Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chocolate Cake is SO 2009

"Time is a companion
that goes with us on a journey.
It reminds us to cherish each moment,
because it will never come again.
What we leave behind is not as important
as how much we have lived."
~ Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: Generations ~

Chocolate Cake Recipe

It sank in the middle but it tasted yum and that's all that matters to me!

Ingredients for cake:
  • 3 eggs
  • 220ml sugar (I substitute 220ml honey)
  • 60ml oil (I use cold-pressed sunflower/olive oil)
  • 1 cup cake flour (I use Nature's Choice gluten-free cake flour)
  • 60ml cocoa powder (I use Nomu cocoa powder [90ml if using honey instead of sugar to compensate for the extra liquid])
  • 125ml hot water
  • 10ml baking powder (I use 1/2 tsp bicarb + 1 tsp creme of tartar)
  • 2ml salt
  • 5ml vanilla essence (I leave this out entirely)
  • P.S. For a never-fail, moist cake; stick to the original ingredients. If you don't mind a cake that sinks slightly in the centre but prefer not to use sugar, then use the substitutions).
  • Whisk eggs and sugar (or honey) together.
  • Whisk in oil.
  • Melt cocoa powder in hot water and allow to cool slightly. Then whisk it into the sugar (or honey) and egg mixture.
  • Add in the vanilla essence if you are using it.
  • Mix in flour, salt and baking powder (or bicarb + creme of tartar).
  • Bake in a buttered oven dish for 25 - 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
Ganache Icing Ingredients:
  • 100g dark chocolate (at least 50 - 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2-4 Tbsp cream
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp butter
Ganache Method:
  • Melt the dark chocolate into the cream on low heat.
  • Add honey if you'd like a sweeter taste.
  • Add butter once off the heat to give the icing a nice sheen.
  • Sprinkle with almond nibs to decorate.
Born-up-a-tree, thanks for reading/commenting in 2009
and have a fun (but safe) New Year's Eve!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Listed at 2009 prices...

Before 2009 goes scurrying away and I'm left waving at it through the rear-view mirror, I wanted to take the time to recall some of the things I've enjoyed this year. So here's my abridged and slightly arb Best-of-List for the year 2009:

Most rocking movie:
Star Trek

Most suprising music find:

Coolest live concerts:
Joseph Clark @ The Performer
Johnny Clegg @ Kirstenbosch

Most enjoyable books read:
The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

Best restaurant find:
Little Durban

The delish-est meal:
A masala dosa @ Chai's Place, Stall 39, Bryanston Organic Market

Yummiest chocolate eaten:
Lindt dark hazelnut

Most successful gluten-free baking mission:
Fruit mince pie

Nicest travel memories:
Eating gluten-free cheesecake at Hillcrest Berry Orchards while staring out at the mountains in the Winter sunshine with my husband
Sharing a Summer picnic concert with my hubby and my parents at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Easiest rental car driven:
Chevy Aveo

Funny mid-class bio-student one-liners:
"Ek het a krapping in my verheemelte." (A.F.)
"I'm so pale the moths fly into me." (R.S.)

Applaudable badly-disguised insult:
I sent my in-laws an e-mail containing the following quote:
Desmond Tutu said: "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."

My father-in-law (who doesn't like me for no apparent reason) sent me this:
"This Tutu-quote you provide, deserves it to become fashionable and I am also going to use it – at least the first part."


One of my fave compliments from my favourite person:
"Hey Babe, if we were elements, you would be awesonium." (Quoted from somewhere by my Hubster)

Most loved blog:
The Incredibly True Adventures Of Buster (R.I.P. little B)

Most "Ha!" pic found:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Whole lotta trouble...

I had to take time out for a day to reflect on the horrible and surreal event we went through yesterday, and just how insane this country is. How different our realities are here from a lot of people's in terms of safety and security. And how desensitized one becomes in a way just to survive the psychological onslaught of the perception of constant threat of some sort.

If you're out on the roads, it's the threat of hijacking. If you're out walking, it's muggings. If you're in a mall, it's shootouts by gangs of robbers. If you're in your home, it's armed robberies.

Thank God, we got off easy yesterday, but it didn't make it any less scary.

Here's what happened:
Yesterday (Monday) morning, hubby and I had an errand to run fairly early, so we set out and got it done. On the way back, I got a feeling that we should pop in for tea at my parents' house. I called my mom to make sure they were there. She had been napping, as she hadn't been feeling well and my call had woken her up. My dad was out.

We went over anyway and were sitting in the lounge drinking tea when my mom said: "I think I just saw someone in the garden, but it must be my imagination because the dogs haven't responded."
I froze because just as my mom said that, the dogs ran to the backyard and started barking viciously.

I just had the feeling that if there was someone there (which the dogs were clearly telling us there was) and the person(s) were trapped behind the secondary security fence my dad had just recently finished putting up, that we had a limited time to get out of the house and into the car on the sidewalk (which we usually pulled-into my parents driveway). Otherwise, should the intruders make it over the fence and past the dogs, we'd be trapped in the house with our only option being 10111 (which we all know is notoriously dodgey, if the line is even working, you have to ask will the cops respond in time or even at all?)

So hubby grabbed the keys and I grabbed my mom and we ran to the car, storming to the local community policing site to report what we saw. And man, was that a good idea!

By the time we got back to the house, four cars from private security companies and local suburb crime watchers were there to aid us. More arrived as the word spread and we sat on the pavement as they jumped into surrounding houses to check the yard. To cut a long story shorter, they initially couldn't see anything, so they started leaving, and we were shakily going back into the house.

Just then, one of the cars screeched back and said that someone did a perimeter drive-by behind the houses and three guys had just jumped back into my parents' yard, and that there was a bicycle hanging over my parents' neighbour's fence. I freaked and went screaming into the house to fetch my mom back out, while all the cars arrived back out front again.

Brave guys with guns again jumped over the walls and managed to apprehend one of the guys in the other neighbour's yard. They handcuffed him and called the cops. A while later, another thief was apprehended a few houses down, which was discovered to have been broken into and ransacked (thus, they were systematically working there way over the walls house-to-house).

The Police arrived with sirens blaring about twenty minutes later to arrest them and take in the bicycle as evidence. It was then that my mom registered that the guy she had seen was wearing a blue and white shirt, and none of the guys already apprehended were wearing that colour.

The Police and community forum fanned out and, miraculously, managed to apprehend the third guy.

To say that we were grateful for a sucessful outcome to this in the understatement of the century. For those of us living in SA, we know the horror stories in the media and, for many, personally experienced.

My parents were burgled last year; my dad has been robbed at an ATM; my brother has been held-up, with a gun stuck into his face, while out training for the Comrades marathon; my mom went through an attempted smash-and-grab; and I went through an attempted hijacking. I believe that God protected us through all of these things and I definitely believe in guardian angels!

So, shaken and freaked-out, we returned to the house where we retold the story, had a cup of tea and continued on with the business of living (surviving) in SA, grateful for the happy conclusion to the morning's (yes, mid-morning) events.

The height of irony? Just that morning I had bought a book:
"The art of happiness in a troubled world" (by H.H. The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler).

Troubled doesn't even begin to describe the state our nation and our world is in. But in the interminable words of Gladys Knight and The Pips:

"I've really got to use my imagination
To think of good reasons to keep on, keepin' on
Got to make the best of a bad situation..."

Amen to that, Ms. Knight!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bloomin' marvelous!

The poppies I planted from seed four months ago
are finally starting to bloom.
I think they're so pretty!

I have a little wooden plant pot sign which says:
"He who plants a garden plants happiness."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day after Christmas...

Image by squawkfox

Till next long, Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas!

Image from Orange Apple Banana

May it be a joy-filled one :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One day to Christmas...

Christmas Eve already *sigh*. December, thou hast wings!

Today, I'd like to take a moment to remember my paternal grandmother, Helen. You see, she dearly loved Christmas but she passed away in November of last year before she could celebrate it one last time.
My Gran, Christmas 2005

For many, many Christmas Eve's growing up, we would gather around her to sing Christmas carols together as an extended family. She had music in her veins, and passed on this talent for playing musical instruments to her sons (my dad being one of them), and grandchildren (with me being one of them).

Thank you, Gran, for the gift of music. You're missed.

On a side note, if you'd like to send someone a personalised message from Santa himself, visit my link for the day. It's a lot of fun (it rumoured to get kids talking to the screen) :-)

Link of the day:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Two days to Christmas...

Nativity Scene 2009

I love nativity scenes in their various beautiful guises.
There are pics of some pretty elaborate nativity scenes at Wikipedia.
And if you're in the mood for holiday movie-watching
with a historical/biblical slant,
there's always The Nativity Story.

Link of the day:

P.S. If you have any links to blog posts that feature pictures of beautiful nativity scenes and figurines, please post them in the comments section. I'd love to see them! Pre-thanks :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three days to Christmas...

Christmas Tree 2009

Don't you just love decorating the Christmas tree?
It's like with this one action, I channel
childhood memories and future traditions all-in-one.
It's like my own, personal Back to the Future!
Ho ho, freaking ho :-)

Link of the day:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Four days to Christmas...

Hubby and I attended my niece's annual nativity play at her nursery school. What fun! Don't you love the short attention spans, crying, forgetting words and waving at the audience that comes along with performing 4-6 year olds? :-)

I've gotta say, I got choked up when they sang Let There Be Peace On Earth. It's the thing that should be on the top of humanity's Christmas wish list, don't you think?
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live
each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me

Link of the day:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Five days to Christmas...

"When we were children we were grateful to those
who filled our stockings at Christmas time.
Why are we not grateful to God
for filling our stockings with legs?"
~ G.K. Chesterton

Link of the day:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Six days to Christmas...

"The great art of giving consists in this:
the gift should cost very little
and yet be greatly coveted,
so that it may be more highly appreciated."
~ Baltasar Gracian ~

Links of the day:
Have you ever considered giving a gift which blesses others
in the name of the person to whom the gift is intended
(especially if the person wants nothing in particular?)

If so (or if you are just feeling imbued
with the Christmas spirit of giving),
then here are some very worthy causes to donate to:

Reach For A Dream
FORA (Friends of Rescued Animals)
Meals on Wheels for the Aged
CLAW (Community Led Animal Welfare)
Salvation Army
TEARS (The Emma Animal Rescue Society)
CHOC (Childhood Cancer Foundation)
HAWS (Hartebeespoort Animal Welfare Society)
CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa)
Wet Nose Animal Rescue Centre
WMACA (Women and Men Against Child Abuse)
Eseltjierus Donkey Sanctuary

P.S. I would like to donate ZAR200
to one of the charities above.

Please nominate the charity you
would wish to receive the donation

by leaving a comment with the name of the charity
before Sunday at midnight PST (UTC -8h).
The charity receiving the most nominations
will receive the donation,

and a tie will be broken by random draw.

P.P.S. All animal societies listed are pro-life.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Seven days to Christmas...

Christmas Mince Pies

This is a fantastic recipe that I have made many times.
It never fails and they really hit the spot. So, if you have a wheat or gluten allergy and are missing eating store-bought Christmas mince pies,
or if you just feel like baking up a storm, then these are for you!

Ingredients for pastry:
  • 240g soya flour
  • 120g potato flour
  • 120g rice flour
  • 100ml cane sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 50-60ml water (iced)
  • 15-20ml lemon juice
Method for pastry:
  1. This is exactly the same as making homemade shortcrust pastry. Use your fingertips to rub together the flours, sugar and butter till it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Use a knife to "cut in" the liquids. Don't put in the full amounts all at once. Go little by little else you risk making the pastry too sticky (mind you, even then the recipe will still work, so don't stress). When the pastry starts coming together to a stage where you can form a ball out of it, it's done.
  3. Cover with a cloth or clingwrap, and chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Note: This makes a lot of pastry, so if you prefer the filling to outweigh the amount of pastry in the finished product, then you will need to double the filling recipe amounts below.
Ingredients for filling:
  • 50g raisins + 50g sultanas + 50g dried pears + 50g dried cranberries (it's also fine to just use a packet of Safari dried fruits cake mix)
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 30g almonds, nibbed
  • 7ml mixed spice + 2ml ground cloves (I substitute cinnamon for the ground cloves)
  • 75ml orange juice
  • 40ml honey
Method for filling:

1. Chop the apples using a mini food processor if you have one available.

2. Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a pan.

3. Place on a low heat and stir occasionally till all of the liquid is absorbed.

Making the mince pies:
  • Depending on the consistency of the pastry, you can decide how you want your finished product to look.
  • If the dough turned out firm, then you can try rolling out individual rounds to make traditional mince pies. Personally, I find this way too finickey and time-consuming.
  • Therefore, I use buttered baking dishes and using my hands, I flatten a layer of pastry into the bottom of the dish. Then I spread over a layer of filling. Then I "crumble" pastry over the top.
  • Bake in lower-middle part of the oven at 175 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes (the pastry looks golden with very light browning on the edges).
  • The baked pastry goes crispier once out of the oven (on standing) and tastes like rich shortbread.
  • Then all you need to do is slice and serve. Born-up-a-gluten-free-tree! :-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Eight days to Christmas...

"(9) And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before
them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.
(10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
(11) And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."
~ Matthew 2: 9-11 ~

I love Christmas time. It has always been my favourite. I keep these stars up to remind me of this season all year round. Each one has its own sentimental place for me.

The small gold star reminds me of the tradition my Mom started of giving me a new tree ornament every year in December. I cherish each one.

The large gold star was a gift from a dear friend of my Mom's, Joyce Fishwick, who I spent Christmas with in Germany of my Matric year. She passed away a year and a half later from cancer, and those Christmas memories of sharing stories, lebkuchen, blazing fires, snow and weihnachtsmarkts will always hold a very special place in my heart.

The large wooden star reminds me to hold on to the simplicity and true spirit of Christmas. For those who view the Bible as a religious text, or just a historical one. Even for those who just think that the Bible is just some fantastical story book, I like to think that its words hold unique value to each of us. Jesus was born in a mere stable. His coming was the true gift of Christmas. Therefore, the value of Christmas lies in the people, not the gifts.

Take time to celebrate the people in your life who you love the most. That's the greatest gift of all :-)

Links of the day:
Beaded stars and other ornaments to buy at:
African Home
Ilala Weavers
Daaft Designs
Khumbulani Craft

P.S. If you have any other links to local ZA sites that help to create employment by selling Christmas related crafts and would like me to list it here, e-mail me the link at juanita(at)therecanbeonlyjuan(dot)com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nine days to Christmas...

Fave tea
(It tastes like Christmas and their secret ingredient is Love) :-)

Link of the day:
Where to find My-T-Chai in your region

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten days to Christmas...

Poinsettia for 2009
(Also called the Christmas Rose, I love that modified leaves can look so pretty :-)

Link of the day:
Potted Poinsettias to buy at Pot Plants Direct

Monday, December 14, 2009

Eleven days to Christmas...

Favourite Christmas movie since 1995
(I've watched it faithfully every year since I was 14)

Link of the day:
"Mixed Nuts" DVD to buy at Take 2

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twelve days to Christmas...

The Christmas countdown begins!

Christmas 2008

Link of the day:
Twilight quote Christmas ornaments to buy at Etsy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jou ma se New Moon

Hubbs, friends and I ended up watching New Moon last weekend, and I've gotta say, I was surprised that they managed to pull off a very good bastardization of the book.

Now, at the risk of being lynch mobbed via comments because of my comment by some random googling New Moon fans who end up at my site, you'll know exactly what I mean if you've read all the books. As in, it seemed like a tough book to adapt because so much of it focused on Bella's afternoon visits to the reservation.

However, what I loved most about the movie was the audience.
About 80% were adults (so you may just see jou ma there), which was not the originally intended demographic. That speaks volumes about the transcendency of some adapted books and the hype surrounding them.
The remaining 20% were teenage girls, and it made for many giggles to hear them ooohing and aaahing and gasping (yes, a literal gasp when Jacob appeared shirtless) during the evening.

A couple of things, in my opinion, which were a bit OTT: The vamp make-up was waaaaayy too caked on in New Moon, and their eyes were much brighter yellow compared to Twilight. Notice the redness of Victoria's hair also became much more intense? I guess I like a bit more continuity in "sagas".

All in all, it was really enjoyable though. And I'll leave you with my favourite line by Harry Clearwater: "Don't worry Bella. My kung-fu is strong." :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the fly choc chip cookie recipe (gf style)

I made up this recipe yesterday from a few leftovers I had in the kitchen cupboard, and a giant bar of Cadbury's milk chocolate which was supposed to be a stand-by Christmas present for any unexpected extended family members on the day but didn't survive my sudden chocolate craving. :-)

I'm stoked that they turned out yum, since I haven't baked biscuits from scratch since my chef-fy years!

  • 100g unsalted butter;
  • 250ml flour (I used 100ml rice flour + 100ml potato flour + 50ml soya flour);
  • 200g Cadbury's milk chocolate (which I threw in the food processor to make choccie chips); and
  • 3 Tbsp. water.
  1. Put the processed choc chips (more like choc chunks) in a bowl.
  2. Process the butter, flour and water in a food processor (I have one of those mini ones which come as an attachment to some brands of stick blenders).
  3. Mix all ingredients together using a spoon.
  4. Line a baking tray with baking paper (or just grease it well).
  5. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 12 - 15 mins.
  6. Makes 18 biccies.
The dough turns into...
...biscuits fresh from the oven... be enjoyed with authentic Ceylon tea
(a lovely gift from two Sri Lankan sisters I tutored for English).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flashback: Strawberries and Strawbs

Harvested from my fridge...

Harvested from my dad's music collection...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tibetan Teahouse

Simon's Town holds a little orange gem in the form of the Tibetan Teahouse.

With awesome views of the ocean; calming, milky chai served in little wooden cups; delicious vegetarian food; a friendly cat and an invitation to linger; you just don't find much better than this for a soulful afternoon hangout.

Just drive through the town's on it's main road till juuust before the golf course, and you'll see it on a corner on your right. Say hello to the penguins for me, please :-)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Johnny Clegg, quite simply, rocks!

I have always wanted to see Johnny Clegg live in concert, and one couldn't ask for a better setting than the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. So I convinced hubby we absolutely had to arrange an entire holiday around the Johnny concert on 22 November.

We were eventually so blabbingly excited about seeing him live, that my parents got in on the action and flew down to Cape Town to see Johnny too - now that's dedication to music for you :-)

His show was, honestly, one of the most fantastic live shows I have ever been to. He had the crowds eating out the palm of his hand with just the right blend of old vs. new songs, background stories and jokes. It was awesome.

Johnny - RESPECT!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Weekend Tunes: Goldfish

Performing 12 December 2009 at Menlyn Park in Pretoria
Details at

Music to buy at

Fort Knox by Goldfish

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Porter Estate Market

When: Saturdays from 9:00 to 13:00
Where: Tokai, on the Chrysalis Academy grounds (directions)
Entrance fee: R5

Here are some photos from my trusty digi-cam (always tucked into my bag) from our many market visits, of which each was very special in its own way; if not for the food, then for the people/dogs/setting/company.

Breakfast is highly recommended in the form of grazing from stall to stall, all laid out on one of the rustic wooden benches or tree-trunk tables. Our faves include: moer koffie with condensed milk (served in tin cups), cherries/peaches/apricots/red peppers from the fruit and veg stall, chocolate macaroons (gluten-free) served in little pyramid packets, any pesto from Pesto Princess, raw honey from the honey guy, snoek pate from the fish guy, and goat's milk feta from the Imhoff table.

This outing is one of the things we miss most about living in Cape Town. So if you are in the environs, then please make the trip (often) to treasure this little unpretentious gem of a wont be sorry!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Travel Diary: Hout Bay, Cape Town (at sunset)

Walking on the beach at Hout Bay during sunset is great for a couple of romanticised reasons:
  1. holding your loved one's hand and chatting (thanks bu *kiss);
  2. enjoying the view of the sun setting over the mountains (see pics);
  3. the lighthouse beam from Kommetjie;
  4. the fishing boats coming back into the harbour; and
  5. the vast array of trotting, barking, playing dogs (as below) that see the beach as their personal playground which I, personally, find amusing to watch (obvious downside - owners that don't pick up their doggy's doo-doo leads to eewww).
Sometimes, one is lucky enough to catch some insight into other people's lives too. On just one random day we witnessed:
  1. a wedding party taking pictures on the beach;
  2. two sets of religious groups holding baptisms in the harbour waters; and
  3. a wedding couple heading to the pier for pictures.
All in a good day's beach walk :-)

So feast your eyes on...
...the sunset (numero uno)...
...the sunset again(numero duo)...
...a little scruffy-do :-)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Travel Diary: Gordon's Bay, Western Cape

G-Bay is situated on the northeast corner of False Bay, about 30 mins drive from Cape Town. Not much goes on here from the view of a passer-througher, and even the "beach" is a little underwhelming BUT the views over False Bay when you get up high enough are pretty spectacular.

That being said, I highly recommend 20 Protea Place as a port-of-call should you be passing through this merry haven. What makes it special is that it is a 5-star self-catering "guest house", with each apartment lavishly decorated from the pages of some uber stylish, shee-shee-poo-poo decor mag. It is tres fab!

Feast your eyes on...
...the kitchen...
...the lounge...
...the dining room...
...le boudoir...
...the balcony with view included :-)