Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Heritage Day

Heritage day in South Africa is celebrated on 24 September each year.  The original day was in celebration of a long-ago battle between the Boers and the Zulus, but in a democratic country, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.
I spent the day quietly at home with Ruby - I did Bible Study and art journaling for most of the day.  In the late afternoon, I lit the braai fire and grilled some wors and lamb chops, which I had with naan bread and salad.  And an ice cold beer shandy (beer and lemonade).  I had the leftovers for lunch the next day.  It was a good day.

This 50-year old makes a kick-ass fire! 

I braaied, she slept

Monday, September 28, 2015

Best Lemon Tart. Ever

I love the blog by Carol over at Tall Tales from Kansas.  I have made several of her recipes in the past and they have always been very yummy. 
But this tart....this is the best lemon tart.  Ever!  I made it last Saturday morning for the scrapbooking girls.  If you have a food processor and the handful of ingredients ready to go, it's easy peasy. 
We ate it hot as it came out of the oven, we had a slice later in the day which was at room temperature, and I've had a slice of the leftover tart out of the fridge - it's all so so good.  If you love lemons like I do, this tart has the right balance of lemony tartness and sweetness on a crunchy base.  Carol calls it Lemon Bars; I call it Lemon Tart.  Never mind what's in a name - it is totally delicious!  Here is the looks a bit long and complicated but it's very easy, I promise.

Whole Lemon Bars

Makes 16 2-inch lemon bars
For the crust
• 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
• ½ cup (65 grams) sugar
• ¼ teaspoon table salt
• ½ cup (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

For the filling
• 1 small-to-medium-sized lemon (about 4½ ounces or 130 grams, or about 3 inches long)
• 1½ cups (265 grams) sugar
• ½ cup (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
• ¼ teaspoon table salt
1. Place a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 12- inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8- inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

2. Make the crust. Blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.

3. Make your filling. Cut your lemon in half, and here's where I need us all to be, briefly, quite fussy.

Is the white part of the skin especially thick?
If the widest part of the white is ¼ inch thick or less, continue on to the next step; your lemon is good to go. If any part of it is thicker than ¼ inch, however, I find it safest to remove the skin from half the lemon or the bitterness of the pith can overwhelm the bars. To remove the skin, place half the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, and remove the skin and pith from the entire half in downward cuts and discard it. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is.

4. Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds Рlemon flesh and peel Рin the bowl of your food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly pur̩ed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.

5. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. In my oven, I find that the point at which the filling is set is also when the lemon bars start to get very light brown on top.

6. Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment "sling" to transfer bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

Cooking Notes: Most recipes for whole lemon desserts recommend Meyer lemons. I actually prefer these with regular old grocery store lemons; with some modifications (described above) should their skins be extra thick, I find that they have the perfect balance of tart and fragrance. Nevertheless, to make these bars with Meyer lemons, use just one (of similar size and weight) and reduce the sugar to 1 cup (200 grams). You can double the recipe and bake it in a 9-by-13- inch pan as well.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cat in a box

I get it - cats love boxes.  But they look awful.  A year ago, I tossed out Ruby's beloved box and gave her  a shiny clean plastic crate.  She hated it.  She took all of her toys out of the crate and refused to sit in the crate.  Ever.
Last week I relented and took a good old cardboard box home for princess of my heart.  Ruby is in absolute heaven and just sits in there for hours, looking smug and happy.  Then she knocks it over and hides and plays in it...

Silly monkey.  Love you Ruby!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Scrapbooking retreat

Regular visitors to my blog will know that the Scrap Addicts group scrapbooks together every month, and every quarter we have a sleepover scrapathon.  This past weekend we had our Spring Scrapathon at my home...and it was freeeeezing cold!  The perfect weather for being indoors and scrapbooking.
I bought water bottles and some sweeties as gifts for each lady

Lynn designed this gorgeous page for us 

this is Leonie's page (she's so good with putting patterned paper together)
and this is the page that I designed 

This is my mommy's scrapbooking spot and her chair
so that means that it's mine...I sit here

We went to Lara Hanna's scrapbooking shop (which is based in Colourful Corner Nursery) to collect some layouts, and then had a delicious lunch at Primi at Lifestyle Garden Center

I made mini quiches and fruit smoothies for breakfast on Sunday 

It was such a lovely weekend.  So blessed to have these ladies in my life!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Early Christmas Shopping

5 good reasons to start your Christmas shopping early (start now):
  1. you have the next 3 months' salary (September to November) to buy gifts for your loved ones, and you then still have your December salary to spend on things other than gifts
  2. if you start now, you have time to really think about meaningful gifts for family and friends instead of doing last minute panic-shopping when you often end up buying expensive crap
  3. you can take your time and look around and find gifts that will really be suitable for people; remember to also look at what's available online and perhaps visit some of the upcoming Christmas markets
  4. you won't have to be in the shopping malls with the other crazies in early December
  5. you will definitely be less stressed and frazzled about Christmas - less stress about a lack of time and limited budget and the endless 'to do' list
I'm starting slowly, I've made my list, and there are now a few things in my Christmas gift box.  I'm thinking about giving 'experiences' to some of my nearest and dearest...something like a coffee date or spa date or picnic where I get to spend time with them. 
One of my birthday gifts in January was a day out to go birding with my friend Bridget - she packed the picnic basket, fetched me early in the morning and we had a wonderful day out at a nature reserve.  I had such a great time, so I'm thinking about this type of gift for some of my family and friends for Christmas - less stuff and more time together.  I'll see where this idea goes but I like it...

Take your time, make your list, look around at what's available and then buy a few gifts each month.  You'll be done before you know it.  It's ok if you think I'm crazy; I'll wave at you as you rush by me in the malls in a frazzled state while I gently sip my cappuccino.  Just saying...

PS : if we're organized, we can focus on what Christmas is really about - celebrating the birth of Christ.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Around here

SUMMER SANDALS : I've given away some previously-loved sandals and bought a few new pairs of sandals for summer.  My foot is not yet totally healed after surgery so I've had to be conservative in the styles that I'll be wearing for the next season.  I love the Froggie brand of shoes which are made in South Africa

UNCLUTTERING : I'm slowly cleaning out my wardrobe of clothes that I don't love.  This must be one of the top 10 ugliest dresses in the world.  I had it hand made for my 50th birthday party at a ridiculous price (don't ask).  I loved the pattern fabric, but can't believe that I ended up with this ugly dress.  In future, if I need a dress for a special occasion, I'll rather buy a ready-made dress and have it altered if needed

NOODLES : so happy that I've finally found a brand of whole-wheat noodles that doesn't taste like cardboard

HYDRATE : these 2 bottles stand on my desk and I work hard at emptying them each day before I leave the office - a total of 1,5 liters of pure water.  Fortunately, I really like drinking water

BREAKFAST : I still love a smoothie for breakfast over the weekends - raw almonds, yogurt, protein powder, wheat bran and whatever fruit is in the fruit bowl all mixed up with water.....delicious! 

READING : I adore the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.  I plan on ordering the DVD boxed set starring Jill Scott

SPRING GARDEN : spring has definitely arrived in my garden.  I'm still pulling out plants which need to be retired and putting in new plants, but the spring colours are gorgeous

Princess Ruby helps me in the garden

this is 'Salvia hotlips' -  I call it the happy plant
because it makes me smile every time I look at it

this is the plain red Salvia 


I have 2 rainwater tanks in my garden, and forgot to use much of the water during winter.  So it's the 'bucket system' of garden watering for a while to empty the tanks before the spring rains arrive