Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Last Days of Summer

At the close of summer, the aloe spp create cool colour, while providing nectar for the sunbirds visiting my garden

As the summer season draws to a close, the days become still and warm. The afternoons seem to stretch on forever, allowing you to enjoy halcyon days in the garden. To my mind the month of March has always been the most beautiful month of the year. Everything is in full bloom, while the leaves of the summer flowering trees and shrubs turn golden. After a summer season such as we’ve been blessed with this year, the world is looking even more beautiful than ever.

I always hold onto God’s promise of every season in its place and on time.

“As long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest (autumn), cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night. “ Genesis 8:22
Euryops pectinatus flowers for many months, creating a splash of colour
Sunny gaillardias are ideal for that hot area in your garden.
The bright blooms make excellent cut flowers

These white Namaqualand daisies, (Dimorphotheca pluvialis)
flower profusely in the herbaceous bed above

Plumbago auriculata rewards the gardener with many months of beautiful blooms while attracting a mulitude of bees, butterflies and beetles
This part of my garden (above and below) always beckons you to move in closer to enjoy the cool shady spot under the old apricot trees

The afternoons seem to last forever enticing you
to sit and relax
The water takes on a new serenity in the late afternoon sun

Monday, March 30, 2009


My husband's new form of recreation

Friday is day-off in Khartoum. I don’t know whether it counts as a Sunday; all I know is that by Sunday, when we in South Africa enjoy a day of rest, my husband’s work week begins again.

Life as an expat is very different this time for my hubby. Firstly, he is not involved in mining at all. He is in the Plant Hire [heavy earthmoving] business. Another thing, wherever he has worked before, there have always been other South Africans, English citizens, Australians, New Zealanders, Frenchmen and Dutchmen. This time he is the ONLY person he knows in Khartoum (if that makes sense-ha!) He alone runs the Sudanese company; his superiors live in the UK and travel between there, the US and the Sudan. He also lives alone in a penthouse apartment in Omdurman, one of the three cities which form Khartoum.

Not being one to sit around and mope during his off-time, he goes into the city to shop for food; comes home and cooks his meals and spends hours on the roof of the apartment feeding the birds and watching the many feral cats.

This weekend he told me the previous guy had left him a few puzzles and he was about to build one. To my amusement he took a photo of it which he e-mailed to me this morning.

It is railway station scene during the Wild West period. The consisted of 500 pieces and he had great fun building it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Witness a Miracle

A perfectly formed little human: ten fingers and ten toes
Close-up of perfection

Yesterday when I saw my third grandchild for the first time, I realised I was witnessing a miracle from God.
Between her first and second child, my d.i.l., Debbie lost a baby. Then after having the little boy, she suffered two more miscarriages. She and John want to have four children and were really despondent by the time we all attended an open-air church service in Greytown, Kwa-Zulu Natal.

On that freezing cold morning last June, well-known South African evangelist, Angus Buchan delivered a powerful message of repentance and salvation. He then invited people to come up to the front and commit their lives to the Lord. After about 600 of the 1500-strong congregation had responded to the altar call, he invited people to come up for healing. Amongst those, were John and Debbie. They went up for divine healing of Debbie that she may be able to carry a baby full-term.

My husband and I were not at all surprised when John and Debbie told us in August that they were expecting their third child. In our experience, God always delivers.

Two sisters get to know one another

In September these two young people sold their home, (you can read about this here) stored their furniture and attended a three-month discipleship course. The next two months they went on an outreach into various townships in Kwa-Zulu-Natal. This led them to obey God to the utmost and instead of my son going back to work at sea, they have decided to remain together and work as full-time missionaries in the Drakensberg area.

Over the past months it has not been at all easy for John and Debbie. Apart from living in one room with two young children, and sharing everything (bathrooms, kitchen, meals,) with nine other young people, they have also had to endure fiery darts from the Enemy. They have had unbelievable opposition from “well-meaning” folk and family. These people cannot understand that John and Debbie are being totally obedient to God and trusting Him for everything in their lives.

When the interferers realised they were never going to convince John to leave his family and go back to his old life, they began to tell Debbie that the baby she is carrying will not be normal because of the conditions she has been living under. (For two weeks over Christmas John, Debbie, their children and all the others on the course, lived in tents in the middle of one of the largest squatter camps in Kwa-Zulu Natal, while they ministered to, worked for, and helped feed the inhabitants.)

Last Friday morning when this precious baby was born, all the Devil’s lies were proved to be just that: LIES.

She is perfect, she is beautiful and she is a miracle.

Below are some images of life in a Discipleship School and on the subsequent outreaches.

The children thrived at Y-WAM as there were lots of other little friends and lots of activities

Helping dad wash the dishes
Helping Mum wash the windows
As the Y-WAM vehicle arrives in the township
the children excitedly run to meet it

Members of the Y-WAM crew pick up litter in the township

My grandson sharing with the township children
while the adults clean up in the background

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a Girl!

You saw me before I was born. (Psalm 139:16a)

Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows in a warrior's hands.
(Psalm 127:4)
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works (Psalm 139:14)

Yesterday, Friday the 27th March 2009, our third grandchild (and second granddaughter) was born. She arrived at 9h10 and weighed in at 2.7kg / 5.94 lbs.
Received by faith through anointing, born by His grace.

Praise God for this beautiful little miracle in our lives.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pesto Glazed Vegetables with Feta Infused Polenta

A tri-colour of sweet peppers form the basis of the vegetables
Pesto glazed, this medley of crisp vegetables
is a delicous accompaniment to any meal

This dish can be served as a a light lunch or side dish
I’ve had a packet of polenta in my grocery cupboard for a while. I’d never eaten it and although I was dying to taste it, I couldn’t work out what would be good with it. Then last week I came across a lovely food blog called "What's for dinner mom?" with just the recipe to test this new [to me] staple.

Polenta is a cornmeal porridge from Northern Italy. Traditionally it is made with water in a large copper pot called the paiolo and stirred with a bastone (a wooden baton) then cooled in a madia - a round wooden tray and cut up into diamond or squares and then served plain with butter and cheese, any of a number of sauces as pasta is and braised or roasted meat. Various ingredients can be added during cooking including cheese, vegetables, ham and truffles. There are two main types of Polenta - fine or coarse- they result in different textures in the finished product.

Under ingredients on my packet it said that the contents were made from fine maize grits. I don’t have all the wonderful Italian cooking utensils but my saucepan worked well. I served it as a starch.

Earlier this week, I made it for John, Debbie and the children and everyone cleaned their plates and asked for more! The polenta is infused with feta at the end of its cooking time and is served with pesto-glazed vegetables.
To quote from the foodie blog: it is peasant food pure and simple.
1 cup water
Salt to taste
1/3 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
1/4 cup feta crumbles
Bring the water which is lightly salted to the boil.
Whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.
Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir occasionally.
When the polenta is almost done, stir in the feta.
Pesto Glazed Vegetables
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sweet pepper sliced
1/4 of onion sliced but left in rings
2 tablespoons of pesto
Salt and ground black pepper
2 thin slices of parmesan
Heat oil in a wok over medium- high heat
Add the vegetables and saute until tender but crisp left
Add the pesto and stir to glaze the vegetables
Season to taste
Note: This recipes serves 2. Adjust accordingly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Successful Baby Shower!

The beautiful invitation to Debbie's baby shower

We set the tables, umbrella and chairs outon the lawn

Two weeks ago I asked Amanda (my younger d.i.l.) to arrange a Stork Party/Baby Shower for Debbie, my older d.i.l. Amanda designed and printed beautiful invitation cards and together we handed them out. A Stork Party is held for a mother-to-be and all her friends bring baby clothes or pretty blankets and toiletries. As Debbie had lived in this town from early 2002 until 2008, she made many friends and is loved by all, so our guest list was rather long.

On Friday Debbie and John and the children arrived to stay with me, while they wait for the birth of their baby. This made arranging a surprise party for Debbie very tricky. However, I managed to collect the snacks I’d ordered and left them at Amanda’s house. I’d borrowed garden chairs from my dear neighbour, Pienkie. Her gardener carried them into the lane which runs behind our houses, and lifted them over the wall to my gardeners. They then left these behind my garage so that Debbie would not notice them and wonder...

Amanda set the tables beautiful with pink tablecloths, toys and baby clothes as props

At 12.45 on Tuesday, John decided to take Debbie out to coffee while I looked after the children. This was a ruse we’d agreed upon so that Amanda and I could get the seating and tables arranged in my garden as well as set out the tea things and eats. As he drove up the street, Amanda and I with the help of my gardeners, dashed about carrying chairs and tables across the lawn. We managed to have the tea and coffee cups set out and the snacks on the tables by the time the first guests arrived at 3pm. They had all been asked to park next door on my dear old neighbour, Pienkie’s lawn. This way there were no cars parked on the sidewalk outside my home.

All pretty in pinkIsn't this bib just toooo beautiful?

The ladies sit and wait for the guest of honour to arrive

At 3.15 John and Debbie arrived and Amanda went to meet Debbie. She asked if there was a party at Pienkie’s house as she saw all the cars; Amanda merely smiled and took Debbie’s hand.
Debbie asked Amanda if there is a party next door as there are so many cars parked on my neighbour's lawn!

Debbie suddenly sees all her friends in my garden

When they walked out of the entertainment area, Debbie saw the crowd of women waiting in the garden. Much excitement and greeting of old friends, and eventually Debbie sat down in a designated chair and began to open her gifts.
Great excitement as each gift is opened with much
ooohing and aaahing from the audience!

She received a variety of baby clothes and a gorgeous array of soft pink blankets, towels, a nappy/diaper bag, atoilet bag, bootees, mittens and woollen caps. As she opened the gift, the giver had to give her an inspirational and/or positive word. It was very special.
What a privilege it is to have such generous and supportive friends who bless you and your baby with beautiful gifts and their presence. A Baby Shower is normally only given for the first baby, so Debbie felt especially blessed this time.
Afterwards everyone enjoyed a cup of tea or coffee and sampled the many eats I had set out on the tea table.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Autumn in the Free State

Search as I might through my reference books, I cannot positively identify this butterfly. It seems to a species of the Acrea genus

A male Malachite sunbird in eclipse plumage enjoying the nectar of the wild dagga (Leonotis leonarus)

At this time of the year, Plumbago auriculata is in full bloom and attracts butterflies and bees in abundance

A busy bee is just visible on the blooms in both the above photographs

Scabiosa columbaria is another insect-friendly indigenous perennial to have in your garden. Here I captured a bee working hard on the bloom while the insect on the side was a complete surprise to me. I only noticed it once I downloaded the photo

The rhubarb-like Acanthus mollis in the foreground has rewarded me with glorious foliage while the Setaria spp (an autumn flowering grass) is attracting many seed-eating birds to my garden

Autumn, Fall, Herfs, Automne, Hwetla

Autumn in the Free State, although it heralds a very cold, dry spell of winter which can play havoc with the garden, is still one of the most glorious seasons in the Free State. Many of the shrubs in my garden have produced magnificent foliage and floral displays. We are still enjoying the outdoors with days of idyllic Indian summer while the feathered and insectivorous visitors to the garden are a delight to watch.

Mulching beds against the dry season, my gardeners and I are also cutting back shrubs, and lifting, splitting and replanting overcrowded bulbs and rhizomes.

With the abundant summer rains we were blessed with this year, I believe that my garden will remain green and lush longer than normal. Towards the end of next month, we’ll plant; plant bulbs (mostly indigenous) and annuals (always exotic as my husband loves pansies and primroses) which will supply colour and warmth during the frosty months.

For now we'll continue to revel in the balmy days of autumn.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

High Drama on Sunday Night

Our electric motor gate to which my children
all have their own remote control devices

My older son and d.i.l. are staying with me at the moment so my younger son Angus and his wife, Amanda (who live around the corner from me) pop in regularly to visit. On Sunday night, my older son invited Angus and Amanda for a cup of coffee and cheese puffs. Our children all have remote controls to operate our electric motor gate, so access and departure is pretty simple.

They had been visiting for an hour already when I came through to my office. As I sat at my desk, I heard my dogs and the neighbour’s dogs barking furiously. I popped my head out of the window and was horrified to hear a piercing howl. My neighbour was away for the weekend and my first thought was that her two large dogs were mauling her miniature Jack Russell.

The gap in which Megan's head was stuck
I sprinted up the driveway towards the gate when I realised the yelping was coming from poor Megan, my eleven-year-old Scottish Terrier x Maltese poodle. I couldn’t see too clearly but I saw that she had been caught in between the gate and the post. I ran back indoors, grabbed my remote control and dashed to the gate again. By now Eddy and Angie were very worried and were milling around Megan while her screams grew louder and louder.
Holding onto the poor dog with my left hand, I held my breath and pressed the button to open to the gate. I was nervous that her poor head would be crushed in the movement but praise God, the gate opened and suddenly Megan was free. She sped down the driveway to the house and by the time I came inside, I found her sitting under a chair in the entertainment area and panting frantically.

Megan often makes a dash for the last gap in the gate as it is closing. This time, however, her timing was out
After ascertaining that she wasn’t bleeding or injured, I warmed a bowl of milk and crushed half an analgesic into it. She drank that and when I checked on her again, she was sleeping on the armchair!
Megan enjoying her bone on Monday afternoon. None the worse for the wear after her harrowing Sunday night ordeal with the electric motor gate!

While this drama was playing out, all the family were looking up friends on Face Book. When I came in and told Angus that it was probably when he entered the yard that Megan had tried to get out into the street (she has this bad habit), they all traipsed out to check how old Meggie was.
Then Angus, ever the joker, said: "Mom, you should have taken a photo of her stuck in the gate and you could have blogged about it!”

At the time, I couldn’t think about anything but releasing Megan from that gate. Today I photographed the scene of the accident and yes, here is the post!
BTW, I don't think Megan will try to run out of the gate again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Preparing for the New Baby

The baby doll is absolutely lifelike and cries if you remove the bottle. My granddaughter has taken to "motherhood" as if born to it!

My third grandchild is due to be born on Friday, 27th March. My son, John and his wife, Debbie together with their two children have come up to the Free State to be closer to the hospital in case the baby decides to arrive earlier.
The doll makes sucking sounds, her cheeks and lips move while drinking and her eyes open and close
To prepare their six-year-old daughter for the arrival of a new sibling and to make her feel part of caring for the baby, John and Debbie have bought her a real soft baby doll which cries, drinks milk from a bottle, sucks a dummy/pacifier and snores gently when she falls asleep.
Eyes begin to droop while ""mum" gives her the dummy/pacifier

The dolls eyes close and she begins to snore gently as she falls asleep
I was so impressed with this modern example of technology, that I photographed my granddaughter feeding and cuddling her baby. I thought it might be interesting to post these images.
My two-year-old grandson has been pushing one of my granddaughter's other dolls around in the pram. He is not at all perturbed about the new baby; it seems as if he can take it or leave it. As long as he has his scooter and tractors to play with, he is quite about the imminent arrival a new baby in the family.