The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I love Africa. I love the melting pot of many cultures, the beauty of both the rolling grasslands and the rocky mountains.  Africa is a beautiful continent. It is also a place of violence and kindness. Africa is a place of vast dichotomies. Chasms so wide they cannot always be breached.

Yesterday my domestic goddess Cordelia had more bad news. Her theory: it is due to negative energy in IY. For the non-locals, IY stands for Imizamo Yethu, the township in our little village. The African culture has a lot of beliefs which are linked to their ancestors and believe that spirits continue to take an interest in the affairs of the living and possess the ability to influence events. Many Africans still go to a Sangoma, or a witch doctor as they are sometimes known, to ‘cure’ many issues, both physical and spiritual.

However Cordelia is a Christian so I guess maybe to her spirit is spirit – there is both good and bad like in most things in life and she says she feels the negativity hanging over our township.

They say trouble comes in threes and for Cordelia’s family this is true.

At the end of last year one of Cordelia’s brothers got into a fight and stabbed a man who later died. He is now in Pollsmoor Prison awaiting trial.

A few months prior to this happening Cordelia got a call at work to say that her younger brother was dead – he had been stabbed by his son’s boyfriend.

The latest news was that her cousin has committed suicide, he hung himself in his shack. He had a wife and children, he had a good job and we wonder what it was that led him to the decision to take his life. We will most likely never know.

At the beginning of this year we also had news that Norm’s ex-wife had committed suicide by hanging. They say that if someone hangs themselves they are committed to the task, it is not a cry for help, it is an attempt to end it all. People keep saying that they find suicide such a selfish act, that people who commit suicide are only thinking of themselves, that they cannot imagine being that desperate.

To those people I say that if you have never experienced depression then you cannot attempt to understand and that you should try not to judge anyone else. You will never know the depth of complete desolation, the darkness, the complete numbness of just not feeling there is any reason to go on.

I have sadness for those who dwell in such a dark place, I have been in that place before so I do know a bit about how it feels. Lucky for me mine was a situational depression and I had a friend who recognised the signs and forced me out of my apathy and into counselling and I got through it. Not everyone is that lucky.

I pray to my ancestors for healing over the township, for healing over my adopted country and for those people (where ever they may be) who need a friend.

 

 

 

School Night

Our dinner for the new George Escapee Book Club was held at Ragafellows last Tuesday night. We were supposed to be 7 in total, but only 5 of us could make it – but the noise we made was enough for a dozen.

We had a late kick off, and the owner, the lovely Julie came to sit with Annette and I while we were waiting. Unfortunately I had eaten very little that day to save my calories for the evening meal so waiting for 45 minutes meant drinking lovely cold white wine for 45 minutes on an empty stomach, so I was a bit loose before the others even turned up.

We all have fallen back into our friendships as if we were never ‘apart’ – chatting and rattling on, talking over each other, laughing and cackling. It’s fab to be that comfortable with people.

We shared a large Agatha salad: goat’s cheese, rocket, figs, tomato, and walnuts with pomegranate dressing. It is just divine. And for 95 Rand for the whole table I think it is a bargain!

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For our mains, 3 of us had burgers and 2 of us had the fillet. I didn’t even ask if everyone enjoyed it as it was all wolfed down so I assumed they did. We ended up closing the place, the staff were hanging around looking tired and so we finally packed up and headed home. I didn’t realise just how tipsy I was until I got home and attempted to navigate the stairs.

Norman and I were due at the UK in South Africa event in Bishopscourt at the British High Commission residence to celebrate the opening of Parliament the following day but I awoke feeling not so fresh or fabulous. Oops…..

I still managed to endure the day of work and get home in time to wash my hair and put on a festive frock. It was unbearably hot and poor Norm had to wear a suit. We arrived there to find a queue of people waiting to get in, so we joined the queue and eventually passed all the security checks to enter the hallowed grounds. Aka, enter another queue. I thought that so British that we queued to be able to queue. For once I wished we were Italian.

Once we entered the actual residence we walked through a single reception room where we chatted to the High Commissioner and her husband, then out into the extensive back gardens. There were servers positioned on both sides of the walkway, holding everything from champagne to cocktails. Norm went for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the wine was all sponsored by Haute Cabrière and I opted for a refreshing looking cocktail which contained gin (I only discovered that after I fell in love with it as I avoid gin usually).

The bar & staff were provided by Brandhouse and the service was exceptional! And the bartenders were cute too which never goes amiss. When they ran out of cranberry the bartender was so apologetic and even made me an alternative.

The catering was done by The Test Kitchen and some of the food gave a bit of a wink to traditional British cuisine. There were divine little bite size beef wellingtons, skewers with big chunks of hake and 2 crispy wedges, tiny little cottage pies, divine little bits of polenta, wrapped in cucumber slices with a slice of goats cheese and a drizzle of tomatoey salsa on top, skewers of Caprese salad with sweet rosa tomatoes, mozzarella balls with basil leaves and a drizzle of pesto, spring rolls, and various other savoury items, and then a few different desserts to follow, one was a black forest cake and the other we tried was a Crème anglaise type of concoction with a berry compote. Both were really delicious but the creamy dessert was really amazing.

They had a few different displays, the one I was most interested in was the Fashion display, there was even some Karen Millen designs as I believe she has just branched out to SA. I had a lovely chat with a few of the designers there, one of them loved my fan which goes everywhere with me. I suggested that they should do some designs of fans with their fabulous textiles. They loved the idea, or else they were just humouring me to move me and my fan along. You never know. We were invited to the exhibition they are going to have in March; I hope they remember to send on a proper invite.

There was a variety of entertainment, a high school marimba band, a jazz singer and group, and a poet who got up and did what sounded more like a rap to me! Everything in Africa has a beat. There was even a set of pipers which always makes Norm happy. There were 500 guests of all sorts and types so I guess they want to try and please everyone.

We trudged through the congestion on the narrow side street to get back to our car – the distance home always seems so much further than the distance there. I was just glad I was wearing flats after I watched some of the other chickies hobbling along and trying to balance on grass in stilts.

Thursday night I had a mani pedi appointment so it was all very relaxing for a change. Norm sorted out take aways from Spiro’s and the girls and I shared some calamari and the Spiro’s salad. It was lovely to just have a chill out evening with nowhere to go.

Friday morning I had to go into the hospital for a blood test as it has been 1 year since my hip replacement. They do a test to check that there are no excessive levels of chromium in your blood as it is a metal device. It takes 3 weeks for the results so I am trying not to read up about it on google. That is just a Virgo Hypochondriac’s road to ruin is that old Googler. Stay away Kitten, just stay away.

Friday was of course not only the anniversary of my new hip but also Valentine’s Day. Often Norm cooks a meal for me and the girls, but I saw that Ragafellow’s was offering such a great deal that we had booked in there instead for a romantic meal for the 2 of us. Josh had come down to see Lily and Caitlin had plans to go dancing with a bunch of single pals.

The table was beautifully decorated with dried rose petals and the menus were all so gorgeously done.
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We were seated by a window which opened out onto the little nursery next door, so we had all manner of plants to view and lovely scents and aromas filtering into the window.

We were given a divine cocktail on arrival – an icy watermelon and bubbly mix of lusciousness.

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For each course there were a few options. Norm had our usual fave, the Agatha salad. I opted for something I hadn’t tried and went for the Prawn Ritz which consisted of battered prawns, avocado salsa and tomato mayo. It’s in essence an updated twist on the old classic of the Avocado Ritz. It was so tasty! The prawns were hot and juicy and a nice size.

prawns

For our main we had a choice of either Saffron Duck, one of their famous burgers or Kingklip. I realllly wanted the burger but as I am trying to watch my calories I had the kingklip. The kingklip was impressive it was a huge piece of fish perched on top of a bed of olive mash. The mash had a lot of flavour but wasn’t overwhelming. The fish was perfectly cooked, very moist yet firm, I did find that it might have been improved if it was served with a few veggies to give a bit more texture as soft fish and soft mash make for a bit of a monotonous chew. Ideally I would have liked some steamed spinach with it. But it was delicious, I just think it could have been ever so slightly improved as a dish both visually and texturally. But then texture is a big thing for me with food, many of the foods I avoid are due to texture. Normal people (like Norm) just gobbled it up without thinking about it. I tend to think too much.

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We asked for a bit of a breather between the main and dessert as the 1st two courses were brought rather quickly and we wanted a bit of a leisurely meal. I should have mentioned this to the waiter but usually they ask if you are ready for your main so I was surprised when the main arrived hot on the heels of our starters.

We had both opted for the Warm chocolate cake. Diets be damned where warm chocolate cake is concerned. My only saving grace was that it was a perfect size for me, it was so rich I could not have eaten a huge portion, of course Mr Chocoholic Norm could have eaten about 3 portions.

dessert

It was still so incredibly hot outside so we decided to finish off our coffee and head home for a swim. It was a gorgeous evening once the glaring sun had gone down, a giant moon was hanging over Table Mountain and we could hear the sound of a blues band coming from the other side of the valley. It was absolutely magical.
The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and recovering from my crazy week. It was incredibly hot, hitting the 40 deg Celsius mark. Norm braaied for us on Saturday evening but we waited for it to cool down before we attempted settling outside.

We spent most of the weekend in our swimming costumes, in the pool, or wanting to be in the pool. Basically, I am so grateful we even have a pool now after having had a few years here without one. I do love my life.

Social Butterfly

This week is going to be such fun. I have a dinner tonight at Ragafellows with the George Ladies which has now morphed into an online book club of sorts. (More books I won’t have time to read? Lovely.)
I just join for the chat and the wine and the camaraderie. It is nice to touch base with people who have been in your life for 20 years (even if you don’t see them for 10 of those!) Our kids all know each other at least tangentially and when you have moved as many times as I have it is nice to feel a bit of a long term connection with people.

Tomorrow night Norm and I are off to the British High Commission to celebrate the opening of Parliament. The last function I went to for the British High Commission was on a ship and involved a multitude of friendly sailors who had been off at sea for months and months. Oh, and an open bar. That is such a deadly combo. I was relatively well behaved however, mostly due to my hip hurting – I was not long post op and I was still a bit sore to stand. Else we probably would have shut the ship down or at least hung around until the bar closed. Luckily Norm is a sensible sort (aka spoilsport) and dragged me out of the company of the very friendly sailors to get some dinner to sober me up.

Then I have booked us to go again to Ragafellows for Valentine’s Day. It is a set menu for R250 per head. I thought that quite reasonable for 3 courses and it means we can both relax and have some time together. Not to mention that the food is always divine and the set menu sounds perfect! I’ve included it just in case you have not made plans for your special night, I may potentially be saving your relationship  You can thank me later. Maybe send over a bottle of wine even….and if it gets you some action, then you owe me at least a voucher for another meal. At least :)

vday

Willingness & Willpower

I have very little willpower. There are both positive and negative elements to this. Positive: I am easily led into nonsense and chaos and as a result I am generally a lot of fun. Negatives: I am easily led into nonsense. See what I mean? I am useless at dieting. I am an all or nothing sort of girl – not good at restraint. If I were an alcoholic I would be able to not drink, but not able to have a single drink. Now translate this into cupcakes. I love cupcakes. I cannot say no to a cupcake. Unless it is gluten and sugar free, then I might still take one and use it as a weapon or a door stop. (Ever had one? No? Then don’t bother unless you have never eaten a proper cupcake, then you won’t know any better and may think it delicious.)

I have decided to try and improve my health. Part of the impetus is that we are going to the UK in April and I do not want to be a blubber monster in the photos. There is nothing quite like spending the day thinking you look the bomb and then to discover after you see the pics of the event that you look more like you ate a bomb. So I have started a healthy eating plan and am trying to work in some exercise here and there. I hate sweating. Or glowing. Glowing is just sweating pretending to be glamorous.

In the past I have always used Weight Watchers when I want to lose. I have probably lost the contents of a small human over the years. But the little devils keep coming back. I do not want this to be a temporary change – I want it to be a lifestyle change. I do not have the time or interest to attend a weekly meeting. I discovered the My Fitness Pal app by accident, created a profile and never used it. Then a friend posted she had lost a huge amount of weight and mentioned the MFP app so I thought I would give it another go. That lasted about a week and then Christmas and NY and I realised I would never be committed over the hols. It was my trip which was my impetus to getting back on board.

I am no longer having pastry or muffins for breakfast most mornings. I am not having milky cappuccinos every morning. Instead I am trying to keep my food as close to source as possible. In other words, I am trying to avoid eating processed foods and where possible eating raw food. But if I do have processed food then the app can scan in the barcode for most items and you get exact info on carbs and calories etc. on the contents. This is how I discovered that my fake-accino instant coffee sachet is the same amount of calories as the bowl of fresh juicy watermelon I had that day for breakfast. So the app is also teaching me more about calories – I do understand nutrition and food; I have a medical background and studied anatomy and physiology and am married to a coach. However this knowledge is useless unless applied.

I also love the wee support network I have on MFP a group of women I have ‘known’ on social media for about a decade – we have remained in contact in the virtual world, but I am getting such support from them. We all need a cheerleader, someone who does not knock you when down, try to tell you what to eat or do or how to do things, just to be supportive. We are all similar ages and we all have the same desires – to get healthier.

Caitlin is also using the app so we are trying to eat healthy as a family. I am trying to not automatically cook a carb to accompany our meals. Last night I did baked chicken and had to really resist making rice, instead I did carrots and a big salad. I normally cook my carrots in copious amounts of butter and sugar, last night I changed this to a small sliver of butter in a huge pan of carrots, and a teaspoon of sugar for the whole pot. This is far less than a quarter of what I normally use. I’m cutting down the sugar in my tea and generally just trying to be more conscious of what I am consuming.

The one form of exercise I do enjoy is dancing, so last night we had a dance party moment. This is where we put on music and dance around wildly like fools for 15 minutes while the dogs bark and jump around with us. A girl’s gotta work it when she can – however she can.

MIA

I realise that I have been very lax in blogging. Many fun things have been happening as well as some traumatic things – so just a normal time in the life of the Kitten.

The first week back at work after a long couple of weeks leave is always tough and mine was not only the normal level of change, but also I was moving on to start a new project, at a new client, and becoming office based, not home based. So I did expect to be tired but I underestimated that level of tiredness.

I’ll do a quick summary of the highlights over the last few weeks.

Friday after I started back at work I went home and got straight into my chill out clothes (i.e. pyjamas as the 2 are interchangeable in our house.) We ordered pizza take aways and settled in to watch a movie. I don’t think I managed to stay awake til the end, but that is OK, I seldom do.

Saturday we had planned to go for a very early dinner with some friends. I had booked a table for 10 of us for 5pm as my friend is studying and needed to get home at a reasonable time to do his coursework. Best laid plans and all that…..we all ended up arriving at 5:30. I would like to clarify that I was dressed and ready, handbag on arm, keys in hand, only to find Norm in the garden in his wellies faffing about in the garden at 5 minutes to 5.

We were not sure if the liquor license was sorted out at Ragafellows so we packed up a couple of bottles of chilled sauvignon blanc and headed off. We milled about for a while waiting on everyone to get in and settled and then we were presented with a tray of vodka lemon drop shots. I tend to avoid shots – but I did not want to be rude so I took one. Oh yummy yummy yumm they were delicious! My fave new shooter.

We were celebrating Norm’s MBE and therefore we were given a nice bottle of champers by our friend Greg, and then Julie the owner also sent over a couple of bottles of champagne. Needless to say we realised a taxi home would be required and we just decided to go with the flow. Pun intended…

I started out with the duck on flat bread.

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I do enjoy duck, but only under certain conditions. In the USA and the UK, when you order crispy duck it is actually crispy, at least the skin is! I find in SA it is not, it still has a very fatty skin and a lot of the oil. My body does not enjoy that. The duck at Ragafellows is cooked just the way I like it, not oily, not dry, yet shredded.

For my main I finally tried one of their burgers and they are brilliant. Juicy and thick burgers and the sauce was divine.

 

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I love the little potatoes they serve with the burgers. We had a brilliant evening, and ended up staying very late despite arriving very early.

The following day I had a Saturday lunch meetup with some ladies I had been in a book club with back in George 20 years ago.

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We went to Café Labia at the Labia Museum in Muizenberg. And no it is not a museum displaying multitudes of ladies bits. The less said about the name the better really! It is named after a family if art historian aristocrats, I think Count Labia is still alive.

We had a lovely day sitting by the sea in the sunshine drinking wine and munching fabulous food. I had the chicken ceasar and it was a proper one – anchovies on the side for the fussy ones.

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Work muddled on and on. And on. I delivered my first document to the client. Last week we had a shorter week in that we had a team overnight trip to Monkey Valley on Thursday. We all finished work at 4 and headed off, driving over Chappies where the mud slides had been, we could see that there is still so much work to be done but the view is still amazing as was the view from Monkey Valley

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and our accommodation in Monkey Valley.

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I had my own little thatched roof apartment perched at the top of the hill, up some winding stairs with no railing which I did worry about navigating later after the drink had been flowing. It had a huge room with 2 beds, a kitchen and big sunny bathroom.
We had a braai down at the hotel and then closed down the restaurant, sitting on the balcony listening to the sea rolling in, lights and lighthouse by the bay blinking in the distance. It was stunning and peaceful, if slightly noisy. We then went back to one of the villas where most of the women were staying which had a lovely pool overlooking the beach and carried on.

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One of the team fell into a bush and broke her foot while trying to climb into the locked villa which no one seemed to have a key for. I was happy that for once I was not the one who had all of the dodgy tales to listen to all year – someone else took over the mantle from me, one that I was glad to pass on.

It was such a lovely trip and we all had a brilliant time.
Lily and I had a hair appointment on Saturday so we went in early and had lunch at Hudson’s. Yum the best burgers ever.
After we headed over to Mop and got our hair cut. I had loads cut off, what do you think?

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Norm has been away in Lesotho all week so we have been very busy. He arrived back last night. We now have our dates for going to the UK for Norm to receive his investiture of his MBE from the Queen. We are also going to Manchester to our nephew’s wedding. I hope I can arrange to see some of my friends whom I miss so much!