The last time I went abroad was in 2015.
It was the worst holiday ever!
There we were, in Tenerife, Mr S, sweet little Gracie and me, looking forward to an incredible fortnight of relaxing in the scorching sun, eating ice cream and spending lazy days by the pool.
What actually happened, however, was more akin to The Exorcist than the serene family holiday I had been hoping for.
Allow me to set the elaborate…just as I was settling down to a pizza and a movie on our first night in the apartment, Grace began to projectile vomit – and she basically didn’t stop for nine days.
I spent the bulk of the holiday holed up in the apartment, mopping up sick, with either Grace crying or me crying – sometimes we even both sobbed together.
By the time the vomiting settled down, Grace (two-years-old at the time) had lost so much weight that she was able to comfortably fit in a dress for a nine-month-old baby.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of the sun on my face but spending nine days with a violently ill child in the Tenerife climate, away from the comforts of home, has put me off foreign travel while I have young children in tow.
In fact, I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying that I would rather burn the several thousand pounds it takes to pay for a holiday abroad than to go through that experience again.
So, here we are, the fourth year in a row at home, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a long, boring summer.
I’ve been doing my research and it turns out that Northern Ireland is a bit more than just Titanic and Giant’s Causeway!
In fact, while putting together my 55 things to do over the summer holidays blog post, I discovered just how much there is to do with young kids so I am going to make sure we make as many memories as possible before September comes rolling around again.
Mindful of just how utterly depressing the weather has been so far this year, I wanted something we could do together that was indoors.
And as I know how much Grace loves art and crafts, I typed pottery painting and Northern Ireland into the search engine and up popped Eden Pottery on Abbey Road in Millisle.
With Ethan only two-years-old, it wasn’t suitable for him, so I arranged for Grace and me to go on a girlie date on a day that daddy was at home to look after the wee man.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, I got in touch with them beforehand to see about booking but they seemed to be happy enough with us just turning up on the day.
The whole experience was fantastic – we decided to go along with a couple of other girl pals and make it a real girlie date.
We arrived late afternoon and walked in to a great, bright, airy room and were able to get started pretty much straight away.
We were given a crash course in what to do by a member of staff and the whole process is really fool proof, so don’t be put off if you aren’t a natural born artist.
There are shelves upon shelves of bare pottery to choose from – all shapes and sizes of cups and bowls and plates, and the price you pay is dependent on the item you select to paint.
The painting isn’t done freehand as I thought it would be before we arrived, it’s actually done by sponges and there are hundreds of different shapes, from unicorns to slogans, and rainbows to Harry Potter symbols.
If you can think of a shape or character, I defy you not to find it at Eden Pottery – you really can let your imagination run wild!
Basically, you take your sponge, wet it, wring it out, coat it in paint and press it on to the pottery.
Couldn’t be anymore simple really.
As it was our first go, we were advised to go for something flat as it is easier to paint, so we went with a dinner plate each.
As per instructions, we had a practice run on the back of the plate before getting started on the real thing.
Staff are on hand throughout to help out, offer advice and even fix any mistakes you might make.
Once the painting is finished, it’s left at Eden Pottery where it is glazed before it can be picked up about a week later and we’re all really looking forward to seeing our completed creations.
There’s also a coffee shop on site where I treated myself to the most delicious slice of chocolate cake, which is another reason why I can’t wait to go back.
I also noticed a sign on the wall saying dogs are welcome, which earned Eden Pottery another tick in my book.
All in all, it is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.
One lady I spoke to told me her granddaughter goes there so often that they have an almost complete dinner set at home and to be honest, I can see that happening with us too.
After all, the chances of us going to collect our plates and not giving it another go are pretty much slim to none.