> The Beesley Buzz: February 2016

My quest for the perfect Madeleines: Orange drizzle madeleines

You know those times when a gift is more for the benefit of the giver than the recipient? Well I did that to my kids at Christmas. Because of D's lifelong passion for baking, and Miss T rapidly following in his footsteps, I gave them each a Madeleine baking tray for Christmas.

Why 2 you may wonder? My logic being that any home-baked foods rapidly dissapear in this household so by having two madeleine pans I could bake a batch of 24 in one go.

I've been desperate to try making madeleines to see if I can achieve the characteristic (and rather elusive as I discovered) 'bump' that rises in the centre of the madeleines. Using the scallop shaped pans I was confident that the scallop pattern would be easier to achieve.

So before Miss T and D got a look in, I grabbed the madeleine pans and got started with my experiment. First I tried Edd Kimber's madeleine recipe from his book Patisserie Made Simple which D received after baking with Edd Kimber last year. Edd's recipe is for lemon madeleines - the madeleines being plain ones but with a lemon glaze drizzled over. (A lot of madeleine recipes are very similar it seems although the number they make varies despite the recipe quanitities appearing the same).

His recipe advocates whisking together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale then carefully folding with the dry ingredients. Then the melted butter is also added carefully and folded to combine.

To get the 'bump' the batter needs to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours with clingfilm on top to prevent a skin forming. When ready to bake this recipe says to chill a greased and floured madeleine tin in the freezer for an hour first.

So this is method I followed on my first attempt. Being the first time making madeleines I wasn't sure how much to fill the pans and I ended up with overflowing mixture. Lesson to be learnt for next time!  Although they rose well, sadly there was no huge bump in the centre of them. That didn't deter Miss T from sneaking a taste though.

Attempt number two commenced the following day...This time using a slightly different recipe and a different technique for the chilling stage and ta dah!!! Huge bumps - yay!

This time I didn't overfill the tray but I did slightly overcook the madeleines in the oven. Because they were smaller (i.e. tray less filled up than previously) I should have reduced the time they had in the oven accordingly. Another lesson for me to learn for next time.

But the taste was fantastic and the bump was brilliant so I was really happy.

Here's the recipe I used for the second batch:

2 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
100g butter
three-quarters of a tsp of baking powder
Juice and zest of half an orange

For the drizzle:
Icing sugar mixed with juice and zest of half an orange
Dried orange pieces to garnish (I used Nim's Fruit Crisps)

I followed a similar technique for combining the ingredients - so whisking the eggs and sugar together first, then folding in the flour and baking powder and then the butter and orange juice and zest.

The trays were brushed with melted butter and dusted with flour.

The oven was preheated to 200C.

This time I filled the trays with the mixture and THEN placed them in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

And I think this method of chilling the batter and then putting into a hot oven is what did the trick and got the desired 'bump'.

I made the orange drizzle which we had on some of the madeleines and we had some without the drizzle as they still had an orangey flavour from the juice that went into the batter mixture.

I look forward to trying out lots of different variations on madeleine recipes with the madeleine tins.

Our beautiful Anna - Will you be part of Anna's story?

This is one of those posts that I wish I didn't have to write...A heartbreaking story but one that needs to be told because there is hope...And that part of the story encourages me...

The story of 'Our beautiful Anna' is one we have seen unfold from a distance. We don't know the family directly but Anna's cousin is a close friend. We have heard of the unbearable treatments that have already been tried. We have held this family in our hearts and prayers.

And we are so thankful that there is this one last chance. This one last hope of treatment.

I lost my best friend from uni to cancer in December after her long brave battle when there was nothing more that the medical profession could do. And so often that is the case, when everything has been tried and there is no hope left...we hear of the high profile celebrities that have lost their battle with cancer, we also know of the other heroes close to us who we have lost through this horrendous disease...the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, children, friends, relatives who are so strong and so brave. We are left feeling helpless.

Yet this story is different. Here there is an opportunity to help. Here there is a chance of getting through this.

Those who know me, know that I am so stubborn that I rarely ask for help. I don't ask for sponsorship or donations for the causes that I support as I am aware that people have many charities close to their own hearts to support.

Yet this one time I am asking. I realise it sounds cliché but if 100 people read this and gave just a pound that would be £100 closer to the target that is needed for this vital medical treatment. If 1,000 people read this and gave a £1, that's £1,000 closer. And so on.

I realise that not everyone will be in a position to be able to give financially, but instead of walking away feeling helpless, you can do something that will not cost a penny - Please share this post or click through to Anna's page and share from there onto facebook and twitter.

In just one day over £5,000 was raised. If we keep sharing Anna's story just think what the possibilities are!

'Our beautiful Anna's' gofundme page can be found here - Please share her story or donate if you are able to.

Thank you!


Beating the half-term boredom!

Next week it is February half-term. This time last year, we headed off for a city break in Paris, but with no such plans for a half-term getaway this year, I know it won't be long before the chorus of 'Mummy I'm bored!' begins.

If the weather is good then we will try to get outdoors a bit. Despite D seemingly abandoning his love of cooking, usually when the holidays come around, he finds the energy to bake something again so having a bit of fun in the kitchen is another favourite school holiday pastime of ours.

And of course they have their favourite consoles and gadgets for gaming. We tend to relax the rules on gaming over the school holidays and can often spend hours playing games. After all that school work and homework, they need a little downtime and that is what they enjoy doing the most at the moment.

Sshh! Don't tell the kids but I've got a little surprise in store for them. I got sent a press release from Nintendo recently with the very exciting headline of

With over 100 Nintendo 3DS titles to try for free*, Nintendo eShop is a must visit

Whilst we often watch the trailers for new games, I have to admit that I didn't realise that you can actually download demo versions of games to play. These are compatible with what Nintendo call the Nintendo3DS family systems – which includes Nintendo 2DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL, New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL. The Nintendo eShop is the online app store built into Nintendo 3DS family systems.

It is a really great way to try out new games before buying them and entertaining the kids for free** as some of the games are 'free to start' so you can start playing the levels and then decide whether to purchase. There are even some You Tube video trailers featuring some of the 'free to start' games  here.

Here's what Nintendo have to say:

Simple and stress-free, downloading games and demos from Nintendo eShop allows players to keep their demos together on their system – accessible at just the touch of a button. Nintendo eShop can be found on the HOME Menu of any Nintendo 3DS family system – just look for the orange shopping bag***!

My kids are going to think it is Christmas all over again! I know they are going to LOVE Fullblox with its loveable cute characters and puzzle challenges. With so many games to choose from we won't know where to start.

*Wireless internet connection required. The registration of Nintendo Network ID and acceptance of the network related terms and privacy policies required.
** Includes optional in-game purchases. Wireless internet connection required. The registration of Nintendo Network ID and acceptance of the network related terms and privacy policies required.
*** System update may be required to access Nintendo eShop. See more information here.

Further information from Nintendo can be found as follows:
Nintendo UK on Twitter https://twitter.com/nintendouk
Nintendo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nintendo

May the Force be with you, on Disney Infinity 3.0

What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours. Yesterday we were fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, and had enjoyed episodes I, II and III. But today we are converts to the simply fantastic Star Wars adventure - The Force Awakens. We sat transfixed by the film at the cinema this morning, and were compelled to open our brand new The Force Awakens Play set for Disney Infinity 3.0... and we were not disappointed!

Following the overall plot of the film, with a few twists and turns to make it even more enjoyable, The Force Awakens is a must for any Star Wars fan. The Play Set contains Finn and Rey, so you can jump straight into the game with a friend.
The game opens with you flying a Tie Fighter to try to escape the First Order - a good excuse to fire at will. Shortly after you land (of sorts) on Jakku, and the game transforms to a first-person platform adventure, before opening out into a much wider free-play type environment. You have to complete missions and help other characters to be able to move forward, all the time aware of who might be after you.

Here's the official Disney trailer for you to enjoy:

The lovely people at Disney also kindly sent us the two other Star Wars Play Sets, as well as a few extra characters. So to complete our Star Wars collection on Disney Infinity 3.0, we also have Rise Against the Empire and Twilight of the Republic.

With the Twilight of the Republic Play Set, you get Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano. The aim, of course, is to defend the Republic, starting with a battle to get into, and then to overcome, the droid factory. In this game, based on episodes I, II and III, you learn to use the Force, travel to different locations, and have to uncover secret plots to be able to bring peace to the galaxy.

The Rise Against the Empire Play Set comes with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and is based on episodes IV to VI.. Using blasters and light sabers, the idea is to overcome evil with the Force for the light side. You start, of course, on Tatooine and must complete mini-challenges and games to move through the levels. These include racing, defeating specific characters, and even getting the band back together so that famous music can play again.

All the games have the great music you expect from Disney and Star Wars, and worlds and characters that both look good and move in realistic ways.

All three play sets have been a huge hit in this household. Being able to play as some of the original characters (Luke and Leia) as well as the newest (Finn and Rey) has been great. And on Disney Infinity 3.0, you can use the characters from one Star Wars adventure in another of the Star Wars games once you unlock them by finding their character coins - just switch the figure over and off you go. As with all Disney Infinity 3.0 games, the characters are then added to your Toy Box and available for adventures that never end, and their own special abilities and skills can be upgraded to make them even more useful in the game.

Power Disc packs are also available, to unlock new character abilities, gadgets, costumes and team attacks.
The controls across the three games are very simple, and very similar, making it easy to move between them. Throughout the games there are helpful hints and guides to lead you to the next mission or checkpoint, and there is in-game help if you get stuck.

If you have a Star Wars fan (or two... or three!) in your household, these Play Sets will be very popular!

More information about the three Star Wars Play Sets for Disney Infinity 3.0 can be found on the Disney website.

You can read our beginners guide to Disney Infinity 3.0 here and our review of the Inside Out Playset here.

Disclosure: We were sent three Star Wars Play Sets and additional characters for Disney Infinity 3.0 for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. Images courtesy of Disney/Disney Pixar. 


Walking in the Woods (and a JIA update)

It was almost a year ago that the doctors broke the news to us that Miss T was likely to have Juvenile Arthritis. It came as a shock. Having been through it as a child myself, I realise that it perhaps shouldn't have been such a shock but it was. 

She was lucky to receive a formal diagnosis soon after that so that treatment could begin. 

We have so much to be thankful for. I wrote about that recently in a guest post for Head Over Wheels. But there are also times that have been tough. It's been hard to see her in a lot of pain at times. It's been hard seeing her take so much medication including weekly injections and regular blood tests to check for serious side effects. 

It's been frustrating to find that each time we tried to reduce her naproxen, the left ankle would swell again and so we would have to re-start the naproxen again (The ideal scenario is to cut it out completely and for the methotrexate injections to keep the swelling and pain at bay).

Whilst we have encouraged her to keep active, there has been a very fine line between keeping mobile and overdoing things whilst the joint has been swollen as that could cause damage and pain.

Last week we went for her physio appointment at Great Ormond Street. She has been doing intensive physio excercises since our last appointment in December. And the hard work has paid off. The physio was really happy with her progress. Her legs are strengthening and more importantly the swelling seems to have finally reduced - Hurrah! 

With that good news it felt like we'd been given the green light to encourage her to do that bit more than she had been doing. For a while we've been restricted to visiting places where her wheelchair can follow because she was prone to having sudden bursts of pain and would then need to sit and rest. But yesterday we braved a little winter walk in some woods. We left her wheelchair at home and Miss T did brilliantly and had a super time. 

I was grinning from ear to ear as this is the sort of adventure we had missed over the past year - being able to get properly muddy in the woods. 

 And the boys had a whale of a time too - we found a rope swing to play on:

I'm hoping that the pain stays away so we can continue with little adventures like these!

Linking up with:

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you." Review of Inside Out on Disney Infinity 3.0

We love the film Inside Out, having watched it last summer - it had just hit the in flight movie timetable on our return journey home from Canada. For anyone who hasn't seen the film, the core characters are emotions experienced by 11 year old Riley when she moves home. So when the lovely people at Disney sent us a Play Set (with Joy and Anger) and a couple of extra characters for Disney Infinity 3.0 we couldn't wait to get stuck in.

Here's nine-year old D's 30 second take on the game:

 You play, of course, as one of the five emotions that dwell in Riley's mind. When she starts to have a bad dream, it is up to the emotions to restore order and save the day (well, night). As with other games for the Disney Infinity 3.0, you can choose which character you play as, and you can either play alone or with a friend.

Each emotion has their own special abilities, and you will need to use more than one character to complete the game. And, being Disney Infinity, you can upgrade each character within the game and make them even more useful as you progress.

And each emotion has their own fantastic characteristics and quirks. My personal favourite is Disgust, as she throws witty and sarcastic remarks as you move around, particularly if the other player in two-player mode drops out.
Early on in the game you get used to popping balloons - they look nice, but are cluttering up Riley's mind and need sorting out. As you progress, you must find core memories and return them to their rightful places, defeat Subconscious swamp monsters, move mind workers around, and battle the terrible broccoli. Being set inside Riley's mind, the landscape is constantly changing and it is simply stunning to watch the game unfold.
You can watch the official trailer for Inside Out on Disney Infinity 3.0 right here:

 Of course, once you have played with the characters in the game itself, they become unlocked in the Toy Box and can join you on your truly infinite adventures!

More information about the Inside Out Play Set can be found on the Disney website.

Disclosure: We were sent an Inside Out Play Set and additional characters for Disney Infinity 3.0 for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. Images courtesy of Disney/Disney Pixar. 

Disney Infinity 3.0 on Nintendo Wii U - Our beginners guide!

We are absolutely thrilled to be working with the fantastic team at Disney, and we were so excited when our new Disney Infinity 3.0 starter kit and characters arrived. The boys have seen Disney Infinity at a friend's house and really wanted to get stuck in.

Knowing the box was on its way, I did a little bit of research to find out more about Disney Infinity and how to set it up. But despite loads of websites talking about it, very few actually gave an insight of how to set it up and what it can do. So we thought that this would be a great place to start!
Disney Infinity 3.0 is the latest in the gaming concept from Disney. Their website gives details of compatibility if you have already got Disney Infinity 1.0 or 2.0. We didn't, so we started from scratch.

Setting up for the first time
You will need a base, the game software (available on disk or download), and at least one character piece. You can get all of these in a starter kit, and then simply buy more characters and other game pieces as you wish.

Step 1. Plug the base into the Wii U via the USB connector. You can also buy the game for other consoles, and it is available for PC and handheld devices (tablets and phones).

Step 2. Switch on the Wii U and insert the game disk. Load the game.
Step 3. You will be asked to register with Disney once the game loads. This is really simple, you just give your name, email and password.

Step 4. Well, that's it really. All ready to go. To start you off there is a a demo that takes you through Star Wars, Inside Out and finally a race where you play as Mickey Mouse against Donald Duck and friends.
Once you have the game set up and have mastered the easy controls, you are good to go. With Disney Infinity you have two main ways to play, and infinite possibilities. By placing a Play Set piece on the base you can play the levels created by Disney. For these, you need to use the characters from that world (so Inside Out characters in the Inside Out world when you use the Inside Out Play Set piece, for example).
The other way to play the game is free play. You create worlds from nothing, or build on templates provided. Create vehicles, land, buildings and enemies. Then go and explore, defeat the enemies, run, drive and fly. The possibilities are truly infinite.
One of the great things about Disney Infinity is that you can switch characters whilst playing. So if you need to use a special power that your character doesn't have, take it off the base and replace it with a figure that does... and your character in the game changes and off you go! Each character has different strengths and skills, and you can develop and power them up by playing and completing challenges. Disney Infinity also has Power Discs to give additional powers to your game. These are simply placed on the base as you play.
We have had Disney Inifinity 3.0 setup for just a couple of days and only just scratched the surface of everything it contains, but we all love it!

Watch out for our reviews of some of the new sets coming soon.
Disclosure: We were sent a Disney Infinity starter kit, and a selection of additional playsets and characters for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.