Coffee Break

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Last week I had the opportunity of photographing my favourite addiction at Oakes Brewhouse – a local coffee roastery.

It’s a lovely little place with a slightly unpolished, comfortable, retro feel. The staff are friendly and relaxed, even when they’re overflowing with business. They have this easy-going confidence and it’s amazing how that attitude can filter through to make everyone feel at home.

I chatted to the one waiter as he was roasting the coffee about how many kilogrammes they roast per week and they sell it all? Of course! On weekends they’re bustling with mountain bike riders and once a month they host the local farmers market, which seems to be doing really well. During the week, people pop in to buy freshly roasted beans, I’ve seen friends meeting and chatting for hours, or businessmen sitting and working on their laptops.

It looks like they have a wonderful recipe for success and now they have a range of good images to use for their marketing too.

I firmly believe that good quality images can make a huge difference to a marketing campaign, no matter how small. When the photos in an advertisement are good quality, the readers just automatically assume that the product is of good quality too – and then? Isn’t it weird? Beautiful pictures? – this one must be better – now we’ll pay more for the product too!

Ok, be honest now – How often have you found yourself doing that?

Here are a couple of the pics

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All wrapped up

… and ready to go!

I am busy getting ready to move. It’s very exciting! After almost 2 years of living in Germany, we’re packing up and returning home to South Africa. I’ve packed away my photography lights and am dealing with tons of admin, while trying to savour some final German flavours. This means I may be a little quiet over the next 2 months or so, while we’re floating between homes without my beloved Mac. But I do hope to squeeze in a post or two before the Mac is packed and I should be back on line by the end of January or sometime in February.
Some of you will recognise these pics from last year’s post, but for others it’s all new. I wrapped them for you! They’re my favourite German Christmas Treats, that only arrive on the shop shelves, round about the same time that tinsel appears on the South African shelves. I find it fascinating how these goodies only get baked around Christmas time, so that their flavour has become synonymous with Christmas.
“Stollen” is the big loaf. There are various types : Butter Stollen, Marzipan Stollen, all covered with icing powder and filled with raisins and citrus peel. Then there’s my current favourite – “Zimtsterne” or Cinnamon Stars. A very nutty cinnamon dough, which remains chewy, topped with crisp white icing. These do tend to evaporate no matter what jar or tin you store them in. Oh, I haven’t mentioned Lebkuchen, which is a little bit like a ginger bread dipped in dark chocolate or spekulatius… or…
You can see – I’m taking this last minute savouring quite seriously, as I wrap up our lives. ūüôā
I hope you indulge a bit too and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

are you a list-maker?

blue whisk - photography by Karene,

Are you a list-maker? So am I! Wonderful things! I have lots of pretty little notebooks filled with lists. They keep my day ticking over in the right direction and then the best part? Oh, yes!¬† – when you get to cross everything off the list, in the end and you can be proud of everything you’ve achieved. But do you also allow yourself to let go of your list? Do you sometimes draw off the page? What happens then?

Ok, I’ll admit it: I can be a total control freak. So when I plan a shoot it often involves brainstorming sessions, sketches of possible subjects, sketches of lighting options, composition, some finger-drawings on the shower door – until I have a clear understanding of what I’d like to achieve. Then I find the right props, do some tests and eventually I set up and start working. I have limited time. I aim, I shoot, but then once I have the controlled shots of my ideas under way – I like to just let go.

I run into overtime. Happy accidents send me off on new paths. Instinct, that is connected to years of mistakes and AHA-moments, directs me. I allow myself to get totally side-tracked and it’s amazing where one ends up.

The other night I had been working until late, on a long distance commission of a series of images which I wanted to be just perfect. Because it was a series, and I had very specific ideas, I had to consciously keep bringing myself back to focus, under control, to ensure that the images would connect with each other and end up how I had planned. Some things worked, some things wouldn’t – readjust. Try again. It was quite intense work and I did not have a chance to let go. I went to bed exhausted, but happy with my work.

The next morning, when I saw a little whisk, still lying on the table. I pushed aside my daily list and picked up my camera. I noticed the cool morning light getting caught on the criss-cross metallic lines. I sat on down on the couch and played. Totally relaxed. Dark lines against light (flutter flutter) Light against dark (flutter flutter) A little later, I had these photos. Just for me. Happy.

whisk - Photography by Karene -

whisk - Photography by Karene -

whisk - photography by Karene -

I think you know where I’m going with this. With lots of turmoil where I am, right now, I sometimes have to remind myself that you can only have so much control. It’s an art to learn how to trust and let go.

The mind likes to hold on, but the soul needs us to let go.

How about you? Where do you sit on that scale of clinging and letting go? Are you JUST a list-maker?

The Fig

Fig 1

I have a confession to make – I have never eaten a fresh fig. Well, not consciously anyway. I have never gone out, bought a fig and eaten it. Fig Jam? Yes. Fresh fig? No. The other day I was sitting in a restaurant and saw the woman opposite me take her sliver of fig and scoop out the insides and I thought. You’ve never done that.

I am generally not the type of person to shy away from trying new things. In fact I tend to eat everything. (I’ve even had frogs’ legs before – yuck!) But I do tend to have a problem with admitting when I don’t know or understand something that everyone assumes I do know or understand. If a topic came up in the conversation that I am unfamiliar with, but everyone around me gets it, I wouldn’t stick my neck out and say: “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about!” I tend to quietly wait for it all to pass by. I have a friend who is brilliant at asking relevant, specific questions until she gets the full picture. She’s brave. And she’s never afraid to ask. And she never sounds stupid. In fact she makes other people feel clever. I admire her for that.

So what does this have to do with a fig? Ummm… well… I have no idea! It has something to do with the fact that I should not skim over the things that I don’t know. So I stood in the supermarket, with these pretty curvy purply figs in front of me. How do I know whether it’s ripe or not? I picked one up. eeww…I really didn’t expect them to be soft.¬† Is soft good or not?¬† I was one of those awful shoppers that prodded, poked and touched a whole lot of them and took home the most averagely soft fig in the tray.

Fig 2

I cut it open. Figs are really beautiful inside. Filled with tiny seeds. The seeds are the actual fruit – a bit like a granadilla or a guava – but very fine and soft.¬† I scooped out a mouthful and – it has a very delicate taste doesn’t it? I had some with white yoghurt and honey and I found the honey overpowering. It’s amazing that such a soft flavour, could have received such gourmet status, over the centuries. Don’t you think? I can’t really describe it. Do you like figs? Did I eat it right? Any tips for me?

Fig 3



Fig 4 Fig 3 Fig 2 Fig 1

simple pleasures


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(Into temptation knowing full well, your body will rebel… )

Living in a country where supper is called Abendbrot (directly translated as Evening Bread) means that avoiding bread is simply not possible. There’s a bakery around every corner, with hundreds of different types of fresh bread rolls and loaves of bread. A good German weekend breakfast, does not include fried eggs and bacon. One takes a walk to the nearest bakery, to fetch a variety of fresh rolls, and then one adds various different hams, pates, cheeses and cheese spreads to add to the temptation of what the English call a Continental Breakfast.

I must say, although all the rolls, (crispy or soft, brown or white, poppy seeds or sunflower seeds, square or round…) with all their confusing names, are indeed a temptation for me, the loaves are not really. But the other day as I was waiting to pay for my rolls, listening to a customer asking about the percentage of rye in the various breads, I noticed amongst the many heavy round dark rye breads, a small rectangular white loaf. It was labled as a Dutch Milk bread. I thought back to the comment that had been left on my Bread-Free Burger post and with mouth watering, I pointed it out to the lady behind the counter.

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At home, I introduced my girls to the simple pleasure of manually cutting a slice of fresh white bread, and spreading it with real butter and chunky apricot jam. Have you noticed how, in the world of convenience that we live in, we all tend to buy tasteless, pre-sliced preservative filled bread? When did convenience become so much more important than flavour? My children were surprised when I told them that this was how the bread that I’d grown up with, looked and tasted – and so did the bread of my parents and my grandparents. That we had to learn how to cut it thin and straight, ourselves. Do you remember those arguments about who was the last, to cut the bread so skew? … It’s all a little sad, hey? Especially, coming from a family that has always tried very hard to prove the theory that man CAN live on bread alone.¬†

So purely to keep up tradition, blowfish effect on my body or not, simple pleasures like fresh white bread, will just have to be an occasional indulgence in our home – with fresh butter and apricot jam or bovril or…

What’s your bread indulgence?

Bread & Jam


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Sardinian Treats

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In Sardinia, we went to a local night market and one of the stands there had me fascinated.

A big strong man with an apron was standing there shouting stuff in Italian. Then with a great big swing of his cleaver he would bang down on his chopping board. How he kept missing his fingers I have no idea.

I stood closer to see what the white stuff was that he was massacring into neat little squares was and to my delight, I saw freshly made nougat! I was mesmerised. The rest of the world zoned out. I stood to the side and watched. How else was I going to figure out how to get some?

Nougat 2

I wish I’d taken my camera. He would take these huge bricks of nougat, filled with hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds and violently chop off giant chunks. He’d weigh it, shout something loudly, quickly wrap it up, hand it over and take the money. More shouting, more people, more chopping, more nougat.

Somebody spoke to me, “What?” It was my husband urging me to get over my nerves of not speaking Italian and buy some. He nudged me forward.

Ummm… ummmm…(I had to point and use my hands)…that one. This much? Oh, ok that much. “Division?” Did he say Division? Oh, divide? Nod! Yes please! Si! And he deftly cut up the chunk into bite-sized pieces. “Quattro!” Quattro? ummm… four. Four Euros. Got it!

And that’s how I got handed the best nougat I’ve ever had in my life. It’s packed full of nuts and you can taste the fresh honey. It’s gooey, not spongey. It melts. ¬†Smooth, creamy, chunky, crunchy – It’s just divine!

So I came back, googled it and photographed the tiny bit I hadn’t scoffed.

Turns out what we call nougat, isn’t originally from Sardinia, but they have been making it, for centuries¬†using traditional methods and recipes. They think it’s one of the oldest forms of sweets ever made and seems to be related to halva.

In some places it’s called nougat, others torrone or turrone.¬†All that I know is that it’s addictive and very photogenic.


Nougat 4


Holiday Food

I’m off on my 10 day summer holiday of pure sun & sea – but while I’m away, I thought to leave you with some inspiration for holiday food.


Bread free Burgers

What could be more festive than simple homemade burgers?  But these burgers are a little different.

You see, Bread and I have this love-hate relationship. The thing is, that my body isn’t as appreciative of bread as I sometimes am.¬†Picture a blowfish. Sometimes the effect is short-lived and other times it’s long-term, but should I want to avoid the blowfish effect on my body – then I should avoid bread.

So, in the good old days, in my year of wonderful healthy living, I introduced my family to the idea of bread-free burgers, and somehow this idea has stuck! The fun part of a burger all lies in the choice of the toppings doesn’t it? This burger offers the same topping variety, without the – “ugh-I-ate-too-much” feeling.

How do we make them? First I prepare the patties. Pure beef mince, a small onion, chopped very finely, one clove of garlic (also chopped finely), salt, pepper and paprika (the spice) to taste. Mix with one egg, squeeze pat and shape until you have something resembling a burger patty (and if you’re not gluten intolerant roll each patty in a little flour). Leave in the fridge, for the flavour of the garlic and onion to draw into the meat.

Then go wild preparing toppings of your choice! We always have to have the basic lettuce, tomato and cucumber layer. In this one I added fresh basil, pineapple slices, fried red onion, bacon and some sweet chilli sauce! Usually we also have cheese, mushroom sauce? Mayo? Tomato sauce? Tomato relish? Gerkins? I chop and slice and then I fry the patties.

We put everything on the table and each of us makes his own original tower, combining flavours until we have these tall towers. It’s like a giant salad with a chunk of meat on top. The girls love figuring out what they like and there are usually shouts of: “Not Chilli!” , “Look at mine!” and “Mom, take a photo!”

The only downfall here, is that this burger can’t be eaten with your hands, but you can watch your tower topple as you tackle it, and collect mini-flavour combinations with knife and fork.

Worth a try! Add some potato wedges, if you’re feeling generous! Yum!


Bread-free Burger

PHOTOGRAPHY NOTE: “Waaaahhhh!!!¬†I want a food stylist!!!!¬†”

I’ve seen stylists work on burger builds for brands like McDonalds, Steers, Wimpy… So I thought I could do this. I mean, in theory I knew about the tricks of keeping the tomato edge fresh, lettuce in ice water etc etc. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I’d keep it simple. Right? I wasn’t quite prepared for just how difficult it would be.

You’re so focussed on getting the patty evenly brown, that you end up charring the onions.The pineapple refuses to be cut straight, the tower’s skew, the mayonnaise spreads instead of staying in neat blobs… Screams and curses can be heard from the kitchen.¬†And then you still need to calmly photograph it in record timing before the lettuce wilts! By the end of it, I was buggered.

I’ve always respected food stylists, but now my respect has just multiplied! I will keep dreaming of the day I can work with one of the talented. ūüôā


Bread free burger 3