For those of you who don’t know, Kuwait is a dry country. This means alcohol is strictly forbidden by law. I’m not typically a big drinker, but I do really enjoy a good glass of red wine.
Now, given where I live most of the year, I really haven’t ever had the chance to learn much about wine. I also have no desire to ‘keep up with the Capetonians’ as far as good wine conversation goes but I really would like to be a bit more knowledgeable on the subject.
A friend sent me this link to a YouTube channel, Kwarantynwyn in die Tuin (Translated: Quarantine wine in the town) last week and I am so excited to learn more.
If you, like me, love wine and want to learn more, I highly recommend subscribing to their channel. If you’re ever in the region, plan a visit to Tokara Wine Farm and enjoy this piece of heaven on earth in person.
Well, we did it! In fact we did it in the beginning of the year and I had a post all ready to go to shout it to the world in January and then I had a baby and then the world shut down. But now, as I find myself slowly getting life in some sort of resemblance of order again, I am just so pleased to share this amazing news with you all and above all to thank each and everyone one of you who made a donation or offered up your prayers. Together and ONLY together, we did it.
To anybody out there who is still reading this delightful blog, I’m sorry we have been rather quiet. To say there has been a lot going on is an extreme understatement.
In January our gorgeous little girl was born, the Coronavirus took over and the world changed. Kuwait went into level 4 lock-down from March, April and in May went to level 5 for 3 weeks. We have since dropped back to level 4 for 3 weeks now and are eagerly awaiting the further drop to level 3 and for things to open up a little more.
So, what has your lock-down looked like?
Ours looks a little like this:
– Husband working from make shift office at home
– lots of e-learning
– complete lack of structure and zero bed time
– garden time
– pool time
– baby, baby and more baby
– Coronavirus news overload
– constant cooking and baking
– constant cleaning and eating
– clothes that don’t fit anymore (anyone else have kids in clothing 2 sizes too small at the moment?)
– puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles
– afternoon movies and night swimming
I would love to hear from you all, what are you doing these days to make the most of this challenging situation? As things open up in your countries, what are the first things you’re going to be doing? When Kuwait moved to level 4, 3 weeks ago, and the drive by Starbucks opened up, the queues were miles long for days on end. Today I joined one of them and had my first latte in 4 months.
Now don’t laugh, but other than painting, I actually ordered coloured felt and thread to make the kids little felt craft creations over the summer. Right now, I’m in the stage of looking up cute creations and expecting them to magically create themselves. I can’t sew you see, why on earth did I choose a sewing craft when I can’t sew? Oh, to learn a new skill apparently! Ha!
Side note: I have actually really been very thankful for this down time. We have been one of the lucky ones in all this. We have food on our table, a roof over our heads and my husband still has his wonderful, stable job. We are healthy and happy and above all, we are together. We have had more family time now than ever before. My heart and prayers go up to those who are not safe at home but rather trapped at home in abusive households and to those who have lost income and livelihoods. The overwhelming number of those starving and depressed is beyond anything I can actually comprehend and it breaks my heart. So lets be thankful and collectively look around us with open eyes to see where and how we can make a difference, no matter how big or small.
You were born into a very complicated world my sweetheart. At a very challenging time. In January 2020 you fought your way into this world, bruised eye and all, and in January a little thing called the Coronavirus (Covid-19) started to spread around the world. Now, I’m not going to dive into this too much as I’m sure one day you will learn about it in history, science, biology and most likely health classes.
I do want to tell you a little about you though. I had a vegan pregnancy with you. My only vegan pregnancy out of the 4 kids. Don’t worry, I took all my vitamins and was regularly checked up by a doctor who was happy with my blood work and your progression throughout the 37 weeks, 5 days that you stayed inside baking. I put on about 14kg in total and you weighed in at a very healthy, 3.86kg. You were born with an almighty black eye my girl. You were lying right up against my left hip bone which, I think, must have been painful you as much as it was for me. I’m sorry.
You are the last (yes, the last) of 4 kiddos. You have 2 older sisters who are obsessed with you, and an older brother who is obsessed with making you smile. And a mom and dad who feel so very lucky to have been Blessed with you. You have been such a gift during this time. You have no idea what’s going on around you and with all this social distancing going on, you are completely (and blissfully) unaware that there is a world out there beyond the walls of our home. But there is, and it’s a beautiful one, and it is a terrifying one.
My prayer for you precious child:
Heavenly Father, you have blessed our lives with this sweet baby girl whose innocent face and daily laughter remind us of your good intentions for us. May her life be filled with your blessings and grace that will always light up her face. Lead her to you oh Lord, and may she dwell in your place forever. Amen.
My dad, Brian McCrindle, is not only my personal hero, but also a hero and father figure to many others.
My dad was always the first person that someone would call on when they needed help, he would always be there for someone in need at the drop of a hat. Dad is the eldest of four boys and the true patriarch of our family. He was a man who always looked after his health, ate right and exercised all throughout his life, the picture of perfect health. He was an Iron Man athlete, a veteran Comrades Marathon (89km) runner, an avid cyclist, a swimmer and an all round sportsman.
On 24 June, 2018, dad had a bicycle accident and broke his neck. Dad is now a quadriplegic. During his months in ICU where he fought for his life, his true athletic spirit really came to the foreground. Through desperate prayers, a fantastic medical team and around-the-clock care from his devoted and loving wife, Anne, dad has now reached a point where he is able to breathe by himself during the day while making use of breathing support during the night. He is still paralyzed from the shoulders down but is going for extensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation every other day, with rest days in between when his lungs need it. The most amazing thing about this human being has been his sense of humor through it all and his truly heroic, admirable spirit. Dad has the most amazing mental strength. Not once has he felt sorry for himself, not once has he asked “why me?” Not once!
Anne has been a God send. I will never have enough thanks in me to give her for the love and care she gives my dad.
Her precious life with my father changed in a split second, but she too has not once wavered from her love and devotion to him. The life they once shared together was filled with weekly adventures and new experiences. Their days look a little different now, but side by side they remain.
My father was in ICU for almost a year. Needless to say, his medical treatments do not come cheap and private medical insurance can only take you so far. All of the ongoing monthly medical expenses pose a real challenge, as one would expect for an injury as severe as dad’s. With him needing a wheelchair for everything, everyday, their little yellow Honda Jazz isn’t quite sufficient enough to get them around very comfortably anymore.
That above said, aside from monthly medical costs that dad still needs to cover, it is my goal to try and raise enough money to buy a wheelchair friendly vehicle for him by this coming Christmas so as to give him a bit more comfort and ease with his mobility challenges. What an amazing gift that would be. The goal is to buy a pre-owned Fiat Doblo panel van vehicle which has been kitted out with a wheel chair conversion kit which will cost R345 000 / $22 697.
If you find that it is within your means to help raise this money to get Brian mobile again after everything he has been through, and constantly goes through each day, then please do consider supporting this initiative, and please help spread the word.
I know very well that over the last year I have been quiet online. Those of you who know me well, will know why.
When I write, I write from the heart, and when my heart is open, that becomes easy, but when it is broken, then it becomes a lot harder.
Over the next few posts I will tell you the stories of what has kept me from opening up and why things are turning around. I will cover the family tragedy briefly and I will tell you all about the disease I live with and how I do my best to manage it. But one lovely little treat I can leave you with is the main reason for my heart opening up again –
No, this is not simply additional holiday weight (although there’s a fair share of that in there too), our family has been gifted baby number four. Thankfully, the shock is abating now and I’m starting to enjoy this crazy, magical ride, one last time.
Today I couldn’t be prouder to bring you the story of one of my personal heroes:
I met Mirella back in 2007 when I first moved to Kuwait, we worked together. A kind, sweet, funny, spirited young lady who had already, even at that time, overcome so many challenges in life, with ultimate grace. I was always so impressed with the fighting spirit that lived inside her, clear to those who truly knew her, perhaps not even clear to her at the time.
About 3 years into our friendship, Mirella moved to Canada and within a few short years, her life was turned inside out, and up side down and somewhere between Canada and Lebanon she has managed to land strongly on her feet, and in a way that very few people would be able to replicate.
Today she is but a shadow of her former self and for all the right reasons. I am so incredibly proud of this woman and I will be telling the story of her to my daughters in the years to come.
Below is a Q&A from Mirella in her own words, sharing her story with me in more detail and with our readers. Enjoy!
Tell our readers a little bit about you? My name is Mirella Atallah I’m Lebanese, I immigrated to Canada a few years ago. I work at an IT company as an Internal Senior Designer and I am currently studying digital marketing and social media.
I am a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. This is a huge part of my life and an integral part of my journey to a good and healthy lifestyle.
Life has been hard, I’ve moved many countries, had to come face to face with a bad long term relationship and dealt with many health issues along the way.
What was your lowest moment and what was your highest? Lowest – 40 years old, broke, divorced, no kids and no clue what comes next. Highest – I would say the same moment because this was when I realised that I was free and the sky was my only limit, I packed my bags and left chasing my dreams.
Where do you think your fighting spirit has come from?Many people in your situation would have just given up on themselves and accepted that life has simply handed them a raw deal. I’m not sure were this spirit came from! I think of myself as a very stubborn person and I never accept failure as an outcome! I always manage to lift myself up after each fall! I’m not perfect, so many tears I’ve cried and felt like life is just closing its doors on me but something deep inside always says: no you have to try again, if you don’t try you won’t know! After each fall I stand up, dust off the dirt and keep going!
How has your past shaped you? It has made me tougher, definitely, but not angrier. I feel I still trust people and the world and feel there should be good out there, I just have to believe! Some people may think I’m silly but like I said I’m stubborn and I’m sure something good is hidden out there for me, I just have to keep digging.
What motivates you? Being able to inspire people! My main goal is to be a role model to my nieces and let them believe that they can be what ever they want to or go where ever they want they to go, they just have to work hard for it.
10 year challenge – what has been your biggest change in yourself within the last 10 years? I’m happy again.
What advice could you give someone going through similar struggles? Keep dreaming and believing, there are no age restrictions, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, NOW is the perfect time to start!
How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu? I was a kick-boxer for around 4 years and got bored a bit and felt it was dangerous to compete not a fan of getting hit in the face and getting a concussion! I have always been curious about Jiu-Jitsu specially after I started watching UFC and watching JSP (he is Canadian) and he trains at the same gym where I did! I hesitated a lot for 4years because I was overweight and one day I decided to try it and I got hooked! Went through a lot of emotional and physical challenges but never stopped!
How has Jiu-Jitsu helped you? Jiu-Jitsu is my meditation, the only way I can find calm and clear my head believe it or not! It made me stronger! I Learned to be a problem solver and to think fast! Physically it made me ageless along with strong! I lost so much weight since that first class! I have never felt better.
What is your favourite thing about the sport? I love everything about it! I cant pick one thing! Even with my lowest moments and I think that I’m not improving and having a bad game day, I still feel that I love everything about it! If I go on vacation the first thing I look for is a place to train! Jiu-Jitsu has a great community, you are always supported everywhere you go! We are a big family!
What are your goals for the future? My dream is to get my black belt in Jiu-Jitsu in 4years from now! And get to a stage in my life were Im able to work and teach, specifically to women in the Middle East! I would like to create camps and teach self defence to women and kids.
If you find Mirella as inspiring as I do, follow her journey on Instagram at:
All around us are beautiful people who bring light into this world. They don’t make the loudest noise though so I thought I would find them and bring them to you. Naturally inspiring, kind people – who the world needs a lot more of.
Today I bring you Sofia.
It all started when she made me Kombucha. I went to her home to fetch it and she invited me in. I had to stop myself from gasping in awe at her sanctuary she calls home. In all my years of visiting my friends, family, and acquaintances, I have very seldom been greeted with such pure visual peace, harmony and beauty. Her neutral tones provide the perfect background to her family and memories.
I practically begged her for an interview and we met shortly after this brief interaction for lunch at my new favourite restaurant: Be Cafe. I came to learn many precious things about this remarkable lady over lunch and I’m truly thankful that she agreed to have me back in her home to photograph and showcase her incredibly well put together home and furniture pieces. This woman has remarkable style and elegance.
Sofia has always had her heart in art and creating, and has a strong fashion background. She moved to Kuwait about 10 years ago where she worked at Villa Moda as a fashion stylist, working only with leading high-end brands. She works and lives by the principle that beauty is all around us, and why would we wear or buy anything that is not beautiful?!
(I briefly cast my thoughts to my own wardrobe… cough, clear throat awkwardly…)
She surrounds herself with beauty all the time. Famous for cooking in her gown on a Monday evening. Living the belief that beautiful things should be used and not simply stored away just for special occasions.
(Yes, I like where this is going!)
I stalked her on Instagram before our lunch so I could be better informed and more familiar with her work. And oh my goodness, one of the most beautiful Instagram accounts (Stories By Sofia) I have ever seen. While she finds Instagram intimidating, it certainly doesn’t show in her squares. “If you’re commercial you can grow your account very quickly but when you are true to yourself it is slower to take off”. Creative evolution is apart of the journey with her, her fans are more than happy to come along for the inspirational ride of all things wholesome and beautiful, as she searches for her artistic landing space.
I marvel at the furniture that she makes locally, with imported materials. She embraces her Swedish culture and she loves to name her pieces. Her round marble tables for example are called “Full Moon” tables, in bright white and shades of spot colours, and lovely long veins for contrast and pattern. Her vintage fabrics are all imported and are of the highest quality.
Small and large full moon tables. Solid Teakwood with natural teak oil finish, marble top with thin edge brass detail
Solid Oak with natural oil finish, marble mosaic inlays with brass tips on the legs
Natural Pouf in teakwood with natural teakwood oil finish, polished brass legs, can also be used as a table without fusion
Her latest piece is a lamp where the base is from Sweden and the shells that make up the lamp shade are literally from beaches all over the world.
Nothing is without consideration. Even the lighting in her home has been carefully designed. The atmospheric lighting is able to change according to the time of day, or even mood and event. And when it came to the large hanging lights that unwittingly came with the apartment, she found a way to hide that too in a natural, cool, unapologetic way.
What I can’t get over is that kids live here too. Two beautiful little girls. I asked her what they think of it and how they are able to keep it clean, and she simply replied that they are taught to look after things. Seems simple enough!
(I’m still working on this one in my household).
She lives a private life and is protective of her ideas, her beauty and her refined world and for these reasons I am so thankful that she opened up to me and let me showcase what makes her so remarkable. Her works are amazing and deserve to be seen and appreciated. A beautiful shining light in our every day walk.
Sofia, thank you for sharing your private space with me and with our readers.
(One day when I’m a famous artist I’m going to own this table)
“Sad things can shape you in life too. I am a calm person. Be kind, do the right thing, be thankful don’t just say thank you. And this is something we need to teach our kids too. It all blends in with creativity. Its about being in balance. But its difficult to find.” – S
And if you open your organic cafe combining healthy food with art and fashion. I will be the first in line. It has been a privilege to capture this season of life for you and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.
From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy. We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.
From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.
Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our communitylike a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.
Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.
For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.
Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:
1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.
2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.
3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.
How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.
My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.
As summer rolls around and I hear of people’s plans for grand summer vacations, I can’t help but think back to our “best ever family holiday” – Madeira, Portugal – 2016.
During July/August two years ago our family travelled to Lisbon and Madeira. It felt like a ‘right of passage’ kind of trip. It simply HAD to be done. My children are Portuguese, as is my husband. For me growing up in a little town called Boksburg in South Africa, most of my childhood friends were Portuguese. I have always felt really close to this ‘family first’ community. As a young adult, one of my dearest friends was Portuguese and I was maid-of-honour at her wedding, it was at this wedding that I met John. He was the cousin to the young man who married my friend.
Needless to say I have always had a heart to explore Portugal. I think out of all of us in my little family, I was the most excited. I had just finished a Portuguese language course before this trip as well and I found that to be highly valuable. While most people in Lisbon speak some level of English, most of the family and locals in Madeira do not. While I still feel somewhat clumsy speaking Portuguese, my reading and comprehension, I think, is really pretty good.
My kids at the time were 5y 10m, 4y, 2y 6m. My gosh looking back at it like this I think they were true travel stars! It is, without a doubt, the most amazing family holiday we have ever had. The weather was spot on. The perfect amount of summer heat! We were out everyday doing new things, exploring, soaking in new traditions and culture, tasting new foods, making memories. So yes, while everyone here is making their plans for this coming summer holiday, my heart goes back fondly to our time there. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please make a plan and get there. It really is one of the worlds greatest treasures! This time of year, my heart truly aches to go back.
And as an added bonus this photograph below of, the worlds best Poncha, was featured on @ilovemadeira Instagram page.
Above all though, wherever your summer holidays may take you, please stay safe and make beautiful family memories.