Sunday, 5 July 2015

Red Balloon - Sunday picture


We've seen this hot air balloon the last few Fridays which has livened up the school run - though a chorus of complaints when I stopped to take the photo...

I wondered if it was something to do with Virgin's 30th anniversary celebrations? Maybe there've been others? Or maybe the balloon trip was a much anticipated, extra special present for someone. Whatever the reason, must have been an extra early start - I took this at 7.30.

Linking up with My Sunday Photo


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Egg Box Peppa Pig


Who'd have thought the Clangers and Peppa Pig had something in common? Well it turns out you can make both in a very similar way from an egg box!  Always good when one idea leads to another...

All you'll need is:
an egg box
red and white paint
black felt tip pen
red/pink felt tip pen
general purpose scissors
small scissors (straight edged nails scissors or similar)
(adult help/supervision needed with cutting)

1. Roughly cut out as much of the two middle cones as you can from the egg box. This makes them easier to work with.



2. Take one, and just above any joins at the bottom, draw a line around the cone. Cut up and along the line. This will be the body.

3. About 1cm from the top of the cone, use a pencil to draw a line across the side that's going to be the front. This is where the head will go.


4. Continue the pencil line either side, sloping it down (the sharper the angle, the more the head will tilt up). Don't go as far as the corners.


5. With the nail scissors, make a hole on the line (keep the scissors closed, press down firmly and twist from side to side). Then cut along the slot, and trim off an extra sliver of card if you can, to make it easier to push the head in.



6. For the legs, mark two straight lines (about 1cm long) near the corners at the front, and do the same on the back. Cut up, along the lines and either snip the square pieces of card off completely or, if it's easier, just fold them inwards, so they're under the body.


7. Now, draw lines from the top corners around the sides, keeping them level, but don't join them. Instead, leave a space in the middle of each side (1cm or less), and use small scissors to cut along the lines, just up to the gap, and no further. Try not to over-snip or you'll lose a leg!


8. Carefully fold, bend and press the flaps of card behind, either side, so they curve around (see picture). Your Peppa body should stand steady now. Trim if there are any wobbles.




9. For the head, take the other egg box cone and cut off the top 3cm or so.


10. Choose the side you want for the face and draw a short line in the middle, about 1cm from the open end. Then draw small, round Peppa ears either side, and keep them just on top. Don't draw over the corners. Continue the line around the back of the head.


11. Carefully cut along the line with small scissors - the little bit between the ears can be difficult to snip out, so, if you want, just fold it behind, before gently pushing the ears forward.


12. Painting time - paint the middle red for Peppa's dress and everything else pink (mix plenty of white with just a little red to get a nice pale pink colour). Don't forget to paint the top of the cone pink too, as well as part of the egg box lid, for the arms.




13. Once dry, cut a strip of card about 0.5cm wide from the painted lid, and cut off 2-3cm for each arm. Snip into the end a few times for fingers.

14. With the head out, make arm slots on each side. Use the small scissors to snip down about a cm from the sloped head slot. Wiggle the scissors in and out to make it easier to push the arms in.


15. Before putting the head back, paint two small white dots for eyes on top, in front of the ears, and dark pink circles for cheeks. When dry, finish the eyes with a spot of black felt tip pen and use a pink or red felt tip to draw a snout and Peppa's smile.









Sunday, 28 June 2015

Splash of colour - Sunday Photo


I was thinking how bright and cheery everything looked as I walked up the path at the side of the house, so, decided instead of doing what I usually do - think I'll remember to take a photo later on and then immediately forget - I'd go get my camera that minute and catch the bright cheeriness before it fades.
No carefully thought out colour scheme in our garden you might notice, more of a multi-coloured jumble...


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Chocolate Brownie Cake - The Photo Gallery


There have been many Birthday cakes, and many, many out of focus, blurry sparkler/blowing out candles shots - so I like this one! Makes me want to eat jelly beans... and cake, obviously.

It's a chocolate brownie cake; or more accurately an ordinary chocolate brownie recipe in the shape of a cake - and it is, without doubt, the thing I've baked the most over the last ten years. I can't even remember where the recipe came from.

It's like a big, gooey, chocolatey hug - my go-to bake to say thank you or well done or don't worry. And I always leave a plate of brownies for guests staying at the holiday cottage (if you ever fancy escaping to rural Herefordshire....)

I know there's much debate about the best brownie recipe, so I'll steer clear of that, but I've tried others and always end up coming back to this one, probably because it's quick and easy.

Grease and line a 8"/20cm tin - round or square, and heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Melt 150g of butter and 150g of dark chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a small saucepan of hot water. (I used to use only good quality chocolate with a high cocoa content, but went for cheap and cheerful during the £15 Challenge and no one noticed, so...)

Give the buttery chocolate mixture a stir and leave to cool a little, while you beat 3 eggs, 225g of soft brown sugar and a splash of vanilla extract together in a large bowl.

Stir in the cooled buttery chocolate and add 90g of plain flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder.

Mix well and pour and scrape into the tin. Bake for 15-20 mins, until the top is shiny and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Cool, cut and eat.

Lots more tempting cakes over at The Photo Gallery.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-o-wo-wo


It's all going far too fast at the moment. There've been no leisurely lunches a deux, or pottering round secondhand shops in Leominster, or swinging hands along the river path by the Wye.
All day-dreams - and even when I thought them, I knew they were.

Time off before a tour of duty is never properly time off. There have been training days, meetings and a recce dotted through the weeks. And at home, life has been a non-stop whirl of exams, matches, clubs, parties and sleepovers. But that's the way it is. We've been here before. So, I'm holding onto the good stuff, when we're all together, like a pub meal out on Sunday for Father's day, though the onset of teen-dom can make this more of challenge...

Dad was on my mind too, as he often is, and seeing the roses coming out always makes me think of him. He loved his roses. Like to believe he'd be proud of mine this year.
I told the kids about the time I dug a large piece of flint out of a flowerbed in the garden and wrapped it up for Father's day. Dad kept it on his desk and used it as a paperweight for years. Probably one of the most useful presents I ever gave him.


I'm loving having a break from the school run, though the kids are fed up to the back teeth with the Carpenters CD, which plays on a continuous loop in the car. Bless my husband and his easy-listening classics. It's freed up a lot of time for me though, but no point dwelling on how much, or getting too used to it.

Anyway, I've started the hall - walls and ceiling painted, and moving onto doors and skirtings. That's the plan!

And having vowed to give up egg boxes for a bit, wouldn't you know, I'm back on them. Can't help myself! We've made Clangers and Peppa Pig, and I've tried out a few farm animal ideas.


The other major thing on my mind is publicity for the book. I'd say it's preying on my mind to be honest, because anything to do with self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. And now of course, I'm starting to regret avoiding pretty much all social media, bar blogging, because it probably would have helped. So, I've finally got round to signing up to Facebook, and after much yelling and bashing of computer keys, managed to set up a page called 'Make Your Own Zoo' for crafty ideas. More yelling and bashing of keys and I appear to have installed a Facebook 'like' widgety thing on the righthand side of this blog - hopefully you can see it. Wish I'd done it earlier really, because now I kind of understand it, I think it would have been a better option than starting a new blog. You live and you learn.

The next thing is building up some interest in the page, which feels like tackling the cliff face of a notoriously steep mountain without necessarily having the right equipment. This is the bit I find difficult, because I don't like asking for things, and know many people who kindly pop by here aren't so into kids' crafts - but if you wouldn't mind, or happen to know anyone who might be interested, I'd be hugely grateful for a like or two. No pressure or expectations at all.
Uncurling toes now.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Little egg box Clangers

Lovely to see them back! Hopefully the Clangers will be just as popular this time round, so old timers like me can wallow in a bit of nostalgic childrens' telly....


To celebrate their return, we've been making mini ones from egg boxes (of course!) Their noses aren't quite as narrow and pointy as the real thing, but think there's enough of a likeness?
If you want to have a go, you will need:

An egg box
red and white paint
black felt tip
brown wool
glue
glitter
sequins
general purpose scissors
small scissors (straight edged nail/embroidery scissors)
(Adult help/supervision with cutting)

1 Roughly cut out the two middle cones from the egg box. This makes them easier to work with.



2 Take one, and just above any joins at the bottom, draw a line around the cone. Cut up and along the line. This will be the body.

3. About 1cm from the top of the cone, use a pencil to draw a line across the side that's going to be the front. This is where the head will go.


4. Continue the pencil line either side, sloping it down (the sharper the angle, the more the head will tilt up). Don't go as far as the corners.

5. With the nail scissors, make a hole on the line (keep the scissors closed, press down firmly and twist from side to side). Then cut the slot, and trim off an extra sliver of card if you can, to make it easier to push the head in.



6. For the legs, mark two straight lines (about 1cm long) near the corners at the front, and do the same on the back. Cut up, along the lines and either snip the square pieces of card off completely or, if it's easier, just fold them inwards, so they're under the body.


7. Now, draw lines from the top corners, around sides, keeping the lines level, but don't join them. Instead, leave a space in the middle (1cm or less) and use small scissors to cut along the lines, just up to the gap. Try not to over-snip or you'll lose a leg!


8 Carefully fold, bend and press the flaps of card behind, either side, so they curve around (see picture). Your clanger body should stand steady now. Trim if there are any wobbles.




9. For the head, take the other egg box cone and cut off the top 3cm or so.


10. Choose the side you want for the face and draw a short line in the middle, about 1cm from the open end. Then draw round clanger ears either side, using the corners too, and continue the line around the back of the head.


11. Carefully cut along the line with small scissors - the little bit between the ears can be difficult to snip out, so, if you want, just fold it behind.



12. Because the egg box cardboard is prone to ripping, you may need to snip into the bottom of the ears, before gently pushing them forward.

13. Painting time - mix plenty of white and just a little red to get a nice pale pink colour. Paint part of the egg box lid too for the arms. (Anyone else thinking Peppa Pig about now?....no prizes for guessing what we'll be trying next!)

14. Once dry, cut a strip of card about 0.5cm wide and make each arm roughly 2-3cm long. The Clangers have spindly fingers, so snip into the ends a few times.



15. With the head out, make slots for arms.  Use the small scissors to cut down a cm or so from the sloping head slot on both sides.


Wiggle the scissors in and out a few times so it's easier to push the arms in. Check they fit but it might be easier to leave them out while you decorate your Clanger.

16. Two decorating options - either use plenty of glue to stick on sequins (we had some large ones which were perfect), or, with the head out, cover the body with an even, thin layer of glue and sprinkle glitter!



17. Cut a tiny piece of wool, separate the strands and stick it down between the ears for their tuft hair. Dot eyes on top near the ears with a black felt tip pen and push the arms back in place.


18. To add a bow, fold a small piece of paper over and draw half a small bow on the fold. Cut out, open up and glue in place.



Have a go at varying the size of your Clangers too. I tried adding a grey circle on the end of the nose, but as the egg box cones aren't quite pointy enough, it made them look more like mice. Think they also have a Moomin look about them? Anyway, plenty of other things to try....




For a star-gazing Clanger, pull the head out of the slot and simply slip it over the top of the body.