Life and Lemons

brown plant and flowers

I cannot believe we are one third into 2021. It has been a whirlwind few months with many changes in our home… we are all still trying to adjust to a new normal. Children are far off at college, our house is quiet and we are adjusting to a so called new-normal. 2020 has shown us that nothing stays the same for long–rather, seasons come and go naturally with the predictable (and unpredictable) transformations that our world endures.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

– Alan W. Watts

The change of seasons excites me! Days are becoming shorter, evenings longer. I love autumn! As summer’s light dims and the leaves begin to fall, I like autumn’s reminder that a meaningful life isn’t only about productivity, but transition too.

Autumn is a time of beauty, of harvesting and of shedding the old. While autumn is a time of productivity, it is also a time of completion and transition.I love the quote that reads: If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Discerning the seasons of our lives isn’t always easy. The Book of Ecclesiastes says there’s ‘a season for every activity under heaven’ it is wonderful to know that our Lord is involved in all this too. God has tasks for us to do, seasons for us to do them in, and wants to guide us through each of them. I am reminded every day through this new season that it is all a choice- a choice to live expectantly. To live attentively. To live with significance. And embrace the seasons of life.

Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit! And with all the beautiful lemons in season, I am tempted to bake these easy lemon bars. These are classic lemon bars featuring a soft butter shortbread crust and a tangy sweet lemon curd filling that’s baked to the perfect consistency. The lemon layer is thick and substantial, not thin or flimsy like most other lemon bar recipes.

Lemon bars are one of the EASIEST desserts to make but they’re guaranteed to bring a smile to your face; so bright and zingy with all the lemon flavour from the juice and zest, they’re simply irresistible! So Yes! When life gives you lemons- bake lemon bars!!

Recipe on page 2.


What’s In My Cup?

It’s that time of year. Shop windows fill up with brightly-coloured, twinkly light holiday displays, and living room windows fill up with Christmas trees. Festive music plays on repeat. If you’re like me, this is the time of year when you realize Christmas is fast approaching and the year went far too quickly.

For many of us, this is also one of our busiest times of the year. If you have school kids, you’re swamped with Christmas concerts, school year end functions and the thick fog of final papers and exams. After lockdown it feels like we are still trying to make up for the missed months. In between all the busyness,you want to create the most perfect family vacation and a special Christmas celebrations. Yes, November/December season is packed with parties, decorations, presents, so many events and above all, meeting everyone’s expectations.

I love this analogy I stumbled upon this week. And it reminds me of the scripture that reads “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

Why did you spill the coffee?

“Because someone bumped into me!!!”

Wrong answer.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.

Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.

*Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.*

The bumping is simply the catalyst to reveal what was tucked inside.

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled or busy or frazzled or overwhelmed.

So today we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?”

When life gets tough, what spills over?

Joy, gratefulness, peace, joy and humility?

Anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?

Life provides the cup, YOU choose how to fill it.

Friend, I do not know what is in your cup right now but if you are in any version of normal, there is a lot of coffee-infused exam nerves and cinnamon-spiced holiday stress. The demands are overwhelming and if you are like me, this time of year also brings a reflection of all the ways that 2020 did not measure up to expectations.

So today, let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation; and kindness, gentleness and love for others. For life will bump into us. But a heart full of Jesus doesn’t get bruised when it gets bumped.

And when the hustle and bustle of this season seems to drain you from all your good intentions and you get bumped around, there is always ice cream and coffee. Affogato is an Italian classic dessert and means “drowned” in Italian as it is essentially drowning ice cream in coffee. The hot coffee starts to melt the ice cream and forms a thick foam at the top. The best way to eat an affogato is with a spoon, eat the ice cream first and then drink the coffee along with any melted ice cream.

Affogato is so good, you won’t believe it is so elegant, easy, delicious and only needs two ingredients. Perfect to round off any festive menu or as a late night treat. I am filling my cup now! Recipe page 2


Life is a Book with Many Chapters

It is Monday morning and our seniors started with their final exams today. Yes, in Namibia our school year runs with the calendar year and our kids finish their year in December to start a new school grade in January. With Covid -19 and the pandemic that also reached us here in the southwest of Africa, there was a time when our seniors were to only write their finals in 2021.

But thankfully, with prayerful faith, meetings with top officials and hours of negotiating, our seniors could walk into the school hall today to write their Cambridge final exams and close this chapter named ‘school’. I stand in awe at how quickly this crazy but delightful season of school runs, lunch boxes and sport days went by for me as the mother of a bright beautiful young girl..

Our lives are all about chapters and seasons. 2020 may be a year for many of us where we wish we could skip some chapters, skip to THE END. As we flip through the pages of our life, and especially this year, we live through an array of emotions, actions, and circumstances. We had our ups and downs. We laughed,we cried,we won,we lost,we faltered and we grew stronger…in ourselves and in our faith.

Yes, every day adds a new page to our overall journey. Every day offers a new beginning. A chance to act, to live attentively. To start over. To try again to make something beautiful of this journey called life.

The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”

George Bernard Shaw

The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season.” It also tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” I love these scriptures, as it encourages me that seasons change and that God is working in my life and the lives of my too-quick-growing children. I can keep the faith and live expectantly! For God is the author of my (and their) life.

So in the next few weeks, we as a family are in the chapter or season called FINALS. Long days of studying, encouraging, late nights, cookies and milk, supporting, praying, biting nails, coffee on the porch, tears, giggles, hugs and chocolate. Lots of chocolate! We have already finished a batch of the most delectable Rocky Roads… and this is day one!

Whoever came up with the idea for Rocky Roads was a genius. It requires no baking, contains lots of yummy ingredients and no one expects it to look picture perfect! It is a family favorite, especially during the exams. This is a no bake cookie recipe that doesn’t require the oven, so it’s super quick and easy to make. Child‘s play! Perfect to keep a batch on hand to serve friends as they pop over and spread some holiday cheer.

The problem will be keeping your family away from it long enough to actually serve to guests! I know my pan has already been devoured and they are waiting for a refill! And we are not even close to vacation time or Christmas! Maybe it is because of exam nerves? ( Mum included!).

While Rocky Roads are the perfect easy treat to put out any time and during any season of year, it also makes for an amazing homemade holiday treat! A great homemade gift for all the teachers,coaches, friends and family over this festive season.

I love to add cranberries and flaked almonds or pistachios for a Christmas touch and then box it with a big Christmas bow! Use your imagination and add dried fruits, candied cherries, Turkish delight, Maltezer chocolate balls, white chocolate, hazelnuts, raisins, choc chips or anything you may have on hand in your pantry. This is your story, your own take on Rocky Roads.

So whatever season you find yourself in, or whatever chapter of your life story you are writing, or if you just want to reach THE END of 2020, there should be a special mention of these fudgy, chewy, and crunchy textured Rocky Road cookies. You will find this a scrumptious, indulgent and easy-to-make Rocky Road recipe. Perfect for the holiday season ( and exam chapter) and so super easy and simple to make. It will bring a huge happy smile to your face and give you the spring in your step you need for the next few weeks. Recipe on page 2.


Where there is a perfect pancake flip (and rain),there is life.

The first drops of rain falls on the parched Kalahari soil…. dark thunder clouds creep closer with the promise of rain…. the thunder rolls in the distance. Excitement is tangible. The first summer rains are on their way!

Living in the Kalahari desert gives you an appreciation of every drop of water! Few things can compare with the smell of the red Kalahari earth when the rain falls on dry arid ground. It brings back special childhood memories with the three kids sitting on the porch, eating freshly baked cinnamon-sugar pancakes and watching the rain cascade down the thatch roof. The smiles of happy children and the thankful look on my farmer husband’s face, fill my heart to overflowing. God is faithful. God is good.

No matter how powerful a man, he cannot make the rains fall on his farm alone.

African Proverb

With the rain comes my mother-in-law’s ‘pannekoek’ (pancakes) recipe. Yes, when the first drops fall, one of the girls will start mixing the batter. Pannekoek is the Afrikaans word for pancake, but this is not like an American pancake. Flat and thin, a pannekoek is more like a version of a French crêpe than the fluffy, buttermilk pancakes we love to eat in America.

The pannekoek batter is runny and not sweetened — one pancake generally fills up the whole pan. It is cooked on both sides and then it can be filled with savory or sweet fillings for either entrées or desserts.

The Kalahari kitchen Pannekoek way is with plenty of cinnamon sugar, melted into the rolled up pannekoek with a dash of fresh lemon juice. With a pinch of nostalgia for good measure. The waft of cinnamon sugar literally pulls you towards the kitchen and the kids ( and dad) stand around for another round of freshly baked pannekoek.

First off, this is an easy one bowl pannekoek recipe that takes no effort at all. You simply add all the wet ingredients (water, eggs and oil) in a bowl with an electric hand mixer at the ready.

Next you just add the dry ingredients little by little while beating with the electric mixer until the batter is smooth. I let my batter stand for half an hour before adding the vinegar. I now scoop about a ladle full into a hot non stick pan.

Tilt the pan when you pour the batter in, to spread it out all over the pan. Once the pancake batter starts pulling away from the sides, with bubbles in the batter on top, it’s ready to flip and cook for a few more seconds. Now serve with cinnamon sugar and lemon juice or any other delicious filling your heart desires on this rainy Monday afternoon.

So armed with flour, eggs, milk, oil and a thankful heart, I am heading off to the kitchen to flip some pancakes. Because ‘Rain showers my spirit, and waters my soul.’ ~ Emily Logan Decens

Recipe page 2


Chocolate is happiness that you can eat.

Since the children are back at school, the days and weeks merge into one big busyness. There are days that I miss our lockdown days on the ranch. No distractions except the call of the jackal. No early morning rush except for coffee and Rusks on the porch watching the sun rise over the Kalahari savannahs. No frantic driving from one appointment to another except for a late afternoon game drive and a relaxing sundowner under the old camelthorn tree.

Even with all the distractions and the hustle and bustle of our new so-called normal, I remind myself of what I have learned during these challenging months. Live attentively. Give attention to what you are giving attention to. Life simply. The little things matter.

Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.

Ann Voskamp

We so easily get caught up in the mundane routine of every day that we forget to celebrate life in its fullest! So on this Monday morning, I am thankful. Thankful for living a beautiful simple life with Janneman and my ( taller and wiser) than me kids, a life-changing faith that keeps me grounded and focused, friendships that nuture my soul and the love of food (and chocolate) that keeps me sane! And on this Monday morning we are baking a delicious, chocolatey, gooey, silky ( did I say delicious?) easy chocolate fondant cake. This is a recipe that I always fall back on, especially on a day like today when I want to celebrate life. And shout out: God is good. Life is good!

I bake this Chocolate Fondant cake in a 8” cake tin and not in individual moulds. It makes for a thick, dense, creamy and deeply chocolatey fondant that bears a signature crust on top. After cooling down, I place it in the refrigerator ( in the cake tin) until an hour before serving. This is to properly set and firm up. I then remove it from the fridge, overturn it on a beautiful dessert plate and top it with fresh berries, chocolate shavings or serve just as a simple slice of cake! Make sure it is served at room temperature. With the soft chocolate cake exterior and a mouth watering melted centre, you will dream of this fondant cake for days after making it. But guess what? It’s so easy and quick, you can make it again!

Serve as dessert with vanilla ice cream, or as a teatime treat with double whipped cream. Yes, I am thankful for the simple things. Something like Chocolate Fondant Cake on a Monday afternoon! Chocolate is for sure happiness you can eat!

Recipe on page 2


The Best Time for New Beginnings (and cake) is now.

Good morning from a beautiful flourishing Kalahari. Everything is in bloom and spring is jumping and skipping through the savannah landscape. Thorn bushes are softened by blossoms, and the night echoes to the calls of amorous barking geckos (the quintessential sound of the Kalahari). Meerkat pups venture outside their dens for the first time, gemsbuck calves and springbuck lambs frolic in the dry grass. There is a palpable sense of anticipation as we await the summer rains.

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.

Isaiah 35:1

Yes, it is a challenging year and we are all ready for change and new beginnings. Everywhere I go, I cut off a flowering branch full of blossoms, as a reminder that spring is a period of renewed beauty. Spring breathes upon us the spirit of hope and promise. There is the realization of new beginnings, new energies, and new life.

So today I am celebrating all the beauty around me. We may have missed out on family gatherings, birthday celebrations and memorable events but still we baked! It seems like we were all #quarantinebaking through the coronavirus pandemic. On Instagram, Facebook and Youtube everyone is sharing their new baking skills and recipes. A scroll through my social media feeds is akin to a trip to a local bakery!

But, no matter the reason why everyone is baking ( for who needs to justify making an amazing cake), I am sharing my mother’s ultimate, best, amazing, easy carrot cake recipe with you. This is most probably the cake recipe that I have had the most recipes requests for. There isn’t another recipe that I’ve ever tried that even comes close to this carrot cake recipe for flavor, moistness, and texture. It is topped with an easy homemade cream cheese frosting. Yes, this is hands down the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. Period.

So if you are looking for an easy, delicious foolproof cake to turn your day into a joyous celebration, grab your apron. All I need today is an excuse to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee, a big slice of moist carrot cake and a heart of thankfulness because of a new season.

Recipe on next page to ensure easy sharing and printing. Happy baking!


Say Cheese… Cheesecake!

I love a baked cheesecake! It is my number one cake and dessert and something I love baking. The decadent mixture of cream cheese and sour cream…the excitement and thrill of removing a smoothly baked, no cracks- cheesecake from the oven…. pure bliss. Simple. Elegant. Decadence.

The intense enjoyment and appreciation of cheesecake dates back far, very far… as far back 230 A.D. according to John J. Sergreto in his book Cheesecake Madness. Rumour has it that the Romans were first introduced to cheesecake on their quest to concur Greece, which seems to be the first enjoyer of cheesecake.

Sources say that cheesecake, in ancient Greece, was believed to be a good source of energy and even served to athletes during the Olympic games. We have no Olympic Games this year due to the pandemic, but that does not mean we can not indulge in a slice of creamy, silky, smooth baked cheesecake!

Because you don’t live near a bakery doesn’t mean you have to go without cheesecake.

Hedy Lamarr

My mom has been baking this recipe for years and we still call it a family favorite here in my Kalahari kitchen. You need look no further for a creamy and ultra smooth classic cheesecake recipe! A buttery cookie crust, with a thick layer of creamy cheesecake and a whipped sour cream topping, if you like.

Once you have a stellar base recipe, you can alter it with different ingredients and flavors. Get creative or keep it simple. Either way, it’s going to impress. Say hello to your new favorite cheesecake recipe!


Muffin Monday says NO to Monday blues!

We are in another week of lockdown on the ranch…. It has been a time of soul searching… digging deep to stay positive and keeping the faith… venturing into unknown territory of what is called the ‘new normal’.

A home still silent of excited hunters returning after a day in the field, the glow of the African sun on their cheeks and the thrill of the hunt in their eyes. We miss our hunting friends, sharing meals and memories around the dinner table in the heart of the Kalahari.

But it has also been a time of creating special home memories as a family. Laughing at our own silly jokes till our stomachs hurt, playing board games till late in the night, cooking and baking together in my Kalahari kitchen. A taste of home, for all of us.

Nothing smells home like the smell of baking.

Pinterest

As I walked into the kitchen this morning, I was greeted by the smell of bacon and cheese. Lorene and Janneman were baking savory muffins. Minutes later we were sitting on the porch, drinking coffee and devouring these quick and easy to make, so more-ish, savory muffins. They are buttery with golden crusty tops and fluffy moist insides. What can be better on a windy Monday morning than a fresh-out-of-the-oven cheese and bacon muffin with my family. A true taste of home.

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Life is like a box of chocolates

During the last few months, we have all been forced to reset, rethink and refocus. It has been a time of regathering our thoughts, re-evaluating our lives and realigning our goals. As a family, we were blessed to spend our lockdown weeks on the ranch. With our three kids all home ( as universities and schools had to readjust to e-learning) we once again had special family times around our kitchen table… laughing, learning and loving life together as in years long passed.

This has been a time of creating new recipes and remaking family favorites. And yes, baking chocolate brownies EVERY weekend! My son, Janneman LOVES ( and that is an understatement) brownies. Cakey on the outside and fudgy in the middle, this easy brownie recipe really is the best!

So wrap around your apron and get ready for some chocolate therapy! The batter itself is to DIE for! Good luck NOT licking the spoon and bowl clean. Because chocolate is happiness that you can eat.

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The Welcoming Smell of Choc Chip Cookies

It is a typical Monday in the Kalahari….cleaning the house after a fun filled- house- full -of -teenagers- music -thumping-weekend, doing loads and loads laundry and staring into empty pantry cupboards!

Lockdown has allowed the time for rekindling friendships,creating new memories and having a daily dirty kitchen!

But, I just love seeing my children develop special friendship bonds, making true connections and seeing them thrive in their ‘tribe’. I love that their friends walk into our home and straight into the kitchen. I love the sound of the coffee maker making the umpteenth cup of coffee, the sounds of laughter filling the house and the welcome smell of (yet another) batch of fresh choc chip cookies!

Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.

Zig Ziglar

I believe a warm welcome invites connection. So until my kids are grown and gone ( or lockdown allows them to return to college), I will keep the door wide open. I will have something baking in the oven (or have enough choc chips in the pantry!) and embrace the latest music trend- because all will be quiet before I know it!

So on this Monday morning, I am making a cup of coffee and taking a moment ( between laundry and dishes) to cherish the memories of a house filled with kids. A house full of love, laughter and life! And of course, I am having another choc chip cookie!

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