Archives for the month of: December, 2014

The words chilling out and holiday are synonymous, unless you have four princes. Going away on a sea side holiday with the Princes this week has been full of melting, double scoop, mint and vanilla ice creams, car fights (why can’t they sit and keep their hands and feet to themselves?), sitting on a hot, sandy beach watching anxiously so that a life saver doesn’t have to repeat his Iron Man run and swim to save Prince No. 3 from being swept away by a rip current (why doesn’t he listen when I tell him ‘Don’t go too deep’?).

On such holidays I used to get ratty and cross. I just wanted to read, write and in general be left alone so I wouldn’t get sand in my hair, and every crevice of my body that no amount of showering would remove. This attitude obviously worked for no one. So I changed. I (consciously) relaxed and found some solutions that helped me cope better with the fact that family holidays don’t necessarily mean relaxing.

Morning Me Time
I have an arrangement with my husband where each of us take turns to take time out early in the morning for ourselves and do what we want to do, whilst the other holds the fort. On my morning I wake up early and do yoga or go for a run, or (when I’m just plain lazy) go for a coffee. It’s enough to refresh me for the kiddie day ahead, so that I join in and have fun, without feeling that I don’t have my own time.

Be A Kid
A part of me has had to accept that holidays with the Princes, is a family holiday, a time to relax in a kid way, doing fun activities that take me back to my childhood. I know this seems obvious, but it took me a while to reach the stage of acknowledging my inner child and bringing her out to play with the Princes. This week I’ve done a lot of that. We’ve been rock climbing at the beach rock pools looking for fish with our nets. We’ve been for a million ice creams on our bikes. We went strawberry picking and horse riding for the first time (I was terrified). Challenging myself to do new things with them has expanded all our horizons. And in the evenings when I’m back to my grumpy, grownup self at least we all know that we’ve had a fabulous fun filled day.

Quiet Time
Sometimes I tell the Princes that it’s quiet time (a good friend once gave me this holiday idea). It’s a time for reading, building lego, anything quiet. It doesn’t always work, especially with the younger ones. But the concept is important on holiday. We don’t always have to be busy, busy, busy. It’s okay to be quiet and just relax. And the ultimate cheat is to put a DVD on. That’s at least one hour of guaranteed peace and quiet.

Get a Babysitter
Where ever I travel in the world I hire local babysitters. My nights are a sacred opportunity to hit the town with my husband, or even on my own. (Not that we do anything more exciting than go to a coffee shop or restaurant – sorry to disappoint.) This is so important for our marriage and it gives us our own adult time to connect. Leaving us rejuvenated to be happy loving parents.

Forgive and Move On
There will always be blow ups and bang ups on holiday. We spend an unusually long time together as a family on holiday and the cracks in relationships appear. I see my family dynamics clearer on holiday. Sometimes we get into tremendous fights over stupid things like what DVD to rent. Forgiving myself for the silly arguments and my mistakes helps me move on. These arguments highlight what I need to build in my relationships with the Princes. Our relationship deficits are often lost in ‘the next thing to do of our weekly, rigid school schedule. With our free holiday time I resolve to play more monopoly, spend time looking at their village empires on Clash of Clans, and summoning the energy for that one more bike ride to the shops for Salt and Vinegar chips.

Holidays are a family investment. They’re the golden years when our children are young and not at camp and still want to be with us. I’m trying to remember this. To hold on to the moments and enjoy the connecting time. I’ve finally learnt that that’s what family holidays are for. So I now embrace school holidays and just relax into it (most of the time).

The Best Wheat Free Almond & Orange Cake

This is the most moist, delicious, orangey cake recipe that I found in a magazine. I’ve made it to great acclaim, and the biggest secret is to serve it with fresh cream! (Without the cream it’s dairy free which is also great.)

2 Oranges
6 Eggs Seperated
250g Sugar
250g Ground Almonds
5ml Baking Powder
Orange Zest to garnish
Icing Sugar, to garnish
Whipped Cream or Mascarpone to garnish

Cook the oranges in boiling water for about 1 hour and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190 C and prepare a springform pan with baking paper.
Remove the pips from the oranges, place in a food processor and liquidise the oranges, skins and all. Set aside. (I forgot to take the pips out and it still worked. Although I wouldn’t do it again.)
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the almonds, baking powder and liquidised oranges and mix well.
Beat the egg whites to form soft peaks and then fold into the batter. Pour, then spread evenly into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 20 minutes on the top shelf then remove to a lower shelf if the cake starts to brown on top (I sometimes cover with foil if I feel the cake may burn). The baking time will be about 40 minutes to 1 hour in total.
Sprinkle the baked cake with orange zest and icing sugar and serve with chilled whipped cream or Mascarpone on the side.

It’s that manic time of year, at least in the Southern hemisphere. School is over for the year (finally). There are new books to be ordered, teachers presents, staff gifts, cookies to be bought for gift hampers, scheduling parties for the Princes to go to (I’ve already dropped one Prince at the wrong party venue). All the mindless jobs that remind me why I’m not a PA or secretary (I would be fired on the first day). The unpacking of school bags, wiping down the grimy cheese and tomato sandwiches that have made friends with fluffy green mold. At this time of year my organisational skills are stretched to their finest, hysterical ends. Before I collapse into a heap of overwhelmed, dramatic tears, I have to stop, get away from my never ending to do list that grows longer every time I look at my cell phone, and have a cappuccino.

Mulling dreamily about my year over a flat white (it’s not as frothy as a cappuccino, and I’ve found my perfect one at Naked Coffee in Melrose Arch) is much more my vibe. What have I done this year? It’s flown by faster than the loom band craze. I’ve run from grocery shops to the kitchen, to bits of writing, to lots of coffee shops all year. Despite all this ‘busyness’ it’s hard for me to pin point what I’ve actually done. I haven’t had a nine to five job where I’ve achieved anything. Hence the mind talk whirrs into being like a top class Nespresso machine. The truth is out – I’ve done nothing, besides a lot of school lifts and a lot of nappy changes (bless my little Prince’s fast metabolism).

Then I think to myself, even with a nine to five job, there’s no guarantee that I’d have something tangible to show for it. Maybe a few deals, a good monthly pay check, but what more? These thoughts remind me that life is about process. Whilst our society often values product and achievement, the real joy and beauty in life is in the process. When I forget this I’m undermining my very life as a mother, a human being, a soul as a spiritual being having a physical experience. Of course producing tangible results is brilliant, but just like raising a child is in the every day loving acts and detailed care, so is our own lives. At the end of the day when we die it’s the small every day joys, those that build our relationships and inner peace that we are proud of. They are our legacy.

So now that I’ve thought that through I’m feeling much better. And I can go through my simple, favourite things this year, which have brought me much joy and have made me so grateful for my year.

Cappuccinos – As superficial as this sounds, there’s a deeper meaning to sitting for a cappuccino. A lovely hot cup means I STOP and relax for five minutes. With a friend the cappuccino experience is perfected. There is no greater joy than having a delightful cappuccino and connecting to a good friend. Tea of course works just as well. Coffee shops are also the best place to work. You don’t have to worry about never ending house jobs that surround you at home (like no electricity – thank you Eskom), and someone serves you for a change.

Yoga – There’s nothing like a powerful yoga class to shift my mind and get me into my body and feeling vibrantly alive. My favourite yoga studio is Nadine Hurwitz’s Yoga Lova in Illovo. Her classes are intense and nurturing at the same time. (Just what every woman needs.) There’s nothing as joyful as being able to lift up into a handstand. It should be on every one’s bucket list.

Writing – Everyone needs a vocation, a hobby, something that makes their heart sing and time stand still. For me it’s writing. I feel so grateful for every article I’ve written and blog post I’ve published.

Cooking – This year has been a big gastronomic year of dinner parties, casual weekend get togethers with friends. The best meals being when I’ve been bored of my normal repertoire and have taken out a new recipe and made it, despite my mother in law saying, ‘Never make new dishes when you have guests.’ We all bore with the zany sometimes gross, politely interesting results and we gutzed on the couple of sensational recipes that I conjured up. (Ottolenghi’s garlic tart is one such dish. You can google the recipe. It’s well worth making.) Meanwhile for all my cuisine talk I’m toying with the theory that it’s not the food you have but the friends you have gathered around you that matter. I’m still working up the courage to try my theory with tuna on crackers as the main course. Next year’s resolution! Can you imagine how much more often we’d all get together if it all it required was olives and cheese. (Unless of course you’re my cousin who has people for gourmet meals all the time producing them as effortlessly as a glass of lemon water.)

Last but not leastFamily
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Ending the year in loving relationship is the biggest achievement of all. A year with your loved ones has its ups and downs. The investment of reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my Princes, sitting and playing Battleship or cards with them (when I really don’t feel like it), making pancakes for a Sunday morning treat, asking them the highs and lows of their day, or just fetching them from school with a loving smile, is all very special. I take it for granted, but it’s what makes up my year. I’m not going to speak about the heart wrenching squabbles, the tearful breakdowns, or the Princes running amok in a mud battle. When I look back at my year I somehow see the good things only – just like on Facebook.

I guess focusing on joy builds joy. Scheduling in the good times in our crazy busy schedules; like date nights, family pizza games nights (which I need to do more often), family picnics, all build relationship and makes up our year. Looking back I want to do more of that in the coming year. These glorious summer days are a good place to start.

The older I get the more I realise that the simple things are what matter and bring us happiness. They’re easy and don’t cost much. Life in a coffee cup is beautiful, and shared with others it’s very worth while.