Friends Old and New

Though I’ve never had an enormous group of friends, I’m lucky to count a good dozen who I can describe as my closest. There are a few of us who’ve known each other since childhood, a few more who met in high school and a handful with whom I connected in college and during my early working career.

Sadly, they’re all back in the U.S. and lately I’ve been missing them something fierce, as an American might say. I miss our spontaneous happy hour meet-ups after work and our weekend trips away and our long, slow dinners washed down with far too many bottles of wine. Skype is a great tool but with the time difference and our hectic lives requires some scheduling, and it pales in comparison to an actual meeting or a night out.

I do take heart knowing that some of my best friends will be here in less than six months for our wedding; it will be so, so good to see them again and to celebrate with those closest to me. The thought of being together again gets me through the more difficult days. But I’m also bolstered by the fact that I’m forming friendships with Mountaineering Man’s circle of tight-knit mates, who over the last year-and-a-half I’ve gotten to know quite well.


His main group of cohorts consists of college friends from Trinity, one childhood buddy and some former co-workers, all of whom have become very close over the years. We’ve done hikes with a few of them, met up for drinks numerous times and I think by now we’ve had everyone over to our place for dinner at some point (and if we haven’t, the invitation is always open so drop us a note!).

I’m incredibly grateful to the girls in the group, who’ve been kind enough to share in my excitement over wedding details. The slightly high-pitched chatter that often comes with talk of rings, flowers, veils was something I worried I’d have to go without, but thanks to them I haven’t had to. Of course I talk to my friends back home on the phone, but it’s been nice to be able to have that experience in person, here, with the girls. And they’re so good about asking for more particulars whenever they see me and forthcoming with approvals and advice.

Every one of MM’s friends is intelligent and kind, and it’s been a pleasant surprise getting to know them well enough to feel comfortable around each individual. It can be difficult it to infiltrate a such a close group, especially one that goes back as many years as theirs. But they’ve welcomed me with open arms and while it doesn’t make me miss my friends back home any less, it helps ease the hardship of being so far away from home.

I can’t wait for all of our friends to meet in Italy, come September. We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful group of people to join us for our special day.

Beet Cake

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

This cake is pleasant surprise for all who try it; you taste nothing but rich, dark chocolate cake but more than half of the batter consists of pureed beetroot. I brought it along for a car trip with one of MM’s friends and she was absolutely shocked to find that she got her one of five-a-days by simply eating a slice.

175 grams of plain or gluten-free flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

75 grams Dutch process cocoa powder

250 grams cooked beetroot (use FRESH, not tinned/jarred)

4 medium eggs

200 ml honey

100 ml agave nectar

100 ml sunflower oil

100 grams plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 185C. Grease and line a 8 -inch cake pan.

Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Place the cooked beetroot in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until the beets are finely chopped. Now add in the eggs one at a time while blending. Add in the honey, agave nectar, oil and yogurt and continue mixing until smooth (though there will be bits of beetroot – that’s fine!). Now make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, mix well but do not over mix!

Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

I made a quick icing with icing sugar, vanilla and milk and drizzled over the top, but you can top with anything you want! Enjoy!