The Crazy Kitchen: March 2011

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Learning Through Play - New Water Table

 For Jacks 2nd Birthday he received an Early Learning Centre sand & water table from Grandma. In the short time that he has had it so far he has loved playing with it and I took some great photos of him engrossed in play. I thought it would make a great post and to show others, that were contemplating whether or not to splash out the £45 price tag, that it is a great buy and, in my opinion, worth every penny (not that I paid any pennies, as Grandma did), so when I saw the Tots 100 Blog Hop based around the theme of 'Learning Through Play' I decided to get a move on with my post as the closing date is tomorrow!


It comes in a hefty sized box, that would make a great play tunnel afterwards, but as it has a handle on top it's easy to carry, even with a toddler in tow. (I know this as I had to carry it back to my car when I exchanged the accidentally purchased pink table for the red one - I was happy with the pink but Daddy wasn't!).


We tipped all of the parts out and I was pleased to see that no screwdrivers were needed to put it together, there were 4 few plastic inserts to screw into place and the the legs & supports to pop into place and that was it, ready for play. The table comes with a few accessories, such as a boat, mould, funnels, spinning wheels, scoop, rake & spade - all in lovely bright colours.


It was a nice day so I set the table up outside and poured a bowl of warm (I'm a good Mummy) soapy water into one side of the table. Jack spent ages pouring the water from container to container, concentrating hard, trying not to spill any, and then splashing about it in it so much that once he'd had enough of playing, there was more water in his socks that there was left in the table (I have made a mental note to make sure he wears his welly boots next time).


   






 


Look at that concentration!

We didn't just use the toys included to have fun, other items we used were :


Washing up brush
Lids off Laundry detergent bottles
Cups
Spoons
Buckets
Shells
Cars
Plastic Creepy Crawlies and Dinosaurs


In fact, if you have any of the above you don't need to invest in a water table at all, a bowl of soapy water works just as well. Give your little ones plastic plates & cutlery to 'wash', they love copying Mummy.


 


The table also has a lid to keep the sand & toys covered when not in use, and is great to use as a play table for cars.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Birthday Party Fun

We recently celebrated Jacks 2nd birthday and for his party I chose a Mickey Mouse theme. It was a toss up between that and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but opted for Mickey Mouse as I figured a Mickey Mouse cake would be easier to make than a caterpillar one!


We actually had 2 parties as it seemed easier to do it that way. On Saturday we had Jack's little friends round, with their brothers, sisters, Mummies & Daddies and on Sunday we had family.


We had banners, balloons and themed tableware. I made some party bags up using Mickey Mouse plastic cups (that can be re-used by the party guest afterwards) filled with a large bouncy ball, some Mickey Mouse stickers, a Mickey Mouse pencil, a mouse balloon and a small packet of sweets (everyone needs a little treat from time to time!). I popped the cup into a Star patterned cellophane bag & tied with ribbon. I think they look a lot prettier  than a themed plastic party bag.

 


For a table centrepiece I filled a vase with bouncy balls and inserted air-filled mouse balloons on sticks into the vase, the balls help to hold the sticks in place as well as looking bright & colourful. The party guests could then take a balloon home with them afterwards.



For the food I did a buffet for the little ones consisting of :


Fresh crusty bread & butter
Cocktail sausages
A selection of cheese portions
Veggies & dip
Selection of Crisps
Mini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Chocolate Fingers
Individual Jelly Portions (orange & raspberry)


and for the adults :


Chilli
Baked Potatoes
Grated cheese
Greek Salad
Pasta Salad
Cake Pops
Baileys Coffee Cupcakes


and of course there were birthday cakes (not forgetting the Chocolate Fudge Cake we had on his actual birthday!)


 

A friend of mine also brought up some lovely carrot cake & chocolate brownies.




We didn't play any games, from past experience we've found that the little ones don't want to sit and play pass the parcel and are just happy playing, so that's what they did, and the adults could enjoy a drink and a chat whilst the little ones had fun nearby.



The Boys


Jack with one of his birthday cakes.



Family Shot






11th June 2011 : This post has been added to The Boy And Me's Show Off Showcase.

ShowOff Showcase

Cake Pops

Cake Pops are the new 'in cake' sweeping the cake shops & cafe's.


They are made from cake mixed with buttercream, formed into a ball, popped on a stick and covered with chocolate & decorated....simple!


I was going to make Rocky Road Cake Pops that I had seen on Vanessa Kimbells great blog, as I didn't want to make a cake for the sole purpose of mushing it up again, and these Pops use biscuits instead of cake as the base. However when I made Jacks birthday cake I had some scraps of chocolate cake that I had cut off the top to level it up, so I used those, along with some leftover chocolate buttercream.


In a food mixer I mixed the broken up cake scraps with enough buttercream to form a dough.


Roll small balls (approx ping pong sized) of dough and set aside.


Melt a small amount of chocolate to act as a glue to stick the balls to the sticks.


Dip the lollipop sticks in the melted chocolate and then into the balls, and allow to set.

Store in an airtight container until ready to decorate.


It's best to put the cake pops into the freezer for a couple of hours before coating with the chocolate as it helps the chocolate to set more quickly, making it easier to decorate.


Melt some more chocolate (dark, milk or white can be used) and dip each cake pop into the melted chocolate and swirl around.


Decorate with whatever you fancy - I chose coloured sprinkles, mini marshmallows, M&M's and chopped salted peanuts.


Insert into a halved orange or a piece of polystyrene or floral oasis until set.



Baileys Coffee Cupcakes

For these delicious cupcakes I slightly adapted a recipe for Tiramisu Cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. It's a lovely book, with great photos for each recipe and step by step directions.


Basically its a vanilla sponge, with a piece cut out and a coffee & Kahlua syrup (I replaced the Kahlua with Baileys - that was the slightly adapted part!) poured into the hole. On top of that a marscarpone/double cream/icing sugar & Kahlua mix (I used Baileys again here!) is spooned on, and then the piece of cake is replaced, after it has been soaked in the coffee liquor syrup. The cake is then frosted with the remaining mascarpone mixture.


They were absolutely delicious, but the general consensus was that you couldn't eat more than one!!
 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For part of this weeks cake making frenzy I made Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes for pre-school and as they turned out so well & were very easy to make I decided to use the recipe as a base for my chocolate chip mini cupcakes for Jack's party, just adding a pack of milk chocolate chips to the dry ingredients.


I decorated these simple cakes with just a blob of ready made icing and an M&M.




I had some batter leftover so I made some larger cupcakes and decorated these with Vanilla Buttercream, from the 'Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery' book and '21''s cut out of black icing, these were for my step-daughter who celebrated her 21st the day before Jack's birthday.


Vanilla Buttercream


110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
500g icing sugar, sifted
Few drops of pink food colouring


This quantity makes enough to ice 15-20 regular or approx 60 mini cupcakes. I made half a batch and used a small amount of pink colouring paste.


1. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk and half of the icing sugar until smooth.


2. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat again until the buttercream is smooth and creamy.


3. Beat in the colouring, adding a very small amount initially, building up the colour gradually.









Flashback Friday

For this weeks Flashback Friday  I'm not flashing back very far. As yesterday was Jacks 2nd Birthday it seemed only right that I went back to that day 2 years ago when I finally got around to meeting him, 12 days after his due date.


I was booked in for induction on 26th March but as my daughter had a hospital appointment that day that had been changed and put back a number of times I was adamant that she would not miss it so I asked if I could be taken in sooner. They booked me in for the 24th but mentioned that it could be a long process so it would be best if we could still get someone else to take my daughter to her appointment.


At around 4am on the morning of the 24th I had an odd feeling that I can only describe as having a lift drop inside me. Shortly afterwards I started getting some cramping and couldn't get back to sleep so decided to go for my shower. We arrived at the hospital around 6 and I muttered something to the midwife about the cramping and she said she'd hook me up to a monitor to see what was going on. The cramping came & went over the space of the next hour & then another midwife came along to give me an examination, and to the utter shock of all 3 of us informed me that I was 7cms dilated & ready to be moved the delivery suite.


If you are reading this as an expectant first time Mum and want to ask 'how do you know when you're in labour' don't believe anyone that says 'oh you just KNOW'.......this was my 3rd baby and I didn't know!!


After a bit of grunting & pushing (and with the assistance of my first ever sampling of gas & air) Jack popped into the world at 9.05am weighing 9lbs 2oz, and I never even got to read my stack of magazines that I had packed for the long wait that I was expecting! (His big sister made it to her appointment as we were back at the hospital with Jack by then as he was admitted with Jaundice.)


At just after 1pm he met his brother and sister for the first time when he paid his first visit to their school - and I wept into the arms of my daughter's teacher - oh the shame!!


So here is Jack just an hour or so old (dressed by his Daddy - note the arm not quite in the sleeve!).



And here he is yesterday, ready for his first day at Pre-school
















Why don't you join Cafe Bebe & the rest of us reminiscing & having a laugh over old snaps.




Thursday, 24 March 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake



This cake has got to be the best and one of the easiest chocolate cakes I have ever made. The sponge is moist and chocolatey and the frosting is rich & gooey, perfect with a cuppa or warmed up with ice cream.


The recipe is a slightly adapted version of the one in The Children's Baking Book by Dorling Kindersley.


Ingredients


For the cake:


175g butter
175g dark muscovado sugar
150g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 medium eggs
100ml greek yoghurt


For the icing:


175g dark chocolate (approx 70% cocoa solids)
125g butter
4tbsp milk
200g icing sugar


To decorate :


Maltesers & M&M's (or any sweets/chocolate/sprinkles of your choice)




1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C / 325 F / gas mark 3. Grease and line the bases of 2 8" sandwich tins with baking paper.


2. Beat the butter & sugar until they are light & creamy


3. Sift over the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.


4. Add the eggs & the yoghurt and beat well.


5. Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.


6. To make the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, or on short bursts in the microwave. Add the milk & stir to combine.


7. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and pour over the melted chocolate. Beat together until smooth and formimg into soft peaks.


8. Use some of the icing to sandwich the 2 cakes together & spread the rest over the top & sides. Decorate with your chosen toppings.


Enjoy.



Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

Tomorrow will be Jack's 2nd birthday and as a special treat, because I'm such a kind and generous Mummy, he will be starting Preschool. He was supposed to be starting next week but then I got offered Thursday mornings as an additional session so rather than start him with a full day I thought it best to break him in gently with a half day session and it just happened to fall on his birthday - that's my excuse anyway, in truth I fancied having 3 hours to myself - I've been paid back for being so mean as my eldest has been sick today & won't be going to school so I don't get my 3 hours just yet!


I thought it would be a nice treat for all his new friends (ok I'm trying to buy him some new friends) if I made them all some cakes to share.


There is one little boy at Preschool who has a dairy, egg and soya allergy, which often proves difficult for his Mum when it comes to baking cakes. After speaking to her she was happy for me to take in some chocolate cakes and she would make some 'free' ones to take in as well. When I was looking through one of my many cookery books earlier I came across a recipe for eggless vanilla cupcakes in 'Best Ever Recipes - CUPCAKES by Phoebe Gibb' (received as a Christmas Present from Brother & Sister In Law) and I noticed that they also didn't include any kind of butter which meant they would be suitable for all of the little ones and the allergy sufferer didn't need to have something different.


I used my mini cupcake maker to bake a batch off & my 10 year old sampled one. They passed the test so I went on to bake the rest.


The recipe made around 36 mini cupcakes so there are plenty to go around and a few left over for my hungry lot, and I was pleasantly surprised how good they tasted.




Ingredients


225g Self Raising Flour
2 tsp baking powder
180g caster sugar
6 tbsp Rapeseed Oil (the recipe calls for Vegetable Oil but I had some Rapeseed so decided to use that)
240ml water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence


I added a couple of handfuls of sultanas to the dry ingredients to make them a bit more interesting.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F / Gas 4, then line mini muffin pans with cases 


2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Make a well and add the oil, water and vanilla essence and mix well.


3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared paper cases.


4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until firm to the touch.


5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar.



Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Birthday Baking Mess....

I do it all the time (well on every birthday)...I have a great idea to make a cake, I have a vision in my head of how it will look, and then half-way through all that making & baking I say to myself 'why didn't I just go and buy a cake'?...........


You can see why I think that, there's not an ounce of clear workspace in the kitchen.....and god knows how much it has all cost, it would be so much easier to go to Asda and buy a Mickey Mouse cake for £6.48 that is a ' Light sponge with a delicious raspberry jam and buttercream filling covered in soft icing with edible decorations'


A delicious raspberry jam and buttercream filling it has but I'm not so sure of the 'light sponge' and unless you like eating cheap imported plastic then I don't think Mickey Mouse will be edible...


And how do those professionals get that icing so smooth.....and clean??? Mine is all lumpy & bumpy and has splodges of cocoa powder & blue food colouring on it, along with cake crumbs and hairs from the pastry brush that I used in an attempt to get rid of the cocoa powder, food colouring & cake crumbs......... and I still haven't finished it! I still have to do the decorations & attempt to cut out letters with some fancy cutter that I haven't used before and make stars to (hopefully) stick on wires (yes I have a very good imagination)......


Oh well, that's another day........I'm off to bed now to dream of cupcakes, cake-pops and Mickey Mouse.

Tuesday Giveaway..Infantino Water Teether

This week I am giving away a water teether from Infantino in blue.

Perfect if you have a little one that's teething. It is designed to soothe tender gums and has an easy to grasp shape with interesting textures and can be placed in the fridge to cool until needed.



To be in with a chance of winning please FOLLOW THIS BLOG on Google Friends Connect/Networked Blogs or Subscribe by Email - all options are in the right-hand side bar AND leave a comment below letting me know which of the following you have done (1 entry for each) :
  • Follow me on Twitter @jessies_online
  • Like my Facebook page here
  • Tweet " I've entered @jessies_online competition to win an Infantino teether ,you can win too http://bit.ly/fvRiOG "



The competition is open until 10pm on Monday 4th April. I will then pick 1 lucky winner from all the entries received  (using Random.org)  and contact you for your address. If you don't reply with your address within 5 days I will choose another winner. Entry is only open to those with a UK delivery address. You can enter up to 3 times ,each time you will need to comment below stating which of the above you have done (different each time please!).

Monday, 21 March 2011

Mis-adventures of Gumigem..........


I've been back from our family holiday a few days now and am enjoying the spring weather, its better than we had in Lanzarote for the first few days – I think we had their usual annual rainfall in a couple of days.
The place was lovely though and the kids had a great time being entertained by the Entertainment team and swimming in the pools (which I never braved as they were far too cold!).
I was planning on doing a post entitled 'the adventures of Gumigem' as I had taken my Gumigem teething necklace away with me but I managed to lose my camera on the flight over. I was upset for days over it, I had big plans for Gumigem, taking it to the pool, the beach, the bars & mini disco.....but all I managed in the way of photos of Gumigems adventures was one taken at Starbucks at Manchester Airport on my phone.



At every good photo opportunity I moaned at my OH about how it was his fault that the camera got lost – I had it on my lap after taking pictures of the kids on the flight (ready for some future blog or other) when he insisted that I take Jack onto my lap as he had done his second poo of the flight and how it was my turn to change him this time! So the camera must've slipped off my lap onto the floor & got forgotten about, until we were at the kids disco that night.....

We did meet a very kind couple who lent us their camera for a few days so I was still able to take some memorable photos of the kids enjoying their holiday but by that time all enthusiasm for Gumigem's big adventure had been lost !

On the positive side I had taken all the photos off the SD card the previous evening so all was not lost, but it still took me a good few days to get over it. When it rained I was even more miserable, I thought the holiday was doomed and I kept waiting for something else to go wrong, but of course it didn't - not unless you count Jack being sick for 2 hours on the flight home, but as he was sitting on Daddy's knee at the time it wasn't that bad - let's call it payback for being his fault that my camera got lost!! 

I will still do my 'adventures of Gumigem' post sometime in the not too distant future so watch this space.....






Friday, 18 March 2011

Flashback Friday - Cruising 1987 style

It's a bit of a random one this week for Cafe Bebe's Flashback Friday  - I did a pot luck picking an old photo from a box of many & this is the one that I picked.








It was taken in January 1987 (hence the attractive boots & turquoise skirt!), I was 16 and on a DFDS mini cruise from Harwich to Ebsjerg in Denmark with my friend Ginny. Looking back I can't believe how brave we were getting the train down to London, going across London on the Tube and getting another train to Harwich at such a young age. We then spent a rough night 'cruising' through the ice, drinking too much (I know I was underage!) and dancing to the 80's beats in the disco, which is no mean feat when you're on a Cruise-ship (or rather an upmarket Ferry) on choppy seas! We then spent a few hours enjoying the sights of Ebsjerg which, from what I remember, consisted of watching some sea-lions swimming around a pool & getting frozen walking around the shops. We then spent another choppy night 'cruising' back to Harwich.


I worked in a Travel Agents at the time & got the mini-cruise for a bargain price of £5 so it was an offer not to be missed. We had such a laugh & as you can see from the photo we got up to some mischief! I'm sure if digital cameras were around in 1987 we wouldn't be looking at a photo like this, with half of my body missing, it would have been deleted but back then we got excited waiting a few days for our 'great holiday snaps' to be developed, only to be disappointed when most of them hadn't turned out as we'd hoped!


Why don't you join Cafe Bebe & the rest of us reminiscing & having a laugh over old snaps.




Friday, 11 March 2011

Career Choices After Babies - Real Parenting Article

Recently the lovely Molly from Mother's Always Right asked a question on her Facebook Page :

Do any of you lovely mums work full time? Did you return to work full time after having a baby? Maybe you can help me with an article I'm writing for realparenting.co.uk...


So I responded to her  - in fact I waffled quite bit, about my history, and you can read all about it in the article she has written beautifully for Real Parenting , along with the stories of other Mums, such as Hannah from Metal Mummy.


Me & my brood

"The role of the mother is a far more complex one than it was fifty years ago. While it was the norm then for mums to stay at home with their children, it is now more common for women to go out to work and juggle employment with motherhood. New mum Molly discusses the dilemma facing many women as the end of their maternity leave with their baby looms...... " (read more)








Flashback Friday - The Boxer

For this weeks Cafe Bebe's Flashback Friday I have chosen a photo from my 'Big Red Book' photo album that my Mum put together for my 40th birthday last year. It's just like a 'This Is Your Life' red book and it's filled with great old photos, with little captions to go with them, and an engraved plaque on the front.






 I would say that this photo was taken when I was around 8 and my big brother was around 10 - the same age that my older 2 children are now - it could quite easily be them!


My Dad's cousin had given my brother & I some old boxing gloves to play with - I can still smell the musty leather of those gloves to this day, and we kept pestering my Dad to be allowed to have a boxing match.


My Mum had gone out to do her Avon round, she would be gone hours, so my Dad thought it was the ideal opportunity to set up a boxing ring for us - by the time she came back the furniture would be back in place and she would be none the wiser. We had a corner sofa which acted as one corner of 'the ring'. I donned my diving mask - why?? I have no idea! The gloves were laced & we were off.......jumping and prancing around the ring, my fists were flying.....I was so much stronger than my brother and this was my chance to prove it.......I took one swipe after another and he just pranced around like a fairy.......I'll show him!


POW!!


I was down.......


My brother's first punch landed right on my nose, ouch! And then came the blood! 


So that was then end of my boxing career. When my mum came home she wasn't 'none the wiser' as my Dad had hoped, she walked in to see me nursing a bloody nose and my Brother and Dad looking a little sheepish. I don't remember ever seeing those boxing gloves again!!






























Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Digging For Dinosaurs

Jack is not easily entertained, he doesn't watch much TV - he may watch Handy Manny, Zingzillas or Mickey Mouse (or iCarly if big sister has control of the remote) whilst he's eating but apart from that he won't sit and watch anything. He prefers to be emptying cupboards, taking the pebbles off the fire, stuffing things in the Wii (and breaking it!), emptying the hand soap into the sink..........well you've got the idea !


As I work from home it's not easy to go out every day, many days I have deliveries due and I can guarantee that if I go out, even for just 5 minutes, that's when the parcel will arrive - how does that happen? Do they wait around the corner for me to go out? Anyway, today we're not expecting a delivery, we're waiting for the glazier as the bathroom window has somehow got broken - I've questioned the kids to see if anyone's been throwing stones and was informed by my 10 year old that it probably cracked due to the frost......ok maybe he's right, but personally I think someone has been using an air rifle in the fields at the back......it makes for a more exciting read!


Anyway back to Jack - one thing he does enjoy doing is cooking, and he always likes to get my bowls and spoons out, so today I let him loose with my bowls and measuring spoons, some dried pasta and dinosaurs (and the odd frog and spider) and he has been loving it - he's been  'digging' for dinosaurs, spooning the pasta from one bowl to another and generally keeping himself amused for longer than he has ever done before (if you don't count the time he emptied his wardrobe out when we forgot to secure it with a hair bobble!). 






  

 




Jack has also added a few other 'finds' to dig for - we have Dora, Angelina Ballerina, Tinky Winky, La La and a few of big brothers Micro Star footballers.


  


You'll have to excuse his attire - I'd just tried his new wetsuit on and he was reluctant to take it off, and has been wearing it ever since.

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