Category Archives: Home & Household

Getting off the grid!

Power Grid ~ {A system of high tension cables by which electrical power is distributed throughout a region}

Getting off the grid…sounds very easy and idyllic.  Grit your teeth…cause its not for sissies!

We have been without electricity for the last 2 months.  I partly feel elated…another part of me not.

Two months is a long time, especially when you were not prepared for it.  But it is not all doom and gloom…it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I have been saying it for the longest time:”I want to get off the grid!”  Now I am…willingly or not. Once again a testimony that our words carry power!  So I am sure by now you want to know what happened?  In a nutshell, our landlord unfortunately passed on in May, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills.  The electricity bill being one of them.  Now many people suggested we move out, and find alternative accommodation, but it is easier said than done.  We have settled and have no plans to move soon.

Anyhow…back to the details of “living green!”

It is actually great!  It has forced us to become creative in our living arrangement.  We cook on a little gas stove.

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Gas-stove

I have to boil water on the cooker for bathing purposes etc and that takes a little time.  On the other hand, it has made me more conscious of the amount of water I use.  So after a few weeks I grew tired of cowboy splashes and thus I developed a shower-system.

After doing some research on YouTube, I first started with a prototype.

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Juice bottle sealed with silicone

This worked well; it was just a mission to get the water in the bottle at the right temperature.  Also, it only holds 5 liters so doesn’t work well when you want to wash hair etc.  The idea I got on the internet would work well in summer as I could leave the bottle outside and the sun would heat the water.  Unfortunately it is now winter and although very mild temperatures, not enough to heat it sufficiently to shower.

Then I developed this system.

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Ice bucket as shower system

It might not look so grand, but it works well.  You actually feel like you’re taking a shower.  I used the fitting of a hose pipe so I can close and open as I wish.  However, the steady, straight stream does not distribute the water as a conventional shower head would do.  I am still figuring out an alternative… but quite chuffed with this.

We have portable solar-panels that we use to charge batteries during the day to have light in the evening via an inverter.

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Portable solar-panels

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Inverter with light

Our next-door neighbour has been very generous and supplies us with enough electricity to power the fridge and charging our mobiles, etc.

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This helps quite a lot in the meantime while we source alternative solutions i.e. solar panels etc.

I am well aware that there are loads of renewal energy solutions on the market already, but many of them are very pricey.  Part of my mission (and has always been a desire of mine) is to find alternative power sources for the normal folk, and those less fortunate.  Millions of my fellow-countrymen are in a similar situation purely because of lack of resources or poverty.  So I believe this event, that some may view as a mischance, has happened on purpose.

I have learned from previous life lessons to embrace such events…they end up being turning points for the good.

I embrace, thus I am (em)powered!

Do you have any ideas for alternative power solutions?  I would love to hear from you!  Also remember to switch off…its the right thing to do!

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DIY: Doily up your pantry

Pantry ~ {A small storeroom for storing foods or wines}

The pantry was one of the things that attracted me to this house.  It is functional and also not to bad looking?  It has Louvre doors and the white-washed finish reminds me of a beach house.

Pantry

Pantry

That is on the outside.

* Inside looms temptation of all kinds.  Foods, healthy and not-so-healthy.  After the bathroom, this might be the most visited room in the house!

Also, its a bit untidy.

Untidy shelves

Untidy shelves

I have tried numerous times to organise it by categorising, but for some reason it always gets messy!

Time to tackle this food-mountain!

I went to my local fruit and vegetable store and collected some tomato crates for FREE! I love these, they are so handy and sturdy!  Grab some paint and coat only the front panel of the box.  Thus you save time and paint.  This also makes it easy if you want to change colour at a later stage.

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Leave it in the sun to dry.

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While it is drying, take some small paper doilies.  Mine was a little to big so I cut out the middle section.  Then I joined the two halves using Sellotape.

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I wanted to create a blackboard effect so I used matte cardboard and used a white marker to make labels.  Use glue to attach the “labels” to the painted surface.

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It will dry clear.  I ran out of Modge Podge otherwise I would have used the decoupage technique.

After this is dry…you can start organising your shelves!

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The shelf structure works on a bracket system, thus preventing me from putting all the crates side-by-side.  This is an on-going project but I am extremely pleased with the result.

It cost me nothing but about 90 minutes of my time!  Do you have any pictures of your organised pantry?  Please send!

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Here’s to Kensington…here’s to another new adventure!

As mentioned before, we just moved into a new house, in a suburb (totally new to me) called Kensington.

Naturally

I am

curious

about my new surroundings.

On National Women’s Day  I was at home spending time with the girls, very relaxed.  As I was sitting on the stoep (veranda) I enjoyed the glorious sun.  I could see the city skyline peeping through the tree tops and in the distance I could hear the dull noises of this larger-than-life concrete jungle.

Believe it or not, just a few days before we were showered with snow in this very same place.

I was just basking in the glorious weather.  The distinctive sound of the Hadeda bird echoed all around me.

Ha-de-da….ha-de-da!

There was a slight breeze in the air and suddenly a sense of gratefulness came over me.

* God is great

I feel fortunate to live in this wonderful new dwelling and experience this new-found abundance.

I am just trying to soak up everything…relax more, enjoy more.

I did some research and found out that Kensington is the largest suburb in Johannesburg!  Pretty awesome!  It stretches from Fairview and Troyeville in the West, to Eastgate and Bedfordview border in the East. It is bounded by Belgravia and Malvern in the South and by Judith’s Paarl, Bezuidenhout Valley, Dewetshof and Bruma in the North.

The streets in Kensington, a 1904 Johannesburg suburb, named after its counterpart in London, reflect a profound jingoism. That was when, after the Anglo Boer War, Alfred Lord Milner and his “kindergarten” of Oxford administrators was intent on bringing Imperial civilisation to the Transvaal. So, today, Kensingtonians, probably unthinkingly, drive along Roberts or Kitchener avenues, named after the Anglo Boer War victors, or negotiate the curve of Milner Crescent and walk their dogs in Rhodes Park.

But there’s a more intriguing twist to the street names of this suburb; no less than 83 streets are named after Royal Navy warships. Collingwood Street (the one we live on) is named after a dreadnought, honouring Vice Admiral Cuthbert Lord Collingwood who mopped up the French fleet once Nelson had fallen at Trafalgar. Royal Oak Street was named after a British battleship launched in 1892. Barossa Street is named after a cruiser that sailed African waters and was based in Simonstown during the Anglo Boer War.

I also found out there is an active committee operating in Kensington.  They look after the well-being of this “village in the city.”  They have markets, and events and hold a wealth of history archives of the suburb itself.

The very first day Ashley brought me here to view, I fell in love again.  This time with a house.  This house is so me.   I need to find out the history of it.  Who build it…who were these people and where are they now?

*How did they know so much about me? How did they know what I would like and what not?

Guess what I’ll be doing in the next few months…history hunting!  Got time for history lessons? 🙂

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I think I found the one…

What does it mean to be settled?  According to the Word-Web dictionary it means:

Established in a desired position or place; not moving about”

For the last decade I have been moving about. From one house to another…19 times in total.

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Sometimes we moved caused we sought adventure…other times we were driven out of a house because our empty bank account could not make up the bills.

However it might be…moving became part of my life, whether I liked it or not. In the beginning it was easy because it was only me and Ashley. Then after 5 years, came Chelsea and shortly after, Kirsten. Obviously it became more challenging. Kids need stability in general. They need routine to function and require some sort of norm to feel safe.

There we go again…

Chelsea in her short lifespan (almost 6 years old) has moved a staggering 8 times! Now that I’ve numerated it, it shocks me!

Anyway, so our journey has taken us from south to north, to west, to south again, west again, everything in between and now lastly east. We sound like a circus…but really we are not. We are actually very stable people…believe it or not. We have learned to adapt quickly and settle quickly wherever we end up. Priority is to make life work in our new home as soon as the first day. I hang pictures…get the flow right and find a creche for the kids.

Business must go on…so computers get plugged in, printers get connected and while I do that, I do a load of laundry. I might cook that same night, depending on the amount of boxes I still need to unpack…otherwise we just grab takeaways. The next day I might start painting a room and decorating it just to make me feel normal.

Life must go on…I must not allow circumstances to dictate my state of mind.  But sometimes, many times,  the moving gets to me.  It gets me under.  I long for stability…a place to call home.

I sometimes envy people that have lived in one place for more than 2 years…and I tell myself: “surely my lifestyle can’t be normal?”  I am not a roamer, a free-spirited gypsy…I am in fact very normal (well that’s what I tell myself).  At some stage I almost started to crave moving.  It became a rush for me.  The thought of moving to a new place, new people, new surroundings made my life more exciting, giving me an edge.

So we moved into a fabulous house about 2 weeks ago. Apart from unpacking a few more boxes, we are fairly settled.  I haven’t found a creche yet so the kids are still at home.  This house is artistic and inviting.  It has wooden floors and picture rails.  I wake up in the morning to the city skyline of Jozi.  It is such a blessing.

It is snowing in Jozi today.  Snow is a rare occurrence in Gauteng, with snowfall having been experienced in May 1956, August 1962, June 1964, September 1981 and on June 27 2007.

September 1981 has the greatest snowfall on record, with statistics showing snowfall accumulating up to 10 centimetres across the province. (http://mg.co.za/print/2012-08-07-snow-in-joburg)

Surprisingly snow fell in Gauteng today

They say one’s home should be an extension of your personality.  I can safely say…I think I’ve found the one.  I’m home.

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Don’t judge a house by it’s cover!

Having lived in over a dozen houses in the last 9 and a half years, I think that unofficially qualifies me an expert? 🙂

I realised the other day, I haven’t really posted anything about our current dwelling.  I think I unknowingly omitted writing about it as we once again have a short stay here!

Having experienced such a lot of homes in such a short span of time, I have developed a nick for finding a gem here and there.  And yes, I found one here!

From the first glance, this is just an ordinary house on the street.  In fact, it is no looker! I actually will go as far as saying…I hate the exterior!

Exterior of house

This is a typical house in Johannesburg.  This type of house was build for mine workers that lived and worked in the city.  You find this building style all over Joburg.

The house is very surprising in a lot of ways.  I remember the first day I came to view it.  Firstly it was on the market for rental for 4 months.  That already fitted our requirements as we just need some time to find our perfect (permanent) home! Also the rental was a ridiculous amount.  That got me sold!

Then the interior really blew me away! I recently found out the house is almost 70 years old…and it really looks good!  Let me show you:

Kitchen

The kitchen is nothing fancy…but has that old-world feel.  It has just plain white cupboards and vinyl on the floor.  However, it is warm and we find ourselves relaxing here most of the time.

Kitchen & Dining Room

The living room still has the original oak floors and its looking good!

Oak floors

The rooms are huge and the ceilings are high.  I think the ceilings are my highlight! Pressed tin ceilings and crown mouldings in all the rooms and bathroom! I can stare at it for hours…the detail is amazing!

High ceilings

Peach tree in the back

Then there’s the huge backyard.  Perfect for little ones…especially the peach tree.  I spoke to the owner who grew up in the house and she vividly recalled climbing this tree as a child.

This house has the X-factor.  You cannot exactly pinpoint what you like about it…but you immediately feel at home.

X-Factor ~ {(informal) an unknown or hard-to-define but important special property}

I love this house…I really do.  It has great bones and seem to have great memories.  Makes me want my own house now more than ever.  Be patient Lizl, soon!

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Move # 18

Before you think I’m crazy, and if it is any consolation…this is the second last move.  I mean after this I’m moving into my dream home (or land).  I am declaring that in faith…

“We live by faith and not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:7

This is the house we just moved into:

Nothing fancy and just another house on the street. (but it has immaculate tin pressed ceilings!)  But is will be home for the next few months while we trust God to lead us to THE ONE.  I will know THE ONE when I see it, as I have seen it in my dreams.

This image drives me when I feel down (believe me I do get downcast).  But this is the image I’m now faced with:

Lots of unpacking to do still. Please excuse me! 🙂

PS: My 150th post today! Hip hip hooray!

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Get a move on: How to move house…

This is the first DIY post for 2012, so I thought it fit that I give some tips for moving.  If only it was so easy…

If only moving was this easy!

Moving house can be extremely stressful and emotional.  Believe me…I know. I am about to move for the 17th time in 9 years.

By now I should be able to do this with my eyes closed but it is different every time.  I have sort of developed a system which naturally progressed over the years.  Here are a few pointers I hope you’ll find helpful:

  1. Prepare.  Make lists of what you’ll need like boxes, koki’s, buff tape, newspaper etc.  Start collecting them a few days before you plan to start packing.  Get boxes from your local grocery store.
  2. Involve the family.  A friend of mine, Stacey Holland, told me about her nomadic childhood. The one thing she really loved about moving is that her parents got them involved in the process.  So it really became an adventure, choosing paint colours, decorating and meeting new friends.
  3. Work room by room.  Draw a mental map of your existing home and what you need to prioritise first.  Decide which room you will pack first and stick to the plan.
  4. Work out a system. Try a colour coded system to mark boxes which you will need to unpack first at your new home.  Use coloured sheets of paper and write on it exactly what is in the box.  For example: Mark the bathroom box in red and write on the sheet:

Work out a colour-coded system

Note: Be sure to stick the paper sheets to the front of the boxes so when they are stacked you can easily see what is in there.

4. Make sure fragile stickers are clearly visible.  Nothing is worse than opening a box and finding the salad bowl you inherited from Gran in pieces!

5. Pack a separate box of needs for moving day.

List of needs for moving day

Kettle

Milk

Tea or Coffee

Cups

Snack

Bedding/Towels

Scissors

Toiletries (Don’t Forget the Toothpaste!)

Money coins and notes

Toilet Rolls

Light Bulbs

Small Tool Kit

Torch

Lighter

Pen and Paper

A few pieces of basic cutlery, crockery, can opener. You may fancy a takeaway on your first time at your new property

Keys, car etc

First Aid Kit

Cleaning aids (cloths, cleaners, etc)

This is just an example.  You can customise your list according to your needs.

6. Unpack!  I like to unpack as soon as we get to the new house.  Keep the momentum and try to unpack one box at a time.  Pace yourself and don’t overexert yourself.  I’ll even go as far as decorating some rooms on our first night!!

7. Change your address.  Contact your bank, insurance companies etc to change your address as soon as you can.

These are just a few tips that make moving easier for me.  Try to make the new house a home as soon as possible.  Hang up some pictures and pack out familiar things in your rooms so the kids feel at home immediately.

Moving is an adventure.  It is an opportunity to meet new and interesting people.  It also forces you out of your comfort zone and it is a chance to start over and try new things!  Come on, get a move on!

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It is nerve-racking opening your house to be photographed…

On Friday our house was photographed for a new magazine to hit the shelves in January.  It was really exciting.  The house was a flurry of activity for most of last week whilst we prepared for photographer, Kim McFarlane, to come and take the pictures.

Here are some of the pics taken by her…

That is just a snippet. You will have to buy the mag to get the rest! I am not at liberty yet to disclose the name as it is a totally new product, but will in due time.  Unfortunately my camera is out of action for a while so I cannot show you some behind-the-scenes pictures.  Hopefully I will be able to sort it out soon!

On another exciting note…I will be interviewed live on the Sunrise Breakfast Show on eTV this coming Wednesday at 06h18. (remember in the morning!)  I will be showcasing some of my inexpensive projects.  I really feel privileged and hope you will be able to tune in!

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Shut it!

It’s DIY friday again!  Wow, this week went faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 metres!  Boy, that guy can run!

You’ll remember my post about insulating the girls’ room for winter.  I had a challenge with two odd sized windows as seen below:

Odd sized windows

I had to think of a way to dress these windows for both insulation and privacy.  I didn’t want to have curtains made as it would be a waste of material to have floor-length drapes.  Thus I thought of making shutters.  The house we occupied in Philadelphia had shutters and I loved it.  Mine would be much simpler and would serve more of a practical purpose.

Shutters in Philadelphia

Concept for window shutter

Firstly, I measured and cut the wood.  I used inexpensive plywood I found on site.

Then I was inspired by a idea I saw on the Internet by Emily Henderson.  She painted an antique table with an interesting motive as seen below:

Stencilled table

I had to try it!  I think she used actual stencils.  I just made cut-outs out of white paper and used pritt to stick it to the wood.

Cut-outs

Flower cut-out

Then I painted the whole board white.  It needed 2 coats.  I hung it on the wall with two small hinges.

Oooh...I like that!

Then I painted a small border around the unit so it would look like an artwork when closed.  I hung a painting I did when Chelsea was born in the centre and pulled off the rest of the cut-outs.  Just a reminder of how the windows looked before:

Before shutters were hung

This is how it looks now: (click on the pictures to enlarge)

After

Lights on

Open shutter

Easy to operate

I love it.  It took some time to complete…but I like the end result.  The room is much warmer now and it is super-easy to operate. I just flip them open and use a stick to keep it open.  Once again…a very cost-effective project:

Plywood:  R 0,00

Paint: R 0,00

Cut-outs: R 0,00

Hinges: R 0,00 (on site)

Artwork: R 0,00 (hand-made)

Masonry drill bit: R 12,00

Project cost: R 12,00

Would you try this project at home?  Do you have small windows that needs some TLC?  Feel free to ask me for advise.

Have a great DIY weekend!  Take lots of pics and don’t forget to send them to me!

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Fire…fire!

Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves.  ~Italian Proverb

Isn’t ironic that I have been complaining about the cold weather earlier this week?  We really never have a dull moment here at Naturena.  We got home yesterday and there was a fire raging on land.

Fire! Fire!

Now we learned it apparently started on the south side of the property after we left in the morning.  Since the property is 5.8 hectare big, it took about 8 hours to reach the main house and surrounds.

View from our bedroom window

Since the wind picked up by the time we arrived it literally took 10 minutes to spread around the house.  Smoke was billowing from everywhere and the house quickly filled with the fumes from outside.  I must say, I was quite nervous although the house was not really in danger.  Remember we live on grasslands so the flames followed the tall grass close to the house.  The grass is kept short up to 3 metres away from the house so the flames kept away…thank God!

Luckily the kids were still at creche as I think they would have added to the panic.  So I called the fire brigade at 16h15 and believe it or not they have yet to come.  This is quite worrying.

Ashley trying to curb the flames

I will definitely take up this matter with the local fire department soon.  The good thing is the house is safe.  I was a bit worried about the 2 meerkats that stay behind the container, but Chris reassured me that they found their way back under the container.

Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire and live with it.  The reason?  Because he alone has learned to put it out.  ~Henry Jackson Vandyke, Jr.

This made me think…how many of us have a plan in case of a fire?  Ashley and I urgently need to brief the kids as to what to do and where to go.  Never underestimate the power of being prepared for such an event, should it happen.

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Be wise now…winterise!

Sounds like an ad on radio.  My hands and feet are so cold right now…it is absolutely freezing here in Gauteng.  This will be our 2nd winter here.  Icy temperatures with sunshine all around.  I absolutely love it!  It is such a welcome change from the wet, rainy winters of Cape Town that I am used to.

However, the fact that we live on a huge exposed property does not help at all.  Our closest neighbours are about 50-100 metres away.  It is a fact that homes that are properly insulated create more cost-effective neighborhoods.  See illustration below:

Heat loss

We live in an old house that has not been insulated properly.  We are trying to make it more livable as budget allows it.  Currently most of the rooms have tile-flooring.  This is great in summer…but a draft in winter!  Speaking of…the girls’ room is particularly cold.  My mom-in-law came to visit for a week and surprised us with an electric blanket for their bed…so that helps a bit.  But there is a definite draft.  This is how the room looked before we moved in:

Girls bedroom before

And this is how it looks now…

Girls room now

To help insulate the room there are a few I decided to try:

  1. The window frames are not properly sealed resulting in a draft coming through.  I did a simple test by lighting a candle and keeping it close to the window.  Move the candle along the window frame.  It will flicker to indicate where the draft originates.  I rolled some newspaper and fitted it in the gaps.  This is a temporary solution while we save for a more permanent one.
  2. Heavy curtaining remains one of the most effective ways to insulate a room.  The thicker the curtain, the better.  So I double-lined the curtains.  I took the existing white one and layered it on top of another heavier curtain.  This keeps the cold out and keeps the heat from escaping.  I will change it back in summer for a breezier feel.

I also think I should make some sort of shutter for the two smaller windows to block the cold.  Sort of like illustrated below:

 

Proposed idea for girls bedroom

I plan to use inexpensive off-cuts and I will fix it with hinges at the bottom.  It will then open to the bottom during the day to let the sunshine in.  I will decorate it with art and fun stuff.  I am actually thinking of making a whole feature of that wall.

I will keep you updated.  In the meantime, we are trying to stay warm in this frigid cold weather.

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What lies below the rooftop…

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the rat race I find myself in.  It’s a constant hurry to nowhere.  Early mornings, traffic, work, politics, crime, poverty, dishonesty, traffic again, rushed evenings…where are we all heading?

Rooftops in suburbia

En-route home I am always fascinated by the Johannesburg suburbs.  This is where the workforce of the economic capital of SA resides.  I always wonder what goes on in each house.  Does this house have a father?  Does he provide for his family?  Are they happy?  The huge house on the hill…is the owner content although he makes millions?

Are the kids unruly?  Does the mother realise how much damage she is doing with that extra-marital affair.  Does the family ever have supper around the the dining table and discuss the day’s happenings?  The seven o’ clock news strikes, and while the rest of the country watches the day’s events, the women with the bruised face contemplates how she can escape this abusive relationship.  She tries to hide the weeping from her young kids who are unaware of the situation.

How will the family in the dilapidated shack survive the cold winter?  Where will the father find employment tomorrow?  How will they make it on less than R1000 per month.  School fees, food, clothes, groceries, transport money…the list is endless.

My neighbourhood

All looks fine and peaceful from the outside.  Most of us lead secret lives.  My mother always says…”Elke huis het sy kruis.” Roughly translated…each home has its own problems.  How well do you know your neighbour?  Do I know them by name?  Do you make a conscious effort to reach out?  Do I realise I can make a positive difference?  I love the picture above…although we might be in turmoil here on the ground…the rainbow speaks of hope and a way out.

Genesis 9:12-16 (NIV) 

 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

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Snakes galore

We found another one.  It seems brown house snakes love dressing rooms or clothes.  This is the warehouse where we store all the donations we get as the 1in1out charity.

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So the warehouse is being cleared and shifted a bit this week.  So Eric, the church’s caretaker, came around yesterday announcing they found another snake while clearing the corner where they keep the pillows and fabric off-cuts.  See the picture below:

Clothes pile in the corner

I spoke to a snake expert a few weeks ago.  He reminded me that we live on grasslands and snakes are inevitable.  They were here way before we were, and we are actually disturbing their habitat.  He gave me a few tips on keeping them at bay…though this is no guarantee:

  • Long grass is a favoured habitat of snakes so keep yours well mown
  • Keep shrubs trimmed round their base and away from the house
  • Ensure that branches of trees do not overhang your house or seating areas in your garden
  • Stack your wood on a suitable platform – such as a pallet – off the ground.
  • Regularly sweep up leaves and other garden debris.
  • Fill gaps, cracks and crevices in brick and stone walls
  • Wooden decking in seating areas should be solid, rather than slatted, to prevent snakes climbing through it.
  • Be aware that play areas such as Wendy houses, Tree houses, sand pits etc are potential harbourages for snakes
  • Compost heaps could potentially attract many different species of wildlife which, in turn, may become the prey of a snake.  Ensure that your compost is made in a sealed and sold structure, preferably raised off the ground, and can be securely sealed against any wildlife but particularly rodents.
  • Do you have screens on your windows and doors?  Are there gaps around the frame or holes in the actual screening?
  • Do you have gaps under doors in & out of the house, garage doors, shed doors?  If so, bristle or sealing strip can be an effective way to seal these.
  • Are there are holes, cracks or crevices in the brick or plaster work of your house?
  • Are there any holes, cracks and crevices between patio areas or pathways and your house? – Drainage areas in patios are a perfect point of entry.
  • Is the gauge size of any grates covering your drains small enough to stop snakes going down it?
  • Make sure that there are no holes in your roof that snakes can get through – particularly if trees overhang your house.
  • Ensure Skirting boards do not have gaps under or behind them
  • Seal all holes where wiring, plumbing or gas enters your home
  • Cover gutters and drain pipes with fine gauge mesh
  • If your home has wooden floorboards ensure that access to the floor space beneath them is sealed and that gaps between the boards themselves are filled.

Now our snake was a house snake.  The name House Snake is appropriate in this species as it is often found near human habitation as it is drawn to them by the rodents that inevitably accompany humans. The brown house snake is harmless and an economically valuable snake as it preys primarily on rodents. This snake has become popular in the South African pet market because it is harmless, settles and breeds well in captivity. As with all other South African snakes, permits are required for possession. It lays six to 12 eggs which hatch after two and a half to three months.

2 things…Firstly, to me a snake is a snake.  Secondly, what if the snake I found laid eggs in my dressing room?  Oh my goodness!  That just freaks me out!

On the subject of that…we are slowly but surely making head-way with the dressing room.  

Carpet in dressing room

We still have a far way to go, but we are getting there.  Everyone knows how we like to recycle so a client who is renovating gave us cornice this week.  Now all we need is ceiling board.  All good things come to those who wait.

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Help…there’s a snake in my dressing room!!!

So it’s confirmed…we have snakes on the property.  And I am officially dubbed an animal magnet…a weird animal magnet.  I think they choose me.  We’ve had mice, meerkats and now snakes.

We spent the evening at Monte Casino this past Saturday night and got home at around 23h00.  I put the kids in bed and went to our dressing room to change into my pajamas.  I was really anxious to get into bed as the house is really cold at night.

I have told you about our dressing room before.  As mentioned, we haven’t really done anything to this room yet.  So it still looks a mess!

Our unfinished dressing room

So I was sitting on the chair taking my shoes off when for some reason I looked towards the door.  Something caught my eye immediately.  It was wrapped around the corner of the door.

Door where snake curled up

At first, I thought it was a rubber snake because it stood dead still.  Hang on…we don’t have a rubber snake!  Then I realised within a second that this was the real thing!  I let out a few shrieks that woke the whole household and within seconds there was total mayhem!

Ashley came running in and instinctively knew something was definitely wrong.  This was not my normal there-is-a-mouse-in-the-house-shriek.  This was my very first there-is-a-snake-in-my-dressing-room-shriek!  In a panic he kicked back the door and there was the snake right in front of me!  I have never been so freaked out in my life!

I just could not pass it!  What if it jumped on me when I passed?  Eventually I mustered up the courage to run pass.  Now for the record…we have seen a few snakes in our lives (we are from Cape Town and we love the bushveld)…but never had we been faced with a reptile in our home like that.  So lack of knowledge had a lot to do with our reaction.  I mean how often do you share your personal space with a snake?

So then the fight began.  He was brown, long and slender.  Ashley was big, had a broom in the hand, and was scared to death.  Please animal lovers do not hold this against us.  We did not know it was a harmless house snake.

Snake curled up on broom stick

I tell you the truth…it will take me a long time to get over this.  I cannot shake it.  Just the thought of it makes me squeamish and jittery.  We intend to get a Nature Conservationist or Snake specialist to come out to the property and advise us on what steps to take to keep our home safe.

Then we need to put in some ceiling boards and paint the floor.  So maybe the snake episode was not in vain.  At least we now have more urgency to get the room done.  We will keep you posted!

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Visitors from all over…including a gnawer, a mongoose and a rugby team!

Last night I was happily going on with my business in the kitchen preparing sandwiches for the girls for school.  As I was spreading butter on the bread I noticed a small grey ball of fur in my blind spot and my hair literally stood on end. I was horrified and went stone-cold for a second as I realized it was a mouse.

Uuurgh, I hate small 4-legged furry creatures in my home!  And now there is one right here in my kitchen…in the cupboard!!

Mouse

This was the path he followed all along the wall and literally jumped up and slipped in the cupboard. The opening must be less than 1cm thick and he just squeezed right through it.

Now we have been living here for close to 3months and we have never had a mouse (or at least we never saw one).  We accounted this to the hear-say stories about snakes on the property.  We also recently discovered we have 2 meerkats on site!  They seem to live under my dream home…the container home.  I must say…I was pleasantly surprised when I saw one the other day.  He was so cute!  But he was too far to get a nice picture.  So I downloaded a picture from the internet.

Mongoose

This is not the exact specie but it looked similar.

For the last 2 weeks, the charity 1in1out has been hosting a group of 85 two-legged friends from Wales, England and Canada on-site.  Then I realized it’s because we have had so much traffic in and out the house since the visitors came that Mr. Mouse nestled in so nicely.  He must have slipped in while the kitchen door was open.  (Need to get those gauze doors)

This was our view from the kitchen a few weeks ago…

Before

And this is how it looks now…

The busy team

It’s a flurry of activity.  The guys and girls have sacrificed their holiday to come and work and make a difference to our poverty-stricken South Africa.  Among them is a rugby team from Cardiff, Wales.

The team interacting with some kids from the Lindelani Informal Settlement in Freedom Park.

They have some rugby matches lined up for the duration of their stay with local teams.  If they’re not playing, the whole team is involved in upgrading the 1in1Out site.  If all goes well, the site will be transformed into a skills development centre to benefit the immediate community firstly, then others there-after.

Constructing a floor

Here you can see the guys busy constructing a floor for the intended crèche.  The idea is that the space between the 2 red containers will be converted into a common play-area for the kids.  The team leader, Bill Hebner from Canada, is a huge advocate for container living as he himself has lived in one.  So he knows firsthand the benefits etc.

They have done a tremendous amount thus far.

Shuffling some sand away

The team from First National Bank

The team from First National Bank also jumped in.  Here they are painting the RDP house.

The team packing food

This is how some of the team members spent their Saturday night…packing food for the destitute.

We thank God for them.  They have come to make a difference…and indeed they are doing so.  As for my other guest…not sure how to get rid of him.  We have sporadically placed rat poison in strategic places.  Obviously this poses a danger as I have 2 small kids.  Do you have any suggestions that are safe and not harmful to the environment?  Please send them through!  Help…my house smells like mouse!

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Life-changing tips (at least for me!)

I have been self-employed since 2004 and then we had our first-born in 2007.

Chelsea at 14 mths

Up until then I was lucky enough to have very little house chores.  After all, it was just me and Ashley.  Some nights we would just eat out, or just have sandwiches.  I could get away with doing the washing once a week, and even clean the house once a week.  After that, everything dramatically changed.

As some of you well know, suddenly there was an extra little person to consider.  No more date nights (at least not for 3 years!), no more going to bed early, and no more freedom!!!

Then in August 2009, Kirsten came.

Kirsten at 4 mths

All of a sudden I had more than three loads of washing every day, I had a busy toddler to look after and I had a baby who needed attention 24/7. On top of that I had to cook wholesome and healthy meals daily.  (That’s beside cleaning the house and cleaning up after them!)  Life had taken a huge turn for me.

Now life happens to everybody and I believe through sharing our life experiences we learn to deal with it quicker.

So how are we supposed to do it all?  I have learned over the years that the golden rule is PLANNING…PLANNING…PLANNING!

I try to abide by it as much as I can.  It is not easy especially not with kids around.  So I have drafted a short list of tips that help me get by.  I hope it makes sense to you.

  1. At one stage I had a Home Binder System.  It is basically a management file for you family and home.  It can work really well and save a lot of time and money.  Unfortunately I forgot it in Cape Town.  (I am hoping the next guest from CPT will be kind enough to tag it along) It will definitely make my life a lot easier.  You can Google it: home binder or household notebook.  My best advice is, make it pretty and personal.  If it makes you smile you’re halfway there.

2.     I try to plan our evening meals for the whole month at a time.  I have neglected it for a few months.  But it really does work.  It relieves that stress of worrying what to cook, and it helps me keep the pantry and fridge stocked with the relevant food.  Here is a typical example of a weeks evening meals planned and an estimate of how much it cost (4 servings):

  • Monday – lasagna & salad (R 60)
  • Tuesday – creamy peri-peri chicken livers & rice (R40)
  • Wednesday – homemade pizza’s with mince and chicken toppings (R45)
  • Thursday – Fishcakes, mash and squash (R 30)
  • Friday – Chicken stir-fry & rice (R 30)

Now my shopping trolley will more or less include:

  • 1 kg mince (stretches for 2 meals)
  • 1kg chicken livers (1 meal)
  • Rice (± 10 meals)
  • Flour (2 breads & 2 pizza’s)
  • Lasagne sheets (2 meals)
  • 1 can pilchards (1 meal)
  • Potato’s & Squash (2 meals)
  • 500 g Chicken breasts (1 meal)
  • Frozen stir-fry vegetables (2 meals)
  • Green leaf salad (3 meals)

3.     I have also decided to start rewarding myself! Like most homes, we have tons of piggy banks all over the place. So I have decided I’m going to have at least 10 items on my to-do list daily. For every item I complete by the end of the day, I’m going to give myself 20 cents. So if I complete everything on my to-do list that day…I’ll have made a R2,00…and by the end of the month, I’ll have made at least R60 (if my to-do lists are done!), and then I’m going to treat myself to something I want!  I know it’s not a lot, but at least I can buy underwear, or flowers, or shoes!

4. I try to plan my day the night before. If I map it out, it is much easier to be prepared for whatever happens. As site managers, we have to be ready for unexpected guests at anytime. My kitchen always needs to be tidy and I always need a home-baked treat in the pantry for hungry mouths.

5. I have 3 laundry bins. I have labeled them: Whites, brights and bedding. This makes sorting much easier and I can quickly do a load if I have time. I also put a load in the washing machine just before bedtime. This saves a lot of time and I can hang the washing early morning.

These are just a few tips that have helped me keep sane. They are easy and make my daily load a little lighter. Do you have any tips you would like to share with me? Kindly send them through. The more we share, the more we learn!  Go on…send them!!!

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Being a cheapie pays off!

I am an recycling junkie.  I also love spending little to get maximum results.  I guess that makes me a stingy, recycling Interior Decorator?

People always ask me how I do it.  Thus I have decided to give you a practical example of how a space can be transformed on a minimum budget.

This is our dining room…

Dining room

Now this is how it looked a few weeks ago…

Dining room before

Now here is a breakdown of how I personalised the space in a few weeks time:

  • First we cleared the room.  Then we painted it with paint found on site.
  • Then we cleaned the gunk of the floors.
  • We brought in the table we also salvaged from the site.  The chairs are ours but it was an olive green colour.
  • We painted the table and chairs a crisp white colour
  • I decorated the space with items I found in and around the house

Salvaged dining table

Green chairs before

Here is a breakdown of the items in the room so you can get an idea.

Dining room breakdown

  1. This lampshade is one of my own designs.  I made it from a old bamboo blind. The stand I bought at a factory store years ago for R120,00.
  2. The glass jar I picked up for R5,00 at a Boere-basaar when we stayed in Philadelphia a few years ago.  We now live on a grassland, so the grass I picked outside.
  3. The artwork of the Cross I painted myself in 2008.
  4. Ashley loves red.  He picked up the red Chalice glasses at R15,00 each a few years ago.
  5. The cutie-pie teacups and saucers are an heirloom from my Granny who stays in Cape Town.  She is 97 years old and still going strong!
  6. Our friends Frank and Jo-Anne brought the coconut from Mozambique earlier this year.
  7. I bought the grass place mats in Jeffreysbay in 2007 at R20,00 for the set of 6.
  8. The table we salvaged and painted ourselves.  The paint cost R110.00
  9. The white dinner set was a gift from my mom on my 29th birthday.  Over the years I have added to it.  That’s the advantage of having a white set.
  10. The chairs we bought at Weylandts annual warehouse sale in 2008 at R 99.00 a piece.
  11. The “Holy Spirit” branch I picked up while taking a stroll with the kids last year. A friend made a remark the first time he saw it and said it reminded him of the Holy Spirit hovering over us.

So if you add the totals we spent R 600,00 over a period of 4 years.  Take into account that most of the stuff I bought before we moved here. This brings the total of the project down to R110,00 for the paint we used for the table and chairs.  This is proof that with little money, creativity and time you can transform your place into a beautiful space that you love coming home to!

PS: I guess you saw the shortage of Cornishes and Skirtings.  We also need proper lighting. We are working on it, will keep you updated.

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Overhauling

” Perfection is attained by slow degrees, it requires the hand of time.”-Voltaire

Like some of you might know, a renovation can either make or break you.  So far, I am standing.  Or should I say WE are.

Everyday is an adventure.  I have always been a DIY girl.  I just adore drills, and power tools.  So chopping and changing comes naturally.  I am so fanatic about finishing and perfection, it can sometimes drive me mad.  Many times I find myself laying awake at 03h00 in the morning mulling about what colour I should paint the wall in the bedroom or how I can fix the squeaking door in the kitchen!

We have been overhauling on a zero budget for the last few weeks. This drives me to always think out of the box.  So with little (or sometimes no) money, here is a summary in pics of what we have been up to the past 9 weeks:

Bathroom

Before

After

Main Bedroom

Before

After

Kitchen

Before

After

Before

After

Dining Room

Before

 

After

Before

After

That makes me smile.  Alas! We are not done yet.  I think it will always be a work in progress.  The brain of a creative is never satisfied, ask me!

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Trouble with the neighbours…

Last week we got the devastating news that Ashley’s grandfather, Daddy May, passed on. He had been sick for a few weeks and passed away on Tuesday, 1 March 2011.  So we swiftly packed and within hours we were on the road to Cape Town.

Firstly let me say, although Daddy May was Ashley’s grandfather, he was actually his Dad. He literally became his father when Ashley’s parents unfortunately divorced.  So this was really a big blow to both him and his family.

So all went well with the funeral and we left Paarl a week later and arrived in Egoli on Wednesday, 9 March at around 9 in the morning.

After 14 hours on the road with a fully-loaded car and two nagging babes, the only thing I could think of was a glorious nap.

But we had a rude awakening when our helper and house sitter, Chris, gave us the news that one of our neighbours gave some trouble.  He came into the yard while Chris was inside and chopped off a bunch of trees!  This was our view when we initially moved in…

And this is how it looks now…

We were flabbergasted!  How can someone just come onto one’s property and do as he pleases?  I was devastated! I am not sure what type of trees they were…but they offered us some protection and privacy.  Before we couldn’t even see those rooftops.

Chris is from Zimbabwe and has been living with us for a few weeks. We have known him for the last three years.  Workers from neighbouring countries are regularly victims of Xenophobia, so he was forced to stay out of the whole debacle and watched helplessly as they cut off the trees.

Yesterday we decided to go around to the unknown neighbour who stays in this house…

We went around to the main entrance of their house on the other side and was greeted by a very hostile man who we suspected was the culprit.  Initially he made us believe he was only renting and will give us the number of the owner.  But upon us revealing why we were there…he totally blew a gasket!

He swore and shouted and rambled on about how nobody tells him what to do…and he does not give a hoot (that’s putting it mildly) about what anybody thinks of him!

We are still reeling about what happened.  We consider ourselves “good” neighbours.  We are reasonable people and are always willing to talk things through.  We don’t promote violence and malicious behaviour at all.  Ashley kept very calm while being sworn and shouted at all the while talking over the fence.  He refused to let us in his property.  His wife seemed very helpless and was willing to talk things through but her husband totally dominated the situation and we eventually left.

We immediately called the police and have decided to lay a formal charge.  This is not ideal, but we cannot just leave it there.  It is just not fair to us, or to the planet.  We don’t know what his reasons were, but the least he could have done, was consult us in the matter.

We pray that the situation will not get messy.  We have long-term plans to lay a herb and vegetable garden and will now also have to plant some trees to replace those lost.

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