Milk Tart Memories

This weekend marks one month since our move to Johannesburg from KwaZulu-Natal, and to celebrate this milestone, I bought us some mini milk tarts to have with our coffee today.

For my overseas readers, who may not be familiar with this classic South African dessert, I thought I would share some of its history below:

The milk tart, or melktert in Afrikaans, is one of South Africa’s most traditional sweet pies. It is omnipresent in our country and appears in every supermarket or bakery. It consists of a sweet pastry crust, filled with a mild, creamy custard of milk, flour, sugar and eggs, baked in a round pie tin and dusted with cinnamon after baking. The ratio of milk to eggs is higher than in a traditional Portuguese custard tart or Chinese egg tart, resulting in a higher texture and a stronger milk flavour.

Even Jamie Oliver made our famous milk tart a few years ago, and added his own unique twist to the recipe by pouring golden caramel over the top, giving it a “naughty, shardy crunch”.

The milk tart recipe originated in the Cape of Good Hope when Dutch settlers arrived in the 1600s and introduced the milk based filling and the Cape Malays added the cinnamon flavour. The crust traditionally consisted of short-crust pastry but these days many people use ready-made puff pastry instead. With crustless tarts becoming a trend, our ancestors would be turning in their graves if they knew some milk tarts are now being made this way!

It is served sliced, chilled or room temperature. If you are ever lucky enough to come visit and have a piece (or two) of this South African favourite, be it a traditional recipe or with a modern twist, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Resolutions

“We spend January 1, walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. But maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws but for potential.” Ellen Goodman

As the year comes to a close, most of us will spend time looking back and if you are like me, perhaps you are surprised you are still here and made it through to the end in one piece! There are always so many unexpected highs and lows and yet, here we are, ready to begin again.

Sometimes these reflections lead to resolutions for the new year and focusing on things we want to change. While this is important, remember to concentrate on the positive potential and not the faults and flaws. Before stepping into something new, we usually have to let go of something we are holding onto and perhaps this is a bad attitude.

I know from experience how easy it is to slip into bitterness and self-pity but I have learnt to be better and choose joy, on purpose, even when I don’t feel like it and things are not going my way. We can make resolutions for 2019 but without a doubt there will be obstacles in the way. I read an article recently by Mark Gungor, on love in relationships, and how it is not something that is constantly there, following you around like a puppy. Instead it is more like a greased pig!

“You have to chase after it and pursue it. You have to run it down and tackle it. And when it gets away, you go after it one more time. You may finally get hold of it for a while, but then the little rascal can slip away and you have to chase it down again.”

I hope this brought a smile and reminds you to pursue what you want most out of life and don’t give up so easily. Keep chasing those dreams and working hard, despite difficult circumstances. It is also important to have fun between the obligations and responsibilities, so make sure you work in some things you enjoy and don’t overlook the little things either.

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A spoon of peanut butter always cheers me up. Maybe a good cup of coffee is something you relish or a glass of red wine like my husband. Your child’s laugh, a cool shower after a hot day or the sunset…there are so many treasures and pleasures in everyday life, that are easy to take for granted. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to blessings and it will serve us well to carry this gratitude attitude into the new year.

Share Your Story

“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

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I had the opportunity to meet new people this week and realized, once again, that we all have a story in us that has to come out. I want to encourage you to use your story as a platform to inspire others and don’t be ashamed.

Extract from my book, ‘Whole Pieces’:

It has been humbling to look back and I can see how much I have matured, not only in my writing style but also in my relationship with God, the way I deal with my circumstances, as well as my attitude towards my situation. Communicating this way became a great source of comfort to me and from what I was told, it added to the lives of those who read the emails too. I know God worked in many ways through this correspondence and I pray He continues to do so through this book.

Most of the material I have read on infertility has been written by people who now have their ‘bundle of joy’. A baby. I used to find it hard to relate to them, thinking that of course they can write about “staying strong” and “keeping the faith” when they aren’t waiting anymore! Not that it makes them unqualified to address this tender topic. Maybe I simply got emotional because they were where I wanted to be.

I haven’t got perfect patience or answers but I have learnt a few things, which I pray will help you too. Like how important it is to appreciate and respect a waiting period in your life. God doesn’t owe me a baby or an explanation, He simply wants me to keep trusting Him. Have faith in His perfect timing. Rest in Him. Be kind to yourself too and don’t forget to enjoy each day.

Embrace where you are now!

Love Debbie

It Takes Guts To Grieve

There is a lot that has been written on the stages of grief. Usually they are listed in chronological order: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Mourning, Acceptance.

This week I have had a few unexpected conversations with a variety of people about loss. This has ranged from the death of a family member, to personal belongings destroyed in a fire, to the loss of a dream as doors have been closed.

I love lists and neatly ticking boxes as I complete each task, however, I find my ‘stages’ often overlap and even go in circles (and I’m not alone!) When I think I am making progress and weeks go by without an incident or breakdown, suddenly something will trigger a memory and tears will slip down my cheeks. I often get a physical ache in my heart or stomach as the pain demands to be felt but I think this is natural and necessary and I’ve learned not to fight it and rather see it through.

“Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.” -Unknown

About 10 years ago my infertility journey had me messed up. Properly! The loss of control, especially over the ability to predict the future, led to frustration and desperation. The compounded feelings of helplessness and the strain of treatments and even low self-esteem all contributed to bringing on depression. I recently saw my friend’s Strava profile after he had put his Garmin watch on his dog and let him run around the garden. It was a messy maze and looked like a toddler’s scribble all over the page! It’s a good illustration of my grief graph, especially in the early days when my empty womb was a heavy burden to carry.

Loneliness is a huge factor, which is why I take the risk to share my story and help others break free of the isolation by bringing these topics into the light. You feel that nobody understands. You cry, sometimes in public, but mostly in private, as you mourn the loss of your dream, until eventually you reach the point of acceptance. Although the pain never completely disappears, through my writing, running and fitness adventures, I have been able to reach others and encourage them. This has helped me gain a sense of purpose and the ache becomes more manageable. However, like I mentioned in the beginning, there are still times when an insensitive comment can trigger anger and hurt and I backslide a few ‘stages’ again.

It’s unrealistic to expect us to all follow these steps and then graduate and be done with it. I believe my tough days will never completely disappear but they do diminish, in frequency and intensity. Taking control of your negative thoughts is also vital, while maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Instead of seeing ‘acceptance’ as the goal, it’s more about adapting and coping.

“It’s okay not to be okay as long as you are not giving up.” – K. Salmansohn

It Takes All Of You – Zinikele

THE COMRADES MARATHON UP RUN – 4 JUNE 2017

TO THE NOVICES

As novices, the Comrades Marathon is something you are yet to embrace,

And I’m sure you have learned a lot about nutrition, tapering and pace.

It is an experience you’ll never forget and will require you to give your all.

The determination and commitment you show will leave your family in awe.

I ran my first Comrades in 2012 and am about to run number five.

It never loses its unique appeal and is a race that makes me feel alive!

Running became my outlet, to help overcome personal heartache and despair,

And it is healing to be able to run every week, with people who truly care.

I used to know only a handful of athletes running this ultimate human race,

Now at every turn and up every hill, I’m able to recognize a familiar face.

You too will make many new friends and even strangers will cheer as you run by,

Trust me, at times you will wave and smile and then suddenly just cry!

By now you have conquered your marathon and done the club long run,

Hopefully you remember the lessons this taught and also had some fun.

At first you didn’t know how you would do it, but it has worked out well,

Juggling work, family and training, but somehow it all seemed to gel.

Remember these last few days must involve lots of recovery and rest,

To ensure that come Sunday, 4 June, you can do your very best.

You will be inspiring many people as you cross that finish line.

And believe me, you will be back next year, to do it a second time!

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Back To School

This morning the following ‘status memory’ appeared on my Facebook page from 4 years ago:

“An unexpected, overwhelming day…who would have thought back to school’ could set off a flood of tears and emotions! It’s the first time this has ever happened to me. I think it is because we would have had school-going kids of our own now, if things had gone differently after our first IVF seven years ago and those twins would be dressed in their crisp uniforms like all the precious photos of little ones my friends are putting up today.

I am fine I promise, no need to comment, just giving my heart a say too. As I celebrate all the milestones with you, I still ache inside and feel it is okay to send hugs and be a voice for those of us who are waiting for our turn to lay out uniforms, make lunches and cover books. Simple things not to be taken for granted…it is a blessing and privilege to have such special treasures in your care. Homework and all! Good luck with the new school year kids, teachers and moms and dads!”

My heart didn’t ache as much as I thought it would when I read this memory. A lot has happened in the last 4 years and God has given me a peace that cannot be explained. Even though I haven’t fallen pregnant, my faith remains unshaken and I do my best to use my story to encourage others, while continuing to challenge myself with new adventures.

Last year I ran my fourth Comrades Marathon and earned my provincial colours for bodybuilding. If I had let my circumstances get the better of me and continued to dwell in self-pity, I would never have discovered the passion I had inside my heart for these sports. I would have wasted my potential. I work really hard at them every day and it brings me deep joy and healing, while using fitness as a platform to help others too.

We all face adversity but you can find the strength to get through it. Don’t give up! Keep believing, keep hoping in faith and make a decision to choose to enjoy each day while you wait. No matter how many times you get knocked down, get back up. Stand strong. Although my pain never disappears, it somehow becomes more manageable and I still have a sense of purpose, even though I am not a mother. I want to give glory to God in all I do and know He has great plans for me.

One key to dealing with grief is recognizing that it’s unwise to try cope alone and I am grateful to my awesome friends who support me in all I do and understand me on days when I hit a wobble and tears flow.

“A person who lives in faith must proceed on incomplete evidence, trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” – Philip Yancey

Multiply The Memories

Somewhere between ‘I do’ and ‘Until death do us part’ there is real life going on. It is too easy to get stuck in a rut and forget how to look at the world (and each other) with awe and wonder and pure delight! I wrote this poem below in 2012 and since it is our twelve year anniversary next month, I thought it would be fun to share it on my blog.

It is a light-hearted account about how my husband and I met and although it is a little cheesy, I think it is special that these simple words still evoke blushing, smiles and nervous laughter!

MARRIED NINE YEARS TODAY

On a beautiful spring day, September 6, 2003,

I was a nervous young woman; an excited bride-to-be!

A few years earlier I had met Bruce, at a night club of all places,

And at first he was just another guy, in a room full of faces.

No words were uttered; all we exchanged was a glance,

But then he boldly took my hand and we started to dance!

Later that evening he asked for my number, while walking to the car,

And I gave it to him without hesitating – which for me was bizarre!

When other guys had tried their luck in this way before,

I would usually blush and mutter (before heading for the door!)

But things felt different that night, it is something I still can’t understand,

What made me drop my guard and take this young man’s hand?

All I know is that he called to ask me out the very next day,

And my trusting mom simply waved, as we drove up the driveway.

The night before he was a stranger, the day after, my boyfriend,

What followed was love and marriage, but that’s not where the story ends.

Like all worthwhile journeys, there have been some highs and lows,

And two kids, a dog and picket fence, is not always how it goes!

But we’ve made the most of what we’ve got, and that is each other,

Our marriage is no less significant, for not being a father and a mother.

We still hold on to faith that there will be a child (or a few),

But for now we are a happy family, a family of two.

And while I look forward to making the kids peanut butter sarmies for school,

In the meantime I’m practising on hubby and he thinks that’s pretty cool!

It is easy to let life squeeze in between our relationships and cause us to drift in different directions. During these sticky times it is useful to have a stockpile of rich memories to pull up and help you keep a positive attitude towards your partner and relationship.

One of the ways you can keep growing together intentionally as a couple is to share memories, laugh together and do this often. Even social media is prompting us to “See our memories”. I encourage you to do just that this week: take a trip down memory lane or better yet, go out and make some new ones!

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