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The Genial Hearth
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Archive for October, 2008

Gingerbread Houses

At the last school I taught at, all the year nine food students made Gingerbread houses at Christmas time. It was fabulous to watch their progress (they were made over a number of sessions, the dough, shaping and baking, assembly, decoration).

The last couple of years, I have considered making one at home for Christmas. Each time I have decided against it on the grounds that we already have enough to do (well, and the kids were really too young to get into it:-) ). But I really wanted to make them with the kids… Last year, it suddenly occured to me that Halloween might provide the ideal opportunity:-) (You know… what with Hansel and Gretel and the witch in the gingerbread cottage…) And because it’s not a celebration we’ve ever really ‘done’, I don’t have anything else competing with it as an activity:-)

So this year, that’s what we did:-)

I used my usual Gingerbread recipe (although, I’m thinking I need to up the ginger in it… it seems rather more bland than I’d remembered). (I kept some aside to make gingerbread men—Puggle has got a bee in his bonnet about them and insisted we made some:-) I think I might forget about playdough, and just use gingerbread when we have a need for dough play—it’s such a pleasant dough to use). I just managed to get two houses out of the remainder. Sadly, it was a bit too close, and some of the final pieces shrunk back rather when they were cooked:-( (Somewhere I’m sure I have some tinplate leftover from making the shirikin Tin Ducks… I should ponder making gingerbread house cutters—it would make that stage much quicker!)

I used a template from here. I decided on a basic Gable design—keep it simple for now:-)

My plan had been to break the steps up over a number of days, but the reality of nap times this week (really reliable!) meant that I didn’t get as much done ahead of time as I’d hoped… For future reference, any assembly that I’m going to do must happen while the children are not requiring my attention—I think it will be at least another year before Puggle can begin to assemble his own, so I’ll be doing them for a while yet:-)

I found a selection of images of gingerbread houses online, a mix of professional and homey, and made a screen-saver of them. I had this on for most of the day. Next year, I’ll include some images of our houses from this year.

We used far more of a batch of Royal Icing than I would have believed! (One egg white, beaten slightly, mix in well-sieved icing sugar to make a runny paste… add a dash of white vinegar or lemon juice. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge until it’s all used up. Mix small quantities with more well-sieved icing sugar to the desired consistency.)

I chose to use mini-ziploc bags, which I think was a good plan. While not the cheapest option, I really appreciated the strength of the plastic (more durable than the paper cones I usually use—not an issue for me, but I think it would have made for a rather more sticky kid experience), and being able to put the icing in the bag and seal it, put me under less time pressure. In the end, I also used an elastic band to seal the icing into the corner. That meant the kids didn’t have to work to keep their icing under pressure unless they were actually piping. To be more organised, it might be worth preparing a number of bags ahead of time, and then just snipping the corners as they were needed (Puggle tended to run out of icing far more quickly than I did, even though I gave him more:-) ) I also needed to be more careful with the consistency of the icing, although some of that is probably because I’m out of practice—it needs a bit of ‘run’ to it if you want to do interesting piping:-)

I think though, that they turned out really well… Puggle certainly enjoyed the experience (Bilby wasn’t so keen on using the ‘glue’… she liked putting things on the gingerbread, but unless they happened to end up where I’d iced, they didn’t stay. She preferred playing with the dough when they were shaping the Gingerbread men).

So, here they are. Puggle’s is at the front (lots of lolly experimentation:-) ) and you can just see mine in the background. We’ll keep Puggle’s here to eat (not sure how one goes about that yet, I suspect there’ll be some smashing involved:-) ) and we’re taking mine to be part of a morning tea on Sunday (I don’t think we need to eat two whole houses—especially with all those lollies:-) ).

Menu Planning

I’ve been thinking a lot recently on Menu Planning (I have a post in progress all about it:-) ). This post struck me as a fun idea—and given my sister has been talking to me about starting, I thought I might try it… assuming I can find a suitable time:-)

List making

I thought this was a good idea for approaching to-do lists:-)

“Thess you”

Or words to that effect:-)

Cygnet was sneezing. So Bilby blessed him…

Then, we’ve always said ‘One’s a wish, two’s a kiss, three for something better’ (although, it should be ‘three for a letter, four for something better’… we sometimes remember:-) )

Puggle tended to default to two, no matter how many times Bilby sneezed, so she’s heard that a lot more frequently… so she followed up with (after Cygnet’s second sneeze:-) ) “Two tiss”—and then kissed him:-)

It was so cute:-)

That Art Meme

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test…

Balanced, Secure, and Realistic.

17 Impressionist, 6 Islamic, 8 Ukiyo-e, -27 Cubist, -21 Abstract and 7 Renaissance!

Impressionism is a movement in French painting, sometimes called optical realism because of its almost scientific interest in the actual visual experience and effect of light and movement on appearance of objects. Impressionist paintings are balanced, use colored shadows, use pure color, broken brushstrokes, thick paint, and scenes from everyday life or nature.

People that like Impressionist paintings may not alway be what is deemed socially acceptable. They tend to move on their own path without always worrying that it may be offensive to others. They value friendships but because they also value honesty tend to have a few really good friends. They do not, however, like people that are rude and do not appreciate the ideas of others. They are secure enough in themselves that they can listen to the ideas of other people without it affecting their own final decisions. The world for them is not black and white but more in shades of grey and muted colors. They like things to be aestically pleasing, not stark and sharp. There are many ways to view things, and the impresssionist personality views the world from many different aspects. They enjoy life and try to keep a realistic viewpoint of things, but are not very open to new experiences. If they are content in their live they will be more than likely pleased to keep things just the way they are.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy

Science Help

Our homeschooling co-op is wanting to employ someone to prepare a science activity each week for the older children (probably arrange materials, come in and present it for about an hour and maybe provide some links/information to allow parents to follow up if the children are interested). There’s around 8 kids, 5 to 7—although there may be younger ones joining in if they are interested.

So far, we haven’t had any responses from the people we’ve tried contacting (partly because some of the contact information we’d found was no longer current:-( ) I’m wondering if anyone knows anyone who might be able to help? (Even just contact information for specific people who might be able to point us the right way would be really useful!)

As it stands, one of the mums is organising something, so that we can get it started… but we would really like to have someone else (with a science background!) to run it:-)

Birthday Dress

I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days now. I do need to re-do the neckline (I pulled the bias binding too tight), but otherwise, I’m pretty happy with it:-)

Simplicity 7189 (final one on the page).

Mini Caramel Apples

Puggle has occasionally asked for a Toffee Apple (I’m not sure where he’s come across them!) These might be a good alternative—because he could help make them:-)

Baking Bread

Now that Cygnet is here, I figured it was time to return to bread-making (partly prompted by reading In Defense of Food… Paddington talked about it here… Not sure if I’ll actually get to write a review myself, but I definitely thought it was worth a read). Only, I couldn’t see that I was actually going to get to it:-( Then I remembered that although my father had borrowed our bread machine, he hadn’t actually begun using it (after about a year)… In spite of my preference to make it entirely by hand, I thought that might be the solution.

Of course, I’ve never actually used a bread machine before. So I figured I’d start with a mix, to get a feel for how the dough works (I really don’t like the upright shape of the loaf, or the paddle hole in the bottom, so my plan was to use it for the dough, and then shape it, rise it in a loaf tin and cook it myself). Then I’d make the transition to using my own recipe (unless the bread mix was fabulous!) We got a multigrain mix which essentially was just like the bread we’d been buying (aside from slicing it ourselves)… but that meant it was kind of white. So I’ve started experimenting with making my own.

I wanted to stick to a 680 gram loaf (I’m keen to end up with a nice sandwich shaped loaf—so I need a reliable size:-) )I started with mum’s recipe and compared it with the quantities used in the mixes I had, and the recipes in the book (there were no wholemeal recipe in the book, or I’d probably have tried that for starters). The flour quantities were close (as far as I could work out, given mum’s is measured by volume, but the book uses weights), but there was more than twice as much water, and double (or more) the quantity of yeast in any of them. I tried halving the water… which was too dry. I was watching the dough at that point, and added more—but too much… it was rather sticky:-( But it worked. It turned out though, that I thought the yeast was more of an issue. It almost opened the top of the bread machine when it was rising, and I had to lower the shelf in the oven when I turned the bread around, because I couldn’t fit it back in!

So the next batch I did, I used half the water plus a dessertspoon, and half the yeast. The texture of the dough was better (and the bread was the same), but it still rose the same way!

So next I lowered the quantity of sugar, but that made no difference.

The only other thing to try was adjusting the flour/gluten flour mix. Mum’s recipe is supposed to be stone-ground flour, but I generally just use wholemeal… If you’re using stone-ground, you really need the lift of gluten flour to make good bread. (When I eventually sort out somewhere for the grainmill to work, I’ll have to play with this again, but that could be a while:-) ). The next loaf was rather flatter, because I tried without any gluten flour. So, I added some back, and that seems to be working out:-)

So, all that’s left to do is experiment with adding some grains so that we have a Wholemeal Multigrain Loaf (why are multigrain loaves all white?)

Wholemeal Bread Machine Loaf
300 millilitres of water (for a Breville upright, for others you may need to adjust)
450 grams wholemeal flour
50 grams gluten flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

Place the ingredients in the machine, in the order listed. Set it on the dough cycle.
At the end of the cycle, remove dough and place in an oiled loaf tin. Bake at 180˚C for 30 minutes.

Serif Wheel:-)

(On the birthday flags, their names are written in a fancy font—curly serifs, while the happy birthday is written in Chalkboard… a sans serif font. The other day Puggle was asking about the curly bits on Bilby’s name. Obviously that prompted some discussion about fonts:-) )

At lunch today, Puggle commented that he doesn’t like (“what are the curly things, Mama?”) serifs… But when he’s been on a serif wheel he will:-)

This Week

Our plans for
Week 2, Block 9, Edith Term

Language
Introduce phonograms ‘wr’, ‘ie’, ‘gn’ (sandpaper letters and sand tray)
Quanti Constat (How Much is that Doggy in the Window)
Recte sede! (Sit up!)
Vive le Compagnie (Hokey Pokey)
Silens! (Silence!)

English Studies
Grasp All, Lose All‘ from The Olive Fairy Book Andrew Lang
Winnie-The-Pooh A. A. Milne
Narration: ‘The Wolf and the House Dog‘, ‘The Fox and the Hedgehog‘, ‘The Bat and the Weasels‘ from The Aesop for Children Ill. Milo Winter (He’s really a bit too young for Narration, so I’m mostly going to be keeping an ear out for re-tellings, or incorporation in play)
Recitation: Growing Up A. A. Milne from When We Were Very Young

Art and Music
Folksong: Clementine
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Work: Danse of the Sylphs (from the Damnation of Faust)
Artist: Jan Van Eyck
Work: The Arnolfini Wedding
Music: Melody (The Kodály Method 1 Lois Choksy) See Saw, Up and Down
Art: Watercolours, Wax resist fish and butterflies (Art Ideas Fiona Watts)

Progress

Week 1, Block 8, Edith Term
Didn’t do as much as we might… getting back into the swing of things will probably take a little longer yet.

Puppet Theatre

puppet-theatre For Bilby’s birthday present, I made her this puppt theatre. Earlier in the year, I borrowed Bend-the-Rules Sewing from the library (I’ve been reading the Angry Chicken blog for some time, so I had to check out her book:-) ). I enjoyed it, and found it inspiring… but the only project I really thought I might make was something like her puppet theatre. So I kept it in the back of my mind—I thought Bilby’s birthday might be a fine excuse (we have a number of puppets:-) )
I fudged it a bit, but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out (more drama than I expected with the hanging rail… but it does work now…). Now for them to realise they can play with it:-)

Bilby’s Babble

Doll
Juice
Yes please

“Half the Magic Dragon!”

That’s what Puggle was singing as we got into the car… I thought he’d misheard the song, but no, it turns out he’d drawn (on the magnadoodle, so I don’t have the image:-( ) ‘half the magic dragon’… the body and tail:-)

Now he’s all enthusiastic about drawing dragons and is poring (pawing?) over all our dragon books:-)

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