> The Beesley Buzz: February 2014

Things I discovered: February 2014

Ooh look at me - managing to join in with two linky's in one evening having just posted my Word of the Week, here I am joining in with Everyone Else is Normal's Things I discovered linky again. I am finding that I'm looking forward to this each month and I love trying to think of the new things under each of the headings Eat, Play, Read, Places, People, and Blogs. Although the headings are not compulsory, I like the idea of trying to fit things under each category.

I actually discovered this back in early January when we went for our Waitrose cookery day but I keep forgetting to mention it. When we made our chocolate brownies there, we used a fry-light spray to grease the tin with. It was so easy to use that we've been greasing cake tins with it ever since. It was also used for the tortilla chips we made there.

But I have also been using for all sorts of things since then. Because it lightly sprays the sunflower oil, you use far less oil. It is only 1 calorie per squirt. So rather than drizzle lots of oil over bread to make croutons, I used the spray and it worked brilliantly.

Just a couple of squirts in a non-stick frying pan is also fabulous for fried eggs.

Although the concept is not new (I remember my mum buying one of these in the early 90's) I used to think they were a bit of a dieting gimmick. But now I can see just how much healthier recipes can become using Fry-Light.

Instead of a toy discovery, I'm going to mention just how much me and Miss T have enjoyed cooking with each other lately. From our Valentine's cookies, and then our Toad in the hole, cooking together has been a time of fun as an alternative to playing with toys.

I actually read a book in a single day which is a first for me. It was Kiss Me First which I reviewed for Mumsnet. I found it totally unputdownable and really very relevant to the online lives that many of us lead these days.

I have to mention our amazing meal at Bocca Di Lupo. We wrote a bit about it here, and D did more of a write up about the food on his blog. We really hope to go back there soon as the food was fantastic, the service so speedy and we just have to eat those Granpa's balls again!

My sister! It turns out she can make amazing fudge which I never knew. Both my sisters came to visit this week together with my dad. As we don't get to see any of them very often it was great. I think the last time we saw her was last summer with her musical nails!


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Not a new blog for me but one that I've been reading pretty much since I started blogging, but a new linky on there that hasn't been widely discovered yet. Raisie Bay's Kids in the Kitchen linky has really encouraged me and Miss T to cook together each week. I would love to see lots more people joining in as I love seeing what everyone else has been cooking.

It was also very exciting to meet Mary from Over 40 and a Mum to One and Monkey at our Postman Pat day out as well as Anna from In The Playroom with her three gorgeous little boys.

I'm going to add one extra heading this month as I'm not sure quite where else it would fit:

We were in need of a new oilcloth for the dining table to protect it from all that the three kids and me can throw at it and after shopping around to find a good priced oilcloth we bought a spotty black and white one from Only Oilcloths.

I have been so pleased how well it fits in with the black and white colour scheme of the rest of the kitchen and how good it looks as the backdrop to so many of the photos that we take that end up on the blog as can be seen here, and here and here and of course in the fried egg photo near the top of this post.

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Word of the Week: Flourish

I've seen this linky popping up on everyone's blogs each week for a while now and have been meaning to join in but somehow never seem to find the time! Even after a reminder tweet to me last week from The Reading Residence, I still didn't get around to it (naughty me - slapped wrists!)

So this week, I thought I really must do it. It's simple enough - pick a word, just one word, that describes your week. Easy. Or so I thought. It actually wasn't so easy but when J came home from school today and I read his contact book it said:

"J is continuing to flourish" and as I read that sentence, I knew that was it, that was the word...'flourish'.

Regular readers will know that J returned to school after a 3 year break to be home-school due to his ASD difficulties. His track record at school before that was not good. Schools that were clueless about how to help him and him reacting badly to school as a result.

Frustratingly, academically he has amazing potential but none of that was being acheived hence home-schooling instead.

So when he went back into the education system last month, I held my breath (figuratively speaking). Would he cope? Would he have meltdowns? Would the stress and anxiety return? Would his school work suffer? Would he become that unhappy child that we removed from school 3 years ago and slowly worked to build up his self-confidence and self-esteem.

But today I read that he is 'continuing to flourish'. Phew - I can breathe again. I know his education (as in all areas of his life) will have ups and downs because of his difficulties but for now he is doing well.

Interestingly the dictionary definition of Flourish says:
  1. 1.
    (of a living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.
    "wild plants flourish on the banks of the lake"
    synonyms:growthriveprosper, grow/do well, developburgeonincrease,multiplyproliferate;

What I noticed when I read that description was the mention of the 'particularly congenial environment' and the school he is at right now is just that for him. It is the right environment of care and support that he needs. Together with the knowledge and expertise they have in dealing with ASD children, it has meant that not only has he coped but he has flourished.

The Reading Residence

Kids in the Kitchen - Chocolate Fondue!

It was lovely to see the recipes linked up with this fantastic linky over at Raisie Bay last week. We have found it really encourages us to get cooking with the kids more often. All too often it seems easier and quicker to just get on with the cooking ourselves, but now when I mention the word cooking, Miss T rushes over and says 'eggs' (mixing eggs seems to be her fave task!) So cooking with her proves to be such a joy!

Last week was half-term and I wondered whether D would be keen to get cooking again like he was over the Christmas holidays. But he just seemed to want to relax with other stuff this time.

So this week, we did something really simple together - which I suppose isn't even technically a 'recipe' or 'cooking' but it involves getting the kids in the kitchen and having fun with food so I'm going to blog about it as our post for 'Kids in the Kitchen'.

We dug out the Fondue Set and dipped Strawberries, Banana and Marshmallows into chocolate - yum!

We actually did this twice over half-term - Learning a lesson along the way.

The first time, we actually melted the chocolate using the candle of the fondue set thinking that is what you are supposed to do. The second time I read the instructions and you are supposed to melt the chocolate first (e.g. in microwave or over hot water on hob) together with some evaporated milk and then pour into the fondue set.

We didn't have any evaporated milk so just used regular milk. It definitely worked better than just the chocolate on its own as that quickly started to go thick and sticky over the candle.

So if you've been cooking with your kids this half-term, (or anytime in fact as you can link up posts old and new) then pop over and join in.

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1/03/2014 UPDATED TO LINK UP WITH BETTER PHOTO PROJECT TOO: This weekend's theme is 'Planning' and as I knew I wanted to blog about the chocolate fondue, I deliberately used the nice plate and nice dish (you might not think they are that nice but you have to believe me that most our dishes and plates are ancient and look awful!). I wanted the top photo in this post to look good - hence I planned ahead to use those dishes.

Love All Blogs Better Photos Project

Make Your Own Wax Scratch Art

Everyone remembers making those wax scratch art pictures from their childhood so when D asked to make one, it provided a great bit of half-term fun...It is so simple to do, yet effective too. 

Colour a piece of card with wax crayons. 

Then paint over the whole piece of card with thick paint. Ideally the paint would be black but we didn't have any black paint so we used blue and it still worked.

Leave the paint to dry.

When it is completely dry you can use a wooden stick (e.g. a wooden skewer but with the tip cut off so it is not too pointy and scratchy) or the end of a paintbrush handle to scratch your pattern, picture or writing onto your wax art card.

D had drawn Jesus at the cross with the message: He died for your own good.

Linking up with Savouring the season:


Meeting Postman Pat, Speeding down the Thames and a Movember meal at Bocca di Lupo - all in a day's work on a day out in London!

Last Friday we headed up to London for an action packed day. We had been invited to a special screening of Postman Pat to watch some episodes old and new along with the trailer for the Postman Pan movie due out later this year.

We also got to meet the main man himself along with his sidekick, Jess the cat.
But first, we headed to the London Eye pier for a high speed boat ride along the Thames. Miss T had experienced the thrills of a RIB London voyage last month when we attended their RNLI fundraising day for a mini ride. J and D had been last year and so we were all extremely excited about going again. For mum and dad, this was our third time on these fantastic boats - I think we can safely say we are officially addicted and if RIB London Voyages ever need official bloggers - we will be first in line!
We had saved up our Tesco club card reward points which enabled us to get 4 of our tickets using those, leaving just one ticket to pay for. 
As before, we had a fantastic ride along the Thames. It was colder and windier than before so we were glad to be wearing the RIB London voyages warm coats. 
Then in the afternoon it was off to meet Postman Pat to celebrate the launch of the complete series 1 and 2 on DVD. The original series 1 has been digitally enhanced and all three DVD's we watched are available from Amazon.  
And what a blast from the past that was. The first episode we watched, from 1981, I seemed to vaguely remember from my childhood. It is incredible that all these years later Postman Pat with his black and white cat is still as popular as ever. 
Miss T and her black and white dog, meets Jess, Postman Pat's black and white cat
Now having Special Delivery Service missions alongside his regular round, Pat gets to do all sorts of exciting things in the more recent series'. 
Popcorn and beanbags to watch Postman Pat on screen
And things are set to get even more exciting with the Postman Pat movie trailer showing us a glimpse of Pat's hidden singing talents in front of Simon 'Cowbell'. With David Tenant providing the voice of another of the key characters, the movie is set to delight Postman Pat fans young and old. We can't wait!

Our day in London was still not done. A run around Trafalgar Square to chase some pigeons and then it was time for a special meal at Bocca di Lupo. 
Chasing pigeons in Trafalgar Square
This was the fourth and final meal of the Pan Macmillan Movember meals that daddy won with his funny video. It was really great for the kids to come with us this time. Although Miss T joined us for our meal at Caravan Kings Cross and for Oxo Tower brasserie, the boys had been at school on those occasions. But with it being half term last week they were able to join us this time. 
Our own Brilliant Chef has done his own write up about it on his blog, so I won't say too much about the food here. It was a very enjoyable meal. We chose several 'small' plates to share along with a couple of 'large' plates. It proved a great way of tasting several dishes. The food is Italian and seems to have a heavy influence of seafood as well as some more unusual dishes.  
I adored the creamy walnut sauce on the pasta we had and the desserts were heavily influenced by nuts too, which again I really liked. 
We would definitely recommend saving room for dessert if Grandpas balls are on the menu - they taste fantastic! You'll have to keep an eye out on D's blog to find out more

Disclosure: We were invited to attend the Postman Pat event free of charge and received copies of Postman Pat DVDs to keep. We have not been paid to write this post but wanted to do so to capture our own #PatMemories. You can follow Postman Pat on twitter and share your own memories using #PatMemories


Barny Blue and Strawberries too! Barny’s Winter Little Adventures Linky Challenge

Barny is now available in two new flavours - Apple, and Strawberry - Yum!
When we first discovered Barny sponge bars last summer, they instantly became a hit with the kids in the family (and with the big kids too as you can read about here). As they come individually wrapped, they were so handy to take out and about with us everywhere - so we went to the beach, to the park, to the castle, on a bike ride, on holiday, in the garden - like I said, everywhere!

Both the 'Milk' and 'Chocolate' flavours were fantastic, but when we heard that Barny had launched two new flavours, 'Apple' and 'Strawberry' - we were keen to head out on more little adventures to try out the new flavours.

So there was only one thing for it, dress up warm in our 'Barny blue' colours and off we went.

'Barny blue' waterproofs and wellies - perfect for puddle jumping adventures

Blue hats and scarves to keep us warm on our Barny snack break after climbing those rocks

And when we were done with our outdoor fun, it was indoors for some more little adventures with Barny.

The fantastic new Strawberry flavour filling in our Barny bars left us wishing for sunny summer days. We have some strawberry plants planted in the garden, but whilst we are waiting for them to grow, we decided to do a Strawberry craft whilst we dream of summer days.

Here's what you'll need:
Materials for our Strawberry craft - with a Barny bar for afterwards!
Mum cut out some strawberry shapes from red paper, then Miss T used a felt pen to add the strawberry seed dots.

Then it was time to get glueing. Miss T glued the strawberries onto a sheet of paper along with the little green leaves that mum cut out from a piece of green card.

Finally a basket-print piece of card and another bit of green card for the grass and we were done.

Now for that all important decision of which Barny bar to choose now that there are 4 fabulous flavours available including the new flavours of 'Apple' and 'Strawberry'.

"Yep - I'm choosing a Strawberry Barny bar today following my little strawberry crafting adventure!"

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Winter Little Adventures Challenge’ sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling. Find out more about Barny here.


Kiss Me First - a mumsnet book club book review

I have been trying to read a bit more myself since the kids returned to school after their time of homeschooling. So I was really happy when Mumsnet book club offered me the chance to review the new book Kiss me first by Lottie Moggach.

The only problem was that it was described as a thriller. I tend to avoid books and films described as thrillers as I usually find them a bit too scary these days, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I braced myself for the worst and got started on reading the book. 

And I read, and I read. In fact it is the only book I have read in its entirety in one single day. I read whilst Miss T had her nap. I read whilst the kids ate their dinner. I read into the evening instead of watching TV or turning the computer on. 

I've heard of books being described as 'unputdownable' and this really was the case with Kiss me first. Although it was certainly gripping, and even unnerving in places, it wasn't 'scary' in the gory horrific sense of the word like some other thrillers can be, so thankfully I didn't struggle to read it.

Whilst I'd imagine the the book would be relevant to most people who spend any time online, I think it would particularly resonate with those who are online focusssed, whether it be blogging, being on social media or online forums.

I had a friend who asked me just today 'what's the difference between twitter and a blog' which sounds like a ridiculous question but is actually a very real scenario. Not everyone is online and some restrict their online activities to researching holiday destinations and possibly a spot of online shopping but that is it. So I think some of the online references wouldn't be fully appreciated by those with less awareness of how the online world works - especially regarding social media.  

And yet I found myself nodding along to many of the things the main character Leila had to say about how facebook is used in the early part of the book. I too used to find those pointless updates and partying photos incredibly annoying when I first joined facebook. There were plenty of references to Google too and, although it currently appears as if Google is on track for world domination, who knows what turns the digital era has in store for us. When I think back to when I first started using the internet, there was no such term as 'googled' instead we used to 'Ask Jeeves' or search for things on 'Alta Vista' and 'Yahoo' (any one else remember those days or am I just showing my age now?) So will someone reading this book somewhere down the line in 10, maybe 20 years time, understand what Facebook, Google etc are all about. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

Anyway, back to the book. Written more like a diary with dates rather than headings forming the chapters of the book, the book is written in the first person from the point of view of Leila - a stereotypical geeky nerdy online type who spends her days playing online computer games and on chat forums rather than socialising with friends in real life. 

I didn't find her a particularly likeable character but then again I don't think she was meant to be. Ditto for Tess, the next biggest character in the story. 

Without giving too much of the plot away, I did find myself secretly hoping for a happy ending, and did have my suspicions about a certain new facebook friend earlier on in the story. Like a lot of good novels, not all the loose ends are tied up at the end of the book, leaving room for either a glimmer of hope or a fear of what could go on to happen depending on how you look at things. 

With real life identity fraud on the increase, debates about euthanasia hitting the media on a regular basis, mental health being far less of a taboo subject and general fears being rife over what lies 'out there' on the Internet - this book is really on the pulse with the world's current malaises. 

Having said that, the core plot of the book doesn't revolve around any of those topics directly. Taking over the virtual identity of someone else with their consent doesn't quite fit traditional identity fraud and to do it not for personal or monetary gain adds an additional twist to the story. 

The fact that I read the whole book in one long sitting (when I have been known to take over a year to read books that I don't find gripping) should say it all. It is definitely well worth reading! 

In my mind, it did open up so many more questions, not just about how much of our lives are lived out online but also how easily someone can become so influential and powerful in the online world (sometimes wrongly so, as in the case of Adrian Dervish - another of the book's characters). 

Whilst we would like to think and hope that people do generally act morally and ethically, one of the beauties and benefits of blogging is to get your own views across even if they are different from everyone else's. And whilst there is nothing wrong with that per se, if you think for a moment how hard it would be for others to stand up against some of the biggest and most influential characters in the blogging world if it was ever necessary to do so, you can see how a situation like one in the book could arise. Add in a dose of compliments and flattery towards someone who is pretty much invisible in the real world and that vulnerability / power imbalance increases in a predator / prey relationship. 

Without meaning to unnecessarily frighten (like all areas of life there needs to be a healthy balanced view of the benefits versus the dangers of online life) it does make us aware of just how careful we should be with our digital footprint. And this is something that is only going to grow and grow in importance in our digital age. 

You can find out more about the book over at Mumsnet. There is also a very clever trailer to watch - I had to go and double-check my facebook profile afterwards to reassure myself!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

For more information about Mumsnet Bloggers Network, see here.

Kids in the kitchen - Miss T makes toad in the hole

Once again we are linking up with Raisie Bays lovely linky 'Kids in the Kitchen'. Last week little Miss T showed that you are never too young to start cooking when she helped make Valentines cookies.

I promised that we'd be trying something savoury this week so once again Miss T pulled over a chair and got very excited about helping.

Her favourite task seems to be mixing eggs so that was what she helped with. She also helped to weigh out the flour and mix together the batter. 

Toad in the hole is a really simple recipe to make and served with peas or other veg makes a family friendly evening meal. 

Sausages (anything from 6-12 sausages depending on how many people you are feeding)
A little rapeseed oil
90ml milk
2 eggs
100g flour
90ml cold water

1. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Place the sausages into a roasting tin with a little rapeseed oil (if you use a tin with high sides then you can use the same dish for the batter - saving on washing up). Place in the oven for around 5 minutes until they begin to brown. 

2. In the meantime, make the batter. Mix together all the batter ingredients. You can use an electric whisk to help get any lumps out. 

3. Next take the tin with the sausages out of the oven. Pour the batter around the sausages. We squeezed 12 sausages in but ideally for this amount of batter, around 8 sausages would be perfect (you could always use a bigger tin / make more batter accordingly).

4. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes. 

5. Tastes great served with peas, green beans or broccoli. 

Finally, I have no idea why, but Miss T decided to wear J's pirate mask, so I'll leave you with a picture of that:

Linking up with Raisie Bay's cooking with kids. If you've had fun cooking with your kids, then do pop over and join the linky - you can link up old or new blogposts.

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