Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Carve a Pumpkin like a Pro!

Let me start by saying I’ve had zero training, nor would I consider myself good at art/drawing. As many of you know I love browsing Pinterest to get inspiration for easy things to make and do. I saw lots of pins of people carving pumpkins like a boss & thought to myself I’ll give it ago, sure what’s the worst that can happen?

If it turned out awful, I’d just dump it and never speak of it again. I’d be carving when the children were in bed so there’d be no witnesses to remind me of my failed attempts!

Two years ago I decided to up my game; I was carving an Elmo pumpkin while watching T.V. It just happened to be Love/Hate with the storyline about Elmo allegedly telling the authorities about Nidge. For the craic I decided to carve a little extra on my pumpkin & posted it to social media. I couldn’t believe it when I woke the next morning to see it’d taken off and was reposted across tonnes of pages including 98FM, FM104,, I’d even made it onto “18 of the Greatest Halloween Pumpkins Ever Carved” by the Daily Edge!

I thought it was hilarious and it gave me the push to try other designs after all it didn’t turn out as bad I thought it would. It really doesn’t have to take that long to carve a pumpkin, sure who has time to be spending hours? I know with 5 little ones I certainly don’t. From experience I’ve learned a few tricks that’ll not only save you time but a whole lot of energy and your sanity. If you stick to the advice below I guarantee you’ll have a masterpiece on your hands or your money back.* *monopoly money will be given back!*

How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro:

Pick a fresh pumpkin with a blemish free side for carving and ensure the skin is intact with no dents or holes. Print a stencil you like from Google/Pinterest, I find the best way to do this is print screen & paste to a Word document that way you can gauge and adjust the size you need for your pumpkin.

  • Silhouettes are by far the easiest and most striking images when carved.
  • Wash your pumpkin before carving, I use baby wipes as I’ve no energy to fill a sink of soapy water just for a pumpkin!
  • Cut off the top/lid using a knife I use a non serrated knife at a 45° angle so there is a ledge for the lid to sit on.
  • Scoop out the insides using a large spoon just be careful not to scoop the flesh too close to the skin.
  • Cut off the excess page from your stencil and tape to your pumpkin, ordinary tape will do. I just tape the top and leave the rest loose so I can bend it around the curvature of the pumpkin as I trace over it. 

  • Otherwise you’ll spend ages getting it completely taped on.
  • Trace over your stencil using a pen as a pencil can tear the page and mark the skin of your pumpkin.
  • Don’t bother with those pumpkin carving kits as it’s extremely difficult to get any precise incisions with them; again I’m all about the easy life. I use little blades like a pencil with a blade as the nib, you’ll find a packet of them in Dealz for €1.49 and a packet of tiny screwdrivers same place same price.
  • Remove your stencil and retrace around the pattern on your pumpkin using your blade. Tip: Hold the blade at an angle so the tip goes under the area of skin you are removing.
  • If you are carving a circle for an eye hold your blade still and move the pumpkin in a circular motion.
  • If you are carving a larger circle/curve move both the pumpkin and the blade as it’ll be much easier to achieve a circular cut.

  • Once you’ve gone around all areas with your blade using the smallest screwdriver peal back the skin. If it’s a large area of skin to be removes start by taking the edge up with the small screwdriver & move onto a large screwdriver pushing & swiping it from side to side lifting just the skin.

  • Once carved if you have any gouges or rough looking carved areas simply smooth over with your finger, it’s very forgiving like that!
  • Don’t panic, it looks much better with a light inside. I’ve often thought I’d made a mess of it only to be nicely surprised when I put in a candle.
  • Use a candle, led light or even a torch for the inside. If using a candle & you want to put the lid back on you’ll need to cut a hole for a chimney in the back.
  • To preserve your pumpkin spray/wash with bleach and water solution as it’s bacteria that makes them mould.

  • You can rub all carved areas with Vaseline or oil to stop the air drying it out.
  • If your pumpkin does start to dry out simply steep in water carved side down for anything up to 8 hours to rehydrate it.

The cheapest place I found for larger pumpkins is Supervalu Medium €1.50, Large €2.50 & Giant €3.50 each. I carved the characters from Inside Out onto tiny cooking pumpkins I bought in Tesco for 69c each. If you follow the above tips and use a silhouette stencil you’d easily have it done in 15-20 minutes or for me just in time to refill your wine glass!

Go on give it a go & please post your photos to show us how you got on. 

If you want to see some of my other creations check out my Instagram account @stonebabiesTwitter @stonetravel4, Facebook or, if you're quick I've a full How To on Snapchat today @StoneTravel!

Halloween Classic vs. Remake: Dawn of the Dead!

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Directed in 1978 by horror legend George A. Romero, this spawned it all, from Dead Rising to The Walking Dead. 

The thing I noticed while watching this was that while it’s undoubtedly a classic and fantastic film, it’s not so much a zombie horror as much as a plain survival movie. You could replace the zombies with most anything and it would be the same movie, even a bit more tense because the zombies weren’t that dangerous.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

This remake of zombie master George A. Romero’s 1978 film is Snyder's directorial debut, with Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn as producer. 

After an over-night zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors lock themselves in a shopping mall to keep safe from the things and to figure out how they’re going to escape to safety. Great characters, incredibly stressful scenes and blood and gore that still look good make this a fantastic remake – exactly how they should be done. Just make sure to stay for the credits, the film continues through them.

Original vs. Remake: Overall, I think for the intents of a Halloween movie the remake is better. The original is very philosophical about killing zombies and more meta in people losing their minds – what The Walking Dead TV show should be – but in the remake it’s all the most tense and horror-like parts shoved together with an hour of exposition shaved off. Because of the better characters, more stressful scenes and the danger of the zombies, the remake takes it.
Winner: Remake.

Halloween Classic vs. Remake: Fright Night!

Fright Night (1985)

Directed in 1985 by Tom Holland, the original FRIGHT NIGHT is almost totally different from the remake.

 The characters are a lot better, with Chris Sarandon as a much better brooding and subtle vampire than Colin Farrel’s plain guy who happens to be a vampire. Evil Ed is also incredible, a brilliant turn by Stephen Geoffreys and fantastic special effects that more than hold up today make him one of my favourite things in anything EVER.

Fright Night Remake (2011)

The FRIGHT NIGHT remake is a 3D-focused modern re-telling by Craig Gillespie. Way back in 2011 we saw this at Moviefest (RIP) and I can remember really enjoying it. 

It has Colin Farrell as a badass vampire with a bad accent hunting the main character, and David Tennant at his best as Peter Vincent magician and vampire lore master – a rip of real magician Criss Angel. Entertaining, cheesy and sometimes funny, the only let down is the AWFUL 3D CGI blood and gore that has NOT aged well and ruins some great scenes; but if you can get past that it’s well worth a watch.

Original vs. Remake: The original is more sexual, has better music/atmosphere, and is overall vastly superior in nearly every way - except for David Tennant’s Peter Vincent and the insanity of the final fight. While the remake is entertaining enough, the original might be my favourite vampire movie ever.

Winner: Original.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Things That Rustle My Jimmies

Let's be honest, there's not a lot that can bring me down in the week running up to the holiday of our lives (so far). Not a lot but some things - These are those things: 

1. Open Bucket Charity Collections!

2. My super battery STILL being depleted by 
an hour Snapping an event. 

3. On the subject of Snapchat ~ snidey snaps replacing subtweets. Don't be that guy. 

4. ASTRONOMICAL data roaming charges!!

5. This BS 'review' of Maia & Angela's RTE shows. It's no more than a thinly veiled piece attempting to put the ladies back in 'their place'. 
Antiquated Misogynistic Troglodyte. 

Tell us, 
what's been rustling your jimmies this week? 
Release that Kracken!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Costumes and Treats that Won’t Make Your Bank Manager Scream!

Fellow parents would agree that Halloween can cost a fortune, the total cost of costumes and treats really can make your purse scream but to you know what? Like everything else it really doesn’t have to. A little preparation will see you and your ghouls having a fangtastic Halloween. I’ve already shown you how to make awesome Halloween costumes for boys Here. This week I’ve interrupted Tuesday’s Travels to let you know how to make scary as hell costumes for girls.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Last Witch Hunter - Movie Review!

Who's In It?


What's It About?

A great evil is coming back to the world and it is up to immortal witch hunter Kaulder to hunt it down and stop it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kiehl's & Tinie Tempah Collab on Ultra Facial Cream for MTVs Staying Alive Foundation! #TINIExKIEHLs

Since its release in 2003, Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream has graced the pages of countless beauty pages and moisturised many a visage with its lightweight yet heavy hitting formulation. It promises 24 Hour hydration, is not only a manna for dry skin but a salve for sensitive skin too. I've long been a fan of Kiehl's as a brand, a quick search through our back catalogue will tell you that but it's not only the products themselves that have impressed me. It's their charitable endeavors too. This latest collaboration with Tinie Tempah in aid of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation is no different. 

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream: €52 Here (LE Version available in store)
To date Kiehl's have raised $2,500,000 in the fight against HIV and AIDS, which is a literally life changing figure and speaks volumes to the difference the fraction of cost of product really can make. With this newest iteration of UFC, £2 from each sale of limited edition pot goes directly to the Foundation. Their choice of collab partner in Tinie Tempah is pretty inspired, it not only puts Kiehl's on the radar of a younger demographic but puts great skincare right up there too. 

I've been using UFC again for the past fortnight and remembering exactly what it is I love about it. Though I have normal skin, it feels completely hydrated, almost overnight from first use. There may not be an SPF included but this facial cream is light weight enough to offer intense hydration both day and night. I for one am loving it once more and have even spied Adam slathering it on post gym in the evenings. He's loving the difference it has made in such a short time too.  

Have you tried Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream? Do you rate it just as highly? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just Say YES - The Art of Bagging a Good Travel Deal When You See One!

As most of you know we have 5 small children, it's been a dream of mine to bring them to Disneyland Paris before Christmas for a long time but it always seems to be so expensive. We have been to Disney a few years ago & seen the Christmas lights but we went after Christmas. READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE as I’ve a few hints & tips to help save you a few Euro ~ this is to date one of our most popular Travel posts. As much as we adored our stay, I think it’d be that little bit more magical in the run up to Christmas; that's why when I wrangled this deal I knew we had to just say YES!

I priced it directly with Disney on the Irish website & it was €1,116.28 for hotel & park tickets 3 nights / 4 days. I jumped over to the French site (just change the website address from .ie to .fr) to see what deals they had & I got a price of €597, nearly HALF the price. Once on the French site, if you are on a laptop or PC right mouse click, then click “Translate to English”. 

The reason I got it for this price as the deal currently on the French site is under 12’s go free and an extra night free. They usually have different deals on different countries websites; it’s just a matter of checking them all out before you book. You can't book online with the French site you must call the French reservations line 00331 60306053 and request the French deal. If you use the Irish number you get through to the USA, where they can only book deals from the Irish, UK & US sites.

We will be staying in Davy Crockett's Ranch so we have to have a car because it's not located on the Disney campus but 10 minutes down the Motorway with no shuttle bus. I was looking around for the best deals on 7 seater cars & got a quote with Thrifty car rental for €290 for 4 days. When I was on the phone booking Disney they offered to search for a competitive deal for me, low and behold they got me a car with Hertz for €276.

I booked Ryanair flights from Dublin to Beauvais for €405 but with 2 bags, taxes & charges it brought it up to €465. We don't need to rent car seats or buggies as you can check in two items of baby equipment free with all children not just babies with Ryanair. We usually drive to the airport then take out the children’s car seats, wrap them in a blanket to protect them & put in a thick black bag. I tape them shut with wide sellotape and attach a luggage tag that I write on half an a4 page. Just remember to throw the bags & tape into your bag to bring with you so you can do the same for the return journey.

So all in all 7 if us for 3 nights / 4 days in Disney with park tickets, hire car, flights, bags, taxes, charges it cost me €1,338.
How could I NOT say YES to that?!

I didn't opt into any meal plan as there’s a huge supermarket between Davy Crockett's and Disney so we'll pick up breakfast & lunch there. Oh and free parking in Disney is also included. Now I just have to come up with a way of telling them closer to the time; I might let their Elf on the Shelf, Jingles McSprinkles tell them!

This year there are lots of events in Disneyland Paris that’ll be sure to get you in the festive mood such as Disney Christmas Parade, Disney Dreams of Christmas with Frozen characters, Mickey’s Magical Christmas Lights, Frozen sing along show & a Royal Welcome, Christmas Wishes with the Disney princes & princesses and a Very Merry Meet & Greet with Santa & Disney Characters. We’ll try our best to do them all in December. I’ll be tweeting from @stonetravel4, uploading to my Facebook page Stone Travel & even snapchatting what we get up to @stonetravel.

Have you ever just said YES to a great travel deal?
Care to share your story, hints or tips?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday's Moments ~ 19/10/15

It's my favourite day of the week - well after Pay Day that is - MONDAY. A day for reflection, showing a little gratitude for the small things and inviting better things into your life in the week ahead. 

This week has pretty much passed in a blur, but what a fantastical blur it was:

1. My Sis in Law FINALLY joining Snapchat because that means that one of my most gorgeous niblings, Alexander is now also on Snapchat by proxy. They live in Wales so we don't get to see them nearly often enough ~ so much so that I bought baby Alex a Toothless Build a Bear with my voice inside telling him I loved him so he'd recognise me on the phone. 

Now I can fire up the app and tell them I love them with my face included! I know I love Snapchat for a million reasons but knowing I can speak face to face with the little ones any time at all turns it into a whole lot more than it was before for me. 

(Cath is @battlemum on there & Corrina is @stonetravel - they've both just joined so give 'em an aul add to see what excitement they're at!)

2. Managing to catch up with one of my favourite cousins, Kathy now that she's returned home from Australia! We hit the town on Friday with her and Adam, her bestie and laughed from the time we met until the early hours of the following day. 

It does a heart good to catch up face to face, offline, in real life too. 

3. The very lovely Roisin (the brains behind I Do for Syria) is also the brains behind invited me to give a Business Class on Blogging (while raising my boys) over on site. 

I first got to know Roisin through Snapchat too (@Roisinanna9) She makes me guffaw daily with her no holds barred insights into parenting & the actual life of a Mum working at home. To say I'm delighted with how the post turned out is a definite understatement. 

I bawled reading it, Corrina bawled reading it, then I bawled at Corrina bawling reading it. If you're starting out Blogging or raising little 'uns yourself do please give it a squizz HERE and let us know what you think. 

4. An incredible overnight stay with Corrina in The Spencer's penthouse on Friday. If you were following our Snap stories you'll have gotten the skinny but honestly, they couldn't do enough for us. 

The room was beautiful and the staff were hospitable beyond measure. If you're looking for an overnight stay in Dublin I couldn't recommend them more. (not sponsored, just seriously impressed)

5. Last and by no stretch of the imagination least is the very kind peeps over at Stellar mag featuring me in this months #MYBLOGLIFE! You'll remember from posts SUCH AS THIS that it truly is my favourite Irish magazine, the only one that I've subscribed to, that's how much I enjoy it. 

The feeling of opening a magazine you respect and enjoy so much to find your story featured is honestly incomparable. Since I set up this blog 5 years ago there have been many 'pinch me' Moments - this is WAY up there with the best of them. 

Tell us, what's been the Moment you're most grateful for this week? 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Doctor Who Meets Arya Stark!

It's been 5 weeks since the new season of Doctor Who has started up again and in that time we've had 2 two-part stories, but it's finally time to go back to "normal" tomorrow.

The Girl Who Died guest stars Maisie Williams in a so far unknown part when the Doctor and Clara go back in time to fight techno vikings and a hydra maybe?.. The trailer doesn't give much away, but it does have someone who looks a bit like Game of Thrones wildling Kristofer Hivju leading a viking party, and that's good enough for me!

The Girl Who Died airs on BBC1 in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England at 8:20pm.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Things That Rustle My Jimmies

It's the most wonderful time of the weeeek - things that have rustled my jimmies more than any other things are as follows:

1. People that crack & crunch through an entire bag of sunflower seeds on a busy Dublin bus - SPITTING THE SHELLS ON THE FLOOR!

2. Getting a kick ass new hair do in the evening so having to sleep on it within a few hours... 

3. People that rev their cars at the pedestrian crossing..

4. Mystery poopers in the office shower/changing room - technically it's also a toilet BUT STILL!! 

5. Tacky topless photo shoots of young models on busy Dublin streets under the guise of 
'Breast Cancer Awareness'

Tell us, what's been rustling yours this week?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Top 5 Irish Hotel Breakfasts Your Money Can Buy!

Is it just me or are hotels not selling their breakfasts enough? Most websites you go to just give breakfast a cursory mention, the majority don’t even have pictures. Ditto the only time most guests give it a second thought is to find out whether or not it's included in their overnight rate. Not I.

Over the course of the last year I’ve had upwards of 60 hotel breakfasts; some making me wish I was a Hobbit just so I could have second breakfast; some, well let’s just say not so good.

Whether you’re up and out for an early business meeting in the locality, staying locally and looking for a tasty way to start the day or staying in these hotels themselves & considering skipping brekkie altogether, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 mouth watering hotel breakfasts in Ireland so you won't miss out.

Our most recent hotel stay was Jury’s Inn Cork as both Sue & I were speaking at the Irish Blogger Conference run by Cool Events. As we had a few drinks after the conference with some lovely ladies my first priority the next morning was cold water. Imagine my utter joy at seeing a huge dispenser full of icy water infused with lemon, lime & mint! Note to ever hotel ever: Do this!

After a couple of glasses of uisce restored our equilibrium, we indulged in a freshly toasted bagel with cream cheese and bacon followed by a bowel of fresh fruit. There was a huge variety of hot and cold breakfast items. I really liked that they had take away cups and lids available at the coffee machines so you can take a coffee with you for your journey. It's little touches like that that really set a brekkie offering apart.

Breakfast is served in the Restaurant midweek 6:45am-10am weekend’s & public holidays 7am-11am priced at €10 per person.

If you’ve read any of my travel posts you’ve probably noticed I have a serious grá for Eggs Benedict. Two hotels in my opinion share the top spot for the most perfect Eggs Benedict and the Dylan is one of them. Especially if you do as we did & have a glass of champagne or a fresh Mimosa to wash it down.

We've been lucky enough to stay in The Dylan for several events, as a 5 star Boutique Hotel it truly is a gem in Dublin's crown; as an eatery in it's own right it's way up there too. I've recommended The Dylan to people looking for a stay with a difference around Dublin 4 more times than I care to recall and The Tavern is a big deciding factor in that.

Breakfast is served in the Tavern Restaurant, buffet for €21 or a la carte €25 per person. A budget friendly version is available in the bar where a full Irish will set you back €10.50 or my favourite Eggs Benedict €8.50.

The restaurant and head chef in Killashee have won many awards and it's not hard to see why. After The Dylan, The Killashee holds my top spot for Eggs Benedict and that's high praise indeed. Everything about the way they prepare and present this dish is pure perfection. My mouth is watering just writing this remembering how good it was.

My son absolutely loved the sausages and he ate 4. I’ve never seen him eat so many so I had a taste too and had to agree with him, they were delicious. I love when a hotel sources not only local produce but top quality local produce.

Breakfast is served in Turners Restaurant Monday–Friday 7am-11am Saturday & Sunday 8am-11am, continental breakfast €10.95 or full Irish €16.50 per person.

Every morsel of food served for breakfast at Brooks is fresher than fresh and sourced from the finest local producers. Breakfast is one of the best spreads I’ve seen in a hotel. Oodles of fresh compote, mouthwatering fruit, artisan breads, cheeses, cold meats, cereals & pastries all served buffet style.

With lots of options on the breakfast menu too, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. It follows that head chef Patrick McLarnon has won more awards than many in his field.

Breakfast is served in Francesca’s Restaurant Monday–Friday 7:30am-10am Saturday &Sunday 8am-11:30am priced at an amazing €12.50 per person. (It's only in researching this post that I realised it's such good value as we had breakfast included on our stay; we’ll be popping back in soon!)

Hands down the best breakfast we've had in Ireland, if not world over was in Lough Eske Castle. Everything here was top notch, the food, the setting and the staff. It’s so hard to choose what to eat from the vast array of fresh fruit, pastries, artisan breads and meats; not forgetting the full Irish. They even have a Chef on hand in the restaurant to whip up an omelette of your choosing right before your eyes.

The staff were truly amazing, as one lady was refilling the fresh fruit she kept giving my son more & more grapes as she passed our table. He thought it was great fun & promptly scoffed them all! The Chef didn’t blink an eye when my daughter took a little time to choose what she’d like on her crepe that he made for her. I don’t blame her with oodles of delicious sweet toppings I’d take my time too. The Chef even came to our table to make sure the children didn’t want a second crepe before he finished. On point service Lough Eske.

Breakfast is served in Cedars Grill between 7am – 11am, continental breakfast €12 or full Irish €22 per person.

Have you been to a hotel that serves top notch brekkie? 
Let us know so we can go!