Tuesday, 16 December 2014

How to survive second term blues

Many students at university enjoy a wonderful Christmas being spoilt by their family and friends, eating delicious homemade meals with their family and not surviving on takeaways and microwaves meals that they are used to at university. So when they are packing their bags to return to university in January they often can feel a sense of dread. These students are not alone; they are experiencing something called ‘the second term blues’, which is characterised as feeling lethargic and depressed for no particular reason.


Going home after the excitement of the first term can be difficult as they are leaving behind new friendships, you may be worried that when you return that those new friendships were just five minute wonders and they weren’t really for you. There are also many January deadlines awaiting you when you get back, whose idea was it to put deadlines in January anyway?

The weather is quite often awful, it's dark, and you may be in debt or heading that way and all the fun of the first term has been replaced by the long lectures, seminars and coursework. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, here are a few tips to help you through your second term blues:

Think positive 
Remember all the stuff you’ve been through to get where you are already. Think about how proud your parents will be the day you wear your hat and gown and receive your degree. Tell yourself that you are going to ‘boss’ your exams and coursework. Don’t let the bad weather get on top of you. Don’t let little hurdles get in your way. You’ve fought to get this far in your academic journey so far, so keep going!

Speak often to friends and family at home 
Whether it’s on the phone or taking the train home at weekends, speak to your family and friends. It’s worth going home to see your loved ones who will cheer you up when you are feeling down. Knowing that you’re not alone can be a big help. If you are an international student living in the likes of Urbanest student accommodation in London, it can be more difficult to go home, so to help you feel less lonely organise a skype call. You may also find that your flat mates are in the same situation so organise a night doing things to get to know each other better.

Go to a support group 
If you are really feeling low, many universities offer free counselling which are worth looking too. You might think how you’re feeling isn’t serious enough for counselling, but these are the reasons why universities provides this service. Depression can affect all aspects of your life from your work to your friendships. University counsellors will have spoken to hundreds of students before you who felt and feel the same way you do, so they have the experience to understand how you’re feeling and advise you.

Join a club 
A great way to keep busy and make some new friends is joining a club or society. Freshers week might have been a long time ago now but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. If you join a club or society it can add some excitement into your daily routine.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

To my boy on the eve of you becoming a teenager.

Big T, Thomas, you're about to become a teenager
Tomorrow you'll be 13
I remember the day you were born so clearly
You was quick to come into the world and was such an easy baby
You hardly cried 
I'd sit by your moses basket waiting for you to wake


As you grew we knew you was not like your big sister
At the age of 1 the tests were in full swing
You were so chubby, a cute chubby boy
This presented a problem when trying to find your veins
You'd cry but only after the nurses had attempted to take blood for the 5th time
The testing was soon forgotten by you and you'd return to your happy self
Always smiling, watching, thinking
It has been 10 years since you took your first steps
It was a magical moment to see
A moment we did not know if we would see
I am happy we did 


It has been around 7 years since your were formally diagnosed 
This was a major turning point for you
You joined a new school, a better school
You've been there ever since and will do so for many more years
I think you know everyone in the school and everyone knows you
No matter where we go you see someone you know
They are often greeted with a huge hug
As every birthday passes by you grow very little, but you are bigger each year
You will soon be as tall as the boys you so look up to 
The boys you say "alright laa" to despite it annoying me
I love that you know how to wind us and your siblings up
it is annoying but it is a quirk of yours that I treasure
I love that you speak your mind
but please don't tell the man on the beach he has a fat belly again


I love that you like many computer games
even if you do change them every 5 minutes
I love that you are fascinated that your 3 year old cousin talks
I love your innocence
I love that you still believe in Santa
I love that you enjoy playing with the kitten with his toys
but please stop locking him in the bathroom 
I can't believe you will wake tomorrow a teenager


Lots of love
Mum
xxxxxxxxxxxxx


Santa's Magical Grotto

One of the decisions that needs to be made at Christmas is where to take the children to see Santa. My sister in law recently sent out that very question on facebook and she had a good response. Many people voiced where their favourite place was which must have only made it harder to decide. I didn't have too much of a problem deciding where to take the children. As we only take the children to see him once each year we decided on visiting Santa's Magical Grotto at Chill Factore in Manchester. They kindly offered for us to visit them and review on our blog, I immediately accepted. I knew we would have an amazing time as we visited back in 2012
Finding Chill Factore is really easy and it is easily accessed by all transport routes. They have a large free car park so you won't need to battle for a space this Christmas.

As soon as we walked in through the doors I spied Peppa Pigs ears. I lifted my daughter up so she could see as we walked down to the desks. I knew she had caught sight of her when she whispered "Mummy, I can see Peppa Pig". We stopped for a quick picture and of course a cuddle with Peppa before we took our place in the Santa's Grotto queue. We handed over our booking number and were then directed to the desk where we would hire our warmer clothing from. They have a vast amount of coats and trousers for children and adults, they have green snowsuits for the babies and toddlers too. Clothing rental is £6 per person and I highly recommend hiring them if you don't have warm outerwear of your own. The helmets and snow boots are available for hire free of charge.
With our belongings safely in a locker and us all dressed for the arctic out we went for our snow session. My husband, I and the four eldest children were booked in for the Snow Park, my mother in law and little lady were booked in for Mini Moose Land.


The Snow Park is suitable for children ages 4 years and older. Sledge 'O' Mania is lots of fun, children who are four years and older can sledge here but you must be eight to use the carver sledge as they wizz you down the slope rather quickly(I appologise to the man I crashed into at the bottom). We all loved this part of the snow park and repeatedly raced down the slope, cold snow hitting us when we skidded to a halt. It brings back fabulous childhood memories when our winters were full of snow. 
Downhill Donuts was fun too, to ride on this one you need to be four years old and you get a mini donut to sit in. You just have to grab a donut and step onto the human conveyor belt and away you go up the slope. Little T loved the Downhill Donuts as did the two girls, I hardly saw the girls as they are old enough to decide what they want to ride but they had so much fun. They had been begging us to take them back to Chill Factore for ages and their wish had come true. I wonder how often they will ask to go back this time.
Lastly on the Snow Park is the Luge Slip 'N' Slide which riders have to be six years old. Little T was the first to declare he was going on here and I was right behind him. The slide is covered in ice and you ride down flat on your back on a board. As you slide around the bend you glide up the side from left to right, round and round till you come out at the end with the biggest smile on your face. It is so much fun and like no other slide I have been on before. 
Throughout our play my mother in law would bring little lady over from playing on Mini Moose Land to see what we were doing. I tried getting my mother in law to have a play on the sledges but she declined, she did say she would next time though and I will hold her to that. Little lady watched her older siblings play, I think she was itching to have a go on the sledges but she is too young at the minute. We did have a mini snowball fight though, you're never to young to throw snowballs at your siblings. 

Over at Mini Moose Land little lady played on the soft toys, the slide and even a mini downhill donut ride. She scrambled over the play frames and played on the donut slide many times. She was kept warm by the hired snowsuit, not once did she complain of being cold and trust me she enjoys complaining and is quite good at it for a three year old. She said she had a great time, the next time we go hopefully she will be able to join us on the slopes.
After our session ended we headed back inside to get changed and see Santa. 
Handing back our hire clothing was quick and simple, no queuing was involved at all which was great as the children were eager to see Santa. 



We rejoined the Santa's Grotto queue and waited. It took 45 minutes in total waiting to get to the front which is longer than was expected however it was on one of their busier days and I have to say the children were fully entertained by the elves. Little lady is not a fan of people she does not know. When people speak to her she respond with a death stare, this did not scare off the elves though. They both continued to involve her in the conversation and won her over with a candy cane. I thought it was nice that they secretly asked the parents before offering a candy cane to the children. They asked them what they will ask Santa for and Little T thought it was hilarious that one of the elves had asked Santa for the very same toys as he wants. I think they enjoyed their natter with the elves as much as they did seeing santa. When we went in to see Santa the little elves said we were allowed to use our camera which was a nice surprise, they do however take a picture of the children with Santa which is available to buy straight away. Some of the picture gifts are lovely and reasonably priced as a package.

After our visit to Santa we headed upstairs to open their gifts and have a nice cup of hot chocolate. The children were all thrilled with their gifts; we had an art set; a foam play set and the two eldest received mini jenga; they are the best presents they have received from a grotto. 

The trip would have cost £139 had we have been paying guests. I personally think this is a fair price for 3 adults and 5 children. Had we have just been seeing Santa then I would expect to pay much less however an hour on the slopes costs £20 alone so it is a very fair price. The hire of the clothing can bump up the price when there are many of you however you are able to bring your own warm clothing so you do not need to hire if it is not needed.

I would recommend a visit to Santa's Magical Grotto and will return in the future. I think next time I go I might have to try a skiing lesson. So far I have only been brave enough to watch the skiers come down the huge slope.

We were given free access to the above event. All opinions and images are my own.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Halloween Frankenstein and Pumpkin Marshmallow Pops

A while back Yolli sent me a selection of their range to try. Since it arrived I have been trying to think of something to make. I did make some cake pops in the style of a chicken but I was not impressed with them. I then saw some marshmallow Frankenstein pops on pinterest, I knew I had to make some and I knew just what products to use.
I only had white and milk chocolate melts so I had to improvise by colouring my white packet of melts after I had melted it. Next year when I make them again I will just buy the green and orange melts to make life a little easier. They were rather easy to make. I melted the melts over a pan of boiling water until they were the correct consistency then added the food colouring. I then stuck a marshmallow onto the white plastic lolly sticks and dunked them into the mixture ensuring they were fully coated. I sat them on baking paper to set, they set quite quickly so I was able to start to melt the milk chocolate for Frankenstein's hair. Once the mixture was ready I dipped him in and sat them aside in a tumbler till the hair was dried. I covered the pumpkin pops in the same way. Once they were fully dried I used royal icing to decorate them, I use royal icing as it sets quite quickly too.
Once they are all fully dry you can place them inside the little clear bags and seal with a silver twist tie, it is important that they are dry before putting them in the bag as they will spoil. They are then ready to be handed out to your trick or treaters or set aside as a treat for the kids. I had a cheeky nibble on one earlier, ok I ate the whole thing and I am please to report that they taste rather good. I think they are really cute and will look good next to the rest of the scary themed food. All I have to do now is refrain from eating them.


Did Asda send me a Trick or Treat?


Today I received a package from Asda, they sent me Bertie bones(that is the name I've given him). I think he is rather cute for a skeleton, he is cheeky too. He promptly stole one of the glow stick lollies that they had sent me. He is a felt skeleton and is a bargain at just £4. He is held together with split pins so his boney legs and arms all move. In his box he brought with him a bag of 8 glow stick lollies, a bag of his little mates, mini chocolate skeletons and a haunted house for them to all live in.

This year we bought our Halloween costumes from Asda. M and little T both had a trail run of their costumes at their school Halloween party. M looked amazing, we bought her the spooky white dress, it looked brilliant on and she looked rather scary, it was a bargain too at just £12.
Little T is Dracula this year, I put a white polo shirt underneath the top because the material is quite thin, it looked really good with it plus it was a tad warmer for him. Little lady picked her own costume this year, she insists on going to our party as a pink witch. She surprised me as I thought we were going to have an Elsa or Anna dress request for this Halloween. Big T went for a skeleton onesie over a costume, that way he can wear it more than once too. I saw some amazing costumes, I think I will have to throw a party for the adults one year and make everyone dress up.

They also sent me this haunted house gingerbread kit. We made a good attempt at it earlier today. The kids were really excited and couldn't wait to get stuck in. I had a bit of a problem with trying to get the icing to soften enough to use it but other than that it is a lovely kit. The kids were really proud of themselves once we completed it. I can't tell you what it taste like just yet as we have not tucked into it yet but is smells delicious.
What do you think, did we do well decorating the haunted house?




Halloween with Poundland

I love Halloween and every year we have a little party for the kids, each year I am on the hunt for different party ideas and of course I add to our ever growing stash of decorations. This year I have once again taken part in the Halloween challenge with Poundland.



Poundland sent me £20 to buy some of their range, I was a little late at getting to the shops this year as I have been snowed under with college but there was lots still available on the shelves. I stocked up on a range of goodies for all of the children that will come knocking. I picked up a black lipstick and nail varnish for just a £1 and bought some plates and horror bandages. I also went a tad crazy on the glow stick but I do have a good reason for that. I am going to use the glow sticks to put inside the balloons and I have created some toilet roll eyes, I will use the glow sticks inside them too. I will then plant them in the bushes around my garden.



I hope to scare a few kids, what do you think?



Monday, 27 October 2014

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.