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  1. We visited Monkey Madness for the first time today as a friend of ours lives on the other side of Christchurch and we always love an excuse to go somewhere new.

    It’s not the most impressive building on the outside but don’t let that put you off.  As we went in we were instantly met by a welcoming smile and after paying and a quick chat with the gentlemen we went in to find a seat.  There was so much choice on where to set up camp with plenty of sofa areas and dozens of tables and chairs.  I especially liked that the tables ran around the perimeter of the soft play so you can see the frame at all times plus there were lots of tables in the café area too.

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    My son who recently turned 3 is now a perfect age for the larger soft plays as he can climb up and down on his own and after a few years of chasing him around I now quite enjoy being able to relax and watch him instead. 

    There is a small enclosed play area and frame which is for under 4’s plus there’s a larger play frame suitable for over 3’s with multi levels, slides, walk ways, tunnels and more.  The part I loved the most was that you can walk under the middle of the play frame and see the children above your head, which is great if you're worring about the location of your little one!

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    I do like to be nosey when visiting somewhere new and asked if it would be ok to have a quick look at Laser Madness which is upstairs.  Having never been in one before I couldn’t believe how cool it looked and knew all children (and many adults) would have a whale of a time in there.  I quite like that you don’t need to wear an uncomfortable vest and you just grab your gun and go.  The game is played in a purpose built arena with pirate ship, passageways, fog, lights and sound effects.  Sadly the minimum age is 6 so my son will have to wait a few years but you can enter either with friends for a casual game or book a birthday party. 

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    While we were at Monkey Madness we decided to have lunch and found the Menu had a huge choice of hot and cold food plus the children could either choose from a lunch box meal deal for £4.50 or a hot meal from £3.50.  My son wanted the box meal which included a choice of sandwich, crisps, biscuits or yoghurt, fruit and a drink.  I quite liked that the sandwiches weren’t pre made and we only had to wait a few minutes before it came on a plate with cucumber and carrot sticks.  Other food on the Menu included sandwiches, baguettes, ploughmans, salads, breakfast, platters, burgers and much more all at a very affordable price.

    After our lovely lunch my friend had to leave so I thought we’d stay for 5 minutes and then go but Sam made a lovely little friend and they had a great time racing each other to get to the top of the big slide.  I did eventually manage to coax him out and on the way to the car I asked what his favourite part of Monkey Madness was and he said he loved the ‘wobbly slide with the balls at the bottom’.  

    5 minutes later he was fast asleep in the car seat. :)

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    Good to know………….

    The Car Park is Free.

    Inside Monkey Madness there is a secure gate in and out which the staff need to operate so you know a little one can’t escape without an adult.

    You need to hand over your child’s shoes when you pay so don’t do what I did and head into a blind panic when you can’t find them under the table at home time!

    The music is fairly low which was nice although I’m told the children’s screams of laughter and joy can be quite loud on a weekend!

    Baby Change facilities are in the Ladies, Mens and Disabled toilet plus there’s little stools for the sinks.

    Monkey Madness have many Party Packages which include Play Time, Hot/Cold Party Food and Unlimited squash.  Other packages also include a Party/Disco, Make a Bear and Face Painting.  If your child has a few friends with Birthdays near each other then you could consider exclusive hire which is from £150 for up to 100 children!  (Specific days and times apply.)

    Admission prices are slightly higher than other local Soft Plays however it is larger than most of them and worth it in my opinion.  If you are local then you should consider a £10 membership card as this gives reduced entrance fees throughout the year plus seasonal offers.

    At busy times the play may be restricted to 90 minutes.

    There is a lovely side room which is available for hire.  If you are looking for children’s groups and classes then you’ll find regulars like Tiny Talk, Creation Station, Club On Y Va, Music Bugs, Tip Toes Dance Academy, and Hartbeeps visiting.  You’ll even find Belleru Boutique occasionally dropping in at Monkey Madness to sell their Pre Loved children's clothes.

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    Thank you very much Monkey Madness for a great couple of hours.  You may be a little trek from home but we will most certainly be back with more friends soon.

     

    Love

    Dorsetmum and Dorsetson

    xxx

  2. One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to bake our cake and plan it’s final decoration.  I always aim to make it 5 - 6 weeks before Christmas but I'm happy if it's had a good glug of brandy a few times before decorating.  You could probably buy a cake of this size cheaper in a Supermarket but I can assure you it won’t taste as nice and the compliments you’ll receive will have you grinning from ear to ear. 

    blog christmas cake ingredients

    Ingredients;

    225g plain flour

    1/4 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp ground ginger

    Grated fresh nutmeg or 1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1/2 tsp mixed spice

    1 tsp ground cinnamon

    200g unsalted butter

    200g brown sugar

    2 tbsp black treacle

    1/4 tsp vanilla essence

    4 eggs

    800g mixed dry fruits

    100g chopped mixed peel

    150g glace cherries halved

    100g blanched almonds, chopped

    Brandy (or other if you prefer)

     

    Heat oven to 150c fan, (slightly higher for non fan) and then grease and line a 20cm round or 18cm square tin.

    Sieve flour, salt and spices into a bowl.

    In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then add the treacle and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.

    Beat in the eggs alternating with a little flour mix so it doesn't curdle.

    Fold in the rest of the flour and then add the fruit and almonds.

    Pour in the tin and make a slight hollow in the middle.

    I always put greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and put a piece on top of the cake tin to stop it burning around the edges.

    blog christmas cake raw

    Pop it in the oven for a good 2 and a half hours and enjoy the festive smell coming from the kitchen.  I find sometimes it takes longer and so I check every 15 - 20 mins.  This year mine was bang on 3 hours.

    Once it's on a cooling rack you need to use a skewer to put holes all over and then spoon a few tablespoons of brandy in (if applicable).

    Christmas cake 2018

    Make sure the cake is completely cold before you wrap it in greaseproof paper and then foil before putting it in an airtight tub or cake tin.  Once a week from now until Christmas I’ll open it up, prick it again and put a couple more spoonfuls of brandy in.

    In our house we seem to play an annual game called ‘hide the brandy from Daddy' and every year he finds my little bottle and drinks it just for fun.  It has become a tradition as I find somewhere new to store it and my husband loves the challenge of trying to find it.  I would hide it in the car if I wasn’t worried about being pulled over by the Police!

    Christmas cake for me has to have marzipan and royal icing on but I normally use fondant for ease and add then I'll add royal icing here and there if I can.  Before I had my son, the cake was always simple for family coming over but now I really try and get a ‘wow’ factor and love the decorating part.

    Last year’s cake was my favourite so far with a simple white decorated cake which was topped with a homemade gingerbread house.  I especially loved this one as I gave it stained glass windows and then put battery operated fairy lights inside which I turned on just before bringing it in with coffee and desserts.  As I walked in the kids mouths fell open and I’ll never forget my son looking at me with pleading eyes and whispering "can I eat it?" 

    Note made in 2017 - Since writing this blog post I thought it would be nice if we made individual cakes for teachers gifts and so my son helped to bake the cake and then nearer the end of term we cut a third off and then cut the smaller piece into 3.  My son lovingly put the marzipan and fondant on before decorating it with festive cutters and then I wrapped them individually in cellophane and added beautiful ribbons.  Now that I was left with a lovely rectangular shape, I thought I would make a large gingerbread house and built it around the iced cake.  The result, if I may say so myself, was that it looked pretty impressive!

    If you do try to make one, give the house a little back door and feed some battery operated fairy lights in.  The battery pack can then be kept at the back of the house and switched on before presenting to the family.  

    Gingerbread house Christmas cake 1b

    Sam teacher christmas cake 1

    Some more fun cakes I have made over the years include Santa getting stuck down the chimney, penguins playing with snowballs and a simple snowman.

    BeFunky Christmas Cake

    Thanks for reading, if you have a go at making your own Christmas cake then I’d love to see your pictures!

    Love

    Dorsetmum xxx

    PS, I feel I should have some sort of disclaimer, like 'I hold no responsibility for any cakes burnt or undercooked'.  I've had plenty of disasters in the kitchen and like to have someone to blame when I get caught up watching something juicy on TV! :)  Just remember every oven is different so you need to do the skewer test a few times before taking it out of the oven for good.  (Oh and don't be alarmed if you can smell a burnt raisin, there's bound to be one that'll catch).