2017 in review

2017 has been a strange year.  I started the year with great intentions and some firm goals in mind, but somehow I stalled quite early on in the year and I never really got back into my groove.  My word for the year was "Thrive" and I'm not entirely sure I did that this year, so I'm ending the year feeling a little bit frustrated with myself, BUT I am going into 2018 optimistically, hoping that my mojo is back to stay and that I'll achieve more in 2018.  Anyhow, having said that, this is what we got up to in 2017:

The year started off with a bang, when our dear little Danny-boy arrived early and unexpectedly on the 25th January:

My precious Issy-boo turned THREE in March... can you believe it?!  Three!!  Love this little girly more than words can say!

Lis, Cait and Sam came over from the UK to spend a few days with us in March, which was awesome!  We spent the weekend in the berg.

In April we welcomed Tombi into our home.  She was an old girl, who had been part of our extended family since she was a pup and her living situation had become intolerable.  Unfortunately we had to say good-bye to Tom-tom in December, her poor old heart wasn't strong enough to give us too many months together.  Although she only lived with us for a short while, I'll always treasure those months together and I'm really grateful that her last few months were full of love and spoils.

We also began renovating our kitchen in April... the stuff of nightmares!

This is a collage of a couple of my favourite photos of my sweeties taken in April:

In May we did the East Coast Radio Big Walk as a family, it was so much fun.

I always try to get a couple of pics in the park in May:

We became the proud owners of 3 Hyline hens this year - Elizabeth, Catherine and Charlotte.  (We actually started out with four, but poor Diana was an ill-fated hen, and met her grizzly end when an eagle took a shine to her)  These girls have brought us so much joy, they are real characters, each one with its own personality.  And they're mighty fine egg-layers too!

Grant's Dad turned 80 in May this year.  We've spent some lovely quality time with him over the course of the year, which has been so precious.

Lisa came out from the UK again in July - not often we get to see one another twice in one year! - and we had a lovely week together.  I'm so incredibly lucky to have Lis in my life, we've been friends for well over 40 years now!

While she was here, we spent a night at the log cabins at Lake Eland which was lovely.

Lissy and Paula also did this.... which was insane!

Our Issy started pre-school in the 3rd term of 2017.  She settled in without a single tear!

In August Paula and Cal got back together - yay!!

In August we also booked our flights for our next Camino - the Camino Portuguese Coastal route, which we plan to walk in June 2018.  So excited!

Paula went and got measles in August... never a dull moment!

More pics from August:

In September Paula and Cal had a rather traumatic experience when a troop of monkeys got into our house and chased and cornered a poor female monkey in the bathroom, where they viciously attacked her.  Monkey helpline came and rescued the poor creature, which they have since named "Paula"...

September was clearly not Paula's month, she also had a terrible reaction to an antibiotic and landed up in hospital.  Her entire body developed a rash which looked like sunburn.  She had to take a couple of weeks off varsity and see a physician once a week.

In October Paula and her research partner, Noluthando, handed in their thesis - the culmination of a LOT of work 

They then got to present their research at "Research Day"
Rox and the kiddies spent a morning with Aunty Wendy

Roxy and Jon had Dan and Issy dedicated at church:

Issy started ballet lessons, which she loves!

And finally, Danny started crawling, much to his disgust (he'd far rather be carried from Point A to Point B!)

Paula finished her degree in November!  I can't believe my baby girl is a qualified Speech Therapist!

We went out for an impromptu lunch to celebrate

Paula and Cal also spent a weekend in the berg with Tiff and Mike, to celebrate Paula and Tiff completing their degrees.  So proud of these girls!

In December we spent a weekend in Hartebeespoort and then spent 5 days at Sun City.  

French Toast Cafe, Hartebeespoort

It was quite amazing to be at Sun City with our grandchildren, after visiting the place so frequently while our kids were growing up.

When we got back Danny had to have surgery to have grommets inserted, poor little lad

And then it was time to turn our attention to Christmas.  No Christmas would be complete without attending our local SPCA's carol service:

And of course a drive to see all the Christmas lights:

And then the big day arrived:

Danny's first Christmas
And so 2017 comes to an end.  A year with many blessings, some struggles and lots of wonderful time with my family.  Hoping 2018 brings more of the same!

Camino Portuguese (Coastal Route)

We are planning another Camino walking holiday!  I couldn't be more excited.  The plan is that next year, in June, Grant, Paula and I will walk along the Camino Portuguese - taking the coastal route.  

Most people start in Porto, but because of limited time (and my impossible feet!) we are starting a little closer to Santiago, in the small Portuguese town of Vila Praia de Ancora.  We will be walking more than 100 kms and will end in Santiago de Compostela, so all being well, this time we will qualify to receive a Compostela.

Here's a video that shows some of the sights on the coastal route, doesn't it look gorgeous!

At this point our flights are booked and I am deep into planning this trip (you know me, I love, love, love to plan, so I am in my element!)  We've also been easing into our training, and we're thoroughly enjoying it.  So it looks like all systems go for Camino 2018!

Milk Kefir

Lately I've been been absent from my blog - but I've been having a lot of fun doing different things, things like making milk kefir!  I first noticed the kefir trend while browsing on the Faithful to Nature website one day and I was intrigued, so I did some research on the internet, decided this was something I'd like to try and went ahead and bought myself a little starter kit, consisting of about a tablespoon of dehydrated kefir grains, a jar and a plastic sieve.


Then began the process of activating the dehydrated grains.  My grains took about a week to 10 days to become active.  During this period, you basically toss the dehydrated grains into the jar and add a cup of room temperature milk and then wait for 24 hours before straining and repeating the process.  (I gave my dog the resulting milk during that time - he LOVED this process!) Once the milk developed a "yeasty" smell after fermenting for 24 hours I knew we were on the right track - I continued the process and a couple of days later we had our first "proper" kefir - a sad day for the dog, but a great one for me!

The experience has been something of a learning curve and definitely a process of trial and error!  Some of the things I have learnt along the way:

I cover my jar with a kitchen wipe, secured with a rubber band - this allows the kefir to breathe, without allowing dust, ants etc in. My jar of fermenting kefir gets stored in one of my kitchen cupboards - out of direct sunlight.

It is important to only use plastic implements when dealing with your kefir - kefir grains do not like metal.

In my experience the quality of the milk DEFINITELY has an effect on the end product - I've had the best results with high quality, full cream milk (I use Woolies milk). 

My kefir takes between 36 to 48 hours to reach the consistency that I like (my preference is quite a thick kefir) - I have found it's definitely not ready after 24 hours unless the weather is very warm. 

Once you have strained your kefir, you should wash and dry the jar before replacing the grains and adding the milk for the next batch. I add a cup of milk that is roughly room temperature (it shouldn't be above "blood temperature") - I heat it in the microwave. 

DON'T rinse the grains, it's not good for them - it's fine to toss the grains, covered in their milky coat directly into the clean and dried jar and it's fine if a little of yesterdays kefir lands up in the jar. 

The weather has an effect on the speed at which the milk ferments, on cold days my kefir takes longer. 

The ratio of kefir grains to milk also affects the speed at which it ferments.  If your kefir is fermenting too quickly it could mean that you have too little milk and conversely if your kefir is taking too long to ferment it could mean you have too much milk.

If left to ferment for too long kefir can separate into curds and whey.  Have a look at this page for recommendations when this happens.

I give my jar of fermenting kefir a swirl a couple of times a day, to aid the fermentation process and to stop the grains from sitting on top of the milk in a thick mass.

If for some reason your kefir isn't thickening as much as you like, try adding a couple of spoons of yesterday's kefir into the new batch and add a little less milk.

We mainly use our kefir in our breakfast smoothies, but it can also be drunk as is (I'm not a fan of the flavour myself) and it can be used very successfully as a substitute for yoghurt or buttermilk in baking.

Kefir is enormously beneficial for gut health.  It is full of nutrients and probiotics (it has more probiotics than yoghurt) and has potent anti-bacterial properties.   Click here to read more about the benefits of kefir.