Sunday, June 28, 2009

Winter Holiday

The first day of the winter holidays yesterday and the sun was shining after four days of nothing but rain. So it was in a holiday mood that we set off for the other side of the mountain, to Kalk Bay and Glencairn. We love it over there with its seaside, eclectic vibe, part of Cape Town and yet not quite of it, but for us it is a long drive: only 30 minutes to the edge of Cape Town, but then another hour in traffic on stop start roads, however beautiful the views of mountain and ocean.

We broke the journey at Canal Walk to get a refund on the new Woolies boots, which had betrayed our initial enthusiasm and come unstuck from their soles. Middle Daughter seems destined always to be a barefoot princess. We replaced them with some unstylish but sturdy school shoes with soles that are actually stitched to the upper. Fingers crossed these last out the winter.

In Kalk Bay we stopped off in Kassia and Figg. Inge has been tantalizing us on Vanielje Kitchen with photos of all the delicious baking she has been doing with her Mum in their new deli and finally we could taste it for ourselves. Those chocolate brownies really are to die for!!

It was so great to see Inge, meet her Mum and see the deli in real life. We could have stayed all day and carried on tasting, as everything on display looked delicious, but we had to move on to our friends in Glencairn, a little further on round the coast, just before Simonstown.

The children were all agog to see whales. Inge had seen them the day before from the window of their deli, so we fixed our eyes on the sparkling blue waves all the way as we drove. The house we were visiting turned out to have a grandstand view of False Bay and for the first half hour the children were glued to the window, looking for whales. And finally they were rewarded, several whale spouts sprayed up from the surface of the water. Occasionally a dark back surfaced and then sank below. Throughout the afternoon we had tantalizing glimpses of them out in the bay.

We couldn’t go all that way without going onto the beach, so while other guests came and went (it was an open house style party) we walked across the road and over the railway line to climb down onto the beach: a little sandy stretch encircled by rocks and with a man-made sea-pool creating a protected stretch of water.

The girls and I immediately started shell collecting. There were so many different types from on our stretch of coast on the Atlantic side of the peninsula.

Our son, came prepared and sat on a rock with his book, which he is totally absorbed by at the momnet, while the family eddied round him.

My husband inspired by the gorgeous light and setting went into photographer mode and took loads of shots of the girls.

Eventually he and our son departed to watch a major Springbok/Lions rugby match with some of the fellow guests, while the girls opted to stay longer on the beach.

Bright sunshine scintillating on waves, white spray as they crashed onto the rocks behind us, a treasure chest of jewel- like shells, ours for the collecting, a French Lieutenant Woman style sea wall to walk along, challenging rocks to clamber over and mountain views all around. We stayed until a chill wind picked up and shivered us into collecting up our buckets of shells and heading back over the railway track.

We returned to the house to find a new group of guests had arrived, enjoyed some more interesting conversations, and finally dragged ourselves home as the sun set, whiling away the journey with a raucous sing-along to Garth Brooks, risking the displeasure of our son, who couldn't hear the story on his MP3 player because we were too loud. We got out our beach treasures for inspection as soon as we reached home and had lit the fire, in the chill of a clear winter's night.

We all agreed it had been a thoroughly good day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midwinter Festival

Mulled wine, bonfire, sparklers, lanterns, soup and sausages cooked over the fire, these are the essential ingredients of our winter festivals. Over the years we’ve held winter festivals snatched in the intervals between showers of rain, when we had to hurry inside for pudding with our last mouthful of sausage still being chewed, but this year we had the bonus extra of a still, starry night that wasn’t even all that cold.

Quite a few of our usual suspects weren’t able to be there, but we had the core tribe of children all here, who come together four times a year to construct ever more elaborate volcanoes and waterworks. Our first winter festival was seven years ago now. These kids have grown up with a midwinter fire festival every year and progressed from toddlers being helped to carry lanterns precariously dangling from short sticks, to big kids who can make their own, balance two on a long stick and understand the science behind getting fires to burn.

While the adults chatted around the bonfire, doled out soup and wine and cooked sausages, the children lit sparklers, fired up their volcano and then hurtled around the sandpit in the dark, occasionally showing up for refills of hot chocolate or more sausage.

The only way to lure them inside was also the most infallible. ‘Pudding, pudding, pudding,’ went up in a chant to the stars above and they all disappeared housewards before we’d taken a step in that direction. Reluctantly leaving the bonfire to burn itself out, we followed them in and doled out guava fool, sun jelly and chocolate pudding.

This morning the sleepover gang of kids woke to a misty damp morning, but were able to rekindle the bonfire and fire up the volcano once more, fuelling it with pine cones and dried restios. Licensed pyromania with one adult deputed to keep an eye on proceedings, lest they get too ambitious…

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Winter in the Western Cape

It's pouring with rain, deluging down on our tin roof, interrupting the satellite signal broadcasting a tense cricket match between South Africa and the West Indies into our sitting room. The boys leave, clad in waterproofs, to find a house with a better signal. The girls bake rusks. Youngest is itching to get outside again. She has just taught herself how to ride a bike. This morning she at last triumphantly gained the necessary balance and confidence and keeps saying to all who will listen, "But it's so easy!"

While the rusks fill the house with that comforting smell of baking I download the photos from my camera. A reminder that winter in the Western Cape can be pretty benevolent despite the torrential rain today. This was last Sunday:

I found Youngest out on the lawn in her dressing gown, at 10 o'clock on a midwinter Sunday morning, playing with her toy horse by a bright yellow gazania.

And it was warm enough to sit reading a book on the lawn in the sun, cup of tea and daughters to hand. Later on we played Monopoly, which revealed itself to be a horribly mean and capitalist game that veiled the weekend relaxation in tears, as our son acquired Clifton (Mayfair in the UK) and proceeded to build hotels and ruin his two sisters, who had to sell the houses they'd so proudly acquired and mortgage all their properties. This was the first time we'd ever played to the bitter (and it is bitter) end. Monopoly might well find itself pushed to the back of the shelf in favour of Pictionary and rummy. I can't cope with the stress!

A baby tortoise was tempted out by the sunshine this week. The girls rescued it from an upside position on the stoep, probably left there by a dog. A satisfying crunchy bush snack for a border collie. He is no bigger than an egg, with bulgy baby eyes. He peed all down us, refused the apple we offered, and then scarpered into the restios at top speed on his thin legs when we released him further away from the house, in the hope that the dogs wouldn't find him again. We last saw him wedged firmly into a maze of restio stalks. Let's hope he's warmly tucked away in the sand today.

Next weekend is our Midwinter festival - we're hoping for a clear night for our bonfire, lanterns and sparklers. It can rain all it wants to this weekend though. The fire is lit, the satellite signal now producing roars and cheers from the sitting room and the rusks are baked.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fashion Alert

I now know I’m beyond the outer reaches of fashion here on our farm. The first I’d heard of Uggs was when Inge mentioned them replacing Manolos, now it’s winter, on the feet of those Cape Town trendsetters patronizing her new deli in Kalk Bay. Spoken in the same breath as Manolos, I knew they must be the height of chic, but it wasn’t till I got an e-mail offering a discount to my readers on an Australian brand of Uggs, that I got to see them up close and personal… and they do look great.

This is the kind of fashion I can cope with. High heels have long been retired to a plastic box, where I fondly keep the remnants of more glamorous days, even though my feet shudder in agony, if I even dip a toe into them. The girls now and then raid it and those super elegant black suede stilettos are fast dwindling into dressing up box accessories.

Uggs however are another matter. I can see myself living in them to keep my feet warm through chilly winter weather, as I sit at the computer with my circulation barely functioning. Farm fashion personified! If I get some I may even feel brave enough to hang out in a trendy Cape Town deli one day!

Getting the chance to pass on to you guys, my wonderful devoted readers, a discount on something that you might even want, is a first for me too! I feel cool and chic and part of the blogging in-crowd!

So if you want to keep your feet warm in a pair of utterly chic, A grade merino sheepskin boots, you can save yourselves $30 by typing FOODANDFAM into the cart at
Apparently the discount will work on the company's .com and .au sites too, but they ship worldwide anyway at a flat rate.

Let me know what they're like if you do get some - they could well be on my Christmas list!