Thursday, 28 November 2013

My achy breaky heart...

Well this week has been somewhat intense! With what started as some nausea and tummy pain Saturday afternoon, moving into vomiting and what was not diagnosed but I suspected later to be heartburn on Sunday; this cycle (of pain, vomiting, doctor's appointments, and heartburn) continued for 3 more days until it became an excruciating combination of nausea and chest pain Wednesday morning, when Husband (who had the foresight to stay home from work 'just incase') decided to "stuff the local blood tests, I'm taking you to hospital! ... Just let me shower first."

With trouble breathing, walking, and talking, mixed with 3 days of not eating, vomiting, and the on-and-off chest pain (which heartburn medication stopped working on), I reached beyond the point where I didn't know how much I could take... An ECG proved my heart was fine, yet the pain kept getting worse, and my life came to an emotional climax right before I was injected with morphine.

Then, it became a bit of a happy blur... Through blood tests, x-rays, vitals, repetitive questions*, and history checks, there was no explanation of why I had such severe pain in my chest. Whilst waiting to see the doctor in hospital, though, when the morphine was quite clearly working, I was already thankful that I could finally take deep breaths properly, and could enjoy decent, pain-free rest (yes, even on a temporary hospital bed with my jacket as a pillow).

* "No, I'm not pregnant" - "No, there's no tingling in my fingers" - "Yes, I'm allergic to cats" - "I would love a prescription for morphine, please"

Husband observed me in pain for days, and concluded that after a certain point of endurance, I move from cranky petulance to full-blown fragility, thinking I was most certainly dying... Of course, I would never say such a thing out loud, and he must have been hearing things.

Today is the first day this week I have woken up without pain. I have my suspicions of what it was, and despite grey hairs at 28, I do know that it was not a heart attack.

My trip to the hospital yesterday also meant I got to bring home souvenirs... I love souvenirs. They're like mini-presents to yourself. Sadly, I did not bring home an answer to what was happening with my body.

Because everyone loves bandaids and ECG tabs, right?

Today, I'm feeling very thankful for many things.

Things like:

A generally healthy body.
It became blatantly obvious that when there is pain in a body, it becomes almost impossible to do 'life' normally... For me, a pain as common as heartburn became quite crippling.

He took over many of my roles this week, as well as keeping all of his own with work and various other commitments. He made school lunches, did housework, washed up, brought laundry in, folded it all up, took care of children, shopped, cooked, cleaned, all while I was in bed either resting or hurling into a bucket.

Friends and Family.
My family was in contact everyday to see how I was going. I had friends take children to and from school for me, and who cared for them each afternoon while I was unwell and on the days Husband was at work.

My children.
They were also pretty great through the whole ordeal. They brought me drinks, buckets, wrote me "get well soon" cards, and generally looked after themselves when they knew I couldn't get out of bed.

Access to medical care.
We have good doctors very close by, and a hospital only 15-20 minutes away. The hospital staff were great, I was seen to promptly (could have been because I stumbled in thinking I was dying), and through excruciating pain, they helped and supported me as they attempted to work out what was wrong. And, did I mention that they gave me morphine?

I am thankful that I am still alive (yes, I know it wasn't a heart attack!). I am thankful for my faith in God, who is sovereign, gracious and loving, and for the opportunity to really appreciate all of these things that I frequently take for granted.

I am calling today "Thankful Thursday."

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Baby, baby, baby, OH!

Babies... They are everywhere at the moment! Is it the weather? Is there something in the water??

I like babies. Not in the same way that I like chocolate and coffee, but the first few months of a baby's life is my favourite age... I think I'd have them all the time if they didn't grow up and turn into children.

Husband also likes babies, but can't eat a whole one...
In my three pregnancies, I've had just one baby shower, which was a surprise one organised by various ladies of the church we were at at the time... I didn't, and still don't like being the centre of attention, but baby showers are a lovely way to celebrate an upcoming birth, play fun games like guessing what the name of a baby pigeon is, and to give cute and/or necessary items to the mother-to-be, especially if it is their first, and they don't already have everything you could possibly need for a new baby, plus a thousand extra things you don't.

Recently, I've been involved in the dessert-making for two baby showers. Duck cupcakes last weekend, and this weekend: a pregnant belly cake. I've seen these cakes frequently, and occasionally wondered what it would be like to make one... * This is my story.

* Imagine the Law & Order bells.

A friend was given the job of organising the cake for his sister's baby shower. Knowing (somehow - was it photos on Facebook, maybe?) that I make cakes for fun, he asked with brilliant confidence in my abilities, if I was able to make this cake:

I remarked to him that the baby trapped inside the cake was in breech position, and they'd have to cut the belly open to get it out. How many men know what a baby in breech position is? One more now.

I finally accepted the challenge, and the time quickly came around to make it. Everything was baked and ready. Caramel mud: a new specialty. I had plenty of icing, plenty of fondant, and plenty of cake. I'd covered it all with buttercream icing, lay the white fondant on top, and began smoothing it out...

Everything appeared to be going well, until
Oh my GOSH the baby foot!!

In the space of about 10 seconds, my mind did this:

"Craaaaaaaaaap! The baby foot! How did I need to make it again? What colour fondant should I use? Does it matter? Wait, could it work with the baby foot on top of the dress? No. That wouldn't work. Don't be ridiculous! The baby's foot has to come out from within. This isn't the exorcist, Nat! Okay, focus. What colour? Quick! Just do it - the cake is covered! Okay, jelly bean shape. Good. Are the toes too big? Do I care? Yes. I really, really do. It's gotta be realistic. Even though baby's feet don't realistically poke out of a belly like that... Except in exorcist movies. Maybe I'll make the toes smaller. How many toes do babies have? Will the fondant peel back okay? Will I have to make the entire thing again? Is it too late to call and cancel the cake!? Does my hair look okay!!?"

Meanwhile, I had made and attached a foot. With a bit of smoothing out, you (hopefully) couldn't tell that I had almost completely forgotten to add the main part of the cake that people's attention is drawn to!

A bow, a flower, stripes, and royal icing later, and before I knew- it was done. The cake, even for just a moment, appeared blemish free! ... <sigh> If only post-baby bodies were smoothed over and fixed so easily in real life...

Still, I was happy with it.

As per usual, though, when it was picked up, despite expressions of gratitude and wonder from the recipients, I become anxious...

Did it look the way they expected? Will they notice the blemishes? Will it taste alright? Will it feed enough people? Should I have done it differently? Do I really have to clean up now? Is anyone going to eat that block of chocolate? Should I have not had that 4th coffee!? Why do babies have to grow up!!?

Once I move on from that (and I always do: it's a predictable cycle, apparently), I remember the good parts. I tell myself that it wasn't all that bad, and even hint to my husband (who sees me occasionally break down in tears when fears of cake-making inadequacy take over my life) that I actually enjoyed making it, and would happily do it again.

I guess it's not all dissimilar to having a baby...
We're made to forget the pain for a reason, right? Right!?

Friday, 15 November 2013

20 little ducks went out one day...

To me, ducks have always been cute. I remember whenever (even as an adult) we'd go to the farmyard section at the Easter show, I'd spend as long as possible watching the ducklings. With their cute little waddling tails, and their tiny duckling sized slippery dip that they waddle up and slide down... Aaaaaww!

We are lucky to live in a suburb that is home to many ducks, and I never fail to point them out to my children, who seem equally as excited to see them on the side of the road, or by the pond, or right outside our window, resting under the tree.

Earlier this year, Husband and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary in Disney World, Florida. During lunch on one of our days there, we watched a little duck family go for a swim in our resort pool, which was one of the cutest things that I remember from our holiday:

Last weekend, I had the special privilege of making surprise baby shower cupcakes for a friend's baby shower. As the gender of the baby was unknown, the colour/theme of the baby shower was yellow, and ducks!
Once my friend showed me a photo of the type of cupcakes she wanted for the day (they were for her sister- also a friend), I started preparing. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to make ducks out of fondant, so I relied on YouTube to help me out (my imaginary career really would suffer if it weren't for YouTube and Google)!

I searched 'how to make a fondant duck' and found this tutorial. It was great! I didn't need to sift through any more videos, because that one was perfect. I got to work making them, and was honestly quite surprised with how easy it was.

Once their bodies were made, I added their tiny beaks, feet, and eyes. Some were made to look like their bums were stuck up in the air, too - so cute!

After wondering whether or not I should, I ended up making some wings for them all, too:

I placed them all ever so gently on top of the cupcakes, which were piped with buttercream icing:

Then the bubbles became the next concern... Once the ducks were made and on their cupcakes, I mixed up some royal icing, and added a little bit of blue, and piped 'bubbles' all the way around the ducks. They weren't perfect, but you get the idea:

And then they were finished!

How's this for Sydney weather- the cupcakes were delivered on a 40 degree Saturday, ready for the baby shower the following day... When it was a maximum of 20 degrees, and raining! Perfect duck weather :)

Lastly, the set up at the baby shower, with a big mummy duck on top:

Monday, 4 November 2013

Monsters, ahh!

A couple of months ago, as I dropped my youngest off at preschool, I confused the heck out of him because I didn't actually leave preschool that morning... He kept asking why I was still there, and it was because I had been asked to teach him and his class the art of cupcake decorating (in advance, not on the spot like that).

Previously, I'd taught a room full of adults how to decorate character cupcakes. But this was the first time I'd be teaching a room full of 3-5 year olds- with a lesson, laminated cut outs, appropriate anxiety meltdowns, and everything!

I had chosen two designs for the preschoolers to make: Cookie Monster*, and Mike Wazowski.

* A known favourite and easily mastered cupcake.

I have a confession to make: This was actually the first time I'd attempted to make Mike Wazowski cupcakes myself, let alone teach it to others! During my preparation time, I was reminded of when I failed at Mike Wazowski cake pops... That was probably the time my anxiety kicked in, and I started freaking out about teaching tiny, absorbent minds like I knew what I was talking about.

In my head, it was going to be great! Though, it always is in my head.

Despite being armed with various cut-outs, a white board, and blu-tac, the 'lesson' part was a bit of a blur. I do, however, remember saying things like "what does a chicken say?", "how do you get milk from a cow?", and "it's probably not the best idea to do that when the oven's on, though..."

The cut outs were meant to represent the recipe and method of how to make the cupcakes the kids were about to decorate. Totally worth the anxiety and printer ink, otherwise my lesson would have been a total of 3.5 minutes long. I had instruction sheets for Mike and Cookie, as I call them, on the board, but I still demonstrated each of them.

In regards to the cupcake decorating, I was impressed! I shouldn't be impressed, but I was. I often think that I'm the only one who is capable of doing such things, or, that there's no way kids (especially as young as 3) would be able to master the same skills so quickly. It was quite a humbling experience.

It was also a bit scary being seen as the person in charge. The children put their hands up respectfully,;asked/answered questions; told me their tales about seeing Monsters Inc movies or dressing up; and shared about pet chickens. In their eyes, for just a moment, I was a hero! An academic freak of nature who just stumbled upon their little classroom that day to teach them amazing things about Sesame Street and Monsters Inc cupcakes... I indeed won many hearts that day as I was, once again, referred to as "Mrs Rose".

Here's mine, and his - Mike Wazowski with 5 horns and no eyes:

That same day, I was asked two things:

1. Could I please, please, please come back again and teach the kids more cupcakes? (apparently it was excellent and even the teachers had fun)...


2. Could I make some Monster's Inc/University themed cupcakes for one of the teacher's sons, who's birthday was coming up?

I accepted both.

I have yet to mentally prepare myself to teach again, but, from the second question I was asked, I have added more characters to my repertoire to potentially teach, as I created Monsters University themed cupcakes for the teacher's son's birthday, which was today:

Happy birthday Zach!!