Saturday, 20 May 2017

An End to the Blogging Hiatus

At the end of last summer I made the decision to stop blogging for a little while.  Well life took over, things got busy and that little while became several months.  To begin with I didn't miss popping in here to share my thoughts, as quite frankly I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about anymore.  Time was limited and the plan was to make time for other creative outlets.  Then in recent weeks I started reading other peoples blogs again and I knew I needed to return to writing.  Whether I return once a week, or more or less often, I am going to make time for this little corner of my life.  In the past I would create a plan to create a certain type of blog, make big plans, but this time I am just going to with the flow....well a little bit!  Of course I will continue to write about being a parent, any parent of teens will know it's good to vent somewhere, but I promise not too many moany mum posts.  Also I hope to share some recipes, my adventures into growing a cutting garden filled with vibrant floral sights and scents and of course health and wellbeing will feature.  So there we have it, a new outlook for an old seasoned blogger.  

Now I am off to facetime my eldest as it his nineteenth birthday, but sadly he is not here to eat endless cake as end of year exams are keeping him at uni for a couple more weeks.  But don't worry we will still be eating cake, just in different parts of the country!

Until next time take care, 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Could The New Postgraduate Study Loans Help The NHS?

Post grad study seems to constantly be at the back of my mind the past few weeks. Shall I start my Masters?  Which course shall I undertake?  Do I really need a MSc to progress in my career?  So many questions and numerous answers.  Having investigated a few options I felt a little restricted, especially as I was looking to my employer to fund any postgrad courses.  Therefore the course has to be completely relevant to my job description for any funding application to be considered.  Furthermore with increasing pressure on NHS Trust funds there are huge reductions in funding for post grad study, whichever profession you are.  

Not one to give up easily and as SoR Learning Rep I am keeping an eye on opportunities for CPD and study options.  Initially not paying a lot of attention to the announcement in the Budget earlier this year that there would be new Postgraduate Study Loans available from this September, I decided to investigate a little more whilst on annual leave this week.  These new loans are available for post grad courses that lead to a Masters qualification.  The course you undertake must be provided by a UK university, including the Open University, can be a taught or research based course and can even be used to fund a part time course and by distance learning.  This creates numerous possibilities for those of us looking to gain a Masters qualification.  Imagine the possibilities this could create for NHS employees in improving their own knowledge and the service and care that they deliver.  No longer restricted to study certain courses we could enhance our knowledge which in turn will improve service delivery and more importantly improve the standard of care delivered.  Obviously it is important that we complete courses that are specific to our jobs aswell so that we can continue as individual departments and Trusts as a whole to raise standards.  Also as staff would repay the loans themselves there would be no extra strain on Trusts finances.

But lets think outside the box for a moment.  What if I decided to study the MSc. in Mental Health Science with the OU?  Whilst it is not directly related to Radiotherapy, Oncology or Radiography, which my job is, lets stop and think.  Actually this course would be related to all of these and could be very beneficial to the care of my patients, for staff and the department.  As part of this course I would develop knowledge and understanding of stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis and dementia, aswell as developing a critical understanding that could help me improve clinical practice.  With the final module being a research project in an area of mental health science I could tailor this for radiotherapy patients.  

So maybe it is time we explored different options that improve us as radiographers and continue to help us raise standards of care.  Could these new Postgraduate Loans be the answer?  I would love to know what you think.

Until next time, take care.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Enjoying Wine from the Virtual Vines of Brancott Estate

Arriving home from my last shift for July I was delighted to find an invitation from Brancott Estate, for the following evening, to join them for the launch of their Virtual Vines experience at Camp Bestival.  No stranger to the use of virtual reality (VR), having used VERT as part of my radiography training, I was intrigued to find out more about this new VR experience and looked forward to being transported to the vineyards thousands of miles away in Malborough, New Zealand.

After a busy day of travelling and setting up camp, Andy and I were in need of a chilled glass of wine.  So we headed to Brancott Estate's Red Barn whilst Lucy 'babysat' Amber and Kitty with a wander around the stalls and sights in Castle Field.  Greeted by the friendly team, smiles fresh as the festival weekend was only just beginning, we were directed to the bar for wine tasting before trying the Virtual Vines experience.  Met by a very knowledgeable 'barman' both Andy and I chose to start with Sauvignon Blanc, a firm favourite for many years.  Questioned about flavour and then gaining a greater understanding about this wine as we tasted three wines of different price brackets. Whilst we enjoyed our favourite so far that evening, we awaited our turn to pop on the VR goggles.

Sat at our own little stations we were assisted into the goggles and headsets before we headed off into the world of Virtual Vineyards, transported to the vineyards of Brancott Estate thousands of miles away.  To begin with it was a little unnerving as I looked around and not see Andy and other bloggers but to be in a barn!  However I quickly adjusted and found the story captivating, learning a little of the history of the vineyards and the development of the flavours in creating their different wines.  This truly was a novel way of gaining an insight in to Brancott Estate and I love it when a brand can tell a story, making me feel part of this story.  Having taken this virtual trip to the Malborough vineyards, both Andy and I were keen to learn even more and returned to the very knowledgeable barman/sommelier who taught us how to appreciate every glass of wine.  Pedro, you can be sure we now use these tips every time we drink wine!  

Whilst the Virtual Vines experience is not available everywhere, if you get the chance be sure to pop on the VR goggles and learn more about Brancott Estate.  I know that they will be at The Big Feastival at the end of the month.  Sadly we are not attending this festival, but I can safely say we will be continuing to enjoy Brancott Estate Sauvignon Gris this summer, as it has now become a firm favourite in our fridge, especially the Letter 'R' Sauvignon Gris from the Letter Series.  Andy and I are also very keen to develop our knowledge and are looking into courses closer to home.  So a big thank you to Brancott Estate for taking us on a virtutal visit to your vines and improving our appreciation of good wine.  

Until next time, take care.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Weekend of Festival Family Fun

Last Thursday we packed the car to the gunnels, leaving just enough room for us and the girls and headed south for a weekend of festival family fun at Camp Bestival.  Excitement levels were high as we travelled over 250 miles to Lulworth Castle, so even after an early start nobody was catching up on sleep.  The further south we got the brighter the sun shone and bluer the skies became, which was welcomed as there is nothing worse than heading to a festival when the weather is damp and cold! 

In record time we had pitched the tent and collected everything from the car.  Best decision so far had been choosing a pitch in Camping Plus that was closer to the car park, having last year been closer to the festival entrance.  This made it easier for unloading the car of all the 'essential' kit we had brought.  Later this decision was also very welcomed in that there was less noise from the festival late at night.  Thankfully we were pitched before the rain set in, so making the tent more homely with bunting, lights and garlands was delayed due to the weather.  But within a couple of hours the rain moved on along with the fog and the tent was looking much more stylish.  So off we went to explore the parts of the festival that were open.  For me this first glimpse, late in the afternoon on Thursday is in some way magical.  Captivating the true essence of the festival as smiles beam on childrens faces as they see things for the first time or revisit another year older, seeing things with fresh eyes.  The huge flags sway in the breeze as the clouds separate to reveal a deep blue, sun sparkled sky.  Yes this is the moment I treasure most.  

So with the tent feeling like home for the weekend and the sun returning there was much fun to be had.  Here are some of our favourite moments from the weekend.

Fat Boy Slim
For me this was the highlight of the whole weekend. Katy B had been the perfect warm-up, taken back to my clubbing days with her cover of Let Me Be Your Fantasy.  Then he arrived, the amazingly talented Fat Boy Slim.   Sounds of those hacienda days of my youth filled the air as I danced with the sun setting across the hills and the castle lit up, reminiscing of my clubbing days.  This was a moment I will never forget, thank you Camp Bestival.   

Jess Glynne
With the line up announced several weeks ago, the girls were very excited to see that Jess Glynne was headlining on Friday night.  A firm favourite in our house, her album on repeat for weeks, this was a moment that we would not be missing.  We sang and danced the night away and Jess certainly did not disappoint with a brilliant set.  Obviously the following morning I was asked to tie Jess Glynne plaits for Kitty, who had spotted how her favourite singer had her hair tied the previous night!

The Science Tent
Every year this just gets better.  Workshops aplenty, which adopted the space theme of the festival and performances to captivate the most unlikely scientists.  Kitty especially loves the science tent, getting to be hands on and exploring ideas.  Of course this gets my stamp of approval and love how families can get to explore science together.

Kitty - Think I may need to grow before I use this fork!

Even in the evening, the vibe was cool at the Feast Collective, 
with DJ BBQ providing the music and entertainment.

The Feast Collective
Again this did not disappoint and the food is delicious, exciting and quite frankly amazing.  With aromas to captivate the senses, tunes from DJ BBQ that seem to fit just perfectly with the vibe of this street food market.  Whether you wanted an ice lolly made from fruit and veg, a naan bread packed full of spicy chicken and salads, fish burgers that you can almost smell the sea in every bite, goat spiced of flavours that take you to streets in Africa, burgers loaded with melt in the mouth pulled pork or just an Americano.  Bursting with flavour, the Feast Collective is definitely our favourite part of Camp Bestival.  

Dingly Dell
When you need to escape the chaos, noise and sun for a little while, Dingly Dell is the perfect place to go.  With pathways to explore, hidden delights in Lizzie's Way and fun activities from the National Trust, there is still plenty to do.  Yet in Dingly Dell I always feel the pace has slowed, there is time to just be, moments to reflect.  Even though our daughters love the craziness, the noise, the bustle of the festival they also love to escape to Dingly Dell.  Just pressing pause here for a little while, recharging before we head back into the warmth of the sun and the bustle of the weekend.  

Finally the big marquee that housed Bollywood in previous years was left unpacked and this whole area was amalgamated.  Having seen in previous years the split between inside and outside of Bollywood it just seemed 100% better this year just being outside.   A party atmosphere took over in the evenings, with a top line up of DJ's every night, especially as Trevor Nelson brought the Rhythm Nation to Bollywood on Friday night.  Perfection!

Brancott Estates - The Red Shed
Showcasing their brand new virtual reality experience, Virtual Vines, at Camp Bestival, Andy and I had the privilege of joining Brancott Estate on Thursday night for the launch.  I will be posting a full write up in the next couple of days, but the Red Shed was a great addition to the Castle Field.

We also spent time learning circus skills, in Art Town and saw some amazing bands and artists perform. I especially loved catching Ward Thomas late on Saturday afternoon and Amber loved Alice Jemima in the Big Top on Friday night.  There is so much to see and do at Camp Bestival and we never seem to manage to do everything we plan to.  Sadly this year we left early due to myself and Lucy becoming sick, perhaps due to the not so clean toilets, lack of running water for the taps and no soap in Camping Plus, as several people in the Orange zone were also ill on Sunday morning.  I know that all these things sound a little bit too luxurious for a festival campsite, but these are some of the reasons we have chosen to pay the premium and book a pitch in Camping Plus for the past two years.

Even though we left early we had an amazing weekend.  Every year the line up at Camp Bestival gets better and better, but so does everything else.  Whilst we have come to expect old favourites, there is always something new, something exciting, to be discovered.  A different theme every year obviously helps refresh the old favourites but I truly believe that there is something for everybody at Camp Bestival.  

So thank you Camp Bestival for an amazing weekend, where memories were made that we will cherish forever.  

Until next time, take care.

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Camp Bestival - Let The Countdown Commence

With than twenty days until Camp Bestival I am trying very hard to get organised.  There is a bag parked under the stairs that I gradually filling with some festival essentials and making lists like a crazy woman.  Packing for a festival is slightly different to holiday packing.  But with a few years of festival family fun under our belts I feel we have made progress in narrowing down the essential kit and much more besides.  A few days ago I tweeted the link to my essential Camp Bestival list, but this was compiled two years ago, so I feel a little refresh is required!

Obviously there are some things that should be on your list but here are some you may have forgotten.

- Matches - to light the stove
- Gas - for aforementioned stove
- Loo rolls - carry these with you at all times, although last year seemed to be restocked reguarly.
- Sleeping bags - obviously! Or a duck and down duvet if you have room in the car!
- Suncream and wellies - this is British summer time!
- Warmer clothes for the evening - as much as the many Pimms or pints of cider or fabulous      mummy    dancing may keep you warm the evenings do get chilly. Don't forget a cardi or jumper and   I always    pack a hoodie to sleep in when I camp, nothing worse than a cold head when you are       trying to get to sleep.
- Bubbles - unfortunately the no glass rule means no bubbles of the alcoholic type. But your children,   even teens, will thank you for packing a few bubble wands and pots of bubbles.
- Water Bottles - there are taps in the festival and campsites so take a large bottle to refil for water at     the tent and smaller bottles to refill for drinks.
- Beach Towels - these dry much quicker than normal towels so you won't have soggy towels lying    around.
- Picnic blanket - use it outside the tent and when inside the festival too.
- Torch, headlights and lanterns - even though the campsites are well lit, any or all of these are essential.

So that is my essentials now for my additional festival kit -

- Airbeds - nothing like a good nights sleep when you've spent all day at a festival. With the uneven  ground of the main campsite and even in Camping Plus I will not be forgetting mine.
- Bunting, flags and fairy lights - yes I cam one of those festival goers who likes a touch of   glamping   and these additions make the tent a bit more homely.
- Table and chairs - we have a fab camping table with chairs attached that packs fairly flat.  We always take a couple of camping chairs too.
- Kitchen Equipment - we have a Vango camping kitchen and is a godsend for creating a little kitchen area in the porch part of the tent.  Stove, pots, pans, kettle, plates, cups, washing up paraphenalia are all in one place and not getting in the way inside the tent,
- Lots of snacks - whilst there are more food choices than you can imagine in the festival I always take crisps, biscuits and fruit.
- Hair chalk, flower crowns, hats and face paints - obviously these are more for my daughters but I do have the obligatory festival straw hat.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Saying Goodbye to School.

Well it has been a busy few weeks in our house.  Exams a plenty with Connor taking his A levels, Jack having some AS level exams as well as Lucy and Amber having end of year exams. Thankfully this summer Kitty has escaped the rigourous testing our children are put through far too often, although we are still having to practice for the weekly spellings and times table tests.  Whilst there has been worrying and stress levels did increase I have been incredibly impressed with how my children have coped.  Maybe being constantly tested every year at school has paid off, they can all cope with exam stress.  However they all have different approaches to revision and I will be ensuring Amber is more organised and will be helping Lucy feel less panicky about the actual exams with practice papers before next summers GCSE exams.

With exams over this week has seen us reach some milestones.  Yesterday we all donned wedding worthy outfits and headed to the Leavers Day at Woodbridge School to celebrate Connor and his friends leaving school.  After a truly lovely and inspirational service in the school chapel we briskly ran through a short sharp shower across to the dining hall for pre-lunch drinks.  Over lunch we looked at the yearbook, reflected on Connors time at Woodbridge and contemplated the next part of his adventure.  As a mother you watch eagerly as your children grow into well mannered, funny, intelligent and beautiful people, sometimes wishing that they would hurry up and get to the next stage.  Those days when toddler tantrums are too much for your exhausted self to cope with, that another day of arguing with a confident, expressive teen is just too much.  But right now I just want to take some time, to stop the merry go round for a little while to enjoy moments with my children before I blink and they have all grown up and headed off on adventures when they no longer need me to wash their dirty sports kit or kiss grazed knees.  

So we made it through exam time, no mean feat and closed the chapter on Connor's schooldays but we have reached the best part of summer. Time for fun, festivals, days on the beach...well that is if the rain ever stops!  

Until next time, take care.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Weekend Wanderings - Latitude Festival

As regular readers know we are a family of festival lovers, with many yet to be visited and favourites already on the calendar.  Continuing my Weekend Wanderings sojourn around the Suffolk countryside it seems only right to mention Latitude.  About an hour north along the Suffolk coastline from my house, set in the beautiful grounds of Henham Park, our sleepy county hosts the festival filled with cultural treats.  Alongside big acts headlining the main stage smaller tents play host to poets and other literary performances, comedy and more initmite gigs from lesser known bands and performers.  For me it is these smaller tents that make any festival more magical, discovering new acts and not wading through huge crowds to get a glimpse of whomever is on stage.  

Whilst Latitude plays host to the plethora of Suffolk and Norfolk teens it is also a great festival experience for families too.  Infact the Kids Area could be considered a festival in itself!  With a jampacked programme of creativity, arts, crafts, music and science this year promises to delight families again.  Whether you want to learn to extract DNA from a banana with the DNA Splats, celebrate the bards big birthday and watch the Oxford Pocket Theatre interpret Shakespeare's plays for the younger audience or enjoy some puppetry and pizza with The Italian Job.  As the sun goes down over Henham Park, families can head to the Kids Area for a family disco, circus performances and on Saturday night children can join the parade.  This is just a tiny sample of the programme for children and families at Latitude this year.  For more information please visit the Family page.

As our own children have got older the music line up has become an important part of festi-family holidays.  This year Latitude welcomes The Maccabee's, Bears Den, Squeeze, Laura Mvula and New Order, to name a small selection.  A personal favourite for me is the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage, showcasing music from a multitude of different genres and hidden among the canopy of trees the Sunrise Arena welcomes new acts embarking on their first steps into the wonderful world of the music industry.  

So whether you are sans family or not, Latitude promises a fabulous weekend in Suffolk this year.  
More details of this years line up and tickets are available at .

Until next time, take care.