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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cake Love

More cake fun from the kitchen of Three Sweeties...

I'm getting confused with the stuff I'm posting on the web, on facebook, and here, so forgive me if some of these are repeats. Enjoy!

Hand made fondant lady bugs and flowers...these had a matching big ladybug cake as well as mini cupcakes. Hard to see in the photo but these little guys had eyes as well.

Made for a first birthday of a little girl with the nicknames of "Chicken" and "Bubbles." Everything on this cake is edible except the little Easter chicks and the wires.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar! I hand painted this to look as though it was really painted - exactly as the book shows it. The picture is a bit dark - it was a lot brighter in real life.

I love this cake. It was for a mother's group where 7 kids were sharing a 1st birthday. NN made it to my design and I love the colours she used. The brief was that it had to be "unisex and funky."

A simple yet elegant christening cake. All edible bar the ribbon and the wire.

A cupcake tower I adore, although dealing with those camellia leaves was painful. Each of these has a fresh orchid on top.

Have you voted yet?

Part of an Art Deco/Shabby Chic themed morning tea, with cupcakes to match the invitations. The fondant disks are all embossed with a floral theme and then pearl dusted so that in real life they shimmered.

This one is for a repeat customer whose son is allergic to nuts, dairy, sesame and a whole bunch of other stuff. This cake is totally vegan...but still tasted fab (of course!) I love the dolphin at the bow of the ship. The cannon on the back and the cannonballs at the feet of the pirates are all edible. There was even a fuse on the cannon!

This cake is not only about 28 inches long, it also was taken from my kitchen to an 80th birthday celebration 450 kilometres away. I got an email from the client to say that miraculously it survived the journey almost perfectly - they had to just fix one small panel (to the side of the keyboard) which was loose. All here is edible except for the songbook and the wire propping up the lid.

...and as is obvious from these photos, I'm no good at food photography - which I think is a real detriment to my creations. Tips, hints and helpful advice all welcome (and desperately needed!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

OMG Oreos

Because I read a lot of food, baking and cupcake blogs, it's come to my attention that Americans are really good at the whole 'interesting flavours' thing. Seems like everyone is clamouring to make basil cupcakes, salted caramel cupcakes, almond and lavender cupcakes, and so on. None of this really happens in Australia, where people are much happier with the basic chocolate and vanilla. Those who are brave are going for...ooooohhh...lemon! I'd like to reintroduce some more interesting flavours to the Three Sweeties repetoire, but they've got to a) be something people will actually try and b) something which doesn't require different recipes. Basically, if I can take my key recipes and tweak them, I'm onto a winner.

Several recent blog posts have given me Oreos on the brain, and so last week I thought I'd play around with them a bit. An obliging client, a keen helper in NN, and a synagogue dinner for which I needed dessert set the scene.

I'm not posting a recipe for this, primarily because I didn't do anything spectacular ... and yet, the results were hugely popular, and really, really freakin' delicious. Using my standard chocolate cake recipe, my standard buttercream recipe, and some mad torting skills, I made an Oreo Layer Cake.

Simple, really - chuck a sleeve of Oreos into a bag, bash the shit out of them with a rolling pin (cackling all the while) and stir into vanilla frosting. Bake a decadent chocolate cake, torte into three layers, and slather with Oreo frosting inside and out. Layer it up, put some cut up Oreos on top and that's it. Next up, courtesy of a moment of NN genius - Tim Tam Cake. Same principal, just using Australia's favourite chocolate cookie rather than America's. I'm also planning on adopting the Baking Bites version, which is a vanilla cake swirled with pieces of Oreo and then topped with Oreo icing.

None of these are particularly original ideas, but all of them show how easy it is to take something boring and making it something fabulous...which is pretty much my baking philosophy anyway.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not Quite Maria

DD1 has taken a keen interest in this whole sewing lark, as it means she now has someone to make clothing for her menagerie of stuffed and plastic animal friends. First cab off the rank was an outfit for the strangely named Mr. Bun. I'm not sure WHY Mr. Bun is called that, considering he is a pink teddy bear - surely Mrs. Bun would have suited better? In any case the request was for "pants and a vest" for dear Mr. Bun and I was more than happy to comply.

Here is where it all started to fall apart at the seams (pun intended.) I had no idea how to make clothes. Literally NO idea. I vaguely considered using a pattern, but DD1 was very insistent that I get this thing done, and done NOW. Hmmm. I had 2 squares of rainbow flannel left over from my quilting endeavours. I had a pair of scissors, and more importantly I had some ingenuity.

Hence, I present, Mr. Bun in all his gay pride clothing glory:
(note the string sticking out is from his leg, not his outfit.)

Keen eyed readers, please note that not only are his pants hemmed, they are also elasticised at the waist, have a snib to close them (so it fits over his tail but then tightens around his waist). His vest also has a snib closure, and the lapels have been hand sewn into place.

If I do say so myself, Mr Bun looks pretty dapper. I don't quite think I'm ready for Project Runway, but at least I'm keeping my kid happy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sew Good

After my coaster success, I decided it was time to tackle something a little bigger. Me being me, nothing is ever hard enough unless I am within inches of tearing my hair out. Someone pointed me to this easy quilt project - a Flannel Rag Quilt. WHY I chose to make something out of flannel as we head into summer is beyond me, but then I never claimed to be particularly sensible anyway.

Once I started this project, I realised two things. Firstly, that I had woeful sewing skills. Secondly, that sewing is in fact almost exactly like cooking.

In sewing, it's the preparation which determines the final outcome. How accurately you cut your material, how well maintained your machine is, how much time management you do, what kind of material you purchase, and so on. Cooking, too, requires excellent mise-en-place (preparation) if you're going to turn out a decent meal. It's also all about choosing the right ingredients, giving yourself enough time, having good knife skills, and being patient with your ingredients. Like sewing it also requires to be resourceful. No pickles on hand? Use cucumbers. No batting on hand? Use pieces of flannel instead. It doesn't take a genius to work out why my new found crafting love affair appeals to me enormously.

And so I embarked upon this "easy" project with some trepidation. I'm now about 2/3 the way there, and I must say I am loving every minute of it. The kids are well sick of it - "MUM! That thing is so NOISY!" and DH is just glad that while I am sewing, my mouth is shut and I am content. The fact that my quilt is not exactly, shall we say...lined up properly...well, as DH says, it all adds to the homemade charm of it all.

Stay tuned - I'll post some pics when it's done. In the meantime, I'd best step away from the machine for a bit...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slap Some Gingham On Me

You know when something totally obvious dawns on you, and you waste time thinking how completely stupid you are for not realising it earlier? This very thing happened to me about a week ago.

When I first moved to Australia, I went to loads of job interviews. At every interview I would say the same thing, which was that I could care less what I did as long as a) I didn't have to dress corporate, b) I could work with young(ish) people and c) I could have loads of small attainable goals and then enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Okay, so it took a good 7 years or so before I realised that the place I wanted to be was not the office environment I had set myself up in. It's taken a further 3-4 years to work out that the reason I enjoy my job so much is that a) I don't have to dress corporate, b) I work with younger people and c) I work with my hands and hence the goals are both achievable and immediately gratifying.

For a while now I've been thinking about getting a new hobby - something which is not food related and yet could be both fun and useful. Knitting was out as my various attempts left me with a tangled mess and a sore neck. Painting also out as I was useless at it. Various forays into mosaic work, creative writing, tie-dying and pottery were all mildly amusing, but that's about where it ended. Sewing is something which has appealed to me for quite a while now, but I've never really had the chance to try it properly. I'm surrounded by ridiculously crafty and clever sewing friends - The Baker's Wife, and Matching Pegs to name just two.

I mentioned this interest in sewing to a friend of mine who is a proficient sewer - a woman of my IL's generation for whom sewing was part of their school curriculum. She offered to give me a few lessons, and since then I've been having a grand time sewing straight lines on scraps of material. Some weeks into this venture and I happened upon a bargain sewing machine (50% off!) which I dutifully lugged home, wondering if this was yet another foray into a useless craft.

This purchase brought me into the realm of, well, being someone who knows how to sew. I had the machine, I had vague ideas of what a bobbin does, and I had the desire to suddenly go all Problem Like Maria on my kids and make them matching clothes out of curtains and let them hang from trees.

Much to my delight I've discovered that I adore this new skill of mine, and can see how it would quickly become both addicting and overwhelming. This week I found myself needing to ration my sewing, as I was doing it to the exclusion of all else. "You want a cake? No, sorry, can't do it. Maybe next week when my quilt is done?"

So here is where I had the "Well, DUH!" moment. Sewing is something that a) you can do if you're not wearing a power suit, b) you can do and young people think you are uber-cool, and c) you can see immediate, attainable results which give you instant moments of "Oh well aren't *I* the bloody clever one!"

Project One was a set of coasters, which I'm gifting to my sewing teacher as a way of saying thanks:

Front of the coasters

Back of the coasters

I originally made 6. One died a painful and knotted death, and one came out, well, a wee bit smaller than the others. Overall, though, I'm feeling ridiculously proud of these five little fabric coasters. Clearly, what the world needs now is not love, but more fabric coasters.

June Cleaver, eat ya' damn heart out. Emzee Cleaver is in town, and she rode in on a bobbin.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad Karma

There I was, poised to write a blog post all about seriously cool cakes, totally amazing things I've been sewing lately (because, you know, now I'm all crafty) and about the various projects which have sucked up my time but paid me back in happiness.


The Bad Karma Bunny hopped into my life, in a BIG way. It started a couple of weeks ago, when I got some sort of weird gastric bacterial god knows oh-lord-I-need-a-toilet-quick thing. It lasted for longer than I care to admit, and was accompanied (in a fit of exceptionally good timing) a women's business from hell. Which is particularly amusing because I am spectacularly infertile, which means I get women's biz, oh, maybe once every year. Or so.

It got so bad that I even found myself going to the doctor. Something which I HATE doing. Not only did I go to a doctor, but my normal doc was busy so I had to see some totally random guy and tell him about my bowel dysfunction. Not fun.

So I kinda, sorta, was starting to get over that when I had some business dramas. Among other things a cake of mine (with handmade figurines which took me AGES to make) got left in front of some random person's house because my delivery guy couldn't be assed to call me and tell me he couldn't find the place. Then a very expensive cake stand got broken - and of course, the client claims she got it broken, the driver claims *I* gave it to him broken, and the end result is me with a big bill and an annoyed expression on my face.

The kids are home loads because of the various Jewish holidays, so it's like they've been home for a month now, whining "I'm boooooored!" "He hit me!" "You NEVER do what I want..." etc etc. We all know how much I love and adore whining children, right?

A whole host of crappy (pun intended) things happened. This week, I thought, was SURELY going to be a better week. On Monday I had lunch booked in with a friend I adore - a friend who I only see once a month at our lunches, a lunch I had already cancelled because I was stuck on the, ahem, little room for 10 days straight. On Tuesday I had some fun plans with the kids, on Thursday I was going to experiment with a few recipes and do some kitchen organisation. You know, I had plans.

In comes the biotch, Bad Karma Bunny. Freakin' thing hopped right in and I didn't even SEE her. Literally. I sat down on Monday norming to answer some business emails and realised I couldn't see the entire left half of the screen. Hmmmm...odd. I felt okay but couldn't see anything - and usually when that happens it means I've got or am getting a migraine.

Yes. Well. 30 minutes later and I was throwing up all over the place and moaning about "my head, my head." Two DAYS later and I still had a headache, but could (sorta) function. My lunch got cancelled, my work got cancelled, my Bollywood got cancelled. Only thing not cancelled was a four hourly date with drugs. Strong drugs and a dark room and oh please GOD will it go away!

Wednesday I felt vaguely human. We started the day at the US Consulate, sorting out the passport renewals for me and the kids. Over $500 later (including the pics) and hours of waiting and endless bullshit security procedures later, we found out had to come back again! Argh!!

Still, I was not going to be fazed by this minor karma hiccup. Onwards we went to the Melbourne Museum, where the kids had begged us to go. It took about six seconds for the freakin' bunny to trip my son up in the parking lot. Niiicceee. Giant chunk taken out of his knee, lots of crying and wet clothes from the puddle he landed in. We fixed him up (clever parenting tip: first aid kit in the car) and on we went. He loved riding in the wheelchair (look! wheelies!). He complained about it hurting but DH and I basically told him to suck it up.

Long story short (and one of those phone calls from school) and he was out at the doctor...and while I was worried about the gouge in his knee, SHE was worried about his knee looking like a billiard ball.

Lovely. First day of the (much anticipated) cricket season and my boy is out on the injured bench, ordered to spend at least a week with his knee being iced and the rest of us playing nursemaid.

...and we won't talk about the lady who called at noon begging for some cupcakes to be finished by 3 pm (nut free, dairy free, egg free, sesame free....etc.) (Yes, I did it in time.)

Oyy...PLEASE! Someone! Make it stop!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I wish I didn't believe in ghosts

According to Wikipedia, a ghost is:

"...the apparition of a deceased person, frequently similar in appearance to that person, and usually encountered in places she or he frequented, the place of his or her death, or in association with the person's former belongings."

I think Wikipedia has it mostly right, but I take argument with the whole "deceased/death" bit of the description. Sure, traditional BOO! ghosts are usually dead ones. Modern ghosts are not dead at all ... in fact they're very much alive.

Recently I've been talking to friends and reading a fair bit about people who are going through a personal process of re-discovering, re-invention, and of rejuvenation. Without doubt, in all these cases, their biggest stumbling blocks are one thing: ghosts. Not the sort who wander around graveyard in the dead (ha!) of night, nor the sort who make doors slam and windows rattle in their frame. The kind of ghosts I'm talking about are those which follow us around, every day, living in our hearts and our minds.

The ghosts of failures past who keep you from taking a leap of faith into the future. The ghosts of broken reltionships, aborted attempts at business and failed school exams. The ghosts of your life experiences which now haunt you as you try to move forward into something new, something exciting, something different to what you already know. On a personal note, the ghost which haunts me the most is one of self-doubt. For most of my life I've been told that I'm smart. Clever. Motivated. Michelle, you are going to be the person to CHANGE THE WORLD.

Because the profession I chose is not of the life-changing, environment-helping, world-saving sort which everyone said it should be, I constantly find myself doubting it. I doubt the value or net worth (not financial) of my little business to the rest of the world at large. I doubt my innate ability to create works of edible art. I find myself thinking that my life is a bit of a sham and someday, someone is going to call me out on it. That self doubt is, by far, the biggest ghost I've got lurking in my head, in my house, in my life. It affects almost every part of who I am. I think it's fair to say it's a pretty sizeable ghost, as ghosts go.

Let's return to that Wiki definition, where a ghost is, "...frequently similar in appearance to that person, and usually encountered in places she or he frequented...in association with the person's former belongings." The people we were before - the ghosts of our previous experiences - look like us, live with us, and have the same stuff as us. Sadly, too, they often have the power over us because they can keep us from living a full, brave life. The ghost of fear. The ghost of disappointment. The ghost of self-esteem. For some people, perhaps, it's other people's ghosts which inhabit their heads. The, "What will my Dad think? What will my friends think?" ghost.

October brings with it thoughts of all things ghoulish and scary - ghosts of the actually dead variety, if you will. For me October is also the month of Yom Kippur - the Jewish Day of Atonement where we reconsider the past year, and look forward to a new one starting again. We get the equivalent of a spiritual "do over." Look at this month as an opportunity to bring into the light those ghosts which you CANNOT see, but which stop you all the same. Talk about what you're afraid of. Take a leap into something you've not tried before. Tell somebody something you've been keeping to yourself. Don't go quietly into the night, my friends - go loudly, and banish the ghosts within.

This post was written as an entry into the Scribbit October Write-Away Contest. It was also written in support of Karen, who is pursuing a life adventure requiring bravery and faith (both of which she has in abundance, even if she's not always sure she does.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Truth in Icing

...but not as much as he loves eating Mum's icing!

Friday, October 3, 2008


This story is so completely unbelievable...I read it and my jaw slowly dropped to the floor. All I really have to say is, Rex Neindorf, you're my hero for that comment alone.

Boy feeds live zoo animals to crocodile

Fri Oct 3 2008

The parents of a seven-year-old boy who broke into an Outback zoo and fed a string of small animals to its resident crocodile are likely to be sued after police said the boy was too young to be held responsible.

A turtle, four western blue tongue lizards, two bearded dragons, two thorny devil lizards and a 1.8 metre adult female Spencer's goanna were fed or led into the jaws of a three-metre, 200kg saltwater crocodile named "Terry".

Security camera footage at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre showed the smiling youngster also bludgeoning to death a small blue tongue lizard and two more thorny devils during a half-hour of breakfast-time havoc last Wednesday.

"The fact a seven-year-old can wreak so much havoc in such a short time, it's unbelievable. In my day he'd get a big boot up the arse," centre director Rex Neindorf said.

"Police found him, but in the Northern Territory here he can't be accountable if he's under 10 years of age."

Neindorf said many of the animals fed to the croc were rare or mature and would be difficult to replace.

The boy was unknown at the centre and had "clammed up" when questioned by police on what sparked the rampage, he said.

Neindorf said he was now looking at suing the parents of the pint-sized terror, who could easily have been taken by Terry himself as he fed the croc from a small landing at his enclosure.

"We'll be looking at suing the parents, who were supposedly in control of him at the time," he said.