There's something wonderful about spending time outdoors, unplugged from the real world
FOR anyone who knows me, 'camping' is not a word I would generally be associated with.
Spending a night in the forest under the stars, as romantic as it might sound, stuck in a tent with the rain pounding on the material roof above - is definitely not an activity you would hear me jumping at.
But with three young sons eager for adventure, several weeks of summer holidays to fill and a certain amount of nagging, this mum finally gave in.
So last weekend, we packed up the car and headed for the campsite at Castle Ward, Co Down on our first family camping expedition.
During the journey, however, there was no trepidation for what lay ahead as I sat back and imagined arriving at our destination where a perfectly pitched tent - like something from the medieval days - would await us.
It would be roomy, with sturdy walls and pitched perfectly.
For when I say camping, we weren't exactly roughing it, our experience was a tad more luxurious - we went glamping.
A wonderful little wooden pod was our home for the weekend, nestled in the 820 acre estate, overlooking the beautiful Strangford Lough.
I know all of you camping purists may sneer, camping may come second nature to many of us, but for other travellers in need of modern amenities while spending time outdoors, glamping is an emerging trend.
What is known as a fusion of glamour and camping, glamping is a new kind of travel offering outdoor enthusiasts - or nagged parents - an upgrade on the usual rough adventures associated with camping.
While many might argue that camping is best for getting in touch with nature, being more open and exposed to the natural elements, there are others who believe glamping improves the camping experience by providing home comforts.
And home comforts there were - both heating and electricity - allowing the non-camper in me to enjoy a bit of the outdoors, while still savouring the charm of being right back at home.
Glamping appeals to those who wish to escape day-to-day life, but want the simple pleasures, such as electricity, when they need them.
Watch: Camping and Burgers go hand in hand
The pods at Castle Ward, like many others across Northern Ireland, offer a little quirky difference to an outdoor trip and still allow campers to be at the heart of nature.
Regardless of the glam or nor-so-glam choice you make, our pod adventure still allowed us to become surrounded by nature.
We stepped outside our living quarters and took to the woods, pathways and trails around us.
There's something wonderful about getting to spend time in nature with the family, unplugged from the real world, moving away from the comfort of our normal routine.
There's also the benefits of outdoor experiences for children. Did you know just 19 per cent of children nowadays actually climb trees, yet research has found kids who experience nature are happier and healthier.
Scarily, but not surprising, are the results of a recent study that found a sample of school age children knew more about computer games than wildlife.
Camping gets our children out of their bedrooms and into an environment that allows them to see and experience the great outdoors.
They not only get to learn about their surroundings, but learn about meal preparation, cooking, building fires, outdoor activities and how to get by without computer and TV screens.
Sleeping in a tent or a pod is one way to get everyone together in close proximity, but more than that it allows families, just like mine, to be able to do activities that possibly we don't or won't do at home because of the busy lives we lead.
Not many of us sit it our backyards at night and look up at the sky with our children, there's always something to do around the house or a programme to watch.
But when you're camping, without the interruptions of home, it's a chance to sit and look up at the stars with your children with no interruptions, no pressing deadlines and appreciate the stillness.
Spending time at the pool or by the beach under the summer sun is something we all enjoy, but spiralling hot temperatures may leave your hair vulnerable to the damaging effects of the sun.
Thanks to Alfaparf Milano, there's a solution to ensure your hair is perfectly moisturised, with a handy Semi Di Lino reconstruction travel set - perfect for popping into your cabin baggage when you jet off on holiday.
The travel set delivers intense repair shine therapy through innovative formulations that are rich in carefully selected and balanced active ingredients.
Day after day the products gradually replenishes the hair to restore lost strength, elasticity and moisture to the hair transforming even the most parched hair into a vision of shine and softness.
The pack contains a handy travel size reparative shampoo (60ml), reparative mask (60ml) and a de-tangling brush.
The range is available from leading hair salons or for more information please visit facebook.com/ALFAPARFMILANOIreland
I have six Alfaparf Milano Semi Di Lino reconstruction travel sets to give away. To be in with a chance to win, simply email your name, address and telephone number - along with the answer to the question below - to firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date for entries is Tuesday July 19 at noon.
(Q) How many Alfaparf Milano Semi Di Lino reconstruction travel sets are being given away in this competition?
Normal Irish News Rules Apply
Blooming lovely - To celebrate Rose Week 2016, the Merchant Hotel has launched a new afternoon tea experience. The Floral Afternoon Tea features floral-inspired cakes and pastries including a raspberry and rose chocolate sphere and a praline and earl grey blue flower macaroon.
W5 - Belfast-based visitor attraction W5 has been celebrating success after scooping an incredible five major awards in just one week. The accolades recognise W5 for excellence in marketing, design, digital marketing and the overall excellence of the centre itself.
Regret - Goodfellas star Ray Liotta has admitted the regret he feels about the way he has handled his career, including turning down the chance to audition for Tim Burton's Batman movie, which could have " taken off in a different kind of way".
Not so romantic - Peter Andre gave his wife Emily MacDonagh a signed photograph as a gift to commemorate their first wedding anniversary.
The winners of last week's competition to win a copy of How To Find You (First) Husband are Mary Conway from Downpatrick, Mary Brown from Belfast and Carol McFarland from Omagh.
Easy Peasy Recipe
This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is sticky and spicy barbecued ribs.
You will need:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 (750g) racks of short pork ribs
1 bottle barbecue sauce
Preheat barbecue for high heat.
In a small jar, combine cumin, chilli powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Close lid and shake to mix.
Trim the membrane sheath from the back of each rack.
Run a small, sharp knife between the membrane and each rib and snip off the membrane as much as possible.
Sprinkle spice mixture onto both sides of the ribs as desired.
To prevent ribs from becoming too dark and spicy, do not rub the spices into the ribs.
Place aluminium foil on lower part to capture the dripping and prevent flare-ups and lay ribs on upper shelf of barbecue if possible.
Reduce heat to low, close lid and leave for 1 hour. Do not lift lid at all.
Brush ribs with desired amount of barbecue sauce and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Serve ribs as whole rack or cut between each rib bone and pile on a serving platter.
Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?
Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?
If so, then we want to hear from you.
You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:
Easy Peasy Recipes,
113-117 Donegall Street,