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, January 13, 2009

Just when you're reaching for the bottle...

You get an email like this from a friend:

"...I have always been in awe of your strength, commitment, organisational skills and ability to be able to do what seems like 15 things at once!! You are an amazing woman and I do not say things like this lightly nor directly to the person – if the truth be known. So yes, you bake cakes for living, but by doing that you also help people to celebrate all the good things in life, so YEAH YOU!!!

Your very proud friend,


Well, sheesh! That's WAY better than any visualisation, don't you think?

If you can see it

This evening I went out to the movies with some girlfriends...(sidebar: We went to see Slumdog Millionaire. Go see it.) Anyway I was telling the girls how I am filled to the brim with anxiety about our upcoming trip to California. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see my family, thrilled for my nephew about his Bar Mitzvah, and I am almost counting the minutes to giving my best friend the biggest hug of her life. For a whole host of reasons, I'm feeling very anxious about it all.

Anxiety is something I've dealt with a lot this year. I think previously I might have called it stress, but the reality of it is that stress is not what happens when you freak out totally over things which have not yet happened. Stress is not what you're under when you are imagining several bad outcomes to a problem and become convinced that there can be nothing BUT a bad outcome. Stress is also not what you're dealing with when you call your DH and start talking a mile a minute and getting louder and louder until he literally has to shout, 'STOP. WAIT. Just stop! And breathe!"

Anywhoo, before you all send me to the head shrinker for this, suffice it to say I've promised myself that this year will be a bit less...well...stressful. (And no, it's not an actual resolution. Please!) It's just an effort to be more mindful of it all, and to not let my imagination run away with me quite so much and quite so often.

So back to the movie night...so I'm telling the girls how I'm chock-full of anxiety about it all. Truthfully, some of the reasons for this feeling are warranted - because I know myself, I know the players involved, and I know how I feel when confronted with the things which surely will come up. Truth be told, some of the reasons for this feeling are not warranted - I'm worrying in advance about things happening, people saying things, and my reactions to those words.

My friend Cocoa had a suggestion which I am now mulling over. She suggested that I sit down and visualise what I want this trip to be like. In your mind, says Cocoa, paint a picture of what things will happen while you're there. Imagine what you, DH and the trio will be doing, all the fun you'll be having...and just, imagine a happy, bright time. Don't waste your time and energy thinking about all the emotional crap stuff - because - thinking and worrying about those things will only BRING THEM ON. In Cocoa's view, we INVITE in the bad stuff because we allow it to become part of our expectations...and therefore when our expectations are met, we're somehow relieved, but not in a good way.

I have to admit, it's food for thought. However, I am such a literal, non-spiritual, non-alternative thinking-stuff sort of person that it's a little hard for me to believe her. It's all a bit to "The Secret" for me, you know? At the same time, I've been mulling it over ever since she suggested it. I kinda like the idea of a little space in my brain where everything is all happy and nice and, well, CALM. The "yeah, right" side of my brain knows that people, attitudes, circumstances and history don't ever change...so why waste my time imagining that all these things will not be there when I arrive at the other end?

Hmmm. The jury's still out on this one.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Resolution, Shmesolution

I've not bothered to even THINK about resolutions this year...mostly because I think they are really just another holiday invention sponsored by the makers of Zoloft. What better way to feel like shit than to make a goal, then break it, then feel like hell about it? Sure! Let's all get together and make up a bunch of crap about stuff we kinda feel we should do but have no real intention of doing. What a great idea!


I'm taking DH's approach to all this. A couple of days ago I asked him if he had any New Year's Resolutions. He thought about it for a second or two and then said, "Yeah. I do." and then didn't say another word about it. Those who know me in real life will know just how freakin' annoying this answer was...because like a Jewish mother, I need to know everything. I need to talk it to death and I need all the details, right NOW.

I let him get away with it (although my tongue was bleeding because I bit down on it so hard), and right then I decided that I wasn't going to have any real resolutions. Instead I am going to come up with a bunch which are really easy to achieve, and then I can spend the entire year feeling clever and smug and i-am-so-special-it's-scary. I am going to be the first person in known history to keep every single one of their resolutions.

Without further ado, here are my not-quite-resolutions for the year:

  1. Never agree to making another pig cake. Or really any barnyard animal.
  2. Order my own birthday cake.
  3. Bake some cupcakes.
  4. Decorate some cakes.
  5. Continue to celebrate ice cream o'clock without a skerrick of guilt, but possibly try something other than cookies and cream once in a while.
That's it. Pretty good, right? Your turn, people...come up with a really ridiculous resolution which you have a 100% chance of actually achieving. Go on then - make me proud.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Not-So-Kosher Cake

Edited: Photos added below for your viewing pleasure.

I thought I'd share this story since all of you are my avid cake fans (and if you're not...well, really, what excuse do you have?) I get a lot of requests for 3D cakes - Thomas the Tank Engine, pirate ships, beer bottles, etc. To be honest I don't love doing them as they require a lot of engineering, and it can be a bit of a challenge. My 3D cake carving skills have improved enormously this year, but sometimes even us professionals get it all a bit wrong.

A few months ago a client came to me wanting a cake for Jan 2 - she brought in a stuffed pig which was a) wearing a tiara, b) had "drama queen" on it in glitter letters and c) it was also a money box. How random can you get? She wanted me to make this pig into 3D cake for her, minus the words and money box part. Apparently it was for her daughter's first birthday ... because when she was pregnant her DH bought this pig for her. Personally, I totally did not understand what the heck one thing has to do with another, but there you go! I get strange requests all the time, so this one wasn't too terrible...although I did doubt the taste of the idea.

Can we just go back to the pig part? If it were me, and I was all pregnant and hormonal and feeling huge and whatnot, and my partner brought me a PIG which says DRAMA QUEEN on it...you know what? I'd shove it up his sorry ass. Sorry, but it's true. What better way to piss off a pregnant woman than to make reference to the fact that she's a) huge and b) hormonal?

Anyway... I sculpted and iced it on the 31st, to allow time for the fondant to dry - I was worried about it's stability and also the tiara holding it's shape. I came in today (Jan 2) in the morning to do some work...and my poor piggie had been sheared completely in half! Even though I'd supported it well (I thought!) the weight of the head (also made of cake) obviously caused it to fail in a big way. Literally I had half a pig on one end of the board, and the other half at the other end of the board!

3D Pig cake. FAIL.

It is a testament to my new-found patience that I didn't just fall into a jolly great heap and start crying. Instead I just laughed at the damn thing and set to work repairing the poor guy. Not even alive one day and already he's been carved!

I ended up having to re-do the entire thing in the one hour I had before she came to pick it up. Of course when she got there, she didn't really like it at all! I think it actually hit home to her that while it was a good idea in theory, in practice serving pig head at your kids' birthday party might just be a TAD weird (even if it is cake.)

If I'm completely honest, I was very glad to see that little curly tail heading out the door. I'd had enough of Wilbur by then and it was a relief to see him go.

All day I've been imagining them carving up this pig head andserving it up to kids, and eating it...it totally makes me gag. Then again, maybe I should've made her red velvet cake (a la the armadillo in Steel Magnolias!)

...and for those who are dying to see (and I know you are, since you said so)

Here is the original piggy bank (can you believe this thing is $24?!)
Here is my version. Admittedly, it's not one I'm particularly proud of (which is why I did not post it earlier) ...it's not my usual standard because I had to start all over again and finish it inside of an hour. I did, however, have all the details including that one ear is folded and one curled, the seams on the face and so on.

And here is another one I found while trying to find the original. Seriously, who knew there was a market for bling-bling piggy banks?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Feed The Man Meat

Ever since I've lived in Australia, my American friends have made the mistake of assuming that just because we've got McDonald's, Target and Toys R' Us, Australia is pretty much like America. Except, of course, that the people are nicer and they speak with a funny accent. For years now I've been saying (mostly upon deaf ears) that in fact the two places are very, very different. The differences are largely cultural, and many of them don't really become obvious to the average Down Under traveller. You really need to live in Australia for a while before you realise just how different this place is.

I could probably come up with several examples, but a recent NYE BBQ experience reminded me of a specific, really funny Australian trait. I am, of course, talking about the BYO phenomenon. Many restaurants here have a BYO policy - where literally you can walk in the door holding as much wine and beer as you can carry, and you can enjoy it with your meal. There is sometimes a charge associated with this, but often not. See? It's just another example of how nice Australians can be. Don't want to pay the inflated wine prices? Bring your own! Here, I'll even pour it for you.

Where this whole BYO thing gets out of hand is with barbecues. We all know that the sunburned, blond and water-loving Australians love a good barbie, mate! What they don't love is actually having to cater for it. It is a very common phenomenon here to be invited to a barbecue which is "BYO meat."

I'll let you digest that for a moment (pun intended.)

You are actually expected to pack yourself a little esky (cooler thingie) with some raw meat (of whatever sort you like) and bring it WITH YOU to the party. Then either you or the host cook it up for you. Usually the host will provide salads and chips and soft drinks - so really you're just bringing along the, *ahem*, EXPENSIVE part of the meal. Is it just me who thinks that it's totally weird to be inviting people over but then saying, "Oh, sorry, the budget didn't stretch to protein!" Is it not weird to be showing up carrying a bag of raw meat? "Oh, hi, sorry about the drips of blood all down your driveway, it's the side of raw beef I'm shlepping."

I especially do not understand this phenomenon when the people issuing the invitation live in a McMansion and drive a 4WD Lexus, but there you go. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with people offering to bring something and the host accepting ... we could all use a spare salad, some extra dessert, but meat? Seriously? Just how freakin' cheap are you people?

As far as I am concerned, the only parties where this BYO meat business is appropriate are those where the hosts are 19 year old university students whose usual diet is 2-minute noodles and whatever free crap they can steal. Everyone else has no excuse.

Now I haven't spent time in all 50 states, but I have lived in at least 3 states, and I'm pretty sure the other 47 would agree with me when I say that there is no such thing as BYO meat to an American barbecue. Unless, of course, it's dear old Uncle Hal, who is bringing you bits of the elk he shot down last summer. Him, I can understand BYO meat, because, you know, elk is not always on the menu. Anyone else? Just a cheap bastard.

Welcome to Australia! Please make sure you clear your meat through customs.