Category Archives: Marriage

Valentine’s cake and stargazing

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Valentine’s Day sped by in a blur this year. Remember last year’s fanfare? Well, this year was quieter but still fun, and I used the celebration to work on two more of my goals: #22 (bake another cake) and #30 (visit a planetarium).

We went to the Johannesburg Planetarium for their Valentine’s Day show. It was really funny being in a crowd of about 150 couples! The show was cute, and one could opt to screen a personal message in the stars. This is what I wrote for my man:

Ninja

You are strong, handsome, godly, funny, loving and an incredible husband. No matter what happens in life, always look up!

With love, respect and stars in my eyes,

Zest

All together now: “Awwww!” 🙂

As I mentioned, I also managed to bake the fourth of five cakes on my 22nd goal: a fresh raspberry cake. The recipe for this treat (and all the credit!) for the cake can be found here: http://bakingbites.com/2013/06/fresh-raspberry-cake/. (The only thing I changed was using 1 t lemon juice instead of 1 t lemon zest.) Here are my pics to whet your appetite:

Fresh raspberry cake

Fresh raspberry cake

The batter only fills part of the tin

The batter only fills part of the tin

Then you dot in the raspberries

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

And bake till it's lovely golden colour

And bake till it’s lovely golden colour

I can’t imagine this cake with any berries other than these tart red delights, but of course you could try other berries if you wanted to. Next time I make this I might experiment with using less sugar, as a whole cup seemed like a huge portion, but otherwise this was fantastic and gobbled up by all those I shared it with. (FYI: I did notice that it’s probably best eaten fresh, as the longer you keep it the softer the berries will become.)

Thank you, Baking Bites, for sharing this recipe with us! The sweetest side of baking is in the sharing 🙂

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Goal #12

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As you know, I’m not one for posting pics of myself on this blog, but today it’s worth making an exception. I finally achieved Goal #12 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days: dye my hair black 😀 I’d been planning to do it as a surprise for Ninja – call it a belated anniversary gift.

Here are two self-portraits I tried to take…

Before: light brown-blonde with a middle parting

Don’t you find it’s tough to get the right expression when taking pics with the camera’s self-timer? You have to set up the shot and then dash to get into position before the 10 seconds are up 😛

After: Blue-black with a fringe

After: Blue-black with a fringe

I was very excited to finally go for this goal. I’m not the type of woman who dyes her hair often. I don’t want to mess up my hair completely, and coloured hair requires a lot of upkeep. The salon introduced me to what they call a ‘soft’ hair colour treatment; it’s basically a semi-permanent hair colour and does less damage to the hair than a permanent hair dye would. We shall see how long it lasts…

I went for a blue-black colour (more clearly visible in direct light) and a short fringe to freshen up my look. I didn’t want to lose too much of the length of my hair, since I’m still working on Goal #11: Grow my hair to my waist. But at the same time I grew tired of waiting for ‘the right time’ to give myself a mini-makeover.

I find that’s a persistent problem in many areas of my life: I’m always waiting for ‘the perfect time’ to do something. I’m always saving my ‘best’ things for use on ‘special’ occasions – instead of enjoying to the full what I have right now, or making an ordinary day special, or achieving the goals that lie within my reach. Gotta work on that 😉

So, was Ninja surprised?

As he came up the stairs he looked up and saw me on the landing.

He stopped short, took two steps backwards, and held his hand to his heart.

‘I’m sorry ma’am,’ he said, ‘I think I’ve come home to the wrong house!’

lol :mrgreen:

Five years of marriage

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Hello all, sorry I’ve been so quiet lately… there’s been a stack of stuff going on, much of which I’ve been longing to blog about, but there just never seems to be enough time. ANYway, I’m sure life’s exactly the same for you too 🙂

Anni 1

The other day Ninja and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. As clichéd as it may seem, I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed since my wedding day 😯

We celebrated the occasion with a fancy romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant recommended to us by a friend. (Another goal worked on: Goal #70, visit 5 new restaurants. This was the third so far.) What a gorgeous dining experience! The restaurant is Café del Sol in Olivedale, Johannesburg, and here’s what we enjoyed for our three courses of the meal…

Anni 2

My starter

To start the evening I ordered the Italian Primavera Rolls – rice pastry rolls filled with real imported Parma Ham, rocket and smoked mozzarella, then deep fried & served with a creamy white wine sauce. They were oh! just incredible! :mrgreen:

Ninja's starter

Ninja’s starter

Ninja chose the tasty Avocado al-Ritz, which involved pan-fried queen prawns dressed in homemade basil pesto mayonnaise, served with avocado, rosa tomatoes and a zesty Parmesan and rocket salad. (I must apologise that some of the pics aren’t that clear; it’s a bit tight trying to focus with a 50mm prime lens on a crop-sensor camera when I’m stuck at the table and can’t ‘zoom with my feet’! And I didn’t spend too much time taking pics because we were so eager to start eating.)

My main dish

My main dish

I was tempted by just about everything on the menu, but since our friend had specifically suggested we try the risottos, I obeyed. I ordered the Porcini Mushroom Risotto, which is a warm creamy mix of earthy Porcini mushrooms, green peas and a drizzle of truffle oil. I was not disappointed at all, but I’d forgotten how filling a risotto can be! Next time I would definitely ask for a half portion.

My man's main meal

My man’s main meal

Now, I ain’t no steak-chompin’ cowgirl, but whoah! Ninja’s main course was fantastic! He didn’t take long to choose the Lamb Rack (which Café del Sol rightfully claims is one of their bestsellers) – 400g of French trimmed lamb rack served on Porcini mushroom and pea risotto with a deep & delicious red wine jus. That meat just melted in our mouths (Ninja was benevolent enough to let me taste a bite).

And then came the best part…

My dreamy dessert

My dreamy dessert

…the sweet treats! To round off the delicious evening, I picked the Amaretto Semi Freddo: creamy and cool, this homemade delight is drowned in the Italian liqueur Amaretto & garnished with crunchy Amaretti Biscotti. Say it with me: ‘Ahhhhh…!’ It was so good that when I took my first bite I had to hold up a hand to stop Ninja in the middle of his sentence, just so I could close my eyes and enjoy the exotic flavours. Yeah, I literally did that. Poor man 😉

Ninja's 'dessert'

Ninja’s ‘dessert’

You’d be right if you thought that looked like a starter. It’s the Haloumi Stack that my funny hubby ordered for ‘dessert’. (You see? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that Ninja doesn’t do dessert. He wouldn’t know a sweet tooth if it bit him in broad daylight!) Still, what mattered was that he was just as happy with his meal’s ending as I was with mine…

Ninja & Zest ~ 5 years

Ninja + Zest ~ married 5 years!

…and that we’re both even happier together now than we were when we started this journey five years ago 🙂

Soldier boy poses

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As promised, here are pics of some of our toy soldier’s poses over the years. I think they show the playful spirit that’s always been part of this marriage 🙂

This one of him peeking into the microwave was set up by a hungry Ninja:

"What's for dinner?"

“What’s for dinner?”

This is one of my favourites, a funny way for Ninja to let me know that he was too tired to tackle dishes that day!

"Argh, so many dishes!"

“Argh, so many dishes!”

This pic was a cheeky way for Ninja to ask for more fruit juice (at a time when I was trying to ration our supplies):

"Juice please!"

“Juice please!”

Here the soldier is scratching his head, trying to figure out where to store my bandana (he’d been helping Ninja to pack away the laundry, of course).

"Where does this go?"

“Where does this go?”

In this pic he’s reading a card I’d tied to a friend’s wedding gift:

"Don't mind me prying..."

“Don’t mind me prying…”

Nap time! Clearly the end of a long day for our soldier boy.

"Zzz..."

“Zzz…”

The soldier shows off Ninja’s handiwork in fixing up my broken umbrella.

"There, I fixed it."

“There, I fixed it.”

How kind of our soldier to help us set up our first rat cage…

"Need a hand here?"

“Need a hand here?”

… and afterwards he sat swinging in the ratty chew toy 🙂

"Job's done."

“Job’s done.”

This one was funny: at our busiest times when Ninja got home before me, he’d leave me a small fruit juice or some other treat on my desk to welcome me home. But on this day, the soldier drank my juice!

*slurp*

*slurp*

And in the height of summer when Ninja got boiled alive from commuting in full bike gear, our soldier made sure a cool glass of juice was waiting for Ninja.

"It's sweltering hot today."

“It’s sweltering hot today.”

That’s just a handful of the pictures. Ninja and I have had such fun with this guy over the years. Our soldier has also lugged Christmas stockings, held love notes, welcomed guests, hidden objects and invaded cupboards. Who knows what he’ll get up to next? 😉

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?

The Cold War

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Bleh. It seems that to mark the change of season, I’ve been ambushed by Sore Throat and The Sniffles.

Time to bring out the big guns!

Warriors in my Cold War

That’s my army of herbal infection fighters and immune boosters. If invading germs are able to get past my first defence of healthy eating and balanced living, I always turn to these natural medics first; my goal being to recover before I have to wave the white flag and retreat to the doctor’s rooms…

My task force includes the following commanders and their soldiers:

  • General Bio-Strath with his team of 61 nutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids
  • Lieutenant General Sinus Tea with sage, thyme, yarrow herb and marshmallow root
  • Major General Berry Elixir+ with prunus spinosa extract, vitamin C, rooibos tea extract and lemon
  • Brigadier General Olive Leaf Extract
  • Colonel Echinacea Extract
  • Lietenant Colonel ViralChoice Effervescent Supplement with vitamins, minerals and echinacea
  • Major Tonsil+ Tissue Salts with atropa belladonna, merc sol, calc phos, echinacea ang, ferrum phos, hepar sulph, kali mur and kali bichromium
  • Captain Combin Assist Tissue Salts with calc fluor, calc sulph, ferrum phos, kali mur, kali sulph, mag phos and nat mur
  • First Lieutenant VirAway Lozenges with honey and homeopathic herbal helpers
  • Second Lieutenant Fresh Lemon, serving in the form of lemon tea with honey
  • And finally, a whole band of fresh-fruit fighters, represented here by Chief Warrant Officer Blueberry

Yes, I am taking all those vits in their various forms and doses. At the same time. All aided and abetted by rest, simple meals, sunlight, fresh air and more rest.

Sore Throat and Sniffles won’t know what hit ’em 😀

Chaaaaaaaarrrrrrge!

Marriage lessons on a motorcyle

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Don’t fall off your chair.

You’re about to see the first pic of me ever posted to this blog 😛

Yes, that's me!

Yes, that’s me!

That’s me, all trussed up and ready to go for a motorcycle ride with Ninja. And don’t worry, I know I look about 12 years old next to that bike, but I didn’t do the riding. I was safely straddling the pillion seat, clinging to my husband like a baby koala to its mother’s back.

I managed to work on three of my 101 things in 1001 days goals yesterday. For Goal #10, I went on the first of ten motorbike rides with my man; for Goal #70, I ate at the first of five new restaurants; and for Goal #42 I ate the third of five new things I’ve never tried before.

The bike ride was both thrilling and threatening.

It’s not that I’m afraid of bikes; in fact, I was raised by biker parents (not that they were Harley-riding, leather-tassle-toting Hell’s Angels or anything). Both my parents enjoyed biking before they even met each other, and they had real bikes, not those awful showy cruisers that sound more like tractors. When I was old enough, my dad took me for rides too. So motorcycles were part of my childhood.

I used to think that my dad was the only man I’d ever trust to give me lifts on a motorbike. But then Ninja learnt to ride during our dating years, and my world of safe bikers is now population: 2. I really enjoy going for rides with my husband, since he’s a sensible and safe rider and he communicates clearly to me what’s expected of me as his pillion.

So yesterday’s bike ride wasn’t threatening because of him. It was all the other hooligans on the road!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The bad parts of the trip only came at the end. The first leg of the journey was lovely.

My really girly helmet

My really girly helmet

We decided to travel towards Hartebeespoort Dam, a very famous chilling spot on weekends and public holidays (such as yesterday, which was SA’s Human Rights Day). The main road leading there takes you through open areas of grassland, hills and trees. It feels like you’re leaving the city behind you for good.

Biking offers a special thrill and a freedom that even the fastest car will never supply. There’s that element of risk that’s just so different from taking a trip with four wheels. I love flying over the roads with the wind rushing around us; I love the little flip of fear that my tummy does when we lean around the corners. I enjoy sitting high up and being able to see past the traffic, and it’s always fun waving at bug-eyed little children in the backseats of cars.

Anyway, to get to the eateries you have to circle around the dam, riding on a bridge that only allows traffic through from one side at a time. I managed to take a pic of the entrance to the bridge because we’d had to pull over, since poor Ninja got a speck of something or other stuck in his eye.

The ‘Victory Arch’ at Hartebeespoort Dam

The inscription across the top of the archway says ‘Sine aqua arida ac misera agri cultura’ on this side, and ‘Dedi in deserto aquas flumina in invio’ on the other side (which I unfortunately couldn’t capture on camera). Apparently the inscriptions mean something like ‘Without water agriculture is arid and miserable’ and part of Isaiah 43:20 in Latin. (Hmm. I’d even go so far as to say that without water, agriculture is impossible. But maybe that’s just me.)

Sine aqua arida ac misera agri cultura

If the arch looks old, it’s because it is – the dam was started towards the end of the First World War, and only completed shortly before the Second World War began. Since then, Harties (as it’s affectionately known) has become a top leisure spot. These days there are loads of fancy homes settled along the shores of the dam, and there’s lots to do in the area, from hot-air balloon rides to a small zoo.

But there is one problem with the dam: it’s always been full of algae, water plants and weeds. And sometimes (like yesterday) it can really pong! Yuck :/ Bikers get the full impact of nasty smells; at least the car drivers can roll up their windows! Eventually we found a great little Italian restaurant ristorante opposite the zoo, where the fresh air was free of foul smells. Here’s a pic of the signboard and view:

Catalino's restaurant

Catalino’s restaurant

And then, since I was in the mood for achieving goals, I ordered something I’ve never tried before: curry on a pizza!

Chicken curry on pizza

Chicken curry on pizza

It was unusual and surprisingly yummy 🙂

On the way back, we managed to skip the long queue for the bridge. That really is one of the best things about motorbikes. Car drivers hate it when bikers are pushy, but Ninja rode very politely and safely, so people let him into the front of the queue. Since he commutes with a bike daily, he knows how to show good manners on the roads.

After we’d left the bridge and dam area behind us, the less pleasant side of the ride began. My back was starting to ache because of the backpack I carried, so there was that. But worst of all were some of the rude car drivers who toyed with us as we simply made our way home. Wherever possible Ninja got out of the way so that faster cars and bikes could pass us. But one car driver in particular started driving up our tailpipe and hooting at us to move aside even though there was no space to do so. Such arrogance just boils my blood! And as we got nearer the suburbs, there were several cars that just started pulling out of driveways in front of us as if we didn’t exist.

It was hair raising. On a bike one feels so exposed; accidents that would merely be fender benders in a car, on a bike would result in broken bones or worse. By the time we got home we were rather shaken up. When my nerves are on edge like that, nothing calms me like something sweet 😉 So we had some cherry jelly as we discussed the day’s events…

Cherry jelly, a great nerve tonic

The trip gave me a new appreciation for the kind of dangers that my man faces on the bike each day. It also made me think about the ways in which going for a bike ride together is similar to being married:

1. You need to be fit for it. You use so many muscles and so much concentration to be a good rider or pillion passenger; it doesn’t happen without practice. In marriage you also need to work at a strong relationship; no one is naturally the perfect spouse.

2. There has to be a leader and a follower. Biking wouldn’t work if we both tried to take control and steer things our way, and neither does marriage. In God’s good design, he gave husbands and wives different but complementary roles.

3. You need to move as one. When Ninja leans into a corner, I have to trust him and copy his movements so that the bike stays balanced. In the same way, in marriage we need to make decisions together and move forward as one.

4. You need to look out for each other. Ninja warns me when to hold on tight or stand up for bumps in the road, and sometimes I help him by pointing out danger or directions. In our marriage we take care of each other in the same way.

5. You have to have a goal. A bike ride to nowhere is no fun, just as a marriage with no shared dreams and destinations lacks meaning.

6. You need to trust God for your journey. I never leave on a bike ride without praying for our safety, and in the same way marriages are protected when couples lift up their lives to the Lord.

7. There’s only space for two. Three people can’t fit on a motorbike, just as three’s a crowd in any marriage.

8. You need to know your limitations. Each bike is different, and each rider has different skill sets. Acting like you’re on a superbike when it’s really just a scooter will cause endless problems. And in marriage, comparing your unique circumstances to other couples around you will always leave you dissatisfied.

9. Hold on tight. Since we can’t talk to each other, we communicate with touches and squeezes during a bike ride. Which is not a bad idea for marriage, either 😉

10. It’s supposed to be fun! In bike riding as in marriage, make the most of every adventure and every opportunity to be together. You’re meant to enjoy the ride!