Is it sad that stationery shops & catalogues excite me?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think this must be a hangover from childhood. My total and utter love of lovely new sharp pencils, coloured pens, gel pens or tiny-nibbed pens that write beautifully has never waned since I was a child! Back then it was the excitement of shopping for the longest possible set of felt-tips, like a giant rainbow, all organised by colour in a well-known high-street stationers (one of two in my town in those days). My colouring would be that bit neater for a while to honour the new pens. They’d be kept in pristine order, and it would be so sad when they finally dried up – mind you then came the chance to buy MORE -yipeee!

I still have a set of pens, in their black plastic holder, in order, with my name (as was) written neatly in in my cursive writing (which means we’re talking Primary school or early Secondary school, because I changed my writing to suit me as soon as it wasn’t expected to be totally joined up and in ink pen).

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Actually, one thing I never got that excited about, the exception to the rule, was cartridge ink pens! I dabbled with Calligraphy for a while, using turquoise ink and a posh pen I’d had for my birthday. My dad was all into that too. Having to use them at school was a pain, but also a right of passage. You had to be in the top year at Primary school to be allowed!

During secondary school years, outside of school, I wrote important things in a mixture of grey & pink (very ’80s). This was pretty time-consuming as I alternated, doing one letter of each colour as I wrote! On to Uni, and I favoured a sharp pencil for ALL writing, apart from work to be handed in of course. I even wrote reams of pages as letters to my family, friends and boyfriend in pencil, using normal, lined A4 paper. I obviously wasn’t at all bothered about the paper, though being a poor student doesn’t really allow for luxuries such as posh writing paper.

Anyway, the point of these ramblings is just that I have just opened my new Rymans Business account, a benefit of winning the #SBS award from Theo Paphitis for my bug-filled online shop ( http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk ) . A gigantic catalogue has plopped onto the doormat and an equally generous credit is waiting to be spent!

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So, the problem I’m struggling with is do I buy what I need (printer ink cartridges etc yawn) or what grabs my eye (multicoloured mechanical pencils, beautiful sets of pens, colourful organising bit & bobs)? I keep finding more & more possibilities! I promise I’ll make the right decision, but for now, I’m in a stationery wonderland & I am going to enjoy looking!

I’m Planning a Birthday Cake!

I do love a home-made birthday cake, though I don’t agree at all with any peer-pressure amongst mums to all attempt the creation of a tower of sugary fabulousness for the birthday boy or girl to match up to what little Johnny or Delilah had at THEIR party. Just don’t do it if you don’t want to! There are so many wonderful people out there making a living from taking this particular stress away from you, and it’s amazing what they can do. Failing that, there’s always the old supermarket cake – yes I have used them too! Also, another great cheat is to buy a plain cake and get yourself a rice paper cake-topper. These are great value and can be found on Ebay easily. I bought a ‘Johnny Test’ one once, as there was no way I could recreate that particular cartoon character! All you have to do then is stick it on with icing.

However, I LOVE the challenge of making a cake for my kids, even though I spend hours planning it and making it, and it never ever turns out as pristine & amazing as a professional could make it. The reason behind this is that it’s a tradition in my family. Every birthday that my sister and I had would prompt baking from mum, and handing over of the decorating to my dad! Yes, he loved doing this too! Back then, *ahem* years ago, there was a ‘Children’s Cakes’ book, which a lot of parents owned. In it were such delights as a gypsy caravan, a train, a hedgehog, etc etc. My dad even made me a Zebidee for my 18th birthday!

Anyway, I’ve somehow succeeded in past years in making a Tardis, a Peppa Pig, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Butterfly, Minnie Mouse, and most recently, Agent P from Phineas & Ferb.

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I’m now planning the next one, and I’m hoping it’ll be easier! I’m not going to tell you now what it’ll be, but the idea has taken shape and keeps getting more complicated as I think of more things. I’m looking forward to taking to the kitchen and hubby keeping the kids away for the (usually 2) hours I need to turn cake into *mystery thing*. Up goes the music, on goes the apron & off I go. Coloured fondant everywhere, lots of cursing & fiddling about, and hopefully, hey presto, something resembling what it was supposed to be in the first place! 

If it makes anyone feel better, all of my slightly wobbly, slightly cracked, baked from scratch previous attempts are here on Pinterest.

I just love doing it and I know I’m not very good, but that’s not going to stop me! I can highly recommend giving it a go. Have a back-up plan so that you don’t get stressed, get into the kitchen and get creative! All you need do when you have an idea is to search the internet for images of cakes other fabulous people have posted, and you can find one there that suits you. I’d recommend looking for something that doesn’t involve too much ‘building work’ – the last thing you need is a ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ effect. If you’re going to build a shape of any kind you could go with madeira cake rather than normal sponge as it is more ‘sturdy’. With all the helpful pre-coloured fondant icing you can buy, and pre-made cake toppers, you will find you can take baby-steps & work up to the full baking & creating experience. It’s easier than you think!

I’ll update when this next one is done. I have two weeks to go. Wish me luck! :0)