Saturday, 28 February 2015

Educating Rita & Me

On Friday Me and Warren went on a rare night out to watch Educating Rita at the Playhouse in Liverpool. I love the Playhouse, we go when we can, which is rare to never having the kids. However, I wouldn't have missed Educating Rita for the world. I love the play. I love the film. But, oddly - I had never seen it performed.

Educating Rita is a play set entirely inside the office of an Open University tutor's office. Rita is a mature student who, for whatever reason, didn't go to university at a "normal" age. She enters the office like a whirlwind - funny, witty, full of life. It quickly becomes apparent that she uses her humour to hide her lack of education - everything is a laugh. However, an education is what she will pursue and not only that - Rita has big plans - she wants to know "Everything."

The actors on stage made the characters so very real. So alive. Leanne Best was fantastic - the passage of time and Rita's coming-of-age and real enlightenment was projected with ease. Con O'Neill was equally as brilliant as the "piss artist" Professor, Frank -  with his hapless relationship, drinking booze hidden in his book shelf, and growing fondness for this vibrant young woman.

I loved the play. I loved everything about it. I first read it as I began the Open University myself. I too wanted to know "Everything." Many times the character of Rita has helped me to stay focused. The pursuit of all knowledge is a long one, and you do change. As Rita changed, I changed. I became more determined, more mature, more considered. Age has also played a part in this.

I worry that I am one of the last "Rita's" - rising costs of education means that it is practically impossible to finance and the pursuit of knowledge is a costly one if it doesn't guarantee you a better job or better prospects. But the change that it brings about in Rita, the change to her life - her awakening - everyone should have a right to a free or at least cheap education. Education should not be for the privileged. I would never be able to afford an undergraduate degree if I started it now - I just managed in the nick of time to complete the majority of mine when the fees were lower. Before this shower of shite tory government came to power and f*cked everyone over voted on rising the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per year.

Seeing this play has confirmed what I already knew. I am nowhere near finished with my pursuit of knowing "everything" - sometimes my books are everything to me, this is what I chose to do - because this is who I am.

Rita's eagerness to learn, her journey is frozen in this beautiful and moving play. Mine is continuing - and I don't know where it will take me - I'm just embracing the challenge, and, like Rita, I am singing a different tune to the one I was singing before.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Safety First When Driving

This post was written in collaboration with More Than.
I like to think that I am a careful driver. I used to commute to Manchester and back for three days a week, and I was always pretty safe. I think that when we know it may be dangerous – driving at high speed or on the motorway, then we do tend to be more careful. If I am really honest I would say that I  have been the most careless when driving really slowly. I have *ahem* pranged a couple of my cars in the past. Usually on low walls, pillars and once on another car’s bumper (I stayed and waited to tell them – oh the shame)… These are nothing to be proud of, however, if I do bump the car I tend to just notch up the scratch or little dent to just one to add to all the rest! I wouldn’t say I am a car person – cars get me from point a to point b and that is really all that matters for me at this point in time.
However, despite my little knocks and scrapes, I am quite keen on road safety. I always make sure that the children are secure and I do stick to speed limits and follow the rules of the road. (OK – I went on a speed awareness course once when I was a lot younger – the road looked like a 40 to me…) I think as we get older and more experienced driving we become more aware of the impact of the way we drive. A car is such a dangerous thing in the hands of the wrong person, and at best, a little knock can damage your finances. Maybe More Than's Telematic Driving Score style could help me to see how I drive, how safe I am behind the wheel and teach me the bad habits that I may have picked up along the way. I am quite keen to be a safe driver at all times, even when driving slowly or reversing!

For now though, I rarely use the car. I get the bus into work and back and with Spring on its way I will be walking more. So that suits me fine! Wherever you are driving or whatever journey you are undertaking with your vehicle, stay safe. It only takes a slight lapse in concentration and that’s it, you’ve another bump or scratch to add to that ever-growing list… or maybe that is just me???

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Beefeater, Glegg Arms - Heswall

Were really excited to be invited to the Glegg Arms in Heswall, Merseyside to have some dinner with the kids and spend some quality time. We love half term - it's our family time together and life seems to slow its pace a little bit - which is great when you have so many things on like me! We like taking the kids out to eat so we were really looking forward to this.

Beefeater restaurants are really child-friendly and this one was no different. We took all three kids and chose our food.

The menu was really varied with plenty to choose from and the kids menu made it really easy for us. Alice LOVES pasta, so macaroni cheese was the natural choice for her with garlic bread, which she also enjoys. Emily had the steak burger with chips - these were both off the kids' menu. They were very generous portion sizes, so we had more than enough food. We didn't order Rosie anything - we usually do - but they were both still getting over the Chicken Pox and Rosie wasn't eating very well, so she shared Alice's and stole some chips from Emily.

I chose the smothered chicken and Warren had the mixed grill. The food looked great and tasted great. Portion sizes were just enough and they did a lovely home made coleslaw which I loved. Warren's mixed grill was lovely too - I admit to stealing a bit of his steak to try - it was yummy!

The kids *ahem* also had a massive chocolate sundae between them. OK, OK. I had *a bit.*

I really loved the space that they have in there too. The kids *sometimes* like to do a runner, and this wasn't a problem because there was the space to do it. Rosie was being a little bit naughty as well, she kept running away from the table, but it wasn't a problem. One of the ladies brought them some balloons out and they had their colouring books to keep them entertained. They also have a play area for children outside. However, we didn't get a chance to go there because time was ticking on and the temperature had really dropped. I thought it best to keep the kids indoors, especially with them just getting over the Pox!

Overall, I would really recommend this restaurant. The food is good value for money, and a lot better quality than some of the cheaper 2 for 1 outlets. It cost £42 to feed the five of us, this was for two meals from the children's menu, two meals from the normal menu, a dessert and three drinks. We really enjoyed our meals and all our plates were empty except for a little bit of pasta, but I put that down to the kids still getting over their illness.

We would definitely return to the restaurant. We were made to feel really welcome by the staff - nothing was a problem and we had a really lovely afternoon.

We were sent a voucher to cover the cost of our food for the purpose of this review. All words and views are our own,

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Chicken-Pox Report

I have a coffee stain on my top. My hair has not been washed since Monday and it is now almost Friday. I only left the house once this week and that was because we were low on milk and Rosie likes her "Milky-night-night" (her afternoon nap after milk.)

The babies have chicken pox. It is a "mild and common illness that most children catch at some point."

It's no big deal, I keep telling myself. As I rock back and forth and drink wine every night. Here is The Chicken-Pox Report.

Case 1:

Child Affected: Alice, aged 3

Affected Areas: Sparse outbreak. Here and there. Apart from the one in her eye, it's not a big deal

Observations: Likes to say "Mummeee" a lot. Over and over. Wants milk in the purple cup NOT THE PINK ONE. She doesn't want to get her own potty, you have to get it. Hit you on the head with a guitar and then laughed but you couldn't really shout at her because she is ill. Asked you why you have a fat belly and promised definitely not to scratch the pox. On a walk to the park pretended to have a pet dog that "DONE A POO!" and then pretended to use a poop scoop and put it in the bin. (You were secretly proud of this.) Isn't sleeping through the night. Climbs into your bed and lies on you sideways saying "Mummeee" over and over.

Case 2:

Child Affected: Rosie, aged 1 and a bit

Affected Areas: Everywhere. It is a big deal.

Observations: Has to come everywhere with you, even for a wee. Sits in your knee and says "Mummeee will you get me?" Even though you reassure her that you have actually 'got' her. Has pulled the baby wipes out of the pack x 10 this week. But you've let her because it takes her mind off the itch. Belted Alice over the head when Alice accidentally stood on her foot. Cried because she wanted to see her Nan, and on a brief walk to the park insisted on not holding hands and running into the mud. Sleeps through the night but jumps on your head in the morning asking for "Milky." Wants you to constantly sing "Wrecking Ball" and repeats things over and over until there is an action or response e.g. "Mummy I like cheese....mummy I like cheese...mummy I like cheese..."

"OK Rosie. You like cheese." End.

Overall: Situation has worsened over the course of the week. Cabin fever has settled in. Brief walks to the park are stressful and cannot take place when the babies have high temperatures. The rash is quite upsetting for all concerned. You count down the minutes until your husband gets in from work so he can "take over" only to find that the girls, like a lot of babies, want their mother when they are ill.

Prognosis: Good. All will be well in a few days. As long as the parent involved keeps a clear head and manages to forget the amount of work, study and personal hygiene time that may have been lost as a result of this period.

Chicken pox is proper rubbish. Maybe it's because I am being selfish and have so much to do, or maybe it's because there are two of them and it's hard work. Whatever it is, I think I deserve some sort of reward.

Like wine. Or cheese.

Or just my babies getting better soon.

Review: Fellows Air Purifier

I really suffer with air impurities. I know this sounds daft, but dust, dust mites, anything like that gets in the air and I breathe it in I have had it. I really triggers my asthma and it can be quite unbearable. I am quite keen on dusting, steaming and hoovering to make sure that I do as much as possible to limit the amount of dust and impurities in the air.

I was very pleased to receive this Felllows Air Purifier for review. I got this just before Christmas and as you know we have been renovating our bathroom. This has meant that dust and grout and whatever else has been in the air all around from taking the tiles off the wall. Even downstairs was covered with a layer of dust - it has been a total nightmare!

However, this has been the perfect opportunity for us to test this air purifier out. I am usually a bit sceptical about things like this - I am a bit of an old fashioned damp cloth and mop person, but I was very keen to give this a go. The Fellowes AeraMax DX55 Air Purifier is designed to purify the air around you and can removes cigarette smoke, dust and odours.

It has a filter inside and basically works like a fan, drawing all of the impurities out of the air into the filter.

We have been using this on and off now for about a month. I can honestly say I have definitely noticed a difference. I have not been as wheezy when I wake up, and I haven't once woken up in fits if sneezes as was happening before, especially when we were at the height of chipping away the bathroom tiles! It is not too noisy - there is a slight whirring sound to it, but nothing that would disturb you. 

These retail from around £250, so they are a bit pricey - but worth the investment if you do suffer with allergens in the air.

We were sent this product free of charge for the purpose of this review, all words and views are my own.

Valentine's Treats

We don't really 'do' Valentine's Day. We are not the type of people to go over the top with gifts and cards and things like that, and we would never go out on the night - we tend to use our babysitting credits for work, anniversaries and that type of thing.

However, we are not entirely miserable about the day - we do celebrate in our own little way. We usually have a nice bottle of wine, some good food and just sit in together. (Which is a bit like every Friday and Saturday night really.) We also like to make each other cards. And by 'we' I mean I, Warren isn't the best fan of card-making but he does do it. These are always comedy cards made from bits of the Aldi magazine or made on Microsoft Publisher. This is how we express our deep and undying love...

Anyway, we were really chuffed to receive this amazing package from The Co-Op for a perfect Valentine's breakfast.

This is perfect for us because we do stay in on Valentine's and this is the perfect staying-in kit, I think.

(As an aside, the day this package arrived I was dying my hair. I asked Emily to watch the babies for half an hour while I rinsed it off and blow-dried. I came downstairs and ALL OF THE CROISSANTS had gone, which I thought was quite fitting - we can't even have Valentine's Treats in this mad-house!!!)

Anyway, can you guess what my favourite item was? Oh yes, the Prosecco. They have that on offer at the minute as well, it's definitely one of my favourites. (As a student, I also get 10% off at the Co-Op - this is great news!!!)

So, whatever you are doing this Valentine's Day - enjoy. It's not about the cash, the expense or anything is it (unless you want it to be of course!). Small treats are lovely. And if in doubt, a hand-made card can be even lovelier.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Giveaway: £50 Hotels4U Voucher

Now that the January blues are over and the winter is well on the way out (here's hoping) now might be the time to start thinking of a little holiday or get away. We have planned to go to Amsterdam in a few week and Berlin in August, so we are very excited about that! We love holidays and time away with our little family. A break can work wonders for you can't it. I am a big fan of city breaks and history, but equally I do love to relax and see my little ones enjoying a water park or soft play! As long as they are happy then I am happy!

That is why I have teamed up with Hotels4U to celebrate the launch of their new Tenerife page to bring you this fantastic giveaway. One lucky reader will receive a £50 voucher to spend on Hotels4U - how cool is that, what a lovely little bonus!

To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below. Easy Peasy!

Good luck x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Book of Life Competition

I have teamed up with new kids movie The Book of Life to let you know about a fantastic competition for your kids to celebrate the movie's release.

My children are really into their films at the minute. As you might be aware, we are currently stuck at home with the Chicken Pox so we have pretty much spent most of this week indoors. That means quality cuddling time, blankets and some cool films. We have watched some of the old classics like Labyrinth and Lion King but we also love Frozen, of course!!

We can't wait for The Book of Life to be released, and this competition looks fabulous. The prizes are aimed at providing you with the best night with your family!

* Blu Ray Player
* £100 worth of family DVDs
* £100 voucher to Chiquitos restaurant

To enter you need to complete one (or more!) of the three tasks below:

* Download  and print the colouring sheets from here  and upload your finished design to the to the film's Facebook page

* Get creative and design your own costume. Upload the photo to their Facebook page

* Do an impression of one of the characters and upload it to their Facebook page

Do take a look at the competition and keep an eye out for the film. We are really looking forward to watching it!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Perfect Team

This post was written in collaboration with TheCircle.

Valentine's Day is approaching and although we don't specifically make the effort to get out and celebrate it - we do acknowledge the the day exists and we do make an effort with one another. I suppose the day itself allows us reflection time on our relationship.

We have been married for almost five years now. In these five years we have achieved a lot. We have bought our house, brought two crazy children into the world and continued to raise all three of our girls in the best way we can. We have worked hard to get where we are and we couldn't have done it if we didn't work hard as a team.

Sometimes we are on a winning side and all is cool. I cook, he cleans up. He washes, I iron. I drop the kids off, he picks them up. The kids go to bed, we share some wine, talk the day over and go to bed. *wink wink*

Then there are the times when we are totally losing. The kids are cranky. Rosie is up in the night teething, Emily is doing her usual tween kick-off routine, or Alice has got nits and we've spent half our evening trying to sort it out. It is these evenings we hardly get a chance to talk, a chance to sit down. I might have a moan, and he'll just listen. We're tired, communication is poor and our team is beaten.

But that's what it's all about isn't it. Good relationships need time, work, effort. It doesn't come naturally to be able to run a house, work and manage everything as well as keeping up the romance. It is difficult, and it is definitely something that you have to work at as a team, as unromantic as that sounds.

The thing is, when it works - everything is right. Most days of the year we are happy, content. Busy and probably slightly frazzled, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Valentine's Day isn't really a time for us to go out and celebrate (we probably haven't got the babysitting credits for it anyway!) I suppose we try and make sure that Valentine's is a day where we reflect on our lives together, how well we work together and what a great job we are doing.

That, and to sit on the couch together til 1am, drinking wine and eating posh crisps!


Monday, 2 February 2015

My Children: The Gifts that Keep On Giving

So despite my hard exterior and totally 'well hard' and hilarious approach to parenting, I am quite keen to put across the fact that I love and adore my children.

They are the gift that keeps on giving.

Now my undying love and affection is out of the way I would like to list the ways in which the children are not all TAKE TAKE TAKE. They can be quite generous on occasion. Here are the things that my children have given me:

(NB: I'll leave out the nit-episode - I still haven't thanked them for that.)

1. Soggy Crisps

Yummy. Do your children ever lick all of the cheesy goodness off an Aldi Wotsit and then run up to you with it in hand, ready in for you to gobble up? Well if not then you are clearly missing out. Go on, eat it all up, it's only moist when you first put it in your gob - once you start chewing it's all good, I promise.

As an aside, after giving my children a cupcake, I like to look around the house on the floor for any soggy missing bits. I mean, as long as they haven't been trodden on then they are 100% fair game.

2. A Headache

Many many times. Our kids three can be categorised as follows:

All of these things = noise.

And also my children are excellent singers*

*When they sing I want to eat off my own face.

3. Good Company

I can never complain that I am lonely. In fact it is rare that I get a minute to myself.

Not. Even. For. A. Poo.

4. Good Customer Service

If you go to our girl's little wooden shop you can have whatever you want, as long as it makes no sense whatsoever. You could have a fish cooked in a toaster (It always alarms me when they poke at it with the plastic forks - I rant and rave at them like a mad woman telling them how dangerous it is.) They simply look at me like I have completely no understanding of imaginative play.

Also, at the shop, everything costs Twenty Pounds exactly.

No change given.

5. Love. ALL the love

My kids show me they love me every day. Even baby Rosie, who at the minute has the habit of saying

"I love you Kez"

And if that doesn't melt this 'well hard' heart then nothing will.

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