Archive | May, 2011

The cake to cook when your child is scared of the mix-master

31 May

My toddler is scared of the mix master. In fact, she hates it. She’s also freaked out by the blender, vaccuum cleaner, dust-buster and hairdryer. Can you see a pattern here? Yep, basically she’s phobic about all noisy things with a cutting, blowing or sucking motion. Sometimes this is useful. Let’s say she won’t eat dinner. Well, I can just threaten to get out the dust-buster to eat it up for her and voila, dinner gets eaten. Also, let’s face it, what mum wouldn’t want an excuse to not vacuum or cook? However, it’s kind of  pain when I actually do want to cook a cake. The recipe below is  life-saver. There’s no creaming of butter and sugar but it still tastest like a real, made it myself and it took 2 hours, kind of cake. And the icing is delish. FYI – I don’t have a fluted ring tin, I just cooked it in a loaf pan and tested if after 35 minutes (it needed a little longer).

Donna Hay’s Lemon Yoghurt Cake
Ingredients
¾ cup (180ml) vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup (280g) thick natural yoghurt
1¾ cups (385g) caster (superfine) sugar
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour

lemon frosting
¾ cup (120g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the oil, eggs, rind, lemon juice, yoghurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Sift over the flour and stir until smooth. Pour the mixture into a greased 24cm fluted ring tin and bake for 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. While the cake is still hot remove from the tin and place on a plate.

To make the lemon frosting, gently stir together the sugar and lemon juice. Spoon over the cake and allow to set. Serve warm.

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Halle Berry’s Belly Button Baring

30 May

Question: What’s the only piece of wrinkled skin that Halle Berry is proud to show off? Answer: Her belly button. Halle Berry has a banging bod – there’s no doubt. She is a beautiful woman. She makes me want to run out and cut my hair. No wait. I did do that. But I’ve discovered a hair cut does not one Halle Berry make – you need the body, the skin, the eyes – all that unimportant stuff. Anyway, back to the point of this post. Halle Berry’s belly button. Twice this year, she has worn BBB (that’s belly-button-baring) outfits on the red carpet. That’s about 200% more times than any other actress in Hollywood would, in their entire careers. There’s kind of an unspoken rule about belly buttons and red carpets – they don’t mix – getting the red lint out of the crevice is so damn hard. Most actresses (and definitely actors) adhere to the rule.
I don’t know why, but BBB is just… icky. A beautiful dress is not enhanced by the baring of one’s button. It just kind of makes the entire look a little trashy. Like there’s just too much on display. I know belly buttons are a natural part of the human body and all that. But, it’s kind of like hairy armpits. They are also natural but that doesn’t make them good. Remember when Julia Roberts waved her hairy pits at the world? Such was the outrage you would think she’d hit an old lady over the head and taken her handbag. All she did was forget to shave. First world problem. Still, a problem nonetheless. Halley’s recent BBB outfit(the black one at the start of this post) is the most interesting. It’s by Halston. Check out the runway shot below. Halston did not design this dress to be a belly button flasher. Berry has deliberately styled it that way. Had she yanked it up just one inch, it would have been perfect. And check out the Pucci number. It not only displays the button, it actually accentuates it. The peep-hole design is like a flashing light saying ‘press here for the belly button’. There is a time and a place for BBB and that’s the beach or the bedroom. It’s easy to remember – both words start with a ‘B’.

The belly button gets its own special peep hole

Julia Roberts and the offending pits

How Halston styled Halle’s dress

The Good, the bad, and the cuddly of the week that was

27 May

The Good
The Federal Government this week passed laws making it illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers (d’oh, I thought this already existed). In practice, it means a restauranteur cannot refuse to serve a breastfeeding mother, an employer cannot refuse to hire a woman on the basis that she is breastfeeding and an employer cannot prevent a mother from taking a break for lactation purposes (like expressing milk). I’ve written previously about the need for workplaces to become more accommodating of breastfeeding mums – but these laws are a step in the right direction.

The Bad, in this case, the sad
In fact, sad is simply an inadequate word – this story was absolutely heartbreaking. Olympic gold medal winner, Alisa Camplin, appeared on 60 minutes last Sunday to talk about the devastating death of her ten day old baby, Finnan, from a congenital heart condition. I cannot imagine the grief that she and her husband are experiencing. They are now raising money for a specialist piece of equipment at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to help diagnose the condition in-utero. What’s truly shocking is that 1 in 100 babies are born with congenital heart defects, making it a relatively common condition. To watch the video (you will need tissues) or make a donation click here. In the interview, Alisa (through her tears) asked if she was still a Mum. Yes, Alisa, you are a mum – and a very special one at that. Your son would be proud.

The Cuddly
Ever heard the comment that babies get more fun out of wrapping paper than the actual gift? Well, watch this gorgeous video and you will see why. Better still, the paper being ripped up is a job rejection letter – if only we could all handle rejection with such glee.

Why I’ve dumped State of Origin

26 May

I’m no footy-head but I used to love watching State of Origin. For the uninitiated, State of Origin is a series of three rugby league games between New South Wales and Queensland. It’s the closest thing to a modern-day gladiatorial contest that you will ever see.  As a kid, I would sit up with my Dad who would whoop and holler at the enormity of the ‘hits’ in the first 10 minutes. At Uni, we’d order pizza and 20 people would crowd around a 30cm TV to cheer on the home side (NSW). Last night, for the first time in about 20 years, I switched off after about 10 minutes. The inevitable has happened. I can no longer separate the off-field antics of the players from the on-field heroics.

It might seem a strange topic for this blog – but I subscribe to the view that there are plenty of other women out there, who like me, have grown up with Origin as part of their sport-watching calender; it’s a pretty incredible display of skill and physicality. But last night, as I listened to the TV commentary, gushing in its praise of the players abilities, I had a simultaneous commentary running in my head – Thaiday passes to Boyd – both were sprung receiving sexual favours from a woman in a toilet a couple of years ago. Boyd off-loads to ‘game legend’ Lockyer, who in 2008 admitted to being too drunk to remember tackling the owner of a pub, and here comes Thurston, who was arrested last year for drunk and disorderly behaviour. He’s tackled by NSW Captain, Paul Gallen, who in 2009 was caught urinating in public.

In short, too many of the players have had run-ins with the law – most of them relating to alcohol. But – get this – both NSW and QLD have beer companies as their major sponsors! It’s breathtakingly inappropriate, given the game’s current image. Alcohol appears to be a major problem for many (not all) players, and therefore the game’s image. The sooner the NRL faces up to that in a real and significant way, the better. And the best place to start is by banning alcohol companies as sponsors.

I read a refreshingly honest interview with former NSW (great) player, Brad Fittler, in a publication called ‘The Beast’ where he was asked why young players feel the need to get on the booze. He said ‘They want chicks – that’s the answer, chicks.. a lot of them can’t just walk up to a good-looking bird unless they’ve got ten beers under their belt.. And I suppose for some of them it’s a bit of an escape from reality too. When they’re on the booze they feel like they can just switch off.’

It’s not admirable but at least someone is finally being honest about the issue of league players, women and alcohol. For me, enough is enough. The off-field troubles have robbed me of my ability to enjoy the game. I can’t applaud the physical feats of men whose behaviour I find morally troubling. In two weeks, QLD will again take on NSW in the second game of the series. I’ll be watching Masterchef.

 

Tom Hanks spoofs ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’

25 May

Have you seen the TV show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’? Just to bring you up to speed, it’s an American reality series on Foxtel that follows little girls and their mums as they prepare to compete in pageants – kind of like Miss Universe – but for 5 year olds. A standard prep for such a contest includes manicures, pedicures, spray tans, industrial grade make-up (complete with false eyelashes), teeth whitening, and costumes that cost in the hundreds of dollars.
 Natural is out. Fake is in. Just to repeat – these girls are five. years. old. The mothers are stage mums on steroids. Each one insists they only do it as their daughter’s insistence, yet the regularity of their daughters’ tantrums suggest otherwise. You more get the sense that the mums are beauty pageant has-beens who are now projecting their own (failed) dreams onto their little girls – that is – ‘where I failed, you can succeed’. It’s the kind of show that makes you roll your eyes and think ‘only in America’. But to suggest that all Americans are comfortable with the pageant scene would be a mistake, as this spoof video by Tom Hanks suggests. Watch it here. Hanks produced it as a skit for a US talk show called Jimmy Kimmel Live. It’s a hilarious send-up of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ with a fantastic cameo by Ron Howard at the end. But underneath the comedy lies a potent message opposing the sexualisation of little girls, which is what these pageants appear to be doing.

I think Queen Elizabeth has fallen in love

25 May

Queen Elizabeth is not a renowned smiler. I watched her pretty closely during the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton and she certainly didn’t test out her cheek muscles on that occasion. But it seems there is someone who really makes her grin with glee – and that’s US President Barack Obama. He and his wife Michelle have had a sleepover at her house (Buckingham Palace) during a state visit to Britain. I just had to post these photos – the Queen looks positively love-sick and the photos of the Obama’s trip make for the most incredible holiday album I’ve ever seen.
 

The British Royals also seem to have fallen heavily for Michelle Obama. Normally, these staged ‘photo opportunities’ look incredibly awkward. There’s endless hand shaking and mindless and meaningless small talk. But look at the following snaps of Michelle Obama with Camilla, Kate Middleton and Prince Phillip. They all seem to be either engrossed in conversation, or simply beaming with happiness. What’s really interesting is that in many of the shots, the Obamas actually have their backs to camera – they’re not posing, they’re oblivious to the cameras – for them, it’s not just a photo op – it’s a genuine meeting.

Michelle Obama rocks an all-white gown at a State Banquet Dinner

Even the Queen succumbed to Mrs Obama’s charms. In a break with royal protocol, Michelle Obama touched the Queen, putting her hand on her shoulder – and – eek – the Queen reciprocated by putting her arm around Mrs Obama’s waist. Remember how Paul Keating was dubbed the ‘Lizard of Oz’ for doing the same thing? Well – no such offence taken when new BFF Michelle does it.

 All in all, the Obamas look like a helluva lot of fun – the kind of couple who would really spark up a dinner party. Their visit to Great Britain also included a stop in Ireland where the Obamas were treated like absolute rock stars. I’m sure Barack wished it were the same back home.. Here are some final snaps for the holiday album.

Playing ping pong with British PM David Cameron

Enjoying Guinness in Ireland

An eager Irish fan – check out the security detail’s faces



The Obamas get the rock star welcome in Ireland. He brought the house down by saying ‘Yes we can’ in gaelic



My baby’s ready for solids – but am I?

24 May

Being a parent is a life-long lesson in learning how to let go. Your kids begin their lives as a part of you. Literally. As a woman, you carry them for 9 months and for that time you are two beings in the one body. But once that slippery bundle draws their first breath, the letting go begins. It happens incrementally. There’s the first time you leave them with a babysitter, the first days at kindy, then school, maybe a trip overseas in their early 20s, a move out of home and then marriage. So what has that got to do with starting solids? Well for me, starting my baby on proper food is one of the first steps in letting go.
To this point, the only thing that has sustained my little girl is me. In the womb, she fed from me and since she was born the only food she has ingested is breastmilk. She now weighs nearly 7.5kg and is so chubby that she appears to have cellulite on her calves – and every gram of that delicious chub has come from me. That’s a pretty powerful feeling. Every time I look at her suckling it feels like my body is fulfilling its purpose. Starting her on solids means she will no longer be entirely dependent on me for her survival. That’s a good and a bad thing. Having another human being be entirely dependent on you can be wonderful – it makes you feel so needed. But it’s also draining. My husband and I have not had a night out together now in more than 5 months. I’ve risen to feed my baby in the middle of the night about 400 times. And each feed involves going down and up a set of stairs – that’s 800 sets of stairs. So – while it’s been good for my fitness, it hasn’t been so great for my sleep. But there are also a couple of other reasons for my reluctance to start her on food. Firstly, it’s a hassle. It’s just another thing to do. Making purees is not fun. It’s tedious. Soon, my freezer will be filled with little ice cube trays of delights like pureed apple, sweet potato and pear. Then, there’s the time it takes to actually feed the baby. Initially, babies have no idea what to do when food is put in their mouths. They just kind of let it sit there, or slide out. It’s a miracle if they swallow anything. Learning to eat takes time and patience and a willingess to do a lot of cleaning up. And that’s another thing – I’ll have to start bathing her every day cause of the mess she’ll make. And her poos will become gross – like human poo, instead of the little mustard messes that she makes at the moment. To cap it all off, I had a very bad experience of starting my first-born (now 2 and a half) on solids. The recommended first food is rice cereal – virtually no children are allergic – virtually. My daughter is one of the unlucky few who cannot tolerate rice. The first time I gave her food she reacted with violent vomiting. I still remember my poor husband’s bile stained shirt. The GP put it down to a gastro virus. But after the third violent reaction she was diagnosed as having an usual allergy called FPIES (food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome). Right now, I’m finding it hard to see an up-side in starting her on solids. I know she’s ready… but me? Not so much.