Why The Four Seasons Hampshire is Perfect For a Weekend Away With a Toddler

Last weekend, A and I escaped London for 24 hours at the Four Seasons in Hampshire and it was glorious!

It’s only 40 mins on the train from Waterloo, the best part of this was that a couple and their slightly older toddler for on next to us and basically the 2 toddlers entertained each other and then the dad started singing nursery rhymes! Travelling alone with a toddler isn’t easy, with 2 bags and a buggy, I felt like a mule!

Yep A is wearing pearls a la Theresa May…

This was the easiest train ride with A ever. We then took a 10 mins taxi ride from the station, of course A fell asleep en route and woke the min we got there!
img_1166
I booked the stay via my American Express Platinum card that has a great program for certain hotels, this is one of them and so we got early check-in, late checkout (4pm), a room upgrade and ¬£85 towards food and drink. These extras really made the stay very enjoyable, you don’t want to be hanging around with a toddler for ever!

The room had everything we needed (including Childs Farm products that we adore!)


After dropping our bags in the really spacious room that looked out onto the massive grounds, the first thing we did was have a great lunch outside, it was so nice to eat outside, doesn’t happen often in late September!


Then it was time for a nap, I thought she was asleep in her cot (this is a real cot, not a travel cot, which makes a big difference comfort wise) but she woke after 2 mins! I will be sad the day naps end!

img_1181

Took her another 30 mins to finally fall asleep on “mummy’s bed”, I actually fell asleep next to her, that bed was so comfortable!!!


We went to the playground, to see the chickens and finally we went swimming in the very warm pool. We tried to go cycling but the only helmet left didn’t fit ūüė¶


I had a lovely margarita whilst she had dinner then it was time for milk in the very big bed whilst watching telly. One of the best parts about the hotel is you can go to the bar and give your toddler dinner and nobody bats an eye lid, there were other families around so I felt totally comfortable with A. The staff were very sweet to both of us and are clearly experienced with dealing with children! I have to say it feels very indulgent to order warm milk for your toddler and have it arrive on a silver tray! The milk came really quickly so credit to room service!

img_1226
I then came up with the genius plan to put the cot in the bathroom for the night (clearly this only works with a big bathroom!) so I could order room service and watch X Factor without disturbing her. I highly recommend doing this!


The next day, we went down for breakfast after more room service milk in bed! Now this is where travelling with a toddler is a real pain in my opinion, you can’t (well I never can) have a long leisurely breakfast with a toddler. It’s always rushed and a bit of a pain really! Such a waste, I need to work on this! The continental breakfast was included in our room rate but I was dying to eat some sausages and bacon!

We finally managed to go cycling after breakfast and it was one of my favourite things I have ever done with A, it was the perfect morning but man cycling up a hill with a 12 kg toddler behind you is not easy! I stopped for a min to take it all in, we were in such beautiful peaceful surroundings and I felt very grateful for being there.


Before leaving, A made a friend in the free kids club, where she had a great time and they both ran to a helicopter that had been hired by guests and were keen to climb in!

It was then time for some last delicious food before falling asleep in the taxi again!

Thank you to all the staff, who looked after us, I hope to come back soon!
In the meantime, here’s a summary of why it’s a great place to go with children:
-Child’s Farm products in the bathroom
-free nappies, swimming nappies and a pack of wipes (less to carry!)
-free food and drink for under 5s
-free kids club (you have to stay with under 3s)
-a massive estate to run around on
-a proper cot not an uncomfortable travel one
-a toy box at reception where they can pick a gift
-very friendly staff who never make you feel like you’re child isn’t welcome
-children’s cutlery and plastic bowls, plates etc
-small bikes or seats for them on the back that are free to hire

img_1282

Advertisements

A Perfect Friday or A Cooking Class At Leith’s

For my birthday, my husband bought me a gift voucher for a cooking class at Leith’s called “Flavours of the Pacific Rim”. I had already been to a knife skills course there before and really enjoyed it so was really excited to go back. I don’t work Fridays and the idea of no work, A in nursery and a cooking course was basically my idea of heaven and¬†I wasn’t disappointed!

Leith’s¬†was founded in 1974 by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave, it offers professional (Lorraine Pascale is an alumni for example)¬†and non-professional courses and a lot more (they have a shop, organise corporate events etc). If When I am rich, I will definitely be hiring one of their chefs to come to my house! They are based in West London and so off to Shepherd’s Bush I went on a rainy August Friday morning.

The school is at the end of a very pretty street, I was nosing into the houses as I went along

img_0370

The class was from 10 til 2.30PM and I have to say I was exhausted and elated by the end. Anyway back to the beginning! They provide tea, coffee and freshly cooked pastries, whilst you are waiting for the class to start

img_0373

All sorts of people go to these classes the first lady I met was house-sitting in Brixton (she lives in France most of the time) and then I was paired up with an American and a Anglo-American couple, I was really lucky, my group was really fun, we had a seriously good laugh, Tom, who I was paired with was super enthusiastic, I thought he was going to jump into the oil to eat a wonton at some point!

I won’t go into all the details of each recipe but point out the tips (I have provided photos of them all). After a safety briefing, we went off to start making dessert in the nice big room that was at the perfect temperature (I thought it might be stuffy). Our main teacher for the day, Jess was really great. She was very clear, hands on, miraculously seem to manage to spend time with all of us (we were 10) and had amazing eyelashes!

Everything is prepared for you, all ingredients weighed out etc

The menu we were about to make was as follows:

  • Deep Fried Wontons with Nam Prik dipping sauce and miso dipping sauce
  • Pan fried duck breasts with plum and teriyaki sauce
  • Sesame soba noodle salad
  • Mango and passion fruit pavlova

We started by making the pavlova as it takes 1h30mins to cook, here is the recipe:

img_0469The key tips I retained from this part are:

  • use¬† metal instruments and make sure they are grease free
  • older egg whites work betterimg_0374
  • start by beating the eggs slowly and remember to incorporate all the mixture and go round the sides or there won’t be an even consistency (Jess’s eagle eyes spotted I was making this mistake)
  • You can use some of the mixture to stick the baking sheet down in the corners
  • Always add icing sugar to the cream or it can taste a bit too savoury

Nope we didn’t do the over the head test but apparently mine was a really good consistency! I took to a party the next day and it was a great success.

Here is one the others made (I decided to not eat mine or the day but had some of theirs!)

And here’s a video of the cream whipping action:

We were then take through the wonton recipe including a little chopping demo:

The wontons were DELICIOUS! Fiddly but seriously delicious, so more-ish.

img_0384-1

The top tips for these amazing babies are:

  • You have to¬†remove a ¬†lot of the layers from the lemongrass and discard the top 3rd, what’s left should be pliable, soft and thin. I had clearly not been discarding enough! You can use the rest to add flavor to sauces etc but you cant eat it.
  • Expel as much air as possible to avoid exploding wontons! and make sure there are no holes
  • Wrapping them isn’t easy, use water to stick the edges together and aim for a “moneybag” shape.

We checked the first one but it was still raw inside so we turned the oil down so the inside would cook but the outside wouldn’t burn. The next ones were perfect and delicious!

img_0394

The main tips for the super easy sauces was to peal the ginger and roll the limes before juicing, both super efficient!

Finally, we made the duck, its sauce and the soba noodle salad (which was a doddle).

Here is the duck recipe and the beautiful meat:

img_0487

 

 

The duck was all about the rendering…I had never rendered any meat but it is so easy and worth it! You basically just get rid of the fat by really slowly heating the duck to get rid of as much fat as possible, you need to start with a cold pan and then wait about 8 mins on a low heat. I turned mine up a bit too high so it was slightly burnt…

We then put it in the oven and made the soba noodle salad , which could not have been simpler and prepared the delicious teriyaki, plum and red wine sauce:

And here it is all coming together:

I had such a great time, I’m¬†really considering¬†doing their Cooking with Confidence evening course and will definitely do some more day classes. They are super professional, friendly, organised and make it all seem so easy. If you like cooking, you can’t go wrong with Leiths!

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog posts because it really was a brilliant day!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Bravissimo To The Rescue Of My Post-Breastfeeding Boobs

My boobs used to my “thing”, one my “USPs” if you will but then I got pregnant, had a baby and lost weight. I’ll never know if this was due to breastfeeding for 19¬† months or the stress of being a new mum, probably a combination of both!

Anyway, things are not the same anymore, I guessed what size I am now but it just wasn’t good enough, I needed professional help so I jumped on the tube to Oxford Circus to go to the best¬†place I know¬†medium- big boobs(they cater for D cup upwards), Bravissimo to get fitted for some new bras.

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

A good fitting bra is like well shaped eyebrows, it can change and improve things A LOT! I had an appointment for a fitting but you can just walk in, I actually turned up an hour early like an idiot but that was no bother at all and the lovely Jessica was assigned to me. The fitting area is in the basement and has a lovely waiting area:

I explained that I was looking for an everyday bra and one for “going out out” and low cut tops. They don’t use measuring tapes at Bravissimo, they basically have a good look at you and at the bra you come in wearing. What’s important to remember that Jess pointed out to me was that 90% of the support comes from the band and most women wear a bra that is too wide, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable but you should be able to get more than 2 fingers into the back of it. Here is a great video that clearly explains what good fitting bra should feel and look like: http://www.bravissimo.com/perfectfit/fitting-video/#

They have a lot more tips here and here.

We then tried on different styles as like with clothes some shapes are going to suit you better than others, it’s not just a size thing. Here’s how you know if the bra is fitting properly:

img_0344

Jess asked me if I minded if she stayed in the (rather large) changing room whilst I tried bras on¬†or if I preferred her to leave, I was not bothered about her staying at all. Plenty of room in there and I’m not prudish with things like that.

img_0330

I probably tried on about 10 different bras. She went upstairs to get me some tops to try them on (they also sell clothes via the¬†Pepperberry brand)¬†and settled for this one for everyday and this one (that I would never have picked because it was a soft cup) for more revealing tops…I also really liked this one but they didn’t have my size so I will probably order it soon.

I’ve worn the first one a few times and love it! Perfect shape and comfortable! I have gone down 2 to 3 back sizes and a few cups sizes since being pregnant so ladies you really need to get fitted! I bet lots of you think you are a 34-36 C, I bet you’re more like 32D!

Have you worn the same bra size for over a year? Does the back of your bra ride up? Do the straps fall off? Do your boobs pop out at the front? Are you pregnant or have you recently had a baby? Then get yourself down to Bravissimo!

Thank you Jess for helping me find some great new bras that fit properly and make  me feel more confident. I can now embrace my smaller boobs!

 

Bath Time With Childs Farm

Disclaimer: Childs Farm sent me these products for free, however I had been buying and using their hair and body wash for a year.

I’ll never forget the first bath we gave A. It was 3 days after she was born and she finally seemed to relax.

The next pic is from 6 weeks after she was born, she seems so content and pensive (*mummy tip* – we used to cover her with warm flannels to keep her warm, it worked really well). Needless to say things are a bit more lively nowadays! “Sit down, please don’t splash mummy…sit down…”

IMG_4475

The first few days were tough (mainly due to feeding issues) and she didn’t seem to really settle but she did in the bath. I’d highly recommend buying a bath seat for newborns, so much easier than holding them and a lot less stressful as they’re not going to fall in the water (which is what happened to my “baby” when we were learning to bathe them at our NCT class).

We’ve never had problems with A’s skin, except for some dry skin the first few weeks. Coconut oil really helped, it’s natural and cheap so ideal for babies and children (it also really helped when I had thrush on one nipple, sorry for TMI and yes it hurts as bad as it sounds!).

About a year ago, I was given a sample of Childs Farm Body and Hair Wash at a local mum’s meetup and loved it after using it the first time and that’s all I have ever used since.

img_0232

It smells divine and seems to last a long time, you don’t need much to get a good lather going.. For those of you, who don’t know Childs Farm, it is a great, award winning British brand that makes toiletries for babies and children. What is super nice about their products is that they are adapted to sensitive and eczema-prone skin and if that wasn’t enough, here is a full list of why they are great!

‚úď  ” Dermatologically tested and approved

‚úď  Paediatrician approved

‚úď  Suitable for newborns and upwards

‚úď  Suitable for children with sensitive and eczema prone skin

‚úď  98% naturally derived ingredients

‚úď  Made with organic essential oils

‚úď  Free from parabens, SLSs, mineral oils and artificial colours

‚úď  Never tested on animals, only on people

‚úď  Tested and approved by my little ones for you to use on yours”

Until they very kindly sent me some new products to try, we had been using the organic sweet orange bath and hair wash, which I LOVE!!!! It smells so nice!!!

img_0227

We were sent the new blackberry and organic one to try and it was a great success, her skin came out nice and soft after the bath and the next morning her hair was still smelling of blackberries! The apple scent wasn’t very strong at all but the blackberry really came through and as I said was still there the next day!

I trust their products, they tick all the boxes (no parabens, artificial colours etc.), the packaging is super cute and we have now have a lovely bag to use as well. We were also sent some suncare to try out and I will write about that later.

img_0199

Their products (that come in various sizes) are widely available (Waitrose, Ocado, Boots, John Lewis etc.) and on their website too: http://shop.childsfarm.com/ . They haven’t just won the “European Mummy” award, they have won tons so I am not the only won who thinks they are great!

Thanks again Childs Farm, I report back on the sunscreen soon.

Do any of you use their products? Please leave a comment about what you think of them, I would love to know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Got Over My Fear Of Investing With Nutmeg.com

*This post is not sponsored by Nutmeg, all opinions are my own however they did collaborate by sending me a few articles on women and investing. Also I’m not a professional financial advisor, this simply represents my experience and non-professional opinion.”

“It’s very important to have your own financial independence”, this is what the mother of my boyfriend at the time told back in 2003, I have never forgotten those and I have never forgotten him for that matter (we’re talking seriously hot French man…). However I bet if I did a quick poll of¬† my female readers most of them would admit that either:

  • their husband deals with their savings and investments
  • most of their money is in a safe cash¬†ISA

Am I right? Who manages your family’s savings and investments? I would love to know!

I have worked in the City for 12 years, I even work for a data management company but I have no financial education and despite my job don’t feel comfortable with actively investing. I lack confidence and that seems to be a common trait amongst women, this sense of lack of knowledge and confidence, which we must overcome!

A few years ago I set up a stocks and shares ISA to try and make more money than the low interest rate I was getting on my cash ISA but I never used because I was just too scared and frankly uneducated about fund/bond/stock picking so I closed it. And I’m definitely not the only one, even though women are statistically better at investing¬†as per a Nutmeg article, they definitely don’t believe it, I’m convinced testosterone levels have an impact on this!

A few months ago I saw an advert for¬†Nutmeg¬†who do the hard/complicated work for you by choosing what goes into your stocks and shares ISA portfolio. I read some reviews (including¬†this one¬†and¬†this one) and decided to open an account (minimum is ¬£500). It is super easy! They told me their number of clients is up 49% year on year as of the end of July 2016 so I’m not the only one who thinks its a great service! If you want better returns than the usual low interest rates you get on cash ISAs or savings accounts then I’d highly recommend you look into them. Here are some examples based on different risk levels:

I’d also highly recommend that in general women take more¬†interest in their investments, you hear too many stories of women who realise too late that their other half has been taking crazy risks with their money, lost it or they just don’t know how much money they have saved and where. It is YOUR money and your future after all!

Back to Nutmeg, there are 3 main steps for setting up an account:

  • How much you want to put in (one lump sum or regular contributions)
  • What risk level you are comfortable with (this determines what they invest your money in)
  • What your investment timeline is
  • options

It also asks what your goal is so you can see if you will achieve it . Obviously nobody can predict the future (so it’s all in theory) but it tells you there is x% of chance that you will reach your goal. This also means that your investments can go DOWN. As the saying goes “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.

level 3

It then builds a portfolio for you, they generally use “exchange-traded funds (ETFs) because they‚Äôre easy to trade, low cost and aim to track the movement of market indices with a high degree of accuracy”, you can find out more here: https://www.nutmeg.com/how-we-invest/etf-guide

portfolio

You can access¬†your account¬†24/7 and take your money out at any time without exit fees. The fee that they do charge “starts at 0.95% and goes as low as 0.3%, including VAT, depending on the amount you invest. The more you invest, the lower your fee.” Remember that the full Stocks and Shares ISA allowance for the tax year 2016/2017, as of 6th April, is ¬£15,240. If you want to invest more with them you can but it won’t be tax free.
There are 10 different risk levels and you can create multiple portfolios within the same ISA at different levels (which is what I have done).

All I know is that this ISA has gone up more in a few months than my cash ISA (that has 3 times more money in it) has in 2 years. That’s just my experience¬† and that’s all I’m trying to do with this blog post, let people know about a product I think is really easy and fills a gap in the market, if I encourage women to get more involved with their savings then all the better!

I’m seeing this as a medium/long term way of investing (ideally to be able to move house one day and the second portfolio is for a future amazing holiday, that one has a higher risk level because I’m happy to gamble more with that one, it’s the one with the better performance, the higher the risk the higher the rewards but you have to be OK with potentially losing some of the money, I can’t stress this enough!)

I think Nutmeg is a great way for women (and men of course!) to take charge of some of their savings in a simple way, everything is super clear and transparent on the website (and you can see what makes up the portfolio, how that portfolio has performed compared to other similar ones from other providers (this is called benchmarking, the only thing I really know about as I sell benchmark data!) and what the predicted outcome is.Here are some comparative examples:


Don’t be afraid! As per this article, lack of confidence often holds women back, which is a real shame, you can always use a low risk level to get comfortable to start with. Inform yourself is all I can recommend and of course there are plenty of financial advisers out there much more qualified than me!
My main point is to encourage you to take more interest in YOUR money and Nutmeg is a great way to do it in my opinion. If you want to know more, their FAQ section is very comprehensive. For some other tips and advice, you might find these posts interesting:

Working Mum Life Hacks

What To Buy For Baby

10 Things To Do Before Maternity Leave Ends

A Much Needed Spa Afternoon at ESPA at The Corinthia

I got a voucher for some treatments at ESPA at The Corinthia from a very dear friend just after I gave birth to A back in November 2014, I had a great experience and today I went back for the 3rd time.¬†There are times in life, especially in a working mum’s life, when you need to treat yourself and escape. For me, the ideal way is to go here:

img_0101

The spa is on the first floor of the beautiful hotel, just walking in to the impressive lobby puts a smile on my face:

img_0100 img_0098

I was greeted very nicely and enthusiastically by the lady at¬†the reception desk and offered a drink (chamomile and mint tea, it wasn’t very warm and I’m not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be or not…))whilst I filled in a medical questionnaire (I should have asked why I was doing this as I had done this before). There is a caf√© next to the reception area where all the products are shown, I didn’t use the caf√©. There is complimentary water, fruit and nuts in the actual spa area in the floors below.

img_0102 img_0104

You are then taken to the changing rooms, where everything you could ever need is provided (slippers, robes, hairdryers, magazines, all sorts of products, showers, sauna etc).

img_0107img_0113

I had about an hour and a half before my massage and mini facial, which I spent very happily sitting in the massive Jacuzzi, which is next to the pool on the thermal floor, which is 2 floors down from the ladies changing rooms:

img_0115 img_0118 img_0119

 

I also had a lie down in a “sleep pod” and then finally sat down to read on the heated beds by the fire in the changing rooms, despite the lack of privacy, this was my favourite bit as it was so warm and cozy. Honestly just reading Marie Claire in peace was such a treat, I’d pay just for that.

img_0130 img_0108

I probably came across 10 other guests in total, it was really nice and quiet.

I was then taken to a really nice treatment room (one of 17)¬†for my massage and express facial. The therapist was seriously good, she listened to me and gave me the exact massage I needed. She focused on my shoulders and upper back and told me at the end that indeed I had a LOT of tension and knots in that area and that I need to have massages more often, well if she says so ūüôā

All the ESPA products they use are natural and ethically sourced and smell and feel lovely!

I actually enjoyed the facial a lot more than usual, I don’t know if its because the products smelt so nice or because I was already super relaxed but it was really enjoyable, apparently I need to drink more water, quelle surprise!

Anyway, here I am “glowing” afterwards:img_0109

It’s amazing what 4 hours in a Spa, far away from reality can do! It’s definitely a luxury spa with high quality treatements and facilities but if you want a treat, you can go wrong by choosing the Corinthia.

And guess who was very happy to see me when I got home?

img_0136

The Langham’s Children’s Afternoon Tea

I love the Langham, I love afternoon tea and now I’m a mum so I was really excited to be invited by The Langham hotel to the preview of their soon to be launched (August 1st) children’s afternoon tea in partnership with Hamleys based down the road on Regent Street.

IMG_0295

I’ve been to the Palm Court for afternoon tea a few times before, the location is great and the room is beautiful as you can see here:

You can take children for afternoon tea in other hotels but as far as I know there aren’t many places that cater to children in particular so The Langham is definitely leading the way! They should also probably lead the way with some chair covers because I fear for their beautiful chairs once little people get their hands on cake! In partnership with Hamleys, the Afternoon Tea is part of a series of initiatives aimed at making sure families have a great time at the hotel, whether staying guests (they are starting some new family rooms and family getaway packages.) or not.

I was the only mum not brave enough to bring their child along (I was also really looking forward to some peace!), the children got to try out the children’s tea and us mums had their Wedgwood Afternoon Tea, which was as delicious as I remembered! It is created by award winning Pastry Chef Cherish Finden, you may know her from “Cr√®me de la Cr√®me”

I mean look at those cakes!!!! I forgot to take a picture of the delicious scones, some of which I was lucky enough to take home (A devoured them!)

IMG_0316

Anyway back to the Children’s Tea, here is a copy of the menu:

IMG_0312-0

It was as cute as it sounds on paper, cookie monster went down particularly well!

IMG_0307IMG_0305IMG_0308IMG_0311

In The Langham’s own words “For the pastry, Cherish was inspired by the array of characters and storytelling within the Hamleys flagship Regent Street store to offer children a chance to emerge into an alternative reality of carefree fun” .

They have thought of everything including cutlery and the obligatory pens and paper!

All the children seemed to really enjoy it, one little girl even said it was “the best tea party ever!”. I definitely think it would be a great idea for a birthday or just a special treat! The tea is available every day at 1pm, 3.15pm and 5pm during the summer holidays, it costs 27.50 pounds and includes a complimentary Hamleys bear. I hope they keep it going afterwards because I would love to take A for her second birthday or at Christmas.

I will leave you with one last picture of the amazing cakes and I seriously recommend the Children’s Tea if you’re planning on treating your children this summer! Thanks again Langham, parents and children alike are in for a treat! And Aly (http://allmumstalk.com), Tushna (Marylebone mums) and Mia (@Miakulla), your children were all well behaved and very cute, lovely to meet you all!

IMG_0314

I was invited by The Langham and the Afternoon Tea was complimentary but all opinions are my own.