Make, Jane, make!: January 2012


Small Share

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Felt Play Food: T-Bone Steak

What else goes with felt fried eggs? A steak, of course!

I used an overcasting stitch to attach the marrow (red) to the bone (white) to give it a rough edge between marrow and bone and a running stitch to attach the bone (white) to the meat (dark red) to keep the edge of the bone sharp.

The t-bone steak was a big hit with the various adults who play with my kids. They all wanted my eldest to prepare his famous 8-Minute Steak (his own invention). The 8-Minute Steak is prepared by nuking the steak for 8 minutes... lol. My hubby was appalled and tried to teach him to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, but my son insisted that his microwaved steak was superior. And my hubby wonders why I want to get rid of the microwave once the kids get older :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Felt Play Food: Fried Eggs

Another fun play food that can be hand sewn - sunny-side-up  eggs! The kids love eating eggs in all their incarnations, but fried eggs are probably the most fun to play make believe with. You can stick them in one of those plastic eggs that various kids toys come in and have fun cracking the egg into the pan and frying it.

Another pretty straightforward craft - two pieces of white felt for the top and bottom of the egg and one small yellow circle for the yolk.

Sew the yolk onto the white, remembering to fill the stuff the yolk with a little batting to give it some dimension before sewing the final few stitches.

Then attach the bottom white piece to cover up all the stitches from the yolk. I used a blanket stitch on the edges of the whites because I thought it gave the edges that frilly look that fried eggs have.

And of course, what's eggs without bacon? These ones are basically pieces of felt glued together.

Funny how the kids recognised the bacon right away. Maybe we eat it too much at home? Nah, there can never be too much bacon :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Felt Play Food: Maki Sushi

Sometimes I want to sew, but I don't want to sit in my sewing room facing the sewing machine all night. That's when little projects like this are nice - I can sew them by hand and still spend some time with my family, veg out in front of the television, or sit and enjoy some conversation.

The construction of these tuna and salmon maki are pretty straightforward. Each one consists of two coloured squares of felt for the filling, two white felt circles for the rice and a long strip of black felt for the nori.

To save myself from any measuring and/or calculations, I used a cylinder from the kids' shape sorter as my model and cutting guide. It provided a guide to cutting perfect circles and the black felt strips were cut long enough to just wrap around it.

Here are the sushi tops and bottoms (with the coloured felt squares attached) and a completed nori tube before assembly.

Here is a view of the sushi where I've sewn the bottom rice circle onto the nori and have stuffed it full of polyester batting and am putting the finishing touches on it by sewing the top on.

I tried some different methods of sewing the rice to the nori tubes. The one on the left was sewed together with the right sides facing and then turned right-side out. As you can see the edges are more rounded and marshmallow-y in shape.

The one on the right was sewn together with the wrong sides facing and the raw edges of the felt are still visible on the finished product. This resulted in a sharper edge and a little less of the stitching showing. My hubby liked the marshmallow shaped one (on the left) better so the rest of the sushi were finished that way.

My kids had a fun time trying to guess what I was making. Surprisingly, even my hubby had no idea until after I'd sewn the "nori" into tubes and the "fish" onto the "rice". Once they were all done though, the boys had fun "cooking the sushi" for us to eat.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fourth Birthday: Gingerbread Houses

What do you do with kindergarten age children during a birthday party? There's food and cake, but how to keep them occupied during the remainder of the party? Having winter birthdays means that my kids will never be able to have any outdoor fun, like sprinklers or jumping castles. And complicated crafting activities that require a lot of sitting still don't work that well for kindergarten kids... especially the boys.

So I figured I would combine something that involves food (in this case, candy and cookies), decorating (for the girls) and making a mess with icing (for the boys). And since it was something that was connected to the holiday season, I hoped that it would be something new and novel for the kids.

Gingerbread houses! What child would say no to candies and colours and icing "glue"?

I had originally whipped up a whole batch of gingerbread dough to bake the cookies myself, but when I went to Bulk Barn to pick up the candies, I found they had house kits that were very reasonably priced and saved me the trouble and sleeplessness of doing too much the night before the party.

The miniature gingerbread suburb along with the spinosaurus cake.
I assembled the houses the morning of the party and hoped desperately that the icing would set hard enough in the two hours before the party to withstand the rigours of young children decorating them. To this end, I intentionally mixed the royal icing a little thicker than usual, which definitely helped the houses dry faster, but almost gave me carpal tunnel trying to squeeze it out of the icing bag!

Note to self: Assembling one or two gingerbread houses is fun, but assembling nine in a row under a time limit is not.

When the kids initially sat down to the dining room table for this craft, I wasn't sure that they understood or wanted to participate. However, once I had demonstrated and handed them each their own bag full of icing plus a table full of candies, they were off in their own little sugar-fuelled worlds.

Here are some of their creations:

The last one belongs to my son, the birthday boy. He was complaining that the candies weren't sticking. And it was no wonder when I turned his house around to investigate and found the icing avalanche that was sliding down his roof. I just had to reassure him that the icing would dry soon and he just had to keep replacing the candies that were sliding off :)

They had lots of fun and the mess was more or less limited to fingertips and the tabletop... not much on clothing or hair. Luckily I had my SIL and a couple of moms here to help me clean up and wrap the houses up in cello paper. So the craft was a success and the kids enjoyed having something they made to show to their moms.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fourth Birthday: Dinosaur Cake

My son asked me for a bulldozer cake for his fourth birthday. It was a logical progression from his monkey (first birthday), dump truck (second birthday) and "Mac" the flatbed trailer (third birthday). Considering the fact that I didn't even get his birthday invitations out until a week and a half before his party, I thought that attempting a bulldozer cake was a little too ambitious for me this year. So I decided to veto his choice and make him something that I thought he would like equally as much.

Like many young boys, my eldest likes dinosaurs and his current favourite stuffed animal is the one he named "Spinosaurus". So I figured that I couldn't go wrong making him a cake version of Spinosaurus.

Spinosaurus is chocolate cake with whipped chocolate ganache frosting and a marshmallow fondant coating. His sails are also made from marshmallow fondant that I formed and left out on the counter to dry and harden overnight.

In retrospect, I wish I had taken a few pictures of Spinosaurus to model my cake after. The cake was, of course, made after the kids had gone to bed and my son had already taken the model to sleep with him. So I made him from memory, which resulted in a narrower head and snout, wider eye spacing, missing nostrils, stubbier limbs and a skinnier body than the original. And I knew that the colours weren't going to be perfect because the colouring pastes that I had on hand weren't the exact right colours to begin with.

Luckily, the birthday boy recognized his cake right way and was ecstatic that I had made "SPINOSAURUS!"

That's all the thanks a mom needs for a late, semi-sleepless night of birthday prep.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

p.s. Happy New Year!

Just wanted to say Happy New Year to all!

Also to mention that while there's been a scarcity of posts lately, I've still been busy making stuff. Just haven't had the time to blog about them... Just the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, paired with the new baby, throw in some hand, foot and mouth disease, various colds, toddler pneumonia and you've got a busy mommy.

So expect a bunch of belated Christmas crafting posts in the next coming weeks. Thanks for sharing in my exploits :)

Attempting Chocolate Macarons

So much hand-made gift making this time of year and so little time! I decided to try my hand at some macarons as my gift to my son's playschool teachers. He's officially transitioned into JK now and will no longer be seeing the two wonderful ladies who have helped him make this social and academic transition with so much love and dedication for the past year.

I've made the cookie part of the macaron before and never paid much attention to getting perfect "pieds" (feet) or shiny un-cracked tops - since we would just gobble them down without so much as a look anyway :) And I've never bothered with filling them with cream or the like, since they were just being enjoyed by us at home. But since these were being made for a gift, I thought I would try to make them nice and pretty and fill them (a first!)

I think they turned out not bad... Although I'll walk you through some of my thoughts and ponderings on the making of this temperamental cookies and show you the messed up tray of macarons later in the post :P I used David Lebovitz's recipe for French Chocolate Macarons because you can't go wrong with one of his recipes!

Unfortunately, I didn't make it out to the health food store where they sell almond meal/flour. So I had to make do with grinding up some sliced almonds. As you can see, you an only get them to a certain fineness at home...

I could tell during the folding process that my macarons were going to have fine chunks of almond in them! (My hubby actually liked them this way and I do too, but I think they detract from the smooth, shiny finish in a perfectly constructed macaron.)

Piping macarons, or anything for that matter, takes a bit of practice. Although in my case, part of the problem was that I whipped the eggs whites up a little too stiff and the batter didn't really flatten out at all after they were piped onto the cookie sheet. I ended up with quite a few tails where I lifted the icing bag away... You don't want those if you're going to fill your macaron with cream/filling, because they need to lie as flat as possible when you're sandwiching them.

I took David Lebovitz's advice and tried just rapping the baking sheets really hard on the counter (no sitting time) before baking. As you can see my macarons still developed little feet but I think they could have had better feet and shinier tops if I'd let them dry out a bit, as common practice dictates. Although I'll retry this comparison between sitting and no-sitting time next time (without overbeaten egg whites/stiff batter) and see if the results are better.

And here's the promised messed-up tray of macarons.

This is what happens when you have too many trays of macarons to bake and too little time in the morning to do it in! Instead of waiting for some space on the nice, evenly heated middle racks of my oven to free up, I rushed my bake jobs and put all three sheets of macarons in at once. Needless to say, they cracked from overheating and being too close to both the bottom of the oven and the rack above them!

Not to worry though, nothing goes to waste at our house [wink]. We sandwiched those ones with some jam and ate some plain, we don't have any qualms about eating scraps at our house :P

All in all, I think they turned out okay and I had more than enough pretty ones to package up little baggies for my son's teachers. The balance of sweet and bittersweet in this recipe was perfect and the texture was melt in your mouth without being too gooey with the chocolate ganache. The only problem is that they disappeared way too fast and now I feel as if we could use some more. Maybe (my fav) pistachio next time?