Thursday, 23 October 2014

Exbury Autumn Colours

A few weekends ago, before the high winds started to strip the branches of their jewel coloured leaves we took a trip into the New Forest to walk around Exbury Gardens.
When we visited in late Spring we only managed to walk around half the site so this visit we prepared ourselves with plenty of snacks and brought two children who were keen to run along every path! I think we pretty much covered most of the Gardens.
Happily I found my favourite spot from our last visit...
I'd love to return once a season to take a photo in exactly the same spot. Perhaps that will be my very own photo challenge for next year!
When I'm out taking photos I like to look up or look down, rather than just taking pictures of what is directly in front of me.
Looking up I see beautiful patterns and leaves like these...

When I look down this is what I find...

Of course there are beautiful things to see, right in front of me too...

Exbury Gardens you wowed us again...we can't wait to wrap up warm and visit you before your Winter rest!
Joining in this week with "How Does Your Garden Grow?"

Monday, 20 October 2014

Sonny Angel with Laduree Patisseries Collection #BigReveal Competition

I'm excited to introduce you to a very special member of the latest Sonny Angel collection, who was sent to me last week as part of the #BigReveal campaign.

The Sonny Angel brand have teamed up wiuth the iconic Parisian baker, Laduree to lauch a limited edition, 10th Birthday, Patisseries Collection.

This collection introduces 12 new characters, 6 angels wearing macaroons and 6 wearing beautiful pastries, such as Saint-Honore Rose Framboise. As with every previous Sonny Angel collection there is also a super secret version.

The beauty of Sonny Angels is that they are sold in blind boxes, so you will never know which one you are receiving, to get a complete set you will need to encourage friends to also collect them so you can swap with each other!

As well as being super cute, the creators also believe that Sonny Angels' will bring their owners happiness, luck and daily enjoyment. You're promised protection, smiles and comfort...all for a RRP of £13!

The official distributor of Sonny Angels in the UK is Asobi Toys

So who did I receive?

I've been incredibly lucky to receive the secret thirteenth Angel...

How cute does my Angel look?!! This little fellow is pretty rare so I'm feeling very lucky that he's found his way into our home...perhaps he will being me baking luck when I finally attempt to make macaroons. One thing's for sure, he'll be being kept very safe and out of the reach of small hands!!

I have also been offered another Angel to give away to a reader of Time to be an Adult. Unfortunately it's only open to UK residents and due to each angel being boxed there is no option to choose which Angel you would like - it's all luck of the draw!

There are 11 other bloggers, each holding a giveaway. Use #SonnyReveal on Twitter to find them and visit their blogs for more chances to win your very own Angel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a complimentary Sonny Angel along with a second Sonny Angel to giveaway to my readers. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.

Post Comment Love

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Time to think about Christmas' Past...

When I heard that travel brand Transun were running a competition to win a trip to Lapland it got me feeling all festive and thinking about my favourite Christmas.

It wasn't the Christmas that I spent New Year in a snow blanketed hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands with my boyfriend at the time. He was (and still is) a talented chef and had been invited up to cook a gourmet feast for 20 lucky guests. While he was busy in the kitchen, I was busy trying to keep the hyperactive children of the guests quietly amused in another room...for free...until 11.30pm. The warming whiskey we sipped out on the snow covered lawn as fireworks were set off around us, went some ways to thaw my grumpy mood, sadly not all the way and I retired to bed, leaving everyone to party into the small hours.

It certainly wasn't our first Christmas after Dad passed away. We did everything the same as the previous year, trying to hold on to memories and normality but every house we visited had the same gap where he should have been standing. We snapped and sniped at each other and "Carrot-gate" is still wryly re-told over a glass of red wine every now and then.

Last year we took Sion's mum & step-dad out for Christmas Day lunch, our festive secret ready to be told. A quiet word away with the waiter to change my previously ordered pate to something safer was forgotten when he returned to our table and loudly said "Your order's all changed, and can I just say congratulations!!" Yes, the waiter told the in-laws I was expecting before we'd even taken our coats off.

No, my favourite Christmas was in 1986 when I was eight years old. The week before Christmas my Grandad had brought home the tree, always a real one, always more ball shaped than triangle and with needles already shedding into the carpet. The box of decorations was carefully brought down from the loft. Decorations we had made in infants school were wrapped with the same love as blown glass decorations that my grandparents had brought in the 1940s. Glittery and gaudy decorations, all mis-matching were hung from every branch by my brother and I. The little robin decoration, so old both his wings had long fallen off would have had pride of place. Miniature Chinese lantern lights, older than my Auntie & Uncle were draped onto the tree and overseeing the operation, sat in her chair, in amongst boxes and tissue paper was my Gran. Each year she would take the Christmas fairy and make her a new skirt out of crepe paper, glitter and sequins. Her arms and legs were lose from years of being posed on every tree. If I was really good I would be allowed to help fashion her new dress, but placing her atop the tree would always be Grandad's job.

Christmas Eve, we walked to a beautiful old church where my great grandparents were buried. Like every year we left a homemade wreath and had a little tidy up before heading home. The evening was spent watching the special tv programmes before a bath and a sit in front of the fire, in new pyjamas, to let my hair dry. I was allowed a cup of tea - more milk than tea, in my Muppets mug, before being sent up to bed to fall asleep under my candlewick bedspread.

Christmas Day itself started way before it got light by Auntie Ros banging the banister shouting "I'm up, you're all up!" My brother and I quickly open our presents while drinking more tea and eating as many shortbread petticoat biscuits as we could fit in. I remember I got a brand new guitar that I couldn't wait to practice, as well as some Fisher Price roller skates. We spent the morning playing outside with our friends, swapping stories of what we got, before heading back home. The men wandered down to the pub, while my Gran and Auntie made a mountain of food, the kitchen windows steaming up until condensation started to roll down. At some point they must have been ahead of schedule. I remember them coming into the front room where I was happily playing with my new wax crayons, with a glass of Bailey's each. I was given a tiny little glass too - "Don't tell Daddy you've had it, he'll have my guts for garters!"

After our Christmas lunch, where EVERYONE wore their hats, we went into the front room, some snoozed away their painful bellies, some played a board game, probably scrabble. I read my Victoria Plum books and filled in some of my Blue Peter annual (a stocking staple for many years). As people started to come back to life we looked around, waiting for the first person to say "I feel a bit peckish, you know" Out came cold meat, cheese, homemade sausage rolls and plenty of homemade pickled onions and piccalilli. The Christmas cake was brought out in the evening too. I remember it was decorated with a little plastic house with a christmas tree and three plastic robins, each bigger than the plastic house. I remember not really liking Christmas cake, but loving the icing and marzipan. I fell asleep on the sofa (probably watching Morecambe & Wise!) and woke up to the twinkling lights of the tree, before being carried up to bed by my Dad.

Two years ago I watched my 3 year old niece stare in awe at the sparkling tree in the same place as it's always been, I watched her excitedly eating biscuits before she ate her breakfast sat in a big box. I saw what my Gran and Grandad must have seen all those years ago.

Sadly this year we lost our much longed for Christmas surprise and had to say goodbye to a much loved family member, but Christmas day will still be celebrated by us.

You see it's not about the presents, the designer decorations or the stunning location. It's about the people and the memories, its about setting up a home production line to make huge numbers of sausage rolls and mince pies, it's about buying a Christmas pudding even though no-one likes it, it's about being home...and despite never having a white Christmas, it will always be about opening the curtains in the early hours of the morning to check for snow.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a day trip to Lapland for four people, courtesy of Transun, write about your favourite Christmas experience. Make sure you tweet your entry to @Transun, using the hashtag #TransunXMAS. The deadline is 11.59pm on Tuesday 21st October 2014. Further details can be found here - Good Luck!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A gift for man's best friend

Meet Cassan. Cassan is quite possibly the fluffiest, friendliest Golden Retriever you will ever meet. He is also obsessive about his chews and toys. He plays with them exclusively until they are so chewed , matted and smelly that they have to be thrown away. You can imagine how hard that is when he looks at you with his baleful eyes as his favourite toy gets relegated to the bin.

Luckily for Cassan I attended the Lemur Linkup Blogger Biz match up in Dorset last Monday and got talking to John Palmer-Snellin, the owner of Staglers. He uses naturally fallen antlers from Spain and hand cuts them into various sizes to suit all dogs. They are 100% natural, eco-friendly and most importantly to Cassan and his canine friends, safe. Antlers do not shatter like some bones and they are recommended by vets as a natural teeth cleaner.

From a boring, human perspective the great thing about Stagler chews is that they don't go soft and they don't all! They also last far longer than other cereal or rawhide type chews.

But what about from a dog's perspective? Looking at how focused Cassan is on his new chew I would say he likes it very much! One week in and he is still in love with it, playing with it constantly and most definitely not sharing it with any of his other canine friends. I think it's a winner!

Staglers dog chews range in price from £4.49 for a small chew up to £19.99 for a jumbo size. They also do a special "Jawsome" size chew for £36.00 that is for very large breed dogs with a strong bite. The chews will last most dogs at least 6 weeks, making it a more affordable treat than cheaper, short lasting alternatives.

Staglers are stocked in a number of pet shops, garden centres and retailers in the UK, or you can order directly through their website, with free delivery for orders over £38.00

I received two complimentary Stagler chews for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions remain my own (and Cassan's).
Family Fever

Monday, 13 October 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Caramel Croquembouche

It's time for my final bake for  the Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014. Jenny's instructions were to bake something a bit special using a bake that has been featured in this year's GBBO series. Now most people will play it sensibly and bake something that they have done before, or at least have an idea of how it is put together.

I was musing about what to bake, the laminated pastry didn't wow me and I've made sponges, scones and lemon tarts before and wanted to challenge myself. Sion helped the decision making process by saying to me "I love profiteroles, have you ever made them?" Well no I hadn' idea began to form. Why settle at standard profiteroles, or even chocolate eclairs? The show stopper was going to be coming to our kitchen...sponge cake?...tick, caramel?...tick, choux pastry?...tick, even petit four?...if you count a cupcake as petit four...tick! I give you my version of a Caramel Croquembouche

I baked everything in the morning, then filled the profiteroles and built the croquembouche just before heading to my sister-in-law's for our weekly Strictly viewing. The whole thing was assembled at her house, hence the slightly dark photos. Sadly my spun sugar started to quickly melt in the warm kichen, but the croquembouche held firm!

Ingredients & Method

For the caramel sauce - originally from this banoffee pie recipe

100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
400g can condensed milk.

Place the butter and sugar in a non stick pan over a low heat stiring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Add the condensed milk and slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously. As soon as the mixture thickens and smells of caramel, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Before starting to bake make a small cone using card to act as a mould for your croquembouche. Line this with baking parchment and fold the excess into the bottom of the cardboard cone. When it comes to removing the mould you will want to release the cardboard cone first then the baking parchment will easily come away from the croquembouch. You will find it easier to ask someone to gently hold the crochembouch while you remove the cone.

For the Caramel madeira sponge cake and cupcakes (enough for a 7" sponge cake and 8 cupcakes)

Preheat the oven to 180C

290g softened butter, cut into cubes
290g light brown sugar
5 medium eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
3 tbsp milk
415g self raising flour

To decorate

Apricot jam
Chocolate glaze - double up the recipe as here
Caramel sauce
Fudge peices cut into small squares
Edible gold leaf

Cream the butter & sugar together until light & fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time with a little flour to stop the mix splitting. Once all the eggs have been added fold in the remaining flour, vanilla paste & milk.

Transfer two thirds into a greased 7" cake tin and the remaining third into muffin trays lined with cases, you will need about a tablespoon of batter in each case. Bake the cupcakes for 17-20 minutes and the cake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking, this will stop it collapsing.

When baked cool the cupcakes on a cooling rack. Leave the main cake in it's tin for 5 minutes and then release and carefully place the cake onto another cooling rack with greaseproof paper underneath. Once all the cakes have cooled gently warm the apricot jam on a low heat until runny and brush onto the cake and cupcakes. Make your glaze and once cooled to 30C pour over the cake to cover completely. Carefully spoon the glaze over your cupcakes to cover the sponge but not run over the edge of the cases.

Put some of your pre-made caramel sauce into a piping bag and pipe a swirly design onto the tops of your cakes. Add a small square of fudge to your cupcakes and gently place a piece of gold leaf onto the top of the fudge. You will need to use cocktail sticks for this. Do not use your fingers as the moisture will make the leaf stick to you rather than the cake!

For the profiteroles - Original recipe by Delia Smith

100g butter, cut into small squares
300ml cold water
120g strong plain flour
2tsp golden caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten

500ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp caramel sauce

Preheat your oven to 200C

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar, set aside.

In a medium saucepan heat the butter and water over a moderate heat. As soon as the butter is melted and the mixture comes to the boil, turn off the heat. Tip in the flour and sugar and beat vigourously with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ball of paste and the side of the saucepan are clean. This will probably take less than a minute.

Gradually beat in the eggs a little at a time, until you have a smooth, glossy paste that slowly falls off the wooden spoon.

Run your greased baking sheets under cold running water for a few seconds and tap to get rid of excess moisture. This will help your profiteroles to rise.

Place teaspoons of choux pastry onto the trays, leaving a 1" gap. and bake on a high shelf for 10 minutes, after that increase the temperature to 220C and bake for 15-20 minutes until the buns are crisp and golden in colour. Peirce the side of each one to let out steam and return them to the oven for a few minutes and cool on a wire rack. You may need to bake these in batches.

Place the icing sugar and cream in a bowl and whip until thick. Drizzle the caramel sauce onto the whipped cream and gently fold in.

Just before you want to serve your croquembouche cut a small hole into the bottom of each profiterole. Put the whipped cream into a piping bag and pipe a small amount of cream into each one.

To assemble

Please treat the caramel carefully. Molten sugar is extremely hot and will give you a nasty burn if it gets on your skin (as my extremely sore finger now knows!). Do not let children help with this stage. If you are unsure, use melted chocolate instead of caramel to stick your croquembouche together.

Gently heat 150g caster sugar in a small heavy non stick pan. Once the sugar begins to melt around the edges, gently stir using a metal spoon to allow all the sugar to melt. Keep it on the heat until the caramel is golden in colour and then remove from the heat. Carefully dip each profiterole into the caramel and place around your mould. If the caramel hardens too much place back on the heat to soften. Once all your profiteroles are on the mould dip a fork into the remaining caramel and drizzle over the croquembouche. You could also make some spun sugar, using a greased wooden spoon to flick the sugar over. This video tutorial will give you a guide.

Put your large cake onto a cake stand. Gently remove the mould from your croquembouche and place onto the cake. Top with spun sugar and add the cupcakes to the stand. 

And that's it...simple!! I've really enjoyed taking part in this bake along. It's been challenging but so much fun. Please pop over to Mummy Mishaps and Supergolden Bakes to see what everyone else is creating for this final week.

Tasty Tuesdays on