Thursday, 3 September 2015

Casinos, Corrie and Carla Connor

So anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge Corrie fan; sorry that's Coronation Street to the uninitiated. I literally don't miss an episode and thanks to my Mum, didn't in my childhood either, so it's been a habit that's been with me for well over 3 decades.

At the moment the biggest story line is Carla Connor as we watch her guiltily gamble her life away, whilst being held back from the brink by Nick, with Michelle as his sidekick. That Wiki link I have linked to for Carla makes interesting reading as it's reminded me, not only of how many partners Carla has had, but also that her and Nick have been involved together before - but in business, not romantically - with Nick's Knicks etc...

The heavy huge weight of guilt that is causing Carla's demise is not even her own to carry, as the candle was quite literally lit by Tracy...
... a truth that has just come out to Tracy's new (old) flame and ex-husband Robert. Unlike Tracy, he seems to have a conscience and doesn't want to see Carla in the frame for something she hasn't done. Tracy herself is starting to get twitchy about the secret she is carrying, but it'll take her a while to truly care deeply about Carla given their history. After all Tracy should be happily married to Carla's brother now, if Carla hadn't guessed that Rob had killed Tina. Not just guessed but also gone the extra step, and called the Police, thereby ruining their wedding.

I guess it can only be the fact that she is now happy in love again, that can heal this rift sufficiently for Tracy to come clean about who started the Victoria Court fire*. The fire that could have killed her own daughter who was staying that night with Carla. It's a terrible tragedy that Kal and Maddie were killed when they were not even nearest to the start of the fire. Carla and Amy were, but were saved. This is the sort of tragedy that is often seen in real life, where sometimes for example, a driver causes an accident and deaths but somehow walks away from the scene with only injuries.

* But of course it is not quite as straight forward as that - it never is when Tracy is involved!

As viewers we know that even if she had bad intentions for letting herself into the flat, lighting the candle was NOT done with the intention of starting a fire, so the guilt she feels there is genuine, even if she isn't quite as compassionate about Carla as Robert is. Despite her heart of stone though Tracy is starting  to unravel.

But back to Carla Connor's Casino habit... I don't know if I have an addictive personality. I've never been addicted to alcohol, despite many a drink up at University and have never tried drugs. I do have a bit of a sugar addiction though, where I always feel tonnes better every time I crack it, forgive the pun. But with Carla's alcoholic history, it is really no surprise that her dabbling in gambling led to her losing.... what was it, £30k at the last count? And she's not stopped yet. I think it is personalities, and rather circumstances, that lead to these addictions, rather than the habit or substance itself. After all, reading her Wiki write up - as I mentioned above - has certainly reminded me what she has been through. Wow she has been at the helm of quite a few huge story lines. I KNOW she is just a "Soap" character, but my Corrie and Eastenders characters are like family to me!
Seeing Carla visiting the Casino reminded me of friends I have known over the years who have also gone. To them it is a positive experience where the food is free and all the staff know your name. Like with anything, some people dabble, some people become addicted. I think Carla likes losing as much as winner, as it is a way of saying to herself "you deserve it, people have died because of you". So self worth I guess is at the centre of it.

This story line made me want to know more about gambling and more specifically the UK's history of online gambling as I am forever seeing Carla slamming that laptop shut - I had no idea about the Antigua and Barbuda connection. So I did some research and couldn't believe that the first Super Casino (Las Vegas style) was to be in Manchester if Gordon Brown had not cancelled it in 2007 after them winning their bid in January of the same year. How ironic, with Corrie being the jewel in Manchester's crown. If you say that you don't gamble, just ask yourself whether you do the National Lottery? After all the stats say that 70% of UK adults do, and the lottery is classed as gambling. In our house it is just my husband that does it, but I know my Mum in Ireland religiously does their Lotto.

Although post-2000 saw an opening up of gambling restrictions compared to that of the 1960s, the law in its new guise is strict that:
The Bill also set out guidelines stating that gambling will be unlawful in the UK unless granted a licence, permit or registration. It outlined the penalty for being in breach of these guidelines, that being a maximum of six months in prison, a fine, or both for each offence. Any person under 18 will not be allowed to gamble and it is an offence to invite or permit anyone under the age of 18 years old to gamble.
So really, that means a child shouldn't be allowed to buy a lottery ticket - I wonder if newsagents are strict on that? Do any of my readers know?

I know that glamorizing things can sometimes be the cause of addictions, or be the invite that sparks the flame of interest. The only time I have ever seen a Casino look glamorous (as in, I don't normally get to walk passed one) was back when I frequented Westfield Stratford, seeing the steps up to it, like an unknown entity that made me curious.

Reading up on it, it's no surprise that it held that appeal. It sounds just as glamorous as it looks:
Aspers Casino Westfield Stratford City is the largest Casino in the UK and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This stylish venue offers a wide selection of games across 60 gaming tables and 300 slots and electronic machines. Aspers also boasts the biggest poker room in London 360 seats extending to 500 for bigger events.But it’s not just about gaming. The Sky Bar has a roof terrace with panoramic views of the Olympic Stadium and offers an extensive speciality cocktail menu and live entertainment.
My Step Dad let me do a Yankee accumulator bet on horses when I was little (he clearly didn't know about the 18 years of age restriction). I won £40+ pounds, was terribly excited, but even at that young age, told myself, it would be a slippery slope if I played again as I couldn't possibly win every time. I put it down to beginner's luck (as I have always had a lot of that) and moved on.

As with alcohol, gambling should be recreational and fun. If you think you and/or a family member may have a problem, go to Gamble Aware for advice and a quiz to find out more.

I was interested to spend some time on NetBet Casino to see what their stance was and found the following:
Define your prioritiesThe time and money that you invest in gambling should never take precedent over, or interfere in your family, professional or social commitments. Impinging on your work or studies or on your family or parental responsibilities; Damaging to your health and hindering other activities that are crucial to your well-being (sport, a balanced diet, rest).You should know how to set your priorities and how to maintain a good physical, emotional and relationship balance, both for you and for those around you – this is more important than winning.  
Know your limitsIt is the responsibility of the individual player to be aware of the importance of setting time and loss limits – this means you can avoid spending excessive time and money on gambling, as well as losing out on the enjoyable aspects of it. The financial aspect is particularly sensitive and, unfortunately, *a lot of players succumb to excess and find themselves in debt as a result of gaming. It is important that you both fix [set] and stick to your limits.
The words *a lot of players alarmed me but this was countered when I found:
Group NetBet is aware that the majority of players know how to play in a controlled manner, but that a minority (around 2%), are compulsive gamblers. Group NetBet and ADICTEL’s shared goal is to help addicted players or those who display signs of being at risk of dependency and to take appropriate measures to reduce the numbers of compulsive gamblers.
I hope Carla Connor reconciles her demons. Even if Tracy doesn't come clean to the Police, it must surely put Carla's mind at ease that Tracy confesses to her. Maybe then Carla can be happy with Nick and Tracy with Robert? Or is that too much to ask from the two characters that can probably rival Gail in terms of how many ex-partners they have both had. Well for now, it is a gripping story line, at least for me. Maybe the rest of you are bored already?

This post is a collaboration but all words and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Back to School Back to Blogging

Sorry that I have been largely absent without leave from blogging for a few months, but perhaps with the schools going back today you may see more of me.

It was an early start, but we were ready 30 minutes early and at school 10 minutes early, which for us sleepy heads is quite some feat. I was very proud of how smart Aaron was this morning:
I got him back up on the worktop to recreate something HE did last year. Last year he was silly enough to get up there and I was the bigger fool for photographing it. It's now becoming an annual habit as it puts him next to his baby photo, where he is only 13 weeks old #bless. I wanted to be able to compare 2014/2015 pics side by side. Don't ask me to do that right this very minute though as I am not on the same computer (long story).

Last night despite many a late night over the Summer, I had Aaron asleep by 21:10. I was too tired to get out of bed myself then, so the iron on labels, that were to be actioned last night are still outstanding, despite my being sent a VERY nifty machine AND fabric tape by brother:

I've printed them all, just literally need to iron them on. I am not one to iron, but I think I will do it in front of the TV tonight. I loved playing with these machines, back in every job I ever had. It's really exciting that they do fabric tape too.

Much easier than the sew on labels my Mum used to use for my school uniform.

Anyway, I will update this post with how I get on.

I hope your back to school routine is as blessed as ours was this morning. Aaron was VERY excited to start year 1.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Birmingham Sea Life Review July 2015

With a Summer visit to Birmingham Sea Life, we really hit the ground running with the school Summer holidays. Aaron broke up on Friday 17th July and off we headed the next day Saturday 18th July.

I thought we may stay that busy throughout the 6 weeks, but being pregnant has seen our days out interspersed with PJ days, so it's been both exciting and restful.

It seems like every city in the UK is being regenerated with open spaces and big open air screens, with Birmingham being no exception. Has a very European feel to it and I was VERY impressed with our view from the multi story carpark and the sound of Frozen music bellowing out. 
You can get the vibe, with the sights and sounds we were met with on arrival by watching the start of our YouTube video.

I was very impressed with Birmingham Sea Life, even from outside before we entered, as you can see from the video thumbnail pic I've chosen to use above.

It's lovely and open plan in the reception area where you queue, with a lovely high ceiling and the beginning of sea life lego on display. The staff give a great welcome and we were ready to set sail for our tour of their facilities.
Aaron was immediately captivated and set the speed for our tour. Either delaying at something he was fascinated with or pulling us by the hand to the next display.

Until 31st August 2015 you can:


Birmingham’s National Sea Life Centre is hosting a special treat this summer…a chance to explore the secrets of the ocean and become a LEGO® City Deep Sea Explorer. From June 1st the Centre will feature a LEGO® City Deep Sea Experience where visitors can take part in activities to become an official LEGO® City Deep Sea Explorer. Visitors will be invited to get hands-on and build a LEGO® sea creature. They will also embark on a novel treasure hunt to seek out LEGO® creations hidden amongst the colourful marine life in the displays. Every Sea Life visitor will receive an activity pack that includes; an Official LEGO® Deep Sea Explorer certificate, sticker sheet, fun Scuba mask and more.
One of the rooms was dedicated to Lego, children playing in the centre, with adults seated all around. This was located approximately 50% through the tour and was the perfect oasis to have a well earned rest. We were able to chill whilst Aaron made a lego creation for us to photograph and share on social media. There was shelving there for the children to proudly display their exhibition before moving on. Was a very relaxed highlight of the day it must be said. You can see his creation next to him above. It may look small, but a lot of time, effort and thought went into it. Daddy and I were amazed at his concentration, dedication and attention to detail. His lego building ability is growing just like his arms and legs ha ha!
Excuse the blur, but my camera is currently broken so all pics were taken on my phone, which doesn't cope with poor lighting
All of the signage in Birmingham Sea Life is colourful and stimulating for little ones. The headings grab the early reader, encouraging them to ask Mummy or Daddy what the rest  of it says. Everything was maintained to a high standard and totally built with wheelchair and buggy access in mind as everyone moved around with ease. All of the displays had a huge amount of glass, meaning Aaron was able to see everything. The environment was very relaxed so he never ran far ahead. It was stimulating for adults and children so made the perfect day out for us all. We left there uplifted rather than tired. We were hungry though, as there are only vending machines in there, so factor lunch into your plans. After a long drive we were just anxious to get inside and start our day, as we weren't sure how long we needed in there. I'd say 4-5 hours will cover you seeing everything. 

If you like photo souvenirs there are several opportunities as you go around. You choose, collect and pay for them at a dedicated desk on departure. I ended up forking out for a large framed pic AND a keyring - oooops.

Daddy and I were transfixed by these jelly fish and could have watched them in a meditative state for an hour had Aaron not been with us. They reminded me of lava lamps, which incidentally used to have the same effect on me. These are way better though and feature in my above video.
Aaron's favourite thing by far was the turtles. I videoed rather than photographed them though. There were large ones and small long knecked ones. They were surprisingly graceful. You can click here to see the: top 25 sea life creatures at Birmingham Sea Life

We queued for a short amount of time at the centre's 4D cinema to see 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. We were warned verbally and in writing, whilst queuing that the 4D effects were not working but we went in to view the short movie anyway. I am glad we did, as we all 3 of us enjoyed it, BUT our seats still vibrated, with each and every sound effect and it wasn't at all a pleasant experience. I am pregnant and I just kept thinking "what on earth is the baby feeling and is it frightening him/her". As much as I loved the cute film and storyline, I wouldn't put me or baby through it again. It frightened Aaron too, so when we recently went to At-Bristol, before going into the Planetarium I had to assure him that they had neither 4D effects nor vibrating seats; he only believed me when a staff member told him same.

The Amazon is a beautiful part of the Birmingham Sea Life centre, with lots of waterfalls and beautiful sounds. In fact all of the displays provide for a very chilled atmosphere that takes you away from it all. I was worried I would be disappointed like I was when I visited the Aquarium in London many years ago, but it's way better. (Perhaps London has got better too since I visited).

If you have a child who likes soft play, or generally being active, then allow anything from 30-60 minutes for departure as this is just before the exit (below). It is not massive, so at first Aaron said it was "babyish" but it didn't stop him having a grand old time for an hour in there, and protesting when it was time to leave. It's in a very limited space, so there is no coffee and very little space for adults to sit (unlike the Lego room which had plenty of space to sit) but it is a welcome spot for the adults to chill again after being on your feet touring the aquarium.

Given the limited seating area, Daddy chilled immediately outside by the water, whilst I watched Aaron play and as usual ended up talking to another Mum, who perfectly happened to be the Mum of the boy Aaron had made friends with. I only got to leave, because they were leaving, so said to Aaron "come on, your friend is leaving too". Was perfect timing as by this point we were all  very hungry.

We then joined Daddy by the water and chilled for a moment before heading on. 

We explored the BUZZING local area in the evening sun, before heading back to our nearby hotel - Premier Inn as always! We stayed in Birmingham for the convenience of being near Thomas Land the next day, so that is another review I have coming for you.

Disclosure: Our entrance to Birmingham Sea Life was covered for the purposes of an honest review. All words, opinions and photos are my very own. I remain 100% unbiased and honest in my account of our day. Please do drop me a comment if you are visiting and have ANY questions.

Friday, 21 August 2015

At-Bristol Science Centre Review and Shaun in the City Harbourside

It has to be said Bristol is my favourite city in the UK and At-Bristol Science Centre, the science museum, is one of its diamonds in the crown.

It's perfect whatever the weather and consists of two floors of interactive education that both adults and children love. In fact there were adult visitors  there who didn't even have kids with them.

The Planetarium is one of its many best bits. It's housed in a chrome plated dome and is the first 3D digital Planetarium in the UK. Not to be missed. Aaron came out of the session a Qualified Space ExplorerYou cannot use a camera at all in the Planetarium so I cannot share any pictures with you, other than to tell you that it is shaped as a globe (as you see pictured above). You get to pretend to open it up, so as to see the night sky; it's just magical and like the museum itself, VERY interactive. What they say:
After extensive work to create our new, immersive Planetarium featuring 360° digital 3D, 4K Ultra High Definition and incredible 7.1 surround sound! Using this system you can have an astronaut's eye-view of Earth, peer inside a glowing nebula, and even fly through the rings of Saturn!
Actually it goes on to say the following, which means we didn't even see it (as amazing as it WAS) in all its glory:
*Unfortunately Active 3D technology is unsuitable for under 6’s due to health restrictions
You can see from the blue sky here and above that it was GLORIOUS weather the day we went, which means we didn't queue for any of the activities. With this Summer being very on and off, I think people were out enjoying water and beach activities. When you get a few days of rain it encourages you to make hay when the sun does shine.

Even when sunny it's worth sneaking in to At-Bristol for half a day as you can spend the other half in the sunshine as we did, gloriously experiencing the beautiful day from the upstairs of an open top bus.

Plus even if water is your thing, there's plenty of paddling space and water features aplenty just outside At-Bristol right by the above Planetarium. Also, At-Bristol is right on the Harbourside. A very picturesque location that makes you feel like you could be anywhere in Europe. I've included some Harbourside footage in my youtube video.

If Shaun in the City is your thing there are several near At-Bristol. 

You can see a snazzy video of the Bristol Shaun The Sheeps' multiple installation here

The easiest way by far to track your progress and locate the sheep though is to download the app. 

The one you see pictured here is Justice Lamb, designed by Mike Ogden, which I spotted in Queen Square. I'd popped there to collect my Press Pack as we were guests of Destination Bristol for our day out. I didn't know at the time though that there are 2 at Queen Sq - ooops!
This is Beach Boy, designed by Mike Ogden again, and is located on the Cascade Steps, Harbourside. Even nearer to At-Bristol though is the Life Aquatic Shaun the Sheep, which is right outside Bristol Aquarium, and designed by Peskimo.

There are 9 trails in total. Firstly Sheep Drive, then Downs trail, then Brunel Trail, Heritage Trail, Farmyard Flock, Harbourside Trail, Southbank Trail, Old City Trail and Temple Trail. The Harbourside Trail is perfect to combine with time at At-Bristol, is 5km long, estimated at a 2 hr walk and consists of seeing 12 Shaun The Sheep in all.

Get the official Shaun in the City App for up to date and easy trail navigation. Get souvenirs  from the Shaun in the City shop at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway. Driving or busing to Cribbs Causeway will find you another THREE sheep :-)

Aaron stayed with Daddy whilst I went to Queen Square (hence not being in the above Shaun the Sheep photo) as they were both dumbstruck in awe of the Whales swimming in 70,000 recycled plastic water bottlesI got this overhead view on a craft workshop at At-Bristol with Hillary's Blinds :-) where I made this.

Bristol Post says of the whales:

Two huge whales have made a splash landing in one of Bristol's biggest squares.
Two life-sized model whales will be swimming through an ocean of 70,000 plastic bottles in Bristol's waterfront. It is part of a new art installation built by Cod Steaks, together with Artists Project Earth and funded by Arts Council England. The sculptures, made of Somerset willow, will be surrounded by plastic bottles recycled from the Bristol 10K and Bath half marathon earlier this year. Lead artist and managing director of Cod Steaks, Sue Lipscombe said: "Whales are intelligent, beautiful, charismatic animals and have become symbols of the world's oceans. Our sea of recycled plastic bottles represents the detrimental effect of plastic pollution on the ocean which is something that all of us can act on – today – by reducing our consumption of single use plastics.
Anyway, back to At-Bristol. You can see Aaron's FAVOURITE activity by far by watching our video (apologies it is all filmed on my phone as I recently *sniff* dropped and broke my camera).
We visited those parachutes both morning and afternoon, before and after the open top bus tour.

We visited the Planetarium in the morning - you have to purchase a ticket for the Planetarium and we chose  the showing for Under 6s. It was tailored to Aaron's age so just perfect for him. I think Daddy would have loved to have watched an adult version too as he is knowledgeable and curious regarding all things space!

I'd say Daddy's favourite part of our time there was creating animations with Aaron, which you do upstairs on the first floor. I wish I took more photos of this. There are many tables, each with backdrops, props and cameras. You simply scan the barcode on your wristband to begin. The selection of tables mean you don't queue long, even when it is busy. You also get the opportunity to request that your creation is emailed to you.

As some readers will know, I am pregnant (this week I am now 17 weeks) so my favourite part of the science museum was this:
I should have got IN the photo, silly me. As you can see above, the baby is a doll from 4 to 9 months, which mean there are SIX dolls you can take out and cradle, to show you and baby's siblings, how large or small they are at that stage. I wasn't yet 4 months when we visited :-( There is also an area like a clothed lift that you can stand in; it simulates a womb. So whilst in there, you hear  the "Mummy" above you, like baby does and the womb rocks to simulate the motion of Mummy walking. Mummy then went into labour which gave Aaron a fright, even though it was very brief and tame compared to real life. Daddy had to assure Aaron that when pickle comes, Mummy will be just fine.

TigerLillyQuinn took a great snap whilst there:

A photo posted by Fritha Tigerlilly Quinn (@tigerlillyquinn) on
We actually didn't end up having lunch on the Harbourside and opted to eat packed lunch on the open top bus, saving our appetite for dinner instead. The only trouble is, all of the Harbourside bars and restaurants that are INCREDIBLY family friendly in the afternoon for lunch, are all of a sudden full of adults and alcohol more or less from 6 p.m. onwards, so we wandered away and ended up in Pizza Hut, which although not as hip and happening, was an oasis of calm, along with beautiful air conditioning after such a hot day. Both the food and service were fab. Aaron loved the colouring in/activity book and the unlimited soft drinks were a big hit with Daddy and I combined with the affordable menu. But then we've been fans of Pizza Hut as a family dinner venue for a while - oh yes, it's because I LOVE the unlimited salad bar!

In reality though, where lunch is concerned you don't even need to step outside the door of At-Bristol as the At-Bristol cafe is superb!!! Lots of people hang out in there for ages and there is even a very basic soft play area in its corner, which even kept my adventurous 5 year old Aaron out of mischief for 15 minutes :-)

I spent quite some time playing with this but still couldn't get it. Have you?
Daddy even taught Aaron how to play Chess upstairs:

A real highlight of the upstairs area are the water bubbles, which I didn't photograph but they do feature in my video above. You can move a large ring around in bubbly water and then pull it up to make such a HUGE bubble that it can arc around your whole body if you are talented enough. We saw a teenage girl do it again and again - I was in awe of her skill.

Despite us spending half a day in At-Bristol there is MORE than enough to keep you occupied for a full day, without feeling the need to rush off anywhere else (we just wanted to avail of our wonderful complimentary trip on the open top bus which I will review separately as it deserves a post of its own).

Daddy and Aaron talked to each other from one side of the ground floor to the other by talking through this circle into a large red disc. Even though you get similar things in playgrounds, on a smaller scale, they both loved it and passed some fun time this way.
Going to At-Bristol is the sort of day that is not at all taxing, because not only is your child entertained but you are too. Plus it is in that educational way that leaves you feeling fascinated, like you are all the wiser for having been. You're SPENDING QUALITY time rather than just killing time. Well worth a visit. We've been before and no doubt we'll go again.

When we popped back in, in the evening after the bus tour we really enjoyed putting this body together, literally organs, bones, muscles and skin. So educational and fun. Educational stuff is so perfect to keep their brains active in school holidays. But no matter what he did, sending that foam rocket and parachute up, and seeing it fly down, again and again and again and again was by far his favourite activity.

So much more I could say about At-Bristol but I think I will say bye for now.

We do need to thank Visit Bristol for a superb day out. You can find them on Twitter via @VisitBristol and see lots of fun tweets/pics via the hashtags #VisitBristol and #ShaunInTheCity. Incidentally Bristol this year is European Green Capital and has many many times been voted Best City to Live in the UK, by the Sunday Times and many other publications.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Convenience HEALTHY Meals for Age 1-4 Year Olds and the Launch of Kiddyum

Recently, on 29th July, we went along to the media launch of Kiddyum an exciting new unique frozen meals food brand for children. I love trying out new healthy foods with Aaron and it was the perfect opportunity to meet and quiz the founder, Jane Hynes and get a looksie inside Sainsbury's head office in Holborn, as they are the sole retailer of the product for its exclusive initial launch on 9th August. Yes, soon!!!!

We also met Paul Hearne the Marketing Director who is largely responsible for the beautiful product packaging that impressed me so very much and Chloe Joyner their Associate Nutritionist. What I love is that they as a team have been together and friends since the early days, so this is a proper grass roots start-up despite the slick corporate assistance they are now receiving from Sainsbury's. You can watch a video about their story here. Jayne even gave up her job as a Chartered Surveyor 4 years ago, so passionate was she about the concept of healthy convenience food for little ones. The recipes are her own!

We were hosted in Sainsbury's "food theatre"
which was the perfect place to eat and socialise all whilst the kids played and coloured-in. Just like with the meals, the kids are the main focus, so you can see them here in this pic getting lots of attention. I was very impressed that the colouring in sheets, the colouring pencils and the goodie bags were all beautifully branded. I love brands that go the extra mile with attention to detail. Having been in retail for 24 years I have heard that corny phrase all too often "retail is detail" and it remains as true as it ever was!

I brought along Aaron and my two nieces. We were  the first to arrive so got lots of one on one attention from the PRs and Jayne herself. It reminded me of my corporate days sitting and chatting business with her. I was MOST excited to hear that she entered Sainsbury's PitchUp competition in 2013. When asked "was it like Dragon's Den" she said yes. This had me GRIPPED as it is one of my favourite TV shows. Since being awarded with a supply contract from Sainsbury's her, her team and Sainsbury's have been busy getting the range ready to go to market.

I love that Kiddyum's logo was ALREADY orange. Synchronicity that is just beautiful. And they already partnered with the charity "Magic Breakfast" who you guessed it, also have orange branding. They will benefit from a donation from every meal sold.

The range includes Cheesy Peasy Pasta, Macaroni Bolognese, Cottage Pie, Fish and Veg Pie and Chicken Curry, all frozen immediately to keep the taste and goodness locked in.

My nieces loved everything they sampled. Their favourite was the Cottage Pie.  Aaron was a bit more discerning and I'll tell you why. First up he had the Bolognese which he rejected as he expected it to be spaghetti, my fault as I only said Bolognese to him. Next up was Chicken Curry which he loves, also rejected as they were not separate (the rice and the curry), as he is accustomed to.  Finally I plumped for the Fish and Veg Pie which he WOLFED DOWN = phew!!!

I would say though, that Aaron is FIVE years old, and the dishes are for 1-4 year olds. When he was 1, 2 and 3 he would eat anything. I often fed him jars and he rejected nothing, so they would have been perfect in his early weaning years.

We had 8 dishes in our goodie bags and the kids insisted on eating them again that night, not as dinner (they'd already eaten Grandma's dinner) but rather as a midnight feast, as we had a late night that night.

What I love about Aaron's favourite, Fish and Veg Pie is how packed full of veg each spoonful looks and tastes!

What the brand itself says:
The mini meals are packed full of delicious, natural ingredients, with no added sugar or preservatives, low salt and are also free from GM ingredients, artificial colours and flavours. All are made in the UK, using only sustainable fish, and British meat and dairy. 

Created by mum-of-two Jayne Hynes, the clever recipes are designed to help little taste buds enjoy more complex flavours. All meals are first approved at home by her mini taste-testers, Florence and Tilly. 

Jayne left her job as a Chartered Surveyor to concentrate on her culinary innovations and help other parents feed their children tasty, healthy meals straight from the freezer. 

Kiddyum’s innovative packaging, the first of its kind, promotes independent eating and is also 99% recyclable.

First to hit the shelves will be Kiddyum’s stage 3 range, aimed at little ones aged 1 to 4, and the menu includes Cheesy Peasy Pasta, Macaroni Bolognese, Cottage Pie, Fish & Veg Pie and Chicken Curry. Meals for younger children and babies will follow, featuring a concept that Jayne calls ‘building blocks of taste’.

Jayne said: “As a busy mum I find it difficult to make time to cook from scratch every day but, like all parents, I want my two girls to eat delicious, nutritious food of the highest quality.

I often spend evenings cooking and freezing healthy meals so my children can eat nutritious home cooked food as often as possible, even on the really busy days.

All of Kiddyums recipes are created by me, at home, using natural ingredients, without added sugar or extra salt. I have designed Kiddyum’s frozen meals with both parents and children in mind.   They are a genuine, simple and convenient alternative to home cooking with no compromise on quality.  These dishes are also a great way to introduce tasty new flavours and interesting textures to babies and young children.

Freezing our meals immediately after cooking also means we lock in the goodness and avoid the need for preservatives or intense heat treatments.”
James Bailey, Business Unit Director at Sainsbury's says "Kiddyum was a deserving winner in the 2013 start-up Britain's Pitch-Up with Sainsbury's initiative. They have an innovative product and a well thought out business plan. I am sure our customers will enjoy being able to access such great quality food for their children".
We had a truly fabulous time at the launch. If they treat their product the way they treated us, then it's going to be very special indeed. I wish to give particular thanks to Chloe, Kiddyum's Associate Nutritionist for giving so much of her time to us.

The ONLY challenge the brand has, is getting you dear reader, you a parent, to the frozen food aisle, as once you see the packaging and the price (2 pounds twenty) and taste it, you'll be sold!

For those Summer evenings when you get back late from the park or the outdoor pool and you don't feel like cooking this is the perfect option. As I was told at the launch, it's also the perfect thing for Grandparents to have in the freezer when they get that unexpected knock on the door :-) Also, if you have a large family, you may have a toddler who doesn't fancy eating what the rest of the family is having (maybe it's all too spicy or adult) and this is the perfect thing to quickly warm up for them. I tasted everything personally myself and can vouch for how good it all looks and tastes.

If your taste buds are accustomed to high salt, then you may find the product lacking but remind yourself it is for 1-4 year olds and they are not built to consume salt in the quantities we do, and don't miss what they've never tasted.

I wish Kiddyum every success with their launch - they deserve to excel with this fabulous product and team spirit.

Oh and there were 12 bowls of dry pasta at the event. We had to guess which name went with which pasta. They thought it was a tough task, but I got ALL 12 correct and in the mail a couple of days later got 100 pounds of Sainsbury's vouchers, so I have that to thank them for too :-)

Jayne (Founder and MD), Paul (Marketing) and Chloe (Nutritionist) all have 2 children each, so are genuinely passionate about children's food and it shines through in their passion and dedication. This is a real brand I can get behind. No wonder they have spent years getting the product to this stage - it's so worth it!

Visit Kiddyum at their website: Kiddyum Frozen Ready Meals for Kids.

The five products will be in the frozen cabinet, of 320 Sainsbury's stores from 9th August 2015.

Monday, 27 July 2015

When Credit is History

It's a strange thing becoming a stay at home mum. Even stranger when you can plot and spot the energetic changes that go along with it. I was SO finance focused. I was that person who went to University with savings (mine not my parents). I worked in C and A and McDonalds for 3.5 months 7 days a week combined sometimes doing the morning in the latter and the afternoon in the former. They were happy days, the hubby - then a boyfriend - would meet me after work.

I went to Uni with a couple of grand in the bank AND we still got grants back then. It was a given (not means tested) that tuition fees were paid, and thanks to my Step Dad's income not being taken into account I got a subsistence grant (for rent and food) too. Suffice to say I did not get a student loan until my final year (I can't remember why, as by then I had two part-time jobs). Anyway, within a year or so of completing Uni it was paid off.

Fast forward a few years and a gang of us from work were going to Magaluf. I didn't have spending money, so applied for a credit card. God forbid. It didn't come in time for the holiday, so I ran out of money a couple of days before I came home. THAT taught me a lesson as the people I had bought many rounds of drinks for spent what they had left on over the top souvenirs with little thought for me - one of my first lessons in life that some humans are inherently thoughtless and selfish.

Returning home to the lure of a credit card with a balance waiting to be exploited must have been a strong temptation after a few days of austerity - oh THAT word!!!!!

Fast forward and a credit card became that thing you used when you wanted to go to All Bar One for lunch, or when you wanted something new, close to pay day. Funny, but with my store cards I paid them off in full every month (due to a crazy high APR) but with my credit cards - there were more by this stage - I was happy to pay the minimum amount.

They were designed so that was how they expected you to use them.

Then along came the days when some companies offered 0% interest on balance transfers. I think I moved my debt so many times I exploited ALL of them, and shouted about it to anyone in my life who needed to too.

Necessities were never bought on credit cards and they were the way I cushioned the shackles of those early days of low salaries.

The country is built on people spending money they don't have. Or at least it was during that 1990s post recession boom. The one that turned out to be unsustainable. And I know about all the other elements of it too like housing equity withdrawal etc... thanks to a degree in Economics.

Fast forward to 2003 and I told the husband "I will not have a baby until I have cleared all of my debt". I was into yoga by then, quite close to being qualified as a Teacher (in addition to working full time) and clearly had a very clear awareness of my lower 3 chakras, and manifesting/creating a baby in that lower region of the body that is so linked to housing/shelter and security obviously made me wary of my financial situation. After all the first chakra relates to security, stability and being grounded. Often our sense of "security" is closely connected to our finances and our ability to provide. I not only had a day to day reason to want to be able to "provide" in material terms but also felt the heaviness of that responsibility energetically too. The chakra's strengths can be found in the state of our meridians also.

Let me share this extract from Change Your Energy with you which highlights the link between the first chakra (known as the ROOT chakra) and financial security:
Root Chakra represents our basic survival needs. This chakra serves as an energetic doorway to our earthly life and mother nature. Yes. Food, clothing and shelter are our most primal needs, but they all require money to have them. One of the ways chakras become blocked is from a deluge of limiting or negative beliefs entering our energy field. We are often unaware when this is happening. Like a cosmic plumbing system, we think we are pouring positive thinking into our system, only to wake up one day to have the whole emotional kitchen sink backing up in our face. 
If you are in a job that is not meeting your basic needs, if you are often frustrated, under financial stress or feel unsupported in your workplace and community, paying some attention to clearing your Root Chakra may help. 
More brief information in summary form is here, regarding the seven chakras and pregnancy: Balancing Chakras During Pregnancy.

In 2003 I had told the hubby I would clear my debts (loans and credit cards) within 5 years and there must be something about "putting it out there" as I did! Only trouble was, late 2007 we went to Nigeria for a burial and I had to take Malaria tablets which said on the packet you could not conceive within 3 months of taking them. 2008 I then got busy with my career and to be honest was a complete workaholic. Baby was put on the long finger and in reality WORK was my baby. I lost a year there and on purpose too as a Brahmin told me at the Yoga Festival Summer 2008, when he did my full Astrological Chart that if I didn't get pregnant before November that year, I would have to wait a full year. I returned to the UK knowing and believing that but consciously made the decision to wait. 

Except, April 2009, I remember it being Good Friday, I was looking at candle holders and saw a radiant pregnant woman in Ikea and had an epiphany that I wanted the same. 

The Brahmin was correct of course and it took till September 2009 for me to conceive. I was a glowing pregnant lady in Summer 2010 somehow taking working long hours in my stride. I don't remember being stressed at all. The rest is history, or at least blogging history ha ha.

The job didn't stop being my baby when I had one either. I worked hard, too hard, until 38 weeks pregnant. They joy of Management Consultants being brought in. Then I ended up working throughout my maternity leave (as I never handed over my BlackBerry and they called me in to let go of my maternity cover *le sigh*). 

But oh the irony. That job that I had made my baby then made me redundant in 2012. Being HR Manager I was there till the bitter end, literally turning the lights off on the way out and it did me no favours. Whatsoever.

The first thing I did was cancel all of my direct debits and credit cards, thanking the Lord for the umpteenth time that I no longer had any credit card debt.

Since then, I guess by and large I have fallen off the financial radar. God only knows what my credit score is, as I don't have any credit.

Financial security was always of paramount importance to me. I can't remember my Mum or Step Dad giving me a penny during Uni. I was and always have been fiercely independent yet now I am happy to be a stay at home Mum. That must have taken a HUGE energetic shift in me, but I have been unaware of it happening as it has been so so gradual. Also, I see it mirrored in other people in my life and in the media, and I know I am part of a cultural shift that is going on globally, where finance is no longer our only priority or focus. Previously I would earn the money and think "how shall I spend it?". Now I think "how shall I spend my time?" and manifest a way to pay for it, which thanks to blogging, doesn't always require money.

There was a time though when I was all caught up in worrying about credit scores.

I was at work, really late one night and lost my monthly travelcard (Londoner). I only realised when I got to the train station so assumed I had lost it on the street. It had a little piece of paper in the sleeve that would be a field day for someone wanting to access my finances. So the next morning I panicked and spent a long time talking to the bank. They set up texts on my phone AND not only got me a full credit score printout, which is like a huge A4 booklet (very interesting by the way) but they also got me credit score alerts, so I could see day by day if something changed.

Weeks later when we were organising a deep clean at work, I found my travelcard trapped behind a desk. Not mine, but the one I had been sitting at late that night.

Your credit score is a reflection of your past and present. That of you and your partner's AND reflects those who are or have lived at your address. If you are about to do anything financial, with your business or property, I really suggest an extensive study of your credit score. You can use Experian CreditExpert credit score. There was nothing alarming in mine but it was a bit of a financial biography. It would be strangely blank now though, now that I have "fallen off the wagon" as it were, financially, which brings me full circle back to the heading off this blog post.

Have you ever checked yours and been glad that you have?

Mrs MoneyPenny has written several blog posts for Experian and gives a great example here as to why you should check your credit score prior to applying for a mortgage. After all why let the bank tell you bad news that you could have found out beforehand. As they say, fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.

If you are thinking/worrying about your finances before starting a family, take a look at Family Finances on the NCT website.

Disclosure: All words, photos and opinions are my own.
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