me Life and Times of the Fireflies: December 2013

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Dear Diary

Time flies when you're having fun...but it sure drags when you miss the people you love!
 
 It's been nearly a week now since they left...since I last saw their faces...heard their voices...since they left me behind...Nearly a week since I waved them goodbye, said our farewells, gave them one last embrace...
 
 Those of you who know me, know that my family is everything to me! It's been almost a week since 6 members of my family departed on a journey to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. My parents, 3 sisters and my nephew; who is like a son to me and big brother to my children. Unable to join them, I stayed behind...with my nuclear family...not quite alone; but yet still feeling slightly lonely.
 
There have been many times that I have been away on holiday; that they have gone on holiday...but I have never been left behind alone. I have never before felt the emptiness of having no one here...no one near. No one to call. Nothing but an empty home to visit.
 
I know many families live in the same country without speaking or seeing each other on a regular basis, but we are not like that. I speak to my mom and sisters several times a day...my nephew is permanently in my home...my Dad a constant cheerful fixture. It is one thing being in a different country without all things familiar...it is quite different being home without the familiar voices and presence of all those that you love and hold dear. This separation...is a little bit hard.
 
In the meantime I am filling my day with pleasantries with the kids in the hopes that it will dull out the little hollow in my heart...that it will help make the time move a little faster...that it will occupy my mind with thoughts other than the incessant wondering of what they are up to without me. I am trying, but the truth is that we are all watching our phones, waiting for a little message, a flashing light...a little voice from 'home'. Even the kids... and little Zaydaan that came to my bed early this morning to ask when Agu is coming home!

I wonder if they wonder about me too...the six of them all together...me home alone. Writing this I hardly sound like a mature adult, mother of three. I suppose I am writing as a daughter and sister then. As a woman whose best friends are all in one place...a place that is a little bit further than she likes.

I miss my daily chats, constant messaging, random visits, spontaneous outings, jokes and laughter...even mom's scolding!!! I miss you all so very much and like a big, grown kid, I am counting down the days till you return!


Love,
 
NAMU :)
 


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My Truths- 2013 Highlights and Lessons

This year has passed by in a flash and what a year it has been! As we get ready to bid adieu to 2013 and embrace a new year, and with it new goals to achieve and accomplish, it is always great to pause and reflect our journey so far. It is great to see how far we have come and gives us a chance to plot our path forward, for it is in introspection and retrospection that we are truly able to grow, heal, and conquer.

Here is a list of my highlights and lessons of 2013...

Family: It's been nearly 13 years since my brother moved to the UK and as a result we are rarely all together in the same place at the same time! Although modern technology makes the distance seem like nothing at all and correspondence is instant and constant; it is always great being on the same soil, breathing in the same air! This January my brother and his family flew done for my sister's wedding and even though the time together was short; it is moments that will be endearingly treasured...I have learnt that time and distance can never create barriers when you belong to a family!
Family picture taken at my sister's nikah ceremony
 

Oscar Pistorius Who can forget the tragic news that greeted us on Valentines Day! The world watched as Oscar made his epic fall from grace in a rather tragic series of circumstances. Was it an accident? Was it premeditated? We may never know all the facts, but in a world that is bombarded with atrocities, I choose to err on the side of having faith in humanity! Whatever the outcome, whatever opinion the world may hold; I know that everything tragedy is a stepping stone to a much deeper journey; and in this case, a journey which is Oscar's and not ours! What I have learnt through this though, is that the world is more willing to convict than to forgive...

I started this Blog The journey began...(here) After some encouragement and persuasion...and a little bit of doubt, I took the leap and started my little journey of words and thoughts; and though it may lack the pretty pictures and popularity of my fashion blogger counterparts, I am extremely grateful to all who read, those that click the "like" button and those who take the time to comment and share. And to my family of course, for their unwavering support and who is often the inspiration behind the flow of my words. I have learnt that you are never too old to pursue your passion...

My First Concert Experience This year saw me attend my first concert ever (read here)!!! And though it was a lovely and memorable experience that I am glad I got to share with my kids, I doubt I will be rushing out to get tickets to the next big thing anytime soon. I am quite content to just sing along to the car radio on the daily school trek. Oh gosh...I  am surely getting old!!

I became computer literate! While the world embraced technologically, I was busy embracing motherhood! There was never a need for me to be computer savvy until desperation took over when I started to Blog! I knew NOTHING!!! I didn't even know how to save a picture (seriously). My sisters were ever obliging to show me the ropes, as was my 10 year old son....and the rest, as they say, is history;-) I have learnt that every day is an opportunity to learn something new...

Photo shoot with Marie Claire A definite highlight! I'm far from being a supermodel, and I'm by no means quitting my day job, but I got to live out every girls fantasy...even if it was just for a moment! I have learnt that no dream is impossible...that no mountain is conquered by standing still!

Accomplishments Being part of a family means that I do not only rejoice my own accomplishments, but also celebrate the success of those who are near and dear to me as well. Throughout the year I have watched and cheered as so many accomplishments were achieved by all (here). From academics to sports and even art... My nephew got selected as head boy for the coming year, and after 2 years of sacrifice, Deed completed her masters...we celebrated...and we celebrated together! I have learnt that rejoicing the success of others makes the taste of your own that much sweeter.

Madiba died.  (read my tribute )The world mourned the passing of an icon!  But even in grieving, it was impossible not to celebrate the life and history of Madiba...whose struggles, hardships and sacrifices has lead to a better South Africa for us all. Madiba left behind a legacy...a legacy of empowerment for ALL human beings. The lessons learnt from Madiba's lifespan are countless...perhaps the biggest lessons would be the power of forgiveness. That so much more can be achieved with kindness rather than anger. That the key to a rich life is good character and humility...

My favourite picture of 2013 has got to be this pic of me taken on my sister's wedding! Having a Bollywood moment...What I have learnt is that a picture is but one moment frozen in time and behind every picture, is a story untold...


And so the little streams of our lives trickle on...
Seasons have changed once again...
The sun continues to rise and set.
 The stars still adorn the sky at night,
 and the waves haven't ceased to caress the shore.
 Our life's course continues to unravel and unfold...
 
New life welcomed,
Solidly imprinted in our hearts and lives.
Conquering new experiences and thrills,
For us to celebrate and rejoice...
The old continue to impart their wisdom...
Some by the way they live,
and others through their death.
 
Life has handed us many treasures,
Some to adorn our hearts,
and others to strengthen our soul.
There were moments that were tough,
but there were much more laden with joy!
 
And all the while, through it all,
You were there to share it with me.
Mother, Father, Sisters, Brother, Husband...
Children, Friends and Strangers...
Through our bonds, unions, interactions and intersections,
You have all had an effect on my life...
And for 2013 it has definitely been a positive one!
 
 Thanks for being part of my 2013,

Peace,

NAMU:)
 


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Marie Claire Feature - What Makes YOU Powerful!


On set at the Marie Claire photo shoot
 
I spent a great part of my 20's doubting my self worth and trying to fit the mould of what others expected and wanted me to be. I had a burning desire to be accepted. To fit in. To simply belong. In the process, I had lost my spark...lost myself. It reached a point where I was everything to everyone else, but I wasn't being ME!
 
I had fought long and hard the battle from within, until I acknowledged that the only person holding me back is myself and that is when I finally emerged, no longer a slave to what others thought of me. So what makes ME powerful?

I feel that I only unleashed my full power once I stopped fighting a war with the world around me, and accepted that I am a part of it and needed to make my voice heard. My power lies in breaking free from the shackles that have bound me, letting go of the stereotype I was expected to fit, embracing who I am and finding my voice!!

True power comes when you stop looking around for approval and start believing in yourself. It is when we realise that our thoughts, words and actions has the ability to shape the future of not just ourselves, but the people we encounter along our journey as well.
 
"As a wife and mother, I am often expected to be and act a certain way.
 Breaking free of those stereotypes and believing in myself
 is the one place I know I can always find the approval
that we are so used to looking for around us."

As this was my very first shoot, I was completely clouded by nerves! I had no idea what to expect, but I must say I was welcomed very warmly by the team from Marie Claire Magazine and they managed to put my nerves at ease. From stylist to make-up artist and photographers; start to finish; everyone was so lovely and accommodating! Silly me got none of their details to publicly credit them... but thanks to everyone for making the experience so wonderful and memorable; especially the features writer from Marie Claire Magazine, Sarah Koopman, for including me in this feature! Here are a few behind the scenes pictures of the shoot.

The makeover begins...
 

 

 
Transformation is starting to show...
 

 Mammarazzi was my companion (and photographer) for the day!
 
A few quick snaps! 

 
 
The final result!
 
Thanks for reading,
 
Peace,
 
NAMU :)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Everything is Different, Yet Nothing Has Changed

Even though the sun rises and sets everyday; it does so to an ever changing landscape. Sometimes, we take for granted the daily constants in our lives, and become oblivious to the silent changes, until one day we wake up and realise the world as we knew it, is no more...

I have become so accustomed to seeing my parents with my heart instead of my eyes, that when my sight eventually caught up to the vision of reality, I realise, that though nothing is different...everything has changed...
 
I have been too preoccupied to notice the gradual, silent change...perhaps because things have always stayed the same. Hunched over a computer, filling out tax forms...trips to the grocery store...Loud and rowdy family dinners and lunches... corny jokes and infectious laughter...He is still the same Father I have always known! Still the same vibrant, cricket loving Dad. But somewhere down the line he stopped playing the game, and now secretly watches while he dodges the chores!

Nothing has changed...I fool myself into thinking. All is still the same. Lie in's and cuddles, all piled up together.The kids on his lap and the childish, playful games. Animated conversations marked with giggles and laughter. It's all still the same! But no longer Father and children; but grandkids and Granddad.

Each and every birthday; for as long as I can remember; we get woken up with his husky voiced rendition of the 'Happy Birthday' song!!! Time has changed everything, yet nothing at all...cos it's 34 years on and I still get my birthday song, but only now with a call.

12 years have passed since I married and left home...and though time has changed so much, it hasn't changed a thing at all. I return there almost daily, to all that is familiar, to all that is dear...and each time I do so, I am still lovingly welcomed as a child...cos though so many things may be different, nothing has changed at all.


I look back at all the photo's...of the changing landscape I greet each day...of my parents and siblings and the memories we all share. And although I greet them each day in the same familiar way the sun kisses the earth, I now realise, that though still the same to me... things have inevitably changed. I need to face the reality that much time has elapsed; and that my once young, vibrant, energetic and boisterous Dad; has now become an old man!

Happy Birthday Dad!!!
 
video
Here is a little video of the ever changing landscape, that is my Family...


Loved dearly by your Loyal Wife, Kids and Grandchildren
 
Happy 69th Birthday DAD!



Friday, 6 December 2013

My Summer Holiday Survival Guide!

Alas, my stint as a taxi driver, tutor and part-time chef has come to an end. My current employment is a little bit more taxing...For the next 5 weeks, my job description includes being Butler, Chauffeur, FULL TIME Chef ( includes 3 meals plus snacks), events coordinator and referee to 3 monsters kids!!! And let me tell you, toilet breaks are not scheduled into this contract!

Over the past few years I have learnt a couple of survival tactics, and entered this years festive season mayhem, a little bit more prepared. Having been previously tortured by the perils of extremely bored kids; I have come up with a survival guide to get through it relatively unscathed...

Swimming

Swimming pool in the garden....Best. Thing. EVER! It is one of those increasingly rare occasions, where all the kids are getting along...As soon as the going gets tough, "Who wants to swim?" seems to solve all my problems!! Also a perfect time to put feet up, drink a cup of coffee in peace, and take that much needed (quick) trip to the bathroom (This post was written while kids were in the pool). Swim time = rest time = most of the day! With  this though, comes the 11am-3pm madness.... the no swimming between these hours rule, means that the entire days moaning, arguing, starvation and complaining about the heat happens in these 4hrs...Enough said.


Outdoor Activities

Here again...Take them to a venue. Something that is preferably free (My favourite place is the Urban Park in Greenpoint). Let them run free and explore; while keeping a watchful eye at a safe distance of course! It's a win-win for all parties involved. Good to take a friend along to catch up on Skinner (gossip). Come home. Swim. Equals more relax time!

Then...2011
 

Now...2013...and almost all of them grown past me!

 
Hikes are a good way of depleting energy too!
 


Actively Involved Aunts!

Aaaaah! Possibly my favourite option. This is where generous aunts are on leave and  are coaxed into offer to take your kids for the entire DAY!! And you gladly oblige their humble request, and politely decline to join because you...like...have a ton of things to do...like RELAX!

Ratanga Junction ritual
 
 
 Canal Walks annual ice feature!
 
 Wheel of excellence...
 
Constantia Nek hiking trail
 
Grandma does more than her fair share too! 

Convince Husband to Braai

Which is often in Summer, and also means escaping from making one whole meal for the day!! Cos he does the braaing around here...and I, well....Relax! Hooray for Woolies Salads and ready made everything!

Family and Friends

Remember the good old days, where we would spend hours playing outside with the neighbourhood kids? Our neighbourhood is pretty old school like that. My kids have endless fun cycling, playing hide and seek etc. with the neighbours; and also their cousins, who are permanent fixtures in my home during the holiday! This also, obviously keeps the kids busy , and gives me time to...erm...RELAX!

 

Inseparable!
This pic says it all! Check the background ;-)


video
 

But Ssshhhh....don't tell husband. Holidays are hard work and pretty exhausting ;-)


Hope all of you have a holiday plan too!
 
Peace,
 
NAMU :)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pavlova -The Ultimate Summer Dessert!!

Pavlova...perhaps the dessert mostly associated with summer! It's light and airy texture; paired with a fresh, seasonal fruit topping; makes this the perfect summer indulgence. It has been a popular Summer dessert for a long time, and over the years people have incorporated many different flavours and fillings, although, around here, most people tend to stick to whipped cream and fresh fruit.
 
I confess to have made Pavlova only once before...and it flopped!! I think I may have been too hasty and not taken heed of the instructions correctly, but it was enough for me to swear off making Pavlova ever again! Well, until recently that is....when I posed the question on Facebook as to what summer dessert I should feature on the Blog, one reader was kind enough to share her Pavlova recipe with me. I obviously could not back down from this challenge, and I am so glad I didn't!
 
This is a recipe with a twist. Instead of the normal whipped cream topping, this recipe uses the egg yolks to make a zesty, lemony flavoured, mousse-like filling that I can only describe as absolutely sublime! The smooth citrus flavour was the perfect contrast to the sweet, crisp crust and marshmallow centred of the meringue, which culminated in an interesting and divine end result. With the added bonus of not wasting the yolks, this recipe is a winner and it is now one of my Summer favourites!



Here is the recipe as was given to me. I will add tips and modifications at the end.
 
MERINGUE CASE
 
  • 4 egg whites (retain yolks for filling)

  • 2ml salt

  • 100gr sugar

  • 100gr Castor sugar

  • 5ml corn flour (maizena)

  • 2ml vinegar OR lemon juice

LEMON FILLING
  • 4 egg yolks

  • 50gr Castor sugar

  • 50ml lemon juice

  • 12,5 ml finely grated lemon rind ( I did without this and it turned out fine)

  • 190ml fresh cream, whipped
STEP 1:

Trace a 20cm diameter circle on a piece of greaseproof paper. Place paper on a baking tray. Set aside.

STEP 2:

Place egg-whites in a clean grease free bowl (preferably stainless steel). Add salt and beat until stiff. Gradually add sugar a little bit at a time. Beat well until dissolved. Fold in Castor sugar and cornflour using a metal spoon. Fold in vinegar ( I continued using my stand mixer on low speed).

STEP 3:

Spread a thick layer within the drawn circle. Place remaining meringue in a piping bag. Pipe around outer edges to form sides of the case. Bake at 110 deg Celsius for abut 1 1/2 to 2 hrs or until meringue is crisp and lightly browned. Turn off oven and leave to cool with door open.

STEP 4:

Whisk egg yolks until frothy. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Add lemon juice and rind. Place mixture in a saucepan over simmering water. Stir over heat until mixture thickens; approximately 10 min. Remove from heat, leave to cool. Lastly, fold in whipped cream.

TO COMPLETE:

Spoon filling into meringue case. Decorate with rosettes of cream and a slice of lemon peel.

 
 
Some Tips on what I would do differently:
 
  • As pretty as the case looks, I would rather make it flatter next time with a slight dip in the centre. I found the meringue of the outer case a bit too sweet without the pairing of the zesty filling.

  • I think I baked mine slightly too long as the base of one half was a bit too crisp. I won't go beyond 1 1/2 hrs in my oven, however this will vary from oven to oven. I will instead use the guideline in step 3 and turn the heat off once shell is crisp and slightly brown.

  • I will NOT decorate with fruit! The instruction did not include a fruit topping and I didn't listen!! I found that it drowned out the flavour of the lemon filling, which was a pity, because the beauty of this Pavlova is it's filling.

  • I absolutely loved the filling! I would even make it as a mousse on it's own. I am already imagining substituting the lemon juice with other flavours for a unique Pavlova each and every time! Mango puree and Berry puree is on the top of my list!

  • Because of the long baking time and cooling process, I made the meringue case and filling the day before I needed it. I stored the meringue in an airtight container, and filling in the fridge; and I assembled it on the day!
 
 
Keep safe over the festive season,
 
Happy Holidays!
 
NAMU :)