Saturday, 28 January 2012

The "Baker" in Me?

So it suddenly dawns on me that I’m not going to get away with not baking cakes and other tasty morsels for long. I have rather a lot of children’s birthdays ahead of me and the Mauritian made a comment that he wouldn’t get away with not taking eats for his birthday again. So I finally face the reality that as a “Stay at Home Mum” or “SAHM” for short I really had no excuse not to at least attempt to bake. So I whipped out my recipe books- yes I actually do own a few and I have used them on occasion stop laughing- and looked for some easy basic recipes, bought the ingredients and so began my foray into baking.

Oh me oh my we had some very yummy successes and some rather hysterical failures. The worst was the baking powder fiasco! With all due respect to my “Kiwi” readers, kiwi baking powder does not work in SA recipes. I tell you no lies, I tried three different cupcake recipes and two different cake recipes and though they cooked properly and tasted gorgeous they did not rise in the middle. I managed to make concaved cupcakes which the Butterfly insisted on icing but never ate them. By the second disastrous batch I’d had enough of them so the Mauritian got one in his lunch box every day for twelve days. At first there was an empty cupcake case in his lunch box every afternoon, then the cupcakes started coming home so I just transferred it into the following days lunch box, eventually both the cupcake and its case stopped coming home. I feel sorry for the poor sod who eagerly accepted the Mauritian offer of a cupcake; the Butterfly did a good job of making the cupcakes look even by filling up the hole with icing. One bite in the middle of the cupcake and all you got was a mouth full of icing and a thin layer of cake, makes my teeth ache just thinking about it. The good thing about these disasters was that I got a brand new mix master because the Mauritian decided that was the problem. He obviously had more faith in my ability to bake successfully then I did because I didn’t think it would make much difference, it didn’t at first. Despite my brand new “Sunbeam” and a new cupcake recipe I still had concaved cupcakes. Then I recalled my lifelong friend saying that it was the baking powder, I hadn’t paid her much attention because my cheese muffins seemed to rise okay. So I decide to adjust the recipes and make one last attempt at making cupcakes and voila it worked like a charm, finally my cupcakes have risen! Alleluia! I was so excited I didn’t care that everyone was so sick of cupcakes no one at home wanted to eat them; I surprised the Butterfly’s kindy teachers with them instead. It was during my cupcake making phase that my gorgeous niece had a birthday so I decided I’d make a batch and pipe a message onto the cupcakes and send her a picture. It was to be one of those “if something can go wrong it will” events! So the first thing I did was crack open an egg and completely missed the bowl and got egg all on the counter top instead. I managed, miraculously, to catch the egg in the bowl as it began to slide off the counter and didn’t have to mop the floor. Before you think it, no I did not use that egg I threw it out and cracked open another one, this time into the bowl. Next while adding the flour to the liquid I forgot to turn the mixer to a low speed and got covered in a dusting of flour the beaters kicked up as I added it. So there I was cursing between sneezes while the Butterfly laughed delightfully at my expense. I was very relieved once I finally got the cupcakes into the oven without further incident and just in the nick of time too as it was time to feed the Lollipop. I was playing happily with the Lollipop when the Butterfly suddenly asked me: “Mama are the cupcakes ready yet!” Oh crap, I suddenly realise I forgot to set the timer and charge through to the kitchen to rescue my cupcakes just before they started to burn. Now not only were my cupcakes concaved they were also slightly crispy. Never mind if I don’t say anything no one will notice, in the picture at least! Cupcakes cooling on the rack I start making the icing, only to discover that I didn’t have enough butter so I could only make half the icing I needed, oh well, I thought, less calories! So now the icing is ready and the Butterfly is eagerly awaiting her favourite job of icing the cupcakes, unfortunately I hadn’t waiting long enough for the cupcakes to cool completely! So now I have concaved crispy cupcakes covered in a scraping of slighted melted chocolate icing! Crap! I console myself with the fact that it won’t be noticeable in the picture I email home and begin piping the message onto the cupcake one letter per cupcake. Half way through I realise that I forgot to check if I had enough cupcakes to complete each letter of the message, so I quickly count them and realise I have the exact number I need and no room for error. This is one time when not being able to spell was really a bad thing! So there I was with three rows of cupcakes each row equal to each word in the message. I start at the top and work my way down mentally reminding myself that I had to reverse the order of the words so that the message read from top to bottom and not bottom to top as I was writing it. Finished, I stepped back and was relieved I’d managed to not make a mess of this part at least. I decided to take a picture just to make sure it came out okay and was thrilled that my concaved crispy cupcakes with melted icing looked rather nice in the picture. Thrilled I uploaded it to my email and began typing out a message to my gorgeous niece letting her know we were making a big thing about her birthday on the other side of the world. While I was engrossed in typing the email the Butterfly asked me if she could have a cupcake to which I distractedly answered in the affirmative while helping myself to one as well. Of course as I was taking a bite I suddenly realised I had taken the picture with the message reading the wrong way and I had no spares to fill the gaps. Too late too late she cried, just accept that this idea was doomed from the first egg and move on so I sent the picture anyway. But that’s not the end of the story, a few hours later I realised I had email a picture of a batch of truffles I’d made the day before and not the cupcakes!

You will be pleased to know, or maybe not, that I have since mastered the art of making and icing cupcakes and have not made any since the Lollipop’s baptism. I will make the next batch when the Butterfly finishes Kindy.

I have had some successes, I’m proud to say my pancakes are always good; I am yet to make a thick “Dunlop tyre” like one. My crumpets are almost as good as the ones I remember my Gran making and my cheese muffins are so good Pierre takes a batch to work once a month. The first time I made apple muffins I was so impressed with myself I took some down to the Mauritian at work to taste. I was somewhere around 41weeks pregnant and the temperature outside was about -2 at midday, I was extremely impressed with myself and beginning to believe I may actually be able to master this baking malarkey. The first time I made peanut butter cookies they were finished by the following day, my “melting moments” are popular and the chocolate truffles and meringues’ are a hit with our favourite Kiwis. But, the one I am most proud of is my chocolate cake success! It is a recipe that I inherited from my talented mum, true to form, it’s a straight forward easy recipe that tastes awesome and as I am cooking it must be fail safe too. Of course the first few times I attempted to make it, it was also concaved, but since I adjusted the baking powder it’s never failed to rise or impress.

It’s been about a month now since I last baked anything and I’m beginning to think perhaps I should start again and try some new recipes, maybe get a little daring. It would make a good blogging theme...perhaps!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Butterfly! You Just Gotta Love Her

Like any Parent I always feel peacock proud when someone compliments my Butterfly's character. Often when I collect her from “Kindy” I am told by one of the teachers what a great help she is at “clean-up time.” A lot of the parents comment on how well mannered she is and seem genuinely impressed that she holds the kindy gate open for me while I negotiate my way through with the perambulator or that she carries her own backpack and anything else she brings home. Some people are amazed that she makes her bed every morning, I’m not she gets paid $2 a week to do that! She greets everyone we pass on our way to and from school and is well known to the employees of our local grocery store and “get anything” shop. I was gob smacked when standing in a queue at the check out the cashier said: “You’re Sarah-Marie’s mum!” Apparently on one of our trips to school we past her on the street and the Butterfly stopped in front of her and said “Hello I’m Sarah-Marie what’s your name?” I have absolutely no recollection of this at all but this cashier was so amused she’s never forgotten and has often hoped she would bump into us again. When mum’s from the “Kindy” drive past us the children just about fall out the car windows yelling “Bye Sarah-Marie see you tomorrow!” and the Butterfly always looks the wrong way first and then gets mad if she misses them. In the park a few weekends back the Butterfly saw one of her friends whose mum came over to introduce herself saying: “So this is the famous Sarah-Marie!”

One morning when I dropped her off at the Kindy the Butterfly asked me to come and watch her jumping, I am rarely allowed to stay at the kindy longer then it takes me to sign her in so when she asks me to stay I take full advantage. On our way out to the playground she stopped and looked around and said “Hang on mum I just got to do thumthing quick!” and she was off, I followed at a discreet distance to see what she was up to. She approaches one of her teachers and says: “Excuse me Nola but can we please, please, please, pretty please put thome musics on out thide?” Nola, who was in the middle of making her and a colleague their morning coffee dropped everything and went to set up the hi-fi outside so the Butterfly could have music while she played. Not only that but she was also allowed to choose the cd put it into the player and select the volume that suited her. I was amazed and must have looked it too because Nola said to me that the Butterfly runs their “music department.” She went on to tell me that whatever song they teach the children the Butterfly is the first one to master the tune and learn the words and whenever they sing she leads with confidence. Now that’s really cool to hear though I do wonder if it’s not just because she’s just that much louder then everyone else that they have no choice but to follow?
There was a time when she mentioned on numerous occasions that one little boy always pushes her so I raised it with one of the teachers. Turns out this little chap pushes everyone and the only one that doesn’t push back is our Butterfly, apparently every time he pushes her she tells him off and moves away. The fact that he is half the size of the Butterfly and when pushed she never moved an inch was not lost on the teacher. During the course of that same conversation I was told that my child is extremely popular with all the kids and was never short of someone to play with at kindy. I am a very proud mum that’s for sure.

It’s very hard not to be proud of my beautiful Butterfly and she really does appear to be confident. She’s not easily fazed and if nobody wants to do what she wants to she goes it alone until what someone else is doing looks more interesting. She’s no athlete, but there’s no doubting her enthusiasm and I am sure we will be paying for dancing and music lessons in the not too distant future. She is a very well mannered child and seldom forgets her pleases and thank yous and she won’t let you forget either. She is quick to apologies when she does something wrong, unless she’s feeling stubborn and grows attached to that word “no.” On the whole she gets it right with flare and aplomb and I am left feeling very impressed.

Today after six long weeks of Christmas holidays the Butterfly went back to Kindy much to my relief! Over this time there had been some repairs and improvements done on the school grounds and when the Butterfly saw the new fence she was suitably impressed: “Wow look, Mama a new fence, so cool!” On entering the kindy she went and found each of the teachers and greeted them with an enthusiastic hug, kiss and “I really missed you so much!” That done she was off to see what else had changed and made sure she pointed them all out to me and then she told the “principal” that she really, really liked her new kindy. How can I not be proud of her? When I went to collect her I was told that she initiated the idea that they had to fence off part of the play area so that the grass can grow back, they obviously made a big thing about it because it was the first thing she told me when she saw me and I was taken to see the “fence” she helped erect. In fact all the teachers had something to say about what a help she had been and how well she had behaved.

Then on the way home because she was told not to do something or another she up and spat at me in disgust! Go figure!

Hang on While I Change Feet

So it’s Thursday afternoon and despite the howling wind and low grey clouds I took the girls out for a walk to the “Wind Wand” to banish the cabin fever that was causing havoc. We ended up sitting at a Cafe’ sipping on a milkshake and a coffee while the littlest sucked on some formula. Behind us was seated a couple who had obviously had a bad day. The guy, openly gay and obviously comfortable with his sexuality was bitching about someone who had offended him in some way. The lady, whose name I assume was “Delta” was very sympathetic and making all the right noises.
It was extremely uncomfortable! The Butterfly was fascinated by this very flamboyant man sitting behind me gestating wildly in fury, stopping now and then to sip on his “low fat vanilla latte hold the foam.”
It’s very difficult to distract a four year old or not listen when someone is not being discreet or trying to maintain some kind of privacy in a public place. So I drank as quickly as a hot cup of coffee allowed me and tried to hurry the Butterfly along as well, she of course was having none of that, this man in pink was far too fascinating!

Then to add to the discomfit, what I assume was the object of this man’s fury walked into the coffee shop and began to lambaste the couple. By this time I was so uncomfortable I told the Butterfly we were leaving and I’d get her another milkshake somewhere else. So there I was packing up and preparing to leave when the lady whose name I assume was “Delta” piped up in a surprisingly male sounding voice and addressed the new comer with: “Oh for fuck sake Jacob please mince off and go chew on someone else’s high heels!” That was the straw that broke the camel’s back; I could no longer pretend not to hear because I burst into loud spontaneous laughter. I had to sit down because I now couldn’t stop laughing, these three people had been so caught up in themselves they had forgotten anyone else was around. My laughing brought them sharply back to reality and the shock on their faces at this sudden intrusion brought fresh peals of laughter from me. Both my daughters were looking at me with strange expressions on their faces which didn’t help stem the tide. Now I’m laughing because I am making a complete spectacle of myself and I can do nothing to stop laughing let alone take a breath.

Eventually I was able to pull myself towards myself enough to look at “Delta” who was really “David” and say: “That has to be the most original way of telling someone to piss of and die I have ever heard, I am so going to use that!” With that the seated couple began to laugh while the other gentleman left in a fury which sparked a fresh burst of laughter from me while my daughters looked on completely oblivious to what had just transpired.

The Butterfly did eventually finish her milkshake, I did eventually gain control of my senses and we left in an orderly and dignified fashion. But, needless to say, I shall not be returning to that coffee shop again.