Gruffalo Biscuits (recipe)

In case you haven’t noticed, World Book day is almost upon. Here is my very easy and most favourite chocolate biscuit recipe with a little Gruffalo twist.

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You need:

225g Margarine/Butter

115g Caster Sugar

225g Self raising Flour

2 tbsp (tablespoon) Cocoa Powder

1tsp (teaspoon) Vanilla Extract

50g Flacked Almonds

Pre-heat your oven to 180oC and grease a baking tray.

  1. Cream the margarine and sugar together until well mixed. Add vanilla extract.
  2. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder. It should now be thicker than a paste but more sticky than a dough.
  3. Roll into small balls (you should be able to make 16-20) and place them spaced out on your baking tray (you may need a couple of trays depending on size). Push down gently with your fingers so they are a little less ball like and more biscuit like (you can see the ridges in the picture). These do spread in the oven so don’t completely flatten them.
  4. Now it’s time to add the claws. Take 3 flacks of almond and put them into the front of the biscuit. Repeat until you have ‘clawed’ all of the biscuits.
  5. Bake in the oven for 13-15minutes. When they come out, leave them to cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack. They need time to set slightly. If you try and lift them off too early, they will crumble (if they do crumble, they make a really nice crumbly ice-cream topping, so it’s not the end of the world!).

There you have it. Your own Gruffalo Paw Biscuits!

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Summer Holiday fun

Here in the UK we’re most of the way through our Summer holidays. Any of you out there who are parents will appreciate the hard work it takes to entertain little ones who are used to being challenged and stretched every day at school. There are huge parts of the holidays that are fun and other parts that are rather mundane (real life doesn’t stop just because the children are off). Getting the right balance can be rather tricky! We’ve had indoor picnics; made sofa dens; played outside; gone to the park (many times); walked the dog; had a afternoon home cinema (watch a film with popcorn, floor cushions, their favorite blankets etc); as well as done a couple of days out type things. However, by far the best thing we’ve discovered to do (something that we’ve come back to again and again) is playing with Hama beads (I think they are called Peerler beads in the US). If you don’d know what they are, they are little plastic beads that you put together to make a picture and then iron to hold the beads in place. Not sure what I mean? Well here’s a couple that we’ve made:

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These are coasters. They make great coasters as they are heat proof and can be washed. Here’s another one (we like floral designs, can you tell?)

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Little Miss is a little young to make them but she does love to sort the beads out. It’s been a great way for her to practice her colours. Little Man is old enough to get enjoyment out of them. He’s been working hard to build up his collection of various characters.

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He likes Mario. They both like certain yellow beings that appear to have taken over……

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They are seriously Minion crazy! We haven’t made any into keyrings yet but the next ones that will inevitably be made are earmarked for keyrings. Despite all of these, the thing I’ve discovered, that I personally think is the best thing about hama beads is that they pack flat but are great little toys. They have seriously saved many a long car and take up almost no room! They are definitely a hit in this household! If you fancy having a go yourself, there’s loads of inspiration on pintrest. My Hama Bead board is here.

Rainbow cake Tutorial

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We recently celebrated Little Miss’ first birthday. It was a lovely time even though she was too little to remember it. Still, I wanted to mark the occasion so I made her this birthday cake. I first saw it on one of these ‘awesome cakes I want to make’ type facebook links and I loved it. However when I came to make this, the link no longer worked so I can’t direct you to the original post. I know that the original post was just a picture not a walk through, so I already knew I had to make it up as I went along (It’s worth noting here that there are probably much better ways of doing this as I actually made it up as I went along, I have never ‘learnt’ how to make or decorate cakes). Would you like to see how I did it?

IMG_20140329_093230517First make 2 Madeira cakes (you can find the recipe in most cake books or online as it’s a basic for occasion cake baking). Level the top of each cake so the are flat.

IMG_20140329_093511858Cut each cake in half.

IMG_20140329_093124988In two of the halves, cut a rough oval shape. Make sure you have cake around the sides so that the cake remains stable once finished. These will be the middle layers of the cake. We’ll fill this hole later with M&Ms ūüôā

IMG_20140329_100004070Take the bottom layer and cover with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_100050077Put the first middle layer on.

IMG_20140329_100139735Cover this with icing.

IMG_20140329_100205302Put the second middle layer on top.

IMG_20140329_100242581Fill hole with M&M’s.

IMG_20140329_100341861-001Put more butter icing on top.

IMG_20140329_100351523_HDRAdd the final layer.

IMG_20140329_100407363Turn on it’s side so it’s up the right way.

IMG_20140329_101843876Now cover the outside with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_102112203This will stick the icing to the cake.

IMG_20140329_102208656Now roll out your blue icing. I didn’t buy blue icing (although I know you can get it). I bought some white icing from tesco and some blue food colouring and worked it in until I got the shade I wanted. If you want to do it like this, my top tip is to use a cocktail stick to apply the food colouring as you don’t need very much of it.

IMG_20140329_102608766_HDRNow pick it up (I used the rolling pin to carefully roll and carry it then unwrapped it onto the cake).

IMG_20140329_102843519Smooth down with a cake smoother (it’s worth getting one of these if you want to get a smooth finish). Cut off the excess carefully. It doesn’t matter if the corners at the front are a bit messy as these will be covered up with small marshmallows later.

IMG_20140329_104412290_HDRNow to make you rainbow. Choose the colours you want and mix them if necessary. Then roll out a sausage in each colour, starting with the top colour (in my case, the red). You can see that close up, it isn’t that neat. Next time, I’ll work on getting it neater but by this stage I was starting to run out of time!

IMG_20140329_154245340Finally, using a little butter icing to start, pile up white mini marshmallows and add candle and edible glitter if desired. When you eventually cut into the cake, make sure you cut a big slice to get the full effect of the hidden M&M’s!

Cardigan number 1……tick!

Last week you may remember that I showed you tow cardigans that I was making for Little Miss. Well I managed to finished one of them.

IMG_1918I took the pattern from this book (Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes) and enjoyed crocheting my first cardigan. Would you like to see the end result?

IMG_1953Here it is. I made the little squares for the pocket detail and then decided that they would look nice along the bottom, so I made a couple more and sewed them on. I really like the result.

IMG_1966Little Miss looks great in it. It’s funny actually because this is the cardigan that wasn’t meant to be. I don’t mean that there was any strange force stopping make it, more I hadn’t planned to make it. It wasn’t on my list of things to make from the book (yes I have a list) and the wool was originally meant to be for Little Man. I had ordered him some wool to make a jumper and when it arrived, it was more purple than it had looked in the picture. It was sad but I put it aside for a rainy day and forgot about it. Then I realised that Little Miss needed something and quickly so I thought about crocheting a cardigan (crochet is often a lot quicker than knitting). When going through my stash, I found this wool and it was exactly the right amount. I was also able to use the pink wool which I had been saving for something special. Now I just need to finish cardigan number two….

The Museum of Childhood

With the Summer Holidays in full swing, finding things to do with Little man has been a challenge (isn’t it always?).

Well yesterday we decided to go and visit hubby at work. He works in London so on the way home, we decided to stop off at the Museum of Childhood. It was amazing! It’s completely free and there are so many things for little ones to do (as well as having lots of toys to stir up memories of our own childhoods).¬† Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the day:

IMG_1618Soft cuddly owl from the 1960’s

IMG_1646Child’s tea set (they had a few but this was by far my favourite)

IMG_1642One for my Hubby….oh ok, and for me.

IMG_1652I was really pleased to see this cute little Rupert the Bear in the ‘handmade’ section.

IMG_1653Quirky people made out of recycled materials.

IMG_1659Lovely old wooden blocks.

If you are near Bethnal Green, I recommend you drop in, even if you don’t have little ones of your own.

Meet Charlie

Do you remember this?

IMG_1241And this?

IMG_1362Did you guess what it would become?

IMG_1364I gave you a clue……

IMG_1555Well here he is. Meet Charlie.

IMG_1557Hee hee, isn’t he fun?

IMG_1564I can’t take any credit for this lovely pattern, it is the creation of the wonderful Bustle and Sew.

Do check out her website and blog. She has a lovely way of writing and a large range of patterns (this one is in her free patterns).

IMG_1566I added these beads for the tail which I saw, loved and bought over 10 years ago (typical magpie, I’ve hoarded them thinking that I would eventually find something to use them on).

IMG_1557Overall I’m pleased with the end result. It’s the fist time I’ve tried patchwork with hexagons. In the pattern instructions it says to sew them together with a zigzag stitch but I wanted to sew it together in the more traditional way (mostly because I wanted to try the technique out). It’s a present for Little Miss for Christmas (I know it’s early but I have a few things that I’m planing to make for the little ones for Christmas so I need to start now!).

Another little dress for a certain little miss

I have finally finished a lovely little dress for Little Miss. I have to say that although I love this pattern and the end product, it has caused me no end of problems!

IMG_5359I frogged this dress at least 4 times (and only after I’ve done a few rows of the skirt, which is after hooking the top). I’m sure it’s my fault, I must have got the tension wrong and not realised it or maybe it was because I substituted one bamboo yarn for another, whatever the reason, I couldn’t get the sizing right. The first time I started making the 6-9months, got half way through, and realised that it was too small for Little Miss already (who at the time was less than 2months). In the end I ignored the sizing in the pattern, made the biggest top part and measured the skirt on little miss to make sure it was the right length. Saying all of that, it was worth it. I love this little dress.

IMG_5363What attracted me to the pattern in the first place was the detail on the skirt. I don’t know if you can see it but the stitches are twisted to create a lovely texture. Little Miss loves soft and textured things, especially on her skirts (which she pulls up and strokes her cheek with or pulls it over her eyes). The original pattern has the ribbon threaded like I have done here but I wanted to add some flowers (anyone who reads my blog regularly, knows how much I love flowers). I think they work quite well.

IMG_5365I also changed the edging around the ‘sleeve’ as I think this one looks prettier (the original pattern didn’t really have an edging).

IMG_5377Finally I finished the back off with these sweet little rose buttons. I’ve had them for ages just waiting for something I can use them on (anyone else a button magpie?).

IMG_5359Overall, I’m pleased with the end result and can’t wait to put Little Miss in her new little dress!

A Pretty Little Summer Dress

Well Summer is meant to be here (I mean we had about 5 days of nice weather didn’t we?). I am ever the optimist so I decided to make Little Miss her first ever dress. I have done loads of sewing before but I rarely use a pattern and the only clothes I have made from scratch before this are a dress for me (didn’t turn out that well) and a union jack waist coat for little man.

IMG_1171I decided to use this pattern as it has a number of different classic styles that I can easily adapt. I was impressed with how easy it was to use. I’m quite dyslexic and so struggle with patterns (I find them jumbled and complicated), so was surprised by how easily everything fitted together. Would you like to see the finished article?

IMG_1162Isn’t it summery? I’ve decided to force as many dresses on her now as I can, as, if she’s anything like I was as a girl, she’ll shun them as soon as she can!

IMG_1163I decided to use a cotton with a flower print for the skirt and a plain cotton for the bodice. I added this pretty pink lace to the bottom of the skirt. I like how it kind of looks like it’s peeping out.

IMG_1164I had a play around to see which side of the skirt the ribbon looked best on and then sewed it into place.

IMG_1166I added the purple lace to the top of the skirt to add a little more texture and pull the bodice and skirt together.

IMG_1162This was meant to be a practice dress as I wanted to make a special one for little miss’ dedication on Sunday but in the end it turned out so well that I’m going to put her in this one and save the fabric for her first birthday instead. I think what I like best is the simplicity of it.

I’m pleased I decided to take the plunge and try and make it. I will definitely be making more! In fact I may already have bought some new fabric. If you have never tried making clothes before, I encourage you to give it a go!

Happy Birthday!

Last month saw my little man 3, right in the middle of the snow! There was a hairy moment when we thought we’d have to cancel his party because people wouldn’t be able to get there, but thankfully the snow cleared enough to make it ok. I wouldn’t have minded if this wasn’t the first year he had been talking (non stop) about having a party. We went to his Nanny’s party back in November and since then the idea that people have parties at their birthday has stuck. He was very definite about who he wanted to come and what kind of cake he wanted (he didn’t even ask, he just said ‘at my party I’m having a such and such cake’ – you’ll see in a minute what he wanted!). Thankfully he had a lovely time and is still talking about his party with all his friends and family (as well as the cake – I feel proud that he remembered the cake because it’s not that amazing).

So I thought to celebrate, I would share quickly the last few years of cakes he’s had (you are very privileged, as last years was a bit of a disaster, as we’d all been ill and I was exhausted – it didn’t turn out how I wanted it to at all – so I didn’t share it). Here’s this years:

IMG_4528 If you aren’t sure what it is (and I don’t blame you!) it’s Neep from Abney and Teal. His most favourite character from his most favourite programme. Neep is apparently a Scottish word for turnip (does that make it a little clearer? lol). I have to say Neep has given me no end of troubles because as of yet they don’t make Neep toys but he has a free gift from a magazine which he takes to bed with him every night and I’m so worried he’ll lose it or something. Anyway the cake itself was very easy to make. I baked a rectangle Madeira Cake, drew Neep on a piece of paper and cut around the template. I then covered it in butter icing and rolled out ready made fondant icing. I then made a nose, two arms and two legs. Finally I painted food colouring onto the icing. I couldn’t get the exact colour but Little Man seemed thrilled by it, so I suppose that’s the main thing!

img_3704This is what he had for his Second Birthday as at the time he loved In the Night Garden. You can’t really see it but the main part of the carousel (or gazebo – there is some debate as to what it actually is), is a basic Madeira Cake covered in butter icing. I wasn’t too pleased with this on as I couldn’t get a proper round lolly pop to go on top and I went to the trouble of baking the top cake in a bowl, and cutting it into sections so I could shape it, but promptly forgot to shape the top before covering it in butter icing. Oh well. Little Man seemed happy at the time, so I guess it didn’t really matter that much.

img_3160This is the cake I made for his first birthday. It’s probably my favourite one out of all of them and also the one that he won’t remember at all! The hardest part was making the man but the book I got it from (50 Easy Party Cakes by Debbie Brown) shows you how to make him. The cake itself is made from 2 Madeira Cakes with butter icing in the middle. I used chop sticks for drum sticks.

I’m looking forward to having an excuse to make¬† 2 cakes a year soon. Hopefully by the time Little Man and Little Miss are old enough to remember their cakes, I will have been able to practice a bit more and improve!

In other news, I’ve lost my camera. Which is a shame because I’ve been a busy crafting bee since Christmas and I have lots of new projects I want to share with you. I will upload as soon as I either find it or work out how to use hubby’s swishy camera.

New Year Resolutions etc.

Yes, yes, I know, we’re a few weeks into January now and New Year Resolutions are usually made at the beginning of the year. Well I did make these at the beginning of the year, however I’ve only just round to blogging about it!

Last year I resolved to work from my stash and not buy any wool unless I needed to complete a specific project (eg. to make a present; a commission; or knit jumpers for little man and I couldn’t do this from my stash). I’m actually pretty pleased with how I did. I only bought about 6-8 balls of wool that I didn’t¬† need and some of those were to knit myself a couple of hats out of chunky wool which I didn’t have. Over all, I’d say that was a success. I wanted to do it to stop my stash getting any bigger (I hoard lovely wool). I managed to make a lot of things. Here are a few of my favourites:

IMG_0688Mittens to keep my hands warm ūüôā

IMG_0579A Granny Square a day for a month (although I haven’t finished it yet).

IMG_0389My crochet daisies.

img_0147A crochet phone case.

IMG_0432And finally, my sofa blanket (I had a lot of wool in my stash!).

Hmm I’ve just realised that my favourite projects have all been crochet. I promise you I have been doing other things too, like sewing bags and dinosaur capes:

img_7956Poppy Bag (with poppy tutorial).

IMG_0725My gingerbread men.

IMG_0859I still love my dinosaur cape!

Ok well now for this years resolutions. I’m going to try to finish my Granny Square a Day blanket that I started and was one week away from completely when I was hit by awful morning sickness, had to stop and then couldn’t look at it again without feeling awful again (weirdly I can’t see anything to do with the Olympics for the same reason!). Anyway, I want to finish it in time for little miss and as I’m mostly feeling better now, I feel the time is right!

Secondly I am going to stop buying patterns and make things from the ones that I already have. I have a lot as I’m like a magpie when it comes to sewing, crochet and sewing patterns but this means that I have a lot of wonderful patterns waiting to be made. We’ll see how I do with this one, I think I’m going to find it quite hard!

I’d love to hear what your new year resolutions are and whether you have had much success in keeping them so far!