Monday, 30 September 2013

Cool Stuff: Getting Kids Cooking

As I mentioned previously, I'm no gourmet chef. But I still can see the benefits of getting in the kitchen with my children. My very kind and bodacious cousin sent this great video my way which I am sharing with you.

Jamie Oliver's Getting Kids Into Kitchens series. A very cool take on five plus a day.

Do you have any child-friendly recipes? What are they?

Have fun!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Episode Eighteen: Harvesting Ginger Beer

Two weeks after we put the batch of ginger beer it was harvesting time! After about a week the boys were asking every day if it was time to try some so it was a great exercise in patience. I'm pretty happy to report that none of the bottles had exploded nor caps popped off. Success!

Facts first: The carbonation was perfect. A great amount of bubbles fizzing up after twisting the cap. However, a week or so after opening the first bottle, opening a new bottle became a fizzed out affair - almost like popping a champagne cork. Watch out for flying caps and froth.

One thing I found, and someone else mentioned this, the ginger flavour wasn't strong enough. I'm trying to figure out what I'd do differently next time. I think we may add two teaspoons of ground ginger each day feeding our bug, or maybe grate some ginger root into the mix? Any suggestions are welcome.

Our ginger beer was enjoyed with a hot batch of Sunday scones. All in all we were pretty proud of our handy work. Sharing in the spoils of our hard work and patience was a pretty cool moment and a really nice way to spend a Sunday.

I'm interested to see how everyone else got/gets on with their own batches of ginger beer. Again, if anyone else has any suggestions for getting a stronger ginger taste I'm interested to hear them.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Episode Seventeen: Painters Tape Target Practice

There have been a lot of rainy day activities trialled in our house lately. I'm very much looking forward to Summer and being able to get out and play around with some of the outdoor ideas I've got stocked up. In the meantime, here is an idea that is the perfect rainy day distraction.

All you need for this idea is painters tape and a newspaper. Seriously.

Stick the painters tape across a doorway in a criss-cross fashion and get your kids to thrown scrunched up balls of paper at it. I found this idea online and I thought it was so simple that it had to be tried. In the original idea, the aim of the game seemed to be getting the paper balls to stick to the tape. Instead of using a door way I used a clothing rack I happened to have lying around and it worked a treat.

I thought an interesting variation of the idea would be to make a 'hole' and make that the goal. So, five points were given if you could get the ball through the goal and, after realising how hard it is to get the balls to stick to the tape, 3 points were given for that feat. This point system may work well when you have children of different age groups. Littlies may find it hard to score a goal. My middle boy got it first go but then struggled for a while after that.

I have to say, I was pretty surprised how long the boys stayed interested in an activity so simple. It is a great idea for hand-eye coordination, for aim and friendly competition. We played this for about 45 minutes. A few hours later we had a visit from the grandparents and they dragged the stand out and started up another game with their Koro, with no real prompting from me. I was stoked.

It really goes to show, organising activities don't necessarily have to be big productions. Just a simple $2.00 roll of painters tape can be all it takes to engage with your children and keep them giggling while the rain comes down.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Episode Sixteen: Sumo Wrestling!

For this idea you need one of your larger size t-shirts and two couch cushions. Pretty simple, really!

This idea was spotted on Pinterest and I decided my boys would love it. Here's how we got on.

A father putting a cushion under a t-shirt

Get your kids to put one of your t-shirts on, hopefully they are swimming in them. Then chuck a couch cushion underneath their shirt so they have a big Sumo belly. I wish there was more to it, but there really isn't.

Two boys getting ready to sumo wrestle

To make things interesting, I made a Sumo ring using painters tape on the carpet. From all my time watching Sumo wrestling highlights on television as a kid; the first one to put a foot out of the ring or get knocked over loses. We made it two feet out of the ring.

Two boys sumo wrestling

Sometimes a bit of rough and tumble is just want the doctor ordered on a rainy day. As long as there are boundaries and the warriors know the rules, I don't see anything wrong with it. Our rules are: the head and face are out of bounds. No punching, unless that is part of the game (one of our sons is a future Mike Tyson). Also, the oldest boy has to let the middle boy win occasionally - this is usually done with a bit of a sly wink - otherwise what's the point? 

Two boys sumo wrestling

Learning each others strengths and limits can be a good thing. I didn't grow up with my older brother in the house as he was a lot older than me. So seeing these two boys scrap and bicker constantly has been a real eye opener for me. Luckily, with activities like this, they are able to get that aggression out in a controlled environment. Sure, we could separate them and discourage them from fighting and wrestling, but, as these photos will probably show you - they had a whale of a time.

Two boys sumo wrestling and a baby watching

Seriously, how fun does this look?

Two boys sumo wrestling and having fun

Have fun!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Episode Fifteen: Making Ginger Beer

When I was young my Aunty made ginger beer with my cousins and I was always jealous of the fact that they got to do that and that they got to reap the fruits of their labour. So, inspired by those exploding bottles, I decided to make my own ginger beer with my own children.

Using a recipe I found in a magazine we got to work: On the first day we started our bug using water, sugar, yeast and ground ginger. Then, every day we added to our bug. Each day for a week the boys took turns putting in the sugar and the ginger. It got to the point where first thing in the morning my youngest boy would wake me up by saying "Dad, we need to feed the bug!". It was exciting stuff.

After a week the bug was looking pretty settled and smelt like real ginger beer so it was time to create our brew. Using a large pot we poured in some water, a heap of sugar, some lemon juice, cream of tartar and our bug. Each of us took turns to add the ingredients. Even my baby girl got to stir the potion.

Once it was all mixed we filled out bottles. After a warning from Dee and a friendly caution from one of the contractors who was painting our house, we decided to use a mixture of glass and plastic bottles. Apparently the bottles are liable to explode so they were all put into a big black rubbish bag, tied up and put in the garden shed. Hopefully if the pressure gets too great and they do explode, the theory is that all of the mess will stay contained within the bag. Fingers crossed.

Although I wanted to rewrite my childhood and finally get my own experience of brewing ginger beer - there were also some great lessons for the kids in this activity. The slow process of feeding the bug can't be rushed so we learnt patience. We all took turns adding to the bug and adding the ingredients to the final mixture so we learnt about sharing the load. Finally, we will have some sweet homemade ginger beer to drink and to give away to our friends so we learn the value of hard work and patience.

We couldn't resist having a little sip to see how it tasted before we bottled it. We're currently on to our first week of fermenting with one more to go. Once it's time to do the taste test, I'll be sure to post the results. In the mean time, here is the recipe should you want to give it a crack:

Ginger Beer Recipe

Warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp raw sugar
2 tsp ground ginger

This here is your bug. Fill a large jar (hipster points for Mason jars) three quarters full with warm water. Add the rest of the ingredients then cover loosely. Don't tighten the lid or who knows what will happen! Then, every day after that for a week add 1 tsp raw sugar and 1 tsp ground ginger. Once a week is up, you're set.

3 cups raw sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
1L boiling water
5L cold water
2 lemons worth of juice

This is your mixture. In a large pot or bucket add the sugar and the cream of tartar then pour the boiling water in there (might be a good idea to do this yourself). Give that a bit of a stir so that all of the sugar is dissolved. Once you've done that, pour in the cold water and your bug (but DON'T add the sludgey stuff from the bottom). Give that a short stir then throw in your lemon juice. Give it a good stir and then pour into your bottles. They say to store your bottles in a cool, dark place. Apparently these bottles can explode from the awesomeness of ginger beer so make sure wherever you are storing it, you're not too attached to or it's at least cleanable. I just chucked ours in the shed to avoid all that hassle.

With your left over sludge you have two choices: chuck it out, or, start again. If you want to start again, fill the jar to the top with water then tip out half (or give to a friend to make their own!) then fill again to three quarters with warm water and away you go.

Have fun!