Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boat Trip

In the school holidays the girls and I went on a boat ride around the harbour.

Table Mountain under her table cloth
The grrrrilz
Trinity Rose
We really do live in a beautiful city!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Old Treasures

When I was growing up the person who had the greatest impact on my life was my grandfather. The time we spent together will always be full of fond memories: teaching me the right way to build a compost pile or the perfect method for a lettuce and marmite sandwich or just sitting dozing at the kitchen table for hours while I read to him. And, when I was much older, having afternoon medicinal whiskies on the front porch rehashing his war days in Japan and Korea.
When I was a teenager he gave me two gifts that I still think were the coolest items a rather odd seventeen year old girl could possibly get; his old army trench coat (that I wore every winter for years) and his metal trunk. I think the trench coat is in a closet somewhere in my mom's house, or at least I hope it is. And the trunk has served well over the years as a coffee table, wardrobe and secret storage facility while I was traveling. When I returned to SA it was filled up with photo albums, old UN documents, permaculture magazines and craft books and shoved under the stairs.
This summer I realised that the girls' dress-up basket was getting too small for their collection and thought that The Trunk would make a perfect place to keep all the paraphernalia needed to become the personality or animal of the moment. And so we hauled out the trunk and went off to the hardware store to purchase a steel brush and some gold spray paint. I had a great time unpacking the trunk and unearthing my pre-motherhood interests, not such a great time finding places to put the things I wanted to keep and saying goodbye to those I didn't.
And so the process of cleaning and painting The Trunk has begun.

I got as far as one afternoon's scrubbing with the steel brush and have had to take a break as more pressing issues such as making lunch, doing laundry and getting ready for the new school year have once again taken up my time and energy. I don't know how other moms manage to raise children and pump out fabulous crafts and works of art! (I know a mom - who is actually a dad - who takes care of the kids and manages an entire organic farm, including homemade apple preserve! The mind boggles)

But I look forward to slowly completing the project, and am so grateful for all the wonderful memories of my grandpa that the trunk still holds

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now...

Another Saturday, another birthday party.
And again the topic of leaving South Africa came up in the conversation. somewhere between the best age to stop breastfeeding and the anticipation of the new school year beginning this week.
It seems to crop up every time a group of thirty-something suburbanites congregate and appears in at least one newspaper or magazine a month.
Being the mediaphobe that I am I seem to panic less than some of my friends and acquaintances, although Jacob Zuma's latest announcement that he plans to banish all "bad" (can't recall his actual words) women to the fringes of society has me a little concerned because I think I may fall into that category; I have been known to wear the odd mini skirt.
It is sad to be losing so many good comrades to more stable countries where one can actually pull into one's driveway without fear of being mugged. (I kid you not, this is a regular occurrence.)
This afternoon alone I found out that one family's plans to explore life in Austria are coming along and another good friend's application for a scarce skills visa for New Zealand is pretty much in the bag.
I personally am torn. I had made the decision ten years ago to leave South Africa for a number of reasons and find a home in a country where I had to grapple with fewer issues of History, racial identity and good old fashioned middle class white guilt. I enjoyed my time in the Northern hemisphere and could quite happily have settled in North America or Europe. But with the arrival of our first child we decided to return to South Africa for the usual reasons; family, friends and the outdoor lifestyle of Cape Town.
When I went back to work I decided that the only way I could stay in SA was if I made my work trying to be part of the solution for some of the social ills caused by our past. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do so thus far, but constantly have to remind myself that I cannot singlehandedly repair hundred's of years worth of damage. And try not be overwhelmed by the suffering of the children of Africa.
I do wonder whether I am doing my daughters a disservice by staying in South Africa with all its social problems, seemingly immanent political violence and over the top crime rate. I also struggle with my constant feelings of being at a party to which I was not invited and where I am not really welcomed. But then I climb as far up Table Mountain as a two year old companion can manage, or zip to the beach for an hour before work or see a child getting a wonderful education because I sat behind a desk for six hours and worked on her bursary application and think that I really can't imagine living anywhere else.
Well, unless anywhere had a Michaels and a Starbucks...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tea Parties

A common custom here in suburbia is to invite other mothers around for tea. This seems to serve a number of purposes. Firstly the kids get to socialise in a secure and child friendly environment. But primarily they go into pack mode and take care of each other for an hour or three allowing moms the much needed opportunity to sit around and actually drink an entire cup of tea in one go (mostly) and discuss a variety of topics, mostly around parenting and suburban life.
One is, of course, expected to provide tasty treats. I have found that now that T2 is old enough to allow me the time and energy to try baking I have begun to experiment with actually baking my own offerings for these occasions. I am a novice at baking and so have mostly gleaned recipes from the children's cookbooks that I have. But I have recently managed to get my hands on my mom's personal collection of favourites gathered over the past thirty-odd years which has proved to be a goldmine of easy and tasty recipes. One in particular has been such a hit that I thought I would share it.

Dead Easy Chocolate Cake
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup self raising flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Beat eggs well add sugar, beat until creamy
2 Add cocoa and mix well
3 Add oil, while mixing add water
4 Sift together all dry ingredients and add to mixture
5 Bake at 400F for 20 minutes

I use a ring tin and just ice with a basic butter icing. The girls love to then go over the top with various sprinkles and trimmings. And voila! A delicious cake that always goes down well. Enjoy.