A Blissful Night At Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

Woolley Grange Hotel

There aren’t many hotels that I’ve stayed in for one night and wished that I could stay for a whole week. But that’s exactly how I felt as we left Woolley Grange in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. We had spent just 20 hours there, and I could easily have stayed for days.

In a nutshell, Woolley Grange is all low ceilings, wooden beams and log fires. There’s a friendly warmth as you walk into the reception area and in the lounge, elderly couples having afternoon tea mix well with toddlers stomping through in wellies, carrying sticks and other treasures they’ve discovered outside.

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We stayed in the John Baskerville room, which is on the first floor and is split level – you walk into a living area (with single camp bed for the four-year-old) and go upstairs to a bedroom and large bathroom. It was ideal, as the little one enjoyed having her ‘own room’ and it meant we could have our own space too. In our bedroom, the four-year-old found a small chair in the corner, and declared it ‘her chair’ before promptly plonking herself on it with the iPad to watch CBeebies.

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As soon as we arrived, we realised we’d left the four-year-old’s suitcase at home (OOPS) but the reception staff were really helpful in directing me to a nearby Sainsbury’s where I could buy her some clothes, PJs and toothbrush. While I drove there (through Bradford Upon Avon which is TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL by the way, especially in the purple twilight) Mr P took the four-year-old swimming….

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Is The Asus Zenfone 5 The Ultimate Selfie Phone?

Alison Perry

2014 has officially been named as the Year Of The Selfie and the most sought-after gift this Christmas is the selfie stick (I wish I was joking…) so it’s fair to say that we’re all loving a bit of selfie action at the moment. Brilliant writer and lovely lady Anna Hart wrote about our obsession with the selfie last week in The Telegraph, concluding that we’ve entered an age of vanity. She’s right of course, and smart phone manufacturers are wise to this.

Enter: Asus and their Zenfone 5 LTE with its special ‘selfie setting’ on the camera.

Just saying that sentence out loud makes you realise how far things have come. We take so many photos of ourselves that a phone now comes with a selfie setting! It’s mind boggling.

We were kindly sent a Zenfone 5 LTE to road test (you may have seen a few #ZentasticXmas tagged photos from me over on Instagram) and as an out and out Apple fan, I was really keen to get my hands on this phone, to see what I thought of it. So first up, the technical stuff about the camera: The A500KL has two built-in cameras (one front facing and one back facing), with the main 8-megapixel PixelMaster camera for professional-looking photos. This camera boasts a backside-illumination (BSI) sensor and wide-aperture f/2.0, 5-element lens with exclusive ASUS PixelMaster technology to capture images that are on par with most standalone digital cameras; while the 2-megapixel front camera comes with an f/2.8 lens. PixelMaster technology improves camera performance and comes with features like Selfie and Low-light modes.

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So what did I think?

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5 Signs You’re Getting Old At Christmas

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1. You’re genuinely excited at the prospect of getting new socks from Santa. And if they happen to be cashmere bed socks from The White Company? Even better. (Well done, Santa, you clever man)

2. You consider a visit to the local garden centre a fun day out with the kids. Those areas where they sell Christmas lights? Just as much fun as paying to visit Santa’s grotto. And it’s free! Bonus points if the garden centre has real reindeer and nice homeware gifts you can buy for relatives.

3. The Michael Bublé Christmas album is on repeat in your house. Well, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

4. You hear yourself saying this sentence to your other half: “Hey honey, instead of giving each other Christmas presents this year, why don’t we buy ourselves a  National Trust family membership?” I’m not even kidding, this is what we’re doing this year. 2015 is going to be the year of National Trust days out (and lots of tea and cake in the tearooms, obvs.)

5. You check the opening time of your local supermarket on Christmas Eve (7am, FYI) with the plan to get there ten minutes earlier, to beat the rush, for your Christmas turkey and trimmings.

It’s official. I’m getting old. Ah well, I’ll console myself with a Baileys in front of the fire (ooh have you seen there’s a new chocolate version?)…

My Top Tips On Family Budgeting

Upcycling Bekvam spice racks

With a new study highlighting the rise of ‘generation pause’ – the 20 and 30 somethings who are choosing to delay life events like getting married or buying a house due to financial concerns – it’s clear that it’s important to budget from an early age. I’ll admit, I was fairly useless with money until I met Mr P. I racked up credit card debt and student loans, having to rely on my parents to bail me out. But during my 20s, I learned to be more sensible with money.

TSB, who have a handy mortgage calculator on their site, have asked me to share my family budgeting tips with everyone. So here goes…

1. Upcycle furniture or buy cheaper bits that you can transform. I’m a huge fan of an IKEA hack. Inspired by Gill from A Baby On Board, I bought these Bekvam spice racks for £3 each (see pic at top), asked Mr P nicely to paint them white, and put washi tape on them, to turn them into book shelves for the four-year-old’s bedroom.

2. Plan meals. We used to be so bad at just deciding what to eat for tea that day, and popping to the shop to buy the food in. It saves money (and time) now that we plan our meals each week, and buy veg that will do us for a couple of days.

3. Shop around. We love popping to Waitrose for treats, as much as the next person, but we also shop around, depending on supermarket offers (tip: Tesco has my fave wine Villa Maria on offer this week and Co-op has a great prosecco for £6.99) and we shop in Lidl for our basics….

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Finding A Mum Tribe

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When you think about it, we’re so young when we first join (or even create) a tribe. At the moment, I’m sitting in Starbucks, drinking a skinny cappuccino and opposite me are three twelve-year-old girls. They’re all wearing skinny jeans (two are proper stonewash denim, one is black), jumpers, chunky trainers and girly ankle socks with a frill. All of them have their long hair clipped up at the front in a twist and they’re all drinking frappuccinos and holding iPhones with sparkly cases as they chat. They’re totally in their own little tribe – and we all did it when we were young. We morphed into a version of our friends and it felt like we belonged.

As we get older, we’re drawn to people we identify with – whether it’s at uni or at work, we quickly suss out who shares our sense of humour or values. Or even those who share our love of a glass of cheap white wine and a packet of Mini Cheddars in a Soho pub after work.

But things get a bit tricky when you become a mum. For a start, the rest of society suddenly lumps you into the all encompassing MUM TRIBE. Which is kind of weird, because, yes you’ve pushed a human being out of your nether regions (or had one cut out of you) and yes, you probably do have more compassion and look at life a little differently now, but really, that aside, you’re still the same person you were before. Well, bar the inability to drop everything for a night on the tiles *dials the babysitter’s number*.

And within this new MUM TRIBE we find ourselves sectioned off into, there are a gazillion subdivisions that you’re either put in or select. They include (but are not limited to)…

The earth mothers – they wear their babies in wraps, puree organic veg for them to eat, take baby along to yoga class, and just have this incredible sense of calm to them.

The ‘I was born to do this’ mums – they seem to find motherhood a breeze and give you the impression that everything in life up until now was just leading up to them becoming a mum.

The cool mamas – they’re hanging out in trendy cafes wearing cool trainers, with their kids running around while they sip coffee and chat.

The Pinterest perfect mums – this lot are always creating some kind of art project with their kids or just doing some casual upcycling with some furniture while the kids are at school.

Now it might sound like I’m putting other women into these categories, but I look around me, and I genuinely see women in these tribes. The problem is, I don’t feel like I belong in any of them. I’m not ‘earthy’ enough (I love processed meat and can’t get on with yoga or baby wraps), I’m not a natural mum (give me a wine bar any day over a soft play centre), I’m not cool enough (Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs is one of my favourite things in life) and I’m not Pinteresting enough (you should SEE my crappy craft attempts).

Can I just create a ‘run of the mill mum’ tribe? Would anyone else be up for joining?