Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quotes: 30 Rock

Season 1, Episode 3, Blind Date:

Liz: 'Kenneth, why did you bet that terrible hand?'
Kenneth: 'Why? Because I believe life is for the living. I believe in taking risks and biting off more than you can chew. And also, people were yelling and I got confused about the rules.'

Season 1, Episode 4, Jack The Writer:

Tracy: 'But I want you to know something... You and me, it's not gonna be a one-way street. 'Cause I don't believe in one-way streets. Not between people, and not while I'm driving.'
Kenneth: Oh, okay.
Tracy: 'So, here's some advice I wish I woulda got when I was your age: Live every week like it's Shark Week.'

Season 2, Episode 5, Greenzo:

Jack: 'Look how Greenzo's testing! They love him in every demographic - colored people, broads, fairies, commies. Gosh, we gotta update these forms.'

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some weekend road trip love courtesy of my Nokia E71

Horses grazing at Summerhill Stud Farm,
Kwazulu-Natal Midlands.

The welcoming committee at the entrance to
Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Mtunzini, KZN.

The wind-swept Mtunzini beach.

A salty sea dog says hello in St Lucia, KZN.
(Also in the pic: My hubby's sexy arm and leg :-)

Breakfast dog says: "Me wantses some of your bacon, preez!"

St. Lucia Estuary framed by forest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rocking Gluten-Free-School-Holiday Flapjacks

School is out and I felt the need to celebrate the afternoon in style by making gluten-free flapjacks!

This was my first attempt at gf flapjacks, and boy did I strike it lucky the first time round.

I adapted a recipe by Chef Jackie Cameron of Hartford House in the Kwazulu Natal Midlands (original recipe found here).

Here is my version:

Potato Flour Flapjacks


2 Eggs (jumbo)
50ml Butter (melted)
200ml Milk
2 cups (500ml) Potato flour
3/4tsp Bicarbonate of soda
3/4tsp Creme of tartar

Quick and Unfussy Method:
  • Chuck the potato flour, bicarb and creme of tartar into a bowl.
  • Make a hole in the middle of the ingredients.
  • Toss the butter, milk and eggs into the hole (in that order in case your butter is a bit hot, then the cold milk buffers the eggs from cooking)
  • Mix it together (I used a fork - ironically, despite being an ex-chef I have never owned an electric mixer or even a whisk for home use...I prefer robust home cooking which is no mess, no fuss).
  • Use a pan with some form of non-stick 'itemage' coating the bottom (I used butter for richness, but you could use oil or Spray 'n Cook or whatever blows your hair back)
The consistency of this batter was SO perfect that the batter forms its own perfect circle when ladelled into the pan (well, that's what mine might need to tweak your batter with a little more milk or a little more flour).

The recipe made 6 of these big beauties in total...

...which I serve with this sucrose-free treat...

...which looks like this when dolloped with decadently thick cream.

Mamasita blessed the cooking process with her voluptuous clay presence ;-D

I now consider my holiday officially started in sweet style - a flapjack, a fresh mug of rooibos chai, a Summer breeze and the following playlist:
Chris Cornell - Black Hole Sun (acoustic);
The Dirty Skirts - Daddy Don't Disco;
Incubus - Wish You Were Here; and
Chris Cornell - Long Gone.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quote: The Big Bang Theory

Season 2, Episode 2, The Codpiece Topology:

Howard Wolowitz: 'Renaissance faires aren't about historical accuracy. They're about taking chubby girls who work at Kinko's and lacing them up in corsets so tight their bosoms jump out and say: "Howdy!"'

Sheldon Cooper:
'Bosoms would not have said: "Howdy!" in the fifteenth century. If anything, they would have said: "Hazaa!"'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Moonish Superstitionliness :-)

While visiting my parents this evening, my grandfather (who is convalescing at their home after his stroke) mentioned that we should turn over some money in our pockets because it is a new moon. My husband has a special penchant for idioms so I thought I'd look it up for him.

As it turns out, it isn't an idiom but rather a superstition. As quoted in an article called Superstitions and the Moon - Myths and Superstitions Linked with the Moon by Carole Anne Somerville:

"Anyone seeking good fortune should bow to the new moon and turn over any silver coins in his pocket. The silver colour of the Moon is rumoured to have a direct affinity with the silver from which the coins were made. So if a person holds up a coin to a new moon and wishes for money, over the days ahead as the moon 'increases' in size, so too will their bank balance!

Being without money when seeing a new moon is thought to be unlucky but if a person has some coins and turns them over without taking them out of their pocket, they will have plenty money over the month ahead and the wish that's made while turning the coins will be fulfilled."

Cheers to that :-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

For you, for me, for us

"In the heart of every man,
wherever he is born,

whatever his education and tastes,
there is one small corner which is Italian,

the part which finds regimentation irksome,

the dangers of war frightening,

strict morality stifling,
that part which loves frivolous and entertaining art,

admires larger than life solitary heroes,
and dreams of impossible liberation
from the strictures of tidy existence."

~Luigi Barzini~

So here's to grabbing life by the kahunas, embodying la dolce vita, and tripping the light fantastic.
I love you (you know who you are).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I wantses precious :-)

The Shire, New Zealand

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~

Oh, I would that we could all reside happily
in our own little piece of the shire!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Musings on a past life

'A visual feast of food and words' is how I would describe Shauna James Ahern's tantalising blog Gluten-Free Girl.

Her post titled pickled figs posed the questions:
what has made you a better cook, and what do you like to eat with figs?

My answers tumbled forth as:

The Prue Leith College of Food and Wine (now the Prue Leith Chef's Academy) in Pretoria, South Africa made me a better cook...a trained chef in fact. It also made me agressive due to the time constraints inherent in food preparation, impatient due to the perfectionism demanded of the job and, eventually, loathsome of the thing that I had once loved the most to do. The celiac sealed the deal...get out unscathed before the profession took me down.

These days it is patience that has made me a much better cook. A willingness to see that there are many roads that lead to Rome, that all willing participants in the kitchen (mostly my precious husband) have their own style which can be best harnessed, and an inherent sense of adventure in trying out old favourites with new gluten-free ingredients.

With figs? Goat's chevin and free-range ostrich biltong, eaten with oven-roasted red peppers.

It's strange when a random question can evoke such strong memories and feelings of what now feels like a long-past chapter of my life. The way I see it?
A recipe is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. Same goes for a life.

Summer days are here again!

I love me some flowey, flowery, coolishly-cotton summer dresses! There's nothing like grabbing a dress out the cupboard that just "works", thereby avoiding having to co-ordinate outfits in any great detail.

I'm blessed to find myself working in a school with a casual-smart approach to dress code (rather than smart-casual or even, horrors, formal). Thanks, boss! :-)

Fresh Produce, Pick 'n Pay's clothing label, have a nifty range of summer dresses in-store at the moment. Pretty and reasonably priced, they're worth a gander if you have a well-stocked PnP in your area.

Summery dresses, plush new swimming towels, hibiscus in bloom, the smell of jasmine in the air and a warm breeze blowing inviting you to come outside and play - reminds me of the excitement of beach holidays along the South Coast as a child...and so does this poem. :-)

maggie and milly and molly and may

by e. e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I spy with my little eye...

...something beginning with an, "Oops!" :-)

Teaching has its moments that bring a smile to your face. Today held just such a moment.

In preparation for their upcoming Cambridge exams, my AS-Biology students have been recapping their microscope skills (how to use eyepiece graticules and stage micrometers, etc.). Having just enough apparatus for each current student, I was suitably unimpressed when one of them shouted out:
"Ma'am, I can't see through the x40 objective".

As my stomach dropped, I walked over to assess the situation. Indeed, x4 and x10 were perfect, but x40 was entirely obscured. Hypothesis: probable cracked objective that could only be repaired next year.

In my second lab today, the same thing happened with a different student and a different microscope. Wondering just exactly when my students had become microscope cracking marauders, I strolled over to the offending object. It was then that something caught my eye.

The ceiling light glinted off the top of the eyepiece making a rather strange pattern. I removed the eyepiece and stared up at it. Lo and behold, the "crack" cascading across the view at x40 (thus, magnified to x400) was nothing more than eyelash streaks on the ocular lens, caused by anxious students pushing their eyes against the microscope. I rubbed it off quickly and quietly using the hem of my shirt and pronounced it to be "fixed".

I was let off the hook easy on that one :-)

Driving home, I realised that I often put my eye to every single microscope many times during one lab session to help out the students when they need it. Being a little bit obsessive when it comes to hygiene, I let out an internal, "Ewww", at the thought of all the skin grease my ocular orbits had come into contact with.

First stop on arriving home: basin full of water and good old Sunlight soap!

Monday, September 14, 2009

On faith and politics...

"The faith of a church or of a nation is an adequate faith only when it inspires and enables people to give of their time and energy to shape the various institutions -- social, economic, and political -- of the common life."
James Luther Adams

I encourage you to read a post by South African political scientist, Laurence Caromba, called "Is 'racial violence' worse than 'violence'?"

What does South Africa's current leadership and general status quo inspire in you?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Donna!

"Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time"
Jean Paul Richter

Donna is a lady of many talents. Aspiring writer, hobby-artist, small-business owner, wife, Womble-master, dear friend and general blessing - she is a charming person to know.

Many happy returns of your special day. I'm so glad you were born and that I have the pleasure of knowing you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Restaurant Review: Fresh Earth Food Store

Since moving back to Pretoria from my beloved Cape Town, I have been silently mourning the lack of freely available gluten-free fare. In fact, most restaurants seem to think you are swearing at them when you enquire about the gluten-free status of menu items.

As fate would have it, I could've heard the heavens open up to hear old Will S. singing: "Sigh no more, lad(y), sigh no more...And be you blithe and bonny, converting all your sounds of woe into, 'Hey, nonny, nonny'", on the happy day I perchance stumbled across the website for Fresh Earth.

Situated in Komatie Road, Emmarentia; this health food store/bakery/eatery is a coeliac sufferer's dream come true. All suitable menu items are coded (gf) to offer peace of mind when ordering, and bakery items are labelled with a full list of ingredients when perusing the display cabinet.

The menu is diverse, offering breakfast options, salads, hot meals, burgers, sandwiches, smoothies, fresh juices, a variety of beverages and sweet treats. Temptation for trying a variety of menu items dictated that we conquer this corner of Emmarentia two Saturdays in a row. Below is the resulting photographic feast:

Frittata (gf)
Oven baked omelette filled with pesto roasted vegeatbles, saute tofu, goats feta and mozarella cheese.

This was delicately flavoured with a good balance of toppings. Vegetables were roasted to perfection, while the amount and varieties of cheeses used were not overpowering.

Avocado Pizza
Spinach, avocado and mozarella cheese (on a gluten-free base).

Base was crisp (a bit too crisp in places). Topping was, according to my hubby, "Simple yet tasty."

Pesto Pizza
Basil pesto, spinach, olives, Italian tofu, tomatoes, oregano and mozarella cheese (on a gluten-free base).

This topping managed to amalgamate a profusion of tastes, with none being singularly over-reaching. The basil pesto was sufficiently bouyant to make its presence known, while the Italian tofu was a little taste of vegan yum.

Roast veggies, olives and mozarella cheese (served with a side salad) (non-gf)

While I can't vouch for the taste, my mom did take her leftover pita slices home with her, which is a testament of its own I suspect.

Chocolate Cake (gf)

Ah, the favourite part :-) Moist and dense without being overly sweet. The cocoa is what comes through here, which is exactly what a fan of 70%+ dark chocolate Lindt is wild about. Big thumbs up.

The Carrot Cake (gf) was also exceptionally good. We bought this as a take home version at R45 for a decent sized log cake. Ingredients are listed as: Rice flour; pineapple; carrots; oil; sugar; eggs; pecan nuts; cream cheese and spices. The topping adds a subdued lemon zesty zing, which balances out the sweetness of this extremely moist cake to perfection.

Since price and value-for-money are relative concepts, I can only offer that for two people (breakfast x 2, beverages x 3 rounds, cake x 2), the outing came to R240, while for three people (breakfast x 3, beverages x 2 rounds, cake x 3), the total was R340. Make of that what you will. A full menu with prices is available on the Fresh Earth website.

Having graduated from The Prue Leith College of Food and Wine in 2001 (now known as Prue Leith Chefs Academy), excellence in service was a mainstay in my training. As such, the make or break point of most restaurant outings for me is the service. Fresh Earth strikes a good balance here - friendly waitrons (fast, efficient, knowledgeable about their product, and attentive without being overly so...thank you Michael and Tryphina), impeccably polite manager (kudos to you, David) and smiling cashier (shine on, Rebecca!)

As with any production, the stage plays a part in making a lasting impression. The outdoor setting is lovely, with wooden tables under an awning, flanked by wheat grass and a red tractor (which seems to give most kids something to happily clamber about on, while having the odd side-effect of making my IT-ish husband want to refurbish old VW combis). The interior shop is well-stocked and lends itself to the element of 'browsiness', which I like.

In an otherwise stellar review, I have only two minor gripes. One, the bathroom arrangements are cramped, noisy due to the extractor fan, malodorous due to the trash cans and somewhat lacking in privacy should someone look out of their windows in the surrounding block of flats. Two, the indoor seating area. This space is cramped and lacks a good supply of fresh air, which isn't helped by the patroness using this area as a space for a rather loud Saturday morning business meeting at the adjoining table. That's it, end of complaints.

In summary, was the food good? Yes. Was the service good? Yes. Was the setting good? Mostly - outside is lovely. Would I go there again? A resounding, yes!

I offer up a hale and hearty high five to this quirky little gem :-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh, for the love of all things gf...

After years of finding myself in varying degrees of discomfort and pain after eating, I was finally diagnosed with Coeliac disease, which is a severe allergy to gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and their products).

At the time of diagnosis, the most exciting gluten-free flours one could lay your hands on here in South Africa were rice flour or sorghum flour (which tended towards creating muffins which could seriously injure someone).

These days, there are a choice range of gf flours from which to choose, the products of which taste akin to the best glutinous creations that can be offered up for comparison.

However, just like Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in the movie Simply Irresistable whose emotions were poured into her culinary creations, causing those who ate them to exhibit the same - I am of the opinion that a heaping helping of love helps to sweeten any baked good. mom.

Now, mom is a baker of note. Every childhood birthday party offered up a new and exciting cakely creation. Upon hearing of my coeliac disease, she was saddened at not being able to bake up a storm for me to enjoy anymore. However, just as the range of gf flours grew, so did my mom's adventurous ways in the kitchen.

Enter...modified versions of the old favourites. Below is just such a recipe. Please bear in mind when baking with gf flours that the consistency often has to be adjusted according to feel (usually just a little more flour or a little more liquid). Use baking intuition, have fun and most of all...born-up-a-tree!

Gluten-free Yoghurt Cake
Rebaked recipe in July 2011 (this one works):
  • 175ml yoghurt
  • 175ml self-raising gluten-free flour (I used Nature's Choice, which isn't self-raising, and the cake still rose sufficiently...although it is a denser cake)
  • 175ml castor or white sugar (not brown)
  • 87ml sunflower oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • pinch of salt (I always leave this out)

  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Place in a very, very well greased loaf tin (also dusted with flour), and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius (sometimes it's best to decrease your oven temp by 5 degrees when trying a new recipe, as oven temps 175) for 40 to 45 minutes (or until just golden and a cake skewer inserted comes out clean).
Ingredients (original 2009 recipe missing sugar...ignore):
  • 175ml gluten-free flour (I use Nature's Choice, which is a mixture of gf flours);
  • 175ml full-cream yoghurt (mixed fruit or strawberry is particularly yum);
  • 1tsp xanthum gum;
  • 1/2 tsp each of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar;
  • pinch of salt; and
  • 1 egg.

  1. Mix ingredients together (gently) in no particular order.
  2. Pour into a greased loaf tin.
  3. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
Check out some cool blogs dedicated to gluten-free cooking:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Details are the hinges of the universe

Oupa with my newphew,
Christmas day, 2007.

It took me just over 10 months to read The year of living biblically by A.J. Jacobs. A self-confessed agnostic, he spends a year following the bible as literally as possible with some suprising results. Being a usually voracious reader who devours books in single sittings, it is possibly the longest I have ever taken to read a book because this is the kind of book you want to allow your mind to marinate in slowly so you can reach some conclusions of your own.

I've been pondering a lot lately on the 'whys' of life. Perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed by them is more accurate.
For instance, why is there so much suffering in this world? Why doesn't God intervene? What happened to miracles?

Standing in Woolworths on Wednesday, holding sleep-wear for my 78-year old grandfather who suffered a stroke on Monday night and was being admitted into hospital that afternoon, I was feeling a little more overwhelmed than usual. An older woman dressed stylishly caught my eye and, when our paths crossed at the end of the tills, I complimented her on her clothing and how lovely she looked.

She looked at me with shock on her face and said: "I would never have thought it after the day I've had. You see, I've just found out that my second husband, who has been in and out of work for a few years now, has two policies that will not pay out a cent when he passes away. My son also died and I don't have a pension. I don't know what I am going to do. It's bad to say, but I feel cross with God."
I told her that I thought God is big enought to handle it, then I prayed with her, mostly unsure of what to pray for other than some peace and her own version of a God-sent miracle.
She gave me a hug and said: "Thank you. I feel like our paths were meant to cross today."

It was then that I was struck by a mini-epiphany. 'Mini' because it doesn't really answer any of the 'whys' definitively, or generally make the tough parts of life easier to handle in any way.
Instead, what it offered was a realisation that though your needs may be great, at all times, there are other people in this world whose needs are probably greater, and in that you can give thanks. Not for their suffering, you understand, but rather for your blessings.

It is, I guess, the quintessential metaphor of looking at the glass half-full. Taking notice that for those five minutes, my belief in prayer was the answer to someone else's need. Giving thanks that I didn't ignore that tapping on my shoulder that all was not as it should be with my grandfather's medical treatment. Accepting the quiet, "Thank you and God bless you", from the mother with the baby standing begging at the robot, grateful for the groceries I bought them. Getting up everyday and smiling instead of moaning about the day's work ahead, because many would like to be in my position and aren't. Enjoying tender kisses from my dear husband. Cherishing a laugh with my parents who gave me a good upbringing and excellent education. Giggling at the adorably odd individuals my niece and nephew are becoming. Appreciating the accomplishment of a student thanking me when I've explained something they didn't understand.

In essence, God is in the details, if you choose to see Him there. And most days, those details are what keeps you pushing on.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Growing old disgracefully

Laa-Laa rocking the faux fur
jacket and curly hair, July 2006.

I was sitting around the kitchen table at work the other day, listening to my fellow teachers waxing lyrical about family stories. Particularly those stories that related to their parents and the process of aging. The History teacher said something which caught my attention (which can sometimes be difficult for History teachers the world over, if you catch my drift). She said: "Why isn't it possible for all people to get old with dignity?"

I recall reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom a few years back, detailing sociologist Morrie Schwartz's slow and painful delivery into death's hands as a victim of Lou Gehrig's disease. What caught me the most were the parts in which he talked frankly about the humility this disease impressed upon him in the guise of, for instance, having others wipe your derriere because you could no longer do it yourself.

Little did I know that this process would be played out all too soon with my maternal grandmother, nicknamed Laa-Laa, who succumbed to the vicious ravages of cancer with as much spirit as she could muster. I was horrified by the barbarity of the treatments she was encouraged by the medical fraternity to endure, hoping to eke out just a little more time here on earth. However, her frail body and brittle porcelain skin belied the courage which lay within.

She was a fighter. She threw the notion of growing old gracefully to the wind. Before she lost her beautiful, thick hair to chemotherapy; we marvelled at the fact that she no longer even knew what her true hair colour was. Every Saturday was about a visit to the hairdresser for perming and colouring. A ring adorned every finger. Years of wearing only fashionable shoes had left her with bunions the size of small planets, and even then she was remiss in letting go of them to err on the side of practicality and comfort. Yes, she was a spitfire, my Laa-Laa. The type of old gal a song like Mustang Sally should have been written for.

She attended her own funeral before beginning her descent into the stuff medical nightmare's are made of. Indeed, her very own living funeral (an idea borrowed from Albom's book). For one perfect day tinged with a side-order of sadness, songs were sung; past hurts were made right; favourite foods were eaten with true abandon; hugs were freely handed out and lashings of laughter mixed with tears were shared.

She held on almost a year after that day spent celebrating a life rather uniquely lived, passing peacefully in my parents' home in 2007, surrounded by her husband, her children and children-in-law. Everyday, she is missed.

Here's the maternal great-grandmother, Gaga, lived into her nineties quite sanely (despite her nickname). Now, how the hell did my gran lose almost two decades in the race against time with genes like that on her side? I'll tell you this much, prune juice started looking a lot more appealing as my drink of choice once having done that little sum.

I'm not sure about growing old too disgracefully, especially since I'm not one for the noxious fumes associated with hair dyes. No, I think I'll rather content myself with trying to grow disgracefully old (my husband reckons 120 ought to do just fine, although I still think we're both holding out for some Twilightesque immortality... :-)