Friday, April 25, 2008
How many times have I heard my Mom utter that sentence? I think we've already established that while I certainly am a girl, I'm not really a girly-girl. My daughters are always asking, "Do you ever wear these shoes, Mummy?" when they find a dusty pair of heels in the back of my cupboard. My son is always telling me I should wear skirts more often and I think my DH wishes I owned a bra in a colour other than white. Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoy getting all dressed up to go out somewhere. I quite like putting on make-up, pulling up stockings, wearing expensive jewellery and looking smokin' hot. I'd just rather not have to do it every day.
I will admit that I do kinda take this not-a-girly-girl thing to the extreme. I lack the time, patience, or ability to use things like hair "product", hair dryers, moisturisers and exfoliating gloves. My morning beauty routine is something like this: Get up. Pee. Brush hair. Brush teeth. Get dressed. My evening routine is like this: Get undressed. Pee. Brush hair. Brush teeth. Get into bed. Many nights I skip all of that and head from get undressed to get into bed with no stops in between.
A major reason for my lack of girly stuff is that I have a heightened sense of smell. Seriously. I can smell certain spices in a food, before I taste it. If I smell certain things it will often trigger a physical reaction ... some smells just make me want to puke. We have to get rid of the toilet in our en suite because I swear I can smell the Ghost of Pee Past, even when nobody else can. My idea of hell is to be trapped in a Lush store without a gas mask. I shit you not, I have to walk a wide circle around the place because simply standing within 10 feet of the front door gives me an instant headache. Anyway since most girly stuff is pretty heavily scented, I avoid it at all costs. You know when you buy those el cheapo gifts of baskets of smelly stuff, because you don't know me well enough to buy me a real gift? Yeah, NO thanks.
Anyway my smell issues extend quite a long way ... well into my working life, too. In one of the bakeries I worked for, we used to make lavender palmieri. By the trolley load, so we're talking maybe 20+ trays. I was fine making them, tray-ing them up, and so on. God HELP ME if I had to be the one to get them out of the oven, though. The first time I did it, my eyes watered, I started to hack and choke, and I told N.N. that it smelled like a hundred old ladies had DIED in that oven. I swear it took a few days for me to recover. Yeah, never again. N.N. was responsible for taking out the trolley after that. To this day she and I lovingly refer to them as, "dead old lady biscuits."
But I digress.
My beauty regime - or lack thereof - is a source of some amusement to many of my friends, especially those (hellllloooo, 007 and heeelllooo, Neighbour's Wife) who not only have a beauty routine, but, you know, excel at having one. People who know how to work a flat iron. People who can apply lipstick while driving. People who, you know, wear matching earrings to their outfit. This is not me.
007 gave up on me a while ago (and frankly, I would have, too) after all her lovely gifts of smelly stuff and jewellery were graciously received...never to be seen again (although I do wear a very cool necklace she made me.) Neighbour's Wife, though...she's a new friend. So she didn't understand the rules of emzee gift giving. Rule One: No stinky stuff, ever. Rule Two: No girly crap like spa vouchers. Now she and I have talked about this. She thinks she is going to convert me. In fact her mother thinks she can convert me, too. NW asked me about what moisturiser I used, to which I asked, "Does a bar of Dove in the shower count?" She assured me that NO, it didn't count - even after I said it had one quarter moisturising cream. The nerve of some people! Her Mom then told me that I might be laughing now, but when I was 50 I'd regret it (the non-use of moisturiser, that is.)
Now this is where one of the benefits of being fat comes in. You ever met a fat person with wrinkles? NO. Because the fat...FILLS IN the wrinkles nicely. Bonus!
Neighbour's Wife is convinced she's going to get me onto the girl-stuff bandwagon, though. Last week, she came to seder with a big ol' present for me. The box was labelled Mecca Cosmetica.
I tried, people. I really, really tried to look all thankful and grateful and ooohhh-isn't-that-nice. In my mind, I'm thinking holy SHIT. Now I have to pretend like I used this stuff, when I *know* it's going to gather dust at the bottom of the bathroom cupboard. Great. NW must have been able to read this expression because she said, "emzee. Really. IT'S OKAY. I thought *hard* about the whole no-stinky-stuff thing (yes, she used that expression)." I'm still looking doubtful, because, you know, the freakin' box is HEAVY. So she says, "I thought about the whole pastry thing. I really did. Just...trust me, okay?"
I waited until after they had left to open the box.
I opened the box.
I opened my eyes.
I found a big ol' bottle of something called...."Cinnamon Buns."
I almost peed in my pants from laughing. It's a shampoo/body wash/cleaning goop thing...which smells like...freshly baked cinnamon buns. I shit you not. Not only does it literally smell like cinnamon buns, or like a freshly made horchata...but it has a RECIPE for cinnamon buns on the front of the bottle.
This, my friends, was the Neighbour's Wife playing some serious stinky stuff hard ball.
The second item in the box was a container of Gingerbread Man Salt Scrub. You open this tub open, and I swear to god it's like walking into an oven filled with gingerbread men (neither dead nor old.)
Okay, so maybe she's telling me I smell and have dry skin, but I prefer to think that it's Round One of the war of emzee versus the stinky girl crap.
As I stepped out of my shower today, DH smelled my shoulder and said, "MMMM!! Cinnamony goodness!"
I think it's fair to say that Round One goes to the Neighbour's Wife.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
My little brother recently emailed me (little being a proverbial thing, he's 6'5") to say that, this Passover, he's declared a jihad on matzah. He can't stand the stuff and more importantly the stuff can't stand him, so he's temporarily gone all Atkins on me. Most of my family members (myself included) claim that matzah gives them a stomach ache. It's no wonder, really! I don't think Him Who Is Up There really *meant* for us to eschew all things tasty, did he? Surely not. It takes a special kind of evil to make Jews - The Chosen Eaters - have crappy food for eight days. Every year we subject ourselves to this "helliday" of bad food....and I'm convinced it's because it gives us good complaint fodder. If there is two things Jews are good at, it's incessant eating and incessant complaining. Passover, in all it's glory, allows us to do BOTH.
Matzah is kinda like Chinese food...you eat it and eat it and eat it and eat it and you feel like you've eaten enough to last several lifetimes. You then get a stomach ache, go take a big shit, and then bah-dah-bing, you're starving again. So you go to the cupcboard to get something to eat and you're faced with... matzah. So you sigh and get some out of the cupboard, slap on a few calories (because what is matzah without butter and cream cheese and Nutella?! No, not all at once...okay maybe the cream cheese and Nutella together) and eat several slices. You feel so full, you're going to BURST. You loosen the button on your jeans, feel a stomach ache coming on, head to the bathroom and...well, you get the idea.
So matzah isn't so great ... but here is the part of Passover I totally don't get. During this helliday, people who are normally CRAPPY cooks, who HATE cooking, and who shouldn't be allowed within 10 feet of a stove - suddenly think they are the Galloping-Frickin'-Gourmet. People who are GREAT cooks, who LOVE cooking, and who should have one foot tied to the nearest Sub-Zero and ten-burner stove...lose all their cooking ability. Passover food is shitty NOT because of matzah, but because of all the other random CRAP people cook during those eight days.
Seriously. I don't get it. There is NO commandment which says, "All meat during Passover must be cooked to shoe leather stage and be entirely devoid of moisture." There is NO commandment which says "Though shall not serve any vegetable unless it is mixed with 42 eggs and squished into a Pyrex and overbaked." It goes without saying that there is definitely no commandment which says "All Passover baking must be either bland, tasteless, or have a texture like wet concrete, and your throat must close up with the hardened sludge as you eat it."
NEWS FLASH, PEOPLE: There really is no need for Passover food to suck as much as it does.
Here are 10 essential Passover cooking tips for you:
1) Matzah balls should NEVER be wholemeal. You're already eating 40 eggs and some chicken fat and chocolate covered matzah. A bisselle white matzah won't kill you. I promise.
2) The cows did not get the memo about only producing dry, tasteless meat during Passover. It's YOU who suddenly forgot how to cook it (or season it. Salt is KLP. Really, it is!).
3) If you wouldn't cook soggy vegetable bake/tasteless veggie slice/undercooked kugel the rest of the year, please do not start now.
4) You are supposed request some ice cream with your cake. You're not supposed to request a Heimlich from the guy sitting next to you.
5) If you find yourself thinking "There's nothing to eat in this house," chances are you had nothing the rest of the year, too. Stop being so freakin' cheap and buy some real groceries. You know, like FRUIT.
6) Matzah balls...well, yes. Some traditions should be left alone (but yes, some soda water added to the mixture does make them less cannon-ball like.)
7) Chicken soup. It should have flavour. It's not just water, people. Let me again introduce you to the concept of SALT and VEGETABLES and oh yeah, a NOT ANOREXIC chicken. You want a decent chicken soup? Buy a chicken worth more than $4.
8) There are really only a couple of dishes in which you can successfully substitute matzah for bread. Sandwiches is not one of them, nor is pizza dough. However if you MUST do so, please remember that a) sandwiches usually have more than just salami and mayonnaise, and b) pizza is not just ketchup and crappy cheese.
9) No cookies should ever, and I mean EVER come from a can. Riddle me this - if you saw cookies in a can during, say, August ... would you buy them? No you would not. You would STEP AWAY from the canned cookies. Do us all a favour and make some of these instead. Too hard? 1 egg white to 60g sugar, pinch of vanilla, whisk to stiff peak, plop on an oven tray and bake at 140C for about 20 minutes.
10) Score yourself an invite to my house for Passover next year. I guarantee a week worth of meals which actually taste good AND comply with the rules of this non-holiday. If you don't leave the meal converted, I'll eat my hat (perfectly formed out of matza meal and water of course.)
Follow these ten simple rules, and I promise you won't be complaining as much. Or maybe you will, because, you know, we just kinda DO - isn't it all part of the fun of Passover? (Yes, you just read the words 'fun' and 'Passover' in the same sentence!)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Detox: It was always intended to be a 2 week thing, which would then lead to some other hocus-pocus bullshit crazy naturopathic thing to follow. I did the 2 weeks (rather brilliantly, I might add). I went back to said naturopath and I hated every minute of it. Not so much because of the snake oil ideas of naturopathic health and wealth, more because we just didn't have great rapport. I'm still committed to exploring this idea further, just not with him. Mr Naturopath Man, YOU SUCKED.
Quinoa: I bought a bag (400g at $5.49! Eeek!) from the local Middle Eastern bakery. First night, I overcooked it slightly and so it was a bit gluggy but...delicious. Seriously. I cooked it in some chicken stock (I know, I know, chicken is technically not allowed) but it was so great the kids asked if we could have it the next night. The next night I undercooked it a bit and used onion soup rather than chicken stock. Not as much of a hit with the under-7's crowd. Still, delicious and well worth buying more of and experimenting more with. Does anyone know if quinoa is allowed for Passover?
Passover: It starts in 2 days, which means no bread for me, for 8 days. I'm thinking this is a good thing, as I've been OD'ing on bread products like nobody's business. Then again, girlness is coming my way and that's a sure bring-on-the-carbs time of the month. Carb addicted women like myself use this holiday as one big excuse to be bitchy. Not that I actually NEED an excuse, ya know?
Dirty Weekends: I didn't blog about it, but as a surprise to DH I kidnapped him and we spent 22 hours celebrating the 12th anniversary of our first date. We indulged in a 5 star city hotel, meals at nice restaurants (hello, Rockpool!) and other appropriate debauchery. Yes, we're that cheesy. Yes, we had sex without anyone banging on the door incesstantly, yelling, "Eeewwww...stop KISSing. It's GROSS!" or anyone asking us why we were not wearing pyjamas on such a cold night. We even managed to not giggle (much) as Whitney Houston warbled on about how much she will aaaallllllwwwwaaaaayyyysss love yooooooooooooo in the background. Oh, and there was an incident with a hanger and a scalding hot bath and rose petals in a bellybutton and a drunken DH. You don't want to hear about all that, do you?
Exercise: Bollywood dancing this week was great fun but not as much of an aerobic workout. Seems the location closer to me is a haven for geriatrics. I brought DD2 along and even without her, Jewel and I lowered the average age in there by 20 years. Clearly I live in the less young and hip suburb - but that's okay because I am neither young nor hip. Gym attendance was at a high, but is now made harder by the kids being on Autumn vacation.
School Holidays: Which is what they call it here when your kids are home for 2 weeks driving you mental. I adore my kids, I really do. I also adore fobbing them off on underpaid and unappreciated teachers for 7 hours a day. Holiday? Ummm, yeah. For who exactly? The trio have been especially tired these past few weeks so I deliberately made no plans for them other than the odd play date or short outing. This would be working rather well, except that they seem to be enjoying slopping around in pyjamas until 3pm and refusing to go anywhere...until 3:05pm where they start complaining that they never get to go anywhere and it's all so BORING. Thanks god for $6-for-6 weekly video rentals!
Snoopy Come Home: One of the videos we rented this week. I watched most of it (talk about mind-numbingly boring. OMG) and then used the excuse of cooking dinner to leave. Five minutes later I hear a chorus of deep, heart-wrenching sobbing coming from the living room. I go in there to find my three kids literally crying their eyes out...because Snoopy decided to return to his original owner, some little shit named Lila (who btw is in the hospital for 3 weeks, but let me tell ya, she looks pretty freakin' healthy). Firstly, who the fuck KNEW he had an owner other than Charlie Brown and secondly, talk about giving kids a separation anxiety complex! Of course the little two-timing Benedict Arnold goes running right back to ol' Charles a few minutes later. Yeah, thanks for the emotional train wreck, Mr Schulz.
Sex & The City: I've never seen a single episode of this show...because let's see....it involves single, skinny, rich, successful, sex-addicted chicks who are (as my friend The Neighbour's Wife would say) uber-cool. I may be one of two of those things, but I'm not enough of those things to justify watching it. At the same time, I'm bloody grateful that I am in the minority, as the tickets to the Première (a fund raiser I'm organising for the kiddos' school) are flying out the door faster than I can get them printed.
(In Melbourne? Wanna come? Email me - emzeegee[at]hotmail[dot]com)
Money Tree: I haven't got one. I need one. Anyone?!
Sexist Undies: I went to get the kids some new undies today...and the girl ones are all covered in slogans which say things like "Girls Rule" and "Boys are Gross." I'm wondering why the pairs I found for my son didn't say things like "Girls are Over-Emotional" and "Girls Stink" and "Boys Kick Girls' Asses" Yes, it's true. I've discovered blatant sexism in the undies aisle at Big W. I've also discovered Elmo pajamas in a size 18. Now THAT's sexy! (not).
Facebook: I considered it a major achievement to have more than 8 friends, until I looked at my eight and found out that some of them have well over 100. Seriously, who the fuck knows that many people? Or am I just a big loser?
This Blog: Gets me in trouble more than I realise...and in the oddest ways. I got a text message today (Hi Sheets!) which said, "How's the detox/kids/cakes/bhangra going?" Who knew?!
I may be a bit absent from here in the next few days - what with Passover coming and kids being at home. In the meantime, amuse yourselves.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Let me preface this post by saying I am the most uncoordinated person you will ever meet. Nowhere is this more true than in your friendly neighbourhood aerobics class. When everyone else is grapevine-ing to the left, I'm heading right. When the skinny bitches are turning in a circle leading with their left hip, I'm heading on a one way trip to the opposite corner of the room with my right hip. What I lack in ability or coordination, I make up for in enthusiasm...or at least I HOPE I do, because that way everyone can say, "Who is that moron in the corner going the
wrong way? Ah well, at least she looks like she is having fun!"
Late last year my friend Jewel (name changed to protect the innocent) got married in a full traditional Indian soiree. Included in the lead up to the big day was a Bollywood dance lesson for her nearest and dearest, which included me.
Hmmm. Let's consider the dangers of this.
Random shoulder shrugging at high speed.
Hands flicking in multiple directions.
Legs kicking out wildly.
...and that's me dancing on a good day!
Ummm, yeah. Thanks but...no.
Jewel had other ideas, so it was that I found myself in a hot room with 30 other chicks waving my arms around and in general feeling like a giant Ooompah Loompah. An hour later, pouring with sweat, I had a huge smile on my face. It was exhilarating, it was fun, it was hilariously funny, and it was a damn good workout. Silly me said as much to Jewel, who suggested that post-wedding, we take this dancing biz up as an actual hobby.
*insert maniacal laughter here* You're kidding, right?
Fast forward several months, and I am turning over a new, get-out-of-my-comfort-zone leaf. So I mentioned to Jewel that maybe we should take another look at the whole hippy-hippy-shake business. It took less than 4 hours and she had emailed me a list of Bollywood dancing schools, complete with times, costs, and how we were going to get there (as we live on opposite sides of Melbourne.) Tonight was our first class...and honestly, I can't remember when I've had quite that much fun while getting some serious exercise.
I was pouring with sweat, grinning like an idiot and I found myself bloody grateful that nobody there gave two shits about my coordination of my (lack of) dancing skills. Not to mention, I was grateful that there was no turning or grapevine-ing involved. I also found myself grateful that, in Jewel, I've found a friend who I trust enough to see me shaking my groove thing in what must surely be a highly unflattering manner.
Driving home tonight, I realised something. All those Bollywood stars? They're damn skinny. Not to mention HOT. So if subjecting myself to a bit of Bangra/Indian Rock-n-Roll/Reckless Abandon once a week is the price I have to pay, then I'm happily paying. I don't know that this will become a forever thing, but it's a great addition to my 5-day-a-week gym habit I've developed. PLUS, I get to see Jewel once a week - and she's totally fab, so that's an added bonus.
If I didn't know better, I'd say that I am starting to - shock, horror! - quite like the me that is emerging from the detox shell.
Monday, April 7, 2008
I love doing kids' birthday cakes and cupcakes. They're so colourful and fun, and you can basically be as over the top as you like and kids will love them. I also love working to a theme - like the Australiana ones and the Hollywood cake. My favourite customers are the ones who give me very little guidance and let me just go for it! These are some recent kids creations I've made - Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
My last foray back in time to the 70's Bundt revolution was such a huge hit, I thought it was worth giving it another try. This time I was after a cake which would please the masses but also welcome in the season of Autumn. The cold and wet days have come to Melbourne with a vengeance - many a tree has fallen down and many a cold nose has needed warming up via a kiss from Mum.
Autumn, to me, is the start of all those cold-weather flavours coming back from hibernation: cinnamon, cloves, wood-fired bread and heady spices like cardamom. Not yet a full-blown winter cake, this one is fabulous in that it has the warming autumnal spices yet is not so heavy as to need to be eaten under a wool blanket while wearing mittens. It does, however, go well with a cup of sweet, milky tea...but then, doesn't everything?
Honey Spice Cake with Coffee Glaze
(from Bundt Classics, published by Nordic Ware)
1 cup hot water
1 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
1 cup honey (golden syrup also works well)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon (an emzee addition)
Heat oven to 170C. Grease and flour a large Bundt pan. Mix hot water with instant coffee. In a large mixing bowl, mix honey, sugar, oil and eggs until very light and fluffy. All all the remaining ingredients including the coffee mixture and mix well. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes and then cool completely before glazing.
2 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
3 T hot milk
2 cups icing sugar
1 T butter, softened
Dissolve the coffee in the milk. Mix the sugar and butter until crumbly. Gradually add the milk until you reach the desired consistency (wet enough to run down the sides of the cake slowly.) Mix until smooth and spoon over the top.
Notes: The glaze is not required, but for me it does add a bit of OOMPH to the cake. If coffee is not your thing, either make a vanilla glaze (by removing the coffee and using vanilla essence instead) or even a cinnamon glaze. The coffee in the actual cake can't really be tasted - it's more a way of getting that gorgeous dark brown colour.