Made-to-Order Lifesavers (AKA Children’s Birthday Cakes from Rosehip Sussex)

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The ‘Lemonade Confetti Cake’ with special yellow frosting, by Rosehip Sussex

Well that’s done and dusted for another year, and as of yesterday I’m the mother of a six-year-old. Although this makes me feel decrepit, I must say that this year I feel I finally ‘got’ the kids’ party thing.

We start birthdays with our traditional ‘surprise’ birthday breakfast, unveiled to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’, opening presents and eating breakfast together in a souped-up dining room (helium balloons, homemade bunting etc) with our Danish birthday train candles lit (we only have four carriages, so we’re a couple of candles down for this one’s sixth. Oh well).

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Books from Bags of Books for his birthday, and our Danish birthday candle train

And then…guess what? I didn’t screw up the party! We went to Blackberry Farm and I shunned the idea of a party package, instead paying for the nine kids to get in and providing little lunch boxes for each. The farm let me hire a party room for an hour (but gave it to me for the afternoon – nice of them!).

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Lunch box pride

The main reason it was relatively stress-free for me, though, was the cake. As I mentioned in my post about just some of my life/parenthood fails, cakes are not my forte. So I asked Emily from Rosehip Sussex to craft this on my behalf. Having looked through her website’s pages and the menus of beautiful vintage-styled creations she chefs up for weddings, parties and special occasions, I chose the ‘Lemonade Confetti Cake‘.

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Ninjago biscuit pops by Rosehip Sussex, hand-delivered ready to be stuck into the top of the cake

When I mentioned that my son had asked for a Ninjago cake *shudders* (how would I have managed that?!), she offered to create bespoke iced biscuits of the characters on popsicle sticks for me to stick all over the cake. I figured each would make a better going home token than a party bag. Two birds. One stone.

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The cake, constructed – didn’t I do a good job of putting it together!

After Emily dropped it off, I kept the cake boxed up until it was ‘that moment’. There was a collective, audible gasp when this was unveiled. All the children started shouting  which colour ninja they wanted, and my son literally couldn’t believe his eyes.

A boy tugged at my sleeve and said “that cake is TOTALLY AWE-SUM!”. The other mothers’ mouths dropped open and one whispered: “How did you make those biscuits?” But don’t worry, I didn’t try to pass it off as my own, I just gave her a wry smile and a proud little wink: “I didn’t. I OUTSOURCED IT.”

“Genius,” she replied. “Just genius.” I don’t know if she was talking about Emily’s skills (probably) or my cleverness at passing this task to someone infinitely more talented at it than me. But I’d like to think she meant both.

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My sometimes-daughter gave my all-the-time son a colour-in kit bag from Popsicle by Marcus Walters, who will soon be featuring on this very blog!

THE ESSENTIALS

Rosehip Sussex

Contact: Emily Wade

Tel. no: 07734 209 531

Website: rosehipsussex.co.uk

Price: I won’t tell you what the cake itself cost as I have a sneaking suspicion Emily was kind to me with it, as we are friends and knowing that I write Little Lewes. But the biscuits were £2.50 a pop, which I think is very reasonable given the time they must have taken and ingredients. Cake prices are dependent on what you’re ordering in any case.

Disclosure: No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or exchanged for the writing of this post (to my knowledge). It is written purely as information to those who want to wimp out of making their kids’ birthday cake just like me, but still have their child and his/her friends a) want to eat the cake and b) think they’re cool. 

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Advent Calendar Ideas (Yes, Seriously) Inspired by Babycinno Kids

I’ve done it. I’ve said the C-word. Or at least insinuated it in this post’s title.

Although I take serious exception to being told mid-August by a catalogue that ‘it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas’ (because yes, yes it is), I accept that it’s late October and there’s about eight weeks to go until the big day. I aim to have the least stressful Christmas of my life this year, so I’m open to doing small things towards this end at this early point. Highly unlike me, but I even booked my Christmas delivery slot for my online food shop last weekend. So you can see where I’m going with all this.

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Ferm Living calendar, where you wrap up little presents for each day… Available from cissywears.com
Image via babycinnokids.com/blog

With this in mind, I read a post about different ideas for advent calendars over at Babycinno Kids earlier this week. These do seem a nice alternative to a chocolate Peppa Pig version, which will only give my children the sugars at the very point I need to get them out the door, making the chance of being listened to (and my orders actioned) slimmer than ever.

I am not a crafter or baker – with or without my children – as those who read my post last Tuesday about just a few of my parental/life fails will know. But I think I could just about cope with some paper bags pinned to the stairs and filled with bits and bobs (although I would probably want to throw these things away within a couple of days of their being opened as one does all party bag inserts, so it seems quite extravagant).

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Paper bag advent calendar
Image copyright and via babycinnokids.com/blog

I do like the post’s idea for a Christmas book advent calendar, though. You hide all the Christmas books you have in your house away (I’ve already collected mine and unbeknownst to me, we have seven of them), and then over the course of the year (or next eight weeks) invest in as many as you need to make up 24 Christmas-themed books. Then you wrap and number them (as below), so that each morning they unwrap one and each night you have a different Christmas story to read together. Expensive, but the post’s writer reasons that you will use them year after year, which I suppose is true.

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My all-time favourite Christmas book for the illustrations alone, ‘Christmas’ by Dick Bruna

Also I bet there are a few Christmas books kicking around the charity shops of Lewes right about now. (Just FYI, Bags of Books rather cleverly doesn’t start decking its halls with Christmas books until after Bonfire – although they do already have some in stock – and I’m sure Waterstones has the same thoughts. Both will undoubtedly do lovely and inspiring displays once the time comes).

Anyway, race you to the Red Cross on Station Street…

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Christmas book advent calendar idea from Babycinno’s Mo
Image copyright and via babycinnokids.com/blog

If I had the money, I’d also be tempted by the LED Christmas advent house below from John Lewis, which is pretty and plain by day and emits a glowy light by night and you justpop little things into each of its numbered drawers for the smalls to open. Again, expensive, but again I guess you use it year after year…

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I also like these simple white and gold numbered tree decs for adding a chocolate or tiny gift to. To avoid having to get your tree too early, you could always string them along the underside of a mantlepiece. It’s highly likely to be possible to make something similar yourself (although sadly that does not apply to me. Having said that I am good at Danish Christmas hearts and our tree is covered in them every year, so perhaps I need to adapt this skill towards this end).

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Smallable has the same idea with its Numero 74 Advent Calendar, but is for the lazies of us, including little gifts and sweets so that all you need to do is assemble the packages. Naturally you pay for the convenience though.

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Great ideas, aren’t they? I’m keen to know if anyone out there has other simple ideas for an advent calendar? And I mean simple.

If so, share them with us in the comments…

Disclosure: No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or exchanged for the writing of this post. The craft ideas in this post are 100% the property of the bloggers at Babycinno, whose post I read earlier this week. The products from John Lewis and Smallable contain affiliate links. 

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Charleston for Children: Special Kids Tours of a Special House this Half Term

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Detail from John Maynard Keyne’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

I’m excited – but also gutted. Charleston contacted me earlier this week to tell me they’re doing special children’s tours of the house during half term week. I would love to do this with my son, but we are away or he’s in clubs while I work. Boo. If anyone goes, you must let me know what it was like.

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The Garden Room at Charleston
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

The house is the former home and country meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group of writers, painters and intellectuals (who were also rather naughty under it’s roof). Its interior was painted by two of the group – artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell – and this and the furniture and accessories within it form a perfectly preserved homage to their decorative style.

This place is an integral part of the identity of the area surrounding Lewes, and its creative history is, I’m sure, part of the reason why creative people are drawn in their droves to the town.

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Detail from the Charleston dining room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Charleston is somewhere I’ve blogged about before. It’s so special. I particularly love its whimsical cottage garden, both as a picnic spot and just a place to hang out. But apart from my mortifying mute-fan dinner sat beside author Audrey Niffenegger in the kitchen at Charleston, I’ve never set foot inside the house. This is because I have, until now, always had very small children (and boys at that) and you can only see the interior as part of a tour. I couldn’t really imagine them being able to not fidget or run or touch things for that long, but I my older son is nearly six and would really ‘get’ and be interested in it, especially as his dad is an artist and he sees him drawing every day as his job.

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Vanessa Bell’s bedroom
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

This is why I’m really excited that there are special children’s tours running this half term – I hope if they’re a success, Charleston will run them again in half terms and holidays.

The tour will focus on the art in the house – the shapes, colours and textures, with lots of discussion about how it was done. Children on the tour will be encouraged to imagine how they would decorate they down house if they were given free rein. They’ll also be given a sense of the children who lived at Charleston over the years – and the little tell tale marks they left behind on the House.

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Screen in Vanessa Bell’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Virginia Nicholson, the daughter of Quentin Bell and Anne Olivier Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, and author of books about Charleston and the Bloomsbury Group, spent her school holidays at the House. As she remembers: “It was always a heavenly place for children. It was a place where messy, creative play was a way of life. There was clay, paint, beads, wood, water, wool, endless paper and pencils, jam jars and sellotape, glue, sand, scissors and matches. The grown-ups were up to their elbows in it, and so were the children.”

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Paints in the Charleston studio
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

TOUR ESSENTIALS

Dates + times: Wed 29-Sat 31 Oct, 1pm

Run time: 30 minutes

No. of people per tour: Maximum 10 people – first come, first served (no booking)

Age: 6-16. Under 12s must be accompanied by a parent

Price: £6 per person (both for children and accompanying adults). You may stay on after the tour and enjoy the garden at no extra charge

There are other family/children’s events running during half term at Charleston. See the website for details.

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Detail from Duncan Grant’s dressing room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

CHARLESTON ESSENTIALS

Drive: 11 minutes

Address: Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 6LL

Tel no.: 01323 811 265

Website: charleston.org.uk

Open: Wed-Sat, 1-6pm (last entry 5pm); Sun and Bank Holidays, 1-5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm). Regular tours are one hour long and start approximately every 20 minutes

Price: please see the Charleston website

Disclosure: No compensation financial or otherwise was offered or accepted for the writing of this post. Charleston contacted me about everything they are running over half term and, although I try not to publish posts about time-specific events because they date so quickly, I felt that as this is quite special and is a version of the way that Charleston usually operates, but for kids. It felt like a good fit for Little Lewes. 

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Guilt Be Gone! And Ice Cream on Eastbourne Beach

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Whether from friends or from those who guess that Little Lewes is my blog, I sometimes hear remarks such as ‘your life looks so idyllic’ – or worse, ‘your blog makes me feel so guilty, you do so much stuff with your kids’.

So here’s a quick post to put that to rest. Now don’t fear, I am not getting defensive here, it’s just that I’m worried. I absolutely do not want this blog to be a source of guilt to anyone!

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See the Child – Again

You may be having a sense of deja-vu because, yes, I’ve written about Kids Company’s ‘See the Child. Change the System‘ campaign before. That post is here.

SEE THE CHILD MAZE poster

There are now over 23,500 signatures on the See the Child petition. However, as the campaign gathers speed, it needs more signatures than ever to have any real impact. You can add yours at the seethechild.org website.

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Meetings with Remarkable Trees: Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on rainy day ideas, I have been wanting to publish this post for the past 10 days, but have been too sad to put pen to paper because I couldn’t look at the pictures of that sparkling Sunday before last when it’s been so soggy since. It’s not raining today (yet), so forge on we must. There’s a distinctive bite to the air, the heating has gone on this week, and autumn is here. It’ll soon be time to get out my Marimekko dream coat!

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RAIN! Wet Weather Things to Do With Kids in and Near Lewes

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Rain – it doesn’t always have to mean Monkey Bizness…

The blog has been silent for a week, which these days is a bit unusual. You’re probably not wondering why, but I’ll tell you anyway: it’s because it’s raining. Yes, I am one of those people who becomes quite severely demotivated in every way by wet weather, so no, I am not that suited to living in England. And I’m probably not that suited to writing a ‘things to do’ blog either.

But anyway, I’m here and I have to deal with it, as do you. And according to The Independent today, we are really in for it this week (but then it’s going to massively improve at the weekend). So let’s get started on ways to get the kids out of the house, so that we don’t all get too scratchy with them, shall we?

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READER GIVEAWAY: ‘H is for Hummus, A Modern Parent’s ABC’, by Joel Rickett + Spencer Wilson

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I am high-fiving myself about being able to write this post, because I know it’ll give you a laugh on this windy, autumnal Monday morning. And we always need those, don’t we?

I have been laughing at the memory of some of the pages of ‘H is for Hummus, A Modern Parent’s ABC‘, by Joel Rickett and Spencer Wilson, ever since I spotted the hardback version in Bags of Books about a year ago. I know you’ll love it and laugh at it too because you’ll all relate to it, the ‘modern’ parents that you are. And most especially because you are modern LEWES parents.

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Neat Petite: Donna Wilson’s New Kids’ Threads for John Lewis

Fox long sleeves £15 1-8 years

‘Fox’ long-sleeve tee, sized for ages 1 to 8, £15. Also available in soft green with light green pocket

I am not trying to make this a blog that is all about buying stuff and fashion/design, honest. I promise there are some more ‘doing things with kids in and near Lewes’ bulletins coming right up.

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‘Baby Aztec’ print bodysuit, sized for ages 0 to 12 months, £10

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Where to Stay, What to Do and Where to Drink on an Easy, No-Kids Helsinki Weekend from Lewes

So a couple of days ago I wrote about our fun fun fun weekend away in Helsinki. Sorry, this was not meant to be an exercise in gloating. I wasn’t trying to make anyone feel jealous. I just couldn’t help but write about it because it was so fun fun fun.

Anyway, for practicalities’ sake (because that is sort of the point of this blog) I thought I’d separately share all my recommends for a weekend in Helsinki, because it’s so easy to do from Lewes.

Here they are:

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If the toy shops don’t do it for you, let them gorge on pretty packets of liquorice

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