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The Real Mama #2 Karen Birnie

December 6, 2018
karen birnie the real mama

Good afternoon! 

Wow, six days in and I’m slacking! Last night whilst dashing between dancing and swimming I thought “you’ll never keep up” and as the tiniest didn’t settle until gone 10 pm, my thought was right! I didn’t get the sixth Blogmas post drafted but instead of beating myself up, here it is now. 

Today is a special day at Promise HQ as our eldest daughter, Safran turns 12 – yikes, that was the fastest 12 years of my life. She has two (yes two!) parties planned for the weekend so tonight we’ll have a few cupcakes and candles before bed to mark the occasion. 

Today’s post is a look inside the world of real mama, Karen Birnie, full time mum to three gorgeous littles, dancer and dance teacher, – you may have seen her recently onstage in Grease at the Grand Opera House. Karen and I went to grammar school together and now our own kids go to school together which is lovely and pretty strange that life has turned full circle there! Long before we were scared first years in our chocolate and magenta uniforms we both went to Mrs Burns nursery, now that is a looooong time ago! 

Thanks Karen for taking part and sharing your thoughts on mamahood with us 🙂 

karen birnie the real mama

Who are you?

Karen, mum of 3 who loves to dance! 

Instagram handle

@kbdancefitness 

 Love it or Loathe it?

I love Instagram for what it is, but I hate what is has become…. 

It used to be a place for quick updates on friends/celebs life and general going’s on which was nice to see and usually pretty normal stuff. Now it is flooded with unrealistic lifestyles that no-one really has, leading to people feeling insecure and insignificant because their house doesn’t look like it should, their kids aren’t dressed head to toe in designer gear with Hunter wellies (that look like they have never seen a muddy puddle), and every holiday snap has to look like it’s from the Sandals catalogue. I would love to share our playroom on a daily basis and it doesn’t include a pastel shaded sofa with perfectly lined teddy bears and a dolls house sitting immaculately in the corner… instead…. well you can imagine a playroom of a 6 year old, 4 year old and 11 month old! I also feel a sense of pity for kids that are constantly being staged into a pose to capture the perfect Instagram picture. For me kids should be kids and if the photo means not everyone looking at the camera, someone’s shoes are on the wrong feet and someone’s eyes are closed, well, this is normal. However, that said, I dream of the day we manage to get a nice family photo of us all smiling and looking in the same(ish) direction! But you get the point I am trying to make – let kids be kids. 

Instagram on the other hand is a perfect platform to promote small businesses and ventures like my Dance Fitness. In fact, without it I definitely would not reach as many people as I do for my classes and get the support I do, so thank you Instagram! It also allows me to follow other similar people and with that get inspiration and ideas to keep going. 

In summary I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram and as long as people (myself included) remember to never compare yourself or your life to anyone else it is a nice little social media environment to be on. 

What is your family set up? 

Married for 11 years, with three kids and a dog. 

What do you do for work? 

I manage my dance fitness venture around family life.

Three words that describe your household?

Busy, busy, busy 

Do you think you have a good work/life balance? 

Yes I feel very blessed to have the work/life balance I do. It is like a military operation however ensuring classes are timetabled around school hours etc… but it works and I am fortunate it does and never take it for granted.

How do you manage to work/run a creative business around your kids? 

A very supportive husband, my wonderful mum that goes out of her way to help me, and an amazing wider family always on hand to help if needed. 

Any hard rules you stick to both in work & family life?

If you say you will do something, do it, and do it 100% 

How do you relax? 

What’s that??

karen birnie the real mama

Best book you’ve read recently?

I’m not big into reading and any time I have I like to read with the kids. 

I always hear people say “the book is far better than the film” ….. I’m all about the film with cosy’s on and plenty of snacks! 

Music choices?

Musical theatre obviously and I’m partial to a good power ballad, but I also love classical music and quite happily have Classical FM blasting in my car on the school run…. The lovely ladies who come to my dance classes might question my music taste on occasion and the kids in the schools I am in keep me right with what’s cool and what is not!

Favourite podcasts?

Solid Joys, by John Piper 

How do you and your husband stay connected?

Talk about everything (even the small unimportant things) as well as supporting each other in and through everything we do. 

Style – do you feel you have a signature style?

Does sports leggings, dance tops and trainers count as signature style?!?! If yes, then that’s it. Big fan of Pink Soda and Nike active wear.

Shops you love?

JD sports as it stocks Pink Soda, Zara for both causal and dressy, and I love a dander around M&S at Sprucefield (the food hall, the home section and the clothing) on my own…. Maybe that’s how I relax…?! Should I even admit that! 

Did your style change since becoming a mum? 

I wear trainers even more and heels even less! 

Beauty products you love? 

Tantastic fake tan (medium), Lidl Night Cream and Benefit Bad Gal mascara. 

What family meal is guaranteed to be eaten by everyone?

Traditional roast beef dinner with all the trimmings. That said, I love Christmas dinner and can’t wait to eat it at least three times a week for the month of December, I am not one that tires of the turkey and ham! 

Rainy day survival tactic?

Always carry a hair bobble on your wrist – messy ponytails are always a good option! Or just run…. 

Any mum hacks you couldn’t live without? 

A traditional week to view hard back diary – I love writing lists and scoring things off so this is why I still use the good old diary that actually requires a pen. I am also convinced baby brain is a real condition and if I don’t write things down they don’t happen. 

What one piece of advice would you give to your 18 year old self? 

Sounds cliché but follow your dreams. If you know what you want to achieve go for it and don’t chose to do things because everyone else thinks you should. There is a saying “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life” and this is true.  

Life

Christmas Gift Ideas: Slippers with Serious Style

December 4, 2018
slippers

slippers

From seriously stylish spring weddings yesterday to slippers with serious style today, ha ha, I do like to keep you on your toes!

I don’t think you can go wrong with a pair of slippers (or a scarf for that matter) as a Christmas gift, I buy at least one pair a year from someone on my list. So today as we head further into the week and into Blogmas I’m sharing my edit of the prettiest slippers around! Have a fab Tuesday xx

slippers

1. Ivy cloud pom poms, £50, Toms. Toms are stocked locally at Panache Shoe Company, Linen Green, Dungannon.

2. Velvet pom poms, £30, Boden.

3. Finlay fox felt slipper boots, £39, Sew Heart Felt.

4. Boston shearling leather in bordeaux, £115, Birkenstock.

5. Dalmatian mules, £24.95, Joules.

6. Pale pink velvet pom pom, £39, The White Company.

7. Unicorn silver sheepskin, £35, Sheepers. Sheepers are available locally from R.Nook, Linen Green, Dungannon.

8. Grey cable knit, £38, Soho House at Liberty.

 

(Featured/Main image: The White Company)

Life

15 Scarves for our Irish Winter

December 2, 2018
winter scarves

winter scarves

Hello & welcome to day two of Blogmas!

I’ve got quite the thing for winter scarves – practical and usually colourful they will change the look of your favourite winter coat each year giving it a fresh new look. Yesterday we braved the streets of Belfast to get some Christmas shopping sorted. Well, a shed load of Nespresso pods later, we got home and bar the online orders I was collecting, all I seemed to have accumulated is a giant wish list for myself! Oops, not quite as successful as I’d hoped.

Now onto the scarves – from striped to check, luxurious cashmere to more affordable everyday purchases, scarves make a great Christmas gift for anyone! Have a fabulous Sunday xx

scarves

Tasseled colourful stripe, Accessorize | Grey & pink stripe, Avoca | Navy check, Barbour

Grey star print, The Bottom Drawer | Deep grey colour block, H&M | Grey number print, Marks & Spencer

Orange leopard print, River Island | Houndstooth & leopard print, Scotch & Soda | Fuchsia fair isle, Joules

 

scarves

Pastel check, Topshop | Grey stripe, Zara | Traditional check, Jack Wills

Pale grey cashmere, The White Company | Red leopard print, Zara | Charcoal grey cashmere, Silk & Grey

Life

Blogmas #1

December 1, 2018
Blogmas

Blogmas

Hello!

It’s not very often I post on a Saturday but today isn’t any ordinary Saturday – it is December 1st after all! 

Last week I had an idea, one I really liked the sound of. I have ideas regularly, I am totally an ideas person, most of which never make it out of my brain though! So the idea was to do Blogmas, posting one feature a day throughout December up until Christmas Day – clever or an easy way of watching me fail miserably?! You can decide that, haha.

Yes, December is an incredibly busy month but once the idea was in my head there wasn’t any getting rid of it – dear help me!

I like a challenge, I love ticking tasks of my to-do list so here I am, showing up for Blogmas and telling you all I will be doing this for the next 24 days. Yikes, there’s a good chance I will run out of time but in for a penny and all that… 

So I what can you expect? On the ‘day of the idea’ I had a ten minute brain dump with a coffee, fresh notebook page and a pencil (I love writing in pencil, is it just me?!). The content list is vast and varied. There will be a few special real weddings, as well as other wedding inspiration, bridal fashion trends and my take on some of the best in the local wedding industry.

I’ve a few real mamas to share and you can expect further brain dumps from yours truly as well as my fantasy Christmas wish list (can’t wait to do this one!) and some parenting content. 

2018 has been a real mixed bag here and I feel like I owe it to The Promise to move on from 2018 with a bang – so are you in?

Hope your Saturday is full of cheer, see you tomorrow! Em x 

Life

The Real Mama #1 Janine Walker

November 22, 2018
the real mama janine walker

Hello & happy Thursday – or Almost Wine Day as it’s known at Promise HQ. 

A couple of weeks ago I did a *very detailed poll on Instagram stories asking what you wanted to see here. Weddings or Other Stuff were the options and much to my surprise Other Stuff was the outright winner, so other stuff you shall have. Each week we still share all.the.pretty wedding content – see Shona and Rafa’s awesome day here. 

Today I am SUPER EXCITED to launch our new series, The Real Mama, kicking off with one of lifes absolute gems, Janine Walker. I completely love the bones of this girl, we go way back to when Janine was an awesome wedding photographer and we chatted a lot about the next Mulberry bag we were going to purchase – also know as, the time before kids. 

Like me Janine likes to keep it real, so whether you’re enjoying this with your morning coffee or over a glass of red be careful you don’t snort it out your nose because her answers will make you laugh, I promise. Thanks J for being number one in the series and happy weekend to you all, Em xx

the real mama janine walker

 

Who are you?

I am Janine Walker – photographer/talker of crap on the internet/professional bitcher about instagram/wanker with cankles.

Instagram handle

janinewalker/rinkadinkstudio

Love it or Loathe it?

I love it and loath it in equal measure. I love it for connections – we’ve made some amazing connections with #radsnaps over the years. I love looking back at my photos and laughing about the good and the bad. I love meme accounts. 

I loathe instagram for it’s ‘influencer culture’. The entire thing is puke-inducing. ‘Let me show you all here how pretty and perfect I am in picture form whilst simultaneously telling you I’m a disaster and insecure/anxious/untidy/imperfect in order to endear myself to you and sell you whatever I am being paid to sell.’ Most toxic place on the internet if you spend too long on there. 

What is your family set up?

Married to Andy with three boys – Jack/13, Charlie/11 and Will/8.

Where you live?

80% in my head and 20% in the dirt.

What do you do for work?

I photograph all of the most delicious tiny humans in Northern Ireland and beyond for RinkaDink Studio.

Three words that describe your household?

Shouty. Spicy. Chaos.

Do you think you have a good work/life balance?

I have a brilliant work/life balance. Well, now I do. It only took me around 6 years to figure it out. We’ve tried the daycare route, the nanny route, the juggling route…we’ve tried it all. Finally this year we have found the balance. And for me, that boils down to me being at home more as I’m the person who keeps the structure of the day-to-day intact. 

Many moons ago (actually, 7 years) I worked around the clock with no structure, no time limits, no care for anything else. But then three boys moved into my house and that required me to make some huge changes. The summer the boys moved in I had 38 weddings on the books and it was absolutely terrible to miss so many of those precious first days with them. I decided right then and there that I was done with weddings and booking my weekends out years in advance. I enjoyed photographing my newly adopted kids so much that I decided to go full time into children’s photography. I wanted to solve a couple of problems I had – I wanted a business that I could centre around the hours that suited ME and MY FAMILY to work. I also wanted an indoor location that had great natural light – Northern Irish weather is so unpredictable and rescheduling shoots did not fit in with my new family life. The option of Lifestyle photography inside someone’s home was always there too but that involved a lot of travel for just one shoot, and I never knew what the lighting situation would be. 

So, RinkaDink was borne! We have a NewbCube – a specialty room for newborns. A huge white naturally lit space, kids can run and play and not even realise they are being photographed. A big bed for babies and toddlers. And it’s all indoors so your blow-dry is safe! The best about it is, I work the hours that suit my family life so I am rarely stressed about work these days. 

the real mama janine walker

How do you manage to work/run a creative business around your kids?

I shoot two days a week in our Belfast studio and on those two days I’m home in and around the same time as the kids getting home from school. If I’m running late Andy takes Will to his work with him for an hour, the other two walk home themselves anyway. The days I’m not shooting, I write/edit/blog etc from home when the kids are in school.  

Any hard rules you stick to both in work & family life?

When things get too shouty we take to the hills. Literally. The Mournes are our happy place. Also, laughter is the best medicine. We make fun of each other, our stresses, how we connect. You would need to have a good sense of humour to survive in this house. Willing to take a bit of stick.

How do you relax? 

Knitting and wine. At the same time. The knitting stops me drinking too fast, the wine stops me knitting too fast. 

Best book you’ve read recently?

I discovered Charles Bukowski last year and read everything. I loved Post Office, “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”.

Any other books you need to share?

James Frey A Million Little Pieces was so interesting in the way it was written. I enjoyed it and the followup My Friend Leonard. 

I literally just read Catcher In The Rye last year and loved it so much I went back to the beginning and read it again. 

The Stranger by Albert Camus. 

I enjoyed the Tattooist of Auschwitz a few months ago.

I will read anything Philippa Gregory writes, her latest book The Last Tudor was as satisfying as all the rest. I’m obsessed with Tudor times and Philippa’s ‘enhancements’ on reality!

I read Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and the follow ups this year and thoroughly enjoyed.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Lost in the Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg

Jordan B Peterson 12 Rules For Life – An antidote to chaos. This book brought me back to life after a really rough year with my epilepsy. I highly recommend it – though Jordan can be controversial with his ideas.

Music choices?

Having a quick squizz of my recent plays on Spotify it seems my choices of the moment are The Greatest Showman (original and reimagined), A Star is Born soundtrack, The Cranberries, The Beautiful South, Rod Stewart, Tom Odell, Dr Hook, Leonard Cohen, Elton John, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Take That, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Aerosmith and Imagine Dragons. To name but a few.

Favourite podcasts?

Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Tim Ferriss (sometimes – I have a love/hate relationship with him) and Russell Brand.

How do you and your husband stay connected?

We make fun of each other, laugh at each other and threaten to kill each other on a daily basis. Our mutual despair at the other’s shortcomings connects us on a very deep level.

the real mama janine walker

Style – do you feel you have a signature style?

There’s inside leggings and there’s outside leggings. There’s jeans that are secretly leggings. There’s t-shirts and there’s trainers. Yup, that about sums up my signature ‘style.’ 

Shops you love?

ASOS. They sell everything and you don’t have to be outside surrounded by other humans. Shopping is my least favourite life activity. They also make it very easy to return the ‘wtf was I thinking’ and ‘shouldn’t let myself on the internet after the third glass of wine’ items.

Tesco online – why would you walk around a shop when a very nice man will bring it to your door for £3?!

Amazon – I’m ashamed (not remotely) to say I buy everything else from Amazon (I was shamed for this on a Facebook post once and now I feel like I should publicly declare my shame for doing something that is easy, cheap and convenient. Snowflakes, eh?).

Did your style change since becoming a mum? 

Can I just put 100 crying with laughter emojis as an answer?! Since you know me for many many years now through my blogging antics Emma, you can probably answer this better than me. But yes, long gone are the days of 7 inch Louboutins and outrageously beautiful designer handbags. All of my money is now spent on Jake Paul merch and terrible, awful, shiny Adidas boy clothing. When it all becomes too much I go and sniff my beautiful – now impractical – handbags and look at my too-high shoes in their gorgeous boxes and regret nothing.

 

Beauty products you love? 

HA HA! Beauty products – have you seen me 😂

Boxed hair dye (the one with Davina McCall’s face on it) because I’m too lazy to go to the hairdresser. I usually go once a year before Christmas – I don’t purposefully do this it’s just that I say all year long ‘must book a hair appointment’ and then it’s December and I say ‘Aw shite, I look like a banshee’ and text my hairdresser to which she responds with 100 cry/laugh/eyeroll emojis. Anyway, when I’m colouring my white roots every 3 weeks (Andy refers to me as The Badger if I leave it longer than this) I slap a bit of it on my eyebrows as they too are going white. Aileen, our assistant at RinkaDink, is particularly perturbed by this beauty hack (she used to manage salons and is quite knowledgeable about makeup type things). 

I’m probably also the only person on earth who is still using Rimmel BB Cream as foundation. 

I’ve been using the same L’Oreal Elvive shampoo for 20 years now. 

I don’t know how I did life without dry shampoo. And I don’t care if it’s going to make me bald some day. I also sit in the sun without factor 50 on and yes, it has aged me drastically. But so has motherhood and I don’t regret that either.

This is everything I know about beauty products. I didn’t even know I knew this much! If it weren’t for my baby sister saying my face looked like a boiled egg a few years ago I probably wouldn’t know about the eyebrow business being important. Hence the slapping on of the hair dye once a month. 

What family meal is guaranteed to be eaten by everyone?

Sunday roast.

Rainy day survival tactic?

Well my youngest is feral so he won’t be housed no matter the weather. He will be out there kicking a ball about no matter what’s falling from the sky. The other two are either meeting their mates, playing football or hanging out on Fortnite so I’ve got an easy enough gig here. When they were younger I just had to take them out in it. That saying about boys, ‘Run them hard and feed them well’ is so true. If you don’t run the spice out of them you will pay the price!

Any mum hacks you couldn’t live without? 

Beats headphones. 

Mash Direct (I’ve become such a lazy arse about peeling and boiling and mashing veg myself).

Start teaching them independence as early as possible. My boys have been putting their own washing away for years. I organised their drawers to make it easy for them – Will could do it all himself from age 4. They can all cook basic meals (Will actually gets quite fancy sometimes!) for themselves if they need to. They know how to use the washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher. They can fully shower, do their hair, trim their nails and get dressed themselves. Jack and Charlie go to the barbers themselves and know what to ask for. They hoover and mop and dust, clean bathrooms and stay on top of their rooms in order to access to Xbox controllers. Oh yes I do!

This is the greatest mum hack of all time because when they are 8 years old and can quietly make their own breakfast and amuse themselves for an hour or two, you might get a lie-in when you really need it! It just makes life easier all round when you work as a team in the house instead of everything hinging on your mum super powers and magical ability to do everything for everyone. Divide and conquer the workload! (I am by no means saying that this doesn’t require a large amount of nagging).

What one piece of advice would you give to your 18 year old self? 

Don’t feckin’ stress because it all works out better than you could have imagined. Every single bad thing you go through will end up being the making of you.

See, didn’t I tell you she was the ultimate awesome-mama!!

*disclaimer – the poll wasn’t very detailed!

Life

Five Minutes With… Rebecca McKinney

August 6, 2018

Five minutes with Rebecca McKinney

Over the almost five years we’ve shared lots of mini series’ here on The Promise, NTK: Need To Know, Behind the Lens, Blogging Brides, Local Loves and my personal favourite, Five Minutes With – all which are great if you are in the throws of wedding planning. 

Today we are going right back to our roots and getting back on the series bandwagon with a fabulous five minutes with gorgeous girlie, Rebecca McKinney. 

Fashion stylish, presenter, columnist, co-director of The Style Edit, longtime lover of fashion, and of course the voice behind the morning traffic reports and co-host of the Cool FM Breakfast show – it’s fair to say we are big fans of Rebecca and all her many talents, and the fact she is super loved-up right now is giving us all the warm and fuzzies! 

Thanks Rebecca for supporting The Promise xx

1. Pinterest or Instagram?

Instagram – not even a competition! 

2. Belfast or Dublin?

Belfast – love Dublin for a night out, but home’s home! 

3. Home or away?

Home – or Scotland (now my second home).

4. Biggest achievement?

Learning to love myself.

5. Scared of?

Checking your handbag after a night out & missing a bank card!

6. Couldn’t live without?

My family.

7. Would rather not…

Ever climb the Mournes again – an akward blizzard experience scared me for life! 

8. Five dream dinner party guests?

Audrey Hepburn, Kris Jenner, Walt Disney, Victoria Beckham & Meghan Markle.

9. What would you cook them?

Nothing! I’d order in! 

10. What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up?

Snooze one of my 4 alarms – the first one’s set for 4.30am for work!

11. Last book you read?

The Promise.

12. Favourite TV programme/series?

Desperate Housewives.

13. Guilty pleasure?

Christmas 24 – all the best cheesy Christmas movies on one channel. I’m glued to it from November.

14. Favourite song?

Bill Withers Lovely Day – my Dad’s favourite.

15. Old or new?

New.

16. Bold or pastel?

Love both, but I’m more of a pastel girl at heart.

17. Wedding dress or wedding shoes?

I’m a sucker for shoes.

18. Finds inspiration from?

My boyfriend.

19. Most prized possession?

My grandmother’s engagement ring, I wear it every day.

20. Random thought?

Life is far too short; so chase the dream job, be brave & wear the risky outfit, get the haircut you’ve always talked about, dance on a school night, eat the last slice of cake, show your appreciation for those around you, find the one who really makes your heart skip a beat & allow yourself to be genuinely happy! We’re only here once after all! 

 

{Image: Rebecca McKinney Instagram}

Life

Noah: A Newborn Photo Shoot by The Snug Sessions

June 21, 2018

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Ah, the first days of life with a newborn baby are so bittersweet. When you’re in the thick of them, they are long and challenging, you are in a bubble of tiredness and happiness, but believe me when I say in an instant they are over. Capturing all those little bits and pieces of your babe is a great way to remember them once they’re all grown up and demanding ice cream and something I think makes a really great gift for your new parent friends. 

Today we are sharing this adorable set by Christin from The Snug Sessions, and they are super snug! Christin is primarily a wedding photographer (The Martins) during wedding season but loves nothing more than following couples on their life journey into parenthood and capturing your adorable additions.

For your newborn session, which happens in the comfort of your own home, Christin will arrive armed with props and soft linens in colours, tones and textures that you have previously discussed. In the relaxed environment she will work around the sleepy baby for up to four hours and you can choose to be in the photos cradling your newborn and include other members of the family – keep an eye out for sweet Eva snuggling her little brother!

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Noah was photographed at 16 days old.

His mum Ciara said: “We chose Christin  to take our son Noah’s newborn baby photos as we were impressed with the depth, colour, texture and atmosphere of Christin’s baby photographs. We wanted something a bit different from the usual white background posed style of photography. It was also very important to us that our daughter Eva was included and she had a great time with Christin on the day. Christin came to our home, which meant we were all at ease and not rushing about as usual, this was much more convenient, especially for children. Christin is professional but also relaxed, she gets on great with everyone, particularly children, and I was astonished by the care and time that was put into setting up each photo. We were absolutely delighted with the end results. We had so many favourites and would definitely recommend Christin.”

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Newborn photoshoot, Noah

Thanks to Christin and Noah’s family for sharing their gorgeous images.

You can view more of Christin’s work and discover more about what happens at a snug session at www.thesnugsessions.com or visit her Facebook page here.