Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Freezer cake cookies

Have you ever made something awesome completely accidentally? Yep I can now say that we definitely have! 


I remembered the cool pinwheel cookies we used to make as children and thought they might be fun to make with D and Iz. I couldn't remember the recipe so googled pinwheel cookies and one of the first recipes was an Australian one. I'm still not sure whether I wrote the quantities down wrong, interpreted their recipe differently or whether it was the result of the freezing and layering... But I ended up with a completely different result. Luckily it resulted in really delicious cookies that taste more like cake, and best of all the mixture is totally freezer-friendly so you can just keep a roll in the freezer and just slice off a few to cook fresh when friends come for tea - yum!

Ingredients

250g unsalted butter
330g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
450g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon of cocoa (if you want a brown colour)
Food gels as desired 

Method


Cream the butter and sugar together and then mix in the eggs and vanilla. Then slowly add the flour and baking powder and mix well together

Separate the mixture into different bowls - one for each colour - and add a small amount of coloured gel or cocoa and mix well

Wrap each lump of mixture in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

Remove from fridge and roll out between 2 layers of baking paper. Then use a pastry brush and use water to "glue" the different layers together

Carefully remove the paper from each layer and roll up like a swiss roll, then wrap in clingfilm and put in the freezer

Freeze for about an hour and then cut off as many cookies as you want

Cook for 15-18 minutes at approx 160-180 degrees (fan) - they do get much bigger so leave enough room between them!

Cool on a cooling rack (ideally not tasting them all as you do it Iz!)
 
If you want to have a 100s&1000s coating then roll the sides of each cookie in a plate of them *before* cooking

And enjoy...

Mmmmmmm delicious! We still have a roll in our freezer ready for last minute cookie emergencies...

If you try making them I'd love to hear how it works out :)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

How to spend your last few months in London...

So I've just got a new job and will be relocating the family out of London (home for over 10 years) and into a more leafy countryside environment. Exciting, scary, all number of emotions spring to mind - especially terrified at the thought of moving the kids out of their current nursery which they TOTALLY love.

But anyway, we are moving. And have less than 3 months left of living in London. 

So what is on your "must do" list for London-based activities? This is what I've got so far - some things we've done lots of times but just love doing, some of them I've been meaning to do for ages but haven't got round to yet.

Any other ideas or suggestions very gratefully received!


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V&A museum
I'm a bit embarrassed that in 10 years I have only been here twice and both for fleeting visits. 

Science museum
Not been here for ages but really want to take D. Apparently they've got loads of great stuff for toddlers including water and bubble shows.

Kings cross fountains
These look awesome - how much fun to be a child again and just feel uninhibited running through these?! The next hot day that I have off work we are definitely hitting this - Iz will be in her element!


(image from www.urbanpixxels.com)
Diana fountain
D and I went here just before Iz was born and he loved it. Perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day. 



Diana playground
Ditto above. D has been there but Iz never had. His favourite bit was the water play area so I guess it's lucky we are coming into summer!

 

Vertigo
Awesome super high up bar with views across London. I went there on one of my first dates with Mr MFDS so would love to go again before we move.

Aquarium with new penguins
The London aquarium is a firm favourite (unlimited entry all year thanks to my Merlin annual pass) but they've just revamped the penguin area (to make it much nicer for the penguins) so we can't wait to see that.

 

Theatre
Not sure what I want to see but would love to go again whilst it's still very easy to just "pop in" to the West End.

Musical
I really want to see Mamma Mia. Mr MFDS does not. We'll see who gives in first... ;)

London eye
Another attraction I get unlimited access to with my Merlin pass so it seems rude to not go on it when we visit the aquarium ;) both kids love it, especially spotting all the tiny boats and trains when we're near the top.


 

Camley Street Nature Park
We've never been here but I've heard it's a lovely secluded park where kids can go pond dipping etc. It's also near Kings Cross (so perfect to combine with the fountains above!).

Certain restaurants

Bluebird cafe - we had our post-registry office wedding celebratory lunch here 4 years ago and I would love to go back there one date night with Mr MFDS.
Annie's - love this place, lovely memories of family meals out
Riccardo's opposite the Marsden - slightly random but this was one of my mum's favourite places to eat and they used to really look after my dad when she was having treatments

Heathrow gym
If you are local to west London (or are going anywhere near Heathrow during the daytime) then this is such a great place to take kids. Massive soft play, loads of trampolines, 2 sensory rooms and a massive foam pit that you can slide or swing into! And all for £2 - bargain!




South bank
I know some people think it's touristy etc but I love just wandering down the South Bank. Before kids I used to go there quite a lot with Mr MFDS so it would be nice to have another walk along the river there.

Trampolining park

This place in Acton is amazing. I've been there twice with friends (sooo much fun for a work night out!) but haven't taken the kids yet. They have dedicated toddler sessions on weekday mornings so we're hoping to get to one of those.

Kew Gardens
My mum gave me an annual pass for Kew for my birthday 2 years ago and it's great. It's only a 20 minute bus ride for us and so lovely to have such massive open areas for the kids to explore. The daffodils were especially beautiful this year and the kids also love when the old-school fair comes to the gardens. We'll definitely visit a few times before we move.






Richmond Park
Beautiful place to spend an afternoon walking/picnicking/playing/snoozing. And you can also see bonus deer if you keep your eyes open.


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So those are the top 17 things I want to do over the next 3 months. Have I missed any of your favourites out? Let me know and we'll try to do them all!



Rainbow pasta

This is a great thing to make once and then keep in a jar and bring out whenever the kids are bored or want something slightly different to do. Because the pasta is not cooked it will keep for ages - we've had ours well over a year now.

To make it, use a similar process to the rainbow rice (see here). Put the pasta in a ziploc bag, add some food colouring and a small bit of vinegar and shake like crazy until the colour is evenly distributed. Then spread out on a covered baking tray to dry and make the next colour. 

So how do we play with it? There are so many things you can do (and your kids will probably invent a few games of their own!) but here are a few things we've enjoyed doing over the last year:

Counting

Super simple but a nice way to practice counting. D tends to count a pile out to Iz, who then counts it back to him :)

Making necklaces (or other miscellaneous objects!)

Add some pipe cleaners or ribbon and you can make bracelets, necklaces, crowns, belts... Good for manual dexterity/manipulation as well as dressing up fun!



I think Mr MFDS had a lot of fun making this creation!

Threading on spaghetti

Use a lump of playdough as the stand and get threading. D made a rainbow tower, Iz kept breaking her spaghetti as she was too rough with it and so ended up improvising and making a hedgehog!





Sorting colours

This was great for D last year and Iz is now the perfect age. You can get them to sort the colours, identify the colours or pick ones based on what colour you say.



Building towers freestyle

Self-explanatory. The highest we've managed to build so far is 12 pieces high :)


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What's nice about this toy is that I'm happy for them to get the bottle out by themselves and they feel so grown up unscrewing the lid and deciding how many pieces to take out (although who am I kidding - if it's Iz in charge then it's usually the whole lot!). Definitely worth the initial 20 minutes prep time!

Monday, 16 May 2016

Rainbow ball stacker (or how to wow a YouTube-pro toddler)

So... I really hope I'm not alone here but D used to be addicted to those egg opening videos on YouTube. Don't know what I mean? Search "kinder eggs" on YouTube, show it to a nearby toddler and marvel at  just how fascinating they find it watching someone else open eggs to see what toys are inside...

Anyway, D used to love them. He still does but he doesn't watch them much anymore. They were definitely my guilty must-go-to though when I was stuck breastfeeding Iz and wanted a quick way to entertain D. He always used to ask me to make him a big bucket of eggs but the cost (accompanied by the thought of sugar-driven energy buzz that would follow) always acted as a pretty powerful dissuader... But I thought it might be fun to come up with some sort of surprise for him, so this is what I did:



Basically it's a very cheap to make, completely reusable ball of fun! The whole thing cost me less than £3 and it provides hours of entertainment.

What you need:
Plastic cups
Stapler
Selection of small toys 
"Ball pool" balls

Toys I used - selection from previous Kinder eggs and anything small we had lying around!

How to make it:
1. Lay some cups on the floor and staple the sides together. Because the cups are tapered (ie cup shaped!) a circle will automatically form. The size/shape of your cups pretty much dictates the size of the final product. 
2. Then add a second layer - again the cups should naturally taper downwards at their bases due to their shape and so this layer will be smaller and slightly more vertical
3. Continue building layers, stapling each cup in place, until your dome is complete!



4. Next gather your collection of toys and put one in each cup. Don't worry if you don't think your toys are very exciting, or that they are things your toddler plays with every day. I ran low of items and even included some single Lego blocks which D still thought were the best thing ever! I only included 3 new toys in the whole thing - all Lego minifigures which D loves. You can also leave some cups empty so it's a surprise if there is anything need the ball or not. 


5. Put a ball in the mouth of each cup. If you don't have any balls you could use silver foil to cover each hole (although that would be pretty time consuming!) or a scrumpled up tissue. But we love our balls - perfect for so many things (yoghurt painting and outside coloured water fun to name just two) and you can get 100 for about £3 in most big stores.


I left the dome in the middle of the floor so D and Iz would see it when they woke up the next morning. Initially curious and slightly unsure whether they were allowed to touch it, once they realised they could and it was just for them they were so excited.


It was easily big enough for them to play together whilst having their own little area to explore.


Good fine motor practice removing the balls (my big adult fingers actually found it much harder than they did!) and using a pincer grip to remove the toys. Then language skills trying to describe what they found in each cup. Iz was so excited to play with all her "new" toys!



D played with it about 45 minutes the first day (he only stopped because it was nursery time) and in the evening he played with it as soon as he got home. Once he'd taken all the toys out, he then sorted them and then put them all back into the cups, replaced the balls and then started all over again!


They played with the dome every day for just over a week - until it succumbed to the general forces of play and the cups started to break. I suspect if I'd used plastic cups from somewhere other than Poundland it would've lasted a lot longer though!!


Definitely a very good make :)