> The Beesley Buzz: April 2020

April 2020 Prize Unboxing

Another strange month in isolation has flown by. This month I've taken charge of doing the video myself rather than relying on the rest of the family to edit it together. I used iMovie on the ipad which was quicker to upload than the usual process but I don't really get the hang of doing anything fancy with it like adding text or music or anything.

As we've been rapidly taking things out of packaging as they arrive and disposing of the packaging because of COVID, there were fewer video clips so have managed to get the whole video to be less than 10 minutes - yay! Some prizes are just shown as photos.

There's also one that doesn't appear at all - I won a book from consumer rights campaigner Scott Dixon and as the topic of the book was the sort of book I thought my Father-in-Law would enjoy, "How To Complain: The Consumer Guide to Cancelling Parking Tickets and Winning Pothole Claims", the book was signed and sent directly to him.

The gorgeous Mantra jewellery necklace in the video also went directly to a friend and she sent a thank you photo so I've been able to include that. We've experienced so much kindness this month that it feels nice to be able to "pay it forward" by sharing some of our prizes at a time when we feel rather frustrated at not being able to do much else to help anyone.

This year was the first year that I got properly organised by writing down my wishlist at the start of the year in one place! I used to write little scraps of paper that I would then lose and have to start over again. But since using The Happy Comper Journal I no longer have that problem! So 2 of this months wins were wishlist items. A rug for the living room and I had a "nice Easter egg" on my wishlist and I won the biggest Easter egg I've ever had. I've won nice Easter eggs in the past but this one arrived and was bigger than I expected. I did share with all the family though so it got polished off pretty quickly despite how big it was.


Sourdough Chelsea Buns

In the current COVID climate, where it's proved impossible to get hold of yeast for weeks, my 3 year old sourdough starter has really come into it's own!

As well as getting us through between grocery deliveries by enabling us to make loaves of sourdough bread,  I have also begun experimenting with other recipes.

As the sourdough scones turned out exceptionally well,  I decided to try sourdough Chelsea buns.

They too taste great! Here's the recipe:


100ml water
60ml milk
40g butter
1 egg
75g sourdough starter
150g strong white flour
150g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
Half tsp salt

For the filling:
100g mixed dried fruit or sultanas
1 tsp mixed spice (see this recipe to make your own)
30g brown sugar
15g butter

I also had some cinnamon sugar so added a teaspoon of that too.

1. I use a bread maker to make my dough on an enriched dough setting but you can knead by hand or use a dough hook on a stand mixer if you prefer. The enriched dough setting allows for an hour and a half rise time. So if you are kneading by hand or stand mixer, remember to allow enough time for the dough to rise.

2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle shape. Approximate size of the rectangle should be 10inch x 12 inch.

3. Melt 15g butter. This can be done in 10 second bursts in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the hob. Brush the butter over your rectangular shaped dough.

4. Mix together the 100g dried fruit and 30g brown sugar along with the mixed spice.

5. Spread this over the dough. Roll the dough up from the long edge. Carefully cut into slices.

6. Grease a baking tin (one with a high edge rather than a flat tray) and arrange the slices in it leaving slight gaps between.

7. Leave to prove at room temperature.  This may take several hours until doubled in size.

8. Preheat the oven to 220 c. Bake for around 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.

If you like these sweeter, once they have cooled, you can drizzle with icing made from icing sugar and water.


Sourdough scones

Most mornings my thoughts follow the same pattern as I wake up...those initial seconds of waking up to a new day, observing what the weather is doing, wondering what adventures the day holds, before realising it is another day of isolation. We're into week 7 in our household. 

Today, I woke up excited that I had been thinking of making scones since going to bed. 

I couldn't use the last of our precious eggs for baking, so knew that scones don't have to use egg. I could just brush them with milk instead. 
I decided to use some of my sourdough starter in an attempt to get them lighter and fluffier than usual and I'm not sure if it was the addition of the sourdough starter or the rest of the recipe (which used milk and lemon juice to make buttermilk) that did it, but they turned out great so I wanted to write up the recipe quickly so I don't forget! 

I used an adapted version of this recipe from BBC Good Food

100g sourdough starter
135ml milk
310g self-raising flour
a quarter tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
38g caster sugar
squeeze lemon juice
a little milk to glaze (or a beaten egg to glaze but we only had a couple left in the current COVID situation so didn't want to use one for glazing)
A handful of sultanas
1. Preheat oven to 200C (fan oven)
2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then rub in the butter to make a breadcrumb-like texture.
3. Warm the milk for 30 seconds in the microwave. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the milk. Add the vanilla extract. Mix and set aside.
4. Add the sugar to the bowl of flour which now resembles breadcrumbs, then add the sultanas. Mix.
5. Preheat a baking sheet in the oven.
6. Mix the sourdough starter into the milk, then pour the wet mixture into the bowl of flour and mix gently to form a dough.
7. On a floured surface, pat the dough to a thickness of around 4 cm. Then using a 7cm circle cutter cut out 10 circles. Place onto the heated baking tray and brush with a little milk.
8. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until looking lightly golden.
9. Remove from oven, leave to cool slightly, serve with cream and jam or butter and jam as you prefer. 


What we've been up to: 5 weeks of isolation

It somehow feels necessary to document something about these strange times we are living in during the global COVID-19 pandemic - but exactly what I'm not sure. To think too deeply about what is happening in the world is too terrible and beyond what my brain can comprehend, yet to ignore it altogether doesn't feel right either.

So at the very least, I thought I'd put up some photos of what we've been up to in our 5 weeks of isolation so far after what ended up turning into a rant last week when I was going to do a blogpost of our time in isolation. This won't turn into a rant but just to explain the enormity of what is happening, in just over a week that has passed since I wrote that post on 4th April, the number of confirmed cases in the UK has more than doubled from 41,903 to 84,279. Tragically (but not surprisingly given the late implementation of social distancing in the UK) the number of lives lost to this disease has also more than doubled in the past week in the UK from 4,313 to 10,612. Shocking and incredibly tragic. Those numbers are people, including those who have put themselves out there to help others - our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and other key workers. 

We have been fortunate enough to be able to stay home knowing that it is important to do so. Miss T has been enjoying all sorts of hands on activities like science using a couple of her science experiments she had leftover from when she received The Curiosity Box around this time last year. You can see her original unboxings here and here

We celebrated D's 14th birthday in March. The first of the "isolation birthdays" in our family. With Miss T's 8th birthday being our second isolation birthday which was yesterday.
Emotions have been all over the place for each of us at some point or other over the past few weeks. We've had plenty of tears as well as trying to make the most of this unique chance of family time together.
Early on in March we were able to get out into the countryside near us so that daddy, J and D could keep up their running. But as the weeks went on, it became busier and busier and therefore riskier and riskier. So on the weekend of 21/22nd March we decided to stop going out at all just before the government announcement on 23rd March to #StayHome.
From that point on our only "outdoors" has been our garden for which I am feeling truly grateful for. Although it is small and so impossible for J to keep up his proper running, he occassionally does 20 mins of jogging in the garden. I do little "walks" back and forth in an attempt to keep my hip strong. 

Miss T has enjoyed playing in her sandpit, bubble play, ribbons and boules in the garden. 
More emotions...
The mouse family have enjoyed a lot of attention with new "clothes" being made for them at every opportunity.
Hot chocolates have become a rationed treat (as milk has been hard to get hold of) but one that helps get the kids through the week.
Indoor activities have included plenty of painting, arts and crafts....
Including this fantastic papier mache volcano...
My sourdough has been improving given the restrictions on buying bread...
And impromptu science experiments invented as we go along have become a great way to learn...

Every object is put to good use in some way or another...even the pencil shavings didn't go to waste - they were made into pencil shaving art first.
Visits from granny and grandad had to be conducted through glass whilst chatting on the telephone at the same time...but ended up feeling more heartbreaking and emotional than a standard zoom call as it felt they were so close and yet so far.

As Easter approached, our crafts took on an Easter theme...
And we found that even a pub quiz can be done via zoom!
The volcano has been partially painted.
And I have had my first ever attempt at quilling (harder than it looks!).
J managed to get a new high score on Crossy Road - making him the new world record holder! Wow!
We also found that the outdoors can be great for a spot of schoolwork too.
So whilst it has been a time of mixed emotions, we look for the positives and are trying to make the most of this seeing it as an opportunity. We hope that our kids will respect us for the decisions we've made throughout this time and understand that each choice we've made has been with their best interests at heart.

It has felt lonely at times. Despite having everyone at home, with Richard working so hard on the COVID-19 study, which I know is so so important but it has felt almost like he's not here at times.

The house feels constantly messy as we keep piles of school work and activities to hand for the children to do.

We are incredibly grateful for the wonders of modern technology that has enabled us to be in contact with friends and even speak to friends we've not heard from for many years. D and Miss T have even been able to have their guitar lessons via zoom.

I don't enjoy the stress caused by grocery shopping. We've been reliant on online groceries all along (and even before the COVID situation because of my back problems etc) and whilst we've been lucky enough to get a weekly slot until now, we have no future slots booked.

One of the things that has surprised me is that the days are flying by fast. Even with so much "on hold", I still feel incredibly busy. I feel like I spend a huge part of the day washing up! Our day and night has shifted somewhat with late bedtimes all round. We just take each day at a time. It's strange when the kids look to us for answers like "When will schools open?" "How much longer do we need to stay home for?" And we just have to explain that we've never been through a situation like this before (and hope that it never happens again) and so we just don't know the answers at the moment.

I'd even downloaded a new e-book to read but rarely find time for it. I suppose I am glad though that it feels like this rather than feeling like the days are going too slow.

So that's our first 5 weeks. I wonder how many more weeks there will be. Only time will tell.


Our one month isolation milestone

Today, 4th April 2020, marks exactly 1 month since we began our own self-isolation. Roll back to 4th March 2020 and the world, and the UK in particular, was a very different place both in terms of "fact" and "feeling".

At the time the numbers were as follows in the UK (5th March 2020):

115 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK
1 death in the UK from COVID-19

We sat down with our family that evening and discussed our situation. Having watched the figures from around the world and listening to what the WHO were pleading for the world to do, we decided given that 2 of our 3 children were falling into the high risk category that we would start to self-isolate.

Miss T had been off school that day having felt a little under the weather and knowing how hard it is for her to recover from even a basic cold had made us want to err on the side of caution.

Initially we had thought it would be about keeping Miss T off school but the more we thought about it, the more we realised that unless we ALL isolated, there would be little point if the other 2 children were at different schools with around 1,000 children as well as staff etc in each of their schools, the workplace that Richard was based at during that time and the training course that I was on. We knew we would all have to be on board.

Both J and D were surprisingly understanding. We feared the impact on J's GCSE's at the time (remember this was several weeks before schools closed). We feared the reaction of all 3 schools given the pressure that schools are under in terms of attendance figures.

D began his isolation that next day, J was concerned about not having all his revision books with him at home so did 1 extra day at school to collect his school work.

We made contact with friends and family to explain our decision. We knew some people just wouldn't get it because at the time the general "feeling" out there was anyone that was concerned over this was "overreacting" or "scaremongering" but somehow our gut feeling was what we knew we had to go with. We figured that "those who matter won't mind and those who mind, don't matter".

Our close friends and family, knowing Miss T's situation were remarkably supportive. Even all 3 schools were understanding and supportive of our decision.

We had offers of help for shopping from friends but between online grocery orders and the milk delivery service we were ok (although the milk delivery service went totally pear shaped soon after as demand increased beyond their ability to cope - so we've managed without them since getting no-show deliveries time after time).

Initially as much of the world carried on as normal (and seemed to be encouraged to carry on as normal with increased hand washing being seen as the UK's choice of controlling things), we continued to heed advice from the WHO. And we continued to monitor the numbers as they grew. Initially the numbers didn't seem too alarming with that 115 cases increasing to 163 cases the next day, but then it was 206 and then 273. The pattern WAS alarming - the numbers were doubling every few days. And the pattern followed regarding the number of deaths too.

Still schools remained open. How? Why? Couldn't anyone else see what was happening? On the world stage they could. Other countries had been there and regretted not taking action sooner. The WHO pleaded again for the world to take this seriously explaining that this is no dress rehearsal. It wasn't until 20th March that schools closed. And the 23rd March when the official "stay at home" isolation message from the Prime Minister came out. 

So here we are, 1 month later on the 4th April and those 115 cases in the UK are now 41,903.
That death toll of 1 person is now 4,313.

Thankfully the "feel" out there is now very much "Stay at home" but a month earlier we were definitely the odd ones out in choosing to do so.

None of us are safe yet. None of us are out the woods. We all need to do the right thing now. I say this seeing out of my window that people are STILL shaking hands (!!!) and we've even spotted people visiting each other socially.

We owe it to those who are having to work to look after us to do this thing we all need to do. 

The intention of this post was not this. I was going to write all the positives of what we had been up to and to document some of these unique circumstances that we all find ourselves in today. But I guess I needed a rant so the update on what we've been doing will have to wait.


March 2020 unboxing

What a mixed month of emotions in the midst of our global pandemic. We've managed to put together our unboxing video for March. My phone kept running out of space and cutting out so there's a few bits without a full explanation . The final prize is a photo at the end rather than video clip as we ran out of motivation too - Some Frontline flea treatment for our cat via an instagram win. Not the most glamourous prize - but always nice to win an essential item that's handy for a family member - in this case our cat Star.

There are a few wins we are yet awaiting which haven't been mentioned but will hopefully make it into next months unboxing.

Once again many thanks to my fab son Daniel (DanTheDragon) for doing all my editing as I haven't got a clue how to stick the videos together without his help!

I can also now reveal that what one of the prizes was from our January unboxing which I couldn't show at the time because it was going to be a present for Daniel...

It was a Harry Potter invisibility cloak!

It was actually an advent comp win from instagram which didn't arrive until January which is why I then decided to keep it hidden away until Daniel's birthday in March.

Let's see what April holds for us all - the best prize of all will of course be for us all to be over the worst of the pandemic by the time the end of April rolls around.