Weird Science

It really has been a while between blogs.   I know this because quite a few people have been asking me how my blogging is going (ie. they have noticed that it’s not going).  And my stock-standard answer is to blame the silly season, which appears to to kick off earlier every year.

In 2013, I managed to convince myself by the last week of November that Christmas was imminent, and that I had already failed miserably on the planning and shopping front.  And as I do most years, I promptly started waking up at 3am with a compulsion to write lists.

Is it marketing?  Well it doesn’t help when Christmas decorations and ads start to appear during October.  I certainly hold partially responsible those infuriating people who finish their Christmas shopping during November, and then feel the need to announce it on social media (you know the ones).  But I also feel that life just gets incrementally busier for me every year.

And so, in logical sequence, I decided that we would throw a Mad Scientist themed party at home in December for my almost seven-year old daughter.   You’ve heard the saying: if you want something done, ask a busy person!

Well I would like to declare, in hindsight, that if I’m the busy person you’re asking, best think again.  It appears that I’m not one of those people who thrives on being ridiculously busy.  Allow me to illustrate the case in point:

A few weeks ago, for my daughter’s school lunch Christmas party, I presented her with a selection of left-over jubes on a disposable plate.

I was so exhausted and creatively stunted by the relentless party planning and final execution the day before, that a plate of jubes was about all I could muster.  It was technically admissible, being a sweet (L-Z were to bring a sweet food), and being arranged into thirds according to colour (her class was to present their plate in 1/3’s fraction).  Way to go mum.  Really out of the box.

I think a little part of me died that day, as I pulled the car to a halt outside school, hastily rearranged the jumbled up jubes, gave her a squeeze and propelled her toward the gate. There was no way I was walking her into class with that sorry offering.

So why the elaborate, at-home, science-themed birthday party?

We naively gave over the choice of party to my daughter (I even encouraged the home party, in the deluded thinking that it may save money), and were quite chuffed when she chose the gender-neutral theme of ‘science’.  I was quietly overjoyed at the absence of fairies and princesses, and the fact that she wanted to invite a few boys from her class.  I didn’t quite appreciate that it would take on a life of its own.

Just Google ‘science party’, and you’ll see what I mean.

This is the point where I diverged from what my husband, my daughter and her friends would have found acceptable, and elevated things to the next level.  I began trawling the internet nightly for protective eyewear, petri dishes and test tubes.  I drifted off to sleep at night dreaming about child-sized lab coats.

All I can suggest is that I was overcome by a kind of party-force, fuelled by equal parts pent-up creativity, a tendency for perfectionism and the egging on from a close friend who moonlights as a party planner.  The perfect storm.

Needless to say, my husband wasn’t overcome in quite the same fashion.  His exasperated expression, evident whenever I gently enquired regarding his progress with the name badges said: What are you on about?!  We’ll set off a few Coke geysers sing happy birthday, and then they’ll all eat some cake and go home.  I believe I was also told not to ‘overthink’ things.  Humph.

So as you can imagine, by the time the party day came around, there was a fair amount of angst in the household.  Particularly so when, an hour before kickoff, my husband decided that tipping the kids entire Lego collection onto the lounge room floor and building an electric circuit that would light a bulb, should take precedence over helping me set up the actual party and experiments outside.  You can possibly imagine the look on my face (which would be quite amusing now in retrospect), and the choice words muttered under my breath, as I literally raced around the house, running sheet in hand.

But if I fast-forward to present day, post party, post Christmas, I am overjoyed to report that:

  1. Despite the urge to do so, I did not rip my running sheet into shreds and insert them forcibly into any of my husband’s orifices.
  2. We’re still married, and
  3. The kids had an awesome time.

And so, I thought I’d take the time to chronicle the bits that went swimmingly, the bits that totally tanked, and some shortcuts for anyone else out there looking to throw a science party.

And yes, okay, I am also writing this to boast about my newly discovered party planning skills and MAD NOVELTY CAKE BAKING SKILLS.  Indulge me – I’m still harbouring post-party delusions of grandeur.1461109_10152109717889265_1648075115_n

Now let me tell you about science party paraphernalia.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that one size fits all disposable lab coats are not made for seven year-old children.  Amusingly, it turns out that ‘one size fits all’ equates to XXL, and when we opened the package and my daughter tried one on, it was simultaneously panic-inducing and hilarious.

After another week and many fruitless internet searches, I happened upon the idea of creating lab coats from oversized white t-shirts, simply cut down the middle.  Thank you blogiverse, and unknown science-party blogger.  A few clicks and a few days later, I was safely in possession of a box of ‘lab coats’.

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During the earlier stages of planning (before my husband had decided I’d gone quite loco) he created these uber-cool name tags, based around the periodic table.  Did we blatantly rip off the idea from the Breaking Bad credits?  Yes we did.  But children don’t watch Breaking Bad, so no copy write problems there.

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And seeing as we were going down the Breaking Bad road, I couldn’t resist this Jesse-inspired t-shirt, for the Daddy-turned-science-party-facilitator.

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We used the same name tags on the zippy pouch party bags (discovered during one of my many $2 shop hit-and-runs), and filled them each with a note-pad and pen, goggles, test tube lollies, popping candy and rock sugar candy (which did look worryingly like elicit street drugs).   Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 34 am988797_10152109718159265_1772079339_n (1)

On the lunch menu were mini frankfurts in specimen cups, petri jellies, fruit molecules and jelly-cream beakers.  1506773_10152109717459265_1290934904_n Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 26 am

Less photographically impressive, but none-the-less well received were the party-girl’s specific requests: party pies and sausage rolls.  Apparently it is not a party without these items.

Do you like how I used a Sharpie on clear disposable plastic cups to create the mock beakers for the jelly cream concoctions?  I could claim artistic ingenuity, but in fact I unashamedly stole the idea from this excellent science party blog post.

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And yes, more than one party attendant did point out their lack of uniformity in the scale department – who would have thought seven year-olds would be such sticklers for accuracy?

When you’re going to so much trouble for a party, I’d highly recommend asking someone to be there just to take photos of all your hard work.  In my case, my lovely friend Dawn, from Ruby May Designs not only helped arrange the party table, she also captured the details you see here, while I was quietly hyperventilating out of sight somewhere.

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And now you’ve seen all the glossy photos, lets delve into the science party action and activities.  Especially the bits that didn’t quite go as planned.

Psychedelic milk.

I gleaned this idea from someone much more together than me, and practiced it before-hand with great success.  You can read her post, which provides detailed instructions and has fantastic photos of the colourful milk swirls that we were supposed to discover.  I would, however, like to add one small but salient point, which we discovered on the party day.

When you give 20 excitable children a bowl of milk, food colouring and a jar of cotton buds, their first instinct is (of course) to stir the colour in using the cotton buds.  In fact, even if you tell them NOT to stir it in, they will anyway.  They cannot physically restrain themselves from stirring the colour in.

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In retrospect, I would have had an adult demonstrate the process before allowing the children within a foot of the experiment table.  Then, if they still decided to stir in the frigging food dye, I could have said I told you so.

I don’t have many photos of our failed psychedelic milk experiment .  But if you would like to envision the scene, there were a lot of confused-looking children dressed in cute lab coats, and quite a few bowls of grey milk.

No problems.  We moved right along.

Mentos and Coke Geyser

Cue ‘Yeah Science’ Dad with a packet of Mentos and a 2L bottle of Pepsi Max.  He was quickly surrounded by 20 screaming children (I think at this stage they were screaming for Mentos, which I find odd, considering the amount of lollies in close proximity, which they could have helped themselves to at any time).   Using the purpose-made geyser tube I had picked up during my late-night internet trawling, he created a rather impressive fountain of foaming science-stuff, and was instantly elevated to Cool Dad status.

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Film canister rockets

These babies were a huge hit with the party-goers.  A friend gave me the hot tip – that I could get as many film canisters as I wanted, free from a local Photo processing shop. You add 1/2 Alka Seltzer tablet, a few teaspoons of water, quickly snap the lid on, invert the canister, and stand clear.P1070930

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Elephant toothpaste

There are lots more impressive posts about this experiment, such as this one here.  Using a combination of yeast, warm water, hydrogen peroxide, dish detergent, and food dye (here we go again) you can produce foamy stuff which (apparently) resembles elephant’s toothpaste.

In this case, due to the potentially toxic nature of the hydrogen peroxide, and with the hindsight of the failed milk experiment, we decided use smaller groups of children with a significantly greater amount of supervision.

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I’ll skip to the chase, and report that after much phaffing about with gloves and funnels, and a few tense moments, we did create some rather impressive elephant-toothpaste-like foam. Photo 15-12-2013 4 00 40 amPhoto 15-12-2013 4 02 58 am

Can you see the vivid hue of our experiment foam here?  Well that was exactly the colour of the children’s hands after they played with the foam.  Sorry parents, your child appears to be turning into a Smurf, starting at the hands.

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As is the way with childrens’ parties, everything took longer than expected, and quite a few of the planned activities never actually came to fruition.  We couldn’t be bothered in the end with the DIY lava lamps and lolly molecule making – by this stage the kids were happy to play with magnetic slime and magnets I purchased online.  They also enjoyed having a go at the Guinness World Record for number of seven year-olds to fit on a small round Springfree trampoline (at this point I realised that asking parents to sign a waiver upon dropping their child off may have been a good idea).P1070912

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The next thing to do was to sing happy birthday and cut the rather confronting creation you see below.  The brain cake.

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Various terms used to describe it include ‘disgusting’, ‘gruesome’ and ‘revolting’.  For those who could get past the presentation and eat a slice, it was surprisingly tasty.

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If you’re interested in the detailed dirt on creating the brain cake, you can read my version here.

The children then commandeered the studio, transforming it into an underage rave for 20 screaming, sugar-fuelled children.  Yeah Science Dad became DJ daddy, who begrudgingly succumbed to the demands for Katy Perry and One Direction.  Interspersed with a science quiz and a few more rockets and Diet Coke geysers, that was pretty much a wrap.

In conclusion, I’d like to share the following observations:

  • Seven year-olds scream a lot when they’re excited.  In fact, the greater the numbers present, the louder the screaming and the higher the pitch.  We have concluded that in party terms, screaming is generally a good sign (given there have been no serious injuries of course).  Conversely, if all is quiet, it may mean that you have a boring party on your hands.
  • Twenty is rather a ridiculous number of guests to invite to a 7th birthday party, especially in the absence of any official party entertainer-type person.  And although such a party may guarantee your child a good month of popularity amongst their school friends, this should be weighed up against the potential strain on one’s marriage.
  • If you are lucky enough to have family to help, do rope your relatives into heating and serving the food.  This will ensure that the children actually get fed, as you run from one interrupted task to the next, in the manner of a strung out wedding planner.

But before signing off, I have one more thing to report.  Just a few days ago, while I was writing this post, my friend texted me some pretty awesome news.  When reviewing the year that was 2013, her son reported that the best thing that year had been…..

‘India’s science party’.  Bless him.

I’ll leave you with that thought, until my next party chronicle, which should be expected sometime in the vicinity of December, 2022, when I have recovered.

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How I made a brain cake

This is the gooey, somewhat disturbing brain cake, which I made for my daughter’s science party last year.1002051_10152109719199265_237343688_n

It was a hit with the party girl, and those who were game to eat it.  Surprisingly simple compared to other cakes I’ve attempted – I thought I’d document the process.

1.  I cooked two round butter cakes during the week, wrapped them in cling film and froze them whilst still warm.

2.  I pulled the cakes out of the freezer the day before the party and set to work carving the rough oval shape of a brain (frozen cake is much easier to shape, as it doesn’t crumble or squash).P1070847

3.  I pasted the cakes together with frosting and then coated the outside well to disguise the join.  I used just over one tub of basic, Betty Crocker style vanilla frosting, coloured to a skin-like texture with food dye.

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4.  I made the outer, noodly bits (correctly termed gyri, as a physiotherapist friend of mine pointed out) from packaged royal icing, or fondant.  I added a few smears of blue and red gel food dye to the white fondant block, and kneaded to the point that it was marbled with colour (rather than being thoroughly incorporated).  I then broke off small handfuls, rolled them into balls and then into long noodle shapes by hand.  The noodles were about the size of toothpaste squeezed out of a tube.

5.  I arranged the noodles into rough gyri-like squiggles and then stuck them directly onto the frosting.  The key to the realistic brain-look (thank you Pinterest) was the line directly down the centre of the brain, dividing the two hemispheres, and the rough symmetry of the squiggle arrangement on either side.  This bit was fun – I even let my daughter make a few noodles (for which I afforded myself a mental high-five, considering my harried, day-before-party disposition).

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6.  Once complete, I covered the brain in lightly-greased cling film until the actual party day, to keep it from drying out.  Oh yes, and I also added a few eyeballs, made with left-over white fondant and (very old) black fondant, which I discovered at the back of the pantry.  A few left-over gyri attached to the back of the eyeballs sufficed as the optic nerve and muscle.P1070854

7.  On the day of the party I used a pastry brush to coat the brain in strawberry topping.  No need for precision here – I simply slopped it on.P1070859

8.  I realised an hour before the party that such a gooey creation was going to get rather insect-ridden and even more gross if left outside on the party table for any length of time.  So, in true last-minute fashion, I raced around to a neighbour’s house to borrow the fabulous cake stand with glass dome, for that authentic ‘specimen’ presentation.  Voila! Brain on a plate.1473036_10152109720904265_1969619952_n

If you’d like to see more of our mad science party action, you can read the full blog post here.

This is forty

To my younger self, forty always conjured up images of no-nonsense mother-types, ensconced in track suits and devoid of style or glamour.  The forty year-olds I knew had sensible, greying hair, and were really into cleaning, gardening and watching the tele.

When my mum turned forty, I was thirteen years old, hormonal and often insufferable, I imagine.  In my eyes my mum was generous, dependable, a bit daggy, and perpetually exhausted. Who could blame her, with three teenage kids to deal with?   For a while there she sported an eighties perm, and when my friends remarked on how young or pretty she was, I scoffed and mumbled.  In my worldly teenage eyes, mums didn’t qualify as pretty.

Mums went to work, ferried us around to our various activities, and mine took herself off to lie prone on the bed for twenty minutes, each and every afternoon, around four thirty. Mum invented the power-nap, before it actually became the Power-Nap.

And now, all of a sudden, I find I’m forty.  How on earth did that happen, I wonder?  I’ve been booted out of the mid-to-late-thirties club.  Politely but firmly shown the door.

Part of me wants to cling to the furniture and make a scene, as they drag me out.  I can’t be forty!  I don’t have particularly sensible hair!  I’ve yet to submit to the neat bob, or the lob (that’s the long bob), even if it would shave hours off my weekly grooming regimen.  In fact, I’ve recently had my locks dyed red.  I imagine the name on the tube was Deep Denial Red.

I am finding more grey hairs these days, but it’s not the fine silver ones subtly appearing in my regrowth that bother me.  The ones that strike fear into my soul are the alien, wiry white hairs that suddenly announce themselves by standing to attention on my part line.  These albino follicles appear from time to time, seemingly overnight, and I dutifully yank them out in a ridiculous show of defiance.  Take that you horrid impostor.  We don’t want your type around here.  And tell your friends!

I garden from time to time, albeit begrudgingly.  And I now know that late afternoon fatigue that forced mum to have to lie down.  The kind that rolls in like a fog, until sometimes you’re so shattered, you think you may just vomit.

Okay, so there are times when I do feel forty.  A frazzled mother with permanent frown lines, lecturing the kids over toys not put away, knees up at the table, and starving children in Africa.  Last night, I believe I used all three in the space of our dinnertime conversation. It seems that my mouth just clicks into autopilot, and starts trotting out the same old gems we were all lectured about as a child.  I’m not your servant you know.  I wasn’t put on this earth just to cook and clean up after you.  I see the kids’ eyes glaze over, and realise with horror how sensible and old I sound.

The frown lines I blame on my frequent utilisation of my ‘Are you kidding me? Do you I look like I was born yesterday? and Are you sure you want to go there?’ stares.  I enlist these expressions when I’ve run out of calm reasoning, or simply haven’t the energy to sum up another reprimand (which means that they’re pretty big in my repertoire these days).  I’ve also noticed that I subconsciously frown when vacuuming, typing, or washing the dishes. It makes for a rather unflattering reflection in the steamy kitchen window.

I know some swear by Botox, but I think I’d rather stave off those furrows in my brow by investing the money in a housekeeper.  That way I could take a rest from the vacuuming, but would still have the ability to pull out the ‘Do it again, and you’re dead meat‘ stare, when the need arose.  Yes.  I think I’d like one of those housekeepers who irons the shirts, mops the floors and thoughtfully leaves a frittata cooling on the kitchen bench…

….

{slaps self around the face}

What?  Where was I?..

The part of turning forty that I wouldn’t trade, even for a supernanny-gardener-housekeeper-cook dynamo, is watching my kids growing up to become real little people. Little people shaped by me, and for now, still a part of me.

As mind-bendingly monotonous and draining as some days can be, they are invariably interspersed by moments that stop me in my tracks, and turn my heart to jelly.   Simple things, like my daughter’s lean, strong little arms surprising me from behind, as she catches me at the school gate for one last hug.  I suck in that moment, while she buries her head and takes a big breath, before galloping off across the mod grass, back to the classroom.   Being floored by the frequent, spontaneous, unconstrained declarations of love from my four year old son: I think you’re the loveliest mummy in the whole world, and I’ll never stop loving you.  Not even when I’m a big daddy.  Gulp.

Somewhere between those heart-melting moments, and the dinner table lecturing, I decided I needed to have a party.  It didn’t feel right to let my birthday come and go last month, without an indulgent, glamorous, defiant night.

And so that’s how I came to find myself, ordering another daquiri at 1am, taking to the dance floor solo, and being at one with my tiki dress and maracas.  Trying to save my friend from a slow, hilarious, inevitable tumble as we hobbled over cobblestones to Supper Inn.  I was never going to be much help there.  Befriending fellow diners and ordering suckling pig with my husband at 3am.  On that night (in our minds at least) we were pretty cool for forty-somethings.  We even slept through breakfast the next morning, and right on until lunch.

A few weeks later, I’m counting up the ways I’ve celebrated turning forty.  There was the party.  There was the dinner.  There were lunches.  And this weekend, as the closing ceremony to my birthday festival, I was charioted away by my two best friends, for a surprise spot of theatre and a long, decadent dinner.   Very fitting, I felt, for someone of my age.

And now, blog entry included, I think I’ve milked turning forty just about as much as I can.  I best get busy.

That frittata isn’t just going to make itself, you know.

This is forty This is also forty

If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked a Cake

Tonight I’ve been pondering what to call my blog.  Clearly I can’t keep calling it Escape to New York for much longer.  It’s totally false advertising.  Especially now that Cam has finally unpacked and put away his toilet bag – one month after we came home.

As long as that toilet bag hung on the back of the bathroom door, he was still a little bit on holiday, or at least, just back from holidays.  But this weekend the toilet bag is gone (it was a necessary step, but I am a little saddened at the site of the unadorned door knob) and I have begun to wonder:  How do I find a title to befit my ramblings, which started out as a travelogue, but failed to die a natural death when the holiday ended?  Escape from Glen Iris is a fraction bleak, I feel.  Suburbileaks? Sickyleaks?! Domestic Counter-Terrorism?  Thwarting domestic terrorists, one day at a time…

I Googled it, of course, and found catchyblognames.com, which yielded some fairly pedestrian suggestions.  According to their formula, my ideal titles would include Distasteful Dietitian,  Haphazard Housewife, or, one of my personal favourites: Multitudinous Marnie.  Awesome – they really know their shit.  I can see the literary agents beating a path to my door as I type this.

Further searches caused my eyes to glaze over, with boffins banging on about SEO (that’s technospeak for getting more google hits), and led me to the lowest common denominator: Name Thingy? All you need to do is stare at the screen, as it churns out random two-word combinations.  Mind-numbingly inane, but for a while I found it difficult to tear myself away.  Rather like an Ab-Trainer infomercial for the baffled home blogger.

On reflection, I’ve realised that the key thing I need to decide is what I am actually on about here, and at present, that seems to change daily with the weather.  Last week I was all excited about Operation Out of House (my current OOOH statistics are yet to be filed, but I’m pleased to hear so many of you have taken this mantle and run with it).  This week, I’ve been acting like Boroondara’s answer to Bakerella, churning out cake pops and musing over the merits of non-dairy frosting and disposable piping bags.  Who knows what I’ll be banging on about next time?

line drawingNow that I think about it, I do have a track record for being somewhat faddish in my pursuits.  For example, last year, in a mad ‘must have some me-time’ moment, I signed up for an all day drawing workshop, and surprised myself by producing quite a fetching line-drawing of a botanical scene in nature.  I got all excited.  Maybe this was the hobby I had been missing, which would give me a creative, medititive outlet as well as some awesome line drawings to hang on our wall, and regale visitors with?  Needless to say, the fancy paper and fineliners are now stashed away deep in the corner of the Art and Craft drawer, supposedly for that elusive, rainy day when I find myself with a few hours to spare.

crochetTwo years ago I taught myself how to crochet, and then spent a few months at it like a woman possessed.   Now I never got to the stage of crafting pieces of clothing (which I realise is a good thing, in retrospect), but I do have a collection of granny squares, a passable cushion and a large bag of assorted wool to show for those two lost months.  I’ve also done more than my share of life drawing courses, tried my hand at jewelery reworking, applique, and remember getting a bit excited about decoupage for a brief spell there.  For God’s sake, there is a sewing machine in my hall closet, but I don’t even know how to thread it!

And so there you have it: an easily distracted (if enthusiastic) woman, who finds herself in charge of a household and two endearing yet exhausting mini people.   Work, professional development, the bits of paper that come home from school and need to be read / actioned / signed / returned, the provision of groceries, packed lunches, nutritious dinners…  Is it any wonder I struggle to see most projects through to completion these days?

So with blog name unresolved (feel free to offer any suggestions on that front), I will now segway on to the topic of children – particularly my little boy – who celebrated his fourth birthday this week.  He is fast growing up, and starting to establish his own identity in this world, so I saw fit to throw him his first proper birthday party, with all the trimmings.  Twenty kids, winter, a small house.   I decided to outsource.

Now I did feel a few twinges of middle class guilt in this decision – surely four year old boys are not that difficult to entertain? I hear some of you say.  Give them some cake, some chips and a tonne of Lego to play with, and they’re sorted.  But my accumulated parenting experience over the past six years has taught me that: a) I am somewhat anal, and therefore, prone to run myself ragged trying to throw the perfect party, in a tidy house, whilst trying to look effortless and unflustered (the latter being the hardest part), b) I am not a professional entertainer, nor is my husband, and children have an ability to sense my deep discomfort in trying to pretend otherwise, and c) Sometimes you owe it to yourself to take the easy option and just pay the bloody money.

decorating

Anyway, that decision left me free to go mad on the birthday cake front, which after all, is the most enjoyable part of throwing a party.

I imagine that most of you have thrown your hat in the birthday cake ring at some stage, so I’ll put the question out there: how satisfying is it to pull off a great cake – a WOW cake – to the accolades of your children and their friends?  Okay, and also maybe to your friends?  And maybe put in on Facebook so that your friends’ friends also see it?…  I would venture that it’s one of the perks of being a parent.

So last Saturday, I spent the best part of the day squirting orange icing through a piping bag and trying my hand at crafting cake pop eyeballs from scratch.  There were many tense moments, rather too many unsavoury expletives, and an unholy mess from one end of the kitchen to another, but it was all worth it at the end of the day.

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Behold:  The monster cake – made possible by the magic of Google, and the phenomenon that is You Tube.  And it is also the first instance of me using Pinterest for something other than mindless procrastination purposes.  Excellent!

It started with some pyjama-clad family time on the couch Saturday morning – myself trawling the internet and both kids jostling for position to watch nerdy baker types present their craft.  The crumb layer of icing – good, got that.  The correct dipping technique for cake pops being to dip and rock back and forth (you mustn’t twiddle in the chocolate, lest you loose the cake pop right off the stick) – great advice.  And then ‘Mummy?…’  Arlo ventured cautiously, ‘are they called cake pops because they go pop? When do they go pop mummy?….’cake pop

Of course, I am not the only one among my friends who has been seized by the need to go to such lengths to mark their childrens’ birthdays.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a creative in advertising, a health professional or a home mum – we all feel the allure of the WOW birthday cake.

The swimming pool, below, was my first serious birthday cake, which came straight from the pages of the Womens’ Weekly Birthday Cake cookbook.   Buy a few packets of biscuits, bake a cake, make some jelly, and you’re in business.  But I blame Marteen for turning up the heat.

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Charlie's dragon cake

For her son’s third birthday, Marteen did things with fondant that I didn’t even know possible, to produce the adorable dragon featured on the right.

As you can imagine, it blew everyone away, and in my mind, raised the stakes in birthday cakes from that day forward.

Favouring the ‘use a motherload of frosting, then throw a lot of coloured sugar sand and lollies at it’ approach, I countered with the roadworks number three.  Crude, but effective.

roadworks cake

And then, earlier this year, my friend Sally (a doctor of psychology, and a newcomer on the cake decorating scene) also decided it was time to pull her finger out, and dive into the world of themed parties and amateur cake decorating.

Sal watched a few You Tube tutorials, rolled up her sleeves, and set to work on one of her first forays into fontant art.  A pirate ship for her son’s pirate party, complete with individually handcrafted fondant decking planks.  She even decided it was cheaper to make her own chocolate marshmallow fondant, rather than pay for the commercial variety.  Now that’s confidence.  And how awesome is this cake?

Pirate shipI think you’d agree that Sal’s slam dunk with the pirate ship cake is further evidence of  what most of you already know: that women can do pretty much anything they set their mind to.  This is because:

1.  We’re awesome, and

2.  If we’re not sure, we can just Google it.

But how in God’s name did our mothers get by without the internet?!  A topic for another day, no doubt.

And the most sage piece of advice (which Sal gleaned from a You Tubing baker-nerd type, and has since passed on to me), is not to be ‘intimidated by the fondant’.  A simple, but effective mantra, for the modern woman.

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