Thursday, 24 November 2011

New Phone Number & Vacancies

Please note that since we moved house we've had to change our landline number (thanks to Plusnet and their mistakes!).  The new number can be found on the contact page.

Our new house is coming along nicely, I'll post some photos as rooms are refurbished. We've bought a large climbing frame and den for the garden.  The children are enjoying having the extra outdoor space.  I think it must be a shock to the neighbours.  They've gone from having quiet neighbours with grown up children to having a group of excited children making a noise in the garden.

One of the children is leaving at Christmas. From January 2012 I will have a vacancy on a Monday and Tuesday  for a child under the age of 5 years. Please contact me for more details.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Easy Peasy Yoghurt Cake


1 small carton of flavoured yoghurt
1.5 cartons of caster sugar
3 cartons of self raising flour
1 carton of sunflower oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method
Rather than weighing the ingredients for this cake on scales, you measure them in the empty yoghurt pot.

Place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Beat them together with an electric whisk until smooth (or use a fork or hand whisk). Line a large loaf tin, pour in and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 160 degrees centigrade or gas mark 3 for one and a half hours.

My two daughters, age three and six, needed very little help to make the cake.  You can use any flavour yoghurt, the end result doesn’t differ that much in taste.  We used a small low fat, Asda, branded yoghurt.  

You can make small muffins rather than a loaf but I have never tried this.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Irchester Country Park Summer Fun Day

Northamptonshire Childminding Association organise several summer fun days each year.  This year they've been at East Carlton Park and today, at Irchester Country Park.  The next event is at NCA's 20th Birthday party at Abington Park, Northampton on Monday 22nd August.  The activities are open to everyone, not just childminders.

Here are some pictures of our day at Irchester.  We were lucky with the weather and avoided getting too wet.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rhubarb from the Garden

Each time the rhubarb starts to grow either the children stand on it or the slugs eat it.  I decided today that we'd pick the young stems and use them before they got wasted.  The cake we chose to make needed a pound of fruit.  Above is a picture of the children weighing the stems as they were taken from the plant.  It is now bare, I didn't realise a pound was quite so much.

Recipe for rhubarb cake

Ingredients

  • 3oz butter
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3oz self raising flour
  • 1lb rhubarb
  • 1tbsp demerara sugar for the topping
  • 2 1/2 oz butter
  • 3oz plain flour
  • 1oz caster sugar
Method

Preheat oven to 190 c.  Grease an 8in round cake tin (I used a slightly larger square tin). Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the eggs then fold in the flour and a pinch of salt.

Slice the rhubarb into 1cm pieces and toss in the demerara sugar.  The children sliced the rhubarb using a Pampered Chef safety knife.  Even the toddlers helped.

To make the topping, rub the butter into the flour and stir in the sugar. This makes a crumble mixture.

Pour the cake mix into the tin and arrange the rhubarb on top.  Sprinkle the topping over and bake for 40-45 mins.

Our cake is in the oven, I have realised I have made a mistake.  I should have either used a loose bottom tin or left the greaseproof paper hanging out the sides to use to lift it out. I have no idea how I am going to get it out of the tin with the crumble topping.  I'm hoping to make it to the shops before dinner to buy some ice cream to serve it with.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tomato, Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Last night I made some soup for the toddlers to have for lunch today. It went down well so I thought I would share. I adapted the recipe from something I had read elsewehere so there are no exact quantities.

4 carrots
1 courgette
Small onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
Clove of garlic
Half a teaspoon of paprika
Half a teaspoon of stock powder (use as little as possible as the salt content is high)
Small carton of passata
Black pepper
Handful of red lentils
Splash of olive oil
Fresh or dried basil

Chop the vegetables and crush the garlic. Fry these in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add all the other ingrediants along with some boiled water and bring the soup to the boil. Gently simmer until the vegetables are soft to taste. I left the soup lumpy but for some children you might want to blend it to hide the vegetables.

I've been searching the internet for some new recipes. If any of them are a success then I will report back, watch this space!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Recipe: Fresh Tomato Sauce for Pasta (Mascarpone and Basil Options)

Put a good glug of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. The actual recipe I use states 8-10tbsps but that seems ever such a lot. Peel a small onion and fry gently in the oil for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be translucent and golden in colour. Cooking them for this long gives the sauce its sweetness.

Roughly chop a punnet of ripe fresh tomatoes (approx 750g) and add to the pan. I tend to chop them on a plate rather than a board to stop the juices escaping. Peel three cloves of garlic and add them whole to the pan. Season well with freshly ground pepper. You could add salt too but I don't think it is needed. Break the tomatoes down a little with a wooden spoon.

Add either a 400g tin of tomatoes or a small carton of passata. Add 100ml of vegetable stock and turn the heat up until it begins to simmer. Cook for approx 30-45 minutes. I often transfer it to the slow cooker as it means I don't need to keep an eye on it.

At this point you could blitz the sauce with a hand blender, check the seasoning and serve as it is. I prefer to add a handful of fresh basil and a small tub of mascarpone cheese, warm through and then blitz it.

I feed two adults and four children most evenings. I find this recipe makes enough for two meals so I freeze half for another day. Another variation is to add a few teaspoons of dried red chilli flakes rather than the mascarpone for a spicy version more suited to adults.

Vegetarian Meals

I am happy to provide snacks and meals for the children that I look after.  I do not charge extra for food.  However, if parents prefer they are welcome to provide packed lunches for their child.

My family are all vegetarian therefore I do not serve meat to the children (unless provided by parents).  Meal times are a social occasion with us all sitting down to eat together at the dining table.

In future posts I will share recipes of food/meals which the children have enjoyed whilst in my care.

Childminding Vacancies, Oakley Vale, Corby

From the end of June 2011 I will have both full and part time spaces available. You'll find my contact details here. Parents are welcome to visit to discuss their childcare needs. You are under no obligation to use me. Choosing a childminder is a very individual thing, you need to find someone that you are 100% happy with.

As a parent myself I know how difficult it can be leaving your child. My own daughter has recently started at preschool, settling in hasn't been easy for her (or me!). Before parents leave their baby/toddler for the first time there will be a settling in period. This will differ from one family to another depending on the needs of the parents/child.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Day trip to Twycross Zoo

During the May half term term holiday we had a day trip to Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire. Here are a few photos from our visit.



We arrived at the Meerkats just as they were being fed. It was rather gruesome to watch but the children didn't bother at all.


Just after lunch the weather started to warm up so the children had an ice cream to cool them down.


These were huge!



The elephants have a new enclosure, well it is new since I last visited.



The children all really enjoyed their day. We're now looking forward to the Summer break from school and planning where we can go.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sywell Country Park

In an earlier post I mentioned that we had purchased a yearly parking permit for Northamptonshire Country Parks. As we had plenty of time today we decided to visit one of the parks a little further away.

I'd not been to Sywell since I worked for Mencap over ten years ago. Then, it was just a reservoir and open space. They've now developed it to include a play area, butterfly garden, gift shop and small cafe.

It was nice to visit a different park but it isn't one I would rush back to. Don't get me wrong, we had a lovely time but Barnwell/East Carlton/Fermyn country parks all have a lot more going for them. My son didn't agree with me, he said he loved the play area, reservoir and being able to collect pine cones.

To get to the play area you have to walk down either steps or a slope. It is kind of sunken and surrounded by high walls. The whole area is covered in sand. It felt too closed in, we couldn't appreciate the open space of the park from the play area.


At lunch time we headed to Kettering and enjoyed a Pizza Hut buffet lunch. It always makes me chuckle when I have five or six children with me as you can see people looking and wondering if they are all mine. I have to say that the children were the best behaved in the restaurant. There was only one table with high stools available but the two toddlers sat perfectly. The older children love the buffet style lunch and feel very grown up going to help themselves to food.

We headed home after lunch as one of the children was going home at 2.30pm. We decided to go to East Carlton to finish the day off. It isn't often the weather is so nice so we thought we better make the most of it.


Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Simple Jam Biscuits




200g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g of butter
1 egg, beaten
4tbsp of jam or lemon curd

Preheat your oven to 190C or gas mark 5.

Rub the flour, sugar and butter together with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcumbs. It is very quick to do by hand but you could use a food processor if you prefer. Add enough egg to bring to bring the mixture to a stiff dough. YOu only need about half an egg. I think next time I will make a double quantity to make use of the whole egg. I can always add a little milk if it isn't wet enough.

Shape the dough into a sausage shape, it needs to be about 5cm thick. Now cut this into 12 rounds and lay them down on a baking tray (they do spread). The tray doesn't need to be greased.

Make a small indentation in the middle of each biscuit either with the end of a wooden spoon or your finger. Add a drop of jam or lemon curd in the centre. Bake for roughly 12 minutes, they should be risen and golden in colour. Pop them onto a rack to cool.

The original recipe from BBC Good Food used jam as the filling. As you can see from the photograph, we tried chocolate spread. It was the Nutella brand, it didn't melt/spread across the biscuit, not very nice in my opinion. I have just made another batch for our picnic tomorrow and added lemon curd. Don't tell the children but I stole one, big thumbs up for the lemon curd, they are delicious.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Oat and Raisin Biscuits

8oz self raising flour
5oz sugar
8oz porridge oats
Handful of raisins or sultanas
8oz butter or margarine
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon of water

Mix the flour, oats, raisins and sugar in a bowl. In a saucepan, melt the butter, syrup and water. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the wet ingrediants. Pour the contents of the saucepan into the bowl with the dry ingrediants and mix well.

Make small balls of the mixture and place them onto a greased baking tray. Squash them down slightly with a fork. The biscuits will raise/spread. I made 28 biscuits from the mixture but they were a little big for toddlers.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees. They need to be golden rather than brown, this will take roughly 15 minutes.

The original recipe used 8oz of sugar but I found it made them too sweet. I reduced the sugar and decided to add raisins. I tried adding chocolate chips once but the heat from the butter melted them!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Father's Day Gifts

If you are the Dad of one of the children that I look after then stop reading now! This post contains information about Father’s Day that you must not read.

I always think Father’s Day is a difficult occasion to plan activities and homemade gifts for. Last year the older children coloured some Best Dad certificates from the Activity Village website which we then laminated.

The younger children did a footprint on paper using paint. We laminated these as a keepsake with a poem underneath. This is the poem:

Walk a little slower Daddy,
Said a little child so small.
I'm following in your footsteps,
and I do not want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast,
Sometimes they're hard to see.
So, walk a little slower, Daddy,
for you are leading me.

Someday when I am all grown up,
you're what I want to be.
Then I will have a little child,
who'll want to follow me.

And, I would want to lead just right,
And, I'd know that I was true.
So, walk a little slower Daddy.
For I must follow you.





For Father’s day 2011 I have ordered some rice paper cake toppers. We are going to make either cakes or biscuits and use icing to attach them. I just need to get some cellophane bags to send them home in.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tesco Vouchers for Schools and Clubs

As an Ofsted registered childminder I am able to collect the Tesco vouchers for schools and clubs. So far this year we've collected about 150 vouchers. I can either use these to 'buy' something small from the catalogue or bank them until next year when the scheme starts again. Thanks to everyone who has collected them so far and please, please keep sending them my way. As they say, every little counts!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A spot of painting


Excuse the poor quality of this photo, it was just a quick snap taken from my phone while the children were painting. I wanted to recommend the mini dabbers they are using from Crafty Crocodiles. They are only 22p each and worth every penny. The girls have really enjoyed using them for the first time. I'm going to get them out again after school and see what patterns the older children can create.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Nature Tots

On the first Tuesday of each month they are holding a ‘Nature Tots’ session at Fermyn Woods near Brigstock. It is a group for preschoolers run by one of the parks rangers. We went along last week.

First the children were given a plastic beaker and a stick that was to be their stirring stick. They were shown various plants that are highly scented and told to pick a leaf from each. They scrunched up the leaves so they could smell the scent on their hands. The leaves were then popped into the cup. The ranger poured some water into the cup and the children stirred up they perfume. Afterwards, they were told to throw stand next to each other in a line and throw the perfume over their shoulder and back to nature.

Next they walked along to the pond. The ranger had taken some water full of tiny tadpoles and put in into a container so the children could get a close look without the risk of falling into the pond!

As the group walked further through the park they were shown ant nests, badgers sets, holes where rabbits had been digging, the web of a funnel spider and then a container full of little insects from the other pond. My memory is terrible, I’ve completely forgotten what the little bugs were called.

By this time the children were getting quite tired. The Ranger asked the children to sit down on the grass, close their eyes and listen to see what sounds they could hear. It was difficult to hear the sounds from nature with such a big group of toddlers!

As the children walked back to the café they were given a small bookmarker shaped card that had double sided sticky tape attached to it. They were to find little things that interest them and stick it to the bookmark. I thought this was a fab idea. In other groups the children have been given glue and paper to make a nature picture but this idea worked really well. It was also an ideal size for little hands to hold.

At the end of session the children were given a lovely homemade shortbread biscuit in the shape of a person and a glass of juice.

I thought the Nature Tots session was really good and we’ll definitely attend again. If anyone else is interested then the cost is £3 per child. You need to contact the park in advance to reserve a place.

This blog post is being entered into the Tots100 Blog Hop in the hope that the children and I can become reviewers for Worlds Apart Toys.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Our Vegetable Garden

Two years ago my husband built a raised vegetable plot in the corner of our garden. We've not got the time or space to grow all of our vegetables ourselves but it is nice to show the children where they come from.
The past two years we have grown peas. The children picked the peas, podded them then ate them before they reached the saucepan. They were very easy to grow but take up quite a lot of space and don't produce a huge amount. This year we are going to grow green beans. They are fast growing so the children get to see the results in a short time.
The three strawberry plants that were purchased last year spread and are growing well. Again, they don't produce a huge amount but several of the children adore strawberries. They'll see how strawberries grow rather than thinking they just come from Asda!
Our blueberry bush was a tiny 99p plant from Wilkinsons. At last it is starting to flourish so fingers crossed for some juicy berries from that.
We've also got a pot of chives, a rhubarb plant and today, I bought a new bay tree.
At the moment the kitchen window sill is covered with courgette plants that the children have grown from seed. Once these can be planted outside then we'll sow some cress and lettuce to keep indoors.
The children always like to plant sunflowers and watch how tall they grow.
The shed and wood round the raised vegetable plot have been painted this weekend. I'll get a new trellis in the next few days then I'll post a photograph.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Den Building


As the sun has been so hot I thought it would be a good idea for the children to build a den to provide some shelter. We found some blankets, sheets and flags which we attached to the fence and play house using drawing pins. The children thought it was fantastic. They sat in there on a cot quilt for hours. I was told that lunch was to be served in the den.

This morning we popped to Asda to see if we could find a cheap king sized sheet to use to build a better den. They were all expensive but they had a sale on curtains. We found a pair of tab top curtains reduced to under £5. My sewing skills are poor but I'm going to try to join the two curtains. Martin is going to put some cup hooks along the side of the house and fence. The children will be able to hook the tabs of the curtains onto the hooks and make their own den without any adult input.

I've got some fabric wax crayons (a previous Asda sale bargain) that they can use to decorate the sheet.

Today is the last working day of the Easter holiday. I don't work or charge for Bank Holidays unless a parent specifically needs childcare. The two week holiday has flown by. I was quite nervous at the prospect of having six children here daily. February half term was hard work as the weather was dreadful. I'm actually feeling quite sad that the holiday has come to an end, I've really enjoyed the week.

I'm looking forward to the long weekend to spend time with my own children. The holidays are always hectic but make a lovely change from the routine of school runs, ironing uniforms and making packed lunches.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Easter School Break

We're now on the second week of the Easter break from school. February half term dragged as the weather was awful. This week and last have flown by. We've had some wonderful weather so we've been out and about everyday.

I've got three children of my own and have minded two or three others each day. We've been out somewhere each day. We've been to Fermyn woods twice, East Carlton a couple of times, a trip to McDonalds for a McFlurry (my healthy eating policy went out of the window that day!), borrowed books from the library, etc.

My house and car are both full of sand that the mucky children have carried home from our various trips. Yesterday we saw some friends from school at the park. Rather than buy buckets and spades from Asda they had bought Smartprice bowls, sieves and whisks. The children had a great time in the sand pretending to make cakes.

Today we went to East Carlton. We pick up a child from home at 9am so tend to head to the park straight after. We were the first car to park at East Carlton but there was lots of people walking their dogs in the woods. I hope they weren't hoping for a peaceful walk as my lot were rather rowdy! Whenever I'm out with four or more children I get a lot of comments. I had five children with me today. One chap walking his dog said, 'you've got your hands full'. A lady (who had a dog the size of a donkey) said how nice it was to see the children playing with nature rather than with manufactured toys. They loved climbing trees, collecting leaves and playing with the wooden sculptures in the park. I love listening to the children role playing. They decided today to pretend to be animals and ask each other to guess what they were. It was funny to watch as they knew what each was pretending to be, I was clueless!

In the afternoon we went to the Spread Eagle at Oakley Hay. During the school holidays they run Big Cook, Little Cook sessions for children. Last week we made cupcakes, this week it was Easter chocolate nests. The children also decorated Easter buny masks.

Yesterday we popped to Home Bargains to buy mini Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies to add to the cardboard Easter baskets that we made last week. Tomorrow we'll be busy making a Birthday cake. One of the children will be celebrating his Birthday over the weekend. We'll be baking a cake to we can sing happy birthday to him on Thursday.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Northamptonshire Country Parks

Our parking permit for Fermyn Woods expired last week. At the weekend, my husband and I took or own children to Barnwell Country Park. We decided to renew the permit, this year having one that covers some of the other country parks in the county(Fermyn, Irchester, Brixworth, Sywell and Barnwell). I worked out that with the parking charge of £2.50 you need to visit the parks 19 times or more to make it worthwhile. During the Spring/Summer months we can sometimes be at Fermyn woods several times in one week. It also saves the hassle of making sure you have change for the parking meter.

Fermyn woods have just caught up with the other parks and have started Nature Tots sessions. We'll be attending one of these for the first time at the beginning of May. They say it is a toddler group with a difference. I'm hoping now we've booked a place that the weather is kind to us!

On Monday I took five children alone to Fermyn woods. We arrived at 9am and didn't leave till 1pm (had to be home for children to be collected). Lunch ended up being very early that day. From 10am the older children were asking when it would be time to have the picnic. By 11.15am I gave up saying, 'not yet' and we headed to wash our hands for lunch.

We're so lucky having a park like this so close by. Next week we're going to head a little further afield. I fancy going to Brixworth or Sywell as I've not been to those for years. Looking at the County COuncil website it seems that both parks have changed a lot in recent years.
Earlier this year my childminding website expired. I was reluctant to renew it as it always seemed very slow and I find it slow to edit/update. I decided to set up a blog instead. For some reason I ended up with an awful template, after a lot of tinkering I gave up. Here I am, several months later starting again. I decided to start from scratch with a new blog. I did renew my website, www.CorbyChildminder.co.uk but hope by the time it expires in December 2011 that I'll have worked out how to transfer the website address to this blog.

I also have a Facebook page for my childminding business, search 'Corby Childminder' and you should find me.