Monday, 24 October 2011

Getting arty with your little ones

We went to a fabulous family day at Shropshire Wildlife Trust this weekend.  They had an absolutely brilliant art activity making hedgehogs that kids from 2 to about 10 were all really enjoying.  I thought I would share it with you, as it is perfect for those bored half term moments, particularly if the weather is not great.
Here is a photo of the finished product my 7 year old daughter (little Lootybag!) made.
You will need:
A small box (cereal carton or similar)
A piece of stiff card, a little longer than the box .
Pine cones.
Clay, plasticine or play doh, preferably in brownish colour (that yucky sludgy colour you get if all the olours get mixed together is just perfect!)
Dry leaves and twigs.

For the hedgehog:  Make a little cone of clay for the head and push it onto the pointy end of the pine cone.  Poke 2 small holes for eyes with a pencil.

For their nest: Cut a window in the side of the box, leaving an edge at least 1 cm wide all the way round.  The box can be painted if you are feeling particularly brave.  Cut the stiff card into a strip that is narrow enough to fit in the box.  Fold the ends down to make legs.  Slip into the box to make a sort of shelf.  Fill under the shelf with twigs. Glue leaves onto the shelf and inside the back of the box. The pinecone hedgehogs can then either be glued in, or left free to play with in their "nest".

Monday, 10 October 2011

Cardboard, cardboard and more cardboard plus Hello Handmade

We have been ordering all sorts of new exciting products recently, both to extend our party bag ranges and specifically to introduce ranges for babies and toddlers, like the little recovery truck shown left which is suitable from 12 months.  We also have some Christmas stocking fillers. These wooden Christmas slide whistles are just gorgeous aren't they?  I received my Christmas fabrics this week - I cannot wait to get creative with it. Their delivery coincided with us reorganising and relocating our stock storage.  For a couple of days our home became a cardboard box obstacle course.  Wednesday was school Harvest Festival and the delivery due that day thankfully arrived in time to let us attend, but only just.  We literally dumped the boxes in the hall and ran for the door.  Getting back in was quite amusing.
Harvest festival got me thinking.  Although I am not particularly religious it did make me think about stopping for a while and being thankful for what we do have, rather than in the constant pursuit of what we do not have.

We are very excited to have joined together in a sort of co-op with a group of fellow small businesses across the UK who produce high quality handmade products like us.  The brainchild of Gill Oglesby, who makes some simply stunning jewellery, we support each other by advertising and showcasing each others products, and by each member sending their customers exclusive offers valid across the whole group.  Gill has launched an energetic facebook and twitter campaign and we are all part of an online and leaflet campaign.  Just click on the Hello Handmade banner to access exclusive offers for us and our partners.  It has only been going a few days and has already generated us two large orders.  By sharing the advertising it saves us all both cost and effort - allowing us to get on with what we do best - making our products.

Hello to all at Handmade Monday, a fab group of handmade blogs, and thanks to everyone who took the time to reply, twitter or email me with how much you enjoyed my recipe for chocolate beetroot brownie.  A lot of lucky kids were treated to some fab home baking last week and none of them though for one minute there might be VEGETABLES (Yuck) in it.  Just a few may be convinced that there are yummy things you can make with ugly muddy things from the garden.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cakes with goodness hidden inside

I set up at a craft fair this weekend and next to me was a local part time business by 2 ladies making cakes called Sugar and Spice.  Both were mums used to baking for little ones and their cakes certainly had the youngsters flocking around their stall.  One of their best sellers was a delicious, fudgy chocolate brownie.  Unknown to most who ate it (at least until they had finished) was the fact that they were made with beetroot.  A delicious way to get a very virtuous but almost universally hated veg into little ones (and grown ups come to that).  They can also be made with grated courgette if you have a glut of those.  Courgettes do need all the juice squeezed out of them first though - apparently wrapping in a clean dish towel and wringing them out is the easiest way but I haven't tried that yet - all my courgettes are finished.  They died off early due to the summer drought I think.

They very kindly shared their recipe
250g dark cooking chocolate
250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self raising flour
250g cooked beetroot grated (or grated raw courgette with excess juice squeezed out)

Melt chocolate and butter together.  Add eggs and sugar.  Mix
Gently add beetroot and flour, stirring just enough to combine.  (You can add chopped nuts and or raisins if you like at this stage)
Pour into a 20cm square tin and bake for 20mins at 180C.

On the work side I have been sewing like a demon, trying to build up some stock after a couple of large orders.  My efforts were thwarted by a couple of desperate Mums phoning with very last minute requests for bespoke bags for next day delivery. I love a challenge so of course said yes.  The only problem is, when I am sewing like a mad women my workroom very quickly looks a bombsite as I throw what I have been working on to one side to make room for the new top priority project.  One of the fabrics I was sewing was finer than much of my usual stock, and as the pieces started to pucker and catch I realised my machine needle was completely worn blunt.  I didn't remember to change that in my big sewing machine TLC session last week did I. Now I had better get on with some tidying up.