Wednesday, January 27, 2010

some simple things

I'm playing along with Christina's Simple Things challenge. For every blog post celebrating a simple thing or things today, her family is donating $1 to Medecins Sans Frontieres, as support for their relief efforts in Haiti.

And although I could hold a wee selfish and shallow grudge against them, I won't. Of course.

Because forgiveness is a simple thing.

As is ...

... discovering a daddy crush when dropping your daughter off at playschool and henceforth having something to look forward to on the school run ...

... booking 4 days away in a river cottage - we go next week!

... spending the afternoon in a beautiful place with a beautiful person ...

... being reminded of a previous visit there, and reflecting on how much changes in 6 months ...

... fighting waves of nostalgia (is it nostalgia?) as I think how these afternoons of just the two of us will soon be over ...

Friday, January 22, 2010

my year of cake: that orange one

I'm not going to do anything crazy like promise to make 100 cakes or nuffink. I think we all learnt from the famous 100 crafts in 2009 fiasco that I'm no good at things like that.
('tho I did reach 42 which is supposed to be the answer to the Life, the Universe and Everything so maybe there was something in that ...)

However, one of the things I've learnt from my husband (along with how to make a popping noise with my finger and my mouth, how to put up shelves and how to make jam - he's very diverse), is an appreciation for cake. I was never a big fan, preferring cheesecake or pecan pie or lemon meringue, but my man's shown me what cake can really be, and liberated my thinking around cake requiring a special occasion, as opposed to a random Sunday morning desire to bake.

So this is simply an attempt to share some cake-awesomeness, and a pictorial record (though probably not a very good one) of some of the gluttony we sometimes succumb to in our home.

Kicking off with:

Orange Cake

6 eggs, separated

2 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
4 tsp baking powder (ja, really)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed from an actual orange)
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp creme of tartar

Beat egg yolks with the sugar until foamy and light.

Stir in oil, OJ and zest.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together then add to eggy mix bit-by-bit beating well.

Beat egg whites and creme of tartar to soft peaks and then fold into rest of mix, mixing it through quite thoroughly but not so that the whites lose their fluffiness.

Pour into greased cake tins and bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 degrees Celsius for approx. 35 mins.
(Anyone who bakes knows that this time depends on your oven, best is to set a timer for 30 minutes and then come back and check on your cake regularly after that.)

There's something about the addition of the orange juice which not only gives the cake a lovely colour, but keeps it sticky and moist. It's very light (as it should be with all that baking powder), but has a weight to it that I sometimes find lacking in a Victoria Sponge, and a lovely creamy subtle citrus flavour.

For icing there's a number of options. Plain buttercream would work, as would a cream cheese icing as one would use for carrot cake. Martha's 7 minute frosting (too lazy to Google it but it's out there) would be yummy with its meringue flavour but as I'm supposed to be avoiding raw egg I haven't tried that yet.
Both times I've made this cake I wanted the whitest icing I could achieve, to offset the yellowy orange of the cake. So I found a recipe for White Frosting and went with that. It sounds weird but bear with me ...

White Frosting ala Me
Slowly, very slowly warm 1/2 cup milk on the stovetop. I add a vanilla pod to the milk for this step.
Remove pod and slowly stir in 2 tbl spoons of flour, stirring until a thick smooth paste forms. Take off the stove and leave to cool.

In a separate bowl cream together 1/2 cup butter (or, ideally, vegetable shortening which has no colour. Unfortunately it's a real bitch to get here so I just use butter) and about a cup of icing sugar. You can really use as much or as little sugar as you like, sweeten to taste if you will.

Add flour and milk paste to the butter mix and then just beat (only, only with an electric beater - to save your arms) until you gradually lose the yellow butter colour. This does happen though it takes a while. I then added most of the seeds from the vanilla pod and grated a whole lot more orange zest into the icing before slapping it onto the cake.

Next time I might make half again the quantity of icing as you can see in both pics I was a little short.

[I must just say that part of my cake love motivation has been two Christmas presents I got this year, the beyootiful white cake stand just begs to be used and my SIL gave me one of those dispenser thingies with 4 different types of sprinkles - such fun.]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

paying it forward

She stops what she's doing, looks up at me and says: 'Let's stop and hug.'
So we do. Of course.

I open the door to her room in the morning, she's standing there all pyjama-ed and tousled headed and she whispers 'I love you.'

She picks up two pebbles from the walkway into her school, gives me one with instructions to keep it in my pocket all day, then puts the other one in hers.

She comes up to me and shyly unfurls her fingers, revealing a love letter written on her palm.

This kid is certainly pulling out all the stops to make sure I love her as much as I possibly can before her lil' sister arrives.

It's working.

Monday, January 18, 2010

one of those weekends ...

In which I had PadThai noodles with an old friend on Friday night.

And was awoken to the softest, gentlest version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star being sung in my ear on Saturday morning.
(Before you turn inside out by the cuteness can I just remind you that this is the same child capable of waking me up with a skull-cracking head butt. Luck of the draw really.)

In which we spent the morning on the beach with the dog chasing her ball and the child chasing seagulls and a friend's little man chasing his shadow and husband chasing the kids and me chasing my hat and managing to badly sunburn the top of my bump. Damn sun-attracting shelf.

We lunched on delicious buttery fish and chips.

We let Dad have a long nap and then woke him up to tell him he was 'yummy'. Her idea, I happily concurred.

In which I baked a cake on Sunday morning. Orange cake, my current favourite recipe. I made a little too little icing ...

And I may have gotten greedy and iced it when it was still a little warm ...

In which my mother-in-law came for lunch and we braaied, amongst other things, chicken 'bumsticks'. Her word again. Frieda's, not my MIL's.

And I was ordered to go and have a nap while Ouma entertained the child.

We finally watched UP and Frieda cried every time Kevin the bird got lost.

We had cake for supper.

One of those weekends, you know the ones. Perfection.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

weighed down

Not having been pregnant in high summer before I'd not realised how, despite weighing a good 10kg more than normal, it's so much harder to dive to the bottom of the pool!
Talk about a floatation device, I nearly went looking for husband's diving weight belt after floundering around on the (very warm) surface for a while. Cooled me down though.

Cape Town hit 40 degrees today, possibly higher in some places. A heat-wave to neatly coincide with the first day back at school. And for some the first day of school.
Facebook is full of pictures of friend's kiddies, all fresh haircuts and too-big uniforms, lots of proud grins and shiny new backpacks.

'Twas a similar story in our house. Frieda started at a play-school down the road.
She too had a fresh hair fringe cut (courtesy of her mother, apparently she doesn't look too much like a dork), but was in the same grubby sandals she's been wearing all summer due to there being no summer shoes available to buy anymore. Oh no, the summer season's over see, it's all winter gear in the shops. Step outside stupid frikkin' head of whatever department decided that. Ffs.
And she had the proud grin, and the backpack with the carefully labeled spare clothes and carefully packed snack-box.
And me? I was biting back the tears.

But why? If I have to honestly examine my reasons it wasn't the obvious 'my baby's growing up'. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that. I don't think it wasn't the leaving her with strangers for a couple of hours - I know she can handle that.
To be perfectly honest this morning I think I was feeling emotional at the thought of years and years of school ahead of us all. Of rushed mornings and packed lunches, of finding lost gym gear and homework and PTA meetings. Of being the Mum.

The thought exhausts me. Just like this heat.
Back to the pool, maybe this time I'll dive in clutching a big ole rock!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the lord Orla Kiely to keep
And thank him her for making such beautiful things
And for the opportunity to have gone to London to buy them.
Pretty. Pretty. Pretty.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

it could've been serious, but at least there was great food

4 Jan 2005, my Mum and I spent most of the day at Heathrow Airport waiting for our flight home that evening.
Unbeknown to me, one of my oldest and dearest friends spent the day in hospital, trying to stave off and eventually reconciling herself to, the very premature birth of her son.
He was 1.4kg at birth and spent 4 weeks in hospital before going home.

On Monday Frieda and I went to Matthew's 5th birthday party, a gorgeous young lad, jumping in and out of the swimming pool and wildly playing his birthday drum kit (is his mother mad?).

My friend and I have often shared a wry grin over the last few months that her due date with Matthew was early March, the same as mine is with this baby, and on Monday I nearly pushed the joke too far, and seemed to displease the birth gods.
With the kids being dinosaurs in the pool, I turned to my friend and jokingly said well, I've made it through the 4th!

An hour later I discovered I was having a bleed, 3 hours later I was in hospital hooked up to a heart-rate monitor and cursing my wise-ass mouth.

All is currently as it should be, I spent the last 2 nights under observation, had a big scan and my little girl's doing great, weighing a very healthy 1.8kg, placenta's fine, bleeding's all but stopped.

I managed to spend the hottest day of the summer so far in an air-conditioned hospital room while the rest of Cape Town sweltered and stewed, being served great food by a very sweet lady-guy called Ingrid, reading the last book in the Millennium Trilogy and being completely spoilt with a peri-peri 'katkop' (cat head - slang for that indulgent carb-laden deliciousness of hot chips on a fresh white roll, slathered in peri-peri sauce), courtesy of my Muslim room-mate's husband.

Now home and nothing to do but take it easy, keep tabs on myself and incubate, incubate, incubate ... and keep fingers (and legs!) crossed that we make it to term, this bouncy little self-starter and I.

You just never know what's coming down that road ahead, and you never know who's listening as you jest with the gods.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

in the pink

In keeping with the Year of the Girl Child ~ pink rosewater flavoured meringues.

I had to do something with all the left-over egg whites from making creme brulee.

And I hereby pledge not to open the baking section of my recipe folder again for a long time.

At least a week.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


A few weeks ago my dearest girlfriends arranged a unisex baby-shower picnic for us in one of our favourite places.
It was a Sunday morning and sweltering hot. Luckily the Gardens have ample shade and so we set off loaded up with picnics and blankets and champers and the biggest lemon meringue pie I've ever seen, in search of the Ultimate Spot in which to spend the afternoon.

Frieda had been a bit snotty when she woke up but seemed happy and bright enough. Once there she trailed behind me, assuring me she was fine, but just as we plodded up the last hill she suddenly said, in a tiny voice, 'I'm finished Mum' and when I looked down at her, she'd turned an ashen grey. Like grey, a colour I'd never seen on my child before.
I dropped everything and picked her up, carrying her to the closest bit of deep shade. And there as I cradled her, she swooned, going limp in my arms for just the shortest of seconds before opening her eyes again and looking up at me with a brave little smile. I got a big fright but managed to keep my voice steady and calm, mopping her forehead with a damp cloth and reassuring her that she'd be fine.
She recovered quite quickly, I think she must have had a touch of heat stroke, but wasn't interested in sitting anywhere other than On Mum for a good half hour, despite the arrival of many of her friends, and I was perfectly happy to hold on to my baby, feeling a rush of tenderness and love, and a re-awareness of her fragility, despite the big girl she seems to be these days.

On an afternoon which was was all about our New Girl (who was fabulously spoilt with some beautiful things), I was ironically more acutely focused than ever on my current and only baby. And thereby reminded and affirmed of what it means to be Mum, the person who can right the world with a soft touch and a comforting word, a lap (albeit getting more crowded everyday) to seek refuge on, a warm embrace which can ease most discomfort.
Maybe that was the most valuable gift I was given that day, confirmation of my Mum-ness. Welcome affirmation in the last few months before I have to learn to expand that embrace, to be that person to more than one.
I'm finding that thought less scary these days, I'm starting to get excited.

Friday, January 01, 2010

happy (food) new (food) year (food)!

That's some subliminal blogging right there. Or maybe just some subliminal hinting at what our NYE comprised of.
Food. And lots of it.
When you're 7+ months pregnant and you've both been too dang distracted to make any plans it's amazingly refreshing to discover that you'll happily settle for a quiet evening at home, just the two of you (after child went to bed that is), and more food than you could possibly eat in one sitting.

We spent hours planning, shopping for and preparing our feast, in a way that we didn't really have time to do for Christmas cooking, and enjoyed every minute.
I had moments of checking in with myself as to whether I was really so happy to be doing nothing wilder or more exciting then staying home and stuffing my face - maybe I was just trying to convince myself - but no, I really, really wanted to do nothing else but just that. This must be what being a (gluttonous) adult is all about ... ?

We kicked off with an appetizer of deboned chicken thighs, wrapped around pieces of dried peach, and then enrobed in streaky bacon. Cooked on the fire to juicy, fatty, drippy deliciousness.

Later we ate rib-eye steak (also braai-ed, naturally), potatoes and onions cooked in the coals, green salad, beetroot salad, roasted corn on the cob, wors and my long-awaited lazy chillies relenos - groan.

Later still, home-made creme brulee.

Oh and in between, a couple too many of those pink star cookies.

Say. No. More.

Happy New Year, we're off for a big long WALK!