Monday, 19 December 2016

Black Forest Cheesecake Swirl Brownies - recipe by Bex

I made this recipe for my Baking Club Christmas do recently and was really pleased with it despite having preheated the oven for 3.5 hours!  (The kids woke from their nap far too early and I kept trying to get the brownies ready to bake, including the kids in helping, but I didn't manage until they went to bed again that evening - an hour early!!)

Anyway, I had the idea of brownies with cherries and had always wanted to try baking something with a swirl of cheesecake so I googled and combined a couple of recipes I found.  One from the American/Ukrainian Let The Baking Begin Blog for the cheesecake part as I liked the sound of adding sour cream but I couldn't be bothered converting all the measurements for the brownie batter too so I used one from Olive Magazine for the main brownie batter, although I did adapt it slightly by adding dried and tinned cherries as well as changing the method after a wasted pan of seized chocolate mixture!

Below you will find my combined and adapted recipe for my version of Black Forest Cheesecake Swirl Brownies:

For the cheesecake filling:

225g cream cheese
80g sour cream
70g sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg

For the brownies:

200g butter, plus extra for greasing
225g light soft brown sugar
200g golden caster sugar 
125g cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
¼ tsp salt 
2 tbsp kirsch or cherry liqueur
4 eggs
125g self-raising flour 
100g dried sour cherries
1/2 tin cherries (optional), de-stoned & halved

For the cream:

whipping cream 300ml
kirsch 2 tbsp (I added 4)
icing sugar 3 tbsp, sifted
1/2 tin cherries (optional), de-stoned and chopped


Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla extract and beat together until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and beat until smooth again.  Put aside.

Preheat oven to 170oC.  Butter a 20 x 30cm baking tin and line with baking parchment.  (I only had square tins so split my mixture between two 20cm square tins, I still baked them for 30 mins.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan then add the sugars and continue stirring until they start to dissolve.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring occasionally as the chocolate melts.  Add the cocoa powder and stir to combine.

Cool for 5 minutes then beat in the salt, kirsch and eggs until smooth again (I did this part in my Kitchenaid).  Stir through the flour and cherries, then scrape into the prepared tin(s) and bake for 30 minutes.

While the brownies are baking, prepare a roasting tin of iced water that will fit the brownie tin inside it.  When the brownies have a crisp top and only a slight wobble to the centre still, lift the tin from the oven into the water bath – this will keep the centre soft, but set.  Cool completely in the water.  Run a knife under hot water before drying and using to cut smoothly.  The brownies are nice and gooey which makes them stick to the knife.

To serve, whisk the whipping cream with the kirsch and icing sugar until softly peaked then stir through the cherries.  Dust the brownies with a little icing sugar and cocoa if you like, and add a dollop of kirsch cream with extra fresh cherries to serve.

I was really pleased with how these turned out!  They were squidgy, gooey and rich.  The Kirsch/cherry brandy was a nice addition and the dried sour cherries add a lovely bit of chewy bite to them.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Rag 'n' Bone Man for Christmas No.1!

You have probably heard of Rory Graham aka Rag 'n' Bone Man by now, he just won the BRITs Critics' Choice Award for 2017.  His single Human is just amazing and was recently covered on The X Factor so you might recognise it as it's been getting even more radio play since then.

I don't often write about music but I do love a good tune and Human is one I adore!  Not only that but Rory is a local guy from Uckfield, my new town.  We love it here, it's a wonderful community and so many people are behind him so I wanted to do my bit.  If you haven't yet heard his current single, Human, give it a listen here and then go and download it on iTunes for just 99p!  ;)

I love his soulful voice and the lyrics!

He is currently in the No.2 spot and in with a real chance at being Christmas Number 1 so I thought I'd see if I could help round up a bit of support for our local musician who deserves so much success!  

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dragon Tails by Tired Bear - A review by Bex

I recently came across a local company called Tired Bear who make absolutely gorgeous costumes for little ones.  They caught my eye at a Christmas Fair, I loved all the bright colours and had a look on their website that evening.  I absolutely love the designs and completely agree with Anna's philosophy about bright colours being for all children.  "Most of my costumes are a bright mix of colours that aren't gender specific because boys shouldn't always be blue and girls definitely shouldn't always be pink!"

The next day we went back and had a chat with Anna who is just lovely and the twins each chose a dragon tail.  As if to prove our point, Kalyan chose Pink with yellow (pink and orange seem to be his favourite colours) and Priya went for purple with green.

On Tuesday we went for one of our favourite walks to take a few photos of the tails to really show them off.  I adore them!  They'd make fantastic Christmas presents and would last such a long time as part of a dressing up box.  The dragon tails cost £20 and with wings are £35.  They come in red, blue, yellow and green as well, each with a contrasting colour for the spines.

The twins absolutely adore their tails!  They love to wear them and they look pretty comfy too.  I am very impressed with the quality.  They're made from lovely soft fleece and have a nice thick waist band with velcro most of the way around so they'll fit for years.  They can also be machine washed at 30!  They are all hand made by Anna and you can tell a lot of time goes in to the making of each one.

My brave little pink dragon was quite happy wandering off down the path which leads to cake!  (Oast Farm Cafe is this way!)

And into mystical dragon caves...

Until we realised it was Tuesday and Oast Farm Cafe is closed on Tuesdays - eeep!  

What do you mean there's no cake?!

And Anna doesn't just make dragon tails.  She has wings to match, as well as butterfly wings, shark and killer whale costumes complete with fin and tail, angel wings, dinosaur tails and even a unicorn with a rainbow tail, wings and pink horn.  She's even made an awesome Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon!  The dragon tails do make good shadows though!

They've worn them loads already.  I love the fun they add to our walks, pretending to be dragons exploring.

We received two dragon tails from Tired Bear in return for writing an honest review.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Kids Christmas Jumper round up 2016 - by Bex

I already listed the adult Christmas jumpers I like but here's the kids' version!

My all time favourite is this one from Asda which not only has rainbow Christmas lights embroidered on but has ACTUAL lights and is only £8!!!  I love the Merry and Bright caption too, even the font.  Sadly, it's already sold out so I am scouring Asda stores looking for some for the twins.  It only starts in size 4-5 years but I love it so much I plan to invest for the future!  I REALLY wish they made it in adult sizes too.  PLEASE do it Asda!!!

Kids Christmas Lights Sweater - £8 - now sold out online :(

As for other kiddy ones, Asda has plenty on offer and here are a few of my favourites:

I thought these ones would be fab for the twins:

There are some much more tasteful, subtle ones too:

Alternatively you could go for the full on Christmas family jumper set.  Think of the Christmas Card photo you could get - cheese fest!

And there's this awesome sequin one with "nice" one way and "naughty" when the sequins are swiped up!

Naughty or Nice Christmas Sweater - Asda £8

And I just had to include this cute little hoodie with the polar bear peeking out of the pocket:

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas Jumper round up 2016 - by Bex

I have found SO many Christmas jumpers I like this year.  Some of them are already sold out so I thought I better get a post up quick to let you know about my favourites!  Plus, it's December now so time for some blog festivities!

Some are on the cheesier side but when we're talking Christmas jumpers, that's often the point!  I have, however, found a few more tasteful versions as well and I for one am having trouble deciding which to invest in!  I have ordered a couple to see them in the flesh before I make my final decision!

Clockwise from top left: Bauble tunic - Asda £18Bauble jumper - Asda £14Bauble jumper - M&S - £45Bauble jumper - M&S - £29.50

I also like these embellished ones with glitter and sequins and found loads with an animal theme (I saw the bunnies on a weather presenter on ITV after I ordered it):

And there are a few Christmassy slogan versions I like too: 

Another embellished one I like is this big sparkly bow from M&S:

There are also some fab sequin ones which have alternative messages if you sweep the sequins up or down.  There's a kids' one which I featured yesterday and this cracker one which can be a cheery Merry Xmas or a dull Bah Humbug, depending how you're feeling!

Merry Xmas/Bah Humbug Sweater - Asda £12

And for even MORE embellishment, these ones light up!  I grabbed the reindeer one in Asda the other day, their noses light up red!

A lot of the above are unisex but here are a couple more subdued "manly" ones:

And for those not into the Christmas jumper spirit:

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

2 years to the day

I missed out on booking Laura for the twins' birthday this year.  I left it too late, having been convinced by Nik that we didn't need any more photo shoots since the bump-newborn-one package.  A week before, I panicked, I knew I'd regret it forever and got in touch but I was already too late.

Turns out I was right and immediately regretted not having got in sooner.  Laura has had a super busy November but luckily she had one morning where she could fit us in.  It was 15 days after the twins' birthday.  So the same day she first came to meet them 2 years prior.  We decided to start with another home shoot as we did for their newborn session and then go on our favourite walk down to our new favourite cafe at Oast Farm.

For the very first time, we had sunshine on the day of our shoot.  The sneaky peek images are stunning, I cannot wait to see the rest, but I'm not nervous, I can honestly say I trust Laura completely and can totally relax on a shoot with her, she's so talented and I know I'm going to love the photos no matter what.  It helps that she's also an amazing person who I'm lucky to also call a friend (although she may rethink our friendship after reading my utter fan girl cheesy comments!) and my kids adore her!  Even K who is extremely fussy about who can talk to him without him either hiding behind his hands or just having a full on meltdown.

Anyway, here is a little before & after (you know how I love those!) of the twins, newborn to the toddler years.  Two years apart.  To the day.  Thank you Laura!

Also how funny that they are on the same sides.  Entirely coincidental I swear!  We only have a few sneak peek images so far but as soon as I receive the rest in a few weeks, I will undoubtedly be putting them here with yet more girl crush thoughts I'm sure!

I've officially booked Laura for next year already.  I've worked it out and although it can seem a total luxury to pay for someone to come and take photos of you, the sheer pleasure of having the best family photos that we're all in, as well as being proper art, it's so worth it.  Plus, over a year, it works out at less than £25/month yet will last a lifetime.  I love that we will have at least one set of amazing photos to record each year (ideally their birthday) with us all in and without me getting stressed trying to take ALL the pictures ALL the time.

If you're thinking about booking a photo session, particularly with Laura, I cannot express strongly enough how much I think you should go for it!  You can always make more money, although I do know we are very lucky to have pretty secure jobs.  But you can never get these moments in time back.  You may have heard the saying, you don't regret the things you do, you regret the things you don't and in this case it is so true.  You won't regret booking Laura to freeze time for you.  I adore the memories Laura has captured of our family and know with certainty that I will treasure them forever.

To see more from our sessions with Laura, here is our maternity shoot, our newborn shoot and the twin's first birthday at the aquarium and on Brighton Beach.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Twin Love - Family by Bex

Tonight I lay down on the sofa while Iggle Piggle was entertaining my kids.  I shut my eyes after a long day at work and listened to the Tombliboos twittering away.

Next thing I know, I hear some heavy breathing next to my face.  (Priya is the heavy breather.)  Then I feel a knee next to my face.  She's climbing on to the sofa.  Not a squeak or a word.  She snuggles down into my front.  She's the little spoon.  I put my arm around her.  We lay there together.

For about 2 seconds.  She is two.

2 minutes later, she clambered up again, this time taking hold of my hand and pulling it around her.  Still not a word.  I still have my eyes closed.  She touches my cheek.  I look at her and she smiles, the kind that makes a noise and lights up her eyes.

Next thing I know, Kalyan has realised what is going on.  I hear his little feet, pad pad padding in his fast little wriggly run.  He crashes into the sofa and us.  Starts trying to squirm his way in.

These are the moments I adore.  What I live for.  The closeness, the way they love to cuddle and be close to me.

When I walked in the door after work, they were in the kitchen with Ma & Dadaji.  They both exclaimed and ran to me.  K was first, he threw his arms wide and squeezed me as I crouched.  Huge grins all round.  He then did what makes my heart skip.  He took my face in his hands and planted a kiss on my lips.  No prompting, no asking, he just kissed me and giggled.  Before being shoved out of the way for Priya to get in for her cuddle, she climbed on to my lap and sat down snuggling in to my chest.  This is life with twins.

Not long after K snuggled in on the sofa and tried to climb up, Priya began to kick, she didn't want to be ousted.  He started moaning and complaining, trying to find his space next to Mummy.  I controlled the kicks and helped him in, he laid back into my tummy and Priya protested until she realised she still had my head.  Cue prodding.  It didn't last, it never does.  They compete for their spaces, often wanting to be "dup" (up - Priya adds Ds to the beginning of most words, Dapple, Dummy = Mummy not dummy).  It can get very frustrating, with a ratio of two to one most days.  But we make it work and everyone gets plenty of cuddles.  Of course, I can cuddle them both together but that would be logical and two year olds do not do logical!  I sometimes wish for some space, especially when they won't let me make dinner and start going crazy, but really, I wouldn't have it any other way because without the desire to be held, I wouldn't get to experience the moments like I did this evening.

God, I love being a twin mum.

(Someone please remind me of this the next time they have a tandem tantrum.  Sometimes you don't want sound in stereo.)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Country Lifestyle Luxury Gift Fair in Uckfield - review by Bex

I went along to a new Christmas Fair at East Sussex National in Uckfield today and found so many lovely stalls!  I managed to get around a fair few before the twins were fed up and we had to scarper mid-meltdown from K!  Before that however, I sampled some lovely produce, saw some beautiful jewellery, gorgeous clothing, plenty of cute Christmas decorations and a lot of local makers and sellers.  The fair is also on tomorrow from 10am - 4pm so if you have any Christmas shopping to get or just fancy a nice stroll around seeing what's on offer, I would definitely recommend it.  It's £4 entry on the door and you can enter a prize draw to win £50 in vouchers.

There were 67 exhibitors in all and I took a few photos of things that caught my eye but there were plenty more I was interested in so I hope to go back tomorrow morning if the twins are in a better mood!  If you can't make it along, they will be back next year in Tunbridge Wells on Fri 10th and Sat 11th November and back in Uckfield on Fri 24th and Sat 25th which will certainly make it easier for me to attend as I can leave the kids with Nik on the Saturday!

Lucy Bradshaw's pretty jewellery table was right outside the lift.

It was well organised with plenty of space, I had no problem getting the double buggy around.  The foodie stalls were all at one end with clothing and jewellery at the other and various gifts and Christmassy bits in between.  It certainly makes it easier if you're after something specific.

Clockwise from left: decorations from Katie's Originals, Natalia from Mols & Tati-Lois,
Clothing from a lovely stall the twins rushed me past, Funky bags from another stall I was unable to stop at.

You can see the nice wide aisles.

One of the produce stalls, Krissy of Sussex had a huge array of at least 50 different preserves and sauces of which I sampled quite a few!  They were lovely and all home-made in East Sussex using not just local ingredients but home-grown fruits and vegetables as well.  They also had a pretty punchy chilli oil!

Just a few of Krissy of Sussex's lovely preserves.

I also sampled some ginger wine which was nicely spicy, the twins enjoyed a cheese twist from Heathfield based Bay Tree Foods (after K calmed down!) and I saw plenty of other interesting food & drink items and my favourite local cheese man, Martin, was there from Cheese Etc... with some lovely cheeses including an interesting black cheese!

Clockwise from left: Ginger wine from Cheese Bomb Gifts, Wine Tasting kit from Drinks in a Tube,
Mince Pies and Cheese Straws from Bay Tree Foods, Fudge from Mini Mouthfuls
Martin from Cheese Etc...

One of the jewellery stalls I loved was cpinksilver by Christina Pyemont.  She makes her beautiful leaf shaped jewellery from real leaves which are painted with layers of sterling silver.  And another pretty stall was Mols & Tati-Lois with statement necklaces, beautiful decorations and funky lampshades.  There were also a very eclectic stall called Maven with both modern and vintage ranges from various designers including Fairtrade jewellery made by social enterprises in Africa.

Clockwise from top left: Leaf necklaces from cpinksilver, jewellery from Mols & Tati-Lois,
fashion necklaces and vintage brooches from Maven, fine jewellery from Lucy Bradshaw.

I also loved these gorgeous handmade bright felt kids costumes from tiredbear.  They had very well made dinosaur and unicorn tails, angel and butterfly wings, whale tails and dragon costumes.  I definitely want to head back for a closer look as I think the twins would love them!

Kids' costumes from tiredbear

Swann Forge had something a bit different on offer.

I love the ethos of the fairs, they only have high quality items that the organisers love and include plenty of local sellers so each fair is different.  They like to keep them spaced out so they're easy to get around and ensure you can really enjoy the experience.  I certainly did.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Cafe at Oast Farm, Buxted - Brunch Club review by Bex

Our second brunch club meeting was at Oast Farm in Buxted, the same place we did the apple pressing recently, in their newly re-vamped cafe.  Since they regained control of the cafe (which I believe was leased out previously), the Oast Farm family have done an amazing job at re-branding it from the rather ramshackle Strawberry Fayre to something more in keeping with the Oast Farm Shop.  The prices are reasonable for cakes and meals which are all homemade using good quality local ingredients (all of which can also be purchased in the shop).  I can also vouch for the tastiness having sampled quite a few things now, I seem to be becoming a bit of a regular and it's lovely when they recognise us and say hello or come over for a chat.

The coffee is lovely but they only have cafetiere coffee for now so you can't get cappuccinos or lattes.  I just have mine with a jug of hot milk as they don't have a coffee machine.

Again, I had an awesome time with my lovely friends and their gorgeous children, and since we were the only ones in the cafe, it was nice and relaxed as we weren't worried about the kids disturbing other customers!  Luckily the ladies who run the cafe are all utterly lovely and apparently like our kids so they didn't mind one bit when we took over the place and the kids got a little rowdy towards the end - licking windows and rolling on the floor!!  (It also meant I could take plenty more photos this time and capture all of the above madness!)

Curly haired M is not only a beautiful model (see further down for one of my most favourite photos ever) but also great with the twins, she was so sweet with Priya, stroking her hair and giving her cuddles, chatting away despite being largely ignored by my daughter!  She also coped well when they both descended on her for tickles after brunch!  (Although, she did teach them this herself at the last brunch club!)

As for the food, the same as at our last brunch club, I ordered a bacon sandwich for myself (with added mushrooms this time) and a full English for the kids.  One of the ladies offered to split it onto two plates for them and when she brought it over said they'd done two eggs so they had one each.  Of course, I tasted everything they had and the potatoes were gorgeous, really garlicky and crispy!  Priya was loving the black pudding and I was pleased at the lack of baked beans.  My sandwich on Flint Owl Sourdough bread was lovely too.

It's also pretty awesome when your kids love your friends, as demonstrated by Priya putting her arms up for Holly to lift her as soon as she walked in the door and then sitting next to/on Kate for the majority of our time in the cafe!

K on the other hand, only had eyes for M, chasing her round the cafe for tickles until he discovered the reflections in the windows.
Tickle, tickle, tickle

It wasn't long before there was some full on window licking!

But also some beautiful wistful gazing out at the trees.

We also found a great way to get the kids to co-operate for a group photo - stand some of them on tree stumps!  They did pretty well standing still although getting them all to look in one direction/smile/face the same way was still tricky, they did look pretty funny as the mummies danced around behind me though!  I really love this gang of ours!

We love The Cafe at Oast Farm and highly recommend it for a coffee and cake or a lovely warming lunch or breakfast, or in this case, brunch!  The staff are delightful and I particularly like their apple cake, served warm with yoghurt and their own honey.  Yum!

They are currently open Wednesday - Sunday and you can find their opening times and more information on the Oast Farm Facebook page.
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