Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Disgraceful Domestic Things I Have Done This Month:

1. Put a plastic cup covered in wet sand from Rory's sandpit into the dishwasher because I couldn't be arsed to rinse the sand off it by hand; a job that would have taken all of 12 seconds.  Weeks on, dishwasher is still full of sand.  All cutlery covered in sand.  All plates and bowls and glasses covered in welded on sand.  Sand  in all food.  Sand chuffing everywhere.  Husband pretending not to notice to promote matrimonal harmony, but know that he's secretly seething and storing it up as evidence for the inevitable divorce courts when I finally break him.

2. Discovered line of ants marching into kitchen, so left trail of crumbs for them to follow leading  out of kitchen and into John From Nextdoor's garden.  So far so good.

3. Sprayed jeans with Febreeze to get an extra days wear out of them.  Three times in a row.

4. Sprayed Febreeze in general direction of Rory before sending him to preschool.

5. Had margarine incident of epic proportions.  Devastation worse even than the time I accidentally drop-kicked a full 500g carton of yoghurt across the kitchen.  This occurred because I left the margarine out on the work top. Normal grown ups automatically put things they've used back in the fridge.  Not me.  Noticed it a few hours later and smugly went to replace it in the fridge in a grown up fashion.  It was a bit slippery and flew out of my hand, lid coming off in the process.  Unprecedented heatwave had melted the marge, which splattered across the kitchen in all directions, coating floor, walls, drawers, fridge and ceiling in layer of yellow fat.

6. Cleaned majority of margarine incident up with whole packet of babywipes and 2 kitchen rolls, adding to landfill crisis in the process.

7. Did not throw away the slimey thing in the cupboard under the sink that was once a potato.  Curious to see what happens to it next.  Smell is intriguing.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Cake Decorating Eejits, Flock This Way...

..and prepare to be amazed and also eternally grateful, for I have discovered a way to put an end to crappily decorated novelty birthday cakes forever.  Yes.  And, no, the solution is not to go to the shop and buy one.  Although you could if you wanted to.  That's up to you.  But in this family, mums make birthday cakes.  My mum always made mine when I was growing up, Richard's mum made his and now I make Rory's.  It is a point of honour.  And although she never said anything to imply this, when my mum made my birthday cake every year, I could almost feel the love pouring into it from the weighing and measuring of the ingredients, to the smell of it baking in the oven, to every last swear word as she did battle with a box of Regal-Ice and a cocktail stick.  It was a pain in the arse of a job, but she still did it every year, because she loved me.  A sound analogy for motherhood in general really.

It's a bit of a shame, though, that I have such a bee in my bonnet about this, because I am completely and utterly shit at decorating cakes.  I can make a cake that tastes nice, but making it look like a passable Thomas the Tank Engine is on my 'never going to happen' list along with keeping the house tidy and filing my paperwork.  I can live with that.  It would be nice not to look like a tool in front of all the other mums again though.

Lets take a look at the evidence:

Rory's 1st Birthday: Wonky Lion.
This was probably the high point of my adventures in cake wrecking. I cheated and used a lion shaped cake tin and followed a colour by numbers chart to fill it in with icing.  The result was passable. I think I got complacent.

Rory's 2nd Birthday: Boss-eyed Hedgehog.

I thought I'd got away with this one.  That's clearly a hedgehog, right?  Wrong.  I proudly showed it to the birthday boy, who then congratulated me on my efforts: "Oh, lovely pinecone cake mummy."  Ace.  Also, lighting the candles gave impression of ritualistic animal sacrifice.

Rory's 3rd Birthday: Ballsed-up race track.
This one was so appalling that there's no close-up photo of it.  The concept was sound enough: Make a cake in the shape of a number 3 look like a road, stick some Micro Machines on it, job done.  It fell apart when the malicious old crone at the local cake decorating supply shop promised to loan me their '3' cake tin and then lent it out to somebody else instead.  RUDE.  Was furious.  A year on and I still give her shit-eye every time I walk past her shop.  This meant that I had to fashion a number 3 out of a normal shaped cake.  I then iced it, but there were crumbs everywhere due to the re-fashioning effort, and some stupid tip about using Oreo crumbs to recreate the surface of the road that I found online turned out to be the most annoying and pointless tip ever.  Entire cake was comprised of crumbs.  Crumbs all over self and kitchen.  Tried to save it for nearly 3 full hours, sweating like a beast in overheated, tiny kitchen.  As the first guest walked through the door, I scraped up all the crumbs from the work-top, dumped them on what was left of the cake, stuck 3 candles in it and downed a glass of Rioja.

This year, I was determined that things would be different, and, inspired by a building site cake I saw on Pinterest, I decided to work with my lack of skills rather than against them and create a cake that was supposed to look a mess.

Here's the result:

No tutorial necessary, ladies.  Simply make a chocolate cake, don't fret when a big chunk of it falls off the side as you remove it from the tin.  Eat the fallen off bit.  Smother whole thing in chocolate butter icing, chocolate biscuit crumbs and brown Smarties to resemble rocks.  Put toy digger on cake.  Put biscuit crumbs in toy digger.  Serve.  A triumph.

What's more, I reckon I can recycle this idea year after year by subtly changing the icing and toy on top:

* MINE/QUARRY: Black/grey icing, Lego dude with pick-axe stood by the side.

* BUILDING SITE: Yellow icing to denote builders sand.  Half built lego houses on top (this should be easy, seeing as the only thing I can make from Lego is a house with no door, windows or roof), lego bricks strewn about.  Lego men with low slung trousers on standing around drinking cups of tea.

* RUBBISH DUMP: (perhaps scraping bottom of barrel here). Icing in whatever colour food colouring you can find at the back of the cupboard.  Cover cake with screwed up paper and broken toys (plenty to be found wedged down side of toy box).  Add chocolate mice to represent rats.

After you've exhausted all of those options, your child will probably have forgotten about the mud/digger cake you made 3 years ago, so you can make that one again before repeating the cycle.  

No need to thank me; it's just what I do.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

How to Play Scorpion

"So, you used to be an early years teacher; you must do loads of educational stuff with your child."

"Well, hummmm, we do a bit of reading and bake the odd cake, but mainly we engage in the deconstruction of episodes of Peppa Pig and play Scorpion."

"Scorpion? What's Scorpion?"

"Thank you for asking, fictional friend.  I will tell you."

Scorpion is a game invented by my dad.  My dad is not known for his childcare abilities, so I can only assume that he invented it out of fear and desperation when left alone with Rory for half an hour one day. Anyway, the point is that you have him to thank for this.

You Will Need:
* A small child
* Something that you and the small child can throw at each other.  A little teddy or similar works best, but we currently favour Angry Badger (vast cuddly toy badger with peevish expression).  Socks have been used in an emergency. Rory has experimented with a ball of playdough and Richard's car keys (painful, not recommended).
* A colourful vocabulary.

Scorpion has evolved somewhat from its early roots.  Scorpion purists may like to play this game to the original rules.  These involve taking it in turns to throw the object at each other (aiming for the head, obvs) and shouting "SCORPION" while you do so.  Nobody knows why. My dad is a right weirdo.

The advanced version is as follows: Take it in turns to lob Angry Badger at opponents head as hard as possible whilst shouting a word.  Any word.  We started off with simple nouns when Rory was about 18 months old, but these days anything goes apart from swears.  Swears are not allowed.  This has had the educational benefit (SEE - it's educational) of extending Rory's vocabulary endlessly.  The child sounds like a cross between a computer and a Dickensian character when he talks and it's partly down to Scorpion (although mainly down to Rich and I teaching him long words for comedy value).  Basically, you need to think of it as Mallet's Mallet but without the mallet, without Timmy Mallet and without word association of any kind.  Word disassociation, if you will:


When someone chooses to shouting "SCORPION" on their go, players must change places by scuttling on their knees and recommence play.  Again, nobody knows why.

It is also important never to ask if someone wants to play Scorpion.  The correct way to instigate this game is to pick up whatever you're going to throw and fling it at the other person's head, shouting "SCORPION."  Sadly, this can lead to, for example, a being watch launched at your head while you're in bed with Norovirus or getting Angry Badger full in the face at high speed while you're talking on the phone to your editor.  There is a time and a place for Scorpion.  However, explaining that time and place to a preschooler is nigh on impossible.