But some things don't change over the years despite all the things that do change. Today I am still making the same birthday cake I made for H when he was three!
And, let me tell you, this is not because no alternative choice has been offered down the years! It's not in the shape of a number or Thomas the Tank Engine any more, with wheels and coupling rods cut out from gold card, or even one year, heaven help me, a Eurostar - goodness knows what all that deep blue icing did to one's insides! But it's still the same Chocolate and Orange Cake from Lady MacDonald's Chocolate book. And I have to say H's judgement on this is faultless. The cake is easy to make especially if you have a food processor, into which basically you bung everything and whizz. And its fudgy texture is ... well, rather good. It does of course need the fudgy icing on top which is not difficult either, although the bit about sieving the icing sugar and cocoa is not an optional extra because if you omit it, like someone here did in a hurry last time she made the cake, fortunately not for H's birthday, the icing went horribly lumpy. Ahem!
Of course, these days, being no longer A-Small-Person, but a Heading-for-Adulthood-Teenager, H is very clear what he wants for his birthday and Apple and Sony products often figure prominently on the wish-list but this year he also wanted something that I had seriously to break out of my comfort zone to make because it involved ...
I do not knit.
The history of knit-sticks and me is a sorry one. At school, along with the rest of the class I managed to knit a strip of squares that were sewn together into blankets to be given away to a nursing home without too many problems and a lurid green teddy bear in garter stitch, with a squeaker from a cracker fitted to its intestines, followed, again without too much trauma, but the following year we were supposed to knit something to wear and choose a Proper Pattern. It was in the seventies when those tank tops, which have now made a bit of a come-back, were coming in the first time around and I started off fairly enthusiastically on one of these, in a rather pretty cherry red wool.
Something unidentifiable went seriously wrong with the ribbing very early on, resulting in my long-suffering mother, to whose lot fell the unhappy task of knitting the other side of this awful garment, after I had given up, having to try and replicate my mistake so that the two sides matched. She needn't have worried, the tension was so woefully out that I don't think I ever wore the thing more than once or twice. It turned out as wide as a bus and you could have fitted half my class at school into it without stretching it! Disappointing to say the least and the memory of the headache of trying to undo rows and pick up stitches again has not been erased with the years. Nor the disbelief that it could really have turned out so gigantic!
But H has started rowing this term and you are Not Allowed On The Water Without A Hat. Could I knit one? "Couldn't I crochet it?" "No. Hats are knitted not crocheted." (None so conservative as your average ground-breaking teenager on certain fronts!) There were some detailed, prescriptive instructions that followed up the initial request (because you never know what, without guidance, Mrs T might come up with!): nothing colourful, no patterns other than restrained and austere stripes, preferably black and I was certainly not to include the school accent colour which is a slightly surprising, but beautiful, magenta. It had to be made from a really soft yarn and bigger than the existing hat left over from a skiing trip a few years ago which he has been wearing hitherto. And above all else it was "Not To Be Embarrassing". Eeek! No pressure then, Mrs T!
But if your teenage son actually asks you to make something for him to wear, you do not lightly dismiss the request. It may not come around again very quickly, if ever!
So I got Janet, who can knit for Britain with her eyes closed, at my Needles and Natter group to start me off - which was just as well as it turned out I didn't even know how to cast on properly. The pattern is an Erika Knight Men's Knit one and is nice and simple, which is all that Mrs T felt she could tackle. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran which seemed to meet the requirement to be "really soft".
And the result actually looks like a hat and not a tent for ten people to share! I had a slight problem with the shaping when I misread one line of the pattern and the air was virulently blue for a nasty, few moments when I thought I couldn't pick up the stitches that had had to be undone - Eeeeeek! (This is not what Mrs T said, but it's the only printable version!!) - but I think I've managed it. Don't, whatever you do, zoom in on the pic, or I am sure you talented and serious knitters out there will spot all sorts of things that are Not Quite Right but the miracle is a) it fits, b) H loves it c) I made it all by myself with only a little bit of help when I thought I couldn't knit anything. Now it's off the needles they feel a bit bare actually....!!
The crocheted turtle is another product of my Needles and Natter group as somebody there had made a lovely, soft, brown one and kindly gave me the pattern. I made it, just for fun and H fell in love with it - happily nobody, male or female, even when they are that oldest of ages that is teenage, is ever too old for a cute, crocheted turtle on their birthday! Happy Days!
Happy Birthday H!