I’ll listen more and speak less.
I’ll speak kindly to a stranger.
I’ll release a grudge.
I’ll pray for someone no-one likes, including me!
I’ll apologize if I’m wrong.
I’ll encourage an older person.
I’ll gladden the heart of a child.
I’ll give a soft answer, even if I feel strongly about something.
I'm currently writing my blog from my cottage in the Drakensberg, Champagne Valley, Kwa-Zulu Natal; South Africa
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I’ll listen more and speak less.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Live and Let Live
This past week of Christmas celebrations and family gatherings has really made me appreciate my garden, the weather and nature more than ever. We’ve spent every possible moment in the garden with my MIL and her husband and various friends and family who’ve popped in. We’ve had morning coffee in the garden; later we’ve enjoyed breakfast together under the umbrella at the garden table. A few necessary chores indoors and then back into the garden it is for morning tea!
A peaceful and calm setting for family and friends' gatherings
Salads and cold meat (yummy left-over Christmas gammon) served al fresco just cannot be beaten. Later after an afternoon siesta - the weather is incredibly hot at the moment - I’d serve afternoon tea ... you guessed it - in the garden!
Contrary to popular belief, snails do not destroy a garden
While we’re all enjoying freedom and the garden, the snails and other creepy crawlies in my garden are also allowed to live. Regular readers to this blog will know that I do not use poisons/ insecticides in my garden; not only that: I leave everything alone in my garden, not least the common garden snail. (You can read about the wildlife in my garden here) Ironically these little creatures are not out to destroy my whole garden. I have one section in my front garden where the snails can be seen crawling up the wall after a shower and a few Acanthus mollis bear the brunt of their hunger. Last week my husband erected a sign to mark their special place in my garden: "Snails Pub & Grub"...
Healthy blooms abound in my garden
Sunday, December 28, 2008
A Practical Christmas
So while I cannot do much more for the masses than pray for them, I’m sure the people who are close to me and help me so well all year, were able to have a good festive time with their own loved ones.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Christmas Means Rebirth
Friday, December 26, 2008
A Wonderful Christmas Day
Afternoon tea in the garden on Christmas Eve
Hubby and me on Christmas Eve
My MIL, her husband and my husband; you can see by the amount of gifts we don't have children/ babies in the house !
Christmas Lunch was a resounding success
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Warm Potato Salad with Dijon Mustard
It's Christmas and for the first time in nine years my husband is home, We're hosting Christmas dinner. I perused my recipes to try at least one different salad as an accompaniment to the two meats I’m preparing. Yes, as a vegetarian, I prepare meat dishes, cook meat dishes, serve meat dishes. All I don’t do is eat them! I’ve also stuffed the chicken with a completely different forcing. It is my own deduction of a ready- made potted stuffing I saw on the shelf in the supermarket. If it tastes good, which I’m sure it will, I’ll post the steps/instructions.
Now back to the salad. Three months ago I was asked to make a potato dish for lunch that our church was serving for a group of delegates after a regional meeting. I found two recipes on the Internet which looked interesting so I amalgamated them. Viola! The perfect recipe. It looked and tasted divine. It is also one of those recipes that you look at, taste and say to yourself, “Mmm, delicious, but next time I’ll add this or that...”
You can serve it with crispy fried streaky bacon as a starter, or upgrade it to a main meal by adding lamb shanks, Eisbein, smoked pork sausages or even smoked chicken.
Warm Potato Salad with Dijon Mustard
20 baby potatoes
2 red onions, sliced
8 black olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons soft, sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoon capers, well drained
5 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup fruit chutney
1/3 cup low-oil salad dressing
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
15ml white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard (I used Hot English Mustard)
1 pickled gherkin, patted dry and finely chopped.
Mix all ingredients except for the potatoes and set aside. (Don’t refrigerate)
Boil potatoes in salted water until just done.
Spoon the warm potatoes into an earthenware casserole dish, pour sauce over and garnish with fresh parsley.
I've been up since 4am. I roasted the chicken; (remember, hubby - no eat turkey) and it's waiting to be carved by himself. I've also cooked a huge gammon and will glaze and decorate it with pineapples rings and cherries in a minute. Then it goes back into the oven for that delicious browning until it resembles rich toffee. I've kneaded dough for my special Foccacia; I'm waiting for it to rise. MIL (read Mum-in-law) is making her delicious lemon meringue pie. DIL (yes, that's right, daughter-in-law) will be here mid-morning to help set the table.She does it beautifully. We're placing all the cold meat and salads on the top of the pool table and serve it buffet-style. SIL (mmm, you know the drill by now) is bringing a Malva pudding. (a scrumptious baked pudding with a sticky sauce)
The other guests arrive at 12.30 and we'll have another spate of gift opening.
Last night MIL, her husband, my husband and I exchanged gifts. Great fun. I gave hubby a framed collage of his favourite wife (how about that for being in-your-face? Ha!) Well, he'll soon be off to work in Canada and I don't want him to forget me. He gave me a brand-new pair of secateurs. (pruning shears)
Above all I want honour the most important Guest here today, the Lord Jesus. I dedicate this special day which remembers His coming to earth now and forever. Amen!
To all you beautiful bloggers out there, have a wonderful Christmas.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Food for the Road
The sandstone cliffs rise majestically alongside the road
Having spent five years of my childhood in Zimbabwe, (then Southern Rhodesia) I knew all about long car journeys. No matter where we travelled in that country, it was always a L O N G journey. Once a year, we crossed the border into South Africa on our annual holiday and then the long journey became a three-day-long journey.
In the sixties there were no fast-food outlets to relieve the distances or a traveller's hunger between towns. This was not a problem because my mum would pack “padkos”. Translated, this is “road food”. The night before we were due to leave, my mum would prepare the “padkos” . Traditionally this was a wicker basket packed with cake tins filled with meatballs, boerewors (Farmers Sausage), hardboiled eggs, cheese sandwiches and hot, sweet tea in a flask. She also packed a tin of homemade rusks and fruit in season.
We’d leave home in the early hours of the next morning. The car was always dark and quiet, everyone too sleepy to talk. I remember we’d always fall asleep again and wake up an hour or two later with the sun streaming in through the windows. My mum would hand us a fruit on a serviette. We'd eat this and afterwards we'd sit forward in our seats anticipating the time when my dad would stop for breakfast.
As parents,my husband and I, whenever we travelled a significant distance with our children, always stopped along the way for “padkos”.
Yesterday we met John and Debbie (our older son and dil) in Kwa-Zulu Natal. He’d brought his grandmother and her husband to this point; we collected them there and brought them home for the Christmas holidays. Earlier this week John phoned and asked if I’d bring “padkos” along so that we could enjoy it together in the outdoors. (Like me, my son had not forgotten this enjoyable part of his childhood.)
I’m pleased that the tradition lives on...
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Four-legged family members preparing for Christmas!
Chip keeps a close eye on my husband in the workshop. He built her this special "place" above his workbench where she loves to lie all day!
Tigger has all the gardening and birdwatching under control
Pudding supervises the cooking and baking from the top of the fridge. My husband had to secure the freezer door with a cord. Pudding pushes it open with her hindleg when the heat gets too much!
Clarice keeps an eye on Emily cleaning the entertainment area!
The refurbished cathouse welcomes all visitors!
Felix checks to see if I'm cleaining the cathouse
The cats have their own table to eat on and baby carry cots to sleep in
Meanwhile, the days leading up to this point have been filled with activities as we prepare for the Christmas holidays. A dab of paint here, a new outdoor light re-wired there. My darling husband has even refurbished the cathouse. David, the gardener has painted the floor a brilliant green. (Eewyeww!) Hubby removed the bulky storage unit I had in there and erected beautiful and practical shelves .
Of course, while everyone on the property is getting the house and garden ship-shape for Christmas visitors, the four-legged members of the family just lie back and relax.
I captured a few "action" photos...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Traditional Christmas Carols
Last night we attended the annual Christmas Carols held at the Methodist Church here in our town. The event always reminds me of the many years I was the organist in this same church.
I remember one particular Christmas Carol service where I played the church organ while one of the other younger women, Izelma, set her keyboard in up in the front of the church. By arrangement, I accompanied the congregation on certain carols while she had other carols to play.
Yesterday, 21st December, the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere, was also very hot. Once again I watched the sun pour in through the window behind the organ. Only this time I was sitting in a pew joining in the singing and not playing any instrument!
The church was packed evveryone enjoyed the singing very much. At the end of the proceedings, people placed wrapped gifts in the front of the church. These will be handed to the children of a newly established orphanage in town.
After the service we all repaired to the Retirement Village where the ladies of the Methodist Church had prepared a finger supper for all to enjoy.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Regular visitors to this blog will know that I love rain. Rainstorms, raindrops, showers of rain; anything to do with rain! I also love storms. Dark, ominous, black-clouded, rumbling, flashing storms. Why do I like storms? Because generally they herald rain. Now WHY do I love rain? Because it brings new life; it refreshes the earth; it rejuvenates the spirit.
Here in Central South Africa, with a prairie-like landscape, rain is not something we take for granted. We are grateful for every drop that falls.
My "baby" cat, Manduline is afraid of storms. I always know heavy weather is imminent; I find her in this corner of my diningroom. If you look carefully, you'll see her tongue protruding from her mouth!
More signs of stormy weather to the northeast of my garden
Over the past two weeks, the days have dawned sunny and bright. By midday we are sweltering in the summer heat. By 4pm, the clouds begin to gather overhead. Within forty minutes, the first drop of rain splashes on the ground. We’ve had heavy electric storms followed by good showers of rain. In the Free State, electric storms are violent and have claimed many lives in the past. It's best to take care in a storm; not to be out in the open and near any rocky outcrops . Do not shelter in a tin shed. (many of these storage barns in the area).
Eventually the rain arrives and pours down
and down, and down...
Of course, due to the profusion of rain, my garden has flourished. It is lush and cool; and it's my pride and joy at the moment. Early this morning, while doing my Quiet Time, I walked through the garden and all I could do was to thank God for the bounty of blessings which He has showered us with this past year.
My garden after the rains.
A cool shady part of my garden
The green path draws the reader's eye to even greener pastures!
My three ponds are all interlinked; two have waterfalls and this one in the foreground has a fountain which is only just visible in the photo. The whole effect is tranquil, cool and relaxing
It would be great if it rains on Christmas Eve. As we’re having quite a large family gathering on Christmas day, I’ve decided to serve lunch in the garden. If it has rained, the air will be cooler and the flies will be less inclined to share our meal!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Too late for tears
By the same token I often feel panic if I see people walking along with their little boy/girl tagging on behind. Don’t these people know how often little children are stolen in broad daylight? And no, I’m not a doomsayer and I don’t "do" negativity. It just makes me mad to see how nonchalant people can be with the most precious possessions they’ll ever own. I mean, would they leave their handbag/wallets/backpacks with credit cards, cash, and cell phones, not to mention all manner of personal items, on the floor of the mall and saunter ahead? I think not.
I was still thinking along these lines when I popped into the ladies restrooms. As I passed a row of closed doors, I saw one door ajar. Just before I pushed it open completely I realised it was occupied, albeit by someone whose legs didn’t reach the floor. Even here I wondered, “Why is this child in a toilet on her own?” No matter what, the safe thing would be to take her into the toilet with you.
There and then decided I could not go for two reasons: one was that I didn’t want to leave the little girl alone in the restrooms while her “aunt” stayed in the toilet for goodness knows how long. The second was, when “Auntie Miranda” (whom I imagined was the little girl’s mother’s not-too-responsible-younger sister,) emerged from the toilet, I wanted to point out to her that it was not safe to leave young children alone in Shopping Malls, let alone in a public toilets where any pervert could pick them up and whip them out of sight in no time at all.
Finally Auntie Miranda came out of the cubicle clutching at least six shopping bags (see, it’s more important to keep your recent purchases under your watchful eye than a five-year-old.) At once I saw this was no younger sister. The woman was at least in her forties and immediately it dawned on me that she is a childminder or Day Mother as they are known here in South Africa. These women look after the children of working parents; often caring for them “privately” which means they’re not affiliated to any official body that checks up on you where you’re minding these children. For instance, do you have enough space for the amount of children; do you supervise them at all times; are the facilities adequate and clean, etc. Now, while I don’t want to go into the dodgy Day Mother/ Care Centres in our country, once again, my mind jumped to the fact that here was a Day Mother who had only one child at this [holiday] time of the year. She obviously had to come to town and of course, the most natural thing was to bring the child along. However, surely she’d be extra vigilant with a charge in her care?
I looked her straight in the eye and said: “Good morning, I waited here with little Chantelle. I didn’t want to leave her alone while you were in the toilet; it's not safe.” (My family has often said that I stick my nose in – interfere - where I'm not wanted) The woman looked at me and said: “Oh.”
When I met up with my husband waiting in the Mall, I told him the story as we walked quickly to the escalator/moving stairs. He asked if it was a young woman with this child and as I was about to answer him, the woman walked past him and around the bottom of the stairs. So I quietly said: ” There she goes” and then I realised she didn’t have the little girl with her. My husband turned around to look at the woman while we ascended on the stairs, and saw that she was walking back in the direction of the ablutions. She had left the little girl behind!
I don’t know the outcome of this story. All I know is that I felt sick for the rest of the day, worrying about this little girl (who was probably OK, as my husband pointed out) and hundreds of little children who are not held onto securely while out in public with the adults.
I remember, shortly after I had my second son in 1979, a friend and I went on a three day shopping excursion from the farm in Zululand to Durban, at the coast. She had a baby girl whom she strapped to her chest. I did the same with my tiny baby. My older son, then four years old, was secured in a pretty blue child harness with teddies on the straps; I clipped the matching leash to the ring the back of the harness (on my child's back) and in this way, my friend and I kept our children safe and close to us. While walking down the sidewalk, an elderly lady coming in the opposite direction, stopped me and pointed a gnarled finger at my son in the harness. She said I should be ashamed tying my child up like a dog and then she stalked away. I was young, sensitive and felt terrible at her accusations. Nevertheless, I kept my son on the leash, and used it later with my second child. Today I know I did the correct thing by ensuring my children were always safe when we went out into the public. I have always taken the same care with my grandchildren...
Friday, December 19, 2008
God's light reflected
When you get to know Jesus, it is like stepping out of darkness into bright sunlight. God does not only provide light; He is Light. The advent of Jesus which is the period now until Christmas Eve, is a revelation of an earlier mystery. God’s purpose for mankind was shown when Jesus was sent to earth. The light that He brought is available to us all.
There is a moral aspect to the assertion: “God is Light”. Darkness is related to the Evil One and sin. Crimes and sins are often committed in the dark. People who commit these deeds think that God cannot see them but then the guilt which originates from the deeds, cast a dark shadow over their conscience. God’s untainted holiness and purity stand out in stark contrast. There is no darkness in Him.
Our lives on earth should be a reflection of God’s light in Jesus.
I pray that God’s light shines upon every facet of my life; that He makes my life on earth a reflection of His light to brighten and lighten the situation of those around me, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Meet my extended family
Even though there are three areas to eat in my home (dining tables and chairs) Emily, left and Albertina prefer to sit on the floor or like the men in the top photo, on logs/stones under a tree
Emily, who was the first baby to be born in the Clocolan hospital (a town 34km/ 21miles away) on 1 January 1953, is the same age as I. She is a widowed mother of five and a grandmother of two. She lives in the township adjacent to our town. Her youngest daughter, Erica and HER nine-month-old baby, as well as Emily’s oldest daughter’s seven-year-old son live with Emily in a neat, two bedroom- with-an-open-plan kitchen/sitting-room brick and tile house. My husband has just had a shower installed for Emily as well as the toilet moved from outdoors to inside the house. Emily came to my door in 2002 and asked for work when I needed her most! She came to help me clean up after having an extension built onto my house and stayed. She is looked after my home and [many] pets while I lived in another country for three years.
Emily with her nine-month-old grandson strapped to her back, while she works
This week I found employment for Erica, who could not continue with her school studies because she fell pregnant while in her final year. The father of her child, a youngster himself, is not permanently employed and seems to have disappeared completely. Emily has brought Erica’s baby boy to work,and with him tied securely to her back, she gets on with her chores.
John, who is 26 years old, has a common-law wife and lives in a tin shack in the township. He has no children, as far as I know. I think a female member of his wife (aunt/mother/wife's sister/cousin - who knows?) lives with them as well. She has two or three children who also live in this house. John is open to suggestions on how to budget (i.e I deduct a monthly amount from his salary and Emily pays his account at a furniture chain store in another town) and to care for his wife. He also seems to be faithful to his wife which is quite unusual.
David at 34, has no wife or children, although he often borrows money from me for taxi fare to fetch his “children” from a neighbouring town! He lives under dire circumstances and tends to drown his sorrows at the Tavern when he has been paid. Emily tells me that he lives in a shanty similar to John's. Apparently he lives with his mother, although this is not clear. There is also a younger female in this house who David assures me is not his wife. I’ve deduced that perhaps the older woman, who calls herself his mother, is a relative who took him into her home as an orphan many years ago. Now, according to her, it’s pay-back time. Perhaps the younger woman is her own daughter. David has an old blanket on the floor in the corner and I think when he arrives home late and a little worse for the wear, the women go through his pockets and remove any money he may have made that day. It’s all very sad, but a fact of life. So many unmarried men live like this in the township.
In 2005, my darling husband had a shower built adjacent to the gardeners’ toilet, at the back of the garages. Both David and John have no running water or flush toilet in their homes in the township and I felt that this bit of luxury here at work could help towards making them feel better at home. (who doesn't like to be fresh and clean?) This year, when the weather turned cold, I realised the men weren’t showering as normal before going home. Obviously the water was too cold and so I asked my husband (dear kind husband!) if we could install a gas geyser. He agreed and it was done. Now the men can shower winter and summer. John is responsible for keeping their ablutions clean at all times.
John and David came to work for me as casual gardeners in July 2006 when I returned from West Africa. They are now permanently employees and firm additions to our extended family!
At the beginning of October, my older son sold his house here in town and together with his wife and children, is attending a discipleship school in Kwa-Zulu Natal. He has kindly given their housekeeper, maid and childminder, Albertina, as well as Simon and Kleinbooi, the gardeners, six months' notice. All three these people come in to help here at my house in return for two cooked meals (mieliepap, stewed meat and vegetables) while my son continues to pay them.
I have placed posters and flyers all over town advertising Albertina as a domestic. Simon may be employed by the people who bought my son’s house, else I’ll advertise his skills in the New Year as well. While working for my daughter-in-law, Kleinbooi had his eyes tested and he was fitted with prescription glasses at my son's expense. My daughter-in-law also took him for his Code 14 driver’s licence which is the heaviest duty driving licence in South Africa. I’ve advertised Kleinbooi’s skills and we’re hoping to get him employed in the near future.
Even though it is all very well to help people like this, it is vitally important to try and motivate them to help themselves as well. I notice that all three my son’s employees are not looking for work elsewhere, even though I've exhorted them to do this.They are quite comfortable being paid by my son and being fed by me. They all help in and around my house, by their own choice, but I, for one, don’t want them to become complacent in this situation. It is human nature to sit it out while the going is good (being paid, fed for now...) until the end of February.
Emily is on a Pension Scheme. I initiated it myself; it is not law in this country and many domestic employees are not on any type of scheme to help them when they can no longer work. All three my employees are on Unemployment Insurance Fund, which is compulsory.
So there we have it: a long story about my extended family that I love dearly. However, as with any adult family members who are in your home, there is a fine line between helping them to improve their circumstances and encouraging them to become totally dependent on you, the benefactor. A work in progress...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I’ve seen Lynda posting about puthu and maize meal, so it’s obviously
available in Tanzania. Is there anybody in North or Central Africa reading this post, who can tell me if they are able to get this food-stuff in their part of Africa? I know that it is available in Basingstoke, in the UK. My brother-in-law, who had a large and very successful South African butchers in that area, imported all manner of South African products for sale, one being Mieliemeal.
Mieliepap is staple starch eaten by most South Africans. It is maize which has been ground into flour. It is cooked slowly with water
on top of the stove, depending what type of pap (porridge) you require. You can have mielie porridge: thick, creamy and runny. Else you may have puthu (pronounced poo-too) which is crumbly and slightly dry. Or you can have it in stodgy/sticky lumps called sadza, (pronounced sudzu – with the *a's* as *u's* in *sun*) by which you take a handful of the cooked maize, form a lump by carefully squeezing it in your palm, dip it into tomato and onion gravy and enjoy.
Most of the above cooking methods are long (ranging from 1 – 2 ½ hours). However, a few months ago my husband and I were in Ndumu Game Reserve in Northern Kwa Zulu Natal with his brother and sister-in-law. One evening after a wonderful day of birding (my s.i.l. is a bird fundi and a wonderful guide to have along on a trip such as this one)
and game watching in the bush, we came home exhausted and hungry. The men (as all South African men do,) quickly lit a fire outside our huts and proceeded to braai a selection of meat. My sister-in-law who is a wonderful baker, but a self-confessed non-cook, offered to make the mieliepap. I mentally rolled my eyes, thinking we’d never have supper that night (ha!) Nevertheless, she made a bowl of steaming “sadsa / puthu” within a few minutes - 6 minutes, in fact.
It was deilicious.
Mieliepap - a la sister-in-law
2 1/2 Cups boiling water
1 Cup Braaipap* meal
1 t salt
Mix all ingredients together in a plastic bowl
Microwave on high power for 4 – 6 minutes.
Stir after a minute.
At 3 minutes add ½ tin Cream-style Sweet Corn (optional)
When cooked, add a blob of butter and mix through with a fork.
Serve with tomato and onion relish
*Note: Braaipap is a coarse maizemeal, yellow in colour with bits of gritty mielies in it. Ironically, although this maizemeal is very popular with white South Africans it’s not so with black people. They prefer their maize meal to be superfine (the packet must state this) and snowy white.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Christmas Carols with a Difference
In our town these functions are always arranged by one of the other churches. This week our band decided to put on a Christmas Worship service whereby we would sing traditional Christmas Carols - with a difference. We went a step further and decided to hold the service in the beautiful gardens of the newly refurbished Hotel in town. This was a lot easier said than done. Our band consists of a lot of equipment, mostly fragile: three guitars, a keyboard and a set of drums. Then there are amplifiers, monitors, microphones and stands, music stands and a sound system. All these things are linked together with yards and yards of electric cable.
Christmas Carols with a Difference.