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