me Life and Times of the Fireflies: July 2013

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tastes of Ramadaan...Featuring the Chocolate Eclair

There are certain things about Cape Town that will keep me here forever and makes me banish any thought of ever leaving. My family and extended family are all here (with the exception of my brother and his unit, who resides in the UK), Table Mountain and the ocean, and the magical spirit of Ramadaan which is captured in a very unique way in this part of the world.

There's a very distinct atmosphere during this holy month; an atmosphere I imagine can't be duplicated elsewhere, and can be beaten, perhaps, only by the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah...there's the early morning recitation at the mosques that can clearly be heard from the comfort of our home; the call to prayer can be heard from the numerous mosques that surround our area, just by opening our back door...and the kindred spirit of sharing, the exchanging of bortjies with our neighbours, family and friends...

It is a simple tradition, probably adopted from the holy cities itself, where sharing whatever humble meal you have with whoever is next to you; the essence of which is somewhat lost through excess and extravagance. Through this process of sharing, there are things one starts to look forward to only in Ramadan; Bolla's and fritters, Batata Warra and Daltjies, Doughnuts and Koeksisters...and my all time favourite... the Chocolate Éclair

Everyone has their own version of the Éclair, all opting for various fillings and toppings; from banana and caramel, to seasonal fresh fruit and cream, or my own favourite; cream flavoured with a hint of vanilla. Here is the recipe I have been using for years. Never flopped, but took some practise to get the size just right.


  • 1 cup water

  • 125 grams butter

  • 1 cup cake flour

  • 4 eggs ( I use jumbo)

  1. Preheat oven to 200 deg
  2. Bring butter and water to boiling point in  a saucepan.
  3. Stir in flour all at once and stir vigorously until it leaves the side of the pan and forms a lump.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is velvety and smooth.
  5. Grease your baking trays (I use spray and cook) and drop one heaped teaspoon of batter at a time, leaving enough room between them for the éclair to puff out.
  6. Bake at 200 deg for 30 minutes, then reduce oven to 150 def and bake for 20 min.

250ml fresh cream
2 tablespoon castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
200g chocolate (I use milk chocolate)
1 small tin nestle cream (optional)


  1. Beat together cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.
  2. Slit open the éclair shells and either spoon or pipe some cream into the shell. One could also just slit a hole big enough to squeeze cream in from the piping bag, giving a much neater looking éclair.
  3. I prefer to  just melt the chocolate on low heat with a little oil and top the éclair with that; giving the natural flavour of the chocolate an opportunity to arouse your taste buds ; but you could also melt together the chocolate and  nestle cream which results in a more softer, glossy topping.
*TIP: If using the melted chocolate option without the cream, leave outside the fridge for a bit before serving in order for the chocolate to lose it's hardness.


Friday, 26 July 2013

My Little Princess....Forever and Always

Saafiyah; Language: Arabic; Meaning: Serene, Pure, Chaste

It's amazing how quickly time flies seconds become minutes; minutes become hours; and the hours turn into days, months, years...I can hardly believe 11 years have passed. Eleven years since the birth of my first child, my only daughter, my graceful little princess.

It doesn't seem that long ago that she would climb into my bed at night, wedged between her dad and me, tiny hand rubbing my arm soothingly, comfortingly. It seems like just the other day, she was knee high, making her way into my lap for a loving embrace. It feels like yesterday I was still able to carry her off to her own room after yet another night of falling asleep in my bed!

I'm not quite sure when it all changed, when her feet grew to be almost as big as mine, when she grew from shoulder height to eye level, or when she started climbing less into my bed at night and more often into my high heels for a round of dress-up, when I changed from having all the answers, to not really having a clue. I'm not sure when this all happened, whether I blinked slightly too long, or whether I looked away for more than a split second...but my little girl has gone, and in her place stands a tall, willowy young girl.

There are still remnants of that little girl left, the little girl with a shy smile and a nurturing heart. The little girl that prefers running races to reading books; who loves animals and has a flair for art. No matter how big and tall, she is still the same little girl... that needs to be tucked into bed with a kiss at night, still needs a loving embrace when her tears begin to fall, still looks over her shoulder to us for love and approval; still looks to the crowd on awards day, race day, karate promotions; still very much a Daddy's girl...

As my little girl enters a new decade, with new challenges, new hopes and dreams; as she grows and needs me less, as she develops her own interests, style, passion and voice; as she attempts to loosen the protective clasp that grips her so tight....The truth is, there's a little girl  left in all of us, that looks for love and affirmation, and for as long as I'm around, whenever she may turn around in need of it, and even when she may not; I'll be here to give it....


Happy Birthday Princess Saafiyah,
Love Mom & Dad
(and Aunts, Uncles, cousins, Grandma & Granddad...and your two little brothers too) 


Monday, 22 July 2013

My Story

Every story has a beginning; every human, a journey...

Ones beginnings has a very large impact on our lives, our journeys, our path towards our destinies. It says a lot about who we are, how we've become the beings that exist now. Life, and it's many experiences; moulds us, breaks us, picks us back up, destroys our hope, rebuilds our faith, reunites us with the glimmer of peace that exists within our souls.

From the very beginning, our moments count, impact and influence who we are. It is probably why I particularly like stories of beginnings; of the day we were born. Specifically, my story...especially the way my mom told it. It always makes me feel special, and loved, and glad to be alive....

My story starts one fateful winters day, in the middle of July. My mom was 29 and I was her fourth, tucked away, curled up in the womb. Unflinching. Silent. Motionless. Panic stricken and hysterical, my mother (and I) were escorted to the hospital in an ambulance, leaving a small one year old behind (that would be Deed) and two older kids as well (age 4 & 6). There was a slight heartbeat, my mom says. Hope....

I was born blue, not breathing, and mom was in trouble too.  A few slaps on the bottom, and a shrill shriek (I haven't quite gotten rid of the shrill) later, I had made it into the world, fighting for a chance. There's a reason we both survived to tell the tale (well, mom tells it; I'm retelling), why our hearts continue to beat, rhythmically, harmoniously; why our souls continue to linger.

Now this may sound like a dramatically tragic story, one made for Hollywood movies, but strangely enough, I am not much different than that baby who made her way into the world 34 years ago, and the bond I have with my mother is unwavering. My mom still knows my every move one would swear she's installed a tracking device!!! And she's extremely intuitive about my well-being without me having to say a thing.

Although my name, Namreen, means softness, which I am in many ways; soft-hearted, sensitive, caring and nurturing; I am also every bit a fighter, an unassuming suit of armour, a rose who guards her petals with a stem of thorns...

For the longest time, I assumed this story was about me, but this nothing without my mom. Who continues to face the world with courage, who will always have her children's best interests at heart, who will valiantly fight alongside her kids; from the day we were born, until the day we cease to be...

Mom and me 2012

Dad's favourite ;-)...He would wake each of us up on our birthdays singing "Happy Birthday". I do the exact same with my kids now!!


Love you both eternally,
NAMU :) 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Quick and Easy No Bake Chocolate Squares

In the spirit of keeping things simple, and minimising time in the kitchen in order to maximise our time in spiritual endeavours; I am sharing my quick and easy, no bake chocolate squares!! The saving on time does in no way compromise it's decadence. This is a devilishly delightful treat, that will have you wishing you could dip your fingers in the sauce as you go along. This recipe probably has all the ingredients for a failed diet, and one block simply isn't enough. BE WARNED!!! Here is the recipe, which I have courteously doubled, because one batch simply isn't enough....

You  will need:
  • 2 packets Marie biscuits (broken into pieces)

  • 250gr butter

  • 4 tblsp sugar

  • 4 tblsp golden syrup

  • 4 tblsp condensed milk

  • 4 tblsp cocoa powder

  • 200 gr milk chocolate (for decorating)

  • white chocolate (for decorating)

  1. In a pot, slowly heat together butter, condensed milk, sugar and golden syrup, stirring frequently until butter is melted.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder.
  3. Add broken marie biscuits and stir thoroughly until biscuit pieces are well coated.
  4. Pour into a large rectangular dish, pressing the top down slightly with the back of a spoon to ensure even distribution and a smooth finish on top.
  5. Leave to set (I prefer to let it set outside of the fridge), and then decorate with melted chocolate, and drizzle some white chocolate to finish it off. At this point you can put it in the fridge.
  6. Cut into blocks and enjoy!
  •  This mixture can also be made to look like truffles. Just roll them into balls once mixture is cooled down, dip into chocolate, drizzle and decorate however you want,and put into mini cookie cups :-)
  • If your heat is turned up too high during melting, the ingredients tend to scorch and give the squares a slightly burnt taste (I have learnt this by trial and error). Hence, do not add cocoa powder during the melting process.



Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Catching Up

The fast has gotten off to quite a good start so far. I have been trying to stick to my commitment of keeping meals simple and avoiding the all day slog that I  usually get entangled into; with the odd treat (the quick and easy kind) in between, and appreciating the peace and tranquillity that comes with that.

 The kids are bigger and fasting with so much more ease (obviously the shorter days help); and have settled into a routine of sehri (early morning meal), laughter and play, energy slump, regular prayer, iftaar (breaking fast), energy high and eventual collapse! Even little Zaydaan seems to be in the swing of things, waiting out the last 10 minutes or so with his older siblings for his samoosa reward, and providing  many laughs with his "fasting" attempts.

This comes as a great relief to me, as my biggest fear as a young mother was always how I was going to get my kids to fast...How was I going to instil this discipline into my constantly ravenous kids, that would require them to abstain from food and water for an entire day! I was worried I would be a failing mother, that my kids would belong to the generation of those who don't fast, that my role as mother would be futile because of failing at this one task.

Much like Zaydaan does now, the older kids started by waiting out the last 5min, which seemed eternal, until they could finally munch down a samoosa. 5min stretched to 10min and 10 to 15....and eventually the kids learnt to be silent and wait for the athaan (call to prayer and signalling the end of the fasting day). As they got older their version of fasting improved. Eat something, fast. Drink something, fast. Eat and drink and snack and treat, and then fast...and then wait it out for the athaan.

By 6, their version improved more. Breakfast, fasted till lunch. Lunch, and then fast till the end of the day. And  then finally, they conquered a fully fledged day, and then pulled through a whole month. The point of this whole long story is, that this process taught me something valuable about fasting and about life...that, just as the kids progress was a gradual one, personal growth is also gradual and comes when fed with the proper motivation, knowledge and input. That growth is also constant, even when we think we have conquered it all; until the day we close our eyes, there is always opportunity to learn and grow.

In light of that, as a family we are using this month to improve a little bit of ourselves, conquer some demons, clean away some internal cobwebs, and grow; as individuals and as a unit. Just a week has passed, and one of my goals was to detach myself somewhat from the kitchen so that I can make better use of this oasis. I've been doing well so far...let's hope I keep up my lucky streak!



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Ramadaan - The Journey to Self-Enlightenment

To abstain from food, drink and other worldly pleasures for several hours a day, for a whole month, might seem like a tough task; but all religions (Jews, Buddhists, Christians ) observe some form of it as a means of spiritual enlightenment. There must be some wisdom in this ancient practise then, that is helpful in our pursuit for complete solace of our minds.

Fasting, in it's very basic form, teaches us patience. Teaches us empathy for those living in poverty. Teaches us restraint and willpower. Conquering abstinence for a month, however, should not be the end of our trial. It is the beginning of a much deeper journey, the essence of which, may take a lifetime to master.

Throughout the year we become submerged into our daily lifestyle, our daily activities and routine. We get drawn into the world so to speak, pursuing worldly goals, achieving worldly successes. Ramadaan is like an oasis, our little lifeboat that helps us regain our perspective when we've strayed too far. It is a opportunity to detach ourselves from worldly pleasure; an opportunity to focus on our spirituality, an opportunity for us to improve our inner selves and grow.

Ideally, it should be a month of reformation and self-reflection, where, as we abstain from that which nourishes our body; we instead obtain nourishment for our soul; and when we see the end of it drawing near, we will fear having to face the mirages of the world once again.

Some of us spend our whole lives merely depriving our bodies of food, without experiencing even an ounce of the intended spiritual benefits and rewards this blessed month has to offer. We emerge from this month non the wiser, nor enlightened and merely continue to stagger along blindly.

I have not reached my summit yet. I have not reached my Zen so to speak. I have not achieved complete silence of my mind; but, I continue to climb my way to the top. Climb my way to detachment, climb my way to complete inner peace and humility, letting go of my ego...and view the world from THAT space...where the world is a mere haze...a portal to somewhere better!!

May the following month bring with it the peace, tranquillity and retrospection we all desire; and may we all reap it's rewards and benefits.

Ramadaan Mubarak,
NAMU :-)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Recipe : Oat Crunchies

I tend to only make these deliciously crisp, golden hued cookies during the winter months. They are the perfect, dunk in your coffee, afternoon (morning and evening) treat; and the oats even fools one to believe it's a somewhat healthy indulgence! Many grocery outlets and even health stores have variations of this classic, but I still prefer mine homemade. This recipe is an all time favourite of my family, and the next generation seem to be enjoying it pretty much too! Here is the recipe...


  • 230 gr butter

  • 420 gr castor sugar

  • 1 extra large egg

  • 10 ml golden syrup

  • 5 ml almond essence ( I've used vanilla essence and it turns out fine

  • 25 ml boiling water

  • 10 ml bicarbonate of soda

  • 350 gr self raising flour

  • 300 gr oats


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a couple of baking sheets.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the egg and mix well.
  3. Blend the golden syrup, almond essence, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda and add to the butter mixture.
  4. Also add the sifted self-raising flour and finally the oats. Mix well.
  5. Roll into walnut sized balls and place apart from each other as the balls spread flat during baking.
  6. Bake for 8-10 min until nice and golden.
  7. Makes about 80 cookies (that generally don't last very long with a house full of kids).
Now to make the batch I promised for my mom!!

Freshly baked!


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

My Truths - Gratitude For All That Is

Some days there are no big life lessons to learn, no big moments that impact our lives, days where the tides of life crash gently on the ocean shore....Those are the days we merely have to sit and embrace the silence of our brains, and be grateful. Days where we raise our hands, not in asking, but thanking. Days where our hearts do not seek unspoken answers, but rather languishes in the blessings we take for granted.

Gratitude is the reminder of the flag of peace we hold within our souls, the calm and resolution we need for our minds, the torch of hope for our tomorrow....

So often, we are caught up in life's storms; consumed in our pursuits of steering ourselves to safer shores, searching for brighter tomorrows; when the real beacon of light lies in embracing gratitude despite the storm. Finding moments in the myriad of chaos that makes us smile, makes us gleam, makes us grateful....makes us know that we will be okay.

I know I'll be okay... I know this because, no matter what challenges I face, my kids return the smile to my face and the warm tingling in my heart...

I know I'll be okay... I know this because; I know what's important to me, I know what I want, and I strive to achieve that everyday...

I know I'll be okay...because, I'm following my dreams, making my moments count, making a difference...

I know I'll be okay because... I have a loving, caring family and valued friendships. I surround myself with positivity and whatever negativity may creep in, the good far outweighs the bad. I know that feeling down is only temporary, only fleeting moments in the vast expanse of joyfulness.

I know I'll be okay... I know this because I have a strong mind and a strong belief that nothing goes unnoticed...I know this because the wheel is always turning and I don't want it to turn on me.

I know I'll be okay... I know this because I greet each day with a smile on my face and a heart full of Hope...