Stretch or Starve…

“The family that eats together… Eats together?” Or something like that.

So maybe I’m not great at finding suitable quotes for every occasion but when it comes to eating together as a family, I haven’t found the perfect quote because nothing can really adequately describe the Life that there is at our table when it’s meal time… elbows on the table, knives and forks on the wrong side, spaghetti slurped inelegantly (or heaven forbid, all cut into tiny pieces), The Little Sister talking with her mouth full and being told not to, The Other Sister messing on her shirt (without fail, seriously), days discussed, jokes made up (usually bad jokes), laughs shared, salt passed, stretching across the table, talking over each other… Wow! It makes us sound like barbarians, we’re not, I promise, but meal times in This Family are full of life. There is a strong connection between family and food in my memory… I remember there always being more than enough to go around, even when unexpected guests arrived. Back to this weekend though…

We got a rare opportunity to get away for the weekend… After weeks of not seeing The Sister as she has been lovebombing Cape Town (you can read more about that here) it was just what The Family needed. Time away, together. Bonus, it was a 4 day long weekend. Bigger bonus, it was The Mother’s birthday.

We packed the cars (a much better attempt than when we went camping) and headed out to Fish Hoek. We took a lot less than last time and did not need to fight off any deranged baboons as we were comfortably ensconced (big word for a Tuesday) in a house made of brick and mortar.

Friday night was the not-so-perfect storm. The heavens opened and a deluge of water fell to the earth in a night long flood. The occasional lightning (timed perfectly for when you were just about to fall back to sleep) lit up the house like the fourth of July (only less colourful).

The Lovebombing Sister slept through it all while the rest of The Family alternated between awake, moderately awake, sort of awake, not really awake but I am walking around, and what-the-heck-was-that awake.

Saturday morning’s arrival was heralded by Emile Sande singing, “Next To Me,” as my alarm told me to get my butt outta bed at 6:20am. You have to get up really early to beat The Mother. It was The Mother’s birthday.

Hustling The Sisters out of bed, Travel Size Sis wrote her super-beautiful message in the card while I put the kettle on. The mother was woken up with a truly awful rendition of Happy Birthday (the Von Trap family we are not!). We enjoyed birthday coffee, hot chocolate, gift unwrapping, card reading and Tim Tams in bed… Family Meal of the day number 1.

Not in any great hurry, we slowly got layered up to head out into the cold for breakfast. Fish Hoek Spur was ready and waiting for us and our awesome waitron, Florence lead us to a table with a great view of the play area much to The Rugrat’s delight. Lattes and juices were ordered followed by the bacon and egg fry up that Spur is famous for!

The Mother was treated by the staff and patrons to a sing-along of, “I don’t know but I’ve been told, Superlady’s getting old,” complete with sparklers and green tinted ice-cream (for the record, it was supposed to be green).

Around the same time, The Lovebombing Sister was carefully colouring a picture of Shrek, an accomplishment she was proud of! So ends Family Meal of the day number 2.

When the weekend stretches out before you and there’s nowhere you have to be, what do you do? In This Family, we drive. Anywhere. So we set off on a drive around the coast, at each point deciding to go just a little bit further… Delighting in glorious views of a stormy sea, mischievous baboons (not so delightful) and a visit to the spot where The Brother and The Sister in Law said, “I do,” Scarborough beach.

Eventually the slow meander took us back to our starting point where we found a hole in the wall that produced incredible fish and chips… piping hot, we stowed our bounty and rushed “home” where lupper (somewhere between lunch and supper) was devoured around the kitchen counter amidst much chatter and laughter. Hello Family Meal of the day number three…

A quick trip to Pick n Pay, a couple of cracked eggs, sliced lemons and condensed milk tins later, a lemon meringue (correctly pronounced ma-rin-goo) was baking in the oven. This was later set ablaze (flaming lemon meringue anyone?) with candles as we sang one final, awful chorus of Happy Birthday to The Amazing Mother that we have been blessed with. Candles were extinguished, meringue was cut and large slices of it were washed down with big mugs of rooibos… Cue Family Meal of the day number 4…

And just like that, the list decreased but The Family bond increased. What are meal times like in your family?


Guess Who…

A couple of weeks ago, around 18:05 on a Wednesday, the house was spotless, the dog was fed, the table was set for five, the Arrows were playing in the background and I was making a salad in the kitchen…

This was not the scene about two hours earlier with frantic vacuuming, dusting, tidying and the like. That moment in cleaning when you realise you don’t have enough time to clean the entire house and you rate each room on a scale of one to ten… One being “I’m sure they won’t come in here so I can leave it as is and just pull the door shut” and ten being “There’s no way I can keep them out of here and better clean up.”

At the same time as I almost had everything done, four people in the area received text messages with only an address. My address. All four headed out the door and on their way to me.

This exciting cloak and dagger type stuff (that included no daggers) was the order of the evening for my community. We had a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner evening. A few weeks before that we had each filled in a form stating whether we were willing to host a dinner or would like to be hosted for dinner. I figured hosting a dinner party is on the list so why not! CA coordinated the whole thing in such a way that if you were hosting you were told only how many guests to expect and if there were any food allergies. And those being hosted were told only what to take along and then an hour before dinner, were sent a text message with the address of their dinner hosts. Great idea and great fun!

The lasagne was baking in the oven and I had just pulled the salad bowl out the cupboard when the first guest arrived…

The walk from the kitchen to the front door was filled with thoughts like, “What if no one likes each other?” and “What if no one talks to each other?”

I swung open the door and there stood K. I know K. Relief. We don’t know each other very well but well enough to feel at ease. And she brought dessert… An amazing Malva pudding! Yum!

As we were chatting in the kitchen the doorbell rang a second time. It was the Paramedic. Fairly new to the community but I knew her well enough. She joined us in the kitchen.

The third ding-dong of the doorbell announced the Pharmacist’s arrival. Another one I was happy to get to know better. The salad was done and so we moved our party of four to the living room and chatted as we awaited our fifth and final dinner guest. A couple of minutes later the doorbell rang and in walked C, with a plate of incredible canapés…

Conversation started flowing as we curled up on the chairs and couches in the cozy living room and munched on canapés… Some shoes were even kicked off I recall!

The party of five moved to the dining table as the lasagne and salad appeared from the kitchen.

The paramedic broke a week-long fast with that lasagne! As we all dug in (in a restrained and delicate fashion of course!) the conversation carried on, exploring topics from work, to family, to hobbies and the like. There were many laughs over stories that highlight my paralysing fear of birds, spiders and monkeys (and most other animals) and over the Paramedic’s family member’s obsession with dehydrating foods such as cucumbers.

The warm dessert and custard was washed down with mugs of tea. A long time and a photo op later, the ladies started making their way home.

As I packed the dishwasher I reflected on the evening, God had definitely knit us closer together that night which was the goal of the evening. I would never have thought of mixing K, the Paramedic, the Pharmacist and C at a dinner in the natural just because we’re all so different, but because we’re all family in Christ, it worked. Really well!

So crossing this one off the list drew me closer to four amazing women and was loads of fun! Have you ever had some surprise guests for dinner? How did that turn out?

At First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified…

I really was… I never thought I’d survive thirty whole days without even one cup of coffee… And, I did it the Bear Grylls way… Hardcore, survivor style! I translated “Coffee free” to mean no coffee, not even decaf, no coffee flavoured items, no cappuccino muffins *insert sad face here*, not even the new coffee infused Bar One (a.k.a my kryptonite… Nescafe and Bar One? Together? How did Nestle discover my only weakness?) I was ruthless!

This morning I woke up with a new spring in my step… which was surprising after a month of Rooibos tea and a long week with some fantastic highs and gut wrenching lows, a week that was in sore need of copious amounts of coffee.

I woke up at 6:15am today, yes, on a Saturday and was out the door by 7am… without a cup of coffee… No one is more shocked than me but I figured if I’m going to break this fast I’m going to do it right. No hasty cup of instant coffee slurped down as I’m trying to remember if my jeans or my shoes go on first (although a strong coffee would have helped solve that dilemma faster). So as the busyness of the day started drawing to a close I saw my opportunity to brew the perfect cup and savour it too.

At precisely 17:14 today I filled the coffee pot, put it on the stove and took my favourite mug out of the cupboard. I took deep, greedy breaths of that incredible aroma as I waited impatiently for it to boil. Eight minutes later I sat down on the couch cradling a steaming, aromatic cuppa in my two hands… Why two hands? It felt too nonchalant to hold it by the handle, I felt the need to cherish this rare and beautiful treasure.

The end of a coffee free month

I couldn’t help myself, my eyes automatically fluttered closed as I took the first sip… I swear I felt it warm my soul! Something so good cannot be bad for you… It was teamed with a coffee infused Bar One and I was in my happy place, just like that! You could have asked me for anything in that moment, my Jamie Oliver cookbook collection, or my exercise bike, and I would have given it to you… Nah, just kidding! I would never give up my exercise bike, it’s far too useful for holding my clean washing till I pack it away.

So what, if anything, did I learn in my thirty coffee free days?

I think I basically learned two things; I can go without coffee for thirty days and I never want to go without coffee for thirty days again.

So where does this leave me on my thirty before thirty list? I am down to 27 things to go and a lot less time than I started out with! Better get cracking!

Now, what to do next? Any suggestions?

  1. Start a blog… CHECK! In case you are confused, you’re reading it…
  2. Ride on a bus, train and a taxi. I argued for this to be three separate entries, to no avail.
  3. Go to a concert
  4. Get a tattoo… A real one…
  5. Pop popcorn on the stove without a lid on the pot… Always wanted to do this!
  6. Watch a movie trilogy in one sitting
  7. Milk a cow… even as I type this I’m thinking of how I am so not farm girl material
  8. Write a message, put it in a bottle and toss it out to sea
  9. Have a photo that I’ve taken professionally framed
  10. Get my legs waxed for the first time
  11. Walk up Lion’s Head
  12. Wear a dress to work
  13. Cook a three course Jamie Oliver meal
  14. Road Trip
  15. Go coffee free for 30 days
  16. Memorise a poem
  17. Make Sushi
  18. Spend an entire day in my PJ’s
  19. Take 10 photos that I love
  20. Watch an entire season of any series in one day
  21. Host a dinner party
  22. Send someone a handwritten letter
  23. Go fishing
  24. Donate Blood (haven’t been able to donate for a while for health reasons)
  25. Go Camping
  26. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together as a family on the same day
  27. Successfully make an origami something
  28. Do at least one DIY project
  29. Volunteer somewhere for one hour
  30. Watch the sunrise with friends

Christmas in a Cup…

Within seconds of posting my 30 by 30 list I had a moment of mild panic. As I looked at the list, now forever in cyberspace, I read number fifteen again… “Go coffee free for 30 days.”

What on earth had I been thinking? One of my favourite things in the world is a great cup of coffee. I committed myself to thirty loooooong days without my good friend. I contemplated putting it off as long as possible but the thought of entering my thirties with no caffeine running through my veins sounded as appealing as watching paint dry…

So I made the mature and grown up decision to get it over with. And so, my coffee free month started on Thursday 1 March. Planning ahead for once, I squeezed in as much coffee as was reasonable on the 29th February.

I started my day with a not-bad-at-all MacDonald’s coffee at 7:10 (KFC was closed so no R5 early morning cappuccino). My next attempt was at 09:37 where I got as far as putting the coffee granules in my cup in the staffroom but realised I was late for a class and sprinted across the school, tragically leaving it sitting there, half done, next to the kettle…

My official second cup of the day was at 10:28 at first break. Choosing quality over quantity I waited for the kettle to boil rather than drink the water from the urn (staffroom coffee is a terrible thing – but that’s a horror story for another blog post). Then as I took my fourth sip, the bell rang. I was gutted as I left my good friend sitting on the counter and hurried back to my classroom.

The third cup was truly something beautiful, house of coffees special blend with steamed milk, accompanied by Cadbury’s Caramel chocolate… Cue angels singing…. That was 15:21 and I was in my happy place.

A hurried cup of Jacobs Kronung at 21:19 at Community in a giant teacup tided me over till it was almost bed time.

And then, the piece de résistance… A massive mug of coffee, smooth mild blend with frothed milk that was thick enough to scoop up with my finger… complete with Cadbury’s Top Deck to dip into it… a small slice of heaven… that truly was Christmas in a cup! Sorry Sandra Bullock but a cinnamon soy latte just doesn’t cut it!

My journey to being coffee free has taught me some life lessons, including:

1. Rooibos tea is not sexy. At all. It tastes healthy. Healthy may be good, it just doesn’t taste it.

2. Caffeine can last a while in the bloodstream… I had no withdrawals for the first 36 hours.

3. My love for coffee is a strong and altruistic one. Even though I can’t drink it, I can still appreciate the love others have for this heavenly drink.

4. Coffee keeps me healthy. A few days after I cut it from my daily routine the Flu arrived in all its glory… unrestrained, it ravaged my sinus and my rooibos tea was washed down with multivitamins, vitamin C and Myprodol.

5. Without coffee time speeds up. I know this sounds strange but hear me out… On day 6 I woke up feeling proud of myself that I had survived so long without coffee. I encouraged myself with thoughts of, “Wow! You’re halfway through this! Well done!” I got out of bed, checked the time on my cell phone and then shook my phone because that date couldn’t be right… It had felt like the 15th but was only the 6th. I groaned, fell back on the bed and pulled the covers over my head.

6. Last but not least… 30 days is a long time… A long, long, long, long, long time.

With only 9 days of this particular challenge behind me I am nowhere near crossing it off The List just yet but I am determined that I will make it!

Coffee on Saturday, 31st March anyone?