About Miss Helen and the Owl House: Red

For Helen Martins, bringing light and life into her home was one of her biggest accomplishments. During her creative period, between 1945, after the death of her father, and her own suicide in 1978 she created a wonderfully light and colourful home, reflecting light through shaped mirrors and shattered glass.

Helen loved the colour red, which she felt was the colour of passion. Her ‘precious red glass’ was a lot harder to find than brown beer bottles during her creative period.

It is also the colour of the honeymoon room, where a red sun with “jealous”, green eyes keep watch.

The window between the long bedroom and the honeymoon room as well as the kitchen window was replaced with red glass, which would have cost her a considerable amount of money.

Sue Ross tells in her book “This is my world” that Helen used to have her mirrors ordered and delivered to Nieu Bethesda. Her orders were very specific, and many shapes can be seen inside the house still. Especially mirrors cut into the shape of handheld mirrors were her favourite. There are also crescent moons and suns throughout the house.

In the book, a tale of Helen and her lover of 21 years, Johannes Hattingh, regaled by his daughter tells the story of Mrs Hattingh’s ruby and diamond brooches and rings. The transformation of her house was also what brought the couple together as this is when they started spending time together. 

His daughter, Machteld, also tells of a bright red velvet chocolate box with a little mirror on top, which Hattingh had given to Mrs Hatting in 1915. His daughter tells how badly Helen wanted the pretty box that Mrs Hattingh used as a jewellery box.

My own grandmother, Freda van Heerden, tells of a day when she ran into Helen Martins during a shopping spree in Graaff-Reinet. “She used to come across as very neglected, duty from working with cement and her hands were very dried and scarred. On that day, however, she was dressed in a beautiful red dress. Very fancy! It seems that her sister, Alida, had just passed away and Helen had inherited all her sister’s clothes.”

Colour was very important to Helen, who filled her home and garden with sculptress from glass, a feast for the eyes.

Yet, her red glass was supposedly very precious to her.

It was her wish that she be cremated and that her ashes be mixed with red glass and mounted on Oswald her favourite owl who stands sentinel at the back door. “But the dominee might think me a little strange …”

Gisela’s Shanghai Steak and party lines

Making kudu fillet always reminds me of my Karoo neighbour, Gisela Kingwill. If the grapevine had a name, it would be Gisela.

A small village like Nieu-Bethesda lives on gossip. It keeps us connected and in tune with each other.

Most people think that it’s the biggest flaw of small towns, but it’s not. It isn’t malicious or scathing. It’s about staying in touch.

Living in the city, how many of your neighbours do you actually know? In Nieu-Bethesda we know all of them, even the inkommers that you’ve never met. We joke about them and the money they spent on fixing their roof. But everyone knows your comings and goings.

But when it comes to gossip no one was better than my neighbour Gisela. She knew everyone and everything that was happening in the furthest reaches of our community.

Kids today will never understand what a party line is. We had one telephone landline for three to six farms connected to each other. That was the only line available to you and your neighbours as well as your internet connection. Dial-up of course.

You would randomly pick up the phone (oh shoot, the light was on!) and stumble into a conversation between your neighbour and his mom. (Sorry, Howard!)

Our light was mostly on. Always and constantly, because we shared a line with Gisela.

To give you some context, we used to have a little farm school for grade one to four on our farm. She was the teacher to all the grades – about 20 kids – and the principal.

It was great, because she also had the power to sign your documents as she was the principal!

But, as such, she was on our farm every day, five days a week. She would drive from Ripplemead, their farm, 20 odd kilometres away, pick up all the kids on the way and teach them in the little school house on Doornberg. There are no school buses. This is rural Eastern Cape. The roads aren’t’ even paved.

But I digress.

Gisela would see my parents most days and chat endlessly and then go home in the avie and call them again, you know, just to have another hour-long chat.

And then she would call her other neighbours and family and friends and have another chat.

As a teenager in the nineties, with no cell phones and a dial-up connection, this was our only way of communicating. Unless you climbed a mountain with your brick cell phone to send a text. You know, proper texting. Pressing the 7 four times for an S. Before WhatsApp and Wi-Fi.  

But if you wanted to know anything about anyone, you called Gisela. You should also know that the conversation will take about an hour, but there was no better person to ask.

I say this in jest and love. You know, like we do in small towns. My love for Gisela ran deep. Her family and mine are intertwined as only neighbours in the Karoo can be. My sister and her son are as close as any brother and sister can be.

This story refers to her in the past because unfortunately, Gisela contracted jaundice, maybe from one of the kids in the tiny school, and she got very very sick. Her liver and kidneys had started to fail and she died a few days later.

My memories of Gisela will always be fond even though teenager-me hated that party-line. She was salt of the earth. She was memorable. She was a loving mom and a great neighbour.

She is in my thoughts today because I have a kudu fillet that I am currently marinating. Shanghai steak. Her recipe. It is delicious. And I can’t make it without thinking about her.

The school closed after Gisela passed away. There were no teachers left in the small village that could take over. But you can now book a stay there and sleep in the rambling memories of children running, the smell of chalk and Gisela telling stories.

To book your stay at Doornberg School House, visit www.nieubethesda.co.za.

Oh, and if you want to make your own Shanghai steak, here is the recipe:

Shanghai Steak Stirfry

1 kg steak (beef or kudu), sliced thinly – ½ cm
25 ml soya sauce
25 ml Worcestershire sauce
25 ml oil
25 ml corn flour
Beat all the ingredients together to mix well. Marinade steak strips for 24 hours. Stir-fry in an oil/margarine mixture.

(This and other great recipes are available in the Karoo Family Favourites cookbook. Buy yours at Union Preparatory School: 049 892 3848)

Tips from a waiter

Want to make sure your waiter never spits in your food? Follow these tips!

Working as a waiter for the last two years have taught me a lot of patience. We have the best and nicest guests, but every server has a few pet peeves that we all struggle with. As such my fellow servers and I have come up with a list of annoying things people do.

  • Don’t seat yourself.
  • Do not seat yourself and expect us to know that you magically appeared from thin air. And then sarcastically ask to see a menu.
  • Don’t seat yourself at the only dirty table in the shop (just as the previous guests are leaving).
  • Don’t seat yourself at a dirty table and then complain about it being dirty and then insist on seeing a menu while your waiter is cleaning up.
  • Do NOT move the tables and chairs around. Our shop is set up a certain way to ensure that we can reach all the tables and everyone has some space.
  • On that note: Do not be a chauvinistic asshole and push your seat so far back that you block any passage around your table.
  • Do NOT stand in the thoroughfare to have an hour-long conversation with your long-lost friend. There are other customers in the restaurant that can’t be served if their waiter can’t reach them.
  • Bikers: I now your helmet is probably worth more than this shop. But it isn’t going to order food and thus cannot have a table all to itself. This goes for all sport and leisure gear, guys. Ladies, your handbags also falls in this category.
  • If you are dining alone, please try not to take a seat at a table for four.
  • If you have a reservation arrive, on time, or call to cancel. Don’t bring extra guests along and expect us to somehow fit another person after carefully planning the bookings and seats.
  • Read the menu! Don’t complain about the ingredients of a dish if it was clearly stated in black and white.
  • Dear customers, we only have two hands. We didn’t forget your order, but can only manage so many plates at one time.
  • In the same vein, if someone at your table orders water, you can too. Don’t make us walk up and down five times just to fetch five glasses of water.
  • Don’t touch your waiter. Ever.
  • This goes especially for grabbing your waiter by the arm while they are speaking to another guest. It’s rude to both the waiter and the customers they are serving.
  • Good food takes time. Waiting half an hour for a dish in a busy restaurant is not a long time. If you want fast food, head over to McDonald’s.
  • Tip your waiter. Even if your food took half an hour. Even if the table next to you got their food first, although they arrived 30 seconds after you. This is South Africa. We work for minimum wage and really need the tips.
  • Do not tip your waiter R3 on a R800 tab. Then just don’t tip. R3 isn’t going to pay my rent and to be honest, its an insult. Just keep it. The only people who ever tip R3 are those that complain the most anyway. Whatever, ma’am, I won’t lose sleep over the fact that you were upset over the bread crumb on your table, the temperature of your coffee or that we don’t serve pizza for your snotty child. I work hard to earn a living and don’t need to be insulted by someone disgruntled by the world as a whole.

Thank you to the magnificent people that look after us, tip well and make us smile. You are the reason we haven’t killed anyone with a kitchen knife… yet.

Lentedag: ‘n Nuwe begin en die einde van irrasionele vrese

Ek het ’n irrasionele vrees vir enigiets wat eindig. Miskien is dit eintlik net rasioneel. Of my rasionaal in elk geval.

Ek kan nie die laaste episode van ‘n TV-reeks kyk tensy die volgende reeks reeds bekend gestel is nie. Die afwagting maak my dood. Dieselfde met boeke. As daar meer as een in ‘n reeks is moet ek almal hê, anders kan ek fisies nie die boek klaar lees nie. Die Hunger Games het vir my geëindig driekwart deur die tweede boek.

Ek is seer-seker die enigste persoon wat nog nie Game of Thrones klaar gekyk het nie, want ek het opgehou met die voorlaaste episode in die eerste reeks.

Netso kan ek ook nie konflik hanteer nie. Dit beteken dat ek eerder ‘n vriendskap of verhouding sal laat doodloop eerder as om die konflik en die einde daarvan te moet ervaar.

Dit fizzle maar net in stilte tot sy dood.

In my gedagtes gaan dit dalk nog aan, iewers, miskien in ‘n parallelle heelal.

Soos ek sê, irrasioneel.

Ongelukkig affekteer dit ook die manier wat ek werk. Niemand kan ‘n deadline uitstel en uitstel tot hy fisies nie meer kan as ek nie. Dit frustreer almal wat saam met my werk en ek besef dat hierdie verklaring moontlik daartoe gaan lei dat ek nooit weer werk kry nie. Of dalk gaan dit juis nou verander! Ek het immers die eerste tree gegee in die regte rigting! Mens moet immers jou foute aanvaar en erken wanneer jy ‘n probleem het, dan nie?

Vandag is lentedag! So ek het besluit om ‘n end te sit aan hierdie baie slegte lyn van denke.

Om mee te begin: Ek kan ook nie die laaste bietjie sjampoe uit ‘n bottel gebruik nie. Ek raak antsy die oomblik as dit te min raak en sal dan nuwes koop voor ek uithardloop. Die probleem is, dat na ‘n jaar lyk my badkamer so:

Dus het ek besluit om op te ruim, skoon te maak en uit te gooi. Uit die puin het ek ‘n HELE bottel sjampoe en opknapper kon red! As ek dit laas week geweet het kon ek dalk my geld beter aangewend het. (Die wintermaande is maar skraal.)

Ek voel egter uiters verlig. Ligter, beter, skoner met die wete dat ek vandag iets kon bereik.

Ongelukkig is dit deel van depressie. Jy stel uit en uit tot jy nie meer kan nie. Dit het ook natuurlik my werk (skryfwerk) beïnvloed aangesien ek nie ‘n pen kon optel nie. Dus is hierdie storie oor meer as net sjampoe. Dit gaan ook oor die feit dat ek dit kon neerpen, vir die eerste keer in maande.

Dalk kom my vrees uit meer as wat ek hier noem. Dalk was daar net te veel slegte eindes en dis makliker om net nie te weet HOE dit eindig nie. As daar ‘n ope einde is, beteken dit dalk daar is ‘n beter uitkomste as dit wat ek weet onvermydelik is. (Daar is heelwat stories hier, maar dis vir ‘n ander dag.)

So, aan almal wat ek laat gaan het oor die laaste paar jaar, weet net dis nie jy nie. Ek hoop daar is ‘n toekoms, of ten minste ‘n afsluiting, aan ons gesamentlike avontuur.

Om terug te kom na die sjampoe: Het enigiemand sulke bottels nodig vir ‘n projek of ‘n organisasie? Ek het hope!  

Boetie Bar en die Brigadier

(Na ‘n vriendin gister ‘n foto op Facebook geplaas het van die Brigadier wat op 3 Oktober 2010 oorlede is, het ek besluit om hierdie storie te publiseer wat al lank op my hardeskyf lê en wag … )

Nieu Bethesda, weggesteek tussen die Sneeuberge van die Oos-Kaap is bekend vir verskeie toeriste aantreklikhede. Die mees bekende is Helen Martins se Uilhuis, maar deesdae, met die toeloop van mense, spog die dorp nou met sowat twaalf restaurante, waaronder ook ‘n bierbrouery en hope gastehuise.

Die dorp het baie verander die afgelope paar jaar, veral ná die teerpad van die N9 tot amper in die dorp voltooi is.

Voorheen was die klein gemeenskap meer geslote, afgesonder van die res van die wêreld en miskien ook meer afhanklik van mekaar.

Die dorp is egter nog steeds klein genoeg dat jy elkeen van die inwoners leer ken. Daar is byvoorbeeld oom Boetie Pienaar, ‘n boer en een van die historiese Pienaars wat al jare en jare in die gebied woon. Meer onlangs is daar ook Boetie Bester, ‘n kruie-boer en die bar-man by die plaaslike kroeg. Om tussen die twee te onderskei praat die mense sommer van Boetie-boer en Boetie-bar.
Dié storie gaan oor oom Boetie-bar, wat self deesdae boer, maar eintlik oor die Brigadier wat hom geleer het hoe om sy eerste uie te plant.

Brigadier Chris Roberts was voorheen een van die bekendste inwoners van die dorp. Hy was jare tevore (voor die range verander en toe wéér verander het) ‘n brigadier in die polisiediens en het graag sy titel aan almal voorgehou. Meeste inwoners sal jou vertel hoe ‘n brombeer die Brigadier was. Moeilik. Vol draadwerk.

Volgens inwoners was die Brigadier se pa die padmaker op die dorp en het hy moontlik gevoel dat hy homself op een of ander manier moes bewys. Snaaks dat die dorp se mense sy pa as die mooiste, sagste persoon onthou. Toe die Brigadier uiteindelik sy miljoen maak, was daar tot ‘n artikel in die plaaslike koerant. En op ‘n stadium het hy elkeen van sy geboue in Bethesda (en daar was heelwat, waaronder die winkel, sy huis en store) se dakke helder oranje geverf. Moontlik net om te wys dis sýne.

Maar soos my ouma nou die dag sê toe ek haar dié storie vertel: “Daar is goed in elkeen van ons.”

Boetie Bester en sy vrou Pikkie het in 2008 Nieu Bethesda toe getrek. Hulle was platsak. Boetie het alles verloor toe die vervoermaatskappy waar hy vir jare gewerk het onder hom gedisintegreer het.

“Ons het niks gehad nie,” vertel hy van dié moeilike tyd. “Net die huis en stukkie grond in Bethesda.”

Hy en Pikkie het opgepak en sak en pak getrek Bethesda toe.

Hulle was “inkommers”, nuwelinge, en het nie mense geken nie.

Tog het hulle eendag gehoor hoe ‘n bakkie voor die huis stop.

“ ‘n Groot ou man, met ‘n bos hare en ‘n kierie het uitgeklim en aan die deur kom klop. Hy het gevra wie ek is, en ek sê toe ‘Boetie Bester’ toe sê hy ‘Ek is Brigadier Chris Roberts!’, “ vertel Boetie van agter die dorp se kroeg.

“Nou wat kom maak jy hier?” wou die Brigadier weet, en Boetie antwoord dat hulle nou hier bly. Hy het nie gesê dat hulle platsak was en dat al wat hulle oorgehad het, dié huis en plot is nie.

“Hier,” sê die Brigadier toe terwyl hy na die oop stuk veld langsaan wys, “moet jy uie plant.” Boetie vertel hoe hy saam moes stap na die land waar die Brigadier hom mooi gewys het hoe ver uitmekaar (graaf-breedte) daar geplant moet word.

Maar Boetie is nie ‘n boer nie. “Nee wat Brigadier, ek kan nie plant nie. Ek het nie die implemente of ‘n trekker nie. Ek weet niks van boerdery nie.”

Die Brigadier wou egter niks weet nie en sê vir Boetie dat hý ‘n trekker het en dit Maandag sal bring om die land om te ploeg.

Maandag gekom moes Boetie en Pikkie in Port Elizabeth wees en hy het sy sus gevra om te gaan kyk wat daar aangaan. “En wragtag, laat sy weet, die swart rook trek soos die trekker die land omploeg.”

Terug in Bethesda het Boetie gaan besoek aflê by die Brigadier se huis, die groot een met die bont tuin en die oranje dak, soos jy inkom in die dorp.

“Ek het geklop en sy vrou (dis nou sy tweede vrou, Liz) het ons ingelaat en na hom geneem waar hy diep in sy stoel gesit het. Hy het nie eens opgestaan nie en ek moes om hom loop om met hom te praat. Ek sê toe dankie, ek sien die lande is omgeploeg, waarop hy antwoord dat hy ‘n man van sy woord is en ‘natuurlik’ is dit geploeg. Hy het dan gesê hy kom. Ek wou weet wat ek hom skuld. Hy sê toe hy is nie groot op dankies nie, en kan nie verstaan hoekom ek die heeltyd met hom oor geld wil praat nie. En ek is daar uit na ek gesê het dat ons weer sal praat.”

Twee dae later is die Brigadier terug by Boetie se voordeur. “Kom,” sê hy vir Boetie. “Ek sal vir jou uieplantjies gee, maar moenie dink dat ék dit gaan uithaal nie.” Hulle is daar weg in die bakkie en na hulle ‘n paar helpers opgepik het in Pienaarsig het hulle begin uie uithaal.

Boetie self diep in die land, met sy helpers rondom hom, en die Brigadier kort op sy hakke met sy kierie wat kyk en seker maak hulle doen dit reg. “So het ons 16 kratte uieplantjies uitgehaal.”

Die Brigadier wou nie hoor van geld nie (“Moenie met my praat oor geld nie!”), maar het vir Boetie dood voor die oë gesweer indien hy selfs net een van die plantjies aan iemand anders verkoop.

“Ek het dit nooit vir die Brigadier gesê nie,” vertel Boetie. “Maar die dag toe ek die plantjies gekry het was my verjaardag.”

So is Boetie huis toe met sy uieplantjies, in kratte gepak, na sy omgeploegde landerye.

Die volgende oggend staan die Brigadier reg met die helpers. “Wat weet jy van boerdery, hé?” en saam is hulle die land in waar hy mooi met sy kierie verduidelik het hoe om te plant – ‘n duim uitmekaar, graaf-breedte – maak nat.

Ten einde het hulle 45000 plantjies geplant. Twee kratte het oorgebly en is net so terug na die Brigadier (“Is jy séker jy het nie aan iemand anders iets verkoop nie?”).

Boetie se eerste oes het 350 sakkies uie opgelewer. Sedertdien het hy ook knoffel begin plant en deesdae, alhoewel hy nog agter die bar ook werk, is hy en Pikkie weer op hul eie voete.

So het die Brigadier en Boetie se vriendskap stadig maar seker sterker geword. Miskien juis omdat Boetie ‘n “inkommer” was, soos die Brigadier sou sê.

Daar was heelwat baklei ook, want die Brigadier was nou een maal nie ‘n maklike man nie. Die keer wat Boetie die planters meer geld aangebied het na hulle gestaak het: “Wat weet jy? ‘n Inkommer?! Dan wil jy sommer betaal wat jy wil betaal. Jy met jou dorpsmaniere!”

Of die keer wat Boetie hom genooi het vir potjie toe sy vrou uitstedig was. (Die Brigadier het sy bord blinkgeëet en ná ‘n tweede porsie vir Boetie ingelig dat hy niks weet van pot maak nie.) Dieselfde met die dag toe hy by Boetie gebraai het. “Wat weet jy van braai? Julle inkommers weet niks! Jy moet kom dat ék jou wys.”

Of die keer toe Boetie te veel vrae gevra het oor uie boer: “Hoe moet ék weet? Ek’s nie God nie!”

Dis hier waar Boetie, wat stuk-stuk swaar vertel het oor sy vriend, erg bedroef raak. “So is dit toe so dat Liz my een aand bel. Die ou man het geval. Ons moet kom help.”

Hy was in groot pyn en met ‘n groot gesukkel het Boetie, Liz en Pikkie die Brigadier in sy ou Mercedes gelaai. “Jy stamp nié my kar nie!” waarsku die ou man vir Boetie vanuit die agtersitplek.

“Die ou man was ten volle by sy sinne, wou die heel tyd weet waar ons is en het tot vir my verduidelik hoe om tot by die hospitaal te ry.”

Kort na hy opgeneem is die aand, tussen ‘n geskarrel om ‘n aar te kry wat nie platgeval het nie, het die Brigadier vir Boetie nader geroep en gesê: “Hulle soek die short in my. Daar is iets fout met my.”

Oom Boetie ween.

In die vroeë oggendure, kort na hulle by die huis gestop het, het hulle die oproep kry. Die ou man is dood. Kort na sy laaste woorde aan Boetie.

Net so stilweg. Weg.

Oh, to be remembered

Said someone last night: “It’s nice to be remembered.”

This after a guy recognised me in the bistro I work most nights. To my estimation it had to be 7 or 8 years since we met. He remembered that I was a writer.

I think everyone wants to be remembered. I recall a poem from my years at school about someone who wrote his name on a jail cell wall – his way of being infinite. I can’t remember who wrote it anymore, but the whole idea was that the poet wrote the poem as his own way of being infinite. In a way, it worked. The idea of the poem has always been in the back of my head.

I guess as a journalist the hardest thing is that no one really remembers your name. Not in the sense that an author of a great book becomes a household name. Think Elliot, Bronte and Hemingway. When it comes to a news article, however, readers are only interested in the facts of the article. They don’t care about who it was that wrote the words or the blood and tears it took to put pen to paper. Most people knew who I was, yet couldn’t remember my name … only the name of the paper I worked.

I guess that’s why journalists are so irreplaceable.

It doesn’t take much to rewrite a press release or put together the facts.

My masters degree makes me too expensive and the experience I bring doesn’t mean much if you can appoint an intern at a quarter of the cost.

I used to be very very good at chasing the story, building relationships. Being first on the scene … But at what cost?

It broke me. It broke my heart to have to interview the people who had just lost someone to a crime committed in their home or in an accident. The job you have to do as a journalist is extremely important. You are the voice of your community. You are the one to warn families about all the bad that happens around them. The voice of reason. Of caution. The messenger.

I gave up that life to write about the things I wanted to write about. Another journalist once told me: “You’re like me. You have to write. The ink flows in your veins.”

Yet, if someone asks me what I do for a living it is difficult to say. I have seven bosses, including the one at the bistro where I am “Elbé the waiter”. (There is only one letter difference between writer and waiter for a reason I think … )

So I traded. Not up or down, but to something completely different.

And tonight it was just nice to be remembered. Even if he could probably never say what exactly it is that I wrote.

UPDATE: I had to call my Afrikaans teacher to find the poem I referred to. As it happens it is part of the matric curriculum! It’s called “Besoekersboek” (Visitor’s book) and written by Fanie Olivier. You can read it here.

My first time baking bread: soft and fluffy olive bun

Having never baked bread before, it seemed like a good idea to take on a simple recipe. The idea of baking bread is daunting, yet there is nothing more satisfying than the smell of fresh bread baking as it fills your home.

Growing up on a farm, my mother used to always bake bread, but I’ve never been a fan of home-made bread, which tends to be quite heavy and dense.

I read an article about, Psomi,  a simple Greek bread recipe using olive oil, flour, yeast, sugar and water. By adjusting the recipe slightly and adding some olives to the mix, the end product was a wonderfully soft loaf full of flavour.

Although it takes a few hours to make, this is mostly due to waiting for the bread to rise. The baking itself only takes about 45 minutes.


  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (I will reduce this to a ½ when adding olives)
  • 30 ml of good quality olive oil and extra for oiling the loaf
  • ½ cup of quality olives (make sure they’re not too salty!)


Mix the yeast with ¼ cup of flour, sugar and water and whisk. Leave the yeast mixture until it starts to foam. (For a more yeasty bread, you can leave the mixture for an hour or two.)

Sift the rest of the flour and salt. Add the olives and start adding it to the oil and yeast mixture until a dough starts forming. Knead the dough on a floured surface, adding flour if necessary to form a smooth dough. Knead for about 5 minutes and cover in olive oil, leaving it in a warm place to rest.

When the dough had doubled in size, about 2 hours, pat it down and knead again for about 2 minutes. Form the dough in a round shape and cover it in oil again. Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray or oil and leave the loaf to rest until it doubles in size again.

When the dough has doubled in size again, about an hour, it’s ready to bake! Brush the loaf with water and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.  Take the loaf out and brush with water again. Put it back for another 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown. You’ll know when it’s ready if it makes a hollow sound when knocked.

The end result is a crusty, but beautifully soft and fluffy loaf, interspersed with olives.

Enjoy with a hearty soup or with olive oil and dukkah.

NOTE: I didn’t taste the olives I used in the recipe and the bread ended up being too salty. I would suggest tasting them beforehand to stop this from happening!

Cats and dogs and their owners

I have a black cat. Her name is Thandi, which means beloved in Xhosa. I had her for three years before she joined my parents on the farm as she was too unruly to live in town.

They say that cats and dogs take on their owners identity. Just look at the pictures of dog owners and how much they look like they owners! In the same way, my dad has always owned a Labrador.  The latest one, Cindy, is lovable and sweet and drives around everywhere with my dad on his quad bike, together with our little dachshund Sam.

With cats, they supposedly take on personality traits. My sister’s cat, Tiertjie, a massive Cancun and something mixture, is a beautiful grey ball of fur, but cuddly at all. In the same way my sister will give you all the love in the world, but not in a touchy-feely kind of way.

Thandi, on the other hand, is a full on bitch.

I’m not sure what that says about me, but she has this habit of loving you to bits. But will then turn around and grab you with her nails, usually drawing blood! She is extremely playful though and loves playing hide and seek, but if you were to put a clothes horse out to hang your clothes, you’re not allowed within 2 metres of the thing or she will completely lose her cool.

If it were true that cats and their owners have the same personality, I am a little worried about what that says about me? I am playful, but only up to a point … and then I become a full-on bitch?

Making new friends as a freelancer

I think the hardest part of starting as a freelancer was all the time I suddenly had to spend with myself. I actually think that I’m rather good company and always up for a laugh, but that becomes a bit difficult if you only have a cat for company most of the day.

I then suddenly become anxious to meet new and exciting people, something that has never been an issue for me, but now I have to find creative ways to do so.

Hanging out with a visiting friend, I actually realised that I tend to know a lot of people. Yet, when its time to light the fire for a braai, I don’t really have that many people to call. The other night however, we decided to have a nice steak evening and invited a few friends over.

As it happened, all the guys were busy and we ended up being only five girls on the night. And what a wonderful evening it turned out to be!

We had beer on tap, thanks to my buurvrou, Die Biervrou, steak and salad and wonderful conversation. We laughed and drank beer and later wine while telling stories and supporting each other and mostly just having a good time.

Making friends in a new job is hard. When you don’t technically have a job its even harder, but enjoying the friends you have around you is a wonderful blessing!

How many guys do you know that could say they had a perfectly braaied steak and beer on tap at their last get together?

Let go of the guilt

One of the hardest things about working for yourself is the guilt of not always having something to do, especially if you have just reached a deadline and don’t have a shift at the local bistro. At least Tuesdays seem to be my most productive by far!

I read a wonderful article a while ago about the life of a freelancer, which made me feel a little better about a life of funemployment.

Each small thing or goal met means a great deal. Setting up my web domain and email and getting it to show on my phone (after a rather embarrassing meeting due to the lack of email). Having a shower and getting dressed, even though you don’t have anywhere to be. I mean, you just never know when a friend will call and invite you out for some Valentine’s Day bubbly. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

On my list today:

  • Meet deadline on article
  • Set up email on phone
  • Make bed
  • Install SEO tool
  • Fix web page SEO Fix some of the page’s SEO
  • Fix Facebook page
  • Shower
  • Wear a dress
  • Write a blog
  • Share a blog

A successful day I think!

Some days are busier than others. Some days I have so much admin, it feels like I won’t ever finish. Some days I get up and then head right back to bed with a book. And sometimes I get up really early and finish all (or most) of the things on my to-do list so I can spend the time I do have as a freelancer in a productive way. (Read: wine-tasting.)

I am still not rich or famous, but each step is taking me somewhere I want to be. And for the moment … I am happy! Even though I have no Valentine’s Day plans or any real prospects, at least I am living a happy and healthy life.

(UPDATE: Found a friend! Bubbly will be drunk! It is Valentine’s Day after all …)