We’ve all seen some weird things in 2020. However, things have really gone mad around here now. Indeed, even madder than usual, if that were possible. As you can see, I’ve starting cooking the books, and we’ll be eating words for Christmas.
Well, we will be unless our renovations and reorganizations get a wriggle on.
Indeed, being typical renovators, we’ve taken two steps forward, three steps back, on the hope that we’ll have a place for everything and everything in it’s place by Christmas Day. This hope is now starting to look like a fantastic dream, and I should be a lot more worried than I am. However, I’ve had good training. You can always hide a few things in the oven, the clothes dryer or under the bed at the last minute if you have to. Failing that, there’s the car.
Of course, the road to renovation didn’t start 5 days before Christmas. Rather, the wheels were set in motion a few months ago when our son’s car bed finally left the house for an extended holiday at a friend’s place.
Yet, there was still the problem of the old piano no one wanted in the loungeroom. However, it turned out that deconstructing the piano solved that problem and a friend of ours was quite happy to take it away in pieces, although we have kept the pedals and the keys. Then, it was full steam ahead, which also included an incidental painting of the room.
While Geoff was busy there, I started getting quite ruthless with the books and realized we probably needed to halve the number of books in our place. Well, that’s if we were ever going to be able to have people over once again. In other words, be able to open the place back up again, and not be afraid of somebody coming over.
Indeed, it’s been all too easy to forget we used to have people over, including holding the kids’ birthday parties. Whatever happened to us?
It’s called dermatomyositis an auto-immune disease where you’re muscles attack themselves and it’s been compounded by Interstitial Lung Disease, which has left me with 50% lung capacity. We’ve been in survival mode for so long, but with Geoff working from home this year due to Covid, we’ve finally been able to get ahead. Indeed, we’ve even saved money. So, 2020 hasn’t been all bad.
Well, it’s actually because of Covid that the renovations had to get a wriggle on. Usually, we go to my aunt’s place every year for a big Christmas with the extended family. My dad is one of seven, so what with all my cousins and now their kids, it’s become quite a tribe. However, they’re not getting together this year, and so my parents are coming to our place, and there’ll only be the six of us. Indeed, with such a small group, I feel we need to include the three dogs in on the head count. Nine sounds a lot better!
This means, of course, that I’m needing to cook, and not just cook the books. However, that can wait at the moment. We have a ham in the fridge, and I’ve made a Christmas cake and there’s also a pudding. So, I’ve made a good start.
All these books ended up in the kitchen while we were moving furniture around. Our dump and run room is now in the process of being cleaned out, and we’ve swapped the lounge and the dining table over so we’ll have two tables for Christmas Day, while creating a potential place for our teenaged kids to hang out. Or, perhaps it will be for us parents when, and if, their friends ever come over. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter, and it feels quite liberating.
Yet, at the same time, we still need to find a place for everything and have everything stashed away in its place by Christmas Day.
What have we done????
How are your Christmas preparations going? I hope yours are a lot less chaotic, and your plans are going well. Yet, at the same time, there’s also Covid to consider and its intent on ruining quite a few Christmases this year. Nearby Sydney has a cluster on the Northern Beaches and they’ve gone into lock down, and I’ve hearing of a few cancelled plans. However, cancelled lunches is nothing compared to the incredible loss of life the virus has claimed on a global scale, and there will be a lot of empty chairs this Christmas Day, and a lot of heart-ache. We are thinking of you and sending our love!
For me, 2020 has become a year of extreme baking where I’ve broken out of my straight jacket of tried and tested caution and taken on many risks, and my family and friends have been more than willing guinea pigs.
Last week, I thought I’d reached my zenith with the precarious Tree House Cake I created for a friend’s birthday. Moreover, just to blow the risk out of the park, we needed to transport the cake without the chocolate house sliding off its perch. Indeed, at one point, Geoff had to slam on the brakes and I almost leaped out of my skin!! However, the cake survived, and was an amazing success.
Perhaps, it was that success which spurred me on to attempt this week’s total insanity. You know how it is. You take a huge gamble. Have a bit of success, and it goes to your head. Now, you think you can do ANYTHING! Indeed, you’ve become invincible.
Moreover, I’ve also been watching Masterchef Junior where you see pint-sized supremoes conjure up the most incredible and unbelievable dishes out of the weirdest and most exotic flavours and ingredient combinations. You can either be incredibly humbled, or inspired to have a go yourself. I haven’t tried to replicate their dishes. However, time and time again, I’ve seen how you can jazz up a simple dish with a few added elements and create something truly spectacular and utterly scrumptious. So, I think it’s fairly fair to say that Masterchef Junior has fuelled my courage, spirit of experimentation and my seeming passion for skiing straight over a cliff, and expecting to land on both skis. Indeed, Masterchef has turned baking into an extreme sport.
Added to this mix, there’s the coronavirus. With so many of the usual sources of excitement, entertainment and facets of simply being human prohibited, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve turned to baking for a buzz. What else is there to do, especially for those of us who are in a high risk category and need to isolate and stay out of circulation as much as possible?
However, countering these temptations to succomb to extreme baking, there’s my mother’s tried and tested cooking advice. Indeed, I’ll call it “Mum’s Golden Rule” and that reads: “Never cook anything for a special occasion that you haven’t tried and tested at home first.” Clearly, that’s very good advice, especially when people are counting on you.
Yet, as I said, I’ve been throwing caution to the wind lately, and there’s no better illustration than my decision to bake Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday Party on Friday night.
After the famed tree house cake, I couldn’t just dish up a dried up sponge cake. No, it had to be spectacular. Have a sense of theatre, especially as she’s a performer and loves a lot of sparkle. So, what could be better and offer more theatre than a bombe…a Bombe Alaska? Not that I’ve ever tried baking Bombe Alaska before. Indeed, I’ve never even seen or tasted it before. So, I really was flying blind. Yet, how hard could it be? You just follow the recipe and Bob’s your uncle. Your bombe is ready to explode.
Well, at least, I knew I had to clear carve out a massive hole for the huge bowl of ice cream in the overloaded freezer. After all, baking isn’t just about creativity. There’s a lot of science and meticulous preparation, which can seem a bit boring and dull, but it’s just as important as the baking process itself.
In case you don’t know much about making Bombe Alaska either, the bombe itself is made out of 6 cups of ice cream which is packed into a pudding basin. This goes back into the freezer to set, and then upended on top of a cake base, covered in meringue and baked in the oven at 200 degrees celsius. Of course, baking ice cream in the oven really goes against the grain. Doesn’t the ice cream melt into a ginormous puddle and DISASTER strikes?!! However, this is where the science comes in. The meringue is supposed to act like a shell insulating the ice cream inside while the outside forms a voluminous crust. After the meringue shell is lightly browned, you take it out of the oven, pour warm brandy over the top and light a match…KERBOOM!!!
Well, at least that’s what’s supposed to happen…
As I said, this was the first time I’ve even made Bombe Alaska, and it’s not a dessert I’m even familiar with.
Just to complicate matters further, I significantly altered the recipe. The original recipe used a combination of vanilla ice cream, frozen raspberries and lemon sorbet on a sponge cake base. However, I had a layer of chocolate ice cream on top and a mixture of vanilla and raspberries inside and I replaced the sponge cake with a gooey Flourless Chocolate Cake. After finding out the mix for the chocolate cake was big enough to make 2 cakes, I also made some Nutella Buttercream Icing and spread lashings of icing, roasted hazelnuts, Violet Crumble over both cakes and the other cake became home for the Happy Birthday candles.
Unfortunately, the chances of the Bombe working out were always going to be low. The party was being held at a friend’s place and I had to beat up the meringue at home before we left, a good two hours before it headed into the oven. Obviously, that delay was hardly ideal. The other concern was that I didn’t know whether I’d have enough meringue to seal it properly, and I couldn’t just whip up more on the spot. So, I was really taking a huge chance.
Yet, surprisingly I just shrugged off the doubt and the possibility we’d be drinking our bombe out of mugs. However, despite the obvious insanity of proceeding with the bombe, I could sense in my heart that the bombe was meant to be – whether it worked out or not. I was just following orders. BTW, taking a chance like this is very out of character for me. I’m usually quite the perfectionist albeit in a quirky, haphazard guise. I don’t like failure and usually play it safe.
So, without any further ado, the bombe goes into the oven and there’s a group of spectators hovering around the oven door. We’re intrigued, and rather curious to see what happens when you put ice cream in the oven. It certainly goes against the grain and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, again I’m wondering why I took on such a risk, and so publicly. What was I thinking? Indeed, was I thinking at all?
All goes well for the first few critical minutes, but it doesn’t take long for trouble to brew. A hole opens up in the meringue and the chocolate ice cream pokes it’s head out. Oh no! I’m hoping it can just manage to hold itself together until the meringue has browned. However, reminiscent of the Christchurch earthquake, the ice cream begins to liquify. More meringue slides down the embankment and it’s pretty clear there’s nothing I can do to salvage the wreck. Yet, I’m still trying to brown the meringue so it’s not just a sticky moat of rawness around the base. Ever the optimist, I haven’t given up yet and I’m still hoping we’ll somehow be able to light the brandy and get the bombe to go off. However, we ended up being a bit confused about what to do with the brandy and how to heat it, and we were also doubtful it would light on the ice cream surface now the meringue had washed away. However, it didn’t work. So, we’ll end up calling this “a learning experience”.
Yet, the Bombe Alaska still tasted really good and still had a lot of theatre, suspense and it made everyone happy. Moreover, it did what it was really intended to do, and that was to show my friend how much I love and value her. It helped to make her birthday extra special, and that’s what I particularly wanted for her as Covid has hit her business really hard and she’s had to do a hell of a lot of soul searching this year. That’s what really mattered, and what’s important about my baking… seeing people smiling inside and out.
So, although the bombe didn’t light and all the meringue fell off in the oven, I still consider it a success and I’m planning to have another go fairly soon at home. See if I can perfect this spectacular dessert and possibly come up with a Christmas variation.
It’s exploding with possibilities.
Have you ever had or baked Bomb Alaska? What are your secrets for getting it to work out? I’d love to hear from you.
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.
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 Greaseand 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.
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.
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.
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”
So what if it’s my daughter’s birthday? That’s hardly newsworthy. After all, she’s not Princess Charlotte, and the only paparazzi hanging around when she blew out her candles, was her Mum.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that her birthday didn’t mean anything beyond our four walls and her beaming grandparents.
Our daughter turned 12 yesterday. While she’s still not officially a teenager, she’s in her first year of high school. So, this birthday marked a definite transition from childhood into something else. Entré into a zone where it can be difficult for parents to find their way. Are we wanted, or unwanted? In the way, or ignoring them and giving them too much space? Are we expecting them to be kids and adults all in the same breath and setting all sorts of unrealistic expectations? Or, are we feeling like little more than a taxi driver? An ATM only good for more money? I’ve heard a lot of parents lament that their teens only grunt, and shut them out. Lock themselves away in their rooms. There’s also the great electronics challenge. How do we tear our kids and teens away from Minecraft long enough to even look us in the eye and say “hello”?
These are challenging times. After all, the teenage years come with the same kind of flashing neon signs as the terrible twos. Having been through that, I’m no idiot. I know it’s virtually impossible to come out unscathed, but I also feel empowered. I make things better or worse.
However, none of that was at the forefront of my mind yesterday. That all came afterwards, as I reflected on how well everything went and how I’ve built connections with my daughter, her friends and their parents. Also, I’m pleased to say we passed muster. So, I’m feeling really stoked…content.
Miss in Saphora Sporting Blue Lipstick.
The big birthday, began with a morning of dance rehearsals and classes for Miss, and I set about trying to find the carpet in her bedroom. Even though the girls would be sleeping in the tent in our backyard under the watchful eye of the dogs, kids always end up in the bedroom and hers needed major reconstruction. I’m still fighting off the sinus infection too so wasn’t 100%. Meanwhile, Geoff was salvaging the backyard from the pups. There isn’t a blade of grass out there, and there was all sorts of chewed up detritus. With only hours to go, we had a lot of work ahead. Fortunately, I did my baking on Friday, making Mars Bar Slice, Pavlova, cup cakes. Dinner would be pizzas.
However, before the party began, Miss wanted to go to makeup Mecca, Saphora, with her friend, so she could go crazy with her birthday money from her Godmother and earn double points and a birthday gift. We also spent awhile in Lush.
An extraordinary moment.
Cartwheels in the sand.
Amelia with Nikon camera aged 2.5
Saphora really is a kind of fantasyland and they let you play around with a kaleidoscope of eye shadows, lipsticks and highlighers so you can even glitter and sparkle in the dark. It was so much fun. After all, how often do we have the opportunity to colour ourselves in using the brightest of brights without any limitations and get away with it? At Saphora, our face is a blank canvas only limited by our imaginations and our arms are our palettes. Indeed, there’s even a word to describe trying out this multitude of product…”swatching”.“
Not unsurprisingly, I don’t keep up with make up or fashion trends. I was chaperone. My daughter’s friend’s Mum likes the girls to be accompanied, and that makes the decision easy for me. I’m a slow walker. So, they’re always a metre or two in front and I probably look more like a stalker. However, this means they have their own space, can do their own thing and have an old head with them if required. You just don’t know what those unpredictables can be, and they’re not quite at the stage where they have the life experience to deal with all of that on their own. Also, my daughter is tiny and younger than many of her friends and I’m quite conscious that a stranger could pick her up and cart her off without any effort at all, aside from her resistance. In Australia, we had a young man called Daniel Morcombe who was abducted from a bus stop, violated and murdered. He was 12 years old. That puts things into perspective for me. While a 12 year old might be sensible, trustworthy and intelligent, they are still a child and need a backstop.
I don’t know how parenting a teen will look down the track. Her big brother turns 14 in a few weeks and hasn’t brought us the usual problems of teenagers yet. We tend to be late bloomers in the puberty stakes, so perhaps all of that is just around the corner. You sort of hope it is as a parent, as much as you want to keep pushing it off into the future. After all, they really can’t have a relationship with their electronics. Or, at least not one that’s going to produce any grandchildren (not that I’m wanting them any time soon).
Anyway, my modus operandi for parenting teens at the moment, is to get to know my kids’ friends and their parents. Keep those lines of communication going. After all, what I’m finding so far, is that they’re all quite chatty and we’re all getting on really well and they trust me. This might not matter much at the moment, but it might down the track.
So, I’m now positioning myself as my kids’ parent and their friend. Trying to make the hard decisions and enforce boundaries and deadlines, while also being involved enough that they feel I know them,that they know I have their back and can see their point of view, even if I don’t agree with it. It can be very tempting to think that now our kids are growing older, that we can get more “me time”. Work more. Pull back. I’m not too sure.When they were younger, they could go to daycare or before & after school care but once at high school, they’re home alone…or not. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the family finances or the need for both parents to work, sole parent families and the complexities of life. My complication is my disability and chronic health, which has ruled out paid work for the last 5 years, although I am now starting to set the wheels in motion. I’m currently looking into freelance writing opportunities.
I’ll write more about how the birthday went in my next post. In the meantime, I was wondering what your view are about parenting teens. What are your hot tips for parenting teens? What helped you? I have definitely found that we often have our best chats in the car or around the family dinner table. I’ve also been playing quite a lot of board and card games with our son lately at his request. That’s usually when the wifi gets turned off, but it’s him seeking me out, not vice versa. These games might be old-fashioned, but we’ve had a lot of laughs, the competition is fairly intense, and I can feel the bonds knitting together on the spot.
On that note, I’m off for slice of pavlova. Birthday party leftovers are the best.
Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.
However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink. The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.
It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.
Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.
As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.
Walking off Indulgence.
After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.
Our Beach in Winter.
It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.
One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.
“You two look cosy,” Jess smiled, almost spilling champagne over her best friend and her ex-lover. They weren’t holding hands. Yet, she could sense that unmistakable sizzle. Almost convulsing, Jess said nothing. She kept her love life private.
Ouch! That Summer with Will stung like a bee. He’d seen straight through her with those damned blue eyes. Didn’t even need his lens.
That’s why she ran. By then, there was no turning back.
She was too broken.
The two people she loved the most and knew the best. Yet, she kept zipped.
She couldn’t tell him about their son.
This has been written in response to Charli Mills weekly Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch.
December 29, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a cozy story. What is it to be cozy, to experience Danish hygge? It doesn’t need to be culture-specific, but it can be an interesting point of comparison or contrast. A character might long to feel cozy, or you might describe the perfect cozy scene. It may or may not include Prosecco..
Respond by January 3, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 4). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Not sure whether more caffeine is required or some herbal tea. Do I shock my body with increasing doses of caffeine until it jolts back into action? Or, do I just go with the flow and fall asleep? While I let my droopy eyes decide, I’ll start writing. Writing releases my inner tensions and the aftermath of a stressful week, better than anything else.
It is now Autumn here. While I might have been complaining about the scorching Summer heat which was continuing unabated, I definitely did not request torrential rain and localised flooding. Moreover, I certainly did not ask to be driving through floodwaters, just to get my son to school around the corner. After all, when it comes to exciting adventures, this wasn’t what Mum’s Taxi had in mind!
However, I guess it builds character. Gives me bragging rights. However, I don’t recall signing up for another episode of Survivor!
While these heavy rains made driving around difficult and potentially dangerous, they created some fantastic photographic opportunities.
Driving home from dropping my daughter at Cub Scouts, I veered home picking up my camera and headed down to the beach. I’d spotted huge billowing clouds over the rooftops and being right on sunset, I dashed off in pursuit of golden glory. I wasn’t disappointed, capturing stunning reflections in the receding surf. Yum! That might sound like a odd description of a sunset but I’m currently watching an interview with the judges from Masterchef and it just seemed to fit. Can something be that beautiful that you can actually taste it? I’m not sure but this had to come close.
However, this week wasn’t all about dashing through floods and cloud chasing.
Monday night, I attended a dinner celebrating International Women’s Day held by Business & Professional Women. This included a candle-lighting ceremony honouring women around the world. The guest speaker was Mahboba Rawi from international aid organisation organisation, Mahboba’s Promise, which delivers food, shelter, medical attention and education to thousands of women and children whose lives have been destroyed by war in her native Afghanistan. She also tells her story in her book: Mahboba’s Promise.
I was very touched by meeting Mahboba. There was something exceptional about her. A real sense of peace. That if she put her hand on your heart, all those storms and inner turbulence would instantly settle and there would be peace. Unfortunately, this quality is usually borne out of great suffering and incredibly challenging personal experience and subsequent growth. It’s such experience which changes your focus from the everyday and mundune to some kind of different plane.
Not only did Mahboba go through great loses as a refugee but she went on to lose her eldest son in a tragic accident, which subsequently led to the breakdown of her marriage and great financial hardship. So, when it comes to helping others and showing genuine heartfelt compassion, she has been there. You can read more about Mahboba’s Promise Here.
On Thursday, I had a rather intriguing trip down to Sydney to have a neuro-psychological assessment. This tests the functionality of your brain looking at words, numbers, memory, multi-tasking, thought processes, spatial ability and no doubt things I haven’t even considered. It’s a very challenging test. Not in the least because you need to know the name of the Australian Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister. With the revolving doors down in Parliament House, this isn’t easy. I’d actually heard that paramedics have removed this question from their neurological tests. In reverse order, we have Turnbull, Abbott, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd. That’s 5 changes in six years. I don’t think anyone could lock you up for getting that mess wrong.
I’m pretty sure the test went well. Struggled a bit on the spatial tests but that didn’t surprise me. After all, reversing Mum’s Taxi isn’t a pretty sight. Indeed, when that rear bumper bar is on the move, entire car parks have evacuated! Sorry, folks!
After surviving heavy rains, floods and neuro-psychological tests, yesterday we finally had our daughter’s belated 10th Birthday Party. For some reason, she kept forgetting to take the invitations to school and also had a few days off with stomach aches. So, we come to Thursday morning and as we’re pulling up at the station, silly me asks whether she has packed the invitations. Why didn’t I think to ask while we were still at home when there was still a chance to pack them? Stupid, Mum. Of course she’d forgotten to pack them. So, I ended up sending her teacher a desperate email asking her to print the invitation out and give it to all the girls in her class. Surely, they wouldn’t all turn up with only 2 days’ notice?!! Besides, I preferred the idea of inviting all the girls anyway and being more inclusive. As you may recall, our daughter moved to a new school this year. It’s a class for bright kids pooled from the regional area and they’re all new and just getting to know each other. Moreover, the parents don’t know each other at all. With the kids taking public transport long distance to get there, we rarely go near the place. So, the party provided a much needed opportunity to help us all get to know each other better.
As it turned out, the party was a brilliant success! It was held at the Hidden Courtyard Cafe, which is out the back of a florist shop. My Mum and Miss go there for afternoon tea every week when Mum picks her up from the station. It has quite a fusion of flowers, art and up until the party started, a live band. They sang Miss Happy Birthday before they finished up. We invited the kids to “High Tea” and about 12 kids arrived ranging from dressy to pretty casual. That’s one of the things I really like about where we live. While there’s some cloning, you can largely be yourself and that’s just fine. By the way, I should also mention that the cafe is dog-friendly, so Lady came along. (That, of course, meant a bath. We decided to leave Bilbo at home as he can get a little narky around strangers at times).
Not too sure whether Lady was wondering how many balloons it would take to fly and whether that was from a view of hope or dread?
I have to say that I was exceptionally grateful to the cafe. I’d been in a real spin about where to hold her party without sending us bankrupt. Kids parties can get so expensive and yet they really are such an important part of growing up, making friends and feeling special. Conversely, when they implode the child feels awful and they just reinforce any negative vibe the child has about themselves. Knowing how to navigate your party through those potential minefields, is a serious concern but worth it when you pull it off.
Anyway, given the hectic week and the troubles getting the invitations out, this party ended up flying by the seat of it’s pants but came together exceptionally well. The cafe had covered the tables in drawing paper and I’d also brought textas and some drawing paper. I’d also written out a motivational quote for each child (largely from Dr Suess, Helen Kellar and John Lennon) and left it on their plate. Also, I made name tags or everyone and stuck a glittery smiley face on each one. This was also inspired as I didn’t know most of the kids and there were kids from various activities and it just helped break the ice. Marianne, the Proprietor, is an excellent event manager and helped keep things moving with the appearance of cake plate filled with little morsels, to the chef appearing with milkshakes and then the lighting of the cake. It all had a certain amount of theatre and came across really well. We all had a fabulous time!
Miss and Lady.
Now, my son is asking abut his also belated birthday party but we’ll be heading the Royal Sydney Easter Show next week. So, it can wait. We might have his mates over for a video night. Do they still exist? I wonder. When I turned 13, I had a slumber party and we all watched Greaseon video. Video nights were actually incredibly trendy at the time, and not the last resort of the desperate and dateless. Oh how things change!
Meanwhile the school work keeps coming. I’ve glossed over my son’s upcoming Maths Exam and am much more interested in my daughter’s assignment. Following on from her project on Natural Disasters, she has to write a newspaper article about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. I am now engrossed in reading a series of personal accounts. They’re riveting: http://www.sfmuseum.net/1906/ew.html
Anyway, that just about sums up last week and by now, it’s Sunday night here and I really don’t feel ready for another week. It’s been bucketing down with rain again tonight and once again, I feel like curling up in my cave and hibernating.
Indeed, the kids have been asking for blankets.
Humph…last week it was Summer!
I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at http://parttimemonster.com/ and please click through to the
A mural outside the cafe. It could be my daughter.
The more I chat to bloggers around the world, the more I’ve come to realise how topsy turvey living in Australia can be and that Halloween is just another example.
While Halloween marks the beginning of a Northern Winter, Down Under, Summer is well and truly underway and life’s a beach.
So, the more I think about celebrating Halloween in Australia, the weirder it becomes and it really doesn’t make any sense at all.
Traditionally, Halloween marked the end of Summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. This was a time of year that often associated with human death. In the Celtic Calendar, 1st November marked the beginning of the New Year. On 31st October, the night before the new year, the Celts celebrated Samhain, when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead supposedly became blurred and it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
For our family, these practices are quite foreign to our beliefs and are as much out of kilter as the time of year.
However, we go trick-or-treating in our street and the kids have been to a few Halloween parties over the years. However, Halloween is relatively low-key in Australia and unless you have kids or want to attract the local vultures, Halloween passes you by.
This year, for the first time ever, the kids each carved out a little pumpkin and this afternoon we’ll be going trick-or-treating with a few friends in broad daylight. While that’s great for personal safety, it sort of spoils the atmosphere. After all, other than evil nasties, who’s afraid of the light? The sun won’t be setting until 7.21PM.
Personally, I see Halloween more of an opportunity to meet our neighbours as we walk up and down the street and I would quite happily throw all the lollies out. But…these days I’m a grown up, not the little person almost astro-travelling on colours and excess sugar!
We might live in Australia and the seasons might be out of whack but my kids still want the lollies and they taste just as good.
I am also mindful at Halloween that we don’t need to make up spooky stories. That there is more than enough horror in real life. Please read my next post, which is absolutely heart-breaking but unless we learn from horrific tragedy, we are leaving the window open for evil to return. Ignorance is no excuse for evil to flourish.
That said, I’d still like to hear what have you been doing for Halloween. Please leave links to your posts in the comments.
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.
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 Peopleand 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”.
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!
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.
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!