Birthday Cake – Done!

Well, I promised an update on the whole Birthday cake story, as last time I wrote about it it was just an idea in my head, and scribbled on a scrap of paper. So, here you go, this is what I did – the story of the cake (duh duh duuuuhhhhhhh!).

The request was for a Tinkerbell cake, so I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not going to attempt to create Tink’s delicate features in fondant icing – oh no, I didn’t want the birthday girl to end up screaming in horror at a bendy, wobbly version of her fave fairy. So, sticking within my abilities, I bought some cake topper fairies and made them a lovely fairy garden with toadstool to play in!

I started by doubling my madeira cake recipe and plopping the mixture into two oven-proof dishes.

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Now, I’m not going to pretend this all went like clockwork. The first problem encountered was that even though I’d thought about baking for longer due to my ailing oven, I’d not banked on it taking 2 hours!! I’m sure someone with a fully-functioning oven wouldn’t have this problem though. Now behind on time I realised I had one egg too few and not enough caster sugar for the second part of this extravaganza – the chocolate ‘garden’. So I raced off to buy these, and made the next cakes at speed. Substituting 1oz of flour for cocoa made it nice and chocolatey, but I had no idea if it would work. I bunged the two square tins in the oven on different shelves with less than 1 hour until school pick up time.  Half way through the nervous wait, I changed the cakes over, at which point I saw how wobbly they still were – yikes!! They were not fully cooked by the time I had to race off to school so I did the only thing I could, switched the oven off and hoped the residual heat would finish the job!

Luckily when I came home the damage was not so bad. The middles of the cakes were cooked, if a little softer than they ought to be, and less risen, but ok! So I had the cakey building blocks!

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The next day was the big decorate. I shut the kitchen door and got going. Luckily I’d coloured some coconut green the previous day while I waited for the cakes to bake. This took almost a whole bottle of green food colouring (for a whole pack of coconut) and STILL it wasn’t completely green. Anyway, I made choc icing (mud) and smothered that on the chocolate cake, then added the green ‘grass’. No problems there :0)

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Then came the part I’d worried about. Time to see if two bowl-shaped madeira cakes will sit one on top of the other and stay that way! I added some wooden skewers inside to help them out – and to give me peace of mind, and it worked! Then I got going with the fondant – just red and white. I cut out white circles for the toadstool using a bottle lid, and made the ‘stalk’ and underside of the ‘umbrella’ with the white, before getting the red out. I think that’s a good tip. Get your white done first!!

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Anyway, apart from having to make a bit of my own red icing as I didn’t have enough, I managed it. I then scattered sweeties around the garden, added the fairies and gave it a generous sprinkle of edible glitter, and hey presto, bibbety bobbety boo, a cake for my 5 year old! Here it is before its big moment:

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Luckily she loved it :0)

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Phew! 

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)

 

Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Event 2013 – Buggie in Brum!

Well, the day finally came last week when I travelled to Birmingham to attend the #SBS Winners Event, and meet Theo himself! Excited doesn’t cover it! I was allowed to take a guest, and as hubby had to stay home looking after the kids (mwahahahaha), I choose my local friend and #SBS winner-in-waiting, Joy Bassett from AP Bassetts, Lostwitihiel (@apbassetts). Joy bravely decided to drive us there and we made it in good time to our hotel, The Hampton by Hilton, Broad Street.

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Buggie was very comfy there.

I could go on and on here about our first night in Brum, suffice to say, we met up with wonderful Twitter friends and lots of squealing, eating and drinking ensued. We did manage to get to bed before 1am though….well some of us did,

Theo had graciously started the event at the lovely time of 11am, which meant a leisurely breakfast and stroll en-mass up the road towards the ICC, excitement building!

Walking in we saw the first sign, and yes, over-excitement got the better of me and I did a silly pose!

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After collecting badges we wandered into the conference room and started right away to meet other #SBS winners, some of whom we ‘knew’ from Twitter, and plenty of new contacts too. It was wonderful to put faces to names! Trying to find each other was fun, but we soon saw that all the screens had the twitter feed for #SBSEvent2013 showing. So, what else would you expect, but everyone, standing in the same room, still tweeting furiously to each other, trying to find people. I had to laugh -it was the funniest thing, heads buried in phones everywhere! Mind you, I also HAD to see my own tweet up on that screen, so did a couple myself :0)

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I soon found another way to find people, the shifty-over-someone’s-shoulder-look at their name badge (rather than the more embarrassing walk-right-up-looking-at-their-chest kind). Numbered tables around the room helped too of course. I did manage to find a few fellow Cornish businesses (of the 10 who have won #SBS since it began). Here are lovely Fiona from @CoombeMill and Karen from @JustBunting . I also saw @MrsCassieKemp from Cake Top Characters, and there’s a photo of us together somewhere.

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The main event began with Kypros Kyprianou, CEO of Ryman Stationary, telling us about the new sponsors of #SBS. More sponsors have joined forces with Ryman to support this fab Small Businesses group. I had a seat quite far over to one side at this point and could see the main man – Mr. Paphitis – sliding about in the wings, having a sneaky peak at Kypros during his speech!

Then, on he came, to great applause from all of us.

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I don’t think the grin left my face from start to finish to be honest, I must have looked a bit of a wally, though I suspect others may have done the same! Theo spoke with humour and honesty, and made us all feel 10 feet tall for getting the award. At one point he showed a short presentation of a few winner’s stories, and I was suddenly looking at the photo of me and the kids and newspaper headline which resulted from my Press Release when I won – cue the odd squeal from the audience, including me! Eeek that was a HUGE screen, and a HUGE surprise! I still have the music in my head too, it’s the one the used for the walking along the corridor slowly in Kill Bill! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJlu_xo79k8

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We heard some exciting new developments for the #SBS family, including pending improvements to our very own website  http://www.theopaphitissbs.com, run by fellow #SBS winner Chris Wheeler (@MetalsFrogst) and his team at Metal Frog Studios. Chris was brought on stage and gave us a run-down on the changes coming up – all of which were going to be done ‘Monday’ :0). Then came the main announcement from Theo; the arrival of the #SBS Angels. These are a group of successful business people, who were invested in by Theo via Dragon’s Den, coming together to choose one #SBS winner to receive a £50,000 investment. #SBS winners were invited to pitch to the #SBS Angels for this, in a Dragon’s Den style!

There was so much discussed, and I could go on and on. I think we were all struck by what a good speaker Theo is, and were very impressed with how long he took at the end of the presentation to answer questions from the audience (going way over the allocated time). Questions ranged from sensible to crazy, with continued golden nuggets of business advice from Mr. P throughout. He made one lady’s day with an on-the-spot decision to have the Buying Manager from his most recently acquired business, Robert Dyas, meet her to discuss featuring her British-Made cookware. This was prompted by her telling him she was banging down doors trying to spread the word of her products, but many places didn’t even bother to reply to her. When she said she had felt a bit shy asking a question, he responded with “I know, I noticed you put your hand up about four times and then put it down again”.

After this, we went straight into a huge queue to have our certificates presented and meet Theo. Every lady got out her make-up & mirror! So, here is an unofficial snap of my moment with Mr. P. Of course, Buggie made it into the picture too. Theo was pleased I brought him along!

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We left, Rymans goody bags in hands, feeling buoyed up by being part of such a fantastic group. Members of #SBS have the benefit of advice from all sorts of different business people, from around the country, with expertise in a huge variety of areas. For me, relatively at the beginning of my journey, this is invaluable. The possibility of mentors offering their services to #SBS members is exciting, and this support is something most Small Business owners cannot find. I would advise anyone who has thought about entering #SBS (on a Sunday between 5 – 7.30pm on Twitter) to do it! Have a read of this http://www.theopaphitissbs.com/about/ to find out more. Twitter itself is a great network, and #SBS a wonderful group of people. Long may it continue to grow and inspire people – Thanks Theo!

#SBS Award-winning  http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk For the most fabulous Bug-Themed gifts, clothes & toys. Bright, fun & funky. Have a buzz around!!

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A Very Special Leopard

Most special toys seems to have been owned from birth, not so ‘Leopard’, the imaginatively-named BFF of my number one son Jack. I do remember the pre-leopard year, when Jack made no particular connection to anything fluffy or cuddly. He had just taken to a floppy lion, and brought him with us to Scotland, when POW, my Auntie gives him a new, spotty friend, and the love-affair starts.

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Floppy lion was unceremoniously dumped in favour of the spotty wonder. He was named ‘Leopard’ straight away. I always thought he may develop a real name as the years went by, but apart from the ‘Munnee’ phase (no idea, don’t ask), he has always been known by this simple moniker. Within a few days we realised, horror of horrors, that leopard was, in fact, a Cheetah! There was no way the name ‘Leopard’ was going anywhere by this time, so it stuck. Leopard has been part of the family ever since. He used to come EVERYWHERE with us. I know what you’re thinking, what if the worst ever happened and Leopard went walkabout? Well we thought that too, as soon as we realised how special he was to Jack. After searching high & low there was no identical leopards/cheetah’s to be found, except in the USA via Ebay for silly money. Jack was given various ‘relatives’ for leopard, which had spots, but were not the same, just in case the main guy ever got lost.

Luckily for us the only time our precious Leopard ever got lost was when he was left at the doctor’s surgery. We retrieved him, and had the talk about not taking him everywhere. I guess he outings have reduced now, 8 years later, but he is still a permanent fixture when Jack is at home. There is no way he can ever be replaced. Gone are the days when I could safely scrub him with antibacterial soap & a nail brush, his fur has gone to nothing on his back. He’s had so many repairs that his waist is tiny and he has no stuffing in his middle, making him a Leopard of two halves. We’re beyond any chance of extra fur or repairs being made, as then Leopard would not be Leopard. So, the solution has been a thick sock, made into a polo-necked jumper for the poor floppy beast!

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Leopard has a very distinct personality (and smell), and I hope he survives for many more years. He features in many pictures, as he’s always around!

If you have, or remember a special toy, or your child does, why not write a little about them and enter this competition? http://tattooedmummy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/a-special-toy-blog-competition.html

The prize is a stunning Hide-Away Rabbit puppet with mini-beast friends from http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk. You have until 9pm on 30th November to get your entries in!

So, I made it to the papers over the last couple of weeks! Now looking forward to the #SBS Event 2013 in Birmingham, and meeting some of the lovely people I have met via Twitter, as well as the man himself! Am keeping everything crossed that new winners will get the photo with Theo that last year’s winners got.

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And even better, the kids now think they are famous:

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My neighbours were joking that they now need my autograph. How funny! My new Christmas stock is coming in though and I am very happy to be able to have my favourite caterpillar back in the shop! Watch this space…… :0)

Whirlwind Week!

Well, the launch of the website went well and I have had lots of positive reaction to it. The competition was very well spread and Chris the Caterpillar was sent off to his new owner, so I was a happy bug anyway on Sunday. Once the draw had been taken I flew over to Twitter to send my weekly #SBS tweet to Theo Paphitis. Every Sunday small businesses like me are able to tweet Theo with the hashtag #SBS between 5 and 7.30pm and he then re-tweets his favourite six on the Monday evening at 8pm. I have been entering #SBS for over a year. I have tried funny, silly, serious, straight, topical and rhyming tweets to win Theo’s attention and recognition. I even made a little spoof video of Dragon’s Den called ‘Dragonfly’s Den’ with my family and was brave enough to send it to both him and Deborah Meadon!

So, that done I just carried on as normal. Often on a Monday, depending on how well bedtime goes, I am able to sneak a peek at 8pm over on Twitter and wish my fellow tweeters ‘Good Luck’ for #SBS. This time, however, my son had been on a walk with cubs and was hyper. I was reading to him in his bedroom when the phone rang. I’m afraid I just ignored it thinking I would check later who had called. The it rang again 5 mins later and I immediately panicked! Someone really wanted to get hold of me, so I had to go and check.

On the answerphone was an excited (VERY) Scottish voice. I’m sorry Ally @vital_pa but I couldn’t understand a word first time around ;0) , So, I listened again and it went something like “Hi Siân, It’s Ally Vital PA, YOU’VE WON Get on Twitter now pleeeease” This time I got the ‘you’ve won’ bit and I just went all wobbly, really! Very strange feeling. So, I looked at my phone – over 100 new mentions? That’s not normal, since I had looked about half an hour earlier and only had a couple! At this point my son was out of bed saying “What’s happened, what’s happened?”.

So, on with the computer and there it was, I had won #SBS !! So, the weird wobbly feeling got wobblier as the phone rang AGAIN. This time I had the lovely Kim @Welshroyalcrystal on the other end saying she’d called all of Mevagissey trying to get hold of me! My son immediately assumed Theo was calling me and shouted “Did she win because of Dragonfly’s Den?”. At this point I think I got a little screechy (sorry Kim) with excitement and started thinking of everything I would need to do this week. I did manage to pour myself a glass of red, as my son put ‘Celebrate’ by Kool and the Gang on o his CD player and started bouncing on the bed (yep bedtime was a bit of a disaster that night)! He also asked if I would buy him his own TV now….hmmmmm!

So now I am having a very hectic week. Lots to do, and I keep pinching myself that this has really happened. For some time I’ve been part of a supportive, exclusive group of wonderful businesses on Twitter called #SBSWIW (#SBS Winners in Waiting) who provide encouragement and exchange ideas with each other. I’m now keeping everything crossed for my fellow #SBSWIW to follow me into this new club. I am ‘meeting’ other #SBS winners every day via Twitter and I hope to meet them in reality when we have the #SBS Winners Event in November, when the man himself, Theo Paphitis will be there to offer his advice to us all.

Here’s the tweet that caught his eye:

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I feel like the new website played a part here. I was selling soley on Ebay before that. I don’t know that for sure though, and I am just pleased that Mr. Paphitis decided my shop was worthy of his recognition!

So, if you do are doing #SBS the motto remains, Never Give Up! :0)