> The Beesley Buzz: 2017

When is an Advent Calendar not an Advent Calendar?

My kids have never been the demanding type at Christmas. They don't have big long lists of presents they want and have always been patient for Christmas day to open any presents. The same goes for advent calendars...They've always understood that it is only one door at a time that you open on each day.

But when you're off school feeling unwell and you receive an advent calendar that is SO good that you want to open it all at once - you know its more than just a regular advent calendar!

Miss T received the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar to review and hasn't stopped smiling since! As today is the 4th December, she was able to open doors 1, 2, 3 and 4 all in one day and she loved it so much that she begged to keep going. Mean old mummy said no though to save the rest of the magic for the days ahead.

She is THE biggest Star Wars fan as we wrote about here and here. Having brought up two boys who weren't particularly into Star Wars, it always puzzles us how and why Miss T loves it SO much that we've all ended up being Star Wars fans now. Whilst the LEGO advent calendars are available at good toy retailers in 3 themes...LEGO City, LEGO Friends and LEGO Star Wars - this really was the best one for Miss T to receive.

When it comes to LEGO, that IS something that the whole family has been into for many many years. We have boxes full of LEGO that used to belong to daddy when he was younger and that collection has been added to over the years as the kids have received LEGO sets for Christmases and birthdays over the years. LEGO is simply timeless and I'm sure the pieces that we have will be passed to our children's children and beyond.

Let's first take a peek inside the LEGO Star Wars advent calendar and then look and how this advent calendar is no ordinary advent calendar...

Inside each door you'll find the instructions printed as a simple illustration to follow to put each item together. There is a small bag with the pieces you need to make each small LEGO model. Miss T was able to put the mini figure one together all by herself (see photos above) and we worked together on the others (mainly because she's better at LEGO than I am!)

We noticed that in some of the sets there are a few pieces spare (unless I've gone majorly wrong in putting it together). This seems to be the norm to get a few spares whenever we buy LEGO as sometimes those important pieces can go missing.

Once sets 1-4 were put together to bring us up to date on today's date of 4th December, she was entertained for ages playing with them. Two hours later she was still making up her imaginative play stories.

And all that before you even get to the special twist that these advent calendars have...

With these LEGO advent calendars, LEGO aims to save around 1 million plastic trays from going to landfill because the tray inside these calendars is made from 100% Forest Stewardship Council certified paper and is recyclable along with the outer box.

We've always known that playing with LEGO offers endless opportunities and now the box can become part of that too! The cardboard inner tray can be used for crafts or even gardening by using them as seed trays.

You can find out more in this fun video by LEGO here. And here's a sneak preview photo of just some of the possibilities:
this image courtesy of LEGO

And being such a huge Star Wars fan I'm sure you can guess by now what Miss T decided to make...

Disclosure: Many thanks to LEGO for sending us this advent calendar for review. All opinions remain our own honest opinions. 


Mauritius Memories - Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd August 2017

So Monday was our last day in Mauritius. We weren't being picked up for the airport until 6.20pm so we could still pretty much do a full day of activities. 

I've been really impressed with the departure lounge here. A separate spacious room for guests departing once they have checked out of their own rooms. It has 4 separate shower rooms with loos and hairdryers too. 

The all inclusive option applies until departure time too so we were able to have a final lunch in the Belle Vue restaurant and still have any drinks and snacks we needed to.

We had booked a final archery session this morning. It was Jerry doing it again - he was our instructor for our first archery session and he's brilliant as he helps Miss T enough so that she can join in and have a positive experience of archery too. 
look at that arrow fly through the air! 
After archery there was a rain shower so we took cover in the quarter deck bar for a round of the card game Uno. After lunch we went to see the animals for an emotional final goodbye. 
Miss T with Silver - True love! 
Monday is the day off for the horses to give them a day of rest after so many rides during the week so they were all there. 
Miss T and Suzi
We said goodbye to our favourite horses - ponies Silver and Suzi and horses What-a-hit and Ghostbrook. 
J with What-a-Hit
Jean Christophe was amazing and let each of the kids into each stable to give a final hug and goodbye to each of 'their' horses. So What-a-hit for J who he had two rides on. Ghostbrook for D who he had bonded with for his lesson and the helicopter incident and Miss T's favourite, Silver. 
D saying goodbye to Ghostbrook
We'd booked the tennis court for a final tennis session too. The weather went from really hot to clouded over and we could sense another rain shower coming. 

Saying bye to Lavender (our kids named her Lavender as she didn't have a name)

Saying bye to Bruce the dog - again named by these 3! 

Once that shower blew over me, Miss T and D went for one last speedy swim in the pool as we knew it was home time soon. 

After getting showered off in the departure lounge time for a final drink in the quarter deck bar. We said our goodbyes to 'afternoon tea man', whose name I found out to be Seewoodruth, who had so lovingly prepared the crepes, cookies, cakes and savoury treats for afternoon tea each day.  

We ordered a few snacks as we weren't sure if there would be time to eat at the airport and they arrived just in time for to grab and eat on the go in the taxi. 

Our first flight - Mauritius to Dubai went smoothly. I watched The Kings Speech and even managed to doze a little. 

The 5 hour wait at Dubai was what we'd all been dreading but actually felt like a real blessing.  Miss T needing special assistance for her arthritis enabled us to rest in the special needs departure lounge so by pushing chairs together the kids managed to have a proper sleep. This was pretty much the only sleep J had as he'd refused to sleep on the plane. 

We woke them at 730 for a quick snack and drink from Costa and then at 840 it was time to board ready for the 940 flight home. 

I know delays can't be helped but having over an hour's delay meant we'd had 2 hours of sitting on the plane since boarding time which felt rather clostrophobic for me. It wasn't a great start as I felt anxiety during the flight then a further delay of circling before landing made me feel sick. As soon as the plane landed I couldn't hold it in any longer and I vomited in the sick bag. 

Not the most pleasant return and I'm feeling annoyed at myself and frustrated that 2 of the 4 flights were so difficult for me when I've never had an issue with flying before. 

That wasn't an end to the sickness either with D feeling nauseous in the taxi home - we stopped at the services where he then sat in the front passenger seat and fell asleep. Miss T was then actually sick. I felt rotten the whole journey home and had my sick bag at the ready. 

Soon after arriving home I vomited and vomited for what felt like ages. Before an early night (well it was late on Mauritius time but early in the UK)

Wednesday is washing day and generally recovering from such a long journey. We all woke up early on Mauritian time so it's only 8am now but we've all been awake for hours!

The plus side of that is that I've already got 3 loads of washing done. 

And so it will be back to routine but we'll all have the most wonderful memories to remember thanks to an amazing granny who made it all possible and arranged everything. 


Mauritius Memories: Sunday 20th August 2017

It's so hard to believe that today was our last full day here. We've got most of tomorrow in resort before bring picked up shortly after 6pm to head to the airport but the 'travelling home day' never feels like a proper day of holiday. 

Today I discovered something that I kind of wish I'd discovered two weeks ago when we arrived. 

Having tried the snorkelling trip a few days after arriving and being disappointed to not see ANYTHING (although I was pleased to have gone out on the boat to do snorkelling that far out at sea and enjoyed that aspect of the experience), I'd given up on trying again. 

Today I decided to have a go from the beach. It was so clear and I felt like I saw loads of amazing things. 

Couldn't resist doing a 'hot dog legs' photo! 

Initially I was excited just to see the sea bed as that looked pretty in itself. When Richard pointed ahead to fish I couldn't see them as without my glasses on I'm extremely short sighted. So I nearly gave up again. 

Then we tried with me being led and just looking immediately down above the fish as I could see a bit better by doing that. 

I saw a big clam, the mauritian clown fish with their black and white pattern stripes, and so many other fish - some small and one that looked so big. I was delighted. 

It had already been an exciting day with D spotting a black and white striped sea snake hiding in the rocks this morning. So now I felt like I finally 'got' what snorkelling was all about. J and D had a go too and enjoyed it. Despite Miss T practising looking under water with her goggles for over a year in preparation for this holiday she wasn't interested in having a go. 

After lunch we went back for more snorkelling but the tide had come in and the sea was so much more churned up that I just couldn't see clearly enough. 

So we gave up and Richard and the boys went kayaking up the river. And me and Miss T built sandcastles and then went for a swim in the pool. 

After that it was our favourite time of day - afternoon tea with crepes and cake and cookies and today it was chicken wings and drumsticks as the savoury snack.

Together with a hot drink it's perfect as an after swimming snacktime to warm up. Having said that the pool didn't feel so cold today. After having the pool to ourselves in week 1, this week it's been busier with more kids around generally and inflatables and just more people braving the cold water. 

We headed to the Jetty in the evening to see if we could spot any fish like yesterday. We saw a lion fish, a teeny red starfish and a few other fish but less than yesterday as there were more ripples in the sea. 

Showers and dinner time then bed. Miss T fell asleep at the dinner table again. Hoping we will all find it as easy as that to sleep on the flight tomorrow evening! 


Miss T JIA update - November 2017 - the mystery of the different sized feet

2nd August 2017
I'm trying to keep track of what's been going on with Miss T since the summer - I end up resorting to a blogpost as that's where I can keep most organised instead of scribbled notes and scraps of paper and not being able to find photos when I need to.

Around July time we noticed Miss T's right big-toe appeared bigger than the left. I believe the above photo is from 2nd August 2017. Our immediate thought was a JIA flare-up with the right toe being swollen. However, thankfully Miss T didn't complain of any pain.
4th September 2017
Upon advice from GOSH we started her on Naproxen at the end of August for a couple of weeks. It made no difference at all to the size of the 'swollen' toe. She's still on weekly MTX injections of 12.5mg.

I believe this photo (above) is from early September. The right big-toe remains bigger than the other. So Miss T sees a rheumatologist at GOSH who asks for an ultrasound of the toe and x-rays as well as blood tests.

The ultra-sounds shows nothing abnormal in the right toe. A bit of a mystery!

In October she sees her local consultant. Her local consultant notices that the entire left foot appears smaller than the right foot. It is not just the toe but the whole foot and the arch appears very high on the left foot.

I took these photos below on 31st October where the difference can really be seen.

31st October 2017

31st October 2017

31st October 2017
 Seeing these more recent photos compared to when we first noticed what we thought was a 'bigger toe', it is shocking to see the rate of change in just a couple of months.

Finally a pic from today (15th November 2017) - it's hard to tell whether it's worsened still or remained the same over the past month or so.

GOSH MRI of it due next week so hoping that will give some answers and her local paediatrician wants a separate MRI of her spine to rule out any condition related to that which could be causing it.


Healthier Yule Log with Aduna Super-Cacao powder

Those who know me well know just how much I dislike the festive season. The chaos, the noise, the busy-ness, the stress of presents - I'd rather just hide away from it all. But the one thing I do enjoy about Christmas, is that the change from our normal routine means that I do tend to find some time to get into the kitchen and bake a festive recipe or two.

And as all bloggers will know, the festive season starts early online whether it's Christmas present buying guides, Christmas craft preparations or Christmas recipes. So when Aduna sent me a pot of their Super-Cacao powder to use in a recipe - it was a festive recipe that came to mind.

Cacao powder versus Cocoa powder

First things first...for many years I lived in complete ignorance of the difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder. I simply thought that it was a mis-spelling of the word cocoa each time I came across it or that it was just an alternative name for cocoa powder.

It was only when I started to get into healthy eating that I decided to find out the difference. And there is a difference...Aduna explain it brilliantly on their website here. In short, Cacao is unprocessed and not roasted at high temperatures like Cocoa is and so maintains lots of the amazing health benefits.

With food labelling standards being so strict, food companies cannot make health claims lightly. There are strict rules around any claims being backed up with scientific evidence which is why it is particularity brilliant that "Aduna Super-Cacao is the first cacao on the market that is scientifically proven to support heart health. It is one of only a handful of foods in the world to carry a health claim from the European Food Safety Authority" 

Again you can read more about that here. I've long been a fan of Aduna products (they also have an awesome baobab powder and moringa powder too). It's not just their products that are of such great quality that I love, but they also care about the social impact of what they do. In addition, I've found their customer service to be brilliant with a personalised note arriving with my orders in the past and emails responded to promptly when I've had a query about an order. And I haven't even mentioned the pretty packaging yet! (It's pretty!)

So with all the health benefits of Aduna's Super-Cacao powder, I've decided to give the festive Yule Log a bit of a revamp with some healthier ingredients. It's still cake so go easy on it but there's no refined sugar here and a delicious cashew cream replaces the traditional buttercream.

Ingredients for Yule Log:
3 eggs (separate the yolks from the whites - you'll need both)
50g coconut blossom nectar
25g Aduna Super-Cacao Powder
A pinch of Vanilla powder
Frylight spray for greasing tin.

Ingredients for cashew cream 'frosting' and filling:
200g cashews
500ml water
Himalayan pink salt
130ml Almond milk

For 'vanilla' cashew cream filling you will need:
80g of cashew cream (made as above)
Pinch of Vanilla powder
5g honey
8g coconut oil

For 'chocolate' cashew cream frosting you will need:
Remaining cashew cream (made as above)
3 tsp Aduna Super-Cacao powder
1 tsp maca powder
10g honey
pinch of vanilla powder

For the edible 'pine cones':
2 tsp Aduna Super-Cacao Powder
1 tsp lucuma powder
1 tsp maca powder
toasted flaked almonds and / or pumpkin seeds
1 heaped tsp coconut oil
Squeeze of honey

To decorate:
dessicated coconut
Rosemary or other edible leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks using a stand or hand mixer. Then add 15g of the coconut blossom nectar and whisk in. The egg whites will turn a light brown colour from the coconut blossom nectar.

2. Carefully transfer the egg white to another bowl whilst you then whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 35g of coconut blossom nectar. This again will go a brownish colour but it's the texture you need to look out for. You want it to become slightly frothy like cappuccino foam.

3. Sift the Aduna Super-Cacao powder and a pinch of vanilla powder into the egg yolks and fold in.

4. Then gradually fold in the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Do this in stages to fully incorporate the egg whites without losing any of the air you've whisked into them.

5. Grease and line a baking tray. I used frylight spray to grease it then placed baking paper in it making cuts in the corners to get a neat corner fit. However, ideally you want some of the baking paper to hang over the edge to make it easier to remove once baked. I used an 8 inch x 8 inch square baking tray.

6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for 14 minutes.

7. Leave to cool slightly then turn out onto a second piece of baking paper.

8. Now make the cashew cream. You'll need to plan ahead to soak the cashews for 3-4 hours in advance or alternatively make the cashew cream and keep it covered in the fridge up to 4 or 5 days in advance. Soak 200g of cashews in 500ml of water with a generous sprinkle of himalayan salt for 3-4 hours. Then rinse well. Blitz them together with 130ml almond milk in a food processor until smooth - really really smooth.

9. Now take 80g of the cashew cream and place in a separate jug. To make your vanilla cashew cream, add 8g coconut oil, 5g honey (more if you like it sweeter) and a pinch of vanilla. Using a fork, beat these all together well.

10. To make your chocolate cashew cream, use the remaining 'plain' cashew cream. Keep it in the food processor, and add 3 tsp Aduna Super-Cacao powder, 1 tsp maca powder, 10g honey and pinch of vanilla powder. If you want it stronger/darker, add a little more cacao powder, if you want it less strong, add less. Ditto for sweetness - you might like more honey or other sweetener like maple syrup, date syrup etc.

11. Now it's assembly time! If your sponge needs trimming, use a sharp knife to trim the edges (keep any scraps to make 'branches' for your log). Then spread the vanilla cashew cream all over it. Using the baking paper that is underneath it to help you, carefully roll it into a log shape. I usually make a bigger yule log so this one didn't get quite as much of a swirl as I like but that doesn't matter. It may crack a bit and that's ok too as it will get covered with the chcolate cashew cream.

12. Shape any scraps into a branch and then cover the whole thing with the chocolate cashew cream frosting. Use a fork to make tree-like markings on it. 

13. The edible pinecones are made by mixing together all the ingredients except for the seeds and nuts. Then press roll the mixture into an oval ball shape and press in the flaked almonds or pumpkins seeds. having made a similar version before, I prefer how they look with the almonds but just wanted to experiment with the pumpkin seeds to see how that looks. Then decorate your Yule Log with a sprinkle of dessicated coconut 'snow' and some edible greenery like rosemary. 

Whilst I've gone with a festive theme here, you can actually make this log all year round (simply call it a roulade the rest of the year) and decorate with edible flowers in spring, summer berries in the summer and perhaps blackberries in autumn. 

If you want plenty of other recipe ideas to make using Aduna Super-Cacao powder, Aduna have a huge recipe library on their website with so many mouth-watering treats to make. 

Disclosure: Aduna kindly sent me a 100g pot of Super-Cacao powder for the purpose of review and recipe creation. All opinions remain my own honest opinions. 


Mauritius Memories: Saturday 19th August 2017

How's this for 'world's worst blogger' - I'm STILL writing up my holiday blogposts from August!!! To make matters worse, the words are all my notes made at the time and the photos are all sat on the computer in a folder ready to sort through so it's just a case of matching the two up and hitting publish and still everything else keeps getting between me and my blogging...Here's Saturday 19th August as written up on the day...

Getting close to home time. Starting to feel that end of holiday nostalgia. 

Wanting to take a zillion photos to help preserve the memories. 

We've had largely hot sunny weather today with just a big downpour in the afternoon. 

I took the kids to play tennis this morning whilst we awaited news of D. Happily he was discharged from hospital after the multiple xrays and the CT scan were clear. He spent the night on a drip and on pain relief and it sounds like he was well looked after. 

By mid-morning he was back. 

We went to visit the horses after lunch and then a spot of swimming for me and Miss T whilst the boys went kayaking. 

Finally for the first time this holiday me and Richard got to spend half an hour without the kids by heading to the spa whilst granny took D and Miss T to turtle club.

The spa was the busiest I've seen it so it wasn't particularly relaxing today. 

When we got back and found that the kids weren't back yet, we took the opportunity to watch the sunset. The sunsets are stunning here but seem to happen so quickly that it's easy to miss. 

We headed to the Jetty and the water was so shallow and clear this evening that we could see fish!

We rushed back to get D and Miss T to come and see the fish too. It was getting dark by now but we saw several lion fish as well as a beautiful one that appeared to change colour to camouflage with the seaweed and rocks and then turn back to shimmery blue against the water. Incredible!

We really enjoyed the amazing choices at dinner time this evening. I still find myself in awe of just how much effort must go into meal prep and the heroes working hard behind the scenes to make it happen. 

The day flew by again.