If you have been following our blog for a while, you would have read that my mom passed away just before my wedding, 8 years ago. But there’s a second chapter to my story that I am inspired to write about. My dad got remarried to one of his oldest and dearest friends. She was a pillar of strength for our family during our hardest times and a few years after my mom’s passing she and my dad finally got together. With all the love and support under the sun for each other, it has only been a pleasure to see them so happy.
They have truly become an inspiration for me and I’m sure other couples out there who know them, too. Their kids are now grown up and independent. They are super fit and super healthy and they truly embrace life with hearts filled with joy, love, and kindness, not to mention boat loads of energy and zest. When I grow up I most certainly hope to follow in their footsteps or in their case, bicycle tracks.
A few years back they got this beautiful painting as a gift for their anniversary and I have always admired it as it really captures the essence of their relationship so beautifully. While we were reminiscing one afternoon as sunset approached, sipping on fine red wine, I blurted out that it would be a good idea to photograph them and reenact the painting. So we did. This is the result. A super fun spontaneous moment has become such a warm memory for myself and the kids. My poor husband was holding down the fort in K-Town at the time.
I have grown a lot over the years. Although the hardships are difficult, they also have the ability to refine. I have grown to see love as always evolving. I think the secret to a lasting love, is not a perfect spouse, a perfect self, or a perfect environment, but rather two hearts who commit to finding each other constantly as life, individuals and circumstances change. I now find myself falling in love with my husband in new ways everyday and for this I am truly grateful.
A few months ago Katie and I wrote up a review on Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley, we mentioned in that post how she is the designer and creator of The Simplified Planner. Since we read her book, Katie and I both were itching to get our hands on one of them. That itch has been scratched. In South Africa our school year went from January to December, it took some getting used to when the kids started school here and the new year went from September to June. To help that, I opted for this version of The Simplified Planner the academic year, going from August 2017 to July 2018.
The Simplified Planner comes in 4 different designs, I chose the floral print. Katie went with the Gold Dot.
I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived last night, one week into the first school term. (See why I need an organiser). It came in a very strong, high quality, easy to open, navy blue packaging box. I will keep this for future travel to add extra protection to my planner in suit cases. The planner itself was covered in bubble wrap and an extra layer of plastic. They made sure no water or dust could get in anywhere with this packaging. And I love the attention to detail, even in shipping!
Emily has also included a handy little start up brochure for people like me who need a little extra beginner’s encouragement.
As a self taught designer she combined her love for design with her passion for helping others simplify their lives to produce something that is not only useful, but it is beautiful and intentional too. I love her use of colour on different pages, her space allocation for things like meal planning… (Something I have also only recently starting doing and oh my gosh has it been life changing).
Possibly one of my favourite features is her sticker page. I’m a sucker for extra detail splashed with fun.
She has recently launched her Yearly planners as well going from January to December, for all our SA readers, those not in the school aged season of life, or if you just prefer yearly planners – there’s a beautifully designed option for you too.
Much like Katie’s post about starting fresh this fall and setting your intentions, I hope this has encouraged you to get organised and prepare yourselves for the year ahead. One thing Emily stresses, which both Katie and I are trying to implement more and more, is the power of saying “No.” To intentionally save blank space in your schedules for down time, family time, or just a little time-out time. These quiet moments are just as important, but we need to be intentional about it – especially in our ‘Always On’ society.
Seriously, you cannot turn it off! Whatever your passion, occupation, or education, you approach the world through that filter. You simply can’t help yourself! I walk into a space and move the furniture around in mind to make the flow better. In daily life I see potential photographs framed and composed. And don’t even get me started on how I see color and how happy it makes me when a group of people unwittingly coordinate.
You may already know that, although I’m a photographer and graphic artist, I went to school for interior design and worked at a commercial architecture firm, STUDIOS architecture, for 6 years before we became an expat family. Those were 6 amazing years for me. I learned and grew so much. I was blessed with fantastic mentors and work colleagues, as well as design experiences that inspired and changed me forever. There are days I’m nostalgic for the old days (and nights), my design buddies, the thrill of the creative process, and working in the city. That said, there is a season for everything, right?
Five years later, it seems that this season will include interior design again. Thanks to my Mindfulness buddy, Ms. Stacy, I have been tapped for my knowledge and experience in interior design..a lot. Being the exhorter that she is, she has shared the work we have done together on her house and her fabulous classroom. Thanks to her recommendations, I have space planned a few residential interiors, as well as the office of our Head of School, and consulted on ways to update the Elementary School office.
Now I’m honored to teach and guide a group of High Schoolers that manage our campus Genius Bar as they design their newly renovated space. (Think student-run help desk a la Apple Store.) So far, we have had three workshops or, as we say in design, charrettes, with their teacher advisor as well as my buddy Brian, the Director of Technology (my guru who taught me the “faux app” trick). The students have been really receptive to learning about the process and it is so fun for me to share my knowledge and experience with them! I will recap our design adventure in the coming months, so stay tuned!
I don’t know where all this design work will lead me to next, but I’m enjoying the journey and the memories.
On a side note: If you are in a place where you have a set of skills or knowledge that you don’t know what to do with, I say share them. Let me encourage you to volunteer those skills, talents, and knowledge. You never know what could come of it. We believe “stay-at-home” parents, particularly, are an untapped resource. Not only were we all something else before we had little people, those little people have made us better with perspective and, believe it or not, wisdom. Talk about the old days with your friends, your school, your kids, and just maybe it will put you on a path to your new purpose. Be encouraged, we are cheering for you!
The flight home was great, especially since hubby gave me the upgrade to business class on our long stretch. What a gem! And what a difference that makes. I woke up the day after we got back with extra energy and a ready-to-go attitude.
School starts for us on Sunday.
A new school year = new beginnings, new friendships, new teachers and new opportunities. So how is everyone getting ready for the new school year? For this family, it was a good day to be a mum of 3. Pottery Barn Kids is having a buy two get one free promo. Yup, my smallest person basically got all his new back to school stuff for free 🙂 Now that’s a great start in anyones books.
Besides the morning traffic, I would say that packing lunch boxes probably brings me the most Back To School Anxiety.
That should be a thing don’t you think? #backtoschoolanxiety
Anyway, a few years back I had the delight in meeting a lady by the name of Jen, from MAMA.PAPA.BUBBA blog here in Kuwait. She is a Canadian based writer on all things mom, kid, creativity, nutrition, family and travel. She has been a huge source of inspiration for myself as an expat mum and her kids lunch box ideas are unrivalled.
Since the start of my kids school careers, we have been fans of PlanetBox Lunch Boxes. With our extreme temps I LOVE that the boxes are non-toxic, non-leaching, safe from BPA, phthalates, and lead. I LOVE that they are strong, high quality stainless steel and warrantied for 5 years. I LOVE the little compartments which makes variety a key element when planning. I LOVE that they are dishwasher safe. I LOVE all the accessories available: magnets for design, knives, forks, specials little containers that then fit into the lunch box itself for specialty foods, fruit salad for example.
The website boasts so many different combinations of foods and food ideas for you to be inspired from, they have an entire tab on the website dedicated to Meal ideas. It truly takes the stress out of #backtoschoolanxiety
If you have any Back To School favourite tips we would love to hear from you and share them with our readers, after all as moms, we need to lift each other up and get (and offer up) all the help we can.
Much love and good luck for the first week back to school for our Kuwait readers.
Now, I need to get back to labelling.
It’s been two months. Our South African holiday is coming to an end. It has been a very special time for the kids and I, perhaps a little less so for my dear husband who held the fort in the desert for most of that time. While time flew by for us, I can only imagine how it must have dragged for him.
He will never really understand how thankful I am to him for this time at home. We went on road trips, remember Moolmanshoek and Kiara Lodge? I got to catch up with life-long friends and make new special memories with family. We started building our home here and were there on the day they broke ground. I got to fetch my nephews from school, we went for all our necessary health tests that were long over due, (YAY, I was cleared of lymphoma). I got to be present when my brother launched his very own high-end security company. What a Blessing….all of it!
The hardest part of living an expat life is living away from family, my husband and I are both very close to our families and they add such richness and quality to life.
Two days ago I was there to pay my love and respect to my dearest grandfather who passed away in his bed at home at the ripe old age of almost 89. He was the head of our clan! The patriarch! Strong, wise, funny, a family man, confidant, and kind. These are the qualities I will hold onto when I think of him. A good man who is finally at peace.
We have packed up our big cargo box full of family favorites that you can only get in SA and it should arrive in Kuwait the same day as us. And this weekend will be a weekend of warm wishes and fond farewells.
It’s bittersweet going home. We are looking forward to seeing our international friends again, to getting back to having our own space again, and above all else seeing our beloved little dog again.
This was literally me yesterday trying to go to the toilet by myself:
YES – I NEED MY SPACE!
While my head is getting back in the game and preparing for our long journey home, I’m also trying to silence the heart that has started missing my South African home, family, and friends. I’m so thankful once again for our families who have welcomed us into their homes for weeks at a time, it’s not easy adding 5 extra human beings into any given household, yet you did so graciously.
I have many more stories out of Africa to share with you all and I can’t wait. But for now, I need to get back to packing. We are at the end of our laundry, the kids have zero matching socks and I’m pretty sure they’ve grown a dress size in the last two months as well. We are all looking a little wrinkly and mismatched, but we are happy and content and full of love and life.
As the Northern hemisphere welcomes fall, I come to you from Sunny SA and wish you all:
Happy Spring Day.
This past weekend we had the joy of spending an afternoon celebrating a special little girl at this gorgeous venue, Vintage Rose.
What a beautiful venue! In the heart of Pretoria, South Africa, the older homes boast larger grounds and vintage architecture. This old Pretoria home has been converted into a venue which hosts receptions for weddings, birthdays and pretty much anything your heart may want to celebrate. It has beautiful large trees and plenty of grass for high energy children. This child friendly, charming place has an incredible eye for detail. Anyone who knows me knows I have a vintage heart and this heart was not disappointed.
I was in my element. So many pretty things for my eyes to feast on. A self catering venue allows themselves the opportunity to focus on design and detail while the client focuses on food and family. A beautiful afternoon was had by all and love became the true hero of the day. Love for this special child, love for each other, and for me, love for good design.
So if you are in the Pretoria, Centurion Johannesburg areas and you are looking for a beautiful venue full with love and details. I highly recommend this little treasure. After all, art really is in the detail.
Shout out goes to my assistant photographers, Jarod, Dylan and Mia.
Much love from this vintage girl,
There’s one thing my kids cannot seem to get enough of on our African adventure – tree climbing. EVERY CHANCE THEY GET!
We get palm trees in Kuwait, lots of them, and they certainly add to the oasis look and feel of the desert. But it is very rare that you come across a tree that is climb worthy. It’s no wonder that when the kids come home to SA they are in tree climbing heaven. I am no professional and i’m not about to hash out statistics about why climbing trees is good for kids, all I can do is tell you what we have experienced first hand.
- Outdoor play – the kids are always outdoors. The weather is amazing, the air is clean and they are constantly being drawn to the trees outdoors. I love the fact that it happily keeps them off their screens and tablets.
- Creativity – its amazing what the kids come up with only one large earth grown prop around. Did you know that the ground is lava?! And apparently hide and seek can actually be played in a tree? And bark rubbing crafts are so much fun.
- Gross Motor skills – they are constantly lifting their body weight, moving it around, pulling it up, pushing it through. They’re finding out what their bodies are capable of. Big movements left and right encourage both hemispheres of the brain to work together to solve problems. Excellent when you have a dual dominance child which means that both right brain and left brain competing for dominance.
- Understanding their own limitations – they are discovering what they are capable of. They are figuring out when to climb higher and when to step down a little. And the joy in their faces when they climb higher than the day before is priceless.
- Respect for nature – I am answering questions all day long about why we have trees in this world and why they are important, how do birds make nests, what animals live in trees, etc.
We have only 3 weeks left of our holidays and I think the kids will miss the trees the most. Next to family of course.
As a disclaimer, I do urge you to please keep a close watch on your kiddos, safety first!
On the August 9th, 1956, over 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to protest the ‘Pass Laws‘ during the Apartheid era. The women stood there in absolute silence for 30 minutes and then started singing the protest song, Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)
An adaptation of this phrase…
“You strike a woman, you strike a rock”
…has since come to represent a South African woman’s strength and courage.
National Women’s day has been celebrated every year on August 9th, since 2004.
It was then even more special that I had the privilege of photographing Deolandre: a strong, confidant young lady, on the eve of National Women’s Day as she prepared for her Matric Farewell.
(For our international readers, a Matric Farewell is South Africa’s version of an American Senior Prom.)
It marks the end of her high school career, the ceremonial coming age, the growth of an independent woman, the flourishing of hopes and dreams, the world in the palm of her hands. In South Africa it is a gift longed for by many, yet awarded to only a few. The moment I was tasked with, to freeze in frames for a lifetime. A blessing and a privilege indeed.
Camera: Nikon D4S
Location: Clients home, Centurion
Time: 3 – 4:45pm
Lighting Conditions: A few indoor photos with good natural light, althogh most of the photos were taken outdoors with good natural light but before sunset. No flash.
Kids in tow, but I’m super thankful for the client’s little brother who did a superb job of keeping my 3 minions entertained and out of harms way.
It’s a delight for me to be able to share a few of these photos with you. To celebrate this strong, confident woman and shine a light on many like her who are going through life changing moments. As women we need to lift each other up. We need to be each other’s biggest fans. We need to appreciate our differences, while at the same time enjoying our similarities.
This is one of the greatest parts of the friendship I share with Katie. She is always the first one to offer advice, guidance, and a prayer. She encouraged me even though we were in the same industry, she never once saw a competitor, she saw a friend and ultimately – a partner.
So, if you have a woman on your heart who has played a significant role in shaping the person you are today. Give them a call, give them your words, give them your love. It goes a long way.
Happy Women’s Day, wherever you are.
Katie and I both seem to have the ‘feels’ this week.
As I sit at the deli up the road from the house, I watch the children playing in the sand. I’m always taken aback at how easy it is for them to make friends. Sometimes it’s literally a matter of seconds. I envy their openness and kindness and while I would like to take credit for this skill of theirs, I think I’m a lot more shy and reserved than they are. I praise them for this gift whenever I can as I want them to see the good in people every chance they get.
When you choose an expat life the first thing you lose is your support system. Everyone you know, everyone who knows you is gone, everyone who would be there for you at the drop of a hat is now at least 2 flights and a day away. You find yourself alone. Really alone. When I first moved to Kuwait I would never be caught dead in a coffee shop by myself or at the movies alone. Now it seems like such a simple thing which really isn’t a big deal and dare I say it, even nice at times. I think that shows how much I have grown and changed over the years and how living abroad has toughened me up. I will never forget the time I moved into my first place with a car boot (trunk for my American friends) full of Ikea specials. I dragged each box up to my apartment by myself one by one and when everything was up I began to unpack and build. I remember sinking to the floor in despair when the instructions called for me to ask a friend to hold one side of the wardrobe while I set up the other. “Ask a friend?” I laughed, what friend?! And that was the moment I realised that life really isn’t always going to go according to plan, script, or instruction.
Over the years I came out of my shell and learned to make friends, friends that would ultimately come and go given the nature of this expat travel region. I still feel blessed to be close to each one of those friends to this day. As, Katie so beautiful puts it.
“my heart has been left in pieces around the world in the hands of our family and treasured friends”
(she’s one of them)
My friends and my family back home support us from a distance with understanding and love. Overtime as we travel home for holidays they are there with open arms and open hearts and even more so… open homes. It’s not easy living out of people’s homes as a family of 5 and yet they take us in so graciously. They babysit my kids so I can make doctors appointments, they drag us to remote places to experience hidden gems, they feeds us with familiar tastes from home, but most importantly, they love us as if we never left at all. So to all the friends and families supporting loved ones over seas, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! Thank you for keeping the connection across thousands of miles and many years. Thank you for making the world a smaller place and thank you for making my world a colourful world indeed.
Cheers with a thankful heart,