Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Gingerbread Menagerie

This weekend marked the official start of Toronto's Christmas - lights were switched on at Yonge-Dundas, the Santa parade was on and it even snowed. There is more to come, of course as my email inbox will get fuller of increasingly frenzied messages from various companies telling me about amazing bargains and I begin to unsubscribe from the ones that make me swear the most when I see them. That's how I handle my marketing subscriptions, when I begin to swear at more emails than I open, it's time to get unsubscribing.

I had considered bringing the Zeds along to the switching on of the lights but really, an outing into the dark and cold at their bedtime is not the wisest move. This will not stop me wondering if we should go along to the impressively named Cavalcade of Lights in two weeks time although I believe Z2 has a birthday party to attend that day.

So, none of that was particularly crafty but, as you see in the photo, we were fierce productive this weekend. I took a notion, after successful baking for the school cake sale using this fragrant recipe, which I also used last year, that I should make gingerbread with the Zeds. The recipe is very satisfying, because you stir things up in a bubbly, fragrant pot and then add baking soda which makes it go all foamy. Maybe all gingerbread recipes do this, but I had not encountered the wonder of this before and felt that the Zeds would enjoy it. With plenty of being careful and lots of not touching the hot stove, the Zeds stirred and added ingredients and it was suitably delightful and cosy. We have many, many cookie cutters and using them for something edible was so much less upsetting than the crumby mess of Play-Doh that you can't even eat.

The true triumph of the day, though, was coming home after the Santa parade and whipping up a bit of icing and some leftover sweets from Hallowe'en and letting them decorate their animals before bedtime. The owl on the bottom left is Z2's, the rest are Z1's. I particularly like her use of the sweets as suckers on the octopus's tentacles. Overall, though, she was a little too delicate in her use of icing and Z2's generous application worked a bit better. I definitely want to make more to decorate myself.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I am coming back, I think


As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop and the Christmas decorations begin to appear, I find myself drawn back here.  Also, Z1 asked about making an Advent calendar this year so last year's sad story may have a happy ending this year. In the meantime, things have been made in the Conquering Crafts household since my  last post in April. The highlights are below.



 
Like many a household across the world, there were many of these to be found in our house. And like many a parent across the world, some of them were made by me after the Zeds were in bed. And there may have been swearing at spillages and mistakes. Overall, a success, though.


Then, there was a cupcake decorating party and Z2 got in on the action too. He is more of a fan of icing than he is of cake.
Z2's icing efforts. This
photo refuses to be posted
horizontally. Grr.










Z1 got a lovely sewing kit for her birthday which we cracked open during the summer. She is keen to make mittens now, I am considering some simpler project that she might be able to wear. Possibly a very simple skirt that she could sew decorations onto if I do the skirt. Hmmm.

As Z2 is now a very big boy (as he will indignantly tell anyone who dares to say that he is a small boy), he left daycare in July. I was rather proud of the gift basket I made for the lovely staff there. I like dots. Oh yes I do.





For Z2's birthday party, making fruit kebabs was a nice way to pass the morning without constant "what time will the party be?" questions. I have seen amazing efforts on Pinterest that look like rainbows but I think ours look pretty good too. I also successfully persuaded him to ask for a cake that would fit with my "Make an ordinary chocolate cake" plans. I rather like him. (The cake, that is, not Z2. He's a spider. Clearly. Again, the cake. Z2 is human.)




 And before you know it, Hallowe'en was upon us again and we took to the pumpkins. Last year, Z2 made valiant efforts with the Dollarama tools while Z1 took the role of artistic director for her pumpkin. This year, I did buy better tools and amidst warnings about being very, very careful and frustration that it was still a tricky job,  we carved the beauties in the picture. Z1 was disappointed that hers didn't look better but it was all her own work (middle step). Z2 was artistic director for his (top step) and I was disappointed with the botched eyes on mine (bottom step).



Disappointingly, from the point of view of photos and family records, Z1 decided that she wanted to be a bat again this year and Z2 followed her lead. I did make fresh costumes but used the same tops as last year so that saved some hassle. I followed the instructions here and used a measuring tape and everything to tailor-make them. On the great day itself, it rained. Again (3rd year in a row). Z1 didn't care and declined to cover her costume. Z2 put on his fleece and didn't really get to show off the costume at all but still got a great haul of crap to enjoy for weeks to come.


Monday, 14 April 2014

T-shirt doodles and disappointing snails

For Z1's birthday party, we decided on an art party since she pretty much draws all day long. This also helped to cut the invitation list as she invited only those who she felt would be interested in art. However, as it turns out, when you put 14 children in a room with t-shirts and markers, only about 6 of them want to draw on t-shirts. Those who did were delighted with it but the others mostly ran around noisily. Which was fine. Really.
 
 
hedgehog, snail, child's drawings, t-shirts, crafts, fabric markers
Lovely hedgehog, not-so-great snail
This left us with some plain white t-shirts and lots of fabric markers and I got it into my head I would draw a hedgehog on one for Z1. So I did. In my jim jams before getting up one Saturday morning. Sometimes inspiration just strikes. Z1 then added some detail. I am quite happy with the hedgehog t-shirt.
However, Z2 then requested a slug. I can draw quite amiable slugs, though I say so myself and so I started but, for some reason, persuaded Z2 that it should be a snail instead and changed it into a snail. I am not so pleased with him. I can do better. Sigh. We still do have a few spare t-shirts, though so perhaps another day.


See, I can draw nice, amiable snails



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Ladybird, ladybug, coccinelle





In all its glory with apologies for not fully wiping the plate for this picture
Well, I must say that I was quite pleased with the loveliness of this ladybird cake and it was pretty delicious too. I felt the licorice legs I had planned might contaminate too much cake for those who do not like it so I left them out. Six spots for my six-year-old Z1. Hurrah. I have also included a gratuitous shot of how happy Z2 was to bash the piñata. Enjoy!
The party spread (before arrival of pizza)
A VERY happy piñata bashing boy -he had been waiting DAYS for this moment

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Sneak preview of this year's cake with a purpose

Last year, Z1 had a beetle cake. It was quite a chocolatey and wondrous thing. This year will also be chocolatey and wondrous as I mostly believe that cakes should be chocolate. We have decided upon a ladybird and I have planned as you can see in the lovely picture below. The party is on Sunday. Baking shall take place on Saturday. I am quite excited. 
 
On a side note, I was speaking to a friend here who had a book that talked about a ladybird. She thought it was a rather amusing typo or weird mistake. In Ireland and in England, we call them ladybirds but I do accept that the North American version - ladybug - makes more sense.
cake, ladybug, ladybird, cake decorating

 

Monday, 10 March 2014

A Winter Tea Party

On discovering that the winter festivals in Quebec and Ottawa were finished and we couldn't go, Z1 was rather upset and I, on the spur of the moment, proposed that we have a winter tea party. I suggested she invite two friends and that we could have cupcakes with blue sprinkles. I sent the invitation emails to the parents before I could back out of it, what with her birthday party coming up and the house never being as organised as I'd like.

baking, cake decorating, sugar, blue
Blue sugar
Glazed, cracked, beautiful
Blue sprinkles seemed hard to come by in my usual range of shops (or at least not in reasonable quantities at a reasonable price) so I Googled and found you can just add blue food dye to sugar. Hurrah. I then went on over to Pinterest and found that you can apparently make "edible glitter" by putting dyed sugar in the oven for 10 minutes. Z1 didn't seem too excited about this but I was. However, it didn't really turn much sparklier than the simple sugar + food dye combination. It did change the colour a little to a more turquoise/greenish hue and it also produced a beautiful glazed, cracked mess on my baking tray.

I baked some cupcakes and the Zeds helped by licking the beaters after I had finished (I know about raw eggs and salmonella - we had a lucky escape this time - one of many, many lucky escapes from the perils of post-cake-mixing  bowl and spoon licking). Some were chocolate, some were vanilla. I wisely decided to start icing them just when the Zeds were due to go to bed. Husband got them up to brush their teeth while I squiggled and swirled. I lovingly took photos knowing that they were to be destroyed decorated by the Zeds in the morning. All in all, it was a success  - I got to try new things like the ribbony icing tip that came in a 4 pack of icing tips and also making blue sugar. Z1 had her friends over and got to run around screaming a bit. I got to have my friend over too (one of the mums stayed  - yay!) and there were even leftover cakes to bring into work on Monday. Maybe next year we'll go to Quebec or Ottawa for the winter festivals but our Winter Tea Party was fine for this year.
 






Monday, 17 February 2014

Snowy snowy snowy snowy snow


Snow excavation (possibly a dragon)
This has been a winter in which I feel I am earning my Canadian stripes with snow shovelling and lots of cold temperatures and so on. I was feeling guilty at the pristine blanket of snow in our back garden - it seemed terrible not to be making footprints and snowmen and forts in it. So, on Family Day, I insisted that we rectify this. Up - breakfast - snow gear on and out to enjoy the snow or be damned.
Trailing through snow


I had been organised enough to save some washing up liquid bottles to fill with food dye to do painting on the snow. Husband had even got some scientific grade blue stain which seemed potentially unwise but turned out to wash out easily.

The snow was not very sticky so we piled it up and excavated it rather than really building but am pleased to say we disrupted the blanket sufficiently. Ten centimetres of fresh snow are forecast for tonight, though so we may have to do the same again next weekend.
Eating snow
Painting snow