Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

So tomorrow's my last morning at work before we shut down and go on our Christmas break.
And I just wanted to take the opportunity to wish you a peaceful, blessed Christmas and a sparkly New Year.

May it be everything you dreamed it would be!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Nifty Idea!

Check out this awesome cell phone holder made from an empty lotion bottle.
I'm always stepping on my cell phone / charger on the way to the loo in the middle of the night.
I'd love to make one of these, but I don't think I'll get it as neatly finished.
But you can try.
FInd out how here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I don't know if I'll be making these again...

Don't get me wrong! They were sinfully delicious, but that was about the only PRO in a gargantuan series of CONS.

But I'm getting ahead of myself! Let me start from the beginning.

Some of you may know that every Christmas my book club has a little tradition of making 8 little homemade Christmas gifts to pass around the table at our year-end dinner. It's fabulous! You get to make a few simple, cost-effective little gifts and in return, you get back SEVEN awesome homemade gifts from the girls sitting around the table. The whole idea is to be as creative, fun and frugal as you can, while completely dazzling your girls with your awesomeness.

This year I took home:
A cute little basil plant in a lace / bead decorated tin (from Maria)
A bottle of homnemade, eco-friendly detergent and desk calendar (from Vanessa)
A silver sequined bag (from Lorraine)
A jar of homemade mango cordial (from Gail)
A jar of cookie mix (from Kate)
And a jar of pickled chilies (from Terri)

Sacha sadly wasn't there this time, so there were 6 gifts instead of the usual, rocking seven! Still! As you can see, we were spoilt rotten.

For my contribution to the gifts story, I decided to bake some chocolate cookies and bung them into a pretty duck-egg-blue coffee mug for each of the girls. Lovely idea, but in my laziness to find a "quick and easy" recipe, I accidentally ended up spending way more than I should have and it took absolute ages to make. The recipe was alarmingly finicky for one that involved a ready-mixed box cake mix. *wtf*

I wanted to call them "Carmen's Kitchen Sink Cookies" seeing as there was a load of chocolate in them in various forms, but a quick Google search revealed that that name was already taken. So I made up something silly on the day, that I now simply can't remember. They turned out like Baby Elephant Turds, so maybe I should call them that? Or Angel Turds, seeing as they look revolting but taste like absolute heaven.
*quick google search*
Argh! Also not good.

Let's just call them "Carmen's Never-Again Cookies"

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together:
1 box of chocolate cake mix
125g melted butter
1 large egg
1 cup white choc chips
1 cup brown choc chips
5 Snickers bars chopped into ±1cm cubes.

Using a 1TBSP scoop, place slightly flattened balls of the mix ±5cm apart on a baking tray lined with a silicone cookie sheet and bake for 15mins. Makes ±4 dozen.

And this is what you end up with:

A box of turds.
Fucking delicious, but expensive, time-consuming turds.
Not for me thanks. Pass.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Look what's in the window at Dionwired this Christmas!

If anyone's wondering what to get me, that lime green smeg in the middle will do just nicely, thanks!
Any takers?
I'll just wait to be surprised and find it under the tree on Christmas morning, m'kay? Yay!

Friday, November 25, 2011

HAH-zit! Goon-JAR-nee!

The South African ad that has me in STITCHES every time I see it!
How larny is your accent?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wish List: Dreamy, airy bedroom

I'm not quite there yet... But I'm close!
This bedroom from Architizer captures the clean, minimalist yumminess I'd love to create in my bedroom.
I've got the wood floors and tons of white stuff. I've even got the weird angles, but I think what's missing is some light, white, gauzy curtains.
Soon! Budget permitting.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My handsome godchild

Three weeks ago my best friends Rachel and Nestor Martinez from Canada made my dream come true by bringing their son, my godchild Delwyn, to South Africa to meet me. This first pic is how he looked when he got off the plane. And the second one is how he looked three weeks later.

Is it just me or did he suddenly grow up from a little baby into a big boy in the space of 3 weeks?!
The best part of our holiday (apart from catching up and spending quality time together) was getting to see my country through the eyes of 2 foreigners. They had a good chuckle over a few things. We call traffic lights "robots". The Hyper By The Sea conjured up images of some kid going mad on the beach. Car guards...
When will I see them again?
Another 2 or 3 years from now?
I wonder what my godchild will be like when I meet him again.
In the meantime I made a little recording of the song that he played over and over on his baby laptop, so that I'll have something real to remember him by... Until we meet again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You've guided me home, Umhlanga lighthouse!

If you're wondering where I been, fellow bloggers, let me just tell you that my life has been a whirlwind of change and adventure. I've done it! I've FINALLY done it.
Carmen Gabriel has finally bought her first home. A snazzy little 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in Durban's Umhlanga Rocks. Ninety seven square meters of concrete, glass and wood that belongs to me... Finally.
It's been a long journey getting here. More than 6 years of dreaming and hoping, not to mention the frantic search since the beginning of this year, when my landlords announced that they'd be selling.
Nothing went as smoothly as I thought it would:
- I sold my stove and wardrobes too soon, leaving me with tv dinners and clothing on the floor for 2 months
- Everything cost way more money than I'd budgeted on... maybe I just can't count good, doh!
- I STILL have boxes to unpack after 2 whole months of being in my new place
But I wouldn't change it for the world!
It's a great feeling knowing I've accomplished this thing that I've worked so hard for. Sure, the bank owns me for the next couple of decades, but who cares?! This is what happiness feels like!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open letter to Clinique South Africa

Sent on 17 March. Still waiting for a response.

Clinique, SA:
I am writing to report a very disturbing incident at the Clinique counter at Gateway, Durban.
Several months ago (during the last Free Gift offer) I went into Truworths to purchase my Clinique moisturiser and face wash as I always do. While I was there I decided to ask the Clinique sales person to recommend a night cream for me so that I could start using one regularly. I am 36 years old and currently using the Super Defense range because I don't have any lines or blemishes whatsoever. The Clinique woman told me that Clinique did not make a night cream in the Super Defense age group and urged me to buy the Repair Wear night cream for much older wrinkled skin.
I went home and tried to use the product for over a month. But every time I put it on my skin it would burn and feel very painful and uncomfortable. I eventually stopped using it because I was worried that I was damaging my skin. My R450 was wasted and I had no idea of what damage I had possibly done to my face during the course of that month.
Imagine my HORROR today when I went into Truworths to buy my Clinique supplies and asked them if there WAS in fact a night cream in the Super Defense group. The Clinique woman handed me the tube telling me that there was one all along. Truworths had obviously been out of stock of the one I wanted last time so the Clinique woman deliberately sold me a damaging product so that she could make her sale and reach her target for the month.
Not only have I lost R450 on a product that I cannot use, but I have been steadily burning and damaging my skin for more than a month because of the damaging advice of a Clinique sales person.
I trust that you will contact me at your soonest regarding this report and will notify me of the action being taken to rectify the matter.
Carmen Gabriel

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Obsession

So, I've never really been one for gardening...
I've pretty sure that I've written once or three times about how my poor father used to beg / bribe / bully me and my brothers into helping him with our garden at The Old House. (I call it The Old House now because my parents have just bought a stunning new apartment in Umhlanga and will be moving in a few months.)
He never got it right... No matter how hard he tried, we would sit inside the cool, air conditioned living room, and watch him suffer through the glass patio doors. It just wasn't for us... All that dirt and sun, not the mention the threat of bugs and the odd garden snake. No thanks.
So imagine my surprise to find that, as I grow older, I suddenly seem to be craving plant life in my world. First the herb garden outside my kitchen window which, I must sadly add, I've kind of lost interest in. I have a few long-suffering curry leaf plants that refuse to give up, but the other herbs have pretty much kicked it for one reason or the other. Not all my fault, I swear.
Then came the micro-greens or linseed sprouts that I started to grow on my living room windowsill. All very cute and sweet until I grew tired of the taste of them in my salads and promptly stopped growing them. I might start again with some different seeds this time, maybe mung beans. I saw an interesting method of growing them in a glass jar on the net the other day that kind of interests me... It's part food, part science. I can dig that.
But now my new plant obsession is Peace Lilies or Spathiphyllum. My friend Noodle bought one for her desk a couple of months ago and I was hooked. It was love at first sight. Here's why:
- They have pretty white lilies that I find really cute.
- They are completely indoor plants that require no direct light.
- They let you know when they need to be watered... Bonus!
- They somehow absorb the negative rays that fly off your tv and computer monitor.
- And they pretty much do their own thing while you get on with your life.
I bought one for my desk that had just a single pretty lily on it. The lily is long gone and I've only since discovered that there are flowering types and foliage types. I think my desk one is a foliage Spathiphyllum. It's okay. At first I was a little bummed, but now I realise how lovely it is, even without the flowers and I've resigned myself to loving her regardless. I don't want her to develop some sort of inferiority complex because she can't deliver on my unrealistic expectations...
And the second one I've bought is this one for my home:

She arrived with tons of flowers on, some of which have gone now, but she still looks beautiful. I suspect that she may be more of the flowering variety, but again, I'll be happy with whatever happens. I've read somewhere that unscrupulous store people often pump the plants full of chemicals to make them flower and ultimately move off shelf. Once home, the plants start jonesing for more chemicals and then stop flowering unless you give them their fix. If anyone's going to be doing drugs at my place, it's going to be me... So there goes that idea Spathiphyllum!
We're just getting to know each other, my Peace Lilies and me, and I'm feeling really good about it.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I have a small confession to make. One of the main reasons I've been DYING to cook dinner for my cousin Jarrod and his wife Nadia, is that I've been looking for a good excuse to cook up and share some of the Taiwanese / Chinese dishes I learned to make in my year there teaching English. See, Jarrod's ouma was Chinese, so I've been threatening to cook something authentic in honour of his heritage for AGES.
This Saturday, we finally got our shit together and had our little dinner party. Just the three of us.
Sadly, I wasn't quick enough to get a good picture of the potstickers and dipping sauce I made for our main course, but earlier in the day, while going about my business, I'd made this for myself:

A bowl of spicy beef noodle soup.
It's not the one that you simmer on the stove for hours and hours. Nope... This is just a simple instant noodle version with a few fresh ingredients thrown in. I had made a special trip to the Chinese grocer down the road to pick up a few things for our dinner, and when I saw these on the shelf, the nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to have them!
It's 40degree heart in Durban right now, but nothing was going to stop me from slurping on these spicy noodles... Nothing. No way.

I almost feel like I need to make a very important point here about instant noodles. These are something that we've really misinterpreted and gotten horribly wrong here in "The West". To us, instant noodles are a shameful, gross, cheap thing that starving students pour down their throats to keep themselves alive while they're literally on the bones of their asses.
But in the East, instant noodles are something completely different.
Yes, they're still cheap, easy and the first choice of starving students... But in the East they have loads more flavour and there's a bunch of fresh stuff that's added to them to make them utterly mouthwatering. There, instant noodles are fun, flavoursome and always fashionable because the manufacturers are always looking for ways to innovate.
When it comes to the fresh "additions" there are fresh vegetables... I used a crisp bunch of bok choy but corn on the cob cut into big chunks is divine.
There's the meat. I used the most incredibly marbled piece of ribeye steak. The little globs of melting fat were like finding the most delicious jewels of bone marrow from time to time.
Then there are other things that I didn't bother with, because I didn't feel I needed them, like chewy little dumplings that you could bounce like a rubber ball, or those tiny dried fish with the eyeballs still on. They look like white noodles, until you bring them closer to your face on your chopsticks and discover that there are two beady black eyes on one end. They're salty and fishy... and at first I didn't "get it" but now I do. Yum.
I also know now, that you should never buy the cheapest instant noodles around. They're really not "all the same"! Invest in a pack of noodles that's a little more expensive than the rest, and you'll find that the seasonings inside are way better and more authentic and they taste less "synthetic".
I added even more flavour to the broth by searing my steak, removing from the pan, resting and slicing. Then using the juices in the resting plate and the water that I used to deglaze the pan to rehydrate the noodles in the bowl. So here it is...

Carmen's Spicy Beef Noodle Soup Made with Instant Noodles... Believe it!
Serves 2; Preparation time ±15 minutes.

2 Ribeye steaks (±2cm thick; brushed with a mixture of melted butter and sunflower oil on both sides)
1 pack of your favourite instant Chili Beef Noodles
2 Baby bok choys
Water to rehydrate

Heat a dry frying pan until smoking and sear the 2 steaks on either side for ±2minutes per side.
Season and remove the steaks from the frying pan and place on a plate to rest for ±6mins.
While the steaks are resting, break the block of noodles into 2 bowls, and carefully divide all the seasonings equally between the 2.
Wash and steam the bok choy and place on top of the dry noodles.
Once the steaks are rested, slice and place on top of the bok choy, deglaze the pan with some water, add the resting juices and pour into the bowls until everything is covered, - just peaking out of the broth.
In 3-4 minutes (after the noodles have fully rehydrated) you'll have the best soup... EVER!