Oh October!

It’s October again. October always seems to be when silly season begins and then, well, it’s non stop til Christmas really.

Rehearsals are stepping up a gear for the show I’m performing in at the end of the month. We still have our little knitting corner when we’re not required for a particular scene, and generally it’s all very enjoyable.

I’ve also just auditioned for two more shows – a musical and a play – and have ended up being cast in the role I wanted for both of them! They’re like buses. I did heaps of auditions in the summer and was only cast in one and now two come along at once! Typical! Should be lots of fun though, as long as I don’t wear myself out with all the rehearsals!

As for the knitting, it continues, just very very slowly, not helped by the fact that one of the new needle tips I bought was already catching in the grain so I had to get back to the shop to exchange it. Fortunately Knitpro have a great policy of replacing faulty needles so it didn’t cost me any more.

I took a calculated approach to the remaining grey yarn. I weighed and divided it into two balls, then I cast on and knit a cuff to a length that would match the other edges of the cardigan. I weighed the cuff and the remaining yarn to work out how much I had left for stripes. Then I ripped the cuff out again and got to work. I managed to do the two stripes at the top of the sleeve out of what was left and know I still have enough for the cuffs at the end.

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I’ve started striping in the lighter grey yarn and quite like how it’s looking so far, I’m just not sure how it will look with the whole sleeve done in a different grey. Time will tell.

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As if I needed anything else to work on, I just spotted a small but solid pine coffee table outside a charity shop which I thought I could tidy up by stripping it down and painting or waxing it. We don’t have a coffee table in our living room and I’ve wanted one for ages and at only 8 quid and with some paint leftover from the desk I did a couple of years ago, it couldn’t hurt to try and see what happens. Just gotta find the time to do it around everything else!

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The eagle-eyed amongst you will also have spotted that we’ve done absolutely nothing more with the study. Still a sidelined work in progress. As is the garden currently. It’s silly season out there too as the garden is gradually getting covered with leaves and chestnuts and I remember how much hard work it took to keep on top of it last year. Speaking of which, it’s very nearly a whole year since we moved in here and I just can’t fathom where all that time has gone!

I’m still running. After doing very little over the summer it actually felt great to get back to parkrun. My times were much slower than back in July, and then I ran a couple with the boys – both of them have now run/walked a full 5k – so I was pleasantly surprised to get a new PB last week when I ran it on my own again. Unfortunately rehearsals mean I can’t do parkrun for the next couple of weeks but I’ll keep up the weekday running and get back to it as soon as I can.

The icing on the cake of October is of course Pumpkin’s birthday. He’s very into Mario Kart at the moment, since Mr Jack busted out the old GameCube – retro gaming! – so ideas on a postcard please, for how to make a Mario Kart cake without it being insanely complicated!

I must say, I’m very much looking forward to half term. The boys are exhausted from new school adjustments but they’ll be packed off to the grandparents for half the week while I’ll be rehearsing all hours. But a change is as good as a rest, and I’ll hopefully get a few lie ins.

What do you have going on in October?

Meet Toothless

Work on the Clanger has stalled, and it’s currently looking like a rather strange pink penguin.

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Instead, I have been working on the annual cake-creation for the Pumpkin’s birthday. He’s been very into ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ on CBBC recently, which is part of the same franchise as the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ films, so he decided a couple of months ago that he wanted his party to be themed along those lines, including and especially, his cake.

I thought I could get away with the easy option of just stacking a couple of cakes to make the Island of Berk, and buying a couple of figurines or toys of Hiccup and Toothless to stick on the top, which he could then keep to play with afterward, but I scoured the shops for something suitable and couldn’t find what I wanted. So that left me with the not-so-easy option of attempting to make an actual Toothless Cake! For those of you not familiar with him, this is Toothless:

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A quick scan of google images and Pinterest showed me many rather impressive creations, and some less successful ones! Fortunately, some kind person has made an excellent Youtube tutorial, demonstrating exactly how to go about making Toothless in cake form.

I started with two large chocolate mud cakes (recipe here) and glued them together with chocolate ganache (recipe here). I’ve never carved a cake before, but once I got started, and with the tutorial for reference, it was actually alot easier than I expected it to be, and really quite satisfying seeing the dragon shape emerge.

IMG_3731 IMG_3733 IMG_3737Once the basic shape was there he was covered in ganache and left to chill out in the fridge overnight.

Covering him in fondant was more of a challenge. I started out trying to cover him using as few pieces of fondant as possible, but it was really hard to roll out a 2D shape that was the right size and shape to cover a 3D cake. I tried to cover the whole tail in one piece a couple of times, but ended up doing it in 2 pieces. Once I realised that actually it was possible to blend the two pieces so you couldn’t even see where the join was, the whole thing became much easier¬† and far less daunting to do. I think I used 3 pieces to cover the body in the end, and did most of the legs separately. The head was all done in one go though, including his ears and horns at the back of his head. Once the black icing was on, he only needed a few small extra details – eyes, claws, spines, tail fins and wings, and he was all done!

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I would have liked him to have a bit more texture to his skin, but there was no easy way to do it, so he stayed smooth-skinned. I also made some cupcakes with printed toppers of other characters from the show, which complemented the cake nicely.

IMAG2857 IMAG2860I received some lovely compliments from the grown-ups at the party, including a near-commission. The cupcakes went down well with kids and adults alike, and the kids mostly knew who the cake was meant to be! But the best moment was seeing the look on Pumpkin’s face when I held his hand and brought him to see the cake laid out on the table. He happily went round telling everyone that ‘Mummy said she couldn’t make a cake like that, but she did it!’¬† If that’s not the best kind of encouragement for trying something new and challenging, I don’t know what is!?

Distractions again

Normal services appear not to be resuming.

I’ve not picked up a crochet hook or knitting needles for a good couple of weeks now. The mega-cold has at least subsided at long last, though Pickle did indeed come down with chicken pox at about the predicted time, so illness accounts for the break to a certain degree. We’ve also been away, spending time with family and celebrating various family birthdays.

I had grand ideas for a birthday cake for Pickle. He’s very into diggers at the moment, so I thought something along those lines would go down a treat. Unfortunately, given he was poxy and I was still under the weather, we had no guests to help us celebrate and eat a huge cake, so I went for something much simpler and baked some simple cupcakes with the boys in the afternoon. I dug out some fun cupcake cases and toppers, and they enjoyed helping with the weighing and stirring, and sticking the toppers in at the end.

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I also made a cake for our family gathering and my mum’s birthday celebration, but utterly failed to take any pictures of it, so you’ll just have to imagine it – think ‘death by chocolate’ and you might be close!

I’ve definitely hit a road-block in my knitting. I’m determined to get my cardigan finished before I start any new projects. I only have the button-hole band left to do. I know it will be pretty straightforward once I actually get going on it, but somehow, somehow I just can’t bring myself to pick it up and work on it. The pattern doesn’t give any instructions on how to make the buttonholes, or how to space them, so I think I’m stuck on that. I’ve looked up various tutorials online, but am still unsure how to go about it. Any suggestions gratefully received. I really want it done so I can start a new project!

IMG_3409I’ve also been a little distracted by other things – the nice weather has drawn me outside much more recently. Pickle loves to be outside, so we go out in the garden, or off to the park as often as we can. Just look at my beautiful tulips! they make me happy.

I am also going through a reading phase at the moment. I absolutely love to read, but don’t find the time to do it so much these days. Grown up responsibilities and other hobbies have a habit of getting in the way! So I tend to go through phases where I’ll read several books in quick succession, and then nothing for several months. Recently I’ve read Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and I’m working my way through the Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle, which are a tie-in to the TV series ‘Castle’ that my husband and I are watching. I’m not much good at writing reviews, suffice to say we love the series and the characters, and the books work really well alongside the TV show. I’d recommend checking it out if you don’t know it.

I’m up to book 6 in the series, which I think is the last one that’s available at the moment, so I’ll probably reach the end of my reading phase with the end of this book, and then go back to knitting so I actually have something to show you again.

What other hobbies do you have that distract you from your knitting?

Hiatus

Circumstances have conspired to put crafting on a temporary hiatus here at Jack of All Crafts.

Show week coincided with Pumpkin’s last week of term at school, which meant I was pretty much run off my feet. I usually bake a few cupcakes for my fellow castmates and crew, but between rehearsals, shows and usual term time activities, and attending all the end of term assemblies and fundraising events at school, I didn’t have the time or energy to manage even a small batch.

Pumpkin came down with chicken pox on the Saturday of the show, so the plans we’d had to go out and do things with family who were visiting rather fell by the wayside. A couple of days stuck at home with the small people had me feeling a bit cooped up and restless, but then I was struck down by the mother of all colds, and have pretty much been in bed or on the sofa feeling just awful ever since. I’ve never known anything like it! I think I’m on day 5 or 6 and it’s showing little sign of letting up. I’m almost reluctant to call it a cold, because that makes it sound so trivial, when it’s more like some kind of evil mutant megacold. I’ll spare you the details!

I managed only a couple of rows of knitting over the weekend. Mostly, just managing to breathe has been an achievement in itself. Being unable to do much other than thinking, has left me mulling over ideas for Pickle’s birthday cake. I have a vague plan in mind now, but given that it’s his birthday next week and I have nothing planned as a celebration and am a little reluctant to commit to anything as I fear he may also be down with the pox around then, vague is as far as it gets.

Oh dear. Here’s to hoping normal service might resume soon.