Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts

March 17, 2017

Ocean Crossings, Cross-Stitch and Stitch Fix

It seems like I haven't shared much recently at least on this blog (you can read how I'm not teaching the Peanut to share here...) but I have to remind myself that the only deadlines I impose on this blog are the ones I make for myself. Sometimes there's simply not much to say. And sometimes I'm just saying it elsewhere. 

So, in case you've missed out on my life elsewhere, here's a recap of what's going on in my world:

:: The Sailor arrived home just in time for us to all fly to South Africa together! It has been two years since the Peanut and I were there. This time, he had his own seat, rather than my lap, which is a good thing because he's a giant.

He's a big fan of flying, although he's still not a great fan of sleeping... anywhere. Nevertheless, we spent several weeks hanging out with Ouma and Oupa and enjoying sunshine and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. We spent a lot of time outside, playing in the dirt. 

:: Cross-stitch. I still don't know what I was thinking of when I picked out this cross-stitch design for the Peanut's room. I started it back in Singapore over a year and a half ago, and then I barely touched it until over the holidays. I decided not to pack any knitting or crochet projects for our overseas trip <GASP> and instead, I just brought the safari stitching. I made some serious progress during the Peanut's nap time. And because he spent so much time simply playing outside, I got to sit under the tree and stitch without him wanting me to play with him every minute. Win win. 

And when my mother-in-law tried to pawn off some half-finished stitching she'd started when the Sailor was younger, on me, I promised myself to finish this thing by the time the Peanut's 5th birthday rolled around. At least I have a few year's buffer.

:: I signed up for Stitch Fix. My guilty pleasure TV binge used to be TLC's 'What Not to Wear' show. I secretly hoped someone would sign me up so I could get a new wardrobe. (Let's face it, I've also lived in places where I wanted to nominate the whole town simply to get people out of their pajamas.

Now, with a new post-baby body, and after changing my diet and losing more weight, nothing from my former life fits. I'm not quite sure how to dress a 40-something body, while chasing after a toddler without simply wearing athletic gear all day. So for $20, I hired a stylist! I just got my first shipment and I LOVED having items handpicked just for me that actually FIT and are geared towards my life. I'm not going to lie... the stuff was pricier than I would have paid if I had nabbed it off the rack at TJMaxx, but I'm not sure I can put a price on getting the perfect pair of skinny jeans mailed right to my door without having to try on 46 other pairs. 

(If new clothes aren't your thing, feel free to read my latest post on the Chattanooga Mom's Blog on How to Be a Savvy Secondhand Shopper.)  

:: The Sailor and I are mere days away from celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe it's been a decade since we tied the knot. We've done a lot of living, laughing and loving since then. I'm excited to see where the next decade of adventures take us. If you missed our story, you can read it here

Finally, a word on writing. There's a lot going on in my head about the state of the world lately and I haven't really written about it publicly. I decided one day to pull out my sadly neglected journal and I scribbled pages and pages of chicken scratch (seriously, if someone ever finds my journals, good luck deciphering them) about my thoughts. I felt so much better afterwards and it reminded me again to regularly write in my journal more often. It really does wonders for my soul. It also reminded me to keep pursuing more writing outlets. 

So I did. In February, I had this story published in the City Mom's Blog Network, the parent site of the local Chattanooga blog I now write for. I know there's a lot more in me that needs to be said. Some of it will stay in the journal. The rest though, time will tell

Happy (almost!) Spring. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are. 

April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!


I took this photo nearly a decade ago (how is that even possible?!) at a small outdoor restaurant along the coast of South Africa. It's an old buoy, but it has always reminded me of the earth. 

The Sailor, the Peanut and I just returned from South Africa, and while we were nowhere near this restaurant, we at least enjoyed the outdoors as well as the spoils from Oupa's garden. We missed peach season, but we still had fresh carrots, tomatoes, onions and potatoes to feast on. We were just in time, since much of the garden was gearing up for the winter.

We introduced the Peanut to grass, which he wasn't too sure about at first. 

He soon figured that grass was great to crawl in, leaves make wonderful crunchy noises, and Dexter the Wonder Dog is fun to pet. 

I got to sit under my favorite tree.

We introduced hammocking to the Peanut as well. 

He didn't stay in the hammock long, 
but I think he liked the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind. 

Earth Day might only come around once a year, but I kind of like the idea of enjoying the outdoors all 365 days.

Now that we're back in the Northern Hemisphere (Spring already sprang while we were away) it's time to think of our own garden. This year we're planting tomatoes, okra, peas, carrots and broccoli, plus maybe a few other goodies. 

I'm thinking maybe sunflowers? 

Whatever your day brings, I hope it's full of sunshine, and happiness equivalent to leaves crunching in a baby's hand.

Happy Earth Day! 

September 21, 2013

#7vignettes Part I

I've mentioned before how much fun I have on Instagram. Ever since I joined the online photo community, it's challenged me to take creative pictures using only my phone. I love seeing what other people around the world creatively post! 

I don't really participate in a ton of hashtag projects (yet!) but I do love playing along with #7vignettes. There are some amazing interior designers taking part mainly in Australia, but people submit their photos from around the world. 

I'm not an interior designer, nor do I live in Australia, but I truly enjoying seeing how other people interpret a one word theme in photos. I tried to not only create and take photos that matched the words, but I also created my own 'travel' theme throughout each of the photos in the seven day series.

I'm a little late in showing you all my first round of pics from August, but here they are:

Of course every photo has a story that's also part of the vignette. You can read Day 1's tea/coffee one here, if you missed it. 

The rest of the vignettes are as follows: 

BEDSIDE:  Bride's-eye-view from the cake topper that never made it to my wedding in South Africa, but arrived months later in the post in America. (The bride and groom still haven't clued me in on where they were all that time...) Also at my bedside: a frame holding an anniversary photo of the Sailor and me, at least one book, and always, without a fail, a glass of water at bedtime. 

WINDOW: Travel offers a window of opportunity to experience other cultures. I often feel as though I'm reflecting on past trips abroad at the same time that I'm planning new adventures. 

ELEGANT: For me, elegance is found somewhere between a train trip on the Orient Express from Budapest, coffee in the dining car, watching the snowfall while writing in my journal, and an African safari, sipping sundowners with the zebras. It's hard to choose... 

MONOCHROME: Vintage lovelies that have both traveled through and stood the test of time. Green is glorious. 

EMOTIONAL: The gamut of emotions I've experienced since the age of 10 have all been recorded in my journals... When words fail sometimes the emotions are simply a tear stain, a ticket stub, a sketch or a photo -- even the crumbling petals of a rose. Even in this age of mobile gadgetry, I still travel with my journal -- 61 journals now line my bookshelf. I'm working my way through number 62. 

HANDMADE: I have my mother to thank for instilling in me a sense of creativity and wonder in everyday objects. She taught me to sew and crochet and she showed me the amazing things you can do with paper and scissors (her pinking shears made the photo cut). Years later, my mother-in-law taught me to knit. She told me to keep the practice square as a memento of that first lesson. (It's in the upper right corner.) I knit the blue sweater soon after. The color reminded me of the Sailor's and my handmade wedding invitations and the oceans that separate two of the most amazing women I know. Handmade with love. 

July 31, 2013

Crochet Bobble Bag

There's a reason I claim to be a 'luggage lover'. I've always had a thing for bags -- ever since I can remember. Luggage of course, is essential for frequent travelers. I think my love of luggage runs deeper though. For years, I didn't own any furniture. I lived in places where of course I used furniture, but it wasn't mine. The only thing I owned were my suitcases, bags, purses, and the contents therein. 

I shopped for luggage and handbags as fervently as an interior designer does for furniture and decor. Like a turtle, I carried my 'home' with me, inside that luggage. Certain trips, countries and events gave me excuses to use different styles of bags.  

While the Sailor and I have accumulated our own furniture over the years, it's no surprise that I still have a soft spot for luggage and handbags. My own mother used to joke that I should someday open a bag shop. One day, I may still surprise her. 

If I did have a bag shop, this crocheted one would definitely make it to the window display for the summer. I gave you a glimpse in the last post; the mailman finally delivered the hardware needed to finish the project.

It's not too late to make yourself one for the rest of the summer! You can find the pattern for sale here, on Mon Petit Violon's blog. (Even if you don't crochet, check out the site -- her blog is beautiful!) 

Since I made my bag so late into the summer, I decided on yellow since I think it'll transition nicely into fall. I used Berroco Weekend worsted weight in Squash. The pattern called for linen or at least cotton yarn. Berroco Weekend is only 25% cotton, but while my Local Yarn Store had some beautiful linen and cotton yarn -- they didn't have a color I favored for a bag, so I purchased the Berroco instead.

I had a fabric remnant of giraffe print that proved to be a perfect fit for the bag, especially when I remembered I had a little gem of a keychain to go with it. 

I found the giraffe key-chain years ago at an airport in South Africa. I'm pretty sure it was after the Sailor and I went on a safari, and I wanted something to remind me of the giraffes. I have a leopard too, but he'll have to wait for his own bag. Both the bag handles and rings are from this Etsy shop.

I'm already dreaming up places for this bag and I to travel to! In the meantime, the crochet bobble bag is reminding me of past South African safaris and being wowed by the giraffes at sunrise. 

July 25, 2013

Peach Chutney

I had never tasted chutney until my 20s, when I ordered curry at an Indian restaurant in the UK. I always associated chutney with Indian food from then on. I had no idea what else you could do with it.

Then I married the Sailor and he introduced me to a whole new world of chutney-related items. Earlier this month, I mentioned that my go-to roast these days included a bottle of Mrs Balls Chutney. I still haven't found Mrs Balls Chutney locally. 

What I did find was my mother-in-law's recipe book. Years ago, in a bid to learn more Afrikaans, and to help the Sailor's mother, I typed out her recipes and bound them together in a book. There are numerous typos (really, I didn't know any Afrikaans when I set out to do this project... and most of the recipes were scraps of paper written out by hand). I still need the Sailor's help to translate a number of the recipes, but the book is a wonderful reference. 

It's peach season where we are and it reminded me of South Africa. My father-in-law cultivates amazing peach trees -- you can read more about those peaches here and see another photo here from our last trip to the Southern Hemisphere. The Sailor reminded me this week that there is a peach chutney recipe in that book.

I've been wanting to try my hand at preserving food for a long time now, plus, I needed an excuse to use the giant stainless steel pot I recently scored at a thrift store.

I started off with a very small manageable batch -- only six jars worth. 

While the chutney simmered, the Sailor breathed in deeply and said it smelled like his family's house. It certainly did. When we left  South Africa earlier this year, my mother-in-law tried desperately to send us home with jars full of chutney. Baggage handlers and breakables don't usually go well together, so we declined the offer, but our taste buds regretted it the moment we got back to America. 

I'm beginning to realize how significant it is to carry on cooking traditions from both sides of my family. In January, I wrote a post on Family Kitchen Mergers -- you can read that here, in case you missed it. When I sent my mother-in-law a photo of the chutney cooking, her response implied she was over the moon. I think most families love to see a little of their history getting passed along.

We may have turned down importing my mother-in-law's stash of chutney, but I think she's just as pleased that we learned to make it ourselves. As per her instructions, we need to wait at least a week to sample the goods. Rest assured, I'll let you know the canning results.

February 21, 2013

Successful Socks

Sometime in between putting a hole in the blue cardigan and starting over on it, I knit a pair of socks. I need to diversify, especially in the middle of a knitting frustration (like the cardigan). I occasionally need to remind myself that I know how to knit. 

And while I know South Africa doesn't get the same crazy snow and weather that we get back home, I do know how cold it CAN get here -- especially at night. 

So I made my mother-in-law some fun socks for the winter. I used the same Paton's pattern book as before. I must confess that I haven't experiment much with any other new pattern for socks. (Why mess with what seems to work?)

I do think that I need to start branching out though -- I think my socks need a cable or lace pattern at some point. But for now, I'm sticking to the basic pattern. 

I should also confess that I never really thought much about socks before, especially to give as a gift. (I think I conjured up images of children ripping open gifts to discover plain blah socks, when they expected toys instead...)

However, since I learned to knit to make socks... and since I've gotten fairly good at this basic pattern, I've come to appreciate how wonderful hand knit socks feel on my feet. Now I feel I need to share the joy. They are definitely fun to give as gifts -- and I'm going to bet, just as fun to receive.

February 19, 2013

Stop and Stare

I mentioned in my last post that my father-in-law has some amazing peaches from his trees. What I didn't mention is that there is one growing right outside our window.

No matter the season, I have always loved looking at this tree. Now that it's summer here, the sun always seems to hit it spot on -- you know... that moment when you see the light hitting the leaves and all of the world seems just right. I need a little of that most days. (Oh, who am I kidding here -- I need that everyday!)

I'm trying to soak up as much of the blue sky and greenery surrounding me as I can. I know that in only days I will be back to a very snowy Northern Hemisphere. There, I will at least have Ted, Ned and Red (if they are still alive, that is...) to give me my daily dose of green until the trees start to bud. 

The old adage, 'stop and smell the roses' sometimes doesn't get my attention. I like to stop and stare at them instead. It's amazing what kind of beauty surrounds us on a daily basis.

It's not only roses either. My mother-in-law pointed this flower out to me my first evening here. I have no idea what kind of plant this is... but I love it. How can you not think that is cool?!

Stop and stare once in a while... and marvel at the wondrous details in nature. 
(And if anyone knows what this plant is actually called... please fill me in.)

February 17, 2013

Peach Smoothies

I'm making progress on the great cardigan remake. (This isn't the first time I've had to remake a sweater -- more on that later -- nor do I think this will be the last!)

This morning, while I was vigorously knitting the waist decreases, my father-in-law emerged from the garden and sat with me under the tree to cut up a giant bowl of peaches. 

Coffee, knitting, a cool breeze in the shade... and the smell of peaches -- what better way to spend a Sunday morning?

I couldn't resist eating a small bowl myself. While Pa peeled and chopped his way through what seemed to be about 55 peaches, I remembered a summer years ago in Ukraine, when I sat under a similar tree with Babka Dina. 

Dina wasn't related to me, but she was known as Grandma to anyone who came near her. 

She was large, and rather slow when moving about. She used a cane, but insisted that she didn't need help whenever someone would offer an arm to her. 

One of my first days in her town in Eastern Ukraine, we sat at a table (where we spent most of the time actually). An unusual number of bees swarmed us. Babka Dina was unfazed. She spent the latter part of the lunch we shared trying to capture bees in a cup, or smashing them with her spoon. Occasionally she dumped scalding hot tea onto them when they landed on the table. (I'm going to guess she never saw the Bee Movie...)

Watching Pa peel peaches reminded me of Babka Dina -- not because she was old, and hobbled about, or because she happened to be a bee killer -- but because one of the only photos I have of her, she is sitting cross-armed, very stoic, next to a bushel of peaches, not unlike the giant bowl Pa had beside him.  

The photo is a shoebox, in a closet, on the other side of the world at the moment, but I can still see her face.  

It's been years since I saw Babka Dina -- I don't know whatever happened to her. I like to think that she's still smashing bees with the same spoon she uses for the honey. And I hope her peach tree is still thriving. 

After we consumed enough peaches for the morning and left the rest in the fridge for a smoothie later, a bee started to hover around the Sailor. He too was unfazed, but unlike Babka Dina, he let the bee live. 

Because I've been eating so many peach smoothies lately, I thought I should share my recipe (which honestly just fluctuates depending on the fruit that I happen to have on hand, but this has been the standard for two weeks now.) 


2 ripe peaches, chopped (preferably just picked) 
1 apple, chopped
1 banana, peeled of course, and chopped
Either a few splashes of milk, or a few spoonfuls of plain or fruit yogurt 
A small handful of almonds *

Throw all together in a blender. 
Pour into a glass and enjoy! 

This smoothie is quite thick, so I like to use a spoon to scrape out the last of it from the glass. Or, you could just add more liquid. 
* Omit the almonds if you married a picky eater like the Sailor.

February 11, 2013

The Sailor's 'Braai' Rules

There's nothing quite like the smell of a BBQ... or as it's known in South Africa, a 'braai'. 

The first time I ever spent the day with the Sailor, we were on a beach in Sierra Leone, West Africa with another South African family. Somehow, they had acquired lamb chops, and a small grill, and we spent the day swimming, getting tanned, digging holes in the sand and acting like kids, and of course we ate. Lots. I still remember licking my fingers clean of those amazing chops. 

I felt sorry for the vegetarian who was with us that day. Seriously, I ached because she didn't taste how yummy those lamb chops were. 

Since then, the Sailor and I have lost count of the number of places we have had a braai. No matter where we are though, the Sailor has a set of rules to abide by when grilling. 

1. Use wood and charcoal. Gas grilling may be quicker, but the Sailor swears by the taste of wood and charcoal. It takes longer... but that's kind of the point of a braai. You get to hang out with your friends and family while the fire cooks. 

2. Make sure the grill is clean -- just scrub it with a wire brush beforehand.

3. Meat tenderizer is acceptable to use before you grill, however do not salt the meat until it’s on the braai. The Sailor says it sometimes makes the meat tough if you salt it too early.

4. Braai at least three types of meat (burgers and hot dogs not allowed... get creative!)

5. Always leave a little piece at the end for the eldest dog -- in this case, Rex.

And before you say it's too cold to braai... even the Sailor has grilled in sub-zero temps, in the snow. Just think of it as an early summertime treat.

February 9, 2013

Dexter, the Wonder Dog

One of the things I most look forward to whenever we return to South Africa (besides hammocking, of course) is seeing Dexter. 

Dogs are plentiful in SA. The Sailor's parents currently have three of them, but Dexter is by far our favorite.

I think Dexter is actually smiling a little here, while sitting in his guard dog position.
You see, he was our wedding gift to the parents years ago, but somewhere along the way, he became 'our' dog. We took care of him in those early weeks and helped him adjust to life with the other dogs. Now, even though we can't take him with us across the ocean, he seems like 'our' dog whenever we visit. When we first got him, we thought for sure he was a Fox Terrier, but along the way, we figured out that he might be actually be a Jack Russel.

We're still not completely convinced of his lineage, but one thing is for sure, he's definitely still Dexter. 

And with a face like that, who wouldn't love to be greeted by a dog like Dexter daily?

I think he also knows he's a Wonder Dog. His only quirk? He sheds a ton. My blue cardi I'm knitting is full of white fur. It's definitely getting a good wash before I wear that thing.

February 7, 2013

Shades of Blue

Sunshine, shorts, sandals and hammocking... I must be in the Southern Hemisphere. I am trying to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible -- what a contrast to the snow and ice the Sailor and I left behind only a few days ago!  

For the trip, I specifically picked this cardigan pattern to knit. It’s not at all complicated (handy when trying to knit AND carry on a conversation when you're somewhat jet-lagged), plus it’s made of cotton (essential in my book for summertime knitting). I already made this same cardigan before, years ago, in a shade of green for my mother. 

I decided to make myself a blue one, so I ordered the yarn online. I realized later that it’s the exact same shade of blue as the first sweater I ever made -- one I knit and put together in Cape Town, the year I learned to knit. In fact I was wearing that first sweater the day the yarn arrived -- and I even chuckled a little to myself when I saw how similar the shades of blue were to each other. 

Apparently I'm drawn to all things blue when it comes to knitwear
(although I prefer my hammocks in pink and green...) 

Fitting then, that yesterday I set-up my trusty hammock and decided to float for a bit under the bright blue sky, while working on the blue cardi. 

Everyone should hammock. It's good for the soul. It's also the perfect way to see some shades of blue without feeling blue. Here's where to find your own Color Cloud Hammock. Even if you're still experiencing winter, if you order your hammock now, you'll have it in time for sunny skies and hot weather. 

* Full disclaimer... while I am friends with the fun and fabulous gals behind Color Cloud Hammocks, I received no compensation or goods from this post. Hammocking however, is contagious, so I do feel compelled to spread the word.