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 or by one of our baby bloggers. Occasionally we accept guest posts too. 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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Category: Lifestyle

  1. Top Tips for visiting Birmingham Christmas Markets

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    Once upon a time, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter I travelled to Cologne to see the German Christmas markets. Cologne provides a stunning backdrop to the markets and it is impossible to beat Cologne Cathedral, the magnificent Gothic edifice that took more than 600 years to complete and which today is still one of the city’s significant features.

    Birmingham german market 

    Fast forward 10 years or more and I don’t have to travel far to experience the bratwursts, tankards of German beer and the fruity flavours of hot Glühwein as Birmingham has one of the biggest markets outside of Germany!

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    We went into Birmingham last weekend and there were notices already up in the train station warning of delays due to the increased number of passengers going to the German Markets. It is lovely to have it on our doorstep and people clearly come from far and wide to visit.

    We travelled in the early afternoon and the trains were already busy so the later it gets, the busier it gets. Weekends tend to be the busiest times - great if you enjoy a bustling atmosphere but it can get very crowded.   

    Birmingham German market by night 

    You can see from the pictures that there is not much breathing room so our top tips for attending the Christmas markets are:

    1. If you are planning on going without the children, try a week day as they are less hectic although it can get very busy in the middle of the day (from noon to 2pm when shop and office workers go in their lunch break).
    2. Avoid the times between 5pm up until about 7.30pm on a week day, as people stop for a drink and a bite to eat on their way home from work in the city centre.
    3. Some people think that it can be expensive to go to the markets but don’t get too caught up with price matching. Most vendors have equal prices, and although we love a bit of haggling, it isn’t common practice.
    4. If you want to venture a little further afield and go to the actual German markets in Germany, there are lots of travel operators offering coach trips, or why not book a hotel and enjoy a festive mini-break? It’s also worth checking to see if travelling by car maybe cheaper but always make sure that you have Car Insurance that covers European travel!
    5. And finally, don’t forget to sample the Glühwein. You may find that for a small fee, you can keep and re-use the special mugs. Not only are refills cheaper, you have a great souvenir too!

    Collaboration with Aviva.

  2. 3 easy ways to save money before Christmas

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    With Black Friday Week  and Cyber Monday Week done and dusted, we’re all feeling the pinch in our pockets this week. Although we’ve all supposedly been paid last week, I’m shook. My bank statement sure doesn’t look like it!

    As the end of the year gets closer and we are cozy in our homes, it is usually a time when we all think about new years resolutions and maybe a new home. Moving house is a massive undertaking for anyone, so before you start getting moving quotes we have some top tips for saving money before Christmas. It sounds like an impossible task but it can be done! 

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    We all know that December is tight. It’s no secret that when we get towards the end of the month, there’s an element of scrimping and saving. Luckily, we’ve already bought sufficient supplies of snacks, so at least we don’t starve. So long as you’re happy feasting on Festive Friends biscuits, M&S chocolate rounds, Pringles, and Quality Street toffee circles. If you’re lucky, there might even be an allusive After Eight left lurking somewhere amongst the empty wrappers.

    In all seriousness, while this is certainly the season for splurging, there are ways your can keep hold of some of your hard-earned cash.

    1. Go a bit Grinch with gifting

    OK, so that’s not in the holiday spirit, entirely, but it’s definitely worth rethinking your gifting. Sure, if you want to splurge on your children at Christmas, that’s great. You do your thing. But do you really need to be a second Santa Claus for the children of extended family and friends? Do you have to gift your parcel delivery lady, the staff at school, your colleagues? Probably not. Tot up what you would spend on presents you actually begrudge gifting and consider gradually decreasing the amount your pocket parts with. Alternatively, if you’re brave enough, scrap it altogether and simply explain you’re cutting back should the conversation arise.

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    1. Say no to seasonal outings

    Not all seasonal outings, of course. You want to head somewhere special with your family, whether it’s Christmas markets, a panto, or Santa’s grotto. Sure, you do. However, you don’t need to show your face at every festive event with extended family, friends, or co-workers. Prioritise your time. Don’t go to anything that really doesn’t do it for you. Choose the odd one or two occasions, and really enjoy them. As well as saving money, it could well save your sanity at this time of year!

    1. Bag the bargains

    There’s two ways to save mega bucks when it comes to buying presents: get gifts early or get them real late. Chances are, if you’re considering this tip, purchasing pressies early is out of the equation. Luckily, during December, stores start to panic and slash the prizes on prezzies. For example, M&S frequently slashes Christmas gifts by as much as 50 per cent at this time of year. Keep an eye on your inbox, as companies give sales a final push, you should see a whole host of discount codes appear in your emails. Don’t panic buy, put a couple of evenings aside, search online for the best prices, make use of offers and discount codes, and save some cash on the RRP.

    If you take heed of some of our top tips, you will notice that your savings will quickly add up. Good luck! 

  3. Pinocchio at The Old Rep Theatre Birmingham

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    Going to the theatre is such a treat, it is a way to escape reality and Director of the Pinocchio at The Old Rep Theatre, Alec Fellows Bennett feels that in the age of iPads , smartphones and computer games that it is important to come together as a community and fall in love with live theatre. 

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    This year The Old Rep are sharing the story of Pinocchio, the tale of a wooden puppet who wants to be a real child. "To me Pinocchio is the perfect story for this theatre," says Alec. "If you asked a young child to draw a theatre they would pretty much draw The Old Rep auditorium. The idea of a story where toys come to life and it's all make-believe is the perfect story for a classic theatre like The Old Rep."

     Pinocchio at The Old Rep. Photo by Anda Latsa

    The lead is played by Holly Sayer and her ability to actually act and walk like a puppet had you believe from the outset that she wasn't a "real boy" and you are rooting for her portrayal of Pinocchio to be successful in his quest.  

    Pinocchio at The Old Rep this Christmas. Photo by Anda Latsa

    The ensemble cast for Pinocchio is made up of Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) students. This is very personal to me as my best friends daughter is auditioning for BOA next year, so it was a great chance for me to see the opportunities that are ahead for her. 

    Launched in 2011, BOA is an independent state-funded academy which specializes in creative, digital and performing arts. Sponsored by the Ormiston Trust and Birmingham City University, the academy is for students aged 14-19 years old and The Old Rep is an amazing platform for them to perform. 

    Pinocchio at The Old Rep. Photograph by Anda Latsa

    I couldn't recall the tale before we went into the show and I had forgotten quite how "dark" the storyline was. I was amazed to learn that the adventures of Pinocchio is the second most translated book in the world, beaten only by the Bible! The original version of the story was written to teach children moral lessons and whilst the live show is a little more light hearted than that Collodi's original story it still keeps its moral compass. 

    We were invited to the press showing of the stage show but the tickets are reasonably priced as;

    Stalls Tickets £19.00 (Conc £17.80)*
    Balcony Tickets £16.00 (Conc £14.80)*
    Schools & Groups £9.90
    *Price includes £1 restoration levy
     

    We also got the chance to meet some of the cast after the show and I "may" have pinched the Fox's hat ....... he was crafty enough to get it back though! 

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    At the start of this review, we mentioned that the Director wanted a new generation to fall in love with live shows and we were captivated by the Pinocchio production at the Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham but fell in love completely with the Blue Fairy. Daisy Ann Fletcher might be my new girl crush.

    So if you are thinking about introducing your children to live theatre shows, The Old Rep Theatre is the perfect place to start.

    And don't forget, think Blue ....  

  4. 20 Great Tips to Home Stage Your Property for a Fast Sale

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    As the nights get darker we all want the luxury of a warm cozy home and with the new year looming many of us start thinking about moving home. We’re all aware that a nicely presented, clean property with extra desirable features won’t stay on the market long.

    But, if you need to sell your property fast, you probably won’t have the time to re-decorate or invest in major building works.

    Don’t worry; this doesn’t mean you’ll scupper your chances of securing a buyer for a price you want. There are lots of tricks of the trade you can use to make your home look fantastic and appeal to potential buyers.

    Home staging doesn’t have to take up too much time, and the best bit is you can do it yourself. Don’t worry if you’re DIY shy or feel like you don’t have an eye for interiors—you just need to follow these simple tips.

    #1 Make a good first impression
    Make sure your home looks picture ready from the minute the listings photographer arrives. Getting the best pictures is essential to securing viewings.

    #2 Clean
    Before you do anything, give your property a deep clean. Areas to focus on include removing mould from bathrooms, grease from kitchens and any signs of dirt or staining.

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    #3 Declutter
    A golden rule in property selling is get rid of all your clutter. This includes everything from unwanted junk, bulky furniture, pictures, ornaments, kitchenware and clothes. A good rule of thumb is to remove at least thirty per cent of your stuff.

    #4 Depersonalise
    Prospective buyers want to imagine themselves living in your property. This means personal objects all need to go. This includes family photos, holiday trinkets, pictures on the walls and kids’ toys.

    #5 Room Purpose
    If you’ve turned your living room into a gym or the bedroom into an office, prospective buyers won’t like this. Return each room to its original purpose.

    #6 Furniture placement
    Remove extra chairs, tables or couches that take up too much space. Shift furniture away from the walls and put in locations that will better show off the space and any period features such as fireplaces and wooden floors.

    #7 Enhance the lighting
    Create as much extra light as possible. Dark properties are a major put-off. For instance, removing curtains and clean windows inside and out. Also, leave ceiling lights on during viewings, even in the day.

    #8 Put up mirrors
    Mirrors are great as they can make any space feel both bigger and brighter. So, they’re perfect in corridors, darker rooms and even the garden.

    #9 Paint tired walls
    If you haven’t got time to redecorate an entire room, focus on areas in greatest need only. For instance, paint over walls with stains, or brighten up a drab room with a colourful feature wall.

    #10 Visit other homes
    Get inspired. Visit other properties for sale in your area and look at what they have done.

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    #11 Mow the lawn
    Gardens are a massive selling point. So, if you have one, make the most of it. Make sure the lawn is mowed before viewings, flower beds tidied up and any eye-sore clutter is removed.

    #12 Accessorize small spaces
    Add lights, neutral decorations or candles to freshen up small spaces.


    #13 Add character
    It’s a fine line between neutral and boring. Avoid the latter by adding a splash of colour e.g. a coloured rug in the kitchen or a tasteful picture on the wall.

    #14 Highlight storage options
    Everyone wants more space. If you have storage, clear it out and make sure prospective buyers can easily access it during viewings.

    #15 Go green
    Don’t attempt to turn your home into Kew Gardens, but a few extra plants will make it look more attractive and feel fresh and clean.

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    #16 Final touches
    It’s not just how your home looks—it’s how it feels. Add soft furnishings like cushions, rugs and blankets.

    #17 Dress up the entrance
    Don’t focus so much time on the inside that you forget about the outside. After all, the first thing every buyer will see is the front of your property. Make sure it looks immaculate—no rubbish bags in sight and there's a tidy driveway.

    #18 Be inviting
    Leave doors open to each room so prospective buyers feel welcome to look around your property comfortably and freely.

    #19 Make it smell nice
    Bad smells will leave your property languishing on the market. Pet smells, smoke, mould or drains—get rid of it before any buyers visit. Add potpourri to each room and buy essential oil diffusers.

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    #20 Final touches on the day
    To really impress on viewing days buy fresh flowers, bake bread and put a fresh brew of coffee on the stove. Your prospective buyers will really appreciate the effort.  


    By investing a little time into home staging your property, you can secure more viewings. And, this will help sell your home fast by finding you the best buyer.