Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Review: Tatton Park's 12 Days of Christmas

With Christmas just a few weeks away, we were excited to be able to visit Tatton Park in Knutsford and join in with their festive activities for their 12 Days of Christmas.

There are a number of amazing family-themed activities and things to see in Tatton Park, and we were very excited to get to hear about them. There are many festive activities to enjoy in this huge park, including a masked ball, craft fair and lovely wintery walks around the grounds. You really would need to spend a full family day out here to appreciate what the park has to offer. Below I have included a couple of the events and details of how we got on. I hope you enjoy reading and enjoy visiting with your little ones!

Do visit their website for further information on any of these events.


Christmas Mansion

The Christmas Mansion in Tatton Park has been decorated in full-on festive fashion with each room representing the song 12 Days of Christmas. Each room is decorated from the state rooms to the servants's quarters. There are craft demonstrations available, and you can even make your own origami swan to take home. There is even a magical Christmas wish tree!

Father Christmas at the Farm

We spent a lot of time on the farm with the kids. Our kids absolutely love farms at the best of times, and with a Christmas themed farm you couldn't really go wrong. We started off by watching a Christmas brass band playing all of the festive favourites - complete with Christmas hats! There was even a jester happy to entertain us with his pretty cool juggling skills. Our girls were wearing elf-jumpers so they were all in for Christmas fun! Next we checked in with the reindeer. We also saw horses, goats and chickens.



We had a little visit to Aunt Mary's Christmas cottage where she explained how (in the olden days) people used to make their Christmas decorations our of salt dough! This was a lovely little story, and Alice is really keen on history at the moment so she liked this part especially. The girls were able to take home a small salt dough tree decoration each to paint at home.



Next we went on some rides, and bought a cup of coffee - it was cold, if you are venturing out this winter, be sure to wrap up - I don't remember it being this cold this early last year! We looked in on the Elves Workroom, then on to Santa himself. The kids had fun chatting to Santa and his elves even painted their faces for them. They each received a lovely little gift and came home with a smile on their face.



I would really recommend this as a Christmas experience. There was something really special about being out in the open, the reindeer, Santa Claus, the elves, and even the cold to be honest - it was all so Christmassy. If you are planning to go and visit a few of the attractions do check the opening and closing times and plan for at least a full day. We had an amazing time.



Father Christmas at the farm was priced at £7 per adult and £6.50 per child. I think this was good value, as it was not just a usual visit to Santa - it is a full farm visit with face painting and a gift included - we spent around two hours at the farm and could have spent longer but time was ticking on!

For more information do visit their website here. 

We were invited to Tatton Park for the purpose of this review, all words and views are our own. 

Getting Ready For Christmas #GetChristmassy

We absolutely love this time of year. The kids get very excited in the run-up to Christmas - the Christmas tree, lights, decorations and preparations for Christmas all being in full swing from late November right up until the big day itself. I think it's really important to get organised and sorted so that when Christmas actually comes and there is time off work, we can spend it together properly as a family and enjoy the family time together.

As you know I am super-organised so I thought I might list some tips here on how to #GetChristmassy without the stress!


These two love Christmas :)


Deadlines and Lists

I don't know about you but I have a lot of deadlines around about this time. Things can get hectic, and I want to make sure that I make the most of the time off with my kids. That's why making lists and setting my own deadlines is important. I love to set myself a task list each day and try and make sure that I can switch off completely in time for Christmas holidays.

Presents Vs Time Together

I personally think that spending a fortune on Christmas presents can suck the life out of Christmas a bit. We just spend what we can and try to make our Christmas about experiences as a family rather than going over the top with expensive gifts that might turn out to be a one-minute wonder anyway. We enjoy Christmas in a variety of ways, from Film Night (snuggling on the couch with blankets, popcorn and Christmas films,) to eating out together as a family. There are so many amazing  Liverpool Restaurants  to visit and we always make sure we have a meal planned over Christmas!

House Decorations

We do enjoy Christmas decorations, and make sure that the kids get involved with their organisation. It doesn't always have to cost a fortune and there are ways that you can decorate your house that are really quite inexpensive. This year we have candy canes on the tree. To be honest I am not too sure how long they will stay on there, but I think they look really lovely and they remind me of the Santa Claus movie I used to watch as a child.



Christmas Food

I'm not sure about your family, but mine all like different vegetables, different types of potatoes and meats, so I have to plan quite carefully. This year we have a bit 'Christmas Shop List' and everyone in our house will have a job to do to help prepare. I find that it is not only fun to prepare food together but it is a great way to teach the kids to get involved with the Christmas preparations - who doesn't love prepping sprouts!?

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, I wish you a happy one for you and your family!




Thursday, 30 November 2017

Liverpool's One Magical City

We were delighted to be asked to attend the Liverpool lights Christmas switch-on. Liverpool has been my home town for almost ten years now, and I love it here. It is a vibrant city filled with amazing people, history and heritage. We also love a good Christmas lights switch-on event. The kids love Christmas.

Liverpool's One Magical City this year is fantastic and is probably the best Christmas for the city yet.



 The lights switch-on was fabulous. We walked around Liverpool One and encountered story tellers, carol-singers, dancers as well as some fabulous light displays and exploding ticker-tape at the finale. We had a drink under the beautiful Christmas tree at Bar Hutte - we really loved that. The bar is fully heated and includes separate little cabins that can be reserved - complete with Karaoke! We thought that it would be great to return here just as a couple at some point and spend s few hours just relaxing with some drinks under the tree.

As a family we were keen to explore what Liverpool had to offer the kids as well as adults. We explored Liverpool One and went to the funfair in Chavasse Park - the kids had an amazing time on the rides - laughing and screaming as they went. There are lots of food outlets - German sausage, waffles and beer, all available in Chavasse Park. It had a really lovely festive feel, and the Christmas lights and effects were just beautiful.

After this we wandered around the shops in Liverpool One. Liverpool is a great city to finish off the last of your Christmas shopping (or just start it, depending on how organised or bothered you are!) There really is something for everyone.

We were then treated to a lovely meal at Viva Brazil on Castle Street. Viva Brazil is a favourite of ours, the kids always enjoy the buffet-style experience with unlimited meat. Staff were friendly and helpful and we had the perfect end to our evening.



Liverpool is a magical city all year round. There is so much to see and do, and so much to explore. If you are planning on visiting, do check out the One Magical City website to check opening times for bars and events.

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

Monday, 6 November 2017

Review: Awesome Walls Liverpool

Over this half term we were delighted to be asked to visit Clip N Climb at Awesome Walls Climbing Centre in Liverpool. If ever there was something different that we could try with the kids while they were off school - then this was it!




Awesome Walls is housed in a 150 year old church with 1,000 square metres of space and a variety of different walls to suit all abilities. We were invited to review the Clip N Climb experience - suitable for children over the age of four and including lots of wacky, fun coloured and textured walls for the kids to tackle!


When we first entered the building at our allotted time, we were amazed by the number of different walls available that will suit anybody - from the first time climber to the more advanced. The first thing we did was listen to a safety briefing where it was explained to us where was safe to walk and which areas we should avoid, as there were a lot of children all together and our kids were beginner-climbers. The instructors then strapped the kids into their safety harnesses before letting them loose on the climbing walls themselves.


Alice is 6 and is a bit more of a dare-devil than Rosie, but even she was in awe of the height of some of the walls, but this did not prevent her from giving it a go after some cajoling from the friendly hands-on instruction team. Alice managed to scale one of the walls right to the top and press the red button!


Rosie is 4 and found it a bit harder going but still managed to get at least half way up most of the walls. All you could hear from all of the children involved (and especially our two) were screams of laughter and excitement. Their massive smiles as they left and questions in the car on the way home of "when can we go again?" told us everything we need to know about how much they enjoyed it!




We would definitely recommend this as a day out. The kids had ab absolute blast. Admission starts at £.4.50 for under-7s and there are a variety of taster sessions and membership options available that you can check out on their website.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Review: Play Factor E

We were really excited to be asked to come and review Play Factor e play centre in Manchester. We are always looking for new places to take the kids, especially over half term. There is nothing worse than them being stuck in bored.


Play Factor really is like some kind of children's heaven. It has a really large play area for the over 5s, complete with huge mega slides, climbing material and soft play items stacked as high as you can imagine! There is also an area for go-karts, a smaller play area for the under 5s as well as a cafe.


We just let the kids loose in the play area. They are old enough now that they can pretty much get on with it. However, Rosie did need a little help on the largest slide - so Dad was only too happy to step in and hold her hand down the slide!



As you can tell from the photographs - the kids had a great time. We went quite late in the day so it was actually quite quiet. Myself and Warren sat and had a coffee and a tea and to be honest we found it actually a really relaxing experience! The kids were running around for the whole time we were there - there is actually no way to get bored in a place like this of course!



Coming up at Play Factor is a Halloween party, so that would be great fun. It is such a large space in there, with plenty of helpful staff on hand too. I think this would be a great place to take the kids over half term. Prices are really reasonable - do check out their website for peak and off-peak prices before your visit.


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

Review: British Music Experience at Liverpool

As it is half term we were looking for new and exciting things to do with the kids. We are very thrifty usually and enjoy picnics, museums, parks and other low cost activities - lets face it, it can be hard entertaining kids without it costing the earth. We were really excited to be asked to review the British Music Experience.

We are keen musical-types in our house. Warren plays drums in a band and well I just like to pretend that I am in my own imaginary band - you can read this as 'doesn't play an instrument and hasn't got a clue,' which is probably close to the truth! Anyway, we like to listen to music and I am obviously a geeky history-type, so I am very interested in counter-culture and the cultural influence of music on people in the late 60s and 70s. The kids love music and instruments, so really this was always going to be an ideal day out for us.

We were actually really surprised at how child-friendly the experience is. We began at Story Time with Dougie. The kids were really excited to be taken on a musical story telling experience, complete with instruments and flowers in their hair. Dougie even made a guest appearance at the end!





Once we entered the experience we were given audio guides, which were great. Full of information and images. The experience is chronological starting in the 1940s and working right up to the present day. I loved how interactive it was - you could operate the computers yourself to skip to any musical generation you wanted to learn about, and of course there are many original artefacts such as hand-written lyrics and instruments as well as outfits and other paraphernalia.

They also had a stage where a show is played every so often. We watched Boy George beamed in with lasers singing Karma Chameleon. It was great - technology is amazing. We saw the Spice Girls original outfits, handwritten lyrics from Adele, and many more amazing items, as you can see from the photographs.




The kids favourite part was them learning to play instruments. There is a whole dedicated area with guitars and drums complete with headphones and a digital teacher. We stayed in this section for a long time, and obviously Warren was the best player, but we had fun.



A family ticket for two children and two adults costs £43, which I think is excellent value. We stayed for around 3 hours and really enjoyed our time there. The kids are now at an age where they can enjoy outings with us without working against us - so the experience was really a good one, and we spent a long time looking at all of the exhibits with the children exhibiting their very own brand of good behaviour - which is always a bonus!

We would really recommend this experience for music lovers. Great for parents and plenty of things for the kids to enjoy too.

To book tickets visit their website here.

Disclosure: We were invited to view the British Music Experience free of charge for the purpose of this review. All words and views are our own.

Review: Sleeping Beauty at St Helens Theatre Royal

We love the panto. The kids absolutely adore singing and dancing along to their favourites, and we particularly love St Helens Theatre Royal. The venue is so cosy and lovely for families - we are always made to feel so welcome and always have a great time.

Sleeping Beauty was no exception - we had an absolutely great time. The classic Sleeping Beauty was given a St Helens Theatre twist, with the usual hilarious Dame and very engaging Chester the Jester, who was great with the kids and had some really funny adult humour that you would expect from a pantomime aimed at kids and mums and dads.



To book tickets see St Helens Theatre Royal Website

The show runs from 21st October to the 29th October, with tickets starting from £11.



We had an amazing time and would highly recommend this show. The kids were engrossed all the way through - it was a real sing and dance along show and of course they involved the kids and thoroughly entertained us too!

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

Friday, 20 October 2017

Review: Manchester City Stadium Tour

We were very excited to be asked to review Manchester City's stadium tour - however, we were so busy that we were unable to attend this time, so instead we sent along my brother and my nephews in our place. They are Man City fans so it was the perfect day out for them. They told me all about their day and shared their photographs with me!



They started off at the City Shop and were escorted to the Chairman's Suite.They then went down to the media room where all of the post-match interviews take place. The tour guide was brilliant, very helpful, great with the kids and she gave them loads of information about what each room and space was used for. After this they went into the player's warm-up area which is a pre-match area for the players to warm-up.

They then moved through the player's changing rooms and had a good look around, smiles all the way of course! The First Team changing rooms have been refurbished since we last visited and they now include quotes on the wall from Tony Walsh's poem "This is the Place," which I think is a lovely touch for my home town of Manchester as well as the club.



The stadium has recently been re-vamped, so it now includes a new hospitality suite called The Tunnel Club, where guests can see the players as they walk out onto the pitch through the tunnel. It sounds amazing.

The boys had such an amazing day. This would be a great gift idea for someone who loves Manchester City, or someone who would love to see a state-of-the-art football stadium.

You can see the options for booking a tour here. They are very reasonably priced at £17.50 per adult and £11 per child, which I think is great for a fab day out.


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 :)



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