One of my friends here in Hoedspruit, Sarah, is involved with two charities mainly working with impoverished communities and children. Last week she was introduced to the Khutsong Center in Acornhoek  – just down the main road from our town.

Khutsong means “rest” in one of our local languages, and the Khutsong Center is just that – a place for 13 elderly people from rural villages to rest for their last days. It’s an incredibly poor project with a ramshackle hut that houses the eleven women and two men who are being taken care of. One of the aged is disabled and many are bedridden.

This is what Sarah says “……….. their gentle smiles have really tugged at my heart, and I would love to be able to make them feel, just for one day,on Christmas, that the world has not forgotten them………………………”

So what we are going to do is put together thirteen Christmas hampers for these wonderful old folk.  We need to include basic items such as tooth brushes and toothpaste and soap, a facecloth, some Vaseline, a blanket, something nice to make them feel good like a scarf or clothing item and then a few treats like biscuits and crisps.

If you would like to contribute in any way we would really appreciate your help.

Please contact Sarah at if you can assist with any of the items.  Financial contributions can be made to  :

Paypal donations can be sent to


Bank details : nourish NPO, First National Bank,  account 62321718324, Hatfield branch number 252145. Reference OLD AGE ( and ur name ) or email a proof of payment to

Photo’s courtesy of Sarah Bergs.

I will write another post on this center when we go to hand these folk their Christmas hampers. I can’t wait to see their faces!

Frugal is as frugal does.

I made a choice over two years ago to live frugally. It was my choice, not the choice of my daughter, however, she has been fully supportive of me living like this and has come to appreciate many things that she took for granted.  It is her choice not to be too frugal yet, although she lives within the restrictions of my lifestyle choice very graciously. She is a typical teenager who likes gadgets, clothes, jewelry and instant gratification. I think though that she looks upon these things with new eyes having been exposed to the way I try to run our home.  She does have quite a few of the electronic toys that most teens have, but they are mostly from before we changed our lives or from her father. She looks after them very well because she knows that it won’t be easy to get new ones and does settle by having and using older models of the items.  Last year she worked during her holidays to save up for a new mobile phone.

This Saturday was her prom night.  She has been chatting to me for the whole year about what she wanted to wear, and had saved many, many pictures of dresses, hair-dos, and make-up ideas from the internet.  I did not have to think too hard about making some clothing purchases for her for this evening.  Although I have not bought any clothes for one year now and plan to only buy and use nearly new and used clothing for myself (except for underwear) in the future, I decided that for this one evening I would break my rules and have a dress made for her.  There were restrictions of course. I was not prepared to pay a preposterous amount of money for something that she would hardly ever wear again, so she would have to find a dress we could have made locally at a reasonable price and that she could use again.  I find it really shocking when I hear of the prices some people pay for prom dresses and shoes and I find the excesses practised around these types of functions a little abhorrent. Rumour has it that one of the girls had two full outfits made and designed at a significant cost so that she would be able to choose which dress she wanted to wear on the evening.

Shoes were also an issue – she showed me many pictures of the type of shoes she would like. There is a very limited selection of shoes to purchase here in our little town so it would mean driving over an hour each way to buy some shoes at the nearest shoe stores, again going against my principles of buying local.

I was very surprised when the Bean came to show me her final idea. She stood in front of me holding one of my little black dresses (from my previous jet-set lifestyle) and asked me if I would mind her having it altered to make it into her prom dress. I told her that it was not necessary, and that I would have something special made for her but she insisted that this was what she wanted. We took the dress to a lady here in town to be altered. It was done in a couple of days and when we went to collect it, she had made a matching hair clip and told us that she could not charge us for any of the alterations as it was such a small job – all she had done was attach a ribbon and some lace and taken the dress up and in a little.

Even more surprisingly, one day when I collected the Bean from school, she breathlessly told me to drive very quickly to a local chain store as she had heard rumour that there was one last pair of shoes there that would match her dress. When we got there she literally ran into the store and came out with the perfect pair of shoes for her outfit – bought for a very reasonable price. It was the last pair on the shelf and they were her size.

So, while she has not fully adopted my choice of lifestyle, I do believe that some of the principles have rubbed off on her. She ended up with a beautiful outfit designed by herself that cost the huge sum of R99.00 (EUR 9.11 or US$ 12.65), while practicing recycling, and strict resource management.

Now that she had saved money we could splash out a little and have her hair and make-up done by local ladies, supporting local industries. I am so proud of her.

Here are a few pictures of her special evening.

Something to ponder…………..

Have you ever heard about “peak oil“?  Do you know what it means to us?  I know we hear the term bandied about quite a bit but have you considered the implications?

I believe that due to scarcity, oil prices will become so high that it will be beyond our means to buy petrol and diesel in the quantities that we need.

Bear with me and take a look at this very short video

It is a 24-hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world (recorded by the airplane flight transponders via Geo-stationary orbital satellites) patched together and condensed down to about a minute, i.e., you watch 24 hours of flights compressed into one minute. From space we look like a beehive of activity.

Can you imagine how much fuel is burned up just by LARGE airplanes in 24 hours? Can we keep on like this and still have fuel for other things?   Just something to ponder…….

Finding balance

Lately I find myself focussing on balance in all areas of my life.  At home its a see-sawing of time between cleaning, cooking  and relaxation. Socially its all about time spent with friends and at classes versus alone time with the Bean. At work I find I am battling the most with the amount of work done balanced against the pay I receive – at work too, its about how much time I spend at work against spending it at home. How much is the time I sell to my employer worth? This is not only measured in monetary terms but also in satisfaction and a sense of well-being at work. Am I getting value? Finally it all boils down to happiness I guess – good balance will create a feeling of achievement and happiness.

In my life before moving here I know my balances were very unstable with over emphasis on things that did not count in the end. I thought they did count though – till I found out they didn’t. That’s the way we learn. Trial and error most of the time.  Now that I have begun a new life with focus on balance, I am finding it quite hard to get right.  I like to think that because balance is now one of my main focus points in this slow life, that I catch imbalances early and take time out to sort, reshuffle and balance again before the scale tips too drastically.

All-in-all I feel I am doing reasonably well and am really happy in most areas of my life.  I only need to sort out some things with regards to my work and work time.  My plans are to eventually work for myself – a few projects which I will initiate over time will hopefully build up to something big enough to keep us going financially, but until then I will have to work for someone else. Let’s hope that the reshuffling I find I need to make in this area works out. What I do know is that it can’t keep going on as it is now.

Time is the one thing that we give away or sell that we can never get back again.  We need to make sure it’s not stolen or that we are not underpaid for this precious commodity. Even if we give it away for free, there should be a gain for us in terms of happiness, satisfaction and achievement. If you feel you are not rewarded sufficiently for your time and efforts it’s time to rework and reshuffle things to regain balance in your life.

What do you do to ensure balance in your life?

Update on Tristan Smit

For those of you who have been following Project Tristan (see link on the right hand side of this blog page) here is a letter from Tristan’s mother.

From Mommy Helen:

Hi all. Today was Tristan’s last proton therapy. I can not believe that 32 sessions just flew past. Today he graduated. It was a great moment. My angel just always takes everything in his stride. He loved going to proton therapy.

Today we ate cake and he hit the gong. I was so proud of him…

We are still collecting funds for his treatment.  If you are interested in donating please follow the links on the right.

Thank you so much to all who have already donated and also for all the prayers and good wishes.

Less food for more food

My trip down the “slow and sustainable living” pathway is going really slowly, which, in itself,  is probably good because I am learning to do things at a slower pace, however, I am getting impatient with regards to the food side of things. I want to be able to produce as much of my own food as possible. My plans for my veggie garden are in place and should be up and running by winter time as most veggies in our region are grown in winter.  I also have plans to build a chicken coop and plant some fruit trees.

My” little” job with a matching ” little”  salary has forced me to pace myself and do things slowly as I can only do what I can afford to with minimal savings.  In an effort to speed things up and get cracking (see me trying to up the pace again – this slow thing is really hard :)) I need to allocate more funds towards my food production. A large portion of my salary buys food and normally one just jots that down as essential and moves on to look for other areas where one can save.  As the rest of my budget is really tight I decided to see where I can make savings on buying food. I need to spend less on food in order to grow my own food.

Once I put my food glasses on and started to look at our buying, eating and cooking habits, as well as doing a little research I discovered some interesting facts.

Worldwide, from the farm to the table, we throw away about 50% of our food.  If we don’t grow our own food, not all of this waste is under our control, as much is thrown away at farm, market and store level. At those levels I will only be able to make the savings once I produce my own. However, we do waste quite a bit of food at home.

People who practice  “sustainable living” often talk about how their waste goes onto the compost heap and back into the food they grow and so doing make savings that way.  This does not help me right now though because I am not growing my food yet (although I do need to get a compost heap going). So how can I make savings now – before I produce my own food.

When one thinks about recycling which I discussed in this post, we sometimes only concentrate on glass, cardboard, and metal items but the same principles of reduce, reuse and recycle also apply to food.

  1. Reduce – buy only essential food items,  shop around for lower prices, eat out less often, limit junk foods and unhealthy snacks. Buy fruit and vegetables from local farmers.
  2. Reuse – save leftovers, freeze portions that can be eaten as another meal and use the parts of fruit and vegetables that you normally throw away (ie: celery leaves for soups and stews, pineapple skins to make your own vinegar, potato peels for a crispy snack (fried), bones to make your own stock etc)
  3. Recycle – compost only what you can’t eat using a compost heap and/or vermiculture (composting worms) for fertiliser and compost.

I think the areas where we can save most right now in our home are:

  • freeze left overs instead of popping them into the fridge where they eventually grow jerseys and get tossed out
  • find novel ways of using left overs (the same meal for 4 days in a row becomes a little tired)
  • buy fewer “easy foods” for quick lunches and dinners
  • make our own snack foods ie: biscuits, humus, crisps etc.

By following only these 4 points I should be able to save 30% of my monthly food budget.  That’s a huge saving.

Last night I made a pie using left over beef stroganof from the weekend as a filler.


It tasted delicious, even better than the original meal, and it will last us a few days too.  It looks rather rustic but then that’s how we live – rustically.

Now all I have to do is use my incredible selling skills on the Bean to get her buy-in regarding the snack foods. Wish me luck…..

Design dilemma

The floor in my main cottage and on my veranda is driving me totally crazy.  It is covered in pure white tiles. They would look pretty in a pristine home in the city but here they are just so impractical. I have to sweep and wash the floor twice a day to keep it looking slightly reasonable but most times it just looks like we never clean. Living in close proximity to water and sand does NOT work with white tiles.  Also, living under a thatch (grass) roof creates quite a bit of dust which shows up very easily on these tiles.  To add to the mess the tiles are very old and some of them are chipped and cracked.

I have always planned to renovate this cottage. My dreams of what I would really like to do are outside of my current budget so I need to find a way to improve the building in such a way that I can continue to make changes as I can afford them.

So you may ask why I am puzzling and that I should just do the floor and then do the rest when I can.  It’s not so simple.  I have a dividing wall in the cottage which closes off the pokey pantry/wash-up area from the lounge dining room area which I would also like to change.  How exactly I want to change it is still not clear.  See below – the red line is the wall I don’t like.

If I pull down the wall I will also have to remove the cupboards that are against it – that means new cupboards which I can’t afford right now.  The cupboards are built-in, so if I change the floor and want to change cupboards at a later stage, I would then have to re-do some of the flooring which is not very practical. The same goes for the wall.

One option with the wall is that I just break it down to the cupboard level and make the cupboards into an island – I could leave a portion of the wall up just to screen the washing-up area.  This was what I was going to do until a friend who visited (who is a developer and has designed and built many designer homes, hotels and lodges) suggested I move the wall further out and split my lounge off – make the kitchen bigger to incorporate a dining area and open the whole front of the cottage onto the veranda with folding doors.  This sounds so wonderful but I am sure it is going to be so over my current budget.  If I go this route, which is probably the best way to go, I will be living in dust and cement for months while I do parts slowly as there is no way I would manage to install new cupboards at this stage.

Right now I really don’t care what I do but I have to get rid of the floor before I go stir crazy! I want to replace the tiles with a screed floor similar to one of these – preferably not a light colour.

I like the top two on the right and the bottom one on the right.  One can even insert some type of pattern, pebbles or even wood to make an edge or design similar to  the picture below although I would not go for this type of pattern but rather a type of edging or border around the room.

Anyone got any wonderful suggestions before I rip the cottage to shreds?

Homemade gifts

This year I decided to give homemade gifts to my family for Christmas.  My reasoning was not purely from a financial perspective but also from a green/recycling angle as well as how much fun and love goes into making things for loved ones.  I have been dying to show you what we made but had to wait till everyone had their gifts.

The Bean and I made some homemade tomato and basil jam which we wrapped up – a bottle for everyone.

We  gave each of the girls a homemade recycled handbag made from old curtains.  These were made for us by my colleague Charlie – a trade and barter deal.

and for my dad I painted this painting

I think this has been the most rewarding Christmas ever – I so enjoyed preparing the gifts.

Did you make any of your gifts?  I would love to hear about them.

Edit:   There is a great recipe for a homemade scented hand scrub in the comments of this post. Thanks Greg.

Thank you

Thank you to all the kind folk who have donated clothes to Hlengiwe and her friends.  Another delivery went in on Wednesday.  The children were so excited!

We are still short of smallish baby clothes, and we have one older girl (around 13)  that also needs some clothes. I will be doing one more drop off before Christmas. Anything you have would be most welcome.  Also looking for toys and picture books.

To the Johannesburg donors I will be there to collect all your goodies just after Christmas.  Again, thank you to you all!


Something nostalgic for the holidays……

More about Tristan

Further to my posts on Tristan Smit which you can find here and here,  we have received this great news.

As you know Tristan is now in Texas under the care of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.  He was declared terminal by doctors here in SA.  After many tests and scans the doctors in the US can find no evidence of the cancer in his spine (which had supposedly spread there from his brain tumour).  This is such great news as he now has an 80% chance of survival after he has a course of proton radiation which is not available in South Africa.  Unfortunately this is going to cost a tremendous amount of money.

Here is a message received on my friend Mark’s blog written by Tristan’s mom Helen.

Hi I’m the mommy of this little angel. We are in Texas at the moment. In SA dr ‘s told us Tristan is terminal and we must let him go with no pain. We found a hospital in US Texas, M D Anderson. They diagnosed him correctly and can treat. Will get 31 sessions op proton radiation, it s not available in SA. Dr told us 80 persent chance of never coming back. Better than terminal or what do you say! Only problem, proton is $80 000, and believe it or not annestetics $80 000. Then still dr’s costs. My baby has got a chance now. He will live and survive!

Further to this, we got this news on the weekend. It must have been terribly frightening for his parents.

Cancer takes a person on such a roller coaster ride. We were on the top of the world a couple of days ago with the good news and then yesterday the tracks just took us back down to earth….
Tristan has got a VP shunt in his head. After the first tumour was removed a shunt was placed into his head to help with the drainage of brain fluid. Without the it the brain fluid builds up and causes intense pressure in his head. This leads to headaches, vomiting, eyes not dilating and can even cause seizures. Very serious if not treated as soon as possible.

Little Tristan started vomiting yesterday morning before sun rise. At this point we thought it was just baby feeling sick and nothing serious. He went back to sleep. Pierre and myself woke up later and got ready, but Tristan was still sleeping. Eventually I went into the room and picked him up, but He really did not want to wake up. He’s eyes looked very funny and later turned wild and really big. He was very lethargic. I was in tears because I expected the shunt was blocked and it was not part of the plan!!! If he got operated on would this could set back his proton therapy, as the proton dr wanted to start as soon as possible with the mapping and we were fulled with what if’s?

As we were still with our friends Mike and Wendy in Austin, Wendy then raced us off to ER room see a specialist at the DELL Children’s Hospital (built/sponsored by the DELL computer company). To make a long story short, after the Neuro surgeon saw the CT scans that were taken, Tristan was rushed into the operating room before we could even proses anything. The shunt starts in the head and ends in the tummy. I did not want my baby to go through another operation on the head. But like my friend Wendy said: “God has got Tristan’s back”.

The Dr came out and told us that the blockage was only at the bottom of the tube that leads into the tummy and he only had to open Tristan’s stomach and not his head. Thank God again! As this was an emergency we are hopeful that our medical aid should cover this procedure, because it is an emergency of a pre-existing condition. We have overseas cove for emergency’s. They want to observe him for another night and hopefully we will be discharged tomorrow if all goes well. This little setback will not influence anything. Not us coming home or Tristan starting his proton therapy. Which he really needs urgently especially now that we know that it has not spread and we want to prevent it from spreading anywhere!

Please pray for Tristan’s quick recovery and that the pressure in his head goes down quickly. Will keep you all informed.

God bless.
Lots of Love.
The Smits.

If any of you are in a position to make a donation please click on the link below.  No amount is too small.

or his bank account details can be found on this website.