Friday, September 24, 2010

Salad Dressing

We've had glorious weather this past week with maximums in the mid to high 20s. Today I was making a batch of vinaigrette to take on holiday for a week camping at Esperance, when I was hit with guilt as I promised this recipe to a dear friend a long time away, who has recently moved to England. So I thought if I type it for her, I might as send it out to all of you, particularly those who are finishing up their summer.
This and balsamic and olive oil dressed at the table are the two dressings we have most often with a green or garden salad. I keep a jar of this in the fridge and simply shake before serving. It should keep indefinitely, though if you are keeping for a while it might be worth boiling you jar and lid for a few minutes before adding the ingredients.

1/4 c white vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 garlic clove (crushed)
1 t seeded mustard
a generous grind of salt and pepper

The recipe also includes 1 shallot (which I've never added) and 2 T soft herb. I've never added the herbs preferring to add them fresh to the salad. You could actually put whole branches of herbs in the mix and the flavour would permeate.

I'm hoping to be a better 'blog friend' soon.
Hope you're well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Rainbow Day

Hi all,
Sorry I've been away. My day time recreation has been dramatically cut by a little one with back to back colds and in the evening the computer is being used by my husband who is completing some post grad study. This is actually about two weeks old. We haven't had any playdough around here for a long long time but we finally got around to making a batch. This is the usual recipe. I don't add the food colouring until after it's cooked then Rainbow and I knead different colours into each portion. Rainbow requested we leave one portion white this time.

This is actually Moonshine's very first ever play with playdough. You can see how fascinated she was. I can't believe she's already rolling it (with chants of 'roll roll roll')!

Then as we already had the food colouring I decided to dye some new pasta for threading. Big pieces for Rainbow and little ones for Moonshine. Normally I put it in a jar and shake it but we didn't have any with lids so we ended up stirring it in a bowl. In this picture Rainbow is painting the food colouring onto the pasta. I did hear later, from Rainbow's grandmother (who is a kindy teacher) that they dilute dye with water and briefly immerse before spreading out to dry.

This is Moonshine having her first attempt at threading, onto a chopstick standing in a lump of playdough. A stationary pole is a good starting point. With Rainbow we then proceeded to the stiff texture of pipe cleaners (chenille sticks) before moving to shoe laces (or wool with tape wound around one edge)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moon Sand

You have to do this. As Rainbow plays with her homemade Moonsand she shrieks and squeals "This is so much fun." I will show you this picture first as a warning. It's messy. Very messy. But it's a dry mess. In fact DON'T wipe it up - it will make a river of food colour. Just sweep it up or even better get your little one to sweep it up. There are many recipes out there all the same ration of sand, water and cornflour. We used our sandpit sand so sieved it with the cornflour first. Then mixed in the water mixed with food colouring. Go easy here. The texture you want is dry sand that when you squeeze it stays in a ball. If it is too liquid it won't hold it's shape and won't come out of the molds.
It's quite different to play with then playdough. Because of it's dry texture you can't roll it. Rainbow uses as selection of kitchen pieces - measuring cups and spoons, little bowls... You can also use cookie cutters if you place them on the table, fill with sand and press down on the sand. You also have to pack it quite firmly into a mold, much more so than damp beach sand.
Then when you're done, you crumble it back into the container. Then next time sprinkle on a little water and off you go again.
Reviews I've read on-line say it doesn't behave identically to the commercial moonsand but we had fun and it used ingredients that we have on hand.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stay Home All Day

We had a lovely 'stay home all day' day yesterday. We don't do this very often but it was a lovely day. We designed a great train track, painted, played in the garden and ticked off an activity that's been on the list for a while waiting for such a day.

Rainbow has been asking great questions recently like "How are houses built?" A few weeks ago Rainbow asked me "How do you make bread?" so today we did.

I actually own a bread maker but don't really use it much but today we made bread from scratch.

We did it all - mixing, kneading, proving, knocking down, kneading, shaping, proving...

It turned out really well and we ate it still warm with vegemite for Moonshine, raspberry jam for Rainbow and home made lemon butter on the crust for me. Rainbow's response was "It taste different to bread" as she ate it all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Retro Baking

My mother is not a baker by that I mean it's not something that she terribly enjoys or would choose to do. Where as I am always trying out new recipes, she however has a number of signature dishes that she has mastered and can call on when the occasion arises. Lemon Coconut Slice (pictured centre) was one of them. Through out my childhood when ever she was require to 'take a plate' this would be her offering.
Today Russell was rostered on providing morning tea so I decided slices were the way to go.
Mars Bar Slice Lemon Coconut Slice and Raspberry Coconut Slice
There great for that kind of thing particularly for the busy Mum and are good for serving large numbers. The first two are even non-bake. The final one does require baking but ever so simple. Blend the pastry in the food processor and squish into the tray. Bake. Spread on jam straight from jar. Pour on eggs whisked with sugar. Bake The other great thing about slices is you don't have to be really careful about the measuring so perfect for kids in the kitchen. There is also lots of 'getting hands dirty' kind of jobs - snapping chocolate, squishing into the tray, spreading icing, stirring melted chocolate...
Have I convinced you? If so here are the recipes I used.
If you do make the last one, I know it says to let it cool in the pan (so it doesn't fall apart) but do steal a slice while the jams still hot and gooey. Cooks privilege!

So do you have a favourite recipe that you always fall back on?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our Luna Park

One of our favourite things after visiting or doing something interesting is too relive it at home.
Here's our version of Luna Park. Luna Park is a theme park in Sydney right on the river next to the Harbour Bridge. This first photo isn't mine and I'm hoping it's Sydney as there is a second Luna Park in Melbourne. Here are our train people entering through the iconic Luna clown face.
Next they had a ride on the ferris wheel. This is one of my creations. This might sound strange but I've always wanted to build a ferris wheel.

Then on to the carousel. Another of my creations. The plate is secured to the yoghurt lid with a tack so that it can spin. The people are secured on to the carousel animals with rolls of sticky tape hence the crazy angle of the man riding on the frog.
Next a ride on Rainbow's roller coaster. Moonshine enjoyed spinning the above two rides but she particularly enjoyed screaming as she maneuvered the car down the steep incline.

Finally here's Rainbow's own invention. Coming soon to a theme park near you. It's called something like luminator and it's like a hovercraft that lifts off then flys around. The passengers can lie or sit in it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Painting on Foil

I had planned to post this before we left but ran out of time..

About a month ago my nephew celebrated his birthday and the girls made him a transformer inspired robot card using aluminium foil that had been glued onto card then cut into shapes and arranged.

It got me thinking about whether you could paint on foil and get that look of applying gold foil. So here are the different methods we tried. You can skip forward to the end to see our most successful, though you do get some interesting effects in the other method!

All of these methods were suited to both girls (18m and 3 1/2) and used poster paint and aluminium foil. This is a great way of reusing aluminium foil after cooking. Just rinse, dry and use. I glued the foil on to card from cereal box to make it a little sturdier. You could get interesting effects from painting on foil then using it to wrap around 3D sculptures.
Method 1
Simply paint a picture on the foil. Sorry no picture you'll have to imagine.

Method 2
This time the girls completely covered the foil in paint then drew on a design using a cotton bud. We've used this method before on our glass cutting board and taken prints of it using paper so it was interesting to draw directly on to the picture.
Method 3
Crinkle the foil (perfect after baking potatoes), glue onto card and paint. This was a little more like what I'd imagined though Rainbow just saw it as a challenge filling in all the cracks.
Here is Moonshine. She just loves painting but you can't turn your back on her for a minute or it goes everywhere. Her painting shows the effect I was aiming for with the metal shining through.Method 4
This one we stumbled on by accident when I washed Moonshine's brush midway through a painting. If you use a very wet brush dipped in paint the paint pools in some areas and is repelled in others. I'm not sure why this happens perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our holiday in NSW

We had a wonderful holiday in New South Wales. I usually get to a point when travelling that I'm ready to go home but I didn't reach it this holiday!
Here are a few photos and some extracts from my travel diary...
We drove to Minnamirra Rainforest Area for a picnic lunch and walk along a broadwalk. The broadwalk took us along the Minnamirra Riverlet and high into the forest. The rainforest was dense, luscious and tranquil with interesting signage. We were lucky to see a female lyrebird scratching and drinking at the riverlet banks. We also spotted two more on the verge as we drove. We enjoyed hearing the whip bird again and Russell was pleased to see the rare red cedar tree. Today we saw a platypus in the wild.
( wombat hole)
Our final destination today was Bombala which has the highest density of platypus. Just out of town is the Platypus Reserve which features a viewing platform. Along the far bank you can see their burrows and the larger burrows of wombats. As we drove up we could see the outline of one’s body. From the platform we could see it’s nostrils as it came up to breathe and eat the food it had collected in the pouches of it’s cheeks. Afterwards we took a walk along the town river where more platypuses reside but without any further sightings. (I might point out here that we don't have wombats, platypus or koalas in WA)
We discovering a maze left on a beach. The kids had great fun following it to discover the beach treasures.
We found at $15 a meal and $4 a beer (compared to $25 mains in Perth) it’s cheaper to eat out then to pay for self contained accommodation thought we’re getting a little tired of chicken schnitzels and bangers and mash.
Our excitement grew one morning as we drove closer and closer to the snow topped mountains. We caught the snow tube from Bullocks Flat to Perisher. We were all rugged up in thermals, beanies, scarves, gloves and jackets to find a beautiful day at the top. The layers gradually got stripped and stuffed into pockets and lugged about. We walked over to discover the snow play and toboggan area was closed and instead joined the masses sliding down the rocky icy strip outside of this area. It was a fast wild ride with the tricky challenge of climbing aboard the toboggan without releasing the toboggan prematurely with a child onboard or slipping over in the ice. Both girls enjoyed tobogganing immensely and being towed around. Rainbow also enjoyed eating the snow. Rainbow and I had planned to ride the quad lift but after a twenty minute wait we discovered it was closed due to an electrical fault. Meanwhile waiting on the stairs Moonshine was pointing, emphatically up at the slope saying “up sn”. Dada asked if she wanted Snuggy but no it was definitely that she wanted to go play in the snow. After re-uniting we all headed to a fresh patch of snow (sign posted as off limits to toboggans!) where Rainbow got very upset that I was going too fast with Moonshine aboard.

Luckily we reached Scenic World in Katoomba before the crowds. Our adrenaline lover Rainbow loved the ride on the World’s Steepest Railway. We spotted a male lyrebird on the walk through the rainforest at the bottom. We then rode a cable car back to the top. After morning tea we completed the circular track which gave us impressive views of the three sisters, the lush rainforest and the high Katoomba falls. Rainbow and I (carrying Moonshine) found the steps hard going after so many days of bush walking.
After lunch and a visit to a CWA craft store in Leura we returned to the now crowded Scenic World for our last cable car ride across the valley. From the cable car we had magnificent views of the area we had hiked this morning.

We caught the train to Circular Quay. It’s quite a shock to suddenly see the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House looming in front of you. It’s reminiscent of our first glance at the Colosseum in Rome. Both Sydney landmarks look so big compared to the surrounding landscape. We walked around the Opera House and The Rocks. We had trouble finding affordable lunch and ended up with HJs and fruit on the grass overlooking the two landmarks. By this point Circular Quay was getting busy with tourists so we caught the ferry to Luna Park. Luna Park was actually quite aesthetic with highly ornate in an old worldly way rides. We had a walk around and ride on the ferris wheel, from which you can see the harbour and bridge as well as Luna Park.

Moonshine’s breastfeeding reached epic proportions. Now every time I sit down she requests boo and if I carry her she shoves her hands down my top and repeats “boo” or points out chairs and says “boo there”. This continues with her getting more and more upset until I give in.

By our third day in Sydney we were professionals at catching public transport and find it quite easy and feel very safe navigating through Sydney. Thought you need a new ticket for each new form of transport so today catching a ferry and bus to reach Taronga Zoo cost $38.20. Thankfully our Perth Zoo membership gave us free entrance to Taronga. The zoo was amazing with s spectacular range of animals and large interesting enclosures. Russ was pleased not just to see animals he hadn’t seen before, such as the snow leopard, condor and pygmy hippopotamus but even a few he hadn’t even heard of. The zoo started with a large reptile area featuring the sleepy kimodo dragon and underwater viewing of turtles. Moonshine enjoyed this section pointing out the grocdile, tootle and ssss. We then saw the giraffes and a large family of grooming chimpanzees. We then reached the elephant enclosure and the saw the baby elephants that we have been talking about for months. Both girls were excited that it was nursing when we arrived and later in the day we watched the older one splashing in their lake. After morning tea we headed through the African and Asian sections. As we passed the lowland gorillas the keepers were scattering food in their empty enclosures and so we stayed to watch the gorillas be released. We were delighted to see a baby and a pregnant female and amazed at the size of the patriarch. We then headed through the large Australian section which included two bilbies in the nocturnal section and a plane rat travelling amazing distances on a wheel with an odometer. They had a wonderful platypus enclosure which allowed us to watch a platypus searching underwater for food. Finally we went on to the Southern Seas to see a graceful leopard seal.
An excellent yet exhausting six hours traipsing down the hill of Taronga Zoo. On the walk home from the subway we were lucky enough to see some of the flying bats (that roost in the botanical gardens) fly over.
We found Sydneysiders really friendly. Always happy to give up a seat on the train, fetch dropped belongings or help us carry the pram up stairs.

The Australian Museum was awesome. We started in skeletons which was a good example of the quality of their displays. The curator obviously has a sense of humour with arrangements such as the man riding his horse and the domestic scene. Some of the displays were interactive like the one where you could ride a bike which caused a skeleton to ride a bike. Others were really informative like one that showed how a kangaroo pelvis has long bones expending upwards to support the pouch. My favourite was the interactive mat where you put your hand on a spot and get attacked by a predator such as a massive great white shark. After morning tea and a shop we headed into the Dinosaur and Surviving Australia exhibits. Moonshine loved using a paintbrush to help excavate a fossil Finally we went to the Kid’s Place where the girls could draw, reading and play with animal toys.

We also really enjoyed the different experience of staying in an inner city apartment where the supermarkets are open to midnight and you can watch mounted police and fire trucks from the veranda.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Out of the Office - LOL

Hi everyone,

I had planned on posting today but it's going to have to wait until I return. We're off to Sydney at 8.05 tomorrow morning so instead I shall read my packing list for the umpteenth time and head off to bed. I'll visit you all and share my holidays when we return in three weeks.
Until then

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bush Fairies

Last week Rainbow and I made these little bush fairies using wooden beads for heads and the seeds, nuts and buds from our Autumn nature table. Rainbow chose the pieces and I hot glue gunned them together. It was a quick craft to enjoy in the little break between Rainbow and Moonshine waking from their afternoon sleep. Moonshine was quite interested in it as we hastily packed away when she awoke. Funnily I happily let her pick up and play with anything and everything when we're in the bush but won't let her play with these in fear they might fall apart and get consumed! It was really very enjoyable and this week I came home with pockets full from our Sunday trip "out bush" for future creations including these gorgeous dried heart shaped leaves. Rainbow has also had a lovely time playing with these little fairies that now inhabit the papier mache mushroom that we made last winter.
You may remember our previous inhabitants were little felt fairies. Sadly they and their little 'Coloured Button's' doll's house got wet. The fairies felt hats and dressed ran staining their little faces. The house went soggy and collapsed and Rainbow is very keen for us to make a new one soon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Twos company Threes a Crowd or is it a Party?

I am feeling frazzled so though I should do some sewing or knitting today I shall blog while the girls sleep.

On Fridays we attend mothers group. Until quite recently Rainbow has been happy doing her own thing or playing with me but recently she has wanted to play with the others. Time and time again she'll go and try to join in with the girls or ask one of the girls if she wants to do something. (Like today she asked a girl pushing a pram if she could be her baby's doctor.) And time and time again she gets rejected - at best ignored more often "No, You can't play, Go Away" I've been trying to help Rainbow out saying things like "At Mothers' Group we all play together" and finding roles so that Rainbow can join in the games but as soon as I'm out of perceived ear shot it happens again.

These are 3 1/2 years old. The other two girls happen to go to the same day care 1 1/2 days a week and are "best friends". But do 3 year olds 'need' best friends. Where does this behaviour come from? Is it "natural" in our society? Where are they learning that it's okay to act this way? and How do I help Rainbow to know that this isn't what friendship is about and that she has a right to be treated well?

Today I decided enough was enough. I feel like I can't keep coming and subjecting Rainbow to this. She's only just moving in to social play and I want it to be a positive experience. I could see the hurt on Rainbow's face and I could feel my own tension building so I brought it up with the other girl's mothers. It was such a difficult decision, I'm a conflict smoother - I tend to try and keep everyone happy. The other mothers are aware it happens and I do hear them tell their daughters to "play nicely" or tell them off for not playing nicely.

I understand that in our society this inclusion and exclusion is the basis of many female friendships. Girls get together share secrets, gossip at others and this pulls their bond tighter. But it's an insecure bond - there is always this niggling doubt that if they bitch to you they probably bitch about you to someone else. I want more for my daughters than this. I want my daughters to know the more you love the more love you have to give.

Our plan is that when it occurs we'll sit down with them and come up with an idea of a game that they can all play together. I guess hopefully as they grow give more of that discussion power over to them.

I just had a phone call from one of the mothers'. I got the "it's not me it's you" line. My daughter plays really nicely with other children. What can I say?

Has anyone been there done that on this one?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gingerbread Man

I've finished another felt board to take for entertainment on our coming plane trip. This tells the story of "The Gingerbread Man". It's funny I often chant the refrain when we're running around or playing chasey though Rainbow doesn't know the story.
Here's the little old lady getting the gingerbread man out of the oven. Here everyone is in hot pursuit "Run, Run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."Finally towards the end as the fox 'helps' the gingerbread man across the river. "You're getting wet. Move up on to my nose. You'll be safe and dry there!"
I find it interesting that at 3 1/2 Rainbow already knows which animals are characterised as 'bad' in stories. She's already picked the fox in this story.
Last week I chose two books from the library for her. Stories she has enjoyed but hasn't had for a long time - both coincidentally feature a bear "Where's my teddy?" and "The Mouse, the Ted, Ripe strawberry and the Hungry Bear" Rainbow was truly nervous about reading these stories because they feature a bear.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Microwave Puff Paint

Today's craft builds on some of the craft we've been doing recently - poor man's glitter and squeezy art. The idea comes from One Crafty Momma and is one I've wanted to try for about two years but our absence of a microwave has prevented us. Today we were visiting at my parents' place so it seemed a good opportunity. Though having done it I don't see why it wouldn't work just as well in an oven so we might give that a try another day.

This is a very easy recipe for a little one to make. Indeed making the paint was probably Rainbow's favourite part. It's simply equal parts self-raising flour and poor man's glitter (or salt and a few drops of food colouring). Then mix in enough water to make a thick paste. In these pictures Rainbow is mixing the paint in an old friand tin.
Then create your pictures on cardboard. We used cotton tips.
and squeeze bottles. Rainbow particularly liked to put several colours of paint in the bottle at the same time so that you get multi-coloured splotches.
Then you microwave. We put them in for 10 second sessions until they were cooked. The thickest mountains took 40 seconds. It does get hot so do be careful and also we put a glass of water in simultaneously for safety. These photos don't really show it but they do really puff up.
Here's Moonshines creation.
And after... and Rainbow's before...
and after (upside down!)...