Paradise Shaken – Earthquake on Kos Island 

I still can’t believe that we experienced a major earthquake on Kos island. It’s what you see on your Facebook newsfeed and not what you expect on vacation. 

(Photos above – top photo – I photographed this building on Wednesday. Below it is an image published by thesun.co.uk showing the post-quake damage.)

I was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed. It had been a lovely day in sunny Kardamena, a little village on a Greek island, just off the Turkish coast. The day had ended with coffee and tea with hubby under the Bougainville, counting the swallows that made the tree their home. 

In an instant, swallows scattered and idyllic became frightening as a 6.7 earthquake shook the island. As the hotel building swayed from side to side like a little boat bobbing in stormy waters, the sense of powerlessness we felt was frightening. My first thought was to get to the kids and my hubby, immediately followed by a realization of how powerless I was against Mother Nature’s wrath and then a strong determination to do whatever I could to keep my girls safe. 



(The iconic image of the gates to the old Jewish quarter bedecked with Bougainville. I made hubby and the kids pose in front of it for a photo. The photo showing the damage is credited to sfgate.com)

The earthquake probably lasted minutes or even seconds but felt like ages. I remember the details in slo-mo. Running to cover our one daughter, telling my husband to cover our other daughter. Once the swaying and tremors subsided, the vast majority of the hotel’s guests congregated in the courtyard and exchanged stories – an involuntary form of debriefing, I think. Then we did a check around us for damage, did our Facebook safety check-in’s and scoured social media for news. 

Fortunately, Kardamena and its inhabitants were unharmed. There were a few scary moments – including the hotel’s pool spilling down the paving like water out of a tilted glass, a few guests experiencing cancelled flights and scared young children – but the impact was mostly emotional. My heart went out to a group of Italian boys and girls who insisted on sleeping on the pool loungers outside as they experienced a devastating quake recently back home. 


(Photos above: The  melding of two great empires in architecture – Ottoman and Ancient Greek – is no more. I took the photo of my daughters by it in 2016. The photo for showing the quake damage from this morning is credited to bbc.co.uk)

On the opposite side of the island, the damage is heartbreaking – many gorgeous, ancient structures that have been around for centuries and millennia were damaged as was the port. I have marveled at the gateway to the old Jewish quarter, stared in awe at the beautiful minarets of Ottoman mosques and have taken many photographs of art and architecture that simply does not exist in our modern world. I can’t believe these are reduced to rubble and damaged now. 


(Photo above – I took this in Kardamena this morning. The quiet streets is the only sign that something had occurred.)

Many were injured in Kos town and Bodrum and sadly two tourists lost their lives. These are stunningly beautiful countries. My thoughts are with those injured in Bodrum and Kos and my prayers go out to the families of those who have passed away. #prayforkos #kosearthquake #kardamena #kos #greece #prayforbodrum  #bodrum #turkey


(Photo credit: Growing Up Greek Style) 

Paris – My Tips For Planning Your Visit to the City of Love

0b9b24fa-78ec-42a7-b4e9-a8485ce34bccParis accurately conjures up images of couples in love, strolling hand in hand along the Seine, sipping café au lait at a bistro on the Champs-Élysées  and devouring gastronomical delights by candlelight after a full day of filling your soul with art, history and the unique bohemian air that permeates the city. White sheets and tangled limbs chase the morning’s frost away only to step out onto chilly balconies, warming liquid in hand to see clusters of Parisians unhurriedly enjoying gossip and smoke breaks in time with the slow tempo of the age-old buildings that surround them.

The only people that rush in Paris, are the sightseers off to one more art gallery, museum or an item on their bucket-list. I imagine that those Parisians who are not yet immune to the throngs of tourists scurrying about the most visited city in the world, must be amused by us. I can’t imagine wanting to see Paris to it’s fullest and not feeling the urgency to add more to the itinerary as you go along. There is so much and all of it is magnificent.

Valentine’s Day naturally makes me think of love and as a recent self-professed travel addict and bucket-lister, my thoughts roam to Paris. Paris, with it’s dramatic and macabre history of rolling heads, power-hungry and petulant rulers, pestilence and drama is hardly the type of city that would logically be considered to be the City of Love and epitome of romance. Yet, it’s the very fact that despite all it has been through, Paris and its people live, laugh and love through it all – as strong and persistently as the beautiful buildings that form its landscape.

My Valentine’s blog is dedicated to the city of Paris, my love, my husband, that took me there and the beautiful children of mine that shared it with us.

Here is my directory of where to stay, eat and the top sites I recommend that you visit. I like to know exactly what I’m getting, how and when so my inner control freak rebukes at the thought of travel agencies. Instead I spend inordinate amounts of time painstakingly researching and cross-referencing reviews on where to go, stay, eat, shop and how to travel.

Note – I do not get paid to refer or advertise any establishment that I’m recommending. My recommendations are my personal opinions based on my travels and are colored by my experiences as a South African expat living temporarily in the Middle East. I’m a mom of tween and teen girls who are as different as chalk and cheese. I travel with them and hubby. I do not prescribe to budget holidays nor the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I like hotels / restaurants / sights with top reviews that offer good value for money. I do not eat McDonald’s on holiday and I won’t stay in fancy hotels where I need to shush the kids every 2 minutes. I do not limit my children simply because they’re children. My kids go to art galleries, museums as well as amusement parks and candy stores. If you’re like me, I may save you some time in planning your trip to Paris…

 

Where to Stay: 

Hotel Ekta (http://www.hotelekta.com/en/) met ALL my requirements and thoroughly deserves their top rated 25th spot on Tripadvisor and 9.2 rating on Booking.com. Despite being a 3 star hotel, it has a 5 star rating and location. I found it the equivalent of quite a few 5 star hotels that we’ve stayed at and at a fraction of their prices. The design of the hotel is contemporary, modern. It is a step away from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, has it’s own breakfast-serving restaurant, a terrace garden and offers suites with terraces. We stayed in the Terrace Suite which had a shared bathroom with amenities, a kitchenette, a separate adults room which led to a furnished terrace and a lounge with ample space for our many suitcases, a safe and a sleeper couch that turned into a bunk bed. Even though the children were with us, waking up in Paris with a view of grand old buildings and the overcast Spring sky is unarguably romantic.

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Rooms range from 115 Euro to 305 Euro per night.If you decide to stay here, you don’t have to have their breakfast as there are many nearby restaurants – including a Starbucks. I highly recommend that you ask the hotel to book a table for you at the famous patisserie, Laduree, for breakfast one morning.

Hint: If a website doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for, call the hotel and negotiate. Have a look at booking websites as well as hotel websites because one of these sites may have a discounted rate.

What to see

A few days ago, my husband pointed out a few places we hadn’t yet been to in Paris despite having visited twice this past two years. I replied that it would take weeks to see all that Paris had to offer and that would be seasonal, so a return is inevitable. I won’t thus be listing every place we’ve visited but am rather going to focus on the ‘hot spots’. If you’re a museum and art lover, I strongly suggest that you buy the Museum Pass. You can purchase it in advance on the official websites (http://booking.parisinfo.com/il4-offer_i147-paris-passlib-paris-pass.aspx – the official tourist website for Paris – or the museum pass website – http://en.parismuseumpass.com/) or during your stay in Paris at a tourist office or through the hotel’s concierge if they offer that. It also allows you access to other attractions and discounts. As well as being cheaper, it allows for fast-tracking at certain attractions. We used it to gain magnificent views of the artists’ quarter, Montmartre and the  Champs-Élysées from the terrace of the Arc de Triomphe.

Tour Eiffel

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The Eiffel Tower (http://www.toureiffel.paris/) is one of those bucket list attractions that you absolutely have to visit. The first time I was at the Eiffel Tower, my younger daughter refused to go up as she was petrified of heights and so we picnicked on the grass at its based and explored the little market across from it, along the Seine. My eldest daughter had been to the top on a school tour and although she described the view as astoundingly beautiful, the many notices coming from the intercom system about being weary of pick pockets put a damper on the experience. Coming from South Africa, where crime is rife, I was not in the mood for that. I found a great compromise that made my visit to the Eiffel Tower more memorable than an elevator ride and a few pics of a view. I booked a table at 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. It has its own entrance so again, I skipped queues, and its own elevator. We booked an early evening sitting and paid extra to ensure a Trocadero view. It was worth every cent. We sat by a window directly in front of the Trocadero and could see the bridge across the Seine, the boats cruising up and down as well as the market across the road. When the sky darkened, we were treated to a spectacular view of Paris lit with a multitude of golden lights. The dinner itself was gourmet and beautifully presented. Even my younger daughter’s meal was made with special care and ended off with an Eiffel Tower shaped dessert. The only let down was the service. I think our waiter was allergic to children. We did not let him spoil the experience for us though. Very little can in such an atmosphere where every few minutes a bottle cork is popped and restaurant patrons are cheering for another happily engaged couple. It was incredibly romantic.

The chill in the air and late hour after dinner ensured a nearly empty viewing platform and we managed to walk around and take photos to our heart’s content completely undisturbed.

This dinner is admittedly expensive at 87 to 120 euro per adult and 26 euro per child. Lunch is cheaper at approximately 42 euro per adult and 19 Euro per child. I wanted to see Paris by night. It was worth every euro.

Hint: Print or save your confirmation as it appears on the screen after you pay as I did not get mine in email straight away and had to contact the restaurant to forward it to me. The ‘early bird gets the early worm’, so email or Facebook message the restaurant requesting a good table with a view if you’ve booked one as soon as you’ve received your confirmation. There were other tables in the same category that did not have a seat right by the window.

The Louvre

No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to The Louvre (http://www.louvre.fr/). I’ve heard about how massive it is, how much time it takes to take it all in and not knowing where to look for certain pieces. I’d also, on a previous visit, spotted the long queues to get in. With tightened security in light of terrorist attacks, the queues can be even longer. My research offered a solution in the form of a private guided tour of the Louvre. There are many and they vary in price. Again, I wanted a top rated guide at a good price. I found that Paris Muse (http://parismuse.com/) deserved their excellent reviews.

The tour guide met us at the Arc du Carrousel at 10 am. By then the lines of people waiting to enter the Louvre were inordinately long. We sailed past them, behind our guide and entered the building seamlessly. That was the first reason I was glad I booked the tour. The second came when she whipped out a treasure hunt map and a list of questions and began engaging the children. She wove stories that my husband and I were drawn into as well and when the children went off with her to hunt for clues, it gave us time to have a leisurely look at what we wanted to. The third reason for using a private tour guide such as this is that there are bits of information that is not stated on plaques next to exhibitions. This guide offered a treasure trove of interesting facts that we would not have noticed on our own. Lastly, we managed to get prime spots to take pics with highly photographed exhibitions such as the Sphinx and Mona Lisa as our tour guide knew how to move around and through the crowds.

Why did I book a private tour guide and not one of the many group tours available? As a family paying per person, even with child rates, it is often cheaper to book a private guide. Additionally, a private tour guide matches the tour to your pace, stopping longer at exhibitions that you’re interested in and whisking past those that don’t engage you.

Paris Muse’s prices are middle of the range at 320 Euro for the 2 hour family Louvre tour including a prize for the children, entrance fees and the tour guide’s services. (http://parismuse.com/tours/paris-muse-clues-louvre-family-tour/)

However, if you’re on a tight budget then it is perfectly fine to visit the Louvre on your own. All museums are free for children under 18 and all EU citizens under 26. Proof of age may be required in the form of official identification such as a passport copy or ID card.

Notre Dame

I know many who love the building and fondly think of the fabled hunchback. Compared to the older, more beautiful churches in places such as Istanbul, the UK and other parts of Europe, however, it is disappointing. It is beautiful but it is not as beautiful as it is made out to be. However, if the likelihood of you visiting other churches in Europe is slim, then do go have a look. In this case, it will blow you away. dscf1897-1

Hint: Book a tour to see the towers. Paris Muse offers family, private and group tours to Notre Dame. The queue had a waiting time of over an hour and we opted to forgo it. Also, in the square in front of the cathedral there are steps leading down to an archaeological museum. It is tiny but worth the quick 15 to 20 minute visit if you want insight into how Paris has changed over the centuries. They have a few interactive digital games that engage the children as you move through it. 

Moulin Rouge

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The movie! The song! The legend! The many pictures of the iconic windmill! It is a must in Paris. However, I would suggest that you arrange for a babysitter through your hotel. The show is for 6 years and upwards and they even serve kiddies’ meals. The meal will be enjoyed in beautiful surroundings, with excellent singing, choreography and fantastic acts – from stunts to trapeze. The catch… the ladies go topless in the first song and don’t put their tops back on. We did try to look past the nudity because we were in Europe and the Europeans tend to be blasé about this sort of thing. However, my husband did feel a tad uncomfortable with his daughters at the table and my teen did go a lovely shade of red at times.

I honestly recommend it though. The most unbelievable act was when the floor parted and up rose a gigantic aquariam filled with anacondos. A beautiful snake handler swam amongst them without flinching. What made it even more amazing was that our table literally touched the tank. http://www.moulinrouge.fr/?lang=en

Hint: We didn’t buy the most expensive tickets. We bought mid-range tickets a few months in advance and I emailed the establishment to ask for a good table. They obliged. 

Seine River – Cruise or Walk?

If you really must cruise along the river or you have a free ticket in one of your passes, then do hop aboard. Personally, I found it to be like a bus tour on water. A lot of inaudible talking over the speaker system and sitting around staring at scenery without actually getting a proper look at the sights.

Otherwise, walking is a much better way to see the Seine. Paris is made for walking and there are ample benches and good walkways all along the river, offering close up views of beautiful buildings, fascinating houseboats and the Parisians’ daily lives. On the street level, there are many bridges to cross, including the famous Bridge of Lovers with its locks as testament to lasting love, as well as book stalls, museums and eateries.

It is a much more educational way to see the Seine for the children and an infinitely more romantic route for lovers.

Hint: the Seine is easily reached from tourist hot spots such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. We had no difficulty obtaining directions. Wear comfortable walking shoes as the cobble stones don’t take kindly to heels. 

Arc de Triomphe

Arc De Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) is found along the Champs-Élysées. This spectacular piece of architecture commemorates the French soldiers who fought during the Napoleonic wars. An eternal flame burns at the base of the arch. The detail and architecture of this monument alone is worth the visit. Inside the building, spiral wrought iron stairs, straight out of a gothic novel, wind up towards a historic level where bathrooms, tourist shops and the history of the arch may be found. Thereafter, comes the highlight of the attraction – the unbelievably spectacular views of Paris including the famous Bohemian suburb of Montmartre where Moulin Rouge is situated and the Eiffel Tower. The view of the Champs-Élysées itself is grand.  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/

Disneyland Paris

Magic everywhere! A much smaller Disneyland than the one in the US, it does have a number of rides and being in France, there is an odd mix of American Disney with a hint of France. It makes for a fascinating experience. I love Disney so I don’t mind the queues, waiting for parades and the themed food. I thrive on it as do my children. Hubby, not so much. I won’t go into detail about Disneyland Paris here as I think it deserves a blog post of its own. I will recommend the following though:

  • While a day trip from Paris is easily accomplished via train directly from Paris, I recommend that you stay at a Disneyland Paris during peak times as it gets packed. It is not unheard of to wait in queues for 2 hours. My daughter did  a day trip from Paris with her school and managed to do 3 rides for the entire day while my younger daughter and I who were staying at a Disney hotel managed to do double that during the extra magic hours exclusive to hotel guests before it opened to the public – and on the same day!
  • There are a number of excellent nearby hotels – from 5 star to unrated. However, if you do the math and calculate the cost of the park entry plus the accommodation, it makes more economical sense to stay in a cheaper Disneyland Paris hotel if on a budget. I’ve stayed in two hotels there – the first was with my daughter at the Wild West themed, Hotel Cheyenne. It was a 2 star hotel but breakfast was adequate, it was clean and one fast past per day and extra magic hours were included. The second time we stayed at the top, 5 star Disneyland Hotel at a 50% discounted rate when they had a special on accommodation. While I don’t think this hotel is as posh as it is made out to be and the breakfast is not that much better, the hotel is situated at the very gates of the park and there are extra fast passes included in the stay. Many recommend the mid-range, 3  star Sequoia. I may try that out next time.
  • Buy the meal plans – they work out much cheaper. I recommend the half-board plus plan. Also book your tables way in advance. Excellent restaurants are Bistro Chez Remy, Walt’s, Auderge de Cendrillon and Blue Lagoon. 
  • Don’t book the tours. I did a Paris bus tour. It was horrible. If you want to claim to have seen a city from the seat of a bus, then this is a good option for you.
  • 617155be-bbe9-4359-b90f-4a53293dd616If you need a break from Disneyland, consult the ladies at the tourist office outside the train station and they’ll advise on villages you can take a train or bus to. We opted to go to nearby Lagne, which had a tiny medieval village (2 small streets), good restaurants, a bakery with the best meringues I’ve ever had and award-winning croissants as well a good beauty salon. There were many locals that did not speak a word of English but that added to the fun. 

http://www.disneylandparis.com/en

Where to Eat

This all depends on your budget. You can dine in Michelin star splendor for a steep price, see where your feet find you and stop off at a bistro or pop into the ample global dining franchises that have even infiltrated France. There are very few places to go wrong as far as food is concerned, particularly if you stick to French food.

I recommend…

Macaroons and breakfast from Laduree on the Champs-Élysées – a Parisian institution (the best macaroons I’ve ever had). If you don’t want to eat here, then do pop in to gawk at the impressive array of pastries and sweets. I bought one of the most beautiful dessert cookbooks I’ve ever beheld here. Even if you don’t like macaroons – just buy one, preferably vanilla and try not to moan when it hits your tongue.

Crepes – most places sell crepes although my daughter swears that the artists’ quarter has the best creperies

Roasted chestnuts from a traditional roastery – I found some in the market next to Eiffel Tower when I was there last.

French hot chocolate – thick, liquid heaven and served with ample amounts of cream.

If you’re craving fast food – the entrance to a small mall (and paid fancy toilets with a toilet menu and posh colored loo paper – I kid you not) is under the bridge at the road next to the Louvre’s pyramid structures. The mall is called Carrousel du Louvre. 

Hint: The best food I’ve eaten in France is in a village that’s a 30 minute public bus trip away from Disneyland. It was also the cheapest as Paris and Disneyland inevitably charge ‘tourist prices’. So, if you’re a foodie, consider renting a car / taking a bus or train to explore the nearby villages. Regarding Laduree – if you want to avoid the busy period, go for the first breakfast sitting. Afterwards, it becomes considerably busier until late afternoon. 

Getting there and getting around:

Getting around town: 

While taxis are plentiful and you can easily hail one or arrange one through the hotel you’re staying at, I recommend that you buy a Paris Visite travel card and use that for public transport. Paris metro is one of the most user and tourist friendly metros I’ve used and if you don’t know which line to use, you can always ask your hotel’s staff beforehand.

For more information:

 http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21879/visiting-paris/

http://booking.parisinfo.com/il4-offers_p7-transport.aspx

I absolutely do not recommend that you use the tuk-tuk style vehicles. They’re an absolute rip off. We had a nasty incident of triple checking prices and then being ripped off anyway and dropped off in the wrong place. When we informed the hotel, they weren’t surprised and urged us not to use them.

Hint: A European’s view of distance is different to a South African’s as they walk and take public transport whereas we drive. So, when in Europe, when someone tells me a place is a short 30 minute walk away, I take public transport if I’m in a hurry or the kids are tired because it is most likely 45 minutes to an hour away. If they tell me it’s 10 or 20 minutes then I’ve found that it is generally okay to make the kids walk quickly if rushed. 

Transfers: 

After combing the Tripadvisor forums and online blogs, I discovered that Prestige Transfer (http://prestige-transfer.com/) was the most recommended transfer company. Sure, you can get a taxi from the airport or take the metro. If travelling with kids though, I recommend using this transfer – they’re affordable, reliable and provide excellent service. I do not recommend travelling with the metro. It was not fun at all to lug huge suitcases around with us up and down stairs, cobbled streets, hills and past throngs of people. We did it once and not again. If you’re transferring from Charles De Gualle airport or Paris to Disneyland Paris, then this transfer company is also a good option. If the French countryside bores your children, then the in-car tv playing Disney movies will keep them occupied.

Flights:

From Europe or the UK, it’s fairly easy to get to Paris via train but as I only know of people that have done this and haven’t done so myself, I won’t elaborate on this here. Flight options depends on where you’re coming from. I recommend that you do a search on https://www.skyscanner.net/ or Google to see which airline flies direct or with as few flights as possible to Paris. This is a sanity saver when travelling with kids. I then book my flights directly through the airline’s website as I’ve found that to be cheaper every time – not to mention more secure. From Kuwait, I fly to Europe with Turkish Airlines and preferably transit in Sabiha Gocken as it is the quieter airport. I’ve found this to be not only a cheaper option but also excellent value for money. Why pay three times for something very similar with a European airline or Emirates Airlines?

Paris Is Always A Good Idea… 

I did not always love Paris. In fact, the first time I visited it, I hated it. I fell in love with Paris on my second visit when accompanied by all the loves of my life – my husband and both of my children. There is something about the city, when visiting with those who hold your heart, that taints the entire city in the light red hue of romance and if it is magic, then consider me be-spelled by Paris.

This framed Audrey Hepburn quote my husband photographed in Hotel Ekta says it all…

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Happy birthday, Christoph! Check out Christoph’s birthday blog celebrating great reviews for his poignant, courageous story of Ludwika. “Celebrating my birthday with this re-blog: Readers’ Favorite 5 Star Review for “Ludwika A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany” 

Celebrations are in order. Source: Readers’ Favorite 5 Star Review for “Ludwika A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany” | writerchristophfischer Celebrations are in order. I’m now the…

Source: Celebrating my birthday with this re-blog: Readers’ Favorite 5 Star Review for “Ludwika A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany” 

Heaven Or Hell At A Mother’s Feet

I was raised to belief that heaven lies at the feet of one’s mother – the woman that birthed you, loved you, nurtured you. Later, I heard someone (I can’t remember who) say that “heaven lies at the feet of a mother but so does hell”. So, what is it?

It’s is both and neither. To be honest, I think we all have to make up our own minds about our own mothers and then duplicate the good and try to be even better with our own kids. Depending on the type of mom you had, you could have been on the road to hell or heaven. The type of mom you are will pave the road for the type of children you set forth into the world.

road to heaven

Where did this all come from? Well, I just read an article by a mom who is a self-proclaimed ‘lazy’ mom. http://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/im-a-lazy-mom-besides-im-selfish-and-carefree-176805 

It got my blood boiling because as a mom, I have concerns about leaving a two year old to fend for themselves in a kitchen or allowing an eight year old to wander off by themselves. I could’ve let out an expletive at the author and left it at that but then I read the comments and was shocked by the number of women that believe in this way of parenting. Or rather, this way of neglecting.

As an expat in Kuwait, I probably live in one of the safest countries within which to raise children. People love children here and have an annual holiday to celebrate children where children are given sweets and gifts because they are children. If I’m crossing a road and the kids are with me, cars stop to let us go past. No one would intentionally harm my kids here – their punishment of crime in this country is severe. And yet, even here, I would never, ever allow my children to go off to a friend and they’re both older. They help themselves to yogurt and fruit but if the stove goes on or the kettle, I keep an eye on them.

Now, I’m not a perfect mom. Far from it. I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make many mistakes in future but the difference between this ‘mama that has a life’ and that mama is that I do not take the easy way out. I work. I work my butt off.

When I was a working mom, I balanced work, kids, hubby, school stuff and my writing dreams. I thought I was supermom. I was involved with the PTA, I baked supermomcupcakes and arranged lavish birthday parties, I never missed an important school event and I spent every afternoon and part of the evenings with my kids. I worked in between all of that, spent time with hubby and averaged 3 hours sleep for months while trying to write novels. I was finished. I wanted it all and because I couldn’t, something had to give and that something was me. In retrospect, I realize that I could’ve cut down on my writing time and have taken longer to publish some of my books and that would have been fine. I could have done less or only have donated money instead of my time to the school and that would have allowed me to have a bit of balance too. I didn’t realize this then and frankly, I think I was so obsessed with having it all that I didn’t even consider letting up. I was expendable in my warped mind, not my goals. Stupidity at its blindest.

Then, hubby had the opportunity to work in the Middle East. The tax-free income gave me an opportunity to quit my day job and become a full time mom while pursuing my writing dreams. My dreams took a backseat after I made a shocking discovery. My children did not see me in the same ‘supermom’ light I expected them too. Don’t get me wrong, they noticed and appreciated all I did for them but having me at home highlighted how little time they spent with me. Just that. Time spent with me. Not time spent with me doing homework or time spent going to school functions or time spent doing, doing. doing. Just time spent with me. Them and me. Doing nothing and yet doing everything right. I never gave them that in my manic ambition to be the world’ best working mom. Well, I woke up, smelled the OJ and began making up for lost time. Yes, you guessed it, I went the other route… I put my writing dreams on the back burner and threw myself into making my kids the focal point of my life. Hubby came after that and I came last of course. (Believe me I am shaking myself at my head just as I’m sure you are.)

To be fair, I would have had to give a lot of attention to my kids anyway as we did move to a completely foreign country and the amount of adaptation – particularly to the vastly different British curriculum at an international British school. The South African curriculum is literally two years behind the British one and my children had A LOT to catch up to. They spent hours each day doing extra work. Never mind the language differences, the social difference and acclimatization. It’s been tough.

Then came the time when my kids had pretty much caught up. I suddenly found myself with time on my hands. Time to write, right? No. I had every intention of doing so but it didn’t happen. I was bushed. Absolutely exhausted. The fact that I’d been working since the age of 8 in my dad’s shop, keeping house since the age of 8 and then carried on working hard… it got to me. I didn’t have an emotional outburst – that would’ve taken energy. I was just finished. Writing took forever and all I experienced was growing creative frustration. Then hubby told me one day that if roles were reversed, he would absolutely have a daily nap. Nap? What’s a nap? I don’t do naps. Naps are for lazy people, right? … Wrong! Naps are normal as I discovered and so is reading, drinking coffee for the sake of it and having a Netflix marathon in my pajamas. And so I gave myself a break. I still did all I had to as a mom, hubby and I still had time together but I stopped doing PTA and other school activities and put my writing on the back burner. Bravo! I deserved every second. I wish many more women can have the opportunity to have a break such as I did.

Back to the article by the (self-proclaimed) ‘lazy mom’ – bullshit! My mother was ill and working and had an excuse for the responsibility I had placed on me. Even then, she always did her best for me and I am immensely grateful. She did not use laziness as an excuse ever.

I changed my blog name last week to ‘Mama’s Got a Life’ and my tag line is telling – ‘I’m  a mom pursuing her writing dreams while navigating life as an expat’. I hope I can get the balance right now. Being a mom is not about being perfect. It’s not about sacrificing them or sacrificing you. It’s about doing your best with what you have in the moment. It’s about learning to balance things out while honoring your responsibility to the lives you’ve been honored to take care of. It’s about taking things a step at a time while holding your breath and hoping that the road you’re paving is the one leading them to heaven.

Summer in Nafplio, Greece, with My Two Daughters

Cerulean blue skies, white-washed houses with the deep blue of the sea in the background. Speedos and bikinis, night clubs and plate-breaking.zarah tolo donut That’s what I expected from Greece and got it, but discovered so much more. There’s history, gastronomy and indescribably clear seas. There’s warmth and welcome, a natural inclusion of children and a charmingly simple approach to living. Plus, Greece has the best donuts I’ve ever had, sold right on the beach!

I joined the throng of expat wives escaping the desert heat and took my kids to Greece last summer. We started our vacation with nearly two weeks in the lesser known Peloponnese.

We went during the financial crisis and friends and family gave many, well-meant suggestions to cancel our trip. As Greece was at the top of my bucket list, there was no way I was going to oblige. I am happy to say that the media fed the public a bunch of absolute hogwash. There was ample cash at ATMS, no shortage of food and not one protest. It’s a good thing I didn’t listen because my Greek vacation was my best vacation to date. Here are a few highlights from my time in Nafplio in the Greek Peloponese. I will post blogs on Tolo, Poros, Athens, Crete (Chania and Rethymno) and Naxos at a later date.

Athens Airport to Nafplio – getting there...

corinth canalWe got our first glimpse of the famed Greek ocean when we stopped at the Corinth Canal. It is on the way to Nafplio from Athens airport and is well worth the quick stop. There is also a bungee jump station for the more adventurous. (I would rather slurp bugs through a straw than bungee. Thanks.) There are also boat rides through the passage. The Corinth Canal is a 19th century passage carved through a mountain – literally – with the Ionian sea on one side and the Aegean sea on the other.

Nafplio

The town… Nafplio is one of the most romantic places I’ve been to with winding, cobbled roads, canopies of bougainvillea and balconies overflowing with pots of tomatoes and flowers. Orange trees scent the air and wild olive trees remind you that you’re in Greece. nafplio street 2.jpgOnce a capital of Greece, Nafplio is rich in Ancient Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Venetian history. Palamidi castle watches over the town from the hill and Bourtzi fort keeps guard on a man-made island in the middle of the bay. Between these two iconic structures lie museums, colorful Venetian buildings and ancient monuments.
Despite its romantic atmosphere, kids won’t lack for entertainment. My children nafplio below palamidiloved the miniature train tour around the town and there were horse-drawn carriages and electric bike options too.The public parks and playgrounds are pretty, beaches boast calm waters and activities such as visiting the castle, fort and war museum will engage the imagination. Palamidi castle is vast and offers breathtaking views over Nafplio and even a functional church inside its walls.

nafplio square mimeOn weekends, thnafplio streete squares become a hive of activity when visiting Athenians fill up the restaurants alongside tourists. Children play next to ancient fountains and mimic the mimes and freelance entertainers meandering about.

Once you’ve seen all in Nafplio, there are excursions to nearby historical sites and quaint countryside villages provided by tour operators and taxis. The most notable are visits to Epidavros / Epidauros, an ancient Greek theater, and the ruins of the Bronze Age citadel, Mycenae. We found enough to keep us occupied in Nafplio and Tolo and did not visit these sites. It gives us a reason to return. 😉

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Exploring a dark, prison cell at Palamidi Castle

I remember walking through the square on our first night in Greece and realizing

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The still operational church within the Palamidi Castle walls.

that it was way past midnight. My first reaction (an ingrained South African reflex) was fear and I quickly looked around. No one else was afraid. People were merrily socializing or going about their own business and it felt safe. In that moment all the anxiety I’d been feeling about traveling alone with my girls to a foreign country dissipated. In that moment, I gave myself permission to let my anxiety go and embrace my time in Greece.

nafplio local beachThe beach… Although Nafplio doesn’t have a sandy beach,  it does have a designated swimming area where many older, local women flock to cool off in the afternoons. The seabed consists of pebbles so I’d recommend a good pair of swimming shoes.  It’s more like swimming in a pool than an ocean tidal pool and, after walking around the old town in the heat, welcoming.

Accommodation…We stayed at Anthemion Guesthouse, located on the outskirts of anthemionNafplio. If offers family-friendly accommodation with spacious rooms, terraces, landscaped gardens, a great breakfast and a huge pool with a poolside drinks and light meal service. The best thing about Anthemion was that the family that owns and runs it, doesn’t just treat you well, they treat you as one of their own. They even stayed late with me one night when I needed help after I had to unexpectedly cancel accommodation on the next leg of my trip. The reason for their great reviews on booking.com becomes clear once you’ve stayed here.


gelarto nafplioFood… 
My older daughter is a foodie like me and has an adventurous palette and my other daughter likes to have her food plain and simple – the less ingredients, the better. The Greek cuisine catered for all our tastes from warm, homemade crusty loaves to tzatziki made with the heavenly yoghurt to grilled calamari with salt and olive oil to prawns cooked in a rich tomato and feta sauce. A visit to Gelarto for watermelon ice cream is a must. Yes, gelato is Italian but the Greeks make great ice-cream – I think the intense summer heat offers a good incentive.

I had a few presumptions of Greek cuisine that was checked at the door. I learned that the Greek salads served at home (even in Greek restaurants) is a unflattering relative of the robust, authentic dish. It has no lettuce and definitely does NOT have vinegar in the dressing. (The recipe is at the bottom of this blog.)

Another lesson quickly learned was that Greek portions are huge. One main dish is enough for 2 adults and a Greek salad can easily feed three, so the girls and I ordered a main course and one or two side dishes and shared it between us. Greeks also serve their food at just above room temperature so do not expect piping hot food to arrive at your table. In the summer heat, you don’t want your food that hot anyway.

The Greeks have a wonderful tradition of serving water and bread (most often complimentary) as soon as you sit down at the table. This is often accompanied by a bowl of olives and olive oil (they steer away from butter). After you’ve eaten, you are served with a complimentary plate of seasonal fruit, which was watermelon when we were there. It’s a generous and welcoming gesture – much like the culture in general.

A return to Nafplio is on my bucket list – next time hubby has to be with.

Greek salad, the way the Greeks make it, was a revelation. Have a look at the recipe and see why…

Authentic Greek Salad

authentic greek salad

  1. Place ripe, red tomatoes at the bottom of the bowl. A Greek taxi driver told me that he never buys a tomato that looks perfect – it has to look naturally imperfect, red and be slightly firm still. I don’t buy perfect and imported tomatoes anymore. It makes a HUGE difference. About 4 medium tomatoes.
  2. Drizzle a good quality olive oil over the tomatoes. About 3 tablespoons.
  3. Add chopped cucumber (approximately 1.5 cups), a few slices of onion, 1 sliced green peper and a handful of black or kalamata olives.
  4. Top it with a slab of feta cheese.
  5. Drizzle the feta with a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle it with a half a teaspoon of dried oregano.

No seasoning or vinegar is needed. The olive oil mixes with the tomato juice, oregano and feta to create its own dressing.

To me, this epitomizes Greek cuisine – healthy, good quality ingredients, simple cooking techniques and maximum flavor.

Directory of Accommodation and Transport

Accommodation – If like me, you want kid-friendly accommodation with a pool, wifi and a good breakfast, then you can’t go wrong with Anthemion Guesthouse. http://www.anthemion.gr

For transfers to Nafplio from Athens I’d recommend Maria from Greek Taxi. http://greek-taxi.gr I used her taxi service to get to Tolo on one occasion and I know they do excursions to towns near Nafplio too.

For transportation within Nafplio, there are a number of taxis available at the taxi rank within the town center. As the old town is pedestrianized, you’ll probably only use a taxi to get to your hotel if it is outside of the old town (as we did – although we could have walked) or for excursions to nearby beach towns (Tolo) and historical sites (theater of Epidavros). Taxis are well regulated and there is a price list on a board at the taxi rank.

greek balconies with flowers nafplio.jpg

 

Mama’s Got A Life – I Flipped My Blog

The Art of Juggling Balls. Yep, that’s me, ball juggler extraordinaire. It’s dirty work that can get sticky at times, make you wheeze from exertion and messy-dress in a hurry. That’s the mad, amazing reality of my life living as an expat in a country where I don’t speak the language and the customs take a moment or two to decipher while raising two girls, yo-yo dieting with intense determination, keeping the flame burning with my hubby, traveling to bucket list places and embarking on the the scariest, most personally demanding writing project of my life.

I’m a mom in pursuit of her writing dreams while navigating life as an expat wife and #YOLO (You Only Live Once) is my mantra.

Join me as I post about my travels, foodie adventures, writing musings and whatever other balls I may be juggling at the time.

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Reclaiming My Body The LCHF Way

I have made New Year’s resolutions a gazillion times. I’ve said “This will be the year I… (fill in the gap)” and then (mostly) did diddly about it.Well, this will be the year (lol) I actually do something about it. What’s different this time? Well, I began actively working towards these goals in December last year. Trial runs.

2016

 

One of my resolutions is to get my body back. Once upon a time I had a petite, Asian-esque, skinny body. Now, I hardly recognize myself. How I feel does not equal the reflection I see in a store window I walk pass. I feel like Humpty Dumpty that is too dumpy to even fall of the wall. Before my skinny self wouldn’t sit on the wall long enough to count because the wind would blow me off, now my behind grasps and anchors itself with the remarkable efficiency of cement.

I blame age, quitting smoking and moving to the Middle East for this unseemly weight gain. When folk warned us about picking up the expat’s ‘ Middle Eastern ton’, they were not being facetious. To cope,  I have learnt to divorce who I am mentally from who I have become physically. My goal this year is to reclaim my body.

Enter Low Carb, High Fat (LCHF) living! I’ve done this and what feels like every other diet under the sun since becoming an expat. I even had tests done and had dietitian approved meals delivered daily (I put on weight with that one)! The LCHF way of eating is the only one that has worked for me (provided I don’t cheat). 

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I started LCHF eating a week before my December vacation, stopped while on vacation and now, fast forward to after the gluttonous Festive Season and I’m back on the diet. So far so good. I am managing the carb and sugar withdrawal just fine too. This time around… I will not cheat (and have not cheated- yay!!! 🙂 ). I am determined to feel hot – or at least less like Humpty Dumpty – again.

The wonderful thing about living in today’s world is that somewhere out there, someone has a solution to your problem. With basic computer skills and internet connectivity, you can find it. I  have spent many hours in carb or sugar withdrawal-induced stupor staring at recipes on Pinterest and then trying them out.  My LCHF coping mechanism is to make and enjoy  low carb, high fat, sugar- free food that does not taste like charcoal, dog turds or vomit. I have a few ‘go to’ recipes for those carb and sugar cravings and I’m sharing them with you. These are not my recipes so I will plonk the links in here so you visit and thus give kudos to their creators.

Craving carbs…

  • Have warm bread made with coconut flour that takes 90 seconds to make in the microwave. They’re smell of coconutty goodness but don’t taste of it. They are like a hybrid of an English muffin meets an English scone / American biscuit. I send them in hubby’s lunch box with a variety of fillings or slather it with butter while warm and top with cheddar to have with tea! Coconut flour may be a bit more expensive than all purpose flour but it lasts for ages because this fibre-rich flour  sucks up moisture and expands. Healthy Recipes Blog: Low Carb Microwave Bread – http://healthyrecipesblogs.com/2014/04/17/low-carb-microwave-bread/
  • Life changing crackers. Once on a visit to South Africa, I found Banting seed and nut crackers. They’re available in health shops for a small fortune but are worth every penny. I brought some back to Kuwait. When they were finished, I Googled until I found the recipe for them. Arguably, it isn’t exactly the same but it still gives a mouthful of salty, nutty goodness with every bite. The perfect edible utensil for scooping up hummus, guacamole or simply topped with a spread of good, old Philadelphia cream cheese. My New Roots: The Life Changing Crackers – http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2014/07/the-life-changing-crackers/

life changing crackers

  • This is one of my favorite sandwich bread recipe finds. It tastes exactly like the health or seed bread you find in stores. I make one loaf and it feeds hubby and me lunch  sandwiches  for a week (I store it in the fridge in cling film).  Helga Van Niekerk: Easiest Banting Seed Bread Ever – http://helgavan.com/easiest-banting-seed-bread-ever/

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Craving sugar:

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I have bread and desssert recipes galore stored on Pinterest- from crappy ones to amazing! I’ll post the amazing ones here sometimes.  If you can’t wait, go check out Aneesa Price on Pinterest.

So, that’s resolution one being worked on. My goal is to fit back into my sexy Zara winter wardrobe when we go to Paris in April. Hubby will be with me in Paris this time and Humpty Dumpty must go ‘bye-bye’. It will happen because I will cook and eat myself thin. If you want to join me, keep an eye on recipes I will be posting on this blog or follow me on Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/aneesaprice/

Now, let me get back to working on one of my other New Year’s resolutions… finishing my current novel.

Bon Appetit!

When Love Is Enough

I’ve always believed in love. I sighed into the pages of my mom’s stolen Mills & Boons as a kid and when I got older, I cursed Rhett Butler for not loving Scarlett enough. I wanted a man that loved me as deeply as Heathcliff loved Catherine and a connection like Romeo and Juliet had. That instantaneous, mind-blowing, all-consuming love. The kind that steals your breath and heart and changes your world completely.

I’ve always believed that I’d find it too. And I did. I found it when I was young, hopeful and at the cusp of becoming my own woman. It seems right that I fell in love as an 18 year old University student because our love could evolve and grow with us – together and more complete for it. I recently read a quote by Aristotle, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies” and I thought ‘Yes’! It made sense to me because I truly believe that we were born to love each other.

My husband drew a young woman all his life, having a penchant for scribbling. When we initially met, he still drew her. She was me. Not, we looked similar. She. Was. Me. My doppelganger. (I’ve seen the proof from early years too.) The romantic in me would like to believe that it is the soul’s cry for help. Ironically, he stopped drawing her shortly after we fell in love.

Unlike the standard romance, when we met, ‘it’ didn’t hit me then. I did not experience love at first sight (although I have no doubt that many do experience that too). Like Cher said, it’s in his kiss. When we first kissed it was as though the linchpin clicked into the wheel of my life and set things in motion. I knew then that we were meant to be together and if I walked away, nothing would be as good, as fulfilling, as strong or as bright as when we were together. Apparently he felt the same. 🙂

Imagine the agony when everything conspired to tear us apart. We were betrayed or abandoned by friends, harmed and were harmed by loved ones and persecuted without trial by all. Not only did people fail to understand how we could love each other coming from different racial, cultural, religous and socio-economic backgrounds, they also did not approve. Their disapproval was vehement, vocal, visual, physical and violently omnipresent. When we were forcibly separated, the pain I felt was so intense, it propelled me into a state of catatonic existence. Every day I didn’t spend with him was one that belonged to a blurry period in my life underlined by pain and longing. To this day, I can barely remember what I did during those two years. And honestly, I thank my psyche for allowing me the bliss of traumatic amnesia.

blog 15th anniversary

But all’s well that end’s well. Back then, I couldn’t understand why we had to go through what we had to. Was it the universe demanding balance? Did we need to go through such pain to be able to experience this intense love? Was it the time and a lack of understanding underlined by the recent hatred or ignorance created during apartheid – i.e. was what we went through post-apartheid ‘teething problems’? It no longer matters. Thankfully, we never took our gloves off. We fought hard and cleverly and we won. Since then, many bridges were mended and we’re still together 15 years later.

On our wedding day, I walked down the aisle to “Still The One” by Shania Twain. I thought the words were valid then. They’re more valid now:

Looks like we made it

Look how far we’ve come, my baby

I’m glad we didn’t listen, look at what we would be missing

They said, I bet, we’d never make it but just look at how far we’ve come, still together, still holding on…

You’re still the one I want.

And just as I was sure as a little girl that I would meet my true love one day, back then I was sure that whatever we had thrown at us, we would make it. I never had a single doubt that we’d survive. He didn’t either. For us, love was, is and always will be – Enough.

Happy 15th wedding anniversary, honey.  As the inscription on the inside of your wedding band says… Love Eternally, Aneesa

 

The 10 Things I Love About Being An Expat in Kuwait

I often get asked the question… “What’s it like living there?”

Truth? I find it hard and amazing in equal measures. I could go on about the hard stuff but I won’t. They’re not that major to be honest. What makes them hard is not that they’re bad but rather that they’re different. I won’t focus on that because I choose to be here. I choose expat life in a foreign, non-English speaking culture. And frankly, if I don’t like it, I can leave. That puts a different spin on things. It then makes being in Kuwait my own choice. Hubby and I choosing to be here is liberating. Once we accepted that, life here became an adventure.

Kuwait image for blog

Here are 10 things I appreciate about my temporary life as an expat in Kuwait:
1. Tax-free money... The number one reason expats become expats. It isn’t materialistic… we all need money to live.
2. Shopping. Oh My Word! Shopping. From odd nooks and crannies offered by a host of souks (traditional markets) spread out across the city to high end fashion where I can’t even afford to look at a sock. The shopping here is unbelievable! I’m not a big shopper. I am happy wearing regular clothing and I buy on sale unless I need something. My first year in Kuwait though… I went crazy. Hubby never has to tell me to stop spending but that first big sale… he did! I had a blast! Zara for less than a dollar, Michael Kors and Anna Sui for less than 10 dollars! Less 90% and tax-free… just wow! My daughters and I have become so spoiled that when we travel we don’t shop – we have everything here for cheaper.
3. Food! I LOVE Food!!! The downside is that the huge amount of European, US and Arab food chains, restaurants and imports coupled with the lack of outdoor activity means the inevitable Middle Eastern expat weight gain is going to happen. I had not dieted until I moved here. Oh, but my taste buds have loved it. I’ve eaten everything from macaroons better than what you get in Paris to Krispy Kremes while guzzling down a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte to Elevation Burger’s bunless locarb burgers and NYC’s Magnolia Bakery cupcakes! I know that the ultimate (and my fave) Egyptian dessert is Um Ali – a glorious concoction of pasty, cream, rose water and pistachios, that Lebanese jams and breads are Ah-Maze-Ing and that French coffee done the Arab way is the best end of meal sip. Sure, I miss food from home – but I make it from scratch and feel awesome for my accomplishment.
4. International Schooling. My Kids go to an International British School. What they’ve learnt and how they’ve grown from being here blows my mind. Their school is on the forefront of technology too and as much as I moaned setting up their iPads, I love that they use them in class. Mostly, they’ve grown exponentially from mixing with kids from all over the world.
5. Safety. Honestly, it is so safe here that I’d walk down a dark alley wearing every bit of jewelry I own at 3 am and I’d feel fine. In fact, hubby and I walk around the city – once for 13 km – and get home at odd hours and never have any fear. I love that about living here.
6. The people. I have learnt many things from interacting with and observing expats and locals alike. It has highlighted areas that I never knew I had that needed work on. Isn’t that just about one of the most valuable things a human being can discover? It’s a gift I’m grateful for.
7. Quitting smoking. I firmly believe that if I hadn’t moved to Kuwait, I’d still be smoking. Smoking laws are a bit lax here – although recently huge kudos to the excellent police who are being strict about public smoking. Cigarettes are also cheaper to buy here. At one point we were smoking so much we felt sick. I am over two years smoke free now. Yay! Kudos to hubby and I.
8. Family time. The expat social circle is small and mixing with others who don’t speak your language can be difficult. Also, expats continuously come and go and friends become temporary treasures in your life. This forces many expat families to spend more time together. Hubby, the kids and I spend more time together as a family as ever before. I am immensely grateful for this.
9. Convenient city living... as opposed to my old suburban life. I don’t own a car. I don’t need to. Like in the movies you see set in New York, I wave for a taxi and grab that outside my door. My kids take the bus to school. I have a domestic helper / maid three times a week that saves me from ironing or I can go a few meters down the road and drop my laundry off at the cleaners. It is cheaper to eat out than in here – although I prefer to and do cook. I can walk out my door and cross the road to Crumbs bakery, go right and find a quirky coffee shop called Buttercup, grab a juice or soft serve across the road and when I’m feeling healthy, there’s awesome Lebanese food or lo carb food down the road. This is all within a few meters of my apartment. There is more all around me – florists, pharmacies… you name it. It is vastly different from my suburban life with my house, garden, pool, etc and I do miss the space. It can get cramped in a two bedroom apartment but that’s why I moved here – to not do the same. (Besides I’d rather save money and spend extra on travel than on rent.)
10. Last but not least… travel. I lived a very insular life in SA. I guess we could have applied for loans or maxed out our credit cards to travel but we chose not to. Hubby traveled a lot for work and had been overseas before but the girls and I had to apply for passports when we moved here. The SA Rand is weak and life in a big city is expensive. In fact, Kuwait’s currency is the highest in the world – it is stronger than the British pound, which makes it not a bad place to be. So, now, we live simply, I spend weeks worth of hours researching bargains and we travel. We travel as much as we can. In two years I have been to Greece (top 3 bucket list destination for me), Dubai, Oman, Paris, Disneyland Paris (another bucket list place), Thailand (yes, bucket list again) and Sri Lanka. I will write separate blog posts on these travels. They were mind-blowing experiences… from swimming in stinky sulfuric hot springs in the Aegean sea to watching a lady make lace by hand in Sri Lanka.

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A friend told me that I live in an Ivory Tower here in Kuwait. I guess I do. But, you know what… I choose to live in one. I appreciate the small and big things that make up being an expat in Kuwait. When I leave, I leave with no regrets, having given this life my all and feeling so blessed for the experience.

Now,I will ignore my cravings to order Johnny rockets with sweet potato fries and go and make a locarb something instead. Or maybe not. 😉

Liberate Yourself With the Unfriend Button

Today, a toxic, now ex-friend, pushed me into writing my first blog in ages. The past two years have been consumed with moving and adapting to living as an expat in the Middle East, being a stay at home mom, making up for my pre-expat lack of traveling and writing when I get a chance. (This is also why I haven’t published a book in a while. Don’t worry – I am writing, albeit at my own pace.) I nearly didn’t write this blog. Then I realized how many people deal with toxic social network relationships and how many don’t speak up. So, here goes…

We all have that friend. Whether it is someone you’ve met on social networking or someone you’ve worked with – the kind that pretends to be a liberal philosopher but who is actually sanctimonious and judgmental.

I got into a debate turned nasty with such a friend this morning and try as I might to diffuse the situation, he just kept on coming back with veiled insults and cleverly worded judgments. I attempted to reason with him by acknowledging his point of view and offering different ways of seeing mine. In the end, nothing mattered. Not only would he doggedly stand his point of view (which I’m actually okay with because ‘agreeing to disagree’ can be a powerful act), he would insult me in every single comment he made. He would, for example, admit that he was being judgmental and follow it with a ‘but’ or another statement with snarky comments – a verbal slap. That’s when I thought that a direct approach would possibly work better than a diplomatic one. No, that was like pouring oil on a fire. It blew up. In the end, he was openly insulting and purposefully hurtful whilst saying, “I respect you, but…” or “With all due respect…”

Why do people do that? Do they think we’re stupid? When people say that we all KNOW they’re going to follow it with something negative. I mean, really!

I’ve seen a few friends have such experiences too. Before social networking they would have been referred to as ‘email wars’. Now, it is cyber stupidity. Every Tom, Dick and Jane think they have an opinion and that their opinion should, in fact, be everyone else’s. I get it. Believe me. I too have strong opinions. Push a button or get me onto a topic I’m passionate about and I can debate for days. There is, however, a difference between debate and personal attack. If someone is really going to upset you, you have a right to ignore them, unfollow them or unfriend them. There is actually no need to be mean.

In the end, I had actually had enough of this guy today.

blog pic reality and opinion

That’s when I came across a saying, “Your Opinion is Not My Reality”. The fates threw that one into my lap. Of that, I’m sure. I had to ask myself whether my life would be better with or without him in it. The answer was that the only impact he had made on my life thus far had been a negative one on social media.

My lesson learnt for today – Cut Toxic Friends Out. Liberate yourself with the unfriend button. (And if you’re a writer, write them into a book and transform them. 😉 )

FREE BOOK PROMOTION: TIME TO LET GO is FREE on AMAZON 22-26 June 2014

Christoph Fischer’s work is deeply moving and thought-provoking. This is well worth adding to your kindle.

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YES – FOR FIVE DAYS THE ALZHEIMER DRAMA TIME TO LET GO WILL BE FREE!DOWNLOAD HERE: http://ow.ly/yiWtr

Time to Let Go is a contemporary family drama set in Britain.
Following a traumatic incident at work Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, she and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.
The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.

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USA Today Bestselling Author, Rose Pressey: Interview and Spotlight

I began reading Rose Pressey novels before I decided to write and before I knew what an indie author was. I was impressed by the escapist journey that her novels provide – they’re like lovely, relaxing weekends away to the countryside. 🙂 Her titles are catchy, her covers are original and her writing style is charming. I befriended Rose on Facebook and discovered that she is just as charming and endearing as her novels. What I appreciate most about Rose Pressey is her tenacity, perseverance and humility, despite her huge success. Rose Pressey has freely given me advice on countless occasions and that has impressed me even more. Here’s an interview with a honey of an author, my talented friend, Rose Pressey.

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An Interview with Rose Pressey

1. Rose, what would you say makes your writing different from other books/series in the paranormal genre?

I enjoy adding humor to my books. There are many dark paranormal books out, but mine are light and fun.

2. Who would you consider to be your target audience?

My books are adult, but suitable for young adults, too. Anyone who wants their paranormal beings to have a sense of humor might enjoy my books.

3. What do you think draws so many readers to stories with magical or supernatural storylines?

A supernatural world and magic make a boring world fun. It’s a great escape from the daily routine.

4. What you would like your readers to take away from your books?

I like my readers to smile and get a few laughs from my books. Being introduced to characters they can like and root for is nice.

5. What is the most challenging part of writing for you?

Editing. It takes the longest. I write a book in a month, but spend a couple months on editing.

6. What are your favorite books or series to read?

I love the Jane Jameson Series by Molly Harper. Of course, I love the Sookie Stackhouse series, too. Another series I really like is the La Vida Vampire Series by Nancy Haddock. Really, I love too many books to name them all.

7. What do you like to do with your spare time when you aren’t reading or writing?

Decorating my home on a budget is fun. I love finding bargains. Spending time with family and playing with my Chihuahua. I also enjoy listening to music.

8. Name one thing that you would really like your readers to know about you.

I suffer from psoriatic arthritis and I have joint replacements in both knees. I’m having my hips replaced soon. I’m like the bionic writer!

9. You’ve got a number of different series that you write. Tell us about them. Do you have a favorite? And what is the essence of a Rose Pressey novel?

I love all of them, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. My novels feature fun and quirky characters with Southern flair.

10.You suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and have had to undergo a number of operations. Do you feel this has given you a different outlook on life?

I never let my disease get me down. The joint pain may make moving around slower, but that just gives me more time to write. Life is what you make of it.

 

My Favorite Rose Pressey Novels

 

honeysuckle hotel

Murder at Honeysuckle Hotel (Trash to Treasure Crafting Mystery)

ASIN: B007R5T1Y2

Customer Reviews: 4.1 out of 5 stars (73)

It’s summer time, and everyone is relaxing in the shade with a tall glass of lemonade. Everyone except Raelynn Pendleton. She’s stuck working at the local store to make the rent while her no-good ex-husband lives it up with a floozy.

When she inherits a Victorian house, Raelynn jumps at the chance to turn her life around. How can she afford the upkeep on such a huge place? Simple. She’ll run it as a hotel. Problem is, she has no experience and the décor dates back to the Dark Ages. She’ll have to use her secret talent for turning junk into treasure or she’ll never snag an overnight guest.

But before the new Honeysuckle Hotel even opens for business, Raelynn discovers the body of a young woman in the garden. As a newcomer in town, Raelynn is blamed for the murder. She’s fired from her job, which could mean she’ll lose the house. The only way to save Honeysuckle Hotel is to find the real killer – with or without the sexy Sheriff Kent Klein.

One way or another, Honeysuckle will be buzzing.

flip haunted house

 

Flip That Haunted House (A Haunted Renovation Mystery)

ASIN: B005UIBWMC

Customer Reviews: 4.2 out of 5 stars (92)

Alabama has a scheme up her sleeve: house flipper. So what if she knows zilch about renovating homes–how hard can it be?

Tougher than she thought when she discovers ghosts inhabiting the run-down

mansion and the corpse of the previous owner. Oh yeah, and now the local sheriff thinks Alabama is the killer.

Holy house rehab, what’s next? Reed O’Hara, the sexy know-it-all next door neighbor that’s what. Alabama is hell-bent on proving she can handle the fixer-upper. Plus, unravel the mystery and find the killer. But if she’s not careful, she may end up in the house forever…

 

pies and potions

 

Pies and Potions (Mystic Cafe)

ASIN: B007G0Z714

Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars (80)

Elly Blair is finally getting the hang of her magic skills. That is, until the National Organization for Magic introduces her to a new type of magic: potions.

Each year before the fall equinox, a special potion must be given to the residents of Mystic Hollow, Kentucky. But when the spell goes awry, Elly fears she’s to blame.

Handsome investigator Tom Owenton is back in town, but this time he’s been stripped of his badge. With Tom’s arrival in Mystic Hollow, the Organization steps in and decides to shut down the entire town.

When Elly and Tom team up to help solve the mystery of the spell gone wrong, the Organization isn’t the only unhappy party. Elly’s boyfriend, Rory Covington, is concerned about how close Elly and Tom are becoming.

But a bad spell isn’t Elly’s biggest problem. A body is found at Mystic Cafe, plunging her into a murder investigation. And the killer might be closer than she thinks. Elly must solve the crime or the murderer will make Elly hang up her apron forever.

larue

Me and My Ghoulfriends (Larue Donavan, Book 1)

ASIN: B004W48XMM

Customer Reviews: 4.0 out of 5 stars (170)

There’s always fun to be had on a ghoul’s night out.

By day, Larue Donavan is a down-to-earth bookstore owner. But by night, she’s a world-renowned psychic investigator dedicated to helping lost spirits find peace. Dead people won’t leave her alone and Abraham Lincoln thinks he’s in charge of her lovelife. Larue can handle ghosts and undead presidents. It’s the living who drive her crazy.

When Callahan Weiss moves to town, the handsome newcomer opens a coffee shop right next door. She’s smitten from the start, but she’s not the only one — The boutique owner across the street has her eye on Callahan too, and uses witchcraft to fight dirty. When Callahan gets hit by a love spell, Larue will need more than a little help from her ghoul-friends to save the day…

 

More about Rose Pressey: 

Rose Pressey is a USA TODAY bestselling author. She enjoys writing quirky and fun novels with a paranormal twist. The paranormal has always captured her interest. The thought of finding answers to the unexplained fascinates her.

When she’s not writing about werewolves, vampires and every other supernatural creature; she loves eating cupcakes with sprinkles, reading, spending time with family, and listening to oldies from the fifties.

Rose lives in the beautiful commonwealth of Kentucky with her husband, son and three sassy Chihuahuas.

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12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop

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Blog Hop: 12 Days of Christmas
Event Date: December 1st – 12th 2013
Hosted by: As You Wish Reviews & Confessions of the Paranormal
Sponsors: As You Wish Tours & Book Dragon Designs

melktert

Melktert – A South African favorite for the holidays! 

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 cup cold butter, chopped into cubes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups of self-raising flour
  • (Or just go out and buy ready-made butter, tart pastry shells. Although, these are worth the time and effort.)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • milk, 4 cups
  • butter, ½ cup
  • eggs, 3 – yolks and whites separated
  • sugar, ½ cup
  • vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon
  • cornstarch, ½ cup
  • flour, 2 teaspoons

 To serve: ground cinnamon

To make the pastry, whisk the butter and sugar until it becomes fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the self-raising flour, a half a cup at a time and mix with your fingers until you obtain a moist dough. The dough will be slightly crumbly. Flatten the dough and wrap in cling film. Leave it to rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

Preheat oven to 180° C / moderate temperature / 350 degrees F. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a well floured work surface. Line a round tart tin, 26 cm in diameter or mini tart pans. Or do as I do and use a muffin pan.  Prick the dough with a fork, cover with baking paper and pour over beans (i.e. blind bake). When it gets golden, remove baking paper and beans and let it rest on a cooling rack.

For the filling, melt butter in milk over medium heat. Beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla and then add the cornstarch. Add a tablespoon of hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring to avoid eggs from scrambling. Add the remaining milk, mixing until everything is smooth and has the consistency of  thick custard. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them custard mixture.

Pour the filling into the tart shell, sprinkle the surface with cinnamon. Now, you’re welcome to try to wait for it to cool down before you have one, but there’s no need to torture yourself. I love these hot, warm or cold.

Bon Appetit! Let me know what you think of melktert.

The Romance Collection, A Christmas 2012 Special 3 in 1 Romance Edition

The Romance Collection Christmas 2012 3 in 1 Bundle

The Romance Collection Christmas 2012 3 in 1 Bundle

“I can’t wait to read more by this author.” (Tattle Tale)

This is a special romance collection that includes sizzling tales that have each received excellent reviews. Catering for the lover of adult romance, it includes a paranormal tale of love and deception, a sweet contemporary romance about a woman who needs to find her independence and a scorching paranormal erotic novella. 

Coffin Girls, Elegantly Undead

A vampire descendent from the original Coffin Girls, Anais runs a successful event and wedding planning business from her majestic New Orleans plantation house. When Yves, her maker and head of the Vampire Council requests her assistance in hosting the mysterious, yet dashing Prince of Witches, Conall, she has no option but to accept. But Anais is the keeper of secrets; secrets that can kill. Conall and Anais are drawn together when confronted with fatal encounters and an unimaginable destiny… if she’s willing to accept it and fight.

Finding Promise

Caroline had led the life of a high society daughter and wife, one that was filled with soul-destroying emotional abuse. Upon the death of her husband, she finds that she is financially incapable of supporting herself and flees New York without a plan or destination in mind. Her travels lead her to the quirky town of Promise. Here she begins to explore her new found independence and the pleasurable side of love with ruggedly handsome local, Luke Edwards. Her contentment is shattered as her past resurrects itself and she needs to find the courage to face it before she can truly re-build her life.

Ghosts & Lovers: First Confession (An Erotic Novella)

Simone, the quintessential desperate housewife, is primarily absorbed on settling her family into their new home in the vibrant, metropolitan city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Unbeknownst to her, the greatest threat lurked not outside of the eight-foot walls and electric fencing but within the walls she seeks sanctuary. But the threat comes disguised as tantalizing pleasures of the most carnal nature that challenges her views of love, marriage and sex. Can Simone resist and rescue her family from the evil she’s let into their lives? This is her first confession.

Bonus Material –  4 holiday recipes from the author

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Grand Prize: $150 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

First Prize: One (1) eBook from Every Participating Author

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/fe782e84/

For more Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes & Giveaways – Hop along the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop!

http://asyouwishreviews.blogspot.com/p/12-days-of-christmas-blog-hop.html

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I Would Not Be Married To The Love of My Life If Not For Madiba! #RIPNelsonMandela

If it wasn’t for Nelson Mandela, I would not have written a book, I would not be married to my gorgeous husband and I would not have the privilege to call two beautiful girls my daughters. No, this isn’t me being melodramatic. I’ll tell you why.

Here’s what my life was like during Apartheid…

I was born Colored – a term given to those born of a mixed cultural and racial heritage in South Africa. I lived in a poor Colored community where curb appeal was non-existent and safety was something parents gave their kids by being overprotective. Even today, I cannot ride a bicycle because it was not safe to do that in the area I spent my childhood. I felt the impact of Apartheid within my own family unit too. My eldest brother and my mother both have fair skin and look Caucasian. I recall times when my father, my brother and I  (who were darker-skinned) were told that we could not accompany my mother and eldest brother into a cinema or a particular beach because ‘we did not look white’. I remember a poor school, poorer friends and riots on my doorstep with armed tanks stationed throughout the suburb. I remember my father and brothers making petrol bombs in our backyard to be ready to protect us against the rioting crowds trying to steal our livelihood, break into our home and harm us. Back then I was frightened. Today I know that those crowds were spurred on by poverty and the distress created by extreme oppression.

Then came change…

I remember watching the television with my family crowding the living room, hope permeating the air as Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom. And, I recall the many debates that commenced thereafter, including the infamous one between Mandela and De Klerk. I remember crossing the road to a friend’s house one day and waving excitedly as Mandela passed through the street, the sleek, black car a contrast to the bleak street. I remember the day he took his vows to become president.

Mandela and flag

After that, my life changed irrevocably. Because of Nelson Mandela and Freedom Fighters like him (including my own uncles), these moments in my life have occurred:

– My parents were able to buy a beautiful home in an area previously dedicated to ‘whites only’. I went from stone-littered curbs and arid playgrounds with broken playground equipment to living in an area with beautiful parks.

– I had the opportunity to finish Senior High at a school that non-whites could not go to during Apartheid. I then began receiving a good education. In South Africa the color of your skin dictated the standard of education you received. If you were white you received the best, Indians and Coloreds received a poor education and black South Africans received a sorry excuse for an education. It was at this school that I now had the challenge and opportunity of ‘catching up’ to my peers and where I had the wonderful opportunity to be introduced to English as it should be read and learnt.

– A new world awaited me. I could explore malls, beaches, cinemas, theaters and many other places because Apartheid was abolished. Admittedly, some of them were disappointing. When I was very young, my friends and I used to fantasize about ‘King’s Beach’ and what it was like for the ‘white people’ who went there. When my bare toes finally buried themselves in the white sands of that beach, I found that there were no butlers on call. Ha ha. 🙂

– Two years after Apartheid was abolished, I had the opportunity to attend a university that was previously meant for ‘whites only’ and went on to enter the Masters in Psychology program. Here I also majored in English and was introduced to more wonderful literary worlds. More importantly, a whole new world of diverse thought opened up to me. This was my true foundation years.

– My hope for romance turned to belief when I met my very own ‘Prince Charming’, the man I was to marry at university. He was white and the reality is that if it wasn’t for people like Nelson Mandela, our relationship and even our marriage would not have been legally possible in South Africa. Bi-racial marriages and relationships were seen as ungodly by the Apartheid regime and punishable by imprisonment. Thank goodness we met and fell in love during the early democratic years of South Africa. Oh, it was tough, though. There were many people – including our friends and family – who turned against us and put up many obstacles in place in order to prevent us from being together. But, in time, and through further efforts to re-conciliate our nation as a result of clever social re-engineering by the SA leadership, people gradually came to see things such as our relationship as less of a novelty or abomination and more as an actuality. Being shunned turned into being embraced.

– If I had not been able to marry my husband, we would not have had the two beautiful daughters we’ve been blessed with. That is what I am most grateful for. I’m sure that I do not need to elaborate on this.

Since then, there have been many other opportunities afforded to me through the efforts of great Freedom Fighters. Many of these are things that you (and now I) take for granted – such as standing in a queue with everyone else, going to any public place you wish to, having the same rights as everyone around you and having those around you be of every color in the rainbow. Gotta love the ‘Rainbow Nation’. All of these moments led up to me sitting in my dining room to write my first novel. Does it still sound like a line? Yes? Well think of it this way… if sanctions against South Africa still existed, I perhaps would not have had internet, I would not have read a Nora Roberts or HP Mallory book and have been inspired, I would not have had the level of education I’ve had, I would not have had the corporate job I had that led me to meeting the woman who convinced me to buy a kindle, I would not have known of indie publishing, I would not…. *you get the picture*

Do you see it now? If not for Madiba, I would not be the woman, wife, mom and writer I am today.

And even in death, he keeps giving and setting an example… Today I was reminded of how forgiving he is when the news channels rehashed the fact that he became friends with his jailers upon his release. I just had an interaction on Facebook where a person commented that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist that killed innocent people and that racism is wrong except when directed at Muslims. She even went as far as to call me a murderer along with Madiba! Now, being a South African who understands the value of freedom (because we fought recently for every bit of it), my heart rate immediately increased and I became incensed. I then deleted the retort I was about to post and gave, what I hope is, a very mature response. I did not think that Nelson Mandela would have commented in an aggressive manner. As he was so forgiving, so could I, on a much, much smaller scale, be forgiving of ignorance too. I’m darned if I don’t vow, as of today, to ensure that I live peaceably, with empathy and dignity. Furthermore, my husband and I discussed how the little things that bug us about our new country of residence are inconsequential and how, with the courage that we learnt as South Africans, we will make the best of this and we will ensure that the journey Madiba mapped for us, is taken boldly and humanely.

Viva Madiba! Rest In Peace Tata!