Great sleepovers start in the kitchen
Parents who have hosted sleepovers know that half the fun for kids is making and eating treats. So it pays to prep the kitchen with fun culinary gear and supplies for the indoor campout crowd. Some entertaining ideas and gear: Get the movie-theatre vibe going with Great Northern Popcorn’s Retro Style Popper. Or if space is tight, opt for West Bend’s Air Crazy Mini Popcorn Machine, which air-pops eight cups in three minutes. ( www.target.com)
“I like to give everyone a different colour bowl, so they know which popcorn is theirs,” says Joss & Main’s style director Donna Garlough.
Or offer kids little bowls in different patterns for treats like popcorn and ice cream. Garlough advises choosing smaller ones so kids don’t go overboard with sweet scoops and toppings. ( www.jossandmain.com)
Banana splits, sandwiches and sundaes are easy with one of Chef’n’s Sweet Spot Ice Cream Makers. Freeze the dish a day ahead, and then on sleepover night let the kids pour in the ice cream base. Wait a couple of minutes, and start scooping. You can make custom sandwiches with cookies. ( www.williams-sonoma.com)
All you need is a cookie sheet for one sleepover classic: “Most kids love pizza, and this idea allows kids to customize their own,” says Parents magazine senior editor Karen Cicero. Just unroll store-bought pizza dough onto the cookie sheet and, using a knife, create an outline for twelve pieces, but don’t cut through.
“Offer tomato sauce, pesto, cheeses, veggies and other toppings so guests can create their own designs on one or two of the slices,” Cicero says. Bake according to the dough package instructions.
Or let the kids line muffin tins with crescentroll dough triangles, fill them with pizza-type toppings, and bake for about 20 minutes. ( www.bettycrocker.com)
Cicero advises stocking up on squeeze bottles that can be filled with fun sauces like ranch dressing or honey mustard sauce. “Kids can use them to make designs on the rims of their plates.”
Tools with helpful features like kid-size handles and silicone buttons will help keep preparations moving safely. A set of colorful, easy-grip mugs lets everyone have their own beverage. ( www.curiouschef.com)
From the French knife company Opinel, there’s a child-friendly, four-inch chef’s knife and peeler equipped with finger guards. ( www. opinel-usa.com)
Making indoor s’mores can be a fun activity for the sleepover squad. Jamie Lothridge at www.mybakingaddiction.com melts marshmallows and butter over low heat, stirs in some graham cracker cereal, presses it all into a pan, and then adds some chocolate pieces and chills it for a couple of hours.
Don’t forget about breakfast the morning after. Load up a Pancake Pen silicone squeeze bottle with batter, and kids can spend the morning doodling breakfast art on a griddle or fry pan. ( www.worldmarket.com)
The outdoor gardening season is quickly coming to an end, but don’t let that stop you from gardening. You can plant bulbs indoors now, and enjoy their beautiful blooms in early winter.
The nice thing about bulbs is that they are easy to grow with very little effort. They already have everything they need inside the bulb. And all they need is to be planted. The flower and nutrients are stored inside the bulb so when choosing bulbs, look for the big bulbs as these will contain the biggest flowers.
The easiest bulbs for indoor planting are prepared bulbs such as hyacinths and paper whites, as these have already gone through the chilling process and will bloom several weeks after they have been planted. Hyacinths and paper whites are known for their attractive, fragrant blooms.
Another very attractive and popular bulb to grow indoors this time of year is amaryllis. The large trumpet-shaped flowers grow on top of long thick stems. Each stem can have as many as four to six flowers, and depending on the size of the bulb, each can have two to three stems, giving you many weeks of enjoyment. There are several different varieties to choose from, and all are equally beautiful.
Also available at the garden centre are the waxed amaryllis bulbs, which are the easiest to grow. The roots are removed from the bulb and then it is covered in a wax which prevents the bulb from growing new roots. There are a variety of wax colours and finishes, making the bulb attractive as well as the flowers. Waxed amaryllis bulbs require no planting or water – they simply grow, so they can be placed in anything. After they have finished blooming the bulbs are thrown out, unlike the regular amaryllis bulbs which can be saved from one year to the next.
Bulbs planted indoors can be planted in soil or water. Growing bulbs in water is a fun project, especially when you use clear glass so you can watch the roots form. Start by choosing a container that has a diameter that is slightly larger than the bulb. Tapered containers and vases work well as the bulb sits in the wider part of the vase allowing room for the roots to grow in the slender part of the vase.
Hourglass vases also work well, such as the hyacinth vase, which is specific for growing hyacinths in water. Fill the container with just enough water so that the water level is just below the bottom of the bulb, but not sitting in it, as this will cause the bulb to rot. To add weight and a decorative touch to the vase, place some colourful stones in the bottom of the vase before placing the bulb in. When planting in soil, use a high quality indoor potting soil and place bulbs in a deep, weighted container that is slightly larger than the bulb. Start by placing soil in the bottom of the container then place the hyacinth or paperwhite bulbs in the soil and continue to fill with enough soil so that the tips of the bulbs are still exposed. If planting more than one bulb in the container, leave enough space between the bulbs so that they are not touching.
Amaryllis bulbs are planted in soil by placing a small amount of soil in the bottom of the container, then holding the bulb above the container allowing the roots to dangle down. Continue to fill the container with soil until the bottom half of the bulb is covered with soil, leaving the top of the bulb exposed. After bulbs have been planted, tamp soil down and give a thorough water. Water sparingly until growth appears.
This photo provided by Williams-Sonoma shows their Ice Cream Starter mixes.
ABOVE: This photo provided by Williams-Sonoma shows their ice cream sandwich molds. RIGHT: This photo provided by Target shows West Bend’s Air Crazy popcorn machine, which quickly makes a crowd-sized portion of popcorn without any messy oil. Heat the butter for drizzling in the handy container on top while the popcorn is popping.