Devonshire Woman

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Cotley Farm Christmas

Last weekend my family and I did something really exciting, we bought our first real Christmas tree! Now the boys are of an age where they will not destroy or pull the tree over, we thought it was time to get one. So when we were invited to Cotley Farm in Whimple, East Devon, how could we say no?

Cotley Farm has been on my radar for a few years, it’s the place to go if you want a good quality Christmas tree.  It also has the added bonus of a wooden lodge full of festive treats and real life reindeers.

There was good signage to the farm (we easily found it using our sat nav), when we arrived it was very busy (we went the busiest weekend for the farm) but there was plenty of parking and it certainly didn’t feel too busy as everything was spaced out. There was a little site map at the entrance to easily navigate around the farm.

We first headed into the Christmas Cabin, it was a quaint wooden lodge full of decorations, local food, drinks and treats.

Everything was displayed beautifully, there were lots of lovely things on offer to help decorate your chosen tree plus plenty of gift ideas.

The boys were desperate to see the reindeers, so they jumped in to sleigh ‘Cotley 1’ to get to the barn.

 

Reindeer sign cotley farm www.devonshirewoman.co.uk

The boys were convinced that the reindeers were Dancer and Prancer! The reindeers were all cosy in their barn, they have a busy evening on the 24th December apparently. Inside the barn were also piglets and sheep (with the sweetest little lambs). They also have calfs in a separate barn, so the cuteness factor was sky high.

The reindeer lodge was so festive, it was decorated beautifully.

Before we chose our favourite tree, we (as in me) was enticed by this sign…

This was such a lovely touch, i didn’t feel like we were just buying a Christmas tree, it was a full-on festive experience. The mulled wine was delicious and warming, even the mince pies were warm, Cotley Farm certainly know how to spoil their visitors.

It was now time to go pick our tree, the tree farm was full of families looking for that perfect tree, and there were so many to choose from. They have a variety of sizes and types of fir, so whatever space you have or budget there is something for everyone. A full list and prices can be found here. We went for a 6-7ft Nordmann tree. The staff were working so hard, we did not have to wait long at all, and they were very patient. I think we were quite relaxed about choosing our tree, but some visitors were very particular about what they wanted. Again the staff went with the flow and helped everyone get the tree that they wanted.

The boys fully embraced the tree picking, if you watch my little video at the end you will see my littlest boy jumping around with so much excitement when he was shown the tree. This has created a lovely memory of Christmas for me, so much better than going to a store and picking a tree.

Lester, who owns the farm and helped us pick our tree let the boys pull the tree through the netting machine, they loved that they prepared our tree for home.

We loaded our tree on the car and then ventured in to see the baby reindeer (so cute) and the nativity scene in the final barn.

www.devonshirewoman.co.uk

Once home, we put up our beautiful tree. I didn’t realise how much i would love having a real tree but i can not stop looking at it.

We got straight into decorating our tree, we decided not to go too crazy with the decorations, we wanted to see as much of the tree as possible.

Here it is, our Cotley Farm Christmas tree, we love it!

If you are not in the Christmas spirit, you certainly will be after visiting Cotley farm.  A lot of thought and care has gone into making visitors have a christmas experience when they visit. It’s not just about buying a tree but bringing the family together and making the day rememorable. I can see why Cotley Farm is a place families return to year after year, it becomes a place that is part of family traditions at Christmas, one of which will be ours too. I am already looking forward to going again next year. If you would like to see more of our day at Cotley Farm, i have put a little video together to share my experience with you.

I was invited to review Cotley Farm in return for a discount on a Christmas tree. We had planned to buy our tree from Cotley Farm this year, so this is my honest opinion of the farm as a first time visitor.

Frugal Elf On The Shelf

This year i have decided to take part in Elf On The Shelf, the price tag of the official elf on the shelf put me off a little bit in the past but other stores have jumped on board and families can take part in the fun over the festive period, even on a tight budget.

My boys are now 6 and almost 4 years old so they are really embracing the magic of Christmas. We started our elf on the shelf craziness yesterday when a letter landed on our doormat addressed to the boys…

santa letter in blue envelope

Daddy reading boys their letter from Santa

The boys letter from Santa

So our elf is going to be arriving soon! I made the letter using Canva and printed it on some premium paper that we had. The boys reaction to the letter was magical, i wish i had filmed it, the look on their faces was sheer excitement.

Tomorrow is 1st December so i have some planning to do. We still need to think of a name for the elf, but let me introduce to our family elf and how we have done it all on a budget.

Our elf was actually from Poundland (but cost £2) – still a bargain, he is so cute and i love his little cheeky face. Our elf will have a gateway to the North Pole through elf doors that will appear in my son’s bedrooms tomorrow morning. These were gifted to me by the mother in law but they can be bought for about £1-£3 in The Works and The Card Factory. Our elf is going to be bringing the boys their letters to write to Santa, we will be then posting them to Santa at the Royal Mail (if this is done before the 8th December, the Royal Mail will send a reply). I got these letter sets from The Card Factory for 99p each. Elf is staying with us until Christmas Eve, i have a feeling the boys are going to be sad to see him go, so he has already bought them a little gift which he will leave behind for them, a little snowglobe each with a little elf inside, these were also 99p each from The Card Factory.

The Factory Outlet is also selling some cute pieces, i picked up this ‘naughty elves up to mischief’ for £1. Our elf is a little floppy so i picked up some floristry wire from the local florist for 85p to make his limbs a bit more sturdy and mobile.

If you have an elf and want to make them bendier, it is very easy to do. All you need is the florist wire, a stitch picker and some scissors to cut the wire.

Simply unpick a couple of stitches and feed the wire through, restitch and you are done!

our elf on the shelf www.devonshirewoman.co.uk

Our little elf can now sit up and has a bit more life in him now his limbs are more sturdy. I can not wait for the boys to meet him tomorrow.

I am planning his arrival today, this is what i have planned so far;

  • Elf doors will be put in place this evening.
  • Elf will arrive with a letter saying hi to the boys.
  • Elf will leave a movie out for us for our movie night, i have a feeling it may be ‘Elf’!
  • Elf will bring welcome gifts of Santa letters to write & some paper chains for us to make during the movie.
  • Elf is bringing a special breakfast with him to, cinnamon rolls and winter doughnuts (i will make these this evening whilst listening to a bit of Michael Buble!)

Are you taking part in Elf on the Shelf? I can not wait to see what these naughty elves get up to!

Focus on These Key Areas For Business Growth!

Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t make a big impression- in fact to do well this is exactly what you need to be doing. Here are some of the ways you can boost business and get ahead as a small business.

Pay For A Good Website

Your website the online representation of your business, it’s the first thing your customers see when they come in contact with your business, and if you’re purely an online company, it’s the way you come across to customers. For this reason, something that looks smart and professional while being easy to navigate is so important. It should be visually pleasing and quick to load, research has shown that customers could be so badly put off a slow loading website that they would never return. So if yours isn’t up to scratch, it’s somewhere you need to invest in.

Have a Responsive App Made

As well as a good website that’s optimised for all devices, it’s worth having an app created too. This is because sales on tablets and smartphones have overtaken those made on computers and laptops- showing that as business owner you need to move with the times. Because apps on places like Apple’s App Store need to be verified, it shows customers that it’s safe to shop with you as you’re a legitimate and trustworthy business.

Be Reliable

When you’re a small, relatively new business, customers are taking a chance on you when they purchase from you. Instead of shopping with your more established competition, they have chosen to shop with you so you don’t want to disappoint. Make sure your products are packaged well and shipped in good time, sites like Shiply have different delivery methods you could consider. Make sure your product descriptions are accurate and that you are putting out items that are of the best quality. Make sure you do what you say you will as a business, and you will keep people coming back.

Get Your Marketing Strategy Right

The right marketing and promotion is how you are able to get your business out there and compete with your more established competition. It’s not as simple as setting up a business and people coming flooding in- you’re a small fish in a big pond, so people need to know you exist! Work with a professional marketing agency who can help and advise you on things like backlinks, SEO and social media.

Build Up Customer Reviews

Finally, if a customer has never shopped with your business before, it’s likely they will read reviews from past customers to see what kind of experiences others have had.  Research has shown that most people are happy to leave a review when they’re asked, so it’s worth sending a polite follow-up email after your customer’s order has been delivered asking them to review you. Third party review sites like Reevoo and Trustpilot are good for this.

What areas of business would you address for business growth?

Reduce Your Rubbish Clearance Before You Open the Bottle or Can

The basic premise behind this very effective method of reducing your rubbish clearance is borrowed from other fields of study before we even thought much about devastating effects of filling our landfills with rubbish! In the field of medicine, for example, there is a wise old adage that says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This basically means if you use just a little prevention, you don’t even need the cure! It also means you can get a lot more accomplished with a smaller amount of effort if you “nip a problem in the bud.” In other words, if you solve the problem before it actually becomes a problem, it’s much easier to solve!

So, how do we apply this same old adage to the problem we are seeing with so many single use plastic bottles and aluminium cans ending up in the landfill? Recycling efforts alone are not working to keep plastic bottles and aluminium cans out of our rubbish clearance in landfills. Consider the following stats and facts.

According to a study by Coca-Cola, about 16,000 single use plastic bottles are produced every single second! That’s a mind boggling number, especially if you start trying to figure out how many single use plastic bottles would be produced in a minute, an hour, a day, and a year!

 

Let’s actually do the math!

If 16,000 single use plastic bottles are produced per second:

16,000 x 60 = 960,000 produced per minute (that’s almost a million per minute!)

960,000 x 60 = 57 million 600 thousand produced in just an hour!

57,600,000 x 24 = 1,382,400,000, about 1.4 billion produced every day!

1,382,400,000 x 365 = 504,576,000,000 billion per year!

 

So, more than HALF A TRILLION single use plastic bottles are produced each year! Coca-Cola alone produces about 100 billion of these! No wonder we have single use plastic bottles adulterating every wrack line on every beach in the world! No wonder we have these same plastic bottles in every ecosystem of our diverse oceans, including the deepest depths of the deep sea! And… no wonder we’re having trouble recycling all of them, or even close to all of them!

To make matters even worse, Greenpeace has determined that only about seven percent of the single use plastic bottles are actually made from recycled plastic. Therefore, we have new plastic entering this waste stream in our rubbish clearance all the time! While Coca-Cola has publicly vowed to improve these numbers, they have a long road to get to one-hundred percent.

So, how many of these single use plastic bottles actually get recycled?

According to a Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection Survey, only about one-third of all plastic bottles are actually recycled! This means that more than sixty-six percent of all single use plastic bottles, most made from virgin plastic, are heading straight into our landfills! This may in part explain why only seven percent of all single use plastic bottles are made from recycled plastic.

What is the current status of single use aluminium cans?

Aluminum single use beverage cans do fair better that single use plastic bottles. This is probably because there’s more profit in recycling aluminium than plastic so there’s more of an incentive to recycle them. According to the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, in May 2017, the rubbish clearance recycle rate for aluminium cans jumped to seventy percent, up ten points in only three years! However, that still leaves thirty percent of all single use aluminium cans not being recycled at this time!

So, let’s get back to our “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” philosophy and see how we can apply it to this ecological catastrophe.

What if we PREVENT the problem by using less, far less, single use plastic bottles and aluminium cans?! This “ounce of prevention” would greatly lessen the need for a major cure!

Here are some things you can personally do to greatly reduce, or even eliminate, your use of single use plastic bottles and single use aluminium cans:

  1. Buy Sustainable Glass or Stainless Steel Reusable Bottles and Mugs

Use these for around the home and for when you’re travelling. Keep an extra one in your vehicle or backpack just in case you forget your favourite one at home. You can get these in “thermal” versions to help keep your beverages hot or cold! Plus, many coffeeshops and restaurants are now giving a discount on beverages to those who bring their own bottle or mug.

  1. Invest In a Water Filter

You may not realize this but most bottled water is actually tap water that has been filtered! You can do the same thing at home with a water filter. You can then fill your reusable bottles and take them to work and on the road with you! Best yet, you use the filtered water for cooking too!

  1. Eat Fresh Fruit and or Make Your Own Fruit Juice

Bottled fruit juice is not necessary if you make your own fruit juice at home. It will also be much better for you than the ultra pasteurized versions sold in bottles.

  1. Find Alternatives To Sodas

Sodas are not healthy for you. The carbon dioxide is very acid producing in your body which can disrupt your natural flora. The sugar in these drinks are also very harmful. You can make your own “flavoured water” that will taste great and be much healthier. Simple ideas include adding a squeeze of citrus or herbs like mint to your filtered water.

  1. Buy a Soda Maker If You Must Have Fizzy Drinks On Occasion

Are you addicted to carbonated beverages like sodas and feel like you must have them at least occasionally? If so, you can purchase a soda maker with reusable carbon dioxide cartridges and glass carafes.

Clearabee is fully committed to reducing rubbish clearance in our landfills. Therefore, if you do still have single use bottles and single use cans in your rubbish, separate them out and label them as such. Then call Clearabee and they’ll get them to a place that will be sure to recycle them.

Road Trip Breakdowns: What Now?

Picture the scene! You’ve decided it’s a great idea to head to the nearest picnic spot, so you’ve loaded up the car with the essentials, strapped the kids into the back and you’re going for an hour’s drive to get to the best scenery and place of fun for your family. So far, so good, right? Uh-oh. It’s started to rain. You press on with your journey anyway, and decide that an indoor place would be just as nice as a picnic in the sunshine. You’ve been driving for a good few miles, you’re on the motorway and the car is juddering and all the lights are shining and flashing. You pull over to the hard shoulder and now the car won’t start. It’s pouring with rain; the kids are whining and now your brain tells you it’s a good time to panic!

Well, panic not. It doesn’t matter the scenario, breaking down at the side of the road doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Breaking down doesn’t mean you should immediately burst into tears, but you do have to act quickly and be smart about it. Cars break down all the time on the motorway: batteries need replacing at a garage, car tyres need re-inflating by Air Supplies, whatever you need can be fixed. So, what do you do if the car gives up when you’re on a trip? How do you get yourself to safety?

  1. Before the car gives up, indicate and pull over to the hard shoulder. If you can get near to a telephone box, then fantastic, if not, pull up and turn your wheels into the left.
  2. Get the kids in the car to calm down and occupy them with an activity while you get yourself on the phone and calling for some help.
  3. Pop on the hazard lights, especially if there is inclement weather or it’s getting dark outside. You need to be visible.
  4. Call your car cover company and get them to come out to you in an emergency to be towed, or at least see to the problem. You should also call someone who can drive you and the children and their car seats safely home.
  5. Don’t attempt to get out of the car and wait if you cannot get to the hard shoulder. Put your seatbelt on with the hazard lights and wait for a rescue vehicle to get to you.
  6. Don’t panic! There’s nothing worse than panicking about being in a crash, and if you think with a level head you are far more likely to stay safe on the road. Your safety is paramount, and panic can skew your thinking.

When you get rescued, make a point of noting down the issue with the car so that you can be prepared for next time. Breaking down on the motorway is a scary experience, but it’s one you can overcome with a little quick thinking! Keep a level head and keep safe – that’s the most important bit!

 

Christmas is Coming: Prepping Your Home For Festive Visitors

Christmas is now less than two months away, and that means we all need to start thinking about how we’ll be celebrating the festive season. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is going to another person’s house for the holidays, then lucky you: you don’t need to plan anything other than turning up! However, if you’re one of the people hosting everyone else, then it’s time to get your thinking cap on. Below, we run through five ways you can prepare your home for the invasion of guests.

Develop a Plan

First thing’s first, let’s gauge exactly how much work you need to do. How many people are coming, and for long? Are they bringing children with them? Are they going to be here on the day itself, or just before/after? Naturally, the more people and more extended length of time the trip involves, the more work you’ll need to do. It’s a good idea to start thinking about where everyone will stay when they’re with you. This might involve kicking your children out of their rooms for a little while, so be prepared to break the news to them!

Clear the Space

If you’ve got a bunch of extended family members coming to stay with you, then your home is going to be less a house, more a hotel. To avoid things getting too cramped, consider decluttering your home well in advance. This will allow for more space, and also make the next task (deep cleaning) all the more straightforward. Donate your bulky items if you no longer need them, or, if you plan on keeping them, put them in self storage until after the festive season is over. It’s always nicer when people have space to unwind when they’re in your home, and this will enable them to do so.

A Deep Clean

Your usual sweep and mop job won’t suffice when you have guests coming for a few days. It’ll require a much deeper clean, which you might have to organise in advance, especially if you need to hire professionals to do the job. Specifically, it’s a good idea to pay the experts to give your carpets a thorough clean, though be extra careful that people don’t spill gravy and their drinks on it when things begin to get merry during their stay.

The Added Touches

With still some weeks to go, now’s a good time to start picking up all the small, added details that can make guests feel more comfortable in your home. This can mean a new set of towels, candles, water glasses, and anything else that you think will be handy in your guest room. You should aim to let your guests have everything they’d find in a hotel!

Account for Mistakes

Though there’s a lot of things to take care of, it’s important that you stay calm and allow yourself to make some mistakes. You won’t get everything right, but if you start getting everything together now, it’ll all go well.

Top Ways to Stay Healthy While Working from Home

There are many benefits associated with working from home. It gives you freedom: the freedom to plan your day as it suits you, to wear whatever you want, and to have an office that is decorated in any manner you like. Unfortunately, it also gives you the freedom to open the fridge as many times as you want too! There is no denying that being healthy while working from home is difficult. It’s simply the nature of the beast. But these tips can make it a lot easier…

Get dressed every day – If you ask people to name one of the things they love about working from home, you can rest assured that a few of them will say the ability to work in their pyjamas. While this is great, it does not promote a healthy lifestyle, and so you are immediately putting yourself on the back foot. Instead, jump in the shower before you start working and get changed into something different so that you don’t slip into a lazy mindset. Wearing workout clothes is a good option!

Give your eyes a rest – It is not healthy for your eyes to be glued to a computer screen all day long. A lot of home workers can end up spending every waking minute looking at their PC or laptop, which can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome. It’s important to make sure you step away from your computer every hour – just for a few minutes. This will ensure you aren’t straining your eyes or causing any damage.

Prepare snacks beforehand – Make sure you have a good selection of healthy snacks prepared for each day. If you don’t, you will only end up grabbing the most convenient thing out of the fridge or cupboard, and the most convenient food item usually tends to be unhealthy. Instead, separate seeds and dried fruit into sandwich bags, or prepare vegetables for snacking and salads. You may want to consider going on a meal replacement diet plan. By doing this, you will know exactly what you are going to consume every day, and this structured approach will stop you from straying.

Address your working environment – It’s important to make sure that your home office promotes productivity and health. Choose a room that has a good deal of natural light if possible. If you are working in a box closet with a tiny window, you’re only going to wind up getting countless headaches because of a heavy reliance on artificial lighting. You should also make sure the thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature, and open your windows regularly to let some fresh air in to reinvigorate yourself. It is also important to make sure that your workspace is organised, so that your mind is free to work efficiently. Consider the colours you have used to decorate the room as well. Are they suitable for a productive environment? Blue is a good colour if you want to create a calm and considered space. If your work is creative, you may want to opt for yellow touches in the room. Stay away from too much red, as this is an angry colour, which can evoke too much emotion.

Schedule a workout into your day – Most people that work from home find that they end up missing their workout because they continue to sit at their desk instead. To stop this from happening, you should schedule your workout into your day. When you are splitting up your work activities, make sure you take one of the hour slots and fill it in with exercise. This will ensure that you do not have any excuse to avoid working out.

Get up and move – It is good to get up and move every so often, so you can stretch your body between periods of sitting. If you have a conference call, you should stand up and pace around a bit. If not, simply take a break and stroll around your home. You could also lift some light hand weights or do a few stretches. To make sure you don’t forget, set an alarm on your phone or a reminder on your computer.

Get a good chair – Finally, the importance of a good office chair for anyone that works from home cannot be overlooked. You do not want to have to strain your neck or back while you are hunched over your computer screen; good posture is of paramount importance. The key is to get the balance right. You need a chair that is comfortable but don’t go for anything that’s so comfortable you’ll fall asleep. Keep the recliners for your living room!