The lion guinea pig – wot so funee?

I know there was a series of wot so funee? posts that I wrote a while back which were always mentioning Thunderbirds. Well Andrew is still very into Thunderbirds and playing with his Tracey Island and Thunderbird toy rockets etc., but he’s expanded his repertoire to other Gerry Anderson puppet series. His favourite one to talk about at the moment is Joe 90, which I don’t think so many people have heard of. That is my impression at least when Andrew starts jabbering on to random strangers (admittedly other parents at groups and activities that we do) about his knowledge of Joe 90. They usually smile and nod and say the usual ‘oh right, that’s good’ kind of phrases that we parents do when we can’t understand another child. I think his speech itself is clear, but they don’t always understand who Joe 90 is or why Andrew is talking to them out of the blue about him. It’s quite hilarious seeing him do this to unsuspecting people who don’t know how to react. He’ll talk to anyone and everyone, no hesitation.

It’s not just strangers who get bombarded with an earful of jabbering from our little chatterbox. Grandad took him in the car on Sunday, just the 2 of them, to pick up Great Grandma. He didn’t stop chattering the whole time in the car apparently, and of course insisted that they listened to Joe 90 on the CD player, on repeat, several times! Still, I can’t feel too sorry for Grandad – it’s his fault that Andrew is obsessed with Gerry Anderson puppetry.

Now that Andrew himself is well and truly toilet trained in the daytime, he finds it funny when Joel has a dirty nappy. He’s particularly vocal about describing the mess when he sees it. I’m usually too busy trying to pin Joel down to clear him up before he runs off and gets it everywhere to really take much notice of how Andrew is reacting, but I managed to note down a classic that came out when Daddy was around too: “It’s a disgusting spready weddy poo!” A toddler technical term there. I also liked how he described one of Joel’s nappies as a “displosion” the other day. It was certainly an epic explosion, so maybe a “displosion” is one step up on the scale of explosiveness?!

Moving on from poo (you know you’re a parent of young kids when you can write so glibly about poo), Andrew is still keen to make up his own verbs from nouns that he knows. He’s been doing this for quite a while now, and at the weekend he was on top form in the garden with various sports. He told Daddy to “just golf it!”, when he was trying to get him to hit the golf ball with the club (all plastic). And recently I’ve heard him talking about “tennis-ing the ball” – i.e. hitting a ball with a bat.

We know that Andrew is very good at milking sympathy when something is up. But just recently he’s been stepping this up a little too far in my opinion. A few times now he has been loudly in tears for some reason or another, maybe he’d hurt himself slightly or got annoyed about some (seemingly insignificant) occurrence, and then he has rapidly turned off the water works and stated quite openly “I’ve finished now” and got on happily with something else. Leaving me open mouthed at what he’d just done.

And finally for this week, an insight into his imagination as a 3 year old. We have a red cuddly toy in the car at the moment, which Granny kindly gave us from their car one day when the boys weren’t happy about getting in (it was after our recent beach trip and to be fair I’d have rather stayed longer too but we knew we had a long drive home). I think it was supposed to be a dinosaur for Comic Relief, as it roars when you squeeze it. One day this week, Andrew held it up when he was getting into his car seat and declared that “this is like a lion guinea pig!” I can kind of see where he’s coming from, but it did make me laugh out loud. What do you think?

Lion guinea pig


Wot So Funee?

Birthday cakes – ‘3’s and a crowd

I still can’t quite believe that Andrew and Tom share a birthday. I know it’s a 1 in 365 possibility, but still, that seems quite small to me. This year is particularly cool because they are 3 and 30 on the same day. To celebrate, we had a family weekend with all four of the boys grandparents, two aunts and a cousin – so quite a crowd to eat the cakes that I baked. Since Andrew’s first birthday, I’ve instated the tradition of baking him, and then Joel too on his birthday, a celebration cake – do you remember the ‘o n e’ cakes, the Thomas the Tank Engine cake and the racing car cake? Most years I’ve baked Tom a cake for his birthday too, though usually just a plain cake with no fancy decoration or modelling involved.

This year I wanted to make a special cake for both birthday boys, and include a number 3 on both cakes. I should say now that this wouldn’t have been physically possible if we weren’t living at Granny and Grandad’s house and therefore have extra pairs of hands to entertain children, go shopping for ingredients and clear up afterwards.

Along the same train of thought that I had for Andrew’s ‘o n e’ cakes, I decided on a big 3-0 for Tom – after all, it is his big 3-0 birthday. And actually it’s quite easy to make a 3 and a 0 from round cakes baked in conventional tins. The 0 was just a round cake with a hole cut out of the centre, and the 3 was cut from two smaller round cakes – I drew a diagram on paper first of how the two almost semi-circle bits would fit together, so I could better visualise what I had in my head, and made myself a template to do the cutting.

30 cake

It had to be chocolate cake for Tom as this is one of his favourites. I chose a chocolate fudge cake recipe from the BBC website, which turned out to be very brownie-like in consistency. Chocolate tastes good (sorry, stating the obvious there!) but it’s a bit boring in colour, so I wanted to decorate the cake in bright colours. That’s where several packets of Smarties came into play. Granny managed to find some big boxes for only £1 each at a local newsagent, and I spent an evening sorting them into each colour (I was going to get Andrew involved in sorting out colours because he likes that kind of task, but then I wondered whether I’d end up with enough at the end?!…one for the plate, one for me, one for the plate, one for me…) It was surprising how many I needed to cover the cake in a rainbow design, because there were more of certain colours in each box, so I had to go and buy some more to have enough of each colour of the rainbow. Stuck on with some cholcoate buttercream, they gave the cakes an eye-catching finish. The final detail was a set of candles in rainbow colours that spelled out ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’.


It was more difficult to decide what to make for Andrew – he has lots of ‘favourite’ characters and vehicles, and they seem to change from one week to the next, with a few being long term such as Brum. Since living with Granny and Grandad, Andrew has become rather obsessed with Thunderbirds (or Wonderbirds as he prefers to call it). Grandad is a massive fan, and is keen to encourage Andrew in his enthusiasm for the models and puppets. So when I was thinking out loud about Andrew’s birthday cake planning one evening when he was in bed, we all knew straight away when it was suggested that a Thunderbird cake – of course Thunderbird 3 – was perfect!

I studied Grandad’s DVDs and books that feature the rocket, and made sure that I had all the bits to model and decorate the feat of engineering that was to become the Thunderbird 3 cake. All of it was edible, except for some red straws and cocktail sticks for the three shafts that run down the side of the rocket to the engines at the bottom, and some wooden skewers that held the main structure upright inside and that slid out once we’d cut into the top. The cake was a simple 6,6,6,3 sponge – 6 ounces of self-raising flour, butter and sugar, plus 3 eggs – made in Granny’s new Kitchenaid mixer. I baked it in a deep square tin and it rose to about 3/4 full.

Once the sponge was fully cooled, I cut out cylinders using a long metal cutter (actually it’s the equipment they use in fancy restaurants and on Masterchef when shaping rice or mashed potato (for example) into neat piles on the plate). I then stacked these on top of each other, sticking them together with buttercream, and then sliding 3 wooden skewers down through the layers to hold it all together. I added the straws for stability, attaching them to the sponge at the sides using cocktail sticks, and anchoring them at the bottom into a big lump of white royal icing shaped into a small cylinder for the engines. To achieve the pointed top of the rocket, I crumbled some cake and mixed it with some buttercream, then shaped the mixture (just like you make cake pops) into the right conical form.

tb cake

Then came the trickiest part – covering with red royal icing. In hindsight I should have covered the main body of the rocket whilst it was lying down rather than already stood up and fixed into place, but hey, this is the first (and probably last) time that I’ve ever made a Thunderbird 3 cake. I covered it in sections after glazing the sponge with warmed apricot jam to make the icing stick.

The finishing touches made it all come together after the stress of getting it covered in red to my satisfaction. The black stripes on the long side shafts were a liquorice Catherine wheel unraveled and twisted around the straws. Other bits of black were the same liquorice, including the small number 3s on each of the three engines at the bottom. White features were added using white butter icing piped through a rectangular nozzle, or a writing nozzle for the ‘THUNDERBIRD’ down the centre. The silver fins all the way around the centre were white royal icing sprayed with silver shimmer spray for cakes – I cut these triangles out and sprayed them earlier in the week, then left them open to the air to dry out a bit so that they didn’t flop when stuck onto the side of the upright rocket.

Finally I added three white candles, and waited to see the face on one very excited little birthday boy – it was amazing! I enjoy making these kind of cakes, even though parts of the process can be challenging, because it’s all worth it when the boys show their appreciation. The rest of the crowd were pleased with the cakes too, and I was assured that they tasted just as good as they looked (no style over substance, to quote a Great British Bake Off phrase).


I have no idea what will be on the cards for next year’s birthday cake, but he has a whole year to change his favourite characters, and Joel’s special day will come before then too. In the meanwhile, I’ll sit down with a cuppa tea and a slice of cake – we still have enough to feed another small crowd….any takers?