The biscuit resolution

Move over Maryland

Move over Maryland

My boys eat too many biscuits. I know it for a fact. After school they go at the tin at high speed, cramming their sullen little faces with transfats and refined sugar before I can say ‘portion control’.  So yesterday evening, in my resolve to change their snacking and television habits, I yanked them away from Tracy Beaker and suggested we do some baking. There is not much call for fancy shapes and hundreds and thousands in our kitchen; the boys like a no-nonsense face full of biscuit, preferably stuffed with chocolate chips and free from anything purporting to be healthy. No raisins, no oats, no honey. This recipe calls for half a pat of butter, but at least I know it is there and can ration the biscuits accordingly. The butter is melted which makes the mixture really easy to stir into a sloppy dough, even if you are five years old and fending off your brothers with both elbows.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Half a pat of butter is melted and poured into a bowl, into which you stir 170 grams of light brown sugar (or whatever colour you have), 1 egg, 150 grams of plain flour, half teaspoon of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and as many chocolate chips as you can justify. Spoon into widely spaced dollops on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Cook in a hot oven (190°C) until slightly golden (about 10 minutes), leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Ours are finished already.

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Notes on Advent calendars

work in progress

all my own work

What began as an idea for a group project progressed to solo, late-night sewing marathon, and has ended in an enormous argument over who stole the chocolate money from number 17. And it is only December 2nd.

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It’s glove weather….

It’s glove weather, and I can already feel the arguments about losing them descending on us like a dank autumnal mist. Last year my stinginess took me to the three for twos at Tescos, something I regretted the moment the first tears started rolling as wet hands froze in the snow.  This year I am applying the same rule to gloves for my boys as I do to sunglasses for myself: I am buying them a decent pair each and hoping they might remember to look after them. The over sevens seem to have a deep reverence for kit- shin pads, gum shields, rugby studs are all treated with respect- but the threat of sewing new gloves to a jaunty string, posted humiliatingly through the arms of their coats, hangs in the air with the freezing fogs as they set off to school each morning.

Here are some good ones…

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Smoothie-operator

smoothie slurping school uniform

weekend breakfast treat

There is a fury about the house as I have put the brakes on the ‘fun cereal’. What started as a means to a lie-in on a Saturday morning (leaving the open box, bowls and spoons on the table the night before) developed into a nasty habit over the summer, with at least three bowls, plus covert handfuls being consumed by Boy 1 daily. Quite apart from the scary amounts of salt and sugar in each perfectly engineered shape, or the shocking spike in rowdiness within seconds of consumption, it was the fact that our dog, who will willingly eat anything, even tangerines and cucumber peel, would not go near a Cheerio that made me take action. She is a dog and she knows they are bad. I am an educated woman knowingly feeding my growing boys junk and then complaining about the consequences. Time to act like a lurcher and turn my nose up. They are back on Ready Brek, with the following smoothie to cheer them up at weekends, when we have run out of milk, or when the bananas have all gone black:

In a jug put:

1 or 2 bananas (the ones that have come back from school uneaten in the lunch box work particularly well)

2 ice cubes (not necessary, but popular for the head freeze factor)

Any or all of the following: old grapes that nobody thinks they want to eat, a peeled, cored and sliced apple, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (fresh or frozen).

1 spoonful of runny honey

2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt

About half a cup of fruit juice (NB NOT grapefruit)

About half a cup of porridge oats or Ready Brek

Plunge a hand blender into the mixture and blend until thoroughly mixed.

Interesting variations:

1. put the ice cubes in last, do not plunge the blender in far enough, and marvel at how quickly you can pebble dash your entire kitchen

2. substitute all of the fruit (except the bananas) with 4 teaspoons of drinking chocolate powder, and replace the fruit juice with milk.

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Beach Life

hot chocolate by the beach fire

beach boards

YES SIR, I CAN BOOGIE There are moments, at this time of year, when the sea becomes an impenetrable wall of polystyrene boogie boards, and my father reminds anyone listening that wooden ones are far superior. Understated and decidedly retro, wooden boards cut through the surf at a faster rate than their fluorescent cousins.
The barefootkitchen.com, a shop and cafe on the Lizard peninsula, makes the original Cornish belly boards, £40, which it sells alongside kits for making hot chocolate on the beach (£20) and cosy recycled blankets to wrap up in when the tide has turned (£20).

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Children’s notebook: baking

Telegraph logoBaking with children is a complicated dance around the kitchen, elbows out and mixing bowl held high to keep small, greedy fingers at bay.

Cooking with kids

get your pinny on

Now that mine have mastered the hand-held electric whisk, my walls are textured with cake mixture, clinging cement-like to the tiles. But I still love cooking with them, particularly when all ingredients can be mixed together in one bowl, and I can retreat to a safe distance. Better still when everyone is in aprons, and the work surface is covered with something easy to clean. I love just about everything by the Dutch designer Sabine Engel, especially this lifesaparty.co.uk apple apron, £13.50. read more

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Children’s notebook: Nostalgic children’s clothing

Rafaela van der Heyden and Victoria Roper-Curzon's nostalgic range of children's clothing

Rafaela van der Heyden and Victoria Roper-Curzon's nostalgic range of children's clothing

Telegraph logoGrandmother’s footsteps When the sisters Rafaela van der Heyden and Victoria Roper-Curzon discovered box upon box of tissue-wrapped clothing from their childhood (much of it hand-made by their grandmother, and all lovingly stored away by their Spanish mother) they were inspired to create Elfie (elfielondon.com), their own nostalgic range of children’s clothing. Here you will find patchwork jumpers (ages 1-5, £48) and cardigans, each with a hand-crocheted frog or mouse attached (1-5, £48). Dungarees, dresses and tweed coats will follow. read more

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A Little Belter!

earlyrider balance bike

balance bike

Early Rider Bikes are excited about their new pedal bike launch for 2012. The Belter, and it is a belter. Designed from scratch to be lightweight, super-efficient and maintenance free. At 5.8kg it’ll be the lightest pedal bike on the market. Weight is key to get them riding effortlessly – if you consider the average 5 year old weighs 17kg, picking up and riding a 12kg steel bike is the equivalent of a 80kg man riding a 55kg bike. It just wouldn’t happen. The bike is simply easier for a child to pick up and get moving which will mean they will love riding it. It’s called the Belter because they’ve used a belt drive instead of a chain.

Of course, they’ve also added those little extras that we love about the Early Rider – a leather studded seat and matching hand stitched leather grips. Sweet. It’s likely to hit the market at around £230 and will be available around February 2012.

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