Monday, 22 May 2017

Summer Holidays with Very!

We were very chuffed to be invited to check out Very's new summer range. 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!

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.

Review: Yard and Coop, Liverpool

We love eating out as a family. Now that the kids are a little bit bigger we can try and take them to places that we might not have dared take them a few years ago! It's not that our girls are badly behaved, but children are children - they get restless and that can sort of kill the mood in a relaxed restaurant environment! However, now they are 13, 5 and 3, we find that they are much more chilled out and better suited to new and exciting restaurants.

Yard and Coop is one of those restaurants. Situated in the heart of Liverpool on Hannover Street, Yard and Coop promises yummy buttermilk-fried chicken. We weren't disappointed!

As it was the launch night, there was live music on and a photo-booth. We had a lot of fun in the photo booth, as you can see from the photographs!




The menu is varied and offers a lot of different chicken-based dishes. I also loved that they offered a haloumi version of each dish - great for veggies or non-chicken fans!

Amazeballs washed down with a little beer!

The kids menu was also perfect for us - three different dishes, we chose chicken and chips for the kids and safe to say that they ate theirs all up. We ordered BBQ chicken wings as a started - these were delicious - and we also tried the "Amazeballs" - sweetcorn balls with a chilli dip - these were amazing and definitely deserved the label "amazeballs."


As you can see from the pictures, the food was well presented and actually really yummy. Emily had a smoothie for her dessert, the kids had ice cream as part of their meal and myself and Warren were too stuffed to fit in anything else!



Overall, we really enjoyed this restaurant. The bill came to around £60 for the five of us, which is about what we would spend on a family of five to eat with drinks and desserts. The kids had a lovely time, and enjoyed colouring in. They also really enjoyed the pots of Lego that were also brought to the table - what a great idea!



Disclosure: We were invited to Yard and Coop and our costs were covered for the purpose of this review. All words and views are our own.

Diary Decorating with Gel-A-Peel!

We love crafting. As much as we enjoy taking the kids out at weekends, sometimes there is nothing better than sitting in together and enjoying some crafts. Now, I never said we were good at crafting - I just said we enjoy it - there is a big difference!
On a quiet, rainy Sunday we were chuffed to be supplied with a Gel-A-Peel kit and a blank diary for us to decorate. Gel-A-Peel is a kit that contains gel and stencils to make jewellery, decorations or anything you like with coloured gel that sets in place.

Rosie having fun!


So we got to working on our diary. Rosie and Alice still like messy things, and Gel-A-Peel is pretty messy at times! We made swirly patterns with the gel and followed the guides - the girls had a lot of fun!

Our patterns on the stencils - as carefully as we could!


Once the gel had set, we peeled off our designs and stuck them to the diary. I think you'll agree our diary looks absolutely A-MAY-ZING.

Our designer diary!


Well, amazing-ish.

We had a great time doing this together. Gel-A-Peel is perfect for older children who want to make jewellery and design their own decorations. It was good fun!

Disclosure: We were sent Gel-A-Peel for the purpose of this review, all words and views are our own.

L.O.L Surprise Review

We were delighted to be sent an L.O.L Surprise to review. These adorable bundles of fun come with seven layers of surprises.



The L.O.L Surprise we were sent came in a ball shape sort of like an egg-surprise. The kids love this type of toy - I think that it's the anticipation that gets them every time! These round balls, as you open them have seven layers of surprises inside, ours were as follows:

* Shoes
* Outfit (dress!)
* Water Bottle
* Secret Message
* Stickers
* Accessory (cute headband!)

The final thing to unwrap was the doll itself. The girls loved unwrapping this toy. They said their favourite part was revealing the doll at the end, and everything else included perfectly complimented it.

Our doll as posed by Alice!

Our special doll also had another surprise - when you put water in the dolls mouth and squeeze her - she cries real tears! The ball that the doll comes in also doubles as a bath. (As you can tell, the kids have played with this doll and its accessories a lot!)



These dolls are great for a present. If you have a child who loves unboxing and unwrapping lots of little toys then this might be the toy for them. Prices start from £8.99, and of course they can play with the doll over and over. I know that ours do!

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

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sleep Posture to Support Your Spine

As a very busy parent, sleep means a lot to me. I know that sounds a bit weird, but having had all of the sleepless nights with young children and now managing the home, working and doing my degree, it's really important that I get a good night's sleep. I must admit, I am a bit of a night owl and I don't get that many hours sleep. In fact, I used a sleep app last week and I averaged about five hours a night, which is not great, but I seem to function quite well on that.
What I think is important about my sleep pattern is that I sleep soundly. I rarely wake in the night and I hope that I don't toss and turn too much!

The kids' sleep is quite another matter. They are up and down before they have even nodded off. You can imagine the kind of requests we get - "Mummy can I have a drink?" "Mummy can I have some supper!" The list really is never-ending with them. However, eventually they do fall asleep and only sometimes wake up at an ungodly hour and get in with us. We can cope with that!

Research suggests that a good posture in bed is helpful for a restful night's sleep. I think especially as we age things ache and creak - a good night's sleep with good posture could probably work wonders.
Adjustamtic beds have been created to help you do just that. Check out this video to see what they say about posture in bed:


Sleep is so important. I know that with our busy lifestyles and running around it is something that we don't get enough of. We work late, we're up early and we're in bed late. Sleep posture has really got me thinking and has really make me think about the importance of posture, to make the most of that sleepy time!

Disclosure: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Adjustamatic. All words and views are my own.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

On starting a PhD with three kids and all that...

I haven't written anything for ages that isn't an event or a review. I have been so busy, and this blog has been overtaken by events and days out for the kids. Which is a pretty accurate reflection of what actually happens in real-life, it's like a strange mirror on my life, and I suppose this blog, in content and form reflects this perfectly, even the title. I'm not sure what this is, or even who I am anymore.

PhD

Well, I have been accepted to start my PhD in October. Time has flown and it really is this year that I will begin. My scores at uni are a merit, I'm doing really well. Obviously I haven't just been "accepted" to do a PhD - writing my proposal has took me about nine months overall, part time. I have designed exactly what I will be doing over the next few years, namely studying protest groups in the 1970s with a focus on gender and the uncanny echoes we have of this in the present day. It's history, sociology, politics. philosophy. It is complex, interesting, new. I am excited to begin and I am hoping with every cell that I manage to secure some funding. I am certain it is worth funding, but I suppose that is up to the funding bodies to decide, not me!

Balance

Well, there is none.

I work at work, I work at uni, I am a mother and a wife and I write this blog. I love my uni work, but I often struggle to get to it. This means we have made plans so that I can balance my life better. Family life is a juggling act at the best of times, but we need to get smarter at it: the only person who suffers is me, because I tend to be the backbone of the family. I organise, plan, arrange.We have sat and discussed how we go forward - our roles have changed. My uni work is now being labelled "work" - I think in the past it was just my "little thing" or my hobby or whatever. It really isn't now, it is so much more than that and it is about time that we addressed the elephant in the room. A PhD is not to be taken lightly, and we need to plan. We have started already - I need certain things, a clear desk, new shelves, a desktop computer, time...

It all seems so obvious, but if this is going to work then this is how we do it going forward.

Against the Grain

I have been struggling lately. Not with uni work, or work, or the kids, or the home. Just with balancing it all. I feel under immense pressure to be perfect in everything - and no matter what I do I feel like I am failing. I don't have much free time, so I suffer from terrible isolation. This is true of a lot of students, but I would say I'm terribly alone. I moved to Liverpool from Manchester years ago, and I feel like I've never really settled in the place I live. I've had about two conversations at the school gate with people since I've been here and I don't generally get asked to do anything or go anywhere by anyone unless it's to do something for someone.
I don't read trashy magazines, or watch television. I don't like things other people like. I am painfully aware of being different. I think this is a product of going against the grain of what I am meant to be doing. I think when I first did my undergrad, it was a bit of a novelty, and then when I started my MA someone actually asked me why I would do that. I got a first class, I love my education, it is what I do. When this person asked me "why?" it was a judgement on what I am doing. Well...what else would I do? I don't want to have a spotless house, or a neat garden. Money is not my king, so I don't want a career in the private sector (I have been there and done that!) So now I am looking at starting my PhD, once again I find myself going against the grain. This is to do with gender and class, I think. Phrases like "ideas above her station" pop into my head. How ironic then that I am studying gender and class and this is the very source of my own struggle.

Things are changing fast and I can't quite decipher what is going on.

I tried to express this once to a colleague, and she completely understood what I meant. She said "It would have been much easier if you hadn't have done it." She was right, of course she was right. My eyes are open and I can't go back to closing them. I don't quite fit in where I once was. I've lost people, my views are different. I've not moved on, or gone anywhere. I don't think I am better or worse than anyone else, I just think differently. Yet at the same time, when I go to uni, I speak to academics and I feel like I belong there, whilst being absolutely completely aware that I might not belong there.

What is this silly working-class woman with three kids doing in my office talking to me about gender and Marx - who does she think she is??

Nobody said that. I'm sure that no-one thought that. This is "imposter syndrome" and I know that I have this. I always say I'm "pretending to be clever." I know I am not. I know exactly what I am doing.

The Hardest Part

I know a few people who read this blog and maybe look for something. Like a sign for me to say that you are doing the right thing for your life. I don't know. I know a few people who are training to be midwives in their 30s - they have kids, they're doing great. Maybe having a goal like that is easier for people to grasp.

"What's Kerrie doing now?"
"She's training to be a midwife."

"What's Kerrie doing now?"
"She's doing a PhD on left-wing radicalism"

See what I mean.

So if you are studying, it is hard. It's not the juggling that's hard. It's managing other people's expectations of you. Gender, class, other people's perceptions, what they believe you should be doing and what you are doing...It's about having the support of people. Having a support network.

My support network consists of one husband, who totally gets what I am doing and why I am doing it - we have spoken at length and he supports what I do. I think my kids (eventually) will get it.

But other people in my daily life? Not so much.

Am I doing the right thing? I don't know. Time will tell - but I can't turn back now. My eyes are open and somewhere some line has been crossed, and I can't go back.

I wouldn't want to.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Spa Days

As you know, I am very busy and don't often get a chance to do anything really relaxing. It has been a bit of a dream of mine to go off to a spa for the weekend with the husband and relax without the kids and chill out for a whole pamper weekend. At this moment in time we are just so busy with work and university deadlines that we can't even think of organising anything just yet. However, in the summer we are hoping to plan a little getaway, just us too. Here is what we might be looking for:

1) Accomodation

I'd love to spend time in a luxurious castle or hotel with a lovely big bath and luxury beauty products. I love a massive, a lovely view and maybe a real big wet room to unwind in. A lovely bottle of red, two glasses and waffle dressing gowns - sounds bliss doesn't it!

2) Food

No spa weekend away is complete without some lovely culinary action. We really are not very fussy on food. We like all cuisines and will try anything! I really love cosy restaurants, informal, with tasty food and candlelight - maybe some more red wine! Perfect.



3) Treatments

I would really love to have a massage. I am very busy and don't really get the chance to relax. A massage might help me to do this. This could be followed by a swim and sauna, and well... maybe another glass of wine!

4) Surroundings

A spa break for me would have to be somewhere in the countryside. Plenty of open spaces to walk around, maybe an old little town or village nearby with some cultural sights to have a wander around. I find this is the perfect way to unwind, and would love to do this.

A rare day without the kids!


5) Company

Well, it really is all about the company isn't it. I'm sure myself and my husband would have a lovely weekend. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy the company of our children, but sometimes... just sometimes it is lovely to just chill out, spend time together and relax without the little trouble-makers!

Another alternative would be create a little home spa. We could light candles, get some lovely beauty products, massage oils  and make some lovely food with good wine. Check out Ellisons to see what they have to offer! Sounds dreamy doesn't it. As long as we didn't get interrupted by the kids!

Disclosure: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Ellisons, all words and views are my own.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Anything is Possible #AchievementForAll

I was pleased to team up with Mobility Nationwide to write about achievements for all. As a mother of three girls, I am constantly trying to get them involved in sports, extra-curricular activities, homework and generally just encouraging them to achieve whatever they would like to achieve. At the moment, Alice and Rosie love ballet. They go every week and learn a new routine. It is great for their co-ordination, their team work and listening to instructions. They really enjoy it, and me too, especially since it is Dad who takes them to ballet while I have a little alone-time!

We are also looking forward to the girls starting their swimming lessons this year. I know that they will find it a challenge at first, and moving up the levels will be a big step for them. However, I know that they will be fine, and I will encourage them in the best way I can. I always want my girls to know that they can try anything they want to try, and achieve anything they want to achieve. This year we are all about encouraging our girls to try new things and take a new step.

Providers of used mobility vehicles Mobility Nationwide have produced this infographic about the success of the Paralympics to show that anything actually is possible. 




This post was brought to you in collaboration with Mobility Nationwide, who kindly provided the infographic. All words and views are my own.

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