It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Photo by Michele Reid

Christmas decorations at Meyer.

How is it December already? Christmas has really snuck up on me this year. We’ve been super busy getting ourselves a place to call home (so excited!!!) and preparing for the arrival of our new fur-child, a gorgeous Maine Coon kitten. Hopefully her big Siberian sister will take to her quickly and we can all enjoy Christmas together.

Photo by Michele Reid

Mia playing in her favourite present, a random box, with her Santa toy.

It’s a bit difficult getting into the swing of things and doing all my Christmas crafts with it being 39 degrees Celsius today! Summer has truly arrived. I’m also busy helping with organising our office multi-cultural Happy Holidays party, so have been cutting out photo props and Santa beards to go on some paper straws (will take a photo and hopefully post them here later in the week).

I’ve managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done (that was the one department I’ve been very organised in) complete with stocking treats. I just need to get a few things for my family back home, but that’s easy enough thanks to online shopping (a lifesaver!)

I absolutely love Christmas. I think I have my parents to thank for that. It really was a magical time for me as a child. It all started with an invitation to the Noddy Party (if you’re South African and a child of the ’80s, chances are you went to at least one of these). It was organised by the local Rotary and Noddy was the main character. Ours was hosted on a farm (it’s long been sold off and is now home to lots of new houses). We would be entertained by characters on the stage which included Noddy, fairies and of course right at the end, Santa. Meanwhile, our parents would get stuck in the picnics they’ve packed and catch up with friends. You would wait and strain your ears until you hear Santa call out your name and give you a present. I always thought we were so special to get a present from Santa before Christmas!

Photo by Michele Reid

Antique German Christmas baubles from my childhood.

Another favourite was decorating the Christmas tree. Christmas smelt like tinsel to me. After a while, my grandmother gave us one of their trees (we had fake ones) and my brother and I each got to decorate our own trees! Christmas eve we always spend with my German side of the family where we got to indulge in some German Christmas treats. Naturally that meant Santa came on Christmas eve at their home. After midnight, we would head home and drive through our town’s main road which was completely decorated with Christmas lights.

My brother would usually wake me up early on Christmas morning. He would first report that Santa drank the two cold beers and biltong (cured meat) we left out for him. He would then go on to tell me how many gifts he received, how many I’ve received and what he thinks I got. Together we would rush into the lounge to open our presents before running to my parents room to show us what Santa brought us.

Later as I became part of Hubby’s family, I also got to experience some of their traditions and enjoyed delicious, lazy Christmas lunches under the big tree with their family.

Photo by Stephen Reid

Our Christmas tree.

Now that it’s just the two of us in Australia, I think I try to compensate by the amount of decorating I do. I make a delicious meal and we celebrate on Christmas eve (as that was really Christmas for me growing up), but we open our presents of Christmas day. Santa doesn’t even forget the fur-children! We also get to open our stockings (something I never had as a child but got to experience with Hubby’s side of the family). We might head off to the beach for an early morning swim and smile at the families from places like the UK enjoying the novelty of a summery Christmas. They pose with Santa hats on the beach to send back to their families who haven’t even woken up yet. It’s nice to see people create new traditions in their new home. The rest of the day is usually spent indoors with the air-conditioner on and phoning or Skyping family back home.

So, hope you get to finish all of your Christmas crafting and shopping (do share ideas with me, I love to see what everyone’s making) and get to spend some time with loved ones over the holidays!

Rest well Madiba

Madiba byHans Gedda

Image by Hans Gedda

Thank you Madiba for leaving the world a far better place for having had you in it. You meant so much not just to all South Africans, but inspired people throughout the world. Rest well.

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”
– Mandela documentary interview, 1994

South Africa Part 2

Firstly, thanks for your patience while I sorted out some technical difficulties, aka my laptop died and I had to replace it. I’m now back so let the blogging continue without further delay…

Hubby managed to stock up on some much needed work clothes. I was quite impressed with myself and only got two cardigans from Zara (sadly for some silly reason Zara still hasn’t opened a branch in Perth). I must admit having been to Zara in both Melbourne and Sydney, the Cape Town store is so much better.

Naturally we had to visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We used to live really close to it and spent many a sunny weekend munching on picnic treats bought at the local Woolies enjoying the view. I wish I could bring it with me to Perth as I so miss the mountains and the beautiful plants.

Photo by Stephen Reid

Mountains! Oh how I miss mountains! The view from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Photo by Michele Reid

The beautiful shades of green was a welcome sight after the drab olive green and dry landscapes of a hot summer in Perth.

Photo by Stephen Reid

Beautiful Kirstenbosch.

Photo by Michele Reid

Guineafowl grazing on one of the lawns.

My brother and sister-in-law were officially doing the legal part of the wedding at a home affairs office on Valentine’s Day. Not the most romantic venues, but that was coming a few days later. I have to admit, I was super impressed with the home affairs office in Paarl. They really tried to make it a special day as it was Valentine’s Day and decorated the room with hearts and flowers and even had a staff member take some photos to email to them later on! Her mom and both my parents were also there so it ended up being quite an event. Afterwards we decided to stop for lunch at one of the nearby wine farms and enjoy some of the sunshine that managed to break through the rainy clouds. In the end in was quite a beautiful day and the newly-weds ended up feeling quite special.

On our way home we decided to stop by Butterfly World as Hubby hasn’t been there yet. They’re now home to a few more critters including parrots, spiders, lizards and some adorable marmoset monkeys. Of course they still have beautiful butterflies fluttering about.

Photo by Stephen Reid

A beautiful butterfly with glass-like wings.

Photo by Stephen Reid

Photo by Stephen Reid

Photo by Stephen Reid

One of the beautiful feathered friends at Butterfly World.

Photo by Stephen Reid

A lizzard comes to say hi. Many of the animals have been rescued from illegal smuggling and have been given a home at Butterfly World.

Photo by Stephen Reid

How cute am I?

After a few days hanging out in the city and Rondebosch area we headed to my home town of Somerset West for the all-important wedding. We were staying at a family friend’s place in Gordon’s Bay and in typically the wind was howling (major disappointment for me who had dreams of soaking up some sun on Bikini Beach).

My mom treated me to get my nails done and I had the bonus of catching up with my high school bff’s mom (she did my nails). Dinner was another highlight as I got to sink my teeth into Mike’s calamari and chips. Now we’re not talking normal chips, but proper, delicious, mouth-watering slap chips. No one in Australia seems to make slap (which means limp in Afrikaans) chips so I enjoyed each and every one of them. Probably not the best meal to have the night before your brother’s wedding, but damn they were good!

The wind continued to howl all through the night which didn’t bode well for a good night’s sleep, but we were up bright and early to get ready. I was a bit worried about the wind as the wedding was held outdoors but luckily it was well protected from the elements. It was quite emotional for me as we’re quite close. The ceremony was beautiful, my sister-in-law looked stunning and I got to see my grandparents again for the first time in ages.

Naturally no wedding would be complete without a party. One of my brother’s close friends is a chef so he created the delicious food and we got to toast the new couple with some very good local beer. As the ceremony mostly included immediate family and closets friends, we decided to have an after party later that night at a very good friend’s house for the family and friends who couldn’t attend. It was an exhausting but wonderful day and I think everyone had a great time.

I’ve always wanted to go visit the Cheetahs at Spier and I was delighted to find out they recently moved almost right across from where the mall is (don’t worry, they are located on a large piece of land and get to run around every day). The Cheetah Outreach program really is quite amazing. They’re breeding Cheetahs to help increase their numbers in the wild. At the same time, they’re also trying to educate people and make them realise how few wild Cheetahs we sadly have left. They also breed Anatolian Sheepdogs to place with farmers to protect the herds against Leopards and so ensure the farmers don’t kill the Leopards.

Photo by Stephen Reid

A Cheetah soaking up some sun.

We opted to pay the extra money and have the opportunity to stroke one of the Cheetahs. While we got to stroke him the handler gave us some more information on Cheetahs and the work they do at the Outreach. We found out that the Cheetah we were stroking is actually a celebrity and has appeared in numerous adverts and films. He also goes around to local schools as part of their education programme. He didn’t seem to mind us one bit and just lay back and slept. They really are such beautiful animals and I just can’t comprehend why anyone would a) want to kill them and b) wear their skins as clothing. Trust me, it looks far better on the Cheetah than on any human. (As a side note, if you go expecting it to look like a zoo or a safari park, you’re going to be greatly disappointed. It’s a Cheetah breeding programme and that’s what the emphasis is on, not touristy entertainment. Also, it’s best to visit early when they open as most of the animals are either nocturnal or tend to sleep in their little houses or long grass during the day. I would definitely recommend it as it was an amazing experience and the money goes to a really good cause).

On my to do list in Somerset West was a visit to Vergelegen Manor House. It was a beautiful day and we decided to meet my brother there for some lunch. We got to stroll through the original Cape Dutch manor house and the beautiful gardens before settling down for some lunch overlooking the mountains. Unfortunately we’re not big wine drinkers so didn’t go wine tasting.

Photo by Stephen Reid

Vergelegen Manor House is built in the Cape Dutch style.

Photo by Stephen Reid

At Vergelegen Estate with the beautiful mountains as a backdrop.

We also managed to squeeze in some yummy lunch with a family friend in picturesque Stellenbosch. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing with and it was bucketing down. The window wipers on the car we were borrowing then decided to completely stop working which made driving around a bit scary. But after some delicious lunch the weather cleared and we could safely make our way back to my brothers before they took us out to dinner. It was a bitter sweet dinner, as we had lots of laughs but I also had to say good bye to them as they were heading off on a short romantic honeymoon the next morning, which meant I wouldn’t see them again before our flight.

Photo by Michele Reid

A Cape Dutch styled building in picturesque Stellenbosch. Unfortunately the day we went to visit it was pouring down with rain.

Photo by Michele Reid

Mooiberge (meaning beautiful mountains in Afrikaans) Strawberry Farm. This little farm played an important role in my life growing up in Somerset West. It meant fresh, deliciously sweet strawberries when it started to get hot. It meant summer for me.

Our two weeks in South Africa was over way too quickly and before I knew it we were back on the plane heading home. I was happy to sleep in my own bed again and have Ms Mia Shanti Priya snuggling up to us, but it’s always sad saying good bye to family. Thank goodness for modern technology! I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t text or call my family every now and then.