EASTER HOT CHOCOLATE

The Christmas before last, the kids & I made some Christmas Cocoa in a Jar as gifts.  A little while ago, I came across some more DIY hot cocoa recipes via pinterest.  I thought they might be a fun & simple MOPS activity and a great gift idea as well.

You can find the recipes to make your own mocha, peppermint, mexican or classic cocoa over here.  I halved the recipes to fit in these jars.  Each of these particular cocoa blends are really, really delicious, but the beauty of these is that you can play around with the recipes to make your own perfect blend.  It’s a great activity for the kids to be involved in as well.
When we made our Christmas cocoa mix we filled the jar to the very top, making it tricky to combine the contents in order to make the hot chocolate.  The contents had to be emptied into a bowl, combined and then returned to the jar.  This time, I didn’t fill the jars as high so the ingredients could be combined by simply shaking the jar.

As chocolate is such a big part of the easter tradition that I thought maybe it could be fun to gift some Easter hot chocolate!

We go camping* every Easter holidays with my family.  We’re heading off soon for a few nights away.  The kids are talking about nothing else.

This is the perfect camping drink as it doesn’t require milk.  Cozy cup of hot cocoa by the fire in the evenings.  Can’t wait!

What are you up to this Easter?  Do you have a camping tradition?  What Easter traditions do you & your family have?

* the real deal kind of camping – in the middle of nowhere, no electricity, no running water, no showers and the shovel & toilet roll over your shoulder to find a good tree kind of toilet.

Elegant Easter Eggs

You might remember that last year there was a little Japanese fad going on at our house… and that when I came across this idea I had to give it a try.  A year on, I still have a love for Japanese origami paper.  As my recent bunting cards may attest.

 I ended up only making one egg last year, the sparkly blue one in the photos (I’d accidentally purchased glitter modpodge) and it is still in good condition a year on.*  



You can find the full instructions on how to make them over here.  
Mine were more of a slapdash kind of job, not quite as fiddly as Martha suggests, but I think they still turned out quite well.  Origami paper works well for this project because it works best with thin paper.  We might end up doing them for the MOPS craft this week.

These eggs are fun for the kids to try as well.  
Frog was very proud of this one that she & I made below!



Joining in today with Jodie, the Haby Goddess in her new Make-Grow-Thrift linky.

Do you do easter crafts?  I love any excuse really – adds to the magic maybe…

* the eggs were blown so they’ll last for a long time – as long as you don’t drop them!

P.S.  I just had to include this dodgy little photo taken a year ago of Goose & Frog blowing some eggs.  
Gorgeous kids – they grow up too fast!

Rainbow Beads

Last year we discovered these little beads….. I think they are commonly known as hama beads or perler fuse beads.  I purchased ours from IKEA and they were called Pyssla beads. They are all the same thing as far as I can tell.  Anyway…. 

They came in a big tub like this….
with peg boards in various shapes. 

Basically, you just put the beads on the pegboard in whatever shape you desire.  The beads need to be touching each other, unlike the photo below, as you then place a piece of greaseproof paper (it comes with the set) on top of the beads and iron it for about 10 seconds on a low heat, peel the paper away and the beads all stick together.
There is a detailed tutorial here if that did not really make sense!
The kids made some coasters.  Frog (3) and Bear (4) made the multicoloured ones and needed only a very small amount of help.  Goose (8) then decided to make the heads of her two best school friends to give to them.   They can be attached to key rings or even used for a completely different purpose and threaded and woven to make bracelets like Kate from minieco.

I just checked out perler beads on ebay and there are many!  Including lots and lots of peg boards in many shapes and sizes for only a couple of dollars.  You can also purchase them from craft stores and of course, IKEA.

For more kids craft ideas, check out the FGB kids craft page right here.


P.S.  I just had to blog today just so that I could have a blog post on the 29th of Feb – you only get that chance once every four years!

EASY PEASY BANANA POPS

With the hot, hot weather in Melbourne this weekend and bananas back to an affordable price, we’ve made some quick and easy banana pops!


Simply peel bananas, chop in half, stick in a paddlepop stick and pop it in the freezer for a few hours.  

A perfectly healthy summer treat!  
This same method also works very well with large strawberries – 2 or 3 to a stick.  
I’m sure it would work well with a multitude of fruits!

As with most of the ideas on this blog – this one came from my Mum.  She always has a box of these in the freezer at her house for when the kids come to stay.  Thanks Mum!  ;)
I have also seen something similar on ‘playschool’ with the bananas dipped in honey and then rolled in coconut which might well be worth a try also!

What do you do on summer days when it’s very, very hot?
I think we might just have to get the black plastic out again…

THIS YEAR’S CRACKERS

Homemade bon bons, or Christmas Crackers as they are known in other parts of the world, have been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember.  I have enjoyed taking on the role of bon bon making for quite a few years now.  You can see last year’s bon bons here.

These bon bons were for a Christmas party that I attended last weekend.  Such a beautiful setting.  19 of us gathered outside on a long trestle table, covered in a white linen tablecloth, with branches of holly and red baubles, the ‘good glasses’ and the ‘good silver’, fabulous food and company…I digress…

I wrapped these bon bons with old sheet music for something different and this was what was inside…


Each year there is a snap and a hat* inside the bon bon, but everything else varies each year.  It depends on the group who I make them for really.


Instead of jokes this year, I used ‘conversation starters’ and after we’d opened the bon bons we went around the table completing sentences such as “my earliest Christmas memory is…”, “Christmas Carols make me…”, “My favourite Christmas tradition is…”, etc.


Along with some red & green m&m’s and some Christmas sequins (leftover from last year) I made up little ‘alfalfa sprout kits’ with some tulle, some alfalfa seeds, a rubber brand and printed instructions from here (with slight variation).  

There are thousands of things you could put inside, but to match the sheet music, these homemade paper decos would have gone well inside. Some other creative ideas, a little outside the box, that would work are these homemade ‘mini pick up sticks‘, fabric covered hairties or magnets, marshmallows & toothpick activity, Christmas themed activity sheet for people to complete then give out prize for winner, small puzzle pieces for everyone to combine & complete … 

Do you make your own bon bons?  What do you put inside?

* I make the hat using tissue paper, but you could use Christmas wrapping paper for something different.  

KIDS CHRISTMAS CRAFT: PASTA ANGELS

In unpacking the Christmas decos last week,
(or was that the week before?!  Life is flying along at a rapid rate at the moment!)
I discovered these cute pasta angels that Goose made last year with her Grandma.  My mother-in-law makes these every year and she is quite the expert, but she tells me it is very easy.  All you need is some pasta, a wooden bead and a hot glue gun! 

 Goose spray painted these with some gold glitter and it looks like some white paint on there too.  They look more gold in real life.

You’ll find a well written tutorial here.  
Although they draw on the hair and face, instead of small pasta as hair.  Both look cute.


For more kids Christmas crafts, you can head over here to the FGB kids craft page.


AN EASY PEASY CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS…

It is a little Christmas tradition in our house, starting from my childhood, to make little Christmas puddings.  Before you go getting all impressed at my skills in the kitchen, it is simply an Arnott’s Chocolate Royal biscuit with some white chocolate, a jaffa and some sliced mint leaf lollies.  I love an cheat’s easy peasy recipe.  You might remember these from last year.


This will be our MOPS craft activity today. Nice and simple as per usual.  While Goose & Bear were at school & kinder yesterday, Frog & I made a few samples and packaged some up as gifts to give to the ladies who look after the kids each fortnight at MOPS.


I feel like I have melted an enormous amount of chocolate over the last few weeks for various recipes.  My new favourite thing to do since, by trial and error I’ve discovered the fool-proof, no-fail chocolate melting technique.  Stay tuned later this week for a post on melting chocolate and another easy peasy chocolate recipe.


A little reward for the jaffa and mint leaf placer…
or was that just plugging the hole to stop the incessant “can i have one, can i have one, can i have one, can i have one… can I lick the spoon, can I lick the spoon, can I lick the spoon…”


Oh look there is one of the clay tags that we made last week.


And a pudding for one…


With the leftover white chocolate still in the saucepan, I tried something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  We made some Candy Cane bark.


Simply add a few drops of peppermint essence to the melted chocolate, pour onto a small tray covered in baking paper, then sprinkle some crushed candy canes over the top and let it set.  
We based our recipe on this one over here.  



 Once set, you break it into pieces and package into nice little gifts.  
This was so ridiculously easy.  Next time I would like to try a mixture of dried cranberries and pistachios on some dark chocolate, and without the essence, for a more adult Christmas treat.  I’ve also seen it done with layers of white and milk chocolate or swirling the two together.  The possibilities are endless.


For more easy peasy recipe ideas you might like to check out the FGB easy recipe page.


What are your easy peasy ‘go-to’ Christmas recipes each year?  Do share.

RAINBOWS…

Couldn’t resist sharing some photos from playgroup yesterday.   
All of this term we have been creating a rainbow. 
 Each week the kids* dressed in a different color of the rainbow and each week they brought along bits & pieces from home (eg. paper, feathers, fabric, buttons, etc) of the same color to stick on our large rainbow on the wall.  We completed a band each week.
Last week we celebrated the end of the rainbow with a ‘rainbow party’. 
 Of course I only had my phone on me and you’ll have to excuse the shots taken via hipstamatic.
 Thanks Susannah - that cake was the ‘piece de resistance’! 

* adults too if truth be known.

DIY CHOCOLATE BOWLS

Just to keep with the sugar theme that we seem to have going on this week…

we made something that I’ve been meaning to try for a very long time.
Our own chocolate bowls!  For a more elaborate tutorial and where I got the idea from in the first place head over to the very clever Bakerella.

These were made by children, so were not the neatest of bowls, but it did not affect the taste!  One of the children, who will remain nameless, thought they would like to create a bowl larger than anyone elses and tried to cover a majority of the balloon in chocolate only to discover when it was time to pop the balloons that it all cracked into tiny pieces.   The rest of us, with a bowl shape (and not greed) in mind, simply dipped the base of our balloons* in the melted chocolate as thickly as possible and placed it on some baking paper to set.  We put them in the fridge, as we wanted them to set quickly, but you probably wouldn’t need to.

Then we set about making our icecream in a bag and had hoped to be eating icecream out of our chocolate bowls within 10 minutes.  In the end, the icecream wasn’t ready until later, so we ate our chocolate bowls with some leftover strawberry and chocolate instant pudding** from the night before and a few strawberries.

I have seen these chocolate bowls (albiet a little fancier) on the front cover of a Donna Hay Kids mag made using white chocolate mixed with pink & green food dye – I’d like to try that next!  What a fun and impressive, yet super simple dinner party dessert!
For more easy peasy recipes, you might like to check out the FGB easy recipes page

* We used normal balloons blown up very small, but water balloons would be best.
**instant pudding - another food from my childhood that I happened to see on the supermarket shelf and had to give it a try!

DIY ICE-CREAM IN A BAG

 As it is school holidays at the moment here in Victoria, you’ll find this blog a little heavy on the side of kids activities.  Just in case my children hadn’t done enough experimenting with sugar, we tried this activity last week when one of Goose’s friends came over for a play.



It is made by simply mixing cream, sugar and vanilla essence in a ziplock bag, surrounding it in another ziplock bag of ice & salt and then shaking for 5 minutes and voila! 


Although…. it was not quite that quick for us…. after a good 15 minutes of shaking by the four children on hand, ours just didn’t seem to work!  So I popped it in the freezer for a few hours and after dinner that night, we had a bag of icecream that, to my complete surprise, actually looked and tasted just like icecream!


I think next time we’ll even try it with frozen berries or crushed chocolate biscuits on Bear’s suggestion.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the chocolate bowls we made to put the icecream into (that got eaten before the icecream was ready….)
For more fun & different ways to amuse your kids, head over to the FGB kids craft page.

Addition May 2012 – You’ll find a full Frog, Goose & Bear tutorial on how to make this ‘DIY icecream in a bag’ over here.  

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