Marie Louise McConville: In search of the perfect location for a family staycation
So, here we are, can you feel it?
Can you smell it?
Summer is most definitely on the horizon and every day, it is edging ever closer and with it, our glorious holidays.
Many of you will probably already have booked your annual getaway, no doubt flying off to some glamorous resort in a perfect sunshine location and on the agenda is nothing more than getting a tan and having a good time.
As you all know, I'm not a great fan of travelling no matter how close or far from home.
So, when the issue of summer holidays comes up in conversation, my heart sinks a little.
Don't get me wrong, normally once I get to a location I eventually start to enjoy it but I always have to curtail a little anxiety.
And, of course, now that we have children, the idea of travelling really fills me with dread.
Up to now, we haven't really travelled much with our pair.
When Abbie was eight months, Darren and I took her away for a few days to Bundoran. She had fun in the pool and loved the lights and music of the amusements.
Then, when she was 13 months, just before we had James, we had little family weekend away in Monaghan to relax and chill before the new arrival. Again, she was in the pool and enjoyed eating ice-cream and jelly and practising trying to walk.
And now, with summer on the horizon, the issue of holidays has once again raised its scary head.
Obviously, I know the kids would probably enjoy a break in the sun but I am so anxious about it I have been dropping hints about a staycation instead, somewhere not too far from home.
Now, I know this might sound boring but I have my reasons.
They include the fact that I struggle to pack for myself when getting ready to jet away somewhere so the idea of trying to pack for two young kids as well, including nappies and numerous changes of clothes just seems like an impossible task. Then we have the buggy issue never mind all the other bits and pieces we might need for them.
I'm also concerned about the availabity of the right formula, sunburn, pool safety and food poisoning.
In general, I just feel very nervous about taking them away, especially on a plane, which is another concern.
So, I've decided if we do have to do something a staycation would probably be best because we can go by car with lots of room for packing and we can drive home if needs be.
After all, I think it would be nice for the kids to see more of home than they have.
But where to go is the issue?
Obviously we don't want to have to drive too far with the kids in the car.
I remember when we were young, we always holidayed in Ireland.
Quite a few times, my mum and dad took us to Tramore in Co Waterford on our holidays. I remember we would stay in the most fabulous hotel and there were loads of amusements nearby and at night, there was always entertainment on somewhere. It was always so exciting.
I have the most wonderful memories of holidays as a child and I would love to give our two the same experiences.
But currently we're at a loss as to where to go.
We would love to stay somewhere either with a pool or near a pool, somewhere that possibly had some family-friendly activities nearby and somewhere that is comfortable, that has nice food and is child-friendly.
Come on, millions of people visit Ireland every year so there must be fabulous places to visit and wonderful people to meet.
This is a beautiful island we live on and it is only right we explore it.
So, any ideas?
If you're sick of the sight of chocolate following Easter, how do you fancy a change with a proper big feed at one of Belfast newest eateries?
Brooklyn Square, an all American and Italian restaurant, has just opened at Shaftesbury Square and it promises beautifully fresh authentic food in a relaxed environment.
With a distinct New York feel to it, like any American restaurant, you'll find chicken wings served with a choice of sauce, including sour cream, hot sauce, BBQ or blue cheese alongside other starters of nachos and garlic bread.
There's also a dedicated pasta menu all served with garlic bread and six pizzas to choose from.
Meat lovers can choose from sirloin, fillet or ribeye in a range of sizes or if you like to get your hands dirty, get your bib ready as there's plenty of ribs to tuck into.
Burgers, veggie menu and of course delicious decadent desserts complete the menu with kid's options available too.
Open seven days a week, you'll never tire of the wonderful menu.
I have two £50 vouchers for Brooklyn Square to give away to two lucky winners.
If you fancy winning a voucher, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to email@example.com
Closing date for entries is Tuesday, April 25, 2017
(Q) Where in Belfast city centre is Brooklyn Square located?
Normal Irish News Rules Apply
Thriller - If you're looking for a bit of suspenseful drama this weekend, check out Unforgettable at the cinema. Starring Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl, the movie tells the story of a woman who sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband's new wife.
Tune - Ok, so I'm not really a fan of Ed Sheeran but I love one of his new tracks, Galway Girl. It's very Irish and uplifting. When it comes on, it brightens my day.
Napping - A new study has found that the secret of happiness could be as simple as having a quick nap during the day. Researchers found that taking naps of less than 30 minutes improves our sense of well-being and boosts our performance. Sounds good.
No chance - Actress Lisa Kudrow who played bubbly Phoebe in Friends has finally put an end to all the speculation about a reunion for a big screen spin-off. The 53-year-old insists the cast are too busy for a reboot.
Trolls - Brooke Vincent, who plays Sophie Webster in Coronation Street, has talked about the hardships of growing up in the spotlight, including being targeted by online trolls who made horrible comments about her having bad skin as a youngster. Disgusting.
Split - US actress Jennifer Garner has filed for divorce from husband, Batman V Superman star, Ben Affleck after 12 years of marriage. The pair are said to have filed without using a lawyer, and they are asking for joint legal and physical custody of their three children. Sad news.
The winners of the ‘The Two Sides of Elvis' concert competition are: Josie Irvine, Belfast and Pauline Leeson, Belfast.
Easy Peasy Recipe
This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Almond & Herb Crusted Salmon, courtesy of Asda
You will need:
1kg boneless salmon side
25g flaked almonds, toasted
zest of 1 Asda Grower's Selection lemon, plus slices to serve
1tbsp chopped Asda Grower's Selection parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped Asda Grower's Selection chives, plus whole chives, to serve
1 clove Asda Grower's Selection garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/ Gas 6.
In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, almonds, zest, parsley, chives and garlic.
Add the oil and mix until coated.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Pat the salmon dry with kitchen roll and place the fish skin-side down on the tray.
Brush on the mustard, then press the crumb mixture on top.
Cook for 25 minutes in the oven or until crust is golden and the fish is just cooked through.
Garnish with lemon slices and chives.
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,
Marie Louise McConville,
113-117 Donegall Street,