Poncho Towels

August 31, 2010

The Peacock Family are off on holiday next week (driving to Northern France), and in the hope that we may enjoy a few days warm weather – enough to enjoy the pool at our rented cottage; I made these poncho towels this afternoon.

I bought 3 beach towels in primark, they have a velvety side and a ‘towel’ side and have an orange edge on the two short sides. They were £3 each! I used one whole towel and the short edge of the extra one for each poncho. I measured and cut a pattern that would fit over Martha’s head with newspaper, I didn’t want to make the hole too big or it would fall over her narrow shoulders, I folded the whole towel in quarters and put the quartered pattern in the centre of the towel (see photo). For the hood, I measured the circumference of the hole and halved the measurement this was 10″ in this case so I cut the short edge of the extra towel 10″ by 20″, folded it to make a square and stitched the back of the hood (with the orange edge for around their faces and the fold for the top of their heads). Then pinned the hood to the hole (starting at the back seam of the hood) to the back of the hole and working towards the front where (fingers crossed my measurements were right) the two orange edges met. Then stitched round the whole hole/hood egde.

I think they look pretty good, Alice’s is the same size as Martha’s – she can grow into it -and they have both been playing ‘wizards’ in them in the garden ever since! Lets hope the weather is good enough on holiday that we can properly try them out – I might give them a wash first, new towels are rubbish at drying.

Sandcastle Cake

August 12, 2010

It was Alice’s 1st Birthday last week (yes it has gone really quick!), so it was birthday cake time – yippee! I do love making my kids birthday cakes (and cakes in general), although I do get pretty stressed out by it, they usually come good. I was particularly pleased with this one for a few reasons, including; it was all my idea, it was simple to make, it looked really good and it tasted even better! and at no point was I tempted to throw it out the window!

Here’s how it was done;

I baked the actually cake in a terracotta pot, I sealed up the hole in the bottom with a ball of tin foil (making sure it was flattish on the inside but would still stand up – you can fill the divot in the cake with the icing later, greased it really well with butter and lined the bottom with greaseproof paper. I used a ‘betty crocker’ packet devils food cake mix (I am a pretty good baker and I still think this is the yummiest, easiest, chocolate cake you can make and it always works!). It took a bit longer to bake than the directions stated and there was a big lump in the middle where it did not rise evenly – I think this was down to the pot absorbing alot of heat unlike a metal tin. So I simply cut this off and had a little cook’s treat.

When it was cool I iced it with a chocolate buttercream, I make this instead of using the betty crocker stuff because it tastes better and has a paler colour. I took 100g room temp butter, 300g icing sugar and 30g cocoa powder and beat them together with my hand mixer, then spread it thickly over the cake. Then I crushed up some digestive biscuits (in a plastic bag with a rolling pin) and smushed them into the soft buttercream this was achieved best with a handful tipped up and onto the cake working round in sections, I found it looked more authentic patted in to give a smooth sandcastle finish. I also iced and biscuit coated the base (a small chopping board) and this I did not smooth off so well to look like the rest of the beach/sandpit.

Separately I made some scallop type seashells. But you could use those seashell chocolates if you don’t have the time/confidence. These were made with packet fondant icing (the roll out type) which was white so to colour it I made a paste if cocoa powder and hot water and added it to the icing, (this does make it quite wet so add some more icing sugar to firm it up again) This made a beige coloured fondant which I added back to a ball of white not mixing it completely to get a marbled appearance. Working with a small piece, flattened it in my palm and formed a rough triangle shape, then using a scalloped edge pastry cutter (I usually use these for jam tarts and mince pies) cut just the long edge of the triangle. Then using the back of a dinner knife pressed lines from the indent of each scallop up into the ‘shell’.  I stuck these to the sandcastle cake with more chocolate buttercream a big lump of cream and pressed the edges of the shells onto the cake to make them more of a convex shape.

I did also make a little cutesy crab out of red fondant and used cut down bendy straws in his front pincers for shape and stability, I did not photograph this little job, I guess if you have a basic experience of modelling you would give it a go. I made a flag from a piece of paper and a cocktail stick (I was out of bamboo barbecue skewers) and popped in the requisite candle.

Taa Daa!


July 25, 2010

Another Day out during Mr Peacock’s week off was a trip to the seaside. We were looking for a proper British ‘bucket and spade’ seaside town, with a sandy beach, amusements and a good chippy, and Littlehampton was recommended to us. We got down there about lunchtime and headed for the west beach, and could not understand why there was just a small pebbly bit of beach, until it clicked that it was high tide, one of those extra high summer tides so no sand whatsoever, we could see a small bit of yellow sand over on the east beach so stopped for lunch at the excellent ‘West Beach Cafe’, it’s posher ‘East Beach Cafe’ shaped like an oyster shell, we could see on the other side of the River Arun. It was lovely. We had a smashing lunch of fish/sausages/thai fishcakes and really good chips. Martha scoffed her lunch – which makes a change. (www.eastbeachcafe.co.uk)

We had a little wander about the sand dunes looking for the wildlife highlighted on the information boards, then headed over to the little stretch of sand on the East Beach. Martha went swimming while Alice and I dug in the sand, but the weather was a bit grim and Martha got very cold so we went to the ‘Harbour Park’ amusements. Alice had a little nap in her pushchair and Martha had a ride on the gallopers and a little car that went round and round and up and down, 3 year old heaven. You have to buy tokens for the rides at the harbour park and as they sell them in round numbers and take various amounts on each of the rides you could find yourself bringing a few home. We had ice creams and then as the sun came out and the tide went out, back to the beach to build sandcastles.

Littlehampton was a lovely day out, its a really charming, quiet pretty beach town. How much more ‘British Seaside’ can you get?