Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Baking with Renshaw: Decorating Cupcakes and a Fabulous GIVEAWAY

The fabulous people over at Renshaw Baking sent me the most amazing package full of their baking goodies to test out a few weeks ago. I was brimming with ideas and couldn't wait to get started. 

First of all I hit Pinterest to get some inspiration for how to decorate successfully with fondant icing. My plan was to make two batches of cupcakes, and decorate them with elaborate icing decorations - for two very special birthdays - my friend Alison turning 62, and my husband's nan who was turning 94!! 

Follow Lucy Bishop's board Cupcake decoration ideas on Pinterest.

First things first I baked the cakes - chocolate sponge with dark chocolate centre cupcakes, and plain vanilla cupcakes. I iced the chocolate cakes with homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting, and made a plain vanilla frosting with my homemade vanilla extract for the vanilla cupcakes.

I went for a pink and green theme - as these are Liam's Nan's favourite colours - I also knew I wanted to incorporate cats and crafts somewhere - as they are both important things to the birthday ladies. I coloured the vanilla frosting a very light green, and then set to work making my decorations using the fabulous ready to roll icing packs that Renshaw had sent me. 

Co-ordinating my icing with apron, as you do! 

Stamping out little flowers from my Renshaw icing...

Icing flowers everywhere! 

I used a silicone leaf mat to print leaf shapes onto icing, and then carefully cut them out. Painstaking job! 

I curled some of the leaves before they dried to make them look a little more realistic. 

Next I marbled together two shades of pink icing - and then used a small star cutter to cut out these cute little stars! 

Next I combined two shades of brown and yellow fondant to create this tortoiseshell effect - I then pushed the fondant into a silicone button mat (which I bought ages ago to make chocolate "buttons") - this was very fiddly but totally worth it as I was so pleased with how the buttons turned out.

Next I made a super special single cupcake for my friend Alison, who is cat-mad...I used inspiration from my Pinterest board to create a cat face using fondant. This was pretty tricky, and so I'm glad I had only decided to make one of these, otherwise I'd have been chained to the kitchen for hours longer! I was really pleased with how this little fella turned out... 

I was super-chuffed with my finished cakes, especially as it was my first time using fondant to decorate cupcakes. I don't usually go in for highly decorated bakes, and instead to try to concentrate on the quality of the bake and flavours, but on this occasion it was really nice to get ├╝ber-creative and have a play.

My finished flower cakes

Chocolate cupcakes decorated with Renshaw icing flowers. 

Buttons and stars cake! 

Marble stars cake

The Renshaw products were so fun to work with, all the colours are really even and so vibrant. The ready to roll fondant is lovely and soft and malleable, which makes it a pleasure to mould. I especially loved the effect I got when marbling colours together. I'm looking forward to coming up with fun ways to use the rest of my Renshaw stash! 

If you'd like to get your hands on your own Renshaw stash of goodies, then I have one to giveaway to a lucky reader - to enter just use the Gleam App below. 

Good Luck Everyone! 

And Happy Baking! 

Mrs B 


WIN a Renshaw Baking Hamper

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Apricot Shortbread from Whitworths

Today I'm bring you my final recipe from my work with Whitworths on the #whitworthsbakingchallenge. A lovely simple twist on a traditional shortbread recipe, these biscuits are super quick and easy to bake, perfect for baking with children, and most importantly they taste really delicious. 

The really great thing about baking shortbread is that you will usually find you already have all of the ingredients in your store cupboard, and it is such a versatile recipe you can add any flavouring you'd like. Why not try a little lemon zest, some mixed spice for a Christmassy feel, some chocolate chips or even some sultanas...the possibilities are endless. 



70g Whitworths Chopped Apricots
125g unsalted butter, softened
55g caster sugar
180g plain flour
1 tsp good vanilla extract


Pre heat your oven to 160℃ then lightly grease a baking tray.

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and then add the flour, vanilla and chopped apricots to form a dough. 

Roll out on a lightly floured surface. approximately 1 cm thick and cut into 12 biscuits with your favourite cutter. 

Place onto a baking tray and then chill for 20 minutes in the fridge. 

Bake in the centre of your oven for 16-18 minutes until a pale golden colour.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack then eat and enjoy!

You could also try dipping the biscuits in your favourite chocolate then enjoy them once the chocolate has set. 

We opted for the plain shortbread with added chopped apricot pieces and they were really delicious. The apricot pieces go jammy and chewy after baking and add a lovely sweet hit to the crunch and crumble of the buttery biscuit. 

We took a bit tin of them along to a friends garden party and they were devoured by both adults and children alike! 

It's been really fun teaming up with Whitworths on this series of bakes and I hope you've enjoyed the recipes I've shared. 

I'm off back to the kitchen now as I have a batch of freshly baked digestive biscuits that need dipping in dark chocolate... must dash!

Happy Baking Everyone! 

Mrs B


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Welcome to The Furchester Hotel DVD Giveaway

Have your little ones discovered The Furchester Hotel yet? 

Bert absolutely loves it - he's been watching it ever since it first aired on CBeebies. His favourite character is the mega cute Elmo (he was also my favourite back in my Sesame Street days!) and he finds the whole programme pretty hilarious. The premise? Well, the Furchester is basically a hotel run by Sesame Street monsters. What could possibly go wrong?

Funella, Furgus, and their daughter Pheobe run the quirky establishment with warmth, hospitality, and cheerful incompetence. Funella's nephew Elmo has come to visit from America and Cookie Monster has landed his dream job as a waiter, making sure no one ever gets what they actually order. With guests ranging from animals, vegetables and minerals, there's always a surprise in store. When the surprises turn to catastrophes, the team must put their furry heads together to save the day! 

Abbey Home Media have recently released their first ever Furchester DVD which contains six lively episodes full of creative problem solving, songs and lots of furry mayhem. The DVD runs for 66 minutes. 

Bert has really enjoyed having Furchester on tap - he literally couldn't get any closer to the tv screen if he tried! Ha! 

Bert enjoying having The Furchester Hotel on tap! 

Bert also loves playing The Furchester Hotel game on the CBeebies app - he literally gets transfixed by it, and it's so educational that I never mind him playing with it. 

If you'd like to get your hands on a copy of the brand new DVD then just fill out the Gleam app below. 

It would make a great Christmas gift for any little tot - so if you want to start popping things away early for Christmas then it's totally worth an entry! 


Mrs B 

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Bod Pod & Parkrun

Well, I've certainly gotten this weekend off to a wonderful start and couldn't wait to share it with you..

Yesterday (Friday) saw me head off to my local uni (University of Bedfordshire) to have body composition testing done once again. A Bod Pod is basically a giant egg-like chamber, which you sit in wearing form fitting clothing (swimwear) and a swimming cap, and it uses air displacement to work out your body composition. You can find them at good sports science universities and some hospitals. My first Bod Pod test was back in April last year (2014) and I was excited to see what changes I've made since then. 

Some people think I'm mad to want to know my exact body fat %, lean mass, BMI, BMR etc - but for me knowledge is power and I know that the number on the scales at home can be misleading. Your overall weight doesn't tell you how much fat you're carrying, and where, or how much muscle you're building - and we all know that muscle is heavier than fat - so scales although great for giving us a general idea of our health/fitness can't give us all the answers, where as Bod Pod body composition testing, can. There is only a 2% margin of error with the Bod Pod, so it's a hugely reliable piece of kit and my don't-bury-your-head-in-the-sand attitude to my health/weight/fitness means it can provide me with all the information I need to continue to improve my health for the better. 

I had the testing done alongside my bestie Liz, who is also very health-conscious, and works out endlessly (she does Crossfit and lifts weights - she's a proper action girl) Liz's energy and her also fairly recently discovered love for exercise really helps to inspire me and push me forward, so she was the perfect choice in Bod Pod partner. 

Liz loves to rib me a lot (lovingly) about being a blogger, and always stopping to take photos etc - so she took great pleasure in winding me up about taking a selfie in the testing room at the sports science lab. Lovely Tracie who did our testing was giggling at us, and we all chatted and swapped stories as the testing took place. 

So, the results...what did the numbers say? Firstly, it was vital for me to understand where I had come from...18 months previously I had weighed in at 13 stone 9 lbs, had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30.8 and body fat percentage of 42.6%, I had 36.1kg of fat within my body - which put me into the overweight/obese categories for everything. 

I'm proud to report a very different set of findings yesterday...

Weight: 10 st 8 lbs
BMI: 24
Body Fat Percentage: 25%
Fat Mass: 15.7kg

In 18 months I have lost 3 stone 1 lb, reduced my BMI by 6.8 points (from obese to normal), reduced my body fat percentage by a staggering 17.6%, and lost over 20kgs in fat mass!! 

That's info that the scales will just never be able to tell you. 

I am now in the healthy categories for everything - and I have to tell you that it feels amazing - I genuinely never thought I'd see the day - WOOP WOOP! 

The testing left me feeling totally high, proud of how far I've come, and excited for the future. Ideally, as I've said before I'd like to reach the illusive 10 stone, and it would be amazing to reduce my body fat percentage a little further down to say 20-21%. I am hoping that by slowly upping the intensity of the exercise I get I will be able to build more muscle and burn that extra fat. 

So, as it stands I have now lost 6 stone 8 lb in total since September 2013. 

Still on a massive high from yesterday - today I woke up feeling energised and powerful. Hubby and I had decided mid-week that we would participate in Bedford 5k Parkrun again this weekend, as we had a nice quiet weekend planned and knew we could fit it in easily.  

As a non-runner (I'd barely run to catch a bus before September this year) I am a little bit in awe of runners, especially having watched my husband Liam transform from literal couch-potato to marathon runner in less than a year. So, my recent decision to give running a go has been quite a revelation for me. Inspired 100% by Liam and my good friend Janet, who also runs frequently, I decided to give it a go last month and managed a 5k in just under 39 minutes while pushing Bert in the buggy. I was euphoric and so pleased to have completed it - I had managed to get round with a combination of running and power walking, and I was chuffed to bits. Ever pragmatic though, I had set myself the challenge to do it again this month without the buggy, and to attempt to run the whole thing. So, I went out and got myself some proper running gear and asked hubby (now running expert) lots of advice about what to eat/drink beforehand etc. 

Before the run: decked out in my proper running gear! 

I'm so pleased to be able to say that I totally achieved my target today and managed to run the whole thing without any stalling or power walking. Yay! I fuelled up properly on a delicious breakfast two hours before the run of sourdough toast with tahini (sweetened with honey) and a banana, I was raring to go and couldn't wait to get on that start line... 

Running fuel: Sourdough toast with sweetened tahini and banana 

Bedford Parkrun: On the start line & raring to go! 

I genuinely thoroughly enjoyed today's run - it was liberating to run without the buggy (Liam ran with Bert today) and I found myself quickly getting into a good rhythm which I was able to keep up for the whole of the run. With music blasting in my ears, the beautiful park to admire on the way round and that smug feeling that only people running around a park first thing on a weekend can appreciate I worked my way round the 5k course, finishing in 36 minutes and 59 seconds! 

My pace was fairly consistent across the 3 miles:

Mile 1: 11:46
Mile 2: 12:12
Mile 3: 11:58

And although I'm well aware I won't be breaking any land-speed records with those times, the fact that I did it without the need to walk has made me hugely proud. I CAN RUN. It's a big milestone for me and it is exciting to be building new challenges into my exercise routine. It is important for me to always have new achievements on the horizon. 

I plan to take part in Parkrun once a month so as not to put too much strain on my three slipped discs - I know that running isn't a sensible exercise choice for me, and so will stick to my fast power walking long-term and keep the running to a once monthly occurrence. Perhaps one day, once I've had the back surgery I need, I'll be able to run on a weekly basis - who knows? 

So - next month (early November) I hope to complete the Parkrun once again, and who knows, maybe I'll be able to shave a little bit off my time? 

After burning 613 calories this morning with my 5k run & 1 hours walking (we walked 30 mins to the park, and back) I am enjoying guilt-free extra calories in the form of a delicious lunch treat...

Post run lunch: Sourdough toast with scrambled eggs/spinach and local Woburn bacon.

Quoting my good friend Janet (who inspires me all the time with her amazing abilities), being able to eat awesome food, guilt free is " #WhyIRun

What a great hashtag! 

Seriously, it's the best perk of regular exercise - eating the foods you love without the worry that you'll pack on the pounds in the process is awesome and worth every single minute of exercise if you pick your treat food wisely. 

So, what a start to the weekend! 

I'm off to complete my rather long work to do list now...

I hope you are all having #WonderfulWeekends too. 

Mrs B 


PS. If you're a fellow blogger don't forget to link up to our new #WonderfulWeekends linky this month. Come on over and share what wonderful things you're filling up your weekends with and spread some positivity! 

Friday, 2 October 2015

#WonderfulWeekends Linky

Exciting times on the blog as today myself and my good friend and fellow-Bedford-blogger Sarah from Sarah Kate Makes launch our first ever Linky! 

Mrs B & Sarah 

We'd love for fellow bloggers to join in with our monthly link-up...our aim is to create a list of lovely blog posts that describe the #WonderfulWeekends you all have. As champions of positivity and mindfulness, Sarah and I want to inject some extra-joy into our corners of the inter webs and it would be amazing if you could all spread-the-weekend-love too. 

All you have to do is add a link to any posts you write this month about wonderful weekend activities - it might be a family day out, a delicious meal, a mums/dads 'day off', or might just be a lazy weekend in your pjs - as long as it is wonderful to you then it is wonderful to us too! It could be an image collage post of pictures from your weekend, or a full on written post, it could be a review of family day out - anything goes, whatever works for you! 

Remember to add the #WonderfulWeekends blog badge to your post, and to use the hashtag on social media. If you have time we'd really appreciate it if you have a peek at some other posts in the linky too and comment with the #WonderfulWeekends hashtag.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Wonderful Weekend Book - Reclaiming Life's Simple Pleasures by Elspeth Thompson

Back in July 2013 I wrote THIS POST about my discovery of Elspeth Thompson's 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' - thanks to my best mate Liz giving me a copy as a random act of kindness. I devoured the whole book in almost one sitting (ahh, those child-free days when I could read a book for longer than 5 minutes, hehe!) Every word in it resonated with me, and since then it has made me much more mindful of my weekends - ever since finishing the book I have tried to achieve a sense of balance across my weekends, a happy medium between relaxing and productive.

I love books like this that really make me think and reflect on my own life, my own choices - and how making different choices can hugely affect one's happiness and contentment. I'm a do-er, and anyone who reads my writing often will know I'm an advocate of taking responsibility for your own happiness. It is all about positivity, mindset and seeking pleasure in the small stuff. If something is making you unhappy, change it. And if your weekends aren't full of joy and pleasure, then changes need to be made...

How To Achieve A Wonderful Weekend

I ask myself two simple questions during the week leading up to the weekend...

What do I want to do this weekend? 

What do I need to do this weekend? 

After I have answered those questions honestly, and usually written a list or three (I love a list, me!) I set to work planning out the weekend ahead.

Since having Bert our weekends have become even more precious to us - it is our special family time when the three of us get two days uninterrupted by Daddy's work to spend quality time together. Since starting work as a freelancer though, I have had to get used to also building some work time for me into the weekends, as Liam can keep Bert occupied for a long period so I can get my head down and get on. However, I try to get as much done in the week during Bert's nap times to ensure I don't have to give up too much of my precious weekend to work. Balance is the key. 

Of course, our weekend's aren't all action-packed with family day's out, we, like everyone, have to do the mundane jobs around the house too - washing, cleaning, tidying, organising, food shopping, DIY...where possible though I try to get most of the mundane things done during the week like the washing a cleaning, so that the weekend can be more free for the fun stuff. 

Elspeth says we need to rescue "our precious free time from the strange-hold of supermarkets, fast food and flat-pack furniture and get back to whatever it is we deem most important in our lives, be it family, friends, creativity, contact with nature or finding more out about the world in which we live." 

I have her words etched into my brain now: weekends are for living, being creative, having fun, connecting with the people I love - not getting people-rage in Aldi, or battling the queues of IKEA. Unless those jobs are something I WANT to do at a weekend, and sometimes they are. 

I guess first and foremost in order to achieve a wonderful weekend you need to understand what makes you personally happy. It will be different things for different people, but once you've actually sat down and thought about it, made a list even, you will find yourself much more focussed and clear. You will often be surprised that the things you thought made you happy (money, nice things, expensive days out, spa days, shopping) might not actually be the true key to your own happiness...

Elspeth writes, "Our jobs and the increased affluence they bring have not, on the whole, made us happy" (If you haven't read Oliver James's Affluenza then I urge you to do so, a real eye opener!) "On the contrary, recent research on the nature of happiness suggests that what most people need in order to feel content is not big cars or fancy clothes but the straightforward stuff: a good walk, watching the sunset, time with family and friends and some wholesome homemade food." It is through reading this back in 2013 that I re-evaluated the things that cause me true, unadulterated happiness...

I put together a list of all the things that make my weekends I have enjoyed reading back through the list and thinking about what's changed (if anything) and if there are new things I'd add to my list.

Lucy's Wonderful Weekends 2013

-crafts and hobbies -reading -lie in's -spending time with family -meals out -blog writing              -de-cluttering & organising -picnics -TV/film nights -trips to the theatre -baking & cooking   
-cleaning -washing -shopping -long walks -visit the beach -swimming
-having weekend guests -socialising with friends -BBQ's -home improvement & DIY   
-weekends away -time in the garden -pampering -breakfasts & brunches -afternoon tea 
-girlie nights -attending parties -planning events -family days out 

Actually, not a lot has changed in terms of my tastes for weekend activities. Obviously with the addition of Bert to our family I now feel that the 'family days out/spending time with family' parts are much higher up on the weekend priority list now. I would also add 'a weekend run//parkrun' to my list of weekend activities - I'm about to embark on my second Bedford Parkrun this weekend and I can't wait - I'm excited about pushing myself/my body, and hopefully achieving a new better time...competing only with myself with a determination to improve my fitness and become the healthiest Mumma for Bert. 

Some of the weekend activities listed above I no longer get to do as often as I did pre-kids, but I do think I work hard to include all of them in my busy life at some point. I guess it is all about priorities - I am a huge advocate for self-care, being kind to yourself, and giving yourself a break: I see so many busy parents (both female and male) who are exhausted, run ragged, worn down, and feel like they have little of their 'old selves' remaining since kids came along. I am determined not to be that sort of parent - I do not wish to lose my 'me-ness' to parenting... yes, I am a parent and it is my most important job but I am also a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a crafter, a baker, a mover & shaker..(ha ha you catch my drift!) And so I don't ever feel guilty for taking time for me, to do the things I love, and nurture myself as well as my family. 

For me, mindfulness is the key to having wonderful balanced weekends - being mindful of what you want to achieve from your weekend and not just ambling through with no aims, no plans. Some of us might be guilty of making unrealistic plans, perhaps setting ourselves a huge list of unachievable jobs which will not only wear you out in your attempt to achieve them but will also leave you feeling frustrated when you haven't completed them all by Sunday evening! Equally, some of us don't plan anything at all, despite the same need to 'get stuff done', and it's those people who find they get to Sunday night thinking "what did I actually DO this weekend?" if that sounds like you then perhaps you need to start planning a little more - striking a balance between what NEEDS to be done, and what you'd LIKE to do. 

I use inspiration from Elspeth's fabulous book, along with my own reflective and mindful mindset to scribble notes, ideas, aims, jobs, and wishes in my beautiful Rob Ryan notebook (which was a gorgeous gift from my lovely friend Clare a few years ago) to ensure I get the most from my weekends, to ensure I get the jobs done but have a whole load of fun in between - I try to strike a balance between action-packed fun-filled weekends, and then some quieter weekends based mainly at home, slowing down the pace and catching up with jobs.

Recently, my weekends have been action-packed and full of wonderfully fun activities both with family and friends, on my own and with Liam/Bert - the jobs might not have been done, the house may be a little messy and dusty - but boy am I HAPPY! 

I've been wined and dined at the MAD Blog Awards in London with my blogging bestie Emma (From Mrs Shilts), I've messed around in a Photo Booth with Dr Ranj off the TV, I've spent an amazing day with my friend Sarah at The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court indulging in all things crafty, I have baked cakes and been creative, we took Bert to the local film festival to see a children's film called 'Bears', we have had a caked-treat at our local patisserie, we have celebrated friends' birthdays with tea parties and last weekend we celebrated Liam's Nan's 94th birthday!!

Here is a little snippet in photo form of some of my recent #WonderfulWeekends... 

The MAD Blog Awards, Kensington (18.0915)

The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court (19.0915)

Cake making, family day out, patisserie treat, competition prizes arriving and DIY'ing. Saturday 26th Sept 2015. 

Two birthday parties on one Sunday: my friend Alison's 62nd Birthday tea party followed by afternoon cake celebrating Nanny Flossie's 94th Birthday! 

What #WonderfulWeekends...

What makes your weekends wonderful?

Mrs B 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

WIN a Sensory Miffy Toy with Miffy's Adventures Big & Small *GIVEAWAY*

I'm a huge fan of 'classic' children's characters - by classic, I mean those from my own childhood - Sooty, Sweep and Sue, Rainbow, Button Moon, The Moomins, The Animals of Farthing Wood, The Racoons, The Riddlers...there are so many characters etched into my childhood, and one that is very special to me is Miffy. She was a character that I absolutely adored as a child. 

I vividly remember borrowing Miffy books from the school library and pouring over the wonderful colours, clear images and enchanting little characters. So when I heard that children's TV channel Tiny Pop were launching a brand new Miffy CGI animation show this Friday, I was mega excited! I am eager to tune in and introduce Bert to another character from my childhood...

Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small airs exclusively across the channel’s Freeview, satellite and cable platforms from 2nd October.

With Miffy’s 60th anniversary celebrations in full swing this year, the new series marks the first time the iconic white bunny has ever been seen in CGI. 

Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small has been developed by London-based animation studio Blue-Zoo, and features 52 x 7’ episodes. It is the animated sequel to the successful Miffy and Friends, the initial stop motion series which aired in more than 70 countries from 2003 onwards.

Featuring new children’s voices, plus new characters and locations, each CGI episode features Miffy exploring the exciting world around her, with simple narrative and cheerful songs to drive it along. It will be faster paced and have more expressive animation than the previous series, yet remains true to the simplicity and iconic style of Miffy’s creator, Dick Bruna.

Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small will become a key part of Tiny Pop’s evening block, Cuddle Time, which features gentle programming allowing kids, mums and dads to enjoy calmer family favourites before bedtime.


We can't wait to tune in for #miffytime, and to help get you even more excited, I have a wonderful prize of a beautiful sensory Miffy toy to giveaway to one of my lucky readers...
Just enter below using the Gleam app. 
WIN A Sensory Miffy Toy
SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky