Tag Archives: birthday

The Countdown to 50…Yikes!

Tomorrow, which is currently approaching faster than a Japanese bullet train, I turn 50 and in so many ways am happy to chant “Fifty not out”, even though I’m not a cricket fan by any stretch of the imagination. After all, when we rewind six years ago before I found out they were were going to give me chemo to combat my rampaging auto-immune disease, I was in dire straits. I was potentially looking down the barrel of 12 months to live. That’s serious stuff for anyone. However, at the time, our kids were nine and seven. They were along way off independence and being able to fend for themselves.

So, I am absolutely exuberantly happy to still be here. I truly appreciate the frailty and transience of life and the need to grab onto it with both hands and carpe diem seize the day.

However, in addition to this gratitude, there is also disappointment. A disappointment which can feel like an arrow straight through my heart.

Of course, it’s only natural that reflecting on my 50 years really intensifies both the good and the bad. It brings out the stuff you don’t think about very often as well as the stuff you leave right at the back of your closet hoping there might just be an imaginary land out the back where it could disappear altogether never to return. Of course it doesn’t though, does it?!! Instead, it sends you a huge birthday card. One of those ones which play a song when you open it up which is too loud to ignore.

Of course, I’m not the only one you has had disappointments. Indeed, while mine have been pretty intense at the time, others have been through worse and even much worse.

Moreover, since I’m still here to tell my tale, I’m considerably lucky. Blessed. Whatever you call it. My glass is more than half full. It’s literally overflowing.

Yet, there is the tear. I’m not going to deny it’s there. Or, wipe it away so no one else can see it. Life is full of ups and downs and I don’t believe we should ever deny those times we’re face down in the mud unable to surface. It is what it is. However, acknowledging that, is very different from getting stuck there.

I haven’t got time now to take this any further at the moment. The clock’s just past midnight and so I’ve already passed from my 40s into my fifties and moved on.

Now, it’s time to get to bed because some wise owl thought it would be fantabulous to welcome in the new day by watching the sunrise with the family. We’re heading off to Pearl Beach about 6.00am when I’m usually snoring and dreaming away.

However, I’ll leave you with this great hit from the Uncanny X-Men:

Stay tuned for more reflections.

Meanwhile, you might want to share how you felt about and experienced your most recent milestone birthday in the comments below.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…8th July, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

If you were coming round here for coffee tonight, I’d be recommending hot Milo instead. It’s a cold Winter’s night and I should be asleep. I just jumped on here to unwind after doing some work.

How has your week been?

I’m not sure what happened to the last week. It seemed to get eaten up by all sorts of appointments which achieved a fair bit, although it feels like I got nothing done. I’m sure you’ve also been there and know the feeling.

Amelia Grease

However, Thursday and Friday nights our daughter appeared in Grease the Musical at their school. She played a dancer and one of the cheerleaders and spent quite a bit of time on stage with a few costume changes. Of course, we were absolutely proud of our girl and she could’ve been up on Broadway as far as we were concerned. All of us went on the Thursday night and I went by myself on Friday night. It was only $10.00 a ticket and I have always loved Grease and after seeing the movie over 15 times on video when I was 13, seeing the musical only twice was nowhere near enough. By the way, quite aside from admiring our daughter’s performance, I was also very impressed with the cast as a whole. They were fabulous. I also admire them for having the courage to step into these massive roles. It’s quite intimidating when almost everyone in the audience knows all the songs word by word and even someone who is tone deaf with no rhythm can pick up any “variations”. There’s nowhere to hide in these big, very popular songs.

Today, I picked up my new glasses. You’ll probably have to wait until next week to see the big unveil as I’m needing to get my hair done first. I’m afraid I’ve turned into a rundown “fixer-upper” of late and need to get the full renovation process in order before the end of the month when I celebrate my Big 50! Wow! There’s so much I wanted to get down beforehand, but I might have to extend my wish list into my 51st year, although when you put it like that it really does seem like cheating but hey, what’s wrong with that when I’m only cheating myself?

Well, I think that about covers it.

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

“Ma-Ma!” Friday Fictioneers.

Jane was reliving her fifth birthday party for her shrink in grueling slow motion. Mummy had made her the Dolly Varden Cake, a miniature replica of herself. They played pass the parcel, drop the hanky and as they sang Happy Birthday, Jane smiled for the camera. She’s never forgotten the last time she smiled and was truly happy. There was  just pin the tail on the donkey before everyone went home. Her mother tied the scarf over her eyes. Turned her around three times, and she stuck on the tail. When she took off the scarf, her mother was gone.

…..

100 words.

It’s great to be back again this week. I’m researching and writing a book which I thought was going to be a lot more straight-forward that it’s turned. I guess that must be a common scenario writing non-fiction where you have no control over your characters. However, the stories are exceeding my wildest dreams. Just need to get it on paper.

BTW in case you’re interested in the goings on of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, here’s a link.

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Every week, we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s photo was kindly provided by © J Hardy Carroll.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share November 20, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This is a very special weekend coffee share for me because today is my husband’s 50th Birthday…Happy Birthday, Geoff!

So, the last week has been flat out with trying to organise a birthday celebration, food and worst of all, trying to get the house presentable…forget tidy. We’re just talking “good enough”. I am a very extroverted, sociable person and I love having people over but with my health being problematic, getting on top of the house is a huge struggle and I tend to keep people out. I’ve really had to talk to myself about this and that the state of the house shouldn’t matter. I love baking and when I have friends over, there’s the pavlova, my Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheese Cake. So am trying to think it’s enough that our friends feel welcome, eat well and feel loved. If they have a problem, with the house they can come over and lend a hand. I won’t send them packing.

Why is it that having the perfect house is seen as a barometer of characher, particularly for women? It seems we can conquer so many different world but heaven help you if you a messy house! That’s a capital offense!!

So we’ve had a busy weekend of celebrations.

Last night, we went out for a very special celebratory dinner with family at Sous Le Soleil, a French restaurant in Roseville, Sydney.  The restaurant operates out of  Firs cottage, which was been built before 1824 by Daniel Dering Mathew (1788-1856) and is located in the middle of Roseville Park. So, before we even get to the food, we’re looking a really quaint historic cottage set in parkland and that just ticks all my boxes. The restaurant also has a range of Frenchenalia including aprons, tea towels, Christmas decorations and a place mat featuring a map of Paris. Needless to say, I was in love before I’d even had a bite but then the food was also exquisite with a real symphony of flavours. I have scallops for entree, duck for main course and a sticky date pudding with caramelised pineapple an rum & raisin ice cream. We also had a scrumptious chocolate mouse birthday cake. The presentation was also exquisite. Overall, though what I loved about going there was that we had a room to ourselves and dining there had the feel of having an intimate and private dinner party in your home without having to do all the work yourself. Brilliant!

Today, we went out for lunch locally with Geoff’s sister and niece and then had friends over for an impromptu afternoon tea. We’re planning to have a proper celebration in the New Year when things aren’t so hectic. It’s not a good time of year to try to get all those very special friends together to celebrate this momentous occasion…50 Not Out!

By the way, I’ll also share that yesterday was Bilbo’s 10th Birthday, which makes him 70 in dog years. His birthday present was having the lot of us go out and leave him at home with Lady. However, I hope he enjoyed Geoff’s celebrations today. He found a whole new cast of unwitting ball throwers who found his persistence and endurance inspirational…especially when he was huffing and puffing and looking half dead in the heat. Obsession…addiction…these are words Bilbo only knows too well!!

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Mum looking after me.

While we’ve had the excitement and hard work of Geoff’s birthday, my mother was admitted to hospital with acute muscle spasms in her back. While not life threatening, the situation has certain been very stressful. nobody likes to see anyone suffer, but when it’s someone you love, gave birth to you and has been there your whole entire life, it takes you right off the richter scale. There are no words to describe that impact, even when you know that it’s not fatal. It’s not the end of the world but it’s still not good. I ended up turning to my blog for solace, writing Caring For Mum.

Last week, I also participated in Friday Fictioneers for the first time and really loved it. This week’s photo prompt was a cello and it was fascinating reading through all the responses to the prompt. I don’t know how the other writers felt but I had been so focused on my Vision or interpretation that I saw no other and I really had to re-read a few to get their vision, which was equally there in the photo as well. It was a really productive exercise, quite aside from being fun and meeting so great new writers as well. You can read my effort here: Silent Strings

Thursday night, I had my last Lyrical Dance lesson for the year. I apologise for not posting any photos of me sporting my tutu. You’ll just have to let your imaginations paint a picture instead. My daughter came along to watch, which was a bit intimidating but she did sit out in the corridor peering in, rather than glaring intently at us somewhat challenged adult dancers. That was probably a good move as we’re not quite ready for an audience yet. I’m really going to miss my classes and am already thinking ahead to next year and am thinking of adding tap to the mix.

So, I don’t know if that’s covered last week but it’s getting late and a whole new week starts tomorrow. This coming week has been re-badged as “School Spectacular” and our daughter has rehearsals Wednesday, Thursday and performances on Friday and Saturday. Somehow, she survived all of this last year so I’m encouraged that she and us can survive this year as well. That said, as much as I love School Spec, I’m feeling exhausted just thinking about it.

How has your week been and do you have anything special planned for the coming week? I hope things are going well and if you’re struggling with the cold, I’m happy to send you some of our heat.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena

Birthday Cakes: Baking Your Own!

Rules are made to be broken but some rules are sacred.  Etched in stone. Set in concrete. Nonnegotiable. Beyond change.

For our family, that means baking our own birthday cakes.

That hasn’t changed but there has been what you might call “a deviation”.

The updated birthday cake book.

The updated birthday cake book.

As a little girl, Mum used to make cupcakes out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook along with a special cake out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Party Cakes book.

I loved our old Sunbeam Mixmaster too and licking the beaters, scraping out the mixing bowl and stealing spoonfuls of mixture were also part of our cake baking ritual. That mixture was irresistible! As much as I thought cooking all that mixture was a crime, I used to love waking up on my birthday and seeing my cake. The cake was just as important as the presents…well, almost!

Miss licking the beaters  aged 2.

Miss licking the beaters aged 2.

I have always made my kid’s birthday cakes. It started out with a dreadful number 1 cake where the blue food colouring clashed with the melted white chocolate and the icing came out a revolting army green colour, instead of baby blue. More successfully, there was Humpty Dumpty (a chocolate Easter egg) sitting on a wall made out of chocolate sticks. There has also been an Alice in Wonderland cake. The most memorable cake of all probably had to be the Thomas the Tank Engine Cake where Geoff sculpted the cake with the electric carving knife and it was really tricky pulling that one off. Making these cakes has been fun, stressful and agonising but they were made by me with a bit of help from the kids and sometimes a lot of help from Geoff. They also had one very special, magic ingredient…Mummy’s love pouring straight from my heart. That’s what really made the cakes extra special…at least to me!

The Thomas Cake. I think I used sprinkles to cover up the cake crumbs in the icing.

The Thomas Cake. I think I used sprinkles to cover up the cake crumbs in the icing.

Well, this year I had to break with tradition. I ordered Mister a cake for his birthday party with my family on the weekend. When I first placed the order, I felt pretty dreadful about it although to be honest, I also felt a deep sense of relief. It was all taken care of and I didn’t need to get stressed, worry…nothing.

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I had met Cathy at one of my business networking meetings. I took her card never expecting to use it myself. After all, as I said before, I am the Cake Queen. I always make my own cakes and I never perceived a need. That said, I thought I’d probably pass her card on. I had seen one of her works of art and it was beautiful. As Mister’s birthday approached and I was busy and not feeling the best, that business card started to whisper in my ear. Mum and I started looking through Cathy’s web site and found a Lego Ninjaro Man Cake and showed it to Mister. He was beaming. He absolutely loved it! He really wanted that cake. It was special. He felt special and he felt loved. It didn’t bother him who made it. He was so happy that I became happy…even excited…looking forward to the grand arrival of our cake… a bit like the arrival of the Queen of Sheba!

At the same time, I still felt like a bit of a bad mother. I couldn’t even make a birthday cake for my boy. Shame! Shame ! Shame!

Mister aged 4 with an irresistible  chocolate smile.

Mister aged 4 with an irresistible chocolate smile.

But does my performance as a mother really depend on whether I actually bake the cake myself or is buying a cake really good enough or possibly even an improvement?

Moreover, when it comes to being a mum, should I really be talking about performance anyway? What do I have to do to prove my love for my son…or my daughter? Be some kind of performing seal? No, I’m human and a flawed human at that. We are all flawed but just like an opal, these supposed flaws are part of our intrinsic inner beauty and what makes us who we are…whether we like it or not. It’s how we we’ve been made. The way God intended us to be for some strange reason. I don’t know or understand why he didn’t make us all perfect so we didn’t have to battle these frustrating elements of imperfection. That’s just the way it is. The way we are. Perhaps, it’s to keep us humble. I don’t know.

You are possibly reading this and thinking back to my last post and my frustration with trying to get my pantry sorted out and how I had finally reached a state of acceptance. Although I was at least somewhat accepting of acceptance back then, I am now coming to appreciate that acceptance is more of a process. It’s like building up muscle. It takes time. You can’t just click your fingers and magically accept the way things are and stop fighting. It takes time for the warrior within to put down their spear and let go.

The Lego Ninja Man Cake made by Cathy.

The Lego Ninja Man Cake made by Cathy.

Cathy dropped the cake off at our place. The Lego Ninja Man was just fantastic and Cathy was beaming. She seemed really excited to meet the kids and be a part of our celebration. She also encouraged us to actually cut and eat the cake. The chocolate mud cake inside was beautifully moist and scrumptious and as she said, it was too good to waste. I should also mention that the cake was served up on a mirror tray, which created some fun effects for the photos.

DSC_6791

The birthday boy and his cake

The birthday boy and his cake

Everyone was really happy except the poor Lego man who was heard shouting: “My legs! My legs I can’t feel my legs!”

Perhaps, I should take a leaf out of Edith Piaf’s book: “No regrets”!

However…

As it turned out, I did actually manage to make the kids a joint birthday cake to take to Church on Friday night. Our kids’ birthdays are ten days apart and they ended up having a Happy 79th Birthday with their number 7 and 9 on the cake. This was a chocolate cake covered in lashings of chocolate butter icing and smothered in Smarties. It was a real success and was demolished very quickly. However, I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to make this cake when we ordered the birthday cake so I did go through a lot of mental hoops this week.

Happy Birthday Kids. The cake made by Mum.

Happy Birthday Kids. The cake made by Mum.

Some rules are just too hard to break!

A friend made this birthday cake for Mister's 2nd Birthday when Miss was only 10 days old.

A friend made this birthday cake for Mister’s 2nd Birthday when Miss was only 10 days old.

It was interesting going through my photos looking for images for this post because I found that despite my protests, this wasn’t the first birthday cake I’ve bought. Interesting how memory can spin a bit of fiction… A friend very kindly made this cake for Mister’s second birthday when we were juggling the new baby.

I’d love to hear your stories.

xx Rowena