Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Review: Clarks School Shoes

I was so pleased to be asked to review Clarks Shoes. Our girls are always on the go and growing up so quickly means that they go through shoes so quickly I can't keep up! Usually their Nan takes them to Clarks on occasion to buy them some new shoes. There is something really lovely about taking children for new shoes, maybe it's to do with how fast they are growing - but it is such good experience to share with them.



Alice needed new school shoes. She started pre-school in September and has had her last pair of shoes for a term. I thought this was pretty good going. They were patent and she had been a bit naughty and picked off some of the detail - and in any case she has outgrown them slightly so she needed new ones. We had a lovely time looking at the selection Clarks has to offer.




Alice chose the ones she wanted. She did a little cheeky smile when she saw the ones with flowers on. When the shop assistant told her that these ones have lights on them, that was it, we were sold. We had her feet measured and then Alice tried them on. The assistant was brilliant - she told Alice to run up and down in them, to jump and to have a look in the mirror. Alice lingered there, looking at the lights on the shoes - so proud and excited about them. I loved seeing her so happy about them.



The shoes are gorgeous. They have a velcro strap and flower detail on the front. The lights can be activated by the "special switch" on the side so they can be turned on and off as you please. These particular shoes cost £34. They are excellent quality leather that I know will last Alice for as long as they fit her.



We were sent vouchers to purchase the shoes for the purpose of this review, all words and views are our own.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Review: Aldi SpecialBuys Kitchen Range

We were delighted to receive some kitchen essentials to review from Aldi's SpecialBuys Kitchen Range. The kitchen is definitely the whole hub of our house, and it is important to me that I have everything I need!

We were sent the following items:

* Storage Caddy Set

* Kitchen Brush Set

* Russel Hobbs 4L Pressure Cooker

The storage sets are so handy. I have popped mine on the kitchen window ledge and put all of our vitamins, hay fever tablets and bits and bobs in there - it looks so much tidier now. I suppose you could use the caddies for anything really, it depends on your kitchen space. They are so handy to have.

The kitchen brush set is fab. They are only £1.99 and come in a variety of colours - perfect for giving your pans a good old scrub - even before you pop them in the dishwasher.



The pressure cooker is brilliant. It is only £22.99 and is 4 litres. I love that included on the side of the box are some pressure cooker recipes. I've never really used one before but I found the instructions really simple to follow and it really did make a difference to the cooking time - perfect for busy people like myself. This is one item I will definitely be making use of.

We are massive Aldi fans, it is our go-to supermarket and I love that they also do these fantastic SpecialBuys ranges for us to have a nosey at!

We were sent these products free of charge for the purpose of this review. All words and views are my own.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Memories and Moving On

My mind has been occupied.

I think back and I think forward. It's not New Year related and I can feel a shift. I flick from one recent memory to the next, mind races:

I am sat trying to fill out an application form for a Masters later this year, kids jumping on and off my knee, Warren grappling with them,  "Let Mummy work." 

Next, Emily sits next to me in the car and we talk about when we lived alone. Just me and her.

I sip wine, crack the creases of my neck and think.

I'm in the car. This time, alone. Driving back from university earlier that day. I'm not really concentrating - I'm thinking about the two-hour session. The war. Traditionalist, revisionist, structuralist-functionalist, post-revisionist views. Skew together in my mind. 

But I have known these all along. 

The scary thing is that I get it. I totally get it. These words run through my head on the drive home and I think of June and my final exam, and graduating. It is six years and six years have passed now and I get it, I totally get it. I am ready for the next step. 

I sigh and realise that it is nothing. Not really. It is nothing, but everything to me. Tears spring to my eyes and then I'm home and the kids are jumping on me and it's normal.

Later, me and Emily. We're driving  back to Manchester. Back to our house, the house we shared on our own. She is 11 now. She plays Minecraft and is on the point of a change in herself, something unknown, something scary and new. Still my baby, a child. Silly. Puerile. Mine. She takes selfies on my phone, we talk about the Mean Girls at her school and I ask her what she remembers of our lives - back when it was just me and her in our house.

She remembers bits and bobs. DVDs. Games. Toys. A Bob The Builder toy bigger than herself. A hamster. Sleeping in the same bed as me, warm and safe.  It's seven years since we lived there together - the house, vacant and waiting for new love, stands empty - the "For Sale" sign in the front yard.

I ask her if she has any questions... about that time. We're still in the car - her baby sisters sat in the back in their seats jabbering away. She says she has no questions. I wonder what runs through her mind. I'm so busy with the babies, with university, with work. I don't ever ask her about her memories from that time - when we lived alone together, just me and her. Was I terrible single mother? Could I have done anything better? What if she resents me? Did I do it all wrong?

Why am I asking now? Is it my own personal insecurities? I worry as I drive. She pipes up. "I never ask you about that time. Because I don't want to upset you."

I am sure that my gasp is noticeable. Water fills my eyes for the second time on this day. This young girl who has no idea of anything. 

I tell her that it doesn't matter what I think. That time is gone. My pain has gone, and it was me who suffered it. It is not hers to share. There is no need. I shouldered it. 

That night we take home Bob the Builder from the old house. He is full of damp and old-house smells. I wash him on delicate and he comes up good as new.

Later, I complete the form for my Masters. I press 'send'. I remember thinking I would never finish my degree. I know I'm like a dog with a bone. I won't let go. I will have academia for as long as it will have me; no mater what cost, no matter how long it takes. An article for Mumsnet written by me "Look at me! A mature student!!!" and people wonder how I afford it. It hurts that comments suggest I sponge off my husband. I paid everything myself. Every penny. Always have. This is an itch that I will scratch and it won't go away. 2015, a year that seemed so far away is now here. A funding opportunity application to fill in. I have to write a PhD proposal. Too quick. Too soon. Still an Undergraduate without a clue. Not clever enough. Do it.

I am all fingers and thumbs and sweaty palms. I realise that this is what I want. This is what is important to me. Maybe it's to atone for The Disappointing Years, maybe it's to prove my worth, to make my parents, my children, my husband, my in-laws or myself proud, or maybe it's just so I can read more books and not change the title of this blog.

Whatever it is. It is a strong pull. I am where I want to be.

In the car on the way back I switch to parent-mode and berate Emily as she mimes along to Lady Gaga while taking a video-selfie.

"Don't keep making videos on my phone... you'll clog up the memory"

"Yeh but it's a great memory though..."

x






Thursday, 8 January 2015

Rainford High Ghana Project Toy Donation

Before Christmas I decided to try and use my blog to do something for charity. Last year we helped organised a toy donation for the Kirkby Toy Appeal, and it was a huge success.

This year we decided to ask for donations for the Rainford Ghana Project. This is a project organised by a local school. From 2010, the school have been sending around twelve students each year to Hope Academy High School in Kumasi, Ghana. While there, they have helped refurbish and further develop the school. Each year they go back taking resources for the school and nearby orphanage. They fund raise for items like duvets, shoes and toys. The trip also counts towards the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award for the students who take part, which is a great reward for them.

We love the idea of this charity. Two separate communities coming together and creating strong working links and relationships. 




We were glad to be able to use our own working links to source some toy donations for the orphanage.





We received a Play To Learn Pond Pal and a Fisher-Price Jumperoo.

The toys were very kindly donated from Argos.

We are sure that they toys will be well-received and are very grateful for the generous donation from Argos. The project organisers were very happy with the donations and they will be taking them across to Ghana when they next go in the summer.

We were pleased to help! Thanks Argos :)



Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Review: LeapReader Reading and Writing System

Reading is something that we do all the time with our two younger girls. I think it is so important to get off to a great start with reading from an early age. We are really pleased to say that all of our girls have picked up our love of books. Alice is three and is really showing an interest in all types of books. Every Friday she brings home a new book from school and we always make sure that we sit with her and read it.

This is why we were delighted to be sent the LeapReader Reading and Writing System. This system aims to help to teach your child to read and write, guiding them as they use the pen and actually "reading" the books that come with it.


The LeapReader is really easy to use. You go to the website, download the files for the books that you have purchased and load them onto the pen via a USB cable. Once you have done this, the pen recognizes the words, pictures and any activities within the book. So when Alice holds the pen over the words, the pen "reads" the book. I'll be honest, I was amazed, but then again I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to new technology aren't I.




The LeapReader is recommended for children aged 4 - 8 years. The books that we have are suitable for children aged 4. Alice was 3 in September, so I thought that she would be ready to try this, and I was right. She really loves the LeapReader and has started to sing along to some of the songs about grammar and punctuation.


And we all love Doc McStuffin, so we were on to a winner right there!



Of course Rosie wanted to get involved. Rosie is only 21 months old and so obviously she hasn't got the patience or the capacity to use the pen - but she too has been singing along to the songs so I am confident that once she is a bit older she will also be happy to use the pen.

You can also purchase little worksheets. As you can see pictured below, Alice can trace over the letters for short words like "Cat" and "Mat" - the pen knows when she goes outside the lines and prompts her to try again. It is really clever and a great starting point for young minds.


 We love the LeapReader. I wasn't sure if Alice would have to patience to sit with it, but she does. She shows real enthusiasm with the stories and as long as we sit and help her, she really enjoys it.

I would definitely recommend this product for young children. I am just looking forward to Rosie getting involved as well now!

We were sent the LeapReader free of charge for the purpose of this review. All words and views are our own.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Review: Ozeri Digital Bathroom Scales

January, New Year, New Me.

Whatevs.

It's all nonsense, but of course, I do weight myself and I try to watch my weight, and ideally lose it. Which is why I was chuffed to be sent these digital ones from Ozeri. They are fab.



These scales look amazing. They have a blue LCD that lights up when you stand on the scales. It is white with chrome details and a black face. It auto-calibrates and turns itself off when you stand off it so you are not wasting the battery life. The scales take 3AAA batteries and there is a low battery indicator on the screen so you don't get caught out.

If you've been reading you will know that we have been having our bathroom refurbished. It is not yet finished, so I've not been able to put my new scales in there, but I'll be honest - I think that these
scales are going to complete the whole look of the room.

The only negative I would say is that you can only have your weight in either Kilograms or Pounds. Call me old fashioned but I do like to have a Stone and Pound weight. It makes it more real for me so I know how much I need to lose...

I love these scales though and I can't weight to put them in the bathroom!

Now if only I could make the numbers smaller then that would be better...!

I was sent these scales for the purpose of this review, all words and views are my own.

Two Peas in A Pod

There are about 16 months between Alice and Rosie. Alice is 3, is very proud to have ginger hair and we call her a Princess, because if you met her, you would realise just how very "proper" she is. She likes her clothes on straight and she hates her hands being dirty.

Rosie is 21 months. She has white blonde hair and we call her Rosie-Roo. Or just RosieRosieRosieRosie. She likes that. She also likes climbing, ripping wallpaper off walls and drawing in books. She also enjoys telling Warren "No Daddy - you NO SHOUT AT ME AGAIN. You go on the NAUGHTY STEP!"

Yes, her speech is quite advanced.

But for all their differences - they really are like two pretty peas in a pod. 


Over the Christmas holidays they have been inseparable. Now I'm not saying they always get on. That would be a lie. Rosie sometimes snatches crisps of Alice and Alice cries. Sometimes Alice brings a toy downstairs and won't let Rosie play with it, and Rosie screams.

Sometimes they argue in the back of the car simply because Alice says "It's MINE" to Rosie, about nothing in particular. So Rosie says "No... it's MINE!" and so on. 



We have quickly learned that what one has the other one wants, so we try and buy them the same toys. And sometimes the same clothes. (We don't always dress them the same, but it is pretty cute.)

In some ways it is like having twin girls. There is not a great deal of difference in them size-wise. I am often guilty of getting their clothes mixed up.

They both love wiggly-worm pasta.



I love seeing how close they have grown over the holidays. Alice was crying because she banged her toe/couldn't find her teddy/needed a wee and Rosie ran up to her - arms outstretched and gave her a giant cuddle "I love you Alice," she said. 

It makes your heart melt.

We are so lucky to have these girls (all three.) They make us laugh, and for the hard work we put in, we get all the love and smiles every day. Like watering a plant and watching it grow. But you know, a bit more effort than that.


I hope that you will continue to be this close, and to become true friends. 

Or fly together on their brooms and cast spells. Whichever really. 


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