Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Upside Down Plum Cake

This simple plum duff has had the most pageviews of ANY post on my blog. 5775 and counting...

(First posted April 2013)
My 94 year old Gran is a regular movie goer. A couple of years ago she watched a doco-drama about a young family living an alternative lifestyle off the land in Hawkes Bay.

'How was it?' I asked.

'A bit too much navel-gazing for me,' she replied.

I suspect she'd find column writing similar. Each week the columnists conjures up a story, often digging into their past, baring a bit of their soul along with a few personal secrets.

Today, being Thursday and my regular post-a-blog-post day, I thought I'd talk about food. Instead of myself. Cakes in fact. The lovely, Melinda Szymanik, children's book author and baker of artisan cakes and whoopie pies, was my source of inspiration. A bowl full of over-ripe black doris plums also beckoned. I googled, 'plum cake almond meal', found a recipe toute-de-suite, then made my own version.
Tasty Tuesdays on

Upside Down Plum Cake:

All you need to do is:

Melt 50g of butter in a spring-from tin, then mix in 1/4 cup brown sugar
Place 9 halved, de-stoned plums cut side down (peaches or apricots work well too)
Cream 125g butter &1 tsp real vanilla essence with 1/2 cup sugar until, well, creamy
Beat in 3 fresh free range eggs, one at a time
Add the rind of one lemon
Fold in 1 cup self raising flour with 1 cup almond meal
Spoon over plums
Bake for 45-50 mins at 180, or until skewer comes out know the drill.

Plop out onto Nana's best Royal Doulton and serve with whipped cream. Actually I ate mine with Easy-yo greek 'n coconut yoghurt, (possibly one of the best thick and creamy yoghurts ever invented), while watching, "London Boulevard", with Keira Knightly and Colin Farrell.

If you're into gangster movies set in a moody London, this movie is for you. Be warned though it's R16 and comes with as much red splatters as my plum duff. In brief, Keira Knightly, a reclusive movie star, hides from the world in her Holland Park mansion. She hires ex-con, Colin Farrell recently released from Pentonville for GBH, to be her bodyguard and handyman. This troubled pair become lovers. Unfortunately he cannot shake his ganster past and there is no happy ending. Maybe worth a watch if you're at the DVD store these holidays with the kids and you want to add some adult viewing to your 5 for $10 weeklies?

colour enhanced plum duff

Thursday, 18 April 2013

To Bare or Not to Bare: The Midriff Meter

Oh the craziness of fashion. Being the creator of a teenage fashion fiction character, Lily Max, I like to keep up with the latest fads. But the 2013 season must-have look fresh out of New York, London, Paris and Milan Fashion weeks has got me baffled. 

The bare midriff

Thankfully this time round, unlike the 90’s, we’re supposed to be baring, below the breasts and above the belly button. Just a couple of pilates toned lower ribs on show will suffice. No whales tales, muffin tops or bulbous belly button dumbbells in sight. Phew.

So I started to wonder, is there an age cut off for this LOOK? Are only the very young allowed? Because if I may say so myself, my three lower ribs are in pretty good shape. Sun has not added age spots, gravity has not added sag and cellulite just won’t go there.

Taking up Pilates after the birth of my third child nine odd years ago has also probably helped. When my post baby tummy refused to budge, after weeks of mummy and baby toning classes I booked in with a physio.  As I lay prone on the examination bed, a loud woman in a monogramed sweatshirt practically had her hand around my kidneys. I had a hole as wide as the proverbial Grand Canyon, (okay I exaggerate it was fist width) running from my herniated belly button to just above my pubic bone. I had what is commonly known as:

Diastasis recti-Abdominal Separation. 

Disaster alright. My corset muscles, those used to hold internal organs in place, were completely stuffo. I had to start working on my Transverse Abdominis muscles quick smart, in order to protect my back and to wake up my pelvic floor muscles. The only way to fix it properly is to have a tummy tuck, shrieked the scary physio. 

My stomach, which was still getting over a caesarian and I departed. I started Pilates instead. It was relatively new back then; 12 million people in the world including Gwyneth Paltrow were not doing it. But no new mum wants to do pelvic floor exercises (Kegels if you’re in the US) home alone. They’re boring. Thankfully, every exercise in Pilates begins with you engaging your PFs, along with every stomach muscle below the belly button that you can muster.

Nine years on, I can boast three fabulous ribs and a one-pack. Hence my pondering whether these babies need to go on show like a new KFC dinner combo.

Part of me hopes that by the time spring arrives this crazy midriff baring will have died a natural death. Like the rebirth of Levis 501 (boyfriend jeans) with stilettoes (these I’d like to point out have only ever looked cool and flattering on chain-smoking women on the cobbled streets of Paris).  

Baring a huge amount of flesh, even in these fresh off the runway designs are probably best for the beach or our fearless youth. It takes courage to go to MacDonalds in a bandeau or bralette teamed with some high-waisted shorts. Yet crop tops (think long line bra) with flowing trousers and an enormous floppy hat could be a day at the races. And the ‘box’ crop with its high neckline, baggy cut worn loose across those ribs I can definitely see on edgier dames. Shut-up, my friend Ange would say at this point.

Winter is drawing in down here in the southern hemisphere.  Not quite permanent puffer coat weather but getting close. So I feel safer that I have months of roast pork, pumpkin soup with gruyere cheese toasties and self-saucing choccy pud and vanilla ice cream to munch through while I ponder my midriff baring dilemma. 

To double check I wasn’t totally off the track and off-trend I googled, ‘too old for bare midriff’.  And discovered it’s your body shape, not your wrinkles that should be the deciding factor. Good legs: yes you can still wear a mini skirt. Forty and own a six pack: you rock that midriff top girl. 

There was my answer, that lovely word forty. Come spring you might catch me in an outfit like this. I’m sure I could find something to work with in the vintage store. Either that or get out my sewing machine and my pile of furnishing fabric.

Just don’t ask me to take off my sunglasses!

(Natalie Joos, fashion consultant & casting agent NY 2013)

Oh and if you need some extra tips this video is very educational.

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Friday, 12 April 2013

Little Red Riding Hood and The Other Wolf

The pink-link underneath takes you to my entry in the, 2012 Goethe Institute's, 'Grimm's Fairytale Aotearoa' competition.At the end of the year an anthology of the 12 most popular stories will be published. It's all down to people's choice; so vote like crazy or leave a comment if you like it. My version of Little Red Riding Hood is for a YA audience, it came about when my daughter said; 'come on Mum the wolf was a pedo, everyone knows that. Totes.'

Friday, 5 April 2013

Sisters: Bringing Sexy Back to Frugality

A couple of years ago I read a book called, ‘To Die For, Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’ by British author and eco journalist, Lucy Siegle. This book made my jaw drop, it made me feel guilty as hell and it really opened my eyes. (Published 2011 for a sneak peak of what Siegle investigated watch this youtube vid).).

I had no idea that the leftover residues and chemicals from dying fabric turned rivers blue and affected the fertility of workers. That, 1500 silkworms die to make one metre of fabric. I had no idea of the human cost of our self-gratifying (if only momentarily) impulse purchases had.

I had ignorantly bought into the ‘Fast Fashion’ Fad well and truly. I was regularly thrilled when friends commented on a new top. ‘Only $10.00 from Glassons,’ I’d boast. I bought three. My easily influenced daughters were hooked too. Movies like, ‘Twenty Seven Dresses’ and ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ had only fueled their desire for instant fashion.

Nary had I given a thought for the young women in south east Asia far from their country homes, living in shabby dorms at their place of employment: garment factories. These women worked hideously long hours, under stringent male supervision, were sometimes forced to take contraceptives, all for a wage that barely covered living costs. Nor had I considered the outworkers, sometimes children, hunched over summer tops sewing on sequins and beads in their slum-like homes, for doodly squat in return.

All those bargains I zapped up only lasted a year or less, then became stuffing in my homemade draft-stoppers or went to the Salvation Army. So had I really saved any money? Not at all. At least I’d recycled. But a heck of a lot of our throw away-did-I-actually-buy-this fashion ends up in the landfill.

According to Siegle, ‘80 billion tonnes of new garments are produced a year. Of that 1.5 million tonnes get thrown in the bin’. In her book she talks of following a woman down the high street. It was raining and the woman’s shopping bags had holes, through which her just purchased bras and knickers were falling onto the pavement. When made aware of her losses the woman just rushed on. They were so cheap she didn’t even bother to pick them up. The huge department store Primark was to blame.

Primark became famous for its fast turnaround of London Fashion week garments, all at rock bottom prices. This lead to an initiative between the UK government and 300 big retailers, called the Sustainable Clothing Roadmap in 2009, to fight against what became known as the ‘Primark Effect.’ Scary. It also included ways to educate consumers on how to wash clothes at lower temps and less often, to reduce the energy spent in a garments lifetime. Not silly.  Jeans last longer if you wash them less. It’s also a better option for our seas to mend them rather than hiffing them out and buying a new pair, if you think back to the dye factory. Why not support your local seamstress if you don’t sew.

On the subject of landfill, if you want to read the findings of another eco expert my lovely sister, Belinda Waymouth; journalist, turned actress, turned photographer, mommy and now UCLA student and Huffington Post Blogger, read her latest post: Sex, Lies and Garbage and weep. Belinda lives in the green village of Santa Monica and says, “Many of us are recycling our butts off. But consider the statistics: Americans are less than 5 percent of global population, yet create half of all e-waste, and 33 percent of solid waste…”

Thankfully, I’m been a recycler, composter, reducer and re-user since recycling bins hit the Auckland pavements over twenty years ago. But like all of us, I can do better. I felt I should deal with my fast fashion guilt first. And I have. I now avoid, like my middle child tidying her room, snapping up cheap bargains.  I’m trying to change my teenage daughters mindset also. In this self-gratification age this is not so easy to do nicely. Bad cop it is.

Sister Belinda talks about bringing sexy back to frugality. Rocking your grannies green pant suit. Op shopping or buying vintage is not new to us. Back in our poor Ponsonby student/journalist cadet days we shared a fine collection of brightly hued 50’s dresses. Combined with our heavily Elnetted surf-blonde hair, pointy toed recycled shoes and large earrings we definitely had a unique style. Dorries were us. Such a pity those dresses wore out, our little sister Poppy would love them.

Anyway as summer turns to autumn it gets cool down south, so I went to Nearly New Clothing in search of a winter coat. OMG I was like a kid in a candy store, rewind thirty years! I looked for labels naturally. Designer labels. If you’re going to buy vintage it’s the only way. Couture prides itself on using long lasting fabrics, cut well and impeccably finished. I rifled through racks, ignoring the smell of previous owners. I tried on a Zambesi coat and an Adrienne Winkelman jacket. The latter, black wool with contrasting black velvet detail was perfectly tailored and fully lined and it fitted like a glove.

I handed over my $75.00 cash, then skipped along the street with my brown paper bag. Proud to have changed from fast fashion drone to tag hag vintage bitch. I’m in my 50th year and half way through my life (my great granny lived to 100), from now on until I kick the proverbial bucket I will make informed choices on ‘investment pieces’. Classical yet funky clothes made of long lasting, (hopefully ethically sourced and dyed fabric), with the aim of lasting me till I’m lying in my pine box.

That’s my body sorted. Shoes are a little trickier. I won’t be squeezing my feet into grannies kitten heels. I do own a pair of startling pink Terra Plana court shoes, made from old eiderdowns and vegetable leathers. Their motto is: ‘Think on your feet to survive on a changing planet’.

            I think that’s the only way to go.  
            (pic: Belinda)

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