I’ve been fortunate to have had the last week off as it was my son’s birthday, so we spent some family time together. The beginning of the week was spent doing some DIY hoping to build a decent rabbit run, as chasing rabbits around the garden to get them in at night is no easy feat, and with predators around they need to be safely locked up. So my husband and I set to sorting out our old chicken coop and adding a run extension, and with some old wood and chicken mesh made the odd little ‘den’. We’ve got some piping on order too to connect everything and make a little overground warren for them to play in. On top of this we seem to have made friends with what I thought might be a disorientated homing pigeon, but the pigeon hasn’t left so we are now naming it Amelia Earhart (no idea of the sex, but I’ll refer to it as her). Amelia has a band but we can not get close enough to read it. She’s friendly but not friendly enough to come in close enough for us to grab. But every morning she is now part of the feeding schedule, Ginger the cat, Amelia, Chickens, Rabbits, garden birds, Phoenix, Adam and me. We assume she overnights somewhere in shelter nearby but is always very close to the house, and very friendly in comparison to feral pigeons – I was worried about her survival, being a domestic breed, but so far she’s doing ok.
Another item on my agenda of things to do was to remove the pond from the garden. It’s never held fish and we didn’t see any frogs at all last year so assumed it was safe to remove the liner and fill it in, giving us a bit more land space for the rabbits. After several bucketfuls of pond water over the garden, we finally managed to lift the liner and start pouring out the remainder, only to discover what we are guessing to be a male frog lying dormant (until we rudely awoke him) in the silt at the bottom of the pond. Great. So we re-settled the liner and slowly began to refill the bloody thing with rain water from the water butt. The pond remains.
We had a nice little outing to Shakespeare Country, and a visit to the Butterfly Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon. Beautiful place, butterflies as you may imagine everywhere, along with tropical birds flying overhead, quail wandering around, and we did happen to find a wandering iguana too. I thoroughly recommend it for a day trip; take a packed lunch as there is no café on site but you are literally in the middle of Stratford town, so there are plenty of places to lunch, and the Butterfly farm is next to riverside walk, so on a good day you could have a picturesque stroll.
Of course, on Phoenix’s actual birthday we had a ‘birthday breakfast’ whereby we laid the table with a huge bright fruit salad of melon, strawberries and grapes along with banana and pineapple, with a continental choice of croissants and pastries and then also a cooked option. Phoenix was all about the fruit; he must have grown right there and then as he ate at least 4 bowls of fruit, and finished the rest off before we went out for his birthday lunch with my parents. I must admit, where we went we have been to many times. ‘The Hollybush’ on the Penn Road. It’s perfect for children with an indoor play area – not your typical soft play area, but with little wooden games and puzzles, and a small electronic amusement area with a grabber, racing car, ‘whack a mole’ type game and a Fußball. My only complaint in looking at the menu, which is vast and they always have a huge specials board, is that although they have a massive array of vegetarian dishes, there is nothing for a vegan. I had never noticed before, but everything either had cheese in it or came in a pastry that contained butter. So for a vegan it’s a bad option. I will be emailing them later… I admit I had a broccoli and cauliflower (vegetable) suet pie in the end, which was made up with a white sauce, but on the whole the pub itself is perfect for families, and the staff are helpful and friendly.
I made Phoenix’s cake (in the shape of a pigeon). It was a race against time as these days I get very little opportunity to make anything, as he goes to bed later and when he is awake he wants to help… you can imagine how messy that gets. He did help make the sponge:
I used a madeira cake mix suitable for a 6inch square cake but I actually made it in a 7inch square tin.
The normal ingredients for this would be;
250g of fat, self-raising flour and sugar with 125g of plain flour, however I used 100g – it makes it less dense and more airy, and added 4eggs. You could use an egg replacement such as Organ no egg. I bunged everything in a bowl and got the electric whisk out, as my little helper gets impatient with sifting and spooning. So everything was all in and we whisked for about 2minutes, till everything had combined and we saw the air bubbles. Oh, I hadn’t got any vanilla essence so added almond – but I love almonds. We then poured it into our greased baking pan and popped it into the oven, middle shelf, Gas 4 for about 1hr 15minutes. It came out perfect and I set to carving a shape whilst Phoenix was having an afternoon nap. Cake carved, head formed, I secured the head in place using a dowel, but you could easily use a lolly pop stick, and covered it in buttercream/frosting. I then rolled out about 500g of white icing and stretched it over the shape, cutting the wings out separately with the leftover icing, in the shape of comma. I stuck them on top of the icing using a little water applied by my finger. Once in place I ran my wet finger over the edges of the wings to smooth them into the body so they didn’t stick out. I indented two small circles with my little finger where the eyes should be, and put two blobs of black icing in, along with a little cream rolled eyebrow. I then made the beak and stuck that in place with water, however I had to place some kitchen roll/tissue paper on a cup underneath the beak to hold it in place until it set. Then, using a watery brush and bit of black food colouring, spotted on some pattern. Adding coloured coconut around the pigeon. It was the quickest novelty cake I’ve ever made, against the clock before Phoenix woke up and spotted it or stuck his finger in it! Not bad for an hour’s work.
Anyway, birthday all done and dusted, lots of fun was had. He liked his cake, played with his new guitar and play-dough factory, and generally stuffed a lot of cake like every child should on their special day.