Squid obsessions

Isn’t it funny what children become obsessed with. One trip to the South Australian museum, and they were hooked on squids! (For those of you who don’t know, there’s a life-size giant squid built into a lift shaft in the museum). The kiddies went with Grandma and Grandpa, and then a few days later, had to take Mummy and Daddy on a tour. Complete running commentary and excitement as we made our way up the 4 flights of stairs.

And these are some of our follow ups:

Toilet roll and wool squids

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Paper cup squids

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And millions of drawings (here are my two faves)

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As well as our craft activities, we hit the library and checked out a number of non-fiction books to look at the pictures. And watched a few youtube videos too.

And it all culminated in this:

The Giant Squid Cafe and Restaurant!

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Fairy Garden

A pic of our fairy garden! Just another excuse to get the kids’ hands dirty in the garden!

 

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I made the door and window out of scraps of wood. The washing line is fabric scraps. The kiddies then chose random things from our garden and shed to finish it off. Always a work in progress…

It’s also a great place to put things that the children have collected on their adventures. After reading ‘Penguin and Pinecone‘ (such a sweet book!), we found a closed pinecone that we’ve left in the fairy garden. We discussed how trees use pinecones to spread and release their seeds, and now the kiddies regularly check back to see how much it has opened up.

Garden exploration

Two of my uni subjects crossed over quite nicely last semester, Primary Science and Health and Wellbeing. Both involved getting out and about outside to enhance student’s connection with the world around them. For my assignments, I did a number of teaching activities that involved my kiddies and their friends, incorporating literature with outdoor activities for Prep-aged children.

Amazingly, a lot of the things we did have stuck – which is really satisfying for me! Bug collection has become a big one in our family, and probably the highlight has been finding praying mantises. I really feel that it’s helping my two with their fear of creepy crawlies. Making collections is another, and we now have a permanent “nest” by the front door where all our goodies are deposited.

There’s nothing like being outdoors, and the kiddies just seemed to get so absorbed in whatever they do, whether that be sweeping leaves, digging to China, extracting toys from blocks of ice or looking for birds through their toilet roll binoculars.

Recently we made bird feeders from old cartons. I cut out the windows, and my two decorated them with stickers. We hunted around the garden for appropriate sticks, filled them with seed and hung them in the trees. Applying the stickers, cutting the string, and spooning the seed were all fantastic fine motor skill activities. We also discussed recycling and repurposing, as well as what birds like to eat.

img_0446img_0450img_0452img_0453There’s something lovely about having an addition to our garden routine. As well as checking on the worm farm, looking for vegies, inspecting the fairy garden, and watering, we can now also check bird seed levels!

Cheeseburger Cups

These are delish! They actually taste like cheeseburgers. A bread base, mince meat filling, topped with mozzarella, garnished with sauce, gherkins and lettuce.

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This mix made 12 cups and this is based on this Cheeseburger Minis recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 500g of beef mince
  • a couple of garlic cloves
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • tomato paste
  • sliced wholemeal bread (1 slice per muffin)
  • mozzarella cheese (or cheddar)
  • tomato sauce
  • some gherkins, sliced
  • some lettuce, shredded

Method:

Set oven to 180.

1. Fry off the garlic and add the mince. As it starts to brown, stir in the stock cube and tomato paste. Keep stirring and breaking up the pieces until all cooked through.

2. Cut large circles of bread (bigger than your muffin tin) and place in the muffin tin. 

3. Fill bread with mince mixture and place in the oven. After about 5 minutes, place the cheese on top and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is golden.

4. Serve with a dollop of sauce, sliced gherkins and shredded lettuce. 

They were such a hit with the little ones, I think they might become a lunchbox fave since they hold together so well for little hands. Just put the sauce in a mini squeezy bottle (Daiso have great ones) and have the greens on the side. It would also be super easy to make the mix go further by adding some veggies, such as eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini. Further experimentation required!!

Kiddie Cooking

My two love getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. To be honest, also their faces, arms and feet. When it gets to witching hour, it’s nice to have some little treats which they can cook, which ultimately leads to them eating their dinner! If they are involved, they eat.

I really try to do my very best to let them do as much as possible. It is very tempting to do the pastry cutting and lifting by yourself, but it is so beneficial for them to learn how to manipulate the world around them. Plus, the kitchen gives us so many opportunities for safe risk-taking, such as supervised knife use. And watching them break eggs for baking is downright hilarious.

These are a few new things that we’ve been making recently:

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Parmesan puff pastry stars – I think this was an idea from a Coles magazine. The kids cut out the pastry stars and sprinkle them with parmesan. A quick bake in the oven just before serving, and voila! Despite this delicious soup being the infamous green colour, it still got eaten. Amazing what a delicious dipping star can do.

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Dino dippers – Another soup one. I bought these dino sandwich cutters from Officeworks, but I’ve also seen them at Spotlight. Cut, a little bit of butter, a few minutes in the hot oven, and soup will be demolished.

We have also done a few sushi shapes with great molds from Daiso. Sushi rice is fun to manipulate, but be prepared for sticky rice to be everywhere!!!

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Rainbow pizzas – Another Coles mag idea. These were such a hit… and it meant we finally moved off ham and pineapple pizzas! We had red tomatoes, orange carrot, yellow corn, green broccoli, and ‘purple’ beetroot. Admittedly, not the tastiest pizza I’ve made, but these are the things we do for our children.

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Podding broad beans – fine motor skills, and deep concentration. Say no more.

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Wrapped pies – these are a great way to use up leftover casserole or pasta sauce, as they are easier if the filling in cold. Cut a piece of puff pastry into 4, place in muffin trays, fill, then ‘wrap’ the contents to close. They would probably look a bit prettier with an egg wash, but I was out of eggs that day.

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Chocolate spiders – yes, these are treats! I remember making these as a little one. Melt dark chocolate and some peanut butter together, and mix in crunchy noodles. Sprinkles make good eyes.

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Chocolate Coated Ritz – (one more treat!) I found this recipe in ‘4 Ingredients kids’ (Kim McCosker). Sandwich two jatz/ritz/savoys together with peanut butter, and dip in melted dark chocolate. Set in the fridge for half an hour or so. These two loved doing the spreading in particular. I realised that they hardly ever have the opportunity to use a knife, so it was very interesting to watch them do their best!

I find my two really relate well to stories about their food. They are so much more likely to eat it if they know that something used to be their favourite food when they were babies, or food that we ate all the time in China.

What have you made recently with your children?

 

 

Baking oven-tures

I’ve had a lot of crappy ovens in my life.

In our first rental, the oven looked straight out of the 50s. And probably hadn’t been cleaned since then. It cooked a main meal ok, but baking was a challenge. Gas, but no fan.

Our first apartment in Beijing had no oven. But we had 5 kuai noodles at the doorstep… who needs to cook? Plus, in a department store, we learnt how to make a cake in a wok. Sorted.

Our second apartment also had no oven, but I was beginning to itch. We bought a little convection oven, which we kept on the indoor balcony as I was a bit alarmed at how hot the outer surface got, and thought it might melt bits of our rental kitchen. Supposedly you can roast a whole chook in these. Supposedly.

Surprisingly, our third apartment came with an oven! Again, possibly from the 50s, so maybe 80s China? Gas, no fan, also no temperature gauge. Basically, the longer you left it on, the hotter it got. This was probably the biggest baking challenge by far. It was also imperative that you decided which cutlery you needed before the meal because once you got that baby going, there was no chance in hell you could open the quickly expanding drawers up against the oven. It also had a non-functioning side-warming compartment. Useful for storing objects that didn’t melt.

I wish I had a photo… will keep looking…

Back to Australia, and I was a bit disappointed to find that our kitchen was electric, rather than gas. It took me a long time to get used to it, yet still I burnt things on the outside, and had to be so careful and attentive.

And then it died.

And got replaced.

And I realised that baking is a million times easier with an oven that works. My first meal of ‘The Petite Kitchen’s’ lavender chook was the most delicious ever… and I’ve been cooking it for ages. My eyes widened as I realised the baking opportunities, and threw myself into a baking frenzy. Especially after finishing uni and not having an oven for 10 days or so!

So, I wish to share two exciting recipes with you.

The first is a Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake from the Coles magazine. Woah. Hold onto your pants with this one. I’m looking forward to playing with this recipe and trying out some different flavour combos.

The second is a low-FODMAP, vegan-friendly banana pudding. The original recipe has been tweaked from Donna Hay Issue 81, p132.

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  • 250g coconut oil, melted 
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chia, 6 tbsp water, briefly mixed and soaked (as an egg replacement)
  • 1.5 cups of GF SR flour (I used the Aldi one)
  • Dark chocolate pieces, to taste

Mix the first 5 ingredients, stir through the chocolate, and bake in individual ramekins at 180 for about 15-20 mins.

Note: These are quite oily, but they don’t feel heavy, as it is coconut oil, rather than butter. But you may wish to put less oil.

Whilst the puddings are baking, make the caramel. This isn’t a true caramel, because of being vegan, but it is still delicious! I found that it was actually quite hard to dissolve the sugar in the coconut oil. I’m not entirely sure why… I’m sure science would tell me. Also, the sauce separates quickly quickly as there is less fat, so give it a good whisk before serving.

  • 150g coconut oil
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup of coconut milk

Melt the oil in a saucepan, add the sugar and dissolve as much as possible. Add the coconut milk carefully and continue to cook until it thickens slightly.

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Mmm.

Hama time

Remember Hama beads? Bit retro, hey?

We’ve become a bit addicted. Adella has been churning out drink coasters for friends and family in epic proportions. After ironing, I glue a piece of felt onto the back to strengthen them, and they’ve been holding up really well. I think she should start a market stall!

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Then, we were in Lincraft two days ago, and we found kits. You should’ve seen her jaw drop. So, it was mermaids and princesses, of course.

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In terms of an activity, it reminds me of Lego. You have to follow the instructions carefully, plus it is SO good for fine motor skills. She pretty much did these on her own, and just needed help with the shape of the tail, and the placement of the eyes.

Arlo and I are working on a parasaurolophus!

I’m thinking that we could make some cool Christmas decorations too.

What have you made with Hama beads? Please share!