Still me

My photo
Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday, 28 February: Do you have the 'right' address?

Location, location, location as the estate agents say! Now do you have the right address? Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street or the White House, DC?

Well, all paths may lead to Rome in the end (and the photo above shows the path past the oak tree to the the Fairy Door at Thatchwick which leads to the back garden). I was advised by Kathryn Bechen at Kathryn Bechen Inkblot, one of my kind blog 'mentors', to create a signature to my emails including my url address to let others know of my blog. I promptly created a very classy signature with the wrong address! No wonder, frustrated colleagues and friends couldn' t find me. Well, my address is sans the cottage bit. Hopefully, now Trist, Gal and self will be more accessible to visitors!

My real address is Charles Street but I tell everyone to ring the bell at the corner of Charles and William Street. Then Ryan, my dear son-in-law and blog advisor, told me that William Street is actually William Drive. Oh dear, this is starting to sound like a conversation between Alice and the White Queen! Curiouser and curiouser! But if you manage to find me, you're so welcome.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

26 February,2008: A little about thatch roofs

I thought that I would explain a little about thatch roofs which may not be common in your part of the world. This shot on the left shows Thatchwick's very handsome roof with the dormer windows of the loft-cum-study. Thatch roofs are not unusual in South Africa. After all, the traditional grass roofed huts of the African people can still be seen in the deep rural areas of the country. In the suburbs of the cities, you will find an occasional thatch. Loved for their special looks, only the brave opt for a thatch as the house insurance is high due to the fire risk. I have a lightening conducter (will show you that another time) next to the house to deflect lightening strikes from the roof.

This ilustration comes from a 1953 publication: Patience Strong's Book of Homes and Gardens. She says, "On sunny days the thatched cottage reminds one of a sleepy old lady in a brown straw hat drowsing contentedly in the sunshine. In winter, when the winds are ripping slates and tiles off other roofs, how secure and safe the old cottage looks." Indeed thatch is a wonderful medium: cool and and sweet smelling in summer and warm in winter. I love living under my thatch roof!

Some thatch houses have ceilings so you only enjoy the thatch from the outside. I only have wooden ceilings in my sitting room and sun room which must have been later additions.
This is what it looks like on the interior of my house. Yes, and a few spiders do live in that roof! But fortunately they mostly keep to themselves. Thatch has to be repaired every six or seven years. It is very easy to find a thatcher as many regular houses have an opened thatched area in the garden, near a pool or barbecue and there is always plenty of work for thatchers. Thatchers are usually African men who have inherited the craft of thatching. If you only need to renew the thatch, the thatchers brush the thatch roof with steel brushes to remove the loose, worn grass. This is called combing the thatch. Then new bundles are stuffed into the roof. After renewing the thatch, the roof has a speckled look due to the introduction of the new lighter coloured grass. But it soon weathers to that beautiful soft grey-brown.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday, 21 February: It doesn't take a lot

It really doesn't take a lot to enjoy yourself. You don't always have to take an overseas trip or max out on your credit card. Neither do you have to take a week's leave from your job.

I was reminded of this again on Tuesday afternoon. After work, a friend and I met at a little cluster of shops in the neighbourhood within walking distance from both our homes. We only had an hour or two to spare. Firstly, we viewed an exhibition of drawings by a promising final year art student. Next we admired leather handbags and unusual antique and modern jewellery at a tiny gift shop. Then on to some Louis XIV chairs upholstered in gold brocade which we found in the adjoining antique shop. In contrast, was raw, brightly coloured, exotic African crafts in the next venue, showcasing the work of artists from Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, to name a few. A leopard carved out of wood caught my eye; my friend preferred the cream and blue pottery bowls. Around the corner, situated in the old post-office, is a great favourite of mine: a gift shop filled almost to the ceiling with unusual funky treasures.

Now adding to your mental wish list is thirsty work so we stopped at the next door deli for a cappuchino and a chat at one of the tables on the pavement. Before leaving for home, we bought fresh fruit and flowers at the corner cafe which looks the same as it did 35 years ago. I bought a bunch of fresh pink proteas for R 25 (about US $ 3). This time spent strolling among some rather hidden local shops, far from the bustle of the Mall, was such fun. Who needs hours in a Paris arrondissement? Local is lekker ! (That is Afrikaans word for very pleasant!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday, 19 February: Walks and talks

I have never been very athletic.
At school I played the obligatory netball and tennis but preferred the novelty team races at our annual Inter-house sports day. As a young mom I tried 'pain for gain' with Jane Fonda on a video tape in a dusty school hall with other thirty-somethings. I have done my share of aerobics dressed in a stunning red leotard in fancy gyms to the sound of thumping pop music. In my forties I joined a running club and managed 12 km until I overdid it and incurred a hamstring injury. Pilates exercises lasted until my lower back protested. I have swum lengths of backstroke in swimming pools just to rehabilitate my back.

Now I have settled for the best exercise of all - walking and talking. In the mornings, as you will know, I exercise my two dogs at 4:45 am. I chat to Galahad who always gives me a smile in return. Tristram who is the focused and silent type keeps his eyes fixed on the road. I greet everyone I see at that unearthly hour to assure them and to be assured that we mean no harm. Thrice a week in the late afternoon I walk and talk with my two friends in the beautiful grounds of a nearby boys' high school. We enjoy walking down the leafy path shown in the photo and share our daily ups and downs, consult each other about 'parenting' our adult children and discuss movies and books.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday, 12 February 2008: Tristram's true confession, among other things

Tristram has a true confession to make. The kind many a lad or lass has had to proffer after posting an Internet photo, especially if it was on the Lonely Hearts column. His original photo (see the side bar) was taken at least nine years ago. Today he is much older and greyer in the flesh, or is it the fur? However, as he has pointed out to me, grey hairs in a male are just so much more attractive than in a female. His comment, I can assure you, not mine! Grey hairs also speak of wisdom, maturity and experience. Galahad, on the other hand, has the advantage of an ash-blonde. He just seems a little lighter about the chin as the time goes on.

My friend, Leona, who lives in Linz, Austria asked me for my apple cake recipe. It also has a history. I first tasted this cake at my kitchen tea. I suspect there are different versions of this favourite found in every community. I baked one yesterday for a church function and everyone loved it.

1 small tin (425 g) pie apple pieces

50 g margerine

One and a quarter cup of sugar
1 teasp. vanilla
125 ml milk
5 eggs
One and a half cup's self-raising flour
Pinch of salt


Cream butter and sugar.
Add beaten eggs.
Sift dry ingredients and add alternatively with milk to make a soft dough.
Pour into a greased pie dish.
Place apple pieces as in picture.
Bake for about 30 minutes at 180 C
Sauce: While baking, bring one cup of sugar and 250 ml cream to the boil. Pour over the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven. Serve with either creme fraiche; whipped cream; custard as a desert; or just plain.

It's not as rich or as glamourous as one of those Austrian tortes that Leona makes but it is delicious.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wednesday, 6 February 2008: To cat lovers everywhere

To all you cat lovers everywhere! This morning amidst all those work emails, I squeezed in a visit to Kathryn Bechen's newsletter. She asks: What are the things we love? I want to assure all my blogging friends that this here dog lover also loves cats! In fact, I love all animals even the ones I would'nt ever pick up, stroke or hug.

Now the problem with a dog lover is that you can't take those cute photos for your blog with kitty sleeping amidst your satin cushions. As you can see, Galahad is most willing to pose amongst the cushions on my sunroom sofa but ...! Those wet brown eyes are telling you that I am a real spoilsport. Fortunately Tristram is not interested in beds, sofas or cushions. He feels a love of luxury is un-knightly. After all he has a reputation to keep up as Sir Tristram the Brave. Beside Gal is also an avid swimmer who likes a good roll among the aspidistras after a dip in the pool. And as Ogden Nash said
The truth I do not stretch or shove

When I state the dog is full of love

I've also proved by actual test

A wet dog is the lovingest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tuesday,5 February 2008: Thank you for dropping in!

I once read an essay by Garrison Keillor (Have you read Lake Woebegone?) in which he said that one must NEVER start a letter apologising for not writing earlier. It just loads on the guilt and spoils the joy of communication. So no apologies from me! Just a big thank you to everyone who has sent me comments in the last week or so. I am off blog-hopping this afternoon to thank everyone personally and visit some new friends too. A special thanks to Kathryn Bechen from Kathryn Bechen's Inkblot who gave me a special mention on her blog. Also Kim from Cape Town who reminded me to add scrapbooking to my list of hobbies.

Up till now I have been cagey about where I actually live. But I realise that is really silly of me. I live in Pretoria, a city of about 1.5 million people just 45 km from Johannesburg in sunny South Africa. The two cities are growing together rapidly and are almost twins. I am Proudly South African! In spite of many problems which mark an up and coming country on the southern tip of Africa, this is a great place to be. People are warm, the climate is ideal and life is dynamic and full of surprises.

Sorry about the yellow streaks in the image. But I just love that picture and it is in honour of Bookclub at my house tonight. Now I must go and bake an apple upside down cake with yummy cream sauce which gets poured over the cake as it emerges from the hot oven and slice the bread for ham and basil sarmies! The basil is from my herb garden. I'll let you know tomorrow what our book choices were.

Monday, 4 February: Taking stock

I have just been taking stock of January's completed projects. The new laminated wooden floor was laid in my bedroom. The room painted twice due to a wrong colour choice (oops!) The kitchen was given a new coat of yellow. This photo really doesn't do it justice. The walls are a lovely maize colour called Californian Sands which shows off my collection of blue and yellow plates. The blue shelf had to be taken down and put up again. I also had timer switches put on the hot water geysers to save electricity and replaced rusty guttering. Unpredicted maintainance jobs were the replacement of the lock on the front gate and a leaking underground pipe which required patching. My husband used to quip that pipes, cisterns, washing machines, you name it, always wait for January to give up the ghost.

Sunday, 3 February 2008: A rose for you

February is the last month of summer in this nick of the woods . Gardens tend to look a little ragged. My roses are encountering an onslaught of the dreaded blackspot after so much rain and I am spraying regularly. But I did find this perfect rose amidst glossy leaves just for you! It's an old fashioned rose with a delicate scent. Unfortunately I have lost the name. This weekend I made two trips to my favourite nursery which is about 15 km away on the other side of the city through horrendous traffic. But a carload of Begonia semperflorens was worth it. I have taken out the lavender bushes which frame the formal rose garden and and planted these flowers with their startling colour combination. Maroon leaves and pink flowers.