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For children, the school holidays are a time of magic: a time of late nights, scraped knees and baking. There’s nothing that reminds me more of childhood baking that the rice-krispie cake.
So when the rain poured down yesterday, we girls got out the mixing bowls, and made some Quick Donut Cereal Crispie Nests. I recently saw a post on Maison Cupcake’s site that made me think I could use doughnut moulds to make these nests.
Rather than using Rice Krispies, we opted to used Malted Wheat Squares- the supermarket own equivalent of Shreddies- which when crushed look much more like twiggy nests than the more pebble-shaped krispies, although any breakfast cereal should do the job.
I recently made a Mermaid Tail from a disposable tablecloth for World Book Day. Here’s how.
a disposable tablecloth: mine was paper with a plastic back
a few cupcake cases
lots of double-sided sticky tape
These images are of my test-run. In fact it is easier to add the scales before you tie up the tail fin. But it is clearer from these images!
Firstly, I measured my daughter from waist to floor (length). And then I measured around her waist with a 15cm overlap (width). I cut a rectangle from the tablecloth using these measurements.
I then folded it in half width-ways, and trimmed it. I cut a wedge about 3/4 of the way down- I cut in about 3/4 of the width too, then I trimmed up and out in a curve in both directions. This will make the body and tail fins.
I folded over a very narrow “seam” across the waist of the tail and stuck down with sticky tape.
I cut strips- about 6cm wide) from the bubble wrap roll that were as long as the tail was wide, then I cut scale shapes along one edge. I repeated this about 15 times. Then I used the tape to stick these rows of scales- bubble side up- on to the tail. Start at the bottom, above what will be the fins, and add each new row so that it overlaps the previous row and is off-centre (a bit like brick-laying!) to it, so that the round edge of each scale sat roughly across the gap between scales on the previous row.
Once I had layered bottom to top, I trimmed the edges. You could just leave it like this, but I added cupcake cases, flattened and cut in half, randomly dotted and placed under the bubble-wrap scales. Mine were turquoise, a sea green and some silver too.
Lastly, I made the fins. Firstly, I cut up through the centre of the fin section, about halfway. Then I grabbed one of the fins in my hand, fiddled with it a bit so that it looked pretty, then held it in place with washi tape (you could use a hairband or elastic band.) I repeated on the other side, trying to get the two fins looking even. Finally I bound then two together.
Lastly, when I had my daughter to hand, I fixed two sets of Velcro dots on the waist of the tail so that the tail would be held snuggly in place.
We also added a shell bikini- a strip of leftover tablecloth that I tied on over her clothes. This was embellished with two shell shapes cut from silver bubblewrap (the kind that insulates cold shopping) but you could use felt. The shells were decorated with glitter and stick on jewels.
We also used real beach shells to make a quick shell necklace and to embellish a headband.
These costumes (headband and necklace aside) were not designed to last, although one survived the day very well and is in our dressing up box. But they survived the day and were a quick solution to a costume drama.
But the Sitting Room is proving to be a challenge. It is quite large, you see, and I am at a loss as to how to bring the whole room together when all it wants to do, it seems, is eat furniture!
As it is on the end of the house, it has three external walls, making it very cool (read bracing) during winter months, so our first job was to get a wood burner installed. The previous owner had extended the room, and made the fireplace and chimney breast ready, so our work was a lot easier. A local fireplace company gave all the advice on the size we would need, as well as installing and offering great after-sales care.
We consulted with a Plumbs consultant to get our sofas and armchairs- all from the old house or bought on eBay in anticipation of our move- to coordinate. The rest of the furniture is a mismatch of things that will gradually be replaced or moved over time. I was delighted at the weekend to win a design consultation with Sundridge Interiors, who will hopefully give me the ideas I need to get the room finished this year.
But the primary issue we had was lighting: the room was entirely lit with picture lights, which offered a low light though not enough to read by. We have replaced some of the picture lights with wall lights, which I got the electricians to hang upside down, as the fixture points on the walls were quite high up to allow for pictures to be hung at eye height.
But I still do not have enough ambient light. So I was delighted when Wayfair got in touch offering to help. They offer “a zillion things” for the home, and stock hundreds of brands of furniture, lighting, cookware, and much more for your interiors. In my case they had the perfect lamp: the Knightsbridge Floor Lamp.
It was quick to assemble and ready to go with a perfect neutral shade that will match whatever wall colour we finally choose, though it is a shame, as with all lighting companies, that a bulb isn’t included as standard in the price. In this case I had to wait to enjoy the light until I purchased the correct bulb.
The height is adjustable and it has a long cord, making it ideal for the space: there is no space on the table for a lamp yet the corner is dark so without light you are unable to read in the perfect reading chair.
The lamp retails at £135.00. Next day shipping is available through the site. Service was quick and efficient and the parcel was well packed so there was no damage.
Disclosure: the lamp sent by Wayfair was offered in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are our own and this post has not been paid for. All other companies mentioned and their services were either won or bought at our own expense.
There is, as far as I am concerned, always a reason for a Rice Krispie cake. And as our Easter holidays start today, these ones have an Easter vibe: Chocolate Rice Krispie Easter Bunny Treat !
As I really wanted to get the details of the mould clearly, I first melted about 100g milk chocolate, distributing it easily between the four moulds, then tipping to get the chocolate to spread across the base. I left them flat in the fridge for the chocolate to solidify whilst I made the marshmallow krispie mix- I used the New Years Eve Rings recipe, halved, leaving out the cranberries, and substituting the cornflakes for rice cereal. In actual fact I used 75g plain krispies and 25g or so of chocolate krispies.
Once made, press the mixture into the mould. I used the handle of the spoon to poke the sticky mess into the edges, then once I was sure I had achieved maximum density, I pressed down the top with the back of the spoon. Then it was back into the fridge.
The following morning, with careful encouragement, they popped out of the shells reasonable easily and without breaking! Result.
The Bunny Moulds- which work for cakes, jelly and sand- cost £10.99 for a pack of 4 from Unique Home Living. Made from flexible plastic in a mix of bright colours they are heat resistant to 600F/315C and oven, microwave, freezer and dishwasher-proof. The little jug is very useful for melting small amounts of chocolate quickly in the microwave and is perfect for pouring into moulds. Made from heat-resistant silicone it is also dishwasher-proof and costs £7.99
I have only one complaint about the Tesco Mum of the Year event at The Savoy on Sunday: there should have been more tissues.
I started off well: I got all giggly catching up with blogging friends. I was thrilled beyond measure to be sitting with Lifetime Achievement winner Pam Clarke, and I *may* have done my best impression of a screaming teenager when I almost walked into Ronan Keating on the stairway. By the time I got to my table and realised I was sitting next to Kevin from Grimsby, within touching distance of Bryan McFadden and in the same room as singers from every group I adored in my twenties, to be honest I was acting like a spoilt child at Christmas.
But, once the presentation started, I sort of lost it. When a room is filled with the sniffs and sobs of people of all ages, men and women, unable to hold their composure hearing stories of searing grief, of child loss, of struggle and hardship, it’s kind of hard to stay cool.
There are days when I genuinely believe I have a hard life: when I am juggling children and livestock, mud and laundry and cooking and bedmaking and money worries. The times when I stay up late finishing a costume for school the following day, then muddle through the following 24 hours on the verge of tears from sleep-deprivation. The moments when one of my children has an Epic tanty in a public venue and I just want the ground to swallow me so that I do not have to endure the stares of disapproving septagenarians.
I feel generous for helping a friend in a fix, or for dumping several bags of stuff at the Charity Shop, or for bringing cakes to a playdate. I do my bit, I tell myself.
And then you come across women like these:
Is it any wonder that the room at The Savoy was packed to the very edges with all manner of celebrities, TV personalities, Boy Band members and Olympians, all paying tribute to the extraordinary women who graced the stage? Is it any wonder I came home with panda eyes and a determination to be better, try harder, do more? Is it any wonder that I think there should have been more tissues?
You can see each of these exceptional women when Channel 5 show the Tesco Mum of the Year event, hosted by Celebrity mum Emma Willis, on Sunday evening, yes, Mother’s Day, 30 March at 6.10pm.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to tell you the story of Mother’s Day without a mother, and a charity that is doing so much to help children of our serving Armed Forces.
Mark Every, 42, lives in Marham, North Norfolk, with his two-year-old son Joseph. He lost his wife Joanna to cancer six months ago.
Joanna and Mark met while they were both serving in the Royal Air Force at Marham, North Norfolk, in 2002. She was 21 years old and joining her first operational Squadron in the RAF, while he had travelled all over the world as a military engineer. They served in many countries together, including Afghanistan
In 2009 Mark proposed and the couple were married in Rutland near Peterborough. Two years later Joanna fell pregnant with their first child, Joseph, who was born on June 22, 2011. Joanna suffered a significant injury during Joseph’s birth which left her incontinent and with ongoing health issues. In 2013 they received the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with rectal cancer and required intensive chemotherapy. In May last year it was discovered the cancer had spread to Joanna’s lungs.
“She was very stoic. She was young and a strong fighter,” said Mark. “If she did know [she was going to die] she didn’t let me know.”
During her last few weeks Mark, Joanna and Joseph enjoyed one last celebration – Joanna’s birthday and Joseph’s Christening- and had one last day out together at Silverstone Grand Prix with Joanna in a wheelchair last June.
She passed away two weeks later on July 11 at the age of 32.
Joanna saw her son for the last time on the Sunday before she died.
“She gave him a hug. She was lucid enough to speak and say goodbye to him before I took him home. The end came quickly: she was doing really well but when she started going downhill it happened really fast.”
Mark says he has found it difficult to adjust to life as a single dad and learning how to cope with his toddler’s grief.
“Joseph has certain signs of regression with his speech. It went back to how it was when his mum was alive, which was picked up as a sign of bereavement. But overall he’s coping as best a toddler could,” said Mark.
“He’s only two, and you have no idea really what’s going on in his mind but he just knows we don’t go to hospital to see mummy anymore.”
He received a boost late last year with the offer of help from Scotty’s Little Soldiers- a charity set up to help children who have lost a mum or dad serving in the Armed Forces. The charity’s founder Nikki Scott got in touch with Mark after he advertised for babysitting help. Joseph has now been made a member of Scotty’s, and can take part in the activities and weekends away that are organized by the charity to offer support during the grieving process.
“With Scotty’s it’s all about putting a smile back on the kids’ faces. We want to try and get him involved with activities, and it would be nice to take him away and get him involved in group activities,” said Mark.
Mark says the one day he’s nervous about is Mothers’ Day, as it will be their first year without Joanna and more difficult than Christmas and birthdays when there is other family around.
“It’s a sad day for my little one, I feel more pain for him than myself,” he said.
For full information, including how to join Scotty’s band of Little Soldiers and how to donate to a really great charity, go to www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk