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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Barbie Cake

Hello,

Last time I blogged I was about to face the task of actually cooking a cake from scratch and turning into a birthday cake. Not just any cake but a cake birthday girl had spotted in a professional cake shop of a doll within a cake. Not a big deal for some but for me it was very scary.
So I did want any sensible person would do in a "how on earth do I do this?" crisis and went onto youtube.
Sure enough someone had very very kindly put up a how to do so at least I had an idea of where to start.
Nearly there! This was near the end, finishing touches yet to be added.
You had to make three cakes to sit on top of one another to form the "skirt" of the dress. I used a sponge recipe off the bbc website and made the three. Thank God for the mixer! I ran out of eggs mid way through and had to go back to the shops. I now know you need a lot of eggs to make sponges, I used 14 in total. So I let them cool and the next day it was time for the first layer of icing. First you need to make sure all three stack up and trim off any excess sides/tops.
Icing went inbetween each layer to keep it together. And then all around the sides. This went into the freezer for 45 mins to set. Freezer had been cleaned out a few days earlier so it fitted.

After this setting, Barbie was wrapped in clingfilm and placed in the middle. Then icing went all around and the colour was deemed not pink enough so we went darker after the picture below was taken.


A few layers and many packets of icing later it was nearly ready;

Above is the dress part of the cake. The swirly bits are to make it look like a ballgown! A tip they gave on youtube was to put paper underneath so the icing can fall on it and then at the end you can trip neatly and removed paper. I forgot to take photo of this so it looks messy in the photo.
All I can say is I learnt a lot about cake making in a very short time and I wouldnt be afraid to try again. Herself was so pleased it was worth every minute.

And while it did take a few hours to make but it didn't actually cost too much, certainly a lot less than a shop bought cake. Flour, eggs, caster sugar, icing sugar and some little ready made decorations.

Himself wants a combine for his birthday, I'll have to get practising.
All the best,
Maria

PS It tasted good!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birthday Cakes for kids, when did they get so fancy?

Hello,

I can vaguely remember my childhood birthday cakes, mainly because I had a severe egg allergy (since grown out of) and I usually had ice-cream cakes (blocks with smartie decorations, melted chocolate). But the 80s are over.... And these days cakes have gotten complicated.
And fancy.
I blame hubbie, he's a chef so cooking to him is second nature.
This is the birthday girls cake from last year:
I told him the bar had been set tooo high.


But I didn't mind too much because I figured he'd always make the cakes.
Except this years party is on Saturday and hubbie is working until then and won't have time to make cake, ahhh!
On our previous trip to Kilkenny we walked by a cake shop (near the bookstore!) and in the window was a doll in a cake. Literally in the middle. Small girl asks can she have this for her party and I happily agree confident I won't have anything to do with it, except maybe choose a doll for the middle.
Now we have a problem. I attempted to change small girls mind but there was no budging. So the job of creating barbie in a cake has fallen on my shoulders.

I have never cooked a cake in my life, seriously, maybe in school but I can't remember. I had the egg allergy as a child which meant my eyes would swell up if I was in the same room as eggs so I don't even have a memory of how to cook. When hubbie cooks I exit the room rapidly as he always attempts to turn me into his assistant (i.e. the crap jobs like peeling potatoes or washing).

I have a plan, pile a few cakes on top of each other, cut a hole in the middle, pop Barbie in and hope the icing sticks to the outside.
Here I am, ingredients bought, cake tin purchased, tons of icing packets, lots of pink cake decorations and I need to start.... Help!!!

Time to look on youtube!!

Take care,
Maria

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vintage Children's Illustrations

Hello,

I loved books as a child, I was addicted! Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, any author, it didn't matter.
When I had my own children I was determined that they too would be avid readers and not be computer game junkies. They have a large amount of books between them and we go to the library every couple of weeks. Now I don't buy books brand new always as I would have to remortgage the house to pay for the books as they can be quite expensive.
I buy a lot of them in charity/second hand shops, and I love some of the illustrations.

Here is an Enid Blyton from the 1970s. Mind you the one thing you have to watch out for with the Enid Blyton books is a lot of them were "updated" to political correctness in the last decade. I read two books from the same set recently, one was brand new and one was from the 80s, the names of the characters had even changed.
One of the first books I can remember was the Enchanted Wood or the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton and my daughter (age 6) was just as enthralled by them so a good story never goes out of fashion!

On a recent trip to Kilkenny we popped into the wonderful bookstore (its on a side street at the side of the Superquinn shopping centre, you head out as if heading to the car park and go down the hill a few yards and you'll see it). It is a great place to buy books for children as they have brand new books for 50c, books for 1 and 2 euro upwards. You can pick up a lot for twenty euro.  Here is one I couldn't resist for its illustrations, I think I'll have to frame it:
Yes its in Irish so I'm a bit lost.

I love the dresses!

Have a great day,
Maria

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aprons for Children & Sindy dolls

Hello,

Finally I have begun to list some aprons on etsy which I am slowly putting up as I am following advice that you should not list everything at once. The apron comes as part of a set, with cookie cutters, a detachable brooch and a laminated recipe for biscuits.
Its my favourite receipe as its easy to do, tastes yummy and it can be adapted in so many ways.
We've have made it into jam biscuits, Christmas biscuits and iced biscuits of all shapes and colours.


I had great help from my daughter who modelled each apron patiently. I have promised her a couple of brooches as a present in return!


She didn't want to stop at the end, suggesting different backgrounds!

I also managed to sort through dolls the last few days, have filled a large box to sell. If I need to raise funds for something I do a purge and out come the least favourite (or most valuable!). If I do this on my own I fly through it but the other day I had my "assistant" (my daughter and her title) so there was a lot of wrestling going on as she created a third pile for herself for me to to give to her as presents in the future. You can't blame a girl for trying!

Don't worry Sindys you're staying put
Have a wonderful weekend,
All the best,
Maria

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Pictures for Etsy

Hello,

I may have mentioned before that I have been very lucky with my dolls shop on etsy but have yet to make a sale on my home decoration shop on etsy. I have sold items outside of etsy so this has kept me motivated.
So to improve things on etsy I have decided I need to upgrade my photos as to be honest a lot of them were not very good to begin with. Outside I went and managed to take a few before the rain came down! I think they look much better than my previous shots.
Bunting for Girls

Also I am adding some new products, aprons for children. They were getting the washing machine test today to make sure no colours ran. I do wash the fabric before use but I wanted to be extra extra safe. I finally got a break in the rain so they made a very pretty picture on the clothes line.  Hopefully I will get a sale soon!


All the best,
Maria

Monday, April 16, 2012

Holidays Over & Shop Local /Handmade Rant

Hello,

Easter is well and truly over. Schools are reopened. Its amazing how quickly you get into a routine again. I was enjoying the no pressure mornings though! Getting everyone dressed and out the door on time is a work out in itself.

We had a great visit to the zoo last week. I had my free vouchers with me which was lucky as it seems to go up in price every year. But its a real day out, mind you I think little people were as impressed with the playgrounds as they were with the animals!!


Last week I took part a consumer survey/meeting which was all about grocery shopping in the local area. It was held by a huge mutlinational supermarket to (I am guessing here) as to why they have lost business in the area.
The main reason seemed to be (poor fresh food and meat selection aside) was price. Obviously the dreadful economy and increased taxes and prices have affected all of us and the shopping habits of most Irish people have changed.
But what I found worrying is that no one (except me and one other) gave a thought as to the origin of any of the items they purchase. I have to admit this did surprise me a lot as I would have thought especially in the middle of the countryside that consumers would buy their meat and fresh fruit and vegetables from local sources.
I think the same logic follows through for handmade items. There is an automatic presumption that buying local or buying handmade is going to cost you a lot more. In most cases this is not true.
We really need a pro-active goverment and a lot of media focus on this issue.
I suppose all we can do is spread the word as much as possible!

All the best,
Maria
PS. If you are a meat eater, please do try your local butcher, most of the meat is cheaper than the supermarkets!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Aprons and Brooches

Hello there,

Sorry have been a bit neglectful of my blog as its the school holidays so I don't get too much time
too myself. I am sure I am not the only one!
I have made some children's aprons which I had great fun making as there is such lovely fabric out
there for children.


I am in the process of putting together little brooches which are to go on the aprons at the top, to make the aprons prettier!
I cut out lots of shapes using fabric and felt. I used cookie cutters and with tracing paper patterns to make the shapes. Now the matching and sewing begins...

Hopefully I will get these finished this week, but I am not counting on it as there is a trip to the zoo in my future!

All the best,
Maria

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter "Tree" - Prudent Easter Decorations

Hello,

The children are on school holidays for Easter so we've being doing a lot of craft work to keep them busy. We've made pom pom carrots and bunnies and paper plate lakes for the tiny chicks to swim in, and we've more to make yet, the Easter Bunny will be very impressed...

Here's one of our more "professional" efforts:
This is our table centre piece for Easter. We went for a walk in the garden and cut lots of branches from various trees. One side of the garden is a native hedgerow so there is plenty of options for cuttings.
I originally intended to cover the cuttings with ribbon but I decided they looked nice in their natural state. The eggs are a set of 12 polystrene eggs I bought in Hickeys for Euro3.50. Some have been painted and some have been covered in paper cuttings. I cut out some pretty floral pictures from old magazines and we glued them onto the eggs. The children are very proud of them! I threaded them using embroidery thread and a very long doll needle.


Bear in mind some are painted by small kids! We used paints we already had and old magazines so the only cost was eggs, so these are very prudent Easter decorations.

The little white one with blue writing on the bottom right hand side is one I picked up years ago in Budapest. We were on a short break and it was Easter time and so many shops had beautiful window displays for Easter. There was so many impressive Chocolate displays (reminded me of the movie Chocolat) (the kind that would make your mouth water!) and beautiful hand decorated eggs everywhere. So much work and pride had gone into the displays, they were wonderful.  Maybe someday I'll get to go back!

Am off to find a recipe for hot-cross buns.

Take care,
Maria