Taking Stock {February}

  • Making : Baby blankets for a a few friends…no pictures to share because then it won’t be a surprise!
  • Cooking : From the freezer…. made a lovely pork fillet stirfry the other night.
  • Drinking : G&Ts, hot tea, water!
  • Reading: Gods Behaving Badly
  • Wanting: just one good stretch of sleep

  • Looking: Forward to a visit from Mom
  • Playing: around with back-button focusing on my camera. When I actually pick up my camera….
  • Wasting: Lots of food on a certain Little Man who is refusing everything but yoghurt at the moment…
  • Sewing: Do little pouches for oak shaving count? John’s infusing home-made brandy.
  • Wishing: For this year to slow down a little!

  • Enjoying: Cooler weather, misty mornings.
  • Waiting: For a hair appointment…
  • Thankful: That Little Man seems to be coping a bit better with his separation anxiety.
  • Wondering: If I should make a milk tart this evening..apparently it’s National Milk Tart day today…
  • Loving: Secretly loving Sunday night load-shedding. A chance to read and relax and unwind.

  • Hoping: For a dedicated group of ladies to come to my pilates classes!
  • Marvelling: at {these guys}…wow!
  • Needing: New running shoes…
  • Smelling: Puppy breath
  • Wearing: Comfy shoes, jeans and a jersey

  • Noticing: A chilly butterfly waiting for the sunshine.
  • Knowing: I need to start studying anatomy for pilates exams!
  • Thinking: About next week’s menu so I can make a grocery list…

  • Bookmarking: This amazing sounding chicken & rice bake. {Recipe here}
  • Opening: A big box of Astros….shhhhh!
  • Giggling: At itty bitty burgers…

A Family Gathering

Last weekend my husband’s Grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday. It was, as you can imagine, an amazing opportunity for her family to gather and celebrated. She has four children, all of whom where there, most of whom brought their spouses. All but 2 of her grandchildren were there, and all but 1 of her great-grandchildren too! People travelled from Canada, Kenya and all over South Africa. Throw in assorted spouses and friends-who-are-family and there were between 25 and 50 people there to celebrate an amazing lady. I was one of 3 who didn’t speak and Afrikaans, not that it mattered. Family and the importance of family transcends minor matters like a shared language.

We left Grahamstown very early on Friday morning for the long drive. A few quick stops along the way to allow for nappy changing and leg stretching (and to find fuel at the ‘tourist garage’ in Wepner…the Freestate is a special place!). We made it to our destination just after lunch. We set up our tent and then wandered around exploring the campsite.

We stayed at a very quirky spot near Ficksberg in the Freestate called Hoekfontein Ox Wagon Camp. We took along our own tent and camped alongside the authentic (ad I think, original?) ox-wagons which have been retrofitted with bunk beds and double beds. It’s very rustic, think bucket showers (through fortunately hot water is provided thanks to gas geysers!) with a tiny kitchen rondawel. Most of the meals were braaiied though and there was an {over} abundance of food!

While we waited for the rest of the family to arrive we went off to find what passed as the ‘pool’. A concrete reservoir filled with pumped water. When we went it was only about 30cm deep, perfect for Little Man to wade around in and for us to have a  quick dunk to cool off.

Later that evening introductions were made. Grandpas dished out cuddles and stories were shared around the braai. John’s Aunt & Cousin went to amazing lengths to make the whole weekend really special. Table decorations, fairy lights, amazing food and salads.

Little Man slept really well (well, for him) and we were all up bright and early the next morning. It was a very relaxed weekend. Ambling from meal to meal, chatting and catching up in between. Saturday night was the big party. Johns’ Uncle did a whole lamb on the spit (there was supposed to be a pig too!). I crawled into bed with Blake around 11pm, but some only made it to bed around 2am!

The next morning was a slow start. A wonderful tea and packing up the tent before saying our goodbyes. We spent Sunday evening at John’s aunt’s house in Ficksberg. The perfect way to unwind and relax. A chance to spend some quality time with immediate family and the Canadian contingent.

We left after breakfast to head back home. A very hot drive relieved only by the best layby in South Africa. A windmill pumps into a reservoir on the road-side of the fence. The determined can scramble up and over the side into the clean, and more importantly on a +40C day, cold water. The bottom and sides are a bit slimy…but we’ll just ignore that!

 

The drive home was mostly uneventful.; just very hot A funny vibration in the car developed about 30km from Cradock so we stopped to check it out. Turns out the rear right tyre had partially blown thanks to heat stress. Yes really. It could have been a lot worse! Luckily we spent 30mins getting the alignment checked and a new tyre fitted and we were on the road again.

A really wonderful weekend! I’m looking forward to having a few weeks to relax and be at home before my Mom comes for a quick visit towards the end of March.

Six | 52

A portrait of my child each week in 2015. Joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

DSC_0072

Yes more swimming! Summer is so hot and it’s such a relief to dip into cold water! This time it was in an old reservoir on a farm. It was only just hip deep on you, ideal for wading around and splashing! We were there to celebrated your Great-Granny’s 90th birthday. A wonderful gathering of family from far and wide. Your first time camping too! There were so many photos I could have chosen, but I liked this one the most. The T-shirt is most appropriate.

{Last Year}

Pilates and Puppies

Way back in 2012, just before I went to Denmark, I was invited to join in with a pilates instructors course. Pilates has been life changing for me. I was a springboard diver for most of my teen years and the focus on abdominal and shoulder strength left me with a very weak back. It got to the point where I was taking 5 or 6 neuofen a day just to cope. Which was not such a great idea. I eventually went to see a biokineticist for some basic rehab and strengthening. She referred me to a pilates studio. That was back in about 2010 and I’ve been going ever since. (I even did a class the day before Little Man was born!) Anyway, back in 2012 I didn’t have the money or time to do the course. And then I was pregnant. Or in the States and so it’s taken me until now to get around to doing the course!

My local studio (Natural Affinity) hosted an internationally accredited instructor/trainer, Lisa Palmer, who is based in Port Elizabeth at The Movement Lab. I’ve just completed the taught component of the Intensive mat course. It was a full week of pilates workouts, anatomy, more pilates, practice teaching, more exercise, more anatomy, and amazing carrot cake. Now I have to complete a certain number of hours practice teaching, observing and actually doing the exercises myself; before I can take the exam to become a certified instructor. I next few months I’ll be learning all the major muscles of the body, where the are, what they do and how to spell their names (illiopsoas, rectus femoris, multifidous….). I’m so thrilled I’ve finally got to do this course!

~*~

In other news, we have added another 4-legged family member. She is a SPCA-special x Golden Lab. And as of tomorrow she’ll be 5 weeks old! So far so good, a few accidents, a couple of 3am playtimes, but she mostly sleeps and eats. She has no name as yet, many that have been suggested, none that seem to fit!

 

 

Five | 52

A portrait of my child each week in 2015. Joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

Every child needs a motorbike.An impulse purchase which has already provided hours of entertainment; even if your legs need to grow a bit longer. Pushing it around is just as much fun!

It’s been a busy busy busy few weeks so this shot is off my phone.

This time {last year}

Taking Stock {January}

I hope to do these little reflective posts once a month….but no promises!

  • Making : A crochet baby blanket for a dear friend far away
  • Cooking : Chickpea curry for dinner, a Meatless Monday endeavour.
  • Drinking : Ice-cold G&Ts, home brewed beers, lots and lots of water.
  • Reading: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, The Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
  • Wanting: A new fridge
  • Looking: forward to a big family gathering, camping with Little Man for the first time
  • Playing: Candy Crush (yes to my shame), Plants vs. Zombies & SimCity.
  • Wasting: Time playing Candy Crush, Plants vs. Zombies & SimCity!
  • Sewing: Nothing yet, I hope to make some curtains soon. Just as soon as the well-travelled sewing machine makes it home!
  • Wishing: Always for more hours in the day

  • Enjoying: Learning all about pilates! 
  • Waiting:
  • Liking: The cooler weather today
  • Wondering: If I can actually get through and teach a whole pilates class!
  • Loving: Beautiful misty mornings, the cool before the heat of the day.

  • Hoping: Little Man’s molars pop out soon. He’s so grumpy poor thing.
  • Marvelling: At how fast puppies grow!
  • Needing: New basic pieces for my wardrobe….I purged A LOT before Christmas!
  • Smelling: Fresh cut lawn, a perpetual scent in summer
  • Wearing: Yoga pants and a t-shirt. All the better to move in.

  • Following: I got nothing…
  • Noticing: How the sun is setting sooner and sooner.
  • Knowing: More about muscles, movement and anatomy than ever before.
  • Thinking: About cake for tea at work!
  • Feeling: Tired.

  • Bookmarking: All the yummy things from How Sweet Eats
  • Opening: Belated birthday gifts for Little Man.
  • Giggling: At a silly joke shared this morning:

“Hows the diet going?

Not good. I had eggs for breakfast

Scrambled?

Cadburys.”

 

Conamara, Nyanga

Forgive the photo overload…sorry, not sorry!

There is something special about returning to a childhood holiday destination with your own {extended} family. Grandparents, sons and nephews; aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters. I remember the holidays of my childhood. A small cottage perched in a clearing in the pine forest, a small orchard. Days of mist and drizzle. Walks through the woods around the dam, frozen fingers and toes thrust squealing, into a steaming hot baths. Ranks of shoes and socks arranged around the fireplace. Endless days to read books and learn to play rummy.

Nothing has changed. The smell of damp pine needles and wood smoke is the same. Drops of water hangs from every fern frond, coating the grass with a silver sheen.  The potholed tar road slips in and out and around the hillsides. Views of the distinctive silhouettes of twisted m’sasa trees; now green and lush after their flaming red spring flush appear. Layers of flat top acacia canopies, that most classic of African trees, here punctured by tall, straight emerald pines and shouldered aside by smooth granite boulders. Slick and dark in the swirling mists. It is still and quiet. We turn up to a new cottage, not the one of my youth. The slippery red clay roads rutted and running with rain for the earlier storm.

We unpack the cars and set a pot to brew. The water here tastes of crushed gorse; it’s natural colour stained with tannins and it has a distinctive earthen smell. Toast made over the flame on the gas stove; one of three in the cottage (gas, electric and a gorgeous old Aga). No electricity.

Mist turns to rain and dances across the surface of the lake. Dabchicks witter and whistle; chasing each other across the still grey surface. A teal lurks in the reeds. A lone fisherman performs a part-de-deux at the end if the quay. Twisting and turning, a thread of sinking line turning to gold in a sudden shaft of sunlight. The carefully tied fly flicks through the air, the line curving back and forth before being allowed to fall to the waters surface. The gentle suggestion of a late afternoon snack, ignored by Mr. Trout. Later on a wee amber dram and tales of more fruitful fishing expeditions.

My BIL…he was cold!

A roaring fire, even in December, the height of summer. Wet shoes arranged just so, steaming off the damp from the afternoons walk. Cold diners wrapped around a mug of tea. Cold toes wrapped in warm dry socks. This is unchanged from my youth. My son is mesmerised by the flickering flames. freshly bathed, I’m sure his fingers and toes tingled in the steaming hot water.

Starting the year with intention. A 4.5km walk around the dam. Rain in my face. Little Man snug and asleep against my back. Trampling along, wet grass becoming puddle becoming streams. A startled Hammerkop and a chilly butterfly brief highlights. As was the splash and laughter of someone else falling in the dam!

It rained and rained and rained some more. Occasionally the mists would lift long enough to confirm that there was in fact a dam at the bottom of the garden. It’s shoreline advancing inexorably toward the house. And still it rained.  Long term forecasts were frowned at; fly rods stood at the ready their owners impatient for any break in the weather. Even a stretch of slightly lighter drizzle would do. Concerns were raised; reasonably so; about the probability of the small 2WD vehicle getting stuck in the mud on the road out. And so, that, coupled with cabin fever drove us to pile into the cars. A trip to the local hotel for tea was the objective. In it’s day, it was The destination in the area.

The new cottages at Troutbeck Hotel

The slippery red mud almost prevailed. Skillful driving; a few extra helping hands; a tow-rope, a leading bakkie* with diff-lock and a certain deafness to the grinding of the undercarriage on hidden stones saved us from an even more adventurous tale. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of our predicament nor our triumph. Regardless, we did sacrifice two floor mats and most of our presentability by the time we arrived a the hotel. Tea by this stage was lunch. The grand old hotel looking tired and in need of some maintenance and TLC. The log fire in reception still burning (as it has been since the 1950s), but the frilly floral light fixtures in the glass sunroom have been replaced. Lunch consumed, cabin fever assuaged, small people burnt off some energy. An executive decision was taken to leave the less suitable car in the parking lot and shuttle everyone back home.

A day of lighter rain encouraged a quick sightseeing/geocaching trip. Revisiting childhood attractions, such as they are up here. Worlds View, truly one of the best. A stop at the kiosk in hope of fresh bread and milk, no such luck. We passed on the kapenta and mopane worms. Then back home again in yet another down pour.

The rain lifted one afternoon, fly rods snatched up in a hurry. Little people fearlessly following in their fathers sloshing footsteps. The trout were still saited, and so fly rods were abandoned in favour of frogging. Once you see one, suddenly you see hundreds of jewel green frogs (Hyperolius spp**, top row.), long legs and toes clinging to blades of grass. Tiny brown Cacosterum (spp**) singing far louder than you’d think it possible for such tiny creatures to sing! Lightening fast Ameitia angolensis (bottom far right) and impossibly decorative {endemic} Swynnertons Reed Frog (Hyperolius swynertonii, bottom left).

Conamara New Year's-001

Soak through, stripped off in from of the fire, another of those toe-tingling baths. Whiskey and storytelling. A small boy bundled up in my bed.

Yet more rain sent us home to Harare a day early. It’s still one of the best trips we’ve ever had to the Eastern Highlands.

* a pickup

** We’ve sent photos off to our friendly herpetologist hopefully they’ll be enough to make a definitive ID.

Christmas 2014: Part 2

Many many photographs ahead…you’ve been warned!

Though we have put down roots here in Grahamstown, there will always be a part of me that feels that Zimbabwe is home. I grew up there, leaving only to come to University in 2002. My parents still live in the same house that they moved into in 1989. The garden has changed and the house has been improved and redone but in my mind and my heart it is still home.

So it would be an understatement to say that I was looking forward to the trip home for Christmas. Meeting up with my Sister, BIL and Littlest Nephew; Mom & Dad, Aunts, Uncles, cousins and family friends who might as well be family all in attendance. As excited as I was, I was also quite anxious. My Mom is facing some health issues and the worry was getting to me. I just wanted to see her and give her a big hug! Those worries did dampen the Christmas feeling quite a lot. She is doing well, but still has a long road ahead. And that’s all I’ll share about that.

ANYWAY, we arrived, minus one bag (all our clothes) but fortunately all the gifts, and more importantly all of Little Man’s nappies arrived safe and sound. (Our bag arrived, miraculously intact, the following day.) We set up the tree on Christmas eve, my BIL has hidden talents, while the Littles ate the decorations.

Little Man experienced warm rain for a change. He was fascinated. He also LOVED having a huge garden to explore. I love that you can see him almost anywhere in the front garden so I’d sit on the verandah with my G&T and watch him toddle around. Perfection.

Christmas Day the family assembled, Dad perched on the Batonka stool, as has become traditional. With a Santa hat on. Gifts were distributed, many mince pies consumed, coffee may or may not have been laced with a bit of whiskey. Mayhem ensued. Dad and Uncle retreated to their domain, to prepare a fabulous brunch.

One food coma later, we were lazing around while preparations were made for supper. The rain spoilt plans of a dip in the pool, not that Little Man was  deterred. He quickly figured out how to stick his legs through the pool net and splash his feet in the water.

 

Boxing Day say us christen my Dad’s mini 9-hole golf course. My parent’s have an amazing garden. 2.5 acres; big enough that I practised my driving around it! We all contributed several packs of plastic practise balls, a sand wedge and a pitching wedge seemed to be the clubs of choice. A forfeit potion was concocted (brandy, cream, condensed milk, cinnamon…!) and we tee’d off. After the first 2 holes the score sheets had substantial standard deviations so we settled for a prize for ‘Most Golf” and retreated to “the hanger” while the heavens opened (again).

After Christmas, we had a family photoshoot with Mana Meadows (a Christmas gift to my parents from us kids), and then we headed up to Nyanaga for fly fishing and New Years…a trip which requires it’s very own post!

We sadly saw my Sister, BIL and Littlest Nephew off on the 7th but not before we finally managed to sneak in a few swims.

Little Man is a proper water baby and has absolutely NO fear when it come to stepping off into deep water! We settled into a post-Christmas lazy holiday feel. Feeding the birds and the fish in Grandpa’s pond and visiting a few places around Harare.

The Harare Botanic Gardens are/were an amazing place. Sadly overgrown and in need of love, nevertheless we had an enjoyable walk. Made all the more so by spotting lots and lots of flame lilies (Gloriosa superba), Zimbabwe’s national flower.

We headed out for lunch and enjoyed some delicious burgers and wandered around the ‘mall’ of my teenage youth. Now much bigger and busier than I remembered! Grandpa sent instructions to buy the Little Ones some toy cars so we did. The days begun to blur into swimming, braaiing, and being lazy.

Oh and don’t forget, playing on Grandpa’s desk and work bench!

One more quick morning visiting Mukuvusi Woodlands and then it was time to pack up and say goodbye. It was the most wonderful trip we’ve had in a long time.

An uneventful trip home (all suitcases arrived on time!) and it was straight back to work!

Four | 52

A photo of my child, once a week for 2015, joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

Yes, another swimming photo! We visited Kim & Andy at their holiday home on the West Kleinemond river. The water was delightful and we all swam twice that day. You, of course, fearlessly wading in after your Dad.  I love you cheeky monkey face in this shot. There is nothing that induces a good nights’ sleep like lots of sun, sand, and swimming!

{Last year}