Category Archives: Life Management

Getting and staying organised, at home and everywhere else

School biscuits, thanks to a past self

choc chip school biscuits

The latest batch of “school biscuits”. Picture: Renee Moodie

Yesterday I made some biscuits.
They’re known in our house as “school biscuits” and are filled with bran (yep, actual bran as in the stuff that no self-respecting kid would ever eat), wholewheat flour and oats.
Plus chocolate chips, and two kinds of sugar, and butter.
The recipe is one by Heidi Swanson and it so nicely combines nutrition with decadence that is has been a lunchbox favourite with both parents and child in our house for years.
But the best thing about them is that you make one huge batch of dough, bake one set of biscuits then and there and freeze the rest of the dough in three or four portions. And that means that on a busy weekend you can knock out a quick batch with minimal effort, remembering as you go to thank your past self for being so nice to you.
I recommend Heidi’s recipe in its entirety, but here are my notes for South African bakers:
Whole wheat flour – I have used both brown bread flour and Nutty Wheat and they both work fine.
I use three eggs instead of two
Unsalted butter – ordinary butter is fine, just cut back to half a teaspoon of salt
The all-important chocolate: we just use plain old Top Deck, cut up. In other words, you can use any chocolate you like, don’t worry about anything fancy.
So – print out the original, add my notes and get baking!

7 ways to a less cluttered house

Cape Town – When my niece was in Grade 2, she needed an empty shoebox for a project.



This should have been simple – but it wasn’t.

Neither my sister, my mother nor I had such a thing as an empty shoebox. I had to ask a colleague (who has beautiful taste in shoes) to bring one to the office so that the school could get its project.  Continue reading

How to fail at being middle class

Tigger asleep and blissfully unaware of her unvaccinated status. Picture: Renee Moodie

Tigger asleep and blissfully unaware of her unvaccinated status. Picture: Renee Moodie

I took my cat to the vet yesterday, for her vaccinations.

Now this is not unusual – but it is for me. This cat has not in fact been vaccinated since 2005 – and neither had any of the other late lamented animals in our house.

When I confessed this fact to a group of friends, there was a pause and a small intake of breath all round. Continue reading

Why we love old recipe books

When I was little, I had a dream.

I would sit on the floor with my mother’s copy of the Royal Hostess recipe book (“South Africa’s own cookbook” it said proudly on the cover) and wish with all my heart that my mother would one day make me the Royal Rondawel cake.

The 1952 rondawel cake

The 1962 rondawel cake

Now that I am a mother, I understand completely why she didn’t ever make it. But I loved everything about that picture: the colours, the little Father Christmas, the hint of a present in the corner.

At a recent gathering, one of the women present said to her sister (my friend, also present) that the cake we were eating tasted just like the apple cake their long-departed mother used to make. “I still have the Royal Hostess,” she mused. “I wonder if that recipe is in there?”
Continue reading

The power of a list

That Moleskine diary

That Moleskine diary

It’s a standing joke in my family, the way I make lists. But really, they work. This is not just shopping lists, though I make those too (in the computer, with all the standard items ordered by aisle in the local supermarket). There are different classes of lists, with different calming powers.

Everyday lists – reminding me to do things like renew the library books, or get the deworming tablets. I make these a week in advance (off a rolling master list), so Things Get Done. That old thing about asking a busy person to do things is true – but only because the busy person has taken the trouble to get organised in this way so you don’t have to.

Routine lists – also made in advance, saying things like put clothes out at night, pack lunch. I write them down even though I do them every day. It makes me feel better.

Longer-term lists – guess what, they are made in advance. This is things like make mince pies in October and freeze them so I am not running round like a crazy person in December.

Big event lists – here is the real power of a list, the preparation for a big event. An exam, a training course I am running, a holiday, a house move, a wedding… all of these are conquered by a list (or many lists). Sitting down with a cup of tea, a black Moleskin diary and a preparedness to think things through can instantly reduce that feeling that things have become too complicated, too overwhelming, toooooo much. Panic subsides. I move through the list, one item at a time. I’m still nervous and still worried and still anxious, but I have a plan. And as every South African knows, making a plan is everything.

You are so organised, say all my friends. I’d say to them, it is just the lists but I know they don’t believe me. So I smile and say thank you.

NOTE: This is a response to WordPress’s Daily Prompt for October 4