelling is something we really enjoy and we believe that it's important to share the joy of travelling with our children, after all, what better way to learn than experiencing the world?

We live in one of the most popular cruise ports in the world and seeing the big, luxurious ships come into and dock in the harbour on an almost daily basis during the summer, has left me longing to take my family on some ocean cruises of very our own and experience a different kind of holiday, at sea.

Jacek has already been on a cruise around the Mediterranean and he can't speak highly enough about it. He's made it all sound quite whimsical - being on one holiday on a big, beautiful ship, but waking up in a new destination almost every morning - sounds wonderful, right? This all sounds so appealing to me, because although I do love travelling, I'm not overly fond of the whole transport of it all - taking young children on busy trains and long bus rides isn't a joy of mine. So the ease of cruising sounds amazing to me.

I think an ocean cruise holiday is something we'd all enjoy. Having a cabin to relax in, pools and other attractions to enjoy on the ship - all in close proximity so the children would be well entertained and being able to explore the different destinations that we sail into. It sounds so idyllic to me and the perfect holiday option for a family.

The Caribbean would be my ideal destination for a cruise, stopping by all those beautiful white sand islands would be an absolute dream, but I also love the idea of a Norwegian fjord cruise - like the one Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks and her family enjoyed, would be amazing too. Imagine the photo opportunities of that beautiful landscape!

Also, with ocean cruising, there are cruise destinations all over the world, meaning that if you and your family already have an area or destination that you'd like to explore in mind, you can almost guarantee that it's covered by a cruise route (unless it's inland of course!).

An ocean cruise is something we're definitely going to experience as a family for one of our holidays one year. It's just something that we have to save up for and I know that the experience, luxury and adventures we'll have, will be well worth the money.

Have you and your family ever been on a cruise? Can you recommend any beautiful destinations?

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The Garden of My Dreams ♥

These days I always seem to spend my time wandering around gardens - whether it be my own, my parents or local gardens open to the public. My love of flowers and nature always has me wanting to get out and about, discovering new beauty spots and pretty plants and flowers to photograph.

I think it's so important to get some fresh air every day, especially for the little ones and as I'm now a mother of two very active and playful little boys, I think having a lovely outdoor space for them to enjoy is so important.

We currently live in a rented house with a pebble covered garden - not exactly ideal for little ones or very comfortable for sitting out in during the summer months, hence why I always prefer to go out to my parents huge garden on sunny days, it's beautiful out there and is very close to how I would envision my dream garden to be - very cottage inspired, full of flowers and lots of places to explore.

I've spoken on the blog before about how I'd love for us to grow our own fruit and vegetables as a family, so a greenhouse would be a key element in my dream garden. I'd also love a cosy seating area with a veranda on top, possibly to have wisteria growing on as I think that's such a beautiful flower and love how it hands down.

Although I would love some neat lawn in my dream garden too, I've also envision having a wildflower meadow of sorts too - perfect for me to gaze at and a perfect photo opportunity spot too. I think some quality landscape design would really help me create my vision.

I like gardens with a bit of chaos to them and love seeing a carpet of wild flowers with splashes of different colours in flowerbeds. My dream garden would have lots of poppies, giant daisies, lavender, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths, all of which make for perfect photo opportunities in the different seasons, as well as being pretty to look at too.

So those are the things that would feature in the garden of my dreams. I hope one day when we have a house of our own that we can make all these things a reality and have an outdoor space that we can all enjoy.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

12 Months of Beau Samuel James ♥

I've taken a picture of this beautiful little babe of mine, every month on the 19th ever since he was one month old. I love having all of these together to look back on and even though the pictures aren't as perfect as I hoped or envisioned, I love that I have these keepsakes of him and how he changed each month in his first year. I love this cheeky, happy little babe so much.
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5 Ways To Beautify Your Outdoor Space ♥

Outdoor home decoration is every bit as important as interior decoration and as an outdoors lover I definitely stand by this.

When a person approaches your home first thing he or she will notice is it's surroundings and garden (if you have one) and for the majority of us, keeping the outside of our houses looking lovely is just as important as having the inside looking beautiful.

Everyone knows I'm a flower lover and after becoming bored with how drab the outside of my house looked, I decided to invest in some beautiful pink window boxes and pots, to plant some beautiful seasonal blooms in.

I can't even begin to tell you the difference it now makes to me, pulling up outside my house and seeing some pretty flowers outside. I've even received compliments on the look of my house and they're really lovely to hear.

It's been proven that quality of life improves significantly if you are living in a clean and neat environment and I know I'm always a lot happier when my window boxes are in full bloom outside and the house is clutter-free (which is quite rare, I do have two small children after all...).

I thought I'd share some simple yet effective ideas on how to spruce up the outside of your house and your outdoor spaces.

Focus on flowers
Although most homeowners prefer having a neat lawn, it can sometimes come across as quite plain - I know I pass houses on a daily basis and notice the lack of colour in their gardens. It's my dream to have a wildflower garden someday, so I'm definitely not a fan of the neat lawn look.

Planting flowers is a simple way of making your house stand out and inject some personality into your garden and the great thing about flowers that you can remove them and plant something else if you get fed up or want a seasonal look to your outdoor space.

You don't even need to have a garden to grow flowers or plants. Window boxes are a great option, as are plant pots outside your door and I think the whole of London has photographed that fab house in London with the wisteria climbing up it's wall and gates (house of dreams!).

Hedge's can help as well
Like flowers, a hedge surrounding your property can be a great way of giving a beautiful look to your garden, however, there is another and better reason why you should get one - privacy!

If you don't want prying eyes looking into your garden (who does?!) then this is a great way to seclude yourself and close off your space, making it perfectly private.

A hedged garden is also a great option for those who have young children. A hedge helps to close off the garden and keep children in, leaving them able to play safely without wandering off - I grew up in a house with a hedged garden and it was the perfect play area.

Get a pool
Now, for someone like myself, having a pool is the stuff of dreams, but for most homeowners the thought of having a pool can have a lot of negativity - they can be expensive, they need a lot of maintenance and fixing over time and things such as pool pumps and accessories can be really troublesome.

Regardless of this, pools are something that should always be considered even if it’s only a dream. A pool can be an amazing focal point for a back garden and the rest of your garden can then have some landscape design to compliment the pool area. They are great for kids and for swimming and I know a pool would definitely be something we'd get if we ever had the money.

Pretty patios
Most homeowners see a patio as space where you put several tables and chairs and where your family can get together for drinks or meals al fresco, but a patio can also serve as something else.

It can be a special, semi-covered area of the backyard where you can retreat during summer. It is the best way to enjoy the sun and breathe fresh air. I've seen so many pretty patio ideas on Pinterest, with people using lights and verandas to create cosy, beautiful spaces and I would love to have a space like that in my own garden.

A lick of paint
Paint colour choices for your house and front door can make a big impact on the look of your home. My dream house would be pale pink with white windowsills and a white door, but I've seen rows of pastel houses and ones with shocking pink doors which look absolutely amazing!

It's amazing what a lick of paint can do to totally transform the look of your home - inside and out.

I hope I've given you some inspiration for embracing the outdoor areas of your home and making them a beautiful space for you to love and enjoy all year round.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Bittersweet Feelings Of A Baby's First Birthday ♥

Birthday's are such a joyous occasion, aren't they? Or are they?

I don't know about anyone else, but my own birthday's always seem to leave me in a bit of a deflated mood. Maybe it's because the older I've gotten, the years have sped by in lightning speed, leaving me feeling as if I haven't accomplished all that I should have 'at my age'... but when it came to celebrating my youngest son's first birthday, I thought it would be a day full of joy and happiness, and for the most part it was, but there was also this niggling, bittersweet feeling of sadness floating over me too.

I don't remember feeling like this when it was eldest son's first birthday - probably because with him, I was always looking forward to the next milestone, wishing his life away if you will. With my second son, I find myself desperately trying to hold onto his babyness, clutching onto every last baby trait I possibly can and I think this is all because the realisation has hit me that he very may well be my last baby.

After him there may be no more monthly milestone pictures to take, no big milestones to look out for, no more sleepy newborn cuddles, no more adorable little baby outfits and blankets - baby blankets are my absolute weakness, no more little baby feet, no more first birthdays to celebrate and no more pregnancies.

I think it's the 'no more pregnancies' part that is really playing on my mind and it's strange because I'll be the first to tell you that I hate pregnancy - the first made me feel like I was dying everyday and the second just made me want to sleep due to feeling like I was carrying a ton weight around - but do I really hate it after all?

I guess I hate the way pregnancy leaves me feeling, but in reality, I love all the rigmarole that goes with it - the scans, the guessing what/who your baby will look like, choosing names, being looked after by my partner, the feeling of having something to look forward to, the sickening excitement of knowing you could go into labour at any given moment... am I ready to say goodbye to that? I know my partner is, but for me, I don't know if I'm fully committed to putting my womb into redundancy just yet.

A baby's first birthday is such an emotional time for a mother - and perhaps for a father too, although this wasn't the case with my partner. I think it's the first big step towards a baby really 'growing up' and moving on that path to independence and becoming a proper little boy or girl with a whole personality and mind of their own.

I love the baby days, or months rather, and am left feeling so sad that they have passed by so quickly, but also so grateful for the beautiful memories and days we've had together over this past year.

So if you're like me and feeling quite sad and bittersweet on your baby's first birthday, rest assured that it's perfectly normal and expected.

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8 Easy Tips For Creating A Photo Shoot With Your Children ♥

I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I claim to be, but I really do love having little photo shoots with my two sons and it's actually something I look forward to when we go on family days out or have an occasion or holiday to style for.

I love capturing them on camera - I don't think it's be wrong to call them my muses and I'm so happy that I begun having these little photo shoots with them and have been able to capture them through their ages, their adorable little expressions, personalities and memories with pictures that will last a lifetime.

Nowadays I get a lot of compliments on my photography, which always flatters me and brings a smile to my face, but back when my eldest was a baby I didn't even own a proper camera and my pictures were awful, but overtime I've found my way around a DSLR and have stumbled across some tricks to capture beautiful images of my boys.

I thought I'd share my top tips for any other parents out there who want to create a photo shoot with their own children and capture some beautiful images of their own (quite easily!) too.

For anyone who's wondering, I use a Nikon D3200 and have three lenses ranging from a 55mm to a 200mm. I have recently begun using Lightroom as an editor, but before then I used Fotojet and PicMonkey.

1. Make sure your children are happy and have their needs met before even going near them with a camera. I've learnt this lesson the hard way - you do not want to try and take pictures of a hungry or overtired baby, believe me! Make sure their fed and watered, have been to the toilet/had their nappy changed and aren't tired or due a nap.

I share my 'raining petals' pictures with the baby on my Instagram @dollydowsie - I must feature them on the blog someday soon too.

2. Bring along props. I honestly can't tell you how lovely props can be for really making an image all the more wonderful. We do a woodland Easter egg hunt every year and I always get compliments on my set up - even though it's just some fancy eggs on sticks and old fabric bunting, but they really help to make the image all the more magical - for the kids and for the people viewing the pictures.

You can see the set up of my annual Easter egg hunt photo shoots here.

3. Use nature as your backdrop. Honestly, I hate shooting inside and avoid it at all costs. I bring the boys outdoors and use the woods, meadows, fields and gardens as backdrops to my photos of them - and why not, it's free and oh so beautiful too. It also creates some great photo opportunities too when your kids start exploring the nature around them.

I use nature as a backdrop in almost all of my photo shoots and you can see more of my photography here and on my other blog Fawns and Fables.

4. Seek natural light. Again, this is me promoting the outdoors, but that really is where all the natural light is. However, if for some reason you can't shoot outdoors, take pictures as close to the windows as possible. Natural light really does make a photo and it's so important for capturing a clean, bright image, rather than a horrible dark and gritty one.

Our trip to Gougane Barra made way for me to capture lots of gorgeous pictures of my eldest son flooded in natural light. Some magical shots for us to treasure forever.

5. Embrace the candid. There once was a time when I thought taking a picture of children meant having them looking at the camera and smiling, these days I know that some of the best captures are the most candid ones, where they're looking away from the camera, have a sweet or funny little natural expression on their face and are just doing their own thing. Avoid getting your child to look at the camera and say 'cheese', those shots are ten a penny, letting them do their own thing is when the real magical moments are captured.

One of the most candid little photo shoots I've had with my boys was our trip to the woods on New Years Eve. I love these photos so much.

6. Shoot in sports mode. This is something I do regularly as I have two very fast moving little boys. Shooting in sports mode means that I can capture a batch of photos at once and they won't be blurry - even when my four year old is running away from me.

7. Set up a scene. This is something I'm fond of doing in my pictures and I love having a theme - that being flowers and nature. For the baby I love popping him in a sink bath with lots of bubbles and having lots of flowers around him. Dropping flower petals over him whilst he's lying on my bed is also a firm favourite picture of mine - and a fun game for him. For my eldest I love having him running around outdoors, climbing trees or playing with his daddy whilst I snap the two of them away.

I also set up seasonal scenes for my photos too, choosing particular flowers in bloom to show the season we're in, or falling leaves for an autumnal shoot. My Joys of Spring post on my photography blog Fawns and Fables has lots of springtime pictures of my boys.

8. Perfect isn't real. I think as parents we always find ourselves wanting the 'perfect' shot, but it's just not going to happen. There have been times when I've wanted my boys to sit down and just smile at the camera and it  only happens once in a blue moon if I'm lucky... but in reality, it's the shots where they're just doing their own thing, being their usual disruptive, playful and messy selves that results in the best shots. So just chill out and let the kids dictate their own pictures. It can be hard at times when you have a vision in your head of how you want a shot to look like, but it's worth it. Promise.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Beau Samuel James Is One ♥

My happy, cheeky, loveable, chilled-out and smiley baby is ONE!

I have to admit, I've been quite emotional this week thinking about him turning one. Our year with him seems to have gone by in a flash, yet it seems like he's always been part of our lives and he's fit into our family just perfectly.

There's never a peep out of the little babe and he's almost always happy. He's been a dream, a dote and a darling and I couldn't have wished for a more perfect little baby to grace our lives.

When it was Tyler's first birthday I wasn't really into photography, nor was I skilled at all at taking pictures. So now that I'm quite passionate about taking pictures, I really wanted to make sure that I captured some images of Beau that really summed up his happy, funny spirit and I think I've done just that.

He was very happy crawling and sitting next to the beautiful purple wisteria, cascading down a wall at a beautiful local garden. His little knees were covered in grass stains and all he wanted to do was eat petals and the dirt around him - oh to be one!

This little babe of ours is happiest when he's left to wander and explore and his character is the most loveliest and amusing to watch. He's a joy.

Happy first birthday little love.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Tyler Lee & Beau | Siblings {May 2017} ♥

I actually forgot about this months sibling photos - oops! The 15th of the month always seems to creep up too quickly on me and although I've taken lots of pictures of the boys this month, I haven't taken very many of them together.

The boys interact a whole lot more with each other now that Beau is able to crawl around - and at lightning speed too! He's always very interested in what Tyler is doing and seems to like all the things that Tyler loves the best too, which I can see leading to a few arguments over the next few months, especially as some of these things are the only things Tyler plays with out of the mountains of toys which consume our house and garden.

Beau now pines for Tyler if he sees him out in the garden or hears him downstairs, he wants to be wherever his big brother is and wants to join in with his fun and games. Tyler is the biggest source of entertainment for Beau, almost everything he does the baby finds hilarious and he's been launching into fits of Elmo giggles over the littlest of things that Tyler does - like throwing sand and stones out of a tiny bucket, who knew it could be so funny?

Tyler is always genuinely happy to see Beau in the morning and still refers to him as 'Baby Beau' - I wonder how long that will last? He can be overly rough with Beau and do silly things - like trying to stand in his way so he can't crawl or taking the one toy Beau is playing with just to annoy him, but I guess that's just what big brothers do?

He very much loves his baby brother though, saying - "Oh, he's so cute" and giving him a hug or stroking his face and those moments are very heart-warming.

Beau will be turning one on Friday and I'm sure that Tyler will be only too happy to join in with his baby brother's celebrations and help him blow out his candle - as well as play with his presents! We'll also be going on holiday together at the end of the month and it'll be the boys second family holiday together, only this time Beau will be able to join in a lot more and I can't wait to see them on the beach together - one that isn't full of stones like the ones near our house.

I love these boys and I love that they have each other.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

My House Full of Boys | My Honest Experience of Raising Sons ♥

Our house is full of boys. As a female I am outnumbered three-to-one and I guess the appropriate term for me is a 'boy mum' - a term I'm always coming across on blogs and on Instagram, but is it a label I wear proudly, or an aspect to my life which I wish was different?

I thought I'd write about my honest experience of raising sons and share my feelings of being a mother to boys.

From a young age I always wanted my first child to be a son. I think this stemmed from always wanting a big brother, someone to look out for me - and for some strange reason I always saw a boy being the eldest child as 'the right way round' - don't ask me why because it makes no sense to me either, but this was the vision I had in my mind of the 'perfect' family scenario (for anyone who's wondering I'm actually the oldest child and have one younger brother, so this is a complete opposite to my own life experience).

When I became pregnant for the first time I knew straight away that I was having a boy. I had visions of blue and dreams about a dark-haired, blue eyed baby - who funnily enough turned out to be the straight, almost black haired little baby boy I gave birth to, Tyler Lee. He's now a blondie with curls for days, but he's definitely that baby I dreamed about.

I was so happy to be having a boy as my first child, after all, this was how I saw my 'perfect' family set up and the minute his gender was confirmed it was all baby blue from there on.

When I became pregnant with my second child, I lied about not having a gender preference, when in reality all I wanted was a little girl to complete our family. I've written honestly about my gender disappointment experience before, but when the sonographer exclaimed "you're having another boy!" to us, I couldn't have felt sadder at that moment in time.

I should have known that we were destined to have two boys though, because not only do I come from a male dominated family, but my partner does also. In fact, his family hasn't had a girl born for generations. My grandmother had six brothers - she was the youngest (perhaps my great-grandmother was also wanting a daughter) and she went on to have five sons of her own, two who sadly died as young babies. So our families are boys all round.

I've always wanted a daughter. I always wanted the experience of being a mother to a little girl and having that close bond with her. To be told I was having another boy made those dreams crumble - especially as I knew my partner didn't want anymore children. I think my exact words, through loud sobs in the car, having held my composure long enough to leave the gender scan clinic with some dignity was - "I don't want anymore bloody dinosaurs, cars or tractors" - which was a strange thing to come out with considering my eldest wasn't really into these things at all, but I won't lie, I was truly sad that I wasn't having a girl.

Now I have a gorgeous baby boy who's almost one, my darling Beau, and I really wouldn't change him for the world. He's a cheeky chappy, very happy and content with life and he's been a dream to mother. If I had the chance of having my always wanted daughter or having my Beau, it would always be Beau.

I think boys get bad rep - being seen as rowdy, loud, messy, dirty and boisterous and yes, they can be all of those things from time to time, but they're also extremely affectionate, loving, thoughtful, caring and endearing.

My eldest is very imaginative, loves role playing games and helping out with the washing and cleaning. He actually hates being dirty - even though he gets his clothes dirty in less than two seconds after putting them on and he doesn't see things as being for boys or girls, he's happy to play with everything and mix with everyone. I think this may be down, in part, to trying to raise him in a gender neutral way and letting him choose what he's interested in rather that forcing him into gender stereotypes - something I've also written about before.

The baby is car obsessed, he just loves rolling them along the ground - if it rolls he likes it! He likes nothing better than sitting on my lap, cuddling up and watching the TV with me and he's just as quick moving as his older brother. He's very much a 'mummy's boy' and I think he'll always be the baby, affectionately known as 'baby Beau' by his big brother.

I love the fact that my boys are brothers - as the saying goes "because I have a brother I'll always have a friend". They're very close and Tyler is very protective over his little brother (he's really taken his big brother role in his stride) and the baby thinks he's absolutely hilarious. I've loved watching their sibling relationship grow and I love that they'll always have each other.

I think it's the superficial things about being a 'boy mum' that I find most difficult. I honestly hate clothes shopping for them, I rarely find anything I really like and I detest the fact that dark colours, dinosaur prints and vehicle motifs are always pushed down my throat by clothing brands - there's more to boys than just these things you know... I can't say I don't longingly look at beautiful little vintage dresses on Etsy and feel some envy that I'm not able to buy them instead, because they're much more appealing to me! But I'll get over these things and live in hope that one day highstreet clothing shops might cater much better for boys - otherwise the handmade sellers I buy from will still be kept in business for a long time to come.

I do sometimes worry that as they get older and they're interests change, that I'll find it hard to keep up with them, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. That horrible phrase - "a daughter is a daughter for life, a son is a son until he finds a wife" also plays in my mind, but I hope that I'll have raised my boys well enough so that they won't forget me - even when they do have another lady in their life.

I love my boys dearly and wouldn't change my 'boy mum' status for the world. I can't say though that if we ever did have another baby that I wouldn't want it to be a girl, because then I'd just be lying to myself. But for now, I have two boys and they are my absolute world.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Beach Life ♥

The weather has been glorious here in Ireland these past few weeks and when my mother said last night that it hasn't rained in about five weeks I was actually astounded. It's very rare to go this long without rain here - the wet and windy weather being a staple part of Irish life, but we've made the most of these clear blue sky days and have a new favourite place to go, the beach.

We've been fully embracing beach life, visiting our sunny, stony spot every day after we pick Tyler up from school - one of the many positives of having him attend a countryside preschool now. Who knew that a couple of spades, toy trucks and a watering can could keep two young children entertained for so long?

This beach, Glenmore, is one of the hidden gems on our island and I'm glad to say we had the place to ourselves on each of our visits. A place seems much more special when you have it all to yourself, doesn't it?

Tyler, the water-loving Aquarius boy that he is, was even brave enough to have his first swim of the year in the freezing cold Atlantic waters. The cold never phases him and I wish I had his enthusiasm for just jumping into the water and letting go of all inhibitions! He didn't even having swimming togs, but he wasn't shy in stripping off and venturing in in his t-shirt and underwear. Oh to be four again.

I don't know if poor Beau is made for the outdoors - his constant runny nose and watering eyes make me think he may be allergic to something, but he had an absolute ball watching Tyler splashing around in rock pools, eager to join in. His giggles are infectious and it seems that his big brother is his biggest source of entertainment - who knew that throwing pebbles from a tiny bucket could be so funny?!

Flowers seem to follow me everywhere - the must know how much I love them - and the beach rocks were dotted with the prettiest pink blooms. Jacek took some gorgeous pictures of them, he really has an eye for landscape/flower photography, whereas I'm responsible for the people and nature pictures we want to capture. I really do love having a partner who's interested in the same things I am.

After every each beach visit we're absolutely exhausted. The salty sea air really does take it out of you, doesn't it? It's a perfect tonic for helping myself and the children sleep soundly.

Tyler cracks me up. He spotted a dog swimming in the water and shouted - "Look mummy, it's a mermaid!". His imagination is wonderful and very active and I find myself coming up with folklore of my own to questions he asks, such as finding a hair clamp on the beach and asking what it was - I told him it was a mermaids hairbrush, or climbing to the top of stony banks and declaring he's a king. Four is a great age.

I think we'll be beach bums this summer - and why not? Living on an island means we have the beautiful seaside on our doorstep, and even if it's not the gorgeous white sandy beaches that I dream of, they still give us much needed quiet time, bundles of fresh air and a place to make happy memories with each other.

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