Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Elf on the Shelf - Latest Adventures

Tonight we said goodbye to Spick until next year.  He left us a goodbye letter this morning, found here, and the children were allowed to cuddle and kiss him goodbye for a few minutes without breaking the 'magic'.

He has been fun, but not without a few mad dashes out of bed at 11pm to put him somewhere after I had forgotten.

Can't wait for him to join us again next year.

He covered the tree in the kids underwear, which upset Sprat the next morning.  Must remember not to do that one again.

Spick ran into a little trouble one night.

But with a bit of help from a few friends, Spick got his own back.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar Day 18 - Crazy Christmas Photos

This is a bit of tradition each year, to take funny photos in front of the Christmas tree.  I downloaded the awesome photo props from here.

And I really just couldn't help myself.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar Day 16 - Santa Bread

You know when you see something really awesome on Pinterest, and you make it, and it looks nothing like the really awesome image you saw on Pinterest?  Yup.  Santa Bread.

OK, it actually didn't turn out that bad.  The children were a bit miffed about the whole activity as it was more mummy hands on than them, but it does taste great and they enjoyed eating Santa. Next time though I think just making a batch of dough and letting them shape their own creations would of been more successful.

Original link and instructions here.  I am sure you can figure out which photo is the Pinterest one and which is mine?

Before cooking he looked pretty awesome though.

Actually, while we are on the subject of Pinterest fails, here is another one from earlier in the month.

Ahem ... yup, nailed it .....

Tis the Season for Giving All Things Good

The last two weeks have been packed full of kindy and playgroup breakups, school finishing, neighbourhood Christmas BBQ's, work and client Christmas parties and early family Christmas get togethers.  Its been fun but pretty full on, as each function has required a small token of appreciation to be taken along.

When the energy and time is right, I like to take along something homemade.  This year I have made batches of star shaped shortbread and packaged them in mason jars with lace and buttons as adornments.

These photos were taken off my phone.  Just too busy to take 'real' photos I guess!

When the time has been short Donovans Chocolates have come to my rescue.  I was lucky enough to receive a sample of their Dark Chocolate Caramels and Dark Chocolate Peppermint Delight.  I can never ever say no to chocolate.  Especially not Donovans.  Their cafe in Hamilton is not that far from home, its rather dangerous for me.  Especially the Chocolate Wheel - its a thing of dreams for a chocolate addict like me.

The hubby and I sampled one of the Dark Chocolate Caramels each before taking a photo, and we ate the whole lot in one go.  Opps.  They were amazing.  Dark chocolate salty chewy caramel goodness.  Easy to say I was sold, and have been buying them to take as gifts ever since.  

I am sampling the Peppermint Delights as I type this.  They have a jelly square centre, and the texture is so nice to sink your teeth into I just can't stop.  Or I am just a chocolate addict.  

I'll be off to New World again tomorrow as have 6 hampers to put together for our clients, and they will be definitely featuring Donovans Chocolates.  

I find I really just can't turn up empty handed to anything at this time of year.  I love to give small tokens of appreciation and spread cheer.  And to me, chocolate is cheer. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Elf on the Shelf has Landed

We welcomed Spick to our household on 4th December.  If you do not know the story of Elf on the Shelf yet, check out the Elf on the Shelf official website and read The Tradition at the bottom on the page.

He so far has been reasonably tame.  In all honesty ... confession time here ... I often forget to move him.  Sigh.  And its a mad dash out of bed at 11pm to shove him somewhere else.  One night I did forget and had to tell the kids the reason Spick hadn't moved was because they were being naughty on bedtime the night before.....

Nothing we have done so far has been original.  Its also been meaning that Sprat has been getting out of bed each morning at 6am to be the first one to find Spick.  Sprat.  Spick.  Not to be confused with each other.  But still alot of fun, and surprisingly The Girl hasn't touched him yet, so he thankfully still has his 'magic'.

His adventures so far.

Looking forward to the next 11 days, and hopefully a few more creative (stolen off Pinterest) ideas.

Activity Advent Calendar Day 10 - Decorate Christmas TShirts

Today we got to decorate TShirts to wear on Christmas Day.  I picked up some fabric pens from Smiggle when they were having a big sale, and cheap singlets from The Warehouse when they had 30% off clothing.

Another simple project where the results were 3 children very proud of their creations.  The Christmas Spirit is truly thriving in our house.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar Day 9 - Paper Christmas Tree Collage

Nice and simple activity today, decorating paper Christmas trees.  I have tacked these to the wall up the stairway.  The children are quite proud and so far have dragged two sets of visitors to the stairs to see them.

The Girl has informed me that Santa is going to leave a present under her tree, so I will have to have a chat to the man in red and ensure that happens.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar Day 6 - Making Chocolate

The children's activity today was to make their own Christmas shaped chocolate.  The photos pretty much speak for themselves.  This was such an easy activity, and the children loved the end product.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Activity Calendar Day 5 - Window Decorating

The activity for today was to decorate their bedroom windows.  I gave them liquid chalk and window crayons, and supervised closely.

The Girl, at 2, found it fun for about 5 minutes, before she realised there were scissors and scores of paper to cut into teeny tiny pieces.  Her latest obsession, and not much can keep her away from her scissors.

I had a turn on The Girls window.  There is definitely not an artist in me screaming to get out.

The hubby couldn't help himself and had to have a go as well.  What is it about liquid chalk that is so irresistible?

I love their concentration.

And the finished masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Activity Calendar Day 4 - Gingerbread Houses

Our activity for today was to decorate Gingerbread Houses.  I brought the mini kits from KMart and they were perfect for the kids, although I did add some extra lollies in to decorate with.

Its been raining all day long, so this ended up being the perfect stuck inside afternoon activity.

The ratio of lollies given to the ratio of lollies that actually made it on the houses was majorly in deficit.  There was a lot of excited hyper activity in our house after this!

I notice tonight as I walked past the dining room table that we obviously have mice. Well maybe just one mouse.  A large one.  Called the hubby.  My gingerbread house is missing half its roof ... ah well, it had to be eaten right?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Strawberry and Coconut Cake

I never ever thought it would happen in our house.  But I had an over supply of strawberries.  It was time to make a Vanilla Strawberry Cake.  But unfortunately, the beautiful bottle of pure organic vanilla extract I brought a few weeks ago for a small fortune went walkabout and was no where to be found.  Lucky I came across this recipe in my local newspaper and it saved my cake baking day.

A beautiful cake and perfect for summer.  The kids ate theirs as is, but the hubby ate his with vanilla ice cream.  Its good.

500g strawberries, hulled and sliced
150g softened butter
3/4 lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I obviously didn't have this, so used strawberry essence instead)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20cm round baking tin with baking paper.

Put the softened butter and brown sugar in a food processor and process until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon and process until just mixed.

Add the flour, baking powder, coconut and milk.  Pulse briefly until combined.

Spoon two thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly.  Scatter the sliced strawberries over the batter and then drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the berries.

Place the cake in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 - 50 minutes until cooked.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before lifting out and leave to cool before serving.

I did eventually find the missing bottle of vanilla.  It was hanging out in the jug of the juicer at the bottom of the cupboard.  It must be time to clean out my pantry.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar

The 1st of December is looming.  My favourite time of year.  I played Christmas Carols today. Loud.  Very loud in fact.  And while I sang out of tune in my happy place, I worked out our activities for our Advent Calender.  This worked so well for us last year and I am excited to get started again.

I'll be using the same labels as last year - found here.

So in date order, our list goes:

  1. Put up the Christmas Tree
  2. Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2
  3. Donate cat and dog food to the SPCA
  4. Decorate Mini Gingerbread Houses
  5. Decorate your bedroom windows
  6. Make Christmas Chocolate
  7. Watch a Christmas movie
  8. Go to the Hamilton Santa Parade
  9. Decorate Paper Christmas Trees
  10. Decorate T.Shirts to wear on Christmas Day
  11. Make Reindeer Food (instructions and free printable here)
  12. Make a purchase for the KMart Wishing Tree
  13. Make Peppermint Playdough (recipe here)
  14. Go for a drive to see the Christmas lights
  15. Visit Santa and get a photo
  16. Make Santa bread - instructions here
  17. Go and visit Great Grandma
  18. Take funny photos in our homemade Christmas Photo Booth
  19. Bless Daddy Night (will interview the children about Dad, cook him a special dinner and thank him for being such an awesome Daddy)
  20. Go see the Christmas Drive-In Movie (in Hamilton only - details here)
  21. Go see Trees at the Meteor (again Hamilton only - details here)
  22. Make cookies and deliver to the neighbours
  23. Go Candy Cane Gifting (idea from here - kids are going to bomb people with Christmas cheer)
  24. Put out milk, cookies and Reindeer food
Hurry up already December!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Herman the German Friendship Cake

I came home from a weekend away in Napier with an ice cream container full of Herman starter. If you haven't been introduced to the wonder that is Herman, read all about him here.

I've lovingly stirred and fed him, and finally he was ready for baking.  I choose, from the above link, a Chocolate and Orange flavour.

It was a strange mix to be working with, and once cooked it resembled more of a giant cookie than a cake.

It was different - nice, with quite a strong sourdough flavour.  The hubby must of liked it as he ate half of it in one sitting.  He does like sourdough though.  The kids ate it, and as I always say that is a good sign!

I haven't shared my Herman starter yet with anyone, so have plenty more to experiment with.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Making Marshmallows

Marshmallows are the only 'sweet' that I can make.  Anything that requires soft ball, hard ball stages etc just seem to be a no go zone for me.  I have never successfully made fudge, unless its a microwave version, and have nearly burnt my house down trying to make toffee.  I even have a special sugar thermometer.  It doesn't seem to help me much.

But I have mastered marshmallows.  And they are good.   I couldn't not share as with Christmas just around the corner, these marshmallows with peppermint essence added and rolled in toasted coconut would make the sweetest gift.

2 Tablespoons edible gelatin
2 cups caster sugar (I used normal sugar this time as had no caster sugar and it turned out fine)
Essence and/or food colouring of choice

Sprinkle the gelatin over half a cup of water in a bowl and set aside.

Combine the caster sugar with 1 cup of water in a large saucepan and stir constantly over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  Add the thickened gelatin mix to the saucepan and mix until combined.

Increase to a medium heat, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes without stirring.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat proof bowl.  Leave to cool until just warm, add any essences at this stage if using them, and then beat for 10 minutes until very thick and peaks form. I use my Kenwood on high, and just walk away to leave it to do its thing.

Add any food colouring and beat to combine.  Pour into a lined 18 x 26 cm slice pan and chill until set. The easiest way to cut this is to use a wet knife.  You can then roll the cut squares into toasted coconut or just eat it as it is.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clay Christmas Decorations

I want to incorporate more white decorations on our tree this year, without paying a fortune for a half dozen ornaments mass produced in China.  I've seen some great ideas on Pinterest using Salt Dough, but to be honest, I just have bad memories of soggy Salt Dough from when I was a child and just didn't really want to go there again.

A quick trip to Spotlight and I was home with air drying Jovi Clay.  It promised to be really easy to use, not too sticky, not strong smelling and should only take 24 hours to dry.  Perfect.

I am by no means a sculptor, so simple was the way to go.  Cue the cookie cutters, rubber stamps, ink, a drinking straw and a rolling pin.

I am stoked with how they turned out, especially the deer.  I only brought a small packet of Jovi, so am definitely going to get more and do some mass producing of my favourite designs.  Especially now I am the proud owner of a deluxe, worthy of a heart attack when I saw the price tag, huge 7ft Christmas tree that my darling hubby brought me the other night.  This baby can be filled with a heap of decorations.

I did let the kids, hubby and a friend have a turn.

I have to admit I may of turned into one of those scary growly possessive of my craft, type people at this point.  But I got through it without too much snarky behavior.  I think.  I didn't share my rolling pin though.

Can't wait to see these strung up on the tree.  Ohhh, love the festive season.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Op Shopping - Scores of Goodness

Its been a good few weeks for me in the local op shops.  Scores of summer clothes for the children, clothes for myself, books galore, coat hangers, fabric, Christmas decorations and a new tea cup. Most of the clothing got absorbed into the washing basket straight away, but I did manage capture these cute T.Shirts for The Girl before they too found their way into the abyss of washing.

Buying second hand clothes for the children is just awesome, especially for Danger Mouse and The Girl who seem to be unable to stay clean for even an hour.

2 metres of pretty fabric.

Bollywood!  Thought I would start a new collection.  I love Bollywood movies.

Books for the kids.  Some of the Golden Collection ones are in great condition so will be stocking fillers.  Also picked books up for me - I love the .50c table at Habitat For Humanity.

 Bag of Christmas goodies and a great tin.  I only brought the bag for the Angel, so most of this stuff will probably be re gifted back to the op-shop I brought them from.

And my tea cup trio - Colclough.  I brought this in a market in Napier last weekend.