Blog & News

STONES OVER SWIMMING

STONES OVER SWIMMING

Sunday morning. When the children started waking up I had been in bed for precisely 5 and a half hours. You know those questionnaires that the weekend papers put to famous people, with questions like 'what's the last thing you ate?' or 'when did you last cry?', I remember one question being 'what single thing would improve the quality of your life?'. For me it's very simple - not having to go swimming on a Sunday morning with the children. Three children, two of whom can't be left to their own devices, and two adults, one of whom would rather put pins in their eyes than get in a pool cooler than 35 degrees (me). It's around 27 degrees usually. So this morning I jumped on the fact one had an earache and one had a dodgy tummy, and canned swimming in favour of Bedgebury [National Pinetum, near us].

The Bee and I planned it all out - we had a Secret Stone to hide (random FB craze), and a new map to help us find the Gruffalo and other animals they had hidden around the forest. They'd clearly had SAS recruitment in mind when they had hidden them, rather than small children, and a backlash was developing as people began to despair of ever finding them all, or any. A new map was an exciting prospect.

Grizzly returned from a tutoring session, delighted to hear there was a change of plan. And then he uttered the immortal words 'I know, let's take the bikes!'. The last time we used the bike rack we had a Polo, no children, and no time constraints. 'I’ll be 10 minutes, you start lunch.' An hour later the rack was fitted. Then Grizzly began making and eating lunch. The Secret Stone had been ‘hidden’, and was now lost somewhere in the house. By the time we found it again it was raining.

After we had all admired Daddy’s bike, and got into the car, we discovered the S@dding Stone was still in the house, and the helmets were still in the shed. By the time we actually got to Bedgebury the weather was reminiscent of a cold November afternoon. This time last week we were basking in tropical conditions, so obviously I had no hats, gloves, waterproofs or will to live. I endured an hour and a half of shivering around the play areas before demanding we all left again. An hour after returning to the car the bike was back on the rack and we were ready to leave.

So in answer to the other questions, the last thing I ate was left-over shepherd's pie as I was turning the heating on to thaw everyone out, and the last time I cried was at Bedgebury this afternoon when I realised we were probably going to go swimming next week.

Here's the stone.
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TIGERING & THOMASING

TIGERING & THOMASING

It's the last few days of the Easter holidays for us - surprise, surprise I still have all the name tags to sew on to the summer uniform... But on reflection not skiing was actually fine, and I'll be sad when term starts again. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy a three hour round trip for their 4 year old to spend 30 minutes on a dry ski slope, in the driving rain. Or want to spend an hour on a tennis court in a force 9 gale with a wind-chill of -2,... so the same 4 year old can practice their backhand (never actually managing to connect ball and racquet).

Apart from the weather it has been fab though. Today we went to the Spa Valley Railway for a Day Out With Thomas - the 1 year old even managed to throw our thermos onto the tracks under Percy. Here's a picture of him trying to pretend it was his brother.

Many of you will have seen my post a few days ago about unlinking my Instagram and Facebook account, so I won't we posting stuff here quite as much, but I will promise to try and always do my blog, so I can update those of you not on IG at least once a week.

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I'M BACK FROM NOT SKIING

I'M BACK FROM NOT SKIING

My plan to move my blog from a Sunday failed, so here we are!

You may remember from last time that we were the only people on earth not freshly arrived in the Alps, and I was trying to recreate my own 'not-skiing' fun in Sussex. Ultimately this ended badly, with me spending the next 6 days hungover every morning, with no fresh snow, mountain air or snow crèche to deal with the fall-out. Just rain. So I called an end to my imaginary ski-trip eventually, and started behaving normally again.


In fact it's been busy busy at Bee & Bear HQ, with the relaunch of the raspberry & dark chocolate brownie, and a dreamy collaboration with Little n & the Lion for the perfect gift for new mums. And this week I am hard at work on another collaboration for Father's Day...I'm keeping quiet for now but it's going to be pretty darn special!!

The other thing I'm doing this week, weirdly, is sorting out my Christmas Fair schedule and planning my pudding production. Last year took me by surprise, in a good way, but also in a 'I might not make Christmas' kind of way. So assuming the demand for puddings is even greater this year, I'm determined to stay ahead of the game and actually get to Christmas Eve in one piece this time. Everyone loves a bit of festive drama in April!

We had a Bee & Bear pudding on Easter Sunday by the way. It was magnificent, even better than it was at Christmas. Not sure whether this was due to it being an 'out of season novelty' or just better for a longer maturation, but I'm not holding back on starting to make them.

Here's a problem I hope I never have...

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NOT SKIING

NOT SKIING

I think I might move my Sunday blog to another night of the week as it keeps getting shelved so I can do the Sainsbury's order, or bake, or recover from a trip to the swimming pool. Anyway, for tonight, here I am!

In case anyone is wondering, it seems Royal Mail didn't eat my orders after all, just took nearly a week to deliver a couple of them. The other orders that according to Track & Trace had never arrived, had... Anyway [touching wood] everything I have posted since then has arrived the next day, so we seem to be back to normal. Apparently the Great Snow the week before Mother's Day caused mayhem and created a knock-on effect for the following weekend. I know...let's move on.

There are lots of exciting new things on the web-site - subscription services for 3 or 6 months for brownies, muffins, afternoon teas, or a mixture. Easter brownies - egg-shaped and classily glittery. An Easter Afternoon Tea including Hot Cross Buffins and the aforementioned brownies. And all Bee & Bear brownies (apart from the chocolate orange ones) are now dairy and gluten-free.

Meanwhile it's the Easter holidays already, and apparently we are the only people in the world not currently skiing. We would have been skiing too but I couldn't get travel insurance for one of the children. So instead we're having a Staycation, which is how people who aren't skiing justify the lack of snow and apres-ski in their lives. I have 4 weeks of non-skiing outings planned, from lambing to tennis lessons. All for the benefit of the children. Last night I realised 85% of people I knew were spending the first night of their holiday in a chalet being cooked for, while their ski-boots were warming nicely in the boot-room... Meanwhile I was cooking pizza and planning a trip to a Pinetum in the morning. Come 10.30pm I was forced to break my own golden rule, that of never drinking booze from the baking cupboard. And while I tucked in I pretended I was on holiday as well. I'm entirely blaming Tia Maria on my failure to remember the clocks were changing...
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COCKTAILS

COCKTAILS

This week I had childcare in the form of Granny and Grandpa staying, and the amount of work I managed to do was quite extraordinary. I launched the Floral Collection brownie, which is proving popular for Mother's Day, and am almost ready to launch a champagne & strawberry brownie (pictured), which will be available on it's own as a box of 12, but will also form part of my Cocktail Collection I've been working on. You may also have noticed that the new floral brownie box is gluten-free and dairy-free, and very soon I'll be making all the Bee & Bear brownies the same way. They taste fab, they are gooier in the middle, and can be enjoyed by the masses!

I'm still working on the Easter collection - just tweaking the decoration before I release them. And then there'll be the Royal Wedding collection to get started on (joke...although having said that...?).
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LIMITED EXCITEMENT

LIMITED EXCITEMENT

Sorry, sorry...I've missed two weeks of blogs...but I'm back...and thank you to everyone who ordered Valentine's boxes and normal brownies, and children's party food, and generally kept me busy, busy for a fortnight solidly. The brownie boxes I did for Valentine's were really exciting to create and do, and they seem to have gone down a storm. So I'm straight onto Mother's Day and hope to have a new special box for that to order by this time next week. Think floral...

I'm also working on an Easter box too, for those of you wanting to send something a bit different from an Easter egg. And I'm planning to keep some of the 'specials' available all year round.

And weddings - the season will be upon us soon and I've had 3 enquiries about weddings in the last fortnight. So yes, I can do weddings, whether you want a brownie stack, trays of brownie canapés, or a platter for the pudding table. Just get in touch!

So not much going on really...

I also got around to registering Bee & Bear as a limited company this week - so I am now officially Bee & Bear Bakery Ltd. Looking people's businesses up on Companies House has long been a guilty pleasure of mine, only eclipsed by my other obsession, Nethouseprices.com. Being able to find out what people paid for their houses and what their turnover was last year is way more exciting than stalking someone on Facebook and discovering where they holiday. However I do have a slightly nauseous feeling about the fact people will now be able to do the same to me.

Right, I think that's quite enough oversharing for one week. I shall be back in the kitchen tomorrow morning, bringing you new and exciting brownies. Here is a picture of Grizzly's Valentine's flowers perfectly matching my brownies!
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NINE'S NOT A DOZEN

NINE'S NOT A DOZEN

I finally managed to get my Valentine's Box sorted this week, which you may or may not have noticed I've been rather excited about. Clearly it's extremely beautiful, even if I say so myself, but also very yummy. I have been offloading the ones I didn't need to photograph pronto, in a frantic attempt to retain some allure myself come 14 February. I'm sure someone told me once that if you work with food you lose your appetite, or don't want to eat it, or something. Obviously that person was stronger than me...

In case you missed the posts, there are a dozen brownies, three flavours, so four of each. Simple maths. You would think. The picture tells a different story though. I spent a good fifteen minutes arranging these, photographing them 230 different ways, then wrapping and photographing them in the box. It was at that point I thought something was wrong - there was a lot of extra room. I had to start again with 12, rather than the 9 we have here.

Anyway I decided for my own sanity I was only going to order 50 boxes, so there are a finite amount of orders I can take. Hopefully by next year the Bee will be fully trained in packing, and running the dispatch side of the business, leaving me to focus on baking. Her ability to waste yards of sellotape trying to pull a tiny amount out of the dispenser doesn't bode well however.
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VEGAN & A FREEGAN

I feel like I've barely stopped baking since we got back from Yorkshire late December. I've had lots of orders, but I've mainly been in what I now like to call 'recipe development', which makes me sound very professional and proper. Obviously I'm both of those things, but it does seem to involve stuffing in a bonkers amount of brownies and muffins every day, and come mid-afternoon I'm starting to wonder if i can bring myself to taste any more batches. I haven't failed yet, but I do need to become more Mary Berry, and less Mr Creosote, if I want to make it to December.

Frustratingly I still can't go 'live' with my Valentine's box because the actual boxes themselves haven't arrived yet. And I don't want to tempt fate until I have them...

It hasn't all been about Valentine's Day though. I have embraced Veganuary in the Bee & Bear kitchen, and have been working tirelessly on a vegan offer. I'm just going to put it out there - vegan baking is hard. Even harder when you're looking for a product which is entirely 'free from' (so no gluten), and a perfectionist. I'll also add that I have become an oil and milk anorak. I embarked on this nearly a month ago thinking it was all about sunflower oil and soya milk. They're both dead to me now. After literally no more than two batches of vegan brownies I realised the recurrent disappointment was the awful taste. A different oil and a different milk and even Grizzly couldn't tell they were vegan. I'm really hoping by the end of the month I can share my first vegan product with you. I'll be honest, I thought I'd nailed it this morning, but apparently my entire family disagree...I say entire family - I did actually catch the Baby helping himself to some vegan brownies from the bin earlier, and he seemed to be enjoying them immensely. Maybe it was the sparkle dust...
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MARE'S MILK MUFFINS

MARE'S MILK MUFFINS

This week the Bee and the Bear started back at nursery, with named clothes, and I began trying to get control of my life again. By Monday I had done my tax return, by Tuesday I had had my will witnessed. By Wednesday morning I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Until I realised the will which had been signed and witnessed was dated 2017, because I'd stuffed it away on the dresser behind the fruit basket before Christmas - way before Christmas in fact. So now I have to amend it to 2018, and initial the amendment, in the presence of two witnesses again...

Anyway on Thursday I discovered the baking section in Waitrose. This was properly exciting. We've had a Waitrose open near us for over a year now (rural Sussex...), and this was my first trip. I had the Bear and the Baby with me, who humoured me for a good 10 minutes whilst I got very excited about tubes of freeze-dried fruit, and goji berries, and syrups I can't even remember the name of. Then I realised the Bear was nowhere to be seen and had a mild panic until I found him staring at tractor magazines at the end of the aisle. I'm planning a return trip on my own.

I am now deep in preparation ahead of the big reveal for this year's Valentine's Day box, which I am dreaming about every night at the moment. Along with other weird stuff like trying to source mare's milk in local deli's...sadly I woke up before I found any, but I had been assured it was available in Hastings.

Here is a quick reminder of the muffin I started with, nearly two years ago now - chocolate and beetroot. I made some for an order this weekend and I never get tired of them. They're dairy-free too, so no mare's milk required.

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NAMING & SELF-SHAMING

NAMING & SELF-SHAMING

So Christmas is officially over, the sitting room has returned to some sense of normality (meaning there is no longer a tree hiding the packing area for Bee & Bear) and my plans for 2018 can begin in earnest. I have learned from my mistakes of 2017, and I have a proper plan in place for this year, ensuring no last minute panics, and everything organised and in place in good time. I did have a minor turn in the middle of the night recently w...hen I realised how close we were to Valentine's Day, but then I remembered my wall planner, and my planning meeting, during which I met with myself, asked myself some searching questions, and concluded as long as I was one step ahead it would all be fine. And it will be. And it's all very exciting. And for someone as bad at keeping secrets as me, it's hard work not blabbing here and now about the minutes I took and the plans myself and I made.
I did however forget to invite me as a Mum of three to the meeting...so I need to leave you now as I have 17 items of clothing to label and a fleecy hat to find before 8am tomorrow morning when the nursery run starts again...thank God I didn't give up booze for January.
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