Hygge + Food

I love food. No doubt about it.

I love recipe books, menu planning, preparing food, setting tables, cooking food and then seeing my friends and family eat themselves into food comas.

I love finding new restaurants and I love getting dressed up for a dinner out with my husband.

We used to eat out and explore new places a lot, and then we had a baby who is now a toddler so we seldom eat out anymore unless there is a playground attached to the restaurant. Nowadays, husband and child go to the playground and I order the meals and drinks, eat mine alone, madly beckon that husband’s food has arrived, try to get toddler to eat, take toddler to playground so husband can eat, request all food to be takeaways and stomp angrily to car with toddler declaring death from starvation.

This week, my fabulous and talented Ride Or Die invited me to a dinner review of a local restaurant. My excitement could not be contained. I examined the menu online and stalked the website and social media obsessively because when you have a toddler, you become accustomed to eating fast. It’s a Gone in 60 Seconds approach to dining. I eat my dinner twelve chicken wings at a time.

We arrived at Lansers on Main (www.lansersonmain.com) and were greeted with such warmth and happiness. A bottle of wine appeared, water was offered and I felt my shoulders drop, my breathing slowed and I let the sensation of pure hedonism wash over me. All Chef Lanser wanted was for us to eat and enjoy his food.

And boy oh boy, did we!

I believe that when a Chef tells you that a dish is constructed with patience and care over many years, you should eat it. So I took his recommendations to heart and ordered the signature dishes. Tomato tart, steak tartare, Flo’s Delight (Flo was delightful) and chocolate torte all made their way slowly and thoughtfully into my life.

Chef Lanser is not the way I imagined a Chef. In this fast paced industry of “rockstar” hotshots, Chef Lanser is the conductor of an orchestra. Teasing your palate with flavors, hinting at a climax, taking you back slowly to a different profile and then surprising you with a crescendo all with a twinkly smile nearly hidden by a massive beard.

Chef prefers abseiling to skydiving, loves the versatility of mushrooms, would take a 4×4 over a sports car and enjoys cold weather. He checks every single plate before it goes out for service and has handpicked his chefs for their abilities and creativity.

There is no way that I can do his food justice, go and try it for yourself. Take the time to slow down and enjoy a meal with your favorite people. Chat, drink, eat and recharge your body and soul.

Chef Lanser didn’t just feed me, he nourished my heart.

One cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well – Virginia Woolf

Winter Hygge

Winter has arrived in all her glory at the bottom of Africa. Icy mornings, winds that make your bones ache and darkness cloaking us from 5 p.m. I dislike winter with it’s brooding shadows and perpetual cold but I recognise its importance.

Fortunately, winter also comes with sunny days. Bitingly cold, but if you can find a sheltered corner and raise your face to the warmth you will start to feel the necessary dormancy of the Earth and translate it to yourself.

I’m using winter to take a break and recharge my heart.

A year ago, I started on a journey to reduce my stress and find hygge in my life. It is expected that a year later, I enter the winter cycle of this transformation. As a human being I am tuned to the cycles of the seasons and it is time for introspection, to turn into myself like a dormouse going into hibernation.

Do I feel that my stress has reduced? Yes.

Did I expand my knowledge? Yes.

Am I a kinder person? Still working on that one.

Did I find my tribe? Yes.

Has my health improved? Somewhat.

It has been so hard and so easy. My time has been better spent, my time has been abused. I’ve gone off track, and found my way home. I’ve lost people and found new people. I’ve given up and persevered. I’ve gone backwards and kept on putting one foot, thought, word and intent in front of another. Conscious living is a disciplined art form and a moving target. A delicate dance between ego and soul.

As I enter my winter, it is necessary to stop and smell the woodsmoke, feel the wind slice my core and savour the first cup of tea while I watch the sun rise over my city. To acknowledge the progress that I’ve made and think about the next steps with no pressure for perfection.

It is time to be grateful for the winter, it is a chance to rest.

To sleep, perchance to dream – William Shakespeare

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Hygge on the Home Front

My beautiful country is gearing up for national elections and the usual naysayers and impenders of Doom are out and about. It’s easy to get caught up in the vitriol or you can do what I did and go and buy some indoor plants.

I love my home. But it is like an errant hairstyle, sometimes it looks Pinterest-worthy and other times it looks like it got dragged through a bush backwards, complete with leaves, sticks and the occasional dead lizard.

We have lived here for nearly two years and it is much bigger that our last home. I think I have a good eye and keen sense of interior design but lately the sheer space of it has left me doubting every idea that I have.

Not one to linger on problems, with swift fingers I got onto Google and found an interior designer who looks like she can help us out. I am hopeful that our cavernous interior can become a place of comfort, warmth and be easy on the eye whilst keeping with the theme of Messy Toddler and Old Dogs.

However, my new best friend can only come and see me next week and I am a take-action-now kinda girl. So off we tootled to the nursery where I persuaded my amused husband that at least six indoor plants in pots or baskets was immediately necessary – the bigger the better. Trees would be preferable.

Luckily for him, you can’t buy indoor trees so I settled for some monstera (très chic), snake plants (emits oxygen at night), some ferny tree-ish looking marvels and the saucily named, Devil’s Ivy. Once they were home, watered and had made the acquaintance of our ex-militia cat, I spent a gloriously happy forty-five minutes shifting them from room to room so as to determine their most impactful nature (I was quietly pleased that we hadn’t bought any trees while I was grunting them around).

We also took a trip to KAMERS|MAKERS 2019 which was lovely. I bought more plants and a beautiful hoopoe inspired notebook to add to my growing collection of beautiful notebooks. The setting in the grounds of St David’s Marist Brothers was a welcome respite from the usual convention centre hell of most expos. This year, KAMERS|MAKERS was all about zero waste which makes me feel fuzzy inside, as it has become my personal mission in life to only throw out one bag of rubbish a week. It was a good day out and my child fell asleep in the car after devouring fish and chips, so we were winning all round.

Winter is creeping up on us and it’s time to get cosy and comfy. True hygge always seems to happen when it’s cold outside and you are warm inside. It’s time for soups and roasts, blankets and pillows, movies and cuddles, fuzzy socks and hot water bottles. Tea, cinnamon, vanilla, coffee and freshly baked banana bread will feature heavily.

A heart must feel hygge too so give some thought to those without this winter. Cast your thoughts to our neighbours devastated by multiple cyclones and our friends on the coast facing devastation from the storms that raged and offer help where you can. Be a part of the kindness movement.

Think too of our country and the future we are fighting to create. If 27 000 ex pats can vote in London, so can you.

Buy a plant.

Go and vote.

Home is not where you are from, it is where you belong – Beau Taplin

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Christmas Hygge

In my part of the world, way down at the foot of Africa, it has been unbearably hot. The afternoon thunderstorms that bring relief from the shimmering heat have been delayed. Since Christmas is a time of excess and little self control, it has been uncomfortable to gorge on deliciously rich food and do anything more taxing than melt into a chair and sip iced water.

The Christmas tree went up in the early hours of the morning and for a plastic tree it looked thirsty. The branches drooped under the weight of shiny baubles and the tinsel was disconsolate and sulky.

Five strands of Christmas lights required more adhesive materials than the hardware store stocked. The sticker pads melted every day and the lights ended up on the ground, dusty and twinkling feebly against the wattage of the sun.

A massive cooking effort, labouring over a hot stove and oven resulted in pools of sweat and no appetite for anything. The freezer worked overtime to keep up with ice cube demand and the swimming pool turned into a bath. But still we persevered with the Christmas spirit.

We have perspired our way through December, hopefully scanning the achingly blue sky for any sign of a cloud. Our hopes were burnt. Daily, Santa was asked for rain. Cooling, blessed, life giving rain.

There is nothing hygge about being so hot that your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth and your eyes burn. No amount of water can quench your thirst or cool you down. No relief came when dusk fell, the humidity rose and our heads throbbed. We were living in a pressure cooker, tempers were flaring like the fires in Alexandra and there was no end in sight.

We ran the gauntlet to the shops for last minute presents, food, decorations and other non essential items. We moaned and complained and fanned ourselves. And we spent money. We threw it at the shops, restaurants, bars and play centres. We couldn’t burn through it fast enough. We needed a distraction from the heat and a hot and bothered toddler.

Fever pitch.

When it felt as though our blood was boiling in our veins, we took a step back, wiped the sweat from our eyes and looked around at the monumental effort that goes into making Christmas bigger and better than the year before. We tuned out the adverts, the shows, the news and the billboards. We looked at each other and although we were hot and sticky we hugged each other hard and we held each other close. In my little family of three, we broke the fever and remembered what the holidays are really about. Family, friends, love and care. Respect, kindness, fun and delight in each new day. Time spent with the people we love is worth more than a million presents under the tree. Memories made and captured last longer than any toy. This will be the hottest Christmas we’ve had so far but it is also the summer my son learned to swim fearlessly.

The heat broke two days after Christmas. The clouds grew and swelled and the air changed. The winds threw up dust and cooled the earth and our skin. We lifted our heads, closed our eyes and breathed the thundering atmosphere deep into our lungs.

And then the rains came.

I miss the rains down in Africa – Toto

 

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Hygge, Health and Happiness

This week I have been plagued by migraines.

There is very little room for hygge and happiness when your brain is trying to squish out of your ears and your vision is strobing. As much as I wanted to crawl into a dark hole, life had to go on. So I pushed through with the responsibilities that come with being an adult.

On day three of Camp Migraine I did what all responsible adults do in times of crisis, I phoned my mom.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, when the going gets tough the moms get called and they do their mom thing. Within minutes I was driven to a Chinese massage therapist who worked her magic on my aching body and head. Mom then took me back to her house and made me lunch, all whilst keeping up a running commentary of how much better I was looking and didn’t I need another cup of tea, glass of water or sandwich? Then I was instructed to book an appointment with an optometrist and to seriously look at my stress levels because I’m a mom too and if I’m unwell, then how can I do my mom thing? And while I’m at it, go and buy some new pillows with better neck support.

Why is it so hard to ask for help? Why do we hurt ourselves and make ourselves sick to keep up the facade of being superhuman? When did asking for help become a sign of weakness? I believe this is something we all need to consider because human beings need to be helped.

Whether you need a sympathetic ear, a hug or a vent session we should all be able to have someone to do that with. Celebrating successes on our own makes no sense. We throw parties for new jobs, promotions, birthdays, new babies, retirements, achievements and new loves. Why, then, do we suffer in silence through anxiety, sadness, pain or anger? Why are we hiding these feelings?

This week I had dinner with three accomplished, smart and funny women. The food was delicious, the wine plentiful and the company was marvellous. It took us three months to get around to seeing each other and have vowed to do it more often because everyone needs a break. Everyone needs a different perspective and everyone needs to feel safe and appreciated. Our Happy Club is brimming with wit, acceptance and love. There are four of us but there is always room for more.

Happy is as happy does.

Look after yourself, and each other.

Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you – Fred Rogers

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Getting Hygge With It

There is no more hygge feeling than curling up with your sleeping son on a rainy afternoon and falling asleep listening to his breathing. My hygge levels reached new heights. I have been carrying that feeling for days, drawing on it as my stress levels have soared and my health came under siege.

As the seasons are changing, my body has issued out an all access pass to every germ out there and they all thoughtfully brought a plus one and stayed for the after party. I have become that irritating sick person with my tissues and throat lozenges.

However, I have persevered because I have something that a lot of people need and I was not going to let flu get in the way of that.

The South African National Blood Service requires 4 500 units of blood a day to keep up with demand, one unit can save up to three lives. It costs nothing and if you meet the donor requirements you can donate a unit every 56 days. All in all it takes around 20 minutes. Not content to donate just my own blood, I threw the challenge out to my incredible colleagues and we all donated blood on Friday. We each left with a pint less of blood and a heart full of knowing that combined, forty five people could live another day.

I have also adopted two cots at http://www.tlc.org.za, an organisation that looks after abandoned babies. For a minimal amount each month, my contribution will provide nappies, food, clothing and anything else that these two little people may require.

What I have come to with doing these two very small things is that if I have a choice and the means then there is no reason to not act. By being healthy and having some disposable income I have had a positive impact on five people.

My heart is full of hygge, my life is full of hygge, I’m a hygge ball.

Still blowing my nose though.

And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it – Birdy

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Hygge + Hair

I never have my hair done. It’s an indulgence that makes me uncomfortable and I also avoid staring at myself in a mirror for an extended period of time. As my journey of hygge and happiness has evolved, I have realised that it is important to look after oneself.

But it doesn’t come naturally.

My hair is a sore spot for me. It is suffering from an identity crisis. I have noticed that the condition of my hair is the most obvious sign of how I am feeling about myself at a given point in time. Right now it is stressed, unloved and falling out.

Add to the fact that I am intimidated by traditional salons with their harsh lighting, loud noises and impersonal service I avoid having my hair done professionally as much as I can.

And then, my brothers came to the rescue and are helping me help my hair.

Forbici Salon [owned by said brother and brother from another mother] is designed to make people feel good. The lighting is easy on the eye, the decor is welcoming and chic without being pretentious and most of all everyone who comes through the door is happy to be there in that hygge space. You can’t force that feeling, that is real. Living plants and artwork pop up in unlikely places, feathers lift in the breeze and faux animal heads watch over you. My cappuccino came in a burgundy and gold cup and saucer. Massive couches and modern chairs, faux fur blankets and sliding doors to the garden lift my spirits and I am content. I am cosy. I am safe.

My heart is full.

Forbici is a thirty minute drive from my house but I will return because my two brothers are helping me heal my hair and in turn, myself.

It is not indulgent to make yourself feel good, it is traitorous to put yourself on the back burner. When you are on the back burner you simmer, then you boil over and then the flame goes out.

All the stars are closer – Kendrick Lamar

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