I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hobbies I Have Known

One of more interesting (to me) facets of my personality is that I can flip-flop between being very right brain oriented, to very left brain oriented, in a matter of seconds. Often I can use both sides to my benefit, with interesting results. It's a big part of why I love my job, and I think I'm pretty good at it. Right brain emzee loves the formulas of pastry - the one part this to four parts that plus 1/8th of a cup of something warmed to X temperature yields Y texture and WOWEEE! flavour. The left brain of me loves mucking around with piping tubes, and icing of differing consistencies, and colourings of all types to come up with fun, unique cake designs. As a friend eloquently said recently, "You love all that frou-frou cake crap." (I think that was a compliment.)

So for the past 31 years or so (give or take a few of my formative years, when I wasn't much use to anyone), I've always had this weird smart kid/hippie kid thing going on. The person who was happy to discuss heavy topics like genetic engineering and stem cell research while wearing my Birkenstocks and thinking about what one might do with a spare piece of felt and a glue stick. I will admit that since meeting DH, a lot of my hippie tendencies have gone by the wayside. My plans to join the Peace Corps kinda disappeared. I'm (well, DUH) no longer anti-marriage. I'm no longer a vegetarian. I gave up my nose pierce, plus the second and third earring holes in each ear. I don't write letters to foreign governments on behalf of Amnesty International, I no longer volunteer for things like AIDS Project LA, I'm not a member of Greenpeace, I haven't bought any patchouli or raspberry incense recently, and I don't own a wallet made of hemp and a handbag sewn in the hinterlands of Chile (although I still own my rainbow Peruvian knee socks). I don't know why, but this has been on my mind recently. More specifically, the fact that I've lost all my creative hobbies has been on my mind. I don't take photographs any more (even though I did a minor in Photography at college). I no longer muck around on a potter's wheel (even though I think I've done about half a dozen short courses in it). I don't draw or paint (although those were fleeting interests, along with sculpture, set design and scenery painting.) I also don't act any more (plays and musicals in high school, doing lots of backstage stuff in college). Hobbies these days are reading totally shit novels, and being on the parent's committee.

How. Fucking. Boring. And *sneer*, how very, well, thirties of me. Blech.

The rebel hippie in me is dying, and I've got to find a way to save her. Seriously. The only photos I take are of cakes (okay, FAB cakes, but still.) The only thing I throw on a potter's wheel is a wash cloth (just clean your face a bit there, dear). The drawing and painting are with Disney Princess colouring books (or for real fun, Transformers ones). The sculpture is with mashed potato (every dish looks better with some height). The acting and theatrics are saved for my kids (Oh yes, boogers are really cool!) or other parents (Isn't your little Jimmy just gorgeous?).

Seriously. I need to fix this. Filling up our recycling bin isn't doing it for me. My Birkenstocks are strictly standard-issue chef gear (read: not hippie chic at all), I don't own a pair of Crocs (or shoes from hemp, or anything at all made in Boulder, Colorado for that matter). My Peruvian rainbow knee socks are now on permanent loan to the dress-ups box. My hair is pretty short (and [horror!] mostly brushed these days). I have only one ear piercing in each ear. I am seriously, seriously normal and I have no creative hobbies any more, or any great causes to fight for. I've not held up a sign going either for or against something in, well, a loooong time.

UUUGGGHHH. Where has hippie me gone? (Answer: to a parent's association meeting.) I even find myself doing really naff, everyone-is-doing-is things like be on Facebook.

I've become...you know... suburban...and therefore....fucking boring.

I need to start making some placards which say: SAVE EMZEE FROM EXTINCTION*!

(*Note to self: Use recycled paper and spray paint which is, at the least, CFC free and in a recyclable can. Also for wooden pole, do not use recently felled timber, and for stapling it's best to use staples made from old keys which have been melted down expressly for that purpose.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

When The Cat Is Away (again)...

The mice play (again.)

Which is a nice way of saying that DH is out of town again, for about 4 days. Now normally I'd use this as an opportunity to stage a mini-revolt. Regular readers of this blog know that I use my DH's work travel as an opportunity to either turn into Slacker Mom, or just plain Crazy Mom. So, you know, I might throw out his t-shirts from 1964. Tidy up his side of the room, because he really won't miss that issue of "Submarine Monthly" from 3 years ago that he swears he is going to read. Or I might change jobs, cut my hair off, renovate my wardrobe, paint something, acquire a pet (or two), acquire a piercing (or two), let the kids play hookey from school and watch TV all day, have pizza for dinner several nights in a row, not bother to do any housework, buy a new car, acquire a tattoo (or two) ... really, there's a whole list of things I tend to do (or want to do) while my DH is away. Now it should be said that he really wouldn't mind my doing those things while he was in town. He might raise an eyebrow, but in general he's so sickeningly supportive and lovey-dovey and just plain nice about everything, that he takes my craziness in his stride. Bless him. This whole quiet normalcy thing is probably why I tend to break out the wierd stuff while he's away. Because, you know, it just might get a reaction out of him.

It never does. Partially because the show-off in me feels it necessary to blog about my exploits, and DUH, he reads my posts when he's gone. So the surprise factor isn't really there. Partially it's because he's my best friend, so I call him within ten seconds of committing some (minor and petty) craziness and say, "GUESS what I've just done? Can't guess? Okay, I've [insert minor and petty craziness]!" Partially it's because I attach more value to these things than he does - what I consider a big deal, he considers an "Eh, so?"

For the last couple of days I've been trying to think of craziness I can commit while he's away. This coming Wednesday is his birthday, so there were some good opportunities there, as in, "I got this tattoo just for you, sweetie!" I wonder, though....isn't it a bit control freak overachiever of me to be PLANNING my madness? I can totally picture this as a "to do" list:

  1. Go crazy
  2. Do something which you think is crazy
  3. Blog about it
  4. Call DH and tell him about it
  5. Realise you're being silly, it's not that crazy at all. Start again.
  6. Go crazy.
  7. Repeat steps 2 -7 ad naseum until you come to the conclusion that you're so normal, and so straight, and frankly so bloody mother-of-three-in-the-'burbs that you're never really going to do anything all that bad in the first place, so might as well give up now.
So after several days of trying to come up with a craziness-to-do list, I'm still left with nothing. Seriously. Maybe this is because I have tons of normal stuff to get done. You know, like open a business (T minus one week), do mountains of laundry (currently, literally, to my knees), take care of three energetic, what-are-we-doing-today-Mum kids who are on Spring Break, buy an oven worth $6,000+, go to work, finish two giant school assignments, and oh yeah did I mention open a business?! Minor stuff, you know.

So maybe this is a week for calm rather than for added madness. Now there's a crazy thought.

Friday, September 21, 2007


This one is gorgeous, and so very true! I know there have been a lot of kid-related posts lately, and officially speaking I'm not a "mommy blogger" so some of you might be bored. I promise to get back to food, and work, and school, and the other Three Sweeties news soon. In the meantime, enjoy this bit of fun ... and if you've got a recipe for French macarons which actually WORKS, please send it on.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Sweet Memory

Yesterday my friend Dr J called to wish me and my family a Happy New Year, as today is Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). I like this holiday, especially since it's one of the few happy holidays in the Jewish calendar. Plus the traditional food of Rosh Hashana is stuff I like - apples, honey, sweet challah - basically all things round and sweet. So Dr J called, and after he wished us a Happy New Year he also said, "...and a couple of days early, Happy Implantation Day!" He had remembered what I had forgotten - that 7 years ago, in the middle of services at Temple, I had to run off to a doctor's appointment. An appointment were they were implanting the three embryos which are now better known as The Trio.

At the time I thought it was very appropriate time of year. These potential lives were being given to me in the period of time in the Jewish Calendar where it is decided who shall live and who shall die, who shall be forgiven for their transgressions, and who maybe needs to work a bit harder next year. We talk about being "transcribed in the Book of Life" for the coming year, and that's exactly what I asked for as I walked out of that Temple that day. I nervously, quickly, quietly walked out of there, ...and right before I walked out I turned around, faced the bimah, and said very quick, silent prayer. "Please," I said, "Please, please, please inscribe at least one of these babies in the Book of Life."

I'm not a terribly religious person. I would describe myself as more of a cultural Jew than a religious one, so it was a strange thing for me to do. Still, I figured I needed all the help I could get - if medical science couldn't solve this whole infertility thing, maybe a helping hand from the Man Upstairs would. Hey, at that point, I'dve stood on top of a mountain and howled while turning slowly counter-clockwise, all while wearing pink stripey shorts, if I thought it would help. Frankly, IVF sucks.

Anyway I walked out of that Temple, drove to the doctor's office, and two weeks later had the life-changing experience of the nurse on the phone telling me that my HCG levels (the hormone which indicates pregnancy) were totally through the roof. A mere 2 weeks after that, I got the thrill of seeing three tiny flickering heartbeats on a monitor.

So we could say that it worked - that my silent prayer got answered. They *were* inscribed in the Book Of Life. Or maybe it was just coincidence. Either way, I couldn't be more grateful on this Rosh Hashana eve.

May your days be filled with sweet reasons to celebrate. Mine are filled with at least 3.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Swedish Chef

yah! ....e'vytink is okie dokie!....
(and I don't know what's funnier, the Chef himself, or the joke made at the end about the bride!)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

In Praise of Thanks

For the past several weeks, I've not been doing much in the way of cooking at work. I've spent the vast majority of that time in the Kitchen Management office, helping them roll out a new software program. In the middle of this project, one of the major team members suffered a work-related injury and I ended up doing some of her tasks while she recovered. It's been long. It's been sometimes boring. It's been frustrating because I'd rather be in a kitchen, not out of it. At the same time, it's given me a huge amount of insight into the running of a food-related business, experience in dealing with suppliers and staffing issues, and in general been a great learning experience. (Although I would be remiss if I didn't confess that I had complained about it - loudly- once or twice or okay, three or four times.)

One of the best parts about this foray into culinary administration has been the relationship I've developed with one of the other staff. (And I christen thee, for blog purposes, 'Jewel.') I could wax lyrical about how much I adore her, but this post isn't about that (sorry babe.) Recently she and I were discussing the concept of thanks and appreciation from a work point of view. Previously I've talked about how I don't like certain rewards. You know, I just don't want to get stuff. I don't want spa gift certificates, I don't want movies or dinner out with my workmates. All I really, really, really want ... is for the person I'm working for to say thanks. A lot. And mean it.

Pshaw! (I hear you thinking) You can't be serious. You don't want anything? Truth is, NO, I don't. Because what I'm giving you is my time, my dedication, my attitude, my talent, my lots-of-non-monetary things. I want you, dear boss person, to give that right back to me. Reward me with your non-tangibles. Which, I have to say, Jewel has done in SPADES. She really LISTENED when I said that's what I wanted.

I should say that this topic came up because she and I were talking about the fact that HER reward for working her guts out was the HR Manager coming into the office, handing her an envelope, and saying, "Maybe you should open this later" and then walking out. No surprise, people, it was a voucher for some facial treatments. As Jewel wryly commented, "Great! They repay me for my hard work by telling me I have bad skin?" That kind of thank you isn't really a thank you at all. It's a here's-a-present-now-shut-up-and-work-more token gesture.

I invited Jewel over to dinner this past Friday, and she handed me an envelope, too. I knew she was way too smart to give me a &*(^**%! spa voucher, so I assumed it was a nice thank you card. I was only 50% right. It was by far one of the nicest thank you cards I've ever gotten, plus a family pack of tickets to the Royal Melbourne Show. A show which frankly, I couldn't really afford to go to otherwise. A show which I really wanted to take my kids to.

Her message said, in part,

"...so I know that we have spoken at length about rewards and 'thank yous'...but I know deep inside everyone loves a gift still! ... All the long hours away from your family are hard to get back...so have a fantastic time at the Show."

Finally. Someone who gets it. Jewel has given me her honest appreciation of what I've done for her and the company, and given me precious time with my family. She got it so very, very right. As someone who (in T minus 3 weeks) will be a business owner, manager, HR person, bosslady, and everything else... I appreciate her leading by example. She asked me how I wanted to be thanked. She listened. She did it, and then added a surprise bonus.

Jewel has provided me with one of the best examples of true, meaningful thanks I've had yet.

This post is my thanks back.
(no blackhead squeezing and facial scrubs required.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's All (not) There In Black & White

Recently DH and I sat down to work out my taxes. No, we're not several months late - the financial year here ends on June 30. Anyhoo, we (okay, he) punched all the relevant numbers into e-tax (the online tax form) and bah-dah-bing-bah-dah-boom it spit this out:

Last year I earned less than $18,000. BEFORE taxes.

As in, I technically earned below the poverty line.
As in, kids working at Mickey D's made more money than I did.
As in, if DH were to get run over by a bus tomorrow, I couldn't afford to feed the kids, let alone myself.
As in, I earned how little?! Wait, DH, that can't possibly be right. Surely not. I mean, that's, you know, NOTHING.

Sadly, blog readers, it's true.

In the past 12 months, I've worked every hour I could.

As in, I took every shift work offered me.
As in, I worked early mornings, late nights, weekends, and everything in between.
As in, I ended up in the hospital for over 2 weeks because I worked myself into a back injury.
As in, I've never worked so damn hard as I have in the previous 12 months. (Okay, the 12 months before that? Equally as hard, but I earned more. Explanation below.)

Now it should be said that previous to this crazy cheffing biz, I worked a normal work week of 38 hours, with an hour lunch break, and earned somewhere in the vicinity of $50,000 a year. You know, REAL money. I also know that I hated most of it (except the fact that ABF worked there, too) and that towards the end, it was a soul-destroying experience. I *love* my job. I *love* being able to say, out loud, to total strangers, that I AM A CHEF. I am much happier now than I ever was before. In many ways my job now defines who I am.


My back aches, often. (Although said injury is now basically resolved.)
My Birkenstocks have worn down to THROUGH the cork. Three times.
My clothes all smell vaguely like yeast and/or cooked meat, even after washing.
I'm not sure what my kids look like in the morning, because I leave the house before they wake up.
All the clothes I own are either black, white, or checkered black and white.
When I get into bed at night, I average about half a paragraph before falling into a sleep so deep, it would take a large volcanic eruption to wake me up.
My right pointer finger is permanently calloused from my knife pressing against it.

And for all this, I get paid nothing. Now the sad thing is, I actually get paid pretty well for my industry. Hour for hour, I am earning close to 50% more than I was the previous year. Difference is I am working less hours now, hence the frighteningly small amount of money I earned. I feel like I worked a lot more, but I earned a lot less.

Since I saw that ridiculously small number on that screen, I've felt a little bit depressed about it. I mean, shit, I don't know how much more I could have done. Sure, it was an unusual year in so far as I was out of work (with said back injury) for about 7 weeks. Plus I had about 2-3 days of school a week, limiting my work availability. Plus I changed to working in catering (as opposed to a restaurant) which meant I worked 50+ hours some weeks, and barely 8 in other weeks. So the itty-bitty-teeny-weeny earnings make sense. Logically, I mean. Emotionally, though? Complete train wreck.

I cried, you know. Something I don't do all that often. At the moment I feel as though I am stretched very thin (ha! probably the only time I have a thin day as opposed to a fat day!). I'm working for my normal company, opening my own (T minus 3 weeks), doing 2 small side jobs (writing at Candy Addict, and until last week, consulting to a restaurant building a pastry section.) So you know, it's not like I'm sitting here eating cream cakes and sipping ice cold Campari.

And all this for $17,675?


Then I am struck by the thought: I don't really give a flying shit what I earn. I love my job. I'm good at my job. It's really all that matters, especially since I am fortunate enough to have a DH who does much less work (pound for pound, literally) than I do and earns...well... A WHOLE HECK OF A LOT MORE, shall we say, than I do. And it's true, it takes a lot less skill to bake a cake than it does to, say, redesign a submarine for the Australian Army.

But tell me - which would you rather have? Me? My money's (what little of it there is) on the cake. With extra icing, thanks.


Today at work I had a bit of a sook (a woe-is-me complaint) to a workmate about this whole money thing. She looked at me, with a somewhat bemused expression on her face, and said, "Um, yeah, but Michelle? You're a *MUM* to triplets and a *WIFE* and a *STUDENT* and you run a *HOME*. Did you somehow forget that all of those have value too?"

The sad thing is that YES, actually, I did.