Tuesday, December 31, 2013

books: 2013

For the first time in years I kept a list of everything I read this year. Read to myself that is.

Not only did I keep a list but I got it updated in time to start again on Wednesday! Amazing.

Also amazing is that I read 36 books. Me, the person who never thinks I've enough time to read. 36 of my own books plus about 600 kiddie's books - they count right?

According to this article one's brain function is boosted for up to 5 days after reading a novel. If I count mine, and generously amalgamate all the children's books into, say, 100 novels ... then I had 680 days of super-intellect this year!

That sounds about right. Right?

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

sentimental old fart

So we've been sickly, husband and I, and the girls have been amazing (I know I've mentioned all this), and now we're on the mend and re-emerging back into the world. And, as always when I've been ill, feeling a little tender and fragile in the harsh public eye.

In retrospect (always right?), there was something very special about 4 days, at home, with my beloveds, especially at this mad time of year.
My girls are doing such a giant leap forward at the moment, their little downy chick feathers starting to hold them aloft for short spans of time.
Frieda is off for her first sleepover tonight. At the home of a friend she's had since toddlerdom, good people, a safe comfortable home. She left with enthusiasm, excitement and that slight tightening round the mouth that I know as apprehension. A little delicious nervousness like listening to a scary story - enjoying the thrill in the knowledge that it's all going to be okay.

I, of course, felt completely sentimental. Had to keep my sunglasses on while hugging her goodbye, felt like moping a bit when I passed her empty room earlier.
She's been sleeping over at Granny's since she was 2, she's just a few suburbs over for goodness sake. I've a friend who's just dropped her teenage daughter off for her first wild summer holiday in the same stomping badlands of our youth, Julie's daughter is off skiing in the Alps, but I'm feeling miz that Frieda's spending one night in the home of her good friend just down the line.

Get a grip.

I didn't really think we could spend the rest of their lives here, altogether, them near naked and innocent, the sun shining, watching and reading things we'd chosen, talking and listening to each other, having cuddles and giggles and arguments and games - just the 4 of us (and a squillion snotty tissues).
But for a little while it seemed maybe we could ...

they can have it

In So Much for That, a Lionel Shriver novel I recently read, there's a wonderful paragraph towards the end where the main character - his wife is dying, he's lost his job, his life's ambition is slipping away from him - makes a list (I love a list).

'Thank-you notes and surreptitious sponging of gravy stains; heat-crimped packaging that only opened with pruning shears, and incompatible software. Ramadan, Columbus Day, and picnics. National self-determination, recipes for banana bread, and Amazon.com. Bungee-cord jumping, suicide bombing, and falling in love. Space stations, purdah, and male pattern baldness. Right-to-life protests, self-defrosting refrigerators, and hemlines; Christmas-tree air-fresheners, presidential assassinations, and ten-year retrospectives on the fall of apartheid. Micro-lending, woodworm treatments, and anti-vivisection leagues. West Bank settlements and genetically modified cron; nuclear antoproliferation states, National Salt Awareness Week, and fluoridated water. Narco states, dust ruffles, and bus shelter vandalism; lucky numbers, favourite colours, and button collections. Tribal scarring and Polka Album of the Year Awards, tea ceremonies, buzz cuts, and alternative energy. Feature films, the Fifth Amendment, and weather forecasts; Arctic exploration, affirmative action, and cell phone contracts. The South Beach Diet, elder abuse, and the Battle of Waterloo; burkhas, bedsteads, and the designated hitter rule; heirlooms, insoles, and the European Union. From IEDs, GDPs, and MP3s to Gore-Tex, gas shortages, and gardening tips; he was sick of it, man. Of people and their shit.'

What I wouldn't give to be able to write like that.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

my guide to a non-religious christmas

~ embrace the magic
~ be very proud when your youngest is chosen to be Mary in the (very secular I might add) school play

~ put up a tree
~ do a homemade advent calendar
~ sing Christmas carols
~ express gratitude
~ make Christmas Crack (aka English Toffee)

~ give freely to those less fortunate
~ watch Love Actually
~ be spontaneous, silly and generous, all because it's Christmas
~ make it mermaid themed

~ really look at the first picture, see the wonder and awe with which they're all looking at the baby.
Remember that Christmas is about rebirth, new beginnings, children, family, love, respect and admiration, celebration.

Well, that's how I do it anyway. Hope you've all had a good one.


A mid-summer, mid-season, mid-holiday head cold. Oh fucking joy.

Husband and I both.

On Boxing Day, after a gentle, lovely, but busy Christmas, we were only too pleased to be lounging around - reading books and eating chocolate and playing with new toys and suchlike.
Today, the novelty has severely worn off.

I get why some friends deactivate their Facebook accounts this time of year. If you're not having the Best Holiday Ever then the endless feed of Plett/Llandudno/sundowners/poolside/cocktails/roadtrips/bikinis can really get you down.

What's not getting me down however, are my children. My god they've been amazing. For sure there's a bit of cabin fever ... and I feel badly that we're not on the beach or up the mountain or on the water or making meaningful family memories besides reading Little House on the Prairie and watching The Long Way Down (wait, I think those are family memories actually) ... but they seem completely happy to play with each other. New paddling pool, mermaid Barbies, bows and arrows, Lego, camping on the lawn and gathering 'winter stores', feeding ducks, and mainly - playing with each other.

We may be sniffling and sneezing and feeling sorry for ourselves, but they're having a summer holiday. The old-fashioned way.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

a day

Today I did the school run for the last time this year. Then I collected a loaned pram, for my poor youngest with a massive roastie on her knee.
A quick lunch and then to the train (her first time!), with my parents and friends, to town for a final Madiba send off.

We didn't get tickets for the stadium event alas, but we walked through town and talked, and thought and remembered, and educated.

They are so young, but I hope they remember. 

And even if they don't, one day they will understand and be able to say, 'I was there.'

Sunday, December 08, 2013

sad and sticky

I'm not ready to talk about Mandela.

Friday was a big day, and I've spoken about my sorrow here before. When I remember that he's gone my heart feels like a balloon, hollow and tight, a feeling I thought was reserved for losing someone closer to me.
Turns out he was that close, to us all.

It was a weekend of comforting things, I'm glad for that.

Husband has a fantastic relationship with food. He loves to eat it, but more especially (as Stella's nanny used to say), he loves to make it.
He cooks, or bakes, to relax. To experiment, to learn, to laugh. To eat.

He grew up in a house in which home-made was a matter of fiscal and domestic pride, his parents were great canners and preservers. They were into food too.
One of my favourite stories from his childhood is how my in-laws used to make their own stash of individual pies. A towering stack of silver foil pie dishes were procured, and a great pie-making project begun - everything from the crust to the filling made from scratch, the completed products stacked in the freezer with pride.
Mostly made from the foods they grew, reared, or ... caught.
Apparently tortoise pie is not to be recommended.

But home-steading's in the genes and over the years he's perfected his bread-making skills, researched and made exotic things, and 'put by' a fair amount of goodies - from pies (pork and fennel for us thank you), to jams and relishes and currently, ginger and buchu beer.

After brewing it all weekend, we bottled it up a couple of hours ago. A couple of hours later, and we've just finished mopping up our sticky kitchen and releasing the pressure on the remaining bottles.
It's fiery stuff this ginger beer.

Making stuff, using our hands, filling our bellies - this is how we find comfort.