Friday, December 31, 2021

Blessings for 2022

 Good morning dear Blogger friends. And so we arrive on the last day of 2021. 

Last week I was spoilt by  proprietor friends in the Valley and also by one of my guests. 

A guest shows her appreciation for my hospitality at The Bunker 
A yummy box of biscuits from the owners of the local supermarket/family shop just below The Bunker 

Not only did Amelia treat me to my favorite treats (I love cookies); she also bestowed a blessing on me for 2022. Very special indeed. 

This morning as I opened my WhatsApp, I received the below message from a member in my Winterton group. I got to know her after I had met her son-in-law who owns the fencing and security company here in the Central Drakensberg. 

Loosely translated: Dear Jo, thank you for being such [beautiful] person. You are steadfast, positive and an inspiration to all who cross your path. May 2022 be a blessed year for you. (another blessing - WOW!) 


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Preparing for guests

 Hello dear Blogger friends. Thandi and I cleaned The Bunker on Tuesday, after our Christmas weekend guests. There was a LOT of cleaning to do. On Tuesday night, I inadvertently had a one night booking (which I don't encourage in peak season). Nevertheless, the guests arrived, stayed and left on Wednesday morning. 

So, Thandi, who is on extra leave between Christmas and New Year, offered to come in again and help me clean. Which we did. Very quickly and easily this time. These were exemplary guests and we were finished in no time at all. 

I had bought a large frozen chicken and two liter cream soda colddrink for Thandi to take home for New Year. On  the way home, we stopped at the Valley fresh produce stall, Hillbillies to buy butternuts and a pocket of potatoes. 

Thandi with her pocket of potatoes in front of the well-known Hillbillies which has recently opened at the Breweries/Airfield Lifestyle Centre in the Central Drakensberg 

I then dropped Thandi in the township.  a few meters from her home. 


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wild bird Wednesday

 It's been many years - too many - since I linked to Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday post. There's no time like the present, so here goes...

Sacred ibis and a pair of yellow-billed duck on the dam this week
Swainson's spurfowl 

Reed Cormorant 
White-faced Duck with a dirty face - according to my SIL Shelley, who is my birding mentor 
White-faced Duck 
African Spoonbill

I'm linking to Wild Bird Wednesday, here

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Christmas ain't Christmas without...

 ..traditional trifle. 

Note: this is my last post on Christmas!

Two weeks ago I attended the service at my church, St Mary's Anglican Church in Winterton. Because I often clean The Bunker on a Sunday, I don't regularly get to church in town. On occasion,  I have managed to attend the Turning Point, charismatic church service, pastored by my friends, Ray and Rene Mattig, as it's held  in the Champagne Valley, just 1km from the Bunker. 

This particular Sunday after church, my friend, Jenny Hall was the hostess serving tea. Along with banana bread, sandwiches and Romany Creams, she had a plate of boudoir  biscuits. Seeing these, reminded me of how we mothers in the mid-70's gave these to our babies when they were teething.

It also reminded me of the traditional Christmas trifle which Grant and I made every year . I decided there and then to buy the necessary ingredients and make trifle. 

Which I did on Christmas morning after returning from opening gifts at the neighbor's house. 

It was a LARGE trifle and perfect for me to enjoy over the Christmas weekend.

Which is what I did...

Christmas Trifle - it was delicious 

Christmas is a two day affair on the farm

 Good morning dear Blogger friends. As mentioned in my post yesterday, I helped cater for Janine and Gavin's Christmas Even dinner as usual. Derryn always makes genuine American Pumpkin Pie which is guzzled with no seconds left. Lynn, Janine's SIL from the farm next door, made potato bake this year while Cindy (Ant's wife) made slow roasted mutton and brandy butter for the Christmas pudding.  Nine supplied a Woolworths pudding - always delicious. 

The guests were an eclectic mix of old, middle aged and young folk. The oldest being Ant (Farmer John's brother) at 81. His wife, Cindy at 78. John and Ronnie (my landlords, employers, neighbors, friends, Weigh-Less members and customers), are 76. Then comes me heading fast towards 70. Janine's dad, Morgan (80) came up from his home in Pietermaritzburg with Jenna and Guilford on Thursday. 

Along with Ant and Cindy's are their son Terry and his wife Lynn; their two sons Brett, 25 and Shaun, 21. Lynn's mom, (78) was widowed in 2020 and a guest that night.  Jenna's boyfriend , a vegetable farmer in Ixopo, Guilford was here. And Jeremy, studying veterinary was at the young table. Jeremy's parents, Norman, the local vet, and Christine, local Pilates teacher are always guests at the Muirhead Christmas table. Christine always makes the dessert: homemade ice-cream and fruit kebabs.  This year, Jeremy's maternal grandmother, Joan, 78,  was in the company as were his older sister, Emma and her new fiancé, Mike and Jeremy's younger sister, Andrea. 

Gavin and Nine preside at the top of the table, gracious hosts as always. The food went down well and we finally finished dinner at 10.30. A wonderful evening.

On Christmas day at 9am, Ron and John meet me at my garden gate and we return to Gavin and Nine's for Christmas mince pies, Christmas cake and coffee. Jenna and Guilford hand out the Christmas gifts. 

Opening gifts: Janine's dad, Morgan is in the foreground; Jenna and Guilford on the sofa and Gavin the left hand corner 
I was spoilt: lots of biscuits and a special hot sauce; a set of knives from Ron and John with a R5 coin stuck to the card; a unique tin of biscuits;  a Tupperware of jam tarts and body lotion and shower creams. Ronnie had bought two packs of Christmas cards not realizing the one was in Afrikaans. I am the only Afrikaans person she knows, hence the Afrikaans card in the photo

I have rested since 11am on Christmas day and finally roused myself to get back into the office. On Tuesday I will go up to The Bunker and clean after the Christmas guests. Thandi, as always had a week's paid leave between Christmas and New Year. However, she asked if she could come and help me on Tuesday, knowing full well she will only work half a day and be paid cash for her efforts. 

Then we will both take a solid break until Monday when my New Year's weekend guests check out and the next five day guests arrive. 

Enjoy your holidays. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

So this is Christmas...

 … apologies, Celine Dion!

Good afternoon dear Blogger friends. Compliments of the season to you all. 

 I have been here. I have been busy - being the holiday season for both the holiday accommodations that I manage. Last week, I wound down my Avon sales for 2021, had a Christmas party for my Weigh-Less members in Winterton and have gone temporarily online for my venue Weigh-Less groups over the festive season.

Thandi and I prepared The Bunker for Christmas weekend guests on Thursday morning. By 2pm I had dropped her at her home in the township with a selection of vegetables - pumpkin is favored greatly;  and fruit: she always opts for pears,  from our local Champagne Valley Produce (known as Hillbillies but recently moved to a large shed at the airfield);  her Christmas bonus in her purse and clutching a large grocery hamper for the family. 

This is also my fifth year at the neighbor's Christmas Eve dinner. And over the past four years, I'm also involved in preparing the delicious fare as Janine, the hostess, decrees. This year I prepared the glazed gammon as well as four of the six vegetables she decided upon. We were catering for 25 guests. 

I hadn't done hams since Christmas 2015, when we still lived in Marquard so I asked my brother how long was I supposed to cook the hams before glazing and roasting them. He remembered how our mom had done this meat and told me.  I was up at 4.30 on Friday morning and started with the hams. Skabby salivated as he realized REAL meat was being cooked in the house!  I Googled how to make the glaze and duly roasted the three large hams in a new roasting pan in the eye-level oven I'd been gifted. Ronnie's son, a Johannesburg interior  decorator, had refurbished their holiday home on the North Coast and the family gave me the previously-owned-in-perfect-condition eye-level oven in June this year. Sure beats working with a six inch square counter top oven! 

The glazed hams, roasted Brussell Sprouts with roasted pecan nuts (home grown on the farm) and tossed with balsamic vinegar; sautéed mushrooms and onion rings; and steamed green beans with roasted sesame seeds

By 2.30pm I had finished cooking and sent Nine a message for  Jenna and Derryn, both teachers like their mum, and home for the holidays,  to collect the food. Once they'd left, I picked up a book I was studying, put my feet up for an hour with the fan playing cool air on me. Much needed after a hot morning in the kitchen! 

Within minutes Nine sent me a message to say thank you for the hard work and delicious dishes. But where were the baby carrots?


I had forgotten to steam the baby carrots which were still in my freezer. I duly did cook the carrots, adding a generous helping of butter and honey to glaze them. And sent a WhatsApp to Janine that they were ready. Jenna and her boyfriend,  Guilford came over this time to collect the errant carrots! LOL! 

I returned to my relaxation. The book I was studying?



Enjoy the rest of the festive holidays! 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Birthdays and Taigelates breakfast

 Good morning dear Blogger friends. As the year draws to a close, the year end functions gather momentum. Ron, my neighbor, landlady, employer, Weigh-Less member and friend had a birthday on 20th November. Her daughter-in-law, Janine (my other neighbor, friend and Weigh-Less member) organized a breakfast at a fairly new boutique hotel  in the Valley. Jenna, my nail beautifier and friend and Ron's oldest granddaughter, had come up from the city bringing her maternal grandfather, Morgan,  with her for the weekend.

 A great family gathering in honor of a gracious lady, Ron

The next day, a Sunday, was Steve's birthday and Estelle arranged a lunch for him with his closest friends and her two brothers and sisters-in-law. Steve is the artist whose work I promoted in a the little shop on the shopping center veranda for two years after Grant's passing. Now I work in the farm office and manage my other three businesses from the farm but the friendship between me, Estelle and Steve remain as strong as ever. Estelle is a Goal Weight member in my Weigh-Less group. She has brought her sister-in-law, Barbs to join since they moved to the Valley in October. She is the most loyal friend ever and MY mentor in my hospitality business. She and Steve are my close confidantes and have supported me emotionally for the past four years.   Steve also cuts my hair every month! 
The lady sitting next to me and the man behind Steve (who is gesticulating while he relates an interesting yarn about the Valley). are the couple who own The Bunker
Caroline, bottom left of the photo, is the lady for whom Grant built the cottage (which we ultimately did not occupy!) Estelle is on the right of the photo; her brother, Raymond is in the wheelchair (he and Charleien live in the nearby town of Colenso); Brian, her older brother is opposite Raymond while Barbs smiles beautifully from the middle of the group. Another family group honoring a talented and kindhearted man as he hurtles towards the 80's! 

Because I work three mornings a week in the office next door, I am only able to attend the ladies Taigelates** class on Fridays, run by Caroline. Because of the distance from the farm to the hall where the class is held, I only attend when I have work at The Bunker on a Friday. Once a year, the ladies all don dresses (instead of the ski-pants we exercise in) and get together for breakfast at The Valley Bakery after the first Friday class in December. 
Estelle, bottom left of the photo and Caroline next to me 

**NOTE: TAIGELATES is a combination of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates especially worked out every week by Caroline. 



Sunday, December 5, 2021

Rainy weather prevails

 Good morning dear Blogger friends. It is summer here in South Africa and the rainy weather has set in. When it stops, the weather turns hotter than hot. So Skabby and I have to wait for gaps in the weather (and of course, between my tasks), to get out and back on our farm walks.

A pair of Yellow-billed duck
A happy boy
Early morning on the farm - nothing beats it

Sacred Ibis  on the bank

On the road back, I pricked my ears at a kraaaak-kraaak sound. I scanned the bush on my right and sure enough, there was a Swainson's Spurfowl. While I photographed this bird in full cry, I heard a reply from its mate a little way off. 
Swainson's Spurfowl 

Back home, a very hot dog jumped into his plodging bowl with both front feet

I'm off to collect Thandi in the township. Her daughter, Thombi and sister, Mavis always catch a lift with me as public transport is non-existent on a Sunday. I will drop these two ladies where they manage Senqui retail outlets at the Thokosiza Lifestyle Centre. Thandi and I will proceed to The Bunker to clean after our weekend guests check out at 10am. 

I'm linking to Saturday Critters with Eileen here


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Four years

 Today four years ago, my marriage partner of 46 years, friend and protector, Grant, passed away suddenly. 

After leaving the mine in Tanzania, we lived for two years in our home in the Free State, South Africa. Our younger son, Angus and family lived next door to us. The grandchildren loved being near us and especially loved Grant. They often came to him where he was always busy in his beautifully neat and well-equipped workshop and asked him to fix any and all manner of toys.

Joel sits on the bar stool chatting to Granddad while he repaired a skateboard. Abby had just asked  Granddad to help fix her doll's pram

Entertaining the grandies wearing a child's pink sunglasses 

When we retired to the Central Drakensberg, it didn't take long for us to get involved in the local events in the Champagne Valley. Every Monday night Grant and John [Muirhead] would be part of a four - man team playing cricket bowls at The Nest Hotel. On Tuesdays, we did day hikes into the mountains. Saturdays we did Parkrun. Grant was the regular Tail walker and well loved by the walkers who were recuperating from surgery and starting to exercise slowly again. He was always very patient. Once he asked me to do the Tail Walker job, while he volunteered as timekeeper at the end of the 5km walk. 
A regular volunteer at the Winterton Parkrun, here Grant times old friend, Ant Muirhead 

In October 2017, we took part in the Cancer Pink [bra] Walk held at the same venue as the Parkrun. Grant wore his hiking sandals, the family tartan, his Widows Sons Bikers waistcoat, a pink padded bra worn over a black tee shirt and his Akubra, completed his outfit. 
Posing with his Monday cricket bowls partner, John Muirhead 

Grant won the prize for the best outfit at this event

At the Biker AGM in Bloemfontein mid - 2017 

During the week, Grant built this cottage for us on Caroline's property. Ironically, after his death, I wasn't able to live there. Instead, dear friends John and Ron Muirhead offered me a cottage on the farm where I have lived for the past four years
The last photo of the Hedges family together, mid-July 2016

From the time of Grant's sudden death, and through necessity, I had to take care of myself. Because of his kind nature and outgoing manner, I have a great circle of friends in the Valley. Some of them I work with, through my accommodation; some support me in my direct selling business; still others belong to my Weigh-Less groups and the rest I socialize with on different occasions.  Living on the farm with the Muirheads, I am able to run my three businesses while working in the farm office during the week. Thankfully, due to Grant, I have a firm platform from which to continue networking and supporting myself. 



Sunday, November 14, 2021

Just when we thought it was safe... go back into the water! (with apologies to Peter Benchley, Jaws) 

I see that I last posted on 10th October. Oh wey

I have an excuse. No, I have a month of excuses. I have honestly been very busy with my Weigh-Less groups. Online, I have 120 members from all over the world. And in venue (which means weekly  travel to lead these groups), I have fifty members spread over three groups in two days. 

I have also had wonderful guests in The Bunker and the large family holiday home. Thandi and I clean after check-out guests, and prep before the incoming guests. We also travel 40km round trip for my accommodation. All this takes time and often takes its toll on my back! 

At the same time, I still work mornings in the farm office and presently I am renewing vehicle licenses online for the all the vehicles. Not at all as simple as it sounds here. If there is an admin glitch in any document, it throws out all the applications. I have to find the error, solve it and resubmit all the vehicle renewals. 

However, I am most grateful for my job security on the farm and the revenue from the accommodation. In the course of business, I have met and remotely known many wonderful people. 

Today as we entered The Bunker, the guests had left my guest book at the reception mirror
How did she know I love BLING?

I have Russian guests arriving today and checking out on Tuesday. We will clean on Tuesday morning as I have a German couple checking in at 14h00 and staying for the week. 

I always set out individual chocolates against the towels which are rolled up at the foot of the bed. I also leave a slab of chocolates with a welcome note at the fruit bowl on the table. Today I wrote the welcome out in Russian! 
Each guest receives a chocolate on the bed 
The large slab of chocolate with a postcard of the Champagne Valley with a Russian welcome on the reverse
Welcome to the Morozov family 

I also had a most favorable review from the lady with 17 guests staying in the family holiday home this weekend
One of the five queen guest rooms in Nyati Valley Berg Guest House 
The patio, swimming pool and view of Champagne Castle and Cathkin Peaks 

AND they re-booked: four days over Easter 2022 ! 

In the marketing field, I have reached Avon Top Seller Status   in 2021. I was given a challenge with a favorable reward system,  in June this year.  I took it by the horns and will end the year with a bang. Not only is this income welcome, but I have also made many,  many friends who now support me as customers. Only yesterday, while I was setting up the Parkrun app on my phone, I noticed a brown paper bag with my name on it. Opening it, I found the Avon brochure with several items marked as her order. As I tipped out the bag, a packet of fruit pastille sweets slid onto the table. 

Mmmm, not only do I like bling; I also enjoy a sweet treat! 

An Avon order and a packet of sweet treats from a friend

My social life is also not all that stagnant. While finishing up at The Bunker two weeks ago, a friend from Tanzania phoned me. Louise and Wessel, who worked for the client at the diamond mine in Mwadui, were good friends of mine and Grant's. Louise used to cut my hair on the camp and as she had a nail salon, she gelled all the ladies' nails. Including mine, of course. I have always enjoyed being neatly groomed even tucked away on a remote mine site in East Africa! This day, Louise said they were passing Winterton and would like to meet up with me.
Moi and my East African friend, Louise

On Friday night as I was preparing for bed, I received a call from Lee and Jo,  biker friends in Durban.  They were in the Drakensberg for the weekend and wanted to see me. We arranged to meet at Thokosiza Lifestyle Centre after I had finished volunteering at Parkrun on Saturday. What a lovely catch-up we had over lunch. 
My friends, Jo and Lee with me, Jo in the center 

So while I apologize for my long absence, please know that I miss blogging and hope to reignite the regularity with which I had been blogging -  until recently.  

May you all have a great week ahead. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A straight line

On my daily walk with Skabby last week, I stopped to photograph the barbed wire fence.

A straight line...
...drawing the eye...
...into the middle distance!