My BBC Academy training video on mental health is live!

So beyond proud to have been able to help the BBC Academy on their journalism training videos on how to interview someone with a mental health issue. The more we can educate the media on how to humanize, not demonize, the more we can fight mental health stigma!

Also, I don’t know what possessed me to wear a sports bra and a super chunky sweater, but c’est la vie. :)

Here is the full page with lots of info, and the video is below.

 

 


Celebration Cake Bakespiration Challenge!

Stuck In The Tree challenged me to a bakespiration bake off, and not a word of lie, I said yes because they used like 4 puns in their email to me, and you can’t not love a good pun. It’s physically impossible. Anyway, they’re new, so go check them out, and if you have time, enter HERE for their ‘bakespiration challenge’!

 

Now as you all know, I’m a fan of baking and cooking and such. I love getting into the kitchen and making something show-stopping. However, there is one area I refuse to go overboard on, and that’s children’s party cakes. I’ve seen too many parents so exhausted from a full day of baking and decorating that they don’t get to enjoy giving their kid the cake. Or worse, hurt feelings when the kid isn’t overjoyed by whatever masterpiece mommy or daddy whipped up for them. No thanks. I think creating food with your kid should be fun, and yummy. With that in mind, here is the utterly enjoyable to make AND eat Celebration Cake!
SONY DSCSONY DSC

Look at this. It looks like a cartoon became sentient, decided “I want to be a cake”, and then did. And it’s completely kid friendly to make, with a huge wow factor. On the inside is a super yummy apple-raisin cake with great structure, and packed with flavour. Let’s get started.

You will need:

For the cake:
4 medium to large apples, peeled and thinly sliced.
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

For the batter:

1.5 cups of oil (I use safflower or sunflower, but use what you have on hand)
150 grams brown sugar
2 eggs
300 grams flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or scrapings of ½ vanilla pod
½ tsp salt
200 grams sultanas or raisins

For the frosting:
140 grams butter
280 grams icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk

For the decoration:
Concentrated food colour powder
Cake ‘sparkles’

 

SUPER SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS:
Set oven to 180C. Grease two round tins with coconut oil (you can use butter, but the cake recipe is dairy free, so I use coconut oil).Dump the apples, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Hand to a child along with a large spoon. Have him or her go nuts while you prepare the batter.

shea wong apple mixing3

In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together. Add eggs, vanilla, and oil. Stir by hand till smooth. Plop in raisins, and fold in. Pry the bowl of sugar apples away from the child (the child will have eaten some by now, which is why I said use largish apples – it’s an inevitability with kids) and fold in.

shea wong apple 1 shea wong apple 2

Pour in pans, and cook for about 45 minutes, or till stick in center comes out clean. Depending on your apples/raisins, you may be cooking till about 55 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

Let cool completely, then stack with a small amount of jam (any flavour you like) in the middle. Pop in the fridge.

Plop the butter and ½ the icing sugar in a bowl, and mix with hand mixer. When it looks smooth, blend in the other ½ of the icing sugar, and 1 tablespoon of milk. As you are blending, use the remaining milk to thin the frosting if it starts getting lumpy.

Remove cake from fridge, and just PLOP that icing on there. We aren’t going for neatness here, we’re going for a nice thick layer all around. Take your butterknife (or kid’s fingers, I won’t judge you), and tap at the cake all over, forming the cool spikes.

shea wong pigment and tray

Grab any old piece of to-go container you have lying around, and cut the center of the lid off. It will create a smooth base with no raised edges for your concentrated colour.

A brief word about powdered food colouring

(This stuff is completely non toxic, but whatever it touches, it will colour. My cuticles still look like I’m jaundiced to the point of hospitalization. If you are messy adverse, no problem. You can colour the icing as you are mixing it. I just like this part because I get to be chaotic, but you do what makes you feel comfortable. Also, unless you want really runny icing, do not use liquid or gel food colouring – powder is the way to go. Drop a line in the comments and I’ll send you a link to the stuff I used.)

shea wong puffs of colour

Blow the food colouring onto the icing. It will look uneven – that’s good. The colour will penetrate deeper in some areas that other, creating a cool effect. I’ve used yellow-orange as the sole colour concentrate, but you can (and should!) put a whole rainbow on there. Go nuts.

shea wong celebration cake close up

Follow up by sprinkling patches of different colour sparkles everywhere. You know how sometimes you are decorating something with a kid and they glop a bunch of glitter in one spot? That’s the look we’re going for, so GO BANANAS.

You can decorate the cake on a plate, or I happened to use the bottom of a round spring-form pan that I could then transfer onto a work surface, but really, this is not the time for perfection, this is the time for fun.

As this is buttercream you will want to eat soonish (this is not a cake you decorate and then put in the car for a long ride to grandmas), or if you have a dairy allergy, the cake itself is completely dairy free already, so you can use icing sugar, water and food colouring followed by sparkles for a thinner yet dairy free topping.

shea wong celebration cake

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I sure as heck enjoyed making (and eating!) it. Remember, if you want to try out a recipe of your own, head to Stuck In The Tree for all the details.


Boy baby doll looks like boy baby. Cue the apocalypse. 3

*Sigh*. So, in my homeland USA, Toys R’ Us were selling a baby doll. The doll did all the normal stuff baby dolls do, including wet itself when you fed it. Fine. Apparently, however, although male infants have genitalia, having a piece of molded plastic that you care for also with said genitalia requires a national outrage.  Parents have lost their damn minds over a baby that has committed no crime other than looking like a baby.

 

About two years, I bought this doll for my son – we were at the store, he picked it out, we bought it. Any of you from the UK/EU will instantly recognize the packaging as Tiger, a chain of Ikea-esque stores. I think the thing cost me £5.

"Draw me like one of your French girls.."

“Draw me like one of your French girls..”

And lest you think that I was duped by packaging that tricked me into buying a doll with the same anatomical structure as my child, here’s the back of the box:

Not only accurate advertising, but also EXACTLY what your child will attempt to do the first time you visit a pool.

Not only accurate advertising, but also EXACTLY what your child will attempt to do the first time you visit a pool.

 

Literally does what it says on the tin.

Literally does what it says on the tin.

Now, I could get into the utter hypocrisy of buying hyper-realistic toy weaponry for a child but losing your shit over a tiny molded penis, but I’ll try to keep this on topic. From the time our kid was born, we used medical terminology to describe his body. His penis is a penis, his stomach is a stomach, his knee is a knee. And the reason we did that was

 

1. If he hurt himself (or was being hurt by someone) he needed the correct words to tell us exactly where he was in pain.

2. Making up names for things that have actual names, just to have to change them later is idiotic. I don’t call clouds ‘sky poofies’ for 4 years, then teach him the actual names, we just call them the correct thing from the outset.

3. What does it say to a child when talking about some body parts is okay (heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes), but others we are afraid to even mention? Why start him in some weird shame issue over a functional body part?

 

I don’t necessarily want to hear “MOMMY I WANT THE BABY WITH THE WELL FORMED VULVA” during the next shopping trip, but I’m certainly not going to have my kid growing up not realizing what the thing between his legs does, or putting some mystical shame on it. He likes the baby – some times he sings it a lullaby and puts it to bed, some times he uses it as a hammer in his construction set. He hasn’t placed a value judgement on it - why should an adult? 


That Thing You Do!

I’ve always wanted an excuse to embed one of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite guilty pleasures/summer silly flicks, in a post, so here’s “That Thing You do”, from the film of the same name. Fun fact, Tom Hanks wrote, co-starred, and directed it!

 

*sigh*. That was nice. Anyways…

I had a term paper due for creative management class, about how internal biases, national culture values, and individual personas can come together to either raise up, or tear down the creative process. Two weeks ago I turned in my corporate finance term paper, and that was a bugbear of jargon that made my ears and eyes bleed. As a contrast, this one was in my wheelhouse – touchy feely crap, emotiveness, inspiration and innovation, my lifeblood, the stuff I dealt in for seven years as an arts educator. Yet, this paper was harder than finance. Why? Because I was asked to assess myself, using lots (and I mean LOTS) of different personality tests. And these aren’t those facebook “What kind of Care Bear are you?” 16 question tests, I mean those 300 question, make you want to open a vein by the end of it oh and now you have to decipher the results type of tests. And what did these tests’ results show? A lot of what I’d already figured out, generally:

 

- I’m introverted, but no one knows that because when I geek out over something, I get so psyched about it I actually seem extroverted.

- I become obsessed with things and concepts, and the minute the shine is off the apple, I forget all about it.

- If I decide I like you, I like you. If I decide I don’t like you, you might as well move, because I will never, ever like you.
- I’m oppositional, even to myself. If I tell myself I have to go to bed at time X because I’ll be waking at time Y, I will intentionally force myself to stay up, just to piss myself off. That’s the type of stupid destructive logic that Bond villains possess. That isn’t good.
And a bunch of other boring stuff. But why am I telling you any of this?

 
Because the weird crappy stuff that makes up us is neither cause for celebration, nor scorn. It just is. If I start putting value judgements on elements of my psyche that were developed before I was a toddler, I’m screwed. However, if I look objectively at all the facets that make me, well, me, then I can use them to their best advantage. For instance, my immense LOVELOVELOVE of something makes me brilliant at researching and presenting topical stuff, because I have laser focus on learning as much of the subject as possible, and then explaining it to everyone else. I’m incredibly loyal to the people I like, so if you fall in that category, good news! I’ll help you move and crap! And I can even use being oppositional to my advantage – that spark of ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ becomes a weapon when I think a concept is too difficult for me, or I’m just not getting something – I will work day and night to make sure that framework/concept/idea is drummed into my head.

 
So often we view anything odd or deviating from the norm as ‘bad’. The problem lies not in the quirks we have, but in how we use them. I’m glad I took allllllll those tests. I’m glad I found a few new quirks I wasn’t aware of. And I’m glad I can treat them not as sources of derision, but as tools I can use to do new and great things with.

 
And I am really glad I finished that bloody paper. That thing was rough.


Fred Rogers and being human.

Cracked, purveyors of videos that lead you down a rabbit hole of ‘Oh yeah, I remember “Are You Afraid of the Dark”!’ moments at 3.30 in the morning, has a really cute compilation video of adorable, make-you-feel-good clips, opening with one of my childhood heroes, Fred Rogers. I am old enough that I watched the 1979 run LIVE as a toddler (do the math), so anything with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is happiness. Watch, enjoy.

 

However, because I’ve been around the internet since whoever made this video was probably in grade school, I also always, always think of this when I think of amiable Fred:

fred rogers flipping the bird mr rogers neighborhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I can choose to do one of two things when I recall this GIF:  I can hate that I’ve seen enough stuff on the internet that has crushed every single one of my heroes growing up (every. damn. one. of. them, some live via early IRC and Usenet), or I can love the fact that the guy who genuinely always seemed to love teaching and learning from kids was human, had an adult sense of humor, but knew when to deploy it. As a foul mouthed (and brained) parent of a toddler, I choose the latter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look up some old clips to show the kid.


Life with a toddler. OF COURSE IN GIFS.

Kid, after MUCH grumbling, is finally down for nap.

Me, preparing lunch for myself, realizes I’d quite like herbs…that are in the garden. Down the hall. Past the kid’s door.

Me:

stealth winchester brothers gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Silence*

Me:

sneaking gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Creaky floorboard*

Me:

Freeze_ray buffy gif

 

(Freezing).

 

 

 

 

 

Me, continuing down the hall, when suddenly…

 

Kid:  “Mommy…?”

 

Me:

 

oh-fuck morgan freeman gif nope octopus gif sheldon hyperventilating in bag gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*15 minutes later, eating very bland food in silence*

Me:

 

doctor who - im not sulking gif


Life with a toddler, in GIFs 2

Me in the kitchen, making breakfast for the kid. Kid in the living room, with explicit instructions not to touch the buttons on the fan.

Suddenly, sound from living room of fan clicking on.

Me:  “KID.”

Kid:  *comes into kitchen*

Me:  “Did you just touch the fan?”

 

Kid:

no gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:

bones disapproving look gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid:

The office  NOOOOOOOOO gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:

bones disapproving look gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid:

guilty loki gif

 

guilty look gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the office yes nod gif sorry kurt glee gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:

shaking_head_breaking_bad gif

 


SIGNAL BOOST: Card-senders needed for very special little boy.

HT_Daniel_Nickerson_MT_140718_33x16_992

Danny Nickerson is turning 6 years old in 4 days, and all he wants is a box of birthday cards. Last October, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and has gone through hell and back. Doctors estimate only a 10% chance of beating this disease past 18 months. Danny has had to stop going to kindergarten due to all the radiation treatments, so is quite isolated, but can recognize his name, and loves getting cards.

Here’s where you all come in – this little boy just wants a card for his birthday (he likes Legos and Super Mario, but I bet he’d love any card you have around), and I know a lot of people are heading into the summer break and need something to do with the kids. Well, here is something amazing. Fountain Pen Geeks has all the details HERE, where you can read much more about Danny from the various news programs, and send a card out. It will take maybe 10 minutes of your life, but mean the world to him.

 


Rain and #Microstories

It’s 4 am. No sleep is occurring tonight. The world wants to rain, to just let go, but for whatever reason it won’t, so the neighbourhood is up. I can hear voices in back gardens, all wondering why the hell they’re up in the middle of the night, all smiling and cursing a storm that won’t seem to arrive. The kid can’t get comfy, he’s been up since 2.30. He’s got winter in his veins, like his mum, we can’t handle the heat – we don’t understand it on a molecular level.

My next paper is due in 11 days, might as well start that. Joy of doing MBA with kid, the time that used to be spent up all night doing feeds, or dealing with a sick baby, or in hospital, now goes to books. And that’s…good? I suppose?

The storm is about 10 miles away, going by the old count-the-seconds-between-the-light-and-the-noise trick. The air is getting cooler. We may get relief before dawn.

I keep thinking about what happens…next. After school. The kid will almost be old enough to start reception. I’ll be looking for a job.

Finally, here comes the rain! Soft, but thunder in the background…I hope the storm doesn’t move too quickly, we need the relief from the heat before we need another light show.

In all the hubub with mid-terms, here’s last weeks’ crop of #microstories.

Odd Vertex Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Follow your passion

Muse of Fire

…The hand that rocks the cradle

Terminus

He said, she said

Waiting for the fall