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This is a very FUN recipe book, lots of bright photography and quite detailed methods for most of the recipes.  Many of the recipes have the same basic buttery sponge base, with maybe one or two ingredients added to give a little variation to each one.  All nice flavours, but not exactly “WOW!’ .  I would recommend this as a great recipe book for someone who is just starting out baking or has little or no experience with cupcakes.  There is a section on baking cupcakes with children and this is what interested me the most, as there were some very good novelty decorating ideas.  I tried a few of them, starting with the Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes.  Tamar and I were very excited about this recipe – and it didn’t disappoint!  Easy to follow and delicious combination of flavours.

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We also attempted the Bakewell Tart Cupcakes. These were also very successful.

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My only reservation about this book would be that the quantity of cake mixture is too much for the suggested 12 cupcakes.  I easily made 16 cupcakes out of the mixture.  So just be aware it might be worth making up a smaller amount of cake mix or using muffin cases instead of the standard size cupcake cases.

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This post has been in the pipeline for a few years, as every time I thought of writing, it became too overwhelming to contemplate.  Now I now finally have the strength and peace I need to write it properly.  It is not my intention to divulge lots of personal information but to give help or comfort to those who have been through similar circumstances as ourselves.  Let me explain.

The bible says in Psalm 34 v 18 ‘The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart’.  This verse has been very precious to me over the past couple of years.  It is with certainty that I can say at some point in our lives we all understand what its like to be ‘brokenhearted’.  Very often we experience this during times of mourning over the loss of a loved one.  Whether the grief is a sudden loss or an expected outcome of illness, the pain can hurt us all in different ways.

Specifically, I have experienced this type of grief through two miscarriages.  In May 2010 Andrew and I were happily enjoying family life with our beautiful little girl, who was almost 9 months old, when we discovered we had another little blessing on the way. We felt abundantly blessed.  Life was good.  Unfortunately, 11 weeks into the pregnancy at a routine hospital scan we heard the most horrifying words an expectant parent can hear – “I’m sorry”.  In the space of a few minutes our world was turned upside down, never to be the same again.  Just thinking about that day brings back the knot in my stomach and lump in my throat.

It was the lowest I had ever felt, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  There were no words that could give comfort or people who could encourage me.  All I could think about was WHY?  WHY had this happened?  WHY had God ALLOWED this to happen?  WHY was my baby gone?  These questions haunted my every thought for a long time.  As a Christian I know that my comfort should have been found in the Lord, but I was so low I found it difficult to pray or even open my bible.  This may be shocking to some people, and you may think it represents a weakness of faith or lack of trust in God – but that was not the case.  It was merely shock and normal human emotion that numbed me.  However, I knew the presence of the Lord was with me, reminding me over and over again that my baby was in Heaven.  Despite my grief and despair at that moment in time I knew I would meet this little baby eventually.  The wonderful thing that I can now appreciate is that there were so many people praying for us and the Lord was answering those prayers, by continually reminding me of the splendour of Heaven.  It reminds me of the account in Exodus 17, which describes how the men held up Moses’ arms towards Heaven when his physical human weakness overwhelmed him.  Other people were spiritually holding me up to the Lord for comfort and for this I will be eternally grateful.  If you prayed for me, I want to say THANK YOU!

The Lord brought us through that difficult period of our lives.  Sadly in September 2011 we suffered another miscarriage, but again the Lord brought comfort and hope.  Our faith was strong though our hearts were broken.  We have since been blessed with another 2 beautiful children and my prayer is that one day in Heaven my family with be united in the presence of the Lord.  This little poem has brought me so much comfort over the past few years

Now Is Not All There Is

When your heart is breaking – now is not all there is!

When your arms are empty – now is not all there is!

When you long to see them – now is not all there is!

When God asks you to walk back into life – you can do it because now is not all there is!

If you have experienced miscarriage, still birth or infant loss, I mourn with you and I understand.  There is no magic formula to sooth your broken heart.  Only the comfort of knowing that our little ones are with the Saviour in Heaven.  Never let that vision be clouded in your mind and NEVER let the devil take that vision from you!  My favourite verse in all of scripture is Revelation 21 v 4 where Heaven is described as a place where “God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: the former things are all passed away.”  Can you imagine how amazing it will be to have NO pain, NO death, NO crying!  Hold on to that thought in your lowest moments and ask the Lord to imprint that vision on your mind.  It excites me to think about meeting my babies and nephews/nieces who are already rejoicing with the Lord on the streets of gold.  My life here on earth is blessed beyond measure and for that I am thankful.  But the best is yet to come!  Praise God!

 

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So you’re a breastfeeding mummy to a beautiful new baby, and you think to yourself, I would love to go out for a wee shopping trip! Or meet up with a friend for coffee!  Or have a nice meal out!  But how could you possibly feed in public?! The thought of it makes your heart race and your hands sweaty.  Well good news ladies, we have all been there! I dreaded feeding my children in public, but 3 babies later I can actually say I enjoy feeding when we’re out and about. It is simply a matter of building confidence and the only way to do this is by practise!  I want to share a few tips that have helped me along the way.  Hopefully some of what I write will be of help to another mummy.

  • Invest in a good size muslin or feeding scarf to use when you are initially getting your baby latched on and then once he has started feeding move it away.  Its not a good idea to keep your babys head covered over when he’s feeding.  But at the end of the feed you can pull the muslin back over your chest to give you a little privacy to get your clothes back to normal.
  • Just go for it!  It may seem like a terrifying thought, but the best way thing for you to do is purposely go out INTENDING to feed your baby in a public place.  Chose to make a trip to somewhere quiet.  For me this would be a local coffee shop where I know it’s not too busy first thing in the morning and there are sofas to sit on so its comfortable.  I’m sure you can all think of somewhere that would be a good place!  Go there a few times to practise in the early weeks of feeding to build up your confidence.  Gradually you’ll feel more at ease and have freedom to go to other places.
  • Going out for a meal may seem a little daunting with a breastfeeding baby, but you can practise this at home, at your own dining table.  Next time you sit down for dinner, start eating but about half way through your meal try to feed your baby as if you were in a restaurant.  Use your muslin/scarf it thats what you intend to use when you’re in public.  It can be tricky sitting on a firm seat with no arm rests or anything either side of you.  Obviously you won’t have your feeding pillow, so you may need to re-postition your arm slightly to hold the weight of your baby.  You may find its easier for you to feed from one particular side, depending on whether you’re left or right handed.  But the only way to get the hang of it is practise!  Practise make perfect!  Of course you also need to practise eating with one hand…………
  • Lose the layers!  A big difference between feeding at home and in public, is what baby wears.  At home your baby most likely wears sleep suits and vests but when you’re going out, you LOVE to dress him/her up in a cute little outfit (we all do it!).  But if you have your little one dressed up, for example, in a vest, chinos, shirt, cardigan, coat and hat, and then lift him out of the pram to try and feed, he will be uncomfortable and may struggle to latch on properly because he can’t relax.  Likewise, don’t keep yourself all wrapped up in a coat/cardigan etc.  You both need to be comfortable and relaxed for breastfeeding in public to be successful.
  • Think carefully about what clothes you wear.  Many mummies love to wear nursing tops, as they provide discreet and easy access to the milk!  However, nursing clothing ranges can be quite expensive and limited in style.  I recommend using your normal pre-pregnancy tops that are a comfortable fit (ie. not skin tight) with a nursing vest/loose vest/stringed top underneath.  When you feed baby, lift the outer top up and pull the vest down, so the vest is still covering your stomach while the outer top gives a little coverage above your chest.

These are just a few ideas that have helped me build my confidence to breastfeed in public.  Hopefully they will help someone else too!  A few final things to remember

You are doing this for the good of your baby.

God has given you the right and privilege to breastfeed.

You’re protected by law to breastfeed in public places.

If someone has a problem with you breastfeeding in public, it is a poor reflection on THEIR character and you should not be considerate to their feelings.

NEVER EVER FEED YOUR BABY IN A TOILET! Your baby deserves better!

 

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This is a great recipe and a super one to make with children! I was given this recipe at a Parent and Toddler group a few years ago so I can’t claim it as my own, but its been a success every time I’ve baked it.  All the ingredients are items you probably have in the kitchen anyway, why not give it a try?

Ingredients

8oz butter

8oz caster sugar

4-5 ripe bananas, mashed (a great job for little people)

8oz Self Raising Flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs beaten

6oz porridge oats

Method

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer.

Add eggs gradually and mix in the bananas gently.

Fold in the flour and baking powder.

Mix in the porridge oats until combined.

Divide the mixture between 2 lined loaf tins

Bake at 180° for approximately 45mins.

Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool, cut into slices and enjoy!

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Ingredients

300g milk chocolate

350g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g butter

350g soft light brown sugar

175g rolled oats

70g chopped mixed nuts

1 egg, beaten

400g canned condensed milk

70g crunchy peanut butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Finely chop the chocolate. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar, rolled oats and nuts.

Put a quarter of the mixture into a bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate.  Set aside.

Stir the egg into the remaining mixture, then press into the base of a 30×20-cm baking tin.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the condensed milk and peanut butter together.  Pour the mixture over the base and spread evenly, then sprinkle the reserved chocolate mixture in top and press down lightly.

Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares.

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 Overall, I found this recipe very easy to follow, although next time I need to remember to turn the cake over before it is iced, as the top of it was quite bumpy, as you can probably see from the photos!

Ingredients

  • 325g (12oz) self-raising flour
  • 125g (4oz) ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 225g (8oz) butter, softened slightly
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 tablespoon milk
  • 225g (8oz) currants
  • 225g (8oz) sultanas
  • 225g (8oz) raisins
  • 125g (4oz) glazed cherries
  • 125g (4oz) mixed peel

Method

  1. Heat oven to 150C (300F).
  2. Grease and line a 9 inch round tin. It is easier to remove the baked cake from a loose-bottomed tin.
  3. Sieve the flour, spice and ground almonds together into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together in a separate bowl with a hand-held electric whisk or in a mixer.
  5. Beat the eggs lightly with the milk in a jug or bowl.
  6. A little at a time, stir the flour mixture alternately with the egg mixture into the creamed butter and sugar.
  7. Finally, add all the dried fruit. Stir it carefully and thoroughly until everything is well combined.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  9. Attach a deep strip of tin foil or brown paper around the tin to stand a couple of inches above the top. This will protect the top of the cake from burning while the inside is cooking.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 4 hours.
  11. Check the cake after about 3 hours. If necessary cover the top for the remainder of the cooking time.
  12. To check if the cake is cooked through, gently insert a thin metal skewer into the centre and it should come out clean.
  13. When the cake is ready, remove the foil or paper and allow the cake to rest in the tin for a short while.
  14. Carefully run a flat knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cake. Gently push the loose-bottom of the tin up to remove the cake.
  15. Place on to a wire rack to cool, removing the bottom of the tin and greaseproof paper, and leave to cool completely.
  16. When cold, wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and tin foil until required for decorating.

Decorating the Christmas Cake

  • Roll out home-made or bought almond paste (marzipan).
  • Brush the cake with apricot jam and press the marzipan to the outside and top of the cake.
  • Add icing of choice to the cake, covering the marzipan completely.
  • Allow to set, then tie a red ribbon around the cake and decorate with holly or similar Christmas decoration.
  • If using Royal Icing, this can be pulled into rough peaks with a flat knife, once it is spread on the cake, to give a snowy effect.

 

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Have you ever looked at your life and thought WOW!!!! I have some amazing people around me!  I hope at some time you have experienced this, recently I had cause to say this when I thought about the amazing friends and family I have been blessed with.  Specifically I was thinking about my girl friends from school.  Some of the friendships I have with these girls dates back as far as 13 years ago!  Without a doubt I love them like family.  What is so miraculous though, is that our present day lives are all very different and in many ways we are geographically further away from each other than we have ever been, but the bond of love and friendship seems to be stronger than ever also!

But what makes this bond so strong after all these years?  After all, it is so easy to drift apart and lose contact with one another as we get older, so why are we always drawn back to the same people?  I can say that for us it is a strong spiritual bond that glues us together.  We are from an assortment of different churches, and may not always agree on every little thing, but one thing that unites us, is the God we serve.  Recently I had reasons to rely heavily on the prayerful support of my friends and once again they supported me in the way I needed.  This is the real power of a good friend, the power to lift you up to the Throne of Heavenly Grace when you need it most.

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Blind since birth, the life story of Michael Hingson is truly amazing and enlightening.  He overcame many challenges in life, to become successful both professionally and personally.  The battles that face a blind person in a sighted world, are more than we can ever imagine, and many blind or visually impaired people rely on the help of a guide dog to assist them.  The bond between a person and their guide dog is unique and based completely on trust.  This trust was tested to the absolute limit on 9/11, as Micheal Hingson was working on the 78th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre when a plane flew into the building.

The story of how Michael and his guide dog Roselle narrowly escaped is amazing.  The book takes us through the events of that day, and is mixed in with stories from Michael’s life that are both humorous and informative.  I learnt a lot about guide dogs and the training they go through before they are entrusted to a blind person.  When you read of how Roselle coped with the events of that awful day, and the extreme pressure she was working under, it is almost hard to believe its a true story!  I fully recommend this book to you all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This was a very interesting and enjoyable book to read.  Lucado uses a question and answer format to address many issues regarding life, eternity, forgiveness, finances, suicide and many more topical issues.  While there are many questions that will remain unanswered until we reach Heaven, Lucado is able to give biblical references and explanations that reveal a little understanding of certain issues.

This is the type of book that once read, may sit on the shelf for a while until a situation arises  when we need a reference for someone going through a particular struggle or difficult patch.  Overall, quite a useful book, but not one of Lucado’s best.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is one of the most fantastic books I have ever reviewed. Without a doubt, there will be many of my friends and family who will be getting this book as a Christmas gift this year. Stanley uses very biblical principles and examples, to show us clearly how the ‘principle of the path’ works. The basic definition of the principle is this, “direction, not intention, leads to destination”. I had to read this a couple of times to grasp the understanding, yet it is a very simple concept. For example, I intend the lose weight this summer and my intentions are really genuine. However, my direction today involved eating a box of maltesers and a Chinese takeaway for dinner, with very little exercise during the day. If this behaviour continues, it will result in my destination of being the same weight, possibly even heavier! While this is a very small example, Stanley applies the principle in other more important areas of life such as our finances, marriages, raising children and so on.

In using king Solomon as a main example in the book, we clearly see that although the ‘principle of the path’ is a very obvious one, even one of the wisest men to live on earth lost his way at times, and did not see clearly where the direction he was taking was leading him. There are so many lessons to be learned from this book and I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”