Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Trek Beyond - Movie Review!

Who's In It?

Idris ElbaKarl UrbanZachary Quinto, and Chris Pine

What's It About?

As Kirk and Spock both decide to leave the Enterprise, the ship is downed and the crew is separated, postponing their decisions.

Any Good?

Despite being a fan of The Original Series, I've never seen Into Darkness. It just seemed a bit too action-y and didn't interest me, but what made me want to see this one is the old style posters.

Having just watched shows like The Original Series and Babylon 5 this film looks INCREDIBLE. The CGI is done really well and all the ships and landscapes look great, but the real impressive work is the spot on makeup and prosthetics. They've certainly come a long way since guys with large heads in episode 1.

I LOVED Karl Urban as Bones McCoy, he felt almost like he did in The Original Series and had great chemistry with Chris Pine as Kirk. I was sadly less impressed with Simon Pegg and the late Anton Yelchin though. Scotty's script was about 70% "lassy" which would be fine, but when it's every second word it gets a bit grating. Anton Yelchin's acting was done well, but his accent was ever so slightly off that it was more South African than anything, including Russian.

One thing I noticed was that after about 20 minutes the story of the film literally becomes a patchwork of the story of Mass Effect 2. In fact, the only difference between the majority of this and two of ME2's biggest moments is that Kirk gets into an escape pod and not spaced like Shepard, and that the collectors (they even look alike) aren't creating a giant human reaper. It even has a Quarian admiral's voice actor as human admiral!!

The baddie's helmets are very similar, as are their weapons

Overall I enjoyed this, even if it was a bit more Star Wars than Star Trek. The whole openly gay Sulu thing is extremely overhyped - it's not shoved in your face or anything, and I quite liked how they handled it.

If you're a fan of Original Series like me, I would recommend this. It has just enough cheese to keep the seriousness at bay and still feels like an episode in some parts. If you're not a fan, I'd say you'd love it too because it's stand alone and establishes the characters really really well - and might get you to watch the any of the shows, WHICH ARE ON (IRISH) NETFLIX NOW!!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Do a Stress Free, Budget Friendly Road Trip with Kids ~ Mammy Van Does the UK!

If you’ve seen any of my social media accounts (@stonetravel everywhere) you’ll have seen that I recently brought four of my five children to the UK for a few days. We had a whirlwind trip to take in as much as we could in six days. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll give you the low down of exactly where we went, where we stayed, how we got there, how much we paid, what we thought and some tips we learned along the way. 

Hopefully by the end of these posts you’ll be booking your own getaway with your little ones. If you do please let us know how you get on, we love hearing about your adventures!

How to get away:

In March Stena Line ran a promotion to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by offering tickets at just €1 per person each way as foot passengers. I quickly got to work to researching which route and what dates would suit us. Unfortunately as I was doing this the date and route I wanted sold out, yes that quickly, in mere minutes. In the end I opted for 1 adult/4 children Rosslare to Fishguard return 9th-14th July costing just €10

Stone Travel Tip 1: You don’t need a passport to travel between Ireland and the UK by ferry, you don’t even need photo ID a household bill with your name and address will suffice but I brought my driving licence as I’d need it for car hire anyway. I also brought my children’s birth certificates as I didn’t want to risk bringing their passports in case I lost them.

Stone Travel Tip 2: As a foot passenger you don’t need to lug your bags on board you can check them in as you board free of charge, they’ll be put in a safe room for the duration of the crossing. You won’t have access to them so make sure you have a carry on packed separately.
Stone Travel Tip 3: Pack a picnic for on board, save a fortune by heading to Lidl or Aldi.
Stone Travel Tip 4: Head to the Bistro Café on deck 7, it’s the same deck you board on as a foot passenger. Grab a seat with a view of the screens as it’s here they’ll show free kids movies just after you set sail.
Stone Travel Tip 5: Stena Line currently has a great deal of €6.50pp (under 3’s free) for day trips on Tuesday’s from Dublin–Holyhead or Rosslare–Fishguard, all other days except Friday & Saturday are slightly more expensive at €12pp. I brought my 5 last year to Fishguard for the day find out more here

Pic taken by Co-Pilot for the outward journey, Orla (9)

How to get around:

As rail travel in the UK is ridiculously expensive, hire car was the best option for us. While pricing cars I found that a 7 seater would cost over €800 so I made the decision to leave the baby at home and hire a 5 seater (Group C Ford Focus or similar) costing €213.98 including taxes and charges for 6 days with Hertz. I had a really bad experience with staff at Hertz in Paris last December so was hesitant at booking but I needn’t have been at all as they were lovely in Fishguard.

Unfortunately the car hire office is not in the ferry port but a 5 minute drive away or a 20 minute walk. As I had my 4 little ones with me and luggage walking was not an option. They can deliver the car to you for a nominal fee of £5 but as we were arriving on a Saturday they didn’t have the staff available. 

Bring your own colour book/activity packs for peace & quiet

I called a cab with Fishguard Taxi’s and we were whisked to Hertz for just £4, where I picked up a Vauxhall Mokka which is best described as a small SUV. It’s a nice car to drive but it doesn’t really like hills! The mpg was very good; I drove in 820 miles on £95/€113.52 of petrol.
Stone Travel Tip 1: I saved €143.44 (€35.86 per booster) on hiring four car seats by bringing our own with us.
Stone Travel Tip 2: I saved and additional £120/€143.37 (£20 per day) rental fee for a Sat Nav by bringing my own with me, I never would have managed without one!

Where to stay:

We actually stayed in two different hotels during our visit to the UK. The first hotel I chose was the Holiday Inn Express in Slough as it’s a 10 minute drive to Legoland Windsor. I paid £118.20/€141.24 for 1 adult and 3 children for two night’s bed and breakfast. Parking is free but extremely limited onsite, as there were no spots available when we arrived I had to park in the train station car park next door. The hotel staff were extremely helpful and came out to assist me with the parking pay machine. Even though I’d be using the car while there it made more sense to buy a 3 day parking ticket costing £15.70/€18.76.

The hotel itself is exactly the same as any other hotel in the Holiday Inn chain. You pay for what you get; it was functional with no frills which suited us just fine. The area around the hotel wouldn’t be the best place to be walking at night with young children as it’s away from the main shopping/dining area so we had dinner in the hotel the first night. 

My youngest child had pizza & I had a sharing platter with my other 3 children. Breakfast was basic with the children opting for scrambled egg on toast while I had fresh fruit salad and a croissant.
Tip: They sell Fruit Shoot drinks for children at the hotel bar at an exorbitant price of £2.50 each (dearer than theme parks) so opt for cordial or bring drinks for your children to the hotel.

A highlight of any UK trip - KRISPY KREME!!

What we thought:

At the end of day one we’d travelled over 300 miles in 3 different countries, we’d had some great laughs, some drama llama moments, a few minutes bickering and lots of bad karaoke as we’d tuned into Heart radio station (the perfect station for crooning along on a road trip). 

Due to a traffic jam on the M4 we were held up for a long time and we eventually got to bed at about 10pm. What did we think? We thought the morning would never come around because we were about to take on .....LEGOLAND. Drop back next week to see how we got on and get some of our top tips for the next leg of our Mammy Van adventures!

Have you taken to the road with your little ones before? Any tips you'd like to share? 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Finding Dory - Movie Review

Who's In It?

Ellen DeGeneres, Ed O'NeillDiane Keaton, and Idris Elba

What's It About?

Dory has a dream about her lost family, and decides to drag Nemo and Marlin across the sea to find them.

Any Good?

I grew up on Finding Nemo and have seen it at least 20 times, so you can imagine I was pretty anti-sequel to one of the most important films of my childhood.

One of the things that swayed me was the return of the original voice actors - this is usually a good sign, and they didn't sound any less into it than for Nemo. One of the new highlights was Ed O'Neill as Hank the Septopus - he sounded even more exasperated and TV-style old man than on Modern Family.

This is very much a film of two halves - one in the water and one out. While out of the water does look good and has life in it, it has nothing on the sea of Nemo, but then again neither does the ocean unfortunately. The ocean itself only has about a quarter screen time, but it feels like a rushed checkup on familiar friends and tries to cram as many different water biome types in just not enough time.

Surprisingly for a sequel the story was great on it's own with vastly different locations and situations, as well as original characters. Some of the friends such as the sealions and Becky the bird are cleverly done, but my favourite has to be either Destiny the blind shark or the annoying clam (voiced by the director!).

A pleasant surprise from the land of cash-in sequels, Finding Dory felt like it had feeling put into it. The voice actors were brilliant and had not one phone-in, and for the first time in a long while I felt the heart of hand drawn animation styles in computer animation. 

Definitely go see it if you liked the original (who didn't???), and stay after the credits for a nice surprise.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Things That Rustle My Jimmies ~ The Blogging Edition

It's been a long week, lads. I've been in the blogging game for years now & this has quite possibly been the most trying of the lot. Herein lie some of the worst jimmie rustlers I've ever encountered... 

1.    Being invited for an overnight in a hotel, driving 3 hours to find they’d advertised that I’d be there & had local press waiting. 

Spending 2 hours meeting & greeting their guests, while gurning for press with each of them.

Accepting an offer of a drink from the manager during the melee only to find it was billed to my room the next day!!

2. Being met with astonishment by the agency when I invoiced them for the above. 

3. Schlepping an hour to an event & realising they don’t have product. 

Lipstick can be swatched at any counter, even counters have samples to work with!

4. Suffering serious FOMO watching Snaps from a gorgeous event then remembering it had been in my diary for fortnight….

5. ‘Unfortunately we don’t have a budget for this campaign’

Tell me, can you relate? Please tell me no to the first two.... What's been rustling your jimmies this week, blogging or otherwise...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday's Moments ~ 18/07/16

Can you BELIEVE that Irish weather? Glorious doesn't even begin to cover it. The world is a scary place right now but that sunshine goes some way to reminding us to be grateful for what we have. This week, the five moments I'm praising the powers that be for are: 

1. Bringing Heidi for her very first trip to the beach. 
She didn't like the water but loved the sand, was over friendly with the locals & ADORED the 99s! 

(she even makes adorable gifs like)

2. Managing to catch the Q&A with Director, Andrew Stanton at the screening of Finding Dory last week. 

One of the warmest, funniest and most engaging speakers I've ever had the pleasure to hear. 

Literally my face for the duration:

3. Driving to Athy to surprise the Niblings for a sleepover - it NEVER happens anymore!

4. Managing to drive Coast to Coast on half a tank of fuel for lunch in Enniscrone with my real life Bestie. 

We don't get to spend proper time together since she moved to Wexford so this really did the soul good, I haven't laughed as much in years!

5. Stepping on to the scales (after a further 3 weeks) and realising I've lost a full FOUR STONE now!! 

I feel better than I have throughout my thirties and quite possibly my twenties too. I'm not where I want to be yet but I'm 3/4 the way there & it's changed my world. CHUFFAGE!

I couldn't let today's Moments pass without mentioning that 3 of the above 5 moments are thanks to Linder's Renault in the Pavilions for giving me a loaner of the brand new Clio as part of their #retailrevolution campaign. As I'd said I wasn't paid for the week but I am more than grateful to them for turning my week around. You never know, they were such a delight to deal with that that might not be the last you hear of me with 'em yet!

Tell me, what's chasing away your Monday blues this week? It truly is cathartic to share. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The BFG - Movie Review!

Who's In It?

Jemaine ClementRuby Barnhill, and Mark Rylance

What's It About?

Sophie is an orphan who's kidnapped by a giant at the witching hour of 3 o' clock, and discovers that not all giants are child eating brutes.

Any Good?

The trailers looked very dark for children, but it was Steven Spielberg so I kind of just assumed it was his style - and I was pleasantly surprised.

I absolutely loved some of the CGI in this, while it does try a little too hard to be Harry Potter in some of the scenes (including an odd, almost cheap, knock-off style HP song) but what really stood out to me was the dreams; bright and vibrant wisps that formed almost Zoetrope-style animations.

They have Zoetropes in Disneyland Paris!

The BFG himself was almost perfect, even his subtle lip twitches and eye movements were mapped really well, but his voice was incredible. The entire film I was repeating to myself to remember to Google it, and it was none other than the winner of last years Best Supporting Actor Oscar - Mark Rylance!

The actress for Sophie was good, especially considering her script seemed to be written to be as annoying as possible. In one scene her character asks about 4 questions in a row and starts EVERY SINGLE ONE with "Hey BFG". She was impressive for her age, even with the bar set by Neel Sethi of The Jungle Book.

Images really don't do the animation justice

The BFG was fairly new to me, when I was of age to read Roald Dahl books myself I was reading things like Goosebumps or The Hobbit (explains a fair bit tbf); so to me it was a bit all over the place for the first 3/4. The last quarter with the Queen however reminded me a lot of King Edward from MacBeth, and the idea he was God (thanks A2 in Leaving Cert English!). 

Overall the BFG was enjoyable - it was a little dark and Spielberg which made the story a bit odd, but the visuals were beautiful. Honestly I'd probably wait to see this in HD or on Blu-Ray just to see the animation and dreams in a more vibrant resolution. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday's Moments ~ 11/07/16

That Monday very nearly got away from me, very nearly because the weekend before it managed! To say I'm been burning the candle at both ends would be an understatement but there's always, ALWAYS time to give thanks, right? In no particular order of deadliness this week: 

1. Accepting an invite to be a special guest at the Voya customer evening in the Ice House in Ballina this week. 

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Beauty, bubbles and a well earned break. They may not get me out of the robes now that I'll have room in them! 

2. Second one, I'm truly not bragging, just incredibly grateful, is that Renault are giving me wheels for a wee while. Just in time to get my tuckus to Ballina to wedge into that very robe!

Road Trip. Caraoke. Is. ON!

3. Making it all the way home after Tarzan last week with a half dozen hot donuts under my oxter. The ENTIRE bus hated me but the entire house loved me once I got here. 

Just as well the driver drove like he stole a stage coach because they were still warm when I shared them out. Even Heidi got her share. Cinnamon's her fave seemly...

4. Popping by the Argos 20th birthday party during the week and being transported back to Aaron's childhood. The year Teletubbies couldn't be gotten for love nor money. 

I remembered buying the bubble baths (because the lids were the characters heads) and sewing felt bodies to go with. Aaron (2) was over the moon and I remember being prouder than I've ever felt that I could provide for him. 

That was huge for 19yo single me, and entirely forgotten until I spotted that Tinky Winky lad once more.

5. The Snapchat Blogging Q&A I did last night being one of the most popular stories I've ever shared. That's thanks to you ledgebags sharing & shouting it out on your own platforms too. 

Not only that but it leading to two legitimate offers of paid work today, simply for sharing openly & honestly. 

Bloody marvels, every one of you!

So tell me, what's been chasing away your Monday blues this week? 

It's cathartic to share ya'know? 

Image result for cherrysue signature

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

How to Get Baby's First Passport in Ireland ~ The Definitive Guide

As a Mam to five little ones and a travel blogger one of the questions I’m frequently asked is ‘How do I get my baby’s first passport?’ The aim of this post is to answer all of your questions and give you some valuable tips that I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully making it easier for you to apply and be issued with your child’s passport without undue stress or delay.

So teeny!

Where do I get an Irish passport application form?

If you are a citizen living in Ireland you can pick up an APS1E Irish passport application from your local Garda Station, Post Office or from the Passport Office in either Dublin or Cork. If you are living outside of Ireland you’ll need an APS2E Irish passport application, in Northern Ireland you can get these in your local Post Office. For those living anywhere else in the world contact the Irish Embassy or Consulate in your Country.

Can I download an application for an Irish Passport online?

Unfortunately not at the moment, however if you can’t get to any of the places listed above or you want a number of applications, contact the Irish Passport Office by phone, e-mail or through their website and they’ll post some to you.

What type of passport can I get for my child?

The type of passport you apply for depends on your child’s age. If your child is under 3 years old you can only apply for a 3 year passport. If your child is over 3 but under 18 years old you can apply for a 5 year passport.

Where do I get passport photographs for my child?

I’ve found the best place to get your child’s photograph taken is in your local chemist. Some people opt to take their own at home but with so many rules and regulations governing passport photographs I always go with the easy option!

What are the rules for Irish passport photographs?

Four identical photographs taken within the last 6 months must be submitted. Two of which must be signed and stamped on the back by the witness you use to sign the application form, more details below with the information on signatures being witnessed.

They must be 45-50mm in height and 35-38mm in width. They should show a close up of your head and top of your shoulders so that your face takes up between 70-80% of the frame. There is a handy clear plastic guide included with the passport application so you can check your photograph yourself.
Photographs should be taken with a white/cream background but if you are very pale and /or have light coloured hair you are allowed use a darker background as there should be a marked contrast between you and the background.

Stone Travel Tip: For young babies I usually bring a dark block colour t-shirt age 2/3 years and put it over their clothes as I never had dark coloured clothes for any of my babies.

There should be no glare or shadows on the image or in the background. No hair covering (unless religious) or hair bands are allowed. No uniforms or insignias on clothes. There should be a good colour balance with no red eye or unnatural skin tone, that’s easier said than done when you’ve a teething baby!
Eyes should be open and looking towards the camera with mouth closed, I’ve found that they aren’t as strict with this rule with young baby’s photos. They recommend submitting black and white photographs but they’ll also accept colour photos. Reverse of the photographs must be white and unglazed.

Stone Travel Tip: For young babies who can’t yet hold themselves up bring a white blanket to lay them on it on the floor of the chemist and have a noisy toy to dangle near the lens of the camera to grab their attention.

Orla is NOT happy with the camera

Which documents do I need to include with the application for my baby’s passport?

The documentation you are required to provide depends on the citizenship category of both you and your child. All documents must be originals as the Passport Office will not accept photocopies. If your child is born in Ireland and

A) Parent is an Irish citizen


Birth certificate

Child’s original long-form birth certificate

Proof of parent’s Irish citizenship

The long-form birth certificate or Irish passport of that parent, issued before the child’s birth

Marriage Certificate

You must also include the parents’ civil marriage certificate if applicable

B) Parent is British citizen

Birth certificate

Child’s original long-form birth certificate

Parent’s British passport

The British passport of that parent

Marriage Certificate

You must also include the parents’ civil marriage certificate if applicable


 C) Parent is EU/EEA/Swiss national


Birth certificate

Child’s original long-form birth certificate
Declaration Form A: Completed by the parent, giving details of their period of residency in Ireland, this must be witnessed.

Parent’s passport or national ID card

Passport or national ID card of the parent who completes Declaration Form A

Parent’s proof of residency

Proof of residency from that parent, who must have lived in Ireland for three of the four years before the child’s birth

Parent’s tax records

Tax records from that parent, including P60, P45 and P35L certificates

Parent’s social welfare records

Records of any social welfare benefits or statement from the Department of Social Protection confirming that the parent received benefits and giving exact dates

Other documents to verify residency

You may also submit other original documents to fill any gaps in periods of residency such as pay slips, utility bills, an official rent/lease agreement, a rent book or bank statements showing local transactions

Marriage Certificate

You must also include the parents’ civil marriage certificate if applicable


If your child is born abroad to a parent born in Ireland, you must include:

Birth Certificate

Both the Child’s and the Irish born Parent’s original long-form birth certificates

Marriage Certificate

You must also include the parents’ civil marriage certificate if applicable

Do both parents/guardians have to sign the application form?
If parents are married and named on the child’s birth certificate, they must both give consent on section 7 of the application form even if they are separated or divorced.

If parents are unmarried and both are named on the child’s birth certificate, the consent of both parents should be given. However under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 the mother is sole guardian even though the father is named on the birth cert, unless the father has been granted guardianship by the courts.
The mother can apply for the child’s passport without the consent of the father by including a sworn affidavit (AFF1, available online form he passport office) stating that she is the sole guardian of the child.

If the parents are unmarried and only the mother is named on the birth certificate, the mother is the sole guardian of the child unless there is a court order naming another guardian. The mother can make a sole application as above including a sworn affidavit.

What happens if the other parent won’t give consent?
If parents are married and one parent is unwilling or unavailable to give consent the parent completing the application form must apply to the local District Court, under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 (section 11), requesting a Court Order dispensing with the consent of the unwilling/unavailable parent.

What do I do if my child’s other parent is deceased?

If one parent is deceased the parent completing the passport application must also complete an affidavit, (form AFF1) which is available online from the Passport Office. The surviving parent must swear that they are the sole legal guardian of the child. This affidavit must be witnessed by a Solicitor or Commissioner of Oaths and submitted with an original death certificate for the deceased parent.

Do I need to have my signature witnessed?

Yes parents/guardians signatures must be witnessed by one of the following who must not be a relative:

Garda Síochána/Police Officer, Member of the Clergy, Lawyer, Bank Manager/Assistant Bank Manager, Elected Public Representative, Medical Doctor, Notary Public Commissioner for Oaths, Peace Commissioner, School Principal/Vice Principal or Accountant.

Both parents/guardians don’t have to sign the form at the same time. You can get a different witness for each signature if you wish. However the child must be in the company of the parent/guardian as they are signing section 7 in front of a witness, this goes for both parents/guardians. You must bring photographic ID with you to show the witness and your child’s long-form birth certificate.

Stone Travel Tip: We’ve found the easiest thing to do is schedule a time when you’re both home, perhaps after dinner and head into your local Garda Station as a member of the Garda Síochána must witness section 8 the declaration by applicant and complete section 9.

Bring the following: Completed application form, photo ID for both parents/guardians, your child’s long-form birth cert, your marriage cert if applicable, four passport photographs of your child.

In the case of my child’s passport, who signs the Declaration by Applicant section?

Even though it doesn’t state it on the application form, children aged 7 years old and over must sign their own passport application and this must be witnessed by a member of the Garda Síochána, for children under 7 a parent/guardian can sign.

How much does a child’s passport cost?
Infant up to age 3 ~ 3 year passport ~ €16
Child age 3-17 ~ 5 year passport ~ €26.50
I have everything completed, where do I send my passport application?

This is where the Passport Office are very misleading as they recommend using Passport Express stating that it’s the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to get a passport. However they don’t tell you that you MUST use Passport Express when sending your application, if you decide to post it in regular mail in an ordinary envelope it’ll land on someone’s desk who’ll promptly return it to you advising you use Passport Express as that’s the only way they’ll accept postal applications.

Is there a cost for Passport Express?

To apply via Passport Express you must bring all of your documentation, signed and witnessed photographs and your completed form to your local Post Office where they’ll go through your application for you and ensure everything is in order.

One passport application via Passport Express is €9.50, €16 for a second application. Up to four applications can be sent in the same envelope for a flat fee of €16. You also pay the relevant passport fee at the desk in the Post Office. You’ll be given a receipt with a tracking number so you can track your passports progression online.

How long does Passport Express take?

The passport Office state that the turnaround time for Passport Express is 10 - 15 working days however this can take longer due to increased applications during peak season. They recommend applying for a first time passport at least 6 weeks before your intended date of travel as there is additional security checks associated with first time applications.

Can I get my child’s passport sooner?

If you are intending to travel within 3 weeks of your application they advise making an appointment online to visit the Passport Office in either Dublin or Cork to make your application in person. There are a limited number of appointments each day and proof of travel is required. There is an increased fee for making an application at the public counter in the Passport Office.

Infant up to age 3 ~ 3 year passport ~ €31
Child age 3-17 ~ 5 year passport ~ €41.50
Plus an emergency passport fee of €30

There you have it, the complete & comprehensive low down on Irish Passports for children and babies. Have I left something out? Or do you have any tips? Please let me know!