Smarties Rainbow Pinata Cake

MORE CAKE!

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I was inspired by a birthday cake my friend Vicki had for her son’s birthday which held a bunch of mini smarties inside and decided to try it out for my dad and Stuart’s joint party this weekend. I’ve since learned that it is called a piñata cake, so here’s how I made this one.

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I baked up a sponge cake mix and split it in two, making one vanilla, one chocolate. I then baked them and cut each in half so I would have four layers, but of course you could go as simple as you like and just make one simple vanilla sponge of two layers.

(Here’s the simplest sponge: 250g butter & 250g sugar whisked & 4 eggs whisked & 1tsp vanilla; fold in 250g flour and bake at 180)

Then I assembled the first three layers of sponge with vanilla buttercream in each layer. Before adding the last layer of sponge take a circular cutter and cut right through the centre of the cake to leave a hole. Fill the hole with mini smarties.

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Then add the final layer of cake. Ice the outside (I used chocolate buttercream) and decorate.

To decorate I got normal sized smarties and did this wavy pattern which really looked fab. It took 4 sharing bags of smarties to have enough of all the colours to do this.

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And… Ta da! When you cut open the cake the piñata of mini smarties bursts! It’s a great showstopper!

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And of course loved by the little ones, sandy couldn’t keep his mitts off it!

And Roslyn loved helping me bake it!

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Little Reminders

I’m at my most hormonal in the evenings it seems. When my babies fall asleep and I can let go of the stresses of the day and remember just how happy I am. I think back to the dark days of before and smile because, while there are constant challenges, I’m living in domestic bliss. I lie with Roslyn and stroke her tiny little hand as she feeds into a milk coma.

“Look at her chubby little fingers!” I say to Stuart.

“Look at her smooshy little sucky face”

“She’s so beautiful I can’t even believe it”

“She smells so good”

“And that boy…” Stuart pipes in, “…that boy”

“He’s perfect”

“He’s so funny”

“I love him so much”

It’s always when the calm of bedtime descends, and the oxytocin of a milk let down is released, that I get soporific and over emotional about my babies. But there are other times too, times when little reminders of their presence in our lives stand out from the chaos and the mess. Small scenes which shimmer with life and happiness, amazing amounts of adoration from the ordinary.

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The fact that our cutlery drawer has a whole section dedicated to baby spoons.

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Little versions of our shoes, thrown haphazardly onto the rack alongside ours.

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Tractors and planes and bath books, cluttering the floor of the shower.

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Hand prints on glass.

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Their sounds.

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Impromptu art, happily emblazoned atop lists.

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Toys left in situ, waiting.

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Little socks.

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Such are the little reminders that live all around my home, telling me that it’s okay to be upset right now, because the love is right there waiting. Babies may not settle and toddlers may thrash on the floor and mothers may lose their cool and shout or scream or rush out the room lest they suffocate from responsibility. But after all is done of a day the little reminders of the good stuff remain.

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It’s easy to get bogged down in the bad. And similarly it’s easy to idealise the good. But it is in the consistency of everyday life, the satisfactory, the normal, the routine, where comfort lies.

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In the calm after the storm I look for little reminders that things are fine, and I know we are all going to be okay.

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Garden: August, September AND October 2014

Yep so my monthly garden updates have somehow become quarterly. Oh well, it’s for the best as things are winding down, both seasonally and because I am back to university too.

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We enjoyed our Indian summer and now things have cooled a bit more. Roslyn’s been using her snowsuit for time in the swing.

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I’ve cleared a lot out of the veg garden and it looks pretty shabby now. We do still have some things on the grow though, this MASSIVE courgette I happened upon for example.

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There are leeks, beetroot and carrots too.

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But yeah, it’s generally gone a bit scabby looking so I can’t wait to work the ground a bit in preparation for next year.

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We still have colour though in the borders.

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And the strawberries are shooting off all over the place providing new plants for next year when I finally get the strawberry barrel made.

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The good news is we’ve finally come to some sort of conclusion about the side of the garden here. The land is somewhat level and cleared so the plan is to turn the 7 foot length from the hut towards the lawn to gravel. We will buy a bulk bag of it at some point and do this. Then the remaining patch right next to the lawn will become my veg garden extension where I hope to put my potatoes. The gravelled bit will eventually host a greenhouse, finances willing. And there will be a gravelled path on the right to the hut for the lawnmower.

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As for the rest of the garden we’ve not done much. It’s nice to not have to mow the lawn every week now.

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I’ve put away the loungers and barbecue and will sort the rest of the summer things for winter shortly. It’s going to be a busy six months for me study wise so I need to get the garden into low maintenance mode ASAP!

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Aside from that I’ve been harvesting and preserving the produce including carrots.

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Rhubarb

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(Rhubarb and ginger compote, freezer ready for crumble making in a hurry)

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And courgettes. The big one outside awaits so I’m trying to think of something worthy of it to make… Any ideas?

Yep, so the to do list for the rest of the year is:

Plant bulbs (I got a massive pack of daffodils from Aldi, and hope to put some in the new bed I made at the front, sorry for the lack of a photo!)

Finish tidying up the edge of the lawn at the side of the garden and add a sleeper to make it a raised bed behind.

Make a new bed here too and plant bulbs and perennials.

Weed EVERYWHERE

SHARK!

Happy birthday to my dear husband. Ok his birthday was like a week ago but it’s taken a little while between tantruming toddlers and screaming babies to get this post up so, hip hip hooray, he’s 33 today! (Technically, yes, yes he is).

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We celebrated by going to deep sea world for some fishy adventures.

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Crappest mum of the year award alert: I may or may not have bonked Roslyn’s head on the helmet slightly. I suck. But I just can’t resist a touristy looking photo opportunity. I know, it’s one of my failings. Pobody’s nerfect.

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She wasn’t too sad about it though and all the lights and fish made up for it.

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I’ve not been to deep sea world in years. I think it was in primary school actually. Basically the star attraction is the conveyor belt trip round an underground pool with fish and sharks, it’s pretty neat.

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Me: SHAAARK!!!

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Sandy: CARK! CARK!!

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I’m pretty sure sandy preferred the moving pathway to the mahoosive fish tank full of snappy fish all around him.

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Side note: I LOVE these babies!

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Ooh a big ‘un!

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Mr Ray.

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All in all it was pretty fun down there, but it’s a very pricey excursion at £27 for two adults.

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They do have more fish and reptiles upstairs to enjoy too.

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Any birthday treat wouldn’t be complete without ice cream.

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Oh and there are also seals. And for the toddler in your entourage, ramps to run up and down.

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Happy birthday husbando, love from your three best buds.

Transport Museum & the Return of Grumpy Sandy

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We’ve been waiting a while to go to the transport museum. I wanted to go when Stuart was there because I thought sandy would have his little lovely mind blown with all the vehicles inside. Also I didn’t want to waste a nice day by being indoors, so we’ve been waiting for a while a wet one.

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As it turns out, while sandy was quite happy to see the neenawneenaw car and the choo choo up high, he wasn’t in the best of moods.

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Still, we made a go of it, as you do when there’s nothing else for it.

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“Hasseys”

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This pose was all the rage in the 18th C.

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Rozzie had a blast as you can see.

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Whereas the highlight for sandy was getting his “wuv oo heart” sweets, dropping them on the floor, then eating them off the floor.

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All he wanted to do was climb on the exhibits, so we compromised with climbing on this window frame type area where he did some yoga to impress random onlookers.

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Of course, that was nothing compared to the all out toddler stereotype of a sprawled on the floor, kicking and screaming tantrum; performed because we wouldn’t let him reclimb the stairs.

There came that moment when onlookers go from staring at your mentalist meat bag thrashing about on the floor to watching for your reaction to said ongoings. We chose general bemusement, so as to widely disappoint our audience and Stuart popped his little angry bod over his shoulder and we went on to pastures new.

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The trip ended with more placatory snacks while I grabbed some postcards in the shop and then another fit of rage from the sandman because, even though I bought him a die cast tractor too, he wasn’t allowed to play with it in the middle of the very busy walkway. Super duper.

Ah well, you can’t win them all. Something’s up with the boy, he’s been so out of sorts. I suppose I can only be grateful that for the last three months he’s been an utter dream. My money’s on his last four teeth coming in. Molars. So you know how that goes.

First Food

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The time has come. Weaning time. Well, actually the time came several weeks ago when Roslyn stole a fig from my hands and started gnawing it. I was waiting til 6 months and all that but, well, who could say no that face?

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In all seriousness I did want to wait til 6 months. With sandy I weaned early. I was desperate due to his lack of sleep and willing to try anything. For your information, it made not a blind bit of difference. So this time I decided I would wait. But she’s 5 months now and has always had such a tricky tummy. So much wind, seeming on and off intolerances to something and lots of tensing up. So we decided to try her on a few tastes to see if it helps any.

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As you can see, she LOVED it.

Further efforts have gone down better and she’s been enjoying it and I think a bit less windy so here we go, food fun awaits my little lady!

Turning Off

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Sometimes it’s hard. This mum thing. Understatement of the century, or at least a statement reiterated ad nauseum. But it is tough. There’s no off. I often wish there was, I wish I could whisk myself away to my pre-child self and happily spend a whole day doing nothing. I could have an hour long bath, or go shopping and be very, very choosy about what jeans to buy. Maybe I would spend a stupid amount of time on a craft project, or reminiscing through old possessions. I’d very likely just lie with my husband, just lie and know I could stay there are long as I pleased.

But that’s a different life now. It’s all gone. It’s a cherished memory but not something I wish I could go back to permanently. In the dark days following sandy’s birth I used to think, and sometimes even say, that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t made to be a mum and that I just wanted to go back. I don’t think I’ve thought that this time around though.

For the most part I feel like this second baby has cemented my status as mum. I wouldn’t be myself without this identity now. With sandy it was forced upon be, but with Roslyn it was accepted and embraced. I am a mum and I can’t lie in. I can’t do things on a whim and I can’t go out past 7pm. I can’t just take a break and I can never turn off.

Roslyn’s been needy this last week. My time has been shortened. I’ve been juggling whingy babies, rocked in the crook of my arm while I read and write on the other side of the v shaped pillow. I feed her too much because it helps keep her down for a precious few more minutes. I got angry this last week, angry too much. I was angry at Roslyn for failing to fall asleep in her swing, I shouted. I was angry at sandy for running through just as I had settled her and shouting “MUMMY! BUTTERFLY!” brandishing a toy sausage, waking her up. I was angry at myself for needing time alone, and for being angry at them, because I love them more than life itself and if you sent me back to myself before them, I would wish I was dead. Sometimes it would be nice to turn off, but I will choose being on all the time because with that I get the gift of my babies.

It’s been a tough week but we are fighting through. Every tough hour is rewarded with blissful ones and more love than I ever imagined was possible to have.

Great GREAT Aunt Marjorie

Sandy and Roslyn have probably hundreds of aunties. Pretty much any female over the age of 15 who knows them becomes an aunty. But there is one non-blood aunty who is extra special, aunty Marjorie. Or, if you want to be technical about it, great great aunt Marjorie.

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Marjorie is my late great aunt Irene’s best friend. She lives in Sheffield and made a special visit to see us last weekend.

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The last time we saw her was a year ago when we visited and there has been the addition of a Roslyn since then.

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We had a belated cake for Marjorie’s birthday and of course the sandman had to get in on some candle blowing action.

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And he was pretty keen to get in on the cake eating action too. He never shuts up about “birdy cake” now!

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Roslyn was pretty happy to meet her greatest aunt and smiled a lot, which made a stark change to the grumpy face she had been showing us all morning.

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I brought out a lovingly packaged notebook, crayons and stickers to entertain sandy but of course he was more interested in the ice bucket and licking each cube once before depositing into people’s wine glasses. What a classy gent he is.

So we did some crappy crayon portraits of each other with lovely sentiments on the back such as “to dad, your head isn’t really this big, Helen” or “mum, I’m sorry, Helen”.

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We also spent the next afternoon with Marjorie at my mums which was nice. Next time we see her Roslyn will probably be walking as we are planning a trip down south next summer!

Phd Return

I’ve gone back to my studies. It’s official.

I don’t feel as bad about it as I thought though, so I suppose time does heal wounds. At the start of the year I was hurt, that’s for sure, and I was so set on giving up. It’s the joy of long term study where there’s always something due but you never seem finished, no matter how hard you try to complete it. It didn’t help that I was suffering from a lot of (what I now know was) hormone induced anxiety issues. Add to the mix a less than sympathetic supervisor and two months in bed for morning sickness and it’s obvious I needed time off. I didn’t ever envision myself returning. But here I am, back.

I’ve been reading, taking Roslyn to the library stocking up on books, lugging them home and reading as she naps. A baby in one arm and a pen in the other, juggling paper and holding pages open with tired fingers. I’m easing back in. I started to write yesterday too, not much, a paragraph or two but something. I need to feel comfortable again, I’m treading water in the safety of the shallow end for now.

It didn’t take long for me to be a little less obstinate about going back. A few weeks rest and I felt that maybe there would be a possibility. I bought frames a while back for my degrees. My honours in one, the masters in the other. I had bought one more for the phd. I remember putting it out thinking to fill it with something else as it would never hold a document declaring me a doctor of philosophy. But now I hope it will again. I will be honest, I’d rather not be back, but I’m trying to embrace it. I keep thinking I need to be positive. I tell myself I’m doing it for sandy and Roslyn. Without my phd I wouldn’t have them, and as much as having them has been part of the reason I’ve gone off course, I’ve been blessed in being able to be at home with them this much, and I wouldn’t change that. Every time I feel scared I tell myself to work through it for them. Perhaps I will be able to afford a job that’s part time afterwards, which I wouldn’t with fewer qualifications, surely? People keep asking what I will do with my phd, what job I will get, and I don’t know. I mumble something about libraries or colleges and try to move past it. All I know is I need to get this thing done and move on. So keep me strong, will you?

Hopefully next summer I will have a photo on my wall of me in a pale blue robe with my family around me. Roslyn will be walking. I keep thinking of that, and hoping it will all be okay.

Rohan’s Birthday Party

It was Sandy’s friend Rohan’s birthday on Saturday so we donned our finery and headed to Vicki’s for his party.

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My dad is not long back from his travels and he brought sandy this shirt so it was the perfect opportunity for Sandy to premier it.

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It stayed tucked in for approximately 37 seconds.

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Rozzie and I wore our matching mummy and daughter ponchettes, a ridiculously kind Gift from our friend Danielle. You can see her page on Facebook. I have a personalised robob toy in my mind which will be made soon for her lovely little boy to repay the favour!

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Here are the three of us looking clean all at the same time (rare).

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Rozzie wore her gorgeous vintage looking Zara dress which, frankly, is getting a little short. It was a 0-3 months and she is now 4.5 but it had only been on once so she went a bit risqué and showed some leg, or make that pants. Stuart has a thing against the superfluous little pants they put with dresses but I think it’s pretty cute.

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The sandman had a blast at the party driving cars into people and bouncing everywhere high on marshmallows and cake.

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Literally inhaling top hats.

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Outside he ran up to be with the bucket saying “cackle!” (Castle) I love that his speech is exploding just now.

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Bouncing.

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I think he got a bit overwhelmed at one point as he was asking for mummy’s car, so I slipped the phone into his mitt to chill him. Something I find myself doing these days. Something I said I never would do. Ah well.

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Poor Rohan needed to nap and was not particularly amused when he had to return to his guests.

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They always sleep when you don’t want them to and never sleep when you do!

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Meanwhile, sandy puts away ANOTHER marshmallow…

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Now I know I’m probably the same as any other mum banging on about how smart their precious bundle is, BUT, check this out! Pretty swish if you ask me.

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What’s that? Singing? Happy Birthday?… it must be cake time!

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Hip hip hooray! Rohan was awesome at blowing out his candle.

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And Vicki was such a sweetheart for lighting it again so all the other children could get a go!

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CHECK OUT THIS!! Genius!

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Sandy certainly agreed and wolfed the cake then wandered around stealing the smarties from other plates in the room.

Thanks so much for having us Vicki! And happy birthday to wee Rohan! :)