Four blogs you should start reading right now

image (10)


Smitten Kitchen is the first real food blog I started reading. You must make Deb’s caesar salad deviled eggs (I do every Christmas). Her banana bread crêpe cake with butterscotch is equal measure delicious and impressive – perfect for parties. I once survived a whole week eating her pink lemonade bars. Follow Deb on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


A Beautiful Mess is a homemade lifestyle blog (with an emphasis on homemade). It was started by two sisters, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. They post inspiring room renovations (like this dining room and kitchen), easy craft projects and some pretty delicious cocktail recipes. They have two great photo editing apps that I use all the time: A Beautiful Mess and Party Party. Follow A Beautiful Mess on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Manhattan Nest is probably my favourite blog at the moment. Daniel bought a house in Kingston, New York, that was in desperate need of a lot of love. With each post you get to see him slowly and hysterically transform the house into something gorgeous. His kitchen renovation was when I fell hard for him. It is gorgeous and black and white and everything I ever want in a kitchen. Don’t even get me started on his laundry room. Follow Daniel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Sometimes I wish A Practical Wedding wasn’t, you know, called A Practical Wedding because every time I tell someone to read it they give me this “Oh, you’re a crazy lady that wants to get married” look. Which, in all honesty, I might be but this website is about so much more than just weddings. It’s about the big, important things we all go through in this crazy journey called “becoming a grownup”. There are posts that ask How Do You Know When You’re Ready For Kids? There are invaluable posts on The Chores of  Adulthood which discuss cleaning, planning and budgeting. One of my favourite parts of the website is the comment section – A Practical Wedding readers know how to leave good, wisdom imparting, soul soothing comments. I always finish reading the posts and comments with a feeling that someone out there in the Internet gets me and that I am a little less alone than I thought. Follow A Practical Wedding on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What blogs do you think I should be reading? Leave a comment below and I’ll check them out.

Should you move to the Maboneng Precinct?

IMG_3549In February this year we moved into an apartment in Maboneng’s Revolution House, on the corner of Main Street and Kruger Street. We moved for a number of reasons. We had been living in a garden cottage attached to a digs for almost a year and we wanted more space and more privacy. We also wanted to explore new parts of Johannesburg.

When we thought about moving to Maboneng we tried to do some research on the area. You can find articles that question how integrated Maboneng is and the effects of gentrification in the area. These are important to read if you are thinking of moving there. My opinion of Maboneng has changed since I have lived there but that’s a blog post for another day.

What I couldn’t find was an account of what it was like to live in Maboneng. So, after living there for seven months, these are the five things I wish I had read about.

1. The noise

Maboneng is noisy. And it’s not always noisy in a cool “I live in the city” kind of way. Sometimes it’s so noisy for so long that you start going a little bit crazy. From Monday to Thursday it is better. You can expect normal traffic and a few rowdy people on the street. There’s weekly drag racing. It’s wonderful if you want to be woken up at 1am by screeching tyres and screaming women.

From Friday to Sunday things really kick off. There is always a party happening somewhere in the area. It could be across the road or it could be three blocks down the street. Either way it’s going to feel like it is happening in your flat.

I think part of the problem is that Maboneng is trying be both a place where people live and a place where people go to party. Maboneng is only going to work if it is a place people want to buy apartments and live. The residents need to be the first priority and I don’t think they are. Last week they closed off the street that our balcony looks on to and set up a stage in the middle of the street. They also placed a row of portable toilets right under our balcony (we’re the bottom left balcony in the picture below).

Maboneng balcony

2. The cold

Our apartment is a 86 square metre studio – so about the size of a two bedroom apartment. It has double volume ceilings and ceiling high windows that wrap around the whole apartment. The floor is polished concrete and there is no insulation. My sister likes to refer to it as “the tomb”. It’s cold.

We moved into our apartment at the end of summer. It stayed cool during the warm summer nights and all we had to worry about were the mosquitoes. But then winter came and it got so cold that it was almost unbearable. Our apartment only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight a day. After that the sun slips behind a building, never to be seen again.

There’s very little you can do to warm the apartment up. Heaters don’t work because the apartment is so big and made of concrete. Our only solution has been wearing layers (as I type this it is 2pm and I am wearing track suit pants, a hoody, a puffer, socks and sheep skin slippers) and buying an electric blanket. If it gets really bad we try to get out of the apartment because it’s usually warmer outside.

Maboneng window view

3. The grim

The apartment’s kitchen and bedroom have open shelves. (A side note: there is no built-in storage in Revolution House apartments). Open shelving looks very modern but it requires two things: you have to be very tidy  and you have to clean a lot. I do neither of those things well.

Keeping things clean is nearly impossible. There is a constant layer of grease and dust on everything. I think every kitchen has this problem to a certain extent but I have found it to be much worse in the CBD. Somehow (even if you try to keep your windows closed) a fine dust covers everything.

One block down from us is a corner where people burn rubbish: mattresses, plastic, wood, wire. Most mornings we wake up and there is a plume of smoke rising from the corner. I think this smoke contributes a lot to the grim and dirt in our apartment.

4. The space

One of the main reasons we moved to Maboneng was the apartment we found. It is a corner unit so we have lovely big windows and more space than most of the other apartments. We were also very lucky because our apartment came with blinds. All the apartments in Revolution House have enormous, ceiling high windows. Sleeping past sunrise without blinds would be pretty tough. They also provide a little but of insulation. The bathroom is also great. It has an enormous bath – it’s really like a plunge pool.


5. Security

When we moved to Maboneng one of our main concerns was security but we don’t feel unsafe in the precinct. Our building has 24/7 security in the foyer and the guards are very helpful. I actually feel safer spending a night by myself in the apartment then I did when we lived in a garden cottage in Melville. I know that no one is going to come through my window and if I have a problem I can call a security guard.

The only time that I have felt unsafe is driving through the CBD. I have had people trying to open my doors and following me through the traffic. They were pretty scary experiences so now I sit in the traffic on the freeway.

For a while we parked one of our cars on the street and we had no problems. Now both of them are parked in secure parking. It is quite pricey through – you’ve looking at about R500 per parking bay per month on top of your rent.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in Maboneng you can post them in a comment below.

If you enjoyed this post please  follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for email notifications (at the top of the page).

DIY: Sew your own pillow covers


This brown pillow has been on our couch since our student days. But now we’re ready to say goodbye to the old deer. He’s a bit tired and some of his stitching is starting to unravel. I wanted to replace him with something bolder and brighter.

I had picked up some blue shweshwe and yellow piping for another project that I haven’t got around to yet. So I decided to use it to make a new pillow cover. This is a quick project which took about an hour from start to finish.

You will need:

  • Fabric
  • Piping
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Scissors

Step 1: Wash, air dry and iron your fabric.

Step 2: Take the old pillow case off your pillow and measure each side of the square. My pillow case had lost its shape a bit and each side was a slightly different length. I used the largest side (43cm) to make my square and added on 1.5cm for a seam allowance. Grab some newspaper or a magazine and make a pattern based on your measurements. This will help you cut your square straight. Pin the pattern to your fabric and cut out one square. IMG_4018Step 3: Fold a 1/4 of the template down so that you are left with a rectangle that is 3/4 the length of your pattern. Fold the fabric in half, pin the 3/4 rectangle to the fabric and cut. This will give you the two rectangles which will make up the back of your pillow cover.


Step 4: Take the two rectangles to your ironing board. Fold one of the long sides of your rectangle over by 1cm and iron flat. Fold it over again and iron in place. Repeat with the other rectangle. Using your sewing machine, sew the hems in place on both rectangles. (Don’t worry about the safety of your other fabric. Your cat will guard it for you.)

Step 5: Place your large square right side up on the table. Take your piping and pin it along the edge of the square. The stitching on the piping should be 1.5 cm away from the fabric’s edge. When you get to a corner, take your scissors and make small cuts on the edge of your piping. This will help it lie flat.

Step 6: Head over to your sewing machine. Place the foot of your sewing machine on top of the piping. Position the needle directly over the piping’s existing stitching. Slowly sew on top of the piping’s stitching, removing the pins as you get to them. When you are done you will have a square with piping attached to the outside.

photo (25)

Step 7: Place your square (piping side up) back on the table. Take your first rectangle and place it right side down on top of the square. Match its raw edge with the top raw edge of the square – the hem should reach 3/4 of the way down the square. Take the second rectangle and place it right side down on the square, with its raw edged lined up with the square’s bottom raw edge. It will over lap the other rectangle and will reach 3/4 of the way up the square. Pin the three pieces together.

Step 8:  Head back to your sewing machine. Turn the pillow cover over so that the square is facing upwards. You will be able to see the stitching where you attached the piping earlier. Sew directly over that stitching, removing the pins as you go. Turn the pillow inside out and press with an iron. Place the cover back on the pillow and you’re done!



If you enjoyed this post please  follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for email notifications (at the top of the page).

Sunday breakfast: blender pancakes

Saturdays are busy. They are for tea with your sister, fabric shopping and baking.

And then Sunday comes along. You wake up late and drink coffee. You catch up on the news and you plan your breakfast. You don’t want a work breakfast (cereal or toast) but you also don’t want to be stuck with heaps of washing up. Sundays are never for heaps of washing up.

So you make pancakes. But not pancakes that need you to sift flour and beat in the milk and whisk in the eggs. No, you make pancakes where you chuck everything in the blender, blend until smooth and pour.

For me (a South African), pancakes are meant to be thin and plate sized. You sprinkled them with sugar, cinnamon and lemon. You roll them up. For my boyfriend (a Brit who studied in the States), pancakes are thick and smaller. They are for drenching with honey and butter. These are the boyfriend’s pancakes – thick and American.

Blender pancakes (adapted form Nigella’s American Breakfast Pancake)

This recipe will make about nine smallish pancakes – perfect for breakfast for two people. It can be doubled for bigger crowds or hungrier tummies

  • half a tablespoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • large egg
  • 150 ml milk
  • 115 grams plain flour
  • butter for frying
  1. Put everything in the blender. Don’t worry about an order.
  2. Blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides once to make sure all the flour has been incorporated.
  3. Head up a non-stick pan. Add a bit of butter. If you’re using a non-stick pan you don’t really need it though.
  4. Pour the batter straight from the blender into the pan.
  5. Flip it over once bubbles start to pop through the top of the pancake.
  6. Serve warm.

You can use this recipe as a base for any pancake variation you like. Try plopping a few blueberries or choc-chips on the pancakes before you flip them over in the pan. I love adding a few raisins.

Heap the pancakes up on a plate and serve them with butter, jam and syrup. My favourite topping is double cream, almonds and honey.

PartyPartyIf you enjoyed this post follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for email notifications (at the top of the page).

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).