Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I am busy ruminating on an updated bucket list - it's a lot more difficult than one would think!  The last time I created a bucket list was in 2012 (you can see that post here) and things change in 5 years!  There are things I can scratch off my list because I've done them (yay me!) and many things I still want to do... but are those things important enough to be the stuff bucket-lists are made of ? Decisions, decisions....   But while I am still umming and ahhhing and to-ing and fro-ing about the things I really want to do, I find that the things I really DON'T want to do pop into my head with the utmost ease.  So here is my ANTI-bucket list!

* I do NOT want to sky-dive
* I do NOT want to go cage-diving with sharks
* I do NOT want to go hunting
* I do NOT want to ride an elephant
* I do NOT want to go for pole-dancing lessons
* I do NOT want to pilot an airplane
* I do NOT want to compete in the Dakar rally.
* I do NOT want to ride in the Tour de France
* I do NOT want to be a competitor in Masterchef, or Survivor, or any other reality show for that matter!
* I do NOT want to pose naked for Playboy
* I do NOT want to meet Kim Kardashian
* I do NOT want to perform live in front of an audience
* I do NOT want to go bungee-jumping
* I do NOT want to climb Everest
* I do NOT want to learn to surf
* I do NOT want to be interviewed on TV - even if it is by Ellen.
* I do NOT want to meet the president of any country
* I do NOT want to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant
* I do NOT want to smoke a cigar
* I do NOT want to perform surgery

So there you have it!  20 things I positively do NOT want to do!

Monday, March 27, 2017

The girl is THREE


Today my precious granddaughter, Isabella, turns 3!  Words can't express how much this little munchkin means to me!  I am forever grateful that I get to be her Nana and that I get to spend time with her pretty much every day.  I am an incredibly lucky Nana.  Happy Birthday my sweet Issy-boo!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Overwhelmed

Just checking in to say that I WILL be back.  My poor blog is being sadly neglected at the moment.  Life is just seriously cray-cray right now!


It's the busiest month of the year work-wise - financial year-ends are doing my head in, we have overseas visitors arriving on Friday to spend a week with us, there are some personal family issues that are causing untold stress and to top it all we have had various home maintenance issues on the go for the last.... oh.... 6 months non-stop.... ohmyshatterednerves. 

In the last month we had the entire interior of our house painted and literally the day after the painters left we discovered that we had a MASSIVE underground water leak (R6000 water bill to pay....!  That sure gets the adrenaline going...) and so as we bid farewell to the painters we welcomed a leak detection team and a host of plumbers, who proceeded to dig up my laundry, the day after they left we had our new security system installed...hello security-people.... all over the house on ladders for two full days.... oh the joy!  I really hope that is the end of that now.  My introverted self does not take kindly to work-people in and out of my home, all day, every day.

Having said all of that, life is good and I have a lot to be thankful for, I am trying not to forget that and to take the time to acknowledge it in-between all the chaos and stress.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fête de la Musique

In this post about our weekend in Paris, I alluded to a very special event that happened on our first night in Paris - that event was the Fête de la Musique. That we happened to be in Paris on the night of this spectacular event was one of those serendipitous, happy accidents. When I booked our travel and accommodation I had no idea that the Fête de la Musique even existed! I found out about it when booking a tour - the tour operator happened to mention it - and I began to investigate.

What I discovered was that the fête de la musique, or "festival of music", happens each year on the 21st June, the longest day of the year. The festival began in France in 1982, and has since spread to neighbouring countries.

On the 21st of June, live bands, singers, amateur musicians, drummers and so on take over the streets of the city, in this huge celebration of music. The biggest and best-known artists and shows are generally in the Jardin des Tuileries, the Petit Palais, the Louvre, Jardin du Luxembourg and along the banks of the Seine, but pretty much every street and street corner has artists performing on it. Public transport is discounted on this night, to make it easier to travel around the city to enjoy what is on offer. 


We chose to simply wander the streets in the immediate vicinity of our hotel in the Latin Quarter.  If any of the musicians were bad, or even mediocre, we didn't encounter them. The level of expertise of the performers was quite extraordinary - even the bands and performers playing the kind of music that didn't appeal to us were still really good at it! There were stalls set up all over the city selling food and drinks and the party atmosphere was utterly amazing.

This is what I had to say about it on my travel blog:

Tonight was the annual Fete de la Musique - I'd read up about it while planning the trip, but I had no idea it would be so much fun! Basically it is a night when anybody who has a band/plays an instrument/ thinks that they can play an instrument/sings etc can set themselves up on the pavement and make music. While we were eating a band began playing nearby - they were really good and played mostly recognisable music (think "I love Rock 'n Roll", REM, that sort of stuff...) After supper Rox and Dad jumped ship, but Paula, Grant and I decided to make the most of the free entertainment on offer. There was a stall selling plastic cups full of a homemade brew of sorts - it called itself Citron Vodka, but quite what was in there I don't know, it was really good though, so I had a cup of that, Grant bought a beer and we began to wander up and down the streets, listening to the good bands and by-passing the ones that didn't appeal to us. It was absolutely wonderful! There was all sorts of music on offer, many bands playing main-stream stuff, but others that were quite different. We found a couple of young guys playing traditional French songs that I particularly enjoyed. At one point we sat on the floor outside the Pantheon and Paula and I gave the French our particular version of "Our Last Summer" by ABBA, they seemed verrrrrry impressed by us! Not.....

Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to photograph or video any of the performers we saw, but here is a youtube video that will give you a glimpse into what we experienced.




Returning to Paris for the Fête de la Musique is high on my bucket list. Something SO unique and special and highly recommended if you are ever in the area on or near that date!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Feasting on falafel

My husband and I have recently developed a mild obsession with falafel.  We first tasted falafel several years ago when we were in Cairo, we enjoyed it, but never ate it again until a trip to The Morning Trade - a local artisan food market - we had the most delicious falafel from the Falafel Fundi on that occasion and have since enjoyed falafel at various markets in and around Durban.

A few weeks ago we decided it was time to try our hand at making our own falafel.  I spent some time on "the webs", tracking down a falafel recipe and we duly embarked on our falafel making adventure.... it was indeed an adventure, an adventure that ended in what can only be described as oily thick soup... Oh my word, what a disaster!  The falafel seemed fine until we got to the frying stage, at which point it simply disintegrated into the oil.  The culinary version of "total crop failure"!

So it was back to "the webs" and I discovered that many people have this problem with disintegrating falafel.  It seems that having dry ingredients is key - as in... dry those chickpeas after rinsing, dry the herbs...  Some purists say that tinned chickpeas just don't cut it and we had indeed used tinned chickpeas in our failed attempt at cooking falafel.   Armed with this knowledge I then went in search of a different recipe and I discovered I had been harbouring a good recipe all along, in my Buddhist Retreat Centre cookbook, charmingly named "The Cake the Buddha Ate".  I adapted the recipe slightly, mainly in the addition of Harrisa spice, which I love and the optional addition of an egg to ensure binding of the mixture.    So this weekend found us trying to wrestle the falafel beast again.  This time we were a lot more successful and managed to enjoy the fruits of our labour!

FALAFEL click here for a printable version of this recipe

1 cup dried chickpeas, soak in deep water overnight, drain and rinse.
1 onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup Parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (reserve the juice for hummus and lemon tahini, see below)
1Tbl Harissa or Moroccan spice
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
½ tsp bicarb
3Tbl chickpea (gram) flour, plus more if needed
1 egg (if necessary)
Oil for deep frying

Note: It is important that the chickpeas and herbs are completely dry before adding them to the food processor, so pat dry first.

Place onion, garlic, lemon zest and fresh herbs into food processor and blend until very finely chopped, (but be careful not to over-blend and make a wet paste! )  Set aside.
Place the raw chickpeas in the food processor and blend until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Add the chickpeas to the onion mixture and mix in seasoning and bicarb.  Stir together and then slowly add the chickpea flour until the mixture can be rolled into balls.  If necessary add more chickpea flour and then if the mixture is still not binding well add a beaten egg.
Shape approx 1 Tbl of the mixture into a ball and lay on tray, repeat with remaining mixture.
Heat 3cm of oil in a deep frying pan and fry about 6 balls at a time, until brown and crispy.  Drain on paper towel.
Serve with a selection of sides, such as red cabbage salad, roasted peppers,  avo slices, kalamata olives, shredded lettuce or spinach, hummus , lemon tahini or tzatsiki and wraps or pita breads.


Red Cabbage salad
Ingredients (makes one large bowl’s worth):
  • 500g cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • 1 carrot (or more, they’re delicious in this!)
  • 1 medium beet (or more, again – the more the merrier!)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 3T canola oil
  • 3T vinegar
  • 2t salt
  • 2t sugar
1.    Finely slice cabbage, grate carrots and beets; combine with garlic
2.    Make your vinaigrette by combining the rest of the ingredients.
3.    Bring to a boil, then remove from stove.
4.     Pour over the veggies.
5.    Toss to coat all the veggies

Lemon Tahini (found this recipe on Halfbaked Harvest)
1 cup plain greek yoghurt
1/3 cup tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1Tbl Harissa (or more, to taste)
Salt to taste.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk till smooth.  Will keep for a week in the fridge.

Hummus
1 can of chickpeas (or soaked and cooked dried chickpeas)
1/6 to 1/3 cup of tahini
2 to 3 tsp lemon juice,
a tsp of crushed garlic (or more, to taste)
a dash of Tabasco,
kosher salt and pepper

Blend to a paste - then trickle in a small amount of hot water and some olive oil until it’s the consistency you like, garnish with Paprika!




Friday, February 17, 2017

Hand lettering how-to

As I mentioned in this post, my word for 2017 is "thrive".  One of the ways I am trying to embody the word "thrive" is by devoting a lot of time to self-care and one of the ways I am doing that is by spending time doing fun, creative things, things such as journalling and hand lettering. 

A little while ago, the people at FTD contacted me and told me about a free tutorial they have created, for beginners in hand lettering. This is what they have to say about it:

Have you always wanted to master the art of hand lettering? Although it may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually quite simple once you’ve mastered the basics. To help you get started, FTD created a hand lettering tutorial for beginners.

It covers everything you need to get started, including a list of materials along with a helpful video that outlines step-by-step how to create perfect strokes and flourishes. They even created a handy alphabet chart so that you can practice your new skills! Check out the guide which you can find here and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to becoming a hand lettering pro!





I popped along to the website to have a look and it is a really lovely guide for anyone starting out.  Definitely worth checking out.  So why not go and have a look and, if you're anything like me, you'll get bitten by the hand lettering bug and spend many happy hours, pen and paper in hand.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meditation


So many times in the past, I've tried to start a regular meditation practice and it just didn't stick.  I'd start out all keen, I'd see the benefits, I'd be determined to continue meditating regularly and then, somewhere along the line, I'd give it up.  But I have to tell you, I've been meditating regularly for several months now and this time I think it's going to stick!  

So what's different this time?  I think the major difference is that I have relaxed into it.  Before, I would try too hard, I'd set myself impossible standards and I'd get frustrated when I couldn't "get it right".  When thoughts entered my head during my meditation I'd get really irritated with myself and think I was doing it wrong.  It's not like that now.  I've come to realise that meditation is not a test, or something that has to be perfect, instead it's a practice and if it doesn't go that great today, well there's always tomorrow and hopefully it will go better then.  Another thing that has dawned on me is that meditation is a pretty personal thing, it's not going to look the same for everyone doing it, and that's okay.

So what does my meditation practice look like? Typically, I meditate first thing in the morning, as part of my Miracle Morning routine.  I do some yoga - nothing hectic, just a couple of Sun Salutations and then I sit down, cross-legged on my yoga mat, eyes closed, hands resting on my knees.  I do a couple of deep, slow inhales and exhales, consciously relaxing with each one - especially my shoulders which are usually tense - and then I revert to normal breathing and I focus on a word with each inhale and exhale.  Generally I like to focus on the word "peace" as I inhale and "calm" as I exhale, but sometimes I mix it up and use different words.  Thoughts will drift into my mind and - here's the key thing that has made my meditation practice so much more relaxed and pleasurable - I'm comfortable with that, instead of trying to "chase the thoughts away" I just let the thought go... I don't follow it, I just acknowledge it and let it go... by focusing on my breathing and words again.  I haven't been trying to meditate for extended lengths of time like I used to, instead I meditate for as long as I feel like it and when I've had enough I take a deep breath, stretch my arms above my head, exhale and slowly open my eyes.  Done!  And man it feels good!



I am busy ruminating on an updated bucket list - it's a lot more difficult than one would think!  The last time I created a bucket...