Tag Archives: Making Stuff

Muddy boots and signs of spring

2 Mar

Things have been a little busy in real life so I hope to catch up on my blogging soon. Thankfully, we had some nice moments this week to slow down and cut through the mania with some mud and signs of spring.

We’re lucky that our local park has some great puddles to splash about in at the moment:

Boots in puddle

Nothings beats a bit of a splash about. I think my daughter will be glad to get walking so she can join in the fun instead of watching from the sling! Happy wellies are muddy wellies:

Muddy boots

We were on the hunt for signs of spring so were delighted to find some snow drops:


These delicate little beauties are truly one of my favourite flowers. It always gives me a little thrill to see their graceful heads nodding, reminding me that the days are lengthening and nature is springing back to life.

We also found a lovely bank of crocuses. Another subtle sign that the seasons are turning.


Today we headed off to the Maple Sugar Festival at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham, NJ. It was a tremendous amount of fun. My associations with maple syrup were all with Vermont and the like (basically places I’ve never been!) so it was wonderful to realise that our New Jersey patch also has a fine tradition of maple syrup (I guess I now understand why our town is called Maplewood!).  There were some great nature tables for my son to explore as well as crafts. Here he is sporting the rather dashing mask he made: Mask

We also saw a plant new to me:

Skunk cabbage

I thought it was beautiful, with its scarlet fronds creeping through the swampy leaf litter. My husband recognised it immediately, the striking (but stinky) skunk cabbage. It’s a good reminder that beauty comes in all shapes (and smells!).


Happy dough

22 Feb

Happy dough

This happy face is the result of a lovely afternoon making happy dough. Aka salt dough. My boy thinks that “salt dough” sounds like “sad dough” and he, very sensibly, thinks that happy dough is a far better moniker!

The lovely Rosy Mammy over at Rosy Little Cheeks recently shared the great time she and her big boy had with salt dough. Her description of how much fun her 3 year old had with his diggers in the dough crumbs had me reaching for the flour!

The recipe is beautifully simple:

1/2 cup of salt

1/2 cup of water

1 cup of flour

Mix them altogether and knead into a dough. Then roll out, cut your shapes and zap in the microwave on high for 3 mins and voila, salt dough shapes ready to paint!

Salt dough

The painting was fun.

Painting salt dough

But if my son could type then he’d explain that it was what I did with the trimmings that was the real success here. Sure enough, Rosy Mammy was right – (nearly) 3 year olds can be absorbed for hours with some salt dough crumbs and diggers!


The box of crumbs is still being enjoyed 24 hours later. The only downside is that I have to keep the box off the ground so his crawling sister doesn’t get her hands on it (she will attempt to eat anything and this is definitely not for little mouths). Honestly, preparing meals has been much easier as my usual little helper is absorbed in playing with diggers rather than insisting on “helping” me cook!

And here are the finished products.

Finished salt doughThe hearts are for his granddaddy, who had open heart surgery just a few weeks ago and is, happily, healing brilliantly. The happy faces are for me and my boy, momentos of this lovely activity. The rest were an attempt to make tea cups & saucers – I know, they’re not hugely “recognisable” as that but I guess that’s where imagination comes into it!

My boy is all about tea parties at the moment, so I may take this as a hint to make him a “proper” tea set for his birthday next month.

Happy Valentines

14 Feb

It’s mid-afternoon on Valentines and the sun is streaming through the window.

I’m lucky enough to be in the middle of a lovely Valentines day.

Breakfast all together, when we got to enjoy the new coffee the kids “treated” us to (see how I got around our “no gifts” Valentines rule this year?). A local Maplewood couple launched a roastery last year – This Town Coffee – so I popped over to pick up some freshly roasted, organic coffee yesterday.

And then lunch all together, rounded off with a sweet treat of specially decorated biscuits.

Valentines cookies - decorated

They were made and decorated with love by some little hands.

Valentines biscuits - little hands helping

The streaky marks on the table are because my nearly 3 year old loves to eat flour. Honestly, he’ll stand there happily eating the flour while helping bake bread or cookies. Strange tastes he has!

Valentiens cookies - little hands cutting

We couldn’t resist cutting some rocket biscuits too, since flying to the moon in a rocket is one of his favourite games to play at the moment!

Valentines cookies - baking

It was a tasty way to celebrate all together. The older I get the more I think the way to my heart is definitely through my stomach!

Making hummus like a pro

8 Feb

We’ve spent the day waiting for the great blizzard to strike (it’s being called Nemo by some, since even winter storms are branded now). In fact, a snow plow just drove by (the fire house is at the end of our street so it’s pretty well plowed during storms!). On our back porch our home made ruler measures just over 3 inches of snow. I wonder what it will say tomorrow, after the blizzard has blown through.

During the afternoon I heard part of the excellent Last Chance Foods segment on WNYC – I love this show. It covers such an interesting selection of food topics and is often a pleasure to listen to.  If you want to listen you can check out today’s show on how to make hummus like a pro.

Hummus is something that’s often homemade in our house. I’d take the credit, but my husband usually does it. In fact, he usually does much of our cooking (his kitchen skills are some of the many things I love about him!). He had cooked up some chickpeas in the pressure cooker over lunch, in anticipation of making the latest batch of hummus. So of course we were both interested to hear what the secret to making professional tasting hummus was…it turns out it’s about peeling the chickpeas. Which was not something we’d ever thought of before!

Once the kids were in bed we set about the task. It was quite relaxing, mediatative almost. We listened to the newest Friday Night Comedy podcast from the BBC (the News Quiz was even funnier than usual!) as we stood together at the sink popping the chickpeas out of their translucent skins.

Chickpea skins








And then my husband set to work, whizzing it up in the food processor with some lemon juice, some crushed garlic, some tahini, some of the water the chickpeas cooked in, some olive oil and some maldon sea salt.  If you’re interested you can check out a recipe he likes on the blog Table & Spoon, where it’s all explained and photographed far more expertly than I could attempt on here!

The result:









A creamy, fluffy, scrumptious hummus. Totally more-ish and delicious and actually nicer than any store bought one I’ve tried in a long time. So it seems the trick really is in the peeling of the chickpeas!

And now the snow has started falling again and it’s time for me to head to bed. I wonder how I’ll sleep during my first ever blizzard…


Sunday catch-up…and how to make crunchy peanut butter cookies

29 Jan

It’s been a hectic week. I’ve barely had time to go on the internet, let alone do any blogging!

I’m 32 weeks now. Last weekend I had a major panic about getting ready for the baby and preparing for a vbac. So I’m happy to look back at the progress we’ve made over the past week – we’ve booked a doula, properly started our hypnobirthing practice and are almost “officially” booked into the hospital’s birth centre. We’ve also started decluttering the flat to make some space for the new person who’ll join us soon. All this while I had a terrible head cold. I always forget how bad head colds are when pregnant – I actually had to take a day off sick on Wednesday as I just couldn’t get out of bed!

Today was a lovely lazy Sunday, with the morning spent at Finsbury Park’s playground. After my son’s nap we spent the afternoon making very tasty peanut butter cookies.

Here’s me and my son doing some stirring, with the kitchen looking relatively tidy (it was soon a bombsite of rice krispies and licked spoons!):

But the end result more than justified the tidying up:

It’s such an easy recipe, and so much fun to make with a toddler, that I thought I’d share it here:

Crunchy peanut cookies

Ingredients (makes approx 20 cookies)

1 medium egg
100g/4 oz unsalted butter (quite important to use unsalted, as most peanut butter has added salt)
100g/4 oz soft light brown sugar
100g/4 oz crunchy peanut butter
150g/5oz self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g/2oz rice krispies (we actually use Waitrose own brand puffed rice cereal, as it’s lower in salt)

1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C, 375 degrees F, gas mark 5. Lightly oil a baking tray or use grease proof paper. If you have them, prepare two baking trays. Otherwise, just use the same tray twice and do two rounds in the oven. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Put the rice krispies on a plate.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. Once creamy and smooth-ish, add the egg a little at a time beating it as you go. Beating it after each bit of egg stops it getting too lumpy.

3. Add the peanut butter and stir until it’s well mixed. Then sift the flour and baking powder over it and stir everything together.

4. Scoop up a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball.

5. Roll the ball lightly across the rice krispies to coat it. Flatten it slightly and place on the baking tray. Repeat until your tray is full.

6. Bake for 20 minutes (check after 10 – 15 minutes). Once they’ve cooled they’re delicious with a glass of cold milk.

This recipe appears in the wonderful The Usborne Cookbook for Children

The Joy of Making Stuff

13 Jan

Last night I made this:

I know it’s but a humble cushion cover, but it’s the first thing I’ve sewn with a sewing machine since Home Economics 21 years ago. To say I’m proud of myself would be an understatement! I’m so proud of myself – I turned a simple piece of fabric into a gorgeous cushion cover. I made it. And this morning my son was lounging on it. Which makes me even prouder!

Anyway, I made this during a class called Learn to Sew: Cushion Cover+Floral Corsage at the fabulous Make Lounge. I’ve been wanting to brush up on my machine sewing skills for quite a while so I treated myself to the class as my Christmas present to myself.

And I am so glad I did. We had a wonderful teacher who guided a roomful of absolute sewing novices through the basics until we had all made our lovely cushion covers. I must say, the hardest part of the class was choosing the fabric from the wonderful selection on offer! In the end I chose a cute print by Eleanor Grosch.

Now I just need to choose my next sewing project. It’s going to need to be simple but I’d like it to be practical too. Maybe a tote bag…or bunting…or an apron for my son to go with the wooden play kitchen Santa brought him…