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the big sheepWe were recently invited to The Big Sheep in Bideford. Whilst not knowing much about this venue, having visited many other tourist attractions within the South West region we were intrigued to know what North Devon had to offer. The correspondence I received from Anne (‘Head of Happiness’) as stated on her business card) was very warm and welcoming. Further correspondence told of a reception committee including the rolling out of the red carpet. Some might have misinterpreted this as being primed for a showcase of the business, boasting all of its best attributes. How wrong they would have been!

The Big Sheep

On arrival Anne came to meet us personally and we were ushered to a table in their main food court where we were treated to a freshly brewed Barrista coffee and a quality cup of tea. We chatted through the general features of the park at which point Anne tactfully sent us on our way to enjoy all the park had to offer.  Henry and Lowenna were most excited to know what the day had in store.

The Big Sheep Devon

On entering the farm we couldn’t help but notice the abundance of flowers and well-kept hanging baskets that adorned the patio areas leading to the sign posts pointing out the attractions around the farm. Crossing the bridge the children were particularly excited to see the big sheep swing ride although we felt that our children were too small to handle the excitement of this ride so we swiftly moved onto the swan boats.

the big sheep north devon

The Big Sheep North Devon The children then opted to try out the coin op tractors which were great fun! Following that we headed towards the show arena where a demonstration of the different breeds of sheep was taking place. This was extremely well done and followed by the children all going down to the front to feed the sheep. Prior to this the other half was somewhat distracted by seeing the vast number of fermenting vessels where traditionally brewed ales are produced with their very own Country Life Brewery.

the big sheep

Next were the duck trials! Here we saw one of the farms youngest collies showing off his talent with only 1 months training!

Henry particularly liked bouncing on the giant pillows followed by archery.

The Big Sheep Archery

Next it was time for mum and dad to have a break so we entered the indoor soft play area where Henry and Lowenna burnt off some of their energy on the drop slides. The other half bought me some local fudge and we sat and had a cup of tea while the children happily entertained themselves.

the big sheep

By now the children were starting to think about lunch so we headed back to the food court to order our lunch. On arrival it was very busy and we did wonder whether our food would take some time to arrive, with young children this is always an issue when trying to hold their attention for prolonged periods. Our lunch arrived within 20 minutes which was remarkable considering our lunch was clearly cooked freshly to order.

The Big Sheep North Devon

Suitably replete, Lowenna insisted on seeing the new season lambs, the miniature ponies and yet again wanted to feed the sheep. Next, and this was certainly the highlight of my day, we saw a litter of Collie puppies. The children were invited to hold them on their laps. How disappointed Lowenna was not to be able to take one home.

the big sheep

Holding puppies at the Big SheepHolding puppies at the big sheep

Henry then opted for a tractor trailer ride around the farm and the other half opted for a go on the shooting gallery.

The children then noticed a little pink tractor pulling little pink pig trailers. The announcement was made that James would be “Pulling the pigs” of which he was pointed out as being an expert. This was all very tongue in cheek and certainly amused the other half!

Pulling the pigs at big sheep devon

James then entertained the children on the vintage merry go round which was turned by hand before reverting back to his tractor and trailer rides. Lowenna insisted on a train ride around the swan boat lake. This was a lovely way to round off our day.

Merry go round at Big sheep devon

All in all a very worthwhile visit, very well thought out and the staff most friendly. Thank you to the Big Sheep.

WIN Tickets to The Big Sheep

I am currently running a giveaway with The Big Sheep & Mumsnet Devon. If you would like to to be in for a chance of winning a family ticket (2 adults & 4 children) then enter using the rafflecopter box below. We have 10 tickets in total to giveaway so there's a great chance of winning.

Good luck everyone

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Family Fever

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Part of my Zero Waste Week pledge last week was to reduce our food waste. Before the week started I did a lot of research into the best ways to do this. I found various different ideas such as creative ways to use up left overs, portion control and freezing leftovers. These are all very well but they take time which is something that we as a household seem to have very little of. I needed a way to reduce our food waste that was simple but effective and that was when I decided that we needed to start making our own compost.

Inspired by new idea I got online to see how much this new venture was going to initally set me back and I was suprised to find that composters are actually quite a bit of money! However I refused to give up and after more research I discovered that our local council sell start up kits for residents that would like to try their hand at composting and they are only £12!

Home Composting

The kit came complete with the composter, bark chippings, a how to composting book and DVD. I was also given a bag of compost too.

It was really easy to set up and I can't wait to see if it actually works!

Home Composting

So far we have put quite a few bits in including all of our fruit & veg waste, toilet rolls, garden waste, cardboard, paper and the fluff from our dryer.

Home Composting

I'm hoping that I am doing it right? It fits in nicely in the corner of our garden next to my mini pop up greenhouse.

Home Composting

Hopefully by next Summer I will have my own lovely compost to use in the garden.

Thrifty Thursday

Thrifty Thursday Badge

Thrifty Thursday is a weekly linky and a place to share your thrifty posts. It doesn't matter if they are old or new and can be about anything to do with saving money and being thrifty. Whether it be a post on cutting back on your food shop or your latest thrifty find link it up, I'd love to see it.

To read more about #ThriftyThursday please click here

Home_improvements (2)Ideally, home improvements can be planned meticulously. Hopefully you will be able to decide exactly when you want an extension, a conservatory or a loft conversion and make financial plans accordingly. However, it may just be the case that structural work is necessary and a significant outlay cannot be avoided. Whether your home improvements are forced upon you or not, you can usually turn to a lender for help. Doing so though also requires careful planning.

Most banks and building societies will offer a specific loan tailored for this purpose – Either a home improvement loan or what’s called an equity release loan.  Either way, the loan is likely to entail 5-10 years of repayment and is secured against the equity in your home. Sounds simple enough. However, although such a loan is not anywhere near as complex as a mortgage, you still need to take some sensible steps to give yourself the best possible chance of securing a lender’s agreement.

The first of these is a realistic estimate of the loan that you need. This will of course be largely based on the cost of the work you need done. Because you need an accurate estimate, you should get several quotes for the work. It is also a good idea to add on 10% to your evaluation, just in case you find that the contractors you use come up with a surprise or two. Before deciding on the loan you will request, decide if you can pay any of the amount in cash. If so, it will reduce your repayments.

Home_improvements

The next step is to check your credit report. This document contains your credit history and a record of every loan you have received and hopefully paid back. It is one of the first things any lender will check before evaluating your financial reliability as a borrower. As a result, it is important to check the report yourself, to make sure that there are no discrepancies which could count against you. Learning about credit ratings is simple and if you are looking to ensure the best possible credit rating and report, just make sure that you pay back loans and bills on time. Even a late utility bill can count against you. Another simple step to take is to make sure you’re on the electoral register. It’s another sign of stability and reliability in the eyes of a potential lender.

Once your credit report is in order, make sure that you have other relevant documents to hand such as salary slips and tax records. You are now in a position to apply for a home improvement loan. It is advisable to check different lenders while making sure all along that you check the fine print and are aware of any extra charges you might incur. Before you actually apply for a loan, it is also important to have detailed plans of your home improvement project to hand. If you want to instil confidence in a lender, it is vital that they see you are on top of the plans and fully understand them.

However, it is worth noting one potential negative aspect to a home improvement or equity release loan. If you are looking to sell your property in the coming few years, a current and outstanding loan could complicate things. Other than that though, follow these simple steps and you should soon be developing the home you dreamed of.

Once you’ve had children, those regular nights out with the girls become few and far between. For one thing, being a mum you’ll have less energy than you used to and probably the idea of flopping on the sofa after the kids’ bedtime sounds like more of a treat than getting dressed up and hitting the town. For another, money has to go a lot further than when you were a singleton or one half of a couple. With other mouths to feed in the house, money spent on self-indulgent fun becomes more of a luxury than it used to seem.

But it’s important to stay in touch with your friends and keep some of your social life up and running if you can. Not only will it give you a break from ‘being Mum’ but you’ll probably have friends who haven’t made that leap to motherhood yet who might appreciate spending time with just you, rather than you and the kids.

night with girls
Image by mynameisharsha

If this sounds like you, then fear not, nights out don’t need to be that expensive and it’s perfectly possible to reserve some time for you and your friends without feeling that you’re being selfish. The only thing you might have to do differently is to plan further in advance than you used to, in order to secure a babysitter, or a willing partner to stay in with the kids.

As for what do on those nights with the girls, here are a few suggestions.

Stay in and play bingo

Online bingo has really taken off in recent years and now that you can play on a mobile as easily as on a computer, it’s really easy to organise an at home bingo night. Just get your friends to come over with their mobiles, all log in to the same bingo site and buy tickets for the same games. The games on sites such as Gala Bingo, Mirror Bingo and 888 bingo start from pennies at a time and there are often some amazing prizes to be won. For example, every first Saturday of the month at Mirror Bingo, there’s the Bingo Linx Hour with 10 games with £1,000 to play for and the £10,000 Bingo Linx game that takes place at 10.30pm. Imagine how exciting it would be if one of you won when you were all playing together!

Go out clubbing, but dine in first

Often the cost of a night out depends on how much you do when you’re out. If you want to have a meal and then go on somewhere else why not gather at one person’s house to eat first, and then head to the club or pub afterwards. You’ll save a fortune this way, and there’s something nice about preparing a meal together too.

Make it a DIY pamper night

Going out is all well and good, but it’s sometimes more fun to stay in and have a pamper night. You can all bring a skill to the party – whether you’re good at hairstyles, doing manicures or make-up. Share your pampering abilities with your friends, watch some feel-good movies and chill together. Just as much fun as a night on the town and often a lot more relaxing!

It doesn’t really matter what you get up to when you’re spending time with the girls, it’s more important to make time for each other even though you all lead busy lives.

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A little while ago I was contacted by Pukka Herbs to see if I would like to try one of their Pukka teas. Being a bit of a fan of the old herbal teas I said yes. They asked me what flavour I would like and I said surprise me. I like most things so I didn't think much of it until the package arrived and out came this flavour...

Pukka Tea Review

You should know at this point that I hate licorice with a passion but I never even considered that they might have it as a flavour for tea. In the spirit of the review I knew I had to give it a go and boy am I glad I did! It is hands down the best tea I have ever tasted. When you take your first sip you are left with this syrupy sweet taste in your mouth with a soft hint of peppermint. It definitely doesn't taste how you would imagine it too.

'Licorice - but not the kids sweets type of licorice that many people think of. It's one of Nature's sweetest and most nourishing herbs. Combined with the coolness of Peppermint it creates a sweet taste explosion. So forget everything you think you know about licorice and dive into a cup of this tea - revelations await you'

It now takes pride of place on my tea shelf in the kitchen.

Pukka Tea Review

From a design point of view I really love Pukka's packaging...

pukka tea review

Normally I would steer well clear of fancy packaging because that usually entails high prices for the product but the Pukka Teas are very reasonable. The peppermint & licorice flavour is only £1.79 on the Pukka website at the moment for 20 sachets.

Pukka Tea Review

I now enjoy a cup after every meal and I'll definitely be looking out for Pukka Teas on my next food shop.

Pukka Tea Review

Family Fever

Over the last month we have been taking part in the MoneySuperMarkets Energy Saving Challenge.

energy saving challenge

 'Two great ways to bring your bills down are to reduce your energy usage and switch energy provider. But which gives the best overall benefit? We wanted to find out the potential savings and how to achieve them.'  

To join in with the challenge we have been monitoring our energy usage over the course of a month using these handy monitors that were sent to us from Efergy. 

Energy Saving Challenge

I've really enjoyed taking part in this challenge as it has made us all aware of how much we are spending. We've spent most of the month with our eyes glued to the monitors watching them go up and down and frantically running around the house turning every off! We even got our picture in the Sunday Times...

Energy Saving Sunday Times

The main thing that I have learnt is that as a household we spend £88 per year on electricity just by having everything on standby!

Now that the month is over I have just used the MoneySuperMarket's energy comparison tool and I've found out that we could save £71 per year by switching suppliers. 

Energy Saving Challenge

but we could save £88 per year if we started turning everything off at the plug instead of leaving it on standby.

'After one month, we'll invite the participants to compare how much money they've saved by:

- being more aware of the cost of boiling their kettle, watching TV and using a laptop, versus 
- the money they could save by switching energy supplier.'

So in conclusion for us personally we could save more money per year by being more aware of our energy usage than we could by switching suppliers. 

I would just like to point out at this point that we only moved house 6 months ago so we recently changed suppliers when we moved which is probably why our results for the challenge are this way round. I would imagine that someone that has lived in their house for quite a while, with the same supplier would get very different results. 

To see how others have got on with the challenge take a look at this page

Last night I was invited along to The Big Devon Bake Off launch night. It was a really fun evening and it was great to find out more about Hospiscare and how they help people in Devon.

Hospiscare Devon and the Big Devon Bake Off

We were treated to a baking lesson from Glenn Cosby, who stared in last years Great British Bake Off.

Glen Cosby Big Devon Bake Off

Glenn Cosby Big Devon Bake Off

Hospiscare are working alongside Fun Kitchen Devon to help make the event a success.

Fun Kitchen Devon

I even managed to get a snap of me and Glenn. (Cheesy smiles galore)

Glenn Cosby & Gina Caro

Here's some more information for you about the event and Hospiscare...

Celebrity TV baker Glenn Cosby officially launched the Big Devon Bake Off last night (28thAug) at Powderham Castle urging bakers to roll up their sleeves.

In a great British Bake Off style marquee tastefully decorated with patriotic bunting, flowers and herbs Glenn explained how baking cakes can help a great local charity.

Glenn is the man who brought big bakes to millions of TV viewers across the UK when he took part in last year’s Great British Bake Off. He urged bakers to organise their own bake off competition, bake off tea party or coffee morning this September 13-21.

Already there are 60 bake offs planned in a variety of locations including staff from Middlemoor police headquarters, council staff, hair salons, a primary school, a brownie pack, Exeter University staff and several departments from the RD&E hospital. There are also a number of events planned across East Devon for the East Devon Hospice Appeal.

Hospiscare provides free and specialised nursing to the terminally ill in Exeter, mid and east Devon; looking after 650 patients and their families at any one time, supporting patients in their own homes, in the Exeter hospice and three day hospices. It relies on the generosity of the community to provide this vital service which costs £5m a year. The Big Devon Bake Off is one of Hospiscare’s major fundraising events this year.

Susie Healey, Hospiscare community fundraiser is hoping bakers will persuade their friends, family and colleagues to get together to join the baking craze and hold the bake off at home, work, at school or in village or community halls.

We’ve got some great ideas to help your Bake Off go with a swing in our Hospiscare Bake Off fundraising pack. Email: fundraising@hospiscare.co.uk Tel: 01392 688020 or visit www.hospiscare.co.uk

If you are interested in hosting your own bake off then please do get in touch with them, it's for a very good cause :)

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My pledge for Zero Waste Week this year is to reduce our food waste which means that I have been trying out a few new things including making my own crisps from leftover potato peels.

homemade potato crisps

They are so easy to make that I really don't know why I haven't made them before. Here's what I did...

Homemade Leftover Potato Crisps Recipe

Homemade Potato Crisps

Toss the leftover potato peels in some olive oil (just enough to coat)

Add some salt and pepper

Spread onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes. (190 degrees celsius)

When you take the crisps out just make sure that they are all crispy and then they are done.

Homemade potato crisps

It's a great way to use up leftover peels that would normally end up in your food waste bin and they taste really good too. If you have a lot of peelings you can cook them all and then store them in an air tight container to eat another day.

Thrifty Thursday

Thrifty Thursday Badge

 

Thrifty Thursday is a weekly linky and a place to share your thrifty posts. It doesn't matter if they are old or new and can be about anything to do with saving money and being thrifty. Whether it be a post on cutting back on your food shop or your latest thrifty find link it up, I'd love to see it.

To read more about Thrifty Thursday please click here.

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