Rug Doctor: a review

It was good timing when an email arrived asking if I would like to review Rug Doctor right after Ghostwriterdaddy spilled a cup of coffee on the cream carpet and a strange smell started to drift from the room… Well, you can guess that I agreed!

I was given a voucher that would entitle me to a 24 hour hire of a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner and a litre of cleaning solution. I have to say that I’ve been intending to do a proper clean of the carpets for some time and since Spring was sprung (before the rain came back) it seemed like a good time to do it. So off I went to Morrisons (you can hire them there and at other venues around the country) to get my machine.

The leaflet that we got with the cleaner is very easy to understand and within no time I was ready to go. Of course, I took photos of the offending carpet for the purposes of this review but I beg you- please don’t judge me! Sometimes you just don’t realise how dirty carpets get over time when you have an active family…

Ok, so I found the machine simple to fill, easy to use and easy to drain after use. That’s all fine and well- but did it clean the carpets?

I had 1 litre of cleaning solution which was intended to clean two rooms. In fact, I actually I cleaned the living room, up the stairs, the landing and my bedroom. So 1 litre goes a little further, depending on the size of your rooms. Its also worth mentioning that Rug Doctor promises dry carpets in around 2 hours and I found this to be the case, but only in rooms where the access to heating and fresh air through windows was not restricted. My upstairs landing took a little longer.

So the photos tell the whole story:




Carpet before

Dirty water!

Carpet after



Carpet stain before

Heavy traffic area by the door- part cleaned

Carpet stain after


Not perfect as there are still a couple of stains (grrr) that need a little more attention but overall the carpets look like new once more. The test came when I went to close the living room door and found that our carpet had rediscovered it bounce- the door struggled to close easily! Once more my carpets were the kind that your feet sink into when you walked on them! Which led to a new family rule- no more shoes in the house (I hated this anyway) and no food in the living room. We’re doing really well!

Overall, I would recommend the Rug Doctor. It’s cheap at around £20 for 24 hours and it’s easy to use. Most importantly, it does what it says it will- it cleans your carpet!


*I was sent a voucher to exchange for 24 hour hire and 1 litre of cleaning fluid. I was not given any money for this review and all opinions are my own.


Frankie and Benny’s Bolton: a review

We recently reviewed our favourite family restaurant as they unveiled a new menu. This was the first time we had done a review like this- as a family and under-cover! The children thought it was great fun and I have to say, I really quite enjoyed feeling a bit like those food critics you see on Master Chef…

Ok, so it wasn’t quite like that, but we did have a good try!

We went on the first day that the new menu launched and it happened that my sister and her husband had come to visit for the weekend so it was a lovely way to say goodbye to them too. Frankie and Benny’s has always been a favourite place to take the kids because the menu has something for everyone and the staff are always so great with them. We’ve been going since the big one was tiny so we knew they would find something to eat and have fun.

Frankie and Benny olives

As always, we started with the olives (the big one normally wolfs these down within minutes and once again she did not disappoint! That over, we devoured the new menu and ordered our meals. We went for the Specials menu because the offer of two courses for £10.95 is really good and a great option when there are a few of you eating.

I had the Goats Cheese and Red Onion Pizza while Ghostwriterdaddy went for the New Yorker pasta. Lovely. The kids, obviously, had Spaghetti Bolognaise and fish fingers (its nice that the whole menu wasn’t ditched in favour of the new dishes as sometimes happens) and my sister and her husband both went for the New Yorker burgers.

Now, we’ve been to Frankie and Benny’s in the past and had to wait a long time to get our food when its busy. The staff know that waiting times can be a little long and that’s why children are given colouring books to keep them entertained. At two though, the toddler is too young so we always come prepared with toys etc. The particular evening that we were there, the computers decided to have a hissy fit and our order wasn’t able to go through to the kitchen at first. We did wonder why they couldn’t just tell them, especially as even we could see the chefs quite clearly due to the open kitchen! However, to the credit of the staff, we didn’t actually wait all that long to be served at all.

We brought toys for the toddler

Dessert was also delivered promptly: ice cream, fruit salad, hot chocolate waffles (YUM!) and fruit crumble. All perfectly delicious.

The real wait came (as it often does at Frankie and Benny’s) when it was time for the bill. Usually we don’t mind as the kids like to choose their balloons and have a play etc, but on this occasion my sister had a three hour drive to make so we felt we did wait a little too long at this point. Once we asked though, the bill was with us and sorted immediately.

All in all, it was a really good experience, as it often is at Frankie and Benny’s. There are lots of other delicious sounding meals on the new menu and I know for a fact that this won’t be our last visit!


*we were given a 50 voucher to spend during our review; we did spend more of our own money and all views reported are my own. We received no monetary payment to write this review.

Who do you blame for your birth trauma?

This is a question I have asked myself many times and each time I tend to get a different answer, depending on my mood. At first, and on many other occasions since, I blamed the hospital. I must stress here that ‘the hospital’ is not the staff (not all of them anyway) but more the red tape, rules and lack of funds leading to bad decisions and busy midwives. Naturally, I moved on to blaming myself- if I had stamped my foot harder I would’ve got my elective section when it mattered and the whole trauma would not have occurred. But that only leads me back to blaming the hospital because they should’ve  been in a position to offer counselling/ serious thought to the vulnerable pregnant woman.

The more I look at it, the more I am forced to just accept it. Yes, lots of things went wrong, mistakes were made and hearts were broken. I can’t change that. I never made a complaint, believing- wrongly, I am told- that if I was to be awarded compensation, that would only make the problem worse for a hospital that is already struggling to provide adequate care. But then I am told that my complaint could help others… could stop the same thing happening again. Whether it would or not, I think its too late.

I never wanted monetary compensation. I would’ve swapped all the money in the world for some understanding. For an apology. For someone to tell me they cared about what happened. For someone to explain, truthfully, what went wrong. For someone to take away the nightmares and the anxiety and that cold, hard ball of fear that rested in my stomach day in and day out. That would’ve been priceless.

So who do I blame? When I was interviewed by the BBC I stated that I blame the hospital for what happened but what I really meant what I blame the system. The NHS, I suppose. I’m entitled to quality care and I just didn’t get it. Not because anyone was particularly negligent, more because they just couldn’t give it to me.

They were forced to deny me an elective section because they cost a lot of money. They were forced to leave me alone for hours because there was nobody available to help me- it was a Sunday and they didn’t have enough staff on duty. They were forced to send me home with a broken body and no pain relief because budgets would not allow them to do otherwise. Never mind I was in agony…

I never really blamed the midwives- in fact, my interview was part of a Royal College of Midwive’s appeal for more midwives in the NHS. There is a severe shortage and it is affecting people like me, families like mine.

But mistakes were made. For which no apology has been given. For which, no apology has been sought.

Am I right or wrong? Am I now in a position to seek out that apology, or explanation? Next week myself and another birth trauma survivor are hosting the Birth Trauma Association’s first support group in Manchester. Caroline’s story was printed in the Manchester Evening News yesterday and today Deanna Delamotta has written a piece about it. It’s interesting that she chose to comment on the fact that Caroline has never sought compensation for what happened.

For so many women who have been through a traumatic birth (and its estimated that around 7,000 women in the UK feel traumatised by birth each year) it is hardly ever about the money. It is always about being listened to. Somebody accepting that mistakes were made and things need to be done differently again. It’s about hospitals improving their care for other women.

So who do I blame? I blame the hospital for the things they did wrong. I blame myself for not standing firm and insisting on the birth I wanted. I blame the consultant for not recognising I needed support when I asked for a c-section. I blame the hospital for changing the surgery dates and not explaining why. I blame the midwives for not listening to me, or taking me seriously. I blame the hospital for cutting budgets which meant I was discharged too early and with no pain relief after labouring and enduring a horrific c-section.  Mostly, I blame fate. Childbirth is such a tricky thing you see. Nobody can predict what will happen. And what will be, will be.




* If you are local to Manchester and would like to come along to the Birth Trauma Association’s support group, our first meeting is taking place next week, Wed 25th April at 3.30-5 pm. Location: Pannone Solicitors Manchester 123 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BU

Graco Symbio b: what I really thought

I’ve had real fun testing the Symbio b and despite some of my friends thinking I am in cahoots with Graco, I want to assure you all that everything I have written has been my very own opinion. I truly believe that it is a great pram. I think I have tested it to its limits and the results are there for you to read for yourselves. And yes, I would definitely recommend this pram to a friend.

So what did I do? Firstly, I wrotethis post, which was based on my initial impressions of the Symbio b following a c-section. I have sold a pram on due to its weight and the fact that I was unable to lift onto kerbs after a c-section, so this test was very important. The Symbio passed with flying colours as it is lightweight and can be steered with one hand easily.

Next, I wrote this post about shopping centres and whether or not the Symbio is up for the challenge. It is. I then moved on to this post, the Toddler’s Review. Converting the pram from newborn to toddler mode was not the easiest of tasks but I did manage it and the result was pleasing. The Symbio works well as a stroller and is comfortable and a good size. There is no need to buy another pram.

By this point in the testing period, I was keen to know what the other Graco testers thought of their Symbio b. I wrote this postwith the intention of finding out what other parents looked for in a new pram, with a view to linking up with the other testers to give their verdict on agreed criteria. The result was the testers’ review link up which enabled readers to read four other opinions on the pram too. As a parent, I felt this was a good way to get a more balanced view and it was really interesting reading the other reviews.

After six weeks of use, I decided to write a report on the wear and tear to the Symbio b, the results of which can be found in this postWe’ve clocked up the miles and it’s fair to say that the Symbio b still looks as good as new.

Other prams have tried to derail the Symbio b

Next I decided to make a few short films to demonstrate the practicalities of owning a Symbio b. These came in the form of challenges, links to which can be found on this post. Another film I made features The Big One demonstrating how easy the Symbio is to set up- so easy a child can do it!

With most of the tests finished, I wanted to write something a little more creative and so I took my inspiration from the news, with this post: graco symbio b: I’m just like Samantha Brick Next I wrote about some fun ways to ‘pimp’ your pram in this post

With light-hearted posts out of the way, I started to think about why it is I love prams so much. Because I do love prams, you know (in case you hadn’t guessed!). This post talks about the reasons why my pram (and now the Symbio b) is so special to me.

The last challenge for the Graco Symbio b had to wait until Easter, when I went home to visit my mum. The Grandparent Challenge.Again, it passed with flying colours.

I’m not going to repeat myself. If you like the sound of one of the posts, have a read and see what happened. I will say this though: I have thoroughly enjoyed testing the Symbio b for Graco and I hope my posts have been of some help to some of you.

Graco Symbio b: The Grandparent Challenge

This is the final challenge for the Graco Symbio b and one that I thought was extremely important. Think about it. How many times have you seen grandparents in town struggling to fold/ unfold a pram they have been left in charge of? There is always a crying child to accompany this scene too. My mum says that prams are too complicated these days and I know of one grandparent who has laminated instructions guiding her as to the logistics of going for a walk!

I find the Graco Symbio b to be one of the easiest prams to fold and unfold. I tested my sister and she found it relatively easy too. But grandparents are a whole different kettle of fish. How easy would Ghostwriternanny find it to ‘sort out’ the Symbio b?

Unfortunately, my mum declined to be filmed (it would’ve made for great viewing) but she did agree to allow me to write this post. After giving her the instruction manual she asked for a practical demonstration instead. I am in agreement that some parts of the instruction manual are a little difficult to understand unless you are actually performing the task in hand. I think my mum is a kinaesthetic learner like me.


So, practical demonstration over, I left mum to it. After all, that’s what you do. You drop the kids off and you give a quick demo, then you rush off for some much needed child-free time. So that’s what I did. And what was the verdict?

My mum managed to set up the pram all by herself and enjoyed a blustery walk with her granddaughter. Living over three hours away, this was a novelty for more than one reason. Once back home, my mum managed to fold the pram once more, although with a little soft swearing and muttering. Despite the handily placed diagrams on the bottom of the chassis (mum wasn’t wearing her glasses) she found the folding a little tricky. You are required to press one part whilst lifting another and then folding the pram; this takes practise to achieve.


Overall, mum says that the Symbio b was not as complicated as it looked as easily manageable. This is from the lady who once drove all the way home from town with a stroller fully erect and squashed into the car after trying for over an hour to fold it. So: success!


As this is the last challenge I will perform for the Symbio b, I decided to write an additional round up post later today, with the results from all the challenges posted there.

Graco Symbio b: Is your pram special to you?

This isn’t another review post. I’ve had a post brewing in my head for a while and I wanted to get it written before the end of the testing period. It’s about sentimentality- do you have any?- and the emotional journey of motherhood.

When my eldest was born, we saved various bits and bobs for her ‘memory box’. We added things like her hospital bracelet;  the CD single of the song at number one the day she was born; a newspaper from the same day; her first cinema ticket; her first tooth and other important-to-us artefacts. She loves this box and always asks to see it. We have a smaller one for her brother and an even smaller one for her sister. It’s about keeping real, solid things for her to lay a claim to. They don’t make her her but they build a picture of her life. They give her things to think about, questions to ask and memories to dream of.

Our memory boxes aren’t unique. Parents all over the world collect and save precious things to help them keep their memories close. And they don’t have to be real, solid artefacts either. For me, scents, feelings and colours are just as important. I remember events based on what clothes I was wearing that day (that’s why this post was so special to me, because clothes help me to remember certain, special days) and the people who were with me. I think remembering special events is so important- in the end it doesn’t matter if you remember something because people keep telling you about it, or because you actually have it in your memory bank.

I remember the first time I ever pushed a pram with my baby inside. It was October. It was warm enough to wear just a t-shirt and jeans. I remember the feel of the pram under my fingertips and the weight of her tiny body inside the carrycot. I remember walking through the dried leaves that had fallen to the floor and I remember that feeling of pride, elation and  joy that came with pushing a pram.

Sound silly? It’s not supposed to be. I can’t fit a pram inside a memory box, but the memories are there all the same. I remember the pram I had for the toddler and how difficult it was to get up the kerb after my horrific c-section and other injuries. I remember the feeling of desolation that swept over me as I realised I would have to sell this pram. This pram that I had spent so long choosing and had spent so long gazing over before he was born. This pram that I had trusted to carry my baby. It was an emotional time, believe it or not.

I remember the day I learned I was to be one of five lucky Graco Symbio b testers. My daughter was less than two hours old. I was lying in a hospital bed with her beside me. Her beautiful, warm body was close to mine and we were watching her in awe. We were overwhelmed at how easy her birth had been and how precious the memory of her birth was going to be. I was thinking at last I know what it is like to think of the birth of my child and smile.

I remember the day we took the Symbio b out for the first time. I wasn’t allowed to push it but we took a photo of me with my hands on the handle anyway. I remember marvelling at how small my baby looked inside the carrycot- and yes, I remember what I was wearing.

Someone once told me to make the most of the time I have with my kids and to make sure that I make memories with them each and every day. That’s what I’m doing. So when I ask you if your pram is special to you, what will you say? The Graco Symbio b is special to me- it’s my baby’s first pram. It came on a special day. It was chosen for me and it has- so far- been one of the best prams I’ve owned. But it’s actually a lot more than that too. It’s a place where I can lay my baby and I know she will be comfortable and I know she will be safe. It’s a way of ensuring I can leave the house every day for a bit of me time too. It’s a way of making memories.

Graco Symbio b: what would yours look like?

With the testing period drawing to a close and the final challenge about to be reported on, I thought I would post something a little different. I’ve been thinking about the ultimate pram. The one that ticks all the boxes and makes the other mums on the school yard wish they had one too. The pram that caters to mum, dad, baby and more. The pram that is creative, innovative, fun and different. What would yours look like?

The Symbio b is a fantastic pram. It has many fabulous features that genuinely sets it apart from other prams that I’ve owned. It is stylish, light-weight, easy to use and reasonably priced. But if I was a pram designer, I think my ultimate Symbio b might be a combination of the following models:

The Roller Buggy. How cool is this? It’s like a buggy board for parents. Yes, Graco- take note. Its not only toddlers that want a faster ride. How about adding this feature to the Symbio to enable us to get where we want to be even faster and with a bigger smile on our faces? Scooters aren’t just for kids- us mums want to have fun too! 

Or how about the Babyoom? It’s a pram that converts to a bike then to a shopping cart. Or something like that. Its more than a pram. Its a lifestyle on wheels. It transports parents and helps them to shop. That’s good, right? But is it as good as the bike stroller? Forget the shopping cart bit. This is a bike with the stroller bit attached to the front. The Symbio could rock this look, no problem.

Sporty models aside, I think Graco could take a lot from this last pram. This was sold for a mere £6, 000 and has to be the most sparkly pram I have ever seen. Could the Symbio carry this off? You bet!

So in an ideal world, my ultimate Symbio b would have the following features:

  • a parent buggy board
  • a bike/ granny-shopping-cart converter
  • a separate bicycle attachment
  • a tonne of gold

What do you think? Perhaps I should leave the pram designing to Graco, they seem to know what they’re doing…

Other prams have tried to derail the Symbio b

Actually, I think that the Symbio b doesn’t really need any of these far out features at all. I’m all for creativity but there has to be a reason for it when it comes to prams. In fact, basic pram designs haven’t really changed all that much since they were first introduced way back when. And the things that parents look for in a pram don’t really differ all that much from family to family either.

According to Which, Graco are one of the best pram manufacturers around and “the first pushchair manufacturer to create a travel system pushchair, which allows parents to add a car seat to the pushchair frame”- which just goes to show that they have always been in touch with what parents actually need in a pram. Forget the scooter attachments and the bling. A pram needs to be practical and it needs to do its job efficiently.

So with this in mind, the Symbio b doesn’t need re-designing all that much.

symbio b toddler side view

%d bloggers like this: