Sunday, 3 July 2011

Orange Jelly Boats!

It is wonderfully easy to make your own jelly.  Most supermarkets stock gelatin leaf and they store for ages in your cupboard too.  If you wish, you can use store-bought jelly, just use a little less water than the instructions intend (approximately 4/5 water) so that the jelly will set firmly.

What you will need

4 large oranges, cut in half
4 leaves of gelatin
200 ml cold water
2 - 4 tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you wish your jelly.  I used 2 tbsp.
A small glass bowl
A muffin tray
Cocktail sticks
Paper for sails, or cocktail sticks with flags.

How we did it

Using a citrus squeezer, squeeze the juice from the oranges, being careful not to break the skins.   Set aside 200 ml of the juice (you can drink the rest - yum!)
Cut up the gelatin leaf into small pieces.  Using 50 ml of your 200 ml of cold water, pour it into a small glass bowl and place the gelatin in the water and allow to soak for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a spoon, careful scrape out the flesh from the orange halves.  Being careful to ensure that you don't make any holes in the orange skin.  Remove the segments and pith and if you have a hard pith from the middle of the orange, gently snip this away with some kitchen scissors.

Place the remaining 150ml of water into a saucepan and add the sugar.  Stirring over a low to medium heat, slowly dissolve the sugar in the water.  Allow the water to warm up but not boil.
Keep the water on a low heat.
Take the bowl of gelatin and water and place it over a gently simmering saucepan of water.  Stir this until the gelatin dissolves.  Be careful to make sure the water doesn't boil as this will spoil the setting later.
Pour the orange juice into the warmed sugar water and heat through.
Finally, add the gelatin and stir through, keeping warm and ensuring everything has dissolved.
Place the orange halves on a muffin tray.  This will keep them steady as they cool.
Place a sieve over a jug and pour the jelly mix through.  This will get rid of any remaining pith from the orange.

Slowly pour the jelly into the orange halves and then place in the fridge to set for 4 hours.
Once set, remove the orange from the fridge and carefully cut each slice in half.  Trim any rind so that the "boats" are uniform.

Decorate small paper squares with whatever images or stickers you so wish. You can use wrapping paper or printed off images if you wish too.  Carefully pierce the paper with the cocktail stick so as to make a flag.  You can cut the sail to a more rounded shape if you wish, or leave it square.

Place the flags in the boats and away you go!

Ahoy me hearty!

How to Make a Paper Butterfly Display

I love summer.

The flowers that bloom brightly in the garden.  The sound of the kids laughing as they splash in the paddling pool and run around the garden in nothing but their birthday suits and sun hats.  I love the clear blue skies and the beautiful butterflies that float in the air.

When I was younger I had the most beautiful cat, called Lady C, who was all white, with long, thick fur and a personality like no other.  She was born deaf, as a lot of white cats are, and so she never mastered the skill of catching birds or other such creatures, as she would plod along loudly, unaware of her complete lack of stealthlike features.

What she could catch, however, were butterflies.  Or flutterbys, as we used to call them.  She would spring around the garden until she managed to trap one under her paw.  Then, slowly, she would peer down at her captive. Being a creature of a curious nature, she would ever so hesitantly lift one claw at a time to see her prey, only for the flutterby to flitter and flutter up in the air, carrying on, unharmed, on it's merry way and so the chase would begin again.

Capturing these beautiful creatures would be a travesty to me.  The only place for butterflies are in the skies, but sometimes you can do the next best thing with a little but of arts and crafts.  I was inspired, once again, by my incredibly talented and clever old school friend, Tessa, from Down That Little Lane, in making this.  She made one for her daughter's bedroom a long time ago and said it was incredibly easy, and it was.

This was a really fun project that the kids and I did together, and the results are fantastic.  I hope you have as much fun making it as we did.

What you will need

A butterfly stamp (We used a 2" stamp, bought from a craft store)
Paint or Crayons
A deep recessed picture frame
A glue stick

How we did it

We took full advantage of the beautiful weather and I rolled out some paper and Miss Boo and I poured paint into a dish and got busy with the paint brushes.

Sometimes Boo got a little bored of paper and decided to paint the toys.....

We hung up the paper on the washing line to allow it to dry.

Once dry, Master Bob got busy with the butterfly stamp.

We made sure we had lots of different cut outs to choose from.

We then mounted the chosen butterflies onto some cream paper using our glue stick. I folded them ever so gently, without creasing the paper, so as to give them a slightly rounded look.  I then glued them down through the centre, leaving the wings free.

And finally placed the mounted butterflies into the frame.

Wonderfully easy and really pretty.

Cook's Staple - Bolognese

This is a classic bolognese sauce - serve with pasta of your choice.
450 gm minced beef
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick of celery, cut into small slices
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 beef stock cube
400 gm tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
300 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
2 bay leafs.
Olive oil

In a large saucepan, cook onion until soft (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and stir.
Add minced beef and cook until meat has turned brown.
Add carrot and celery. Stir.
Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.  Stir in the herbs.
Dissolve stock cube in boiling water and add to pan.
Bring to boil, place a lid on saucepan then lower heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring often.
Remove lid, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with  pasta.
Can add grated Parmesan according to personal preference.

How to make a Chocolate Birthday Cake

This is a fabulously easy cake to make.  I made it for a friend's 11 year old daughter, and it went down a treat.

For the Cake
5oz/ 140gm Self Raising Flour
6oz/ 170gm Golden Caster Sugar
6oz/ 170 gm Butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Baking Powder
1oz/ 25gm Cocoa Powder
3 Eggs (large)
For the Icing
3.5 oz/ 100gm Milk Chocolate
3.5oz/ 100gm Dark Chocolate
150 ml Double Cream
To Decorate
Chocolate rolling icing
Mini Marshmallows
Giant Chocolate Buttons
White Chocolate Writing Icing
Set the oven to 170C and grease and line two 8" round cake tins.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
In another bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.
Finally, beat the eggs and add the vanilla extract and mix.
Slowly add a little egg to the creamed butter and sugar.  Add a large spoonful of flour and mix well.   Continue alternating between the egg and flour until all mixed together to form a smooth batter.  If needed, add a tablespoon of cold water to ensure a smooth mix.
Spoon the batter between the two lined tins until it is evenly distributed and fills the tins smoothly.
Tap the tins gently before putting in the oven to make sure the batter settles smoothly and place in the oven on the centre shelf.
Cook for 25 minutes, or until the cakes are cooked through and spring back when touched gently on top.  If you insert a skewer into the centre it should come out clean.
Remove from oven and and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the cakes are nearly cool, start making the icing.
Break the chocolate into a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of boiling water, being careful to ensure the water doesn't touch the bowl.
Add the cream and stir gently until all the chocolate has melted.
Roll out the chocolate fondant icing over a cake board. (I used a 12" x 14" cake board and used  a small flower cutter to decorate)
Place one of the cakes on the board and spoon over half of the melted icing.
Add the other cake on top and spoon over the rest of the icing, gently pouring the melted chocolate over the sides until it is completely covered.
Drizzle any remaining icing around the cake.
Decorate with the mini marshmallows and chocolate buttons.
Write your birthday message and you are done!

How to make a child's wig-wam

My son, Bob, is about to turn 4 years old.  FOUR YEARS OLD!!!
If you had told me straight after his birth that the time would fly, I would have laughed maniacally in your face.  His was not an easy journey into this world and the start of parenthood seemed to slow time down, not speed it up.  And yet here we are!  Four years down the line and the little man is a walking, talking dream.
For his birthday party we decided to go with a Peter Pan theme.  What better place to escape to than Neverland?  Pirates, Lost Boys, Indians and Fairies!  A plethora of possibility for fancy dress and decoration.
For the Indian area I decided that we would make Wig-Wams out of card and stick them on the wall, but I also wanted a real Wig-Wam for the kids to run in and out of and enjoy.
How to make a wig-wam?  I searched the internet high and low until I stumbled on the wonderful world of Cherry Menlove.  She is an amazing, inspiring and truly beautiful lady who blogs about her life, her home, her love and her crafts.  She is going through a really tough journey at the moment and so any thoughts and well wishes are gratefully received her end.
I pretty much decided to follow Cherry as near to the letter as I could.  My fabric sizes are different and where I didn't have the same materials I had to 'make do and mend', but the result is great.  A home made Wig-Wam for the party and beyond.

You will need:
3 Broom Handles (120 cm long)
2 pieces of fabric measuring 150cm x 112cm (or up to 130cm if you can find it) - these are the walls
2 pieces of fabric measuring 100cm x 112cm (or up to 130cm if you can find it) - these are the doors
1 piece of fabric 50 cm x 25 cm
1 hot glue gun (or in our case, a tube of 'Hard As Nails')
1 metre of 1.5 inch ribbon
Firstly, double hem all the material, all the way around, to a 2 cm hem.
Asking someone to give you a hand and then set the broom handles together and tie with twine.  When you have got the handles tied securely, use either a hot glue gun (or superglue of some sort) to keep the twine in place.  Allow to dry.

Place the fabric along the floor, door to wall, wall to wall, wall to door.
Using a pair of scissors or a hole punch, cut or punch ten holes down the sides of the hems of the door to wall, wall to wall and wall to door hems.   Don't go all the way to the bottom of the hem as you will want to leave some room for the fabric to flow.
Cut 30 pieces of twine, around 5" long.
Tie the the twine through the holes.
Take the piece of fabric that is 50cm x 25cm and fold in half.  Sew along the hem, leaving a 1.5 cm hem, all around, leaving a small gap to turn the fabric inside out.  Close the gap once reversed and sew shut.  This your ribbon for the top of the wig-wam.
Take the fabric and slowly bunch it up at the top, pleating the material until it goes around the wig-wam.  Use the ribbon to tie off.

Take some of the bows out from the holes and tie around the broom handles, and re-bow.  This makes the material more secure.
Cut the 1m ribbon into 12 equal strips.  Fold in half and sew onto the bottom of the wig-wam walls.  These are for tent pegs when out in the garden, to avoid any fly away wig-wams!
You can use additional twine to tie the doors back if you so wish.