Ruby, just saying hello and keeping me company early this morning - love you, Ruby!
Last year for Chris' Birthday, I made a Red Velvet Cake for his office. I didn't stress too much, as it was only him, his PA and Admin Manager I had to worry about.
Last week friday, over drinks with Nush at the very chilled Unity Bar, Chris asked if I could make something for our office this year to celebrate his Birthday - I was sipping on my second Mojito and didn't give it a second thought before saying yes - it only dawned on me the next day that I had to cater for 12 people, so no pressure right? After hauling a few trusty baking books out of my recipe book bookcase the other night - I started pondering what to bake., I thought about a cake but for that number, I'd have to bake two - which isn't hard but not particularly exciting and I generally only bake cakes for home or when we're going to family (makes it easier to say, 'it doesn't look perfect but at least its homemade and it will taste delicious!).
I started thinking of the different things that Chris likes to eat. Both sweet and savoury - peanut butter / choc-chip and potato / cheese came to mind. So why not a dozen each of muffins?
Confirmed with Chris, decision made.
I await the taste verdicts from Chris later - it was my first attempt at trying these recipes - brave I know, but that's how I like to roll!
All ready for the office! Sweet and savoury.
Transporting made easy with this cupcake / muffin holder.
It is not only myself (14 April) and Chris (10 April) celebrating our Birthday's this month - my Aunt Bern and Chris' sister Julia both turned their respective one year older during the first week of April (Happy Birthday, again!) and my Mom and Aunty Helen celebrate theirs during the last week.
Chris' folks celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary later this week too - what an achievement - in a world where marriage is so disposable, it's heart warming to see couples who have taken their vows seriously and have made it work, through the good times and the bad. Congratulations! Love to the both of you.
I just love April, it's an in-between season month for us here on the east coast, summer is fading (well for those who are lucky like us to live in Kwa-Zulu Natal, we really only have two seasons - hot summer and mild winter) into the distance and autumn, bringing it's slightly cooler mornings and evenings in, is slowly indicating the onset of impending winter and all that that brings with it. I know spring is a magical time too, plants budding, everything coming to life again but it's autumn that captures my imagination - the leaves falling (bringing different hues of yellow and orange with it), things slowing hunkering down for the cooler months ahead. It's almost like the earth is saying; 'Listen here, it's been a super busy spring and summer - now it's time to start relaxing and in a short while I shall be napping - do not disturb until spring!'.
In a way, the various seasons can be compared to one's life too - spring representing birth and youth, summer easily the prime of your life, with autumn being mid-life and, ultimately, winter with old-age and death. I came to this realisation in the last two days and without the help of Chris by my side I don't know how I would've coped, well I'm still coping truth be told but baby steps.
Someone very special to me, a father-figure really, took ill - not unexpectedly - but totally unrelated to his illness that he was battling, on Chris' Birthday (of all days, right?) and instead of spending the afternoon with Chris (we had already visited the folk's house earlier that morning when the news broke) he encouraged me to go to the hospital to be with the two people who I fondly see as family (and I know the feeling is wholly reciprocated) and I am glad he did, I already knew by then that I wouldn't have had another chance to say goodbye, which I did with a kiss on his forehead as he lay there in the hospital bed - totally unaware of how much he was loved and respected - and the great sense of loss that has followed since his passing.
Rest in peace, Uncle Lenn - You will always have a special place in my heart.
Until next time,
We had a fairly quiet Christmas (truth be told, we always do) it was just the two of us, the hounds and Chris' folks - who came to visit for a few days - they brought the turkey and stuffing. So all I had to do was prepare the two salads we had with lunch and dessert.
Naturally some mince pies were also floating around and Chris was in charge of the bar!
I managed to prepare both the salads and the cheesecake on Christmas eve, all under my 'Recipes' tab, so I kinda took it easy on the day. I even had a sneaky gin and lemonade!
We opened a few presents, had a few laughs, ate some snacks and then had lunch.
Chris' dad manned the Weber and supervised the cooking of the turkey whilst the both of us popped in at the Durban Folk's place for a cup of tea and to give them their Christmas cake and a card from my mom.
I have been sick with flu for the last week or so (summer flu is the worst!) so hadn't had a chance to go visit leading up to Christmas - they both appreciated our visit - as much as we appreciated visiting them too.
Aunty Helen even gave Chris a huge hug and commented on how tall he was! I am glad we went to see them, they both mean so much to me - Aunty Helen managed to bake us a huge container of shortbread - she's really good like that!
So with whomever or wherever you found yourself on the day, I hope a good and safe time was had by all.
Nothing tells a story better than pictures!
Not particularly festive looking but I liked them nonetheless!
Coffee and homemade mince pies... To start the day, naturally.
The hounds also started the day off with a treat, a huge doggy biscuit - Cleo in the background anxiously awaiting hers!
Say hello to Ruby, she ate her treat quite quickly!
Tinsel down the staircase.
Santa, just chilling.
Our little nativity scene - we are not religious by any means but thought 'why not?' have it out instead of in some box packed away.
Just one more mince pie!
Aunty Helen's shortbread!
Table about to be set!
All set, ready to go.
The butternut and chickpea salad.
The mediterranean couscous salad.
Found some time to squizz through my latest cookery book, Thank You Chris!
Remember, You are loved.
and after 15 months of being engaged, I finally received my engagement ring! White Gold with 8 sneaky Diamonds along the side :)
Ended the day off with some peanut butter cheesecake!
I can't believe we're a week into 2016 already... May it be filled with all things exciting for each and everyone of us.
Now to find the energy to start packing - We are officially moving into the home we've just bought at the end of January - Yikes!
Until next time,
So I have known the Durban-Folks for well over 11 years now and for as long as I have known them, Aunty Helen has always made the most delicious prawns, ever!
I have never really thought about cooking prawns as I've never had to because I knew if I wanted some, I'd just go visit the the folks - again, Aunty Helen is known for her prawns! - but in late August, both Chris and myself found ourselves at their house, celebrating Andre, their son's Birthday and wishing both him, his gorgeous daughter Mia and Mia's mother a safe trip - they were going to visit Mia's maternal family in Greece.
Mia is a special little girl, at all of 18 months, she has her South African, Portuguese and Greek passport - what a little international toddler she is!
Andre feeding Mia, last December, when Mom and I visited Durban to see the folks
Rocking 'em shades!
Back to my story, Chris offered to do the braai'ng - he's happiest with a braai tong in one hand and a beer in the other - so whilst he was outside manning the coals, Aunty Helen was inside preparing the prawns. When we all sat down to have lunch, Chris tasted the prawns and when he went back for seconds - I thought, oh no! - low and behold, he loved them just as much as everyone else sitting around the table and as he had so kindly offered to braai for the folks, Aunty Helen ensured that he had his full of prawns - Chris even commented on how nice they were - so I mentally made a note to look out for prawns on my next grocery shop run.
I did indeed manage to find some, they've been in the freezer ever since, well up until yesterday anyhow.
This past Sunday, Chris and myself popped in to see the folks, I'd been away so hadn't seen them in 10 or 11 days and just wanted to check up on them and see if all was ok, I also had some pasta that I bought in Johannesburg to give to her - she loves Bucatini, a type of pasta that is hard to find in Durban - so whenever I buy, I always get an extra few packs for her too. A few weekends before that, Chris had kindly re-lined Aunty Helen's washing line making it easier for her to hang her washing up - he is good like that - so he is in both the folks good books.
As luck would have it, we arrived at around lunchtime - purely by accident I can assure you - but as quickly as we arrived, two extra plates were graciously set out on the table and an impromptu get together was held, laughs were had and a good catch up ensued. Plus, did I mention a serving dish full of prawns arrived at the table too?!
Everyone around the table - Vanessa, Sajeeda, Andre, Aunty Helen and myself - all agreed that Chris did an awesome job on fixing the washing line, so naturally he was offered more prawns than most. He thoroughly enjoyed them. So obviously I had to make them...
Before leaving, I asked Aunty Helen for her recipe - bearing in mind she's probably been making them for the last few decades, her recipe instructions were vague to say the least - as with anyone who has a signature dish, it's all stored inside her head but the one thing she stressed was to not overcook them.
So we set off for home later that afternoon, me with what roughly goes into making them but without any quantities as such but I had enough to get me started.
Last night I attempted cooking the prawns - they turned out brilliantly - if I may say so myself! Look out for the recipe under my 'Recipes' tab - give them a try, they are quick and easy.
Thanks Aunty Helen, I now have another go-to recipe that reminds me of you - love you lots!
Until next time,
Well, technically it is not an ode, as described by the Compact Oxford English Dictionary; which states that it is meant to be a poem addressed to a person or thing, or celebrating an event - but I like the word and it will tie in with my post today.
So growing up in South Africa, most of us would associate custard with powder which comes out of a container and is cooked over the stove top with milk, right? I remember in the 90's (if I'm not mistaken and from what I can recall) one could buy pre-made custard at the shops, just ready to pour but it wasn't until I met Aunty Helen (whom I fondly call my Durban Mom as my real mom lives in the UK) in my early 20's, who emigrated to South Africa as a child from the Portuguese island of Madeira, the photo below is of her holding a Mother's Day treat that I sent down for her earlier this year, that I discovered baking, cooking and of course the Portuguese treat, Pastel De Nata (singular form for Pasteis De Nata).
If you've happened to pop into the Portuguese themed red and white coffee franchise where the staff greet you with 'Obrigado' as you leave, you'll recognise what they call Portuguese Tarts at their deli counter - the correct name for them is Pasteis De Nata and Aunty Helen taught me how to make them many years ago and I have adored them ever since, naturally convenience wins over making them yourself from time-to-time but as a special treat they are really worth the effort making them yourself - you could use store bought ready-to-roll puff pastry, but as I always say, in for a penny in for a pound - please see my 'RECIPES' page for my recipe, did I mention I really enjoy baking and cooking. My recipe book library is constantly growing! From second-hand store finds to new books.
Both Aunty Helen and her husband, Uncle Lenn (let's just call them 'The Folks' from now on) live just up the road from us and they are truly special people - always generous with their time and kindly offer advice and moral support in whatever way they can - it happens to be their wedding anniversary this coming Saturday, 31 October 2015 - not many couples can say they have been married for 51 years - yes - 51 years! The photo below is of them on their special day.
So, in closing just want to say a huge Thank You to my Durban Mom for showing me that it is ok to experiment with baking - there will be flops and mistakes made - but that nothing tastes better than a homemade cooked or baked treat, also knowing what goes in to the end product is infinitely better than store bought treats - even though I am guilty of the odd shortcut - but as I said sometimes time doesn't allow for hours in the kitchen. The main thing is that at least (time permitting) I would rather try and bake it myself rather than just popping out to the store to buy something. So get into the kitchen and give baking and cooking a go!
Also, what a milestone to reach, 51 years of marriage - I can't think of a more loving couple that deserve many more years together. Congratulations! Love the both of you dearly.
Until next time.