I love a bit of messy play with Monkey, it is usually great fun and also a great way for him to learn. It is one of my favourite things, as a SAHM to be able to do these things with him. Sometimes though…. it really doesn’t go as well as I would hope. Last week is a good example of this.
I read a great post a couple of weeks ago about playing with coloured foam. It wasn’t something I had seen before so we definitely hadn’t tried it. It looked great, the blogger’s little one loved it and all went well. So, one afternoon last week I decided we should give it a go. It did not go quite so well for us.
It’s Mummy’s birthday today, and because I’ve been off with the Monkey and Mummy over Easter, and have a couple of extra days off as well, I thought it was time I put my creative juices to the test, and make Mummy a birthday card, with Monkey’s help of course.
Now, my day job is very much office-based. There’s more management in my day than there used to be, but essentially I am a keyboard warrior, and pretty much always have been.
I do love doing crafty things, and love gardening and making things, and cooking, but I really have never been that creative, so the Creative Challenge really is for me!
I always have an idea in my head of what I want things to look like, but it’s normally quite vague at the same time, and translating it into something actually in front of me is where I really struggle.
I can look at something and say whether its good or bad, the problem is that I rarely look at anything I have made and think it looks good!
So, onto the card making. Mummy and Monkey have been doing a lot of card making recently, and I decided to go with the “Monkey Random Painting Generator” technique. As you bloggers and blog-readers have probably already seen, Monkey loves to paint, and he loves to mix the colours – a LOT.
He just can’t let those paints sit all nice and neat together.
It starts like above, and then very quickly gets to this (check out the Monkey-Eye-View below).
But it does make for some really interesting patterns which can be great for card making.
Check out those colour combos!
So Monkey has made all the ingredients for the card, it’s now up to me to make it. I’ve decided to make this a card from Monkey to Mummy, and the only thing I have had in my head is to try and make something with a birthday cake on it.
Throughout the day, as I have been waiting for the paintings to dry, I wondered if I could make a shape that looked enough like a cake, and tried to think about how to do some candles for it.
Note that at this point I have no idea what else is going to go on the card – I think I’ll wing it! For such a serious planner, there are times where I just “do it on the night”. Looks like this is one of those times.
Ok here’s what I have to work with.
Lots to choose from so as you can see I have cut out the shape for the cake, and also had what I hope will be a great idea for the candles, by taking that fiery looking bit to use the yellow for the the flames.
They don’t look bad!
Here’s the cake all stuck down.
One candle left, oh well.
Here’s where the wheels fall off the wagon.
Mummy likes hearts and stars, so I try to cut some out, and, well, they are rubbish.
After several attempts at hearts, I finally get something that does look half decent, and decide to cut out an “I heart U” style motif. Stupidly though, I write the message on the front of the card without thinking about where everything is going to go, so I have a choice of where to put the other bits.
So I haven’t cut out the star yet, and still aren’t sure which of the above designs to go with, but I’m pretty happy with both really. It will all come down to the star I cut out.
I thought the heart was difficult…
I started by reminding myself of the classic freehand, single-stroke star.
I then started cutting with scissors, and kept looking back at this star for guidance, thinking I should surely be able to do something that looks a bit like it (not that my drawing is very good).
But then, I have no idea how, but as soon as I have finished cutting it out, I realise that despite spending ages cutting carefully and looking back at the star above, I have randomly cut out a Star of David instead! WTF?
I mean how on earth do you accidentally cut out a 6 point star instead of a 5 point star? Hello?
Anyway, after several other tries later and a few swear words, I have something I’m happy enough with to go on the card.
So here it is. The finished card. Now, I know it’s not good, but I am just hoping Mummy can see that it was made with love, and see that it really took some effort (despite how random and slapdash it actually looks!).
I hope you enjoyed the first Daddy Post. I promise not to come back too often – Mummy clearly has more skills on the blogging and Creative Challenge front than me – but this has been great fun to write and to share my little attempt at creativity!
This week I am linking an old post about a failed messy play attempt from about a year ago.
A few weeks ago I saw some other posts about playtime with water beads – but up until then I had never heard of them before! Designed for keeping plants watered they come in little pouches and are tiny until you soak them in water, when they gradually expand. The ones I bought said 4 hours so I did them overnight.
It is funny stuff, looks a bit like frogspawn, though is a bit bigger!
I chose the blue as I had visions of Monkey playing with it along with cloud dough, so it would be a bit like sea and sand. I got the Tuff Spot out and we had a go. As I expected Monkey was a little wary and unsure of how they felt at first.
He seemed to be having fun, but I was quite surprised at how easily they got smushed or broken up by his little feet and fingers, I hadn’t read about that on anyone else’s post! It’s part of the fun though I guess, Monkey like smushing them up more than anything, though he wasn’t that keen on them getting stuck to his feet!
He had a bit of a play, but unfortunately he got bored really fast.
And after about 10 minutes he was desperately trying to get out of the tuff spot, so I had to strip him off, clean his hands and feet and let him go. I was gutted, all the effort and all that mess for about 10 minutes, took me longer to clean up afterwards
I will try again with it as I have read lots of posts about kids enjoying it, and it’s not like he hated it… but it’s always a bit disheartening when you plan a new playtime or messy play activity and it just doesn’t go the way you hoped it would!
Have you had many play ideas like this, which haven’t worked out the way you’ve hoped?
I may have mentioned once or twice the challenges I have faced with making chocolate brownies with mini creme eggs. I have seen recipes for them with a big creme egg halved and sat on top of the brownie, and my friend even has a recipe for those that works. Apparently though that is too easy for me.
Is this possible??
For ages I have been seeing pictures of gorgeous brownies where they have cut through a mini creme egg and the fondant is there giving this lovely image. Here’s a picture I found on google.
NOTE: THIS IS NOT COOKED OR TAKEN BY ME
I have now tried 4 times to get a result similar to this. I winged it first, then I followed a couple of different recipes. No matter what happened though, even when the brownie itself was sill raw, the fondant melted and all we were left with was empty shells! I was starting to think that it is actually impossible and that the images were somehow faked (I’m sure they aren’t, this was just the depth of my despair with my baking).
And then, finally, we have something resembling success.
It’s still a bit hit and miss, there are some empty shells, some nearly empty shells, but (hooray) there are some with fondant in! Wahooo!!
So here is my recipe for some, not so perfect, but ever so tasty Mini Creme Egg Brownies. Before I go any further, step 1 – the trick, it would seem, is to put your mini creme eggs IN THE FREEZER. Ours have been in the freezer for a couple of days. I have tried them in the fridge and at room temperature, and personally, only way I have got them to remotely work, was by freezing them first!
2oz Plain Chocolate (I use Bournville)
4oz Milk Chocolate
2 x 89g Bags Mini Creme Eggs – FROZEN
8oz Caster Sugar
2 large eggs
2oz Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Line the base of a well greased oblong tin with greaseproof paper, allowing the paper to come up 2 inches above the rim of the tin.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over simmering water on a low heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Once the chocolate and butter have melted, add to the egg/sugar and mix.
Add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix gently but thoroughly.
Spread the mixture evenly in the tin. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the brownie is in the oven, take the mini creme eggs out of the freezer and unwrap (they are actually easier to unwrap when cold I find). Monkey had been ‘helping’ me bake and at this point I realised, he was COVERED in chocolate!
After 15 minutes is up, take the brownie out of the oven and quickly place the eggs into the brownie, evenly, or hodge podge, depending on what you prefer!
Bake for a further 13 minutes. Check the brownie is cooked by inserting a sharp knife or cocktail stick into the brownie, if it comes out clear then it is cooked! Times can vary according to ovens so it is worth checking!!
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool, then I left it to cool on a cooling tray for a little longer and then popped the whole thing in the fridge for a bit. Not sure if that helped set the fondant again but who knows!
When it has thoroughly cooled cut and see whether the fondant has evaporated! Hopefully yours will be better than mine. One of the problems with the whole slicing into the egg is that actually the top of the egg caves in when you slice through it as it is quite brittle once it has been melted. So I really don’t know how the other recipes I have seen have managed to have these whole eggs sliced perfectly with the fondant in the exact condition as it would have been….. but then, I am no master baker!!
Give these a try though, they are very very yummy even if they aren’t 100% how I wanted them to turn out!!
I’m always on the lookout for improvements, so may try and do them in a slightly smaller tin next time, so they are deeper… and may change the timings slightly so the creme eggs are literally int here for 10 mins. I am happy with these taste wise though and I’m not really sure I have the energy to try them again for a while, so I thought I would share the recipe with you now
I think this word is perfect for this week as there is more than one meaning.
Starting with the positives, I have been trying out new things this week, starting with my website redesign and then my new linky the Creative Challenge which went live on Wednesday (and is still open if anyone has been creative this week and fancies joining in?)
Monkey has also been trying more with his speech, yep at 21 months we have no words, I know it’s within the normal range but I really want him to talk. And he’s getting closer, I really believe it. I say something and sometimes he tries to say it back. Onion = Oeeeaaa, Garlic = Garya, Zip =Zzzzz. Just a few examples and I know he’s not there yet, but he is trying, which means the world to me.
On to the not so positive side…
I’ve also been trying to find the perfect recipe to make creme egg brownies. This has been a very trying experience as I keep failing! Seriously, how hard can it be? First off I tried to wing it, big mistake, you can read more about that here if you like. The next time though, I followed a recipe and if anything, they turned out worse and we actually threw most of them away!
Not only did they look appalling but they didn’t taste good either, really greasy, there was just way too much butter in them. Such a waste of good chocolate, butter, sugar etc. The worst of it was that I attempted to bake these as a way of cheering me and Monkey up on a very trying day where we were both grumpy. Eating all the chocolate and butter and sugar definitely cheered him up, but it certainly did not improve my mood that day!!
It’s my own fault as I wanted to be clever and have mini creme eggs that were within the brownie mixture, rather than full size creme eggs that are kind of sat on top of the brownie. I don’t like to be beaten though so I will be trying again soon. Hopefully I will get it right one day!!
Another trying experience this week was our attempt to cut Monkey’s hair. This is not a fun experience, in fact it is downright stressful. He hates it and cries and squirms and shakes his head about so it’s basically impossible for it to end up looking ok. I know we could take him to the hairdressers, but honestly if we can’t get him to sit still long enough (even with the help of daddy, his fave tv shows, scrummy treats to eat) how the heck would we do it at the hairdressers?
Anyway, this is as good as we could get it.
It looks ridiculous! And I managed to scrape the side of his face with the scissors scare me so much!
So yes this week has been partly about trying new things, but it has also been very trying!
Next up in my Becoming a Stay at Home Mum Survival Kit I’m talking about perfection… or rather the lack of it.
I don’t believe in perfect. I really don’t. I mean I guess that in science there may be some things that are perfect – a perfect circle etc. But in people? Nope. I don’t believe perfect exists. Perfect partner, perfect marriage, perfect parent? It’s just not possible, no matter how hard you try. Because we are human beings and we make mistakes. We aren’t superhuman and able to juggle everything that life throws at us without a slip up now and then.
So aim to be the best you can be, by all means, but don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect.
God that sounds simple doesn’t it? If only it was that easy to do! To just know you’re doing the best you can and be happy and proud of that. I am trying really hard to be more like that. To not put so much pressure on myself to be ‘perfect.’ But I am coming to realise that I am a perfectionist even though I don’t believe in perfect. How ridiculous is that?
I like to succeed and I want to do well. I love baking and I want everything I make to turn out like it does in the books or on the website. But it hardly ever does! I am enjoying learning to crochet and thankfully it is a very forgiving craft but even then some things end up wonky or not how I imagine them. I love to write and am enjoying my blog. I used to be a proofreader as part of my previous job but I very often have spelling mistakes and typos in the blog posts I publish – no matter how many times I check and re-read them. So frustrating!
I try to be a perfect mum. As a SAHM this is my job now and I want to do well at it. I want to keep the house spotless, to have a well behaved and happy child at all times. I want to never shout at him, to never swear in front of him and always give him 100% of my attention while somehow also managing to do all of the other things I want to do. Cook, bake, crochet, clean, blog, read. All while being being well presented and happy myself. Do you see how ridiculous this sounds when you see it typed out? Pfff no wonder I don’t succeed. No wonder I sometimes feel like a failure. I have unrealistic expectations!
So you know what, occasionally, when I’m tired or have PMT, I shout at Monkey. I hate it and feel guilty afterwards but I am not perfect and I shout sometimes.
Sometimes, things go wrong. Something I am baking doesn’t quite work out and I have to throw it away, or eat it anyway and try to make it better next time.
Sometimes I don’t follow the crochet pattern properly, or something doesn’t work out the way I want so I have to unpick it or start again.
Sometimes, when I hurt myself or something goes wrong, or someone annoys me in the car, I swear in front of him. I hate it (it’s so weird my whole attitude to swearing had changed since he was born and I hate hearing it now – anyway post for another day!) but I do it.
My pile of shame..
Sometimes the house is a mess. I haven’t figured out the best routines for keeping on top of it. There’s quite often a pile of laundry to be sorted (I don’t iron). I hate dust. Why does it even exist? It winds me up.
Sometimes Monkey is grumpy. Sometimes he tests his boundaries and throws a tantrum in a shop (cue dirty looks from passers by) but you know what? He’s not perfect either. If I can have off days, so can he. It does’t mean I’m a terrible parent or that I’m doing something wrong if he throws a tantrum.
Some days (okay, most days) my hair is a mess and I can’t be bothered to put make-up on. I have play-doh smushed into my jeans and dribble all over my shoulder.
I need to stop trying to be perfect. Although I console myself that in striving for perfection at least I am doing the best I can. I just need to be more realistic and less hard on myself for not being able to achieve something that isn’t possible.
The Theme for The Theme Game this week is Cake! This has got to be my favourite theme so far, by miles!
Early days of baking
As you may have seen on my blog before I do enjoy a bit of baking since I have become a SAHM, but this wasn’t always the case, and I rarely get it right first time! I had never even baked a cake before I met my hubby 31/2 years ago! I love cooking and am quite slapdash whereas there is a science to baking which scared me, and I still don’t understand. You can’t just throw in a bit of this or that like you do with cooking as it can make it go horribly wrong!
I am definitely a recipe follower rather than a recipe writer but even then I can get it massively wrong! Hubby is a much better baker than I am and he taught me the basics.The first time we baked together, it didn’t go very well as what I thought was a tub of sugar turned out to be salt, so we had a very salty cake batter! Thankfully we tasted it before we cooked it so we could start again and we ended up with quite a nice cake in the end.
I got bitten by the baking bug after that and have spent the last couple of years trying things out. We spent a lot of time baking in the run up to our wedding as we didn’t have a traditional cake. We asked our mums to bake our favourite cakes and then we made (with the help of one of our lovely friends) lots of cupcakes and the top tier. It was all very bright coloured and imperfect but we loved it. There was so much cake!
I’ve enjoyed expanding my repertoire and trying out new things and I’ve definitely learnt that if it goes wrong the first time, learn from it and try try again! As you can see with our fave Chocolate Cake recipe and the Red Velvet cake, it’s taken more than one go to perfect the method. Other times, like with the Angel Food Cake, I fluke it and it goes well first time!
Doing it wrong! D’oh!
Today is a great example of where I was over-confident and then messed it up royally! I decided to make some Cadburys Creme Egg Brownies. I’ve found some great recipes online – but I decided, in all my wisdom, that instead of following one of these tried and tested recipes, I would wing it a bit and use our existing fudge brownie recipe and then just chuck in some creme eggs. It didn’t get off to the best start when I didn’t even follow that recipe correctly! I was supposed to melt the butter and chocolate together, but I just melted the choc and then had to fish the butter out of all the flour etc and then melt it. Definitely an oops moment!
Then, well it just didn’t work! The creme eggs melted completely so that the gooey centre just infused the whole brownie. It was still very tasty but pretty chewy and you got these lovely egg shells randomly throughout. Not what I intended but hey ho, I’ll know better next time. Note that I am all mellow and calm about this – well I’m sure hubby would testify to my stomping around the kitchen grumbling and berating myself for being so stupid. I can be quite hard on myself sometimes in the moment but usually get more rational when I’ve calmed down a bit!
So, if you think that you can’t bake as you’re hopeless in the kitchen, you really should give it a go because if I can do it then anyone can!
Here’s a very simple recipe to get you started, but even if it doesn’t g0 too well, never mind, try, try again and think about all the cake you get to eat while you try and perfect it. (I actually have to limit my baking these days or I will put all the weight I have lost back on!)
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until light and creamy.
You can either use this to make fairy cakes or a sponge cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on your oven). It should be golden and if you press gently in the middle of the cake it should bounce back.
Do you bake? Or do you prefer eating cakes? Have you had as many baking fails as me?
You may or may not have read that I have set myself a Creative Challenge to be more creative with Monkey’s playtime and to allow him to explore his creativity more at the same time. I know I am not alone in my fears about messy play but I am trying my best to brave with this challenge. (Please click here if you would like to join the challenge!)
With V day coming up I thought it was a perfect opportunity to be a bit creative. Hubby and I don’t really do valentines day but I thought that Monkey’s Nanny and Grandma might appreciate a card from him. So using an idea I’ve nabbed from Baked Potato Mummy I decided to do some cutting and sticking. I cut out some heart shapes and tore up some tissue paper in suitable valentines colours.
I was going to try and do the gluing on the hearts before Monkey joined in as I was worried how he would get on with the glue… but well I failed and my child is far too clever for me. He always seems to know when I am doing something I don’t want him to know about. I think it’s a combination of me being rubbish at being sly and the fact that he wants to know what is going on ALL the time to make sure he’s not missing out!
So anyway he came to find out what was going on and was immediately obsessed with the glue bottle and lid….
…even while I was trying to get him interested in sticking things (he loves stickers so I thought he would love it, but, no). He eventually had fun blobbing the glue on the card, but he didn’t want to stick the tissue paper down.
And then, well I’m not really sure why, I think he thought I was trying to take the glue away from him (he was getting annoyed with having sticky hands so was trying to help!) but he started bawling. Properly bawling. As if his world was ending. For ages. For apparently no reason.
After a while I got out some little foam bits and he cheered up instantly – and played with them for a bit and then went to off to play-doh. (Kids, eh?)
So well, here are the valentines cards… but I’m ashamed to say that aside from a little bit of glue dobbing, I made them (eye roll). Not a great start to the Creative Challenge! I’ve tried to console myself that it was good sensory play, and good fine motor control practice, but, well, really it was a big fat fail wasn’t it? haha oh well, you’ve got to laugh! Maybe I will try something slightly less ambitious for our next messy play!
The upside was that when my little bro, Uncle Marky, came round for a play after work, the two of them had a whale of a time playing with the tissue paper, throwing it up in the air and all around! haha They were at it for ages! Silver lining and all that!
The Creative Challenge linky will open on the LAST WEDNESDAY of every month – so 26th February. I hope your creative challenge is going better than mine is so far! Two weeks to go! Click here to find out more!!
I’m also linking up with Kid GLloves and Mini creations… though all Monkey really made was a mess sorry guys! xx
Part four in my series - Becoming a Stay at Home Mum Survival Kit. This week the theme is Creativity – and no, I don’t mean the arts and crafts side of creativity. You don’t have to be a budding artist or writer to be a good mummy (though there are many that are). But sometimes a pinch of creativity can really help as a parent.
What do I mean? I am talking diversionary tactics! Who knew you had to be a military strategist as a parent?
Picture this. I’m out on a walk with Monkey and he gets it in his little head that he wants to go down a different path to the one that I am leading him. I start walking one way, he another. His feet are planted firmly on the ground and he is on the verge of a meltdown. For my part I am on the verge of exasperation – I know that path leads to Grandma’s house (and the promise of biscuits), which is why he wants to go that way. I try to cajole, to persuade and nothing, just lots of pointing and shaking of his head.
What to do? The battle is about to commence. There’s a famous quote from the Japanese Military Strategist Sun Tzu:
“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
It’s time to get a bit creative. I look around and see a tree and I am off to hide behind it. Thankfully Monkey loves a bit of hide and seek and he soon is running to find me with a huge grin on his face, I jump out and raaa! Then I am on to the next tree, and so on, you get the idea. Wahoo! Victory without any blood (or tears) being shed!
There isn’t always a tree about which is why I have to be creative to find something to distract him. He really is a stubborn little soul though and some times are harder than others, the same thing doesn’t work every time. So as a mummy you have to think on your feet and be a bit creative. Sometimes I try and persuade him to chase his ball and give it a good kick, other times I tempt him to come with me with the promise of watching the cars and buses from the top of the pedestrian bridge near our house.
It doesn’t always work though, no matter how creative you try to be! The other day I tried to pretend that Postman Pat was eating and enjoying the dinner that Monkey had turned his nose up at… he laughed and thought it was funny but it certainly didn’t make him want to eat his dinner! Boo haha ah well, you win some, you lose some!
A bit of creativity can help make your little one feel better when they are hurt or scared too. A friend’s little girl bumped herself coming down the slide and it must have hurt as she was really unhappy. Her clever mummy then announced that a fairy had come and given her some magic cream to make it feel better. She pretended to dab it on and her little girl instantly felt better. It’s amazing the power their imaginations have!
I also find you have to be quite creative when it comes to play ideas and keeping little ones entertained and to help develop those skills. The internet of course is a wonderful place to help find these activities as there are lots of mummies out there who are far more creative than I am! I have found all sorts of things that I would never have come up with on my own, such as Playing with Hair Rollers, Threading cheerios onto Spaghetti, and Ice Cube Painting to name a few!
Being creative can also help with the financial side of parenting, as raising kids can be really expensive! Whether it is using household objects as toys, rummaging in the sales, or bargain hunting on ebay or at car boot sales, using your imagination can help when things get a bit tight.
I have realised that there are so many times that a little bit of creativity can massively help as a parent. Creativity really can be the key to keeping your little ones (and you) happy
What Creative gems can you share? Any diversionary tactics that work with your little ones to avert disaster (or tantrums)? Any magic remedies to fix a boo boo?
What a lovely week we have had! I hope all of you have had a very lovely Christmas too? Monkey has been a very lucky boy and got to spend a lot of time with lots of his favourite people, and got lots of lovely toys! He’s obviously a bit young yet to really understand what was going on or why we were all together giving each other presents, but he loved it nonetheless!
Christmas Day was at our house, it’s our second year hosting Christmas and we’ve got the Christmas Dinner routine down now I think! Before our first shot last year we had lots of practice roasts to make sure we had the timings right, and this year just had one or two alterations/improvements and it all went pretty much perfectly (except that we forgot to buy any bread for Christmas Day teatime, and didn’t have any metal skewers to keep the stuffing in the turkey… luckily a couple of dough hooks worked just as well!! :)) We are perhaps a bit OTT with planning, and have our Christmas Day Plan stuck on the cupboard door, but it works for us and keeps the stress on the day down to an absolute minimum.
Lots of fun was had by all and it was a lovely day with my side of the family
Boxing day was at Hubby’s brother’s house with all of their side of the family and was another lovely day. Much more relaxed as no roast to cook and less presents to be opened, but Monkey still had lots and he loves all of his relatives so he had loads of fun again there.
Not much else to say really, we are enjoying a quiet few days with hubby off work and Monkey playing with all of his new toys! New Year’s Eve will be a quiet affair in our house with a take-away curry and a movie I think, need a rest after the busy week we have had
Happy New Year’s to you all and all the best for 2014!