#wwStoriesofFlavour – warm winter food memories 

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m one of the many unofficial Woolies ambassadors! 

I literally eat, sleep and wear this brand like I get paid for it; so it obviously felt like Christmas and my birthday at the same time when a few days before I celebrated my 31st birthday, I get a message on Facebook that I’ve been rewarded with TV personality, Danine Naidoo’s #FlavourBox after commenting on the Instagram post featuring all the goodies in her #FlavourBox. 

You can imagine the joy in my heart when on my birthday the Woolies delivery man came bearing my goodies!

Luckily winter chills haven’t quite left and so comfort food is still mandatory. I’ll be preparing a dish a day which will be three savoury dishes and two desserts hoping my family will enjoy them. The Woolies campaign is about unique winter food memories so I decided to not just scoff down all the treats but create a menu incorporating all the amazing goodies from Danine’s #FlavourBox. 

I’ll be creating my own #wwStoriesofFlavour this week – which translates to warm flavours which remind me of my mom’s cooking while growing up. 

These are the goodies I got:

 

Here is Danine’s #FlavourBox: free range eggs, whipping cream, Tennis Biscuits, diced sweet potato, brown onions, Caramel Treat, white flour tortilla, toasted breadcrumbs, vanilla pods, carsmelised onion chutney, Italian crushed tomatoes, Peppermint Crisp, ground cinnamon, garlic and thyme infused olive oil, oregano spray, lean beef mince, Emmental and the ultimate winter indulgence: Glühwein!

 
Here’s my menu and the #FlavourBox goodies I’ll be using: 

MONDAY: Sweet potato and butternut cottage pie with creamy portabellini mushrooms 

For my take on mom’s cottage pie I used the lean beef mince, caramelised onion chutney, brown onion, cream, ground cinnamon and the infused olive oil.

TUESDAY: Fish and falafel wraps with sweet potato chips 

I’m combining two of my favourite flavours in this wrap with a little help from these: white tortilla wraps and the caramelised onion chutney.

WEDNESDAY: Emmental stuffed burgers with a tomato relish and potato wedges 

I’ll be using the leftover mince to attempt to not only make my own burger patties but stuff them with Emmental cheesy goodness along with the Italian crushed tomatoes, free range eggs, brown onion and the infused olive oil.

THURSDAY: Marble baked cheesecake 

This will be my first attempt at making cheesecake and I’ll be trying to make a marbled baked variety using the vanilla pod, Tennis Biscuits, Caramel Treat and cream.

FRIDAY: Peppermint Crisp tart 

And on Friday, I’ll try this South African favourite with the cream, Peppermint Crisp and the Tennis Biscuits.

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happy birthday to me! 

So last year I was annoyingly counting down to my 30th birthday. And now that I’m celebrating my 31st birthday I’ve been reflecting on my first year in my 30s… it may seem a bit presumptuous but I have 30 things I’ve learned so far in my first year in my third decade:

1. Love – unconditionally, consistently but remember to not give it out without reciprocity.

2. Forgive – yourself and others. It’s so liberating to go through life without any grudges as well as not holding any of your own transgressions against yourself.

3. Learn – from the past, from mistakes, from parents, from children, from friends, from strangers. Seek out the lesson in your experiences and never live under the arrogant impression that you can never learn.

4. Laugh- at good jokes, bad jokes, cheesy jokes; until your stomach and cheeks hurt. Learn to laugh at yourself- life’s too short to spend it sulking.

5. Let go… I’ve found this particularly hard. I’m not one to let go of people easily despite them showing me in every way that they don’t want to to be in my life, I’ll pursue the relationship – whether romantic or otherwise – until the proverbial bitter end. However this year has taught me to not be precious about people’s presence in my life – to appreciate and acknowledge them but to never write off the possibility of them not being there forever. 

6. Value yourself – in my ability to not let go easily I’ve realised how this speaks directly to my self-worth. If my time and energy is as vital as I say it then I’ll know to not waste it on people who need constant reminders of that.

7. Respect – it’s deserved yet at the same time earned. It’s also the English translation of the name of someone near and dear to me…

8. Dream big – like the way your childhood dreams weren’t inhibited by anything continue with this in adulthood knowing that because now you’re older you can do anything and everything to realise these dreams.

9. Take risks – calculated and otherwise: you’ll never know until you try.

10. Challenge yourself and try surround yourself with people who do the same. Although it’s great to have a crowd cheering for you I believe it also great to be surrounded by people who push you further.

11. Believe in people – cynics will disagree when it comes to this but I sincerely believe that despite the bad in the world, there are people who are good. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the presence of them and it’s always strengthened my belief in the inherent good nature of people.  

12. Be kind – it isn’t always easy but showing kindness to me will hopefully plant a seed in another person to do the same and so it will continue that way – it’s seemingly naive but acts of kindness have such great impact. 

13. Change is inevitable, get used to it.

14. The things that made you lose sleep in your 20s will probably look silly to you. 

15. Greet people – as a child I was taught to greet my neighbours but as I grew older I no longer did this however there’s nothing lovelier than seeing the face of cashier light up when you simply acknowledge their presence with a simple smile and hello.

16. Play! I’ve never stopped being a child and I’m glad – I’m a better aunt to my niece and nephew and I’m certain I’ll be a great first friend to my child! 

17. Being alone isn’t lonely… I learned this lesson in my 20s already. I started to enjoy my own company and found that being alone is a great time to figure out what you want, who you want in your space and catch up on much needed reading and series binge weekends! 

18. Be your happiness – over the years I’ve come to discover that the things and people that made me happy even six months ago might not be around. Happiness has to come from within so that when the things are no longer with you- you’ll still be fine.

19. Creativity isn’t just a hobby – I’ve recently discovered that making things with my hands is not only fun but I’m hoping it’ll turn into a lucrative venture.

20. It’s ok not want to wear heels – they’re a social construction made by men to oppress women! but on the real I’ve been a #chickinkicks and #sneakerhead since toddler days and as you become older, people start asking why you’re dressing your age but thankfully the right people have spoken terms such as sport luxe into being and it’s suddenly chic to rock kicks – I’m so glad they’ve all caught on! 

21. You can never have too many accessories and if things go my way more women will start to own the ones #madewithlovebysiya.

22. There’ll always be people in your corner rooting for you – some cheer loudly with pom poms and screams – others pray for you silently hoping you succeed. Send back those blessings.

23. Dressing up is not a crime – wanting to look good and taking care of your appearance has sometimes been seen as a sign of being superficial and self absorbed but if you show up in a fleece onesie to work somehow your colleagues won’t be too impressed. 

24. Learn from your past, live in the present and look forward to the future – don’t let the three seep into each other.

25. Pamper yourself – even if it’s simply an ice cream cone or as extravagant as a weekend away at a five star resort – treat yourself to something nice every once in a while.

26. You are enough – whether at work, with friends or in a relationship – you don’t have to bend over backwards to be loved… if it’s not you they want, that’s fine.

27. Get a passport and use it! Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho are a taxi or bus ride away and then you start saving for those flights to Lagos, Accra, Nairobi, NYC, London and Tokyo. 

28. Family isn’t just blood – you meet people in life that just aren’t just go beyond the title of friend.

29. I’m an emotional being and that’s cool. I express my feelings and sometimes it gets over the top but I’m glad you’ll always know where you stand with me. I’m working on controlling the outbursts so that I don’t always come across as a screaming psycho – it’s a work in progress. 

30. Do you – it’s the best favour you can do yourself the world!

#madewithlovebysiya

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe While watching one of my nephew’s favourite show, Run’s House, yesterday evening I heard this quote from American pro tennis player and it gave me the validation I needed for my new venture. 

I started making beaded earrings in 2011 as a way to pass time and to re-use beaded necklaces that had snapped apart. I made myself a few pairs of earrings and wore them to the mall one day and reluctantly got my first customer. Gugu spotted me shopping in the Donna Claire store she manages and forced me to make her a pair… At that point I didn’t think that I could make more and sell these goodies – for me I couldn’t see people wanting to buy the things I’ve made by hand… this is the girl who can’t stay away from craft markets and has enough handmade accessories to start an online shop!! I’m grateful to her coaxing me into making her two pairs and a necklace to match. 

 

My first earring design made from my necklace that snapped apart.

  

I also made this designn from my snapped necklace.

 

Although I didn’t make earrings consistently I still made a few pairs every once in a while and had some pairs left. Last year I decided to give each of my friends who came to my 30th birthday and earlier this year one of my friends placed an order for more than 10 pairs to give to friends as gifts while living in Texas. So shortly after that I decided to give this making and selling of earrings a shot. 

And here we are, #madewithlovebysiya is here, I’ve made a few earrings and will be making more and hoping to expand the brand #madewithlovebysiya into a fully fledged accessories one stop shop. 

Hope you like them and place an order or two to keep you looking fresh! 

#YOULOOKDISGUSTING

Last night while looking through my Facebook I came across a link which lead me to find London based beauty blogger, Em Ford of mypaleskin.com and it opened up something I’ve never spoken about it: my acne.It started in my teens and it seems I’m still in puberty! 

While watching the video where Em shows the comments she got via social media after posting a photo of herself with and without make up, it opened up a whole file of personal issues that I’ve never spoken openly about. The comments were mean and vile when she posted a photo of her face without make up and although the compliments came streaming in when she posted her made up face, she still got several mean comments with some accusing her of false advertising.   

    

 Beauty is a subjective issue – it’s different things to different people but truth be told, there are some boxes one should check to qualify as being beautiful and good skin is one of them. 

For me it’s never been something I’ve ever been open about although a lot of the time I’m very self-conscious about my acne. I don’t use make up and despite the pimples and acne scars I’ve never used make up on a regular basis to conceal all of that – I figured it’s too much work and the tomboy in me always seems to get the make up everywhere and never keep it on my face! 

While watching the video I thought about my experiences and I haven’t quite had as horrible an experience as Em however it spoke a lot to things I’ve internalised about my looks. Although I’m über confident (a friend told me just yesterday that I’m feeling myself) the acne is always there background. It’s bad to the point that even when I get kisses on the cheek, I’ve wondered why people haven’t projectile vomited immediately afterwards. Sometimes when I’m getting ready to meet friends and I notice my break out, I’m close to picking up my phone and bailing out but I pull myself together and get on with it! 

When I’m out and I find people looking at me, the first thing that comes to mind is “oh crap they’re staring at my nasty skin! hide! hide! hide!” and sometimes that could be true but most times they’re admiring my earrings, necklace or lipstick.

I’ve tried almost every product on my face and have taken some pretty vile concoctions to cleanse from within as I’ve been advised but none of the treatments have quite worked to give me beauty product worthy skin and I’m mostly ok with it. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who’ve shown concern about my acne on three different occasions: the first time was when I was in varsity and I met a girl while walking home from campus munching on one of those sugar coated fruit sticks – she stopped me and told me to stop eating so much sugar, told me about some ointment and then pulled my cheek and told me I was beautiful. Although I used the ointment and it never actually worked (instead it dried out my skin leaving me with a ghastly peeling effect for a few days) I took away the compliment of being told I was beautiful and the advice to cut my sugar intake. The second instance was with a security officer at Sandton City – he advised me to rub aloe on my skin a few times a week in the evening and I’ll immediately start seeing the difference – according to him the dates would start flowing in too! I smiled and laughed with him as he told me that his grandmother had advised him to do he same as he also has a problem with acne which has been solved with regular aloe applications. I didn’t tell him that the aloe remedy has been tried and failed too in my teens, I thanked him and avoided using that entrance until I stopped working in Sandton! My most recent street dermatologist was on the Gautrain a month ago while travelling with my sister. A lovely Afrikaans woman travelling with her teen daughter started making small talk with us and eventually when we were about to reach our stop she scribbled a name of an ointment on a serviette and slipped it to my sister and waved goodbye. I haven’t thrown away the serviette but I also haven’t gone to the chemist to look for the ointment because like my previous experiences I don’t think it’ll work to give me that flawless skin. 

As I ventured into the plus size fashion blogger space, my biggest concern wasn’t how the clothes would look, I was really freaking out about how my skin will look in each post. Will people notice the awful break out? Will it take away focus from the outfits? Should I wear make up to conceal the acne for all my photos? However staying true to my no make up policy I’ve decided to keep it for special occasions.

The #YOULOOKDISGUSTING hashtag and the video and discussions around the issue had me thinking about how I’ve always looked at my beauty in comparison to other women- how in this one instance I’ve looked outside myself to find something that’s within. It’s hard to feel completely beautiful when you are the antithesis of every beauty advert: dark marks, spots, blackheads, whiteheads and redness but the lyrics of one song have always erased any trace of self doubt:

“You live, you die

And spend the years in between asking the question

Why you’ve been through what you been

You lose, you win

You even pay for other sins

But you most always adore the skin you are in”

(‘Glitches’ – The Roots ft. Amel Larriuex)

Being able to see beauty despite your flaws is similar to being able to enjoy life despite glitches. My journey with my skin problem has been internal and ongoing, I look forward to learning to love myself wholeheartedly and hope that if I ever come across the words “you look disgusting” it won’t faze me too much and I’ll simply remember to always adore the skin I’m in.

P.S. after posting this I’ve also dediced to enter plussizeisme.com 2015 Model Search because after watching the winner of reality show, The Face, Tiana Zarlin walk away as the winner of the second season of the American cycle of the show was inspiring as she was the only girl in the show that had an acne problem but she walked away as the face of luxury hair product brand Frederic Fekkai- spots and all! I’m not saying I’ll win but for the first time I won’t let my skin in the way of anything. 

Let’s eat cake! 

“I wish July was every month!” 
My 16-year old niece said to me as she grabbed her supper of grilled fish and chips with an avo, feta and Italian herbs salad this is inbetween my preparation of my mascarpone chocolate icing for my red velvet and chocolate brownie cake.

On July 1 I woke up feeling inspired to bake and so I made a pledge to make my family (and friends – as I regret the can of worms this has opened) at least one dish this month as I celebrate my 31st birthday. What better way to start than with cake to celebrate? 

 

The ginger loaf that had my niece volunteering to be my taste tester.

 
I started off with my trusted ginger loaf that usually doesn’t make it past the third day thanks to the amazing recipe from mzansi foodie and chef legend Dorah Sitole and decided to challenge myself and attempt a two tiered cake. I found a chocolate brownie cake recipe in a Woman & Home recipe book and decided to take add a bit of my freshe flavour and and make one of the tiers red velvet and used decoration inspiration from my favourite TV chef, Lorraine Pascale’s chocolate malt ball covered cake and with a little improv came up with the reason my entire family will buying clothes a size bigger this spring! 

My pièce de résistance of baking – the red velvet & chocolate brownie cake with honey vanilla cream cheese filling, mascarpone chocolate icing.

I’ll be seeing a few friends this month as part of celebrating my birthday and hope to unleash my inner chef to their benefit it detriment depending on how they choose to look at it! 

I’ve shared the recipes on Facebook and Instagram with a few tweaks- hope they have you drooling oh and if you live nearby come and pick up a slice – they’re going fast though! 

A fresh new change! 

“Change is the only thing constant”It isn’t something I thought I’d be contemplating in a barber’s chair but as I saw the red coils fall from my head I reflected a bit on the changes that have to come to pass so far this year.

 

Watching my hair fall as I suddenly contemplated changes in my life.

 
I’ve heard this adage being used to death and as I’ve become older, I’ve come to realise the truth in it…

When this year started I had no idea the number of changes I would have gone through by the time the first half of 2015 was over – I would’ve laughed at you had you told me I’d be single, would have quit two jobs, lost some very close friends and have a new hairdo! 

However by the end of January I found myself at the other side of a break up phone call and a few days later I was leaving my cushy Sandton job for a very brief return to community journalism which only lasted three months and in May i lost someone that meant the world to me which subsequently led to the loss of another dear friend. I hadn’t anticipated these drastic life changes and honestly I don’t think I would’ve fared as well as I have had I gained insight into what would be coming.

I’ve haven’t always seen the fortune of celebrating my birthday month in the second half of the year and I’ve always felt like the odd one out in my family (my parents and my sister all celebrate their birthdays in December) but I’ve come to embrace what I always see as a chance to not only get older but grow older.

The first half of this year was hard on me – I made some difficult decisions and went through heartbreak I thought I’d never recover from but thanks to the love and support of amazing friends and family, I’m still here living and loving it! 

Last month a friend of mine, Denise celebrated her 40th birthday and I had the pleasure of being invited to her high tea at the Palazzo Hotel to mark this amazing milestone of her life. She has been among the people in my life who are not only good friends but also serve as an inspiration. My sister put it aptly as we shared around the birthday dinner table: “Denise created the life she wanted and despite the changes that she was faced with, she didn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal of living her best life.”

She also shared 40 life lessons that she’s had so far in her first 4 decades of life.

As I enter the second half of 2015 as well as my second year in my 30s I decided to cut my hair – cutting hair had always had a two-fold significance in my life since age 22 when I had my breast cancer scare. I’ve cut my hair around CANSA Shavathon season to not only donate to the worthy cause but in solidarity with the women I met at the hospital who, unlike me, didn’t walk away being told that the lump in their breast was nothing to be worried about; whose lives and those of their loved ones changed drastically after being given that diagnosis. The ‘big chop’ as I’ve seen it being referred to by natural hair enthusiasts also marks a new start for me, that is, when my hair becomes immune to every available comb and brush, I visit a barber and make this small but significant change. 

My new barber, Femi, who works in a cozy salon on Fox Street, Jozi CBD made me realised the importance of embracing change with not his amazing skills with the clippers (my fades are on another level!!) but also his insight. This Nigerian native will mark his fourth year in South Africa this August after leaving his home country to embark on a new aspect of his life journey. When I asked him why he left his country to come here and cut hair here he simply smiled and told me: “I wanted to see what it would be like in a different place and so far it hasn’t been too bad.”

And Femi’s on to something, changes take you to something different and although uncomfortable at first, they aren’t too bad once you get used to them. I left the his chair feeling inspired and reassured to embrace the changes in my life and of course looking at the end result in the mirror left me feeling fresh!  

Femi and I at the end of my new cut. #freshe