Adoption

In many ways, my mother has carried certain emotional scars with her throughout her life which are most certainly linked to her adoption at the age of 3 after her own mother died of toxaemia several days after giving birth to her second child, a baby boy. Due to financial difficulties my mother’s father asked his brother and his wife, who had no children of their own, to adopt my mother. The new baby was in turn adopted by his late wife’s family who never forgave themselves for not having adopted both children, but this was during the depression years in England and money was extremely scarce. For a little girl of 3 years old who was expecting her mummy to return from hospital with a new baby to suddenly never see her mother again, and having to go to live with an uncle and aunt, would more than likely necessitate the intervention of a child psychologist in today’s world.

Both her real and her adopted fathers died when my mother was 9 and 13 years old respectively. Her younger brother was more like a cousin than a sibling, and although they saw one another fairly regularly, they never lived together. In many ways over the years I have come to realise that my mother still carries the sadness and loss of not having her own mother around while she was growing up. She was made to feel that she had been given away like an unwanted possession, probably the words of an unthinking relative at the time.  The difference between this situation and other adoptions was that there was always contact with her extended family whilst she was growing up so she wasn’t left wondering who she was.

Having read many case studies, watched a lot of documentaries regarding adoption and knowing people who are adopted or who have adopted children, there appear to be some factors which are a common denominator in cases of adoption. Feelings of being unworthy and unwanted, as well as needing to know who one’s birth mother was seem to be the golden thread linking many adoption stories. It is a basic human need to know where we come from, and who we are and, if a child has been adopted and only finds out by chance that the people they know as their parents are in fact their adopted parents, the results can be devastating.

With changing attitudes nowadays, at least in Western societies, it is common to let a child know, as soon as they are old enough to understand, that they were “chosen” and therefore “special” and it was because the birth mother was not able to care for the baby herself that she had to make the extremely difficult decision to give the baby up for adoption.  Where a mother died in childbirth, and a father was unable to care for the baby, the emotions felt by the adoptee may be more feelings of sadness and loss and less of abandonment.  Sometimes it seems that this need to begin the search for the real parents raises its head, either during late adolescence or once the adoptees themselves become parents. It would appear that the desire to search for one’s birth mother is far more common than a need to know who one’s father is. Obviously this is a generalisation, but does seem very often to be the case.

The laws in many countries have been relaxed regarding adoption, and nowadays it seems to be quite common for adopted children to gain access to the names of their birth mother through the adoption agency in order to try to contact her. Many times the birth mother has had some contact with the adoptive parents, and has even received photos of the child she had to give up.  Years ago this was totally taboo and, in the case of single mothers, babies were literally wrenched out of their arms at around 6 weeks of age and handed over to the new parents. The heartbreak felt by the girl/woman having to give up her baby to strangers would seem to be a pain which often never heals. The memory of that day would be likely to stay with her for the rest of her life.

The adopted parents must go through really tough times when their child decides to investigate and find their blood relatives. It takes a very strong relationship to be able to face the fact that you may be losing your child to strangers who just happen to be linked by DNA. Counselling seems to be the way to go when an adopted child decides to contact a biological parent, as often there is a degree of disappointment, anger and distress once the meeting takes place.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption it may result in the biological mother refusing to meet her child. This could be due to the pregnancy having been the result of rape, or just the disgrace of an illegitimate birth and possibly never having revealed the fact to her current husband and other children.

I find adoption to be a very emotional and intense issue which cannot be taken lightly. For parents adopting a child of another culture, or ethnic group the issues are even more complicated.  There needs to be a lot of support all round and honesty and family discussions would appear to be a critical factor. Care and love are the basis of a happy childhood but we humans remain creatures who have a need to know who we are, where we came from and what characteristics and potential health issues we may have inherited from our parents.   When a baby or child is adopted by family or friends of the biological mother, there is likely to be adequate information available regarding her which could be a source of comfort as the child grows up and becomes curious about the family background.

Basic RGB

Smoked Duck with Spicy Litchi and Szechuan pepper sauce

This recipe involves lightly smoking the duck breast after it has come out of the oven and is resting. Do not worry if you don’t have a smoking gun to smoke the duck, as the dish will still be delicious.

Ingredients

  • 4 duck breasts, skin lightly scored
  • Cherrywood chips
  • Salt and pepper
  • Frozen/fresh lotus root slices
  • 1 bunch bok choi
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

Sauce

  • 1tsp Szeschuan pepper
  • 1tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 lemongrass stem, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2cm piece of ginger peeled
  • 2 Tblsp chopped coriander stem
  • 1 Tblsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 525g tin litchis in Syrup
  • 2tsp Fish Sauce
  • 200 ml Chicken stock
  • 2 Tblsp lemon juice
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 2 Tblsp Peanut oil
  • Corn Starch

Rice

  • I cup white rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Water
  • Salt

Method

  • Turn oven on to 190deg C.
  • Begin by making the sauce.
  • Add Szechuan pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, chilli flakes, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, ginger, coriander stem and leaves, half of the tin of litchis and syrup, fish sauce and lemon juice to a food processor/blender and process for a few minutes until as smooth as possible.
  • Pass the sauce through a sieve to remove unprocessed pieces.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a pan and when hot add the sauce and fry for about a minute over a medium heat.
  • Add the rest of the litchi syrup, coconut milk and chicken stock and gently simmer the sauce until reduced by about half its volume – +/- 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Season (if necessary) and thicken sauce slightly with a little corn-starch added to a bit of water, and then stirred through the sauce.
  • Chop remaining litchis into chunks and add to sauce – heat through.
  • Set aside.

Lotus root

  • If frozen, thaw the lotus root and dry on kitchen towel.
  • Heat oil to 180deg C and fry lotus root in batches until golden brown.
  • Remove from oil.
  • Season with salt and set aside.

Rice

  • Cook the rice on the stove top or rice cooker, substituting the equivalent water, with the can of coconut milk.

Duck

  • Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat and brown the duck skin side down until well browned and fat has rendered out +/- 5- 7 minutes. Take care not to burn.
  • Turn duck over and briefly brown remaining sides.
  • Transfer duck to an oven friendly pan and cook in the oven for about 6-7 minutes  (this will produce duck which is still slightly pink in the middle). Cook longer if you want more well-done duck.
  • Remove duck and rest in a glass dish.
  • Cover dish with cling wrap and add Cherrywood smoke.
  • Seal dish and rest meat in the smoke for 3-4 minutes.

Bok Choi

  • Steam/boil Bok Choi until softened.
  • Set aside and keep warm.

To serve

  • Spoon warm sauce onto a plate.
  • Place bok choi leaves onto plate and top with coconut rice.
  • Slice the duck breast and lay on top of sauce
  • Top with crispy lotus root

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Update and Comment January-10-2019

Memory has to be one of the strangest of cognitive functions. You only have to talk to any woman who has more than one child and she is bound to tell you that she totally forgot the hard work of giving birth until she went through it for the second time. It is probably nature’s way of preserving the human race.

Now, in a somewhat different vein, I need to tell you all about our current situation. It is almost 13 years since we last shared our home with a puppy and the memories are flooding back at an alarming rate.  Having been given the very kind and thoughtful gift of a new canine addition by our offspring at Christmas, we took delivery of Kelly just in time for the New Year.  She is a beautiful, very well bred German Shepherd pup who came from the same respected breeder as our late Rudie.

Kelly was the only one in her litter and, consequently, she has been “humanised” by the breeder and her family, since she had no siblings with whom to play.  She has settled very well in our home and is delightful and cuddly if she is tired enough to lie down and relax or sleep. When awake she is a ball of energy (with sharp baby teeth that are quite lethal) exploring every nook and cranny to find things to chew or drag around and loves to race around the garden resembling a battery operated rabbit. No amount of doggy toys is enough to keep her occupied all the time. One thing for sure, 2019 is going to keep me on my toes, and the puppy socialisation and basic training courses are a necessity. I need advice on how to break a few bad habits such as “answering back” when chastised!

Having a dog which is potentially going to be very protective, it is essential that she has proper training as well as a good dog food whilst she is growing – a strain on the budget, but a necessity! She is on a Royal Canin puppy food now and will start her puppy socialisation classes in the near future.   I will post some photos of our new addition soon – probably while she is having one of her naps!

Enough dog talk and I hope I haven’t bored you to death. On a more intellectual note, you will see that the section labelled “artists” has begun with the showcasing of a very talented South African artist, Craig Banks. The plan is, every couple of weeks, to try to feature other people whose artistic works may be of interest to many of you. Only time will tell how well this section is received.

Below is just one of Craig’s works which are shown in the Artists’ Section of Guest Contributors.

morgan freeman

Is Communication Technology a Time saver?

It wasn’t all that long ago that people sat down and wrote letters in order to keep in touch with family and friends, and even to conduct business. Provided that there was a reliable postal service, things seemed to work well and mail generally arrived timeously. That all changed with fax machines. Now a letter was typed on a computer or even a typewriter, and then sent via a fax machine to the recipient who also had to have access to their own fax machine. Business was speeded up as there was no longer the delay caused by postal deliveries.  Nowadays very few people appear to be faxing as a form of doing business as e-mailing has become the medium of choice for most of us.

With the advent of mobile phones, landlines are often rarely used by individuals, although they are still a necessity in many business organisations. Looking back over the last few decades, there was a time when even having a home telephone was deemed a luxury. Many people had to make do with using public telephone boxes and putting the required number of coins into the slot provided in order to place a call. There are young people today who may never have seen one of these, let alone used one.

The benefit of using a mobile phone is that one is able to make and receive calls wherever one may be. No longer is it necessary to be in an office or at home in order to get in touch with people. This is rather a double edged sword, as there is no escaping being called by clients, any time of the day or night, unless the phone has been turned off. A big advantage, however, is that it is possible in many instances to contact one’s doctor, if the number has been made available to patients, in a medical emergency situation, outside of specified surgery hours. Other situations where mobiles are invaluable are when one has burst water pipes, or burnt out gate motors, where the specific expert needs to be called for help and is contactable on their mobile.

Having so many opportunities at our fingertips to communicate with one another, why is it that we are always complaining about not having enough time? Just looking at the whole scenario of everyone having a mobile phone, often an I-pad and a laptop, is it perhaps that all these modern gadgets have a tendency to become time wasters. One only has to look around to see that the majority of people, regardless of age, are carrying their mobile device with them wherever they go. Therefore, it is very tempting to constantly be checking for messages or interesting gossip on facebook instead of getting on with the job at hand. It would be interesting to monitor just how many working hours are wasted due to employees spending time on their phones instead of doing the job for which they are employed?

Many of us easily become addicted to all sorts of things – food, alcohol, exercise and nowadays, the internet and social media.  Downloading games onto one’s mobile seems like fun, but it’s quite frightening how, sitting playing casino slots, or one of the many more challenging brain testers, the time just flies by. So, all things considered, was the pace of life actually slower in bygone days when people used old style forms of communication, and are we all perhaps guilty of wasting precious minutes in the way in which we are using the so-called time saving devices.  Makes one wonder.

old alarm clock 300x252

Craig Banks – artist

I am pleased to introduce my first Artist contributor, Craig Banks.

In his Own words:

My name is Craig Banks and I am a pencil portrait artist who grew up in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and my art has always been a great support for me during challenging times. I am completely self-taught, and my style is 100% my own. I began practicing and developing my sketching skills while dabbling in other mediums such as acrylic and charcoal. It’s been a long road but I’m happy to say I’ve reached a point where my art always keeps me busy.

I revel in imperfections, as these imperfections slowly bring my subjects to life. I work from supplied photos and I get my inspiration from walking around my neighbourhood and observing the people I see. The positive responses which I get from my varied clients when they see the results of my work, are truly rewarding. A highlight of my career was to have my art works exhibited at the South African Hall of Fame at sun City.

My goal, professionally, would be to become a full-time portrait artist and be featured in international galleries, or at the very least, to work in a gallery and look at paintings all day long, as at present I hold down a full-time day job.

(If you’re in windows click on picture to enlarge – Thereafter you can go forwards or backwards.)

 

 

 

Arts and Crafts

This section of the guest contributors will consist of the work of Artists, Craftsmen (and women) and possibly interesting hobbyists. I am starting off with a number of artists, who have all been enrolled in Staedtler’s ambassador program. Sometime in the future, I will quite likely expand this section to artists who are not necessarily in this program.

I thank the management of Staedtler South Africa for allowing me to showcase the works of the Artists enrolled in their artistic ambassador program  in South Africa. This program has 3 progressive levels of recognition for these artists, whereby they are supplied with relative materials and their work given exposure in order to support them in their endeavours to pursue their art and talent. Such exposure is ensured by featuring the ambassadors in Staedtler’s quarterly on line publication called; “MARS arts, crafts and design”.  I also thank “Trend Forward”,  the editors and compilers of Mars Magazine, for facilitating my involvement in this exciting venture. To view Mars magazine go to;   https://issuu.com/marsmag

 

Gluten Free Almond Cake/Tart

This cake is absolutely delicious and extremely simple to make. It is really moist and has a great almond flavour.

Cake

Ingredients

  • 100g ground almonds
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g regular sugar
  • 1 large egg – beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (55g), melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Glaze (optional) – Mix the ingredients below adding more or less sugar depending on the consistency you want

  • Icing sugar
  • Water
  • Almond extract
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line the base of a 6-inch (15cm) cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit and generously butter the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt and all sugars.
  • Add the beaten egg, melted butter, and almond extract to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. The batter should be quite thick.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.
  • Pour the glaze (if using) over the cooled cake and allow to set (approx. 20min).

The almond cake will keep in an airtight container, or well wrapped in plastic wrap, for several days.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris