Saturday, 23 August 2014

Theme Week: Plants

This week was the odd one out; plants are not one of the four classical elements.  But they feature in abundance as the British summer shades into autumn, and relate to so many good craft activities.


Activities

1. Leaf collection and leaf rubbing
My parents stayed for a couple of days this week, and they are ideal companions for a plant theme, being far more knowledgeable than I am about both the wild and cultivated kind.  Dad helped us with our leaf collection; on a short walk around the village, we acquired at least ten different kinds.

The horse chestnut leaf was bigger than the paper!
In the afternoon we used crayons to make rubbings.  Toby's friends from next door were around for this bit, and the six-year-old was very keen to label all the different leaves.  This is one of her sheets.


2. Sunflower printing
Another idea from my friend Ellie.  This was great for a plant theme; not only were the pictures of flowers, but the prints were made using vegetables - an onion for the centre and carrots for the petals.  To be honest Toby didn't really get into this one.  He wanted to make "blueberries" using fingerprints, and made a vague attempt at a red and blue sunflower before giving up.

The raw materials (ha ha)
Sunflower (printed by me)
Toby has a go

Outings

1. Rosliston Forestry Centre
A large area south of here is designated the National Forest.  You might be forgiven for expecting it to contain trees, but in fact this used to be one of the least wooded places in the country.  After many years of being exploited for coal, clay. limestone and other materials, a forest is being created from scratch.  Rosliston is one of the main visitor centres, and is much more than a bunch of trees.  We went with my parents and explored a herb garden, a tree trail and a lake.  We stood on a sundial, spotted birds of prey sunning themselves, and ate lunch on a bench shaped like a butterfly.


Toby borrowed Grandpop's binoculars
2. Blackberry picking
Our hairdresser is close to a particularly good patch of blackberries, so when Toby needed his hair cut on Monday, we took some boxes along to fill with beautiful big glossy berries.  Most of the crop this year has gone straight into our tummies or straight into the freezer, as we still had several jars of jam from last summer.  Blackberries are so easy to freeze - just wash and spread out on a foil-lined pan - that I always get hankering for a big chest freezer to put tons of them in.

Food

Flower and tree cookies
I harked back to my Cairns Cafe days with this recipe, when I used the dough to make smiley face cookies.  A Smartie for the nose, with eyes and mouth piped in white icing.  Of course Toby's method of decorating involved sticking as many Smarties on as the cookie would hold.

8 oz block margarine
5 oz sugar
1 egg
10 oz self-raising flour
2 oz custard powder
Smarties or M&Ms, for decoration

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Beat softened margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.   Add beaten egg, flour and custard powder.  Mix until just coming together, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth.  Refrigerate until firm.  Roll out and cut shapes.  Place on baking trays and decorate as desired, pressing the Smarties / M&Ms in lightly.  Bake for ten minutes until just golden.  Cool on the trays for a minute, then on racks.

Yes, a few trains may have snuck in there too.

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