"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"

Sunday, 23 February 2014

when i was an elephant...

It is Matthew's 27th birthday tomorrow.  It is already his birthday in Hong Kong and I sent him a midnight message a little while ago.  Thinking back to his birth led me on a mission to pull out some old photograph albums, particularly because of a funny story that came to mind.

Remember when children are around 4 years old how they love looking at photographs of themselves when they were babies? My baby albums of the boys are a mess because the pages have been turned over so many times and they were those big ring-bound albums with that horrible sticky overlay, which never worked that well and ruined the pictures.  

Matthew had a pre-school friend over to play one day. I remember him sitting on the floor with his friend going through the pictures and giving the friend a commentary on each picture.  "This one is me in my mommy's stomach" and then when looking at this picture:-

"And this is me when I was an elephant"

I remember looking over his shoulder to see which photograph he was talking about.  The story and the picture always makes me smile.  

Meeting his brothers for the first time

Happy Birthday Matthew - sorry that you are so far away but we will celebrate your birthday in our usual family style tomorrow evening.  What would you like for supper? xx

Friday, 21 February 2014

back in the saddle

This first week back from holiday and I need another one.  Holidays are never long enough but returning home this time was not great.  The burglary was really unnecessary and trying to make lists and remember what I had in various drawers, cupboards and jewelry boxes is proving to be difficult. Our entire bedroom was ransacked.  Re-assessing the security at our house, waiting for reports from security companies and getting repairs done is also an unnecessary irritation.  I have an ability to be positive about most situations and this one is no different.  I am grateful that nobody was at home or hurt (and that they left the majority of my birthday presents alone). These guys were obviously young drug addicts as our medicine cabinet and all medication was cleaned out. So who knows what they would have done if they were disturbed?  Or if Gareth had left his puppy in the house (as he very nearly did).

The closest I will get to a grandchild (for the moment)

I have managed some fun stuff in between the admin and waiting this week. A swim at Dalebrook in the rain on Wednesday is high up on the list.  It was perfect weather when I arrived in Kalk Bay but I was hungry (like a wolf).  I parked the car and headed towards the shops to find a takeaway to eat on the beach. I could not resist stopping at the nursery (and then the second hand shop). Then, surprise surprise, I bumped into Lucie (my sister-in-law) and her folks who are visiting from Scotland.  We decided to pop into the Brass Bell for a drink (too early for gins, so rock shandies all round).  A quick catch up and the hungry wolf said goodbye and headed to

There I bought a Cajun chicken roll with chive yogurt dressing (and the biggest custard slice you ever did see)

With my purchases balanced under my arm I headed back to the beach. Some lunch, some sun and a swim!! Yeah!! 

A quick change into my costume, beach nearly to myself, except for one person in the water. By the time I had finished eating my delicious lunch the clouds had come over (I really should have kept the custard slice for afternoon tea).  I did not heed my mother's instructions of "waiting an hour before swimming after a meal" either.  As I got into the water the rain started pouring down (really pouring).  The water however was superb.  The one lady in the pool was the most enormous lady I have ever seen - AND she changed on the beach.  Even after my substantial, calorie-laden lunch, I did not feel too bad.  I tried not to stare (but I did) as she rolled out of the pool and then proceeded to strip out of her costume into her, now wet from the rain, clothes. I know I taught my children not to stare or to comment on large ladies but this was really something that will stay, imprinted in my subconscious mind forever. (No more custard slices, Jennifer).  That delicious custard slice is also imprinted in my mind forever.

Yesterday I had a helper.  My friend Janetta came to help with a big delivery for an art auction.  Janetta is a mine of information and told and showed me shops in Prime Park (where the Wine Time warehouse is) that I did not know about (and I have been coming here every day for over a year).   I have seen them but did not know that that most of them have factory shops (a biltong shop, a Woolworth's cosmetics shop, a place to buy cotton twine, Woolworth's corporate clothes (no need to go there), a bargain place for cold meats, a bar supply shop and many more).

We loaded the car with wine but Janetta was not finished yet.  Another trick up her sleeve was this shop called Foodies (Leo Road, Diep River) which sells all products which are either over their sell by date or about to expire. Something that does not worry me much.  So we had a little spree.  

Finn Crisp R9.50, Olive Oil R39.50, Kraft salad dressing R5.50, 
Miracle Whip R5.00

The car was laden with 35 cases of wine and we now had bags of expired foodstuffs rattling around on the top of cases of wine on the back seat. We did a few local deliveries and Janetta made more friends at the auctioneers. She really can chat to anyone.  Thanks for your help, the entertainment and shopping education Janetta!

And today is Friday. The security company have sorted out the alarm system, I have a few deliveries to do, then lunch with Kathy and Dalene (hopefully sushi).  Tomorrow a baby shower and a hen's party.  Let the weekend begin!!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

late summer escape

A week away with Jan and Ellen in Noetzie is drawing to a close. I think it has probably been 10 years now that we have had the privilege of being invited to this magical place.  After our first invitation I was told, in no uncertain terms that I would not be invited back unless I started playing golf.  That never happened but I proved to be a pretty nifty insect and bug catcher (and drinking companion) so we have been back, many times. Lucky us!

So here I sit, on the deck, in my favorite Adirondack chair, on the last night of our holiday, iPad on my lap (with it's battery rapidly running down), wine glass perched next to me, writing a quick blog to share my pictures and wonderful holiday with you (sharing pictures proving a problem). I am testing the iPad and plan to post this when we reach the top of the hill tomorrow and get cell phone reception.

No electricity, phones or television (or hair dryer). Gas lights, candles and rain water tanks (and kinky hair). A canoe for transport across the lagoon to the sea. Noetzie has been deserted and besides seeing some tourists on the beach we feel as though we have had the whole reserve to ourselves (OK, not so, a troop of inquisitive monkeys have paid us daily visits). We have seen Loeries and Kingfishers, Crows and Cormorants.  Ellen knows her birds.

The sea has been awesome this week.  Great waves and the water the perfect temperature. We had two days of drizzle which provided welcome relief from the hot sun but spoiled the game of golf planned for Michael and Ellen. A lovely lunch at Enrico's was a good substitute (for me anyway).

We ate like kings, drank gins at lunchtime and played cards or just chatted at night. We had afternoon sleeps and still had relatively early nights.  No curtains required so it is like sleeping under the stars.   I finished a book and a half, did crossword puzzles and read the latest magazine.

Our bodies are tanned - mine probably too much. I love the feeling of prickly skin under the hot shower.  A red and peeling nose and forehead on a 55 year old however is not very attractive. So what, I've been on holiday.

So tomorrow morning we will have our last swim, pack up and head home.  A special time in a special place with two very special friends.  Thanks Jan and Ellen.

We found out on Friday morning that our house had been burgled on Thursday.  The power was cut and the house ransacked.  Everything in our bedroom had been turned upside down and pulled out of cupboards and drawers. Gareth's fancy laptop and computer equipment has been taken but our television and other stuff all seems to be there (unless they have come back!!). So it is probably jewelry and cash that they were looking for and Michael is a great one to hide cash in his sock drawer.

They better have left my pile of birthday presents alone!

Back to life, back to reality we go!!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

expect the best, plan for the worst and be prepared to be surprised...

Wise words by Denis Waitley.. always be prepared

I have always been a child when it comes to my birthday and why should this year be any different?  Last week I received a very business-like telephone call from my mother "Jennifer, it is your birthday on Friday, don't tell Dalene that I am telling you, we have already discussed it and have decided that we are going to be giving you a surprise party".  She went on, "Just the usual Christmas crowd (of 22), I will organise the catering and don't argue with me!!".  I did argue "But Mom, Nic arrives on Friday morning and he will want his friends to pop in and see him and have a drink". I was thinking early drinks and snacks for friends, maybe boerie rolls and a bit of a party (not often you have a birthday on a Friday).  "Don't argue with me Jennifer, his friends can make a plan to see him on Saturday".  Now my Mom and Rob are going through a rough time at the moment and Rob starts chemo tomorrow, so I thought it best not to argue with her in her "vulnerable" state.  So I kept quiet and carried on my busy week wondering how the hell I was going to act surprised (my worst) and walk into a dinner party of 22 people, who I usually always see on my birthday anyway.  I did go to the hairdresser on Thursday.

However, I started getting confused on Thursday afternoon.  I had calls from Gareth ("What's happening tomorrow Mom?"), Caroline ("So what are the plans for tomorrow night and what can I do to help?"), Kathy ("What are we doing for your birthday?, How old are we going to be?" (she never knows), Lesley ("One more sleep, whatsup?").  OK, so these 4 are pretty tight with Dalene, they know that I always find out about surprises and these are just red herrings they are throwing (hurtling) at me.  My reply to all of them was "Just the Usual" ("The Usual" being you come around to the home of the person having the birthday for drinks and eats).  When I spoke to Dalene on Thursday night (one more sleep to my birthday), I became really confused. "So what time does Nic arrive? What are you doing for your birthday?"  My reply "11.20, "Just the Usual".  Then the ultimate red herring "Jen, if you want to have it at my place you are welcome".  Hells Bells what are they trying to do to this nearly 55 year old?

I had a bit of a sleepless night, I worked a bit on my "surprised face", spent time checking my Facebook birthday greetings at 3 am and thought that the best thing to do would be to wait for my "usual" 6 am birthday call from my mother when all would be revealed. 6 am arrived and no call from Mommy, (I felt sad and rejected (not really)) and I headed off on my birthday morning walk still oblivious to what surprises awaited me. At 9.30 am I called my mother, so that she could wish me for my birthday, because this was becoming ridiculous.  How much tension can a now 55 year old take?

Just as well I phoned.  It transpires that there was some confusion and mixed communications. Dalene knew that surprise parties were my worst and was wanting to find out what I thought about it and my mother thought Dalene on to it and was inviting the family. 

This was a surprise party with a difference. 

The only person that knew about the surprise party was me - the birthday girl and the person who was supposed to be surprised.  

Well all's well that ends well.  My mother had organised the catering (no mess ups there).  An email was sent to all the family at midday on the birthday, inviting them to the function at my house - the "usual" function that they would always come to (they thought it was "weird").  Nic arrived on time (11.20) from Pretoria (his mother was not there and waiting but was lost in Montague Gardens trying to buy a very special birthday cake), we did some admin and had a doctors appointment, had a lovely sushi lunch and "the usual" noisy family supper around my big table was just perfect.  I did  not have to do anything besides switch on the oven, the food, salads and breads were done by my Mom, Dalene and Kathy. All's well, ends well. A lovely birthday. And a bonus of Janette coming to tidy up on Saturday morning.

But my birthday was not over. Saturday saw an afternoon "tea".  Bubbles, red velvet cheesecake, friends and fun.  I have so much admiration for friends who don't want presents and who would like donations made to charities. How can you not want birthday presents?  A birthday is an excuse to celebrate and not the reason I enjoy having a party (but opening the presents is such fun).  I had a wonderful time opening my pile of presents, arranging them on the table and then photographing them. Maybe I should work in a gift shop. 

What is the correct etiquette regarding the opening of presents?  It would have been difficult to open each present as it was given to me, so they were saved for the end when most people had left and I could relish in the opening. I would have liked everyone to see just how much I loved their gifts.  I am a spoiled girl.

So here are some of them:-

Wayne and Lesley gave me this very special present

Wayne has business to do in Lebanon.  This olive oil comes with a book (almost like a bible) telling you the history of the olive groves where this oil is produced.  There are 16 trees left in the grove and they are nearly 6000 years old - and they still produce olives.  Here is the shortened story.  I can't wait to sample it.

Proteas from Nic, roses from Aimee:-

Lisianthus, flameless candles, a wire rabbit and macaroons:-

Michael and I are heading off this week for Noetzie - our favourite place in the world. Gareth, Hayley and Alfie are house sitting and are going to have to sidestep around my monument of birthday gifts, messages and cards on display in the lounge. They have to stay on show until next week when I return to play with them.  Michael does not think it a good idea to take them with.

Such a child but it is wonderful to have a birthday.

Thanks for the wishes and love.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

when the landlady and the mother collide

The hottest week of the year has been spent getting Albion Road ready for new tenants.  It has been 8 years since I moved out and left Gareth and Nic behind with various combinations of friends and digs mates. 

Gareth has not been there for many years but his legacy lives on. Bookshelves filled with books, over 800 CD's including the complete Bob Dylan collection, cupboards filled with tents, cooler bags and cricket kit, suitcases filled with clothing and a brass bell. 

Nic lived there until he left for Pretoria in January but he had not really 'lived there' as for the last four months he had moved in with Michael and I because of his knee injury.  Not making excuses for him, he could have made a bit more of an effort to sort out his room. He has left behind 7 years of university notes, a cluttered desk (4 staplers!!), 3 guitars, enough odd socks to 'clothe' every one legged man in the world, more books, more CD's, 22 moleskin notebooks, dirty rugby boots and so much more.

And then the housemates.  

James has left behind a beautifully constructed loft bed (in what was my lounge). The loft bed is unusual in that it incorporates an indoor vertical garden.  James has been a great tenant who has shown initiative.  He planted a chili garden and some roses. He managed to get a grenadilla creeper to creep around the courtyard, up poles and along fairy lights (it is however now a dead grenadilla creeper).  So he has left his mark together with some weird art and a handmade steel lamp (and his loft bed).

Kenny - Kenny has left an amazing piece of furniture which Nic was using as a desk.  This beautiful table, I don't think will be able to get out of the bedroom and how it got in would have taken James's engineering brain, lots of manpower and perhaps even the removal of the bedroom door and the table legs. Kenny has left a huge coffin containing cricket kit (I hope), a fancy Bishops ski jacket and a moth-eaten Melton school cricket cap.

Bob - He left the most interesting discovery. An unopened bubble wrapped parcel from a courier company.  It sparked my interest and took quite an effort on my part to open it.  In it were samples of dried fruit and nuts (and a few hundred ants). Mulberries, sour cherries, raisins, Brazil nuts and apricots, all in zip lock bags.  The mulberries were unidentifiable except for the label, the nuts were powdery, the cherries had ants and the dried apricots, the best I have ever tasted.  Bob also left stationery and promotional material  from a well known wine farm, a few Dale Carnegie certificates of excellence and a chest deep freeze.

Christopher. He chose to live in the small room over a guest suite at Steenberg, he came with not much at all but left behind 4 pairs of various different shades of "stone" imported chinos (one ripped from crotch to toe) and a laminated sign reading '8 Maids-a-Milking'.

Then there was Dane and Tim and Grant (who all still have either beer mugs, coffee cups, maps, books or marked socks left behind) and a weird vegan girl who lived with the boys last year.  She left owing some money for rent and James decided to hold the inside workings of her Russell Hobbs steamer as co-lateral. That too remains.

So Albertina, Patricia and I have sorted out the house. The new tenants arrive this morning.  Chris's 'small' room is now the storage room and is now locked and bolted.  It contains the books, cricket kit, guitars, guitar stands, tumble driers, a bed, fridges and freezers.

I have had much fun bringing home the contents of the man-drawers from the desks.  I have thrown away the rubbish and put the rest back in a box, which will be taken back to Albion Road today. Out of the 92 pens, I have found 18 perfect ones, 6 staplers, rulers, too many keys to mention, old wallets, debit cards and a whole lot more.  I am keeping the working pens and 1 of the fancy staplers.

I have found some interesting photographs (some of which have been thrown away to avoid embarrassment) but so many of which have brought back lovely memories of special times at Albion Road.  There are notes, cards and letters sent from two younger brothers who were missing their big brother in London. There are specially made CD's made by the big brother in London and sent to the younger brothers with set lists of songs that were played at certain concerts.

To illustrate my point:-

Our first themed Christmas:-

The "Concert" drawer:-

The "Man Drawer":-

Aubrey's house keys?, more keys, locks, headache tablets, tickets, old watches, always foreign currency and a bicycle puncture kit!!

A love letter:-

Had you worried hey?

Some of the books which I either want back or to read:-

An interesting week in the heat which surprisingly was more pleasure than pain.  

Pictures of Albion Road to follow.  I know you are dying to see the indoor vertical garden!