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Mother of two, living life in small-town South Africa

Mealie bread: a taste of childhood

Now that I live in Grahamstown, I am learning to cook. I have to. I bake biscuits (gasp!) when friends come for tea. I make things to take along to other people’s parties. The other day I even made mayonnaise. From scratch. These are the lengths that deprivation has led me to. If I still lived in Joburg I would have just stopped off at Koljander, the world’s best tuisnywerheid in Melville, or at Woolies. Sigh.

One of my kids’ party standards these days is mealie bread. Taken from Gabi Steenkamp’s Sustained Energy for Kids, I’m gobsmacked at how many times I get asked for this recipe. I think there’s something about mealie bread that reminds people of their childhood. Anyway, it’s dead easy and worth sharing (even though it’s made in the microwave, which I usually avoid). It’s also eaten and enjoyed by everyone else’s kids except mine. The trickiest part is finding a microwaveable ring dish.

Microwave mealie bread
From Sustained Energy for Kids

  • 2Tbsp (30ml) cake flour
  • ¼ cup (60ml) sugar – or even less
  • 150ml mealie meal
  • 100ml oat bran
  • 7ml (1½ tsp) baking powder
  • ½tsp (2.5ml) salt
  • 1Tbsp (15ml) canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (125ml) skimmed or low-fat milk
  • 1 tin (410g) creamstyle sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp (5ml) chopped parsley (I usually skip the green bits if making it for children.)
  • Paprika for sprinkling microwave dish

Grease microwave ring baking mould with a paper towel dipped in oil. And sprinkle a little paprika into the mould (I have never bothered to do this).
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and milk together well and add to the dry ingredients.
Add the sweetcorn and the parsley, if used, and mix well.
Spoon into the microwave ring and microwave at 70% power for 12 minutes. Then at 100% for 2 minutes.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes (to finish cooking).
Turn out, slice into about 20 slices.

Filed under: Food, Kids stuff, Motherhood, Personal, , , ,

Fizzy orangeade

I can pretend to be interested in things like newspapers, media, and other heavyweight issues but, really, all I care about is food. Since moving to Grahamstown three years ago, I have become seriously obsessed – especially as there is no Woolies food (gasp!), and a seriously inconsistent supply of even the most basic ingredients. Last week, there was not a single packet of frozen peas to be had. And I wasn’t even looking for petit pois.
Frozen peas. It has come to this.
Anyway, seeing as though I spend a large part of my day thinking of, reading about and preparing food, I thought I’d start including it on my blog. (Also, my deadline for my latest freelance job is looming large so I need some distraction.)
My children have been off from school since their teacher fell ill in June (yikes!), so we’ve been spending quite a lot of time playing with friends, eating and drinking. Today, Nina made some lemonade (her own recipe with a found “squishy” lemon from the garden) and then we all made fizzy orange using Tessa Kiross’s recipe. It was seriously delicious and the children – all five of them, age three to eight – loved it. We dubbed it orangeade.

Tessa Kiros’s Fizzy Orange
Makes 5 small cups

  • 4 Tablespoons castor sugar
  • One long strip of orange rind (peel of one orange)
  • 4 Tablespoons tap water
  • Juice of 4 oranges (just over a cup)
  • 2 cups ice-cold sparkling water

Put sugar, orange rind and water into a small pan. Bring to boil, stirring so that the sugar dissolves completely. Boil for a few minutes so that the rind flavours the syrup.
Add freshly squeezed orange juice and let that bubble for about 5 mins, or until it looks slightly denser. Pour into a jug and let it cool completely.
When you’re ready to serve, pour in sparkling water and mix well. Add ice if you like.
Tessa recommends that you add spices, such as a vanilla bean or a small stick of cinnamon, if making it for adults.
PS: By the way, stumbled across another great foodie blog today: David Leibovitz’s ‘Living the sweet life in Paris‘. His latest posting features Joanne Weir’s Cucumber and Feta Salad. Definitely on my “make next” list – depending, of course, if I can source feta/cucumber/fresh dill…

Filed under: Food, Kids stuff, Motherhood, Personal, , , , , ,

A parent would never write this

The children abscond...

Have just read the story** about the couple who forgot their four-year-old at the airport — and only discovered it 40 minutes later when they were told by airline staff. Crumbs. Look, they have five children so it’s almost understandable. (Well, the forgetting part. Not convinced about the 40 minute delay though. Or the 18 suitcases.)
Nevertheless, this story resonates with me, especially just having travelled with my two young children. I’m terrified of losing track of my children in public places — particularly as they are real small-town hicks who believe the world is a benign and lovely playground. So much for never talking to strangers…
We all know it could happen to any of us. That’s what makes it such a brilliant story: it taps into our deepest fears as parents (as well as giving us a reason to gasp in amused disbelief at someone else’s stupidity). But there are ways of writing it and AP’s version as posted on MNSBC is nothing short of schlock:

JERUSALEM – An Israeli couple going on a European vacation remembered to take their duty-free purchases and their 18 suitcases, but forgot their 3-year-old daughter at the airport, police said Monday.

That’s nothing except cruel and judgmental. I’m almost willing to bet that the person who wrote it doesn’t have children of their own…

PS: **Got to love the Times of London headline: ‘To the family in row 3: you left your daughter behind at the airport’.

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal, , , , ,

Creativity is as important as literacy

“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will not come up with anything original,” says Ken Robinson, in this remarkable, inspiring TED talk, which we saw at a school meeting earlier this week.

He talks about how education systems across the world “ruthlessly” kill creativity in children and how it’s our responsibility to recognise that creativity is as important in education as literacy. Depressing to think that there are no education systems anywhere that recognise this. As Robinson points out, universally, all education hierarchies are the same: maths, science and language at the top; humanities in the middle and the arts below. As a parent of young, inspired and inspiring children, I worry about having to plug them into a system as rigid as a school.

It’s brilliant. Robinson is hilarious in a dry, English way but has some profound insights. It’s worth taking some time and checking it out.

Filed under: Kids stuff, Personal, , , ,

Why ignorance is bliss

My almost-six-year-old daughter has asked me for a Gameboy and an X Box. I shudder each time she does. Last year, I went looking around playschools for Sam, who was two years’ old at the time. One teacher proudly showed me the computer in the playroom, where each child was allowed to spend a limited time each week. I remember wondering what the benefit of that would be? (I have to admit that, at the same time, I wondered if I was putting my children at a disadvantage by not allowing them near a computer… Oh, the joys of parenting!)

I can’t stand how comatose my children become in front of the television (at times, of course, I love how comatose they become). But the thought of them spending endless hours throwing carrots at the Were Rabbit in Wallace & Gromit’s PSP game or – shudder, shudder, shudder – taking care of a virtual toy on Webkinz. Slate.com has a great piece on this by columnist Emily Bazelon, Death to Stuffed Animals!

…[T]here you are, fighting with your 8-year-old or even your 6-year-old about screen time. Or, worse, taking advantage of their preoccupation to make dinner, only to find that they’ve turned into bad-tempered, Web-addled mush.

Don’t try to console yourself with the mantra that they’re learning skills that will later serve them well in our technology-driven world. Using a mouse isn’t like learning to ski. If you ask me, there’s no need to do it from birth or even elementary school. I agree with Emily Yoffe: Watching kids go online for more than five minutes makes me want to shoo them outside. (Even if I admit Michael Agger is right that they’re just prepping for the real computer indulgences of the adult office.)

Look, Blazeon dallies with the idea of allowing her son online, but I’m not convinced she’s sold her soul (or his) to Internetting yet. As I see it, ignorance is always the best way of protecting your kids from stuff you don’t want them to nag you about. After all, they can’t ask you for something if they don’t even know about it…

Filed under: General, Kids stuff, Motherhood, , , ,

Mommy angst

Little Children

We rented Little Children last night. What a movie! Deeply intense, gripping and all about surburban, mommy angst. I reckon it’s American Beauty meets Crash, but somehow seemed more touching and emotionally real. Scriptwriting is brilliant, with cutting, clever dialogue with all kinds of things you can recognise. Could have done without the voiceover, though. And Kate Winslet should have won that Oscar…

Sarah Pierce: I think I understand your feelings about this book. I used to have some problems with it, myself. When I read it in grad school, Madam Bovary just seemed like a fool. She marries the wrong man; makes one foolish mistake after another; but when I read it this time, I just fell in love with her. She’s trapped! She has a choice: she can either accept a life of misery or she can struggle against it. And she chooses to struggle.
Mary Ann: Some struggle. Hop into bed with every guy who says hello.
Sarah: She fails in the end, but there’s something beautiful and even heroic in her rebellion. My professors would kill me for even thinking this, but in her own strange way, Emma Bovary is a feminist.
Mary Ann: Oh, that’s nice. So now cheating on your husband makes you a feminist?
Sarah: No, no, it’s not the cheating. It’s the hunger. The hunger for an alternative, and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness.
Mary Ann: Maybe I didn’t understand the book!

A long, but great, review here.

Filed under: General, Motherhood, , ,

2007, according to Nina and Sam

I ignored tonight’s Survivor final (so over it!) to sort out my photographs of the past year. Talk about digital pollution… Anyway, I have posted a Picasa web album, using some of my favourite images of Carolina and Sam from the past year:

Kids 2007

Filed under: Kids stuff, Personal, , , ,

The mom’s song

My friend Corinna, who never forwards emails, finally caved when she came across this classic YouTube video (which, apparently, has been downloaded nearly 2-million a zillion times). Titled the ‘Mom Song’, Anita Renfroe has set all the things your mom said — and all the things you’re now saying to your children — to the William Tell Overture.

Here’s a copy of the lyrics, courtesy of Parenting Isn’t For Pansies:

William Tell Momisms
by Anita Renfroe
sung to the William Tell Overture
Get up now, get up now, get up out of bed,
Wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your sleepy head.
Here’s your clothes and your shoes, hear the words I said,
Get up now, get up and make your bed.

Are you hot, are you cold, are you wearing that?
Where’s your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and your gloves and your scarf and hat.
Don’t forget, you’ve gotta feed the cat.

Eat your breakfast, the experts tell us it’s the most important meal of all,
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall.
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at three today,
Don’t forget your piano lesson is this afternoon so you must play.

Don’t shovel, chew slowly, but hurry, the bus is here,
Be careful, come back here, did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don’t play rough, would you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don’t forget to share,
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare,
Get along, don’t make me come down there.

Clean your room, fold your clothes, put your stuff away,
Make your bed, do it now, do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn? Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?

Answer the phone, Get off the phone,
Don’t sit so close, turn it down, no texting at the table.
No more computer time tonight,
Your ipod’s my ipod if you don’t listen up.

Where you going and with whom and what time do you think you’re coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me, makes you welcome everywhere you roam.
You’ll appreciate my wisdom someday when you’re older and you’re grown.
Can’t wait til you have a couple little children of your own.

You’ll thank me for the council I gave you so willingly,
But right now I thank you not to roll your eyes at me.
Close your mouth when you chew, we’d appreciate,
Take a bite, maybe two, of the stuff you hate.
Use your fork, do not burp or I’ll set you straight.
Eat the food I put upon your plate.

Get an A, get in the door, don’t be smart with me,
Get a grip, get in here or I’ll count to three,
Get a job, Get a life, get a PhD, get a dose of

I don’t care who started it,
You’re grounded until you’re 36,
Get your story straight and tell the truth for once for heaven sake.

And, if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump to?
If I’ve said once I’ve said it at least a thousand times before,
That you’re too old to act this way,
It must be your father’s DNA.

Look at me when I am talking, stand up straighter when you walk.
A place for everything, and everything must be in place.
Stop crying or I’ll give you something real to cry about.
oh
Brush your teeth, wash your face, get your pj’s on.
Get in bed, get a hug, say a prayer with Mom.
Don’t forget I love you (kiss)

And tomorrow we will do this all again
because a Mom’s work never ends.
You don’t need the reason why,
Because, Because, Because, Because,
I said so, I said so, I said so, I said so.
I’m the Mom, the Mom, the Mom, the Mom, the Mom!

Ta-Da!

Filed under: Motherhood, , ,

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