Thursday, July 29, 2010


This story was related to me today from memory on the way back from school in the car; the fruit of Middle Daughter’s class assignment to make up her own story including a list of words, the meanings of which they had to check in the dictionary.

The Maid Servant
Once upon a time there was a maid who worked for a rich man, who had a long beard. One day she discovered that she was pregnant. When she told the man, he felt rage grow in him, and tore at his hair and shouted at her that she couldn’t work for him any longer. She went home and took her dogs for a walk.

Later on he came downstairs and saw some plumage on the table. He felt ashamed of his anger and wanted to say sorry, but then thought he couldn’t. He made a heart out of metal.

The next day he went to her house and said he was sorry and that she could have her job back. She said Yes.

I haven’t done justice to the story in the re-telling here and have probably got some of the words wrong, but hopefully I've captured the drama and high emotion of her story-telling.
I tentatively asked whether ‘pregnant’ was one of the words on her list, thinking it a little strange for a class of 10 year olds.

“Oh no” she replied, “but I wanted to use the word ‘discovered’.”

We racked out brains to think where she could have got the inspiration from for a story involving a woman  thrown out for being pregnant. Not Disney of course (I don't remember that particular re-working of Cindarella), none of the horse books they’ve been reading, and they never watch any soaps. Finally I remembered the scene in Mamma Mia where Donna tells Sophie,
“When I was pregnant with you, my mother told me to go, and not to bother coming back”.
Phew! That must have been the germ of the idea, I was beginning to put it down to a traumatic past life experience!

Now it remains to be seen what her rather conventional male teacher will make of it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Green Muffin Cases

My inner Scrooge really loves the whole green movement – Reduce Reuse Recycle is a great excuse to save the pennies and polish your halo at the same time. No longer are you stigmatized as being stingy when you re-use your shopping bags, you are now a green heroine, nobly saving the planet as you shop.

Paper muffin cases are a case in point. We bake muffins every week, often double batches for school bake sales. I used to use muffin cases all the time. It’s easier and more convenient. But if you think about it, that piece of paper just becomes litter within minutes, if the kids pounce on the muffins straight away, and it’s just one more non-essential to add to the weekly shop. So I stopped using paper muffin cases most of the time for home-baking, and it wasn’t a big deal at all. I just had to soak the tins a bit before washing them.

And yet there are times when a paper case really does make a difference, like when you are trying out a chocolate chip muffin recipe and envisage gooey melted chocolate going to waste all over the tins. Of course I now had no paper muffin cases in the house after my frugal/green spree of conscientiousness. I’d also nearly run out of baking paper for the same reason, just a few odds and ends left over from a series of cakes, which left me with the stash of butter papers in the fridge.

When I was growing up, butter papers were always saved in the fridge. They knew about frugality in those days, having grown up with rationing and wartime shortages and lived through Seventies coal miners' strikes and all. Saving butter papers was a habit that transferred itself to me, despite our generation's prodigality. A fridge full of butter papers generally isn’t all that much use, not very zen either, cluttering up the place. Quite handy for greasing baking trays, but that’s about it. Except when you need muffin cases at the last minute.

I think they worked perfectly – perhaps not very elegant, but they have a certain green chic about them, don’t you think?!

But perhaps the scraps of baking paper made the more elegant version. They make me think of The Sound of Music, a drift of nuns in sparkling white wimples…

And Marisa's chocolate muffin recipe? The kids loved them, in fact Middle Daughter made them all by herself. Me, I'm holding out for dark chocolate chips for the next batch, with the good dark Nomu cocoa, but then that would be my inner chocoholic, who vanquishes the inner Scrooge every time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Surprise

It will come as no surprise to my blog friends when I confess to a not-so-secret addiction to chocolate, the darker the better. I have long been a reliable tester of all the big chocolate names, from Green and Black, who seem to have disappeared from the South African marketplace of late, to Lindt with their blossoming and branching out into a multitude of sophisticated flavours (perhaps the reason behind Green and Black’s ousting?), sea salt being my current Wow factor to the taste buds.

After attending the fantastic Cape Town Food Bloggers Conference in March, I found that my blog was occasionally targeted by the foodie PR people. Juno wrote about the ethics and complications of accepting freebies when you are writing an independent blog. Her rule of never accepting freebies to review made sense in many circumstances, but I found myself tested immediately by an offer from Lindt to bring me some goodies to sample. How could I possibly say no to chocolate?

I mean, when you live 60km from town it can be hard to persuade friends that it’s not too far to come for lunch. It’s not very often that you have complete strangers offering to drive out specially, just to deliver you some free chocolate, no strings attached. So I accepted and told them to ring for directions.

Two weeks later on a gorgeous sunny day they did. It turned out that they had already shot 20km past our turning and were in the next town asking at the info office for directions. Of course nobody had heard of us there. We’re quite used to talking couriers and various delivery people to our farm from all points of the compass, so I gave directions again and waited. And waited. Eventually a very sweet little Smart car emblazoned with the Lindt logo and pictures of chocolate rolled up the dirt road to our gate. It was immediately met with impassioned barking from assorted manic border collies, which is the usual welcome our visitors get. I ran out to rescue them and to photograph the cute car in its incongruous country setting... unfortunately the camera battery was flat. The two pretty girls smartly dressed in red stayed safely in the car, handing out to me a be-ribboned box of goodies, then revealed that the info office in our local town had sent them to the next town further on, 30 km in the wrong direction. They seemed quite happy though and it was a lovely day for a scenic drive around the Swartland, so I tried not to feel too bad about it.

And my spoils? Well I have to admit that my greedy chocoholic alter ego had ideas of lashings of dark chocolate samples, perhaps unveiling the latest wicked 99% cocoa bar to be tested on that secret sector of food blogging choco-gourmet elite, of whom I had now been elected one of the chosen few...

But nestled in the box were instead some samples of baked goodies from the Lindt Chocolate Studio in town: some miniature macaroons with chocolate sandwich filling, a couple of orange chocolate brownies and a white chocolate truffle…Now they were nice. But not Wow Chocolate Explosion fantastic. In fact my Lindt chocolate stash in the larder rather put them in their place on the chocolate scale of things. Which seemed a bit of a shame after all the trouble they’d taken to get them to me. Plus I think from reading about it that the Chocolate Studio sounds like a fantastic idea, learning to bake with chocolate, make your own truffles and even temper chocolate to a professional level. I’d still love to go there myself and create marvels of chocolate sculpture, tasting just a little on the way.

So thank you Lindt for going to such lengths to send me free samples. I do appreciate it, really I do. Just, if you’re going to be marketing another product, please can I have the chocoholics dark dark version, and I’ll be much more enthusiastic about it, I promise!

All this writing about dark chocolate has got to me. I can feel that stash of sea salt chocolate in the larder calling to me. Tell me what you thought of the Lindt samples if you are another Cape Town blogger who couldn't resist them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back To School

The World Cup is over. There is a back to school feeling all over South Africa, and not just among the kids who have had the longest winter holidays ever in honour of the World Cup. Ours go back to school tomorrow and it’s going to be a sharp shock for all of us getting up in the cold winter dark again and leaving the house before the sun is up. Our internal clocks have adjusted to hibernation mode and our once early rising toddlers are now big kids happy enough to snuggle under the duvet with a book and a torch until the sun finds its way through the curtains.

Five weeks is a long time to keep track of, when you get back to school and have to write “What I did in the Holidays”. Luckily I took photos and so here is a visual reminder for my kids to write from and to fill in the gaps of all the blog posts I didn’t get round to writing.

Our Winter Festival

We had a perfect still and starry night for our winter festival. There was just us and one family of friends this time as many of our regulars had already left on holiday, but it was a really special celebration with a wonderful atmosphere.

We found this prayer in Diana Cooper's latest book and read it aloud together. It felt like it created a powerful energy.

I have a vision where all people are at peace, fed and housed,
every child is loved and educated to develop their talents,
where the heart is more important than the head and
wisdom is revered over riches.

In this world, justice, equality and fairness rule.
Nature is honoured, so the waters flow pure and clear and
the air is fresh and clean. Plants and trees are nurtured
and all animals are respected and treated with kindness.
Happiness and laughter prevail

And humans walk hand in hand with angels.
Thank you for the love, understanding, wisdom, courage
and humility to do my part to spread the light.
May all the world ascend
So be it

The Breede River

We got away to our favourite river for four nights. It’s a wonderful place to go in summer with swimming and boating, but is just as beautiful in winter with aloes aflame and chilly foggy mornings, burning off to still sunny days.

The Weather

It rained, but never on match days!

10th Birthday

 Middle Daughter celebrated her 10th birthday in fine style with a party and treasure hunt.

Day out to the Cape Town Waterfront

A visit to Spur to spend the children's bravery award vouchers from the dentist for free burgers. A walk along the shore towards the stadium in search of the World Cup gees.

Watching the boats come in.

Some brilliant Kenyan acrobatic entertainers risking if not life then certainly limb! Then off to see Toy Story 3, top of the holiday activity wish list. What's with this 3D craze... those glasses give me a headache!

And we finally found the gees, parked right near our car. Ayoba! May this sunny shiny ayoba feeling spread and sustain South Africa even without the soccer fever!