Dec 27, 2012

Our Christmas

Coffee for Chez and myself and tea for Caelen before we start opening presents. I took a couple of photos but wasn't happy with them so no photos of that.

I can now say Christmas Day 2012 successfully ticked off the list. It seems to take ages to get here then rushes upon us too quickly then it's all over. Caelen woke up around 6 which is early for him. I was already awake and up so it just remained for Chez to come downstairs which he duly did and we were able to open presents. There were a couple of surprise ones for Caelen and Chez which they liked so all was good.

Later on my brother Robin arrived followed by Tyrone and Bevis, two of Caelen's friends. They spend a lot of time at our house and feel like part of the family so it was great that they joined us. We were just missing Ciaran but I am sure he was having a wonderful time in the Seychelles.

 Checking out the new golf magazines
Tyrone was happy to smile for the camera
We started off with snacks out on the veranda while the turkey, gammon and lamb cooked in the Weber. Then for a starter we had prawn cocktail. Because I don't have a big enough table we dished up inside then sat outside to eat.

 I made the mayonnaise sauce to go with the prawns and decided to give it a twist. The twist was the addition of some hot homemade chilli sauce given to us by  a friend. Apparently it is so hot that Chez(who loves hot spicy sauces) doesn't even use it. Well, needless to say, the sauce had quite a bite! Robin opted to go for the straight version! The rest of us had the one with a twist - it was actually very nice - if you don't mind your mouth burning that is.

See, they all survived!
The turkey
Christmas lunch ready and waiting
Merry Christmas everyone
I didn't take any more pictures after that but we had peppermint crisp pudding and then played dominoes later. It was a very relaxed, chilled Christmas - our last one in South Africa.
I hope that wherever you are, whatever you did, you had a great Christmas too.

Dec 24, 2012

Busy day

I am going to apologise in advance for the lack of photos at the beginning of this post. I only thought about taking photos when I was busy in the kitchen after my house cleaning blitz.

I can't believe it - this is a first for me. The presents have all been bought, wrapped and are waiting under the tree. Normally I am still rushing around doing last minute shopping and the presents only get wrapped late at night. I must say it is a good feeling. It is only Chez, myself and Caelen at home. Kyle, my eldest lives in England and Ciaran - the "middle" child as he calls himself, is in the Seychelles for two weeks where he is combining a holiday and being a groomsman at his friend's wedding. I am very happy for him and also a teeny bit envious!

This morning Chez anad I opted not to go for our walk. Every morning we have been going for a walk on the Promenade at 4:30am. This morning was very hot plus we had a late night so we decided to watch the finals of X-factor USA which Chez had taped the night before. I know, a feeble excuse but missing 1 day won't harm us!

Then after breakfast I went on a cleaning blitz. Madness but when the mood is right you gotta go with the flow! I got stuck in to Ciaran's room first, stripped off all the bedding and put it in to wash then tidied, vacuumed and mopped the floor. Feeling inspired I also got stuck in to the bathrooms, the living area,Caelen's room and finally our bedroom. Inbetween I was also adding new loads of washing to the machine and hanging up the previous load.This took the whole morning and continued well into the afternoon. I did also have a short trip to the local shop to pick up the last food items I needed. I didn't want to buy cream too far in advance because it goes off quickly in this heat and today was exceptionally hot! Chez, bless his soul, made a yummy lunch - tuna and salad - just right for this hot weather.

Cleaning over it was time to make some Rice Crispie treats. This will be my third batch in the space of 2 weeks. I made the first batch for my fellow Grade 1 teachers as Christmas presents. They each got a glass jar filled with the homemade treats and when they are finished I thought the jar could be used as a sweetie jar in the classroom - of course they can decide for themselves what they want to use it for.

Each year I try to make something personal for them. Two years ago I bought diaries and personalized them for each teacher - they were a big hit and much admired. Last year I made altered clipboards - another big hit. This year the Rice Crispie Treats made up the homemade part of the present. I received calls to say how yummy they were and definitely not for sharing!

Again, I only thought of taking photos a bit late! Here are the made bars. This time i cut them into long strips in the baking dish then removed them before spreading melted chocolate on top. I melted the chocolate in the bowl in the microwave then spread it over each bar.

The bars covered in chocolate.
Next I cut each bar into individual bite sized pieces.
Trust me, these are seriously good.

I keep them in the fridge so that they stay hard, otherwise they can go soft. The hard chocolate on top and the chewy toffee, marshmallow, butter, rice crispie mix make a very nice treat. I used to make these when the boys were little and they often appeared at birthday parties. Now the boys are grown up but they still enjoy them. They were very happy to have them reappear.

If you would like to try making them yourself here is the recipe - it's very easy.

1. 100g butter
2. 100g toffees
3. 100g marshmallows
4. 100 g  Rice Crispies
5. 2 x 100g bars milk chocolate

Put ingredients 1, 2 and 3 in a pot and stir on high until melted .
Add ingredient 4 and mix well.
Pour into a greased baking dish or tray and spread smoothly.
Leave to cool slightly then you can either:-
a) spread melted chocolate on top before cutting into squares OR
b) cut into strips and remove from dish. Spread with melted chocolate then cut into squares/ bite size pieces.
Keep in the refrigerator.


Turkey in a blik

On Saturday my friend Janine popped round to see if I was OK. She had sent me 2 sms messages which I hadn't replied to and she thought perhaps I was ill. No, I wasn't ill - I just didn't check my phone. I am one of those people who forget all about their phone and don't think to check for messages. If I hear it ring, I answer it. If I need to contact someone then I will use my phone but apart from that I can go for days without even thinking about it. Some people are permanently attached to their phones but I am not one of them. Anyway, the other reason she came was to invite us for a pre Christmas "turkey in a blik". For those of you who do not know what that is, a "blik" is the Afrikaans name for a tin. Basically what you do is cook the turkey on a skewer inside a tin with hot coals surrounding the tin.You can actually cook any kind of meat this way and the meat is the best you have ever tasted!

Our hosts, Janine and Rod Boaden.
We met Janine and Rod when we moved into our first house 29 years ago. They were our neighbours from 2 doors down. We had Kyle who turned a year soon after we moved in and they had a little girl, Taryn who was 18 months old. We soon became really good friends and still are to this day. The Boadens ended up with 3 daughters and we had 3 sons. Our children were friends and we went away on holidays together. Special people, special memories.
It was a beautiful evening and we all sat outside next to the pool. The building on the right is a granny flat built originally for Granny Boaden. Now Marian, Rod's sister lives there. Marian is the lady with the white hair and the purple top. Also there were Biddy and Ian and the 3 Boaden girls. taryn is married to Simon and they have a gorgeous little boy, Evan, who is 18 months old, the same age Taryn was when we first met. In the background to the right of the chair is the "blik" containing the turkey. The coals are on top and around the base of the "blik".
   Taryn and Simon -  I caught them just as they had taken a bite of food, hence the closed mouths!
 Thirsty boy! Evan having a drink from Aunty Donne's glass. Donne is the youngest of the 3 Boaden girls.
Evan and Taryn having a dip to cool off. He really enjoyed being in the water and didn't want to get out.

Chez also decided to cool off a bit.
I just love this photo of the two of them.
The very pretty setting for our meal.
Thank you Rod and Janine for a lovely meal with great food and special friends.

Dec 19, 2012

Our Anniversary


On our 36th wedding anniversary

On 18th December 1976 Chesley Almuro Nell married Norma Jane Jeffrey. It is now 36 years and three fabulous sons later and we are still together and still happy. Life has not always gone the way we would have wanted it to but the important thing is we weathered the storms and they strengthened our marriage.

Braai Time

Last Sunday I decided it was time for us to have a family braai at lunchtime. I bought the meat, Caelen lit the fire, Ciaran cooked the meat and we all enjoyed the food for lunch before Caelen had to leave for work. The weather was beautiful and it was a lovely chilled relaxing day at home. 

Ciaran keeping a careful watch on the boerewors
Don't worry - I know what I'm doing
Man at work
Food's ready
Everybody's happy!

Getting ready for Christmas

Above is the table on the veranda where I sit and do a lot of my work.

Whew! Where does the time go? I have so many good intentions but life gets in the way. Now we are on holiday again. School closed for the children on 7th December and teachers continued until the 11th and I continued until the 17th. Plus I am still doing school stuff at home. If you are a foundation phase teacher, particularly year 1, then you will understand. I have an additional problem in that I need to have a major cleanup/clearout in preparation for leaving next year. Amazing how much stuff you hang on to in case a) you might need it  b) you will use it again or c) it might come in handy...... Truth is, if you don't use it now, chances are you're not going to next year or the next one either so get rid of it. Good advice but guess who has not followed it in the past? I spent 3 days going through boxes and files, sorting and throwing out or refiling. I am still not finished but I do feel I did make a significant dent in the pile. I should have taken a before and after photo but I didn't.

Up until now I have not really felt very "Christmassy". I think living in a hot country is partly to blame. Once we go on holiday then I start realising that I'd better get my act into gear so the first thing we did was  buy a Christmas tree. In the past when the boys were small we always used to drive to Gillits 12 days before Christmas to buy our tree but now we get it from The Round Table much closer to home. You also know that the money raised from the sale of the trees is used to help others. We chose a 2 metre tree which cost R200. Back home we had to find the stand and bucket that we use every year. I know this was a day late but better late than never. Right now I can't get my Christmas tree picture to load the right way up. I may have to add it at a later date once I have sent my sister a "Help me!" message.

After seeing a friend's beautiful tree I decided that I wanted to make some bunting to hang on our tree. It looked very sad and empty standing in the bucket and I thought the bunting would make it look more festive. Also, only 1 set of our lights was working and they looked a bit sparse. definitely some bunting will be in order. So, off I went to waste Centre to buy some material, bias binding and a pair of pinking sheers. Last time I made bunting I borrowed my friend Janine's scissors but thought that it was time I had my own. I chose red and white for my colour scheme.

My 4 different choices of material

I made a cardboard template then drew the lines on my material before cutting out my triangles using the pinking shears. This is probably the most time consuming part of the process.

The cut out triangles ready for attaching to the bias binding
Just checking to see how I want to place them
... and  now the sewing begins
Me getting stuck in - photo courtesy of Caelen
Bunting on the tree
And now for some random photos of Christmas bits and bobs to make us feel festive - even if it is jolly hot.
I just love this Father Christmas. He was given to me by one of the little boys in my class at the end of the year. Ben's mom told me that she always likes to give the teacher something for Christmas. What a lovely idea and a lasting memory of Ben. Both my boys were startled when they came home late at night to see a little man standing next to the Christmas tree. I always have to smile when I look at him. Thank you, Ben - I love him!

Here he is again - in close up

hope, peace, love

4 angels!
the tree
Rudolph, candle, beaded tree and hearts
This is going to be our last South African Christmas - next year we will be in England. What a contrast! Unfortunately Ciaran won't be with us. He will be in the Seychelles for a wedding. Such is the life.....

Nov 4, 2012

Surprise visit

Some of the team waiting to bat.
Yesterday it was my turn to go and watch our Grade 3 children playing mini cricket.These were the first matches they have beenable to play this term because of all the rain we have been experiencing. For the last 6 weeks it has rained every weekend. Needless to say everyone was very happy to be out there in sunshine.

Mark and Jack scoring runs

After watching the cricket and chatting to parents for a little while I left to go to school. School on a Saturday? I'm afraid so. I do not like to start the new week on a back foot so if I don't get everything done I go back to school over the weekend. Then I can start my week with a clear conscience and be fully prepared. Pity the parents don't realise that we don't stop working when the children go home! You would be surprised how many parents think teachers leave school when the children go home. Last week was a particularly busy one for me. On Friday I had to leave early to go to renew the license  for Ciaran's car. This involved a trip to the municipal offices - not a place you want to find yourself in on a Friday afternoon! Whilst sitting there I realised I might not have enough cash on me to pay for it - cash and cheques only are the preferred method of payment. When it was my turn I asked the lady to first tell me how much it was going to cost. I only had R610.00 in notes in my purse She told me and you won't believe it but after scraping together my small change I was able to make the R625.60 - only just! Add on another Rand or two and I would have had to return another day because by this time it was 13:50 and they close at 14:00. After that it was back to school but I hadn't finished what I needed to do by the time I had to fetch Chez, hence my decision to go to school on Saturday.
Anyway, why am I telling you this you may wonder. Well, whilst at school shortly before I was ready to leave, I had a phone call. I thought it was Chez phoning to ask when I was coming home and would I get something for lunch on my way home. It wasn't Chez. It was my brother Robin. He wanted to see if I was at home and could he pop in for a visit. We don't see much of Robin so I was delighted he wanted to visit. I told him I was leaving shortly and would be home in the next three quarters of an hour so he said he would see us later.
After finishing up I stopped off at the shop to get something for lunch and headed home. Robin duly arrived but with his arm in a sling. It turned out that he had been working on his motorbike and was testing it out on the driveway when on his last test run the front slipped out on a wet, muddy patch and he came off. It was then that he noticed his wrist wasnot looking like it should - there was a bone at sticking out ata very strange angle! His neighbours who were on their way out insisted he phone someone to take him to hospital. They waited with him and listened to the conversation to make sure he did actually get assistance. After that it was  trip to the hospital where they did not even need x-rays to confirm it was broken. He was sent home with his wrist in a cast and told to return to see the specialist on Monday. This he did and after x-rays to assess the damage he was booked into hospital for an operation to put a plate in that evening. I asked Robin if he had taken a photo of his arm after the accident - I mean, isn't that what everybody would do as proof of injury??? He was actually disappointed that he hadn't thought to do that, however, he informed us - I do have the x-ray and it's not pretty!
                   Robin - the baby of the family!

I was surprised that he was driving so soon after and he admitted that he probably shouldn't be but work had insisted he come back in so he had to drive to work. He also admitted that he had probably been doing a bit too much. His hand and fingers are still very swollen but if you know my brother, that is so typical him! Anyway, speedy recovery Robin :)  xx
                                                                                Robin's work bakkie

Oct 7, 2012

This blog is like a diet!

Kyle, Emma, Ciaran and Caelen

This year it was my intention to stay up-to-date with my blog.........Well, you can see how that turned out!!!! Never mind, all is not lost. As with diets, we have our lapses but you pick yourself up and start over again - at least that's what I do, don't you? Seriously I have to be focussed and my mind has to be right if I am to stick to a diet and the same applies to blogging. My mindset is good for my latest (and final) diet attempt - more about that later - so why not climb back on the band wagon and start blogging again. I don't know if anyone will read this but if you do, welcome to my blog. No pretensions, just me, plain and simple.

My last post was in April after my son and his then girlfriend / now fiancee left to go back home to the UK. We had such a lovely time together and it was wonderful to see how Emma fitted right in with the rest of the family. The future brothers-in-law and father -in-law  had never met her prior to this trip. However, it was as if Emma had been with us for ever - she slotted right in - not that she actually had much choice! Such special family time - we really missed them after they left.

Chez and Emma

One thing I do not like about this global world we live in is the fact that so many families are scattered  around the globe. This is particularly true of South African families as so many young people leave the country to live overseas. Mind you, that is exactly what my own parents did all those years ago when they left Scotland with 5 young children under the age of 10 and settled in Africa of all places! I remember thinking we would be living in grass huts surrounded by jungle and wild animals and that all my friends would be black children - how wrong I was! Now it is only 1 brother and myself here and the rest back in the UK  - BUT not for long. One brother is moving to Australia and we are going to live in the UK, provided we can get DH in as he is the only one not on a British passport. That is another story which I am going to leave for another day.

What have I been doing since April? Working, working and working some more. During term time that is all I focus on because teaching demands all my time, effort and attention but I love it. I love being busy. I love trying new ideas. I am excited when I see my children make such wonderful progress. I love the challenge and the rewards. Every day is different. Being a Grade 1 teacher is demanding, exhausting, exciting but never boring! Job satisfaction guaranteed : ) 

This year we used a new approach to the way we teach reading and phonics and the results have been so exciting. It has been hard work but so worth it when we see what the children are doing this year in comparison to previous years. I am so grateful to the other Grade 1 teachers who have supported me in my drive to improve our literacy and maths skills. Thank you special ladies - you are the best! Also thanks must go to my Deputy Principal because she has backed me all the way and offered total support even though this approach goes against so much of what our parents expect - and boy, do they expect a lot!

On a not so pleasant note both of my sons were mugged in the same week. Caelen had been playing golf on a Monday afternoon when he and his friend were held up at knife point and the muggers demanded their cell phones and wallets. They wisely did not resist and were left unharmed. Ciaran and his friend were not so fortunate. They were accosted in the early hours of a Sunday morning on their way to buy burgers after a night out with friends. As they were walking to the Steers takeaway at a nearby garage, a person approached from the opposite direction. As he drew alongside he made a clicking noise with his tongue and a fellow assailant jumped out of hiding and attacked Travis with an iron bar. Ciaran put up a fight against the first attacker and the second attacker then turned on him and proceeded to attack him with the iron bar, hitting him repeatedly on the head while his friend kicked him as he lay injured on the ground. His cell phone and wallet were stolen and he was left bleeding copiously and injured after having rolled down a bank and landing up amongst some rocks. The petrol attendants at the garage laughed at them and refused to help. Travis still had his phone and managed to call his father who arrived and took the boys to hospital.
Ciaran ended up with 24 staples in the side of his head, 10 stitches on his temple and another 12 to the wound on the back of his head plus a fractured wrist.

View of the staples and behind them the wound at the back of his head which was a jagged mess before they stitched it up.

I always pray for protection over my boys when they go out and I believe God did protect them that night. It could have turned out far worse than it did considering the violence of the crime. I am happy to report that Ciaran has made a full recovery but he now has a permanent side parting!

Earlier in my post I mentioned that I had started what I intend is to be my last diet ever - a bold statement but one I want to prove to be true. Over the last few years I have steadily put on weight. I look at myself in the mirror and don't recognise the person I see there. Anyway, next year I am going to relocate to England so I decided I can't arrive there fat. One of my ex parents and her husband went on a diet and have lost so much weight so I asked her how they did it and she told me it was the Dukan Diet. I had never heard of it so I googled Dukan Diet and hey presto - there it was. I decided that was what I was going to do to lose weight. It worked for them so surely it will work for me too. Well, it has. I have lost 10.5kg in 6 weeks. I have lost weight every week even when I haven't exercised, been sick and cheated a teeny little bit!

I feel so much better. I can see the difference and so can other people. I am fitting into clothes that I haven't worn in 4 years! I still have a way to go but I am determined I am going to be at my goal weight before I go overseas. In fact, I may even reach it by the end of the year if I can keep on losing like this. I have started my walking again ( another story for another day here) and feel less tired and have more energy. My face is looking more like the old me and I feel inspired, even though it is hard going some days but I know the end results will be so worth it.

So, feeling positive I am going to be equally positive that I will post on a more regular basis. Watch this space!!! I might even be brave enough to add some photos with me in them. although I tend to be the one behind the lens.

Back to school tomorrow after a 5 day break ( Sorry, I don't call that a holiday). I know this term is going to go so quickly. So much to do...

Have a great week and I'll be back soon - anything less than 6 months is soon!