Monday, 13 October 2014

Hedgerow Ice Cream with Wild Blackberries

We've been enjoying all the autumnal goodies from our garden recently & now have a good stash of homegrown raspberries, rhubarb & apples in the freezer ready to enjoy over the coming months. The hedgerows have offered an abundance of goodies too, & we've collected several containers of wild blackberries gathered from local hedgerows. Of course some didn't even make it to the container, there had to be some taste testing first!
With the blackberries that did make it home we thought we'd turn them into a seasonal ice cream. Not only does this organic ice cream taste delicious & cost very little to make, the colour of it is amazing & you only need 4 ingredients to make it!

To make Hedgerow Ice Cream you'll need: 
1 ½ cup of blackberries
1 organic lemon
300ml extra thick double cream
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
We recently bought this ice cream maker which we used for this recipe. It's so simple to use & the ice cream is ready within a couple of hours, or less time if you prefer a softer consistency.
Start by pureeing the fruit with the sugar in a juicer or blender. To remove the tiny blackberry seeds strain the pureed fruit through a sieve.
Pour the sieved berry juice into a clean container/blender & add the cream & the juice of 1 lemon. Mix until the ingredients are completely blended. It's useful at this stage to taste the mixture to see if it's too sweet/sharp for you. If it's too sharp add a little sugar, if it's too sweet add a few more berries & blend again.
Pour the berry mixture into your ice cream maker & leave for 30mins (or the time stated on the manufacturers guidelines).
Add the ice cream to a clean plastic container (suitable for freezing) & pop into the freezer, & it's ready to serve in a couple of hours, or when desired.
We saved a few blackberries to decorate our ice cream which was also a neat reminder of the fruit we started out with.
Minnie was so pleased to have made this herself  & loved collecting all the berries, creating the mixture (with a little adult supervision), & of course sampling the finished product!
A seasonal organic treat, & a prefect accompaniment to poached apples or apple crumble. Yum!

(When collecting berries always supervise children to check which berries they're picking, & only pick berries which are above dog height!)

Friday, 19 September 2014

No Sew Sock Owls

Celebrate autumn with these cute little owls. Ideal for a range of ages to create as no sewing is required, all you need is a sock! They make great play props or story prompts, & are soft enough to cuddle too.

To make your owl start by folding your sock out flat & cutting a V shape just under the heel. Make sure the point of the V is in the middle of the sock otherwise your owl shape will be lopsided. 

When you've cut the sock it should look like the first pic below. For the next stage you'll need to add double sided sticky tape to the inside of the sock at the open end. You don't need lots of tape here, just enough to stick the edges together later. Your sock should now look something like the second pic below.

Now your owl is ready for the stuffing to be added. Use the section of sock you cut away earlier & fold it into a small rectangular shape to fit inside the base of the owl. This creates a neat base which helps the owl stand upright before the other filling is added. To fill the rest of the owl take 6-8 facial tissues (clean of course!) & gently scrunch them up individually before adding them to the sock/owl. We found 6-8 tissues gave us a soft cuddly owl figure, but you could of course use more or less depending on the size of the socks you use.

Fill the owl until you get to the cut edges & then stick the taped sides together. This is a wee bit fiddly, & the edges may overlap slightly. If this happens don't worry, you can trim along the edges to make them neater. 

Fold the pointed end over & secure with a little double sided tape.

To add the beak, wings, & heart we used scraps of felt that we had from previous activities & attached to the owl using double sided tape. You could use any material, but we found that the felt worked best when using the tape. For the eyes we used old buttons & secured them with the double sided tape.

Voila! Your owl is ready to explore his new home.

These make great little puppets & are just the right size to pop into a pocket or bag making them ideal to take on outdoor adventures too.

Keep your eyes on them though, you never know where they might fly to! 

Be warned too, once you've made one you may find more arriving soon after. My girl has made her own parliament of owls & just adores them! They've been to school with her, & even sit next to her pillow at night.

Such a sweet, frugal craft, & a neat way to use all those odd socks at the bottom of the laundry basket!

Looking for more owl activities? You might like these 5 Owl Activities & Picture Books  

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Autumn Nature Play: Smiling Sunflower Faces

These gorgeous flowers have been brightening our garden for most of the Summer, but now as Autumn appears they're just starting to lose their petals. But before you cut these towering beauties back here's a little activity your kids will love. Here's how to make a sunflower smile!
This simple activity is great for exploring the structure of sunflowers, as well as a little creative fun. 
Choose a sunflower which has a head full of tiny flowers & gently rub your finger/thumb across the flowers to create a mark. As you move your finger across the mini blooms they'll fall away revealing the dark sunflower seeds underneath.
What a neat natural canvas to display some outdoor art! And what a great way to brighten up your garden with a crowd of smiling faces.
Minnie loved creating these sunflower characters & each one seemed to have a different expression, although some looked more friendly than others! 
This simple activity is a neat way for young children to practise their fine motor skills & create with nature at the same time. After a few weeks the remaining tiny flowers will fall away & the sunflower seeds can be collected ready to store for next year.
For more sunflower activities check out our 5 Ways to Explore Sunflowers this Autumn.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Celebrating Harvest - 21 Activities for Children to Explore

Looking for Harvest activities to share with young children? Here are 21 ideas which celebrate this special season; including play activities, recipes, & outdoor adventures.

1. Explore the process of planting crops & harvesting them with this Sensory Small Word Play.

2. Explore sunflowers this Autumn! Even after the beautiful blooms have faded these amazing plants still have so much more to offer. Here are 5 Ways to Play with Sunflowers including how to turn them into a drum kit, create your own fabric dye, & how to preserve the seeds for next year.
3. Collect a variety of seeds from a nature walk & try out some original recipes in a Harvest Kitchen

4. Gather some fresh herbs from your garden & make some beautifully scented Lavender & Sunflower Seed Play Dough
5. Explore natural food dyes with Beetroot & Blueberry Play Dough Recipes.

6. Harvest Seeds from your Garden. Collect some seeds from plants that have finished growing this year & store them for next year. A great way to save money, & they make a neat gift to share with friends & family too.

7. Gather a hedgerow harvest! At this time of year the hedgerows are bursting with beautiful blackberries, so why not take a wander around your neighbourhood & discover how many of these delicious freebies you can collect. (Of course it's best to pick those away from a main road, & those which are above dog height!)

8. Collect hidden treasures! In my view these windfall apples are treasures, they may not look perfect, but most are edible & with a little bit of TLC they taste just as good as those apples still hanging on the tree. Why not keep an eye out for a tree locally & ask the owner if you could collect any discarded fruit. Of course they taste even nicer if they're shared out with friends.

9. Open your own Bird Café! At Harvest time it's good to think about the food we grow & consume, but how about thinking about the birds in our local area. This Bird Café offers some simple recipes which will keep the birds happy through until Spring.
10. Create your own culinary sensation with homemade Lavender Sugar made with seeds harvested from your garden. These are super simple to create & make sweet Christmas gifts.

11. Share a little love with these Stained Glass Heart Cookies. Harvest is the perfect time to look at what we have & to consider how we might share that with others, & a great place to start is always your kitchen cupboard!  These cookies are made with simple ingredients & make a lovely surprise gift to leave on a neighbours doorstep.

12. Let's go Fairtrade!  With so much of our food imported from other countries it's useful to encourage children to think about where different foods are produced, & to consider those who grew them. This Fairtrade Banana Muffin recipe is a simple way to introduce Fairtade to young children, the recipe is easy enough for young children to create & the muffins make a delicious treat for packed lunches.

13. Make your own Harvest Pizza with seasonal toppings! Here's a wee challenge for you; see if you can collect all the ingredients for a homemade pizza by buying only seasonal & local produce. What toppings will you come up with? Will it be possible to use only locally sourced ingredients? Here's one of our favourite Recipes for Mini Pizzas, hope it helps.

14. Go on a family fruit picking adventure. We're fortunate to have enough space in our garden to grow a few fruit & veggies, but we still enjoy visiting 'Pick your Own' farms as a family & collecting the different varieties of fruits available. We tend to freeze what we collect & store for Winter months when their gorgeous flavours brighten those cold days.

15. Pumpkins appear here in the UK at just the right time for Harvest, so these homemade Pumpkin Oat Cookies are a delicious seasonal treat, & are packed with goodness too.

16. Make your own placemat to give thanks for your food.

17. Go on a Tractor Hunt! Here's a neat game to pass the time on those long car journeys & one which all the family can join in with. Who will be the first person to spot a plough, a tractor, harvester, hay bale or supermarket lorry?  You could allocate points for each one spotted.

18. Design your own Harvest Tablecloth! Decorate a long roll of paper
 with apple or potato prints. Simply slice the fruit/vegetable in half, cut a shape with a cookie cutter if desired & dip it into a dish of paint.

19. Make a Harvest Hamper for your local Foodbank. We've made several of these now & my girl loves collecting all the tins & packets & arranging them in the box. To find your nearest Foodbank in the UK visit The Trussell Trust, or contact your local council for information on how you could help a local charity with a food donation.

20. Pick your own pumpkin! If you have the opportunity to do this I would thoroughly recommend it, the sheer joy on my girl's face as she wheeled her barrow through a field of pumpkins was just priceless!

21. Climb & explore a haystack (with the farmers permission of course).

However you celebrate Harvest I hope it's filled with happiness, fun, & thanksgiving.

You might also like our 50 Outdoor Activities for Kids this Autumn/Fall,
3D Autumn Art, or our No Sew Autumn Garland.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nature bracelet - made from grass & wild flowers

This simple threading activity is perfect for little hands to create whilst out & about. 

Made entirely from items found on a nature walk, all you need is a long strong piece of grass to thread your natural finds onto & you're all set to make some beautiful unique jewelry.

We found a few colourful flowers while on a walk last week & discovered we could use the sharp end of the grass to act as a needle to thread the flowers. You could thread the flower stems onto the grass in the same way you would thread a daisy-chain, but we found it was easier to thread the centre of the flower head onto the grass & slide it along before adding the next item.

Minnie continued to thread her finds until she was happy with her collection.

To secure the bracelet we simply tied the ends of the grass together in a knot.

This simple activity was a great way to explore nature & the various wild flowers that lined our route. It also inspired a little creativity, & encouraged some fine motor skills while manipulating the delicate materials. Obviously the bracelets won't last forever but there is something magical about creating your own nature jewelry & wearing it.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Homemade Honeysuckle Cordial

How do you bottle Summer? Well I think we may have just done it with this delicious homemade cordial! Made from fresh flowers its light refreshing taste echoes the scent of a summer garden, perfect to enjoy outdoors in the sun, or for those cold rainy days when you just need a little taste of sunshine. This year the honeysuckle flowers in our garden have been prolific & regularly enjoyed by bees & butterflies. With so many flowers & buds appearing we thought we'd use a few to create our own home grown cordial.
This honeysuckle cordial has been a great hit with friends & family over the Summer holidays.  I've been wanting to make some for ages but kept putting it off as I thought the process would be too time consuming, but actually it was much easier to make than I thought & was great to make with Minnie.
For our Honeysuckle Cordial Recipe we used:
2-3 cups of honeysuckle flowers
1 organic unwaxed lemon
2 cups of Fairtrade caster sugar
3 cups of water
1 teaspoon of citric acid (available from a pharmacy)
Minnie started by carefully picking the fresh flowers from our honeysuckle plant, making sure she left the discoloured & wilted blooms behind. She added the flowers to a bowl checking there were no leaves or extra stems accompanying them. Soon we had a dessert bowl full of golden blooms.

To make sure the flowers were clean & bug free we emptied the contents onto a clean tea towel & gently sorted through the flowers removing any leaves or other unwanted finds.

We peeled & sliced the lemon making sure there was no pith on the lemon skin, then added the strips of peel & lemon slices (but not the ends) to the flowers.
To make the syrup we added the sugar & water to a deep pan & slowly brought to the boil, stirring the mixture until the sugar had dissolved. Once the liquid was boiling we took the pan off the heat & added the lemon slices & peel, honeysuckle flowers, & citric acid to the pan. We stirred the mixture again with a wooden spoon, covered with a clean tea towel & left to steep for 24 hours.

It is very tempting to have a quick peek & stir the mixture, but by leaving the pan for the set amount of time the ingredients really have a chance to infuse.

After 24 hours the liquid was ready to be strained & to do this we placed a sieve which we lined with a clean sterilized tea towel over a large mixing bowl. (You could use a muslin or cheesecloth but we only had a tea towel available which we sterilized by placing in another bowl & pouring over boiling water.) Using a ladle I transferred the mixture into the lined sieve & quickly the clear liquid began to filter through & fill the bowl. Once all the mixture had been transferred we squeezed the tea towel over the bowl to remove the last of the cordial.
We sterilized a recycled glass bottle (by washing it in boiling water & then drying in a warm oven, alternatively you could sterilise it in a dishwasher) & poured in our cordial using a funnel.
This gorgeous Summer nectar should keep in the refrigerator for several months. Our first batch disappeared quite quickly, but we made another bottle to keep until the days get cooler & we need that taste of Summer again. Serve it with ice & water for a cool refreshing pick me up, or with sparkling water for a fizzy honeysuckle treat.  
Not only does this cordial taste good, but recently I discovered it may help your immune system too as honeysuckle is said to have antiseptic compounds that are active against sore throats, flu, pneumonia & other respiratory disorders. I'm thinking this is the prefect drink to share with my girl as she heads back to school, it should help to fight against all those post Summer colds etc.
From collecting the ingredients she had grown in the garden, to squeezing the mixture & decanting the cordial, my girl loved being involved in every part of this activity, but of course the best part had to be tasting the cordial she had made!

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