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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stopover in Paris

We arrived in Paris at 6 AM on Friday morning and caught a taxi to go see the Eiffel Tower.  When we arrived at the tower it was still dark and except for a few workers overhead soldering iron rods;  completely desolate in a bleak and almost eery kind of way!

So we went to look for a place to warm up and found a spot down the street to enjoy a morning snack.

We settled in to enjoy hot cups of coffee and cocoa with croissants and crepes covered with chocolate.  Delicious!  I honestly can say this was the best croissant I've ever eaten.

After several fruitless attempts to capture the whole Eiffel Tower from up close I whipped out an imaginary piece of paper and started writing:

"Dear Santa,

All I want for next Christmas is a wide angle lens!  I know it is a bit early, but I wanted to get this to you as soon as possible so you can start work on that right away!" 

We stood in line for almost an hour before the ticket booth opened and every minute we waited in line it got colder; more and more people arrived to fall in line and the girls became more and more impossible to deal with!  A pretty fatal combination after being on a plane for 12 hours flying from Cape Town to Paris!

Several different elevators whisked us from one level to the next, until we finally reached the very tippy top shrouded in a mysterious, white, poofy cloud.  The wind blew hard and it was bitterly cold.  I heard a gentleman behind me say to his friend  "The weather is terrible!"  And then his friend replied:  "Yes, but I can tick it off my bucket list!  Ching!"  It made me smile since I could relate.  We can tick it off our bucket list too, but I would love to come back to see more.  We had to make a run for it and arrived at the airport just in time to board a plane to Atlanta!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trip to South Africa

We've just come back from a trip to South Africa and there are so many thoughts and feelings floating through my mind.  Too many actually.  It is overwhelming to summarize in a few short paragraphs, but it is catapulting so many plans into my head because one thing I truly am is a resourceful spirit!  I love thinking through ideas and figuring out "what can I do to make this happen?"  and sometimes I come up with impossible possibilities, but sometimes I come up with useful changes.

 Table Mountain

I question things;  make changes and challenge myself.  I believe it absolutely necessary!  

White Lions
It is hard to live so far away from your family.  It is really, truly hard!  I might be sulking a little bit over the coming days while readjusting sleeping and eating patterns.  I did not even want to get out of my pajamas today.  When hubby asked me if we are going to unpack all the bags by end of day I had a proverbial shot gun pointed at him with an imaginary sergeant major yelling in the background "Fire at will!"

Sunset at Beach House

Deep down I'm happy.  I am privileged to have all these people in my life.  Despite our differences and indifferences we need each other and spending time together is restorative.   It is good for me to renew and revisit the images and experiences I share with people and places I grew up with.  It grounds me.  It helps keep me from floating away, which is quite easy to do living in another country!

 Knysna Forest

So here is to "not floating away" in 2013!  May it be a year in which I get down to business and get those bags unpacked sooner rather than later!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gifts From The Heart

The past few weeks the girls were working diligently in making cards and putting together bags of treats to gift to residents at a local nursery home.  Last night they all got on a bus to do just that!

Caramel told me this lady was so frail;  her hands as light as feathers, but she was so grateful for this gift bag.  She grabbed Caramel by the arms and told her "you are the light of my life!"

How wonderful. A small gesture of kindness can mean so much to those that need it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Africa, Here We Come

Today Caramel ran inside the house, breathless, asking me to please come look at the tablecloth she created for Table Mountain.  I decided to go take a look and came upon a scene they've put together in the dirt with holes they dug, rock arrangements, several sticks and the few flowers they could find.

"Over here is Table Mountain!"  Caramel said pointing over to an arrangement of rocks with a flat top.

"And over here is the cable car which we are going to take up Table Mountain!"  Fudge said pointing towards a stick balanced quite peculiarly on the side of the rock formation.

"Here I've put some rhinos representing the big five!" Caramel said pointing to several acorns each with a small stone stacked on top.

"And these two flowers are the king proteas we learned about!" Fudge said pointing towards two beautiful red camellia flowers.

They are meeting their cousins in South Africa in person for the first time, this holiday season.  We are very excited for them too, but I have to admit I'm not looking forward to the arduous two day trek to get there!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Time Is Near

The stockings are hung;  the tree decorated and the Christmas village aglow - a scene that escaped straight off a Norman Rockwell!

I regularly see the girls hovering over the miniature streets filled with carolers and ice skaters swishing around the town rink.  The excitement in their eyes is undeniable while breaking out in spontaneous singing "Frosty the Snowman......".

I will sometimes just quietly enjoy these moments, realizing their unadulterated, childlike innocence over time will make way for a more informed, logical mindset.  But my wish for them is that they will never lose this feeling of wonder and pure happiness and that they will stubbornly hang on to it especially in times when things are not going so great.  I know that it has kept cynicism out of my heart and I simply refuse to let that sense of wonder go.

With this spirit in mind, we were off to see some Christmas lights this weekend.  While tunes of the season filled the air, the girls were hanging out the moon roof;  blankets draped around their puffer jackets all the way down to their sock covered feet firmly planted on the console between hubby and I.

The chilly air found it's way down the open moon roof onto my lap, but hubby switched on our seats which kept us nice and toasty.  The flask of hot cocoa was resting against my left leg waiting to be enjoyed at a pit stop along the way where we roasted marshmallows around a huge bonfire.  It sure did not feel like fall anymore, but the weather was the perfect compliment to the twinkling awesomeness we all "oohed" and "aahed" about! 

Friday, November 23, 2012


Thanksgiving is a day we celebrate the bounty in our lives;  the family and friends around us;  the wonderful gifts God has bestowed on us.

We say grace and we go around the table stating out loud all that we are thankful for.

We laugh, we eat, we craft, we read, we watch Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, we play board games........

we celebrate the time we get to spend together as a family!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hard boiled eggs

Hard boiled eggs.

It's just one of those things we used to eat regularly growing up.  It's one of the British traditions that stuck around.  But I never bothered to make it for our girls;  until this week!

Caramel loved it!  She also enjoys the green salads with the hard boiled eggs you get ready made at grocery stores.  Fudge?  She almost barfed when she had it in her mouth.

New experiences............ You never know what your six year old's reaction is going to be!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Lazy Saturday Morning

She got into our bed this morning.  She wormed her small little frame until under the covers and then she turned towards me.  A smile enveloped her face and her eyes shone with happiness.  It was the face of an angel.  I looked at it thinking this is the greatest blessing I ever received.

She put her little hand on mine and we swiveled our hands together.  Like leaves gliding to the earth.  Her tiny little fingers were guiding mine along.  She giggled and asked me "Mommy, why was I your kickboxing baby?"

"Just sometimes!" I said.

"I think I was screaming 'let me out of here!  I want to get out!'"  She patted my tummy lightly.

Then she snuggled into the hollow of my arm and said "I just love this bed!  It smells so nice!"

I folded my arms around her and gave her a kiss on the head.  Her hair smelled like sweet flowers.  I felt complete - complete and utter happiness. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween !!


No, this is actually not our front yard, even though I sometimes think it could be after a long, hard day!  Just a decked out pit stop we came across while trick-or-treating!

Who knew keeping up with four, little monsters running all over the neighborhood to collect as much candy as humanly possible, could be so tiring?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Day At the Zoo

As part of our "school" schedule we go on lots of field trips.   What we decide to do is dependent on the season, the weather and in all honesty whatever we feel like! Today we went to visit one of our favorite zoos.

The girls were so excited.  As soon as the car doors opened they stormed onto the lawn marveling at all the small pumpkins lying about in celebration of the season! Then they ran ahead to strike up a conversation with the owner.  He loves talking to the kids. 

Shortly after cajoling them into the reception area, a tour guide welcomed us and took us all around the property telling us fun and interesting facts about the animals.

Of course a big part of the fun at this zoo is interacting with the animals!  Many are roaming about freely and the kids may pet, pick up and observe as they please.

The girls loved having a conversation with the macaws!  And Caramel tried to pick up a baby goat and soon thereafter yelled out in disgust, because it's belly was wet (let's just leave it at that shall we)!

We also came across a cat munching on a field mouse it caught just a short while before we got there!  The mouse, although dead, was thankfully still intact.  They were intrigued since our cat has never munched on a mouse at home.  Knight is an indoor cat and thank goodness we do not have rodents running about.

Tonight both of them told me how much they appreciate me taking them on these excursions and having so much fun.  Both told me "I'm the greatest mom ever and that they love me soooooooo much!"  And aren't those the sweetest words ever to roll off our children's lips?!  Like honey.

Monday, October 8, 2012


The big, bright yellow sticker on top of the FedEx box read "Open urgently!"

After pulling apart several bubble wrapped envelopes we sighed a great sigh of relief to find they were still alive!  The little tadpoles finally arrived.

They are to grow into leopard frogs over the course of the next three to five months.

Every now and again two beaming little faces pop up from behind the island counter top to report on a new observation they make.

"Welcome to your new home Sarafina and Winter!"

Saturday, October 6, 2012


We've been learning about the solar system this week.  So when hubby suggested we go stargazing last night we grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

A local group of amateur astronomers get together regularly to study the night sky and once in a while they invite the public to use their telescopes to marvel at the wonders found in outer space.  There was nothing "amateur" about the ten or so telescopes they've setup on a concrete slab next to the observatory, though!

Staring at nebulae, double stars and next door galaxies I don't know who were more excited - us or the kids?

It is a wonderful way to teach children about the world around them!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Getting Ready For Halloween

After a morning filled with learning we headed out just after lunch to the library.  We head out to the library at least once a week and return with never less than 20 books to add to everything else we are working on.

I threw into the pile two books I found about the Halloween holidays and since both are chapter books it will provide for several occasions of reading about this wildly popular holiday in the States.

After reading a few chapters from both books we all were super excited to do something Halloweenish and decided to enter the holy grail kicking off the holiday season in our home - the attics upstairs.  Every time we decide which one to open first it is always preceded with a huge debate about what items we stored away where.  Then it is followed by a five minute effort to find the right key.  Don't ask me why not any one of us have yet taken the one key that works off the bunch, but we have not and therefore we go through this ritual every time we have to unlock the attic doors.  My excuse is that it makes it just so much more exciting, doesn't it?

It's like letting them lose in a candy store. 

Fudge:  "Mom, this one has the wreaths!  Ah, I just love these soft feathers!"

Caramel:  "Is the witch in this one?"

Mom:  "No I think it is with the Christmas stuff in the other attic.  Fudge, can you please go put these jack-o-lanterns outside the front door?  And Caramel, please take the blow up Tigger dressed in his Halloween cape and set it up in the foyer!"

Fudge:  "What are these things?"  (While holding out a ball of cobweb gauze.)

Mom:  "I'll show you!"

Hanging wreaths, putting out candles, draping cobweb gauze over the mantles and lighting the rooms with twinkling witch hats and orange pumpkins the excitement level grew and grew.

Once it was done we were in such a great mood we baked an apple pie.  I lost count how many times they came around that oven to take a good whiff and ask "how much longer before it is done?"  But with cinnamon and nutmeg filling every nook and cranny in our home who can blame them?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dinner Table Conversations

Mom:  "So how was class today?"

Caramel:  "It was a little bit complicated."

Mom:  "How is that?"

Caramel:  "Well, it was not easy.  Complicated you know.  Fortunately I like complicated!  It just means I have to use my brain a little bit more!"

She might not know it, but inside I was beaming; smiling from ear to ear, because I know we all are so much more happy in life with a positive, determined attitude.  I encountered my fair share of people telling me what they think I'm able to accomplish and what not, but fortunately those statements were like fuel rejuvenating a fire.  

But I also know it is not how it always works.  Even though a large part of who and what we are were decided long before it ever gets challenged, sometimes what people say, cut to the quick.  And it hurts.  So seeing these resilient, determined spirits sprout roots makes me happy!

Monday, September 24, 2012


This year we found weeds overtaking large patches within the shrub beds surrounding our home.

The girls and I decided to tackle the front yard this weekend.

Sure, it would be much easier to hand a few hundred dollars to a landscaping firm to do this for us.  But we'll miss out on a sure fire way to help instill lifelong values in our children.  So, turn the T.V. off, close the computer and get outside to teach great virtues like hard work, responsibility and being stewards of our great mother earth.  Learning about critters, plants and "what makes a weed a weed?" along the way are thrown in for free!

Wow!  Girl power rocks!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Turtle Power

Hubby found an Eastern Box Turtle stuck in a jumble of thorny bushes.

He carried it to a safe area in the backyard and we patiently waited while the turtle slowly started rocking back and forth.

Then we saw one red eye appear nervously from the safety of it's shell.  Then another.  Very cautiously it started to focus on it's surroundings; more and more convinced that we mean him no harm.

Once his feet hit the ground he took off at top turtle speed to the leaf covered natural vegetation surrounding the oak trees towering over the backyard.

Yes, they went back to check on him quite a few times.

Learning alongside them opened my eyes.   The more we see, the more we share; the more beauty springs to life within us and settle among us.  I am profoundly glad I took this leap of faith.

To see much and ponder it: this comes next to understanding

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Handicrafts are not offered as a standard subject or as part of a standard course of study in any of our local schools.  I thought this very odd, since some of my greatest memories attending school were making things.  Like knitting an orange cat in 3rd grade complete with a tail, whiskers and eyes, or sewing my first wraparound skirt in 5th grade or baking a batch of scones in home ec!

None of these interests became a full time pursuit but most of these skills I use;  like cooking meals on a daily basis, or sewing Halloween costumes and beautiful tulle sashes for birthday parties!

We need these skills not just to get things done and to be more independent of others, but rather to fulfill a need that all humans have - to create;  to feel the great sense of satisfaction when you made something with your own two hands you can use.  Buying stuff can never replace the deep sense of satisfaction and confidence you get from making something yourself!

And as parents we see it as our privilege to teach our daughters skills that will help them experience that same sense of satisfaction and to find opportunities every single day to create, breathe and live in the moment with a sense of happiness you cannot buy with money.