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August 2014

Plum and white chocolate fragipane tarts

Last weekend when we had our housewarming, one of the guests brought us a bag full of fresh plums. Or rather to be accurate one of the guests friends who we had never met before, brought us a bag of plums. We live in that sort of place, where strangers turn up at our door with bags of fresh fruit and no one bats an eyelid.

So anyway, as I already have a good stash of plums in the freezer, I thought I should turn the plums into a dessert and this is what I came up with. A sort of combination of everything that was in the cupboard/fridge. The result was rather delicious and that comes from someone who has spent most of the last couple of days not eating…. but that’s a whole other story!

Pastry base
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
1 egg
Fragipane filling
180g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
2 free range eggs
120g ground almonds
50g plain flour
50g white chocolate chips
6 fresh plums
(Makes 6)

Make the pastry by combining the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor until they look like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and allow the mixture to come together in a ball.

Next roll the pastry out and cut to fit your tart tins.

Refrigerate tins with pastry cases while you make the frangipane. To do this beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one, then stir in the almonds flour and finally the white chocolate chips.

Fill the pastry case with the fragipane mixture and top with fresh plums cut into thin slices.

Bake at 175c for 25 minutes.


I’m entering my plum tarts recipe into the Rix Aga Inspired Recipes competition for a chance to win a £100 Waitrose voucher…

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A story about looking gift horses in the mouth…

A few weeks ago I was approached by Dormeo and asked if I’d like to review one of their mattresses. A new mattress! Who would say no?

Well dear readers, I very nearly did! This is because I suffer from some rather old-fashioned (and I now realise entirely misplaced) prejudice about foam mattresses. I read up on the mattress saw it had no springs and then dismissed their offer of a superking for us and instead said I would take a single for our spare room, more out of curiosity than anything…

On the day of delivery I loitered around the front door waiting for the two burly delivery men who would presumably arrive carrying this weighty mattress over their heads to my front door. Instead what happened is one man arrived with a parcel the size of Theo. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Jim absolutely incredulous that this tiny box could contain a mattress worth sleeping on.

Then we unboxed it, cut the tight plastic that was wrapped round it and watched as a full size single mattress leapt out of a the tiny wrapping. We lay it on the bed frame and allowed it to come back to life for the required length of time and then very slowly and very cynically I lay down on it, ready at any moment to say “Ha! I told you so foam mattresses are rubbish!”

But then I had a horrible sinking feeling, no not that feeling you get on a memory foam mattress that’s a little too soft and swallows you up. The feeling you get when you realise you have just turned away a superking mattress for your own bed and are now lying on its incredibly comfortable smaller sibling.

I admit it, I was wrong! Completely totally damn-this-bed-is-comfortable wrong! Previously the spare room had been occupied by a sprung mattress from a well known national store which wasn’t a patch on the Dormeo one. The Memory Deluxe is both firm and soft. The memory foam top gives way just the right amount and the firm core supports it.

My father-in-law was the first to test it out this week when he stayed in the spare room and he was immensely impressed. I don’t think he liked to say it, but the one we had before was pretty uncomfortable. Not only did he spend seven very comfortable nights on it last week, but he’s coming back for Theo’s birthday at the weekend and I have just been told he’s coming a day earlier than originally planned. Either that’s to sample more of my cooking or it’s because the bed is so comfortable. I know what my money is on…

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Living Arrows – 34/52

Living Arrows – 34/52

by Clare Mansell
ISO 640, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/50

A week away from turning 3, Theo is interacting with the world in more complex ways every day. He is a spontaneous hugger of strangers, a boy who dances on the spot when he’s excited, a chap who likes to eat his breakfast without his shorts on, a fan of the fairer sex, an appreciater of Lego, a compulsive collector of cars. tidy (mostly) happy (nearly always) and already particular about his clothes. His sentences are getting longer, his humour more sophisticated, his appetite for the company of his friends is growing.

The weeks are flying by at the moment we are all so caught up in our own projects that I’m in danger of missing the opportunity to capture him as he grows. Thank heavens for this linky at least to pause once a week…

living arrows

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A Homebase bank holiday bargain…

A Homebase bank holiday bargain…

by Clare Mansell

For some strange reason in the seven years we have been married, Jim and I have never bought ourselves a TV unit. Of course we’ve had lots of things that have served as TV units, like sideboards and tables, but we’ve never actually had something made for the job, so when Homebase contacted us recently and asked if there was anything we needed for our new home, a tv unit was the first thing I thought of… but could we really get anything decent for a £100 budget?

I did some research online and then yesterday first thing we went along to our local store to take advantage of the 15% off bank holiday promotion. When we arrived everything looked different in the flesh to online. Not better or worse, just different.

I wandered around the display at the front of the store getting more and more confused and then decided to go and find Jim and in doing so stumbled across another totally separate display of tv units with this little gem

This TV unit was originally selling for £239.99 and had been reduced to £119.99 and then this weekend has an extra 15% off in the Bank Holiday sale, bringing it down to £101.99. It was a smidge over our budget so we paid the extra with our nectar points!

Online it says it is “wood effect” on the box it said it was “solid and veneer.” Personally I think it feels very much like a piece of solid oak furniture and it looks like it’s worth every bit of the £240 it was originally selling for. All the parts fitted together very well and the doors have a very satisfying firm magnetic pop when you open and close them. I honestly can’t believe they are selling something of this quality for nearly £100. The sale is on in store till the end of Monday and there appear to be some codes online (here) offering the discount online till the end of Tuesday, but I bet the stock they have won’t stick around…

This is a review post in association with Homebase

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Sharing holiday memories…

Sharing holiday memories…

by Clare Mansell

This month’s Center Parcs challenge is all about sharing holiday memories. As we’ve been a bit busy this year with work on our house we haven’t had a chance to do too many summer activities, so for this challenge I decided Theo might like to share some of my holiday memories from when I was three so we sat down together to look at some photos…

When I was Theo’s age I used to have holidays on the Costa Brava. There was lots of swimming in the sea, warm sunshine and Spanish food. I remember long days at the beach, the twin room I shared with my sister and wandering around little old Spanish villages during lovely warm evenings.

Until now I haven’t shown him many photos of me as a little girl, but he seemed to catch on to the idea that the small child in the photos was actually his mummy. There were plenty of family members in the photos too who look quite different 25 years on, but he seemed to enjoy trying to guess who was who.

If you want to take part in the August challenge, Center Parcs have put together a load of tips about how to preserve your family memories with children. I really liked their advice about building a scrapbook…

“Create a scrapbook by sticking in different mementos of your summer – train tickets, photos and handwritten diary entries always work well, or why not try something a little more unusual? Ask your little ones to decorate your scrap book with hand prints and finger painting, cut out words from old newspapers and magazines or even have a go at creating a digital scrapbook, complete with video clips.”

But I also think the suggestion of putting together a short edited video of summer moments is lovely. It’s something I keep meaning to do more of… and maybe we need to start thinking about our own Spanish seaside holiday too!

I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and have visited Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how bit.ly/1url80d

CenterParcs Family Blog Club

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