Sunday, 15 November 2015

Chocolate monster biscuits

I saw a screenshot of something similar on Facebook and thought they looked awesome but unfortunately it didn't link back to the original post. So I winged it and this is the method I came up with...

Some "sandwich-style" cookies
Coloured candy melts (or regular chocolate to melt)
White chocolate
Candy eyes
Cake pop sticks

1. Take one half of the biscuit off, remove a little bit of the filling and put the cake pop stick in place
2. Melt your chocolate or candy melts 
3. Put a little bit of chocolate on the other half of the biscuit and use that to "glue" the sandwich back together
4. Coat one half of the sandwich in chocolate
5. Leave to set (I put mine in the fridge for 15 minutes)
6. Coat the other side and around the edges and add 2 (or 3,4,5 however many you want!) candy eyes
7. Leave to set again
8. Melt some white chocolate, add to a piping bag, snip off the tip and add the white lines

The original ones I saw used all white chocolate so looked more like mummies. I decided to use coloured candy melts for mine to fit in with the rest of D's monster theme and think they turned out pretty cute :)

Getting birthday treats ready to take to nursery :)

You can read about the other things I made for his 3rd birthday here:

When I get round to it I'll blog about his "hidden 3" cake too :)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Games to play with a spiders web

So we made this spiders web out of tape for Halloween but have kept it up since and used it for lots of different games. Here are a few ideas in case you want to make one of your own:

1. Balancing on the web

This was what I originally set it up for after seeing a picture (albeit of a much older child!!) of it being used like a balance beam. D sort of maybe understood the concept but his balance was definitely not good enough yet and the floor was too tempting to walk on!

2. Avoid the web!

This was much easier for D to both understand and play. We said the blue web was sticky and he mustn't touch it, so he had to do big steps over it to get from place to place

3. Animal treasure hunt

I combined this with both of the above games, placing animals either at intersection of tape or in gaps between and he had to try to collect them all and transport them to the pot at the finish line (marked with a star) without touching the wrong bits. Iz joined in with this but really didn't grasp any of the concept except collecting the animals! Lol

4. Animal maze

My husband thought of this game and D really enjoyed it. After placing lots of animals at tape intersections D would then have to move an animal from one side of the maze to the other, moving only along the lines but without touching any of the other animals. This was very good for his mental reasoning/problem-solving as he had to think a couple of steps ahead to work out which path the animal should take.

All pretty simple ideas but anything that keeps the kids entertained gets a thumbs up from me! I also love that you don't need any extra toys/equipment for this - you can just use whatever space you have available. Our spider's web is going to be staying up for several weeks :)

Friday, 6 November 2015

Cookie Monster cupcakes

Aren't these the cutest?! And they're surprisingly simple to make :)

What you need:

Buttercream icing
Blue food colouring
Giant white chocolate buttons
Chocolate chips
Icing bag and #233 tip
Small cookies (I used mini Maryland ones)

How to make them:

1. Make regular cupcakes, whatever flavour you like - I did vanilla but coloured the sponge orange
2. While they're cooking make your buttercream icing (I used a nearly 2:1 ratio, full recipe here)
3. Add some blue food colouring to the icing and mix well
4. Make the eyes by using a small amount of melted chocolate to stick a chocolate chip onto a giant white button. You'll need double the number of cakes you're making (ie 2 eyes per cake). Put in the fridge for 15 minutes to set fully
5. Cut a small "mouth" out of each cupcake (once cooled) and check it's big enough for a cookie
6. Then remove the cookie and ice the top of the cakes with a #233 tip. Make sure you leave the mouth empty
7. Add the cookie to the mouth and two eyes

Ta-da - the cutest monster cupcakes ever!

How to make a monster cake

Last year we were abroad on D's birthday so I never got to make a cake. This year he has been so excited about his birthday (ever since Iz's in August!!) so I wanted to make him something he'd think was cool... Welcome to the monster cake!

It was actually pretty easy to make - I did the prep baking one evening and then iced it the day before his birthday. If I can make it then anyone can!


What you need:
A glass bowl and cake tin (of similar sizes)
Usual ingredients for sponge cake (I used a Betty Crocker box)
Butter or greasing spray

You can use any basic sponge recipe for the cake - I actually cheated and used a box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix (sometimes you have to cheat a little to find time for everything!!). 

1. Grease the glass bowl really well and fill 2/3 with cake mix. Then fill the greased sandwich tins with the rest of the mix. 
2. Be prepared to cook for a LOT longer than normal! The glass bowl cake took just over an hour! Keep checking with the skewer test and then you'll know when it's ready. 
3. Once cooked take the bowl/tins out of the oven and leave for 5-10 minutes before trying to tip out. Then gently score around the edge of the bowl with a blunt knife, tip the bowl upside down and cross your fingers! Mine came out in one piece, but even if it hadn't I could've still used a bit of icing to piece it back together again.
4. Leave on a rack to completely cool and then wrap in clingfilm and put them in the freezer


What you need:
250g butter
500g icing sugar
5ml vanilla essence
Food colouring (I used green and blue)

The amount of icing you need will obviously depend on the size of your cake so I'd advise making one batch to start with and then reassess after that.

1. Make sure butter is at room temperature
2. Chop the butter into cubes and then mix until paler and creamy
3. Add half the icing sugar and very slowly mix until all the sugar is mixed in. Then increase mixer speed for 2-3 minutes. Every minute scrape down the sides.
4. Add the rest of the icing sugar and again mix slowly to start with and then mix on high for a few minutes until the icing is much paler. 
5. Add the vanilla essence and mix well
6. Add the food colouring and mix well (I divided the icing in 2 and coloured one with a little green and the other with much more green and a tinge of blue to give a darker green shade)
The icing is now ready to use, or you can store it in the fridge and it'll keep for several days. Just make sure you allow it to come to nearly room temperature before using as that will help its flexibility. 

Cake assembly

What you need:
Buttercream icing (above)
Various cake pieces
Fish slice

1. Take cakes out of freezer and unwrap carefully
2. Work out how you want to stack the cake pieces
3. Starting with bottom layer, spread on a layer of buttercream icing (I used a wide nozzles piping bag for ease) and then add the next layer
4. Repeat for as many layers you have
5. Once all stacked put the fish slice under the bottom layer and leave in place (you'll thank me later!)
6. Then dirty ice (also called a crumb coat) the whole cake - this later won't be visible once cake is finished so doesn't have to be the nearest/tidiest but should just cover the cake. It makes subsequent icing a lot easier and prevents cake crumbling
7. Put the whole thing (cake/fish slice/board) into the fridge and chill for minimum 30 minutes

Cake icing

What you need:
More butter cream icing
Icing bag (I used a disposable one)
Icing tip #233

There are a million different ways to ice - my advice is try a bit on a board/cup/whatever first to see what works for you. I started out thinking I'd pull away from the cake and let the icing "hair" fall down but I just couldn't make that work and so improvised a different way!

1. Put your nozzle in place and fill the piping bag with icing
2. Start at the bottom of the cake and slowly work your way around. I started at the bottom, went up about 5cm and then pulled off. Then repeated this all around the cake
3. Once the bottom area is covered, the next step depends on if you're doing multiple colours or not (next time I want to do a rainbow one!). If you want more than one colour, leave a gap and then pipe another layer. Don't worry if the cake decoration looks a bit weird - it will come together at the end!
4. Cut your nozzle out of the piping bag and transfer to a new bag and fill with the other coloured buttercream. Repeat the icing in the spaces left
5. Once fully covered carefully transfer to a plate/platter. This is where you'll be very glad you put the fish slice under the cake as now you can move it without touching (and thus ruining!) the icing
6. Once safely on the plate slowly wiggle out the fish slice. It's job is done!

Fondant features

What you need:
Gum paste (white)
Food colours
Black fondant
Cake pop sticks
Pastry brush (or could use your finger!)
Cornflour - optional, I didn't actually use any

I actually used a mix of gum paste and fondant to make his eyes/mouth/horns. They were both at easy to work with but I think the gym paste retained its shape much better for longer whereas after a few days the fondant got a bit "weepy".

1. Knees the gum paste to make it easier to work with
2. Divide into smaller pieces and colour each one with the appropriate colour (add 1-2 drops of food colouring and knead well until well mixed)
3. Then create whatever extra features you want for your monster. I did eyes, a mouth, 2 big horns and a smaller central horn. I actually ended up using a different mouth in the end as I didn't like the first one I made!
4. If you want to stick one piece on top of another, dip your pastry brush in water and gently "paint" one side, then just press firmly together
5. Once they're finished push a cake pop stick into the back of each (these are great because they're blunt!)
6. Leave to dry for at least 24 hours - so make them in advance!
7. Then just slide the sticks into your cake at the desired places

All finished! I was so happy with how it turned out - and I think D was too! :)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Science jars

Following on from how much ad enjoyed our rain cloud glasses I've been on the lookout for other similar activities. Here are 3 others that D's enjoyed recently :)

Snowstorm in a glass

We followed the instructions on Growing a jeweled rose. First we filled the glass 3/4 with baby oil and diluted some white paint with warm water. D then pipetted the white mixture into the glass, added some glitter and once the snow settled added a quarter of an Alka Seltzer. This was so simple but so pretty to watch. D was mesmerised and kept adding more tablets as soon as one "storm" finished!

Watching the snow fall
The storm is nearly over...

Fireworks in a glass

This one is even more simple - you just need to fill the glass with warm water and in a separate glass (we used disposable shot glasses) add a drop of food colouring to a spoonful of oil. Mix the colour drop so it separates into lots of tiny drops and then pour into the large glass. Start with the lighter colours (eg orange/red) and do the darkest ones (eg purple) last - you can see why from the bottom pic below!

The first colour

The second

A few more...

After adding a dark colour! Lol

DIY lava lamp

I loved this one - I think it's my favourite - although D was a bit non-plussed and preferred the snowstorm one. This one is great though because you can do it in a bottle with a lid and then keep it for ages (ours is still going strong 10 days later) - definite bonus! Puts actually even worked better *after* the first day! Anyway to make it half fill the bottle with water and half full with vegetable oil. Add a few drops of food colouring and wait for it to get to the water later. Then add a quarter of an Alka Seltzer... pretty pretty pretty!

Pure concentration!

Patiently waiting for it to settle...

Adding the Alka Seltzer...

Yay! Bubbly fun :)


Have you done any "glass" experiments? Or got any ideas? Let me know as we love doing them!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

DIY Toddler Glow Stickman

Looking for a last minute Halloween costume? Or just something that looks awesomely cool in the dark on any night of the year? Look no further...

We saw an awesome video called "Glowy Zoey" last year and instantly knew we wanted to have a costume like that. However we didn't fancy spending upwards of £30 on a costume so instead made our own for less than £1.50!

What you need:

- glowsticks (I bought a pack of 20 from Poundland. Not all of them worked but at 20 for £1 I just discarded the few that didn't)
- clear tape (I used clear duct tape but you could also use sellotape)
- some of your child's clothes, including a hat or hooded top

How to make it:

1. Lay the clothes out on the floor
2. Work out how many glowsticks your child will "fit" (D had 3 for his face, 6 on his top and 5 on his trousers. Iz had 2 for her face, 4 on her top and 3 on her trousers)
3. Crack the glowsticks before putting them on the clothes (definitely recommend doing it this way round so you can discard any that don't work/glow strongly)
4. Tape the lit sticks in position on the top and trousers (avoid taping over joints as otherwise they'll just come loose as soon as they move their arms/legs)
5. Make a circle with 2-3 glowsticks (the packets usually have adaptors inside them for this purpose) and tape to either a hat or the hood of their top
6. Dress them carefully
7. Find a dark place and go crazy!!!!!!

D's first costume

Iz's first costume

We had so much fun with it we then did it another time all over again :) this time we also cracked a few more and had fun writing words and "drawing" pictures on the grass - D loved this bit and I'm definitely going to let him do this again during these dark evenings. Such a simple way to entertain him but to him it was the best activity ever!

D's second costume

Iz's second costume

We also made a glow-in-the-dark tutu (saw the idea here on Meri Cherry's blog) which Iz found lots of fun but isn't quite co-ordinated to do the whole spinning round thing yet. So we'll defintiely be making it again in a year or so when her co-ordination has improved!


Have you got a costume planned for your kids this year?

Monday, 26 October 2015

9 creative things to do with a Pringles tube

Does anyone else like Pringles as much as me? If so you're bound to have a couple of cans lying around - no need to throw them away, look what you can do with them...

1. Glue suncatchers
All you need is some glue, colours and a Pringles lid. See here for full instructions.


2. A straw dropbox
For time spent making to time kept entertaining child, this has to be one of my best ever makes. Months later it is *still* played with most days! See here for full instructions.

3. Mini golf
We tried this at Center Parcs earlier in the year and D struggled to grasp the concept. Now with his own versatile course in the back garden he can practice to his heart's content!

4. Learning about sizes
D collected a group of different sized balls, ranging from small table tennis balls to his largest football and then arranged them in size from smallest to largest by seeing which ones would fit inside the tube and which wouldn't. Pretty quickly he could judge without using the tube - it was a great introduction to comparing sizes.

5. Artwork storage
Keep all your kid's artwork crease free by washing out a Pringles tube and rolling them up inside.

6. Game of throw'n'toss
I taped 5 small tubs into one of our messy play trays, propped it up on an angle and gave D a collection of small balls. He grasped the concept very quickly and soon worked out the nearer he sat the easier it was!! Iz also loves this set-up (we still have it in play a month later) although she mainly uses it for storing her plastic ducks in...

7. Storing sensory play stuff (eg rainbow rice, coloured pasta)
We've got large tubs to store most of our sensory ingredients in but sometimes it's nice to not be overwhelmed by large quantities of "stuff". The small tubs are the perfect size for activities like this where D was making bracelets by threading coloured pasta onto pipecleaners.

8. Homemade stilts
Remember these from your childhood?! D is still a bit young (ie uncoordinated!) to walk properly on them but he had lots of fun balancing on them :)

9. Pen pot
Leave your mugs free for coffee and use a small Pringles tub instead :)


Do you have any other good uses? We seem to have a never-ending supply of empty tubes here!!