Parklife, country life

Today we enjoyed a little bus ride and went along to the big parks project park in Peacehaven.

We really like this one – it’s such a wonder. We haven’t really had a proper explore because Rose is a bit little for a lot of the park, but the toddler area has some lovely things -little climbing rocks, lovely natural wicker tunnels, and a pretty treehouse. One thing we found very amusing was a little trail of bricks in the grass that led us round and round in circles.

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In the big park there is a wonderful looking acorn tree house, and some most amazing looking swings. Everything is lovely and wooden and it’s a nice place to be.

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Last week was really quiet at work as it was still the Easter holidays, so I found myself binging on radio 4 to keep me company and am now a bit hooked. I had seen in the news there was a bit of a gripping storyline happening in The Archers and as I do love a soap opera, I started as far back as iplayer would allow me and am completely sucked in now. I have been getting the podcast to listen to while I’m cooking. A nice daily dose of country life (and DRAMA!!!!). I subscribed to Women’s Hour while I was there too which has been nice with my knitting at bedtime (grandma!) I am really enjoying the radio at the moment, especially because it has had a wonderful effect of making me switch off my screens, and I feel I am much less interested in them at other times too – I think a habit is broken – I am very happy with this effect. I tried to get Rose involved with the Sarah and Duck podcast but she was just a little bit confused at the moment.

I hope you have had a good week too.

Little cook’s apron

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A little while ago I found this great fabric in a charity shop. I was hoping there would be enough for a pillowcase, but alas not (it was bundled in a bag so I couldn’t tell) but for a while I have wanted to make Rose a little play apron for when she is playing in her little kitchen (which is quite a lot really) and this seemed the perfect use for my fabric find.

I had the perfect home alone morning at the weekend which was the perfect time for a little bit of sewing machine action. A sweet but simple little project.

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Here is how I made my little apron in case you would like to make one too…

t h e  t h i n g s  y o u  w i l l  n e e d :

A piece of cotton type fabric about 90cm x 70cm
Scissors, pins, a hot iron, a sewing machine, a tape measure

w h a t  t o  d o :

Cut out a piece of fabric  90cm x 35cm (my fabric was 90cm wide and this was perfect). Using a hot iron,  turn up the hem 1cm, then over again. Turn in the side edges 1cm. Then sew all the way around with your machine to secure everything.

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Next you want to put some gathering in the top of your apron. To do this, put two rows of a long running stitch along your top, unhemmed, edge. The first needs to be about 1cm from the top and the second another 0.5cm below. Start and finish these lines about 5cm from the side edges and remember to leave long threads at each end. I find doing two rows is useful to give a good even gather, and also good if one of your threads snaps (argh!). Snip a little notch at the top centre point of your apron as a marker for later.

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To prepare the waistband, cut an 8cm wide band which is about 130cm long. You may need to cut two bands and sew them together to make up the length (as I did). Next press over the top and bottom edges of your band by 1cm, then turned in the ends by 1cm and finally fold and press the band in half all the way along (see pictures!)

Mark the centre of the waistband with a pin, then place two more pins one each either side at 20cm  away from your centre pin.

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Pin the edge of your apron to the first outside pin on your waistband. Pin the centre notch on your apron to the centre pin on the waistband, and then the other edge of your apron to your last outside pin.

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Draw up the threads one edge at a time until your apron fits the waistband. Make sure the top of your apron is sitting straight against the fold line in the waistband. Fold the band over and pin evenly along the length. This bit can be a little bit tricky to get your gathers even and fitting properly but persevere, it’ll fall into place.

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Secure everything with a sewing machine line close to the bottom edge of the band, sewing from the end to end of your waistband.

preparing the patch pocketslittle apron patch pockets

To add pockets cut out two squares 12cm x 12cm. Press in the edges by about 1cm, then stitch along the top edge. Pin and sew your pockets onto you apron about 20cm in and 9cm up from the outside edges of your apron (or where you think looks about right). I added my pockets last as it can be tricky to work out how the fabric will gather and effect the spacing, but it might have been easier to get them straight and even if I had done these before gathering the fabric…I’ll leave this decision up to you!

Then all that is left is to cut off your loose threads and find a little baker to model your creation.

finished little apron

Rose really likes her little apron. And not just for the kitchen – it has proved also a good shop keeper’s apron for when she is selling icecreams – the pockets are a win to put the money in. I am pleased she likes it.

Rose in her apron checking recipesRose in her apron, whisking a cookbook

Jelly Smelly Playdough

Rose is such a playdough fanatic, it has rubbed off on me a little bit, and I get quite excited when I find a new recipe (there are a lot of recipes to try – I found one made with hair conditioner which I really want to try, but as Rose still eats the playdough, no matter how disgusting it tastes, I will continue with the food based ingredients for now)

We have had a lot of fun from our starry night glitter playdough, but it was time to say goodbye really (getting a bit sticky and soggy) and I decided that for spring we should have some bright and sweet playdough.

The starry night playdough had geletin in it, and in the supermarket I found some sugar free jelly sachets, which come as a powder a bit like the geletin – good colour and fruity smells. The quantity was quite dramatically more, but I thought it was worth a try, and found a recipe which seemed to allow for it:

the jelly for the jelly playdoughsome other ingredients for the playdough

h o w  t o  m a k e  j e l l y  p l a y d o u g h

1 cup (250ml) flour
1 cup (250ml) water
1 tbsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup (60ml) salt
Sugar free Jelly powder

Measure out your ingredients and add to a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until it comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a dough (it’s hard to explain it, but when it happens you will understand!)

Leave it to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then turn out and knead until lovely and smooth.

jelly playdough so bright and niceplaying with playdough

I made strawberry, orange and blackcurrant playdoughs and they smell so nice, and are lovely and spongy and soft. The orange and strawberry are the best smells I think. I did add a bit of yellow food colouring to the orange dough as it wasn’t looking very bright in the pan, but then my dough came out quite sticky so I might have upset the wet/dry balance. I kneaded it with some flour though in the same way you might if your bread dough was too sticky, and it was much better (although i did seem to have to add a lot of flour extra) Top tip!

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We played with blackcurrant first of all. So fruity and squishy. Rose still claims it’s delicious even though it is completely revolting – even more revolting than normal playdough – salty blackcurrant – oh no. I showed her how to roll out sausages and made little balls for her to squash together to make caterpillars. She liked talking to the caterpillars. Also her dinosaur liked the playdough (she likes this dinosaurs a lot at the moment – it’s a bit Peppa and George)

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I hope you’re having a lovely Easter break if you get one of those.

Cloudy day, cloudy dough

Rose has not yet grown out of trying to eat e v e r y t h i n g she can get her hands on. She is particularly fond of playdough, despite it’s super super saltiness (and the last time that made interesting nappies. glittery.) I found some great recipes while pinteresting for playdough that is edible and during my research I discovered that there are all sorts of different sensory doughs to try with different textures and qualities – perfect for winter afternoons.

This week I made some’cloud dough’ (I have also heard it called moulding sand but that doesn’t sound so fun) I want to call it ‘snow dough’ or ‘sand dough’ as we mostly ended up making snowmen and sandcastles with it! It has a lovely quality where it compresses together when you squash it so you can build little mounds or just squash it really satisfyingly in your hands (I really enjoyed the cloud dough too!) and crumbles nicely too.

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h o w  t o  m a k e  c l o u d  d o u g h

It’s so simple – you need 8 parts flour to 1 part oil. The traditional recipe uses baby oil and, but because I was doing an edible version, I just used sunflower oil.  I used 4 mugs of flour to half a mug of oil which gave a really good quantity. I think the baby oil would definitey give a whiter and sweetly scented dough though – definitely a bit more cloudy!

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We had a lot of fun with this – although I warn you – it is messy! Definitely one for a day you are planning to get the hoover out. And when you are not feeling like you might get stressed. For us this was a similar stress level to painting. About a 7.

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To start with I let Rose play with her cloud dough on a mat on the floor, and this worked well except that her tights got really covered in it and I could see it getting trodden all over the house, so I quickly moved her to the kitchen worktop and this was a much better plan. Rose really had a lot of fun with it, and it passed a lot of time while I stood back drinking a cup of tea, (thinking about all the cleaning I was going to have to do (ha!)) she used some of the cups from her bath and a few little kitchen utensils and was busy for ages.

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Lovely stuff – I am looking forward to another doughy day soon.

Hot fuzz

We have had such a wonderful Christmas time. We spent a few days at my parents’ house as we have every year since Rose was born, but this – her third Christmas – was by far the most magical, least stressful, most restful to date. She is at such a nice age, she knows all the special people and loves to get them to play with her. She was really excited by the ‘chimmee’ in nanny and pop pop’s sitting room and kept retelling how Santa had come in and left the presents on the floor. I loved hearing this story so much.

One little pre-christmas present I made her as a really portable and no-space, no-mess activity for these holidays was a bit of fuzzy felt.  I have fond memories of this little activity from when I was little (and also a really strange very early memory of fuzzy felt which i think i am confusing with a memory of those little verruca pad things? memories can be strange. i sometimes wonder if Rose will remember things we do now in a weird way later…). I think my version is much coarser than the mass produced type, but for little Rose it seems to be just fine.

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If you have never come across fuzzy felt before, it is a really simple toy for children. Felt pieces will cling to each other, so it is great to  make pictures using felt pieces on a felt back ground (I very lazily just used a larger square of felt for my background, but you could put this onto a piece of board to keep it really flat). The pieces cling really nicely, but are easy to move around for hours of fun (or minutes depending on the age of child!)

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It was difficult for me to decide what shapes to make for my fuzzy felt set. I had seen lots of felt Christmas trees that children can decorate with felt decorations (which was my original inspiration for this little toy) but I decided to go for something less seasonal and in the end I created a little landscape scene.

I bought my felt from my local haberdashery but have seen it in all sorts of places for sale. My pieces were about 50p each so I managed to get a nice range of colours for just a few pounds. I cut out shapes of lots of things from the world that I knew Rose will recognise, trees and a car and clouds and a cat. I hoped she would enjoy putting together little scenes and so far we have had some lovely little plays with this one, and lots of conversations about ducks on the water. Success.

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Starry night for a rainy day

Rose and i are such play-dough fans, especially on days like these where the weather is really unfriendly. I always find it really worthwhile to make a little batch as Rose really likes to play. Normally my play-dough is a bit grey in colour though i have to admit. So when i saw this amazing starry night version i thought it would definitely be a good one to help me raise my game.

I liked the sound of this recipe also because of the addition of gelatin to give it extra stretch and bounce. it is a lovely and soft one.

starry night black glittery play dough

Here is the recipe for you to try:

1 cup (250ml) flour
1 cup (250ml) water and food colouring combined (i used a whole bottle of black food colouring!)
2tsps cream of tartar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup (83ml) salt
1tsp gelatin powder
Lots and lots of glitter

Add the water and colouring to a saucepan over a medium heat and add the geletin powder. Stir until dispersed. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the glitter) and combine. Keep stirring as the mixture heats up. Take off the heat when the dough has come together and is coming away from the sides of the pan. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out and kneading. Add the glitter by rolling out a thick lump and pouring the glitter on. Knead again well  to spread it through the dough. Then it’s time to play.

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I love how dense the colour is and the contrast with the glitter. Rose really like prodding her play dough with a fork and using the rolling pin. She is quite good at sharing her play dough too. This was a really nice rainy afternoon for us.

Next time i think i might need to find a recipe for edible play-dough though…

Cheese on Toast

One of Rose’s favourite games at the moment is to make me lunch in her little kitchen. She is very attentive and always asks if i’ve had enough and does the washing up for me. She also likes to help in the real kitchen, buttering her toast and grating cheese.

We bought her a very sweet little toaster for her birthday, and i thought it would be nice for her to have some cheese and a little grater of her own so she can make cheese on toast in her kitchen whenever she likes.

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I decided to have a go at some felt craft for this little project as the colours are so nice and they make lovely tactile toys.

For the grater and cheese i needed:

Light grey, black and yellow felt
A black fabric pen
Ruler, pencil, paper, pins
Grey and yellow threads and a needle

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I made up some little paper templates and cut out my felt pieces as follows:

For the grater: i needed two grey pieces 14cm x 9cm for the front and back and two pieces 14cm x 5cm for the sides. I used black felt for the top and bottom these were two pieces 9cm x 5cm.

I drew my cheese grater design onto the front and back and sides using my fabric pen. My pen was a dylon pen and needed a hot iron to set it. i was a little bit worried about how the felt would survive a hot iron but it was fine and the pen has worked really well.

For the cheese: i cut out two 8cm x 8cm squares for the top and bottom and then marked 2cm down from one corner and drew and cut along this line to create a diagonal edge (as if it had been grated away!). The side pieces i cut out were 3 pieces 8cm x 4cm, and one piece 6cm x 4cm.

I stitched all of my pieces together using blanket stitch on the outside of my pieces (with wrong sides together) making sure that my stitches were about 3 – 5mm from the edge of the felt and about 5mm apart.

I also used a bit of my yellow felt to make some little grated cheese pieces – i am not really sure how long those will last before going up the hoover though!

 

Rose was absolutely delighted with her little toaster (toasty as she says) and knows exactly what her cheese and grater are for. It’s a lovely time when we have tea at Rose’s.