Tastes of Love and Life

We have been so busy I have not blogged in a week and it was all go, so bear with me if I cover a lot of territory.

It was my turn to host bookclub this month and the girls all came to me last Tuesday. My friend Chris has her father in law Pops visiting from the UK so he came as well. As I had been at work I had no time to cook so sent Norm off with a shopping list. I just got 4 ready made roast chickens from Woolworth’s and made a potato salad with chopped boiled eggs, a big green salad and had some French loaf and olive loaf. Thank goodness for Woolies. We bought our desserts however from Oakhurst Spar, they have such divine cakes and pies. I would not have been able to pull it off without Norm or the shops, I certainly did not have time to cook. We had not had a domestic here in 6 weeks so the house was a mess, we had also taken the couch covers and cushions off for a spring clean and Norm had rented a carpet cleaner and done the carpets so the house was in a bit of a tip up until the moment they all arrived. But we pulled it off.

Last weekend was a fabulous weekend full of friends and fun.

I had an early appointment at my hairdresser Leandra from Mop on Bree Street so I dashed off, it was such a hot day and this led me to decide to chop off about 6 inches of my hair. Here is a before and after pic.
hair before

hair

What do you think? I am still not convinced, it seems so short. I was afraid it would make me look matronly but my family all think it makes me look younger, and we all need a bit of that magic.

After my hair appointment I came home and had a swim as it was very hot. It was so refreshing. I feel so lucky to have a pool in the summer. It gets so hot and has been in the high 20s & low 30s all week.

That evening we went to our friends Chris and Jeremy for drinks. We had planned just to pop in for a drink and then go out for dinner but we were enjoying ourselves so much we stayed til late. Jeremy made the most amazing home made scotch eggs, oh they were yummy. They put on some light snacks to tide us all over and we all got stuck in.

Sunday I had a long lie in which was nice and then Norm drove me out to Kalk Bay to meet up with the George escapees book club for lunch. Ironic that I had so many bookclub gatherings and have not read a book in ages.

We met at Live Bait which is part of a group of restaurants right on Kalk Bay harbour. I have been to the other venues many times but this was my 1st at Live Bait. We decided to order a few platters to share and were very pleased with our choices.

We had the fried calamari for R90, which was tender and delicious:
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a big plate of grilled prawns at R140, nice and plump and firm and easily peeled:
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and the seafood platter special for 2 people which was on for R330 which contained mussels in a gorgeous white wine and garlic sauce, grilled prawns, line fish, pan friend calamari cooked with chorizo and peppers and a whole crayfish. I adore chorizo and it really gave the calamari a gorgeous flavour.
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We washed it all down with a few bottles of Brampton Sauvignon Blanc at a very reasonable price of R122 per bottle.

We so seldom see each other so we talked and talked and talked. In fact we talked so much that we were still there at 6pm – 4 hours after arriving – when the dinner service started and the manager came over and told us we had to go as the table was booked. I found this a bit rude as there were plenty of other tables sitting empty and we had certainly spent a good bit of money, it wasn’t as if we had all shared a hot water with a spoon of tomato sauce in it and pretended it was soup.

I loved the venue and the view and the food, but that put me off a bit.

We had a few days of relaxing and on Wednesday we had booked to go to La Mouette, owned by my fave chef and his wife and one of my favourite venues. I have too many blogs about it to link them all but feel free to search for the fabulousness.

Norm had some former colleagues over from the UK and this is our go to place for all visitors. We collected Norm’s friends from The One and Only Hotel and headed off to Seapoint. The evening was very hot and windy, but the lovely thing about La Mouette is that the high glass walls keep the wind out but let all of the light in. We were seated on the balcony and were very pleased to see that there were multiple options for vegetarians. We opted for the Summer Tasting Menu of 6 courses for R295 per person.

The lovely owner Mari sent over a round of champagne for us on arrival and we sipped this and munched on the various breads and spreads while catching up.
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After we selected our choices for each course we were served the amuse bouche which was quite large in itself. It was a carrot puree topped with 2 of Henry’s delicious gorgonzola cheese croquettes and crunchy walnuts. Such gorgeous flavours!

amuse bouche

The next course was Burrata Gazpacho Verde, with Burrata, grilled crouton, kombu and parmesan crust. Kombu is kelp and burrata is a cheese for those scratching their heads. It was served in an interesting way, the bowl arrived with the ‘bits’ in it and the waitress then poured the soup over the top.
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The next course was a modern ‘Vichyssoise’ Smoked leeks, leek ash, crispy potatoes, leek and potato panacotta. The thick bottom was so delicious and beautifully flavoured and the crispy potato topping was perfect.

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For the next course I had the ‘Roast pork dinner’ which consisted of Triple cooked potatoes, mustard, pickled turnips, apple and fennel. The pork was done in little bite sized cubes and the roast potato bites were so divinely crispy.

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Norm and his vegetarian friends opted for the Truffle and cheese croquettes with mushroom pesto, truffle dressing and shaved parmesan. Norman must really love me as he gave me a croquette and they are just the most wonderful things, not sure I would have done the same for him. 😀
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Norm and I both ordered the Namibian lamb Loin, croquette, chick pea puree, pistachio crumble, shanklish, apricot and saffron for our next course. I had this before so I knew it was going to be wonderful. The loin was rare and the croquettes were full of tender pulled lamb. I could eat my weight in those, they are just wow. Shanklish is a Lebanese and Syrian blue cheese made from sheep or cow’s milk.
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This and the pork were my fave courses but the vegetarians also enjoyed theirs.

Mick and Jasmine had the Mushroom Pot Sticker which was satay, charred endive, picked mushrooms and white bean puree.
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There was a fruity dessert of Tropical fruit salad with Meringue, mango sorbet, passion fruit jelly, roasted pineapple, coconut and lime leaf foam. It was light and refreshing. I wasn’t too crazy about the chunks of jelly in the mix but I am a texture freak, I can’t take different textures in my mouth at the same time. But fool me once with the sneaky jelly baby cube and then I knew to move it out of the way and finish the rest of the fabulousness.

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The final course was a contrast to the lightness of the 1st, it was rich and heavy and a perfect ending. Chocolate course was warm brownie, smoked caramel, coffee cream, hazelnut ice cream, and amaretto jelly. Again I was watching out for that jelly and kicked it to the curb to devour the rest of it. It was getting quite late by this stage so the pic is a bit dark, apologies for that.

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We finished off the meal and headed back to drop our friends, only getting to bed after midnight and I was rather tipsy so I struggled the next day at work. Lucky that I had a friend Gillian come meet me for lunch and a steak burger and wedges all washed down with many many giggles seemed to transform me. I went back to the office perky and refreshed.

After work I shot off to get my monthly pedicure and then straight from there went to collect Norm so he could drop me at my friend Cath’s drinks evening. It was in Noordhoek at her sister’s house and we had never been there, we followed the GPS and drove up the drive to be greeted by a strange man hanging out of the window, he said ‘Hi’ and I said ‘Hi’ back enthusiastically but then he asked me who I was and told me I was at the wrong house just before Norm drove off. Oops. Apparently the street we wanted was in 2 halves and we were on the wrong half. We started over and found our way there. There were lots of ladies there to support Catherine as she is going into hospital for an op. One of the girls made a sign for her and we all brought snacks and wine and had a lovely evening. We have such a great group of girls.
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Debbie has such a stunning home.
girls
The evening was very cloudy but the view from the balcony of Deb’s house is just amazing, I can imagine what it is like on a clear evening, you can see the entire beach from there.
view

We all toddled off quite late and Norm came to collect me from Camilla’s house as she had given me a lift. I was glad the next day was a Friday as I was taking strain from too much social activity.

I had a doctor appointment on Friday so I had to leave work early. I have been suffering with nausea and heartburn for months and I finally decided I had to do something about it. The doc is hoping it is just gastritis so he has given me meds to take and if that does not sort it out I will need to get referred off for a scope. He then gave me a list of foods to avoid, chocolate, wine, alcohol, spicy foods and rich foods. Basically everything that I normally eat. Fabulous. This depressed me so much that I had to go for a drink. Yeah, I know. Not only that but I had to try the delicious sounding chilli poppers at the lovely Julie Ragavelas’ new venue The Riverway Café.

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As always Julie has outdone herself, the venue is charming and quirky and the menu is many of the usual things you find, but as always there is a slight twist.

It was incredibly hot, over 30 degrees Celsius so we had to have a refreshing cocktail and so I had a Pimms. I had just left the docs and I didn’t follow his orders very well.
poppers
The chili poppers are not breaded, they are wrapped in bacon and stuffed with pulled pork, and are hands down the best ones I have ever eaten.

Today I have done nothing at all. Norm bought a used concrete table and chairs from a friend and we had that delivered and set up. Our top had broken and we were unable to find a replacement so I am very pleased. It is so windy the concrete is great as it won’t blow away. It may not be the most attractive choice but it is sensible. So we set up our new brolly and tried it all out.

table

We can now dine out front where we have such a lovely view of the back of Table Mountain. We do have an entertainment area at the back but there is no view there so we tend to use it at night. It is nice to have a place to lunch when we are swimming as this is right by the pool.

We are having a relaxing weekend after a week of social frenzy. The girls are both away so we only have ourselves to look after. I intend to spend all of tomorrow lying by the pool and maybe having lunch under my new little gem of a spot.

Mop Hair: https://www.facebook.com/mophaircapetown
Live Bait: http://www.harbourhousegroup.co.za/livebait
The One & Only: http://capetown.oneandonlyresorts.com
La Mouette: http://lamouette-restaurant.co.za/

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The Spice of Life

I love spicy foods. Growing up in the South of the USA I had never tried Indian food, even when I moved to LA I never tried Indian food. I tried it for the first time when I was living for a few months in Brunei and Malaysia. I loved everything about it except the meat, in fact I am pretty sure I ate a curried monkey the 1st time I had Indian food, it certainly did not look or taste anything like a chicken which is what I had ordered. Luckily the monkey-ness suspicion was not confirmed nor did it put me off, I simply became a vegetarian while I was there. But the taste for Indian food was forever logged in my memory.

Years later when I immigrated to the UK I was surprised at the high number of Indian food restaurants and take aways but then I realised that it is almost part of their culture, in fact there are dishes such as the ‘Balti’ which were created in the UK. (There is some dispute over the origin as some say it originated in Northern Pakistan). Regardless of the origin, I had only ever seen a balti on the menu in the UK, at least until now.

In the UK we had a take away curry about once a week and we were lucky enough to have an excellent curry house in Barrow On Soar, the little village we lived in. When we moved back to Cape Town we tried to find a local replacement but after several instances of being disappointed in either the price or the quality of the food we stopped trying the Hout Bay curry houses. One in particular I went in to collect a take away and the dude who was doing the cooking looked like he had not had a wash of either his hands or his clothes. Ever. I would not want to sit next to him on a short train ride, much less have his nasty fingers touching my food.

Needless to say my hopes for the new Indian venue ‘Indian Oven which opened in Hout Bay recently were not that high after being disappointed so many times by other venues. But I saw several people online talking about how good their bunny chows were and when I saw the advert in our local newsletter I thought we should give it a go.

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Saturday night we went down to Red Sails Centre and saw that the place was not very busy, but this was in our favour as we did not have any delays with getting seated. We quite quickly saw why it was not so busy, there was a take away going out about every 5 minutes! Everyone else was enjoying their curry at home, but for the 1st experience we wanted to try it in situ.
We placed our orders and waited with excitement. We had a portion of complimentary poppadums to start, they were flavoured ones, cumin I think?

We started out with an order of onion bhajees as a starter to share.

Vegetable Bhajee Fritters were on the menu at R40.00 and were described as ‘Chana flour battered and fried. Your choice of cauliflower, spinach, potato, onion, chilli or aubergine.’

We seemed to wait a long time for the starter after the poppadums, we actually were wondering if it was going to arrive with the mains, but eventually it appeared. I was so hungry I forgot to snap a pic of the platter and I wanted a pic as they were prepared in an unusual way. Oops. They were more onion rings than fritters, as each onion was coated individually and fried. But they were delicious! The batter was spiced with cumin and curry and had a wee bite to it, but not so much that gringo Norm could not cope. 😀

It came with a nice sweet and spicy sauce for dipping.

It wasn’t a long wait for the mains to arrive after the starter.

I had ordered the Prawn Curry at R125.00, described as ‘Succulent prawns in a medium curry gravy’.

Norm ordered what he always orders which is Chicken Korma, this was priced at R80.00 and was described as ‘Fillet cubes in a creamy cashew nut and spicy gravy.’

We also ordered a garlic Naan as well as the Bombay Potato to share which was described as Stir Fried potatoes with cumin seeds and curry leaves which was on the menu at R55.00.

My prawns were firm and nicely cooked, the curry had such flavour, just spicy enough where you got plenty of taste but not such overwhelming chilli that it burns your lips off. Norm let me have a wee taste of his korma, it was gorgeous you could taste the coconut and it was so rich and creamy. Norm said the chicken could have been a bit more tender, but he ate every bite so it must not have been too tough!

The Naan bread was divine it was dripping in butter and really thin and crispy exactly the way I like it. The Bombay potatoes were perfectly cooked.

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We ate so much! It was just so tasty and yummy.

I’m so over the moon that this place has opened up, we will be sure to frequent them to make sure they stay open, we have such a turnover of restaurants in Hout Bay, we locals have to support them in order to keep them viable. I will do my share. With pleasure.

Pocket Watches

I realise that my life is pretty fabulous. We had a moment on Wednesday evening where we were driving in to the city, along the coast road with the setting sun hitting the mountains and turning them a warm shade of pink, comfy in the leather interior of Retha’s air conditioned Mercedes, off to a girl’s dinner with friends and realising that we are rather lucky. Or is it spoiled? Potato, potatoe. Is it acceptable to be spoiled if you realise you are spoiled?

It was a spontaneous evening, something I seldom seem to do these days. I subscribe to a ‘secret eats’ newsletter which holds events in ‘secret’ locations – you sign up to attend with no info on the chef or venue and on the evening you get the info. I have never actually attended one of these events as they are quite pricey for a couple but this newsletter posted a link.

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I interrupt this train of thought to say, notice how the lady in the pic looks like she wants that chef naked on a cracker? Meowwwww. Lady number 2 seems to be inhaling his manly aroma. I bet he smells of vanilla and sweat.

Anywayyyy I didn’t read it properly and thought it was a competition to win a watch, so I clicked it and entered into an amusing chat with a guy called ‘Zak’. He teasingly and tentatively offered me entry for me and 4 friends to the event the following evening. I contacted Retha and she managed to round up 3 more lovely ladies.

The next morning we had confirmation that we scored an invite and we all made plans to meet up when they opened at 7. Retha collected me and then we swung by to pick up our lovely friend Alison. We arrived slightly before 7 and decided to sit and chat for a few minutes. A rather dodgy looking guy kept hovering around our car offering to ‘guard’ it for us. To be honest he looked more like the kind of guy we would need to be protected FROM!

But this is the way of the world in South Africa – if you have a scabby looking high viz vest you are deemed to be a trust-worthy guy who can guard our cars and then expect a tip at the end of it.

The venue is down a rather narrow one way street off of Buitengracht. If it wasn’t for our GPS we would still be lost as Church Street is one of those bitty streets broken up in blocks, if you don’t know where it is in that road it can be a nightmare to navigate.

This was proven when Retha’s friend Nola rang to say that Uber taxi had dropped her at New Church Street! She rang them back to tell them they dropped her miles from her requested destination, they came and got her again and dropped her a second time at the wrong location! Shocking service, especially for a woman travelling on her own in the city with the rather illustrious title of the 7th highest murder capital of the world.

After the 2nd attempt to get Nola there Retha just decided to rather go to meet her on foot. Retha was wearing heels which I would only sit quietly in, so this seemed an insane idea but off she trotted, the rather large menacing looking doorman offered to accompany her when she asked for directions, but when she tried to say it wasn’t necessary he sweetly insisted and jogged off with her to collect Nola. Just goes to show you can’t judge a thug by his covers.

We all got drinks and settled in for a chat and a catch up. It is funny how serendipity works, our frantically planned gathering bringing together women who had never met, but who needed to. One of our group has had some health issues and 2 of the women she had never met both put in front of her were offering support in areas she needed. You sometimes don’t know what you are looking for until you find it.

Wednesday nights at Spasie consist of a chilled vibe and street food, they had a visiting chef from The Chef’s Bench, a mobile catering truck. What we used to call a ‘Roach Coach’ in LA. But this is food truck at a different level than dodgy burritos full of mystery meat and week old frijoles.

I snapped a pic of the chef for the night, however I did not get his name and I didn’t get any response from my tweet to Chef’s Bench, sooooo hey ho. Here is a pic of a random chef who cooked our dinner.
Whomever he may be. 😀

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Unfortunately I was well into the Sauvignon Blanc and did not take a pic of the menu, so I can only vaguely describe the food. We decided to just order one of each of the items on the menu to sample, there was a boerewors roll, a flatbread with chicken in harrisa sauce and a flatbread with spinach & feta. As I don’t eat boerewors I just tried the other 2, the flatbread with the chicken filling was so divine! The flatbread was lovely and light and the chicken had a tikka-esque taste and chicken tikka is one of my faves. The chicken dish was so good we ended up ordering 5 more portions so we could all have our own.

The mains were about R60 each and chips I think were R30. A bottle of wine was R150 and a glass was R40 as was a shot of whiskey.

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The chips were nice and crispy outside and sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese which had warmed and formed a crust on top. Really yummy chips indeed. (We ordered 3 portions of those to share, but as most of the women seemed to be banting, I probably had at least 2 portions own my own, oops).

The vibe was very chilled and casual, they don’t appear to tend to serve plates or cutlery with the street food, but as we were sharing we had to ask for them to sort that out for us. I was getting close to my Hangry stage as I had been saving myself for dinner and had a few wines in me but kept my annoyance under control until I got a plate and some food into me. The waiters were too cute to be mean to.

The room is simply decorated, just 2 large tables lit with tea lights and a table set up in the corner as a bar. There were large pieces of art on the wall, the walls were all white and the finishing was rough and rustic. There was a large animal head in the entrance so I had a stroke of his neck. As you do.

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The staff was all young and male and trendy, there were only a few waiters to serve the whole room, all manning both the bars and the tables. When we arrived I asked who was the concierge Zak that I had been chatting to online, only to be told Zak is no longer with them! It seems Zak is just the joint email account, so who knows who I was talking smack to?! It could have been someone different each response. Odd.

We were both the oldest patrons there as well as the only women. It was a bit of a sausage fest and I don’t mean the boeries! Not that it is an issue, most women are happy to have the ratio of more men to women than vice versa, especially in Cape Town where they guess that the ratio of straight women to straight men is estimated to be 8:1. Our group were all married however and not interested in being chatted up, as you can see the men were at one end of the table and we were at the other. They weren’t any more interested in us than we were them so it was nice to not get hassled by random drunk eejits. Umm not that they were drunk or eejits lol.

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I didn’t realise that they were all playing Cards of Humanity at the other table, next time I intend to join up on that group as I do love Cards of Humanity. I also want to attend a chefs night.

My only negative was that it was hot – it was a very warm evening and luckily we were all dressed in cool summer clothes but we still went through many jugs of water to cool us off. They should invest in some ceiling fans. I cannot imagine how hot the chef was, I just know that it is not only my lack of love of cooking that stops me wanting to do that for a living, I could never be trusted in a room full of steam and knives.

At the end of the evening we all posed for one last pic by the kitchen.

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And we all had a chat with the guy who seemed to be the host. I mentioned my confusion over the watch saga and he whips out a ‘watch’ for me!

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As you can see it is a stopwatch, not technically a pocket watch, but it was a cool gesture. Still not quite clear on why I got a watch or what I do with it but who am I to look a gift watch in the ummm face?

When we left it was late for a school night, I was tipsy and the lovely door man walked us all to our cars and kept us protected from any advances by the group of homeless people who had taken up residence on the doorstep of the house next to where we parked.

In moments like that it is hard to rationalise that we have spent the evening drinking wine and eating yummy food and are off to our lovely homes while that group of people are possibly hungry and most definitely cold. It really brings home the disparity between the haves and the have nots.
The government who has been in power since the end of Apartheid has done so little to raise the quality of life of the voting constituents. The unemployment rate is 25% in SA. Many people still have no running water or electricity and live in shacks made of tin and scraps of wood.

The result of this is that despondency and lack of motivation or goals then often leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction leads to crime. It is all a vicious downward spiral.

It is a hard line to walk between having care and sympathy and concern for people who have less than you do, knowing what balance and how much to offer and not being taken advantage of.

I’d rather buy the guy who sleeps by my office a meal than give a druggy cash.

Every day I am accosted by beggars asking for handouts of money and if you say no then they often go for you.

On Monday a guy actually grabbed me. I was walking through the foreshore from my office to where my car is parked. He ran up right at me, he was tweaking off his face. I just refused to engage with him. I won’t open my bag on the street and these guys often get very aggressive. He started shouting and then started crying. This was when he went in for a wee hug.

I whirled round worried he was trying to remove my laptop from my backpack. I just shouted ‘get away from me’ loudly in his face. Luckily the light changed and I strode off across the road and he stayed behind, it’s for this reason I have to carry pepper spray and a rape whistle.

So like most things in Africa we have the civilized evening, driving home in the light of the full moon, a great evening out, just slightly nipping at the heels of this comfort is the discomfort of the disparity of the various residents of this beautiful country I call home.

Up, up, and Away

This year has gone by so quickly and has had both highs and lows, but predominately I would score it on the high side. It’s a year since I began the new client, project and site. I had some rough patches and the implementation of a project manager and a change in team lead resulting in a rational and pleasant team vibe. Things are now great, a challenging project but we are up to the challenge, we are a strong team,

The last night of December 2013 was spent waiting for the Queen’s Honours list to be published to see if Norm was on it after being told in confidence he had been nominated. And a night spent jumping around thrilled to bits when we discovered he was to be given an MBE. This was topped in April this year when we managed to fit in Norm’s investiture at Windsor Castle, a family wedding and a few meet ups of some of my best pals. We had a fabulous trip.

We were busy socially this year, and having the girls to look after as well, we are always doing something or other! We had Caits graduation and Lily finished her degree even if she won’t actually have the ceremony until April. My son and his girlfriend bought their second house. I bought a new car and got a pay rise. Best of all my mom came to visit. Various friends also came over throughout the year for visits.

There were sad and stressful events, my stepdad Tom passed, Norm’s ex wife committed suicide, Panda was attacked and we almost lost him. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for certain.

All in all it was a good year, I hope this next year 2015 is a good year. I’ll be able to see my son and his girlfriend more as their new house means we can stay there with the dogs. Lily and Caitlin will be finished studying so we can take turns shopping and cooking so hopefully as a family we will eat fewer takeaways this year. I need to get my health under control. The girls both join the work force as well so things will change with their schedules.

Work will continue to be busy but it’s a healthy team and things should be manageable.

My biggest change from 2014 is I’ve let go of a lot of resentment. I’ve realised the power I have and the universe has and that this power can be collectively harnessed. I’ve realised that holding onto hatred, negativity and anger only hurts me, not the recipient of those feelings. That energy is created within me and I choose whether to generate it, or whether to allow it to disable me. I choose my reaction.

This year will be about living in the present, embracing reality (and not my perceived reality) and choosing to live positively, unencumbered by the weight of the past. It’s empowering and freeing.

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I wish all of you serenity in 2015.