Fatigue, fame and flowers

Fatigue is where I’m at these days. Multi-tasking myself into an exhausted oblivion, then binge-watching Netflix until way past my bedtime. I am treating myself with appalling carelessness. It’s catching up with me. I’m too old to be pulling stunts like these.

I’m off to Paris this weekend and I plan to slow the pace down. Something has to give before my body does, right? Time to be sensible.

But before I do that, let me show you the happy dance I did (thanks, GIPHY) when I discovered my name printed in the latest issue of Oh Comely magazine this month. And since the magazine goes out globally, I figure I’m famous worldwide! Woot woot. Who cares if my name is 3mm high?

giphy

You think if I did this over and over, I’d have biceps like Michelle O? I want her arms! And her stylist.

Want to look at something pretty? Check out my flower board.

Just desserts

Yep, taking suggestions from the Husband will probably only ever take me in one of two directions: dessert and football. That’s soccer to my American readers. He worships the game, the logistics, the statistics, the….sorry, I tend to zone out. Since desserts are closer to my heart (and my waistline), let’s talk about those.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may know I’ve got my boards organised into categories: cookies, baked treats, chocolate treats, easy sugar… my heart lies in the cookie section. That should be my tagline: My Heart Lies in the Cookie Section.

IMAG0444Snickerdoodles, with their cinnamon-sugar dusting.

Delicate blush rose macarons.

Unctuous salted caramel macarons.

Chewy peanut butter cookies (gluten free, of course).

Freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

Simple sugar cookies.

All accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without coffee!

So what are your favourite treats? Your go-to feel-good delights? Last year, my D post was the poem FOR MY DAUGHTER by Sarah McMane.

Ageing

As my skin gets drier, and my hair, greyer, I’m making peace with the ageing process. In the last few years, my skin has proven to be the litmus paper for how my insides are working. Whether my autoimmune conditions are flaring up, giving me hives and blisters, or if my system is in remission and at peace, skin moist and calm.

The lines are here to stay, and I have to admit, I like them. Same with the grey hair. They lend me some much-needed gravitas. 

A few years ago, I found myself looking in the mirror, and realised that instead of seeing the imperfections, I just saw the whole. My body. Not better, or worse. Just a body. A vehicle. And I realised I had turned a bend. Instead of how I looked, I examined how I felt. Does my hip hurt? My gut? Do I feel strong today? 

As a parent of a rapidly maturing tween, I’m more focused on DD’s growth process right now than I am on my ageing. Don’t get me wrong, the recent warm flushes are entertaining reminders that my youth and fertility are waning, just as my daughter’s are waxing. But that’s just the circle of life. Perhaps I’ll turn 46 and all of this will hit me like a ton of bricks. Perhaps not.

“…As she grew older, she was aware of her changing position on mortality. In her youth, the topic of death was philosophical; in her thirties it was unbearable and in her forties unavoidable. In her fifties, she had dealt with it in more rational terms, arranging her last testament, itemizing assets and heirlooms, spelling out the organ donation, detailing the exact words for her living will. Now, in her sixties, she was back to being philosophical. Death was not a loss of life, but the culmination of a series of releases. It was devolving into less and less. You had to release yourself from vanity, desire, ambition, suffering, and frustration – all the accoutrements of the I, the ego. And if you die, you would disappear, leave no trace, evaporate into nothingness…” 

Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning

Zydeco music

Today is International Jazz Day, and while sending a friend recommendations for her listening pleasure, I found my Z – Zydeco music! It’s the instantly recognisable sound of New Orleans, my home while I was studying architecture. It’s impossible to live in New Orleans and not be forever changed by the music, food & art. 

What is Zydeco music?

Zydeco is the music of Southwest Louisiana’s Black Creoles, a mixture of African, Afro-Caribbean, Native American and European descent. Sung traditionally in Creole French, English is becoming more popular these days. As of 2007, it even has its own category at the Grammys!

Listen to The Louisiana Two Step (New Orleans 1984)

Where does the word Zydeco come from?

One theory is it comes from a contraction of the phrase Les haricots ne sont pas salés, which sounds like “lehz-dee-co nuh sohn pah salay” in the Louisianan French Creole dialect, and means “The snap beans ain’t salty”. Seriously. Another theory is that in the languages of West African slaves, the phonemes za, re and go were frequently associated with dancing and playing music. A little more believable, perhaps?

When did Zydeco music become popular? Is there a ‘parent’ of Zydeco?

Clifton Chenier is widely regarded as the King of Zydeco. He created music in the 1950s which was bluesy, syncopated and very different to the sound of Cajun music. He blazed a trail and made it clear that Zydeco was unique, using piano accordions & modified washboard vests (frottoirs). He also wore a cape & crown during most of his performances! Zydeco music is continuously evolving, showing influences from R&B and even hip-hop, in this century.

WHERE CAN I HEAR MORE ZYDECO MUSIC?

Yellow

Curated from my personal photos and Pixabay

#yellow #minion #lemon #avocado #daffodil #pumpkin #ikea #hack

If you’re looking for instructions for the IKEA Rast hack, Pinterest is heaving with them. I just used glossy yellow paint, and leftover white plastic cord for the handles. 

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.

xhosa

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.

tahini

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!