> The Beesley Buzz: 2020

Upside down peach and cardamom cake

After the little mouthful-sized upside down peach bites turned out so well the other day, I wanted to make a bigger peach cake to get the pretty effect of the peach slices at the bottom (which then ends up on top as it's an upside down cake).

I knew I wanted to include cardamom in it this time as cardamom has to be one of my all time favourite flavours and it tastes amazing in cake!

Here's the recipe...

20g butter, melted
2 ripe peaches
3 eggs
160g self-raising flour
160g baking margarine or softened butter
160g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
tiny drop of vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170c and grease and line a cake tin (7 inch springform cake tin)
2. Melt 20g butter with 20g of the caster sugar. Pour it into the cake tin. Slice one of the peaches and arrange in the bottom of the tin in one flat layer.
3. Mix together the eggs, 140g of the sugar, and 160g baking margarine or softened butter and the vanilla extract. Then add in the flour and cardamom.
4. Finally dice the second peach into small pieces and mix in until combined.
5. Pour the cake batter into the cake tin on top of the arranged slices of peach.
6. Bake in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake tastes and smells so "summery" with the beautiful fragrance of the peaches and cardamom. The perfect summer bake!


Upside down peach bites

We certainly seem to have caught the baking bug during lockdown. Baking has been a way to keep my mind occupied at times of stress in recent years - so during the weeks when I can't seem to focus on anything else, at least I can get in the kitchen and bake!

These little upside down peach bites were a way of using up some ripe peaches. I was so pleased with how they turned out that I knew I had to keep a record of the recipe:

Ingredients: (makes 5)
1 ripe peach
A sprinkle of muscavado sugar 
30g caster sugar
40g ground almonds
40g gluten-free plain flour
Very small pinch of gluten-free baking powder
15g coconut oil
15g clotted cream
1 egg
Small pinch himalayan salt
Some fresh mint leaves to garnish and a few slices of peach reserved to garnish. 

1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
2. Finely slice around half of the peach and dice the rest of the peach into small cubes. Reserve a few of the slices to use as a garnish.
3. Sprinkle a small pinch of muscavado sugar into the base of each silicone cake case. 
4. Place the slices of peach at the base of each of the cake cases. You can use either the slices or the cubes - Once baked, I thought the slices looked nicest. 
5. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients until well combined. 
6. Scoop into the cake cases and bake for approximately 12-14 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Then turn the cakes out of their cases and garnish with a few mint leaves and some fresh slices of peach if you wish. Tastes great served with cream. 


Moist carrot cake recipe

Upon finding ourselves with a surplus of carrots to use up, we decided to make a carrot cake. More precisely it was Richard and Miss T that did the cooking - I just did the eating. I was so impressed with how moist and delicious it turned out that I knew we had to type up the recipe so that we can hopefully make it again soon.

Most carrot cake recipes finish off with a topping of cream cheese frosting but we had some double-cream which we poured onto it for serving instead.

235ml Olive oil
100g yogurt
4 large eggs
half a tsp vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
125g light muscavado sugar
300g self-raising flour
half tsp cinnamon
half tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp mixed spice (find a recipe to make your own here)
2 tsp baking powder
75g walnuts (roughly chopped)
100g sultanas
265g grated carrots

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a large baking tin suitable for a traybake (we actually had to split the mixture between two tins).
2. Mix the oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl. We used a freestanding mixer to mix these ingredients.
3. Then place all the dry ingredients into another large bowl and mix together (except for the walnuts, sultanas and grated carrots which go in last).
4. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine. Then add in the carrot, walnuts and sultanas.
5. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for between 20-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Can be served with cream cheese frosting or cream. 


3 month isolation milestone

In a couple of days time, on 4th June it is our 3 month isolation milestone having started our own lockdown sooner than most. Despite the easing of restrictions, things remain the same for us.

We remain at home. We've not set foot in a shop since the start of March and have relied on deliveries.

We've avoided going outdoors other than our own garden and occasionally getting fresh air in the evenings when the roads are quieter and it's possible to avoid most people.

It has been a time of paradoxes and contradictions for us in many many ways...

Our house has been the cleanest it has been for a long time, yet is also at its messiest. We've found time to deal with things like limescale on the taps and we continually disinfect door handles. Our no shoes in the house policy is stricter than ever. Yet at the same time the sink is constantly full of washing up, the laundry basket seems to fill more quickly than usual, and there is just so much clutter and things to keep handy for keeping the kids entertained... paint pots, glue, bubbles all kept out rather than packed away. Piles of schoolwork. Lots of boxes and packaging for Miss T's junk modelling projects. Clean AND Messy at the same time.

The days fly by mercifully quickly. I feel busier than ever. And yet we haven't got anything to do in terms of places to go, and schedules and deadlines.

We are finding that we have time for a bedtime story far more often than previously, yet bedtime has shifted later than ever.

The house is full of people with us all at home, and yet there are times that I feel so lonely.

Some days I feel full of hope and joy and gratitude appreciating the opportunity to spend this precious time with my family. Other times, the fear creeps in and I dwell on the awfulness and enormity of what is happening.

This month we've continued our late evening outings when we can - although my back pain has been worse so I've been struggling with pain levels at times. We are fortunate to be just minutes from a countryside lane where we can see fields and foxes and pheasants and sheep. We've even spotted deer recently and bats as the darkness falls. It does get hugely busy there during the daytime, hence waiting until late evening or night before we ever head out.

We've enjoyed baking. Miss T made some yummy cookies and she also made a delicious carrot cake with daddy this month. My sourdough is largely back on hold as we've been managing to get weekly deliveries again so have been able to get enough bread to last each week without having to bake our own at the moment.

Garden play and garden fun. These ribbons are still proving popular!

She even created her own garden festival...

We got some "make your own chocolate London" kits and had fun moulding the chocolate to make Big Ben and a London cab and bus.
As it was a hot day, D's decided to melt rather rapidly...
The hot sunny days have been perfect for water play in the garden...
And for me that's meant being able to enjoy the hot tub. It has to be the best ever impulse buy having picked it up on sale at the supermarket last summer and made such good use of it last summer and this year. I step into the hot tub and it feels like I'm on holiday. For a short while I can forget what is going on in the world and just pretend everything is ok.
I've realised how much it helps ease my backpain too. It was when I didn't use the hot tub for a few days that the back pain worsened.
We are appreciating all the little things like finding wild strawberries growing in the garden. We were also mesmerised by watching a spider catch a ladybird it it's web so fast that we didn't even have time to take a photo. Memories like that will remain in my mind from this strange period of time.
After years of thinking about it, we think we are going to tidy up and revamp the garden a bit over the coming months. Starting small scale with freshening up Miss T's wooden bench with a lick of paint.

I even witnessed something close to a miracle - the three kids working together as a team without any squabbling to hang the washing out. I couldn't believe my eyes! All three of them together can often end in tears. So this was definitely a proud mummy moment for me.

Another proud moment was J beating his own world record score on Crossy Road (again!) and since this photo was taken, he's beaten it yet again with a new high score of 3713. Totally mind blowing! Such dedication to his hobby.
I'd given myself a lockdown hair trim a while ago and this time it was Miss T's turn. I have never dared cut her hair before and we usually only trust our amazing hairdresser Tony to cut her hair but it was a case of needs must as they say. Thankfully she was pleased with the outcome although I have a feeling both of us will need a very good hair cut at the hairdressers once it is totally safe to go there again. The boys won't let me cut their hair at the moment. Ironically, I often cut their hair and they rarely go to the barbers or hairdressers. But for some reason, at the moment when it most needs cutting, they are insisting on growing their hair longer.

I love Miss T's attitude of dressing in her fave dresses regardless of being at home...

And a regular chat with granny on zoom has become part of our new normal.

Our raspberries have just begun to ripen so we are looking for the ripest to pick each day...

And Miss T continues to love making and crafting... She has had so many hours of fun with her "gingerbread" doll made from cardboard and creating outfits for her to wear.

So that's our round-up for another month. At the start of March, I had hoped that by the time we reached June that there would be a significant improvement in the situation. Whilst we've been through lockdown and subsequent easing of lockdown during this time, for us the reality remains that we deemed the risks too high as of 4th March to continue "life as normal" - at that point there was yet to be a single death in the UK. So there's still a long way to go as far as we're concerned. 

We remain hugely thankful to all those whose kindness and selflessness has meant that we have been able to keep our family safe at home. With 2 of the children higher risk, I am hugely grateful each time we manage to get a grocery delivery and each time the post arrives. We are so thankful to so many keyworkers. We've even managed to have several of Miss T's hospital appointments via video call and phone call so we are grateful to the doctors and hospital teams that enabled that to happen. 


May 2020 unboxing

Our unboxing video is very short this month as I decided to keep it to photos rather than proper video footage and then try using the trailer format on iMovie to see how it turned out. Well I managed to create my shortest ever unboxing video - just 1 minute long and still managed to fit in this months prizes.

It took minutes to create and seconds to upload compared to literally hours that doing a proper full video used to take. So this might be the way forward for a while. I did miss explaining the background to each prize though. So we'll see what happens going forward.

To be honest, this month I couldn't really face being on camera as it's been a month of feeling a bit fed up at times. Still glad to be staying safe at home but I found myself wondering whether and when there will be a true normality again.

Stay safe!


Sourdough cookies (yes cookies!)

So it was my sourdough starter's 3rd birthday earlier this week. 18th May to be precise. I know it's really sad to be able to remember your sourdough's birthday more easily than your kids birthdays!!! 
Anyhow we felt it was worthy of celebrating so I asked the kids what should we make as we'd made Sourdough Scones recently, and then Sourdough Chelsea buns and then iced buns using the same recipe as the Chelsea buns. D responded straight away with "sourdough cookies" - Sourdough cookies - erm, was that even possible??? I turned to the internet to find out and came across a recipe from Edd Kimber

I thought that was rather apt that the first recipe that popped up was by Edd Kimber as when D was really into baking, he was a big fan of Edd Kimber and even got the chance to bake with him once back in 2015

So using Edd's recipe as a guide but changing some of the ingredients, quantities and ratios we ended up with a hybrid cookie-cake. The texture and taste of a cookie on the outside but with a slightly cakey middle! If you want it more cookie like then I suspect more sugar in relation to flour would make it so. 

55g salted butter
100g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
1 egg
60g sourdough starter
vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate chopped

This makes 13 cookies

This cookie dough needs a long rest time in the fridge - so bear that in mind before you start!

1. Melt the butter in a pan on a medium heat whilst it bubbles off some water content. Edd Kimber's post explains the science of why this is necessary. Take care not to burn the butter. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
2.  Mix together the sugar, egg, vanilla, and sourdough starter. Then add the melted butter once it is cool.
3. Then add the flours and baking powder and mix until well combined.
4. Finally add the chopped chocolate pieces and mix until just mixed in.
5. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, pre-heat the oven to 180C, roll into balls and place onto baking paper on a baking tray and bake for around 15 minutes until browned.

Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and leave to cool.

We also made them a second time with a few more tweaks (50g plain flour and 100g self-raising, 65g sourdough starter and adding some chocolate extract too) but they tasted more or less the same as the first batch!


Arthritis since the age of 10: My advice to help joint pain. #AD

Back in 2014, I was asked to take part in a 12 week trial of taking GOPO rosehip supplements and to monitor whether I found them helpful for easing the pain I regularly felt in my joints.

Since the age of 10 I have suffered from joint pain as a result of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) or as it was known as in those days Juvenile Chronic Arthritis (JCA). Although it was my left hip that was most affected by the arthritis, as a result of years and years of limping and compensating for the pain in my hip, my backpain worsened.

After Miss T was born, I was finding that my backpain was unbearable. Having relied on pain relief medication (with limited success) for so long in the past, these days I hate the idea of having to take pain killers on a long-term basis. So I was more than happy to give GOPO a try.

But as I did so, I wanted to remain as objective as possible. I have tried ALL sorts of different medications, supplements and therapies over the years in an attempt to get relief from the pain so I had no reason to believe this would be any different. I kept a daily pain diary during those 12 weeks along with monitoring the various reasons that my pain level could have varied e.g. affected by the weather, had I overdone things, wearing different shoes - all these things and more can impact my back pain.

My verdict after the 12 weeks was that GOPO does work for me. It did notably improve my back pain. That was 6 years ago. Now 6 years later, many things have changed. I ended up having a hip replacement at the beginning of 2018 because the damage that had happened to my left hip all those years ago at the age of 10 was beyond repairing any other way.

I stopped taking the GOPO in the run up to the operation as they advised me to come off all medication prior to surgery. And I found myself in excrutiating pain without the GOPO. Another sign that it had really been working for me. After the surgery, I took the standard prescribed pain relief to get over the operation and then gradually weaned myself off it.

I didn't immediately re-start the GOPO because I wanted to see if the hip replacement surgery had resolved my back pain. Sadly it hadn't. So I began taking GOPO again and once again found that it made my backpain far more bearable.

I've stayed in touch with GOPO throughout all these years and am always impressed by the science that backs up their product. They also seem to genuinely care about ALL the ways that joint health can be improved rather than just saying that their product is the solution.

In the latest infographic I've received from them, it shows that looking after your joints involves movement, ensuring you are not overweight as well as using a supplement like GOPO with clinically proven results. All important advice that I myself would agree with.

Whilst this infographic is about osteoarthritis and JIA is very different to this, the joint damage that I was left with as a result of having JIA was very much in line with osteoarthritis joint damage. In those days there were no disease modifying drugs and so the joint inflammation wasn't controlled well enough by regular pain medication and my hip joint and subsequently spine became damaged with osteoarthritic damage.

One of the real positives that came out of my relationship with GOPO was a sense of regaining some control over the pain and over my situation. For so many years I had lived with, and accepted, the pain as being something I had no power over. The fact that I saw improvement by taking GOPO rosehip supplement encouraged me to look at other ways I could help to improve my pain rather than accepting it as a fact of my life.

I will no doubt continue to have good days and bad days when it comes to my back pain, but I'm doing my best to try to ensure that the good days outweigh the bad days and GOPO is my not-so-secret weapon when it comes to doing so.

The real testimony is that 6 years on from that initial trial I still take it daily and swear by it!

GOPO is available online here and from other good retailers.

Disclosure: I received GOPO rosehip supplement as a gifted product. All opinions remain my own honest opinions and I retain full editorial control of this blogpost.


2 month isolation milestone

We thought it was time for another update as 4th May marked our 2 month milestone in isolation as we began our self-isolation earlier than the official "stay home" lockdown on 23rd March. Since our 5 week self-isolation update, we've celebrated another birthday in isolation. Miss T turned 8 in April and she didn't let the current situation spoil things for her. She simply announced that she's going to have two birthdays this year and have a party once the COVID-19 situation is over. 

Her birthday usually falls in the Easter holidays and this time it was very close to Easter too so we had a whole weekend of celerations with an Easter egg hunt in the garden the next day. Our usual tradition is to go to Granny and Grandad's house for the egg hunt each year but for obvious reasons that wasn't an option. They were with us in spirit though and had even organised the eggs for the children to find by dropping them round on our doorstep previously.

Miss T continues to enjoy plenty of arts and crafts - often choosing "art" or D&T lessons for homeschooling rather than, say, Maths or English.

You may remember that J became the world record holder for Crossy Road last month with a score of 2506. Well, by the end of the month on 30th April 2020 he had continued to improve and beat his own world record with a new high score of 3303! Wow! His determination, dedication and commitment is impressive.
Although Richard is busy working on the COVID-19 Rheumatology research study, we have tried to make time for board games together as a family. Perhaps Monopoly wasn't the best choice though as it went on for hours!!!
Our cat, Star, continues to be our emotional support when days feel tough. He's just so in tune with our emotions and we all adore him so much.
And some days definitely feel more emotional than others. I seem to manage 2 weeks of positivity at a time before I have a weekend of overwhelm. Last weekend was the low weekend and so I couldn't even bring myself to write this 2 month milestone post until today rather than on 4th May.
When the days are difficult - we found that cake helps! (Baking has always been the thing I do whenever I'm feeling low).
And my sourdough starter has really come into its own. As well as enabling me to bake bread daily without the need for shop-bought yeast between grocery deliveries which are sometimes more than 2 weeks apart, I've also been able to make sourdough scones, sourdough chelsea buns and sourdough iced buns (the iced buns are the exact same dough recipe as the chelsea buns but shaped into fingers). I've also used sourdough for pizza dough and garlic bread. The possibilities are incredible!
Den building and reading have proved popular...
And we've just gradually begun to go outdoors a little bit again but deliberately finding the quietest times to keep the risks as low as possible for Miss T.

I hope the world will be in a better place by the time I write our next update because sadly here in the UK things have got far worse in the past month. So from 4th April to 4th May this is what has happened - it is hard to comprehend and so sad. As someone said to me recently just imagine what a different situation we would be in if everyone had isolated from 4th March as we did when there had not yet been a single death in the UK.

4th April 2020  41,903 confirmed cases
4th April 2020  4,313 deaths

4th May 190,584 confirmed cases
4th May 28,734 deaths

7th May 206,715 confirmed cases
7th May 30,615 deaths

Let's hope wiser decisions are made from here on.