Business for the glory of God

My day job, apart from being a mummy, sees me working in communications. I’m mostly involved in the publication of a Christian magazine and sometimes I get to write articles myself. The following is one such article, first published in the April issue of the Presbyterian Herald. I throughly enjoyed the opportunity to highlight the work of three social enterprises, all striving to make a difference for the better in the lives of people and children in Northern Ireland. I hope their work inspires and encourages you as much as it did me!



How to entertain your children without spending a fortune.


Keeping the children entertained at the weekends and during holiday times can be a struggle. I’ve a six, four and two-year-old, all with very different ideas of what constitutes ‘fun’, usually taking them out anywhere involves spending money to keep them entertained. But I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve that mean that you don’t have to spend a fortune any time you want to do something with your children. So here is some wisdom for keeping the whole family happy.

On Saturdays, and often Sundays too, many of the local cinemas in Belfast run kids clubs in the morning. The movies being shown have normally been out for a while but it is a good way to put in and hour or two. The Odyssey and Movie House cinemas are probably the cheapest at £1.50 per person but for the Odyssey Cinema you will likely have to factor in a parking charge on site as well. Dundonald Omniplex is £1.80 per person but if you register online you can pre-book through your account and access a 10% discount on all tickets purchased. At the minute the Strand Cinema in east Belfast have a number of childrens’ movie screenings coming up that are free of charge as part of the NI Science Festival, the Belfast Children’s Festival and Belfast Festival of Learning. The advice is to pre-book which costs just £1.50. They also run a good Minor’s Club on a more regular basis.


On the first Saturday of every month check out the Gardening Club at Hillmount, where the children ( five years plus) learn about planting seeds and herbs and even a bit about birdwatching and other wildlife on occasion. They always leave with a bit of greenery in hand and often some other bits and pieces too.

Tours of Belfast City Hall, Stormont Parliament Buildings and CS Lewis Square are all available free of charge, and can be something educational and a little bit different for older children.

Do check out the Belfast City Council or any other local council websites for special events happening in your area. In February and March Belfast City Council are running a number of Parks Events across Belfast. Last year we booked tickets for the Easter Eggtravaganza held in Belfast City Hall to attend a magic show and a chocolate making workshop run by Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, both were really enjoyable! Be sure to subscribe to the City Council emails so you won’t miss news of these events.


Other suggestions would be to go feed the ducks at Kiltonga Nature Reserve in Newtownards, or stimulate their imaginations as you tell stories of a princess in the tower on a walk up to Scrabo Tower or Viking invasions as you walk around the monastic ruins of Nendrum or Sketrick Island.

You could take a whimsical adventure around Slieve Gullion as you explore the Giant’s Lair and discover where the fairies live. There is a great adventure playpark here so if you go armed with a picnic you can easily put a day in at Slieve Gullion.

I’d also recommend the Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen, if you have it do take the Gruffalo book with you and read it as you walk around, it will add to the experience. The Ulster Museum is another good afternoon out, our girls never tire of seeing dinosaurs and that Egyptian mummy, neither do I actually!

The Nails Inc. counter in Victoria Square, or Debenhams in Belfast, is worth visiting if, like me, you have a little lady who loves a bit of glam. Manicures are normally £24 but for those under 20, you simply pay the equivalent of their age. So for an eight-year-old girl that’s £8 and the like.

Finally, I recommend devouring the back pages of the NI 4 Kids magazine every month for some ideas as to free events coming up over the next few months, it really is a great source of information. Look out for events run by Young at Art or the Replay Theatre Company, they are always worth going to.

I hope some of this information will be helpful to you. Maybe you know of other events or locations that are good for children if so do share your own wisdom in the comments section below!

All I want for Christmas is…a lot of local products!

When I sing it at home the subject of this song is of course my husband but for the purposes of this post I’m using poetic license. Buying novel gifts for Christmas gets harder every year but lucky for us Norn Irish we live on an island that is bursting at the seams with talented artisans. There is no better time to be buying local and supporting your own economy and local people, Christmas presents us with the perfect opportunity to do so. Here’s a sneak peek at my Santa letter for Christmas 2016 to help you to shop locally for the lovely ladies in your life.

Dear Santa,

I hope you’ve had a good year, I’m hoping I’ve made it onto the good list despite a few misdemeanours throughout the year. If you’re passing our neighbourhood on Christmas Eve we’d love to see you, in fact if you swing by we’ll leave you out a tipple of Jawbox Gin, some gingerbread men from Deli Muru and a few treats from Neary Nogs. There may even be some tasty snacks for your snowdog from Armstrong’s Twisted Fish (or the reindeers if they’re so inclined). It will be worth your while I promise!

Anyway, you know why I’m writing, I wanted to give you a few hints for the big day to save any disappointment, you always seem to appreciate the guidance and I do get fuzzier every year. We’re normally limited to requesting two items in our house but forgive me if I break my own rule here Santa, my children need never know. The first thing on the list has to be a scarf/dress from the Eadach collection by Sara O’Neill. I just love the Pirate Queen and Children of Lir designs. These can be found in the BTS Concept Store in Coleraine, in Grainne Maher in Spires Mall in Belfast or in Brown Thomas if you’re passing Dublin. This is a big ticket item Santa if you’re feeling flush but I will totally understand if it doesn’t appear under the tree. Sure why don’t I give you a few more options.

You know I’m a sucker for earrings and I’ve spotted some lovely rose gold plated Lines and Current bar earrings, as well as the Mini ‘D’ drop earrings. I’m loving everything by local glass blower Catherine Keenan of late, not least her bluebird earrings. I bought her blackbird earrings earlier in the year and have worn them lots. Catherine’s Etsy shop is down at the minute but you can buy her work in the lovely Space CRAFT shop in Belfast City centre.

It’s cold in Northern Ireland pretty much all year around so some knitwear wouldn’t go amiss. I particularly like the scarves and hats by ONA by Agne, you can find these in Studio Souk in Belfast. While you’re there you could also pick me up pretty much anything by the White Chalk Studio. I love it all!

Finally, a few lovely things for the house would be most welcome, maybe a Heart of Winter candle from the Bearded Candle Makers, a nice Christmas decoration of a local landmark from Deborah Toner and a novel wooden sign for the hallway from Once upon a Dandelion.

Finally, just for the craic, I wondered if you could throw in a packet or two of the Rory’s story cubes ? The mythic ones have taken my fancy and these should add to the banter around the table for Christmas dinner.

I think I’ve given you enough suggestions Santa, I’m sure I’ll love whatever local goodies you bring me. See you on 25th, or will I?!


Lisa xo

Surviving the Easter holidays

imageThe Easter holidays are looming and if you’re anything like me the thought of entertaining all three littles full-time for two weeks is a daunting prospect. Best to have a few field trips up your sleeve I find, to keep the whole family sane. I’m now six years into parenthood and truth be known I’ve exhausted every Disney movie known to man, so you can imagine my delight when an email landed in my inbox on Monday morning about Belfast City Council’s Spring into Easter Festival, a four day Easter programme of activities with events for children happening in and around Belfast City Hall.

Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend City Hall will host a four day programme of free family fun, including tours, displays, craft workshops etc. I quickly scanned the schedule of events listed in the email and noticing that some were ticketed I sprinted to the Belfast Welcome Centre on my lunch break, for fear that they might be booked up already. In my head it went something like this:

In reality it went something like this:

Anyway, silly running aside, my mission was accomplished and I managed to secure tickets for the girls and I for a magic show and a chocolate making workshop with Aunt Sandra’s. Ok, I admit it, the chocolate making workshop is more for me.

Aside from the ticketed events, the City Council will also have Spring Koi ponds, a Spring Fling dance workshop, a vintage car display (Saturday and Sunday) and some of NI Drift Series’ coolest sports cars (Monday and Tuesday). As well as Phil’s Farmyard, face painters, balloon modellers and an array of colourful street theatre to keep everyone entertained. You can find out more about the festival and events planned here.

We’re also planning a trip to Kiltonga to feed the ducks, a trip up north to enjoy Portstewart Strand and a bit of surfing and bodyboarding, beachcombing around Holywood/Cultra and a journey to Slieve Gullion Forest Park in search of fairies.

If time allows we’ll check out Curiously Comber on 24th March. When the historical town of Comber will be transformed into Alice’s Wonderland for the day. Featuring a Mad Hatters Tea Party, tours of the town with the white rabbit, street theatre, live music, workshops, a petting zoo and more.

We may even get to experience Easter Egg Decorating at Rowallane Garden in Saintfield. Rowallane is a National Trust venue and I thoroughly recommend paying for membership for the year, if you’re always looking for places to take the kids this membership will pay dividends over the course of the year, find out more here.

If all goes to plan all of the activity should have the desired effect on each of my littles:

Here’s hoping!

I would also highly recommend visiting the Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest which is also free to explore.

If you have any recommendations for free events/activities to help amuse the littles feel free to share and use #wisdomandpennies.

My advice for the holidays is that of the Scouts “Be prepared”. Godspeed fellow parents!


P.s. If in doubt hit IKEA!

Have yourself a local little Christmas

For those who read my blog you’ll know I love to shop local and to encourage others to do the same so there could be no better time to suggest a few local companies to you than in the run up to Christmas. I’ve compiled a list of local lovelies for all of your lovelies!

Gifts for Him:


The Bearded Candle Makers Turf Candle – not normally considered a ‘manly’ gift this candle will bring out the Hunter Gatherer in your mate, as well as producing an earthy, homely aroma in contrast to the usual rose scent. Candles are available from St. George’s Market, the Fine & Dandy Market and the Market @ Ballyhackamore in Belfast, as well as on Etsy.


Shortcross Gin – from the award winning Rademon Estate Distillery, this is a classical gin with a unique twist. Think armchair, turf fire and a large glass of gin and tonic in hand! Shortcross Gin is available throughout Ireland, for stockists check here.


(Image by Liberty London)


The Brobow – a creative venture by County Down girl Sara-Louise Martin. All the bow ties are made in Liberty fabrics, they cost £30 (plus P&P) and profits from orders placed in November will go directly to an anti-trafficking charity. I do love a purchase with a purpose! To order PM Sara-Louise here.


Wee Choco – this is a Community Interest Company who hand-craft a range of delicious chocolate products. Their chocolate will make the perfect stocking filler, Lime and Chilli is a popular choice. Not only do you get to enjoy yummy chocolate but your money goes towards supporting and benefiting people with learning difficulties and autism in the local community. Find out where you can buy Wee Choco delights here.

Gifts for Her:

imageThe Elska Infinity Necklace – Simplicity, daintiness and the embodiment of what Lines & Current is about. This is your ‘you & me’ necklace, your ‘sister & sister’ chain or your ‘only I really know why I bought it’ charm. Designed to be worn, time and time again, the ELSKA infinity necklace will be your forever-pal. Minimal but with meaning.

L&C is dedicated to following the current and giving 10% of profits to causes that bring hope and change to peoples lives. For November and December they are partnering with STOREHOUSE – a wonderful local charity instilling dignity and practical care to individual and families. You can buy the Elska necklace and more here.


Half Irish – the debut novel by the talented Irish author Pete Waugh. Follow 17-year-old Tyler from the busy streets of Manhattan to the empty beaches of Ireland. From gigging in coffee shops in Tribeca to standing on the Cliffs of Moher, busking in Belfast to late night drives with his beautiful summer girlfriend Tabitha. A story  of hope, love, loss and self-discovery. You can buy the novel here.


Crocheted Collar by The Painted Bunting – This is one of my favourites having purchased my own collar recently. It looks classic and much more expensive than the mere £5 it cost to buy, check out more from The Painted Bunting here.


Bog Standard Lip Butter – another little stocking filler, this lip butter is made by Bog Standard a company based in Newtownards. At £5.95 it won’t break the bank. Find out more about Bog Standard and their products here.


Tied together snag free hair ties – a creative collaboration between Aly Harte, Rebekah of Lines & Current and Ruth of The New Portals, these snag free hair ties are perfect as a stocking filler this Christmas. They cost £9.99 (free P&P) and the packaging also doubles up as a bookmark with some artwork by the girls themselves. Buy your hair ties here.

For little Hims:


Superhero Prints by Aly Harte – what little boy doesn’t want to be a superhero?! Why not decorate their room with their legends. Available to buy here for £30 per print. Please note the cute models are not included!


Wool Peak Cap by The Painted Bunting – it’s not as easy to find cute clothes for boys as it is for girls but these peak caps are a steal at just £6. Sure to keep your little man snug and warm this winter! Once again you can order them here.

Gifts for little Hers:


A unique rag doll from Grace James – handmade by Lucy Evangelista, these dolls are made to order so can be personalised for your own little ones. Such a unique and special gift for a little lady this Christmas time. To place an order find out more here.


Kids Create craft set by Edie Sloane – crafting with your little ones is time well spent but not all of us our crafty by nature,have no fear Karen Weston of Edie Sloane is now offering easy-to-make craft sets. These are only £5 and the results will be enjoyed for years to come! Contact Karen here.

Some of our readers are also big fans of Janice Armstrong over at Gathered Threads who is now selling a DIY hairband set for just £8, check it out here.

For Family and Friends:


Blue Ridge Craft Co Lantern – based on the North Coast the Blue Ridge Craft Company produce bespoke handmade lanterns, the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else. They offer festive designs for this time of year also. Lanterns cost around £27 and come in exclusive jute gift bags. You’ll find more information here. Lanterns are available to buy from the Market @ Ballyhackamore and Studio Souk in Belfast.


Deli Muru Gift Sets – hand made by local girl Kay Armstrong, these chutneys are divine . The perfect gift to take to family and friends this Christmas time. A large gift box containing nine chutneys can be bought for £32, a small box of three is £12.50. Get your orders in quick here.


Personalised Christmas Decoration by Edie Sloane – nothing says it’s Christmas in our house quite like a new Edie Sloane Christmas decoration. This year the decoration of choice is this personalised one. You can order your own version here.

Gifts for the Teacher:


Baked by Jayne shortbread – this melt in your mouth shortbread  is just the thing for rewarding those hard-working teachers at Christmas. Large jars cost £11 but get your orders in quick as orders are set to close soon! Find more information here.

Gifts for the dog:


Armstrong’s Twisted Fish Dog Treats – I love everything about this company. They collect their fish locally and then hand make their range of premium natural dog treats, they also print the majority of their own packaging to give the treats a very handmade feel. Personalised Santa Paws packaging is now available for your pet. These products are available at a number of local markets or you can buy them here.

We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have so many gifted people on our doorstep so why not encourage them and support your local economy this Christmas time!

It Bodens Well

I recently went to a Boden Party hosted by a friend of mine. I admit I’d never ordered anything from Boden in the past, I had admired their clothes many times and some friends and family had bought the girls Boden clothes for birthdays and Christmas but I’d never made any purchases myself. If I’m honest I had considered it one of the higher end, more expensive brands and therefore assumed it was outside of my budget. I also thought of Boden as a very mumsy clothing range, despite being a mum of three I like to think I’m still young and hip. Nevertheless, I wanted to support my friend who had put so much effort into the organisation of this party, so I made the commitment to go and I arranged to take a few friends with me.


Ahead of the party I did a little research online and decided on my purchase, promising myself that I would buy one item only, a very functional yet lovely Breton top. You can’t go far wrong with a Breton top. Upon arrival I surveyed the three rooms full of clothes and I spied the shoes, oh the shoes! I knew it would be a challenge making it out of there with just one item. I told myself to be strong, to fight the urge to buy the beautiful things, especially the little girl outfits. I had to make it back out of there with my bank balance in tact. It was going to be a tough mission.

image image image image

I have to say I was amazed by all of the discounts made available through the party. I bought a simple ivory and black Breton top at £25 (find it here) and with the 20% party discount applied it came to just £20. I also brought a friend who was already a Boden customer and one who wasn’t. When I placed an order I named my friend who buys with Boden as the person who referred me and my other friend named me as the person who referred her which meant we received £25 Boden credit the following week. As one of the first 30 customers I also received a gift box with three pairs of bright, colourful spotty socks!



Following the party I could avail of 15% off and free delivery for another week, I used my £25 credit along with the 15% off to buy this Ladybird Bus Shirt which was £39, reduced to £33.15 with the 15% off and I used my £25 credit and paid just £8.15 for this lovely shirt! I also bought another Breton top in a different style, it was £19 and came to just £16.15 (find it here).

So now that Boden and I are better acquainted I have to say I’ve been won over. Good quality clothing at good prices! I highly recommend Boden to you fellow bargain hunters!