As Valentine’s Day slowly approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to celebrate it with the kids. As Katie has struggled to let go of Christmas, it’s been a useful trick to be able to say we’re done with that – Valentine’s Day is soon!
However, I absolutely did not want to get pulled into the commercialism of it all. It just seems to be another drain on finances and a far cry from any kind of genuine celebration of love.
Love is far more in my mind than romantic love. What is romantic love anyway? Getting flowers? Chocolate? Gifts beyond measure? A meal out? Date night?
All those things seem a bit rubbish to me! The love that counts in my life is the unfailing support I get from my husband each and every day. It’s knowing that if I wake Mike at 4am to walk Thomas around, he’ll do it without complaint and let me sleep. It’s having my breakfast delivered to me in bed every morning as I struggle to wake up. It’s the countless cups of tea made whilst I’m feeding Thomas.
But even better than all of that. The love that really counts? The experience of loving my children. I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve just found falling in love with my kids the most crazy, overwhelming experience. Despite all the mess, grizzles, tantrums, and down right obstinacy – it’s really hard not to fall in love with them over and over again each day.
It’s for all those reasons I wanted to celebrate Valentines with my kids just as much as I want to celebrate it with my husband. It’s important to teach them that love is important, but equally that it’s a time in which you can express that love on all kinds of levels.
The first step on the agenda has been to get Katie excited about the concept. Obviously, the simplest way to do this was to bake something with lots of icing and sparkles.
Grandma was once again drafted in and handily brought along her new book ‘How Baking Works’ by James Morton (of the Great British Bake Off). I had an idea of what I wanted to do but was looking for a decent recipe to provide a base – unfortunately I was probably a bit too taken with his suggestions as you’ll soon see:
To begin I simply measured the caster sugar, butter, egg yolk and vanilla extract in a bowl before combining them together into a soft paste. If you’re more organised than me it’s a good idea to let the butter soften up. If not, then a good trick is to just zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds which makes it far more manageable.
Next flour and cornflour were added before bringing the whole lot together. At this point it seemed like there was an insane amount of flour and I kept demanding that Mum check I had measured the right amount. Of course, she had given me exactly the right instruction and I just had to be more patient in bringing the mixture together. I ended up almost kneading it but eventually ended up with a ball of dough that go trick in the fridge to cool.
After a slight interlude to collect Katie from school and to eat some lunch, the dough was retrieved, ready to roll out on a lightly floured surface. This was great in theory but the dough really was pretty solid. Eventually, we engineered two layers of clingfilm to hold it all together and made slow progress rolling it out. This was largely down to Katie insisting ‘I do it’ whilst brandishing her toy rolling pin.
Once the ‘thickness of a £1 coin’ was reached, Katie used her chosen star shape to cut out the cookies and put on her toy baking tray. Thankfully, this is just like a proper baking tray but small.
The stars went into the oven for 8 minutes until lightly browned (some a bit too much) and were then left to cool.
It was then things really went downhill. My initial idea was that I just wanted to drizzle icing over the whole lot and then add some sprinkles. However, I was led astray by James Morton’s ‘feathered icing’!
The idea is that you dip the top of the biscuit in one colour of icing, before lightly drizzling some lines across the top in a different colour. You’re then meant to draw a toothpick across your biscuits BEFORE leaving them to set.
What not to do is dip them in icing, pause to feed your baby, and get your Mother to pipe lines across before drawing across them with the end of a child’s piece of cutlery. It may have been at this point that icing flowed out of the top of the bag onto my trousers, Mum’s trousers and the kitchen floor. Thankfully a feeding Thomas was somehow missed out of the icing flood. I can’t really recommend this method unless you want particularly “interesting” looking biscuits. Learn this lesson: forget about the love at this point and just focus on feathering.
However, the really useful lesson to learn is everything is recoverable with star sprinkles. A liberal dose of these and everything looks magic again anyway. Anything that’s broken can also quickly be ‘tidied away’ into an obliging three year-old’s mouth! It really does make things look a lot neater.
As always, things didn’t entirely go to plan and my kitchen ended up a sticky mess. However, it was all worth it when Katie announced that she wasn’t going to sing ‘Jingle bells’ anymore and was going to sing love songs. I was less impressed when she started belting out ‘Lovely song, lovely song’ to the tune of jingle bells… but still, it’s a start. Best of all, Katie (and Thomas) had a memorable time with Grandma and me- plus despite the design errors, they really are very tasty.
Why not pin this slightly more photogenic version for later: