Going back to Uni – Professional Doctorate Personal Statement

I’ve previously mentioned how supportive the university were in ensuring my understanding of the demands undertaking doctorate level study. The two written undertakings which allow the university to assess my commitment were the professional doctorate personal statement and research proposal. Fortunately, the school were willing to review my submissions in advance, as well as the benefit of ensuring your aspirations can be supported by the university it also makes sure that you’re sure that you’re not trying to fit your square peg in a round hole.

The school provided fantastic guidance in structuring my personal statement, and I thought- especially when I’m demotivated in the future- it would be good to share it here. Especially as it seems it didn’t require amendment, it’s nice to think I got something right first time, which I’m guessing with starting modules in September it’s not likely to continue.

So, here it is, this is me:Professional Doctorate Personal Statement“My aspiration to undertake doctoral level study began when completing my under-graduate degree at Cardiff. At that time I was committed to the idea that undertaking training, and the opportunity education offers has the potential to change lives. Then, as now, I enjoy and find rewarding the process of gaining new knowledge, the commitment to exploring different territories to add context to understanding.

Life took its path, I moved to England for work, and in 2001 I began working in a strategic capacity for an industry training board, an organisation which encourages businesses to take responsibility to upskill its workforce and improve the image of the construction sector to attract new recruits. In keeping with this ethos, the organisation supported me in returning to study, first through a level 5 diploma and later an MBA.

Life again had a path, and whilst I had planned to continue my studies from an MBA into a doctorate programme, my hope of a family also came true- my daughter was due on the same day as my dissertation.

We made the decision to return to South Wales, to benefit from a family support network, and now, with my children in full-time education, I believe the time is right to commence this programme. In my time employed I have honed my thoughts on the benefits of study and the benefits of upskilling from a business perspective. Throughout my employment I have maintained a good level of learning and improvement, my employment relies on my ability to work at a strategic and operational level and demonstrate benefits realised. I have consistently undertaken roles within the organisation which take an idea from concept to realisation, and this ability relies strongly on gaining a sound knowledge base and undertaking a range of communication styles, from reports to presentations to meetings, to ensure the success of the realisation of products, services and guidance. These skills will allow me to apply myself to doctoral study and this will be complemented by the lifestyle we now have in Wales. I am fully supported by my employer in applying for this opportunity, and also work compressed hours which means I will have at least a day a week to commit to the programme as well as employer support around modules and study.

Should I be successful in completing the modules I would like to work on a thesis which contributes to a subject area I believe in passionately, I would like to work on a thesis which supports the idea that training and education is more than a financial transaction, and in the case of my organisation- that training is simply a way to get your levy back in grant. I would like to demonstrate the wider benefits that employers gain from investing in their workforce- at a company, sector, and UK level. Through the roles I have undertaken at work I have learned about the Social Value Act and Community Benefits. I have worked with more philanthropic companies as well as charities, taking forward the economic case of bringing people into work, but I believe the benefits to be far wider- that upskilling as well as employment has an impact on overall success as an economy. I would like to base my thesis around the social value of training and the return on social investment for businesses.

In undertaking this study I would like to make a contribution to my workplace which has a wider impact on the work we undertake.”

Phew. A walk in the park then.

Creating memories at Hoburne Park and beyond

This week you’ll find our full review of Hoburne Park over at Boo, Roo & Tigger Too. Like any great family break we ended up with too many photos which meant so much to us.

So you’ll find those which show off Hoburne Park and its surroundings at their best on Sarah’s site. I wanted to share some of my other favourites as I’m loving seeing my water babies thrive this summer.

At the end of May my three got their first memorable experience of an outdoor pool thanks to Aunty Leigh-Anne’s 40th. It’s taken all my energy to stop them getting hold of my phone to request a further invitation. The chance to spend four consecutive days swimming outdoors definitely ticked their wishlist.Fun at Hoburne Park Fun at Hoburne Park Fun at Hoburne ParkThe bond between my three siblings constantly astounds me. I love the bond between my twins but this summer has definitely shown the strength of the older sister. There’s rarely a moment when the boys are in the role of dominant coupling, instead I get the chance to spend more time with one of the boys.Fun at Hoburne ParkThis was the first outing of the summer for our body boards. The boys don’t seem as fond of the sea this summer- their tastes are obviously getting more refined – they’re no longer lapping up salt water and wolfing down the sand. They are all thriving in the moments they can keep their mouths closed and gaining confidence on their boards.Boardboarding in ChristchurchThe chance to go crabbing at Mudeford also saw the confidence of the children grow. They’ve been going crabbing locally with daddy recently so the chance to show off their handling skills was not to be missed. Crabbing at Mudeford Crabbing at MudefordAnd as for me, I got to practice my photography skills. Well, maybe practice using the camera rather than skills. And Mudeford gave me every opportunity with so many boats! boats Boats at MudefordOur time in Christchurch also kicked started me adding videos to our You Tube channel again, and this video shows our weekend break in a bit more detail:

Made Up Monday – Nail Polish

It seems I’m really predictable when it comes to nail polish. I’m really good at acquiring nail polish. When I put them all together it’s almost a history of when they were bought. I go through phases. Some I buy because I’ll have seen someone wearing the colour or style. They’re usually extreme for me, and probably with some glitter involved. The commonality is they follow my mood- reds in the winter, blues in the summer.

I put together a couple that I’ve been wearing recently to include in this post:Made Up Monday - Nail Polish

The dark red Rimmel Salon Pro polish has been with me for so long. I absolutely love it, favouring it more for my toes than my hands it really does have staying power.

The staying power pales into insignificance compared to the nail lacquer next to it. I received this in the goody bag at a Christmas blogger event hosted by Kerry last year. I really wasn’t sure about the colour at the time. It has a bit too much shimmer and orange for my immediate preference, but I absolutely love it. Having never tried anything by Crabtree & Evelyn before I will definitely be buying some other colours.

I bought the two Barry M Coconut Infusion nail paints recently having seen a few recommendations online. And I really couldn’t have been more disappointed. I went for colours a little different to usual but which I thought which look good as summer approached. They didn’t last long at all. I only tend to wear nail polish on my finger nails when I’m working away as I don’t expect my nail paint to have staying power in my home life. This nail paint seemed to chip by looking at it. I’ve no idea why given the reviews are good but it just didn’t go with my nails.

My final purchases were done separately, and it wasn’t until I was lining my purchases up that I realised how predictable I am. I have so many nail polishes in these two shades, and these most recent purchases both turned out to be Rimmel’s Super Gel. I really like the colour and the quality of these shades. And I think I’m learning that Rimmel really does offer a good budget all rounder- perfect for experimenting with trends and sticking with what you know.Made Up Monday - Nail Polish


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Social media tells me: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is at the Millennium Centre.
When I found out I knew we would have to go. I have no idea how my boys came to love the film so much, but one day (Christmas no doubt) it happened to be on and I was surprised how my boys, with ants in their pants at the best of times, were so enthralled. I loved that they loved a film so loved by me. And now, at age 5, Chitty is a favoured film for me and them, whether as our family movie time or as a way of getting some housework done. 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' TourSo, I couldn’t overlook the opportunity that the film coming to the stage presented. Albeit I gulped ever so slightly at the ticket price. I love taking the children to the theatre, and children’s performances at the Sherman Theatre allow this to be the reality, and the odd show at the New Theatre is usually affordable. The ticket prices at the Millennium Centre made me gulp. More so before me spotting some text on the front screen of my online booking which made me realise I could book tickets for the children on the phone but not online (what’s that about?), so after researching the best tickets our money could afford this working mum had to wait till the next day for the box office to open to book them, and then oddly it transpires that an adult can only have two children… so I had to purchase two adult priced tickets and two children priced tickets for me and my three little ones.

Rant over, but this did mean the pressure was on. My £125 tickets (level 2 raised stalls) needed to be money well spent. In preparation of scary moments we re-watched the film in the run up. I talked the children through what to do in the scary bits (think child catcher)- cover your eyes or hide under the seats. I went so far as to offer CM the chance to trade her ticket with Grandma if she wished.

And as it was, thank my lucky stars, the stars collided, and the magic which is Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the amazing cast, and direction of James Brining was in front of us on the amazing stage of the Millennium Centre. The production was everything my children wanted it to be and everything I remembered. As an adult watching the performance, I loved everything as much as needed. Lee Mead and Carrie Hope Fletcher were every bit believable to make Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious perfect on stage.'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' TourFor me, the choreography of ‘Doll on a Music Box’ wasn’t as mechanical as I loved in the movie, but the children loved it, and I wasn’t sure of the need for ‘The Bombie Samba’, but it was one of the highlights of CM’s summary of the show so I’m obviously outranked. But ‘Hushabye Mountain’, especially with the video design was perfect. And between the cleverness of design for ‘Toot Sweets’ (will there be real dogs on stage mummy?’) and the fantastic choreography of ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ I was in my element.Chitty Chitty Bang Bang TourFor all of us, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ was obviously a winner but what made me so overjoyed was how much the children loved ‘The Roses of Success’. E was joining in loudly which I was surprised, given they had enjoyed ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ hypnotised  in silence, that this was the song of all which would get my child joining in.'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' TourThe Child Catcher was awesome. Everything you would want him to be to be. Completely up-to-date, and for the sake of the younger audience, a bit of a pantomime villain. For me, I was interested to see it was not my child with ants in his pants but E, who was completely absorbed who fled under the seat. The second time I had to convince him that Chitty had appeared to coax him to look at the stage. But boy, between ‘The Roses’ and waving at the cast in the finale did my boy convince me that I had given him the most fantastic experience. CM, my gorgeous daughter, who made me leave Wicked because of the dragon and Charlie because of the chocolate tube, was obviously under strict (parent supportive) instructions about the scary bits, just sat in her chair throughout- Mesmerised. B does suffer from ants it seems, and so long as he’s with mummy, loved it.

I am so grateful my children had this experience. The money might make me gulp. But just wow. It is a favourite film. Chitty really truly does fly. And the cast makes this real. Without the cast a flying car would just be magic. With the cast Chitty becomes a part of a magical tale. Leaving disbelief and happiness- what better a combination?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is at Wales Millennium Centre until the 21st August 2016 before flying off on the remainder of the tour in Canterbury, Birmingham, Northampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Woking, Salford &  Bristol. 

Going back to University – a Professional Doctorate

Once I had decided that I wanted to pursue a professional doctorate, I admit to taking the easy option in assessing the ‘how’.

In 2008 (pre-pregnancy) I had begun talking to Salford Uni about doing a doctorate at Salford Uni once I’d completed my MBA. It was an easy option: I lived locally, and had been working closely with them on a couple of work-based projects, it was easy to make enquiries. Professional DoctorateIn 2015 my first option was to approach my nearest university- Cardiff. I had approached them last July, before all the redundancy stuff became real, thinking the time would soon be right with the boys starting school in September. The university was really responsive in what was possible. And it was positive. This university offer four options in the school of social sciences, two of which offered possibilities for me. But life got in the way, I started a new role at the end of August and found my substantive role was to be made redundant in October.

In February of this year I started exploring with my organisation the possibility of applying to stay. This included what was important to them and what was important to me.

Fortunately they agreed that my desire to undertake a research project was beneficial to both the organisation and me. And alongside my application for a job I also started building my thought process around a research project at Cardiff, and undertaking a doctorate.

Once again, the university was quick to support me. Helping me understand the commitment expected, the work that had to be undertaken to be accepted onto the programme, and my options now and moving forward. The school also worked with me to understand what I wanted to achieve within my research proposal. I was surprised by the work I needed to undertake for my application, especially being outside of academia with limited access to journals and papers. But I needed to demonstrate why my research proposal would add value, and also allow the university to assess whether they were best placed to support me. Fortunately a supervisor came forward and it looks like my research is really possible.

Being successful in my application to stay at work happened quickly, the process of gaining relevant permissions to undertake study not so much. 

Again, the university was understanding. Typically I worked literally to the deadline to submit my application on July 15th.

Which meant – fortunately- there wasn’t so much of a wait to find out if my application had been successful.

On August 4th an email popped into my inbox- an unconditional offer to undertake a Professional Doctorate in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University.

I may have celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco.

I realise now that unconditional is logical, I’m not undertaking any current study to make it conditional. But wow, do I remember how envious I was who anyone who received an unconditional offer back in the day.

Then the hangover and reality dawned.

Five years of reality.

Club Petz Bam Bam the Hamster from IMC Toys

Sometimes there are toys which you look at and you want to run a mile, but your child… your child is completely head over heels. Club Petz Bam Bam the Hamster falls into this category. This cute little pet was made to be added to our madhouse after we disappointed 5-year-old B with the news we couldn’t add another real-life hamster to our 3 cats and 2 dogs menagerie.Club Petz Bam BamThe arrival of Bam Bam was met with ridiculous amounts of excitement, and the moment the “Try Me” button was pressed the squeals of delight began. And I realised this pet would definitely be best confined to the boys’ bedroom.

For the moment Bam Bam is ‘hugged’ he begins shaking and bouncing and giggling with laughter. And that’s the thing. He’s a little loud. And it’s contagious. The boys love him. Cuddled Club Petz Bam BamI can’t knock it. Bam Bam is really cute, and furry. And you can completely see why Bam Bam makes children laugh.

And the boys loved him so much that of course Bam Bam went to bed with them that night. And of course the next day they insisted on taking Bam Bam with them for their sleepover at Grandma & Grampy’s (oh, I tried to contain my laughter!).

So, yes, Bam Bam is definitely one to bring smiles and laughter into the life of a child. And Bam Bam makes it really easy to get a child in a sulk to have a strop when you’ve managed to make them laugh by putting Bam Bam on their stomach. But Bam Bam is loud. Bam Bam is best creating happiness in a child’s bedroom. And then life is good. Cuddled Club Petz Bam BamIMC’s Club Petz Bam Bam retails for £19.99 and can be found at Argos, Amazon, Tesco and other retailers.

Disclosure: We received IMC’s Club Petz Bam Bam for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Turtle Wax Car Wash Fun

Turtle Wax Car WashIf you know my husband, you’ll know how much he likes cars. So much so, for Christmas he bought me one. That sounds so much more than it is – I accidentally sold mine. Yep, even I can’t believe that happened. After managing for a few months with one car the frustration wore thin. So the opportunity to review Turtle Wax Car Wash goodies was a great opportunity to show him that I was actually grateful. So much so I set the children to work.Turtle Wax Car Wash WashlessHalfords have a massive range of Turtle Wax products and whilst me and hubby associate Turtle Wax with the traditional ‘wax on, wax off’ we were both really amazed with the range of products, making sure your car looks equally sparkly inside and out.

Admittedly, as someone who isn’t a massive fan of cleaning the car my favourite product was the Waterless Wash. Because yes, how simple? And of course, working out so much more reasonably priced than the car wash. And if you have a little one who just needs help reaching the higher reach, it’s job done.Turtle Wax Car Wash Washless WashAnd to go with getting the body of the car clean, there’s also products to make sure the rest of the body reach the same cleanliness. The ClearVue Glass Clean did manage a streak-free clean, something I was a little cynical of anything achieving based on my experience with polish and mirrors.Turtle Wax Car Wash Glass CleanDue to the range of products to hand, we also decided to try out the All Wheel Cleaner, which managed to clean up the whole wheel, offering more than just a surface clean.Turtle Wax Car Wash All Wheel CleanerThe simplicity of cleaning with the Turtle Wax range really is great for people who don’t like this particular chore. Cleaning up the car inside and out is straightforward, and based on the hubby’s response definitely worth the effort.

And if you do like making the effort, Turtle Wax have the more traditional ‘elbow wax’ products as well, if you like to inspect the cleanliness with a magnifying glass (hello dad!). 

For my children, they like the more traditional clean, with a bucket of water, so they put the Turtle Wax Super Clean Wash & Wax to the test- which not only kept them busy, but also cheered hubby up no end to be driving a clean car again.

Disclosure: We worked with Halfords and Turtle Wax on this review receiving a range of products. All opinions and thoughts provided are our own.

Going back to University – again

University is one of those really odd prospects.

When I was younger, I think it was just a given that I would study for a degree.

I don’t think it was as much a given for my older brother but he did, he took the decision to study in England. Now, too many years on, he has built a successful career on the back of his degree, and since he graduated has probably only spent a handful of years living in the UK.
My younger brother didn’t go to uni, and I believe his success outranks mine and that of my older brother. My little brother is a creative, an innovator, and appears to have work life balance completely in control.

I think about my children, and whilst currently there are no university fees in Wales, I can’t help but think this won’t be the case long-term. I consider now that going to university has to completely align to an aspiration of going into a profession, given the debts it is likely attendance will stack up. Compared to a degree-level apprenticeship, where in the right occupation you will earn more and be more credible by gaining employment whilst you earn rather than going to university.

That said, like any amazing parent I don’t practice what I preach.Back to universityI think I was in one of the final years in the UK where a non-profession based degree had currency in employment. In more recent years I have found myself recruiting people with higher academic qualifications to do lower level jobs. There seemed to be a time where academia became overrated.

It would seem for being born at the right time (even as an August baby!) I am grateful.

I graduated from Cardiff University in 1999, in the same year I also graduated from Glamorgan University. The former with a BA (Hons) the latter with a HNC.

In 2001 I started working for the organisation which still employs me- despite everything. My degree was not relevant to my role, but the commitment to achieve it obviously had currency.

And fortunately the organisation invest in its people. In the time I’ve been employed I have added a string of qualifications to my bow which have stood me in good stead.

The one of which I am most proud is my MBA. I am not really sure what inspired me to commit to it, but I gained so much through the achievement.

It saw me through some of my toughest times personally and professionally. It saw me gain a promotion. It allowed me to understand fully the camaraderie of classmates. All of us in jobs trying to get a work-study balance. Many with families, many gaining partners, and families. It also enabled a once-in-a-lifetime study trip (ahem) to Beijing, where I think I spent the first days in complete disbelief of where life had taken me. MBA university students in BeijingIt saw me become pregnant, and trying to balance work and a dissertation with my impending due date. Fortunately CM went overdue which meant I managed to graduate, and graduate with my 4 month old daughter. MBA university graduation with 4mth babyAnd that was it.
My life became absorbed with family.

And whilst I have done a few courses since- and loved them, I have tried to sign up to longer term qualifications and  known at induction that I was not committed to them- you have to want to study, there will be compromises. And up until now I haven’t been able to make them, I haven’t wanted.

But with impending redundancy came reflection.
I remembered that before the dream of a family was the aspiration of a doctorate.
Thoughts cemented around a research area.
With compressed hours, living back in South Wales, and the children now immersed in education. 
Well, it seems the timing is right.

Life Lately #6

It was as if I’d been waiting for a perfect time. There wasn’t going to be another Life Lately update until a few things had happened, the planets had aligned.

It’s been taking more than a while for the planets to align. It still hasn’t happened.

And so many times I have wanted to write stuff, but have been put off, “you could, but wait for that one more thing first.” – until you just have to stop.

Because in the last month things are back on course.

The last few weeks I have hated my job with a passion. 

And oddly, I have come to appreciate that this in itself is good.Life LatelyEarlier this year I made a list. I made a list of everything I wanted in a job, realistically. And it turned out the job most closely aligned to it was the one I was doing.

What a wally.

After telling everyone I was taking redundancy, after more than three months of conviction that I was leaving, I had to admit to my boss that actually, if it’s ok really, I’d like to apply for my job.

And it was odd, because the job I then had to apply for was the job I had spent the last six months doing, but not the job from which I was being made redundant.

I placated myself that no-one had got the job in the first round of interviews, no-one who wanted it had been offered it, so I wasn’t taking it from anyone. But how odd would it be that after six months of doing a job that it would come to be that I wasn’t considered able to do the role permanently. Thankfully it turned out ok.

And I truly don’t regret staying.

My job offers so much: personally, professionally, financially.

It offers a work-life balance, and allows one of us to be a stay-at-home parent.

It allows me to be the person I want to be, to not compromise on ethics and values.

But I’ve spent so long hoping that I wouldn’t come to regret my decision, not wanting to admit I had made it,

That I was completely floored a fortnight ago when I became despondent about my job.

I can cope with resistance and negativity, within the organisation or outside the organisation. In fact, I sort of thrive on it, for the best conversations about why and how what we do will make a difference.

It turns out I can only handle one at a time.

And so when faced with both I hibernated.

I began to question things, including my decision.

Opening my daily ‘Guardian Jobs’ emails again.

And then it occurred to me.

I love my job.

But really?

What kind of job exists that you didn’t hate it every now and again?

What kind of perfect was I building myself up to?

How do you build up resistance if your job doesn’t challenge you?

And the truth of it is, in the face of challenge,

My work-life balance has been restored.

We’ve managed to get back to Church.

I look at my lounge and love it again, for it is tidy.

I’ve finally managed to box up all the baby clothes to go up to the attic.

And I’ve spent time with my children.

Life is as is, and we’re living it, with little steps, that sometimes, every now and again, has rhythm. 

Trolley Bags – Review

The weekend we moved to Wales, almost five years ago, was the weekend the carrier bag charge was introduced. And to be honest, we’re still a bit hit and miss as to whether or not we’ve remembered to keep the boot stocked… and taken the bags out of the boot!

I’m more organised when we’re going into a shopping centre, there’s a mission involved. And I’m pretty good if I’ve got a big shop in mind. But it’s the general shopping when we tend to get caught out.

So, the opportunity to review Trolley Bags was one I couldn’t pass up. Because, unlike all our other bags, there’s no temptation to use them for any other purpose.Trolley Bags ExpressTrolley Bags come in Original (full size trolley) and Express (half-size trolley) and in pastel and bright colours). Designed as four different sized bags, they all connect with Velcro.Trolley Bags ExpressThe design means they hang on your trolley as you fill your trolley, and once everything is on the conveyor belt the integrated rails can be placed open in the shopping trolley, making it really easy to pack your purchases.Trolley Bags ExpressIt makes it so easy to categorise your shopping rather than panicking as you fill up your shopping bags and try to load your trolley in a desperate plight not to lose pace with the rate of everything being scanned. For this shop, I was topping up on school uniform purchases to they went into the smallest trolley. We were getting treat things for movie night so all cupboard food went into the large bags, fridge things into one and freezer into the other. Which makes it much easier when you get home and bags can go nearest where the purchases need to end up.

And, because there’s no chance of using the bags for anything other than their purpose, it becomes second nature to put them back in the boot of the car when you’ve stocked the kitchen. Trolley Bags My one criticism of the bags is they don’t work so well when you’re on a self-service aisle. Trying to put all the bags back into the trolley once they are full is a bit of a bind.

Conversely, they work perfectly with ‘Scan as you Shop’, as you can basically categorise as you go round the supermarket and you get all the convenience of the bags, and a step in the process is still removed.

At £19.99 the bags are an investment, lots of 5ps to save up. But, given how much we’ve spent on carrier bags over the past 5 years, I’m certain we’ll make the money back quickly. The added convenience definitely reduces stress from the shop and makes things far easier from shop to home.

Trolley Bags are available at £19.99.

Disclosure: We received Trolley Bags for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.