Switching Energy Providers To Save Money

Roughly this time last year, we switched our energy provider to a clean energy company in a bid to make our lives greener. We chose to switch from British Gas to Good Energy via 38 Degrees Big Switch. We found it incredibly easy to do this, it seriously took no effort at all, and we saved alot of money this year in doing so.

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Unfortunately, the fixed tariff has now ended and the one we are automatically transferred to is a much higher rate, so it is time to switch again! We were kept well informed of this though; 38 Degrees were very good at sending out emails to ensure customers were aware, and to offer a new deal with a different company (Bristol Energy). 

If you don’t review your energy provider regularly to ensure you are getting the best deal, for example at the end of a fixed rate period, I really recommend you do so. The amount you can save is significant! There are lots of energy companies to choose from (including several clean energy providers) so it is worth taking the time to shop around and compare the various deals on offer.

There are also various companies who are using people power too, by joining consumers together to get a better collective deal, much like the one we did. These really take the time and hassle out of it all, whilst getting great savings. Google to check the latest one, as they are usually limited numbers and set deadlines.

The other thing to consider is thinking ahead in order to save money. I would imagine that you are more likely to find deals on installation, or home heating oil if you use it, now during the summer months than later in the year for example. So a little bit of planning now could help make savings in winter.


*This is a collaborative post.

CakeToppers – Personalised Cakes: Review and Giveaway

I think Caketoppers read my mind; just when I was busy organising Squiggle’s party and thinking about her birthday cake, they dropped me an email asking if I would like to review their personalised photo cupcakes. Since it’s her birthday, they kindly agreed to send me cake toppers for her birthday party cake as well as two cupcakes to sample too, which I really appreciate!

Caketoppers is based in Farnham, Surrey and offers a selection of personalised photo cupcakes, celebration cakes and toppers. You can use photos, logos or even drawings to personalise your choice of cake, so it makes it really unique. I chose my Living Life Our Way logo for the cupcakes. For the birthday cake toppers, I designed a picture on a photo app using some of Squiggle’s own drawings.

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The cupcakes and toppers arrived promptly and were well packaged. I don’t like to create so much waste with plastic packaging personally, but it certainly meant that everything arrived very fresh and in perfect condition.

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So firstly, the cupcakes. They are absolutely delicious! I literally dreamt about these cakes (yeah, yeah, I know). They were really moist and fluffy; they honestly tasted like they had just that second been made (by someone with far superior baking skills that my own!) Gorgeous. I would tell you what the rest of the family thought of them, but they wouldn’t know… they were way too good to share! I sampled one vanilla sponge and one chocolate; both were to the same yummy standard. I personally liked the vanilla sponge best but that is just my personal preference – both really were delicious!

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The cupcake samples, like my example above, can be purchased for £5 including delivery. A set of 6 cupcakes are £12.99 plus postage. There are also various other options, so check out the website for details.

As for the cake toppers, Squiggle loved the fact that her party cake was so unique and personal, decorated with her very own drawings. It meant so much to her! The cake toppers are easy to use; they came with detailed instructions but basically you just peel the back off then use icing to stick them on. They are ideal if you plan on baking a homemade cake but want a special finishing touch to decorate it with. Cake toppers cost from £7.45 for a round, square or rectangle edible photo topper.

I ended up buying a supermarket ‘decorate your own’ celebration cake for the topper, which was a tiny bit too small so doesn’t really do the topper justice. However, that is entirely my own fault and not a reflection of Caketoppers whatsoever! Squiggle didn’t notice at all though – as I said, she was delighted with her special cake! We all were infact, love it.

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Caketoppers do also sell the right size cakes to match the cake toppers so you can decorate it yourself, if you fancy a semi DIY job. A round or medium square undecorated cake is £20 and large square (10 inch) is £26. (Plus delivery charges). I’ll admit I would have much rather ordered her party cake from them too, especially after tasting those amazing cupcakes, but this didn’t quite manage to happen – despite the fact that they do also have a super speedy next day delivery option. Mummy fail. Oops! (Long story that I won’t bore you with but absolutely nothing to do with the company!)

Alternatively, you can purchase photo cakes with your own design printed on them, so the same concept as the cupcakes, only bigger. This is an easy, convenient option; and is the one that I am more than likely to opt for next time! These cost from £32.50 plus P&P for a medium 8 inch cake.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Caketoppers, we are really impressed with them. It is a shame that the same can’t be said of my cake- making or organising skills! 😉

Last but certainly not least, Caketoppers have kindly offered up for grabs a set of 6 yummy cupcakes, with the design of the winner’s choice. So enter my giveaway below for a chance to try these for yourself!

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Open to UK residents only. Ends 7th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply. 

*Disclosure: I was sent the cupcakes and toppers free for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Is Your Garden Dog Friendly?

As you all know, we love being outdoors, including spending lots of time in our garden. We enjoy growing a good selection of plants, flowers and food each year. However, we also have various pets so need to be aware of what we are growing that they might try to eat! 

If you are a dog owner you might find this infographic by Rattan Direct useful. There were a few that I wasn’t aware of to be honest. It particularly caught my attention that daisies, which are of course such a common garden flower, can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Hopefully most dog owners are already very aware of these poisonous plants, especially the deadly ones, but it is handy to have a visual reminder and this information could certainly be very helpful to new owners.

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www.rattandirect.co.uk

Both my brother and my dad have pet dogs, and we had a beautiful King Charles Spaniel called Cindy when I was growing up. I remember she would eat absolutely anything she could get her paws on! I think my dad’s dogs that he has now are pretty well trained in comparison, although they do seem to enjoy picking up the odd bit of litter off the street, and they chase all the leaves blowing around in autumn! But as far as I know, hopefully, they aren’t partial to munching on plants and flowers – especially not any on this list!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Squiggle is a big fan of dogs, so she loves spending time with them. She did actually ask again recently if we could own a dog, more specifically a Dalmation. I honestly would love to, but unfortunately a dog is not an option for us at the moment. One day maybe though!

Anyway, I’ll leave you with these adorable photos of Squiggle with our family’s furbabies…

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What pets do you have? Tell me in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.


Perfect Glasses: Review 

It had never occured to me to shop online for any type of glasses before, so when perfectglasses.co.uk got in touch with me, I was quite intrigued and keen to give it a go! As I don’t need to wear prescription eye glasses personally, and summer is (hopefully!) on its way, I opted to review a pair of sunglasses for myself.

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They offer an excellent selection, including various designer brands, and have options across a range of prices. (Prescription glasses start at just £9!) The sunglasses can be ordered as non-prescription but are also available as prescription sunglasses too. I decided to have a little nosey at how this would work and it looked really straightforward; you simply enter the specifics of your prescription and they take care of it… so easy!

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The website sells lots of different styles. If, like me, you aren’t sure what shape will suit your face, there is a handy feature where you can take a selfie then look in the virtual mirror to see what they would look like. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this made it to decide, without needing to actually try them on. There are also clear accurate measurements in the descriptions, which is helpful to note when making your choice. As with any sunglasses, some styles/ brands are smaller than others, so this information is useful to help pick a pair suited to you.

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The website itself is easy to navigate. There are different categories, and the results can then be filtered based on materials, size, colour, type and shape, and can be sorted by price. In my opinion, I think there seems to be a bigger range than you would find in most stores. I am sure there is something to suit everyone!

I specifically wanted a metal frame as I personally prefer this over plastic, so I searched under this filter. (I probably would have opted for a wooden pair if that had been an option!) I had alot of fun ‘trying on’ the different styles and looking through all the various options. I found it far more enjoyable than going into a shop to buy some! Once the frame has been selected, there are various options depending on the type of lenses needed.

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The service was excellent and delivery very quick. The glasses came via a carbon neutral courier and were well packaged with enough packaging that they were secure and arrived undamaged, but without unnecessary packaging (which is a good thing of course!) 

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The sunglasses are exactly how I expected them to be, the virtual mirror and accurate description meant there were no surprises there. They are good quality; they feel nice and sturdy. They are also really comfortable. Ordering the glasses online was convenient and easy – I’d definitely be happy to order from the website again. 

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*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Growing Your Money Guide

One of the things I’m always very conscious of as a parent is our family’s finances. These are challenging times for the UK, and there seems to be growing conjecture that times are about to get even tougher. Whilst I try not to worry too much about the wider economic issues that are largely beyond our control, it is important to me to try to keep our own finances under control.

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If at all possible, there are two simple things you can do to help secure, and safeguard, your family’s financial future. The first is to put aside as much as you can each month. Then, as a second step, it makes sense to ensure that these savings are working as hard as they can. In terms of the latter, it’s easier said than done given that interest rates have absolutely plummeted over the last decade. Nevertheless, there are still some ways in which you can get a bit more bang for your buck.

Best interest deals on savings

The Santander 123 account used to be a real winner with an interest rate of 3%, coupled with some cashback offers on bills. Unfortunately, this rate was cut in half at the end of last year, although 1.5% is still one of the better deals out there. Bear in mind though that this has a £20,000 limit, and there is a monthly fee of £5.

Further afield, Bank of Scotland’s Vantage account offers 3% interest on accounts with £3,000-£5,000 in them, while Tesco offers 3% interest on the first £3,000 savings. Effectively you can take advantage of this for savings up to £6,000, since you can open two accounts per person with Tesco. However, perhaps the stand out option is the Nationwide Flex account, whereby you earn a more impressive 5%, but only on a fixed amount of £2,500 for 12 months (be warned; it then drops down to 1% thereafter).

Another smart way to earn good interest is to use a Help-to-Buy ISA. This is an account for which prospective first-time homebuyers are eligible, and has a built-in 25% bonus scheme on contributions. Aside from the bonus, interest rates are also more competitive than most, with Barclays paying 2.27% for example.

Switching bank accounts

It may seem like a pain, but switching bank accounts is actually easier than you think. Thanks to legislation passed in 2012, the onus falls on the new bank to make all the necessary arrangements like switching direct debits etc… All that’s left for you to do is follow a few easy steps, and it should all be done within seven working days. 

And the good news is that there are some very good deals on offer to those willing to switch account providers. For example, you can earn £100+ from the likes of Co-op or First Direct. Halifax’s £75 is nothing to be sneezed at either. TSB offer a package deal too, whereby you can earn £10 a month by switching to the Classic Plus account, with 3% interest on top of that on the first £1,500 you put in.

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Peer-to-peer lending

There is another option to growing your money, which, it must be pointed out, is not quite the same as savings accounts. Peer-to-peer lending offers returns of up to 5% to those willing to lend their money directly to consumers in need of a loan, via an online platform. It sounds risky, and it must be kept in mind that there is no cover offered on these loans by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, as there is with ordinary bank accounts.

However, platforms do go a long way to safeguarding the funds of lenders. Borrowers are strictly vetted for creditworthiness, so you aren’t lending to just anyone. They also set aside provision funds to cover any arrears and defaults on repayments. And some have even gone the extra mile by setting up an insurance to supplement this; one which pays out for typical borrower default reasons like accident, illness, unemployment; along with darker forces like fraud and cybercrime. It therefore isn’t risk free, but historically returns have been stable from FCA-regulated platforms. So if you are willing to look slightly further up the risk spectrum, it could be a good solution for you.

However you decide to go about things though, what’s important is to be open to, and aware of, all of the various options available out there. That way you can make the most educated decision possible on the best choice for you, in order to make your family’s savings go that much further.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

My & Me Jewellery – Turning Children’s Artwork into Beautiful Silver Charms (Giveaway) 

My&Me Jewellery turns children’s artwork into beautiful items of silver jewellery to treasure forever. Founder, Maxine, got her inspiration from the creative doodles of her 6 year old daughter, after she came across a page of the young artist’s artwork in her jewellery sketchbook one day. Much to her little girl’s delight, she decided to make one into a pendant; and it got such a great response that the concept of My&Me Jewellery was born. 

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Squiggle’s seal character drawing made into a beautiful silver heart pendant.

Maxine works from a small studio in South Harrow. She also teaches classes and will soon be running workshops for parents to make their very own My&Me Jewellery with BaB courses. This practical workshop will be organised with the attendees convenience in mind; parents can bring babies, toddlers and home ed kids along with them and they will be entertained in the same room while parents can enjoy the workshop without the issue of childcare. Brilliant thinking! 

The range includes shaped silver charm pendants priced from £49 for a single charm to £124 for a pendant with four charms. Or opt for a disc shaped or heart shaped engraved single charm bracelet or necklace (£55). You can even save 20% off just by signing up to their email list. These lovely items of jewellery would make a fabulous gift or a wonderful treat for yourself!

For more information see the website:

www.myandmejewellery.com 

You can also find them over on facebook and instagram.

My&Me Jewellery is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an engraved silver heart or disc shaped single charm bracelet or pendant. Enter via rafflecopter below.

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Competition closes 12th May 2017. Open to UK residents only. Other T&Cs apply. 

Easter Bunny’s Garden Adventures by Squiggle

Ever wondered what goes on whilst you are still asleep in bed? This, apparently…

Easter Bunny really should jump to it getting those easter eggs delivered…

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But there is always time for a quick game of tennis with a friend…

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And badminton too…

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Oh look! Bunny height basketball…

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Shhh! He won’t spot me up here…

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Now for a spot of tag rugby. Doh! So close…

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Volleyball anyone?

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And always time for a quick sack race too…

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Now, must dash! Someone is coming and I got things to do…

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HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!!!! 

Credits: 

Concept, photography, set design and director ~ Squiggle

Assistant ~ Andy (daddy)

Captions ~ Katie (mummy)

Term Wellies Review 

From splashing in puddles and paddling in streams, to squelching in mud and wading through the wilderness (well ok, exploring the local woodlands anyway!) we spend a huge amount of time outside. With all our outdoor adventures, good footwear is a must; so wellies are an essential item for Squiggle!

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I am sure her new wellies won’t stay this shiny for long!

We received a pair of wellies by Term footwear to review. This is a small UK company who have been selling children’s shoes for 7 years. The husband and wife team began by importing and selling a variety of footwear brands in the UK, and have now partnered with some great suppliers and designers to launch their own brand. The wellies are manufactured in the EU and conform to EU standards.

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The wellies come in a variety of colours so I showed Squiggle the website and let her pick out which colour she preferred. The wellies come with thick removable roll top socks, so they are sold as dual EU sizes (because they are an EU size bigger with the sock removed). It was easy to figure out what size to choose though because the website gives clear information on this. Once we had ordered, the wellies were delivered within a few days.

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The wellies are really flexible and lightweight, and Squiggle reports that they are very comfortable. They retail at £21.99, which is more than I usually spend on wellies, but these will be likely to last much longer probably, especially with the removable sock/ dual size and also in terms of actual quality too. Squiggle loves them!

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Term wellies can be purchased here.

Follow Term footwear on social media: 

Twitter @termfootwear

Instagram @termfootwear

*Disclosure: We were sent a pair of Term wellies free for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza event is a fun day out that we have been to every year for a number of years and yet it still works just as well as it is suitable for a range of ages. This year we were lucky enough to get a free family ticket through Herts Big Weekend but we did wonder whether this might affect the size of the crowd. Luckily, although it was busy, it didn’t seem particularly packed. And there is plenty of space and lots to do which helps it feel less crowded too.

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The schedule of events is carefully timed so that you can still do the majority of activities and shows even if you are only there for half a day, like we were, but there is certainly more than enough to do for a whole day out too. We were able to do everything we wanted without feeling rushed from one thing to the next but without much spare time to fill either! 

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Squiggle meeting Lilly Bobtail

Some of the highlights of this particular event include the Bunny Hop show, Easter Garden egg hunt, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, Lilly Bobtail, Benjamin Bunny and Easter Bunny, and various shows by Peter Rabbit and friends – including a brand new show featuring all three characters on stage together. We didn’t see this particular show but we did watch the Bunny Hop show with the Easter Bunny.

Squiggle loved this show and got really into it. One song in particular about chocolate really made her laugh and it was really catchy; she has remembered alot of it to sing to herself after just hearing it that once! 

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Bunny Hop Show

The Easter Garden is open for most of the day, daily throughout the Easter Eggstravaganza event. Here you are given a basket on entry and then search the garden to find five different coloured eggs. Once you have completed the hunt you can exchange the five eggs you found for yummy chocolate prizes. 

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Easter Garden

This is also where the Easter Bunny makes an appearance for meet and greet sessions, so be sure to check the schedule if you want to time your visit right! (Entry to Easter Garden is only permitted once). 

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Squiggle meeting Easter Bunny

Other activities also available at Willows include Peter Rabbit playground, agility course, sand pit, funfair rides, bouncy castle and slide, animal encounters, tractor ride, indoor role-play village, tractors, soft play, and arts and crafts. Plus of course lots of animals! There is also a large cafe and gift shop. For further information see Willows Activity Farm website.

Name A Star: Review and Giveaway 

Do you get stuck with gift ideas? If you are anything like me, the answer is probably yes! I love thoughtful presents; something handmade, personal or unique in some way. But sometimes it can be difficult to come up with something that really fits the bill. So when I found about naming your very own star, I was excited to discover such a fab gift idea! It is ideal for the person who has everything (I bet they don’t have their very own star!), anyone with an interest in stargazing or who loves the outdoors in general, or for someone who just likes something that bit different! 

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Star Name Registry is the UK’s number one online registry company who offers this unique gift. There are a variety of packages to choose from, with prices ranging from £14.99 for a standard star to £69.99 for a binary star gift set, as well as several other options inbetween. Their gift set version of each package comes with a framed certficate beautifully presented in a silver box, whereas the regular version comes in an envelope. If you need it in a hurry, you can choose to have it sent via email for an extra £4.99 (sent within 12 hours of order received) or £6.99 for next day delivery (paper version). Gift sets can also be sent via next day special delivery for £8.49. So handy to remember as a last minute present too!

I was sent an extra bright star gift set to review. This lovely set includes my very own star, which I not only got to name but was also able to choose which constellation I wanted it in too, an explanation of the star, free download of software, map and framed certificate in a gorgeous silver box. It does make a really unusual and very lovely gift.

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I took quite sometime trying to decide on the name of my star and considered a couple of different options; for example, I thought about naming it after my daughter, or even her nickname ‘Squiggle’. But then I came up with the perfect idea: I chose our family name, because then the star represents all of us together. Wherever any of us are, we can look up at the night sky and see our star, and know we are together. It even includes our furbabies! Perfect.

If you would like the chance to win your own star naming, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck!

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Competition closes 10th April 2017. Open to UK residents only. Winner will be able to name their star and will receive Bright Star Naming certificate (enveloped version). Other T&Cs apply.

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*Disclosure: I was gifted the Extra Bright Star free for the purpose of this review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.