Monday, 16 December 2013

Finkles

There's twinkles in them Finkles

I once knew a lady who couldn't bear to throw anything away. She recycled, upcycled, re-purposed to the point that over the course of a year, what she actually threw out would fit inside a pixie's purse.

I'm not quite so obsessive but I don't especially like to throw things out. The thing I like least to throw out are the kid's clothes. I feel like it also somehow takes with the the energy that once occupied them.

So I have fathomed a solution. Introducing....

The Finkles! Mildred, Bitsy and Feargal.


A Finkle is a cocktail of said energies, manifested through the medium of tinkly, crackly, squeezy, textured talismans of cheer, destined for a new little bubbas all over the world. These three are flying off to the three corners of the Earth. It was an emotional farewell for all of us but just imagine the stories they'll collect! 



The twins, Bitsy and Feargal were devastated to be separated, they'd shared a pair of swimming shorts for five years!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Shortbread

The Christmas Star That Cook Forgot


To make Yummy Spiced Christmas Shortbread you will need:

225g butter at room temperature
75g caster sugar
275g plain flour, sifted
1tsp ground mixed spice
Finely grated zest of one reindeer antler... I mean orange
A pinch of salt
75g semolina
Caster sugar for dusting

"Oh my, I'm a Christmas Star! 
Not a sticker on a snotty child's jumper, or a token in a grubby pocket. 
No this star is helping spread the spirit of Christmas!"

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (160 for fan ovens) or gas mark 4
In a bowl, mix the butter and caster sugar until thoroughly incorporated.

"What are we lining up for? 
Are we going to visit Santa?"

Mix in the flour, mixed spice, orange zest, salt and semolina. 
Finish with your hands to bring the dough together.

Allow to rest in the fridge in cling film while you wash up, hell, why not mix it a cocktail while you're at it! 
Dust the worktop with flour and roll out until the dough measures 1cm thick.
Cut out shapes and bake for 30 mins on a well-greased baking sheet.

"Whoo! I thought Christmas was meant to be cold!"

"Oh heck, what's this now? Snow?"

Remove from the oven to cool and smother in sugar. Mmmmmmmmmarvellous!

"Mmm sugar mmmm, ooh Brenda? What happened to you...?"



Place cooled biscuits in a suitable airtight box or wrap in brown paper, ribbons and a gift tag for a yummy festive gift.





"Cook forgot me, she sent me round twice!" 
"Oh Brenda!"

"I wouldn't worry about me dear..."
"Why's that?"

"Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhhh!"

"This just feels so... pointless...."

This starry story was inspired by a picture book story I have written called Cecil and the Wandering Star. This is the PG version on account of the mild terror involved. Cecil and the Wandering Star has a beautiful premise and a glittering cast of sparkling characters. *sigh*. I heart stars.


"Nobody likes a show off Brenda!"

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Howe do you do... loo roll garlands

Deck the halls with scrap and refuse, fa la la la la la la la... laaaaaaa...

To make this, frankly beautsome Christmas garland, you will need:


A quantity of kitchen, toilet, wrapping paper rolls
Red paint
Scissors
Glue
A hole punch
Pegs
String

And then you...


And you...

And you...


Until...

Then you...

And before you know it, it'll be time to roast your chestnuts! Ta daaaaa!







Friday, 22 November 2013

Salt dough

Have you ever kissed a frog? I did once, before I met My Officer Godmother, of course... sadly the frog didn't turn into a Prince, then again... I did find him on a toadstool...

Anyway I digress. Have you seen Disney's The Princess and the Frog? We love it Chez Nous. It is set in 1920's New Orleans during Mardi Gras with a backdrop of voodoo, jazz and The Bayou.

Minnow being mad about 'jewels', the plasticer the better, she spotted the brightly coloured Mardi Gras beads or 'throws' as they're called. They're usually thrown from the floats of the carnivals during the Mardi Gras celebrations.

We had a parade outside our house last year for the Queen's Jubilee. Very similar except the carnival was a little less frivolous and and all I got was some sawdust in the eye. But then, this is not New Orleans.




Anyhoo, this is how we go about making salt dough Mardi Gras beads...


You will need:
2 Cups of flour
1 Cup of salt
3/4 Cup of water
2 tbls vegetable oil
Food Colouring

Combine the ingredients to form a pliable dough and away you go.



We rolled it into balls and then skewered them like kebabs. They went in the oven for 30 mins at 50 degrees. Tap them to see if they sound hollow. If not turn up the heat and leave in a little longer.


Thread them together and...



...Bob's your Uncle!




In other news, this month's competition is sponsored by Sorbet Turkish Towels.
I swear by these little beauties, they are so good for holidays. Soft to lie on but easy and comfortable to wear too. And they roll up so small they even make room in your case for extra shoes! Here we can see Minnow modelling the child's version on Sarigerme Beach, (the unlikely birthplace of Irish dancing).



Any new members of the blog will be entered into a prize draw to win one just like it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Howe do you do... mer-mades?

I paused in our secret garden yesterday, as I made to compost these blousey buds, but I found I couldn't bring myself to make worm meal of them yet, so set about re-purposing their fancy frilly bits.


Their colour and shape lent themselves perfectly to the scales of a mermaid's tale... or three.


During the exercise, Minnow objected "I don't want to break them". So in the name of freedom of expression, I supported her choice of attaching full rose buds. 

She then seemed forlorn, "I'm sorry Mummy, I've drawn on the mermaid". 

"That's O.K. Poppet, it's your mermaid." 

"O.K. I'm going to tear up these petals." I gulped down any further objections.



The mermaids themselves behaved abominably...

Gluing led to one of them gasping:


"Oh! Now I've got a sticky bottom!" 

Then they fussed and wriggled throughout the petal dressing, complaining that it tickled, which in turn tickled Minnow.


For the love of Neptune!

What's that old saying? Oh yes never work with children or mermaids.

I took a moment to compose my patience. I let out a big sigh in the kitchen where My Officer God Mother overheard me. "She's three, she's supposed to ruin your pictures" he consoled. But he only knew the half of it.

Of course once Minnow had seen what I'd made of my mermaid, she changed her tune and coerced me into outlining her another one.


Mermaids being one of Minnow's two greatest passions - the other being butterflies... we were once overrun by a swarm of hybrids. It was horrible, buttermaids, unlike their coquettish, milky cousins, are bossy workaholics with no obvious sense of humour...

Anyway, mermaids being one of Minnow's greatest passions, we're now developing a shoal of the feisty, fishy friends... even the bald ones with the scales falling off, we don't desciminate.


Note to self - in future, draw the mer-made's mouths on last, if at all... ah so that's why The Little Mermaid lost her voice, it all makes sense now... #gobbyspecies

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Howe do you do... art in nature?

This year, the National Trust is running Project Wild Thing - an incentive designed to reconnect kids with nature.

The project outlines 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4 with the idea of ticking them all off. They range from camping out in the wild to making a mud pie, bringing up a butterfly to making a raft.

Number 18 on the list is: make some wild art

As the weather continues to surprise and baffle us, we thought we'd continue in our wild romping... well to the library anyway as it was nearly fine o'clock.

Here's our effort...

Our first job, and Minnow's favourite bit, was the scavenging for colourful bits and bobs to include in our masterpiece. Astride her trusty bubble bike we set off, with pre-requisite basket on the handlebars to stow our loot (N.B. no plants were harmed in the making of this blog post).

I did wonder at this time of year if we'd find anything worth using but how wrong I was. We walk past this stuff every day, how does it go unnoticed? (Actually a 3 year old cycling next an A road will probably do it.)

Then Minnow spotted a gorgeous feather, sleek and glossy like Black Beauty's coat after a hard gallop along the shoreline. By the time Minnow's feet dangled two and a half feet off the ground, it was clear that the crow hadn't finished with it... we had to let it go. 

There were two further alarming incidents with some chewing gum and some dog poo but we got through it.

Here's our plunder:


Not too shabby if I say so myself. 

So here's me, getting stuck in...


... and here's Minnow wishing she had some glitter...

#

A few leaf lip antics soon loosened her up a bit...



That's the spirit!


And here they are, the finished products...


Top marks all round!



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Friday, 13 September 2013

Howe do you do... stitchery doodles...

...with woolly noodles?

Ah Tenerife in early summer: quality time with the family, long hot days messing about in the pool, switching off from life, easy come, easy go...

That is unless you happen to be holidaying during some kind of freak weather anomaly and the sky is sun shy for the entire week!

"Don't worry", said Mum, "you'll still get a tan through the clouds". It wasn't the tan I was worried about but the goosebumps that plagued my body with little more than a two piece packed to cover them. 

Aside from all of this the kids (and there were five of them) could be heard saying things like:
"I can't get in the pool, it hurts!"

Ho hum, so what to do with them. Well I was glad that I had packed a Marry Poppins carpet bag full of needly things. I have such happy memories of my holidays as a child, lost in a cross-stitch reverie that I thought now was as good a time as any to see if their interest might be sparked by a bit of wool and card. 

This couldn't be simpler. All you need is a piece of card, a big blunt needle (technical term), some blu tack, some wool and some sellotape (preferably on a stand so they can do it themselves while you read Grazia). Maybe also a pencil and rubber if you don't trust your freehand.



So mark out the picture your little one wants to make, use the BB needle and poke holes through onto the blu tack.


Start your little one off, sellotaping a bit of the wool to the back of the card and hey presto, away they go!


Now either the plan worked, or The Shoemaker's Elves had stowed away with us again. (They were pests during our mini-break to Windermere I tell you.)


 Perfect for an overcast holiday... or England.



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Friday, 6 September 2013

Howe do you do... awesome bubbles?

The Bubble Experiment

Hypothesis

Many of our household objects could be used in the art of bubble blowing. With particular investigation into the multi-functionality of kitchen implements.

Equipment
  1. A big bucket
  2. Awesome Bubble Recipe for Super Strong Bubbles: 6 cups of water to one cup of washing up liquid. Stir gently, attempting not to make any bubbles. Add one tbs of glycerin. For best results, cover and allow to rest until tomorrow. N.B. You can still enjoy bubble fun with your Bog Standard Bubble Mixture - water and suds.
  3. Anything with a hole in it!

Method

Dunk any holed item in to your Awesome Bubble Recipe, remove and blow through, thus testing it's efficacy for bubble blowage.

Results

Items that are not born to bubble: Not telling, what kind of killjoy do you think I am!

Items surely wasted in the kitchen that should have their bubble potential unleashed:

Whatever this is, I use it to make mash into neat tidy circles when I'm feeling a bit cordon bleu, but it now forms part of our bubble repertoire:


The outside of a sprung cake tin, the bubble potential here is two-fold, as well as the standard bubble, it makes large bubble tunnels out of the bucket:


Which then satisfyingly spring into a bubble in the tin to blow or burst whichever is your whim:


Next came the runaway success of the experiment - the syringe you tend to get these days in kids' medicine instead of the old 5ml spoon. This piece was adored for it's simplicity and for it's surprising adaptability to the task. Not only did it form bubbles shaped like eggs but loads of them, one after the other. Brilliant!


It did prompt a more simplistic and perhaps equally cherished approach. Sadly the enchanted bubble eventually encompassed Bubble Bike and took off before popping somewhere over the Manchester Ship Canal...


Results

Success reined in the fields of mash ring, cake tin and syringe. It has lead to experimental testing of further objects to include Cinderella's glass slipper and a pair of joke glasses. No further success has yet been recorded...



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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Duck Book Making

I have been making a book with Hillside Primary School. This term they have hatched some ducklings in an incubator. The were super cute and the kids loved them.



Reception teacher Mrs Fletcher Curran asked if I would mind getting involved with writing a book with the children about their ducklings.

So that everyone got to play a part in making our book, I decided on the idea of using story dice. I made these beauties and took them into school.




We then did an exercise listing all the things they knew about ducks... 
which turned out to be quite a lot!



Once the cubes were made, I gave each one a category: What is special about the duck? What location is the duck in? What funny situation does the duck find itself in? What other character is in the book? Each category then needed six variables which we decided on as a group. All that was left was to roll the dice and hey presto! A story is made.


I then took photos of some special events that the kids would be involved in: a visit to the farm, sports day and the spring fair. Using some scrap material from the classroom, I was able to superimpose ducklings onto the pictures.

The books are almost ready for sending out and the kids will take them home with them this week.