Saturday, 28 November 2015

Masters: Three Months In

I've been doing the MA in Twentieth Century History at Liverpool for around three months. Three months is the time it has taken for me to feel comfortable, happy with the course, the workload and the direction that I am going in. The course is part time so it is basically a two hour seminar each week, which I love. I would say I am reading for around 15 hours a week, where I can. I break things down, simplify them and always try and contribute to the discussion. The course is Flashpoints and Watersheds, so it is a lot of political theory dealing with the rise of Fascism, Nazism, Communism and the overall fragility of democracy. Dry, eh? I love it.

First Assignment

So we can choose our own assignment titles. This sounds good but in reality it is quite difficult. For my first assignment I literally just picked a suggestion in my course book on the outbreak of WW1. I did enjoy writing it, but it was harder than I thought. The word length is 4,000 - it's easy to knock out 4,000 words, but after cutting and trimming and organising - it's hard to know if I've picked the right 4,000. I think my essay was OK. It's not going to set the world alight but it was OK for a start. I just want some feedback so I can improve. I just want a pass, essentially!

Second Assignment

I have now picked my second assignment, something I am much more comfortable with - resistance to Fascism; women, small pockets of people who resisted the Nazi regime. I've been reading around it already - it is due in middle of January so I have plenty of time, but I want to get a head start. I am happy with my question, I just need to get cracking with my research.

My Interests

Since doing this course, I have realised that I can hold an academic conversation with other like-minded people! This is important. I can be giddy and a bit silly at times (in case you didn't guess.) But I am very serious about what I want to do, I love being a student and I do love locking myself away for hours and writing - I want to one day make a valuable contribution to research. Having spoken to a couple of lecturers now I realise that my interests lie in social history. I like the stories of people, and I would love to really tap into this kind of history. It was also suggested that maybe I should have taken the Cultural History MA - I don't know whether I would have got on better with that - but in any case, I do love the MA I am doing and so I am happy with my path. However, if I was strongly urged to change then I would if it was possible. But for now, I'm going to "find" the bits of social history within this MA. 


I actually now have to start thinking about this. Although I am part time, so I graduate in two years - I still have to think about funding and possible projects. I love German history, always have, and I always thought I would do something about women in the resistance or something along those lines. However, one of my lecturers was totally honest with me and explained that if I couldn't speak fluent German in two years then I would have no chance. Now I hate being told that I can't do something (I was picking German back up and was considering an A-Level.) However, I think in this case, he has given me good advice and I need to "know my limits" (!) So I need to stick to British history. And you know what, even more, I need to keep it local. I have three children; they don't hold me back but I need to make a PhD work for me and around our lives too.

So I thought I would have to go back to the drawing board and get thinking about what I wanted to do. However, last year I wrote a PhD proposal about the diversity of experience in Liverpool during the Blitz. I was unsuccessful in my application; I didn't get the funding. However, I did have the support of a lecturer who advised me. For some reason (probably because I didn't get the funding) I assumed that the proposal was rubbish and forgot about it. However, I dug it out of my computer files and had a good read, and do you know what? It's bloody good. And not just that - it excites me - I know that this is something I could really get into. I have been thinking about altering it slightly - I work in Drug Safety at the University - my office is in the old hospital - history is all around me, and so I started thinking about the lives of nurses, doctors during the Blitz. What was it like for them and how did their role impact on the city, on morale on this "Blitz spirit"? Studies mainly focus on London in the Blitz - what about Liverpool? And maybe Manchester - maybe I could broaden the study that way. 

So - next steps - try and get funding. There is a competition every year to get funded. To be honest, if they waived the fees I'd be over the moon, self funding is hard. I plan on speaking to come lecturers about this soon. As long as I had their backing that my project is worth pursuing then I will do it. I think! It's hard speaking about something you want to do in two years time! Part time is good - but the decision-making process is harder I think!


So for now I need to concentrate on my assignments. Improving my research skills and my writing, developing my academic voice, I suppose. I'm waiting anxiously on my first assignment result. I just want to know that I am doing OK and have something to build on. I'm still learning and I think I always will be.

Friday, 20 November 2015

St George's Hall Grotto, Liverpool

We were delighted to be asked to the opening of St George's Hall Grotto in Liverpool town centre. The kids are Christmas mad straight after Halloween so I knew it would be a great treat for them. St George's Hall itself is smack bang in the centre of Liverpool, so really easy to get to, just opposite Lime Street Station. We got the bus in and set off for the Grotto in the wind and hail! It was definitely worth braving the winter winds for.

The grotto itself is made up of a series of rooms and attractions. Accompanied by two very helpful elves, we were first led down the snow-covered corridor to write our letters to Santa. Alice wrote her own name and I helped them do the rest. On Alice's list there were basically every variation of "dolly" you could imagine, and Rosie's list included a "monster" a "snake" and a "car." I'm not certain that in any of these she meant toy either!

The next room was Santa's workshop area. This was filled with all kinds of tools and toys. Very Christmassy!

After this we were shown to a very lucky little girl or boy's bedroom, all done up for Christmas. (I wish our girls rooms looked like this!)

Next we walked through the snow-covered corridor with blue twinkling lights to wait to see Santa. The girls were very excited.

First of all Santa talked to the girls to ask them what they would like for Christmas. Then he explained what he would like to be left out for him on Christmas Eve for both himself and the reindeer. The girls were very chatty and were quite keen for this to be a two-way conversation. (In other words - they wouldn't shut up!)

Then the girls were given selection boxes each and posed for a photo. It was  a really great experience. It was very different to the usual "queue up to sit on Santa's lap" experience. The girls left feeling like it was really something magical. 

The price is £7.50 per child with up to two accompanying adults free. I think this is well worth the price and the quality time that you spend enjoying the experience with your child. If you are in the area, definitely give this a go. Last year they were queueing out of the door, so best get there early!

Dates of Grotto Opening (10am - 5pm)

Saturday and Sunday 21 - 22 November
Saturday and Sunday 28 - 29 November
Saturday and Sunday 5 - 6 December
Daily between 14 - 23 December

We were invited to attend this press opening event free of charge, but as always all words and views are our own.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

My Graduation 2015

Huzzah I graduated!

 The night before I was nervous and to be honest, I had been so busy with my essay for my MA, looking after the kids and working and all the other things - that I simply hadn't had time to find anything to wear. Also, in a moment of panic I had done this:

However, I had already made my own shoes so I was really proud of these:

Anyway, I had spent a long time washing and re-washing my hair to make it less in your face. Stressed out the night before I had a little meltdown. "Oh my God I can't believe I've not had time to buy something to wear - I just can't get a minute for myself. I haven't even got anything to wear - and GOD FORBID I might want to wear some jewellery!!"

(I found a dress and calmed down, my orange hair still blazing.) Later that night Warren surprised me with a graduation present.

For some reason(!) this made me feel a whole lot better about everything...

So, after a hectic morning dressing the girls and doing their hair we got the train to Manchester - my parents were meeting us at the venue. We ate our dinner on the way there and trying to make sure the girls didn't ruin their outfits, run away, or kill each other with their umbrellas.

I was a bit nervous when I got there, but I needn't have been. Everything was perfect. It didn't matter what I wore, all that mattered was that I had made it. This day was about me, and that was nice. As a parent I find that everything tends to revolve around the children, and that's fine, but for once, this day was about me, and I was quite happy with that.

I had read that the graduation gown was quite heavy. It wasn't too heavy for me, I felt like I could wear it all day. I had worked so hard and for so long. You would think that I'd be emotional, but I wasn't.

Until I actually sat down, I looked around Bridgewater Hall and I couldn't see where Warren and the kids had gone. I hadn't checked where they were sat, so I was gutted - I couldn't find them. Then there was a point in the ceremony where one of the speakers asked us to turn around and look at all the proud faces behind us. I looked, and straight away I saw Alice waving, massive grin on her face, so proud. Only then did I get a BIT emotional, and I had to look away.

They filmed the graduation - here is my bit, the link takes you there directly. I skipped on, skipped off, massive grin, waving the little scroll thing around, FIRST CLASS DEGREE, all MINE! It all went so quick.

It was such a lovely day. The OU did us proud. Everything was perfect.

After it had finished we bought some beers, got McDonald's for the girls and continued our celebrations on the train.

I couldn't have wished for a better day.

Thanks Open University. You changed my life.  x

Monday, 16 November 2015

Review: Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze

We really do love dips, condiments, spices and trying out new flavours in this house. We like to try new things and get a bit creative with what we eat. We were really chuffed to be asked to try some Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze.

We bought a rack of ribs and left them to marinate in the glaze for half an hour. We then cooked them in the oven and added extra sauce on top.

The sauce is sweet and sticky and made a great addition to the ribs. I think it would also be great with chicken kebabs or pork steaks - we will definitely be trying these next. I think the sauce would be a great addition to your condiments at a barbecue too - we will definitely be stocking up for barbecue season!

We were sent some Jack Daniel's sauces free of charge for the purpose of this review all words and and opinions are our own.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review: Jamie's Italian, Liverpool

We were very excited to be asked to review Jamie's Italian in Liverpool. We do love eating out as a family and having the younger girls, we are always on the lookout for places that cater and allow for children. Sometimes our kids can be quite "lively" (as most children are) so it is important for us that wherever we go is relaxed, has plenty of space, possibly some activities for the kids as well as yummy food! So we went o Jamie's full of expectation of course!

The restaurant itself is in the heart of the city.

The Christmas decorations are just starting to be put up now so Liverpool at night looks amazing.  The restaurant itself is spacious and has a really lovely atmosphere. Relaxed with helpful staff and tables with plenty of space in between. This is really important when you have kids!! There were also activity packs for the kids to colour in whilst we waited for the food - perfect.

We loved the menu. There was plenty of choice and we took a while to decide what we wanted. Warren settled on Squid and Mussel Spaghetti Nero. This was seafood with pasta dyed and flavoured with squid ink. Warren really enjoyed it. I had the Turkey Milanese. The turkey was free range, stuffed with prosciutto and provolone - very tasty. Salad was served in fun pots, which was a bit gimicky, but we liked it - it was as fresh as a daisy too, crunchy and crisp. We also ordered Rainbow Slaw, which was a lovely variation on coleslaw - fresh and light.

The kids menu was also really great. I loved that the food was so fresh and healthy. We sometimes struggle to get the kids to eat their greens - I think most parents have this problem, so I like the fact that all of the items on the menu include fresh veg. We ordered the Organic Spaghetti and Meatballs - it has seven vegetables in it and tasted great.

We also picked the Baby Organic Beef Burger. We really loved how this was presented and so did Rosie.

I liked the fact that it had a yoghurt dip instead of mayonnaise or ketchup. I like that the kids get to mix up their diets and try new things when they are out.

For dessert the kids picked ice cream and Emily had the Chocolate Brownie. It had toffee popcorn, ice cream and chocolate sauce - I did have a little taste - it was yummy.

We really enjoyed our meal. The atmosphere was great, staff were helpful and the food was lovely. I also found the price to be good too. The kids meals were £6.50 and that included a drink - for fresh organic healthy food you can't really argue with the price.

We were asked to pose a few questions to our kids to give Jamie's Italian some feedback. Some of the answers are from all of the, some specific. Emily is 12, Alice is 4 and Rosie is 2, just to give you some context for their answers!

 “What does Jamie’s Italian smell like?”

Like nice food - and herby

 “What did you do until your food arrived?”

We coloured in the activity booklets and did a wordsearch

“What was your first thought about your meal when the waiter brought it to you?”

Mmmm tasty. I thought it looked yummy and I thought the meatballs looked yummy as well.

“What did you eat and how was it?”

Emily: Meatballs and spaghetti. It was lovely. The flavour was nice.
Alice: Meatballs and spaghetti. The flavour of my tea was lovely as well
Rosie: Yummy!

“What do you think your meal was made out of?”

Emily: Organic food
Alice: Organic food as well
Rosie: Sandwiches

 “Did you finish your whole plate?”

Yes to all!
Alice: My favourite part was that it was yummy. The salad was fun.

 “What did your parents have?”

Emily: Mum had turkey and Dad has  seafood pasta

  “Do you think eating vegetables is very important?”

Alice: Yes. Because they are yummy and they taste really good - and they are healthy for you.

  “Where do you think Italian food comes from?”

Alice: From really nice restaurants

“What was the best thing about Jamie’s Italian?”

The desserts

 “Would you like to come back here in the future?”


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

#TravelLodgeFoodies: Warren Cooks Scouse

We are big fans of home cooking in our house. We tend to cook from scratch (almost) every night. On the odd occasion we will go out for tea or grab a quick takeaway but general it is home-cooked food. I like to think I have quite a large variety of recipes up my sleeve. I enjoy cooking and love to try out new recipes. I love that our kids eat fresh fruit and vegetables (as well as the occasional treat of course!) We were delighted to be asked to be Liverpool  #TravelLodgeFoodies. Travel Lodge challenged us to cook one of our favourite regional dishes. I was really looking forward to this. I have a lot of recipe books, but I also love just home cooked comfort food – this is mostly what we eat.

However, as this was a regional cooking project, I decided to hand the baton over to Warren, who said he would like to cook a Scouse. Now I can cook Scouse, I do it now and again. It really is a great winter dish, however, I didn’t think there would be any point in me (a Mancunian) cooking the traditional Scouse dish when I live with a real Scouser! So I left Warren to it. He also enjoyed getting the kids involved with the cooking. I have added the recipe below. The dish served 5 of us so I have not put amounts on the recipe – you can just add more potatoes or meat to your taste – that’s the beauty of classic dishes you just make them as to how you and your family like them!

Alice loved getting involved in the cooking 

And the eating of course!

Warren’s Scouse Recipe



Stewing Beef


Beef Stock


1.       Lightly fry the beef with the onion, just until the meat is sealed.

2.       Cover the meat with water in a huge pan and add beef stock cubes and a bay leaf, salt and       pepper. Tip: Cut some very small potatoes, these ones will boil into the sauce to make the       Scouse thick.         

3.       Leave to simmer for 3 hours.
4.       Peel and cube potatoes and carrots. 

5.       Add potatoes and carrots to the stock and boil for 20 minutes.

You can add salt, pepper, more stock as required. Just make sure that the pan stays topped up with the water and you will end up with a lovely thick stew. Warren served this with hot buttered crusty bread. We loved this dish. Thanks Travel Lodge for inspiring us to write this post!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Curtains and Home Furnishings

Now that our children are a little bit bigger we have been thinking about smartening the house up a bit. I have never been one for home furnishings, but I like to have the house how I like it. Our house is filled to the brim with all of our belongings, it is a true home, a true reflection of us. This obviously means that sometimes it is messy and it doesn't always co-ordinate. However, I don't mind that, it's who we are. 

So I have been thinking about new curtains for each room. I think they could really spruce up our house. 

I love these for the kids bedroom. I love the pink owl design, and as it is not a particular brand like Peppa Pig or frozen, the girls can't argue over which one it is, they share a room and so they both like to have an opinion on the furnishings of course!

For the downstairs we would be looking at a cream, beige or coffee coloured curtain. Something like these Yorkshire Linen CO  door curtains would be perfect. We have have also seen quite a few pairs in Dunelm Mill and Next, so we are going to keep looking round. We have the big double patio doors at the back of our house - I love the coffee colour and think they would look great.

I have been looking on the Internet and keeping an eye out when I have been shopping. Buying new curtains are just one of those jobs that tends to go on the backburner, but hopefully I will find time and spruce up our house!

This post was written as a collaborative post.

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