Ball Talk on the Court

On Saturday, I told a 60 year old man that we needed to “rediscover our magic from last week”.

What can I say, except that I get stressed on the tennis court?

The previous week at social tennis, I was partnered with the Chairman of the Club. It wasn’t the first time I’d played as his partner and I can’t actually remember the outcome of any of the prior games but when we partnered up again, I was somehow certain that I spent most of the match feeling utterly mortified by my performance. This time was no different. We (I) started out badly, trailing 0-2. And then, all of a sudden, we turned things around and won the set 6-3. Yeeha!

So when we got paired up again this past Saturday and were trailing 0-2 once again, it seemed logical to invoke inspiration from the previous weeks’ successful turnaround.

Fortunately, the Chairman is such a gentleman that he merely smiled at my social blunder and I was able to half hide my scarlet face under my cap.

For the next match this past weekend, my partner was a gentleman whom I would say must be well into his seventies. Not a reason to underestimate the man on the court, I soon learned. Some of his shots were so beautiful and so genius, I felt as though I were watching them in slow motion – like perfectly orchestrated chess moves. Thanks to his talent, we were holding our own against our opponents – one of whom was a women in her forties whom I have played against at least four times in the past six months. For some reason, each time we are pitted against one another, she introduces herself as though she has never clapped eyes on me in her life. Grrrr. So beating this woman with the help of my supremely talented seventy-something partner was high on my agenda. I was taking things seriously.

My partner and I were getting along swimmingly, when all of a sudden he asked me whether I was “making love to that ball”.

This was a part of Tennis Etiquette that The Manners Brigade had omitted to fill me in on during their lectures.

Er…I’m sorry…I’m not familiar with that technical term on the tennis court, Gramps…

That’s when he pointed to the ball that I was apparently hogging inside the secret pocket of my tennis skirt. The thing is, I love cute little white tennis skirts but shoving balls “up your broeks” (as Ethel puts it) is neither as easy, nor as elegant, as one might wish. As a result, I tend to leave the third and spare ball in its secret pocket up my skirt, until its really, really needed in the game. I tried to explain this to Gramps.

“I prefer to collect the other two balls,” I say, “because it’s hard to get this one in and out.”

Such eloquence, Natalie!

He smiles, before explaining that my method of making love to the balls “in my broeks” means that one ball is much warmer than the others. Apparently, the balls need to be rotated.

Seriously, that’s what he explained.

I still haven’t worked out whether it’s better to serve with warm or cold balls, but at that point I decided it would be better not to ask. Maybe I’ll check in with The Manners Brigade this Saturday and see what they have to say on the matter.

Or I’ll wear a pair of good old, reliable shorts with pockets on the outside allowing for quick and easy ball access… Hmmm. Might be the best solution.

Anyone for Tennis?

I’ve always loved tennis. The problem is, I’m completely rubbish at it. Which is why it took me seven years to pluck up the courage to start playing social tennis at my local club. I was afraid I would be so bad relative to everyone else, it would be embarrassing.

And that has honestly been the case quite often. But it’s also been lots of fun and I’ve met some classic characters. To set the scene, here’s an interaction that took place during a ladies doubles match a few weeks ago. I’ll call my partner Ethel and I’ll call one of our opponents Granny Dawn. First of all, Granny Dawn is past her physical prime and struggles to move around the court as a result. When we knock up before a match starts, it is customary at this club for two players to hit to one another using half the court, while the other two players do the same on the other side of the court. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not very good, so for me to control my shots so that they land nicely in the middle of the one half of the court, is often impossible.

But when you knock up with Granny Dawn, unless you hit a perfect shot that is neatly placed directly in front of her (which is what I try my utmost to do), she won’t even contemplate hitting it. And that’s when she tells me that I “really need to try to hit the ball to her”. Thanks for clearing that up, Granny Dawn! I totally thought the idea was to hit all over the show!

So, anyway, Ethel and I were playing a match against Granny Dawn and another lady when Granny Dawn hit a terrible shot at net which prompted the following:

Ethel (quietly, to me – actually not that quietly as Granny Dawn is fairly deaf): “You know, when Dawn was younger, she used to be brilliant at net. Really, really fast.”

I’m thinking that I can’t imagine such a time (although, to be fair to Granny Dawn, I’m so useless I don’t even dare to stand at net in doubles) and that it must have been before the Rinderpest, but I’m curious as to how old these women who are still playing some mean tennis, actually are, so I say:

Natalie: Really? That’s impressive. How long ago was that, Ethel?

Ethel: Well, put it this way, I’ve been a member here for 58 years.

Now, Ethel is way too sharp to give me enough facts to allow me to calculate her age, but suffice it to say, these ladies have experience behind them. I try to make up for my lack of skills and experience by chasing down almost every ball. During the same match, I hit the worst loping lollipop to Granny Dawn in tennis history. Granny Dawn swung her racquet at my terrible shot and completely missed, but it was such an awful shot, I could hardly blame her, so I apologised. Ethel doesn’t tolerate apologies on the tennis court so she turned to me and said:

“Don’t apologise! It’s not your fault she can’t see the ball!”

Here’s another classic from Ethel from a different doubles match in which we were playing opposite Granny Dawn. Granny Dawn had hit an unplayable lollipop to me which I’d tried my best to return but failed hopelessly. Instinctively, I apologised. Ethel immediately looked slightly annoyed, turned to me and said:

“Don’t say sorry! You can’t return a crap shot like that!”

I have to say that I am honestly very fond of Ethel. She was on duty the first day that I came to social tennis in May this year. Being on duty means you are in charge of allocating people to doubles matches as and when players become available. I thought I was dutifully waiting my turn, when Ethel approached me, wanting to know who I was. When I told her, she replied that she would never have known I was there to play social tennis because I was “sitting in the wrong place”.

“Come sit here!” she ordered and I obediently moved from the bench I was sitting on to a chair about four metres away. This was apparently the “waiting to go on the court” section of the club. Right.

Ethel and I got chatting and I told her that I was useless but that I was hoping that, in time, if I played regularly, I’d improve.

“Don’t worry” she said, “there are alot of people here who think they are stars, but they’re not!”

I liked Ethel instantly and I think she likes me because the chance of me starting to believe that I’m a tennis star, are slim to none.

I also try to make up for my lack of skill by fetching lots of balls. (Being several decades younger than everyone also makes me feel kind of obliged to do so…) Ethel approves of this behaviour and as a result has declared that I am “well brought up”. She doesn’t necessarily think the same of a poor, pimply preteen youngster whose father drags him along every Saturday to play with the oldies. And she lets me know this. I can’t help but feel sorry for the kid. I’ve seen him wearing a bright red jersey with an ostrich on the front that was clearly knitted for him by his granny. Manners or no manners, high school aint going to be a picnic for this little guy.

Other members of the social tennis scene think a whole lot less of my upbringing. And have told me so. A few weeks ago, my partner, as well as one of my opponents, a two metre tall German woman, stopped play and called me to net to lecture me on several aspects of tennis etiquette. I don’t mind being filled in on unwritten rules, like passing the ball under the net – my balls frequently get stopped by the net as I seem to be unable to consistently keep them low enough on the ground, so I confess that I have resorted to gently hitting the ball over the net instead.

“It’s just good manners,” I was told. Apparently, passing the ball over the net is tantamount to screaming obscenities on the tennis court, from a manners perspective. I actually have heard the f-word coming out of an extremely frustrated granny’s mouth during play…

Anyway, I’ll be back this Saturday to hit some more lollipops and to listen to some more lectures on my lack of manners and my undignified up-bringing. At least one can blame one’s parents for those things 🙂

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SandtonMommy is on Twitter

When I saw a Facebook post by my thirteen year old niece calling all her friends to “follow me!!!” I decided it was time that On Sabbatical in Sandton had a Twitter presence.

I roll my eyes at the levels of fear and intimidation that The Mother Figure experiences every time she tries to look at the latest pics of The Princess of Facebook, but I confess that I felt some of that confusion with respect to Twitter and its character restrictions in terms of names, usernames and tweets. A few years ago I caught The Mother Figure laughing uproariously at a Pieter Dirk Uys/ Evita Bezuidenhout quote which went something like “You won’t find me under Facebook or over at Twitter…” Well, I can confirm that even Tannie Evita, at her tender age, has given and can now be found on Twitter: @TannieEvita. Along with my niece’s Twitter presence, I took that as a sign that I needed to get over myself. And so, with a little help from the friendly people at the EC Mac store in Atholl Square, I managed to wrap my head around Twitter’s rules and regulations and settled on:

Twitter name: SabbaticalinSandton

Twitter username: SandtonMommy

You can follow me on Twitter by clicking on the Twitter link that looks like the picture below, in the right hand column on this blog’s homepage, just under “archives” or simply clicking on this picture link below:

You can also get these blog posts straight to your Inbox via e-mail by “subscribing” to this blog. To do this, just go to the homepage and enter your e-mail address in the subscription box that looks like this: (it’s just under the big photo of The Princess at the top of the blog).

Thanks to Blair over at Blairadise for being my first Twitter follower.

I am Strapped

It’s official – I have been strapped:

I am Strapped

It all began with the Nike We Run Jozi 10km race two Sundays ago. I was gutted that I missed the Nike night run through the city of Jozi on 21 March this year (we were out of town) and I vowed to do the next one. From June to August, Megan, my running buddy and I, would meet once a week for a 5km trot. We’d chat, run at a nice, chilled pace and just generally enjoy the urban scenery. Then came our family trip to Geneva and Antibes for The Husband’s cycle race, where I figured I’d stretch myself to 6km since the routes on my doorstep there, were nowhere near as hilly as the routes on my Jozi doorstep, plus I was no longer running at an altitude of 1,600m.  Then, in the ten days leading up to the Nike We Run Jozi race, I did two 7km trots and one 8km run. I reckoned I was ready for my first 10km in years.

The Husband proposed that we run the Nike 10km together. I agreed but thought to myself, “there is no way he is going to be able to force himself to stick around at my granny pace.”

Since the race started about 400m from our front door, we arrived on foot a mere 15 minutes before the start and took up a place right at the back of the crowd of 20,000 people. There was a fantastic vibe and lots of up-beat music, interspersed by classic comments by the Nike such as:

“CAN YOU FEEL IT PEOPLE? THAT IS THE FEELING OF GREATNESS!”

We felt like rockstars 🙂

Naturally, we were only able to start moving several minutes after the official start. And then The Husband was off: darting and dodging his way through the crowd of runners, with me trying to keep up with him. Along with the other Type A, gung-ho, superstars taking the race very, very seriously, we jumped over pavement barriers (I am still nursing a HUGE bruise on my inner thigh) and we spread out onto pavements alongside the official race path. In short, we did anything to get ahead and make sure we achieved “our” goal (my granny goal) of finishing in less than 70 minutes. After a while, I realised that a 20,000 person race was not the type of race in which one should get hit up about goals, so I told The Husband I was going to quit trying to keep up with him as he gently and politely elbowed his way past runner after runner. It was just too stressful.

A quick aside on the race: I thought it was amazing. Yes, there were 20,000 people and yes, there were times when it was impossible to run and you had to walk owing to sheer numbers, but considering the number of people, I’m surprised we weren’t forced to walk a whole lot more. Running through the streets of Alex was an incredible, unique experience, as was running along the M1 freeway to the finish. The crowds in Alex were out in full support – cheering, high fiving and helping to hand out water. The experience was marred only by some bigot behind me – the kind of a**hole who makes you embarrassed to be South African – who said:

“That’s right! High five and then you touch your face and then tomorrow you wonder why you’re sick!”

Moron.

Aside from that incident, the race was great. The Husband very sweetly ran with me the whole way. (He even gently and steadily pushed me up one of the hills at around the 8km mark). And, once the field was a little more spread out and it was easier to run at your chosen pace, he encouraged me to push a little to achieve my goal of an average pace of less than seven minutes per kilometre, which I managed to do.

Greatness: when even granny pace gets you gold

The Nike race inspired The Husband and he decided that we should run together again that week. I was keen to slip back to a little 5km or 6km trot, but his view on running 5km is that “it takes longer to get dressed”. (I argue that the veracity of that statement depends entirely on how fast you run, but he ignores me.) He wanted us to run no fewer than 10km “otherwise we’re regressing.” Not in the mood to argue, I grudgingly agreed.

And so, three days after the Nike race, we set off on our own 10km run. The Husband picked the route – a route in which the first three kilometres were uphill. As I was puffing and panting along and thinking that I was in hell and that there was still SOOOO much further to go, the conversation went like this:

The Husband: “So… what’s your goal?”

Me: (Cough, splutter, gasping for air and glaring at him). “I don’t have a goal.”

The Husband: “No. I mean, why do you want to run 10km?”

Me: “I don’t want to run 10km! You want to run 10km!”

And that was the end of the conversation.

As it turns out, I made a slight but critical error of judgement when it came to directions and, as a result, we wound up running no fewer than 11.3km. It was actually fine, because we stuck to my granny pace. The only problem was that four days later, I woke up to a very odd pain on the side of my knee.

Luckily it has turned out not to be serious at all but the physio has advised me not to run more than 5km for now, until I strengthen my weak inner thigh muscles which are not adequately supporting my knee (or something…)

When I told The Husband that we should have gradually built up our mileage, he replied:

“We did. We ran 10km and then we ran 11km.”

Next stop: the Soweto 10km on 4 November.

Getting Your Child Into a Good School in Joburg

Not long ago, I didn’t know the difference between playschool and nursery or pre-primary school. I didn’t know at what age one’s child was supposed to go where. I had a vague notion that these days there is something called Grade 0 (Grade Nought), Grade 00 (Grade Double Nought) and Grade 000 (Grade Triple Nought) which, just to confuse new mommies is called Grade “N”.

But I had heard about waitlists for good schools, even nursery schools and so getting The Princess’ name down has been on the “to do” list for some time now. Without having even seen the playschool in our neighbourhood, I was keen on it because it’s within walking distance. All the “good” (or so we’re told) nursery and pre-primary schools are between 3.5km and 5km away from our house, which may not sound far, but in Joburg traffic, that can mean anything. So I figured that if I could walk her to school and back for the first year or two, amongst the trees, in the fresh air, that would be awesome. So I arranged to go and visit the school in early May – seven months before she would potentially start there. I thought that was forward planning.

Apparently not. The owner of the playschool duly showed us around and put The Princess’ name in her book, but told us that she was “full, full, full” for next year and that The Princess was around 12th on her waiting list.

The funny thing is that I’m not even sure I want to pack my 22 month old angel off to playschool for three hours a day. I just want the opportunity to be able to send her to a playgroup if, at the time, it feels like the right thing for her. But apparently, in this competitive day and age, I wasn’t to have that choice because I had woken up too late.

Fortunately, The Husband insisted on putting The Princess’ name down at various private schools from Grade 000 or Grade 0 at birth. It was during that delirious period for me, of having just given birth, suffering from insomnia and sleep deprivation, battling to breastfeed and not having a clue how to care of this new helpless creature. Schooling could not have been further from my mind. Thank God for The Husband’s insistence, but mainly, thank God for his PA, who ensured that The Princess’ application forms were filled out and her application fees paid, when she was less than two months old.

But with this whole playschool scare, The Husband started panicking about her chances of getting into primary school. He wanted me to call the schools and find out what her chances were looking like. Here’s how the phone calls went, in general:

Me: (icky sweet, wanting to make good impression in this hyper competitive environment for the sake of my fourteen month old child’s future) I’m SO, SO sorry to bother you. I was wondering if you could spare a VERY brief moment to chat to me about my daughter’s entry into your school in, er, 2015. I really wouldn’t bother you so far in advance but my husband’s panicked, if you can believe it.

(Awaiting wild laughter at a panicking father, three years before his child’s entry into a new standard called Grade 0. I mean, I don’t actually even know what they do in Grade 0).

Lady from school: No problem at all. Your husband is absolutely right to be panicked. (Very sweet and patient but no sign of amusement whatsoever.)

Me: (Gulp). I see.

Silence while she finds our application.

Lady: Okay, here it is. Oh! it says “name taken off list. Tried to contact parents but no response.”

Total shocked silence from my side. I am picturing The Husband skinning me alive for yet another disastrously managed admin task by his darling wife. I am also thinking what a terrible home schooling teacher I would make and thinking that emigration to a country with less competition for good schools may not be such a bad idea…

Lady: Hahahahaha! Just joking! She’s on the list! Hahahahahahaha!

Me: (attempting to fake hilarity in the interests of camaraderie with this woman who holds my child’s future in her hands). Ha…ha…hahahahahahahahaha!!! How funny! Oh gosh, you really had me for a moment. Hahahahahaha!

Communal laughter ensues for a while – a sufficient amount to convince me that we’re best friends and that she’ll remember me and the plight of my fourteen month old daughter who is currently playing in her sandpit, shoveling spadefuls of sand into her mouth.

Lady from school: Okay, so I see you’ve had her down since she was about two months old. Okay. That is fairly far in advance, so she SHOULD be alright BUT, I cannot guarantee her a place.

I’m thinking: “Fairly” far in advance? Lady, are you frigging kidding me! Two months old for crying out loud and you cannot guarantee her a place!

Me: (very, very politely posing a question which I would prefer to lace with sarcasm.) So, er, just out of interest sake…you know… I mean, for next time, when would be a good time to apply?

Very tempted to add: “Would that be the day of conception, when we just had a feeling that, on that particular day, The Husband’s swimmers were going for gold? Or should we wait until we get two red stripes on the pregnancy test and pop that into the application envelope as proof?”

Lady from school: Well, some of the mothers put their foetuses name’s down when they are pregnant.

Me: Gosh, wow. What forward planning. Very impressive. I must remember that. Only, we don’t like to publicly name our babies until they are actually, you know, er, born, so how would that work? Would we need to nickname our foetus for your list?

Lady from school: Hahahha! No, no! The mothers just put “Baby Smith” on the application form, for example.

Me: Okay, fabulous! Will be sure to do so next time! Thank you so much for your time!

So there you have it. If you want your unborn children to go to the best schools in Joburg that you are fully prepared to pay good money for (a small car per annum, to be precise), put your foetus’ “names” down PRONTO!

Turns out that old girls and siblings get bumped up the famous “lists” so that’s one of the main reasons it’s so tough for the poor little Princess whose mother went to Plett Primary.

The good news is that, out of the blue, two weeks after being told that the local playschool, was “full, full, full”, I got an e-mail from the owner offering The Princess a place for 2013. I swear, I could not have been more excited if she’d been offered a place at Harvard. I was bursting with pride, even though she was fast asleep when we went to see the school and had absolutely no idea why I couldn’t stop giving her congratulatory kisses all day.

And the competition has only just begun. My poor baby!

On Sabbatical in Sandton Gets a Makeover

I have been wanting to give this blog an extreme makeover for some time now, but every time I tried, the scary back-end of WordPress kicked my butt. Finally, I decided to get help from an expert who does not consider herself an expert but who knows WAAAAAY more than I do. Thanks to a crash course over lunch last week from the gorgeous Blair, I (we) managed to overhaul the look and feel of On Sabbatical in Sandton. I would’ve announced this last week, but Blair and I were baffled by some font issue which my genius friend Richard (one of those clever people who can read and write code) managed to fix. Thanks, Rich! When you want a pretty blog, it’s clearly not what you know, but who you know…

The part of the new look I’m most excited about is the part at the top right hand side of the home page, where you can enter your e-mail address to receive new blog posts via e-mail. Personally, I only manage to follow blogs if I get them direct to my Inbox, so I was dying to add this feature in case any of my readers are exactly like me in that sense.

But now, on to even more exciting things. Like shoes. Check out these super sexy red puppies I picked up at an open day in Bryanston last week:

Melissa Shoes

The picture barely does them justice. They have a tiny little peep toe in the front, where admirers of the shoes can just, at a certain angle, catch a glimpse of the wearer’s latest pedicure. I’ve yet to test them out on a shopping run, but am hoping that because they’re wedges, they’ll hold up more than the 4 minutes I can last in stilettos. Will report back…

On the dieting front, I’ve pretty much stuck to the Food Fascist’s eating plan for six out of the last seven days, so we’ll see what the Weight Watcher’s scale says on Tuesday. This, however, is what The Princess thinks of the regime:

Weight Watchers book gets restructured by The Princess

Speaking of The Princess, we’ve just started looking around at playschools for her for next year. I can’t frigging believe it but the playschool down the road is FULL and I’m enquiring seven months in advance. I know for primary schools, you need to put your kids name down when the little spermatozoids start swimming, but frick, this is frigging playschool, for goodness sake and it sounds like we should have put down an unconfirmed name for her there while I was pregnant. So now I have to start looking further afield… I went to see one playschool a few kilometres away last week and I confess that I actually burst into tears at the sight of two little, holding hands with their little, uber miniature Barbie backpacks on their backs, walking hesitantly into the school gate as their mommy dropped them off. I just can’t believe that might be my baby next year!

Anyhoo, I need to sign off now. I ate all my food allowance in sushi at 5pm this eve (The Husband tried to steal one of my california rolls that I’d painstakingly counted out – he nearly got a chopstick in his eyeball for that) and I’m now basically starving, so I need to get to bed before The Husband’s 400g Toblerone attacks me and shoves its creamy self down my throat.

PS: If you love my red Melissa Shoes, check out their Facebook page (Melissa Shoes South Africa) or click here to find out how to get yourself a pair.

The Princess & Her Playgrounds

The Father Figure has made friends with the six year old daughter of the owners of his favourite coffee shop in Prince Albert. Her name is Katie. The other day, Katie came bounding over to show him her new pet hamster.

“Where’s his friend, Katie?” the Father Figure wanted to know.

“He doesn’t have one,” replied Katie. “He’s a loner.”

The point of this very sweet story is that we had a resident mouse whom I’m really hoping was a loner too… About a week ago, I thought I spied something scurrying around in the garage. A few days later, the sight of a dark mouse against the kitchen’s cream, travertine, could not be disputed. The Pied Piper was called in and that afternoon, our housekeeper reported a twitching, whimpering Mickey, behind the fridge. Mickey duly went in search of water outside and so, kindly passed on in the garden, but I am just holding thumbs that he operated alone…

Last week was a week of home maintenance and besides getting pest control, I also booked a household carpet clean. Clint, the owner of the business saw our giant canvas of The Princess in the living room and said:

“She’s gorgeous! You’re so lucky to have a little girl. I only have boys.”

“How many?” I politely asked.

I was expecting an answer of two, perhaps three.

“Five,” came the reply.

Wow! Five children!

“We really tried for a girl.”

No kidding, Clint!

“And how old are your boys?” I asked.

“Eight, seven, six, five and three.”

Wow, wow and wow again. Apparently, at one stage he could fit all five of them in a trolley and was somewhat of a celebrity in his native suburb of Boksburg. Not surprising!

Naturally, a few hours after Superman with Five Kids had transformed all our carpets, The Princess decided to crouch down and have a wee. I have warned The Husband that he needs to be pronto about putting her nappy on when she gets out of the bath, but he says she’s so funny to watch, running around naked and showing off in her birthday suit. So, it was really only a matter of time before we had a weeing episode after the bath.

This past long weekend, The Husband went off to Mpumalanga to ride in a four-day stage race and so The Mother Figure flew up to keep The Princess & I company. Over the the past five days, we have been discovering playgrounds across Jozi. At thirteen months and walking, it’s such an exciting time seeing her beginning to climb and slide and crawl through tunnels. Here’s where we’ve been and what we though of each of them:

Mushroom Farm Park (bordered by Daisy & Linden Roads in central Sandton):

Only a few weeks ago, an afternoon visit to Mushroom Farm Park (behind the Radisson Hotel, where the unsightly Hyandai balloon is parked) was not all that eventful. Now, since she’s grown in confidence, she crawls through the swinging barrel and has an absolute ball with the other kids in the giant sandpit. Mushroom Farm is a lovely, central spot with a pristine playground and feels very safe in the afternoons and at weekends when it always seems to be busy. A coffee shop for the mommies would be nice, though. Not a bad idea to take along a bucket and spade and/or a ball/ and or a scooter/ car etc.

Grand Central & other spots on the Melrose Arch piazza

On Friday afternoon, The Mother Figure and I took The Princess and her Barbie car to Grand Central on the Melrose Arch piazza. There are usually plenty of other kids zooming around there on various forms of transport and you do need to look out for speeding older kids. The road is also deceptively close, but far enough that if your child sticks more towards the centre of the piazza and you keep an eye out, you could dash after them if they started heading in that direction. The Princess ran into a crawling little boy from her Clamber Club class who was most interested in her Barbie car, as was another little girl there. The Princess was having absolutely none of it and guide her pink pride and joy with her life, swatting away and violently shouting at, anyone who came near it. Sharing is not caring, at thirteen months!

The Garden Shop nursery in Bryanston

This is a good spot for the entertainment of plant-loving grannies, as well as toddlers. There are heaps and heaps of jungle gyms and sandpits. The only snag is that only one section of the playground is next to the coffee shop and there are so many pathways amongst the flowers to explore, it’s very tempting for little ones who’ve just become mobile, to run amok, so be sure you are energised before heading out there.

Delta Park‘s playground in Victory Park

This is HEAVEN for toddlers and parents of toddlers. We went with friends for a picnic on Sunday afternoon and it was very busy, but there was still more than enough space for everyone. The ideal is to set up camp near the playground, which we’ll definitely do next time. Besides the fact that there is a ton of play equipment, what’s also great is that there are little mini slides and other things for babas who have only just started walking and climbing. The Princess had an absolute ball. She couldn’t get enough of the baby slide and I think just loved the excitement of being surrounded by so many kids having so much fun. At one point, we were standing at the top of the slide behind a seated kid who must have been at least five years old. He was taking ages to slide down because he was waiting for his mother to come over and watch him. The Princess thought this absolute nonsense so she decided to push him. Luckily the weight of her little 10kg body can’t budge a five year old, else we would’ve hand one irate older kid on our hands.

Bambanani Restaurant in Mellville

If Bambanani hadn’t come so highly recommended, I think I would have continued to avoid Mellville for the next seven years. It feels like an area that used to be cool and trendy when you were partying until all hours in your twenties, but in the light of day, in your thirties, it looks…er… less cool. Once inside Bambanani, however, you forget that you’re in dodgy Mellville. We went straight to the play area at the back of the restaurant. The Princess thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Baby slides, toys, mats, baths of balls, things to climb, dolls’ houses, you name it. What I love about Bambanani’s play area is that it’s totally enclosed so you feel as though your child is safe and you can relax, without worrying that they’ll wander off. There are also numerous, wonderful childminders who are on hand to help, while you eat, sip your cappuccino or glass of wine. We didn’t eat but I’ve also heard that the food is actually good – very unusual for a kiddie spot. I just wish it wasn’t so far from Sandton although it’s definitely worth the drive.

Serendipity in Rosebank

The Princess’ very runny nose stopped us from heading to Serendipity yesterday. The last time we went there, The Princess was only ten months old, so I am dying to see how she responds to all the play equipment when we head there tomorrow.

And that, dear readers, sums up our action-packed girls weekend. More fabulous playspots will be added to the list as and when The Princess and I discover them.

Natalie xxx

Wall Art & Hump Back…er…Whales?

I came across a curious sight just in front of me during a Zumba class the other day. It was a clothing label on the backside of a woman working out in front of me, right in my line of vision. Even as we bopped up and down to impossibly wiggly Brazilian moves, I was able to make out the words:

“HUMP BACK”

Someone needs to tell the developers of that brand that unless one looks like Elle McPherson, one can feel just a teensy bit self-conscious of one’s body in the gym – the place where one would be likely to be wearing one’s Hump Back gym gear. I mean, if anyone said to me…

“Quick! Complete the phrase: hump back… what?”

…I don’t know about you but I’d be really hard-pressed not to say “whale!” Exactly what you want to feel like in a pair of butt hugging, spandex, work out pants.

Speaking of gym, I am working up the nerve to enroll The Princess in the baby care centre at Virgin Active, for those long Saturday mornings and early afternoons when I am a cycling widow. I don’t imagine it’s going to go down at all well with The Princess so that’s why I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to do it, but I’m working on it internally…

Speaking of The Princess, I know this is not only shallow but also cheesy… but I am constantly in awe of how exquisite she is. Sigh. And I’m not the only one. On Thursday, at Clamber Club, a great big 10 month old boy bounded over to her on all fours. She was one of four girls in the group and this “little” (he looks like a mini rugby prop and weighs in at a whopping 12kg at only 10 months) made a bee-line for The Princess. Catching up with him, his mommy whispered to me that he’d gone for the prettiest of all the girls. Double sigh. The pride… I know beauty is only skin deep etc, etc, but there’s something about porcelain skinned babies and their big smiles. Or perhaps there’s something about one’s own baby. Possibly, it’s the latter, but I’m going to soak it up for now anyway. I’m going to sound about 90 years old now, but when I see teenagers, I often marvel at how so many of them make themselves oh-so hideous with their badly dyed hair and their bad, bad, bad outfits.  It makes me feel very much entitled to stare at my beautiful, peaches-and-cream baby in her frilly pink and white outfits for the time being.

On another topic, I am by no means an Arts & Crafts Mom, so you won’t find too many pics of beautiful Etsy-inspired handmade baby items on this blog. I admire anyone who has the time, skill and above all, the creativity for these things. For those moms like me who can’t create themselves, there is a wonderful decor aid out there for us: vinyl wall art.

I ordered the wall art for The Princess’ nursery on-line, from Lara, the owner of Cape Town-based Pink and Posh. Here’s what it looked like on her wall:

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to stick down the fine lines of the bird cages perfectly – I should have asked one of my artsy, crafty friends for help. You need lots of attention to detail and you can’t be impatient when it comes to wall art with thin, dainty lines. If you’re like me and have messy cupboards, you’re super impatient you have no attention to detail, go for thicker, more solid wall art options. Like this design which I successfully stuck to The Princess’ other wall, also from Pink and Posh:

And these butterflies which I recently picked up from The Flower Spot/ The Party Spot in Woodmead to replace the finicky, bird cage wall art which I ruined:

 

So, these are my artsy/ crafty tips for the week… or maybe the month.

And now, for the words that only a South African stay-at-home mom would ever say: “Yay, yay, it’s MONDAY!” (i.e. a clean home and assistance with child-care).

A Liebster Blog Award…Thanks Blairadise

Yesterday I got a comment from Blair, the fabulous author of Blairadise, to say that she was “spreading some bloggy love” and that she’d given On Sabbatical in Sandton a Liebster Blog Award.

Awesome! Thanks, Blair. Before I say more about the award, let me tell you more about Blair and Blairadise.

Blair is an American girl from North Carolina who fell in love with an Afrikaans boy from Pretoria. They got married and had a baby who was born two days after my birthday and who is two months and one day older than The Princess. I love following her blog, Blairadise, to hear about what’s going on in their lives (Pretoria is so close to Jozi and yet SO far). But besides telling her readers what’s happening in her little family, Blair is also an insatiable, self-confessed Internet-aholic. I aspire to be like her when I grow up. Blair finds EVERYTHING on-line. She shops, she browses, she wins competitions, she gets decor ideas, she downloads party packs. She is my internet hero. My excuse is that in 1996 when I was 17, stuck at boarding school in George and literally didn’t know how to turn on a computer let alone access the internet, Blair would’ve been 14, exposed to the internet boom in the States and the rise of on-line stores and was therefore able to grow up as an internet shopper. I want to be part of the on-line shopping boom, I just feel overwhelmed, don’t know how and don’t know where to begin. But Blair is helping.

For example, I learnt from her that J Crew has started to ship globally and that they’re shipping for free for one month until 30 April – that’s free shipping, free returns and duty free shopping! How cool is that for us, poor deprived shoppers at the southern most tip of Africa? I feel like buying something JUST because the shipping is free. Mind you, we’ll probably be slapped with import duties on this side, so beware of that…

Anyway, back to The Liebster Blog Award and spreading the bloggy love to my top five blog reads.

1. Growing On Up

A superbly written blog about a twenty-something South African girl who recently moved to the concrete jungle where dreams are made: New York City. She is growing on up, looking for adventures, lurve, career satisfaction and drinking a fair amount of New York cocktails in between. A younger version of Carrie Bradshaw, really.

2. Truffle Licker

Also a fantastic writer who’s very funny and totally my kind of writing humour. “Dark Horse” (the author’s nom de plume) moved back to Jozi from London. She’s also a twenty-something girl looking for lurve in between cocktails wine and shopping. She’s a private school Jozi girl who doesn’t leave the Parks and tells it like it is. The sad news is that she hasn’t written a post for millions of months and this is my attempt to get her to get back on the horse, Dark Horse! But go and read her posts that do exist from beginning to end for a really good, witty, intelligent laugh.

3. The Friendly Tour

This is the story of a thirty-something Belgian girl who has got it together to live out the dreams that so many of us have, but never manage to actualise: to quit our jobs, pack a 12kg backpack and travel around the world for twelve whole months. (And not to shop along the way – no space in the backpack! This may have been the hardest part for me…) You will either need to read the language of Voltaire to follow this blog, or you can simply click on the British flag for Google to translate her posts into English. Her world tour ends in mid-May…

4. One of the Boys

I came across this blog when I was perusing the finalist blogs in the SA’s Best Mommy Blogger competition last year. It’s written by a Jozi mom who is an impressively regular blogger, who organises Jozi blogger meet-up’s and who seems to achieve an amazing amount despite working and raising two boys. Lots of baby-related give-aways and handy information for moms and the site layout and pictures always look gorgeous. She has just over 1,000 followers and the Liebster Award is supposed to be reserved for blogs with fewer than 200 but I saw many fellow Liebster bestowers broke that rule once, so I’m breaking it here…

For the fifth winner of the Liebster Award from me, please comment and suggest any great blogs that you know with fewer than 200 followers…

For the winners, heere’s how the Liebster Award works:

The Rules:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you.

2. Post the award on your blog for all to see!

3. Give the award to 5 of your favorite bloggers (with 200 followers or less).

4. Leave a comment on your chosen blogs to let them know that they have been given the Liebster Blog award.

Thanks again, Blair, for the award 🙂

Up-date on the Month of March

Apologies, dear readers, for my prolonged absence from the Blogosphere. Things have been rather busy for the past month.

After returning from Cape Town at the end of February, I had a teeny tiny taste of what life as a full-time, working mom, might be like. The Best Friend invited me to a very impressive two-day conference that she had conceptualised and was hosting in Jozi. I have to say, it was fun to wake up in the morning and peruse my usually untouched wardrobe of beautiful shirts and suits from a bygone era. To meticulously insert lady-links and to pick out a pair of shiny heels and to feel super chic and ready for the day. Of course, my day had officially begun three hours earlier at 5am and so as I was getting ready to leave at 8am, it felt close to lunch-time. Happily, staying awake to listen to conference speeches and staying awake to entertain a small child require similar amounts of caffeine and so I remain well practised in this respect. Of course, when one is a stay at home mom, leaving one’s child for two whole days from 8am to 5pm brings with it all manner of feelings of guilt, to the extent that, on the second day, I nipped back home for an hour for a session of play with The Princess.

My brief return to the world of “work” (sort of) was followed by an two week return to the world of French. My Belgian host sister arrived in mid-March as part of the pen-ultimate leg of her one year around-the-world tour which began in Mexico in May 2011 and which will end in the Ivory Coast in May this year.

Her sojourn in Jozi led us to many historical sites – many of which I have been meaning to visit for years but have just never got to: Liliesleaf Museum in Rivonia, the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill & the Constitutional Court and a guided tour of Soweto. This was interspersed by visits to Parkhurst, 44 Stanley, Melrose Arch, 70 Juta and the Neighbourgoods Market. Ages ago, my Parkhurst friend recommended a great “guide” to Jozi sites and life, when we were breakfasting at Nice: “Spaces & Places: Johannesburg” by Gerald Garner. The author covers all the cute little neighbourhood/ homely spots worth visiting in the “Village Life” section (from Parkhurst to Craighall Park to Greenside to Linden),  he covers a fortune to be discovered in the Urban Life section, especially when it comes to the CBD and “Braamies” and then also does a great synopsis on what’s should be visited in terms of struggle heritage. I think my host sister and I – often with The Princess in tow – did a fairly good job of experiencing Jozi in 10 days, if his book is anything to go by, although of course, there is way more we could have seen and done.

On Human Rights Day, we headed off to Clarens in the Free State, to explore a bit of the rest of the country and so that The Husband could cycle himself silly. We stayed 1.2km away from the edge of the common in the middle of the main street of Clarens. Here’s where our newly acquired Phil & Ted’s jogger came in handy. It has only been jogging once since its acquisition six weeks ago, but with Clarens’ dirt roads, we found an additional reason to justify its existence.

The Princess went on her first hike in the Golden Gate National Park not far from Clarens, safely esconsed inside her Baby Bjorn carrier on The Husband’s chest. The next day we visited a “replica” of a Basotho village – a tourist destination inside the park. We arrived at lunch time so we decided to brave the traditional menu at the restaurant. I convinced my host sister to try vetkoek for the first time, by offering to split a safer option of a toasted cheese and ham. The Husband’s idea of eating exotic food is ordering Italian so he also went for a toasted sarmie. Honestly, I haven’t eaten a toasted sandwich this tasty in about 20 years. I have distant childhood memories of yummy, greasy toasted sarmies where I guess the bread is basically fried and the cheese is oozing out of the corners, but whatever I’ve had in the last decade has tended to be rather dry and bland. Well, the Basotho Cultural Village Restaurant makes ’em like they used to – worth a visit just for that. And if you’re more adventurous you can drink home brewed beer from a calabash with the advisor to the Chief of the village.

On our final day in Clarens, I suggested that we meet The Husband at the end of his cycle in Fouriesburg. I had never heard of the place but my host sister’s Lonely Planet mentioned it, citing numerous old stone buildings. In hindsight, I think that’s all the Lonely Planet said about Fouriesburg because, well, there really is nothing else to mention. However, I would like to object against any mention of the place whatsoever because it really is a one-horse town with no redeeming features. We were forced to wait there for The Husband – I had bargained on at least an hour of “visiting time”, ten minutes of which we’d managed to deplete by filling up with petrol. For the remaining 50 minutes, we installed ourselves in the garden of a local pub. As there was no-one in sight to order coffee from, I ventured inside. “Inside” consisted of an enormous bar counter populated by white men in long, khaki socks, against the back drop of an old South African flag. The flag was autographed in numerous places but I didn’t get a chance to figure out by whom because I was the only female in the joint and to say that the old farts were looking on leacherously, would be polite. When I enquired about coffees from the owner surveying his territory whilst smoking a cigarette behind the bar, he looked thoroughly peeved that I deigned to interrupt his rugby game to actually try and patronise his establishment. In short, not my favourite town and we quickly changed our plans and headed back to Clarens for lunch.

At the end of my host sister’s two week stay in Jozi, we were joined by her wonderful parents who had hosted me in their home in Belgium for six months in 1997 and who, along with their three daughters, painstakingly taught me to speak French, took me to fascinating and beautiful places and made my stay in their country and home absolutely unforgettable. Now, fifeen years later I could finally “host” them and their charming relatives, if only for one night, on the day of The Princess’ first birthday.

The story of The Princess starting to walk and turning one, will be a story for another blog. In the meantime, happy holidays as the Americans would say and I will check in again after the long weekend.

xxx Natalie