Xhosa

South Africa has been in the news a lot recently, because of media coverage of the anti-immigrant unrest & violence. It followed reason that I would write about xenophobia. But I thought long and hard, and realised I wanted to show people the good part of South Africa, the part that tugs on the heartstrings and keeps me returning. It’s so easy to find the ugly and hateful, and I’d rather be the person that brings the ‘pretty’ to the table. My husband has wonderful memories of his life in South Africa. He sang with the Eastern Cape Children’s Choir. He got to meet Nelson Mandela (“a giant of a man”, in his words). Some of our best memories as a couple, and as a family, are set in South Africa. One of these memories is sitting down at the waterfront in Cape Town one Christmas, because our daughter was mesmerised by the choir singing on the open-air stage – “so many clicks, mama!

In honour of that memory, X today will bring you one of the eleven official languages of South Africa: Xhosa. Spoken by about 20% of the population, it is also known as the ‘click’ language, for its prominence of click consonants. Even the word Xhosa starts with a click! I just take the easy way out and pronounce it ‘Khosa’. My husband, however, is one with the clicks. He suggested the famous Click Song (Qongqothwane), sung by Miriam Makeba, to introduce new listeners to Xhosa.

Another song which showcases Xhosa is the merged national anthem of South Africa. Since 1997, the anthem is sung in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans & English, but the first segment is called Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in Xhosa. Have a listen here: National Anthem of South Africa (with lyrics & translation).

Did you read the lyrics? Did you get a little teary? I did. It breaks my heart that a country that has fought so hard to get to where it is, that is more advanced than many developed nations, should be almost back to square one with the hatred and infighting. Listen to your anthem, people. It’s your land. Make it a better one.

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Grain-Free Tahini Waffles

Adapted from the original recipe which uses cashews: Grain-Free Waffles by Danielle Walker

If you tried my Tahini Cookie recipe, or are thinking about getting a jar of tahini and wondering what to do with the rest of it, look no further! As always, my recipes are tweaked, so use your judgement on the consistency of the batter; you may need a little more flour or non-dairy milk.

PREP TIME: 12 mins / COOK TIME: 10 mins / TOTAL TIME: 22 mins

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs for almond meal, 3 eggs for coconut flour (I used medium)
  • 1/3 cup (75g) tahini
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) almond milk 
  • 3 tablespoons honey, maple or date syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour (1/5 cup) or 1 cup (115g) almond meal
  • A pinch of cinnamon & nutmeg (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. Combine the eggs, tahini, non-dairy milk, honey/alternative and melted coconut oil in a blender. Pulse & blend until the batter is smooth & creamy. 
  3. Add the salt, baking soda, and chosen flour, then pulse & blend again for about a minute until the dry ingredients are mixed in.
  4. If the waffle iron requires oil, brush on a little coconut oil (both sides). Pour the batter into the waffle iron so it just covers the bottom portion of the iron. DON’T overfill as I did; these waffles rise nicely and you’ll waste valuable eating time doing clean-up!
  5. Cook the waffles for about a minute or so, depending on your waffle iron. If they lift easily with a fork when you open the lid, they are ready!
  6. Repeat until you run out of batter. 

Serve with date syrup, honey or maple syrup.

Vapid, fifty shades of…

That’s what it should have been called. Some of you know my friend A-S passed me the book a week ago. We swap books a lot, but she did warn me this one might be a challenge. You see, I LIKE words and I LOVE books. All kinds of books. Romance novels, graphic novels, textbooks, manuals (yes, I always read them). I even love books in languages I can’t read yet. And now blogs. If I’m following you and commenting, I like your style. I like your words. Your words make me happy.

SPOILER ALERT! Scathing Review of Fifty Shades of Grey to follow…

I do NOT like EL James’ words. She has taken perfectly good words and turned them to mush. Drivel. She has scaled the heights of vapidity and won. I tried, dear reader, I tried. But gave up halfway through, because I wasn’t convinced it was going to get any better. The characters are unbelievable. The settings are odd and two-dimensional. And what *bleeps* me off the MOST is the fact that I seriously doubt she has been to the good old US of A, let alone Washington State. Her syntax and language are all off. Perhaps it’s my curse, being an expat, that I am especially sensitive to cadence, rhythm and the unique oddities that differentiate English across the globe. A doona in Australia is a comforter in America is a duvet in the UK. See? So why couldn’t she master these little details? I can’t believe she wrote two more. And there are movies! Eek. I’ll stop here because I think I’ve made my point. 

For a book to be good, it has to be real. I have to believe the characters, to love them, hate them, want to engage with them. So here are my recommendations for great alternatives to Fifty Shades: if you’re looking for a good sex scene, might I recommend Rhonda Nelson or Maya Rodale? If you want to feel intellectual about it, get Lady Chatterley’s Lover. If you want to read something truly erotic, try Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s book, Venus in Furs, first published in 1870. It was a pioneering achievement – exposing the world to female domination and SM activities and giving us, via his name, the term ‘masochism’.

And now I’m off to finish The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins, fellow blogger at ExpatPartnerSurvival.com, and one who knows what to do with words.

Tahini Cookies (gluten free)

Because I’ve had waaaaaaay too much sugar this week (I turned a year older), I’m now feeling the urge to detox a little and was experimenting in the kitchen today. The result is a mildly exotic, not-too-sweet tahini cookie, tweaked from my peanut butter cookie recipe. Tahini is a sesame seed paste, similar to peanut butter, and very popular in the Middle East, especially to make hummus. Here are instructions from The Kitchn so you can make some at home!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini (I used Meridian Organic Light)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I had to!)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (with nothing but the honey)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil or ghee, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you could also use orange essence & some zest)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 medium egg

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

Mix the oil/butter with the tahini. Add in the vanilla extract and honey. Whisk the egg gently (too hard and the cookies go stiff). Stir the egg into the tahini base.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

Add this to the tahini base and fold gently till you have a smooth dough (check my PB cookie recipe photos).

Roll into balls, flatten with a fork on a lightly greased baking tray or tray lined with baking paper.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes till the edges are golden. Cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

I might try these with some almond flour next time. And maybe some chai spices, like cardamom & cinnamon. Let me know (below) if you have any tweaks you could suggest or have tried!

Shy or Socially Phobic?

What would you say to someone who told you they hated talking on the phone? They screen every call before they answer, already irritable because the sound of the phone has made them jump. What about avoiding invitations to parties and get-togethers? Or going and then hoping to blend into the scenery, reluctant to chat or make eye-contact. Would you tell them they were just shy, to get over, get out there, meet some people? Or would you stop & consider they might be socially phobic?

It’s taken my husband 11 years to concede that I could be socially phobic. I think the millionth, “Why are you calling? Why can’t you text, for the love of all that’s holy?” finally got to him. He’s slowly comprehending how much my anxiety takes out of me, and the cost of ‘functioning as normal’. He’s your textbook good guy, a decent human being that would never want to see his loved ones in pain, but if it’s taken him long to ‘get’ this, how much do others suffer?

My social anxiety manifests itself in interesting ways. I don’t struggle with shopping, mostly because I do it online. I’ve been known to mutter frequently, “I hate people”. I have worked from home for 5 years now, because I am safe in my own space, behind my wall of screens, connected by the internet. On the rare occasions I have to do face time with clients, I psych myself up, practice everything I need to say, plan everything down to the last detail, and lay off the caffeine. But if there is any deviation from plan A, I have plans B, C & D. Is this time-consuming and exhausting? You betcha. But it’s the only way I know how to cope, and a darn sight better than the overwhelming sense of apprehension, nausea, clammy hands and gut-churning panic attacks that I used to have. What a rush, said no sufferer, EVER.

I’m the chica in the corner, on the fringe, at the edge. I’ll never be the person with my back to the door, or sitting in the middle of a restaurant. My anxiety gives me the strength to ask for a corner spot! Or it is my hyper-vigilance? I don’t discriminate in my anxiety; my husband has been on the tail end of my temper if he stands behind me for longer than 1.6 seconds. I’ve never been in active combat, so I don’t know why I am this way.

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Me watching the London Marathon last year, with a safety zone of at least 3 metres one way and a concrete plinth to stand on so no one could sneak up behind me.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists believe, as with many mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is most probably the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, the exact nature of the relationship between genetics and learned behaviour is uncertain. The parenting you experience may influence whether you will develop social anxiety disorder. If you have worried or anxious parents, it can often affect your ability to cope with anxiety during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

People with social anxiety disorder often describe their parents as:

  • overprotective
  • not affectionate enough
  • constantly criticising them and worrying they may do something wrong
  • overemphasising the importance of manners and grooming
  • exaggerating the danger of approaching strangers

Biologically, social anxiety disorder is currently thought to be related to abnormal functioning of brain circuits that regulate emotion and the “fight or flight” response centre. There is no cure for SAD. There is medication, which I don’t enjoy, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which seems to be working slowly. I’m working on identifying unrealistic beliefs & behavioural patterns. I want to de-sensitise myself to certain triggers, and question certain gut-reactions.

I want to be the person that can just say YES to adventure, to sit in the middle of a cafe and look strangers in the eye. Most of all, I want to stop planning and start living.

Wish me luck!!

Rage is my Superpower

Rage can work in a vicious cycle, destroying you & wearing you down, or you can turn its strength inwards, creating a virtuous cycle. Allow me to explain….

My rage is a supernova, an illogical, overwhelming roar of emotion that burns outwards, searing anything logical or calm in its path. Fighting and scratching from my emotional corner, I feel like I have little control over it.

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This then sucks itself inwards into a fiery ball of heat, to burn itself out gently.

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However, understanding my triggers, and turning my ‘ball of fire’ into productive energy has a two-fold effect: getting a LOT of work done, and distracting me from the initial reaction, which calms me down. The more time I spend in the blogosphere, the more I realise how many of us are battling similar demons. Waking up & showing up every day IS an actual achievement. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that doing a root-cause analysis on the cause of my rage can (& does) send me into paroxysms of panic & anxiety, with a full-blown case of hives. I just don’t want to go there. The analysis will probably be best explored in stages, at some later date, because there’s no real reason to hyperventilate noxious fumes of rage because my hand baggage which should have been waiting at the foot of the gangway is now going round on a carousel in the terminal, potentially adding another five minutes to my journey time and throwing my careful plan to exit the airport in one piece to the winds, right? Doing my Rumpelstiltskin-after-the-queen-guesses-his-name dance was all part of the routine, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Or I could just accept I have chronic anxiety. I am hyper-aware of the environment I’m in at any given point, treating every situation like a potentially hostile encounter. My husband once asked me what it was like to live without a filter, to feel, see & hear everything, to notice every detail. It is sensory overload. It is absolutely exhausting. It’s why something small can completely tip the fragile balance I establish every day.

But I still say I’m lucky & blessed. I have a husband and child who try to understand, and accept my fragility. Who respect my triggers. Who give me space when I need it. They let me cry. Storm around a bit doing the Rumpelstiltskin dance. And then gently remind me, in order of priority, it’s just a bag. And we have insurance.

Great balls of fire, baby!

Quintessential Quinoa

Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein – containing all eight of the essential amino acids, and recognised by the UN as a super-crop for its health benefits. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. Thrive Cuisine have a useful guide on the differences between quinoa and couscous, and more recipes! Use these easy instructions from The Kitchn if you’ve never tried making quinoa from scratch before.

I have to be honest: on a work day, I use Merchant Gourmet Red & White Ready Quinoa, or supermarket own-brand variants, to save on time & sanity. I don’t have a microwave (cue horrified gasps) so I open the pack and heat the quinoa on a tray on the bottom shelf of the oven, while the veggies are roasting on the top shelf. This makes the quinoa slightly crunchy, a good balance to the softened veggies.

Jewelled Quinoa with Roasted Carrots & Beetroot

Quinoa

  • Peel & cube 3 beetroot and 4 carrots
  • Toss them in olive oil, salt & pepper and some cumin powder
  • Pop them in the oven at 200C/400F, on the top shelf.
  • Set your timer for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the quinoa on another tray on the bottom shelf at the same time, or follow the instructions on the packet.
  • Toss them all together at the end with some mixed salad leaves and voila, easy lunch or dinner! You could also add some leftover chicken or sausage on the top for a more substantial meal.

Got a quinoa recipe to share? Join the discussion below!

Plage du Sillon, St-Malo

Following the sea wall along the golden Plage du Sillon takes you from the Paramé quarter to Intra-Muros (the old city fortress). The beach is bounded by the Digue (dyke), which was built between 1883 and 1913, and along the Digue stand the most beautiful villas, mostly built at the end of the 19th century. All these photographs were taken on my morning walk, when I was hoping to run across the sea rescue teams in training. All those buff, bronzed bodies….swoon….

Portals

Anyone who dares quibble that portals are really doors won’t get the recipe for koign aman, or butter cake!

The Plage du Sillon is 3km long, very family-friendly, safe for swimming and also popular with kite surfers, sand yachters and wind surfers. Both the Digue & the Plage make wonderful running tracks. Who wouldn’t want to huff & puff at this view? Just remember, if you come over all faint in the heat, those lovely sea rescue people are at hand all summer long 😉

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Plage du Sillon, overcast… still gorgeous!

Oddities in the scenery

I always find fun in the differences, the unusual, the in-my-opinion weird. It’s what makes travelling enjoyable. Actually, the singing (male) trolley dolly started this trip on the right note (yes, I’m punny). But on y va, as my friend A-S says.  Let’s go!

oyster shells

Slurp the oysters and discard the shells, where they wait to turn into sand

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A discarded crab catch. One CAN have too many!

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Random stairway? No! Diving platform to tide pool. Amazing!

Off to have more fun today; a long walk along the seafront will have me cross paths with the sea rescue lifeguards in training, if we time it right! See you later!