The easiest cup cakes ever

It was a late Friday afternoon and Mila was begging me to bake a cake.  I decided, in my rather frazzled state, that baking cupcakes would be the quickest and simplest option.  I have a recipe for the easiest cupcakes ever (outside of the pre-mix bought from the shop).

Here it is…

Ingredients: (You’re most likely to have all of these ingredients in your cupboard)

2 Cups of flour

3 t baking powder

125g butter

1t vanilla essence

1 cup sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Method:

Sift all dry ingredients together. Add the we ingredients. Beat well for 3 minutes with an electric mixer.  Pour into cup cake cups (I didn’t have any so I went without).  Bake at 200 C for 10-15 minutes. Cool and decorate.

 

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I believe that baking and cooking with my kids should be a priority as they learn so much by being allowed to “get stuck in”.  It’s always a huge mess, but who cares I guess…

May you enjoy amazing moments of discovery with your children as you spend time together in the kitchen, loving, sharing and imparting knowledge.

One day we will look back and say “we never knew we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun”…

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Pregnant with swine flu, pneumonia and an insurmountable work-load…

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This was the state I was in two months ago, I was “knocked up” and down (both at the same time)!  This is the reason it has been two months since I have had the strength and capacity to write.

It’s incredible what being so sick, never mind pregnant and unable to medicate myself with anything other than panado (does nothing), can do to ones energy and frame of mind.  It’s taken me over a month to recover but I’m pleased to say that I’m back!  I would like to share my thoughts on what my “winter season” has taught me and hopefully inspire you acknowledge the season you are in without allowing your physical and emotional state to govern your actions and life-decisions.

At this time I felt weak, emotional, self-absorbed and downright pitiful, in spite of the fact that I had just received the most incredible news of a miracle growing inside of me.  I began to question where I was at in terms of running my business as well as my capacity as a mother who longed for rest.  I felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities I had to face with a husband who is not around at the moment (studying an MBA).  I was on the brink of complete burn out when all I needed to do was lift my eyes to heaven and “weather the storm”.

Four things I learnt that I should and should not do in “winter”:

1.  I should avoid making life-altering decisions that could drastically change my coarse- the fog of my emotions can lead me off course.

2. Avoid “venting” and complaining, it causes distress and confusion for myself and those around me.

3. Cover myself in a blanket of prayer.

4. I should make time for rest (something I am terrible at doing), after all it’s great to “sleep in” when the wind is howling outside.

As I look back I am reminded of Psalm 84: 5-6 that speaks about “passing through the Valley of Baka”.  The Valley of Baka is the valley of tears.  It’s the valley we go through that is characterised by fear, doubt, depression and weakness, this scripture gives a new perspective on what we should do when in this place.

5What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,

who have set their minds on a journey with God.

6When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,b

it will become a place of refreshing springs.

The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

7They will continue to grow stronger,

and each of them will appear before God.

In John 16:33 it says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

The reality for me is that when I look to myself as apposed to God I become disillusioned, I lose perspective and all contentment disappears in my futile striving for something “better”.  It’s in these seasons that we see people let go of their marriages, start adopting self-destructive habits in attempt to gain momentary pleasure, let go of God-given gifts and talents as well as opportunities.  It’s when we allow the winter season to overcome us that we live for the now without the understanding that “this too shall pass” and that summer will come.  We attempt to take control, to “fix the problem” rather that merely surrender to a God who loves us and longs to take us by the hand and reassure us that He overcame it all for us.

There’s a story in Matthew 8:26 that applies to this very state we get ourselves into: verse 23 “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping (what the heck?). 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”(I can relate to this fear of drowning) 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid ?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  (Jesus is the one who made it calm)

Im pleased to say that my winter has now passed and life is good.  I have a protruding belly and bum (they get really big the third time around), a holiday booked in December, a great business, a loving marriage and two beautiful children.  I have never felt so full of contentment and vigour.  When I close my eyes and think of Jesus, I see his smile.  The storm did pass and I am stronger for it.

May your valley’s become a refreshing spring and may you be strong.

He is good.

Peace…

 

A love letter to my daughter

Dear Mila

Four years ago at 5h10am, after 27 hours of labour and a failed epidural, I gave birth to a miracle- that miracle was you.

My heart almost stopped beating when your limp and tired body was taken from mine.  The nurse was instructed by the doctor to rub you in order to get you to cry.  Hot tears flowed down my cheeks as they suctioned your nose to get you to breath.  When they handed you back to me, your naked skin on mine, I knew my life was changed forever.

You are the delight of my heart.  Each moment I look into your flawless face and dark brown eyes, I stand in awe of a God that is a God of purpose, of intention.  He searched you and he knew you even before you were conceived.  He knew that one day He would create a child that was so full of passion and desire to love and be loved.  A sensitive soul with an inquiring mind.  A creative genius who would one day think up ideas others never had, a child who would hear the whispers of Heaven and follow their trail toward greatness.  His eyes saw your unformed body and he mapped out your days in His book, even before any of them came about.

Then, in a secret place, when the time was perfect He began His work, His masterpiece.  He had planned everything to perfection.  He knew exactly what to do.  He knitted you together in my womb and spoke words of life, blessing and praise as He pondered over the joy you would one day bring, immeasurable, unquenchable joy to all around you.  He saw His work and beamed with pride at how wonderful you are, how fearfully and wonderfully you had been created.  He then spoke and said, “Her name must be Mila Grace, which means favoured one, covered by the unmerited favour of God.”  He then made a declaration over you that could never be broken and it was this:

” I have searched you Mila, and I know you, I will know when you sit and when you rise, I perceive all of your thoughts from afar.  I discern your going out and your lying down; I will be familiar with all of your ways.  Before a word is on your tongue, I will know it completely. I will draw you into me on every side and I will always have my hand upon you.  You can’t run away from my Spirit, my thoughts for you outnumber the grains of sand in all the universe.  I will search your heart and know you, I will create in you a pure heart and I will renew a steadfast spirit within you.  You are mine, I will never leave you.  Look to me, my radiant one and your face will never be covered with shame.  You will have choices to make.  I will set before you blessing and curses to choose, but CHOOSE LIFE.  As you make me your delight I will give you all the desires of your heart.  Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  Anything you ask of me, according to my will will be granted.  The price has been paid in full, you are free.  I have called you for such a time as this so go, run free.  I will make your feet like the feet of a deer so that you may reach the very heights of all that I have to offer you.  Do not hold back, Be BOLD and very courageous. Do not be afraid, remember I am with you and I will never leave you nor forsake you.  My plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, they are yo give you a hope and a future.  You are mine.   Adventure with me Mila on this journey called life.  It will be wild it will be good.”

We love you more than words could ever express and we praise God for giving us the privilege of raising you as our daughter.  It is a job we do not take lightly.  We have dedicated you to Him and pray that you would always choose to run free in the paths of His commands, the paths that lead to a life of fullness and joy.

I will love you forever, unconditionally, immeasurably much.

Love Mom

The words of promise from God to us, are taken form the following scripture references: 

Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:8, Acts 1:8, Psalm 2:8, Galatians 5:1, Esther 4:14, Psalm 18:33, Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6
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Mila at only a few days old.  Pic’s taken by my beautiful friend Kristy Carlson.

Moist Chocolate Cake

As a part of my desire to spend dedicated quality time with Mila and Sam I have committed to baking with them as often as possible.  Last week we chose to make a delicious, moist chocolate birthday cake for my sister Chanelle who was inviting friend’s over for a birthday picnic.  Mila was away with my in-law’s in the Drakensberg (we stayed home because Dylan had to study) and so Chan and her boyfriend came over to bake with us.  It was so much fun!  Chan and Paul did most of the baking (Chan is an avid baker and Paul is a chef), Sam did most of the messing and I did most of the playing and snapping on my NIKON camera.

The recipe was found on Pinterest and I must say, the outcome was amazing.  The buttermilk and coffee used in this cake make it extremely moist and very decadent.  We then chose to make a ganache icing which was perfect.

Enjoy it… Below are some of the pic’s I took and remember, as Barney says “sharing is caring”.

MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE
Author: Jennifer Hill
Prep time:  15 mins
Cook time:  35 mins
Total time:  50 mins
Serves: 12
Ingredients:
– 1¾ cups all purpose flour
– 2 cups granulated white sugar
– ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1½ tsp baking soda
– ¾ teaspoon salt
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened)
– ½ cup butter, melted
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup hot coffee (or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and flour two 22cm baking pans and set aside.
  2. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny.
  3. Pour batter evenly between the two pans and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached.
  4. Allow to cool 15 minutes in pans, then run a butter knife around the edges of each cake. Place a wire cooling rack over top of each pan. Wearing oven mitts, use both hands to hold the racks in place while flipping the cakes over onto the racks. Set the racks down and gently thump on the bottom of the pans until the cakes release. Cool completely before handling or icing.
Ganache Icing: (found on the Martha Stewart site)
Ingredients:
– 250 grams semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt)
– 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used woolies double cream)
Method:
Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until bubbles begin to appear around edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Set aside at room temperature until cool but pourable, stirring occasionally.
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Mom: A Toast To The Perfect You

It’s Mothers Day in South Africa today, Happy Mothers day to all the beautiful mom’s reading this blog! As I sat down to write my beautiful mother a card, a myriad of thoughts surrounding the woman that I desire to be started to flood my mind.  I began to think about the verse in the bible that speaks about “The Virtuous Woman”.  Proverbs 31 talks about the woman of noble character and is a detailed metaphor of feminine wisdom in the context of a family and a community.  This verse is a toast to woman, honouring us for who we already are in the sight of God.  This verse was never written to keep us held with a noose around our necks as we live lives comparing, striving and feeling like failures when we “don’t match up”.

The intention of this verse was never to re-affirm our insecurities and have us feeling unaccomplished as women.  We are covered by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ who loves us and, through our frailty sees us as beautiful, perfect, worthy, whole.  Perhaps this verse was meant to be an ode to who we already are.  As we live out who we believe we already are in the sight of God we will be more and more virtuous.  I believe that who we say and feel we are is what we will become in reality.  There is power in the spoken word and our words are an overflow of our thoughts.

Taken from Proverbs 31, this is who I believe you are:

– You lack nothing of value and are far more precious than jewels.

– The heart of your husband trusts in you and he gains from you.   You are reliable and have his best interests at heart.  You are a blessing to your family. – You have willing hands and your worth is far more than the money you bring to the table.

–  You provide hope for your family and are generous to the poor.

–  You are clothed in strength and un-threatened by the strengths of other men or women around you.  You walk your own path and are not overcome by “comparing”.

–  You are not driven by fear and anxiety or worried about the safety of your family.  They are safe in Gods hands and He loves them even more than you do. –  You take care of your inner and outer beauty.  You take pride in your physical appearance because it is a reflection of the inner you.  You are beautiful in your own unique way.

–  You are clothed with strength and worthy of honour and respect.  You can be joyful and laugh at the days to come.  The future is bright.

–  You encourage others with wisdom and you are kind.  You do not gossip and slander those around you.

–  You look after your children and husband well, you are not lazy. –  You are imperfectly perfect.  You are beautiful.   You are you.  

My mom, far left.
My beautiful mom, far left.

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My mom is the hot biker chick, second from the right.
My mom is the hot biker chick, second from the right.  She is and always been a hard core woman of adventure.
My beautiful sister and mom
My beautiful sister and magnificent mom.  I just love them!!

Lemon cake and the love language of quality time.

I am sure you have all heard of Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”, if not, I can highly recommend this read for anyone wishing to love with intention, in a way that speaks to the unique make-up of the individual you love.  Chapman’s book outlines five ways to express and experience love: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.  Chapman uses the metaphor of a ‘love tank’ to explain peoples’ need to be loved.  To discover ones unique love language, one must observe the way your loved one expresses love to others, people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love.

Whilst I completely agree with Gary Chapman’s theory I truly believe that every child speaks or yearns to be spoken to in the love language of “quality time”.  I have noticed how Mila’s good behaviour diminishes when I am stressed and preoccupied.  When I am rushing from one meeting and task to the next and have not taken the time to engage with her, to talk and play with her, to look into her eyes and care for her emotional needs.  I am reminded of the saying, “if the devil cannot make you bad, he will make you busy”.  I have noticed that when I am too busy my tolerance levels toward my children become depleated.  It’s as if they call out through the whirlwind of life to be noticed, to be embraced.  Baking with a child is a time for imparting knowledge, giving affection and talking about life lessons.  Baking can be a time for thinking, breathing and being at peace.

So last Sunday we decided to bake a delicious LEMON CAKE.  This VERY simple and delicious recipe was passed on to me from my friend Janine Day who I am sure also received it from a friend, who received it from another friend.  It’s one of those recipe’s people will ask you to send to them.  The cake is so easy to make, its extremely moist and light.  Please feel free to share it with others as I share it with you today.  I hope you have as much fun baking it with your loved ones as I did.  This Sunday is my sister Chan’s birthday lunch and so we will be making a birthday cake on Saturday to eat on Sunday.

Here it goes…

LEMON CAKE

Ingredients:

-110 grams of Butter (room temperature)

-1 Cup of Castor Sugar

-2 Large Eggs (room temperature)

-1 and 1/2 cups of self raising flour

-1/2 cup of milk

-1/4 tsp salt

-Rind of Large Lemon

Method:

Cream butter and sugar and beat eggs in one at a time.

Beat well.  Sift flour and salt and add alternately with milk, add the lemon rind.

Pour into greased loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a plate.  Pour over the juice.

The Juice:

1/2 Cup of castor sugar and 1/2 a cup of lemon juice.

Stir over heat to dissolve the sugar.

Pour over the hot cake and leave it to cool.

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5 ways to pass the “Seven Year Itch”.

So yesterday was our eight year wedding anniversary.  We survived the “seven year itch”.  This is a term used by psychologists and portrayed in the 1955 romantic comedy, “The Seven Year Itch”, featuring Marilyn Monroe and Richard Sherman.  The movie contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown by a passing train. The phrase, refers to a declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage.

As I think back over the past eight years, I believe it is choices that have led us to where we are today.  My marriage is by no means perfect (especially whilst Dylan is studying his MBA aka “the divorce coarse”) but one thing I do know is that being in love with my man is a daily decision.   Perhaps you are a newly wed, or you are going onto seven years of marriage, maybe you are divorced or aren’t yet married at all?  Wherever you find yourself on your journey toward love, my hope is that these words might inspire you to keep going, to hold on, to choose love, to choose life…together.

1. My mind- a war zone of fantasy

The power of the mind is immeasurable.  It’s like a war zone.  Unless you are armed and ready for the thoughts that come to ambush you, you will more than likely be defeated.  The result is dwindling pleasure and mutual fulfilment within marriage or worst case scenario, divorce .

Many of us have had past romances.  Relationships with people whether long term or short, have a lasting impact on us whether we like it or not.  We cannot help but carry pieces of our past into the future- call it what you will but this is “baggage”.  My constant challenge to myself is to choose life in the area of my thoughts, to choose to let go of the past especially in those moments when marriage is tough and “the love flame” is more a soldering wick than a burning flame.  When “thoughts of doubt”, or “wondering thoughts” regarding past relationships or even people that showed an interest come to plague- take these thoughts captive and destroy them immediately.

I choose to stare decieving thoughts in the face and then smash them down!  They must GO because if I indulge them I will go on a destructive journey toward brokenness in my marriage.

I believe that an adulterous affair started with a mere thought that became a fantasy, that then progressed into an “itch” and then an action.  The result: utter brokenness.

2.  “Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will, it’s devotion not emotion”- MIC (a popular Christian rap band in the 90’s)

Love is a choice.  I believe that the term “soul mate” is a false reality.  There is not only one person one can fall in love with.  We choose love.  Love is a verb, it’s patient, its kind, love chooses not to be envious, it chooses not to boast, love chooses not to be proud or rude or to become easily angered.  Love does not  enjoy lies but searches for truth and meaning, for purpose.  Love always trusts, always hopes, it chooses to persevere against all odds.  Love chooses not to fail but to win  (my version of 1 Corinthians 13).  Yes, of coarse we fail to match up to these love qualities on a regular basis but when we slip up, love chooses to fail forward, to dust oneself off and try again.

3.   Be grateful- it’s all about perspective.

I think we often get caught up with ourselves.  Entangled in self pity and constrained by habits of comparing ourselves with others.  My very wise sister in law once said these words, “COMPARE AND DIE”.  This is a statement I have always held onto.  Comparisons kill us on the inside.  I know that I battle to be truly grateful for what I have when I compare my possessions and my husbands qualities and actions with the possessions and husband’s of others.

We are all filled with flaws and so I believe that in marriage we need to choose not to look at eachothers others faults but to rather focus on the good.

“All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you” needs to be the anthem of our hearts- even though our partner farts in bed sometimes and in seasons of stress may fail to pay us the attention we so long for.  It’s all about choice.

4.  Love and Respect

The bible speaks about how wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives.  See it as a circle of “what goes around comes around”.  If a wife affirms and respects her husband (even in moments when he is undeserving of it) he will automatically respond with love and she will then give more respect.  Men and woman have been wired this way and believe me, I have tried this, it works well!  When we as woman nag and complain, bicker and shout- the love tanks we so desperately long for our men to fill will remain empty.

5. Forgive and Forget

Growing up my mom would always say “un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.  We have to choose to forgive ourselves and to forgive others.  Sometimes we have every right to be bitter but “bitter waters defile many”.  Streams of bitterness will flow from the depths of your heart and muddy the pools of the lives that are closest to you -i.e. your husband, your children and the lives that they will one day impact.

I hope that my thoughts will ring true to you and in some way or form help with you never succumb to any “itching”.

Here are a few pics from our wedding day eight years ago.  It was a very happy day, a day filled with promise and purpose.

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