The Legend!

I’m writing this post so it’s here for the future should the Small Man ever choose to read my writings and in case my memories ever start diminishing. It will probably be uninteresting reading to most of you but shur what about it?! I’m going to write it as if talking to my boy……

So who is this person that warrants such a title as “The Legend”, I hear you ask. Who is this person that is so important they need writing about and cannot be forgotten? Well he is…..was my Grandad, your Great Grandad, Tommy O’Connell, one of the coolest dudes I ever knew and a man I constantly miss. Today would have been his 93rd birthday.

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Firstly, let me tell you this fun lil fact about my family name, as it all starts with him….So Grandad was actually Thomas Oliver Connell, some of his official letters used to come addressed to Thomas O. Connell, which over time a clerk somewhere decided that that little dot should have been an apostrophe, and with that we became O’ Connells. This will come in very useful should you ever be involved in an O’ Connell family history quiz….make note. 😀

Anywho, let’s get on with remembering the man….

Grandad had great time for me and I loved him to bits. When I was little, we lived in a mobile in his garden ’til I was two. I don’t know how true this story is but Grandad used to tell me, he’d open his back door some mornings and find a ghostly looking child in a long nightdress just standing there waiting…it was me, sleep walking to, well, I guess my best bud.

There used to be a picture of Granny and Grandad on their wedding day, hanging on the kitchen wall. Grandad was wearing a proper uniform with one of them peaked dress cap thingys. He used to tell me he flew an airplane during the war and he’s take Granny for a spin in it. I used to think, wow, how cool is that. Turns out he used to tell Da, your Grandad, he drove tanks during the war. 😀 He didn’t do either but he was part of the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ), the local defence forces during WW2, hence the dapper uniform. I guess it was a bit like the T.A now. (Another bit of family trivia, Grandad’s brother Porrie did fly for the RAF during the war, as a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber). It makes no odds to me, his coolness has not decreased, but you can imagine from that how good his stories were…..

He had a big garden and behind it they had some fields which at the very bottom included a small wood, a.k.a The Woods. At the time it seemed huuuuge. Grandad used to bring me for walks to the woods, helping me jump the ditches or carrying me across. One wintery day we went down there and Grandad was telling me about The Badgers, who would bite your leg off. He showed me how to keep them away by breaking thick twigs in half as we walked, so they thought is was your bone snapping. I dunno how true that twig snapping story is but at the time I was constantly breaking twigs for fear of losing me leg to a badger. There were wood chopping expeditions to the woods too. Da (your Grandad) and Uncle Mike would go down to chop sticks and Grandad would sit there, give orders and supervise. As I got older,  we discovered some fallen trees that made a really cool fort, that Grandad supplied all the old pots and pans for (probably nicked from Granny’s kitchen). He couldn’t fit in but he’d sit outside. 😀

When they had the big new shed built in the garden, Grandad let us kids use the old shed as a babby house. He hung a swing up for us in there, your Auntie Sarah and Uncle Phil split the back of there heads open falling off it a few times. Grandad would sit there with us, in his deck chair pretending to drink endless cups of coffee made from turf mould and water. Sometimes he’d nod off and me and Sarah would pee ourselves laughing, whilst stealing the biggest logs we could from the stick pile, walking right across in front of him whilst he snoozed. He always approved of the little gardens we’d create next to the babby house.

Grandad loved flowers, he had a great garden. He’d trim the hedges into castle or horse shapes. He showed me what flowers were what…daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, roses, sweet peas and sweet williams….sweet williams and daffodils always remind me of him. There was a field across the road, Grandad would take me into and it was full of cowslips. You never see them anymore. 😦 There used to be a little Robin that hung out in the garden, we’d put out a bowl of bread for him. Grandad used to say he was watching out for us.

When the road was empty, Grandad used to take me onto it and we’d pretend to be driving imaginary cars, him using his walking stick as a steering wheel. Sometimes we’d walk as far as the Thatched Cottage to nose if the Yanks were in or pick the bluebells out of the hedge opposite. Sometimes we’d bring Sheba for a walk up to the canal and watch her swim. During the summer Grandad used to hold my hands whilst I stood on a big stone in the water, dipping me toes in the deeper bit.

Ugh Small Man, I wish you could have met him and him you, ye would have loved each other. I wish I had more photos to show you….you know he was a bit of a photographer too. He’d take pictures of us and send them into The Topic for our birthday’s. I remember him developing photos in the bathroom and hanging them on the line over the bath.

One of my fav memories of Grandad was the night we watched a very satanic Christopher Lee movie (no, there is no way I should’ve been watching these movies at my age, at that time of the morning but Grandad was a rebel babysitter) so I was pretty freaked out going to bed. It was summertime so the windows were open in the kitchen. Anyway I’ve gone in to get a drink before bed and there was probably about 10 “Clocks” (beetles) around the kitchen floor, of course 10 looked like 100 at the time and I started bawling for Grandad. He rushed into the kitchen to see what happened, I was crying over all these clocks so he began standing on them. Oh if you could have seen him in his trousers and vest with his braces on, Grandad looked like he was doing a jig around the kitchen tryna kill all these little beasties. 😀 😀 Uh, I loved staying there, even though the house was a bit isolated and the long hallway creeped me out. In the mornings, I’d get into bed bedside Grandad and we’d do our arm exercises, arms up, arms out. We’d get up and listen to Radio 3 or Grandad would play records. He used to love a bit of Jim Reeves and would play “But you love me Daddy” for me.

So there you go, I could go on with little titbits of memories forever but this is just a taste of Grandad…The Man, The Beetle Killer, THE LEGEND! (Your Grandad has big shoes to fill 🙂 )

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There’s a sad end to my memories of Grandad though, I never got to say goodbye…….Auntie Ina had moved home with our cousin Monica and was living in Granny and Grandad’s. I was jealous. I thought Grandad didn’t love me any more, as he had Monica there all the time now. I remember my 11 year old self telling him this and telling him I wasn’t talking to him. I was going out to Nanny Mooney’s a few days later, and although we stopped at Grandad’s on the way by, I couldn’t get out like I wanted to to say goodbye and tell him I was sorry. We carried on to Nanny Mooney’s. I knew when I woke up the next morning, by the look on my Ma’s face that he had died that night.

So my little Mandingo, there’s an important lesson to be learned here; never be cross with somebody you love and if you have to leave them, even for a short amount of time, tell them you love them and say goodbye.

Love you always my Baby,                                 Love you always Grandad,

Mammy xx                                                                               Donna xx

 

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When your kid wants a rainbow party…

As usual, I’m late posting the birthday theme idea…only two months though, it was four last year. So as you can guess from the title, when I asked me little Mandingo what kind of party he’d like, he said “a rainbow party Mammy” and so my work began. Rainbows, obviously are lots of lovely colours, so I thought the best way to approach it and make it fun would be to have a Rainbow Paint Party in the Park.

With that in mind, I headed to my beloved Ebay and searched “rainbow birthday party invites”, shur you’d be blown away with choice but I went loved these from Sweet Sentiments. It was £3.99 for 12.20170927_010715

Now the cake! The curse-a-God cake! I’ve previously made a Teddy bear cake (sitting up I’ll have you know) , a George Pig themed cake and a Lightning Mcqueen shaped cake, but this! THIS!!! This simple sponge cake was supposed to be easy….it was not…mind this was purely down to the roll out icing which I DO NOT get on with. These are the woes of home made cake making (I lovingly blame my Ma for always baking our cakes and thus I feel I should to the same for my sprogladite).170730075734_wm As always I used a prepackaged cake mix for my cake…less hassle. I baked 6 thin sponges, using 6 different food colourings to create the rainbow inside. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t happy with the colours, they weren’t bright enough for me, but the kids ooohed and aaaahed on seeing it cut up, plus the height of the slices was unreal! 😀 I used jam and buttercream as fillings, alternating between layers. Now lads…now the fun began! I wanted a marbley/ colour splodge looking cake so I rolled out all the colours together as in the pic…. Of course I rolled it too bloody thin and it kept ripping as I lifted it. I tried sitting the cake on the icing and sorta folding the icing up around it….nah….no dice! I got thick then and I new in me heart of hearts that this would happen but I continued anyway….I smushed the icing back together and rolled it out again. Of course…just like when you mix paints, it turned brown!! FML!! I stupidly hoped for the best thinking maybe the underside would be ok and lifted it onto the cake. My son’s rainbow cake was now a swamp thing!!

I sent a pic to my Ma for help. Ma told me to stick some trees and little people on it and it would be grand! THIS…this was after she text my sis to say, say nothing but Donna’s 170730081531_wmmessed up Conor’s cake….in our GROUP chat!! At this point I’d no back up icing left and I’d ruined my son’s birthday so I decided I needed a drink.

After buying nearly £30 pounds (yes, yes I know…) worth of cake resurrection supplies in a, what’s turning into a yearly Sunday morning cake panic dash to Morrisons, a patchy rainbow cake was created. In my eyes it was a bit poo but when the Small Man seen it he was delira and that was enough for me. I got the cool little bunting banner frommmm Ebaaaaay!!!170730081437_wm

In keeping with the rainbow theme, I made my usual fruit pots, consisting of chopped up strawberries, grapes and blueberries. Actually…I’ll just do a list of what we had to eat;

I baked some yummy, smartie rainbow cookies using this recipe from Baking with Granny.

I like to make things a little bit fun for the kids, these chocolate and sprinkle rimmed ice cream cones were based on a Pinterest idea. I stuffed them with jellies and popped them in individual cone shaped bags.

I made some rice crispie squares, which turned pink as I only had a bag of pink and white marshmallows, topped with sprinkles.

Marshmallow pops. Super simple, just large marshmallows, dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, stuck on a lollipop stick.

I always cheat with my buns…I buy prebaked ones and decorate how I like. So as it was a rainbow party, it wouldn’t be complete without some rainbows…hence my Rainbow Cloud cupcakes. Blue icing and rainbow laces…et voila!

I also took along a watermelon, popcorn, onion rings, two trays of sandwiches…..peanut butter, jam and cheese. My friend Elaine gave me a huge tub I filled with ice to keep the fruit shoots and fizzies (for the adults) in. Oh I also brought two mahooosive bottles of water to mix with robinsons.

Food done….now the party bags. I wanted everything rainbow themed. Everything here came from Ebay. I ordered rainbow cellophane bags from here and Thank You stickers from here. I stuck stickers on each bag and on each tube of giant bubbles,  also Ebay. I got some fab rainbow pencils from here and crayons for the younger ones from here. The really cute mini paint trays came from here and those cool pull-out-nib pencils here. Of course there had to be sweets, so each bag had a packet of swizzles, a retro rainbow lolly annnnd Rainbow drops!

Now as the Small Man is a Summer bub, I try to make use of the free parks where I can. It can be a pain in the ass getting everything there, which is why everything I make is fairly handy to transport, and with a little help from friends and family, it works. This year we headed to Kennington Park. I donned my best (£3 from the market) Rainbow party dress and Elaine packed up her car with all me bits and drove me round to set up, under a nice big tree.

I took around all my picnic blankets and asked people to bring one if they had any. I also took round The Monkey’s giant foam tiles to act as a more level “table” running down the middle of the blankets. My SiL, Katie and Chanelle helped me lay out all the food and the little plates and cups, all odd colours from the local 99p store. I tied some balloons from the tree branches so our guests could find us.

Now it wouldn’t be a paint party without paint so I took along pretty much all of my paint supplies and a giant cardboard build and paint your own house, that I’d bought in Lidl aaaages ago and was saving for a rainy day. I also had two rolls of paper in my suitcase of tricks. Katie was good enough to help (and be painted) by the kids whilst myself and Chanelle did some impressive first timer face painting, for anybody who fancied it. I got a nice little Snazaroo set off Ebay for about £13 and it was money well spent. I also took along an inflatable goals and a hoop throwing game that we had at home, and of course the kids had their giant bubble tubes to play with too.

I gotta say this has to be my favourite party we’ve had for the Small Man, the weather was great, it was like a mini festival, just missing the music and it really wasn’t that expensive….apart from the cake situation! I work out the party bags, including the bags and stickers to be just under £4 each, based on 20 kids and I got 24 bubble swords for £15. (Prices correct in July ’17)

Now this may seem mean and given that it’s a big class anyway, I don’t believe in inviting kids he doesn’t play with or mention to his parties but as his birthday fell on a school day, rather than hand out party bags after school, I thought it would be nice to bring something in for the whole class to share together at school. So as we’d just finished reading Handa’s surprise, I took the Small Man shopping and let him pick out his own fruits for his surprise to take to school for his birthday….hence Small Man’s Surprise!20170927_011014

I hope you enjoyed this post and got some inspiration from it. I know we’re coming into the winter months now but it maybe possible to adapt some of the “festival vibe” to an indoor set up. Don’t be shy, do comment and share your own party ideas…it’s good to share.

Thanks to everyone who helped me on the day especially the Hubbalump…God love him and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did.

Love,

Donna x

 

Babe (babe), I’m back again…

I haven’t written anything here in two months! Did ya miss me?? But two months!!! Shocking! Why? Well to start with, writing a blog is harder than you’d imagine.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, there’s always something to say, but sometimes it just doesn’t warrant writing a blog post as it’s only something short….hence I’ll post it on my Instagram or Facebook page. Finding time is sometimes an issue too. A blog post can take you only a few minutes to read, but by the time I’ve written, considered, rewritten, spellchecked and added pictures, two or even three hours have gone by. Those hours equate to a lot of time out of my day really. Also I write mine on my laptop, I’ve no patience for writing it on a tiny phone screen but I know lots of bloggers do and therefore blog on the go. Believe it or not, despite liking to actually write and having the equivalent amount of notebooks as Paperchase’s stockroom, I’m still poo at writing a good idea down for later or even making notes in my phone…..Bye, bye ideas!

My blog as you can see, is not focused on anything in particular, which I guess might inhibit me a bit, as I don’t have a focus. I don’t really need to keep up with the newest beauty or fashion trends. I’m also woeful at following the news so politics and current affairs are also out. That said though, not having a focus means I can write whatever the hell I like….wooooooo!! Roll on the randomness and tat!

I guess like all bloggers, I get a little dissuaded sometimes from lack of support. I enjoy writing anyway, and hope one day to write a book so committing to a blog forces me to Screenshot_20170907-224118write stuff  down rather than say I will. So although I write because I like it, the likes, the shares and comments make all the difference. If I see you’ve shared my post or better still you’ve commented, then I feel like you’ve read it and you’ve enjoyed it (or not) and that inspires me to not give up. The lack of interaction can be discouraging sometimes but I guess if you really want to do something you plough on in hope. The likes themselves are good too, but I always wonder….did you just see I posted, and liked it for the craic or ‘cos you know me…did you actually read it? I’m also still very shy about telling people I write a blog. When my work colleague mentions it to people I always feel a bit of a sack really. I guess I still feel like it’s not interesting or glam or current enough to disclose it for fear I run into somebody who’s been doing it for years or has some supersize megablog that all the world knows about. So yeah…I’m not great at pluggin’ it!

So what do I want to achieve with this blog of mine? Well, I want lots of people, not just family and friends, to read it and give their opinions on what they’ve read or seen. I want people to interact, connect and enjoy what I’ve written and how I’ve written it. I guess I want my blog to be one of the few things I’ve started, stuck with and not given up on. Ideally, just like my “personalphotographerintraininglongsuffering” hubby, I’d like my blog to grow old with me (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw) unless I sign a major book deal and reach Stephen King-like status, in which case I might be too busy to keep up with it all. Dream big people, DREAM BIG!!

So dear readers, if you like what you read, if you’ve laughed at my “skit” pics over on Instagram and Facebook; if I’ve brightened your day, made you smile or inspired you to do something, make something or read something, please tell me and tell others too.

Sharing is caring,

much love

Donna xx