Bah Humbug-ness

In this season of goodwill and cheeriness, I do wonder why I persist on pissing off frantic Christmas shoppers by joint the lengthy Marks & Spencer's queue with the intention of paying for a pint of milk. Full fat. Organic. Chichester for the first time was plunged into sub zero temperature like it had never experienced before. Six out of seven of my children caught some dreadful lurgy which rendered useless for pre-requisite Christmas tasks such as hoovering and refreshing the kitty litter. In an attempt to resurrect my blog, I am going to post random photos taken by my eldest daughter.

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Chichester Food Fare: Sneak Peek

 Still running around like a headless chicken.

Here's a sneak peek of the cupcakes I took to the Chichester Food Fare.

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Bye bye Dollies

It was a sad day all around in the Sponge household.

My son, on his way back from the beach fell off a curb and hurt his foot on Thursday. He didn't complain much about it and got up Friday morning to do his paper round. I listened to him hobble down the stairs and wondered how long it would be before I would receive a phone call from him to say that he can't complete his round.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. Slaveboy, who had been engineering at a live gig the night before crawled out of bed to pick him up. With the help of our daughter, they completed his paper round before taking him to Accident & Emergency. It turned out that he had broken a bone in his foot and the nurse was amazed that he even attempted to do his paper round.

On top of this, DumbDawgExtreme (our pet dog) ate a wasp. Maybe a spider. Something or other. His jaw grew double its size and then, he developed irregular lumps all over his body. I'm pleased to say that he is better and is back to eating tumble dryer fluff.

But, the saddest of them all was this. When we moved into our new home (which originally was my mother-in-law's), I found a box of old dolls with all their clothes. My daughters and I spent some time cleaning them up and then displaying in our Morbid Corner in the living room.

They had been living there for at least six months. Quite happily. Out of the box they had been stuffed in for decades. Over forty odd years.

Turned out, they were my sister-in-law's. She brought my son back from the hospital and spotted them for the first time.

"It's Lysette!". 

"And Rosa,"
(Excuse me?)

"And Tommy!"
(Oh, no.)

"They're mine. I was given them as a child"
(Bye bye, Dollies)

So I said, "Take them home with you."

"Don't forget their clothes."

Yeah, I know. They are fugly. And scary. And despite being told that the one in the bottom left does not have real human hair, I am still not convinced.

But these dolls drew me in.

Especially the one with the sticky head, where the plastic is disintegrating. That'll be Lysette.

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Build up to Halloween's

Uh huh. Oh yeah.

We are THAT keen.

Nevermind the laundry room is so full of dirty laundry, I fine that socks are migrating into the freezer when we open the freezer door.

Sure, occasionally we think we have visitors because the doorbell has malfunctioned and it intermittently chimes at odd hours of the night.


Halloween's next month, people Priorities!!!

Ok, so I know technically we are still in August. Details really.

So I dug out this Day of The Dead mould I was given by Thing. Yes. I said Thing. Well, to be exact, it is Thing RM. RM being Registered Midwife. I have known Thing for yonks. I got to know her on an online midwifery forum. it used to be likened to a midwifery equivalent of the online biker bar.  In its hey days, boy, didn't the forum live up to that reputation. Toys got thrown out of prams, individuals were ridiculed for the non-savvy-ness (I know that's not a real word so you can, if you choose to, close your eyes and pretend it's not there) on the subject of vegetable pakoras and I acquired my vast vocabulary of creative verbal insults from there. Seriously, how genius is 'cockwomble'? 

Oh, and of course, we discussed bucket loads of clinical midwifery 'stuff'.

That was until The Man got us to behave. 

Anyway, back to Thing. She bought me this mould for our Secret Santa project. I was really made up with it as I'd coveted it for ages. I love her so much. I've met Thing a few times. My lasting visual memory of her is of her dressed up as a witch (how apt of a midwife) from The Wizard of Oz. 

Even her face was painted green.

So today, in preparation of impending Halloween's, I started making the decorations. 

The instruction was easy. Mix a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of meringue powder and a teaspoon of water. It'll end up looking like you've got something wrong and if it does, then you know you got it right :P

So scoop the mixture up and press it into the moulds. It'll be a bit sticky. So press it in, making sure you get the grains into the dips and crevices.

Now, you don't need to wait for anything to set. Just pop them out onto a stiff card. Brush away any excess sugar and pop the card into the oven on very low heat. Mine was set at 100C and leave the door slightly open, making sure you shout out loud to the rest of the family that they shouldn't run into the kitchen at light speed. Then go get the bandages and arnica in anticipation.*

It has nothing to do with the skulls.

Do remember, do not make the oven any hotter. Any hotter, you'll just end up with a pool of caramelising liquid sugar at the bottom of your oven, and the smell will drive you crazy and rather than cleaning the mess up, you'll just end up making creme caramel instead.

Believe me. Some things you need to experience yourself, other things you really ought to just read about and take heed.

So bake it for about 20 minutes and then, just leave them out to cool.

That's the end of the first installment. Be prepared for the next one. Once I figure out the best way to decorate them. I have only made fondant version of this before and that actually created a smooth surface which you could paint on. Unlike the porous surface these babies have.

Until then, have a gander at some pictures of the Sponge family's Halloween from a couple of years ago.

They start off looking pretty fiendishly normal

Ok, so maybe if you see something like this in the middle of the night when you are calling your cat in, you might not be asking, "Are you lost, little boy?"

The smiles are deceptive, I tells ya. I wouldn't let any one of these near my pets.

Oh hang on, they ARE my pets

Terror comes in small packages

She actually gives us the evils like this often

This however, gave grown men nightmares

Please note. I didn't make my children dress like this. They came morbid that way


Homeschooling Space

So Slaveboy and I have reached a dead end again. What with seven children and home educating them all, space is always an issue. We have been trying to create a space where we could house all the home ed resources, the computer and enough working area for the children to undertake any major creative projects. We have this room in our house. It's not a spare room. It's our dining room. Currently, it's housing nine chairs, two buggies, one guitar amp, a table, a chest of drawers and a myriad of 'stuff' under the table. And fluff. Lots of the stuff. I'm sick of it. We can't even agree on the shape of a table. But I do know which tablecloth I am having though so I am pretty sure you will conclude that I am not the indecisive one of this coupledom. While this is going on, the children are growing older and if we don't watch it, they'd be leaving home before we get round to doing anything. So, I would post pictures and all but the parquet flooring needs cleaning and polishing. The fluff needs sweeping up. And I'd hate to move the guitar amp. So how do you guys who home educate do it? How does your work room look like, if you have one? If not, what's the deal? Send me pictures so I can post them up on here. Until then, I'm pretty sure having these will motivate me loads.

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Blogging for the likes of me

As you probably have gathered, I spend a lot of my time online. I am fascinated with the social networking aspect of it. I love reading other people's blogs and I am constantly inspired and motivated by other people's lives and creativity. I mean, I owe it all to the Pioneer Woman for my obsession with anything Americana. Her, and Dolly of course. If you have to ask, "Dolly who?", then you must also be one of those people who shirk away from real butter and buys veganese lard or such like. I've heard of people like you. This is where I ought to say that some of my bestest friends are vegans but that would be akin to starting a sentence with, "Now, I am not racist, but........". Talking about Americana, you guys really ought to check out Drive-by Truckers and William Elliot Whitmore. Aaaaah, William. He is like the coffee candy in a family size bag of Revels. I'd suck him from out of anyone's mouth.

Anyway, I digress. So, I started this blogging lark without fully realising the implications. I mean, just how does one take a flipping picture of yourself cracking an egg???? Since I started blogging, I have highlighted my shortcomings. You need to be able to take good pictures to make your blog look good. Lacking creativity and a good camera will definitely hinder this. Having a light box will maximise the quality of your pictures. Uh huh. Building one is no. 386 on Slaveboy's to-do list. After he buys me this for our downstairs toilet.

Slight problem with this request though. The tiles cost as much as the total amount he intends to spend on getting the toilet redecorated. So, I have a bunch of pictures that I have taken of the cakes I have made in the past few months. None of them fancy at all. I would have had pictures of the cupcakes I made for the disastrous I Am Joy festival this year. Disastrous because a strong gush of wind broke our tent canopy and destroyed my whole stock of cupcakes. And I made AWESOME looking cupcakes. The whole day was not a loss though. I got to witness Spiker's wax on, wax off Karate Kid move. She even broke my cake tongs trying to whack a wasp. I would hate to see what damage she might cause with a pair of chopsticks. One day, when we have got to know each other better, I will share with you what I likened her Vietnamese Bitesize Coffee Jelly to. Especially the sensation they create if you eat two at the same time. I do have to say that Spiker is not Vietnamese, although she is quite posh and does very English things likes make wool or something like that. Ok. So some cake pictures.

I made this one for this mischievous lil' diva.

I also stepped out of my comfort zone and made something my late mum-in-law used to make.

She used to make delicious rice pudding. I like mine a little bit runny and Mother was a little touch and go with her rice puddings. Occasionally, she used to oversleep during cooking it and it would come out a bit dense. You could have actually sliced it up into squares. And then, there was also the times when her potato salad started tasting odd. We didn't know why until a friend pointed out that she'd been growing good ol' grass (the moo cow chomping variety) in her chives pot. I loved her. She was a sassy, cantankerous lady.

And then, there was this crazy cake stack that I made for my son's 8th birthday. It was mayhem. It was in the height of summer, everything was melting, the kitchen was a smog of icing sugar and every single kitchen surface had caked-on fondant on it. I must have had only a total of 2 hours to spend decorating this cake. To top it all, I had the droopy spout to content with. Thankfully, Slaveboy helped by giving some architectural support in the form of a dowel rod insertion. Of course, there were cupcakes too.

Oh, and the birthday cake I made for Oakley. He's Slaveboy's nephew's one year old son.

I think the duck is still alive and well somewhere in a kitchen cabinet. Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

How to look like you've been doing 'stuff'.......

Slaveboy took me to Waitrose earlier today and he thought I bought lemongrass. That would've been great with the Asian fish balls we desperately need to use up. The reality is, I was merely stroking the lemongrass. It reminds me of my old home and the big lemongrass bush (?) my Mum grew. What I did buy was posh crisps on offer and shortbread made by Prince Charles. Snort. I do like other people's biscuits. Slaveboy bought girly pink roll-on deodorant for himself because he doesn't like smelling of man. I suppose he is already man enough. Double snort. Anyway, some of this blog readers might remember that a while back, I made some homemade vanilla extract. If I were tech savvy enough, I would have put a link up of said blog entry but I am sat on the sofa, holding the new baby who is dribbling on my arm and scratching away at me. This is her. Meet Harper.

Yes. Her ears are naturally like that. Back to my Waitrose escapade. I bought vodka. I was running out of vanilla extract and it was time to make some more. Waitrose had some 37.5% ones on offer.

Notice that the bottle on the left is the export variety. I'm hoping the Red Label stuff will be fine. I also bought 4 vanilla pods, they cost me about £10 but the amount of vanilla extract I will end up with actually means that it is cost effective. The vanilla pods I bought claimed to be doubly intense.

I actually got them because I liked the glass vials they came in. What a geek. So basically, I split the pods, bunged them into the new bottle. I also chucked in the old pods from the old bottle and swishes some vodka round just so I can capture the seeds caught at the bottom of the old bottle.

This actually reminds me of the jars of herbal concoctions lining the walls of the Chinese herbalist shop my Dad used to frequent. My Mum used to tut-tut at this. I doubt any of the jars actually had vanilla pods in it.

Just in case you're interested, the old pink lemonade bottle on the left actually contains Vanilla Extract v. 1. It's about six months old and look at the wonderful amber colour it's turned into. Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


I'm back! Again.

Quick one. Finally made it back to Blogshire. Excuse the absence. I went away to have a baby ;) Pictures to follow. And the gory details. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Priory Rd,Chichester,United Kingdom


Just a little mention.....

I forgot to say that for the Brighton Tattoo Convention, all the cupcakes and frostings were made with my own homemade vanilla extract. Such a colossal undertaking would have cost me a fortune in shop bought bottles of vanilla extact but by using my own concoction, I am still left with over half a litre bottle. You guys should really make your own. -- Post From My iPhone

Location:Priory Rd,Chichester,United Kingdom


Brighton Tattoo Convention

Those who know me will know about my fascination with body modifications, especially tattoos. I haven't been a religious visitor to tattoo conventions, not out of choice but more due to other commitments getting in the way but this year I am determined to attend the two which are relatively local to me - the London International Tattoo Convention and the Brighton Tattoo Convention.

The whole project started off with me emailing Woody, the promoter of the Brighton Tattoo Convention about me having a cupcake stall there. Being a complete beginner, I really had NO idea what I was dealing with and you can imagine my absolute shock when Woody said  and even went as far as striking a handsome deal with me as far as what acquiring a stall would cost me.

The month leading up to the convention involved me ordering banners, postcards and business cards for the cake enterprise, Whipped & Baked and also the daunting task of getting in touch with the Environmental Health department in order to get my domestic kitchen inspected. There was the last minute process of obtaining a Public & Products Liability insurance and also the sudden realisation that I would need sneezeguards for my stall. Then there were the cupcake cases to be bought in bulk, the Cash & Carry account to be got, the long list of ingredients that needed to be compiled, rechecked and sourced from the most economical supplier.

Two days leading up to the convention, I must have had on average 3 and half hours of sleep per night. I would start the process around 7.30pm and would crawl into bed at about 7.00a.m only to have to wake up at 9.00am on the Friday in order to get to the Brighton Racecourse to set up my stall.

 One of the two sneezeguards I had made for the convention

I love the fact we were under the Runners & Riders sign

The view across the hall as we were setting up

I did have the wisdom to make the handmade decorations for the cupcakes ahead of time as they were made from fondant. I think they look pretty quirky and cute.



And this is how the stall looked like on the day. I was pretty happy with it. It was as close to what I had imagined it looking given the short period of time we had to prepare for it. 

That is Slavie (aka he who moves heavy things for us) behind the stall









We actually did really well. Our stall caught everyone's attention and we had several photographers requesting to take photos of our cakes. We sold out of brownies and cinnamon rolls. People were repeat buying and asking us if we did weddings and where we normally traded from. Whipped & Baked's website has received more fresh hits since the convention and I am now working out the logistics of getting a stall at the London Tattoo Convention.

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