Friday, 31 July 2015

The Fashion Undateables with House of Fraser

So, House of Fraser are running a competition on their blog at the minute asking bloggers to style one of their "fashion undateables" who are looking for a date and hoping to find the one.

Now, despite the fact that it is a very long time since I last went on any kind of date, I'd like to think I know a bit about finding the one, seeing as Mr Soundinglike and I are celebrating 20 years together this year.  If that doesn't make him the one then I don't know what does really.

Out of the two undateables I have chosen Jarrod to style.  I chose him on the basis that those glasses, that hat, that jumper, well, the whole lot's got to go really hasn't it?  It's no wonder the poor guy can't find a date...

Instead I think I've come up with a new style for him, suitable for taking his date out to a restaurant, nothing too formal mind you, although I still think it is important for him to make a good first impression.

Now, in the profile beneath his picture, Jarrod says that he likes a girl who can be one of the lads but not dress like one.  Well, I've got news for you Jarrod, I like a man to dress smartly.  It's no wonder that I fell for Mr Soundinglike when he was my date at a Black Tie Ball is it?

I do love a man in a suit, but suits are a little too formal for a dinner date I think, so I've come up with something a bit more casual but hopefully with enough wow factor to impress Jarrod's date.

Fashion Undateables

Firstly I chose this Ted Baker Haring Pashion Regular Fit Jacket.  There are so many blazers and jackets I liked that I found it very difficult to choose.  This one caught my eye because of the colourway more than anything, in particular the purple detailing.  The purple shirt that it is pictured with is nice too, but I think it would work equally well with a crisp white shirt for a touch of contrast.

I've chosen jeans for a more relaxed feel to the outfit and I don't think you can go wrong with a pair of designer jeans.  These Armani Jeans J21 Regular Fit Jeans fit the bill perfectly.

The Actors Lace Up formal shoes by Howick are just gorgeous (I have a real thing about proper leather shoes).  I love the navy blue laces and perforated detailing on them, which is still smart without being overly fussy.

To complete the look I have chosen this Skagen Ancher tan leather mens watch.  Not only is is a great looking watch but it provides the means for Jarrod to adhere to the most important piece of dating advice I have got to give him... don't be late!

All items are available at House of Fraser Menswear.

This post is my entry into the House of Fraser Fashion Undatables blogging competition.  All words and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Photo Projects for Parents during the School Holidays

Have you ever taken part in a photographic project?  I never have.  For one thing they last too long and I fear I might eventually lose interest and for another, well, let's just say that I'm not a natural photographer (see below).

So this week I've come up with some alternative ideas for photo projects during the summer holidays, and using my own camera roll as inspiration.

1.  Floor Project

Inspired by Sky Project which I remember seeing on my Facebook a few years ago.  Sky Project was essentially taking a picture of the sky every day for a year.  The trouble is if you are in the UK and at home with kids all day at the minute, it won't have escaped your attention that it rains all the flipping time.  So instead here's an easier one, subject matter provided by the kids after breakfast.  I give you Floor Project:  One photo of the floor, every day of the holidays detailing the mess caused by children.

The clever cropping means that you can't see that the handle of my dustpan has completely snapped off.

2.  Project 48

You might have heard of project 365.  A photo every day for a year.  That's easy though.  What us parents need is a bigger challenge.  How about Project 48?  A photo of a tantrum every day for 48 days! (That's the exact length of the school holidays in case you were wondering - I've counted.)

She wanted toast, not cereal.

3.  48 Happy Nights

Forget the 100 Happy Days thing that was doing the rounds on Facebook a while back. Instead 48 Happy Nights charts what you do once the children have finally gone to bed.  Which in my case involves lots of gin and crap telly.

No idea why this was on my phone?

4.  Embrace Apathy

An easy one this.  All you have to do is take your children out for a day in a museum (National Trust properties also work well here) and then take pictures of the thrilled looks on their faces as they peruse the exhibits.

We took them to a museum.  On a Sunday.  Before midday.  They couldn't even smile?

What do you think?  Could they catch on?

By the way, I hope your week is shaping up to be a less messy, tantrum filled and sad faced one than mine!

Aside from all that, this is my entry this week for the only photo project anyone needs during the summer holidays - #WickedWednesdays with Em at brummymummyof2. Do click on the badge below and check out some of the other entries.



I've reached a bit of a crossroads just recently. After 15 years as a stay at home mum I have suddenly realised that I'm bored.  Something is missing.

Stay at home mum? I hear you say.  The dream, surely?

Well yes, I have enjoyed my time at home raising children, immeasurably, but no, not the dream.  Not at all.

You see, this was only supposed to be temporary.  Maternity leave in late 2000 and then back to work.

DS1 was very ill when he was born.  So ill that I decided I just couldn't leave him.  After weeks of sitting by his bedside praying for him not to die, why on earth wouldn't I want to spend all the time I could with him?  I didn't want to hand him over to a stranger just so that I could go and sit in an office missing him.  So.  I didn't.

I appreciate I was very lucky that we could afford to do that.  I didn't give a second thought to my career.  Instead I suppose you could say that I protected myself with more babies, more time.

And then?

Twins.  Redundancy.  Belt tightening.  (No different to anyone else really)

We are treading water.  It isn't a terrible position to be in, but with five children at school I could be doing so much more with my time.  Going back to work would benefit my whole family, not just me.

"But Mummies don't work!"  Says my daughter.  She is five and I've already set an example.  The wrong example.  Guilt.

I want her to be proud of me.  I want to be more than a mummy.  I want another title too.

So here I am.  On paper well qualified.  Willing, but out of practice.

Applying for jobs has moved on so much in the last 15 years and I'm caught like a rabbit in the headlights.

Where on earth do I begin?  Flitting from website to website.  There are jobs I know I could do but then there's that pesky gap in my CV.  

Who am I kidding?  It isn't a gap, it's a chasm.  

And anyway, what if I'm not good enough?  What if nobody wants me?

What if I'm looking at the wrong sort of jobs?

I need that man from the Reed advert to crash through my ceiling, point at me and shout "beekeeper!" or something*.

I know this isn't going to be instant, I know that it isn't going to be easy, but I also know that I'm going to need some help.

I just hope I haven't left it too late.

* I don't want to be a beekeeper, a more office based role will do.

Monday, 27 July 2015

PLAY It! Manchester at The Museum of Science and Industry

Now that we're fully into the summer holidays and that first week of lie-ins and pyjama days and daytime TV is out of the way (or is it just me that does those things?), my attention is turning to the eternal conundrum of trying to keep the kids entertained for another five weeks.

Usually most efforts made by me on this part seem to fall flat on their faces.  Soft Play and crafting is deemed too babyish by the older ones (and rightly so) and anything more grown up is too difficult for my twins to appreciate.  It is really hard to find just one activity that they all enjoy.

That's a white lie actually. There is ONE activity that they all enjoy and argue about.


Which is why when the people at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if we'd like to attend their first ever gaming event, (which is suitable for children from age 5 and up) - PLAY It!, I was quick to reply to their email!

So on Sunday morning we got up bright and early, herded all five children into the car and made our way to MOSI to check it out.

My brood were understandably excited at the prospect of a room filled with every games console known to mankind, and even DH was quietly anticipating getting to grips with a beloved Commodore 64 and playing some of the classic games of his youth (Horace Goes Skiing, anyone?)

We weren't disappointed.

Where to begin?

PLAY It! really did have almost everything from the past 30 years of gaming. We played Pong and Pac-Man. My kids had a go each on Minecraft (of course) and Halo.  There was even an Oculus Rift which had a queue so large that we couldn't get near it!

Playing Minecraft (of course)

DS1 and DS2 both took part in some multiplayer games, I even found DS1 talking to a couple of other teens (no idea what they were saying - it was all geek, I mean Greek to me), while playing Smash Bros on a Nintendo Gamecube that had been set up with a huge TV screen and several controllers. 

The Gamecube

The gamer (in the shadows - it was really very dark in there!)

We lost little DS3 to Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox pretty early on and DH retired to the cafe area at the back of the room after discovering he was in his own personal hell - a room full of gamers.  I'm joking about that last bit.  I think he was just a bit disappointed that there was no Horace Goes Skiing.

A much loved Commodore 64 (but no Horace)

It didn't matter though.  Because for me, a parent who spends 99.9% of her life breaking up rows over the Xbox and who's turn it is next, I was just happy that all my children were busy for an hour and a half doing the thing that they love and not arguing!  An air of calm descended over me, rather like after a really large gin and tonic, as I watched them all enjoying themselves.

A rare picture of three of my children not arguing AND enjoying themselves!

Getting to grips with the Dreamcast

Playing a multiplayer game on the Xbox

After a while DD2 decided it was quite a good idea to pull me around the room by the hand and make me play games against her - there really is no arguing with a determined five year old is there?  She thrashed me on Mario Kart on the SNES and then beat me in some sort of rhythm game with maracas on the Wii.  I still beat her at Pong though.  Sometimes the games of your youth never really die do they?

I thoroughly recommend a trip to PLAY It! Manchester, which is on at MOSI until 9th August.  Especially if you or your family are as gaming obsessed as my lot are, or if you just want a trip down memory lane.  To find out more about it or to book tickets, visit their website here

We were given tickets to attend PLAY It! Manchester for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The School Holiday Mum Diet

I don't know about you, but we are well into the swing of the school holidays here.

It's going, um, well?...

No, not exactly.  Currently my days are resembling something from Lord of the Flies, with semi naked filthy savages cavorting around the house and generally hunting me down driving me round the twist.  That's just the twins.  The rest of them do at least put their clothes on (which is something of a relief as far as the teen is concerned).

There is another side to the holidays though.  One which until the shrieking and cavorting started, I had completely forgotten about.

The School Holiday Mum Diet.

This isn't the latest fad or even some sort of clever weight loss program that I've invented.  Moreover it's the realisation that only certain foods/beverages can carry me through this six week period, enabling me to remain a (mostly) completely sane human being in charge of other smaller human beings.

Sounds quite good doesn't it?

Well, if you fancy giving it a go, here is a typical daily diet plan (including timings)

7.30 am. Coffee.  Five cups (at least). A must if you are to function after the non sleeping, never tired offspring who didn't let up until about 10.30 pm last night, before finally going to bed.  I know you would have liked more of a lie in (it is the holidays, you know) but this is somehow better and will have you zipping around the kitchen making their breakfast in no time.

9.00 am. Breakfast.  So you've chipped the welded on Weetabix concrete off the kitchen table and cleared away the children's breakfast things.  Time to think about yourself.  That coffee has really kicked in now hasn't it?  Bet you are hungry.  How about bacon, eggs, toast (sliced white bread, which if your husband is anything like mine, has been bought in error), proper butter and some marmalade that you've found at the back of the fridge?  With more coffee (obvs.).  As it cooks, watch the smalls descend on the kitchen thinking it must be lunch time already.  It's confusing for them because they've never actually seen you eat earlier than midday before.  Usually you don't have time for a decent breakfast, what with all the school runs and stuff, but this is the School Holiday Mum Diet, it's all about feeding your face now!

10.30 am. Elevenses (OK I know, it's early). Your mum (or other kind friend or relative) pops round with cake.  Oh no! You think.  Not cake?  You don't eat that.  Never fear fellow School Holiday Mum Dieter! For cake is ON the menu!  Stuff as much into your mouth as you can, washed down with tea, or more coffee.  Whichever.

12.00 pm. Lunch, or is it too early?  No of course not silly!  Sandwiches all round, ham and cheese, mayonnaise, anything you can find in your fridge really.  Shove some Rocket or other healthy looking green things inside yours.  It is important to keep up your intake of fruit and veg after all...

2.00 pm.  A snack (to eat while secretly watching Judge Rinder on the TV in your bedroom instead of refereeing the latest argument over the Xbox). Your kids have some Percy Pigs left by Grandma, as if the M&S chocolate muffins from earlier didn't have quite enough E numbers to send them all soaring into the stratosphere.  There are not enough for you though, so compensate with hobnobs.  By the handful.  More tea or coffee.

3.30 pm. A large small argument breaks out upstairs over Bakugan/My Little Pony/Everything.  To help you cope, stress snack on half a pot of hummus, scooped up with the remains of a pack of so called "gourmet" crackers (really, they've just got rock salt on them).  Inhale them, like your life depends on it.

5.00 pm.  Start prepping something for your children's evening meal.  You can see an unopened bag of Kettle Chips in the cupboard next to the hob.  Don't open them!  Consuming these may tip you over your delicate calorie balance for the day.  Resist.  "Taste" the kid's tea instead if you must.

7.00 pm.  Husband arrives home.  Neck half a bottle of Rosé (about two large glasses) in half an hour with the relief of finally seeing another adult.  Go on sister!  You can do this!

8.00 pm.  Dinner.  Something crap from the freezer.  With chips.  I mean, who can be arsed after the day you've had?

9.00 pm.  Call it dessert, call it whatever you like.  There are still two Magnums in the back of the freezer.  You had forgotten about those!  They are all yours now...

Repeat.  Tomorrow.  The day after.  The day after that.  Until the beginning of September.

All yours now.

So there you have it.  A diet plan guaranteed to change your figure by at least one dress size in the space of six short (Ha!) weeks.  Upwards.

It's no wonder I've always struggled with my weight in the summer time.  It's obvious that the school holidays are to blame!

Still, I may be fat but at least I'm happy.

You'll have to excuse me now, my children are arguing again and there's a bag of Kettle Chips that has my name on it...

Thursday, 16 July 2015

A Summer Holiday Bucket List For My Teen

So the Summer Holidays are nearly upon us once again.  So I thought that now would be a good time to write a bucket list (these are totally a "thing" now - I've seen Pinterest) for myself and the teen.

You see, the older he becomes the more I realise that he is no longer a child, he is becoming a young man (and don't I sound just like my mother when I say that? Urgh.).

The thing is, the teen, how can I put this?  Is challenged somewhat in the life skills department.

I'm not blaming him.  I've been waiting on him hand and foot for nearly 15 years after all.  Totally my fault really.

And so, I thought that now it might be time to set him on the right path.  Any future daughter in law (or indeed, son in law, I have no clue which) may thank me for this one day.

I present to you, dear reader, perhaps the most un-pinnable summer holiday bucket list ever*...

My dearest teen,

The summer holidays are the perfect time to learn something new.  We all know that you have plans to move to the other side of the world as far away from your family as possible one day.  But, what can I say? I'm your mother and I worry that I have ill prepared you for your future.  So, this summer I intend to teach you the following skills:

1.  Boiling kettles.  They don't do this themselves (or fill themselves up for that matter).  If you want your own hot chocolate it's time to learn how it's done.  Once you've mastered this one then think of the possibilities!  Tea, coffee or even pot noodle!  The list is endless...

2.  Putting things in the recycling.  Particularly the rubbish on your bedroom floor.  By the way?  Things you can't be bothered to put away properly (e.g. school books) don't go in the recycling!

3.  Clothes that you need the following day?  If they aren't clean then now is the time to ask me whether you, YES YOU, can use the washing machine to clean them yourself.  Don't worry, I'll teach you.

4.  The dishwasher.  It doesn't load itself.  Includes memorising the location of the dishwasher tablets and the ON button.

5.  Mastering relocation of stray socks into the laundry system.  This forms part of the general picking your sh*t up off the floor and putting it where it's supposed to be skill set.

6.  Staying connected.  Learning to turn your phone ON and maintaining battery power so we can call you.  We worry you know...

7.  Reading the classics.  You have a reading list this summer.  It would be good if you could read and absorb the information within the pages.  It's a proven way to pass those pesky exams that are standing in your way to becoming the best gamer of all time. Or whatever.

8.  Want toast?  Excellent!  Let's learn how to toast bread and butter it without causing a major kitchen catastrophe. #WhyIsThereJamAllOverTheKitchenFloor

9.  Making your own bed without the need for nagging.  Learning that the clean sheets replace the dirty ones, they do not go over the top of them.

10.  Folding towels 101.  How to use and then fold and hang them back on the towel rail (named for a reason) following a bath or shower.  Includes symmetrical folding and the ability to see whether they need a wash instead of depositing on the bathroom floor.

This is your starter for ten.  Ace this lot and I may also include making your own lunch, dusting your bedroom, and the art form otherwise known as vacuuming.

Happy summer holidays!  As you can see there are plenty of life-enriching activities to complete while not at school.  Don't get bored now ;)

* A handy star chart may be added soon!  Although I'm not really very good at graphics...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Sunflower Competition Winner

You might remember a while back I wrote about how there was a sunflower growing competition in the twins' class at school.  If not then here it is again (although really why aren't you keeping up?  Do you think I write this for fun?  Oh, wait, I do).

Anyway, I planted a few extra seeds on account of the fact that the ones the school gave us were clearly duds.  I was going to win this, right?

And, it all started off so promisingly.

So well that I could practically be Alan Titchmarsh.

But the competition was long and boring.  Other competitors had obviously been cheating by using their swanky conservatories as growing places.

We had no such luxury.

And?  I forgot to water them often.

I am not cut out for this, am I?

Please tell me that there is no seed growing competition in Year 1?