Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes!!

Well a very good day to you. The storm has finally cleared the UK and I sincerely hope you survived it unscathed?  If you are sleep deprived, due to the banging, blowing and crashing howls of wind a Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes may be just what you need to help you get through the day with a smile!

Fudgey, chocolate icing with hearts, stars and gold dragee balls!
Fudgey, chocolate icing with hearts, stars and gold dragee balls!

Nature’s beauty can be mesmerisingly beautiful, but we should never underestimate it’s force or ruthlessness and ability to deprive us all of a good nights sleep!

CUPCAKES!!!!!
I’ve posted lots of pics, now I give you the recipe:

Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes (makes 18)

You will need:

2 x 12 Deep Muffin Tins (not shallow fairy cake tins)

18 Cupcake liners (I’ve used brown ‘tulip’ liners – plain white ones look good with chocolate, but the choice is yours!)

Recipe : Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes – makes 18

10oz Unsalted Butter (at room temp)

10oz Dark Brown Muscavado Sugar

2tsp Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt (I use Kosher)

5 Large Eggs (Pref Free Range – at room temp)

3oz Cocoa Powder (NOT hot chocolate powder)

7oz Self Raising White Flour

3-4tbsp Whole Milk (at room temp)

6oz Milk Chocolate Chunks or Chips

Large bowl & an electric whisk (it really makes creaming the sugar & butter bearable!!!!)

Method :

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 175C (160C Fan Oven).

Line the muffin tins with 18 cupcake cases.

Pretty tulip cases, worth the extra effort!!!
Pretty tulip cases, worth the extra effort!!!

Firstly place the butter and treacly dark sugar into a large bowl (of stand mixer, if using, with the paddle mixer attached).

No lumps here!!!!!
No lumps here!!!!!

Unless you are ready for a serious workout I really recommend using an electric whisk to beat the sugar/butter mixture. It will take a while (approx 5-10 mins) for the mixture to become smooth and fluffy.

Next add the punch of salt& vanilla extract and beat the whole mixture until thoroughly combined.

Now if you want to switch to a wooden spoon for mixing you can. Using an electric whisk/beater is also ok, just make sure you don’t over mix once the flour is added, otherwise you won’t have light, cupcakes.

Add 2 of the eggs (I always crack them into a separate bowl first, no one wants crunchy cupcakes!!!) and a third of the cocoa/flour (sifted). Gently mix until almost incorporated.

Repeat this process again.

Callebaut milk chocolate chunks take this cupcake to another level of scrumptiousness!!!!!!!
Callebaut milk chocolate chunks take this cupcake to another level of scrumptiousness!!!!!!!

Now add the last egg and mix gently. Then add the last of the flour/cocoa & the chocolate chunks/chips. Fold these ingredients in gently adding 1 tablespoon at a time to loosen the mixture and allow all the ingredients to mix thoroughly and have a slightly wet dropping consistency.

The cake batter should look like this, ready to scoop!!
The cake batter should look like this, ready to scoop!!

I use an ice cream scoop to evenly fill the cupcake cases. But you could always use 2 desert spoons. Just ensure an equal amount of mixture is placed into each case. This ensures that all the cupcakes will be cooked evenly & in the same amount of time.

Using an ice cream scoop to portion the cupcake batter.
Using an ice cream scoop to portion the cupcake batter.
Centre the scoop above the cake liner.
Centre the scoop above the cake liner.
Squeeze the scoop & release the batter into the case!!!
Squeeze the scoop & release the batter into the case!!!

Cook for approx 20 minutes. The cupcakes are cooked when lightly pressed in the middle and the cake springs back.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 mins until cool enough to transfer to a cooling rack.
NOTE: if using the tulip style cupcake cases, I’ve found it best to leave the cupcakes to COMPLETELY COOL IN THE TIN. The paper cases will then adhere to the cupcakes when removed from the tin.

I left these cupcakes to cool completely in the tin.
I left these cupcakes to cool completely in the tin.

These chocolate chunk cupcakes are then perfect to serve unadorned!

However if making for a special occasion or just because, you can ice or top them with whatever you like!!

I’ve used Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Fudge Icing (which I’ve found is easier to apply using 2 teaspoons, rather than piping, when using the tulip cupcake wrappers. I’ve then sprinkled a variety of gold sugar balls, white chocolate stars, glitter, even rice paper figurines.

Fudgey, chocolate icing with hearts, stars and gold dragee balls!
Fudgey, chocolate icing with hearts, stars and gold dragee balls!

Melted chocolate drizzled over the top, or half double cream/half chocolate melted together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), creates a chocolate ganache. If using ordinary (not tulip) cases the cupcakes can then be dipped into the ganache, covering the entire surface of the cupcake. This will then cool to a soft, fudgey consistency, whereas melted chocolate on its own will harden on cooling.

Ganache dipped cupcakes with a sparkly addition of gold dragee balls.
Ganache dipped cupcakes with a sparkly addition of gold dragee balls.

You can then sprinkle & adorn to your hearts content. Although left without the sprinkles these cupcakes still look gorgeous & scrummy.

Now it’s time to share!!

I invested in some individual clear, plastic cupcake holders, which not only allow the cupcakes to be transported easily but also allow the recipient to clearly see their gift. I have also popped the cupcakes into cellophane bags tied with rafia. This also looks beautiful, but is more fiddly & you have to be careful not to get any of the icing on the inside of the bag, as it spoils the look.

If you want to make someone smile, or you know someone who needs cheering up, this recipe is FOOLPROOF.

When I give a gift, especially one I’ve made, I’m NOT looking to be basked in thanks & glory for what I’ve given. I want the recipient to feel special. To know that they’ve been thought of & know that they are special to me.

I’ve received gifts that are more about the giver than the recipient & although I’m always thankful, somehow, if the giver is looking to be showered with praise, the gift feels soulless.

In my world GIFTS SHOULD ALWAYS BE ABOUT THE RECIPIENT NOT THE GIVER.

Don’t get me wrong a thank you is nice, but other than that I’m not seeking praise. I really try to think of who I am giving to & what their likes & preferences are. In doing this I must disregard what I want and focus on others.

Some people like a big fuss & that’s fine. They like attention & they enjoy being the centre of it. So when giving them a gift I know they don’t mind if it’s in a roomful of people. They enjoy celebrating in a big way.

Others are quieter. They would be mortified at the notion of being centre of attention. That is fine too. So the gift will be given quietly, without pomp & circumstance. Because it’s not about the giver but the recipient.

If you’ve taken the time, love & care to make something for someone, give equal thought to how you will give it to them.

Nobody, especially me, gets it right all the time! But we can all try, me included.

A well meant gift, given in a thoughtful way says you care.

Have fun trying the cupcakes. If you want to make fewer a rough guide is 1 egg/2oz butter/1 1/2oz self raising white flour/1/2oz cocoa powder.

I’d love to hear how you get on, so please leave a comment?

In the mean time have lots of fun, feasting and sharing!!

Sammie x

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I’M EXCITED!!!!

Hello everybody. I really hope that whatever day you’ve had, there has been something to make you smile or get you excited?

I hope I’m not portraying the wrong impression of who I am. I most certainly do not live in a fairy land where the sun always shines (in fact I, along with most other people in the UK have experienced a fierce storm that has swept across the country today!), I don’t have a money tree at the bottom of a perfectly manicured garden. Our children are scrumptious, but they are children! They make mess – a lot of it! They have daily struggles with school & their own lives. My husband works, like lots of other men & women, long hard hours to provide for our family. I think you get the picture?

My life is very real!!! I have chronic health conditions & suffer frequent debilitating migraines. I’ve lost very much loved family members & friends to cancer & other fatal illnesses.

My choice & it is A CHOICE is to focus on the positive aspects of my life. I choose not to dwell on negative things.

Does that mean I stick my head in the ground? Honestly – sometimes, for a short while. I’m working on it!

When dealing with a chronic illness where I am in pain all the time, it is very, very easy & some may say, a natural reaction to become a little down & even become clinically depressed. Psychologists & the medical community recognise anxiety, depression & stress as having a direct link to chronic illness.

So am I different? Am I alone?
NO!!!

Lots & lots of people have far more difficult lives than me & still manage to smile & live in hope & with peace. I admire them. People wonder at them. What’s their secret?? I DON’T KNOW!!!

But I do know how I manage to live my life with a smile on my face & hope in my heart. I am a Christian, I believe that Jesus took the punishment that I deserve (for all the wrong I have done), died on THE CROSS. Three days later He rose again from the dead and was fully alive. Not a ghost – He actually cooked & ate breakfast with His disciples in the days after He came back from the dead.

Because JESUS paid the debt I owe, out of love for His Heavenly Father & all of mankind, I am saved. Saved from eternal death & loved with a love so deep it has no measure. I have peace in all situations because once I accepted JESUS as my Lord & Saviour, He came to live, by His Holy Spirit inside of me. WOW!!!

The bible days ‘if God is for me, who can come against me’.

Knowing, REALLY KNOWING that I am loved, just as I am. Faults, failures and all. God loves & accepts me – Sammie. I’ve said before, JESUS is the smile that lives in my heart. He gives me a peace & security that no person on this earth could give me.

I cannot earn His love or my salvation, it is a free gift from Him, given by His Grace because he loves me. The GOOD NEWS is He loves you just as much.

If you want to read more about knowing you are loved, please read my blog ‘IMPORTANT STUFF’. I am also very happy to answer any questions you may have, please leave a comment & I will reply.

I am especially excited this week because we are going away for half term week, this coming Saturday.

Home from home xxxx
Home from home xxxx

 

This is where our Buddy was born. She loves it as much as we do!!!
This is where our Buddy was born. She loves it as much as we do!!!

We have been visiting & staying here, the most beautiful place in Devon for the last 10 years!!!

The children have grown up here, as well as our home in the South East. We have our Devon family, friends who have become family over the many years of our visits.

AND WE ARE GOING BACK!!!!

Glorious even in the rain!
Glorious even in the rain!

Told you I was excited!! So is my hubby, our girls & our lil man.
The barn where we stay doesn’t have mobile phone reception! There isn’t any light pollution & a clear night sky, viewed from the swing attached to a huge, gnarled, old Oak Tree, is a wonder. There are far more stars visible to the human eye than I ever imagined possible. BEAUTIFUL.

Swinging on an old Oak Tree!!
Swinging on an old Oak Tree!!

There’s a log burner!!! Nuf said!!
We hardly watch any TV!! We spend QUALITY TIME AS A FAMILY. The MOST precious part of the holiday.

We make memories as a family. Hubby & I relax, the children explore the Woodland, pond, stream, chickens, ducks, horses, local cattle & sheep AND THEY GET VERY MUCKY!! And I DON’T MIND!! Cos I’m relaxed, they’re happy, having fun, laughing & filling their lungs with the freshest air.

Hubby & I get time to talk & cuddle. Our bodies rest, our minds rest, our bellies laugh and laugh!!

The Barn is self catering so we all share the cooking as a family and yes I order my shopping to be delivered around the time we arrive AND YES IT INCLUDES A LARGE READY MADE LASAGNE, GARLIC BREAD & A BAG, YEP A BAG OF SALAD LEAVES!!

So I’m excited ooh yeah!

That excitement motivates me to organise the packing (not my favourite job!!).

I have a well earned & much needed holiday to look forward to – what can you look forward to??

There is always something good to look forward to or happy memories to remember. It’s your choice! You have to think about something, why not choose something positive, something that will make you smile?

Family time spent feasting and having lots of fun!!

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A FEAST OF CAKES – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Hi there, I hope that you are having a good week, here it has been Birthday Cake central as I will  explain later.  Cakes  are such a fun, creative way to say I LOVE YOU or THANK YOU to the special people in our lives.

Lemon cupcake with edible diamonds!!!!
Lemon cupcake with edible diamonds!!!!

And the secret is – you don’t have to do ALL the work yourself. Shop bought cakes can be brilliant as they are, or super special with a few additional touches.
Have a look at the selection below from LAST WEEK!!!!!

BIRTHDAYS, CELEBRATING, FAMILIES, FEASTING AND FUN!!

Edible Diamonds, Hans Solo & lots & lots of Glitter xxxxx
Edible Diamonds, Hans Solo & lots & lots of Glitter xxxxx

3 lovely people sharing their birthday in the same week.
So some cakes were made, some cakes were bought & some were embellished. A thoroughly fun time was had by all.
Here’s a selection of the cakes we celebrated with.

Cake bought from ASDA then extra decorations added, to make it that lil bit more special & unique, just like my sis who it was given to xxxxx
Cake bought from ASDA then extra decorations added, to make it that lil bit more special & unique, just like my sis who it was given to xxxxx
Homemade lemon curd filled lemon cupcakes. Topped with Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream & Guarded by Hans Solo xxxxxxx
Homemade lemon curd filled lemon cupcakes. Topped with Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream & Guarded by Hans Solo xxxxxxx
Dave the Minion getting acupuncture!!! Thanks again ASDA xxxxxx
Dave the Minion getting acupuncture!!! Thanks again ASDA xxxxxx
Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes. The stuff of dreams...........
Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes.
The stuff of dreams………..

I also gave our shopping delivery man a chocolate chunk cupcake as his birthday was on Saturday last week.

Thank you for delivering my shopping. Happy Birthday
Thank you for delivering my shopping. Happy Birthday

Imagine what our world would be like if we all took a little bit of time out of our day to connect, really connect & listen to the people around us????

Not me but us.
Not mine but ours.

If you read my blog ‘Important Stuff’ I encourage you to read it again.

Life doesn’t become a magical fairyland where nothing bad happens. But I have a smile & peace in my life that can ONLY COME FROM HIM WHO SAVES.

Until next time, I hope you will be inspired to make someone smile.  Share some if your time, just listening, or having a chat over a cuppa and a slice of cake.

You’ll be amazed at how little it takes to make someone SMILE and hopefully you will be SMILING TOO!

 

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Garlic Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Hello there everybody. I really appreciate you taking time to read my blog. Thank you. I hope it inspires & encourages you, makes you think and most of all makes you smile!!!
So this week in our house is all about birthdays!!!!!
Our Lil Man will be 12 this week, it’s also my sister & Dad’s birthday in the same week!!!
Definitely time for ‘FEASTING, CELEBRATING and FUN’!!!!!
Covert baking operations during the day – ready for surprises on their special days. Ooh I love a celebration – well that is as long as I’m not the center of attention!
Fortunately, shyness is not something our son could ever be accused of having! His enthusiasm & passion for life is infectious and wonderful to see. He waits all year for his birthday and the night before, without fail, he reaches ‘ready to explode’ status!!!!
Christmas is the same for him, times a gazillion!!!!!
I adore his passion & zest for life (even if at times it can be exhausting & overwhelming!!!!!).
Soo to make life a bit easier on myself today: I grabbed a previously, made & frozen, chicken & bacon pasta bake from the freezer last night & left it to defrost in the fridge overnight ( and yes – I did feel a tiny little bit smug!!!).
Then, because I have a bread maker that makes my life (in the world of bread baking), sooo much easier, I decided to whip up a couple of these GARLIC and ROSEMARY FOCACCIA BREAD.  And because I’m a nice person & the recipe is a dream, I thought I’d share it with you!

Even with 4 Garlic bulbs added to the bread mixture & the same sprinkled on top, this Focaccia only has a mild Garlic taste.
Even with 4 Garlic bulbs added to the bread mixture & the same sprinkled on top, this Focaccia only has a mild Garlic taste.

GARLIC AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA BREAD: makes 2 loaves.

You will need 2 x lightly oiled 8×8″ square tins ( with at least 2″ depth), or – 1 larger oiled baking tray (2″ deep) to bake one large focaccia.

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 220C (200C Fan Oven)

Recipe:

1lb Strong Plain White Flour

300ml Warm (hand hot) Water

1 x 7g Sachet, Easy Blend Yeast

2 tbs Olive Oil (plus extra for drizzling over bread, oiling baking tins & cling film)

1 tsp Salt – for bread mix

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper for top of the bread

2 tbs Fresh Rosemary – finely chopped

8 Garlic Bulbs (4 for bread mixture, 4 for topping the bread).

Method:

When using a bread maker or stand mixer:

Place the warm water into the pan or bowl of the device you are using, making sure the dough hook is attached to the stand mixer.

Sprinkle over the sachet of dried, activated yeast & swish about with clean fingers to mix.

Next place the flour on top of the liquid mixture. Add the oil & salt.

Now add 1 tbs of the finely chopped Rosemary & salt.

Mince most of the Rosemary finely, allowing a few whole & half leaves to remain so they can be seen in the bread!
Mince most of the Rosemary finely, allowing a few whole & half leaves to remain so they can be seen in the bread!

Add in four minced bulbs of garlic. I’m a very big fan of my garlic press (no peeling or chopping), but you may chop, process, squish with the back of your knife (please don’t write in with other methods for finely mincing garlic – just be happy that you’re unique!!).
Now mix & prove (if using a bread maker). With a stand mixer, attach the dough hook & mix for 8-10 minutes, until the dough has a silky, stretchy, elasticity about it.

If kneading by hand, bring all the ingredients together & work (knead) the dough until you can feel the change, when the dough again stretches easily & feels silky to touch – a good way to check that the dough has been worked enough is that it should be hard to tear.
Shape the dough into a ball & place into an oiled bowl, then turn the ball over, so the top has an oily layer & cover tightly with cling film. Place in a warm draught free place until doubled in size (about an hour).
Prepare the baking tins (or large tin if only using one) by placing some oil in the tin (approx 1tsp for a smaller tin) & then using your fingers (I like the squishy feeling – whilst also getting a cuticle treatment: multi tasking. Genius!!!) or using a piece of kitchen towel to completely cover the inside of the tin with a light slick if oil.
Talking of fingers, if you have long nails it’s probably easier to apply the oil with the kitchen cloth. It also probably means you look after your hands & nails & may not need a quick, olive oil cuticle treatment!!! Just saying, I NEED the treatment!!!!
If using a bread machine switch on to knead cycle to knock the dough back for a minute. With the dough in the bowl, remove the cling film & gently punch down (enjoy the soft enveloping feeling!)the dough to knock out the air bubbles & gently knead by hand for 2 minutes.

Half the focaccia dough.
Half the focaccia dough.

Divide the dough in two (or leave whole if making a larger Focaccia) using a sharp knife or a dough cutter.
Place half the dough into each tin (or all into one tin).

NOW is the absolutely BEST thing about making this type of bread (if you loved making mud pies when you where younger, or maybe still do – you’re going to LOVE this next bit!!!!!!).
Using your the heel of your hand, gradually press the dough out until it reaches the edges of the tin & is roughly the same thickness across the tin.

Check out my dimples!!!!
Check out my dimples!!!!

Next using your fingers, have great fun making lots & lots & lots of dimples in the dough – to give it the classic focaccia look.
Can you tell how much I really love that part. Sooo much fun!!!
Drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt flakes, (I use Maldon), the rest of the finely minced Rosemary, a grinding of pepper & the rest of the garlic (split over 2 tins if making 2 Focaccia loves).
Lightly oil some cling film:
TOP TIP: Using a clean wet cloth wipe some of your work surface so that it is damp – when you lay your cling film over the top it will lay flat & not attempt to attach itself to itself, you, random kitchen objects!! You can then easily spread a light coating of oil over the cling (using your hands – my fav, a pastry brush or some oil poured onto the cling & spread with kitchen paper).
I KNOW there’s oil in the dough, the tin has been oiled, you’ve just drizzled oil on top of the focaccia – JUST TRUST ME!!!
Most of the time you could get away with not oiling the cling, but – and it’s happened to me – it WON’T EVER STICK if you oil the cling!

The risen dough does lose some of the dimply effect - so if you want more dimples, repeat the process!!!!
The risen dough does lose some of the dimply effect – so if you want more dimples, repeat the process!!!!

Cover the top of the tin with the oiled cling (so it’s airtight) & leave in a warm, draught free place until doubled in size – OR – place the dough in the fridge, it will take longer to rise & the bread will develop a lovely flavour. It’s your dough – do whatever you fancy.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT TIP – I have successfully risen the dough slowly in the fridge, completely forgotten about it, so it quadruples in size, then knocked it back by recreating the dimpled effect, as before, left to rise & it’s turned out fine!!!!
Bake the focaccia in a preheated oven for 15 – 20 mins (longer if baking a one loaf), until a golden colour & still quite soft.
Remove from oven, take a deep breath, the smell is intoxicating, leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin, run round the outside with a palette knife until you can feel the loaf easing from the tin. Turn the bread out & place onto a cooling rack, repeat with second tin.

Please dunk me in some scrummy soup, pasta sauce or sausage casserole?
Please dunk me in some scrummy soup, pasta sauce or sausage casserole?

The bread will be marshmallowy soft & is fine to serve warm as is. Or cool, wrap in foil & freeze for up to one month.
If you prefer a slight crust to your focaccia, 10 mins before serving, place the bread directly on to the rack of a preheated oven (as for baking the dough) for 5 – 10 mins, depending on how crusty you like it.
Because this bread is thinner than a loaf, you can cut or tear the bread whilst still warm.
This bread goes with any dish you would normally serve garlic bread with. It also goes fantastically well with soup. Spicy vegetable, leek & potato are especially good with this bread. It is ideal for dunking!
One focaccia is plenty for our family of five, so I wrap in foil & freeze the other one.
A final VERY BIG THANK YOU to those of you who have looked at this post whilst it was unfinished. I’m sorry it took a while, but hope the finished blog was worth it.
THIS REALLY IS ONE OF THE EASIEST AND MOST IMPRESSIVE BREADS TO MAKE.
I really hope you give it a try. You can vary the herbs. I’ve used Thyme, Oregano & SHOCK/HORROR dried mixed herbs!!!!
Ooh I’m such a rebel!! But seriously, it works better with the woodier herbs (rather than parsley/fennel) mentioned. Soft herbs I find are better mixed with butter & oil, then slathered into a baguette/ciabatta (part bake baguettes work well for this!).
Until next time, I hope you have fun giving this recipe a go and enjoy feasting with whoever you share it with.
See you soon. Sammie xx

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Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies!!!

If you like chocolate cookies & love the taste of Mars Bars – you will totally flip out over these Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies!!
I could keep you in suspense no longer.

Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies
Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies

I may have mentioned my particular preference for a cookie with my cuppa? This combined with my natural curiosity led to these Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies being made.
But, if I’m going to completely truthful, I had an ulterior motive for making them!! More on that later.

Soooo Delicious
Soooo Delicious

I do apologise I have not yet said hello & good morning to you. I hope you are well today & encourage you to read yesterday’s blog: more food for the soul, than for our tummies & definitely way more important. I hope it makes you think, question, wonder & seek.
Today the rain is lashing down, giving the gardens a well needed dousing. Tomorrow the sun is supposed to shine, YAY! Sunshine always seems to make people seem brighter & happier – listen to me! English & talking about the weather – I’m a stereotype!!!!
I promised you my reason for the ulterior motive behind these cookie. Well…… I also made PEANUT BUTTER SNICKERS COOKIES which I absolutely lurve – I will post that recipe soon!
Making the Chocolate  Mars Bar Cookies keeps my lil kiddly winks away from the Snickers Cookies! They prefer chocolate Cookies over any other!!!
I know, I know I go on about sharing & I do. I really do! I shared the Snickers Cookies with my special QC friend!

Recipe : CHOCOLATE MARS BAR COOKIES – makes approx 28-32

You will need 2 x Baking Sheets (lined with parchment paper, even if non stick)

5oz  Dark Brown Sugar (light brown is fine if that’s what you have to hand)

8oz  Unsalted Butter – room temp

1/4  tsp Salt

1  Large Egg Yolk (pref Free Range)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3oz  Cocoa Powder

7oz  Plain White Flour

3-4  Mars Bars – chopped

Method :

Preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan)

The gorgeous dark brown sugar gives these cookies a fudgier flavour!!!!!!
The gorgeous dark brown sugar gives these cookies a fudgier flavour!!!!!!

Place the sugar, butter & salt into a bowl. Whisk or beat until light & fluffy.
Add in the egg yolk & Vanilla Extract. Whisk or beat until fully incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture.

Naughty - I didn't sift my flour/cocoa - whoops!!!!
Naughty – I didn’t sift my flour/cocoa – whoops!!!!

Next add the flour & cocoa ( you can sift them in if you prefer) & the chopped Mars Bars (don’t try to sift them – just trying to be helpful!!!!).
Slowly mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated together – it is inevitable that during this time the chunks of Mars Bar break up a bit, DON’T WORRY!!! This just adds to the gooey texture of the cookies!

Gooey, chocolatey, cookie dough!!!!!
Gooey, chocolatey, cookie dough!!!!!

Take a desert spoonful of the mixture and roll into a ball using your hands. The ball should be approx 1″ across, add or take away cookie dough to get the right size.

Cookie dough balls, ready to be lightly squished!!!
Cookie dough balls, ready to be lightly squished!!!

Make 16 balls, as above & place 8 on each cookie sheet, evenly spaced as they will spread on baking.
With clean hands use your fingers to gently flatten each ball.
Place in the preheated oven & cook for 10-13 mins (depending on size of cookies & oven).

Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies!!!!
Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies!!!!

WITH THE REMAINING COOKIE DOUGH: Place onto a long piece of cling film, gently roll into a log shape.

Cookie dough log removed from fridge & left to warm for 20 mins before slicing.
Cookie dough log removed from fridge & left to warm for 20 mins before slicing.

Wrap thoroughly in the cling film & refrigerate for up to 4 days, double wrap & freeze for up to one month. When ready to use, thaw in the fridge, overnight, if previously frozen, then remove from the fridge 15-30 minutes before slicing into 1/4″ thick discs.

Bake as follows :

With cocoa in the dough mixture it can be difficult to tell when the cookies are cooked: Firstly, don’t be surprised if some of the Mars Bar chunks burst from the edge of the cookie & bubble away – this is fine. They will easily come away from the parchment paper when cooled (hence the need for parchment paper, so you don’t have to use a knife to scrape your non stick baking sheets!!!).
The cookies will be set around the edge & although still soft to the touch (they will harden in cooling) each cookie will have a fixed shape & have a dull surface (not shiny where the butter & sugar are still baking).
It’s very hard to give an exact cooking time for these cookies due to the inherent variations of the cookie size & different ovens.
My suggestion would be to remove them from the oven if they fulfil the above criteria & to DEFINITELY not cook them for longer than 13 mins.
The large proportion of Cocoa will result in a dry, claggy, stick to the roof of your mouth Cookie if over cooked.
Better to have a soft chewy, slightly undercooked Cookie.
Remember Cookies are not like cakes! Once cooled & hardened if you feel they really are too undercooked, pop them back into the preheated oven for a couple more minutes. This should finish their cooking!

Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies, made for sharing!
Chocolate Mars Bar Cookies, made for sharing!

These cookies are at their best the next day after making (I’m sorry) but they still taste good once cooled!!
They make excellent gifts: Pop a few in a cellophane bag, tie with a pretty ribbon or rafia, or place in a pretty tin for a larger gift.
We don’t have to wait for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas (although these are always good opportunities to share & give).

Have you ever been surprised by a gift, just because someone wanted to show you they cared? If not, why not start a new tradition?
I know of a church, in Devon, who buy lots of Easter eggs & give them out to the businesses of their small town as a thank you, for the services the businesses supply to the townsfolk throughout the year!!! What an amazing idea!
Sharing is contagious! Now what I am ABSOLUTELY NOT saying is that we should give to receive. Only that by giving & sharing we are showing others & they in turn may go on to share.

A SHARING REVOLUTION : imagine the difference & smiles that would generate?

Everyone SHARING FEASTING AND HAVING FUN!

Sammie x

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Important Stuff

Good morning to all you lovely people. Whatever today holds for you I hope when you read through this blog the Important Stuff will encourage you to smile & when you smile I hope that it encourages others to smile too.
It may sound odd, but I actually believe that HAPPINESS is a choice for most of us (please don’t think I am any way mocking people who are depressed, anxious, lonely, grieving, sad & all other manner of terrible situations – I ABSOLUTELY AM NOT). When I say Happiness is a choice, what I’m mean is that during the hundreds of thousands of situations & circumstances we are in & go through in life, most of us have a choice.
That choice usually represents itself simply as: Do I concentrate on all the bad stuff that I’m going through at the moment, or amidst the darkness & fog that I’m in, do I try to find something Good & Positive to hold on to?
I’ve said being Happy is a choice for most of us – I didn’t say it was easy! Of all the difficult circumstances that I’ve only just started to touch on, I’ve been through most & more. But I’M NOT SAD! I should be but I’m not.

Sometimes the dark clouds stop us from clearly seeing the light.
Sometimes the dark clouds stop us from clearly seeing the light.

Some may say that’s easy for me, I have a loving family & friends: you can still be lonely in a roomful of people. Others may argue that we all naturally have periods of sadness in our lives: that is true, but it is our choice as to how long we dwell on them. Still others may say ” You don’t understand, my situation is HOPELESS & I can’t see a way out”. To those I say, I’ve been there. Whilst I may not know exactly the circumstances of your situation, I do understand what it is like to be trapped, with no clear exit route in view.
My life has never been a bed of roses, EVER! I face daily challenges & also difficult memories. Yet I still smile.
I smile because amongst all the darkness I choose, to see LIGHT. Amongst all the noise I listen for the bird song. Against all the ugliness of a situation I will SEEK OUT the beauty. I make the choice to find the POSITIVE amongst the negative.
I also have HOPE. A never ending certain HOPE. I KNOW that I am LOVED.

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STUFF you will ever read.

The Cross - where Hope, Love & Life are found.
The Cross – where Hope, Love & Life are found.

A man named Jesus, a long time ago, took all the wrong doing that is in this world, all the injustice, hatred, hopelessness & sin upon HIS shoulders & died on a Cross. Naked, humiliated, despised by the very people He had come to help – Jesus knows loneliness, pain, neglect, suffering – and He still loved them. His love was shown when He took the place of ALL MANKIND, took all the SIN OF THE WORLD and paid the price, that we should have to pay, HE GAVE HIS LIFE, SO THAT WE MAY HAVE LIFE, IN HIM FOREVER.
Not only did He die on the Cross, for us, but HE OVERCAME DEATH WHEN HE AROSE from the dead THREE DAYS LATER. HE OVERCAME DEATH and in doing so laid a path for us to know Him. TO KNOW JESUS AND OUR HEAVENLY FATHER.
Jesus said “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH & THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH THE SON”.
JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!! If we know Him, then we too can know God. HE IS OUR LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER.
THIS IS TRULY AMAZING!!!!
Every living person on this beautiful planet IS LOVED BY GOD. Every living person, has at some time, said or done something that is wrong: The Bible calls this Sin.
The penalty for Sin is Death. Whether you believe in God or not, one day every person will stand before God & be Judged – asked to give an account of themselves, their lives & their actions – you can choose not to believe this will happen, I am letting you know IT WILL.
That sounds pretty scary to me. I know I’m not perfect, yet I have nothing to worry about because
“FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, THAT WHOSOEVER (that’s you & me) BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT DIE BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE”
WOW!!!
No need to be afraid now!!!
GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON!
Firstly for those of you who are lonely or feel unloved YOU ARE LOVED – GOD LOVES YOU.

Who'd have thought a Caterpillar could transform into this Beautiful Butterfly. Let JESUS transform your life!
Who’d have thought a Caterpillar could transform into this Beautiful Butterfly. Let JESUS transform your life!

Secondly for those of you who are aimlessly walking through life, no real direction (except to go to work, pay your bills, raise your family – but somewhere inside of you, you question: Is there more to this??), JESUS SAID I AM THE WAY!! Now you can have direction – straight to God & ALL the Goodness & Love that He has for you.
Thirdly, for everyone who is searching for something. Looking for a bigger picture, but there are SO MANY religions, ideas to follow: JESUS SAID I AM THE TRUTH. You’ve found your answer. Jesus IS THE WAY TO GOD.
Next, for those of you that feel hopeless, dejected, worthless: JESUS SAID I AM THE LIFE. A life lived with JESUS has HOPE, PURPOSE, WORTH.
GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON.
JESUS LOVES YOU SO MUCH THAT HE WAS WILLING TO DIE ON THE CROSS, BEARING THE PUNISHMENT WE SHOULD RECEIVE. HIS MOTIVATION – PURE LOVE FOR US AND TO DO THE WILL OF HIS FATHER.
He gave His life freely, at any point He could of spoken up in His own defense & saved Himself, but He Didn’t – HE GAVE HIS LIFE FREELY.
JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THIS WORLD.
What does all this mean personally to me?
I am loved, I am not worthless, I have a purpose, God has a plan for me. I know the truth. If I ask God to forgive me for all I’ve done wrong, acknowledge Jesus as His Son – I AM SAVED BY HIS GRACE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST MY LORD AND SAVIOUR.
I no longer live a life without purpose but can smile each day, even through the tough times, for I know, I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN, that JESUS WHO IS THE LIFE, lives in me, by the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Not only that, but God promises ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL (not a chosen few elite individuals).
I have a lot TO SMILE ABOUT!!!
You too can make this choice. Indeed nothing in life is more important, God is waiting with His arms open wide for you. His desire is that you would know HOW LOVED YOU ARE.
I know this sounds ‘Too good to be true’, but I promise you it isn’t. God loves you whether you love Him back or not.
God accepts you no matter what life you have lived, or however bad you think you are.
GOD’S GIFT OF SALVATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST IS FREE.
You cannot work for it, earn or buy it. Jesus desires to be part of your life. He wants to be the SMILE IN YOUR HEART.
As for me I love my Lord JESUS with all of my heart. He has helped me, healed me, guided and protected me & saved me.

Important Stuff is the most important post I have written to date!

If you too would like to know JESUS as your personal Saviour and Friend, then you can pray to God now!
Ask Him to forgive you for all the wrong you have done, acknowledge JESUS as God’s Son and ask Him to come into your life, to be your Lord and guide you. Ask God to reveal His love for you through the bible & to guide you to a local Christian Church that loves God, His Word (the bible), Jesus & God’s Holy Spirit.
If you prayed that prayer CONGRATULATIONS!
I suggest you start reading the Gospel of John, found in the New Testament part of the bible (NIV, NKJV are both very good bibles to start with, accurate & written without thee’s, thou’s & older day language – although personally the King James Bible will always be my preference!). John is the fourth book of the New Testament & before reading I suggest praying & asking God to reveal Himself to you through His Written Word.
Finally it would be lovely if you would share your experience in the comments box. If you would rather I did not make your words public, then please say so & I promise not to publish your comments.
Also if you would genuinely like more information, please leave a message & I will do my best to help.
No disrespect to people of other Faiths, but I will not get drawn into time wasting arguments regarding this post, I will only answer genuine queries & politely ask that you respect this.

There is NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT OR PRECIOUS THAN KNOWING JESUS AS YOUR VERY OWN LORD AND PERSONAL SAVIOUR.

IMPORTANT STUFF is and always will be THE most important post on the blog.
Thank you for reading, I pray that God will open your heart to His love.

There may still be clouds, but the Son if God Shines Brighter
There may still be clouds, but the Son of God Shines Brighter

Sammie xx

 

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STILL TO COME………

FUTURE RECIPES TO BE POSTED!!

The most requested will be posted first.  So please leave your preference in the comments box?  Thank you, your comments are appreciated.

HAZELNUT & NUTELLA CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKE:
I had this for lunch 3 days in a row!!! So moist & delicious!!!
I had this for lunch 3 days in a row!!! So moist & delicious!!!
CHICKEN, SPINACH & RICOTTA LASAGNE:
Chicken & Ricotta Lasagne - scrumptious!!!!!
Chicken & Ricotta Lasagne – scrumptious!!!!!
BLUEBERRY & NECTARINE PAVLOVA:
This has to be tasted, to understand how sublime it is!!!!!
This has to be tasted, to understand how sublime it is!!!!!
WHITE MILK ROLLS
Soft, delicious rolls, ideal for packed lunches & picnics!!!!!
Soft, delicious rolls, ideal for packed lunches & picnics!!!!!
ANYTHING BUT PLAIN: VICTORIA SANDWICH CAKE
Light, Fluffy, Moist Cake with Jam in the Middle & Sparkles o
Light, Fluffy, Moist Cake with Jam in the Middle & Sparkles on the top!!! Perfect for a family celebration xx
TEAR & SHARE ICED FRUIT BUNS
Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Well they contain fruit......
Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Well they contain fruit……

 

Ooh now what are these going to make?
Ooh now what are these going to make?

More recipes will be added soon.

Meanwhile thank you for taking time to read my blog.  I hope it makes you smile and encourages you to make every meal  a feast, shared with loved ones with whom you will have lots of fun.

Remember food is the catalyst for feasting: people with whom you share your food & time, are the most important factor.  They are the ones that make FEASTING FUN!!!

 

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TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES: Fit For a Princess

Chocolate & Sparkles: Brownies fit for a celebration!!!!!
Chocolate & Sparkles: Brownies fit for a celebration!!!!!

Hi there. How are you today? Me, well it’s one of those days where I’m sitting or laying down (millions of things I want to do, but my body isn’t having any if it!), so I can chat to you – via Blogging.

I do hope you enjoy my musings, memories & recipes?

I’ve spoken a lot about the pleasure I get from sharing the food that I have made.  Also I have found that, not only are you lovely people who read my blog, enjoying the recipes, but they are inspiring you to ‘have a go’. That’s FANTASTIC & thank you.

What I love about anything that I cook myself is, I know absolutely EVERYTHING that is going into the recipe, which ultimately means, I know, as a family I KNOW what we are putting into our bodies. I am sometimes horrified by the list of ingredients, if I’m tempted to buy a nice crusty loaf from my local supermarket, I read the ingredients & any desire I may have felt to pop the item into my trolley vanishes.

Please DO NOT be under the impression that I’m a complete Puritan when it comes to food, or anything else for that matter, I absolutely AM NOT!!!!

I’m happy to occasionally order a pizza, Indian, Chinese – gasp, horror – very occasional McDonalds!!!!! I’m a relatively normal mum, wife, slightly scatty woman. My family may disagree with the ‘relatively normal’ part!!!

I love humour & recently reduced our gorgeous, soon to be 12 years old, son to tears – from laughter (no need to call Childline just yet!!) whilst recounting a story from my past. His gorgeous freakly face, bright red, with tears spilling over his cheeks, laughing uncontrollably. A precious moment that will be always remembered. And it was whilst we were all sitting round the table, eating dinner – FEASTING & HAVING FUN!!

What I do find when I eat out, or order in, is that my brain goes into overdrive. Whilst munching I’m already thinking of ways to improve, change, add to, whatever food I am enjoying at that moment.

I suppose at the heart of everything I cook/bake is a desire to do better. If I can buy a cake in a shop, that is nice, good or even really great: I want to firstly be able to recreate the cake & then improve it until it is WONDERFUL. I am the same with all foods & recipes, including my own!

I have a wonderful family, one exceptionally special friend (who is ‘officially’ my quality control ‘taste tester’) and a group of friends who I know will give me HONEST feedback – which, for me is SO IMPORTANT. I am my worse critic! Always fiddling with recipes to see if I can improve just a little bit more! Very occasionally I will try a recipe & it’s so fantastic I never, ever deviate. An example if this is my annual Christmas Cake Recipe. I’ve made it every year for at least 15 years & it works. So the only things that are ever changed are the icing and decorations!!!!

Anyhow time to stop waffling and share the Sparkly, Triple Chocolate Brownies:

YOU WILL NEED:

2 x   6″x 8″ foil containers (with lids)

10oz  Dark Brown Sugar

5oz  Unsalted Butter

2oz  Cocoa Powder

5oz  Plain White Flour

1/4 tsp.  Salt (I use Kosher – no additives)

1tsp  Baking Soda

1tsp  Vanilla Extract (I use Madagascan vanilla extract by Nelson Massey)

4  Large Eggs at room temp (preferably FREE RANGE – happy chickens lay better eggs!!)

6oz  Milk Chocolate – chopped into chunks

4oz  White Chocolate – melted for drizzling over the top

Silver Dragee Ball, Edible Glitter or whatever Edible Sparkly Sprinkles you wish to use.

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 180C (165C fan oven).

Firstly melt the butter, either in a large microwaveable bowl or large saucepan. Whichever you use this will become the mixing bowl for the entire Brownie batter.

Add the brown sugar to the melted butter. Mix thoroughly until both are combined.

Now add the salt & cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly – if you add the cocoa now, before adding the flour, it incorporates into the butter/sugar mixture very easily.

Next add the flour & bicarbonate of soda. Mix thoroughly (I use a wooden spoon), it takes a couple of minutes to completely incorporate all the ingredients.

Lightly beat the eggs together in a jug & add the vanilla.

When the flour mixture is cool enough to touch add the egg/vanilla mixture & beat into the flour mixture.  Be patient it does take a little time for the wet & dry to combine. You will be left with a fairly runny Brownie batter.

Pour half of the batter into one foil container, then pour the other half into the other container. If you are using one container pour all the batter in.

Tap the containers a couple of times against the work top. This brings any air bubbles to the surface: REMEMBER BROWNIES SHOULD BE DENSE & FUDGEY NOT LIGHT & AIRY LIKE CAKES.

Sprinkle the chopped milk chocolate evenly over the top of the brownie batter. Then using your fingers or a fork gently push the chocolate into the batter. Lick your fingers, then wash your hands!!!!!

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-18 mins for the smaller containers: 20-25 mins if using a larger container.

As all ovens vary, the Brownies are cooked when they are set around the edge & on top, but still have a little wobble in the middle.

Remove from the oven & allow the Brownies to fully cool in their container.

Once cooled get creative!!! Melt the white chocolate (I microwave for approx 30 secs, then stir thoroughly until I have smooth melted chocolate. Or you can place the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a simmering saucepan of water – ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water- stir constantly as white chocolate is the easiest to overheat!).

Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled brownies. Then adorn with silver balls, edible glitter or whatever you have chosen.

You can never have too many sparkles!!!!
You can never have too many sparkles!!!!

Allow the chocolate to set then cut up the brownies in the dish. The size is up to you!!!!

Share these very special Brownies with friends & family.

Watch the smiles on their faces get all chocolatey!!!!!!

And remember SHARING & FEASTING IS FUN!!!


 

Sammie x

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Feast Your Eyes on this Beauty !!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!!!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!!!

The startling beauty of this Dahlia, blooming it’s socks (if indeed it wore them) off!!  The beauty of this flower is breath taking.

Feasting is not just about the food we eat, however scrumptious that may be. It is also about Feasting your eyes on the magnificence of the wondrous, amazing world in which we live.

A perfect velvet red rose from my hubby on our wedding anniversary.
A perfect velvet red rose from my hubby on our wedding anniversary.

I’ve been unwell for a few days, however I refuse to become jaded, dejected & cynical, because I am laid up in bed in darkness.

For their is a light that burns brightly in me , a light that burns brightly when times are testing, a hope that holds me when all else is crumbling, a love that is unending & cannot be quantified, Grace that covers my wrong doings and a person who has ALWAYS got my back.

HIS NAME IS JESUS.

Through whom all creation was made.

All creation cries out to the Glory of God the Father and Jesus His Son.

Thank you Precious Heavenly Father that you who gave up your Son that He might carry the sins of all peoples, past, present & future.

Feast your eyes on this beauty that surrounds you and Focus your Heart on Him who Saves – Jesus.

Large white Dahlia - stunning.
Large white Dahlia – stunning.

Life with Jesus is fun. I DO NOT serve a dead god, but a RISEN SAVIOUR, who overcame death that we may ALL KNOW THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.

If you REALLY think about our world, it’s wondrous diversity and beauty – then imagine that it evolved over millions of years, you are really missing out on the craftsmanship of our Creator God.

I sincerely ask you to judge the beauty of a sunset and question if we evolved a) what purpose does it have?? & b) why does the beauty touch something deep inside of us??  Does it make sense??

A refraction of light – or a reminder of God’s promise?

image

Until next time I encourage you to really open your eyes, FEAST on the autumn leaves changing colour (did that actually NEED to be so??).

Until next time FEAST your eyes on your surroundings. Beauty is everywhere, including inside of you xx

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What a feast we had!!

If I were a fairy, this cake would be my home xx
If I were a fairy, this cake would be my home xx

Hi there. I really do hope that you are having a good day? If not I hope tomorrow is better for you.

As for me, eldest daughter is having  a sleepover tonight with some friends. So of  course we’ve had plenty of fun and feasting- although  how much sleep is had tonight I can only guess at!!

They are all lovely girls and all four of their birthdays are near each other, so I thought it would be nice to make them all a special cupcake,

Sharing their birthday celebrations together, with a pretty cupcake tower
Sharing their birthday celebrations together, with a pretty cupcake tower!!

Now before I get into the feasting frivolities, I feel it is necessary to share with you my love of fairy lights. They add such sparkle to a room. With one flick of the switch a nice room becomes a magical party room. And they make me smile, especially when I see them reflected in a mirror. It’s like an extra bonus (buy one get one free!!!). I feel so much better having shared that as it will help to further explain my other love……

Sparkles, whether it is a shimmering, sun lit sea scape, or a harsh overnight frost followed by a sun lit, clear blue sky. The way the ice crystals sparkle under the bright low sun  & spiders webs, beautifully defined by the ice crystals, look like something straight out of an Enid Blyton fairy story.

But sparkles, although enchanting in nature, can also be used to turn a pretty cupcake, into a spectacular one. I’m talking edible glitter here people & the world – my world – loves to sprinkle a little glitter whenever the occasion allows ( I satisfy myself with a daily application of sparkly lip gloss – & I’m happy about that!!).  Christmas (as well as properly remembering & giving thanks to God for the birth of his son Jesus) sees me in my element, totally immersed in fairy lights, tinsel, baubles & pots & pots of glitter – edible or otherwise.

Anyhow back to this blog! Here’s a couple of photos of the vanilla & chocolate cupcakes (I’m proud of the restraint I showed whilst decorating them!!!!

Chocolate, but sparkly & classy!!
Chocolate, but sparkly & classy!!

So I made a couple of pizzas (thank you Mr Bread machine), some coleslaw, garlic bread – with fresh Thyme – my fav so far, well today, baked oven potato wedges, cocktail sausages & sausage rolls ( the last 3 cooked from a packet – I know my limits!!), added a couple of dips, crisps & crudités & the feast was complete. The hungry teenagers got stuck in!!

Many hands make pizza disappear quickly!!!!
Many hands make pizza disappear quickly!!!!

And I’m not sure I have ever heard so much laughter, seen such happy faces or seen pizza disappear quite so quickly. It made me glad and thankful.

Thankful that I am married to a man who loves me sooo deeply, flaws an all. Thankful that we have 3 beautiful, loving, caring & thoughtful children. The BEST family anyone could ever hope for & secure in the knowledge that we are loved by the best man who ever walked this earth, Jesus.

He is our strength & our refuge. It is only by being full up & constantly refilled with His unending love that we can deal with daily challenges & still smile. Thank you Lord.

I hope that you too know my friend Jesus, He IS the smile that lives in my heart.

If you don’t know Him & the Vast love & forgiveness He has for you, please leave a comment & I will get back to you with more info?

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I’m not very tech savvy & everything I have written & photographed on my phone!!!!

Until next time, & I say this as much to myself as you, try to react in a kind, considerate way the next time someone puts an obstacle in your path & if you can smile through it, all the better xx

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