Blog : Little Lilypad Co

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The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad, when he is not relaxing in one of our best recliners, or our baby bloggers and occasionally we accept guest posts. There is frequently talk of shoes and clothing (we love fashion and savvy shopping), chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate) education and swimming (we love this too). It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.

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  1. One thing parents don’t need any reminding of is the costs which accumulate when having children. There are the things you bargain for – education, clothing, buying a family-sized car, increasing the size of the food shop etc. But it never ceases to amaze how many little (and sometimes not-so-little) unexpected costs crop up, particularly when it comes to activities.

    Of course, it’s always worth it in the end, and it’s difficult to really put a price on the memories shared with your children. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save a few pennies along the way, especially if it doesn’t reduce the levels of fun and enjoyment involved.

    6 ways to save money with the children over half term

    Here are some winning deals which may give you and the old bank account a bit more to smile about by the end of the month.

    Restaurants

    There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants with family-friendly prices. But there are a few which really stand out from the crowd. The ones which caught my eye are the 50% off mains at Frankie and Benny’s (who also have a separate £10 off offer via the app); kids eat free at La Tasca, and Toby Carvery all you can eat breakfast for £4, where kids can eat for just £2.99.

    Supermarkets

    Experts say that the supermarket price war is now coming to an end, but that’s not to say there aren’t some really good deals about. And there are some hidden gems too. For example, online supermarket vouchers to entice new customers tend to be particularly big savers. You can also take advantage of price-match policies by separating your bargain buys and your full price items into separate shops, as price match is done by the basket. Also, late-night shopping can allow you to take advantage of yellow-sticker reductions, with Morrisons and Co-op usually starting these offers from 7pm.

    Credit cards

    Many people I know have a bit of a love-hate relationship with their credit card, but there are some excellent cashback rewards available. At the moment the pick of the bunch is Amex Platinum, which offers a staggering 5 per cent on all spend for three months. But there are other good rewards from the likes of MBNA, Aqua and Sainsbury’s too.

    The cost-cutting loan

    The irony of the above is that any benefits from the rewards gained by spending will be more than negated if you don’t clear your balance each month. That’s because of high interest rates. But if you’re stuck with high balances on your card(s), you can cut your interest bills straight away by either taking advantage of 0% balance transfers, or consolidating debt with good-value loans.

    Clothes and fashion

    Season changes are always a good time for high-street (and online) store sales, and there are some good deals about. Asos top the shoe charts, with 70% off most merchandise at the moment, along with excellent discounts on shirts and jeans. M&S have an ‘up to 50% off’ general sale on the go too, while if you’re eyeing up school uniform for the next school year, you can pick this up for as little as £6.50 from Asda and Morrisons.

    Activities and excursions

    One offer which really jumped out at me is the collaboration with the Sun and Alton Towers. Tokens are in both the weekday and weekend Sun papers, and by collecting 10 different ones, you can win a pair (180,000 available) of free tickets to visit the theme park. Otherwise for other days out, it’s worth noting the myriad of free museums and galleries around, while, for the kids, there are free tennis and football clinics (the latter offered by the FA – free for girls, £2-£5 for boys) during school holidays. After all, it is by getting out and about that the precious time we have with our children can really be maximised.

    What do you do to maximise the time but minimise the cost of keeping up with the kids?

  2. “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” This is a really famous quote from Helen Keller and I am a big fan of her mindset. Helen Keller, left blind and mute after an illness at the age of nineteen months, proves that attitude, and a refusal to accept life in "the shadows" can change challenges into inspiring achievement.

    Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows

    It is well known that I gave birth to my youngest daughter at home, on the sofa, by using hypnnobirthing techniques and a positive mindset but not everyone is able to do that. We had so many people say "what if this happened" or "what if that happened" but I never once chose to dwell on the potential negative elements of our birth choice and always strive to find the positive in every situation.

    So how can you stay positive all of the time? It is sometimes just about the little things. Here are our 5 top tips.

    1. Share positive vibes with someone else as what you send out you tend to get back from the world and the people in it. I have a friend who openly says she comes round to my house for a cuppa and a dose of positivity, so it does work.

    2 . In the words of Helen Keller, "keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows", embrace natural light and allow more light into your home. A dark room can bring a mood down, so adding aVELUX to a room can improve the natural lighting and uplift your mood. 

    3. Learn to accept criticsm for your own personal development, rather than taking it as a negative. (this one is easier said than done).

    4. Start your day in a good way. Prepare what you can the evening before as if you start your day rushing around then your stress levels can increase and this lets negative thoughts in.

    5. Accentuate the Positive. Do you remember that scene in The Jungle Book where Baloo breaks into a song about staying positive?

    You’ve got to accentuate the positive
    Eliminate the negative
    And latch on to the affirmative
    Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

    He was a wise old bear!

    Life will continue to present us with negative situations because well, that is life. It is up to you as to how you choose to react to them.

    What are your top tips for keeping your face to the sun?

  3. Sitting down as a family to eat is really important to us and so when Nailcote Hall invited us to choose from their Afternoon Tea or Sunday lunch experience, despite being the self crowned "Queen of Afternoon Tea", I thought it would be a lovely chance for us to all go out for lunch this Sunday afternoon.

    Nailcote HallSunday Lunch in the Oak Restauarant

    Nailcote Hall is a small English stately home, built in 1640 just before the start of the English Civil War. It is situated in Berkswell which is less than 20 miles from the centre of Birmingham but has a lovely rural feel about the locality. I have been to a number of events at the venue before from weddings and tribute nights in the marquee to fashion shows but have never experienced the restaurant for a dining experience, so we were all looking forward to our lunch!

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    The entrance to the hotel doesn't have a "contemporary feel to it, with rugs over original wooden floors it is more like you are going back in time to a place where time stands still and no one is in a rush and we were encouraged to go through to the bar area and relax, where someone would come and see us. We arrived a little after 1pm but despite being lunchtime it didn't feel hectic, although we did initially have to wait a while for someone to come and see us. We were presented with the Sunday lunch menus whereby we could sit in the comfy chairs to browse through the selections before being taken through to the restaurant. 

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    The Sunday lunch at Nailcote can be as big or as little as you like, as you can choose from 2,3 or even 4 courses depending on how hungry your stomach is.... or how much the menu tempts you. 2 courses are £24.50, £27.50 for 3 courses, rising to £29.50 for 4 courses. There is a smaller menu choice for the children and this is 3 courses for £15. 

    My eldest daughter and I choose the Fan of Cantaloupe Melon with fresh berries and home churned sorbet, which was a light and refreshing start to our meal (unsurprisingly she was particularly partial to the sorbet)

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    My husband immediately chose the Duck, Orange & Green Pepper Pate as this is something that we never tend to buy at home, although he swapped the sour dough bread that it came with, for the multitude of warm bread that was served on the table. I am personally not a big fan of pate but he was delighted with his choice and commented on the velvety texture of the pate that had non of the fatty elements that some pate's can have.

    For my main meal, I chose the Roast Leg of Lamb which is a personal favourite but as no one else in our house really likes lamb I never tend to cook it at home, so it was a real treat for me. It was accompanied by roast potatoes and mashed potatoes together with seasonal vegetables which were cooked beautifully. My husband chose the Roast Sirloin of Scottish Beef which came with the largest yorkshire pudding I have ever seen and according to him, the most melt in the mouth beef he has possibly ever tasted. The meat was carved at the table for us and presented with seperate dishes of vegetables that were served to our plates. Had my Dad been with us, he would have commented that the meat was not "piping hot" but it had clearly been left to rest and served how it should be. (It is just worth noting for any one that is like my Dad and insists on burning your tongue on your food).

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    We chose the Fresh Exotic Fruit Salad and Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee for dessert, which were light enough to find room for after such a hearty meal. The smallest member of the family asked for chocolate ice cream but we were advised that the kitchen were not happy with how the ice cream had been churned, so they would rather not serve it, she was happy to accept strawberry and vanilla as an alternative. We were impressed that so many of the foods on the menu were made and churned in house but equally, we were impressed with the honesty of the hotel that they didn't want to serve an icecream that did not meet their standards ... even if it was for a 5 year old. 

    The restaurant was quiet and relaxed, with ambient music fed into the room. It wasn't too crowded but had a nice feel to the room and we were treated to a 5* experience without being pretentious. 

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    Throughout our time at Nailcote Hall, the staff were extremely attentive and responsive, and it is always the little touches that make the Nailcote experience more than just a Sunday lunch. From the staff taking our drinks through to the restaurant, providing an extra cushion so that the youngest member of the family could sit at the same height as everyone else, to personal recommendations on the wine and dessert offerings, we really did have a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon. I was surprised to find that 2 hours had gone by and the girls hadn't once asked for any kind of electrical device at the table, as we had just sat, chatted and laughed together, which for me is what a Sunday is all about. 

    The 5 year old delighted in every part of the meal and experience today, from being personally attended to at the table, to pretending to drink wine at the table (it was obviously only water) and she declared that she would like to go to Nailcote Hall every Sunday for lunch. We received the adults meals as part of this review but had we not received any concessions, it would have cost just over £100 for today's lunch which makes it more of a special occasion venue choice than an every day meal location.

    That said, I would have no hesitation in recommending the food and service to any of our friends and it makes a perfect location for Mothers Day or a birthday celebration. We saw that there are lots of events coming up at Nailcote Hall from tribute acts to ladies day at the races, so there is always something going on (that is without the golf course facilities). We will be returning to Nailcote next month for a charity fashion show with Liliann Occasion Wear but I have no doubt that we will be going for Sunday lunch again soon (especially if the 5 year old has anything to do with it).

  4. Today is International Women's Day.

    I have seen lots of posts on Facebook this morning from awareness raising to concrete action, organizations rally to pledge support to help forge gender parity on International Women’s Day (IWD) and beyond.

    International Womens Day#beboldforchange

    The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. Around the world, IWD can be an important catalyst and vehicle for driving greater change for women and moving closer to gender parity. Content marketing agency Axonn Media surveyed 108 parents on their working life and its seems that being a mum still presents greater professional challenges than being a Dad, even in 2017.

    I was shocked to read that research from its Gender in Marketing 2017 report reveals that 62% of Mums said that parenthood hampered their career, compared to just to 24% of Dads. 

     

    axonn-parents-marketing

    As a woman who delights in working flexibly around my children, I am frustrated to read that 1 in 10 mums said parenthood has significantly had a negative effect on their career, when working mums are some of the most hardworking and dedicated colleagues I know. 

    So if you can do anything today, use International Women's Day (IWD) as an important opportunity to:

    • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
    • declare bold actions you'll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world

     #BeBoldForChange