Sunday, 29 September 2013

#GBBO Tea loaf and Cinnamon whirls

So, this week was the week of sweet dough, and more specifically tea loaf, Couronne and sweet European buns.
Proving once again that you shouldn't actually try to get ahead of The Great British Bake Off.

I didn't really know what tea loaf was, and after looking through a few recipes thought I'd give it a try.
Of course using Yorkshire Tea to soak the fruit.
The recipe we used for Tea loaf didn't need yeast, neither did any of the others I found.
And with the benefit of thinking things through- Bara Brith or fruit loaf I would have got. Proving once again parallel thinking is not my think (same goes for parking).

But this was us, probably too much demerara sugar on the top (although less than the recipe suggested).
And if I had watched the episode first, I probably would have gone with a fruit loaf without the tea (I seem to forget I've only ever enjoyed tea when pregnant).
Fortunately Mr J loved it so it's all good.

My second effort was focused on the concept of European sweet buns, my google search ended up on wikipedia where I was lead to believe cinnamon buns would meet the brief. And my cross check in my head remembered Ikea's Cinnamon whirls so I figured I'd be ok.

And to be honest I was really pleased to be with dough again.
Remembering all the lessons of my bread.
And this time it was great, I got confused that my dough was still expanding as I was trying to roll it.
I must admit I still have no idea how you're meant to roll a rectangle shape with dough- it was completely in control!
The recipe used for Cinnamon whirls used prunes, which was a bit different.
They were delicious, but even so I'd probably use raisins and sultanas on a second attempt.

Neither of these recipes were up the children's street- so it was fortunate we were also catching up on traybakes.

Both of these are great autumnal treats which my parents loved, so I think these will also be featuring in our Christmas preparations.

As always, a massive thank you to Jenny and Helen for their support on this. For rallying everyone's confidence and making these challenges seem like a walk in the kitchen.
mummy mishaps

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Project #365 Week #39

Sunday: My daughter sees the sea and has to jump in.
Monday: Showing fearless qualities on the climbing frame.
Tuesday: Cheering everyone up.
Wednesday: Showing off homemade cinnamon whirls.
Thursday: London
Friday: Using mummy's camera for selfie's (with a little help).
Saturday: The Sherman gets a new Sherbet.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 27 September 2013

Childhood memories #REBUILD

Early this week I posted about ActionAid's #REBUILD campaign.

The focus of the #REBUILD campaign is in supporting children in war-affected countries, rebuilding shattered lives. Through child sponsorship ActionAid can ensure the basics such as water, food and education are given to children.

Childhood should be about the happiest of times.
It is certainly the focus of what we do as parents, to create memories.

And so, today, ActionAid is asking celebrities, bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, to get involved.
To share a memory, to get involved.

So, when I popped to pick the boys up from my parents this evening I raided the photograph albums.
I knew what I was looking for, but even so I whiled an hour away, and I only managed 1980-1985 (maybe my parents have all their photo albums clearly labelled!).
The family holidays, the birthday parties, the Christmases, school shows, occasions, motocross, and life.
Photos of grumpy faces, happy faces.

And this, 1985, the year I had a polaroid camera for my birthday and was over the moon.
The year of the first birthday party outside of the house. Which was such a big deal.

So of course the week before me and my best friends went out, with two bikes, a pair of rollerskates, a skipping rope and a toy poodle on a lead.
Ceri, the owner of one of the bikes and the toy poodle.
Katie, riding the other bike, whilst holding onto the lead of the toy poodle.
Me, on rollerskates, holding onto a skipping rope tied onto the bike.

As we went down (what I remember to be) the steep gully, Ceri went riding off, the dog wanted to follow dragging me and Katie, I went flying and my nose ended up bloody.

And my mum was so annoyed.
Because of course- what of your birthday party.
Look at the state of you.

And it was the best birthday party.
With the best cake.
(You know the one- with half a Sindy doll attached).
And yes, on either side of me, Ceri and Katie.

Because birthdays were always, and still are, made the most special by my mum.

And thanks to lots of special people getting involved in this campaign I'm able to reminisce about so many times I've forgotten:

With some great posts by Alexander Residence, Hello It's Gemma, Me and my shadow, A dad called Spen, Diary of a Dad.... and please let me know if I've missed yours and I'll add it in.

And if you haven't, why not get involved, raise awareness of the wonderful campaign with your favourite memory- and tweet @ActionAid using the #Rebuild tag.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A belated traybakes challenge #GBBO

Regular followers of my blog (ahem, yes, you!) will have wondered where my week 5 of the #GreatBloggersBakeOff went off to. Have no fear, I was just lacking that common mother function. Time.

We regrouped, and fortunately we made some traybakes.
From reading Jenny and Helen's round up is was definitely the way to go.
We didn't make tuiles. I really wanted to, but I am a complete woose and didn't think my hands would take it.
So, without further ado, here's our week 5 effort:
And this was it:
Does it seem wrong to tempt my children with Cappuccino Cake...
In fairness, I didn't tempt them, they just love cake.
And I didn't have chocolate covered coffee beans... so used sugar covered chocolate, so they didn't have the caffeine intake they would might have had.
To be honest, I was having one of those failure moments, they had been browning in the oven and I was paranoid on a burnt tinge. With hindsight they should have been in my oven for a longer time on a lower temperature.
To add insult to injury, I left my mascarpone out, it should've been (as per the recipe) prepared as they were cooling and as a result a little firmer in texture.

And as for coffee, learn by decaf. My children love sharing, and there is nothing which can be withheld as they shout "Share" at you.

So, here's the honest truth.
My children love them.
And will happily devour them in pairs.
I am here as the classroom monitor.
The law enforcer.
No more than two per 24 hour period.
Me, the coffee lover, not fussed. Think they should have been baked for longer.

I tried to offset their (and mine) love of coffee with our second traybake.
We used blackberries.
From our recent blackberries outings it was so much fun.
And so we baked blackberry & coconut squares. Shall we just call them shapes?
My spacial awareness was once again in question.
Far too thin.
Completely delicious.
I would definitely use a smaller baking tray with thicker squares.
But hey, I've done traybakes. And yes, I've learned we a) needed more flavour and b) needed more thickness.
What I would say is... Traybakes... definitely the way to get completely unconfident bakers into the kitchen!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Supporting #REBUILD in Sierra Leone with ActionAid

Sometimes you forget, you care so much, at the time, and time moves on.
Sierra Leone, recovering from conflict, eleven years on.

I have been proud to be working with ActionAid over the past year. So many charities work to make a difference, and it is great to be amongst them.

ActionAid are supporting Sierra Leone to ensure those who suffer most because of conflict- children- are given the basics they need: water, food and an education.

And now, eleven years on, Sarah Alexander is playing a key role in the #Rebuild campaign.
Best known for roles in Coupling, Smack the Pony and soon to be star of Jonathan Creek, Sarah Alexander is able to lend her name, and her influence. Just like bloggers, and those on social media. As people, as a Voice.
Sarah has just returned from Sierra Leone with the ActionAid. Travelling to the west African country as part of the #Rebuild campaign Sarah saw first-hand the devastating proof that children who grow up in counties at war suffer the most.

Visiting projects that the charity has funded, through child sponsorship, it became clear to Sarah that child sponsorship makes a huge difference to the lives of children and their communities. However, as Sarah travelled around the country that is still recovering 11 years on from a bloody civil war, she was shocked by how much work there’s still to do to rebuild their lives.

Sarah, a mum of two, fell in love with the country and says: “It was so inspiring to meet many homeless and orphaned students who have come back from so much: who faced hell on earth, survived and are now, with the support of ActionAid, developing skills that will help them change their lives for the better.

“500,000 people were killed in the war and almost half the population were displaced and I’ve overwhelmingly had my eyes opened to how extreme the poverty is 11 years on.
“I never thought the need would still be that basic. ActionAid is making a difference by working closely with communities but they need more help.”

Sarah’s trip marks the beginning of ActionAid’s campaign to rebuild the shattered lives of millions of children growing up in countries scarred by war.
Over 2,000 UK child sponsors are needed for children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.
Please consider helping.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

When your favourite shop meets eBay #Review

I love Boden.
I can rarely afford it.
But I do love to window shop online.
Just after Squeaks was born I went all out.
One of my favourite photos of her, it's a Boden dress!
So, when we received an email letting us know that Boden has recently joined the eBay Fashion Gallery, I scratched my head.
I use eBay for most of my baking stuff, for all the quirky stuff I want for parties and other things which crop up. But I have never thought that 'high street' brands would be available.
The Boden shop has brand new women's and children's wear, and it includes discounted and full price clothes.  I spent ages browsing and mentally spending lots of money!

We were offered £30 to spend and given Squeaks' constant growth spurt I choose some things for her.
Of course they arrived in perfect Boden style, and of the quality we've come to appreciate (I'm still wearing the clothes I bought for myself at the same time at Squeaks' dress!), and of course they are appreciated a little more as the prices mean they also offer vale for money.

You can shop the Boden range at
Johnson Babies review Boden at eBay

Disclosure: We received two items of clothing for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Enjoying the outdoors in London! #CountyKids

On Saturday I reinforced to my daughter how much fun I have in work.
Ever since our last trip to London, where Squeaks discovered among meetings I get to play with trains and watch films in tepees, I have had a little girl tugging at my suitcase each week begging to be allowed to come to work with me again.
And whilst it may have been an option which I have considered, I have quickly remembered that it would be 'proper' work and far from enjoyable.

So when the Growing Up Milk mums were invited to a Teddy Bears Picnic I had a choice: returning to London the day after getting back isn't exactly a first choice, but taking Squeaks somewhere she really wanted to go, well, it's not such a choice after all.
I appreciate the target audience was probably the boys, but after discovering the train takes an extra hour to get to London on the weekend (as it takes the scenic route via extra stations) I knew we wouldn't cope the seven hour round trip.
And so the nagging paid off, Squeaks and I were on our way to London.

And, of course, as I have discovered with London, I was set to be surprised.
That whilst we disembarked at St Paul's, the reality was we were 'round the corner' from where mummy works.
As we went into the Park which mummy has strode past in her need to be somewhere else, and never appreciated what is beyond the iron railing.
And unlike the park opposite my office- Charterhouse Square- which on attempting to explore with Squeaks, we discovered was a private park, Postman's Park is not only beautiful to the naked eye it is also enshrined in such a raw history that its intrinsic beauty cannot fail to encapture you.
Reading across the Watts Memorial, standing next to your own children, this tiny representation in such a vast city that is London, recaptures the beauty of this great city.

Whilst Squeaks may not have appreciated the words, she truly loved every moment in the Park.
From puppetry, to face painting, to balloon making and stories.
 And, of course, the Park was fantastic for smelling the flowers, tree climbing and hide & seek.
For mummy, as we walked back to the 'usual' underground station, and Squeaks recollected memories of the last time we were here, I got to recreate new memories. So on Tuesday as I stand at this station frustrated to be so far from home, these will be the pictures in my mind.
Of course, I should say something about the reason we were in London. I did after all say we were there with other Growing Up Milk Mums.
It's one of "those" subjects to me. I always think it's easier to say, I spent the day with parents who love their children, who care about their child's nutrition and want to do the best they possibly can for their child to be their best.
I think the moment you say "I breastfeed", "I formula feed", "I mix feed"- it's the equivalent for mums of saying which political party you vote for. It's easy to read messages which may not be there, and to have preconceived ideas, which may or may not have been there prior to being a parent.
And sitting there with Squeaks rather than the boys it does bring it home.
At 5, starting school, no-one has asked how she was fed as a baby. We just care about where she goes from here. 
And the boys, well yes, all I care about it whether I'm doing everything I can to make sure they have the best balanced diet I can nurture.
As a working parent I know I will always feel the most guilt about the choices I make as a parent than the education or career choices I have made.
I do know I wouldn't wish any new parent the guilt that I have, and would always recommend parents follow their instincts and do everything possible to ensure their child is the healthiest and happiest they can be.
And as I stood on Saturday and chatted to other bloggers I realised this is the best thing ever, to be talking and watching over such happy children, it was just wonderful, for one day, to be.

And, of course, Squeaks is none the wiser over what mummy actually does when she goes to London to work!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
Disclosure: We were invited to Postman's Park as part of our role as a Growing Up Mum. We received a goody bag and were reimbursed travel expenses. We were not requested to write a post, and therefore all views and opinions contained are our own.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Project #365 - Week #38

I nearly didn't make this week, it's been such chaos and then today I woke with a blinding headache.
Typically it was my Sunday School so after a session with eight children on honesty, I wanted nothing more than to crawl back under my duvet.
But, the children are tucked up, and I'm sat kicking myself for missing enjoying our Sunday together.
More early nights are probably required!

So, here we go:
Sunday: after a rainy day we decided to get everyone out of the house. By the time we had got down to the Point a rainbow was greeting us.

Monday: Nursery rhyme day in school and whilst Squeaks has a cat onesie ("Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?", etc), the preference was to wear the crocodile (or dragon I'm not sure) to go with the unconventional "Row, row, row your boat".

Tuesday: We've narrowed down options for after-school activities to three (don't ask!). And despite the guilt of never seeing through Baby Ballet in Todmorden (a mum turned to me as Tiny threw up over me and said "I could never have had twins", I responded along the lines of missing the form with the option on... and never felt inclined to return) we've finally managed to build up the confidence to start again. And with only two in the first class it was, of course, fantastic.

Wednesday: I love it when the boys play nicely together, which they do, a lot, but rarely when they're both playing with the same toy. It seems we are making progress.

Thursday: I've discovered a new pub round the corner from the office. It means we avoid the other 'overnighters' who go to the pub across the road, and just manage to pretend we're actual Londoners (or something like that). As I have no knowledge on lager, bitter or cider it's a great game of pot luck.

Friday: Ying and yang. I spent my day in London running a workshop on state aid regulations and audit requirements. Mr J took Miller for a walk along the coast...

Saturday: And Saturday saw me return to London. And to add no further justification to the fact that I do actually work in London, Squeaks enjoyed a teddy bear's picnic.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Thursday, 19 September 2013

How are you doing little girl?

You have the ability to make everything ok with a kiss and a cuddle.
But you're struggling.
You're struggling because like your mummy and daddy you're stubborn.
We don't think we can make you go to bed.
Two nights in a row you have snuck into our room and played merry with mummy's perfume and make up.
And it's so difficult not to get cross.
As you dissolve into tears.
As we put you to bed at 7.30 because you're so obviously tired.
But you keep yourself happy with books and your imagination.
Until at least 9.30.

We are trying to make sure you experience everything.
That you have time just to be you.
And time with us, and your grandparents.
Just to be loved.
You are of course thriving at school.
Learning your letters.
And your rhymes, songs and maths.
And drawing, plasticine and painting.

But I miss not knowing.
Not having daddy and your grandparents to update me.
But to rely on your book bag.
Your drawings, paintings and learning diary.

We've stopped calling it 'homework'.
Writing letters is much more endearing.
I'm not always sure who we're writing them to.
But you are.

You are unquestionable in your spirit.
You have the determination that adults envy.
You have the compassion and love that all should envy.
And most of all, you are you.
Full of hope, energy and happiness.
And I want to know you forever.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Mog and Bunny, and other stories by Judith Kerr #review

I have never hidden what a massive Judith Kerr fan I am, and I hope I am subtley influencing my daughter.
I was so glad that I could surprise her with 'Mog and Bunny' at storytime.
Firstly, because before the summer holidays we moved on from hopes of Dotty the Dog, and onto more hopeful dreams of 'Jewelly' the kitten for a Christmas present.
And second, because in the first week proper at school 'm' (Maisie, Mountain, Mountain) was one of the four letters being learned. (As I wrote the post-it explaining this was our show and tell item I found myself underlining the 's', 't', 'a', and 'm'.
And so Mog engaged Squeaks.
As the cat she hopes her kitten will grow into.
And as a being with fear, no matter how funny for everyone else.
Because everyone knows that roses are wonderful to appreciate but not for touch.

Squeaks loved the short stories, perfect for bedtime.

And talked so much of her hopes of having a kitten for Christmas.

And, of course, the stories are perfectly illustrated.
With engaging stories which keep little ones holding their breath.

And I have once again fallen in love.
As has my wonderful breath-taking daughter.

Disclosure: We received a copy of Mog and Bunny for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed are our own.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Apple & Blackberry Pie #GreatBloggersBakeOff #GBBO

My first attempt at pastry was creating a blackberry and apple pie.
It was meant to be an apple pie but after an afternoon picking blackberries with the little people how could I possibly kerb their enthusiasm?
This was our first ever attempt at pastry, and the lessons were- a food processor would have probably turned our mix to crumbs and stopped us over working the pastry.
If we had not overworked the pastry we would have had enough for the top.
If we suspected we didn't have enough for the top it probably would have been good to use a cutter to add shapes across the top, or use strips and criss-cross rather than this:
The recipe

225g plain flour
175g unsalted butter, extra for greasing
45g golden caster sugar, extra for sprinkling
1 egg
2tsb ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

The filling
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored, cut into eight wedges
150g blackberries
50g butter
100g golden caster sugar
  1. Sift the flour and add butter cubes. Lightly and gently rub the butter into the flour as quickly and lightly as possible. Add the caster sugar and egg and combine into a ball.
  2. Cover the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 mins.
  3. Peel, core, and slice the apples. 
  4. Melt the sugar and butter into a saucepan.
  5. When the butter is melted add the apples. Slowly cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.
  6. Add the blackberries, stir and cook for 5 mins with lid off.
  7. Tip the cooled apples and blackberries into a sieve and reserve the juices.
  8. Remove your pastry from the fridge, cut into two pieces.
  9. Depending on the pastry, either flour the work surface and rolling pin, or roll the pastry between two pieces of greaseproof paper. 
  10. Grease a shallow pie dish and line with the pastry. Trim excess edges using a sharp knife.
  11. put the fruit into the dish, with a mound in the middle.
  12. Add 50% of the reserved juices.
  13. Brush the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg.
  14. Roll out the second piece and lay across the pie. Trim and crimp the edges and brush the top with the remainder of the beaten egg.
  15. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar and cinnamon. Make a couple of cuts across the top of the pastry.
  16. Bake for 60mins in a preheated oven (180C) until golden brown.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Discovering the Welsh Coast with the support of NTWales

Yesterday, I needed to escape.
The thing now about escaping is that I can't imagine doing it alone.
And despite the fact it was throwing it down and the wind was high, we all put our coats on and went outside.
And we are fortunate.
Two minutes of walking and we are here.
The Welsh Coast.

This is my favourite place.
Why we moved here two years ago.

And a thirty minute lap of this part of the Wales Coastal Path and we are home.
Recharged. Exhausted. In this weather, exhilarated.
Whilst my favourite part of the Welsh coast is my favourite because it is home, there are many other wonderful places to seek out.

The National Trust cares for 157 miles of the Welsh coast alongside some of the best beaches, which are consistently voted some of the most beautiful anywhere in the world; beaches like Rhossili on Gower, Barafundle in Pembrokeshire, Penbryn in Ceredigion or Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) on Llŷn.

I have such vivid memories of Rhossili from the year of A-levels. Escaping Cardiff. The pressure of exams. And discovering Rhosseli to the soundtrack of Alanis Morrisette.

The National Trust has launched a coastal app on  Facebook, celebrating all that is great about our coastline.
You can enter this fantastic competition by popping on to the app and letting people know why you love your favourite National Trust place and you could win a day’s kayaking and / or coasteering for you and 4 of your friends with our qualified instructors at the amazing Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire.

The most original and inspiring comment will be chosen by Justin Albert, our Director on the 31st of October and the lucky winner has a year to claim their prize.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies #GreatBloggersBakeOff

This week Jenny and Helen have been keeping us motivated as we moved into the mystical world of pastry. I decided a second attempt was warranted. So, of course, I'm starting with the second, more successful attempt.

I decided to go with the two things which have worked for me so far- lemon and mini, and so I went with lemon meringue pies using my cupcake tin, and this is what we made: 
So, what did we learn this week? Overworking your pastry happens really easily, so this is why our second attempt was a recipe without lids! A food processor would probably help get your pastry into crumbs and lower the risk of overworking the pastry. A whisk would probably help with the ease of creating the perfect peaks for the meringue.
And equally, we've learnt that without two gadgets it's still equally possible!

The recipe
I think this recipe would give about 18 pies, if you rolled the pastry evenly. If you wanted to make one large pie I would probably stick with the same pastry and double the amount of lemon filling and meringue topping.

225g plain flour
175g unsalted butter
45g icing sugar
1 medium egg

Lemon filling
3 lemons
30g cornflour
3 egg yolks
125g caster sugar

Meringue topping
2 egg whites
120g caster sugar
1tsp cornflour

  1. For the pastry, blend together the flour and butter, add the icing sugar. Blend until combined.
  2. Wrap in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30mins.
  3. Butter the tin, and consider using grease proof paper or baking parchment in strips to help lift the pies out after baking.
  4. Roll the pastry (my pastry was quite wet so it was rolled between two sheets of grease proof paper) and use a round cutter to make cases for the cupcake tin.
  5. We blind baked the cases for 15 minutes at 150C. If you have baking beans I'd definitely use them.
  6. For the lemon filling, use the zest and juice from the lemon and mix with the cornflour. Bring 225mls of water to the boil and add the lemon mix. Stir over a low heat until the mixture has thickened and then leave to cool.
  7. Mix the egg yolks and sugar together and then carefully whisk the mix into the pan of lemon mixture, stir over a medium heat until thickened. Set aside.
  8. For the meringue topping, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar a little at a time whilst still whisking. Whisk util the meringue is stiff and glossy, add the cornflour and whisk again.
  9. Add the lemon mix to the pastry cases, completely cover the lemon mix with meringue and create a swirl on the meringue.
  10. Bake in the oven at 150C until the filling is set and the meringue is lightly golden and crisp.


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Project #365 - Week #37

Our week has been a really odd one, probably best explained through the amount of baking.

Sunday: We celebrated the baptism of baby Daniel, and after a fantastic day I crashed out on the sofa to decide what pie I would attempt to bake as part of the #GreatBloggersBakeOff.

Monday: In a change to the norm I took a pit stop at Reading for a meeting with my new contract manager. Waiting for the train to London it rained whilst I tried to appreciate how much the station has changed.

Tuesday: Returning back from London I continued to research my #GreatBloggersBakeOff challenge.

Wednesday: The most random day. We managed to get our supplementary claim in for year 1 of the £15m project we won last year. It has been ever so stressful to get here and the stress continued to the end as a network somewhere crashed. And a year to day the ministerial announcement came that we've been successful in a second £15m project. Sometimes life baffles me. So, we got in the car and found somewhere to pick blackberries. Because sometimes, sometimes you just need to appreciate life's better without the fanfares.

Thursday: Squeaks is obviously taking Uncle Chris seriously now he's taken on the role of Godfather. A tattoo. Fortunately it's only one. And it washes off.

Friday: My randomness continues. I received the news that despite winning the new project that maybe I should think about not replacing a member of the team who's leaving. Fortunately the boys showed me how to keep it in perspective.

Saturday: How weekends should be. Squeaks loves the theatre, and constantly puts on shows. Whilst she has swimming and ballet in the week I am hoping this will become 'our thing' as I'm not always there on week nights. We went to a taster session at Sherman Sherbets, and at the end Squeaks approached the man running the group who was talking to one of the parents: "Excuse me, please can I ask you a question?" she said interrupting. Caught of guard the man says "Yes of course you can". "Please can I come back every Saturday?". Success!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 13 September 2013

Charles Fuge's Wonderful Wildlife 123 #review

The boys are learning to count.
I suspect it started with them joining in when mummy says "I'm going to count to three".
It's hysterical when I'm attempting to tell one of them off that the other joins in with me.
And more so that Tiny takes himself off to the naughty step before I even have to ask.
 I digress, I thought I'd put the boys learning to the test, and was delighted to receive 'Wonderful Wildlife 123' to review, especially as it came hot on the heels of our trip to Longleat.
It's a great book, different to the usual 123 books.
Firstly it goes up to twenty.
This is great for Squeaks at the moment as she gets either forgets about 13 and 14 or gets them the wrong way around.
And it's great for the boys, as there are fantastic animals and insects which really engage them, and because it's not just turning five pages to get to ten, it means we can have lots of chat around the book.
And it feels a lot more grown up than other counting books. It's not as obvious. We've got some counting books which have photographs, and others which just have really obvious, in a row, objects.

Which means we have lots of fun reading it.
The boys get engaged, and if Squeaks is around- she loves showing them that she's in the know!

And the boys, well I thought they'd love the dinosaurs.
As it is we get stuck on the chipmunks throwing snowballs at the Yeti and Bigfoot.
I love this book for being that little bit different.
Having wonderfully detailed illustrations.
And showing there's life beyond 10!

Disclosure: We received this book as a Parragon Book Buddy. All views and opinions expressed are our own.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Making shortbread and lemon posset petits fours #GreatBloggersBakeOff #GBBO

I was really looking forward to this week's Great British Bake Off. I love the motivation Jenny and Helen are providing and getting inspired by everyone's efforts.

I really wanted to try to make dainty little bakes which I could not only pass off as petits fours and as a little treat for Squeaks lunch box.
I had an idea of making a layer of sponge and making it into layers with jam, and covering with icing to make into little parcels. It didn't happen.

After watching this week's episode I loved Ruby's lemon shortbread, raspberry and chocolate shells, and as we already had the mould from making chocolate shells for the children's baptism I decided I'd take the leap and try shortbread as well as a raspberry jam.

For some reason (trying to avoid a chocolate overload) I thought it would be better to cover the shortbread shells with chocolate than have so much chocolate.
I found a recipe for lemon shortbread, and made the mistake of not reading if beforehand, and as I made it discovered that the only lemon flavour (lemon curd which I had made as part of my angel food cake) was added afterwards, which would be no good for this idea.
I thought about adding the lemon curd to the mix, but it was quite wet as it was.
So instead, I attempted to both coat the mould with lemon curd and also tried coating the tops with lemon curd prior to baking.
And because I had made so much shortbread I also decided to bring out the other moulds (hearts, mini cup cakes and spoons).
I decided to attempt my own jams, using raspberries and freshly picked blackberries, complements of Squeaks and Mr J. I used another BBC recipe, having not made jam before it seemed really straightforward, and maybe it was missing something as it really didn't get to the thickness of jam.

And then the shortbread came out of the oven. And the lemon curd idea didn't work.
So I was left with that which has just been baked as shortbread.
And the rest of the lemon shortbread recipe came to mind, lemon posset.
Lemon posset holds a lot of humorous memories in our family. No-one entirely remembers the history, but it involves the Shepherd's Rest Inn in Todmorden and my mum and her rubbish memory. Whatever restaurant we now eat in there's also the question as to whether lemon posset is on the menu.
I've never tried it, nor made it, but thought I would.

And it was not only so easy, but absolutely delicious, but I managed to make it look like some fantastic petits fours by combining with the shortbread.
I did go to work with white and milk chocolate with the shortbread, and also made some chocolate shapes by melting into the moulds.

I am so proud of the outcome.
I'm so proud that this is by no means what I set out to do.
And what I did set out to do looked (technical term coming up) rubbish.
And I still want to attempt my sponge gift parcels but time really hasn't been on my side this week.

So, pies and pastry.... arrgggghhh!

mummy mishaps

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