Tag Archives: birthday

How to make a really easy Volcano Birthday Cake

For my son’s 7th birthday he wanted me to make him a Volcano Birthday Cake. I am by no means an expert cake decorator, so I knew whatever I made would need to be really simple to put together. The great thing about making a volcano cake if you’re not an expert cake decorator, is if it looks a bit rough and rustic when you’ve finished, it all adds to the rugged volcanic charm.

A few years of watching The Great British Bake Off has given me a few ideas, so I sketched the plan and set to work. You will need six round sponge cakes. I also used my favourite kind of shop bought frosting – Morrison’s Chocolate & Brazilian Orange Frosting. It’s the best shop bought frosting I’ve ever tried and it’s well worth searching out. If you can’t find it, use whatever chocolate frosting you can get your hands on.

How to make an easy Volcano Birthday Cake

Here’s how I made my pre-historic Volcano Cake.

How to make a Volcano Birthday Cake

You will need:

6 round sponge cakes (I used 9 inch tins)
2 tubs of Morrisons Chocolate & Brazilian Orange Frosting
Dr Oetker Regal Ice Ready to Roll Icing pack of multi-coloured icing
Wooden skewers or long straws
Selection of small plastic dinosaurs
Fountain Sparkler candle
One cupcake per letter of name (eg Ben = 3 cupcakes)
Birthday candles
Wooden letters spelling name

How to build your cake:

On a large clean tray or board put a dollop of Morrisons Chocolate & Brazilian Orange Frosting and start to build your volcano on top of this. The frosting will help to anchor the cake in place.

Sandwich your six layers of cake on top of each other with a layer of the Morrisons Chocolate & Brazilian Orange Frosting in between each cake. Take your skewers or straws and push then down from the top of your volcano structure down through the six layers to the bottom, this will make the cake more stable.

Carefully using a knife, carve your cake structure into a volcano shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember if it’s rustic it all adds to the charm. Dust as many loose crumbs off your cake as you can and then start to plaster the whole cake in the Morrisons Chocolate & Brazilian Orange Frosting. Once it’s completely covered, leave it to harden a little for an hour or so.

How to make an easy Volcano Birthday Cake

Taking the red and yellow icing from the Dr Oetker Regal Ice Ready to Roll Icing pack, cut each pack of icing in half. Set aside half of each pack and with the other halves, knead them together to make an orange coloured icing.

Here’s where you can get artistic. Roll pieces of the red, yellow and orange icing into rivulets of lava and press them into your volcano. Make sure there’s plenty of lava coming out of the top and running down the sides. You might want to pool some lava at the bottom of the volcano.

How to make an easy Volcano Birthday Cake

Taking your dinosaurs and a little of the chocolate orange frosting (to stick the dinosaurs in place) add some dinos to the scene. Again be artistic; get them caught in the lava, running away from it, have them in little family groups, whatever you want.

Take your cupcakes and top with some frosting; wedge a letter on the top of each one and using the frosting on the bottom of the cupcakes, stick them in place to spell out the name. Again you can have dinosaurs around the cakes, or looking like they’re eating them maybe.

How to make an easy Volcano Birthday Cake

To finish your cake, put the fountain sparkler candle in the top (so when you light it, it should sparkle and flame like a volcano.

My son was absolutely delighted with his volcano birthday cake, and his friends were pretty impressed too. It’s surprisingly simple to put together and it doesn’t have be perfect in order for it to be impressive. I dread to think what he’s going to ask for next year!

How to make an easy Volcano Birthday Cake

How to make a really easy Volcano Birthday Cake

If a volcano cake doesn’t cut it, what about this super-simple train birthday cake?

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

Each year on my son’s birthday I like to write a blog post for him to look back on in later life. Today my son is 7 and growing up fast. He’s changing in a thousand different ways each day and each week. It’s hard to capture all the changes and all of our adventures in a few paragraphs, but I’ll try.

Dear Ben,

Today you are seven years old and growing up fast. I couldn’t be prouder to be your mum. In the last year we’ve had some grand adventures and I hope we will have many many more.

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

Being six hasn’t always been easy, we’ve been learning to live without your Grandad and we’ve said goodbye to a few special people who I know you miss. You’ve been brave at hospital appointments and you’ve taken everything in your stride. You are a star and I wish I could take every needle and test for you, but I can’t.

Seven. I can’t believe my tiny baby is now a seven year old boy. You’ve grown tall, you’ve grown strong and you’re growing into a funny, charming, chatty boy. You’re working hard at school and I can’t ask for anything more than for you to try hard and listen to your teachers.

We’ve done such fun things while you were six. Penny the crazy puppy burst into our lives and we’ve watched her grow up. We had that brilliant holiday in Ribby Hall, just the two of us, remember? We went to Lapland UK and met Father Christmas. We’ve been rock-pooling, we’ve met sharks and otters, we had that great break in Blackpool where we saw the circus, danced on the prom, rode a donkey and just had a brilliant time together. Shall we do that again?

Keep having brilliant times, keep making brilliant memories and keep being brilliant.

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

We’ve got so many hopes and dreams for you this year my love. We want you to work hard and try hard at school and to carry on reading and learn to love books as much as I did at your age. We’d like you to recognise how special you are, how kind, caring, lovely and funny you are. We want you to be confident and happy in yourself. We want you to know, really know that you are loved and adored by us.

I want you to be happy, I want you to love life and enjoy everything about it. Enjoy being seven Ben, it’s a great age to be and I hope you’ll let me join you on a few of your adventures this year.

Happy birthday my beautiful boy!

All my love, Mummy xxx

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Now We Are Six: We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

Over the weekend the small boy (who is not so small these days) turned six. This year his birthday fell on a Saturday, so we decided to throw him a party on his actual birthday, and I’m so glad we did.

Over the years we’ve had a couple of Rhythm & Rhyme parties, a couple of soft play parties and a brilliant party on a Steam Train. We like to try and do things a bit differently if we can, so we defied his instructions and booked him a “We Are Adventurers Pirate Party”. This outdoor party in a forest school was a bit of a gamble for a boy with a November birthday, but it massively paid off.

We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

For the uninitiated, We Are Adventurers is a forest school, they have them dotted about in various locations, but there’s one a few miles from our house. The basic premise is a birthday party (we had 20 kids) would spend a few hours with a couple of leaders in the woods, building a camp fire, going on a treasure hunt, running, screaming and chasing each other through the woods and then building a pirate ship out of sticks they collected from around the camp.

We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

Parents didn’t have to be there, but a few stuck around and we all watched in awe as our kids had the time of their lives. It was brilliant. At the end of the party all the kids sat around the fire eating the picnic lunches I’d made for them, and they toasted marshmallows around the fire. There were lots of children being reluctantly dragged from the woods afterwards, and most of them were top to toe covered in mud, with the biggest smiles on their faces.

We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

It was fantastic. Before we’d even got home, the not so small anymore boy was asking for the same kind of party again next year. I think that’s a birthday wish we can grant him!

We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

We Are Adventurers have a number of different party options including Pirates & Princesses, Bear Hunt, Elves & Fairies, Robin Hood, Creepy Crawlies and Superhero Adventure. They also run holiday clubs and a range of other activities.

Prices for a We Are Adventurers party start from £12 per head and you can pay extra for picnic bags and goody bags (we did our own catering but they did the goody bags). For more information visit their website.

 

We Are Adventurers Birthday Party

We paid for our party in full and have not been compensated for this post. We just had the best time, so I thought I’d share how brilliant it was.

Now we are Six – Happy Birthday Sunshine

The small boy is six today, I’ve written a little letter which I hope he will read when he’s a bit older. I’m so proud of him in every single way. Happy birthday Sunshine xx

When I picked you up from school yesterday we held hands and chatted on the way home. When we do that it’s always the highlight of my day. You’re turning into such a big boy now, I love that every day you have a handful of new and brilliant words. You used some of these words on our way home, when you told me about your day and you asked me questions about your family, the grandparents you’ve never met and never will, and your grandad who has just gone to heaven to live with the stars.

As we got close to home I told you about my day, about the birthday cakes I’d baked for your party and how I hoped you’d like them. You’ve variously asked for a Paw Patrol cake, a Power Rangers cake and a Lego cake. I hoped you wouldn’t be too disappointed, but when you saw the pirate cake I’d made for you, the only word you had was “wow” and that made my heart glad.

What a year we’ve had my son. A year of firsts and lasts, of smiles, laughter and heartbreak. The low point by far was your grandad dying. I love that every time you mention him you glance at me to check I’m ok and then you give me a hug. I asked you about your favourite things about the last year and you said school, which is nice, but then I reminded you about our first camping trip to the Just So Festival, your first foreign holiday and flight to Majorca, meeting Tim Peake and all of the lovely family times we’ve had.

You’ve grown sunshine, you’re growing up. You’re full of life and cheekiness. You’re funny and full of care for the people around you. You’re clever and you’ll go as far as you want to in life. You do things on your own terms, and I’m glad of that. Follow your own path, be true to yourself and you won’t go far wrong.

I don’t know what the next year holds in store for you, I’m hoping that it will be a good one for you and for our family. Keep being you my beautiful boy. Keep trying hard in everything you do, keep being the wonderfully loving boy you are and keep smiling that beautiful dimpled smile which lights up the world.

Six is a grand age to be and I hope you have the best birthday ever. I love you so much today. Happy birthday Sunshine.

Happy birthday sunshine

Dear son, on your 5th birthday…

Dear Ben,

I’m writing this here because you know what your dad is like for putting things in a safe place and then losing them forever. I’m sorry, I’m going to get all squishy about you now, I’m not sorry actually, because you should never be sorry for loving someone.

Dear Ben, today you are five years old. In your head you’re a big boy now, able to do everything yourself, apart from dealing with buttons, zips and fiddly yoghurt pot lids. I look back over the last five years and see what an incredible feat of development childhood is, how you’ve gone from completely dependant on me for everything, to where you are now, shouting at me because you can’t get into your pudding quickly enough.

You are awesome. You take so much of life in your stride. For most of what you can remember of your life I’ve been “poorly” or in chronic pain as the doctors call it. You can’t remember me chasing you around, swinging you over my head, rolling around giggling with you. I can.

I don’t think you mind (yet) that I can’t do those things any more, and you help me out, taking my shoes off, doing my bending and lifting for me, fetching and carrying for me. You’re a star. At five years old people think you shouldn’t have to “care” for someone else, but caring for other humans we love is part of life and part of loving someone. Selflessness seems to be an increasingly rare quality, and my son, you have it in spades. 

You are so full of love for everyone, you tell me you try and play with everyone in your class so no one feels left out, that you love everyone in your family best, and that you love dogs. Really love dogs. It’s a very good thing to love dogs Ben, dogs will be your best friend for life if you let them, you’re never lonely if you have a dog.

I can’t believe that you’re five now. Just like I won’t believe it when you’re 10, or 18 or 21 or buying your first house. Time is a horrible thing, it moves too fast when you want to grab it and hold it to your chest, like a tiny little baby, or a five year old boy, or a grown up lad with his first broken heart.

Time ticks on, runs away from you, the trick is to make the best of each moment, you might not get it right, but good enough with no real harm done is often the best you can hope for. Life is far too short to be unhappy, so be happy and if something is stopping you from being happy, change it. 

Ben, you fill my heart with so much love and happiness, your dad too. I hope you have a brilliant birthday, that you like your new bike and all of your presents, and that you enjoy having all the people who love you best around you on your special day. Keep being brilliant Ben, because you are.

Love you to the moon and back!

Mummy xxx

5th birthday

Just 365 Days until I’m 40

Today is my 39th birthday. When people ask me how old I am they do the head tilt and I’m sorry for your loss face, like my birthday is akin to a death in the family and that time is mercilessly marching on. That’s what time does, it inevitably drags you each second, each minute slightly closer to old age and infirmity.

Except I already feel reasonably infirm. I know pensioners who don’t groan with pain when they stand up half as much as I do, so I’m cool with the getting old thing, because my body is already like 75 or something.

I have 365 days left until I’m 40. I’m curious as to what the big deal is, when that magical day arrives does a fanfare sound and your boobs suddenly drop to your knees, your hair turns white and you start paying into your funeral plan? Well I’ve got news for you time, you’re too late on at least two of those things!

I’m pretty sure nothing actually happens and that 40 is nothing special any more. Thirty years ago 40 was properly old, with life expectancy considerably lower than it is now, turning 40 mean’t you probably had 25 years left, tops. These days barring serious illness or disaster, people are living well into the eighties or nineties. So chances are I’ll be creaking on for a little while yet. 

Last year on my 38th birthday I reflected on the previous 12 months and nothing had really changed. The year before that I did the same, and nothing had changed. And the year before that, and the year before that. Nothing really changed. Ok, so I’ve had to change my job because of my health, and I’ve changed my entire life when I became a mum, but time ticks on and nothing ever really changes.

I don’t fear 40, because it will be no different to 39 and 39 will pretty much be the same as 38. A friend asked me how old I’d be today, I told her I was 39, “howay pet (she’s from the extreme North), you donae look that old” and that is the hope I’m hanging on to. 

I’m not especially vain, I’ve never been a beauty so it’s not like I have looks to lose. I’ve always been the funny one who gets drunk and makes people laugh. I’ve always been the caring one who people tell their darkest secrets to, or come to for a shoulder to cry on. These things don’t tend to age, they don’t tend to droop or go grey or get wrinkles. Plus I’ve got my Nan’s “good skin” and my Dad’s don’t give a crap attitude.

So with 365 days left until I’m 40 I can honestly say I don’t give a crap. Happy birthday me; may 39 be a vintage year, full of gin and tonics, pedicures and curly wurlys. Chin chin x

nearly 40

Balance Transfer Your Life with MoneySupermarket

My family is probably fairly typical, we’re always busy-busy, always on the go, juggling work and family responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of fun, but sometimes some mundane tasks get forgotten about, or put on the back burner until someone can be bothered to sort it. I often fantasise about having my own PA to deal with all the really boring stuff like bills and paperwork, giving us more time to make cakes and go for walks by the river and so forth.

Somewhere a fairy was listening and waved her magic wand, MoneySupermarket got in touch to tell me about their “Balance Transfer Your Life” scheme (or #BTYL if you’re on Twitter). Balance Transfer Your Life is a really, really cute competition, you just tweet them your neglected job, for example, painting the bathroom, new clutch for the car or maybe a trip to see Granny in Wales, whatever you’ve been meaning to do but couldn’t either find the time, motivation or money to do, tweet them and they’ll pick ten of the best and make those dreams come true.

For our part, we chose to treat our son on his birthday. The big day was fast approaching but we’d not managed to arrange anything special, nor did we have many spare pennies to splash out on the kind of treat he deserved. Very kindly, the MoneySupermarket fairy arranged for us to go out for a fabulous meal on his birthday, complete with a brilliant cake, balloons, singing and ice cream.

We had a slap up meal in Zizzi in Didsbury, Manchester. The staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and lovely with us. Our meal was delicious, my Ravioli Di Capra was among the best I’ve had and Hubs had a Calzone which he happily polished off and said he’d definitely have again (praise indeed from my man of few words).

The small boy had a build your own pizza which looked really tasty, we’re fans of a thin base with extra cheese and he got exactly that. Then they brought out the huge chocolate lion birthday cake, the small boy loved the fuss and the cake (who doesn’t like chocolate cake?). We  had a thoroughly memorable family meal and a proper birthday treat.

balance transfer your life

Moneysupermarket started the ‘Balance Transfer Your Life’ competition because they knew that some people end up paying high interest rates on their credit card debts. Although there are offers available which let you transfer your outstanding balance to a zero per cent balance transfer card, leaving you interest free on your debt until the deal expires, it’s something which is easy to put off. Despite being a big money saver, the process of sorting it is one of those little tasks that people put on the back burner.

Things like finding a credit card with a free balance transfer, there are loads of these little niggling tasks that we just keep putting off, which is why MoneySupermarket is getting involved and offering you the chance to ‘balance transfer your life’ – no matter what the little chore is.

You can find out more about this great (and really easy) competition from MoneySupermarket on their website.

balance transfer your life

How to make a really easy Train Birthday Cake

Children’s birthday parties can be fairly hard work, with lots to remember, from party food, party bags, games, music, costumes and cake. I’m all for making life easy (and on a budget), so this year instead of buying an expensive cake we opted to make our own. The small boy wanted a train birthday cake to go with his train birthday party and who am I to argue?

Train birthday cake

To make this easy train birthday cake you will need:
Three rounds of sponge cake (as described below)
Half a jar of raspberry jam (approx), or strawberry if you prefer
Two tubs of Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream icing
Three tubes of smarties
Bigjigs trains (see below)
One cake board (or big enough plate)

Hubs is the baker of the household, so I asked him to make three layers of sponge cake. Use your favourite and foolproof sponge cake recipe (his used 8 eggs to give you an idea of the amount of sponge we made) you want to make three round sponge cakes baked in a 25cm tin. Once baked they need to be around an inch tall.

Once the cakes are cool, put a blob of the buttercream on the cake board and place the first layer of sponge on top of that, this helps to anchor the cake to the board and stops it sliding about. Spread a layer of jam on top of the first layer. Carefully turn the second layer upside down and gently spread the flat bottom with the buttercream and sandwich in top of the jam layer.

On the top of the second layer, spread evenly with more jam and then spread buttercream on the upturned bottom of the top layer of sponge, put that on top. You should have a three layered cake in front of you which from the bottom goes…
Blob of buttercream
Cake
Jam
Buttercream
Cake
Jam
Buttercream
Cake

With me so far? Good. Now you’ve got all your layers stacked carefully, spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Don’t worry about it being prefect, if you aim for the rustic look it’ll be fine. I created a wavy effect with a palette knife and the sides were rough but fully covered. If you want you can make the buttercream smooth.

Bigjigs make a sort of pick and mix name train set, I bought mine from my local toy shop Giddy Goat Toys. I bought the carriage and the letters of his name for £2.25 each, which cost me just £9 in total. This was much cheaper than buying a proper train and carriages and much more personal.

I gave them a little wash, though they’d been in a sealed box, then using a little blob of the buttercream “glued” the removable letters onto the carriages and pressed the train into the thick buttercream in the top of the cake.

Tipping the smarties into a bowl I then wrote his age in smarties on the top of the cake, then I used the remaining smarties to edge around the bottom of the cake. I was pretty pleased with my efforts.

If you do this the night before the party and leave it out uncovered overnight, the buttercream should firm up slightly and make it easier to transport. On the morning of the party I wrapped it loosely in foil and it sat in my knee in the car on the way to the party. On arrival we unwrapped it and there were no buttercream smears on the foil and it still looked good. Phew.

The cake tasted really good, but hubs does make beautiful cakes. We had lots of lovely compliments about it. It sliced into approx 24 slices, which was more than enough for a kids party.

Our lovely and quite huge train birthday cake was a really big hit, a few people thought we’d bought it (ha, always a compliment) and the small boy was really, really pleased with it and proudly showed it off to his friends. It’s a really easy way to make a simple sponge birthday cake a little bit special.

Train birthday cake

Birthday Girl (38 today)

It’s almost a blogging tradition on your birthday to look back over the previous 12 months and reflect on what has passed. I can’t be bothered, I’ve looked backwards for far too long now, it’s time to look forwards for a change, time to give what’s coming at me the hairy eyeball.

What’s going to happen…
My baby (now aged 3) will start nursery at school
I will get a bit greyer and a bit more wrinkly
My back will deteriorate a bit more
I will start a new, very part time, but very fun job
With school hours and work my lifestyle will change, along with it friendships
We will get a puppy and I’ll pretend it’s the baby I can’t have

What I’d like to happen…
I’d like to be a better Mum
I’d like to earn enough money to feed my family
I’d like to be in less pain
I’d like to laugh more and be loved more
I’d like not to be a slave to my anxiety
I’d like to watch more sunsets, hear the roar of the sea and feel the wind in my hair

I don’t think it’s an outrageous list of demands, especially coming from a girl who put “conditioner” on her birthday list. I just want to be happy, safe and loved. It’s all anyone wants I think. I try so hard to make sure the small boy feels all that, because it’s so important; as adults, as parents those things are often neglected. Or maybe that’s just me.

So happy birthday me, I’m 38, who knew I’d make it this far? Let’s raise a glass and toast surviving another year! Cheers.

Birthday girl

Happy Birthday Baby x

My Dear Benjamin,
Happy Birthday darling, you’re three today and so grown up.

Birthday boy Benjamin

Birthday boy Benjamin

You’re such a cheeky, funny little monkey. Tonight you grabbed my boob and sang “jelly on a plate, jelly on a plate, wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, jelly on a plate” it was a bit inappropriate but absolutely hilarious.

That’s you all over. You’ve got funny bones. I always say you’re the best bits of me and your Daddy rolled into one gorgeous, perfect little package. You’ve got your Dads calm, you’re clever like him too and can be quite considered; physically you’re almost identical to him, you run and walk the same, everyone says so.

You’re funny and cheeky like me; you’re a quick learner, pretty astute, but mainly just funny and laid back. Oh and your stubbornness, that comes from both of us, we come from a long line of pig-headed sods. Embrace it as the irritating gift it is, it’ll see you through some tough times one day, I’m pretty sure of that.

So, my beautiful Benjamin. You are much admired for your good looks and squishy cheeks. People comment on your gorgeous deep brown eyes with lashes that 98% of girls would kill for. They think you’re laid back and chilled, you’re funny and kind, you really are so kind Benjamin. Never lose that please.

You’ve got just the right amount of confidence. Enough so you can walk into a room and crack on with stuff without clinging to my legs, but not too much that people think you over-confident and precocious.

I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of dragging you up so far. You really are a good, easy going lad and we’re so proud of you. We’ve had a bad year and I’ve not been able to be the Mummy that you needed me to be, I hope that this next year we’ll be able to make up for lost time.

Stick to your guns and just be you, be true to yourself and always do what feels right. If you do that you won’t go far wrong.

Have a brilliant birthday Benj. You really are the best thing that’s ever happened to me and your Daddy. Keep being you.

All our love, forever,

Mummy & Daddy xxx