Archive for October, 2010

Warning, not for arachnophobes!

I was asked to make a cake for a friend’s son’s first birthday – which is today. So they wanted something Hallowe’eny. So I rather recklessly decided on a spider web cake.

The cake itself is a sponge, half dyed red, half black (the black half is chocolate flavoured) marbled together. The middle is sandwiched with red buttercream (left over from the ladybird cake and stashed in the freezer). I iced it with fondant icing which I coloured black (grey palms ahoy!) and then piped on the web with white icing and a writing nozzle. This is much easier said than done, which is why I described this as ‘reckless’, considering this is my fourth decorated cake.

Then I made a spider with black fondant and a bit of strawberry lace – they aren’t nearly as red as they used to be – something about artificial colours being bad, or something. I finished it off with fangs, which are minute and getting them to stay in place involved a very long time on my knees with a cocktail stick. But the cake is done and the parents are pleased with it, and so am I.

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Katy chose the Weekword this week, and picked the very Hallowe’eny ‘eldritch’. Check out her blog to see who else is playing this week.

I looked up the derivation of ‘eldritch’ and it comes from words meaning ‘other’ or ‘strange’ and ‘realm’ or ‘world’ – so, strange and otherworldly. Hallowe’en, of course, is the time when the ‘other world’ is closest to ours and things unspecified can move between them – ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night.

So, here is a little something otherworldly that’s been in my head. It’s not really a story – more a snippet of one. I’m not sure where it came from or what, if anything, it’ll turn into, but to make a change from my normal posts, here it is.

For as long as she could remember, she’d seen pictures. When she was little, she would lie in bed and stare at the flowery paper on her bedroom walls until she saw castles, horses and ladies with incredibly long, flowing hair. She had always seen patterns and pictures in the clouds – maps of strange lands, unicorns, even giant water lilies floating above her. Faces would appear out of wooden panels – a knot hole would become an eye, an uneven surface a jaw. She saw pictures in puddles of oil on wet roads, the tracery of bare branches against a grey winter sky.

So it was natural that as she lay on her stomach in front of the fire, she started to gaze into the flames, looking for pictures. As the wood in the grate spat and crackled, and the red and orange flickered, she started to see shapes form – first a mountain, which fizzled away as a log shifted. As she lay by the fire, more pictures appeared, moved, and faded. And then a new image formed – a face. She continued to stare into the flames and watched as, instead of disappearing, the face grew clearer, more defined. Although definitely still part of the flames, it seemed somehow to be more than that – more solid, almost three dimensional. It was a man’s face – lean and long-jawed, with heavy eyebrows. She started to feel a bit uneasy – this was not the sort of picture she was used to. Another log shifted in the base of the fire, and the shape of the flames moved, but the face didn’t flicker. It remained there, looking out at her as she lay, frozen, looking at it. And then, slowly, it closed one eye.

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The frosts have started…

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With a small person’s birthday comes a demand for cake. The Little Girl is extremely fond of cake and when asked what she wanted for her birthday would invariably answer, ‘Cake!’. Ladybirds are one of her favourite things so I somewhat rashly decided to make her a ladybird cake.

I am quite experienced at making cakes but have decorated precisely two (2) cakes up to now: a Christmas cake and a birthday cake shaped like a drum. So, this was an ambitious undertaking. I discovered online that it is possible to bake cakes in Pyrex bowls, so that gave me an idea.

My sponge cakes are never high-rise affairs, so if you make light, fluffy sponge you may need less cake mix (or end up with a fatter ladybird. Or more off-cuts). I made up a 4 egg sponge, and divided it between two Pyrex bowls (one large, one small) lined with greaseproof paper, so that each was about a third full. I baked them for about 40 mins for the large and 25 for the small (your mileage may vary, of course, depending on the size of your bowls). I baked another 4 egg sponge in a rectangular tin – mine was 11×8 inches.

So much for the easy part – now for the engineering. The rectangular cake was covered with fondant icing dyed green (I love my colouring pastes, by the way – I’ll never go back to liquid colouring). Then I cut a semi-circle out of the the small cake so it butted up to the big cake. The big dome cake was iced with red buttercream and went on top of the green cake. The small dome was iced with fondant icing dyed black (which took a lot of dye, a lot of kneading and gave me grey palms) and put in place. I then used the lid of a smoothie bottle to cut out the spots and the eyes, again from fondant icing. The antenna were fashioned from fondant and reinforced with cocktail sticks. Then I added a name in white icing and three candles. I was very pleased with how it turned out – in fact, I did a victory dance round the kitchen – and the Little Girl’s face lit up when the cake was brought in. I made Mr Sow and Sew cut the cake, though. The eyes which I had thought were cute suddenly looked rather pleading and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

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Weekword: Joy

I was tagged to choose Weekword this week, and as I was in a cheerful mood on Monday, I picked ‘Joy’. And when deciding what to write about, it was a no-brainer. Three years ago today, at 8.05 a.m., this little lady came into my life:

And in the whirlwind of emotions that has resulted from her arrival (and that of her brother) – among the exhaustion, frustration, amusement, surprise, anxiety, wonder, excitement, elation and all the others – there have been many, many moments of joy.

I look at this little person and realise that she’s part me, and part Mr S&S but mainly her own little self. Seeing her grow and learn has been a joy: her first smile, first word, the funny things she does and says, the way she sees the world – everything new, everything to be marvelled at. Rainbows are discussed for days, pebbles and shells are carried around like precious jewels, acorn cases are ‘fairy cups’. When she comes for a cuddle and picks up my arm to wrap round herself. When she tells me, ‘Mummy, you’re my best girl’. When she points at a hippo in a book and said, ‘Look!, a hippohoppamouse!’. When I’m ill in bed and she comes in with a ‘cup of tea’ in a teaset cup and saucer. And so, so many others.

So, happy birthday, Little Girl! It hasn’t been easy and I’ve felt like I’ve been learning as much as you, but you are a joy and being your mummy is a joy.

Here are the others playing this week – go check them out. And if you’d like to play, it’s not too late, just let me know and I’ll add you to the list!

The Scribbler

I tag Katy to pick next week’s word… check out her blog on Monday!

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I made these for the Little Girl to take to nursery tomorrow (it’ll be her birthday). They’re mini vanilla cupcakes, because in my experience small children prefer icing to cake anyway, and they’re topped with vanilla buttercream and dolly mixtures. I had great fun with my colouring pastes, and then played with the colour combinations of the buttercream and the sweeties.

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It’s getting to that time of year again. We don’t have broadcast TV Chez Sowandsew – we have a set and a DVD player, though, and it’s during the colder months that it gets most use. So I have found myself thinking about curling up with a good film of an evening. Here are ten films that I could happily watch over and over again. They’re far from being the best films ever made (well, most of them are) and they’re possibly not all films I would pick if I were only allowed ten films for the rest of my life (although some of them are). They’re just films which I love, know almost backwards, and am always happy to watch. With one exception, they’re quite cosy films, like a warm jumper or a snuggly blanket. So, in no particular order:

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Because it’s clever and silly and touching and completely mental. Which is not something one can often say about a film concerned with serial murder, but there you are.

Dirty Dancing
Yes, it’s a cliche that all girls like Dirty Dancing. I don’t know if they do – but I do. Terrible script aside, it’s just brilliant. The music! The dancing! The villainous villain! The dramatic-yet-romantic denoument! Great stuff.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen this film. I love it. I love the ideas behind it, the attention to detail, the fact that it deals with real human truths yet takes itself not at all seriously. Also, it’s funny. And the kiss at the end is one of my favourites in all of cinema.

Galaxy Quest
I took some persuasion to see this as it looks like a sci-fi film and sci-fi isn’t really my thing. But Mr Sowandsew was convinced I’d like it and tried every tack. ‘It’s not really sci-fi!’. ‘You’ll like it, honestly!’ ‘Look, it’s got Alan Rickman in it!’ So I watched it. It’s very good, very funny, and yes, it has Alan Rickman in it and he steals the show. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it. It’s not really sci-fi. And it’s got Alan Rickman in it.

Need I explain? ‘We’ll always have Paris…’

Brief Encounter
Oh my Lord, Brief Encounter. I’m misting up just thinking about it. ‘I’ve been so foolish. I’ve fallen in love. I’m an ordinary woman. I didn’t think such violent things could happen to ordinary people.’ Sniffwailsob. So heartbreaking – high drama but so very, very English.

V for Vendetta
The odd one out – it’s not cosy or comforting. It’s dark and violent and dystopian and occasionally very nasty indeed. But it’s really clever and thought provoking and brilliantly written, and I’ll never get tired of it.

Strictly Ballroom
Oh, this is fabulous. The acting is wobbly in places and the chemistry between the two leads is almost non-existent, but it’s still wonderful fun. Something is rotten at the heart of Australian Ballroom Dancing. Hilarious costumes, brilliant one-liners and some fantastic set-piece characters. And flashy, crowd-pleasing moves, of course.

OK, lots of the reason I like this is because I want to be Juliette Binoche and I wouldn’t turn Johnny Depp down. (Um, I mean, if I were still single, of course…) But it’s a lovely film. It has toned down a lot of the sting of the book, which makes it that bit fluffier, but also cosier and rainy-Sunday-afternoon-ish.

The Princess Bride
Pure silliness, but I defy anyone not to love this fairy tale. Brilliant cameos (including my favourite by Peter Cook) and eminently quotable lines.

I’m now really looking forward to snuggling down with a DVD one evening…

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New Weekword!

Mandy tagged me to choose this week’s word. I’m feeling quite cheerful today, so the word is:


Comment here if you’re playing, and post your contribution on Friday – I’ll post links to all the players. Have fun!

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What’s the first thing that comes into my head when I think ‘Temptation’? Well, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, it’s the discotastic (and high pitched) track of the same name by Heaven17. (I am now aware that readers of a certain age will now have ‘Higher and higher… Temp-ta-tion!’ going round their heads. Sorry about that.) The second thing that comes into my head is the line from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde: ‘I can resist everything except temptation’.

And that’s the point, really – that temptation is really meant to be resisted. If you follow the prompting of temptation then you are ‘giving in to it’. Temptation is about the illicit, the forbidden – the first temptation being the fruit from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. (Small digression – did you know that nowhere in the bible is it said that the fruit was an apple?) One is never ‘tempted’ to take out the rubbish, or give money to charity. We’re tempted to have another muffin, or buy the cute nail varnish that we don’t really need, or stay in bed an extra hour.

But then, a lot of the time the only person making the rules is us. The voice saying, ‘I really shouldn’t…’ or ‘I really should…’ is ours. Obviously, it’s not healthy to eat all the muffins, spend money we don’t have, fill our houses with loads of unnecessary stuff or stay in bed so long we never get anything done – but perhaps, sometimes we should answer back to that little voice, because sometimes it gets it wrong, and the ‘forbidden’ and the ‘illicit’ really isn’t – or shouldn’t be. ‘The nail varnish is money I can easily afford and having fuschia pink toenails will make me smile, so actually, I really should’.

Mandy chose this week’s word – when you’ve finished here, pop over to her blog to see who else is playing.

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I started doing Pilates when my daughter was six weeks old. I actually had my six week check and my first Pilates class on the same day! My friend D had rhapsodised about Pilates and how good it was, and I loved it from the first class. So, as I approach my third Pilates anniversary, here are ten things about my experience of Pilates.

1. I like the fact that you go at your own pace. The teacher demonstrates the sequence, does the first set with us and then we’re able to work our way through it at our own pace and speed. This means I can really focus on what I’m doing as I don’t need to watch anyone else.

2. It really is cumulative. Some exercises seem impossible the first time you do them, but eventually they become manageable, and then finally quite straightforward. And the brilliant thing is, the exercises all link together. So you will do exercise A and it’ll be really hard. Then you may not do it again for a few weeks, but then you do exercise A again and it’s easier, because exercises B, C, D and E have made the muscles you need stronger.

3. I carried on going to class until I was 36 weeks pregnant with the Little Boy. Obviously, by the end I couldn’t do anything that involved lying on my front or my back, and I took everything very gently, but it was still brilliant to do the stretches and the standing and side lying exercises. I have no way of knowing whether the fact that I had an 80 minute labour and phenomenally quick recovery had anything to do with the Pilates, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

4. It’s fantastic for my back – this is one of the big plusses of Pilates. Strengthening the core muscles protects your back. It also dovetails well with osteopathy: for a long time I’d get early warning in class that things were stiffening up and it was time to see the osteopath, but a few months ago, my osteopath could tell I’d missed some Pilates classes just from the state of my back.

5. Although she’s very nice, I think our Pilates teacher has a small sadistic streak. ‘I expect you’d like this to be your last set, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Eight more, because I know how much you love these…’ She’ll count to eight for your planks and then initiate conversation between five and six until somebody howls, ‘Nobody talk to her!’ When I had the Little Boy, the girls from my class sent me a card. She wrote, ‘Congratulations! Zip up! Love Lucy xx’

6. It’s really easy to work to your level and within what your body can do. All exercises can be adapted to make them easier or more challenging. Our class has young dance teachers, people with injuries and women in their seventies, all tailoring the same exercises.

7. On the two days after a class I can usually feel the effects somewhere. Often it’s the abdominals (although less so as I’ve done it for longer) but the bottom, the thighs and the backs of the shoulders are other common hit points. If I’ve missed a few classes then after the first one back the ‘after effects’ are more noticeable – and often involve creaking and groaning.

8. I used to hate my upper arms. I don’t any more.

9. Our teacher always jokes about how we can practice at home, but recently I have started doing just that. Not big sessions, but five or ten minutes here or there. It’s quite a good way to see if I can manage a harder version before trying it out in class…

10. Even though I frequently feel like I’m dying during class, and ache for a couple of days afterwards, I do everything I can to avoid missing classes. I really love what Pilates does for me, what I find I can make my body do – and having an hour to concentrate on doing it. I can’t imagine ever giving it up.

Any other Pilates fans out there? Or do you love another form of exercise?

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