Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Royal Stuff-Up. Literally.

No, this is not a post about me meeting a member of the royal family and saying something dumb. Interesting I should say that, actually, because I did have a dream the other night that Prince William called me up and asked me out. I don't know how I knew it was him, but I just did, because somehow I could also "see" him on the other end of the phone, and he looked a lot more like his hotter, 16-year-old self (that is to say, he had hair) than his less attractive 28-ish year old self. I was not, however, delusional enough to believe it could really be true, because after we'd chatted and flirted and agreed to go out with him, I kept saying "Is this really Prince William? Really? Is this really Prince William?" Ahh, good to know that even in my sleep I'm a babbling, incoherent mess around men!

So, now for the REAL story.

Today I finally decided to have a crack at royal icing. I'm talking the fancy-schmantzy, beautiful piped stuff you often see on old-fashioned wedding cakes. I happen to think that style is absolutely gorgeous, but the masses appear to be addicted to rolled sugarpaste icing for some reason that I can't quite explain.

I know it was dumb of me to think that this was the sort of thing that anyone could possibly be naturally talented at, but in my heart of hearts I hoped that I was the Da Vinci of royal icing. How wrong I was. No, as it turns out, I am more like the Picasso of royal icing, or perhaps even the Dali. Sigh.

I can't say that I'm actually surprised that it all went horribly, horribly wrong, because I have never had a lesson in royal icing, and no amount of reading will prepare you for the shock. I also don't think it helped that I found four or five different variations on the recipe, and I suspect that I ended up using the kind most commonly found in floodwork on gingerbread men or for gluing gingerbread houses together. Next time I intend to make a cake out of a cake decorating book and follow the instructions letter for letter, word by word.

Having provided a very suitable excuse for the crappiness of my icing (besides the fact I'm just not used to holding a piping bag), I am now less reticent to share the embarrassment that is the cakes I decorated (I baked two miniature ones to practice on, and two cupcakes). Remember that the icing is far too runny to hold its form, and with that in mind, I kind of did okay. I was seriously wondering whether I'd delusionally thought I could do certain techniques with royal icing that can normally only be done with buttercream, but the Wilton section on royal icing put my mind at ease. It also showed me that I whipped it for about five to seven minutes shy of what I should have. Oh well, live and learn.

First up, I attempted to cover the cakes smoothly in plain white icing. FAIL. Then I had a crack at a rigid scalloped border. Suffice it to say, runny icing was never going to do the trick, therefore FAIL.

Also, I managed to get the Wilton gel food dye on my hands because, even though I bought vinyl gloves for the purpose, I totally forgot to put them on. FAIL.

Then I tried a technique known as cornelli lace. This actually isn't so far from what it's supposed to look like, so it's kind of an UN-FAIL! :) Except that because my smallest tip is a #2, it's a lot fatter than it should have been. Also, again, I suspect this technique would have worked better with a whipped icing like buttercream (at this point I begin to wonder whether you can whip royal icing into a fluffy frenzy. It makes sense that you could, because it is effectively a somewhat unbalanced meringue - and more on that later. Never having whipped royal icing for as long as you're supposed to, I have no idea whether, when you do that, it whips into a gorgeous, fluffy frenzy. I do intend to find out, but for now there is royal icing from here to kingdom come (by which I mean all the way across my kitchen), so I think I'll wait a while to find out).

And then I attempted to... ooh there's a name for this and I think it's lacework but I'm not certain. Basically it involves piping the icing onto baking paper laid over a template, letting it dry, and then gluing it to the cake with more icing. Being slack, I decided to freestyle it, which ended with the design being a bit sloppy and also a little phallic. FAIL. (Secondary fail due to inappropriately sized icing tip.) And then I got impatient and put it in the oven (which was off, but which had recently been on) to dry, and that's where my thought that royal icing is actually like meringue came into play, because instead of just drying, it darkened and rose, much like meringue. FAIL.

So this is what they looked like. I'm a little bit embarrassed by them but I'm posting them as a reminder to myself to be more patient.

Try not to laugh too hard.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

City to Bay Fail

This morning, I sprang out of bed at 6:15am, keen as a bean to participate in the City to Bay fun run (or, in my case, fun walk - 3km will do me, cos the 12km would have done me in!). I was at the station by 7, ready to catch the 07:10 train into town, and then the tram down to the Morphettville Junction Centre, where the 3km leg started. I was questioning my sanity a little, because nobody else seemed to be up at this hour.

At 07:15 the train had not arrived, so I re-checked the timetable, and as it turns out I had been reading the Saturday timetable (working all day Saturday seriously screws with your head). No wonder nobody was at the station! So I came back home, did the dishes and went out again. The second time around, the train platform looked eerily similar...

... but this time the train showed up. Following some ticketing validation issues, once in the city, I got on a tram - like all the City to Bay information said I should (it spoke of a ten minute disruption of services while the 12km leg kicked off) - and the driver promptly told me that it wasn't running to Glenelg like normal, and that I needed to catch a bus from in front of the casino. So I moseyed down there, and, with a bunch of people also waiting for a bus, also discovered (from a volunteer who seemed to know as little as we did) that buses weren't actually running from there today because of the event.

Myself and two others who were trying to get to the same place then headed the four or so blocks to Grote St to catch a bus from there, as directed. When we got there a sign told us to head to Pultney St, which is on the other side of town. At this point we decided that if we couldn't get a tram from Victoria Square as we crossed it, that we would throw in the towel, because by now it was ten past nine and we had to be down there in time for a 09:45 start (and they recommend being there half an hour early).

So me, Lorraine (an Irish lass) and Harry (her husband) headed off for Hindley St (the only place in town likely to be open for drinking) for a pint of beer. Unsurprisingly it was the Irish lass' suggestion. At 09:28 we were sipping a nice cold pint of Draught at the Princes Berkely Hotel, surrounded by people still drinking from the night before, and served by a bartender who appeared to be either exhausted, or on drugs. Suffice it to say we got a few comments and whistles showing up in gym gear with our race numbers attached, but we managed to discourage the drunkards and found a quiet seat up the back (unfortunately close to where two dishevelled punters were making out by a pool table). I suppose it wasn't a dead loss because we must have walked close to 3km attempting to find public transport!

So this is what the City to Bay looked like for me this year:

Note that the glass is plastic.

Morals of the story:
1. Don't rely on weekend public transport in Adelaide to function sufficiently get you where you want to go (the fact that my train ran an hour later than I thought probably made it close to impossible to get into town and down to the race start on time, and that's WITHOUT the tram issues). You'd think they'd coordinate PT a bit better when there's a major public event involved, but no. I have used better public transport in developing countries.
2. Make friends with strangers - it makes what would have otherwise been a total write-off of a morning far more interesting.
3. Don't drink at the Princes Berkeley. The floors a sticky, the glasses are plastic and the patrons are seedy (no surprises there, though, because it was one of the only pubs open on a Sunday morning). Again, I've been to cleaner pubs in developing nations.

The End.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Story Time - Making Out Like Bandits

In a recent post, I promised to tell you a story about “making out like a pair of bandits.”

Actually, it’s less of a story and more of another example of how bent my mind is. 
When I think about the phrase "making out like bandits", I think of this:

And then I think of pash rash, because bandits always have an abundance of dark, scratchy stubble, right?? (and, according to the above impression, poor taste in clothing and headwear)

Just thought I'd share. That is all!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tips for Tall Girls... FAIL!

I came across this article in my lunch break today, and it is the biggest load of bollocks I have ever come across. I don’t quite know what I expected, but it wasn’t that. No advice was offered (except that you can snog older guys if you're a tall girl because you seem older – WTF???) and nothing was cleared up at all. I feel very sorry for any insecure tall teenage girls who read it, hoping for an answer.

What disappointed me even further were the comments at the bottom from tall girls who are clearly not happy with their height and did nothing but whinge about finding clothes to fit. This baffles me. I LOVE being tall, and there is SO much more to it than having trouble finding clothes to fit. I even loved being tall during my awkward teen years (it was the being overweight part that made me unhappy, but because I was tall too, in my head I was somehow able to label myself as “big” not as “fat”), as a kid, and even now I love it, even when the jerk in front of me on a flight to London decides to have their seat reclined the entiiiiiiiire way (note that, in BA Cattle Class, the pitch of the seat (i.e. the distance from the part your back sits against to the pointy piece of metal on the back of the seat in front of you) is exactly one millimetre shorter than from my bottom to the front of my kneecap. Fabulous). 

Mum recently told me that when I was in kinder, a well-meaning mother of a friend suggested that they put me on growth inhibitors so that I didn’t end up too tall. I will be forever grateful that this did nothing but anger my mother (she still won’t tell me who it was, which makes me think it was someone closer, which is sad), and maybe even prompt her to hammer home that being tall was a great thing, and that I was beautiful the way I was (the former stuck; the latter took far longer to sink in). Maybe it’s got something to do with one’s upbringing, but my height has always been a mark of pride for me. I could always reach the biscuit tin (hmm… maybe there’s a correlation with the weight thing there…). I could be better than everyone else, particularly the boys, at something – being tall! And it’s a great conversation starter - I have never minded people saying “gosh, you’re tall!” (or equivalent - sometimes small South Americans will laugh in disbelief; try, in a combination of Spanish and halting English, to express how amazing they think your height is; or tilt their head up as they look at you and say “whoahhhhhh…”). It’s not an insult, it’s an observation, and eight out of ten times it's delivered as a compliment, too. It doesn’t really get boring, either, because you can mix it up a bit and say smugly “yeah, and you’re not” and then wait for a reaction. It’s great fun! I don’t even mind if strangers ask me if I play basketball, because it gives me an opportunity to bond with them – there’s nothing like a mildly self-deprecating joke (e.g. “Nope, I’m too unco”) to break the ice. Incidentally, that’s pretty much how my first conversation with Grant went!

Being tall is fabulous, and at 186cm (6’1.75”) I’m hardly a circus freak. Yes, I draw attention wherever I go, and yes, that takes a bit of getting used to, but I’ve had 28 years to do that (and one could argue that, because I hit six foot at the tender age of fourteen, I’ve been used to it for half a lifetime). I remember walking through Adelaide Central Markets with Grant in the early days of our relationship, Grant in a hi-vis shirt and workboots, and me in something a bit nicer, holding hands. This bloke stared at us, and Grant got a little bit defensive about it, perhaps as he assumed that the guy was somehow judging us, until I pointed out that most likely the guy was staring at me, not at us. It happens to me constantly. Every time I go shopping, at least three people will stare. The good thing about this is it prompts me to make a bit more effort and not go shopping in tracksuit pants, because yes, as the article says, you do become more visible. And you know what? Two out of the three will smile when I catch them staring. It’s nice and it makes me feel good.

Bizarrely, though, other tall women freak me out. I see them, and think “get out of my air space!!! This is MY zone!!!” I guess that’s testimony to how much I love being fairly unique. Being tall is awesome.

So here’s MY survival tips for tall teenage girls:

Look after your body – exercise and eat right, and don’t smoke, or drink too much. No amount of strangers stopping me at the shops to tell me I ought to be a model will help me to shift that last five kilos and tone my thighs and stomach – that’s up to me. The healthier you are, the better you feel about yourself and the more you enjoy life. Healthy doesn’t mean thin, it means feeling good, and I have personally found that the better I eat and the more I exercise, the more energetic I feel. Yes, it often coincides with weight loss, but the good feelings are because you feel more alive, stronger, fitter, and confident because you’ve achieved something for your own wellbeing.

Take heart - the boys will catch up one day, and when they do, the taller ones will make a beeline for you. But don’t discount men who are shorter than you, because you’re unnecessarily cutting out a large number of wonderful, lovely guys, like my man, who is a couple of inches shorter than me. It turns out that it’s not relative height of your partner that makes you feel comfortable with yourself as a woman – feminine, if you will - but, rather, how masculine he is. And in the long run, you will have a distinct advantage over the other girls, because in the first place you WILL be noticed, and in the second place, you are more likely to attract more confident men. Be patient and don't settle for second best.

Finding clothes to fit is more difficult for tall women than for some other (but not all) women, but it’s not the end of the world, and I haven’t spent a single day (involuntarily) n@ked as a result of it. Clothes come in standard sizes and fit very few people perfectly. Tall girls struggle, but so do larger girls, short girls, athletic girls, girls with generous mammary Gifts from God, fat ankles, no ankles, no necks, skinny legs, no b00bs. Suck it up. It’s your body. It’s part of you, like it or not, and you’re not the only one who struggles with it. So don’t struggle against it – make it work for you.

You just have to learn which brands and styles work for you, and in some cases, alterations that work for you. Always, always dress to your shape, not to the fashion of the day, even if it means shopping at stores targeted at older women. I, for one, discovered that JAG Jeans almost always stock a style with a large hem on it which can be taken down and give you an extra 2-3 inches. If you find a pair you love, go back and buy a couple more pairs because it’ll save the trauma of hunting for new jeans for another year or two. If you’re a bit shorter on money, Jeans West makes extra-long jeans, and Target makes their pants in three lengths, and the long ones are more than long enough.

I have the most trouble with tops, and, traumatically, spent my overweight teens years in the late nineties when T-shirts that exposed the belly were the clothing du jour. But eventually I realised that you can buy a long singlet from Cotton On for $5 and put it under shorter shirts in the name of abdominal modesty and self-preservation. Done. You may also have trouble finding dresses with waists to fit, but the secret there is either to wear a separate skirt and top, or to buy slightly looser dresses with a sash around the waist which you can tie at whatever height you want. As far as skirts go, aim for knee-length ones. If you go for long ones they will invariably sit mid-calf and make your legs look fat, and, unless you have deliciously toned pins, ¾ pants will do the same thing for you (as a side-note, I have a deep-rooted dislike for ¾ pants, possibly founded on a childhood spent in trousers that were too short).

I offer no consolation for tall girls who also have large feet – I’m an 8 ½ - 9, which is quite small for my height – but don’t be afraid to wear high heels. Just make sure you wear ones that are comfortable, because with extra height comes extra weight on the ball of your foot. Novo shoes makes pretty strappy sandals with low, wide heels that are relatively cheap. There are plenty of flat boots out there. Even “old lady” brands like Easy Steps and Hush Puppies make surprisingly fashionable footwear these days, and who the hell cares if your friends think it’s funny – you’ll be walking easy at the end of the day, and they’ll be soaking their feet and buffing their corns, and at the end of your working life, you’ll still be able to get about easily while their deformed feet will more or less have crippled them. And ballet flats have come back in during the last five years, and can be very, very pretty, classy, cheap and comfortable. (They can also be the reverse if you buy a pair that require breaking in (like my awesome purple patent leather Steve Madden ones, with leopard print lining), but once they’re broken in they are soooo comfortable.
Look after your mind. It's probably more important than looking after your body, because it gives you the strength to do what you want with your body. Your best friend is yourself, and having a happy and healthy relationship with yourself will make you feel less awkward about being tall when people stare. Don't berate yourself for being different; embrace the difference that makes you special. Read heaps - it's fun, it's cheap, it's educational and it lets your imagination take over. Don't let anyone tell you that it's nerdy or uncool, either. One of the coolest people I know has a lot of dorky hobbies - he's a whiz with computers, he plays with model trains, and he grows old-fashioned facial hair and styles it using moustache wax - but because he doesn't care what other people think of his hobbies, it makes it cool and gives him a sort of charisma.

My advice is simple, and applies to not just tall girls – your confidence comes from who you are, not what you look like. Step one is to believe in yourself. Yes, the clothes you wear can influence how you feel about yourself, so wear clothes that suit you, not what suits your friends. Develop your own sense of style. Dress to your shape, whatever it is. Look after your body – you only get one - as well as your mind. And be prepared to spend $120 on a pair of black pants that fit you really well and are long enough, instead of $200 on four pairs of black pants that don’t quite fit properly. Levi’s are onto it