30 October 2008

Gingerbread Cookies 101

So during my phase of baking, I decided for Christmas I wanted to make Gingerbread Cookies (as I've probably mentioned before). So I set out to find the cliche gingerbread man shape. Not the one with a fat body and tiny head, not the one with spindley arms, not the one with hands and feet...just your typical American 3"x3" gingerbread shape.
I searched high and low through all the shops in my area...and then the ones outside of my area...and I even went so far as to ask an online friend to source one for me from America (thanks, Christy :))...and then I found it!!! Hidden in an obscure location was a catalog on a baking website....the Wilton's 101 Piece Cookie Cutter Set!! {cue Hallelujah choir singers)
Only one problem...its in Pretoria. I'm in Cape Town. To make a long story short, eventually after a lot of thinking, I managed to find someone who was willing to collect it for me, and post it to me :)
They arrived today!!!! I hastely unpacked the 101 pieces, found the gingerbread man (right at the bottom!) and sighed in relief. This Christmas shall be complete with Gingerbread Man. Of course now I have 100 extra cookie cutters hahaha. Not to worry, with extras like dog bones, I plan on making doggie biscuits (for dogs), with the pumpkin/ghost/bat/scaredy cat cutters I can make halloween cookies, with the snowman/Christmas trees/stocking/candy cane/gingerbread men (there are actually 4: two small, two large - male and female of each) I can make Christmas cookies, and then there are some random themed ones like footballs and helmets (American Superbowl...not really our thing here though), hands and feet (for baby shower), transport (I assume for a bon voyage gift), animals like ducks, eggs, dinosaurs, etc for random cookies, and then the numbers and letters of the alphabet (and a question mark...hahaha I'll wait for the "Will you marry me?" baking expedition from my bf....LOL)
Then I had to rush off to a Canon EOS Roadshow talk (very entertaining and believe it or not, R-18 what with the vaginal flatulance jokes and all! Dont ask haha). Came back, went through the cutters more slowly to check they were all there, and then......I couldnt pack them back into the bucket they came in. Whoops!
But, no fear, I'll survive with my 101 cookie cutters haha.

My Gingerbread Man - the perfect shape!!

The entire set laid out on the kitchen counter (taken with my cellphone)

27 October 2008

Introducing: Ramoth & Wirenth!

So finally the day of my new babies' arrival dawned upon us, and after a short wait this morning, they arrived at around 10:30!! After chatting to Ang of Wheatfields Rattery (now online!!), their breeder, I settled them into their temporary cage to wait out the day until they could come home with me (they were delivered to my office). Of course, after spoiling them with morsels of almond and apple pieces, I took some photos!

Wirenth (aka Worms)

Ramoth (aka Rams and "Creepy")
Ratty hands!!


And then for my mother's gym halloween party, I made some "Spooky Witch Fingers" which tasted and looked great!! Just a basic butter cookie recipe, molded into fingers with almonds for the fingernails (with some red icing under the fingernails for "blood"). Apparently they were the hit of the party and people even took them home for their families!

25 October 2008

Apple Pie

I finally got around to making my Apple Pie that I've been talking about for ages! I must admit, I cheated and bought the dough to use for the pie, but then when I thawed it and rolled it out, there wasnt enough for both top and bottom crust :( So I decided to make it without a base...*gulp* I mixed and matched a few recipes so I was very worried about how it would turn out. I also wasnt sure if I should put foil around the edges to prevent the edges of the crust from burning, but I decided not to in the end. So, after preparing it, and baking it for an hour and 10 minutes, it was done! I was like a kid on Christmas morning, running to peek into the oven-glass every 20 minutes or so and I even squealed with glee when I set it down on the table :D I've yet to taste it (the bf is keen!) as I'm waiting for my mom and sister to come and taste it with us :)
The pie filling

Ready for the oven

The finished Apple Pie!

In other news, my new babies arrive on Monday, and I finally worked up the courage to go officially get permission to keep my rats in my apartment block! When most people hear "rats" they think smelly, diseased, sewer creatures, which of course could not be farther from the truth, so I was very worried they'd say NO RATS ALLOWED! But, they didnt! She seemed a bit put off by the thought, but after assuring her that I dont breed, and my girls are kept in a cage, she said fine. So yay for us!! Now I can bring my rats from my car to my flat (and vise versa) without worry!

21 October 2008

Chocolate Brownies

Yummy Chocolate Fudge Brownies
So the other day I decided to make Chocolate Fudge Brownies. It was my first attempt and I was pretty impressed with the results.
The recipe will stay a secret, because I'm going to work on it a little more and make it fully mine! It was fairly simple to make, and I enjoyed every minute of it, including watching it bake haha.
My new ratties are arriving on Monday, and I'm so excited! Poor Orlith is incredibly bored, since Xeon is rather old and just wants to sleep and cuddle. She's going to be so relieved to have friends to tumble about with, but I'm not sure what to do while they're still growing. The new bubs will be too small for the large cage, and if they're anything as sneaky as Orlith was, they'll soon find they can fit through the bars...thats if Orlith doesnt show them herself! LOL!
I took a few photos of my babies, so here are a few of the ones I liked:
"Mommy watcha doin'?!?" (blurry Orlith-nose)

More photos can be seen under "Recent Pics" slideshow...

16 October 2008

Plans, plans and more plans

Ok, so its been difficult for me to accept and even moreso to blog about this, but back in my first post, I said the following:
Welcome to my blog! I've been meaning to start this blog for a while now, but wanted to wait until I had a certain bit of news under my belt. After much thought (and a little procrastination), I decided to start it earlier (watch this space for my News :P).
Well, the news was...*takes a deep breath* I was applying for a job on a cruise ship as a photographer. In a daring moment, I applied to a recruiter and the very next day I had a reply asking for an interview! I was so thrown, as I didnt actually expect it would be that quick...or easy. So I went for my interview, and things rolled smoothly along. Basically I needed a passport (yes, yes I dont have a passport yet), a medical clearance, and a police clearance. Since I already purchased plane tickets to PE for Christmas time (R1k+) I didnt want to apply before Jan for the boat just in case I had to leave before I was ready. I also had to apply and wait for my passport. Costs involved were camera equipment (Nikon D80 or better), uniform, deposit (refunded at end of contract) and flight back home at the end of my contract. Overall about roughly $2000. Time went on, and while I was waiting for my passport, I emailed the recruiter to let them know my progress (couldnt get my police/medical clearance too far in advance)...it was then that I got the dreaded email. *another deep breath* Apparently their policy changed, and instead of the company training me up for a week in Miami, I now have to do a training course in Stellenbosch for R10,400! That course is 3 weeks, but according to my recruiter I'd only have to do the 2 week course for R7400. I simply cannot afford that. Even if I could (bf so generously offered to pay), it wouldnt be worth the trip after spending all that money beforehand. Even if I could afford the R7400, the petrol driving back and forth to Stellenbosch (+-45min drive) for two weeks would be even more money!! With all I'd have to pay back, the money I'd be able to save on the contract wouldnt be worth uprouting my life for 8 mths. After I got that email, I cried and cried. I didnt realise how much I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself for leaving. I still keep looking at things and thinking, "oh I must get that sorted out before I leave" and then I remember its not happening anymore. My heart felt so heavy for days. I'm not giving up so easily though, and I'm still working on leaving. I'll keep you all updated, so please keep fingers crossed for me. Trying to pick myself up, I've been thinking up stuff I want to do. I've decided I'm going to take dancing classes (with my bf) :D Then belly dancing classes (by myself). I'm starting Pilates as well, to tone up my body. I'm starting my cross-stitching again, and am looking through patterns for a new project. I also want to make Apple Pie, Gingerbread Men, and a Jack o' Lantern. I also found out the SA Lipizzaners are performing at Grand West, and I bought tickets!! My mom, dad, sister, sister's bf, my bf, and my Viia are all coming with :D I picked up the tickets today! YAY! Photo at the top, courtesy of caryn, a friend of mine who saw the Lipizzaners in KZN :) So, I have lots of plans for the remainder of this year and the year ahead, its great!

13 October 2008

Hamilton's Squash

Hamilton's Squash and Chicken Steaklets
I'm not sure when I got this bee in my bonnet to try out new cooking dishes, but I'm enjoying (almost) every minute of it. A while ago I borrowed my mom's Happy Days with the Naked Chef cooking book (no, this was after I was bitten by the cooking bug) and found a recipe for Hamilton's Squash. I just had to try it (which is surprising in it's own, being that I'm not a butternut lover at all and that my mother has made this before and I've never eaten it!)! Basically, its a butternut squash, stuffed with basmati rice, mushrooms (which I omitted this time since bf -sadly- doesnt eat mushrooms), sundried tomatoes, and various spices such as rosemary, chilli (optional) and coriander seeds. It gets oiled, wrapped in foil, and cooked in the oven at 230° for about an hour and fifteen minutes. What results is greatly pleasing! The most difficult part, in my opinion, is scoring and scooping out the inner part of the butternut (mainly the neck area). That takes some hectic wrist action! It's a nice way to work up an appetite though hehe. Oh and the waiting is pretty tough too - especially if its your first time making it! That being said, my first attempt proved successful enough (and bf liked it!!), but in hindsight, I think I'll parboil the rice before hand, as I'm not fond of the al dente texture that results from this recipe. Other than that, it was great! Oh and I also think I'll pick a slightly smaller squash next time, esp if I'm having it alongside anything else (like chicken). The bf also wont eat too much butternut, so I dont want to waste any if possible.
Preparing the squash Straight out of the oven!
It really is great as a meal on its own, so dont be afraid to pick a big ol' butternut and make it a main course! Perfect for vegetarians!! I'm not sure I could see myself making this more than once a month though haha since it is quite tiresome to make. If I'm having a dinner party, however, bring it on! PS: My new ratties arrive on Monday 27th!!
Ramoth looking down (Husky) and Wirenth looking above (Dumbo)!

12 October 2008

My 5 Year Anniversary Weekend Away

A boat outside Die Strandloper restuarant
So after more than half a year gone by, I needed a holiday! I tried to organise some friends, new and old, together for a weekend away at Langebaan (inspired by my upcoming 5 year anniversary with Michael), but unfortunately circumstances dictated that it would be only Michael and I.
I was sad, but what better way to spend an anniversary than with the person you love and only the person you love!?! In preparation, I made a Banana Bread in my dad's bread machine... um, well, lesson learnt: mix cake recipes' ingredients yourself and dont trust machine to do it properly for you (like they say it will - though the bread comes out great)!
The Banana Bread That Wasnt Quite Done
*sigh* And the inside wasnt cooked properly, so it was like eating dough....I still ate some though haha.
The weekend got off to a rocky start....was supposed to have hair cut and coloured before I left, but mom didnt plan for cutting, so I ran late on leaving for Langebaan while she fitted me in between her other customers (thanks, Mom! :D). Also tried to make some Sesame Seed Snaps but both batches didnt come out properly :(
Then we left for Langebaan, arrived, realised Michael forgot his bath towel and slipslops, and we forgot coffee and sugar, and that we didnt plan anything for dinner that night. We dashed off to the shops, to arrive back to find our keyhole lying on the floor...someone must have tried to get in! :( We had to then use the back door thereafter. *sigh*
The second day was better, cloudy at first, but gorgeous day by noon - spent most of the day wandering around semi naked (whaaat? it was our anniversary weekend after all :P) and tanning in the sunroom while reading, playing cards, and backgammon. Went for some walks on the beach in town, walked through the shops to see what had changed since our last visit (April 2007). Came back home and lazed about until dinner at Driftwoods (if you go to Langebaan, you HAVE to eat at this restaurant, or at the least try their cocktails - YUM!!).
Went to Driftwoods and got our regular table in the corner, overlooking the beach. While we were waiting on our food, we saw a seal diving around in the waves! I ordered a Bahana Rama (very rum-and-coconutty), and Michael ordered Love on the Rocks (like a Sex on the Beach, only with cranberry juice instead of OJ and grenadine). For food, I ordered the Seafood Tagliatelli was was simply outstanding!! There was so much seafood I couldnt believe it!! And it was my first time eating clams too! Michael ordered the sirloin (they gladly swapped it for rump at his request) and calamari (which I tasted and was great!). We were so full afterwards, we had to practically be rolled home!
The last day was spent relaxing, shopping, taking photos on the beach and at Die Strandloper, and cleaning up and preparing to go home. Photos can be seen in Recent Photos slideshow.
All in all it was one of the best weekends I've had in a looooong time, and one that wont quickly be forgotten.
Here's to another 5 years (at least) with my wonderful and caring man!

07 October 2008

A little bit heavy...

Its finally happened. For years I've been waiting for it to happen, but at the same time expecting it never to happen to me. I'm not sure what to call it, but I guess I'd label it an Image Disorder. No, this isnt something to do with photography, but rather me. Plain and simple. I find myself hating to look in the mirror, because all that looks back is a plain person with dark circles under her eyes, dry skin, heavy thighs, love handles, and plain hair that does not flatter my face. My first issue is my face and hair. I get tired even just thinking how to blog about it. I guess my face I've come to accept, because short of a eyelift or similar there isnt much (if anything) I can do about it. My hair on the other hand is another story. I have it professionally coloured every six to eight weeks, so the colour is fine, but the cut isnt. Sure it looks great for the first week or two after I get it cut, but then it just goes back into the same boring style when I tie my hair up: middle path, stupid horn-like fringe ("bangs" for my USA readers), which just looks stupid. There also isnt any body in my hair, so when I tie it back, unlike some gorgeous people I see walking around, my hair just looks unwashed, even when its clean. I try lift it and use hair clips and such, but they just dont work, or probably more likely, I dont know how to use them to their full potential (how pathetic is that, hey, a woman with long hair who cant do anything with it). I've tried curling it, but they dont stay in, and they annoy me after a while...I like being able to brush my hair, and with curls, the best I can do is run my fingers through it. I'm waiting for my colour to arrive and then I'm going to try a new haircut. I want a bigger fringe, one that doesnt end up looking like horns, but I know the haircut is going to be a stressful event, as, well, my mother is my hairstylest (she's been a pro hairstylest all my life) but you know how it goes when its family...arguments break out where they normally wouldnt with a customer. Also maintaining it is a problem (I'm lazy). I know, I know, I want to have my cake and keep it all at the same time: stylish hair with no effort. Pfft, like that will happen! Next to my mom and my sister, I look like an ugly duckling with my hair. My body is probably my biggest gripe. My mother and sister are both size 26-28 (not sure what that is in USA sizes, sorry) and I'm a 34...wow just typing it in that comparison makes me feel huge :( I know, given my bone structure, that its almost virtually impossible for me to be a 28 but I'd be happy with just a 30! Thats a decent size for me...I'm not asking too much??! I'd just like to try on a dress and not have to worry if I look fat in it. Ok, sure, thats what every women wants, but having a mother and sister so thin, why is it so difficult for me?? I love food, there's no denying that, but lately I've been trying to cut back on everything I eat. I'm even about to start eating off of a sideplate just to make my small portion look bigger!! My disorder now has reached a point where, when out shopping with my sister and mother (something that doesnt happen very often any more for obvious reasons), I see myself in the mirror and feel horrid. I hate myself. I went out today and did some browsing, caught a glimpse of myself and nearly started crying. I just hate it. And this is the part I never thought I'd get to: hating myself. I feel large and ungainly in everything I wear, I have to struggle to find jeans that dont make my ass look huge, I cant wear most of the in-style tops because they just dont flatter my figure, and lets not get started on swimwear. I watch my sister try on jeans, and no matter what style she tries on, she looks good. Flare, bootleg, skinny, pencil, capris, they all look good. The cargo pants type material...sheesh I cant even go near that or I look huge. I hate it. I'm sitting here typing this, and I'm even starting to tear up. The problem is, I cant seem to lose weight. I know I dont have to lose weight, but rather tone up and do some exercise, but I have no time for it. None whatsoever. And when I did try gym 3 times a week, it didnt help to the extent I thought it would after the few months I'd been going. I'm now starting another gymming plan, and hopefully I've finally mentally and emotionally cracked enough that it becomes easier to stick to day after day. Same with eating. Today, I had a thin rusk for breakfast, with some tea, two and a half crackerbreads with some cottage cheese, and then later, while walking around the shops, a peanut butter smoothie (how healthy is that *rolls eyes*). For dinner, since its Tuesday, I'm having veggies, a chicken breast, and a chicken wing (Michael will get sauteed potatoes again :D). Every day is a struggle and I hate it! I'm getting to the end of my tether and I dont know what to do! *sigh* I guess I just need to rant about it on here, since talking to my mom and sister only gets me comments like "oooooh, you shouldnt eat that!" while I'm eating something, or "uh-oh, thats going to make you fat", or "careful, when you're older you're not going to be able to lose the weight and you're going to end up like {insert name of older, larger person}"....its a wonder why I didnt get this disorder sooner. I know I'm not fat, I weigh 53/54kgs, I have a larger bone structure than my mom and sister, and I'm 5'2". I just wish my inner thighs didnt touch, that I didnt have love handles, and that I looked good in any dress I try on. Ok almost any dress (at least). PS: The meal in my post Chicken Tuesday...with a difference! is not the normal sized meal I have...its normally smaller, that was an unusually big piece of chicken!

02 October 2008

Chicken Tuesday...with a difference!

So, Tuesday nights in my house are called Chicken Tuesdays. This name came from when I started making roast chicken pieces for dinner, and somehow it always seeemed to be on a Tuesday.
Last Tuesday I was treated to dinner, since the following day was a public holiday, so we missed out on Chicken Tuesday that week (I think there were other dinner arrangements for the other nights of the week that week) and this Tuesday I attended an Intel function at our wholesalers (they gave away camo jackets and had a prize-giving air rifle shooting competition :P) so again, no Chicken Tuesday.
So, last night I finally got down to making chicken and thought I'd try something different with the potatoes for a change. I've been watching Masterchef with my mother every day on BBC's Lifestyle channel, so I guess thats where I got the urge from.
Anyway, I decided to make Sauteed Potatoes! Ok ok, so its simple enough, but for me, its a Big Thing. I cubed up the potato (we only needed one, it was a large potato), boiled it in a pot of water with a little salt, and then heated up a non-stick frying pan with quite a bit of oil in it (not enough to "deep dry" the cubes). In went the cubes, I seasoned them, and waited until they turned golden brown on the outside, turning them as needed. Drained them onto some paper towels, and served. It was DELICIOUS! They were crispy on the outside, and simply light and fluffy on the inside!! Just mouth-watering! Michael loved them and is now demanding that I make them more often! They were soooo good!
A photo (which doesnt look as appetising as it was, I assure you!) for you to see:

Yes, thats a very large piece of chicken, they're not normally that huge and normally I dont serve myself potatoes (carbs and proteins 'n all that). Hmm, and the potatoes were a little more golden than that...actually...why am I posting this photo at all?? It simply doesn't do these wonderful sauteed spuds justice!

01 October 2008

Coming soon....!

So, I've been debating getting new friends for Orlith for a while now and finally decided to get two new girls :) Contacted one of our breeders, Wheatfields Rattery (no online presence at the moment, unfortunately, or I'd include a link), and she told me she'd be breeding some Huskies soon. Immediately I wanted one (or two), but the mating didnt take. Luckily, another mating she had tried before that did take and out popped three ratlings: two boys...and one girl! The girl was a little smaller than expected, so she didnt tell me about her in case she wasnt going to rehome that one, but the little one is doing fine and she was immediately picked by me (even before I got the photo!).

Photo courtesy of Wheatfields Rattery

The next decision was whether I was going to pick from an existing litter of capped and hooded Dumbos, or whether I'd wait for the next Husky litter. Of course, being Ms Impatient, I asked for photos of the Dumbos :P I had a nice selection, and eventually decided on a black capped one with a mismarked face :)

Photo courtesy of Wheatfields Rattery

So now all is left is the wait, and of course the naming! I'm more leaning towards keeping the same theme, which at the moment is dragon names from the books of Pern, by Anne MacCaffrey. I had four "computer" names before: Linux, Apple, Intel and Xeon, and now I think four "Pernese" names are suitable: Feyrith (RIP) and Orlith.

The names I'm leaning towards are Ramoth, Prideth, Wirenth (pronounced "whirr-enth"), and Meranath (though this one I struggle to remember haha). Decisions decisions! Michael thinks I should name them something completely different...but what (if you have any suggestions.....)? I like themes, and meanings behind names, and at this point I'm reading the Pern series, so it fits. Also then the names will run in groups of four and the next babies I get after these two will be new names.

*sigh* I guess I'll eventually come to a decision, but I think Ramoth definately has a spot ;)

More pics, simply because they're too cute!

Top view of Black Capped Dumbo
Photos courtesy of Wheatfields Rattery