Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 in review

Well this is a bit embarrassing!  My second post of 2018 and it's the year in review.... chuckle, chuckle....

2018 has been a hellava year!  Probably one of the hugest years I have ever experienced.  I sit here at the end of the year feeling a little shell-shocked to be honest.  

So without further ado - 2018, what was it all about?

3 words to describe 2018: stressful, exciting, huge

Biggest lesson learned:  I can't plan everything and I can't always be in control, sometimes I have to surrender.

TV series I was hooked on: I don't actually watch TV as such, but I do binge-watch series on Netflix and my favourite this year was "Grace and Frankie" - can't wait for the next season!

Favourite movie: Mamma Mia Here we go Again

Favourite song: "Shotgun" George Ezra

Favourite meal: every meal I shared with the whole family, sitting out on the deck in Kloof

Best place I visited: Dorset in general and Durdle Door in particular.

Number of countries visited:  South Africa and the UK (and Dubai airport, but I'm not claiming that one!)  Definitely not a huge year travel-wise!


2018 month-by-month:

The year started with a bang - Paula moved to Newcastle on the 1st of January to begin her Community Service year, working as a Speech Therapist at Newcastle Hospital.  It was dreadful leaving her in Newcastle where she knew literally no-one.  As it turned out, we were SO incredibly blessed in that she rented a granny-flat from the most wonderful landlady who has turned out to be so so much more than a landlady, she has been a surrogate mom to Paula this year and has ensured that our girl has been loved and cared for in the most special way.  Even her dogs welcomed Paula wholeheartedly and one of them has chosen to sleep with her every night!  Over the course of the year we spent a number of weekends in Newcastle and found it to be a really lovely place.  Paula has flourished at the hospital and has thoroughly enjoyed her work there.  She has made some fantastic friends too.  So although it has been a challenging year in some ways, it's also been a very special and rewarding year for Paula.

A view from Grey Goose in Newcastle

I celebrated my 50th birthday in January.  FIFTY!  How the heck did that creep up on me so quickly...?  We spent a lovely weekend in the Berg to celebrate my birthday and I got spoilt rotten by the family - couldn't have wished for a better birthday.

Our little Danny-boy turned 1 in January as well, quite the birthday month!

Grant and I did loads of walking in January and February, as at that point we were expecting to be walking another Camino this year.

This pic was taken on our regular walk in Kloof

This pic was taken on a lovely walk we regularly did at Grey Goose in Newcastle

And then it was March and our Issy turned 4!

April was another big month. Grant turned 50 - we celebrated with a lovely family weekend in the Midlands.

The other big event of April was Paula's graduation - what a proud moment to see our girl officially awarded her degree in Speech-Language Pathology, and she got the award for Best Final Year Community-based Rehabilitation Speech Therapist too.  So proud!

After all the excitement of April, May was a relatively quiet month - we just chilled out... sometimes with chickens ;-)  And we planned for our trip in June!

Our precious chickens, Elizabeth, Catherine and Charlotte.. see what we did there... LOL!

In June Grant, Roxy and I headed to the UK.  After much soul-searching in the latter half of 2017, by early 2018 we had firmly committed to emigrating to the UK and were feverishly making plans.  The aim of our trip in June was to decide on a place to settle.  (Our original plan to walk the Camino Portuguese in June was cancelled in favour of this trip)

We had a really good trip.  Rox was with us for the first week and we successfully found a village that we decided to move to.   After Rox left, Grant and I spent a weekend in the Cotswolds, a few days with Lisa and Trev in Surrey and then we had a week-long holiday in Dorset (so, so beautiful!).  We also managed to squeeze in quick visits with our friends Heidi and Charlie.

Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds

Witney, Cotswolds


Durdle door, Dorset


Once we were back from the UK it was all-systems-go to get our house sold.  Putting our house on the market was absolutely gut-wrenching.  I loved that house SO much.

July was a huge month for me personally.  Through a long and convoluted series of events, and thanks in a large part to my friend Adri (who I subsequently discovered is actually my cousin!) I made contact with my cousin, Lindy, and then with my father - both of whom I last saw when I was 11 years old!  Once we were back from the UK we booked tickets for the whole family to fly to East London in July, to spend a weekend with my father.  It was a really remarkable weekend!

Dad, Paula and Bobby at Kaysers Beach

Rox and the kiddies on Kaysers Beach

August was yet another big month in our family.  Paula and Cal left for a holiday in Dublin - 

 - and they came home ENGAGED!  Much excitement all round!  Add wedding planning to the mix!

Nothing momentous happened in September (thankfully!), but there was loads of stress as we prepared to emigrate, had endless show houses and I finished working.  A super-stressful month indeed!

The beginning of October saw Jonathan flying to the UK to start his new job and Rox and the little ones moved in with Grant and me.  It was a really busy month!   We sold our house and our goods were packed for shipping at the end of the month.

St James Church Greytown.
October also saw us make a trip up to Greytown to say our good-byes to Mom and Craig - their ashes are buried in a memorial garden at St James Church.  It was quite emotional visiting the church for the last time - Grant and I were both confirmed there, we got married there, the girls were both Christened there, Gran, Craig and Mom's memorial services were all held at the church... so that church has been a huge part of our lives.

Totally unrelated, but I just love this photo of my Issy-boo, taken in October, amongst the Jacaranda petals in the driveway of our home in Kloof.

November was upon us really quickly and it was time for all the good-byes...

(I was having a VERY bad hair day!)

Grant and his Dad with Issy

Impi and Issy

Impi and Dan

Rox and the children flew out 2 weeks ahead of us.  Those last two weeks were a whirl of activity - Grant finished work, we packed up our remaining worldly goods, sorted out all the loose ends and then suddenly it was our turn to fly.  Final good-byes were said (saying good-bye to my Impi nearly did me in!) and soon we were at the airport.  Paula flew over with us to spend a week sussing out the scene in our new home town.

What felt like 100 hours later, we were reunited with our babies!

Our first week in the UK was lovely.

Covent Garden, London

My precious Paulz at Covent Garden

And then December was upon us....we are feeling quite exhausted!  This month has been really strange - stressful too - being 50 and literally homeless and unemployed takes its toll!  It was wonderful to be able to stay with Roxy and Jon in their new home for the first 3 weeks of the month, and to find our feet with their help and guidance.  Grant's been on a bunch of courses to convert his South African qualifications to UK ones and is actively trying to find a job (not the ideal time of year for job-hunting!)  We have found a temporary home - a little 2 bedroomed flat that is....cosy..... but ideally located.  

The windows on the bottom floor... that's us.

We moved in a week ago and are working at making it homely.  I think if Grant sees another box of flat-pack furniture arrive he'll burst a blood vessel!  

We are finding our way in our new home town - we've found some lovely walks, good shops and we have a local pub!!!  Yay!!  It's a short walk from our flat, which is fun.

Our local pub
It's all starting to feel familiar.  

We have been to some amazing places this month, some of which are definitely going to become our new "happy places" .  Here are a few pics of our favourites.

Waddesdon Manor - this was the Christmas market


We went to Chessington with Lisa and her family - the kids got to meet Santa in his grotto - it was an awesome experience that is definitely going to become a Christmas tradition.

Hughenden - this is a short drive from where we live and we will spend many hours here for sure!

And then there is Cliveden... oh boy, I fell in love!  I can see us spending many a day wandering around the forests and gardens at Cliveden.  It's a half hour drive from us.

Bourne End

So that brings me to today!  Shew, what a year it's been!  I sit here, on the last day of 2018 and I feel so many emotions.... exhaustion, joy, sadness, peace, uncertainty, love... very mixed emotions!  But I'm optimistic about 2019.  I have a feeling 2019 is going to be a good year.  Not easy - is there ever an easy year once you start adulting?!  But I think it will be a good year for our family.  I think 2019 is going to have a positive energy about it.

So thank you 2018 for all the experiences, for the lessons I learned, the places I visited, the people I loved, the people I met and those people and pets (I can't even go there!) I said good-bye to, for the heart-ache and joy, the music and the memories.... What a year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Questionnaire

It's a Christmas Miracle!  Me, posting on my blog for the first time this year.... and what a year it's been!... but more about that later, for now a Christmas Questionnaire I found on one of my very favourite blogs "French La Vie"

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?    Wrapping paper
  1. Real tree or artificial?  Artificial
  1. When do you put up the tree?  Usually at the very beginning of December.
  1. When do you take the tree down?  New Year's Day
  1. Do you like eggnog? Never tried it!
  1. Favourite gift received as a child? A Sindy doll I received when I was about 10 or so.
  1. Hardest person to buy for?  My Dad - what do you buy the man who has everything?!
  1. Easiest person to buy for? Issy and Dan
  1. Do you have a nativity scene?  Yes, I do - it was given to me by my aunt Wendy.
  1. Mail or email Christmas cards? Neither. But I think I will start sending mail ones next year. 
  1. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't remember ever receiving a particularly bad one to be honest.
  1. Favourite Christmas Movie? Love Actually 
  1. When do you start shopping for Christmas?  I like to finish shopping by mid-December, so I usually start shopping in November.
  1. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?  Nope
  1. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?  mince pies, Christmas cake, mulled wine (does that count?!)
  1. Lights on the tree?  Yup, coloured ones 
  1. Favourite Christmas song? The entire Michael Buble Christmas album, Boney M, "Last Christmas"... I love them all!
  1. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Definitely stay at home!
  1. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.... and Rudolph!
  1. Angel on the tree top or a star?  An angel 
  1. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.  But the kids always get a Christmas Eve present of PJs. 
  1. The most annoying thing about this time of the year? Commercialism - less gifts and more Christmas fun would be good!
  1. Favorite ornament ? I try to buy an ornament wherever we travel, so I LOVE pulling out the ornaments from all the places we've been to, it's so special to relive those happy times while putting the ornaments on the tree. 
  1. Do you make Christmas cookies ? We normally have a Cookie Decorating day mid-December, Rox bakes the cookies and all the girls decorate them. 
  1. What do you want for Christmas this year? Fun times with my family!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

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!