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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Book Review: The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Information | Posted on 18-09-2012

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For anyone heading to the sold out Cake & Bake Show this weekend – I’ll see you there! – one of the main attractions will be Edd Kimber, winner of the first series of the Great British Bake Off. He’ll be speaking at the show, showing off some of his baking skills and signing pre-release copies of his brand new book “Say It With Cake” which is due for release in October. He’ll also be signing copies of his best selling first book, “The Boy Who Bakes”. Here I take a look at his first book, just to whet your appetites before this weekends show.

“The Boy Who Bakes” features a range of recipes, from well known classics to some lesser known recipes, all featuring Edd’s personal twist. Recipes for cookies and traybakes mix with cakes and desserts, but every one tempts me to make it, which makes this a great book. I liked the fact that I hadn’t heard of some of the bakes, some hailing from around the globe. As well as being a delicious book, it was also a bit of an education.

Edd was famous in the Great British Bake Off for his macarons, and continues to be so, holding masterclasses in London. Macarons are one of those things I’d love to attempt but they look a bit tricky. What I love about Edd’s book is that he really focuses on the techniques involved in baking and creating cakes. I haven’t done so yet, but maybe one day I’ll brave a batch!

“The Boy Who Bakes” is available from most good bookshops now, and you can find Edd now on Twitter and via his Blog.

October 25th sees the release of Edd’s brand new book “Say It With Cake”. Here’s a peek of the cover. The book will feature on here soon.

 

Product Review: Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 14-09-2012

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When I was offered a Cake Pop Maker to review I was a little sceptical. The whole Cake Pop phenomenon has somewhat passed me by. The idea of a ball of cake on a stick seemed totally bizarre to me, and I really didn’t get the appeal at all. When my Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker arrived I was pleasantly surprised, to the point I can see me becoming something of an addict!

The only Cake Pop recipe I’d seen was to get pre-baked cake, crumble it, stick it back together, and cover it in melted chocolate. The first thing I liked about the Cake Pop Maker was that I’d be making them fresh and there wouldn’t be strange bits of cake making up my Pop, but a whole mouthful of fresh cake. Following the simple recipe which came with the machine – of which there are 5 to choose from – I set about making a batch. Now each recipe makes 30 – ideal for a party or gathering, but somewhat excessive for a trial run – so I halved it and ended up making 14. The recipe I used was a traditional sponge recipe so I knew what it should look like before baking. I was a little nervous about portioning it into the Maker – which makes 6 at a time – because I didn’t want to overfill them and end up with cake batter everywhere!

Within 4 minutes of closing the lid I had 6 round balls of cake. Now if you’re going to make these for a party or guests generally decoration is key. They are not the most attractive of things naked. Just warm out of the Maker they are delightful and alarmingly addictive. Little Man and I polished off the first batch very quickly. What surprised me was that whilst I was waiting for the second batch to bake my mind started ticking over of ways I could decorate them and events I could use them for. I already have plans to serve them at Little Man’s 2nd birthday next month, and there are ideas forming for Christmas designs as I type. Sticks are part of the Cake Pop process – mainly because they make decorating them so much easier – but I can imagine a pile of them on a plate, Ferrero Rocher style!

If balls of cake still don’t appeal to you – and I implore you to try them out – there is also a recipe for mini doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts. The batter mix is slightly different and whilst warm you roll them in sugar, but the idea of being able to create a batch of mini doughnuts within about 10 minutes is something to be investigated endlessly.

So whilst there is nothing more satisfying then a leisurely afternoon baking a delicious cake for my family, I must confess that I am now somewhat addicted to Cake Pops – I have a pile of sticks ready and am considering a Cake Pop Cookbook. For quick and simple treats for your children, or for a gorgeous centre piece at a party instead of a large cake, Cake Pops may well be the future.

The Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker is available now from Lakeland.

Product Review: Little Helper Fun Pod

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Competition, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 07-09-2012

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My love of baking and cooking is hardly news, especially with the number of cook books I’ve been featuring recently. Its also not news that I really want to get my Little Man involved and the best product to help me do that is the Fun Pod from Little Helper.

The Fun Pod is designed to stand beside your kitchen bench or sink and allow your child t0 stand safely in it and “help” with the cooking, baking or washing up. As you can see above it has five adjustable height levels so that as your child grows they are still safe. When not in use it fits neatly underneath your bench. It has a handle on either side for carrying it around – empty of course! – and also for moving it into position. Every time I go into the kitchen with Little Man nowadays he goes straight to the Fun Pod and tries to get it out, so its clearly a winner with him.

As you can see from the photos we’ve had a lot of fun using it. Little Man “helped” me bake a Lemon Drizzle cake and greased the tin for me – a job he took very seriously. We do also have the occasional “Flour Incident” when he gets just a little carried away with his mixing. Sadly I can’t seem to tempt him into wearing an apron! Once we’re done baking he is always keen to help wash up which is fantastic for me, though I tend to just let him loose with a few spoons and plastic plates. I promise you he is not about to eat that foam, despite how that photo looks!!

The Fun Pod is the ultimate kitchen accessory if you want to get your children baking with you. Compact, light weight and so easy to build, it is a much safer alternative to standing them on a chair with you. Getting them involved with baking also keeps them entertained and allows you time to get on with what you’re trying to do.

We were sent the brand new Walnut Fun Pod for the purposes of this review. With modern kitchens becoming much darker in decor the team at Little Helper wanted to make sure the Fun Pod complimented the kitchen it was in instead of clashing or being something of an eyesore.

Competition!

I have a brand new Walnut Fun Pod to give away to one lucky reader, and entering is simple.

1. Head over to the Little Helper Facebook page and click “Like” then write on their wall telling them that Sussex Mummy sent you.
2. Follow Little Helper on Twitter and send them a Tweet including my Twitter handle @SussexMummy.
3. Either of these will gain you ONE entry into the draw. Once you’ve done one or both of these things come back to this page and write a comment below telling me how you’ve entered.

The competition closes at 8pm on Friday 5th October 2012 and winners will be notified via Facebook or Twitter once the draw has taken place.

 

Book Review: The Great British Bake Off – How To Turn Everyday Bakes Into Showstoppers

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 23-08-2012

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From my Twitter feed on a Tuesday evening I know lots of you are watching and thoroughly enjoying the new series of the “Great British Bake Off”. I am a huge fan, and have been since the first series when we saw the lovely Edd Kimber triumph. I’ve been lucky enough to feature a couple of the former contestants and winners books on my website recently – Miranda Gore Browne and Jo Wheatley – so I was very excited when a copy of the newest title in the GBBO book series landed on my doormat.

Whilst the format of the book is the same as the previous two GBBO books – recipes featured in the show, including those dreaded technical challenges and Paul and Mary’s signature bakes – the visual standard of the recipes is much higher.

The book includes a series of “Showstopper Challenges” where you are given a basic recipe – in the first instance its a plain sponge mix. You are then given three subsequent recipes which are adaptations of that basic recipe, each with an increased level of skill required. For example your sponge mix can be transformed into a Mocha Marbled Loaf Cake, a Chess Cake or a Champagne Heart Cake, depending on your personal skill level and the time you have available.

You will find the technical challenges recipes in there from throughout the series – including that mind boggling Plaited Loaf we saw in episode 2. Miraculous that anyone managed that – I’d need a few hours and no distractions. I certainly wouldn’t like the pressure of knowing that Paul himself was going to be judging it!

There are so many amazing looking recipes in the book its hard to pick out my favourite, so here are a few of my highlights. I love the look of the Jewel Box Cake – visually stunning – and the insane part of me fancies trying out Mary’s Teacakes (the marshmallow variety that is). The Cinnamon Breakfast Loaf looks like it should be an essential part of any weekend morning, and the Triple Chocolate Log should finds it way on to everyone’s table this Christmas.

This delicious and mouthwatering new title from the GBBO team is out now and available from all good book shops.

Book Review: “Saved By Cake” by Marian Keyes

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 17-07-2012

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Depression is a very real condition, though it remains somewhat of a taboo subject even in 2012. Beating it is of the utmost importance, but some days its just about making it through. Irish Author Marian Keyes is most famous for her witty and poignant fictional books, most of which are set in her native Ireland – which is one of the reasons I love them so much. What Marian is perhaps less well known for is her battles with depression and addictions, and the somewhat unorthodox method she found for battling her demons. Marian Keyes was “Saved By Cake”.

Yes, every girls favourite author has decided to turn her hand to baking, and with spectacular results. And don’t worry – there is still bucket loads of her infamous humour thrown in for good measure.

“Saved By Cake” is packed with over 80 recipes to help “bake yourself happy”. Now my love of baking and cookbooks is probably well known by now after my recent reviews of “Biscuit” and “A Passion For Baking”. What I particularly loved about this book though is Marian’s overriding message that its only baking. Its nothing to get stressed about, and if your batch of “B-List Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” are not identical and topped with professional looking icing its okay. Life is too short to worry about perfect baking – its meant to be fun after all! And if you only have 397ml of condensed milk and the recipe asks for 400ml DON’T PANIC!! The missing 3ml won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

There are a few things she is adamant about however. Full fat coke must be used in “Rita Anne’s Birthday Cola Cake”, edible blue glitter is an essential part of any good “Blueberry Mess” and plain vanilla biscuits should generally be cut into handbag or shoe shapes!

“Saved By Cake” combines a very honest insight into Marian’s battle with depression and the journey she went on with baking, with some great fun recipes which will soon become family favourites. This book is not just for those of you who may be suffering with depression yourselves, but I’d like to think it would put a smile on the face on anyone who is.

“Saved By Cake” is available now from all good book shops.

Book Review: “A Passion For Baking” by Jo Wheatley

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 06-07-2012

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I love baking. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing since I was little and used to “help” my Mum in the kitchen. Now I’m a Mum myself finding the time to bake does prove tricky. I can’t wait until Little Man is old enough to join in, though I don’t look forward to cleaning up afterwards! When I do find the time – usually at weekends when Daddy takes over – there’s nothing I enjoy more than whipping up a cake or a batch of biscuits for my little family to enjoy, and this book is perfect for doing just that.

Available exclusively at Sainsburys for a bargain price of £7.99 “A Passion For Baking” is the debut book from the winner of The Great British Bake Off Jo Wheatley. Whenever I get a new cookbook – and yes, I own a ridiculous number – I flick through it immediately to see what stands out for me. After a few moments of flicking through the pages of “A Passion For Baking” I was salivating. Not only does this book contain loads of recipes that I actually want to make, but the photography makes me want to make them right now! Page after page of beautifully photographed food, either as a completed bake or as partial ingredients, makes this book a visual feast. My personal favourites are the photos of the Mini Mississippi Mud Pies and the Raspberry Torte. But this book contains so many recipes which I can’t wait to try out on my family.

For Fathers Day this year we had Jo’s American Pancakes with some fresh fruit. My Husband and I have been to the USA twice – once when we’d been dating a year, and again for our honeymoon – and on both occasions visited New York. Our main memory from these visits is the food – mostly the sheer size of it – but specifically the breakfasts. Nothing started the day better than a stack of pancakes, more often than not with maple syrup and some crispy bacon. Jo’s American Pancakes are JUST as delicious, and brought back amazing memories. They were light and fluffy, and super easy to make. I can see them being made again and again in our house for years to come.

Baking conjures up so many memories for me, and I look forward to making lots of new ones with my Little Man, and this book.

“A Passion For Baking” is out now, and available from Sainsburys.

Book Review: “Biscuit” by Miranda Gore Browne

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Information, Product Launch | Posted on 20-04-2012

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Sussex based Miranda Gore Browne will be instantly recognisable after making her way into the last three of the first series of “The Great British Bake Off.” Coming a fantastic third overall Miranda was mostly remembered for her exquisitely hand decorated biscuits that looked far too beautiful to eat, and for keeping Mel and Sue well fed as they repeatedly stole her ingredients before she’d even used them! Miranda has been busy doing baking demonstrations and working with Squires Kitchen, The National Trust, and West Dean College. Now she is back with her first book, the aptly entitled “Biscuit”.

 

“Biscuit” contains over 100 recipes for biscuits – who knew there were so many? – and has handy hints and tips for decorating them and presenting them as gifts. Classics make an appearance such as the Bourbon and Jammy Dodger, and there are also exciting new recipes straight from Miranda’s own kitchen. My personal favourites include “Fruity Little Teds” which are destined to be a big hit with Little Man, “Jam Roly Poly Biscuits” which look just like slices of the sponge based dessert we all know and love, and “Pesto & Pine Nut Pieces” which are mouthwatering and delicious – and this comes from someone who hates pesto!

On Wednesday of this week I attended a demonstration which Miranda was doing in the epic Waterstones on Piccadilly.  Watching her in action as she whipped up with ease a large batch of “Double Chocolate Chunk Biscuits” and a batch of “Pesto & Pine Nut Pieces” was hugely inspiring and needless to say had the entire room salivating as the smells wafted from the oven. As plates were passed around I nervously tried the pesto based biscuit and was instantly won over – it was delicious. I have since been out to the shops this morning to buy some ingredients and hopefully I’ll get a batch baked this weekend. I will also be doing the “Fruity Little Teds” for Little Man. Top tips were also dished out and I think everyone went away planning a trip out to buy a small ice cream scoop for creating perfectly identical biscuits, and I imagine they all have at least one log of biscuit dough stashed in their freezer already. I know I will do soon!

For me “Biscuit” is a must have book for all parents and all biscuit fans. There are recipes for all occasions and some even claim to be vaguely healthy! You can buy “Biscuit” now from all good booksellers – and I highly recommend that you do! You can also find Miranda on Twitter @MirandaBakes.

More Alternative Easter Gifts For Under 5’s…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 03-04-2012

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Twinkle Tog
Sleeping bags are brilliant for babies, especially those that wriggle around in their sleep – bags mean that you’re not up half a dozen times a night because your little one has kicked their covers off. When your little one becomes a toddler though and they are more mobile, a sleeping bag can be restrictive. When I go in to his room in the morning my Little Man tends to stand up and give me a wave as I come through the door. In a traditional sleeping bag this is usual followed by him falling over. With a Twinkle Tog the problem could be solved.
The Twinkle Tog is a duvet body suit, with defined legs which mean your little one can wander around in it if needed. It keeps them nice and warm throughout the night, and can even be used easily in a car seat if you’re travelling at bed time. I think this cute sheep design makes a great Easter gift too! Twinkle Tog’s are available from all good retailers, including Amazon and Mothercare.

Munchkin
Bath time is  always popular in our house and we like to make sure we have a good supply of toys in there to keep Little Man entertained. Munchkin do some of the best bath toys we’ve found, and we particularly enjoyed playing with this – the Dolphin Divers.
Water is scooped up using the whale and then poured through, making the dolphins spin around. Lots of splashing fun! Plus the whale sits neatly on the top when not being used. The unit fixes securely to the wall using suckers too! You can see the full Munchkin bath toy range online.

Mam
Another item now ideal for babies first Easter – an Oral Care Rabbit.

Babies oral hygiene is important from day one – not just when teeth start to appear. This cute rabbit is designed to keep tiny mouths clean and free from bacteria, as well as provided relief from the itchy gums caused by teething. It can also be used to clean those tiny first teeth. Your newborn is bound to enjoy chewing and sucking on it, and whilst you’re keeping their mouths clean they’re getting used to the idea of  brushing teeth. I think this is very cute, and a great Easter gift. Mam Oral Care Rabbits are available from baby sections of most high street stores and online. You can learn more at the Mam website.

Clintons Cards
Whilst you’re buying your Easter cards from Clintons this year – for me you can never go wrong with a Boofle card – why not take a look around on the shelves for your gifts too? As well as a lovely set of Lindt Bunnies – technically not eggs – they also have some craft activities to keep your children quiet during the holidays.
This set makes 3 foam chicks, using push out pieces in a variety of shapes. A great craft activity, and the three finished chicks can be used to decorate Easter cards, the dinner table, or just around the room for Easter weekend. These are designed for children aged 3 plus, so would be a good introduction to the world of craft. Cards, gift wrap, Lindt bunnies and Easter Craft Sets are available now at your local Clintons Cards.

Galt
If you want to get your children interested in gardening you might not automatically think of going to Galt first, but they have a great product which would be a cool Easter gift to teach them about how things grow –  Grow-A-Head Bugs!
Available in four styles – Ladybird, Bee, Butterfly, or Grasshopper – the grass grows after just a few days. Once its long enough you can start trimming or styling to your hearts content.  The Grow-A-Head is a simple yet effective first step towards gardening, allowing children to grow their own unique wild-haired creature. Grow-A-Head’s are available now from the Galt website.

Just Jaks
Baking with children is a fun, and messy, activity. The team at Just Jaks have found a way to hopefully reduce the mess and make delicious fruit flapjacks at the same time.

In your postbox sized parcel you’ll receive a bag of flapjack mix and a bag of mixed fruit, depending on which flavour you go for. To that all you will need to add is about a glass full of apple juice, and in the case of one mix a grated apple. After a good stir you pop it into the oven and 20 minutes later you have a delicious flapjack all ready. Whilst you don’t get the chewy consistency you get from sugar and syrup based flapjacks, you do get a yummy fruity flapjack which is altogether healthier – I know which I’d rather give to my Little Man!! Head over to the Just Jaks website now to check out their range.

Product Review: Swizzels Matlow’s Lovehearts

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 07-02-2012

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Love is in the air…

Yes Valentines Day is just around the corner – its next Tuesday all you men out there – so you’ve no doubt spotted that your local card shop has had an explosion of red and pink inside it. Some of you might be wondering what to get your other halves, or maybe are after some inspiration for keeping the children entertained. Well Swizzels Matlow sent me a goody bag of their new Lovehearts collection, released in time for Valentines Day, to take a look at.

First up is a Limited Edition Tin of Mini Love Hearts. The Love Hearts in the tin are about half the size of the traditional ones, but still contain all the usual cute phrases and terms. Next came a tube filled with mini packets of full sized Love Hearts. The tube bears the “I Love You” text down the side. Both ideal gifts for that special man or woman in your life.

We also received a pack of four giant rolls of Love Hearts, again in their full size. Now whilst I don’t think these make particularly interesting gifts as they are, I decided to try something with them that will hopefully keep your children entertained, and be fun at the same time.

Now who doesn’t love a cupcake? I made a tray of mini cupcakes complete with buttercream icing and adorned them with Love Hearts. Perfect if you’re hosting a party for Valentines Day or perhaps your children want to use them as gifts to their sweethearts? Or maybe you just want to eat them yourself! Whatever your excuse, they take no time at all and taste delicious. Little Man certainly enjoyed his… minus the Love Heart of course.

You can view and buy the entire Love Hearts range from their website.

Product Launch: Philadelphia… with chocolate!

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Launch, Product Reviews | Posted on 02-02-2012

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Yes you did read that right – chocolate.

On Monday this week Kraft announced their new flavour of Philadelphia at an event in Central London and invited some bloggers along to try it out. I think I can confidently say we were all a little surprised when we found out it was chocolate – general consensus beforehand was another savoury option – so it was with some trepidation we stepped forward to try it out.

Delicious!! Seriously!! I mean who is going to dislike anything with Cadbury chocolate in it? Certainly not me! It maintained the light cool consistency of Original Philadelphia but tasted decadently of Cadbury. A win, win situation in my book! I find other leading chocolate spreads quite thick to eat, but this was much nicer. And if you want to feel even better about the idea of Cadbury flavoured Philadelphia: it is a mere 86 calories per serving and has less than half the fat and less sugar than other leading chocolate spreads.

As well as tasting delicious and being (almost) good for you, Philadelphia with Cadbury is hugely versatile. Spread it on toast, a bage, a croissant or a biscuit. Smoother your pancakes in it this Shrove Tuesday. Make Chocolate Cheesecakes out of it. Use it to ice cupcakes or as a filling in sponge cakes. Dip fruit in it. Eat it straight from the tub with a spoon… just me? Oh.

Philadelphia with Cadbury is available now from most good supermarkets. It is being launched this week so will hopefully make it to a store near you soon. It is available in standard 160g tub size as well as 4x30g mini-tubs.