Sunday, December 28, 2014

Life lately - 28 December 2014

First things first, **MERRY CHRISTMAS**!!! I really hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, spent time with loved ones, and ate lots of yummy foods!!
We have been so busy this week! It's kinda crazy!
Sadly, we didn't take alot of pictures but we did manage quite a few selfies!! On Monday we had our Fake Christmas (Frismas) party with the besties!
If you're following me on instagram you'll already have had a sneak peak at some photos!
On the 24th we celebrated Christmas with Riaan's family, it's kinda become a new tradition doing this, everyone brings a plate of snacks and Riaan's dad dresses up as Father Christmas. He arrives with a big bag of presents for the children, much to their delight. For about an hour he sits chatting to them and handing out presents, followed by squeals of joy from little kiddies opening presents. I love the sheer happiness on the kiddies faces as Father Christmas calls out their names, it's priceless!!
After all the presents had been handed out Father Christmas had to leave to go feed his Reindeer and deliver gifts to all the other children in the world, and after a very merry send-off the children disappeared with their toys, it was play time!! Then it was the adults turn to open their gifts, we do a secret Santa for the adults, it's lots of fun and the gifts are always awesome!!

On Christmas Day we had lunch with Riaan's parents and had a lazy afternoon nap infront of the tv. Dad went on a very spontaneous trip to Durban, they left on Christmas Eve so we didn't see him for Christmas. Later on Christmas day we went to Mom's house for Christmas day fondue, it was delicious and it was definitely one of my favourite Christmases to date! I promise promise promise I'll be sharing the recipe for the cheese fondue in the new year!It's amazeballs!!

We spent boxing day packing the last of our stuff and moving boxes into storage. It also happened to be our three year engagement anniversary!! Damn, time flies!! It's been an awesome 3 years, keeps getting better!

Yesterday we moved whats left of our furniture out of the house,with the help of our awesome friends, despite the imminent rain - it held out just long enough for us to finish the move! This was followed by a very well deserved braai and a few too many drinks!! Today we cleaned the townhouse and the tenants started moving in.

SO! We're officially landlords...

We'll be staying at Riaan's parents for the next 2 weeks until we set of on our adventure! I'm so excited!!!

But right now I have a bunch of paperwork to go through for my new job, I'm so freaking excited for this job, it's going to be awesome!!

Also, I need to buy a new black coat, mine has been retired after 6 years of very loyal wearing - I was starting to look like a weeshuiskind! LOL This may pose a problem though as it's the middle of summer here, so the shops don't really have winter clothes in stock! JOY!!

I know I'm probably saying excited WAAAAY too much, but you guys don't understand, or maybe you do... Whatevs, I'm still excited!

Friday, December 19, 2014

South Africa's Best Chocolate Cake

I think it's about time I share with you all the recipe for South Africa's Best Chocolate Cake. I know I've been bragging about this a little (I do deserve to though), and I've been promising the recipe for a while now. A wise person once said, no good story starts with a salad, and I couldn't agree more!

This story starts with my Gran. She found the Best Chocolate Cake Competition in the Sunday Times and insisted I enter, she even drove out to drop the article off at my house so I could get all the details. I literally left it to the last minute, after contemplating entering and thinking up ideas for my cake (the cakes had to be original), I entered in the last couple of days. Shortly after entering I got a phone call from Hillary Biller, food editor for Sunday Times, she called to tell me that out of hundreds of applicants I had been shortlisted to the final 6. We were to compete in a bake off at Sandton City Shopping Centre on 14 September 2013. I could hardly believe it!

So on the 13th of September the finalists met up with a few of the judges, we had drinks, followed by a wonderful dinner at The Walnut Grove in Sandton City, we spent the evening making new friends and chatting about baking and food in general, it was clear to see that everyone at the table had a passion for good food! After dinner we set off to take a sneak peek at our bake stations for the next day.
Then it was off to bed, we spent the night at the Sandton Sun in complete luxury, but with hearts racing and tummies full of butterflies it wasn't easy to fall asleep.

On the morning of the 14th we were up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for the day ahead. After a scrumptious breakfast we headed down to the bake stations and so it began, checking that all our ingredients were there, sending people to get what was missing, preparing our stations, setting our ovens, measuring out ingredients, prepping our pans and doing interviews with the press, there were soooo many cameras!!

At 11 we were told to start, this was some serious Masterchef stuff going on! Everyone was hurrying around popping cakes in the ovens, the area filling with a strong sweet smell of chocolate, it was incredible. About 15 minutes after I put my cake in the oven I realised I had forgotten to set the timer, I was panicked but kept my cool and decided to just wait and see what happened. In the mean while I prepped the decorations and chatted to the TV people.
After a few hours we had all finished our cakes and had them on display, photo ready! Not one cake was similar to the next, brandy, granadilla, orange and strawberries had all found their way into the mix! After a miniature photo shoot the judges got a bit of each cake and had to judge them one by one, this was nerve wrecking, waiting to hear the outcome. Eventually the winners were announced and much to my delight and surprise I came out on top! It was the most amazing feeling!

Ok! I think I've kept you long enough, so here it is, the recipe for South Africa's Best Chocolate Cake:

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 23cm round cake pans well using spray and cook.
2. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.
3. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla essence and beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes. Add the boiling water and mix until combined. The batter will be quite runny, this makes the cake nice and moist.
4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes.
5. To test if the cake is ready, insert a toothpick into the middle of the pan. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Slide a knife around the edge of each cake to loosen it from the pan, turn the pan over onto a metal rack to cool.
6. Let the cake cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Ganache Icing Ingredients:
200g of chocolate (dark or milk or a combination)
200ml double cream

1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat on the stove until the chocolate melts.
2. Remove the pan from the stove and whisk the mixture until smooth glossy and thickened..
3. Put aside to cool and until the icing is thick enough to spread over the cake.

+/- 40 flake chocolates cut to size Fresh strawberries (washed) for decorating
150ml cream
1.5m Pretty ribbon of choice

1. Beat the cream until thick and spread in between the 2 layers of the cake. You can add a pinch of sugar to help thicken the cream.
2. Ice the entire cake with chocolate ganache icing.
3. Thinly slice the strawberries and arrange them in fans ontop of the cake. They should be placed along the edge of the cake, leaving the centre of the cake open for decoration/candles, etc or for more strawberries.
4. Stick the flake fingers to the icing around the sides of the cake ensuring the entire cake is “surrounded” by flake fingers.
5. Once the entire cake is covered tie the ribbon around the cake.

Serve and enjoy!!

If you give my cake a try please do let me know what you think! I hope you enjoy baking it as much as I do, and I'm sure you're going to love it!
**Photo's taken by myself, Mariaan De Klerk and The Sunday Times

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Where's December rushing off to??

I blinked and December was upon us, I was so excited because I was done with work for the year and I was going to have so much free time to get things done!

I blinked again and December's already half-way through!! How did that happen?? What is going on?? I have hardly even touched on the endless list of things to do!

I did manage to get all our Christmas shopping done and wrapped, by the 3rd already! I also took Arya in for a little snip, her stitches come out tomorrow. Since then it's been a whirlwind of selling a ton of our stuff, studying for exams, freaking out over not covering all my content due to not having power for 15 hours straight last week, a three hour long exam on Wednesday and a plethora of farewells since then. Finally I have a little free time to sit down at my laptop and get you all up to speed.

We had our year-end work function on Thursday and our year-end team building at Sun City on Friday. The weather was perfect and we had a blast!
Girls at Thursday lunch
View from the Cascades Hotel, Sun City
Arena in the Valley of the Waves, Sun City
Roman Baths at the Valley of the Waves, Sun City
Sunset over Hartebeespoort Dam
We still have quite a bit to get done as well as alot of packing to do before the 28th when our tenants move into our little house.

I'm getting so excited, this morning I worked out our Itinerary for Paris and it's going to be an amazing holiday! I can't wait to get all snap happy in France (with our newest toy) and share what is sure to be an incredible holiday with you all!

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram to see what we get up to, as it happens!
 *All photos on this post are either mine or courtesy of Roanne Sookdhoo, our tourist!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Five days in Paris, France

I am so excited! I can't even explain to you how excited I am for 11 January. I'm sure this is how Sue Heck feels about everything she tries in her life!! For real!!

On 11 January we leave sunny South Africa to embark on an adventure! First stop - Dubai, for a couple of hours, and then PARIS! I'm sure you know by now that this is at the top of my holiday bucketlist!!

We'll be in Paris for 5 days and I want to see and do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!
Since it'll be winter when we're there we won't be going to Disneyland, and since it's January we won't be able to go right to the top of the Eiffle Tower due to maintenance.

Anyway, we'll be staying in the Montmartre district and this is what we have planned so far, were not too big on museums so we only plan on going to a few:
Eiffle Tower - of course!
Seine River Cruise
Champ de Mars
Rodin Museum Gardens
Hotel des Invalides
Alexander Bridge
Place de la Concorde
Champs Elysees
Arc de Triomphe
Lourve Museum
Tuileries Gardens
National Opera House
Montparnasse Cemetery
Cluny Museum
Sacre Coeur Basilica
Notre Dame
The Catacombs
Latin Quarter
Luxembourg Gardens
St Germain des Pres
Eat macaroons at Laduree
Definitely eating a nutella crepe
A day trip to Versailles Gardens and Hall of mirrors

Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips or hidden gems that we have to visit?
Please let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Travel Tuesdays...Swaziland!

For our first anniversary Riaan and I decided to get our passports stamped together for the first time...I can't believe it took us 8 years but hey, we finally did it!

Since we got married on a public holiday we were lucky to have a nice long weekend for our first wedding anniversary.

We set off on Saturday morning nice and early on our 400km road trip, once we were through the border we found our way (after quite a few wrong turns) to Swazi Candles, it's a local candle factory and mini flea market. All of the candles and pretty much everything else that is sold here is hand made, it is awesome!
We strolled through the candle store and watched one of the candle makers make Rhinoceros candles, these guys are so talented, its insane!
After the candle factory we made our way to the Swaziland Botanical Gardens, the gardens are beautiful and lush, and are home to a very unique dining experience.
There is a restaurant set on the edge of the water with wooden walkways snaking over the water to private little landings where you can enjoy an intimate meal or a few sundowners if you prefer.

After our refreshments we decided to make our way to the Wide Horizons Retreat - Our home for the weekend. Rose (the owner) advised that we try to arrive before sunset as we would be travelling a dirt road.
We stopped off at a supermarket to get some groceries for the weekend and off we went.
Little did we know that our Honda Jazz was about to become a miniature 4x4. We traversed the slopes of the mountain (pictured above) and eventually after what felt like an eternity and a few heart failures, we arrived at our destination, thanks to Riaan and his mad driving skills!!

We spent our weekend relaxing and exploring, we went on a few hikes up the mountain and enjoyed the fresh air! We stayed in the luxury tent, which was wonderful. It is extremely secluded and has an outdoor shower and a semi-outdoor bath. On the first evening we forgot to tie down the tent flaps, and since the tent was so secluded (and we were in the middle of Africa) and the wind was extremely rough I spent the night worrying that we might die! Hahaha such a drama queen! We were literally living on top of a mountain above a small village, everyone knows everyone there, so I actually had nothing to worry about!! Needless to say, I slept much better on the second night.

A random little hut on our campsite
Pathway leading up to the tent
Sunset over the mountain

Before heading home on the Monday we made a stop at the Ngwenya glass factory, here they handmake pretty much anything out of glass. We bought awesome whiskey glasses that will work perfectly on our yacht one day, as well as some pretty seashell paperweights, unfortunately cameras are not allowed in the factory so no pictures of that.