> The Beesley Buzz: January 2016

Guestposting at Head over Wheels

Today we are guest-posting over at Head Over Wheels. The Head Over Wheels blog is a positive online space for wheelchair users.

Miss T is an occasional wheelchair user at the moment because of her JIA and one of the things I hope comes out of Miss T having this condition is for people to become more aware that arthritis can and does affect people of any age. Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment and the greater awareness there is, the more chances of an early diagnosis.

You can read our guest post here.


When Happily Ever After becomes #HealthilyEverAfter with Disney

Once upon a time there lived a family who wanted to live a little healthier. And for us being healthy consists of two main areas that are within our control to improve...

One of those is to be more active - this doesn't necessarily mean heading to the gym but rather those little lifelong changes that can be made to get outdoors a bit more and incorporate more movement into our daily lives.

The second area is healthy eating. I'm always conscious of making sure that we all eat plenty of fruit and veg as a family. So we've been inspired by some of our favourite Disney films and characters to get healthy this year.

Disney have launched a #HealthilyEverAfter campaign to encourage families to get active and eat healthily. On the Disney Healthy Living site you can get lots of inspiration and ideas. Here is Disney's #HealthilyEverAfter video to give you an idea of what it is all about.

We also love some of the healthy eating inspiration like the Olaf bento style lunch on the site. Olaf and his friends from Frozen have given us plenty of inspiration to get active this winter too.

At this time of year it can be so tempting just to stay indoors, snuggle up and watch films. And there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes. But it's also crucial to get outdoors and get active - your body will thank you for it. It can shake off those cobwebs and the fresh air will stop that lethargic feeling I get when I stay cooped up indoors for too long in winter.

The kids love getting outdoors whatever the weather - whether it's dressing up in waterproofs and jumping in puddles or going out for a winter walk. Watch our video to see what happened when we woke up to find a very 'Frozen' day...

When it comes to eating veggies, I used to be a firm believer in exposing babies and toddlers to plenty of tastes and textures believing that they wouldn't become fussy eaters. It worked a dream for my first two children. They have always been happy to try all sorts of vegetables no matter how weird and wonderful.

Then Miss T came along and she too was given lots of different tastes and textures to try but she just did not want to try new vegetables! So I've had to incorporate more and more vegetables into the meals I cook rather than serve the vegetables separately. She is far happier eating them this way. I make meals like Macaroni cheese with butternut squash added in. Chilli con carne with added aubergine and carrots. Mashed potato with leeks mixed in.

I decided to turn to Disney again for inspiration and this time it was the Disney scene from Lady and the Tramp that we lovingly call 'the spaghetti dogs'. Everyone seems to know and love this iconic scene where Lady and Scamp share a plate of spaghetti and meatballs and find themselves nibbling on the same piece of spaghetti until their lips meet.

We recreated the scene in our video which also shows just how easy it is to get those veggies into meals. Just by finely chopping onion, carrots, courgette and celery and mixing them in with the beef mince you can easily incorporate all those veggies into a family meal. Serve with wholewheat spaghetti to give it another healthy twist.

I would love to hear how you inspire your family to be healthier and more active? I know that @Disney_Uk would love to hear your stories too using the #healthilyeverafter hashtag.

This post is part of Disney's #HealthilyEverAfter campaign with BritMums sponsored by Disney. Share your stories and be inspired at DisneyHealthyLiving.co.uk and live Healthily Ever After (#HealthilyEverAfter).


A delightful day in London - Preview Screening of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar followed by afternoon tea at our favourite place

Life is busy at the moment. I know I keep saying that and I keep waiting for a quieter month but that never seems to arrive. I think things have felt particularly busy since J began secondary school last September. There is the constant treadmill of homework - every evening and then more at weekends too. He loves homework but it just leaves little spare time.

Miss T's planned and unplanned hospital visits tend to take up far more time than I'd like during the week, then by the time you've thrown in a few afterschool clubs here and there and the odd music lesson, each week is full to the brim.

It has made us conscious of the need to ringfence some family time together at weekends. That is easier said than done with all the jobs that we end up having to catch up on at the weekend. So when the invite came through for the preview screening of television movie The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, we decided it would make the perfect family outing to London for some good family time together.

The story of Disney favourite 'The Lion King' is picked up here when we meet Simba's cubs. Whilst their first-born cub Kiara is training to be queen, the boisterous mischievous second-born cub, Kion doesn't seem to want any responsibility and just wants to have fun with his best friend Bunga, a fearless honeybadger.

But unbeknown to him Kion has a far bigger destiny. The time comes for Kion to fulfil his calling as the leader of 'The Lion Guard' and this gives him a chance to show that he is ready for such a role and can be entrusted with great responsibility. He needs to select the strongest, bravest, fastest, and sharpest of eye to join him in defending the pride lands and preserving the delicate balance in the circle of life.

Just like the original Lion King film, this is packed with catchy songs that will get you singing along!

I don't want to give away the ending so you will have to see for yourself whether Kion is ready to lead The Lion Guard when it is aired on Disney Junior on Monday 8th February at 5.30pm.

Miss T meeting some of the loveable new characters in The Lion Guard

If you really can't wait, then there is a sneek peek trailer you can watch here.
Balloon modelling fun and lots more at the screening of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar

And then it was off to our favourite place for afternoon tea - the Park Terrace restaurant at The Royal Garden Hotel.

Last time we visited we had just Miss T and D with us. This time it was all 3 children and knowing that J can become anxious at times because of his aspergers, I have to admit I was nervous that he wouldn't cope well with afternoon tea.

Thankfully once he got over his excitement about the revolving doors into the building, he soon felt relaxed and enjoyed his afternoon tea very much.

It is really lovely that they have a kids menu afternoon tea available for children up to age 11. As well as a choice of kid-friendly drinks like milkshakes, hot chocolates and smoothies, this menu also featured some great cakes and sandwiches specifically with kids in mind (bottom right photo).

Each child got their own afternoon tea serving platter with chocolate chip scones, fun sandwich combinations like peanut butter and jam, and chocolate spread and banana, and sweet treats like homemade marshmallow and turkish delight. There was also a chocolate brownie style cake with a very cute fondant bear sat on top!

The grown up's platter was also delicious starting with a plate of sandwiches - We loved the roast beef, horseradish and gherkin combination! Followed by warm scones, a selection of tea cakes and other delights like peanut cheesecake, mini blackforest gateaux, Viennese whirl and a fondant fancy style cupcake.

So all in all a very lovely day and some much needed family time together!

You can find out more about Disney Junior on twitter here or on facebook here
Further information about Royal Garden Hotel can be found here
This is NOT a sponsored post and all opinions are our own. 

Dick and Dom level codes for Super Mario Maker!

You may remember our excitement at the release of the Super Mario Maker game for the Nintendo Wii U last year. We celebrated Mario's 30th birthday and reviewed the game here.

So you can imagine how thrilled we were to hear that two of our favourite TV personalities, Dick and Dom, had created levels on the Super Mario Maker game that we could access to play! One of the brilliant things about this game is not only the genius idea of creating your own levels to play but also being able to upload them so that others can access them to play. 

I'm going to hand over to 11 year old J who has been having fun playing the Dick and Dom levels and then we are going to share the codes with you so that you too can find Dick and Dom's levels on Super Mario Maker to play.

So over to J:

There are three levels that Dick and Dom have created. One by Dick called 'The World of BOING', one by Dom called (unoriginally) 'Dom Wood' and a level they created together called 'Bowser's Bedroom'. 

In 'The world of BOING' (Dick's level) there are basically lots of springs, lots of coins, and lots of enemies. You have to use the springs to complete the level.

The whole level is set in a cave. On this level Mario can get a fire flower which gives him fire power. He can fire fireballs using 'x' button to kill enemies.

'Dom Wood' is Dom's level. It is set in the haunted mansion. In this level there are quite a lot of scary bad guys. So lots of piranha plants and Thwomps. I also liked the music blocks in Dom's level.

The level that Dick and Dom created together is called 'Bowser's bedroom'.

They've chosen to go old school for this one with Super Mario Bros style graphics (like my mum and dad used to play when they were kids).

This level has tunnels to go through so when you drop down into them you can get the coins down there and kill Bowser. It is his bedroom after all so he had to be there somewhere!

At one point on this level Mario can hit the question mark block and become '30th anniversary amiibo' Mario (although my mum couldn't even tell the difference until we told her that normal Mario has red clothes and amiibo Mario has blue dungarees.)

There's also a giant mushroom that makes Mario massive so it really looks old style for that bit.

As super Mario maker is such a cool game that is all about designing your own levels, you can even make changes to the Dick and Dom levels. You can then decide to save them as your own levels to play again or quit without saving to keep playing Dick and Dom's original levels.

I liked 'Bowser's bedroom' best (the level Dick and Dom made together). 'World of BOING' was also brilliant (Dick's level). This is because they both had Bowser in it and I like beating Bowser.

Dick and Dom are really funny - I know them really well from all the TV shows they do like Appsolute Genius and Absolute Genius, The Legend of Dick and Dom, and Dick and Dom in da Bungalow. We even taught my little sister to shout 'bogies' like Dick and Dom do.

I saw them a few years ago at the lollibop festival too (you can read about that here and about the great banana fiasco here).

So it's awesome that they love Super Mario Maker like I do and that they have made levels for it that anyone can play.

Here are the codes to get to the Dick and Dom levels.

Dick's level - F15E-0000-0114-40CD
Dom's level - 9C14-0000-0108-C0F9 
Dick and Dom's co-created level - C78F-0000-0124-C6FB 


 Images of Dick and Dom courtesy of Nintendo. 


Britmums bookclub book review: The Playground Mafia

image from Britmums bookclub
This book by Clare Christian and Elisabeth Kent is one that sounded like it had the potential to be a really funny read. Unfortunately it wasn't quite my cup of tea. 

It openly revolves around the stereotypes of the playground mums and dads and I did find myself smiling at various points as I recognised the traits of some of the mums described in myself or some of the people I encounter at the school gates.

As a book as a whole it is basically a list of these various stereotypes like Sporty Mum, Chav mum, Helicopter mum, Wannabe wag mum, Midlife crisis dad and the list goes on.

It sets out to be a fun lighthearted read and is relatively short as a book. But it didn't engage or inspire me to keep reading. In fact if it wasnt for the fact that I had agreed to review the book I don't think I would have finished it.

I suppose I had hoped for it to be something more. Having read The secret life of a slummy mummy by Fiona Neill a few years ago, I recognised many of the playground stereotypes in that book but thought that they were brilliantly interwoven as characters within a proper novel with a context, story and plot behind it.

If this book had done the same, taken a handful of the stereotypes, given them names and given us an insight into their personalities and life stories then I think it could have been a hit. I think it's a great concept but just missed a trick when it came to executing the idea.

As it was it would be perfect as a joke gift or a naff secret santa present but sadly not much else.

This book was sent to me as part of the Britmums book club. All opinions are my own. 


Bella Stories

Having said goodbye to Bella cat at the beginning of the month, I had promised the kids that we would dig out photos of her and share our memories and stories about Bella cat.

The boys were devastated to start with but at least they are old enough to understand what has happened. Miss T on the other hand doesn't really understand the concept of death at all. All she has ever known is from computer games where a character 'dies' but then comes back to play again with more lives. So she keeps asking when Bella is coming back.

She feels the sadness too - She tells us how sad it is that Bella has died. But then asks questions like 'who will feed Bella now?' So I really don't know how much she has understood about it.

We've had other questions and comments too - 'how will God know how much food to feed her?' 'What if it's too noisy in heaven and she doesn't like it?'

Bella passed away on 3rd January. The next morning Miss T said 'I think it's a good day for Bella to come back', then the next day said 'it really is a good day for Bella cat to come back now'.

The following day we had run out of chocolate mini rolls. When I said there were no mini-rolls left, Miss T responded with 'Maybe they've gone too with Bella like Bella's gone.'

That image brought a smile to all our faces visualising Bella cat sat in heaven surrounded by mini-rolls and God not being sure how many to feed her!

We had a quick look through photos and dug out a few to remember her by along with a few stories.

We got Bella when she was around 3 years old (we think) - In her previous neighbourhood there had been a series of cat-nappings and her mother had gone missing. Her owners feared that she would be next with her beautiful big eyes and fluffy tail.

Since her mum had gone, she was being intimidated and bullied by the other cats in their neighbourhood too. So when we visited them one day for a BBQ evening and Bella came and sat on my lap all evening - I totally fell in love with her. She truly was the most beautiful cat I had ever seen! Our friends said 'you can have her if you want' - I thought they were joking. They weren't. Because of the worries about her, they wanted her to be in a safer neighbourhood.

She came to stay for a two week trial and loved it so much she never left!

On her first night here, she managed to sense a draft coming from the fireplace so she did try to climb up the chimney. We had to put a mesh in to block further escape attempts.

Although we never knew her as a tiny kitten, some of her behaviour was quite playful and kittenlike when we first got her.
Mischief: Rolling around under the rug! 
We'd find her being mischievous when we weren't looking. Curtain climbing was one of her favourite activities trying to catch the curtain strings she could spot at the top of the curtains.

She also ruined our sofas by using them as scratch posts instead of the lovely new scratch post we bought her and many a coat toggle was ruined by her pulling at them. Hiding under rugs and umbrellas was another fave pastime.

When J was born he was fascinated by her. He loved her tail swishing in his face and the feel of her fur. Once when he had just begun to walk and talk, my brother was visiting and told him to go and sit on the 'couch'. We usually say 'sofa' so J wasn't used to this word and heard it as 'cat'. We found him chasing Bella cat round trying to sit on her. Thankfully she was smart enough to get away.

D was born a couple of years later and one of his first words was 'be-uh cat'.

Miss T's first word was also 'be-uh cat' too which shows just what a special member of the family she was. Miss T would have her breakfast then sit by the back door window to watch Bella for a while everyday.

Gradually as her confidence grew, Bella spent more and more time outdoors. Over the past few years she'd spend most her time outdoors having taken over Miss T's toy playhouse as her own. She wasn't bothered by the cheeky youngster cats that lived nearby here - She grew old and wise and confident around them.

She was such a gentle cat that at times it came as a shock to be reminded that she had those animal instincts. I once found her sat with a mouse's tail under her paw as the little mouse tried to run away - it's feet scrabbling quickly but not moving anywhere as Bella had his tail trapped.

I wanted to rescue the mouse but I knew I shouldn't interfere with nature. She wasn't a big hunter as most the birds visiting the garden would spot her attempts to creep up a mile off but she did tend to find animals to watch and attempt to catch occasionally.

There was one beautiful bird that was sat in the middle of the grass one day. It was particularly noticable as it had bright green coloured feathers. I wonder now if it was injured or an escaped pet bird - One moment it was there looking odd sitting in the middle of the garden, the next moment we looked there was a pile of feathers. We assume it was Bella but who knows.

When J was just a few months old we saw her watching something in the garden. We ran out to see a snake coiled up looking at her. I was terrified! Thankfully it was just a grass snake (next door had been empty for a while and their grass was overgrown) - the snake quickly slithered away and we never saw it again.

She also alerted us to another mouse (which we did rescue and release in the nearby woodland) and a frog which she seemed fascinated by.

But the thing she was by far best at was getting in the way. Particularly if we ever needed to take blogging photos in the garden.

Here's a behind the scenes peek of Bella getting involved in the photoshoot for this book review. In the end we must have given up and tried again a different day as in the final review photos Miss T has a different dress on:

Spot the tail at the front of the photo! 
Wanting to see what Miss T was up to. 
And there's that fluffy tail again in this photo when we were taking photos for our Pink Lining Ambassador post last summer:

She was never far away whenever we were in the garden:

And she could sense whenever anyone was feeling sad or low as she would come straight away to see them. D in particular would spend a lot of time sitting in the garden with Bella when he was in need of a friend.

So if she ever wasn't nearby we would worry about her. Like the year we had the house extension and it snowed. A lot. Bella hadn't been seen all day. We braced ourselves for the worst then. But then we heard a faint meow. She had taken shelter under the tarpaulin we had in the garden covering the stuff that would usually be in the garage whilst the builders were working on it. The snow had fallen heavily on top and she'd got stuck under there.

Daddy got her out and we made her stay indoors for a while until the snow cleared. J became very attached to having her around indoors. But once the fine weather came she wanted to be outdoors again.

We'd joke about her being 'pirate Bella' when she'd sit on the edge of the blue boat sandpit. She much preferred to drink water from that or from puddles than her water bowl.

Last Christmas (2014) D drew some chalk pictures for her:

And spent some time with her for Christmas cuddles.

I used to find it so annoying to have so much fluff on my strawberries - she was forever shedding her fur everywhere, but I know that when summer comes around and we pick our strawberries, things will never feel quite the same again without her around.

I'm putting this together for the kids so when they read this back in future, I know this is the sad bit but it is important for them to know...Bella died peacefully in her sleep in her favourite playhouse.  No illness, no trips to and fro from the vets (which she didn't enjoy). She was curled up and passed away peacefully and painlessly. It's all anyone could wish for in the end.

She brought us lots of happiness and she had a really happy lucky life with us with three children who adored her and who she adored.

For the children, this has been the saddest thing they have experienced. As they grow up life will go on to show them that far worse things happen than losing a loved pet. But for now I want them to have these photos and stories to remember Bella by.

Thank you for the memories Bella.


Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros on the Nintendo 3DS

We had a crazy busy time in the run up to Christmas reviewing so many of the great new game releases from Nintendo. There were games for the Nintendo Wii U like Mario Ultra Smash Tennis, Animal Crossing Amiibo festival and for the Nintendo 3DS there was The Legend of Zelda Tri-Force heroes, Chibi-Robo Zip Lash and mum's favourite New Style Boutique 2: Fashion Forward. So we had a marathon time of gaming before Christmas had even arrived!

The really great thing about Nintendo games these days is that you no longer need to visit a gaming store or order a game to be delivered by post. You can just visit the Nintendo Official UK store online and download it from the e-shop. So even if you've left things a bit last minute for birthday or Christmas gifts for the kids, there can always be a last minute download from the e-store to save the day.

As Nintendo Family Bloggers we were sent a download code for Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros for the Nintendo 3DS and we downloaded this for the kids just before Christmas so that they would discover it on their Nintendo 3DS ready to play on Christmas day.

It is a unique game where two worlds collide. Paper Mario and his paper friends and enemies join the 3D world when they are magically released from the book. Being paper versions means that they sometimes have certain advantages over their 3D counterparts which helps them along the way.

Here's what 11 year old J had to say:
On Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros you have to stop Bowser and paper Bowser taking over the world and rescue Princess Peach and paper Princess Peach. You control Mario, Luigi and paper Mario as you fight Bowser and his minions. You learn more attacks as you progress through the game. Also, you have to rescue the paper Toads. The paper Toads then make a papercraft that you can use in papercraft battles. A is the control for Mario, B for Luigi and Y for paper Mario. X makes them jump at the same time. After a while, you unlock minigames that you can access from a Lakitu info centre in the Toad villages.

The part of the game I love best are the battles because you have to kill the enemies. Sometimes the enemy are Goombas. Sometimes they are Koopa-Troupas. And so on. The latest battle I did was against Paper Bowser Junior and Bowser Junior in their Clown-copters. 

Here is a video of me doing the battle (and I won!) I played the battle and my brother is talking about it on the video. 

We were also sent a fun craft activity relating to Mario & Luigi Paper Jame Bros where we put together a Papercraft Mario (like the one you get to see in the first battle in the game), along with a papercraft Luigi and Goomba.

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros for the Nintendo 3DS is available from the Nintendo Official UK store here and you can find out more about Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros and see the official trailer here. You can find out all the latest from Nintendo UK on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nintendouk.

As Nintendo Family Bloggers we were sent a download code for this game for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own. 

Edible natural confetti for Cake decorating

Having caught the baking bug over the past couple of years, I have found myself not wanting to bake over recent weeks. Everyone seems to be feeling more health conscious now that January is here and to get baking again would mean lots more sugar and calories in our diets.

Then I received a little parcel from Nim's fruit crisps and it gave me an idea. I have to mention that they are absolutely perfect as a snack on their own but they gave just the little spark of inspiration I needed to get back in the kitchen.

I am always trying to find ways of making my baking healthier whether it is by reducing the amount of sugar, lowering the fat content or adding vegetables to cakes. But I am also very aware that baking is a science and that there is only so much tweaking that can be done with the ratios of sugar/fat/eggs/flour etc and I have had many baking failures to prove it.

The kids love adding sprinkles to icing and there is nothing wrong with that. Occasionally. But what if there was a healthier alternative to the sugar-loaded cake sprinkles?

Sometimes I like to sprinkle edible dried rose petals onto my cakes. Sometimes ground pistachio looks pretty by adding a hint of green colour. I love using freeze-dried raspberries too. All healthier alternatives to sugary sprinkles.

So today I decided to use Nim's Fruit crisps in my mix of 'edible confetti'. I left out the raspberries as I wanted to enjoy the amazing fruity flavours of the Nim's crisps.

So here's the little mix I put together in my cute Kilner jars from Silver Mushroom.

Ingredients for Natural Edible Confetti
1 heaped teaspoon of each: Dried edible rose petals, flaked toasted almonds, chopped pistachios, Nim's Pinapple and Mango fruit crisps, Nim's Orange and Melon Fruit crisps, Nim's Pear and Kiwi Fruit crisps.

I made a cream cheese frosting as a healthier alternative to buttercream frosting (I think fresh whipped cream would also work brilliantly but I didn't have any). Frosting has lots of sugar in so although the calorie content of cream cheese is lower than butter, this still needs to be eaten in moderation!

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:
100g cream cheese
280g icing sugar

Combine well with a mixer.

I even tried to make a healthier alternative to cupcakes. I love polenta cake and I have gradually experimented with reducing the amount of sugar and butter in it to still get a great tasting cake. Today I decided to use Agave nectar in place of sugar and made a variation on my 'Heaven Scent Polenta Cake'. 

Ingredients for Polenta cake (makes 9 cupcakes):
130g ground almonds
67g polenta
pinch of saffron infused in 40ml warm milk
100g butter (room temperature)
70g agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking poweder
30g ground pistachios
6 cardamom pods

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Either spray some silicone cake cases with a little oil or line a muffin tin with paper cake cases.
2. Mix together the agave nectar and butter. In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, alternating with some of the dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
4. Add in the saffron infused milk.
5. Place into the cake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked.
6. Leave to cool.

Once cooled you can add the cream cheese frosting or whipped cream and then sprinkle with the edible natural confetti.

I was sent some sample packs of Nim's Fruit Crisps to try out and was not asked to write about them. I loved reading the story behind Nim's and think it is fantastic to have brought a new product to market that realizes someones passion and dream. You can read the Nim's story here. The fruit crisps themselves are Air dried and contain nothing other than the fruit itself so there is no oily residue that you can sometimes find on other fruit crisps. They are low calorie and are 1 of your 5 a day. They use the entire fruit so you will see on the kiwi, melon and orange pieces that the skin is still on them but that adds to the flavour and keeps in all that goodness.

The flavours were great - the orange is slightly strong tasting for my taste on its own but worked nicely together in moderation with the other flavours (and the orange pieces just look so pretty too!) The melon is just heavenly tasting and I enjoyed all the other flavours too.

For other healthier baking ideas, you can see my Beetroot and Chocolate cake bakeover which uses yogurt in place of some of the butter content.

My Sunflower inspired Courgette and Sunflower seed cakes include healthy courgettes in them - a sneaky way of getting veggies into the kids! As well as sunflower seeds which have lots of nutritional benefits.

So I'm hoping the baking bug is back and I will be back in the kitchen a lot more enjoying baking once again!


Goodbye Bella Cat

Bye bye Bella cat. Today was supposed to be a happy day - it was daddy's birthday. It was also the day we said goodbye to our beloved Bella Cat. She passed away peacefully in her sleep.