"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

the love of the ampersand


From Wikipedia:-

An ampersand (or epershand; "&") is a logogram representing the conjunction word "and". This symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for "and".

Who would have thought that choosing a font could be so difficult.  I had my very own personal designer Bielle (aka Gabrielle Ross) help me a while back with a "header type logo" for my new website.

I am nearly there and need to start preparing you for the exciting change-over (hopefully next week) but I am still struggling with sizing the pictures correctly.  Gareth wants me to change over now but I want it to look pretty much as perfect as I can get it before I show it off to you.  I should really invest in attending a computer course to learn about downloading pictures and how to size them correctly but it's the same old "so much to do and learn, so little time (and money)".

There are also so many choices and the more choices I have the more confused I become.

I have a love of ampersands.  It started when I did a calligraphy course when the boys were still at junior school.  One of their teachers ran an evening class once a week and it was great fun to sit around her kitchen counter practicing with all your new nibs and inks (I think some wine drinking was also involved).  Ampersands together with arrows are the two things that I always doodle and my notes always have little arrows pointing through ampersands or ampersands curling all over the page.
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A couple of the thousands of choices out there:-






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Don't you love them?  

I have the new name for my blog - AFTERNOONS & COFFEESPOONS.  There is a bit of background stemming from my love of the Crash Test Dummies and the memories that Brad Robert's voice and the words of his songs evoke - mostly good, some sad and a few bad but all a part of my life but I will tell you more before I announce the move.  

Here is the song (once again for the old faithfulls):-

and here is the header:-
afternoons & coffeespoons

Do you like it?  

Note instead of an arrow through the ampersand, I have a coffeespoon.  I suppose you are confused and thinking "Jenny, coffeespoons?".   My afternoons do not usually involve coffeespoons (in fact I don't even drink coffee anymore) but I think it has a nice ring to it, it means a lot to me and I am sure you are going to enjoy it too (and hardly could I have a wine bottle as the strike through - or could I?)

Coming soon - maybe next week for my birthday?!! 

Monday, 30 January 2012


A couple of weeks ago Margaret recited a rhyme to me.  It was something that her aunt had written in her autograph book when she was a 10 year old little girl.


Most of you here have a far longer history and have far more stories to relate about Margaret than I do.  Margaret first came into my life about 7 or 8 years ago.  She used to collect Michael’s mother Helen’s post for her while she was overseas.  She took her job very seriously and Michael used to collect the post every couple of weeks, depending on the urgency.  My first encounter was a telephone call – very to the point and businesslike telling me that she had told Michael about this letter from the bank 10 days ago and that he had still not collected from her.  Please could he collect it on Saturday morning between 10 and 11 – she would be waiting!!!

At the Rathfelder we would visit her from time to time but it was only after her move to Trianon that she became a part of our lives.  She was extremely stressed and worried about certain items of furniture that were left at the Rathfelder and I took her there a couple of times to help her sort through some of her belongings that were left behind.   There were strict instructions about who was collecting what and there must have been 100’s of phone calls between Margaret, Judy at reception and myself.  Eventually it was all sorted out and by this time Margaret had wormed her way into my heart.  She was really lost and alone.
 It was very difficult for her to move on and accept her circumstances.  Thank goodness she had so many wonderful memories about her life in Bergvliet and although I have not met many of you I know so much about her “faithful Bergvliet friends”.  To make things clearer in my mind early last year I took Margaret on a trip back to her old
neighbourhood.  We rang Colleen’s bell next door to say hello, she showed me where Audrey and Mike lived and the Hitchens and Hadwins – although she enjoyed it while we did the tour when we got back she did complain – about the high wall around Vic’s beautiful garden and about the new development at the bottom of the road and how things were not the same.  She loved showing me the cut out from the newspaper of their wonderful home and garden

Recently Michael and I took her around Rondebosch.  I also lived in Jamieson Road and she wanted to point out where she had lived to me. 

Her brother Gavin was her hero and we have all heard stories of his explorations.  His son Guy and her nephew had died too young and his wife Margie and 3 children Sam, Tom and Rob were her only family.  I heard so much of Margie in Port Elizabeth and when we eventually met about 18 months ago we connected immediately as we already knew so much about each other.  This gladdened and saddened Margaret.  She was so proud that she had brought the two of us together but would get jealous and cross if we had conversations that did not include her or go through her.  She would often say “Well you and Margie have really hit it off, I suppose you will stay friends even when I am gone?”   I was never sure of how she wanted me to reply to that question but yes Margaret we will always be friends and thank you for bringing us together.

Margie you were amazing to her.  The telephone was her lifeline and I heard so many stories and details of all you did to support her.  I have only just met Tom but I knew that he was handsome and hunky and that all the nurses at Trianon still talk about him and he only met them once.  I know about how well Rob is doing in his job, that he had a recent business trip to Johannesburg and I even have a picture in my mind about what the offices in Sandton look like – escalators, trees – she took everything in.  I know about Sam in Johannesburg and her new baby and I also know that Tom pronounces Lamont incorrectly!!

After many lessons and corrections I am still not sure whether it is LAMOND or LEMONT.   Just as I got rapped over the knuckles whenever I asked her how she was.  It was very difficult to get out of the habit of when she called to not say “Hello Margaret, How are you?”  She would either give me a tongue lashing or just ignore the question.  I eventually learned and used to start every conversation with her as “Hello Margaret and what are you up to today?”  That also eventually irritated her immensely but not nearly as much as whenever I said “It’s a pleasure” or “No problem”

I am so pleased that she agreed to come to church with us on Christmas morning.  She enjoyed the singing and the carols but on leaving the church told Michael that she now knew why Helen did not enjoy that particular minister “His diction is terrible and he drops his voice – No wonder she cannot hear him”.

The daily phone calls, weekly shopping and visits became a part of my life.  I enjoyed spending time with her but was often in trouble for arriving at the wrong time – either when supper was being served or her favourite programme was on FMR.
Fine Music Radio was her best friend.  She was paranoid about the two ancient transistor radios that were next to her chair.  We bought her a new one for her birthday last year but she did not like the buttons and it was still in the box in her cupboard.   Michael was forever having to check on the batteries and we had to make sure that there was a constant supply.  Last year when she went into hospital for a blood transfusion after a bad nosebleed I wrote to Nic Ciro (her favourite announcer) to tell him that she was not well and to put in a request for her.  Mendlesohns Fingals Cave was her favourite piece of music.  She received quite a few emails back from the station manager and announcers sending get well wishes.  She was pleased about the fuss but at the same time cross questioned me about exactly what I had said in the email to Nic Ciro because she did not want him to think that she was “chasing after him”.  Once she was home he did dedicate Fingals Cave to her and told her to Get Well Soon.  She told me how she sat listening to it with tears rolling down her eyes.  She did not cry often. 

She had told me stories of how she had visited Fingals Cave.  She loved to talk about Scotland and told me about the handsome soldier she fell in love with, got engaged to and who died during the war.  She kept in touch with his family and later went to visit them.
She loved the theatre and always reminded Caroline of how much she enjoyed the time that she had taken Margaret and Helen to see the Nutcracker.  This last Christmas she treated Michael, Caroline and I to an outing to see Phantom of the Opera.   The show was “a bit too loud for her” and it was not as wonderful as she remembered.  However having a look through the window into the FMR studio made up for the long walk to her seat and the loudness of the production.  She smiled broadly and waved to Elizabeth Triegaardt who was broadcasting at the time.

She had another friend in the UK Norman Cathie – he is now 94 and wrote to Margaret from time to time.  I noted that he had an email address and started corresponding with him.   He sent her some lovely mails but she could be quite dismissive of his news and did not really want me to write to him in case I told him too much?   I sent him an email telling him about her death and this was his reply to me:-

Hello Jenny --  I was so sorry to receive your news of Margaret although I could tell that it would not be long before old age took over.  (RICH COMING FROM A 94 YEAR OLD)  As you know I had known her since 1942 when she was entertaining us lads off the ships before going into the desert. She was quite a girl and I remember having to watch my step as I had just been married.She came and stayed with my wife and myself in 1950.

I am having troubles with my computer at the moment so must be brief but I wll write again when problems are sorted out.

Thank you for keeping in touch.

Margaret loved the fact that we both grew up in Rondebosch, that my boys went to Rondebosch where her brother and nephew had gone and my niece to her old school Rustenburg.  She loved the fact that my youngest son Matthew was playing rugby in Kimberley, where she was born – she needed to ask him what road he lived in and did he know Synagogue Street where she lived.   She was one of Matthew’s greatest fans and often knew if he was in the team before I did.  She made it her job to listen for the scores and would phone me saying “Nice win for Griquas yesterday – 28-13”.   She loved the fact that my mother knew Audrey and Colleen and she was trying very hard to find a date to take Audrey and I out to lunch.

It is wonderful to see so many people here.  Margaret will be shocked.  While packing up her room I had a laugh with the one sister as we were looking for her list of who she wanted at her funeral and who she did not want.  She used to tell the nurses who was on the list and who was not.  There is no tea today because she was adamant – NO TEA and no talking about me and what a wonderful person I was.  We did not find the list but Margie and I had a good laugh on the phone because we were wondering that if I found the list whether our names would maybe on the NOT WANTED list – on certain days, it could have been quite possible.

So whether we were her “FAITHFUL FRIENDS” or who she called her “FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS” to Margaret we are all here because we cared for her.  She was sharp and spunky and was great company.   Often on a Sunday while I got lunch ready I would hear Michael Helen and Margaret singing together.  Helen and Margaret would sit on the couch holding hands and for the most part, if she was not telling Helen that she had “selective hearing” she was caring and kind to Helen.

Michael favourite memory of her was if you arrived unexpectedly to visit her.  She would stand up from her chair and her whole face would light up and she would give you the sweetest smile you could ever imagine.

On going back to the message from her aunt:-


I wonder if that was good advice to a 10 year old Margaret.   She sure took that advice to heart.  Had she trusted people more and accepted help, and not been so fiercely independent and private her life would have been less stressful and happier, especially the latter years.

REST IN PEACE MARGARET.  You were special and unique and will not be easy to forget.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

i could (should) be a tour guide...

We had a wonderful day in Cape Town yesterday, perfect weather and even more perfect company.  Lucie's cousin Siobhan and her husband Hans are in Cape Town for the weekend from Holland.  Dave and Lucie were going to be out of town (oh dear plans can change) so Dalene and I were organising a day out with the visitors.  Our first choice was to head out to Elgin to Highlands Road wine estate.  It is a special spot with tables under weeping willows next to a dam.  The owners are Scottish and so friendly and the wines are outstanding too.  Lucie's twin sister Aimee loved it too and we have been waiting for an opportunity to head back there.  However, when we did the maths it worked out that we would need to take out 3 cars (why don't we have Kombi's anymore?).  The heat, the long drive, the wine and then having to drive home started counting against Highlands Road.   We decided to do something none of us had done before (except Siobhan and Hans) and take the Cape Town Sightseeing topless bus ride around Cape Town.

I booked the tickets online (you save R30 a time), collected our visitors from their hotel and headed to the Waterfront.  There were 10 of us and it turned into a wonderful day.  Do It!! 
 Got the seats at the back of the bus - Ready to go
Hans, Siobhan and Amy
Mom and Lucie joined us at Kirstenbosch - Well they were there, the bus was there but the
bus driver takes no prisoners and they were not at the correct stop. So they were left behind. They then had to jump in their car and follow the bus to Constantia Nek and there we all got off to board the "Wine Tasting" bus to Groot Constantia
"Free Wine Tasting" - a bit of misleading advertising.  The bus ride to the farm was free.  You had to pay for the tasting.  Not a train smash but not a free wine tasting in my book.
 Dalene and Kelly.  Dalene keeping herself hydrated (always a good thing) and Kelly a little pensive thinking
of the long day ahead.  Out with crazy people, a birthday party at 6 and then her first sleepover with her best friend (she is not too big on sleepovers but I am sure she managed to last the whole night - did you Kelly?)

We were planning on doing the Hout Bay township tour after the wine farm but found out that the tour was another R65 a head, so we headed to the Harbour Market instead for lunch.  

It is really one of the best markets around.  We found a table and everyone did a walk around deciding what they were going to eat. Not an easy decision to make. Our table chose a variety of sushi, nachos, Chinese dumplings, pannini's and lamb rolls.  Kelly was the most adventurous with a big fat waffle as a main course, followed by a gigantic frankfurter on a stick.  We started off with a beer (hot work on the top of a topless bus) and finished off with a jug of Margarita slush puppies.  Our table also won a quiz competition / spelling bee.  This very charming stall owner arrives at our table and tells us about the competition.  To spell "VICHYSSOISE" (I had to look it up Siobhan and then "cut and paste").  Well with a flutter of her eyelids the softly spoken Siobhan rattled off correct spelling - no problem.  Akeelah could not have done better.  The owner of Zoop (the soup counter) nearly fell on his back.  It was the first time someone got it correct in 3 months.  Well done Siobhan!!  Her prize?  A bowl of "Vichyssoise"  - which we shared (we had all already eaten).

We then had to walk back to the other side of the harbour - past some very fishy fish factories.  Amy was brave enough (OK she was the only one with a costume) to have a quick dip and we boarded the bus and headed back to the Waterfront up Suikerbossie, through Camps Bay and Clifton.  We really do have the most beautiful city in the world.

Dalene and Lesley (being the yuppies they are) insisted that we finish off with a sundowner at the Grand.  Country bumpkin me, had never been there.  What a great spot with awesome toilets and lovely soap and body lotion (Confession - the skin was a bit dehydrated after the trip so did the arms and chest as well - Okay, legs too - nobody saw, promise).  Tables on the sand with a light spray mist (like the ones at the new Fruit & Veg in Tokai) keeping you cool (as a Fruit & Veg lettuce).
 Cousins Lucie and Siobhan
 A good end to a long day in the sun with crazy people
Crazy People

 Really Grand wine
Gorillas in the Mist
Well Wayne joined us at the Grand.  Dave also joined us (after his crisis day spent at the office).  We also had Dave's work colleague Louisa (out from London) with us.  It was getting late and past supper time so my mum and I headed home via the shops to find food.  I had a couple of ready roasted chickens in mind with some crusty bread and salad.  There was not a chicken to be found between Rondebosch and Claremont (people were hungry after the Met), so another plan had to be made. Michael was at home (exhausted after a day on the course) and resting comfortably on the couch in front of the television. Nicholas James and friend James (who were hungry after the Met) joined us.  Caroline and Steve joined us. 

We made a big salad, cut up some loaves of bread, opened my last bargain magnum of champagne and tried to perform a miracle to make 3 Woolies lasagnas feed 19 people.  Lucky Caroline does not eat red meat - so we managed!!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

needing a few smiles for a thursday

My 89 year old friend Margaret died on Sunday, so I have been feeling a bit sad.  Remember her?  She has no children of her own and only a couple of great nephews and nieces in Port Elizabeth so visiting the funeral parlour, packing up her room and stuff has become my job.  She had been losing blood and had a recent blood transfusion.  The doctors decided that they need to know where the blood was coming from so they admitted her last Thursday for a colonoscopy and the gastric "down the throat" version as well.  She was discharged the same day and was pretty chirpy and fine when I spoke to her on Friday and again on Saturday morning.   I usually visit her and take her any shopping on Sunday afternoon while Michael takes his mother home.  Only this time we had a call at lunchtime to tell us that she had died.  Collapsed in her room with her stomach blown up like a balloon.  Good in a way for her that it was quick and she did not have to endure frail care or surgery but annoying in that doctors feel the need to look for extra business from 89 year old ladies who would not survive surgery anyway.

Her room does not smell pleasant and I felt very awkward going through her cupboards today.  I always wondered how she managed to eat so many jelly babies and so many bars of chocolate as I was always getting calls from her to buy her more (and get them to her "as soon as I could, but not extremely urgent").  She did not need them at all.  Her cupboard was full of sweets, chocolates and biscuits.  She was a feisty character and I will miss her.

So on writing this and preparing something to say in church on Monday, I thought I needed some cheering up.  I think you will enjoy these too.

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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

nice one sainsbury's

This all happened last year in June but is only now doing the rounds and is all over Facebook and media sites.

Read this letter from Lily to Sainsbury's.

Lily then received this reply from Sainsbury's (click on letter to enlarge)

Go Chris King!!  What great customer service and I also read that because of the sudden interest in the bread, Sainsbury's are thinking of re-naming it Giraffe bread.  I think they should.

Talking of food, I found this recipe today and am dying to try it.  Do you like brussel sprouts?  One of my favourites but one of those things I don't buy very often because not everybody enjoys them and then I kind of forget how much I enjoy them and never buy them. How great does this look and sound?  

brussels6 copy

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Avocado, and Lime

1lb brussels sprouts
2 slices bacon (If you are a bacon LOVER, you may want to add a slice or two more....I think this is just enough.)
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, sliced
a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper

While you are slicing your brussels, cook the bacon until crispy in a large skillet.
Remove from pan.
Add a little olive oil to the pan (depending on how much bacon drippings were left over), and add your shredded brussels, garlic, and crushed red pepper.
Cook for just a few minutes on medium heat, until brussels start to get tender.
Mix in lime juice and crumble bacon into the sprouts. s&p to taste.
Scoot your sprouts over to the side of the pan, and add avocado slices--just to quickly warm each side. You don't really want to stir them around into the sprouts or they will mash right in. 
When they are heated through, mix everything together and enjoy!

Now to taste it.  Take a look at the blog where I found the recipe.  She has some great recipes and ideas and stresses that brussels sprouts must never be boiled.  Roasting the way to go, with olive oil and salt.   I agree - boiling brussels are the main reason why they are so disliked by children all over the world (maybe the smell as well - and you don't smell them when you roast them).

Some interesting facts about these sprouts:-

They get their name from the fact that they were widely cultivated around Brussels, Belgium during the 16th century. (COULD HAVE GUESSED THAT)
According to a 2002 survey, Brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in Britain.(AND PROBABLY IN SOUTH AFRICA)
Like broccoli and some other members of the Brassica family, Brussels sprouts contain something called sinigrin, a glucosinate that may prevent colon cancer according to research. (COME ON, START EATING THEM)
One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 1,122 IU of Vitamin A.
That same cup also contains 669 IU of beta carotene (AND THEY ARE NOT ORANGE??)
A cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains about 60 calories (ENCOURAGING)
1/2 cup contains 80% of the RDA of Vitamin C (PRETTY GOOD NEWS TOO)

I will let you know when I get around to making it.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

i know a real film star....really, truly, i promise, i do....

On Sunday besides heading off to see the Nutcracker on Ice at the Artscape in the evening (a treat from my Mom for her girls), Gareth called to say that he had managed to download the first episode of Bomb Girls and he was having a screening at Dalene's place at 3 ("Don't be late, I will start without you!!:).   Bomb Girls is a Canadian mini-series, starring our very own Jodi Balfour.  Jodi is best friends with Bielle and ever since I have know Bielle, I have known Jodi.  Jodi has been living and working in Vancouver and filmed Bomb Girls in Toronto.  Perhaps I should have asked permission from her (or her agent) (because I am bragging big time now and I am maybe using pictures that could be protected).  However, because she is our friend,  has been in my home, help serve platters of eats and even washed my dishes, I feel somewhat a part of this exciting story (even although I am not) and I don't think she would object to a little write up on a little Southern Suburbs blog.  I promise I will never speak to People Magazine or worse still You magazine and I will only exercise bragging rights on this blog.

Before I get to the screening, meet Jodi (if you don't already know her):-

Jodi, Nic and Bielle in serious times
 in Mozambique with Nic and Bielle - December 2006
3 special friends (somewhat younger too (especially Nic))

Okay enough from the photo album - back to the show.  We sat down with a chilled bottle of wine and Bielle, Dalene, Gareth, Nic, Amy and I shrieked with excitement to find her in the opening scene (a pretty raunchy one too).  Oh my word, we knew she was in the show but did not know that she is actually the star of the show!!  Meg Tilley (an Oscar nominated actress) is also in the show.  

From the Huffington Post:-

"Visiting the "Bomb Girls" set is like being transported back to the early '40s. The six-part miniseries, which revolves around the dedicated Canadian women who stepped up to work in a munitions factory during World War II, is shot in Toronto, and has the look and feel of a "Mad Men" - "Pan Am" hybrid. Naturally, the producers took special care to capture the war vibe of the '40s, and the intricate details will be impossible to miss when the miniseries premieres on January 4 at 8 p.m. on Global TV.

Rather than stand idly by while their brothers, fathers, husbands and fiances risked everything to fight in World War II, some Canadian women assumed roles that were previously taboo -- creating munitions for the war efforts overseas. "Bomb Girls" follows the journey of five of those remarkable women."

The acting was brilliant.  It is smokey and so 1940's you feel like you were there.  The set and costumes are awesome and we can't wait for Gareth to download the next episode (there are 6 in the first series and hopefully there will be a second series - I am sure there will be).   

Meg Tilley in the middle
That's our Jodi - on the posters in Toronto!!
Serious eye-candy too
(a pity not the one Gladys was raunchy with - maybe later, Jodi?)

So Jodi Balfour, our great friend, white wine sharer, dishwasher, old Rusty Bug, Miss SA finalist and now actress and movie star -  WE ARE SOOOO PROUD!!

Watch this space!!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

searching for sugar man

I was on my way out the door and I heard this clip on the radio about Rodriguez.  It needed more investigating, so my trip to the nursery has been a tad delayed.   Not many of us 70's teenagers were without the album Cold Fact in our record collection.  I had the CD too (until Gareth hijacked it) and I remember every song word for word on the album.  I saw him when he toured SA in the late '90's and remember the story at the time of how a South African journalist went looking for him to bring him out to South Africa. He did not even know that he was popular in SA as he had not sold many records in the USA.

(In case you want to sing along)

Won't ya hurry
Coz I'm tired of these scenes
For a blue coin
Won't ya bring back
All those colours to my dreams
Silver magic ships, you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet MaryJane
Met a false friend
On a lonely, dusty road
Lost my heart
When I found it
It had turned to dead, black coal
Silver magic ships, you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet MaryJane
You're the answer
That makes my questions disappear
Coz I'm weary
Of these double games I hear
Sugarman .........
(don't you love the echo and the way the song fades out?)
The Sundance Film Festival is on at the moment.  Read here.  Yesterday this documentary played to rave reviews, tears and standing ovations.  A major distributor is now wanting to distribute it worldwide. The director of the documentary, Malik Bendejello (from Sweden) is telling the story of two South Africans looking for a presumed dead Rodriguez (rumour had it that he shot himself on stage).   Apparently, yesterday throughout the screening of the documentary Americans were finding themselves bewildered and wondering about why and how this Swede and all these South Africans knew all about this musician from Detroit and they had never heard of him (Hellooo...).

Some background to his visit to South Africa.

Sugar Man was of course the most popular song (Just Jinger did a great version a couple of years ago) but I think it was the song "I wonder" that had most of us South African teenagers dancing, pointing fingers, stamping, giggling and singing the lyrics to our boyfriends or girlfriends (or ex-boyfriends and girlfriends).

I wonder how many times you've been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
And I wonder do you know who'll be next 
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

I wonder about the love you can't find
And I wonder about the loneliness that's mine 
I wonder how much going have you got
And I wonder about your friends that are not
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

I wonder about the tears in children's eyes 
And I wonder about the soldier that dies
I wonder will this hatred ever end 
I wonder and worry my friend

I wonder I wonder wonder don't you?
I wonder how many times you been had 
And I wonder how many dreams have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
And I wonder do you know who'll be next
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

And now while looking for the stuff on You Tube I have found this gem:-

My favourite Paolo Nutini from Glenfield Road in Orchy also knows about Rodriguez.  Made my day!!  Bring back the CD Gareth, before I come after you!!

Friday, 20 January 2012

life in a hothouse

It has been a long, hot week.  I clearly remember my grandmother telling me that she could not wait for cooler weather to arrive.  "How could anyone ever want summer to be over?" I remember thinking.  Now I think I know.  It is an age thing.  Gill who is suffering from Livifem withdrawal symptoms raises the temperature in our office about 3 degrees with every hot flush that arrives.  Usually a modest person, well dressed and in co-ordinated colours, there has been a change (and not just a change of her life) and it is really funny to witness.  To see her strip off her clothes as each wave of a flush arrives is something to behold.  She is not particular either as to who happens to be in our office when she strips and Michael is now quite used to seeing her fling off her shirt and rush to stand in front of the more efficient air conditioner in the other office.  Her perfectly coiffed hair is now often soaked and she has this permanent glow about her (and you can't laugh because her sense of humour is also starting to fail). I had to save this post for Friday afternoon and only press "Publish" once she left the building.  (She does know where I live though).

How to stop hot flashes

Being hot during the day is somehow easier than the heat at night when you are trying to sleep.  Wouldn't it be awesome to have a bed like this:-
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This tropical heat has done something to my garden as well.  It is turning into a jungle.  What are these plants called?  I know they are aliens and of South American descent.  Every year I threaten to pull them out as they are pretty ugly.  They have a shallow root system so they are perfect to have around the base of our trees.  Their leaves are spiky and dangerous but for 2 weeks of the year - usually December but this year later - they are amazingly weird and kind of beautiful (I am not entirely convinced though).  The flowers appear from nowhere and I swear, if you had nothing to do with your day, you could sit and watch them grow.  Jack and the Beanstalk has nothing on them.
Sneaking out on Wednesday
Taller on Thursday

And they were this big this morning.  Can you see what I mean about the ugly leaves?  So cruelly I decided to pick a few and put them in my favourite Le Creuset jug only because they are almost exactly the same colour.  I wonder if they will last.

I hope you have a great weekend.  I am planning on spending some time in my jungle, I am off to the nursery to buy some more of those tall Plectranthus shrubs tomorrow morning, to fit in  a walk on the beach would be great, Nic is playing rugby (and I am not sure where and when), I have not seen Kathy since the beginning of the year and it would be great to catch up with her, drink some wine and tell some stories.

It is now 4.20 and I am out of here (internet at home playing up again so I have Telkom battles to fight).  Hopefully Gill will leave soon after me!!! (and that Telkom are playing games with her internet as well).

Enjoy your weekend.  

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

analytical wednesday

Did you read yesterday's short story?  If not, and if you need this post to make sense to you, here it is.  Not that this is going to be an English comprehension lesson (do not fear, Aunty Norma) but the story got me thinking (a dangerous thing) and when I think, I analyse and then I have to talk (or write).  

On re-reading the story, I realised that if I made a few notes (which I don't do) I could probably work out how old our writer is.   Roughly in my head it was "a few years into her 30's" when she said:-

"I wanted a dining room table, I realized. I wanted a dining room."

Two simple sentences.  After getting caught up for a couple of paragraphs with her travels and career it made me think and feel quite sad to say that I don't really know a life without "a dining room table".  Most of us did things differently in the early 80's - we finished our schooling in the late 70's - travelled a bit (not enough).  For me it was a then affordable 6-stop-around-the-world ticket and for others a Contiki tour through Europe.  Not many of my friends spent more than a couple of months travelling and if they did work overseas it was working on kibbutz's or picking potatoes in Ireland.  

I did not travel well, I missed my mother, my sister and my baby brother even when John joined me for the last 6 weeks in Europe, I eventually just had to get home.  Forget the visa and the ferry ticket from Greece to Italy, I had been away for nearly 3 months and now needed to get home.  

After that it was marriage and babies and a life filled with dining room tables.  Different houses, different tables, different people, different food and drinks - but through it all, the same family and core of friends.  Lunches and dinners spent around the table - doing homework, playing games, eating and drinking (tea, coffee or wine) or just talking.

So now that I analyse the next sentence (when she was 34) "Living in Paris at 34, I had awakened and realized that I wanted to go home, only to discover that I had no home to go to".   This is pretty sad and then this sentence " I saw that my faraway friends had made daily lives that didn’t include me."  Even sadder.

It is all about choices and as exciting and wonderful as all the opportunities that our children and their friends have opening up for them, I think that it comes at a price and in some ways complicates their lives.  Gap years, teaching English in the exotic places, playing rugby or cricket in foreign countries, living and working in the UK for 5 years to get your ancestral visa, working on boats in the Mediterranean or au pairing in France.  It is great and offers more life lessons and education than could ever have been offered to them at home but at the same time by putting their careers and relationships on hold, are they going to be happy when they get to 32?  Are they going to yearn for the dining room table that we have taken for granted for all these years?  Are they going to be looking to come home to roost at 34 and not be sure where their home is?  Are they going to come home to old friends who have now made lives that don't include them? 

"I had been to Jerusalem, Peru, London, Mexico, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, Syria, Poland and New Zealand.  I became a travel writer, which gave the peregrinations (hectic word - to journey or travel from place to place, especially on foot).  Every romantic entanglement was a long-distance one."  Of these 13 countries and cities,  I have been to 5 (and all of them, except for London and Ireland were whistle-stop tours). 

Getting close to the end of the story a few more thoughts that the more cynical me has popping into my head.  Firstly, Joe arriving for his first visit with "a suitcase and a bouquet" had my romantic heart soaring but then 13 months later he arrived with his "beloved Peugeot bicycle, a collection of top-notch kitchen knives and not much else."  Alarm bells?  OK, he is fit and he can cook but I certainly hope that he was not only looking for a comfortable home and taking one of those "wherever I lay my head, that's my home" stances and that she would have to work hard for the rest of her life, not afford to be able to stop work to have children (or to retire) and just sponsor his travelling, food and drinking writing and general wanderlust.

On the other hand, it is so romantic and exciting and they have wonderful stories to share of their travels.  I am also sure there will be much more travelling in their lives (however, I would never let him return to Barcelona on his own).  Children are perhaps not that important to them and that is their choice.  I love the fact that they were now getting married and serving (and drinking) tequila at the wedding.   I know that he will cook her wonderful meals.  I am sure he can make sushi as there must be a sushi knife in his "top-notch" knife set.  She will come home after a long day at the office and dinner would be ready and the wine perfectly chilled.   

And of course dinner would be served in the dining room at the dining room table.

Perhaps you can have the best of both worlds.  I sure hope that the writer does. 

I hope that our children are going to be happy with the decisions they make.  There could be nothing worse than to wake up in your 40's, without children (or a dining room) thinking about that beautiful girl in Barcelona who you should have travelled back to marry or that handsome guy in Seattle whose heart you were brutal with when you broke off your engagement, having lost contact with your friends who were so important to you when you were in your 20's and only having your passport, a bicycle and some "top knotch knives" as possessions.

Having it over again?  I'd still go with the dining room table.

a tuesday tale

"And with this man, I saw, I wouldn’t be tied down so much as tied together." - Elizabeth Eaves

A short story from The New York Times which I read yesterday and am sure that you, too will enjoy.

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A Place to Lay My Heart

WHEN I met Joe, he told me he was trying to decide where to live. At the time, he lived in — well, that was hard to say.
He was from New Hampshire, but after stints in various United States cities, he had moved to Paris, where he had been based for 10 years.
But “based” was a loose term. There had been six months in South America and a lot of time in Sicily. Once he’d moved to Barcelona on a whim. The last couple of months he had been in Seattle.
And here we were, meeting on a bus in Guadalajara, Mexico. We had come as journalists to write about tequila and were on our way to a distillery. In terms of expertise, I had no business being here, but he wrote often about food and drink. A photographer, too, he flipped open his computer to show me close-ups of Sicilian grapes. Later, as we whiled away the ride, he spoke enthusiastically of a Catalan tradition in which he and teammates built castles by standing on one another’s shoulders.
I was immediately attracted to his dark eyes, lean 6-foot-1 frame and sunny demeanor, and to a chivalrous streak that had him helping an older woman off the bus.
But his geographic dilemma and its lack of resolution discouraged me from considering romance. I was settled in New York and had just accepted the kind of job where they expect you to show up every day. He was a freelance writer, flitting around the world. I reminded myself that wanderers were bad bets. I had reason to know: I had been one myself.
Traveling was my first love, and plunging into a foreign culture (the more different from my own drab Northwestern existence, the better) had been my greatest thrill.
And so my university years took me to study in Egypt, backpack around the Middle East and work as a State Department intern in Pakistan. After college I settled in Seattle and tried to see my ensuing engagement, mortgage and office job as their own sort of adventure.
But I felt stifled by the weight of expectation I’d brought on myself: by the trips to Home Depot and earnest requests from family and friends to know when the wedding would be. Running from what I had just embraced, I broke off the engagement, with guilt but also with excitement. It was as if my horizon had narrowed to a tunnel and then suddenly expanded, giving me back the whole world. I traveled around the South Pacific for a year. I moved to New York for graduate school.
As Joe and I sat together on the bus that day, I told him a little about my trajectory, and for the first time in years I didn’t find it difficult to explain. To him, it all made sense.
During my traveling years I wasn’t exactly running from relationships, but the pleasure I took in moving dovetailed neatly with my fear of them. My unhappy years of domesticity in Seattle had left a scar. I was suspicious of myself, never quite sure that I could stay committed.
The years during and after graduate school had taken me to Jerusalem, Peru, London, Mexico, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, Syria, Poland and New Zealand, a nearly complete list in more or less chronological order. I became a travel writer, which gave all the peregrinations more of the appearance of a purpose. Every romantic entanglement was a long-distance one.
But a few years into my 30s, ambivalence began to creep up every time I bought another plane ticket. Traveling for the fun of it was morphing into traveling out of sheer momentum. I felt the first tickles of envy for friends who were rooted. They had a gravitational pull that I lacked, drawing people to them, to their homes and dining room tables.
I wanted a dining room table, I realized. I wanted a dining room. Living in Paris at 34, I had awakened and realized that I wanted to go home, only to discover that I had no home to go to.
I began to fix that, first with trepidation (was I cut out for a stationary life?) then with zeal. It was a slog, though, because while you can take off in an instant, going back takes a long time. I saw that my faraway friends had made daily lives that didn’t include me. And I learned that a rooted life means making the kind of choices that I had avoided for the last decade.
Part of my impulse to travel came from never wanting to commit to just one thing; I had created a life that afforded me the illusion of endless choice. I could work for this freelance employer or that one; choose spontaneously to live in Hong Kong or the Outback. The “or” was what mattered. The “or” is what I was giving up by settling down.
I chose New York City, where I had friends and potential employers, and which contained worlds upon worlds of its own. I got a staff job and tried to become a center of gravity in my own right.
When I signed a lease, I felt a shiver of worry, but it passed. I bought not only a dining room table but also a sofa that visiting friends could sleep on, karmic repayment for all the times I had been the nomadic guest. I confined my traveling to vacations and occasional assignments.
When I met Joe I felt as if I was hearing my own story told back to me. I had to learn, late, to make certain big life decisions, and now he did, too. He had narrowed his options to three cities: Paris (which was familiar), Seattle (where he had family) and Barcelona — there had been a girlfriend there; that was over, but he loved the food and his Catalan friends.
Love can be narcissistic in that we often fall for a person in whom we see ourselves. Still, even though Joe captivated me, I was wary. New York was notably absent from his list. And when I chose to settle down, I resolved to avoid long-distance relationships, with their soaring highs and dismal lows.
In Mexico, we talked about his decision over steak and tequila. We talked about writing, photography and the mysteries of the blue agave plant, of which I was becoming increasingly fond.
Later we mapped out a year-by-year geographical overlay of our lives and learned that we had unknowingly crossed paths in Seattle and Paris, and I enjoyed imagining that I had passed him in the Metro.
We played the name game and came up with an acquaintance in common; again I envisioned the what-if. Might we have passed at the door to the same party? I was knitting a shared past where there wasn’t one. Although, in a way, there was.
We kissed goodbye in the airport in Houston, with no promises or plans. A week later I asked him to come see me in New York (I was grounded by my new job, so I couldn’t go to him). Extending that invitation gave me a strange new feeling. In relationships of all kinds, the wanderers are always assumed to be the flexible ones, the ones who will go wherever you tell them to for Thanksgiving.
Now I had become the center of gravity, with an irrefutably fixed address and a permanent job. The downside was that my new wandering star could just say no and be pulled in some other direction.
BUT a week later he walked into my apartment with a suitcase and a bouquet. I was heading into long-distance love, I could see. But being rooted firmly in place, I was able to take the leap of faith. At the end of his five-day visit, he invited me to the sofa and said, “We need to have a talk.” I knew he meant, “We need to find a way to make this work.” We plotted who would visit whom when, and talked about trips we could take together.
“How about driving from Alaska to Baja?” I proposed.
“Sure,” he said, just like that, as if I’d said why don’t we order sushi? He took these kinds of suggestions not as fantasies but as first steps.
That was 13 months ago. In April he moved in, bringing with him a beloved Peugeot bicycle, a collection of top-notch kitchen knives and not much else.
When I realized he was going to ask me to marry him, I wondered again if some part of me would seize up, if I would fall back into my old patterns. But since my decision to move to New York, through the four years during which I bought an apartment, was promoted at work and settled into routines, I had slowly become ready. And with this man, I saw, I wouldn’t be tied down so much as tied together.
When he asked, the choice was easy.
Tequila will be served at the wedding.

Elisabeth Eaves is the author of “Wanderlust: A Love Affair With Five Continents” and a columnist for The Daily.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

clever stuff

I have been making a folder of clever things I have seen on Pinterest over the last couple of weeks.   Don't register and start collecting and pinning pictures if you don't have time to spare - it sucks you in, big time and before you know it you are making folders and collecting pictures and quotes; filing recipes (that you probably will never make); admiring tables settings and kitchens and taking off in your dreams to wonderful holiday destinations, dream homes and island beaches.

Here is something different though - practical stuff.  I could do with being a bit more practical.

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No more soggy muesli but I foresee a serious wastage of milk.

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Chop, chop, chop - in the bin

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Good idea but you need to have the space.  Garage?

This is what I want to get started.  Down our lane leading to the washing line, outside the back kitchen door, where there is some direct sun.
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My courtyard garden is just too shady and herbs do not do well there.  Have any of you seen the vertical garden on the corner of Kildare and Colinton Road?  It is the first I have seen in our area and it is basically just a vertical lawn with the number of the house planted in a different type of grass.  I like it (a lot).  I will get  around to take a picture for you soon.  But here are some other vertical ideas.
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Then Mason Jars - Americans use them for everything and every vintage wedding uses jars for cocktails and for vases.  Here are some other uses:-
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Definitely going to try this.  I am getting tired of the plastic lettuce packets which pop and get squashed in your veggie drawer in the fridge.  I have even been thinking of tracking down a Tupperware salesperson (do you get Tupperware anymore?) to get one of those old school "lettuce keepers". (Showing my age).  But these jars will work and I saw them at that Plastic Warehouse factory shop near Access Park over Christmas.
Steel Cut Oatmeal and Berries in a Jar

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Recipes and more ideas on this website.

Then before I get far too sensible and you think I am losing it completely - This is the best idea, I have seen in a long time.  I know that Pick n Pay now sell the Sinful Lemon Sorbet (at a price) but with the heat that we have been experiencing over the last week, how about a Margarita Float?

Lime Sorbet Margaritas
From the Real Simple website (what ever happened to that magazine?)