Tuesday, 8 January 2019

BABY BARGAINS


Being big fans of Aldi bargains (baby dupes post here), the January baby and toddler special buy event has always been in my diary. If you're like me and do a weekly shop at Aldi but then find yourself having to go elsewhere for you baby bits then this is going to be one for your diary too. 

Each January Aldi hosts the hugely popular event, where you can buy own branded and Aldi baby/toddler bits at huge discounts compared to usual. I always go to this and pick up bargain medicines, toys and clothes. When they contacted me to see if they could send me a selection of the things on offer to tell my readers about, I jumped on the opportunity! 


I was so surprised by the selection of bits they sent me and how good value they all were. Annabel Karmel baby book (£4.99), gorgeous baby grows (£5.99) bath toys (£3.99), five pack of socks (£2.49), blankets (£5.99), teethers (£2.99). I am going to go in once it starts in store to get the dupe of the Baby Bing Mani (linked here, £49.99) which is only £17.99! Linked here. I am also going to pick up the Tommee Tippee thermometer as I still don't have one whoops (linked here, £9.99), and the amazing version of the Ikea highchair as a spare, (linked here £10.99). I also want to get some potty bits as I have to start that soon and some new cutlery. 

The event is available online from the 6th of January and in store from the 10th. You can find books, bath toys, pregnancy bits, clothes, changing bags, bottles, snacks, food etc...all at Aldi's low prices. 

So, will I see you down there?


Morgan Alice
x

Monday, 7 January 2019

TRAVEL // OUR MINI WINTER GETAWAY

'Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable'     

Regina Brett

So many people tell you you can't go on holiday when you have a family. We thought that was a load of nonsense and when Alice was a baby we took her to Mauritius, the Lake District, New York, Norfolk and lots more little breaks - all in her first year!  But as she grew into an unpredictable and at times challenging toddler, more and more we seemed to opt for the easier version of staying at home.

Instead of trying to sort a baby sitter to arrange a meal out, we'd end up staying in. Or we would start to look at having a night or two away as a family and give up a few minutes into looking as the none of the places we wanted to go would cater for a toddler. And then we'd end up arranging to leave her with grandparents while we went away alone for a night or two.

There were so many things that put us off arranging time away with Alice; hotel rooms not big enough for her to have her own room/space for cot (having her next to us would be a disaster as she'd wake up or we'd have to go to bed with her at 7pm!), or having the hassle of packing everything under the sun (bibs, cutlery, cots, bath stuff, changing mats etc etc), or imagining us constantly telling her 'no!', 'don't touch that!' and basically wrecking everything in the hotel through boredom and no toys.

I didn't even think that there were hotels in England (let alone near me) that took care of all of this without compromising any of the luxury that we have always loved in a holiday. But that's where Luxury Family Hotels comes in to play. They are a chain of five family friendly escapes, but unlike your usual 'child friendly holiday', each hotel and experience is just as luxurious as an adults-own jaunt you might have made pre-children.


Each one of their properties has its own unique charm and celebrates its British heritage. We got to stay in the beautiful property Ickworth house, a stunning late 18th century neoclassical manor house located in suffolk, about an hour and half away from us. The house itself is a national trust property, one that I've been to a few times before having Alice, but I had no idea that it has a luxury hotel located in part of the property. Having been before, I was so excited to actually get to stay nestled within the 1800 acre woodland. And during that cosy run up to the end of the year too!

We set off from our house at nap time so she slept for the journey, and arrived just in time for lunch at the hotel, which we tucked into while waiting for our room to be ready. We were both instantly impressed with how there was huge chests/baskets filled with toys in all of the rooms and Alice played happily with these for hours! I also loved how her lunch came with a bib, toddler cutlery and a cup.

Alice making herself instantly at home...


We then checked in to our room, the 'grand tour', which was easily one of the biggest rooms I've ever stayed in! I loved the traditional feel to it, the absolutely ginormous bed and most of all - the stunning views of the gardens and the property. This is one of the family rooms and it was perfect for us because it was so huge that we could tuck Alice right away so as not to disturb her (or more so she won't disturb us hah!). I was anxious about this as since she has been in her own room, we have only shared a room with her once, in New York, and it was a nightmare! She wouldn't go to sleep as the room was small and her bed was right next to ours so the lights and noise kept her up. This trip away was such a breeze compared, but more on this later.


After checking in to the room and unpacking it was time for our first free creche session. Yes, you read that right! Everyday at Ickworth hotel (and any of the other Luxury Family Hotels), children can enjoy 2 hours of complimentary childcare at the OFSTEAD registered four bear's den. This was only the second time Alice had ever been in care (she'd only ever been for hour slots at the creche at my gym) so she was a little apprehensive when she first arrived but soon got stuck in to all the amazing games and facilities there. The ladies were SO good with her! They could tell I was a bit unsure of leaving her crying so they said I could wait outside for a bit, and as soon as I left she had stopped crying and could hear her chatting away. Each day they do a different activity in the den, and there is a morning or afternoon session to choose from. We opted for the afternoon sessions so that she could have a morning nap and lunch before going. Honestly couldn't recommend this enough!

Once she was settled, we had two hours to enjoy! We've never had this on holiday before and it did feel pretty special. We went and had a swim at the pool, followed by a cocktail and a game of cards by the fire before picking her up from the den downstairs. In another room downstairs, the 'cinema room' they served kids high tea every evening 17:00-18:00, followed by a film! Such a brilliant idea as it was a much more relaxed environment for toddlers, it was a buffet style of all kiddy favourites and (the best part), they served drinks to the adults to enjoy while the little ones eat and then watch a film. We then went back to the room for bath, bottle and bed.

Buffet style of all the toddler favourites...
Toys outside our rooms, so handy!


Now for the best bit.....

When you think of a family holiday, relaxing and romantic adults only 'date night' don't really come to mind. However, Luxury Family Hotels have you sorted.

The hotel offers 'baby listening', where parents can hear and watch their children on a screen monitor, which is completely free and works a treat. I know some people would feel a bit uncomfortable about this, and I have never done anything like this either, but to us it was just like leaving her upstairs while we were downstairs...only a much bigger house. I probably wouldn't have done it if it was just a listening service but as we could see her  I felt comforted knowing that we could pop upstairs if needed. Also, Alice will only fall asleep in her cot, by herself, in a quiet dark room, which actually meant the baby listening was perfect for us because we could wait outside the room while watching to see her settle, and then make our way downstairs.

Cue a relaxed, care free meal. Just the two of us!

A completely relaxed way of having alone time!


It was quite sweet seeing all of the parents with their little monitors at the table. We had a fantastic couple of meals in 'Fredriks', the adults only restaurant at the hotel, and were the last ones in the lounge enjoying an after dinner drink.


I think this has now totally spoilt us for future family holidays.

The next morning (after a confused and excited Alice sat up in her cot to see us in the room), we had cuddles in bed, got ready and made our way to the beautiful conservatory for breakfast. Again, we were all completely catered for. Breakfast was totally delicious. A huge buffet selection or you can order a hot breakfast including bacon, eggs, waffles and lots more. We reclined in the lounge, while Alice played with one of the chests and we enjoyed more coffee.

Breakfast is served in the conservatory...

She loves a pastry! Luckily they had these on tap..

Then it was time for me to go downstairs for my spa treatment eek!! Whenever we're away I try to do this so I get a little 'me time' while Alice and Jason enjoy some time together too. I actually planned my pedicure for around nap time, and was pleasantly surprised when I'd finished (an hour and a half later) and Jason was sitting by the fire, with the baby monitor showing a snuggled up Alice. We had time to enjoy a little card came before she woke up for lunch and a wander around the gardens. 


Precious memories! We could have gone into the house itself, free of charge, but we ran out of time as Alice was booked into the bears club.


With Alice playing in the creche, it was time for some more quality chill time. All holidays should feel this relaxed surely?! We went and lounged in the room, I had a bath and sorted out some work bits, and then we walked around the gardens while chatting away about new house plans. 


It's so lovely to enjoy time just the two of you on holiday, all at no extra cost. We went to collect Alice from the creche and then it was dinner, bath and bed for her, and our second and final meal at Fredrick's. Not before a little bath time shoot of course...

Pjs and frozen on our bed while we got ready for dinner...
The wine menu at Fredrick's is just amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed sipping our way through the menu...

We enjoyed this meal even more as we had confidence in the baby listening service given the ease of the previous night. She settled almost immediately and we went downstairs for a long evening and enjoyed the last few moments of our break. 

Jason had to leave early the next morning for work so that meant Alice and I had snuggles and  ordered up breakfast in bed - the perfect end to our holiday. 


What not to pack:


No need to pack a cot, bedding or a pillow for your little one. These are all provided if you make arrangements. We just took her favourite 'Blankey' as she goes nowhere without it.

They provide highchairs, bibs, cutlery, plastic bowls and plates, cups, straws. Everything you should need at mealtime. 

You will also not need to pack any type of food or drink for your little ones. Milk was given to us, warmed up, they cater for even the fussiest of eaters and even have pouches and purees for little bubbas too. 

No need for a changing mat, a bin or bags, these were all in our room. 

Toys are also certainly not needed, as there were trunks all over the place filled with exciting new bits for them to play with. It's also worth noting that we didn't use the buggy for the whole time we were there too.

All those things like slippers, robes and toiletries for adults were there too!


All in all, it was the perfect family stay and I cannot recommend them enough. We were guests of Ickworth hotel but we have already spoken about staying with another of the Luxury Family Hotels as they did 'family' so well, without compromising on any of the luxury that we love. 

Alice's pjs linked here (on sale!)


I am so proud to say that this post is in collaboration with Luxury Family Hotels who kindly sponsored us to stay and review our time at Ickworth Hotel.  Thank you for giving us precious memories that we will cherish always.