FOR any mum who is lacking in time (show me one who isn't!) and in need of a short cut to baking cakes for a school event, I can highly recommend 'faking' rather than baking.
Going the shop-bought-cake route is sometimes the only option when you haven't got an hour spare to whip up a batch of cup cakes - but I've discovered another, better way of maintaining that air of being a yummy mummy rather than a slummy mummy.
I 'faked' rather than baked several batches of fairy cakes for a sale at Alex's school and it took me all of 15 minutes to create masterpieces that Alex was really impressed with.
All the major supermarkets sell cheap packs of plain fairy cakes. You then just decorate them with icing and kid-friendly garnishing, such as Smarties, Jelly Tots or chocolate buttons. By the time they've endured the school run in a tin, they will have that lovingly home-made bashed-up look about them!
Okay, so I might have spent a bit more than if I'd made them myself, but I'm sure I've spent half what I would have done had I rushed out and bought fancy cakes for the sale. I'm going to see if I can get away with 'faking' rather than baking for a family party this weekend as well!
Another new phenomenon is the 'fakeaway'. Rather than getting a takeaway, you go to the supermarket and buy ready meals of all your favourite curry or Chinese dishes and accompaniments that you might normally order by phone.
Yes, you do have to work the microwave yourself but in the time it takes for you to order and take delivery of your takeaway, you can have 'made' it yourself with very little effort and for a fraction of the cost. We've given up takeaways for good and are now having fakeaways instead!
Sign up for free nights out We are constantly being told that 'staying in is the new going out' in this economic climate, but sometimes there's nothing for it and you've just got to book the baby sitter for an evening.
And there is a way of going out without it costing you anything. Register at www.pinewoodgroup.com/AudienceClub and you'll get invitations to be in the audience for recordings at Pinewood Studios in Iver.
Among the shows recorded there are Harry Hill's TV Burp, Green Green Grass and The Weakest Link (pictured).
And if you offer to swap baby-sitting services with another mum, your night out will be completely free!
Cathy recommends ...
STEVE Parker, a dad from Ickenham, has launched a new kids' podcast that is worth checking out.
It's a free weekly digest of what's available for children to do in and around London, so if you're stuck for ideas for what to do with your offspring this weekend, I would recommend that you take a look.
You can find it at www.blubrry.com/podlondonkids or, if you subscribe to iTunes, search for PodLondonkids.
If you want to get a taster for the kind of events being featured, go to http://podlondonkids.spaces.live.com