Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Like many South Africans, I'm still finding reliable public transport somewhat of a novelty. I'm not a regular train commuter, but just recently have begun catching the train to and from work once a week.

In Perth, residents are fortunate - the trains and buses run on time, are generally clean, and are mostly quite safe. We have one car, and to make it easier for me to do the Kid Run, SuperHero Husband generally catches the train. I have recently started working one full day a week, when he takes the car and does the Kid Run and I take the train.

People must find me very odd on the train. I can't help it - I ogle and stare and grin quietly to myself. Its the other commuters. I find them very interesting to to watch!

In the mornings, you can tell who was running late. The ones who made it on time are neatly dressed, perfectly coiffed and make-up is carefully applied. There are no wrinkled suits and ties are neatly done up. (Except for the school/uni students - they have rules of their own).

You can also spot the hangovers. They have dark glasses, move carefully, and hang on tightly to the nearest pole or strap. They are clearly in desperate need of coffee/more sleep/painkillers.

In the evenings, things are a little different. Those who have had a bad day have shoulders slumped, exhausted looks and the perfectly done make-up may just be sliding off weary faces.

What is consistent is how people distract themselves. Firstly, unless you are a student travelling with mates or colleagues commuting together, conversation is a no-no. You have a few choices:

Stand (or sit if you get on early enough) and look vaguely ahead. Do not make eye contact.

Read a book or magazine. There should actually be a Train Readers List. It would be an interesting mix. You get the blokes in black with little goatees intently reading David Eddings. Or the Mature Lady with a historical romance. You may also get a Jodi Picault or Patricia Cornwell. You seldom see Westerns. And you will always see at least one Harry Potter.

Listen to your Ipod. This is an upgrade to the Stand & Stare option. You can now stand and stare to your own personal soundtrack. I like to try and figure out what they are listening to. Sometimes I can see them flick through their choices and others I will hear the vague tinny shadow from their earphones. On Australian trains, you will be guaranteed that someone (probably from Gen X or the Baby Boomer era) will be listening to either AC/DC, John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes. It's a national obsession.

Play with your phone. Texting is good. Playing games is good. Talking is not so good. If it is in the morning, it will be an early morning business call from someone "over East" who has forgotten that Perth is two hours behind the rest of Australia. In the evenings, it will be the young, child-free folk making arrangements for drinks or a party. The parents just ask what's for dinner and who's cooking.

I enjoy my train journeys. It gets me out of peak hour traffic, is quick and easy, and provides plenty of opportunities to people watch.

Friday, July 17, 2009

As Worn in Outer Space

We have ended up on a direct mail database for a mail order catalogue called Innovations. Now I'm not sure how this happened, but I do know it would be easy to fix. All I'd have to do to stop receiving the catalogues would be to either phone the company or simply return the catalogue.

But I can't.

I'm irresistably drawn to it's intriguing pages, and the delightfully innovative products that it showcases. Take for example the one that caught my eye this month....

"Wonderfully warm slipper socks - as worn in outer space!
These socks are modelled on the slipper socks used by working US astronauts for over 30 years. The socks are made from a soft, cosy and hard-wearing mix of polyester in wool, while the non-slip sole ins genuine suede leather. Ther's even a memory foam insole for the ultimate in cushion-soft comfort. Good looking with a toning suede trim, they will keep your feet and ankles as warm as toast. $19.95"

Now that is really something. Astronauts wear this kind of sock. In outer space! Why would you buy any other kind?

And there are more wonderful items available too, like the Fleecy Liner for your Recliner (give it a fresh new look) or the Shimmer Pink Ironing Board Cover. Or perhaps I'd even fancy my own personal Alcohol Breath Tester (just $99).

Hubby on the other hand, really fancies the Two In One Toaster - it does two slices of toast, AND poaches an egg at the same time!

The girls in turn delight in the fact that they could Speak 12 Languages - Instantly!- with the easy to use global translator.

And while many of the objects are well, um, interesting (did I mention the Colonial-style toilet seat - a fresh look with the warmth of wood), there are some products that I could see being useful. Like the electronic pill timer for example. For people on chronic, routinely needed medicine, this could be a good option. Especially if they are also absent-minded.

But yet while the Adorable Handpainted Garden Ornaments - Cheeky, Cute Meerkats (complete with pink noses and spotty red bandannas) promise to amuse me, I don't quite see how the weatherproof polyresin (with steel spike) charmers will fit into my very Australian garden.

The catalogue is fascinating. Filled with things I could use (the little rails that help slide your in-cupboard dustbin in and out), and the things I never knew I could ever need (like the Ultrasonic Stain Remover), it's at least an hour's worth of boggle-eyed reading.

I don't think I could cancel my catalogue. I may actually buy something from it one day. And when I do, I may even get the Fantastic Free Gift - the Magnifying Nail Clipper!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I've been thinking about sisters a lot lately. I miss my sisters terribly, and watching my girls at play reminds me of the bond we sisters share.

It's not just about being family. Its about the shared memories, the in-jokes, the pet names and the dramas. It's about the fights, the laughs, and the things we simply don't talk about, but remember together. The good times, and the bad times.

My girls are quite close at the moment. The gap between them is three years, and they are still mostly able to play nicely together. Mostly. Today they are rehearsing for a "concert" that they are planning on putting on for us one Sunday in July.

Eldest Daughter is very organised. She has a list of "items" and issues instructions in a very definite manner. Younger Daughter is generally compliant, and happily (for now) follows the required steps to the dance Eldest Daughter has choreographed to Taylor Swift's Love Story (her current favourite song). [Aside: if I hear the song one more time today, I may just puke.]

I remember my Big Sister organising similar shows - I vaguely recall doing ABBA songs and Nativity plays, but I doubt I was as compliant as Younger Daughter is. Maybe that is a specific defense mechanism designed by Little Sisters. I was a Middle child, and fumed quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) at being unable to make my sisters do things my way. And it wasn't just the concerts...

Why would Little Sister willingly go to the shop for Big Sister, and not for me? It bugged me for years, and eventually (when we were past our teens), they finally let me in on the secret. Blackmail. Big Sister would tell Little Sister (who was a gentle soul) that she would run away if she didn't do it.... Now that is sisterhood for you!

When they told me, it caused a huge amount of laughter, and more sharing of the funny things we did.

One of my best Big Sister memories stems from when I was about 11 or 12. It was 1985, and I was about to head off to my first school disco. Big Sister was already in highschool, a veteran of these affairs (and other stuff too....). I was worried because I didn't know how to dance. What if I looked stupid (a big issue when you are 11) or did the wrong thing. Big Sister took me into the lounge that afternoon, and put her record on (we're talking pre-CD days here). And taught me to dance to the sounds of Tainted Love by Soft Cell.

Everytime I hear that song, I remember and smile. It meant so much to me at the time - I was often so in awe of Big Sister, who got to do grown-up things before me - everything from wearing a bra (also a big deal when you're 11) to going to late night parties. It was IMPORTANT to me, to be noticed.

I always wonder if I was a good Bigger Sister to my Younger Sister. I desperately wanted to be, but I was often impatient and got frustrated easily. Younger Sister's quiet way hid a certain strength and independence. She didn't need another bossy big sister - we both had one already.

Younger Sister and I were much closer in age - and much closer in location - for most of our childhood we shared a room, and spent a lot of time blaming each other for the messy room/cupboard. Fights were par for the course (although we didn't fight all the time, I'm sure my parents thought we did).

We'd take turns to "move out" - I remember setting up home in another room in the house, or under the bed, just to have space of my own. Or she'd do it. For some reason, the bathroom was a popular choice. We never dared suggest one of us move in with Big Sister....

But then there were the times we hung those horrid old green bumpy bedspreads between our beds and created tents and magical worlds were we would have endless fun with our imagination and the First Love/ Baby Angel dolls.

I remember that as children, we had times when we were really close, and then as we grew older, our lives changed and although we didn't grow apart, we grew seperately. The age gaps seemed to loom larger, and there were times that we didn't appear to have much in common. But we were still sisters. And beware anyone that tried to hurt one of us - we may have been allowed to fight and scream at each other, but Others weren't allowed to. They were MY sisters.

Things changed again when we started leaving home. Unsuprisingly, Big Sister was first. And then Little Sister. I was the last to leave, and probably was the last to grow up - despite the fact that I was the one who was supposed to be "next."

Being apart was good for us - we gained new perspectives on ourselves, and on each other. We got married, and had children.

And changed our relationship again. Since we had children of our own, our relationship as sisters has grown stronger. All of sudden we were the same in a way that we hadn't been before. Age gaps no longer seem to matter. In fact Little Sister has quietly become the big sister in many ways. Motherhood has helped us see the things we share, instead of the things we don't. And we've shared the pain of loss - stillbirths, miscarriages and change.

We may be continents apart now, but we're closer than ever in lots of ways. I know if I have a bad day, and pick up the phone, one of my sisters will be on the other end, and will Understand. About the dramas our children give us (much like we gave our parents) and about the things they do that make us laugh. Or simply about Stuff. Memories.

I miss my sisters everyday, more than I miss anything else about South Africa. I tell my girls often - your sister is the only friend you'll have your entire life. Treasure her.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Domestic Goddess and the Smug Tuesdays

Despite having written my first "Confessions of a Domestic Goddess" blog nearly three years ago, I must admit that I am no further on my journey to household sainthood now than I was then. I am still very much a Goddess in Training.

Unlike in Abu Dhabi, I am now also a paid Goddess. I've been fortunate to find a great job that allows me to work - wait for this - SCHOOL HOURS! Which means I get to drop the Daughters at school, go to work and then be back at school in time to fetch them every day. So I get to be Working Stiff in the morning, and Mother Dearest in the afternoons!

Being a part-time member of the workforce has made Goddess-training more complicated. Thank goodness SuperHero Husband is still around!

I both love and loathe Tuesdays. Its the perfect training day for Domestic Goddesses. On Bad Tuesdays, expect me to be munching grumpily on chocolate by bedtime. On Good Tuesday, I'm smiling.

Today was a Smug Tuesday.

Tuesday is our busy day. We do the school run at 8-30 (start at 8-50), dash to work and find parking in Leederville by 9-30 (a near impossibility), finish up at 2-30, run up the hill to the parking (hoping the ranger hasn't fined me yet) and be back at school at 3. After collecting Daughters we rush off to the local leisure centre (translation: community centre) for Youngest Daughter's Gymnastics session. We have something to eat, and she does Gym from 4pm to 5pm. Then we rush like mad things to get to Eldest Daughter's Ballet lesson by 5.15 - in a completely different suburb. At 6.15 we finish ballet and storm home for dinner, bath and bed by 7.30.

It's easier when SuperHero is home, but this week, Tuesday coincide with nightshifts.

So if its such a rush, why was today a Smug Tuesday?

Because on Smug Tuesdays I am organisation personified. I get up, make lunches for self and girls (SuperHero feeds himself when he gets off shift), plus an afterschool lunchbox. And now that I have the Ultimate Domestic Appliance (a slowcooker), I also prepare dinner. All before the kids wake up and need feeding/dressing/loud encouragement to hurry up.

And on Tuesdays, not only do we have to remember to pack the lunch bags, gym bag and ballet bag we also have to remember its Library Day for Youngest Daughter. And its also the school's swimming term, so we also have to remember swimming bags.

By the time we've loaded the bags in the boot, it looks like we're going on holiday. Last week Youngest Daughter forgot to pack knickers (that's Aussie for broekies), and Eldest Daughter forgot her hairnet for her bun.

So this Tuesday was a Smug Tuesday, because we remembered EVERYTHING, dinner was done. I truly feel like I'm getting there in the Domestic Goddess stakes.

Until I remember that last night we ate frozen dinners.....

Domestic sainthood eludes me still. But hey, at least I have Tuesdays.

Monday, June 15, 2009

From Abu Dhabi to Australia

It's been lots of fun re-reading my old blogs about our lives in Emirates. For new readers of my blog, you may be wondering how a family of South Africans went from Abu Dhabi to Australia.

Sometimes I wonder too.

We never planned to emigrate permanently. Abu Dhabi was always going to be a temporary thing. When we had enough, we would come home. Home being South Africa. We hoped to make enough money in Abu Dhabi to do just that.

Unfortunately, life didn't work out quite like we planned, and we didn't save as much of our dirhams as we hoped we would. It just wasn't possible for us, though it is for many.

But we still planned to go back. We were concerned - I'd become accustomed to life as a Domestic Goddess and freelance writer. Our Eldest Daughter was at an excellent private school, and there is no way we could afford the same in South Africa. Unless I went back to work full time, and Dear Husband took more contract work up in Africa.

But that would mean he would be on three-month rotations. And with me working full-time, and him working away, we wouldn't have much of a family life left.

And then there was the crime issue. We had become used to living with just petty crime, and although we knew we'd adjust (after all, South Africans tend to do that) to living life behind bars again, it was a concern. Hubby in particular was worried about leaving us for long periods on our own.

And just by chance, on a whim, a friend of a friend of a friend, just happend to mention that there were paramedic jobs going in Australia, and they would sponsor a temporary visa (known as a 457). We decided "what the hell" and sent off DH's CV. We didn't expect much - after all, it was just a whim.

Until they called for an interview. And then a video interview. And then it got serious. This was genuinely an option for us. It would be an easier path to Australian permanent residency, there was more chance of me getting part time work, and we would actually be able to be together as a family.

We discussed it with our respective families in South Africa. They were cautiously supportive. I questioned my Australian friends in Abu Dhabi relentlessly. I spoke to my cousin in Perth. We researched, researched and researched. More than we had done for our foray into the Middle East. This sounded good, but would it be the right choice?

DH was offered the job, and we decided to accept - despite the cost. And there was a cost. While our visa was sponsored, our flights and transport were not. We had to fly back to South Africa, ship our goods from Abu Dhabi, combine it with our stored things in South Africa, and then ship this to Australia. Then we had to pay for the container costs, our flight costs and some basic set up costs.

We used up pretty much every damn cent we had saved - our dirhams from Abu Dhabi, and the profit we'd made when we sold our house in South Africa.

And then there was the emotional cost. Saying goodbye when we left for Abu Dhabi was easy - we knew we'd be back. Saying goodbye when we left for Australia was terrible. Even on the way to the airport, we were still questioning whether this was the right choice for us.

Because in the middle of all of our planning and moving and to-ing and fro-ing, my sister-in-law died in horrific circumstances. All of a sudden, the reality of being Away from family was harder. How could we leave at this time? How could we not be there while the family mourned, and waited for justice, that still 3 years later, has yet to come for the man who caused her death.

The cost to move has been high. Very high.

But two years and six months after we left Johannesburg and arrived in Perth, I can say it was (mostly) worth it.

We have regrets (some days), and miss our families (very much, every single day), but after having lived here for this long, would we be part of the Homecoming Revolution? Would we go "home" again?

No. We are home. Here in Perth, Australia - we are home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Domestic Goddess and kitchenalia

I was watching one of those antique-valuation type shows recently, and was surprised to learn that there is a whole collectibles thing going on with kitchen gadgetry. This would include everything from old copper pots to mangles and coal-heated irons. And some of this "kitchenalia" is actually quite valuable.

It got me thinking about what kitchen gadgetry is essential in the Domestic Goddesses home. I know which bits of kitchenalia I could not live without......

Whisk - Not exactly earthshattering is it? But I love my whisk, and I love the fact that when I use it (and don't use a fork) things are just well, whisked into shape! Like my cheese sauce - never a lump to be found!

Ziploc bags - I know these have been around for a while now, but I have only discovered them recently. I love the fact that I can put a half an onion in a bag and not have the whole fridge stink and the onion wont go all rotten. And if you put your cheese in them little baggies, that horrid white mouldy stuff doesn't appear either. And they are so handy for just about everything - from raisins in the nappybag to popcorn in the lunchbox.

Perforated clingfilm - I only learnt about the ziploc bags because I cannot find perforated clingfilm ANYWHERE in Abu Dhabi. And without those nifty perforations, I hate clingfilm (or clingwrap if you prefer). Because that stupid stuff just doesn't behave if it is not perforated, and goes everywhere you don't want it to go.

The kettle - While this is an old invention, its still an absolute kitchen essential. You just pop it on and in a few minutes, piping hot water for cuppa. Ahh, perfect......

The Dishwasher - I was actually not sure whether to include this one, because I am currently at war with my dishwasher. I love the fact that its so easy - pop the dishes in, pop some soap in, press the button, and hey presto! Clean pots! Except that my dishwasher is misbehaving. The soap tablets keep getting stuck in the soap dispenser tray. Or the swirly arm thingies that swoosh the water around get blocked, and then the water doesn't swoosh when its supposed to, and half the dishes don't get washed. Its blerrie annoying. Serves us right for buying a no-name brand Chinese-manufactured jobbie.

But fortunately for this Domestic Goddess, I have a back-up plan.... its called a husband/Superhero. Works just as well as the electronic version actually......

Of all my kitchen appliances and whatnots, those five are my favourites.

What gadgets could you not live without?

Domestic Goddess and the handbag

I was very bemused the other day to read a story on how someone had bid something like $60000 on e-bay for a designer handbag. Apparently there were only a few of them made and they were the new "in" thing. I thought it was very funny.

Who on earth is that crazy about handbags that they would want to fork out so much money? I've never been into handbags, unlike my older sister. When we were teenagers, she practically had a handbag to match every outfit. At one count I think she had 19.

I never quite understood the fascination with handbags (or shoes for that matter). In that respect, this Domestic Goddess is decidedly untypical of the stereotypical woman. But over the last few years, I have felt myself longing for a handbag. Not necessarily a designer bag either. A R20 bag from the local fleamarket would probably do.

Because, ultimately, in my life, its become about whats IN the bag.

I have small children. And ever since they were babies, I have not carried a handbag. I have, instead, been carrying a nappy bag. Because kids neccessitate stuff. Lots of stuff.

In a typical babyhood nappybag, you will find bottles & formula, 10 nappies, assorted lotions and potions; at least 2 changes of clothes for babakins (unless you have a puker, in which case 2 is not enough); bibs; a dummy; babyfood or finger biscuits; wetwipes; a changing mat; a burp cloth; rattle or soft toy and some plastic packets for disposing of smellies.

Oh, and your purse, cellphone and keys. If you remember them.

Packing a nappy bag is an art. Very few men can do it. The contents change as the baby grows up. While I no longer carry an official nappy bag, I carry in its place a bright pink and blue Winnie the Pooh backpack.

As I have an as yet unpotty-trained 2 year old (we're getting there) it still contains nappies (only 2) and wetwipes. Instead of the bottles of babyfood, it will probably have at least 2 boxes of juice; a container of raisins, a lunchbox with sandwiches; and possibly a toy (not if I can help it though).

Oh, and my purse, cellphone and keys. If I remember them.

I'm desperately trying to maintain my image as Domestic Goddess instead of Harrassed Mother and have made some attempts to get rid of the Winnie the Pooh backback.

I tried a large handbag, but the lunchbox wouldn't fit in. I tried a baskety bag type thing, but the handles broke. I tried another shape large handbag, but the straps tore away from the body.

There was simply too much kidstuff that require storage while out and about. I am not easily defeated however. I recently acquired the smallest handbag I have ever owned. It barely contains my purse, my cellphone, my keys and, wait for it, a tube of lipstick. But I love it. Because it is truly mine, and contains no vestiges of childhood paraphanalia.

I found a solution you see. I make my Superhero carry the Winnie the Pooh backpack. Whats in your bag?