Not so gingery gingerbread

Last year we decorated gingerbread houses, but the boys do not like the taste of gingerbread so it was a waste in the long run, although it was fun. So this year we decided to make our own gingerbread men and decorate them instead, so I set about finding a not so gingery gingerbread recipe.  I couldn't find one that was just perfect, so I adapted one until it was what we needed.

 

Ingredients
  • 350g / 12oz plain flour
  • 175g / 6oz light soft brown sugar
  • 100g / 4oz butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon of ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c.
  • Pop the butter and the dry ingredients in to a bowl and mix until it resembles a bread crumb consistency.  I call this tickling the mixture to the boys and it really helps.
  • Add the egg, vanilla extract and golden syrup and mix with your hands until it comes together in to a dough.
  • Wrap in cling film and  put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Flour a top and rolling pin and roll out to a 5mm thickness before cutting out your required shape and placing on a baking tray.
  • Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, then place on to a wire rack to cool.
  • Decorate as required.
The secret ingredient of this recipe is the golden syrup makes it a very forgiving dough and it doesn't over handle making it great for children.  Also it has a real crispy chewy taste once cool.

 

We had even more fun decorating and eating them, as making them.  The boys thought it was hilarious to eat part of the gingerbread man and then put red icing "blood" on!  I also had a go at making reindeer (from the queen of crafts Matha Stewart) and will be making another batch tomorrow for all the teachers.

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Top Toys for 5 year old Boys and the ones to give a miss too…..

Thanks to be part of the Toys r Us Toyologist program and a reviewer on The Great Toy Guide, we are amazingly privileged to be able to get our hands on some fantastic and some not so fantastic boys.  So I present you our Top Toys for 4 and 5 year old boys. Hit List Armouron (£24.97) This was an immediate hit with Mini, who wore it as an alternative Halloween costume and has worn it pretty much constantly since.   It is lightweight, easy to put on and we love it.  We have been unable to get this off Mini and he exchanged it for one of his toys. Nerf N- Strike (£19.99) The Nerf N-Strike is fantastic, firing fun for boys of any age and I have to say has been a real revelation for us all.  They are suburb, easy to load and fire and it is scary just how accurate the boys are with them! Playmobil Dragons Land (£87.94) Yes the full set of Dragons Land isn't cheap, but it is a brilliant set with long term playability.  Both my boys get something out of this and will for a long time to come.  They see something different each time they play and you can expand it with the additional and complementary sets.  The boys didn't want to give me this back (they are under the impression that they have to give the toys back to TRU) and I have put it away for Christmas. Oh and did I say it has lights and a secret dungeon. Leapfrog Explorer (£59.97) Both Mini and Maxi have Leapsters and love, love, love the Leapfrog Explorer.  It is a wonderful introduction to handheld gaming without spending money on an DS.  From a parents point of view the Explorer has a great education bent to the software and it is great for long journeys or boring waits.  It is sturdy and has coped with being dropped and basked. Dude Dice (£6.50) Zoobookoo Dude Dice has become a permanent fixture in my handbag and is brought out in restaurants and anywhere when I need to keep the boys occupied.  It is a simple, yet effective mathematics game with just three dice.  A real winner and a perfect stocking filler HexBugs (£8.99 each)

Hexbugs are crazy, but very clever little electronic bugs or micro robotic creatures (for those in the know) that have captured the hearts of Mini and Maxi.  Hexbugs are powered by vibrations.  The boys have created runs for them from Lego and domino's and have taken them to bed with them.   I have even had to create a bed for them - need I say more.  Perfect stocking filler for boys.

Tipover (£12.99)

Tipover is aimed at older children, but Maxi loves it.  Tipover 3D puzzle game and perfect for quiet solitary play.  Maxi begged to be able to keep this. Miss List One of the best things about this is that it is quite clear what toys don't float the boys boats at all.  I have made sure that we leave the toys out for the boys to place with for at least 2 weeks.  I don't put them out of sight.  If the boys have not had fun, then the toys are passed on to friends, charity or family rather than being put back in to my secret cuboard. Bakugan (£29.97) It might just be us, but we find Bakugan expensive, pretty fiddly and also I fear that my boys are far too young to get the best out of it. Jolly Octopus (£11.97) Both my boys cracked Jolly Octopus within 5 minutes of playing it and have never gone back to it despite the fact that it has been left out (once it was assembled it didn't fit back in the box).  For any child with good hand eye co-ordination this will be a real bore, just buy Operation instead. Gormiti (£4.97) The boys have never ever come across Gormiti before and the products were expensive and often just not very interesting. KungZhu Battle Arena (£24.97) I know that lots of children seem to love KungZhu Hamsters, but the boys haven't connected with ours at all.  The arena is far too big and doesn't assemble easily, so you either need to leave it out for the children to play with it, or put it away and help them assemble it.  Do everyone a favour, just don't spend your hard earned cash on it. Moon Dough Barn (£14.89) Urghhhhhh we hated this, yes I would go as far and say our feelings for the moon dough barn were that strong.  The dough got stuck in the barn and it goes everywhere.  Maxi got all agitated when the colours mixed together and we couldn't wait to give it away. Ben 10 Lazer Lance (£9.99) Apart from making a shooting sound, there isn't much good I can say about this.  The view finder fell off and was lost within the first 5 minutes.  Also neither of my boys want to be a forever knight, who use the lances.

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What are your top toys for 2010 and what are your children asking Father Christmas for this year?  I would also be keen to hear what you have found really disappointing too.
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An alternative to salt dough ornaments

  We usually make salt dough ornaments at this timeof the year, but spurred on my Chris at Thinly Spread I decided to give cornflour dough a try.  However, typically I didn't have the ingredients on hand to make her recipes so made up my own. Ingredients
  • 2 cups salt
  • two thirds of a  cup of water
  • 2 cups cornflour
  • Half cup water
Method Mix 2 cups of salt with two thirds of a  cup of water in a pan and stir constantly over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until bubbles appear. Remove from heat and immediately add to 2 cups cornflour and half a cold water  and mix quickly to form a stiff dough and kneed. Roll out and cut out your shapes, use a straw to push out a hole to thread ribbon through and then cook for 3 to 4 hours at 150 degrees c.

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A Pause in Advent Joy

joy / joi/ n. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness: tears of joy the joy of being alive. a thing that causes joy: the joys of Manhattan. v. [intr.] poetic/lit. rejoice: I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain. There is a real feeling of joy over adversity at the moment in the mad house.  We are all working hard to enjoy and make the most of advent, without making it a chore.  We are trying to find joy in the small things in our life, yes we have had enough of the snow, but it does make things feel clean and bright. We had my 5 year old niece slept over last night and she is a real joy, she makes is realise just how much hard work the boys can be, but she also makes us realise just how much we wouldn't change them.    A very wise woman once told me that each parent cries the same amount of tears over a child's life time, it is just some cry more at he beginning and I am focusing on that when I had hard days with the minimads. One of the main things that I have felt this week, is a sense of community.  Our annual residents association carols on the green had to be cancelled this week due to the inclement weather, so we had a carol service in the church, which was wonderful.  Also the weather may be getting everyone down, put the community has really pulled together, the men on the street have all dug out the road to enable us all to be able to get off the estate. What has brought you joy this week?
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Why the boys nativities mean so much to me

Even though last week was snowed off for the school, the children and the teachers have worked really hard to ensure that the nativities took place this week. Maxi's was first on Thursday and it was a Snowman at Sunset and yes, I cried.  Maxi doesn't do dressing up, so as a narrator he only had to war his hat, scarf and gloves.  It was a wonderful show and I have to say there wasn't a dry eye in the house when one of his little classmates did a solo at the end.

 

Friday saw Mini's show, which was whoops a daisy angel, hats off to the teachers on this really, as the children had only had just over a weeks rehearsal and my oh my what an amazing show it was.  Mini was a Shepard and again I cried!

The boys nativities have real meaning for me, when I was really ill I focused on seeing them and they were one of the things that I was determined to see as they grew up.    So no matter how hard this past week has been, I am so grateful for being here to see them.

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Nativity Scenes

 

I am a great lover of nativity scenes and grew up with the lower image in my mums house.  When Maxi was born she gifted me it.  I love it, so do the boys, but as it is china they can not play with it and make up their own story, so we made our own version out of loo rolls.

We had so much fun, but no images of us making them, as I was far too involved with the boys, glue, ribbon, scissors and lots and lots of fabric scraps!

Oh and I went to Maxi's Nativity yesterday and Mini's is today, so I will be back with more Nativity Scenes tomorrow.

 

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The Gallery – White

We are still covered in snow and it is snowing again this morning.  Yes I am sure that there will be lots of artistic pictures out there of white stuff, but we have been living with this white stuff for far too long and it is starting to get silly.

 

 

 

The annual residents association "carols on the green" has had to be moved to the village church instead of our estate green tonight due to the amount of snow.

So world, please can we have a thaw and get rid of the masses of snow, pretty please.

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A Pause in Advent – Peace

We had a pretty peaceful start to this week, as we had so much snow that the school was closed all week and MadDad struggled to get in to work.   We tried to make the most of each others company and use the time wisely. We really all enjoyed putting up our Christmas tree and inside decorations (there is far too much snow for the outside ones yet) and took pleasure in the simple things like hot chocolate and marshmallows. But the greatest lesson for me this week has been that peace is not something that is always an external thing.  We had a nightmare on Saturday morning when the heavy snow off the house roof came down in one go and took down part of the conservatory roof (which is our family room).  I was upset, angry and frustrated that it meant that our plans would have to change.  But instead we all worked together and MadDad patched up the roof, whilst the boys and I shoveled snow and ice and dried all the electrical items off and then after ringing the insurance company we shut the door and decided to carry on with our weekend. I am so pleased that we did.  The boys had a fantastic time, therefore, so did we.   Although we will see if there is still peace in The Mad House now that the TV, Wii and Blue ray are all out of action!
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It’s snow joke

I haven't been online a lot this week. Here in our little corner of the North East coast we have felt the full force of the weather that has hit Britain this week. We have had masses of snow and the boys school has been shut all week. So I have taken the opportunity to spend some quality time with mini and maxi and we have crafted, baked, read, made up stories, put up the Christmas decorations and enjoyed each others company.   MadDad has been working from home and has also spent a lot of time clearing paths and making sure the house is as safe and secure as it can be.  We have walked to the village and managed to keep us in supplies.  We have seen accidents involving a lorry and cars and been thankful that no ones has been hurt. So you can imagine my upset when we got up on Saturday morning ready to travel for a weekend with friends and a visit to Drayton Manor's magical Christmas at Thomas Land that we discovered that a huge snowfall had come off the roof of our house and then through the roof of the conservatory, which is our family room and most utilised room in the house. What a nightmare, thankfully nobody was hurt.  The boys had just come in to get dressed when it happened and would have been stood under where it fell.  As it was only all the electrical got it (yep that would be the TV, wii, playstation, blu ray and video player).  The weight of the snow that fell had been great enough to actually bend the metal frame of the conservatory.  The irony of all this is that we had been clearing the roof of the conservatory after hearing of a skylight in a nearby village braking under the weight of the snow, we had also left the heating on. So we made the decision to go and have our weekend away and leave all the worry behind (after speaking to the insurance company) and it was the right thing to do.  We had a great time. The insurance company will be out on Wednesday (first day they can get to us) and we will deal with everything then.  Our only issue is finding the £200 for the excess, but it could have been so much worse.
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Our advent activities, one mum creating traditions

As you probably gathered I believe in the wonder and joys of Christmas and want to welcome my boys to the warm arms of tradition.  I want them to relish advent each year, which is why I made our advent stockings last year. I wanted to make each day special in its own right, without is just being a countdown to Christmas day itself.

 

Write and post your letter to Father Christmas Help ice the Christmas cake Make Christmas cards Make shapes with the cookie cutters and playdough Make Christmas shrinky dinks Make paper snowflakes Go to Carol Service Colour in some Christmas pictures Make some Christmas fairy cakes Make paper chains Collect Pinecones Start reading about the nativity Write your Christmas cards and deliver local ones Make salt dough ornaments String popcorn to go on the tree Make a bird feeder Sing and dance to Christmas songs Make some Christmas cookies Watch a Christmas movie Make reindeer food Read a Christmas Story Make up a Christmas story Take a walk in the dark to look at the Christmas lights Help trim the tree Make mince pies make spiced cider. Find Mistletoe, hang it in our house and kiss under it. Make Thick Hot Chocolate and Homemade Marshmallows Put up a wreath Decorate our gingerbread house Make a family traditional dessert

 

We also light the advent candle every evening at dinner and discuss our day and also read the advent calender that I got as a child.  We discuss the nativity and talk about anything that it raises with each of the boys.

I love advent, it makes me feel warm, it makes me feel that Christmas doesn't need to be all about Christmas day and that you can make the time leading up to it just as special.

Over the coming weeks I am looking forward to sharing my advent and Christmas traditions with you.

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