Tag Archives: Homemade

101 goals for the next 1001 days

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Note: In case you missed my previous posts relating to this new list of goals, you might like to first stop by here, here and here 🙂 Goals 1 through 47 are adapted from my previous list, and goals 48 through 101 are the most recent additions. Where I’ve been working on an old goal but haven’t quite finished it yet, you’ll see the weird numbers reflect where I’m at today as I begin the new list (applies to goals 6, 9, 12, 16, 23, 26, 27, 30, 33, 34, 36, 40 and 47).

Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts…

Wood pennyfarthing

101 things in 1001 days

From 21 March 2014 to 16 December 2016

1. Read through the Bible in a year

2. Knit a couch throw with natural yarn

3. Get to my goal weight and/or goal size and maintain

4. Finish our wedding scrapbook

5. Go on 3 hikes

6. Go on 2 motorcycle rides

7. Work through Love Dare again

8. Get a pretty girly camera bag

9. Paint 4 artworks on canvas

10. Assemble an emergency kit

11. Visit a cave

12. Make a list of 48 things I’m grateful for

13. Complete a 1 000+ piece puzzle

14. Go on a rollercoaster

15. Find a personally inspirational quote and work it into a piece of art or home decor

16. Read 73 books and keep a list of them

17. Make a custom recipe book

18. Visit 5 different museums and/or monuments

19. Have a sleepover party

20. Go for a bicycle ride

21. Take 101 (poster-worthy) photos of my new pet rats

22. Grow a plant from a seed

23. Invite 5 different friends/couples over for a visit

24. Try 5 new cocktails

25. Write a letter to my favourite author

26. Apply henna 3 different times

27. Get 7 more hat badges

28. Navigate a maze

29. Use up a sheet of temporary tattoos

30. Write a list of 25 things I’ve already achieved in this lifetime

31. Leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find

32. Take part in a colour run

33. Eat at 2 new restaurants

34. Take 10 photos of 10 different birds

35. Go to Gold Reef City

36. Celebrate 3 obscure holidays

37. Make a time capsule

38. Visit a bird of prey centre

39. Revisit our wedding venue

40. Watch 6 movies I’ve never seen starting with K, N, Q, U, X and Y

41. Read Pilgrim’s Progress in the old English

42. Revamp my lingerie collection

43. Enjoy another spa day with my best friend

44. Photograph 10 old buildings in South Africa

45. Play the lotto with numbers from a fortune cookie

46. Put away R10 for each completed task

47. Write 4 letters to 4 people who changed my life

48. Buy 5 music CDs for my collection

49. Throw a housewarming party

50. Plan my 30th birthday party

51. Buy 3 more legit Bollywood movies

52. Complete a one-month photo challenge

53. Celebrate our 10-year dating anni in a special way

54. Get a good pocket/handbag camera

55. Interact with a raptor

56. Make a classic ‘Sunday roast’ meal

57. Get 5 new movies for my collection

58. Ride in a hot air balloon

59. Donate blood

60. Do 5 random acts of kindness

61. Find 5 inspiring new blogs to follow

62. Investigate becoming an organ donor

63. Plant a tree

64. Plant a vegetable garden

65. Go to the Lion Park

66. Host a Christmas gathering

67. Go to a theatre show

68. Visit an animal sanctuary

69. Go berry picking at Just Darling farm

70. Visit Lindfield Victorian House

71. See a movie at Rosebank’s Ster Kinekor Cinema Prestige

72. Have a ‘pretty boudoir’ photoshoot for Ninja

73. Hire an old car and go for a drive

74. Celebrate Raksha Bandhan in some way

75. Do a SCAD dive

76. Try 5 different natural foods from Organic Emporium

77. Get new running shoes

78. Get glasses frames that suit me better

79. Make or buy 2 decor items for the bathroom

80. Make or buy 2 decor items for the bedroom

81. Make or buy 2 decor items for the lounge

82. Make or buy 2 decor items for the kitchen

83. Get more potted plants

84. Upgrade our medical aid plan

85. Hire or buy another camera lens

86. Pay off our building loan

87. Make my own vanilla extract

88. Visit an organic/farmers’ market

89. Get a new set of bed linen

90. Make my own air freshener

91. Make my own potpourri sachets

92. Make my own jelly sweets

93. Make 5 new desserts

94. Create a photo album of all our pets

95. Cook homemade soup in winter

96. Define my own smart fashion style

97. Define my own casual fashion style

98. Buy 3 completely new smart outfits

99. Buy 3 completely new casual outfits

100. Revamp my jewellery collection

101. Take at least one mini-break away with Ninja

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Resisting temptation

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Temptation

Six days left of the 21-day sugar detox, and I’m quite proud of my progress. I’ve managed to avoid sweet and carby temptations for over two weeks now – though it’s not so easy when they get handed to me on a platter!

The cute vanilla and white-chocolate cupcake pictured above is from a work colleague’s birthday tea. My friend and I who are doing the 21DSD each took a cupcake… not to eat but to freeze at home, in readiness for this coming Sunday when the detox ends.

Shew. I haven’t been so close to sugar in weeks. I held it close and inhaled the sweet creamy scent…

But since I’m so close to the end I didn’t want to spoil my good streak. So I snapped a pic and hastily stashed away the cupcake in the freezer.

A marvel of self-control.

:mrgreen:

Seriously though, this detox hasn’t been as hardcore as I expected it to be. In fact, once it’s over I think there are quite a few lessons I can take away and principles I want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

For example, I’ve discovered that I really don’t need sweetener in my tea. With the possible exception of some rather earthy herbal infusions, most of my teas are palatable enough without honey.

I’ve also realised that although carbs do have a place in my normal diet, I can happily reduce the amounts I eat and still feel full. So I can enjoy a warm bowl of oats on a winter’s morning – but it doesn’t have to be a big bowl, or every morning, or sweetened overly much.

I’ve learnt that there are many other fine flavours to be enjoyed other than just ‘level-10 sickly sweet’! So I’ve started looking at sweet treats with new eyes now. I feel drawn to flavourful, healthier, freshly baked, homemade treats rather than store-bought ones packed full of unnecessary extras.

I’ve been surprised at my resistance to my old cravings. I think the beauty of the 21-day sugar detox is that by telling your brain that ‘it’s just a detox, not a diet’, somehow your body relaxes and doesn’t feel so deprived anymore 🙂

On the downside, though, I would be happy not to see meat for the next month. Cutting out carbs has made me increase my protein portions, which isn’t so appealing to someone who was never much of a carnivore in the first place. Hmmm… methinks that once this detox is done, I should give that month of vegetarianism another shot…

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 😉

Love feasts and other disasters

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Uh oh. Tonight is a special bring-and-share ‘love feast’ gathering at our church. Normally I enjoy this kind of thing. But since yours truly has been working hard on a proofreading job  obsessively researching DSLR cameras  generally somewhat distracted of late, my dinner-and-dessert contribution towards tonight’s meal is currently… still under construction.

I know that the idea of a love feast or ‘agape feast’ probably sounds a bit strange to those out of the loop with church jargon. But it’s just a shared meal to celebrate as a church family something important – in this case, Easter: the time we rememember Christ’s sinless life, His sacrificial death and (praise God) His victorious resurrection. The love feasts are meant to be done in the same spirit as of those old first-century saints who gathered together regularly to share meals and worship the Lord.

So, something worth putting in effort for, right?

Except that I haven’t.

And now I’m in a flap to get things ready. And when I’m in a flap, I tend to do unsaintly things.

Such as freeze my jelly pudding to try to rush the setting process. And then forget the jelly in the freezer, only to take out a bowl of raspberry icicles an hour later. Which I then proceed to whisk into wobbly pink foam, believing that the other guests will prefer a childish pink mousse over frozen icy jelly.

Disaster-recovery on raspberry jelly

Disaster-recovery on raspberry jelly

OK, so that’s my dessert half done, and back in the fridge to set. I plan to tastefully cover that delightful pink mush with a thick layer of irresistable homemade custard. Hopefully the brethren won’t think twice when I say that my dessert is “just plain ol’ jelly and custard”.

Er… yum?

Of course it’s just typical that I think about what to make for dessert first.

Now for the meal. We’re supposed to bring enough to feed ourselves and share the rest, but it’s not clear how many will be seated at our table to dip their spoons in our dishes. On the one hand, I don’t want to seem miserly by arriving with too small a portion. But on the other hand I can’t afford to create a lavish supersize dish to feed the 5 000!

So I’ve decided to make an enormous potato salad with special extras such as cheese, tinned tuna and toasted sunflower seeds. I know it’s not exactly a balanced meal, but at least it’s vegetarian 😉 And if it’s not quite what the church leaders had in mind, here’s hoping the spirit of forgiveness will pervade our love feast this evening…

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.

~Proverbs 15:17 ~

Jokes aside, though, my biggest concern in all this is that I’ll get so worked up about making a meaningful contribution to the dinner, that I’ll miss the point of the celebration altogether. Just as we so easily get carried away at Christmastime, believing it’s more important to bake fruit pies and prepare roasts than it is to focus on the reason for Christ’s birth.

And Easter is an especially precious time for Christians because if Christ had never died or risen again, our hope for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins would be void. So this is not the time to become distracted with superficial tasks. If we do nothing else this weekend, may we pause to consider the Saviour. The only God who reached down to man instead of expecting man to reach up to Him. May we remember why He came to earth. May we learn from His life, be humbled by His death, and be thankful for His resurrection.

Bless you all this Easter!

Zest

Vintage housewife in a pickle

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The vintage housewife’s schedule was no doubt much fuller than mine. Back in the day, people used to make a lot of food themselves, rather than just grabbing a bottle, can, box or packet from the shelves. Since the start of my foray into housewifedom I’ve been meaning to attempt to replace some of our store-bought favourites with homemade versions of my own. First up: pickled beetroot.

I found this recipe online; it seemed easy and came highly recommended (don’t you just love the internet?). I bought some trays of baby beetroot on special, so I had about 16 small beetroot instead of the 4 large ones that the recipe calls for. I managed to make one-and-a-half jars with that, and the pickling liquid was just enough.

Once the beetroot was cooked, I had great fun rubbing off the skins. The recipe says you can use a knife, but I’ve always enjoyed playing with my food 😉 In the process, I managed to get bright pink juice on just about everything, from my counter and splashback to the floor, my arms and my clothes. My hands looked delightful afterwards too:

In the pink

In the pink

Luckily a bit of soapy water and lemon juice took care of the beetroot juice with ease (though to be a true vintage housewife, I suppose I should have used vinegar and bicarb – the miracle cleaner of the ’50s).

I sterilised the jars by rinsing them with vinegar and then using very hot water to wash them out. Here’s my sliced beetroot ready to be pickled. The pattern of those growth rings is so pretty, isn’t it?

Beetroot

Beetroot

And here’s the final product. Sorry for the amateurish blurry shot; I was in a hurry last night.

Beetroot in a pickle

Beetroot in a pickle

Unfortunately it will take a few weeks for the flavour to develop, so I can’t give you a verdict on this yet. But the recipe was very easy to follow and is worth a try for that alone. I’m keen to see if this could be the start of a whole range of homemade treats.

It’s funny how we’ve raced ahead in our technological era to invent as many time-saving devices and processes as we can, only to discover that we may have lost something special along the way. I enjoy working with fresh food; if I had my own garden I’d be trying out all sorts of homegrown goodies. It’s enjoyable being involved in each part of the pickling process. The smell of the raw beetroot reminds me of that wonderful smell of wet soil after fresh rains. I like the process of cooking the rough, hard bulbs into tender pink veggies with soft skin that slips off easily. I also prefer knowing what goes into my food; no weird preservatives or unhealthy colourants and flavourings.

I’d like to do this more regularly for Ninja and I. We’re a long way away from the healthy diet I’d ultimately like us to live on, but it’s a journey of change, and I’m enjoying each step along the way.

Valentine’s mousse-and-custard trifle dessert

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If you hadn’t noticed by now, you’ll soon realise that I’m a sucker for desserts. They knock me down and tie me up every time I plan a special dinner! Although I’m not a big fan of chocolate (too much dairy and my throat reacts badly), I couldn’t pass up a chocolatey, decadent dessert to end off our special romantic dinner.

Armed with some Woolies duo white-and-dark choc mousse, Woolies mini chocolate cake slices and some homemade custard, I made this terrific trifle:

Here are all the ingredients together:

First I crumbled the mini cake slices (sans icing) into the bottom of each bowl…

Then I added 125 ml milk to each batch of the mousse powder and whipped them up…

I layered each of these with the homemade custard, to form a classic layered trifle. On top of the final mousse layer I poured custard into a heart-shaped cookie cutter (which I should have done later once the mousse was set, but oh well!).

And I finished off the decoration with silver dragees (which I should have added just before serving, because they ‘melted’ into the dessert since I made it the day before and kept it overnight in the fridge).

A little messy (read ‘authentically homemade’) but the effect was worth it! Delicious, and the perfect end to our dinner 🙂

Tempura hake nuggets, mini baked potatoes and a veggie trio

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Instead of the same ol’ chicken drumsticks I’ve made for previous dinners, for the Valentine’s dinner I chose a fish recipe instead. After much deliberation I decided on hake nuggets in crispy tempura batter. I didn’t want a thick batter such as the one usually made with egg and flour, so I used self-raising flour and soda water instead.

After browsing various websites I learnt the following basics of tempura:

  • everything, even the flour, should be well chilled before coating and frying
  • the oil must be very hot and deep enough to cover the fish
  • fish must be defrosted before use (you can do this in a bowl of water)
  • expect a mess!

Here’s my batter, made of 1 cup self-raising flour and 400 ml chilled soda water:

I first dusted the thawed fish pieces with self-raising flour. When the oil was ready, I mixed up the batter and dipped the fish into it, immediately transferring the nuggets to the sizzling oil.

I was anxious to get all the pieces in the pot while the batter was still bubbly, so I ended up with a batter-and-oil-splotched kitchen within minutes. Thankfully my dear friend was standing by to help me mop up some of the mess! Anwyay, I fried all of the pieces at once, and drained them thoroughly on absorbent paper before serving them (on kitchen paper) with the rest of the main meal:

To make the tangy mayo, I thinned lite mayo with a little milk, then added paprika, salt and dried herbs to taste. (You could easily make endless variations on this, with hotsauce and other flavours.) The tempura batter absorbed a lot of oil, so it was good that we only had a few pieces each – that way it wasn’t too rich. The mayo was a great addition because the batter had no salt in it, but I’m sure salting the fish once fried and adding a squeeze of lemon juice would be just as fantastic.

The baked potatoes were also lovely and oh-so-easy to make. Wash and dry potatoes of a similar size. Rub them all over with butter (this makes the skin crispy; if you want soft skin, rub them with oil). Then sprinkle with salt and bake at 190 °C for 1 hour, turning once after the first 30 minutes.

I chose a ‘red’ veggie trio to stick with the Valentine’s theme of red and white. I sliced up some purple carrots, dished up some pickled beetroot, and put together some cute tomato hearts. The tomato hearts were a lucky find from The Inspiration Room on Facebook. Perfect for V-Day 🙂

Hosting a Valentine’s dinner

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Ninja and I don’t usually fuss over Valentine’s. In fact, I’ve only received one V-Day gift from my man in all the years I’ve known him: to celebrate our very first Valentine’s together in our first year of dating. I was warned then not to expect a repeat performance, ever. I don’t mind so much, really, because Ninja shows me he loves me in dozens of non-clichéd, non-commercialised ways every day 🙂

But this year I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s with our closest friends, and use it as an excuse to cross off Goal #35 on my 101 things in 1001 days list. I suppose I’ve technically met Goal #35 – Host a dinner party – several times already (such as here and here), but I hadn’t cooked for four guests yet (the max our little dining table can accommodate!). So Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to spoil my friends, complete a goal, give a nod to the clichés and push my hostessing skills even further.

I’m pleased to say the evening was a great success 🙂 Take a look at the mouthwatering menu:

You might recognise the starters from the 7-course dinner I made for our anniversary last year. Once the stuffed ‘pizza mushrooms’ were served, we all gobbled them up so quickly (gobbling doesn’t really suit a fancy dinner, I know, but that’s exactly what we did) that I forgot to take a pic. Anyway, you can see the recipe and the results here if you missed it the first time.

I also forgot to take a pic of the first part of the dessert: mixed berries with white chocolate shavings. I’m sure you can imagine it for yourself, though… the berries I used were fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. If there weren’t so many other creamy items on the menu (mayo, sour cream, mousse etc), I would’ve melted the white choc and added a little cream and vanilla essence to pour over the berries instead. Yum!

I’ll post separately about the main meal and the mousse part of the dessert. As you’ll see, this wasn’t a particularly healthy dinner, but who wants skinny-this and low-fat-that on a romantic evening? Not I! 😉

Make a ninja ‘dojo’ party decoration

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The centrepiece for the table at Ninja’s ninja-themed party was the cardboard ‘dojo’ we made:

I can’t take credit for this one at all, because…

  • the tip-off for the idea came from this lovely blog
  • the template and instructions came from this helpful website
  • and the hard work of putting it together was done by my Ninja himself!

I’m sure you’ll agree the results were great. HP Activity Centre’s template is supplied in full colour, but we only have a b&w printer. Still, I think the greyscale actually worked better and made it look more suitable for an adult’s party rather than a kiddies’ one. I used small ‘love palms’ to resemble bamboo (I checked: real bamboo was ridiculously pricey!) and placed some small, smooth pebbles around the dojo to soften the effect.

Tuna and mince ‘ninja smokebomb’ recipes

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Here are two more great recipes I used for Ninja’s ninja-themed party – tuna fishcakes and mince meatballs, or ‘smokebombs’:

Smokebombs

The tuna fishcake recipe has been a family favourite since I was little. Make it as follows:

250 g potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 slice bread

1/4 C milk

1 tin tuna (or fish of your choice)

1 egg

1 onion, finely chopped (optional) – I use dried chives as an onion replacement

salt, black pepper and dried herbs to taste

1 1/2 t curry powder

flour for coating and oil for frying

 

1. Pinch the bread to bits in a large bowl. Add the milk and soak briefly.

2. Add all the other ingredients and combine.

3. Form fishcakes of the desired size. (I made mine quite small so they’d be bite-sized party snacks.)

4. Coat with flour, dusting off excess.

5. Fry in hot oil until brown, turning over as needed.

6. Drain and serve. (These are great with tomato sauce/ketchup, but I served them plain for the party.)

 

Now for the mince meatballs:

1 slice bread

1/4 C milk

1 onion, finely chopped (optional) – I use dried chives as an onion replacement

350 g beef mince

1 egg

1/2 t salt

black pepper and dried herbs to taste

 

1. Pinch the bread to bits in a large bowl. Add the milk and soak briefly.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine.

3. Form meatballs of the desired size.

4. Coat with flour, dusting off excess.

5. Fry in hot oil until brown, turning over as needed.

6. Drain and serve. (This recipe makes great meatballs for spaghetti dishes, and can be used to form hamburger patties too.)

 

Note: You could probably make both of these recipes much ‘smokier’ with hotsauce and other flavours, but since I didn’t know the taste preferences of all the guests, I played it safe with milder smokebombs.

 

To make the decorations for each fishcake and meatball, I printed on card some silhouettes of ninjas in various poses. These came from characters in the free font ‘Ninjas’, downloaded here.

I stuck a toothpick onto the back of each cut-out as shown:

And then I inserted a toothpick into each ‘smokebomb’.

Smoke 3

This served a dual purpose: the guests could easily handle the snacks, and it was a simple, sneaky way to add more interest to the decor 🙂