Aug 12, 2015

The Festival of Forty. 'Down the Rabbit Hole' - Holly Madison.

This might be my first post as a forty year old but I'm happy to report that some things haven't changed as fast as my age. I still love reading about the lives of people who are much younger than me in years but who have managed to live those years with more drama and excitement than I'm likely to see for the rest of mine. I still love an easy baking recipe. And I still love a good excessive purchase. And what's more, I can now put it all down to the Festival of Forty - which I'm planning on observing for an entire year.


First up, my latest read.

Holly Madison has been an enigma to me. I'm not familiar with any of her professional work but have seen her on Kendra Wilkinsons' reality series from time to time. While Kendra has this 'out there, up for anything' reality television persona, Holly often came across as surprisingly shy and even introverted in comparison - with hardly a smile in any of paparazzi photos I've seen of her. Then Holly became a mother and found great happiness in her personal life. Her public persona changed accordingly and when the media blitz for her memoir, 'Down the Rabbit Hole' began, my curiosity was piqued.


'Down the Rabbit Hole' was a surprisingly good read. Probably because she had so much material from the Playboy years, Holly didn't see the need to begin her book with chapters filling in the back story of her childhood or the unresolved issues of her past that lead her down the rabbit hole into Hugh Hefner's decadent world. Quite simply, Holly was a child who dreamed of fame and glamour and when opportunities arose, she took them without fully appreciating the wider implications of her choices.


Becoming one of Hefner's live in girlfriends was surprisingly easy and matter of fact for Holly. Maybe she was in love with the now 89 year old man who seemed to understand (lots of) women or maybe she saw what his money and influence could do for her dreams of fame. Holly's writing doesn't romanticize her motivations for moving in and she doesn't glamorize the downward spiral she found herself swirling in as a top bunny.


What became harder as the 'relationship' continued was actually achieving any of the goals Holly set out to achieve. Ironically, starring in a magazine spread or gracing its cover was harder for the girlfriends than the hundreds of other girls who competed fiercely for selection. Being a girlfriend was all about power. The power Hefner had over all of them and the power the number one girlfriend had over the others.


The hierarchy among the girls had the stability of quicksand and this was something each girl was keen to exploit for her benefit. As the Playboy empire suffered financial losses in the 90s and 00s, Hefner became more tight fisted with the girls' allowances. Every room the girls occupied in his mansion had to be accounted for to his business managers as business related expenses. The girls' ever shrinking allowances were to be fully spent on looking good (some earlier girlfriends socked away a fair bit of cash during their tenure and profited from their time in the mansion).


To an outsider, it all reads like a degrading kind of slavery in a not so gilded cage under the rule of a man whose relevance in popular culture is on the wane. The once exclusive parties at the mansion are now ticketed events where entry is bought by the highest bidders who may not necessarily be the most of the moment celebrities or billionaires.


Madison writes with an engaging style and peppers these memoirs with humour and wry self analysis. Which is always a winning combination in a celebrity memoir. I'm glad that she eventually found happiness, inner peace and a creative outlet for her talents in her post Playboy life. Though the Playboy life isn't the most savoury world to be writing about in a personal memoir, I personally didn't find Holly's references to it as graphic or as smutty as they might have been.

I've also been busy baking for various morning teas this week. My favourite recipe from the lot is Celia's amazing Tinned Fruit Teacake Recipe. You must try it for yourself this weekend. It's easy, a crowd pleaser and looks amazing when its baked (providing your toddler doesn't test the laws of gravity with it by pushing it off the kitchen bench).

Celia uses a food processor for the cake batter and this method really does make quick work of the butter and sugar creaming stage.

It is a bit of a chore sifting the almond meal but embrace the sifting. It really does make the cake lighter in texture.

I only needed one tin each of peaches and passionfruit for my cake.

It looked so pretty going into the oven.
And even lovelier when baked. But sadly, as I was saying earlier, Toddler SSG shoved my cake off the kitchen bench. Luckily I had a lid on my tin so the cake didn't hit the floor but that meant that the lid cracked on impact with the floor.... And I have to wait another year before Aldi restocks this particular baking set as a Special Buy. Life with toddlers, indeed.
I felt a bit disappointed having to take a cracked cake into work for morning tea but luckily it was a huge hit despite its rustic appearance. As were my back up snacks - Pringle's Extra flavoured potato chips. It's been years since I popped a Pringles and I'm happy to report they still have that same fake potato taste and super smooth texture to them.

My second baking project was from this month's Donna Hay. It's been so long since I've been able to lazily flick through a copy and make a recipe from its perfectly styled pages. Too long indeed.


Fortunately, the theme of this month's issue was 'fast' and I found a tray cake recipe that featured coffee, brown sugar and cinnamon and Toddler SSG was in daycare for the morning. It was meant to be.

The only thing being that in my excitement, I forgot to melt the butter before dumping everything into my KitchenAid. I was wondering why my batter didn't seem to be whipping itself into soft golden peaks of perfection.....

I did the best I could with the lumpy batter and it divided fairly well to allow me to add a layer of coffee, cinnamon and sugar between the batter layers.

It looked a little Pro Hart in earthy tones going into the oven.
And not much better on exiting the oven. But it tasted okay. A bit too oily on account of the lumpy butter issue but very moist all the same. It was all a bit disappointing but I'm going to try the recipe again but with the butter properly melted.
Being a butter fiend from way back, the cake gone slightly wrong was a hit with Toddler SSG when he got home from daycare. He ate a big square of it and passed over a spendy pastry from the fancy place up the road. Though he did pick out all the chocolate from the spendy pastry before giving up on it for good.
In the spirit of the Festival of Forty and only living once aka #TFOFYOLO, I will leave you with my first act of the hashtag. I'm in the process of ordering myself a bit of Goyard. I am corresponding with Myriam from head office on the rue St Honore in English though our emails have the option of being automatically translated into French and Japanese. It's charmingly a little old world on a planet that's crazy for gotta have it right now, no questions asked.
I hope nothing gets lost in translation.


  1. Happy Birthday SSG!
    I hadn't heard of Goyard so I went to the website. Much classier than Louis Vuitton, I say! #treatyoself
    And you are indeed #40fitnfab!

  2. Happy Birthday! #TFOFYOLO sounds like an awesome thing to celebrate. The first cake does look very pretty but to be honest I think I'd have scarfed both of them without thinking too deeply about it! Donna Hay is a genius.

  3. Happy birthday SSG! I'm glad you're celebrating with a suitably luxurious product - you definitely deserve to treat yourself! :) I hope you will share photos of it when it arrives! :)

    Shame about the cake too - toddlers can be really testing sometimes! glad it still tasted just as good, and that the lid avoided the catastrophe of floor cake!

  4. A very, very happy birthday to you! The 40s are pretty good, 50s even better, you're going to love the next couple of decades! You got the hard stuff over with:). <3

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