everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Trick or Treating

So, yesterday was Halloween – the one night of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up at your neighbour’s door and demand lollies. I was lucky to be invited by some of my nieces to join them as they toured their neighbourhood and collected a bizarre assortment of candies in big buckets shaped like pumpkins. Good times.

The main unofficial rule of the evening are that you can only stop by houses that have decorations outside, showing that they’re on board with the whole idea. Although even the decorated houses participate in different ways – some welcome you to their door and personally hand out treats (with a few even making their own lolly bags), while others leave a basket outside the door or gate with a sign that optimistically suggests that you take ONE ONLY, and then there was the man who didn’t even open his security gate as he struggled to pass the kids their chocolates through the bars of the fence.

We had a good time and got a great haul of jelly body parts, eyeballs, jelly pizzas, sherbets and even some sugar-free lollies from one of the houses. A lot of people in the neighbourhood made a huge effort to make their homes spooky and really got into the spirit of the day. It was lovely to see so many kids of all ages (even the dreaded teenagers spraying their silly string) dressed up and walking around the ‘hood. Wandering around in the late afternoon sun, it was a really nice community feeling as people admired outfits and decorations while sugar-filled kids squealed and laughed – I think Halloween is a great excuse to make that happen. ‘Til next year!

OK, so these were actually our decorations – spooky eyes peering out from behind the gate. With horrible, sticky, fake spiders’ webs all across the gate, of course.

Scary stuff. This house also had grave stones and body parts scattered around the otherwise beautiful garden.

You’ve got mail.

A friendly Halloween house.

One of our skeletons, just chillaxin’ in the bushes.

Our witch – she has a frightening cackle when touched. But still not as scary as the skull hung on our verandah, which drops down from the ceiling when you clap – its horrible wail freaked out many unsuspecting people who followed our directions to clap loudly if they loved Halloween & wanted to meet our skeleton. And then they screamed. (Then they laughed, I promise – it was very funny to hear them as we sat inside eating our lollies.)

An amazing witchy pumpkin, hand drawn and carved by the girl across the street – looked even more incredible as it got darker…

And one of the highlights – my niece (7) had prepared notes for 60 Halloween potions (‘posions’). I was impressed by the range of ingredients – from monkey fur to cocoa to screws to garlic to wool to bananas. Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our day in Galway

We’re over in Galway for a couple of days and here are some snaps from today. The county is in a bit of a state as they drew in the All-Ireland hurling finals last weekend and they have a re-match on next weekend. It’s a very big deal. We are staying at a fabulous hotel here in Galway – it was designed by famous Irish milliner Philip Treacy (you may know him as the guy who created Princess Beatrice’s hideous hat) and is very quirky.

Wandering around Galway…

Nothing says ‘welcome to the G Hotel’ like cupcakes. And they were delicious.

G Hotel’s reception hall & bar feels very Willy Wonka. Or Legally Blonde.

The strangest hotel hallway I ever did see. Pretty much pitch black, but for the little lights near the floor. (And this was taken during the day.)

And probably my favourite pic for the day is this slightly dusty looking politician who didn’t bother making too much of an effort for his campaign posters. I know ‘action speaks louder than words’, John, but so do photographs.

John’s the man. This sign was in a house window, along with a little kitten.

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Cakes. And Snakes.

My 2010 birthday cake – a giant cupcake

I come from a long line of cake lovers. And my mum was an amazing cake maker – every year, I used to get to choose a most incredible cake, which my mum would whip up the night before my birthday. I would go to bed hearing the sound of the mixer and in the morning, I would sneak into the dining room where the masterpiece would be sitting on the table. Under a barrier to keep it from me (and my brothers), of course.

I remember a large blackboard cake; a swimming pool cake complete with biscuit fence and green jelly as water; a clown; a bunny rabbit; a clock…oh, those were the days. I thought my mum was a magician – the way she could produce a cake that looked exactly like the one I’d seen in the book, overnight, just like that. I wasn’t to know how many hours she’d spent getting everything just right, or how long it took her to source and prepare the ingredients – to me, it was just an annual miracle that proved my mum was a genius. Which of course she was, and still is – even if she doesn’t make me elaborate cakes anymore. (That is probably for the best, as my metabolism seems to have slowed since the fancy-cake-days and that old formula of exercise required to burn off cake calories consumed seems to have tipped out of my favour.)

Last year, for my niece’s birthday, my sister-in-law went with a farmyard theme. We made these cupcakes – I was in charge of the chickens and the sheeps. A lot of marshmallows were needed in order to make a sheep face that didn’t look like he was going to attack the other animals (or the kids at the party). We were pretty pleased with our efforts.

Anyways, all this cake reminiscing was brought about by a link that my friend Ashley sent me the other day. According to an article in the Huffington Post, a lady in the UK had created an amazingly realistic cake for her daughter’s birthday that looks exactly like a Burmese python. Now, before I show you the photos, I should point out that Francesca (the python baker) works as a professional cake baker. My mum was a pharmacist and my sister and I have office jobs. Just so we can keep things in perspective, once I reveal the Burmese python birthday cake…

From the North Star Cakes Facebook page

And, voila. I’m not sure that I would have ever even thought to request a Burmese python cake. Kids these days. I’m not sure what inspired Francesca’s daughter to ask for it, but it has brought her mum fame across the internet. And presumably scared the life out of many of the party guests.

From the North Star Cakes Facebook page

The detail is just incredible, as is the colouring. Francesca is clearly an amazingly talented lady – I hope her daughter appreciates this cake as much as I appreciated my swimming pool cake. At this point, I should add some detail about my cake – my mum had even put little plastic people kicking back in Life Saver lollies in the pool. And green coloured coconut around the outside, as grass. I’m just sayin’.

From the North Star Cakes Facebook page

And finally, in what is probably not a faithful representation of the Burmese python, an inside full of delicious cake, jam and cream. Now, if there was a touch of red food colouring or jam that squirted out when the first cut was made, this cake would have been perfect. Almost as good as my mum’s swimming pool cake, I reckon.

You can read the Huffington Post article about Francesca’s cake here and the North Star Cakes Facebook page is here. Neither my sister-in-law nor my mum have a cake business Facebook page or a website, but I will check for some photos of my mum’s early work when I’m next at home and maybe Jane’s cakes will finally get the global recognition that she deserves!

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Happy Shark Week!

I like to think that I’m a woman of the world and I know what’s going on…which is why I can’t believe that until yesterday I hadn’t heard of Shark Week. You probably already know all about it, but just in case you’re like me and have missed this festival in previous years, here’s a brief update. Shark Week started back in 1988 – it’s a creation of the Discovery Channel and is essentially a week-long series of TV shows about sharks. Apparently, it was developed to help the average person have a greater respect for sharks. And it’s now broadcast in over 72 countries. Uh huh.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Shark Week and the peeps at the Discovery Channel marketing machine have gone all out. In addition to the usual souvenir DVDs, books and t-shirts, you can also buy a heap of other wacky gear to show that you’re a friend of the sharks. Like this hat, for example.

Foam Fin Hat from the Shark Week Store

Or these cupcakes, custom-made in a Georgetown bakery. The toppers show a logo or a shark or A LONE HAND STICKING UP FROM THE OCEAN OF ICING. Not sure that image is helping the sharks’ cause, to be honest.

DC Cupcakes from the Shark Week Store

And then there’s this hoodie t-shirt (for adults and for kids) – if you hold your arms like you’re giving yourself a hug, you can scare the life out of people around you. Nothing says Happy Shark Week like a giant set of chompers headed your way.

Shark Week Hoodie from the Shark Week Store

Finally, here’s the ultimate Shark Week accessory for your canine companion – a Hammerhead Shark Pet Costume. It doesn’t seem quite right to me, but hey, anything goes in Shark Week!

Pet Costume from the Shark Week Store

So, I wish you and yours a very happy Shark Week. If you’d like to learn more about this Week, you can check out the Discovery Channel website here or head straight to the Shark Week Store to stock up on goodies here. A word of warning – when I checked, the website went straight to an auto-play video with a very scary voice over very scary music, “Deep beneath, a pre-dat-or is lurking…” Eeeeek – Happy Shark Week!

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A thousand words

Being a pretty conservative sort of lass, I don’t have any tattoos. Although since tattoos seem to be so popular these days, it’s kinda like they’ve become the new normal – so, really, I’m a rebel for NOT having a tattoo. Yes, really. I’m not sure when tattoos made the shift to becoming more common, but now it’s getting tougher to find a cleanskin – you know, one that’s not featuring a Chinese character, inspirational word, Celtic symbol or Maori sleeve. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against tattoos. The fact that I don’t have one is more to do with an aversion to pain and no clue about what I’d want to be branded with for life. I often admire them on others, yet sometimes, you see tattoos that definitely belong in the But, why? file…

According to the Geeky Tattoos website, these feet belong to Alicia, a lady who posted the image on Flickr and said that she chose to have good and evil cupcakes tattooed on her feet to remind her to stay young at heart and to symbolize the balance of good and evil within herself, but adds “and I have a thing for cupcakes”. Yes, so did I.

And from the same website, here is Ashley’s leg. With a tattoo of a Nintendo 64 gaming controller. I am not a gamer, so I can’t really understand this one either. Maybe this controller is more than just a piece of plastic with coloured buttons that you press to make a character on a tv screen jump or run or whatever?

We all know it’s important to get plenty of vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables. But I’m not sure about this tattoo of a bunch of asparagus – I don’t think those vitamins count. Though it’s certainly more interesting than a bunch of roses or daffodils.

Continuing on the food theme, here’s a hot breakfast. On someone’s arm. I love breakfast as much as anyone, but I’m not sure why you would want a picture of it on your arm. Unless that bacon made a smile under those eggy eyes. Then I would understand.

Anyways, if you would like to see more, the first two pics are from Geeky Tattoos and the foodie tattoos are from OC Weekly. And, of course, EverydaySparks takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of this inspirational post… What would you get?

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Willy Wonka’s World

What a wonderful world that would be, right? With Mr Wonka’s passion for all things sweet and magical, it could be a kid’s dream come true. Not that you’d necessarily want your home or office decorated by Mr Wonka, but if some Wonka-like touches here and there appeal, you might want to check these out…

Ice cream lamps. Sure, why not? They come in a delicious range of colours and are over two feet high. They come with a bulb, but you will need to resist the urge to lick the giant soft-serve (even if the cone is marked ‘Safe-T Cup’) as I don’t want you getting zapped.

Or how about a cupcake cushion? With coloured sprinkles. It looks really cool in this picture, but I should warn you that there was another picture of it on a lounge…where it looked like a squished old piece of cupcake, rather than a fresh and tasty treat. You’ve been warned.

And if you want to listen to some sweet tunes while reclining on your cupcake on a lazy Sunday, you might like these Gummy Bear Earbuds. They’re scented. Uh huh. It does seem a little bit wrong, especially if your Grandma ever told you not to stick jellies in your ears. Although these are attached to a cord, so I guess it’s ok.

This one isn’t in keeping with the dessert theme, but Willy was a fan of messing with people’s heads via distorted sizes and shapes, so I think he’d approve. And I am tipping he liked his caffeine (amongst other things) to keep him so perky. For you, or perhaps to prop up that guy in the office who always seems to be sleeping, I present the giant coffee cup. It can hold 20 cups of coffee. But I am not suggesting that you drink them all at once. (Unless you record it and put it on You Tube.)

Whether you’re looking for a gift or something to make your home a little bit Wonka, you can check out all of these things, and a bzillion more, at fredflare.

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O’Cupcakes

In case I haven’t said it already, I love cupcakes. I really do. And I love Ireland and most things Irish. So the combination of the two should be perfect, right? Bzzzzzt. Wrong. But far be it from me to keep from sharing, just because I don’t actually like something. I’m selfless like that.

With St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, you might be inspired to whip up a batch of these corned beef & cabbage cupcakes from Cupcake Project. Yep, they’re corned beef and cabbage. And they’re cupcakes. The meat is in the cake and the vegetables are in the frosting. With ground corned beef on the top, where you might normally expect a cherry. Mmmmmm.

If you’d like the recipe for this or lots of other cupcakes, check out Cupcake Project.

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My kinda bank

I think I’d include this pic just because I love it, even if the machine featured in it wasn’t possibly one of the most amazing inventions of our time. But it is one of the most amazing inventions of our time. It is…drumroll, please…an ATM.  Blah blah, you say – who cares about another ATM – even if it is a pretty colour. But this is different. This is – wait for it – an ATM FOR CUPCAKES. According to CNN.com, Sprinkles (a gourmet cupcake chain with outlets across the US) will open its first 24-hour cupcake vending machine next week in Beverly Hills. Forget the celebrities, Peach Pit diner and Pretty Woman hangouts, there is no better reason to visit Beverly Hills. And by the end of the year, there’ll be more Sprinkles automatic cupcake machines across America. If you love cupcakes like I do, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is indeed a marvel that needs to be recognised and celebrated – I’m thinking Nobel Prize, some sort of special award from Harvard or, at the very least, a Kardashian endorsement.

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