Goal #100: My jewellery purge

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Every once in a while it seems a drastic mental about-turn hits us, seemingly out of nowhere. Suddenly we see the world through different eyes and shift our values and attitudes in response. Ever experienced that?

Recently I was blindsided by an overwhelming desire to purge my life and home. All at once I noticed the clutter in my little cottage and saw how it was bogging me down. I came home one afternoon from work and just began throwing out years’ worth of junk. It was wonderfully freeing… and I’m not done yet!

One of the first ‘victims’ of my purge was my jewellery collection. I’d been meaning to reduce and refresh it for ages (Goal #100 on my list), as I had a large mix of pieces – some given to me, some I’d made and some I’d bought. And since I can only wear so many pieces at any given time, I knew I had to sort it out.

I began by laying out every piece I owned on my bed. It took several photos to try to fit everything in the frame (thanks to my unaccommodating 50mm lens) and took up half of the bed.

 

Purge 2

Purge 3

Purge 4

Seeing everything together all at once gave me the resolve I needed to ruthlessly cull unwanted pieces. First I gave Ninja a chance to go through the collection and pick out items that he really likes seeing me wear. On one or two items I disagreed, but otherwise he chose a handful of necklaces and earrings that I also wanted to keep.

That done, I picked up each remaining piece and evaluated it. If it was old, worn, or didn’t suit me, I immediately threw it in the discard pile. Some items were easy: I had duplicates of a few earrings, so I chose to keep the best and let go of the rest. Other items were very difficult: I sat for several minutes with a few sentimental pieces, remembering who’d given them to me and why I’d kept them for so long.

But usually all it took to make me discard the item was asking myself the question, ‘OK, so why haven’t I worn this in years?’ The ubiquitous 80/20 principle came to mind: about 80% of the time I wear only about 20% of my jewellery collection. That was a useful filter for getting rid of the extra bits.

Here are a few pieces I kept primarily for sentimental reasons:

Purge 6

This is the friendship bracelet I made when my best friend moved away. We each have one with our two ‘anime’ faces and the words ‘sisters forever’. I miss my friend a lot but wearing this always makes me smile.

Purge 7

These cheerful butterfly earrings were a gift from my sweet granny. I wear them often and love how they represent my fun side.

Purge 8

These are the earrings I made for my wedding outfit. Although I’ve probably only worn them once or twice since the wedding, they’re too special to let go.

By the time I was done with my purge, I’d chucked out two thirds of my jewellery. The remaining necklaces, bracelets and earrings are pictured here:

Purge 5

Much more manageable! Though I do think I could even let go of a few more items, for now I’m pleased with the ones I’ve chosen to keep. These ‘survivors’ match the outfits I own and suit my personality and style. With the clutter gone, I’ll be wearing my favourite pieces more regularly :)

Goal #74: Celebrating Raksha Bandhan 2014

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Namaste, everybody!

I realise I haven’t posted much up till now on my enjoyment of several aspects of Indian culture… but the Hindu celebration of Raksha Bandhan gives me the perfect opportunity to do so.

Hang on a sec! Did you just say Hindu, Zest? We thought you were supposed to be a Christian!

Yes of course I am. But that doesn’t make me afraid to learn about other cultures in the world. So if I hear of a tradition that strikes a chord in me without contradicting my beliefs, well – why not branch out a bit and have a little fun? :)

My brother and I have always enjoyed watching Bollywood movies, eating Indian food and learning bits of Hindi together, so when I found out about Raksha Bandhan I thought it sounded like the perfect tradition for us to take as our own.

Usually celebrated in August each year, the festival of Raksha Bandhan is the day that Hindus remember the special bond between brothers and sisters.

Isn’t that a lovely idea? We don’t really have anything like that in Western culture: we celebrate romantic relationships on Valentine’s Day and filial relationships on Father’s and Mother’s Day, but we don’t set aside a day to cherish our siblings.

And since I do deeply cherish my sibling, I jumped at the chance to plan something memorable and fun for him. I chose all the non-religious elements of the Hindu celebration and put my own spin on them. Other elements I left out completely.

For example, the thali or plate that is decorated for the occasion usually includes a swastika design (the Hindu symbol for their god Ganesh). I left that out since I obviously don’t wish to pay homage to a foreign god… and anyway, because of my German heritage I think staying away from the swastika is just a good idea in general! Haha ;)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain the tradition from the beginning.

On Raksha Bandhan, the most important moment is when the sister ties a rakhi thread on her brother’s wrist. These rakhis are something different to the red threads normally worn by Hindus, and they’re usually way more flashy, too.

Thanks to a Hindu friend at work, I was able to source a simple rakhi for my brother, as I knew he would not want to wear a gaudy one for long!

Rakhi 3

Tying the rakhi

Another feature of Raksha Bandhan is the special thali I mentioned earlier. This is a plate, usually bearing common Hindu items such as a burning candle or camphor, tilak paste, sweetmeats and of course the rakhi thread. It’s then festooned with fresh flowers and other decorations as well.

In my case I’d bought a special set of gorgeous crockery just for the occasion. The plates have a design of bright flowers around the border, which (I think) look Indian enough to pass for a rakhi thali :) What do you think?

Raksha Bandhan thali

My version of the Raksha Bandhan thali

Food is a major feature in any Indian festival, but since my brother and I had feasted on a LOT of samoosas and Indian food the day before, I limited our treats on Raksha Bandhan. I put together some small meringues I happened to have on hand, a bit of kaju (cashew) nut brittle and lots of dried aam (mango).

I added a candle to our thali too, even though I know it can symbolise a fire deity to the Hindus. To my brother and I the candle was just to add some festive flair. The same goes for the tilak mark that I put on his forehead (I used eyeshadow on the poor guy, since I didn’t have any proper tilak powder or paste!).

Of course I also took all this as a splendid opportunity to apply some more mehndi (working on Goal #26). I wanted to do designs on my whole arm but I ran out of time, so this is as far as I got:

Rakhi 4b

Mehndi

The words inside my palm are ummid (hope), hrsh (joy) and vishvaas (trust) – three of the biggest blessings in my precious friendship with my brother.

Rakhi 4a

Hope, joy and trust

As for the actual tradition itself, I believe it goes something like this:

  • First the sister lights the candle on the thali.
  • The sister then ties the rakhi on her brother’s wrist.
  • After that the sister says a prayer for her brother – for Hindus this may involve an aarti, where the thali is rotated in front of the brother’s face in a ritualistic way. For me it was a simple prayer to the Most High God, thanking Him for the gift of my brother and asking for His grace on my brother’s life.
  • Then the sister feeds the brother some sweetmeats by hand. My brother had a field day with this one! He refused to help himself to any treats for the rest of the day, insisting in a playfully imperious way that I feed him by hand. LOL :D
  • After this the sister may put a tilak mark on the brother’s forehead.
  • And then the brother gives his sister special gifts and promises to look after her always.
  • At the end they will just hug, maybe take some photos and generally have a good time together.

I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating this festival in our own way :) Have you ever celebrated a special day that wasn’t part of your own culture?

Little bits of progress

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Hello sun-lovers! We haven’t quite sorted out the internet issues yet, but I’m trying to steal a bit of time wherever I can to upload some of the many posts on my mind.

As a means of getting up to date, let me share with you a number of goals from my 101 list that I’ve been working on over the last few months…

Some of the goals I’ve been nibbling away at each day or each week. For example, these goals are happening in the background even though I don’t always have pics to prove it:

  • Goal #1: Read through the Bible in one year – I’m doing this in my quiet times each day
  • Goal #3: Lose weight – last time I checked, I was 1.5 kg closer to my goal… yeehaa!
  • Goal #12: Make a list of 100 things I’m grateful for – I’m on #84 so far :)
  • Goal #16: Read 101 books and keep a list of them – 38 down, 63 to go
  • Goal #20: Go for a bicycle ride – I recently started riding my bicycle again. Fantastic exercise!
  • Goal #30: List 101 things I’ve already achieved – So far I’ve listed 94
  • Goal #52: Complete a one-month photo challenge – I’m halfway through a challenge for August… perhaps I’ll post a few of the best pics in a separate post sometime
Aug challenge

The photo challenge I designed

  • Goal #57: Get 5 more movies for my collection – I recently added ‘Babe: Sheep Pig’ to my collection ;)
  • Goal #86: Pay off our building loan – Each month I contribute towards this long-term goal

Many of the other goals are once-off achievements, though, and for those I do have some photos to share with you :)

Goal #33: Eat at 5 new restaurants

I added a new restaurant (#4) to my list the other evening when I went to Burnsides Café with my colleagues for a team dinner. It’s a lovely restaurant with delicious food and quaint decor – neither of which I got to photograph in great detail, because I was enjoying the evening so much!

Burnsides

Burnsides Café

Goal #34: Take 101 photos of 101 different birds

My birding has sort-of been shelved for a while, mainly because I’m not yet in the position to accomplish Goal #85 (hire or buy a zoom lens for my camera). However, I was able to add a new bird to my list the other day (using my old Fujifilm camera). Ninja and I spotted this red-throated wryneck eating on the lawn:

Wryneck

(A very bad pic of) a red-throated wryneck

The cool thing is I’ve never seen one of those birds before.

Goals #26, 36 & 74

Sometimes I can tick off more than one goal at one time – always a great feeling! That’s what happened when I celebrated Raksha Bandhan (Goal #74) with my brother on 10th August. I was also able to add to Goal #26 (apply henna another time) and Goal #36 (celebrate another obscure holiday). The whole thing was great fun and definitely deserves a post of its own.

Goal #82: Make or buy 2 decor items for the kitchen

When we moved house, I discovered that I had too many wooden mixing spoons. So here’s an idea I came up with for decorating our new kitchen:

Home decor

My ‘eat pray love’ kitchen décor

I painted the three spoons in the primary colours of my kitchen and wrote on them the words ‘eat, pray, love’. But lest you think that’s a bit clichéd, I also incorporated three Scripture references for those three words:

  • Eat: 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
  • Pray: 2 Thessalonians 5:17 – “pray without ceasing”
  • Love: 1 Corinthians 13 – The entire chapter describes true love :)

Those principles capture the spirit of our home – or at least show what we’re striving for amid the stresses and struggles of normal daily routines.

Goal #100: Revamp my jewellery collection

This goal also deserves its own post, as I revamped my collection during an epic spring clean I’ve recently been doing. I have no idea why but one evening the minimalism bug suddenly bit me, leading me to trash and donate more than half of my books, clothes and possessions – and I’m not done yet! The jewellery collection was one of the first to be whittled down.

So as you can see, even though this blog has been silent for a while, I’ve still been enjoying some sunny days in the real world ;)

Hope you’re all well and filling your days with good things,

Zest

Aside

Hi all

So the bad news is that we won’t be getting a new internet connection just yet, because the internet service provider refuses to install cables in our area. What?! Yes indeed. Apparently there’s too much cable theft in our area, so it’s not worth their while.

Sigh.

So, a little more patience and a little more waiting… perhaps we’ll get wireless instead – at least they can’t steal that! o.O

In the meantime, though, I’m having a great time chiselling away at my 101 things list, undertaking an epic spring clean, spending time with family and friends and generally preparing for what I hope will be a marvellous summer.

Hopefully I’ll be able to upload some pics and share longer posts soon… even if by then I only have one follower left, hehe! ;)

Keep well,

Zest

Another update

Argh :/

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Wow guys, it’s August already! I have so many great posts I want to share here, but our exceedingly pathetic internet connection is frustrating my plans :P I really really hope we’ll get it sorted out soon so I can beam some sunshine into your inboxes once again ;)

In the meantime, here’s a cute face for you to stare at while you wait for a proper post…

Mishka loving his vitamins

Mishka loving his vitamins

With apologies,

Zest

Aside

Hi all

Just a quick note to say sorry for the long silence… between major life issues and a really sketchy internet connection, I haven’t been able to do any of the blogging I’d have liked to lately. But the good news is that we should hopefully be getting a better internet connection sometime soon… so I’ll cya all soon then, I hope! :)

Zest

Howdy!

Happy 1st birthday my boys!

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On Friday our beautiful boys turned one year old. Hard to believe they’ve gone from tiny, hairless bubs to fat, fluffy adult rats so quickly. To celebrate I decided to act like the crazy rat lady I am and throw them a little party!

Their presents were simple: an empty cardboard box and loads of paper to shred:

Rat party 1

Of course there were also plenty of edible treats (some for the humans and some for the rats):

Party biscuits

Party biscuits

Crumpets, veg platters and yoghurt

Crumpets, veg platters and yoghurt

The ratties even had a special guest – a friend who would actually call herself more of a crazy cat lady, but who (a) loves all animals and (b) didn’t bring her kitties along ;) She did bring lots of delicious treats for the boys though: yoghurt, seed mix, giant raisins and banana chips. Fine dining for days to come!

We set up all sorts of hidey-holes and items of interest on the floor and let the boys loose to explore. The party was off to a slow start for my munchkin Mishka, who hid in this basket to nibble on a crumpet…

In case you’d ever wondered what a heart rat looks like…

Some of the birthday boys were ever so polite as they begged for various treats…

Ninja's heart rat, Knight

Ninja’s heart rat, Knight

… while others were, um, noticeably less well-mannered!

Voddy staking his claim

Voddy staking his claim

After lots of happy waddling around the floor, Teddy Bear decided to watch the proceedings from another safe spot:

Silly Teddy

Silly Teddy

And our Moony Moonbeam busied himself with dragging away several biscuits, stashing crumpets out of human reach and chowing down on all the sunflower seeds.

Rat party 8

Rather sweetly, our tame wild mouse (no, that’s not a contradiction) also wanted his share of the party food. Here he is snacking happily on a crumpet (he wasn’t too keen on the banana chippie):

Rat party 9

I really love all my beautiful furbabies :)

Knowing that pet rats live such short lives, I think it’s worth making a fuss for their birthdays. So far we’ve only ever had one rat make it to 2 years old, but here’s hoping these boys will all stay healthy and live to celebrate another birthday next year…

Goal #49: Our housewarming party

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Ah, now I know we are well and truly HOME! :)

Ninja and I finally managed to arrange our housewarming party, two months after we’d moved into our new place. It took the format of a tea party in the garden, because there was no way to squeeze 20-odd visitors inside our little cottage! In answer to prayer it was a gorgeous day out – clear blue Joburg winter skies; windstill and sunny – and so wonderful to have our dear friends gathering at our new address.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go all out like I did with Ninja’s ninja party, but between my mom and I we baked up a delight of treats for the guests. A friend of mine also helped cater, providing some amazing savoury snacks to balance all our sweeties ;)

Decor-wise I didn’t do too much other than focus on the main colours: red, white and mint/sea green. I also printed out some home-related scripture verses to stick up around the cottage (Psalm 127:1, Heb 3:4, Josh 24:15 and Prov 24:3–4). Other than that we just made sure the cottage was clean and the ratties were safely out of the way, and then we held an open house from morning tea time (11 a.m.) to afternoon tea time (4 p.m.)!

It was a lovely way to accomplish Goal #49 on my 101 things in 1001 days list.

Here are a few pics from the day, starting with our soldier

Housewarming 1

Of course our soldier was involved in the celebrations

Housewarming 2

I found the perfect housewarming napkins

Housewarming 3

A tea party in the sunshine

Housewarming 4

Mini biscuits, sweets and dried sausage sticks

Housewarming 5

Shortbread

Housewarming 6

Vanilla biscuits, ginger biscuits, cheese biscuits and coffee biscotti

Housewarming 7

Crispy oat biscuits

Housewarming 8

Old-style soetkoekies – a South African classic

Housewarming 9

Butterscotch biscuits with various flavours

Housewarming 10

Plain and wholewheat rusks

Throwing this party just reminded me how much I love spoiling the people I love :) I definitely need to find more excuses to play hostess, even if it’s to fewer folks at a time!

Faith like… tomatoes?

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Look at this bowl of perfect, ripe cherry tomatoes. There’s a story behind these tomatoes – a story that’s symbolic of my journey of faith.

Tomatoes 1

I think I’ve mentioned before that there was a time, two-and-a-bit years ago, when I felt I’d reached the end of my last shred of hope. I was depressed, overworked, faithless and exhausted. Though the seed of my belief in Christ had been planted many years before that, and had bloomed for a season, it had been choked and strangled by the cares of the world and the busyness of my life.

Around that time, I wrote down the following on an autumn day…

Tomatoes 5

Autumn 2012

The days are shorter, suddenly; the nights colder. The top branches of various trees are holding bright orange and rusty red leaves aloft; but the grass isn’t quite brown yet, and it’s still sunny and warm during the day.

My spirit is struggling within the routines of my city-bound body. I dream of russet meadows and foreign autumns, and I long for freedom. My life is lost like so much smoke in the dirt and noise of the city. I yearn for places I have never visited; heart-homes I only think I’ve seen.

I catch my expression in the morning mirror – sour at the instant knowledge that it will likely never be my lot to live other than I do now. I can’t see why or how I got here; I don’t feel I chose this path.

As I drive down the road in the morning, gusts of wind create swirling eddies of leaves, gathering briefly in the gutter before being blown away again. I feel as though I was made for a life that is lived in harmony with the seasons, but I can’t say why I feel that, since I’ve never lived that way before.

This all began when I went out into the sunshine, to pick warm, sweet, home-grown cherry tomatoes….

The tomatoes I was talking about there were from my parents’ garden. I’d been visiting my folks and was tasked with picking cherry tomatoes for our lunch that day. I remember standing in the sunshine and living fully in the moment as I closed my eyes and popped one warm tomato berry after the other into my mouth. (Don’t worry, I did save a few for our lunch!)

It was a moment so diametrically opposed to the rest of my life at the time – stuck in a stuffy office, working late and on weekends, dead tired from the endless banal cycle of my days – that it burned into my brain. From that one moment I began to dream differently, realising that there was a better life to be had than the one I was stuck in. After that autumn day Ninja and I began to research how we could move into a home with a garden and closer to our friends and family. We also began looking for a way out of my unfair work situation.

Yup. A good cherry tomato can have that effect! LOL

I believe the Lord began a work in my heart that day, restoring my faith and renewing my hope in His plan for my life. Fast forward two years later, and I can see the fruit of what He began that day.

Not only did God grant me a way out of my situation, giving me a season at home as a housewife and preparing a new home for me; He even went as far as growing a tomato plant for me!

Tomatoes 2

That little green tuft in the dry soil is the cherry tomato plant that ‘randomly’ sprang up while we were building our home. No one planted it – even though it landed up exactly where I’d planned to start my own veggie patch. We never watered it, either, or cared for it in any way… but it took root, and grew into this:

Tomatoes 3

So now, every few days, another bowlful of tomato berries ripens and waits to be picked. Which means that every few days I have the opportunity to relive that pivotal moment I had two autumns ago, and savour the sweet provision of the One who had a plan all along. It’s a reminder of where I was before; a reminder that strengthens my faith for the new worries and troubles I’m facing now.

Tomatoes 4

‘Taste and see that the Lord is good!’ ~ Psalm 34:8

I know that wasn’t quite what the psalmist was referring to in Psalm 34:8, but for me the flavour of the Lord’s goodness tastes remarkably similar to a handful of cherry tomatoes…!

Distractions

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Tulip

Yikes! It sure has been ages since I last posted! As always, I’ve missed my sunny scrapbook. Here’s why I’ve been quiet:

Firstly, I’ve been dealing with the sudden news that my best friend will soon be moving halfway across the country. It was a surprise to all of us, and I’ve been through the full range of emotions since the announcement. I started off being really sad and – quite frankly – self-focused about the whole thing. Friends like this special lady don’t come along very often in a lifetime, and I felt bereft at the thought that we wouldn’t just be able to pop in to see each other at any time. But once I got over myself, I could see what a brilliant answer to prayer this move would be for El.

In many ways, this is exactly what we’d been praying for together for her situation… though of course we hadn’t imagined such a drastic change of scenery! But I can see how the Lord is leading my sweet sister, and now I’m genuinely happy and excited for her. On a practical level, I’ve been busy helping her clean and pack and take trash to the dump whenever I get the chance. It’s been a wonderful time for us to realise (a) how much we’re going to miss each other and (b) how little actually has to change in our friendship. I’m already saving for my first trip to visit her in her new home, and she hasn’t even left yet!

The second thing that’s come up to test my faith (what a year!!) is that my Ninja may be out of a job again at the end of this month :( For reasons completely out of his control, he now has to begin the jobhunting process all over again. It’s pretty tough to stay chipper when faced with this twice in half a year, but we are convinced that the Lord is working in our lives with a purpose. Even if the only good that comes out of all these trials is stronger faith, it’s worth it. So on that front we continue to pray, hope and trust – and apply for work when reasonable opportunities arise.

Then, the third distraction that’s been keeping me away from my PC is, thankfully, a good one. I’ve been reading been absolutely enthralled by Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Have you read it? I saw the movie first, but the book is something else altogether. If everyone wrote like this author does, I’d never want to close my eyes for the wonder and pathos and pleasure and poignancy of the world around me. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long while; just such a fresh take on narration and description, instead of tired old recycled sentences.

And I haven’t finished it yet. So with that, I think I’ll grab my book and head for bed now on this freezing cold night in Johannesburg :) Hope it’s warmer where you are!

Zest