Thursday, 5 October 2017

Broadband and Me

The internet is a massive part of everyone's lives now, or so it seems. All of us in this house use the internet for one thing and another. I tend to read journals and news online, and the kids watch Youtube videos and sometimes listen to educational counting and singing videos! Of course our teenager has literally never got the phone out of her hand.
It really is no surprise that businesses often have high speed broadband connections such as https://www.talktalk.co.uk/business/ If I had a business it would be essential.



This is why we love having fast broadband at home. With so many of us in the house and possibly all of us using the internet at any one time, the best broadband is essential for us. Of course it is no surprise that as a student I spend an awful lot of time reading. Sometimes I like to go to the library and bring a suitcase full of books home and plough through them. Other times I just like to go online and download the chapter that I need to flick through. It really does save me a lot of time. With high speed broadband there is no need for me to trek all the way into town and lug books back - my chapters are there instantly and it makes my life much easier.

My typical student library essentials!
To be honest, even when I do visit the library, I often have to log in to the computers there so that I can access the library database. I do my search quickly and easily and then jot down the number and run around to get the books I need! It's actually surprising how much we rely on the internet.

When I am working from home, I often have to use emails and need the university intranet to complete the tasks I need to do for the week. It's hard to remember a time before we had fast speed broadband - how we used to actually have to go to the library to visit to collect books and sources - digging old dusty manuscripts out of stacks!



Wednesday, 27 September 2017

On Being a Housewife

Being a housewife was never something I aspired to. Everybody is different, but no matter how many kids I was ever going to have, I was never going to be the stay-at-home parent. Certainly not full time, anyway.

However, now my MA is finished and I am almost finished up in my paid employment, I am in this strange limbo of not knowing where I am. Technically, still employed, almost a full time student on the cusp of beginning my PhD, but I am waiting. I've been told by various people that I should now have a short break before I start, leave the books for a bit and chill out. That's not really feasible for me. I still have three kids, and my husband works full time, so really - when I am home, I am the housewife.

It bores me.

It makes me exhausted.

It is repetitive and completely unfulfilling for me.

When I've dropped the kids off at school:

I do a full shop,
I put the shop away
I do two loads of washing
Clean the house
Make the beds
I bake two batches of healthy snacks for the kids
I build a shoe-rack to de-clutter
I make a roast dinner

When I pick the kids up from school:

The kids wreck the house
They sling their bags and shoes everywhere
They drop crumbs on the floor
They wrinkle all the bed sheets
They don't eat the snacks because they have "green" in them

I sit back, defeated.

I love them, and they love me. But just as I am not 100% of their world, they are not 100% of mine.

Just as they must be fed, looked after, educated, loved, so too do I need all of these things. I am one of the pillars in the house. One of the parents. I am responsible for my children's health and well-being.

I do that better when I have my "other projects." I am more productive, I have more energy, I am happier. I like to achieve, and my achievements are measured by the impact they have on me, my career - I do not count my children's achievements as my own - they are their own little selves. A day of housework is wasted, I will scrub and dust and clean, they will mess it up and the next day I will scrub and dust and clean, and it will always leave me tired and fed up. I will always want more.

I am not a housewife.

I won't feel guilty about this.

*repeats mantra*

Friday, 22 September 2017

That time the kids all went to school and I did my own head in...

I've worked for like a million years and had about 467 kids.* So I've never really had a day off. Not properly

*slight exaggeration, sorry.

So when they all decided to up and leave me and go to school, I was ecstatic. I mean, what's not to like. OK, I know I'm doing a PhD and that, but I did my degree and MA with them swinging from my neck, so doing a PhD in silence will be easy, right?

Anyway, I digress. I'm having a break from studying as I've just handed in my MA dissertation and I am properly exhausted. Like those popstars who tour the world and then suddenly go off with mental exhaustion. Exactly like that. (Except with less alcohol and zero illegal drugs.)

So I have two days off work a week. And all three of my children are in school the little idiots cherubs.

There is a 14 year old too, but as if she would get in the photo


And so. I'm free. Free-ish. What do I do. Well, here is a run-down of the one day I did my own head in.

I cleaned the house. Like loads. I don't value being a slave to the house, but I figure if I can get most of the shitty jobs done, we can relax later. And because no one is here it will stay relatively clean.

It's now 10.00am. The jobs are done. I sit in a lovely clean house. I sigh. I don't watch telly because it rots your brain. And also daytime is telly is just crap isn't it. I pick up Capital by Karl Marx. I put it down again, because RELAXING. I'm meant to be having some days off.

10.10am Make a coffee. Accidentally set fire to a tea-towel. Chuck it in the sink and wonder what this all means.

Charred remains


10.20am Drive to Aldi. Stroll around with all the old people like a QUEEN. Look at me. I'm SHOPPING on my OWN, it's so easy and I'm not one of those selfish twats who park in the kids bit with no kids. Ooh look. Muesli. Lots of types of muesli. Muesli. The word has lost all meaning and muesli tastes like cardboard anyway.

Ooh I'm bored. Pushing this trolley around. Move out the way Doris, I'm trying to get to the thin-sliced ham. The kids like to roll it up like a cigar and chomp chomp chomp. Oooh dog food. Maybe I could buy dog food and then we could get a dog, and on my days off I could walk it.

Furniture polish. Got to get me some of that.
Floor wipes. What have I become?

10.45am - I'm driving home with the shopping. It's all packed away in sections. I'm like this super efficient machine. I CAN DO ANYTHING.

11.00am Shopping is away. I'm bored.

I did tell you I was exhausted


What could I DO? I brainstorm:

1) Run around Kirkby town centre and time myself how long it takes to run in and out of the shops
2) Wear odd brogues, one tan and one navy, see how long it takes someone to notice
3) Join baby massage again. I could take a doll. "Aaah massage FRIEND"
4) Re-read Capital
5) Learn a new language or learn the guitar

12.00 Dinner. Boring salad dinner. (I'm Northern and working class, I don't do lunch.) Although I did put olives in and Warren has sun-dried tomatoes which does mean I can dip my toe into middle-class utopia now and again when it suits.

I could go to the gym, but now I've eaten and I'm full and CAN'T BE BOTHERED.

Could shove a load of make-up on and do my hair to pretend to be normal?

Better


Nails. File nails. Damaged by tap-tapping on the laptop doing my dissertation.... STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. DAY OFF DAY OFF DAY OFF.

I wonder what it would be like if I had a dog. Home admin like insurance and vet bills put me off and swing me to no. Plus, we have a lizard and he would hate the dog. My dog would be an ex-greyhound. I mean ex-racing dog. Presumably he would still remain a greyhound.

Ex-greyhound


I make a curry, and contemplate baking a cake. Sit on the couch, finish knitting a weird blanket I started to switch off. Realise blanket is weird. Looks weird. Regret ever starting it.

Knitting for the colour-blind, clearly


Wonder if brain will ever switch off.


Monday, 18 September 2017

To the Mums Going Back to University...

Bloody hell there are a lot of you! On my Facebook timeline, on Twitter, on Instagram. It's great to see all this new stationery, new routines, new rules, new clothes...new life. All these busy parents going all out to train or re-train. I didn't ever know there were quite so many of us.










I think I'm old hat at this now. I've been doing it for about 7 years. I started with my undergrad, then my post-grad. Now I'm starting my PhD. What I'm writing here will not be true for everyone, and it might not be true all of the time, but some of it will be relevant for some of the time. There are two three main truths in all of this:

1) Parenting is hard

2) Studying is hard

3) Home-making is hard

And you are probably going to start juggling all three. You can't ditch any of these things. If you have a partner, they are probably going to have to step up to take some of the weight off 1) and 3), but you're pretty much on your own for 2). You need a lot of support, encouragement, and you probably need to grow a thick skin.

*strokes leather back*



Here are a few tips. I'm not an expert, I've just done this a long time and I've faced all of the obstacles. I've had kids swinging off me, took kids to the library, to the school office to drop essays in. I've revised for exams in soft play, I've done reading and cooking at the same time. It's hard.

Tips:

1) Have a support network You need people you can call on in an emergency. If you are doing a dissertation or extended placement or piece of work, you are going to need time out, time away from your kids and everything. This is where other people could help. Friends, family. If you have that then I reckon you are already on to a winner.

2) Work when you are at your best Morning person? Do it then. Night owl? Do it then. I'm a night owl. I'm terrible in the mornings and besides I always had to get to work. I'd work, then pick the kids up, do the tea and then work late at night. There was little or no rest. I also tended to binge-study. You might be better doing it in short bursts, whatever works for you.

3) Routine Have a routine. Make sure the kids' book bags, PE kits or whatever are all sorted the night before. If you forget something for the kids then have to dash off to uni or wherever, you will feel all kinds of guilty. It's just one of those things, but you don't need any further pressure.

4) Have a Strong Mind Why are you doing this? Remind yourself often. Try and find like-minded people in a similar situation. Draw strength from them, and likewise enjoy the company of people who are not in a similar situation - learn from them too. Find tutors, supervisors, peers to look up to. Look to the future and keep your goals in mind. Explain to the kids what you are doing and why - involve them. Try not to split yourself up, remain whole and keep your identity.

5) Rest  It is hard to switch off. Very hard. Especially if you have a deadline or are stuck on a task. Find whatever it is that helps you switch off and use it like a crutch. Exercise is the obvious one, but a hot bath, some music, night out, whatever. Just make time for yourself.


I can't list everything I have learned here. It has been a hard slog. I handed in my dissertation, and so I am 'free' of uni work for a couple of weeks. Tonight, I got in from work, picked the kids up from school, made the tea, made salad for tomorrow, made carrot and coriander soup, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, played with the kids, sent a few emails for work and sat to write this blog post.

I find my energy is endless because I am used to this. I can't not do anything, it is not in my nature. I am not saying that this is a good thing, I am saying that I have trained myself to be a do-er. You will find your own normal.

Good luck!

Review: Goodlife Foods

As busy parents, preparing food that is tasty and healthy is obviously a concern of ours. We do tend to try and cook from fresh most of the time, but there are nights when we are in need of an 'easy' meal option. Pizzas and takeaways often feature as part of this and although we know they are not the healthiest of options, sometimes it just suits what we need for that moment in time. We're also keen to expand our repertoire regarding food and often try to incorporate some vegetarian options.


We were excited to be given the opportunity to review a new brand called Goodlife Foods.  Goodlife Foods believe that every meal should have vegetables as the main bulk of the meal, and source the best vegetables to create healthy and tasty vegetarian meals. I think this is an excellent idea - combining the use of fresh vegetables in a ready meal is something that I think we as a family could definitely make use of on a regular basis, to diversify our meal options and also to introduce new vegetable combinations that perhaps we wouldn't have considered otherwise.



The kids are sometimes a bit fussy about trying new things, but we set aside a few meals and told the kids that we would be trying something new 'for mummy's blog' and they all were on board!


Goodlife Falafel with Chickpea, Cumin & Coriander

These yummy little falafel balls are made with cumin, coriander, garlic, chilli and lemon juice. To cook them we just popped them in the oven for 15 minutes. They were very firm and really lovely to eat. We served them with a large salad and had pitta breads and yoghurt and mint sauce with them. The pack has 14 balls in so just the right amount for one meal for our family (five of us all together) and at £1.80 per pack, this is also excellent value.



Goodlife French Bean & Spinach Sausages with Wensleydale Cheese

These veggie sausages are made of peas, spinach, Wensleydale cheese, cauliflower, green beans with rehydrated bulgur wheat and couscous in a vegetable casing. We really enjoyed these. They come in a pack of 6, so we did buy two packs (some were leftover for lunch the next day!) These are a great alternative to pork sausages and a lot healthier. These were Rosie's favourite!

Goodlife Vegetable Masala with Cauliflower Rice Ready Meal

Both myself and Warren tried this one, as the kids are never really fussed about curries. This is a big bowl of health as far as I can tell. The meal contains cauliflower, red pepper and sweet potato and curry sauce with coconut milk, onion, lentils and chick peas, which is a whopping three of your five-a-day in one meal - can't argue with that! It tasted really good too. I am a big fan of cauliflower rice anyway, and the sweet potato and pepper made this a really lovely creamy curry to go with it.



Goodlife Mushroom & Spinach Kiev with a Creamy Garlic & Cheese Sauce

This is a perfect veggie kiev. Made with mushroom and spinach and a garlic and cheese sauce coated in a seeded breadcrumb - it is perfect to go with mashed potatoes, new potatoes or even pasta. The two younger girls particularly enjoyed this. There were two in each pack and they both manages one each. The sauce was really creamy and we thought this tasted great.


Overall I would really recommend these products. Not only are they vegetarian, they are actually packed with lots of vegetables, and are also low fat. I think the price is actually great for a ready meal too - definitely better than splashing out on take-aways or pizzas - this is always the quick (and expensive!) way that we are trying to avoid going forward. We would definitely look to purchasing these products as part of our staple shop.

We bought these products from Sainsbury's but they are stocked in other supermarkets. I am looking forward to trying out any new products that Goodlife produce - we really enjoyed testing these products.




Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Week in September

It was never going to be me. I was never just going to be just "Emily's Mum"

"Alice's Mum"

"Rosie's Mum"

I was always so busy, studying, working, blogging, the occasional night out with my husband, the odd wine-fuelled gig, a rare short child-free break away to places with castles and plush hotel suites. When the kids were under 5, there was always somewhere for me to be; a meeting, a school play, a uni assignment to hand in, a blogging conference. I was never the stay-at-home-parent.

Too busy.

And yet now, I find myself on the brink of all three of them being in full time school and I can barely breathe thinking about how that makes me feel. What it reduces me to. We went out today, just me and Alice. I took her to Liverpool to spend some of her birthday money. It was calm. Just me and her, walking through the museum, the library, the park. I could breathe and I could think - without the relentless noise that all three of them make when they are all together. And noise is what it is. Everything that is individually important to them becomes an individual weight for me to carry, times three. And I carry it. Their troubles, their issues, their minor playground spats.

Today it was just Alice, and somehow I felt lost.

I looked at the menu in the Italian restaurant and I didn't know what I wanted. I sent seven texts to my husband and posted inane nonsense on Instagram. What did I want? Some sort of credit, a like, a text message, any sort of message? Some reassurance that I was OK?

It feels like I am all at once free and lost at the same time. I am starting a PhD. I'm not lost, I should be happy that the kids starting school means that I can finally breathe. Yet somehow it doesn't feel like that. I feel that I have been lost - somewhere under all of their issues, all of my own insecurities and the endless mind-numbing nonsense of housework and the daily commute - somehow I don't really know who I am anymore. I don't know what I like. I don't know what clothes to wear or what to watch or how to act.

I spent £5 in a charity shop on lots of flowery and multi-coloured dresses. I don't know if they suit me, and I panicked because I don't know what I like anymore, and I don't know what colours I prefer. I know what they like. And that is all. So when I ordered carbonara in the restaurant, I ordered it because that is what Emily always orders and she wasn't even there. It lies heavy on my stomach and I feel sick.

I bought an album because I like it, and I heard it first. I know I genuinely like it. It's the first thing I have liked for ages, and the first album I have bought in about nine years. I play it to the kids and they dance. It's unfamiliar to them, and I found it first. No-one is telling me to play it, or to turn it up or turn it down, it's just mine.

The make-up in my bag is half battered. The kids smeared it on their faces, and it was funny at the time, just one of those things kids do, and yet now I don't own that make-up anymore - they do. I have some comic books Warren bought me last year. I like comics. I used to like comics. They have been on the arm of the chair in their perfect cellophane wrapping for months - a year? I haven't had time to read them, or maybe I'm scared that I just don't like comics anymore. They somehow seen unfamiliar to me. Not mine.

I bought false eyelashes. Normal women wear false eyelashes and have their eyebrows done. I blot the glue on the edge, blow it dry and I stick them on. Clumsily. Then peel them off. Feel silly. They are not what I like. What do I like? I have this beautiful family, and I could tell you every single thing about them. What they like, who they are, how to deal with them, how to talk to them, what makes them tick. I know what their strengths are, their weaknesses, their favourite colours, their temperament. I know everything. And somehow in all that, I lost myself.

I ride the bus to work, headphones in and turn on my album. I turn it up and try and remember me. Either that or wipe the slate clean and start again.



Monday, 28 August 2017

Tales of Women Who Hit the Jackpot

 While winning the lottery is a pipe dream for many, there are a few women who did make a fortune playing the lottery and whose lives took interesting turns after their jackpot wins.

 


1.     Marie Holmes – Some people roll their eyes at lottery millionaires because they got rich from buying one ticket instead of years of toil and struggle. However, some people are unequivocally deserving of their lottery win. One such winner is Marie Holmes. In February 2015, Holmes split the historic $564 million Powerball jackpot with two other winners; her total pre-tax sum was $127 million. Holmes is a 26-year-old single mom of four from Shallotte, North Carolina who never had enough money for herself and had to quit her jobs to take care of her children, one of whom has cerebral palsy. When she won her millions, she was living in a trailer with her family and struggling financially. She met with a financial advisor and lawyer and plans to fund her children's education, purchase a home, travel, and donate to her church and organizations that support people with cerebral palsy and their families. Holmes has never traveled outside the US due to financial restrictions and mentioned Paris as a top choice. Here's hoping she and her family has a wonderful time in the City of Lights and that they're happy and healthy for years to come.



2.       Gillian Bayford – Gillian Bayford won the £148 million EuroMillions jackpot in August 2012 along with her husband, Adrian. They toasted to their win with National Lottery champagne glasses and were overjoyed at the new possibilities that were now available to them. When asked what she most wanted to buy, Gillian responded that her dream car, an Audi Q7, was at the top of the list. She ended up buying five Audis from a dealership in Dundee, Scotland. Then in November 2013, the couple split up and Gillian started dating Alan Warnock, a car salesman at the very Audi lot she purchased her beloved luxury cars. Adrian started dating soon after the divorce and in 2014 got engaged to Samantha Burbidge, a 27-year-old horse groomer. Gillian and Alan got engaged in January 2015 – from lottery tickets to cars, Gillian seems to have a knack for making life-changing purchases. Little had they known when they decided to try their luck with the EuroMillions lottery about the sudden turn their lives would take.



3.       Denise Rossi – Denise's lottery story is a cautionary tale. In December 1996, Rossi won $1.3 million in the California lottery. Eleven days after her win, she filed for divorce from her husband of 25 years, Thomas Rossi. The divorce was a total shock to him because he never saw anything wrong in his marriage; he was truly puzzled. The divorce was finalized and two years later in May 1998, a letter from Statewide Funding, addressed to his now ex-wife, was delivered to his address. The letter was for lottery winners who were getting paid in annual installments, which perked Thomas's curiosity. He contacted the California State Lottery Commission and they confirmed his suspicions – Denise was getting $66,800 yearly from her lottery win. The lottery checks were even delivered to Denise's mother to further hide the winner's identity. Thomas took Denise to court for these undisclosed assets. The judge was obviously disgusted by Denise's excuses and sided with Thomas, giving the entire $1.3 million sum to him, citing a California law about disclosing property assets during divorce proceedings. If she had disclosed her lottery win prior to divorcing, she would have only forfeited half her jackpot. Lying never pays.



4.       Callie Rogers – Another lottery winner not to copy is Callie Rodgers. She became the UK's youngest lottery winner at the age of 16 in July 2003. Obviously a child having tons of cash on hand is worrisome and usually leads to trouble without proper legal and financial supervision, which unfortunately was the case with Callie. She immediately quit her job as a supermarket cashier and spent almost all of her £1.9 million prize on partying, drugs, vacations, and plastic surgery. She spiraled into severe depression and tried to commit suicide three times. Over a decade after her win, the money is all gone but she's much happier now that she is focusing on her children and working toward her goal of becoming a nurse.




5.       Gloria C. Mackenzie – No list about female lottery winners is complete without mentioning Gloria Mackenzie. The 84-year-old from Florida won the $590 million Powerball jackpot, becoming the largest sole winner in lottery history. What makes Gloria's story remarkable is that one act of kindness changed her life. While in line at a Publix, a local grocery store, Mindy Crandell and her daughter let her cut in front of them and purchase a quick pick ticket before them. If Mindy had not wanted to teach her daughter about politeness, she could be the lucky winner. However, she says that she doesn't regret a thing and teaching about politeness and kindness is much more valuable – way to go mom! 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Crazy Creations With Num Noms!

We were excited to get involved with this baking campaign with Num Noms. The kids adore the Num Noms. They can often be found dipping into the glitter lip balms, or stamping with the ink stamps! We were chuffed to receive a sample of Num Noms and get involved with some crazy creations of our own.



Now we do love baking in our house and we enjoy spending time together creating lots of fabulous and sometimes wacky food. I never said I was the best baker in the world, but we always give it a go and time spent together is what matters.

We decided to make cream and jam pastries with icing on the top.


I cheated and bought frozen puff pastry. I don't think I'd have the time or the energy to make pastry from scratch and frozen is good enough! Rosie had a lovely time rolling the dough out.

Rosie getting stuck in with the pastry!
Once our puff pastry was baked, we added whipped cream and jam, with icing on the top. I'll admit they don't look as good as we had hoped, but they tasted amazing and that is the most important thing about food for me. Also, we got to spend some quality time together in the kitchen, learning new skills and having fun.

I promise they tasted good!
And in any case, Num Noms are always popular in our house. Even just before school time.

Rosie and her Num Noms :)



Monday, 22 May 2017

Summer Holidays with Very!

We were very chuffed to be invited to check out Very's new summer range. They have an amazing selection of beach and summer wear so we were excited to check it out. We love summer holidays and are actually looking to book something for this summer, so we were inspired by Very's choice of beachwear for us to look at. We also took the kids, and they had a ball having their  make-up done and checking out all of the clothes on display!

Some of the summer range on display
Alice's summer holiday pose!




They also ate lots of cake and drank lots of summer drinks - I could tell they were also getting in the mood for summer holidays of their own.


As you know, we try our best to mix up our holidays - of course we like a bit of sunshine, the beach, a spot of relaxation, but are also chronic nerds and enjoy sight seeing. I am a history-type person of course, so I like to visit a lot of different cities. The kids enjoy this too, but it does mean that we often find ourselves in slightly left-of-the-field places, as you can see from some of the pictures.


Berlin

Bruges
Hamburg


However, we are hoping that our next holiday will be a relaxing one. We have had quite a big year already, so many events, so many things going on. Having three kids, working and studying is hard work, as you have probably grasped!  We are hoping to book something for the end of August - a lovely reward getaway after I have completed my Masters.

I can't wait.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review: Super Geek Heroes

We are very keen to get our girls involved in watching educational programmes. They are pretty normal kids, they like watching cartoons and people unwrapping surprise eggs on Youtube, but they also watch educational shows, especially ones with characters they can really get on board with. We were very excited to be able to review the new Super Geek Heroes TV show.

The Super Geek Heroes are a group of unique super-kids who have a passion for learning. What I find great about these characters is that their super-powers are directly related to the specific development areas of the early years foundation stage:

* Personal, Social and Emotional Development
* Understanding the World
* Communication and Language
* Literacy
* Numeracy
* Physical Development
* Creative Arts and Design

As a parent, before we even review the show, it pleases me that the makers have really thought about the development of the characters to correspond with key areas that we all want our children to develop and have an interest in.



I sat and watched a few of these videos with Rosie and Alice - who were more than willing to tell me their opinions! They really enjoyed the content, the characters and colourful images on screen. We loved the characters, with their individuality and enthusiasm. Rosie loved Millie Maths the best - she enjoyed learning about how to tell the time, and Alice really loved Peter Planet and enjoyed watching a video about all the continents in the world.

We really enjoyed these videos and they are definitely something that we would continue to watch. They are informative, fun, and most of all, the kids really enjoyed the characters, which is so important at this age.

If you would like to check out and subscribe to the new Super Geek Heroes channel, do follow the link.


You can also follow them via the following social media platforms:
twitter: http://www.twitter.com/supergeekheroes
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thesupergeekh... 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The end of a journey and the beginning of a new one...

It's been such a long journey. A long rollercoaster ride. With emotional ups and downs, highs and lows. It has been fast, it has been hard, sometimes long.

If you follow this blog you will know that I started out at the Open University. I had a young child, was getting married and buying a house. I had this recurring dream that I went back to university. The dream haunted me - in it I am chasing a Professor down a corridor, desperate to hand in my final assignment, but in the dream the Professor won't see me, and I don't get my degree. The dream got stronger, more convoluted and it was happening more often.

So I signed up with the OU. Best thing I ever did. Through the OU I found that I had so much to offer - I knew that I could do whatever I put my mind to. I was terrified of speaking out in class at first, but I made myself do it, and I knew that the more I did it, the stronger I would become. I got married, we moved house, we had Alice. I changed jobs. All the while, working for my degree with the OU. Growing stronger. Learning.  Knowing that there was so much more out there for me, so much to learn, new experiences, new people to meet, new ways to make an impact. By the time we had Rosie I was in my second to last year. I graduated in 2015 with my first class. Kids, happy and loved, age 11, 3 and 2. I was so proud of what I had achieved.


But I knew I wanted more. My confidence was still low, I wasn't ready to not be a student. So much more to learn. So I emailed one of the lecturers at Liverpool University, asking about the MA there. She was really great and responded letting me know about contact time, and possible hours and fees. I decided to do it.

Fast forward two years and I've changed. I have grown so much with this MA - I has decided on a dissertation topic - left wing activism in the 70s - and realised that I could make a bigger contribution with a PhD. I knew I could do it, and I knew I was ready. Once again, I contacted the same lecturer and together (with two other amazing academics), we designed the PhD and applied for funding.

It took about a year to get the application together. A full proposal with methodologies, frameworks, existing literature review. I pained over it. We knew the competition would be stiff, and I kept messaging my friend asking her how she was doing, we were both nervous and anxious. So much hard work.

We both heard within a couple of weeks of each other that we were successful.

I can't really express what this means to me in words. I will be starting a fully funded PhD in October. I will be leaving my job, and my kids will all be in full time school. We will all have our own "projects" to focus on, and mine is one that I have worked on and worked for for a number of years.

So now, delighted, exhausted, fired-up and ready - this is where the blog about my journey as a student ends. This is the beginning of a new chapter for me. Of course I have a lot of hard work ahead of me - I want to get involved in teaching, research, writing papers, presenting at conferences - everything I wanted.

And so a new chapter in my life begins.

Thanks for being there with me.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Review: Rattan Direct 5 Drawer Rustic Brown Storage Set

If you have a teenager then the chances are that they are not exactly tidy. I mean I'm not suggesting that ll of them are lazy and a bit messy, but what I will say is that mine is. We are always looking for new ways to store her bits and bobs, clothes, perfumes, PJs, etc. The fact is - if she hasn't got any decent storage then things just end up on the floor - or "floordrobe" as I like to call it. Couple this with the fact that she actually has the smallest bedroom in the house then this makes for a pretty disastrous room. I am always in and out trying to pick up bits that she has dropped on the floor - it drives me mad, I'll be honest.

That is why I was really excited to review this rustic drawer set from Rattan Direct. Now normally I would picture rattan in a conservatory, but when they were delivered I thought they would be perfect for Emily's room. I was not wrong.

The sturdy chest of drawers is in rustic brown and has five deep, well-made drawers. It is quite tall and thin and in itself saves space in her room. The drawers fit lots of things in - perfect for hiding away all of her unsightly bits and bobs. Once the drawers are closed, they really do make the room look great. They are also sturdy enough for her to put her CD player on top.




The drawers arrived fully assembled so there was no messing about. I just lifted them upstairs and we were good to go. As you can see from the pictures - these are a great addition to her room, and I honestly don't really know what we would do without them.

This particular set was £149 - which is a great price for an item of furniture which would definitely last. Rattan Direct have lots more furniture on their website. If you were looking to kit out a conservatory I would definitely give them a try.

For now I am content with just keeping Emily's mess in check, and these do the job perfectly for me.

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

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Review: Lalaloopsy Glitter Hair-Dough Doll Tress Twist 'n' Braid

Our girls are massive fans of Lalaloopsy. They love everything about her and can often be found playing with their toys in the bedroom, in the living room, in the back garden... you get the picture! We were very excited to be sent the Lalaloppsy Glitter Hair-Dough doll - it looks amazing, and we were intrigued to find out what weird and wonderful things we could do with her!
This doll is designed for you to be able to make her hair, twist it, braid it, and even cut it - and start again. It includes everything you need; the doll, the hair dough, scissors and hair accessories. Our girls love playing with dolls and creating hairstyles for their dolls hair, so I knew that they would be all over this special doll.




As you can see from the photos, our girls adore this doll. They spent quite a long time playing with the hair and creating lots of different styles. I obviously had to make sure that they were sharing - they are at that age where they can bicker over things. Fortunately they are starting to learn that "sharing is caring" and they do have such a good time when they play nicely together. It was great to see them working as a team to make Lalaloopsy have funky hair.



This doll is recommended for children over the age of 8 - but I did supervise my children throughout and they were fine. Prices start from £29.99 and I am sure children would love to play with this doll - I know we had a lovely afternoon together.

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

Friday, 24 March 2017

Review: Sylvanian Families Cat Family

I have mentioned before on this blog that Rosie and Alice are big fans of Sylvanian Families. We have quite a few sets of these now and she really does not get bored of them. They will sit for a long time, making each animal interact, chat and play. I really think imaginitive play, either with other kids or independently is a really great way to get the kids thinking about the world and the way we all interact and learn in the world around us. I love watching them play.



Rosie and Alice were delighted to receive a full family of cats from Sylvanian Families. The family of four cats are smartly dressed in floral dresses and striped tops and trousers, with little black beady eyes and large whiskers. We do love the attention to detail that goes in to every Sylvanian Family - there is even a space in the clothing of each cat at the back for their long tail to poke through! Their arms and legs are posable - as well as the tail!




We absolutely love this adorable family - it is a much loved part of our collection. The price of a cat family starts from around £12 and would make a lovely gift for a collector of Sylvanian Families. I know that Rosie and Alice absolutely adores their collection, as you can see from the photographs.

Disclosure: We were sent the Sylvanian cat family free of charge for the purpose of this review - all words and views are our own.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: Sylvanian Famillies Christmas Set

Rosie, aged 3 (very almost 4!) absolutely adores Sylvanian Famillies. Since we agreed to be involved in reviewing these toys, she is absolutely over the moon when the package lands on the mat. She really loves playing with them, either with Alice or alone. She is quite the independent player - when Alice is in school in the mornings she tends to potter about with her toys, dressing/undressing them, feeding them and putting them to bed. She names them and does their voices - it is really lovely to see her play.

We were recently sent the Sylvanian Families Christmas Set to try out. Needless to say, Rosie was more than willing to get involved.

The set includes rabbit in a Christmas dress, a snowman, a christmas tree with decorations and flat pack boxes to make presents, with stickers and accessories. This little set is a perfect Christmas scene - and one that can be played with over and over again. Sylvanian Families always have lots of attention to detail and this is something that Rosie definitely appreciates.

Rosie decorating the Christmas tree


The Sylvanian Families Christmas Set price starts from £19.99 and would make an excellent present. If you would like to keep up to date with Sylvanian Families including details of their latest ranges do check out their Twitter page. 

Rosie loves her Christmas set


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

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Review: Michael Rosen, Bear Hunt Experience, Liverpool

We are big Michael Rosen fans. I remember our drama teacher in primary school reading The Chocolate Cake and I remember thinking how amazing it was. Warren has Michael Rosen books that are literally thirty years old on the kids' bookshelf. So, as you can imagine, we were delighted to be asked to attend the launch of Michael Rosen's Going on a Bear Hunt experience.

The exhibition promises to be a look inside Michael Rosen's mind and is in a purpose-built installation in Liverpool One. The launch was in Waterstones where we were served champagne and of course, lots of yummy chocolate cake!

Maybe the most exciting thing for us was the fact that Michael Rosen himself was going to be at the launch. We are massive fans and we wanted to get our books signed by the man himself. At the opening, Michael said a few words about the importance of reading, of books and creating for our children. We then grabbed him to sign our books. It was great and he was lovely.




The exhibition itself is a walk through Michael Rosen's mind. Inside you will find Michael Rosen's house, his school, and of course a wood where you can actually go on a bear hunt! I will let the pictures show you what you might find!







Overall I would say that this a is a great exhibition for fans of Michael Rosen. There was a real sense of family history in the installation and perhaps a sense of where the ideas come from, the imagination and the lived experience that is all around us. The kids had a brilliant time, we really enjoyed this.

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

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