Monday, 20 December 2010

Ribbon Corsages & Bows

This is NOT a spnsoted post, but I was sent the pdf template free of charge.

I was sent a brilliant corsage template by the lovely @summerlandc on Twitter.  She has a most gorgeous blog and shop called Summerland Creative selling budoir cushions, sewing kits and other lovely items.  Do take a look!

I must confess the girls and I are getting slightly addicted to making these ribbon creations and have even branched out into lace.

They are really simple, even my 4yo can make them.  Here's how we make them:

I cut out the template and glued it on to cardboard.  The instructions were included and are really easy to follow.  I added some numbers to the points on the template for the girls to follow when winding the ribbon.  This meant they could do it with minimal supervision. 

Once the ribbon had been wound round the template I sewed a few stitches through the middle pentagon to hold the bow together.  Then you just slip the ribbon bow off the template and you're done.

The girls sewed a couple together and added a button and a brooch pin to the back.  These would also be lovely put on gifts to add a homemade touch to present wrapping.

The girls were very proud of theirs as you can see:

These were so easy to make and kept us amused for hours. I highly recommend getting a template or kit and trying them yourself.  Be warned though, as I mentioned earlier, they are somewhat addictive.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Class Christmas Parties

My 4yo will have her first Nursery Christmas party tomorrow and I have made some simple party biscuits.  So that I don't have to ice them, I've put the sprinkles into the biscuits.

My 7yo has her class party this week too and I have been making some Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, enough for 30 children, and extra teachers/TA's that just happen to find their way into her class at party time.

Here's the recipe:

240g unsalted butter

300g (1 1/2 cups) firmly packed soft brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

300g (2 cups) plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

350g milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes until pale. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for a further minute.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. Add a pinch of salt, then use a wooden spoon to carefully fold in the flour until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball, then flatten slightly onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.  Repeat, leaving a fair amount of space between each biscuit to allow for spreading. (You may need to bake the cookies in batches.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes (the biscuits should have just started to darken at the edges but will still be a little soft). Remove from the oven and use a palette knife to lift biscuits from trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Now all I have to do is make enough Anzac biscuits and eggless sponges for all the Year 5 and 6's World War 2 end of topic party.  I cannot wait until the end of school of Friday when we can all relax.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Homemade Felt Decorations

Behold the wonders of self-adhesive felt! We used cookie cutters to cut out the Christmas pudding, tree and bell shapes and used more cut out felt to decorate them.  A ribbon slipped between the two layers means they can be hung from the Christmas tree.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Stained Glass Biscuits

My daughters and I made these, we had loads of fun even though the biscuits didn't turn out quite as we hoped.  I will try again later in the week to finely tune the recipe and hopefully the end result will be slightly less 'rustic'.

125g butter, softened

1/3 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup golden syrup

1 egg, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

clear boiled lollies, to decorate

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and golden syrup until pale and creamy. Add egg. Beat until well combined. Sift flour and bicarbonate of soda over butter mixture. Stir until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth. Divide in half. Press each piece into a 10cm diameter disc. Wrap in greaseproof paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 flat baking trays with baking paper.

Place sweets in snap-lock bags, keeping colours separate. Wrap bags in tea towels. Place on a chopping board. Gently crush lollies with a mallet or rolling pin.

Roll out each piece of dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick. Using Christmas themed biscuit cutters, cut shapes out of dough. Press leftover dough pieces together and repeat. Place biscuits on baking trays.

Cut little shapes out of centre of biscuits. Spoon crushed sweets into cut-out areas. Bake biscuits, 1 tray at a time, for 12 to 15 minutes or until sweets have melted and biscuits are light golden. Cool biscuits on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Gift in a Jar - Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownie Mix

The girls and I are starting to think about making inexpensive Christmas gifts.  My eldest thought of a gift idea for people who usually buy packet baking mixes or don't bake at all.  Why not give them a delicious Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownie Mix in a jar.

Ingredients for the jar:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1 cup sugar

Make the mix

In a large jar, layer the flour, salt, and baking powder. Using a wide-mouth funnel makes this a little easier. Add cocoa and shake the jar just slightly to level the layer. Then add the dark chocolate chips then the walnuts or pecans. Put the 1 cup of sugar in a small food storage bag; seal or tie well then shape into a small enough shape to fit into top of jar.  Press the sugar bag into the top of the jar.

Directions for Gift Tag - Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownies

You will need:

115g/4oz butter,

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Line a 8-inch (20cm) baking pan.

Take bag of sugar from the top of the jar and pour into a mixing bowl. Add 4 ounces of softened butter.  Beat until light, then beat in the two eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla until creamy.  Empty the rest of the jar into the mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until dry ingredients are well moistened. Mixture will be stiff.  Spread brownie batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until brownies are set. Cool in pan before cutting into squares.

Of course the jar can be decorated however you like, we add a wooden spoon tied on with ribbon.  You could decorate the outside of the jar with glass paints too for a more festive look.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

52MMMC Cloth Dolls

Over half term when the weather was cold and generally foul, my daughters suggested making dolls.  I scoured the internet for a pattern suitable for them all but in the end we just used some Calico I had in my fabric stash, drew around their favourite dolls and bears to make a doll shape, then cut them out.

The girls stitched faces on to their dolls using french knots for the eyes and backstitch for the nose, mouth, and eyebrows.  They then selected coloured wool for their dolls hair.  The strands of wool were bunched, knotted and placed inbetween the fabric of the dolls heads.  The dolls outlines were pinned, right sides together and we sewed up the outlines with the sewing machine (leaving a gap so we could stuff them).

Once the dolls had been sewn it was time to stuff them.

The girls coloured in their dolls with fabric pens to draw on outfits and also make a little red dress for each doll.  They really enjoyed themselves.  Here are the finished dolls:

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The 52 Marvelous Makes Madness Challenge

I found this most fabulous challenge on the equally fabulous Thrifty Mrs Blog.  I've decided to join the Challenge because I love baking, sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery, making preserves, etc.  All those old fashioned, homely skills that are being lost.  I want my 3 daughters to learn and use them too and in order to do that I need them to see me using the skills and enjoying myself whilst creating something lovely and stylie. 

Oh to be able to sit down and embroider something or crochet/knit a project from start to finish without it becoming a chore or ending up at the bottom of my WIP tub. 

I LOVE the idea of this Challenge because it will force me to complete things and not just sit there watching rubbish on telly while doing nothing else.  It allows me to let my creative side free, but also be strict with myself and finish things.

The post below is from Mrs Thrifty and details how the challenge works:

Right, so, the challenge is to make 52 things you'll enjoy making in the space of a year.

One a week.

So, dinner doesn't count unless it is the dinner of your dreams but making a new cake or a delicious batch of scones does.

You can makes clothes, toys, drinks, food, pictures, shampoo, candles, blankets, anything you like, using any craft, style, talent or skill that you so please, you just have to make one thing per week.

If you've never made a pie, why not give it a try?

As long as you derive pleasure from making this one thing a week all is good (and no I don't want to hear about your bedroom muckiness, there are sites a-plenty for that kind of making).

Document them by taking a photo and either blogging about it or popping it onto the new fandangled Flickr T52MMMC group (make sure to tag or label the blog entries and flickr uploads with T52MMMC).  Also, (if you're taking part) be kind and pop this button (you can choose which ever size suits your blog best) on to your blog side bar linking back to this post so that others can find out what the challenge is all about. You can post about your weekly make any time in the week, I understand how life gets in the way, so there shall be no fixed time and dates attached to this project.

My Embroidered Pillowcases

I have been rather creative lately.  I have been snatching time in between battling numerous bouts of cold/flu, looking after sick children, and generally running around like a mad woman to make these:


They are embriodered pillowcases, I am rather proud of myself.  I found a tutorial on the internet for the edging and lovely flower templates for the embriodery that I drew on (with proper haberdashery store washable pen) and sewed over.  They took me AGES to make and I am not the most patient person.  A friend asked me to make them for her so she could give them to others as presents.  No pressure then, LOL

I am working on some other crafty bits for Christmas gifts. I prefer to give homemade things, although do buy gifts if I see gorgeous items at the right price.  Do you have any works in progress that you want to finish? Are you planning a homemade Christmas gift marathon crafting session?  If you are please do share :o)

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Gardening with Children

I was inspired to blog about this after our lenghty gardening session yesterday with the children, planting out all the vegetable and flower seedlings we had grown from seed.  Another credit for this should also go to the lovely Cafebebe who blogged about getting her toddler started with gardening activities.

Getting children interested in gardening can be as simple as giving them some quick sprouting seeds and a small patch of soil to work with.  Children don’t need to produce a massive crop to find gardening rewarding.  If you don’t have a garden - small crops in containers work just as well.  Give your child ownership of their space and the responsibility of nurturing their own vegetables.  Make a sign with their name on it! (even if it is only 3 small pots)

To captivate and hold your little one’s attention, set their garden up to flourish from the start by choosing the best spot.  Look for a sunny and protected space with fertile soil or good quality potting mix.

Tasty plants are a great motivator. - strawberries and sugar snap peas are good examples. They are healthy snacks and easy to grow.  Then eat what you grow. Introduce kids to the value of healthy eating by picking and eating fresh food straight from the plant!

Plant easy to grow vegetables; cherry tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, pumpkins, cucumbers, potatoes and peas are easy to grow and reward with fast results.

Plant herbs – kids love to experiment with the taste, touch and smell of fresh herbs.

Grow edible flowers amongst the veggies – kids are curious about flowers and attracted to the bright colours. Flowers also attract beneficial insects and they look beautiful. Why not use the petals from any edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, violets, lavender) to decorate cakes, biscuits, or to garnish your dinner plates. Simply have the children pick healthy, unblemished petals, dip them in room temperature water, shake the excess off gently, and sprinkle with caster sugar. These look fabulous and are fun for your children to make.

Make a scarecrow! Scarecrows are fun to make and incorporate play into gardening tasks. Teach kids about recycling by using old clothes and rags.

Plant a sunflower seed – from a little seed a huge 3 metre sunflower can grow, observe as it follows the sun.

Try growing mustard and cress on the windowsill on a sheet of kitchen towel – remember to keep it damp at all times and you’ll soon see the seeds sprouting, a few days at the most.

Older children can keep a Gardening Diary.  Provide the children with paper, crayons, pens, and pencils and allow them to create a record of their gardening experiences. The children record their garden activities throughout the year. They can write the size and colour of each plant, or can include pressed flowers, a rain chart, a drawing of their garden, the successes and plants that haven’t thrived.

My girls love using pressed and dried flowers.  Pressing flowers is as simple as having the children pick any flowers or foliage they like. Then lay the flowers in a single layer between two pieces of greaseproof paper in an old book (telephone books are great). Weigh the book down with some old bricks or another heavy object. In about a week to 10 days they are ready to use.

For drying flowers, pick some flowers, wrap an elastic band around the bunch, and hang upside down from the ceiling, we do this in our garage. Once the flowers are dry or pressed, you use them in flower arrangements, in collages or to make gifts…be creative.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Free or Low Cost Rainy Day Play Ideas


Pasta Jewellery: Thread macaroni/penne etc. on cotton or string for necklaces, bracelets, crowns. Paint first if you want.

Pasta pictures: Draw simple picture. Coat cardboard/stiff paper with a layer of glue and start sticking.

Pasta music: fill jars, paper cups, saucepans (any containers) with pasta and shake. If you use two paper cups taped together you can decorate the outside as well.

Pasta animals. Use glue to stick pasta to rocks, empty boxes, cotton reels, cardboard tubes, etc and turn them into animals or other creatures.

Pasta race: Fill spoons with raw pasta and have an 'pasta and spoon' race. Winner has the most left in their spoon after hopping down the course

Pasta pick up sticks: Use wide spaghetti instead of sticks
Shops with a twist

Help your children to dig out any play money you might have or make some coins and notes out of cardboard and paper. You could also make cash cards and a machine to slide them down. Then empty out your entire kitchen cupboard or pantry onto the dining table. Let the kids arrange it into a supermarket and play shops. Once the items have been purchased the children bring them to you and you can put them back in the cupboard/pantry.  By the end of the game you should have satisfied kids and a kitchen cupboard all spring cleaned.

Indooor picnic

With my three children we have rainy-day picnics. We decorate small cardboard boxes and we use them for individual picnic baskets. They decorate their own boxes with their names and stickers and paint, then pack a special indoor picnic in each box and we put on a CD and lay out the picnic blanket in the lounge. It’s especially good to invite all the teddy bears and dolls in the house and sit each one around the edge of the blanket because they can then stay on to listen to an impromptu concert or watch my daughters dancing to the music taking turns to entertain each other.

Paper children

Either have some large peices of paper handy to draw around your children or draw smaller versions of them.  Cut out the child shapes then dress them up using lots of glue, coloured paper, fabric, wool, straw, string etc.

Cardboard Boxes

Most supermarkets have cardboard boxes that they will let you have free of charge.  Take a few boxes and let their imagination run wild. My three girls have made cars, trains, royal carriages, boats, robots, palaces, and an enormous amount of other creations out of cardboard boxes, all for free.

Create your own Board Games

Board games are a great way to while away a few hours, but if your children are tired of the games you have at home, why not get them to make their own. Give them a large sheet of poster card, some felt pens, old magazines, scissors and glue, and let them go to it. They’ll need to create their own rules, cards, counters and dice, you’ll be amazed by what they come up with. The whole family can take turns playing each other's games.

Oh So Beautiful

Rummage through your makeup drawer to find some bits and pieces you’re happy to let go, and then set up a beauty salon for your children. You can be the stylist, or let them take turns putting on make-up, nail polish, and doing each other's hair. Before you know it they will have created a whole game complete with a receptionist and a diary for bookings.

Write a Letter

Grandparents love getting letters! Have your child write a letter to Gran and Grandad, or even a friend from school. If you have friends or family in another town or country, you could set up a pen pal system, so that writing letters becomes something your child does every rainy day.

Dress Up

My children have a tote full of dress up clothing. I did it inexpensively charity shops, Poundland, and sewing my own.  I pick up things such as jewellery, hats, sun glasses, badges, fancy dress costumes and other articles of interest.  Many times I save new things to add on a rainy day or another day they have nothing to do.  It generates new interest and hours of play.  We also have theme boxes. There is a fairy box, a princess box, an emergency services box (fire fighter, police officer, etc) and a costumes in progress box.  There's enough of a mix of costumes and accessories to inspire their imagination and creativity.

Driving Mat

A huge poster board or cardboard is great to let your little ones paint train tracks, roads and rivers on.  It can be any size you like.  My girls painted lakes, roads, airports trees and so on.  You can use crayons or felt pens instead or as well as paint.  They had a really great time making this one rainy day and still enjoy using it.  When they've finished playing with it I just roll it up and put it away.  Card board cartons can be saved and painted to make houses and shops to place on their driving mat. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

How do you spend 1:1 time with your children?

My oldest two girls went back to school today and I must say the house is much more peaceful and quiet. My 3yo does not start back until Thursday at the school Nursery so we have two days together while the other girls are at school. The school Nursery sessions run from 9am - 11:50am. During the time that I am without my children I try and have a quiet cuppa by myself before I get on with all the housework, washing, baking, cooking, school governor stuff and the many other things that I need to get done. The reason I headless chook whilst youngest is as Nursery is that I like to spend the afternoons with her doing things together instead of her watching me rush about.

I try and spend time individually with each of my older daughter’s everyday and then they take turns to spend a block of time with me on the weekend doing an activity of their choice. It is great to get that one on one time with them and just have a good chat and do stuff together.

On the weekend I helped the girls use the sewing machine to alter some clothes that we bought for them from a charity shop. We also made them some drawstring bags out of the legs of hubby’s old jeans. Yesterday we were all in the garden preparing the vege patches and weeding the flowerbeds. It was great to be outside in the fresh air and sun helping each other and having fun. It also stopped them from getting bored, starting to fight, and winding each other up.

Today my 3yo and I spent time in the garden. She was brilliant at helping me move wheelbarrow loads of compost, scooping it up with her own little trowel and spade. We had fun digging in the compost and spotting all the minibeasts. She loved planting the seeds in pots and planting out the seedlings we had grown. It was brilliant seeing the world through the eyes of a 3yo. I really should do that more often. If I did I might not be as jaded and grumpy as I can be sometimes at the end of a long day.

I am glad that my girls and I can spend time together sewing and gardening. I love gardening! It is really relaxing and gives me a sense of achievement. I like the fact that we are growing our own food and the children know how much work goes in to producing vegetables to eat. It also saves us money, which is never a bad thing.

We always try to make op shopping fun as well. The older two have got the hang of having a good rummage through the racks at the charity shop to find things that are their size and might fit them. They know to pick up anything that falls off the hanger and put it back on the rack properly and to leave the clothes racks tidy. They are on the lookout for wool at the moment as I am starting to knit again, and relearn to crochet and they are keen to join in.

How do you spend one on one time with your cherubs? Do you grow your own vegetables too? Can you crochet?  If so any tips would be gratefully accepted!