Finding ways to reconnect- back to school

This is a copy of my article published in the city pages magazine (Kuwait)

Hope you enjoy reading 🙂

It’s back to school, back to routine and perhaps back to spending less time with loved ones than we’d like to. The summer vacation is coming to a close, so this means a new year, new challenges for both parents and children, spouses and families.

Let’s explore how we can create routines that provide us with optimal value, optimal quality time and minimal stress so that this new school year is one that we can look forward to as we focus on work and academics, but continue to cement the bonds we might have ignited during the summer.

If we were to be quite honest with ourselves we would all agree that much of our “free” time gets spent on our screens, whether they are our television sets, computers, iPads or mobile phones. These sophisticated devices, while meant to assist in organising ourselves, have fallen short in terms of taking us further away from our real relationships, away from meaningful face to face communication and it has also sunken us further into procrastination, and time lost.

Our lives have also become over active and busy, since busying ourselves seems to be a trend and a must in order to fit into today’s societal norms. There is a growing need to ensure our kids are kept busying themselves in school, extra sports and other extra curricular activities so that they do not miss out on life. They are rushed from one activity to another while we simultaneously rush around doing doing doing, racing here and there, squeezing in a million errands that need to be done.

Thankfully many people have realised that this busy- ness and over activity is actually taking us away from those we love the most. Much has been written on how we can create a balance within this chaos. Here are some tips that we can consider introspecting and applying in the hope of finding peace, calm and quality time amidst the hustle and bustle of school, homework, extra curricular activities, social and business commitments.

Here are 3 ways we can enhance, deepen and value the time we make and spend with our kids and families.

  1. Ensure restful sleep for both adults and children

When we are overworked and over stimulated our sleep is one of the first needs that take a beating. When we are sleep deprived our physical stamina and moods are compromised and this leaves us feeling groggy, miserable and unable to be our optimal best for ourselves and our families.

A good sleep routine entails sleeping at around the same time each evening and waking up at an early hour, ideally many have promoted the best sleep time between 10pm and 6am, which gives you a reasonable 8 hours of rest, and allows for your body to heal, and recuperate.

2. Unplug your racing mind from all the clutter

Many therapists agree that an important factor in staying focussed on family relationships, especially after a hard and busy day at work and school, is that one needs to mentally leave work at work.

This means that we need to prioritise our times and concertedly make time each day to refocus, gather our energies and direct them away from our work days and towards the home. We can do this through visualisations, imagery and physically closing work doors, school books or bags or the like with the intention of leaving them where they are and not carrying them home with you.

In doing so, we will be able to better connect with our kids, sincerely, and fully show interest in their lives and wellbeing and they will be able to feel completely connected to you, heard and understood. Being fully present and in the moment for a few minutes may prove to be more beneficial than partially present for a longer period of time and the rewards of this will be long lasting and deeply felt.

3. Unplug your gadgets, and plug into your communications

A rule during mealtimes or another preferable time that would greatly enhance the bonding between parents and kids, and families in general is that all electronics be turned off and placed away for a specific duration of time.

This means no texting, no downloading, no answering of phones, no facebooking and tweeting or responding to “important” emails. This is another way to enhance family ties and to fully focus on each other. No distractions, no preoccupations and no drifting into various realms of cyberspace. Just pure, real, heart to heart conversations, fun times and good laughs.

Imagine having a hectic day at work, knowing that coming home means switching off, relaxing, taking time out and recuperating. Knowing that when a school day has been a tough one there’s something to look forward to after that, knowing that the days chaos needn’t be dragged along with us the entire day. There are always good times, family support and hearty meals awaiting you at the end of a crazy day.

Wishing you all a fun filled, laughter ridden, consistently calm new school year, muddled in with some soul food and family bonding that will keep the year exciting, challenging and still rewarding.

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A taste of South Africa, in Kuwait

Sawubona. Dumelang. Goie aand. Masah al Khair.  Good morning 🙂

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a meat lover- in fact I steer away from meat most of the time but today we decided to enjoy an African Night at the meat company @ 360 Mall.

 

I guess we have been yearning for home, longing to see fellow Africans, longing to hear the sound of the African Drum, and mingle with the friendly culture and people of my nation. They were so friendly that curly tops found herself spending the evening amongst them- she got to check out what the chef was up to, she had her own tour of the kitchen and restaurant by the manager himself and moved from one South African to the next- all speaking to her in a language she is unfamiliar with.

The meat company, while slightly on the pricey side, will not leave you disappointed. The food is good- you can try some really authentic South African dishes and you will enjoy the warm welcome and smiles of true South Africans at their best.

We ordered freshly squeezed juice, a prawn and tomato soup, some pap and chakalaka (Aouth African tomato chutney and polenta), chicken livers- really good, and a steak with brocolli and spinach on the side. The manager even threw in some welcome drinks, fresh mango and orange blend and a discount in the end.

 

Curly tops was treated like the guest of honor, she was awarded with a little South African badge and we had a special treat of drummers, drumming to the beat of Shosholoza as we continued our meal.

Excellent service, excellent staff and delightful food!

pLaY dOuGh- from the kitchen cupboard

Our play dough has dried up and curly tops really enjoys playing with it- she keeps at it for ages. Cutting, rolling, making animals (her version of them), and cookies in various shapes.

I looked for a new recipe today and planned to make one more rubbery- silly me- I scrolled through the ingredients, had them all and just began.

http://www.playdoughrecipe.com/rubbery-playdough-recipe/

Only half way through I realised I didn’t have enough bicarbonate of soda 😦

So I went back to my old recipe,

http://www.playdoughrecipe.com/cream-of-tartar-playdough-recipe/

and tried to mix up my own concoction by merging the 2 recipes.

I added 1 cup of corn flour

1 cup flour

1 cup of salt

1 tbsp oil

2 tspn bicarb

2 cups water

and boiled it up

And it didn’t turn out too badly after all. Slightly rubbery, slightly sticky but good enough to play with. I added some red color to one piece, some turmeric to the other and I left the other plain

Curly tops made balls of different sizes as we explored numbers by counting how many balls, how many were big and how many small. She also made her own creations of what she called butterflies and caterpillars 🙂

Play dough is really so much fun, great for motor skills, creativity and role play

Rescued kitten denied access to help

Just over a week ago a friend of mine found an abandoned kitten in a box. She spent the afternoon waiting with it in the hope of finding its mother but the mom didn’t show up. It appears that the kitten must have been a domestic one, and the owners must have abandoned it, that’s how it landed up in a box on the street, left to die.

She is a true animal lover and wild life ranger, and the only that that felt morally right for her to do was to rescue the kitten, who couldn’t have been older that 3 days.

She syringe fed it, tried to keep it warm and provide as much love to it as she could, in the hope of saving a life. Unfortunately her building policy is “NO PETS”. The manager found out the she had this kitten and demanded she put the kitten back in the street where she found it. She had a day to get rid of it before she would be kicked out of the building and/or pay a heavy fine. As my friend explained that she knew the rules, and didn’t however go out to buy a new cat, she just wanted to help it live until she could find a new home for it, the manager was in no means negotiable. Sad reality that animal lives, are so easily disregarded. Now I understand the problem here of many stray cats, etc and that sometimes perhaps it makes sense to put them down. But when looking at each individual case can we not have some compassion?

Sadly, during her quest to save the kitten, rehome her with a foster cat and deal with the manager of her building the kitten stopped breathing after a week 😦 I do feel that it is better off now, considering the challenges this poor thing faced. I am so proud of my friend still who, in her desire to save a little life, definitely extended the kittens life to a week more than it would have lived and provided it with the love it didn’t have.

Kudos to all you animal, earth and peace lovers. It takes one person to make change, whether it is in the life of an animal, to advocate on vulnerable people in unfortunate circumstances or to demonstrate love.

Basil Pesto Spaghetti

A few weeks ago I bought some plants to test out my green fingers, I’m glad to say that my herbs are flourishing and are in abundance.

I needed to find a way to use up all my basil after harvesting them and what I came up with was delicious, wholesome and easy. I found the main idea from a recipe book and added some of my own as I went along.

To start off with a picked my basil, added a few rosemary sprigs and mint.

Then I washed and tossed it into the blender with the other ingredients while I boiled the spaghetti on the side and in 10 minutes we had a meal.

The ingredients I used:

2/3 cup of herbs (basil with bits of mint and rosemary)

4 Tbsp pine nuts -they are sooooo yummy but pricey 😦

1/4 cup of olive oil, I used a little more so that the whole wheat spaghetti didn’t taste dry

himalayan salt

2 Tbsp garlic

Blend all the above

I then added some grated Parmesan, other cheese (I had white cheddar) and pepper according to taste

I Threw the pesto mixture over the drained spaghetti, tossed until it was well mixed

It didn’t need to be heated or cooked on the stove since the spaghetti was still warm. (So I guess this could be considered nearly raw)

And this was the end result just before it was gobbled up 🙂

Another green smoothie start to our day

When my husband first saw this he was grossed out, I’m sure like many of you. I would be too. Although I must add that it definitely tastes far better than it looks. And yes it be made to actually taste pleasant.

So I urged my hubby just to taste it. One small sip and if he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to have more. And he did!! From making disgusted faces at the sight of it he started asking me to make more. And since then we have been making smoothies every morning, and he even takes a bottle with him to work as part of his “detox”.

While curly tops is still not willing to try, understanding her preferences I made her a papaya smoothie this morning with coconut water, flax seed oil and bee pollen. She loved it! And I am thrilled that all those nutrients got into her system to kick start her day too.

Go on, try it. Dare yourself and you wont be sorry

Expat life- make it or break it

About 10 years ago, I was still a teen. A group of Canadian volunteers came to South Africa on an exchange programme where they were placed in various NGO’s for a year where they could make a difference, absorb a new culture and experience the adventure.

There were some who engulfed themselves in the rich African culture- they braided their hair, had sleep overs in African homes, tried out the notorious taxi services, danced to the African beat. They would have certainly enjoyed a good meal of pap and marogo, or maybe a braai with some perfectly spiced boerewors and chakalaka. And when their year had ended they were heartbroken, enriched, enlightened and more developed than a year before. They loved their expereinces thoroughly.

On the other hand there was this one lady that I recall. She was painful, in agony, depressed and miserable. She drained those around her with her complaints and negativity. “Back home things are like this”, “back home this is better”, “back home the public transport is effecient”, “back home…back home …..back home”. She could not wait for the time to come for her to get back home. I actually think she left before  her contract was up.

The differences between the above types of peeple are that those who enjoyed the adventure CHOSE to enjoy it. They chose to be POSITIVE. They CHOSE to make the BEST out of every situation they encountered and took it all in their stride. While the later CHOSE to be miserable, she CHOSE to look for the flaws and cracks in every situation. She CHOSE to leave one foot in Canada and the other one dragging to South Africa. If both your feet are in the same place, how can you be comfortable?

All these interns experienced similar things, the same culture and country but their outlooks were vastly different. And yet, hearing the two stories you may be certain they were sent to completely different areas. The incredible difference is the choice each made in how they would perceive to experience what they would.

Watching these interns as the year unfolded turned out to be one of the greatest lessons I would learn, a lesson that would teach me how to survive being an expat, where you become an unknown, you dive into something completely foreign. Its culture, its people, its rules and regulations, its norms and values. All very contrasting, some really frustrating, some extremely challenging from what feels normal and right to you.

I made the choice to make it work, to seek out its advantages, its pleasantries, its uniqueness and rise above the very challenges that would test me, break me and push my boundaries.

Now the expat life is not all rosy, as people back home assume. They assume you travel, spend, socialise, and live a life far beyond theirs. One of the greatest challenges is being away from family, especially in times of grief such as death, illness, etc. The other challenge is that in your home town you have established networks, a reptation and a name that poeple may know you and your capabilities by, whereas the expat needs to start from scratch to build up a reputation, and sometimes force themselves to get out there and unnaturally meet people, to form relationships.

However all these challenges are steps towards your own personal growth, pushing your own comfort zones, and seeing how much you can achieve without all the cushions padding you. It is an incredible feeling of achievement and sweetness.

You can choose to make your expat experience work for you for the duration you choose to be one. Find the fun, the adventure and the positive aspects because they are there if you allow yourself to find it. You may have to scratch beneath the surface but doing this is well worth it.