At the end of August I visited Cotswold Wildlife Park with the kids, my mum and sister. It’s a place that I’m familiar with and I’m sure I’ve been once per year since having the children. We have fond memories of going with my late mother-in-law and enjoying a picnic in front of the rhinos. It was at that moment we told her we were expecting another baby - Reuben. I’m sure we went a second time with Ben’s mum and we also went with my mum. Bella even went on a school trip there! In this blog post I will share my very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park.
I even remember the first time I went with my husband Ben as we totally planned it wrong! Having been to a few other zoos and wildlife parks that only took a few hours to wander around, we decided to head to Cotswold Wildlife Park near to lunchtime. Big mistake! There was so much to see that we couldn’t fit it all in! According to the website today it says they are home to one of the UK’s largest zoological collections.
You can probably guess this is going to be a highly positive review as I’ve been so many times! I usually prefer to go somewhere once and then try somewhere new, but this is a place we like to return to every year as it’s such a wonderful family day out.
There are so many animals to see. Bella absolutely loves the penguins and my favourites are the giraffes and wolves. The experience with the animals is very interactive. It’s possible to go up to head height with the giraffes to really experience them. For the wolves there’s a wooden bridge over their enclosure.
The children’s farmyard is also great. It’s a petting zoo and you can even go in with goats! We have more great memories here such as a little perhaps two year old Bella clinging to Ben as she was scared of the Pygmy goats!
One part of the park I love is the gardens, plants and flowers. It’s exceptionally maintained and always looks beautiful. I can always tell a lot is invested into the upkeep and it’s always spot on. Some gardens in similar attractions leave a lot to be desired, but at Cotswold Wildlife Park they are always on point. The cactuses and tropical flowers always stand out to me as well as the ginormous leaves which look larger than our three year old Reuben!
For the kids there’s also a humongous activity playground which is hard to drag them away from! For around 50p each, if I remember that correctly or maybe one pound, we had a ride around the park on the Bella train! It’s actually called Bella!
The park is always so clean and well maintained which definitely makes a big difference. We normally take a picnic, but there’s plenty of food options there with a large restaurant.
It’s a great family day out and I really can’t think of any recommendations for them or any negatives, which is rare. I’ve barely even touched on the number of different animal exhibits, but visit their website for more information and to learn more: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk
Today we were very kindly invited to Sudeley Castle and Gardens for the children to try their autumn trail and play in the adventure playground – a huge wooden fort! The castle is located in Winchcombe so not far from us in Gloucester at all. It’s within Gloucestershire and set amongst the picturesque Cotswolds. In this blog post I will share my honest review of Sudeley Castle and Gardens.
I’ve been to the castle before, but too long ago to properly remember much about it. I vaguely remember going as a child and again in my early twenties with a friend. I rightly remembered this castle is more about the gardens and an exhibition, rather than being the castle itself that can be explored such as looking around dungeons, original rooms and climbing towers. You are able to go in the castle, but to see the exhibition which is more like a museum of artefacts from the 15th century castle and lots of information about the various people who lived there, including being a royal residence of King Henry VIII and later lived in by his sixth wife Katherine Parr who is buried in its chapel.
I do find it all very interesting and I would have explored the exhibit more, but I had a three year old and six year old tugging on my arm to get outside to do the nature trail! It would be great to somehow make the exhibit more entertaining for younger children, but perhaps they will enjoy it more once older. Bella also found it a bit spooky! To be fair, we didn’t see the whole exhibition as we exited perhaps half way through or so as the kids were so desperate to go outside, so I can’t comment on it fully.
We did have a great time exploring the gardens and doing the nature trail. The autumn nature trail definitely gave the children something fun to do and allowed us adults to explore the gardens with entertained children! They were so excited every time they located a bird box which contained a wildlife stamp for their autumn trail sheet. There are ten stamps to find all around the gardens and an information card in each bird box about the wildlife that is on the stamp. Amazingly the first stamp was of a dragonfly and as we started walking away a dragonfly flew right in front of us! It couldn’t be more perfectly timed!
The gardens and the autumn trail definitely made our day. There are so many beautiful trees, plants and flowers to see, but also ponds filled with koi carp. We all equally enjoyed the pheasantryand even spied a peacock resting on top of one of the aviary’s. Sudeley works closely with the World Pheasant Association and currently houses 16 rare and endangered species of bird from around the world. We spied some really beautiful pheasants with really striking colours.
The children’s day was probably made by the awesome adventure playground. There is a brand new wooden fort which was completed in March this year. It looks amazing and the kids loved climbing up the staircases to various levels, attempting the climbing wall and whizzing down the slides. There’s also a zip line which is Bella’s favourite park activity right now, so she was in her element! There’s a 10 piece obstacle course suitable for big kids and adults, as well as a smaller obstacle course for the little ones. The kids had a blast running around and trying all the different wooden climbing frames and obstacles.
Next to the adventure playground is ‘Lost in the Willow’ a living willow maze which is more like tunnels created from the leaning willows to run through and explore, finding the huge badger cleverly twisted out of sticks in the middle. There are certainly a lot of outdoor things for the kids to get involved with at Sudeley to explore nature and learn more about wildlife. Dotted around the gardens, paths and walks are several animals made from wood such as a deer, snail and elephant. There are also a few metal sculptures to spot such as twisted leaves and snowy owls. For the ages of my children, the outdoors was definitely a lot more fun and inclusive.
The castle also holds many events each year and we just happened to pick a day of the Classic Car Rally to attend. We had no idea this would be on, so it was a surprise. The kids loved looking at the cars too, even three year old Reuben who like the ‘nengines’ best! I’m pretty sure my husband Ben enjoyed looking at all the cars too!
One event I haven’t been to, but I’ve heard great things, is their ‘Spectacle of Light’ event which looks quite amazing. I searched the hashtag #spectacleoflight on Instagram for a peek and the entire castle grounds are lit up with light shows and displays all over the place. It looks so magical for both adults and children so I’ll definitely pencil in a visit one winter.
Overall we had a lovely time at Sudeley and were glad we had the opportunity to visit. The new adventure playground is spot on – the kids could quite happily play there all day! The autumn trail was fun for the children to complete as we explored the castle grounds and Sudeley should definitely consider leaving a trail in place for the children all year round. It’s currently only on this September to October. I’d love to return one day and I think to make the most of a visit with children it’s best to coincide it with an event such as the Spectacle of Light or one of their many Halloween or Christmas craft workshops.
Today I want to share with you my favourite plant based restaurant in Cheltenham. Vinnie’s Eatery is a vegan restaurant in Cheltenham (with some veggie options too) that I absolutely love. I’ve been three times now and I’ve been equally impressed with the food every time. We last went on Sunday just gone and I want to share with you my review.
I have mentioned Vinnie’s a couple of times on my new Healthy Vix blog which you can read here and here. It’s featured in my top vegan restaurants in Gloucestershire post. Even though I’ve only been three times so far, the food has been outstanding each and every time. It’s one of those places that I knew I was going to love, even before I first went.
I can’t quite remember how I heard of it, perhaps my friend Liza who is always in the know about new places and what’s happening locally, but last summer we went to a vegan fair in Cheltenham and arranged to go for lunch there. To our surprise they had a stand at the fair, we got talking and couldn’t wait to pop over for lunch. That day they were serving Mexican plant based vegan food and it was absolutely delicious. Back then they were 100% plant based. Even though I wasn’t then as I was still consuming some dairy (which I’m not now), I loved the whole ethos and totally vegan vibe. I knew I was heading to a vegan lifestyle, I just hadn’t got there at that point. Now I have and with all the knowledge I now have, I will never return to consuming any animal products.
In 2017 I also had a no added/refined sugar challenge. I went a whole year without. Vinnie’s were perfect as they don’t use refined sugar, even in their vegan desserts. The desserts are made with plant syrups if needed and not white sugar.
Everything about Vinnie’s was spot on and exactly the sort of restaurant that appealed to my needs and the way my own healthy living journey was going.
Vegan chickpea burger (hiding under the salad) with a homemade nut bread bun
Unfortunately they are only open in the day times Wednesday to Friday and for special evening events. This means I am very limited to when I can go there as I am in Gloucester weekdays and have my kids at the weekends. It’s definitely an adult friendly café with no children’s menu. I quite like it as a kid-free treat when we can go. That’s why me and Ben have only been twice together so far!
Using the link up above you can check out my first review after going with Ben, but here I’ll share mine and Ben’s second experience.
The eatery, as always, was spotlessly clean and cosy. I sat on a bench against the wall which was so comfortable with large boho style cushions to lean my back against. There are always lots of hanging plants dotted about which I find my gaze drawn to each time I’ve been. I have hanging plants at home so it’s something I love. It also gives a clean, natural, healthy impression, so suits Vinnie’s.
I tried the toilet again and as in my first review it was spotless. I had my retainer in so had to brush my teeth after eating and even though I dropped my toothbrush down behind the sink, I was amazed there wasn’t a speck of dust or dirt in sight. They are very clean indeed, as all restaurants should be. It’s also great to go back to a place several months later and see that the standards remain so high.
Our food was also spot on. We were hoping to have the un-shepherd’s pie, but sadly it was sold out, so another time. We did have the vegan burgers and they were yummy! Everything is so colourful, fresh and tasty. Every mouthful is enjoyable. That’s what I’ve felt on each visit – every single mouthful of everything is divine. The food is cooked wonderfully and very homemade. Even the bun was a homemade nut bread and it was scrumptious.
We had a slice of vegan banoffee pie to finish which was on the counter and so couldn’t be resisted! I rarely have desert when eating out as I still avoid refined sugar after my challenge, so it’s a rare treat to be able to have a pudding. When I did eat desserts I never would have chosen a banoffee pie, but there’s something about Vinnie’s where the food is made so well that I like things I wouldn’t normally like. For example, I did opt for no BBQ sauce on my burger as that’s a flavour I really can’t stand, so they gave me a tahini sauce. It’s another thing I’d probably not usually eat on its own unless it’s in something like hummous, but it was delicious!
Vegan banoffe pie
To drink, Ben had the chocolate smoothie and I had the green smoothie. Both were as the food was – every mouthful really delicious.
I’m really hoping we can go back again soon when we have a kid free day. I’ve my eye on the scrambled chickpeas on nut bread toast. I’ve been dying to try some scrambled chickpeas for a while now. Vinnie’s is highly recommended by me for delicious vegan food in Gloucestershire. The food is really made to perfection and I’ve so far nothing bad to say at all about the food.
My only criticism would be that they don’t open in the evenings so we can go for a kid-free dinner once in a while. I saw they used to and they did a vegan cashew cheese pizza, if I remember rightly, and I’m gutted I never made it to try one. If they open in the evening again we’ll definitely be booking a babysitter and popping along!
I do love a good subscription, but for me I love one that is useful. One that allows me to find brands I genuinely love or one that supplies me with something that is convenient and I no longer have to remember to buy, like razor blades. In this blog post I am going to review the Friction Free Shaving razor subscription box for women, also known as FFS.
FFS is a women’s shaving club that provides a razor handle in the first package along with high quality razor blades. Then as part of a paid subscription plan you can continue to receive replacement razor blades every one or two months. Personally I use a razor blade more than once so I have my account set to send me a new set of four razors every other month. This works out cheaper for me and means I change blades every two weeks.
They offer a cheaper plastic handle and cheaper blades, but I’d highly recommended choosing a metal handle in either silver or rose gold and having it engraved with your name! I chose rose gold and had Victoria engraved. Plus the metal handles come with an even higher quality 6 blade head.
Get started for £5 with free engraving
As I type this you can get started for only £5 with a silver or rose gold metal handle which comes with free engraving! You’ll also get four razor blade heads. For a fiver.
Then you’ll pay either monthly or every other month to receive a set of four more replacement razor blade heads.
Here’s what else is included:
Pause whenever you need to
Delivery straight to your door
In my second package I received a convenient holder which I now hang my razor on in the bathroom.
As an optional extra you can add their pre-shave scrub, shave cream or post-shave scrub to your order.
As you can probably guess I’m really pleased with my razor and the convenience of having blades posted to me every other month. It’s also great to have a high quality razor as before I often picked up cheap plastic throwaway razors which always felt like they dragged on the skin giving me lumps and itchy patches. The FFS razor blades leave me silky smooth and haven’t irritated my skin at all.
They are also quick at sorting any problems. The first razor handle I received unfortunately had a misshapen bit of plastic so the blade head wouldn’t stay attached. They quickly responded to me and sent out a replacement handle immediately. The second handle was perfect and I’ve been using it a few months with great results.
I’ve had no problems with the blade heads themselves, they don’t rust quickly, they don’t scratch my legs to bits and I’ve not had any nicks since using them. I get four replacement blades every two months for £9. That’s £4.50 a month for my shaving efforts. Not bad eh?
Throughout my adult life I’ve had various sleep problems and since having children I’ve realised how vital a good night’s rest really is. Back in my early twenties I struggled to sleep, which looking back was probably due to too much of a party lifestyle and unhealthy existence, and I turned to medication from my doctor to help me sleep. This medication was only to be used short term and at the time I never questioned taking pharmaceutical medicines. Nowadays I steer clear and prefer a much more natural approach when it comes to my health. I used to expect the doctor to solve all my problems, but now I try to solve them myself or at least try a natural method first.
Natural ways to improve your sleep
Looking back, there were many changes I could have made to improve my sleep. Here are some of the ways you can try to improve your sleep. Believe me, they all work. I’m guilty of not always doing them, particularly the caffeine and devices, and I do really notice the bad effects these have on my sleep:
I have come to realise in my 30s that I am quite caffeine sensitive! If I have caffeine such as green tea past around 2pm in the afternoon then I struggle to sleep that night! I will lie awake unable to switch my brain off for a couple of hours. The same happens if I eat chocolate in the evening. Being vegan and avoiding added sugar means I usually have quite dark raw chocolate so this caffeine hit is probably more intense than regular chocolate. Don’t forget chocolate has caffeine too!
I wonder how many people lie awake struggling to sleep with thoughts racing through their heads like me, and the simple solution is to not have any caffeine of any sort in the afternoon or evening.
We are all hooked to our devices and we’re always connected. This, for me, means checking work emails late at night before I go to bed! I can’t help it. It’s a habit and I like to stay on top of things.
It’s also a bad idea though. The screens stimulate our brain instead of soothing them ready for sleep. It also makes my brain more active as I start thinking about things I need to do the next day or going over things I’ve read in my mind, creating different scenarios and so on.
The best thing to do is to not look at devices at least one hour, preferably two, before going to bed. This will allow your brain to fully switch off.
Instead read a book, or talk to your partner. I am definitely guilty of not doing this one very much, but if I do switch off and put the phone down then my getting to sleep is drastically improved.
The benefits of exercise are incredible and we should all be exercising regularly. I go to the gym for 4-6 hours per week and it definitely improves my sleep. It works out my body meaning it needs rest to recover so I’m tired earlier in the evenings now compared to when I didn’t exercise regularly. It also destresses and reduces depressive symptoms meaning the mind is happier and can rest easier too.
Getting the right nutrients for our bodies and brains is also important in getting a good night’s sleep. Our bodies only work properly if they are properly fuelled. A diet low in fibre, but high in sugar and saturated fat was found to reduce sleep quality in a study. For me it’s obvious that an holistic approach is always needed when it comes to health and health issues. I love the saying you can’t outrun an unhealthy diet and perhaps you can’t outsleep an unhealthy diet either!
Meditation is also so important for good sleep. Destressing our bodies and brain and releasing daily tensions is something that we need to do more of and it’s only in recent years that I feel the importance of this is becoming more mainstream.
I do yoga each week as I run a lot so I hope it will improve the suppleness of my joints, but it is also a great way to relax, focus on the now and meditate. After a session I feel less tense and more at peace. Doing yoga before bedtime is a habit I would like to get into and to teach my children too. A good stretch of the body and clearing of the mind is perfect for a better night’s rest.
Although I do not like synthetic medication, I am happy to try natural plant based supplements to aid my health if needed. Recently I had been getting quite anxious at bedtime with a sick to the stomach feeling and too many thoughts, stresses and worries racing through my mind. I was finding it difficult to switch off and get enough shut eye. It’s also no good to go to sleep with a mind full of thoughts like this as I find I have more disturbing dreams and a lower quality of sleep.
I was approached by Utmost Me to try review a natural sleep aid called Neuro Rest and I’ve been trying it for 11 nights as I write this, so it’s been a good length of time to give it my honest review so far. Here are my thoughts.
Utmost Me Neuro Rest natural sleep aid review
I’ve been taking one tablet before I go to bed each night, around 30 minutes before I want to switch off and go to sleep. I leave the pot by my bed so I don’t forget.
Days 1-3 I didn’t notice any difference. I wasn’t surprised though as I guess some things take time to build up in our system. They contains 5HTP and I was advised that our brains need a little time to get used to converting the extra amount of this. 5HTP can help with anxiety and insomnia.
Days 4-6 I’m sure I started to get to sleep quicker with less anxiety and possibly sleep better, but each morning I was still so sleepy! I really struggled to get up, even more so than usual.
Days 7-11 I can go to sleep right away without lying in bed thinking of anything and everything and getting all anxious for hours. I seem to decide to go to sleep and then I turn the light out and boom – I’m asleep. I don’t remember lying and thinking of anything whilst trying to sleep for these past few days. I don’t feel like I fidget as much and I wake up feeling like I’ve had a solid sleep. I’m still a bit sleepy in the mornings, but not as drowsy as I was days 4-6, just normal sleepiness now!
I definitely feel like my going to sleep and sleep quality has been improving over time as I take these supplements. It’s always hard to tell exactly if the supplements have been causing this as perhaps I have just been getting less anxious, or it could be a placebo effect. Either way, I’ve been getting better sleep and not struggling to go to sleep, so this is a win!
I’d also much rather try natural supplements that are plant based if I’m going to take something to try and improve my sleep. I trust natural supplements a lot more than synthetic.
Utmost Me say that 97% of customers surveyed slept better with Neuro Rest. I definitely have been too and the only thing that has changed is that I’m taking this supplement. I’m still exercising almost every day, doing yoga each week, eating healthily and avoiding caffeine later in the day. The only thing I need to work on is not looking at my phone or work emails late at night!
If you’re struggling to sleep too, then I see no harm in trying a natural supplement as it could be the perfect solution for you.
What is Neuro Rest?
Neuro Rest is created by doctors, biochemists and expert nutritionists. It’s a natural supplement that is gluten free and suitable for vegans. It’s also GMO free and only contains wholefood and plant extracts.
The ingredients are specially chosen to reduce tiredness and fatigue. It contains:
It amazes me how many people I know who still don’t use cashback sites. It’s basically money back for all the things you already buy! Sign up and always check for cashback at Top Cashback and Quidcofor great discounts at major retailers, airlines, car garages, insurances, holidays and more. Or try your luck at Boom25for a 1 in 25 chance of winning your entire spend back.