Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Our DFDS Mini Cruise!

As you can imagine things can get very hectic for us at home. With final exams coming up, essay deadlines coming out of my ears and a million books to read, I have been feeling quite frazzled. The last few weeks have been particularly difficult - which is why I welcomed a mini cruise to Amsterdam with DFDS seaways with open arms!

Me and Emily decided to hop on board at Newcastle for an overnight crossing, then planned to spend the day in Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank Museum - back on the boat for another overnight crossing and then back home! The plan was to just completely chill the actual frig out. That is what I have been desperate for and it really did the trick!

First of all, we drove to Newcastle - which is a bit of a trek from Liverpool, but it was a bit like a road trip for me and Emily. We set off early and got there in plenty of time. 

Checking in was easy and we were on the boat and packing our things in our cabin in no time!

Our cabin was a basic twin cabin with bunk beds. It was comfy and clean - small, but it was perfect for us. We didn't spend long in there - we showered and got ready and set out to explore the ship!

The first thing Emily wanted was a Blueberry muffin, and seeing as though we were sort-of on our holidays, I obliged. On board is a small children's play area, and quite a few places to eat and drink. There was also a cinema, as well as a bar on the top deck. We didn't actually go on the top deck as it was very breezy, but we saw lots of people taking the opportunity to use their selfie-sticks (I wouldn't even know where to begin with one of these!)

The first evening was pretty busy! The boat was filled with stag and hen do's. First of all we ate at the boat's restaurant - it was a lovely buffet with some of the best food I have eaten. Even Emily took the opportunity to try new things...

There were gorgeous cheeses, meat, fresh fruit and also fresh bread made on board straight from the bakery. 

The evening was very busy. We stayed in the main bar area where a band played. There was also a quieter lounge area with a solo singer, but we preferred to sit where it was a bit busier. 

We even got a bit dolled up for the night time. It had been a luxury to have the bathroom to myself for an hour!

We obviously took selfies. I have about a million selfies on my phone because Emily wanted lots and lots - these were the best ones because we just kept pulling weird faces.

The bars were very busy, full of crowds, and after a while we decided to retire to bed - it was a little bit too much for us, after all Emily is only eleven and we had the day in Amsterdam to look forward to.

In the morning we had our breakfast buffet. Eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit - whatever you wanted it was there. 

We were stuffed as we made the way off the boat and into Amsterdam itself.

We have been to Amsterdam twice before. I do like the city. The Anne Frank House is a must-visit for me, even though I have been a few times before. We were going to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum but we were stuck for quite a while in the queue for the Anne Frank House so we were a bit pushed for time.

Once back on the boat we again had a lovely buffet dinner with all kinds of treats and goodies. I loved the little mini-desserts and the service was spot-on.

The crossing home was a little quieter. Stag and Hen do's were nowhere to be seen and we had an all together chilled out night. We played Bingo in one of the bars and had a couple of drinks before heading off to bed at a decent time. The aim was to do no cleaning, no cooking and just relax - and that was what we did!

I would recommend this trip. Our room was £79 for the crossing - which is really cheap. DFDS provided us with complimentary meals in exchange for this review. The food was absolutely spot-on, I would recommend that you pre-book your meals as you save money and guarantee your table.

The only downside I would say was that it was very busy on the Friday night crossing. If you are going on a stag or hen do then brilliant - but maybe a midweek break might have been a bit better in hindsight with me having Emily in tow.

All in all, we had a brilliant trip - it was just what I needed. I got home feeling refreshed and happy to see my babies and to get back to work!!

For more information about DFDS mini cruises visit their website http://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/

You can also catch them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dfdsseawaysuk

Or follow their updates on Twitter @DFDSSeaways

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Professional Parenting Guide

We have three challenging annoying time-consuming wonderful  children, and have been parenting for about eleven and a half years now. It's hard but over the years we have picked up a few handy hints and tips, as we have moved from Beginners, to Intermediate and eventually graduating as Professional Parents.

No matter what stage you are at in your life as a parent, this guide is here to help YOU. Parenting is a magical pain in the arse journey and these words of advice might just be what you need to read right now.

Here I present a few common scenarios and what it is you are likely to do in them. You can jump straight to Pro from Beginner if you like, or mix and match it with Intermediate parenting - whichever. Sometimes the idiot in you reverts back to Beginner - you have to fight this urge like the badass parent that you know you are.

Anyway, here it is. Take heed, parenting people!

Scenario 1:
Child unsettled in Asda. Fidgeting, fiddling and farting around in the seat, trying to pull the Kinder Egg's off the shelf.

Beginner: Take them out of the trolley seat to stand next to you

Intermediate: Give them a banana to appease them

Pro: Give them the Kinder Egg. Let them open it and throw the chocolate on the floor until they get the toy, damn it!!!

Scenario 2: Child has thrown self on floor of Asda and won't get up. Possibility tantrum was caused by lack of Kinder Eggs or the word "maybe" - which is a word that a two-year old does not understand.

Beginner: Try to coax them off the floor by promising them Kinder Eggs

Intermediate: Remind them that Daddy will be home soon and we need to get back (and maybe Daddy has brought Kinder Eggs??)

Pro: Lift them off the floor by their reigns and carry the out of the shop like a hovering, swinging tantrum personified.

Scenario 3: Child is messing about at the dinner table. In between mouth-fulls beans are being scattered on the floor like soggy confetti and fish fingers bits are being indiscriminately thrown across the room.

Beginner: Tell them to stop. Feed them yourself reverting back to the good-old safe "aeroplane" routine.

Intermediate: Take the food off them, clean up and give them a yoghurt

Pro: Just let them continue until they have finished eating, and you can clean it all up in one go.

Scenario 4: Child WILL NOT sit in car seat. Refuses to be bent into position and makes self as stiff as a board so as to achieve whatever it is they are trying to achieve with this*

*If you find out what it is let me know.

Beginner: Wait until tantrum passes and try again.

Intermediate: Promise Kinder Eggs. Or cheese. Sometimes Cheese-Strings can work.

Pro: Sing Wrecking Ball as a diversion tactic. Their limbs will some become bendy again.

Scenario 5: Child repeats a rude word. You may or may not have said it. They could have picked it up from a music video. That word is "shitty." You need to correct this.

Beginner: Tell child that this word is a "bad word" - repeat this every time they say it and use your serious parenting voice.

Intermediate: Naughty step for that kind of language!

Pro: Start using another word regularly to replace said profanity. "Yacky" is a good one.

So, what have we learned here?

Today we have learned that Professional Parenting, Beginner Parenting and Intermediate Parenting actually do not exist. They are inter-changeable. I've been parenting for years, and seriously - what do I even know??? So take this advice and do what's right at the time.

And also... stock up on Kinder Eggs...

Or Cheese Strings

And wine...for yourself, obvs.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Our Visit to SEA LIFE Manchester

We were delighted to be asked to attend a premiere of SEA LIFE Manchester's CLAWS exhibit. We have never been before with the kids - we thought that Rosie had been a little bit young to appreciate it until now - so this was perfect timing for us.

The new exhibition showcases some of the crusty creatures of the deep - crabs! As well as the new exhibit there are also a number over 5,000 marine creatures at SEA LIFE, a lot of whom have been rescued by the centre themselves.

We began the exhibit with a really brilliant talk by a member of the team - explaining about turtles and their journey from birth to adulthood. This was lovely - the visuals were stunning and our girls really enjoyed it too.

I loved that the Centre has a lot of interactive educational points for children. The space itself is also fun for children as they can crawl under tunnels to see the Clown Fish (Nemo, of course!)
Alice loved crawling into a viewing dome to see the fish swim around her head

She also loved finding Nemo!

We were excited to try and spot Ernie the turtle, who had been rescued by the Centre. He is big and wasn't afraid to come and swim close to the glass!

We also saw the sharks, but they were a little quicker and harder to capture on camera!

The children were fascinated. We were there for around two hours and they behaved pretty well. Rosie likes to run off at every opportunity usually, but for the most part of these two hours she stayed with us as we explained the different types of fish.

Rosie was brave enough to touch the crabs! - Alice was a little bit more reserved.

Playing in the sand

I really appreciated the Centre's commitment to conservation and caring for the environment in the Manchester area. 

If you visit, you can also do a Sea Trek - which is where you walk along the bed of the tank with all of the sea creatures swimming around you. I am not brave enough for that so I skipped it, but it's something that Warren and Emily said they might like to get involved in next time. The people who did do the Sea Trek were raving about how fantastic it was.

I'd like to thank SEA LIFE for inviting us. We had an absolute ball. All of the staff were friendly and very knowledgeable and made sure that we had a great time, whist being kept informed and educating us a little along the way! 

If you do visit, book online in advance as you will save money on the tickets - the price is also very reasonable and there are concessions available.

Visit SEA LIFE's website https://www.visitsealife.com/manchester

And follow them on Twitter for the latest updates @SEALIFEManc

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Review: Bissell Vacuum Cleaner

I think it is fair to say that I am not very “modern.” As a history student I find this quite fitting actually. I don’t know how to use the TV, I don’t have all mod cons and nor do they interest me. I am always one for having things that are “classic” – and by that I sort-of mean ancient. My vacuum cleaner is no exception. I bought it when I first moved into my old house in Manchester (which is still for sale by the way, £69,950 – grab yourself a bargain…) I digress. I bought the vacuum cleaner in 2005. So it’s ten years old, and I always say “Oooh it’s great – so powerful, cracking little hoover – ten years old – classic.” It cost me somewhere in the region of £32.
In the back of my head I have sort-of known that this little vac is probably not doing its job. I mean it has great power, and as it’s a vac I can get in all the nooks and crannies. Unfortunately I have lost most of the attachments and it is looking a tad worse for wear. But still… does the job, right?
This is where the problem lies. It really doesn’t do the job. I probably vac once a week. Maybe. Cleaning the floors has never been a real priority of mine, I’ll be honest – but I am trying.
Anyway, you know how I know it doesn’t do the job? Well, because of this review. I was offered to test the Bissell vacuum cleaner for a few weeks. I do have to send it back (boo!) but I said yes to the review. I must have known in the back of my head that I do need a new vac, and road testing a modern fandangled sparkly one would be the best way to go about this, right?

So anyway, I did I quick whip around my bedroom, literally just to do a quick initial test of the machine, and lo and behold...

What a disgrace. I was mortified. I clearly have fallen completely behind with technology. So then I did our bedroom again, nice and slow and thorough, and again - FULL.

Also, there was the small matter of the wig that could have been made out of the hair that was wrapped around the bristles.... DON'T JUDGE ME!!

What follows is my review of this amazing vacuum cleaner. I am honestly gutted that I have to send this back.

What the Spec Says:

"edgeREACH™ technology is a one-of-a-kind innovative mechanism that provides superior edge and corner cleaning. The MultiREACH includes a two-way folding handle that offers users greater flexibility. The handle flexes forward which allows easy cleaning under furniture while being able to compactly fold back for easy storage." 

Even an idiot like me can assemble it. Really simple. Charge it for a few hours, lasts for 40 minutes and you’re good to go. The main cylinder can be taken out for easy emptying, and you can also use it like a hand-held vac to do your car or the stairs.
What it does

This vac is the ultimate in “picking up crap” – apologies for the colloquialisms, but it is true. It has every conceivable attachment for every part of your carpet. The main attachment head has a little spinning bristle brush inside. This is what makes the magic happen – it literally acts like a tractor on your carpet, lifting the shag piles up, and sucking all the dirt out. (Too many saucy jokes to be had in the last sentence, but this review is written by me so what did you expect?!) The bristle brush action can be turned on or off, so I cleaned my laminate floor with this with the bristles off, as I only required the suction (which is unbelievably powerful.)
It also has a button that you can turn on to reach the edges of your skirting boards. You press the button and it sucks in from the edge. I can’t tell you how all this works, but it just does.  The head swivels in all directions, and the stand actually collapses at the flick of a button so you can clean right underneath your couch or bed without having to move it. Amazing scenes.
It is incredibly light and very easy to manoeuvre. I have SPD (wonky pelvis) from carrying the babies and cleaning the floors can be one of those jobs that really irritates it, but this cleaner is so light that there is no messing around.
I cleaned my rug. It looks like new now, no kidding.
How I found it
Can you tell that I love this yet?
ALL the pros. You don’t need me to praise this vac any more. You can read about the specification on Bissell's website listed below if you want more information. If you want a new vac, and you have the cash to spend then I highly recommend this one.
The price for this is around £250. This is the only downside to me. This is more than I can afford at the moment to spend on a vac. But then again I am a student, a mum of three and I am trying to sell a house, so my financial situation and my priorities are quite tight. If I had the money spare I would definitely purchase this - I have dust allergies and I sneeze all the time. It's no wonder. My house was clearly crying out for this amazing mod con. You really do get what you pay for. I am very sad to see it go back. I think that it would be better if they let me keep it. Maybe I could start my own campaign using a hashtag and everything?

It’s got a certain ring to it, no?

To have a look at these amazing fandangled new machines do visit Bissell Direct. And if you buy one, try not to make me TOO jealous will you....

This post was linked up with Colette from We're Going on An Adventure's review linky which she runs every Tuesday! 

We're going on an adventure

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Cake to End All Cakes!!

I baked a rainbow cake for Rosie's birthday.

Now I am not a baker. I am more of a now-and-again baker, who sometimes gets it right. And this one was great! 

It has 10 eggs and a whole world of butter, so defo not for the calorie-conscious among us!!

Check out our pics!

There are loads of PRETENDERS to the food blogging throne. A couple of my favourites are Helen from Casa Costello and also Helen from The Crazy Kitchen. Bloody Helens trying to take over. 

Check out how our cake turned out PROPER PROFESSIONAL and that - OK, I concede that my piping is a bit SHOUTY but I've never piped before so I think I'm an actual natural.

Well, anyway. OBVIOUSLY now I have been crowned some sort of baking genius and all is well with the world. I've even been allowed to join Foodies100, the food blogging rankings, and look what they did.

I think I made their rankings explode.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: Balloon Time Balloons

Rosie is two very soon, and we are all very excited. The time has flown over. If there is one thing that Rosie loves, it’s balloons. She would literally just be happy if we bought her nothing but balloons for her birthday. We are planning a little tea party for her the weekend of her birthday and so we were over the moon to be asked to review a helium balloon system called Balloon Time. They sell them in all major supermarkets - we picked up the package from Asda and set to work!  

It was very easy to use. The pack comes with a canister of helium and thirty latex coloured balloons and some ribbon - all for just £22. Warren blew them up quickly and easily using the canister. It literally takes seconds to blow the balloon up, and tying them is a breeze. We did quite a few for Rosie to wake up to on the morning of her birthday. 

Rosie loved it, of course. We now have lots and lots of balloons in our house, which is always a good thing as it keeps the girls amused as they play with them. Rosie literally screamed when she saw the balloons, so we have one very happy birthday girl. She loves grabbing each one and shouting out the colour - such a clever little girl.

I think these balloons would be perfect for a special occasion. These would be great for a child's birthday party in a hired hall, they would really set off the room. The price is also very good for what you are supplied with - literally everything is covered. I think they are excellent value for money, really easy to use and would cheer up any room on a special occasion.

 I'm working with BritMums and Balloon Time as part of the "Celebration Club", highlighting inventive and fun ways of using balloons. I was provided with a Balloon Time helium kit and have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit www.balloontime.com for more information and party inspiration. You can also follow on Twitter @BalloonTime.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Dear Formula Feeding Mother - HURRAH FOR FORMULA FEEDING!!!

You didn't breast feed. Even though you knew it was best. The words "breast in best" echo in your head over and over like  some weird twisted mantra. There are many reasons why you didn't breast feed. Or one. Probably from this list:

* You had a caesarean and found it difficult
* You had a difficult birth and Group strep B infection, again, difficult
* You couldn't breastfeed because of an illness
* You just didn't want to

The thing that all of these reasons have in common in the fact that You Didn't Breastfeed.

In your head you hear it over and over. You FAILED. How could you be so selfish and not try harder? That milk is like LIQUID GOLD to your baby and you denied your child. You should have persevered, you should never have given up. The government even considered PAYING women to breastfeed - THAT is how good breastfeeding is, don't YOU KNOW THAT.

Now take a deep breath.

All of that is sh*t.

You feed your baby however which way you want to feed them. Baby formula is an absolute WONDER, in my opinion.


I am sure you are very glad that people who breastfeed do it and persevere to give their babies the best. I am sure you are completely happy about that. You, like me, probably think that mothers should be able to feed their baby anywhere and being told to feed in toilets is ridiculous. Free the boob, and feed your child.

So, Formula Feeder, as we appreciate breast feeding is amazing, so too do we acknowledge that formula feeding is also amazing. You are feeding your child, the way that you have chosen. Child is happy and content. Tender, loving bond is there.

This is not a condolence letter. This is a letter of WELL DONE. You have a tiny human, and you are caring for that tiny human in the best way that you can.

And when that tiny human is bigger, they will most likely eat McDonald's Happy Meals or some other sh*te, just like breastfed babies will.

And what is the difference then?

Friday, 13 March 2015

#NotWithout5Things - What I Couldn't Live Without

British Gas have released a lovely little video asking people what things they couldn't do without in their lives. The answers are varied from obvious ones like family, to beer! Have a look for yourself, I really liked the video, and it made me think about what I really couldn’t live without. We really couldn't live without our energy supply, and it makes you think about the cost and also saving energy. The Source website has a lot of tips on how to conserve energy to save money as well as caring for the environment.

What five things could you not live without? I was challenged to come up with my five. It's really quite difficult when you think about it, go on, have a go!

1. My Family

For obvious reasons. They are my world. As much as I moan and complain about their untidiness, the noise, their nose-picking, house-destroying ways... I love them loads and I couldn't manage without them.

2. Coffee and Biscuits

Just because. They are my little treat.


3. My Books

They keep me on the straight and narrow at uni. If I am not in a library, or reading, I am in a book shop, or using an online library. Pretty much constantly.

4. My Laptop

I am not a massive Internet addict as these things go. I only ever use the Internet when I'm at home or for work purposes, but having said that - I do spend a lot of time online - probably more than most. There are worse habits!

5. A Nice Long Bath

At the end of the day I like to soak in the bath and unwind. Some days I am so busy that I just need to wash off the day!

What couldn't you live without?

Oh I almost forgot. Wine. Obviously I couldn't live without wine....

This post was written in collaboration with British Gas as part of the #NotWithout5Things project.. All words and views are my own.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A327 War, Peace, Modernity: Being A Student

I haven't updated this blog about my studying for a while. Things are hectic. This course is demanding.

TMA 02 I scored a disappointing Pass 2. I haven't had a Pass 2 for AGES. TMA 03 was a high Pass 2. I was chuffed with that. I have pushed myself to the edge, the real edge - I am losing my marbles. I have had Pass 1 grades for three years on the run now. Whilst being pregnant, in labour, with new babies, changing jobs...I've done good. I'm at the point now where I am slowing down, winding down a little bit. There is not long left of my degree and I am looking forward to graduation.

Jesus, graduation. It's been six years since I started my degree. I am proper proud of my little self, but at the same time, totally focused on the next challenge. I can't wait to start my Masters. A new path, a new road for me to go down. I read and read and read. I soak it up like a sponge, and push myself to the limit.

I've applied for funding for my masters, and for a PhD. I won't get it. There will be hundreds of people competing. But still,  I am now in the position where I can apply for things like this - I wrote a PhD proposal because I have ideas. I have learned a thing or two and I feel like I can do it. I just need more time, and as the kids get older I should have that time.

So - Open University course A327. Love it. It's brilliant. I'm currently doing the Cold War and I've been reading Stasiland by Anna Funder - definitely recommend it. The tales from people from the former GDR are simply fascinating and heart-breaking at the same time. I'm beginning to understand the correlation - democracy, fascism, communism. Revolution, change, consumerism. It's all there. The freedom of the Sixties and that overwhelming desire to change things for the good. Oppression and the East, under the guise of Marxist-Leninist economic policy - rigged elections and terror, defending the citizens from the imperialists. The writings of Meinhof now make sense and at the same time I doubt the Red Army Faction would have supported the hyper-surveillance tactics of the Stasi in the GDR.

You might wonder why I do history. It can be dry, and it can be difficult to read. I am not sure where I want to go with what I am doing. Not yet. I want to really make a difference with what I write and I will get there.

But it's still a long road and I am still an undergraduate. I think about writing something serious on my blog, I had an idea about writing about the subjects that I am interested in or more serious topics that cross my mind: politics, the history of the NHS, local issues, rape culture, prostitution... but then I feel like it's all a bit too heavy maybe I can't use this blog to practice my writing, and who would read that anyway?  Do I need a new blog, do I change what I do?

I don't think so. It will all just merge into one big jumble.

For now I need to stick to getting my final exam done, finishing my last essays and look forward to holidays in the summer. If this blog is confusing at times, it is because I am wearing ALL THE HATS, lately.

Normal service may resume at some point, or it won't and things will totally change - whatever is normal anyway??


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Aldi Special Buys

I love working with Aldi. They are definitely one of my go-to supermarkets, so I'm always glad to get to work with them on their Specialbuys ranges. This week we have received some product samples from the range so I thought I would share with you here.

The first sample is from this gorgeous kitchen gadget essential range.

I don't know about you but I tend to have a hotch-potch mix of wooden/metal and plastic kitchen essentials, they are all in a jar, oddly with the word SUGAR written on it. (The utensils one smashed and I had a spare sugar one, don't ask.) So anyway this stainless steel range is great. They have everything from whisks to potato peelers all at just £1.49 each. Bargain, say I.

They also have a lovely range of door mats available. I am just in the middle of sprucing up our house, lick of paint, new curtains, and now a new doormat. It really is the little things that help spruce up the home!

These Specialbuys are in store from Thursday 5th March so go and check them out for yourselves.

Massive Aldi fan here, so if you pop down you might see me in there....chasing the kids around as they fill the trolley with 345 cupcakes and other such nonsense.


We were sent the above products as samples. All words and views are my own.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Saving Money & Energy with the #PowertoSwitch Campaign

I was very excited to be able to work with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to bring you some information about the possible savings that you could make by switching energy providers. We all know that bills tend to (unfortunately) rise, especially energy bills, so anything that we can do to keep the bills as low as possible is a bonus! Not only this, we also must think of the environment and the need to conserve as much energy as we can.

It is estimated that many people could save as much as £200 a year on their energy bills by switching providers. I'll be honest, this is something that we have been meaning to get around to for a long time. However, life takes over and doing an energy price comparison search has just not been on the top of our list!

Anyway, what better excuse to do it than to actually take the plunge, make the comparison and share the results here with you. Maybe this will encourage you to shop around too and might save you a bit of cash!

So first of all we visited www.beanenergyshopper.com This website tells you all about how to shop around, what to do and also tells you a list of approved comparison websites. It couldn't be easier.

We then went to one of the approved comparison sites (Unravelit) where we filled in the form. It asked us for the usual information - how much we currently spend on our bills, what tariff we are on and where we live. We followed the instructions very easily and were amazed by the result. We, like many people could save:

I thought it was a joke at first - very almost exactly £200. Needless to say, we are in the process of switching providers! We plan on doing another comparison and then changing over. £200 is a lot of money, even over the course of a year. I think it's likely that we will spend the money we have saved on the kids, I mean - where else would our money go??!

It is great to know that we have bagged this saving. With hardly any effort at all! Why don't you give it a go and see how much you could save.

I'm working with BritMums and DECC alongside the #PowertoSwitch campaign. I have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com  for more information about switching energy suppliers.

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