Make your own Driftwood Christmas Decorations

 

This year we are spending our Christmas at the beach, it inspired me to make some beach themed Christmas decorations.  I have always loved how people create beautiful decorations out of driftwood and this year since Alex is a bit older and likes to do crafty things as well I thought we would give it a go.

So today I will show you how to go about making a driftwood Christmas Tree and a Twig Star.  But before we head into that I would just like to say a big thank you to the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers Group which I have joined up with to bring you 12 Days of Christmas – A Blog Collaboration by Kiwi Mummy Bloggers. More info at the bottom of this post.

On Tuesday morning after dropping Frankie at care Alex and I headed off the beach to find driftwood. When looking for driftwood for your Christmas tree, try finding flatter pieces that are going to join snugly into each other and also of similar thickness.  It may even be good to set the tree out on the sand once you have gathered your pieces so you know you have enough of the right shape and length.  You will also need to find a piece that will be the backboard or the trunk of your tree.

Driftwood Tree

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There are many ways to make a driftwood tree, but this way you don’t have to use a drill.   You will need to purchase a good quality super glue or Epoxy glue from the likes of Mitre 10 Mega or a hardware store.

To make the Tree:

  • Place the piece of driftwood you will be using for the trunk of the tree.
  • Next place each piece of driftwood on the trunk from the longest at the bottom of the smallest at the top.   Try and fit the pieces into each other.
  • Once you are happy with how the pieces join together, slowly remove each piece starting from the bottom and glue the back to the trunk, making sure they fit together snugly.

 

 

  • Leave to dry as per glue instructions
  • Decorate with natural treasure such as mini seed pods and pinecones, natural buttons, shells or you may like to add mini lights and sparkly decorations.

You can tie the top of the driftwood if you are going to hang or place in a small container to have a standing tree.

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Twig Star

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For this star I used some branches from a tree I had pruned back and left to dry in the woodshed.   It’s important that whatever wood or branches you decide to use that they are as straight as possible and all the same length.  You will also need natural twine, bakers twine or Washi tape.

 

To make the Star:

  • Set the star out on a flat surface.
  • Once positioned, carefully glue each piece at the point
  • Leave to dry as per instructions
  • At each point, wind twine around the ends or use Washi tape.
  • Tie twine to a point on the star and hang.

These stars look great on the Christmas Tree or hung around the house.

While I was making my decorations, Alex also made some decorations, using the driftwood, I just helped him with the glue as Epoxy glue isn’t forgiving.

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I hope you have fun creating some driftwood and twig decorations and if you need more inspiration head over to Pinterest.

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Have you been following the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers 12 Days of Christmas? Yesterday  Caroline from Caroline Larnach Handmade blogged about making handmade Christmas stockings and decorations for Baby’s First Christmas and tomorrow we have a post on Christmas on the road from Julia over at @Parentalmisadventures.

Be sure to check them out.

Happy Christmas Everyone

Becks 🌲🌲🎅

 

 

 

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Kidsplaynz’s Top FIVE recipe book recommendations

It’s nearly that time of year again, officially 97 sleeps till Christmas, well there may be less depending on when you read this blog. But it’s that time of year when we need to organise ourselves to buy presents or hand over our Christmas wish list.

One of the things that is always on my Christmas wish list is recipes books, I love them! The only thing though is when you buy or request a recipe book you want to know that you are actually going to use it and it’s not going to sit on your bookshelf collecting dust. The best recipe books are the ones that are dog-eared, have some writing in them, flour dust and a bit of chocolate cake mix staining the pages. If your recipe book looks like that, then you know it’s a good one.

I post a few pictures of food and cooking on my social media sites and I often get asked to share recipes, obviously, I can’t share a recipe if it’s from a cookbook but I can share with you which recipe books are my go-to books that I use on a weekly or monthly basis. You can then confidently add them to your Christmas Wish List or buy them for family and friends and then ask to borrow the book back. Cheeky Yes!

I love cooking with ingredients that won’t break the bank and that I can find in the supermarket or by just going down to Vetro in Ahuriri which stocks most speciality items. Also, my family needs to like what I make. No point making something for dinner with a bunch of funny ingredients when no one else in the house is going to eat it, including me. I made buckwheat pizza bases once, juso you know, I gave the packet of buckwheat flour away and we didn’t have pizza for tea that night!

So here we go, in no particular order, my top FIVE cookbooks that I use on a regular basis – husband and child-friendly.

Chelsea Winter – At My Table

This was Chelsea’s first ever book she put out after winning Master Chief and even though her books are more sophisticated now this one is still a gem. It’s full of family recipes with a Dutch influence, think Olie Bollen and Dutch Apple Tart from Chelsea’s Oma. I often refer to this book to make biscuits, quick dinner recipes to the crowd-pleasing Lemonade Scone which whenever I make them I always get compliments on how delicious they are. The Pork with Raisins, Fennel and Pancetta has me drooling, it is a winner! Ekk I think I am going to have to add that to next weeks menu planning.

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Chelsea Winter – Homemade Happiness

Another book by Chelsea Winter. I think this one is actually my favourite book by far and I think it comes down to the Custard Square recipe! Who would have thought that Custard Squares would be so easy to make, and if you use the Lewis Road Caramel Milk instead of regular milk it takes it to the next level. Again this book has easy family dinners, more biscuits and cakes and lunch items for the kids. Our favourites in this house are the Mince and Cheese Pie, Chicken Fettuccine, Chelsea’s Apple Pie oh and the Giner Kisses, taste even better the next day, if they last that long!

Unna Birch, The Forest Cantina – Home

I bought this book recently and wow I have not been disappointed. Again this is one of those books that takes easy meals to the next level. I also love the fact that Unna self-published this book. You will want to leave Home out on your coffee table, it is so beautiful, the layout, the styling and you want to feature a grazing table at your next Party. Also included at the back of the book is a guide for growing your own vegetables, looking after chickens and your own beehive.

My favourite go-to recipes in here are the Banana Bread, this is delicious and so simple to whip up. Other favourites include the Homemade Falafels with Homemade Picked Onions and the Lemon Pie is my Alex’s favourite, I have lost count on how many times he has asked me to make him Lemon Pie in the last three months.

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Essential Volume One – Annabel Langbein

Earlier this year I was given Essential by Annabel Langbein for my birthday. This is a volume of all Annabel’s best savoury recipes from over the years plus new recipes as well, everything is in one place. It’s a huge book and I don’t think I have actually looked at all the pages yet. I made dumplings for the first time the other week and it has loads of my favourite throughout. If you know Annabel’s books this volume also includes her popular fridge fixings which is perfect for the upcoming summer months. My personal favourite to have in the fridge and stored away is plenty of Tomato Kasandi.

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A Free Range Life Annabel Langbein Issue Four

This isn’t so much a book but a large style magazine. This is definitely the best foodie magazine/annual I have ever bought. It focuses on using Autumn and early Winter vegetables and fruits to make snacks and light lunches followed by hearty mains and comforting desserts. My favourite section is the Sunday Sauce – make up a large tomato base, portion it and freeze and then use later by adding a few different flavours to make Mexican, Chinese or Greek. There are ten different ways to use the base sauce. Another favourite and something I make quite a bit is the leek and ham tart.

This is my line up of favourite recipes books. Do you have any favourites to share, let me know in the comments or on our facebook page.

Becks 🥣🥗🥨

How to make: Simple DIY Eye Spy Jar

We all have that container of interesting objects, screws, ties, metal things, we can’t throw because one day we may just remember what they are off,  and everyone has a jar of Kinder Suprise Toys or something collected from the supermarket or gas station that the kids play with for all of five minutes before tossing aside but will dearly love the moment it is seen to be heading to the rubbish bin.

So instead of throwing these little items away, I made up an Eye Spy jar for Frankie, which Alex also enjoys playing with.   Eye Spy jars are so simple to make, and you should have everything you need in the cupboard.

I also find it quite therapeutic moving the jar around to see what toys I can bring up to the side of the glass. For older children, you can take a photo of the items that you pop into your jar.  Print the photo and see if they can find each item in the photo.  Below I will take you through a few steps to make a very simple eye spy jar.

What you need:

  • A Jar or bottle, glass or plastic.
  • Rice, if you don’t want to use rice,  dry sand also works well.
  • A collection of small toys and things such as safety pins, bread bag ties, screws, buttons, small colourful toys, bouncy balls or coins are just some ideas.
  • Clear Packaging Tape
  • Scissors
  • Paper and Pen

Find a suitable jar, I have used a The Collective Pot Set Yogurt Plastic Jar, which is perfect as they are large and plastic so it won’t break if accidentally dropped and you can also squish them, which is perfect for moving the little toys around.   21121953_10154596110426599_445225108_n

Remove the labels from the jar, and easy way to do this is using equals parts oil and baking soda mixed together to make a paste and then use this to remove the film left by those hard to scrub stickers.

Collect your selection of little toys and bits and bobs.   Take a photo of the items if you are making this for older children so they know what they are looking for.  You can also write down what is in the jar and use it in the same way.

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1/4 fill the jar with rice or sand.   I did this over another container so it didn’t go everywhere or you could you a funnel if you have one.

Place a few toys into the rice, pushing some down into the rice.

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Continue to layer the rice and toys until you reach the top of the jar.

Leaving a small area at the top so that the rice and toys can easily move around when the jar is sealed.

Secure the lid well.   If you are using a jar similar jar to the one we used you will need to secure it with clear packaging tape or glue.  The last thing you want is busy fingers removing the lid spilling rice or popping small objects into their mouths.

And there you have it, one very easy to make Eye Spy Jar.  You can refresh the jar with different toys over time as well.

If you want to see more posts from KidsplayNZ, follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

Becks 😀😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinecone Bird Feeder

Bird feeders are really simple to make and a great way to invite birds into your garden. This morning Alex and I made two for the two trees in our back yard.

What you need:

  • Pinecones
  • Plate
  • Spoon
  • Butter knife
  • Smooth peanut butter
  •  Lard (found in the meat section at the supermarket)
  • Birdseed (we used a wild bird feed mix)
  • String
  • Scissors

To make your birdfeeder:

  • Cut a long piece of string to hang your birdfeeder.
  • Tie the string around the pinecone, at either the end of the stalk or around the middle if your pinecones does not have much of a stalk.
  • Spoon equal amounts of peanut butter and lard onto a plate.
  • Use the butter knife to spread the peanut butter and lard mixture inside the pine cone and around the edges, covering it.
  • Hold the pine cone over the plate and sprinkle birdseed over it, or squish the seeds into the peanut butter and lard.
  • Roll the pine cone in any birdseed that has fallen on the plate.  Anything left over I just tipped onto the lawn for the birds to eat.
  • Pick a place in your garden that’s safe from predators – at least 3 m off the ground and at the end of a tree branch.
  • Hang your bird feeder and wait for the birds.

Happy bird watching.

 

I would love to know how your birdfeeders turned out and what birds you have in your garden. At certain times of year we have Tui, but mostly Sparrows, Blackbirds, Thrush and sometimes Wax eyes and Fantails.

Check out Kidsplaynz Facebook page and Instagram for more photos and more adventures.

 

Becks

Pumpkin Carving Down Under

One of the things I think we miss out on in the Southern Hemisphere is celebrating festivals in the right season.  Down here we play act seasonal celebrations like Christmas in the middle of Summer with hot roasts and rich puddings, hunting for Easter Eggs in the middle of Autumn, it’s so back to front.  Another seasonal celebration that many have started celebrating in some form is Halloween.

Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, Last light celebrations have been around for many centuries and throughout many cultures.   It’s the time of year when the trees and plants are dying down, the days are shorter and nights darker.   In the past people also became fearful of the long winter months ahead, of food shortages and death. Celebrations centred around dressing up in costumes, lighting candles and having bonfires and celebrating those who had passed through the year.  In Scotland and Northern England people would dress as ghosts, witches and goblins, they would blacken their faces with bonfire ash for protection.  They would then carve out potatoes and turnips with scary faces to make lanterns and place them near doorsteps and in windows to scare away the legend of Stingy Jack.  Immigrants took these traditions with them when they settled in America and it was then that pumpkins were carved into the Jack o Lantern and have become the popular symbol of Halloween that they are today.

So if we were to celebrate Halloween in New Zealand in the correct season, we would celebrate it on 30th April.  It’s not exactly a festival that many New Zealanders tend to celebrate but  I think it’s important that we celebrate our seasons and it is something I like sharing with my children, even if some of the traditions are taken from other countries.

Last year was the first year we carved out a Jack o Lantern, this year I thought we would do it again and celebrate our own version of All Hallows Eve.   I have written this blog a week earlier since it’s the school holidays it could be something that many wish to do. Who knows it could be something that everyone starts to celebrate in the April School Holidays each year.  Pumpkins are plentiful at this time of year and you should be able to find the orange pumpkins at most market gardens or farmers market across New Zealand now.

What you need:

  • Sharp knife
  • Vivid Marker Pen
  • Bowl for scraps
  • Orange Pumpkin variety
  • Tea light candle and matches

To start off with draw you face onto the pumpkin and a round circle at the top for the lid. Using a sharp knife cut the lid out first and pull out the seeds, clean the inside of the pumpkin and give it a bit of a wash.   Next cut out the eyes, nose and mouth or whatever design you have drawn.

Once you have finished this, your pumpkin is ready.  Place a tealight candle in the centre and light.  Pumpkins will last a few days if they are kept out of direct sunlight so you can light a few nights in a row.

Along with making Jack o Lanterns, it’s good to talk to your children about where the traditions of Halloween originated from, the history, fables and legends that surround the festival.   It’s interesting to note that the popular trick or treating originated from the tradition of giving out soul cakes to young children who went from house to house singing and saying prayers.

From reading recipes online, Soul Cakes sound similar to a spiced scone, I thought I would give the recipe a go over the next week and see how they taste.

If you do decide to make a Jack o Lantern, we would love to see photos of your creations.  Share them to our facebook page or on Instagram with the hashtag #pumpkindownunder

 

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Have fun and I look forward to seeing some photos of your creations.

Becks