I am sitting here at my desk and I am writing. I know I really should be doing other tasks………… you know the deal, ‘we are at our most productive first up’ so I should hit my desk and start crossing off the to- do- list but today that must wait. So much has happened. I need to stop. I need to reflect. I need to write.
We had the lovely responsibility of having two of our nieces stay with us last week whilst my Sister and brother in law were away for work. I truly mean it when I say a ‘lovely responsibility’. We are all busy so actually getting the time to eat together, slow down and kiss a gorgeous niece early every morning is a beautiful thing. Sure, it was a mad house and we could not have fitted another lunch box across the bench to fill even if we tried but it meant a lot to us and I feel our bond is even stronger from these few days. With this said, I should also add that with such beauty and a house filled with love, there was also a great deal of sadness in our family last week. It was one of those really awful ‘things come in three’s’ weeks for us.
Sadness number one was all about a very special dog called Teddy. Teddy was nine and he was a sweetheart and quite the looker too. Teddy was their family dog but really, he was my Sister’s dog. He really only had eyes for her. The relationship they had was very special. It was a bond that was a quite unique and one that I am blessed to have witnessed. Teddy sadly passed away very suddenly last week when our nieces were in our care. Michael took the girls to feed the dogs and take them for a walk before school one morning and that’s when I got the call. Michael told me to come right away and meet them over at the Vet’s. We live in the same suburb and they also live opposite their Vet but proximity had nothing to do with it this day. Teddy had so sadly run out of time. I waited with the girls in the waiting room trying to be as reassuring as I could be. There is not a lot you can say in these moments. There’s just a lot of love to give. Only a few minutes after arriving, Michael walked out of the operating room. He was biting his lip. It is a look I have seen before. A look I know all too well. All this beautiful man of mine could do was to kneel down and to hold his niece and tell her how very sorry he was and that Teddy was gone. Devastating. The vet took myself and Milly into her room and explained what had happened. Teddy had a heart problem none of us ever knew about. He had had a seizure as a result when he woke to see Michael and the girls, lead in hand, just a few minutes earlier. It is so hard to know what is the right and wrong thing to do in these moments and I was essentially making the call for my Sister and what she would do. I asked Milly if we should go and say goodbye. I have never regretted that we did. She got to see the beautiful dog of hers at peace and snuggled up in a blanket. We both said we felt he would open an eye and give us a wink. He looked beautiful and just how my Sister would want to remember her special boy.
Sadness two is about my Dad. Nothing has really happened and no results have arrived but he had to have a CT scan last week to check on his heart. We gathered last night for his birthday. He holds it all quite close to his chest (no pun intended) and shrugs off any thoughts of there being anything wrong. “I’m alright” he mutters to us all and tells us not to worry so much. Last week was that moment for me when I was struck with the fact that we all know but never want to think about………our parents may not be here forever. We will not be here forever. This is my Dad. The man who cleared the conjunctivitis from my eyes when I was seven years old when I thought I had gone blind. The man who can make a room laugh like no one else I know. The man who cried from the moment I walked out in my wedding dress and again when we later had the chance to have a dance together. This is my Dad…………please let my Dad be okay.
Sadness three is all about one incredible lady in her mid nineties who is still fiercely independant and lives on her own. This lady is my Nana. My Mum’s Mother. I wrote about my Dad being able to clear the sleep from my eyes when I was seven years old so that I could see again. My Nana woke up one morning last week and had lost all sight. It has stemmed from a complication from a procedure she had on her eye the week before. Apparently loosing sight after is a freakish 1 in 1000 chance. As I write this, I am overwhelmed with sadness. This seems just so unfair. There are specialists everyday and tests and more tests. My Mum….she looks more tired than I have ever seen her. This is her Mum and at any age, your beautiful Mum is always your beautiful Mum. The Mother that held her hand, the lady who made her dresses, the lady who she loves like no other. Nana is in hospital right now. I said she was fiercely independant and I meant it. Nana wants to try going back home knowing full well she will be going home without sight. There are shadows…..only shadows. I spent quite a few hours with Nana on my own in hospital last Sunday. She knew it was me walking in her room before I even spoke. My hopes were up. I asked her if there had been a change overnight? Could she see me? No but she knew my outline. I put her in a wheelchair and we went for a walk. We sat opposite each other, held hands and we talked. We laughed, had a little tear and she gave me lots of her love and advice. She told me that she had been thinking that morning how grateful she felt that she got to see and hold my cookbook and read all of it’s pages before she lost her sight. She told me that she loved me and was so proud of me. I told her the same right back. What an incredible woman she is. How fortunate I am to have a woman like her as my role model. We are all still praying for a little miracle but really, the reality is setting in that enormous adjustments need to be made. That family need to bond and be there to help….now more than ever.
Over the summer holidays, the girls and I made a new style of brownie. New to our home anyway and a world away from the rich, indulgent chocolate brownie that I make most weeks and they chant “MUM’S MADE HER BROWNIE” as they come screaming and running in to the house. This new brownie is a salted caramel brownie. A cheat’s salted caramel and in my opinion (as a huge salted caramel fan), I can tell it is a fake but the girls love this. They adore it and so I cook it for them. One piece of advise from my Nana last week was to “spoil those girls” and I will…….for as long as my feet touch the ground.
Salted caramel chocolate brownie
150g unsalted butter
120g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
200g brown sugar
120g dulce de leche or use a store-bought caramel filling
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
A good pinch sea salt (1/2 to 1 teaspooon if using the store bought caramel filling)
150g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used callebaut buttons)
Preheat oven to 160oC.
Line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking paper.
Melt the butter and set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and combine either by hand or using beaters or a stand mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time and whisk to combine. Add the caramel, vanilla and melted butter and beat until smooth. Add the salt and stir through the chocolate.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.