Organising An Eco-Friendly Children’s Party 

Are you holding a kids party, and considering ways to make it more eco-friendly? It is not an easy task, as I discovered when trying to organise Squiggle’s 9th birthday party a couple of months ago! You need to get a bit creative if you don’t want to leave behind piles of plastic, wrapping paper, and litter. In some ways we succeeded, others we need to work on for next time! Here are some thoughts…

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Eco- and Kid-Friendly Catering

  • Opt for reusable plates, bowls and cutlery instead of disposable options. Alternatively, create personalised party food packages wrapped up resuable food bags or wraps, or even in scarves or bandanas. They not only make colourful decorations for the table, but this approach can subtly assist with addressing allergy issues/ dietary requirements of young guests, plus they’ll double as napkins and the children can take them home afterwards.
  • Prepare fruity drinks ahead of time, using jam jars with sealable lids. It saves on packaging and if the weather’s hot and you’re outside, they’re easily kept cool in a cool box or even a bucket filled with ice. Use sustainable straws (e.g. paper or reusables) rather than plastic, and make the drinks more exciting by adding chopped or sliced fresh fruit such as strawberries.
  • Picnic or buffet areas set aside from other activities help to keep the mess and left overs in one place. They make supervision easier too, so if anyone needs help they aren’t left on their own. Dressing up metal barriers (which you can hire from staging and event specialists) with paper bunting or streaming creates a separation from other areas while maintaining the celebratory atmosphere.
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Squiggle’s 9th party

      Green Ideas for Party Activities and Take Home Gifts/ Favours

      It is traditional to give the party-goers some kind of goodie bag or favour to take home, but it doesn’t have to affect your pledge to organise an eco-friendly party.

      • How about giving each child a small plant or sapling they can take home and put in their own garden? If you wrap each root ball in hessian, there’s no waste at all since it can go on the compost heap when it’s no longer needed. This is even better if any of the party activities have a similar theme of planting and growing.
      • For example, you could make ‘plant pots’ by halving empty cardboard roll tubes, then decorate by painting before planting their seeds. Plug each ‘pot’ with balled up newspaper so it will hold some compost. This creates an activity and a gift to take home in one. 
      • Or make seed bombs at the party to take home! 
      • Recycled plantable seed paper, for instance, is also an interesting novelty for children.
      • Nature crafts are fun activities. Have a scavenging hunt with a pile of twigs, mosses and grasses, then make some nature art.
      • Hold a bug hunt. Make a short list of insects to find, with prizes for all who find some, then invite children to draw or paint their favourites.
      • You could even get everyone involved in planting a special ‘celebration tree’ as part of the party!
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      Nature art

        Other Tips

          • Use Japanese blow up paper balloons rather than latex or foil balloons. These last a long time and are more environmentally friendly.
          • Reuse decorations. If you don’t want the same theme year after year, pass your old decorations on and source ‘new’ secondhand ones on your chosen theme. Better yet, also opt for decorations that are made from sustainable materials too!
          • If it is a particularly large party and you plan on having several different activities going on at the same time, or maybe with specific start times if you’re holding competitions or races, it might mean guests are quite spread out at times. Setting up a PA system to make announcements will keep everyone informed and save you a lot of running round. I remember once we had Squiggle’s party on a huge field; that would have been very handy then! 
          party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
          We held a party on this large field a few years back

            Eco-friendly parties are taking off in popularity, not just because they are good for our planet and build empathy for our natural environment, but also because they’re fun and children enjoy them! 

            Can you think of other eco- friendly party ideas? Tell me in comments! 

            *Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Alistage. 

            Bakerdays Letterbox Cake: Review and Giveaway

            To help celebrate Squiggle’s 9th birthday recently, Bakerdays kindly sent us a letterbox cake. We were lucky enough to review one of these yummy cakes previously too, which you can read about here

            Since then though, there have been lots of developments over at Bakerdays! Their website has had a facelift; now even more user- friendly and is looking great, with new designs and more products being added. 

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            Mobile version (android)

            The cake arrived well packaged and in perfect condition, same as last time. There isn’t excess packaging or too much plastic either, which I am happy about. There were also thoughtful finishing touches in the box, such as the party blower, some balloons and a little card. I also like the card that says who packed it too.

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            I chose this rabbit design after specifically searching the website for the word ‘bunny’ because Squiggle had a pet theme this year for her birthday. I then personalised the writing. Last time I ordered dairy free but I decided to order the regular vanilla sponge on this occasion, just to compare. (Generally we opt to eat as close to vegan as possible but aren’t strict about it!)

            Squiggle was really excited that a cake arrived through the letterbox for her! She was very pleased with the design too…

            Bakerdays, letterbox cake, birthday cake, celebration, special occasion, cake, gift ideas, food, review, competition, giveaway, Living Life Our Way

            We took the cake outside for a garden picnic and Squiggle had the honour of cutting her cake…

            Squiggle also got to have first taste too as the birthday girl…

            Her verdict was “Mmmm… it is YUMMY!”

            I enjoyed it too, it was tasty and good quality. I do recall the dairy free one we had previously tasted more buttery (in a good way!) than this one, and it seemed to lack a filling, but it was yummy nonetheless!

            The letterbox cake is plenty big enough for 3 people to have a very generous sized slice or two, and stays fresh for a reasonable amount of time too. It definitely makes a lovely novelty gift or surprise for someone!

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            Bakerdays are kindly giving away a letterbox cake to one lucky reader! Enter via the rafflecopter below.
            Open to UK residents only. Competition closes 14th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply. 

            a Rafflecopter giveaway

            *Disclosure: Bakerdays sent us the letterbox cake for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

            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.

            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!

            a Rafflecopter giveaway

            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.

            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…

            St Michaels Manor, St Albans, Hertfordshire, party venues, summer parties, stock image, venueseeker, Living Life Our Way
            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.

            Bakerdays Letterbox Cake: Review and Competition

            When bakerdays tweeted me asking if I would like to review their letterbox gift cake I was quite excited! Admittedly, I am not a particularly big fan of cake generally (I know, I know… it’s weird) but I was really intrigued by the concept of a cake that can literally be delivered straight through the letterbox. Would that really work?! I had to find out. And I knew that Squiggle would jump at the chance to share some cake with me too!

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            The website is very user-friendly and there is a massive selection of designs to choose from for all different occasions, including options to personalise with text or an image. I spent ages trying to pick my favourite design because there are so many great choices! 

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            I finally settled on this design with my own personal message that I knew would make Squiggle giggle…

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasion, gift, dairy-free cake, gluten-free cake, review

            There were a selection of sponges to choose from too. I really like the fact that all of the designs in their entire range can be ordered as a gluten-free or dairy-free option, rather than there being a restricted selection of choices, as is often the case. It is worth noting that the dairy-free option is not vegan, as it does contain eggs. 

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasion, gift, dairy-free cake, gluten-free cake, review

            Whilst we avoid gluten as much as we can, medically we do not need to be strict about it, so I decided on the dairy-free option instead. We do generally try to eat as closely to vegan as we can manage anyway but, apart from anything else, I was keen to test how the dairy-free version tasted! 

            The cake didn’t take long to arrive and, as promised, it plopped through my letterbox without fuss. The box landed face down and I must say I felt a slight wave of anticipation, as well as excitement, as I picked it up to check the contents! 

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasion, gift, review

            I need not have worried; the cake comes very well packaged, secured in a cake tin, inside the cardboard box. It also has plastic packaging to keep it fresh and well protected within the tin itself. It even has thoughtful instructions on how to remove it carefully without damage!

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasion, gift, dairy-free cake, gluten-free cake, review

            The cake itself was delicious! The sponge was light and fluffy, with a lovely buttery filling (which incidently is on the bottom of the cake as opposed to in the middle, due to the letterbox design!) and the icing was soft and tasty. Squiggle was very impressed too; she declared “thank you for sending the cake, I love it!” 

            We demolished it pretty quickly, but the 5″ letterbox size is easily big enough for 3 or 4 generous portions, as it suggests. We really enjoyed it.

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasions, gift, review, dairy free cake, gluten free cake

            I like the novelty factor of getting a cake delivered directly through the letterbox, it was nicely presented and it was yummy too! So I think a letterbox cake would make a great unique gift for Valentines Day, or any other occasion.

            bakerdays, letterbox cake, Valentines Day, special occasion, gift, dairy-free cake, gluten-free cake, review

            For more information about bakerdays…

            Websitewww.bakerdays.com

            Facebookfacebook.com/bakerdays

            Twitter: @bakerdays

            Last but not least; to be in with a chance to win a 5″ letterbox gift cake in your choice of design, enter my giveaway via the rafflecopter app below. 

            a Rafflecopter giveaway

            Ends at midnight on 8th February 2017. Open to UK residents only. Prize will be sent out by 1st class Royal Mail. Other T&Cs apply. (See rafflecopter for details).


            *Disclosure: bakerdays sent me a free letterbox cake for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

            Strawberry The Cat’s Halloween by Squiggle

            This is Strawberry the Cat. She is going shopping.
            This is Strawberry the Cat. She is going shopping.
            Wait a minute! What is Strawberry looking at on the shelf?
            Wait a minute! What is Strawberry looking at on the shelf?
            Strawberry found a pumpkin!
            Strawberry found a pumpkin!
            Strawberry puts the pumpkin in the shopping trolley and carries on looking around the supermarket.
            Strawberry puts the pumpkin in the shopping trolley and carries on looking around the supermarket.
            Now Strawberry is stretching up high to reach something else. What has she got?
            Now Strawberry is stretching up high to reach something else. What has she got?
            Strawberry has found some pumpkin party blowers to put in the trolley.
            Strawberry has found some pumpkin party blowers to put in the trolley.
            Strawberry's daddy is picking her up, I wonder why?
            Strawberry’s daddy is picking her up, I wonder why?
            Ah, there are halloween costumes!
            Ah, there are halloween costumes!
            Look there is a big and small pumpkin costume!
            Look there is a big and small pumpkin costume!
            Strawberry chooses the pumpkin costume that is the right size for her.
            Strawberry chooses the pumpkin costume that is the right size for her.
            Strawberry then goes home and blows her pumpkin party blower...
            Strawberry then goes home and blows her pumpkin party blower…
            ...and puts on her pumpkin costume for Halloween.
            …and puts on her pumpkin costume for Halloween.

            Easter at Mead Open Farm

            Having always found Mead Open Farm to be relatively quiet, even at weekends and holidays, and having found Willows somewhat less crowded than we had expected last weekend (previously we have always found Willows to be the busier of these two farms), we found we were in for a HUGE shock when we arrived at Mead Open Farm this afternoon. The car park was literally covering most of a massive field, one that we had never even experienced the need to ever use for parking on any previous visit, it looked PACKED. Caught in the unenviable position of choosing a meltdown over change of plans or meltdown from over-stimulation we decided the latter was preferable and proceeded as planned.

             

            Luckily we had not been here during their Easter event specifically before so Squiggle held absolutely no expectation as to what it might be like, which did make the unexpected volume of people abit easier to manage. We decided to totally ignore the schedule of events and go with the flow, but we did manage to find the Easter Bunny for a cuddle and wandered over to the marquee to do an Easter hunt, which Squiggle really enjoyed. I did have a look at the schedule of activities earlier this evening, after we got home, and there seemed to be some nice Easter activities going on (more real animal encounter type activities than Willows but less in the way of shows) although I think at least some of the activities are regular ones, not exclusively for Easter, so I don’t feel we missed out on much.

             

            The new natural play area has just opened so was very popular, both with Squiggle and clearly also with the majority of other children there today too. It has a great selection of equipment and is well designed to cater for a range of ages. Squiggle was happy she got to play for a while and was clearly very impressed with it but it was much too busy for her to fully make the most of it. We look forward to returning soon in term time though for a quieter play, as it is certainly worth revisiting.

             

            Here are some photos of today…

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            Easter bunny

             

            The aim of the Easter hunt was to find 5 letters hidden in ‘Hoppy’s Hamlet’ and work out what Easter-related word they make (which Squiggle worked out independently) to claim a prize (a chocolate bunny lolly)…

            Easter Hunt
            Easter Hunt

             

            The brand new natural play area…

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            New play area
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            New play area

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            A few of the animals we saw today…

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            Feeding sheep
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            Lambs
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            Baby bunnies

             

            All things considered we are glad we went, it was worth the crowds for, and Squiggle had an absolutely wonderful time. A good Easter day out!

             

            For more information about Mead Open Farm in general (although I have noticed that they don’t detail event schedules/ specific timings of activities on their website, which is a shame) see their website www.meadopenfarm.co.uk

            Easter at Willows

            Today we went to Willows Farm for their Easter event. We were hesitant to go over the weekend in the middle of the Easter holidays as we know how busy it gets on weekdays during this popular event but Squiggle loves Willows (especially at Easter!) so we braved it anyway. And actually it wasn’t quite as packed as we might have imagined and all went smoothly so we are very glad we did, it was a lovely afternoon.

             

            There were various Easter events and activities going on, as well as the usual facilities they have available, so a family could certainly easily fill an entire day there. There was far more to do than is possible to fit in just a few hours but we were prepared for that and prioritised the Easter events, having been a few weeks ago to enjoy the regular facilities anyway. They do however schedule shows and activities to be on twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, so it is entirely possible to only go for half a day and still make the most of what is on offer for Easter. The schedule is well organised to provide a natural flow to the visit at a reasonable pace for a young child without it becoming too much. We left just before closing feeling very happy with our visit indeed!

             

            The farm itself is decorated in a spring/ Easter theme with lots of pretty displays throughout…

            Easter
            Easter hay bales
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            Easter displays

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            There was an Easter egg hunt in the Easter Gardens….

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            Collect a basket and find five different colour Easter eggs
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            Search for the eggs hidden around the Easter Garden
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            Keep searching!
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            Once all five colour eggs have been collected they can be exchanged for five small chocolate eggs

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            There were several different shows, including ‘Scarecrow and Friends’ (a lovely introduction to some of the farm animals via a simple game of guess the clues with some basic information about the animals and an action song at the end), ‘Bunny Hop’ (action songs with the Easter bunny on stage) and ‘Singalong with Curly’ (action songs with Curly the pig on stage)…

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            Scarecrow and Friends
            Bunny Hop
            Bunny Hop
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            Singalong with Curly

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            There was even sheep racing…

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            Sheepstakes

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            And Squiggles favourite, cuddles from the characters…

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            Meeting the Easter bunny
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            Cuddles with Woolly sheep

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            We also found time to fit in a couple of the regular activities including looking at the animals (there are lots of newborns and young babies to see at this time of year of course!), holding a guinea pig, sand and funfair rides…

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            Funfair rides

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

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            Baby goat

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

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            Guinea pig handling

            Pancake Day

            We made gluten free, dairy free, soya free and egg free pancakes for dinner, to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. This was partly based on family diet restrictions (both mine and Squiggle’s) and partly because we decided to rise to the challenge of using what we had available in the kitchen without taking a trip to a supermarket!

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            1. 250g gluten free flour
            2. 600ml alternative dairy free milk (we used almond milk)
            3. Egg replacer
            4. Mix together
            5. Fry in sunflower oil or alternative (we used rapeseed oil)
            6. Flip or toss the pancakes

            And here is Squiggle enjoying the finished product….

            image

            For more free from pancake recipes see the BBC good food website www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2920662/egg-dairy-and-glutenfree-pancakeshttps://livinglifeourway.files.wordpress.com/