Tuesday, December 30, 2014

books: 2014

Slipping in just ahead of the new year - my reading list for 2014!

I'm so pleased with myself for sticking with this since last year, and for updating and completing it in time for 2015 ... less pleased that it's been in drafts for months but hey ... it's been a busy year!

Fewer books than 2013 but none-the-less, I'm pleased with myself and spent the year in some very fine company indeed.

Ah reading, where would I be without you?

summer holidaze

I've taken so few photos, most of these are repeats from Facebook. It's a short holiday for me, just two weeks and then I jump straight into utter maniacal craziness until mid-Feb. 
It's been a busy, busy time - but full of beautiful moments.

A girl and her puppy - can you see his smile?

Sisters at play - a self-initiated game that went on until dark fell and the snails were begging for bed.

Special friends being silly.

These two mad things.

The salad selection at our Christmas party earlier this month. Not pictured, the mountain of meat coming in off the braai and the two massive pavlova's for dessert.

Christmas fairies.
Also not pictured:

- many, many swims in various bodies of water.
- me, restarting Serial (I tried just after the Oscar Pistorius trial but I think I was suffering from crime-intrigue-fatigue then) one morning while folding laundry and not stopping until it was DONE, much later that night.
- us, watching Homeland in bed every evening.
- so, so much food.
- so many good friends.
- the inside of my brain, calm and still.

'Til next year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

the best gift of all

Is undoubtedly, sharing Christmas with these two.

Those looks on their faces, as they opened their gifts at my parents' house this evening? They make me feel like that every day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

bitches without borders

A friend who lives abroad messaged me on Facebook this morning to share the link to a blog she'd discovered, a smug, twee, self-aggrandising blog of the kind we just LOVE to HATE.

Mean hey? Narrow-minded and callous and nasty of us wasn't it? Yeah.

What made it even more fun? The blog author works in my friend's building! Yup, it's internet GOLD: discovering the awful blog of an awful colleague. Doesn't get much better than that.

The blog wasn't as bad as this one, but pretty damn close. And we've spent the day in a fine old feast of reading and international bitchin' and googling and bitchin' some more.

My kids have eaten toast all day, I've got a backlog of emails I need to attend to and I just had to rewash a load of laundry because it's been sitting wet in the machine since this morning.

I imagine my friend has been similarly unproductive.

We've basically spent the day leaning over our cyber-picket fence having a good old bitch about the suspiciously-perfect-lady-down-the-street. I love the internet.

What was that about the season of goodwill? I'll get back into that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

love and (no) light

South Africa is currently (electricity-related pun #1) having a Power Crisis. 

Newspapers, dinner parties, online everything - it's all End of Days out there. One, two, three .... Zimbabwe y'all.

And yes, I know it's serious, and yes it's not convenient to lose power in scheduled 2h chunks (excepting when it goes out at 4pm on Fridays - I can kind of live with that), and yes it speaks of Bigger Problems ... but I've just not had a lot of head space for extraneous problems of late. 

We have a gas stove, we have a solar-powered mason jar, we're okay.

And when the lights went out on Saturday evening, we had resident otters visit us on our lawn as the wild yellow moon rose behind them.
We had wild tumbling dogs, skittish and free, to entertain us and bang into our ankles.

We had an enormous girl, all recovered from her tonsillectomy and back on form, chasing miggies in the dark while her sister, sticky and exhausted from a party that afternoon, slumbered away upstairs.

We might not have had lights, but we had a lot of love. And I know which one powers my world.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

all the crazy

I'd written the final To Do list on the back of the in-flight sick bag flying home from Joburg one evening earlier in the week.
Reading through it made me feel vaguely ill.

That Friday I was on fire. Tearing around town with my hands-free plugged in - taking calls, sending docs from Google Drive, answering queries and mails, the pre-event Whatsapp group trilling like an insistent baby bird.
All hail the smart phone.

Meetings, collections, ego stroking, deliveries, putting out fires and lighting new ones.
It struck me I'd never felt so alive while at the same time wanting to die.
That's what event work does for me.

At home the madness continued. Wedding cake prep, food for the kids for the weekend, must do something about my toenails, deworm the dogs, email, email, email.

And into the next morning ...

Kids to my Mum's, frantic working until the very moment of departure - cake and accouterments in the back, me in the middle with lists, dogs scattered about, glad rags carefully packed.

We were off.

Emails and texts from the back seat, bull terrier drool on my contact list, car sickness and an over-riding impatience to just BE THERE.

Finally I sent the last text, we dropped the dogs off at the boarding kennels .... and we were free.

Free to watch our friends commit to each other. To laugh and play with some dearly beloveds. To soak in this view at sunset and moonrise while celebrating life and love.
That's some freedom right there.

Later there was The Cake - so unexpectedly yellow, but so delicious -

- and dancing and margaritas and night swimming and stumbling home to our chalets in big white fuzzy robes.
There was waking to birdsong and a hangover breakfast which couldn't be beat, and a swim in the ocean on our way home.
There was this brief respite before ....

A dawn flight to Johannesburg on Monday morning. A totally moving tribute to the work of the Treatment Action Campaign and a couple of personal tears for the memories of working with them nearly a decade ago - how far they've come, how far I've come!

Work hard.
Play hard.
Loved ones.
Back to me.

These are the recurring themes for 2014. It's been such a good year.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I was in Johannesburg yesterday, just for the day.

A pre-event recce, venue walk-through, planning session, shake 'em up kind of day. I'm coordinating a big event there on the 1st.

I didn't take a single picture because I was moving too fast, and also because Braamfontein's not really the kind of place you take out your camera and linger.

But luckily others have, and I'm borrowing some of their pics here ....

The giant Eland we flashed past on our drive in from the station.

The achingly cool coffee stop where I picked up a delicious Flat White for FIVE RAND LESS than you'd ever buy one in Cape Town.

The colourful buildings I ran-walked past on my way back to the station in the late afternoon, a mix of adrenalin and unease fueling my suspicion that it was a little late to be out walking - the rainclouds looming along with my paranoia.

Other fun things which happened:
Telling someone over the phone to calm the fuck down, in full earshot of the whole office.
Accidentally exposing some massive internal incompetence.
Spilling hot chips down my cleavage in front of the ultra-Orthodox accountant.

I love visiting Joburg, I think I've said this before. And this short jam-packed visit to the inner-city was really inspiring and energising.

I'm back at my desk today. I should be exhausted from a busy day and a late night. But I think I brought some Jozi energy home with me. I feel okay, I feel motivated.
And this is a good thing, because there's fuck loads to do!

Monday, November 24, 2014

the best of times, the worst of times

It's a BIG month of affirmation and freedom for husband and I.

I'm working like a maniac and being appreciated and affirmed daily for the job(s!) I'm doing.

Husband is hooking new clients, building relationships and laying the foundation for a new future for his company.

I had that marvelous girls weekend ....

.... he's still recovering from a wild bachelor weekend ...

I had an exhilarating, exhausting, misty, death-defying, amazing walk up Table Mountain to celebrate a special friend's 40th yesterday ...

... and we've still got The Wedding to look forward to this Saturday. The best of times!

But at the same time ... Frieda's had her tonsils out and it's been a rough week for her the poor, stoic, darling.

The op was last Tuesday and she's still in so much pain ... hardly talking at all and writing the most heart-breakingly sweet notes.

Twelve words to tell me the puppy was looking at her yoghurt. The child clearly misses communicating.
She's missing school, and her friends, and jumping on the trampoline - but she's also been a total hero; colouring next to me while I work, playing games on the tablet, watching lots of crap, thinking, dreaming, cuddling with the cats. She's really handled it so well, but it's not been fun.
The worst of times.

It is weird that we should all be having these vastly different life experiences right now, but it's even weirder that we're able to - that the bonds of parent and child have stretched just that much that we can be experiencing different things, while still being so close together.

With babies and young kids when they're miserable, you're miserable. When they're not sleeping, you're not sleeping. The boundaries between your experience and theirs are virtually non-existent. Now slowly we're able to live our own lives, parallel but individual.

Interesting times.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the very best of friends (vol 4)

We've a best friend, someone we've loved dearly for years (he and husband have been friends since they were 7!).

This guy is special. He was one of these.
One highly eligible bachelor.

But only for another week or so.

There will be a wedding next weekend. One of those where we'll dance with the lightest of feet and the happiest of hearts.

A wedding for all the right reasons - for love, for friendship, for celebrating life - a wedding to bind two people together, and strengthen the ties which connect us all.

But first there was an idyllic beach weekend for the girls, and this weekend there's a river adventure for the boys, and then next weekend, next weekend we dance.

*First pic mine, rest by friends. Gotta love Instagram filters right?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

halloween grinch

I just ... don't really like Halloween.

Most of my reasons place me firmly in the 'old fart' camp, but strangely I'm okay with that.

1. Really? Since when is Halloween a thing?
It wasn't when I was a kid, or even a young adult, or even a not-so-young adult, but gradually the long arm of consumerism has elevated 31 Oct up out of the calendar and into a place in which money must be spent and effort made and something celebrated.
Oh no wait, nothing gets celebrated, except by the manufacturers of candy and fake blood - they're having a lovely time.

2. The candy is gross.
I'm not a sugar nazi. I have a firm suspicion that my youngest (she of the remarkably sweet tooth of course) should probably not eat too much of it, I suspect it makes her bonkers, but I'm not proactive enough to try and ban it and I think I have a pretty standard policy on sugar consumption (ie not enough to ruin dinner and/or make you puke), but I don't like shit sweets.
And because everyone's compelled to buy so much of it to hand out on Halloween, there's usually a lot of shit, fake, disgusting plastic-masquerading-as-candy candy.

3. Scary is not cool.
We live in a country, nay a WORLD that is completely and utterly terrifying on a daily basis. Scary lost its cool in my book a long time ago. Round about when I become an old fart probably.
Ditto: wounds, blood, violent deaths, embracing the dark side, jokes about Ebola, weaponry of any kind.

4. Entitlement is unattractive.
Already our kids, all of our kids, even the really nice ones, are becoming painful about expecting Christmas presents, birthday parties, chocolate at Easter and cash from the Tooth Fairy. Now we're encouraging them to run around with buckets demanding sweets from people not even related to them or obliged to put out because of a complex social code of reciprocal present-giving.

5. It blows.
The wind that is. Late October in Cape Town is howling, throbbing, blasting South-Easter season. An invasive and spiteful wind that chills you to the bone, even when the sun shines, that blows grit into all your exposed orifices (and some that aren't), that ruins your hair and your picnic and your mood.
It always blows on Halloween. Really not a good time to be outside.

HOWEVER, the good news is: there is wine. Plenty of it.

And if you're lucky there are friends who aren't old farts and arrange fun and age-appropriate Halloween events in which you and your children can participate.
Friends who make snacks, and provide safe and welcoming environments out of the wind in which to eat those snacks, and drink that wine, while the sugar-fueled children run amok in the night.

My grinchiness abated .... did a slight encore to accompany my hangover the next morning, and then went back into hibernation until next year.

The Littlest Jaguar and SHOUTY MUM, appropriately wind-swept.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

more about the phone

To reiterate, I'm not one of those Mother Grundies who goes on about the whole phone = zombie thing.
I mean, a second related post in one week doesn't count as going ON does it?

In fact, I loved this meme my sister-in-law posted recently ...

... let's keep some perspective okay?

However, I am more consciously noting in public how many people are busy with their phones. Just noting mind you, not judging.

And maybe I'm being more conscious about pulling out my phone as my default response when waiting, or bored, or when hanging out with friends.

I went partying last Friday night and consciously only took my phone out my bag twice. The first time was to send husband this message:

'Have ditched my lift home. Am officially With The Band. Don't wait up.'

The second was to check his response. It was:

'Rock on.'

This is why I love that man.

I don't have any photos of the evening, no Facebook check-ins or updates, I may even one day (gasp) not remember the evening at all ... but I danced for 4 hours and had some hilarious conversations, face to face.

And only 2 people bumped me on the dance floor because they were texting while dancing ... not judging, just saying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

watch this space

The last watch I owned I was given for my 15th birthday. I wish I still had it. I think the plastic strap eventually perished and snapped after languishing in a drawer for many years.

I'm not a watch-wearer.

Until now.

This morning I bought a watch (the simplest one I could find from the second shop I went into - I'm not a watch-connoisseur).

My reasoning is two-fold:

1. My time management sucks.
2. I'm trying to escape the tyranny of my phone.

We've all seen the campaigns and memes and photo essays about us all becoming zombies, staring at our phones instead of interacting with our fellow human beings etc etc. I don't really buy that too much yet (but we'll talk again when my kids have phones...), and I deeply appreciate how much more flexible my life and my time has become since I'm able to get emails on my phone etc.
When I see someone with their nose in (on?) their phone I like to think they're reading an interesting article, firming up plans to get together with their best friends, rearranging ballet classes so they can have more time with their kids, or checking the time.

Because that's what I'm doing 70% of the times I look at my phone. Checking to see just how late I am.

And, to be completely anal, I've timed myself - to find my phone in my bag, turn it the right way round, wake it up, check the time, turn it 'off' and put it back takes at least 8 seconds. Doesn't sound like a lot of time but it's about 8 times faster to just glance at my wrist.
And then I'm not that guy, the one staring at her phone while the children plead 'Muuuuuuum' and shoppers judgingly veer around us.

So I'll give this watch thing a go.

I probably won't be any more punctual, and I'm sure to get eczema under the strap just like I did 24 years ago, but let's see ....

Monday, October 27, 2014

bright lights, big city

My children have a far, far more urban childhood than I had, but we still don't really do a lot of city-specific outings with them.
They hardly ever go to a mall, virtually never shop with me and we don't do a lot of movies and restaurants and the like.
This isn't so much a big lifestyle decision as a reflection of my lack of enthusiasm for malls and shopping, husband's near agoraphobia in crowds, and a general preference for being outdoors.

So Saturday morning at the V&A Waterfront was a big thrill for the girls. And for me actually.

I would LOVE to travel with them at the moment, proper international travel I mean. We're done with nappies and prams and daytime naps and all that jazz, we're into walking and trying new things and people watching and sight-seeing - it feels like such a good stage for adventuring.

But for now we'll have to make do with being tourists in our own town ...

... sniff-testing every single sample at the Body Shop ...

... getting street 'tattoos'...

... and generally being wowed by it all.

It's a pretty good city to be a tourist in after all!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

how to torment your husband

The back gate is slamming in the wind.

It's after dark and there needn't be any conversation about who is to go out and secure it. Husband knows my fear.

But yet he's stalling, as the gate crashes closed over, and over. And over.

So it starts going something like this ...

Gate: SLAM
Me, on couch next to husband: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'
Gate: SLAM
Me: 'Slam.'

This may be how domestic violence happens.

Luckily not in our household.

Friday, October 24, 2014

into the weekend ....

Midday Friday.

I've banged out 4 hours work without shifting in my seat once (that's a lie, I've gotten up to let at least 35 bull terriers and 27 cats in and out), and now I'm done.

I want to pack all these people in my computer away until Monday. I've done caring for them, organising them, resizing and reframing for them. I've put my thing down, flipped it, reversed it and now I'm outta here.

I turn around at look at my home. It desperately needs hoovering (Albert's still in Malawi!), decluttering. I need fresh flowers, clean laundry and maybe (but who am I kidding here), fewer bullie nose smears on the sliding doors.
Home needs some attention, some love, and it reciprocates so nicely if I give it some, making us all feel welcome and at peace.

It'll be a full weekend - 3 birthday celebrations! - a night out tonight, an art party tomorrow and a family lunch on Sunday, and I'm so looking forward to it.

Time with real people, talking in real life, looking into each others eyes. I need that after a week of screens, screens, screens.

Over and out.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


As Husband pulled into the garage I was waiting, dog leads in my hand.

'The girls have eaten, they need to get in the bath and I need to take the dogs for a walk.'

It had been a long day at home - Frieda has tonsillitis and I have SO MUCH work.

My multi-tasking skills are pretty damn hot, but trying to code HTML while mediating sibling squabbles and work through the rider for South Africa's most famous drag queen proved just a little too diverse for me yesterday ....

The dogs and I set off at a fast trot. It was an unusually still evening and I enjoyed the neighbourhood sounds floating past us - ice tinkling in sundowners, baths running, dinners cooking - I enjoyed not being part of any of that (even the drinks!), moving quickly through the cool air.

Not being encumbered with small people we walked faster and further than usual, finding ourselves in streets and cul-de-sacs I'd not walked through before, and being later than the usual dog-walking set, we were alone.

Or so I thought.


An owl, somewhere close.

I slowed and scanned around the growing dusk, the trees and bushes strangely in sharper relief as the light faded.

Hu - hoooo.

Of course he'd spotted us before we saw him. A-perch a branch only just above my head we stared at each other for a long while, totally motionless and relaxed, then I left him to his evening hunting and walked on.

It was getting darker as we headed home. The shady pathways we'd come on felt closer and more mysterious now, the dogs stayed close, all of us breathing hard.
Those with some sense kept their mouths closed as the clouds of spring midges gathered. The dogs sneezed and coughed.

Approaching home I could see darkness in the upstairs windows, the girls weren't in the bath yet. Half an hour before that would have infuriated me, now it was totally fine.

We burst in the door in a gust of crisp air and renewed good humour, and smothered them in hugs and laughter.

A necessary walk. Thank you owl. Thank you dogs.

*African Eagle Owl pic from flickr*

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

colour me sunday

We did some gardening and Frieda made a nest on the lawn with some branches.

Stella preferred the 'less scratchy' stoep, and made up her own bed there.

I finally (nearly) completed my DIY project - painting some of the cubbies in this bookshelf different colours.
I also succumbed to that incredibly cheesy, but fun, decor thing of colour coordinating the books (well, trying to - I need more blue books!). 

Chopping veggies for stir-fry in the late afternoon sun.

A gentle, colourful Sunday was just what we needed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

muizenberg festival

There was a festival in our hood this last week. Music, art, traders, an Open Studio Tour and more ...

I'm a little burned from the annual Observatory Festival which, while fun in places, general descended into a wind-swept display of public drunkenness and desperation from the crafters who'd been over-charged for their stalls and promised lots of well-heeled customers, not the rabble of students after cheap beer and street people having their best.day.ever - all of it covered in a layer of grime and generally viewed through a plastic shopping bag wrapped 'round your face by the wind.
Get the picture?

But .... Muizenberg Festival was nothing like that. Maybe a little windy, and there may have been some drinking, ahem, but it was largely a community-driven celebration of local talent with a good dose of quirk and lots of fun.

We joined the parade on Saturday morning and frankly, if your heart's not stirred by drums and trumpets and belly-dancers with giant silver wings you're just an old fart really.
Stella hitched a ride on a friendly penguin - my brother, who just got engaged to that lovely lady top right! Happy penguin, happy us!
Then a performance by a children's theatre group, with this astounding heron puppet, and a walkabout Studio tour - 25 stops full of arty and bizarre offerings - and later there were free slush puppies (with optional rum for the grown-ups) and a jumping castle under a sprinkler system for the kiddies in the backyard of one of the local shops.

It felt ... friendly. And that was nice.

And here's a thing ... the couple offering the free slush puppy/jumping castle/kiddie fest (an 'activation' they called it) I realised after a while were this couple, and I was touched and inspired at the proof that life, even when you can't imagine that it will, does go on.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

the BEST thing happened

Last year someone called me a name, I wrote about it here.

It wasn't the name, as much as the circumstances of the calling of it and that it ended up playing out in front of our children which bothered me.

Those children have not been in the same school for over a year now, and to be frank I've not encouraged an extra-school friendship (I think it's pretty clear why right?) even though there have been requests ... basically I managed to avoid the family issue.

Until today.

Today we bumped into the mum and daughter in question and I have to admit our girls got on well and were thrilled to see each other.
While the girls whispered and giggled, we had a drink, eyed each other while making conversation. We were being pleasant and mature. See, I knew we could.

Then ... to both of us, and in front of a friend of hers who'd joined the table:
'Mum, what was that name XXX's Mum called you?'

Silence, and then squeals from the guilty party. 'Noooo, girls, no, how could you bring that up?!'

We should've known the kids wouldn't let us pretend it never happened. We all fell about laughing, at the situation and each other.

Situation defused. Air cleared. And I got my revenge without having to lift a finger.

Children are so cool.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

25 things about right now*

1. From famine to feast - I've got so much work!
2. Just in time for Spring school holidays and the MOST glorious summers days.
3. It's a good life when one is able to spend 3 hours on the beach in the middle of your work day ...

4. Spring at the lake is not all fluffy goslings and pretty flowers though, it's also territorial Egyptian geese trying to drown those goslings and disembowel their parents.
5. My daughters have both had nightmares recently that 'something' has taken me away from them. Related?
6. In the next few months that 'something' will be work, but fortuitously the fantastic au pair I had earlier in the year is available again - she starts next week!
7. I wonder how she is at crafts? I'm still feeling badly about not initiating crafts.
8. Frieda in particular misses it as her school days are so much more academically focused now.
9. But they had a little ceramics painting session at a friend's studio recently, and actually they're really good at getting crafty all by themselves.

10. Husband's been providing some 'crafting' opportunities too ..

How long 'til she designs her own tag you think?
11. This pup is just growing and growing. We got him de-knackered last week poor guy.

12. This hasn't stopped him 'trying to have a piggy-back' on Lego though ... hopefully that urge will recede with his shrinking balls.
13. The day I took him to the vet the traffic was murder and I ended up walking the last block or two to get there on time. He was freaked out by all the cars and I had to cajole and drag him along, the bright red lead in this picture reduced to a short, dirty, knotted thing after our camping weekend. It suddenly struck me that had I been black, most of the people witnessing us would've assumed I'd stolen him. That's #whiteprivilege right there folks.
14. On the subject of privilege, Albert is still not back. As my workload increases our house descends into disheveled madness.
15. Not helped by a couple of mad DIY projects I've started and ... have I mentioned my completion problem?
16. We went camping!

17. Have I mentioned how much I love camping?
18. I LOVE camping. Even with strep throat. And one sick child. And a crazed puppy. And a pig which wandered around driving both dogs to new heights of craziness. And it rained a little. But still: LOVE camping.
19. When else do you find time to just lie about together? Especially the girls with their Dad.
20. Because honestly we're pretty good at lying around together in general. I sometimes wish we were a 'climb every mountain ford every stream' family, but truthfully, we're pretty slothful!

21. I am in awe at the beauty of my girls these days. I know this is a parental prerogative but seriously, how flawless the skin, how clear the eyes, how shiny the hair? How uninhibited? Magic.
22. This one has been throwing some interesting thoughts at me lately ... 'Mum, if a boy marries a boy they can't have the sex hey, because - too bad - no vaginas!' Luckily she didn't really pose this as a question, and wandered off afterwards. Am I prude for not wanting to discuss homosexual sex with my 4 yr old?
23. We've been reading a lot of Famous Five. I was worried that it would all be too old-fashioned and sexist but actually it's been a big hit. The girl/boy George is particularly topical and they're all jolly good sports which is good right?

Photo by Stella, dirty thumbnail (not mine!) courtesy of camping.
24. But Five Run Away Together revealed some troublesome classism - a lot of good servant/bad servant stuff - luckily as the primary readers we still get to skip read problematic lines.

25. Excitingly there's lots of this happening though. She's got the Reading Fever - can't help but read everything her eyes fall upon. Soon we won't be able to censor her texts as much, but how wonderful to see her embark on this life-long joy!

And a bonus one ... what is it which draws us to photograph food? Even when camping!

*because that's how busy I am!