Merry Christmas to you all

My work life goes into overdrive this week with the run-up to Christmas, so I am going to sign off by wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year now. Hope you enjoy the festive season. If possible, take some time to slow down and reflect on the year that was. Appreciate that the reason for the festival we commemorate on Dec 25th was to save us, not cost us... 

I will take some inspiration for new posts while on holiday and see you again in the new year!!

Image credits: Betty Crocker

Sunday Edition #9

Eco-friendly Christmas décor from Weylands

One day, not long from now, I am going to pack our clothes, my photo albums, all the books and the husband’s big screen TV (or maybe his iPad, he spends an equal amount of time looking at THAT these days) and move into the Weylands store in Fourways. Yup, as easy as that. 

No need to pack any Christmas stuff since their festive decorations this year are just beautiful! All imported from India, it is made from iron, mirror, glass beads or wire. They also stock beautiful items made from Indian jute. I read on their website that this raw material fibre is from one of India’s oldest industries with the first mill starting production in Bengal in 1856. 

For more details about the stores, you can visit their website.

PS. I'll also pack Daniel’s bicycle (those ramps!) and the Weber for bbq’s with friends!! And maybe Mr Delivery’s menu...

Image credits: Weylands

About that glass

Today is a public holiday in South Africa - the Day of Reconciliation. My two boys are already on holiday and are spending time at the coast with our family. I will spend the day working in my shop since the 16th of December also marks the day, traditionally, when the Christmas rush officially turns into the Christmas frenzy. And just in case I do not see the bigger picture....

Image credits: Positive Posters

Playing in the streets of New York

I love these photos of children playing in the streets of New York. It was taken by Arthur Leipzig, a photo journalist turned street photographer who focused on the daily lives of people in the city streets. These photos, that perfectly capture the spirit of the city, were taken in 1950. 

My favourite - "Divers, East River, 1948".

Image credits: Arthur Leipzig

Christmas at Nest

My local grocery store sees me way too often, since planning a menu in advance like any organised household should, seems a bit tricky at any given time. I wanted to say “at the moment”, but that implies that for the rest of the year I have all my grocery ducks in a row. Er, no. The store is located in the Verdi Centre, Northcliff on Beyers Naude Drive. It is a small mall, but with a few gems in it. One of those are Nest, a décor and gift shop with a focus on babies and maternity. I always pop in to look at their beautiful jewellery and stationery. This week their window display stopped me in my tracks – I love the Christmas decorations that they sell. The natural (with a bit of silver bling for good measure) colour scheme is right up my Christmas alley. My favourite item is their eco-friendly Christmas wreath made from cardboards that are individually laser cut. 

NEST, Shop nr.3, Verdi Shopping Centre,
Cnr. Beyers Naude & Vincent Rd, Northcliff
Tel: 011-0245836

You can visit their Facebook page here.

The Johannesburg Country Club

Johannesburg is a new city, in fact, a toddler by world standards. Like a toddler, it has grown in fits and spurts, with almost nothing of the things that were there when it was a baby left over. One of those things, however, is the hundred year old massive oak trees of the Country Club in Auckland Park. At the turn of the century, Auckland Park was considered to be “in the country” relative to the city. Many of the gentry would spend their weekends at their country houses, the boating lake (where the Country Club is today) or at the horse racing track (which is what provided the space for the University of Johannesburg campus). When in 1888, a New Zealander, John Landau, developed the area, he saw many similarities to his home town Auckland, hence the name.

The Johannesburg Country Club is located in the heart of Auckland Park and was founded in 1906. As the city crept closer, their golf grounds moved to Woodmead with all the modern facilities that new golf clubs have, but the Auckland Park premises still has all the old world grandeur of the original club. It houses an impressive list of sporting facilities, including squash and tennis courts, bowling greens, croquet lawns, a gym, snooker room and the lovely cricket oval, famous for the tree standing proudly in second slip position (if you’re bowling from the club house end!)

It is an exclusive private club and one cannot simply drop in for tea. So when I made a delivery for my shop to a customer who was using one of the 15 (!) function rooms for a year-end function, I used the opportunity to go on a walk-about of the gardens. What a gorgeous and tranquil haven in the middle of Jo’burg – I walked around for two hours, watching a bit of croquet, chatting with a group of bowling ladies having lunch under the huge oak trees at the clubhouse and imagining the frustrated fielders and happy batsmen with the tree in play on the cricket field.

Johannesburg Country Club
1 Napier Road, Auckland Park
Click on their website for more info

Image credits: All photography by me

Wishing you a Merry Christmas - by card

On Sunday our friend Elbi gave us a Christmas card. By ‘card’, I mean an actual paper card, in an envelope and hand-written. I loved it, since the tradition to send cards does not feature in our lives anymore. I have to admit the well-worded text message is my lazy way of sending a Christmas message! Elbi’s card instantly took me back to a bygone age, when my mother used to hang a piece of ribbon along the wall, to drape over all the cards we received. It looked like a ‘washing line’ with Santas, Rudolphs and snow-flecked pine forests along with the nativity scenes.

The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned in London in 1843. It featured an illustration of a family with a small child all drinking wine together (which proved somewhat controversial :-) and scenes of people feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. In that year two batches of cards of a 1000 each were printed and sold. Of those original cards, twelve still exist today in private collections.

Image credits: Wikipedia

Louis Prang became the first printer to offer Christmas cards in America in 1875. Today many Americans send e-cards via email, however many people still choose to send out real paper cards, often featuring specially taken photos of their families. Wonder what Louis Prang would say about the close to 2 billion (!!) paper Christmas cards that were sent in 2009 in America alone!! 

I know technology is here to make our lives easier, but I feel so inspired that next year I just might make a trip to the post office. Now to get everyone’s postal addresses – will have to email you to find out what they are :-)

Image credits: 1) Dyidreamer 2) I love rubber stamps 

Sunday Edition #9

A pretty reminder to "live in the moment"....

Image credits: Etsy

More to read

Here are a few more of my "best of 2011" books....

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; 
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, 
and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles William Eliot

Image credits: All images from Amazon

A Place for You

During this time of year, for many of us, the social scene actually speeds up as we spend time with friends around a table to end the year on a high note. Having had to dress a few tables for these occasions, I thought this table ware (and the cookie jars!) from Anthropologie are just beautiful, although they are a bit more bohemian than the things that you will normally find in my cupboard :-)

Image credits: All images from Anthropologie

One of these evenings around the table was my book club's final hurrah for the year last night. Looking back at my 2011 reading list, the highlight was picking up a Deon Meyer book (I know, I know, long overdue). I followed that with another Deon Meyer and another and another... Some of my other favourite reads this year were: 

Image credits: All images from Amazon

Fusettes de Lavande

I have a friend, Mary Ann Evenhuis. A few years ago she and her husband Hans left their Johannesburg based corporate and teaching lives – which, it has to be said, were filled with a love of all things Provencal even then – for the awesome project of taking a piece of land at the top of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, and turning it into the real-life embodiment of those loves: they are now growing lavender, olives and wine. The latter of these is a year away from coming to fruition, but their olive oil is already winning competition prizes, and the lavender is standing hip-high. Which finally leads us on to the subject of today’s blog: Mary Ann’s lavender wands. 

These beautiful wands are made from freshly harvested lavender stems. Mary Ann prefers to use the French Lavender cultivar since it has large flowers and long stems making it easier to work with. She then bends the stems back over the flowers and weaves a ribbon around the stems. This holds captive the fragrant flowers, keeping their scent for many years. The scent can be renewed by gently rolling the wand between your hands or by adding a few pure lavender oil drops.

These simple artisan objects, called fusettes de lavande or fuseaux in Provence, and now synonymous with the South of France, actually originated in the Victorian era when the ladies made them to ward off the mal odours at court. They were also made for brides for their trousseau, to scent linen cupboards, and if you watched the charming movie, A Good Year, you will know it keeps the scorpions away!

Mary Ann makes them mostly on order for promotions and weddings. Her products are available at Just Pure in Hermanus, Caramel & Co in Claremont and Story Concepts in Durbanville. You can contact her at

"I judge that the flowers of lavender 
quilted in a cappe
and dayly worn are good for all diseases of the head
that come of a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well." 
Lavender and Turner (Herbal, 1545)

Image credits: All photography by me

Vendange - "Late Harvest"

My series about 44 Stanley (read more here and here and here) will not be complete without telling you about Vendange, a retail store that performs the nifty trick of taking you from old industrial Milpark (albeit seriously transformed) back to the Franchhoek winelands – well, to some of the finest it has to export!

Vendage, which means “late harvest” in French, stocks a range of décor items, wine accessories, kitchen tables and a beautiful collection of products from Sagaform. They also keep the very popular handcrafted Trudeuau cheese and baguette board range made from recycled wine barrels. These items are actually manufactured by the owners of the shop. I can attest first hand to how beautiful these are – they have been extremely popular in my shop (Tapenade Olive Shop in the Cresta Shopping Centre) for a number of years now.

Good news for the Freestaters is that they have just opened a second shop at the Preller Square in Bloemfontein. 

On my desk at home I keep a lavender wand (watch out for a post on these coming soon), and this one small item is enough to transport me right into the heart of the beautiful valley it came from. If you do get the chance to visit this shop, maybe you’ll find something that will carry you off to somewhere special.

44 Stanley Avenue, Johannesburg
You can read their website or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography by me

Wash Dry Fold Repeat

Love everything about this laundry caddy from Nest Design, except maybe to actually use it :-)!

"My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance."
Erma Bombeck
Image credits: Nest Design

Say cheese

I’ve used this blog more than once to throw a not-so-subtle hint at the husband for a Christmas gift or two or three.. :-). However, I am now on a new bandwagon – a wagon full of camera stuff!! How cool (and sometimes odd) are these gadgets that I found on Photojojo?

From left to right: 1) Camera Strap tee 2) Lens bracelets 3) Fuzzy Wuzzy felt camera case 4) DSLR money bank 5) Camera Dial Laptop Decal 6) Vintage Camera Mobile 7) Plastic printed paddles 8) Keep Calm and Snap On Prints 9) Keyboard Shortcut Skins for Photoshop 10) Canon Camera Lens Mugs 11) Juice box camera 

Image credits: All images from Photojojo

Events in my neighbourhood this week include the first ever Canon Expo in South Africa. It is on at the Sandton Convention Centre from the 9th to the 11th of December. Doors open at 10:00, entrance is free and it is on till 18:00. A price list is available on their Facebook page.

Sunday Edition #8

Image credits: No credits available (via Pinterest)

Breakfast in bed

Sometimes, the luxuries in life can be measured not by something as grand as breakfast in bed but rather by whose turn it is to get up and make the coffee today :-) Hope you all have a great weekend.

Image credits: Wish!

At the Chef's Table

Kitchens are notoriously hot, noisy and stressful environments – we all know the old saying: “if you can’t stand the heat…” But these days, the best seat in the house is quite possibly right there in the heart of the kitchen. 

How lucky am I that my friend Leona received a Chef’s Table at the Michelangelo Hotel on Nelson Mandela Square as a birthday gift and more importantly, that she invited me and my husband along to share in this celebration of food and friends around a table? 

We arrived at the hotel at 18:30 and enjoyed our pre-dinner bubblies at the Piccolo Mondo Restaurant. Our chef of the evening, Chef Marvellous Nkomo (and his name should have given us a clue as to what our evening was going to be like) welcomed us and took us on a tour of this five star hotel kitchen.

The Chef’s Table for 12 guests is located at a small alcove in the kitchen with a great view of the preparation tables, perfectly positioned to see the chef putting the finishing touches on what is truly a luxurious experience. 

 We did not receive a menu beforehand, but Chef Marvellous introduced every dish, explaining the ingredients and cooking methods. Once the food had been served and explained, our wine waiter, Nathi, would proceed to introduce the accompanying wines (no less than 10 times during the evening!).

Luckily , at the end of this prolonged meal (we left the Chef’s table for coffee in the hotel foyer at 23:00), we received a beautifully signed menu from Chef Marvellous as a souvenir of the evening, otherwise I would not have been able to tell you what we had! 

Doesn’t each dish just look beautifully presented and yummy? Chef Marvellous was given an actual ovation for the Butternut Cappuccino and the Springbok Loin had us all licking our lips.

What a great night out! Thanks Leona, for inviting us to this truly memorable occasion.

Image credits: All photography by me