Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Tuesday Books day

Gosh I see we have not talked books in a long long time. I do love to talk about one of my favorite hobbies and my book posts are always rather popular. 2015 has not been the best reading year for me - in fact it's been the worst in the amount of books I read for the year (25) in 8 years! But I did read some great books. Quality sometimes is more important than quantity - but I am planning to read more this year.

So let me run you through the last few books of 2015 and the first two of 2016 (shown in order from right to left) I see they are 50% Afrikaans - a huge % for me - I prefer to read in English.
Die Vierkant van die Wraak - Pieter Aspe 
This book is also available in English as "The square of the revenge" - thus my short review in English:
Inspector Pieter van In is called to investigate the very odd robbery of a jewellery store. Oddly enough nothing was stolen but all the jewellery was destroyed. The investigation takes a turn for the worse when a young boy from the same family is kidnapped. A great story line with the usual characters fro this type of mystery I did find the translation into Afrikaans a bit irritating at times and have no idea what the English translation is like.
I gave it 4 /5 for a story but the Afrikaans translation was so irritating that it will drop to a 3 .

After You - Jojo Moyes
This book is the much anticipated sequel to "Me before you" a book I adored as much as many others did. I really enjoyed reading the story of Louisa after Will's passing. Beautifully written with a great few twists and turns it is well worth the read. It may not be " Me before you" but no other book will ever be that - it is a worthy and great read never the less. I gave it 4 and a half /5

Amper Einstein - 
'n Heerlike jeugboek wat goed genoeg is vir volwassenes om ook te geniet. Leonard is die skool se Wiskunde brein en boonop deel van die brugbou span. Maar sy lewe by die huis is alles behalwe gewoon, of normaal- wat ookal dit mag wees. Met sy Pa in 'n rolstoel, sy boetie wat 'n groot uitdaging is en niemand verstaan nie en sy ma wat probeer om te red waar sy kan.

'n Besonderse goeie en sensitiewe blik in die wêreld van outisme voel ek dit is 'n belangrike boek om te lees vir almal wat iewers in hul lewe met 'n outis te doen het. Vir my wat die ma is van 'n baie hoog funtionerende outis was dit sulke " ja ek weet" oomblikke gereeld. En eintlik ook vir enige kind waar dit kan help om hul idee oor die wêreld en wat "anders" of dan "in" of "uit" is aan te spreek.

4 en n half uit 5.

The unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra - Vaseem Khan
I have long ago stopped reading books that take place in India. Funny enough I think I just had too much of the poverty, the hopelessness. As result Shantaram is still on my to read list. This book however seemed different from the couver to the summary on the back page. So I grabbed it at the bookclub for a holiday read.

What a lovely unexpected treat. Explore Mumbai from the eyes of a freshly retired police inspector. A great mystery to solve and a lovely human ( and elephant) angle. The style of writing reminds me of Alexander Macall Smiths Mma Ramotswe novels. A little jewel you will enjoy. A solid 4 out of 5.

Let it snow - 

Caz Colijn kry 'n oproep uit België wat haar lewe omver ruk. Skielik is sy nie wie sy gedink het sy is nie - haar hele lewe is 'n raaisel. Terug in die sestigs in Kongo word 'n man wreed vermoor en sy beminde vir dood agter gelaat. Wat is die verband? 

Wat 'n heerlike leeservaring. Uitstekende karakters, baie kinkels in die kabel. Interessante plekke en gemaklike taal maak dit een van die lekkerste boeke wat ek in 'n lang tyd gelees het. Ek sal hom sterk aanbeveel. 5 uit 5 vir lekker lees en vasgenael hou. Ek kan nie wag vir die opvolg wat na skatting in Oktober gaan verskyn nie.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Mouthwatering Mondays - Fudge!

So I thought that I will share some of my favorite recipes (or maybe I will get to my goal to make some new recipes this year) on some Mondays. My first one however is one that I have promised Marcia and Laura as both of them have posted about trying to make a great fudge and finding just the right recipe. Hunter and the Princess are our two fudge lovers - although in all honesty we all like it a lot. So the two of them have hit on a wonderful recipe which she eagerly makes (with a bit of stirring help from us - 40 minutes is loooong to stir a pot). This is a wonderful fudge with that great silky texture and not sandy or sugary at all. I have found that a little less sugar also works well- it is very very sweet - but I will publish the original recipe here.

Perfect Fudge (Taken from The complete South African Cookbook by Magdaleen van Wyk)
The secret is in the method - follow it 100%
800g sugar
250g butter (she says marg as well but we have only made it with butter)
250 ml milk
250 condensed milk
10 ml vanilla essence

Cook the sugar, butter and milk over a medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Add the condensed milk and boil for 40 minutes - stirring continuously. Not doing it at a high enough temperature will result in it not solidifying. Too high will burn it - so watch it carefully and stir all the time.
Remove from the heat and add vanilla essence. Keep beating until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Pour into a shallow greased pan and mark in squares. As soon as it is completely cooled down cut into squares.


Friday, 15 January 2016

Fun in and around Pretoria (and at home)

As many of you have read our December holiday has been anything but what we planned. In stead we spent it mostly at home - and a while without electricity too. I was not prepared for entertaining the kids for the holiday at home, but we did some great things - worth sharing I think.

We went to the movies - being on Discovery with the kids' movies for free (and limiting the snacks we buy) this is a very affordable outing for us. We saw all 4 of Ster Kinekor's kiddies movies this season. By far the kids' favorite was :
 By far my favorite was:

We spent a day at Zambibush. The venue has had some criticism after one slide broke and about overcrowding etc but we went after they imposed their bookings only rule and spent a lovely Friday there and never felt crowded or such. The kids had an absolute ball between the slides, lazy river and zipline into the water. I would definitely go there again but not sure if the weekend are too busy.

We played a lot of board games and cards - everything from Trump cards to Uno to Ludo and Chess. When the kids got Cluedo for Christmas it turned into many many Cluedo games.

Our Lego friends Advent calendar was a huge hit and daily distraction. We also build lots and lots of other Lego creation - I think most time in the holidays were spent around Lego (as was most Christmas gifts)
 Our completed Lego Friends Advent calender
 And a meetup of the advent calendar girls with all the other Lego figurines in the combined Christmas gifts.

The kids made lunch or snacks - like they wanted.
 A's idea of a light lunch (it's mussels in the small bowl)
C's idea of a fruit snack plate

We did a bit of crafting - I forgot to take pictures of the completed projects but it was fun.

We tried to get the kids to read  - L read his first ever chapter book on his own, C read his first Roald Dahl in English on his own and A read and read (she is a bit of an addict like me). I am not quite sure of her final count but it must be well over 15 books.
I bought the Rolad Dahl collection as a family gift. A has read through half of them this holiday - re reading many she has read before in Afrikaans. C has just started and L can not wait to start.

We coloured - mostly in adult colouring books.

We build a 1000 piece puzzle - well I build most but the kids helped a lot.

We went to Acrobranch - what a lot of fun! The kids all adored it and with friends in tow it was huge fun.

We went to Monte Casino and saw Swan Lake on ice with the Imperial Ice stars. Not only did we enjoy the absolutely wonderful breath taking performance, but the kids have also never been to Monte Casino and was quite taken by the little artificial bit of Italy.

And of course, being high summer we swam - as much as possible. (and painted funky nail colours for the girls).
We made the best of the situation and really enjoyed all of it.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Back to school 2016

This morning was back to school in our lives - as in millions of other South Africans. It was a good back to school morning - mostly smiles.

A was hugely excited last night about seeing her friends again and starting all the exciting new things - she mentioned that they study Egypt in grade 5 and she can not wait. And that they are going to make bricks, and and. She even packed all 3 lunch boxes last night - I hope this trend continues. This morning she was a bit less enthusiastic (there were even a few tears involved - once because she hit her head on the car back tail door) but as I bumped into her after leaving C she was happy and giggling with her friends. Hugs and happy laughs.

L was a very happy chappy until the milling of a lot of kids and parents had him a bit withdrawn - only until they were called to order into lines and then his world was happy again. He very independently took his bags, walked to his class and said a very quick goodbye as they walked into the class - giving his new teacher a hug as he passed her in the line.

C was just the happiest camper ever - as we walked into the gate he met his friend A and off they went after a quick goodbye. As I left L I went to the area where the grade 3 were being sorted into their classes and a very happy boy waved to me. As his class was called out just after that he had a huge grin on his face as he and one of his best buds walked to their class - happy that they are together again this year. 
As I said goodbye to A one of her friends shouted - "there's a rainbow" - and there it was, tiny, with no rain insight - a little wonder of nature right there above our heads. I believe we will have a rainbow year this year. Roll on 2016 and grade 2, 3 and 5 -with all that school and activities bring - you are going to be a great one!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

So you have are a grade 4 kid?

Our A was in grade 4 last year. It is a year of change and almost a new start to your school career following on the foundation years. I have been asked by quite a few friends in the computer for tips etc on the transition. I have compiled them all for one of them and then thought I will share it here as surely more will benefit from it - seeing that tomorrow is back to school for most South African kids.

I am not claiming that this will make the year a success or even that this is what one should do. This is merely what we did and that worked for us. It may or may not work for you - take it as tips and work around it to fit you and your child. It may seem a lot of parent involvement but remember you are placing the foundation for the rest of their school years. Grade 5 they should be able to do a lot of this independently. We slowly moved from a lot of involvement to gradually less.

1. Keep a calendar - write all dates of tests, tasks etc down somewhere where the whole family can see them. Make sure that the family social calendar gives time and space when your grade 4 need it.

2. Try to get individual attention after school if you can - in whatever form - maybe your after care provides for it or there is a grandparent or whatever. We used and Au pair. One of the biggest issues with grade 4 is the bigger homework load and the orals, tests etc that comes with it. You simply can not do that amount of work after work when a child is tired

3. Teach them how to summarize and study - do a study course if possible. We had one presented at school that we paid for but it paid off that they knew how to draw mind maps etc.Buy the coloured pens and highlighters - make it fun. Think our funny rhymes etc.

4. Start with summarizing work every week as the year starts. Not only when the first test comes up. Sit with them and help them to do it for the first set of tests or exams. Just to get the hang of it. We did not do this as much as I wanted to last year - this year we will.

5. When a test series or exams come up - draw up a time table and plan out how much work must be done to go through everything a week or so before the dates start so that they can do details studying only before the event. This especially worked well for us.

6. No 5 help to teach them to manage their time - possibly the most important thing to do for grade 4. Because time becomes and issue if they have lots of other activities. So time management is crucial.

7. Do not immediately cut down on other activities - for her it was a huge goal to keep her marks up in order to be able to do all the things she wanted to. We made a deal that if marks slip she will have to make some choices - she choose to study hard enough not to have to choose between her activities. This may not work for everyone.

8. Projects and orals - when you get them give them immediate attention - even if just planning them. If a project is due only in a months time one easily slips up and let time go past. They are good and easy ways to improve marks. Most projects get done at school at our school but you can still do the prep work at home. Make a practice project for them to do that they can sort of copy at school if it has to be done there. If it is a do at home project there is in general an answer sheet at school to control the the child did the project (with help) and not just the parent. So half would be for the project and the other half of the marks for the answer sheet. So make sure they do it with you (if that is what the project called for) or under your guidance but now and understand everything.

9. If the school use a maths book that has work sheets in (ie we use Pracmaths) buy an extra copy of the book and with every test or exam mark one of each type for them to complete in pencil. This way you can easily see if there is a problem with a type of sum and then sort that problem out. This is a lot of work for mom (or the helper) but it does pay off very well. It is also grueling for the kids and take a lot of time - but it work so very well as maths basically can not be learned but has to be understood and practiced - which this method gives you 100%.

10. Get them reading - this is crucial - the faster you can read the faster you learn. Invest in books they will love and make time to read. Actually this one can start from grade 1.

11. Make sure that you and your child knows exactly what each test and exam covers. Our school sends out an exact itinerary that we need to sign. If you do not get that - insist on it. Not exactly knowing causes a lot of unnecessary stress.

12. Properly listening in class makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Teachers give tips and stress importance. Tell your kid that if they listen properly they have won half the race. Maybe test it in the first term or two - ask them each day and when tests and exams came up as to what was stressed by teachers

13. An the one that I think worked the best of all: Find a mom that had a grade 4 last year and beg copies of last years tests and exams from her. This is worth gold as one of the biggest issues is to learn how to read and answer a test, how questions are asked etc.

I hope this at least helps one person somewhere. Best of luck with grade 4

Monday, 11 January 2016

Eleven years ago today I became a mom

A little girl was born - with a full head of fine hair, dark eye lashes and eye brows and a sweet temperament.

Happy happy birthday my sweet A - our Princess. We are so very proud of you and all that you are and that you have achieved. But most of all we are so proud of your kind heart and caring soul. We wish you all the best for a wonderful year full of blessings.

We love you - to the moon and back.

Monday, 4 January 2016

On letting go and the importance of family

The last week has been a grueling one - from the moment my MIL phoned just after 10 last Monday night to say that my FIL has lost his long battle with cancer, to stopping at home last night after a 14 hour trip from Port Elizabeth - filled with lots of traffic and an hour long delay at Kroonstad. We are all exhausted - two daylong trips with 3 days in between including a memorial service will do that to the best of us. I am just thankful that I have a week before work starts - not like Hunter who had to be at work this morning. I am also very proud of our little family and especially how well the kids handled all that was thrown at them during this period - and the rest of the holiday that was just a prelude to the conclusion.

But in all the sadness there is so much to be thankful for. Two years ago during the December holidays we received his stage 4 cancer diagnosis. In stead of the estimated 8 months we had two full years with him. We made the best of those two years - we visited whenever we could. We took photos, we made memories. We had good times together. We once again were made so aware of how important family is - even in the wider sense of the word.

My FIL was a wonderful man with a huge kind heart. He called me his daughter, not his daughter in law. He was the dad for me that I did not have as mine passed away when I was 7. We had a creative connection that I love and he always made me feel worthy of his love and a place in his family.  He was an inventive and creative grandfather that spent time doing things with his grandchildren. We will all miss him so very much - but we are all relieved that this last period of suffering is over for him. We feel assured and calm that he is completely healed now that he is with God.

In a sense this is a fresh new start for all of us -aptly it falls at the start of a calendar year. The last two years everything was coloured by cancer. Now we move on - we will honour him by living our lives to the full. Positively - every day.