Sunday, 29 April 2012

I made that

I need to start a new pinterest board.  I've been pinning on there for quite some time and I've built up collections of some very nice things.  Unfortunately most of them remain unmade - a mere possibility that gets pushed further down the page.  A new board will be the incentive to actually do some of these things.  It starts like this...

Its been raining for approximately forever.  We're confined to the house by a combination of illness, lack of facilities and the fact that we don't own an ark.  So, I've decided to face my fear and actually make something.

I pinned this tutorial a while back and I've always loved this dress (how cute is that little girl!)

We're off for our first family sun holiday in a few weeks and I wanted something easy and lightweight that I can throw in a bag and easily dress her in when she's covered in beach.

I changed the pattern slightly.  I wanted the lining to be a different colour, mainly because I'd bought it already, and I decided on narrow straps.  This was a mistake!  Not the lining part because I rather like that, but I think I spent best part of Lilo and Stitch pushing those babies inside out.  Definitely go wide!  The other massive mistake I made was using a little coffee table to not only cut the pattern but also to sew.  My back officially hates me and my hems are a little, well, out shall we say.

For my first effort at big girl sewing, I'm pleased enough with the result and the small one likes her dress rather a lot.  Next time I will definitely use a table large enough to actually lay out the material.

I'm thinking of adding a little felt flower on the fastening at the top but this depends on time more than anything else.  In the mean time, Milly has decided on her own accessories.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The daddy gift array part 3

This is my favourite one, the one that brought a tear.

Milly has not always known everything.  There was a time that we would spend many a wet morning holding our very own question time in the living room.  Why is daddy going to work?  Why isnt daddy a lady? Why hasn't that man got any clothes on (yes strange man in the allotments behind our house, we can see you).  From this came the idea of writing down some of the Millyfacts she developed and turning them in to some sort of gift for his lordship.

Of course this bizarre turnaround where I asked the questions led to a complete breakdown in communications so I had to do a bit of reverse psychology and slowly it happened.

"Milly, I don't think you know what daddys favourite colour is"

Ask your child to talk about your partner and write everything down.  You might need to prompt a little bit but its good language practice - what does daddy look like?  What do you like to do with daddy?  You know the drill.

After you have enough dirt on your partner ask your child to draw a picture of them in any setting that takes their fancy.  Obviously the detailing of this is entirely dependent on their age, but simple line drawings work just as well as stunning works of art.

Scan or take a picture of the drawing - anything that gets it on a computer and open in GIMP (you will notice that I use this rather a lot).  Decide on 3 or 4 colours that you want to use and then type out each of the phrases and position them around the drawing.

Print on to photo paper and frame.

We left out the bit about daddy not being a lady.

Never trust pink icing

A while back we subscribed to the Dora the Explorer little cooks magazine.  Its had a bit of a shaky start thanks to missing deliveries and broken free gifts, but otherwise its pretty good.  Unfortunately, the small one is rather set in her ways so trying to get her to try a new recipe often requires more ability than I possess (which is why we made chocolate cake every Wednesday for weeks on end).   As a result, we have made the same recipe for Dora muffins 4 times now with slight variations on the recipe each time.  This is todays effort, and very little like the original (sorry Dora).

Dry stuff - wet stuff - make some muffins << repeat >>

I understand that title will mean nothing to those who haven't felt like their head may explode listening to Dora on tv.

For the muffin:
100g self raising flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
75 ml milk
handful of raspberries
white chocolate bar
30g golden caster sugar

For the frosting:
tbsp soft cheese
tbsp butter (softened)
food colouring
vanilla extract
icing sugar

lots and lot of cleaning equipment

My fan oven temperature : 160

Prepare and weigh all the ingredients in advance.  I find my daughter has the patience of a die hard shopper on next sale day so this works best with her.  It also gives her the chance to do her "comedy" which way does the spoon go routine.

Chop the white chocolate in to chunks until you have a good handful (or more - depends how much you like your chocolate) but leave some to finish.

Whisk the egg in a jug and add the milk and oil.

In another bowl add the flour, sugar, chocolate and raspberries, and stir.  Add the wet ingredients in to the dry and mix together with a fork.

Now this isn't the method I would use with a recipe aimed at older children or adults, but this thing is getting mixed to death so throwing it all together means you wont have something that resembles a rock once cooked.  You also get mushy raspberries which are hilarious.  Apparently.

Divide between 4 muffin cases and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes.

Once cool mix together the soft cheese, vanilla and butter.   Then add enough icing sugar to thicken.  Ask your child what colour icing they would like, even though you already know the answer (in our world, everything is pink) and turn the frosting a horribly unnatural colour.  Hand the icing over to the child who will splodge it all over the cake, all over themselves and all over every work surface you can see.

Top with grated white chocolate and shove in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the frosting to set a little.

Wonder why you bothered to make muffins since your child is only interested in licking off the frosting.  Hey ho.

Monday, 23 April 2012

101 things to do with tissue paper flowers

Well, 2 to be exact.

This might even be better than the basket.  Surely not, I hear you cry.  Read on crafters...

Least practical hat in the world

At some point in toddler life there will be a requirement to make a hat for some sort of easter, summer, the local paper is sending around a reporter festival.  Plastic flowers are expensive so we took to the tissue paper again and prayed for a dry day.  Now, you dont want any common or garden tissue paper flower hat for your child.  What you want to do is add bees! 

One hat of your choice
Assorted tissue paper flowers
Polystyrene balls
Kebab sticks and playdoh (this is just to hold the balls, so anything pointy will do)
Yellow paint
Black pen
White paper
Pipe cleaners
Needle and thread

Shove a kebab stick in to the end of three polystyrene balls and hold in position with the playdoh.  Smile at the level of concentration on your childs face as they paint these balls yellow.

Milly paints bees
Milly paints bees

Once dry, draw a black stripe across the body, cut out some wing shapes on paper and glue in place.  Depending on the age of your child you may have to do the cutting and striping for them.

Attach your wonderful paper flowers around the edge of the hat and green paper "but flowers need leaves mummy".  Add an assortment of rubbish that your child insists must go on the hat.

Shape the pipecleaner as you wish and then shove one end in to the bee.  You might need to glue this in to place.  Sew the other end of the pipe cleaner to the hat and you have this

Easter bonnet

and yes, the hat made it in to the local paper with one grumpy looking child under it.

A bunch of flowers to last a lifetime, or this ones for the dads

The natural progression from the ability to make a tissue paper flower has got to be making a bouquet of them.
Tissue paper flowers
Green tissue paper
Drinking straws

if you want extra daddy points, add a vase

Empty toilet roll
Tissue paper
Glue mixed in with an equal quantity of water

The flowers:

Make a 5 or 6 large multi coloured flowers.  Let your children use their imagination when it comes to the colour combination.  Reality isnt the keyword for this project.

Wrap a length of green tissue around a straw, leaving some excess at the top and glue to secure.  

Stick the flower to the excess green tissue.  Gasp in amazement at the wonder you have created.  Do it until all the flowers have stems, gasp each time.

The vase:

Rip up shreds of tissue paper and stick in to place with the glue-water combo.  Continue until all of the roll is covered and leave to dry (which with a toddler means hunting around for a hair dryer and using that).  Place the flowers in to the vase.  Add an assortment of rubbish that your child insists must go on the vase.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The daddy gift array part 2

There are things that Milly knows to be FACT, and then there are things I know to be FACT:
  1. his lordship likes beer;
  2. he adores the small one.
So, it follows that I should combine the two in some way for fathers day and the idea of the milford brewery was born.

Its time for the mums to get crafty, or how to make a gift for dads for under a tenner. 

For this, you will need a good picture of your child (head shots are good), some image manipulation software (I use GIMP - its excellent and available to download) and a vistaprint account.

Remove the background of the image using whatever software you have.  If you're unsure of how to do this there are likely to be tutorials if you google.  Otherwise, try getting your child to stand in front of a white wall and take the picture.

Scurry over to vistaprint (or any printing company you wish you use that happen to like to email free offers) and select the wine label with photo upload option.  There will be a multitude of backgrounds and text you can use so have a bit of a play until you have something you're happy with.  Ours came in a packet of 4.

If you're over 18 buy large bottles of beer or a bottle of wine.  Under 18, and you get to buy something without alcohol.  If its in a bottle then it should be fine (daddys sauce perhaps). If you have time, soak off the labels or if you're lazy like me, simply replace the beer label with your own and taaa-daaaaaa one gift for daddy. 

Lets bring in the children

Card time.  Children and finger painting - its like cheese and onion, David and Victoria, lego and bare feet.  But this is no ordinary finger painting, this is xTremE finger painting (I'm so down with the kids).  Ok, its just finger prints made to look like stuff.

For each family member print a single finger on to the paper.  If you want to turn this in to a learning experience discuss heights, who is the tallest, who is next and so on and then translate that to the size of their fingers.  In our case Daddy was her thumb, I was her ring finger, Milly was her little finger and the dog was a bit of a splodge.  In practice it doesnt work as well as the theory since kids fingers arent massively different in size, but its something for them to think about instead of running hand first on to the fabric sofa.

Then all you need to do is add some features with a black pen and turn the fingers in to people, and you have your card topper ready to go.

2 years in college and this could be my best work.

You can never have too many baskets

Has anyone in the known world ever said this?  I doubt it.

Tissue paper flowers that dont smell of tissue or flowers

Cut out two circles of tissue paper in different colours, one slightly smaller than the other, plus one circle of yellow or orange tissue whilst your child asks if its ready yet over and over again.

Make a cup of tea and put your feet up.

It is ready now.  Hand over the circles plus glue, glitter, sequins - anything you fancy really and allow them to get to work.  Glue the smaller circle on to the larger one, scrunch the yellow into some sort of ball and glue to the middle.  Add as much glitter and other junk as needed to make the worlds most freaky flower.  Pinch behind the yellow tissue and set to the side to dry.  Repeat.

Once they have the hang of flower making there is no end of things they can do with these.  Stick to the front of a card, add to ribbon for floral bunting, use on gifts...because, after all, you can never have too many baskets

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sewing for dummies

I have been inspired to sew by my friend Joanne.  I have fabric, patterns, cotton, pins, chalk, a sewing machine and some additional frilly fripperies.  Unfortunately I also have no idea what on earth I'm doing.  I've made things before.  In college I had great fun sewing bits of paper that I'd painted with a mixture of gouache and vim (for those who havent seen this wonder item, its a household cleaner - in this case, in powder form).  Since then I've made an array of cushion covers, curtains and fancy dress outfits

However, I've never used a pattern and the instructions may as well be in Polish for all the sense they make to me.

Perhaps I should stick to cakes.

The daddy gift array part 1

In my head I see that programmatically.  In three languages.  Geek.

One of the benefits of Mummy and Milly day is the ability to make home made gifts for his lordship (thats not an insult incidentally, I bought him one of those title in an envelope gift packs several years back).  Unfortunately one of the downsides to having a threenager is their apparent inability to keep anything a secret as our recent make daddy an easter card craft day went.  I think that secret lasted a good ten minutes.
"Daddy, we have made you a card".
"Milly, its a secret"
His birthday is in a couple of weeks so its thinking cap on time only with the added pressure of him not finding out in less time than it takes the glue to dry.  Of course, he's reading this so no hints on here darling.

This time last year, we made this...

The container is from John Lewis, but anything airtight would do.  Then we had great fun sticking on foam letters and sticky gems from hobbycraft.  Of course, this makes it completely impractical since you can't wash it but a good wipe out will do the trick.  Ours is still going strong a year later.

Daddys its good to share biscuits

175g plain flour 
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
100g sugar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa 
125g butter (or whatever fat you want to use)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Family sized bag of m&ms 

Hide the m&m's.  This could be the most important stage of the entire process.  Then preheat the oven.  Again this is going to be for a fan oven, but I went for 160.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.  We have a set of digital scales and its great for learning numbers and the concept of greater than and less than.

Hand your child the egg and a whisk.  Depending on their age they might need a bit of help with cracking it, and you on stand by to fish out all the bits of shell.  Let them get on with whisking whilst you cream together the butter and sugar.  Pour in the egg and vanilla, and mix.  It is not ok to lick the spoon at this stage.

Beat the dry ingredients in to the wet a little at a time.  If you find its too runny add a little more flour.  You dont want something in between a frijj shake and playdoh.  It is not ok to lick the spoon at this stage.

Discuss what makes something a half and roughly divide the mix in to two bowls.  Add the cocoa powder in to one and mix through.  It is not ok to lick the spoon at this stage.

Spoon a little of the mixture on to a baking sheet.  These things expand more than you expect so leave some room if you're in charge or accept that you're going to have a giant mutated cookie explosion if you aren't.  Each bowl should make about 8 cookies.  It is not ok to lick the spoon at this stage.

Squash the cookie down a little bit and introduce the m&ms.  Yes, you can eat the brown ones.  Add 4 or 5 sweets in to each cookie and press down firmly.  For younger children its nice to have them count everything out.

Bake for about 15 minutes. 

It is now ok to lick the spoon.

And not a square bracket to be seen.  Geek out.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

In the beginning

We parents all start our craft journey somewhere slightly different.  For some its crayons and mark making, for others its rolling around in paint that you hope is as washable as the bottle claims, and for the really unlucky its your best lipstick on your newly decorated walls.

For us, it was chocolate and the date, according to facebook, was April 3rd 2010 which makes Mill a little over 18 months.  I'm sure we must have done something before then but this was the moment when I realised that these memories of just the two of us would last for a lifetime.

 I'm not sure there is anyone who hasnt made Rice Krispies cakes , but here is the recipe anyway

It doesn't have to be Easter to enjoy a mini egg.

Chocolate and lots of it
Rice Krispies or any brand of rice type breakfast cereals
Assorted sprinkles
Mini eggs

Before you start, its a good idea to put out the cases ready for filling.  Close your eyes and imagine your child after consuming a family sized dairy milk in approximately 17 seconds.  Its not good is it.

Melt the broken chocolate over a bain marie.  Once melted pour in to another bowl because the original is now hotter than the sun.  Allow to cool slightly.

Allow the small person to pour the rice based cereal in to the chocolate.  This will go one of two ways : the cereal will enter their mouths or the cereal will cover the floor, but hopefully enough of it will go in to the chocolate at the same time.

Mix with a large wooden spoon.

Fish out your childs head from the bowl

Fill each of the cases with as much assistance as possible.  Its good for their co-ordination I believe, plus its also quite funny to watch.

Hand over the sprinkles and mini eggs and stand well back.

Chill the finished products in the fridge until hardened, bath your child and never, ever serve to guests.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

In preschool they have jam

"Scones dont have cheese in them, they have jam".  At 3, Milly is an expert in everything.  In her head, I know she says "FACT" at the end of every sentence as she rolls her eyes at my utter ignorance.  I explain the difference between savory and sweet scones and I think I may have won this battle for now.

The reason for this discussion is a recipe I've had for a while for cheese scones.  I cant remember where it came from now, somewhere from the web I imagine, but it uses American cups which I've never really got my head around.  I've kept it because, unlike traditional scone recipes, it uses oil instead of butter which makes it easier for little fingers to do solo.  A recent trip to the supermarket and an offer on various cooking equipment meant I could finally try it out.  So here it is:

Jam free cheese scones

2 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mature cheddar cheese
1 egg
140ml full fat milk (use semi skimmed if thats what you have)
3 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven.  I put our fan oven on at 170 so adjust accordingly (sorry, I only know my own oven!)

Stir together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  The recipe calls for a cup, but Mill decided she was going to squash the grated cheddar in so we probably ended up with closer to 1 1/2 cups minus the bits that she decided were ok to taste.  Stir into the flour.

In another bowl mix together the egg and milk (retain a little to brush over the tops) and add the oil.  Convince your child that licking the whisk would be a bad idea.

Close your eyes and allow your child to pour the wet mix into the dry.  Exhale once the process is complete.  Mix together with a fork before getting your hands stuck in.  Add euuuuuuuuuggggggggghhhhh sound effects.

Once you have a dough, turn out on to a floured surface and squash until it is about 2cm thick.  Double back on to itself and squash a little more.   Cut using an upturned glass and place on a baking tray.

Paint the top of the scones with milk and give each a grated cheese hairstyle.

Put the scones in the oven and do the dishes before madam insists that being a frog and hopping around the kitchen is a good idea.  This should last about 20 minutes by which time the scones will be firm to the touch, and a lovely golden colour.  Break open (the folding should allow you to do this), spread a little butter and a slice of cheese and enjoy warm.

..."Scones have jam, this is a burger".  *sigh*