"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"

Thursday, 30 October 2014

ages and stages

"First you're young. Then you're middle aged. Then you're wonderful."

Such are the wise words of Alice Roosevelt

I love it and especially now, in my mid-50's, when I think that life is speeding by far too fast and time just races away from me, I can't help but smile at how your perception of age changes. 

Turning 30 was probably the hardest as it was suddenly the end of being young, pretty and irresponsible (although I did have 3 sons aged 7, 5 and 4 at the time and had to be somewhat responsible (they would probably tell you differently)).  
The 30's were busy and tough.  I was often so happy and then sometimes very unhappy but I became a great master at hiding the unhappiness.  I loved my boys and motherhood most of all. I loved the sport, the school, being involved and making new friends.  I had a husband who made a lot of money and lost a lot of money. We were either eating fillet, doing game drives and flying in hot air balloons over Mala Mala or having our electricity cut as the bills were unpaid and having to cook mince on a gas burner by candlelight. Mostly my 30's was a jumble of highs and lows. I remember turning 35 and thinking - "Hell my life is half way done".  Middle aged.

The 40's I could also say were busy and tough but with turning 40 came a new stage in my life and that, although hard at times, brought with it a sense of calmness and finding out who I really was, without the pretence of trying so hard to fit and and to be the "happily married southern suburbs housewife". It was a time to realise that having the wedding ring, the house and the husband were not making me happy and that to escape to a rickety cottage on the railway line with my fast growing chickens was probably the bravest and best thing I could have done at the time. The 40's were fast.  A home filled with growing boys and their many friends, a home where peanut butter sandwiches and not ham and cheese sandwiches were now the norm, muddy rugby togs and fund raising for tours, two tubs of yogurt had to last the week and "100 ways with Mince" became my bible. It was a home that is still so close to my heart as it nurtured me through my 40's and told me "everything will be alright".

So I have been young, I have been middle aged and now I am looking forward to the "wonderful" to come. Seeing as Alice lived to 96 it could still be quite a while to wait.

But waiting is fun...

The 50's have been the best so far. I love and am loved by the kindest, funniest and most caring man in the world;  my boys continue, as they have always done, to make me proud of the men they have become; I am blessed to still have my mother on hand to talk to most days and see often; I have an amazing sister and beautiful nieces, and a brother and a step-daughter.  

However, the 50's bring with it one of the most important realisations - your family are your family and will always be; your parents are not unfortunately with you forever and your children start their own lives in their own homes, sometimes far away.  It is actually your friends who you start to appreciate most in your 50's. They have always been there but have perhaps been taken for granted along the way. Now because your family do not take up so much of your time, there is more time for your friends, for making new ones and taking up new hobbies. I have time to walk, time to draw and time to share a lunch, movie or dinner with my friends. There is more honest sharing and less pretending. Unfortunately there are deaths and sadnesses and sicknesses but these too help us grow and learn how to be a friend, how to listen, how to support and how to appreciate all we have.

All pretty wonderful.

Who said growing up was not easy?

Pictures by:  Jenny Kotze at Kirstenbosch

Thursday, 16 October 2014

when flowers don't bloom

One of the things on my wish list has always been to have a home with a Wisteria covered arch or wall.

(something like this)

Well I have the arch and the Wisteria but it has never bloomed. Last month one bloom appeared but only lasted for a day.

The problem, I was told by a professional, is a lack of sun caused by the huge Silky Oak trees on our pathway. We have two of these trees at our front gate and Michael is always complaining about what a mess they make and what ugly trees they are. Can a tree be ugly? It does mess all year round (I'll admit to that) but I love the shapes of the leaves and how they look through my thin muslin curtains in the morning. At the moment they are at their best and are covered in those lovely sticky, orange, caterpillar type flowers (which drop all over Michael's car which now has to stand outside!). 

Last night we had the tree fellow (are you really supposed to say "fella" because he fells trees?) around and I finally agreed that we have one (of the two) removed (so that the Wisteria can get enough sun to bloom next year). Michael is happy. I am not so sure. But this tree man is a good and entertaining "fella" and seems to know what he is doing.

I am also working on a plan to change the garden around completely. We used to have a lovely stretch of lawn (before the trees and shrubs started to grow) but we now have grass that is patchy and won't grow (because the trees have grown so much). My idea is to extend the patio and make the flower beds bigger and use paving stones in between (maybe a pond or water feature or fish pond and of course, a bench under a tree). The gardening books are out and the planning must begin.

This morning when watering the garden (in the gentle drizzle) and admiring my Silky Oak for the last time, I came across some treasure. About two years ago Rob had given me some Amaryllis bulbs. He kept asking me if they were growing and flowering but I had forgotten where I had planted them and had to keep telling him not (I have been known to plant bulbs upside-down). Yesterday, about six weeks after his death, I came across this spot of red. Not a usual colour for my garden as I try to keep things purple and white.

Under normal circumstances plants of colour would usually be removed and put into the "naughty" colourful corner of the garden but I had to stand back and appreciate the beauty of the moment (while some sticky orange petals dropped into my tea cup for the last time).

Such is life...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

sunday is a day of rest...

I worked too hard yesterday so today has been a lazy Sunday.

A very busy Saturday, starting with a lovely long walk and being spoilt with a clear, warm morning and stunning spring flowers in bloom.  Then some time in the garden with our ever, enthusiastic gardener who also helped with the sweeping and clearing out of the garage (not planning to die Gareth, just essential to be able to make room for the new treasures collected from Albion Road). This took up much of the day, with a breather to watch the best tennis match I have seen in ages between Roger and Novac.

The day was rounded off with a lovely house-warming dinner party at my brother and sister-in-law. Lovely food and company but it was late and left me feeling a bit tender today (the lateness causing the tenderness and not the whole bottle of bubbles I consumed).  However, I was not too tender that I could not make my way to the Apple Store to replace my stolen iPad this morning. Not really fair when you only get paid out R7 300 by your insurance for the iPad and have to pay R8 599 for the new one (and no cover). Then, the irritation of waiting in a queue at Vodacom to change a SIM card (they issued me with the incorrect sized SIM), only to find out that I have to do it at my service provider. Anyway the iPad is now up and running and I am so grateful that all my settings could be retrieved. These machines and stuff in the clouds are very clever.

So this afternoon was spent...

Taking pictures of wine bottles with the iPad for my new newsletter, 

and a bit of fiddling and playing with my new art project
the lounge smells of lacquer thinners which is supposed to transfer the pictures on the paper, sometimes I win, sometimes just an inky blob but it is all in the name of art

I think it is the lacquer thinners that made me thirsty. Thirsty for what? Not feeling much like wine today. What about the bottle Ricard I paid a fortune for the other day?  A bit of background:-

My crazy friend Cheryl (the one in New Zealand, remember?) and her husband have just had a wonderful holiday in Europe. For two months we were entertained with her daily diary. Following their travels, what they were eating and drinking and doing was armchair travel at it's best

" and went through the back street markets, which were busy and bustling and shady
.....filled with ice cream parlours, bakeries, butcheries etc....oh and boring clothing and tourist stuff too.....Stopped for lunch and Pastis, I was having withdrawals by now......and Ian even found a bottle store and bought me my own whole new bottle of blue Pastis. The lady in the bottle store smiled sweetly and said "brave"... Ian smiled sweetly and I left them both with their various dreams. So - more walking back to the hotel via the water fountains, and for a cool shower,for Le lobsters one and two.....and we are off again to see some of the night life of Nice......two pink glow in the dark TOURISTS hahah xxx"  

She is home now but her talk of Pastis got me thinking as the only Pastis I know of is that restaurant in Constantia. Last weekend I found myself in a bottle store - don't have to visit them much anymore as my job has certain "perks". While waiting to get the stuff I had hired, I spied the Pastis and remembered the above picture on Facebook. I had to try it (not the blue one unfortunately). 

That evening I made a jug when my mom, Kathy and Dalene visited (they did not seem too impressed) and a second jug was not needed.

So tonight was the night and, not feeling much like wine, I would experiment with a more refreshing drink.

Definitely an acquired taste (I have just poured my second glass as we "speak"). It numbs your tastebuds (and tongue) but I love the licorice flavour, the clean, herby taste on your palate and the fact that it is not sweet. I also decided to do a little research on the product (in case I was making too strong a mixture) and that perhaps you could mix it with something bubbly.

french estate agentsEnter a French bar anytime after 11am on a Sunday morning and you will be hit by a wave of strong-smelling aniseed which wafts from the Pastis glasses lining the bar. For Pastis is a favourite tipple at apero time for many French people. Drunk with a small dash of water which turns the yellow liquor cloudy, it is popular with both young and old, men and women.

The name pastis comes from the Provencal word pastisson, which means a mixture. And although Pastis producers are extremely guarded about their famous recipe, it is understood to be based on a melange of star anise, licorice and a handful of Provencal herbs.
real estate south of francePastis is a derivative of absinthe, a lethal alcoholic drink made from wormwood as far back as the 18th century. It used to be given to patients suffering from rheumatism and intestinal worms but became a bona fide drink when it was discovered by Frenchman Henri-Louis Pernod in the 19th century.
In 1805 Pernod built a distillery in Pontarlier, near the Swiss border, in which he made copious amounts of absinthe for a growing fan club. Over the next century it became hugley popular, with imbibers claiming that the drink was hallucinogenic. property for sale st paul de venceOne such admirer was Oscar Wilde, who wrote: “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful, curious things.”
The drink was deemed so dangerous that in 1915, it was banned by the French government. However, less than a decade later politicians caved in, and allowed absinthe-style drinks to be sold as long as they did not contain wormwood.
A number of anise-based drinks began to creep into bars and homes in the south of France, but none had got the recipe quite right, according to one young man in Marseille called Paul Ricard. The 23-year-old man spent months working on a winning formula, adding different ingredients until in 1932, he got it just right.
Ricard, the son of a wine merchant, started marketing his anise-flavoured drink, Pastis, which he called “the true pastis from Marseille”. After several run-ins with the authorities he was given the right to make and sell the drink in 1938.
In 1951 Pernod launched a counter attack, bringing out his own version of the anise drink which he called Pastis 51. Pernod and Ricard then joined together in 1974 to create the world’s second largest drinks company.
Pastis is now the second most popular drink in France after wine, especially amongst people living in the south, from where it originated.

Seems like I am adding too much water and Oh my word - Absinthe!!

"Compared to other spirits, absinthe is as unique as they come. Absinthe may not have the same effects as certain illegal drugs, but it definitely awakens the senses in a way that no other alcohol truly can. As you sip your absinthe, try listening to a favorite song, or looking through a photo-book. We suspect that the increased sensory awareness – the only true and common effect of absinthe we know of – is what made the drink a hit with artists such as Van Gogh, Hemingway, Rimbaud, and many others (though we don’t believe Van Gogh lost his ear due to an absinthe binge!)

Absinthe need not remain a mystery to you. The experience of preparing, pouring, and drinking absinthe is difficult to describe without resorting to extravagant language, and so we recommend that you see for yourself what all the fuss is about."

So here I sit, busy deciding whether another drink is in order, while writing my newsletter and this blog and listening and singing along to an old Crowded House CD. 

Watch out Hemingway and Picasso (and Edith Piaf), I can multi-task!!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

life is like a box of chocolates (or an ice-cream cone)

I have been looking for something to help me get back in the groove to blog again. I miss it. I miss the interaction. I miss looking for things and writing down little bits on pieces of paper here and there. I miss not having a record of what is happening around me of I am thinking, doing, what music I am listening to and what books I have to read.

No promises but taking little steps to getting back on the blogging wagon.  After all, every child hates to disappoint their parents.  My mother checks my blog every night, to no avail, so also for you Mom.

Reading this late the other night was exactly what I was looking for. 

Life, for the most part, inevitably becomes routine, 
the random confluence of timing and fortune that configures its components all but forgotten. 
But every so often, I catch a glimpse of my life out of the corner of my eye, 
and am rendered breathless by it.

Jonathan Tropper, Everything Changes

Sorry if I still seem to be stuck on the rollercoaster theme but this is exactly what 2014 is proving to be.  

As you get older do you become more accepting of death? When you are close to death and suffering does it make it easier?

How can someone be here one day and the next day gone and nothing stops for a minute?

Death and dying have been on my mind. Not in a morbid way - almost in a good way as I try to make sense of what life is all about. I always imagined for myself a slightly dramatic death (a bit like Steel Magnolias).  With time to tell everybody I loved them, notes to leave behind, make a patchwork quilt, have my cupboards all tidy, garage cleared of collectables that are only precious to me - that kind of thing.  

In the last couple of months I have witnessed my step-dad dying after a year of illness. He was luckier than some but had many weeks to agonise and come to accept and be at peace with the fact that he was dying. It did give him time to say goodbyes, for his family and friends to be there for him but what was it like for him? On the other hand on Friday I heard of the death of a good friend of a friend who went off to pay his usual tennis game on Thursday evening and died. Just like that. No time to even worry about the mess in the garage.

“That's the thing about life; everything feels so permanent, but you can disappear in an instant.” 

Jonathan Tropper, This is Where I Leave You

“And ice-cream cones,' she says. 'What is it with you and ice-cream cones?'
He licks around the edge of his cone as he considers the question. 
'I guess no one ever eats an ice-cream cone at a funeral, or a fire. The Red Cross doesn't drop ice-cream cones into third-world countries. If you're eating an ice-cream cone, it's just very hard to believe that things have gone completely to shit. That there isn't still hope.” 

Jonathan Tropper, One Last Thing Before I Go

I like this Jonathan Tropper, never heard of him before but have just ordered "This is where I leave you". I will let you know what it is like.

As for now - 30 degrees outside and summer has arrived in Cape Town. I am off to sell wine at a waterpolo tournament but am stopping in at The Creamery on my way for a Cookie Dough cone!!

So through all the sad things and hardships around at the moment, isn't it so amazing that there are still so many things that "render you breathless" and that a simple thing like an ice-cream cone is good for your soul.