Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Host

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Well, I had a whole bunch of good intentions for starting off the week yesterday, but life isn’t always a straight line. The trick is learning to adapt to the curveballs instead of getting frustrated by them.

I started strong, kicking off my day with cleaning and grocery shopping. But around midday our power and water were both cut off! I couldn’t do any more of the washing, cooking or cleaning that I’d planned.

Rather than sit around doing some proverbial thumb-twiddling, I used the sudden gift of free time to check off another goal on my 101 things in 1001 days list: Goal #89 – Go to a movie by myself. At least they had electricity and running water at the mall!

I went to see The Host, and enjoyed it… it was kind of like a girly romantic sci-fi. I’m not usually into sci-fi all that much, but Stephanie Meyer has a knack for making otherworldly plots appeal to gals too 😉

Anyway, yesterday also showed me God’s grace and perfect timing in my life. For the first time ever, I decided to split up my shopping. My plan was to first buy all the dry goods and take them home, and then later go back to the shops to purchase all the perishable items such as frozen fish, meat and fresh veggies. My reasoning at the time was that if I could get these items straight from the shops into my cooler bag and into my fridge as quickly as possibly, I might avoid them going bad (I think bad frozen fish – and not the Easter feast – was actually what nailed me with food poisoning a couple of weeks ago).

So I did my dry-goods shopping at a normal pace and brought home all the goodies. After I’d finished unpacking the grocery bags, I took a breather for five minutes and got ready to leave to buy the perishable items. Then, just as I was about to leave, the power and water were cut.

My first reaction was natural frustration, but that quickly turned to amazement at the divine timing of each event. If I’d bought all the shopping at once as usual without coming home, or if I’d left five minutes sooner for the second round, I would have had hundreds of rands’ worth of perishable items sitting in a fridge that couldn’t stay cold. The electricity and water only came back five hours later – that would have been long enough to defrost and ruin my frozen fish and other delicate items.

Many may see that as a lucky coincidence, but to me it shows clearly that I have a loving Father who’s involved in the smallest details of my life. As Proverbs 16:9 tells us, ‘A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’ I’m grateful the Lord directed me to do something out of the ordinary and mercifully prevented me from wasting a lot of money and good food 🙂

'Direction' © Sunshine Scrapbook

‘Direction’ © Sunshine Scrapbook

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Spring cleaning in autumn

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It’s been a couple of days since I’ve had the chance to post here… I’ve just taken a long weekend away 🙂 At least once or twice a year I try to take a few days’ break in routine to visit my folks in my childhood home and to get together with my friends. Here’s a pic I took in my parents’ garden:

Leaf

Autumn leaf in a birdbath

It was rewarding to get a little break and spend time with the people I love. I even managed to cross off Goal #94 – Have professional photos taken – as my friends and I went for a mini professional photoshoot together :mrgreen:

Now that I’m back home, I’m expecting the week ahead to be filled with major housework. I hope to get my home sorted out in preparation for the following week when I begin three months of office work. I have a long list of chores to get through, from defrosting the fridge to cleaning the oven (bleh).

But in an odd way, I’m actually looking forward to this. While many of my fellow bloggers from the northern hemisphere are spring cleaning as their weather gets warmer, I’m doing an autumn clean-out before a long and busy winter.

This wave of housework coincides with changing my meal planner from the spring & summer one (packed with salads and summery dishes) to the autumn & winter one (full of soups and comfort foods). I also tend to do my bulk shopping every six months or so, and the time has now come to restock my cupboards with non-perishable items.

All of this also happens to be at the end of the month, when my cupboards are bare and my fridge is empty. I just love it when so many loose ends tie up around the same time! It feels like I’m neatly closing off the past few months and getting ready for the next season of life.

So if you don’t hear too much from me this week, it’s because I’ll be up to my elbows in dirt and detergent.

But I’ll catch you on the flipside 😉

Nooooooo! Yes to Carrots

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If there’s one thing that sucks about living in South Africa, it’s that we don’t get as many fantastic brands as overseas stores offer. But perhaps what’s worse than having the carrot dangled from afar is actually getting to use – and love – unique products for a while, only to have our stores decide that our market isn’t right 😦

That’s what happened to me with the range of beauty products from Yes to Carrots.

Yes to Carrots logo

Yes to Carrots logo

To give you the punchline straight away: this is by far the best brand of beauty products I have ever used, and I am now down to my last three (tiny) bottles. Nooooooo! 😦

For those of you who don’t know, Yes to Carrots (and the sister ranges of Yes to Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Blueberries and Grapefruit) is a range of hair, body and beauty products that are made of almost 100% natural ingredients! Yes, really. Free from all the usual horrible chemicals, these products are pure goodness for your body. They smell marvellous, they work brilliantly, they’re safe for sensitive skins and the they’re inexpensive compared to the fancy potions whipped up in laboratories.

Yes to Carrots ingredients

Yes to Carrots ingredients

The photo above shows the ingredients in some of the products. The natural ingredients read like a smoothie for your skin: Dead Sea water, sweet almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, aloe leaf extract, carrot seed oil, carrot juice, pumpkin juice, sweet potato extract, melon extract, orange fruit extract, honey extract, algae (rhodella, dunaliella, spirulina), silt, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba leaf extract, pomegranate peel extract, chamomile extract, calendula oil, wheat germ oil, castor oil, propolis extract, sesame oil and green tea extract!

The last of my Yes to Carrots products

The last of my Yes to Carrots products

My friend and I discovered these products two Christmases ago when a local pharmacy chain (the only one to sell the brand in SA) suddenly put all their Yes to Carrots and Yes to Cucumbers products on sale. We’d never seen the brand before, but loved the sound of all the natural ingredients and bought some shampoos to try. Once I’d used one product (the Yes to Cucumbers Leave-in Conditioner), I was smitten and tried out all the others.

Soon afterwards, however, I found out the reason why the products were on special: the range was being discontinued in South Africa. Panic! My friend and I literally drove around to every branch of that pharmacy to buy up all their stock! What we scavanged and shared between us has lasted until now, but we’re down to the dregs.

I did all I could to find another way of getting hold of Yes to Carrots in my country. But all that my research turned up were options for importing that I can’t afford with our weak currency. Sigh. So I resolved to enjoy the items I had managed to get, and thought that if I ever travel overseas and find these ranges, I’ll be filling up my suitcases with little else.

For a while I was quite mad with the pharmacy chain (let me tell you, products of this quality evoke strong reactions)… I couldn’t believe that all the years I’d been shopping at those stores I’d never once seen these products. They were never advertised; in all the branches I went to the Yes to Carrots and other natural products were all stuffed on the lowest, most obscure corner shelf where no one was likely to find them. For this pharmacy chain to then have the audacity to claim that the products didn’t sell well here… argh, it chewed me up 😡

But for all that, you know I won’t leave you without a ray of sunshine in this post. And it is this: if you’re in a country that sells Yes to Carrots or any of their other ranges, I heartily encourage you to try them out. I can no longer endorse all the high-tech chemical products out there now that I know about this fantastic natural range. If you haven’t discovered these products for yourself yet – hurry, while stocks last! 😉

A moonlit tea party and manly romance

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When last did you do something out of the ordinary, just for fun?

Prep for our moonlit tea party

Last night Ninja and I enjoyed a moonlit tea party outside. It was a spontaneous suggestion from my man when he saw how beautifully clear the night skies were. It wasn’t a freezing evening either – just chilly enough to warrant wrapping up snugly. But autumn evenings are possibly the nicest time to be outside, because they’re not as cold as winter and there are also no mosquitos as in summer.

So I boiled up our rooibos tea and sliced up some custard cake, and we spent about half an hour enjoying each other’s company in the clear, quiet night.

I suppose this might not seem like such an unusual thing to those of you who have gardens of your own, but since we have no access to our landlord’s yard, we had to sit out on the pavement. That immediately made it an unusual spot for tea 😛

It was one of those memorable ‘live in the moment’ times for me. I consciously focused on my cold fingers clasping the warm mug, and the sounds of distant traffic and night birds, and the sweet comfort of the custard cake. It was also special to chat with Ninja under the stars, because years ago we shared a similar moonlit conversation as friends, a few weeks before we began dating.

Reflecting on that moonlit tea party today, I can glean another lesson from it: the marital lesson of saying ‘Yes, let’s!’ more often than saying ‘No, but…’. Part of the excitement that comes with dating is the spontaneity of experiencing new things together. But I think over time many wives (including myself) can get into the habit of saying no to their husbands’ spontaneous suggestions.

We ladies may look at our to-do lists and focus so intently on our responsibilities that we can’t see room for fun anymore. No wonder some men stop making suggestions when they receive repeated excuses. Or perhaps you say yes and then proceed to take over like it was your idea (oops… I’ve done that too!).

But in doing so we may be missing out on the one thing we actually want: romance! I’m willing to bet that men are more romantic than popular culture gives them credit for; it’s just that they’re not romantic in the same way as women. While we’re daydreaming about candlelit dinners and bunches of roses, we may have missed half a dozen romantic suggestions from our men.

The thing is, for men romance is primarily about companionship. Yes, physical intimacy plays an important part, but that’s only half the picture. Chances are your man just wants to experience fun things with you. He wants a companion to share both new experiences and old hobbies. He doesn’t always want to wait on you hand and foot (as in your idea of romance). To him, romance may be as easy as having you contentedly by his side 🙂

I know that I want to become more of a ‘Yes, let’s!’ wife.

What about you, ladies? And guys, am I on to something here?

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

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What do you get when you combine quiet hours on a cold Sunday afternoon with an experimental, sweet-toothed housewife and the bare month-end essentials in the cupboards? A recipe for an unusually yummy cake, of course!

Yesterday I ticked off another cake for my Goal #22 of baking five different cakes. Since I had no eggs in the house I used the egg-free, dairy-free custard cake recipe I’ve posted about before, but dressed it up with a number of delicious tweaks.

The idea came to me when I thought about some of the fruits, nuts and spices that I enjoy adding when I make a bowl of custard for dessert. If those ingredients taste great with custard dessert, why not add them to custard cake?

To the dry ingredients I added 1 teaspoon mixed spice. To the wet ingredients I added 1 small mashed banana. Then when the mix was combined, I folded in 1/4 C cashews (chipped and toasted) and 1/4 C currants. Those amounts were arbitrary, based on all I had left of the ingredients. But they turned out to be just right 🙂

Cashews and currants about to be stirred into the mix

Cashews and currants about to be stirred into the mix

The recipe made enough for one small square pan.

Cake mix in the pan

Cake mix in the pan

The first time I tried the custard cake recipe I sprinkled white sugar to make a crispy crust. This time I went half-half with white sugar and brown treacle sugar.

White sugar and treacle sugar toppings

White sugar and treacle sugar toppings

The cake looked and smelled great when it came out of the oven. I didn’t wait long to taste it!

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

The results were even better than expected: a moist, slightly dense cake with a pleasant dash of fruitiness. I was also excited to discover that the treacle sugar had added a surprise element… it had melted and trickled down into the cake, so that some slices contained a warm and sticky molasses centre. Nom nom nom nom! :mrgreen:

Treacle sugar surprise

Treacle sugar surprise

Well, I knew I loved it, but would it pass the hubby taste test? At first Ninja looked dubious about the currants (he loathes cooked fruit), but soon he was asking for a large second slice 😀 Success!

Proof that eggless cakes can be awesome too

Proof that eggless cakes can be awesome too

Paired with a steaming cup of rooibos tea on a chilly autumn night, this cake made a splendid after-dinner treat.

We all know it’s risky to experiment with baking… many recipes will flop if you mess around with their ingredients too much. But never let that stop you from adding new flavours to your old favourites – you’d be amazed at what a couple of arb additions can do 🙂

Mixed blessings

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Wow, it’s an utterly freezing cold grey day in Jo’burg today. Biting wind, gusts of rain and sombre grey clouds blanketing the skies. It’s the perfect weather to attempt to bake some bread, based on this great recipe… but unfortunately it didn’t turn out so well.

Sob! I have visions of myself being the ultimate housewife, whipping up a steaming pot of soup and a freshly baked bread on icy days like this… but the reality is that we’ll be ordering in for dinner because I’ve run out of both ingredients and chutzpah now. Bleh. 🙄

The bread (or edible parts thereof) actually tasted delicious, so my mess isn’t meant to reflect poorly on the recipe at all. I’m sure in more skilled hands it would have come out flawlessly. In my case I had to add some extra water because for some reason my dough was far too dry… and then – because my oven is a temperamental old thing – I had to bake the bread for half an hour longer than the recipe suggested… and even then, only one third of the loaf was edible: the rest was doughy mush. As if that wasn’t saddening enough, I took lovely photos throughout… which I have just accidentally shift+deleted 😦

Not. My. Day.

Anyway, so darling hubby is out rescuing me by getting us takeaways. And while I wait for the meal that someone else will mercifully prepare for me, I thought I’d blog about a mixed blessing that’s recently come my way.

I’ve been offered a temp position at my previous company, to work in-house for three months, from early May to early Aug. There are both pros and cons to accepting an offer like this. The main con is that it will take me away from my home duties, which means Ninja and I will have to multitask like crazy again to keep things running smoothly with working, shopping and housework. The other thing that makes it not so great is that if today’s weather is a foretaste of how our winter is going to be, it’ll be very tough to get used to leaving early… or even getting out of bed!

But those are not impossible or unbearable obstacles, I know. I guess I’ve just settled into my homely comfort zone so well, it will seem odd to go back to what I left behind. On the plus side, however, I have several motivating factors – one of which is money. And not just money for money’s sake. But money for my dream camera! :mrgreen:

Ninja and I have budgeted that after all our expenses are covered, this work opportunity should allow me to put aside a substantial sum towards getting my first DSLR and related kit. That alone makes all the disadvantages of working outside the home fade away 🙂

To keep myself motivated through the winter (the time of year I’m most likely to feel a bit gloomy), I created a poster of two goals I hope to reach after this season of working is over. I’ve stuck it up in a prominent spot and hope it will help me to stay focused on what I want to achieve through this busy season. The main goal is my camera and the second goal is staying fit and training for my first 5km run, which takes place in October.

Poster of goals

Poster of goals

On the left of the poster you can see health-related pics, such as orange juice to remind me to boost my immune system through the winter months. The rest of the poster is devoted to my dream cam (the Nikon D7100, which I plan to post about separately) and miscellaneous photography gear.

But now you’ll have to excuse me.

My chicken-pine-salad wrap has just arrived 😉

Who’s building your house?

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Sorting through some documents today, I came across a notebook in which I’d written my random thoughts when I was younger (back in my varsity years I think, though the notes weren’t dated).

One of the lists I wrote was based on the metaphor that our lives are like houses, and various people and principles are the architects we allow to help us create our homes. It made me smile to read through my ideas, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Kind of architects I want to build my life-house…

  • People from all walks of life; I want to befriend rich kids and poor beggars
  • People who have built their own houses well (as far as I can see)
  • Mature people; experienced, older, sensible architects
  • Architects who help me to apply God’s blueprint plan
  • Quality building materials like good books, magazines, movies, proper media
  • Loyal, interesting, kind, humorous, nachdenkende Architekten (architects who consider how they build)
  • I want a roomy life-house, with plenty space in my life
  • I want colour, light, freshness, design, creativity, warmth in my house
  • I want to reserve the right to keep certain people out of my house
  • I want to be able to lock up my house safely when I go out
  • I want to collect 1000s of things to decorate my house
  • My place isn’t going to be just one style or stereotype; I’m not going to have all the rooms identical, but rather have influences from all over
  • I don’t want to compartmentalise all the different aspects, but I do want to harmonise them at least
  • I want nothing shameful in there; I want no room, cupboard, drawer or file filled with dirty secrets
  • I picture a bright, light, sunny house, filled with God’s light and life
  • I don’t want stupid, angry, bitter, foul or evil architects working on my life-house
  • I want my architects to be friends, family and strangers
  • I only want to bring good, clean, lovely, bright things into my house, where I’ll keep them and regularly appreciate them and use them
  • I want to be a respected house in the neighbourhood, but a friendly and open one where neighbours feel welcome and can come and go regularly
  • I want to be sure I’m leaving behind a clean, beautiful, interesting house when I leave/die/move on

Which architects – which people and influences – are you allowing to build your life? 🙂

Nikon or Canon? Edward or Jacob?

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I’ve been researching which camera to get for my first DSLR, and like everyone I’ve had to face the Nikon vs Canon question. After a while it occurred to me that it’s not unlike the whole Twilight Team Edward vs Team Jacob battle… 😛

Nikon

Edward

Edward

Nikon, of course, is the Edward of the two camera giants, since both:

– have been around for about 100 years (Nikon originally founded in 1917)

– are beautiful to look at (Nikon DSLRs are offered in some lovely colours)

– are competitive by nature (Nikon is always at the cutting edge of technology)

– sparkle in the sunlight (Nikon is known for its excellent glass (quality lenses))

 

On the other side of the fence is Canon, which is like Jacob because they both:

Canon

– are relatively young (Canon began around the 1930s)

– are ‘as easy as breathing’ to be around (Canon always scores highest in ease of use)

– are kind and supportive (Canon is the most user-friendly, family-friendly option)

– don’t come at such a high price (Canon’s offerings are kinder on the budget)

Jacob

Jacob

As with both of the Twilight heroes, both of the camera manufacturers pack a punch and have compelling reasons for being chosen. It’s taken weeks of research for me to make a choice between the two.

Of course I know that these aren’t the only two brands of excellent DSLR equipment out there… but unfortunately in SA we have limited access to certain brands: manufacturers such as Olympus and Pentax hardly have any presence in my country. Because of this, I had to narrow it down to the two ‘big guns’ so that I can buy into a DSLR system that I can readily find in South Africa.

So which did I choose? Well, I know I’ve said before that in terms of Twilight I’m a wolfy Jacob fan… but if you’ve watched Twilight then you know who gets chosen in the end.

That’s right. Edward :mrgreen:

If I owned a menagerie…

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If I had a large property and all the money and time in the world, I’d want to own a menagerie of interesting animals. Here are a few of them, and my reasons for choosing them (all pics courtesy of Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise stated)…

Maine Coon Cat

I know we’re not supposed to marry people hoping to change them, but if there’s one thing I would change about my husband, it’s his allergy to cats. I think he’d want to change it too, since he adores all animals and would love nothing more than to be able to play with cute kittens without sneezing and wheezing! And if we were able to have a cat, there’s only one breed I’d want:

Maine Coon

Maine Coons would be in my menagerie because I love their wild look combined with a loving nature. These beautiful long-haired felines come in an array of colours and can weigh as much as 11 kg! I’m also hooked on grey-coloured animals, so I’d want a silver Maine Coon such as this one. Just gorgeous!

Silver Maine Coon

 German Shepherd Dog

This may not be an unusual choice, but GSDs are my favourite dog breed of all time, so they’d definitely have a place in my menagerie. I admire them for their intelligence, loyalty and beauty. It’s no surprise they’re one of the most popular breeds in the canine kingdom – although sadly that can be a problem when unscrupulous backyard breeders flood the market with poor specimens 😡

German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog

Although I support animal shelters and would definitely also want to adopt one or more shelter dogs, if I owned my dream menagerie I’d probably prefer to source my GSD from a registered breeder and raise it from puppyhood to bring out the very best in my favourite breed 🙂

Shire horse

Hah! Bet you didn’t see this one coming!

Shire horse

These huuuuuuge gentle giants would have a place on my funny farm because of their impressive size and endurance. Who needs a stinky old tractor when you can get things done the old-school way with an enormous Clydesdale or similar workhorse? I love their giant feathery feet and slow-and-steady plodding manner.

Of course, this beastie wouldn’t be much fun for outrides, so I’d want to own a dapple grey horse for riding, too.

Dapple grey horse

Dapple grey horse

Ferret

Aww, ferrets. They’re like a cross between a cat and a pet rat! They also come in a variety of coat colours, although I’d go for the greyest ones I could find. I’ve heard they make clever and adorable pets for involved owners… so they’d be on my list too.

Ferret

Ferret

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Bunnies! I’ve always wanted to own bunnies! Especially tiny floppy-eared bunnies, such as mini lop rabbits:

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Apparently these little creatures are friendly and enjoy interacting with their human family. As I love all small animals and all grey animals, a tiny grey lop rabbit (or two… or six… or ten…) would make an ideal addition to my zoo 😀

Go-away birds

The go-away bird, formerly called the grey lourie, is a common resident in our gardens here in SA. Ninja and I call them the clowns of the sky because they’re always congregating in garrulous groups and getting up to the silliest antics. You can bet that the entire flock of louries will attempt to sit together on the thinnest, floppiest branch at the top of a tree! Their funny ‘ke-waaaaay’ cry gives them their name, as it sounds as if they’re chasing you away.

Go-away birds © Zest

Go-away birds © Zest

They’re very vocal and expressive, with long fluffy crests that they can raise or lower to show their mood. They cackle and call to each other and comment on anything odd that they see. (I’ll never forget when my landlord’s garden wall fell down one day: a bunch of go-away birds perched in the tree next to the wall and were calling out perplexed ‘kwehhh?‘ sounds as they hopped around peering sideways at the broken wall!) A family of these birds would provide great entertainment to all on my property.

Ratties

Of course there would be ratties – as many of them as I could responsibly care for. Nuff said 🙂

Ratties © Zest

Ratties © Zest

White-necked raven

Another large, cheeky addition to my menagerie would be the white-necked raven. This is one of Ninja’s and my favourite birds… bigger than your average crow, intelligent, inquisitive and equipped with a sharp, powerful beak. There’s no doubt this feathered friend would end up wrecking lots of things around my property!

White-necked raven © Zest

White-necked raven © Zest

Alaskan Malamute

I love wolves, but I am strongly opposed to people breeding and owning wolves and wolf hybrids. So the closest I could get in my little zoo would be the beautiful, demanding Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute

Bigger and more independent than Siberian Huskies, Malamutes are not for faint-hearted owners. This breed needs to be understood and properly cared for in order for it to live a fulfilled life with humans. These beauties are powerful, strong-willed working dogs that need to be given a job in order to make the best use of their energy and drive. I’d definitely give them a key role in my menagerie.

…oOo…

That’s just a small sample of the kinds of animals I’d love to own. Don’t ask me how I’d get them to all live together in harmony… but a girl can dream 😉

Marble and mud

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Life © Sunshine Scrapbook

Life © Sunshine Scrapbook

It’s been a busy season for me lately; I’ve missed updating my sunny cyber-scrapbook :mrgreen:

Some of the things that have kept me occupied of late include:

  • finishing off a freelance proofread for a client
  • tinting my hair a sunnier shade of blonde
  • visiting friends and family
  • researching which DSLR camera to buy (when I’m eventually in the market for one)
  • watching Lost with Ninja
  • mapping out a route so I can start training for my first 5km run (eek!)
  • baking (but no new recipes and thus nothing blogworthy)
  • and the usual general housework.

All these and other everyday aspects of living fill up my ordinary days.

As the quote above says, there’s good and bad, marble and mud, beauty and boredom. Maybe only in time will I be able to look back and see the marble of who I am shining through the mud of what I have to get through each day.

Not all the small things matter, but sometimes they add up over the years… until you find that what you’ve spent your days doing has become part of who you are.

So as best as you are able, live to make it count! 🙂