Monday, 20 October 2014

Why Hello Guilt

Most of you may know that I am currently on an animal management course. As part of my course I am required to complete an assignment where I have to evaluate an enclosure at a zoo, I have to also design a zoo enclosure. To complete this we are scheduled to go to Knowsley Safari Park tomorrow and Chester Zoo during the week after half term. I feel incredibly guilty as I have never been to a zoo or safari park without the kids, I darn't mention anything about my trip to little lady, she loves our zoo trips as much as I do.
Last time we went to Knowsley was for the Jungle Dog event, we had an amazing time and I managed to get so many brilliant shots, the lions seemed to be full of beans and were brilliant. We also saw a zebra crossing, ok there were 5 zebras crossing but at the time we were in stitches.
Little T laughed for about a week about it, I still find it hilarious now despite no one else still sharing my humor in this image. I don't think I will have as much fun tomorrow and I doubt I will get many brilliant shots of the animals due to the UK getting the tail end of hurricane Gonzalo but that does not stop me feeling guilty about going without the kids. 
I should get you all to place bets now on how many times I will be looking around for them, although I will have my college friends with me, I will just have to keep track on them to keep me occupied. 
I have not made a decision on which animal enclosure to evaluate, I love so many animals I can't decide which one I would like to spend lots of my time near on the visit. I know I am going to design a tiger enclosure, I am even considering making it 3d, they'd have to give me a distinction then won't they?

I will share my design here when I am done, someone suggested I make the enclosure out of cake but I am pretty certain I would eat it before I handed it in. It will be 3d or 2d, no cake designs from me.

Do you ever feel guilty about going somewhere without the kids knowing that they would love it?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Life in the Fast Lane

Since I started college in September time seems to be going so fast. Loving my course plays a huge part I am sure, no part of my course is boring which is amazing. I am learning so much yet have so much to learn.
Less than 3 weeks ago I was handed my first assignment, when my tutor handed out the assignment brief the butterflies began to flutter, then came the dread, it was a presentation. I sat amongst my peers, they are all younger so have experience of presentations or how the hell you use PowerPoint. Power point to me was a plug socket. I questioned myself, could I do this, can I deliver a presentation and get a grade? Pass, Merit, Distinction or fail are the options. I am aiming for a pass, anything higher would be a bonus. So for my first assignment in 16 years I  presented the evolution of the cat. I think the assignment handing out is contagious because two other tutors followed suite. After a few days my presentation was graded and handed back to me, I did a silent squeal when I saw Distinction in the grade box, little old me can do this, I can do assignments and now work Power Point. I feel extremely proud of myself. 
This week I have handed in 3 assignments, the worst being the presentation which I now know I did well in, this weekend I will be doing more assignments along with maths and English homework, oh did I not mention that I am resitting my maths and English GCSEs, every Friday I turn up at college for maths and English, I keep telling myself it is just 1 year and hopefully if I pass I will be done with them
In other college news I am a class rep and campus rep, and today I had an interview to become a campus ambassador, I have taken on plenty of ambassador roles as a blogger so hopefully they will want me too and I can apply those skills I have learnt over the years as a blogger. I shall find out on Monday if I was successful. 
Home life is going super fast, Halloween, bonfire night and Christmas will soon be upon us. Little T has joined Beavers and M has joined Girl Guides, both are loving every second of it. C has started her important GCSE years at school and Big T has moved up a class at his school, we have had some problems with his medication, his previous teachers requested his medication be upped slightly so over the summer we managed to get his medication moved up to 40mg however his new teacher said he was too out of it so he requested that his medication be changed back to 30mg. This I was far from happy about and his teacher is too after talking to us and his past teacher. But the doctor now insists on it staying at 30mg so the school will just have to cope, if Big T gets in trouble for being naughty I will be annoyed. I can not be happy about this situation at all and I am eager for his next medication review. Little lady has returned to ballet and started nursery. She is doing so well and loves both ballet and school, she draws little pictures for me for when I return home from college. I get a run down of her day and then I tell her mine, she is as animal mad as me so she loves to hear about all of the animals at college.

I can't believe the school holidays are almost here, I will get to spend more time with the kids and cram in assignments. I have made it to half term almost, when it gets hard and I think I am not cut out for it I take a glance at my trusty bag. It gives me great advice and carries my heavy files and books.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My Beautiful Water Feature from Swell UK

Last month Swell UK sent me one of their lovely water features to review. The one they sent to me was the Stowasis Stainless Steel Sphere, it is available in a variety of sizes from 30cm in diameter right up to 200cm. The sphere size we chose was the 30cm one and with that came a 450 lph pump. Swell UK also sent me one of their Stowasis reservoirs to use with the sphere, the one they sent me was the round Deluxe feature reservoir. These two go together perfectly and could not be easier to fit. All you need by is an electrical supply. The wire length of the pump is 10 meters long so if you don't have an electricity supply nearby an outside weather box extension lead works perfectly.
Like I said earlier it is really easy to install, all you need is some muscle power to dig yourself an hole big enough to fit the the reservoir in at ground level. I chose my spot in the front garden, we tend to sit in the front garden on a summers evening and we use it daily so it seemed like the perfect location. When your hole has been dug and you've check the size is correct ensure your reservoir sits level. If it does place the pump on the base of the reservoir and fill it will water, there is a small cut out in the lip on the reservoir for your wire to run through. At this point I checked that the pump was working, it of course was working lovely. I placed the round cover over and fed the tubing from the pump up through the sphere, I carefully placed the sphere in the centre of the reservoir, now come the exciting part. I switched on the electricity supply to my new, shiny water feature and watched the water spill over the side of the sphere and back into the reservoir, a soft tinkling sound of water filled the surrounding area, I do love the sound of water running, I find it so relaxing. I had noticed that the pump was not pumping enough water up to cover the whole sphere but this rectified itself once I allowed it to run for a while, this gave the pump time to ensure it had no air bubbles restricting the flow.
It also took me a while to decide if I wanted large pebbles or slate to decorate the surrounding area and I eventually settled on a plum slate. I used 4 twist concrete boarders to hold back the slate and over time I plan to add a charcoal coloured patio surrounding my water feature and I plan to paint the wall that sits behind the water feature in a storm grey paint. I also plan to add small solar lights to the four corner so the light bounces off the steel of the sphere. The pump does require some routine maintenance and to help with this the reservoir lid has a small access hatch so you don't have to remove all of the stones or the sphere. This makes it quick and easy to check the pump is not sitting it any dirt.
I held a rehome day for Fresh Start For Hens recently and many of the rehomers commented on how nice it was, I have to agree with them. I love sitting out in the evening listening to the water softly running whilst the owls hoot in the trees, so peaceful. 

The spheres start from £129.99 for the 30cm diameter and the deluxe reservoir is priced at £89.99, I think both of these prices are fair as both products are excellent quality. The reservoir can hold 100 litres of water and goes perfectly with the sphere water feature. I know I will have a brilliant water feature that I can enjoy for many years. 

We were sent the products from Swell UK for the purpose of the review, all wording images and opinions are my own.

Decorating Tips for a Halloween Party

If you’re hosting a spook-tastic Halloween party this year, or just want something to delight the trick or treaters at your door, we’ve come up with some tips for decorating your home.  
There’s luckily something for all budgets too so don’t worry if you don’t want to spend a fortune; you can still make it look amazing regardless! 
Don’t be afraid to get thrifty and crafty 
If your budget is modest, don’t feel like you have to go out there and buy half the products in the Halloween section from the party stores. In fact, making your own decorations can be really interesting and surprisingly successful...and the best bit is, there are loads of easy things you can do if you don’t value your arty skills very highly! 
Get a bit creative and a massive white sheet and a bit of black paint soon becomes a spooky ghost – you can get fabric paints at George Weil for great prices too, and everyone tends to have a spare sheet lying around. There are loads of fab ideas here that are well worth checking out, and hunt around on sites like Pinterest for further inspiration, too.  
Look for supplies and decorations in different places 
Instead of sticking to the general party stores on the high street and online, it might be a good idea to look in different places for your decorations and supplies. This can be a good way to save on money but to also find unique stuff that’s a bit different to the norm. Places like craft stores are a good bet for higher quality stuff too. 
Think outside the box 
If you want something that will really amaze and impress, think outside the box of more generic idea and suggestions and look for something a little different. You’d be amazed at some of the genius ideas out there already so get hunting and you can soon get creating unusual and incredible creations.  
Incorporate the whole setting 
As well as decorating the indoors of where your party will take place and just decorating one or two rooms, why not really go for it and decorate the whole setting? From the path leading up to your home to your bathroom, there are loads of different ways you can incorporate the Halloween theme into your whole setting. This will get your guests talking until the next Halloween too as it will show how much effort you’ve put in! 
Get your family or the kids involved 
If you’re throwing a party as a family or as a household with your friends, get everyone involved. This is a great way to not only have a fab time all together, but also it helps shift the load a little! (It’s also great to get the kids involved if you don’t value your arty skills much as you can tell your guests they did most of the work!). Each person will bring new ideas and inspiration to the table which will work really well. 
In collaboration with George Weil.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Transport emergency headaches

In case of an emergency it is always good to have a money back up because not all of us have a money tree hiding at the bottom of our gardens, throughout our lives we will all need a back up at some point. Whether it be the bank of mum and dad, credit cards or even loans we all will need it at some point.
Recently I had transport issues for college. As I am a mature student I don't automatically get free transport so I was in a bit of a pickle when with just 2 weeks till my start date I was told it would not be possible for me to be able to get onto the college bus after I was told I could do so earlier in the year if they had a spare seat.
I don't drive and as my college is in such a rural location no public transport goes there in the morning. I had 3 options, give in and just accept that I would not be able to attend my course, this was the worst option. All year I have been working towards starting this college course and I would have been devastated if I would not be able to attend over something so silly such as transport. Option two was to get my provisional, take the day test for me to ride a moped then take out a loan to buy a bike, they don't come cheap despite but are far cheaper than a car. I was not a fan of this option due to the roads being more like a bike rally track & It was highly likely that I would come off the bike and injure myself. However despite all of that is was an option and it was my back up plan. My third option was to fight for a place on transport. I had help from a family member and the college were doing all they possibly could too so this was my first option. I am pleased we went down this route because I now get a comfortable ride to college and back again without riding the gauntlet.
I guess I am one of the lucky ones, a loan for me would be for a luxury but I know people who need loans to get by on the odd occasion, thousands of students each year take out student loans, thousand will take out a loan for their next car or even a holiday.
Next year when I go into my second year of my course I will be in a pickle again, we only have transport for one year so next year I might just have to take out that loan, hopefully it will be for a car and not for a moped. I have a plan, I will get my provisional and take driving lessons. We can't afford to run two cars at the minute but at least next year it will be a possible option.  I will need to drive when I attend university for veterinary nursing so I may as well set the wheels in motion now.

In collaboration with Santander 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Cirque Du Hilarious

The school holidays are in full swing now and I bet you are marking the days off on the calendar, fear not you only have 2 more weeks to survive. Just kidding I know you all love the 6 weeks holidays, it is these holidays that we cram in all the fun filled days to make the kids summers one to remember.  We recently took a trip to Blackpool to see Cirque Du Hilarious, you might recall I hosted a giveaway for them back in July, well in return I got to visit too. We attended with my in laws so were a party of 8, my eldest 3 children were staying with my Mum for a week so this gave us the perfect opportunity to spend with my niece and her Mum and Dad.
When we arrived we collected our tickets from the box office, and was told to go to the entrance, from here we were offered the lift but me being a huge chicken opted out and walked up the stairs instead. Once at the top we were asked to fold our pushchairs and take a seat, we chose a nice big table near the bar, right at the back. We ordered our drinks and waited for the show to begin.
Cirque Hilarious are award winning father and son duo so you know the chemistry and humor between them will be, well, hilarious. They have been together for 15 years and it really does show in their act. You will get Slapstick comedy along with a bit of cheekiness, a bit of magic, some audience participation  and if you don't laugh you are made of stone. I was amazed by the magic tricks, I still don't have a clue how they did it, little T almost popped a vein laughing at Danny. I laughed so much when Mick was trying to stay in character but found it difficult as he was trying not to laugh at what they were doing. I love that they laugh at themselves too. 
For those that are visiting with children I will warn you that some of the ladies are dressed in burlesque outfits, no more is shown that what you would see in my images but I just thought I would mention it. 
 No matter what your age you will enjoy it, there is something for everyone and the faces that they pull will have you in stitches. We all still say the comical catchphrases that Danny says now and it has been a few weeks since we went. All of us would happily return to watch them again. When their act went slightly wrong how they dealt with it was hilarious and they did all of this in the middle of the scorching weather we had, I know you will all know when I mean as it has rained since. They all worked incredibly hard to entertain us and entertain us they did! I highly recommend a trip to see them if you are a visiting Blackpool this summer.

Disclaimer- We were given free entry to Cirque Du hilarious, however all opinions and images are my own.

What do you want for your birthday?

Buying gifts for someone you have no idea what they want can be difficult, it can sometimes leave you in the middle of a store trying out your telepathy skills with the person who is to receive the gift. If you're like me your telepathy skills are as strong as your ability to fly. I hate surprise buying so I always ask them what they want, sometimes they still won't tell me and others give me a list of things that they would like, who do they think I am, Santa?
My husband for instance is easy, tomorrow he is one year wiser and I knew before asking him that he would know exactly what he wants, true to form he asked for a game for his PC, the game is not out till September so he can pre-order from Origin and have it as soon as it is available. He is so easy to buy for.

I am pretty easy to buy for too, this year I'm asking for a canvas. I have been looking around and found one with Photobox that I like, I also like the price, at the minute they have a sale on,  £23.99 for a 20" by 16" canvas is a bargain. The last canvas I had is the picture of my blog background, it is an image that is 3 years old now and everyone still comments on how they love it and ask how I managed to capture it. I find it hard to explain how to get the perfect shot but Photobox recently sent me this guide they created which explains it perfectly, the only thing I would add is to choose your subject carefully. They say never work with children or animals and I have to agree, if you want a posed shot, follow the guide provided and have patience. Candid shots are much easier to capture but I never get all 5 of the children in a candid shot. 
Animals can be very tricky to capture too but they can also be pretty funny. I wanted to get a shot of a giraffe the other day whilst at the safari park using the sky as the backdrop, it would have made a great picture only I chose a pretty nosy giraffe. The scene was set, I had it pictured in my head and now I just needed it in my camera, it wasn't meant to be though. My button pressing was not quick enough, before I knew it the giraffe was making friends with my camera lens. Once it saw I had no food it went back to head scratching with its giraffe mates and the picture opportunity was gone. I do like the picture I did get but lets face it, it isn't an award winning image. 

The picture I will be getting on a canvas this one, it is a posed shot and again people comment on how they love it, I love it too but I giggle when I see it. What people don't know is that little lady was about ready to thump her brother, I can still hear her now telling him to get off her and to go away, you can see in the image she is pulling away slightly. Little T just looked at us like she was so amateur. I think it will look great on canvas.
Next up is buying for the children, some of mine are easy and some are difficult. Big T is always hard to buy for. I wrote a post on hunting for the elusive indestructible toy last year and it still stands only now he has found something he loves, loom bands! He would happily spend most of the day creating huge lengths of looms bands only to unpick them and start again. If I buy him the scented ones he goes into sensory heaven. They are brilliant for his fine motor skills too. They are most parents worse nightmare but for me they are a learning tool. My older children get creative with them too making figures for the younger ones so they all get to enjoy loom bands.
That is the remainder of the birthdays sorted for 2014, games, canvas and loom bands galore!
Now to get started on the next gift buying frenzy that is known as Christmas, did I mention it is only 19 weeks away? 
Are you easy or hard to buy for?