Monday, 27 August 2012

Cake Decorating Class: Wilton Gumpaste and Fondant, and How To Fill A Layered Birthday Cake

I didn't realise until yesterday just how long it has been since I posted here, and I only realised because I offered to write a guest post over at magnetoboldtoo and then my head exploded when I realised how much time writing even a short post can take, especially when it involves pictures and links. At the time of publishing this my guest post hasn't gone up yet (I didn't write my blurb in a timely fashion due to the below festivities), but I'm sure it will be in the next week or so and will let you know when it's out there. It's about how chokos are the knobbly, green symbol of my overcommitting myself.
Don't be a choko.
But I didn't drag you all down here to chat about chokos (although I will be posting about what I did with that choko some time in the near future. It will probably be entitled Chokos: A Very Confusing Vegetable).
Nope, I dragged you down here to tell you about the cake I made for my BFF Emma's 30th birthday. There will be another post that comes later, telling you all about the other three classes I did leading up to the final class of Wilton Gumpaste and Fondant (where I made the bottom tier of this one), but for now I'll just show you the finished product from the final class and take a quick moment to admire the cake before I tell you a bit about what went into it.
The brief was "I WANT A PINK BIRTHDAY CAKE!!! PINK, I TELLS YA!!! PINK, PINK, PINK!!!" (disclaimer: the phrasing of the cake brief in no way resembles what came out of the birthay girl's mouth, except maybe the words "pink" and "cake").
So I decided that it was going to be pink, inside and out, dagnammit! And a little bit of food dye goes a long, long way.
It took a little while to get the shades different enough from one another, and you also have to use your imagination because the colours develop when you apply heat and time.
So I now had two four-layer cakes. Baking multiple layers is a bit time consuming and so unless you really love the person you're giving a layer cake to, or they're paying you for your time, I'd probably go down the path of a single cake that has been torted in the future. Or maybe swirls. Swirls would be okay.
There are no pictures of how to cover the cake because it all happens too quickly and requires both hands, but I will tell (and show) you how to fill a cake: 1) Pipe buttercream around the outside of your cake layer to create a "dam";
2) Fill the "dam" with your filling of choice (in this case it was white chocolate and raspberry ganache in keeping with the PINK theme);
3) Sandwich the next layer on and press down gently and turn slightly; 4) You may wish to refrigerate it to set it a little, or put skewers in taller, multi-layer cakes to prevent them from sliding - just make sure that whoever cuts the cakes is aware that they are there!
This is the tier I covered at home. The problem I had encountered during class - the corners cracking because the fondant on the sides dragged it down and I didn't catch it in time - was not one I repeated in this tier. My corners were just fine. Unfortunately, the sides were not. They kind of wrinkled and I don't know where I went wrong or how to fix it. If anyone can let me know how to prevent wrinkles that would be super! My instructor didn't tell me how to deal with them because they simply didn't happen to anyone while she was watching. Maybe it's because it was a taller, narrower cake. I don't know *sighs* On the plus side, I now knew which side the back would be! I also made the mistake of covering it in relatively poor lighting, and, upon examination in daylight, found a couple of air bubbles that it was too late to fix. Oh well, live and learn.
The board is covered with fondant (Lesson 3) and the daisies were taught in Lesson 2. The frills were taught in Lesson 4, along with how to stick the cake to the board (CMC glue and a couple of small balls of fondant).
Altogether I am fairly pleased with the cake. There was quite a bit of damage in transport, and I think next time I make a multi-tiered cake involving frills I will have to apply the ones on the top layer at the venue (or else transport it already assembled. This makes me very nervous!). I also have to be less clumsy with my hands - I kept knocking it when I was decorating because I'm not terribly spatially aware. Be especially careful with your tools, and, until you're quite practiced at it, I suggest removing rings, too. And that row of three daisies weren't part of the original plan, but some frilling fell off in transit so they're hiding the damage were always supposed to be there.
Onward and upward!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thirty Rhinos

I don't mean to be picky, but there are only 25 rhinos here...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

101 Things Update - June-July 2012

Even though it's not the end of the month, I thought I'd do a bit of a 101 Things update for June-July.

2. Taste wine the Barossa. Done! By the time this post is out the Barossa post will be a few posts back. Six wineries visited and ten bottles of plonk purchased, mostly fortifieds and sweet things cos that's (generally) how I roll. What a fantastic day!

6. Make Sweetapolita's rainbow cake. Done!

8. Make a highly-decorated, awesome cake. I think my birthday cake counts, don't you??! It probably wasn't quite what I had in mind initially as my super-duper-awesome cake but for now that'll be the one.

15. Hold a dinner party with a theme every six months. Well I may not have done it every six months but I've decided that "Afternoon tea" is a dinner party theme, especially if said afternoon tea stretches on to dinner time. You can read about it here and here. Sorry about the ugly photos. But that second link has a really yummy cake, which I insisit you bake immediately! Hopefully when things are less hectic I'll get a chance to try out my Mexican cook books and have a proper crack at this dinner party business.

23. Make ice cream. I did it as part of the Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Contest. Vanilla ice cream base, which I then swirled some lemon curd and crushed meringue through. Oh, yes. Also, note to self - must buy ice cream maker. It would give me much better ice cream for much less effort. Oh, and FYI - the ice cream is the stuff oozing out the middle, not the pretty swirl on top. Sorry to get your hopes up!

24. Blog at least twice per month for a year. Well I counted back a year from today and have managed 95 posts in the time that I had committed to writing 24. I think I can consider my game lifted.

48. Participate in a fun run/walk. I did the Run Melbourne 5km race with my BFF Alice and raised $1080 for the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and promptly made it onto their FB page. Go me! I only ran the first and the last bit - the first hill got my heart doing stupid things - but I'm still proud of my achievement. Especially the fundraising part, because it means they're a little bit closer to curing me.

54&55. Visit Africa and Mexico. Well I'm booked in! I'll be doing this tour and this tour, plus spending a bit of time in the USA and the UK. If any of my bloggy friends want to catch up then shout out! I'm also going to Bloggy Boot Camp in Vegas and would love to meet some people going to that before I'm actually there. Drop me a line and say hi so I'm not a total stranger :)

65. Read my unread books. Yep, I've been working on that but have also been far too lazy to review them. You might cop a bunch of those as scheduled posts whilst I'm galivanting around the globe later in the year.

68. Take a language class. Well, I sort of am. I downloaded an app on my iPhone called Mind Snacks. I chose the Spanish one in preparation for my trip to Mexico and I'm doing pretty well so far. I know nothing replaces actually holding a conversation in the language, but at least now I won't feel like I'm drowning. Plus I can now say "great-grandfather" in Spanish. Cos that, like, so important!

Oh, and I changed #37 from not eating processed foods to not eating lollies, chocolate, biscuits or chips for a month. It's all but impossible not to eat processed foods in this tiny little town because food options are quite limited, and I don't have my usual arsenal of pantry items to make up my own sauces and marinades so I'm stuck with bottled stir-fry sauce etc. I do eat a lot of lean meat with steamed vegies but that gets soooo borrrrring, and not eating lollies, chocolate and chips is a much more important to me because it effectively represents not eating in an out-of-control manner. If I'm not eating that stuff then I'm not going to binge, end of story, and at the moment that's quite a challenge for me.

Well, that's me done for another (two) month(s). I just realised I probably won't update this until November or even December because I'll be away for a couple of months, and won't have done much on that list anyway. But I will be able to tick off Africa and Mexico! WHOOHOO!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Daring Kitchen: Cornmeal (Polenta with Blue Cheese, Sweet Potatoand Basil)

I can't believe another month has rolled around, and I'm also quite glad that Rachael from Pizzarossa chose a challenge that had a bit of flexibility about it and got me excited. Part of the excitement was because Joy the Baker advised me that grits and polenta were basically different grades of the same product, and so recipes for a product that is largely unavailable in Australia suddenly opened up to me! Sure, the texture of polenta is smoother, but they're roughly interchangable and so a whole world of cooking has opened up for me. YAAAAAAYYYY!!! *does happy dance*

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

I can't remember where I read about it, but I wanted to cook something like grits with blue cheese. I have never been a big fan of blue cheese, although since living in Adelaide and doing a few of those cheese-and-wine trails I have been exposed to fairly tolerable variations on the theme, like a nice, mild Roqueforte (I don't know if I spelled that correctly) rather than that manky, powdery blue stuff. Ugh.

So when my friend Mary introduced me to the most excellent combination of gnocchi with roasted pumpkin and basil leaves wilted in browning butter, with chunks of blue cheese stirred about until all nice and melty and creamy, well, I was pretty darned happy. And relieved. Because blue cheese isn't so bad after all. I can't ever see myself gobbling down that stinky stuff like my mum does, but that bite is quite passable in cooking.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm making the polenta equivalent of Mary's dish within a day of reading about the challenge, using what we already had in the fridge. I was just so excited!!!

I should have written down what I put in, shouldn't I... oh well, I'll give it a go!

1 small sweet potato, in 1/2-1" cubes
1tbsp dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2c polenta
1c cold water
1c hot water + extra
1 rounded tsp chicken stock powder
1/2c milk
20g butter + extra
40g blue cheese + extra
Squeezy basil stuff (or I'm sure torn fresh basil would be nice, too)

Mix mustard and olive oil together until homogenous. Toss sweet potato in it and roast at 190oC for about 25 minutes then flip the sweet potato around and turn it up to about 210oC until a little browner and soft enough to eat (about another 10 minutes but your oven may differ). Ideally I would have used pumpkin as it's sweeter, but this had to do. I wanted to make this dish NOW!!!

Put polenta in medium-ish saucepan (maybe on the large side of medium. I don't know what the official ruling on saucepan size is!) and add 1c water. Stir around then turn on the heat. Boil the kettle, measure out another cup of water and add the stock powder. Stir around and bring to boil. You'll have to really watch it when it comes to the boil because it pops like lava bubbles!

I think at this stage I added the milk and was taste testing it fairly often so I could tell when it was cooked (it will become smoother). It took less than ten minutes from the boil, probably less than eight but I wasn't timing it as I placed priority on not being splattered by hot polenta.

Once it reached the cooked stage I turned off the heat, stirred through some squeeze basil and some butter and cheese. I kept adding those two until I got the desired consistency and flavour.

Mine turned out quite soft and quite wet, but that's how I like it. If you don't want it as wet then maybe reduce the amount of water you add. You could eat it alone or as a side dish - I served it with some left over casserole, which was nice.

Thank you Rachael for a great challenge!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Wine Tasting in the Barossa

On a fine (but freezing cold) Queen's Birthday weekend (which inconveniently coincided with the weekend I decided to be hit with bronchitis), I took a trip back to South Australia to visit my friends Jody and Mary. It also served the purpose of crossing another thing off my 101 Things list, and of course, a girl needs to treat herself to a weekend away once in a while.

Jody turned out to be locked in to commitments with the in-laws so there was no trip to McLaren Vale for us, though we did fit in a lovely lunch down at Glenelg. I had salt and pepper squid, the sun was shining and we did a wee bit of shopping afterwards. I ended up with this top and this top from Brown Sugar, and we also visited an awesome handbag and accessories shop where I demonstrated my incredible skill for falling in love with the most expensive bag in the place. But at $480 that just wasn't going to happen. Sigh.

After shopping Jody dropped me at my friend Mary's place where I was to stay the next two nights, and I finally met her man Ian. For dinner we made gnocchi from scratch (pretty much using this recipe). The gnocchi was a little gluggy, probably because we skipped the refrigeration step, but was delish nonetheless with its dressing of hot roasted pumpkin, fresh basil wilted in melted butter and blue cheese stirred through. (This combination later inspired a polenta dish which I promise to share with you one day!)

For dessert Mary whipped up some poached pears basically made by pouring a bottle of sticky white wine over peeled pears and baking them for an hour or so (= toffee!) in an enamelled cast iron pot, served with double cream. It probably wouldn't surprise anyone to learn that Mary and I bonded over our mutual love for food and wine! We tried some 30 year old port that Ian had picked up at auction. It wasn't bad considering the cork shattered, but we declared 1982 to be a mighty fine year (no prizes for guessing why). This was actually Ian's birthday so a day visiting wineries was a nice way to celebrate. I also bought Mary a bottle of port from Kellermeister that should cellar fairly well, which we intend to open on her 40th birthday.

We were up in a timely fashion the next day, which began with toasted crumpets at home then a quick stop at Cibo in Prospect for a coffee for the road (hot choc for me!), then we were off to our first stop in Tanunda via the awesome road that I built (cos, yaknow, I built it all myself. And in the unlikely event that you're interested in what a beam lift looks like, there is a time lapse video of it here).

First stop was Grant Burge and we discovered it was their last day of operating at that location (next door to Jacob's Creek) before moving to Krondorf. It's sad because it's such a beautiful place.

I bought three bottles here - a 20 year old Tawny Port, an Age Unknown Liquer Muscat and a bottle of Moscato (this was to become a theme. I guess my tastes are somewhat predictable, and, shall we say, sweet and girly). The taster-man was knowledgable and interesting (and cute!) and we were a little surprised to discover that we were the first through the door that day. Then again, it was the same day as McLaren Vale's Sea and Vines festival, so we probably avoided a lot of the wine tasting crowd - huzzah!

I wish I'd taken a photo from the inside - you'd kill to have it as a kitchen/lounge/dining but that's not gonna happen cos Penfolds bought it during the GFC and will likely use the asset as a more boutique (=expensive) function venue than they already have. But I DO have a few random pics from outside - and note that they are my own work, so if you want to use them then please ask! Note that they are basically straight out of the camera, the only alterations being cropping and compressing.

Grant Burge - from the car park
Grant Burge - out the back
Grant Burge - coming around the back
Grant Burge - getting tricky with focal points!
Grant Burge - the back courtyard

Grant Burge - amazing autumn colours
Grant Burge - a new view of the fountain
Grant Burge - for some reason these pot plants make me think of some sort of desert oasis
Grant Burge (duh, really?) - guess that sign's probably not there anymore
Grant Burge - the offices and cellar door

Such a gorgeous day - and there are still five more wineries plus lunch to go!

Next stop was St Hallett. I continued the trend of the sweeter wines here and bought a bottle of something sweet and a little fizzy (my memory is awesome isn't it) which comes with a pop-top cap, much like an old-fashioned bottle of soft drink. I didn't feel like taking photos so I didn't, but, like the ensuing visits to Rockford and Turkey Flat, that is a point of regret - lots of massive, beautiful red gums, and, in the case of Turkey Flat and Rockford, interesting buildings, fences etc.

At Turkey Flat I bought a Pedro Ximenez, a fortified wine (surprise!), and at Rockford I bought... hmm, I can't remember. Oh well. The good ol' 2008 Alicante Bouchet is long since sold out, though, and the 2011 (or was it 2010 they had on sale?) just doesn't cut the mustard. Boo. But speaking of mustard, I bought an olive/herb tapenade type thing from the adjacent shop whilst I was waiting for the crowds to disperse in the tasting room (which always makes me think of the stable Jesus was born in, but with a counter and lots of wine).

From Turkey Flat we pressed on to Maggie Beer's for lunch, where we ate thick, hot pheasant and chestnut soup as we froze our bottoms off on the deck overlooking the manky duck pond; and a combination of cheeses, mushroom pates and other bits and pieces such as quince paste that came in these gnatty little baskets for around $15 a pop. When you first look at them you feel a little ripped off, but once that feeling passes and you think about how full you are, it's not so bad. We had the soup and shared two baskets between the three of us and we were pretty well satisfied. I'm not sure I entirely buy into the whole Maggie Beer fuss, but it was pleasant enough a meal, and the presentation was quite cute and rustic.
Pheasant and chestnut soup
Goat's cheese, mushroom & verjuice pate, and some sort of barely-based salad yumminess
Camembert, quince paste, caramelised onions, marinated raisins, apple

After Maggie Beer's we took the compulsory trip to Seppeltsfied for Mary to stock up on their raspberry cordial and me to top up on my Grand Tokay. I didn't taste it first - probably should have, even though I've sampled many a previous vintage - but I didn't want to stuff around with the whole paying-for-tastings caper, even if you get reimbursed for it when you purchase something. If it's a bit ordinary I will probably do the poached pear thing with it. Also compulsory was stopping by the side of the road to admire the palm tree avenue. Again, these photos are mine so don't be stealing them!
Seppeltsfield Road - view towards Tanunda
Vines near Seppeltsfield Road
Pretty autumn leaves and palm trees, near Seppeltsfield Road
Palm trees, along Seppeltsfield Road
Palms and vines, along Seppeltsfield Road

Marananga Lutheran church (and that denomination is a total guess but quite likely to be correct in this area... HAH! I'm right! I just Googled it!) on Seppeltsfield Road

Next we continued on to Hentley Farm, which I felt was a bit on the overpriced side, but then, I'm not a big fan of bold red wines. I'm sure if my palate for reds was more sophistcated I would have happily bought something. As it was, I bought a bottle of something less full-on, partly because I realised that they normally charge for tasting but didn't mention it to us.

The second stop but one was Saltram. I was a bit over wine by then, plus my tongue felt like I'd been eating lollies all day (given my penchant for sweet whites, fortifieds and ports, I'm hardly surprised!). And there was just nothing there that jumped out at me, or at anyone else, it would seem. So we hit the road and headed for the last stop of the day - Kellermeister, which apparently means "cellar master" in German, plus is a nod to the founder's mother's maiden name (Keller), but the family isn't German as one might expect. Apparently they are famed for their chocolate port, but to me it tasted like that cheap chocolate syrup cafes sometimes make hot chocolates out of. But I did enjoy theirnon-chocolate drinkies, and accordingly bought a bottle of it.

We made ourselves a little sober-up picnic atop one of these barrels featuring a local salami/bratwurst type thing, some leftovers from lunch and some of my tapenade.

The sun was setting, and it was time to head home. The Barossa is quite beautiful at all times of year, I think, but the oranges and browns were just gorgeous. I can't wait to head back to SA for a visit to McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. Who wants to join me? :)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pad Thai-Inspired Chicken Stir Fry

Hey there Kiddies,

after my last long, rambly post, and seeing as how most of my readers are foody-type people, I have decided to give you a quick recipe to tide you all over until I bake something again!

Last weekend was one of those weekends that are full to the brim, where you rush about all day and then get to about four o'clock and realise you haven't done any shopping, nor have you gotten anything out of the freezer to defrost.


(Note: chicken fillets defrost far more quickly if you slice them thinly and spread the pieces out a bit. To stop them going all gross and dry and manky, put them in a plastic bag or container with the lid on)

After a bit of a ferret through the kitchen, I came up with a workable solution. It's not a fancy recipe but it does well with few ingredients in the house. I like to fool myself into thinking that it's a little better for you than Pad Thai, but it's probably not, although there is definitely less oil and I used lo-cal noodles. Note - I would not normally have had the lime in the house, but for the fact that I zested a few limes to put in white chocolate, coconut and lime ganache to fill my birthday cake. Yummo.

Chicken thigh fillets, fat removed, sliced thinly
Crushed garlic
Chilli sauce
Onion (I used red because it's what was in the house)
Broccoli, cut into small florets
Kale, sliced (an afterthought to add some more greenery, and, again, was in the house/garden)
More garlic!
Chang's super lo-cal noodles, rinsed and drained (although any cooked noodles would do, preferably rice)
Chopped cashews
More chilli sauce!
Brown sugar (approx. 2 heaped tsp)
Fish sauce (approx. 1 tbsp)
Soy sauce (approx. 1tsp)
Lime juice (approx. 2 limes' worth)
Cashews to garnish

I'm sorry but you're going to have to figure out the quantities yourself. It will depend on how many people you're feeding and what your taste buds are like. The dressing/marinade can be adjusted to suit your taste and the quantity you are making up, as can the chilli sauce. You could also add fresh chilli to give it some real zing, and some corriander/cilantro (which I just remembered I had a squeezy tube of and should have used but didn't. AND I have squeezy lemongrass! DAMNIT!!!). This dressing/marinade is also fantastic on a Thai beef salad, but that's another post for another (summer) day!


Heat about 1tbsp oil in a large frypan. Stir-fry chicken with a teaspoonful of crushed garlic and some chilli sauce (you'll need to taste test). When the chicken is cooked through remove from the heat and set aside.

There should be enough oil and juices left in the pan now to fry up your onion (until softened), broccoli (until bright green and heated through/cooked to your liking) and kale (until wilted - obviously add it much later than the other things). Add the chopped cashews and stir, then the drained noodles and mix until evenly distributed (tongs will help). If it starts to stick, add a little water. Add more chilli sauce to taste.

Add the chicken back in along with the dressing/marinade and mix it all through until everything is hot. Serve garnished with whole cashews.

Quick, easy and quite healthy. If you want to cut down on the calories, add more kale and broccoli and less cashews. Those puppies are quite deceptively high in energy!

Friday, 3 August 2012

30 Things for 30 Years

In case you hadn't noticed, I was feeling a little uneasy about turning the Big 3-0. I'm not entirely sure why that was. Perhaps it's because society tells me I'm supposed to freak out about getting older. Not that 30 is old! Or maybe it's because I'm not where I thought I would be (although, really, who ever has a clear picture of that??!). But what I do know is that - from people I know IRL to bloggers - everyone tells me that they loved their thirties. I suppose they don't call them the Dirty Thirties for nothing ;)

I found a list in my mum's dressing table drawer last year. No, I wasn't just ferreting about for the fun of it - she'd asked me to go looking for something. The list was of 10 things I wanted to do before I turned 30. I must have written the list when I was 22 or so, and I distinctly recall putting it in the recycling whilst cleaning my room up when on sick leave back in 2008 after being diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome. I remember thinking that most of the things on the list were now out of reach (although one - visit Machu Picchu - had certainly been ticked off). Those things included doing the Australian Alpine Walking Track (in one go, was the intention - it runs from Walhalla in Gippsland to Canberra); doing The Overland Track (Tasmania); and I think participating in a multi-sport event (the outdoorsy world's answer to a triathlon - usually involves kayaking, trail running and mountain biking, or something simliar, I believe) was on there, too.

Anyway, mum retrieved it and kept it - as mums do. I don't think I've done anything else on the list since I re-found it, but I've begun to have faith that I might do at least some of it, and, now that I'm on the far side of 30, I've realised that it doesn't matter in the slightest that I haven't ticked it all off before 30. There's a whole lifetime to do that. Plus your desires and priorities change, so as long as I don't actually regret not doing anything on the list then I'll be happy enough with that.


My original thought for this post was to tell you thirty incredibly deep and meaningful things about myself, or maybe just something that happened each year of my life.

My second thought was to eat a different cake a day during my birthday month and post the photos here. Actually, that was a friend's idea to eat them (who shall remain nameless), because there's no way I'd be so reckless as to think of risking not fitting into my pants on my birthday ;) But because someone else thought of it, I took the risk! Calories that were someone else's idea don't count, right??

And then I had the brilliant idea of taking photos of 30 things that I saw or happened or I thought of during the course of my 30th birthday, but I got distracted by making my birthday cake about ten photos in. It's not like me to not finish projects I start, at allllll...

So I decided to combine all three - you will learn something about each year of my life, and also show you the photos I took of my 30th birthday and also of my birthay month cakes. If there are any spots left at the end (bound to be) I'll no doubt find another photo to fill the gap. And I just realised how long this post is and I'm really sorry. Okay, only a little bit sorry. Okay, not sorry at all. So here goes!

1. The year that we moved from our house in Heidelberg (which, a dozen years later, sold for over a million dollars. D'oh!) to our house in Eltham, where mum still lives, and the only home I remember.

Up early to get the bus back to Melbourne, I decided to try my luck taking a photo of the moon with those two planets that had been hovering around near it all week. Actually, come to think of it, it seems likely that the large glowing object is actually a street light. Whatevs. The planets are there, though, one of them (Venus) more clearly than the other (Jupiter).

2. ... yeah, I got nothin' for 1984. Can't even tell you which birthday cake I had (mum has them marked on the pages of the Women's Weekly birthday cake book, but it's been a while since I flipped through. Might have been the Humpty Dumpty one but I wouldn't bet my life on it). This may have been the year that I first went to the snow, because there's a picture of me toddling about in a tiny red jumpsuit, but I can't be certain about that. Maybe it was the year I vomited on the back of dad's neck in the car, or the year that I was left, scared and alone in my uncle's yard while everyone ran to help my dad who was being tossed about by an angry bull, but I can't be certain about that, either. (Also, parents? If you tell your two-year-old-ish kid to stay where she is in an urgent voice, she will quite literally stay exactly where she is until you come back quite some time later. Children can be quite literal... or at least, I was!)

The bakery where I buy my lunch almost every day. This is where I got my birthday breakfast (up next). I love fresh bread!

3. The year I killed my first fly (probably). I remember sitting on the floor of my brother's kinder playing with blocks while mum talked to the teacher, and this massive blow fly landed on my knee. I was wearing a white dress with navy blue polka dots and navy blue ruffles around the bottom. It must have been a particularly slow one because I wasn't the most coordinated of kids, but I still managed to give it an almighty WHACK and kill it. I remember looking up proudly to see if mum had seen, but she hadn't. Boo.

Ham and cheese toastie. I was going to go the ol' egg and bacon toastie with tomato sauce but decided that wasn't what I really wanted. Light provided by bus headlights - I could do with bus-esque lighting in my kitchen because that photo, taken with an iPhone, is better than a lot that come out of my DSLR (nothing to do with the user at alllll...). Should probably have taken a photo of the frost on the ground, too!

4. My first year of kinder (I spent two years there because I was too young to go up, not because I was too stupid). I remember turning four and being absolutely distraught because I thought they would kick me out of kinder. I'd seen it happen to my brother (at least, that's what I thought had happened), and I was certain it was about to happen to me, so first thing that morning I ran into my parents' room and cried my li'l heart out, hoping they could stop me from aging. This is also the year I had the swimming pool cake for my birthday.

The doughnut I had for "second breakfast". This doesn't count as eating on the bus, right?

5. My second year of kinder, and the first time we went on a horse-drawn caravan as a holiday. This is still lodged in my mind as being the best whole-family holiday evahhhhhh (not to be confused with our trips to West Wyalong, which was just my dad with my brother and I. Dad would cook us such culinary delights as sausages with baked beans, mashed potatoes and Twisties. Yes, they really do go well together.). Oh yeah, and this is when I got my first adult-sized sleeping bag (might have been on the 4 side of 5, actually) because I was too long for the kiddy one. The day we got them we laid them down in the hall, took a great big run-up through the kitchen and slid on them. So. Much. Fun. Until I caught my big toe on the piece of chrome trim bent up from the corner of the old awesomely-retro, burnt orange, enamelled oven on my way through to the hallway. Ow. Blood everywhere.

Blue lights on the bus. I assume they're to stop people shooting up and not to provide ambience...

6. My first year of school (prep), and the year of Australia's bicentenary celebrations ("Celebration of the nation! Let's make it great in '88! Come on, give us a hand!"). I think this is the year that we visited my dad's (dead) best friend's family down in Warrnambool for the first time, and I was talking to the daughter, and pointed at a photo of her dad and said "he's dead" and made a cutting motion across my neck with my finger and that noise you make with the back of your tongue that sounds a little like a duck. I don't know why I did it. I think I thought I was being smart or hardcore or something. But considering that all was left to identify the poor girl's dad after he rolled his car was a piece of face with his eye in it, and his ring finger, it wasn't entirely appropriate. Mind you, six-year-old me wasn't aware of that level of detail. Anyway, don't drink and drive, people! And Lisa, I still feel really bad about that. I'm sorry. I'm also not entirely surprised you turned to religion and became a doctor...

Birthday sunrise! (much brighter than that awful story)

7. I reckon this might be the first year I broke my arm. I tripped over a rock at Kate Bucknell's mansion house after Rebecca McIntyre's birthday party and broke my wrist. I say this is the first time because I then went on to do it a further three times over the next three years, including one time where I re-broke it the afternoon I had the plaster cast removed. I wonder what happened to Kate? Mum always said she was being groomed to be part of the European royalty. I'm not sure how that works and I'm not even all that sure what that means, but what I DO know is that in this digital age she is nowhere to be found on the interwebs - no public FB or MySpace or anything - so I suppose it's plausible. Either that or she's married. Or technologically retarded (seems unlikely for a smart girl with buckets of money). Dad told me recently how intimidated he felt driving up their driveway in his crappy old Corolla wagon to drop me off to play. I guess it was a mansion after all...

Spencer Street Station. Yes, it's Spencer Street. No, I will probably never, ever, ever, ever refer to it as Southern Cross Station. Even though it has a pretty funky roof these days.

8. The year I first visited (by which I mean, visited and stayed and helped with farm work, not just visited and toddled about and ate a packet of chips his cousin's wife gave me) my dad's cousin's sheep station Cowal West, up on Lake Cowal near West Wyalong (related: I was reading a book a couple of years ago, and the characters actually spent some time on that property. Which means the author was familiar with the property, which is pretty freaky). Sadly, after about five or so years of school holidays spent there, the place was sold and is now being mined for gold by a Canadian mining company, and that breaks my heart more than a little. I just found it on Google Maps and the homestead and shearing shed appear to still be there, but all those paddocks are an open-cut mine now. I don't think I'll show my dad, because he spent his childhood holidays there, too, and it would kill him to see it.

Lunch. Croissants are one of my favourite foods ever, and this one was still warm from the oven. Oh, yes.

9. The year my Gramps died, and probably the first real grief I'd had to deal with (if you don't count watching our cat Grey siezure himself to death... but the fact I remember we had tinned pears with chocolate mousse for dessert that night tells me that the pain was short-lived!). I still miss him. I swear to God he (Gramps, not the cat) would deliberately not shave the day he saw us, and then he'd pick us up and give us a big kiss and hug and grind his bristly cheek against our soft ones until we squealed with pain. Sometimes he'd pull out his bridge so he looked like a vampire, and at the end of a visit he always pulled a silver coin out of his pocket for us (mysteriously, 99% of the time of the same denomination). He's been gone twenty-one years and I still tear up when I think about him. It wasn't a great year for Much Smaller Ness because he died in September, and then on the first day of the Christmas holidays I came off my bike and stopped myself with my face on gravel (resulting in a scar I carry to this day. Luckily I have rosy cheeks when it's warm, but when it's cold my right cheek goes sort of purple) and hid my face from public view until the scabs fell off two weeks later. And then on Christmas Eve I stepped on a bee whilst playing soccer with my brother in the back yard. Fun times!

Uncle Andrew fixing our front door. He came down from Wagga for my birthday, and I think he got annoyed at it when it was hard to open/shut. He's one of those Mr. Fix-It types who can't stand to see something not working properly, and while he was here he re-hung the door and the screen door, as well as realigning the metal plate the tongue on the screen door goes into; bolted the front steps together so they had another 20 years' life in them and the third step stopped threatening to collapse; installed a hook for our aprons to go on; rewired the plug on the extension cord; and replaced the sockets in two broken lamps. He's great to have a around and it is wonderful to not have to fight with the door to close or open it! On the down side, you now can't just pull the door to without locking it and expect it to stay shut, so no more sneaky trips down the shop with the door left over. Boo. Oh, and ladies? He's single, and he bakes...

Aaaaand now we're out of photos from my birthday, so now we move onto birthday month cake!

10. The year mum took us on a family holiday to the UK to meet all her aunts and cousins. We spent a month driving about England and Scotland, doing all manner of fun things and eating waaaay more rock candy than we should have. Oh, and I saw the Loch Ness Monster. I know nobody believes me, but I did. So there.

This is the date and chocolate torte I made a few weeks back. It's gluten free and totally divine, and absolutely insist you go and make it immediately. Or, post-haste, as they used to say in the olden days (I can say olden-day things now that I'm 30)!

11. My very favourite year at school. We did a gold rush-themed thing like all Year 5's do in Australia, only this time we took it a step further and instead of "owning" a plot of land to mine in a plastic tub full of sand and "mining" it for "gold" each morning like every other class had before us, we renovated our classroom with Tyvec and paper mache and paint and turned it into an underground cave system, complete with tree roots (stockings stuffed with paper and painted brown) coming through the ceiling. The story was that we had all travelled from the UK to the Ballarat goldfields (we chose our "friends and family" to "live" with, and to be part of our story, and built a "cave" with them with our desk in it), and there was a flood, and we sheltered in a cave on the mountain, and the entrance collapsed so we had to live there. My character's name was Priscilla Hughes, my best friend Lisa was my "brother" James, and we wrote in journals about everything from our ocean voyage to the goldfields and our experiences trapped in the cave, as well as everything else that followed. Somehow, and I can't remember how, we ended up "meeting" all these characters from history (by which I mean, the school's drama department! And the only two characters I distinctly recall were an alchemist trying to turn lead into gold, and Howard Carter, (co)discoverer of Tutankhamun's tomb) who taught us about the Red Cross' humanitarian principles through a new activity every week or two. It was the most amazing year ever, and then one Monday we showed up and the classroom was bare and white and awful. It was a huge crash back down to earth, and when I found out that my dad had helped demolish the classroom I cried and didn't talk to him for three days. Imagine actually living a Narnia book for two terms, and then having it ripped from you. But props to Mrs Peters for having the imagination to integrate art, and drama, and maths, and english, and social studies, and ecology, and history, and actually have us absolutely gagging to learn. If every kid had a teacher like that I think kids would get more out of their education.

The cake I made for my second Wilton cake decorating class. It's red velvet cake on the inside, and covered with more buttercream than you can poke a stick at. I'm really excited about the fact I can make these flowers now!

12. The year I decided to trail the whole "long fringe swept to one side" thing for school photos. I was quite overweight, and quite sunburnt, and didn't have braces yet, and kind of backed out of the whole fringe thing about three minutes before the photo and tucked it behind my ear instead. Worst. Photo. Ever. And no, I'm not going to share it with you.

The cake is more of the same. The boys at work did a good job of demolishing it though, don't you think? And I had nothing to do with its demise. Nothing at all.

13. My first year of highschool, and the year that I met some of my best friends in the whole world, including Kaye, Ness and Danielle. I also met Emma that year but wasn't close to her until we did outdoor ed together in Year 10, which was also the year I met Al. Apparently it's unusual to be this close to highschool friends so many years later, but I number them amongst the dearest people to me in this world. Their partners are also quite awesome people, and I would expect nothing less from them.

Now, who doesn't love a good ol' lamington? The Barham bakery does a really nice sponge, and this lamington is no exception to that. Known as a "lammo" by some, this specimen is all-original and is just plain sponge with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut on the outside. But I must say I'm somewhat partial to the ones with jam in the middle.
14. The first year I participated in our school's House Music competition's dance item (like a Rock Eisteddford, but internal). I was in Bell house (go Bell, go! Die, Ross, die!) and frankly, it was the best house. The dance item was some sort of industrially-themed thing and required us to wear these awful black pants made of cheap cotton (so one had to wear black underwear) and a grey chesty Bonds singlet, but it was a lot of fun. The day we bought the underwear and singlet was the day my Nanna died. We left the hospital to go shopping, and she died within about half an hour of us getting back there. I didn't even notice, and was indignant that mum had asked me to get a nurse when I was so engrossed in my Cosmo magazine. Is fourteen too young to be reading Cosmo? Maybe... but I was mature for my age! (Sure, Vanessa, sure...) Apparently the doctors were reluctant to sign the death certificate without an autopsy because they knew mum was a nurse and thought that us leaving and coming back and her dying was awfully convenient. Scandal! (but, like, totally not. Nanna had suffered a series of small strokes for nearly a week and had barely regained consciousness, and her time was up.)

Macarons. Some would shoot me for saying this, but I think I'd prefer to eat a nice scone with jam and cream than a macaron, but I do like the pretty colours. And it's pronounced mack-a-RON, people! There's only one O there! A macaroOn is something else entirely and often involves coconut.
15. The year my parents divorced. I thought at the time that the sky was falling, and I wanted them to get back together so very, very badly. I won't go into the reasons why because it's pretty personal stuff, but I was just so sad that the family dream was over, and I didn't feel like I would be living in a house filled with love and laughter anymore. I was right about the laughter, at any rate. Within about three months, though, I realised I could play my parents off against each other and get them to more or less buy my affection and allow me to cut class. Excellent :)

This has to be the world's largest wagon wheel, to be found at the Beachmere bakery in Queensland. I think it had a little too much chocolate on it (I know, scandalous that I might say such a thing. Biscuit + jam + marshmallow + chocolate = WIN) but it was altogether quite wonderful.
16. The year I did karate with Kaye, which was also the year I dated James, my first boyfriend. We held hands and kissed and stuff but I don't think we were really in love, although we were quite fond of one another. Still, you've got to start somewhere, and starting with a really nice guy who treats you well is a good benchmark to set. We're still good friends and he (okay, his wife) is having a baby soon. Hi, James!

We went to the Medieval Festival in Caboolture, and I saw real horseback jousting (only I think their lances were rigged and not, and sword fighting, and drank mead and mulled wine, and saw Dr Chris Brown, Bondi Vet, dressed in armour and having a whirl at swordfighting. I caught up with Danielle, met her new man Shannon (did I spell that correctly?) and ate a Hungarian Langos with caramel sauce, for which I stood in line for approximately twenty minutes to procure. And yes, it was totally worth it.
17. The year I dated my first bad boy, and the year I first had my heart broken (direct correlation, people! It was probably also the first time I was in love/lust). Actually, Taran wasn't that bad (in fact, by today's standards, he was pretty soft), but he was from a boy's school that had a bit of a reputation, plus he had stubble (swoon! He really started something there...), plus he was a little bit cool, plus he had actually noticed that I existed! Unfortunately this also meant that he was a bit of a player and a bit of a jerk, an opinion seconded by another girl from my school who dated him (briefly) almost immediately afterwards (which was kind of what broke my heart). Live and learn!

A Krispy Kreme apple crumble and custard donut. I'm sorry people, but I'm just not impressed by KK. This is my third, and maybe last, donut. I MEAN THEIR DONUTS NOT ALL DONUTS!!! They're just not that good. They're too greasy and heavy and big, and they tend to give me an acid stomach. I don't think my body wants to process them, and I can't say I blame my poor body! Cinnamon donuts from your local bakery FTW.

18. The year I finished highschool. What a year! If only I'd studied instead of partying every weekend, I may have reached my full potential. As it was, I got an ENTER of 84.2 which isn't too bad considering the zero-studying thing, and got into the course of my choice where I continued to slack off... and achieve a double degree with first class Honours! I'm just a big ol' ball of unrealised potential, aren't I :)

Mmm, apple slice - fools you into believing it's healthy, every time!
19. The year I got my first real part-time job (before that I had done quite a lot of tutoring for cash). It was at Adventure Supplies, formerly Aussie Disposals, and it was one of the best jobs a camping-loving girl like me could possibly imagine. I was in heaven. It probably didn't hurt that my boss had a smokin' hot body and a cheeky sense of humour (hi, Bernie! This isn't at all awkward for you, is it?), and that all the staff got along really well. It was always fun to challenge a (generally) middle-aged man's perception and prove that I did in fact know my stuff. They'd come in all condescending because I was a girl, and by the time they walked out I'd generally educated them, run circles around them and then encouraged them to flog their credit card. By the time the store closed down (sad face) I was selling sleeping bags in my sleep. But I do do some weird stuff in my sleep...

Caramel slice. These are nice in small doses but I think my pancreas is getting too old to deal with the sudden onslaught of sugar. Next time I'll cut it in quarters and make it last four days, I think.

20. The year I bought my dad's VL Commodore from him for the price of having the gearbox reconditioned. Yeah, that should have been the warning sign...

Snot block! Also known as a custard slice or vanilla slice. But hey, if assigning a revolting name to a dessert puts people off them, there will be more snot blocks in the world for me!

21. The year I bought my first fashion item - an Alannah Hill top - and cut my bum-length hair to my shoulders and dyed it black with blue streaks, all for my 21st birthday party. I still have the top but I'm significantly less chubby than I was then, so my b00bs fall out of it now and I need to tape myself in.

Scottish Tablet cupcakes with whisky frosting. Good thing whisky is such a harsh taste because it balanced the tablet (made of caramel condensed milk and butter) nicely. I made them for an online international ingredient swap.

22. The year I started dating my first proper boyfriend, Hamish. Like James, he was lovely and not at all bad like Taran! He also broke the four-year mandrought (punctuated only by bouts of unrequited love and a sneaky pash or two). We had a lot of fun in the three years we were together, but towards the end I realised I wasn't very kind to him and didn't like who I was when I was being mean and he deserved better, so I ended it. I think it was a Missy Higgins song that convinced me to pull the pin (which one, I can't recall).

23. My Honours year at university. I did a project on Weed Invasion at High Country Huts, and spent the year hiking and 4WDing to 26 cattlemens/hikers/skiiers huts in the Victorian Alps. Soooo much fun, and I think I left a little piece of my heart up there. In hindsight, though, I nearly died doing it - I had a seizure one morning up on the Bogong High Plains near Falls Creek. At the time I had been on medication for epilepsy for about a decade, even though what was causing the seizures was actually my heart not beating properly and starving my brain of oxygen. Morons. I guess that explains why I faded in and out of consciousness twice (I distinctly recall the neurologist not believing me about that, or about how short a period I was out for), and can remember screaming out for help in the two seconds I came to, even though I knew I was totally alone and 10km from civilization. Luckily, because it was my heart and not my brain, once it started beating properly I was bright and perky and capable of thinking clearly, so I packed up my tent, doctored myself to restore my body's balance in every means available to me (I drank about a litre of water with electrolyte replacements in it, ate some breakfast to boost my blood sugar and gave my limbs a good stretch), and hiked on out of there.

If I could only eat one dessert for ever... okay, let's rephrase that. If I could eat only one bakery item forever, it would be a strawberry tart. These are a close second, and it wasn't bad for a tart that came from a booth at Flinders Street Station!

24. I spent the start of this year backpacking through Europe with my BFF Ness, and in the second part of the year I got my current job. That trip was pretty darned awesome - UK, France (plus Monaco), Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Switzerland (plus Lichtenstein, where we skiied. How many of you can say that? Yeah, I thought so *looks smug*) and Italy. What a fabulous trip. I discovered that you can get a decent bottle of wine for less than two Euros; that if you survive on cheese sandwiches you can splash a little in other areas; that you can be incredibly attracted to someone for their mind/intelligence; that European skifields don't hire out ski clothing because everyone already owns it; that travelling in Europe in winter means that everything is cheaper and less crowded; that the American accent outside of its native setting could cut through concrete (although maybe that has more to do with the type of Americans who are loud at major tourists sites and not the fact that they are American - some of the most wonderful people I met backpacking were American, and they were very quiet and respectful); and that you will always pack something that you don't wear and swear never to do it again, only to re-offend on your next trip.

We got this custard-filled almond croissant at Hoboken cafe in Hosier Lane, Melbourne after the Run Melbourne fun run. I think they kind of lost our order when we swapped tables so a larger group could have more space, so this was their way of apologising for the wait. The service was brilliant once they remembered we were there, and I completely accept their apology :) I will write a review on them at a later date.

25. The year Kirsti and I sent several billion emails between us to hold onto our collective sanities whilst bored at work, and ended up planning a trip to South America for the following year. Also the year I broke up with Hamish; I got a killer haircut at Jools for Jim (they have massagey seats at the basins! Bliss!); my friend Matt took me to his company's corporate Christmas party in Sydney and I realised how much companies spend on people higher up the food chain (and I'm still not sure if they were serious when they tried to poach me...); and I shared a house with Sheepy, a (obviously, at least, obvious to an Australian!) Kiwi that I worked with. Sheeps and I spent many a lively evening playing guitar, drinking red wine, debating God (his corner) versus Darwin (my corner), and eating Malteasers in front of The Biggest Loser. That was a pretty big year of personal growth for me (not related to the Malteasers), plus I really enjoyed living on a farm. A dog called Happy even came with the house, not to mention Spider Sheep (long story...)!

Instead of a birthday cake for each of us in the office, the budget belt was tightened and we got one cake for all seven of us who were born in July! I mean, what are the chances of that, in an office of fourteen people??? That's pretty amazing! Okay, so now that I've though about it a little harder there's a one-in-twelve chance (or is it one-in-168?), because each birthday is a discrete event. I think. Shut up, that's why!

26. The year that I went to South America, backpacked around Chile, Argentina, Uraguay and Brazil with my friend Amanda, then swapped her for Kirsti in Peru where we (I) ate alpaca, did the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu, and shortly thereafter I discovered that what they had thought was epilepsy for about thirteen years turned out to be quite a serious congenital heart condition. As in, the first symptom for many people is death. Oops. 10 days in ICU, a lift with the Peruvian airforce and a trip home flying business class with a Candian doctor pushing me about in a wheelchair and I was home. I lovvvve the pointy end of the plane :)

Jelly slice. Om nom nom. If you have never eaten one you need to. STAT! Please also disregard the fact that the footpath is in better focus than the slice. Let's just pretend that my vision blurred in the ecstacy of biting into this slice, mmmkay?

27. The year I visited Thailand, and also lived in a mansion by the beach. If you don't believe me, get on Nearmap and check out 113 Seaview road, Tennyson, South Australia. Actually, truth be told, I lived in a stinking hot/freezing cold granny flat off the back of the garage with a seriously crap shower, not in the weirdly-shaped mansion bit overlooking the ocean. In case you couldn't tell, the place was built on feng shui principles. Zoom in and you'll see some interesting lines. Oh! Actually, I lived in one mansion and one large, Victorian era sandstone house by the beach - 30 Esplanade, Semaphore South, SA. Also directly on the beach, give or take a road. What can I say - rent is cheap in South Australia! And no, I wouldn't be giving you the address if I lived there still ;) This is also the year I lost 10kg (turns out weight loss = calories in - calories out! And exercise and healthy eating really help with that! They were telling the truth in the magazines all these years! Who knew!), and the year I met Boy, who charmed me senseless, turned my world upside-down and opened my eyes to so many new things. Never have I felt so intensely about someone.

Cherry ripe slice. Do they do these in other countries or are Cherry Ripes an Australian thing? Coconut with cherry, covered (or, as the advertisers would say, enrobed - sounds way sexier, huh?) in chocolate. Oh, yes.

28. The year I bought a house, got engaged, went on a cruise, visited Darwin for the first time and went to a Bon Jovi concert. Big year. Good year.

My birthday donut appears again!

29. The year that went pretty horrendously wrong for a lot of reasons. Firstly, the arse fell out of my universe and our wedding had to be postponed. But on the plus side, I really enjoyed work and found my tree-huggin' passion again! I also joined a gym for the first time and loved that, and I went on my first overnight hike since discovering I suffer from the tendency to try to die... oh, and then I tried to die. Oops. So I caught a chopper home (what is it with me and being air lifted? Guess I like to fly!), spent five nights in hospital and rung in the new year alone with a front row seat/bed for the fireworks in Melbourne - I could see three different lots of fireworks from my window. All things considered - chopper ride plus fireworks plus a meal on a compartmentalized tray which I LOVE (yes, I am a little bit nuts, why do you ask?) - it wasn't a complete disaster.

Obviously, the last photo being my birthday donut, I am out of cake photos. That's not to say I haven't eaten cake since - I have indeedy, and boy oh boy I'd murder for a custard slice right now (not literally, of course) - but it stopped being about the cake. Yaknow? So instead you get a pair of swordsmen at the Caboolture Medieval Festival (where I ate the langos - revert to the cakey section of this post).

Aaaaaaaaand 30! The year I wasted half a year terrified that 30 would be awful because of all the things that had gone wrong recently and the fact that I wasn't anywhere near where I had expected at this pointin time... and then discovered once I got here that it was actually quite okay.

The year I took the bull by the horns and actually took a few cake decorating classes (hitherto my style has been to just wing it with things I have a natural talent for, because that way, if I fail, then it's not as disappointing a failure. I know, that's a really stuffed up philopsophy, hey? But no more! I'm a sensible 30-year-old now! Life is short! Give it your all!).

The year my ICD was replaced with a pacemaker-ICD named Zappy II in the most excruciatingly painful surgery - says the girl who has never had open heart surgery or a hip replacement or that limb-elongating surgery which apparently really blows - evahhhh (plus I tried to die again in the process). Following on from that, the year that I had to say goodbye to my naturally low heart rate (48-52bpm by day, and anywhere from 29-48 overnight) in favour of having a machine beat my heart for me at 80bpm, which I still hate, but which I'm sure has prevented a few episodes already so I should jolly well be thankful.

The year that I decided I will be going to Mexico to see what I missed when I was Medivaced, plus Africa (hopefully that trip doesn't end like the last one did...).

The year I made new friends, reconnected with old friends and family, and drifted further away from others.

The year I became a silver frequent flyer, both with Qantas and Virgin (and you wouldn't believe how bad the regular service is by contrast... okay, maybe you would!).

The year I realised that I do actually have a lifetime to do those things on that list, that there is no arbitrary point by which they must be complete, and hey, if I die before that happens then it's likely to be sudden and I won't have time for regrets!

I'll finish this off with a picture of my birthday cake. Yep, I made it myself. I'm quite proud of myself, and yes - I am considering doing this as a sideline to the tree huggin' thing. Mud cake with dark chocolate and raspberry ganache for top and bottom layers, and the middle layer is white mud cake with white chocolate, lime and coconut ganache. I actually preferred the middle layer! PS - I wore those sensible, old-person AirFlex shoes to my 30th. But they were black patent leather stiletto Mary-Janes, so I think that balance things out.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to my first 29 years - good, bad or indifferent - because who we are today is the sum of our experiences thus far, and thus far it has been one hell of a ride. Thanks to those of you who came out of the woodwork in this most recent, most challenging year so far and supported me - I'm sure you know who you are, and if you don't, well I'm not going to name you so too bad! Thanks also to everyone who has ever supported me and who intends to do so in the future.

Here's to my thirties, friends - may it be a decade of balance; fun; challenging myself; travel; love; good food; good friends; good health; family; laughter; stability; adventures (the good sort); learning... and hopefully just a little bit of wisdom follows all of that!