Sunday, 18 January 2015

A is for Australia Day Busy Bag

Australia Day Busy Bag

With Australia Day coming up next Monday, the 26th January, I have teamed up with some awesome Aussie bloggers to bring you lots of fun Australian themed ideas for kids.

For our Australia Day activity, rather than doing an Aussie inspired recipe with Bear and Bee I came up with a new printable Busy Bag idea.  Both girls loved the Healthy Lunchboxes Busy Bag and Grow My Garden Busy Bag I did last year as part of a Busy Bag Virtual Exchange so I was pretty certain (can never be too sure with 5 year olds) that they would like this idea too.

If you are catching up with family and friends on Australia Day this Busy Bag would be a great quiet activity for the kids to do after lunch. 

So without any further ado here is our No Mess Pavlova Busy Bag.

Click on this link to download a free printable that includes instructions for putting together the No Mess Pavlova Busy Bag.

Australia Day Busy Bag

Australia Day Busy Bag

Australia Day Busy Bag

Australia Day Busy Bag

I was initially inspired by the Pavlova Playdough Mat over on My Little Bookcase. I have included a sheet of fruit pieces to cut out and decorate the Pavlova page.

If you are pressed for time you could skip cutting out the fruit pieces and just print out the Pavlova base.  Add in some tubs of playdough and shape cutters to make the fruit or use beads and buttons. To be safe use beads and buttons for older children only.

For more Aussie inspiration, check out these great Aussie blogs.

Danya Banya

Danya Banya for two cute crafts of Sydney's icons - the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

The Craft Train for gorgeous Frilled Neck Lizards.

Laughing Kids Learn for making Damper Bread.

Monday, 8 December 2014

E is for Eight Maids-a-milking

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag
Updated 27/12/2014.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me - 8 Maids-a-milking.

We have joined with 11 other bloggers to celebrate the festive season by creating crafts and activities based on the 12 Days of Christmas. This blog hop full of Christmassy goodness is hosted by Silly Sparkles. Make sure you head over to the other blogs and have a look at the other 'Days of Christmas' too. Links are at the end of this post.

We chose 8 Maids-a-milking and I couldn't decide on whether to make Christmas milkshakes or Christmas ice cream.

With the really hot weather we are experiencing at the moment (hot even for Queensland in December) ice cream was the winner.

To make it a real hands on sensory experience for Bear and Bee I knew we had to try making Ice Cream in a bag.  If you haven't made ice cream this way before you definitely need to give it a go.  It's a great activity that is lots of fun to do and as a bonus uses up a little of the excess energy kids seem to have around holiday time.

Here's how we made our Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag
300ml cream
2 tablespoons caster (or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 or 4 candy canes
2 trays of ice cubes
6 tablespoons rock salt
1 large ziploc bag
3 small ziploc bags


Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

1. Place the candy canes inside one of the small ziploc bags and then hit with a rolling pin until the canes are crushed into small pieces.
2. Pour the cream into one of the remaining small ziploc bags.  Place the bag into a coffee mug or small bowl to help it stand up and not spill over.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and seal the bag well.
4. Place the bag of cream mixture inside another small ziploc bag to protect it well from the salt.
5. Put the ice and salt in the large ziploc bag and add the bag of cream mixture. Make sure the bag is sealed really well.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

6. Now for the fun part.  Wrap a tea towel around the whole lot and start shaking and massaging the bags.
Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

7.  Gloves are handy to protect little ones hands from the cold or you could put the whole lot (minus the tea towel) inside a large coffee can or baby formula tin and start rolling it around.
8.  Keep shaking or rolling for 5-10 minutes or until the cream mixture has thickened.  It will be like soft serve ice cream.  Ours took 10 minutes.
9. Remove the small bag of ice cream from the other bags.  Wipe carefully with a clean cloth to remove any traces of salt.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag
10. Use scissors to snip off the corner of the bag and squeeze the ice cream into cones or bowls.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag
11. Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes and enjoy.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag
A very happy Bee with her Ice Cream

If your kids like candy canes, add the crushed canes to the cream mixture in step 3.  Bear doesn't like candy canes and Bee does so I just added them at the end.

Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag

Click on the images below to follow each of the 12 Days of Christmas craft ideas!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

C is for Christmas Playdough

Christmas Playdough

Playdough that smells like Christmas.  Well sort of.  This Christmas Day Playdough from Nurturestore does smell Christmassy although it is a traditional European Christmas scent.  Orangey, cinnamony and cosy.  Which is really truly lovely. 

I would like to make an Australian Christmas scented playdough but I am not sure how to combine Eucalyptus leaves, hot summer day, beach and barbecues into a smell with out it ending up like a cleaning product!

So this year I am sticking to the Christmas Day playdough.  I also made a batch of Snow Playdough and scented it with Peppermint essence and some Green sparkle playdough using the same base homemade playdough recipe. 

Christmas Playdough

I set them up for Bear and Bee as an Invitation to Play with rolling pins and Christmas themed cookie cutters.

Christmas Playdough

And we also practised our rolling skills and made playdough candy canes.

What is your favourite Christmas scent?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

F is for Fun Food for Christmas

Fun food christmas

Over the last few weeks I have been working on our family Advent activities for this year.  We will have an Advent Calendar as usual along with reading through our collection of Christmas stories.  This year I am also going to do a Jesse tree with Bear and Bee to take the focus away from receiving presents to more of the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Fun food christmas

I have nearly got our Advent Calendar finished - just need some numbers on the drawers.  In the past I have used envelopes and boxes but this year I finally found a set of drawers that I liked (and could afford).  I have the activities printed out ready to go in the little drawers.  I just need to buy a few small treats to go in there too.

If you haven't got your Advent Calendar sorted yet or you just want some ideas of activities to do with your children over the upcoming school holidays I have a list that should help.

Here are 24 food related festive activities that you can do with your children throughout December. **List updated 8 December 2014.

Fun food christmas

1. Make and decorate Salt Dough Ornaments. Change these Easter ones by the threefootcooks to more festive versions using Christmas shaped cookie cutters.  There are lots of ways to make salt dough ornaments.  This is our favourite one.

2. Build a Gingerbread House.  If you have plenty of time, bake the gingerbread and cut out the pieces.  If not, buy one of the many great kits available. I have my eye on an Australian outback shack from one of our bigger grocery stores. But whatever option you go for make sure you use this Gingerbread House 'glue' by Kids Activities Blog.  It is the best. In Australia you buy meringue powder from speciality cake decorating suppliers or subsitute Pavlova Magic from the supermarket.

3. Make Reindeer Food.  This idea comes from Parenting Fun Everyday. It will be a perfect and inexpensive gift for Bear's and Bee's kindy friends.  While you are over looking at this site check out the rest of Amber's great Christmas activites.  She has put together an eBook which you can purchase to make downloading easier or you can get each activity separately for free.

4. Whip up some Christmas Ice Cream.  Ice Cream is good in any weather right? We made Christmas Ice Cream in a Bag for the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop hosted by Sillysparkles.

5. Put together a food hamper for charity.  Non- perishable food items like rice, pasta, cereal, meals in a can and baby food are just some of the items that you can donate.  Have a look at this article on Food Drives from Foodbank in Australia for more ideas or contact a local charity in your town or city.

6. Have Breakfast for Dinner.  We use this simple tradition on a number of occasions throughout the year (like the start of school holidays) and you can make it extra special for Christmas with some simple touches.  Read about having Breakfast for Dinner over at Peace but not Quiet.

7. Bake Cookies for Santa or the neighbours.  These Christmas spiral cookies made with the threefootcooks are good.

8. Make Christmas Popcorn to eat while watching a Christmas movie.  This year we are going to try this delicious sounding Christmas flavoured sugar from Nurturestore.

9.  Make real hot chocolate. Or if it is summer where you live (just like it is for us)  make Iced Chocolate just like Bee did on threefootcooks.

10.  Bake a Christmas Cake together.  Dig out your mum's, aunt's, grandma's cherished recipe and have a go at making it as a family.  Here is my mum's recipe.

11. A great homemade Christmas gift is Cookies in a JarBe a Fun Mum has a simple to follow version that would make delicious gifts for teachers, family friends or relatives.

Fun food christmas

12.  Bake some Homemade Dog Treats using this recipe from threefootcooks and take them to the animal shelter.  Check first with the shelter if they will accept these.  Otherwise find out what they do need like old blankets and towels, kitty litter or canned food and put together a donation basket.

13. Hold a Gingerbread Party Playdate just like this one from I Can Teach My Child.  I love how it includes the gingerbread creations going missing along with reading The Gingerbread Man story.

14. Make Christmas Cone Cakes with the threefootcooks.  Baking these cupcakes in ice cream cones in the microwave means they are quick and easy to prepare.  Leaving plenty of time for the kids to be creative with the decorating.

15. Challenge the kids to make these gorgeous Gumdrop Snowflakes from Tips from a Typical Mom.

16.  Bake a batch of Angel Halo Biscuits with your kids like I did with the threefootcooks.  They are quick, easy and delicious. 

17.  Mix up a batch of Christmas playdough and let the kids go crazy with the cookie cutter. We made this Christmas Day playdough from Nuturestore and it smells divine.  I love that it is scented using herbs and spices.

18.  Throw in some Kitchen Science by making these Christmas Peppermint Creams.  We made these a few years ago and they worked really well.  Follow the links to the original recipe on the Science Sparks site.

19. Make Candy Cane Chocolate Hearts with Be a Fun Mum.  Another great idea for school friend gifts.

20. Eat Dessert first.  Pavlova is a traditional dessert often included on Australian Christmas dinner tables.  How about getting the kids involved in making their own.  There's no need to make the pavlova base yourself.  If you do want to try making your own One Perfect Day has a recipe for Super Simple Never Fail Pavlova. Buy a box of mini meringues or meringue drops, cut up some fresh fruit such as bananas, berries, mangoes and kiwi fruit and whip fresh cream.  Lay it out on the table in small bowls and get the kids to layer up their own plates. 

21. If your children are breaking for school holidays soon this Christmas Tree Bread from Mess for Less would be a fun and tasty way to keep them busy.

22. Need some Christmas gift ideas? Try these Snowball truffles from Here Come The Girls.

23. Angel Cakes. A sweet take on the more well known Butterfly cakes, here's how we made Angel Cakes.

24. Turn your gingerbread cutter upside down and make these Gingerbread Reindeer from Martha Stewart.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A is for Angel Cupcakes

Angel Cakes

With the festive season in full swing, it can be tempting to try and do everything bigger and better. Often, however, the simple ideas can be the best.

Take these Angel Cakes for example.  They are a simple combination of vanilla cupcakes, vanilla icing and icing sugar.  But they make for the perfect Christmas treat.

Angel Cakes

Most people would have heard of, and probably made, Butterfly Cakes.  All you need to do to make these super cute Angel Cakes is make a batch of your favourite cupcakes as you would for Butterfly Cakes and reposition the wings.

Angel Cakes

How wonderfully delightful are these Angel Cakes?
Angel Cakes

Here is how we made them.

Angel Cakes
Makes 12

For Cakes
120g unsalted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

For Icing
2 cups icing sugar mixture
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons hot water
extra icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Line a cupcake tray with paper liners
3. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Mix in the vanilla.
5. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
6. Add flour and milk and mix well.
7. Spoon batter evenly among paper cases.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
9. Allow to cool for a few minutes in tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

10. To make the icing, mix icing sugar and butter together in a medium bowl.
11. Add water and mix until a smooth paste forms.

Angel Cakes

12. To assemble the cakes, cut a disc from the top of each cake.

Angel Cakes

13. Fill the top of the cake with icing.

Angel Cakes

Angel Cakes

14. Cut the cake disc in half and gently stand each half upright in the icing to form wings.

Angel Cakes
15. Dust with icing sugar.

Angel Cakes

C is for Christmases Past

This is my mum's recipe for Christmas Cake.  We will be making a version of this for our own cake this year as we won't be at my mum's for Christmas Day.  I believe it is good to carry on some traditions from the past in order to keep us connected with our families and ancestors.

Christmas Cake Recipe

Do you have family Christmas traditions that you are keeping this year?