Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gingerbread house party

In the lead up to Christmas, I thought I would share a fun activity that  we've done previously.
We got together with the Aussie Half Dozen and the G family early in the school holidays to make some yummy treats.

This time we decided to concentrate on the assembly.  We prepared the gingerbread pieces ahead of time (the kids making gingerbread was not quite so much fun) and the two families brought the sweet shop along with them.  If only I could count!
I used the gingerbread recipe from this Christmas lesson. It makes quite a hard gingerbread but I liked the taste. Our Sunday school did an Edible Christmas lesson this year and it was lots of fun.  What I like about this gingerbread is that it doesn't use that much butter/margarine and it was simple.  Something to consider when making several batches.  The recipe makes 2 mini gingerbread houses or whatever shape you decide to make with it.

Gingerbread Recipe
This mixture can be made the day before it is needed and can be kept in the fridge for weeks. The dough is easier to work with if you let it rest.
Melt together 2 tablespoons margarine with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 4 tablespoons golden syrup in a microwave.
In a large bowl put 2 cups plain flour, 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon mixed spice.  Add melted mixture and 2 tablespoons milk and stir until combined.  Put in the fridge until needed.  Then roll out on floured board, cut out shapes about 1/2 cm thick and bake for 12-15 minutes in a moderate oven. 

The results?  All the kids were justifiably proud of their creations.
clean and simple design by Box Boy

Jelly bean door, lamp, wreath and path by Lego Lad

Possum's designer eye with the holly
Snow men, palm trees, wreaths and lots of icing!

We just might have to do it again this Christmas!  

Family Fruit Punch Recipe

This is a family favourite at Christmas time. I'm sure there are simpler ways of achieving the same but here goes.
Boil 2 cups water with 1 cup of sugar for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Add about 1/3 tin crushed pineapple, pulp of one passionfruit and 1/2 cup fresh, cooled black tea and a little chopped mint.
Just before serving add 2 bottles each of lemonade and gingerale.

As I've never actually made it, just get to drink it, I suspect that they actually make double this quantity at a time.  And she uses an ancient device that cuts up the mint really finely.  I don't know what it's called. One of the aunts made the above batch and the mint isn't cut as finely as when MIL does it.  It was still good.
The mint, passionfruit and pineapple are the winners. I wasn't aware about the tea.
One of the aunts is also famous for her fudge and caramel she makes at Christmas.
For youngest and myself, we will be experimenting with some lower sugar treats this year.

Valita's Christmas Cake

A few years ago when I started blog surfing and this lady http://valitasfreshfolds.blogspot.com/ was one of the first blogs I enjoyed.
She is a Christian Australian lady who makes fantastic cards and also this amazing recipe that I will share.

Valita's Christmas Cake
1/2 Kilo of mixed dried Fruit
1 c brown sugar100g bag of glazed cherries
6 dried dates chopped
6 dried apricots chopped
3/4 c mxied chopped nuts
125g butter
1/2 440g can pineapple chopped small
1, 1/4 c pineapple juice - use the juice from the can of pineapple
and add enough water to make it up
Bring all this to the boil and boil for 3-4 mins. add 1 tsp of baking powder stir and then let cool.when mixture is cool add2 eggs
1/2 chopped banana
1/2 c choc chips
4 tsp Rum essence
2 tsp of vanilla essence
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 c self raising flour
Mix all this together and pour into a lined cake tin. top with extra cherries and or almonds.
Bake in a Mod oven for about 1 hour or until when tested with a skewer it comes out clean. ENJOY

She is one creative lady!

This year I'm going to tweak this and see if it's still good with gluten free flour and dairy free spread. I think it will. I  suspect boiled fruit cakes are an Australian thing and definitely the pineapple and apricot and banana are the things that make it for me.

Review of Musiah

Warning: I'm sorry, this will sound like an advertorial. It's totally unsponsored and unsolicited, just sharing something that has helped us.

Lego Lad has been learning piano for a while. Initially he started quite well and then he stalled. He continued with lessons and begrudging practice but wasn't learning anything new or enjoying it. It was such a shame because learning piano was something he chose to do.
This continued for some time until I saw an ad one morning earlier this year for an on-line piano course that looked like a computer game. The program was Musiah and it was shiny and new and looked like it would be just the thing to get LL playing again if it lived up to it's promises.

From the website:  Suitable for kids and adults, Musiah is by far the world’s most technologically advanced piano lessons, bringing you a serious musical education in an affordable, convenient and fun way.
Musiah is a keyboard lesson system that is visually appealing and has sound musical content that's fun to use.  And it's Australian designed! (by the very talented, experienced and very nice Brendan Hogan)
It provides feedback in real time on how the lesson is going. There is a great storyline behind it and the lessons are taught by Musiah (the purple fellow) as part of equipping you for the mission that you have been given to help save the galaxy from the evil aliens "The Atonals".
You can see why this appeals to my 10 year old boy!

Atonals 285We did have some technical difficulties getting started up, but the site and then the owner/inventor provided great personal support and I'm so glad we perserved. I think our level of technical difficulty was truly unusual. You just need a MIDI keyboard, a computer with a mouse that can go near the keyboard, internet connection and the ability to download a big file.

ClavitriskLL has been using the lessons for a while now and has finished the second level of lessons. He just needs to perform the songs now at a high enough standard to earn enough stars to get to the next level. He has had so much fun and has learnt so many new pieces.  A big improvement on earlier in the year. The songs are still at quite a basic level, but you need to play them precisely to proceed to the next song. It's all good grounding and they learn theory as they go. The songs are played with a backing track, with lots of different effects. Very groovy.
The boy loves being on the computer and he has been so excited about playing and learning. It's a beautiful thing to see.
It's not just for kids, but adults too. If I could play in time and not rush, I might catch up to LL in my lessons on my journey through the galaxy. (but LL likes being ahead of his mum) Just as well Musiah is patient with me!
I know a number of my regular readers are very musically talented and this may not be something that you need to consider for your family.  If however you know of someone, who would like to learn piano and learn it from home, I would highly recommend Musiah. It does cost $25 a month, but up to 6 people can access it for that price.
Have a look at the site for a more thorough explanation.
Here endeth the lesson.

(edited to add: I originally wrote this for my old blog which has since gone private but I wanted to make the review still available. I am still happy to recommend Musiah. LL is now 13, at high school and still playing piano with a great local teacher. And more importantly enjoying playing. I still credit his change of attitude towards playing to Musiah. Musiah is fun and exceptionally good content. My opinions are my own and not sponsored.)