What if?

Belinda and I were chatting on Wednesday (yay for video calling) and we were playing the what if game. What if things change so much during and after this pandemic that there will be permanent positive transformation. It is so easy for me to just look at the loss of income and the feeling of being disconnected, that I sometimes forget that there could possibly be positive change.

What if most fashion and other retail stores had to move their shops online? Let’s say social distancing becomes the norm for some time. In this scenario, only a limited amount of people would be allowed into a mall and into a shop. It would then make sense to sell only online. They would save a lot on overheads and could possibly offer clothes at better prices. What if so many stores had to move online that malls can be repurposed for community projects? Like shelters for abused women or single moms that have nowhere to go. (The idea to convert a mall into a shelter was Belinda’s brilliant idea)

What if then because all the big store are online, we can have small shops in neighbourhoods again? Like a local bakery and butchery. You would buy most of your stuff online, but get personal, specialty goods at your neighbourhood shop. I like the idea of shopping at a family business and getting service because they know me. Chain stores are so impersonal. Wouldn’t it be great if we can have a sense of community again?

What if this can create a better, more sustainable way of living? What if by buying local, we give the local economy a boost and we support our neighbours and they in return support us? Maybe this time away from consumerism will teach us what we really need and I’m living in hope that the world won’t go on a shopping spree when the restrictions are lifted. Well, I think that so many people lost their jobs or are taking pay cuts, that they probably won’t.

This is just my experience in my country (South Africa) and I can’t speak for everyone. I feel a deep disconnect from life in general. I know that the lockdown is partially to blame because we are separated from each other in real life at the moment. This forced “apartness” from people also made me realise that I want to feel connected to others. I want to be part of something that has meaning to me and gives meaning to others.

So how to you feel about all this? Do you think we will pretty much just pick up where we left off? Or will the world look different after we can come out of shelter? I think things will be different – I just hope it’s a good different.

Matilda xo

Connected Friendship

16th April 2020

I cannot speak for Matilda, although she has shared some of her thoughts regarding her past friendships with me, but for me, I find myself, finally in the space of being completely myself in this friendship. That might sound like an odd start to this post, so lets go back to the beginning.

I met Matilda in 2007, at the end of the year. She was already home schooling her two children and I had just decided to take my son out of school to home school him too. We got to know each other through a mutual friend. In those early days, although I always loved Matilda (what’s not to love? She’s always sweet and kind), I found her quite mousy – not in her appearance, although she didn’t make much effort in that department either (neither did I at that stage of my life), but more in her manner. I felt she had some very different ideas about life, but whenever she tried to share them, she would be cut off, sometimes mid-sentence by some of the friends in our group. This was a group of mothers and children who gathered together on a weekly basis, to participate and initiate activities around our children. Matilda would start to share a new idea or thought, and I can’t ever remember her being able to substantiate her findings, before she would be quieted by another friend or more. Needless to say, we never really bonded over friendship in those early years. I speak under correction, but I think Matilda found me very opinionated at that stage of our relationship, for want of a better word. I think she went as far to say she thought I was confident. I’m like that now, but certainly didn’t feel that way then.

My birthday 2014.

Over the years, even though we never felt a particularly strong connection, we did develop a friendship separate from our initial one which involved the home schooling group. Our sons are similar ages and have always shared a friendship, so even though I had moved cities, we stayed in touch. My pattern was one of visiting the city where Matilda lives every second month. I would let friends know where and what time I’d be at a specific restaurant, and they would pop in and out through the course of the day. That way, I felt I’d get to see more people in one visit, than going to their homes individually. Matilda almost always showed up.

It was during these visits, that we started to form a deeper bond. So much so, that I eventually would visit her home when I went through to that city, and over the years, the friends I saw became less and less, so the few that were still in my life, would visit with me at Matilda’s home. This shift in our friendship dynamic, was so natural and organic. There was no forceful effort made by either of us. It just happened.

Fast forward to my 50th birthday event. I invited six ladies to go away with me to our holiday home in Mozambique, a neighbouring country to South Africa where we reside. Four of those six women, committed to the holiday. We left on a Monday morning, very early, and came back to South Africa on the Friday. Matilda was one of those ladies who pledged to come with. Before this holiday, although our friendship had naturally progressed, we were still more just buddies than deep, heart-to-heart friends.

Four of us on a rustic fishing boat at the Limpopo River mouth, Mozambique.

I do feel that our friendship reached a new depth on this trip. As a group of women, we shared heartfelt issues and stories with each other. We allowed ourselves to be very vulnerable with one another during this time. We all found out deep secrets about one another, and experienced the power of sharing with no fear of judgement. It was a powerful week. Matilda allowed herself to share her truths, which are different to mine, but I found myself in admiration of her. For the first time, I saw her authentic self. She allowed all the masks to slip, and I was impressed, amazed and surprised by who emerged! This was a woman I wanted to more deeply connect with. I saw for the first time, a strong woman, with strong beliefs and weird and wonderful ideas. I knew she was someone I needed in my life. She added something, and I couldn’t yet put my finger on it.

About 18 months after that trip, I asked Matilda to come into “MSJ” with me. She brought a far more sustainable approach to the business, because of how she lives her life. Our friendship has reached such depths of trust and vulnerability. There is really no one else I trust more with the stories of my heart. I could finally put my finger on what she brings to my life. She brings balance. She is more fun than my serious self. She laughs more. She finds lightness in dark situations. She allows me to be my bossy and very organised self, without taking offense. She doesn’t get upset when I disagree with her. She allows me to speak my mind, even if it’s difficult to hear. To date, there’s nothing I’ve shared with her, that has shocked her or made her want to run away. She is a rock! For that, I am truly, endlessly grateful. She sees me! She hears me! And who doesn’t want that?

Belinda xo

Remembering our Day Trip to Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland.

14 April, 2020

This was my first ever trip to Europe. We had spent five days in Switzerland in June, but then traveled to Italy and France for ten days. We then came back to Switzerland, where we stayed with my husband’s family. His cousin took us on this lovely day trip, up Mt. Pilatus. My daughter and her boyfriend, joined us on this leg of our European trip.

The day started early with us leaving Lucerne by boat. I don’t remember the specific name of our boat, but it was very clean, comfortable and fast. It was so hot, I had no idea that I’d actually feel quite chilly at the top of the mountain. This first part of the trip, was scenic and calm. The lake was exquisite and the sights, breathtaking. There were so many people all around the lake, doing what holiday makers do in the short European summers. Everyone was tanned and looked healthy. You could literally feel summer in the air.

The crystal clear water of the Lake, was beautiful. Actually, the name of this body of water changes from where we boarded the boat in Lucerne, called Luzerner See, then over the large body of water called Vierwaldstattersee, and then you travel into the channel called Alpnacher See. Once there, it’s not long before you dock at Alpnachstad. This is where the second part to the journey up Mt. Pilatus begins.

The second part of the journey, begins at the base of Mt. Pilatus in a cogwheel train that chugs up the side of the mountain. This part of the trip is not the most comfortable, but it is incredibly scenic. The rich, grassy slopes of the mountain, provide grazing for some gorgeous Swiss dairy cows. Everything is in vivid shades of green, ranging from a lovely, pea-green to rich, darker hues of emerald. Of course, traveling from Africa, we really do appreciate how clean Switzerland is in general, but this ode to Mother Nature, going up this mountain side, is nothing short of spectacular! This part of the trip is also the longest, but it gives one the time to appreciate the beauty and drink it all in.

Whilst at the summit of Mt. Pilatus, we walked around and drank in the mountain beauty all around us. Although a bit chilly, if you go in mid-summer, a lightweight knit or jacket, would be more than sufficient. We walked down steep, natural stairways. Well, they aren’t naturally there, but they are created from natural materials. We walked along these stairways, to take photos of the delicate mountain flowers and grasses that are in abundance. The beautiful views of the mountains around, and the chugging, cogwheel trains coming up the mountain side, all made for great photography practice. We decided to have lunch at a reputable restaurant here with the most ostentatious chandeliers. We did sit near a fireplace and warmed up nicely, as although not cold, the mountain breeze did cut through us. The fire provided just the right amount of warmth. For the life of me, I do not remember the name of the restaurant.

I myself, did not wear sneakers, but I would advise it for this part of the trip. The stairways were moist and slippery and there were lovely, mountain trails that I couldn’t walk on, because I wore a pair of sandals. My husband stayed with me, taking in all the beauty and keeping me company while I filled up my SD card for the day. My daughter, her boyfriend and my husband’s cousin, did a walk along one of these trails. I’ll take their word for it that it was stunning.

The third leg of the journey is the first part down the mountain. We did wait a while in the queue at the top, as each cable car, doesn’t take too many people at once. For some reason, we got to the queue together with a group of people on a tour together. It didn’t deter me. Whilst waiting, we shopped in a little curio shop at the top and I purchased a few gifts for my children at home. I also found the views from the cable car station delightful. Again, just outside the windows, there were a host of tiny, perfect flowers, dancing in the mountain breeze. I cannot reiterate enough that there is so much natural beauty around.

The cable car goes down the mountainside to a little stop called Frakmuntegg. There we got out and again I was snapping away, getting more shots of the beautiful scenery. The fourth leg, is a gondola which takes you down the rest of the way to Kriens. While at Frakmuntegg, I just had to capture an unusual water feature just outside the cable station. The gondola is definitely not as streamlined or advanced as the cable car, but the surrounding beauty, is of course just as arresting.

Once you arrive in Kriens, you can take a bus back to Lucerne. We however, missed the bus by a few seconds, so decide to walk around Kriens and take in the quaint charm of this little town. We eventually got to the train station where we were able to get back to Lucerne, where we’d left our car parked for the day.

If you are going to Lucerne at all on a Swiss holiday, this day trip is so absolutely worth it. Of course, it doesn’t have to take a full day, but we wanted to make it last as long as possible. With so many sights and views, it’s best not to rush it. I’m actually grateful we didn’t make the bus for that part of the trip, as the walk through Kriens was so worth it. Have a look for yourself.

Belinda xo

styling a suit jacket bought at a charity shop

13 April 2020


Just as Belinda and I started on our second hand clothing journey, I came across a suit for R15 (less than one US dollar). Everything in the charity shop was on sale for R15 and I was thrilled to find the suit. It was in perfect condition and needed no hemming or buttons replaced (it has hidden buttons). I think it used to be someone’s work suit. I decided, rather rashly, to give the trousers to my daughter. Thinking then that suits weren’t in fashion. Now, I want to kick myself – suits are trendy again. She said I could have the trousers back, but when? The lockdown has been extended.

That brings me to the next issue. Why would I write a blog about styling a suit jacket when the world is living in pjs and sweats? Because I am fed up with this lockdown. I know it is the right thing to do and I know I’m complaining from a place of privilege, but I am still frustrated. When the restrictions are lifted, I will have some outfit ideas for autumn and maybe even for our mild South African winters. And if I share them with you, we can look to the future together.

To set the stage: I styled the jacket with blue jeans and ankle boots that I kept for all the outfits. I love my “new” ankle boots – it was my first time wearing them. I decided to try three different layering pieces underneath the jacket and then change each look up by just adding a scarf. Everything I’m wearing is either thrifted or pre-loved, except for the knitted sweater in the first outfit. I did consider chopping my head off when I cropped the photos, but then you wouldn’t see my hair without a style and my fed up smile.

For this look, I layered a light grey knitted sweater underneath my jacket. At first I wasn’t sure about the colours, thinking that they might clash. but when I added my gran’s pearls, the look just came together. My grandmother didn’t have much and even though this is just costume jewellery, it always reminds me of her. It is also the only personal thing I have that was hers. To change the look up, I added a grey and rust scarf. In all fairness, I could be wearing anything underneath and nobody would be the wiser. Is that cheating when you change up a look?

For the second look, I went for a 70’s vibe – collar out. I was surprised that I liked this look at all. I felt so groovy in these threads. Does the pink look too summery for autumn? I’m going to wear it anyway – convention be damned. The scarf belonged to my daughter, but she already has a similar one and gave this one to me. She bought them in China while she was working as an au pair in Shanghai.

The last look is my least favourite. I chose a dark purple shirt and the added a greenish scarf with dark purple accents – which you can’t really see. The collar of the shirt is peeking out from under the scarf – which you can’t really see. The reason I don’t like this look is the colour. It is too dark. I like light and happy colours and I think dark purple clashes with my energy and my personality. I could probably pull this off for work and feel serious enough to be work appropriate.

Styling my charity shop jacket was a lot of fun and I enjoyed writing this blog post. I will be ready to get out of my pjs and into regular clothes when this lockdown is lifted. Take care and stay safe.

Matilda xo

Esse – The Probiotic Skin Care Range

10th April 2020

Esse Skincare – Probiotic Range

The word “Esse” means “to be” in Latin. This skin care range has, since it’s inception, been certified organic, vegan and cruelty free. They also support fair trade and are listed as a carbon neutral company – all the things that Matilda and I look for in a product range.

In 2009, this company made the shift into the Probiotic Skincare, but what does this actually mean? In short, optimal skin care is hugely dependent on the probiotic microbes living on it and in it. This is where “Esse” is beneficial. Their claim is that they create an environment on the skin, that favours the growth of beneficial microbes.

Gentle Gel Cleanser

“Esse” uses prebiotics to selectively feed good microbes. Two of their serums contain live probiotic microbes, which is said to make functional changes to the skin’s microbiome.

Hydro Moisturiser

Thus far, I have only added this Hydro Moisturiser to my routine. It is reported to improve the skin’s condition and moisture content by using prebiotics and probiotic extracts in an ultra-mild formulation to favour beneficial microbes. I have only been using this product for about two weeks and as yet, cannot say I see a marked difference in my skin. I do think that this product would work best, if I added a cleanser to the routine. On my list of skin care products to purchase from this range, is at least one of their serums. I love serums as I find they penetrate deeper into the skin than creams.

Intensity Serum

I am most interested in using their “Intensity Serum” which promises to reduce wrinkles quickly. It’s not that I hate wrinkles. I don’t. I’m almost 53 years old, and wrinkles show I’ve lived. I get that. But I have deep wrinkles and any product that claims to assist with that, is something I’ll give a try. I just want softened lines. The key ingredient in this serum is Mafane extract which comes from Reunion Island. It’s said to relax muscles, in much the same way as Botox does. Obviously, the effects are said to only last for 24 hours, but if I’m working this into my skin care routine, I can’t expect more than that. Once I’ve added this, I will definitely give you an update.

If you, like Matilda and me, are looking for a range that is safe to use, great for the environment and has fair trade practices, then do try “Esse”. It is a local South African brand, so if you’re in this country, please have a look at their website: https://www.esseskincare.com/

The bottles are also made of glass. I purchased my moisturiser from “The Wellness Warehouse” which does stock quite an extensive part of this range. The only sad part was that they don’t do refills. It would be great if South Africa could get on that more sustainable path of the consumer being able to refill, or at least exchange their glass bottle for a discount on the new product. Other than that, I think this brand/range is doing fabulously.

Belinda xo

How Experiences can lead to Truth

9 April 2020


 

On Tuesday I wrote about creating memories through experiences and that post stayed with me until now. We want to paint our walls during the lockdown, because we now have time. I am washing the walls with sugar soap before we can paint them. The rest of my family try to stay as far away as possible from me, because I am known to ask for coffee if I catch someone’s eye. So I had a lot of time to think. Is it possible to find our truth through experiences, or parts of our truth at least?

We discover our likes and dislikes by trying out things. For example, theme parks. I hate them. Through experiencing theme parks, I realised a few things about myself. I have no problem whirling around on the spinning ride. I don’t get nauseous and I find it quite exhilarating. The one and only thought I can muster through a very high anxiety haze on any of the other rides is: “I am definitely going to die!!!” And then I don’t, but it feels as if I went to hell. One other big thing that I learned about myself is that I don’t do good in crowds. All the movement and noise drains my energy and after two hours I can hardly speak coherently. Likes and dislikes are easy to identify. We usually know instinctively that feelings of high anxiety is bad and and that we don’t like it. Except for adrenaline junkies and I cannot relate to their experiences – at all. What if we go deeper?

When I visited theme parks (never again), the thing that triggered a big reaction in me, was people trying to persuade me to go on a ride. They start off by asking nicely, then they want you to believe how much fun it is – how much you will enjoy it. Even if you had tried it already and hated it. The next step is trying to guilt you into it by making you feel like a spoil sport and lastly, if that doesn’t work, they say you have no courage and they treat you like an outsider. All in the hope that you might want to go to hell again. People pushing me to do something that I really don’t want to, infuriates me. What does this say about me?

Growing up in the 80’s, we were always anti-establisment. South Africa was very conservative in those days and we were heavily censored by the government. They decided what we saw, what we listened to and what we should think. They controlled our lives and we were always pushing back. I realise now that we didn’t have any real power to take responsibility for our lives. The government, the church and our parents made decisions that affected us deeply. Okay, now I’m going deeper still. I lived a double life for very long. I could disagree with you ardently, but you would never know it. I would just keep it all inside and submit to your energy. That is how I felt all my life. Going along with whatever plans were being made and suppressing my truth.

Not anymore! I gained a lot of perspective by going to theme parks. I will not give up who I am to fit into anyone else’s plans or life. If we can’t find a compromise, I won’t submit just to get things moving or to keep the peace. Experiences will most certainly reveal truth, if you are open to it. So, when I visit a theme park again (never), I will whirl on the spinning ride and then go sit somewhere and be grateful that a part of my truth was revealed to me while I thought I was going to die.

Matilda xo

Making Memories

7 April 2020


For us as a family, 2017 brought great change. Our daughter was about to go on her first big adventure. She was going to be a counselor at a youth camp in the USA. I knew that this experience would change her life forever. She had a very sheltered upbringing and didn’t know much of the world outside our town. We, that is my husband and I, decided to do something together as a family before she went away. Our family would never be exactly the same after her travels and I wanted a memory of us before we let her go. She was going to have a great, big adventure and we wouldn’t be a part of it.

We wanted this last shared time to be private and we were fortunate enough to find a setting that we all loved. Ribbokkloof(http://ribbokkloof.co.za/) in Mpumalanga was just the perfect place for us to be. We had the place all to ourselves. We didn’t arrange it that way, but when we arrived, we were the only people booked for the day. This was such a blessing, because we didn’t have to be considerate of others and we could be as loud or silly as we wanted to.

All five of us love being out of doors. That is why we chose a place where we could see beautiful views everywhere we looked. It has two types of veld. You have the wide open spaces of the Highveld in some places and proper African bush in other places. Some members of the family (all the boys) cannot be inactive. Karla and I can sit and read for hours, but the boys have to move. So, off we went on a hike, just to drain some of their energy.

Lastly, we wanted a pool and somewhere to braai (South African for barbecue). It doesn’t feel like an outdoors experience to my youngest son if we don’t swim. I am not a keen swimmer, but the rest of them can never get enough. My daughter made her love of water into a career – she is a swimming instructor. As for the braai – my husband loves making a fire so much, I think he is a closet pyromaniac. And in all honesty the kids love his meals way better than mine. He didn’t disappoint.

We only went for the day, but what a perfect day it was. I have this last memory of us before any of our children were grown up. And it should be just a memory, because they have to grow up and become independent adults (as they like to remind me). I wouldn’t change a thing about our relationship now, but I’m also so grateful that I can have these memories.

Matilda xo