Friday, May 27, 2011

Where does your chocolate come from?

Today my son bought some chocolate. I have not often thought about the origins of chocolate, I know that, like coffee, there are issues of fair-trade involved...but as I don't eat chocolate (I get headaches from it) and that my cacoa powder is from a reputable company, it just never occured to me to find out the origins of what my kids and husband eat.

Just now I happened onto an article which has left me fairly shaken...perhaps I am just naive or uniformed that I didn't know this was happening...child slave labor to grow and harvest cacao...

2011 and children are still being sold into slave labor by impoverished villages for chocolate which ends up in our "wealthy" western diets.

I am shocked

I am horrified

I cannot not share this....

I will spare you the gritty pictures (you can find them yourself on the web as I did) but I will not spare the question: "Where does your chocolate come from?"

How do I stop this practice....first step for me - CONSUMER POWER! Buy only certified fair trade chocolate, cacoa powder and coffee or don't buy at all. (I have contacted Superfoods to find out the origins of their cacoa products.)

Next step - prayer and support for those who fight this horrible crime against children.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sourdough - labour of love!

Whenever I try something new in my garden, kitchen or handcraft I have a few concerns...what if it doesn't work? Then I have wasted time and money. Or, what if my family doesn't like it? What if its a complete flop? I must say that this week long journey into creating sourdough starter was full of these sorts of questions. You will have to wait til the end of this post to find out which way it went - success or failure :-)

I have always been keen on trying sour dough, but it's taken me a long time to try it out. Buying Nourishing Traditions has rekindled this interest and all the whey that was produced with the cheese making meant I had an opportunity to try.

The principle of sourdough is to allow a natural fermentation to take place which creates the necessary leaven to develop. Most bread makers use brewers yeast as it acts faster and makes a lighter loaf than sourdough.

Here's what you need to do...I used Rye flour as a starter as I want to make a soft Rye bread.

Mix 2 cups of flour (freshly ground or at least stone milled)
I cup distilled or spring water
1 cup whey (can use a second cup water instead)
A piece of cheese cloth
2 bowls (second bowl used tomorrow)

Mix the flour with the water - makes a sloppy mixture.

Cover with cheese clothe - this prevents bugs getting in but allows the yeasts and bacteria to get to the dough.

The next day and for the 6 days after that you will add once cup of flour and as much water as you need to get back to the sloppy mixture. It's easiest to transfer the first dough to the new bowl, add the flour, mix then add the water. Cover and keep doing this.

My dough started really bubbling on day 4, day 5 and 6 it outgrew its bowl!

Yesterday I was ready to try it in a rye loaf.

I took half the starter and mixed some water and salt into it and then added some rye flour until I got a dough I could shape. I did this at about 9 am.

By 2 pm it looked like this....

Then I baked it when dinner was in the oven and it looked like this....

It tastes delicious and while the crust is tough, the inside is soft and moist. For South African readers - almost like the Woolies Rye!

I also used another cup of starter to make these Sourdough English Muffins. Once they had gone through the initial rising stage I shaped them and placed them in the fridge over night on the baking tray.

This morning I baked them for breakfast and they were served with overnight cream cheese and homemade lemon curd. Scrumptious!

I feel like this was a week long labour of I will repeat. I have two cups of starter left which will stay in the fridge until I need to grow it again via the same process as I listed above.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tree hugging :-)

Yesterday my older daughter forwarded an email to me which was an invite to help plant trees in Tokai. Deep inside me I know that I am a tree hugger...and I know others who are too. So despite the fact that we had planned a morning in the garden - peas need to be staked, aphids on my broad beans need to be sprayed, beds need to be weeded, leaves need to be swept - we took our trusty spades and watering cans and headed to the forest wiht some friends.

To be honest, it's not a forest like many in the Northern Hemisphere would identify as a forest. These are pine plantations which are being harvested after 100 years. It has been a source of contention between the mountain bikers, nature conservationists, greenies and SAPPI for a good few years now.

We have walked and picnicked in these plantations for the last 12 years, mountain biked in the higher forests and have been so saddened to see the destruction of these pine woods due to the felling of the trees. The good thing is that the Fynbos (Fine Bush) which is the natural flora of the Western Cape will be rejuvenated and that the felling is being done in stages.

Todays efforts were to plant a row of trees on both sides of the walkway to offer future shade when the pines go. These trees are all indigenous and were all waiting for us as we arrived. We took along our friend who is here from Massachusets for 3 years studying at Bible college, and his first words were that this is like no forest he has ever seen.

Everyone did their bit...

Water is fetched African style, from a tank with buckets. I watched from the side and fetched water....can't dig...back doesn't allow it....

So our garden has to wait for another day, but it is good to know that in a couple of years time when I take my grandchildren for a walk in Tokai, I can tell them about when their moms and dads where little and planted these trees they see today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Days rolling by....

I thought I would share what has been happening in my world over the last while. Most of it is food related...

We are very focused in the home on our daughter's Cambridge exams but in between I have been trying some new things.

I am nearly finished my daughter's beanie for winter.

For the last 5 weeks I have been getting 6 liters of raw milk which I am processing into yoghurt every second week and then into cream cheese before the next batch of milk comes in.

Other weeks I try to use the milk in puddings but this past week I made ricotta cheese.

It produced a lot of whey which I am using in different ways. One way is to make a sour dough rye starter. I will do a proper post on that soon (when I know it works!)

This was the 3rd day...

This was today....the yeasts are going wild!

I am still making stocks...beef and chicken. I now make enough for 2 weeks at a time.
These go into soups, stews, mince dishes and wherever I can find. Good for the bones! (more on my bones in another post too!)

I also used the whey to make oats the following morning. I used our last frozen strawberries to make a sweet sauce to go on the oatmeal and toasted some flaked almonds for a crunchy addition!

And lastly, my new chickens are laying so well. You can see my old girls egg there, the rest are from the new ones. Every second day we get 4 eggs and every first 2 so they are all firing!

Well, thats all folks!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Walk

I thought I would write a long post on what has been going on this week which prevented me on posting here...but instead I will take you on the walk we had today in the mild autumn weather at our favorite spot....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Those who have gone before me.

I am mindful that today is celebrated as Mother's Day around the world. We don't make a big thing of it in our house as I appreciate Superman's approach with the children that EVERY day is Mother's Day. He is always encouraging the children to help me more and to honor me and they do. I am truly blessed by my family daily.

But for my mothers I am so thankful. My mom is truly a gem. She is my encourager when times are tough, she is my champion supporter when I attempt something new. She loves and serves with her whole heart and is one of the most giving people I know.

This is my mom and me around 1972!

My mother in law has been part of my world for 23 years now and is a brave, loving and joyful woman who has touched my heart deeply. She loves her grandchildren unconditionally and her arms are always open to hold and cuddle those who need it.

My mom in law and her grandsons.

Further back, I remember my grandma. One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't get to know her better, but I was a very self centred young person...there are some special memories I have of her. Making toffee, fudge, fish pie (with little hearts on top), lemon curd, bed socks, colorful blankets are all memories I have of her. Special Sunday lunches where she pulled out all the stops for us. Sleepovers and special shopping trips on the bus!

My Grandma, with my mom and aunt.

To these woman who went before me - I am grateful for you in my life. I would be much poorer for not knowing your love and ways.

To the moms who are readers of this blog - may you always find joy and fulfilment in being a mother.

And to my close friends (Cath, Lisa G, Lisa VDL, Wendy M and Linda M), thank you for being my inspiration, support and encouragement as you mother your own.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Defining "simple"

What does "simple" mean? As I sit here I have just finished with my children's school work, I can hear one building Lego, the other practising scales on his guitar, another typing away on her book and another making a snack. I can smell the beef stock simmering away on the stove. The air is hung with the smell of fresh dinner rolls, my sewing is piled up behind me and my knitting on this desk. So much to do....

My chickens are clucking away - they want to be let out (sorry girls - not today!) and my dog is eyeing me from the corner of her eye as she wants a walk...the moment I move from this chair she will start her begging dance.

Is my life simple? Not according to some....3 afternoons a week I am running around doing errands, taking children to sports and music lessons, doing my shopping and just catching up with life! The other 2 weekday afternoons I am working on clients orders or processing/making/creating more time consuming foods for my hungry family.

But what makes my life "simple" is I am singleminded in the pursuit of a quality of lifestyle for my family. People often use busy and simple as antomyns, but they are not actually. Complicated or complex lifestyles trip us up...they steal our peace and joy, leave us gasping for breath at the end of the day, complicated is the antonym for simple, not busy.

We can be very busy living simple lives :-) To me simple is:

Simple = back to basics...

Simple = food as close to natural, uncomplicated and slow.

Simple = family together, building long standing relationships

Simple = knowing God and walking with Him

Simple = fellowship with people who are on the same journey.

And you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When good things in life are free!

It takes me by surprise when I find something pure and good for my family - and its FREE!

A while ago I decided to only use distilled water to drink. The distiller is great but it uses electricity and it's therefore not "cheap" water so I have not been using it for cooking or the kettle.

A few weeks ago a friend and I decided we were going to rectify this situation and we bought ourselves the correct type of plastic 25l bottles so that we could store water for use in cooking. It cost R155 with 25l of Oasis Water.

This 25l was quickly used up in my kitchen...but I had a plan. Another friend of mine has been going to the "Newlands Spring" for years to collect her own pure spring water - for FREE!

Today I took my son with me (to do the heavy lifting - I am so grateful for this boy) and we filled our bottle. Expecting to be the only weird "greenie" there ,I was surprised and delighted to find an assortment of wonderful people there QUEUING for the water :-)

The one man was an old Islamic man who used to play there as a child before Group Areas Act and still comes weekly for his water, there is also a religious significance for him. Another man, in his 70's has been using this water for ages too - and he distills his own beer and whiskey from it. And yet another gent arrived in his Mercedes SLK with his bottles for his water.

This spring is used by SA Breweries for their beer and they say: "it has the perfect PH 5.6 like rainwater, correct mineral content and is free of contaminents." The water has been tested and is pure for my cooking needs.

The little retaining wall was built around it in hey?!? Anyway, it was a delight to find this good thing for free. Here's a map for you if you would like to get some yourself - Capetoneans that is :-)It wouldn't be free if one of my faithful internationals came - du-uh!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Sunday Afternoon...

I have had to think deeply about my lifestyle over the last few months. I am a do-er, I like to get things done, I like to learn new things and be busy. I am not talking about busyness for the sake of busyness, but productive busy.

You will not ever find me wandering shopping centres or going to movies, my busyness is characterized by my family and home. Our garden, and the cooking of the produce takes a lot of my time and making healthy slow food meals pretty much accounts for my time on weekends.
A few weeks ago you would never find me sitting knitting in the garden amongst my chickens, you would not see me on my bed during daylight hours with a book, and you would not find me enjoying "The Sunday Afternoon Walk".
I have had to rethink how much I can actually do without something giving in. My back forced me into these types of considerations...carrying burdens that aren't mine to carry was a biggie, then trying to do too much in my home and garden, rushing (ooh rushing for all it was worth!). The rushing was the first sign that I was trying to simply DO TOO MUCH.
I have been thinking about the fact that "Life Is Not An Emergency" and that I can truly only do a couple of things WELL each day. The Lord has been speaking to me about creating MARGIN in my life to rest in Him, be still and to be present with the people I am with.
My mind is very active and I would find myself listing the things I need to do, planning next weeks schooling, looking ahead to what to plant/cook/sew/knit next and all the time watching the minutes tick by - whilst doing something with my family.

Then came the change - the day I lay on a blanket for a whole day under the boughs of an oak tree and the head knowledge moved to my heart.
Things are different now...have been for a few weeks. I can breathe a little easier knowing that I don't need to rush, life IS NOT an emergency and everything will happen in its time.