Saturday, 30 July 2016

All About Me Update

I am the worst blogger wot ever lived.

Obviously.

All I do is review stuff and write about our days out - review days out at that. Although I do love the photos and showing the kids growing up through these reviews, I am well aware that I have not actually written anything blog-wise for absolutely AGES.

I think somewhere I lost my way with blogging. Everything is such a hotch-potch of everything - bits about being a mum, being a student, me being silly and writing daft things. So anyway, below is just an update about what we've been getting up to. You don't have to read it - it is all very self-indulgent of course.



Uni

I have now finished my first year of my MA. I got a merit, averaging 69 - which is actually a bit of a pisser as 70 is a distinction. As proud as I was with the mark, I was also slightly gutted. However, I do have the next year to lift that mark up, and my dissertation project is looking good already so I am quietly confident that I can lift that up. I don't know how I managed last year with three kids and work. All I know is that I have to remain as organised as I was last year, if not more, so that I can keep my hard work up and look forward to graduation in December 2017.

Plans

I am researching post-1968 socialist movements. My dissertation focuses on a socialist feminist group from Liverpool. It is entirely original research and I can't wait to get writing it. I am also looking at starting my PhD next year on the same group, in greater depth. This summer my aim is to write my PhD proposal and apply for funding. This involves lots of emails back and forth to my tutors and knocking on lots of doors asking for help. I have had two weeks off university and work recently so I am hoping to crack on with this from next week. It is very exciting, but it's a massive task.

Kids

The kids are great. Alice is looking forward to starting in Reception full time from September and Rosie will be doing afternoons in the nursery. They are so close in age that they are just one class apart in the same school. It seems like from September everything will have changed - I no longer have two babies at home - they will both be in school. Emily is in year 9 from September - I honestly have no idea where the time is going. She is a usual pre-teen, spending lots of time on her phone and avoiding any room-tidying she can.

This summer we are just trying to cram in as much fun as we can. We have a lot of days out planned, a holiday in Germany and we're hoping to make the most of the time off.

I am hoping to blog more, but well...time is tight as always.

I hope you are all keeping well.

xxx


Friday, 22 July 2016

Review: Geronimo Festival Tatton Park 2016

Last year we were very excited to be asked to attend Geronimo Festival at Tatton Park near Knutsford. Geronimo is an annual festival held in the summer filled with fun and activities for famillies, including a CBeebies stage show, various activity zones, food stands, bouncy castles and much more.

We love taking the kids on days out. Although Warren and I both work a lot and have a lot of "extra curricular" going on, every minute we spend with the kids is not wasted. We often take them out to eat, to shows and to festivals - Geronimo is definitely one that we look forward to. The day was lovely - sun in the sky - perfect ice cream weather.



Unfortunately on the way our car broke down. However, for once, we were up and out early, so the AA man picked us up, took us back home, and we left in our other car. I am sometimes very proud at how laid back we all are. Parenting is a tough job, and sometimes it can feel like the world conspires against you when you have plans - but you know what, we all just took it on the chin and got on with it - and had a lovely day!

So, we started our Geronimo festival a little later than planned, but it didn't matter. First thing we did was watch the CBeebies stage for a while. Hook, Line and Sinker were on from Swashbuckle. They were lots of fun and seeing as though it was getting on for dinner time we decided to have a look around the food vendors. The kids settled on pizza and me and Warren shared a steak muffin (barm, bap whatever you want to call it!) The queues were quite long but we didn't mind too much as we were sat in the sun. Once we were fed we headed to the bouncy castles. Unfortuntely we had to queue for a while there too, but once they were on they loved it. When the man blew the whistle for them to come off, Rosie ran and hid (typical Rosie.) He had to run in and get her!

We then went to the petting zoo area of the festival. We saw tortoises and lots of bugs and creepy-crawlies as well as snakes and lizards. The staff were brilliant, letting the kids handle the animals whilst teaching them all about them. We also watched a sheep being sheared live on stage. It was really interesting to hear from a farmer and talk about the history of sheep and their breeds. However, the kids were bored of "all the talking" and just wanted to play, which is fair enough. We then walked through the craft area and sat down on the grass to watch Dick and Dom on the stage. We ate ice creams and relaxed for a while. Overall, we stayed there for about three hours. We really enjoyed our time there and had a great day.



We are really looking forward to attending next year. It is definitely one of the highlights of our year with the kids.


Disclosure: We were invited to attend Geronimo free of charge, all words and views are our own.

Review: Kids Clothing from House of Fraser

We were delighted to be asked to review some kidswear from House of Fraser. We love House of Fraser and it was great to be able to give Emily a go at picking her own clothes out online. She is 12 now so she is at the age where she has her own taste and no longer wants to be dressed or told what to wear by yours truly!

Her tastes tend to be different from mine. She likes dark bold colours, hoodies, baggy jeans, trainers. It's all fine - I don't mind what she wears I think it is important that she is able to express herself in any way she needs to.

The first item she ordered was a Bench hoodie. This is lovely and warm and really suits Em. She does wear a lot of hoodies, even in the summer, and this has become a firm favourite of hers. It is navy with the green Bench logo across the front. I really like this hoodie - it really suits her.


She also picked out a Superdry hat. This is grey and also looks great with the hoodie. She regularly wears hats. She tends to tuck her hair underneath them. I also had a try-on of this one as I reckon that I am a secret cool cat.... (just kidding - clearly I am way past all that...)



We really love these products. The kidswear selection on the House of Fraser website is also great - it was really easy for us to browse through the products and pick a couple of items for Emily. I am a big fan of online shopping anyway as I get hot and bothered in shops - shopping this way was perfect for us.

Disclosure: We were sent these items free of charge for the purpose of this review, all words and views are our own.

Review: Mr Nutcase Phone Cover

As this is the age of gadgets and electronics obviously we need protection for these items. I have an iPhone 5 and haven't had a case for it. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would get damaged if I didn't get round to picking one. I was delighted to be offered to review a personalised case from Mr Nutcase. Mr Nutcase offer all kinds of personalised products from cups to cushions to phone covers.

I did wonder what I might like to have as a picture on my cover. I hate to sound mean but I didn't want the kids on the phone - we have pictures of them everywhere, including on my phone itself. So I chose something a bit different, something iconic and important to me:

Who and what the heck is that, I can hear you asking - and why one earth is it important to me?

Well, that is a mural on what is left of the Berlin Wall. I think this photo was taken a while ago as I know that this mural is now suffering from the passage of time and erosion. The mural depicts the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker. The kiss that is depicted was a true fraternal kiss, a symbol of comradely solidarity between the two communist states. Of course the kiss meant communist rule for years, years of hardship, deaths at the Wall and a broken East Germany dominated by Stasi spies. It is no surprise that this mural is called "God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love."

 I adore Berlin. I love German and Soviet history. So this is why I have this picture on my case.

The case itself is excellent. It is durable and touch and the print on the cover is brilliant. I love it.




The website is easy to use, simple to upload a photo and match it to the cover. This cover cost £19.99 and protects my phone really well.


Disclosure: I was sent this phone cover free of charge, all views and words are my own.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Review: Num Noms

We were delighted to be sent a sample of some Num Noms. The kids are obsessed with them and couldn't wait to get their hands on them. Num Noms are little scented collectible treats in the form of food, with fun cute squishy cases. They come in a variety of scents and colours and are so much fun. The ones we opened in the video below are the Series 2 mystery packs - ours contained a special edition yellow stamp and a chocolate scented lip balm.
As part of this review we did a short unboxing video. The kids LOVE unboxing new toys and of course they  like to watch Youtube videos of people unboxing toys. I literally picked up my phone and filmed them opening the boxes and their reactions. I'll think you'll agree - they are both naturals on the camera (although of course I am a little more than biased being their mother!)


The girls absolutely loved making the video, and they love their Num Noms too!

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

Review Breakout Liverpool

We were very excited to be asked to go along and review Breakout Liverpool.

Breakout Liverpool is a live escape room game where players are given 60 minutes to solve a series of clues to lead them to breaking out.



On this occasion, I was the babysitter (the breakout rooms are not really for younger kids) so I stayed at home with the kids and let Warren, Emily and Scott (Warren's brother) go to try this. I was a bit gutted not be able to go, but Warren said that it was so good he would definitely go again, so that is our next date night sorted! This review was obviously written in collaboration with Warren - he told me all about the experience.

The concept of the game is fairly simple. You and your group are locked in a room for one hour. The aim is to solve a series of puzzles and mysteries to escape. The room that we chose to try and solve was "Confidential."  The room was large and reminded them of a CIA office - it had some filing cabinets, cupboards and a couple of tables. It was very minimal and actually realistic in terms of it being somewhere you might need to break out of.


The puzzles and clues were very varied. Some were made for the more logical mind and others for the type of person that thinks outside the box. Warren solved many of the logical clues, and Emily the less logical, more abstract clues. (I won't add in spoilers here - you can go and try for yourself!) Needless to say the puzzles were exciting and you have to use lasers, UV lights and magnets to solve some of them.


Overall, Warren, Emily and Scott said they had a brilliant time. They weren't really sure what to expect as they had never done anything like that before, but it was great to be able to work as a team to solve puzzles to break out of the room.

I know what you are thinking.... well.... did they breakout?



Prices for the rooms vary depending on how many people enter. For the game we played in the room with three people, the cost would have been around £16 per person - Warren assures me that this would be worth every penny. Breakout would work well for works parties, stag or hen parties or even birthday parties. Emily is 12 and she really enjoyed it - the website recommends kids be aged over 10 as the puzzles are quite complex.

I'll be honest, I am looking forward to going here... maybe the next time me and Warren get a free day.

To book your own room visit their website. 

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


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Teachers: Striking for Our Children's Futures

Last week I had a conversation with Emily in the car. We don't talk much. She is 12 and swaggy and I am just totally not cool. She told me about her school tests and how she was finding it hard. I explained to her that she has to do the best that she can. She must work hard, even in Year 8. I explained that she only had one chance. Cynical as I am, I told her that basically, under this government - everything is stacked against her getting a decent education. We are working class, the rising cost of Universities, cuts to schools, funding for libraries, her gender.... 

"You must work hard to overcome all of this. And when you think you can't work harder...work harder. You can do whatever it is you want but it won't come easy to you."

Today was the day that the teachers went out on strike. My husband is a teacher.

As I had booked the day off to show solidarity I found myself marching along with the teachers through the streets of Liverpool. Alice was on Warren's shoulders and we chanted along and joined in. The sun was shining, whistles rang out and people were together. The mood was calm.




I was swept away with the crowds and found myself in the Liner hotel at the conference itself. In my head the word "solidarity" rang. As I listened to the speakers I really did wonder why the mood was so calm.

I am angry.

I am writing this from the viewpoint of a normal mother. I'm not a teacher. But I am angry.

Angry that the education system is being pulled to pieces by this Tory government. These cuts we have faced in the name of austerity are too deep. They don't heal.



Academisation

The academisation of schools is essentially the privatisation of our schools. The administration of a school cannot be left in the hands of business. Schools should never be run for profit. We need an education system that works within the framework we have - we need professional teachers to teach our children, not unqualified teachers who only need four GCSEs to be able to stand in a classroom and teach our children, unqualified teachers who are employed simply as a cost cutting measure because schools are struggling to meet their budgets due to government funding cuts.



The Effects of Cuts

Our children need the best teachers. They need teaching assistants and professional staff to assist them in their learning journey. Cuts mean that jobs are lost, class sizes are increased, school places are limited. Cuts mean larger workloads for teachers, longer hours as well as increased pension and national insurance contributions.



Cuts affect the poorest and the disadvantaged. Children that might need a bit more attention, a bit more care - they are the ones that suffer first.

Teachers are out on the streets, standing not for themselves - but for education as a whole. They are fighting for their profession, for the future of education and for our children.

The Bigger Picture

It is time that we politicised ourselves. There is a crisis of austerity in education at the moment. It is time that as parents, we stood up and said enough is enough. Our lives and our children's lives are being toyed with by this Tory government in the name of austerity. Most people cannot afford to send their children to private schools - we send them to state schools, paid for by the public purse, with the expectation that they will receive a good education. We hope that the pubic purse pays for our children to be encouraged, inspired and led by excellent professional highly qualified teachers. We expect that the public purse will pay our teachers a fair wage, with fair working hours and conditions. We expect that there is extra help available to children who might need it, paid for by the public purse.

Do you know why? Because that money is OUR MONEY. The money from the public purse is our money, and we want what is best for our children. Now I did not vote this irresponsible and downright dangerous conservative government into power. But I am sure that even if you did... would you have voted for these cuts to our schools? Is that what you wanted? Austerity is a convenient programme to keep us down. It prevents us from educating ourselves, it prevents our teachers from giving their best, it prevents us from receiving the best healthcare, it prevents us from having adequate housing or having decent public services.

Where the hell is the tax I am paying? What is it going to if not education and health?

At the rally today, Jeremy Corbyn was mentioned a number of times. He might not wear a tie. He might not sing the national anthem or act the way you expect a "leader" to act. But he has values and principles - ones guided by care for people, by valuing us all.

Not just the elite.







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