Tag Archives: Star Wars

Proudly nerd parenting

I was going to write a long and edifying post on the trip to the art gallery we took this afternoon, but then I decided that the salient points were neither the wonderful free museums nor the exorbitant prices of the food in said museums nor even how the children did not express a newfound love and appreciation for art, but simply the following two episodes.

I took Mabel into the bathroom and had a proud moment as she remarked, in her clear piercing voice as I hung out in the two square inches available in her stall, “Mummy, it’s hard to decide who the main character in Star Wars is.” Then we discussed whether a baddie could be the main character, how there aren’t often girls as main characters, and how (and whether) both Anna and Elsa could count as main characters in Frozen. If you have to have a long conversation with your pre-schooler in a public bathroom, all this rates a lot higher than a repeated chorus of “Have you finished?” “Now have you finished?”

But my nerdly pride was not yet satiated.

After a quickish look at the French Impressionists and some other British and American artists (not too bad considering we mostly let the kids direct what we looked at and how long for), it was time for lunch. After sustenance we were planning to go on to the modern-art side of the museum (though it turned out to be mostly all closed, so we didn’t) and I was trying to explain how this would be different and, you know, interesting.

“After a while artists stopped trying to paint what looked real and started painting other things,” I said. “So you could look at a picture and say what you think it looks like, but there’s no one right answer.”

“Oh!” said Dash, not quite getting the point, but ready to apply it to something he had heard about recently from his father. “Like that thing in Star Trek when there was a test the captain couldn’t get right because there was no right way to do it?”

Now, your nerd quotient might not be high enough to recognize this as a description of the test in Star Trek II (The Wrath of Khan) called Kobayashi Maru, but I’ve been acquainted with my husband long enough to know exactly what Dash was talking about, even though I couldn’t swear to you that I’ve seen the movie. (Not while awake, anyway.) But I pretty much brimmed over with vicarious pride (B had gone to the bathroom when this happened, so he couldn’t do it himself) in my well-schooled little nerdling.

I like to think we’re just keeping that whole discovery-of-art thing fresh for them so they can impress the opposite sex with their sophisticated prints of Dali and Klimt on their college dorm walls. Whereas knowledge of the Star Wars and –Trek universes will stand to them much earlier.

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Yoda cake, or overachieving for dummies

At some point yesterday I had an existential crisis. “I don’t even know who I am any more,” I found myself thinking. “Where has the old me gone?”

The old me, who swore she only made round birthday cakes with icing in the middle and on top, and possibly a shake of sprinkles. The me who didn’t do fancy themed parties. The me who scorned such things.

And yet, here I was carving out Yoda ears from a layer of sponge cake and writing names on Jedi training certificates and carefully placing sprinkles with a tweezers. I hang my head. Not only that, I was doing it all for the second year running. So I can’t call last year a fluke any more. Apparently this is the person I have become. I’m sorry, everyone.

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Dash will turn seven on Wednesday, and we had his party yesterday, because when you have a midweek birthday you get to choose which weekend you want, and any child worth his salt will obviously choose the prior one. He asked for another Star Wars party, just like last year, and in a fit of enthusiasm, I suppose because that meant I had everything else all figured out already, I said, “I can make a Yoda cake.”

Right then. One Yoda cake. It turned out to be much less stressful than last year’s light saber cake, mostly because I didn’t bother looking for the organic food colouring and because pale green is much easier to pull off in buttercream than bright red. And just in case you want to make a home-baked, non-professional- style Yoda cake for your own six- or seven- or thirty-seven-year-old, this is what I did.

First I baked a regular birthday sponge in two 9-inch pans. The amount in my recipe would have been better in 8-inch ones, really, but 9-inch is what I have. I knew the kids would be more interested in the look than the taste, and with nine children at the table, there was plenty here. (I did this part the day before.)

Cake batter in bans
Not quite enough batter

I used Nigella’s birthday buttermilk sponge recipe (not online, but from How to be a Domestic Goddess), as I did last year, but you can use any one you like, or a box mix, or make it chocolate if you prefer.

 Cakes cooling on racks

Then I looked at some cartoon-y Yoda images online (like this one) and cut myself two circles of paper the size of my pans, to figure out how long I could make the ears out of one circle. (The first circle was going to be the head, obvs.) I used the paper ears as a template to cut the sponge, once it had cooled completely. I made a couple of moons/asteroids/distant DeathStars out of some of the rest.

Circular cake cut into Yoda ears and two moons
Making ears

Then I realised I had no plate the right shape for this creation, and just like last year, I Blue-Peter-ed a used cereal box and some tinfoil into a nice long shiny platter. Here are the head and the ears in place.

Yoda head and ears in place on "platter"
Naked cake

I mixed up some buttercream icing – not quite enough, because of course I had stocked up on butter but forgotten to make sure we had plenty of confectioners’ (icing) sugar – and used a tiny spoon to make sure I didn’t drip too much food colouring in at one time. I think two drops was enough, and I still have a green fingernail this morning.

Then I plastered the buttercream all over the head and ears, covering up the joins and evening out the slight height differences.

Yoda head with green icing
Green cake

(I ran to the supermarket for more sugar and made up another little batch for the moons. It turned out I had no other working food colouring so I just kept them white.)

At this point I was quite pleased, but of course I still had the “artistic” part to go.

I used the tip of a butter knife to draw eyes, the indentations in Yoda’s ears and the lines around his mouth and on his forehead. Then I dipped the knife tip in hot water and found that made a much cleaner line, so I went over the eyes and wrinkles again that way.

 Yoda head with eyes and mouth marked

I used green sugar (find it in the cake decorating section of the baking aisle, with the sprinkles) for the ears and put chocolate sprinkles carefully – yes, with my tweezers – in the lines to make the eyes and mouth. (Laugh if you will, but I had an empty house and was blasting Pandora on the Duran Duran station. I know how to live it up.) I used a little bit of the uncoloured buttercream for the whites of his eyes and a chocolate chip for each pupil.

Decorated Yoda cake

And I decided to leave it at that before I messed it up completely.

Candles lit
Mabel is eyeing up the moon she wants to eat

I put the candles in the moons, so they were good for something after all.

Consumer index

I panicked at Target this morning.

So many of Target’s success stories probably start out that way. And by success stories I mean times they parted people from way more of their money than they went in intending to be parted from.

So I went in to get a pack of crayons for Dash (yes, we have eleventy million crayons in the house, but he needed a new pack for school, and taking some brand-new practically unused crayons out of our big box and putting them into a smaller box would not do, in spite of the fact that he and his sister scorn everything but markers at home but I digress) and maybe a couple of other school supplies his teacher said they were running short on (scissors; how do kids run out of scissors? What are they doing with them? Using them to cut up other pairs of scissors?) and some toothpaste because he won’t use the new “clean squeeze” tube I just got because it’s too minty, damnit, even though he likes mint, and then I thought maybe some new bathtub foam letters for Mabel to keep the grand universal scales of “you bought something for one child” level…

… and then I got to the Star Wars section of the toys and suddenly worried that Target would stop promoting Star Wars all of a sudden, because maybe something else is the next big thing and now that Disney has Star Wars (even though with JJ Abrams at the helm everyone knows that it’s going to be absolutely the thing to see, but maybe the 6-year-old set aren’t so well up on JJ Abrams’s oeuvre, not having watched all of Alias, probably) perhaps the cool kids won’t want lightsabers by April so I bought the damn Darth Maul red double-blade lightsaber that Dash has been begging for since some time last summer.

(I got into big, huge, trouble with him one night a few weeks ago when he suddenly remembered that he had thought he might get one for Christmas and then he didn’t, and I was the worst, cruelest mother on the planet (and probably also on Alderaan and Tatooine) for not giving him a double-blade for Christmas when I had promised I would (note: I hadn’t) and I should go out the very next morning and get him a double-blade to make up for it and when I wouldn’t agree that this was clearly the correct way for me to atone for my sins, he threw a long, long hissy that still gets revisited from time to time when he remembers to be very upset about the whole incident.)

So there, fine, now he’s getting his double-blade for his birthday (at the end of April; never say I don’t plan ahead), because you can’t just go out and buy people big presents when it’s not Christmas or birthday or the culmination of some long-worked-for sticker-chart extravaganza.

(In related news, Mabel is plotting how she can get another baby sooner than her November birthday. She asked me the other day if we could do another star chart for her using the toilet, since that worked so well the last time. I pointed out that she knew how to do that now, so no, that wouldn’t work. I wonder how I can leverage this desire of hers into some sort of necessary behaviour?)

But despite having the entire cave of wonders at my child-free-browsing disposal, I still didn’t manage to find anything nice or unexpected or quirky or even predictable to give my beloved husband on the occassion of tomorrow’s Annoying Hallmark Holiday. Looks like he’s getting two delightful children. Again.

Hey, this year they’re potty trained. It gets better.