Have you visited your own blog site lately? It may have news for you

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Tapestry detail

 

 

I went through my own blogsite on Saturday– spent some time there, sprucing things up a bit. I changed the appearance– the colour scheme, the font and a few other features. I thought about changing the theme, but I wasn’t feeling quite THAT adventurous, (although according to WP it is quite easy), so I decided to stay with what I know and just tweak and freshen things up a bit. There’s nothing like a bit of a trim and a pop of new colour to help you step up a gear. Oh, and I added a new page, dedicated to my writing dabbles, which I shall add to over time, till it’s bursting at the seams. At the moment there is just one piece of short fiction in there. Baby steps.

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Revisiting your ‘normal’ while on a slippery (Covid) slope 

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In my garden: Pear Tree under Autumn skies

 

I am accustomed to working from home. What I’m not accustomed to is having someone at home with me, sitting at his desk just on the other side of the pillar while I sit at mine. It’s not really a big deal- while he’s busy on one of his conference calls, or speaking to a colleague on the phone, in go my earplugs and I continue as normal. So on a practical level things have not changed much- I still do pretty much the same stuff as I did before lockdown: cook food, clean house, garden garden, feed cat. And write.

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In Times of Trouble: Living with yourself in Lockdown. 

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In my garden: flowering Crassula with Bees

 

Here at the Southernmost tip of Africa, we have just passed our twentieth day in Lockdown. There is that distinct and awkward feeling of trying to carry on as normal, as if nothing unusual is happening. And interestingly, whether unusual or not, we get on with life anyway, don’t we? And many of the challenges are the same as they ever were: the frustration of a laptop which suddenly plays up, or knowing that you need to make that difficult call, or deciding what to make for dinner. But we are fortunate if those are the extent of our concerns. There are people I know who are wondering when, and even if, they are going to be able to get back to earning an income, and others, far worse, who may not even know where there next meal comes from and are dependent at this time on the goodwill of others. On the positive side, there has been a groundswell of individuals and organisations who have reached out and stepped in to help, to try and offer something to people in our midst who are living with very little means of support.

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My year without Blogging

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In My Garden: Water Feature

It’s been a long while since my last blog entry. One whole year and three days has passed by since I last put pen to paper here! This was not unforeseen: I realised early last year that I was being drawn onto a new and different path, as a fledgling writer of fiction that is. I have surprised myself by managing to churn out over twenty short stories since March 2019, many of which are still works in progress as I slowly find my feet in what feels like a whole new world. Last year I read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury,and things kind of unfolded from there. This is a new experience which blogging has no doubt helped steer me into and helped prepare me for. In many ways, after all, writing is writing- a thing that requires us to put ourselves out there, on days both good and bad. It can be lonely and frustrating, but we press on because it’s worth it! When I look back at some of my blog entries now I feel proud at what I managed to do- all my hard work, and the joy and satisfaction that I felt at a piece well done. And as for the people who I follow and who have followed me, whose writing I have so enjoyed, admired, been deeply touched by, even at times amazed by- a whole gamut of responses and emotions have come up for me just in being part of this community of writers. And whether I blog here once a week or once a year, there is no doubt that this community has been a joy, an education, and a source of inspiration to me, and I will always be grateful for that. Thank you ♥

Chocolate Box pretty, but what’s inside?

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The packaging is often the first thing you notice when you spot something new on the shelves, and a product’s packaging tells you a lot about the company that it’s connected to. For instance: are they using a lot of single use plastic, is the packaging unnecessarily bulky in relation to its contents, does the writing on the packaging contain helpful information about the company and its products, and what does the written information say about the ingredients used, especially in edible products? But there is a lot of other stuff to consider if you really want to understand if the company is running their business ethically, for instance how they source their raw materials, how their business impacts the natural environment, and how they treat their workers. If you visit the wonderful The Green Stars Project site, you will see that consumers (you and me) are encouraged to submit reviews using an amended version of the gold star rating system found on many retailer’s and review sites, by including a green star rating system based on social and environmental impact.

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How to bring Mother Nature to your door

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Photo by Maurício Filho on Pexels.com

Outside the window to my left there is a nest in our mulberry tree. Both parents are back and forth constantly, carrying wormy morsels for consumption by two tiny, hungry baby birds. I have been watching this beautiful process for about three weeks now, starting when I noticed the two adults putting the final touches to their compact little nest, right in front of the glass doors at one entrance to our house. If I wanted to I could clear the distance between the entrance and the tree in two or three strides, stand on the bench just beneath it, and reach up and touch the nest. At first I thought I was surely mistaken: why would they build so close by? Had they not noticed that there are people living here, using this very entrance several times a day? Not to mention our cat (okay, he’s elderly and has never climbed that tree, but he’s often in the area), and that all things considered they had best find another spot? Continue reading

My mid-summer garden: Circa January 2019.

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In my garden: Cucumber vine (early stages of fruiting)

 

My garden has breathed a sigh of relief, following some impressive afternoon thunderstorms, so typical of Johannesburg at this time of the year. Many a seedling wilted and died last month, after weeks of unrelenting, frustratingly rain-less heat which rendered even the toughest of our garden plants (aloes and crassulas) gasping for relief. January 2019 has offered some rainy respite, bringing with it a sense of fresh renewal and the garden has responded accordingly. Not that we haven’t had some failures: seeds lovingly planted have mysteriously not produced (I have learnt to accept that this sometimes is just so), seedlings have shriveled and expired in the heat, and our lovely lettuce was set upon by some bug or worm with a very large appetite. In this case I have been determined not to use chemical insect repellents, and thankfully our preferred organic alternatives are slowly making an impact.

Please enjoy the pictures to follow. Each one snapped by me earlier today:

 

 

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Borlotti Beans

 

 

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Perfectly ripe red apple

 

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Comfrey, red Salvia and Origanum

 

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Tree stump and Bulbanella

 

 

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Agapanthus and bee, with white Alysum in background

 

 

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Cycad (new growth in centre) with pond in background

 

 

 

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Vietnamese Coriander: pungent and delicious

 

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Our garden angel, with Rose Quartz. Pond reeds in background

 

 

 

♥♥♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to make friends with a Venomous Garden Spider (and would you want to)

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Free Photo. Source: Pexels

When I spied this poisonous Brown Button spider and her eggs clinging to the underside of a piece of garden furniture, I felt a strong pull of sympathy and fascination and less of the horror and alarm that some might expect. I even felt a bit guilty for not having noticed her when I initially pulled the chair away from it’s normal shady spot two days ago, and placed it on the lawn in the baking hot sun where it has been  ever since. Waiting to be scrubbed clean along with some other pieces of garden equipment. (We will get round to that). I felt a distinct sense of kinship with this spider mother who was after all, just trying to give her kids a home and fighting chance in a harsh world, and here I come along and spoil the whole plan by exposing them, belly side up, to the blazing summer sun and the possibility of predators, such as certain birds.

 

 

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I have come across venomous spiders before in Johannesburg gardens, and I knew by sight that this one was not severely venomous. It’s the Black Button (Widow) that you’ve really got to be careful of: typically a bite from one of those results in a hospital admission and having your vital signs measured for about 24 hours. A bite from the Brown Button is less severe and more localised, and symptoms in a healthy adult will normally clear up within a few days. Button Spiders will only attack if threatened; not exactly the vicious predators they are sometimes made out to be.

 

Well anyway, there we were: myself, the spider and her little brood of two, with me wondering what to do next. A nice photograph of the little family seemed appropriate, so I leaned in slowly with my phone and clicked. She immediately darted into her nest, which you can clearly see in the above pic: it’s the pocket shaped mass to the right of the photo, with her balancing at the mouth. Pleased with my nicely detailed close-up, and feeling somewhat bonded with this little trio, I felt inclined to offer them some shelter, so I lifted the chair (easy enough; its made of a light plastic) and moved the whole lot into a shady spot on the patio.

 

And that’s where we are now. But the harder part comes later, because clearly a decision will have to be made. We are encouraged to ‘get rid’ of poisonous creatures from our homes and gardens, and that can mean different things to different people. So when my husband gets home later from an undoubtedly long and hard day, we will still have a little date with Mother Nature to attend to.

 

 

For more on spiders and snakes in South Africa:

http://www.arc.agric.za/arc-ppri/Pages/Biosystematics/Spider%20Research%20Centre/Venomous-Spiders-Neurotoxic-venom.aspx

 

https://www.news24.com/Travel/Guides/Bush/Beware-Snakes-and-spiders-to-watch-out-for-20130814

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Friday: where is YOUR money going this time?

 

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I have stayed away from the shops today, and I will not be going online to look for Black Friday deals. Yesterday on a local radio station the guest for the morning was a representative from SADAG, Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. She invited listeners to go to the SADAG website and make a donation. “Do Something Memorable This Black Friday: Save A Life”, says their Welcome Page. I went ahead and made my online donation, pleased to know that my contribution is enough to cover their costs for telephone counselling for 10 people in need over the holiday period, or any other time.

 

Amongst its many services to thousands of South Africans in need, the group manages a crisis and referral call-in centre, managed by volunteers. One of the things she discussed was the rise in numbers of calls that they can expect over the upcoming holiday season. For many people, whether they live with mental illness or not, Christmas brings stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and a sense of being unable to cope.

 

 

And even amongst the luckiest of us, who doesn’t feel like skipping Christmas sometimes?! I consider myself fortunate to have friends and family to spend time with over Christmas, but it can feel like a lot of hard work and sometimes an ‘alternative’ Christmas, one that you can appreciate on your terms, sounds like the way to go. Like watching series for the day, on the couch, on your own, with just the dog and the cat for company. Or floating in the pool with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail (Southern Hemisphere Christmas has that kind of climate, so we have the advantage on this one 😉 ). Or just being able, guilt-free, to turn down that lunch invitation because you just don’t feel like it! How many of us get THAT one right? …. Or how about donating your time for the day to a good cause? Five years ago my husband and I spent the day helping prepare  and serve a Christmas lunch for a special needs group. Thing is, there is always more than one way of spending our time and our hard earned money, whether its for Christmas or for Black Friday. So maybe spend a little on a good cause. Its worth the effort, and you will feel the better for it 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you just want to have fun

 

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Image by Pexel

I treated myself to a few online purchases recently: 3 movies, 1 series and 3 books. Part of the fun is that sense of happy anticipation while I await my order and that Yes! feeling I get when the parcel arrives and I just know that the wait was worth it. Now there’s the fun of looking forward to indulging in my new purchases in the weeks or months to come, when the time is right. The books are for my husband, while I now have two covetable classics: ‘The Misfits’ and ‘Roman Holiday’, and ‘Luther’ an historical drama to enjoy over the holidays. We have already started watching ‘Borgen’, a Danish political drama from the popular Nordic Noir series, which we love, subtitles and all.

 

Then there are the spontaneous, unplanned ways to have fun, when opportunities suddenly pop up and you find you’ve been gifted with a little surprise. This afternoon for example, following several days of dry, baking heat, the clouds started to gather overhead and I lay, flat out on a patch of lawn as a few tiny, delicious drops of cooling rain came softly down. I rolled around a bit on the cool grass, full length, from side to side, reminded of childhood days when my siblings and I would play at tumbling down the grassy slope near our house, laughing all the way. After a few minutes I got up and went back inside feeling quite refreshed and revived after my little brush with nature. Speaking of unplanned fun (and nostalgia), a few weeks ago I switched on the TV in the middle of a weekday (not my usual routine) to test whether the remote was working, and Lo and Behold, there was a re-run of an episode of Magnum PI… Tom Selleck, shorts and botanicals printed shirt and all! I couldn’t resist. I used to love watching Magnum PI in the 80’s. I ended up watching the best part of a full hour while I did the week’s ironing. True nostalgia…and loads of fun 🙂

 

There must be as many ways to have fun as there are people on the planet, considering that we all come with our individual likes and dislikes, available resources, and whether we are aged 6 or 60. Then of course we get fun on different scales, like the big overseas trip which you’ve been planning for ages, or fun on a tiny scale such as a quick game of Soduko on your phone to see if you can beat your previous score. We all sometimes need a break, a distraction, from the everyday, the ordinary, and the things that have become frustrating and infuriating. We need fun for our peace of mind and to help us keep a sense of perspective in our lives and also just, well, for fun.