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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Prison Break

The good news is that I will probably be out of hospital on Saturday - which will be followed by an outpatient program here for six weeks or so. I am getting more and more mobile, and needing less and less pain relief medication - so that's something. Unfortunately, I seem to have loads of reasons to be miserable as well. I am frustrated that my progress is not quicker, I'm sick of being in a hospital, my control-freak self is hating not organising my home life, and in general I am feeling very low and depressed about it all. I have found myself in tears far more often than I care to admit. At the same time I look at the other patients here - many of whom need help to get out of bed, have had fairly major accidents, or are in here for several weeks/months- and I think I should quit my whining and thank my lucky stars that my pain and issues are minor in comparison. I almost feel guilty for feeling sorry for myself, especially when I know that feeling sorry for oneself is an entirely useless and pointless exercise.

When I think about summoning the energy required to start on the weight-loss road again, I cry. When I think about the pain I might endure if I DON'T summon that energy, I cry harder. The physiotherapist I saw today gave me a hard time - she said my frustration at being here was obvious. Ummm...yes, I'm frustrated - but I don't think the solution to that is to bury those feelings, is it? One of the facets of the program is visits with a psychologist - which I have yet to see, as I approach Day 4 of being here. Funny thing is that is the one person who I probably need to see the most! My frustration with my lack of progress is due, in part, to the seemingly endless amount of time it took to get transferred here, then the weekend waiting for therapy to begin, and then another day waiting where the staff finally admitted that they had forgotten about me. I've had one day of services (today) and then tomorrow is a public holiday. So of 7 days, I will have had access to 3 days of therapy. Who wouldn't be frustrated by that?! Being the scary overachiever girl, I need things to happen, and I need them to happen PRONTO. So I have short term frustration about my progress here, and long term frustration (fear?) about what the future holds for me.

Apparently the doctor also feels I need to wait a futher 3 weeks before returning to work. By the time three weeks are up, I'll be looking for the nearest loony bin to check myself into. While I don't want to rush things, I cannot seriously consider another 3 weeks of convelescence. My plan for now is to return to school next week (since that is short hours, low stress, and a lot of "down time") and then try one shift + school the following week, and then build up from there. Plus in amongst that have the day program here plus start with a physio/pilates program to build some core strength. At the moment it just feels like I am at the bottom of a very high mountain. The brightest spot in my days here has been when the kids come to visit and they make enough noise on the wards to wake the (almost) dead. What can I say, I guess I just don't make a very good hospital patient - something I would have thought was an asset but according to my physiotherapist, clearly is not.

This is a bit of a rambling, depressing post - completely out of character for me as a person and for this blog as a whole. I hope you'll forgive this minor break in the usual proceedings - I just don't feel like faking it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This Blogger Temporarily Under Construction

Hello All:

This blog post comes to you from the hospital, where I've been since last Friday. I am recovering from a prolapsed disk which is pressing on my sciatic nerve. The good news is that it hurts a lot less now, and I will soon be moved to a rehabilitation hospital for some intense physical therapy. The bad news is that I am sad, depressed, annoyed and frustrated about it all. In a word, it sucks. Blogging is hard to do from a lying down position, so it might be another week or so before I caan return to reguarly scheduled programming. In the meantime, rest assured I have been taking digital pics of the food I've been eating here - so expect some amusing hospital food blog posts soon.

Positive, "no pain for emzee" thoughts welcome - looks like there is a long road to recovery ahead for me.

- Em.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Epicurean Parent

A recent (post-preggo hormone induced but nontheless thought-provoking) email from The Baker's Wife asks, "Can one be a parent and a foodie?" Her question actually goes one further than that - asking if one can live in the (outer) suburbs and be satisfied as a foodie. For the purposes of this post, I'm sticking with the first part of the dilemma. For me the answer as to whether a parent can be a foodie or not is simple: No, if you consider a foodie to be one who (often) indulges in good food and wine. (Unless you have loads of disposable income.) Yes, if you consider being a foodie one who appreciates fine food and wine, with no requirement that they indulge in it.

For me the definition of a foodie is both of those - one who appreciates good food and wine (and usually, cooking with one and drinking about the other) and one who has the means to indulge in both, fairly often. However The Epicurean Parent (damn, that would have made a good blog title) is often one or the other. The Epicurean DINK or SINK (double/single income, no kids) is definetly both of those. Put simply, being a foodie requires a decent amount of money and reliable, easy transport (a point also made by The Baker's Wife). Once you become a parent, your disposable income decreases dramatically, as does your ability to get to that little shop which sells the most divine cakes, or the little fromagerie with the gorgeous farmhouse blue vein. On the financial front, it's not just the ability to buy the gorgeous bits and pieces - it's the minimum $10 an hour for the babysitter, who can't stay past the third course of the degustation menu anyway. Of course you could load the kid into the car for the trip to the Turkish hole-in-the-wall bakery selling heavenly bourek... but then add another half hour at least to the journey.

I am a big believer in taking children to restaurants - and I don't just mean the sort with a $5 kids special which includes the minuscule scoop of shitty vanilla at the end. I think they should learn to enjoy the finer things in life, to develop broad palettes, to experience all edible life has to offer beyond things fried. At the same time, I don't think children belong in all restaurants, and frankly there are some where I definetly do not want them crossing the threshold. So the dilemma of being a foodie, and a parent, is a difficult one.

As The Baker's Wife said (email quoted without her permission - sorry babe):

"When I am surrounded by other committed suburbanites, like our families and old school friends, there is no problem, because they have forgotten what they're missing. Day old bread and crusty pre-sliced prosciutto are de rigeur. But my regular friends are different. And this ex-London/Paris/Albert Park/City chick has come to rely on the availability and accessibility of beautiful produce. I want jamon at $120p/kg on a ten minute tram ride from me, even if I can't afford it. I want figs and almonds and baclava cheap and I want someone with a gruff foreign accent to sell it to me."

As you can see, a foodie soul definetly beats within TBW's chest, doesn't it? So how do we solve the problem of the Epicurean parent? The one who wants the farmhouse cheese, the aged smallgoods, the vine-ripened tomatoes and the Victoria Street pho - the one for whom the $5 kids special is starting to look a little, well, like a greasy pizza and crappy vanilla ice cream. Honestly, the solution for me has been to grab a bit of foodie love whenever I can. So I drag the kids to the outdoor food events - and find things I think/hope they will enjoy. I plan (expensive, so totally worth it) occasional dinners out with other foodie friends, leaving DH behind. I plan date nights with DH at similar establishments, so he gets a bit of foodie love too. I indulge in the odd bit of expensive cheese or fabulous dips. The kids come along to foodie markets (Melbourne is fortunate to have many) and eat the beautiful seasonal fruit while I eat the smoked salmon (although, come to think of it, they eat that too. Epicurean children are an expensive habit.) I learn how to replicate some of these delicacies in my own kitchen. Most of all, though, I never really stop learning about food - reading articles in the paper, reading foodie blogs, asking my fellow co-workers, bosses or teachers - and so on. Being a foodie is not all about eating out - it's a hobby, a habit, and an addiction. So I manage to be an Epicurean Parent - but on a smaller scale than I did before kids. Why? Because I know that the minute these kids hit 18, I'm headed for Nobu. In London.

The Triplet Card

So in part it's my over-achiever self, in part it's just my independent streak, and in part it's probably stupidity - but in the past nearly-six years, I've almost never played The Triplet Card. The Triplet Card is the one you play when you need something and the excuse you're going to use is your triplets. No different to The Kid Card, except that it carries a heck of a lot more weight (yeah, like 30 kilos in pregnancy weight). Saying "I've got 3 sick kids" is way, way, wwwaaayyyy more impressive than saying "my kid has a cold." However, even when it's been perfectly valid for me to play The Triplet Card, I haven't. I choose not to use them as my fall guys - even though I could, and lots of people think I should. A lot of this, I've come to realise, is my attitude to help. Specifically in asking for help.

When the kids were born, the maternal and child health nurse organised a church group (!) to provide me with some volunteer hours. So little old ladies would come over every once in a while to, ostensibly, help me with caring for the kids. It took exactly one visit for me to call the church and say, "Um, take ya' old ladies back!" I'm not afraid to ask for help if I need it (playing the ol' card), but I need the help to be on *my* terms. I just can't have people doing stuff for me which I think I can do, or which I want to do, or which I've planned to do. Spontaneous help is just not something I can cope with.

In the first case I like knowing I can do it all on my own - there is a certain amount of pride in that - the old independent streak asserting itself. Secondly, because I am one of those people who prefers not to ask for help (or not to need it in the first place), I want the request (when it happens) to be worth it. Know what I mean? When I eventually ask for help, my friends/family know it's because I truly, truly need it. If I asked for help all the time, then I'm just using their goodwill, and I don't want to do that. The whole boy cried wolf thing - if you always ask, when do people know when it's important? Theoretically I could get away with playing that card ALL THE TIME, and my fabulous friends and family would come to my aid - because they all are truly fabulous, giving people.

Funnily enough people often try to play The Triplet Card for me. As in, "Let me do that, dear - you've got enough happening already." Um, yeah - fuck off. *I* decide when I have enough happening already, not *you*. Don't get me wrong - I love that people are kind enough to ask me in the first place. I really am touched by how much people love and care about us, and my feelings would probably be hurt if people didn't ask me in the first place. It's just that I don't want them to be hurt or insulted when I say a polite "No thanks." I really don't want them upset when they then insist several times over, and I finally lose it and say, "WHAT BLOODY PART OF NO FUCKING THANK YOU ARE YOU NOT GETTING?" Now a normal person might just say, what the heck, take all the help you can get. Why not? They're offering, after all. Thing is, I am incapable of that. My control freak self needs to be the one who decides when and where I need the help. Silly? Maybe. Cutting off my nose, blah blah? Maybe. But it's the way I like it. The best way to help us - or help me - is to wait until I need you. Then, when you get the call, you know it's because I really, really need you.

Out of curiosity, are any of the other triplet parents I read who are like this? The Amazing Trips? The Grubbs? Parents in general?

This post was actually prompted by my reading about The Dunn Triplets - six year old girls who are deaf and blind. This family so much deserves to play The Triplet Card ... it just strengthens my resolve not to ask for help unless I truly need it. Heaven help these little girls.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Oh Crumbs!

For me, Passover is the most torturous of all the Jewish holidays. My carb-addicted self is left with a holiday which is bereft of all decent things bread-like, and awash with a whole lot of things which both taste and look like dust on a plate. Passover baking, in particular, is a fraught activity since you can't use baking soda or baking powder, or any other 'leavener' which might help a cake get beyond 1 cm off the plate. As a result you're stuck with a whole host of crappy cakes and cookies and the 'if I close my eyes I can pretend it's edible' baked goods. I'm here to tell you that Passover pastries (and - *shudder* - Passover "bagels") are downright disgusting. Mr. Manishevitz, your coconut macaroons are horrible, grainy, too sweet, sticky balls of, well, macaroon hell. Even the chocolate ones. Please, please, stop inflicting that culinary sin on the people of the world. (Especially Australians who pay twice as much to import the damn things.) If life as we know it was eradicated, the next sentient beings to inhabit the joint would probably still find an orange and green can of Mr Manishevitz's macaroons. God help them, too.

How does one cope with a holiday like this? It's some sort of special torture, to be a pastry chef and yet not able to eat or make any decent pastries in this 8 day period. We won't talk about the bread. (I might weep...or at the least start pounding on the door of my nearest bakery screaming, "It's not FAIR! It's just not FAIR!") I deal with it by making things which I would eat all year round - regardless of this *snort* "holiday." At my Passover table this year we had flourless brownies (to die for, seriously), a 'Passover Pavlova', meringue mushrooms, the anti-coconut almond macaroons...and a recent addition of a cake found in this weeks' Epicure - sand cake. Nothing which looks, tastes, or feels like a Passover pastry - just things which taste fab-u-lous, ALL year round. Revolt, people, revolt! We are the chosen ones - so let us choose not to support the coconut you-kn0w-whats in a can, the angel food cakes, the endless array of 'nut torte' and anything at all made with mazta dipped in crappy kosher wine. (Matza dipped in chocolate is allowed, but only if it's good chocolate and not scary chocolate.) Life, as I always say, is too short to eat crappy (Passover) cake.

I leave you with my favourite toppings for matza. Matza is Jewish people's Chinese food - you gorge on it like you've never seen food before, feel like you're going to explode, and ten minutes later, you're wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat.

Matza Toppings as preferred by emzee:

1. Cream cheese and then a layer of red-fruit jam
2. Chocolate spread (a la Nutella)
3. Matza pizza (red sauce of some description, cheese of your choice, under the griller)
4. Marinated persian (soft) feta
5. Avocado, smashed with tons of sea salt and cracked pepper
6. A decent smoosh of chevre (goat cheese) and some sort of veg (tomato, cucumber...)
7. Plain ol' butter, but salted butter
8. Mayonaise and kosher salami
9. Egg salad, still warm (hard boil a few eggs, smash warm eggs with mayo and loads of salt and pepper)
10. ???? Ideas welcome.

For the foodies among us, Cooking with Amy has a whole week of Passover themed blog posts. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bubble Fun

Since it's been a while since I've posted a picture of the trio, I thought I would share these two recent ones. In the first they are doing their religious bearded rabbi imitations. In the second they are showing one of the benefits of triplethood - getting clean by cooperation!

You have to be in it to win it

...and I was (in it, that is.) Yes, you're looking at the Bronze Medal I won! Now imagine how I would have done were I not under the influence of several over-the-counter medications, 2 kilometers of tape stuck to my back and butt, and a whole lot of emotional madness! I'm feeling very proud today!

For what it's worth, I went with taste over degree of difficulty and here's what I cooked:

  • Fragrant braised apricot chicken
  • Moroccan Couscous: an orange infused mix of almonds, sultanas and cinnamon
  • Green beans dressed with lemon zest, Persian feta and fresh mint
  • Carrot ribbons cooked with fresh ginger and cardamom
I even had some of the judges approach me afterwards and say how great my dish tasted. For the record, I was one point away from a silver medal. At the end of the day, I don't really care about the medal that much - I care that I came, I cooked, I stayed upright.

Monday, April 2, 2007

In the 11th Hour

7 days since I noticed a niggling backache...
90 minutes before I have 23 people wanting to eat a multi-course Passover feast....
21 hours before I'm supposed to be winning a cooking competition....
several hours since I've downed some anti-inflammatories....
less hours since I've sucked down some super pain killers...

And my back is still totally fucked.

As of yesterday morning, all the following are so painful to do they bring tears to my eyes:

- standing
- sitting
-lying down
- trying to roll over in bed
- walking
-bearing weight on my legs
-breathing in
-depressing either the accelerator or brake in my car
- typing this

What makes this day different from all other days? This is totally the WORST possible day on which my body can be completely incapacitated.

It looks like I'll have to forgo my effort at culinary mastery. One cannot effectively season something and cry at the same time - you can't see how much salt you're throwing in.

I'm so upset - and rather than drown my sorrows in decent bread, I have to drown it in freakin' MATZAH, which will then give me a stomach ache. For 8 days.