Monday, November 30, 2015

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

But first a quick confession...

(I busted out my Plain Truth Christmas CDs a few weeks ago. I had to listen to O Holy Night. One of the sad things is that one cannot listen to O Holy Night all year round otherwise it loses its specialness ;))

So I was at the shops with the kids weeks ago and of course Christmas was up. Connor said, "it's too early for Christmas decorations to be up". I agreed but I told him we'd do ours the last weekend of November.

And we did.

Some of you may remember last year I posted a sweet little Instagram video (set to Michael Buble) of Kendra decorating her little tree.

This year, there was none of that sweetness.

No one was interested on Friday.

Saturday afternoon they got into it a little bit, just enough enthusiasm for their little trees and I was left with everything else.

As a result, I went even more minimalist.

I took out my cute Advent calendar and put it right back again. Not feeling it. Doesn't spark joy. Back in the bag it goes.

What is happening around here?

  • Nativity play
  • (lots of) The Plain Truth and other Christmas music
  • Biscuits
  • Christmas mince pies and tea (matter of fact, I'm about to go have one after I hit publish)
  • Spending time together, vegging, while I read (I like to get a Christmas-themed book to read in December too. There are lots of chick-lit for sale. It's fun and it puts me in the mood for Christmas)
  • The Charlie Brown movie
  • Instagram challenge to stretch my creative muscles
  • Quiet... I want to hear Him loud and clear about next year

Tell me what's happening at your place.

Are you going All Out?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's have some tea and a chat

I've been listening to a good number of podcasts (and that's a euphemism!) and I wrote down some questions which I've been gathering to share here, so let's do one every week til I'm done, okay?

We can pretend we're having virtual tea :)

There are enough questions for 4 weeks but who knows, I might pick up a few more:)

What's the hardest thing about being you?

The hardest thing about being me...

at work

I'm the type of person who gets things done so people now expect me to be the one to sort things out (like wonky aircon). I'm also the one who will save a document on the shared drive.... and so people now don't even bother. They just say, "are you going to save that for us?"

I tried to be a rebel and say, "eventually" but it bugs me having stuff undone so I just do it as soon as I can. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin said sometimes you just need to do things if they make you happy, and having stuff sorted makes me happy.

That's a surface thing but what I really want to say is...

It's really hard thinking and feeling like you should be further ahead than you currently are. Like you had all this potential and who knows where you'll actually end up. I'm not completely over the hill but part of being in corporate is being able to read the signs.


That I'm actually such a soft-hearted person under this tough exterior.

I asked D and he said exactly this: "that you're really a marshmallow underneath that crusty exterior". Boom - he still knows me!

True. I think people would be surprised at how things touch my heart. Or maybe not?

Enough about me.

What is the hardest thing about being you?

Monday, November 23, 2015

A little bit more about me... as it appears my special talents include leaving things out :)

Do you have kids? 
Thankfully, yes. For many years I didn't know if I'd have any. Like my friend used to say, give me a baby (any baby!) and we were blessed with two beautiful children.

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
Definitely. I think I'm a really good friend. A bit firm with opinions (!) but take me or leave me, this is who God made me to be. 

Do you have a guilty pleasure? 
My guilty pleasure is fudge. Oh how I love fudge. And Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate - plain, wholenut or fruit and nut. And Cheese Curls. 

I don't feel very guilty about this but I really like having the budget done. I'm not very into the process but I love that feeling afterwards when I can see God's provision and that I do actually manage my stuff properly.

12 April 2015

Do you like handwriting? 
Oh, I love it! I love writing with beautiful, thick (0.7) gel pens. My favourites used to be these Pilot ones. They are still gorgeous but they now cost R38 each at CNA (which is worth it for something you really want to use) but then I discovered these Pentel ones (only R17 each at Pick and Pay). Mind you, I bought a pack of 5 of the Pilot ones at Staples in NYC for $5 (bargain!!!) and I still have two left - am writing with the second last one now.

The point of all that talk about pens is that the pen makes the handwriting! And I need a nice thick gel pen to enjoy writing.

I've taken pics for the other blog to show you all the current notebooks I'm using - I'll link to it when that post is up.

this pen is a pentel

And there you have it!

What are your guilty pleasures?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A little bit about me and some special talents

I've seen two blogs like this recently - Cat's and MamaCat's blogs, so I'm jumping in.

Are you named after someone?
No, but my parents wanted one name and my grandmother another, so they hypenated mine.

When was the last time you cried? 
In church last Sunday. I'm not a crier generally, but I cry often in church. When I worship God, I can't but feel overwhelmed at His goodness and mercy, and kindness towards me.

For the record, it was during this song. And I bought it from iTunes right afterwards :)

What is your favorite cereal? 

I alternate between Woolworths Multigrain Flakes, and muesli and yoghurt.

What is the first thing you notice about people? 

How well they listen. If they're just yapping away and not really paying attention, or if they're truly interested in what I'm saying.

What color are your eyes? 

Dark brown

Scary movies or happy endings? 

Always happy endings. Actually not happy endings per se, but justified endings. But.... I don't watch scary movies. My favourite director is Nancy Meyers (google and you'll see why :))

Favorite TV show?

The Amazing Race. I watch nothing else. This season I didn't even watch as I had other things to do on a Monday night.

Sadly, since the kids came along, all my TV fell by the wayside. Way back then, Oprah and Dr Phil were my favourites.

Summer or winter? 

Winter!!!!! Go look at #marcialoveswinter on Instagram :)

Hugs or kisses? 

From my 3, ALL OF IT. From the general public, I prefer hugs.

What’s the furthest you’ve been from home? 

Dublin, Ireland (13715 km :)) Charlotte, North Caroline is second at 13276 km. D told me this morning that Stirling, Scotland is further away at 13806 km :)

Do you have special talents? 

Well now, we all have special talents, don't we?

1. Mine are many and varied :) Like how I can remember completely random numbers and facts. If only this skill were marketable.

One of my business colleagues phoned me the other day and we were chit-chatting... as you do, and he says they all (office workmates) went to a quiz and the questions were so random, like who on earth would know how many bones there are in the human body.... and I said 206. Yep, completely random things stick.

(Random fun fact - I captained our school's Quiz Team back in the day, and we did actually win our regional event, thanks to the other 3 team members who knew about things like sports!)

2. I care really deeply about people and I like to think I actually put this into action.

3. I take photos that sometimes make me gasp :) Superhero Photo!

4. I'm really good at breaking down complex concepts into actionable steps. This is also why I can listen to a whole lot of yap yap yap, and distill it all to a few key points :)

5. I'm good at inspiring and encouraging people to take action (kicking butt!).

6. I can be completely objective and see all sides to a story.

7. Something I've begun to appreciate now the kids are in school is my love language, acts of service. Things other people find a huge schlep like cooking, doing lunches, homework, etc. I seriously LOVE to do.

And now I want to know about YOUR special talents. Have at it in the comments :) I want to hear about those amazing cupcakes/ biscuits I see you all baking on Instagram.

PS I passed my exam! Yay!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Let's talk bandwidth

Our 10 gb bandwidth package ran out on Tuesday evening.

Normally I get irritated when that happens but this time I thought, "perfect!" because I needed to study anyway and so I decided not to buy a bandwidth booster til after my exam.

As I'm blogging, you've deduced that my exam is over :)  and the world is slightly brighter!

Really, I feel so clever for not having internet for most of two days. I used some of my phone's data but I'm super-stingy with my phone's usage (I use just 1.2 GB a month - that's it!) so I actually studied, for real, old-school like back in the day.

I was thinking yesterday that I would not have been a very good student if I'd had the internet way back when.

How do people do it these days?

Enough of my old-lady ways.

Right, the exam was less frightening than I thought BUT that's not saying anything. The questions are designed to trick you so we'll see. I finished a 2-hour paper in an hour but I forced myself to check every answer again... which took up another 15 minutes.

And then I was out of there!

I may or may not let you know my results in a few weeks' time.

And now I'm reading a fantastic book. This one. 

I'm 60% through in 1.5 days (benefits to not having internet! but it is a fantastic book and her style is so relatable).

I have big plans to finish this tonight so I can start on my Marian Keyes tomorrow. No joke - I've written "Marian Keyes book" like it's an event on my calendar for Saturday. I will be GLUED to my chair.

So what have you been up to the last few days?

I've been COOLER (thank God for rain, seriously!) because just when I thought I'd combust, blessed rain :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lessons learnt from the Spanish guitarist

One exam down, one to go!

This Spanish exam was the hardest I've worked for any of them so far (this was the fourth exam since my re-entry after 23 years...).

My kids and D are tired of hearing me practise and Kendra already knows some of the moves :)

Some background:

My partner pulled out of Spanish 6 weeks before exams. I could have been irritated but it took me about 10 minutes to get my head back in gear.

Instead I went in with two other girls who were in the same class.

That was a little bit challenging as I'm not used to dancing with teenagers. But I think we all pushed each other a little harder. These girls actually practised before each class so it made me pull up my game, and I think I bring my own style which inspired them to try different things (arms/ skirts/ etc.)

Anyway, my partner and I were to dance to a tape but because the teenagers were going to use a guitarist, I was forced to do the same.


Freaked me the heck out because I love the predictability of knowing the exact beats and pauses.

Does anyone remember that heist scene from Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis)? Where they sang that song and knew that was exactly how long they had to steal the jewels?

Yip, that's me. Well, I dance to the music in my own mind if I've heard it a couple of times....

Well, the guitarist follows you!

That's good because if you need him to play a bit slower for some footwork, you slow down and he goes slower. That was great yesterday because I always felt like I wanted the music a teensy bit slower so I could do my footwork beautifully (so each beat could be heard).

On the other hand, there was this one practice where I said, "can we PLEASE slow down? I can't keep up!" and the teacher said, "you're the one who sets the pace and you're playing those castanets so fast that's why he's going so fast". Oops!

Well, I played slower after that.

I can't help thinking there's a life lesson in there -

start as you mean to go on.... and you set the pace for your own life. You can speed it up or slow it down.

Do you feel like you need to slow down or speed up your life at the moment?

Friday, November 13, 2015

What are your plans for the weekend?


This weekend I have "big" plans:
  1. ace my Spanish exam
  2. study lots for my other exam (I'm telling myself it's only X days til it's over because I know a bit too much about this subject than I personally care to :))
  3. read a book
  4. survive the heat
  5. wrap presents for some elderly ladies our church is supporting - I'm doing about 12 presents for the grannies and about 3 - 5 teenage girl ones. I hope I counted properly because I just bought a lot of different things which I will arrange, but I should have some fillers if I run short of some things.
  6. when I'm too tired to study, play with some photos - I need to finish off October
  7.  write down bookmarks from an audio book so I can start blogging it
This is a new favourite from Yardley called Anchor Blue. I think I paid about R30 for it at Clicks bargain bin. I get compliments all the time when I wear this colour.

What are your plans for the weekend?

PS Next weekend this exam will be over and I can blog properly again :) or maybe I should reward myself with a blog post (on this or OrganisingQueen after every two hours?)

What are you looking forward to for the rest of November?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Three quick things

I haven't written here since Friday and even though it's late and I should be getting to bed, I miss this space.

So this is going to be a quick one - let's aim for 5 minutes :)

1. When I did my October goals review and I saw that we only went for walks twice the entire month (both in Sept and Oct), I decided that was definitely not acceptable.

So we've been on 6 walks in November so far and we have but 3 to go before we reach our goal of #52walksin2015.

How long this good streak is going to last is anyone's guess because it is blazing hot here.

I know I say this every summer but truly, THIS is the hottest summer I can remember Jhb having in the 22 years I've lived here.

I'm drinking my favourite drink, cold water with a slice of lemon, and I allow myself one glass of Slimsy (berry or lemon/ lime) at night, since tea is off the agenda.

2. Together with the hot summer, we have had almost no rain for over two months so we are in a drought situation.

It's quite crazy! 

I am a water nazi anyway but we're upping the ante. If I catch someone leaving a running tap, I've threatened to remove a star. We've put bricks in the cistern, etc. I have to flush all "business" but I'm happy to make it a quick flush.

How are you doing with water restrictions?

3. And then, two exams:

I have my Spanish exam and my industry one in the next two weeks.

I'm looking forward to the one exam and, well, looking forward to not studying after the other one is done :) Because then I can finish editing all my photos, properly sort out the study. It is tidy, but I haven't done my annual filing and I want to sort out goals for the year and start thinking about next year.

Are you thinking about next year yet?

PS there is a street I HATE because every single house has crazy dogs. I had to take a pic of this one with its 5 dogs! 
PPS this post took 14 minutes to write

Friday, November 06, 2015

{Friendship Friday} I've figured out a few things/ the 3 tiers of friendship

I have a friend spreadsheet which I've spoken about before. I track total meet-ups and just to satisfy myself, 1:1 socials too, because these are the most satisfying for me, hands down.

I classify a 1:1 social as me with a friend, or our family with one other.

Even one 1:1 social feels better than 2 - 3 socials with lots of people.

When I was doing my goals review for last month, I saw that I'd had 9 (yes NINE) socials in October.

That's too much and I could have skipped one or two.

However, October didn't feel as bad as August did. Both August and October had 10 socials but in August I only saw 1 friend 1:1 while in October I had 5 1:1 dates.

Isn't that fascinating? (even if just as a social experiment!)

I mentioned last time that it's really easy to tack a plan onto the end of a work day, or to the end of a meeting/ seminar/ conference if you're near where a friend lives or works.

It doesn't feel like a big schlep to get back in your car and go somewhere, because you're in your car anyway.

Has anyone tried it since last time I wrote?

I always get the best pics of Laura :)

Then I must tell you about this article.

Please go read about the 3 tiers of friendships..... I'll wait. It's really worth it.

To summarise...
  • tier 1 friendship - those made in school/ university
  • tier 2 friendship - pretty good friends
  • tier 3 friendship - not really friends (social media friends!)

On point 3, a few of us met up with Shayne a few months ago and she said something that has stuck with me since.

"I know who my real friends are, and who my social media friends are, and I don't mix the two" (brilliant!).

We were talking about how, these days, it's so easy to think that social media friendship is real. It can be real but it can't only be a social media relationship for it to be real.

I'm quite taken with this 3-tier idea, of course, because I am someone who loves to categorise things.

And here's the thing - I don't have tier 1 friends. I've spoken before about how I changed when I became infertile. As one commenter said, infertility awoke a need for connection in me.

I have a fair number of tier 2 friends now (that's a good thing because when I wrote that post 5 years ago I had almost none) and I'd like to think many of them are more than just "pretty good friends" but is that me being optimistic? Sometimes I think yes. But sometimes what we think is the situation is not actually the situation as I've found out quite a few times over the last 5 years. I tell myself that boundaries have to be respected.... but it still hurts.

I do know I've had too much hurt, etc. with the friendship thing and I have even said to D, "I'm over this - I'm going back to the good old days when it was just you and me against the world". He laughed! That's my way of protecting my heart, I know. 

This time around when I pray for friends (last time a few people wrote about how we lack nearby friends) - I've started making my list - I'm putting items on there called "people who are as into me as I am into them" and "willing to be vulnerable and connect" :)

So tell me about your thoughts on the different tiers... and what would be on your friendship list (even if you're not a praying sort)? 

isn't Cat's hair gorgeous?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A bumper reading month

I had a great reading month in October. I suppose there's got to be an upside to the heatwave and not wanting to move my body one little bit.

I have 16 books to read to reach my goal of 70 for the year. 8 a month is a lot, even for me, but I think I'll make it if I get this exam done first time around :)

And if I don't faff around on Instagram. I deleted Facebook from my phone already so things are looking up.

I also made some rules for myself which I wrote on my "mouse pad". Let me tell you about this mouse pad - it's a pad of writing paper. Some of you are asking, "who even has writing paper?" That would be me. When I was Konmari-ing, I found three pads. Lovely stuff that sparks joy so I'm keeping but using them.

I wrote some letters (real letters!) to two friends (one Insta-friend) with some, and this one writing pad is my mouse pad, so I write myself notes on the paper.

Back to the rules: study 30 minutes a day, first blog, then read blogs, Instagram daily (on my Organising Queen account.

Back to the quick book review:

1. Three amazing things about you

Lovely book - a solid 4 but still not as enjoyable (for me) as other Jill Mansell books have been.

2. Tangled lives - Hilary Boyd

I LOVED this book. This author reminds me of Joanna Trollope. If you don't know who Joanna Trollope is, she writes amazing British fiction but the best thing about her is how well she notices relationship nuances.

So this author has got that same thing going. This really was a great book. I sat myself down for most of a Sat or Sun and didn't move for about 4 hours and only then, because the kids wanted food.

3. The woman next door - Barbara Delinsky

Same as the one I read from this author last month. Nice enough (3) but don't go out of your way to get these books.

4. I know how she does it - Laura vanderkam

Jeanette, you should read this and we can do lunch to dissect it :)

I read this woman's blog. I don't like some of what she says generally but I stay subscribed because it always challenges my thinking.

I liked one thing very much about this book and others really annoyed me (the income thing, for one!), but I'm going to write a few posts on the Organising Queen blog so keep your eyes out for that.

 5. One Summer - David Baldacci

I actually love David Baldacci's other writing - proper thriller/ crime-type things and normally I'd be annoyed and say "stick with what you're good at" until I read Big Magic.She says something really interesting in there which is that artists should write anything they want without being scared that it won't be good. Normally the ones who wait for the brilliance only end up tortured and creatively stifled, etc. So for that reason I say, good on you, David Baldacci, but I really still like your other stuff best ;)

6. Summer of love - Katie Fforde

This is the opposite story as the one above. I normally don't like Katie Fforde's books very much but this one I really liked a lot.

It got 3 stars from me; I would have given 4 if the main character didn't annoy me in places.

Cat, I saw you didn't like this one :)

7. Big Magic - Liz Gilbert

This book was SOOO good on so many levels.

First of all, I love this lady's voice (I bought the audible version) and I love her podcast, and I super love her creative bend coupled with such practicality.

I really think everyone should buy/ listen to it. It's not just for creatives although more so for them.

Are we not all creatives? I decided while listening that while I've resisted the adjective of creative for many years now (it always comes up as a strength in my psychometric tests) because it seemed too airy-fairy for me, I actually am creative. Her kind of "work hard and you may get those moments of Big Magic happening. Work hard anyway" does it for me.

Reminded me of photography where I spend 20 minutes taking pics of things and when I'm editing I see 2 - 3 that catch my breath, and I think, "wow, was that me?" (those are my moments of Big Magic)

Fun fact - Eat Pray Love was her 4th published novel; the others were all picked up by proper publishing houses too but that one was the one that seemed to resonate with millions of people. I loved the book but apparently people don't all love it. Why are some people so judgmental about her journey to the 3 countries? I've read that she is a navel-gazing, selfish woman. My word - if you've got the money and you're not abandoning your responsibilities to go and do your thing, then I'm all for self-exploration and healing.

Um, I didn't mean to gush about Big Magic. Anyway, get it :) and listen to it in the car. You will love the audible version.

What have you been reading lately? Or listening to?

Of course, I've been listening to Roisin Ingle's podcast - all the time!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Lunches, missing children and the heat

On the very boring subject of the heatwave (s), I really thought after that first weekend of headaches, my body adapted. I'd been fine except for the usual hot and bothered for weeks.
And then this weekend happened.

There was a lot of running around on Saturday (too much actually - I had 5 plans) which is not good in the heat, but on Sunday it came to a head. We returned from a lunch out after church where we waited much too long for food (the kids were so cranky), went to the Spar afterwards for a few things and at one point, D said to me, "where's Kendra?"

She'd wandered off... as she does... and so we naturally freaked out.

It would have been very easy for a stranger to lift her up and just walk out of the shop. And she's the type who would be shell-shocked and not scream.

She was shaken and clung to us the rest of the time but no crying.

By the time we got home, I had a throbbing headache so I went straight to my bed.

Three hours later I emerged, feeling somewhat better.

Connor's also lost us for a minute or two before. D found him, pointed me out to him and he came running (isn't there a Jesus Culture song that goes "He comes running"? Okay, yes there is - here you go) to me and just SOBBED! Shame - poor boy.

So again, I am really not a big fan of temperatures in excess of 28 degrees. I'd be really happy at a lovely temperate 26 degrees or cooler.

The kids went for a swim and I didn't even hear all the squealing and screaming while that was happening.

However, the weekend was still a good one - I took GORGEOUS photos of flowers, the ground, leaves and such, and of course, of the kids on our way to the Santa Shoebox drop-off and I can't wait to show you when I get around to editing those.

Have your kids ever got lost in a shop before?


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