Tuesday, 31 December 2013

farewell 2013: the Pope and the polar bear

If I look at my social media feeds, I see many people had an awful 2013. Mine included. It started out well, Nicky passed his Board exam on the 5th (and final) go. We went on a wonderful holiday to the Eastern Cape over Easter. Finally got the disgusting carpets removed and our beautiful teak parquet restored to shining, wooden floored glory. 

And then the proverbial poo hit the fan. Nicky resigned from his exhausting job at the largest retailer in South Africa, just in time, as the verbal abuse he received there was starting to affect his mental health. Plus, I was ready to go into the office and punch his boss in the face. With a chair. A metal chair with spikes. His next job was a hopeless failure. Many promises made by a gutsy, but clueless entrepreneur meant that after a week he knew he had to find another, more stable job. There are few things in life more scary than facing the loss of your financial security. By the grace of God, a friend of a friend was emigrating to Australia and Nicky could step into his job within a few weeks. So many prayers, such support from our Christian family and our Heavenly Father. I didn't write much about this, I was too busy trying to keep my husband and my life afloat. Then in June my beloved Granny Mary died. It didn't come as a surprise, she was ill for a long time, but she was one of my favourite people. She built my confidence when no-one else would, or could. I still miss her terribly. Not six weeks later Nic's Granny Dot died suddenly. It was hell. Not a single person in his family had time to mentally prepare themselves for her passing. One Sunday she was fine, the next she was gone. On top of this, I had a mental year at work. Fortunately I had the same job the entire year, but it was rough. I think we all felt the tightening of the purse strings thanks to continued global recession. If only JZ could have held back on his fire pool, we all might have paid less tax. Idiot. Nicky then wrote his final Board exam in November. A very stressful time. I wrote this post on the roller coaster of emotions that follows such a huge exam. I questioned my decisions, my profession, my life. 

Inevitably though, life is a cycle of good and bad...and hopefully the bad has made way for the good in 2014. We have our amazing, life-changing trip to South East Asia next year...and maybe some other life-changing events we have yet to see. There is always something to be grateful for, and Nicky and I believe that our faith keeps us grounded. God is always teaching us something.

And then, in case you thought it was all doom and gloom, here is some good news from 2013:

The Pope was named Esquire's Best Dressed Man on 2013 for exchanging the normal papal splendour for simple white robes. He is a complete legend. You have to read this amazing article on all the good stuff he did for the Catholic church this year (including denouncing the judgement of gays and lesbians, wow!, and taking a selfie). I'm not Catholic, but what a coup for Christianity.

The WWF had some great wins for conservation in 2013, including one close to our hearts..the War Against Rhino Poaching. Vietnam is one country hugely at fault, so next year on our travels I plan to wear this T-shirt. Why not some passive activism while travelling?

This is the Nat Geo Photograph of the year, taken by Paul Souders of a polar bear in the Hudson Bay.

Cheers to 2014, have a wonderful New Year! 
Kate xxx

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas and die Groot Trek

So how was your Christmas? In my experience, as long as there is lots of wine (tick on this, we drank Nic's uncle's entire wine collection including a beautiful 2007 Meerlust) and no family screaming matches...you're doing quite well.

We missioned up to Joburg to spend Christmas with my mom-in-law's family. If you have been following me for a while, you will know that we used to live in Joburg. And hated it. Despite this, like most South Africans, we like nothing better than packing the entire contents of our house into a double cab bakkie and trekking to another province. On the 6 hour drive on Christmas Eve I had plenty of time to think about why we are like this. It's just one of the many reasons I love this country. Who else in the world has this trekking spirit? It must come from our ancestors and their ox wagons and living in caves and general hardiness. 

We had Christmas lunch in the rain, as is also traditionally South African, with 25 plus people. It was very festive. Then on Boxing Day we met up with some other family and they shared a Turducken. The Americans had to have come up with that one. I ate an avo instead, I must say being vegetarian at this time of year protects me from a certain amount of overeating. We got home to find that Howie had redesigned the outside of my mom-in-law's car. We even found paw prints on the BONNET! Equivalent to a toddler running through Pick n Pay with no pants on I imagine. Hugely embarrassing. Yesterday we headed to Umhlanga beach to ceremoniously wash off all the Gauteng-ness and it was wonderful.

PS The Hub came through and got me the Woolies canvas bag I put on the gift guide. Did you think it was a coincidence that I put it first? Never.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

hello december

The best, most festive, most fun, most all-round fabulous month of the year. Here's a song to start us off....

// image from Pinterest

gift ideas for the woman in your life {2013}

I am writing this under the illusion of writing an interesting and helpful blog post. What I am actually doing is dropping the world's biggest hint to the Hub. What better forum than the blog he diligently and faithfully reads every Monday (he even has a reminder on his phone, bless his soul).

My birthday is in early December and the Hub's is early January. So these two months are when we stock up on lovely things for each other. The rest of the year is rather dry...Note to self: do not start trying to fall pregnant in March/April - to avoid later bankruptcy. The problem with the Dec/Jan present rush is that you forget all the wonderful gift ideas you came up with in say, June or April. And then suddenly in the chaotic marketing buzz of Christmas you must remember that unique and useful idea. Uh uh.

This is what I (and any other fashion, socially and environmentally conscious lady) would like for Christmas:

A cute coral pink tote for 2014 travelling and adventures

Night Visions by Imagine Dragons, hands down my favourite album in the last year

Organic, petrochemical free Tudor Rose perfume by The Victorian Garden

Gwyneth Paltrow's Notes from My Kitchen Table, which has lots of good vegetarian recipes and enough chicken to keep the Hub happy

These super sexy bleached jeans from Trenery (I wouldn't mind the sandals as well!)

Ellen tub chair in bright red, perfect for curling up with a book in the corner of the guest bedroom

Set of 6 beautiful Murano blue tall drinking glasses for ice cool gin and tonics by the pool

Nike Free hot pink trainers (I can only find the blue ones online) for looking like you are serious about gym

Oh and maybe Wifi at home...this 3G is so slow right now I could happily go outside and throw this laptop IN THE POOL.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

freedom and some free career advice

Today the Hub wrote his final Board exam to qualify as a CA(SA). If you knew the years leading up to this point (9), the sacrifices made (many), you would also be driving to work with fat, warm tears in your eyes. It feels like we are on the precipice. At the point where stones are crumbling beneath our scared toes, and we know if we fall into the abyss freedom will follow.

I will be hard pressed to encourage my children to follow the same path we have. The sacrifice is too great for the gain. If you can pass all the exams required to qualify on the first go, then fine. Excellently done. I was one of those lucky few. If not, go and be happy rather. Even if you pass all the exams, by which time you will be a problem solving, analytical machine (something like 90% of South African Financial Directors are CA’s), you have a life of long working hours in front of a laptop to look forward to. Eyes so tired they go fuzzy at around 230 every afternoon, back and neck pain from sitting in your desk chair for hours at a time and fighting off marketing and sales people with a stick. (They think we are there to do all their admin/steal all their money/STIFLE ALL THEIR JOY). If you are lucky enough to work for an understanding company, where you only work 40 hours a week, you will be the minority. Any creativity will be stifled under the weight of enough Excel spreadsheets to sink a battleship. Speaking of Excel, I can guarantee you will be a pro by year 2 at the most. Most of us can mine data into a pivot table quicker than you can sneeze. Did I mention the working for peanuts as an article clerk for 3 years, while your peers earn decent starting salaries and get a lovely head start on the lifestyle every 20-something desires?

But what do I know? According to my friend and doctor, Te’, their profession is even worse. At least it’s rather unlikely you will kill someone behind that laptop screen.

PS If you haven’t a clue what a CA(SA) is…read this.

PPS If you haven’t a clue what a pivot table is…trust me, you don’t need to know.

// image from here

a simple starter

I am no Nigella. More like Jamie Oliver's vegetarian postman. I am that far from him. (By the way did we all watch him as the celebrity chef in Masterchef this week, I was CRYING like a BABY. Starstruck deluxe. I would sell my own Granny to see him in the flesh. He is the only reason I cook. OK so maybe that's a bit melodramatic, but I'm a huge fan.) Where was I? Oh yes, the starter idea. 

We had a few friends over for some of Jamie's Guinness lamb shanks and the Hub tasked me with making the starter and dessert. I love making desserts so I whipped up a lemon and lime panna cotta (easy peasy, email me if you want the recipe). My inspiration for the entree' came from these cute blue bowls from Woolies. I cheated and bought hummus, good quality olives and Danish feta from the deli and toasted some pita triangles to dip in them. My piece de resistance was the roasted pepper dip. I roasted off some sweet little red and orange peppers in the oven, until I could pull off the skin easily. Then I blitzed them up with garlic, lemon juice and half a cup of white beans. Super easy to make and a complete hit with my Hub and guests. If you notice the beautiful wood table...the Hub finished it a few weeks ago. So proud of his man skills.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

125 years of national geographic: the power of photography

I have been a great lover of National Geographic since the old, well-thumbed copies in the loo at my Gran's house. You know what I mean. Good old-fashioned toilet reading material. When they went online, I was happier than a piggie in...well you can fill in the blanks. Happy. Info on weird little cannibalistic insects and faraway red giants, available any time I cared to look. Robert Draper, a writer for Nat Geo, wrote an article called "The Power of Photography" in celebration of 125 years of the institution.

"By wresting a precious particle of the world from time and space and holding it absolutely still, a great photograph can explode the totality of our world, such that we never see it quite the same again."

"When I tell people that I work for this magazine, I see their eyes grow wide, and I know what will happen when I add, as I must: “Sorry, I’m just one of the writers.” A National Geographic photographer is the personification of worldliness, the witness to all earthly beauty, the occupant of everybody’s dream job. I’ve seen The Bridges of Madison County—I get it, I’m not bitter. But I have also frequently been thrown into the company of a National Geographic photographer at work, and what I have seen is everything to admire and nothing whatsoever to envy."

"Let’s not confuse nobility with glamour. What transfixes me, almost as much as their images, is my colleagues’ cheerful capacity for misery. Apparently they wouldn’t have it any other way."
"In a world seemingly benumbed by a daily avalanche of images, could those eyes still cut through the clutter and tell us something urgent about ourselves and about the imperiled beauty of the world we inhabit? I think the question answers itself."

  1. The most famous Nat Geo magazine cover of an Afghani girl, 1985
  2. A parasitic Eupelmis vuilleti wasp up close, very close
  3. Close encounter with an ellie in Botswana
  4. Photographing penguins in a snowstorm in South Georgia
  5. The failure that wasn't a failure - Amelia Earheart circa 1937
  6. Jane Goodall and a baby Chimp in Tanzania, 1965
  7. The critically endangered Cape Parrot, indigenous to South Africa and part of a huge community-centred conservation effort
  8. View of the Long Island, Bahamas from space (taken by an astronaut!)

You can see the entire collection on nationalgeographic.com.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

granny mouse country house

A few months ago, the Hub and I took an executive decision to inject some romance into our sad, lonesome, little marriage. So we pretended it was 2012 and spent the weekend honeymooning it up at Granny Mouse in the Midlands.

Wow. We splashed out and got one of their newly built deluxe rooms overlooking the Lions River (see pic below). They even left a cheese platter and champagne in our room! We had the hot stone couples massage to start off and then strolled around the beautiful gardens - full of flowers despite it being the middle of winter. For dinner we went to their fine dining restaurant, The Eaves, the salted caramel ice cream was the dairy of a lifetime. In true Kate style I left half of my clothes behind, and they kept them until the next weekend, not a single sock missing. 

We left after breakfast, took a meander to Piggly Wiggly and did some of my favourite things. I bought second hand books and an azalea. As one does at Piggly Wiggly. The Hub bought some wine and we looked at hideously expensive wooden furniture. bought some gold Tslops from Tsonga, an enterprise that employees ladies from the local community to hand make the most beautiful shoes. We had lunch at the uber cool Sapore, where I may or may not have a family connection, and the pizza was thin-based and rocket topped.  I can't wait to do it all again.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

marriage is sacred

Once, on a long evening walk with my friend, I asked her about her own marriage. “Why are you together? What makes your love stick through all the years of change and growth?”

She took a few careful steps over a cracked sidewalk and then laughed her answer. “I’m with him because he’s my home.” Those words echoed in my heart and rang true for my own life. Yes, I’m finally home as well.

- from the true story of a 7 year marriage on Fly Softly My Love

I know what you’re thinking. What does this KID, married for less than two years, know about marriage? Well I’ll tell you. I know about my mom and dad’s 29 year marriage, my in laws 33 year marriage, my aunts and uncles marriages, my grandparents' nearly 60 year marriage and the marriages of my 3, 4, 5 and 15 years strong friends. I know that marriage is difficult, and stressful and compromising. I know it destroys boundaries and then builds walls where those boundaries once stood. I know my husband once saw a vision from God that marriage should be like a one way glass house, where you can both see out but no-one can see in. I know the top three issues causing problems in marriage: money, kids and quality time. In that order. I know marriage has been both the best thing and the most difficult thing I have done in my life so far. I know that my love language is Words of Affirmation. My husband's is Quality Time. I know my husband can be domineering, stubborn, selfish and anxious. I know I can be domineering, stubborn, selfish and anxious. I know having God in your life and your marriage holds you accountable. I know marriage is mentioned in the second chapter of the very first book of the Bible, it's that important. I know my wedding day was the best day of my life. I know he is the love of my life. I know he is kind-hearted, loving, responsible, hilarious and sexy. I know he loves me more than anyone on this planet. I know he would do anything to make me happy. I know he is my Person. I know he is my home.

I love you Nicholas, you infuriating, mad, funny, gorgeous creature.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

extremely exciting news

No it's not a baby.

We are going to VIETNAM!!! And THAILAND!!! Someone Wake Me Up. This is the dream we've been saving and planning and holding on to for two years. It's the dream that got us through some pretty hard times this year and kept me going when I had nothing else to look forward to. So ja, it's a big deal. Why Vietnam? It all started with this episode and James May's colander on his head and those silk suits and....why not?!

We are doing a three week stint (three whole weeks of leave, what?! YES please) consisting of two weeks touring Vietnam and a week cocktailing and beaching and infinity pooling it up in Thailand. Did I yet mention how unbelievably excited I am? I think I did. Now let me shatter your American-fed misconceptions about Nam. It is NOT all Vietcong and tunnels to Cambodia and eating doggies. Not that the thought of seeing a dog hanging in a window doesn't send me into orbit, I will FLEECE that butcher, but apparently the dog eating is quite over-rated. Please, Lord. Howard would never forgive me. Vietnam is insanely good and sticky food, and French influenced architecture and limestone cliffs and pristine blue water and floating markets in the Mekong Delta and pointy grass hats and general South East Asian wonderfulness.

Let me show you.

We will be spending two days on a junk boat in How Long Bay (known to those outside our household as Ha Long Bay). This includes a Tai Chi class on the deck in the morning. HELLO! In case you didn't know, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the Great Wall of China baby. But wetter. And better.

Ko Phi Phi a la The Beach.

Infinity pool-swim-to-the-bar-private beach 5 star luxury in Krabi

Pho, the national noodle dish of Vietnam, in Ha Noi (not to be confused with Hoi An)

Venice in Vietnam (the ancient shipping village of Hoi An)

A gentle paddle along the Perfume River in Hue

Stinky but delicious dragonfruit from the floating markets in the Mekong Delta

Beautiful old Vietnamese people, who show that age has indeed got it's own beauty.

And yes possibly the funniest part of the trip is getting to say "And how many dong do you want for that?".

Photographs from: Pinterest, here, Trip Advisor, Jim's Junket, Steamy Kitchen, Jean-Marie Hullot, the Restrospective Traveller, All Points East Travel and Rehahn Photography.

And if I have sparked your interest in this magical country...Dawn Jorgensen, The Incidental Tourist living in Cape Town, tells the story of Vietnam in a way that I love.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

my nelson mandela

Is not perfect
Is the reason a lot of people know about South Africa
Is not some kind of pop icon
Changed my country when I was too little to understand
Did some bad things for the greater good, not that that’s an excuse
Is human, not a saint
Famously said "There is no passion to be found in playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
Deserves to die in peace, surrounded by his family and not international press and rubber neckers
Is possibly dead already, and if he is, our ruling party is disgusting to use his death as a political ploy to garner votes in next year's election
Is from my home province, the mighty Eastern Cape
Had a first wife called Evelyn who ironically hated politics
Then married a very awful woman
Loves rugby, despite its past (and some present) as a sport of the whities
Inspires millions to be better human beings, to give more and tolerate more
Changed the world

You are a legend Tata x

Madiba turned 95 this year, and in celebration 12 volunteer designers, including design heavyweights Mohammad Jogie and Jacques Lange, started the Mandela Poster Project Collective. Here are some of my favourites.

Design credits from top: Joël Guenoun (France), Byoung il Sun (South Korea), Marcelo Aflalo (Brazil), Francesco Mazzenga (Italy) , Najeeb Mahmood (India). Read more at printmag.

Friday, 11 October 2013

great advice from nicky gumble

I saw this tweet by Nicky Gumble on a very bad day. It was one of those cold, dreary days you only get in early Spring in Natal. When summer seems just a fingertip out of reach and yet miles away. When you think it's never going to be humid and sunny ever again. I was stressed out at work, fighting with my hubby and my hair was like Panda's rear-end: fluffy and with no discernible shape. 

When I read this, the thunderclouds over my head parted and revealed a crystal clear sky. 

Nicky Gumble is the vicar (that's a funny word hey? It makes me think of Rowan Atkinson in this movie. I prefer pastor) of Holy Trinity Brompton, a renowned church in London. He is more importantly the genius who developed the Alpha Course as an interactive and accessible introduction to Christianity. Nic and I have had the privilege of hosting a table at our local Alpha course, and even Bear Gyrlls had his life changed on Alpha. Nicky G. knows a bit about life.

Picture from the daily muse.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

unplugged Sunday

Last week we saw the dreaded signs up on our lovely little crescent "No electricity 29 September 7:30 to 15:30". Not amused, I immediately fired off a Whatsapp to complain to the Hub.

But then my ever supportive man reminded me that this could be a good thing, force us to chill out and UNPLUG. Turns out the power outage didn't materialise, but I still took Hub's excellent advice and chilled the heck out. I played the Let's Not Get Clawed by Panda game - her favourite, threw Howie's purple toy, cuddled with Chloe and gave the Hub much love and affection. We went to church in the evening and bought supper afterwards, instead of rushing home to cook. I don't know if it's just an accountant thing but weekends are often turned into more days of chasing the clock and getting stuff done. To follow that with 5 days of the same is just not cricket. I can highly recommend some selective unplugging, it was the best Sunday in a long time.

Amazing the things you notice when you slow down. My hydrangea and lavender are flowering for the first time this season. Aren't they pretty?

I wandered over to my pots under The Big Tree in our garden, and noticed the succulents had little flowers as well.

The Hub began restoring these awesome old chairs we bought on Saturday for the dining room. They are called Globe chairs, and were manufactured right here in Umbilo (Durban City) according to a patented design. Apparently we are well trendy in using them (we won't tell the hipsters we bought them because they fit our tiny dining room and were cheap as chips).

Sunday, 6 October 2013

spread the love with operation shoebox

I first found the link to this awesome initiative on The Jolly Jammer (she is brilliant by the way, check out her blog). Basically it works like this:

1. Register on the website for your area, and choose a drop off venue. They are currently only available in Cape Town and surrounds, Gauteng and Durbs. You get to choose the child you make the box for from a list for your area. I chose 2 girls, one aged 15 and one aged 8. They will send you a sign up email with instructions and a little about the kids you have chosen.

2. Buy the items listed in your sign up email. These are basics like toiletries, stationery and sweeties. You can add little luxuries too, for example my 15 year old likes girly things so I bought her pretty hair clips and a purple tank top.

3. Cover your shoebox/es with wrapping paper, fill them with the gifts and voila! Drop off before 1 November and make a child's Christmas.

I love this initiative because it feels so personal and you know exactly where your charity is going. Operation Shoebox is legit, they are a registered NGO so you can be quite safe that your boxes will go to kids in need.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

man and his best friend

One of my favourite times of the day is getting home from work and being welcomed by my puppies. They are always so pleased to see me. Howie usually has his purple toy in his mouth, now rather broken and gobby, and Coco the Bear welcomes me with the waggiest tail you've ever seen. I saw this photo on Twitter** a few weeks ago and it really touched my heart.

One of the reasons I love photography is how it makes me feel. Whether it evokes a memory so tangible I could touch it, or brings up an emotion I had long forgotten existed, it's my favourite art form. I look at that photograph and wonder...is that man homeless? Or just poor? Is that dog the only companion in his harsh life? I remember being in New York a few years ago and seeing a homeless person with one dog, one cat and a BUNNY. In a bitter New York winter. But those animals were so well cared for, and I was sure he fed them before himself. Animals do that to you, when you let them into your family and into your heart.

Ryan Gosling and his dog George, who he calls "the love of his life". Eat your hearts out ladies. Taken by Hama Sanders.

George Clooney and Einstein, a Spaniel cross (don't you think he has the same serious face as Howie?). Einstein is so fabulous he appeared in Esquire, photographed by Nigel Parry.

**I would love to credit the original photographer; I think it may be Veronica Henri as the photo above is similar to this one.