Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review - Yuu bags

I'm sure sometimes my kids think I'm the world's most backward parent - I don't even pretend to know what's "cool" with kids these days, I've always gone on the philosophy that a) it's probably not aimed at me anyway, b) I'll think it's pointless, and c) the next big thing will be along soon enough anyway.

Yuu bags, however, are cool(*). Apparently. I therefore got parenting brownie points when one popped through my door for us to review.

To be fair, it didn't really pop. These things are pretty bulky, and pretty sturdy.

A Yuu bag, for the uninitiated, is a "desk in a rucksack", which comes with a free fun pack, and is ergonomically designed for young backs. So far, so good. But what did we think of it?

We liked:
- the fact that, considering its bulk, it's actually pretty lightweight
- it fits lots of essentials inside it
- the straps are nicely padded and wide, which makes it relatively comfortable to wear
- the little "desk" seems to work nicely and
- it has lots of little nooks and crannies for keeping treasured possessions safe
- it's great for travel, and the little activity pack kept the kids very amused on a long car journey:

What wasn't so good:

- the zip was slightly tricky for the kids to do up by themselves on occasion
- its bulk is both a pro and a con - great for getting stuff in, but can also get heavy based on how many books they shove inside!
- apparently the pattern (lobsters? ants? we couldn't really decide) was "freaky", but I suspect that may just be a taste thing...

Yuu bags retail at around £43, which seems like a lot to me for a children's backpack. However, after a couple of weeks of use, it still looks as sturdy as ever, which is a good sign for my children, so I do think it will last. I certainly think it will get a decent amount of use for travelling!


(*all claims correct at time of writing only and may be subject to the changing fickleness of 9 year old girls)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Free CV advice

I'm recruiting at work at the moment- not just for one post, but two. It's amazing how much time it takes up when you're also trying to do a day job, which explains my general lack of online presence. Anyway, after many, many years of firing, it's really, really nice to actually be hiring again, so I'm definitely not complaining.

Having been in the job seeking game myself relatively recently, it's also kind of weird to see the other side of the equation.

When I was made redundant, I was incredibly lucky that my old employer gave me access to the services of an outplacement company, with a very lovely lady called Mary who cajoled me, gave me great advice and, perhaps most importantly, ripped my CV apart and helped me build it back up again to land my current job.

However, not all job seekers are lucky enough to have a Mary looking out for them, and for some that's glaringly obvious.

What started off in my head as a somewhat sarcastic post about the benefits of spell check has therefore morphed into something that I hope might be of help, especially those at the beginning of the greasy career pole. Here, therefore, my tips if you want a head start for a job with me:

1) Spell check is your friend. I know, I know, this wasn't supposed to be a snarky post about poor grammar and punctuation, however,  the squiggly lines in MS Word are there for a reason. Use them.

2) Spell check is your enemy. Yes, I'm contradicting myself. The thing is, while spell check will pick up obvious mistakes, it won't help you with the times you've used the wrong word completely. Do you really mean you have a friendly manor? Were you really a team manger? And if you don't know the difference between effect and affect (and I confess I've had to look it up plenty of times), a dictionary can be handy. Or, yaknow, Google. Another pair of trusted eyes can often be a Godsend with this one.

3) Employment history usually goes backwards. Jumping from present to past to present again is REALLY confusing for somebody reading it.

4) On a similar note, be clear about which tense you are using. Current tense is fine if you're talking about what you're doing at the moment, but sounds odd when you're talking about the student job you had in 1998.

Which leads me on to...

5) It's OK to shorten older stuff if it's not relevant to what you're doing now....


6) it's generally best to keep it short. Whilst there are exceptions, 2 pages is still generally ideal. I've had over 30 applications for one job alone, and if you ramble on, I'm afraid you've lost me at page 3, so frankly pages 4 and 5 are just a waste of ink and paper.


7) that doesn't mean you should use really, really small font squashed ridiculously closely together in order to keep to the two page limit. I'm not as young as I used to be and squinting gives me a headache.

8) Also, swapping fonts halfway through doesn't look interesting and modern, it just looks careless and confused.

9) Write your name at the top of page 1 and make it BIG. It'll ensure I get your name right if you do make it to interview.

Oh, and finally, do try and get my name right if we finally get to meet. Repeatedly calling me Janet when I've already corrected you probably isn't the best way to impress a potential employer.

It's not that hard, really... Good luck!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two months in (selected) tweets

Right. This work lark ain't particularly conducive to blogging. Who knew? Still, as I do occasionally send out the odd random tweet, I thought I'd use this medium to bring you up to speed. I know, I know, it's cheating, but Mr Tin has been complaining that this is the only medium through which he finds out what I'm up to.

First off, the usual new job jitters:

...then we have the early false sense of security and annoying smugness (pride comes before a fall, they say...):
Yeah. Jinxed it.
Still, it's good to see I've still got my priorities right:
By week 3, I'm starting to definitely feel more at home in the new job:
...and my colleagues' little foibles are as familiar as those of my family:

...whilst I soon find that work not only gets in the way of blogging, but also Twitter itself:
...and there are other annoyances to being back at work:

...such as those "novelty days" at my children's school:

...and the odd commute. "L'Enfer, c'est les autres"(*).

The thing is, I normally like food. A lot. But I guess I wasn't really feeling it. Who knew the humble pancake could cause such strife?

Things then went from bad to worse:

Do I really moan that much? I guess I do...

Yep. Still doing the rubbish mother bit:

...and the rubbish housewife bit.
Not forgetting the rubbish working woman bit:

So, all in all, no real change. Life is busy, and generally good, although reliable hot water would make it even better.


(*roughly translated as "Hell is other people", Jean-Paul Sartre)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Things I'm going to miss when back at work

So this is it, the day of reckoning. The last day of officially being unemployed, for yes, I do indeed start a new job on Monday. Having resigned myself to the fact that the recruitment process always takes longer than perhaps would be ideal, I envisaged having another couple of weeks before being in this position. Yet I am going from initial interview to first day in less than two weeks. Whilst this is obviously a Good Thing, it has left me a tad shell-shocked and panicked about getting all those things on my list done that I have been dragging out for the best part of four months...

It will also be the first time that I will be working properly "full time" since before having children, and I am certainly apprehensive about how the whole work-life balance will look. Here, therefore is the list of things I'm going to miss about going back to work...

1) The kids. Despite my regular cries of "IF YOU CARRY ON LIKE THAT I'M SENDING YOU TO YOUR GRANDPARENTS", I am quite fond of the little blighters. The truth is, however, that with both of them being at school and at various hobbies I probably won't see that much less of them anyway, so actually I am less worried about this than perhaps maternal guilt should dictate. But I've never been a fan of guilt of any sort anyway.

2) My burgeoning social life. I've probably made more "playground buddies" in the past four months than in the whole of the almost four years that my eldest has been at school. Whilst I expect I will always float on the peripheries a little bit, it has certainly been nice to not feel like a complete Billy-No-Mates at the school gates for a change. I've even "done coffee" on one or two occasions...

3) Walking. Forced exercise is anathema to me. The thought of the gym fills me with horror, and I've never seen the point in running when walking is perfectly acceptable. I do, however, love walking, and will miss the walks to and from school, and even my weekly walk to the job centre. I really noticed a change in my fitness levels even after not having done it for two weeks over the Christmas holidays.

4) Time for appointments and admin. No longer can I mooch around the local shops on a whim. Groceries will probably have to be ordered online again. Paperwork and tidying will take up evenings. Hair cuts will have to be done on Saturdays. Appointments with doctors/dentists/chiropractors etc will have to be carefully scheduled around working hours.

5) Time for Reading and Relaxation. And Twitter. And painting my nails. And farting about on the Internet...and just generally wasting time by myself.

Mostly however, I am excited. Excited by a new challenge, a chance to learn new things and meet new people. Oh, and excited by the opportunity to go shoe shopping. What does one wear in an office these days?!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Review - Tom Gates: Extra Special Treats (not)

"Never work with children or animals", or so the saying goes. In blogging terms that might also mean "never agree to a review that involves a child giving you his or her opinion". You see, the lovely folks at Scholastic sent me a copy of the latest special hard cover winter edition of "Tom Gates: Extra Special Treats (not) to review.

The book duly arrived, and was swiftly ferreted away by the 8 year old, who emerged at the end of the same day and declared that it was "epic".

"Epic?" I said.
"You'll have to give me a bit more than that - that's a bit of a short review!"
"Well, it's got cool pictures and stuff, and it's funny."

Weeks of wrangling didn't really give me much more, so I had to make do with the official description:

'The sixth in the series by bestselling author Liz Pichon (winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and current holder of the Blue Peter Book Award), the book is jam-packed with trademark illustrations, hilarious characters and stories - guaranteed to tickle children's funny bones as the evenings draw in!'

Tom Gates: Extra Special Treats (not) is out now, published by Scholastic.

(...and yes, it's "epic".)


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