Life with two Smalls and a fistful of daydreams


And here we are: The Great Blogger’s Bake Off Final. I missed a couple of weeks in the middle due to various members of the family being ill and time just generally evading me but I was determined to join in with the final bake. Last year I made a tiered Hallowe’en cake as my showstopper and amusingly, we only finished eat it a couple of weeks ago – I froze it in portions for emergency puddings!

I wanted to try something completely different and out of my comfort zone for my final effort this year – a proper challenge. With that in mind I stuck my nose in all of my recipe books to try and find something suitable and eventually found what I was looking for in The Humming Bird Bakery ‘Home Sweet Home’ book which is utterly beautiful but full of recipes I am generally too afraid to try and make.

The recipe involved making a cheesecake baked inside a moist, rich chocolate sponge crust. Perfect considering I have never made a cheesecake in my life, baked or otherwise – definitely a challenge to try and pull off.

I adapted the recipe a little so I could use the last of the blackberries from my parents’ garden and also because their recipe called for sour cherries and I’m not a big fan.

Chocolate & Blackberry Cheesecake Swirl Cake

You Will Need:

finalsponge finalcheesecake1. Preheat your oven to 170ºC and grease a 25cm diameter non-stick cake ring/bundt tin with butter and dust with flour.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and hot water, stir well until combined into a thick chocolate liquid.

3. Add the soured cream to the chocolate liquid and mix well.

4. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.

5. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well (and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each one if you are using a mixer or handheld whisk).

6. Pour in the soured cream mixture (with your mixer/whisk on a medium speed) then add the dry ingredients and mix well until you have a smooth, shiny, even dough. (I found it was quite liquid but it’s really thick so it’s okay.) Put this to one side to use later.

7. Now to make the cheesecake! Mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth (using your mixer or electric whisk).

8. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.

9. Stir in the vanilla extract and chopped blackberries. (You might want to do this by hand to make sure the berries are evenly distributed through the mixture.)

10. Fill a piping bag with the cheesecake mixture. (Use your widest nozzle or cut the tip to make a 3cm hole if using a disposable bag.)

11. Spoon/pour half of the chocolate sponge mixture into your prepared tin.

12. Carefully pipe the cheesecake mixture in a ring in the middle of the tin, taking car not to let it touch the sides anywhere.

final213. Spoon/pour the remaining half of the chocolate sponge mixture on top of the cheesecake. Smooth it down carefully to completely cover the cheesecake.

14. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a skewer comes out clean of cake mix when inserted.

15. Allow the cake to cool and then carefully turn out of the tin. (I left mine for approximately one episode of House M.D. so about 45 minutes ;) )

final316. Melt the blackberry jam in a small saucepan. (I used my homemade Autumn Fruit jam which is lightly spiced with cinnamon but any jam that compliments the fruit in the cheesecake would be fine.)

17. Using a pastry brush, glaze the cake with the jam.

18. Serve and Enjoy!


I really enjoyed making this cake although it was HUGE when I brought it out of the oven and I was afraid I would never get it out of the tin whole because it looked a bit delicate due to the soft cheesecake centre. However, once it had cooled, it settled a bit and actually turned out quite easily and neatly (although I should have done it onto a plate or serving dish instead of a cooling rack because I couldn’t lift it off again afterwards…)

I don’t much like fruit mixed with cake or chocolate so was pleasantly surprised when I loved this cake! My fussy eaters liked it too which was an added bonus (apart from Tori not liking the jam on the outside, but she ate the rest).

I loved the shine the jam glaze gave it – very simple but quite impressive to look at.

I can’t tell you how well it keeps or freezes though I’m afraid because we ate it too fast!



I’m taking part in the #GreatBloggersBakeOff2014
To see the other great entries in Finals Week click here to see the linky on MummyMishaps

Also linking up with:


290octToday my parents, sister and I travelled to Leeds to attend the final ever service at Meanwood Methodist Church which has been our family church for many years. Weddings, christenings, funerals, Sunday School, Scouts, Brownies – all sorts of things. Friendship and family, love, fun, worship, memories beyond measure.

It’s slightly strange attending a funeral for a community building – the same bittersweet emotions as any funeral except you have to stand inside the perfectly healthy, living building and say goodbye to it anyway.

I took this photo after the final service finished – it hurts thinking those pews will never be full again.

291octMonday means MDanz for Tori & Arthur and this week they had pom-poms. Yes, I joined in. It was awesome.

292octWe’ve lived in our house for over a year now and whilst I was in Leeds Caius finally transferred the pile of pictures in the front room onto the stairway wall. And my guitar too. It was lovely to come home to and makes me smile whenever I see them – I especially love the canvas of the Smalls when they were small.

293octCaius randomly suggested taking the kids to the park after school – then I discovered he had his mini quadcopter in his pocket and realised there was an ulterior motive ;)

294octSinging Simba stopped singing. We fixed him because we all love Simba.

295octTori has apparently been working hard on her handwriting and remembering her finger spaces – I’m very proud of her.

296octToday we went to Birmingham for an ‘adventure’ – we took the train because the Smalls have been begging to go on a train for ages. We didn’t really have a plan and it turned out to be a great day of window shopping, exploring, food and discovery. We visited the gallery and museum and then headed into the library. If you haven’t been to the Library of Birmingham then go. I want to live there, it is amazing. As is this photograph of Artie & Caius I took there whilst we were sat watching random people playing Ping Pong for free in the library basement level outdoor amphitheatre. (I told you the place was awesome.)

cbaEEnid Blyton’

When it comes to childhood reading, there are some authors who trip off the tongue of almost everybody. Enid Blyton is one of those.

First up there’s Noddy and his little red and yellow car – I remember having a board book where the little car ends up floating in some water, possibly the sea, which was (and still is, somewhere I think…) stuck together with aging sellotape on the spine. If you didn’t read the books then you probably saw the TV version and loved that instead. Everybody loves Noddy, although I now have the theme tune stuck in my head which is a little annoying.

By far and away though, my very favourite Enid Blyton books were the Famous Five and Secret Seven series; I had the books, the audio cassette tapes, adventure game books and a couple of the Famous Five videos (both original series and the modern one).

I wanted to be in the Famous Five off on adventures across the countryside, catching smugglers and solving crimes with the trusty Timmy at my side. Reading these books made me dream of being brave and discovering secrets about the world – they opened a world of imagination in my head away from the usual fantasy theme of my reading.

I made up passwords for my bedroom based on whatever password the Secret Seven had used in the last book I read, I had a cuddly dog named after Scamper and I spent a lot of my time trying to ‘shadow’ people in the street (and imaginary people in the garden) after obsessively listening to the tape of Go Ahead Secret Seven.

The books still receive a lot of criticism and yes, they are pretty formulaic and predictable now I look back at them but when I was younger they were amazing. That formula Enid Blyton was using was like magic and made her books addictive and compulsive.

The characters from Famous Five and Secret Seven all live in my head now like old friends – sometimes something happens that reminds me of them and I smile to myself. Julian, Dick, George, Anne, Timmy, Peter, Janet, Colin, George, Pam, Jack & Barbara (and Scamper!) still whisper in my mind when I’m out walking sometimes and I find myself musing my way through a pretend FF or SS adventure to pass the time.

The books are timeless, the stories are still fun and full of adventure even though time has moved on from when they were first written. And as for the people who wanted to update them – I think it is insulting. Leave them be.

283octMy sister and brother-in-law were up in Shropshire this weekend with their lovely dog Kew. Tori & Arthur are both a bit nervous around dogs usually so it was great to see them confidently making friends with Kew. We went for a lovely family walk around Colemere and at one point poor Kew had three leads on and wasn’t sure which way to walk!!

284octTori decided to sit and read her school reading book to me whilst I cooked dinner today.

285octWhen Artie skipped out of pre-school this afternoon, I noticed that his shoes were looking more than a little sad so we jumped in the car and drove to the giant Asda in Telford to buy him some new ones. We had dinner in the cafe too and this Bakewell Cheesecake was AMAZING!

286octHaven’t made curry at home for ages – had a sudden urge this evening.

287octGave in to the weather today and wore wellies for the school run this morning.

288octIt was a bit chilly this morning so Arthur cuddled up under Caius’ hoodie to watch his morning dose of Cars.

289octLooking out of my parents’ dining room window we realised that it was really, really raining over Wem even though we were bathed in glorious Autumnal sunshine!

cbaDDaughter Of Smoke And Bone Trilogy’

I bought the first book in this trilogy by accident. My Mum had a book catalogue that you had to order X number of books from and one month there wasn’t anything she particularly wanted so she told me to choose something instead. I picked this book because it had one of the most beautiful covers I had seen in a long time – I didn’t notice that it was a new release, hard back edition. All I saw was the pretty.

Those softly glowing metallic purple feathers, the slightly whimsical font and the cryptic tagline – I was completely sold before I’d even glanced at the blurb.

I wasn’t let down by the contents either, the world Laini Taylor builds in this trilogy is incredible. A brilliant blend of the world we know and worlds we don’t held together by the most fantastic cast of characters.

Karou, the main character of the series is one of my favourite characters of all time. She is feisty and self-assured but can also be shy and uncertain when everything gets too much. She loves with everything she is and finds strength in that, even when it seems that everything is too bleak to be resolved.

Taking the age-old premise of Angels and Demons and taking them to a whole different level, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone breaks the ‘Angels are good’ and ‘Demons are bad’ stereotypes as well as sticks to them. It is very clever and serves very well to highlight the humanity in both sides – and the total lack of it, too.

I utterly lose myself in these books and their characters, the world is so well built and clear that it is hard not to. Whilst I was reading, I dreamed these worlds and even though I have finished the final book of the trilogy a couple of months ago now, I still dream them and often find myself thinking about the characters and mulling over events in the story. They have firmly stuck in my head and are more than welcome to stay.

I adored the first book so much that I preordered books two and three so that I would get the full set of beautiful hardback covers. They are all stunning with their metallic gleams and incredibly simple but striking details. That and because both the first two books ended on such horrendously gut-wrenching cliff-hangers that I had literally no choice but to order the following books!

The concluding novel, Dreams Of Gods And Monsters, sat on my bedside table looking pretty for months because I couldn’t bear to pick it up and read it and bring the whole adventure to a close. And because I was afraid that I would be disappointed after loving the first two so very much.

When I did finally read it though I was relieved to discover it was just as good as the others. It didn’t hold back and pulled a few punches that I really weren’t expecting and finished in a way that was completely satisfying and perfect for the story.

I don’t want to give the ending away but I thought the reality of the ending was just brilliant – it didn’t have the sickly sting of ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ or a soul destroying ending of doom but a delicate balance somewhere in between.

All I can say is if you haven’t picked this series up, then do it. But if you cry at books a lot (like me) then have tissues handy because you’re in for a real rollercoaster ride.



Find What You Love And Let It Kill You: Stories About Love by Thomm Quackenbush 

Illustrated by: N/A

Series: N/A

Published: Createspace, February 2014

Edition: Kindle

Narrated By: N/A

Length: 101 pages

Genre: Short stories, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Reflection

Where Did I Get It? Kindly received from the author in return for an honest review.

Summary (from GoodReads): An anthology from the author of the Night’s Dream series on what makes us all tick. Alternatingly heartwarming and heartbreaking, hilarious and horrifying, Find What You Love and Let It Kill You vivisects the heart through fiction and personal reflections.

It includes the stories:
Getting the Slip – How does one handle being told the exact cause of one’s future death?
Always Darkest – When a friend comes back to life, can you handle the consequences?
So It Passed – The inspiration for the novel We Shadows.
Facing the Sunset – A daughter grieves for her dying father.
Alyssah Julianne – The transformation of a father holding his daughter for the first time.

And several others.

Opening Lines (From ‘Tarantella’):

The gun presses against Dan’s temple. One question rushes though his head: does he have time to put down the television?


My Review:  First up, I love the title of this short story collection – it immediately caught my attention and made me want to pick it up. Find What You Love And Let It Kill You is a mixture of short stories both fiction and non-fiction reflections all with the linking theme of love in all its guises.

The first half of the collection is made up of the fiction stories, all followed by short pieces explaining their inspiration or the reason they were written. Some have been in previous publications or were competition entries that have been revisited and tweaked.

I must confess to not being a fan of a lot of the stories although I did enjoy Tarantella in particular. I liked the open-ended storyline – it was hopeful but not conclusive and I found this very satisfying.

Thomm Quackenbush has a brilliant touch with words – he manages to create very clear scenes and can convey a lot about a character in the limited space required by the short story genre. I just felt a few of the stories needed something else – I don’t quite know what exactly but there was something missing which meant I struggled to read more than one story in an evening rather than romping hungrily through them.

In contrast to this though, I thought the non-fiction selection of stories were just fantastic. They were touching, full of real, raw emotion and made me laugh, nod along and on more than one occasion burst into tears. I almost wanted them to be longer – they were snapshots into life and I desperately wanted the whole story in between.

Overall I don’t think Find What You Love And Let It Kill You was for me but if you are a fan of the short story genre it could well be a gem.

My Rating: 3/5*

276sepToday we went round to visit English Folkfan and the Smalls enjoyed playing outside in this beautiful Indian summer weather. Tori loves Caius’ old trike now she is big enough to really reach the pedals.

277sepMonday is a busy day for the Smalls – they have Street Jazz dance class after school and they are always tired by the end. When I went in to check on Arthur he was totally flopped out, it gave me a bit of a chuckle.

278sepGot the proofs for the Smalls’ school photos today – how cheesy is their sibling photo?!

279octBefore the heavens opened and tried to wash us out of existance (I wasn’t sure we’d make it home from school without a boat) I did a bit of weeding in the front garden and met this little chappy.

280octI was very impressed when Tori wandered in to the kitchen to show me this play park she had made all by herself out of Duplo.

281octSometimes you see something and just *have* to buy it. This was one of those things

282octThis is the face of a girl who has just been on her first ever limo trip. She and Arthur both went to their friend’s birthday party and then Tori was one of the special few who got to stay on at the end and go on a tour round town in a limo with the birthday girl!


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