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F MILYLife Y In association with



Singer Brian Houston, football legend Gerry Armstrong & actress Carla Langley PLUS: Mum’s record breaking babies; favourite Christmas memories, festive fashion and beauty, gift ideas, holidays, recipes, entertainments and more

4 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Contents 6-7 Singer Brian Houston on being home and embracing the new

24-25 Dining in style!

26-27 Holiday ideas for winter and summer getaways

8 How men can dress to impress this festive season 10-11 Frock around the Christmas tree

30-31 Embrace family life with a staycation 36-37 How to sail through the biggest meal 12 of the year

12 Have a sparkling Christmas jumper day

38-39 Supervalu’s Ambassador chef Noel McMeel’s delicious Christmas recipes

14 Festive make-up, bagged

40 NI Year of Food Awards open for entries

15 Be kind to your skin this winter

42-43 Spain’s a winner with football legend Gerry Armstrong

18-19 Our quick guide to great gifts 20 Twin sets make for busy Christmas


21 Baker mum’s record breaking babies

44 Imagine life without Christmas? 45 Joy to the world remembering the reason for the season

22-23 Go luxe this Christmas 48

46-47 Top 20 toys and games 48 The toys that have stood the test of time

Published by Belfast Telegraph 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast, Co. Antrim. BT1 1EB FAMILY LIFE MANAGER Jackie Reid Belfast Telegraph EDITOR Fiona Rutherford Realtime Editing & Design NI Ltd CONTRIBUTORS Claire McKeever, Davina Gordon, Steven Beacom, Paul Hopkins, Brian Walker, Maureen Coleman, Ronan McDaid, Jayne Quigg & Ruaidhri McCarney DESIGN Susan McClean INM Design Studio, Belfast PRINTING INM, Newry

50 Even a foul fowl couldn’t ruin a family Christmas 52-53 Stage star Carla Langley’s small screen ambitions


Christmas Only 15 sleeps to go!


ith just a fortnight until the big day, the chances are you have your tree up, cards almost written, plenty of shopping done and a calendar full of social events. The turkey is ordered, Santa has been written to and you have a fair idea of who is getting what for Christmas. It’s time to put your feet up and relax with a steaming coffee or mulled wine and take stock of what’s what. We have lots of features for you to mull over with tips for serving up the juiciest turkey and getting your Christ-

54-55 How to celebrate the festive season 56-57 Spreading Christmas spirit to refugees 58 Help for people struggling through the festive season 60-61 Gifts for pampered pets 62 Stay safe on the roads

Christmas got off to the perfect start for Newtownards woman Rosemary Mitchell who got to meet country star Nathan Carter before his gig at Bangor Elim after winning our ticket prize in Countdown to Christmas

mas table - as well as the rest of the house - looking its best. Don’t forget to check out Noel McMeel’s mouthwatering recipes, in association with Supervalu. The festive season is a time to sparkle and we have fashion and beauty tips to have you shimmering - even on Christmas Jumper Day. For this Christmas issue of Family Life, we met up with football legend Gerry Armstrong, singer Brian Houston and rising star of the London stage Carla Langley to find out about their plans for Christmas and beyond. Family is at the heart of Christmas and we meet super mums Leah McBride, whose six children include two sets of twins, and Pauline Carson, whose children look set for a place in the record books. Enjoy a spot of nostalgia at Christmas? Our feature on toys that have stood the test of time will jog memories, as will our piece on a Belfast Christmas years ago. While Christmas is a time for celebration, it’s also a time for looking after those who are struggling - few moreso than the Syrian refugees living in camps in northern Greece and we hear from a group who are just back. Finally, we can’t forget the reason for the season and we have some beautiful reflections to keep our focus on what matters most. Family Life will be back in February. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!

6 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016


BrianHouston, everreadyto embracethenew

It is coming up to a year since singer Brian Houston made a memorable return to Belfast with a headline show at the Belfast Nashville Festival at Empire Music Hall. Claire McKeever sits down with the creative dynamo at a cafe in his native east Belfast, to hear his memories of the city, how he has adjusted to life back home after almost three years in the States, and his plans for Christmas and the new year.

rian Houston took a step away from his familiar sound with his 2016 album Songs from my Father, a collection of old Irish songs that he felt deserved to be celebrated. “I discovered you could buy the album 50 Traditional Irish songs for just £3.99 online and I thought that was such a travesty. I had to do something to put a spotlight on these amazing songs because they deserve it. Songs like Carrickfergus, which is essentially an Irish man’s blues... I wanted to bring out its true melancholy.” Not stopping at that and not being one to confine himself to a particular expression, the singer has now launched a book, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Worship Leading (and how to tell the difference), which he describes as “a journey through music - both in the mainstream world and church world. “The book itself is in story form and shares anecdotes of what happened to me and what I’ve learnt so far. It’s almost a how-to, at times exceptionally practical, at times more emotional. It was good to come back to Ireland last year as it gave me some time to finish it,” says Brian. “It is hopefully inspiring. I did get an email from a guy last night saying it had him in tears and that it meant a lot to him which was nice... The feedback has been good so far.”

The American Dream

Not content with sell-out gigs close to home, Brian decided to head off to the USA with his wife Pauline three years ago: “I wanted something new and fresh to do. We applied for a visa to work in the States for one year and we were given three so we thought we would just go for it. “It was an adventure. Someone loaned us a car and we lived in a cabin in the woods of Carolina, where there were deer and racoons in the garden. The first six months were like a holiday then it got more serious as we started working,” says Brian. When Brian says ‘work’ he does, of course, mean traversing America in the VW Beetle given to them and stopping to play music along the way. “We drove through fall in New England, through Quebec, Toronto to Chicago... and all those places that are so romantic. “You got used to 12-13 hour drives a day, leaving at seven in the morning and ending up in a different place each night. “It was a dream in that sense - a holiday we got to pay for with gigs. It was amazing. Our daughter was in California doing her own thing and our son was at university so it was a little window that opened up and we went with it.”

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 7

Brian and his wife Pauline are enjoying being back in Northern Ireland


Despite their great adventure Brian says the call to come home eventually became louder and the honeymoon period started to wear off: “We returned home partly because our visa was coming to the end and partly as my wife wanted to be home with her sister and father who were ill. “My wife had cancer 10 years ago and her sister was then going through it so she obviously wanted to be at home with her. Her sister and her are thankfully now in great health but her father did pass away so the timing was definitely right. I do think life is very much about seasons and that season in America had come to an end,” says Brian. “When we did come home I was continuing to tour in Canada and the US and had a new album on the go so it wasn’t such a big change. However, the latter part of the year - these last few months - have been a bit harder as I’m trying to tour England and re-establish myself there. “It is higher risk and needs a lot of emotional robustness but it is times like last week in Milton Keynes, when all the staff remembered us and fans were incredible, that it makes things easier. We were welcomed back so warmly and that was lovely.”

When you live overseas you appreciate Ireland and the friendliness of people. People want a real relationship here. There is a slowness to life; we work to live, rather than live to work

Overall Brian seems content with the decision to return to Northern Ireland, despite the challenges it brings. If anything, it seems the experience in America has given him and his wife a fuller and more appreciative sense of their homeland: “When you live overseas you appreciate Ireland and the friendliness of people. People want a real relationship here. There is a slowness to life; we work to live, rather than live to work. I mean, the fact we are sitting here in a coffee shop in December and no one is in a rush is a wonderful thing. Northern Ireland is a beautiful place. We really appreciate it here much more. I’ve heard stories of people who are incredibly wealthy and could live anywhere but decide to live here.”

Faith through troubled times

Brian professes to not having been affected by The Troubles growing up but seems to have had the occasional brush: “I was pretty protected from The Troubles as I lived in a bit of dream world anyway. When we were teenagers doing gigs we did have a few times when we were almost shot by the British Army running through roadblocks but I see this more as a subject of a good story rather than anything else. “At one end of our street was a school and its playground was used during the evening to teach paramilitaries how to march and at the other end was a church with badminton clubs and warmth on a winter night - I did almost go in the direction of the school but my mum gave me a slap around the head and told me I wasn’t to go.” And so, in the direction of church Brian went - becoming a Christian at an early age in a departure from the family tradition. “My dad wasn’t churched at all, he’s actually a Communist so he would have been anti-religion if anything. My mum is

nominal in the political sense so I was often discouraged rather than encouraged to go to church. “I ended up finding religion through my own choice. I was about 12 years old when I was invited to church by my brother who had become a Christian. I gave him a hard time about it,” recalls Brian. “He invited me to church one day because they were looking for a singer and I was keen to sing. There were a lot of good looking girls there and I got the job of singing at the church. It was my first gig. “We initially came across a lot of rejection from church because of the way we looked and smelt - our parents smoked up 60 cigarettes a day - but it was actually the youth workers in the church who embraced us: allowing us use of instruments, showing us guitar chords; teaching us new things about music… “In that sense I owe my life to the church as friends of mine and family members did get involved in the The Troubles - some of them ending up in jail - but I had music and somewhere warm to go to.”

Christmas at the Houstons

I ask Brian what Christmas celebrations look like in the Houston household: “It’s very much about family,” he says. “For us it’s very traditional: we love to get a real tree, get a big turkey, do all the overeating! We tick all the boxes. It is really about us being together and spending some quality time with one another.” I’m hesitant to ask Brian what his plans are for 2017 as he doesn’t seem the type of person to be bound by New Year’s resolutions but am glad I do when his response is more than positive: “New year is great because I think it’s a powerful thing to draw a line and look back and say ‘I’ve made those mistakes and this year I’m not going to

make those mistakes again… I’m going to make new mistakes’,” he laughs. “I think new year is a very cathartic time to stop looking back and start looking forward; to leave regrets behind and to look forward to tomorrow. So for me I am eternally optimistic; I always welcome the new year and the next thing coming.” With that, I’m curious to know if Brian has any ‘new mistakes’ to make in 2017 but his next venture, with old friend and drummer Terl Bryant, who has played with such luminaries as Peter Gabriel and Gary Moore, has success written all over it. The plan took shape after Bryant took up a half joking invitation to play with Brian in England last week: “He ended up playing a few nights on our tour, during which time we hatched a plan to do a whole separate guitar and drums thing together. “We’re now planning to into prisons in England. The thought of going in and playing our music is exciting as it will be quite edgy and raw. I think it will impact us as much as the prisoners - I mean, look what it did for Johnny Cash. “I’m also recording three more records at the moment which I’m sure will come out at some point in the next year. Truthfully, I’m not sure which one to prioritise but I suppose I’ll go with the one that feels right at the time.” As he talks of plans, it seems Brian and his family are keen to keep their roots in Northern Ireland for the near future: “I don’t think we’ll consider being away again and my wife has her feet very firmly under the table, which is not a bad thing for me either!”

The spice of life

“A few weeks ago I was invited to a Ben Harper gig at Brixton Academy, London. The singer said from the stage ‘You know I don’t trouble YouTube, don’t make singles or videos and yet you’re all here, and I’m very grateful for that’. If you’ve got a sold out gig and you’re doing it on your terms - making the music you want to make and not pleasing the man - then you’ve got it all. I sat there thinking ‘That’s where I want to get to with my music’,” says Brian. “I’m keen to continue playing in places I’ve never played before, recording sounds I’ve never made before and meeting people I’ve never met before. “Change is the spice of life after all.”

8 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016 Burton, Coat £120, Jumper £35, Trousers £40

Primark, Grey overcoat, £35

Debenhams, John Rocha coat, £150


Dune, Men’s Requiem, £95


Office, Educate Blue, £69.99

If you’re needing some inspiration for your wardrobe this Christmas, look no further!


his season, think block colours in earth tones and utilitarian pieces that will have you looking sharp and stylish, writes Davina Gordon. Shirts don’t have to be plain, go for a bold print that will make you stand out from the crowd. For jackets, velvet is not just for girls - we recommend Next’s gorgeous chocolate Velvet Blazer. Primark does a range of overcoats that boast clean lines at prices that won’t blow your budget. To complete the look, you’ll need a great pair of shoes. We love Dunes range and Next’s Chelsea boot. You’ve no excuse not to look dapper now...

Blue Inc, Navy blue Oxford shirt, £16.99

Debenhams, J by Jasper Conran, shirt, £40

River Island, Blue Swirl Print Shirt, £28

Jigsaw, Oxford Shirt, £79

Next, Velvet blazer, £80

Debenhams, Hammond & Co by Patrick Grant brogues, £90

Next, Epsom Coat, £99

Next, Neppy jacket, £90

River Island, Black geometric print jacquard suit jacket, £110

Next, Brogue Chelsea Boots, £65

10 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Frockaroundthe CHRISTMAST By Davina Gordon

Monsoon, Vivienne Velvet Jacket, £79, Vivienne Wide Leg Trouser, £69

Dorothy Perkins, Velvet culotte dungarees, £50

V by Very, Velvet high neck skater dress, £58



Dorothy Perkins, Black velvet slip dress, £45

If you haven’t made up your mind yet, there’s still time to pick your perfect Christmas dress. There’s lots of choice out there so we’ve done the hard work and handpicked our favourite festive frocks. You can’t go wrong with an edgy leather (or pleather) LBD, just add an opulent statement necklace to give the look a flash of femininity. Lace is always a stunning option for the party season and there are some gorgeous options; we love Myleene Klass’ metallic maxi dress from Littlewoods. Velvet is a luxurious choice, perfect if you love looking classy. Finally, it really is the season to sparkle, but you don’t have to go all out… just a flash of glitz will suffice. If you really do want to shimmer and shine then check out our choices… we are in love with Jenny Packham No.1 floor-length jaw dropper at Debenhams. Happy shopping!

LEATHERLovely La Redoute Leather dress, £149

V by Very, Leather A-line dress, £180

George at ASDA, Black leather-look pleat dress, £18

Dress available from Miss Selfridge

F&F Tesco, Raindrop sparkle lurex dress, £15

EAST, Sparkle pleat dress, £109

Miss Selfridge, Bow detail dress, £65

Debenhams, NO.1 by Jenny Packham, £199

Marks & Spencer, Autograph leather sleeveless dress, £229


Little Mistress, On the shoulder embroidered velvet bodycon dress, £70

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 11


Phase Eight, Adalyn Dress, £150

Littlewoods, Rochelle Humes floral and lace panel tea dress, £60

Lipsy, Love Michelle Keegan all over lace corset dress, £68

ss Kla s, e en res yle axi d M , m s od ce wo ic La 120 e l l £ t Lit etal m


Th mu g

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Debenhams, Red Herring, £25

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

M&Co, Snowflake reindeer jumper, £29


Primark, £12



housands of people Christmas jumpers have around the UK will long been regarded as garish be getting silly this and ridiculous, the often December for a serious unwanted present from cause - by dressing up in your nan that remains at flashy festive jumpers. the back of your wardrobe. Like Movember, which But in recent years, high has taken on a life of its street stores have jumped own, Christmas Jumper on the jumper bandwagon Day has become a regular and transformed the tacky feature in the seasonal sweaters into sparkly, calendar, helping to raise sequinned, fun-to-wear huge amounts of cash for fashion items. Save The Children. Shops like Oasis, DoroTurn your pullovers thy Perkins and Primark into pounds by getting have a good range of into the spirit and Oasis, Sequin snowflake Christmas jumpers on donning a silly sweater. jumper, £42 sale at the moment, Those taking part on from bright and loud to December 16 can boost subtle and chic. the charity’s coffers by donating a mere £2, Celebrities too have been getting in on while groups of people are being encourthe act with Holly Willoughby, Myleene aged to organise fund-raising activities, Klass and Fearne Cotton stepping out in either at workplace or in school. the seasonal sweaters. But there is a serious side to Christmas Jumper Day too as all money raised goes towards helping improve the lives of children in need around the world. Funds help Save the Children bring essentials like healthcare, education, protection and food to the millions of children who are missing out on the most basic support. Every year, millions of children around the world die before their fifth birthday from easily preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Many more are forgotten simply because they were born in the wrong place, or because they are girls, refugees, disabled or from a minority. And that’s where Christmas Jumper Day comes in. All you have to do is sign up for a fund-raising pack and pay in, either online, at the bank or by cheque. V by Very, Embellished bauble Christmas tree So cast off your style misgivings and jumper, £25 give in to pullover power.

New Look, Reindeer heart print jumper, £14.99

Dorothy Perkins, £26

George at Asda, Jingle bells sequin jumper, £16

14 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Christmas make-up bagged

1 2 4



By Davina Gordon

It’s the season for partying so you 9 need to make sure you can ramp up the glam at the drop of a hat. Here are the essential products you need in your make up 12 bag so you can go from drab to fab in minutes. Office to 1 Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Colour in Your Majesty, £25 Urban Decay Liquid Moondust in Zodiac, £15 the dance floor? 23 Bobbi Brown Basic Eye Palette, £37.50 4 MAC Studio Nail in Sparkledust, £10 No problem!

6 7 10 14

5 Urban Decay Naked Illuminating Trio, £29 6 Bobbi Brown Sequin Eye Shadow in Golden Chocolate, £26 7 MAC Magic Dust Eye Shadow, in Forward March, £17.50



Don’t forget about your locks this Christmas. Just add sparkle or a fetching fascinator to stand out from the crowd.

Boticca Theresa by Anne-Sophie Coulot at, £272



8 Bobbi Brown Sequin Eye Shadow in Rose Gold, £26 9 MAC Lipstick in So Good For You, £17 10 Estee Lauder New Limited Edition Sumptuous Knockout Eyeshadow Palettes, £44.00 11 MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation, £22 12 MAC Superslick Liquid Eyeliner, £16 13 MAC Haute & Naughty Black Mascara, £19 14 Estee Lauder Modern Muse Nuit Eau De Parfum, 30ml, £50

New Look, Gold and Pearl Flower Hairband, £7.99

Debenhams, No. 1 Jenny Packham Designer rose gold crystal peacock feather hair clip, £28


Sequin Bow Hair Band, Accessorize, £6 Accessorize Metal Flower Hair Crown, £15

Accessorize Crystal Bling Hair Pins, £8

Diva at Miss Selfridge Fur Pom Pom Hair Band, £4.50

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 15


1 2





1 Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, £20


Kiehl’s Hydro Plumping Re-Texturising Serum Concentrate, £40

3 Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub, £24 4 Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, £24

5 Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Cream, spf 30, £48 6 Elemis Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules, £65 7 Estee Lauder Priming Moisture Eye Balm, £44 8 Estee Lauder Genuine Glow Lip Tint, £16

9 Olay Anti-Wrinkle Instant Hydration Night Cream, £9.99 10 Olay Regenerist 3 Point Super Firming Serum, £29.99 11 Olay Total Effects Eye Transforming Cream, £14.99

12 Estee Lauder Nutritious Radiant Vitality 2-Step Treatment, £50



Snow King and Queen Travis Young and Meagan Green launch the Make Up For Ever collection for Paddy McGurgan (centre)



ulti award winning make-up artist and entrepreneur Paddy McGurgan has just won a lucrative contract to be the sole Northern Irish stockist of Parisian based collection, Make Up For Ever. The brand, created by the iconic Dany Sanz, is now available in Paddy McGurgan’s flagship Make Up Pro Store in Belfast with his Derry and Newry stores to follow suit in 2017. Former fine arts student Dany found her calling when she was asked to do make-up for a fashion show and from then she knew her life would be make up forever - the name of her brand. She says:

12 11

adies, it’s cold outside… so that means your skin needs a little extra TLC. Cold weather has an awful habit of playing havoc with the most important organ we have. If you already have minor skin complaints, there’s a good chance that the cold weather will exacerbate them. It’s easy to forget your skin in a traditionally manic period between work deadlines and a hectic social life but a little extra care will pay off in the long term. We love Kiehl’s, with ingredients such as lavender, caffeine and rosa arctica, it’s a luxury brand that’s so good for your skin. Other favourites are luxury brand Estee Lauder which boasts bespoke skin solutions and Olay, which offers a very affordable, high performance range. These top skin treats are also great stocking fillers.

“Life is a stage - whatever your role, Make Up For Ever is here to help you play it! Our brand strives not only to be at the service of artists, accompanying them in their various performances, but also to help women embody what they truly are.” Paddy says: “This is the only brand with a 360° vision. Make Up For Ever not only services the general public but also encompasses specialised products for cinema, TV, theatre, opera, dance, cabarets, circuses, drag artists, embalmers etc. This is perfect timing to introduce the brand into the market too as so many blockbuster movies and television dramas are currently being filmed in Northern Ireland.” For further enquires check out:





16 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016 ADVERTISING FEATURE The whole family can get involved in getting healthy with Garmin

Gethealthywiththegiftofa GARMIN


s Winter rolls in and the weather 5 FITNESS FREDDY gets colder it becomes harder FAMILY EXERCISE TIPS and harder to get kids outside and exercising. However, childParents seem to find it hard to find hood obesity is a growing issue and its time to exercise with their kids, what more important than ever for parents tips could you give to help them get movto help their kids get out, moving and ing? having fun. You don’t need to go outside and play Garmin’s vivo range aims to help. sport to get exercise, if you want to stay in The selection of wearables features an blast the music on and boogie down! Or if the activity-tracker watch for every member weather’s not terrible go for a family walk with of the family; from the vivofit jr., designed the dog or walk to school instead of driving. Just especially for kids, to the vivoactive and get moving! vivosmart HR for teens and adults. Every wearable throughout the range calculates Why is it important for parents to your steps, distance, sleep, and of course exercise with their kids? time, whilst everyone can compare their Exercise is not only important for children statistics online using the connect app. to stay physically fit but it can also be a The specially designed new vivofit jr. is great bonding opportunity for families. Kids are a stylish, durable, water resistant watch more likely to want to go out and exercise if their made specifically for kids. It also features a parents want to do it with them and they’ll enjoy range of in-watch games and it more. With Garmin’s vivofit jr. even helping challenges which parparents out with chores around the house can ents can set for rewards become a fun, bonding activity. and prizes, making everyday activities such as brushing teeth or exercise fun for everyone and helping create healthy habits for the whole family. Garmin Ambassador Fitness Freddy works with schools, community groups and clubs throughout the country putting the fun back into fitness. Here he discusses his top tips for helping the The vivofit jr. is designed especially for kids family stay fit:




Fitness Freddy gives his tips


Which ways can families incorporate healthy foods into their lifestyle? Even taking one night a week for the family to make smoothies together further incorporates the bonding aspect of a healthy lifestyle and helps get essential fruits into your diet.


How can parents help schools get involved? Fundraising events for charity or Healthy life style week in your school, such as FITNESS FREDDY FUN DAY!


How important is it for Kids health to make sure they get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day? Remember it doesn’t all have to happen at one time, it can be throughout the day. It helps build strong bones and muscles and boost general fitness, just use a Garmin watch to help keep you and your family on track! For more information about Garmin’s range of fitness watches please visit:

18 | Family Life


Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016


he problem with buying presents for adults in particular is that if they want something, they’re likely to go and get it for themselves. How often have you thought you have the perfect gift idea coming up to Christmas or a birthday, only for them to show off their newest toy to you a few weeks out? Whether it’s a set of golf clubs they’ve had their eye on or a must-see boxset that a friend recommended, chances are they are going to or already have treated themselves to it before you can get it for them. Here are a few nifty ideas for Christmas staples you can’t go wrong with, along with some outside of the box suggestions that might help you second guess your loved one this winter. Teens and children will come right out and tell you what they want, but we’ve also come up with a few nice suprises for them too. Most of these are available from a range of outlets.

The Memobottle is an ingenious, premium quality and BPA free reusable flat drinks container for your briefcase or laptop bag. It holds as much as a standard bottle - 750ml in the case of the A5 and 375ml for the A6 - but it’s only 3cm wide, £18,

The award-winning Vinturi red wine aerator revolutionised the aeration of wine when it launched in 2005. Simply pour the wine from the bottle, straight through the Vinturi and into your glass, £40,

Generate electricity with a lemon, launch a baking soda fueled rocket and build a tabletop volcano complete with bubbly lava with the Kitchen Science kit. Suitable for age 8+, £10.75,

A great gift for your favourite coffee lover, the Nespresso machine makes the perfect cup every time, £149.50. Add a Nespresso Aeroccino milk frother to create a luxurious cappuccino or latte macchiato.

The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 allows you to bypass using a traditional printer and print Polaroid-style images directly from your phone, £140

The Pickmaster Precision Plectrum Cutter will save your resident guitarist heaps of money, £19.99,

The Playstation VR is taking the gaming world by storm. Sony’s latest offer includes a great collection of games, with Batman being among the most popular. Playstation VR £349.99, Batman game, £15.99

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 19 Coco Mademoiselle is luring younger women into the Coco Chanel world of perfume, £50 for 35ml

A Fantastic beasts mug will work magic with kids and teens, £7.50, Easons

Forget Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, this Christmas why try out Tension, a crazy naming game described as ‘a fast and frantic frenzy’, £19.99

Pandora’s beautiful Sparkling Allure bracelet is a definite winner when it comes to impressing someone special with its Moments Silver Signature Clasp Bracelet, two Pandora sterling silver Shining Path Clip and a elegant sterling silver Vintage Allure charm to boot, £149

Pamperthem withahamper One of the hit new fragrances for men is the luxurious Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum Spray 30ml, £54

Music lovers will enjoy the premium quality sound of the Denon AH-D600, retailing at around £350

Best selling author Jodi Picoult explores prejudice and power in Small Great Things, which deals with the death of a newborn baby in a routine hospital procedure, rrp £14.99

Warm their heart with a candle, lovingly hand-crafted by Belfast’s Bearded Candle Makers. Choose from a range of scents, such as the Forget me not, £12.50,

Given the year that’s passed, demand is certain to be high for the Private Eye Annual by the satirical magazine’s editor Ian Hislop, rrp £9.99

Given that we’re coming to the end of NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, why not take that as a theme and put together a fab hamper of luxury handmade chocolates, artisinal preserves and craft beer, cider or locally made spirits, Northern Irish cheeses and teas or coffees blended or roasted in Belfast?

20 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016


ChristmasatMcBrides Mum of six, including two sets of twins, Leah McBride tells Maureen Coleman how she manages to run a harmonious home.

Sean Paul Jnr (left) at an awards night

Jack and Pearse

Leah with Lucia and Meah


ith the help of her husband Sean Paul, the north Belfast woman runs the household like a well-oiled machine, co-ordinating schedules and organising timetables from the moment she wakes before 7am until she finally gets to bed around 11.30pm. It’s a system that works well, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, with six sets of clothing and gifts to sort out. But Christmas Day also means Leah gets the chance to relax and put her feet up for a change as it’s normally spent out of her own house. “Every year we get invited to spend Christmas with either my mum and dad, Sean Paul’s mum and dad or my aunt and uncle who live next door to us,” she says. “This year we’ll spend it with Sean Paul’s parents. There are just too many of us to have it at home, it would be manic! “The whole period before Christmas is really hectic; getting the tree sorted, their Christmas clothes ready, all the presents bought. The kids are normally up from around 4am, we have to tell them to go back to bed! And the house is covered in wrapping paper. “When Boxing Day comes round, it’s a chance to catch up on my sleep.

Seeing double - twice! Jack and Pearse with Lucia and Meah coaching at university, the other five all attend school. Carleigh is a pupil at Little Flower school, the twin boys at St Patrick’s College and the twin girls attend St Patrick’s Primary School in the New Lodge.

February babies

By coincidence, all four of the older children were born in the month of February and at one stage, when Carleigh was just a year old and the twin boys were born, Leah

Great support

“We’re very lucky to have such a great support network. We couldn’t function properly if it wasn’t for that support. And routine is important too. Family life wouldn’t work as well without routine.” Leah and Sean Paul’s six children range in age from 19 to four and all still live at home. Sean Paul Jnr is the eldest, followed by 12 year old Carleigh. Next come the twin boys Pearse and Jack (11) who are non-identical and then four year old identical twin girls Lucia and Meah. While Sean Paul is studying football

Because we both have twins in our families, we weren’t too surprised when the boys came along

was coping with three babies all under the age of one. Given their genetic make-up, twins were on the cards for the McBrides. Both Leah and Sean Paul have twins in their families, but as the female, Leah is the multiple birth gene carrier. Her great aunt Emily also had two sets of twins, but even so, the young couple were gobsmacked when they found out they were expecting twins again with their girls. “Because we both have twins in our families, we weren’t too surprised when the boys came along,” said Leah. “Although Jack and Pearse aren’t identical twins, they are very alike. They have very similar features and you’d know they were brothers.

Double shock

“When I was told I was expecting twins again with the girls, I couldn’t believe it. At our first scan we were told it wasn’t twins but then I was sent to the Royal and the nurse said, ‘Congratulations, you’re expecting twins’. I burst into tears. I was a bit worried about how I would cope but to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, it can be very full on, but I love

having a big family and Sean Paul Jnr and Carleigh are great with the younger kids.” Leah was looked after during her last pregnancy by Dr Samina Dornan, step-mum to actor Jamie Dornan, and Leah says she felt she was in very safe hands at all times. “Dr Dornan was doing research into multiple births and was very interested in my case. She told me I was the gene carrier and also that if you have one multiple birth, the chances are greater you’ll have go on to have another one.”

Feeling blessed

Every day life in the McBride household is frantic but each activity, each chore, runs like clockwork now – from breakfast in the morning to lights out at night. “The kids all go to bed at different times and it’s normally around 11.30pm before I get to bed myself,” says Leah. “I love that moment where there’s peace in the house and I’m normally that tired I fall asleep straight away. “Having six children and two sets of twins is a full-time job and I’m kept very busy. But when I look at my kids and see how great they all are, I feel very blessed,” she adds. “I genuinely consider them to be a gift from God.”

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 21

Bakermum’s record The wheel breaking deal babies

Trying to decide how and where to buy a bicycle can induce the wobbles. Colin O’Carroll, of Full Cycle, Crumlin, gives Family Life his tips.

By Fiona Rutherford


reat British Bake-off contestants, set a showstopper challenge, will painstakingly measure off exact quantities of pastry to create bakes of identical size. Few of them could match the precision of local baker Pauline Carson, who has trumped all those puns about a baker having a bun in the oven by producing three gorgeous children - all weighing precisely the same amount! When Daisy weighed in at 8lb 11 ten years ago, Pauline and husband Mark were delighted with their bouncing baby. Joseph came along five years later and created quite a stir when he was found to weigh exactly the same as his big sis. The couple were told that their third child, named Sal after Pauline’s Maltese grandfather Salvatore, was likely to be big but no-one seriously considered the unthinkable. Pauline says: “We were thinking wouldn’t it be really funny if this baby was the same weight - his estimated weight was 8lb 11 going by his due date. We had a laugh and thought that will never happen and then towards the end of the pregnancy they told me he was going to be bigger than the other two.” When baby Sal was born, on September 29 at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, the

midwife who weighed him was the only one of the five people in the room who was unaware of the family history. Pauline recalls they thought he looked smaller than the others. Mark guessed 8lb 4. “I had this feeling though and I said 8lb 11 and she put him on the scales and gave us the weight in grammes. Mark said, ‘What’s that in old money?’ The nurse said 8lb 11 and there was an audible gasp in the room - nobody could believe it. The midwives said they had never had this in the hospital before. “The strange thing is none of the three was born on their due date - Daisy was late, Joseph was early and Sal was a day over, so it is a total fluke.” Back home in Bangor, Pauline was speaking to her GP who said she had never come across anything like it before. A friend wondered if there was such

an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records and unconvinced, Pauline checked online and found that sure enough, there is a world record of three in a family in Australia all weighing the same amount. “It said their birthweights were rounded up to the nearest ounce but my three are identical weights right to the last gramme, plus our babies are bigger.” The Carson children also looked identical when they were born. Pauline filled in a form online and is now waiting to hear back whether her babies will begin the process of being officially recognised as World Record breakers. “It’s just a bit of craic. Daisy said we will be too late for this year’s book, somebody might have four babies the same weight but I don’t think we will be testing that theory out anyway.”

The current World Record citation and right, Mark Carson with his record breaking children, Joseph, Daisy and baby Sal

WITH Christmas upon us many people will be looking for that now traditional seasonal gift - a new bike. Whether it be for a child, teen or adult, the bottom line is buy the best quality you can afford. If you are looking for a first or second bike for a child, quality is not such an issue as the bike will not last the child too long as they grow out of them quickly, but if seeking to pass the bike on, quality is more important. Many of the chainstores supply kids’ bikes but be aware that many come disassembled and you will need to build them yourself. Some will build the bike for you, but there may also be an extra cost to that with a charge typically of between £25 and £30. Also be aware that many independent retailers such as ourselves will not repair these machines as the cost of doing so in many cases outweighs the value, and some are just not repairable as they are almost designed to be disposable and kids can be rough on a bike, with many left outdoors where they simply rust. With bikes for teens and adults the same applies, with the quality issue even more important as the bike will have to last much longer. It’s best in this case to plump for a recognised brand - in our case we supply the Raleigh range along with Freego and Kalkhoff electric bikes, but can also order in other brands as required. Buying from an independent ensures a service contract, warranty and full repair facilities. When buying, choose carefully and try to make sure the bike fits the rider, and in the case of children and teens, that it allows for some adjustment as they grow and become more experienced. Ideally it’s best to try the bike out, but with youngsters that may not be an option as Santa is involved in the deal. If you plan to have the bike for any length of time, again, buy the best you can afford, as saving a few pounds now may well cost in the long term and you may not be happy with the bike - meaning an unpleasant rather than enjoyable ride. We’d also advise getting a helmet, reflective clothing and lights as even during the day they can be necessary. Merry Christmas cycling!

22 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016


Velvet ombre throw, £55, Next


Dramatic and decadent sum up the interior design trends for winter 2016.

Large pebble pink bowl, £22,


hile autumn’s hues of greens, browns and mustards had an influence on home interiors but now that the cold, dark nights have set in and Christmas is just around the corner, colours are more dramatic and textures more luxurious. Catwalk trends often inspire interior design and one trend that refuses to go away is metallic. And Christmas is the ideal time to dress up your house in gold, silver, sequins and glitter. Make a huge silver vintage mirror the focal point of your bedroom or hang magnificent midnight blue velvet curtains in the living room to keep the warmth in. Grey, in all its glory, continues to be a key colour for winter and going into next spring. One shade that looks set to appear in home interiors in 2017 is dark green, so why not get two steps ahead of the trend and introduce it now. Dark green is a traditional Christmas shade and co-ordinates perfect-

ly with other festive favourites such as red and gold. Alternatively, purple and silver remain in vogue as well and once again, are colours we normally associate with opulence and Christmas. Dark teal, plum and aubergine sit well alongside mustard and rose pink, while winter white never dates, particularly when teamed with silver or gold. Warm tactile fabrics are not just practical when the big freeze sets in but are contemporary too. Look out for cushions, curtains, bed linen and throws in velvet, faux fur and large wool knits. Winter florals are another popular choice with the big bloom big news on the home front and in fashion. Vivienne Westwood-inspired tartan prints can also warm up a room and look trendy as well. Finally, fur trims and luxurious tassels round up the opulent feel of home interiors for this Christmas.

Swirl Champagne Mirror, £160, Harvey Norman

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 23 Dark floral bloom wallpaper £18 Abstract floral cushion £18 Velvet butterfly cushion £14 Quilted velvet teal cushion £18 Embellished elephant cushion £16 Crushed velvet cushion in midnight blue £16 Crushed velvet cushion in plum £16 Patchwork velvet cushion £18 Brooklyn geo purple cushion £10, Next

Velvet lamp, £85, Debenhams

Ombre velvet cushion, £25,

Scottie Dog draught excluder, £18, Lorraine at Home by JD Williams

Natural grey faux fur cushion, £25, Harvey Norman

Palatial pale pink velvet throw, £30, Sainsbury’s Cotton cable knit throw in stone & natural, £50, www. Forest heart tartan decoration, 75p, Wilko


an tart




9, 39.9



Grey tartan rug, £35, National Trust

24 | Family Life


Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Dineinstyle thisChristmas

hristmas dinner is one of those occasions when you want your dining room to look its best. Clear out anything that shouldn’t be there as there are a lot of demands on the space available with such a feast. If you’ve put up with shabby or broken chairs for long enough, this might be the time to get new ones, or perhaps your dining chairs just need new cushions. It needn’t cost a fortune to get the table looking just right - a crisp white table cloth with a red or gold runner looks great. Invest in a stunning centre piece or make one yourself and let the young crafters of

Linea Gold halo tableware, from £8.40 to £18.20, House of Fraser

the family get involved. Even something as simple as a glass bowl with berries and pine cones and some sprigs of green, or multi-coloured baubles will do the trick.

Get the set

Make sure you have a full set of matching place mats, crockery, glassware and cutlery - no-one else is likely to mind but you’ll be

kicking yourself if all your hard work is ruined by one brown placemat on a fabulous table of golden ones. For lots of us, this is a rare opportunity to use the silver, tableware, crystal and cutlery that might have been sitting in its box since the wedding day. Make sure you polish it to a beautiful shine before using. Soft lighting is perfect for an elegant meal such as Christmas dinner. If you are using candles, make sure you keep them out of the way of little hands.

What goes where

It’s the perfect excuse to use your best china, silver and crystal

For those who aren’t sure what goes where, the cutlery for the starter goes to the outside of the setting with the main course cutlery closer to the place mat. Begin by placing the dinner plate in the centre of each setting and lay forks to the left of the plate and knives and spoons to the right. The knife blades should be facing in towards the plate. The lower edges of the cutlery should align with the bottom rim of the plate, about an inch from the

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 25

The chunky oak Kingston 7 piece dining set includes a rectangular extending dining table and six matching dining chairs with wooden seats, all hand finished to allow the wood grain to stand out. ÂŁ1199, Harvey Norman

Berries and sprigs of greenery are a charming addition to the table edge of the table. Leave about an inch between cutlery and plates. The dessert fork and spoon go above the place setting with the fork pointing to the left and the spoon above the fork with its handle pointing to the right. Place side plates to the left of the setting. If you are going to be serving soup, place the soup bowl on top of the dinner plate. Napkins can go either in the centre of the setting or on the side plate. Check out YouTube for some great ideas for napkins, such

as folding them into Christmas tree shapes. The water and wine glasses are to the right of the place setting just above the table knife. If you are serving both red and white wine include a glass for each.

Space saving

Hostess trolleys are making a comeback and if you were ever tempted, this is the time to go for one as it will reduce jostling for space on the table and make people feel less crowded. Go for the basic 1970s

wheeled tray version or something more upmarket which will allow you to keep food warm as well. Now you’ve created the perfect atmosphere for a fabulous Christmas dinner, all you need to conquer is the cooking!

This premium Hostess Trolley has been especially designed to keep a meal hot from the time it is cooked until it is convenient to serve, which provides complete flexibility when entertaining, ÂŁ249, Smyth Patterson, Lisburn

26 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Familiesbehindtherise oftheall-inclusiveholiday Citybreaks andWestern Medstill favourites


he dark evenings and winter chills are enough to turn the mind to next year’s holiday and if 2016 has been anything to go by, city breaks and the western Mediterranean are going to be top of most people’s wishlists. According to the experts, this is the time to start booking next summer’s holiday as scores of cheap late deals are now a thing of the past due to the greater flexibility enjoyed by travel companies with regards to both flights and room bookings. For the best bargains and great discounts, you need to book early. Pick up some brochures from the Belfast Telegraph Travel Shop or make a date in your diary for the Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show on January 20-22 and immerse yourself in a world of possibilities. This will be the 25th year of the biggest travel show in the country and the 2017 show, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, will be even bigger and better than ever.

Overseas holidays up

Despite some dramatic developments

UK families love a holiday in the sun

around the globe - not least terrorist attacks and the zika virus outbreaks in parts of the Americas, Asia and the Caribbean - people are continuing to holiday abroad with 56% of the UK population going overseas this year, up 2% on 2015. According to ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents, they have opted for more city breaks and fewer traditional beach holidays, choosing destinations closer to home or places they perceive to be safer. ABTA’s research shows that city breaks remain the nation’s favourite holiday type, with over half the population (53%) having taken one in the past 12 months and almost as many planning to take one in the next 12 months. The number of people taking beach holidays in the last year has fallen back to 2014 levels after a strong 2015. This is supported by other findings in the survey which show that the volume of longer overseas breaks (of 7 nights or more) decreased slightly this year after a very strong year in 2015.


Increasing numbers of us are preparing to jet away this winter with ABTA, (the Association of British Travel Agents) reporting a 16% surge in bookings on last year. ABTA research also shows that three in ten people (29%) are planning to take a winter break, with winter sun the most popular holiday type, while a further 27% are still considering a holiday. People aged 25-34 are most likely to be taking a winter holiday, with over a third (36%) planning to do so, followed closely by people aged over 65 (33%). The younger 18-24 year olds are the age group most likely to be undecided about taking a winter holiday, with a third (33%) stating this. Of those planning a winter holiday, winter sun is the most popular holiday option, with almost a third (31%) choosing this type of trip, followed by city breaks (22%) and UK breaks (14%). Ski holidays, cruises, Christmas market breaks and trips to see the Northern Lights make up the rest of the popular holiday options.

Winter bookings appear to be following a broadly similar pattern to the summer, when a drop in business to traditionally popular destinations like Tunisia and Egypt, following high profile terrorist incidents and changes to Foreign Office travel advice, drove a growth in popularity of the Western Mediterranean in particular. According to GfK’s Travel Leisure Monitor, bookings to the most popular winter holiday destination, Spain, are up 33% yearon-year, Portugal is looking very strong with bookings up 41%, and Cyprus is up 34%. Away from Europe, long haul sunseekers are driving growth in the winter market with bookings to the Caribbean up 21% and Asia 17%. ABTA members have also reported strong sales to Cape Verde. Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, commented: “It is very encouraging that bookings for the winter season are looking strong. With such a wide range of holiday options available in the winter months, from winter sun to city and ski breaks, it is not surprising that so many people are planning a winter break.”

With Tunisia effectively closed to British tourists, Egypt visitor numbers falling due to restrictions on flights to Sharm, and some resorts in the Western Med stretched to capacity over the summer, the figures suggest British holidaymakers are willing to consider different types of holiday to the traditional two week beach vacation.

Trying somewhere new

With the Western Med a popular choice for the last two years, there has been a notable increase in people planning to visit somewhere new next year. Almost half (45%) of people stated they are quite likely or very likely to visit a country they have never been to before, compared to over a third (36%) who said the same thing in 2015. There has been a similar increase in people who are quite likely or very likely to visit a resort or city they have never been to before (even if they have been to the country): over half (54%) stated this in 2016 compared to 46% who said this last year.

All-inclusive boost

According to ABTA, all-inclusive holidays are enjoying a rise in popularity, with 25% of people planning to take one in the next year compared to the 18% of people who took an all-inclusive holiday in the last 12 months. This may be due to holidaymakers looking for certainty over holiday budgets, and to protect themselves from a drop in the value of the pound following the EU Referendum result. This type of holiday is particularly appealing to young families, with 35% of this group saying they expect to go on an all-inclusive next year, compared to the average of 25%.

Top ten types of holiday taken in the past 12 months

✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱

City break - 53% Beach holiday - 38% Countryside break - 24% An all-inclusive holiday - 18% Lakes and mountains - 10% An adventure or activity holiday - 9% A cruise - 8% A trip to see a music event - 8% A train holiday - 8% Renting a private home/home swap/ home stay/couch surfing - 7%

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, commented: “Following an extraordinary couple of years, it is not surprising to find world events impacting people’s choice of holiday type and destination. The travel industry provides a wide range of holiday destinations and holiday types, and people looking to try something new may find it helpful to discuss their holiday plans with a travel professional who can advise them on options available.”

HolidayWorldShow celebrates25years Friday-Sunday, January 20-22, 2017 The Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show, Northern Ireland’s largest annual holiday spectacular, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in 2017. The holiday extravaganza brings a world of destinations - at home and abroad together under one roof, making Holiday World the place to find out where to go and how to pay less for your holiday. It offers holiday inspiration and advice from around the globe, across a vast range of holiday types. The Caravan & Motorhome Show is a special feature of the Show which also incorporates a 50+Village. Other key features of the exhibition include a Cruise Pavilion and a Honeymoon & Wedding Destinations Pavilion. The great value family day out is packed with exclusive show-only deals, competitions and family entertainment too.

SUNNY OUTLOOK FOR ANNIVERSARY SHOW … Rebekah Shirley looks forward to discovering bright ideas for vacations in 2017 at the Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show at Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, from January 20-22 Holiday World runs from 1pm to 6pm on Friday and from 11am to 5.30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is £5 for adults, £4 for senior citizens, £3 for students, and £10 for a special family ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children). For more details visit www.holidayworldshow. com.

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

LetBelfast Telegraph Travelset youon theright course I

Family Life | 27 Carvoeiro, The Algarve


Riva del Garda

f you need expert advice on where to go for your dream holiday and at dreamy prices, check out the Belfast Telegraph Travel department. Here you will find a vast range of options for turning your fantasy break into reality, whether you are after winter sports, winter sun or thinking ahead to next spring or summer and beyond. Whether you are looking for a luxury escape, a cruise or perhaps a faraway adventure, you will find a holiday to suit you there. From bustling city breaks to exhilarating sporting events or wonderful breaks closer to home, the Belfast Telegraph Travel Shop staff aim to offer readers a one-stop shop for all their holiday needs, and all trips are fully ATOL protected.

A world of choice

Fully escorted holidays include Western Canada & the Rockies, the Splendours of India, Highlights of Cuba, Deep South USA, South Africa’s Capetown, Garden Route and Kruger Park, Highlights of Burma and many more. With Belfast Telegraph Travel you have the option to explore less commercial places, as well as established favourites such as Tenerife, the Costa Brava and Sicily. Done Italy? Why not look at Undiscovered Italy, which includes a tour of Rossini’s birthplace, Pesaro and the republic of San Marino.

Or how about Lake Como, the Swiss Alps and Milan for one fully escorted tour or Lake Garda, Venice and Verona for another. Always wanted to do the Camino de Santiago or learn to ski? Both are within the great range of holiday offers available through Belfast Telegraph Travel. According to manager Gillian Galbraith, the Christmas market tours are completely sold out for this year, as well as shopping trips to New York and Dubai. “City breaks and the tour to Iceland to see the Northern Lights are also going like hot cakes at the moment and our launch into cruises is proving very successful with a great range of options available.”

Discover more

If you tend to return from a holiday feeling that you don’t know much more about the place than before you went, an escorted holiday is for you. “Escorted tours are great value for money, you are completely looked after from the moment you arrive at the airport until you come back,” says Gillian, adding that they get a lot of people

returning time and again. “The guides are excellent - many people say they make the holiday as they are so informative and great fun. There is also lots of time built into the holidays for you to go and have days to yourself.” Browse and book through the website, or if you have any queries the experienced travel team can be contacted on 028 9026 4003 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). You can also find up to date information on the Facebook page or visit the team at the Holiday World Show at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on January 20-22. You can also call into the Travel Shop which is still based on Royal Avenue in Belfast city centre, and plan your holiday with the help of one of the travel team. Categories include worldwide tours, European tours, sports tours, walking holidays, cruises, coach tours, beach breaks, city breaks, river cruises, lakes and mountains, Balkan ski holidays, luxury holidays and more. Flights are from Belfast or Dublin.

28 | Family Life

The stylish Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel in Co Donegal is wowing diners from far and near with an exciting addition to its award-winning offering - a Gourmet Night

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Treatyourselftoa GourmetNightatthe RedcastleOceanfront, GolfandSpaHotel


he Gourmet Night is a new and exciting culinary experience by the Edge Restaurant team. It complements the huge array of options for guests and visitors to this beautiful hotel who can already feast on everything from Afternoon Tea to a sumptuous banquet to a light lunch. For this new experience, Executive Head Chef Gordon Smyth has designed a special seven-course Tasting Menu featuring an array of fresh ingredients and bold flavours that identify the style and charisma of the Edge Restaurant. The Gourmet Night consists of canapés and Prosecco on arrival, followed by a seven-course tasting menu. Each course is accompanied by wines specially selected by William Tindal, from Tindal Wine Merchants. His expertise ensures the best pairings for this wonderful menu which showcases the evolution of Gordon and his team, combining sophistication with simplicity. For the inaugural Gourmet Night, guests were treated to a talk by William

Tindal while music playing in the background added to the ambience of the occasion. The delectable menu featured a starter of Smoked Salmon Roulade with Lemon Mascarpone and Compressed Watermelon. The second course was Rillette of Duck Confit with Roast Carrot, Ginger Bread and Pine Nut Vinaigrette. This was complemented by a Chilean Pinot Noir. Next came Butternut Squash & Truffle Veloute with Wild Mushroom Risotto Bon Bon. This was followed by Pan Fried Hake with Cauliflower Puree, Smoked Pancetta, Fava Bean and Vanilla served with a refreshing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The fifth course was Beef Wellington with Celeriac Remoulade, with Potato Puree and Chantenay Carrots served with a rich Spanish Rioja. Dessert was Bitter Chocolate Delice with Green Tea & Coconut Ice Cream, served with an Italian Moscato. As one diner remarked on TripAdvisor, “The food at the Redcastle is always top

class but on the night of Gourmet Night it was exceptional.”

The Chef

The new feature of life at The Edge Restaurant marks a triumphant homecoming for Head Chef Gordon Smyth who has made his way back to his roots following a circuitous route through 5-star resorts and establishments boasting 3 AA Rosettes. His experience both in these islands and across the world has included the opportunity to work under such renowned


9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 29

William Tindal, from Tindal Wine Merchants chefs as Charlie Trotter and Daniel Boulud in America, Marco-Pierre White in London and Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney. He brings all this world class influence to the fore for the Gourmet Night. The Edge Restaurant is well respected on the national culinary scene. Among its awards are: ✱ AA Rosette. One AA Rosette is, according to the AA, only achievable by about 10% of restaurants in the UK. In awarding the Rosette, the AA notes that the staff and service are “smooth and professional yet underpinned by natural friendliness.” ✱ Georgina Campbell Guide 2016

The Gourmet Night consists of canapés and Prosecco on arrival, followed by a sevencourse tasting menu

✱ Yes Chef Awards 2016. Highly Commended. ✱ Restaurants Association of Ireland ✱ Recommended by Taste of Ireland.

Stay at the Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel

The Redcastle Oceanfront is a deluxe 4-star resort on the shores of Lough Foyle in Inishowen, Co. Donegal – one of the most beautiful peninsulas in Ireland. The secluded hotel is set among mature parkland with its own private 9-hole golf course, exciting award winning restaurant, fantastic spa facilities and complimentary leisure facilities for guests which include its swimming pool and gym. Situated just 30 minutes’ drive from City of Derry Airport and less than two hours’ drive from Belfast International Airport, the hotel is within easy reach of travellers from across the world. Contact the Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf & Spa Hotel on T: 00353 74938 5555 E: W:

■ Photos by Jay Doherty,

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Embracefamilylife witha staycation thiswinter

Pack up the car and headsouthfor a break this winter with all thefamily.Whetheryou loveto discover the history ofIreland’s Ancient East,embrace theWildAtlantic Wayor explore the delights of Dublin and thesurrounding area,there are plenty of familyfriendly optionstochoose from. Ireland’s Ancient East

Carlingford Adventure Centre, Co Louth

The pretty, medieval town of Carlingford has lots to offer for a family break. Whether it’s zorbing, rock-climbing or abseiling, there’s something to appeal to all the family. Nautical activities are highly popular in this part of Ireland’s Ancient East and one of the most exhilarating things to do is a high-speed boat trip with Louth Adventures. It’s the perfect way to get the pulse racing.

Cavan Burren Park

Here you will discover one of the country’s most striking landscapes, and a place where layers of history tell the story of Ireland in microcosm: neolithic tombs, hut sites and ancient rock art coexist alongside 19th Century ruins and 350 million-yearold fossils from a tropical sea. This is a great spot if you’re seeking family fun in the great outdoors. Refuel afterwards at the Ballymascanlon Hotel and before you leave make a wish at the magnificent Proleek Portal Tomb situated in the hotel grounds.

Birr Castle, Co Offaly

For most of the 19th Century, the world’s largest telescope, the Leviathan, was located in the grounds of this castle which has been owned by the same family for more than 400 years. Now restored to its former glory, it offers a reminder that Ireland has a great legacy for science innovation. While the telescope will appeal to amateur astronomers everywhere, children have plenty to do at Birr Castle too: the country’s largest treehouse is here, plus an abundance of sand pits and climbing frames.

Wild Atlantic Way

Embrace the great outdoors

Walk cycle or skip through one of Ireland’s stunning National Parks. You can watch majestic eagles soar over the spectacular 40,000 acre Glenveagh National Park in Co. Donegal; see the lunar-like limestone rock landscape at The Burren National Park in Co. Clare; enjoy scenic mountains and vast expanses of bogs in Connemara National Park; see the only remaining herd of native Red Deer in Killarney National Park, and enter another world at Ballycroy National Park in Mayo as you explore one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in Western Europe. Access to all national parks are free.

Get crafty with the kids!

For some real make-do, get busy on a creative break with the family learning an arts or crafts skill. You will not only be making great memories, but you will come home with some special souvenirs too! Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre in Co. Cork has courses from pottery and glass fusing to stained glass, jewellery making and mosaic making. This is a beautiful fishing town with lots of coves and beaches to explore when the classes are over.

Aillwee Cave

Aillwee Cave and its Birds of Prey Centre, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare is a very special place in the heart of the Burren. Experience the dramatic underworld of this unique landscape with a 35 minute guided

Shandon Bells, Cork city

The Church of Ireland church is one of Leeside’s most fabled buildings and the citywide view from the top of the tower is truly magnificent. From ringing the bells to seeing the inner workings of its famous clock, nicknamed ‘the Four-Faced Liar’, there’s something to appeal to all the family here. Afterwards, a feast in the English Market or a trip to tour Ballycotton Lighthouse is a perfect way to round off the day.

Shandon Bells

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 31

er National Park


Epic Ireland walk through beautiful caverns, over bridged chasms, under weird formations and alongside the thunderous waterfall. Marvel at the frozen waterfall and explore the hibernation chambers of the long extinct brown bears.


Gaze in wonder as you get up close and personal with the magnificent marine life inhabitants at Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium. Come face-to-face with the most fearsome creatures including Sandtiger Sharks! Meet the delightful Polar Penguins and gets hands-on experience at the Touch Tank where you can stroke the friendly Rays and even hold a Starfish. Located in Dingle town in Co Kerry it’s the perfect base to explore the Wild Atlantic Way.


Dublin Zoo

One of the world’s oldest zoos it takes up 28 hectares of Phoenix Park and is home to 600 animals. No family day out in Dublin would be complete without a visit to Dublin Zoo. It’s a year round, fun filled, stimulating day out for all the family and a place to learn about wild animals, especially those which are endangered.

The ARK Cultural Centre

The Ark is a unique, purpose-built cultural centre in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar, where children aged 2 -12 can explore theatre, music, literature, art and film. This centre in the middle of Dublin’s Temple Bar district will introduce children to the joy, wonder and creativity of the arts and plays a vital role in raising the standard of culture for children. Youngsters aged two to 12 explore everything from theatre, music and literature to painting, film, dance and more. There are always great events, shows, classes and workshops going on here. Keep an eye on their website ( ) for details.

This is a child-centred creative, educational and interactive space for kids under nine and their families. Spread over two and half floors the exhibits are educational and fun, designed to inspire life-long learning through play. The exhibits are educationally designed to inspire learning through play, and it’s a massive hit with kids up to about 10 years old. Through education and shared experiences, the museum aims to strengthen family bonds, enhance the developmental potential of children and help build a healthy community.

EPIC Ireland

Older kids will love Dublin’s new visitor experience which tells the stories of the Irish Diaspora who have changed the world, through 20 interactive galleries, in the beautiful CHQ building in Dublin. Epic Ireland celebrates the unique global journey of the Irish people and, through state of the art technology, brings to life where they went, how they got there and their amazing achievements when they arrived. Don’t forget to pick up your EPIC Ireland passport which you can stamp as you proceed in this fascinating experience.

■ Ireland’s Ancient East Ireland’s Ancient East includes nine story themes for you to explore: Ancient Ireland, Castles and Conquests, High Kings and Heroes, Big Houses and Hard Times, Ireland’s Mystical Waterway, Maritime Gateway, Sacred Ireland, the Sport of Kings, and Vikings. ■ Wild Atlantic Way The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world stretching 2,500 kilometres long from Inishowen in Donegal to Kinsale in West Cork. The new Wild Atlantic Way Passport is the ultimate souvenir and record of your journey. It can be stamped when you visit any of the 188 Discovery Points along the route at nearby Post Offices and Tourist Information Offices. ■ Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air Its compact urban heart is waiting to be discovered - and rediscovered - and its coastal and mountainous hinterland is a playground unlike any other.

32 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016


-takingmotorwayservice areastothenextlevel


he sight of an Applegreen sign along a motorway has long been welcomed by motorists in the Republic, the UK and USA - no surprise then that this first class centre for drivers has proven such a hit since the first one in Northern Ireland opened on the M2 outbound at Templepatrick last year, creating 75 jobs. By the time the full complement of Applegreen Motorway Service Areas is completed, the company will have created some 250 permanent jobs, invested £30 million in the project and put smiles on millions of faces. When the M1 Lisburn opened earlier this year, customers could not fail to be impressed by this groundbreaking service area which was designed to eclipse anything that has gone before. And the great news is that by Spring 2017, Belfast bound M1 traffic will be able to avail of the comprehensive services offered in a brand new Applegreen directly opposite the present site. Applegreen has built a superb reputation for offering customers a vast variety of options and being able to satisfy the needs of all classes of traveller. Biggest and best M1 Lisburn was designed to be bigger and better than anything that has been done before in forecourt retail. Along with seating for 300 customers there is also an indoor and outdoor children’s play area. The store is located on a very busy tourist route from Belfast City with dedicated coach parking. Applegreen Lisburn offers customers the space and comfort they need to take a break and enjoy a wide variety of

food and beverage offerings. Escalators and lifts are also provided and open up the upper level to all customers regardless of age or ability. The upper level of the building has been designed to be an oasis of comfort to a tired driver and the escalator is the gateway to this area. Applegreen Business Lounge For decades business travellers were deprived of any halting place the length of the M1 but their every need is catered for

at M1 Lisburn. Half of the upstairs area is dedicated to the Applegreen Lounge. A high number of passing road users

Applegreen has built a superb reputation for offering customers a vast variety of options and being able to satisfy the needs of all classes of traveller

are travelling for work and this area is designed to be discreet, comfortable and functional. The lounge is sub-divided into an informal rest area and a number of meeting spaces. People can meet, do business and break long business journeys all while charging their mobile devices in the charge points provided. Use of the Applegreen Lounge, charging points and Wi-Fi are all 100% free. Relax in comfort The mezzanine area forms the Lavazza Cafe. Applegreen have three Lavazza CafĂŠs in Northern Ireland, the other two are located in M1 Templepatrick and Ballymena. Coffee is nothing new in a convenience store, however, Applegreen has broken new ground, giving the cafe ample space. Complete with plush soft furnishings and soft lighting, the dedicated seating area is broken up by low level dividers to create more intimate spaces. Far from feeling that you are at a motorway service station, customers can enjoy premium coffee and a feeling of indulgence.

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 33

The Bakewell The Bakewell café is Applegreen’s own eaterie. Food is sourced from top producers, locally where possible, so customers can tuck into fresh, natural food, including quality meat, hot savouries, breads, pastries, cakes, fresh fruit and salads. Having recently hired an in-house Food Scientist, Applegreen now work even more closely with their food partners and chefs to source the highest quality fresh food. They also have just developed an ‘Eat Smart’ range which focuses on a range of products which use clean, natural ingredients, avoiding those additives and preservatives which are often found in prepared and ‘fast’ food. Their promise is a readily available healthy option for every meal throughout the day whatever your journey, grab and go or sit and relax. The Eat Smart concept runs throughout the Bakewell and the forecourt shop, with key shop products highlighted with the Eat Smart logo.

Meal choices ■ M1 Lisburn is full of tempting options for hungry travellers with no fewer than five restaurants, as well as the Lavazza Cafe. ■ Greggs is famous for its great tasting fresh foodon-the-go at all times of the day including pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches and sweet treats. ■ Chopstix Noodle Bar can spice up any journey and with health and wellbeing becoming more and more important to customers, its fresh and seasonal ingredients offer a delicious and nutritious option. ■ Burger King serves high-quality, great-tasting, and affordable food. All burgers are flame grilled and the legendary Whopper is always made to order. ■ All Subway Subs and Salads are made to order from fresh ingredients - the perfect choice for good food on the go. Customers can choose from a wide range of footlong or 6-inches Sub sandwiches, or they may choose to build their own Sub.

Applegreen Rewards Earn points when you fill up at Applegreen and your rewards can include anything from hotel offers to half price tickets to the panto Cinderella at the Grand Opera House starring May McFettridge and Gareth Gates.

For more information please visit

34 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Relaxand unwindatthe

SlieveDonard ResortandSpa by Fiona Rutherford


tanding in its beautiful marble foyer, it’s hard to imagine the Slieve Donard Hotel’s utilitarian beginnings as a railway hotel. Where once there must have been the sound of wheels rattling to a stop and clanging bells, today there is only the intermittent chatter of guests en route to the renowned spa, the restaurants, bars and bedrooms or just relaxing in the luxurious armchairs in the expansive lobby of this, Northern Ireland’s Hotel of the Year 2016. We have come in search of rest and relaxation after busy times at work and could not have found a more calming place to which to beat a retreat. Having arrived in a misty drizzle, we were deprived of any sight of the Mournes on their sweep to the sea but on being shown to our fourth floor suite, it was obvious that was going to be a temporary situation. Our rooms, like many in this legendary 4 star landmark, looked out onto the arching strands of the Newcastle seafront with the mountains forming a majestic backdrop. By the time

we had unpacked and settled down with a hot drink in front of our own personal fire, the mist had cleared and the stunning view was framed by our windows.

being served. The restaurant was busy with guests and locals, as was the Percy French bistro we passed coming through the gates of the Slieve Donard.

Luxury suite

Pachelbel on piano

Our suite had everything one would expect from this calibre of hotel - and then some. The decor was stylish, the furnishings substantial and expensive looking, the cloud bed so comfortable there was a leaflet describing its composition and the piece de resistance, a palatial bathroom stretching the length of the living and bedroom and starring a huge bath with LED lighting within. Reluctantly we dragged ourselves out for the obligatory walk before dinner. It was good to be back in Newcastle after a number of years and to see that the town has had a facelift with stylish street furniture, new pavements and lights. It’s a thriving shopping town and it was easy to while away the time browsing its healthy mix of independent retailers. However, dinner was beckoning and so we eventually made our way to the Oak Restaurant where an a la carte menu was

To our delight, the grand piano was in action with the pianist playing a great mix of songs, from Pachelbel to Adele and even better, she was open to requests. The service was excellent, as one would expect, with the friendly and attentive staff serving up one delicious course after another. The freshest of crab rolled in cucumber and served with watermelon was a refreshing introduction to what was to be a beautiful meal. The Hastings Hotel group is big on provenance and uses locally produced, seasonal food wherever possible.

Best breakfast

The quality of the produce was never more in evidence than with the cooked breakfast next morning, with the most delicious bacon and sausages I’ve tasted from an hotel plate. I had intended to be good and had dutifully ordered the granola, natural yoghurt and fresh fruit, knowing that

The suites are a home from home while the spa makes the most of the spectacular mountain views

breakfast was to be followed by a visit to the spa, but the porcine temptations were simply too great and I can’t say I had cause to regret it. After breakfast I left my husband to explore the extensive grounds while I made my way down to the spa for a massage. What a stunning addition to the hotel! One could tell from the steady traffic around the hotel that the treatments were in huge demand by both men and women, yet this two storey spa is so spacious and beautifully laid out there is no sense of business or rush. As well as a pool there is a sauna and steam room, fitness suite and spaces where you can relax after a treatment.

Knotty business

My therapist Chloe brought me to one of the many treatment rooms and offered me the choice of a relaxing, uplifting or energising aromatherapy massage. My

By the time we had unpacked and settled down with a hot drink in front of our own personal fire, the mist had cleared and the stunning view was framed by our windows

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 35

As soon as you arrive at the elegant Slieve Donard Resort and Spa you know you are in for a treat

aching neck and shoulders dictated that the frankincense and jasmine scented oil was the one for me and Chloe set to work with a first class massage, doing her best to unknot my tangled muscles. Hours later

I wondered should I have opted for the uplifting or energising version as I was so relaxed I could hardly haul myself out of the suite before lunchtime. While we hadn’t thought to bring our swimwear, if

we had those hours would probably have been spent getting pleasantly wrinkly in the spa’s beautiful Vitality pool with its panoramic view over the coastline. Everything about the resort’s spa is tailored towards optimising the soothing effect of a good, luxury pampering. Low key lighting throughout, freshly cut pineapple tempting you at every turn and as much tea, of the healthy

varieties, as you can drink, all add to the opulent ambience. No wonder it’s such a hit for couple’s retreats. Our stay was rounded off with a short drive to Dundrum for a long walk and a catch up with old friends and it was with a much improved sense of wellbeing that we set off home. Chloe had told me I need a few more visits to sort out my tense back - I am certainly game for that! ✱ Check out the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa at

36 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Christmasdinner, timedtoperfection

You don’t need to be an amazing cook to serve up a delicious Christmas dinner. What you do need is organisational skills worthy of a military commander and as much space to work on as you can possibly create.


efore you start, clear everything off the kitchen worktops that won’t be needed on Christmas day. Begin your preparations on Christmas eve and you can coast through cooking the main meal with a minimum amount of stress. In lots of households, prepping the veg is all part of the Christmas eve tradition and is a great opportunity to catch up on who’s been doing what and where. Typical tasks include peeling potatoes and parsnips and making the stuffing and desserts, such as Pavlova and trifle.

8:35am ✱ Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. 8:40pm ✱ Take the potatoes and parsnips you peeled last night and parboil them for 10 minutes in salted water. Drain and give them a shake to get a crispy outer coating on the potatoes when they’re roasted. ✱ Carefully tip them into a roasting tin with oil and put them in the oven for 40 minutes, then set to one side ready to blast just before serving.

This handy timeline will guide you through what you should be doing and when for a 2pm dinner.

9:30am ✱ Now is the time to put a 6kg (13lb) turkey (serves 12) in the oven. Adjust

timings accordingly for a bigger/smaller bird, bearing in mind you will need to let it stand for half an hour before serving it. ✱ Cover the turkey with foil until the last half hour or so of cooking to prevent the legs and wings burning. 10am ✱ Prepare the pigs in blankets – chipolata sausages with streaky bacon rashers wrapped around them – and put them into an oven dish, then into the fridge. ✱ Coating them with a mixture of wholegrain mustard and honey lifts them to a new level of taste excellence.

near the breast of the turkey but not touching the bone. It should reach around 82C. ✱ If you don’t have a thermometer, poke a fork in the area and check the juices run clear. If the thermometer doesn’t read hot enough, or the juices are still pink, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes. If you’ve put the stuffing inside the bird the stuffing temperature must reach 73C to be safe. ✱ Once the turkey is cooked, take it out, cover with foil and a clean tea towel on top of the foil. This will keep the turkey warm for 30-45 minutes while it rests.

10:15am ✱ Baste the turkey by spooning the juices over it.

1:30pm ✱ Put your pigs in blankets and stuffing in the oven to cook.

11am ✱ Baste the turkey again. Put your white wine and champagne into the fridge to chill or, if you’re short on fridge space you can just put it in the garden – it’s so chilly this time of year it should cool nicely.

1:45pm ✱ Put the potatoes and parsnips back in the oven to finish roasting and put the water for vegetables on to boil. ✱ Cook the prepared vegetables to the following timings: finely-sliced carrots and Brussels sprouts – six to eight minutes; broccoli five minutes; frozen peas two to three minutes.

12pm ✱ Baste the turkey one final time, then take off the tin foil so that the turkey skin can brown. ✱ Pour the meat juices from the turkey into a jug, leave to cool and pop it in the fridge to let the hardened fat form a layer on top which can then be skimmed off. You don’t need to bother with this if you are using ready made gravy or making gravy from granules.

1:50pm ✱ Make the gravy, with granules, or by pouring three tablespoons of fatty juices from the turkey roasting tin into a pan and stirring in three tablespoons of flour. Cook, stirring, for about one to two minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the turkey stock, along with 150ml of de-fatted turkey juices, and a splash of red wine. Bring to the boil, stirring. Add a little gravy browning, season to taste and simmer, uncovered for five minutes.

1pm ✱ Open any red wine you are going to drink to give it time to breathe. ✱ Take any cheeses out of the fridge if you intend to serve them after pudding, so they are not too hard. ✱ Put your plates and vegetable dishes into a warming oven or get them ready to be microwaved for 2 minutes on high before you need them.

2pm ✱ Dinner’s ready! Carve the turkey straight onto warmed plates while someone puts the vegetables into warmed dishes. Reheat the bread sauce in the microwave while you are doing this.

1:15pm ✱ Take the turkey out of the oven. Check it is cooked by inserting a meat thermometer into the inner thigh area

2:40pm ✱ Put the Christmas pudding in the microwave or steamer and take the brandy butter and cream out of the fridge.

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 37

Howtohavea HAPPYKITCHEN astheseasonhotsup

Food guru Jayne Quigg has the perfect recipe for a harmonious festive season


ood has always been at the centre of our family, and never moreso than at Christmas but with all the other demands on your time over the festive season, these are my top tips for making cooking at Christmas that little bit less stressful.

Be sensible - how many people are coming for dinner? If there are only four of you for Christmas dinner there is no point in buying a 30lb bird, unless you want to continue eating only turkey well into the new year, or carving the whole turkey at the table is a must for you. A turkey breast or fillet is more than enough.

If you are having new guests don’t forget to subtly find out what they do and don’t eat. Often people say they eat anything, so as not to offend, but you want everyone to enjoy the day. Don’t forget about dietary requirements and preferences too.

Take time out to do and share the parts of Christmas you enjoy, and if you are lucky enough to know someone who loves the bits you hate, delegate. They will thank you, and it means less drudgery for you. Casually ask your family and friends their favourite parts of Christmas, and don’t be afraid to get them involved too.

If you enjoy dandering around Christmas markets and homemade stalls, use the time to get together with a friend that you know enjoys it too. Turn it in to a catch up, which no matter

how well intentioned can often be difficult to fit around your schedule at Christmas. Alternatively if you would rather get a root canal than traipse around doing food shopping, ask a family member who loves that type of thing to do it for you. If all else fails, order on line, remember however to get the non-perishables well in advance, as the closer you get to the big day the greater the chance that they will have run out. This also helps spread the cost.

Your Christmas should be tailored to what is fun for you and your family. It is fine to share different aspects of Christmas with different people. Those that are not that interested will thank you in the long run, and it helps to keep holiday tensions to a minimum.

Don’t be afraid or feel guilty about buying things that make your life easier, if you don’t have either time or a volunteer or you hate peeling veg, buy it ready prepared. You hate stuffing or sprouts? Don’t have them. It’s your Christmas, do it your way.

Don’t spend time and money buying things just for the sake of it, rather buy what you need and enjoy as a special treat. The shops are only closed for a day, if you run out of something go to your local convenience store. They rely on your support for their livelihood and let’s face it, after the amount we eat over the holidays the walk and fresh air will probably do you good.

Plan ahead. Now you know who is coming, what they want to eat, and all


My daughters and I count down to Christmas every year. I love making Christmas cake and vegan pudding (I bet no one could tell the difference and so easy to make). I do mince pies made with shortbread pastry, so I can make the shortbread at the same time, I make different varieties, so there is always a flavour someone will like, personally I love spiced orange, with orange zest, cardamom and cinnamon. Chocolate chip is always a firm favourite too. They are great with a hot drink, and if you hide them well enough they can keep for weeks. I love making chutney, and at this time of year it is a great way of using up excess dried fruit that you have bought for the pudding and cake, which in most houses will not be used again until next year. It is always great to make in advance and serve with cold cuts and cheese. If you don’t have the inclination however you can go to your local deli or market to pick up

Make edible decorations to hang from a small tree on the table one or two, not before sampling of course. But the favourite thing my daughters and I love doing is making Christmas truffles, although most of the mix ends up being eaten well before the truffles are made. No matter what your Christmas traditions or personal luxuries are, remember to take time out to enjoy the people you are sharing the day with, eat happy. Treat yourself, and enjoy the time - it passes so quickly.

the non-perishables have been purchased, make a list of everything you need to buy, and everything you need to do, and go do it, or if you prefer delegate.

my roasties, once it is time to take the meat out of the oven, I generally stick the roasties in, and remain in the kitchen until the dinner is served.

So the preparations are done, the food is purchased, you have your to-do list, don’t forget, regardless of what roast you choose, baste every half hour (with adults you can take it in turn, or make a game out of it) and don’t forget to rest the meat after it is cooked for at least half the time it took to cook - both really do make such a difference to the end product. I generally leave the turkey to rest for the time it takes to make

Table for tree?

Although there are a myriad of edible Christmas tree decorations from gingerbread to chocolates, why not decorate your table with mini trees adorned in edibles to have with your after-dinner tea or coffee, perhaps biscotti for your espresso, or your favourite after dinner truffle. Family traditions can easily adapt to suit the way of life of your growing family.

40 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016 Launching the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 Awards: Susie Brown, Tourism NI; Jackie Reid, Belfast Telegraph; Paul McKnight, Culloden Hotel and Michele Shirlow, Food NI


Awardstocelebrate NIYearofFood andDrinksuccesses MEET THE JUDGES The entrants to the Year of Food and Drink Awards have to impress some of the most discerning critics in the UK and Ireland with the judging panel comprising top food writers Charles Campion, Georgina Campbell and Joris Minne and Professor Una McMahon-Beattie, Head of the Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management at the University of Ulster. All four are looking forward to getting down to work, having followed the Year of Food and Drink closely.

Georgina Campbell

Charles Campion comments: “The Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink has given a mighty boost to small producers, farmers, fishermen, chefs and visitors alike. It’s been my great pleasure to bring some excellent food and drink into the limelight. In the New Year there is the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards, in association with the Belfast Telegraph, which aim to recognise all that is exceptional in Northern Ireland’s fine food and drink. I look forward to finding plenty more people dedicated to raising the standard of food and drink even further. In 2016 the Year of Food and Drink started the wheel moving and now we must all give it a shove! There’s never been a better time to eat and drink in the Six Counties, and there’s never been a better time for tourists to sample the unrivalled Charles Campion, hospitality.” photo Dominck Tyler

o celebrate the success of the Year of Food and Drink 2016, Tourism NI is partnering with the Belfast Telegraph to deliver a prestigious award event in February 2017. The awards will celebrate the best of Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry and recognise talented collaborations dedicated to placing Northern Ireland on the culinary map. The NI Year of Food and Drink Awards aim to give Northern Ireland the opportunity to celebrate the development of successful collaborative food and drink networks. As a result, more opportunities will be created for local, high quality, authentic providers to develop their business and feature as part of the visitor experience, giving the visitor the opportunity to ‘taste the place’ and get a real sense of Northern Ireland through local food and drink. The awards will recognise excellence across our food and drink industry with

Georgina Campbell says: “The NI Year of Food and Drink was a brilliant idea and I have been watching it unfold with great interest. The monthly themes have given the initiative a strong focus and it has been exciting to see the real pride that there is in the high quality and range of Northern Ireland produce - both amongst the food and drink community itself and the general public, who came out in their droves to support and enjoy the year’s events and create a buzz. Far from being ‘just another awards scheme’ the NI Year of Food and Drink Awards in association with Belfast Telegraph are highly relevant to the development of the food and drink visitor experience, in underpinning the very real achievements of 2016 and paving the way for further ‘taste the place’ progress in 2017 and beyond.”

Professor Una McMahonBeattie

Joris Minne Prof Una McMahon-Beattie says: “The Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink has given us a perfect opportunity to satisfy our culinary curiosity, celebrate the excellence of our food and drink and, on some occasions, forget about our waistlines! Simply put 2016 has given the passion of our food and drink producers, retailers, chefs and hospitality businesses a voice. I am truly looking forward to celebrating their excellence and outstanding achievements at Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards.” Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne adds: “These are unlike any other food awards in that they celebrate the impact of the food sector on the wider economy and mark the significance of businesses working together for the greater good.”

nominations welcome from the public, food critics, governing bodies and industry associations. As well as a promotional platform for businesses it is also a unique opportunity for local food and drink producers to develop their capability to create attractive authentic experiences for visitors. The awards will shine the light on the successes of collaborative food networks throughout the year. It will connect the enthusiasm created by Year of Food and Drink 2016 with the NI food and drink sector’s aspiration to raise civic pride in local produce, rewarding communities and business networks which promote and use Northern Ireland food and drink to create authentic, high-quality experiences.

NIYear ofFood andDrink 2016Awards categories There are eight categories entrants can apply for. ✱ Best NI Food Event or Festival ✱ Best NI Local Market ✱ Best NI Tours and Trails ✱ Best Food Story ✱ Roots to Market ✱ Growing for The Future ✱ Best Marketing Achievement ✱ Best Food Innovation It’s time to celebrate the best of Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector! To enter or nominate a winner, visit uk/ foodanddrinkawards

42 | Family Life

GerryArmstrongwill forever be a Northern Ireland sporting hero. He scored one of the most celebrated goals in the country’s history to beat hosts Spain in the 1982 World Cup finals. It was a strike that changed his life - and ensured that Spain would forever be part of it. By Steven Beacom


ne year after his winner in Valencia, Gerry joined Real Mallorca from Watford and became a popular player in Espana. When Sky Sports started showing Spanish football, they turned to Armstrong to be their number one pundit on La Liga. He is now in his 21st year in that role and is widely respected as an authority on what many believe is the most exciting league in the world. So much so that when David Beckham was moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid, he asked Gerry for his thoughts.

Majorcan life

To cap it all, Gerry lives in the Costa De La Calma in Majorca with his family, and loves the relaxed and warm way of life. As we talk, the 62-year-old, as upbeat and energetic now as he was as a footballer, tells me about a recent ‘lovely lunch’ date in the sun on Palma beach with his wife Debby, who he proposed to at Windsor Park before an international in 2005. He speaks proudly about his daughters Caitlin (16) and Marianna (10) and how the Mediterranean outdoor lifestyle is so good for children. And the former Tottenham and Brighton star relays how much he is looking forward to a Spanish Christmas with a British twist.

Trad dinner in the sun

He says: “We’ll be in Costa De La Calma for Christmas celebrating it with friends. There are loads of British people living over here, so we will spend time with friends from England, Scotland and

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

In 2013 Gerry Armstrong was inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards Hall of Fame, receiving his award from Pat Jennings, Billy Hamilton and John Maguire, Group Managing Director of Belleek Photo Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Gerry and Debby at their Majorca home Photo Mark McCormick

Northern Ireland. “And on Christmas Day we will have our Christmas dinner in our own home. We will get turkey from the local British butcher and have a traditional Christmas dinner with stuffing, ham and everything. “Debby and I will do all the cooking. What is different to home of course is

ma. It is a really historical city with the cathedral and the cobblestoned streets and tapas bars. “It’s a good lifestyle and a great place for kids to grow up. Our youngest, Marianna, is already fluent in Spanish. We do enjoy it here.” The Armstrong family return to visit

Spainstilla winnerwith footballlegend GerryArmstrong the temperature. It was sunny last year at Christmas and hopefully it will be the same this time. Maybe 17 or 18 degrees. We get lots of sunshine. “It is very relaxed here and chilled out. There is no hustle and bustle. People are very laid back. “We spend a lot of time in nearby Pal-

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 43

Life-changing moment: Gerry Armstrong scores against Spain in the World Cup 1982 Gerry and Debby with daughters Caitlin and Marianna Photo Mark McCormick

The NI team at the 1982 World Cup: Pat Jennings, Chris Nicholl, John McClelland, Mal Donaghy, Dave McCreery, Billy Hamilton, Norman Whiteside, Gerry Armstrong, Sammy McIlroy and Martin O’Neill

Gerry Armstrong working for the BBC at Northern Ireland V Slovakia - 2010 World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park Photo Michael Cooper/ friends and family in Northern Ireland as often as they can and will have even more time to make trips home in the future having put their restaurant in Spain up for sale.

Starring role

On the football front, Gerry is as busy as ever. His voice is one of the most recognisable in sport and over two decades on he

still relishes his co-commentator slot, airing his opinions on, among others, the two most talked about players on the planet – Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. “It is brilliant. This is my 21st year working for Sky on Spanish football. I was there at the start of it all and it has become so big,” says Gerry, who was born in Tyrone. “I think most of the people in the UK now know me through Spanish football, not through my playing career. “Everyone watches Spanish football because they want to see Lionel Messi and

Cristiano Ronaldo. There are also other superstars like Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Neymar, who I think will take over the mantle from Messi in a few years. “I’m lucky I’m watching these guys every week. The football is amazing and you get to know so many big stars. “I helped David Beckham when he moved over to Real Madrid. David’s a nice lad and I got to know him well. “Michael Owen was another who played in Madrid and so did Steve McManaman – both good guys.” Armstrong also had the joy of covering Northern Ireland for the BBC in the Euro

2016 finals in France – 30 years since the country last played in a major tournament in 1986 when Gerry was up front. “It was great watching Northern Ireland play in a major championships for the first time in 30 years. “It was fantastic to be in France and report on them after playing for the team in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups,” said Gerry. “I’ve had the most fantastic time. When some players stop playing they wonder what they will do next. When I stopped one career finished and another one started and this one allows me to spend lots of time with my family. “I enjoy our life in Spain and I get back to Northern Ireland when I can so really I have the best of both worlds.”

44 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Whatiftherewasno CHRISTMASDAY?

By Paul Hopkins


had to ring my mobile service provider the other day and was kept waiting for a minute or six during which the sound of Wizzard echoed down the line with I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. Perish the thought, I uttered. A threesix-five of excess and over-jolification. And imagine what it would do to the national grid, with all those houses lit up like Santa’s grotto every single day of the year. But it got me thinking: what if there was no Christmas Day? Where then would be those that celebrate it, in one guise or other? This day among days has not always been easy. Oliver Cromwell and his not-somerry band of Puritans banned Christmas Day between 1647 and 1660. It didn’t even earn its pride of place on December 25 until 1752 when the Christian calendar changed in line with the Pagan winter solstice. When our ancestors were still in their caves, they celebrated the solstice as a way of giving thanks for that year’s harvest and looked to Nature to bestow more bounty on them in the coming season. Without Christmas Day where would we make time to count our blessings, to take stock, to renew, to regroup, and to look forward?

A world of ‘no’s

If we had no Christmas we would not have the wonderful work that is A Christmas Carol and there would be no need for those trusted recipes for Christmas cake and mince pies. Imagine a world without a Nativity play performed by doe-eyed infants, a world

No more kissing under the mistletoe

No more dressing the tree

No more singing along to Wizzard without infectious carol singing, without stockings hanging by the hearth, no kissing under the mistletoe, no visiting the graves of the departed; a world without Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, no It’s A Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time on the telly, no panic or shouts of “Look out behind you …” at the Christmas panto. Imagine a world where, for just one day of the year we would not strive towards Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men. Were there never a Christmas Day, would the much-written about truce between Germans and Allied troops during World War One have taken place? Christmas, for those of us who are lucky, is a time for giving, a time for receiving well-wishers, and a time for a little gastro-

nomic indulgence. No Christmas and we would not have the joy of the lighted candle to welcome kind strangers, or the anticipation of opening up presents and yet another pair of knitted socks from your favourite aunt. And the excitement and wide-eyed wonderment of a child at Christmas as, Teddy to hand, they clamber the stairs to bed to await the coming of Santa Claus. And, the wonder of it all again next morning when Father Christmas has proved true to his word. Imagine what the year would be like without all that?

Mystical and enchanting

Were it not for Christmas there might well

be scant attention paid to the Empty Chair. The Empty Chair that last year seated someone close, someone loved, someone cared about, who, alas, this year is no longer with us. There are times, admittedly, when the whole thing can seem crass and commercial – and unfair to those less well-off, living in the most trying of circumstances. But somewhere amid all the consumerism there is something mystical and enchanting about Christmas. That moment, that person, that event, feeling or discovery, ¬ that rebirth of something essentially good in all of us: our very own reason to celebrate Christmas whether it be the smile of the child or the twinkle in the eye of an old-timer, whose wink tells you this is the best Christmas of all. Trying to find for yourself the true meaning of Christmas, whether religious or secular, is like the Three Wise Men who, after consulting the stars, set out on a long journey in search of something – though they weren’t sure what. TS Eliot describes their sceptical and difficult trek in his marvellous poem ‘Journey Of The Magi’ and reminds us that Christmas was not given to them on a plate. They had to go looking for it, as we do, and in conditions not always helpful. As the first line of the poem recalls: “A cold coming we had of it ….’

Outcast couple

There are many who will spend Christmas in abject circumstances whether they be political, social or economic. One in every 25 pensioners faces being alone over the festive holiday, according to a survey by Age UK. It estimates that 450,000 over-65s will be by themselves. The poll of 1,100 people found that 26% are not looking forward to December 25, while 17% say it brings back too many memories of those who have passed away. At the heart of the Christian Christmas is the outcast couple. Mary and Joseph, who, after public shame and rejection, faced the humiliation of their child being born in an outhouse. Yet it was here in the stable that the angels, shepherds and wise man choose to gather and celebrate. Joy to the world. This Christmas look at those gathered in your abode and delight in them being there. That is the magical meaning of Christmas.

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 45


It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of Christmas and overlook the reason for the season. Family Life asked some church representatives to give us their perspective on the celebrations and the birth of Jesus...

Achildthatwould changelives

Fr Eddie McGee, Director of Communications in Down and Connor Diocese Inspired by a visit to the Palestinian city, Phillips Brooks wrote the beautiful Christmas Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ in 1865. Reflecting on the mystery of the birth of Jesus he declared, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!” Who would have thought that over 2000 years ago in that place, a child would be born that would change the history of the world for ever? In the silence of a manger, a child was born, a wondrous gift was given. Born into an uncertain world; a world of conflict, poverty and insecurity, this little child was entrusted with the mission to bring joy to others, to give comfort to those in sorrow, to support those who fell down and to forgive sinners. While Christmas is rightly a time for giving and receiving, and a time for

This painting, Prince of Peace, is by gifted child artist Akiane Kramarik, born into an atheist family, who has had many visions of heaven. The painting appears at the end of the movie Heaven is for Real, which charts the experiences of four year old Colton Burpo who appears to have met Jesus during a near death experience. His father Todd showed him many artist’s impressions but he didn’t recognise any as Jesus until he saw this one

celebration, it also affords all of us an opportunity to embrace the mystery of the Incarnation in Jesus Christ; the human face of God and the divine face of humanity. Jesus Christ mediates the love of God for us and reveals the inherent dignity of each human person. The God-child laid in the manger is a sign of faithful love; the one who came so that nothing more can ever separate us from the love of God. Christmas is a season of great joy because over 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem, a child was born that would change the rest of our lives, if only we would let it.

An elaborate church now covers the ground where Jesus was born


Rev David Bruce, Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Council for Mission in Ireland Secretary


Any time from now on, a tree goes up – usually in the same awkward place. Cards squeeze onto the mantle-piece, and the Caterer-in-Chief adopts a faraway look, planning the campaign that will result in the perfect Christmas Dinner on The Day. Families gather at Christmas – so rooms are aired and presents bought and wrapped. A glass of something warm is readied, and everyone adopts a rosy glow. We can’t wait. Of course it mightn’t be quite like this for you. Christmas might mean hard memories of the loss of a loved one, or the brokenness of family, when a son or daughter decides they would rather stay away. You might be saying, “We can’t wait till it’s over”. One thing my wife and I love to do together on Christmas Eve is go to Church just before midnight. Part of it is getting out of the house which by that time is crowded, noisy and busy. Part of it is a way of saying to ourselves, “This is what matters”. The familiar story of Shepherds and Stables and the birth of Jesus is carefully re-told. We break bread and drink wine, solemnly remembering that the innocent life of the new-born Jesus was ended in violence in adulthood, but to a great purpose. Jesus sacrificed his own life, the just for the unjust, the ultimate act of love. We hug old friends and exchange family news and then walk out into the night. We arrive back at the house reflecting that Jesus’ coming was an act of rescue for the desperate, an act of grace for the hopeless, an invitation to the fiercely independent to belong, and an act of comfort for the bruised – and it does us good. Then The Day dawns, the mayhem begins, we eat too much, watch the Queen, fall asleep on the sofa and send the family away with a heartfelt wave, and the promise to keep in touch. A Happy Christmas indeed!

46 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Cuddly toys and family g This year some of the toys competing for space in Santa’s sack will be old favourites, like Lego, while others like the sell out Hatchimal have captured the hearts of children all over the country, catching everyone off guard. Huggable toys are hugely popular, as well as games the whole family can join in. Here’s a round up of the dream toys of 2016, care of the Toy Retailers Association ... Hatchimals rrp £60

Hatchimals have turned out to be surprise hit, not least to the maker with demand far outstripping supply meaning Santa could be disappointing some children this year. These cuddly chicks come tucked inside brightly coloured speckled eggs and must be loved and cared for before they begin to peck their way out. Once born, children then have to ‘raise’ them through three more stages from ‘baby’ to ‘toddler’ to ‘kid’.

excitement, and motorized action. Sky-High Bridge Jump brings the Thomas & Friends DVD, The Great Race, to life with fast-paced, flying thrills. After a tall, spiral ascent with Harold the helicopter, Thomas speeds down a huge ramp before launching into the air. Thomas soars for over two feet before landing on the other side and continuing his journey. Suitable for age 3+.

SelfieMic Selfie Stick Microphone rrp £20

Paw Patrol Air Patroller £40

Featuring an adjustable selfie stick with working microphone, earpiece and free app, SelfieMic allows you to sing, lip sync and perform to thousands of your favourite songs and create music videos on your own or with friends. SelfieMic features a bonus StarMaker app with 1,000 tokens to spend on your favourite tracks. The app features songs made famous by Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Ed Sheeran and more. Once you’ve chosen your song, you can select cool effects and filters, then you’re ready to record. Once you’ve recorded your SelfieMic music video, you can share it with family and friends. Comes in black or pink.

Snuggles My Dream Puppy rrp £50

Snuggles moves and feels just like a real puppy. He feeds from his bottle and opens and closes his eyes. He will fall asleep in your arms and then gently breathe and snore. Tickle his tummy or kiss his nose and he makes happy puppy sounds. The Little Live Pets Snuggles My Dream Puppy also comes with an adoption certificate. Suitable for age 4+.

Thomas & Friends TrackMaster Thomas’ Sky-High Bridge Jump Train Set rrp £100

This Thomas & Friends train set from Fisher-Price breaks new ground by taking Thomas off the tracks and sending him soaring through the air, delivering speed,

Fly to the rescue with the all-new Paw Patrol Air Patroller. Now you can fly to the aid of Adventure Bay in two unique ways. With rotating propellers, the Air Patroller easily transforms from a helicopter into a plane. For added adventure, the Air Patroller has real lights and sounds that accompany you on all your Air Rescue missions. Earn your wings by loading up the entire Paw Patrol team in the Cargo Bay and Cockpit. When you’re ready to save the day, the included Robopup figure will help pilot the Air Patroller for a successful rescue mission. When the mission is complete, you can bring the Air Patroller in for a landing with its real working wheels or transform to helicopter mode and hover down for a perfect pooch landing atop the Paw Patroller (sold separately). Suitable for age 3+

Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage rrp £90

Get ready for some awesome racing action with the most epic Hot Wheels garage ever. The Ultimate Garage features multiple action zones and parking spots for 36 cars. It also comes with five Hot Wheels vehicles and a helicopter for lots of adrenaline-fuelled fun.

Silly Sausage rrp £20

Think you’re meaty enough to beat this super sized banger? Switch him on and wait for his commands but be warned you’ll need to be fast to keep up! With 10 grillin’ games and 5 sizzlin’ actions – Twist ME, Shake ME, Dip ME, Stretch ME &

Poke ME! Play him solo or multi play with family and friends. Everyone’s a ‘Wiener’ with Silly Sausage! For 1 or more players.

Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire rrp £50

Take aim with the HyperFire blaster and challenge opponents with ultimate speed! It’s the fastest motorized Nerf dart blaster, unleashing 5 darts per second to rain down a deluge of darts onto targets. With its 25dart drum, this Nerf N-Strike Elite blaster brings impressive firepower to the battle. It fires darts up 90 feet (27 metres). Press the acceleration button, pull the trigger, and let the rapid-fire action begin. Comes with 25 Elite darts.

Shopkins Chef Club Hot Spot Kitchen rrp £25

Play at being a professional chef with the Shopkins. There are so many ways to play and display with the Shopkins Hot Spot Kitchen Playset. This playset can be used for display and storage and has movable parts, areas for storage, two exclusive characters and two exclusive bags / cases.

Speak Out rrp £20

Get ready to be doubled over with laughter with this ridiculous mouthpiece challenge game. Players try to say different phrases while wearing a mouthpiece that won’t let them shut their mouth. The timer counts down as players try to say phrases such as ‘He’s my stealthy pet ferret named Garrett’, ‘Slow down, you careless clown’, or ‘Pelicans love pollywog falafels’.

Lego Star Wars Rebel U-Wing Fighter rrp £370

Following the foundation of the Galactic Empire, a wayward band of Rebel fighters

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 47

y games hit the TOP 20 Pie Face Showdown rrp £22

comes together to carry out a desperate mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Emperor’s rule. Recreate the scenes with these exciting new Lego Star Wars Rogue One playsets. Open the cockpit of the Rebel U-Wing Fighter and place the U-Wing Pilot in his seat. Fire up the engines and launch into the sky. Keep a lookout below with the transport window, and when you spot the enemy, fire the front spring-loaded shooters and stud shooters mounted in the side doors. You can even fold the wings back for a bigger model. Includes five minifigures: U-Wing Pilot, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Rebel Trooper and Bistan.

Lego Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster rrp £90

Head through the turnstiles to the amusement park and stand in line for the roller coaster. Slip into the front seat to switch on the light brick and off you go! Then take a gentle ride on the Ferris wheel or head to the drop tower, pull down your safety bar and go spinning down to the ground. Afterwards there are photos to buy and food to share with friends. You won’t want your day at the Amusement Park to end!

Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar Toy rrp £45

Code-a-pillar, by Fisher-Price, inspires little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging preschoolers to arrange the easy-to-connect segments in endless combinations. It develops skills like problem solving, sequencing and critical thinking. Every time kids change and rearrange his segments, Code-a-pillar takes a different path with cool sounds and lights.

Last year’s hit game Pie Face gets a makeover to allow two players this Christmas. First, players load the arm with whipped cream (not included) or the sponge. Then each player places their chin on one of the chin rests and at the count of 3, rapidly mashes the button nearest to them, which activates the hand on the throwing arm. The suspense builds as players try to get the arm to move toward their opponent, and when it gets too close to the pie thrower, it’ll spring up, and that player will get creamed! The player who doesn’t get ‘pie-faced’ wins. Includes 1 pie thrower, 1 throwing arm, 2 chin rests, 2 splash-card masks, 1 sponge, and instructions.

Trolls Hug Time Poppy rrp £50

Poppy, from DreamWorks is a loveable, colourful princess who always takes a break for Hug Time, no matter where her adventures take her. Inspired by the DreamWorks Trolls movie, Hug Time Poppy stands 35 cm tall, speaks 25 phrases when you press her tummy and plays songs from the film. Comes with a light up bracelet just like Poppy’s. When activated, their matching bracelets and the doll’s hair all light up to the beat of the music. Age 4+.

Shopkins Shoppies Smoothie Truck rrp £20

Shopkins Shoppies are the range of fabulously fashionable dolls and playsets. The Shoppies Smoothie Truck playset comes with two exclusive Shopkins characters, two stools, a blender and a VIP card to use with the free app. The Smoothie Truck is compatible with all Shoppies dolls meaning that you can drive them around in their cool new truck. Age 5-12 years.

FurReal Friends Torch My Blazin Dragon rrp £75

This baby dragon from Hasbro breathes a flame-colour mist when you hold a colour-change treat to his mouth. He has 50+ sound-and-motion combinations - press his charm, pet his nose, or give him his treat for responses such as giggling, snorting and burping. Posable front legs make him easy to hold and cuddle.

Pie Face Showdown

VTech KidiZoom Action Cam rrp £50

Kidizoom Action Cam by VTech is a light and multi-functional action camera just for children. Take great photos and shoot exciting videos on the move, then choose from lots of cartoon and distortion effects to add. Play through the three fantastic games, or create fun stop motion movies with a great selection of background music to choose from. Use the time-lapse photo recording function to capture great action shots. A waterproof case allows you to take underwater photos or great shots in the rain, while mounts let you attach the camera to a bike or skateboard. Suitable for ages 5 years+. Not suitable for children under 3.

Furby Connect rrp £100

A top seller for years, Furby keeps evolving with this Furby Connect friend featuring colourful eyes that display more than 150

animations to help express what Furby wants. When this Furby Connect friend syncs with the Furby Connect World app, there are more physical and digital ways to interact and lots of new updates. Does Furby need some beauty sleep? This Furby Connect friend comes with a sleep mask which switches it off. Suitable for age 6+, requires batteries.

Zoomer Chimp rrp £120

This lifelike primate knows over 100 tricks, 200 sounds and voice commands. He balances and moves like a real chimp — upright or on all fours. This unpredictable chimp has real facial expressions, complete with light-up eyes so you know how he feels or what mode he is in. He even knows some dance moves, and has a cheeky personality. Suitable for age 5+, not recommended for under 3s.

48 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Thetoysthat havesurvived theghostsof


By Brian Williams


n scattered pockets of Ireland, north and south, this Christmas the construction industry is booming — in those happy places that are the nation’s toy shops. Meccano is celebrating its 115th year as a staple of Santa’s sack, while its middle-aged cousin Lego is flying out of the shops, having been voted the greatest toy of all time last Christmas by a Channel 4 poll of Irish and British viewers. Naturally, half of that poll’s Top 10 were high-tech console games but Lego was joined at the top of the tree by fellow oldies Monopoly (1934), Scrabble (1948), Scalextric (1958) and Dungeons & Dragons (1974). Rather than suffer at the hands of technology, Dungeons & Dragons and Scrabble have seen sales boosted by their online presence. Meccano and Lego have embraced change to survive, with the former incorporating radio control features and the latter in the last few years creating movie tie-in sets with Spiderman, Toy Story and other blockbusters. Age has not diminished the power of the following toys to stir delight on Christmas morning...

Pogo Stick (1920)

in the UK and the USA but it remains most beloved by children.

Meccano (1901)

The master toy-maker Frank Hornby knew he had a hit on his hands when he began designing construction kits for kids in 1898. Three years later he put his miniature sets of struts, girders and rivets in the shops, marketed as Mechanics Made Easy. He swapped this for the snappier Make & Know which became Meccano. The firm, of late, has been branching into the executive toy market.

Tiddlywinks (1888)

Originally called Tiddledy-Winks, this game of flicking small discs (winks) into a cup became an instant Christmas hit with the Victorians. It became an adult fad in the 1950s and today tournaments between hotshot grown- ups are held

Lego (1949)

The Danish firm Lego (meaning ‘play well’) was making wooden piggy banks, cars and trucks from the 1930s, but the breakthrough came in 1947 with the end of the wartime plastic shortage. Lego launched its Automatic Binding Bricks in 1949, renaming them Lego Bricks in 1953. To this day they remain a global best-seller.

Scalextric (1957)

Train Set (1840s)

The early toy trains were made of cast iron or wood and often powered by steam or clockwork engines. A German firm selling doll’s houses created train sets as an equivalent money-spinner pitched at boys who would continue to buy add-on features long after the initial purchase. Electric trains appeared in 1897 and their popularity grew with the spread of electricity.

In 1881 an American invented a stilt with springs ‘for leaping great distances and heights’. In 1920 two Ger mans launched an improved stick, and some experts Donald Saboe Jr., the believe Pogo combines their sur-1955 Pogo Champion, names Pohlig and made the cover of Life Gottshall. The cre- magazine ator of the familiar 1957 two-handled stick claims he named it after a Burmese girl. Some Irish schools include pogoing as part of gym class.

Teddy Bear (1903)

Named after the hunting and shooting US President Theodore Roosevelt, the first fluffy creation was mar- keted as Teddy’s Bear after the creator, Morris Michtom, sent one to the President and got permission to use his name. By 1906 it was a huge hit as a child’s toy and a women’s fashion accessory. In 1932 Irishman Jimmy Kennedy ¬— he of Red Sails In The Sunset fame, allegedly written about Portrush —added the familiar lyrics to the 1907 hit Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Scalextric became an instant hit by adding electricity to the already popular Scalex cars that were run by clockwork engines. The brand remains popular with little boys (and their dads), and has kept up with the times with sets themed on movie franchises including James Bond, Transformers and Batman.

Barbie (1959)

Watching her daughter Barbie giving her dolls adult roles, American Ruth Handler saw a gap in the market for a doll in adult form. She put the idea to her husband, who’d founded the toy-making giant Mattel, but he dismissed it as a folly. Ruth persevered, and the controversy over the first Barbie’s pneumatic bust and sexy swim-suit propelled it to 350,000 sales in its first year. More than a billion have sold since.

WhenIwas thatlittle boythat SantaClaus forgot By Paul Hopkins

It was the Christmas of my ninth year and I so wanted to emulate Bruce McLaren in his Grand Prix winning Cooper Climax that I desperately wanted Scalextric for Christmas. I was wavering between believing in the man in red and dismissing it as hokum-pokum, particularly having burrowed my way the previous year into the back of the wardrobe in my parents’ bedroom, but decided it was to my advantage to write my letter to Santa. My father muttered something about Scalextric being very expensive and that maybe Santa would not be able to afford it as he had so many children to visit and “things like that don’t come cheap”. But, believer or no, I had every faith Santa or whoever would deliver and I could give McLaren a run for his money. Scalextric had been on the go about six years by then. I pronounced it ‘Scay-letrics’: this was a train set on speed, life in the fast lane, leaving my Dinky cars in the shade. I just had to have it and hoped against hope that I had been mistaken in my bout of scepticism. Well, Christmas morning 5am arrived and I awoke starry-eyed with anticipation of the stocking weighing heavy on the bottom of my bed. I never got my Scalextric that Christmas of 1962. I do not remember now what I got instead, only the disappointment that my future as a McLaren was truly dashed. It was probably too expensive for Santa, my Father said. Johnny down the road is getting one, was all I replied. But I swore there and then, young as I was, that if I ever had children I would make sure that whatever they asked for from Santa they would get. Funny though, down the years the two boys never asked for Scalextric, despite its enduring popularity.

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

50 | Family Life

Theyear McEldowney’s saved Christmas

The old Belfast Co-op

By Maureen Coleman


t’s at this time of the year that I find myself wishing I could be transported back to my childhood, to an age of wide-eyed innocence and wondrous delight at the magic of Christmas. As much as I love the festive season as an adult, nothing quite compares to that Christmas Eve feeling of anticipation that I experienced as a child, when I was untouched by cynicism or unaffected by materialism. I wasn’t a greedy child, my Santa list was fairly modest every year, so I was always thrilled to get more than I’d asked for. But I was pretty shrewd – I’d worked out that if I set the bar not too high, Santa would reward my selflessness with even more presents.

Santa at the Co-Op One of my earliest memories of Christmas is being brought with my older brother to see Santa at the old Co-Op in Belfast and being decidedly unimpressed. No personalised video messages from Father Christmas for us kids back then, no two hour drives to visit Santa’s winter wonderland grotto in the middle of nowhere. No, we just joined a long queue of freezing cold little faces waiting patiently in line to receive a colouring book or a packet of crayons from a man with a false beard and an ill-fitting Santa suit. But we never complained. Christmas really started for us when the tree went up and we all helped to dress it. These days, I co-ordinate my Christmas tree with my décor, gold and cream and fairly minimalist, while at my sister’s, where we’ve dined the last few years, the tree is a work of art - like something you’d see in Homes and Interiors Special Christmas edition. But when we were children it was all plastic baubles, rows of tinsel and paper links, which we crafted ourselves. The crib also took pride of place in our home, placed right beneath the television a gentle reminder of the meaning of Christmas while we watched Top of the Pops. Tiptoe downstairs At Chez Coleman we had our own special Christmas morning routine. I woke first without fail every year at the crack of dawn and crept into my parents’ bedroom to give them a shake, unaware, of course, that they’d just gone to bed a few hours before. Then I’d wake my brother and sister and we’d tiptoe down the stairs, hearts thumping in case the man himself

The Coleman family: Maureen, dad Harry, Peter, mum Kathleen and baby Kate was still hanging around, followed closely by mum and dad. Our presents were never placed under the tree. Instead, we each had our own armchair in the living room. I can still remember the pure joy of opening the door, turning on the light and running to my chair to see what Santa had left me. There were no iPods, or iPads or iPhones for us, but I remember feeling like the richest child on earth opening my Sindy’s doll house and cooing over the kitchen set with its miniature pots and pans. Santa was clever, he knew I was obsessed with Sindy and for several years in a row, brought me different versions. One Christmas Santa even brought me my very own

Santa was clever, he knew I was obsessed with Sindy and for several years in a row, brought me different versions

Steve Austin: the Bionic Man figurine, so my favourite Sindy could have a husband. But when mum found Sindy and Steve in a compromising position, I was forbidden from watching Dallas and Action Man was struck off my Christmas list the following year. Toys and games were so simple then but we had tremendous fun and genuinely appreciated what we got. Remember Fuzzy Felt? I had hours of fun creating circus and farmyard scenes on those flocked backing boards. And books, there were always books. Santa obviously loved Enid Blyton. Another Christmas Day highlight was an early morning visit from my uncle John. It was like the second coming of Santa and we awaited his appearance with almost as much excitement. John and my aunt Claire had no children of their own so enjoyed spoiling their nieces and nephews. My Sindy’s doll house was well kitted out that year. Harvey’s Bristol Cream After Mass, everyone who was dining Chez Coleman would arrive and slight panic would ensue. There were always elderly relatives to look after while my folks fretted in the kitchen over the turkey and ham. Sometimes we’d cater for a few of my father’s old aunts, one or both of my widowed grandmothers and a neighbour of one of my grans. Christmas was about family and community, we were told and our door was always open. Growing up

All grown up now with two teetotal parents, (I know, I know, what happened me?), the only alcohol consumed was a little tipple of Sherry by my grandmothers. I still associate the smell of Harvey’s Bristol Cream with Christmas. Both women were of that generation where they addressed each other formally. ‘How are you feeling Mrs Conway?’ ‘Well now Mrs Coleman, I don’t think I’m long for this world and you? ‘Oh Mrs Conway, I don’t think I’ll see next Christmas.’ Both lived into their 90s, funny enough - the wonders of Sherry. But the best Christmas I ever had growing up in Belfast started out as a near disaster. Mum had been cooking the turkey one Christmas morning but when she opened the oven door, the smell almost knocked her out. The turkey was rotten. It was completely off. There was nothing to be done but forego the big bird and dine on Brussel sprouts and glazed ham instead. Mum cried a bit, dad cursed a bit and we all sat around, in our paper hats, looking miserably at the table and foul fowl. Then, in true Christmas spirit, our neighbours across the street heard our tale of Yuletide woe and insisted we join them for dinner. We packed everything up that we could carry, roast potatoes, carrots, sprouts, Christmas pud and moved en masse to the McEldowney’s house. Two families squeezed around the kitchen table that day and shared their food and festivities and that, for me, remains my best Christmas memory.

52 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

By Steven Beacom

Carla is currently in Orca at the Southwark Playhouse


he bubbly 26 year old is one of Northern Ireland’s brightest young acting talents. Based in London, she won rave theatre reviews and the interest of Hollywood star Nicole Kidman for her performance in two woman show Cuddles. She has also earned TV credits with impressive appearances in Penny Dreadful and Witness for the Prosecution.

Too shy

From being a little girl who was too shy to go on stage, she has come a long way, thanks to the support of her mum Pamela, dad Nick and elder brother Chris, plus a perceptive primary school teacher. Carla recalls: “As a child I was really shy. I had a teacher, Mrs Myles, at Newtownards Model Primary School, who wanted me to be in the school play. She thought it would help my confidence if she gave me a few lines. I remember thinking this was the worst thing ever because there was no way I wanted to speak. “Apparently when I said the lines no one realised how big my voice was and I think I was sold after that. I did all the school plays in high school because I was so into drama and it was a real confidence boost for me. “Mrs Myles always jokes that if I become famous I have to credit her because she made me get up on stage for the first time.” Aged 19, Carla left home for London and attended the respected Italia Conti Academy, where she graduated with a BA (Hons) in acting.

Theatre award

Her favourite role to date was playing a 13-year-old in the critically acclaimed play Cuddles. That role led to her being nominated for an Off West End award for Best Female Performance and winning the Manchester Theatre Award for best studio performance. When the show went to the Big Apple, the New York Times was so blown away by the Bangor woman that their reviewer wrote: ‘Carla Langley is spellbinding in a performance so raw and real.’ “That was from when we did Brits off Broadway and was probably the best month of my life,” she says. “It was a two woman show. We did it in the UK and then we went over and did it in New York. We didn’t realise that if the New York Times gave you a good review you sold out and if they gave you a bad review you were in trouble, but thankfully we got a good one and it sold out.

Nicole Kidman

“Nicole Kidman’s film company have picked it up to make it into a film. She flew in her producer from LA to see it.” Laughing, the County Down woman adds: “The character is 13 and probably by the time it is made I’ll be about 30 so I’m

Carla Langley

Stagestar Carlaaiming toshineon TVthisyear

Bangor actress Carla Langley ends year with prestigious theatre award and  great New York Times review. 

not sure I’ll be in the film but it was nice to be included in the original play and I’m pleased it made an impact. “I was the first one to play the character because it was a new script so that is pretty cool.” Carla has also relished starring in hit television shows Penny Dreadful and Witness for the Prosecution, learning from some big name performers. “Penny Dreadful was the first thing I did. It’s a really big series. The episode I did was with the lead Eva Green and Patti LuPone. I remember I was getting my make-up done next to the famous actor Josh Hartnett and I didn’t know what to do with myself. “As a first TV experience that was amazing. The director was actually from Antrim, Brian Kirk. He was so lovely and made me feel very comfortable. “I just finished Witness for the Prosecution in the summer and that was great as well because it is set in the 1920s and it had some really good actors in it. “I have done more theatre than TV so with TV it is like learning on the job but it is great to watch really experienced actors and get tips from them.

Future plans

“In 2017 I would love to crack into the TV scene a little more. I feel like I have good theatre credits on my CV and love doing it but I want to challenge myself more and get more TV experience.” It all sounds glamorous but there are testing times too because of the fierce rivalry in the industry. Carla says: “You walk into a room (for casting) and you think you are the only person that looks like you and there are literally 10 other girls who look exactly

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 53 A beaming Carla with her Manchester Theatre Award

I have done more theatre than TV so with TV it is like learning on the job but it is great to watch really experienced actors like you. It is so tough because there are so many graduates coming out of drama

school every year. There’s just not enough jobs for the amount of actors. “You have to have a good team and I have an agent that works really hard which has been a great help.”

Christmas at home

There will be more auditions next year. First, however, is some Christmas family cheer. She plans to prepare for the big year ahead by spending the festive season at home and enjoying quality time with her family. “I’m very excited about coming home for Christmas. I don’t get home that much because you never know when you will have an audition,” she says. “I can’t wait to get back and spend time with my family and chill out. We have the two grannies around. Mum loves the Strictly Dancing Christmas special and we always play Trivial Pursuit because it is a family tradition.”

Enjoying a family night out with dad Nick, mum Pamela and brother Chris

54 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

HOWTOCELEBRATE Tis the season to be jolly and you’ll be spoilt for choice of things to do between now and the end of the year. Here’s a taster of some of the events happening across Northern Ireland to help people of all ages celebrate the festive season. FUN FOR KIDS

✱Moving Pictures is offering kids aged 7-12 the chance of experiencing their very own Night at the Museum on December 9 & 10. This thrilling event will begin with a 45 minute lighted tour of the Ulster Museum, including an artefact recently introduced to the Museum, the golden tablet of the lady Takabuti, rumoured to have special powers. At 9.15pm, the Night at the Museum film will be shown in the Museum’s cinema theatre and when the clock strikes 11, and the lights go out, maybe, just maybe, the Museum might come to life. All children must be accompanied by an adult and bring their own torch for the midnight tour as well as snacks and sleeping bag if sleeping over. Free popcorn will be provided for the cinema event and there’s a light buffet breakfast for those staying over. Find out more by emailing movingpicturesevents@, tel: 0780 9328 523.

Kids will love a Night at the Museum


✱The Lyric Theatre is showing The Gingerbread Mix Up from December 7-January 7, featuring Primrose - apple of her Dad’s eye, bane of her Mum’s life, all-round little monster. Cast out in the forest with only her Nintendo for company, Primrose meets Pardon – cool cat turned witch’s assistant, with a promising sideline in Big Bad Wolf impersonations. To book performances for school groups, contact the Box Office on 028 9038 1081. ✱Aladdin is brought to life on the Waterfront stage by a fabulous cast headed up by panto dame, Ross Anderson-Doherty, as Widow Twankey, from now until January 8. Details from

Christmas at Belfast Zoo

✱At the Grand Opera House, this year’s panto is Cinderella, starring singer Gareth Gates and everyone’s favourite panto dame, May McFettridge. It runs from now until January 15, see

man in red beside the train. Children with a ticket will receive a gift from Santa. For further info contact Visit Belfast at 028 9024 6609 or email welcomecentre@

✱Award winning children’s theatre company Cahoots NI brings the enchantment and magic of Pinocchio to the MAC. You can expect live music, lots of magic and dazzling illusions, from now until January 1, see

✱ Santa is coming to Slieve Gullion, outside Newry, from now until December 18, along with his elves who will be hosting a singalong and festive fun. You will then visit Mrs Claus in her kitchen to see her baking up a Christmas storm and then it’s on to meet Santa in his cottage, have a picture taken and get a gift to take home. For details email slievegullionevents@outlook. com or call 028 3089 8119.

✱ National Trust’s Castle Coole in Enniskillen will be home to Santa and Mrs Claus from December 10-18 as they busily prepare for Christmas. They will be welcoming children into their magical Christmas home the perfect way to get into the festive spirit. Details from castle-coole. ✱ Tickets are fast selling out for the Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s Lapland Express, with its special passenger - Santa Claus! The Lapland Express will be running on December 10-11 and 17-18. Log on to or ring 077 9080 2049 to purchase your ticket. ✱ Here comes Santa to Castle Espie, outside Comber, where he is planning on remaining until December 22. Make your very own woodland elf and fairy decorations for your Christmas tree, enjoy delicious festive refreshments from the Kingfisher Kitchen, and find out if you have been naughty or nice when you meet Santa himself in his enchanted grotto. There are also opportunities for storytelling and toasting marshmallows. See for details. ✱ All aboard the Santa Steam Express for a return journey from Lisburn to Portadown on December 11 and from Belfast to Whitehead on December 10, 17 & 18 at 11.30am and 2.30pm. The festive fun includes an on-board visit from Santa and presents for children. The return trip of approximately two hours will give plenty of opportunity for photographs with the

✱ Christmas Tales & Trails in Brooke Park, Derry~Londonderry on December 18 will see visitors follow the trail of footsteps through the park to find Santa, with stop offs at a number of destinations exploring Tales of Christmas from around the world told by a number of special characters. Included along the way will be fun for the kids with arts and crafts, tree decoration making, cookies and hot chocolate while you listen to a festive carol. End your visit with a trip to Santa’s lodge for a selfie and a small gift. For details call 028 7126 8748. ✱ Find out if you’re on the Naughty or Nice list at the Magical Christmas Experience at Titanic Belfast from now until December 23. Visit the olde picture house, peek through the toy shop window at the toys from a bygone era and check out the post office where Father Christmas has his elves hard at work. Hear a classic Christmas tale, challenge each other at traditional games, or visit their fashioned wardrobe and find the perfect outfit to transport you back in time. See for details.


✱Around the World Christmas Winter Wonderland brings a fantastic synchronised light show, snow tunnel, market stalls, gingerbread forest for treasure hunt, child friendly interactive storytell-

ing & activity huts to Derry~Londonderry on December 16-23. See for details. ✱ There’s festive fun for all the family, at Belfast Zoo, on December 18. Visit Santa in his grotto and enjoy the festive activities. Write a letter to Santa Claus, wrap and deliver presents to the cheeky chimpanzees and watch as they enjoy their surprises. Decorate Christmas trees for the Asian elephants and make your own reindeer food to sprinkle outside on Christmas Eve! To finish off the day wish all of the animals a ‘Merry Christmas’ at feeding time, as they enjoy some special surprises! You must book a ticket to visit Santa in his grotto. This ticket includes admission to the zoo, a visit to the grotto, a present from Santa and one photograph per child. For more information or to book, call The Belfast Zoo on 028 9077 6277 extension 203 or visit ✱The award-winning Tumble Circus proudly presents Christmas Circus on December 8-18 at Writer’s Square - the first time a season of Christmas Circus shows will be presented under a heated big top in the heart of Belfast. Snow is a Christmas themed, all human, all skilled, all thrill sensational circus show for all ages, with acrobats, jugglers, aerialists and comedy. Show times are Thursday-Friday, December 8-9, Tuesday-Friday, December 13-16 at 5pm. Saturday, December 10 and 17th at 3pm. Sunday, December 11 and 18th, at 1.30pm. For more information and booking tickets visit ✱ A Georgian Family Christmas offers a rare chance to see what life really was like at Hillsborough Castle. This event, on December 21-23 allows visitors to join the Castle household as they prepare for the arrival of Lord Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire and his young family for Christmas 1800. There’s lots to learn on the day and there will be music from Sestina Early Music Ensemble as they rehearse for a performance of Handel’s Messiah and The

c F

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 55 Pony Panto at The Mac

Brian Kennedy

Tumble Circus is performing two shows Wren Boys traditional mumming by the Armagh Rhymers. See hillsborough-castle for details. ✱ Raceview Mill’s Indoor Food and Craft Market, Ballymena, turns festive on Saturday, December 10, from 11am-3pm, with artisan market traders offering an array of bespoke and handcrafted Christmas items, a visit from Santa and some carol singers to liven the spirit. Bring your dog and get their portrait taken at the Dog Stop Spa Boutique. ✱ The Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh, is celebrating with Days of Christmas Past on Saturdays & Sundays until December 18. Take the family back in time to see the toymaker in his workshop, meet Santa and Mrs Claus and taste seasonal treats. Booking is essential so please telephone the ticket hotline 028 8224 3292 or book online at ✱ The Mayor’s Christmas Choral Gathering, on December 22, will see people from all walks of life in Derry~Londonderry gather to celebrate the season. Beginning at Guildhall Square the choral gathering will perform at Shipquay Gate then move to perform at Butchers Gate, Bishops Gate, Ferryquay Gate then return to the Guildhall Square and Guildhall Foyer and Main Hall for the finale. ✱ Peter Corry’s annual Christmas show, The Music Box, is at Belfast Waterfront, on December 15-17, with Gerry Kelly among this year’s guests, see


✱ As well as its children’s show, Snow, Tumble Circus is bringing an adult only show Raucus, to its heated Big Top at

Writers Square on December 15-17. Raucus is a Gala Cabaret Circus Club complete with full bar, world class international circus stars, stand-up, burlesque special guest and a DJ. A full night’s unique entertainment, the event runs from 8-11pm, show starts at 8.30pm with an interval, and ends at 10.15pm. Tickets are £22 from ✱ You never quite know what you are going to get at the MAC’s adults-only Pony Panto! Now a firm Christmas tradition, this irreverent mix has been a sell-out hit at the MAC for the past four years. Expect a live band, humour, lots of star turns and of course, the lovable host Leoniepony from December 14-23. See for tickets. ✱ The Grand Hall at Castle Coole will be brought to life with festive music and Christmas Carols, performed by Fermanagh Choral Society on December 9 & 10. ✱ Festive Reflections with Phil Coulter will see Phil perform new arrangements of his favourite classic songs from The Town I Loved So Well to Steal Away along with a seasonal selection with his very special guest, Geraldine Branagan, at Enniskillen’s Ardhowen Theatre on December 17. Visit for details. ✱ Dominic Kirwan, one of Ireland’s finest singers and entertainers brings his Kirwan family Christmas show to Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady, on December 17, featuring his sons, Colm, who is making his way in Nashville as a singer/ songwriter and Barry, who already has two successful hit singles to his name and a pure tenor voice that has to be heard. For

The Christmas Santa Special steam train crosses the River Lagan Photo Alan Lewis,

tickets and further details visit ✱ Singer/songwriter Foy Vance is playing the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on Saturday, December 10. The Bangor man has collaborated with artists such as Plan B, Sheryl Crow and Rudimental, synced his music on multiple TV shows ranging from Grey’s Anatomy to the finale of Sons Of Anarchy, and caught the ears of stars from Elton John to Ed Sheeran. Tickets, from £19.50, from www.shine. net,, and Katy’s Bar. ✱ Singer Brian Kennedy is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his classic album A Better Man, with a concert at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on December 21. A Better Man entered the charts at number one and went on to earn multi-platinum status, winning Best Irish Male Artist and Best Irish Male Album at the Hot Press Awards. Brian will be playing the entire album live plus many more of his hits from a career spanning more than 25 years. Tickets from ✱ The Priests are in concert at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, Newcastle, on December 22, for what promises to be a very special night, see www.hastingshotels. com for details. ✱ Belfast Community Gospel Choir’s Christmas show at Belfast Waterfront on December 11 will feature everything from Christmas classics to big gospel ballads. Audience participation is encouraged, so warm up your vocal chords, bring your baubles and prepare for a very BCGC Christmas! ✱ The Ulster Orchestra will be joined

Belfast Community Gospel Choir

by soprano Rebekah Coffey for special performances of enchanting carols and festive music in Strabane, Bangor, Ballymena and Omagh. This hugely popular and lively singa-long Christmas show will feature an array of festive classics and will be fun for all the family; a real Christmas cracker of a night! Christmas Unwrapped takes place on December 17, 19, 20 and 21 – visit for details of the concert near you. ✱ Why not start 2017 off in the Viennese style? New Year Viennese concerts will recreate all the glamour and glitz of Vienna, as the Ulster Orchestra performs the whirling waltzes, pretty polkas and attractive arias of the legendary Strauss dynasty, including favourites such as the Blue Danube waltz and Thunder and Lightning Polka. These concerts take place on January 6 & 7 in Belfast Waterfront, and in the Millennium Forum, Derry~Londonderry on January 8. Tickets and full concert details can be found at www. ✱ The Lyric Theatre is running The Nativity: What the Donkey Saw, an irreverent seasonal comedy, from now until January 14. It looks for answers to some big questions: why didn’t Joseph book a room in advance - didn’t he know the place would be packed for Christmas? Who looked after the sheep while the shepherds were wetting the baby’s head? Would the wise men not have been wiser to club together and buy the kid a highchair? What did the donkey see and why was he looking? Just a few questions to ponder while you are booking your tickets at

56 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Avoidwinter Music,clothes jointpainwith andhugsfor REFUGEES Lyprinol A


s Christmas draws near, the temperatures are beginning to drop and for anyone with joint pain, that can mean extra aches and stiffness. However, a potent little capsule can help consign those winter woes to the bin. Lyprinol is a tried and tested food supplement which has helped restore ease of movement to thousands of people all over the world, not least our own National Darling, Dame Mary Peters, who has been so impressed by the product that she officially endorses it. Dame Mary’s athletics career was long and illustrious. As well as winning gold in the women’s Pentathlon for Great Britain and Northern Ireland In the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, she represented Northern Ireland at every Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1974, winning two gold medals for the pentathlon, plus a gold and silver medal for the shot put. She was awarded the MBE and CBE before being made Dame Commander (DBE) in the 2000 Birthday Honours and Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2015 New Year Honours, all for services to sport and the community in Northern Ireland where she is a much-loved inspiration to many. She is currently campaigning for ‘Mary’s Race to a Million’ which aims to raise £1,000,000 over the next three years to secure the work of her charity The Mary Peters Trust. It works alongside Sports NI to support individuals from all recognised sports. As an active retiree, she enjoys being able to continue her daily walks in the countryside near her home in comfort and ease. She agrees that competing in the pentathlon was hard on the joints. “It was very punishing because it was a variety of events. Luckily I have come through it relatively unscathed. “I take Lyprinol every day and that may be why I don’t have any problems. Because it’s Omega 3 and it’s a lubricant it’s good

Dame Mary Peters DBE takes Lyprinol every day

for your joints. They’re not hard to take because they’re small and easy to swallow.”

Natural extract

The vital ingredient in this super supplement is a natural, highly purified extract from the Green-Shelled Mussel. One of the largest mussel species in the world, growing to 24cm, the Green-Shelled Mussel is harvested from the pristine waters of the Marlborough Sound in New Zealand. The Green Mussel extract contains a rare combination of lipid groups and unique Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. While Omega-3 fatty acids are known to support the heart and healthy cholesterol levels, the particular kinds of Omega-3 in Lyrpinol are believed to provide nutritional support against excess inflammation of the joints and airways which can lead to stiffness, less flexibility or inflamed airways. Inflammation has been found to be reduced within 4-8 weeks of beginning use.

25 strong team of volunteers from Causeway Vineyard Church in Coleraine have been spreading the Christmas spirit at Syrian and Kurdish refugee camps in Northern Greece. The volunteers, from Coleraine based SyriAid, were joined by musicians Andy Rogers and Joanne Hogg and friends from Switzerland and England for the week long trip at the start of December. For the leaders, Karen Hamilton, Diane Nicholl, Paul Stewart and Donna McCollum it was a return to familiar territory, for others it was their first experience of the crisis. There are an estimated 60,000 refugees facing winter in approximately 20 government-run camps across the region. SyriAid has been assisting charities and aid agencies by giving through their Clothe-A-Camp Appeal, fundraising and travelling to Thessaloniki to physically

help out with distributing clothing. “Our aim was to help the refugees, other agencies and volunteers working in the camps by sorting clothes; distributing food and vitamins; playing with the children/hosting a kids camp; putting on a concert or two; listening, talking and where appropriate praying, all with the aim of bringing joy, light and hope into the camps,” explained Hazel Millar, who travelled out for the first time.

Not enough helpers

She said it was bitterly cold and that her main sensation was of feeling completely overwhelmed as they worked in warehouses which were full of clothing, shoes and toiletries which had yet to be distributed. Hazel said people were incredibly generous but it was a logistical nightmare getting the goods out as they could only distribute coats if there were enough for

No side effects

Lyprinol capsules are much smaller than other fish oil capsules, making them easier to swallow and they have no known side effects. They are safe to use with other drugs and they don’t thin the blood, nor do they create an unpleasant aftertaste. As the oils are removed by a gentle extraction process, leaving behind the rest of the mussel flesh, they are free of mussel protein and carbohydrates and are therefore suitable for people suffering from shellfish intolerances. As the stabilisation process used in preparation of Lyprinol protects the rare mix of lipids and Omega-3 fatty acids present in the live mussel you don’t need to take large quantities to see the benefits. Studies recommend fish oil intake of 18g per day, although few people actually manage this amount. Lyprinol has been shown to be effective at an intake of 1 to 2 capsules per day. This is equivalent to just 100mg of Lyprinol oil and 300mg of olive oil. Independent studies have compared Lyprinol to several foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Using an accepted animal model, Lyprinol has been shown to be: ■ 100 times more potent than EPA Max (fish oil) ■ 125 times more potent than original freeze dried mussel powder ■ 175 times more potent than Evening Primrose Oil ■ 175 times more potent than Salmon Oil ■ 200 times more potent than Flax Oil.

There is little in the way of space or privacy in the camps


Individually, the members of the team had a range of reasons for going but many felt that it was an opportunity to focus on giving rather than getting at Christmas. Hazel Millar said she went because she had more questions than answers. “The media has portrayed the refugee crisis in a sometimes frightening manner - that somehow Europe won’t be able to cope with this huge influx of people. “I do not understand the politics behind the Syrian war but once I had read and understand the message in Matthew 25, it became apparent to me that the politics were unimportant. The people who were homeless, shivering, hungry, thirsty and sick were just people - people in need - mums, dads, sons and daughters. Just like us, yet in trouble. And I thought maybe I could help. Maybe through my understanding, my listening, my touch, my words, my actions and my simply coming, they would experience care, joy and hope. They would know they were not forgotten by the world.” Susan Thomas, a trauma counsellor, said: “I came because of my Christian belief in serving others, as Jesus did. I grew up during the Troubles so I understand what it’s like to live in a

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Family Life | 57

Some of the SyriAid volunteers gather for a team photo everyone in a camp and in a camp of 1000 people, that meant finding out how many men, women and children were there and what size they required. Distributing them piecemeal would lead to rivalries and difficulties within the camp. Hazel said the people in the camp were very welcoming. One of the refugees, Vector Cristiano, has become the main point of contact for volunteers coming out and maintains those friendships on Facebook. She said honouring and respecting the people who found themselves in the camps was very important to the group. “On our first night, Vector’s family welcomed all 25 of us into their tent and his mother fed us cooked chicken and rice. The care she gave us was unbelievable. Her husband told their story. He had been in the satellite business - they had a swimming pool at their house. We would think they were poor but they’re not. They have ended up being caught up in an horrific situtation not of their making. “The family had fled Aleppo and gone to Turkey before ending up in Greece. They have a boy that they have adopted. They found him on the side of the road beside a decaptitated body and they took him with them. I imagine it’s the same for others.” She says the women keep busy maintaining their tents and looking after the children but that the children were missing out on school and the men were particu-

country where there are extremists who do not represent the views of the majority. Whilst I know I did not endure sustained bombardment of my town/country, I do remember the loss of life, destruction of property and the resultant emotional trauma that is still on-going for some. Therefore, I identify with those fleeing war-torn Syria and have a deep empathy for them - enough to drive me to come to Greece and try to make a difference for a few.” “I came because I have professional dental skills,” said Lisa Duff. “I wanted to suss out if there was something specific I could do professionally in the future to help the Syrian families. I wanted to make connections with others already at work here. I wanted to pray with those who would be happy for that.” Paul Stewart, one of the team leaders explained: “I want to increase and sustain awareness of what it’s like for these people living in tents far from their homeland, their culture and in many case, far from other members of their families. Winter is upon us in Northern Ireland and also in Greece. Families in the camps struggle to keep warm. There is nothing for the men to do, the children have no

larly hard hit by having nothing to do. The lack of privacy was also hard for people to tolerate. “There’s not much space between the tents so if your baby starts crying, the whole place can hear it.” The fact that the camps are in Greece, which is itself in dire straits, makes the situation even more depressing. “Most of the people we met want to be in Germany or Switzerland.”

Forced to wait

Hazel was drawn to one family of a mum and her teenage daughters, one of whom had English. “She said their dad was in Germany but they weren’t approved to join him so they have been waiting nine months in this tent and they have been told they have another year to wait. It’s hard to contemplate.” She brought them nail polish and the sort of ‘useless, pretty stuff’ her teenage daughter loves from a shopping trip, to help them feel special - their reaction was as wonderful as she’d hoped. Other days were emotionally challenging for other reasons. On one occasion Hazel was working with a group of young children while the older ones were playing games with a parachute and balloons. “One of the balloons burst and the reaction of the little ones in my group was heart-breaking. Half of them just froze, some of them began screaming and the

school, the wives have no homes to maintain. Despondency lies like a heavy blanket over the populations of the camps. I have made previous connections with some of these families. For me, the refugees are no longer nameless

Vector’s mum cooked for the 25 visitors

others ran away in hysterics. Obviously that’s trauma from bombs and bullets. I don’t know how you help them to heal from that. You can see it in their faces.” She said the big lesson she had taken from the experience was that simply being there and showing the refugees that

the outside world hadn’t forgotten them was worth as much as any gift. A highlight of the trip was one of the concerts put on by Joanne Hogg and Andy Rogers. Hazel said the air of despondency over the camp left and the evening ended with the refugees teaching them Syrian dances. “It was amazing.” For further information or to get involved, see SyriAid on Facebook.

or faceless. I see them as real people with real lives, hopes and dreams, just like me. I see our shared humanity.” Andy Rogers said; “I came because I wanted to bring joy through the medium of music. I

have never been before and wanted to see for myself what is going on here - a taster of as many things as possible, from working in the distribution warehouses to singing in the camps. “I still need time to consider and then process my individual future response to what is happening here in Greece and in the camps. I feel a bit overwhelmed.” Marcia Hughes, a Brazilian married to a Northern Irish man, said: “I came because I am a foreigner living in Ireland. I understand what it means to reside in a land that is not your own. As people in Ireland have embraced me with love and community, I wanted to reach out to others and show them similar love and compassion.” Lynda Clarke said: “I came because I wanted to treat these people with honour and am particularly keen to see them clothed in good, clean, quality clothing. I wanted to visit and work in the distribution warehouses to help sort donated clothes. “I wanted to do my bit to help other aid agencies assist the families in the camps in getting warm clothing this winter.”

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Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Nooneshould sufferorfeelalone thisChristmas


nly last year it was reported that over 350,000 elderly people spent Christmas alone in the UK. Then there are the thousands of individuals who may be dealing with a crisis or mental health issue and can feel isolated over Christmas, even if surrounded by loved ones. As highlighted by UK mental health organisation Mind, “Loneliness is not feeling part of the world. You might be surrounded by loads of people, but you are still lonely.” Mind itself offers direct support to individuals who find Christmas a mentally challenging time. One such person is Caitlin, who called the Mind Infoline last Christmas after feeling lost and suicidal. Speaking of her experience Caitlin says: “Some survival instinct made me call Mind’s Infoline. I needed to hear another human voice to talk sense to me, and just listen. The lady who answered my call was incredibly friendly and informative. She was able to empathise and relate instantly. We talked through what help I could get, and where I could go.”

No on should have no one Of course, loneliness or suffering does not only impact individuals at Christmas, however, it is during this period that those feelings can often be aggravated. Fortunately there are even further initiatives and efforts being made to ensure those who are vulnerable do not go unheard and or feel unsupported. In the lead up to Christmas last year, Action Mental Health launched the social media campaign 12 Christmas Wishes, a video campaign in partnership with local public figures and health authorities, to promote better understanding and support of individuals with a mental illness. The campaign was widely supported by and featured academics, MLAs, health

Don’t underestimate the impact of a friendly cup of tea

In the lead up to Christmas there are thousands of people who may not be looking forward to the festive season as much as others are, writes Claire McKeever. professionals and service users. This year, with a focus and commitment to supporting elderly people, Age NI will be launching its ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ (NOSHNO) appeal from December 1 to raise awareness around the issue of loneliness. Age NI’s chief executive, Linda Robinson, says: “One in 3 older people here tell us that they are lonely. They have no one close to share the good times with, to go to for support when life is tough or for trusted advice to help solve a problem. Having someone to turn to, at any age, is important to us all. Everyone faces ups and downs. Services like Age NI day centres, the Age NI First Connect Service and the Age NI Advice Service are providing companionship and support to thousands of people every year. We help people to become reconnected with their local communities, to get their confidence back and to love later life again.” Linda encouraged members of the public to look out for those who might be in need of company: “Being there for those who need us isn’t only about tackling the really big problems and issues. It’s about helping to provide the little things that can make a big difference too. Remember how you felt the last time someone made you a cup of tea after a hard day or how good it was to hear from a friend who just rang to say hello? It’s those times when people really miss having someone around them who cares. That’s why Age NI is encouraging people to look out for older family, friends and neighbours, to make sure they are not alone this Christmas.” For those without a home Of course, for many individuals there may not be a home to go to over Christmas — or for the rest of the year for that matter and it is organisations like Simon Community NI that will be working hard to provide vulnerable and homeless people

Loneliness can be particularly acute at Christmas with much-needed care. This includes the organisation’s Shoe Box Appeal which launched mid November and has appealed for items such as non perishable food, soap, shampoo and toilet roll to be dropped off at the Simon Community offices on Franklin Street, Belfast, in the lead up to Christmas. At the heart of the streets Based in Belfast SOS NI is a volunteer-led charity that aims to make a difference to the lives of children, young people and adults on the streets of Belfast come nighttime. Its vision is “to inspire hope and build better futures for everyone”, helping people in their time of need, as well as going to schools to empower young people to make more positive life choices. The charity has a unique mobile service

The SoS volunteers will be keeping revellers safe over the festive season

that locates itself across the city, depending on where it is needed most. Volunteers and medical staff are trained to provide the best possible care to vulnerable people they might meet on any given night. Over Christmas SOS Bus will be carrying out a weekly services on Friday and Saturday nights at Shaftesbury Square and at the SSE Arena (Saturday only), with the exception of Christmas Eve. This involves one specially equipped 60-foot flexi-bus and response mini-buses to respond to the needs of those they meet. An enhanced service will run on New Year’s Eve, covering an even wider part of the city. Last year the charity met an incredible amount of need through its services, including administration of medical care to 72 members of the public, transportation of 13 clients to A&E (four of whom were injured), 17 clients taken home to a place of safety, as well as provision of 2690 hot drinks and 23 bits of clothing. Please find below a list of the organisations mentioned and a link to more information or to receive support in relation to any of the issues raised: ✱ MIND: ✱ Action Mental Health NI: http://www. ✱ Age NI: ✱ Simon Community: www.

TIPS FOR GETTING THROUGH CHRISTMAS For people suffering from depression, bereavement or loneliness, Christmas can amplify all those negative feelings as everyone else seems to be living the dream.

There are a few things you can do to ease your way through the season. 1. Stay off social media - it only makes you compare yourself negatively to other people. 2. If the thought of spending protracted periods with family is making you very anxious, speak to a close relative about it, ask them to ease the way for you and help you find ways to cope. You’ll find friends and family much kinder than you might have expected once they realise you are depressed and not hostile to them. By the same token, if one of your relatives seems short tempered and moody, ask them whether they are depressed. Very often people with depression can’t begin the conversation but they get tremendous relief when someone else starts it for them.

3. Be proactive in battling loneliness. Make the first move - often people are busy in the run up to Christmas but that doesn’t mean they won’t have time for a chat with someone they value like you. 4. If you are facing Christmas alone, try to think of someone who would welcome you into their home, brace yourself and ask if they could find room for an extra seat at the table. If that is too terrifying a prospect, find out if any community groups or charities in your area are doing Christmas dinners and either go along as a guest or offer to help. 5. Be kind to yourself. Think of every way you know to give yourself a good pampering. Make the season as special as you can for yourself and before you know it, it will be over for another year.

60 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016 Rubber Lattice Rugby Ball, durable rubber rugby ball for your dog for hours of fun playing chase, £5.99,

Crazy & Curly Candy Cane Mice, two mice with fun candy cane-shaped tails for festive fun for your cat, £3.99, www. 324 8523

Kumfy Kradle, radiator bed for cats, will support cats up to a maximum recommended weight of 12kgs (26lbs). Available in two sizes to fit standard or double radiators, £16.99,

Cat Hampurr is a luxury present for your moggy, set in a fabulous fish shaped wicker basket, the Cat Hampurr contains no less than eight treats for your cat, £49,


pamperedpets By Valeria Higgins

Our beloved pets, unlike our relations and friends, can’t tell us what they would like Santa Paws to bring them for Christmas, so owners are left to guess what their furry, feathery, scaly friends would like to unwrap on December 25 (or earlier, if you don’t hide the presents well enough). Here are some ideas to inspire, from tasty treats, to ever popular toys and practical and special occasion outfits, to suit all budgets. After you’ve had a read of this, show the page to your pet and let them pick what they’d like for Christmas.

CP tunnel - Santa’s trouser tunnel, £11.99, ALESSI Tigrito Cat Bowl from Black By Design Ltd, made from black thermoplastic resin the two bowls have stainless steel inners, purrfect for wet and dry food, £49.95, www.

‘Merry Woofmas’ Christmas Sack, this fun Christmas sack is perfect for dog owners who want to surprise their four legged friends with some festive treats, great for dogs who can read and follow instructions, £7.99,

Medusa Gala dog bowl from Versace. Beautifully crafted from the finest porcelain, it replicates intricately detailed o t ts t baroque ornaments and is finished with djus ief a £5, Nex h c r exquisite gold detailing on the rim, £568, e , k m c ne 5c ogs, ize of 4 d r ie fo neck s t w Bo imum max

PA H Holly - Small animal wooden holly chew, £2, Pets at Home

Dog socks, a quirky present for your furry friend! These dog socks, available in small, medium and large, have non slip grips to keep paws stylish and clean, £4.95, www.

M&S champagne bottle - Dog Toy champagne bottle, £10, M&S, Plastic scrunchie ball cat toy, features a plastic ball filled with exciting feathers and ribbons, perfect for pouncing and batting games, £2, Pets at Home

Night Bright LED dog jacket, combines a water resistant dog coat with LED lights to keep dogs safe in low light conditions, available in three sizes, £19.99-26.99,

Umbra Fish Hotel, as funky as a fishbowl can be, the unusual cube design sets it a million miles apart, the glass inner cube can be removed for easy cleaning, £33,

Spot & Mog novelty rawhide popcorn dog treat, now your dog can join in on the fun of a movie night with their own munchy rawhide treats, £6, Debenhams

The Charley Chau Snuggle dog bed is designed for dogs that love to sleep and snuggle under a blanket or duvet, it has a cosy faux-fur fleece lined pocket for your dog to climb into, £70,

9 December 2016 | Belfast Telegraph

Apetisforlife, notjustforChristmas

By Valeria Higgins

It is that time of year again when many children will be writing their lists to Santa and at the top of some will be a new puppy or kitten. As romantic as it may appear to wake up on Christmas morning and be greeted by a new furry member of the family, animal charities are urging people not to give pets as Christmas presents, as too many end up being handed in to the charities’ adoption centres as unwanted pets soon after the festive period ends. The UK’s leading feline welfare charity, Cats Protection, says that pet ownership shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Kittens don’t stay kittens for long and, with cats often living into their late teens and over, a cat owner will need to provide for them, whether that’s food or vet bills, for the duration of their lifetime,” says Karen Thompson, deputy manager of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre. “While they do make wonderful additions to many homes, the decision to become a cat owner is a serious one, and you have to be sure that you can commit your time and money to your new feline friend.” The UK’s largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, echoes these concerns. It says it is very easy to romanticise the idea of getting a dog over Christmas, without taking the time to think about the impact having a dog will have on your life – the on-going costs associated with owning a dog, the lifestyle changes you may need to make in order to provide your new pet with the best possible care; how big particular dog breeds can grow as they get older, or the work involved in training a new dog. And Christmas itself isn’t an ideal time to welcome a new furry member of the family. Your home tends to be busy and rather

chaotic, with lots of visitors – not the sort of calm and quiet conditions needed to help a new pet settle in. “While Christmas is a time of fun, family and lots of wonderful memories, it may not be the ideal time to bring a cat home,” says Karen Thompson. “Your home will likely be busy, full of strangers, and your new cat will find this experience quite alarming – making the transition to a new home much more stressful. We are urging people take a little time, and to not rush into the decision. If you still want a cat in the New Year, come in and meet one of the many cats in our care.” Dogs also need time to settle into a new home and bond with their owner, so it is best to choose a quiet time in your life when you can dedicate spare time to doing this. Dogs will feel overwhelmed with the transition to a new environment and having friends and family descending for Christmas get-togethers will only frighten them. The distractions of the festive time will not help a new dog’s training routine, which has to be kept gentle but consistent. And if you’re not hosting this year’s Christmas party, it may be that you’re visiting your friends and relatives, either leaving the dog at home for long periods of time, which isn’t good as separations anxiety may develop, or the dog is travelling with you and not having enough time to settle into its new home. If the whole family is agreed that they do want a new dog or cat and have considered all the implications that pet ownership brings, why not give a collar or pet bed as a present in anticipation of the new arrival well after Christmas, when normality has been restored at home. For more advice and to find your nearest adoption centres visit and

62 | Family Life

Belfast Telegraph | 9 December 2016

Take extra care in freezing fog

Staysafeontheroads THISWINTER By Ronan McDaid


t’s that time of year when the days are short and temperatures have plummeted. By now you’ve made sure there’s enough oil in the tank, had the boiler serviced and hauled your entire winter back catalogue of clothes from the depths of the wardrobe. But have you checked to see if your vehicle is prepared for winter? If not, here are some tips to survive winter’s icy grip when you’re behind the wheel.

Don’t lose your grip

Ensure your tyres have a minimum of 1.6mm tread. Anything under and not only is your car illegal, but with less traction there’s more chance of your tyres losing their grip – no matter what’s on the road

surface. Also check that all your lights (back and front) are in good working order, and your windscreen washer is full and at the required concentration to prevent freezing. Make sure you understand how your car’s brake system works. More modern vehicles are mostly equipped with safety technology such as Electronic Stability Control or an Anti-Lock Braking System. Refer to your car’s manual to learn how these systems can assist you when driving in winter. As a general rule, the slower you go, the more time you’ll have to react. Only travel if you really have to if conditions are especially harsh. If you have no alternative but to drive, it’s a good idea to let someone else know of your plan, destination and route, but be aware you may have to use an alternative route too. With that in mind, first and foremost ensure your mobile phone has a full battery!

Look sharp

Tyre tread must be at least 1.6mm

Then, before you set out, make sure you can see! Use an ice-scraper or de-icer solution on the outside windows (and mirrors), but also carry something to use on the inside of your windows in case they fog up. While driving, use your dipped headlights so fellow motorists can clearly see you. Also increase your following distance so you have extra time to react to conditions and the actions of other drivers.

It’s almost impossible to see, but be aware that black ice can occur without warning but extra care should be taken when approaching sheltered areas on the road, including under trees and near high walls. To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels and possibly losing control, select a lower-than-normal gear and allow your speed to fall gradually while gently using your brakes.

Boot kit

It’s also advisable to carry some essentials in the boot in case of a breakdown or other incident. Items like a torch, a high-visibility coat or vest, a hazard warning reflective triangle, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, towrope, shovel and additional cold-weather clothing (and boots) could make a world

Make sure you can clear your windscreen of ice

The AA Breakdown & Emergency Kit contains all the important stuff you need in the event of a breakdown, rrp £29.99 of difference if you end up stuck. And also, why not store some water and long-life food in the boot or glove box too. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be marooned in a frozen wasteland being stalked by starving wolves, the urban environment in winter can be just as unforgiving to those ill-prepared.

Never,everdrinkanddrive The PSNI had renewed its warning to any drivers who might be tempted to get behind the wheel after taking drink or drugs this Christmas - don’t! Belfast Chief Inspector Robert Murdie said: “We want people to enjoy their night out, but to do so safely. This means that you need to know your limits when drinking and if you are planning on drinking, quite simply - don’t drive. Book a taxi in advance, agree a nominated driver or arrange a lift. During our winter drink drive operation last year, we made 396

drink driving arrests, which was 114 more than during the same period the previous year. “Once again, throughout the coming festive period and into the new year, police officers in Belfast will be working alongside colleagues across Northern Ireland, conducting drink-driving operations day and night to help keep our roads safe. “Our message to road users is very simple. Drinking and driving kills, maims, wrecks families and communities – Never, ever drink and drive.”

Belfast Telegraph Family Life Magazine December 2016  
Belfast Telegraph Family Life Magazine December 2016