Tuesday, 10 February 2015

I bought a zoo!

The last time I went to a zoo, I was holidaying solo in Queensland about 6 years ago. It was on my last day, and I'd already left the hotel and dropped my bags off at the airport. According to a sign or brochure that I had, the zoo was "a small train ride away".

What I didn't realise, was that it was also a 3km walk from the train station, in an unclear direction! With all of my carry on luggage with me (more than I'd anticipated, as usual when travelling), I finally made it to the zoo, got out my camera to take a photo of the sign (the only reason I wanted to go to the zoo was to take photos of everything), and the camera battery dies right in front of me!! ... Totally devastated, I still went in (having walked for half of the day to get to the damn thing), and I will admit that it was a less than impressive experience. The ground was muddy, animal enclosures were blocked off, and I couldn't take photos of anything.


Still. I wandered around, bought my children some souvenirs, and then left for the long walk back to the train station, to head back to the airport and come home.

That's been my only horrible zoo experience.

Saying that, it's been one of my very few zoo experiences, also. The most recent was with my children, and my mum, at a nearby wildlife park. Going to an open zoo is a lot different to going to one where everything is behind cages. Especially if you take a 4 year old with you! Yes, I freaked out when the emu chased my youngest son. Yes, I freaked out when he grabbed the kangaroo's tail. And yes, I freaked out when he climbed to the top of the Tasmanian Devil semi-enclosure, and poured some of his drink down on him, because "he looked thirsty."

HOT TIP: Do not take Jonathan to the zoo if you are on heart medication, and/or suffer from anxiety.

Well, guess what! I bought a zoo!

... Sort of.

I bought fondant, and made some zoo animals- does that count as the same thing??

I was asked by a family friend if I could make the decorations for a zoo themed cake she was making for her niece's 1st birthday. Having little to no experience with making animals from fondant, I accepted this challenge head on, and got to work figuring out how I was actually going to do it.

The idea was to make a mum and a baby of each animal.

To see how time consuming this challenge potentially could be, I looked through the book that our friend had given me to use (an instruction booklet on making fondant animals), picked one called "chick", changed the colours, and made the first animal pair - penguins:

Using the same method I used for some baby shower duck cupcakes, I also made two ducks:

Getting into the swing of it all, I then tried my luck on making seals. As per the book's instructions, and the request of our friend, I made the 'mum' purple, and the 'baby' pink. I used wire for their whiskers, and propped their heads up against various kitchen supplies to ensure they would set in the right place:

From here, I felt confident that I could move onto some more complicated animals. So, of course, I chose the giraffe. Why, oh why choose the tallest and skinniest animal to make next??

I coloured my fondant to be a caramel colour, and divided it all up into the various parts that were needed for a big and little (yet still both little) giraffe.

I can't remember where I saw the idea (I'm pretty certain I didn't come up with it myself), but I used uncooked spaghetti to hold the parts of the body together. I'm not sure exactly why I feel it necessary to add that it was uncooked, as really - who would try to thread cooked spaghetti through pieces of fondant?

Piece by piece, leg by leg, I assembled these miniature giraffes, and stood them against more kitchen gadgets to set in place (they got a bit top heavy!):

As it turned out (to my daughter's delight), what was meant to be the mum (or dad) giraffe, was far too big, so I used the baby giraffe to be the mum. As it took a few hours just to get to this stage, I waited a few days before making the littler baby giraffe:

Since a couple of the animal pairs were being made of different colours (e.g. the purple & pink seals), I decided to do the same with the giraffes. Husband claimed that different colours would mess with my OCD, but I actually felt that their wonkiness affected me more than the colour did anyway!

I suppose it's not the first time I've made something wonky, though.

My ideal outcome for this zoo project/challenge/character-building-segment-of-insanity, was to have many different animals, and a variety of colours. So to add some colour to the zoo I was making, I made turtles next! Basically I shaped and stuck the legs, head, and tail together on baking paper first, and then squished a brown ball of fondant on top to make the shell. And then added eyes, smiles, and little shapes onto their shells to finish them off:

I could sense a pattern of bouncing from basic to complicated with each different animal pair that I made, because next, I attempted to make a pair of zebras. I prepared and lined up the parts of them that I'd need, similar to what I did with the giraffes:

Using more spaghetti, which has become one of my essential (and edible) tools in fondant moulding now, I attached bodies onto legs, and heads onto bodies.

Then started singing "the right foot's connected to the... rib cage". Wait, what?!

Seriously, though. Wherever the spaghetti idea came from, thank you!!

The decorating part was really tricky, though. Next time I will just use edible paint, I think! (Or not make zebras). Teeny tiny pieces of black fondant, mixed with a teeny tiny white background and sticky glue is just asking for mess! They were cute anyway, though:

Crocodiles were fairly straight forward animals to make. Once I'd moulded a big and a little one, I used a pair of scissors to create 'spikes' along their backs (a tip from the decorating book). These were a great animal to make, because they could lie flat to set, and didn't need their heads to be propped up against anything:

Using the same spaghetti-and-prop techniques I did for the seals, giraffes and zebras, I moved onto making some elephants. On the birthday girl's party invitation, there was a green elephant, so, along with a purple 'mum', and pink 'baby', I couldn't help but make a matching green 'dad'!

And I made a little bow for the baby, and gave some hair to the dad, to add some character:

Each animal had it's fiddly part/s, but it was really great practice making all these animals. Some were simple, some were insanely tricky, and some couldn't help but look slightly weird or lopsided. With the pandas, I think the eyes were the hardest thing to capture on them! Too big and they look like they're abusing the wrong substances, and too little and they look like they need coffee to wake up!

And what's a zoo without a lion!? Well... The zoo I went to in Brisbane, I suppose. No lions. Just birds and iguanas. And before you tell me, I know that a baby lion, let's call him "Simba", shouldn't have a mane, so I'd like to encourage you to think of this baby lion less as baby-Simba, and more... as adolescent/pubescent Simba, growing his first lot of facial hair, knowing absolutely everything there is to know about being an adult and a king.

Because don't all teenagers know more than their parents?

Lastly, I made a gorilla and a monkey. I know, I know they aren't 'technically' the same animal, but they worked really well at pretending to be a daddy and a baby! Or a mummy and a baby. Or an uncle and an adopted mentally challenged fur-kid who likes to eat bananas all day.

The monkey was one of the most enjoyable to make, because you don't need to give him facial expression to make him look playful! Of course, I gave them both a banana to hold :)

Because I'm all about stereotyping.

Though it took a while,
and some animals took a lot more time to make than others,
I had made a zoo!

And here they are on the cake, and with the birthday girl at her party :)

Happy birthday Estelle!!

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