Monday, 29 November 2010

Festive fare

This weekend Daisy suggested we make something sweet and Christmassy, so we decided to make the most festive of fare - mince pies. We flicked through our cookbooks and scaled down the quantities of ingredients because unlike so many recipes suggested we didn't want to bake three dozen. It was our first attempt after all.

In the end we opted for Delia's shortcrust pastry recipe.

4oz plain flour
1oz butter
1oz lard
2 tablespoons ice cold water
a pinch of salt

After the pastry rested in the fridge for half an hour we made the pastry cases and filled each with a tablespoon of mincemeat; shop bought, but good quality.

Inspired by Nigella, Daisy wanted to make star-topped pies. This was great because I could leave her to it as she happily cut out and transferred all the pastry shapes.

25 minutes in the oven at 200c and our nine little mincemeat morsels were ready. Once cooled, we dusted them with a little snow - icing sugar shaken through a mini sieve. Daisy loved doing that almost as much as tasting her own baking and between us all the pies disappeared incredibly quickly. Now I see why all those recipes are for batches of three dozen; we'll certainly be scaling up next time.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The flu and the flying saucers

Last week I had such dreadful flu that I was out for the count for two days. As I emerged from my duvet cocoon, no longer delirious with fever but feeling rather ropey nonetheless, it was apparent that Bud and Daisy needed some fresh air, exercise and entertainment. I needed to pull something out of the hat. And fast. Here's how it happened in four fast-thinking steps:

1. I spotted two black polystyrene pizza bases ready for the recycling box (note to self: someone's been cooking ready-made pizza in my bedridden absence).

2. PING! - idea: they'd make great lightweight frisbees for Buddy and Daisy to throw around the garden (note to self: I will stay inside).

3. I remembered some shiny 'space-themed' collage bits and bobs from a craft activity a while back. Thankfully I found those quite easily and popped them onto our craft table along with a couple of glue sticks and some glitter.

4. 'Don't suppose anyone wants one of these special night time frisbees to decorate and play with do they?' My question was deliberately casual to entice my eldest, a most reluctant participator if he catches the merest whiff of craft.


This was the starting point to a wonderfully creative evening that could have been fraught with illness, misery and a whole lot of empty TV watching.

First there was some brilliant independent frisbee-making. I was barely acknowledged; I just drank water and hugged a hot water bottle. Then, keen to get outside to test out their flying saucers, Buddy and Daisy put on their shoes and coats. And yes - they did this all by themselves; that certainly doesn't happen in the mornings before school.

Excitedly and noisily, they threw their frisbees around and pretty soon some dramatic play developed with baddies and rockets, space exploration and planet hopping. I threw out their glowing glitter balls (recent presents from my aunty) and a whole new chapter began as I sat inside in the warm with a Lemsip.

You've got to love creativity. See how it can get you out of a tight spot and into a magical evening of high speed space travel round the garden galaxy? A classic adventure at home, just when we really needed one.

Eyes and iPhones

This morning I took my eldest to the doctor instead of school. Conjunctivitus was confirmed, antibiotic eye drops purchased and administered. We then headed to a nearby cafe for a restorative cup of tea and pain au chocolat. I'm loving my new phone App: with my hipstamatic camera in action you can barely see Bud's gammy eye.

I've been playing around with the App at home too. My children are used to me snapping away as they play, and now I can do so with different lenses and filters, transporting them straight back to the 1970s.

I really started experimenting with this because I'm finding it increasingly hard to photopraph Buddy and Daisy's adventures now it's getting dark so early. Ah, the shortcomings of an iPhone. Maybe I need a proper camera? Maybe this fairy grants wishes?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Winter warmer

It's officially cold here; the cars were covered in frost and we all had icy breath as we walked back from school today. Hats, scarves, earmuffs and mittens are most definitely required.

What better way to warm us up when we get home than with a mug of hot chocolate. Here's how we make it chez Deering - Buddy and Daisy in charge of proceedings of course.

1. Measure out desired milk quantities in mugs of choice.

2. Transfer milk into microwaveable jug and heat up for about 1 min 30s.

3. Meanwhile mix 1 tsp of cocoa with a little milk in each mug to form a thick chocolatey paste.

4. Add 1 tsp of sugar to each mug.

5. Pour in warmed milk and stir, stir, stir until the chocolate paste has melted into the creamy liquid, and there you have it - comfort in a cup.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Make or break

Your eyes are not deceiving you - yes, this was a kettle in a previous life, albeit a broken one destined for the Recycling Centre. Over the weekend my children saved and transformed it into this fantastic model spaceship.

While I was grumpily trying to find something at the bottom of our very messy boiler cupboard I spotted the electrical appliance and handed it over to Buddy. I suggested he might fancy taking it apart to see how it had been made. Well, I can't remember the last time his eyes lit up so brightly. Buddy is usually my more reluctant participator when it comes to making things. But here was an opportunity to break a thing and I'd clearly hit on something good. Very good.

With total absorption and enthusiasm Buddy got to grips with the screwdriver, disassembling the kettle and talking animatedly about its component parts and their function. Of course I had to help with the screws, some were a little tight and inaccessible but we managed somehow. I was truly impressed by his interest and momentum; he wanted to remove every last screw, shining his torch and inspecting his work in such a professional manner.

Of course it wasn't long before Miss Daisy wanted to get in on the activity. She was particularly keen to help Buddy make the kettle into something new.

So with the help of a newly acquired glue-gun we spent a very happy half hour putting back every last screw and washer, handle and tube in an altogether different way.

Buddy: It's a model spaceship from Star Wars, it's a goody one. It's got a baddy pod here; that red thing. They get shooted off when they've learned their lesson. Into their base. But they're just kidding.

Daisy: That's the way out, that's the way in. And those screw-things are landers.

It is with thanks to the lovely Irresistible Ideas For Play Based Learning people that I owe this post - this whole activity actually. They recently wrote about letting their preschoolers loose on some old clocks. They re-made them into the most amazing time-machine sculptures. Without their reassurance that you can use glue-guns with small children I don't think I would have been brave enough to embark on this venture at all. I'm so glad we did, and we'll definitely do it again - we're already on the look-out for other broken appliances.

Friday, 5 November 2010


It's impossible to ignore Bonfire Night here in London. My evening has had a soundtrack of crackles, bangs, zooms and booms. Everyone seems to 'Remember, remember 5th November...' and we've acknowledged it too. Though my children are now tucked up in bed and I think sleeping through all the noise, earlier today we improvised our own little firework party at home.

After dark, we switched off the lights and watched some spectacular clips on You Tube. It was wonderful because Buddy and Daisy got very excited, not terrified as I know they would have been at an actual event. In particular they loved the BBC London coverage of this New Year's celebrations; they recognised familiar London landmarks and the River Thames, all transformed by explosions of colour and bright light.

Buddy: Oh look! They look like they are bursting!

Daisy: Oooo... pink! Oooo... yellow! Oooo... red!

Buddy: That one's like a planet in dots.

Daisy: It's definitely in the city. Actually there are fireworks shooting off the London Eye.

I brought out black paper, chalk pastels and glitter, and while we watched we made our own firework pictures.

Daisy's firework display takes place in New York, apparently.

Buddy's has a huge golden planet-firework right outside our house.

The rain eased off a little, so we donned our waterproofs and stepped out to the back garden to listen to the exciting noises from near and far. Buddy and Daisy whizzed around like mini-fireworks, shrieking and whooping at every pop and whistle, bang and fizz.

Buddy eventually stopped racing around and did some of his best ever reading when I showed him the biggest surprise of the party. He carefully read out all the words on the packet and discovered with a squeal of delight what was coming next.

So, thanks to some great reading from Buddy, our firework party finished with a flourish of well deserved sparkle.