Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Waiting Place

If you've ever read Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, you'll be quite familiar with the waiting place.

...for people just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

Well, that pretty much sums up where I'm at currently. We have some pretty big decisions to make about our little family's future, and until we know whether Plan A is going to pan out, we can't exactly kick off Plan B. And sometimes this makes me feel like I can't breathe properly, but mostly I'm okay with it. When I start feeling like this, I try and focus on all the great now things in our life. And I try not to dwell too much on the things make me feel frozen in place, because honestly, life's too short. As am I, for that matter.

So. This post is a celebration of now moments, even if now is limbo and limbo seems like it is lasting forever.

On Saturday, Rob had to work. Being at a bit of a loose end, I decided to make the most of the opportunity for an uninterrupted day of mom-daughter time. Girls to girls, as my friend's 4-year old daughter puts it.

I'd stocked up on supplies during the week, because I'm doing a purge and renew of all old, broken pencils, crayons, toys, and general kid-related junk. It was a beautiful day, so we hauled ourselves and our supplies into the garden for some folding. Drawing. Colouring. Painting.

Nothing like a bit of colouring or painting to soothe the soul. Knitting squares is also fabulous for this, by the way. And as for that horse? Paint by number, folks. 'Cos I can't paint anything that doesn't come with step-by-step instructions.

We mixed colours to make new colours. Red and blue = purple. Sheer wonder and delight when she saw the colours change.

Remember these? This game has been taken up a notch since I was a child. Origami paper, patterns, and activity stickers. We had a blast, and probably looked quite strange pretending we were teapots. And horse-riding around the garden. Also jumping around like Spiderman.

Not for the faint-hearted, this version.

And when we were done with the arty part of the day, we headed out for a long walk. An hour-long walk, to be exact. We had to stop for puddle-jumping, smelling every flower on the side of the road and collecting leaves and flower wings. Which is what she calls petals. 

Lunch, and a nap. Curled up in her bed, with her feet tucked under my legs and her hand clutching mine.

Girls to girls.

Maybe I'll sign up for that writing course I've been meaning to do for ages. Conquer those cookbooks. Watch a ballet. Go on a picnic. Explore Jozi's inner city on a bicycle. Plan a weekend away. Read.

One thing I've ticked off my list at last is a family photo shoot. All real, all us. I've seen a sneak peek of the pics, and I couldn't be more thrilled. They're amazing. Watch this space.

In the meantime - we'll be living it up in Limbo.

Monday, 24 June 2013

How do you like them apples

This is a cautionary tale. A step-by-step instruction guide on how not to make chocolate apples for the nursery school bake sale. Sensitive viewers be advised.

Friday the 14th of June was Bake Sale day at Immy's school. Which is different from Baker's Friday, because three classes host the bake sale, with moms (hopefully) supplying something appealing and interesting for the kids to eat. I wracked my brains and came up with toffee apples. Too hard. Caramel apples? Too sticky. And so I settled on chocolate apples, because I was kind of hung up on the whole apple idea.

Things started off so well. We had all the supplies at hand. Rosy red apples, slabs of milk chocolate and a secret knowledge that we were going to win the bake sale hands down.

We broke up the chocolate, washed and scrubbed the apples and pushed in the ice-cream sticks. And here begins the very long list of things not to do when making chocolate apples.

Don't use milk chocolate. Apparently everyone in the world except me knows that baking chocolate is your friend. Don't attempt to use kebab sticks because they will look ridiculous and also potentially inflict injuries on the person putting them in. Ice-cream sticks should be used from the get-go. Don't use apples that aren't at least 90% round. Obvious, much?

My first vague feeling of unease hit when I looked at the apples after we'd put in the ice-cream sticks. Why did so many of them look like they wanted to lie down? Not the way I'd envisioned my perfect apples with their perfect, standing-to-attention sticks.

We forged ahead. I burned about 6 slabs of chocolate in one go in the microwave, and then conceded that yes - I would definitely have to melt the chocolate over a pot of boiling water. The thing with melted milk chocolate is that it's kinda thick. And therefore kinda tricky to dip an apple into. Instead, we had kind of a scoop and swirl motion going. Scoop melted chocolate into a large wooden spoon. Swirl the apple through the chocolate until mostly covered. Repeat.

They looked like this.

By now, the alarm bells were jangling. Frantic phone-call to Rob ensued. He was just about to leave work, and he HAD to find me baking chocolate. I was going to re-dip them, and they would be fabulous. Glossy and smooth.

So many things went wrong after this conversation, that I just can't go into it here. In a nutshell, and through a comedy of errors, I ended up with no baking chocolate and 4 MORE SLABS of milk chocolate. Which I needed like a hole in the head.

It turned into a salvage operation. I put a chocolate cap on, threw on some sprinkles and made what I thought would be tiny flags for the sticks. Which ended up looking like tiny duck beaks instead.

See why round apples are kind of important? I mean, what's happening with that one at the back, left row??

The best thing about these apples were the flowers that I got from Oulik. Handmade and hand-delivered in the midst of my chocolate apples crisis.

My flagship chocolate apple. The best one of the batch.

In the end, my chocolate apples looked like a flock of poo's on a stick, with sprinkles. Which, incidentally, was what I was going to call this post, but my mother asked me very nicely not to.

The teacher told me they sold like hot cakes.

I suspect she was just being kind.

New York: Part 3 and Final

Our last few days in New York were a blur of sight-seeing, shopping, eating and trying to cram in as many city memories as we could. We hadn't yet done 9/11. Or the financial district (yawn). Or the Brooklyn Bridge. Or the High Line. Most important of all, we still hadn't been to the Converse shop where I was determined to buy Immy a pair of bright pink All Stars. 2 days left, and counting.

In summary.

We went to the 9/11 memorial. I cried. Cried again in the museum. 11 pregnant women lost their lives that day. Just ordinary people - wives, moms, daughters, sisters. The memorial is devastating. And beautiful. Serene. Hopeful.

And that Survivor Tree is about the most beautiful tree I ever did see. Chains and all.

Our wonderful Brooklyn Bridge photos were taken by Rob, because when we went the first time that sunny Friday afternoon, there was someone contemplating leaping off it. So, the bridge was closed - because that's New York for you. He went back later while I hit the shops. For shame.

Late Friday afternoon, we were joined by our American friend, Chris. Chris and Rob met a hundred years ago at a kibbutz in Israel, and have seen each other a grand total of once in about 13 years since then. They remain great friends. Chris took a long flight from Texas to join us for a brief overnight visit in New York. Whiskey bars and ale houses, long conversations about profound and not-so-profound things, and sunset on The High Line. I just love - love - this photo of the two of them.

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight. Maybe because we've just finished watching all 6 seasons of Sex and the City re-runs...just so we could look at each other and say 'we were there!' Our trip feels like a lifetime ago, so this really is goodbye. To New York, to our friend Chris (because who knows when we'll see him again) and to feeling for a week that we belonged in what must be the most vibrant city in the world.

Goodbye NY. Until we meet again.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

That's my Funday

Weekends. They have this misleading way of starting off slowly, all filled with lazy promise (Friday). By the time Saturday afternoon rolls around, and you've run the errands, or caught up on some DIY or just spent the whole morning cleaning the Friday-night aftermath, the weekend is just galloping past. Sneeze once, and it's time for bed on a Sunday night.

A couple of weekends ago, I had a brainwave to really turn Sunday into a day of rest. Actually, this decision was brought on by two very important external factors. First - the pork sausages I had defrosted the night before for dinner, which we ended up not using.

And second: my determination to conquer my secret shame.

Nigella. Jenny. Jamie. Jeremy. Rachel. The good ol' Cook and Enjoy aunties. The list goes on.

Cook books. I have a thing for them. They always feature on a birthday or Christmas wishlist, and I am always thrilled to get one. My shame is this: that over years, I have cooked about five recipes in total - collectively - from this entire shelf of books. I always end up looking for recipes on the Internet. Or getting them from friends. Or my mom. Anywhere, except my treasure trove of wonderful cook books.

Ahem. Back to Sunday. I decided that since it was another beautiful day of unseasonably warm weather, we would celebrate by having brunch outside in the garden. Under our beautiful tree. With fruit and coffee and fresh-baked muffins out of one my books. Because my new resolution is this: to cook at least one thing at least once a month out of at least one of these books.Very achievable, which is just the way I like my resolutions to be.

Muffins baked, table laid, scene set for our go slow Sunday.

And after fruit and muffins, before eggs and sausages: a bit of exercise. Swinging, sliding, soccer (her version anyway. Where you throw and catch the ball.) The birds sang, the sky sparkled and the tree threw it's winter sticks and tiny leaves gleefully all over our table.

This tree. It makes the biggest mess in winter. Sticks, and leaves and tree junk all over the grass. But we love it. Countless picnics, parties, sprinkler jumps, painting sessions and play dates have taken place in it's welcoming shade. It's our very favourite thing about this house.

When the food was eaten, and we were all played out - we curled up and slept. For three hours. The entire family.

Because it's not called go slow for nothing.

Happy Funday.