fun

Come tell me a story…

Fun with the Storybox

Storytelling is big in our house.  From tales of the little people who live behind the skirting boards, to the owl family up our chimney; from the lego men who come to life after bedtime and party hard in the playroom all night, to Mummy’s magic shoes which dance when anyone steps in them; we weave stories into the fabric of our days almost without thinking, and Harry loves it.  Experts may say that we are storing up untold problems and creating a fantasist; I like to think that we’re just unleashing Harry’s imagination throughout the wonder years before the real world starts to hem it in.

And indeed, Harry  loves telling stories too.  ’My turn, my turn!’ He’ll exclaim as we sit around the table, or bundle into bed together.  And Harry’s stories are a delight, though they tend towards repetition and rely heavily on goodies and baddies, robbers and jail, and cars.  Oh, and usually someone falls into a giant vat of mud at the end.

This week we introduced The StoryBox, and it’s transformed our tales.  Filled with random but enticing words – like custard, mud, helicopter, sword and pirate – each person has to pick out a word and use it to begin their story.  Whenever you run out of narrative steam, you choose another word and have to incorporate it.  At three-and-a-half, Harry grasped the idea immediately and loves the unpredictability of what might come next.  It gives him triggers to keep his own story going, and it also allows him to direct – or perhaps sabotage? – our stories too, by pulling out words and insisting that we now need to add in a huge pile of elephant poo – or grandma on a motorbike, or a slimy monster, or whatever is written on the card.

The StoryBox Game

To make this I used a sturdy giftbox and filled it with chips of foamboard to which I glued interesting words.  I chose the names of family members, comic concepts and ideas involving mud, poo, custard and slime, and current obsessions like Lego men, the emergency services and all forms of transport.  And I added in a few completely new words, so that we could explain them and continue to expand his world.  It’s helping with Harry’s word recognition too (though you have to shut your eyes when actually choosing, to add to the drama and unpredictability…).

make your own storybox game

Some very cool stories have emerged.  Like the one where Granny had to rescue Daddy who slipped on a banana whilst escaping from the naughty pirates, who she then chased  on her scooter before making them jump into a big bowl of custard that they had to eat all up before going to jail.

Making stories

You can make this at home in just a few minutes, and it can be as simple or as finessed as you have the energy for.  For the five-minute version, scribble a host of words onto scraps of paper and place them in a hat, shoebox or bowl for family members to pull out.  For the lux version, you can print them out and glue to something more substantial as I did, and decorate a special box to keep them in.

If you want to use my graphic (below) for the cover of your box, you can find a printable version to download at the bottom, albeit one without Harry casually strolling through the pages..

StoryBox

I will keep adding words to our game as Harry’s vocabulary expands and his interests change, to keep it fresh and ensure that the StoryBox retains a firm place in family life. And now I must go; apparently there’s a cross-eyed camel running loose in the garden, and we need to find a saucepan full of sausages to tempt it over with.  No rest for the wicked…

Storybox Main Graphic

Setting Sail!



‘Tis done! Construction on the birthday boy’s pirate ship is now complete, on schedule and on budget (and is possibly the only piece of construction ever done in our house which can make these claims).  Nobody would ever be bold enough to certify this seafaring vessel as watertight or fit to conquer the seven seas, but our fondant pirates don’t seem to mind.  It does at least creak authentically, due to the weight of the chocolate ganache, and lists atmospherically to one side, though this is more attributable to my lopsided baking than to the ocean wave.

Thank you for all the helpful comments and tips; I now feel like a fully-fledged member of the birthday-cake-baking community, at least for the next 10yrs until Harry officially declares homemade party cakes to be a bit lame and embarrassing, at which point I will hang up my spatula with a mixture of profound relief and dismay.  For those who are interested, allow me to take you on a tour of our galleon…



Our cheery-looking skipper is brandishing an unlit sparkler, ready to fire the canon; we’ll light this at the moment critique in lieu of candles.  The canon and canon balls are sculpted from fondant, rubbed lightly with edible silver dust and accessorised with silver balls.  A hidden cocktail stick secures the canon ball in the mouth of the canon; I’ve instructed my husband to try to rescue all the cocktail sticks before the eating begins.  He’s an ex-surgeon after all; he’s used to counting instruments in and out of cavities).  The steering wheel is the only inedible component, borrowed from Harry’s toy pirate ship when he protested that his cake must have a steering wheel; how right he is.

I made the sails by printing onto sheets of regular printer paper and then rubbing them with used teabags, and setting light to the edges.  It was a useful, if unintentional, way of checking that our smoke alarms are working well. (In my defence; yesterday was a VERY cold day to be faffing around outside with such things).  The bunting is not especially pirate-like, but makes our cake jolly rather than fierce, which is important when you’re staring down the barrel of only your third birthday.  I glued scraps of gift wrap onto sparkly thread and trimmed them into flag shapes.  The flags themselves are winched onto disposable BBQ kebab sticks.

My pirates are not afraid of their feminine side; they sport rose-gold earrings and suffer from rather womanly physiques; I left them looking perky and muscled and then came down this morning to find they had wilted into a sort of pear-shaped, who-ate-all-the-pies type slump. Pirate 2 looks like he is accessorising his outfit with a carefully chosen Chorizo sausage; it’s actually supposed to be a blingtastic gold trophy belt..

An equally heavyweight crow sits in his nest, surveying the seas; he wisely decided not to chance his luck on top of the mast and has taken up station at the rear of the ship instead, where a life ring is within easy reach if necessary.

So that’s all for now; we have a busy weekend ahead with Harry’s party, a grandmotherly visit, and also – excitingly – an away day for me and my mum to try a taster day of willow sculpting. Each year we try a course in some new skill which we are convinced will change our lives; industrial blacksmithing was one, flower painting another (we tend to extremes, as you see).  Mostly we drink a lot of coffee (or wine), gossip and plan projects way beyond our talent.  Tomorrow, for example, we have been led to believe we may create one of these;

Whereas I am secretly hoping I might knock up a herd of these, ready to strap to the roof of the car…

We shall see; I’ll let you know how I get on.  I’ll be back next week with 3 different kinds of stars to make for Christmas; have a wonderful weekend in the meantime, and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely readers across the pond!

Willow image credits; 1)  Tir Grug Willow, Wales,  2) Cove Garden Nurseries, Devon

Rocket Man!

Today the house is once again filled with swirling brick dust as our renovations continue, though it is eerily silent as the builders seem to have downed tools in search of sunshine, and have not been seen since Thursday. I’ve been forbidden from stepping in to finish the job, glue gun and apron in hand, so instead have turned my restless energies into creating…. a rocket!



Harry’s current passion is rockets and outer space, having discovered Wallace and Gromit and their adventures to the moon in search of cheese.  With the challenge of only using items already around the house, I built this in a couple of hours and it has already been piloted on several missions (‘Let’s go whooshing Mummy! Put your seatbelt on and I will press the button!’).  Making the rocket capsule was easy enough – I used an opened-out packing box from our recent move – but the domed roof gave me pause for thought.  In the end, I used a fibre matting liner intended for the hanging baskets I never quite got around to planting this summer.  Sprayed silver and with empty yoghurt pots glued on top it does the job just fine…

I cut out the viewing window by drawing round a plate and then using a craft knife.  A polystyrene wreath ring makes a good porthole, especially when wrapped in scraps of brightly coloured paper.  Cotton reels give a countdown to launch, and also provide the basis for an external control panel (below; I added one inside too for proper piloting of the craft after take-off…).

On the side of the rocket is this fuel cap and general gadget bar, made from old plastic lids and some stick-on alphabet letters

The captain needs a proper entrance, of course…  Reels provide doorknobs on both sides, for pilot access and to firmly shut the door once inside, in case of aliens (or grown-ups).  See how to make 3D stars like these here.

And finally our accessories; a spaceman lunch box (for cheese sandwiches and milk; the food of champions), a range of plastic tools in case of spacecraft malfunction – always possible when Mummy is the architect – and space goggles; this cardboard pair of 3D specs I saved from an old comic.

If you fancy making one of these yourself, come fly with us!  Here’s a full list of what we used, though the beauty of these is there’s no ‘right’ way of doing it – use whatever you have to hand.  A word on technique; I found that hot glue (from a glue gun) is the best way of ensuring everything stays in place, and craft knives – rather than scissors – are best for cutting corrugated cardboard like this without squashing and tearing it.  Toys like this will take a battering if used to their fullest potential, so I’m armed with a big role of clear packing tape to add reinforcement and repairs when needed.



Like this project? If you’re a cardboard recycling fan, you might also like our cardboard train and our cardboard shop.  And now you’ll have to excuse us; we need to prepare for  a moon landing in 5…  4 …  3… 2….

How do you spell….

One rainy day in early Summer, I spent an evening decorating plain wooden clothes pegs, intending to use them for a multitude of crafts, and wrote about it here.  With a box of brightly coloured, perky pegs leftover, I was looking for ideas for how to use them and stumbled across this brilliant idea for creating a spelling game.  As Harry is starting to recognise numbers, letters and enticing words (usually those relating to food or toys…), it seemed the perfect time to make him his own set of letters and words ready to practice his budding skills.

I decorated wooden pegs with scraps of gift wrap and washi tape, using double-sided tape to secure the gift wrap in place.  I had a box of these wooden letters tucked away in my craft cupboard, but you could write the letters directly onto the pegs, or use rub on transfers instead.  All you need to end up with is a set of pegs with different letters on.  You can make an alphabet, but I found it was easier to start with the words themselves and work back to see what letters I’d need and how many of them – ‘m’s and ‘d’s come up a lot, whereas some other letters are hardly used at all.

I designed and printed out a couple of sheets with words I knew would be instantly recognisable to Harry and fun to spell.  Because my wooden letters are all in capitals and I want Harry to recognise lower case too, I wrote the words out underneath so he can see how letters change in different settings.

I cut these up and laminated them by slipping several in a laminating sheet with space around them to cut between the words

Put them together with the pegs and hey-presto, you have a spelling game!  I found a storage box to keep these in, and my intention is to keep adding longer and more interesting words as Harry’s skills improve.  This is a great game to make because it can be as simple as using a pen to write letters on pegs, through to this more elaborate and decorative set – a lovely thing to make for a grandchild, perhaps, or for an older sibling to help you make for a younger one – not least because everyone can use a spelling refresher once in a while!

First Harvest

I wrote here about the moment in April when Harry and I caught Spring Fever and had an exuberant flurry of planting fruit and vegetables, before collapsing exhausted on the lawn with a stiff drink (of milk, naturally).  We are complete amateurs, seduced by the adverts in the garden centre which promise abundant produce from phoenix-like plants which thrive on neglect and rise from the dead every time.  Harry’s selection process involved choosing the brightest coloured packets which were reachable at knee-height, and that seemed as good a plan as any to me. It’s fair to say we put our feisty seedlings and their hardiness to the test, as did the British weather – the amount of floods and hailstorms we’ve had in recent weeks would suggest to the Biblically-minded that eternal damnation is quite possibly just around the corner.

Still, today we harvested our first crops and have held a small judging ceremony to score our efforts.  We have been generally tough on ourselves but start with the stand-out winners, our beautiful, abundant sugar snap peas.  Or perhaps I should just say peas; they grew way beyond sugar-snapping size and are now cheery fat pods bursting with perky peas. We’re very proud.

Our second crop was courgettes.  Everyone warned me that courgettes grow in the blink of an eye and that gardeners the world over will roll their eyes and tell you of the glut they always experience, and their weariness of having to cook courgette 50 different ways to try to run down their stocks.  It is thus with some embarassment that I confess we have managed to grow just one courgette.  One, Uno, Solo.  And that one is approximately the length of Harry’s finger, and only slightly wider.  It is perfectly formed, but insufficient for a meal, unless perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow was coming for dinner. We give ourselves 6 out of 10.

Chantenay carrots were my secret favourite crop; I pictured rustling up a bowl of them for Sunday lunch en famille, where they would glint under a knob of melting butter and look radiant and perfectly formed, yet just earthy and organic enough for it to be clear they were not from a supermarket.  Well, of all these goals we seem to have achieved only the latter; there aint no doubt that our carrots are not shop-bought….

Still, who needs to eat carrots when you can give them false eyes and name them individually? (this one above is The Lobster, by the way…).  We may not be close to winning any beauty prizes for our efforts, but we’re having a lot of fun growing them…

Sunshine Projects!

When Harry whips out his shades (albeit upside down), you know that Summer is right around the corner, and some outdoor project planning is called for. In anticipation of a heady season of outdoor living and loveliness – fortunately optimism comes naturally to us both – we now have a sunshine project list that is beyond our wildest capabilities. Still, dreaming alone is intoxicating stuff…here’s a few of the things that made our Top Ten:

Inspired by a hotel we stayed at last Summer in the beautiful Guia D’Isora region of Tenerife, these  pebble curtains would look stunning on a terrace or even inside in a bathroom – we’re collecting interesting stones in preparation…

Simple concrete or terracotta pots add an on-trend colour pop to the garden when sprayed in neon technicolour; the use here as an accent works more powerfully than a top-to-toe dousing; we’ll be trying this for sure next weekend.

Despite the hosepipe ban sweeping Britain after just one week of sunshine, I’m determined that we’ll have our own carwash up and running by August, catering for all the neighbourhood scooters, ride-ons and tricycles…

And when we’ve worked our way through some of those, we’ll kick back with a bowlful of these beauties; after all, frozen yoghurt and fruit has got to be good for you, right..?

And all of these of course will be in addition to our Great Sunflower Race, launched here; if you planted a seed too, ping me a photo or link with your progress and we’ll have a race pitstop to check who’s germinated, who is racing ahead and who has yet to pop through the soil – bate your breath! It’s not too late to join in, though illegal stimulants might need to be added to your watering can to ensure any late entrants catch up…

Photo credits: Neon pots via www.theproperpinwheel.com  Carwash via www.sfgate.com

Tagged with Temptation!

Misery, misery; if there’s one thing worse than going on a diet, it’s going on a competitive diet, where every day begins with a gleeful shriek from one’s husband as he hops from the bathroom scales and punches the air at another ounce lost.  This all started last week when my husband decided to shed 7lb from his racing-snake physique ready for the beach and the annual donning of Speedos.  I offered to join him, then waited graciously for him to protest, lest I waste away altogether. ‘Excellent plan!’ he cried instead, rather too enthusiastically. ‘It’ll be a race!!’.  Honestly, MEN, I ask you….

One week in and I am falling behind, mysteriously.  Who knew that tomatoes gain so many calories when placed on top of a pizza?  Devious acts of sabotage are called for, so I am whipping up a frenzy of Siren-like temptation in the kitchen, hoping to stop his willpower in its tracks and give me a chance to catch up.  Let’s begin with these perky tea-bag cookies, inspired by a recipe from beautiful French website Le Petrin.  Deceptively petite, these look wantonly moreish, and the perfect accompaniment to an otherwise innocent cup of coffee…

I used a basic sugar cookie recipe (bottom), then rolled out the chilled dough onto a floured surface.  I trimmed a business card into a tag shape then glued a cork to one side to allow me to place and lift it with ease.  A pizza wheel proved perfect for cutting out the shapes without pulling on the cookie dough, and I used a drinking straw to punch a hole in each tag. I wanted to move the unbaked cookies as little as possible to help then retain their shape, so simply cut around them on baking parchment and slipped each one onto my baking sheet (2). When the cookies were cool, I melted a mixture of dark and milk chocolate chips to dip them into, then strung each cookie carefully onto a bamboo skewer to harden (4).  What you can’t see here is Harry lying hopefully on the floor beneath, waiting for drips to fall…

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As a final touch, I strung initialled tags onto the cookies using vibrant, sparkly thread, ensuring of course a disproportionate number addressed to my husband. Now, where did I put those damned celery sticks?

Nigella’s Butter Cut-Out Cookie Recipe, from ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’:

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Form into a fat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When you’ve cut out the tag cookies and are ready to bake, they should take about 10mins, though check regularly.

Open for Business!

Napoleon once famously declared Britain to be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, unfit to go to war with France (this was shortly before his defeat at Waterloo, ahem).  In the centuries since, this throwaway Gallic insult has become something of a source of national pride, with the village shop being the heart and soul of any local community and a fiercely defended institution.

Avid followers of this blog (thank you both) will know that Harry is a big fan of The Shops, unhindered as most 2yr olds are by the notion that one must pay hard cash for the magical goods contained within. His original cardboard box play shop sadly collapsed this past weekend, after months of cavalier treatment from children and grown-ups alike (what is it about very small spaces that makes adults determined to wedge themselves into them?), so I’ve been finishing a more robust version below, which we are proud to open here today for all your daily provisions.  The prices are of course outrageous, as Harry is saving up for a new fire engine; an apple will set you back about a week’s wages, but it will taste very good, I can promise you. Tips, process steps and a few close-ups of our wares below.

As with Harry’s play kitchen, I found this dresser top / hutch on ebay for around £15, and set about sanding, priming and painting it.  This involved poking the odd woodworm in the eye with a sharp stick, but otherwise was fairly painless.

I mixed up food boxes and packaging with various bits of plastic play food that we already had to produce a rather odd – let’s say eclectic – mix of produce to sell. The wooden trays are the lids of some ikea storage boxes, with home-printed labels for decoration. Stripy paper bags are filled with dried pasta, and some paper triangles glued to ribbon make for a festive bunting to mark the Grand Opening…

This bell was a junk-shop find with an astonishingly loud clang (note to self; check this next time before cheerfully purchasing…).  Harry’s cooking apron doubles as a store-owners uniform, and Japanese paper tape accessorises the shelf-fronts. Wooden drawers act as a till for cash, and fake fruit abounds wherever you look.  We are having a Dali-esque issue with scale, as you’ll see; strawberries are the size of eggs, and pears have a decidedly GM look to them, casting a shadow over smaller produce; such are the results when you acquire play food from a number of sources over a number of years…

And finally of course, our shop sign; it had to be French (sorry, Napoleon…). Now, what can we tempt you with today?

The Great Sunflower Race

I have found a new nemesis. He’s called Hans Peter Schiffer, and I’ve never met him. ‘Who??’ I hear you cry. WELL, Herr Schiffer may be a benign, helpful German flight attendant by day, but apparently in his spare time has somehow managed to seize the World Record for the tallest sunflower ever grown, a whopping 8.03m. Lordy. Who knew that the very hands used to highlight emergency exits and demonstrate seatbelt positioning could produce such unfettered glory in the garden?  Eight metres of it no less.  So, competitive juices in full flow, we’ve decided to start a new family tradition; the Great Sunflower Race.

Initially thinking we would just have a Mummy / Daddy / Harry race, we carefully chose 3 pots to sow our seeds, hoping that a short spell indoors would give us a head-start come warmer weather and planting out.  Amidst much jostling and inter-marital suspicion we opted to label the pots with chalkboard paint and pen to ensure no crafty tag swapping once the growing began in earnest.  (Damnit; my master-plan thwarted before germination even occurs…)

We took to the garden for some cavalier tossing of compost; very little landed in the pots themselves but the lawn will, I’m sure, benefit from all the additional nutrients it received.

Sunflower seeds are amongst the most reliable of all so can be sown just one to a pot with confidence.  Or so says the packet.  We’ll see….

With a nearly-full pack of seeds leftover, we decided to ask friends and family to join in the race, so carefully packaged up a sprinkle of seeds into little vellum envelopes (below) and issued the challenge.  Some packets were collected by Harry’s friends at our egg-hunt this weekend, the rest will be mailed to Grandparents and other feverishly keen competitors in the week ahead…

So, without further ado, let the Great Sunflower Race commence!

p.s. Global entries welcome… the Big Measure will take place in July, just as soon as my entry is towering magnificently at an impossible peak (and there I go again; ambition completely outstripping skillset…)

The Easter Hatchery

So there we were, surveying the garden and trying to decide where to locate the various bits of hideous plastic play equipment we’ve acquired since H was born, when I decided to seize the moment. ‘Where are we going to put the chicken run?’ I asked, casually, when my husband appeared to be distracted and only half-listening.  Immediately he sprung to attention and fixed me with a steady stare; ‘Chickens???’.  Sigh.  I have long maintained a mild obsession with acquiring some chickens and creating a pseudo-rural idyll where they can peck contentedly around the yard.  The trouble is that whilst I am imagining ambling down the lawn daily to collect a handful of gorgeous, still-warm eggs, my husband is quite rightly imagining that the clearing out of hen poo and the collecting of various tragic hen body parts tossed around by the local foxes will fall to him, and is thus far from keen.

Until the day that our visions collide, therefore, I will stick to making chicks the easy way, predominantly with fondant icing.  With the holiday weekend almost upon us and lots of family to visit, Harry and I set about making these freshly hatched cupcakes today, and are mightily chuffed with the result, despite the jaunty angles and tendency to wobble. Recipe and tips below for those with the time and inclination for a bit of sculpture; anyone who has ever mastered Play-Doh will find this a doodle…

Baking and Making:

  • Set the oven to 170 degrees and make your cakes; I use the Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe which we adore and manages to compensate for my culinary inadequacies every time, producing scrummy cakes… but any one will do.
  • Begin work on the chicks… start by rolling out balls of yellow fondant (either pre-bought or home-coloured)

  • Decorate the heads with stars of white royal icing (for shells), and more for eyes.  I added a dab of red colouring for that newborn glow, and snipped tiny candy hearts in half for the beaks

  • Whilst the chick heads are drying out a little and the cakes are in the oven, have a general clear up; enlist help to ensure all the residual cake mixture is scraped cleanly out of the bowl….

  • Place a disk of your yellow fondant on each cupcake, flattening the edges to avoid ridges.
  • Add a larger white fondant disk to cover the cake, having first cut out a star shape in the middle
  • Secure your chick head in the middle of each cake using edible glue, apricot jam or glaze. Don’t do what I once did and use a cocktail stick, unless a visit to the hospital emergency room is on your schedule.

  • Tada!! Job done.  Eat all of the leftover cake bits and icing. Feel a bit sick and have a lie down.

For any that survive the initial family tasting session, they also look good as gifts…I used a bit of fusilli to imitate straw (below) and Harry will be giving this one to his Granddad tomorrow…

Pasta la Vista, baby!

Carbs are big in our household, as anyone who knows us will attest. Given that my husband declares the potato to be his favourite vegetable, and I would request a toasting fork and crusty loaf if given notice of being stranded on a desert island, it was inevitable that Harry was going to feel a strong gravitational pull towards all things starchy. Whilst I’m secretly proud of the fact that he freely eats vegetables and would for ages misidentify any tree in a picture book as being ‘a piece of broccoli’ (no idea why; it’s unlikely, frankly, that he made this connection at home…), it’s also true that if you ask him what he’d like to do next, the statistically most probable answer at any given time is ‘eat spaghetti’.

So this weekend we whipped out our shiny new pasta machine that was the gift-of-the-year in Christmas 2010, rather like the bread machines that everyone gave and received 10yrs earlier.  A guilty confession; our machine is actually a present I bought for someone else and decided to keep because it looked so enticing; instead, they received a selection of novels and I no doubt received a great dollop of bad karma that will ensure all the pasta I make with it is cursed.  We’ll soon find out.  My cookbooks and the web are full of delicious recipes for homemade pasta involving herbs, different flours and semolina, et al, but we plumped for the simplest possible concoction (below), and got stuck in.  As you can see, this is one of those cookfests where it’s all about the journey, not the end result…

Take your 3 ingredients, create a volcano-like pile of the salted flour on your worktop, and pour the lightly beaten egg mixture into the middle.  Watch as the flour sides collapse and spend several minutes chasing egg around the table (you can see why small boys love this bit).

Mix the ingredients together.  Taste periodically if you really can’t resist.  Try not to touch anything else at all.  Once  a dough forms, knead for about 10 minutes.  Abandon your mother after 2 minutes and find something more interesting to do instead.  Do this quietly, dragging your sticky hands along the wall as you amble towards the toy box.

Hard work done, leave the dough to settle.

Roll out with a rolling pin until about 1cm thick, and then start to feed it through your pasta machine.  Of course, it’s perfectly possible to do this with a rolling pin alone and a lot of elbow grease and persistence.

Once you’ve got a long, thin piece of dough about 3mm thick, feed it through the slicer bit to create your chosen shape; we opted for tagliatelle, and draped it over a (clean!) broom handle to keep the strands separate whilst we worked on the rest of the dough.  As you can see, this offered an impossible temptation for a 2yr old and his fire engine, so our pasta curtain took a bit of a beating at this point.

Once you’ve finished making the tagliatelle, curl each strand into a loose ball and save till you’re ready to cook (the sooner the better).  We tossed ours gaily into a pan of boiling water and hastily gathered spoons, napkins and a large bowl each before stirring in some tomato sauce and basil. And you know, here’s the thing; despite starting with gusto (note the two forks used for speed, below), Harry quickly slowed to a halt and carefully extracted a piece of rubbery, part-chewed pasta from his mouth, then paused and asked oh-so-casually; ‘Maybe we can have Cheerios for tea instead, mummy?’ .  Karma. I knew it…