Thursday, February 23, 2012

Co-authors wanted!

Hi folks :-D!

If you are a fan of my blog and always wanted to contribute something, but just didn't know what, here it is:

I have basically tested every non-commercial toddler group in my local area (Sandycove and Glasthule) and written down my impressions in that blog. (If you know of any other groups that I haven't been to yet, please let me know.)

Now I am looking for Co-bloggers 
who would fancy to rate toddler groups in their area 
(and obviously spread the word about this blog ;-). 

It doesn't matter whereabout in Dublin you live, as long as you want to share your thoughts and give new Moms an idea as of where to go (and of where not to go).

Wouldn't it be great if this blog became the Michelin Guide of the Dublin toddler group world ;-)???

P.S. I will obviously still try and keep you up to date on, well, anything that comes into my mind.

# 5 Squeals on Wheels, toddler group at Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church

Location:     Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church
                  Lower Glenageary Road
Times:        Tuesdays from 10.30 to 12
Prices:       € 2 per session (voluntary contribution)
PROs:        caring staff and volunteers, supervised play
CONs:        Can't think of anything negative really...
Overall:     ****

On Tuesday we went to check out Squeals on Wheels at Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church, a toddler group that unlike the ones we've been to before, is run by the church itself (and of course a number of volunteers).

The church is based at Lower Glenageary Road, not far from the People's Park and the centre of Dun Laoghaire. 
To my relief, they finally have taken off that terrible banner claiming that "There is hope...Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church". 
I guess, in a country full of Catholics it can easily be taken the wrong way (or perhaps the right one?!?). Anyway, thankfully it's gone now!

As I arrived (too early again), I received a warm welcome by Sally, the lady that runs the group, and her two volunteers Myrtle and 90-year-old (!) June who's in charge of tea and biscuits.  

On that note I should mention that if you are planning to go there, you better give them a ring prior to your visit. Apparently, they don't always have enough space for everyone. Taken, that they put a lot of effort into getting to know everyone and supervising the children, it certainly sounds plausible. I also prefer small groups to completely crammed ones. My feeling, however, was that this can't be the only reason and perhaps they want to inspect their new arrivals before they decide, whether you can come regularly or not. I can be completely wrong though! And saying that, I don't want to put anyone off either. 

Both of us were really comfortable and well looked after. On my previous visits to toddler groups, I sometimes felt that as a new girl it was quite hard to get talking to other parents. But this time, I didn't get that feeling at all and I don't think it was only due to the fact that I got talking to another newcomer.

The fact that this group is a religiously motivated one can seem strange at first when you aren't used to that sort of thing (i.e. the children's sing-along that mentions God). Thanks to their Christian motivation though, no one had to feel left out and I would definitely recommend Squeals on Wheels to you.

Aviva and I have definitely found the two toddler groups we feel most comfortable with :-).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Love or to Hate? The IFTAs and Irish TV series

As I have noticed in the past, the Irish are a completely sportsmad nation. Not only have they invented sports that are solely played by themselves (Gaelic games), with almost every second Irish man wearing tracksuit bottoms for almost every occassion, this sporty fashion choice has taken pole position over the famous racing hat.

With all of this in mind, it is no wonder that although not particularly interested in sports, I spent last Saturday socializing with a few friends over a rugby match between France and Ireland.

Thankfully though the match had been called off and pretending to be slightly disappointed, I was more than delighted to see that the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) were on. With the IFTAs being yet another guilty pleasure of mine, I was surprised to see that they actually weren't as bad as last year. Saying that, it was still pretty hard to watch and dragged on forever.

The IFTA is a young Irish rip-off version of the British BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Televison Arts), which awards anyone who is Irish or has Irish roots and works in the film and television industry with an IFTA at least at one point in their career.
Don't get me wrong though! There are fabulous Irish actresses and actors out there and usually one of them would even show up at the event. This year it was the turn of Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender who got an award for his portrayal of an urban sex addict in Shame. It was certainly one of the show's highlights when his c*** was being referred to as the Irish half and the way Fassbender threw a towel over his seat to reserve it as the German one.
Another great Irish talent that had been awarded an IFTA for her role as Shirley Bassey is Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga who seemed genuinely touched by this gesture. (Just shows you how difficult it must be for women in the film industry).

The big winner of the 2012 IFTAs however is RTÉs gangland drama series Love/Hate, which got seven awards in total! Having a look at it's cast I am not entirely surprised.
With charismatic The Wire actor Aiden Gillen playing merciless drug boss John Boy and handsome rising star Robert Sheehan in the role of the angelic good-baddy-type-of-drug dealer Darren, the series was expected to be a success.
I do not quite understand why they had to expand Tom Vaughan-Lawlor's part as Nidge in season two and upgrade him from pathetic doormat-type-of-gangster to a decent one. He simply wasn't believable enough in series two and certainly doesn't deserve an IFTA for best supporting actor over Robert Sheehan in Misfits. A great addition to Love/Hate however was the introduction of Peter Coonan as John Boy's antagonist and new baddy of the show and I'm almost certain he'll be considered for the rising star award in 2013.

Another watchable Irish series, unmentioned by this year's IFTAs, yet very popular with it's audience, is the RTÉ drama Raw focussing on the staff at a Dublin restaurant and I'd definitely recommend to watch it over rugby for example ;-).

Pictures: Irish men: Now...and then

Friday, February 10, 2012

# 4 Dalkey Library Parent and Toddler Group

Location:     Dalkey Library
Times:        Fridays from 10.30 to 12.00
Prices:        FREE
PROs:         cosy atmosphere
CONs:        not an ideal location for a toddler group
Overall:      **

Hi folks! I'm sorry I kept you waiting for so long. It's so tough to get back into writing after a short break! However, the good news is that now I'm back with the latest toddler group review for you :-).

Today we skipped Barnardos to see what the Dalkey Library toddler group is like. As someone who isn't religious, libraries have always been the real places of refuge to me, open to everyone and providing shelter until closing time (as long as you have a library card). Just as in churches you have to be quiet, but unlike those, I always feel welcome and never intimidated.
I have been to Dalkey Library a number of times, whether I needed to study or just to rent a DVD, and was never disappointed in their services (They have quite an impressive selection of independent films for a local library).

The toddler group is on every Friday from 10.30 to 12.00 at the Young Children's Library section, which is done up very nicely. Dalkey Library also offers "Story Time" for older children from three years on. Both services are free of charge.

Trying not to sound too disappointed, I'd tend to describe the group as an open playroom rather than a toddler group. It is not run by anyone, the library simply provides the facilities including books and a few toys. I can imagine the library as a great location for older children to listen to stories. For toddlers, however, I don't think it's the best place to go to. Just like me, other parents seem to think the same and just didn't show up (and were possibly at Barnardos). I don't know if it's something to do with female intuition, but I was pretty lucky to have asked a friend to drop in. Or else, Aviva and I would have spent the first twenty minutes by ourselves. By the end there were four children in total and it just felt as if a couple of parents had randomly and independently from each other decided to bring their toddlers out for a walk to their local library.

In terms of literacy, I greatly approve of the idea of storytime  and would definitely take Aviva there when she is older. For the moment, however, I better stick with what I know and won't skip another session at our regular toddler group.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My troublesome bus journeys

Now, the title of this post may be misleading as I thankfully haven't had to travel much by bus so far. But, wait till we see.

Generally speaking, I am very happy with the public transport system in Dublin. I just love the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and living only a few minutes away from the nearest station it would be my public transport # 1.

The LUAS (apparently standing for "speed" in Irish), Dublin's light rail tram system, is also a great invention and always got me safe into town when I first came to Ireland and lived in Dundrum. If I missed one, I sometimes only had to wait five more minutes for the next one (That's even better than in Germany!).

But what about those mysterious estates that are not covered by DART or LUAS lines? They will probably remain secretive to me, as long as I haven't overcome my fear of Dublin Bus!
I know, if you're an Irish person reading this post you will probably wonder what this confusion is all about. I know that, because everytime I actually had to take the bus, lots of indifferent faces would stare back at my desperation and wrongly identify me as a Dublin novice, or even worse, a tourist!

How come people consider it the most normal thing that minor bus stops don't have a time table, let alone a sign that tells them which buses actually leave from there or even the slightest information on the name of this very bus stop? So, just for my many German readers out there, who have problems picturing that: Just imagine you want to take a bus to a certain place and come to a bus stop. So far, so good. The only problem is, that this stop won't tell you where you are, which buses stop there, what times they leave at or which direction they go.

If you finally made it and got on the bus, you will face another problem. No, I don't mean that nothing in the bus tells you which stop is next (needless to mention that actually). You have to pay the exact fare and if you don't, well, you just won't see any change. Now, here the good news though: You can ask the bus driver for a receipt and claim your change with the next tax return (How ridiculous is that?).

So, what about these mysterious estates only covered by Dublin Bus ? I guess, I'm gonna handle it the way its' residents do and just take the car ;-). I had my second driving lesson today and can't quite see myself on the road yet, but my fear of the bus will get me there in the end...

Dublin Bus: What more information could you ask for?

That's me for the moment. I'm going for a short quality break over the weekend but will be back next Wednesday and keep you up to date on latest toddler group developments and other random thoughts of mine :-).