Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Quick Bike Ride Along South-Eastern South Africa!

The quaint little restaurant at the top of the mountains, with magnificent views across the Drakensberg and plains of Kwa-Zulu Natal

By the time this post appears I will be away on a short holiday. My husband and I are off motorbiking down and across the South – Eastern part of South Africa for about eight days. We leave at 7.30am and our first stop will be for breakfast at a restaurant on the top of the Northern Drakensberg .

Breakfast at the top of the mountain starts
with a refreshing cup of tea and biscotti.

Delicious health breakfast of fresh fruit, muesli and yoghurt drizzled with honey, is my choice

My carnivorous husband's choice is a Traditional English Breakfast of sausage, bacon, two fried eggs, mushrooms, toast and...

After this we ride down the mountain to spend the first night with our older son and his family who are at a Y-WAM discipleship school.

Here we are at the start of a trip we did last summer
On Wednesday we begin our journey in earnest with the first day trip of 592 km/ 370 miles to the next stop. We are booked into a Bed and Breakfast on a working farm at MacLear which is situated at the foothills of the Drakensberg in the Eastern Cape. (We won't be working; we will be wandering around the farm and looking out for special bird sightings)

From there we travel along the Eastern Cape coast stopping to overnight with friends in Port Elizabeth and then to the Western Cape where we’ll stay with other friends who have a beautiful Guest House overlooking the Knysna Heads .

We continue up to Route 62 in the Southern Cape (a biking route copied from Route 66 in the USA) stopping off to see friends on each successive day eventually visiting the
Karoo National Park
on the penultimate day of our tour.

At the top of a pass on Route 62

The Cape, like the rest of the country is renowned for its abundant bird life. We aim to do as much birdwatching as possible and to catch up with friends along the way.

My husband's pride and joy: his BMW 1200 GS

We return home towards the end of next week. I will have lots of photos and many stories about our trip across this beautiful country called South Africa.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Garden is Alive!

The closest identification we can find for the arachnid above, is the fishing spider. However we found this guy on the garage wall about 300 metres from my garden ponds.
I'm unable to identify the caterpillar pictured above, but I know it will change into a beautiful butterfly if left alone

If you click on the above photo to enlarge, you'll see a juvenile common fiscal previously called a fiscal shrike.It's also known Jackie Hangman: it hangs it's prey on thorns or barb wire fences

A few weeks ago we had a few millimetres of rain, then nothing more. Not a drop. Every morning dawns hot and still; getting hotter as the day progresses.

Here I need to explain: the Free State, a summer rainfall region, often experiences dry weather. Instead of the rains arriving at the beginning of the South African spring, (September), we can wait up to four months before the first decent showers give us relief.

This year, however, we have been greatly blessed. On 15th November, the first rains poured down and down and down. By the end of the weekend, hubby measured 50mm (approx 2 inches). I live in a farming town and the weather plays a very important role. Everywhere we went in town this week, were people with huge smiles on their faces. The co-operative has buzzed with farmers purchasing seed, and planting materials or just standing around chatting, totally relieved that the rains have begun at last.

As for me, my garden is thriving after the showers. The lawn has been mowed for the first time this season; the shrubs and trees have perked up their foliage. The best of all is the wildlife that is flourishing in my own paradise. All around me are signs of activity. My ponds are a visited by Karoo and Olive Thrushes, Cape White-eyes, Southern Masked-Weavers, Cape and African Pied Wagtails, Wattled starlings in their breeding status, Malachite Sunbirds, Cape Sparrows, a variety of Pigeons and Red Faced Mousebirds.

On the house' side of my garden the Cape Robins are stealing titbits from the dog’s bowl; (at least they're eating Megan's diet food, she refuses point blank!) the Hadeda Ibis are probing the soft grass for worms with their long curved beaks; the Black Collared Barbets are enjoying the fruit on my bird feeder.

Everywhere there is life. Everything is alive and rejuvenated after the refreshing conditions.

Very noticeable is the nest-building and courtships being conducted in the garden. The industrious male weavers are frantically building nest after nest to attract the best females; the quiet, unassuming Laughing Dove flies to and from her chosen branch high up in the karee (Rhus lancea) over my driveway , building a rather flimsy nest; the Black Collared Barbets are already feeding young in the sisal nest I erected a couple of years ago in the white stinkwood tree (Celtis Africana) while the brood parasite Diedericks Cuckoo, calls from a nearby thicket (I've yet to catch a glimpse of this elusive bird) awaiting its chance to lay an egg in a weaver or sparrow nest when the coast is clear.

The Laughing Dove sitting on eggs in her very flimsy nest

I don't kill anything in my garden; I leave every living thing alone to allow the food chain to run its natural course. No insecticide or any other poison is ever released in my garden space either. The snails, grasshoppers, beetles, ladybirds, frogs, snakes and all manner of flying insects are safe from human harm in my garden.
The only thing is that I am so sorry for my “slimy” friends who, after a shower of rain, come out onto my patio in their hundreds. (I kid you not). Before anyone is allowed to move their vehicles, I pick up as many snails as possible and carry them to the safety of the flower beds. Of course, this is a source of great mirth to my family and friends alike...
Early last Monday morning my husband was waiting
to go to the city on business.
I went with him, but not before I'd picked up all the snails
that could get squashed under the car's wheels!
One of the hundreds of snails (Thiba Pisana) on the patio
after the lovely rains last week

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Men's Weekend Away

The beautiful flowers which I received from my husband after the Christian Men's Camp he attended

A couple of weekends ago, my husband attended a Christian Men’s Camp about 150 km / 94 miles from home. Now, if this was two years ago, you wouldn’t have caught him going to a mens' gathering for a whole weekend where the focus is on God, where men learn to die to self;

"I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2: 19b & 20;

where men are led in how to come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour;

"But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong." 1 John 1: 9)

and where men are shown how to apply Godly principles to their daily lives.

"We are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct and devotion to God." Titus 2:12.

Previously in February 2007 my older son invited my husband to a Christian Men’s Camp at the same venue. He went along dragging his feet and muttering audibly about being forced to do something against his will. I held my breath. Instead of travelling in the bus with the other men from here, he’d gone on our BMW motor bike while my son rode our Harley Davidson. In my mind I expected him home before midnight. (Oh ye of little faith!) Instead, after the first session that first night, (on his 56th birthday!) he met the Lord in a wondrous way and happily spent the whole spirit-filled weekend with 150 other men.

He came back a changed man...

For the more recent weekend I’m posting about, he was one of the first to book his place at the camp. Our younger son also attended, taking a young man who had grown up in front of us, along with him. My husband is now proud to say he has been to this camp with both his sons. Men being men, you never actually hear what happened at the camp. Nevertheless, I don’t need the facts; I can just see the Holy Spirit manifest in my husband. This time he was an “old hand” attendee and kept saying how wonderful it was to have gone again.

Apparently on Saturday evening after the session, the men were all preparing for bed (those from our town shared a dormitory) and one guy said he was stopping at the supermarket in a town they had to go through on the way home the next day. He was going to buy his wife a huge bunch of flowers. Of course, all the other men agreed that this was a wonderful idea; they would do the same.

They stopped at the supermarket at midmorning on Sunday and no trouble to the older-married men: they duly sent my son (married a year only) and his single friend in to buy almost a dozen bunches of fresh flowers. The friend later told us women (while we were all enjoying a braai together here at our home), that the till operator looked at them strangely and he could almost read her thoughts. Either they were very popular young men or they were in a whole bunch of trouble back home!

To all married women reading this post, if you are walking the Christian life alone, never, ever give up; never stop praying. Above all, always respect your husband and accept his authority. (Why? because the Bible tells us so) You don’t have to be a doormat, rather be a doorway for him to use when he is ready accept the the Lord. "In the same way you wives must accept the authority of your husbands, even those who refuse to accept the Good News. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over by watching your pure and godly behaviour." 1 Peter 3: 1-2.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crumbed Camembert - mmm...

Crumbed Camembert, drizzled with strawberry coulis and served with green fig preserve and Provitas

A few years ago my husband and I were touring the Western Cape on our motorbike. We stopped at for lunch at a restaurant in The Wilderness. We normally never order the same dish (I mean: he loves a steak and I only eat vegetables! ) This day however, we both ordered the Crumbed Camembert and have been hooked on this dish ever since.

When we got home, hubby who enjoys cooking announced that he was going to learn to cook Crumbed Camembert. A few weeks later he bought a wheel of Camembert , I looked up the recipe on the Internet and he set about preparing this delicious treat for us.

It is one of those meals that when you scoop up the last bit (albeit the tasty crumbs or creamy cheese oozing out of the wedge), you sit back with a sigh and reminisce about how divine it was!

Crumbed Camembert and desert lime spice (Jeffrey Eaton )
Serves 4
Cooking / preparing time – about 20 minutes

3 Camembert cheese packs
1 Cup plain white flour
2 Cups breadcrumbs
1 Egg
½ Cup Milk
140 g Lime Marmalade

Cut Camembert wheels into 1/8th wedges
Dip in flour
Lift and place in egg and milk mixture
Lift and roll in breadcrumbs
Allow to stand for about 10 minutes
Dip into egg mixture and crumbs again
Place marmalade in pan and bring gently to the boil.
Remove and set aside
Heat olive oil in pan and shallow fry the cheese wedges
Drizzle strawberry coulis over cheese (I used strawberry jam which I warmed in a saucepan on the stove
Serve with whole green preserved figs and Provita biscuits

Friday, November 21, 2008


My daughter-in-law getting really clean with swimming pool water!

Two weeks ago our older son, his wife and our two precious grandchildren came to stay. Because of the dry conditions we’re currently experiencing, the town’s reservoir ran dry and we were without water for the whole day! By the evening, we were hot, sticky and extremely grubby (imagine two young children, 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old -ergh!) we loaded the children, soap, towels and fresh clothing into my litttle pick-up truck and drove over to my son’s house. We needed to get clean and and the only way was to bath in their swimming pool. The house sale had already gone through the day before but my son's furniture and effects were still on the premises. We didn’t think that the new owners would have minded (they were 500 km / 312 miles away in Johannesburg anyway!) Those of you reading my posts have obviously realised that life in a small town is very relaxed...
Everyone joined in the fun as can be seen by the barking dog and children climbling poles!

The next day my son had to make the final move out of his house and place his furniture in storage. A friend has kindly offered him secure storage space in two rooms off the side of his house.

While the move was not far (one block down the road), it was still very stressful. Moving always is. My daughter-in-law told me she felt very strange knowing she was packing her possessions into boxes but had no vision for the future when and where she would unpack them.

I arranged for my two gardeners who, with my son’s two gardeners, moved everything out of the house and into storage without any dents, chips or breakages. The piano which I gave to my daughter-in-law in 2006, and which I’d had for forty years, (a story for a later date) was brought back into my house with great difficulty. My husband and I had the two little ones for the day which helped their parents to move easier without children underfoot.

My hubby and I took the children out for milkshakes

After doing our own chores here at home, we loaded the children into “granddad’s sports car” and with the top down; we took them out to the local restaurant for a milkshake. Incidently our granddaughter lost her first tooth during the week and the Tooth Mouse rewarded her in the Drakensberg where it happened but also here in Marquard at Granny and Granddad’s house. She wanted to buy tea and milkshakes for all of us, but my husband expplained to her that she could save her money and spend it later because he wanted to treat us all.

There's nothing like lunch out in the garden to lift tired spirits!

At lunch-time my son, daughter-in-law and their helpers took a break. The four men stayed on at my son’s house to keep an eye on the stuff, much of which was still standing on the lawn, while they ate their lunch. We as a family had lunch in my garden. I served a simple meal of spaghetti with Lynda's tomato –based sauce, (which you can see here grated parmesan and brown bread. A Greek salad rounded off the meal.

Everyone was rejuvinated and re-energised after a relaxing Al Fresco lunch, and my son could complete the task of moving before sunset that evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something Different

People queued for hours to attend the live concert

Last night I did something I’ve never done before.

I attended a LIVE ROCK CONCERT in the city of Bloemfontein! I went along with my husband, younger son and daughter-in-law. We left home at 1.30 and arrived in the city at 3pm. The doors only opened at 6pm but we had to ensure our place in the queue even though we’d bought tickets on the Internet. (Wonderful invention, the Internet!) We ultimately stood in front of the CRC church auditorium for three and a half feet-burning, gruelling hours. (I always wear high heeled- sandals and last night was no exception) I must admit, there was a moment when I wondered whether the concert would be worth the wait!

My husband and I were two of the few older people there !

The people started to arrive (all young – teenagers and twenty-something’s) and swell the lines. When the doors eventually opened, we surged forward, had our tickets scanned and our wrists stamped with indelible ink. Inside the foyer of the church we came to a dead stop again. We stood for another 20 minutes when finally the inner doors opened and a mass of humanity swept inside!
Even though our tickets were marked GA (General Admission) which means you can sit anywhere, we were fortunately spare the indignity of having to dash for prime seating. My daughter-in-law’s sister, a member of the CRC, had reserved seats for us and within minutes we were seated and I could rest my aching feet!

Fifteen minutes later, once everyone had entered the auditorium, the lights dimmed and many different coloured strobe lights lit up the stage. The band probably entered at this point (I was unable to see too well in the dark!) and suddenly they struck up their first song with a blast. We were about to experience the wonderful music ministry of Hillsong United.

The Hillsong United band is an Australian rock and worship band, a part of
Hillsong Church's youth ministry Hillsong United. Their music is a contemporary style of praise and worship tempered with mainstream rock.

When believers unite, God does something powerful.

After attending a Summer Camp revival in 1998, the worship team of the youth ministry began writing songs and in 1999 the album Everyday was released. Since that time the Hillsong United worship team has released an album each year and has grown in popularity. Along with playing in Sydney, the team currently travels the world, touring and holding conferences with thousands of attendees. The Hillsong United band is currently led by Joel Houston, the son of Hillsong Church senior pastor Brian Houston.

What a privilege for us to have such an awesome and spirit-filled international band last night. Not only are they top professional musicians, they are also totally focused on praising and worshiping the Lord. Having had a conservative upbringing, I originally wondered if I’d enjoy this genre of music in this situation. Yet within minutes of the concert beginning, the love and passion the artists had for Jesus, was tangible.

This show was also encouraging for the 7000 youngsters in the auditorium to know this was no ordinary gospel concert. Not one person in the audience stood still. People stood up in the ailes, between the chairs, hands raised, feet dancing and praising God. I stood on my chair (next to my daughter-in-law) thinking I’d be able to take good photos, but somehow my camera was not on a very good setting for the dark conditions.

The current Head Youth Pastors of Hillsong United are Chrishan and Danielle Jayeratnam. Chrishan was onstage last night and he ministered to us. After a very moving message about relationships, he made an altar call inviting people to make a change in their lives and exhorting those Christians who have backslidden, to come back to God. People responded in their hundreds going up to the front of the church to publically accept the Lord as their Saviour.

The band took up the worship again and we continued to glorify God in this wonderful way.

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes...”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Special Legacy

My mum's beautiful embroidered pieces framed and displayed in my office

My beloved mum died on the 18th January 2002. She died sixteen months after my dad. Just like the romantic and devoted wife she always was, she went to meet him on their 55th wedding anniversary.

I always remember my mum as being very capable yet she wasn’t a “power woman”. She was feminine, motherly, gentle and wise.

She was a faithful daughter of the Lord. She taught me to trust God from a very young age. She never rammed any idea or principle down my throat. She merely walked the talk which I knew was the right way to follow.

Proverbs 31: 25 "She is clothed with strength and dignity and has no fear for the future."

Once we children had all left home, she went out to work again. Still she had no help with the housework; she cleaned the house before driving the 30 kms / 19 miles to work. (Far better than I am. I don’t go out to work nor do I clean my own house!) My mum had an arrangement with the local bank: relieving or single clerks stayed with her. She housed and fed them royally as if they were her own children.

Proverbs 31: 27 "She carefully watches over all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness"

She also knitted, crocheted, and did all manner of embroidery. I have dozens of tray clothes and centre pieces that she embroidered or cross-stitched. I have a pile of table clothes, bedspreads, table runners that she crocheted. I grew up with my mum’s handiwork displayed and used all over our home.

My mum dressed beautifully, she was always well-groomed. She looked like the Queen of England.

Proverbs 31: 22 "She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gown of finest cloth."

My mum also loved to write. She started a journal in 1947 shortly after she married my dad and continued to journal until a few weeks before her death. The last entry was dated 1 January 2002. My sister inherited these very personal thoughts. Although my mum submitted many stories (she loved to write fiction) apart from half a dozen short stories, which were published in magazines, her writing career never got off the ground. I firmly believe it was because no-one ever took this zeal of hers seriously. I know that I inherited my passion for the written word from my darling mum.

I also inherited quite a few of her special handmade creations which I remember from my childhood. The three embroidered centres photographed above are my favourites. My mum knew I was crazy about cats (she should see me now: fifty-something with eight cats in and around my home!) so she embroidered these beautiful cloths for the dressing table in the bedroom my sister and I shared.

A few months ago I took them to a framing boutique in the city and had them preserved for posterity. This exceptional piece of art is displayed on the wall in the music room/reading section of my office.

My mum left me many special subtle legacies. She lives on in my memory.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Macaroni 'n Cheese Sauce

A tasty and filling supper without the guilt!

A few weeks ago the weather turned cold on the day that I expected my Thursday Blessings so I decided to make a favourite meal of mine: Macaroni ‘n Cheese Sauce. This is a diet-friendly recipe (i.e. it’s been adapted ) and does not have the name we’re all used to. Macaroni 'n Cheese Sauce has all the ingredients to make it tasty but I use fat-free milk, lite margarine, and medium fat cheese. The tinned whole tomatoes are all I add when I am alone but for visitors I add a few chopped strips of lightly grilled streaky bacon. This gives it a delicious “smoky” taste (or so I’m told. Ha!)

Optional: Just before the white sauce thickens completely, whip in 1 beaten egg.

Macaroni ‘n Cheese Sauce

280g cooked macaroni
40 ml (2 ½ tablespoons) low fat margarine
40g cake flour
Salt and black pepper
100g medium fat (white) cheddar cheese, grated
410g tin whole tomatoes (chopped)
500ml (2 cups) skimmed milk

Cook macaroni according to package instructions
Heat the margarine in a large saucepan
Add flour and mix to form a roux (smooth paste)
Gradually add the milk to form a white sauce
Add 50g of the cheese to the sauce and simmer till thick
Season with salt and black pepper
Place the macaroni in an ovenproof dish
Spoon tomato over the macaroni, mix in
Pour the cheese sauce over the tomato and pasta
Sprinkle with remaining cheese
Bake in preheated oven at 180 °C (350 ° F) for 20 minutes
Serve with crispy whole wheat rolls and a green salad

Monday, November 17, 2008

My New Link

Any form of headgear is not my favourite accessory, but I wore this bandana for this post to help promote breast cancer (and other cancer) awareness

Many years ago I lost my maternal grandmother to cancer. I can remember the trauma and upheaval so well even though I was only ten at the time. We lived in one city, and every night when my dad came home from work, (probably exhausted) we’d all get into the car and travel 86 km / 54 miles to Durban to visit my gran. She had been hospitalized and contrary to the doctor's prediction (that she’d have treatment and be discharged within a week or two) my grandmother lay there for six months and ultimately died in the impersonal general ward of a huge general hospital. She was fifty-six years old...

I’ve often thought about that period in our lives. How did my parents (especially my mum) cope?

We were four children under the age of fourteen; obviously we all had homework to do, had to eat, bath and get to bed after we returned from the hospital visit at about 10pm.
Cancer was not discussed nor were the patients or their families counselled. When my mum managed to corner and question the doctor dealing with my grandmother’s case, (they always seemed to avoid the patient’s family), he’d give her vague answers and never once was the word “cancer” mentioned. I can remember when my darling gran died and I saw the make-up pouch containing her lipstick -“Tomato Red” (Granny-Jo, not only do I have your name, I also inherited your love for bright lipstick) - her powder compact, her Blue Grass perfume atomizer, I wondered whether I'd catch her cancer by touching her personal stuff! I never asked anyone about these things either. None of us did. Now I feel terribly sad even voicing these thoughts, but there you have it. This is the way cancer was viewed when I was a child.

Today things are markedly different. Thank goodness.

There are hospices all over our country and CANSA (a Proudly South African Organization) has a reassuring mission statement * We will substantially reduce the impact of cancer by promoting health in all communities within South Africa, through advocacy and the sustainable facilitation of research, prevention, early detection and care.* Countrywide there are groups of dedicated men and women who are helping cancer sufferers to cope. (You can read more about CANSA here )

During October, (which is Breast Cancer Awareness month in SA) my hubby and I were in a clothing chain store. As our purchases were being rung up, he noticed a pink bandana which, if you bought it, you donated R20 - approximately US$ 1.80 - towards breast cancer awareness. (See how different things are today: in the past, men would NEVER have mentioned something lik breast cancer) The incidence of breast cancer among South African women is increasing, with more than 3 800 cases being diagnosed every year. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in this country. Many women still associate breast cancer with a death sentence, but in reality early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.

We added the bandana to the clothing on the counter.

This morning I took the bandana out of my wardrobe and the idea of a blog post formulated. Now, wearing scarves, helmets (for biking) hard hats (mining), caps or woollen hats, is not a fashion statement which flatters my face. Yet, I folded the bandana into a triangle and tied it onto my head. Having my photo taken with this headgear on gave me a millionth of an idea what it must be like to have to cover your head because cancer treatments have caused severe hair loss. That is why I placed this photo on my post today.

The reason why I have the breast cancer link on my blog is to encourage visitors to my posts to click on it (or add the link to your web page/blog as well). By clicking you help a woman who cannot afford it, to have a mammogram.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for clicking!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nan's Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding drenched in my own special sauce,
is delicious served with cream or ice cream

Every so often I feel like making a really comforting dessert. A few weeks ago I had a loaf of stale white bread and decided to turn it into Bread and Butter pudding for the Creare Children to enjoy after dinner. My husband’s paternal grandmother (who taught me how to cook Salt beef and vegetables see recipe here) showed me how to make the most delicious bread and butter pudding. A few years ago I designed my own recipe for a sauce to pour over the cooked pudding and which makes it even more decadent than ever!

Here is the recipe.
Bread and Butter Pudding (Grandma Nan's recipe)

Loaf sliced fresh white bread
Apricot Jam
3 Cups Milk
3 Eggs
2 teasp Vanilla Essence

Sauce (my own)
250g Butter (or margarine)
1 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
2 Tablespoons Water
Cook sauce ingredients for about 5 minutes

Spread slices of bread with butter and jam
Lay the slices (butter/jam-side up) in a baking dish
Pour milk, eggs and vanilla in a jug and beat well
Sprinkle raisins over the bread
Pour the milk over
Allow to soak for about 15 minutes
Place in preheated oven (180 °C) for 30 – 35 minutes
It should rise and brown nicely
Remove from oven and pour sauce over
Serve hot with ice-cream or cream

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Container gardening with John

You’d think with my huge garden, I’d not bother with container or indoor gardening. The thing is, I have a large patio/courtyard. The entrance to the house is on the side (access is across the courtyard, where everyone parks) and I like to keep the whole area pretty and welcoming!

A few weeks ago, while visiting the nursery in a nearby town, I bought a dozen trays of Begonia plants. (Begonia semperflorens) These replaced the pansies (Viola tricolour) and primulas (Primula spp)which beautified my winter patio.

Later I wandered to my small front patio, which is never used, to check on the state of my container plants there. Woe is me! All that remained of my winter plantings were a few bedraggled vygies, (Portuluca spp) wilting in a dusty planter. (See photo below)

I called John, my one gardener, and he loaded this sorry example of a container garden onto the wheelbarrow and took it to the back of the house to implement some serious renovations. First we pulled out all the existing plants and tipped the soil into a garden bed. John washed the container and after placing a few sturdy rocks over the drainage holes, we added a couple of handfuls of stone chips followed by fresh potting soil. Then we walked around the garden together and collected suitable succulents for the container.

This is the part John really enjoys. I always have a hardcopy picture of what I want to create (this time I copied a container garden featured in a gardening magazine) or I’ll draw a picture using coloured pencil crayons (as a grandmother I always have crayons and felt-tipped pens in my house!) and black marker pens to illustrate my idea. John LOVES this. When we stop at bed with a plant which he sees in the picture, he gets very excited and says: “Hona, Mme?” (This one ma’am?) And I say, “Yes, let’s take that one out.” Often he spots something I would have missed and I tell him this; you can see he enoys being one up on Mme!

Here John poses proudly with the completed project. Later he added a few more plants; he'd asked the gardener next door for succulants he'd seen on my neighbour's pavement/sidewalk (see close-up photo above this one)
While planting the container up, John referred often to the magazine and reproduced the featured garden almost to the letter! Afterwards he posed for a photograph alongside his creation which has pride of place at the door to the house.

Friday, November 14, 2008


The photo above is just to show what the roads in Guinea, West Africa are like in wet season

While travelling to Johannesburg on business last month, we passed the weigh bridge just outside a neighbouring town. My husband and I began to discuss the fact that many trucks we see on the roads are grossly overloaded. Not only is this detrimental to the road surfaces, (South Africa’s regional roads have fallen badly into disrepair over the past decade) it is also highly dangerous. It is dangerous for the truck driver and dangerous for other road users.

And then we look at each other and burst out laughing as we both thought of the roads in West Africa.

As they say in the classics: you ain’t seen nothin’ yet until you’ve travelled on third world roads.

In 2006 my husband moved an entire fleet of heavy earthmoving machines (13 in total) from the gold mine site in Guinea (the project had ended) to an existing gold mine operation in Mali. The trip which took 53 days was 1800km / 1100 miles long. He started off during the wet season (which means horrific conditions in Guinea where there are mostly dirt roads) and skirted the Sahara desert passed through Mauretania and down to Sadiola (a town 400km south of Timbuktu) This is a complete post on its own so I won’t go into any more detail. I will do a post on his Safari later on this month.

However, while going through his photos, I came across dozens of overloaded vehicles that he’d snapped. Some of them are on the dirt road. The real traffic started once he entered Mali and the roads (which are in very good condition,) are tarred. Taxis, passenger cars, busses, trucks, lorries, donkeys and bicycles were loaded to the hilt.

Here are a few...

Yes, that is a human hand waving from the top of the pile! Apparently he's called the conductor

Everything including the kitchen sink is loaded here!

You hold your breath when you watch
a vehicle like this travelling in front of you.
Will it toppled over onto its side?

This guy meant business!

My heart always bled for the poor donkies of Mali...

Have bicycle, will load!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Dog is on Diet!

Body language says it all. You can keep your fancy
low fat, high fibre pellets. I want real food!

The challenge is on, the word is out! My ten-year-old Maltese poodle x Scottish Terrier, Megan is on diet. Recently I took her to be clipped because the heat seemed to be affecting her more than usual. I spoke to my vet, Dr Anne about my concern that Megan could be overweight. (Megan gets clipped at the vet) Dr Anne said if I need my dog to lose weight, I had to get the full commitment of the whole family.

Then she recommended specially formulated pellets which help overweight dogs lose weight. On the reverse of the packet I noted that it is a low fat, high fibre food with high levels of L-carnitine and lysine to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass. I also realise that it's no use showing my dog a picture of a slim dog on the packet and encouraging her to go for that image! The food has to satisfy her hunger, that is the bottom line and apparently this particular brand of pellets does exactly that.

Megan tried one or two pellets and turned her nose up!
The vet was so convincing that I bought a packet, loaded Megan and the food into the car and came home. Now all I have to do is convince Megan. She cannot understand why she cannot lick the cats' left-overs, why she isn’t getting cheese off cuts and slices of biltong? (biltong = spicy, air dried meat – similar to jerky) “and whatever happened to the delicious bread, milk and meat breakfast I used to get?”
Ooh-ee, just a little further and I'll reach that yummy beef!

Today has been a real battle of wills between me and Megan. I left her bowl of pellets on the patio where she always eats her food. She ate a couple of pellets and then turned her back on it! Later on I saw Pudding, my elderly cat nibbling at the pellets. Then looking out into the garden, I spied Megan leaning over the pond and it looked as if she was gulping up water. When I went closer, I saw she was trying to lap up the pieces of ground beef I’d dropped in there earlier for the barbel (fish) to eat! Am I living with crazy animals or WHAT!

I've noted the date that I started Megan on this diet and will keep you posted as to her progress!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tea at the Cabin

The Cabin has a selection of temptingly displayed cookies and sweets

Whenever we feel like going out for a nice cup of tea (my hubby always opts for the plunger coffee) and the most delicious chocolate cake, we drive 35 km down the road to The Cabin, a farm stall on the way to Lesotho.

There is an eclectic array of wonderful gifts to choose from

Apart from scrumptious fare (they serve breakfast all day and have various snack meals on the menu which have evolved because the passing trade normally consists of travellers who don’t want to wait too long before eating), there is a gift shop which offers any and every type of gift you can think of: note books and pens, carved artifacts, embroidered tote bags, a selection of ladies' clothing, soaps, preserves, assorted nuts, dried fruit, honey, lavender sugar, olives and a plethora of sweets and biscuits.

The most popular items on sale are garden decorations made from rusted metal! Other very fashionable garden ornaments offered are made from sandstone. (Huge blocks are cut out of the hills in the area and sculpted into shape: bird baths, pillars, huge balls and the most delightful cats.)

Preserves, embroidered tote bags, framed mirrors and flavoured sugars are all wonderful gift choices

My son and daughter-in-law relaxing at The Cabin

One Saturday afternoon, while my husband was away at work, my younger son and his wife invited me for tea at the Cabin. While waiting outside, my son spotted new toys which the proprietress placed all over the lawn for children to play on. This day he decided to try out one of the new little carts parked up there. He pushed the cart up the hill on the property, got on and with a swift push on the ground with his left foot , he careened down the hill. Fortunately he's not very heavy and didn’t do any damage to the cart. He had great fun though!
Is a man ever too old to have fun?

As we left, we spotted a new feature the innovative owner of the Cabin has set up. She had life-size people made out of the rusty metal (there is an artist on the premises permanently creating things) A board next to the metal “family” stated “Take your picture”. In a flash my son and daughter-in-law went behind the frames, stuck their faces in the openings and posed for my photograph!

So even though it wasn't Tea at the Dorchester, we managed to have oodles of fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Ray of Hope

So often when trials and tribulations come our way, we look inward. What have I done to deserve this? What did I do for this to happen to me? So often, too, we don’t find the correct answers here.

The only thing to do when you’re experiencing pain, loss or troubles of some kind, is to turn to the Lord. There is always hope in the Lord. No matter how terrible a situation we face, there is hope for the future. God is still in the business of restoration and healing.

Deuteronomy 32:27 assures us that “The Eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you.”

In the popular and well known Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 13, which is read at many weddings, we learn that the summary of the Christian life is the triad (harmony) of faith, hope and love. Of course, the greatest of these IS love. If I have no love for my neighbour, for myself or for my God I ‘m in danger of becoming embittered. If my spirit is filled with negativity and pessimism, I cannot grow in faith; I have no hope for the future.

According to Romans 5:3-5, *our hope lies in the proven character that comes through perseverance*.

To follow the above [advice] is extremely difficult, no doubt about it. To push through when you’re convinced nothing will ever come right again, is a real test of faith. However, try to surround yourself with people who can edify and uplift you. Find a trustworthy friend to be your mentor. Sow in your time of need. For instance, if you’re struggling financially, help someone worse off than you with a little gift of money. If you’re feeling sad and lonely, visit someone who doesn’t go out much or receive many visitors. (An elderly person is an ideal candidate)

When you reach out to others and show brotherly love and compassion for your neighbour, God will bless you abundantly. He will also give you a sense of peace that passes all understanding.

Zephaniah 3:17: For the Lord your God arrived to live among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With His love He will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.

Faith in an all-powerful God is demonstrated by living one day at a time. Love is shown as principles of truth are demonstrated through sacrificial service to others. Hope carries us through the hard times as we depend on God.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lazy Housewife's Dinner

Braised salt beef simmered in one pot with vegetables
Delicious hot or cold, be sure to serve salt beef with Hot English Mustard

A simple yet very satisfying meal

A while ago I made one of my husband’s favourite meals: salt beef and vegetables. He was away at work at the time, so I cooked it for the Creare Children who stay with me every Thursday. (you can read about them on yesterday's post) I learnt to cook this English meal, known as Lazy Housewife's Dinner, from my hubby's paternal grandmother, Nan. This dear old lady, who has long since passed on, did not spend hours in the kitchen but everything she made was tasty and very simple to prepare. Nan (by her own admission) preferred to sit in her easy chair and study form (horseracing) choosing her bets for the next race day, rather than slave in front of a hot stove!

I popped into our butchers and managed to procure a nice piece of salt beef. When I arrived home, I heated the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and braised the salt beef on both sides. I removed the meat and I sliced two onions and fried them in the same oil. I returned the meat to the saucepan and added enough water to just cover. Then I added two large whole carrots, four to five new potatoes and a whole peeled onion. (The carrots and potatoes were washed and cooked with the skin) I added a few peppercorns and a pinch of mixed herbs. Covering the saucepan, I turned down the heat and allowed the meal to simmer gently until done. (About an hour and a half)

Serve salt beef and potroasted vegetables with tender green peas and fluffy white rice. Be sure to have a pot of Hot English Mustard on the table. No salt beef dinner is complete without mustard.

Freeze any leftover meat and use for cold meat at a later date.

As Grandma-in-law proved, this really is a Lazy Housewife’s Dinner!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Thursday Blessings

Above is my one guest bedroom(my houselady, Emily calls it the Blue Room) which Chane and Adam share when they stay over
Above is the Pink Room (yes, Emily again!)
Susan sleeps here on Thursday night

As pianist/electric keyboard player in our church worship team, I decided to take extra music lessons in order to improve my skills. When a tour team of three trainers from Creare Training Centre began to visit Marquard every week, I duly signed on for piano lessons.I have been going to classes every Thursday since March this year.
Here I just need to clarify. I have been playing the piano since I was ten and played the organ in church since my teens. However, now I am part of a worship team in a church which is a whole new kettle of fish to the traditional hymns and choruses I grew up with. I have had to learn to play chords instead of the melody of a song. I had to learn to play in a band with several other instruments and singers. Our worship team consists of two acoustic guitars, one bass guitar, drums and the electric keyboard. So, I continue to learn how to play the piano at the ripe ole age of fifty-something. In a few weeks I will do a piano exam but more about this afterwards (Ha!).

During the second school term, my younger son phoned me and asked if I would accommodate the three young people who come to Marquard every Thursday. I agreed immediately. I had come to know these youngsters over the months and knew that my life would be richly blessed by having them in my home.

Chane is an excellent drummer and teaches drumming and bass guitar. Here he is having fun on my son's set of drums which I'm looking after
We’ve had to do some fine planning regarding the arrangements. On Thursday evenings I leave for my Home cell (Bible Study) group at 6.30. The Creare team finishes classes and work at 6.45. They have their own remote for my electric gate as well as a door key. During the day I prepare dinner for them (more about this in future posts) and leave it on the Hot-Tray. They come in, have their meal, wash up afterwards and then they shower.
I also have trays set up in my guest rooms. Visitors can make tea, rooibos (a herbal tea which is very popular here in South Africa), instant or plunger coffee in their bedrooms. When the Creare children are here, I have cookies on a plate under clingfilm on the tray as well. They have the use of anything in my home. Sometimes they need to work on the computer. Other times they feel like playing music so when I return from cell with my keyboard, they “jam” together (“jam” = teen-speak for each person playing what he feels like on his instrument and blending with the other!)

The team "jam" together in my office:

standing is Chane, with Susan in front of him
and Adam to the fore of the photo

On Friday morning I have breakfast ready by 6.15. They enjoy yoghurt, fruit and juice followed by a full English breakfast (bacon, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and toast). They are always so appreciative of everything I do for them and say they have their “power meals” here. During the rest of the week when they travel, they live in school hostels and have to make do with boarding school fare.
The three youngsters are Adam (tour leader) who teaches piano and vocals. Chane (pronounced Charney) teaches drums and bass guitar, while Susan is the art and photography teacher.

Note: Creare Training Centre is a theocentric Arts, Skills and Ministry training centre based in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It was established in 1994 and continues to train and reach not only South Africa but also other countries far and wide. Creare Training Centre has a vision to train and equip all people from all walks of life:

In the ARTS.
In gaining SKILLS to improve the “quality of life”.
Through MINISTRY, by using the ARTS and SKILLS with a view to reaching out.