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.

Day 72 13 March – totsiens

totsiens
tɒtˈsiːns/
exclamation South African
  1. until we meet again; goodbye.

Today I hugged a dear friend farewell as she is bound to embark on her next adventurous journey. I met Dawn end-July last year when she came to work for the company I was with at the time. She had then only just arrived in New Zealand for a working holiday, after she left the UK for a year of travel. I was fascinated by her bravery for taking on such a leap and travel by herself across the world. She is a funny, witty, kind, humble, has heaps of stories to tell and I still can’t pronounce her surname 🙂

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Dawn also has several tattoos and that was one of the things we had in common. When she saw my then 2 new tattoos on my forearms we started talking about where I had mine done, the reasons for having them and also why in such a visible place. She has one tattoo that is slightly visible, on her wrist, but she wears a thick dark strap so it is usually well hidden. She was unsure about having a tattoo that everyone else can see, but I told her that comes down to personal preference and it doesn’t matter where a tattoo is situated, as long as you are happy with it. A few weeks back to showed us her latest tattoo, one that symbolizes to her, her travels here in Australasia. Not only did she see almost every corner of New Zealand, but she had been to Australia and Fiji. And off course I love the position of it!

We have had many outings and visits together, accompanied by our mutual friend Sandra. And we always end up surrounded by food and drinks. She introduced me to a delightful Irish cherry cider and in return she had traditional, fresh biltong for the first time. We laughed, a lot!

I will surely miss having her around, but after her next 3 month exploration of East Asia she is going home. And I am sure her family will be all to glad to have her back safe with them.

Happy travels Dawn and may you add more memorable travelling tattoos.

18, and still counting.

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7, the year standard you were when you entered our school and our lives.

1, the number of days it took for me to secretly fall madly in love with you.

3, the number of classes we had together: English, Biology and Registry.

2, the number of Judo Jnr World Championship titles you held.

2, the number of times we were dared by our friends to kiss each other in socially awkward moments.

0, the amount of times we actually followed through on these dares.

Too many to count, afternoons we trained together in our local gym, just as friends.

1, the number of chocolates we gambled on in support of each other’s weight loss/weight gain.

1, the number of times I won our chocolate gambled bets.

3, the number of dances we attended separately, with me wishing I was the one holding your hand.

1, the number of times we actually danced together.

18, the age you were when you decided to end your life.

4, the number of family members you left behind.

Too many to count, the number of people that attended your funeral.

12, the number of times you have haunted my dreams and filling me with a desperate hope.

18, the number of years it has been since that dreadful day.

You will stay forever 18, while we keep on counting the years without you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 43 12 February – bbb (buzzy bumble bee)

Today I spend the afternoon with my two lovely friends and previous work mates (the same vibrant ladies from my entry Gourmet Pizza) and once again they provided entertainment and a sense of acceptance. We went to the Howick Historical Village for a venture back in time during the fencible period, when the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps was posted in Howick to defend the area against possible attacks. Volunteers dress up and act out how life would have been for the settlers and soldiers. There are 33 houses or sites to visit and even though the grounds are not very big, you almost feel as if you are intruding on their land and way of living. It is a fascinating event and one I would love to take my children to.

One of the sites you can visit is the main homestead, which is a magnificent old villa with all its original interior kept in tact. When we walked into the living room I imagined the room filled with neutral floral hoop dresses, awaiting young gentlemen on the dance floor, while a musician played a popular classical piece on the piano. You are surrounded by 1800 ambience and it is bone chilling realism.

During our walk through the village, my eye caught an unfamiliar plant and flower. While I was admiring the plant, I noticed a bumble bee waste deep into the open flower covered in pollen droplets and thoroughly enjoying his sweet feed. It was too precious not to take a photo. The bee was oblivious to the giant imposter and happily carried on with his pollen collecting duties.

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After our village visit we took a drive to the marina where we ate at one of my favourite eating places called Grangers. I chose the potato skins with parmesan, porcini and truffles and accompanied with passionfruit and feijoa cider. Oh wow, this was the first time I’ve had truffles and I LOVE the smokey, woody taste. It transform a dish giving it a depth of bursting flavours, like woodland fairies dancing on your tongue. The marina is buzzing from excitable visitors, everyone enjoying good food and even better company. We ate, drank and laughed.

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But still, how cute is that tubby bumble bee!