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  1. Our recent Dorsetmums Meetup was held at Kingston Maurward Animal Farm and Gardens which is near Dorchester and very easy to find just off the A35.  When we arrived we were met with quite possibly the friendliest welcome from a gentlemen who clearly loves children and was eagerly asking his little customers which animal was their favourite.  I had planned to stay at the door to welcome any families who were coming to join us however my son’s superhero eyesight managed to see the Play Park through the trees and he was off like a flash!  When I did manage to bring him back and fully introduce myself to the staff I was told there was a marquee set up with some toys, free squash for the party plus after lunch they had a hawk display, guinea pig stroking and pony grooming planned!

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    So off we set with our animal food and I tried to say hello to every family I met to welcome them to the Farm.  I was actually quite surprised at how many animals we found and we tried to feed the cheeky Alpacas but they were making funny noises and through cries of laughter I eventually poured some food for them on the grass rather than holding out my hand.  We also found gorgeous little Shetland ponies, donkeys, pigs, goats, calves, birds, guinea pigs and THE biggest bunnies I’d ever seen in my life!

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    We spent quite some time visiting the animals but my son was desperate to get to the Play Park again so off we went.  It might not look huge but it kept him and plenty of other children amused for a long time and it gave me a chance to say hello to some more Mums.

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    After some time I told as many families as I could that we were off to explore the gardens if anyone wanted to join us.  The path we took by the Play Park had a few steps but I’m told there is a pushchair friendly route which I’m sure the staff will be happy to show you.  I utterly loved exploring the gardens and could of spent all day there if my son hadn’t noisily announced ‘I need a poo’!  So off we went to the main house and found some toilets there which he could use.  I really wanted to go down to the lake and find the walled garden too but it was starting to rain a little and I wanted to get back to the Farm in case families were starting to leave. 

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    Back at the Farm we decided it was time to eat in the Café and found plenty of choice including sandwiches and toasties, soup, cake and children’s lunch boxes.  The prices were incredibly affordable and so we sat in the conservatory with a Cheese and Tomato toasted sandwich and drinks to share.

    As we were finishing lunch we noticed one of the staff preparing for the hawk display which we excitedly rushed to watch.  After this we were able to stroke the guinea pigs and groom the ponies which all of the children enjoyed. *Please note that the dsiplays are not on every day.Sadly by now the rain was getting harder and looking at my watch I hadn’t even realised we’d been there well over 4 hours and it was probably time to go home.  As we got in the car I asked Sam what his favourite part of the Farm was and had to laugh when he said ‘milking the cow’.

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    All in all, we had a fantastic day and would thoroughly recommend it to others.  The staff clearly enjoy their job and we quite liked the non commercial feel of the Farm.  Most of the Farm and Gardens are outdoors so probably not enjoyed so much on a Great British rainy day but you could always run inside for a cuppa while a shower passes. 

    Please visit the Website for Admission Prices and keep an eye out for a money off voucher in their leaflet.  

    Good to know….

    Car Parking is Free.

    The Café has a microwave which you can use to warm baby milk and baby food.

    There are colouring in pictures and crayons in the conservatory to keep the children entertained.

    The Café has plenty of food and drinks however there is a larger restaurant located at the House serving hot meals.

    The toilets have baby change units.

    There is an outside area to wash your hands but it’s advisable to carry baby wipes and anticbac gel.

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    The beautiful Gardens are set within 35 acres of grounds and staff will be more than happy to tell you about the history of the Estate.

    The leaflet we were given states there is a Nature Trail around the Lake so please ask for details on arrival if you are interested.

    You can buy bags of Animal feed for 50p.

    There is a nice small gift shop for all of the good little boys and girls and the prices are not highly inflated like some popular Attractions.

    Kingston Maurward have lots of family Events throughout the year including Lambing Weekend, Easter Egg Hunts, Fairs and the popular Family Fun Day.

    Please keep an eye out their Facebook page for news or follow them on Twitter.  If you would like to know more about Kingston Maurward then please visit the Website

    Big thank you to everyone at Kingston Maurward for such a fantastic day and for putting up the Marquee, providing the squash and animal displays.  We’ll see you again in Spring!

    Love

    Dorsetmum

    Xxx

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    Please note the prices and details given were correct at the time of writing and Dorsetmums always advises readers to contact a venue before travelling if you have any queries.

  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)

     

    METHOD:

    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.

    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 presenting it.  We had both families over for Boxing Day and 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.  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.

    CHRISTMAS CAKES BLOG 2016

    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).