Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Making Christmas, making Christmas


Yes, its still October and yes, I've said the C word.  I admit that I'm a bit of a Christmas maniac - I'm the type of person to put a tree in every space of our house and I fully intend to infect the small one with this fever so by the time she is a women in her 30s she will still get excited at the first holidays are coming advert on the tv.

We've actually been quite busy crafting over the last few weeks on Christmas gifts from Milly, but nothing is finished.  This is one of those spanning lots of weeks project so you will have to come back if you want to see the final product.  Its the lord of the rings of craft projects, if you will, only with fewer potential endings and no elves.  Ok, maybe elves.

Not bread again

...said Milly when I announced we were making salt dough

1 cup flour plus some for rolling
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp oil (optional - I find it makes the dough easier to work with)

to make that in to a Christmas decoration

absolutely anything to cut out a shape
absolutely anything to make impressions in the dough (optional)
a rolling pin
assorted paint (we used a metallic paint from tesco, a gold glitter paint from ELC and some white paint from asda)
a decision on how to hang it and either rings or string depending on what you choose

Mix everything together and that's it really!  If its too dry shove in some more water, too wet add flour.  

We decided to make some impressions in the dough using some snowflake cutters I had for last years Christmas cakes and then cut out shapes with cookie cutters, but you could use just about anything really - finger print impressions and a circle cut using an egg cup would be great.

Once cut decide how you're going to hang them.  We're trying a combination of ribbons which require cuts in the shape, string requiring a hole (I used a cocktail stick to form this), and rings which I will buy at some point in the next couple of days and glue in place.  We had rather a lot of dough left at the end of our cutting so we made little beads too so miss can have a princess necklace.  Not sure Kate would wear a salt dough necklace but you never know.

Salt dough Christmas decorations

There are lots of cooking instructions on the web for salt dough.  I normally bake mine at 100 degrees for 3 hours (or until they are firm but not coloured in any way) but I wanted to try the microwave method.  For this you apparently simply place in the microwave for 1 - 2 minutes and bing they're done. Unfortunately I bing almost set my microwave on fire and bing made my kitchen smell of bonfires.   If you know how to do this without causing a major crisis then go for it.

Once cooked and cooled, its time to paint, and that's what today's activity was for us

Witch costume also optional

Next I will varnish them and then we will put them all together and attach them to the labels we've made (instructions coming soon).  But that's an activity for another day!  One without witches I imagine.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Happy Anniversary

6 years ago this happened

We had the perfect wedding and I married the perfect man.  Its all rather soppy really.  A couple of years before this happened mr invited me over to his place for an evening of fine foods, intellectual conversation and a drop of port towards the end of the evening (or maybe it was a bunch of mates getting drunk and playing twister).  At some point in the night he decided that dressing up in a tux, playing the ferrero rocher music and bringing in a tray of said choccies was a brilliant idea.

Regardless of the cheese, he won my heart and the rest is wonderful history.  Its a memory that needs to be celebrated so when I found out that six years together means a gift of sugar or iron I knew which one I was buying, and it wasnt made by tefal.

Why monsieur, you are really spoiling us

You will need : 

One polystyrene ball
One length of dowel
Plaster of paris
A pot
Tin foil
Clear glue
Assorted ribbons
Organza or tissue paper
64 ferrero rocher (which is a heck of a lot more than I expected).
The will power of an elephant

To start, I will say I bought a kit containing the ball, dowel, pot, plaster and ribbons.  I priced up getting everything individually and by the time I'd paid for p&p for each one it worked out considerably cheaper to get it in kit form from one place.  If youre making multiples for table decorations then it might be worth getting them seperately.  If that is the case, I used a 30cm length of dowel and a 120mm polystrene ball so adjust the number of chocolates if you buy smaller or larger.

Ok, this bit is pretty obvious but I'll go through it anyway.  Wrap and glue the ribbon around the dowel.  Prepare the plaster of paris as per the instructions on the packet and pour in to your pot.  Shove one end of the dowel in to the ball and sit the other in the plaster of paris and leave to set.

Now for the *ahem* fun bit.  Cover the ball in foil.  This will allow you to re-use (or sell on!) your sweet tree after you've finished with it.  Starting at the top add some glue to the back of the ferrero rocher and to the foil.  Hold in place until set.  Gravity will play its part in making this a tedious process unless you go foil-less, but you should be able to do 4 or so chocolates at a time and hold them all.  DO NOT EAT THE CHOCOLATE.  Continue until you've covered the entire ball and leave to set.  You will need to do this either the moment before you intend to give it as a gift or at least a day before because gravity will start to bug you once again by dropping the chocolates out of their wrappers, so DO NOT EAT THE CHOCOLATE - just glue them back in to place and feel better knowing that you will be sharing it eventually anyway.

Finish by decorating in any way you want.

Ferrero Rocher Sweet Tree
Ferrero Rocher Sweet Tree

If you want a more budget option then melt a little milk chocolate and use that to stick maltesers on to the foiled ball, use cocktail sticks on marshmallows or licorice alsorts "kebabs", or just hoof lollipops in to the polystrene.  Its all sweets, so its all good.

When rhyming goes wrong

Milly loves rhyming and will happily sing song her way through bizarre combinations of words, birds, sirds, flubberlerds.  Many make absolutely no sense but its cute to listen to, until it goes very wrong and then you have to not react to luck, suck, duck f... you see where I'm going with this.

So today we're making food that has no rhyming risk factor.  I have a feeling this may become a theme over the next few weeks, or until the next phase hits.  Please dont let it be a reoccurance of "where do babies come from?".

Nice Ice Rice Flice Buns Huns Suns Guluns

1 batch of basic bread mixture recipe here 
75g sugar
1 egg

Icing sugar
Food colouring
Assorted sprinkly goodies.

Extra flour for rolling.
Vegetable oil to prevent the bread sticking

Make up the basic bread mix with the sugar and egg added.  Alternatively take any white bread mix / recipe and add the sugar and egg, leave to prove in an oiled bowl for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough and smack around a bit.  Make tthhhhhssssss noises at the same time.

Divide in half, and then divide each half in to 5.  Hand over to your miniture person and have them split each portion in half and form a ball shape.  Dont expect equal quantities but its nice for them to learn the concept of half and double.  Roll each ball in to a sort-of-sausage.  Its much easier for them to roll the dough (which is rather sticky) if you get them to flour their hands slightly before you start.

Milly demonstrates a dough sausage

Add each sausage to an oiled tray, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to double in size before baking in my oven at 170 degrees for 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them - they do cook quickly so can turn just as fast.

Remove and allow to cool completely.  Open every door and window in your house so everyone gets a chance to smell freshly baked bread.  Pat yourself on the back for making the neighbourhood jealous.

Make some thick icing for the top - we went for tiffany blue and bubblegum pink (see, I can be foody when I want to be).  Pour on to a side plate and press each bun in to the icing.  Top with funky sprinkles and shove in the fridge to allow the icing to set.  Eat the left overs.

Scoff, cough, loff, bo....maybe not.

Toddler made ice buns

Isn't technology great?

It is, isn't it.  It wasn't that long ago that we all had to make the journey to our local snappy snaps to pay a silly amount of money for photographs that could be 24 shots of your knee.  Now we point, click and delete to our little hearts content, safe in the knowledge that we can delete that picture of us that displays several chins.  So big yay for technology \0/ except when something goes missing, which is exactly what happened to me after we returned from holiday.  I lost the camera cable.  Suddenly I had a camera of pictures and no amount of waving it in front of my laptop was going to make those pictures jump on to my screen.  I tried begging, shouting, promising to take it out to dinner and treating it like the wonderful bit of technology it is but nothing. 

Until this evening when a search for nail varnish remover turned up my precious baby.  So, on with the blog.

(and just because I can, here is a picture from our holiday)

Enjoying the slinky dog ride at Disneyland Paris