Sunday, 31 January 2016

The twins' birthday cakes - recipes by Bex

I had a whole day of baking before the twins' birthday as I wanted to make their cakes myself and I wanted them to have one each.  And then I decided there should also be a third cake for a number one.  And then I thought I may as well make a few cupcakes.  I really don't know when to stop!  Anyway, I found a few recipes I liked the sound of and pinned them.  I planned to try them all out before the big day but only managed one practice lemon cake and ended up ruling that one out as it was nice but quite heavy and stodgy and one chocolate cake for Halloween which was a bit dry so I changed the method slightly and baked it for less time.  I wanted nice, light, moist, delicious cakes.  I think I delivered.  I liked them all anyway (although the chocolate one was still a little drier than I'd hoped).

Here are the recipes I used, in case you fancy trying any of them:

I made these cupcakes for their actual birthday so they'd each have a birthday cake on the day.  It was their first ever taste of cake so I made simple vanilla cupcakes using this cupcake recipe from the BBC.

It worked so well and the cakes were delicious (none survived until the party on Saturday!) so I modified it to make the third sponge cake and luckily it came out just as nicely.  I also made another batch of cupcakes and a few teenie tiny cakes for babies.

For Kalyan's cake I used this chocolate cake recipe by Mary Berry and although I put the ganache in the middle, I used the simple buttercream icing from the cupcakes above to ice all of my cakes.

Priya's lemon cake was absolutely delicious and again I used the same simple icing.  I'll definitely be making this one again!

I spent a long time practising smoothing buttercream icing and spent ages trying to get them as smooth as possible.  I was pretty chuffed with the finished result, although they weren't perfect.

I enjoyed spending a bit of time painting the white initial cake toppers.  In retrospect, I wish I'd decorated the number 1 on the middle as well as you can't see it against the white wall!  I left that one white as I used my rainbow sprinkles on the top of that cake.  I also used the mini bunting I made for the rainbow cake I made for the twins' naming ceremony in May.

I always planned to hang them on the twins' bedroom door with an ampersand after they were used on the cakes.

I had even more fun painting the ampersand post party as I had more time to concentrate on it and mixed more colours to get a good rainbow fade.  I used those colours to improve the P and K as well as neatening the patterns as I'd finished them at about 1am the night before the party in a bit of a hurry!  I'd messed up the chevrons a bit but managed to sort them out.  The ampersand is definitely my favourite though.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Vintage Christmas at Middle Farm - day out in Sussex, by Bex

So way back in November we had a day out at Middle Farm for their Vintage Christmas event.  It was so well marketed on facebook that thousands of people turned up and when we arrived, the police had closed the entrance and were turning people away.  Lots of cars had parked up along the side of the road and we were lucky to find a space after packing and wrapping everyone and everything up for our day out so we walked along and made it in, thankfully!

I think all of the people who had been allowed in to park ended up having to be towed out of the parking field anyway as the weather was horrendous and the whole area was so muddy.  By all accounts we were very lucky as their Facebook page showed a lot of angry people had travelled further than us and waited hours in back up traffic only to have to go elsewhere in the end.

Anyway, we had a lovely day out with Grampy (who was here for a flying weekend visit) despite the rain and mud.  By the time we'd made it in we were all pretty hungry so we headed for the food stalls and settled in the cake tent (as the BBQ had sold out when we arrived at 2pm!) to feed the twins on their packed lunch and we indulged in some huge slabs of cake and tea.

After the rain cleared a bit, we had a wonder around the vintage stalls and Priya had some fun riding on a beautiful vintage rocking horse Dad found (and insisted on buying the twins for Christmas).

I think the most fun we had though was in the animal barn.  The twins loved being able to see and touch all of the farm animals and I loved taking pictures of it!  Kalyan loved chasing the chickens along the bails of straw and came close to touching one and was surprised when it zapped out of there at speed when he touched its tail!

Look Daddy, I'm touching the sheep!

Although we did have a sudden need for milk apparently!  I've even breastfed them in a barn while sat on bales of straw now!

There was also a sleigh next to the brass band who played Christmas carols and I got some great videos of the twins sitting in it dancing and clapping along.

No chickens were harmed!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lamb Curry in the slow cooker - Recipe by Bex

I absolutely love my new slow cooker.  It was my Christmas present from Nik & the twins and I've used it so much already!  This recipe is one of the more successful ones I've tried, it was a big hit with the whole family.  I read a few curry recipes and then made this one up.

Browning the lamb, caramelising the onions and cooking the spices are all optional but should give a much richer, more aromatic flavour.

I had planned on taking a nice picture of it plated up but completely forgot as I started devouring it straight away!  I've already planned to make it again this week!!

1 kg diced lamb
2 red onions, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chilli, chopped
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
8 whole cardamoms
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 potatoes, peeled & diced into 1" chunks
2 bay leaves
2 large tbsp yoghurt
1 tbsp of tom puree
2 tins chopped toms
salt to taste

Brown the lamb in a hot pan and add to the slow cooker.  Cook the onions, garlic & chilli in the same pan, add to the slow cooker.  Wipe the pan with kitchen roll to dry and add all the spices and heat until aromatic, add to the slow cooker.  It smells delicious at this point!

Add the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir well.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Just before serving, add in the chopped coriander and stir.  Next time I make it I also plan to add aubergine and fresh spinach about an hour before the end of cooking.  I added the salt at the end as we took some portions out for the twins first.

It was seriously good!

Friday, 22 January 2016

First year photobooks - A photobox review by Bex

I tend to find Photobox a bit hit & miss for prints, although they are good at re-printing any which I find issues with but I'd rather they were just more consistent.  I was therefore nervous to order a whole book but when I got an email with an 80% off deal I thought I may as well go for it.  The offer was a 160 page A4 book for £32.50 (reduced from £162.65 which I would never pay) and came with a month to make and order it.  I decided to pay for upgrades to A3 size, a smooth matt cover and removal of the Photobox logo so my final total was £45.47 per book (reduced from £244.65!) and I ordered 3.  One for each set of grandparents and one for us.

Luckily I had started work on the twins' slideshow so already had most of the photos from their first year organised into favourites and I could have made life easy by letting Photobox add them all in automatically but I wanted to ensure I had layouts how they looked and flowed best with double page spreads being relevant to each other and the best photos as full page prints.  I spent a good couple of weeks editing layouts and selecting the final photos to include but it was well worth it.

When the books arrived I was nervous to open them but I am absolutely delighted with the quality!  The pages are thick and glossy and the printing is spot on.  I was so excited to give them to the grandparents and immediately arranged for someone to take one out to Saudi to surprise my parents at Christmas.  The other was wrapped and placed under the tree and the final one hidden in case the in-laws spotted it!  It was only when looking through our own one properly that I noticed a couple of flaws.  Nothing major but when you've spent that long making something perfect, a red ink splodge and a few dust marks on babies faces kinda ruin the whole thing.

Photobox were excellent though and after sending them photos on the live chat, they immediately spotted the issues even before I mentioned what they were and said they would re-do the printing.  They even upgraded delivery to ensure the new books arrived in time for Christmas!

The new books are perfect and everyone was delighted with them.  I for one love flicking through it.  It makes all the difference to have a physical book to hold and cherish rather than everything being on the computer.  We never did get an album of our wedding photos so these books of the twins are even more wonderful to have.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Kalyan & Priya's 1st year - by Bex

Happy New Year!

I haven't managed to write my "review of the year" post this year (or any of the Christmas posts I had planned!) but I have finally managed to edit a short version of the slideshow I made for the twins' birthday, featuring all of my favourite photos from their first year (and a couple of sneaky pregnancy ones too).  I wanted to get this done in time to post on their birthday but party plans got in the way and I just didn't have time to be strict and whittle down the sheer volume of photos!

You'll probably recognise the photos taken by Laura at each of our 3 bump-baby-one photo shoots, the first bump photo by Louise, the studio pictures by Jude, the underwater shoot by Little Dolphin and a few others featuring me (and Priya coming out of me!) are taken by Nik or my family, the rest are all taken my me on my iPhone or SLR.

I have had to be really brutal when selecting the final photos to try to make it short enough to fit with one song.  The song I chose really means a lot to me and makes me feel very emotional when thinking about the twins and our journey to parenthood.  I noticed it on a slideshow Clare did of some of her amazing birth photography and just had to use it.  It's cover of A Thousand Years by Boyce Avenue.

The slideshow has not just my favourite portraits of the twins but some which bring back happy memories so they're not all technically perfect or even good quality but they are what they are - our first year as a family.  The full (41 minute!) version has a lot more of what we got up to rather than predominantly portraits like this one.  I'm pretty sure it includes quite a few which I haven't even published on the blog yet.

Anyway, here it is, with a few too many (227) photos flicking quite fast but I love it anyway and I just couldn't edit it down any further ;)

Year One from Bex on Vimeo.

It's been a pretty amazing year!

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