Friday, 7 April 2017

Raising Money for Alder Hey Children's Charity - Institute In The Park

Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool is world renowned and is one of the UK's leading children's hospitals. When the Alder Hey Children's Charity reached out looking for blogger's and influencers to spread awareness of the charity, I accepted without hesitation.

As a mother of four children we have been lucky enough, to not have to call on the services of Alder Hey, although we have had numerous hospital admissions in another part of the country. When a child requires hospital intervention, the stress and anxiety caused to the child and family are immense. It is essential that the child and family are supported and treated by highly trained experts, in their field of medicine. I have a friend who travels long distances with her child to Alder Hey Hospital for monitoring and intervention of her child's heart condition.  

The Institute In The Park   

Alder Hey Children's Charity are currently raising vital funds for their brand new state of the art research facility - The Institute In The Park.

Alder Hey and the University of Liverpool officially opened the first phase, of the dedicated research, education and innovation centre in March 2016.

The new centre positions Alder Hey and Liverpool as an international leader in the development of safer and more effective medicines for children and young people throughout the world.

The Institute in the Park is a world-leading centre for research, with leading clinicians, healthcare professionals and scientists working in partnership with young patients and their families to produce remarkable life-saving and life-changing results.
The Institute in the Park is home to around 100 research, education and clinical staff and has facilities that no other UK or European children’s hospital can offer.
The facility also provides the perfect location for all Alder Hey’s teaching and training sessions, along with larger conferences and events.
The building features two lecture theatres, a boardroom seating, a state-of-the art Library, dedicated e-learning suite and quiet study room. Video conferencing equipment enables Alder Hey to beam events, meetings and teaching seminars around the world and the facility has technology for live streaming from the hospital theatres.

Alder Hey Children's Charity appeal

Alder Hey Children’s Charity is now focused on raising funds for the second phase of The Institute In The Park.

This appeal will allow the hospital to extend the current Institute building and develop even better treatments for children and young people.

The second phase of the Centre will allow the hospital to double the space available to undertake world class research and innovation.

The completion of this second phase will create a facility like no other. Solely dedicated to children's health research, innovation and education.  Researchers and clinicians will continue to work with partners in academia, technology and pharmaceuticals to develop safer, better medicines and therapies for children to use in the NHS and throughout the world.

What can I do to help?

Alder Hey Children's Charity would welcome any fundraising ideas you may have.More information can be found on the charity's website or donations can be made on the link below

* Please note, I have received no financial compensation for this post. I simply wanted to share with you the fantastic work from Alder Hey Children's Charity.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Mother's Day and mixed emotions

Mother's Day always holds mixed emotions for me. On the one hand I have 4 beautiful children, who are basically my world! On the other hand, my own mum died when I was 19 and I miss her everyday.

My lovely mum would have loved to be Grandma to my children, but didn't get the chance.

Yesterday I was woken by the arrival of my twins, at first light, standing next to my bed. They were clutching little gift bags, full of all the lovely things they had made at school and at their arts and craft club. Beautiful felt butterflies sewn so carefully, with little ribbons to hang, along with key rings, bath bombs, an owl plaque and earrings. Each little bag was decorated with drawings of cats and owls (their favourite things) and the Mother's Day cards they made were adorable, featuring flowers made of buttons (well done class teacher - great choice of design!). The girls were so proud of their creations and I will certainly treasure them forever. I even got a grunt of "Happy mother's day" from my son's along with a card and chocolate (which my pre teen has now half eaten - apparently it's the thought that counts ha ha!).

We then spent a lovely afternoon at a car boot sale (son's choice, not mine) followed by a visit to a local farm's ice-cream parlour. The cinder toffee ice-cream was divine!

The icing on the cake was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my husband to say thanks for being a great mum to our children. So all in all, I felt really appreciated because lets face it as a mum it can sometimes feel you get taken for granted, particularly by the teenagers.

Later in the evening I began to reminisce about my childhood and my own mum. I then got out a folder of old photo's and looked through them with my daughters. It struck me that I don't look at these photo's often enough and that they are starting to fade, alarmingly in some cases. I decided to take photo's of them and put them on the computer, the brightness of the screen seemed to bring them alive somehow. I then posted a few on my personal Facebook account and received some gorgeous messages from some childhood friends. I admit to having a little cry, but was then left with the feeling of being incredibly proud of my mum and the amount she achieved in her short life. So many people thought so fondly of her and her acts of kindness affected a lot of peoples lives. In short I feel so lucky that she was my mum, even if it was for only 19 years. She's a very hard act to follow, but I have been blessed with the best role model and teacher.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Acrylic painting tutorial by The Art Sherpa - along with cheap art supplies from The Works

I appear to have a little time to myself at the moment, totally unheard of in recent times following the twins arrival combined with home education.

At last I now have all 4 children in school!

I've always enjoyed art, which wasn't actively encouraged at school as my parents felt Art wasn't a "proper" O' level (that's what we called them in those days!). So a few months ago I bought myself some cheap acrylic paints from The Works, along with some blank canvases and a cheap brush set. I then discovered the Art Sherpa on YouTube. My son and I followed a couple of the tutorials a while ago, results of which are on a previous post.

Yesterday however, I had the house to myself and spent a lovely relaxing few hours painting the above picture. Music on, cup of tea and paints spread all over the kitchen table. The Art Sherpa aka Cinnamon Cooney is such an amazing teacher and the tutorials are in real time and are not speeded up, although the pause button became my best friend! There are so many tutorials to choose from, I am particularly drawn to painting trees although painting the branches are a battle. I may try a sunflower next time.

Although some people may see following a tutorial as cheating, you learn so much. The above painting taught me perspective.

My picture isn't perfect, but I enjoyed painting it and admit to being a tiny bit proud. 

I have no connections to The Art Sherpa, but recommend anyone to try the tutorials out.

Friday, 3 March 2017

14 frugal ways to reduce your weekly grocery bill

As a family of six, our grocery have the potential to be colossal! It's important that my family have a well balanced, healthy diet, but the cost of healthy food in comparison to unhealthy options can be a lot higher.
I think the main way to stick to a budget is to meal plan, whether that means meal planning for a whole week or each day, depends on individual circumstances.
I personally hate going to the shops everyday, so doing a weekly plan works for me. Also, the more often I visit a shop in a week, means I'm more likely to choose extra's that I think I might need and stray from the plan. Clever marketing from shops entice us to choose extra's via their promotions, advertising, positioning of products in the shop, lighting  and even aroma's - think the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread! So I've devised a list (another good tool for sticking to your plan!) of:-

14 frugal ways to reduce your weekly grocery bill :-

  • 1 - Meal plan. Put together a list of at least seven meals for the following week and stick to it!
  • 2 - When planning meals, research different recipes that are frugal and healthy.
  • 3 - If shopping online (which I advise, as easier to stick to plan), meal plan at the same time, so you can plan your meals around the products that are on offer in the store.
  • 4 - Avoid waste. Use left over meat and veg from previous meals to make stir fry's, curries, pies.
  • 5 -Switch from premium brands  to stores own brand.
  • 6 - Shop at budget supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi.
  • 7 - Budget stores such as Poundland are great for stocking up on many things that are a fraction of the price than supermarkets. We tend to buy toothpaste and shower gels amongst other things from pound shops.
  • 8 - Cleaning and laundry products are expensive, so only buy the brands that are on offer.
  • 9 - Search for and use coupons and vouchers.
  • 10 - Use the web to find out which shops have offers on.
  • 11 - Batch cook and freeze for later.
  • 12 - Look at portion size, I tend to cook far too much for everybody, so lots left over.
  • 13 - Have a baking day and freeze. Ingredients for baking can be expensive, but I like to know exactly what we are eating and hate looking at the huge list of ingredients on shop bought cakes. Lidl is a good place to buy lower priced flour, butter, sugar and eggs.
  • 14 - Meals based on pasta and rice are great when you're on a budget and also have the benefit of being healthy.

This list is certainly not exhaustive and there are many more ways. I was going to add grow your own veg, but remembering our attempt on having an allotment I decided I'd best not!

I have had success with growing strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes in the back garden and will probably do the same this year. I also grew salad leaves, which saved quite a lot of money on bagged salads.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The plight of the red squirrel in the UK

We have recently returned from a stay at Center Parcs Whinfell, which is in Penrith, Cumbria. It just so happens that Whinfell forest is one of the few remaining areas of the UK that has a population of red squirrels. It is a red squirrel conservation area and rangers are employed to solely ensure that the population doesn't decline further.

Unfortunately we learned at the red squirrel family adventure that we attended on our first morning,that the plight of the red squirrel population in the UK is now suffering another blow as a squirrel pox virus has infected and killed a number of red squirrels within the forest.

The red squirrel pox virus is usually fatal to red squirrels and is extremely contagious. The ranger we spoke to was unsure as to how the squirrels have been infected, the disease is carried by the grey squirrel, however a grey squirrel hasn't been seen at Whinfell for a number of years. The grey squirrel doesn't suffer from the disease as they have had many years to develop immunity.

In order to try and stop the spread of the disease the rangers have removed squirrel feeders from the rangers lodge feeding area at Center Parcs. This is to reduce the contact the squirrels have with each other, thereby decreasing the chance of the disease passing from squirrel to squirrel, this also eliminates the risk of the feeding stations becoming contaminated.

The red squirrel pox virus is considered to be a significant reason as to why the red squirrel population of the UK is in decline.

The main threat to the red squirrel population is the grey squirrel. The grey squirrel was first introduced to Britain in the 1870's and adapted a bit too well to Britain's habitat. The grey squirrel has caused the spread of the squirrel pox disease, also the grey squirrel is much larger than the red and therefore requires more food to survive. The lack of remaining food within the woodland puts the red squirrel under stress, which in turn affects their breeding rates. The grey squirrels are also able to digest acorns, abundant in the British woodland, where as red squirrels can't.  Another factor attributed to the decline of the red squirrel is due to the reduction in coniferous and broadleaf forests which is their natural habitat.

The ranger explained to us that there has been discussion in parts of the country regarding the re introduction of the pine martin. The pine martin is a natural predator of the squirrel. The reason behind this, is that the grey squirrels live closer to the ground than the red squirrel - who prefer to live in the treetops. Therefore the pine martin could be used to control the grey squirrel population as they would be the first choice of food for the pine martin. However the risk is that once the grey squirrels are under control the pine martin would feed then on the red squirrel.

As a family we certainly noticed the lack of red squirrels at Whinfell, in fact during the whole of our stay we didn't see one. This is in contrast to last February when we saw quite a few. We really hope that the spread of the disease can be controlled and it is reassuring to see the steps taken by the rangers. The red squirrel is such a charming creature and are wonderful to watch in the wild. They are also native to our country.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

My attempt at free range parenting! Signed up for an allotment

I have fond memories of pottering around the garden as a child, digging up worms and planting seeds. Most of my childhood was spent in some garden or other, not glued to screens, as is unfortunately, so often the case today. 

Hence my desire to try and get my children to experience the same. So I applied and got allocated an allotment! This was a few years ago when the twins were babies. Excitedly I hurried to meet the allotment head (I'm sure there's a better name), with my cheque book.
It was a dark, cold, rainy evening and the site was completely deserted. A man sized shape, completely covered in brown, muddy waterproofs, bravely battled through the wind towards me. I was then shown my "plot".

In my mind my plot would at least be flat with maybe a few weeds scattered around and possibly a bit of rubble to be removed, but no. My plot had never been cultivated before, was thigh high with every sort of weed imaginable, as well as grass so thick and matted the roots were at least 6 inches deep. Tractor tyre tracks were the only places that showed bare earth and huge holes filled with water could have almost warranted the title of pond!

Not to be put off, I shakily signed up to a years lease and went home feeling a little dazed. It just so happens that I have a father in law who is a veteran allotmenteer and he managed to get the plot into a wonderful fertile state so that I could start planting. Although when first viewing the plot, he did go a little pale!

So, we had a few years of enjoying the allotment until sadly the weeds became too much of a battle and my father in laws health started to fail. Eventually we kind of got "kicked off!" the allotment and my free range dream ended. To be honest as the children grew they showed less interest in it and life kind of got in the way. Still we have some lovely photo's and memories, especially of eating raspberries straight off the canes (see pics). The girls have dug for worms until their hearts were content and have learnt how food grows. We had great fun growing a runner bean tepee, which I may blog about in the future as I try and recreate it in the back garden. In fact my next project is to get our back garden sorted and grow vegetables there. Roll on spring.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Truly Madly Cuckoo

What did Katy do next? She changed her blog name to Truly Madly Cuckoo!

Katy isn't my real name anyway. Onwards and upwards to pastures new!

No, I'm not still taking Codeine for my back. In fact I'm feeling quite sprightly, with a spring in my step.

Talking of spring, have you noticed the birds singing in the morning again? Where do they all go in the winter or maybe they suffer from SAD in the British climate? Or maybe it's because it's Valentine's Day?

Whatever the reason it was lovely to hear them and to have sunshine for a change. In fact I think I can hear a cuckoo - maybe not!

Enough ramblings for one evening. Back to my Marks and Spencers meal ...