Birthday gifts for a special four year old

I wrote a few weeks ago about our quandary in trying to decide what to get Oscar for his fourth birthday. Contrary to what you think you might know about children with Autism, Oscar isn’t particularly obsessive and is ‘in to’ whatever it is he likes that day. He’s still a fan of Thomas the Tank, and has started to take an interest in crafting and books. But other than that we couldn’t really think of any birthday gifts he’d really appreciate. We had a notion to perhaps get him his own baking equipment, but was that really what a four year old would want?

The answer was YES!

If you recall we were thinking of getting him a really sturdy Mason Cash bowl for when he bakes. Which we do regularly.

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When we went to look on the Lakeland site, we found the one we wanted was on offer. It seemed like a sign. So we went ahead and got him the Blue 29 inch Varsity bowl. And it didn’t disappoint when it arrived. What a beauty!

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The morning of his birthday, we bought him in to our room and showed him his presents. He has no real understanding of time and abstract concepts like birthdays (yet), but he loves opening presents and playing with the contents. That was enough for him!

Oscar has a very generous family!

Oscar has a very generous family!


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Whatever could this be?


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“It’s a giant bowl!!!”

He was so excited when he finally opened his bowl. More than we thought he would be. Then he opened his second and third present from us and insisted we ‘make’ immediately!

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Oscar’s ‘Making’ Spoon

So downstairs we went and made the gluten free chocolate brownies from the mix in the Delicious Alchemy Gift Box we bought him. He loved having his own ‘giant bowl’ and it was so much sturdier than anything else we had used in the past. And the fact he got to us his own spoon, engraved with “Oscar’s ‘Making’ Spoon that we bought from Auntie Mims on Not on the High Street, well, this was one happy birthday boy.

Not many four year olds want to make their own birthday cake. For breakfast!

Happy Birthday to meeeeeee!

So yeah, not many four year olds would want baking equipment for their birthday and even less would be interested in making their own birthday cake for breakfast. But that’s my boy. He’s his own man. And we couldn’t be prouder of him.

 

Mixing it up….

In just a few short weeks time, my bouncing little ball of energy, also known as Oscar, will be turning four. FOUR! Man alive, how on earth did that ever happen? A year. Over. Done. Never to be repeated. When you look at the passage of time through the ageing of a child it makes everything feel so much more transient, so here today gone tomorrow. Literally. Ahh my sweet sweet boy. Every day you change, every day you grow.

So aside from getting maudlin, and feeling all kinds of old ? we’ve been thinking about how to mark our little guy’s fourth birthday. Last year, you may recall, we threw him a wonderful party with the help of our friends at The Hen House, Haslemere. It’s was awesome! So awesome in fact that we weren’t sure what we could do to top it this year (not that it’s a year on year competition, but you know what I mean!) We ummed and ahhed and looked around locally, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Then we started talking about how much fun we had over Christmas and how it would be lovely if Oscar could share his birthday with his extended family.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going down to Plymouth for Easter. We’re staying in the same apartment as at Christmas, and we plan to celebrate his birthday, with his extended family, a week early, on Easter Sunday. I’ve been pinteresting like mad already for some Easter themed party food and while I won’t be going mad, a centrepiece always goes down well I find. My favourite at the moment is this one. Isn’t it too cute?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What's not to love?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What’s not to love?

Any other Easter themed party food ideas gratefully received. Seriously, if you’ve got any ideas, or blog posts to share, I’d love to see them!

So that’s the party sorted, but then there’s what to get him for a gift. For the last few years we’ve concentrated on large garden toys for his April birthday, setting him up for the coming summer. And that’s been great, but this year we haven’t really got anything in mind. Maybe a bigger slide? But where would it go? Hmmm. It’s a conundrum that’s for sure. And in terms of play toys, there’s nothing he desperately wants and nothing much he needs, to be honest. He’s got more Thomas toys than you can shake a stick at and Duplo coming out of his ears! He has no interest in any of the movie tie ins and flits between favourite cartoons most days (last week it was 1940s Tom and Jerry, this week it’s been 1990s Rugrats – all hail TV streaming services!) He has just started to pick up things (straws, sticks, the Hoover!) and use them as guns, but this upsets me no end and I have no wish to encourage it. So we’re back to the question; what do we get him? What is he in to?

There is one idea I had. It may sound crazy and you may think this is more for me than him, but hear me out. The boy loves to bake. This has been a thing now for over a year. But recently he’s decided he doesn’t like using my Kitchen Aid and instead wants to ‘mix’ everything himself in a ‘giant bowl’ (his words). For this you need a good sturdy bowl, and I just don’t have one. We tend to use my mixer bowl, which is light and topples off its tiny base regularly. He needs something better. I’ve always loved Mason Cash bowls. My mum had one, my Nanna had one. I used to think owning one was almost a prerequisite for being a mum. I always wanted a beige one, just like my mums, but recently Mason Cash released their Varsity range, in cream and Navy Blue. So I started thinking, actually, of all the things we could get him, how about his own ‘giant mixing bowl’? And if we’re going to do that, why not get him the grande dame of bowls?

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The Mason Cash Varsity Mixing Bowl in blue. The perfect gift?

Surely that’s what every four year old would want for their birthday. Right?

Come back in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what we decide!

The gift of friendship

It’s not often a friend comes along that just gets it. Be that you, or the situation or whatever, they’re just right on the money every time. And you know they’d have your back, whatever the cost. Which is nice.

It’s my birthday this Saturday. I’m turning the grand old age of 37 (37! boohoo 🙁 ), but to be honest I feel like the past few months have aged me so much more. But it doesn’t matter how hard or weird or confusing or miserable my life has been this year, Bethany has been there. And it means a lot.

So anyway, today, as an early birthday treat and while the children were in preschool, she took me for pancakes and coffee. And she bought along my gift. We’re off for a night of drinkin’ and bitchin’ on Saturday night, so she wanted me to have my present today, so I didn’t have to carry it round with me on Saturday.

First off it was beautifully wrapped. And who doesn’t love gorgeous wrapping?

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Then I opened it. And burst into tears.

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In fact I bawled. In public. If you’re not sure why, you should read this post

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Then I turned it over. And bawled some more.

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But she didn’t get embarrassed at my outburst. She cried with me.

Cos she’s got my back.

She’s going back to work full time in January and I’m going to miss her so much. It can’t help but change things. But I couldn’t be more proud of her for taking this massive step.

Because she inspires me too.

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Thank you for my beautiful present Bethany. See you on Saturday! And I promise not to cry again.

Much 😉

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The Boy Makes…..Cut Out Biscuits

Like most nurseries (I guess), Oscar’s preschool celebrates each and every birthday in their midst. They invite the parents of the birthday child to come in and watch their child’s special day be celebrated by their friends (my guy’s school also carries out something of a rather abstract birthday ritual. The child carries a globe round a circle of children as many times as they are years old, whilst they all sing a song about the world. Yeah I’m not sure either, but the kids seem to like it). Said parents are also invited to provide a little treat for the children. I was so excited when I heard about this. What a lovely thing to be able to do and it was definitely something Oscar and I could prepare together. However, as is to be expected, the nursery have pupils with all kinds of specific dietary requirements. Oscar himself eats gluten free and he has a little pal who has a serious broad spectrum nut allergy. Meaning anything we chose to make had to be pretty well thought through. To the Googles!

As Oscar got so many lovely cookie cutters for his birthday, I decided it would be fun to let him try them out. That’s when I found a great biscuit recipe on the American site Momables.com. It was written to be purely gluten free however, I checked with Oscar’s pal’s mum and found the recipe was also completely free of nut contaminants too. Perfect.

A simple recipe

A simple recipe

I followed the original recipe, which being American, was measured in cups. However, because I’m nice like that, I have converted it to grams here for the baker who favours the scales.

  • 200g sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk (or water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour already has it, mine didn’t)
  • 250g gluten-free plain flour

I use Dove Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour and Xanthan Gum to great effect. You could also add spice such as cinnamon, if you were making these near Christmas

I used my Kitchenaid mixer, but you could do this by hand

  1. Cream the sugar and butter together
  2. Add egg, milk, vanilla extract and salt mixing well
  3. Add flour and xanthan gum if using. Mix at a low speed until well combined. Dough should come together well and not be too sticky.
  4. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c or Gas Mark 5 and cover two baking sheets with baking paper
  6. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, as thick as you want. Mine were about 0.25cm.
  7. Cut out the dough with cookie cutters, and place the biscuits on the baking sheets. Ensure the cookies are not touching.
  8. Re-roll and re-cut dough until it’s all used
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.
  10. Cool completely before decorating. If you’re so inclined. They’re lovely with or without decoration
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Add butter to sugar

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The boy loves turning on the KitchenAid

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Scrape that dough down!

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Using his birthday cutters from his Aunty & Uncle

In the end I chose to make all heart biscuits as I reckoned they were a decent size. I got 24 out of this recipe, plus a handful of the smaller shapes you can see Oscar cutting above.

I decided to “decorate” them with a simple water icing. Unfortunately I had to do this when Oscar was in bed, but I totally plan to let him have a go next time! I think I used around 60g of icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water mixed to make a smooth paste, runny enough to drizzle. I used a couple of drops of Wilton colouring to get the amazing blue, then just drizzled the icing from the end of a spoon onto the biscuits at an angle. It did take a while to dry though so be factor this in when planning timings.

Lay the biscuits on baking paper before drizzling the icing over the biscuits. Leave until they are totally dry.

Lay the biscuits on baking paper before drizzling the icing over the biscuits. Leave until they are totally dry then lift them off and throw the paper away. No messy clean up!

They went down a treat with Oscar and all his pals. As one of his little friends told her mum “they had blue on them and they were yum”. What more could you ask for?!

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Gluten Free Biscuits – Happy Birthday Oscar

 

 

BakedPotato Mummy
Free From Farmhouse

Birthday Party at The Hen House, Haslemere

What a couple of weeks it’s been. We’ve had an awesome Easter, with fabulous weather, amazing days out, lots of fun and lots of love. The best thing by far about the Easter Holidays though has to be Oscar’s 3rd Birthday party. We chose The Hen House in Haslemere as the venue for his party months ago, and you can read about why here. I have to say in the run up to his birthday, I was much more excited than he was. I just knew how much fun he was going to have and that made me really happy.

On the day, I had my hair cut in the morning, leaving Oscar at home with Ben. Seriously you’d have thought it was me having the party, I was so excited (although that could have been the giddiness I always get when I spend time alone!) As we’d chosen exclusive use of The Hen House, we arrived at 2.30pm, just as they were closing to the public. We were immediately made to feel welcome as the staff busied around cleaning up, tidying the soft play and rearranging the tables. I was asked how I wanted the tables laid out and as I wanted as much floor space as possible, the tables were laid out in two long lines. This gave plenty of seating, but also tonnes of milling/running around (depending on your age I guess) space. We didn’t have to arrange any extra decoration, but as I’d decided on a loose Farmyard theme, I had ordered 20 cow print helium balloons, from a local party shop who delivered them to The Hen House for us. The most I had to do in terms of preparation of the venue on the day, was tie weights to the balloons, place them artfully strategically round the floor and fill some bowls with the M&Ms and Haribo I’d bought with me. Job done!

A very tidy Hen House, ready to party!

A very tidy Hen House, ready to party!

Oscar found the M&Ms

Oscar found the M&Ms

Guests started to arrive bang on 3pm. We’d decided to take full advantage of the Hen House’s licence and bought prosecco and larger for our adult guests. To be honest I wasn’t sure how this would go down. Would people be driving? Would people think it was weird to drink at a children’s party? Well, I can categorically tell you it went down a storm! I had people tell me this was definitely the way ahead in children’s parties and the prosecco went down so well, one of the staff had to run out and grab us some more bottles. All before anyone realised we were running low though! Smooth!

It was a prosecco and Haribo kinda party

It was a prosecco and Haribo kinda party

The kids had an absolute BLAST! I have never seen Oscar play for so long and so hard and sooooooo well with everyone there. He could run, he could throw himself down the slide, he laughed. Some of the dad’s got well and truly roped into playing with the children and Ben got adopted by our friend’s daughter, Charlotte, for the day. She wouldn’t let him leave her side. It was the sweetest thing.

Come with me Ben!

Come with me Ben!

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Note the Daddy at the top of the slide. To be fair I did find a group of them hiding up there later on!

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Oscar and his buddy Cecily playing and laughing

Oscar taking a rare moment of rest on the light up disco floor. I chose the "light up when you step on it" setting and the kids loved it!

Oscar taking a rare moment of rest on the light up disco floor. I chose the “light up when you step on it” setting and the kids loved it!

Because the number of children was a very manageable ten (plus two babies), there was plenty of space and fun to be had without a single altercation happening. Don’t get me wrong, we could have had more (up to 30 at an exclusive party), but I felt for Oscar (and for me to be fair) ten was plenty and I think I was right. It meant the adults (or at least those who weren’t being held prisoner at the top of the slide 😉 ) got to well and truly relax. It’s also a venue that really understands little people, meaning we were able to feel relaxed about their safety. This allowed us to have a good old catch up and it really did feel as much as a party for us as it was for them. The music was a playlist I’d put together myself and played through The Hen House computer (they did offer to make one for me, but I have a very specific taste in cheesy music and it was best for me to do it myself 😉 ). I got to talk to friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and introduce friends from different areas of my life to one another. This was fab and some great conversations were had. All while the children played happily and safely.

There were children at the party - honest!

There were children at the party – honest!

The children played until they were red in the face (or was that just my son?). The food was bought out around 4ish and the children all sat to a set table. I was a bit concerned whether Oscar would want to join in with this (who’d want to eat where there’s soft play to be throwing your little body down?) But sit he did! The party package comes with food included and we had all the usual suspects of freshly made sandwiches (for which I was able to chose three different fillings), sausage rolls, crisps and vegetable sticks. When we booked the party I’d explained to Henri, the owner, that Oscar is eating a gluten free diet at the moment. She wasn’t fazed in the slightest and couldn’t have been more accommodating. Some of the sandwiches were made using (good) gluten free bread and despite my suggestion that we swap sausage rolls for plain GF sausages, Henri insisted on making her own delicious GF sausage rolls for everyone! The crisps and snacks were all corn or potato based (as opposed to wheat based Cheddars or similar). The children took a break from wearing themselves out and tucked in happily. And there was plenty enough for the toddlers to eat their fill and for the parents to grab a bite too.

All the children sat and tucked in happily

All the children sat and tucked in happily

Yup thats my boy sitting with the other children and eating. Happy Mummy Moment!

Yup that’s my boy sitting with the other children and eating. Happy Mummy Moment!

Myred faced boy. I swear the wine is not his!

My red faced boy. I swear the wine is not his!

The absolute icing on the proverbial cake was in fact the cake. Or more to the point the cake/candle blowing moment. Instead of one large birthday cake, Hen had made Oscar a pile of his favourite GF Brownies (the ones he badgers me for every time we visit The Hen House). The staff asked if I would like to hold the cake, while every one sang Happy Birthday, which was a lovely touch. He’s not really done the whole blowing candles thing before and despite practising at home for days before (so he knew what to do), I was a little nervous as to how he’d react. So Ben held Oscar and I held the cake(s). Everyone sang to him and he took it all his stride, looking to me for assurance when the time came to blow. It was a perfect, perfect moment! We then handed round the gorgeous Brownies and every one was taken or devoured!

Perfect

Look at those happy chops! Perfect.

 

The children started to leave around 5, happy and tired, with a cow print balloon in one hand and a farm themed party bag in the other. I had real fun putting the party bags together and although The Hen House did offer to do them for me, I’m glad I did my own. They had a Milky Bar Cow, a farm animal toy, a farmer’s neckerchief/bandana and a packet of seeds for them to plant and grow. This all came in a brown paper bag, with a farm animal mask to decorate. Putting the fun back into functional, that’s me!

Balloons!

Balloons!

Farm themed party bags

Farm themed party bags

We had so many compliments on the way out. The children all told us how much fun they’d had and the parents did the same. It was such an amazing feeling. We got to take the credit for the most amazing party, when really, we did so little towards it. The staff at The Hen House, did everything and made the whole day go without a single hitch. We didn’t even have to tidy up! We just packed up his pressies, grabbed the remaining balloons and left! Bliss.

We have had such a bumpy few months recently, what with Oscar’s ASD diagnosis and the stress that has put us under as a family. But we were able to give our special little guy the most amazing birthday party, exactly as he needed it, to have as much fun as is humanly possible for any three year old to have.

And for that, I can’t thank The Hen House enough.

 

 

 

We’d like to thank Henri and everyone at The Hen House for their amazing hospitality and generosity in hosting Oscar’s birthday for us. You can find out more about hiring the venue, either exclusively or non exclusively, on their website www.thehen-house.com.

I was not paid to write this review and as always all opinions are my own.

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