Friday, 21 November 2014

A gentle push

There are times when I have to give myself a bit of a nudge. A gentle push, as it were. My last post was almost three (!) weeks ago, so an obvious example would be a gentle push to sit down at my computer and write a new post. Now I could tell you that I've been very busy, too busy to spend time on the computer and that would certainly be true, but only in part. The other part is something else, something much deeper, an interesting phenomenon I have been observing in myself. It is the one of my mind creating all sorts of obstacles that make getting to my computer, sitting down, going to my dashboard and actually writing, virtually impossible. In that sense it is not my busy schedule that is my worst enemy, but my own mind.

Let me explain. There have been a number of moments in which I have had time to at least start a post. But then on my way upstairs, I have found my mind (and body) wandering over to the hamper in order to sort out some laundry. "Damn, no more time left to write. Gosh I'm busy." Or, I have found myself moving over to the computer only to take a detour and start clearing out a cupboard. "See, I'm just too busy to write. Just look at all this clutter I have to sort out. By the time I'm done I'll have to go pick up the kids and then there will definitely be no time to write." I think you get the picture.

Of course there are other areas of my life where my mind gets in the way. Big time. Take football. Up until last week, I had never kicked a ball in my life - except to play with the kids - but had instead stood on the side-line fantasising about being named (Wo)Man of the Match. Particularly on school sports days, when staff/pupil matches are the highlight of the day. Whenever I've been asked to join the staff team, I have feverishly declined with the blatant lie "I simply don't like football" and that has always made me cringe inside. Because in actual fact, I love football.  It's just that a bombardment of thoughts get in the way: "I couldn't kick a ball to save myself, what will everybody think when I make a fool of myself, and heck, how will I know when I'm off-side?!" And of course there's also the whimp in me: "O boohoo, what if I get hurt?!"

Last week there was no time for the avalanche of thoughts to take root. It was sports day, the staff team was one member short and I was picked to fill the gap. "Go on, you can do it," my German colleague said playfully when she saw my apprehension. I was wearing my sports kit, but if the truth be told only because it's comfortable and looks hip. "But...but I can't actually play football, I'll make a fool of myself," I blurted out. "I always make a fool of myself and I love it," said the Art History teacher laughing. Oh. "But...but I won't know when I'm off-side," I stammered. "We don't do off-side," said the librarian. Oh. By the time I got round to the "What if I get hurt" bit,  the whistle had been blown and both sides were charging for the ball. And boy, did I charge - like my life depended on it. We drew 1-1 and I can honestly say that I gave it all I had. And that I loved every minute of it. And that I'm ever so grateful for the gentle push I was given. And that what I loved most was the team spirit and camaraderie (there was even a group hug!).

I can't wait to sign up for the team next year.


The Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas is just around the corner and this always makes me crave baked goods with mixed spice. So last weekend I made a spiced loaf (kruidkoek). It's easy to make, fat free and an incredible treat at any time of the day, especially with a little butter (so no prizes for guessing what my kids found in their snack boxes this week).

Spiced Loaf (Kruidkoek)
adapted from Koken van A-Z by Marin van Huijstee

200 wholemeal spelt flour
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
pinch of fine (sea) salt
100g palm sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice (Dutch: koek/speculaaskruiden)
1 egg
150ml milk

  • preheat the oven 175 degrees Celsius
  • grease a loaf tin with butter or baking paper
  • sift flour, cream of tartar, salt, sugar, and mixed spice into a large bowl
  • add the egg and a splash of the milk, give it a whisk with an electric hand mixer before adding the rest of the milk and beating until well-blended and smooth
  • pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes (check to see that a skewer comes out clean)

Monday, 3 November 2014

Comfort and coconut flour cake brownies

The start of November and this weekend Mother Nature thought it was Spring.  Only for a short while though - she has well and truly conjured up Autumn today. But back to the weekend, and what an incredible two days it was. Whole days spent outside, golden leaves raining down, the warmth of the sun on our faces. It was wonderful.

But before the weekend came along it was Friday. Friday morning is the one time in the week that gives me a quiet, empty house all to myself. A quiet, empty house in which I can sit down at my computer and WRITE. Last Friday morning, however, was also the annual open morning at the children's school, so that threw a spanner in the works writing-wise. No matter, though. I enjoy watching S and N doing their thing, so I forfeited my writing morning and went to their school instead. 

My first stop was daughter N's class, where I watched beloved Miss. C start the day with morning prayer, songs, and talk about the days of the week and months of the year. Next, she addressed the seasons. "What season are we in now, children?" she asked, to which she received an enthusiastic show of hands. Everyone agreed it was Autumn (you can tell because the trees are shedding their leaves, and there are loads of fat spiders in huge webs and beautiful conkers to be found). This lead to Miss. C's magic box. It turns out Miss C has a magic box from which she conjures up some mystery object every Friday. This time she opened it to reveal a (crochet, hand puppet) snail which she slipped on her finger. "Now how did this little fellow get in there?" she asked mysteriously, wiggling her snail finger at the class. 
     "It crawled in there!" one child exclaimed. 
     "It was put there by magic!" another one called out. 
     Then N put up her hand. "I think you put it there," she said matter-of-factly, whilst I shifted awkwardly in my seat wishing she would play along.
     "Yeees, I suppose I did put it there," Miss C replied somewhat sheepishly. After allowing Snail to slither to parts of her body which the children had to name, it was time to discuss a picture on the Smart Board. It showed two children sheltering from the rain under an umbrella. The picture led to the theme of protection. 
     "The umbrella is protecting the children from the rain," Miss C said, after which she invited one of the boys to come and stand next to her. 
     "In what way do you sometimes feel protected?" she asked him.
     "Well, like this," he said, wrapping his arms around himself, to which he added, "N does that. She protects me when I'm not feeling well." 
     "N protects me sometimes too, when I've hurt myself or when I'm feeling sad," another child added excitedly. 
     "Yes, N is good at that, isn't she," Miss C said kindly.
There was no shifting awkwardly in my seat this time. This time I was beaming. My daughter the caretaker, the nurturer. Just like her brother.

Speaking of which: S had his first ever evening party. A Halloween party, organised by our tennis club. After playing tennis dressed up as ghouls, the kids ate pancakes and played games. They were given a funny looking lollypop to take home, attached to the foot in the picture below. He came home at 8 p.m., grinning from ear to ear. 
      "You must be very tired," I said as I was helping him to bed. 
     "What about me?!" N called from her bedroom rather exasperatedly. "Do you know how tired I am after a long day of school with eighteen children in my class to look after?!"
     Now that's my girl.


One of the nicest comfort foods is a good old brownie. I don't make them too often because I can't keep my hands off them.  Last week, however, I couldn't resist making a batch, this time using coconut flour. They turned out surprisingly well, though I must say they are cakey rather than fudgy. There's also a slight crunch to them due to the high level of fibre in coconut flour, which some may like and others may not. (I like.)

Cake Brownies
adapted from The Healthy Coconut Flour Cookbook by Erica Kerwien

55g coconut flour, sifted
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
0,5 teaspoon (fine sea) salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 eggs
160ml maple syrup
75g butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • preheat oven 180 degrees Celsius
  • line a brownie pan (about 20cm by 20cm) with parchment paper 
  • whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda
  • in a separate bowl mix eggs, maple syrup, butter, milk, and vanilla until well blended
  • add the wet to the dry and blend well (I use a hand mixer)
  • bake 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean; be careful not to overbake