Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review: Thermos Stainless King Flask

I do love hot drinks. Especially as it is getting quite chilly now that the winter is creeping in. I hate the dark mornings and dark rainy nights coming home from work or university. however, I can instantly feel cheered by a lovely hot drink. That was why I was excited to review the Thermos Stainless King Flask. I do like to stay in the library after uni sometimes and get some studying done. Now there is a coffee shop in the library, and that is all well and good, but really I do like to just immerse myself in my books, and a flask filled with tea or coffee next to me just allows me to get on with it! This Saturday I decided to do a few hours reading in the library and took my flask with me to try it out.

The Flask

This is the bestselling flask from the range. The capacity is 1.2 litres and the colour is red. It keeps your drinks/soup hot for 24 hours and has a handy carry-handle. The RRP for the flask is £30.95.

Hard at work!


I love this flask. I am also going to consider making big batches of soup and taking this into work and uni for my lunch break. I think salad days are drawing to an end as the colder weather pick up, hearty warming soups are just the ticket and if they are kept warm in my flask then so much the better! I will definitely be using this at uni over the next couple of years - I really do just perch myself in the library and once I am stuck in my books I don't want to move! This flask is my ideal companion for those long study days that I love.

Disclosure: I was sent this flask to review free of charge, all words and views are my own.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Book Review + Video: Pumpkins Pumpkins Everywhere

As we are Parragon Book Buddies, they very kindly send us a book a month to review. This one is definitely a firm favourite in our house.

Rosie loves it and has learned the book herself. (We have to read it EVERY night!)

I'll let the video show you how much she loves it! (She can definitely read it better than I can!)

Do check out Parragon Books for more wonderful children's books. We love reading to our girls and as you can see from the video they love it too.

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

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Masters: A Month In

The other day I had a little bit of an over-think about the whole post grad thing whilst folding washing, making Alice’s dinner and sorting through my reading list.

After this I thought I might put myself on “meltdown watch” – I have a lot on, I need to make time, but this has always been the case. However, then I got thinking. I was wondering what it was that was making me suddenly realise that this is actually a challenge. It is not the uni work – sure that is ridiculously a massive amount of reading. But I love that. I get it. I understand it, and I enjoy the reading. It is very dry. Diplomatic history is most definitely not “my thing” but I enjoy it all the same. I am hoping that this early leg-work and ton of reading gives me the tools I need to write my 15,000 word dissertation next year. I love it, I truly do. What is difficult is the actual juggling of responsibilities. This is the real test for me. I am a mother, this naturally means that I have to be there for my children. Here is a snippet of that this week:

Emily (aged 12): Emily has been creating an advertisement for school this week. So she talked a lot about this to me. She is also concerned about the popular girls in PE not passing the ball to her. She has also had too much Internet time recently and we are trying to get her to switch off at 8.30pm in time for shower and bed time. She also needs new clothes and we have been discussing new winter boots and a possible shopping spree this week. She also had an audit for late homework which she stresses that everyone in the class got due to a misunderstanding.

Alice (aged 4):  Alice had homework for the first time this week. She jumped up and down like a giddy fish when she brought it home, the most excited child to receive homework ever. So we had to discuss the washing as we sorted, talking about pairs of socks, matching items and patterns, shapes and colours. I had to fill in her feedback form and I wrote that we tend to teach Alice things like this all the time so she had no problem with it. Nevertheless she enjoyed it and we are looking forward to our next homework. Alice also has eczema and so we are trying to get that under control. She has to wear pink on Thursday for breast cancer care and I filled in a parent contact form and a password-form for secure pick-up. We also have to remember to pass Alice’s ballet shoes on to Nan to do a bit of sewing. The straps have to be sewn to Alice’s size and although I have lots of strengths, using a sewing machine is not one of them. We also completed Alice’s school application.

Rosie (aged 2): We have been working on road safety with Rosie this week. We have been walking to school and back, holding hands and explaining the dangers of the road. She is aware that the road is “Berry Berry dangerous.” (Sometimes she says “very”) She has also been wrestling Alice to the ground, sitting on her back and pulling on her hair. This is something that we have to keep an eye on. Rosie still wears nappies to nursery, underwear at her Nan’s and usually nappies with me as I haven’t got time to clean up after her all day – (she literally just pees/poos everywhere – last week she pooed in her wardrobe and it took me forever to clean.) So this is a consideration.

Never a dull moment!

The Home: Boring, boring housework. Washing, drying, ironing for five people. The usual. . No matter how many times I tell everyone to pick up after themselves, I always end up doing it. It seems I am the house manager and have to direct everyone else. Emily is reluctant to help, stressing the fact that she “put clothes away yesterday.” I put some washing on her bed yesterday, asked her to put it away and her response was “Errr GAWD….have you done a wash today or something?!” Yes, Emily I wash every day. Sometimes twice. Occasionally three times (see the pooing in the wardrobe incident.) Warren works full time and is also in a band, so he does what he can when he is home.

Home Events: As bloggers we get invited to events. All good. We love them. Our calendar is pretty much full. This includes me doing packed lunches, organising timings, blogging about it. I do this so that we can get out and about and spend quality time with the kids. Even if we don’t have blogging events to attend to, I try to fill out diaries with fun days out where we can – real switch-off time.

Home Admin: This week I need to cancel my gym membership, collect my contact lenses and call travel insurance. I also need to shop for food and plan the meals.

Work: I have two jobs, and so I flit from one to the next. I work around 21 hours a week, but I get the bus there and back to you can add on another few hours there. I love my jobs, both of them. They are stimulating and we’re very busy organising events at the moment so it is all go. I have had quite a few meetings this week, so I have lots to do and lots to think about.

So this is my week.

Oh no, I forgot. I am also doing my MA… that’s what this post is about, right….?

Uni: I have a 2 hour tutorial once a week. This is discussion-based. I love it. I love that I get to talk about what I love for two hours every week. I love that people have different opinions to me and see things differently (or the same.) I love going, I love the reading. It is heavy going and it takes concentration. This week I will read every night for at least three hours, and one hour on the bus. I also met with my adviser for half an hour to discuss my essay options. The essay is due in three weeks, so I have to plan some library time. I have already started thinking about it but I need to get a move on with my writing.

 And so...the “how do you cope?” questions are not getting answered because I don’t have time to answer them. My life is packed full, and I love it. I can’t prioritise anything because they are all so inter-linked. I work at the uni, study at the uni, my second job pays for my degree, I do my degree so one day I can maybe make a difference, maybe I will do a PhD and contribute to research, teaching and learning. I want to show my kids that they can achieve and to do this I need to make sure everything in the home is ticking along…

Despite me trying to separate my roles, I can’t. At an event the other day a woman asked “Are you the Wife, Mum, Student Bum?” and we laughed and I said I clearly should have thought I through before naming my blog that. But you know what, it’s true. This is who I am and it is so intrinsically linked all together that somehow it all makes sense. Even writing this now - the blog helps me to organise what is going on in my head, even if it does take time. It's essential for me.

I still get asked about coping. I get emails from students. As much as I can encourage you to reach for the stars and work hard for what you want to achieve: I can’t help you do it. I can’t tell you that you can do it. Only you can do that. You need to decide if it is right for you, and you have to pick your own path. I can only tell you about mine. You can look to me and think what I am doing is amazing or whatever. But it doesn’t come easy and it is not all fun and games. Education is tough, hard work and bloody expensive!

But it makes me happy. This is what I do, it's who I am. And all of these different component parts of my life make the whole.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Review: Manchester City Stadium Tour

We were very excited last week to be invited to the Manchester City Stadium Tour at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester - we love a day out and the kids were excited to see a football stadium. The younger two have not been to a football game yet so we were really looking forward to taking them on a non-match day for them to get an idea of it.

Many moons ago I used to take Emily to Manchester to watch Manchester City play. We really loved it.

Makes me laugh how she looks so much like Rosie here

She was about 5 here :)

Since we moved to Liverpool and Warren is an Everton fan we haven't really had the chance to go back to a match - we are always so busy and football has gone on the back-burner. However, we absolutely had a ball at the stadium tour.

We started off at the City Shop and were escorted to the Chairman's Suite. I loved the idea of watching the match after having a lovely meal, nice wine - and then out onto the terrace with heated seats - lovely!

We then went down to the media room where all of the post-match interviews take place. The tour guide Lynn was brilliant, very helpful, great with the kids and she gave us loads of information about what each room and space was used for. After this we went into the player's warm-up area which is a pre-match area for the players to warm-up. This was where the girls got to score a goal in the small nets - they loved this! Alice was adamant that her kick was the hardest!

We then moved on to the player's changing rooms. The kids loved it in here and we got some great photos, funny faces pulled included of course!

You can never get them all to smile at the same time!

...or not pull silly faces!

We then went down the tunnel as the player's would on match day and stood at the side of the pitch. The ground looks really huge when it is almost empty. Lynn explained about how the ground had been extended over the years and told us that the capacity aims to be 62,000 by 2017 - which is quite impressive.

Aged 12 now - doesn't time fly!
Then we did a little meet and greet with Moonchester and Moonbeam. The kids absolutely adored the two mascots - Rosie would not let them go. She asked Moonbeam if she wanted to come on holiday with us and they had a big cuddle and a dance.

Aaah - all smley!

All in all we had a really great time. I think the stadium tour is a great day out and would also make a great Christmas or birthday present for someone.

Over the Halloween half term period there is a spooky Halloween tour complete with creepy footballers! There are also prizes to be won and all guests receive a Halloween treat from the spooky cauldren!

Prices are £16 for adults, £10 for under 16s and under 4s are free. For the October Half Term there is a fab deal on for families - £40 for two adults and two children. Do check out their website for further information Manchester City Stadium Tours

Disclosure: We were invited to attend the tour free of charge by Manchester City. All words and views are our own.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Strictly Come Dancing Infographic

Many years ago I used to do Ballroom Dancing. I started when I was about 9 and won lots of awards. I remember I used to love it. Alice is now just starting ballet - she absolutely loves it. We have just bought her the full ballet kit complete with tutu and little ballet shoes, she looks adorable. I think dancing is a great way to learn co-ordination, have fun and keep fit - I am keen to encourage our girls to get dancing!

Emily loves to watch Strictly Come Dancing. The below infographic shows all of the previous winners.

These days you'll usually find me with a head in a book, but I have been known to dance around the kitchen with the kids!

This infographic was kindly supplied by Great British Bingo

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Giveaway: Family Ticket to Toytopia + Pebli Town From Toys Alive

Toys toys toys.


Our kids LOVE toys. They are messy, they make you trip up and it seems like they multiply overnight while you sleep - HOWEVER - the kids love them. And when they are happy, we are happy! Which is why we are very proud to be blogging for Toytopia - an event held over the October half term in Liverpool - basically a huge exhibition with toys and shows - toy heaven for kids! With Christmas (sorry to mention the C word so early) literally staring a us from beyond Halloween, this looks a great way to make a start on the shopping and picking up ideas.

Toytopia are also offering 25% off the ticket prices with the following code: TOYTOPIA511 .

Here is what Toytopia say:

"Toytopia is a truly unique toy show – a magical event for the whole family, with the chance to interact and play with toys and games old and new. From the hottest Toytopia toys topping the Christmas wish lists, to traditional family favourites.

For your chance to be the first to see the Top Toys for Christmas 2015 head to The Exhibition Centre Liverpool, 24-26th October (half-term holiday).

Kids of all ages will enjoy having a first-ever selfie with Arlo, the giant inflatable from Disney’s new movie ‘The Good Dinosaur’, along with other favourite characters from The Beano’s Dennis The Menace, Playmobil’s The Knight, Ben & Holly and Peppa Pig! They will delight in the Live Shows including the Sylvanian Families and have a chance to travel on a miniature train, or whizz, bounce and float around the test track on the latest balance bikes, AirBoards, mini tractors and hoppers.  Meet LEGO© certified professionals, Bright Bricks, and marvel at their amazing brick-built RMS Titanic. Create a masterpiece with Aquabeads, build their own K’NEX dart blaster, enter the imaginary world of Playmobil, be a naughty school kid in the Bash Street classroom, beat the folks at Top Trumps, ‘pig out’ with Pass the Pigs, take the seat drop challenge with Springfree Trampolines, amaze at the flying drones battling for supremacy, and drive a scaled BMW Z4 or Range Rover Evoque! Older children can learn to DJ and discover the world of animation from the creators of Shaun the Sheep and Wallace & Gromit.  A magical, memorable day for the whole family."

Needless to say, we are very much looking forward to this one! I am very pleased to be offering one lucky reader a family ticket to the event for Saturday 24th October. As a bonus prize, the winner will also receive this Pebli Town Toys Starter Pack worth £59.99.

To enter the giveaway just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.


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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review: Aldi Alcohol

We are massive Aldi fans. It was a great day in the our household when they built an Aldi in Fazakerley - ten minute drive for us and saves us a fortune. There is nothing I don't like about Aldi - it is definitely "our" supermarket.

We were delighted to be asked to try some alcoholic treats from their range. We are fans of Aldi wine - some of the bottle are under £4 and are better than some of the higher end wines that you can buy for £8+ - (we are wine snobs so we do have a clue what we are talking about.) Warren is also partial to St. Etienne beer on occasion - again this is good value for money at just £.2.49 for four cans.

We were sent the following three bottles to review.

* Belletti Prosecco

* Toro Loco Rose

* Austin's Summer Punch

Prosecco is my favourite "celebratory" drink - I love a bit of fizz in my life. This one is lovely - fruity and light. We plan on getting a few bottles of this in for over the Christmas period!

The Toro Loco is one of my favourite inexpensive wines. I usually drink the red, so it was great to try the rose. I do like a rose or a white on occasion so this was really very nice to try. It was sweet but not too much. A lovely drink for a summer's day.

The Summer Punch was just lovely. We liked to drink this with ice, lemonade and with limes and lemons chucked in. You could make a real fruity punch out of this and have it as a long drink in the garden on a sunny day. Loved it. We will definitely be getting more of this in.

So, overall - what can I say? You know that I am a massive Aldi fan already - I don't have a bad word to say. The Aldi alcohol is just as good (if not better) than other more expensive brands. We won't be going back to those brands any time soon!

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

Review: Ozeri Green Earth Frying Pan Set

Despite being crazy busy, I really do cook from fresh every night. It is important to me that we all eat healthy wholesome food every night. (OK - maybe once every now and again we eat out, and we do have the occasional fast-food trip, but mostly...mostly we are good.) So I was really chuffed to be sent this amazing frying pan set from Ozeri. Now I have reviewed a few Ozeri products before so I am aware of the quality that I find with them.

The set contains three frying pans. 8", 10" and 12" - they really are all the sizes that you would need for any type of cooking. They are all really heavy and well made, as well as being non-stick.

Busy pans on my hob!
The only negative I would say is that they can not go in the dishwasher. However, because of the ceramic coating to the pans they are really easy to clean, quick soak and wash over in soapy water and the job is done.

The price for all three as a set is £129.99. Although this is more than I would normally spend on pans, I know that these will last me for a very long time and so it is much better than buying cheap and replacing them every year, or worse, when the non-stick coating has worked its way off, which is definitely what happens with some of the cheaper pans. (Speaking from experience here!)

Overall I would say that these are the perfect frying-pan set. I use them almost every day, and the different sizes cater to all of our needs. We are big stir-fry fans and so these are perfect for us. The largest pan gets the most use as it can cope with our food demands as a family of five! I would definitely recommend this set if you are looking for some new ones!

Disclosure: I was supplied the pan set for the purpose of this review. All words and views are my own.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

McDonald's Happy Readers Initiatve

We were really excited to be invited to the launch of McDonald's Happy Readers Initiative in Liverpool. The kids really do like McDonald's on occasion as a treat, and I was so interested to hear about the Happy Reading Initiative. We are quite keen that the girls get involved in reading from an early age and so this seemed like a brilliant event for us.

There was a storytelling of Fantastic Mr Fox by a brilliant drama team, face painting and of course yummy food! This was to celebrate the launch of the initiative - over the next 6 weeks 14 million books featuring extracts from Roald Dahl’s most popular books will be distributed as part of McDonald’s Roald Dahl Happy Meals, making the extraordinary world of Roald Dahl accessible to millions of children. Families will be able to discover the famous author’s magical universe of characters, from the BFG and his ‘human beans’, to mischievous George and his Marvellous Medicine. 

We are massive Roald Dahl fans already and the kids were delighted with the event. When we go to McDonald's we usually grab the girls Happy Meals and so for them to have a short story in the meal is fantastic - they are just the right size for bedtime reading!

You can see how much we enjoyed the day from the pictures! Thanks McDonald's for such a lovely day and such a really great initiative!

We were invited to this invite as bloggers and were provided with a free meal and a goody bag. All words and views are our own.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Review; Ozeri Digital Scales

I am quite a bit of a baker.

I'll re-phrase that, I like to mess around in the kitchen on occasion. Since I have been losing weight we tend to bake more than we used to - I always think a freshly-baked cake is so much better a treat than a shop-bought one. If I am cheating them I want to make that cheat entirely worth it!

So I was really chuffed when I was sent these digital scales from Ozeri. Prior to these I used a basic scale with a needle. The difference the digital scales make is amazing. I love how easy and simple it is to just weigh what you need.  I also love how stylish these scales are, they look great and they work so quickly and efficiently. There is no messing around with needles and wondering if you need to add more or less of your ingredient - it is just instant and brilliant!

The settings include weighing in grams, ounces and kiograms and the dish is removable for easy-cleaning. This particular model costs £19.95, and I thought this was a reasonable price for the quality and design of the product. If you were looking for some new digital scales then I would definitely recommend these ones.

Disclosure: I was sent this product free of charge for the purpose of this review. All words and views are my own.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Student Cooking on A Budget

As a student (and a mother) I know how hard it can be to cook on a budget. You want to stay healthy and not eat rubbish but at the same time you want to have good quality meals on the table. I mean, you can’t eat beans on toast every night can you? No…you can’t, trust me! What we tend to do is eat quite cheaply in the week and then splash out a bit at weekends. I am lucky because I do work, and although we not exactly millionaires, we do have a decent-sized budget for our food. However, that was not always the case. I have learned how to eat cheaply, and eat well – as a student and beyond. What you will find below are some key tips to eating well on a budget. If you look after the pennies then the pounds really do take care of themselves.

1.       Meal Plan

I do this every week. Write a list of a few main meals, and write a list of ingredients. Include some salads for lunch, cereal or whatever for breakfast and other essentials. The sentence “write a list” makes it sound so simple, but trust me, you can save a lot of money by doing this. If you have a list you will be less likely to veer off with random expensive purchases and more likely to stick with what you have planned for.

2.       Simple Food

You don’t have to eat complicated meals every night. Good old chips, egg and sausage is always a great healthy midweek meal. Grab lower fat sausages and chuck some mushrooms in there and you are well on your way to a perfect nutritious and cheap tea. Sometimes we use veggies sausages – this keeps the cost, and the saturated fat down – winner! If you are studying you might find that you are also short on time to cook – keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.

3.       Grasp the Basics

Have a few easy, cheap meals in your repertoire. I make a basic pasta sauce that can go with most things. Tinned tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, tomato puree, onions. Fry all together and leave to simmer for an hour. You can use this for pasta dishes, chicken dishes or even as a base for a soup. It is cheap and full of yummy goodness. Chuck in some kidney beans or mushrooms for extra texture.

4.       Freeze Things

We often buy in bulk and freeze as we go. Bread can be bought cheap and frozen. We buy frozen peas and always have fish fingers and waffles in for emergency meals! Make use of your freezer, it can save you a small fortune! You can even freeze any pasta sauces that you make up beforehand and just defrost in the morning to heat up later that night. Convenient and cheap, especially if you cook in batches!

5.       Batch Cooking 

Grab one of your favourite curry, soup or stew recipes and batch cook. Spend a Sunday buying cheap vegetables and ingredients in bulk, invest in some Tupperware and get to work. Not only will you save cash but you will be making life a lot easier for yourself.

Cheap, fresh home-cooked food FTW!

Looking after your money is very important at all stages of your life, not just when you are a student. If you need a new bank account might be worth checking out TSB for the range of services that they offer. They also have a Savvy Student page that has lots of info for you!

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with TSB. All words and views are my own.

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