Monday, 28 July 2014


 A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the Matalan head office in Skelmersdale for a blogging event to see their range of school uniforms and also get a sneaky peak at the new Autumn/Winter range for children. It was my first opportunity to go to a blogging event so I jumped at the chance.

As I pulled into the car park I met another blogger - Emma and we headed off to sign in.

I was excited and nervous, and had been worried about what to wear as most of my wardrobe is Matalan and I didn't want to end up wearing the same as somebody else, so I'd opted for a non Matalan dress. I needn't have worried about turning up wearing the same as someone else, as Leanne who was hosting the day ended up wearing the same as one of the buyers. She explained it was common in their office for more than one of the girls to end up wearing the same thing and that on some days it just looked like they were wearing a uniform!

We were shown into a room where the school uniform and new range were laid out for us to look at.

perfect for weddings

so cute!

Love the teddy top
We were invited to look at the new range and give our feedback on it. We were asked to pick our favourite and least favourite items from each of the age ranges and give our reasons for choosing those items.
I found it hard to choose from the girls ranges because I haven't got a girl and was slightly disappointed that the young boys range only stops at year 5, and the older children's range is a bit grown up for him. As I have said before in another post I would love stores to cater for taller children, Squiggle is only 4 and a half but has been wearing size 5-6 years since March.

Once everybody had had the chance to scrutinise the clothes we were split into groups and taken off to give our opinion on the Matalan brand and on the new lines of clothes. We were asked to be honest and give negative as well as positive feedback, and offer any advice to make shopping better at Matalan.

After dinner we received a talk from the buyers who explained the process from designing the clothes to making and testing them before they were ready to be signed off for mass production. The buyers explained that the majority of the manufacturing is outsourced but they do make frequent trips and have guidelines in place to make sure that they are being made as ethically as possible. They showed us samples of products that had failed the initial tests and then the amended versions to compare. A lot of testing is done from wear and tear to washing and colour run. If a product fails it will keep going 'back to the drawing board' until it is right.

We were shown some of the amendments that had been made to this years uniforms, such as softer collars and a velcro fastening behind the top button, and also given details of potential design changes for next years range. They are always working 12 months ahead, so are currently planning the 2015/2016 range.

Next we were shown the process of shoe making. I hadn't really considered how shoes were made, I just presumed they would be mass produced by machine so it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that each one is hand made.

Then we talked through the ideas and gathering information process and shown the ideas boards that were used for the new Autumn/Winter collection. These were created 12 months ago. So Matalan is working on next years various collections.

Before leaving we were all given a goody bag and some vouchers to purchase our school uniform, so I will be writing about that at a later date.

*Disclaimer, I was invited to Matalan Head Office to view the new collection and school uniform, I was given vouchers and a goodie bag for the purpose of this and my next review. However all pictures, words and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Our trip to Cadbury World ( part 2 )

Following on from part one.......

We joined the queue and handed over our admission tickets, in return we were given 2 bars of chocolate each, a Wispa and a Caramel.

Then we were transported to the Aztec Jungle and discovered the origin of the cocoa bean, and learnt how the cocoa bean was brought to Europe.

Next we entered a scene from Victorian England of Bull Street, Birmingham, where John Cadbury first set up his shop selling cocoa and drinking chocolate.

And then we went to a small theatre and watched a short film about how the Cadbury's brand was created and how the family experimented with different processes and finally developed the infamous Dairy Milk bar.

Next was a fun film to show how the cocoa beans are processed and turned into liquid chocolate which is the base for all the Cadbury's chocolate bars. There was a particularly funny moment in the film where the beans are shaken to remove the shells, at the same time the seats in the theatre shake so everybody now knows what it's like to be a cocoa bean!

Afterwards we learnt how the various chocolate bars were made before being given a Dairy Milk and viewing the packaging zone. At the time of our visit they were packaging large Fruit and Nut Bars, it all happens so quickly, the chocolate comes in on one conveyor belt and in the blink of an eye it's wrapped and sent along another conveyor belt to another part of the factory.

Jelly babies & popping candy
After the packaging zone came the more fun part of the tour.

First there was Cadabra, a cute ride through chocolate land among all the Cadbury characters. ( It's a little bit like It's a Small World ), then there is my favourite part, the chocolate making area. Here we were all given a small pot of melted chocolate and given the options to add an extra treat to create our own chocolate. Squiggle went with white chocolate buttons, marshmallows and jelly babies, I had popping candy and jelly babies and Mr H had marshmallows and jelly babies.
There was also a viewing area where I was able to watch 2 chocolatiers putting the finishing touches on a hand decorated chocolate teapot.

Freddo & Caramel Bunny
Before the end of the tour there was a trip down memory lane where we could watch various TV adverts from across the years, who could forget the Caramel Bunny and her 'take it easy' catchphrase,  Thank Crunchie it's Friday or Cadbury Roses - Thankyou very much you're one in a million. And the more recent ( although it's now 7 years old ) Gorilla advert drumming along to Phil Collins.

Finally we exited into the biggest Cadbury shop in the world to buy a couple more bars of chocolate. The shop sells everything and more, plus a few special items that cannot be bought anywhere else.

It was a fun day out for all the family.

* We visited Cadbury World and paid for our own tickets. I have not received anything ( yet** ) in return for writing this post. I just wanted to share our day out with you all

** If by any chance Cadbury's read and like my post and wish to send me a box of afore mentioned Wispas as a thankyou then I will gladly devour them! 

Our trip to Cadbury World ( part 1 )

On Sunday we finally had our a family outing to Cadbury World

My other half is a Brummie and we do go to Birmingham quite regularly to see family but it's usually only for the day, the last time we went we promised Squiggle that we would take him to the chocolate factory, and during this visit we kept our word.

The admissions procedure has changed since the last time I went ( some 12 years ago ). Cadbury World is very busy and booking is not only advisable I would say it is necessary, especially if visiting in the afternoon. We arrived at 11 am and the next available tour was at 3.20 pm. When we went for dinner at 12.30pm the attraction was fully booked up. Tickets can be booked in advance on their website.

So we bought our tickets and then decided what to do for the next 4 hours. I was worried that there wouldn't be enough to keep us entertained but I'm glad to say I was wrong. 

Outside of the factory are 2 children's playgrounds with a refreshment stall, the new 4D Chocolate Adventure and also The Bournville Experience. The Sooty Show was also there as extra entertainment, for a short Summer stint ( I believe it's The Rainbow Show for the next couple of weekends ) and shows were being held every hour on the hour.

First we let Squiggle loose on the African adventure playground whilst we planned what to do. He loved it, climbing up and down the nets and across the rope bridges then going down the slides. There are 2 playgrounds to cater for all ages of children.

Next we went into the 4D Chocolate Adventure. We entered the special lift and met Mr Cadbury's Parrot who caused a bit of mischief - Squiggle thought this was funny. The lift doors then opened and we saw that we had arrived at the cinema, we took our 3D glasses and found a seat. I'm not going to spoil it for people by telling you anything more than can be found on the Cadbury World website, but it's a 4D cinema experience ( which means 3D visual with motion seats ) which lets you meet a whole host of Cadbury characters including the Caramel Bunny, Freddo Frog, Mr Cadbury's Parrot and ride on the Crunchie Rollercoaster.For the full experience I would recommend sitting near the middle.

Squiggle thought it was brilliant, I thought it was brilliant and Mr H. thought it was brilliant - so a big thumbs up from us.

Then we decided to check out The Bournville Experience. It gives the history of the family, factory and surrounding area. I found it interesting to learn how the Bournville village was built for the factory workers and how the Cadbury family influenced their Quaker ethics onto the workers. Did you know that Quaker's don't drink alcohol and even nowadays there isn't a single pub in the whole of Bournville!

There is also a sneaky peak into the packaging area, where all the boxes of chocolates are loaded up on the pallets. We watched boxes and boxes of Wispas being loaded up onto pallets before being picked up and taken away  for delivery. 

Finally we joined the queue for the Sooty Show. This was taking place in a marquee outside The Bournville Experience, we took our seats and the children sat on the floor before being delighted by the antics of Sooty, Sweep and Soo, who showcased some of Sooty's latest inventions. I'm not sure who loved it more, the children or the adults, everybody joined in ( grown men were singing and waving their arms ! ) and it brought back much loved childhood memories, although I'm not sure Sooty and Sweep were ever that naughty when I was a child!

After a spot of dinner in the restaurant we joined the queue and were ready to enter Cadbury World. 
Click here for part 2.

* We visited Cadbury World and paid for our own tickets. I have not received anything ( yet** ) in return for writing this post. I just wanted to share our day out with you all

** If by any chance Cadbury's read and like my post and wish to send me a box of afore mentioned Wispas as a thankyou then I will gladly devour them! 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

End of an era A.K.A last day at nursery

So today was Squiggle's last day at nursery.

It doesn't seem like a year ago we were both getting excited at the thought of starting nursery and here we are now getting excited at the thought of starting school.

It was an emotional day and I tried my best not to cry - I really did. I dropped him off this morning, and already the nursery felt different, the walls were bare as the pictures had been taken down overnight ready to give to the children to take home, the number of children was fewer than on other days as parents decided not to bother with the last day and the mass of toys had been packed away leaving only a few out to entertain the few small people who were there.
I gave Squiggle his usual kiss and cuddle and left for the day. I was fine.

Upon my return at 3 o'clock the nursery was stark, an empty shell instead of the happy playroom it had been over the last 11 months, there were just a few token children left waiting for their parents to pick them up before the doors closed for the Summer holidays.
I was still fine. I signed Squiggle out for the last time, collected his bags and made sure we had everything, I told him to say goodbye to his friends as sadly nobody was going to the same school as he was, told him to say goodbye to his nursery workers as he probably wouldn't see them again, and then that's when it hit me, not just a couple of emotional tears but the whole waterfall of never ending ones! I just couldn't stop. Squiggle just looked at me bemused, he just wanted to go home. I quickly dashed to get some tissues before saying a tearful goodbye to everyone.

But it took a good 3 hours for my tears to stop, a song in the car, an advert on TV and a simple cuddle off Squiggle all set me off again!
For those who know me it doesn't really come as a much of a surprise really, I've always been emotional and at high school I was voted The Girl Most Likely To Cry!

Monday, 21 July 2014

#MealPlanningMonday - 21st July 2014

Oh dear - I am definitely going to get back on the meal planning bandwagon, my bank balance and waistline cannot cope with takeaways and last minute trips to the shops any longer. I need my pennies to entertain Squiggle over the Summer holidays, no doubt it's going to be filled with trips to the park ( free - yippee ) for ice cream ( not free - boo ). But also I am having my garden landscaped in September, and I cannot wait, I'll be getting a nice new fence to keep Squiggle in the garden, nice new gates also designed to keep him in the garden, a new patio and a purpose built raised flower bed. I am still having arguments discussions with the other half, he wants a shed, I want a summer house, haven't the money for either so the arguments discussions will have to continue for now!

Anyway back to the point, here's my menu for this week. I'm having another attempt at emptying the freezer and cupboards, my freezer is in desperate need of a defrost so the less I have in it the better!

Monday - bangers and mash
Tuesday - spaghetti and meatballs
Wednesday - possibly leftover spaghetti and meatballs / beans on toast
Thursday - planned trip to the pub!
Friday - fakeaway - Chinese
Saturday - steak and chips
Sunday - lamb dinner

I've just realised that I have a very high meat content on my menu this week, I need some meat free meals for next week, can you help? What would you suggest? What's your favourite recipe?, please feel free to leave me a comment, and I'll  try and make some of your suggestions next week.

Monday, 14 July 2014

IBS ( Irritable Bowel Syndrome )

I've suffered with a dicky tummy for most of my life. Ever since I can remember I've always had to know where the toilets are in case of emergencies. I've had bloating, constipation and diarrhoea - sometimes both in the same day and stomach cramps that make period pain seem like a blessing.

I spotted this in a car park!
Like most people I've put up with it and not really bothered seeing my GP, mainly because prior to everything that's happened to me I was embarrassed about it, but after my stay in hospital nearly 5 years ago, things suddenly took a turn for the worse and got a lot more embarrassing for me. The cramps got much worse, the bloating got worse, the noises my stomach makes got worse and if I didn't run to the toilet fast enough...... well I won't disgust you with the rest.
Initially it was put down to the overuse of antibiotics. I was pumped full of them in hospital but as I came off the antibiotics, things didn't get any better.

I've been battling with the doctors ever since and knew in myself that it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( after all I have the internet and any Tom, Dick or Homer can self diagnose themselves now - right*? ) but the doctors had to rule out Irritable Bowel Disorder first.

What's the difference between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD)?, Aren't they the same thing? 

No, IBS isn't as serious as IBD medically speaking, although it is just as embarrassing to have.
IBD causes inflammation to the bowel, along with ulcers, bleeding and other damage. IBS is classed as a functional disorder which means that the bowel looks normal but doesn't work like it should.

So cue many a colonoscopy, endoscopy, MRI and blood tests. They have all come back negative for Chron's and Ulcerative Colitis, and so an official diagnosis of spastic colon was made or more politely put IBS.

What causes IBS?

In my case, the doctor has put it down to being very ill for such a long time. He explained that the bowel and brain are linked, and if one becomes stressed then the other becomes stressed too. So it actually becomes a never ending cycle. I have noticed that when I am run down, tired or suffering from normal everyday stress then my symptoms are worse.
I also have to watch what I eat, fibre is a big no no in my case. It can, will and does make things a lot more painful for me. I also have the doctor's approval to not eat much fibre, he hasn't said go out and splurge on burger and chips but I must stay away from brown bread, wholemeal pasta and only eat fruit and vegetables in moderation!

I've also to try out some tablets which should help relax the muscle spasms in my gut which should stop me running to the toilet and I'm hoping will ease the cramping. They can take up to 6 weeks to start working, so I'll report back later and let you know how I'm feeling.

* It is not recommended to self diagnose yourself, if you don't feel well please seek medical advice.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Back off my hols!

Sorry I've been missing in action, I went away on holiday and haven't had 2 minutes to myself since I got back home.

Firstly I have a confession, Juneathon went out of the window, I think the poor weather played some part but mainly I blame myself for just not getting up and going out.
To make up for it though, I was very active on holiday. I went to Butlins with the family, so every day was spent on the funfair or on the beach or in the pool or doing something, in fact I could just do with a week away on a beach on my own to recover.
I've then had to get back into the swing of my thrice-weekly hospital visits, coupled up with primary school appeals - Squiggle didn't get any of his choices, so we've had to sit in front of the appeals panel three times to try and state our case, but sadly as the great Simon Cowell says, it's a no from them.

Me and 'Simon' ( Madame Tussauds 2012 )

I have a list a mile long of blog posts I need to write up, such as my holiday at Butlins, an update on my psoriasis treatment, and a few other's thrown in.

I've also got a few exciting things on this week, so really I need to go and crack on with them.

Ta Ta For Now!