Cupcake and Tea Party

January 10, 2013

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We had a small party for Martha’s 6th birthday this year, as she had a big party for her 5th, and with her birthday so close to Christmas I felt we had enough to do.
So with numbers limited to six of her closest school friends, we made a plan to amuse them in our house. So I came up with the idea of a cupcake/afternoon tea party. I made them a quick half apron each (out of a charity shop double duvet set) and they each had a little rolling pin (90p each from Wilkos) laid out on the dining table, so that we would all decorate a pre-made cupcake (or two) with pre-made buttercream, smarties, jelly tots and I showed them how to make simple roses with moulding icing. A liberal sprinkling of cake glitter and their cakes were done, one for the tea party and one to take home. I was surprised how much of the icing and sweets actually made if onto the cakes and were left over!
Then the girls played the required game of pass the parcel, while I cleaned up a bit and set the table for kid friendly afternoon tea. I made cheese staws and tomato pesto wheels, with half z pack off ready made puff pastry, and cheese, ham and tuna finger sandwiches, scones with homemade stawberry jam and clotted cream and arranged them all, along with the wonderful cupcakes on a cake stand.
I dipped into my collection of vintage (charity shop) tea sets for some floral patterned cups and saucers and cake plates and filled the teapots with pink milk and pink lemonade.
We put candles in Martha’s cupcake to sing ‘happy birthday’ to. A few more games of musical cushions and statues, and it was hometime.
In the party bags were the girls’ aprons and rolling pins and a couple of cookie cutters (big box from Wilkos) some sweets and their cupcake creation (cupcake boxes came from poundland!)
I think it was very successful, the girls all seemed to enjoy themselves, the whole think didn’t break the bank and they made some fabulous cakes!

Legoland

May 15, 2012

Its been a bit shameful that my kids first trip to Legoland Windsor (Resort as it is now)  was last weekend, considering I live 10 mins away and I used to make the models there. This was my first time back in 10 years! and we all had a wonderful time. Sunday was one of our 1st sunny days for months. so we took the opportunity to get out in the sunshine and visit the Park, we made a packed lunch, the girls raided their piggy banks for pocket money and got there early for the 10am opening. Alice is still under 3 so she went for free, Martha has a season ticket (upgraded from her last visit with her Granny and Papa) and Mr Peacock and I shared a 2 for 1 coupon, so effectively we paid for 1 adult ticket which cost £43!! Not bad for a family of 4 but a shocking amount without the vouchers/deals. However with so many vouchers and deals out there at the moment (check out Tesco clubcard points deals and pick up the 2 for 1s on Tesco food packaging), I think paying full price at the gate for a whole family would be a bit like paying full price for a sofa at DFS.

We got on the Hill Train and started at the bottom of the Park at the Dragon coaster, this is exactly the same as I remember it but he magic of seeing it all through the eyes of a 5 year old made it much better. I took Alice onto the smaller ‘Dragon’s Apprentice’ which was the most queuing I did all day, as its only a small coaster with one car it takes an age to wait your turn, but she enjoyed it very much. Then Martha wanted to see Miniland (“the houses you made mummy”) although in honesty I didn’t really work on any newbuild in Miniland while I was here I remember making a few replacement cars and people and small scenes and cleaning it all during the closed season, but that doesn’t sound as good. Then we went into Duploland and had a go on the ‘Chopper Squadron’ it was called whirly birds when I was last here, and ‘Fairy Tale Brook’, ate lunch by the little playground and watched the puppet show. Martha did her driving test at ‘L-Drivers’ in ‘Traffic’ as for the bigger traffic school kids need to be 6 (although the little school was a bit easy for her), and then we went on the ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’, which was amazing. The kids loved the sharks and Rays in the tank with lots of Nemo (clown) fish. So much that Alice spent her pocket money on a cuddly fish with ‘sleepy eyes’ at the exit shop. We wandered through Lego City and went on the Orient Expedition train ride, had ice-creams by the lighthouse, did the few fairground rides, now themed ‘Kingdom of the Pharoh’s’ and headed back the The Beginning to see the new Star Wars Miniland exhibit, which was pretty amazing by modelmaking standards, all in miniland scale, a treat for all the nerdy parents but a bit dark and noisy for Alice. Martha took forever in the Big shop looking for something to spend her money on, but we eventually got out and they fell asleep on the way home.

The Park looks fabulous at this time of year, possibly because all the models I made have been removed or are not used anymore, but I know how much work goes into building, repairing, maintaining and cleaning all those Lego models so well done to all my ex-Lego-colleages – good work! The kids both keep asking when we can go back, but I like to keep big days out as one off treats, but I’ll try not to leave it another 10 years!

Easter Bonnets

April 10, 2012

I know this post is a little late, but in my defense, we started these a week ago, and finished them at the weekend, but Alice only obliged to wear hers for a picture today after her nursery Easter Bonnet parade.

I found a pattern online for an old fashionedy bonnet and roughly copied it onto some newspaper a provisional fitting with this looked quite successful so I cut two out of packaging card, laying the patterns so the corrugations would allow the bend in the bonnet. I put the two small tabs in the pattern together to form the lampshade shape and stuck it with gummed paper tape (so it could be easily painted over). We tried them on again and although they were a bit wobbly on their heads they were a pretty good shape so the kids set about painting them – pink of course!

Once they were dry we added the lacy sections of paper doilies to the inside face edge of the bonnets and then we raided my ribbon and fake flower stash for decorations, I tied bows in the ribbons and stuck them on with hot melt glue, including the two thick long ribbons for tying under the chin.

I think they look super cute, however I realised then uploading these pictures that Alice’s face is always covered in food!

 

My husband bought me the ‘Iron Ons’ book by graphic designers ‘Sukie’ for christmas – I believe it was from my amazon wish list, but I have seen these for sale  (new) in oxfam shops. I have been a big fan of ‘Sukie’ wrapping paper for a while and even have a sheet of their mixed font alphabet paper framed in our stairwell. So the opportunity to make some stuff with the quirky cute designs has been very tempting – but not so much that its taken me till March to make use of them!

I had planned to upcycle some old t-shirts with the iron ons, but all the girls’ tees seem to be covered in too many stains for sucessful up-cycling, so I had to buy new. I found these 3 packs of plain colour capped sleeve summer tees in tesco, so bought a pack in size 5-6 and another in 2-3, one set for each for Martha and Alice. I let them pick their own images from the book, with a bit of persuasion from me of course. Martha chose the page of pink and khaki butterflies and the ‘princess castle’ with home sweet home on it. Alice liked the animals in the tree which reminded her of her favorite book of the moment – ‘Stuck’ by Oliver Jefferies (firmly recommended by the way). I chose the two half page alphabet designs the same as I have hanging in the stairwell, the colours in these included the same pink and peppermint green as two of the t-shirts in the packs so I put those onto the dark blue ones, the pink butterflies and 3 cute birds on branches went onto the pale green tees and the tree and palace went onto the pink tees. With the planning done I got out the iron, I do most of my iron ons on the kitchen counter as its firm and flat enough to apply some pressure, I am however pretty tall so can stand on my tippy toes and apply a considerable amount of my body weight to the iron during the process, a sturdy kitchen table would work for shorter folks, but be careful not to scald the surface. You have to have the iron on its hottest setting and no steam or water.

They went on pretty easily, and I am really pleased with the results, 3 super cute t-shirts each for the up-coming summer, that look much more expensive than they actually were. The girls love having an influence in what they wear and this is a such a quick and easy way for us to customise things. And we have loads of these lovely ‘Sukie’ designs left in the book, now lets see, what can we use them on next?…

I have no idea when ‘World Book Day’ is as every school seems to be doing something different every day all through March! But Martha’s School had a dressing up day on Friday. I was reluctant to let her dress up as a disney princess for this one, as they are from films, not books. We settled on the classic ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’  by Judith Kerr, whose beautiful illustrations bring the (slightly surreal) story to life. For Sophie’s costume we needed a blue long sleeve tshirt, a Purple A-line pinafore dress, a big Blue Bow for her hair, paintent black shoes and those pink, blue and white harlequin tights. We had the long sleeve blue tshirt, and paintent black school shoes and I made the purple dress out of a pair of purple ladies vests (size 12) from tesco (£2 each in the clothes sale!), – I detached and sewed the two back panels together, as the front panels had a very low neckline for a 5 year old. She had a pair of white tights and a trip to the local haberdashery supplied the big blue ribbon for her hair and a blue and pink pots of dylon fabric paint. I made two forms for the tights by cutting two pieces of card into long ‘leg’ shapes, about 10cms by 60cms with rounded ends at the ‘feet’, I divided the forms up into squares and drew these on with marker pen. Then stretched the tights over them and spent some time painting in each of the squares with the blue and pink fabric paint. I was trying to be a bit thrifty with the paint and so painted them with as little colour as possible, the bonus of this was that they looked more like the rough colouring in Judith’s original illustrations.

Then as luck would have it the local oxfam had a soft tiger toy in their sale bin for 50p! He even growl’s when you squeeze his tummy. He is obviously much smaller than the huge, greedy tiger from the story but a good prop nevertheless!

 

Christmas Cake Pops

December 23, 2011

A couple of my lovely friends have mastered the art of the cake pop and I have looked upon their creations with envy, so with festive treats in mind I thought I would give them a go. My (limited) understanding of the methods of cake poppery has been gleaned from these friends and I may have completely misunderstood them or completly invented the shortfalls in my experience so I apologise to them and any other cake poppers who come across this post, this is probably not the correct or easiest method, but I am very pleased with the results.

Chrismas this year is a gluten free one as Martha and Alice’s cousins are coeliacs, so these are made with sainsburys free from ginger cake slices. If I was making these for gluten glutons like myself I think I would have liked to use a Mcvities Jamaican Ginger Cake, (I think of ginger and gingerbread as a festive flavor  along with mincemeat, tangerines, cranberry, peppermint and booze). I made a small batch of cream cheese icing, (25g butter, 60g cream cheese and 150g icing sugar) and mixed 3 packs of the ginger cakes in all crumbled up. This makes a kind of dough that you can shape into balls and pop in the fridge to set a bit. I bought the lolly sticks from Hobbycraft and when the balls were quite firm I inserted the sticks, melted some dark chocolate cake covering (unlike real choc you can melt it easily in the microwave as its less likely to burn) and dipped each pop into the chocolate, Learning on the job I realised that you need to have worked out a lolly stick holding device before dipping, I had planned to insert each pop into a hole cut in a small box, but this kept tipping over so in desperation I ended up using a potato cut in half, I also learned it’s easier to re-melt the chocolate then try to work with it as its solidifying – so one of the pops is a bit lumpy looking! After dipping they were returned to the fridge. The planned design for the pops were christmas puddings, so for decoration I melted some more chocolate cake covering this time white chocolate flavor and dribbled this onto the top of the pop to look like brandy custard and with coloured fondant icing left over from Martha’s birthday party cake (I promise to post about this soon!) I made two small green leaves and a couple of red berries to suggest holly, (which Martha helped me with along with sampling the various icings and chocolates). I stuck these onto the cake pops with a small blob of the melted white chocolate. I popped them still on their potatoes back in the fridge to set and have since transfered them into freezer bags to continue keeping them cool without the potatoes or the risk of them developing ‘fridge’ flavor.

I am quite pleased with the results, I have no idea how they taste, we will have to wait for teatime on christmas day to get the verdict from the kiddies, but they look good enough to eat anyway. If I do them again I will make sure I have some recycled polystyrene blocks to hold my pops for me  as the potatoes were a bit off putting, but are, at least, gluten free!

Christmas Cards

December 5, 2011

I know I am spoiling the surprise for anyone on our christmas card list this year, but I think we did a really good job of these. The girls found some new glitter in their advent calender yesterday morning. Hobby Craft has come to Staines so I picked up a bottle of ‘confetti’ glitter glue, with iridescent glitter and tiny stars in it, and the Christmas fairy popped it into Sunday’s drawer in our wooden advent calender. To be honest I didn’t really have a plan for this years christmas cards until the last minute but I had bought some gold doilies in Saisbury’s during the last big shop, with an idea to use them somehow, and picked up the glitter and the blank cards (with envelopes) in Hobby Craft earlier in the week. Then on an quick inspiration hunt on the internet I spotted this gorgeous vintage angel posted on one of my favorite craft resource blogs ‘graphics fairy’, (http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com). I love the graphics fairy, her blog is jam packed with lovely vintage images, and this pretty little cherub, was just asking to be printed, cut and pasted onto our christmas cards with a gold doily ‘frame’ and the new glitter glue, adding sparkle to her stary sky. (The stars in the new glitter even matched the tiny stars in the picture.)

I promptly downloaded the picture took it into photoshop, resized it and made an A4 page with 8 angels on it, and printed 5 of these onto some gloss photo paper I had knocking about. I sat and cut out all the angels and cut the frilly bits off the edges of the doilies and then cut into triangles. Then I filled a beaker with PVA glue and got the kids. I painted a rough star shape onto the card with glue and the kids stuck the triangles onto it to make star shape and then stuck the angel picture into the middle. Then we painted the glitter onto the angel picture, which was certainly the girls’ favorite bit. Some are of course better than others, but I quite like that they are all a bit different. They certainly look homemade which is the whole point. We only have one that opens backwards this year!

Pumpkin Pie

October 31, 2011

As its halloween today, I baked a pumpkin pie. I have used the receipe before and its pretty easy and makes a nice and yummy use of all the lovely pumpkins in the shops.

I bought frozen shortcrust pasty, just because I am lazy, my sister (whose birthday it is today) always makes her own pasty and it’s especially delicious! I bought a small edible pumpkin, about the same size as Alice’s head (2 year old toddler) or 8″-9″ in diameter.  I cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon, then popped the two halves in a microwaveable bowl and microwaved with an inch of water in the bottom for 15mins on highest setting. (If yours is not cooked by this time pop it back in for a couple of mins at a time until you can smush the flesh easily with a spoon). I left it to cool while I rolled out the defrosted pastry and lined my butter greased pie dish, which is 10.5″ or 27cm wide and 2″ or 5 cm deep. I blind baked the pastry for 15mins at 200 degrees C which in retrospect was probably a bit long as during second baking the edge got a bit too brown, I will probably do 10 mind next time. When the pumpkin was cool enough to handle I scooped the flesh out of the skin with a spoon, and whizzed it up with my hand blender until it was smooth, then added to the pumpkin puree, added a cup of sugar (I used light brown as I prefer it to white in cooking to give a slight caramel flavor), 1.5tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ground allspice, 0.5tsp ground ginger, 0.5tsp salt, 4 large eggs and 1 tin of evaporated milk and applied the handblender to the lot. (The receipe also called for 1tsp of ground cloves but I didn’t have any, I think this is an important flavor for a classic pumpkin pie so will get some in for next year) I poured it into my pie case and it filled it nice and deep. Its a very liquidy filling and a bit of a faff to get into the oven without slopping the filling over the sides but a coating around the edge tends to caramelise the pastry very nicely (think of ‘pasteis de nata’ portugese egg custard tarts). The recipe says bake for 30-40 mins at 170 degrees c, but I did mine a little longer as my oven is rubbish.

It is not really much of a looker, with its orangy brown filling and my slightly over cooked crust! But she tastes pretty good – I ate the slice I photographed above. If you have never had pumpkin pie before it is a  bit like an egg custard with a sweet spicy flavor and the pumpkin puree gives it a lovely texture. Not sure if the kids are too keen, I made them a apple meringue pie at the same time (see previous post https://mrspeacocksthingstomakeanddo.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/apple-meringue-pie/) which they (and Mr Peacock) chose for pudding yesterday instead of the pumpkin, so all the more for me! Trick or Treat?

Ribbon Alice Bands

September 26, 2011

Martha loves an ‘alice band’, and we seemed to miss all the blue school ones in the ‘back to school’ season in the shops, so I thought I would have a go at making some. We made these in her new school colours but could easily repeat this to make matching Alice Bands to go with her favorite outfits too!

I got 5 plastic alice bands for £1 in Poundland, they had a kind of holographic design on them – lovely, but importantly didn’t have the row of little spikes around the inside, I don’t think you could ‘wrap’ those ones as easily and Martha refuses to wear them as she says the spikes hurt. I used PVA Glue, (huge fan of PVA glue and one day plan to publish a ‘1001 things to do with PVA’!) painted small sections of the alice band securing the end with a clothes peg and wrapped the alice band in ribbon. I bought a few different ribbons from my local haberdashery a gingham one, a grossgrain (most expensive) and a couple of double faced satins, and used about a metre of each for each alice band, including the little bow. Continuing to paint small sections, about an inch at a time (as this avoids all the ribbon getting sticky and fiddly), and wrapping making sure that the edges matched up or overlapped a little, until I reached the other end. Then trimmed off any excess ribbon and held it with another peg and left it overnight to dry. I used plastic clothes pegs as in my mind they are less likely to stick to the gluey ribbon than wooden ones would, they came off quite easily anyway.

I ‘finished’ them by tying a small bow in any left over ribbon (there wasn’t any excess grossgrain I used the whole metre for the wrapping I guess because it was slightly narrower than the other ribbons) and sewed it onto the alice band, trying to catch some of the glued on ribbon with the stitches to secure it, but essentially just taking a stitch into the back of the bow through the knot then back through and around the alice band. Then I wrapped the ends with a bit more cotton thread to bind the ends of the ribbon to the alice band and put another blob of PVA over the thread behind the bow and over the two bound ends.

Martha has been wearing them to school and so far they seem to have stood up to it unlike her new shoes that came back on the first day more scuff than leather! (Although one has disappeared completely at school already – alice band not shoe!)

Raspberry Jam

September 22, 2011

Granny and Papa Peacock are on holiday so we went to Papa’s allotment at the weekend to do some scrumping. The prize of the visit was 1.2kg of a mixture of raspberries and loganberries, which I turned into a delicious jam.

I am guessing that the mixture was about half and half, and it was a little over 1.2kg so I used 1kg of sugar and one sachet of pectin powder for the jam. Smushing the fruit with a potato masher in the pan first then adding the sugar and pectin and bringing up to a rolling boil and boiling for 5 mins. Then I put half straight into sterilised jars and pushed the 2nd half through a sieve to remove most of the pips (my fussy kids!) before getting it into the jars.

I am guessing that the delay in potting up, has probably lessened the cupboard time of the pip free jars, but I don’t think that will  be a problem, I keep opened jars of homemade jam in the fridge anyways and I really don’t think this one is going to last very long – it is delicious! It tastes amazing, reminds me of jam from my childhood, and would make an excellent Victoria Sponge Filling, if I get round to that before it all gets scoffed. Just look at how happy Alice is with her Raspberry jam on toast!