Every year I give my children the option of getting a store-bought birthday cake made by a professional or having me attempt to bake and decorate a cake based on a Google image of their choosing. So far, both have wanted me to bake their birthday cakes more times than not. Now, I’m no Nigella Lawson. It’s taken years of practice and many cake fails to get to a point where I don’t cringe doing the big cake reveal.

To give you an idea of my baking journey, here is my first attempt at creating a birthday cake:

It was supposed to be a baby dragon laying on green grass. As I lacked the tools to make perfect circles, I decided to roll the fondant into balls to hide the appalling gaps at the bottom of the cake. In doing so, I ran out of green fondant for the green grass and had to improvise. It became a blanket. And yes, it had zombie eyes. Obviously, eye anatomy was not my forte.

I’ve had many cakes, and cupcakes fail. Some rather epic. Oreo two-layered cake, anniversary mud cake…

and unicorn cupcakes…

Buttercream consistency has been my biggest issue to date. It tends to lean towards runny. I’ll admit that sometimes I cheat and get Betty Crocker’s help. Whipping store-bought frosting that’s been pimped with vanilla essence and cocoa powder makes a great alternative for frosting between cake layers.

Sometimes I feel like these picture perfect Instagram and Pinterest cakes are there to make us mere mortals feel bad when reality doesn’t match expectations. At least my attempt at a mango cream pudding ended up tasting better than it looked.

The cakes have gotten better over time. Probably because I realised the importance of exact measurements, sticking to a recipe and watched many YouTube videos. I learnt how to crumb coat, which is adding a thin layer of frosting to seal stray crumbs before a second layer of something else. I bought a cake leveller so my cakes no longer looked unbalanced.

I became more confident in working with fondant.

Fondant is magic! It covers unsightly bits, seals the cake and protects it from drying out. This means you can make the cake in advance and not fret the day of or before the party.

For an amateur baker, the last few birthday cakes have turned out alright! Frozen was a popular theme in our house.

Last week, I veered from my usual fondant covered three-layered buttercream cake to a four-layered chocolate mousse cake. I am a glutton for punishment.

I hadn’t quite allowed the mousse to chill enough before spooning it between the cake layers. Luckily, I had caught the cake before it toppled over and hit the floor. I doubt I could have applied the five second rule!

So there you have it folks! My baking journey for the last eight years since becoming a parent. Some of my best and worst creations!

Isn’t it better to have tried and failed than not have tried at all?

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.


My brother is quite money savvy, especially when it comes to his yearly insurance checkups. Makes sense given his background in finance and accounting. Unlike my younger sibling, I’m no financial savant. I like a bargain and saving money, but only if I don’t have to work for it. With the pandemic lockdown and becoming a single income family, my brother recommended that we review our insurance premiums. Solid advice given all our premiums has skyrocketed this year.

The only problem is I hate asking for a discount. It makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family where asking for a discount or perk was normal. Haggling for a good price was common practice within the community that I lived in. Not asking meant being ripped off and as we straddled the line of poverty, being polite or embarrassed wasn’t conducive to meeting our basic living needs. So my parents excelled at being professional negotiators of the discount variety. I guess that trait bypassed me.

Asking for a discount seems rude and makes me feel like a cheapo, especially when the savings won’t make or break the bank. Plus I despise elevator music and the awkward small talk. Have I mentioned that my children rarely give me a moment of peace and expect me to cater to their every whim? It’s virtually impossible to have a phone conversation with anyone. However, a review of our recent credit card statement showing our large contribution to Uber Eats had me feeling guilty enough to make the call.

After listening to wretched elevator music for twenty minutes, a call centre woman from our car insurance company finally took my call.

“Welcome to ***. How can I help?” The woman could barely muster any enthusiasm before heaving a great sigh of annoyance. She didn’t give me good vibes. I found myself anxious asking the question.

“Um… I’d like to… you know… see if I could possibly… maybe… like get a discount?”

An uncomfortable few seconds of silence was followed by another (involuntary?) loud exhale of air. How rude! So what if I was like every Joe Blow asking for a discount? We ARE in a pandemic and money is tight for everyone!

Ten minutes of questions and some ‘professional discretion’ later, I got my discount and it only cost me my dignity.

I decided to compare the premium with another company. I chose an insurance company known for its affordable premiums and top-notch customer service. It was towards the last page of their online quote that I realised someone from the company would call to release the quote.

I wish I hadn’t accepted the call. For an hour I was bombarded with the ‘spiel’. You know, the “How’s your day?” and “But wait, there’s more!” and “At ***, we endeavour to give our customers the best experience and support.”

To be fair, the call centre man was very pleasant and customer focused. But he gave off a used car salesperson vibe. The longer I spent on the phone with him, the more I felt like I was being sucked into a vacuum of despair. There was a litany of questions… unending, eye-stabbing, head-banging questions coupled with useless one-sided banter. I stuck to it because damn it, I wanted that quote! I had wasted so much of my time and effort.

Eventually, he gave me the quote and after learning that it was higher than my current premium, I tried ending the call. I’m a decent person, so the idea of simply hanging up on someone isn’t something that sits well with me but heck, this dude was something else. He wouldn’t take no for an answer even after I told him I had to go to cook dinner and that my children needed me. In the end I had no choice; I hung up.

The dude tried calling immediately afterwards and bombarded me with me multiple emails. Two days later, he called again and left messages to speak to me. By this point, I was kinda freaked out at the stalkerish behaviour and blocked the numbers.

I emailed to the company politely asking not to be contacted again via email or phone. I didn’t like being railroaded. The shotgun approach was disturbing. Can you imagine how many little old women and men must get harassed into accepting a shitty quote just because they can’t say no?

This experience has taught me some things.

One – If I have to speak to customer service, I’d rather deal with a rude but efficient employee to the overly pleasant but dog with a bone salesperson.

Two – Asking for discounts is not my jam.

Three – Be careful of what you wish for.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.


A few days ago, I received a phone call from my brother, who ranted and raged for forty-five minutes over our mother. He was going to move out (for the second time) and find a rental property with his fiancée. This was met with fierce opposition, and a massive argument ensued. My brother complained that at thirty, he shouldn’t need his mother’s approval for anything and that he was a grown man. BUT, being the grown ass man that he claimed to be, he needed me to talk some sense into our mother.

I bet you’re thinking why he doesn’t just grow a pair and do it, right? ‘Cos that’s the first thing that came to mind and I was itching to blurt out. If only it was that simple. Let me back up and explain how dysfunctional my family is.

Our mother is extremely superstitious, suffers from undiagnosed anxiety and has a fragile ego that rivals Trump. Most of her “predictions” and beliefs are based on conspiracies and hearsay. Remember Y2K? Our mother fiercely believed that once the clocked ticked over to the year 2000, the world would self-combust. At her insistence, we prepped like Doomsdayers for that event. Canned corned beef was a staple in our family for years following that prediction. I can’t stand the smell of corned beef anymore.  

As for our mother’s anxiety, matters are made worse from the loss of employment due to the pandemic and excessive screen time on YouTube watching some dude spouting conspiracy theories about WW3. She admits to sleep problems, obsessive rumination and heart palpitations but won’t seek medical help. Without her coöperation, it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know it’s going to be a bloody end but are helpless to stop it.

Is it any surprise that my brother’s intention to move out has caused our mother to react so poorly? Her internal anxiety is at a constant heightened state fuelled by feelings of the lack of control and concerns for the uncertainties of world political and economic issues.

It doesn’t help that she truly believes if Trump is re-elected, the world will end as we know it. So she insists that my brother not move out until mid next year. Why then? Who really knows. And if WW3 did happen, how is living at home going to stop the bombs?

In our mother’s mind, controlling her surrounding situation and son are her attempts to simply elevate some anxiety. It doesn’t matter that her reasons are ludicrous.

Threats of no-show to weddings and disowning, tears and tantrums were unleashed.

In fairness, my brother hasn’t helped the situation either. Instead of moving out like I did at eighteen and paving his own path, he stayed at home and let his mother baby him. It has been too easy for him.

At the ripe old age of thirty, his mother still clears the dirty dishes from his bedroom without any prompting. His clothes are washed, dry cleaned and folded away. Food is readily available with his mother only barely refraining from trying to spoon feed him. Is it any wonder that she sees him as a kid?   

“You want to be treated like an adult? Act like one! Do your own damn laundry! Cook your own meals! Clean your dishes! Stop acting like a lazy teenager and pick up after yourself. You want some respect? Grow up and stop relying on mum for everything.”

That was the gist of my advice to him. Was I too harsh? Probably, but I was sick of everyone complaining to me. I have two unruly kids to deal with and don’t need two unruly adults added to my heap of responsibilities.

I did offer some further advice. 

“You have one mum, and this problem is a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Think of the ramifications of both parties cutting ties. Do you want that for you and your future children? Calm down and go speak to her like an adult.”

I told him to consider things from our mother’s point of view and understand her fears of being an empty nester – the loss of her identity and purpose and anxiety for his safety. I explained to him how a person suffering anxiety could feel increased stress from lack of control and how they might react. I pleaded with him to find a better way to respond to our mother instead of lashing out. Fighting fire with fire wasn’t going to help anyone and someone needed to be the bigger person. Sometimes it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

My brother wasn’t the only person to bear the brunt of my brutal honesty. 

“You are stifling him with your mothering. Don’t you want him to grow into an independent man capable of caring for himself and his family? How is you waiting on him hand and foot helping? Think back to when you were a newly wed, did you appreciate living under the same roof as your overbearing mother-in-law?”

As anticipated, our mother didn’t appreciate my blunt assessment and likened it to character assassination. Hurt and offended, our mother suggested that I wouldn’t understand her feelings until my children wanted to move out. Why do parents do that? It’s so bloody patronising. 

Maybe I don’t completely understand the depth of her feelings but I highly doubt I’ll react the same way. Aren’t you supposed to be happy when you’re children become independent and capable adults? Isn’t the end goal of parenting to have them move out so you can rent out their rooms and supplement your retirement? Kidding.

Anyway, the phone calls have ceased. My brother finally grew a pair and sat our parents down for a serious adult conversation. They’ve come to terms with it, and he’s moving out by the end of the year. 

If my thirty-year-old kid had a decent paying job, a fiancée and could finance multiple investment properties, I would be shoving them out of my door. 

Can you imagine anything worse than walking through your door and accidentally coming upon your kid and his/her partner ‘aggressively snuggling’? Actually, there is something more traumatising than that – them walking in on you…

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.