Birthday Treats

Well, yes, it is in fact my birthday and yes, I love having my birthday so close to Christmas.

As one gets (ahem, whisper it) older, one requires much less from a birthday celebration.

My only requirement these days is Breakfast In Bed.

As you can see from the picture, it doesn’t have to be gourmet. Tea, toast and orange juice are perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure why Son Number One thought I would like a cream cracker. May I say I don’t normally drink out of plastic lidded beakers or camping mugs. Husband deemed it wise, for son number one was intent on carrying the breakfast tray in to me. I think I may have spent the day in the burns unit if it hadn’t been for Husband’s foresight. Son Number One was soooo excited about organising my breakfast in bed. He had also been at great pains to create a specially decorated box. Grandma had helped with the gift inside. He has obviously been having lessons from his father because the box was big and the gift was…small (but appreciated).

It was probably lucky that the Middle Miss slept in while he did it. Sharing such responsibilities can be tricky for all concerned.  Luckily for me, they took their turns at giving me birthday cuddles. Even Babykins stayed asleep a little longer than usual so I could get in the shower in peace.

Do you want to see what was inside those two packages?

Lovely things. Made by mmum. There was something else too. A very cleverly made, large, paper bauble. MadebyMum’s Mum is big into paper craft at the moment of which, more evidence later…

How about my cards, would you like a peek a those?

Slushy eh?

We made a hasty exit to my Mum’s place because our hairdresser was coming to give us our pre Christmas trim. There was another present and card to open. Here is what was inside.

Isn’t my Mum clever? I told you she was into paper craft in a big way. If you are local and you want to get into this kind of thing, there is a lovely lady called Angela Dawes who runs classes from her home in Ingleby Barwick. You can find her blog, Sparkly Cards and Paper Crafts here. It’s worth a look.

It felt like there were a million things going on at Mum’s. The hairdresser was chop chopping, there was a team of men outside mending the roof who kept shouting for cups of tea and three children needed breakfast. It felt hectic because every couple of seconds we were looking out to see where babykins was. He is practically running already despite being not quite one (eight more days).

Finally, the activity subsided and some quiet crafting occurred.

Would you like to see ‘The Workshop’?

See the organisation. It’s taken years.

Middle Miss drawing a Christmas Tree

What are we cutting out here?

More of Mum’s clever papery things

Remember I said there was another gift from my Mum? A big, paper bauble? Well, the flowery things being cut out in the photos above are the start of another one. We downloaded the pattern from How About Orange. I haven’t had time to browse this blog but what I have seen looks FAB. The finished bauble looks like this (top left).

Sorry it’s not a great picture (try and ignore the background). The light was fading. It is the solstice you know, shortest day and all that.

Isnt’ that clever? The person who designed it must be really good at thinking in 3D. It really was easy to make, occasionally a bit fiddly but really, not that bad. There are next to no instructions other than ‘cut out the shapes’ and ‘slide them together’. My only complaint was that I couldn’t seem to avoid having two adjacent colours the same. I’m not mathematically minded enough to work out how many different shades I need to cut out in order to avoid  that. There are 12 ‘flowers’ all together so let me know if you are good at that kind of thing. I tried three and that wasn’t enough either. Maybe I should try 12!

So now I am having another little bit of quiet time. Babykins asleep, bigger children still with Grandma. What should I do?

Hmmm……

Birthdays don’t come everyday. You’ve got to make the most of them.

Happy Solstice.

 

 

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Flake off

A few days ago, one of my friends shared a picture on Facebook of the paper snowflakes she had been making with her husband. It reminded me of how much I like to make them. I like that I can never really quite picture how they will turn out as I am chopping away at my bit of folded paper. It’s a little surprise every time I unfold one.

I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to snowflakes. I like them to have the scientifically required six sides. Unfortunately it’s not as straightforward to fold a six sided flake as an eight sided one. I never got the hang of it until my children were given a Christmas activity book a few years ago. So here is a little walk through for the mathematically challenged amongst you.

First of all, you need a square of paper. The pictures below will show you how to make one by folding a piece of A4.

 

 

 

Then you need to fold your square, first in half diagonally (I can only spell that thanks to JK Rowling).

Next you can fold it in half again.

Now the tricky part, trying to fold it into three. I can usually do it by eye. You don’t have to be 100% accurate. If you want to be more accurate you can use a ruler or a protractor.

 

The pointy bits at the top are surplus to requirements so trim them off. You’ll be left with a triangle shape as below.

 

 

At last, the fun part, cutting out a shape. You will find by trial and error what works for your tastes. I like my snowflakes to be quite ‘pointy’ so I end up cutting away quite a lot of paper. I don’t usually draw a pattern on before I chop but for the purposes of completeness I did this time.

 

 

The Moment Of Truth…….Ta Dah

Like the shape, dislike the creases

Can you believe I actually got the ironing board out and pressed my snowflake? I’m not sure what the safety implications of this are so don’t sue me if you set fire to anything. I placed mine between two pieces of card, but maybe between two tea towels would be better. It was worth it as you can see in the next picture.

Much better, nice and flat. You can play spot the difference too

After I had chopped up a few pieces of pristine A4 printer paper, it  occurred to me that I could recycle the envelopes from any Christmas cards that arrived. I was probably inspired by the fact that one of them was already a square. I cut out and used the side with the address written on it. Obviously the reverse was clean white paper, so, that was the side I displayed. I suppose it depends where you intend to hang them. If they are in a window the light shining through will probably show up the fact that it’s not a fresh piece of paper. As I was sticking mine on the glass of my display cabinet, it didn’t matter.

As you can see from my initial picture, I’ve made a few different sizes. The biggest ones are from a piece of A4. The smallest ones were made from the strip cut away when turning A4 into a square. I find that the bigger the paper, the easier they are to cut and handle. I think the variety of sizes looks interesting and if you are recycling, it’s inevitable anyway. Now I just need a few more to fill in the spaces. Oh, and I think I might have to do the ironing trick a few more times too.

 

Who wants to be like the brainiest creature in the sea?

Today I am going to write about cooking, and, more importantly eating. Moreover, I am focussing on the eating done by my three (varyingly fussy) children. As you will probably find out if you stick with me in this blog, I like to cook and so does my husband. He is currently rustling up a nice steak for our supper (see below) – in fact I think he may have just lost his eyebrows in the flambe-ing process.

Made by Dad – there is a steak under there, honest

I am having a phase of trying out more adventurous family meals and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that most of them are being eaten. You might be thinking “Why is she only doing this now?” and “Children need to be exposed to interesting food from the time they start eating solids” and I would agree with you. As a family, we have always eaten a fairly varied diet so my children have seen and smelled a lot of different foods even if they haven’t eaten them. We also grow various fruits and vegetables. However, the last three and a bit years have been a bit of a challenge. In July 2008 my first born, who was almost three, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukeamia – the most common form of childhood cancer.

The treatment affected his appetite and palate almost immediately. He has been on oral chemotherapy constantly and steroids on a monthly basis. As well as that he also takes prophylactic antibiotics. As you can imagine, his digestive system has been more than a little bit messed with. In September we reached the milestone that was the end of chemotherapy. He still takes antibiotics but at last he is free of the drugs that have turned him into a fussy eater for the last three years. Of course, he is still relatively fussy. His sister is much more likely to step up and give something new a go. She is, after all, the girl who ate a whole jar of pickled runner beans last Christmas.

So, back to my latest experiments in the kitchen. Last night I decided to have a go at a store cupboard fish cake recipe from Kat at Housewife Confidential. I really liked the idea of this recipe because it is nutritious (plenty of brain building Omega-3 oils), cheap and easy. Oh, and as you will see if you hop over to visit Kat, it is a great baby led weaning meal. I tried to get organised and get everything ready before I had to dash out on the school run. However, I only got as far as mashing the fish and cooking the potatoes, which, by the way, I steamed as I tend to over-cook spuds otherwise. By the time I got back with my little darlings, Babykins was starting to shout for dinner (he does literally shout, being only 11 months old). Fortunately it was a quick job to mash the potatoes and mix them up with the fish. I began feeding Babykins this mixture, as it was still warm. He is really keen on holding the spoon himself and luckily it was just the right texture to stick as his current technique of self-feeding involves turning the spoon upside down. Bingo, one child fed.

Now for the real challenge…..Son number one had to be won over. I decided to make small flat fish cakes and roll them in breadcrumbs before baking them.

I suppose I was trying to make them as fish finger like as possible. Don’t ask me why I didn’t make them oblong shapes. If I could have found my star cutter I would have made starfish cakes. I had a lovely image in my mind of a plate with sweetcorn for sand, a few beans for seaweed and some nice little nutritious starfish. However, it was not to be. My main weapon of attack for getting my delicacies to be accepted was a bottle of tomato ketchup. Who says the North-East has no class?

My second method of encouragement relates to the title of this post. Son Number One is currently keen on all things ‘animal’, the deadlier the better. My meal time conversation are frequently taking the form of “I’m pretty sure Steve Backshall would eat this if he was on an expedition looking for XXXXX”  (insert appropriate animal here). This time I thought maybe the idea of growing a brain as big as a dolphin might be appealing. After all, dolphins eat mackerel don’t they?

I must admit that I was a bit nervous about how they would go down as they do smell a bit, well, fishy. The genius of this recipe is the inclusion of the sweet potato. I defy anyone to not like it. It gives it a whole yummy, sweet flavour that children can’t really complain about (though I’m sure some will – children are like that). Sure enough, Son Number One and the Middle Miss ate the lot, accompanied by a firm family favourite ‘make your own salad’. Brilliant.

fishcakes

Nearly all gone! I think I can see your brain growing already.

The grown up version was much the same but with the addition of a yoghurty dressing, jazzed up with chopped, home-made nasturtium capers. I even added some of the chopped capers to the potato/fish mix but I couldn’t really tell the difference. Maybe I should have added more. Some fresh dill would have been a good addition too. Husband seemed to enjoy his and I certainly enjoyed mine. Now if I could only get motivated to peel and sort a few more of our (slug damaged) allotment potatoes I could get a good stash of these yummy little fish cakes in the freezer. Maybe next week…..

::Note:: I should have added that Son Number One is, to all intents and purposes ‘cured’. It’s fabulous to see him gradually shake off the effects of the chemo and steroids. His energy levels have gone up, he is growing and loosing weight. However, as anyone who has dealt with cancer will know, the risk of relapse always lingers at the back of your mind. I still can’t really allow myself to believe that he is better, completely and forever, just in case I’m proved wrong…..