How old is your dog?

black cocker spaniel puppy, bertie

To redress the balance (I last posted about cats – the cat font Nekofont), this is a post about dogs.

The BBC News magazine had a great article the other week about calculating your dog’s age – apparently the old adage of multiplying by 7 just doesn’t cut it any more.

Dog Years : How do you calculate a dog’s true age?

Well, this must have been a popular post because they’ve now come up with……

The Dogulator!

Dog Years: The calculator

I gave it a try, and it appears that Bertie is 35!

Which is where the whole enterprise falls apart, of course, because comparing dogs with humans is never really going to work – no way I had that kind of energy and enthusiasm when I was 35!

Or maybe dogs just know how to enjoy life more?


How to make a Baseball Cap Cake

My daughter wanted a cake shaped like her favourite baseball cap.  And this is how it turned out.


 Here’s how I did it….

For the cake –

  • Chocolate fudge icing, I used Nigella’s recipe.

  • Enough sponge cake mix to fill a dome shaped tin.

cake  2bFor the decorating –

  • Roll out icing, pre-coloured or plain ( but then you’ll need to colour it)

  • One Smartie. Don’t worry, it’s not a waste –  you can eat the rest of the packet!

  • White icing for the logo.

  • A golden chocolate coin

  • Icing sugar for easy rolling

  1. Because she likes chocolate, I used a basic chocolate Victoria sponge recipe. And if you’re lucky enough to have a dome shaped tin, then this will be easy for you, but I cheated and used a sandwich tin, and this bowl –cake 1
  2. I scoured my cupboards and found a bowl that was slightly larger in diameter than my sandwich tin. I was sure the bowl would crack in the oven, and that I’d be off to the shops to buy a ‘proper’ domed tin – but it worked a treat! I lined it with greaseproof paper, and filled it halfway to make the domed top. And halfway brought it to about the same diameter as my sandwich tin, which I used to make the base cake to give me the height and shape I needed. cake 2cake  2x
  3. I sandwiched the base to the domed top using lot and lots of Nigella’s chocolate fudge icing. And then as if that wasn’t enough, I covered the outside too! This is great icing, completely delicious and really easy to spread. And then I put it in the fridge to chill.cake  2a
  4. Now it’s time to get busy with the roll out icing. Roll it out large enough to easily cover the dome, then place it on top, mould it to fit, and trim any excess. I made a couple of little holes by pressing too hard, but these are easily fixed by pushing the icing gently together again.cake 3
  5. Easy bit now… find a suitably coloured Smartie, and stick it to the top of your cake with a drop of water. And it might be the time to pause for a moment, admire your work, and munch a few of the ‘wasted’ Smarties. Then use a cocktail stick or wooden barbeque skewer to mark the seams on the crown of the ‘baseball cap’. The cap is divided into sixths, starting at the Smartie if you got it just in the middle!cake 5
  6. Use the cocktail stick to mark out the stitches , and the little air holes at the top of the cap.cake 6cake  6b
  7. Now roll out a piece of icing for the peak of the cap, and place it on the cake board, shaping to fit.cake  7
  8. Cut it to shape, then mark out all the seam lines on the peak.cake  7a
  9. And there you have it, all ready to add logo and details.cake  8
  10. I used a golden chocolate coin, and iced the name on there, and I used shop bought white writing icing to make a logo. cake  9

My daughter and her friends were thrilled!

The most difficult part was finding the right shaped ‘tin’, but the decoration itself is a doddle! And if you give it a try, do let me know how it works for you, or send me a link if you’ve posted a picture!

Happy Baking!


World Book Day – dressing up

World Book Day

There’s a rather curmudgeonly story by Dominic Casciani,  on the BBC’s website, where he  takes a dim view of the costume wearing side of World Book Day. He’s of the opinion that WBD has ceased to be about reading, and is now all about the dressing up.

I couldn’t disagree with him more.

Although the local schools have non-school uniform today, they also have authors visiting, and illustrators, and the day is all about BOOKS. Granted, children love dressing up, but I don’t think that’s all they take from the experience. Across the country, schools are holding special events and activities – book based activities. If dressing up adds to the excitement, then so much the better. Costumes can be home-made, or shop bought, and since lots of characters in contemporary books wear ‘normal’ clothes, they can come straight out of your child’s wardrobe.

But looking back, and ignoring the years when they were Rainbow Fairies or Disney Princesses, my girls made some really interesting costume choices. They have been:

  • Araminta Spook, a spooky little girl who lives with weird relatives, bats and ghosts, by wonderful children’s author Angie Sage.
  • Harry Potter. Yes, that’s right. Not Hermione. Harry.
  • Stephanie from Skulduggery Pleasant, a real kickass heroine, with a nice line in sarcasm.
  • And my favourite of all, complete with big red beard and an angry fairy with a frying pan – Mr Gum. I really, really loved that costume.

This year, being a lot older, the girls opted for Bella from Twilight, and Grace from the Shiver trilogy – both contemporary outfits. Not a lot of planning was involved, and this seemed to be the trend for the older children. Walking the dog, I saw several Katnisses, dressed in jeans and hoodies, indistinguishable from normal weekend clothes, not a bow and arrow in sight.

But I had to smile when I passed a Wally, of Where’s Wally fame.  Such a simple outfit. Sheer genius. And it featured hilariously in episodes of Miranda.

I’m all for dressing up for WBD. It’s fun. It’s book related. And it’s memorable, for the parents and the children.

Who knows…..maybe one day, kids might dress up as a character from one of my books…..


Homemade Christmas Decorations

All our best Christmas decorations are home made. They’re special because we put our time and creative energy into making them, often with scraps left over from other projects.

Here are a few of my favourites –

Christmas decoration, 8 maids milking

Eight maids-a-milking from The Twelve Days of Christmas carol.

The maids are peg dollies, their skirts made from paper and doilies. The cow has his own little bell, rescued from a Lindt reindeer that was consumed a previous year 🙂


He has a nodding head, and his body is made of a plastic milk bottle. Poor thing, his legs are a bit wobbly with old age, but Rudolph’s been coming out to play every Christmas for the last 7 years, which is pretty good for something we cobbled together with papier mache and a milk bottle!

The Gingerbread House.

Shiny cardboard overload on this one! We’ve got glitter, jewels, metallic card, cotton wool, and cardboard tubes all dressed up like candy canes. So over the top – I love it!

We don’t make all our decorations, but those are the ones we ooh and aahh over every year, the ones that come with memories

We also let the girls choose a new tree decoration each year, one for each of them, and I put a little label on each one saying which year we bought it. It’s part of our lead up to Christmas ritual.

I think a lot of people do this now, and there was a lot of thought and deliberation going into the choices being made at the Garden Centre last night. The girls took nearly an hour making their decision!

What about you? Do you have any special decorations, or rituals for this time of year?



Making Mondays – how to make Tree Skeleton Art with the children.

As Autumn turns colder, trees are beginning to reveal their starkly bare skeletons, and it’s surprisingly easy to make beautiful art based on these natural sculptures.

This picture was made by my daughter when she was 8.

bare tree, how to make bare tree art

Fun, effective, and you may already have the ‘ingredients’ in the house – the chief ingredient being children with lots of puff! Continue reading