Tag Archives: mother

A dog friend in need is a friend indeed

Blackie Dog


I’m sitting in my car in the driveway on Sunday morning, a dog sleeping outside my door, listening to the doves cooing, the weavers bickering in the trees, and the bees buzzing in the distance. These are all the sounds of spring and summer – sounds that lift my spirits and make feel that absolutely anything is possible and, actually, there is still a lot of good in the world.

I’m sitting in my car because we’ve just returned from The. Longest. Walk. Ever. Long in terms of time, distance not so much. We didn’t really choose to walk at a pace that had disabled snails smirking at us – it was Holly and her new shadow, Blackie who chose to amble along slowly on this beautiful spring morning.

Blackie is a Labrador cross Border Collie and the newest addition to our little suburban family. He is a rescue dog from an amazing organization called Barking Mad. His first Person went into a retirement home and couldn’t take Blackie with him. And we were looking for a calm, friendly, affectionate, secondhand hound as a companion for us, Idumbe and as a cuddle monster for Holly. It seems we found all of those things.

Blackie and Holly have taken to one another beautifully. She lies on him (we peel her off) and he lies back and soaks up the attention. She rubs his ears, he closes his eyes in pure bliss. Thankfully he is one of the most tolerant dogs I’ve ever met, so he’s well suited to our family with its raging lunatic toddler and slightly neurotic German Shepherd.

Idumbe and Blackie dog

Idumbe, Holly and Blackie

As for why Blackie was on a go slow when we went to the dog park? He was absolutely petrified! It didn’t occur to us that he might not be used to going for long walks in open fields with hundreds of other dogs racing all over the place marking their territory. But it seems that was indeed the case. He’ll soon get used to going out for walks though – we’ve been taking the neurotic Shepherd four times a week.

So why am in the car? Holly passed out on the way home and she doesn’t transfer from one sleep spot to another. So, instead of waking her and having a grumpy on hands, I’ll use this time to write a little. It’s what we moms are good at: grabbing those few quiet moments that are presented as little gifts from the universe and clinging to them for dear life.


Mama mia

A couple of weekends ago it was Mother’s Day and my Mister and I hosted both the moms and the Joburg siblings for lunch – so a lot of family, in other words. It involved quite a bit of planning as there were 13 of us altogether. I planned the day far in advance so everything would be perfect. On top of this we ran a big a Mother’s Day campaign at work so I really have has Mother’s Day on my mind.


I decided I’d like to do something special for my toddler, Holly. Something that would strengthen the bond between us even further when she’s a bit older. Something that would hopefully give her some inkling of an idea of how very much she means to us and how very much I love her. I started a journal for her.


I’ve begun writing about my days for her. Short entries about what I do and how we spend time together and how much time I spend thinking and talking about her. Hopefully it will be something special to her one day. Maybe, if she has children of her own, she’ll do the same thing for them one day. This may even become a family tradition one day!

I don’t think children ever realise how much their parents love them until they have children of their own. And I don’t think a person knows how much love they’re capable of until they have a child. I didn’t understand my capacity for love until Holly was born, and still now almost two years later, I’m blown away by how much I love her.


Today my gorgeous toddler had professional photos taken and she’s even more beautiful than she was this morning when I left her to go to work. How is that possible?

Party like a rockstar, Mister

My Mister’s 40th birthday is on Saturday. We’ve racked our brains over how to celebrate it. We’ve debated whether it’ll be destination party, if we’ll go out for lunch or have it catered. I’m all for all of those options because it means I don’t have to clean up and can spend my time concentrating on paying close attention to my crispy cold Sauvignon Blanc.

Hogsback Inn. Photo: heritageportal.co.za

Hogsback Inn. Photo: heritageportal.co.za

Mister always said he’d like to have his 40th birthday party in Hogsback, a quaint bohemian village in the mountains of the Eastern Cape. And, while we would have loved to have gone back (we spent a few nights of our honeymoon there and it was beautiful and strange), it was just too difficult to organise family and friends to all meet up in such a remote location for a night (it’s like herding cats just trying to get the friends into one car). Hogsback has a labyrinth and many quirky little cafes. It’s high up in the mountains and very misty and pretty. I believe it to be South Africa’s very own Hobitan.

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Little furry footed creatures aside, we decided to have family and friends over to our house to celebrate there. So, come Saturday afternoon, my beautiful new house will see an influx of excitable children ranging from 15 months to 16 years, a host of happy grannies who’ll be spoiling their grandchildren with sneaky bites of Eton Mess, a bevy of boisterous boys telling their big loud man-jokes in deep voices, and a clutch of pretty, patient wives gulping their wine.

Photo: thereaux.net

Photo: thereaux.net

I want to make the day really special so I’ll be doing the food myself (*lowers eyes and shakes head at self*). And I’ve bought a lovely gift. Mister asked for a skateboard (I’m serious – you can’t make that up) but, since our medical aid savings is depleted (their word not mine), that can wait until January 1. He also asked for a fancy watch but, according to my last payslip, my salary is not the equivalent of South Africa’s ministerial vehicle allowance. So, in the end, I decided to compromise (read: buy something I could also enjoy) and bought him a Nespresso machine.

So on Saturday I’ll be alternating between my wine and cups of coffee while I slave away in the kitchen doing everything I can to make sure my Mister has a wonderful birthday. Because he is amazing and I love him a ridiculous amount. And, if you’ll be slaving away too (for whatever entertaining-reason), and need some fab foodie inspiration, grab a copy of the October Essentials and follow our recipes for:

  • a sizzling seafood platter (with J.C Le Roux La Vallée MCC)
  • hazelnut tarts with strawberries
  • asparagus and prosciutto lilies
  • classic Cobb salad

Or visit Essentials.co.za and click on the Food tab for some delectable recipes.



Workin 9 to 5 what a way to make a livin’

Last week I wrote about women in my life who I believe have incredible personal qualities and could teach our baby girl Holly important life lessons. Qualities that I believe will shape her into the most amazing woman who’s going to change the world. Thinking back on what I wrote, the qualities I discussed all seem to be personal traits like patience, tolerance and kindness. And it’s obvious that I admire these qualities and see them as virtuous otherwise I wouldn’t have devoted a blog post to them.


But I’ve been thinking about another side of the women I know that I didn’t mention, a side that’s so often overlooked, undervalued or scorned. I have a group of mommy friends who I met at my previous job when I worked for a very corporate, very male-dominated, very cut-throat consulting firm. The kind of place that measured your worth solely by the number of hours you billed your paying clients.


Emmi, the mother of a gorgeous two-and-a-bit-year old boy, is one of the funniest people I know. She is witty, intelligent and has an incredibly dry sense of humour. She is also the best project manager I’ve ever worked with. I do believe she could put Mr Trump to shame. She single-handedly rescued a number of multi-million rand projects from destruction simply by waving a very pink, very sparkly magic wand. Ok, obviously that last part is slightly embellished; the wand was only minimally sparkly. It emitted more of a soft glow than sparkles like a vampire. I don’t actually know how she did it, but she more than once prevented clients from pulling the plug on difficult projects.


Candice is a woman who has the most stamina out of anyone else I know. (She has two strong-willed and curious toddlers with only a year between them.) She’s also incredibly ethical and has the moral standards of a particularly pious monk. When I worked with Candice she led her teams to the successful completion of some ridiculously difficult projects for unbelievably demanding clients. Without once resorting to violence. She didn’t even swear at her clients (even when they clearly deserved it).

Lisa also has two children – a sweet little boy and a very busy little girl. And she manages to work full time as a training manager for a multinational corporation. And, while she effortlessly (or so it seems) transitions between the role of mommy, devoted wife to a husband who’s just completed his MBA, and corporate high flyer, Lisa is also a very talented media designer.

And the thing that these hard working, intelligent, ethical, strong and determined women have in common is that they’re all madly in love, obsessed even, with their little children. And, when they climb into their cars at the end of the day and slip off their Nine Wests, they seamlessly slip out of their roles of women to be reckoned with into the much more demanding role of Mommy.  And it is these women who, on the eve of Women’s Day, I want to salute for being the backbone of, not only society, but of our economy too. Their strength and hard work is laudable and the love they have for their babies, faultless.


Sisters are doing it for themselves

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.

Holly1With August being Women’s Month I’ve decided to dedicate this post to some of the amazing women I’m fortunate enough to know. All the women in my life have stories and qualities that make each of them worthy of their own full-length feature film (played by a movie star of their choice). So I’ve decided to focus on those who have the qualities I hope my baby will one day have herself.

I have to start with my mother because, well, she’s my mother. My mom is tolerant. She is one of the most placid and laid back people I’ve ever met. There is very little you can do to irritate her and it takes a lot for her to lose it. I can count on my one hand the number of times I have seen her throw her toys during my life and those times were when someone had really provoked her. Next is my mom-in-law. She’s patient. But like biblical-Job patient, not nursery school teacher patient. I’ve never seen her lose her temper and she has six granddaughters under the age of 13! She once went on holiday with five of these shouty, energetic (sometimes whiny, always demanding) little girls and they all came out alive on the other side.

My sister in law, Charmaine is kind. She is one of the nicest, most giving women I know. I once asked her to babysit Holly for a month when we were stuck without a nanny and, without thinking twice about it, she agreed. At short notice (like two-days-before short notice). My other sister in law, Bianca is nurturing and maternal; she’s a wonderful mom to her two beautiful, clever and funny little girls and somehow she always knows what the right thing is to do for them.


My Mister’s two sisters, have so much they could teach Holly. Vanessa is a published author, a mother of three stunning, smart little girls, and lives in America. Vanessa could teach her niece courage. It takes an astonishing amount of bravery to leave the country you know and love, and your family to pursue wonderful opportunities in another country. Lesley is my Mister’s other sister. She could teach Holly how to balance her home life and her work life. Lesley has a very highly respected position at a bank and does quite a bit of travelling for her work. And she has two tween daughters. Somehow, and seemingly without effort, Lesley manages to balance her work and home life like a particularly skilled tightrope walker in a Russian circus. And… and she still manages to bake the most delicious cakes and treats!

From these six amazing women, I want Holly to learn: tolerance, patience, kindness, how to be nurturing, courage and balance.


From the women I work with, who all have their own stories of strength and who’ve all travelled incredible journeys, I’d like Holly to learn the qualities that will make her the kind of woman people don’t easily forget. I want her to learn resourcefulness from Kirsty, who’s also one of the strongest women I know. Kirsty is so incredibly resourceful, not only can she make anything out of nothing, but she also always knows what to do and say in every situation.

Tahra can teach my daughter charity. She’s always looking for new ways to help people in need and will regularly take on fund-raising initiatives to help others without a thought about how it’ll affect her.

Working girl

I want Holly to learn independence from Grace who wouldn’t have been out of place in a movie like Working Girl and could easily have been a pin-up for the 80’s, power-suit wearing, ball-busting corporate high flyer.

From Taryn I’d like my baby girl to learn generosity. Whenever Taryn goes to a launch, or ‘town’, she comes back with a little something for us. Whether it’s a book she thinks we might enjoy or a coffee we desperately need, Taryn is always sharing.

Stephanie could teach Holly curiosity: she’s not scared to ask questions when she doesn’t know something, a quality that’s so admirable and so rare.

And from Caryn I’d like her to learn humility – a more humble, almost to a fault, person you’ll never find. Caryn is so good at what she does, but she’ll be the last person to blow her own horn (or wear her own designs?).

These incredible women I work with could teach Holly resourcefulness, charity, independence, generosity, curiosity and humility.

If my daughter grows up to have all of these qualities, she will certainly be a woman to be reckoned with; an empowered woman of strength, courage, patience and kindness – the kind of woman we all aspire to be. I am so lucky to have such amazing women in life and, this month, I will honour them in as many ways as I can, starting with this story about their strengths.


Grab a copy of the August issue of Essentials magazine to read about more inspiring, real women like you.

It’s my party and I’ll try if I want to

How to host a one-year-old’s birthday party successfully

Holly's party 1

Last Friday was my gorgeous baby girl’s first birthday *sob* – she’s growing up so fast! Just before she was born, I had this quaint picture in my head of what her first few birthdays should look like: mommy would be at home unwrapping presents with her baby, baking goodies in the kitchen, assembling party packs and generally being Nigella and Martha-esque. I wanted to be able to give my baby the kind of birthday and party I always had when I was little. And, on the whole, things pretty much went the way they were meant to go, so I thought I’d share my tips and plans with you.

Owl1I decided on an owl theme for her party because she (read: I) loves owls. I found that having a theme helped guide me in terms of cake, decorations, party packs and gifts (she’s going to have an owl-themed bedroom in our new house). Fortunately, the whole woodland creatures theme is on trend at the moment and everything is easily available. Tip: Pick a theme with easily available goodies. I recommend steering clear of characters that have gone out of fashion years ago like Popeye or Betty Boop. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to find decorations and things.

Paper lantern owl

Paper lantern owl

Because I work full time, I started making decorations and party packs in the evenings a couple of weeks before the party. I’m not terribly good at crafts and my Mister often had to rescue me from the dark recesses of glue-and-glitter hell and finish off my crafts (that picture certainly didn’t match up to what was in my head!). Tip: Don’t make decorations if you’re not very ‘crafty’. I was a little more successful with my party packs: I bought little party boxes from a toy shop that was having a sale and put stickers, a little chocolate, a soft sweet and a toy inside. I decorated the outside with a little picture of an owl so I didn’t have to pay a fortune for themed party packs but the boxes were too small for a packet of chips (party-pack fail). Tip: make sure your party packs are big enough to contain what you want to pack into them!

Check out essentials.co.za for more fab cake recipes.

Check out essentials.co.za for more fab cake recipes.

 I asked people I’d invited to the party to help me out with food and things. My mother and mom-in-law helped out with making sandwiches, quiches, sausage rolls, mini meatballs and the soup (it was freezing cold!). And I asked my sister-in-law, who is a magician with baking, to make Holly a cake. It was amazing AND delicious. I was really lucky because buying a birthday cake can really eat into your budget. Tip: Don’t make too much food (I had heaps left over) and rope in people you know to help with snacks.

I’m really fortunate to work with very talented people and I asked Tahra, our art director to be the photographer. She took the most amazing photos and I didn’t have to worry about missing out on the party while running trying to capture those special moments! Tip: Ask someone else to take photos so you can be entirely present at your child’s party.


Because we’re still waiting to move into our new house (read my blog post Early Retirement from February 2013 for context) and are currently staying in a retirement village with my mother-in-law, we had to look for a venue to hold the party. Ideally I would have liked to have had the party in my own house, in my new garden with our covered patio and my own kitchen but life throws these little challenges at us to make us stronger (serious first world problems, I know). So we decided on Delta Park. It’s really lovely there: there’s a children’s play area and swathes of rolling lawn for the kids to run around and exhaust themselves. Tip: We have some amazing free resources and venues in this country. Do a little research before you hire a kids’ party venue. It may take a little more preparation, but it can also save you a bundle.

And finally, try to enjoy yourself. A first birthday party is really for the parents and family – your baba is not going to remember it and is happy rolling around on the lawn, eating leaves and tearing up wrapping paper.

Early retirement


Soon the Mister and I will be moving into a retirement village. And by soon I don’t mean that time’s flying and it feels like any day now we’ll be retired and looking to spend our post-work years playing bowls and bingo. No, what I mean is, in the next few months we may actually be moving into a retirement village to live with my mother-in-law.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about my mother-in-law (MIL). MIL has the Wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job and Job’s entire extended family. I’ve witnessed these qualities first-hand on a number of occasions, mostly involving a seven-and-a-half month-old grandchild who won’t sleep, but the very first time I was made aware of their depth was on my honeymoon.
Not many people have the opportunity to spend their honeymoon with their mother-in-law. In fact, most people in their right mind wouldn’t want to spend their first few days as a married couple with any of their family. However, having been initiated a long time ago into the strange rituals and customs of the Mister’s family, very little surprises me anymore. From stories of exciting and oddball ancestors, like Aunt Happy the entertainer, to the great grandfather of illegitimate children who owned a large portion of a prestigious and well-known Cape Town suburb. Eccentricity and outlandish behaviour has become the norm for me, so why would spending time with MIL on our honeymoon be strange?

It can’t have been easy sharing a holiday house with a very excitable toddler and an Italian extended family. Just getting up in the morning and trying to arrange an outing to suit the tastes of six outspoken and exceptionally volatile adults and a spirited and emotional little girl takes the acumen, endurance, serenity and diplomacy that even the most hardened hostage negotiator would envy. However, MIL ‘s fortitude prevailed and the improbable little group of tourists were given a tour of Cape Town and it’s surrounds most tour guides would find hard put to match.

Cape Town

So back to our moving in with MIL: our house is going on the market in a few days and may sell quite quickly. If that happens we’ll need somewhere to live. And that’s why we’ll be testing the retirement village waters 20 to 30 years before we’re actually eligible to be moving into one. And I’m not complaining, in fact I’m really excited by the prospect of living with a mom again. How lovely to come home from work, kick off my shoes and go lie in front of the telly for an hour or two before I’m called to dinner. It’ll be just like being back at school again with someone looking after me.

And this moving back in with mom, or in our case mom and MIL, seems to be a new trend. For various reasons lots of people seem to be doing it. Whether it’s because the economy has dictated it, people are looking for new work, or as it would be in our case, you’re between houses, the home of the parents seems to offer the sanctuary it always has. Take a read in the March issue of Essentials magazine about others who’ve had to move back in with their parents and then drop us a comment if you’ve had a similar experience. And have a look at the Essentials website for more interesting reads www.essentials.co.za.