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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

National Pet Show: A Fantastic Day Out For Pet/ Animal Lovers!

This past weekend saw the return of the National Pet Show to Excel, London. For those who have never heard of it, this event hosts tonnes of pet-related stands with information, advice and products, as well as lots of talks, activities, shows and demonstrations. Of course, there are lots of animals too! 

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We went to this event once previously, when Squiggle was much younger, back when it was held at Earls Court. (Blog post here). We had a lovely time and Squiggle remembered it well so we were excited to return!

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We have only been to Excel once with Squiggle before, to watch the Paralympics in 2012, and I don’t think she recognised it. I personally really like this venue because it is spacious and has good facilities. Events can be very crowded and overstimulating for a child with autism, so it is good that the venue is big enough that it is possible to find a space in a quiet corner if needed. Plus, as it is located by the docklands, there is also somewhere calm outdoors to go for some fresh air if it does get too much. 

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The pet show itself has a huge range of animals to see. I didn’t get a photo because s/he was attracting quite a crowd but Squiggle adored seeing the hairless cat, as well as many other rare breeds. I loved this funky dreadlock looking dog, a bergamasco, which is certainly not a breed I had come across before. So gorgeous though!

Perhaps a slightly unusual highlight but, for me personally, one of my favourite parts was getting inspiration for our new bunny housing. We have already got the actual enclosure itself, but we spotted some great ideas of what else we could include for enrichment!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Squiggle also loved the opportunity to meet some more exotic pets in the reptile section, such as Terry the tegu, a python (I think?!) and a very giant tortoise. It was lovely to experience these magnificent creatures close up and hands on! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Over at the More Than stand, there was a little display going on by this cute little poodle pair. I gather there were other appearances spotted here too! I also liked the park theme with children’s games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga. A nice little chilled out spot in the midst of the hustle and bustle!

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As I already mentioned, there were lots of demonstrations and shows. For example, we saw this golden retriever display and got to meet them afterwards too.

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There were lots of stalls with useful information too, such as various animal charities. We enjoyed meeting the therapy pets, including this beauty. I think a therapy dog would be amazing. But I also feel that any pets are great for autism, anxiety etc… They are so therapeutic! 

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There were loads of children’s activities too. Stories, colouring, meeting animals, talks, games and even an exciting future vet activity with Noel Fitzpatrick. There was also a weaving activity; Squiggle was most excited about the huge rabbit that had been created!

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Tickets cost from £13.91 for a child ticket. However, Littlebird often have deals available, so it is well worth checking if there are any discounted tickets. Also, carers get free entry to assist those with disabilities so if this applies to you then do get in touch with them.

As well as the London dates, the show is also held at NEC in Birmingham each November too (next dates are 4th and 5th November 2017). It is open all day from 9.30am to 5pm, with a schedule of different shows, talks, demonstrations and appearances throughout the weekend.

It is a really fun day out. A fantastic event for those with their own furbabies, wannabe pet owners or general animal enthusiasts! 

*Thank you to More Than for the complimentary pair of tickets we received. All thoughts are opinions are my own.

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)

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.

Pathological Demand Avoidance: World Autism Awareness Day

As it is World Autism Awareness Day, I would like to share some information on a lesser known type of autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).

“Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is increasingly, but not universally, accepted as a behaviour profile that is seen in some individuals on the autism spectrum.

People with a PDA behaviour profile share difficulties with others on the autism spectrum in social communication, social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests. 

However, those who present with this particular diagnostic profile are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. This demand avoidant behaviour is rooted in an anxiety-based need to be in control.”

The National Autistic Society 2017 

Children with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) do not often respond to typical parenting techniques or even the usual strategies for autism. These approaches either do not work or make the situation worse. Effective approaches to best support PDA children are quite different and therefore it is important for people to understand this.

Natasha, who writes over at unschoolingaspies.blogspot.co.uk, says that being flexible is key. “The more inflexible the child, the more flexible (and creative!) the adult needs to be.” So true!

Amelia has one word of advice for other PDA parents: “patience“. I couldn’t agree more! Lots of it. 

Further information on useful strategies can be found on The PDA Society website.

In terms of educational approaches, again The PDA Society website has an excellent educational strategies booklet from Positive PDA available for download here. The Autism Education Trust have also created this PDF document ‘Strategies for Teaching Pupils With PDA’ sponsored by Department for Education.

Kayleigh, A parent of a PDA child, also advises that PDA families “find people who are understanding”. I wholeheartedly agree. I feel that awareness, acceptance and understanding are essential. 

On that note, I was thrilled when I found out that Fiona is running the Milton Keynes Marathon to raise awareness – and funds – for PDA. She has already reached her £1000 target for The PDA Society, which is amazing! Of course, further donations are warmly welcomed!!! If you would like to sponsor Fiona, go to her Just Giving Fundraising Page.

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Fiona in training for MK marathon

Further Reading:

Books

Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals by Phil Christie et al

Can I tell you about Pathological Demand Avoidance? by Ruth Fidler and Phil Christie

Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome: My Daughter is NOT Naughty by Jane Sherwin

Websites

www.pdasociety.org.uk

www.thepdaresource.com

Blogs

memyselfandpda.com

www.stephstwogirls.co.uk

dinkyandme.wordpress.com

Sally Cat’s PDA Page

*Please note the Amazon books are affiliate links. This means I get a small referral fee on purchases. It does not cost any extra to the buyer. Thank you for supporting me in this way.

Fun Party Venues Ideas

As signs of Spring start to appear all around and the sun begins to make an appearance, there is no doubt that many of us are now looking ahead to summer; busy booking holidays, festival line-ups announced and summer events organised. Whilst I don’t personally have a do to arrange myself this year (although my 40th appears to be coming round rather quickly – only a couple of years before I will be organising that! Eek!) a few of my friends are already in the throes of summer party planning around London. 

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Stock image

If you are one of the many people looking to get your party on this summer, Venueseekers is a handy site for finding places to hold an event in and around the capital. See their website for more info: Party Venues London. And here are just a few of their fun venue ideas in central London to inspire you and get you started…

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Stock Image

Madison: This award-winning New York style restaurant and bar overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral. It holds 120 people (seated) up to 900 (standing).

Oxo Tower: Floor two of the famous OXO tower is a brilliant place to hold events in the summer, with riverside balconies and stunning panaromic views of the Thames from inside too. It can hold functions for anywhere between 50- 400 people, with the adjacent gallery offering additional space for larger parties.

The Artillery Gardens: If you are looking for somewhere to host a larger function, this venue holds up to 2000 people and is very cool, it even has a funfair! Well worth checking out. 

If you are looking for somewhere near London but a little more suburban, here are a few other ideas…

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St Michaels Manor (Credit: Jenny Murray)

St Michaels Manor: Set in the heart of historic St Albans, surrounded by pretty parkland and next to a lake view, this lovely manor hotel is popular for weddings and other functions. It is a short, direct non-stop train route into London and is situated not too far from the St Albans City station so is ideal for those travelling from further afield. 

Four Seasons Hampshire: Set in the countryside with amazing views over Dogmersfield Park but yet highly accessible from London, this lovely venue has ample natural daylight flooding the indoor spaces and an outdoor terrace that can be used for functions too.

Do you have a summer party venue recommendation? Leave in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

World Poetry Day

In celebration of World Poetry Day today, Viking Direct kindly sent us a box of goodies to help inspire us to write some beautiful poems. 

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Squiggle has previously written several poems and we have discussed different types of poetry before too. For example, we talked about what a cinquain poem is and wrote one together. We have also made a shape poem, and Squiggle once wrote a descriptive rainbow colours poem using a poetry template from Twinkl to help her. But Squiggle’s personal favourite type are acrostic poems; she wrote one about nature as part of our 30 Days Wild challenge last June, and has written plenty more since!

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To celebrate World Poetry Day this year, firstly we revisited different types of poems that we had already learnt about previously. Then we moved our discussion onto poetry form and structure, so focused on rhyming couplets in particular. We picked a favourite topic to write about (Squiggle chose Sylvanian Families!) then started jotting down ideas and rhyming words that fitted the subject, before turning them into simple rhyming couplets. 

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Here is one of her rhyming couplets:

Sylvanians are such fun,

I love to play with them out in the sun!

Next she made up an acrostic poem about seals, which are one of her very favourite animals, to celebrate both World Poetry Day today and International Day of the Seal tomorrow.

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It says:

S ea and sand

E (a) ny seal is my favourite, I don’t have a favourite out of my cuddly toy seals but if I had to pick; Pierre, Seal Seal and Dots

A seal of mine jumps for cuddles

Love them

S ays uf, also mum! 

(I didn’t think it was the time to remind her that any starts with a, bless her!) 

Squiggle is very creative and comes up with wonderful ideas. Once she has inspiration, she tends to write fast in order to get her ideas down quickly before she forgets them! As Viking Direct explain in their article about The Importance of Writing, writing is an art form, and it helps us to make connections and process our ideas. I feel it is far more important to allow Squiggle the freedom to let her creative ideas flow, rather than interrupt her thoughts to remind her about presentation, or correct mistakes. So her writing tends to be huge and messy but it’s the content that matters!

However, once she had finished writing the poems, we got out the calligraphy set we were sent to have a try at some fancy writing!

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She found it quite a challenge to use the calligraphy pen but she had fun having a go at writing with it and enjoyed decorating it too!

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Happy World Poetry Day everyone!

Do you have a favourite poem or your own poetry to share? Leave them in comments. 

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Join in with the poetry celebrations on social media using the hashtag #VikingWorldPoetryDay

Surprising (and not so surprising!) Ways That Couples Spend Valentines Day

Do you spend Valentines Day on a romantic date with your partner, or are you a Valentines ‘grinch’ who would rather forget it even exists? Do you plan months in advance, or go with the flow? And parents, do you reach for the phone to call the babysitter or do you include the entire family in the occasion? Read on to find out what these couples do…

Date Night At Home

A date night at home is a popular choice. Some couples, such as Angela from The Inspiration Edit, and Kate from Modern Mum, love to chill at home with a bottle and a movie with their partner. Katie from REOLife agrees, she also opts for a simple night in, doing some gaming together and watching a movie. As Angela says

“Chilling out is lovely, and just spending time together on an evening when we are usually so busy is a special thing to do.”

 

The Family Occasion

Devon Mama jokes that she just wants hubby to take the baby so she can sleep! But in reality they tend to cook a meal together and buy each other a card. This year that will extend to their little one too, to start his Valentines Day card collection early! Tracey from Witts in the Wild also likes to involve their daughter too…

“My husband usually buys flowers for both me and my daughter, and buys her a soft toy with a love heart, we decorate the table and the walls and have a themed dinner together making it special for the three of us.”

 

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The Couples- Only Night

Nomipalony on the other hand explains why Valentines Day is important couple-only time for them and they prefer to go out; they grab a babysitter and splash out on a fancy restaurant…

“We always celebrate valentines as both of our birthdays and anniversary are all in the same week, so we never end up celebrating our anniversary; so Valentines makes up for that in our house. It’s not about the kids at all for us, it’s mammy and daddy time so usually we will arrange for a babysitter and head to a really nice restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks. The past two years we have been to a Michelin starred restaurant for their tasting menu. We normally wouldn’t be able to justify the expense of that so its a real treat for us and we are both foodies so we love it.”

 

The Sentimentals

Many couples like to return to a spot that means somewhere to them as a couple personally; for example the place where they met, or proposed, or maybe even shared their first kiss! Laura from Oh So Mummy and her fiance, who go to the pub where they first met to reminisce. How cute!

 

The Mutual Interest/ Hobby Date

Some couples choose to spend the day or evening doing something that may not be typically romantic, but is a hobby or activity that they both enjoy doing together so is the perfect way to celebrate for them personally. For example, Kirsty from Life With Boys intends to spend Valentines Day at the Bingo, which is somewhere she enjoys going with her partner.

We’re 23 going on 80, plus who will ever turn down the chance to win the valentines jackpot….

 

The Surprise Date

Whether it is the same person who organises the date each time, or the pair take it in turns to arrange, some couples opt not to decide together and instead one person surprises the other. Such as Ed, who surprises Emma- Louise from Even Angels Fall each year with something different. He has made it tradition to choose something that is not considered typically romantic, but ironically this idea in itself has a rather unusual but romantic ring to it. She tells me:

We’ve been horse riding and to a shooting range so far. No idea what this year will be but looking forward to the surprise. It’s nice to do something not typically romantic on Valentine’s Day and it’s become our tradition.

 

Something Different

A day out is another nice way to enjoy Valentines Day. There are lots of possibilities, such as the zoo, or even a theme park for example. Beth from Twinderelmo agrees this is a great idea, this year they are going to the Harry Potter studios. Very romantic!

 

The Grinches

Jen and her fella are being somewhat more unromantic about Valentines Day this year; rather than their usual meal, he is going to football and she will be at at home watching TV with a cuppa! Trying to rivel them in the grinch stakes is Emma from Me and B Make Tea who will spend the evening blogging whilst her partner plays xbox! Now that is romance 😉 They are not alone though; many people view Valentines Day as an over-commercialised money-making exercise and choose to ignore the whole thing! Duvet day until it’s all over anyone?

 

So what type of Valentines Day couple are you?! I would love to know in the comments below!

BBC Music Awards

As you may have already heard (given I have been shouting about it enough!) I was lucky enough to attend the BBC Music Awards on Monday night. I have mentioned on previous posts how much I absolutely love music, especially live music. I adore going to gigs. Usually I have a definite soft spot for more intimate venues, but going to a music awards show is pretty exciting to say the least! 

I was running late, as always – this has become abit of a theme lately- hazard of juggling parenthood and nights out! (One day I might make it with time to spare and shock everyone, you never know!) Unfortunately traffic was bad too, but we listened to the pre-show excitement on BBC radio and did our own version of carpool karaoke to pass the time. But I digress…

We arrived at London Excel with very little time to spare but thankfully parking was easy (carpark costs £15 flat rate for 24 hours) and I picked up our tickets from the box office with no problem. With about two minutes to spare before BBC One began filming live, I skipped getting a drink from the crowded bar and headed inside to find the perfect spot to stand. For those who don’t know, there were multiple stages to allow set-up time for each act whilst maintaining a seamless transition for live tv. I decided it would be better to pick a side stage and get a great close-up view of some of the performances, rather than aim for the middle but be further back in the thick of the crowd. This turned out to be the best decision in my opinion! 

The awards were hosted by Fearne Cotton, Claudia Winkleman and Gemma Cairney, who I felt made a good trio and complimented each other well, with live performances by The 1975, Lukas Graham, Emilie Sande, Izzy Bizu, John Legend, Kaiser Chiefs, Craig David, Zara Larsson and Robbie Williams. There were also appearances from Rick Astley, Lulu, Gerry Horner, Matt Goss, Pixie Lott, Adam Lambert and Rebecca Ferguson to present awards; shame they weren’t singing too, I would have loved to see all of them perform live! Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone there. 

I have read some very negative reviews of the awards, including comments along the lines that the audience was static and unimpressed, but I totally disagree. There was a great atmosphere live at the event and, certainly near the front where I was, everyone was getting into it and enjoying themselves! (I didn’t spend much time looking at the crowd behind me to see what they were doing of course!) 


I admit I was abit underwhelmed by Robbie‘s new single and his performance to be honest, and I would consider myself a fan of his music generally. However, his backstage interview was quite entertaining and his short speech on behalf of Adele while accepting an award on her behalf was really sweet. I really enjoyed Izzy Bizu‘s performance of White Tiger, she has such an amazing voice. Craig David went down surprisingly well with the older crowd in particular (and who can blame them!) But the biggest highlights for me personally were the performances by Zara Larsson and Kaiser Chiefs.

Ricky Wilson going undercover as alter-ego Sandi Branchline to interview fellow stars of the awards was amusing in a somewhat silly but fun way, and reactions were entertaining, especially John Legend‘s mixed expression as he sussed it out. All part of the fun from an award show that clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. And quite frankly I find that refreshing. Was it perfect? No. There were numerous hiccups and flaws throughout. But that’s real life. Personally I’d take the down to earth vibe over perfection any day. Of course, if someone wants to invite me to the Brits to compare, I’ll very happily oblige… Until then, would I recommend something like this if you ever get a chance? Absolutely!

I’ll leave you with a compilation of my video clip highlights from the night… 

The five awards presented at the BBC Music Awards 2016 are as follows (winners in brackets): 

Song of the Year (Adele)

BBC Music British Artist of the Year (Coldplay)

BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year (Izzy Bizu)

BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge Performance of the Year (The 1975)

BBC Radio 2 Album of the Year (Adele)

Sustainable St Albans Week

Sustainable St Albans Week kicked off this weekend with a variety of activities throughout the city. There are over 100 events happening throughout the week, that focus on green living and sustainability, to educate and inspire our local community. There is a wide range of activities, for both adults and children, such as; litter picking, talks, films, exhibitions, storytelling, junk modelling, food waste workshops and many more. Just a few of the highlights are:

  • Plant-based cooking demonstrations by The Green Kitchen to help reduce food waste.
  • Make reusable gift bags at St Albans Christmas market from recyclable materials.
  • Recrafting. Swap a donation to Oxfam (Harpenden) for swatches of fabrics or other craft materials.

These are just a few examples of some of the wonderful selection of activities available during this week. Many of the events, including the ones above, are FREE. However, please note that there is a charge for some of the other activities. A full schedule of events can be found on Sustainable St Albans Week website.

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Last but not least, I would like to challenge St Albans pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs; will you go straw-free to celebrate Sustainable St Albans Week? Either ditch disposable plastic straws completely or provide them on request only. Sign up here…

http://strawwars.org/

Individuals can also join in too, simply request no plastic straws when you order. Pledge your commitment to refuse plastic straws by signing the One Less Straw campaign pledge. You can also use #1LessStraw #strawless and/ or #strawfree hashtags to share your commitment on social media, and don’t forget to ask your friends and family to take the pledge too! 

See onelessstraw.org website for more useful information about this campaign.

We can ALL make a difference just by saying ‘no thanks’ to plastic straws.