11-04-2014

Making homemade Easter eggs

making homemade easter eggs

We’re into the preschool Easter holidays now, so my plan was to save this homemade chocolate Easter egg making task for rainy day entertainment – when I struggle most to find fun and engaging things to keep Arlo busy.

But when Sam saw the contents of the box, he declared that he wanted to be involved too. So, it became a family activity, which was just as well in the end as the process is quite delicate and it was useful to have someone else on hand to juggle egg-making with Rory’s needs.

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The goodies were all supplied by Waitrose, who have loads of inspiration on their Easter for children page. It’s obviously been a long while since I had a good peruse down the baking aisle (I tried to make this sound less like a euphemism. I failed.) because there are all sorts of exciting items that I didn’t even know you could buy - We did this in the midst of packing for our holiday, so we just made Arlo’s egg. But had we more time, Sam was eyeing up a butterscotch number, whilst I was intrigued to try out a dark chocolate and rose petal infusion.

No smiles in these photos – chocolate is serious business to Arlo. It was actually a pretty good exercise in patience for this chocolate-fiend. The moulds need a few layers of chocolate, and in between that you have to wait for it to set (we stuck ours in the freezer for around 5 minutes each time).

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The first layer of chocolate going into the mould

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Nope. You can’t eat it yet.

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Arlo chose to hide secret milkybar buttons inside his egg

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Dada gave someone a chocolate-covered spoon. (Classic case of second child syndrome – the first bit of chocolate Arlo tried was the tiniest sliver of low-sugar chocolate cake on his first birthday. And then nothing until he was almost two)

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Nope. You can’t eat it yet. I need to take a photo. 

Once his egg was ready and decorated, Arlo wasted no time tucking in. You can see a video of the grand egg-breaking moment on my Instagram.

If you are going to have a crack at making chocolate eggs at home, my ‘top tip’ would be to make sure you layer the chocolate lots towards the edges so they are thick enough for a good join – we neglected this bit on our first attempt. If you have several children who all want to make eggs at once, buy more than one mould so that you don’t have to make your eggs one by one. And be prepared for the constant “Is it ready yet?” line of inquiry ; )

We really enjoyed our chocolate egg-making experience. For various reasons, we don’t often do cooking or baking with Arlo, so it was great to try something a bit different with him. And homemade eggs are definitely a much more personal gift than the aisles upon aisles of generic chocolate eggs at the supermarket. Although those are good too. If anyone wants to buy me chocolate, I’m not fussed. Any chocolate. Chocolate…. (Can you tell where Arlo gets it from?)

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Here is a step by step guide from Waitrose to help you make the perfect homemade Easter eggs:

Ingredients
250g of good quality dark or milk chocolate – remember to save a little extra for decorating

What you’ll need
2 chocolate egg moulds
Flat pastry brush or small paintbrush
Heat proof bowl
Spoon
Pan

Step 1  - Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water in a pan.
Step 2
- Paint a thin layer of chocolate inside the egg moulds, making sure it meets the edges of the mould. Depending on the size of the moulds you may need more chocolate, have plenty on standby!
Step 3 - Chill for 5 minutes or until the chocolate is firm.
Step 4
- Spread another even layer of chocolate over the first layer and let cool for another 5 minutes or until firm.
Step 5 - Gently ease the mould away from the chocolate. Join the chocolate halves together with a little melted chocolate, using a flat pastry brush or small paint brush – That’s it! Well done, you have made your very own Easter egg!

Decorating tips:
Melt a little extra chocolate and use this to stick on chocolate buttons and small light sweets that won’t fall off like marshmallows or sugar-coated jellies

Using icing piping to draw on simple Easter shapes such as chicks, rabbits and lambs to give your egg a fun farm theme

Personalise your egg by writing the recipient’s name in icing piping and use decorative sweets that represent their personality

Why not turn you egg into a person or an animal?  For example use sweets and chocolates for eyes and fur. For an Easter afternoon activity, make an egg that resembles a family member

Dip your finished egg in melted chocolate and roll in hundreds and thousands or popping candy for a textured knobbly effect

Why not try white chocolate to make your Easter egg

Before sealing the two halves, hide an Easter treat inside? Maybe some small sweets, a surprise Easter toy or just a note to say Happy Easter!

For a more indulgent egg why not add to the melted chocolate when you’re still preparing the egg, try butterscotch chunks or honeycomb pieces for a real treat!

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Our ingredients were provided by Waitrose for the purpose of this blog post. 

10-04-2014

Siblings in April

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This is the photo I was going to pick for April’s Siblings project.

Rory dotes on his older brother. When he laughs, Rory laughs. And when he cries, Rory will no doubt follow suit. At first, his forehead furrows and his expression turns from smiley to a quizzical  as he studies his brother’s sobbing face. Then, the panic sets in in his eyes, and his bottom lip starts a slow and steady tremble that signals the crescendo of wailing – a sympathy cry for his brother.  If you happen to be passing us as this occurs, you might wonder why Sam and I are grinning like loons at our two red and sobbing children. But it’s incredibly endearing.

That is the photo I wanted to pick. Because it tells the most about Arlo and Rory’s relationship. But  I also couldn’t resist sneaking in a few more …we’ve been busy behind the camera this past month.

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Now, I’m not sure that she needs any introduction, but just in case anyone is living under a blogging rock, it is now my pleasure to direct you on to the awesome Mammasaurus, and her blog full of pretty things.



 

 

31-03-2014

Me and Mine – March

In once sense, this month has just flown by. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was sitting here writing February’s Me and Mine post, and now it’s practically April. The winter to spring transition just seemed to happen overnight, and now, lighter, warmer days are upon us.

In another sense, this month has just dragged. With some of the worst sleep since I became a mother of two, and a long dose of solo-parenting added into the mix, I have felt exhaustion almost every day this month. March has been unproductive days and 8.30pm bedtimes (for me). My head has been in a fog, and I’m still waiting for it to lift, but I’m hoping the spring sunshine will help with my energy levels and my mood in general.

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Here’s a phone photo that I took on the day that Sam left for his work trip. Arlo had forced encouraged everyone to play one of his favourite games – he lines up the chairs and we pretend to be on a train: today’s route was Norwood junction via Tanzania.

You never see Arlo so animated than when he’s in the throes of imaginary play, especially if it involves travel. He loves ‘playing pretend’. It really is one of the things that defines him as a three year old, and the rest of us are happy to be along for the ride.

As per usual, I am sending you on to another of the bloggers hosting Me and Mine. This month it’s Katie, who I am sure most of you know already, but just in case you haven’t discovered Katie’s blog yet, and you’re in the mood for lovely photography and great writing on the joys of parenthood, hop on over to Mummy Daddy Me and you’ll be in for a treat.

20-03-2014

Parenting alone when your children hate sleep

I love alone time. I’ve always been happy to hole up by myself, embrace the opportunity to watch my trashy TV shows without comment or judgement, or work away at my computer on whatever personal project I have going at that moment. I could spend days on my own. But it’s different now that I have children. I’m never really alone, and never really relaxed.

I’ve mentioned before that I find Arlo’s night wakings difficult and that it’s quite a big source of anxiety for me. I don’t always know how to help him, and I seem to make things worse a lot of the time. I’m always wondering what the next wake-up will have in store, hoping that it will be an easy one. For this reason, I dread nights alone. On top of that, there’s all the standard worries that naturally arise when you are the sole person in charge. If my anxieties aren’t already heightened by wondering if Arlo will have a bad night, I’m torturing myself with nightmare scenarios in my head…”What would I do in the event of an emergency?…What if this happened? Or that??”

On top of that, there’s the sleep deprivation. Both children wake throughout the night. Going into Arlo means leaving Rory’s side, which wakes him up too. It’s a vicious cycle that is really tricky to juggle when it’s just me here.

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The joys of another 5am start.

Sam goes away quite regularly for work. I felt I still hadn’t quite gained enough closure and distance from the last trip away (Rory was eight weeks and Arlo had a tummy bug), when all of a sudden the next trip was looming. These trips last between a week and two weeks, and with two children who seem to hate sleep, it doesn’t take long before I feel like I’m walking through treacle, with a head foggier than anything I experienced during the days of having a newborn. We’re out the other side of the trip now (YESSSSS), so I’m sharing a few tactics I employ whilst in survival mode:

Music for company. Upbeat music or radio chatter to fill the noticeable void during the hour Sam would normally be getting home from work, and when my niggling anxiety about night time starts kicking in.

At the end of the day, it gets light.
I can be a sobbing mess at my wits end at night, when no one is sleeping and I’m DESPERATE for some small amount of rest. But, somehow, with the break of day comes a miraculous new enthusiasm. In the darkest night time moments, I try to remind myself that I KNOW that everything will look better in the morning.

Make life easy for yourself.
In whatever big or small ways that you can. For me, this involves blowing the food budget on a takeaway for me and expensive ‘baby food’ products for Rory. There doesn’t seem much point expending extra energy cooking proper meals for one (and a half) every day, whilst Arlo and I would happily exist on a diet of ‘things on toast’, Rory at least deserves a shot at slightly better nutrition (and salt content), and I need to keep my energy levels up too.

Don’t plan anything too ambitious. I’m always tempted to plan full on days out to fill the days and up my chances of adult interaction. I think it will help the time pass quicker. But these outings usually only serve to push me over the edge when I’m already running on very low reserves. Quiet time may be boring and lonely, but it’s often a safer bet.

Go to bed early. When you never know how your night is going to go, go to bed at the first chance you get. A 5am start doesn’t seem so bad if bedtime was 8.30pm.

Plan your social activities at the right time for youI always think it will be a great idea to invite my friends round in the evenings when I’m on my own, but the reality is that they are finishing work as the bedtime routine starts, and by the time they arrive it’s basically my bedtime (according to the vital early nights rule). However, weekends can feel pretty lonely so it’s good to have day time plans for then.

Stay elsewhere.
This might not be an option depending on local obligations, how far away your friends/family are from you, and various other practicalities, but for me, the very mathematical equation looks something like this: peace of mind that I am not alone at night should an emergency occur, + a change of scenery for the boys, subtract x amount of preschool days missed, + sharing a room with both children and getting less sleep than usual, + family all working full time anyway, = a max of two nights away before it becomes more hassle than it’s worth.

Expect Sod’s law. It would be foolish, reckless even, to expect anything but the worst to happen. They will get ill. They will sleep worse than usual. Something will break (at the very least, your sanity). In order to avoid severe disappointment, treat anything easier than this as a bonus.

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They fell asleep in the car. I brought a pillow with me. Genius. 

10-03-2014

One candid, one posed – Arlo and Rory -Siblings in March

 

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Every time, I think I want a posed photo. I think about how good the light will be / how clean the background will be if I place them in that particular spot, about how I want them to be wearing something cute, something that instantly screams ICONIC CHILDHOOD PHOTO.

But what I really want is interaction. Any time, any place, just a shot of my children interacting with each other as they naturally do.

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At the beginning of the year when I was thinking about how I wanted to approach this Siblings project, I wanted to use it as a chance to sit back and quietly observe my children, a chance to collect true candid shots that really reveal their relationship, and an opportunity to step away from the more posed shots that become a habit in my profession.

I resolved to keep my mouth shut when behind the camera, to not coax them into doing specific things, or make them look at the camera. I resolved to capture natural moments of interaction. I feel like I’m about 50/50 succeeding with that so far – sometimes with very young children, you just have to encourage them a little.

As is usual with the Siblings linky, I am sending you in the direction of one of the other bloggers taking part in the project. This month, it’s my turn to send you on to Katie at Mummy Daddy Me, who has just celebrated a big birthday – Happy Birthday, Katie!