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These days we take ice for granted – it’s just something that comes out of the freezer. But until about forty years ago, it was not common for a family to have a freezer, and before the twentieth century, the only way to get ice was to wait for winter.
People have always understood how useful ice is for keeping food fresh. Remains of ice storage pits have been found all around the world, dating back more than two thousand years. Places, such as Northern America, which have very cold winters, used to “harvest” ice and sell it to people in other countries.
One hundred years ago, if you were quite well off, you might have had an “ice box” in your house to keep food fresh. To make this work, you had to buy blocks of ice regularly from an ice supplier and pack them into the insulated box to cool the food.
Two hundred years ago only people who were rich enough to build their own ice house could afford ice all year. These houses were built underground, and you would enter by a tunnel whose entrance faced north to prevent the sun from shining in and melting the ice. Ice would be cut from a lake in winter, packed in straw and stored in the ice house where it would actually last all summer to chill drinks and food and make the ultimate luxury – ice cream. Ice houses are no longer used, but there are still many in existence which you can visit in the grounds of stately homes.
Ice is also a very beautiful thing and is used in sculptures. Ice carving became popular in the 17th century when huge, flamboyant sculptures would be made for grand parties to display food – and prove just how rich the host was, as only a very wealthy person could afford such a thing. Ice sculptures are regarded as art today, and cities host ice festivals, including the Ice Sculpture Trail which is an annual event in Norwich. You can even stay in hotels made entirely of ice in chillier parts of the world.
Make your own ice decorations
A drab, grey winter landscape can be transformed into a wonderland by a frost, sparkling in the sunshine. The dead looking plants in the garden take on a new beauty when encased in sugary ice. Even a puddle is prettier when it turns to ice. If you want to decorate your garden one icy day, try making ice mobiles and pots.
To make a mobile, gather a collection of natural objects such as leaves, berries and plant heads. Place the items in different, shallow containers, for example, a jam jar lid, a small plastic bowl and a prettily shaped pastry cutter on a flat saucer. Arrange the containers in a row and run a piece of string or ribbon across them. Fill the containers with enough water to cover the objects, and make sure that the string is well covered.
If the weather is good and icy, you can leave the mobile outside to freeze. Alternatively, you can cheat and put it in the freezer. When everything is frozen solid, carefully pop your ice shapes out. Dipping the containers briefly in hot water will help to loosen the shapes and prevent them from cracking when removed. Hang the mobiles outside the window, or decorate a tree with them, and enjoy watching them spinning slowly in the sunshine on a frosty day.
Another way to make decorations is to freeze sprigs of berries, for example, in a pot of water. Dip the pot in hot water to help turn out the ice. Make several and line them up on the edge of the terrace to sparkle in the sun.
With the dark nights drawing in and the children getting excited about Christmas, why not try making some salt dough decorations together?
It will keep the children entertained and will provide parents with keepsakes their children have created which can be used year after year. Either use biscuit cutters for specific shapes or let their imaginations run wild and see what creation they come up with by themselves.
How to make the Salt Dough
In a large bowl, mix 1 cup table salt and 3 cups plain flour together. Gradually add water and mix to the desired consistency of stiff dough.
Knead the dough on a flat surface, adding a few more drops of water as required (but not making it too moist).
Once the dough is made, it can be divided up into small portions. Roll into 1cm thick pieces with a rolling pin.
Use cookie cutters to cut out a variety of shapes, and place the shapes on wax paper or other surface to dry.
To make hanging ornaments, for the Christmas tree for example, pierce the dough through with a toothpick while it's wet to create a hole for ribbon.
Allow the shapes to dry for a day or two, occasionally turning them over to speed up the drying process.
It may be necessary to re-pierce any holes you have made several times during the drying process. After the shapes dry, use a fine grit sandpaper to gently smooth any rough edges.
Instead of allowing the dough shapes to air dry, you can bake them in the oven at 200ºC until hard.
Baking times varies depending on oven and thickness of the dough; just make sure the dough is completely baked.
Cover the dough with tin foil if it starts to darken before completely baked through.
Suggestions and Tips:
• The prepared salt dough can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a day or two before using.
• Add colour to the dough by mixing food colouring or paint into the water before adding it to the flour/salt mix. Alternatively, you can paint the finished baked dough with acrylic paint.
• Painted objects can be covered with clear varnish if you want them to keep for a long time.
Salt Dough Christmas Trees:
Use a Christmas tree pastry cutter and pierce a hole in the top for ribbon to hang from the tree.
Pierce holes at the tips of the salt dough branches and you can thread small beads through these for your baubles.
To make a 3D Christmas tree cut out and on the first cut a long slice in the middle of the tree from the bottom to half way up then on the second do the same but from the top.
When they are dry you can slot these together to make a tree for the middle of your table at Christmas as a decoration.
You can use any shape cutter that you like. Why not try angels and stars to continue the Christmas theme.
Make your own pinata
The piñata (you pronounce it pin-yar-ta) is a brightly coloured shape made of cardboard or papier maché and filled with sweets and little toys. It dangles on a rope and the players take it in turns to hit it with a stick to break it open so that the goodies shower down.
Piñatas have only recently become popular in Britain, but they have been used for hundreds of years in South America to celebrate birthdays, Easter and Christmas. The Mexicans have a Christmas piñata shaped like a seven-pointed star. The star represents the devil and the seven deadly sins, while the sweets inside it are the blessings of God which rain down on the players when they have destroyed the evil spirit.
Nowadays, piñatas come in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes, from butterflies to crocodiles to Teletubbies! They can be expensive to buy, but are very easy to make out of papier maché, so why not make one for your next party?
You will need:
300 g flour
500 ml water
paint or brightly coloured tissue paper
To make your paste, put the flour in a saucepan and add the water a little at a time, stirring it in well to prevent the mixture from becoming lumpy. Boil it for three minutes. While the paste is cooling, blow up your balloon and tear the newspapers into strips.
Dip the strips of paper into the paste and use them to cover the balloon, leaving a small portion clear around the neck of the balloon. This will be the hole through which you can fill the piñata with sweets. When the balloon is well covered with four or five layers of paper, put it in a warm place to dry.
Once the paper has dried out (it may take a couple of days to harden completely), pop the balloon. Make two small holes on either side of the opening at the top, thread the string through, and tie it into a loop. Paint the piñata or decorate it with tissue paper. Fill it up with sweets.
You could leave your piñata as a simple, jolly balloon shape, or you could turn it into something else. Paint it like a football, for example, or turn it on its side and make it into a fish. You could even be really fancy and make a person or an animal, with legs and a neck made of cardboard tubes and a papier maché head made using a smaller balloon. (If you are turning the piñata a different way up, you will need to attach the string in a different position and cover up the filling hole so that the sweets don’t fall out.)
When you are ready to play, run a rope through the loop of string and suspend the piñata from a beam or the branch of a tree or the top bar of a climbing frame. If someone holds onto the end of the rope, they can move the piñata up and down as the players try to hit it. Arm your players with a stout stick (and a blindfold if you want to make it really difficult) and let them take it in turns to bash the piñata. Make sure everyone stands well back!
Originally the Aztecs played this game with a clay pot filled with water. The pot was the rain god, the noise of the battering stick represented a thunder storm and the resulting cascade of water represented the downpour of rain. You could play a similar game in the garden on a hot summer’s day by filling a balloon with water and bashing it!
Laugh yourself healthy
Have you burst out laughing today? Or at least, had a jolly good giggle? Then you are bringing happiness to the world and helping yourself to stay healthy. That’s what the scientists who study gelotology have found.
Gelotology is the study of laughter. The name comes from the Greek word “gelos”, meaning “laugh”. Scientists first started studying laughter seriously twenty years ago. They were inspired to do so by an American journalist called Norman Cousins. He was very ill, but rather than spend his last days in hospital, he chose to move into a hotel and enjoy life to the full. He watched lots of funny films and did a lot of laughing, and to the doctors’ amazement his “incurable” illness began to get better and he lived many years longer than the doctors had predicted. Now, doctors agree that if we laughed more, we would all be healthier and happier, and the world would be a more peaceful place.
When you hear a joke or see something funny, your ears and eyes transfer the message to your brain. The brain passes it on to your breathing organs and the laughter muscle which is found between your ear and the corner of your mouth. This sets off a chain reaction and 15 more muscles in your face join in. You stretch your mouth wide, wrinkle up your nose, narrow your eyes, and if the joke is very funny, you even start to cry! You breathe in deeply, then let the breath out in short bursts which sets your vocal chords going, and out bursts the sound of laughter.
Laughing makes your heart beat faster, carrying more oxygen around your body. This means that more blood flows to your muscles, stress and tension are reduced, your digestion is speeded up and your immune system starts working harder to fight off viruses and bacteria. In many countries, laughter is used as medicine and some hospitals have specially trained clowns who help children to recover more quickly.
Laughter can make you more imaginative and creative. An American professor called Arthur VanGundy did an experiment with his students. Half of them had to work in a very serious atmosphere, the other half were allowed to joke and enjoy themselves. The jokers did far more work and got much better results. What would your teacher say to that?!
Giggling is good for you, too. It makes you happy, and happy people make friends more easily, are more tolerant and quarrel less. Have you ever ended an argument by giggling?
In 1995 an Indian doctor named Dr Mandan Kataria started the world’s first Laughter Club. Every morning he invites people to join him for 15 minutes of laughing, which sets them up to feel fresh and healthy for the rest of the day. These clubs exist all over the world now. You can start your own, just by gathering some friends together, starting off with a small giggle, and you’ll soon find it growing to a guffaw. Laughter is very catching. When one person starts, everyone around them just has to join in!
Just try it!
Steamed fish? Yuck! Yoghurt? I don’t like it! Brussels sprouts? No, thanks!
Neophobia, the fear of new things and experiences, is pronounced in children. They only like what they know. According to the motto of “no experiments” they state that their favourite food is what is served to them most often anyway. Even their mother’s culinary preferences during pregnancy and nursing shape the eating habits of children. If their mother loves garlic or chilli peppers, kids later on like to eat heavily seasoned food.
It’s not just children and adolescents who refuse new, unfamiliar food or dishes. This behaviour is part of our genetic makeup. Mistrust protected our early ancestors from unpleasant surprises. But what can you do if your kids always eat the same things? Don’t preach to them. It’s better to rely on the “mere exposure effect”. Researchers discovered that children are willing to try something new only after it has been offered to them about ten times.
So, mums and dads, don’t give up and try offering small samples again and again. Sometime down the road your kids will venture a taste and eat along with gusto.
How to make eco-plastic from milk and vinegar
You will need: a small saucepan, a wide topped jar, a tablespoon, a piece of gauze,
a strong elastic band, full fat milk, vinegar, cream
Can you imagine a home without plastic? Bowls, telephones, garden furniture, toys, combs …. we come across it made into a thousand different things. Amazingly, though, plastic was invented less than 100 years ago. It was developed in 1909 by a man called Leo Henrick Baeckeland and he named it “Bakelite”.
Today, most plastic is manufactured by the chemical industry using oil, and it’s not a very environment friendly material. However, you can make eco-friendly plastic at home and use it to make brooches, beads, buttons – whatever takes your fancy!
How to make eco-plastic:
- Stretch the gauze over the top of the jar and fasten it firmly in place with the elastic band.
- Heat 350 ml of milk in the saucepan.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat just before the milk comes to the boil. Stir in a tablespoon full of vinegar. The mixture will turn lumpy.
- Let the milky mixture cool a little, then pour it carefully onto the gauze on top of the jar. The lumps will stay on the gauze, while the liquid will filter through into the jar. Tip: if the mixture is too crumbly, stir in a little cream.
- Press as much liquid as you can out of the lumps with the back of the spoon until you have a solid mass.
- Mould the mass into the shapes you want, or use different shaped cutters. You can make holes in beads, buttons etc using a thick needle.
- Leave to harden for 2 weeks. When they’re ready, wash your shapes with washing up liquid to remove any traces of fat, then paint them.
What will you make with your eco-plastic?
Pretty eggs for Easter
Did you know that eggs are seasonal, just like fruit and vegetables? Hens lay every day during the spring and summer, but “lay off” during the cold, dark days of winter.
Nowadays, commercial chickens are bred to lay most of the time and we can have fresh eggs whenever we want. In the olden days, however, when all chickens were free range and spent their lives scratching around the garden and farmyard, the farmer’s wife would lay in a store of eggs to last through the winter. Summer eggs would be placed in a large stone jar in a solution of water-glass (sodium silicate). This prevented bacteria from getting into the eggs and they would stay fresh for up to nine months.
Easter time is when the hens start laying enthusiastically again, and before chocolate Easter eggs became so popular, Easter was celebrated with dyed and decorated fresh eggs.
How to dye eggs
You can use natural dyes to colour your eggs. Onion skins turns the egg shells yellow, spinach will turn them green, beetroot can be used for red eggs and, surprisingly, red cabbage will turn the eggs blue!
For each colour, place 200 g of the appropriate vegetable, chopped up, in a saucepan with half a litre of cold water. Bring it slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave the water to cool, then pour it through a colander into another saucepan to remove the vegetable pieces. Now place eggs in the coloured water and boil them for 10 to 15 minutes. Adding some vinegar to the water will help to make the colours brighter.
Now you have lots of pretty eggs, what will you do with them?
First thing in the morning, use them for an Easter egg hunt. Hide them round the garden for your brothers and sisters (or parents) to find.
At lunch time you could display them in a bird’s nest to make a pretty table decoration for Easter lunch. You can make a nest by weaving flexible young twigs into a nest shape (tie the twigs into position to stop them pinging apart!) and line it with moss and spring flowers.
At tea time, it has to be boiled egg sandwiches! But don’t throw the shells away when you make the sandwiches…. Collect each little piece and you can use the shells the next day to make egg shell mosaic pictures.
Easter chicks and bunnies
Fluffy Easter chicks and bunnies are easy to make out of woollen pom poms.
You will need:
- a thin piece of cardboard (eg. from a cereal box)
- yellow, grey, brown or white wool
- googly eyes or beads
- PVA glue
- felt pens
- cotton wool
First you need to make the pom pom templates which are four rings of cardboard, two large ones for the body and two small ones for the head. To do this, draw onto your cardboard two circles measuring about 8 cm across. In the centre of each circle, draw a smaller circle measuring 3 cm across. Cut round the 8 cm circles, then cut the 3 cm circles out of the middle to make two rings. This will make the body. To make the head, cut out two smaller rings with an outside circle measuring 5 cm and an inside circle measuring 1.5 cm.
Cut your wool into long pieces and wind them into little balls. This makes the wool easier to work with. Put the two body templates together, and start to wind the wool round and round the templates, pushing it through the hole in the centre. Use yellow wool to make a chick and grey, brown or white wool to make a bunny. Keep wrapping it evenly round until the hole in the middle is completely full of wool.
Now carefully cut round the outside edge so that you have lots of loose ends of wool. Ease the two pieces of cardboard slightly apart, just enough to allow you to wrap a length of wool tightly around the middle of all the wool threads and tie it in a knot. Then remove the pieces of cardboard. Fluff the wool out and trim it into a neat ball.
Repeat the procedure with the smaller templates to make the head of your chick or bunny. When the head is ready, glue it onto the body with the PVA glue. Stick on the beads or googly eyes. To make a chick, cut a beak and some feet out of the remaining cardboard and colour them in orange before sticking them on. For a bunny, make a pair of cardboard ears and two teeth, and for the finishing touch, glue on a little ball of cotton wool as a tail.
What other animals could you make out of pom poms?
Did you know that people in the UK are the biggest chocoholics in Europe? We eat an average of 10 kg of chocolate each a year, and spend £4.3 billion pounds a year on it.
To make this much chocolate for us, an awful lot of cocoa beans have to travel half way round the world because the cacao tree from which the beans come only grows in tropical regions.
The cacao tree grows up to 15 metres tall and comes originally from middle and South America. It still grows there, in the shade of the rain forests, but has now also been planted in Africa and certain Asian countries. It has a knobbly trunk and a wide, evergreen top. Clusters of flowers grow on the branches and develop into yellow and rust brown fruit or pods. They are 10 – 25 cm long and inside, packed in the sticky, sweet, protective flesh, are up to 50 white cocoa beans.
The ripe pods are harvested from the tree with a machete and carefully opened. The flesh and beans are spread out, covered with banana leaves and left in the sun for a week. They are turned regularly and this process helps the flesh to liquefy and come away from the beans. The beans turn brown at this stage, and become less bitter in flavour. Next they are washed and left to dry in the sun on rush mats. After 7 to 14 days, the cocoa bean grower will sell his raw beans to a chocolate company who will ship them in huge sacks to a factory in some other part of the world.
The cocoa industry uses machines (rather than the sun) to roast the beans at exactly the right temperature to bring out the flavour that we all love. The outer shell of each bean is removed and the beans are ground up. The friction created by this process melts the cocoa butter in the beans and turns them into a dark liquid mass known as chocolate liquor.
The chocolate liquor can be separated in a press. High pressure squeezes out the cocoa butter, which runs out clear and golden, leaving behind a dry, brown solid which can be ground up into cocoa powder. If the factory is making chocolate, the liquor will be mixed with additional cocoa butter, sugar, milk (if it’s milk chocolate) and vanilla. If it’s white chocolate they want, they use just the cocoa butter and none of the brown powder.
Recipe - Delicious hot chocolate
When you come in from playing outside on a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better than a cup of hot chocolate to warm you up, right down to your toes. Ask an adult to help you make this:
Mix 1 heaped teaspoon of cocoa powder (not instant hot chocolate powder) with 1 teaspoon of sugar, ½ teaspoon of honey and a few drops of vanilla essence. Heat 150 ml milk in a saucepan and carefully stir in the sweetened cocoa powder. Whisk it vigorously with a balloon whisk and pour it into a mug. Top with chocolate sprinkles.
If you want to find some children Halloween crafts, there are a large amount of places you can go. The Internet, of course, is an excellent spot to start. There are many websites devoted to kids Halloween crafts, and they can spark all types of concepts in your head to make you and your kid or kids be in a position to decorate your home with some great Halloween decorations. we are pleased to get you going with some fun kids Halloween crafts with a few of our favorites!
One of the fun children Halloween crafts we can suggest are sparkling spiders. These easy to make spider can decorate your Halloween table, be hung from the ceiling, or just scatter about the house. First, you need a round four Styrofoam ball. Paint the ball a dark purple with a craft sponge. Spatter on white glitter sparingly while the paint is still barely wet. Glue on some googly eyes and stick black pipe cleaners in the sides for legs. Bend the pipe cleaners so the spider can stand on its own and you have a fun, shiny spider!
Another glorious kids Halloween crafts uses just a simple egg carton preferably a cardboard one. Take and cut out three of the cups leaving them attached together. With the 2 outside cups, cut out the fronts to simulate wings. If you need, you can paint all of it black and then draw on a scary bat face or attach googly eyes with white glue. Punch a hole in the head of the middle egg cup and fasten a string that's knotted on one end. Then hang from wherever you want!
Children Halloween crafts do not have to be tough, but some will require adult supervision. This next craft could actually make you the talk of the neighborhood if you have bushes growing around your home. First, take a plain white sheet and fold it in half. Place some newspaper between the folds. Using either a black permanent marker or black craft paint, draw a frightening or funny ghost face on the front of the sheet. When it is dry, cover your bush and pull tight attaching it in the back with clothespins.
If you use your mind, virtually anything can become fun kids Halloween crafts. Sit down with your kid or children and see what they can come up with. Decorate a candle with candy corn, cut pumpkin faces out of construction paper and tape them to your windows the probabilities are endless! Youngsters Halloween crafts are even fun for adults, so enjoy this time with your kid and craft away!
by Russ D. Edwards
Babys first foods
Exercise, love and a well-balanced diet are essential during the first years of a baby’s life. These enable your baby to grow and to discover the world. A baby’s diet should be healthy and full of variety.
Small children need meals packed with the nutrients, vitamins and minerals such as vegetables, fruits, potatoes, cereals, milk and dairy products as well as meat and fish for proteins.
Meals prepared by mummy or daddy in the home are always that bit more tasty. Preparing baby meals with a Miele Steam Oven is mere child’s play!
Steam cooking with Miele - easy, convenient, tasty and healthy!
Food is prepared gently in a steam oven and maintains more of its vitamins and minerals than traditionally cooked food.
Consequently the natural taste of the food is preserved.
More Vitamins and Minerals ...
Broccoli prepared in a steam oven contains over 50% more Vitamin C than its cooked counterpart. Pepper cooked in a steam oven can retain as many trace elements as an uncooked pepper.
In contrast to this a traditionally cooked pepper has approximately 45% less nutrients than an uncooked pepper.
.... And more taste!
A scientific system of points conducted in laboratory, tests four criteria. This was done to achieve accurate results relating to our senses (sight, taste, smell and texture).
The result: Steam Cooking is the tastiest and healthiest way to prepare vegetables - no matter if food is fresh or frozen.
For example broccoli maintains its texture and original taste.