Farm stall in the city

Delish advertises itself as “your farm stall in the city”. They sell fresh fruit and veggies as well as Felicity Vonmoos’s free range eggs, and a modest selection of spices, preserves and other things you’d expect to find at a farm stall (including the cute kitsch handmade hen doorstops, above).

There are toasted cheese and tomatoes, and there are toasted cheese and tomatoes.

They’ve also recently opened a cafe serving up cappuccinos and teas and a limited but delicious menu that changes with ingredient availability (respect!). I had a delectable rooibos and orange loose-leaf tea blend and a toasted cheese and roasted tomato sandwich with fresh basil, made with artisanal bread. Yum doesn’t really do it justice, so I’ll say that it was YUM! I arrived at breakfast time, but I couldn’t resist the gorgeous smells wafting out of the tiny kitchen, so I imposed a little investigation. Chef Barry Fry (of Glenwood Bakery fame) let me taste the chilli-and-thyme grilled butternut destined for the midday menu, and I was sorely disappointed I couldn’t stay for lunch! I’ll have to come back…

I love cafes that take pride in presenting food and drinks simply but beautifully. 

Find Delish at: Shop 1, 140 Sphiwe Zuma (was Queen Mary) Avenue, Durban.

 

Moms and Tots Spa Day? Totally!

Spa trips are always a luxury, but I find it easier to justify when I know that my enjoyment is bringing employment and dignity to previously unskilled women from my own greater community. That’s why I’ve always loved Mangwanani, “The Original African Day Spa”. Their philosophy of indulgence and revitalisation over skin-deep treatments resonates with my soul, and I love their policy of employing women who otherwise would have no other means of income to support themselves and their families (in 2013, the last available data, 95% of their staff fit this profile). It sits well with my Veggie Tot values.

Until now, I’d always believed that spas were where mommies went to escape their children for a while (sorry), but I’ve now been proven wrong. Mangwanani has pioneered a Kids Spa concept that lets moms AND their tots enjoy a little pampering in a totally kiddie-friendly – indeed, kiddie-centric – environment. I took my almost-three-year-old daughter down to Ushaka Kids World to check it out and we had a wonderful time. She felt like an absolute princess and I didn’t have to stress when she climbed on the empty massage chairs or got up halfway through a treatment to wonder over to the window and wave at the swimmers tubing it down the Dizzy Duzi river.

It’s not often you find activities that both parent and child totally enjoy, and it’s so special to be able to share these together. Like regular spas, this is a special-occasion treat rather than something you can do every day, but the memories are worth the investment. Check out more on their website.

Frolicking Fairy Manicure (includes adorable stick-on nail art)

Twinkle Toes Pedicure (includes Orbeez fun soak – the colours and textures are great for sensory development)

While the little ones are enjoying, moms (and dads/uncles/aunties/grannies/grandads/etc) can relax and enjoy a little pampering themselves, all within eye- and ear-shot of their kids.

Click here to check out my story on whether children should go to spas on Parent24.com!

Berg Break at Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens

We live in such an exquisitely beautiful country that it (almost) amazes me that South Africans want to travel overseas.

20151126_052857Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens as seen from the summit of my hike. Hard to believe this is less than a three-hour drive from Durban. 

Last week I was treated to a media event at Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens resort. I’m hoping to return soon with the rest of the Veggietots clan, because it’s not often that the cliche is true: here there really IS something for everyone.

20151126_141243We stayed in the hotel (how’s this for a view to wake up to?). There are also self-catering chalets for those who prefer.

For the grownups:20151126_172853 Jacuzzi overlooking lake with fountains. I spent a LOT of time in here!

The wellness centre includes a gym, a spa, an indoor pool with hydro facility and a set of jacuzzis. The resort is also a renowned golf course, so I’ll have to factor that in when I bring Veggietot Gramps.

For the kids:

20151126_16414720151126_165726 The cutest (and friendliest) animal farm 

img-20151126-wa0033 Horse rides (little ones for the littlies, but I went galloping across the plains with an experienced guide). If horses ain’t your thing, there’s also cycling and a games room. 

For everyone:

20151126_060208Ah, nature.

20151126_060705 20151126_06024020151126_16063520151126_060141

20151125_151523Beautiful hikes, starting at a comfortable 45 minutes and peaking at several hours for those up to more of a challenge.

20151126_123727 Lunch overlooking the lake. There are several restaurants on site so you can pick which tickles your fancy at any given moment. Most are family-friendly. 

After just a short break I felt almost like a new person. Must be the mountain air! This place is a wonderful combination of countryside and convenience, with all the amenities one needs to feel comfortable, yet a rejuvenating atmosphere of crisp, still mountain energy. I’d quote The Terminator, but that would be trite.

20151126_132223

For more info, contact drak@goodersons.co.za

How to organise your recycling cupboard

Step 1: Find several large containers.

Cardboard boxes work just fine, as do wicker baskets or large plastic tubs. A stack of deep drawers is also nice, and may or may not fit inside your cupboard as well.

Step 2: Label containers:

PAPER     PLASTIC     GLASS     CANS     ETC

TIP 1: Find out what is recyclable in your neighbourhood, and what may go together, for example paper and cardboard; plastic, Tetrapack and polystyrene. You may even subscribe to a collection service that takes the whole lot in one fell bag in which case this entire organisation process is entirely unnecessary, but surprisingly fun 🙂

Tip 2: Laminating the labels will keep them from getting tatty, therefore retaining your pride in your recycling cupboard system, therefore spurring you on to continue the good work you have started.

Tip 3: Visual labels (i.e. photos) are helpful to help small children learn about sorting (great for left brain development, according to our preschool teacher), as well as saving the planet. Bonus! Here are some visual labels I made that you might find useful:

Tip 4: Keep a separate container for Useful Things, like cereal boxes, toilet roll inners, yoghurt pots, bottle caps, bits of ribbon and string, and old plastic/polystyrene containers. If you don’t use them for arts and crafts at home, your local preschool will love them! This is called upcycling, and is even better than recycling because reusing things takes even less global energy than recycling, let alone the energy that would be required to make new ones.

Step 3: And this one is VERY important…

Keep your toddler out of the recycling cupboard!

Regaining my sense of hummus

The last two years have been a real roller coaster. Actually the last six years since I fell pregnant with my firstborn have been a roller coaster, but the last two have been a special type of crazy, with perinatal depression, yet another newborn, moving house, a burst eardrum, and a series of crazy deadlines that were conceived by the devil as a practical joke which backfired.

I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen lately. I have a wonderful support system including a foodie husband, a helper who can follow any recipe I throw at her, and the manufacturers of Provita. So we’ve been eating, but I’ve missed cooking.

Today I made hummus, which really you can hardly call cooking at all, but the sense of anti-feminist satisfaction was enough to give me the “cooking kick” I needed. Measuring, blending, tasting, measuring some more. Feeling the crisp cool green of the parsley, the gloss of the garlic as it pops out of its papery skin, the sharp rush of juice from ripe lemons. It felt like getting reacquainted with old friends over a quick cuppa, with a taxi waiting outside and the promise to see each other again soon.

Sometimes something simple really is enough.

Enough with the poetry, I have another deadline looming. But I look forward to my next dalliance in the kitchen.

Veggietot Mom’s hummus

Ingredients:

Quantities are by feel, taste or culinary radar.

Chickpeas (cooked or canned)

Tehini paste

Olive oil

Garlic

Lemon juice

Fresh parsley

Ground cumin (and/or coriander and/or paprika depending on my mood)

Salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Blend all ingredients.

Thin with a *little* water if you want a smoother consistency. Olive oil is better for this, mind.

You can eat it immediately, but it usually tastes better after a day or two in the fridge, once the flavours have had a chance to mature and mingle.

 

 

Concrete Values

We’re building a house. It’s all very exciting. Since my husband has the visualization skills of a mole – and even less interest – I get to handle the fun stuff like choosing taps and tiles and putting plug-points in the right places, but he’s on site, as it were, when it comes to the real structures of the thing.

The plans, with all their little squiggly lines which I have to translate for him into walls and windows, downlights and ducts, read like a map of our future. There are the kids’ rooms (for when the boys grow up and no longer want to bunk in together, and the baby is finally out of our bed…). There’s the kitchen with the open-plan counter where we will prepare many happy family dinners. There’s the garden where the kids will play hide and seek (and probably cricket and soccer and all those boy-ish things I’ll no doubt have to learn to love…). There’s the porch where we’ll spend sunsets sipping beers (juice for the kids) and discussing how our days have gone.

When the builders were about to “throw the slab” (I’m learning all sorts of new jargon these days), the bundle of mush that is my dear father-in-law came up with the idea to write down our family values and bury them in the foundation, so that our home will literally be built on those values. Twee alarm! I loved it immediately.

So I sat down to write out a list of our values. And I came to the astonishing and somewhat frightening realisation that I didn’t actually know what they were!

The family conference I called backfired spectacularly. The one-year-old can’t talk yet, the three-year-old was more interested in his trains, and the five-year-old couldn’t quite grasp the abstract concept of values (he thought I was going to bury all our family valuables under the house – ‘but Mommy, what if we need them??’).

So Veggietot Dad and I stayed up many nights after we’d put the kids to bed, asking difficult questions. What do we believe? What are our values? How do we define them and how are we going to teach them to our children?

Then last week, armed with our rolled-up list of values printed on pretty paper and tied with ribbon, we traipsed down to the building site. What fun, I thought as the boys pulled on their gumboots and Bob the Builder dress-up gear, complete with plastic hard hats, tool belts and tools.

What have I done, I thought as we stepped onto the site. Note to the timid: do not take small children to a building site. There are lots of dirty, sharp, deep and/or heavy things that are not supposed to be played with.

Once we’d gathered the children away from the large machines with the spades and blades, we found a nice spot towards the back of the site and held a little ceremony where I read out the values while Warren listened dutifully and the kids played in the dirt, and then we laid down the list in the foundation trench just under what will become the porch, and retreated to a safe distance to watch the real action.

The five of us watched, enthralled, as the massive concrete mixer churned to life. We observed the machine feeding the wet cement into a huge flexible tube controlled by hydraulics and a remote control (my five-year-old had to explain this to me), and saw the muck gush into the trenches.

In no more than 20 seconds, our little list of values was covered in concrete, never to be seen again. It struck me as a bit of a metaphor, actually. Too often our values get so obscured by the rush of every day life that it’s hard to see them, and even harder to find them. Sometimes we need to sit and chip away at life’s concrete to get to them. Unless they are stored safely in our souls.

This whole exercise has taught me so much. I learnt that that thingamajig attached to the concrete mixer is called an aggregate hopper (this also from the five-year-old). I learnt that cement doesn’t come out of a dry-clean-only blazer. And I learnt that if you really want something to be meaningful, you have to put in the meaning.

Our values are what give life meaning. We don’t all get to design our dream house, but we all have the chance to design our dream life. I feel so blessed to have had both of these opportunities in one month.

Sure, building a house is a lot of work, but you get out what you put in. Ding-ding-ding! Life metaphor alert! Each small improvement to the plan, each carefully repositioned brick represents the things we do to improve our lives, like tweaking the master plan of our goals and dreams, rearranging the bricks of our actions – the bricks and mortar of our daily lives, if you will.

There are times to build, and then there are times to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. As we sit on our porch in our new home, it will be comforting to know not only that our values are there, but what they are.

 

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Is religion a choice in childrearing?

Religion is usually a topic I tiptoe around. On this blog, and in life in general. It seems to be so touchy. Of course, religion comes with a fair amount of judgment, but that’s supposed to be done by The Big Guy, not by us lowly practitioners of the faiths! So to avoid accusations and assumptions, I often find it’s easier to just talk about sports and politics…

Sometimes, however, religion becomes an inevitable topic of discussion, and one of those times is when it comes to childrearing. I just wrote a column on the subject for Hashalom, KwaZulu-Natal’s monthly Jewish journal, and I thought I’d share it with you here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

SpiritJEWality

I have a friend who is an atheist. She had a really negative experience of dogmatic doctrine as a child, and has decided that organized religion is the root of all the world’s evils. We have many colourful debates on the subject, and haven’t yet come to a firm conclusion.

She believes religion is a choice (and a misguided one at that); I’m not so sure. Of course, I’m coming at this from a very entrenched position. I am and always have been very Jewish. Mom’s Jewish, Dad’s Jewish, school was Jewish, hubby’s Jewish, kids are Jewish. Very heimishe, but is that enough to make a life decision on? Just because something has always been a certain way, do I have to continue it? Is it really a choice?

“Is religion really a choice?”

I suppose it is. Well, halachic authorities may um and ah about whether a shul-shunning, bacon-bolting, tattoo-flaunting, Friday-night-disco-jiving type should still get a hechsher (kosher stamp), but at the end of the day it is my choice whether or not I follow my faith. Hashem (God) blessed me with that very free choice. He’s not going to thunderbolt me down if I drive to town on Saturday and order a cheeseburger (at least, I don’t think He would!).

Jewish by birth though I may be, I do choose to practice my Judaism. And today I was reminded why. This morning I came across an article in a parenting magazine that informed readers how to foster “non-denominational spirituality” in our children, and I couldn’t help but think of my friend. Fascinatingly, our discussions have intensified since we’ve both become parents. The stakes are suddenly raised – we’re not just debating our own lives, but the futures of our precious children, too.

She begs me not to “brainwash” my kids with dogma. She expounds upon the spiritual restrictions that indoctrination will place on them. So I’m alive to the “risks” of religion. But this article gave me a lot of food for thought. Some of the more interesting points that were suggested were:

  • Develop your child’s sense of wonder. Point out the miracle of life – a new flower, a snail making tracks across the garden.
  • Use reflection. People benefit from shutting down the noise of technology and quietly reflecting, whether this includes prayer or not.
  • Take time to be together with your family. Spend the weekend unplugged from electronic devices.
  • Teach gratitude. A tasty meal, a warm bed at night – gratitude is about being aware of what has been received.

Every point was valid. Can’t argue with any of ‘em. But the question that gnawed at my mind was this: what made these ideals “non-denominational”? Who says these values are incompatible with religion? In my religion, anyway, they are an integral part of it.

“What makes these ideals “non-denominational”? Who says these values are incompatible with religion?”

Judaism is all about building a child’s (and indeed an adult’s) sense of wonder with the world. We even have special brachot (blessings) for extraordinary things we encounter, from fragrant flowers to rainbows, shooting stars, mountains and oceans. (I’m not sure about the snail, but I’ll check the Talmud and get back to you).

Reflection is also built into our lives as Jews. Not just through prayer, but through structures like fasting or sitting shiva over loved-ones, and symbols like mezuzot or the seder plate that cause us to reflect on what they stand for. And of course Shabbat (Sabbath) gives us a regular occasion to unplug from technology and plug into family time.

And as for gratitude? We have mitzvoth (commandments) designed to teach awareness and appreciation of almost everything in life: the laws of kashrut for food, bedtime rituals for peaceful sleep, rites of thankfulness when we wake up. (Aside: I’ll let slide for now the question about from Whom the author of the article assumes these blessings have been received.)

The obvious question, then, if I can cultivate spirituality in my children without divine instruction, is this: why bring up my children with any religion at all? For me, the answer is simple. It’s because I can offer my kids all that and more through Judaism. The practice of Torah laws and lifestyle compels everything the author encourages, as well as providing a sense of history, heritage, belonging, and a deep culture. Call it spiritJEWality, if you will.

That’s not to say that one can’t inculcate good morals into children without religion. Of course you can. Everyone knows you don’t have to be Jewish to be a mensch. But you do have to be a mensch to be a real Jew. It’s part of our value system, and part of our religious law. Rules for tzedakkah (charity), shmirat halashon (guarding one’s speech), and gemillut chassidim (acts of kindness) help us to become better, more virtuous, dare I say more spiritual people.

You don’t have to be Jewish to be a mensch. But you do have to be a mensch to be a real Jew

Judaism gives me a framework for all these things my friend is going to have to figure out and teach her kids on her own. Halacha shares a grammatical root with the word holech – to walk – because it teaches us direction in life. Why shouldn’t I want my kids to learn that?

It’s not “brainwashing” or “indoctrination”. It’s laying a foundation from which they can make educated decisions about how they choose to live their lives. I’m no fan of dogma, but – to keep with the parenting imagery – I don’t believe in throwing out the beauty of religion with the spiritual bathwater either.

Our job as parents (and with the help of our teachers) is to enlighten our children to the infinite possibilities of the universe, and then to let them choose for themselves.

Yes, it is a choice. Huh. I guess the atheist was right about one thing. Anyway, I sent her the article. I hope she gets something out of it. And I hope you get something out of this column. Until next time.

 

For more columns like this, click here.