End on a sweet note this Christmas…

Since I’m a bit tired of doing Christmas party makeup ideas and gift guides I decided as I’m the dessert boss in my family I would share the recipe for the dessert I’m made for Christmas last year. It always seems a bit weird to have things like Christmas pudding in our climate (and honestly who actually likes Christmas pudding?). Trifle is a bit overdone – we have it every Christmas – so I picked something totally different, better suited to summer, but special enough for an occasion like Christmas, a croquembouche.

6c963b5b1320bc72e99fba2ceb898e59It is a bit of a fiddle and time consuming to make, but then preparing food for Christmas is worthy of extra effort. Choux puffs filled with vanilla pastry cream, dipped in chocolate, assembled in a pyramid and decorated with stars  makes for a delicious end to Christmas dinner. Here goes…

For the choux puffs:

Ingredients

  • 115 g butter
  • 250 ml water
  • 120 g flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 free-range eggs

How to make

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Melt the butter in the water in a saucepan over a medium heat, then bring to the boil and remove from the heat immediately. Sift the flour and salt together and add to the boiling water.

Using a wooden spoon, stir to form a thick paste. Return to the heat and stir for 1 minute, or until the paste comes away from the sides of the saucepan.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool until lukewarm. Stir in 1 egg at a time – the mixture will look as if it has split, but continue mixing and it will come together again.

Using a teaspoon or piping bag, spoon or pipe the mixture onto a greased baking tray, in the shape of profiteroles then sprinkle with water. Bake for 10 minutes or until puffed up, then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Allow to cool. You can make these ahead of time and freeze them. They are very quick to defrost on the day while you are making your pastry cream and before assembling the croquembouche. Poke a hole into each puff when they come out of the oven. You will need this later on for filling them with pastry cream.

 

For the pastry cream filling:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole milk, heavy cream, or a mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla (either Woolies vanilla paste or fresh vanilla pods cut lengthwise and the seeds scraped out, discard the pods)

 

How to make

  1. Warm the milk in the saucepan until you start to see wisps of steam. It should not actually be boiling.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk them into the dry ingredients. This will form a thick paste. It’s fine if the paste looks crumbly or smooth; the important thing is that the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour a little of the hot milk into the eggs and whisk to combine. Continue pouring the milk slowly into the eggs, whisking continuously. It’s OK to switch back and forth between pouring milk and whisking if you can’t manage both at the same time.
  4. When all the milk has been added to the eggs, pour everything back into the saucepan.
  5. Set the pan back over medium heat. Whisk constantly. At first, the pastry cream will look very thin and frothy, but it will start to thicken after a few minutes. When it has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, pause whisking every few seconds to see if the cream has come to a boil. If you see large bubbles popping on the surface, whisk for a few more seconds and then remove the pan from heat.
  6. Stir the vanilla into the pastry cream
  7. Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap pressed right up against the surface of the cream and chill completely.

To assemble the croquembouche just fill your choux puffs with pastry cream (use a piping bag) and then dip in melted chocolate and start building them into a tower. Once you have a conical shaped tower you can drizzle with melted chocolate and add some star sprinkles. Gold edible glitter or food spray gives it a festive golden shine or twinkle. I found some at Woolies, a limited range for Christmas, but any baking shop will have. Or just use your imagination!

 

 

 

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A new family member

This week I was going to do a review on Clinique’s new miscellar cleansing gel (will get to it next week) but we had a big event which overtook everything else. We have grown our family by one special four legged member! Now to round off the line-up of a geriatric incontinent Dalmatian, chubby Jack Russell who’s living her best thug life, and an escapee hamster we now also have a pony. 


Her name is Lucky. I really wanted to make a YouTube video of us surprising Moo with her new pony (those always make me teary!) but that critter is way too sharp to miss a trick, and pretty difficult to surprise. Nonetheless they’re busy making friends, while I, the bearer of the fly spray and deworming accomplice, am still under deep suspicion. 


The past week has been a roller coaster and a huge learning curve which frankly ended up with my rescue remedying myself to sleep at night and taking anxiety medication to try and get my heart rate down, but I truly hope Lucky is going to be happy and feel loved with us in her new home. 

I will be getting back to beauty related stuffs next week when I’ve mentally processed that my childhood pony dreams have finally come true… and washed all this carroty equine slobber out of my hair.

The reality of 87 litres per day

All the way back in March I managed to get our water usage down to 8,000 litres per month (equating to 87 litres per person in our household) and have stuck with that for the past seven months. Quite a few people asked me at the time to share how I’d achieved it and give some water saving tips. The answer is, you’re not going to like what you hear. Most of it requires being just a bit unhygienic.

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Weirdly beautiful but terrifying dam pictures…

Everyone in Cape Town will know, or should know unless you’re a total git, that we have level 5 water restrictions and are limited to 87 litres per person per day. Our water is scheduled to run out completely by the end of March and this is probably just going to get worse as we get into summer. It’s starting to feel like we live in apocalyptic times.

If you’re serious about saving water and sticking to the rules then the reality is probably going to be unpleasant. Here’s how we’ve done it:

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The taps on all our toilets have been turned off. If you need to flush a toilet, you get the bucket of grey water and flush it manually.

Toilet flushing only happens for number twos, so we just have to deal with there being some degree of wee in our toilets at any given time. It’s disgusting but I reckon if you can’t deal with your own family members’ wee then you need to do some team building exercises or something.

I wash dishes in a bucket (as infrequently as possible) and use the dirty water to water my three remaining plants. Even water from cooking that is normally drained (like when boiling pasta) gets collected in a bucket for these herbaceous beacons of hope. I’m determined that they, like me, will survive this.

laundry-stock-today-160808-tease_8816217b49c15bf3fc07bbcd6558c2dbAll clothes except underwear have to be worn more than once. Unless they have a gigantic tomato sauce stain on the front, they go back in the cupboard and not into the wash. Because laundry is done once a week, and when the machine is full, it’s full. Laundry is probably the biggest single user of water in our house, and it’s very difficult when you’ve got kids to keep washing to a minimum. Moo’s school uniform, underwear and anything that is really sweaty or dirty takes precedence. Bedding, towels and other clothing makes it in when there’s spare space. Before the drain cycle I scoop out as much grey water from the washing machine as possible to use for toilet flushing. I really, really miss having my weekly clean bedding. 😦

c700x420Probably the most difficult reality to accept has been banning baths and cutting our showering down drastically. A hot shower has become the ultimate luxury in my life. I now only shower twice a week when I need to wash my hair (coinciding with horse riding days because I get pretty grimey). The other days I have to make do with a bowl of water, a face cloth and dry shampoo. When I do shower, I collect every drop of shower water to use for flushing the toilets. And my daughter has exchanged bathtime every night for an occasional shared shower and her monthly hair wash. I’m probably a bad parent, but she seems quite happy and doesn’t smell funny.

Pool-drainOur swimming pool no longer exists (well, it does, but it’s got about 30cm of water in it which is too low to filter, so it’s a disgusting green swamp). Our lawn is a giant sandpit and the only surviving plants are the three pot plants which live off dishwater. It’s depressing and our garden looks ugly but I guess in crisis time appearances no longer matter.

Lastly I have a few general tips. There are some places in Cape Town like the brewery in Newlands where you can collect free spring water. My parents who live nearby wait in the queues and collect really big bottles full to use for drinking and cooking etc. If you live near the beach you can collect sea water. It’s a schlep hauling 10 litre containers across the sand to your car, but I’m going to be using this for toilet flushing this summer. Then there are the usual things like brushing teeth with a cup of water, water saving shower heads etc.

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Collect as much rainwater as you can. We are getting a tank installed, but up until now every time it has rained I run outside and put buckets under the downpipes. There are also flexible roll-up hoses you can connect to your downpipes to channel rainwater directly into your pool, garden, or storage tank. If I’d known about these at the beginning of the winter our pool might actually still have been full enough to run the filter…

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I don’t even use the car wash anymore. My car looks pretty bad, but then again what’s that compared to a dead garden, an empty pool, dirty windows, unflushed toilets and bi-weekly showers? This I’m afraid is the reality of 87 litres per day.

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Stem cell sunscreen from Dermaceutic, Double Wear Nude Water Fresh SPF 30 and a whole new mall

I’m playing catch up here because none of the above are hot off the press exactly, but they’re pretty newish and, well, new to me specifically this month. At the end of September a new mall opened around the corner from me, Table Bay Mall, which they managed to sneakily build without my even noticing until a week before opening day. Shows how happy I’ve been in la la land. So people on the West Coast finally have an H&M on their doorstep, just in time for updating summer wardrobes, not to mention a Dunkin Donuts for those who don’t care that their summer wardrobes will be a size bigger than last year. Woohoo!

The mall is really nicely done and a breath of fresh air (all we had before was Bayside Mall, the mall where you can get basically nothing) but irritatingly some shops like Cotton On, Typo and Baskin Robbins aren’t actually open yet and there is still a major lack of decent cosmetics counters. I did see the Woolworths had a Stila and a Smashbox, which is quite nice. Better than a smack in the face. Ten points for the awesome toilets though, and the walls around the lifts are giant video screens playing undersea and panoramic Cape Town views.

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Artist’s impression

Anyway, getting to the point, I recently ran out of foundation. I was looking for something new without having to schlep to Canal Walk for one of my favourites which aren’t available near at hand (hey Table Bay Mall, how about a Red Square at least?) and I happened upon a new iteration of Estee Lauder Double Wear, the Nude Water Fresh version with an SPF 30. Summer is around the corner after all, but more on the SPF front in a second. Excited to try it, I was a bit bummed when I got home and found they had given me the regular Double Wear in 2N1 desert beige, instead of the one I’d asked for. Not being a quitter I ordered the new one online along with some pump dispensers (more on that below). Apologies for the rubbish pictures, but frankly picture taking is one of the reasons I stopped blogging… I despise it.

 

If the regular Double Wear is like a black tie wedding then this version is like a lazy summer picnic. Last year around this time I did a review of the Double Wear Nude Cushion Stick which I really liked, except that I forgot it behind in a hotel over New Year. This is a thinner, more lightweight version of Double Wear but with a decent medium coverage. It’s less flat and matte and feels fresher on the skin. It takes longer to dry down but does. With the regular Double Wear I can feel it sitting on my face, whereas this version feels pretty weightless. It contains antioxidant red fruit extracts, including watermelon, lychee seed and apple, and costs R585, same as the regular Double Wear.

I was very excited to notice that the Estee Lauder online store now sells a pump for the Double Wear bottles, making life much easier. They are R50 on their online store. While it’s annoying that you have to pay extra for an essential part of the packaging, after so many years of trying to pour the foundation out of the bottle I was like, hell, I’ll take two! Which I did, as my regular Double Wear and my new Double Wear Nude now both have nice colour coordinated pumps.

 

Now, back to the summer and SPF theme. I’ve been using Dermaceutic for nearly two years now and my skincare shelf is basically one long line of Dermaceutic products from serums to moisturisers to mask to daily sunscreen. I really love the brand because they’re effective. As simple as that. They have a new formula of Sun Ceutic out, my everyday SPF50 sunscreen. The new version contains a stem cell stimulator, something I’ve never come across in a sunscreen before, as well as now being an SPF50+. Because Sun Ceutic also contains hyaluronic acid and aloe vera it’s really soothing and moisturizing and whenever my T-zone is going through an oily phase I use this in place of my moisturizer, and when my skin is feeling dry I use it on top of my moisturizer. Basically it offers high protection for all skin types as well as anti-aging benefits. I guess sunscreen by definition is ‘anti-aging’ since sun exposure is the biggest cause of premature skin aging, but this actually has a stem cell stimulator to, and I quote, “accelerate epidermal restoration and smooth out the appearance of wrinkles”. Bonus.

It uses micro mineral filters, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and doesn’t contain oxybenzone for anyone who is reactive to it (like me).  It does go on a bit white and scary for a second, but quickly goes transparent and absorbs. And it is great under makeup, but leaves me looking a little dewy-faced when I apply and run – which might be a consideration if you’re oily and don’t wear foundation. Long story short, if you’re looking for a new facial sunscreen that is going to be good for your skin, this one is totally worth considering. It’s R620 available from Conquest and lasts for a long time because one pump usually does my whole face. If you’re in Cape Town mail sam@conquest.co.za or Jo’burg you can contact Sonette Donker from Skin ID to get your hands on some.