Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986

Snow White and the Cake

Doing an arty photoshoot with a snortlepig is difficult. The pig is very proud of her new dress – she wore it to church on Sunday and got lots of “Awww, Cinderella!” comments, which was unfortunate – and today she wore it to the supermarket to general acclaim, so much so that after passing one employee who was stacking shelves and gave us a jaded glance, the pig said in a shocked voice “That lady didn’t talk about my dress!”

Nevertheless, getting her to eat an apple and play dead wasn’t an easy task. This is the best I got…

And by request of several of my most frothing fans, here is The Cake in all its blurry glory. It looked better in real life. I think.

Banana cake with cream cheese frosting and green coconut; the pebbles were tiny sugar cookies coated in pink sugar; caramel fudge for the wishing well and to shore up the inside of the castle, which was lemon sugar cookies, as was the wishing well roof. The round towers were a funny, meringuey biscuit recipe wrapped around the handle of a whisk; topped with coloured white chocolate cones. The flags, pennants, mushrooms, flowers, wishing well birdie and ducks were fondant – I made fondant lily pads too, but I put them on the jelly pond the day before the party and they dissolved and had to be blotted off the surface of the pond with a paper towel, which was nerve-wracking. I should have left them, really; it made pretty realistic-looking pondscum.The whole edifice weighed about as much as a pygmy hippo and took up two-thirds of the fridge.

I’m pretty sure the pig liked it better than this photo implies.

Country Living

The Pig at Four: A Review

Manners: Patchy

(Incident, last week, loudly, in the fancy grocer: “Awww, it’s a baby! …It’s a very funny colour.”)

Cuteness of Face: Yup

Quotability: Superb

(Incident, yesterday, upon watching the scene in Ratatouille where the rats get hit by lightning and end up on the ground with their hair all frizzled – “Mummy, they got blown to fluff!”

Incident, last week, when I woke up from a nap. Me: “How long have I been asleep?” Pig: “Oh, about six ages.”

Incident, this week, upon squeezing a new tube of toothpaste too hard: “Ooh! That was a juicy one.”)

Probability of Committing Violent Crime: Great

(Incident, this week: “Daddy’s a pesky man. You should shoot him in the face.”)

Media Savvy: Middling

(Incident, today: “Mummy, I like my Snow White dress that you made me, but I don’t want to live in Snow White and Star Wars, you know, the movie? Because there’s a bad witch there.”)

Aspirations: Domestic

(Repeated incident: “Mummy, when I’m growed up I’m going to marry Jamie [or Kovac; depends on the day], and kiss him on the mouth. And you can come to my wedding, and I’m going to wear a big dress down to the floor, and a weil, and Daddy can buy me a ring. And you can make me a cake, OK? And when I’m big my baby will come out, and you have to call Julia on your real phone to come to the birthing centre, and she will cut the cord with scissors, and they’re going to be red… no, pink. And you have to go away while my baby comes out, and then you can come and pat him, but you can’t give him the milks because he’s my baby. You give Miles the milks, and I will give my baby the milks, but you can pat him.”)

Siblings: Toothsome

General Knowledge: Impressive

(Incident, a few weeks ago: “Mummy, did you know we got a bone in our head? It keeps it [knocking on skull] crunchy.”)

Self-Esteem: Bouyant

(Incident, this week: “Mummy, you’re a pretty good cooker. Not as good as me, I’m a very good cooker, because I’m a big girl.”)

Likelihood of Being Kept Until The Age of Five: Ehh, may as well. Gran bought her gumboots, and it would be a pity to waste them.


It is 10:30 on Sunday night, eight and a half hours since the commencement of the snortlepig’s birthday party, and I feel like I have been lightly beaten with a ham and left to steep in an outhouse. That’s not me being poetic – it’s a strangely specific sensation.

The good news is, the party went off successfully, causing Helpdesk Man and myself to feel like we have Won at Life. There were no tantrums (excepting a brief moment when I was icing the cake and Miles was under the table having flashbacks to ‘Nam, but Helpdesk Man cotted him and he was fine); only one kitchen disaster (me leaving a perfectly cromulent batch of pizza muffins in the oven to heat up for an hour and a half); none of the guests showed up early, a fact which always inspires devout thanks in a Smokey; and most importantly, they liked the cake. The pig, who has had Manners drilled into her head all week, said “thank you” nicely regarding her presents and did not suggest opening them before the arrival of the later guests more than half a dozen times. Tiny Miles kindly refrained from indulging either of his two favourite pastimes, weeping and Death By Chunky Bit, and played cutely with balloons instead.

The bad news is that I have been living a frantic, fervid, twitchy list-making life for the past week, and it has done a number on my already precarious sanity. Even now that the party is over and done, my eyes keep jumping back to the fridge door, and I have to stop myself leaping out of my chair to make meringue mushrooms. Consuming a hundredweight of cream cheese icing this morning probably didn’t help. In the interests of therapy, here are the lessons I have learned:

-Never throw out a cookbook you only kept all those years for its one decent recipe, without checking to make sure you didn’t previously cull said recipe from your handwritten recipe book to avoid double-ups.
(Fortunately, the internet is a wonderful thing.)

-Do not spend several hours the night before the party hand-sewing ribbons to homemade scrapbooking paper party hats; no-one will wear them.

-Those flourless peanut butter cookies everyone makes are pretty good, considering.

-Boysenberry puree colours and flavours Swiss meringue buttercream less than you might think.

-Fondant water-lilies should not be placed on a jelly pond in the fridge the night before. They will melt and go all ooey. Fortunately, the resulting oo can be blotted up carefully with a paper towel, and disguised with fondant ducks, placed there at the last minute.

-A triple recipe of a 9-by-13-inch banana cake is more than ample, even for 25 people. More than ample. Helpdesk Man could barely lift it.

-Cutting drinking straws down to a cuter length and putting them in a jar with scrapbooking-paper flowers is a sweet idea, until they blow all over the yard for the fortieth time.

-I really need to hem my beastie cloth. I’ve had it for what, six years now?

-Helpdesk Man has never heard of fairy bread. He is a successful entrepreneur, pushing thirty and author of more than one self-published book. How can he not have heard of fairy bread?

Can’t sleep. Cupcakes will get me.

Aww man

Helpdesk Man sees all the cool beasts. This morning while I was at Bible study, educating my soul, he looked out the kitchen window and saw a large, smallish pink pig rootling around under the plum trees. And later that morning, a skink oosed across the deck outside his office. I wasn’t even convinced we had skinks in New Zealand. He even came across a quail-bird rally in the backyard the other day. And what have I seen over the past week? A dozen mostly-dead roaches, an almost interestingly large moth and a mushroom. Feh.

We went hunting for the pig with the pigs when we got home, but could not find it. I live in hope.


Yesterday morning was quite exciting. Tiny Miles is accustomed to being plopped on a beanbag in the bathroom each morning while Helpdesk Man and I shower; recently, he has taken to sitting on the floor instead, playing with the snortlepig’s Noah’s Ark. It keeps him happy.

Sadly, for the last few days Miles’ usually benevolent personality has been switched with that of a manic demon hellspawn who thinks the floor is lava. So yesterday, as we washed, he howled. (Interjection: I think there’s a rat in the ceiling. I can hear it oosing about. Should I have a more constructive response to this than going “Huh, there’s a rat in the ceiling?”)  And suddenly, the shower curtain heaved and the front two-thirds of Miles plopped, wailing bitterly, into the shower – which, due to a drainage/water pressure imbalance, was as usual three inches deep in water.

I rescued him from a soggy grave – though not, regrettably, before panicking and screaming “AAAHHH, HE’S IN THE SHOWER!” in the manner of a horror movie ditz. Then I decided I was clean enough, and joggled him on the bathmat for some time, kissing his wet head, until he became tranquil once more. Then we changed his onesie, and decided that from now on, he can bally well have a nap while we wash.

So that was fun. (I think there are a passel of rats up there. Or one practicing the Virginia Reel.)

Also, it’s the pig’s fourth birthday in a few weeks. It will be quite the event. Until now, I have cunningly avoided the horror that is children’s parties by inviting our families and mostly adult friends to a picnic in the public gardens. But this year, in a fit of Pinterest-fuelled domesticity, I decided it would be fun to do the real thing. Small children, cupcakes, games in the orchard, balloons by the gate.

I am now regretting it, and we haven’t even sent the invites yet. But on the bright side, after a whole year of pondering, I have decided what I’m going to do for the birthday cake.

It will be a large, flat, rectangular cake, covered in green coconut to look like grass, with a hill at one end. On the flat bit I will make a lake, with jelly, and some ducks if I can figure out how to wangle them (fondant, I guess?). There will also be meringue mushrooms and possibly cupcake shrubs; I haven’t worked out the details yet. Then there will be a path, made maybe of praline or caramel popcorn, or chopped nuts, although that’s probably not such a good idea for little kids, is it? – a path, anyway, leading to the top of the hill, on which I will have made a gingerbread castle. Or maybe a sugar cookie one, if they hold up – I’ll have to experiment. I’ve only ever made one gingerbread house, when I was about thirteen, and it collapsed, so I have some research to do.

Anyway; could be fun, no? I thought the castle could somehow incorporate those wafer stick things with the chocolate and vanilla stripes, like barber’s poles. Perhaps. Or not. And I can pipe pink around the windows and things. I’m tempted to go all out with a hedge-maze and a cutout bit at the back of the hill showing dwarves delving, and possibly some dungeons; but one should not get carried away. I have the rest of the party to plan. (Fairy bread! One of the best foods ever.)

So does anyone know any games suitable for 2-5-year-olds? Nothing too competitive; I don’t want to deal with the angst. I thought an egg and spoon race might be kind of fun, but I can see it ending badly… maybe a treasure hunt in the orchard? (By which I mean, “Kids, there are lollies hidden between here and here; don’t lick the electric fence”, not a hunt with actual clues. Given the snortlepig’s recent attempts at I Spy with colours, I think that might be beyond her.)

Also, I will be spending from now until the 17th making presents. We got a bookshelf off Freecycle I need to sand and paint; she went into raptures recently over a Snow White costume a girl in the supermarket wore, and my mother-in-law lent me a pattern to sew one; the summer quilt top is inching towards completion; and I have her bedroom curtains, fabric-covered pinboard and ruffly tablecloth in various stages of doneness, as well as vague plans to make her a proper nightlight. Ack.

(Rats seem to have gone. OK. Whatever.)