Day 153 2 June – upside down

Last year November we had friends of ours (from South Africa) visit us out of the blue. I can’t explain what a surprise and treat it was! We haven’t seen any of our friends since we left in 2008.

At the time they were here for a “look see”. Our friend had a few interviews lined up over their 10 day stay and they also had a short tour of the north island as they made their way through to each interview. We were blessed to have them visit us one of the evenings they were in Auckland. I made a traditional bobotie and we visited into the late hours of the night.

Fast forward 7 months and our friend secured a job and has come over to settle until his wife and children joins him in 2 months time. We invited him over for dinner tonight because being a man on his own living in a Motel for the first few weeks, who knows what he is eating?!

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Good company calls for good cake and this upside down pineapple cake played right into our delightful stomach.

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Day 133 13 May – fettuccine

Tonight we have one of my daughter’s oldest and dearest friends over. They met as eager 6 year olds wanting to learn more of a sport they both grew to love, rhythmic gymnastics. They both joined the same club, started out in the recreational group, and moved their way up. We moved away from our small town and gymnastics club at the end of December 2012, where we joined our current club in Auckland. Her friend, who still stays in the same town, made the move to join our club (1 1/2 hours drive away) almost 2 years ago. This is why I encourage sport with both my children. Great memories are created with amazing and often life long friends. You learn to get along during difficult and hard times. You celebrate each other’s successes and provide a shoulder to cry on when injuries hinder your performance.

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My daughter is a keen cook and currently has food technology presented as a subject. Tonight, with the help of her gym buddy, they created this lovely dish! A little bit of everything else, mixed up and served with love.

Mamma mia.

Day 125 5 May – companionship

I have a previous post on our lovable pet Bella. She is a hand-raised cockatiel but acts just like one of the humans occupying the house.

We have had some really cold autumn evenings the past week so we moved her into our room at night where it is warm and cosy. During the day she is on her own in a huge cage in the dining room, with no one to talk to or listen to her so it is no wonder that the minute we walk into the house she starts calling. She doesn’t really like other birds as such as she is petrified by anything that flies by the window but she does react when she ‘hears’ them particularly other cockatiels.

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Today my daughter played Bella some YouTube clips of male cockatiels singing and/or calling and she responded. We can’t tell whether her response is from interest or distress but she replies the same way when she hears my husband.

Now all my son wants is to get a boy cockatiel so that they can have babies…oh dear!

Day 117 27 April – dessert cups

My daughter’s best friend’s parents happen to be good friends of ours. Two weeks ago she received news that her brother passed away. He was suffering from an infection which had left him in a vegetative state for over a year. She travelled back to her home town in Thailand soon after which left her husband to look after my daughter’s friend and her younger sister.

To give him a helping hand we invited them over for dinner tonight because from what I heard his speciality has been mince on rice 🙂 I prepared a vegetarian lasagne with chicken nibbles and fresh ciabatta bread to soak up the sauciness. The lasagne took a whole lot longer to prepare than the 1/2 hour I gave myself. The vegetable  sauce took the longest to boil down and thicken. But in all honesty, it was well worth it! All 4 children gobbled it down with my son (not a trusty veggie eater) exclaimed afterwards, “It wasn’t good, it was delicious”.

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For dessert I turned a traditional South African peppermint crisp tart into a dessert cup. A peppermint crisp tart is made from a South African chocolate called Peppermint Crisp which is roughly grated and then folded into a cream and caramel mixture. We use a coconut based biscuit called Tennis biscuits to form the biscuit base. You start off with a layer of biscuits, followed by the cream mixture. Repeat the layers until you have the required height/size you want. Top the tart or dessert cup off with left-over pieces of peppermint crisp chocolate. It needs to set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. The dessert cups were reasonably large and after a filling dinner it was a bit overkill, so I would suggest serving these in small jars.

Peppermint Crisp dessert cups (serves 6)

500ml cream

1 tin Caramel Treat

3 Peppermint Crisp bars, roughly grated

1 1/2 packets of Tennis biscuits, crushed

6 small mason jars

Whisk cream until thickened. Add the Caramel Treat and gently whisk until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Add the grated peppermint crisp (but leave some for the garnish) to the mixture and fold in until well combined. Layer the mason jars, starting with the crushed biscuits and followed by the cream mixture. Repeat until the jars are filled to the top. Garnish with left-over peppermint crisp. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Enjoy!

 

 

Day 101 11 April – pen pal

 

 

My daughter started writing to a pen pal this year. At first I thought we should look at pen pal groups online, but knowing what a slightly disillusioned world we live in I mentioned to her that perhaps she should write to someone we both know of but haven’t had any contact with in 9 years.

One of my best friends in South Africa has a daughter a year younger than her. My daughter was only 3 1/2 when we left South Africa and although her and my friend’s daughter use to spend a lot of time together she doesn’t remember her. My daughter was very excited about the idea of writing to someone else so far away. I told her what a lovely feeling it is receiving mail the ‘old fashioned’ way. Knowing that someone took the time to carefully put their words together on paper, add a photo or two, pay for postage. It is something an email or instant message can’t replace.

This off course brought back the memories of my own pen pal writing days. I remember that I found my pen pal on the pages in one of these vibrant teen magazines. During my early teens mobile phones (if you were lucky to have one) were the size of bricks and you could only make or receive phone calls. Yes we had computers but again that was a luxury not all families had and as a family we never used emails until I was much older. So writing letters and  make landline phone calls was still the best and most efficient way to communicate.

The pen pal I choose to write to was a young teenager who farmed with his family. Writing to only a name at the time, not knowing anything about the person who might (or might not) write back was pretty exciting. I was very fortunate that he respond and several weeks later I received a letter back. I can’t remember where he was from as I have since lost all the letters, but he was a year or so older than me, lived some distance away and even though he attended school, he spend most of his days on the farm. He was really lovely to write to and it always remained platonic. Thinking about it now, I not only wrote to a complete stranger but also provided them our address of residence which in hind sight was probably neglectful, but my parents didn’t see any danger to it as back then we were reasonably sheltered from wrong doings. No one thought of the ‘what could happen if’ scenarios. We felt safe.

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Today my daughter received her pen pal letter! I will treasure her facial expression when she opened the mail box and retrieved from it a letter marked with foreign stamps and beautifully neat hand writing. She opened her letter and read it out load. There were two photos accompanying the letter which she had since pinned to her board in her room. While she read the letter she would laugh at funny bits her newly found friend wrote, or exclaimed ‘I didn’t know that’ as she explains in her letter how far away they live from the beach, or how big her school is.

These are the type of memories I want to instill in my children.

Let the journey begin.

Day 83 24 March – gratitude

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Today I received a card from my friend who left New Zealand a short while ago to finish her travels before she heads home. It was such a lovely surprise and it made me feel such gratitude towards our friendship.

I was reminded again, through this small gesture, of how important it is to be surrounded by people who add value to your life, who will walk an extra mile with you and who still thinks of you even though you are apart. I am truly grateful to have met some amazing people throughout my 36 years on earth. But I have also learned that unfortunately not everyone has good intentions. We need to cut ties with those who munipulates, distracts, adds negativity and do not have our best interests at heart. It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do and I had often kept ‘friends’ around out of guilt and not wanting to hurt their feelings or be portrayed as the bad one.

I remember how I had a huge friendship group while in primary school. Honestly, we could have formed our own gang. I was never bullied, never exchanged bad words to anyone or felt that I didn’t get along with any of the children in my year group. After primary school the majority of us moved to the same highschool while others went to a technology focused highschool. It was interesting seeing how these friendships from primary school soon withered as we formed new friendships. All of my newly formed friends were students from other primary schools. I still had contact with the boys who attended the technology school and we got together on a regular basis, whether it was to go to the movies, each others birthday parties or to the drive-in.

I went to university a year after highschool and attended one of its local campuses. All of my friends had since moved on from highschool, most going to universities in the larger cities and others started working. A small handful travelled overseas and had since settled in places such as the UK, Italy, Brazil. My university friends had become my family. We have been through so much together: engagements, weddings, stork teas, our children’s births, birthdays. And today it’s them who I treasure.

I think with age comes a sense a responsibility towards yourself.

 

Day 77 18 March – fundraising

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My son and I attended a fundraising event for our club’s current junior international MAG (mens artistic gymnastics) gymnast. He is in the 360 squad, a group of young and very talented gymnasts who aim to qualify for future Olympic selections. He is travelling to Berlin for an International competition and afterwards spending time in the UK for a training camp. This is an incredible opportunity for any athlete and with an excessive cost involved, any amount of money raised is very welcomed. The night consisted of light entertainment in the form of parents vs gymnasts, MAG and WAG displays, raffle auctions and a 2 course meal.

Our son is a level 3 gymnast and has been doing gymnastics since the age of 5. He isn’t the best and some apparatus are challenging for a small body with little upper body strength but he absolutely loves it. He struggles to stay focused during training and is easily distracted by others around him but I don’t think I should expect more from a 10 year old. He has been in the same team since 2014 and they are a strong team to compete against. Their ages vary from 8 – 13 and last year was their most successful year yet.

Watching him compete certainly takes me back to my gymnastics years. I was an artistic gymnast from the age of 9 and stopped when I was 17. Our gymnastics club didn’t have many boy gymnasts and it was only on limited occasions that we trained with them which means the majority of our training sessions were girls only. We formed some very strong bonds and I don’t recall ever being in arguments or disagreements with any of the girls. We supported each other, cheered during competitions, hugged, cried and bandaged each other when our blisters tore. We were a close knit group and shared a special connection that other students in the school didn’t understand. I remember clearly how we got together one night during a school dance, ran to the rugby field, formed a circle, held hands and wished each other good luck for the upcoming Vaal Triangle Championships, which was the qualifying decider for team selection for the South African Junior Gymnastics Championships.

Now I know boys are wired differently to girls, but I would hope that my son has the same opportunity to form inseparable bonds with his team mates. Those are the relationships that help you grow, mature and shapes how you interact with others in stressful situations, especially when they are competing in an individual sport and there’s only 3 podium spots to fill.

Here’s to good memories, and memories in the making.