Monday, 31 October 2011

Forget Halloween...

...It's my fourth blog birthday today.

That's right - four years ago on 31 October, I randomly decided to start a blog. And it's been some ride.

Thanks for reading. Will be back with a proper post as soon as I get a chance to breathe. So much I want to blog about!

Enjoy your trick or treating.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 4

This is my last day of doing the challenge because we fly out to Cape Town this evening (woo hoo!) and we'll miss the final day of R12 a day tomorrow.

Last night's dinner with our small group went well. They all brought their R4 and we served soup with bread and then jelly for dessert.

For the soup, I bought a sachet of Creamy Chicken Soup powder. I fried up the one and a half big onions we had left in a bit of marge until they were tender, then added the two remaining punnets of patty pans, diced, with the soup powder mixed with a litre of water and half a packet of cooked spaghetti. I let this simmer for about half an hour, added a bit more water and then blitzed it with a hand blender to make a thick, rich soup.

We bought one packet of low-Gi brown seed bread, which meant that there was enough for two slices for each boy and one and a half for each girl. We had jugs of tap water with ice on the table. Everyone had enough! In fact, we even had a piece of bread left over, which I put into TSC's lunchbox today with his soup.

Nobody was expecting dessert, so the jelly went down a treat. I'm not really a fan of jelly, but I had a few bites, just because I was craving something sweet and I couldn't pass up the chance for a little variety :-)

Tonight, seeing we still have a little bit of the maize meal, I think I'll make grilled pap toasts and serve them with poached eggs and spinach, instead of just having the spinach omelettes. This has worked out well, seeing a friend is giving us a lift to the airport and I've offered to give her supper too. The eggs I have left won't make enough omelettes for three people, but with the pap toasts and the spinach, we'll have enough to poach eggs for three.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about the R12 a day challenge. I've found it hugely beneficial in gaining perspective, realising just how blessed we are and experiencing new compassion for the poor.

Will check in when I'm back from CT. Have a good one.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 3

I have new empathy with those who live on less than R12 a day and have to visit the shops. Last night, I went in to PnP to buy a sachet of mix-up juice powder, which we decided would be better than tea (seeing we haven't budgeted for milk). They cost R2.50 and make 1litre of juice.

It was before we'd started cooking supper (homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce) and I was hungry. And now I understand just a little bit of how hard it must be to only have enough money on you for a loaf of bread, but to be standing among these shelves filled with delicious ingredients and smelling the hot food and the bakery. Wow. My heart is really starting to ache for the poor, which is the point of this whole exercise.

I've just finished my leftover gnocchi and let me tell you - hunger is a great chef! I picked my mom and gran up at the Gautrain Sandton Station today and we went to Sandton City to Nino's so they could grab a bite to eat (my gran wasn't feeling great). My mom ordered a succulent chicken breast and my gran had chicken strips with sweet chilli sauce. It smelled amazing! I had water. By the time I got home, I was ravenous. And I really enjoyed my leftovers.

Here's the recipe for the gnocchi. It's super easy to make, absolutely delicious and goes really well with bolognese or a bacon and tomato sauce. Or any sauce you like, really. I make this fairly regularly because the gnocchi are much fluffier and lighter than the shop-bought stuff. This is a recipe from one of the first editions of Fresh Living magazine and it has served me well. I just change the cake flour to self-raising flour because it aids the fluffiness.

  • 500g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • Salt (I use about 1 tspn)
  • 1.5 cups of self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash coarsely. Using a large spoon, rub the mashed potato through a sieve. Mix in egg and salt. Add the flour and mix to make a dough, but don't over-mix. Roll the dough into long 2cm thick sausages. Cut each roll into 3cm lengths and press each piece lightly with a fork. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until they float to the top. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and serve with your sauce of choice.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

R12 a day: Day Two

One thing I forgot to mention about the R12 a day challenge yesterday is that I'm so grateful that I'm married to TSC and we can each have R12 a day. This challenge s really tough for single people. We've encouraged members of our small group to club together so that they can get a greater variety of ingredients. According to the rules we have to cost for whole items. In other words, you can't buy half a packet of rice - you have to budget for the whole packet. So, if you're only going to use half a packet, it makes sense to split it with someone else and share the cost, leaving you more money to spend on something else.

Here's our shopping list and costing for the week:

  • Mealie meal - R5.80 (1kg)
  • Margerine - R6.99 for a tiny Rama block (much as I hate cooking with marge as it breaks down into farmful fats when heated, we're doing just that this week as we can't afford cooking oil)
  • Sugar - R3.49 for 250g pack
  • 2min noodles - 2 x R2.49
  • Onions - R2.81 for two large onions bought loose (used half an onion with last night's soya mince. The rest goes to tomorrow night's soup)
  • Spaghetti - R6.80 (used half a packet for last night's supper. The rest will go into the veggie soup to bulk it up a bit)
  • Soya mince - R8.99 (Beef and Onion flavour, PnP)
  • Patty pans - R10.00 for three punnets at Fruit & Veg City
  • Oranges - R10.00 for a 2kg bag at Fruit & Veg City (another lifesaver - now we can have two fruits per day, which is great seeing TSC gets hungry in the late afternoons)
  • Bananas - R6.71 (five loose bananas)
  • Potatoes - R10.81 for three absolutely massive ones bought loose
  • Tin of braai relish - R5.49
  • Flour - R5.49 (500g self-raising)
  • Bread - Still have to buy tomorrow for soup night. Probably about R10.99 (I will buy a low-GI loaf)
  • Powdered soup - R2.99 sachet (creamy chicken flavour)
  • Jelly - 2 x R3.29
  • Eggs - R7.99 for six (I hate not being able to afford free range!)
  • Spinach - R2.00 (I'm taking it out of my garden, but accounting for the price of production)
  • Salt and pepper - R1.50 (the only thing we're allowed to work out per quantity rather than as a whole bag)
Total: R101.43 (without the bread I still need to buy)

Between the two of us, we have R12 each for four days, which comes to R96.00. Then  we've asked our small group members to each bring R4 (a third of their daily allowance for a soup supper tomorrow evening). We have six people (aside from TSC and I) confirmed, which means an additional R24.00. So we have R120.00 available in total, which means that once the bread is bought, I should have about R7.50 to spare. Hoping I can find a small packet of tea for that price!

Notes on yesterday's R12 a day experience:

The bag of oranges I bought had one in it that was off.  I was more annoyed than usual by this (normally I would just chuck it away and think nothing of it) and I realised how tough it must be if you have so little money and the food you buy ends up being rotten :-( Eye-opening.

2minute noodles are definitely not low-GI. I was hungry again an hour after eating mine for lunch (although I did give some of mine to TSC as he needs more food than I do).

The soya mince, patty pans and spaghetti for dinner was actually not too bad at all and very filling. When we lived in Cape Town, we had very, very little money to spare and had soya mince quite often. For last night's meal, I fried up half an onion (chopped finely) in a teaspoon of marge, and added the water and "mince" to that, just to give it a bit of extra flavour. I steamed the patty pans, which went very nicely with the mince sauce and pasta. We have oodles leftover for lunch today (which will be a far more satisfying meal than 2min noodles) and enough pasta left over to bulk up tomorrow night's soup too (always a good idea with a hungry group of people).

So far, so good. Although I must admit, a cup of coffee would go down well right now ;-)

Monday, 17 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 1

I'm doing the R12 a day challenge. If you'd like to know more about how you can do the challenge or if you want to donate money towards food for those in my church living below the bread line, please mail me at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com.

Here's the menu for the next few days:

Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: banana
Lunch: 2min noodles
Supper: spaghetti with soya mince and veg (specifically, I found a special at Fruit & Veg City for 3 punnets of yellow patty pans for R10)

Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: orange
Lunch: leftover spaghetti with soya mince
Supper: homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce

Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: orange
Lunch: leftover homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce
Supper: vegetable soup (using the other two punnets of patty pans) with bread with our small group (we are asking each member to bring R4 - a third of their daily allowance)
Dessert: Jelly. (No custard, I'm afraid)

Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: banana
Lunch: leftover veggie soup and bread
Supper: spinach omelettes

One of the biggest eye-openers for me is how hard it is not to be able to buy something I crave. Often, I'll say to TSC, "What do you want for supper tonight?" or "I feel like roast chicken". Having to stick to a set menu is hard, and I can't imagine how tough it must be for those who really live under the bread line - they don't have the luxury of planning ahead what they'll eat. R12 a day is an average - not something you can bet on. So someone living in poverty might be able to earn R30 doing an odd job on one day, but then earn nothing for the next three.

Also, living on R12 of food a day is tough, but for people living in abject poverty, their meagre income, whatever it might be, has to cover ALL their expenses - transport, medicine, education... everything.

The biggest challenges for me so far:
  • Trying to plan a menu that isn't just starch-based; one that includes fruit, veg, fats and protein too.
  • Only drinking water. No coffee, no cold drinks, no tea, no alcohol. This is much tougher on TSC than on me (my terrible gastro meant I have only had two cups of coffee in the last two weeks. He, on the other hand, is used to five cups a day).
  • Trying to think about how to turn this challenge into something helpful in the long run. Yes, it will help me to build empathy with the poor, but how can that change my behaviour for the good of those in need? And no, I'm not talking about regular hand-outs - that's not how I think we can help. 
(PS: We leave on Thursday night for CT and will be staying with friends, so won't be able to do the final day of the challenge).

Friday, 14 October 2011

R12 a day challenge

My church has issued a challenge to its members to feed ourselves each on R12 a day from 17 to 21 October. Here's a bit about the R12 a day challenge:

Why R12 a day?  The World Bank defines ‘extreme poverty’ as living on less than US $1.25 or R12 per day.

In support of ‘World Food Day’ on the 16TH October and ‘International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’ on the 17TH October. 

1.4 billion People on our planet, and over ½ a million in Johannesburg survive on less than R12 a day for EVERYTHING.

Here are some stats:

South Africa
• SA is the most unequal society in the world. The richest 10% of the population receive
almost half the income and the poorest 10% receive a mere 0.2% of all income.
• 15% or 7.45 million people in SA live in ‘extreme poverty’.
City of Johannesburg
• Over ½ million people in JHB live below the poverty line of R12/day (this is for everything –
not just food).
• 45% of the 3.8 million residents (1.7 million) people live in what the SA govt terms ‘Absolute
Poverty’ ie on less than R800/month.
• Almost 20% of the population lives in informal dwellings (shacks). Many live in hazardly
dilapidated and overcrowded buildings.
• 19% of the population is illiterate.
• Approx 5% of the population (200 000 people) have no access to water, sanitation, refuse
disposal or electricity.
• 6% of children in Gauteng are severely malnourished.
• 350 000 children in JHB will never go to a pre-school as government doesn’t have sufficient

The Challenge to our congregation:
1. Live on R12/day for food and refreshments for 5 days starting on Monday 17th October.
2. Encourage colleagues, friends and family to join the ‘R12 a Day’ Challenge.
3. Donate what you would have spent on food and drink that week (money goes to food
parcels for GodFirst Tembisa members who actually live on R12 or less)

The purpose of the Challenge is to:
• Acknowledge world food and poverty day along with the rest of the world.
• Empathise with the poor as we experience, in a small way, part of their daily reality, and in
doing so allow God to break our hearts with compassion for the poor.
• Provide food for those in our church and city to whom this is a reality.

I'm busy drawing up a menu and a budget and this is tough! Anyone care to join me? Or to donate? You can find the rules here. There are also recipe ideas and other resources on the website.

Our church small group will be sharing a meal on Wednesday night together, pooling R4 from each of our R12 budgets for that day. I'm thinking veggie soup?

I'll try to blog about how it's going next week. I think this is going to be challenging, but it will certainly give us more empathy with South Africa's poor.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Still here

It's just been... manic, sad, hard...

I've been quite sick. I had terrible gastro. It started last week Tuesday morning. By Friday, I thought I was better, until I got on the bus for the Coldplay concert on Saturday and threw up again. Sorry to everyone who was on that bus with me. They all probably thought I was drunk. In actual fact, I think it was the smell of all the booze and smoke that set me off. Thankfully I am always well-prepared with wetwipes, tissues etc and I sorted it out very quickly. Still felt bad for everyone else though.

Anyway, my stomach is STILL sensitive. I wake up most mornings with cramps and get patches of nausea if I eat anything remotely creamy, rich or acidic. I've always loved Provitas. I think I'm over them though.

I've also now had this insane headache for three weeks. Not normal. The doc has given me muscle-relaxants. Not helping. I think it's stress and spending so many hours a day in front of the PC. I'm going to make a plan to have my eyes tested.

Coldplay. My favourite band in the world. They were amazing! Pity the sound in our cheap seats was absolutely pathetic. In fact, you could hear them better from outside the stadium than from where we were sitting. Still, I'm glad I got to see them live. It just reinforces for me how talented they are. Not only is Chris Martin a great vocalist, but if you take away the vocals, the music is still fantastic - the melodies, the rhythm... I love them.

Work has been crazy. That is all I will say on that score. Oh, except that today is International Plain Language Day. I wish some of my clients would se use plain language even just for one day instead of corporate poppycock, which seems to be their language of choice.

It's been sad. We had Jennifer's memorial service last Friday. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was heart-wrenching. One of my friends asked me what the point is of having a memorial for someone who wasn't even born yet. I had to choose my words carefully in answering her without getting upset. Jennifer may not have taken a breath in this world, but her parents knew her and loved her for nine months. Her dad spoke at the service about the three games he used to play with her while she was in her mom's tummy. We all sobbed.

What else is news?

We discovered that our fabulous new shower is leaking through the downstairs ceiling. Joy. We can't quite find the problem though. *Sigh* That means lots of tinkering and testing this weekend.

On a happier note, my garden is beautiful right now. I take a few minutes out to walk through it a couple of times a day. My irises and roses are in full bloom. They smell heavenly.

We saw The Help on Tuesday, just to get out of the house for a bit. It's a good movie, in my opinion. I laughed and cried and thought about it lots afterwards. It's not a particularly deep look at issues, but hopefully it gets people thinking about them. It was nice to see a good movie, after watching Friends with Benefits, which was possibly my least favourite movie all year.

My nicest bit of news is that we're off to a wedding in CT next weekend. I cannot wait. I really feel like I need to get away from Jhb for a bit. It's been a tough month so far and it's that time of the year when everyone is grumpy and tired. I'm looking forward to seeing two of my best friends, catching up with a few other friends I haven't seen in years and just being able to walk on the beach again. I still miss it.

Sorry, I know this post is disjointed, but there's lots I want to say and I don't have the energy right now to try to say it any better.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

RIP little Jennifer

My heart is crushed today. Two of our dear supper club friends were expecting their little girl - their first child - to arrive this week. We had dinner with them on Sunday afer church and laughed together about nappy duty and our nicknames for her.

Less than 24hours later, baby Jennifer died after a tight knot in her umbilical cord cut off her blood supply.

Her poor parents are broken. My heart aches for them.