Holiday Recipe: Bacon Cherries, We Love You

I first shared this recipe on the blog in 2009 when we were living in South Africa and enjoying a beautiful, summery Christmas in Bloemfontein with my dear mother- and father-in-love, and there was just one Collie baby on my hip. After receiving a few recipe requests, including one from a friend who remembered these treats from a Christmas TEN YEARS PREVIOUS… it seemed logical to revive this old recipe with some better explanations and re-post it, because a world without bacon cherries is, basically, just a little less merry and bright.

Happy Holidays and… you’re welcome!

If you know me at all, you might know that I really, really love bacon. Really. When I first started this blog I called it Smiling’s My Favourite. And Bacon. So, good news. Bacon is on the menu in the Collie household at Christmastime! As promised, I have an illustrated step-by-step for you and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best holiday hors d’oeuvre since figgy pudding. Which I’ve actually never had.

These are the players:

Glazed Cherries#1, Glazed Cherries. We’re obviously off to a good start.

Do note: these are not maraschinos. They will typically be hanging out in a clear plastic tub (not a jar) and surrounded by syrup if you’re in the US. Look in the holiday section or maybe the baking sectionOur current tub says “Sun-Ripe Red Cherries” on it. It does not say glazed, but the ingredients include cherries, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid and some flavorings.

Since we are pretty clean eaters the rest of the year, I’m cool with a little bit of those hectic ingredients for now. It’s the holidays.

I Heart Bakey#2 Streaky Bacon. We’re obviously moving in a good direction.

Toothpicks#3, Toothpicks. A necessity for the sweet bacon-y goodness to become possible.

The Play by Play:

Cut bacon to an appropriate length for wrapping completely around a cherry once. Wrap one piece of bacon around each cherry and push a toothpick through to keep it all together. You should arrive at:

Like So

Repeat process until you run out of something. Then go to the store and get more of whatever you ran out of. You’re welcome.

Place your delectable delights either on a roasting rack over a baking tray or in a braai (grill) clamp. If you have a clamp (as pictured below) you can flip the whole thing under the broiler to ensure super crispiness. Trust me, it’s worth the work any way you do it. So worth it.

The Hero Hubs’ preferred cooking method is to put them on a roasting rack and cook them on our gas grill with indirect low heat until they’re nice and crispy. While some South Africans might be offended by the use of the gas braai, we’ll beg you to overlook it while remembering we have four young children and are occasionally slaves to convenience. But only very occasionally.

Grill Pan Helps

If you’re going with the oven method, you have two options. Either way, place a grill pan of some sort underneath your clamp or roasting rack to catch the drippings. Then choose an option below.

The Bake Method:

Slide these tasty treats into a preheated oven and bake at 350F/180C until the bacon is done and things start looking good and crispy. If you’d like to turn on the broil setting to speed up the process, feel free. But pay attention. Overcooking to the point of destroying these after all that work… sounds like a nightmare I’d wake up screaming from. This can take 20 minutes or longer, based on the thickness of your bacon and how crispy you want it.

The Broil Method:

Slide your tasty treats under the broiler and watch carefully. This method requires paying close attention, and works better if you’re using a clamp, so that you can easily flip the clamp and get both sides nicely crisped. If you want to do this but you’re using a roasting rack sitting on a baking tray, I’d say it’s worth it to pull them out and turn them individually.

Hot Stuff

This is when I start drooling.

And here’s the final product, which will leave the plate before you’ve finished laying it out:

Gone Too Fast

Feel free to take an instagram photo, like this one circa 2010, and make sure you get your chipped polished fingernail in the picture if you can, thank you kindly.


{Obviously, this is from some distant past where attempts at nail care were still part of my leisurely time usage.}

One last word of advice, people. Maybe two. First, there’s an important Afrikaans saying that we often repeat around the Collie house: Haastige hond verbrand sy mond. It’s an adorable little rhyme, trust me. Translation? The hasty dog burns his tongue. Sounds much better in Afrikaans, I promise.

Why am I spreckening this, pray tell? Because those cherries get hot hot hot inside that bacon, so fasten a bib around your neck to catch the drool, and give these puppies a few moments to rest and cool when they come off the grill/out of the oven.

Otherwise you’ll need a different Afrikaans word: Eina. (pronounced ay-nah). Meaning? Ouch.

Step Two? Linger near the hors d’oeuvres tray when they’re ready for action. They are clearly so magical, they’ll disappear.

Merry Christmas!


P.S. Planning to try making this delectable treat? Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or let me know how it goes!

With Love for Madiba

Last night, Mark and I read the news for the first time — that South Africa lost her greatest son, as Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. In South Africa, he was affectionately referred to by two special names from the Xhosa language: his tribal name, Madiba, and Tata, meaning father. Perhaps no country has ever felt so close to a democratic president as to refer to him with such genuine and lasting affection.

The world has not forgotten that the greatness Mandela consistently exhibited was forged in a crucible few others will experience. His twenty-seven year imprisonment provided a case study in human relationships, and I imagine Madiba, in his heart, was taking very good notes. He learned to see his oppressors as fragile humans, he learned their language and culture, but he stood for a vision that meant he held fast to see it accomplished — he even turned down one opportunity to get out of prison.


Like Joseph, imprisoned for all those years before he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, I wonder if he clung to the belief that his imprisonment had a great purpose.

Indeed, it did.

Finally, he walked to freedom in a way that “set in motion a chain of events that would lead to free and fair elections and majority rule [in South Africa] four years later.” {Source}

At the end of his memoir, he wrote about his release from prison:

The truth is that we are not yet free. . . . We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Mandela saw forgiveness as a path to healing for a torn-apart nation. Under his leadership, the country avoided erupting into absolute state failure during the days of government transition, while the world watched and wondered — it looked like a simmering pot about to boil over.

What a challenge the words he wrote and the life he lived are to all of us. Can those of us who’ve found freedom in Christ strive to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others?  Do we too often confuse political freedom with the true freedom a man can experience in his soul — I imagine it’s a freedom Madiba found, while still imprisoned.

It is a sad time to say good-bye to a man who was a warm light and a shining example to us all. I pray for the beautiful country he left behind. {The image above is a view from Gordon’s Bay, looking toward Cape Town — it hangs above the fireplace in our home and serves as a reminder.}

Dear friends in South Africa, know that so many around the world are truly holding you in our hearts.

The journey is indeed not over for us collectively — but with the time we have left, we can endeavor to honor and prefer one another.

I believe in the power of the church in South Africa — to continue to tear down the color lines and to continue to endeavor together to live humbly, love the poor, hold on to hope and believe the truth. I’ve seen the beauty of the Rainbow Nation worshipping and I believe her best days are still to come.

The world lost a great light yesterday — let us remember his example, treasure the memory of the way he walked, his grace. And let us remember the season we lost him — the season we celebrate the Light of the World’s first appearing, the season that brings us hope that even if this world sometimes feels broken, broken, broke, yet still there is hope, always hope.

We thank you for your example, Madiba. You truly made the world a better place.


On Writing, And Not

I haven’t written lately. I suppose sometimes it’s good to start by stating the obvious.

I haven’t written lately because the thoughts seem to be swirling around in my mind, most times too quickly for me to catch them and pin them down.

I haven’t written lately because there are diapers to change and booboos to kiss and juice cups to fill, and there’s a part of me that wants to make sure I’m doing this living thing right, even after coming to grips with the dying.

I haven’t written lately because for a while I tried piling so many things on my plate we almost ran out of toilet paper.

And when that momentary clarity that death brings passes, sometimes things seem to look hazy for a while. You’re forging a new path and the way forward isn’t clear — you want to make sure some things change, you want to make sure some things stay the same — and you want to try to handle the things that are going to change whether you want them to or not, well.

I now have a gorgeous six-month-old baby girl. She was only four months old at the big goodbye. She is a daily reminder that life does go on, will go on.

And I have a four year old who is about to finish his second year of pre-school, today. And it feels like yesterday and a million years ago, the day he started the three-year-old class, fresh out the gates from South Africa, when we flew in over the weekend and he jumped in, a week late, on the Monday.


His little brother is now wearing those shorts.

The thought comes in spells, I’m sad to say fewer, but still, where I remember faces, like The Girl in the Pink Coat.

iaminhereyesAnd I think about the privilege I have of raising kids and knowing we have food to eat every day and a safe place to live and a comfortable bed for every person. And reconciling these gifts with what I’ve seen — those faces, those feet — I find it hard to keep going in comfortable North Carolina sometimes. What do you say to the kid you sponsor through Compassion?

Your life is hard. My troubles pale in comparison. You are full of joy. I want to pour my life out for Jesus and the fear of comfortable almost keeps me up at night.

I cling to a few simple truths, in the midst of the haze, and perhaps they’ll be useful for you. First, a friend of mine reminded me the other day that you don’t always know what you’re doing, what it means to the people around you. Keep doing good because it’s good. Especially when your right hand doesn’t know what your left hand is doing — your Father does. I find that encouragement enough to keep loving, to keep giving, and to wholeheartedly keep seeking the kingdom first.

God is still on the throne. My parents have always felt like the two pillars that the platform of my life balanced on. Losing one has made me wobble. But we can always only ever find a firm foundation in Jesus. Keep seeking the kingdom first.

When you aren’t sure what to do, when bare feet in SA are on your heart, but dirty floors in NC are in your face, do your best to do the thing in front of you with love. And keep seeking the kingdom first, to help you know what that thing is.

If I can love the one in front of me, as Mother Theresa put it, maybe he or she will be the one to get on a plane and go back to some of the places where I’ve left pieces of my heart, and to love the people there. Or he or she will love someone who’ll love someone who’ll love someone who will. And Lord willing, we will love there again, too, and love here, in the meantime.

Catch my drift?

With Love,


The Wedding in the Bushveld {Photos}

I tried to tuck my hair into the back of my dress to keep it from blowing in the wind. The baby was sitting on my lap, dressed in a baby blue shirt, khaki pants and brown sandals. Wedding-white pacifier clenched between his tiny teeth. His brother beside him, in very similar attire.

We cruised along in an open-top landy, kept our game-spotting eyes on just in case. Pointing out a friendly giraffe to the boys, pausing for a moment to stare at the magnificent creature, then heading on again so as not to be late. It was a beautiful afternoon in the bushveld.

We weren’t the first to arrive: several guests were admiring the scenery, looking out over the cliff to a river below, hills in the distance, a Land Cruiser leaving behind a cloud of red dust as it sped across a well-worn trail, cutting through the game reserve.

The scene was minimalist, and perfect. White ribbons draped from a tree, holding clear glass bottles that each held a single protea. A cascade of flower petals formed a makeshift aisle, leading to a small carpet, nicely framed with a tall bush on either side.

Under the flower-tree a table laid with canapés and champagne — all ready for the arrival, the event, and the celebration to follow.

The arrival was simple, and elegant. The bride in a Land Cruiser, escorted by her father, and of course the ranger who drove the vehicle. The bouquet, a single protea — beautiful and large and surrounded with bright green leaves. Her dress, vintage — the one her mother wore on her wedding day years before.

The moment, too, was simple and elegant — without the fanfare of bridesmaids and groomsmen or flower girls and ring bearers. Blushing and sturdy declarations of love and intention, laced with words of grace and hope.

This kiss captured by the camera — one of my favourite shots from the event.

The quiet elegance that surrounded the affair was interrupted in a most glorious fashion by a number of ladies who worked at the reserve — dressed traditionally from head to toe, arriving to sing, to dance, to serenade the newlyweds with overwhelming joy and good cheer.

Guests gathered to enjoy the entertainment, and one eager photographer grabbed the opportunity to capture the moment while everyone else soaked it in.

There were drinks and laughs and smiles in every direction.

As the sun set, a super moon rose, and we gathered ourselves back into the Landys for a reception at one of the lodges on the reserve.

What a beautiful way to create an unforgettable moment – the understatement of the manmade surroundings unwilling to detract from the glorious beauty of creation surrounding us on every side. A perfect setting for saying “I do” and “I will” — I was joyful to be a witness to it.

Congrats to Penny — you looked stunning and the wedding was amazing.

Congrats to Vaughan — I’ve never seen you smile so big before! It was magical.


If you would like to see more of the Hub’s fabulous photos from the wedding, please click here to head over to the Quiver Tree Photography site.

On the Way Home

If this was a month, it was a month that flew by. I regret not being able to tell you about more of it, but perhaps the fact that we haven’t had much good sleep means I may not have had much worth saying anyway. I trust these things work out as they should.

Tomorrow we fly up to Joburg. The following day, it’s Joburg to London, and after a nine hour layover (and maybe a chance to see the newlyweds!) we’ll be heading from London to RDU and with a two hour drive, we’ll be home.

It seems like the visit back to South Africa has been different from what I expected, but giving it a bit of thought, I am not really sure what I expected. This country is so full of contrasts – unimaginable beauty, jaw-dropping luxury, heart-breaking poverty, frustrating corruption. I see it.

As we drove from Bloemfontein to the game reserve, I saw a man on the side of the road carrying two big red bags. I felt that familiar, sore tug on my heartstrings as we sped past in our rental car, baby sleeping in the car seat behind me, his brother munching a cookie with a smile.

The familiar sights of the N1 passed by outside my window: straw-coloured grasslands stretching on for miles, dotted with green shrubs, brown cows, dusty white sheep. A flock of pied crows flutter into the air, resettling on the road to peck at some long-gone creature once we’ve passed them by. Oddly shaped hills, with bushes scattered about so that they look like the stubble of a man who has missed a couple days’ shave, are in distant view in every direction.

I feel far away, but I also feel home. I find myself instructing the Bear to use words that would only be the right choice in the U.S., then I find myself trying to backtrack to explain “say this here, say that there.”

HH lowered the music to whisper the story of a farmer in Zimbabwe, who was having the land he’d farmed all his days ‘reappropriated’ to someone with the right skin colour. The farmer was gentle and hospitable to the men who came to tell him his farm was being taken away. He instructed the new farmer on everything he needed to know, not knowing what was ahead of him, since he was about to lose everything.

He concluded his letter to the paper by saying he felt it was more important for the men who came to take his land to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ than for him to be angry that his land was being taken away. I started to cry and stared out the window.

This beautiful land. This controversial land. All of creation is groaning together for the revelation of the sons of God, but I feel it here.

I am ready, expectant for what’s ahead of us in North Carolina, but a piece of my heart is and ever shall be right here. Whether I’m in South Africa or back in North Carolina, I carry a constant awareness that all the days of my life I will always be on the way Home.



Happy Day, Mother of Three

It was a long night. I wake up to the sound of the ocean and the feel of two tiny feet pushed into my back. The culprit is sleeping at a right angle between his Dad and I, his little head sweaty from being smushed into his Dad’s back for who knows how long.

{From our last stay in Wilderness – the Bear was four months old!}

We’ve been away from home for three weeks, and this has been the routine for most of it. The little one going to sleep in his travel cot at seven, ending up in our bed some time during the night.

I stir again with big brother at my side. He crawls across me, knees and elbows, to play with his brother in the middle of the bed while the Hubs and I hope we can keep our eyes closed for just five more minutes.As if to not be left out of the action, the third tiny person who is still on the way decides I’ve waited too long for breakfast. I rush to the bathroom, sick, for only the second time this whole pregnancy. As unpleasant as it is, I smile afterwards, thinking he or maybe even she didn’t have many options for wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.

These days the Bear is consistently surprising us with new vocabulary, clever interpretations, sweet good humour. Tiger Tank is waddling with skill, arms akimbo, occasionally closing his eyes as if he thinks he’s going too fast.

A few hours later I’m back upstairs, helping the little one settle down for his nap. He snuggles down and is soon fast asleep in my arms, and I pause for a moment, listening to the waves and praying for the Lord to help me savour these moments. Even when it’s hard and I’m tired I know I’ll look back and miss these moments.

We’re looking forward to brunch and some beach time, and savouring more and more moments with the grandparents and the aunt who live in our beloved South Africa so far away. It’s funny that in a place called Wilderness, this kind of feels like home.

Happy Mother’s Day, to you Moms who are, to you who are hoping, you who are expecting, you who are standing in the gap. May you find what you need to keep going, keep loving, keep smiling, eyes-open, thankful.


P.S. A special Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful Mom – I miss you and look forward to celebrating when we get back! And to my sister, another congrats on being a mother of two! Love you both!