1. The Present

    When I was young, 5 or 6 or so, I pulled up a chair and climbed atop to peer onto my mom’s cosmetics shelf as she applied some lotion in the mirror next to me. I was after one thing: a small match-boxed-sized present I had spotted blinking at me from below. It had been sitting up on that shelf for months. Something about an unopened present that managed to last that long intact seemed utterly unnatural to my 6 year old sensibility. It was so neatly and tightly bound in shiny red wrapping foil criss-crossed with mirror-like gold ribbon and a puffy little bow. It was surprisingly light when I pinched it between my fingers delicately, as though it was filled with a single whisper. I sniffed it, shook it and held it up to my ear desperately trying to allow it to reveal the inner contents to me.

    "When are you going to open it?", I enquired longingly.

    My mom looked at me and smiled warmly.

    "Never", she said.

    "What?", I gasped.

    "It’s not supposed to be opened".

    "What do you mean? Of course it is. How else are you going to know what’s inside it?"
    “I already know what’s inside it.”

    "You do?"

    "Everything and anything I could ever want."

    As long as I am alive I will never forget the frustration and confusion I felt at that moment.

    How could something - or rather nothing - possibly ever sum up everything someone would ever want? It appeared to provided no useful or evident pleasure of any sort; you could not play with it or eat it and really, what was the use in keeping a lousy gift around if you could never enjoy the fun of opening it?

    It was a couple years later in my grade 6 English class that I encountered a similar notion ( and again with the box analogy). We were learning about Abstract Nouns: Love, Compassion, Patience, Comfort, Trust, Companionship. When suddenly my teacher said something completely curious.
    “Now always remember, the easiest way to test if something is, in fact, an Abstract Noun… “, my teacher swooshed around to pick up a koki and write on the board as she continued; “- is to remember: you can give it to someone…. but never in a box.”

    I couldn’t help think back to that shiny red anomaly of a gift and wonder weather my mom was hoarding abstract nouns.

    It has taken me a lot more years and the better part of making many miserable mistakes in the quest for happiness or fulfillment to really start to make sense of what my mother was getting at. And although I never saw the little red box again, the power of using an object as a symbol or symbolic metaphor for reminding one of the simplest, oft forgotten or ignored, truisms in life has always stuck with me.

  2. It seems that random once-off activities of domestic inquiry into what I can do/make with things I am about to throw away are the trend for my Sunday evenings at home. Last weekend I found myself making cottage cheese from 2 L of goat’s milk that was going sour. The cheese ended up to be delicious and from the whey I made soaked wheat bread, stock AND I used it to thin out my hummus, thereby winning over some extra kitchen know-how as well as relinquishing the urge to simply trash everything once I’m halfway done with it.

    Tonight I tackled a big candle left on my dining room table which had burnt the wick to extinction but left a plump corpse of thick white wax surrounding it. I chopped it into chunks with my largest kitchen knife ( like a crazed butchers wife) and emptied a tin of crushed pineapple. I threw the chunks in the cleaned-out tin, whacked it on my gas stove on the smallest ring and watched the dormant arsonist inside me bubble up like the hot transparent liquid oozing from the bottom. I sprinkled in a few drops of lavender oil, gave it a swirl and off I went a-dippin’ varied lengths of string and twine. I sat with the hot tin of wax outside on my balcony in the perfectly cool spring air, methodically dipping from left to right and watching my little army of stiff string celebration candles growing like my winter belly layer.

    They turned out rustic and imperfect and wonky… and oh do I love them.

    Next time I will try adding some colour to the wax and creating some fancy ombré ones or maybe dipping their slender waxy bodies in glitter right before finishing.

  3. Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2014 / FUJI


  4. humansofnewyork:

    "I’m trying to distance myself from the idea that youth is the best time of life, because a lot of my friends are really anxious about growing older. I’m studying classical drawing, which helps. It really slows things down. We can work an entire month on a single drawing. And I don’t plan on reaching my peak before the age of fifty."


  6. I’M IN NEW YORK !

    Today was a day of many firsts…and therefore it was the best kind of day because even things that seem simple and obvious, when experienced for the very first time, are doused in glittery surprise, excitement and exoticism. Like shopping at Whilefoods for the first time, or watching a writer feverishly attack the keys of a typewriter in the subway to fulfill his paper promise of “poetry on demand”.

    In fact this whole week has been a bunch of first from the very first step I took off the plane onto JKF tarmac, to my first yellow cab taxi ride with Cheralee, to our first all American diner lunch together over which we basically condensed 3 years of social narratives, future dreams, morphed personal philosophies and opinions between bites of home fries and gulps of steaming fresh coffee ( which a man with a glass jug is always hovering about dispensing liberally into my mug each time I get halfway finished). I am still amazed at how easy and fluid it is connecting with another human being you share a friendship with even after years apart. From the moment we left the Airport on Friday, where Cher traveled all the way to just to come and meet me at a ghastly early hour, till late Sunday night- it seemed as though nothing had changed and that we both just had way better stories to tell each other from time spent on our own adventures.

    I ticked the rest of the afternoon by wondering about the Lower East Side, Little Italy , East Village and did some shopping at the “pharmacies” here( which was an actual experience in itself) until it was time to head out to Brooklyn for dinner. I met up with Cher under the giant glowing neon sign of a Dunkin’ Donut on Canal street and we caught the subway to Bedford station in Williamsburg where we met up with Theo ( Oliver’s brother) and Ashleigh ( Theo’s girlfriend) for drinks at “The Soft Spot”. Along the way, we weaved through a lucky packet of bars and evening spots, each more specific and alluring than the last. One promising the best fried chicken on (?) waffles in New York, the next peppered with leather-cad, tattoo laced arms clutching beers out of street-side windows alongside another oozing a dim amber glow and Frank Ocean soundtrack onto the street, afro-topped, fedoras-wearing clusters of people dotted inside and out on couches.

    "The Soft Spot" was screening the Ivory Coast -Japan FiFA game on a TV in the background while I was introduced to everyone and simultaneously handed Mega Chocolate M&M’s from Theo, I had almost forgotten the World Cup was even on. We ordered drinks and I tried desperately not to appear too overwhelmed by all the energy that was bubbling around, above, on , in and throughout the entire day leading up. We had relocated to a small bistro-light strewn court yard at the back of the bar when another one of Cher’s mates- a fresh-faced beauty also by the name of Ali- joined us. She hopped in with a head full of candy floss curls, Nike sneakers on and a story spilling into the air about being day-drunk on beer and not eating a thing yet before she had even properly reached our circle. I knew we’d get on immediately. I sat for the rest of the night in amazement at the incredibly theatrical and genuinely hilarious play between the other four. It is a special thing when you are invited into the sacred space of friends that know each other intimately enough to be utterly bizarre and shameless around each other. At around 10:30pm we headed a few bars done to "The Meatball Shop" where we were eating dinner and had left our names on a list an hour prior. Upon entering the music inside the restaurant is nothing I have ever specifically heard before but it immediately reminds me of how young, exciting and unexplainably precious my youth is.

    We sit at wooden tables near the back and the others tell me about the options for the night; which turn out to be basically meatballs on sandwiches, meatballs on brioche and meatballs on salad with a selection of sauces and sides; perfect! We mark our decisions with black kokis on laminated menus and hand them to the waitress who has already put in the order for our “Moscow Somethings” a drink comprising of gin, ginger-beer and lime if I remember correctly- which everyone is disappointed to discover aren’t served in beaten copper mugs as is usually the tradition. The spot is noisy, filled with groups of friends carousing, music playing and dishes clattering but I barely need to hear what is going on at the table to appreciate the interactions. Everyone is so animated and basically on form- in a highly reactionary soft of way. An american sort of way.” Are we already drunk?”, I think to myself… no. It’s such a good crowd of people being genuinely hilarious. I especially appreciate Cher and Theo’s outburst of duets, accented role plays and dance moves while waiting for our meals which come, in true American style; mega portions with all the trimmings. My beef meatballs with spicy meat sauce on salad and seasonal beg is delicious! I devour it salivating while Ali and Ashleigh tell us about a free music concert in Brooklyn the next day that they’ll both be heading to.

    Once we are all stuffed and even the thought of trying to sneak in a cookie/ice cream sammich is not an option to be entertained we pay the bill and step out onto the street which is still a-buzz with activity. It’s colder out tonight than I expected it to be for New York Summer evenings but I’m assured it’s not usual as the days following seem to prove as well. Theo and Ashleigh head off- while Cher and Ali seem to perform a duolgue of hilarities for me on the street. It’s been a long and very eventful day for my first in New York and I’m satisfied that midnight means I am successfully beating the jet-lag game before it even begins! We head home and I almost get lost walking from Canal St station back to the apartment because all the crammed streets of daytime Chinatown have become a calm, quiet skeleton of themselves- wearing an almost unrecognizable guise of scarcity. I take a shower and plonk myself onto my bed, unable to close my curtains because gazing out onto New York City buildings from the 6th floor vantage point of my bedroom fills me with childish excitement.

    I can’t believe I’m actually here.


    Love is the errrh and in preparation to buy my own sweetheart a lil something special I’ll be selling some home-baked goodies from now until ( but not including ) Valentine’s Day!

    The way I see it, you can’t go wrong with treating any such human treasure to something scrumptious and sweet. I’ll be baking a variation of cookies so check my profile to suss out your pick. They all come in fluted glass jars which can be used post-sugar-binge to house a little terrarium <a href=”http://dirty-hands.tumblr.com/post/42498582795”>like seen here, coins or other pretty tchotchkes. ( Hell, you can even be brilliantly smart and put more cookies in it!! )

    The Cookie/crown ( DEL REY ) Combo: Because all you boys out there know your ladies will never have enough flower crowns. Ever. And ladies, you can even be your sister’s best friend and get her this for Valentine’s Day, even if she has a boyfriend to do so but especially if she doesn’t… AND ESPECIALLY GET IT EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SISTER. Because Valentine’s Day is all about making nonsensical decisions and then eating cookies to feel better about your strange nonsensical decisions.

    R5 of each jar sold will go to the SPCA.
    ( 10x jars sold = food for a doggie for a whole week!)

    Inbox or email me: alicetoich@gmail.com

  8. It’s Autumn in Argenton Chateau. In French “argen” means silver and it isn’t very hard to see why the nobel lords and ladies centuries ago would settle on such a descriptor. Silver laces the smokey morning mist that blankets the valley. There is deep silver mirroring off the lake when it is still and thick like mercury in the evenings. There are silvery grey cats that whip around every corner like ghosts. Even the shadows are a dark charcoal silver in tone (And off coarse there is silvery white in the hair of almost every single person living here). But most prominently of all, it is the sky that boasts the greatest resemblance to the tinny tone- wearing it proudly like a large medal… or maybe rather protectively like a heavy shield. There is a midday sheen that glows from it like that of a new R2 coin. Even the grayest and darkest of rain clouds have a metallic quality that is undeniable, especially when viewed from a distance. On the road returning from the orchid walk, it’s clear to see the bundle of silver sky that clusters around the top of the town roofs like a leaden crown so you can only imagine the kinds of chromatic contrasts that this area boasts at the beginning of Autumn. Gold battling silver. Bronze settling for the leaves and street lamps. A clash of warm and cool. Or as I like to think of it: a truce.

    As you can probably tell by now, this place is full of poetry. So it seemed only apt that I planned the Saturday morning brunch to be a literary-themed one ( or as I like to name it: Poemy Brunch). I asked everyone to bring their favourite poem, phrase, prose, lyrics or piece of writing along to share like Stu’s almond croissants and sipped down with coffee and conscious. It rained on Saturday morning and all through the day so it was kind of perfect to be nestling indoors, nibbling on baked goods and sharing some heartfelt sentiments with one another. We spoke love, death, self-actualization, New York and Dalai Lamas. Christy read us Marraige by Kahil Gibran , while I opted for Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Julia read an editted version of The Thunder, Perfect Mind and entertained us with a rendition of The Fuck You monologue from 25th Hour  ( which she obviously did better than Edward Norton because she has an Aussie accent and she is fierce). Stu and Adam shared some amazing pieces they had written themselves. Stu’s pieces were refreshingly dark and as powerfully provoking as the 3 cups of black coffee I had in a row. Adam also performed a monologue for us that he had written in New York. He is an actor and has a really great Tennesseesque quality to his voice which subtly transports you when he speaks. ( I am going to ask them to send me each a short piece to post for you guys).

    All this spilled over into a couple hours ramblings and some picking about at the goods. I am going to host some more of these when I return home because they are great. Poemy Brunch for everyone!

    Anyways, if you’re still with me at this point in the post you can finally know why I bothered writing this all; cake. Obviously. 

    I wanted to bake something yummy for everyone and settled on what I like to call: my Autumn Breakfast Cake. I baked some thin apple slices and roasted some hazelnuts to scatter on the top like the fallen oak leaves in the streets. That’s why “Autumn”. The “Breakfast” part comes in because I crammed together all my favourite things about breakfast into this one cake: apples, oats, cinnamon, bananas, yogurt, peanut butter and almonds. Also I secretly believe that if I officially name it a Breakfast Cake then I rid myself instantaneously of feeling any guilt whatsoever when making it my first meal of the day, any day. ( And now you can too! )

     Here Goes:

    Autumn Breakfast cake ( adapted to suit my desires from this apple banana cake).


    • 2 large, very ripe bananas
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cups all purpose flour
    • 3/4 ground almond
    • 1 1/2 handfuls granola
    • a handful of chopped walnuts
    • 1 1/2tbsp baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • Pinch of salt
    • one small apple (grated)
    For the topping:
    • one small plain full cream yogurt
    • 1/4 icing sugar
    • 2 tbsp smooth full cream, cream cheese
    • 2 large tbsp peanut butter ( or extra for extra peanut-butteryness)
    • a few drops of vanilla extract
    Scatter on top:
    • 2 apples
    • juice of half a lemon
    • half a cup of whole/chopped hazelnuts
    • sprinkle of cinnamon
    • Thinly slice the two fresh apples ( with skin ) and arrange on a piece of baking sheet on a tray. Brush both sides of apples with lemon juice ( to prevent too much browning) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at a low temp for 2 hours and flip over halfway. I liked to keep a bit of moisture in them, before they become chips. Set aside to cool once done.
    • In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas and sugar and mix together until creamy. Add the honey and eggs and continue to beat until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, grated apples, handful of granola, salt, cinnamon, almond flour and mix them all together well.
    • Grease a round baking pan laid with baking paper and spoon in the batter. On top of the batter sprinkle 1/2 a handful of granola and your chopped walnuts. ( You can also mix the walnuts into the batter).
    • Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 1 hour and ten minutes. ( I left mine longer and it dried out slightly so don’t be fooled into leaving it in for longer!)
    • Once the cake has baked, cooled and been place on serving plate. Mix together all your ingredients for the topping. Spoon it on top and spread it around the surface. Arrange your baked apple slices on the topping. Toast the hazelnuts on a dry hot pan and scatter them in-between the apple leaves to finish it off.
     Et Voila!
    Bon Appetite.
  9. The coffee machine gurgled- percolating whisps of that sweet aromatic salvation into the Autumn air;  the strong, dark-roast kind of salvation needed for afternoons of focus in the studio. The brew rose up and curled around the subtle scent of linseed oil, paint and wood. We were a few solid minutes into our second session of the afternoon, separately and collectively engrossed in our own miniature worlds that lay before us through canvas voids. Neatly propped, at various stages of incarnation. A small factory of Gods at work- creating faces, ears and knees with mere whips of or Raw Umber or Naples Yellow. Toiling with the muddy slurries of colored toothpaste-like globs at the end of our brushes,  palettes smudged with messy pools of pigments held tentatively like newborns in our hands. Closer to our hearts. 

    It was then that a distant thunder cloud let out a long rolling grumble which started somewhere between bumping droplets of water in the sky and rumbled down the valley and up to the 3rd floor of the studio as if the Gods were playing ten pin bowling above our heads. Tahira, a middle-aged artist from Pakistan, let out a childlike squeal of excitement. We were all wrenched from the infinite intricacies of our construction to gaze upward as if by some chance the heavens would open up and rain would gush down directly onto our laps. Even Adam, our figure model, stole a moment to break from his resolute statuesque casing to peak upward in wide-eyed anticipation. It was these involuntary actions of juvenile excitement  and an unexplainable enthusiasm for the preceding weather phenomena that sparked off some memories I hadn’t entertained for a long time. The feeling of electric energy that would corse through my body as a child when large Summer storms would thunder down onto the inland plateau of the Highveld in the afternoons when we lived in Pretoria, or of driving through the night to get to the Greenhouse in Kaysers Beach as the rain fell along the N2.

    There are few things I believe that root us as immediately to our present moments as a storm. Writing or journaling and listen to certain music can function in much the same way, but while these at least are usually slotted into manageable timeframes in a human’s busy life: hail storms, snow storms and lighting storms are not. They have absolutely no respect for the day of week, time of day or month of the year. They are the rebels of the stratosphere and they have a wonderfully manic way of reminding us, by force sometimes, to pause in the rush of our daily routines- sticking us in inner-city traffic jams, unable to leave the house or having to call across town to reschedule a meeting that- whether we believe it or not- will not cause the absolute end to our careers. Sometimes sporadically stranding strangers together in corner coffee shops or bundling crowds under bus stations, storms have a way of simply bringing us together as much as they keep us apart. They always seem to announce themselves at just the right time of the day, when I am secretly tired and overworked but unyielding to circumstance and really just do need to sit with a warm porcelain cup of something delicious and watch drops of water stream down panes of glass. 

    I remember taking long road trips with my family from Gauteng down to the Eastern Cape for December holidays like we used to do every year. Those road trips are some of the shiniest pieces of treasures I keep in my treasure box. They taste like a Wimpy cheeseburger and hot Milo. They sound like general knowledge quizz clues and Roy Orbison. They smell like biltong and the hypnotic smack of petrol-stained concrete floors at gas stations. They looked like the landscape paintings of South African countryside and small towns, blurred in a perpetual motion. And most of all they make me feel really (really) happy and adventurous when it rains.

    My sisters and I would fall asleep in our beds with our bags packed in the car or waiting outside our bedroom doors and my father would come along sometime between midnight and 3am to scoop us up in our dreamy slumbers and deliver us into the back of the car which we had transformed into a puffy cocoon of travel. I wouldn’t know the journey had even started until I would wake up in a half-daze, wrapped like a dolmade in blankets and pillows and wedged somewhere between my brothers left elbow and a suitcase to sight of the back car window sprayed with bright pink droplets of water. The rear red lights on the Landcruiser would reflect onto the large white trailer at night which would in turn spray an incandescent pink glow over the  streaming rain. The rain which had started falling to Earth long before us kids even knew we had left the comfort of our beds at home and were careering forward, ever-closer to the beach. 

    I could sit there and watch the rain drops trickle down like hungry Pink Pacmen, devouring smaller droplets in their spastic paths from the top to the bottom of the large window ( sometimes sliding diagonally when we took a corner ) and being smeared into sticky nothingness patterns somewhere midway on the journey by the arm of the wipers. That nighttime soundtrack composed of slushing pools of water between the tyres and the tarmac punctuated with the smooth mechanic heartbeat of the window wipers and over-toned with a million little claps of water hitting the car roof above our heads - has been the only successful song that has been able to lull me into the deepest sleep, even when I saw the sky outside slowly starting to turn violet. It was maybe that. Or more likely it was the knowledge that in that warm igloo of metal cruising through the rainy darkness, I had the most important people who I loved so dearly stuck in a 3 meter radius for the next couple of hours… and only the youngest child of a big energetic family can truly know what that feels like.  


    I have two weeks left in Argenton at Studio Escalier and I am going to make so much hay while the sun either shines, or peaks glances through silver afternoon rain clouds. 

  10. Dessert Pizza Pie.

    Nuff said.