I must admit, I was not feeling very positive about finding a nice pair of shoes that would be formal enough, without a 4 inch heel, which is all the go at the moment! But a friend told me about a Gary Castle Shoe sale at Woollahra, so we decided to check that out before going anywhere else. I’m so glad we did, as I found the perfect shoes (silver, strappy, with a tiny 1 inch wedge heel) and my daughter also found her perfect shoes (cream, strappy, with a towering 4 inch heel)! Oh to be a teen again!!!
Anyway, that done, we were free to explore beautiful Woollahra a little, before going to my brother’s place for lunch. We stumbled upon a quaint florist with the most amazing flowers....
I was so impressed with those flowers, that I came home and put them up on my wall......
After our shoe shopping success and flower admiration, it was off to my brother’s place, where my sister-in-law had prepared a nutritious lunch, overlooking beautiful Sydney Harbour. A wonderful way to finish off our day......
The next day, since I hadn’t baked anything for my family that week, I decided to treat them to my Chocolate Walnut Brownies. They love all things chocolate, and just in case you’d like to try it, I’ve included my recipe.....
Chocolate Walnut Brownies
150g dark cooking chocolate
150g dark choc chips
250g butter, chopped
1 ½ cups organic raw sugar
4 free range eggs
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 ¼ cups organic self raising flour
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 160◦C. Place the cooking chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
Place the sugar, eggs, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl. Add the chocolate butter mixture and mix until combined. Fold through the dark choc chips. Pour the mixture into a 20cm square slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tin, then remove and cut into slices.
Serving suggestion: serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar and a dollop of ice cream.
While I was serving up the brownies with ice cream for my family’s dessert, I got a message on my iPhone from one of my nieces. Her cousin works in a bakery and had made an order of cupcakes for someone. But these were not just any old cupcakes....they were “hamburger cupcakes”!!
Some cupcakes may have lots of layers, but it doesn’t mean they taste better than those with none.
Those hamburger cupcakes look amazing, and I’ve been told that the person who made them is a very talented cake decorator, so I’m sure they tasted just as amazing! With layer upon layer of cake and specially formed icing, these cupcakes look pretty darn fancy....a beef patty, melted cheese, tomato and lettuce on a sesame seed bun....they look almost identical to a McDonald’s Big Mac (but dare I say, probably more nutritious!!?)
In comparison, my brownies didn’t look fancy at all. There were no layers to peel off, nothing hidden from view....it was a case of 'what you see is what you get', basically! However, the consensus from my family was that the brownies tasted delicious. There was a combination of softness with just enough crunch, and sweetness with just the right texture.
It reminds me of when I look back at photos of myself pre-cancer and compare photos of myself during my cancer treatment. Chemo stripped me of all my layers, nothing left to hide behind....no hair, no eyebrows or eyelashes. Then there was weight gain from steroids to deal with and a broken ankle to top it off. All that was left was my character, my personality, who I was on the inside. What I was truly made of was no longer covered up by the usual female layers, such as hairdos, makeup, the latest shoe fashions.
Since I was pretty broken physically because of the cancer and treatment, if I was broken on the inside as well, things would have been pretty grim. But I wasn’t broken inside - I had my faith, my family and my friends. I was complete in all areas that really mattered. My loved ones didn’t reject me for having no layers to make me look more perfect. They loved me without my layers, with all my imperfections.
Nowadays, with my external appearance almost restored, most people would never even know that I’m still having treatment for breast cancer. Although I still look somewhat different than I did before, my external layer is not the only thing that matters. For example, my niece doesn’t care that I can’t wear 4 inch heels on her wedding day...she just cares that I’m alive and well to be there on the day.
Recently, a dear friend celebrated her 40th birthday. I was so honoured to be invited to her “glitz and glamour” party, but I couldn’t help but worry about how I was going to do my hair (which is a bit out of control after losing it with chemo). I was also concerned about what shoes I was going to wear, again because of my ankle, which is a bit of a recurring issue!
A few days before, right out of the blue, I got a phone call from a precious hairdresser friend, who was also invited to the party. Without having to mention that I was nervous about the whole thing, she announced that she would be at my place at 4pm the day of the party to do my hair and to help me choose what to wear. Although my external layer was a concern for me, it wasn’t to the birthday girl. She just wanted me to be there to celebrate with her because she considered me a special friend. It’s an honour to have such friends.
Suffice to say, I felt beautiful by the time I was ready to go to the party and it was a great night. Here is a photo of the glitzy and glamorous birthday cake....
Sometimes it’s okay to have a few layers, to boost our confidence and ward off any fear of rejection. With a little wisdom, we can work out what layers we need to have on and when. For example, when I was working as a primary school teacher, I had to run a fairly tight ship in my classroom, albeit mixed up with some great fun as well. My main responsibility was to ensure successful learning outcomes for my students. Although this was a layer that was pertinent for my job, it didn’t mean that when I got home I ran my household like a classroom. I had to take my “teacher layer” off when I was with my family. After all, I don’t think my husband would have appreciated being put on detention for not doing his homework, hehe!!
There are other layers, annoying personality traits, weaknesses, emotional baggage, that I’m sure we all wish we could get rid of forever. Layers that cover up who we really are. But there are also exceptionally good layers that make up the very essence of our character. The layer we should never take off, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, is our layer of love. I believe that if love is the foundation of all we do, then our lives will radiate things like kindness, generosity, patience, hospitality and forgiveness.
When we “get real”, we’re allowing others to get to know us better. That’s why I love asking people questions about themselves....a simple show of interest can peel away the most intricate of layers, allowing a person to comfortably reveal their true selves. One of the best things about getting to know the “real” person under all the layers, is that we discover most of us have a few key things in common:
1. We all want to be loved and valued
2. We all want a measure of success in life
3. We all want to be happy and healthy.
Continuing with my aim to introduce you to some of the interesting people I meet along this sweet journey called life, I’d like to share an interview I did with a lovely lady, named Debbie Greentree, who I met at the Planet Cake book signing at Dymocks just before Christmas. I hope you enjoy reading some of the fascinating facts I found out about the “real” Debbie:
Debbie, who or what inspired you to begin cake decorating?
My Nan taught me, at a very young age, how to be creative with different crafts. I decided to try cake decorating, so that I could put my creative flair to good use and to have the added bonus of seeing family member’s excitement and enjoyment when they see their cake for the first time and when they eat my creations.
Are you self-taught or did you attend a cake decorating course?
In the beginning I researched on the web, how to begin cake decorating. Because I enjoyed it so much I decided to do a 6 week cup cake course at my local Community College. This made me even more enthusiastic and I wanted to learn more. So I did a Wilton Cake course at my local cake decorating shop in Miranda and then I felt I should try a Planet Cake Course. I did two courses at Planet Cake, Basics 101 and 102. This was invaluable and really helped me to learn some great techniques.
Your favourite food destination?
Italy, I love all Italian food.
Five ingredients in your shopping trolley you consider as must-haves?
Garlic, tomatoes, pasta, olives, parmesan cheese and olive oil.
What is your family’s favourite dish that you cook for them?
Sounds too basic, but the ever popular Spaghetti Bolognese.
A dish (savoury or sweet) that you’ve never cooked that you wish you could?
What has helped you through life's toughest times?
I have to say my husband and my mum. Two of the best people in my life.
What have you learnt that you feel would be able to help others?
To be thoughtful to the people around you, and be happy with who you are.
What are you passionate about right now?
Making my husband’s birthday cake.
What are you most grateful for?
For having a great family upbringing and values. I have many fond memories of growing up with my sister and two brothers. The family holidays that we had are truly memorable and we often spend time at get-togethers remembering those times together.
With these values growing up, it helped me in finding my loving and dear husband.
Who has been your greatest mentor in life?
This is a hard one, but I will have to say my mum.
What is your hope for the future - for yourself, your family and for the world?
For me, my hope is to be happy, healthy and to be able to enjoy what I do with my husband and family. To make life fun for everyone, so people smile is a major goal for me.
For my family I hope that we continue to love and enjoy each other and share more stories even to old age.
For the world I hope we all look after the place we love so much and don’t take things for granted.
Would you share some photos of a few of your favourite cake creations?
There is lots of good fun in these cakes. They were also made with lots of enthusiasm and might I say, blood, sweat and tears! The cakes usually look great at the end of the process - I have improved on how to cover up the mistakes that happen sometimes!
My Planet cake beginners cake......
A Spiderman cake I made for my friend’s twins. All edible and the kids also ate spiderman (which took me a few hours to make).....
Barbie and Bling for a lady from Kindy......
Another lady from Kindy was having a pony party for her daughter and asked for a horse-themed cake......
My Christmas cake.....
A birthday cake that travelled with me in an airplane to Geelong.....
Do you have a cake decorating business you would like to share the details of?
I have started to do cakes for people outside my family and friends and would be happy to help anyone with their enquiries regarding upcoming events. I don’t have a website as yet but can be contacted on my mobile 0419488846 or email email@example.com. Just ask for Debbie.
Are there any of your other cakes you would like to show us?
Thomas the tank.....
My birthday cake - a chocolate box.....
A little girl, which was Planet Cake beginners’ lesson No 2.....
Another Christmas cake.....
This is me with Paris Cutler on the day I met you and your family at the Dymocks book signing.....
Thank you so much Deb...it was a pleasure meeting you!!