Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pirate Treasure Chest Birthday Cake

Little Chick's Birthday cake was a Pirate Treasure Chest Cake and I've finally got round to writing about it!  This was really not difficult to make, particularly as it's mainly rectangular in shape.  I made a chocolate date cake in a large rectangular baking tray.  I love how the dates keep the cake moist and sweet without being sickly sweet and go so well with the cocoa chocolatey yumminess. 

Here is my recipe for the Chocolate Date Cake
 (I've adapted a few date cake and chocolate cake recipes I like to come up with this one which seems to work well and turns out very yummy!)

225g dates (stoned and chopped)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g butter
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs
185g self raising flour
40g cocoa

Preheat the oven to 180 oC/160 oC fan.  
Put the dates in a saucepan and just cover them with water.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda and stir.  The mixture should fizz and may change colour to a dark green. Leave it to cool.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time with a bit of flour with each to stop the mixture curdling.  Fold in the flour and add the date mixture.  The batter may be quite runny but that's OK.

Pour the mixture into a lined rectangular baking tin 33cm x 23cm and bake until cake has risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean, usually about 20-30 min (it depends a bit on how runny the mixture is as I don't measure the amount of water I add to the dates so it's not always the same - I prefer to just keep a eye on the cake whilst cooking.  Why I can't just follow an exact recipe I don't know!)

Once it was cooled I trimmed the edges straight and cut it in half.  Placing one half on top of the other.

To get the tilt of the treasure chest lid I placed the offcuts about a third of the way back and then repositioned the top half of the cake.

I then iced it all over using a chocolate glaze adapted from the Green and Blacks Chocolate Cookbook (I substituted some of the dark chocolate for milk chocolate and added a bit extra icing sugar to make it a bit sweeter.

Chocolate Glaze Recipe:
80g dark chocolate
20g milk chocolate
40g butter (softened)
6 tbsp water
150g icing sugar

Melt the chocolate, add the icing sugar and then the butter and mix.  Finally add the water and mix to a smooth paste.  Use the glaze whilst still warm - too hot and it will run, too cold and it's won't spread.

I then added gold chocolate coins all along the edge of the lid and I used puffed rice/ Rice Krispies to do the straps of the chest.

Finally I added brown sugar for the sand around the bottom of the cake.

One simple birthday cake and a very happy little pirate birthday girl!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Ice Cube Fabric Painting

We been making of the most of some gorgeous hot and sunny weather and spending as much time as possible outside in the garden.  Today we had fun painting with ice cubes, using a mix of natural dyes and food colouring, painting onto fabric.  

Natural dyes are everywhere (if you know where to look) - made from plants in the garden, spices from the cupboard or left over food they can produce some amazing colours for painting or dyeing fabric.  I'd love to learn more about this and experiment with different dyes.  But as this was our first attempt we kept it simple with raspberries, onion skins and some blue and green food colouring.   

The raspberries were crushed up and cooked in a tiny amount of water and then put through a muslin to get the liquid.  For the onion skin dye I simmered a load of onion skins in water for about 30 minutes and allowed to stand overnight then used the drained liquid for the dye.  The blue and green ones were just food colouring with water (and I can't remember what I used to make the brown coloured ones!)  I then put them in an ice cube tray and looked forward to a sunny day!

With the gorgeous sunny weather today I thought it was be an ideal opportunity to try these paints out.  So we took the ice cubes out of the freezer and laid out a large piece of old white fabric on the lawn.

We did a bit of painting with them

And also a bit of watching them melt in the heat of the sun and watch the lovely patterns radiating out.  

This was a great opportunity to watch science in action with all the solid to liquid changes and the colour mixing as the fabric absorbed the dye.

Whilst the fabric was still wet.

As it was drying - so many beautiful colours. 

Once it had dried.  
I have no idea whether the dye needs fixing for it not to wash out, but it looks lovely at the moment and I don't plan to wash it any time soon.

Close up, you can see the beautiful patterns where the colours have mixed.

I'd love to experiment with some other dyes sometime and I also thought it would be fun to make some edible frozen paints for Shoeshine to enjoy, exploring taste and colour - a bit of licking and a bit of painting!  Let's hope for a long summer of lovely weather to try some of these out.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Play Dough Cake Shop: Part 2

Following on from our fun with making and decorating play dough cakes, Little Chick has been asking to do this again.  So the other week we had lots of fun making some more play dough cakes and also doing a bit of role play with our very own Play Dough Cake Shop.

There was lots of preparation to do and cakes to be made.  Lots of baking and cake decorating.

Shoeshine got busy decorating some of the cakes that had already come out of the oven.

The girls spent absolutely ages making their cakes. 

We had strawberry muffins with chocolate decorations and chocolate-mint cupcakes.

We had raspberry cakes.

And more chocolate cakes.

We displayed some of the cakes on the girls' toy cake stand.

And there were more cakes with lots of different sorts of icing and sweets and decorations on them.

Little Chick also wanted some lollies to be added to the cake shop, so we had chocolate and strawberry lollies on sticks.  

Finally the cake shop was fully stocked.  Whilst they were making their cakes I had made a cake shop sign and got some money out in a little pot.  So the shop was ready to open to customers.

Everyone had to visit the shop.

We all bought and ate a lot of cakes!

There was a great bit of role play, choosing items, letting the customer know what you had to buy, taking the money and giving change.

Little sis also got to buy some cakes from the shop.

After a bit the girls decided they need to branch out and start making birthday cakes for customers.

And Daddy was a very willing recipient of 'happy birthday' and a chance to blow out the 'candles'. 

This was such a lot of fun and the play went on for ages and since then playing cake shop has been requested numerous times by Little Chick.  The play is getting more detailed with requested for pen and paper for recording orders and specified opening times and wanting to branch out the business into a cafe & cake shop serving teas and coffees with the cakes!  You gotta love how versatile playdough is for creative play!  

Featured at Tuesday Tots on Rainy Day Mum

Friday, 18 May 2012

Welcome to our new arrival!

We're absolutely thrilled with the arrival of the newest member of our family!
  Ephraim Joel was born last Friday on May 11th 2012 weighing 8lb 6.5oz.  

We feel so blessed and thank God for the amazing miracle of this new life and his safe arrival.

We're all totally in love with him already and can't wait to get to know him more.

I can't wait to see what's in store for him with two big sisters! (and I can't wait to be challenged and stretched with how to nurture, play and be creative with a little boy as well as our two beautiful girls as they all grow.)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Kids Get Arty Link-Up: Suerat & Pointillism with toddlers and preschoolers - Cotton Bud Painting

As part of the Kid's Get Arty Link-up we decided to have a go at some pointilism art, or for those who don't like big words - spotty dotty art painting with cotton buds!

  Kid's Get Arty Link-up is a bi-monthly linky, all about exploring art, having fun together and there are no right or wrongs - perfect!  It's hosted by some fabulous blogs Red Ted Art, The Imagination TreeImagination Soup, Mom 2 Posh Lil Divas, Creative with Kids and Tinkerlab and we're very excited to be taking part.

We've been loving this series of Katie books that explore some of the great artists and their paintings in a really fun and imaginative way.  One of our favourites is this one, Katie and the Bathers all about exploring pointillism (and Katie nearly gets in trouble for flooding the gallery with the water from all those pictures of bathing and swimming.)  So we started off exploring pointillism by reading the story and then having a look at some pictures of pointillism art on the computer.  We talked about how the pictures were made up of lots and lots of dots.

Little Chick got the paints ready, having chosen the colours.

And she got busy with the dots.

And more dots

Shoeshine also got busy with her cotton buds,

making lots of dots and lines and patterns.  
Cotton buds are great for toddlers to do painting with.

Mummy also had a go with some dot painting and we chatted about how all the dots together formed a picture.

Shoeshine loved choosing the colours and painting her picture.

Here is Little Chick's finished picture. 

Here is Shoeshine's finished picture.

To be honest looking at the finished pictures you'd probably never guess we were doing pointillism, but that's missing the point, this was not about a fixed finished product but about having fun exploring a different way of creating art, using dots. And I LOVE using cotton buds for painting with little ones, it's such a simple way to do painting particularly with toddlers when you haven't got the time or energy to make lots of mess.

Be sure to check out other people ideas at the Link-up.

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