Smiggle Opening In Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries Aug 15 2017

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Australia’s most exciting and colourful stationery retailer, Smiggle is opening a new store in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries tomorrow morning from 9am. I was invited to bring the Little Squirrels along to see the new store tomorrow, but unfortunately we can’t make the big launch due to other commitments, so they very kindly sent us a goodie bag in the post.

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Little Squirrel was very excited to open her goodie bag last night. Inside she got a beautiful handbag pencil case, which has two zipped compartments and a scented pom pom. She also got a pack of 12 scented markers in a colourful pencil case and a lockable notebook adorned with sparkling butterflies.

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She is over the moon with her goodies and is off to nursery this morning to show off her goodies.

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Smiggle is most definitely bold and bright and packed full of treasures for little ones (and stationery-loving adults alike) to explore. From multi-coloured backpacks, eye-catching pencil cases, sparkly stationery, gift packs, DIY kits and much more, there is a huge range to feast your eyes on. We will most definitely be paying a visit to the new Buchanan Galleries store soon!

#BUENOSHEROES – Win A Trip To Buenos Aires With CAU Restaurants

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Last week I was invited along to CAU Glasgow to try out their menu and to learn more about their summer-long campaign, #BUENOSHEROES, which offers diners the chance to win the trip of a lifetime to Buenos Aires.

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Fingers crossed for the Win!

The #BUENOSHEROES competition runs until August 31 2017. In order to enter into the grand prize draw to win a return trip for two to Buenos Aires you must order at least one HERO dish from the menu when dining at CAU restaurants, take a photo, upload to CAU Instagram and you could be on your way to Buenos Aires!

CAU HERO dishes celebrate the heart, soul and spirit of Buenos Aires all with a unique twist – CAU

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CAU Glasgow

This was my first trip to CAU Glasgow and I really loved the bright, fresh, modern interiors of the restaurant, which is situated in the heart of Glasgow City Centre on Ingram Street, within a stone’s throw of the Glasgow Gallery Of Modern Art.

Buenos Aires cuisine is a melting pot of delicious comfort food inspired by Italy, Spain and Argentina. From the mouth-watering steaks, burgers and sandwiches, to the tempting selection of sides and moreish favourites, each dish is served up with its own distinctive Argentinian twist – CAU

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Perusing the menu at CAU Glasgow

For starter I opted for Empanadas and chose the spicy beef and the Spanish Chorizo & cream cheese fillings. I really loved the Empanadas, which are a classic Argentinan filled pastry. On first glance the pastry looks like it could be heavy, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the pastry was beautifully light and both fillings were packed full of flavour. This is most definitely a dish I would order again. My dining companion for the evening, Alex, ordered the Shrimp Chicharron…

The prawns were nice, very tender, and the fresh coriander and chilli complemented them perfectly. The evaporated milk sauce didn’t really add anything to the dish though – Alex

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Left – Empanadas
Right – Shrimp Chicharron

For main course, I ordered the Classic CAU Chicken Burger and Alex ordered the Ultimate Steak Sandwich. The Chicken Burger came with lettuce and tomato, and I ordered onion rings and cheese to beef it up! The chicken itself was cooked perfectly and the onion rings were perfect. As for the steak sandwich, here’s what Alex said…

The steak sandwich was exceptional, the rump steak melted in the mouth and the salt beef was delicious as was the brisket, the crispy onions were perfect with it too. I’d say it was the standout dish! – Alex

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Left – enjoying the CAU Classic Chicken Burger
Middle – CAU Classic Chicken Burger
Right – Alex enjoying the Ultimate Steak Sandwich

As for dessert, I ordered Crème Catalana and Alex ordered a Dulce Volcano. We were both excited by the prospects of our desserts, as a good Crème Catalana or a molten dulce de leche cake is hard to beat. However, we were both disappointed with the desserts. My Crème Catalana was almost soup-like in consistency, really unpleasant and just not what I was expecting. Sadly the Dulce Volcano just didn’t quite live up to its reputation also, with the sponge hard and chewy and the molten middle just tasted like raw and uncooked cake batter, and not the rich and creamy toffee that we were expecting. We passed on our comments to our server who was very polite, and agreed that the Crème Catalana did not look quite right, and passed on our comments to her Manager.

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Left – Crème Catalana
Right – Dulce Volcano

We both really enjoyed our HERO dishes from the menu, with the exception of the desserts. The Manager didn’t come to speak to us to explain if this was out of the ordinary, or offer any explanation, so I can only hope that the desserts were not up to their usual standard.

The #BUENOSHEROES campaign is a fun opportunity to be in with a chance of winning a fabulous prize trip to Buenos Aires, so why not visit CAU for yourself, order a HERO dish, and don’t forget to post your picture on Instagram with the hashtag #BUENOSHEROES

I was offered a 3 course meal at CAU Glasgow for the purpose of this review. As always all opinions are honest and my own!

Brick City At New Lanark

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Last weekend we took the Little Squirrels to New Lanark to visit the Brick City Exhibition, on from June 28 2017 to September 10 2017.

Brick City is a celebration of iconic buildings from cities around the world, carefully recreated in LEGO® bricks by artist Warren Elsmore and his team. Discover highlights of cities across five continents, including lively celebrations in Rio and New York, tall towers from Copenhagen to Venice, and imaginative castles from medieval Japan to modern Las Vegas. The smallest models are crafted from less than a hundred pieces, but the awe-inspiring centrepiece is London St Pancras station, measuring two by four metres, and built from 180,000 pieces of LEGO – www.warrenelsmore.com

When we arrived at the car park for New Lanark we hopped on to a shuttle bus (operates on weekends only for the duration of the exhibition) which took us down the hill to the village itself. The Brick City Exhibition is situated in the School For Children Building, a short walk from the bus drop off point.

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We went straight to the Brick City Exhibition itself on the top floor of the building. The girls had great fun exploring the impressive Lego creations, and loved the challenge of finding individual figures on the Quiz sheet we were given on entry to the exhibition.

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Exploring the Brick City Exhibition at New Lanark

There was also a film of stop-motion animation to hold the kids attention with lots of fun Lego recreations of famous movies…

Next we headed down to the basement of the building to the self-led play area. This was a great space with tables set with boxes of Lego and laminated instructions to build different models of varying levels of difficulty. There was also a Lego wall where you could leave your mark with your Lego signature, and a Duplo room with plenty of Duplo bricks for the younger visitors to explore and play with.

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Self-led play area at Brick City, New Lanark

We had a great morning at the Brick City exhibition, and spent just over an hour here. The girls particularly loved the self-led play area where they could get hands on with the bricks!

Set within New Lanark, there is plenty more to explore once you have finished enjoying the Lego exhibition. We headed to the Mill Cafe for lunch, followed by some award-winning New Lanark Ice Cream, and a beautiful walk along the Falls Of Clyde.

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Ice Cream and the view of New Lanark from the Falls Of Clyde

There was also a lovely little play area where you could enjoy a picnic not far from the School For Children Building.

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Fairytale chair at the Falls Of Clyde Play Area

We had a fab day out visiting Brick City at New Lanark and hope to return over the next few weeks to explore more of New Lanark itself and to visit New Lanark’s Visitor Attraction.

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Brick City Selfies

Tickets for Brick City are £6 for adults, £4 for children 4 and over, and free for under 3s. A family pass for 2 adults with 2 or 3 children is £16. With each ticket bought for Brick City you get a voucher for 25% off New Lanark’s Visitor Attraction.

 

Monty’s Bar & Restaurant, Glasgow – A Review

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Last week I was invited along to Monty’s Bar & Restaurant on Radnor Street in Glasgow’s West End to sample their menu.

Monty’s is one of Finniseton’s newest openings. It is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. With a big focus on locally sourced products, the menu is Scottish-led, with some exotic additions! For the West End’s many dog-lovers, Monty’s restaurant is dog friendly til 6pm, and the bar welcomes dogs, and their owners, during all opening hours.

Housed on the site of what used to be Montgomery’s Cafe, the premises have been completely refurbished, with the addition of a mezzanine area (which seats up to 30 guests and is available for private hire).  The newly refurbished interiors are warm and welcoming.

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Interiors at Monty’s Glasgow

On arrival, Sonia (my guest for the evening) and I chose some cocktails from the drinks menu. I was driving, so opted for a virgin option of the Cool Monty – a fresh and fruity long cocktail with raspberry and kiwi, and Sonia went for the Island Rose – The Botanist gin shaken with rose liqueur, fresh raspberries and citrus.

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Beautiful Cocktails from Monty’s Glasgow

The evening menu offers a great variety of incredible sounding dishes to choose from. For starter I opted for black pudding with beetroot, pink peppercorn crumble and beetroot syrup and Sonia chose the pan fried mackerel with heirloom tomato salad and piquant dressing.

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Left – black pudding, beetroot, pink peppercorn crumble, beetroot syrup
Right – pan fried mackerel, heirloom tomato salad, piquant dressing

For me, the starters were beautifully presented, and just the right portion size. I particularly loved the velvety smooth texture of the black pudding, against the crunchy apple strips and delicious little bulbs of beetroot. This was a deliciously light start to our meal at Monty’s. Sadly, I don’t eat fish, so couldn’t sample Sonia’s starter, so I asked her for some words on her mackerel dish…

The mackerel was beautifully cooked, with tasty crisp skin and nicely complimented by the warm heritage tomato salad which was in a lovely slightly mustard-y dressing. Perfect size for a starter – I’d definitely order it again. – Sonia

For main course, I opted for slow roasted pork belly, roast fennel, pomme purée and calvados apples, and Sonia went for the Monty’s beef burger, with Barwheys cheddar rarebit, Ayrshire smoked bacon, onion ring, hand cut chips and bone marrow jus.

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Left – slow roasted pork belly, roast fennel, pomme purée and calvados apples
Right – Monty’s beef burger, Barwheys cheddar rarebit, Ayrshire smoked bacon, onion ring, hand cut chips, bone marrow jus

The slow roasted pork belly was cooked to perfection. It melted in the mouth with incredibly deep flavour, complemented perfectly by the beautifully smooth and creamy pomme purée, and the light aniseed of the fennel against the crunchy apple strips and the delicious calvados apples. This is a gorgeous dish for pork-lovers!
As for the Monty’s beef burger, this really was a special burger. Aside from top quality beef and Ayrshire bacon, the addition of the Barwhey’s cheddar rarebit really lifted this burger to another level. I have to make a special mention for the little jug of bone marrow jus that you can see in the picture above… liquid gold! Quite honestly the most perfect little jug of jus you ever did have the pleasure to taste. Dipping the perfectly cooked hand cut chips in to the bone marrow jus brought the hugest of smiles to both our faces – a very indulgent chips and gravy!

To round off our meal we had the difficult task of choosing from the dessert menu. For me, I was instantly drawn to the Black Forest ganache, macerated cherries, Chantilly cream and chocolate soil. Meanwhile Sonia chose the cranachan crème chiboust, raspberries and raspberry sorbet.

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Left – Black Forest ganache, macerated cherries, Chantilly cream, chocolate soil
Right – cranachan crème chiboust, raspberries, raspberry sorbet

This Black Forest ganache with macerated cherries must be one of my favourite desserts I have had. The ganache was deep and rich, yet not too heavy, and the intensely fruity macerated cherries worked perfectly against this little slice of chocolate heaven! The cranachan crème chiboust was a lighter dessert, yet still packed full of flavours and textures. The crunchy, caramelised clusters of oats lifted the mousse-like creamy smooth crème chiboust, and the raspberry sorbet was packed full of tangy sweet raspberry flavour.

I hope you can tell how much we enjoyed our meal at Monty’s. I couldn’t fault a single thing from our evening here. The service was friendly and relaxed, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the food was incredible, and completely exceeded my expectations.
I hope to return very soon, and I am sure the Little Squirrels would love to try out the kids menu while Mr Hungry Squirrel and I sample the Weekender Brunch!

Huge Thankyou to Ross from Monty’s for looking after us on our visit. Keep up the good work! We wish you and the rest of the team at Monty’s the greatest success – you deserve it!

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Cheers!

I was offered a 3 course meal at Monty’s Glasgow for the purpose of this review. As always all opinions are honest and my own!

Monty’s Bar & Restaurant Promo from Kris Kesiak on Vimeo.

Hungry Squirrels Guide To Bluestone National Park Resort, Wales

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Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will have noticed that in June we spent a week’s holiday at Bluestone Resort in Pembrokeshire. Excluding travel time, we had 6 full days to fill at Bluestone. There is so much on offer at Bluestone that we could have easily filled another week.

Accommodation at Bluestone Wales

The resort is set in 500 acres of rambling woodland, with luxury lodges, cottages, and studio accommodation to suit a wide range of accommodation requirements.
We stayed in a 3 bedroom Gateholm Lodge, with a double room with en suite bathroom, and two twin rooms. Our lodge was furnished to a high standard and was extremely comfortable and homely for our week’s stay.

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Gateholm Lodge at Bluestone Wales

The only thing I felt missing from the accommodation was the lack of accessible laundry facilities. There is a laundry service available at guest services, but at a cost of £15 for 1 bag of washing, and we were advised we may not get our washing back for 48 hours, we felt this was overpriced and would take too long!

The Village at Bluestone Wales

At the heart of Bluestone is the Village Centre, home to an array of places to eat, a fantastic children’s playground and Treetops adventure playground, the Village Hall, Newton Stores supermarket, the Booking Office and for those of you with the luxury of time to yourself, there is The Well Spa for some pampering and self-care!

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Village Vista at Bluestone Wales

From the Village Centre, you can access some of the woodland nature trails around the resort or visit the lake to say hello to some of the resident wildlife. The Little Squirrels loved finding some of the fabulous wicker sculptures situated on the borders of the village, including the giant foxes and the Bluestone Dragon.

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Wicker statues at Bluestone Wales

Activities at Bluestone Wales

One of the highlights of the resort for the Little Squirrels was the Blue Lagoon Waterpark. The pool itself is temperature-controlled, which is perfect for families with little ones. We loved jumping over the waves from the wave machine, and travelling along the lazy river which travels outside from one side of the pool to the other.

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Blue Lagoon Waterpark at Bluestone Wales

There is also a pirate’s shipwreck with lots of fountains for big and little kids to splash in, and a little water cove, specifically for babies and toddlers, with a shallow pool and little rock pools to paddle in. For the more adventurous there are two water flumes and a rapids river ride.
The Blue Lagoon is open to the public, but is free to guests staying in the resort, and is exclusively for guest use in the mornings.

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Left – Littlest Squirrel all packed and ready for a morning at the Blue Lagoon
Right – Finn the Dolphin on his way to greet the little ones at the Blue Lagoon

For rainy days there is an indoor Adventure Centre, packed full of indoor play opportunities. There is a soft play area, bouncy castle, climbing frames, climbing walls, an indoor sky trail, diggers, amusements, and a Lego wall.

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The Adventure Centre at Bluestone Wales

For older kids there is an array of exhilarating adventures to be had in the Steep Ravine Forest, from zip wires to high ropes and tree climbing. On the lake you can learn to kayak or take part in a Family Raft War. On the Tournament Field you can perfect your aim in archery and laser clay shooting.

To be honest there is so much to do that if you are thinking of going you should check out this handy guide to activities at Bluestone.

Eating Out At Bluestone Wales

There is an excellent selecion of locations to dine out at in Bluestone Wales. We had two fantastic meals at The Knights Tafarn, Bluestone’s local pub. The food is fresh and tasty, and there is a lively family-friendly atmosphere.

Ty Coffi is a beautiful venue to fulfil your coffee and sweet tooth requirements. Aside from being an Instagrammer’s dream with its pastel coloured interiors and feature walls, Ty Coffi has a great selection of ice cream and milkshakes to excite your little one’s tastebuds, and a great selection of cakes, soups, baguettes and sandwiches to choose from after a busy morning exploring Bluestone’s facilities.

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Little Squirrel enjoying an ice cream from Ty Coffi

Our favourite dining experience at Bluestone Wales was a visit to Camp Smokey. At the end of one of the nature trails in Bluestone, nestled amongst the pines, you can find Camp Smokey, a rustic woodland diner where you can enjoy outdoor dining.

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Camp Smokey at Bluestone Wales

The menu here is basic; burgers and hot dogs…, but the atmosphere is magical. Dining in such beautiful surroundings, amongst nature, there is something special about this little corner of Bluestone. We really loved the fire pit where you can toast marshmallows on skewers – definitely a hit with the Little Squirrels!

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Enjoying the atmosphere at Camp Smokey

There is also the Farmhouse Grill and the Oak tree Restaurant, and cafes in the Blue Lagoon and the Adventure Centre to sample, and The Chippy is situated just above the Village Centre if you fancy enjoying a takeaway in the comfort of your lodge.

Getting Around

The resort itself is set on 500 acres of Pembrokeshire landscape, and the resort is car-free, so getting round the resort requires a significant amount of walking. This proved to be a little challenging at times with the Little Squirrels, aged 4 and 2. For us the Guest Transport Bus, which leaves the Village Centre every half hour, was a life saver, and meant we could travel round the resort with a minimal amount of tears and whinging from the Little Squirrels!

There is bike hire available if you fancy boosting your cardio levels on the hills of Bluestone, getting from A to B. There are also golf buggies available to hire, which look like a fantastically fun way of getting around, however at a “special daily rate” of £30 per day, we felt this was just too expensive!

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Getting around Bluestone Wales

Bluestone Wales is a beautiful resort, and caters to a wide range of holiday requirements. For us, Bluestone was packed full of things to do, places to explore, and places to eat, providing the perfect setting for a holiday with our little ones. We will have many happy memories of our holiday in beautiful Pembrokeshire to treasure, and will hopefully return again to relive memories of our 2017 holiday! 

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Happy Squirrels at Bluestone Wales

We were kindly invited to stay at Bluestone Wales for a 4 night break, which we extended to 7 nights. As always all opinion are my own!

The Italian Kitchen Glasgow

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Last week I was invited, along with four other bloggers, to try out the new menu at The Italian Kitchen in Glasgow’s Merchant City.

The restaurant has been part of Merchant City’s landscape for over ten years now but has recently undergone a complete refurbishment. The interiors are welcoming and inviting with warm lighting, and the menu is extensive, with something to suit everyone.  All food served in The Italian Kitchen is freshly made daily, using quality ingredients, and this really reflects in the dishes I tried.

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Image courtesy of www.italian-kitchen.co.uk

We were served an amazing array of breads, including freshly baked bread with oils & olives, and three different foccacias with rosemary & garlic, chilli & garlic, and with cherry tomatoes, basil & garlic.

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An array of Italian breads

I love a foccacia bread, and the highlight of this selection for me was most definitely the Foccacia Al Pomodoro with the freshest, sweetest little cherry tomatoes.

For starter I ordered the Crostino Con Funghi E Dolcelatte.

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Crostino Con Funghi E Dolcelatte

This was a stunning starter, with delicious garlicky Portobello mushrooms dripping in melted dolcelatte and crunchy pine nuts. The flavours were beautiful, and the contrasting textures worked perfectly to make this  a 5 star dish!

For main course I ordered the Bucatini All’Amatriciana Con Sardon E Crema – a hollow spaghetti with pancetta, spicy sardo sausage, and onions, in a creamy tomato sauce.

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Bucatini All’Amatriciana Con Sardo E Crema

I had never tried Bucatini before, but really loved this as an interesting alternative to spaghetti. The sauce was well seasoned and not too creamy, the Sardo sausage was deliciously herby, and the crispy pancetta on top really finished this dish perfectly.

After a healthy serving of bread, and a generous starter and main course, I questioned if I would have room for dessert, however I find it hard to pass on Tiramisu, so I didn’t…

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Tiramisu

The Tiramisu was beautifully presented and did not disappoint. Beautifully light and fluffy mascarpone mousse, complemented by chocolate and light sponge soaked in coffee – this was a winning combination of flavours executed really well.

As well as being served a delicious meal we were also given a demonstration of how to make our own ravioli by chef Raphael. I have to say he made it look incredibly easy, but until I get myself a pasta maker and get to grips with it, I will most definitely be returning to The Italian Kitchen for their fresh ravioli… We were given some to take home with us, which I thoroughly enjoyed the following evening after a late shift at work. The spinach and ricotta filling was light and herby, and the pasta was perfect!

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Chef Raphael demonstrating  how to make the perfect ravioli

Thankyou to Marco and his team for entertaining us and serving us a delicious meal. I look forward to my next visit very soon…
If you find yourself in Glasgow’s Merchant City and are looking for somewhere inviting to eat a fresh, tasty Italian meal then please check out The Italian Kitchen and let me know what you think…

A Tangled Birthday Cake For Little Squirrel’s 4th Birthday

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It is hard to believe yet another month has gone by since we celebrated Little Squirrel turning 4.
For her 4th birthday cake, she had been telling me since before Christmas that she would like a Rapunzel/Tangled cake. As usual I turned to Pinterest for my inspiration, and these were my two favourite designs I came across…

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Left – Rapunzel cake by www.cutelittlecupcakes.co.uk
Right – Tangled cake by www.madeleinescakes.com

I consulted with the birthday girl herself and she decided on the design on the right. Now I usually try to put my own twist on my cakes, but this design was perfectly simple, yet effective, so I just replicated this cake.

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This was my first time using a transfer for a larger cake. Thanks to the lovely Frances Auty Bakes for recommending Edible Prints as a reliable suppler of icing sheets. My order with Edible Prints was very simple to process through their website, and the icing sheet arrived within a couple of days. I will definitely used this supplier again, and I think the icing sheet in combination with some handmade decorations gives a great finish!

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Little Squirrel loved her Tangled cake, and I was thrilled to see her happy little face as she saw it for the first time…

As I am writing this post Little Squirrel is looking at these photos of her 4th birthday cake and is telling me she would like the same cake but with a 5 on it for her next birthday. Definitely a sign that the cake was a big hit for her! 🙂

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