Thursday, 25 February 2016

How it is doing an MA with three kids and a job...

I know... self-obsessed, no-one cares, etc

But anyway, this is what I have been up to while I have not been blogging. I'm so busy. I mean like REALLY busy.

As it turns out, doing a Masters, having three kids, working.... it is bloody hard work and I think that I have been being a bit hard on myself lately. So, in pictures, here is what I have been up to. I've also put a link to my day in the life video for those interested. I am really bloody busy!

If you are reading/watching this and thinking you might like to embark on post grad education when you have kids and a job.... think long and hard. It is difficult. Here be warnings!


I generally make a mess of the dining table - with or without the help of the kids

I've been studying over breakfast with the kids. Looking most attractive, obviously

I also like to study while Rosie hangs off my neck dressed in a swimming costume.

I did go out with Warren and came home and ate a kebab. It's good to switch off from your studies and behave like a "typical student" now and again

And obviously...more book and washing mess on the table


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: SEA-LIFE Blackpool

We were delighted to be asked to a preview of their new exhibit Jurassic Seas.



We love SEA LIFE and had never visited the Blackpool one before, so we were very much looking forward to it. It is situated right on the Promenade so very easy to find and plenty of parking round the back, so we were all set to go!

Obligatory in-car selfie!


We looked around the Jurassic Seas exhibit first and were introduced to a number of fascinating sea-creatures like molluscs. They also have an interactive computer game where the kids can play. This involved learning about prehistoric sea creatures such as the gigantic Megalodon.  The game was great as it gave the us an idea just how huge these animals were! The kids really enjoyed the game too.

After this we walked around the main SEAL-LIFE area. SEA-LIFE is home to over 2,000 species of sea-creatures such as rays, sharks, sea horses and puffer fish. The kids especially loved the little clown fish or "Nemo" as they refer to them! Alice was also brave enough to put her hand in one of the tanks to stroke a starfish - we couldn't drag her away in the end!



Whenever we go somewhere like this with the kids, I am quite keen that they learn as well as enjoy themselves. In SEA-LIFE there were plenty of information signs and activities for the kids. I do feel that they came away with some good knowledge!

We really loved the huge sea tunnel. We all walked through, fascinated by the sharks and life in the tank, swimming all around us. I thought the kids might have been a little apprehensive, but they weren't - they were keen to look at all the fish, pointing at them and asking questions.



When we had finished walking around we found ourselves exiting to a huge soft play area - the kids were over the moon as you can imagine! We stayed in the soft play area for around half an hour and the kids had a ball.

We would recommend SEA-LIFE as part of a day out to Blackpool. You can save money on tickets by purchasing online here. Tickets start from £10.50.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Family Time

We love spending time with the kids. We try and take them to lots of days out, swimming, parks, museums - usually something that is affordable and brings us together as a family. We are often on the look-out for new places to eat, to visit and generally take the kids out for fun family times.

Rosie loves parks and soft play. We probably visit these places at least once a month. We enjoy walking around parks, feeding the ducks, maybe taking a picnic and kicking a ball about. We love bug parks like Croxteth Park in Merseyside and even Tatton Park in Manchester - it's a bit further out but worth it.

Alice enjoys going out for tea, the beach and seeing shows. We often look for new places to eat tea with the kids - we love sharing food and enjoying family time over good food and drinks. We also like going to the beach. The nearest one for us is Crosby beach. Often it is cold and wet, but there is nothing like a good walk in the fresh air to blow away the cobwebs! We also like to go out to watch shows. Pantomimes, story-time - we are always on the look-out for new things.



Emily is a different kettle of fish all together. She would much rather us sit in and play online games! Although Emily is keen to get involved with our family times, she does tend to enjoy playing games online. Minecraft is the current favourite, although she does like watching various Youtubers online too. She hasn't quite stepped up to online bingo games just yet - her other favourites include Candy Crush. She is forever trying to get me to sit with her to show me how she is progressing in her games, so I do sit with her. I can't say I have any clue what her games are about though!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Half Term Activities at IWM

We were really chuffed to be invited to a preview of what the Imperial War Museum in Manchester have on this February half term. We go to the war museum at least twice a year. With me being a history student I love it - it's always good to get my head out of the books and have a wander around the museum. I also think that it is important that the kids are aware of what has occurred, and is still occurring all around them.

War can be difficult to speak about to children. The way that war is remembered and commemorated is an area of interest to me in itself so I quite often stop to view war memorials. The kids do sometimes ask what the sculptures are and I explain in as simple terms as I can about soldiers, and fighting. I am completely anti-war, but at the same time I recognise how war has shaped us, and I think it is important to remember not only for the past but for the future too.

With the release of the new film Dad's Army, the museum have an exhibition about the real Dad's army. The kids were excited to go to the craft room of the museum and create their own little home-front figures. I'll let you guess which child did which figure!



We also sat and listened to a story telling about Dotty, a young girl in Manchester during the Blitz. Alice tried on an Air Raid Warden's hat!



Sometimes I like to wander around the museum and just think. The war museum is not a "fun day out" - I would never describe it as that. But at the same time, it is educational and there are plenty of action stations for the kids to learn, to listen to testimonies, crack codes and to be introduced to the past.


I love the museum shop, I'm collecting little postcards at the moment stuck on my wall so I always try and pick one up where I can. The museum also has the air shard - the lift takes you high up so you can view the whole of Salford Quays and even see Old Trafford - we love the air shard. We also stopped for tea and some food at cafe.

Overall, the war museum is definitely  place to take the kids. There are plenty of hands-on activities to get them involved in, and the different exhibitions they have on are great for teaching them about the past and getting them interested in things that are a little bit different.

To read more about what's on at the museum this half term click here.

Numbers!

So I have been sat with Alice teaching her numbers and letters recently. She is only 4 but she us trying to get to grips with what she is learning in pre-school. She is getting really good with learning her letters and can now write her full name almost unaided - she sometimes needs a little bit of help with our last name! Also because she is left handed, sometimes she gets confused and writes backwards - it is so strange - her reaction to this is "Oh well. It doesn't matter." Of course I have told her that it does matter but at the end of the day she is only four so I am sure that she will eventually get the hang of it.


We are also teaching her numbers. We do this in a number of ways. We like to ask her how old she and her sisters are every now and again. She uses her fingers to count and holds them up. We always ask her how many sausages she has on her plate, or how many dolls she can see, etc. It really is quite easy to incorporate numeracy skills in to everyday life.

Of course we also have Rosie who is just a little bit younger than Alice. She also likes to learn her numbers. We tend to let them both watch videos on Youtube - these really help with numbers. We particularly like nursery rhymes such as "Five Little Ducks" - this teaches them subtraction too! We do often play games with them to teach them. Bingo games can be fun, as can card games such as "snap." I think it is all about encouraging them to find learning fun at this age and keeping them engaged whilst teaching them at the same time.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Review: The Alice Experience

We were delighted to be asked to the press opening to The Alice Experience at St George's Hall in Liverpool. We have Alice - aged 4 and Rosie aged (almost 3) so I knew that they would love it.

Outside St George's Hall


The production is different to most place - as it is in St George's Hall there are a variety of rooms for you to follow the White Rabbit - as you know, he is always "late" so the production begins with Alice following the white rabbit and as she does, so do we. We move from room to room, through corridors and carefully decorated halls and spaces. It is very exciting.

The White Rabbit "I'm late!" - we followed him through the various rooms


We fond the production was full of colour, emotion, textures, sounds - the kids absolutely loved it. I adore St George's Hall as a place and so I was in my element. Especially since as press we were invited to a sort-of mad hatter's tea party in one of the plush rooms!  It was a real treat.

The girls were so excited to meet Alice! My Alice said "Alice do you like my red shoes??"


This was our little mad hatter's party treat!



Alice being "sentenced" by the Queen!


The production is made by the producers of The Narnia Experience which has ran previously. In Another Place are made up of very creative individuals, some with additional needs who are "Christians and community working together, inspired by our love of God and the people around us." They were very passionate about what they do and this showed in the effort that has been put into this production.

We had a fabulous time. Tickets start at £7 for adults and £5 for children and it runs until 19th February. You can book tickets and read more about the production here.

Disclosure: We were invited to this production free of charge for the purpose of this review. All words and views are my own.


Kids and Games

Now the kids are a little bit bigger we do let them use tablets and mobile devices for games. We take the kids out a lot to new places, so we think that a few games here and there are fine for when we need some quiet time. This is great for me being a student, I often let them watch music videos on Youtube or let them play games while I am reading.

It helps prevent all this kind of carry-on constantly...


As a kid I used to play games. I used to get home from school and play on Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Megadrive. I suppose it helped me to switch my brain off. They did not have tablets or mobile devices in those days I'm afraid!

Now I do have a mobile phone (hurray!) I have a Kindle and a laptop, but I just don't have any time for games. I know that some people play bingo games online but it's not something that I ever have the time for. The kids keep me very busy and when I am not studying or doing jobs in the house I am generally taking the kids out in the real world, getting fresh air and taking them out for new experiences.

I don't think that there is anything wrong specifically with letting the kids use tablets and mobile devices but I do think that like anything else, it should be in moderation. I like to monitor how much time they spend on them so that they do get a good balance in their lives.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Review: Crust Liverpool

As a family we are always on the look-out for great places to eat with the kids. We sometimes visit places with soft play areas or outdoor climbing frames and activities - but quite often we also like to take them out to places where they can just eat good food and enjoy our time as a family. Quite often we visit Liverpool city centre maybe to shop and then venture out for something to eat.

Crust is a new restaurant situated on Bold Street in the centre of Liverpool. We were delighted to be asked to try out their family-friendly menu - Crust is an Italian restaurant with the tagline Pizza, Pasta, Beer. Honestly, I can't see anything not to like with that!

The atmosphere in Crust is great. Chilled music in the background, really friendly staff, plenty of room to move about. There are two floors to Crust so there is plenty of room, and the food is cooked in a kitchen you can see, which is always good - it gives a real fresh home-made element to the experience.

The Menu

The menu is varied with lots of choice. Pizza, pasta, salads, starters, desserts - there is something here for everyone.

Our Food

I ordered the Farfalle. This was absolutely divine. Creamy, but not too heavy with flaked smoked salmon and cracked pepper finished the dish off perfectly. As a family we tend to mix and match our food, so all of us tried a bit of everything - all of us enjoyed a bit of my "action man bow tie" food.



Warren ordered the Straccetti pizza.This had fresh rocket leaves and succulent fillet steak. He ordered the organic base which was thin, crispy and light. Absolutely gorgeous. (Of course I dug in too!)



Emily had the spaghetti carbonara. This was creamy with crispy pancetta running through it - the saltiness balancing the cream perfectly.


The kids had a plain margherita pizza between them. Rosie and Alice LOVE pizza and one to share was enough for them - we tried a bit each it was gorgeous - but they demolished it all between them!


We also had a side dish of sweet potato chips - these were yummy.

Drinks

Now Crust stock a large variety of beers, and Warren is a bit of a beer connoisseur. We both like to try different beers and get a bit fed up with the same. If you are after something a bit different then Crust is the place to be. We had two beers each a San Gabriel and a Menabrea. Perfect to wash down pizza and pasta and served in frosted ice cold glasses - we were very impressed.

Overall we were very impressed with Crust. We were surprised at how good the price was to feed all of us. Our bill came to arond £50 and that was for more than enough food, two beers each for myself and Warren and a soft drink for Emily (the kids just drink water.) We ate all of our food, but if you did leave any they also pop the food in a box for you to take home, which I think is great - I hate waste!

We have already returned to Crust since we last visited for this review. We love it. To feed a family of five for £50 with such fresh and lovely food, great friendly staff, quick service and comfortable surroundings - you really can't go wrong.

Disclosure: We were invited to enjoy our meal free of charge by Crust, but as always, all words and views are our own.

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