Archive for June, 2010

Feral child

June 23rd, 2010

Olivia spends a lot of time with the dog. Too much, maybe?


The pest-control man came by, calling my name from outside the door. I came to the screen. Olivia came with me and clung to my leg.

As he began talking to me, I was vaguely aware of a low, rumbling noise below. In the manner of a harried mother, not unlike a news assignment editor with one ear on the emergency scanner and the other ear on the complaintant of the moment, I'm used to half-paying attention to most things, so after shushing Olivia a few times, it finally occurred to me: she was gnarling at the man.

It occurred to him at the same time, and he asked, "Is your daughter... growling at me?"

She seemed proud that we figured out her intent, and continued snarling.

(Note: the dog wasn't even making noise at this point.)


"Honey, stop that," I pleaded. "It's not in the manner befitting a proper young lady." I ushered her towards the TV.

I then turned my attention back to the guy outside. "Do you want to come inside and finish talking?" I asked.

He hesitated. "Am I gonna get bit?"


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The party crasher

June 22nd, 2010

I spent last weekend crashing various parties. First there was the birthday party at My Gym Children's Fitness Center in Kailua.

I happened to be nearby and wanted to visit my old friend, owner Emily Pick. For a long time, Olivia used to go to My Gym. I heard Emily was pregnant, so I wanted to offer my congratulations.

I walked in the door with Olivia on a Saturday. There were a lot of people in the lobby, and children in the play area. It seemed like what I remembered.

As I was telling Olivia to take her shoes off and go say hi to Miss Emily, I noticed adults looking at me. It seemed weird, but I was distracted with managing my kid.

Then I noticed a table with gifts on it. And the words Happy Birthday. And then I remembered My Gym hosts children's parties. I looked around to take in the big picture and to my embarassment, saw balloons and streamers.

"OH! Is this a private party? I'm so sorry! I just thought this was a class!" I said to the lady who'd been looking at me funny.

She was really nice and said, "No, that's OK, stay! Your daughter can come play!"

I explained my presence, said my quick hello, and then we took off.


That afternoon, my girlfriend invited our family to hang out at the pool at the yacht club she belongs to. There was a wedding going on at that exact same time across the lawn.

I mean, I didn't technically crash that party, but I really contemplated it, because their food smelled so good. If only I could have passed off a swim suit as party clothes.


Which brings me to the funeral. Now, I know most people would never even have the circumstance to crash a funeral, but you know me - Mrs. Mortuary.

We spent Father's Day at the office. And by the office, I mean the funeral home.

Claus had a memorial service to work. He tries not to book himself on Sundays, which is his one day off, therefore our family day. However, some things can't be helped.

I'm totally OK with people working odd hours. The news career is built on weird hours. The basic tenent is, You work your regularly scheduled hours, no matter what.

When Christmas was on Saturday and I was a weekend anchor, I worked it. Maybe I should amend that tenent to, "Holiday? What's that?" You only got the day off if you put in for it, and only one reporter could be off at a time.

It was fine when we were not parents, but now that we have a child, it's really nice to spend holidays and special occasions together. I offered to take Olivia to the mortuary and hang out with him.

There's a little pocket of time after the service starts, that the funeral director is not needed. Then after, I could help him clean up.

"Great!" he said, and directed me where to enter. "So when you come, go through the front door."

There is a front door that customers walk through when they are booking services and such. There is a new chapel on the right side of the building where funerals are held.

"But you lock it on the weekends when you're not nearby. Should I just come through the chapel door if so?" I asked, without thinking the question through first.

"No. Then you'd be passing all the guests at the memorial service," he said. "On second thought, why not? You've already crashed two other private events this weekend. What's one more?"


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June 21st, 2010

We are on a little nail polish fad in our house. From disdaining it as a time-wasting effort, I've come to like it enough to buy four more bottles since my last blog, making it a total of six bottles now.

Olivia and I like pink and glittery. When we ran out of our own nails, we accosted my mother, who now sports Rock Star Pink on all 20 nails of hers.

Wet brush still in hand, I wanted to do more... MORE! Maybe the fumes got to me, but I looked around at who else had nails and a submissive personality, and I decided the dog needed a new paw-dicure.


When I went to apply the matte colors I owned, it did not show up against the dog's black nails. I decided to buy more when I went to the store.

This time, I made sure to test the color to see that it came out opaque. I struck up a conversation with the nearby clerk and one thing led to another, and I was confessing the polish was for the dog. Comically enough, she was just the right person to ask.

She said she paints her Rottweiler's nails, so she knows for SURE which colors will stand out against black dog nails, and which brands will not chip off in 24 hours. Awesome. I can't believe I had that conversation, but it was very helpful.


At home, Inca did not understand what was happening. It was a new thing for her - and me. She is suspicious of random visits in which I lack a treat or toy. She thinks it's a grooming, then runs away. Of course she smelled the bottle of polish a mile away, so she looked at me warily and ran off.


I had to leash her up and paint her nails. She didn't let me hold the paw so I had to wait till she placed it down, and then hastily swipe the brush over it. Often, I painted the fur or the ground, too. It took 20 minutes but I got 19 of her nails. The last one, I give up.


I couldn't let Olivia help me because it required too much coordination, but she enjoyed watching, and she laughed in delight when it was all done.


Now my doggie sports a lovely hot pink on her nails! Bling collar, you're next!


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Cake decorating classes: "Mad Hatter" cake

June 18th, 2010

I continue to take cake decorating classes at Cake Creations Dessert Haven in Manoa. Here in my fifth month, the teachers offer a "Mad Hatter" cake class in which you learn how to make a crooked cake. It also goes by the names topsy-turvy cake, whimsical cake, titled cake, or slanted cake.


Up until now, we've been going once a week for the entire month. However, to make and decorate a mad hatter cake takes an entire day, and it can't be done in parts. So, this class was a one day, roughly six-hour workshop, starting at 10 a.m. on a Sunday, and lasting until we finished.

Six students

Six students

As usual, teachers Lani Sonan and Lori Tamashiro provided the cake, but it was our task to learn to sculpt it. And like in every other class, we got to decorate it. We made a two tiered cake that served 50 people.

Lani, Di, Lori

Lani, Di, Lori

I'm assuming I'm talking to other home-bakers; amateurs like me who will want to do this for the occasional children's party. If you aren't a pro, then I would allow for at least 60-90 minutes to scuplt both tiers of the cakes into their slanted positions; 60-90 minutes to crumb coat and buttercream frost; and 60-90 minutes to drape the fondant and add the decorations.

The bottom layer of this cake is two ten inch rounds. In the middle of those, we added a third cake which we cut diagonally, so that the cake slants. Each layer is filled with custard and the entire 2 1/2 layers are re-cut with a serrated knife so that it looks like one smooth, entire piece.

Cutting it all slanty on the sides and the top

Cutting it all slanty on the sides and the top

Because cutting the cake makes it soft, we froze the cake for about 20 minutes to set it, before we even attempted to crumb coat it. If you use chocolate cake, that is even softer.

Having two layers works out well, because you end up staggering tasks. While the bottom layer was freezing, we worked on carving the top layer of six inch cakes, using the same process.


After the sculpting and frosting, we were ready to use fondant. We thought up our individual designs and decorated!

I'm still not totally clear on how large to roll out the fondant so that it covers the entire cake. And it's sort of a one-shot deal, so I get nervous. I also have a tendency to roll it too thin. I also have trouble with draping smaller cakes so that the bottom doesn't gather in ruffles.

What I do know is I am good about making a decision and sticking with it. I'm also not a perfectionist, so when I do get those ruffles, I only let myself fret a little, before moving on to the next step. I try not to get bogged down in details. In this manner, I'm able to get the cake done sooner.

I'm just passing this along as a point for consideration because when I left that day, Lori mentioned that she noticed that was my asset; that slow beginners often make the process slower for themselves by trying to make it perfect. "It won't be perfect. It's not even always perfect for us, and we do this for a living. We learn to work with and around our mistakes or cover it up," she confirmed.

Coloring my fondant

Coloring my fondant

I'm actually not sure how much I want to work with fondant on my own, because it's so hot and humid in Hawaii that the material gets gummy and sweaty. There are too many rules to working with it in the tropics, and being an amateur, I think I want to just focus on doing a few things well.

Though, I appreciate knowing how to do it. I love the way it looks- so chic and smooth.


What I do think is fun is cutting out fondant flowers and shapes to paste to the cake. That, I don't mind doing at home, but adding it to a butter cream frosting cake. Different from the realism of gumpaste flowers, I like how fondant flowers are simple and cartoonish.

Joy Shimizu at our table

Joy Kamae-Shimizu at our table

After the tiers are covered in fondant and fully decorated, we then doweled the bottom layer, added the top layer, and then nailed both together for transport. I should mention that the pros actually assemble on site, to ensure that it doesn't fall apart over some pothole, but for personal use, it didn't matter to me if it ripped a bit. (It didn't, though.)


The cake came home to an excited reception, particularly from Olivia. She gasped. "Mommy, it's so beautiful!" she exclaimed, hugged it, then immediately nagged to eat it. For me, that was absolutely the best part of it all.


Sam's cake

Sam's cake

Joy's cake

Joy's cake

I love you, Cake Ladies!

I love you, Cake Ladies!

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After the layoff- now what?

June 14th, 2010

The merger of the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star Bulletin has gone through, and many people have been left without a job. One of those is a fellow blogger, Rodney Lee, of Midlife Crisis Hawaii.

Rodney and I met virtually, through blogging, and exchange friendly e mails time to time. I told him it took me six months to decompress after my own layoff from KHNL (when it was merged with KGMB and became Hawaii News Now).

He wrote back, "How would you describe 'decompress'?  I've heard that term a lot from other Advertiser workers.  How do I know when I'm done decompressing?  What is the feeling?  Depressed, angry, envious, etc.?  Is it when all those feelings and emotions are gone that one is done decompressing?  Or those feelings will never disappear?"

I felt sad; empathetic. I sent him back an e-hug. He suggested I post my answer because there could be others who might benefit.

Here goes my personal experience:

Everyone's layoff experience is different. Your relation to your former company, your former managers, your career ambitions, how much support you got from your coworkers; your financial need (are you the breadwinner); and what else is going on in your life?

In my case, the layoff was both hard and easy. Hard, because I had vested 16 years of ambition and dreams into this career, only to see it flame out in a way that I hadn't expected. Being a newscaster was my main identity for most of that time (until I had a child.)

I would describe the newsroom environment at that time as a BP oil spill. That also made it hard.

On the other hand, it was easy, because I was torn between my job and my child, and I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. I had nagged Claus to let me, and he didn't feel comfortable with that. Until KHNL chose for me.

I'm probably lucky too, that my identity had already been morphing from Diane the Newscaster to Diane the Mom. Losing my job wasn't as shocking because I was already making the mental transition to Mom Extraordinaire.

It was also easy because I hated the morning shift hours. (Hours, not the job itself.) It required a lot of discipline to go to sleep at 7 p.m., rise at 3 a.m., and live all my waking hours feeling always tired. I missed a lot of things that happen after dark. The only good thing about that shift was that I would go to sleep with my child and we'd cuddle up in bed.

By decompress, I partially mean my body was getting used to regular hours again. I also mean I had more free time to just sit and emotionally recuperate. I liken it to the way your body feels after you party too hard the night before; you're just zapped. You need to sit and think about nothing.

So for me, I wasn't  - as Rodney asked - depressed, angry, envious. I was drained. I was exhausted. If I had to name a feeling, it was mild sadness and mild anger. Mostly just fatigue.

When do you know when you're done? I have no idea. I still sometimes feel that way. I have cycles where I feel really tired and spacey, and I know I'm not quite myself. But because I'm a stay-at-home mother to a now-three year old, I am never sure if it's just because Olivia's worn me out.

I look at this like the divorce of a 16 year marriage or a death. I think people (including me) can relate better to that idea. Mourning and grieving are not just normal, they're essential. That helps me have patience with myself.

I don't know what the answer is for you. For me, I just try to take it easy and be gentle on myself. I take it one day at a time.


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