Saturday, July 30, 2011

Polishing your Inner Diamond

I am going to a 'do' tonight - a womens' 'do'. Lovely you think - except that I have agreed to be a speaker! When I said "Yes" I didn't realise that half of my bookclub, two of my best friends and half the women I know in PE would be there! Anyway - the theme of the evening is 'Bling' so this is a summary of what I shall tell them: Some Facts about Bling:

Bling !  It’s a word that conjures up glamour and wealth and its origins are in a hip hop slang – Bling bling rhyming with ching, ching – the sound that money makes and it refers to flashy, ostentatious or elaborate jewelry and ornamental accessories that are carried, worn or ‘installed”.
Elizabeth Taylor lorded over a legendary jewelry collection that includes the Krupp Diamond, a 33.19 emerald cut stone that Richard Burton bought for her at auction in 1968 for $305,000.  Elizabeth Taylor also owned a 69.4-carat pear shaped, D-color, Flawless diamond. It came up for auction at Sotheby's on October 23, 1969. At the sale, Cartier outbid Richard Burton who was bidding over the phone, but he later negotiated with them to the record breaking tune of $1,050,000 for the stone. She later sold the stone, and the proceeds went to help build a hospital in Botswana. (The two largest diamonds the Cullinan and the Jubilee diamond are in the British Crown Jewels)
More recently Ben Affleck presented Jennifer Lopez with a Pink Diamond Engagement Ring when he proposed.
Pinks are among the rarest diamonds in the world - Only a handful are mined every year and the 6.1-carat pink solitaire diamond is said to be worth $1.2 million. A year after "Bennifer" split in 2004, the ring went back on the market. Which goes to show that money cant buy you love!
Hip Hop Artist Lil Jon owns the World's Biggest Bling He is the self-proclaimed King of Crunk and owns "the largest diamond pendant" on the planet, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. The piece contains 3,756 round-cut white diamonds (equivalent to some 73 carats) set into 18-karat gold. It weighs roughly 12 pounds and stands over 7 inches tall blaring "Crunk Ain't Dead," (How tasteful is that) the pendant is estimated to be worth $500,000.
If that's not your style how about a Solid Gold BlackBerry . Last summer the hip-hop performer-producer Pharrel Williams showed off an 18-karat gold-plated BlackBerry 8700, designed by hip-hop's preferred jeweler, Jacob Arabo. The indulgent upgrade has caught on and will cost you 64 000 dollars.  Then there’s Madonna who had Mink and Diamond Eyelashes Created for her.These falsies are made of custom mink and are adorned with .75 carats' worth of diamonds. Similar lashes retail at Neiman Marcus for $10,000.
You can even get Bling-frosted dentures and mouth grills showing off their shiny gold caps, sparkly, diamond-encrusted veneers. Fancy having the inconvenience of having to put your dentures in the safe and not in a glass next to the bed. If you think that that is crazy – I then found that there is such a product as Pooch bling!
Luois Viutton does a whole range of designer gear and jewelry for mans best friend . Tinkerbell,  the cutest little Chihuahua to ever pop her head out of a designer handbag and Paris Hilton’s favorite living fashion accessory, definitely deserves a little sparkle of her own to match her bubbly little doggy personality. The paparazzi frequently spot Tinkerbell sporting a variety of jewel embellished collars, designer outfits, tennis shoes as she accompanies Paris around town, and she’s seen drinking from her own Bling H2O bottle just as often.
Bling H20 seems to be the tipple of choice among the z celebs and has been spotted on the red carpet at numerous awards ceremonies like the Emmy’s and Grammy’s. The water is bottled in Tennessee but it is the limited edition bottles themselves that are the attraction. They come frosted, corked, and boasting hand-applied Swarovski crystal. If you are a water elitist, be prepared to spend a cool $40-60 for a 750ml.
And if you think that’s extreme bling – what about this? Under 18s and readers of a sensitive disposition look away now!  Just when you thought Life couldn't get any sparklier...  ITV2's cult reality show The Only Way Is Essex has unleashed the term vajazzle into common parlance.
According to the Urban Dictionary, the term vajazzle means 'to give the female genitals a sparkly makeover with crystals so as to enhance their appearance' - and it's not just Essex girls who have all the fun. UK based beauticians have been inundated with calls from girls wanting their lady gardens glammed up! According to ITV2, 54% of women say they now want a vajazzle The treatment costs around thirty pounds and most salons already have a waiting list. Ladies I just want you to know i am NOT on that waiting list!!!

Diamonds maybe a girls best friend but the truth is that we don't need bling to shine. Bling has its place in our lives and serves to decorate, to show off and as a fun accessory but we all know that clothes or accessories do not maketh man – or woman. You can physically see radiance in a woman – where to we see that radiance. In her eyes. Where does that twinkle that sparkle come from? How do we get it?  Like a diamond our ability to shine is buried within each of us and we just have to reach deep within us to discover our inner diamond.  It all starts with our heart - Heart to me means 3 things Passion, Courage and Love: Passion is about caring deeply about something/someone.When you are passionate about something then you feel alive.Passion feeds creativity. Whether its the environment, model aeroplanes, cooking, music, animals, cycling, running or baking. What are you passionate about? Some people have turned their passion into a career.

Oprah says “Find your passion, become excellent at it and you will be successful.” That’s in Oprah world - Our reality is that in jobs are scarce and many of us have to fall in love with our jobs everyday – we can’t work at our passion but we CAN enjoy them in our free time. So whatever you are passionate about make sure that you connect with it regularly and that you spend some time enjoying it each week – It will keep your heart healthy.
Love – What are we without love? When I say love – not just partner, relationship, family love but love of our fellow man or woman. The good book tells us that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love never dies – It just slumbers on........That’s love.
I once saw a documentary about a hospice where one of the workers there was interviewed and he said that only two things matter at that stage of our life “How well we are loved and How well we have loved others”. That is the question I ask myself each night before I go to sleep. If I am happy with the answer to that question then I have no trouble sleeping.That keeps my heart shining.
Courage: We need a brave heart! Courage is all about standing up for what we believe in – Its about being brave enough to act in accordance with our beliefs and our values when the world makes it difficult. Its about being brave enough to be who we were meant to be. I love eccentric people – wacky people! There is something very attractive about a person who has the courage to be different – to be themselves. Fear often prevents us from reaching our potential.  As Marianne Williamson said in her book, Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who Am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?   You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so small that other people won’t feel insecure around you. It’s not just in us, it’s in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Passion, Love, Courage – Practice each day to polish those facets of your inner diamond!
Then there is our intelligence and our attitude.You are deluding yourself if you believe that wearing a diamond tiara will make you more intelligent or make your attitude shine. Your attitude is like your operating system – all your thoughts are filtered through it so If your head is full of negativity - then so will your attitude You need to bling your attitude. Our attitude is within us – so we have control over it. Our attitude is our choice. If you think you are going to have a bad day when you get up in the morning – you probably are!
The attitude that you give to others tends to be the one that you get back – in other words look around you – if what you see our miserable unhappy people – then look in the mirror – for what you see is usually a reflection of what they are seeing and if you want to be treated differently then you need to start behaving differently to others. And Ladies A smile is always in style and is the best fashion accessory!  Laughter – It really is the best medicine – Like jogging on the inside – Look for humour and create FUN opportunities to make sure you have a regular dose of that medicine!
Staying with the head – Its where our brain is and Intelligence is what keeps us lively and brain cells are precious .it’s a fact that as we age we loose them – we all have about 9000 less than we had this morning! Just as we go to gym to keep fit then we need to exercise our minds to keep those brain cells healthy. Read, do puzzles, learn something new – a person who knows everything – a know all – is a bore! There is always more to know so exercise that brain – keep yourself interested and you will be interesting.

It is pointless wearing shiny lip gloss or using that solid gold phone - if what comes out of your mouth are words that are meant to undermine, belittle, attack or insult. Words are like bullets – once out there impossible to take back and just as deadly. Are you shooting from the LIP???? Feedback that we give to one another leaves a foot print in their lives – we can choose to play footsie – to tiptoe, or we can tread on people’s toes or stampede through their lives leaving a trail of destruction.

"The greatest gift we can give another is not to share our own treasures, but to reveal to him his own " Benjamin Disraeli.

Hands the third way we are able to uncover our inner diamond is with our hands – doing purposeful deeds.
We shine when we lend a hand and we are living on a continent where there is much to be done. Audrey Hepburn – an iconic woman whose beauty shone from within said “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”  Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others."

So - When you “turn that light on” by living with vision, loving with passion and working with purpose, you ignite your inner light. And you will literally glow from the inside out. When you feel dull and lifeless, your light is dim.
When you feel radiant and alive, your light is bright. Everyone wants to possess a diamond, the most valuable gemstone. The truth is, you already have a diamond within you---it’s your soul. Just like a diamond has to be excavated beneath the earth to be of any worth, you need to dig deep beneath your ego’s walls to discover your own special gift.You just have to stop searching on the outside and start looking on the inside for what will make you happy! Your inner diamond patiently waits for your discovery, and it will tell you all you need to know, if you but only ask and listen. Passion, Love, Courage, Intelligence, Attitude, Kind Words, Purposeful Deeds are all facets that need to be polished everyday. Live large. Be Bold. Shine your light! The world needs your special light!  Shine!”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mmmm ...Macaroons!

Each year I set myself a series of goals and at least one culinary challenge - this year it was to make the perfect macaroon. Why? Well when I was young, I used to visit a bakery, Mortons, with my beloved 'Nan' every morning when I stayed with her, where she bought her freshly baked daily loaf. It smelled delicious, was still warm and wrapped in tissue paper. I was allowed to choose a cake - any cake. I could have chosen a chocolate eclair, a cream horn or a strawberry tart but I always chose a macaroon.
They sat nestled on rice paper and I was intrigued that you could eat this too and each one had an almond placed on top...or sometimes a pretty pink iced circle. They were my absolute favourite and you don't really see this old fashioned little gem anymore.
I searched for a recipe - many have coconut in - but  I wanted to recreate the one from my childhood.

I found out that the first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste (a combination of equal parts of ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with egg whites. The name of the cookie comes from the Italian word for paste, maccarone (mah-kah-ROW-nay), and is also the word for pasta/macaroni and dumplings.

While origins can be murky, some culinary historians claim that that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery—where they were modeled after the monks’ belly buttons!  Macaroons came to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters.
Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, like yeast, baking powder and baking soda—instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet.

All very fascinating. My first batch didn't taste almondy enough and I left them in the oven a little longer than I should. A week later I tried again - this time they were better but again slightly overdone.
Today -- third time lucky --I baked the perfect batch of chewy, almondy perfect macaroons!
I cant understand why I waited so long to bake my childhood favourite - all those macaroon-less  years wasted!
Here's the recipe. 120 G Ground Almonds; 2 Egg whites: 150 G Castor Sugar. Raw almonds to decorate.
Beat egg whites till foamy. Add a half of the mixture to half of your ground almonds. Add the sugar and other half of ground almonds and half of the remaining egg whites ( you will have some of your egg whites left over). the mixture will be wet and a bit sticky but mould into little balls, brush with water and place an almond on the top of each. Bake for 15/16 mins on 200C. Dust with icing sugar if you like. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Milk Punch!

I am stuck in bed with a cold and plenty of time to reflect. Here are my thoughts about what I have learned this year so far!
  • You can loose 4  hours of your life after a double whisky mixed with hot milk as a cure for a cold.  I felt much better for 4 hours.  (I only learned this today - thanks Julia
  • Shampoo labels that promise fuller, thicker hair - lie.
  • Never leave the house with an empty purse and a full bladder. 
  • Stolen plants always grow better than those bought at a garden centre   (What do you mean you have never stolen a plant - I thought we all went on midnight sorties to get cuttings)
  • A slab of chocolate can cure anything - except a cold !   (I have no time for those people who shockingly confess that they ate "A whole slab of chocolate!" I didn't know that there was any other way to eat it!
  • Other people's food always looks more delicious than your order in a restaurant
  • When you are in a hurry - all the traffic lights will be on red.
  • When you are in your car and you need to answer to a text all the traffic lights will be on green.
  • Politicians don't tell the truth (I didn't say they lie!) 
  • DSTV is a rip off. Where else would anyone pay twice for the same product  (Isn't that we are doing when they show is repeats, repeats, repeats?)
  • Australia is a long way away.

Road Rage!

I promised a sequel to my last blog and here it is.....So there we were after a lovely day out at the Grahamstown Festival ready for home and wending our way towards the N2 when we saw hazard lights and the traffic stopped to a standstill. Road works we thought - we'll be stuck here for 10 minutes! Fifteen minutes later we were still stuck there and we got the pies out - the ones we had bought for our loved ones on the way there - sorry loved ones! Twenty minute - half an hour - No this wasn't road works - we sent an SMS to our contacts at Radio Algoa and were rewarded with some information. -  there had been a major accident up ahead and the road was likely to be blocked for SEVERAL HOURS!

So we were stuck on a pitch dark road in the middle of nowhere with no way out! Immediately I became thirsty - I think this happens in the desert when you drink your last drop of water! The moment you know its not available you start craving it! I regretted eating that salty pie. Five minutes later I was fantasising about waterfalls, rain forests and had a thirst the size of the Churchill Dam. I mentioned casually to Helen that we may have to drink our own urine....and on cue 3 gentlemen ( I use the term loosely) got out of the car in front and casually emptied their bladders right in front of us - Gross!!! Not to mention the waste of water!

I have to mention that all the time we were sat there in the line of traffic - cars kept screaming up on our right to see what the problem was - 5 minutes later we would see them pass again, having had to do a U turn when they realised that the thirty cars in front of them weren't having a leisurely picnic. We saw a couple of ambulances go through and THEN the police came and we were all told to turn around as the road indeed would be closed for several hours as the photographers had still to come from PE. It was indeed a very serious accident. We were re-routed through Paterson.

The road to Paterson is unlit, gravel, muddy, narrow and full of potholes. It was a hell of a journey - made more hellish by our dear travelling companions - all the others that were stuck on the dark road - who decided that their reason for getting home first was more important than anyone else's. I couldn't believe it!
On that unlit, gravel, muddy, narrow road that is full of potholes -it was like wacky races as cars overtook, tailgated, spun gravel, blared full beams and generally disregarded every traffic rule or human courtesy in their desire to get there first!  I am surprised that there wasn't another accident and astonished that having just left the scene of one fatal one - that these idiots couldn't have driven more sensibly and with more thought for others safety!
Then I remembered TIA - this is Africa - the road accident capital of the world! IDIOTS!
I was really happy to see the lights of the N2 and even more happy to climb into a warm bed with a l-o-n-g drink of hot tea. I gave thanks for a lovely day and our safe return - no thanks to the nutters on the road.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trip to Grahamstown - Sometimes the beauty we are looking for is under our noses.

I jumped out of the car on my way to the Festival to take a photo of the mist, hanging low over the valley and creating one of those surreal landscapes that make you believe that its the sea you are looking at and not the sky - I looked down to check my footing and found this jewelled spider web waiting for me, the earth laying its treasure at my feet - WOW!

On Friday I made my annual pilgrimage to Grahamstown to feed my artistic soul and take part in the biggest show in Southern Africa  - the Grahamstown Arts Festival. Yes - I know - Last year I said I was going to stay over and see three shows a day in my cerise and black floral palazzo pants! Life and work got in the way so it was an early start with pies as usual for breakfast, eaten in the same car park under a wintry sun. not just any pies - those pies from Nanaga Farm Stall that acts as a magnet to most cars - impossible to drive past at any time of year!
The  promise of three shows a day that was vowed last year was a reality though and we arrived to watch our first, Two Women - Two Worlds starring Val McLane, senior UK actress from the North East of England, and Nomhle Nkonyeni, premier South African actress from the Eastern Cape, comparing and contrasting their lives in different countries on two different continents. Fabulous Festival Fare! It finished at 12 noon and our next show started at 12 noon so we flew to the next venue to see - David Newton our favourite comedian. We arrived to a packed venue and found ourselves sitting in the aisle staring up at a blow up doll and laughing ourselves silly at this very talented South African comedian. He told us that he now lives in LA - not sure if he was joking - but if its true, its very sad that SA has lost this comic genius.
Of course his show was about the messiness, the impossible mechanics and the embarrassment of  sex and the audience lapped it up! Phew! We had an hours break before our next show so we headed up to the Village Green to park our car and as tempted as we were by a quick preview, we made our way to St Andrews Drill Hall so we could get a good seat for the highlight of our day London Road.

This amazing piece of theatre was performed last year to sold out audiences and this year too - there were people queuing just in case there were any no-shows or begging to sit in the aisle or watch from the sides. It is a beautifully written play set in Sea Point, about the unlikely friendship of an aging South African, white, Jewish widow Rosa and  Stella a young, black, illegal immigrant from Nigeria.  Robyn Scott and Ntombi Makhutsh portray these characters to perfection and  took us on a journey that made us laugh, cry, think, question and celebrate life and friendship. They well deserved their standing ovation and I feel really privileged to have watched it.
Then it was time for coffee and the Village Green - our very own Vuvotela were on site to serve us our favourite cappuccinos with just the right amount of caffeine and froth to get us around the stalls.
This year the was the usual mind boggling array of headgear to add to the collection and plenty of handmade crafts and eats to carry home. My eclectic purchases include tin mugs with attached mug hugs, a pretty pendant that will protect me from harm and evil spells, a crocheted flower broach, black and white spotted slipper socks, home made fudge and almond nougat and a cosy bob hat or is it a tea cosy?

Time for home and to reflect on not just another year's festival finished, but the creative spirit of Africa that dwells in our region and the incredible talent we have in this country. If only that talent extended to driving skills our day would have been perfect!
But that's a story for my next blog!