Silent Sunday

Smitten Saturday: Make-Up Brushes

27 April 2013

Glasgow Mummy Sarah has created this fab linky idea which I just had to join in with. Each Saturday you write about one thing that you're loving... it could be a place, phrase, photo, food, make up, a person... anything!

Anyway, this week I'm smitten with my new Real Techniques Expert Face Brush and make-up brush roll. I'm currently obsessed with watching make-up tutorials on You Tube and my favourites are Tanya Burr and Pixiwoo who post fantastic videos showing you step by step how to recreate every type of make up look under the sun. I noticed that they both use the Real Techniques brush for applying foundation and it gives a beautiful flawless finish. So even though I'm really skint because we're going on holiday in a couple of weeks, I just had to buy it. Lucky me had millions of Boots Advantage points so I used some of them to buy the brush of my dreams! Of course I absolutely love it, my foundation looks amazing and stays put for much longer.

I already had loads of make-up brushes that were bursting out of my make-up brush holder so I thought I'd better invest in a bigger one. So I bought this one off  Ebay {sorry I don't know which brand it is} which holds 18 brushes. I threw one brush away that was looking very old and still had to double up in one of the pouches. But I love it. It'll be fabulous for keeping all my brushes neat and tidy on holiday!

So that's what I'm smitten with this week. What are you smitten with?

Ferrero Rocher Cake

26 April 2013

When I asked my sister what cake she wanted me to bake for her birthday I was delighted when she said a Ferrero Rocher cake. Not because I'm a huge Ferrero Rocher fan {they're not really my cup of tea} but because I loved the idea of a cake with big chocolate balls on top!

We had planned to eat out for her birthday but my nieces have both got chicken pox so, instead, we all congregated at my parents house for a little tea party. The darlings had chicken pox last year so luckily they won't catch it again. Anyway, my mum hid the cake from my sister until after dinner but when the time came to bring it out she realised she didn't have any candles. All she had in the form of candles were lavender scented tea lights! Oh well they would have to do.

So after singing 'Happy Birthday' and blowing out the candle four times {each child had to have a go!} we cut the cake and had a slice.

All I can say is 'Oh My'! It tasted amazing. It's very rich and moist and a small {but not too small} slice is just right. 

Ferrero Rocher Cake

Preparation time 35 minutes
Baking time 30 minutes

50g cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 large eggs
100g softened butter
275g caster sugar
50ml whole milk
175g self raising flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
200g Nutella
Nutella buttercream
225g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
125g dark chocolate {70% cocoa solids if poss}
100g Nutella
Pinch of salt
10 Ferrero Rochers
100g chopped hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 180C {350F} gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm {8inch} deep cake tins and line the bases with baking paper.
Make the cake
Sift the cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the boiling water and mix together until a smooth paste forms. Add the eggs, butter, sugar, and milk and beat with a hand held electric mixer until fully combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat again until the mixture becomes a smooth thickish batter.
Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes. The cakes will be ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and when gently pressed with a finger, the cake springs back. Leave to cool in the tins for a 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the buttercream
Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces then gently melt in a heatproof bowl placed over a simmering pan of water. When it's mostly melted, give it a good stir and leave to cool slightly for a few minutes. 
Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter. Beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Add the Nutella and pinch of salt, and beat on high speed for another minute.
Assemble the cake
Place one of the cakes onto a plate or cake board. Spread the Nutella onto the cake using a palette knife then place the other cake carefully on top. Spread the buttercream around the sides and top of the cake until it is fully covered. You should have enough buttercream to give it a good thick covering. Don't worry about getting the sides really smooth as this will be covered with the chopped nuts. 

Chop the hazelnuts as finely as you want. I found it easier to leave them in the packet then bash them with a rolling pin until they were in small  pieces. Gently press them into the side of the cake and brush away any excess that falls off.
Decorate by placing 9 unwrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates around the edge of the cake with one still in it's wrapping in the middle.

Cheesecake Brownies

23 April 2013

cheesecake brownies

I made these Cheesecake Brownies to celebrate a very very special bit of news for our family. Oliver was accepted into our first choice of primary school! Our first choice was the primary school where he currently goes to nursery, however we're just out of the catchment area. Put it this way... if we lived on the other side of our street we'd be in the catchment area! It's also a 5 minute walk from our house and 1 minute from my parents house {they'll be taking Oliver to school every other week} whereas the school we're in the catchment area for is about 20 minutes away and has a bit of a reputation of being full of snobs! I had convinced myself he wouldn't get into our preferred school to prepare myself for being disappointed.

So after a very tense couple of days waiting for the letter, it finally arrived on Thursday morning. I was at work but had given Hubby strict instructions to open it and ring me immediately. When he rang me and told me Oliver had got in I did lots of whooping and fist pumping! Over the moon is an understatement!

cheesecake brownies

Anyway, as you know I'm slightly obsessed with chocolate brownies. I'm also slightly obsessed with cheesecake. When we eat out I always choose cheesecake if I have dessert. I'm always on the search for ways of adapting or adding things to brownies so when I recently discovered the concept of cheesecake brownies I just had to have a go. As if regular brownies weren't indulgent enough with their rich deep chocolatey fudgy flavour, the tanginess of the cream cheese perfectly compliments it... it's a match made in heaven!

cheesecake brownies
The swirly pattern on top didn't quite work out but they still taste divine!
Cheesecake Brownies

Makes 16 {or 9 if you want really big brownies!}
Preparation time 25 minutes
Baking time 30 minutes

Brownie mixture
200g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
120g plain flour
100g milk chocolate cut into chunks

Cheesecake mixture
200g full fat cream cheese {room temperature}
1 egg yolk
75g caster sugar
Preheat oven to 180C {350F} gas mark 4. Line a 25 x 20cm baking tin with baking paper or foil.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water or in a microwave on 50% power in 30 second bursts. Give it a really good mix and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until really thick and creamy. Beat in the chocolate mixture, then add the flour and fold in gently, until the flour is just combined. Pour into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the brownie mixture in the tin.

In a clean bowl, beat all the ingredients for the cheesecake mixture until smooth. Dot heaped teaspoonfuls of this mixture across the top of the brownie batter in the tin, then use a skewer or knife to swirl the two mixtures together, right across the tin and up to the edges.

Pop in the oven for 30-35 minutes. When ready it should be set and crispy on top but still gooey in the middle. Gently wobble the tin and the middle of the brownie should slightly wobble when it's ready.

Leave to cool for at least 2 hours before you even attempt to cut it. If you cut it up too soon, the brownie will leak all over the place. Cut into squares and give the squidgy middle slices to those you love the most.

Don't forget to enter my fantastic giveaway for your chance to win a family ticket the the Blackpool Tower attractions!

Silent Sunday

Homemade Cereal Bars

19 April 2013

homemade cereal bars
I'm really not a morning person. I never have been. I've got better since I had the darlings but I still find it SO hard to drag my body out of my warm comfy bed in the morning. 

On a work day I'm up at 7am and out of the door by 7.25 so every second counts. Some poeple don't like breakfast but I love it and really believe it's the most important meal of the day. So as soon as I get to work I make a coffee and have a cereal bar with it. I usually have something oaty like Alpen or Special K bars but by 9.30 I'm sometimes hungry again... and end up eating a bowl of porridge!

homemade cereal bars
So I was very intrigued when I came across a recipe for homemade cereal bars and had to have a go. I made them one Sunday evening and my breakfasts for the week were sorted. I took some extra bars into work for a couple of my colleagues to try and they loved them too. I cut my batch into 16 bars which are still quite big and they really filled me up, they're much more satisfying than the bought ones... and much cheaper too!

homemade cereal bars

Homemade Cereal Bars

Makes 16 bars
Preparation time 10 minutes
Baking time 30-45 minutes

350g good quality muesli (I used Alpen)
75g dried cranberries
75g dried apricots chopped
390g tin of condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 130°C {260°F}  Line a baking tray (about 23 x 33 x 4cm) with baking paper.

Heat the condensed milk in a large pan over a low heat. Keep stirring it so that it doesn't burn. It will get thinner as you stir and should only take a minute or so.

Add the muesli a berries to the pan. Stir thoroughly so all the muesli is coated with the condensed milk.

Pour it into your prepared tin and press it down to flatten it. Pop it onto the middle shelf of the oven for 30-45 minutes depending on whether you like chewy or crispy bars. The longer you bake them, the darker & crunchier they'll become.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Lift out of the baking tin using the paper, chop into bars and leave to cool completely.

Enjoy with a coffee to keep you going all morning!

Don't forget to enter my fantastic giveaway for your chance to win a family ticket the the Blackpool Tower attractions

Eureka! The National Children's Museum

18 April 2013

We absolutely love Eureka! I can't believe I haven't written about it before as it's somewhere we visit a lot. So I thought I'd tell you all about it and our most recent visit last week.

Eureka! is in Halifax, West Yorkshire. We're lucky because we live very close so it's only 15 minutes drive from our house. We don't usually go during the school holidays as it gets incredibly busy but it was raining on Friday and its a great place to go on a rainy day.  When we arrived at 11am there was a 45 minute queue. Fortunately we've got an annual pass so went straight to the front of the queue, got our hands stamped and went right in!

So what's inside Eureka? Well it's designed for children from 0 - 11 years old and is packed with hundreds of interactive, educational fun activities. All the exhibits are hands on and encourage you to have a go... feel something, smell something, look into something, dress up, listen,  jump, reach, climb, balance. You name it, you can do it.

When we arrived our first port of call was to the redeveloped 'All About Me' zone which only opened a few days ago. It's all about the body and how it works. First of all we had a go at  measuring our heights, armspans, reach and our biggest step. Even Lydia had a go at everything with her little two year old legs! The kids had a go at brushing some giant teeth and feeling the kicks inside a fake pregnant belly!  They looked inside a giant nose, made a skeleton dance and saw where your veins are. It's all about learning but is extremely good fun.

Here are our photos of the other zones.  If you wonder why the darlings have got different clothes on in some photos, it's because I've popped in a few photos from our visit last autumn!

The Global Garden
There are gardens from all over the world...the ice garden, the town garden, the jungle garden and the ocean garden, all with lots of activities teaching you about looking after the environment. 

Living and Working Together
There's a town square surrounded by shops and businesses where you can experience the world of work by pretending to be a bank worker, mechanic, shop assistant or postal worker. In the middle is the Eureka! House, with a kitchen living room, bathroom, bedroom and attic with loads of role playing activities in each room.

Desert Discovery
In this area for under 5's you can have a go at some desert construction, see the desert at night, look at some desert critters and crawl inside the cave. There's also a soft secure 'oasis' for non walkers.

There's also the Sound Space, a large zone all about the science of sound and music. You can compose your own music and control the lights, background and music on the stage. The Sound Garden is just for 0-5 year olds and is a magical garden  where you can paint a butterfly on a touch screen, do a puzzle inside a giant flowerpot or smell the giant flowers.

Outside is fantastic too. In the warmer months we always take a picnic and eat lunch outside {the cafe is great but can get very busy} surrounded by the giant sandpit and the playscape which the kids love.

This time we spent some time in the Wonder Walk which is kind of tucked round the side of the building so can be easy to miss. The Wonder Walk is a sensory trail which you can walk around and climb over logs and rocks and hide in the willow huts and tunnel. The kids especially liked it and I lost count of the number of times they walked round the trail. From my point of view it was great as I was sat on a bench but could see them wherever they were in the garden.

I'm sure it won't be long before we're back there again... after all we need to make the most of our annual passes!

Win a family ticket to Blackpool Tower Attractions

15 April 2013

As you know our family loves days out. Unfortunately we haven't had many over the winter months but I'm currently putting together a new Summer Adventure Wish List for all the days out we're planning for this year.

One of our favourite days out last year was to Blackpool. I had my very first family holiday in Blackpool when I was two years old and have visited there many many times since... with a particular girly weekend being rather memorable! Last year, we were lucky enough to go on a gloriously sunny day so we had a brilliant time on the beach and paddling in the sea, the darlings absolutely loved it and they were fascinated by Blackpool Tower.

 If you love days out as much as we do, then enter my giveaway for a free family ticket which gives access to four big attractions at the Blackpool Tower:

The Blackpool Tower Eye
The Blackpool Tower  Ballroom
The Blackpool Tower Circus
Jungle Jims Indoor Adventure Playground

The ticket is valid for up to 2 adults and 2 children or 4 adults and will be valid for 90 days from the closing date of the giveaway. The ticket will be sent direct to the winner from TUG Ltd who I'm running the giveaway on behalf of. Only open to people who live in the UK, over the age of 18. Closing date Tuesday 30th April 2013.

Simply enter using the Rafflecopter form below to confirm your entries made via blog comments, Twitter, Facebook etc. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chocolate Fridge Cake

14 April 2013


Are we the only family that still has loads of Easter eggs left two weeks after Easter? Maybe, but if you have young children like mine {2 & 4 years old} and want to ration the amount of chocolate they eat, it would take forever to get through them all. And if you're the healthy type you might not want to 'help' the children eat all the chocolate!

Well I was getting sick of looking at the darlings Easter eggs sitting on the dining table and they were just getting in the way so I decided to make something chocolatey and delicious with them. 

Chocolate fridge cake was the perfect solution. It's a bit like pick and mix. You can pick and choose whatever you want to put in depending what you've got in your cupboards. The mandatory ingredients are chocolate {obviously!} butter and golden syrup, I would always use digestive biscuits too but the rest is up to you. 

I just happened to have some marshmallows, Maltesters and glacé cherries so I threw them in too. Other things that work well are pecan nuts, raisins, dried apricots, macadamia nuts, Smarties or chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate Fridge Cake

Makes 12
Preparation time 20 minutes
Setting time 2 hours

125g unsalted butter
300g plain or milk chocolate or a combination of both, broken into pieces
3 tbsp golden syrup
200g digestive biscuits
100g mini marshmallows
75g glacé cherries
50g Maltesers

Line a 24cm/9in square baking tin or a loaf tin with cling film and leave plenty hanging over the edge of the tin. 
Gently heat the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a saucepan over a very low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a bit. 
Break up the biscuits with your fingers into a bowl, you want to keep the pieces about 1-2cm. Cut the glace cherries in half and add to the bowl. Put the marshmallows and Maltesers in the bowl too. 
Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and fold everything together so that everything is coated in the chcolate. 
Tip the mixture into your baking tin or loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Pop in the fridge for about two hours or overnight. 
To serve, cut into 12 pieces and dust with icing sugar.

Silent Sunday