Midlands Thrifting Haul

There are three reasons I love shopping in second-hand stores:

  1. You find bargains. If you haven’t already noticed: I love a good bargain. Knowing that I am saving money on something gives me a little high.
  2. You meet interesting people. If you go to the same second-hand shops regularly you will get to know the people who work there. Those are the people who are going to keep an eye out for that antique drinks tray you’re searching for. They are also the people who are going to give you an additional discount on an already cheap, cheap price.
  3. You buy a little bit of history. The clothes, furniture and jewelry you buy have a history. Somebody loved it and now I get to love it.

I went second-hand shopping with my dad a couple of weeks ago. We were up in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands for the day and decided to pop into two SPCA shops. The first shop we went to was a bit sparse. There were lots of knickknacks and a toddler beside himself about an “Incwredibles” poster. My dad headed to the cooking book aisle. “Even if I only ever try one recipe from a book it’s a deal,” he told me.

I spotted a box of old patterns. My mum has lent me her sewing machine and I want to make a midi-skirt. I have been looking for one for ages but have battled to find one I like. They are either too expensive or I don’t like the fabric. I am hoping to be able to make my own, which will be cheaper than buying one (I told you I like a bargain!). I bought two skirt patterns and a pants pattern. I liked these joggers from Woolworths and I think the pattern will create something similar. The three patterns cost me R6.

At the second shop we had better luck. My dad once again disappeared to look at books. They had a shelf of books which they were selling for R1. He bought The Day of the Jackal. He rates it as one of his favourite books, along with Deliverance and Catch 22.

I started going through the clothing racks. This is a very divisive issue in the thrifting world: either you buy second-hand clothes or you don’t. I’m happy to buy them if they are pretty, they fit and are (relatively) clean . In the last rack I found an olive green bush shirt. It’s nothing spectacular but it is unusual to find a bush shirt in a ladies cut. My boyfriend and I are planning to go on a few camping trips and bush adventures in the coming months. Now we can wear matching bush shirts. The shirt cost R20.


Just as I was about to pay for my shirt I spotted my last purchase. A rather worn box of A Question of Scruples was just sitting there waiting for me. This is an infamous game in my family. My mum banned my older siblings from playing it because it caused so many fights. The game requires players to predict how their opponents will respond to certain moral dilemmas. It’s a fun way to ruin friendships. It cost R15.

Have you been thrifting recently? Are you happy to buy second-hand clothes? Let me know in the comments.

Easy peasy lemon preserve

I spent the past weekend at my folks’ house. I arrived home to a brand new pair of sheep skin slippers, cat cuddles and days and days of home cooking. On Saturday we had a family get-together. There were 21 adults and 35 children (I don’t know how the mathematics of procreation works but it seemed excessive). Together we devoured a whole lamb – perfectly cooked for hours over a fire. During the afternoon some of the children engaged in a life and death vegetable battle. This involved plundering my dad’s vegetable garden for lemon and tomato ammunition. By the end of the two hour siege only a few lemons remained on the upper branches of the lemon tree. Unfortunately there were no tomato survivors. IMG_1736 We gathered up the abandoned lemon hand grenades and mortar shells in a box and tucked them away in the kitchen. On my last afternoon at home I decided to bottle some of the lemons. I will be able to enjoy them for months to come and remember the great Lemon and Tomato War of 2014.

(Before I started making this preserve, my dad made me a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon. This is also a wonderful and perfectly acceptable way to use up excess lemons!)

Easy peasy lemon preserve

  • A canning jar (I used this Consol jar but any other jar will do)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 6-10 lemons (eyeball enough to fill your jar and extra for juicing)
  • A tablespoon of whole peppercorns

1. Start off by placing a quarter of your salt and half your peppercorns in the canning jar.

2. Top and tail the lemons by cutting the ends off. Standing the lemons on one end, cut an X through the lemon. Make sure not to cut all the way through the lemons. You want them to hold their shape. Sprinkle salt between the lemon segments. IMG_1772 3. Place the lemons in the jar. Press them into the salt and peppercorns. Once the jar is full, squeeze extra lemon juice over the lemons until they are submerged. Pour the remaining salt and peppercorns into the jar.

4. Leave the jar at room temperature for three days. Flip it over each morning. This will help the salt dissolve and get into every nook and cranny of the lemons. After three days put the jar at the back of the fridge (behind the unloved jams and pickles) and forget about it for three weeks. It will be ready to eat once the lemon rind is soft. When they are ready (and you are hungry) grab a lemon out the jar and cut as much as you need. Rinse it under cool water to remove the salt and salty lemon juice brine. Cut it up finely and enjoy.

Not sure what you can use the preserve for? Try them finely chopped in tuna salad or in a salad dressing. Smitten Kitchen has a wonderful squash and chickpea Moroccan stew that calls for them.

Perfect ombré party cake

In 1995, Gary Chapman released The Five Love Languages. In the book he describes the five ways that we express and experience love: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.

Gary says that the list is exhaustive and that everyone falls into at least one of the love languages. But that isn’t quite true for me. My love language is cake baking. It’s probably the equivalent of gift giving – except that gifts usually don’t take two hours to bake, have caramel filling and cream cheese icing. And it’s maybe a little bit acts of service, but at the end of the day you get a cake (it’s not like I’m helping you file your taxes or move house).

Ombre cake picnic shot

And the wonderful thing about baking a cake is that it’s so seldom done anymore. People think it’s hard work and messy. So they just resort to picking up a cake from the shops or ordering one from a bakery. But by baking your own, you’re going to save money and get more cake for your buck.

This cake cost just under R100 to bake – all in! You would battle to find a cake as delicious and pretty as this one for less.

This is my go-to party cake recipe (I have adapted it from this recipe). You might think “Who has time to make a multi-coloured, four layer, bunting topped monster of cake!?” You do, my friend. Trust me – it really is so much easier to make than you think.

I made it in pink for my sister’s birthday picnic and blue for a colleague’s baby shower. I have used pictures of the blue cake in the recipe below to show you how to colour your batter.

Caramel ombré party cake (Serves up to 16 people)

  • 560 grams cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 340 grams butter (softened)
  • 450 grams white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites
  • 330ml  milk
  • Food colouring
  • 1 can caramel treat or 360 grams dulce de leche
  • Ingredients for your favourite icing recipe
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Cut circles of baking paper to fit the bottom of two 9 inch round pans. Grease the pans with butter.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter and the sugar. It should become a light, fluffy paste and most of the sugar should dissolve. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. Beat in two egg whites at a time, until well combined.
  5. Alternate mixing in a third of the sifted flour mixture with a third of the milk. Scrape down the bowl to make sure that everything is mixed together well.
  6. Divide the batter equally into four bowls.
  7. This is the fun bit! Take your first bowl of batter (this will be your bottom layer) and start adding the food colouring. Keep adding food colouring until you are happy with the colour. Do the same with the next three bowls of batter, reducing the amount you add as you go. To check if you’re happy with the colours, smear a little bit of batter from each bowl on a plate or tissue. Ombre batter
  8. Fill the buttered and lined pans with the batter and bake for 13-17 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on them, as they will bake quickly. You might need to rotate the pans half way through the baking time if your oven doesn’t cook evenly – like mine!Blue ombré cake batter
  9.  Take the cakes out of the oven and let them cool slightly before removing them from the pans and peeling off the baking paper.
  10. Wash and dry the pans. Cut new baking paper and butter the pans before baking the rest of the batter.
  11. Leave the layers to cool completely.

Now you can assemble and decorate your ombré cake!

I like filling the cake with caramel treat. Place the first (and darkest) layer of cake on a serving dish. Gently spread a layer of caramel on the top. Continue until all the layers are in place – making sure not to put caramel treat on top of the last layer.

Make your favourite icing – such as butter cream icing, cream cheese icing or sour cream icing. Ice your cake and store it somewhere safe (away from the cat!) until it’s time to celebrate. I like to make a paper bunting topper to decorate it but you can always use candles.

We celebrated my sister’s birthday at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodeport. You have to take a little drive to get there but it is so beautiful. It costs R35 to get in (R25 if you’re a student still slogging away at your degree).


Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20

Meg Jay’s TED Talk made me look. She argues that “far from being an irrelevant downtime, our 20s are a developmental sweet spot that comes only once.” Her advice to 20-somethings? 

  1. Invest in identity capital. Start doing things that are going to make you the person you want to become. Want to become an actor? Join the local drama club. Want to become a journalist? Start a blog.
  2. Build a wide social network. New opportunities usually come from outside your small group of friends. You need to start thinking about what your friend’s friends could do for you.

2013: My year of feminist literature

Most years I set resolutions. They are of the same calibre every year: go to the gym three times a week, drink more water, eat less junk food, stay in touch with family and friends. Each year I achieve some but let most slip away. This year however I have decided to set only one resolution: read and write more. It may seem like two resolutions, but they are so intertwined that to split them is impossible. I am also going to refine this resolution – make it more narrow, tangible and hopefully achievable. I am going to spend this year reading and writing about feminism. I will read one feminist book a month from January 2013 to November 2013. I will save December 2013 for review and reflection.

Why now? I think it is because I am tired. I am tired of coming up against sexism and patriarchy. I am tired of meeting women who “don’t consider themselves feminists”. I am tired of hearing female politicians denounce feminism. I am tired of gaslighting and mansplaining. I think the solution to feeling tired is to find strength. I want to read about feminism so that I have a history to draw on when I am told that I am being “overly sensitive”, that I “must get over it” or that I “don’t have a sense of humour”. The women whose books I will read will give me both support and ammunition.

Which books? To prepare for the year ahead I Googled “top ten feminist books”. There were quite a few lists but none of them felt right. They listed books and women I had never heard of. I need to start somewhere familiar. I need a launching pad that I feel comfortable with. My mother has provided me with this. When I was growing up she was constantly reading feminist literature. As a teenager I would grab one of her books and open it randomly. It always felt quite illicit. I would read a few paragraphs about the word ‘slut’ then open another page and read about the history of contraceptive. So when it came time to choose my first four books for 2013 I went back to my mother’s collection. She helped me choose these books and helped me start this journey.

January – The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

February – The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedman

March – The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

April – Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf

January, February, March and April.

Why only four books? I am sure that once I start the year I will discover books that I want to read. These four will just get the ball rolling. I also want to be open to suggestions throughout the year.

I am giving myself a head start on my first book, The Second Sex. Clocking in at over 700 pages I want to make sure that I finish it before the end of January. I will also be tweeting as I read. You can follow me at @kateomega.