A Weekend At The Ickworth

Sometimes, when you’re working hard every day, and everyone in the family has been run down with colds and bugs, and you’ve had lots of busy weekends rushing around seeing family and friends, it’s good to just….

Stop.

Last month, it became apparent that both me and Mr P were in need of some TLC and a breather from ‘real life’, and what better way than a family mini break in the countryside? So we packed up our car and, along with the three-year-old, we headed for The Ickworth in Suffolk. Part of The Luxury Family Hotel group, The Ickworth is housed in the east wing of Ickworth House. The beautiful building was designed by an Italian architect in the 18th Century, and was the home of the Earl of Bristol. Sold to the National Trust in the 1950s, the east wing was kept as a family home for the Marquess of Bristol until 1998 when it was sold to the National Trust… who have since leased it to the Luxury Family Hotel Group. Which might feel like a bit of a school lesson, but it shows the real history that this amazing place has.

The Ickworth is one of those hotels that manages to strike a perfect balance between being truly lovely for the grown ups and welcoming kids with open arms. As you walk in the grand entrance, friendly staff greet you and so does a large basket of toys with a sign explaining that they can be borrowed and enjoyed during your stay. A sign in the reception area tells you that there is a hotel dog, who is very child-friendly, but mustn’t be fed by guests. Children’s laughter accompanies the clinking of china tea cups and saucers, drifting through from the lounge areas.

While we were being shown our room – we stayed in the lovely Herbert room – I could feel my shoulders sink lower and any ‘real life’ stresses drift away. I immediately spotted Orla Kiely mugs with our in-room tea and coffee and a fab purple retro-looking phone… and knew this place would serve us well for the next couple of days.

Orla Kiely mugs

the Ickworth, Suffolk

The Ickworth hotel room

The Ickworth hotel ensuite

As soon as we were left alone in the room, things went something like this: Continue reading

Sshh! I Secretly Love That My Daughter Loves Disney’s Frozen

In January, something in our lives changed. No seriously, it did!

We took our three-year-old to the cinema for the first time. It was something both Mr P and I had been looking forward to, because a) we love watching movies and b) it’s 90 minutes of quiet time, right? (Side note: a dad sitting in front of us actually fell asleep and woke himself up by snoring. Love it.)

The movie we went to see was Frozen. Given that we had been watching Tangled on repeat for around a year, we reckoned it was a fairly safe bet she’d like it. We were wrong. She didn’t like it. She loved it. In fact, she cried as the credits rolled at the end. In the days that followed, she asked to see “the ice princesses” on YouTube a lot – thank goodness the Disney YouTube channel had around six clips, including of course the now-classic anthem Let It Go.

But it was a couple of weeks ago that my three-year-old’s passion for Frozen really kicked in. The DVD release. Since then, we’ve watched the film over 20 times. My daughter asks to watch it while she’s eating her breakfast, while she’s eating her pre-bedtime snacks, oh and pretty much any time we’re in the house, ever. She’s now nearly word-perfect when singing Let It Go (and yeeeees, I have approximately 12 videos of her singing it in typical proud-mum fashion.) It’s OK, though, because I’m fairly sure the other diners in Pizza Express (and the customers in Marks and Spencer, and everyone walking along Bromley High Street) appreciate her ear-piercing warbling too. Er, right? Continue reading

5 Things You Need To Know About New ISAs

Saving for the future with a piggy bank

**Sponsored Post**

Newsflash: having a family can be a financial drain and can create a whole new level of worry about budgeting and saving for the future. (It’s not really news, I just wanted to get your attention.)

Seriously, though, I do worry about things like: should I be putting money away now for my daughter’s (possible) university education? Should I be putting money into a savings account for her to gain access to when she’s 21? And what kind of savings account should I even go for? It’s enough to make your brain start hurting a bit.

The start of a new financial year means that everyone over 16 gets a new cash ISA allowance. But as of July 1st 2014, things are changing, with the introduction of the new ISA (or NISA – sounds nice-a, right?)

A bit confused? Here’s what you need to know…

1. NISAs will have a cash allowance of a whopping £15,000. This means you can save up to £15k a year and earn tax-free interest on it. Get in.

2. Unlike before, when you could save up to £5,940 in a cash ISA and up to £11,880 in stocks and shares, now you can split your £15,000 allowance between a cash NISA and a New Investment ISA in any way you like, allowing you a wider range of investments and flexibility.

3. You can open a  2014-2015 ISA now, and it’ll automatically convert into a NISA on July 1st, when you can top the amount up to £15,000.

4. It’s super-flexible. You can:

• change the amount you invest, up or down

• stop payments

• restart payments

• take all of the money out

• take some of the money out

• transfer money in and out from another NISA, including transferring from a New Cash ISA into a New Investment ISA and vice versa.

• close your plan

5. You can transfer a Cash ISA into another Cash ISA or move it to an Investment ISA. New ISAs will still allow you to do just that. However, with an existing Investment ISA, you can only transfer it into another Investment ISA. However, from 1 July 2014, the New ISA will also enable you to transfer your savings from Investment ISAs to New Cash ISAs as you wish. Win.

 

You can read more in this helpful guide from Scottish Friendly – or watch this video which explains it all!

 

 

• This post was commissioned by –  and sponsored by – Scottish Friendly. Image credit: 401(k)

Need A New Pair Of Trainers?

My love of trainers is no secret.

There aren’t many outfits that a decent pair of trainers won’t suit. And call me crazy but there aren’t many occasions either. I’m a big fan of wearing trainers to work (hey, it’s officially acceptable now – I once read in Grazia that loads of the team wear them to work) and when it comes to heading out to the park with my daughter, they’re a no-brainer.

My weekend uniform of late has been that classic combo of trainers, striped top, statement necklace and skinny jeans (although I am now coming around to the idea of – gasp – boyfriend jeans) and I’ve had to stop myself from buying new trainers, most weeks.

Knowing how much I love them, online retailer Cloggs.co.uk have asked me to road test a pair for them. I hadn’t come across Cloggs before but loved browsing their shoes and trainers – they stock a huge number of different brands and styles. From Clarks court shoes to Joules slippers and from kids’ Uggs to sleek men’s lace ups by Ted Baker. I challenge you to take a look and not find at least five pairs of shoes you’d buy.

But back to trainers. Cloggs cover all the big trends, as far as I’m concerned…

Gorgeous trainers

1. Converse Allstar in mallow pink, £45.99

2. Vans Classic Slip-ons, £39.99

3. Converse Allstar hi-top in rose gold, £64.99

4. Skechers Flex Appeal, £58.99

But it was a pair of ASH hi tops in black leather that I went for. The leather is so soft, the first time I wore them, it felt like I was wearing worn-in shoes. They were so comfortable. The buckles give them an unusual twist, compared with usual lace ups, but they have a side zip to avoid a real faff every time you put them on or take them off. Continue reading

Bad Mums’ Club: I Work Full Time And I Love It

Working 9 to 5

When you meet someone for the first time and the conversation turns to kids and family, there’s always one question that comes up.

“Do you work part time?”

It’s become so common for women to return to work, after having a baby (or two, or three..) compared to 20 or 30 years ago, when the norm was to stay at home and look after your kids, while the dad went out to bring home the bacon. I think it’s fair to say that now, most women who do return to work, go back part time. So people kind of expect you to say you work part time.

But I work full time. And when I’m asked the question, I take a deep breath, smile a big smile and in my breeziest voice, I say “No, I work full time.” I pause, looking for some kind of sign that will indicate whether the other person is thinking “Oh, OK” or “Full time? You are a BAD MUM.”

The other person will usually then ask about childcare and I’ll garble out in a faux-enthusiastic way, “Oh-she’s-at-a-nursery-five-days-a-week-but-she-LOVES-it.”  I really over-egg the pudding here, often babbling a bit about how she has SO MUCH FUN with all the other kids and HOW GOOD the nursery is. If I feel like I’m being particularly judged by the other person, I’ll throw in a “Pre-school is SO GOOD for their development at that age – they focus on learning much more than you’d think.”

If I’m ever asked why I work full time, I never tell the truth. But I’m going to do it here. Now. Are you ready?

I work full time because I love working.

Not because I have to, because I want to. I choose to work full time and I love my job. Admitting this is securing my place in the Bad Mums’ Club for life, but it’s the truth, and I can’t be the only mum who feels this way.

Going back a few years, I hated maternity leave. I found it so boring and yes, I suspect in hindsight that I suffered from PND but even taking that out of the equation, I still think I would have hated it. I’m just not the kind of person who enjoys being at home with a baby, day in day out. Some people love it. Some people don’t.

I was desperate to go back to work after maternity leave, and I went back three days a week, to start with. But in all honesty, I dreaded those two days a week that I was at home. I felt a weird panicky pressure to make plans for those days, to ensure I wasn’t alone with a one-year-old all day (still as boring as being with a young baby, if you ask me.) When my daughter was 18-months-old, I started a new job and told my new boss that I could work full time.

It was the best thing ever. And I had a great excuse if anyone asked me why I worked full time – I could simply say that my new job required me to do five days a week.

Of course, my decision to work five days a week is completely selfish. I am thinking 100% about me, about my needs and what I can – and can’t – cope with on a day to day basis. This is the right thing for me. But it’s not a guilt-free decision. I worry a lot that working full time is the wrong thing to do, as far as my daughter is concerned. Will it have a negative effect on her? Will she develop insecurities because of it?

And actually, shouldn’t I sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my child? If she is the most important thing in my life (and she is) then shouldn’t her happiness be my number one priority?

Well, actually, no. When I have all of these worries swimming around in my head, I remind myself of that thing that other mums tell you: You need to be a happy mum, otherwise you can’t be a good mum. And it’s true – if I worked part time and was at home with my daughter for part of the week, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. And surely some of that unhappiness would rub off on her?

Perhaps one day, I’ll look back and regret working full time when my daughter was so young, but all I know is right now, it’s the right thing for me. I am happy and my daughter genuinely does love her pre-school. She thrives there. She loves the company of the other children and enjoys learning new things every day.

So she is happy, I am happy – why then do I feel like a bad mum?

===============================

I’m linking this post up to The Bad Mums’ Club – a collection of posts by bloggers on our failings as mothers. The Bad Mums’ Club consists of me, Morgana from But Why Mummy Why, Aimee from Pass The Gin and Katie from Hurrah For Gin but really, everyone is welcome. Do visit MorganaAimee and Katie‘s blogs to read their Bad Mums’ Club posts!

Now for the technical bloggy bit…. (ignore this if you’re not a blogger)…  If you are a blogger and want to write a post and link up, you can add it to the bottom of this post. Here’s the badge, if you fancy popping it on your post:

Not Another Mummy Blog
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.notanothermummyblog.com" title="Not Another Mummy Blog"><img src="http://notanothermummyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Bad-Mums-Club-badge.png" alt="Not Another Mummy Blog" style="border:none;" /></a></div>