Wednesday 15 December 2021

Crochet projects deliver joy

 I hadn't made a big, adult crochet blanket for some time but in June I decided to jump into making one as a wedding present for a dear friend. The wedding had been scheduled for early September so I had a deadline to work towards. My crochet activities this year had been somewhat sketchy (I hadn't been able to decide on 'what next') so this came at the right time for me to really jump into.

Settling on a pattern and colours is almost more of a challenge than making the blanket. I waivered between three patterns, tried one and bombed out on it and then settled on one with concentric circles. 

Of course, these 'colour-change' patterns appeal to me because of the colours and then I usually swear off them for a year until the next catches my eye. The symbolism of the circles (circle of life) and the rings are what sealed the deal. The rings can signify marriage, but I also thought of them as the rings of a tree - life, age, maturity, wisdom, and passing of time. 

The colour combination just happened and I chose the one colour - sage - before knowing that it was my friend's wedding theme colour.

The blanket progressed smoothly and I added a row every 10-15 days. I lost a week when I travelled to Jo'burg and my timeline got shaky, but a few extra hours got me back on track. I completed the blanket a week before the wedding and couriered it up to my uncle's house as I didn't have luggage allowance to take it with me on the plane. If this parcel has gone AWOL I would have been devastated. My courier delivered successfully and I picked it up when I arrived in Jo'burg.

My friend sent me a photo today with a message that reads, "We all love your blanket. It lives on our bed". Boom! A whole lot o' joy again to receive this.

For me, crochet has many rewards.

I work on projects at night while watching Netflix. It is zone-out time and by making something I can feel like series watching isn't a waste of time. I get to relax and be productive, which suits me perfectly.

The colours and patterns: there is joy to be found visually in these and seeing them come together.

Dexterity and focus: crochet is good exercise for the hands and it requires an element of focus - more with challenging patterns.

New skills: I learned a new technique to join the squares.

Making a useful gift for special people: this is the biggest appeal. It is a pleasure for me to gift a friend with something that I've made for them. Joy, joy, joy.

I trust that their love and marriage will outlive this blanket. It is the second time around for my friend and her husband. They are a good match and are good with and for each other. 

Around 64,284 crochet stitches went into this blanket and into every stitch I wove warmth and happiness and joy and love for these two special people. xxx

Monday 13 December 2021

Local hiking in the Outeniquas

 After more than a year of living in George, this weekend I finally went for some proper hiking on the trails - not that far from home - in the Outeniqua mountains that I look at every day.

Most my my activities have been 'confined' to the lower trails and I haven't ventured much into the mountains, with the exception of an up-and-down of Vensterberg a few weeks ago. This is one of the most readily accessible of the '6 Peaks'.

It my friend Erica, who came through from Cape Town, with her friend Soriaya and two other locals, Simone and Daryl. We hit two of the six peaks - Vensterberg and Losberg.

We were dropped at the Sputnik parking at the top of the Outeniqua Pass and ended up covering 26.5km in 10h20 to get back home. It was a day of excellent hiking, excellent company, good luck with the weather and many excellent plant observations for me. 

The Watsonia flowers were out in abundance with colours ranging from pink to a peachy and others with white thrown in. I was after orchids and was rewarded by seeing six different types of orchids.


We also saw many spiders - and their dew bejeweled webs. While I'm sure there were dozens of other species, I took photos of four of them.

Watsonias were out all over the place with different colour variations dominating in different locations. I enjoyed seeing them and marvelled at the abundance and eye-catching colours, but I didn't take many photos of them.

I did see some fungi. Coolest was two sightings of small, young Fan-shaped jelly fungus.

Aside from the great floral observations, this was much-needed, hiking outing with really good people.

We got lucky with the weather. Heading up Vensterberg, we got above the clouds and enjoyed blue sky and sun. We dropped back beneath the cloud and fortunately had very little rain or cold throughout the day.

Heading to the top of Vensterberg

Top of Vensterberg

Fun in the sun above the clouds.

A real blanket of cloud.

Photo by Daryl. Heading up to Losberg.

Top of Losberg
Top of Losberg. Photo by Daryl.

Clear below the cloud. That's the Montagu Pass on the far side.

We cam down that spur (you can see the trail) and then up the other side. A good dose of up and downhill.

Starting on Cradock Pass. Daryl's very sweet dog Shadow was with us. 

We walked for a section along the railway track and enjoyed going through two tunnels.

The vegetation and, in some places, cliffs along the railway track are very scenic.

After such a big day, which I haven't had in a very long time, I opted not to do George and Cradock peaks today with Erica and Soraiya. I've been too hesitant to put myself through steep downhills. I had a good day on Saturday and wasn't too worse for wear the next morning. But I figured that I'd rather stay good than load too much, too soon. A good decision. I've got friends coming here next week and the plan is that we'll do George Peak and Cradock Peak so I'll be more ready for it then.

A very good hike. A very good weekend. Onward into the week ahead and the remainder of the year.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Jennifer Strong McConachie teaches you to Go Far (book)

I met Jennifer Strong McConachie a few years ago at the Namib Desert Challenge. She was there with her dad to participate in this five-day staged ultra run. These two share a special bond, united by their love of sport, travel and willingness to give anything a try. 

Jennifer has put pen to paper to write a book about her adventures and also about how her participation in challenging events has shaped her life. Her personality is such that she doesn't do anything half hearted and I walked away after reading her book with some new ideas, different perspectives on doing things, insight into some different events out there and a whole lot of inspiration around exploring my home terrain and doing this for myself.

I had the pleasure of writing a review for Jennifer, which, I think, has turned into a forward for the book.

'Go Far: How endurance sports help you win at life' by Jennifer Strong McConachie

Jennifer has indeed ‘gone far’ through the multitude of sporting disciplines that she has embraced – from ultra-distance running to open-water swimming, mountaineering, hiking, adventure racing, multisport and self-constructed training adventures. What strikes me most is not just her preparation and participation in a diverse range of events, but the way that she whole-heartedly embraces and experiences the culture, cuisine, history and art of every destination that she visits. 

 In Go Far, Jennifer takes what she has learned through trial-and-error, considered preparation and research, and her diverse experiences to formulate a life-training approach with the three elements of An Explorers Mindset, Outlier Tactics and Immersion Theory. She embodies these practices in everything that she does. If you are a newcomer to exploring the great outdoors through sport and event participation, Go Far will open your eyes to what is out there for you to discover (activities, events, places), offer sound guidance around preparation, and steer you to getting the most out of experiences and opportunities – in life and sport. 

Seasoned athletes will appreciate a nudge from Jennifer’s insights. Single-discipline athletes may be tempted to broaden their horizons, while those who have been training and participating in events for decades will be reminded of things that they may have forgotten, neglected, or stopped doing – for whatever reason. Expect to be inspired, energised, curious, and ready to plan your next adventure after reading Go Far.

On her Facebook page, Jennifer put a lovely thank you out there, which I'm copying here so that I can save it and enjoy it again.

I want to give a huge shout out to Lisa De Speville for her advanced review of Go Far and writing a forward for the book.
Lisa is a writer, runner and adventure athlete, who has also founded several companies! We met running among the sand dunes of Namibia and she has always been an inspiration to me.
One of my favorite memories with Lisa was hearing about her participating in aerial arts at her circus school in South Africa. I knew I had to do that too someday! I love Lisa's inventiveness and creative approach to living life on her own terms. Lisa, thank you for being a fellow crazy adventure friend and for your time and feedback on Go Far!

Jennifer's author Facebook page is @JenniferStrongMcConachieAuthorPage

Her website is  

You can order a copy of Go Far through It is available as a digital or paperback version.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Building? Put in showers, not baths

 The house that I'm renting has an en suite bathroom with a really awesome shower - one of the best of my life. The shower spray comes from above, pressure is great and flow is perfect. I use it about half-way; it can blast more. The shower is located at the 'end' of the narrow bathroom so it is shaped by the back and side walls. It is 90cm wide and 115cm long, which is really roomy. It doesn't have a door - instead a curtain, which I prefer. The floor has a small lip to keep the water in, should the drain be blocked.

This bathroom doesn't have a door. This saves a ton of space. A sliding barn door would be cute, but isn't really necessary. An option could be a curtain across the doorway for privacy. This bathroom is small, space efficient and one of my best ever.

The other bathroom is a little bigger but it has a bath. A big ass, fancy, deep, large, stand-alone bath. We've been in this house for a year and only two guests have used the bath - with a few centimetres of water. We're in a water-scarce country so frolicking in a bath is a no-no. Doing so would leave one wracked with guilt - or should.

This bath really is a white elephant. They could have made the bathroom the same size as mine, given the bedroom another half meter and put in an identical shower. It would have been cheaper to put in a shower too. Instead, this bathroom is used only for the loo and basin.

A lady who I know is moving from her apartment in town to a smaller apartment in a more cost-effective suburb. It isn't quite location/township but it is located outside of the main part of town, closer to the highway and industrial area. The apartment is new and is part of a good-looking, low-cost apartment complex. Rent is a bit less than half of what she is currently paying. This new apartment, and all the others in this new development, have... baths.

You don't have to be a water management expert to know that showering - especially a five-minute or quicker shower, uses less water than an unsatisfying bath in a tub filled to a few centimetres of water. 

In a shower's favour too, you can turn on, wet yourself, turn off, soap yourself, turn on, rinse yourself and then be done. This results in huge water savings. This uses significantly less water than five minutes of constant spray. 

Interestingly, these apartments were built without geysers - not even the solar geysers commonly seen on roofs of new low-cost housing developments. She already knows that they will need to heat water to wash.

Two weeks ago, we had torrential downpours and flooding that left most of the town without water for two to three days. I boiled water in the kettle, put it into a plastic basin on the shower floor, added a few jugs of cold water and had a really decent wash. This is far easier to do on the flat, tiled floor of a shower than in a bath. 

This lady says that even in her current apartment, they don't always turn on the geyser as they watch their electricity spend. Some nights they have a wash-down using a basin of heated water and other nights they get to enjoy the luxury of a hot shower. They won't have the option of a shower at their new place.

The argument for baths is usually that one needs a tub to scrub young children and that showers and young children don't work very well. I'm not convinced that this reasoning holds any water. Young children are small enough to be able to bath in a large plastic tub. It can be filled with water from the shower hose and as you stand in the shower area, splashing put a little child into a large bath filled with a splash of water. A good-sized basin requires substantially less water to fill.

I really can't figure out why new developments are being built with baths instead of showers; this applies to the house that I am renting too. These developments are for tenants from lower income brackets. When your tenants are watching consumption and spend, a shower space where they can also wash from a tub, makes the most sense. 

And then there is the irrefutable truth that South Africa is a water-scarce country and that the days of a bathtub filled with hot, steamy water are long gone. Showers are in. For all ages.

For me, a hot shower is a marvel and an absolute luxury.  Even though I have the means to shower every day, I am very grateful for five minutes under the water. I am fortunate that I'm able to take a shower every day. Not everyone is.

Cat got your tongue?

My driver's licence card is up for renewal. I received an email from the traffic department reminding me of this and a page that outlined what I needed to take with me, by when the renewal had to be done and such.

Of course, when I arrived at the licencing department, I needed items in addition to what the form had specified.

I left to get these and returned to stand in the queue again. 

I wasn't standing there for more than 10 minutes when, thankfully, a lady from the traffic department came outside and said that the ladies ahead of me were the last customers for today that would be attended to. 

I couldn't help but ask of the young women, "Did you know about this?". They looked at me like a deer in headlights. Blinking. A guy standing behind the ladies (he wasn't with them) said they did know but maybe it was going to change.

"Why didn't you say anything?" I asked. They were mute. I left. 

You know when you go to the supermarket and the check-out lady says that you are the last? Well, if someone comes up behind me, I tell them so that they can go to another till. 

This is an example of a small act of kindness that costs a person nothing more than a few words. 

Don't let the cat get your tongue. 

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Rusty is July 2022's BCR Collindar pin-up girl

My Rusty girl features in Border Collie Rescue's 2022 calendar. 

She's the July 2022 pin-up girl in the feature photo (Rusty in a hammock - she loved it) as well as the smaller photo on the left (second from the top of the four images). 

This 'Collindar' is R120. I've got a few ordered or you can get directly from Border Collie Rescue SA

This annual calendar is a fundraising initiative by Border Collie Rescue. 
"It provides much-needed income over the festive season, which traditionally is a high season for us in animal welfare as we take double to triple the amount of collies during this time into rescue. 100 % of the funds raised goes to Border Collie Rescue SA, and our rescued dogs. It helps us to cover kenneling fees, veterinary fees and food bills." 
Border collies are pretty and they are smart and the puppies are cute as hell. But, a border collie is not the type of dog to be locked up at home alone all day with zero stimulation and exercise. Border collies are the right type of dog for the right type of person. Unfortunately, too many people choose this dog breed because they are cute and pretty. 

Make the right dog breed choice for your lifestyle, sterilise your pets and buy a Collindar. 

These stunning photos of Rusty and our doggy friends who also feature - Echo and Layla - were taken by Melissa Pohl Photography ❤