The preparations for Christmas continue! Santa's sleigh is very special, and even more special when it's made out of sweets :) Here's an old part of a poem about Santa's sleigh:
from: A Visit from Santa (1893)
When, what to to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer, with a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name: "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! "On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! "Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; So up to the house-top the coursers they flew.
During the Christmas holidays, a homemade gingerbread house is great as the centre piece on any table, and they are not as difficult to make as they look! It is also a great way to get kids involved in the Christmas festivities. You can put the basic frame structure together and watch the kids really enjoy decorating with their favourite sweets.
The construction of the gingerbread house is a bit like building a real house :) - you need to plan it properly, you need to make the gingerbread ahead of time, and you need to make it cool in a dry area first. You have to allow plenty of time to put all the pieces of it together.
They can be built from any shapes, but luckily I found a nice box set of shapes in the shop, which makes life much easier :)
As you can see, the kids decorated it with sweets and icing.
Since this is now put together, I imagine I'll have a tough time keeping it standing up until Christmas :)
Ginger bread shapes are great to make with kids, and after making them my home feels warm and cozy with the smell of ginger. Knowing the fun has only just begun after the shapes come out of the oven is the best part! :)
In this case, we made ginger bread numbers, which is a really great (and yummy) way to teach children how to count! We've also put strings through some of them so that later we can hang some of them from the Christmas tree!
Today we took a trip to the Ark Open Farm, in Newtownards. It was a perfect day for it, one of those cold sunny days where you really want to be outside. Also, because it's November, the Ark Open Farm was ideal to bring them to, because they are open all year round.
We started out by loading up the picnic box with lots of yummy healthy food, and started on our drive. It is an easy trip from Belfast, it took us about 25 minutes to get there, and parking was easy outside.
When we got there, we were greeted by a lovely very helpful lady. There were 2 adults and 4 children (2 under 3 years old who go free :) ), so we paid for a family ticket which we thought was great value.
I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable days I've had with the children. You start out in an enclosed yard with various pens and sheds, with little baby chickens, horses, calves etc. You then move walk through to a larger set of pens with alpacas, puppies, sheep, ponies, rabbits, guinea pigs.... the list goes on! It wasn't too crowded, there's a very friendly atmosphere and all children there were so excited and running from animal to animal.
There was plenty of space for them to run around outside also, with a number acres set out for a playground, various outside enclosures and a lake with ducks and geese.
If you get the chance, I would definitely recommend that you go and take a visit! The hardest part of the day was getting the children to say goodbye to the farm :)
The children were really looking forward to this one! So with the excitement building for weeks, and after all the waiting and preparation (making masks and decorations, etc.) Halloween is finally here!!
This was a special one in Dora's house, because some of the children being minded stayed on for the events later in the evening! First up was a party in the house, with lots of spooky dancing to Halloween Radio (Kids) http://www.halloweenradio.net/.
For this party, lots of food was prepared - a spooky cake, some coffin sandwiches, sausage roll spooky mummies, Halloween rainbow cup cakes, a "vegetable" pumpkin, and some scary treats!! When the children were suitably excited, we went outside for supervised trick or treat around our neighbourhood! The neighbours who didn't answer their doors added to the tension and excitement for those who did, and the children were pretty excited by those who did! After 20 minutes we were home, and they were very happy with their bags full of treats!
Next up was a large organised kids outdoor halloween party in Rosetta, with a band on stage (in costume), food, a big bouncy castle and a great view of a fireworks display!! Very good fun!!
All the kids were pretty tired by the time they were dropped home, with big smiles all round - so next up is christmas :)
This is a recipe for nice buns, the kids can draw some nice pictures on them and have a lot of fun making them!
Here are the ingredients I use:
125g soft butter
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup of milk
1 cup of plain flour
1 can of ready caramel
First, you mix the butter with the sugar. Then slowly add all of the other ingredients, mixing as you go.
Place the bun cases into the baking tray, and then place the mixture into each of the cases.
Bake at 180 Degrees for 20 or 25 minutes.
If you like, at this stage you can cut a hole in each of the buns, removing part of the bun with a teaspoon and insert the caramel into each of the holes. Place the spare part of the bun back on top of the caramel.
Then start decorating with the children!
For decoration, you can use different kinds of coloured icing, and let the children decorate with their favourite pictures! We did different ships and boats this time around.
Warm ice cream?? Well it's not really ice cream, it is more of a marshmallow texture. These are nice and easy to make, and the children love them! The recipe is as follows:
Warm ice cream:
3 egg whites
1 and 3/4 cup of sugar
1 tea soon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of water
First, the egg whites, sugar and water are placed in a glass or metal mixing bowl. They are then beaten with a mixer for about 1 minute.
In a pot, a boil a small amount of water and then place the mixing bowl overthe water - it should not touch the surface of the water.
When there is steam coming from the water, continue to whisk in the bowl until there is a sugary foam, for about 12 minutes. The temperature of the foam should (at this stage) be about 70 degrees celcius (don't worry if you do not have a thermometer handy!)
At the end, add in the vanilla extract. Prepare a pastry bag with a round sleeve with a thick cap. Put the foam into it and squeeze a spiral into the cup cones (you can get these in Sainsbury's for £1 for 21 cones!). For each cone, you use about 1/2 cup of foam. After filling the cups with foam, these are placed into your fridge, for the time of preparing the chocolate (or you can keep overnight).
And for the Chocolate mix:
360g dark chocolate (we used 250g milk chocolate and 100g dark)
3 tablespoons of Rapeseed oil (from Sainsbury's this is very good and can be used for other things like baking, dips, salad, and for general frying and is very healthy)
The chocolate and oil placed in a water bath to melt.
This is then poured into a tall cup, and left to stand for 15 minutes to allow it to cool.
After this time, remove the cones from the fridge. Holding the cone, dip them in chocolate. Wait a minute, so that the excess chocolate is bathed, and put onto a spare plate.
Do the rest of the cones the same way, then cool in a fridge for about 2 hours.
You are now finished, and can store them in a fridge for up to 3 days.
It's always a good time for making pizza :) We love home-made pizza in Dora's house, so this is the second time that I'm posting in my blog about pizza making - see my blog post below for the recipe!
So what's so great about pizza??
Well number one on my list is how fun and easy they are to make... The children really love joining in to make the dough, and when the dough is made they can pick and choose what to put onto their pizzas - they can choose their own style, and they can be creative (as long as you have enough ingredients to make them all happy!!)
Also pizza can be good for you if you make it entirely yourself - obviously it is made as a treat, but if the ingredients used are healthy, that can be an added benefit for growing children, especially over other snacks!
What else... the smells, the fact that they can't go far wrong (it generally turns out ok no matter how they make them), the excitement watching it cook in a short time, and the smiles on the children's faces and the contentment when they take their first bite!!
I really recommend making home-made pizza with children! :) Give it a try, and write some comments below if you have some recipe ideas for home made pizza!!!
Now that hallowe'en is just around the corner, it's time for us to start making some masks - maybe not scary ones to start out with :)
We had great fun making simple masks - we tried four this time around, a viking, a mammy bear, a daddy bear and and - well, another bear!
It took a couple of hours in total, it's a good idea to have some designs ready and let the kids choose what they want to be - then draw the outlines, and let them colour them in (for the younger ones, help them colour them in) - and remember to do all the cutting yourself :)
Now to find some scary hallowe'en ones... I'm thinking of trying out some different materials for these to get the kids more involved!
Maybe some witches or vampires!!
Any ideas for masks for hallowe'en? Please post them in the comments section below this blog post, and let me know what you think :)
I don’t know much about Bulgaria (I’ve never there!) but I really love this bread recipe! This recipe is quite difficult to make, but it’s definitely worth it when you see the reactions of people eating it :) This bread is fluffy, and a bit like a bun but less sweet. It is perfect served warm with butter and it’s unbelievably soft for a few days. It also looks really good!
Ok let me start with ingredients (for two breads – you can use half of the below for one bread):
1 kg plain flour (plus 2 cups on hand for dusting and kneading)
3 large eggs and one egg yolk for brushing
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons dry yeast
All ingredients must be at room temperature. Mix the yeast with a spoon of sugar, a spoon of flour and a little bit of warm milk. Put to one side to allow it to rise. Mix the eggs, add salt, milk, sugar and oil. Pour the flour, yeast and lemon juice slowly over the mixture, and mix it thoroughly.
Then put the dough on the table and knead, adding extra flour where necessary. Keep kneading until it begins to stand out from your hands. Make the kneaded dough into a ball shape and place into a bowl. Put somewhere warm for half an hour to allow it to grow, covering it with a towel.
When the dough has doubled in size, you then have to divide it carefully into 4 balls of roughly the same size. As the photograph shows, then you have to take each of these 4 balls and divide them into four. You should now have 16 balls of dough in total.
Now the next bit is the most difficult bit, and this is also the bit that takes the most time. First, you have to roll out 4 of the balls (from the 16) until they are as thin as pancakes about the size of a plate. I will call these "cakes" from here on.
Spread enough flour over each of these cakes so that they don’t stick to the table. If they do stick, carefully the part that has stuck to the table, add back to the dough and use more flour. Then you have to brush melted butter over each of the cakes. Next, fold 4 of these cakes together carefully (on on top of the other), and roll into what looks like a “scroll”.
Then you have to stretch out each of these “scrolls”, slowly and carefully. Do the same for each of the other sets of 4 balls of dough until, in total, you should end up with 4 “scrolls” of roughly the same size.
Taking a small knife, each of these scrolls are then cut into triangles of the same size. The end of the scrolls do not have to be triangular in shape, and can be left as "balls" to be added separately when baking.
Using a round baking tray (30cm is advised but you can use smaller), spread a thin layer of butter inside the tin, then sprinkle with bread crumbs (this will make the outside of the bread crunchy). Lay some of the of the triangles inside the baking tray, and the end of the scrolls (the balls) can be placed in the middle. You can then leave in a warm place to allow to rise for approximately 30 minutes.
The dough is then spread with egg yolk, and sprinkled with sunflower and sesame seeds. In addition, I like to add pumpkin seeds to the top of my version :).
The oven must then be preheated 200 degrees Celcius. The breads are placed in the oven and and baked for about 30 minutes (for the first 20 minutes the bread is baked while covered with tinfoil, and for the last 10 minutes the tinfoil is removed in order for the breads to colour nicely).
Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little bit, and enjoy with your family!
This a great recipe for delicious, healthy and easy-to-make pizza! You can enjoy making this with your family, as you can see from photos I took from my kitchen :)
What you need:
1 tablespoon of instant yeast
1.5 cups of warm water
3.5 cups of plain flour (I've also tried this with wholegrain flour, I tried this last saturday and it's really nice!)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1.5 teaspoons of salt
What you need to do:
First, add the yeast to the water, and stir to mix it through.
Then, sieve the flour to the big bowl.
Make a hole in the center of the flour, then add the water with the yeast.
Add the olive oil and salt, then knead the dough until the dough is smooth.
Once this is done, cover with a cotton tea-towel and put in a warm place for 1 hour until the size doubles.
You then need to punch your dough with your fist (this is great for getting rid of stress :) :) !!)
Then, separate into three even balls.
Put some flour on the counter (or small children's table as we did!) and stretch each ball out into a flat circle. You can try tossing it in the air to make this circle, but be careful to not drop it or stick to the ceiling!
Once it's flattened out into a circle, then you're ready to make your pizza!
From the photos, you can see that we used the following ingredients for our pizzas: For tomato sauce, I mix tomato puree with ketchup to make it spread nice and easy, and kids seem to love the taste of this!
Also we added sliced mushroom, grated white and red cheddar cheese, diced onions, and sliced cherry tomatoes.
First we spread the tomato sauce over each of the pizza bases. Make sure to leave the edges of the pizza base clear! Then we added the mushrooms, the onions, and sliced tomatoes.
Finally, we covered the whole lot with yummy cheese!!
You can also use ham, bacon, brocolli, pineapple, or whatever you and your kids like!
When each of the pizzas are ready, place in the centre of the oven at 260DEG for 15 to 20 minutes each (keep checking to see if they're ready through the oven glass).
When they're done, even though the kids will want them straight away, leave to cool a bit, we don't want burned mouths!
These pizzas go perfect with some nice fruit juice, and are great to eat outside in the sun.
This pizza recipe is very easy and quick to do, a little bit messy for the kids, and is great fun, it's easy to clean up afterwards, so try it and enjoy!!
This is a recipe for bread that I like to make for my family on a Sunday morning. A few years back, a friend of mine passed this recipe to me, and I've been making it since. My family seem to really like it - I hope they're not pretending :)
It's very easy to make, it just needs plain flour, water, sugar, milk, yeast, salt and butter and that's it.
1 cup of milk
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup of water (room temp)
2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt (I use one and a half)
4 cups of plain flour
Spray bottle with water
2 drops of oil
Cook the milk in a saucepan, add the butter and sugar, stir, pour to a mixing bowl afterwards.
Add the cup of water, mix it and cool it for 10 minutes.
Add yeast, salt and one cup of flour and mix. Keep mixing the flour (I use a mixer for this).
Dough will now be soft and sticky (that's the way it should be).
Take a big mixing bowl and oil it. Put the dough in and cover with a tea towel.
Leave somewhere warm until it doubles in size. On your counter, put some flour and carefully take the dough from the bowl. Cut into three pieces.
Preheat oven to 250Deg. When oven is hot, spray water into the oven to make some steam (this steam will help with making the crust nicer).
Stretch each piece into 30cm baguettes. Cut some baking paper into strips. Separate each baguette onto the strips.
Bake in oven at 250Deg (fan oven) for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 200Deg and bake for a further 10 minutes.
So why am I starting a blog? As a working mother and childminder, I thought it would be a nice idea to start a blog on this site so that parents could get a feeling of who I am as a person and also to share some ideas with the world - not that I have ideas that might be worth talking about! To start with I thought it might be nice to share some recipes that other people might like to try out themselves, and maybe see where this blog goes from there :) There also might be some other tips that I can share with the chlidminding world :) that other parents might find useful. Ok, now to write a new blog post and share my first recipe!
What are parents looking for when they want a childminder?
Sunday, 13 May 2012 09:25
What are parents looking for when they want a childminder? This is not always an easy question for parents to answer. Different parents require different things, possibly depending on age and the stage of their development. In general, parents look for childminding where their child is both stimulated, and safe. They look for:
a loving, caring environment
a chance to build on their confidence
a variety of experiences
routine that is not unlike their home routine
a chance to meet and mix with other children
There are a number of benefits to consider when choosing a childminder like Dora's House, over a traditional nursery setting. Here are just some of these to consider:
Childminders are registered to care for no more than 3 children under 5 years, and therefore can offer a much more personal service. In my case, I already have one son under 5 years, so would only take two more children of that age.
Being cared for by the same person every day has many benefits for a chlid, especially children who can become scared when things change around them
Childminders often care for children for a long time, right through their school years - something that nurseries generally don't offer, once a child begins school alternative childcare to a nursery has to be found
Childminders often become an extension of the parent's family, and can become great friends with them
Childminders can have a better understanding of the child because they are usually the only person other than the parents who are caring for the child (and can spot any changes in behaviour, etc.)