Happy Birthday Granny. Let’s spa-lebrate!

unspecifiedOh, yes. I think I am going to enjoy this!

girls-at-the-spaFrom left: Olivia Chetty from the Maritzburg Sun; Jade Le Roux from Public eye; Veggietot Mom; Hazel Whitehead from Beauty Shout Box; Carmen Barends from meanderings.co.za; and Sabrina Maingard from Fashion Nanny.

Granny Mouse Spa hosted a spa day this week in honour of their tenth birthday. What makes the spa unique is its homely feel – an extension of the Country House so famous in the Natal midlands. Unlike many spas’ clinical aesthetic, Granny’s feels just like that: as warm and comforting as a trip to your granny’s house. The rugs, the raw wood finishes, the opulent armchairs and cottage furniture like kists and wicker side-tables create the perfect cozy environment in which you can relax and enjoy the world-class spa treatments.

20160922_130607The entrance to the spa blends seamlessly in with the rest of the homely, peaceful grounds

img_3778The waiting area

unspecifiedWelcoming foot ritual – part of every guest’s experience

It’s little touches that add up to a great spa experience, like heated massage beds, scented eye masks, and having your slippers put back on your feet before your therapist leaves the room, so you can float straight off afterwards without keruffling under the bed for them.

We were treated to a basic facial, an Indian head and neck massage, and a hand and foot massage (it’s not often that a hand massage goes all the way up to your shoulders, but they do things the right way up here). The facial used products from CSpa, a delightfully fragrant range made locally from plant-based ingredients. The staff are happy to custom-make treatments and packages to suit guests’ needs, and they offer kiddies’ treats on request.

unspecifiedYours Truly being pampered (Thanks to my friend K for the pic!)

20160922_111623The spa’s Jacuzzi

20160922_111328Delicious spread laid on by culinary artist Kirstie du Toit from Granny Mouse. The freshly juiced carrot and ginger drink was particularly delicious, and the brownies, well, yum!

The spa – managed by Camelot – keeps up to date with health and beauty trends and regional operational manager for KZN Iska Bharath says the signature treatment – so special it’s even been patented – has really taken off. Called The Infinity of Beauty and Indulgence, it includes a full body scrub with fresh lavender, rosemary and salt; a detoxifying seaweed back wrap; a CSpa facial; and an aromatherapy massage along the back of the body. I’ll have to go back for this one! Want to try it yourself? Email spa@grannymouse.co.za or drop them a line on 033 234 4071



Who won Waldorf?

I’m sure you’ve all been holding your breath to know whether or not “The Seven Species” won the competition! Well, here’s the update.

The second annual Taste of Waldorf competition (organized by the Waldorf Astoria group in partnership with James Beard Foundation) wrapped up this week in New York as chefs from Amsterdam, Beijing, Jerusalem, New Orleans and Orlando competed for the honour of adding to the hotel chain’s signature dishes.

A few weeks ago I offered my take on Jerusalem chef Itzik Barak’s dish, which spun on the seven sacred plant species of the bible. In the end, the competition went to Beijing chef Benoit Chargy and his partner JBF Rising Star Semi-Finalist Chef Erik Bruner-Yang for their dish entitled “Jing roll”. The plate presented comprised Wagyu beef wrapped in Chinese cabbage and served with a fried black mushroom, hoisin sauce and salted duck eggs.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 23: A view of food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 23: A view of food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)

Funnily enough, I made cabbage wraps this week as well, though it was before I knew about the competition winner. Watch this spot for my take on cabbage wraps (no mushrooms or salted duck eggs, though).

Jing roll dish will soon be featured on menus at 25 Waldorf Astoria hotels around the globe. For more information about the competition, contestants and winner, click here.

The Year of the Veg

Here’s something that caught my eye:

“Move over, meat, this is the year of the veg. An interesting trend in a few small restaurants in California seems to have gained worldwide attention – they serve vegetables in various forms as the main dish and you’re able to order a small side portion of protein if you wish. With the cost of meat – both on the wallet and the earth – I predict this food trend gaining some serious traction in the future.”

Ra ra to the world for finally coming their senses 🙂 This trend-watch was featured in this month’s issue of  The Ridge Magazine. Other predictions included a focus on artisanal ice creams, eastern condiments and breads made with ancient grains like amaranth, millet, spelt and teff.

Let’s hope this sees the start of an upsurge of veggie-friendly options on South African restaurant menus.

And just for drawing attention to it, let’s give a shout out to food contributor Paul Sheppard (support him by celebrating the news with lunch at his bistro Marco Paulo in Mt Edgecombe).


The Key

In this frenetic world we seldom feel (or are) fully in control. We do what we can to try to stay on top of things, and leave the world a better place than we found it, but life sometimes gets the better of us.

Like this morning. Once again, I found myself looking for my keys. This   ALWAYS happens to me! It’s usually the last thing I do before I walk out the door, so I’m generally in a rush, shouldering a handbag, laptop bag and nappy bag, with a toddler on my hip and dragging one of her brothers in each hand. That is NOT the time to start having to run up and down stairs, scouring every cluttered surface for my keys.

So I made a decision. I may not be able to prevent deforestation of the Amazon today. I may not have time to found an organization to distribute food to all the starving orphans in Africa. I might not even get to the bottom of the festering mountain of laundry that’s waiting for me in the back room. But I can sort out one thing: my keys.

I went out and bought a hook. I returned home and put it up on the wall. And I hung my keys on it. From now on, the keys will go from my hand to the hook to my hand, so I’ll never have to waste time scratching around for them while my toddler unpacks the nappy bag and the boys are late for school.

There’s still a lot that needs my attention, but at least now I won’t be frazzled and late, so I may actually do a better job of it. The key, I think, is to take things one step at a time.

I bought this hook from Owen, a wire artist on Mackeurtan Avenue (outside Checkers). This business is his only income to support his family, so in doing some good for myself, at least I’ve helped do some good for others too. He has some really beautiful stuff, and he also makes to order. If you pay him a visit, tell him I say hi 🙂 

COP on the catwalk

The city’s been buzzing with talk of global warming and planetary destruction these past few weeks, and it can call get a bit depressing, so I thought I’d focus on something a little different today – something that speaks to me as a woman, and an environmentalist: fashion.


Er, fashion and environmentalism? Yes, if you’re Durban-based artist Marian Immerman (Mother of the talented young designer Rozanne Immerman whose label Rozanne & Pushkin has won numerous awards). Marian was in the store to chat about her contribution to COP17, an ensemble titled Mother Earth:

Natural cotton fibres in tones of green give the whole ensemble an organic, earthy feel, while scraps of ethnic fabric speak to the roots of the design in Africa, and in Durban specifically. To me, this outfit epitomizes COP17.


I also love the way the back of the garment combines the names of our city with the name of the design label, making a statement of “local is lekker is green is fashionable”:

The long, sweeping hemline (hard to see on a shop dummy) gives the overlaid green skirt a feminine flow, evoking the muse Mother Earth. This is reinforced through the vegetal tones of green, which Marian says, “represent harmony and environmental awareness”. The tie-dye effect also imbues the cloth with a warm, peaceful, hippy feel. “Not quite Greenpeace, but green piece!” says Marian.


Raw edges and knotted finishes demonstrate how much of this garment was made without the use of electric sewing machines, befitting an outfit honouring the planet at this time of dire carbon misuse.

It’s accessorized with a grass bucket handbag that was salvaged from a thrift shop and decorated with flower embroidery off-cuts from other projects. “This is called upcycling,” Marian explains, “using old or useless things to create something of a higher environmental value.”


Because, really, fashion has always been about value. Value for money. Valuable materials. Cultural value. And the values you hold close to your heart.


Marian has ensured that every aspect of her work embraces the values and meaning behind it. From the main piece of fabric to the bits of button, cord and wool used to embellish it, value is everything.


And from these values comes her message: we can preserve mother earth, and still be fashionable, creative and unique at the same time. “It’s all about looking at things differently,” she explains.


Even this comes through clearly in the construction of her work: the retro-trendy braces are worn reversed – perhaps illustrating that something is backward in the way we are looking at fashion, and at the world.


Marian is gaining a reputation for her revolutionary way of looking at fashion. Walking along the beachfront recently, she found a discarded Niknaks branded beach umbrella and took it home to turn it into a funky fashion piece.

Honouring its origins, the skirt-poncho combo is loose and light (ideal for the beach), and a matching satchel is perfect for toting water, sunscream and trashy novels.


I adore the way Marian incorporates seemingly useless items into her fashion statements. “One should always put your Niknaks to good use!” she quips. Upcycled items immediately take on higher value, but in the case of branding this is even more significant. For example, now that the Niknaks logo and mascot have been updated, this icon now takes on the status of a collectors item. Marian’s creation thus combines one-of-a-kind couture with South African cultural history.

   The new Niknaks icon

But in addition to her artistic and environmental contributions, Marian tries to make a difference to the lives of the less fortunate too. When she got in touch with Simba (Niknaks’ umbrella company – no pun intended), she was delighted to secure the donation of 1000 bags of Niknaks for underprivileged children. The handover will take place later this month, so watch this space!


Each in their own way, these outfits force people to think about the impact our choices have on our environment: one representing the earth we wish to preserve; the other a celebration of the trash that could kill it.


I admire people who create such cogent messages through their art. And for the rest of us who are not so talented, I’m grateful for the opportunity to show our support by buying and wearing these fashion statements, spreading the message in style.

The Mother Earth dress, the Niknaks outfit, and many more of Marian’s creations are on sale at Rozanne & Pushkin, Shop F208, Gateway Theatre of Shopping (near the Wavehouse). Call them on 031 566 2778.

Rozanne & Pushkin also has a branch at Shop 19A, The Zone, Rosebank (011 8800 209).


To visit the Rozanne & Pushkin website, click here. They also have a Facebook page.

bless a granny

Today I spent the morning shopping for presents for someone I’ve never met before.


It was in aid of the Robin Hood Foundation’s “Bless a Granny & Grandpa” campaign. I signed up via email and was assigned a unique individual who needs some love and goodies this festive season. It made me feel really great to pick out the specific items according to her wish list, and I included a little note with heartfelt wishes for a joyous holiday. There are drop-off points all over the city so it will be easy to hand in my gift bag on my way to my next chore tomorrow.


I think everyone should support some kind of goodwill charity or “secret santa” project (and I’m not even Christian). Veggietot values are all about sharing, spreading love and joy, and trying to make the world a little bit nicer. Tick, tick, tick!


There are many of these worthy projects available, so whether it’s Bless a GrannySanta’s ShoeboxDIVOTE or something else, why not take a little time and trouble to make someone else feel really happy and loved this festive season, even – especially – if you don’t know them.


Please feel free to leave a comment with details of any other scheme worth supporting. 

ring around my heart

I’ve been trying to focus less on material things and more on meaningful experiences in life.


So instead of a present for my birthday this year, Hubby took me away for a romantic weekend. I got a few beautiful, lasting gifts of plants and books from dear friends, and lots of phone calls and emails that meant more to me than another jar of bath bubblies or yet another vase to stick under the sink.


But my not-very-well-hidden avaricious side must admit that there is one present I am VERY excited about – a ring my sister gave me. I LOVE this ring. It’s got all the qualities I believe a really worthwhile purchase should have: beauty, character, and a story behind it.


It’s made by local designer Phillipa Green out of a recycled vintage cuff link. It’s engraved on the back with my name and date of birth, and the significance of the cameo lion image ties in to my star sign. The craftsmanship is exquisite and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.


So, yes, it’s true that the best things, money can’t buy. But if you’ve got a bit of spare cash lying about this is a good way to spend it :-)


I think it’s nice to focus on a few special things that bring you joy and pleasure rather than a drawer-full of the same mass-produced, soulless junk that’s clogging everyone else’s drawers.


And if we can support local artists and recycling at the same time – well, that’s just the ribbon on the box.


Any of this ring true?

(Wine)House of Mourning

British soul singer Amy Winehouse died yesterday afternoon.


In her short 27 years, she struggled with drug and alcohol addictions, a failed marriage, and a deteriorating career. She was stalked by the paparazzi and continuously criticized in the international media.


The world is abuzz with news, tweets, posts and messages from fans and critics alike, remembering the star and talking about her troubled life and unexpected death. But my thoughts this morning go out not to Amy, but to Mitch and Janis Winehouse, her parents.


The irony is that, although she was nearly my age, I am looking at her today not through the eyes of a contemporary, but through the eyes of a mother. I see a very unhappy little girl.


Whatever troubles and struggles Amy faced, I believe her parents faced with her. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to lose a child, even more so when the death was preventable. I cannot conceive of the pain these parents must be experiencing right now.


As parents we are supposed to protect our children. The questions rise up like angry waves: how could they let this happen to her? Why did they allow her to make the choices she did, to live the life she did? I’m sure Mitch and Janis themselves are asking the same questions.


But it does no good to judge. No-one will ever really know what happened to Amy Winehouse, or why.


You might be wondering why on earth the death of a rock star is this relevant to this blog. Because Amy Winehouse was a Veggie-tot. All children are born Veggie-tots, in touch with the earth and their place on the planet. Almost always, babies are born surrounded with love and support, and sources indicate Amy’s childhood was no different. Something changed, somewhere along the way.


I look at my own babies and I know the same can happen to them. Being a Veggietot Mom (or -Dad) means raising our children with awareness, with joy, with values. But it also means raising them with the confidence to be their own selves, and it means letting go at some point and allowing them live their own lives. Even if they’re not the lives we would have chosen for them.


Because every human being has the right to his or her choices. We face choices every day – in the supermarket, in the living room, on the streets and in the boardroom. Some may be life-and-death choices; others are more subtle but still have astounding repercussions.


Death is always tragic – even more so when the victim is so young. Youth and promise go hand-in-hand so a young life lost is like a promise broken.


Amy Winehouse was a gifted musician and performance artist. Her premature death leaves a gaping hole in the world, especially in the hearts of her parents.


So yes, a bit of a downbeat post this morning. But I felt anything else would be somewhat inappropriate.


I’ll be spending today with my family, with a special eye on my children.


Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011