I know this post is a little late for half term, but we loved this fun activity last week whilst we had visiting kids, so I thought I’d share – particularly because whilst we used halloween cutters, this is an activity we do year round using different themed cutters and icing and can therefore be inspiration for a little activity at lots of different times, not just halloween.

Note: I made up the biscuit dough one evening and popped it in the fridge, so it was ready to roll out and use the next morning. I kind of wish I’d had the foresight to bake up one batch the night before too, so the gap between the biscuits going into the oven and the kids having something to decorate had been shorter, but it worked out ok. This kept a 5 year old and a 2 year old occupied for a couple of hours – Pip needed minimal input but the 2 year old needed a little bit more help. She did make the most amazing “Batson Pollack” mind you!

You will need a few things which I’d love to say I have in my store cupboard but I did need to remember to order some of the things specially, particularly the eyes and the black icing. I use an adapted Nigella’s Christmas recipe for the dough because it tastes great – not always a given with kids recipes – and rolls out nicely, is very forgiving and cooks and cools quickly.

This would also make a really fun party activity – we have done cupcake decorating which works nicely too – making up icing into tiny individual pots, which is both enthralling to little people, and also stops the inability to share from getting out of hand!

Things to buy in advance

This does need a little a forethought – I ordered from Waitrose with our food shop, but some bits I had to get from Amazon, so have included the (some are affiliate) links here for ease:

 

Make the biscuit dough

Makes about 40, depending on size (half the recipe if you only have one child decorating, I like to make more dough rather than less as it is inexpensive and some invariably gets lost, made into balls, or otherwise ends up not being used.

Ingredients
180g soft butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
s teaspoons vanilla extract
200g plain flour, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180oC/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet or two with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar together until whipped soft and pale, then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla.

Mix in flour, baking powder and salt and continue mixing until it all comes together to make a soft dough.

Form into 2 discs, wrap each one in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Then roll out to a thickness of about 5mm.

Cut out shapes using cutters, or freeform shapes using a knife.

Bake biscuits n the oven for around 15 minutes: this depends on their shape, how many sheets are in the oven at the same time, and whether on the upper or lower shelf, though you can swap them around after 5 minutes. When they’re ready, expect them to be tinged a pronounced pale gold around the edges; they’ll be softish still in the middle, but will harden on cooling.

Take the sheets out of the oven, remove the cookies, with a flat, preferably flexible, spatula to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Prepare the icing

I made up one small bowl of white icing and another which I coloured orange. Do this by sieving icing sugar into a small bowl and adding a few drops of boiling water. Don’t skip the sieving otherwise you will have lumps which don’t disappear – the extra time taken is worth it on this occasion… You are looking for a smooth glossy paste – you will probably need to add more icing sugar. It will turn from slightly translucent to white when it has enough icing sugar in. Repeat in another bowl, or split into two bowls, and add drops of food colouring/icing dye until you have a shade you are happy with. My orange looked a little peach but the kids were very happy.

We all had a go at the decorating – it was very satisfying. We used palette knives to smooth on the icing, adding the eyes, and then let set before adding other colours using the icing pens, others we outlined in colours and filled in. Basically anything goes! At Christmas we use edible glitter, other times we use sprinkles, or sweets to make more elaborate patterns. I also like to experiment making patterns using a cocktail stick to make a marbled effect.

We then ate some, of course, before putting them into glass jars. I find this helpful for a number of reasons – air tight but you can also see them so are reminded to eat them up rather than lying in a tin forgotten (I can’t be the only one who has opened a tin to find old sad biscuits left from last time) and make lovely presents.

Recipe adapted from Nigella’s Christmas Gold Dust Cookies

Apparently, today is National Pumpkin Day! Who knew… I’ve been trying to get this post live for more than a week now but turns out life can be pretty busy down here – but apparently my inner content creator calendar is obviously perfectly in sync and today is a perfect day to be posting about pumpkins.

I’ve read quite a bit where people have been discussing halloween being an imported event, but I am not sure it is necessarily the case. I understand that pumpkins have formed part of a halloween type tradition particularly in the north of England, and Scotland, for a long time. Personally, I love to embrace a bit of seasonality, and fill our home and table with whatever is plentiful at the time. One restaurant describes their menu as “aggressively seasonal” and I feel like that could also be used to describe our house at present.

Aside from making a lovely photo background, we’ve been trying to visit our local farm shops and where possible pick your own places for several reasons. One, it is nice to eat local and support local businesses; two, I like that the kids are starting to understand a bit more where food comes from, the effort that goes into producing it, and the importance of good ingredients. Pip is learning to cook, and I think a good first step is some understanding why pumpkins thoughtfully grown will make good soup as well as something we can carve for halloween.

We spent a glorious afternoon in the late autumnal afternoon sun, wondering around Trevaskis Farm and selecting our pumpkins. I highly recommend a visit to this farm during the summer when the majority of the soft fruit is in season, but an autumnal visit is also well worth it. (And make sure you stop for tea and cake – the options are legendary.)

I also selected some smaller gourds to decorate the table, which I paired with the last of the roadside flowers. The farm images are all Trevaskis, the other images our house.

Trevaskis Farm

Trevaskis Farm, Connor Downs, Hayle, TR27 5JQ

Pick your Own open 8am-7pm every day

Not a sponsored post!

Country Kids

We spent the best couple of hours today on a Rock Pool Ramble organised by Polzeath Marine Conservation Association and led by their volunteers and those of the National Trust in North Cornwall.

Join marine experts, Polzeath volunteers, and National Trust rangers on one of our famous explorations of the shore! With dates throughout the year, you have a chance to discover the wonders of the rockpools, from rare Celtic sea slugs to stalked jellyfish and an abundance of crabs. Lead by National Trust Rangers.

We weren’t really quite sure what to expect but had a wonderful morning examining the rock pools, learning about all sorts of wildlife and having anything we found identified. The format was super casual – we were accompanied by loads of volunteers and rangers, which was particularly welcome as that meant we could concentrate on looking in the pools, knowing someone else was keeping an eye out for the tide. The team brought along a load of white buckets and specimen catchers and we all had a go before gathering round to see what everyone had found and have things identified.

If you are visiting Polzeath any time this is one not to miss – I learnt just as much as Pip and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. That said, you don’t *need* an organised ramble so I’ve shared some of tips below that I thought might be helpful if you’re going yourself. We will certainly be going again, both on the organised version and by ourselves.


What to bring

A beach in August will obviously be hot and sunny so no need to worry about being warm and dry… of course, this week has been anything but warm and dry, so first and foremost I would suggest a waterproof! You also will not want to worry about your feet – I bought some gloriously unstylish waterproof shoes from the local surf shop which were perfect. Pip insisted on wearing her Saltwater sandals which she will barely take off – had the weather been nicer I might have worn mine too, but I like to err on the side of being warm.

You will also need a bucket – we brought along a clear crabbing one that was great, and if you can get hold of a bigger white one that does make looking at some of the larger specimens easier. We were shown at the start how to be careful to not disturb the marine life – if you lift a stone, put it back, etc – and to not use nets but specimen scoopers (most of which had been made from cut off plastic bottles with taped edges and string handles, so super easy to make at home. There were also some clear plastic pots, probably hummus tubs or similar, so again, easy to get even if you’re on holiday.

We also benefitted from the spotters guide which we bought for 50p from the team, and they brought down some guide books to look through as well, which Pip was particularly taken with.

The rangers were all so knowledgeable and so friendly – Pip had loads of questions and they patiently ansered them all. The other benefit to an organised ramble such as this one was that they knew how and where to look for certain things – and were also able to identify without having to look it up which was particularly lovely. We spent some time with one of the volunteers that was on a university placement and she showed Pip a strawberry anenome and a daisy anenome and helped Pip feel the tentacles and explained how it caught its prey.

What did we find?

Well, we did see a Celtic sea cucumber which was super tiny, much more so than I expected.

That is a daisy anenome, but quite hard to spot at the back under the rocks in the middle.

Pip found several baby crabs – and other people found all manner of other different crabs, fish, shrimps, sea weed – and also sadly a few bits of plastic which we scooped out and took back to recycle.

We also saw a cushion starfish, the shell of a spider crab which had been abandoned when its owner needed to upscale to a larger model and the strange brain like roots of seaweed which had been ripped from its mooring in stormy weather.

All in all a fascinating day and one which I’d highly recommend.

Country Kids