Friday, 30 August 2013

TGIF!

Hands up if you can relate to this!!


Okay, hands down now. You look like a fool, and people are starting to stare... Quick! Pretend you were stretching ;)

In my house tonight, there were 3 different TV's playing 3 different movies to 3 different children. Yes, I'm serious. That's my little secret to how I keep everyone happy when I am completely exhausted at the 'end' of another big week (though, looking back, I didn't really do that much).

Husband is out. Dinner was leftovers/cheese on toast, and it's actually (though don't ever quote me on this) a little bit nice.

The kids had chosen DVDs to watch, but I still usually check the TV guide to see if there's any good kids or family movies showing... I saw that Harry Potter was on tonight. But there's really no point watching it if you've found a good summary of Harry Potter in 99 seconds:


If that was too quick, here's another (slightly longer, therefore more detailed, but still longer) summary of Harry Potter, by The Fine Brothers:


By this stage, I figured "why don't I just dedicate this post to Harry Potter?"
So I'm adding a personal favourite (not another summary, I promise) video from Potter Puppet Pals:


There are SO many creative and talented people in this world! It blows my mind with the things that people can create, bringing entertainment to the entire world (that has access to the internet and/or Facebook). From songs, to movies, to puppetry, to poems... And even Harry Potter pie charts:


Are you a person who's followed Harry Potter's adventures from start to finish? Have you read all 7 books, and/or watched all 8 movies*? How about this: Are you someone who's so committed to Harry Potter that you've travelled to King's Cross Station in London to see for yourself Platform 9 ¾?

London must certainly be the place to be as a movie/TV fan, because I've also read of a Tardis from Dr Who in London! ... Dr Who is definitely a show I know absolutely nothing about - except (thanks to some research because I was asked if I could make a Tardis cake**) what a Tardis is now!

Happy Friday!

* All 8 Harry Potter movies equal 19 hours and 38 minutes!
** Stay tuned!

Monday, 26 August 2013

This little zombie went to the market...

And THIS little zombie went om-nom-nom-nom all the way home (after eating your brains out).

Zombies: "Cannibalistic creatures portrayed as reanimated corpses, or mindless human beings." Interesting. A 'zombie' also originated in Africa as a snake god. I'm not really a person who would go out of my way to watch zombie movies (or snake movies), but I admit that I have seen a few in my 28 years. I will also admit that almost each and every time, I go to bed with the lights ON, a weird feeling in my tummy, and an unexplainable itchy scalp...

As anyone who's seen more than one zombie movie, you'll agree that they're all just a bit different. Unless you've seen all of them, in which case, they probably aren't all that different... Wikipedia has a list of 642 zombie movies that have been made. That's almost scarier than zombies themselves!

According to WatchMojo, the Top 10 out of that list of zombie movies are:

10. [REC]
9. Zombie 2
8. Dead Snow
7. Braindead
6. Zombieland
5. Shaun of the Dead
4. Return of the Living Dead
3. 28 Days Later
2. Dawn of the Dead
1. Night of the Living Dead

Did you know that the first zombie movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, made in 1920!? That's almost 100 years ago! The people who starred in that movie probably would be dead now, but that's not the point! Zombies totally have their own movie genre!

What type of movie zombie might you be dealing with?


Now, I don't just randomly research zombies for fun. I did it because I was asked to make zombie cupcakes for a zombie movie fanatic's birthday! Zombie cupcakes! I honestly wouldn't have thought that this would be something I'd ever make, but that's life - Always like a box of chocolates... Or an unexpected zombie lurking behind the door you've just opened...

I eventually referred to cartoons for inspiration. Somehow, they're much less confronting! Also because my 10 year old saw me looking up zombie things, and he thought I was surprising him with a Plants vs. Zombies themed party for next year! Ha! Good luck mate. Let me get through this week first.


I reached the point where I had to stop watching YouTube and start making the cupcakes. So, I started with some hands. Giant. Flesh coloured. Will-soon-hopefully-be-zombie. Hands.


N.B. They're not that giant, they're just resting on a teeny tiny mini rolling pin, that I used for some cake decorating themed party bags over the weekend.

I poked toothpicks into the bottoms (well, technically 'arms') of them, because I've learnt from the Smurf head cupcakes that using toothpicks -or something- is incredibly important to stabilise what you have on top of the cupcake if it risks being too heavy. It is also equally as important to inform those eating the cupcakes, to watch out for the toothpick in it.

The hands were made, and I placed them in my trusty ping pong ball container so that the fingers curled a bit. All about those small realistic details, I guess.

In the morning, I went back to Google and found some more inspiration: Blood! Dirt! Stitches! Lollipops! ... Oops, wrong page.

With black cake paint, I became a make-up artist! I may have a future career in zombie movie cosmetics - who knows? I thought the stitches were a good touch. But it was missing something... So with red cake paint, I added blood smears - or at least that's what it was supposed to look like! I may have gotten a bit carried away, though.


But, I now had zombie hands! Yay! (Why am I excited about armless zombies??)

Knowing that Milo wasn't to be an option for the cupcakes, I thought about what could be used for the 'dirt'... Because. Well. Obviously, zombies come up out of the ground, from their graves, right to your house to eat your brains out... Mmm, food. I had used crushed Oreos for my worm cupcakes, so that will work well for these, too. They kind of match, in a way. Zombies are rotting corpses who eat flesh; worms eat the flesh of the rotting corpses... It's like the circle of life!!


I then ate the rest of the Oreos. Om-nom-nom!

The toothpicks worked great. The crushed Oreos worked great. Despite my research, I'm still not quite the expert on zombies (or zombie movies), but here are the zombie cupcakes finished:


I figured that I should probably prepare for the 643rd zombie movie (as should you!), so, here's some of Zombieland's rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse:

In the meantime, though, enjoy the little things!!
Like movies, cupcakes... and funny zombie pranks on YouTube :)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The cake: My therapist.

It started out as a normal Friday. My older kids headed off to school, my youngest eats his tiny teddies while Play School is on, I tidy up the kitchen after breakfast and finally drink my coffee that was made an hour ago. The oven is preheated, my kitchen is clean enough, so I begin baking.

I was making a dump truck cake. It was all planned out in my head, as it had been for quite a few days. Even the cake shop lady was impressed with my plan:


I knew that this cake wasn't going to be tricky. It was going to be trucky! Dump trucky, for a joint 4th and 40th birthday the next day. I could easily have most of it finished before I had to pick the kids up from school I'd imagined.

A couple of hours later, the cake was cooled, carved, and covered in icing, patiently waiting for me to cover up it's nudity with some nice, bright yellow fondant:


... But then the fight started.

The yellow fondant that I had was SO tough to roll! At first, I thought I was just weak from not exercising -seriously, at all- for the entirety of Winter (which has not mixed well with my diet of coffee, Tim Tams, Chinese, and chips)... But, I hadn't had this much difficulty last week when I was rolling fondant. Immediately, the blame game started.

Perhaps it won't be so bad once it's on the cake? I picked it up with my rolling pin, and rolled it out onto the cake. Not sooner than it touched the cake, though, it was ripping and tearing, and breaking right in front of me! Nooooooo! I took it off and slammed it onto the bench top, holding back the tears from years and years of clearly undiagnosed neglect.


I looked at the clock, and it was time to get the kids. Actually, the kids had already been at the park for at least 30 minutes by this stage...

With a toddler in tow, we marched off to the park.

My clothes were covered in flour; my face was covered in tears and stress. I see my friends at the park. Knowing that I was a bit. on. edge, they offer their ears to hear about my current cake problems. It's a shame that yellow is such a hard colour to get so bright when you colour it yourself... Otherwise I may have accepted all the white fondant I was offered from 3 different people.

I was convinced that everything would be fine if I just go and get some more yellow fondant.

My friends offer to supervise my children at the park while I screech off in my car, cake-shop bound. Half way there, I realise that I'm driving in almost the completely wrong direction... Ugh! What else can go wrong! ... I wasn't going to make it to the cake shop before it closes, anyway - what was I thinking? I pull over, call Husband to give him the run down on why he will now be coming home to a kitchen covered in flour, a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown, and the request to arrive home with Chinese and Tim Tams. I turn around and come back.

"That was quick" my friends said, as I arrived 20 minutes after I left for a what-would-have-been-40-minute car trip. "Well, I accidentally went the wrong way and ended up in the wrong suburb. And,  well, maybe the fondant situation isn't as bad as I think it is, so I'm going to try and save the fondant that I already have." Geez, I sound like my husband: so. freaking. calm.

I tried it on the cake again. It worked only marginally better the second time around, maybe because I was prepared for the predicted ripping and tearing. I wasn't really happy with the look of it, but it just had to do. It was 7pm, and I was well past the point of no return. There was still no sign on Chinese and Tim Tams. I poured out my soul to the cake, annoyed that it didn't want to co-operate with me. I expressed deep feelings of hurt and betrayal. It said nothing! It just sat there and looked at me. It didn't even want to ask me how I felt, like therapists normally should! Waaaaaah.


I texted Husband. Maybe he will want to ask how I felt about this disaster. While I waited for a reply, I glued a strip of black fondant around what would be the top of the dump part of the truck. It was something, at least, to take away from the eye-sore that this "easy cake" had become.

"Don't touch it until I get home." was his reply.

GREAT! Now I'm banned from finishing the cake.

He came home, and inspected the damage. He told me that from what I had expressed, he thought it would be much, much worse. "What do you mean! It's terrible!" I whimpered as I sat in the corner, bracing my knees and rocking back and forth.

He then matter-of-factly offered an idea of how to fix it: A big sign for each side. (note: big). "But, but, that's not what it's supposed to look like!" I shouted, holding back more tears! But despite trying to argue with him, he actually was right. That would potentially fix it. The planned design will just have to change.

I Googled what an actual dump truck should look like. HA! Okay. Cake looks nothing like that. Surprisingly, I felt better.


I made the signs. Big, white signs, out of fondant, the size of the sides of the dump truck. Yellow, be gone! I made a 4 and 40 out of black fondant, and cleverly (well, I thought) used them as the "A" in CATERPILLAR (made with some last-minute yellow royal icing), which filled out a lot of the white space of the signs. I got over the fact that it was supposed to be a mostly yellow cake.

I then wrote the birthday boy's names with my edible pen thing, and attached Oreo biscuits as wheels. I was slowly regaining confidence, and am considering making an appointment to see a therapist who will actually talk to me.

The top of the cake was the easiest part of the entire fiasco: Chocolate buttercream, with crushed Oreo's. The whole time I was waiting until I could do this bit, which is the only part that was according to plan.

The end was in sight, and I felt okay. I forgave my cake therapist for being so difficult. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? ... Or what doesn't kill you drives you to therapy in the first place.

... And then the (next) fight started.

The 'dump' part was done. Fin! But is a dump truck still a dump truck without the truck part?? I did have cake prepared for this, and covered in black fondant. But it turned out to be the wrong. freaking. size! Far OUT!! Our friend was minutes away from picking up the cake, and I hadn't finished it yet! The front part just wasn't sitting right! "It'll be fine" says Husband. "NO IT WON'T!! GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN!!"

Therapy will be good.

I made a coffee and took a deep breath. Does the front of the truck have to be made of cake?? But what else could I use... C'mon, Nat, THINK!

I ran to the shops. Searching the aisles for what I could use as a truck, I came across TISSUES! Yes please! 2 boxes, thanks. I also purchased black cardboard, and made the bolt back home to continue repairing the cake.

I covered one of the tissue boxes in black cardboard, and sticky taped it to the cake board. Husband knew not to speak to me at this time, but was incredibly helpful and made the windows.

The cake, disaster bound to begin with, finally became reasonably passable as a dump truck:


The second tissue box was used as I farewelled the cake that had caused so much grief and pain in making. I'm not sure whether I was sad or happy to see it leave my house. But I cried never-the-less.

Immediately I made an appointment to see the dietician.

And a therapist.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Are you K.I.D.D.I.N.G.?

The Keep It Simple, Stupid principle states that most systems work best when they are kept simple rather than made complex. Therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided...

Ha! Well, I don't have time to KISS because of KIDS: Keeping It Difficult... Seriously.

Today was cake stall day at Ben and Tamara's school. I really did try and aim for this successful strategy and principle of keeping things simple. I even Google'd 'simple cupcakes' (for ideas on what that meant)... And that's when I could not stop myself from sliding into a steep downward spiral of creative brainstorming that I didn't have time (or motivation) to reach out and grab something to stop me being pulled further into the pit of "that doesn't look so hard" and "why just stick with one type of cupcake when I can make FIVE different types??" and "wheeeee! This is so much fuuuuuuun!"

It's clear that I can't make decisions. And that I don't keep things very simple. Ever... I'm not sure if I even know how to! I consider myself to be LEVEL: EXPERT at complicating the heck out of a cake stall day at school for absolutely. no. reason!

... And made these:



But despite what you might be thinking (and overlooking the probable truth behind those current thoughts), even though these cupcakes may look incredibly difficult, they totally weren't. They were just incredibly time consuming. Here's some guides to the character cupcakes if you wanted to try them at home! Note: these are simple versions :)

Mike Wazowski:
Green, white & blue fondant; tic tacs; fudge frosting.



Despicable Me Minions:
Yellow, white & black fondant; silver glitter frosting; fudge frosting.




Nemo:
Orange, white & black fondant; fudge frosting

I asked Husband what he thought these looked like, and he said "Monsters?" GRR!! They were supposed to be fish!! "Fins would help" he said, so I got out my little heart cutter, and made what would become fins (though not technically Nemo fins, because one was not smaller than the other). But, really, who was going to notice but me?


The Shark cupcakes were piped blue icing, with grey fondant triangles poked into the tops of them:


They could have been called "Bruce" cupcakes, but you'd need to have children (or have seen Finding Nemo a thousand times like some people who have kids) to understand what that would have meant.

For the rose/butterfly cupcakes, I piped a rose onto the cupcakes... And then put a butterfly on top of them... Pretty complicated stuff, I know.


3 hours later, I had made four dozen of these delicate little cupcakes, minus one that Jonathan swiped and ate half of for breakfast. The kids were amazed. A rush of pride swept through me, followed closely by PANIC because I hadn't worked out how I was going to now get them to school, and "Oh My Gosh, it's 5 to 9! Time to go!! Jonathan!! Where are your pants!?!"



Are you Keeping It Dramatically Difficult, Including Necessary Growling?

Keep It Simple, Silly!
Unless you find that extremely difficult to do. Like me. <growl>
In which case, you probably also CURSE when
Creating Under Really Stressful Environments.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Horsin' around...

My husband's recurring phrase recently has been that there's only a fine line between a hobby and deep psychopathy, and that I'm cartwheeling along that fine line like a laissez-faire pre-schooler hopped up on Red Bull. I'd argue with him, but I only really understood about half of what he said, and the half that I did understand had me agreeing... The other half (of course) was wondering where I could hide his body, if I had to.

A brief segue before we proceed: Husband likes to cook. It's a strange quirk and is not normally found in a lot of men... He also detests craft. Not that he doesn't appreciate it from a distance, in the same way that a mollusc might appreciate a mountain climber; he just has no desire to ever be a part of it. It's flavour he craves.

This led him recently to decide it was time to buy a new set of knives. I still have yet to see the link between the sharpness of a knife and the flavour of a meal, but he assured me that as part of his cooking escapades, the knives were needed.

Two days after their arrival, my daughter decided to help out washing up the items that were strategically placed into the sink to "soak". Sometimes "soaking" can take up to five days... Shut up.

She picked up the knife, grabbed a sponge, and ran it across the blade... Not halfway across the edge, the sponge fell in two like one of those Samurai movies where they throw an apple in the air and swing the blade and when it comes down, it's a Cider... But, it also sliced a diagonal chunk of her finger.

After a frantic call to Husband at work for instruction, and his attendance to the worst of it when he got home, determining that stitches were not required, it was decided that perhaps only adults should handle the super-crazy-sharp new knives.

Bear that story in mind.

Now on to the cake: It was going to be a carousel cake, and I had no real idea how I was going to do it... Two cakes on top of each other? But how would they stay up? What about the horses? Fondant? Meatloaf? Actual horses?

The conclusion was to make three cakes, sculpt the top two into a cone, cover them all white, make them pretty, and hot glue a bunch of the horses to some cake pop sticks, which would be wrapped in ribbon... $30 in overpriced miniature plastic ponies later, and I was ready to rock!



Or at least, so I thought. On a carousel, there's also a centrifuge which houses all the machinery and provides the bulk of the support... I had a super-thick cardboard roll from some Glad Wrap which I presumed would be better suited to hold a 3kg cake top, rather than my original paper towel inner tube idea.

The only problem was: it was much longer than the cake pop sticks. No problem, I thought. I'll just, y'know, mark the same distance on it with pencil, and then casually use the new bread knife to cut it to size.

It was 9:30pm. Husband had decided that there was no way I was going to get to bed before it was officially "tomorrow", and so had decided to go to sleep... All of a sudden, a shriek came from the kitchen as I screamed "COOKIE, I NEED YOUR HELP" which is spouse code in our house for "SOMETHING IS BLEEDING AND I DON'T WANT ANYONE CALLING COMMUNITY SERVICES!"

With a sigh, he emerged to find me knelt in the kitchen, clutching my finger desperately to make sure that the whole thing didn't just drop off. In my head, I'd already begun trying to work out how I would handle life without a left index finger... How would I point things out to people without appearing rude? If I wanted to pretend to shoot people, how would that even work? Could I claim a disability pension? Would I be able to play piano any more? What if I want to learn piano?

This is what Husband saw:
Re-enactment
This is what I saw:
Dramatic re-enactment
As he cut some sterile wound dressing and put a band-aid over the top of it (because it was bleeding quite a bit), I sank further to the floor, breathing heavily, white as a sheet. I maintain that it was due to serious blood loss... When Husband pointed out that a couple of drops in the sink didn't constitute "serious blood loss", I told him to go away and start dialling the Red Cross now because otherwise by the time they got here, I'd be lying on the floor like an empty popper ("juice box" to my American readers), or a victim of Dracula.

Husband upgraded the knife rule to "Only adults except Nat" are allowed to use the knives. He graciously finished the cutting of the cling wrap tube, and also the centrifuge's markings from the bottom cake's fondant so that it could sink properly into the cake without squashing it:

Like a surgeon, cuttin' for the very first time.
Two band-aids and four hours later, I finished the cake! The top has a matching-sized cake board, clearly, otherwise it would've fallen clean through the upright supports...

I will admit that trying to decorate the cake to look like the old lights on the classic carousel was a lot of work, but I was pretty happy with the final outcome:


I've been told the greats suffered for their art. Bunch of amateurs! Sure, Michelangelo developed a terrible back from spending half his life painting the Sistine Chapel. Sure, Leonardo faced times of starvation. Sure, Donatello was teased by Raphael for being a nerd in the sewer before Master Splinter separated them and told them they were bad turtles. But not one of them had to suffer a major bread-knife attack.

But, I'm a survivor! I will not let myself become yet another victim of bread knives everywhere. I will go on! I will look to the future. And I will continue to bake.

Husband has since put the new knives up on a shelf, out of my reach.
That sneaky, sneaky bastard.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thank you fairy much!

21/07/2013
Dear diary,

I want to be a fairy!!

Yours impatiently,

Natalie ...


22/07/2013
Dear diary,

I've been asked to make a fairy cake! I am so excited. It will be pink, with flowers and sparkles all over it, and a fairy on top. It's close enough to being a fairy, so I am happy.

Yours crazily thankful,

Natalie xxx


25/07/2013
Dear diary,

The day has come to make the fairy cake!

It was 3pm, and my children had arrived home from school. I had  pink and chocolate cakes in 8 and 6 inch tins in my oven. While they was baking, I took my white fondant, and made 12 little flowers with this flower cookie cutter, used twice on the same piece, and then pressed them into a ping pong ball packet to set into a rounded shape.


I was optimistic that the cake would at least be covered with fondant by the time Husband came home from work. It was 5:30pm and I rolled out the light pink fondant to cover the top tier. I wonder if this can count as my workout so that I can eat the rest of the ice cream that's in the freezer... Hmm. Still, I should be done by 6 or half past.

Husband calls at 6:30pm to say he's almost home... I get off the computer, looking around to see one cake covered, and the other sitting next to white fondant and pink colouring waiting patiently for me... Damn. I resolve to stop procrastinating.

Husband opens the front door just as I realise that I hadn't planned anything for dinner because I was busy making cakes. Could we just not do dinner for just one night?? Was he just trying to sabotage my work again?? If I stab him right now, could I claim STABotage to be an acceptable defence in court?? I don't know why he's complaining, anyway... I'll be done by 10pm.

I colour and roll the dark pink fondant... I add more colour and roll it again. And once more until I was finally happy with the colour. All while Husband searches under the layer of flour and icing sugar to find a saucepan to cook in.

Cakes are covered, dinner was eaten. I just had one last thing to do before going to bed - make the fairy... Hmm... Maybe I could just buy one instead.


Kids were in bed at 8:30pm, and Husband gets ready for bed, too. I tell him that I just have the fairy to do, and shouldn't be too far behind him. I don't understand why he begins laughing hysterically.

Failing to manage by myself, I look up a YouTube tutorial on How to make a Fondant Fairy - A guide for complete idiots.

By 10:30pm, I discover that fairies take a really long time to make... Michelangelo's David took years, right? That would explain it. Am I Michelangelo? I might be. He could have time travelled. I didn't know before, but I must be. Could I get royalties for use of my works for the past few hundred years??

They say you can hallucinate from lack of sleep, but I, Michelangelo, will disprove that theory with science! ... Right after I finish sculpting this fairy.

I sat at my computer desk (so that I didn't wake any children up) with my tools and fondants. Though the tutorial was great, I kind of made it up as I went along, too (perhaps that's why it took so long).

Midnight ticks past, and I'm pretty sure all of the cake shops are closed. Worried that they wouldn't have any fairies in stock that I could just buy, I continued what some might call "sculpting"...

At 1am, I had successfully (well, kind of) made the parts I needed for a fairy... I think.


Yours already half asleep,

Natalie ZZzzzzzzzz


26/07/2013
Dear diary,

I wake up and someone appears to have broken into the house in the middle of the night and destroyed my kitchen!

... Why did they write "Michelangelo" all over the cupboards??

At 9am, everyone's at school or where they should be. Time to have a nap OhMyGoshTheCAKE!

In a whirlwind of creativity, I attach the tiers... Now: Fondant is my canvas, and I am creating art!

Armed with the skewer, the fairy head connected to the torso, the torso connected to the skirt, the skirt connected to the cake tiers, and "Heeeeyy Macarena!"


The birthday girl's name was glued onto the cake, and also those little white flowers I had made earlier, along with some leaves and fairy wings, which were made from a butterfly cutter and covered in delicious, edible glitter.


I carefully painted little details onto the fairy, like eyes and a mouth. Kinda important details, really... Hard to do when you haven't had much sleep.

After re-fuelling with coffee at 11am, I'm pretty sure I got away without having to sculpt fairy legs by making her look like she's kneeling:


With some white royal icing, I started piping dots on Keira's name and around the cake. I piped some more, and some more, and just kept piping the way Dory kept on swimming... Until I got bored of dots and piped mini flowers instead, which I added a light pink pearl to.




The fairy, close up:


At midday - I claimed to have completed the cake:


Yours creatively,

Natalie xxx

Happy birthday Keira!!