Archive for the ‘Special Projects’ Category


Say cheeeese!

13 December , 2017

So you know those questionnaires where they ask, what’s the one thing you wouldn’t want to be stranded on an island without?

My thing is my camera. 

I know there are a legion on more sensible things that should realistically be on that list before camera, like a lighter or a knife for instance…but my thing is and has always been, camera.

I take A LOT of photos. In fact if you want a good gage of my happiness levels all you have to do is take note of my monthly count of photos when I do my backups. The more I take, the happier I am.

What I don’t seem to have an addiction to is printing my photos. It’s actually a finance thing I guess. If I have to choose between printing photos and paying school fees, school fees are going to win every time.

And so, it came to a point where I haven’t printed photos since about 2007, and Nicola has been asking about me printing her a photo album for ages! And then as luck would have it, enter extra money stage left.

So for her birthday this year I thought a photo book might be a nice idea, only to realise that I have so many favourite photos of her that I can’t fit them all in one book! So a photo book per year then? And a firm intention to keep this up annually from now on?

Seemed like a great plan!

For my next trick I had to actually design these books and get them printed, but not for love or money could I get Qphoto’s software installed or working on my laptop…so I found an alternative out of desperation. And boy, am I glad I did!

24HourPhotobooks was such a pleasure to deal with! You can literally create an awesome photobook in about 10 minutes, provided you’ve gone through the process of picking your favourite photos already. And you get your book 24 hours after ordering and paying. Okay, I got mine 2 days later because it was a bulk order, but I still think that’s amazingly fast.
The books came out beautifully! I can’t wait for Nicola to see them. They’re all wrapped up already so I can’t show you, but I have a sneak peek of the covers that I can.

Just LOOK at this little face! I love this kid so much I could burst! 

It has really been quite an emotional experience going through 8 years of memories and THOUSANDS of photos putting these together. (2017 is just waiting for December photos and then it’ll be ordered too).


No…I’m not dead

14 September , 2016

There is actually so much that needs writing, but you know…if I’m not writing it, there’s probably a pretty good reason for it.

Today however, I do have something fit for sharing though: parenting hacks!

It’s been quite a ride, changing from a one parent one child household to a two parent three children one. Especially since we only have time share on two and when they’re not here there is obviously a whole other set of rules in their other house with their other parent, that we have no control over. Add to that, that we never actually know when they’ll be here – it gets kind of crazy.

It got to a stage where I felt like a hostage in my own house, cause these babies really bring out the worst in each other sometimes. Of course when you only have timeshare on the fruits of your loins, you don’t always want to be disciplining them and laying down the law…I mean really, who doesn’t want to be the fun parent?! But when it’s a free for all chaos spectacular…no one really ends up having fun. Well I know I wan’t having any.

We needed an action plan that would entail a lot less of me screaming like a banshee and bringing the thunder, and a lot less chaos!

I don’t know about you, but I have always found comfort in a good list. So that’s what we have now…sort of. 

Behold our magic white board on display in the playroom. On the left we have the hooligans listed by age. On a Wednesday each of them get credited with R20. Each time they break a rule (listed on the right), they lose R2. On the next Wednesday they get paid out the balance as a good behaviour bonus.

Occasionally we also have reward challenges to encourage something we want. As you can see, for instance, they’re all on R22 at the moment. They earned R1 each for picking up dog droppings, and then another R1 each for trying and eating all their dinner, which was something new (beef stroganoff). Next to their names you can see their previous Wednesday scores. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how much sanity this has brought to our home! Worst/best case scenario R240 a month between the three of them…money well spent!

Next up…we all had our hands in our hair about missing hair brushes. Specifically Miss Erin’s. She has about 7 in and around the house, but because she likes to stroll and brush they end up nowhere to be founds when you need them, all the time.

Solution: we tied one to the bathroom door handle. It’s been there for about a month and a half now. 

This has made mornings much more pleasant!

Mealtimes are a general pain in the ass. I want to take our kids to a place where kids get one bowl of porridge a day and are happy and thankful about it. They all seem to think we run a restaurant!

Nicola is the only one of the three that eats vegetables, but she doesn’t eat anything with sauce or gravy. She won’t even look at jam of marmite. Scott seems to only eat yogurt, chips or bread at the moment…occasionally burny chips or chicken nuggets, and is more than happy to have only a big cup of oros for a meal, followed up by half a million half cups of hot chocolate. He will wake up everyone screaming at 2am for his next fix and no amount of discipline will make him desist once he has his mind set on it. Erin loves chicken steakletts, chicken nuggets and fish fingers, and chips. She doesn’t eat banana or anything strawberry flavoured. And other than apples the only other fruit she’ll have is red grapes. Also lots and lots of chocolate nesquick.

So we are piloting a new meal plan, because quite frankly we’re sick and tired of tip toeing the line between all their fusses. 

We came up with a list of things we think are suitable for dinners (all to be had with at least one vegetable of our choice – not written, but expressly noted). Each baby got a day to pick, Nicola got two because she’s here all the time. Steve and I got the weekend days. On Thursdays we are usually at my folks, or we’ll get take aways. 

They could pick off the list for their days. There will only be one meal cooked and eaten. Anyone who doesn’t eat the food will lose money on the board (I still have to add this rule), also they will not be getting anything else. 

I really hope this works. So far so good though. They were very enthusiastic about compiling the list and everyone ate what we made tonight. It’s a good start! 

What handy parenting tricks do you have up your sleeves? Tell meeeeeeee….please. Also clue me in on the reason why you came up with it to begin with if you can.


Laerskool Kameeldrift – help out if you can please

9 February , 2015

So, you guys know how I like to drag you into all sorts of interesting community outreach projects. Today is another day like that! 😉 My friend, Denise, has been involved with helping Laerskool Kameeldrift for a couple of years running and she needs a bit of help.

Please have a look and see if you can help out? If you can, please contact Denise directly, or leave a comment on this post. If you are reasonably close by (JHB or PTA) Denise will come and fetch whatever you’re willing to donate. Any food donations also welcome and then also specifically the items listed below for the little girls in the school, where the greatest need seems to be.

Denise sent me this mail in Afrikaans, so here follows my English translation:

Good day everyone,

I am collecting food and goods for a school where there is a great need (Laerskool Kameeldrift). The majority of the school’s community comes from the surrounding 5 squatter-camps (informal settlements). The school provides the children with food during the day, and for many of the children it’s the only meal they will have. In addition to this the school also manages a feeding scheme where they try to provide food to the community.

The principal of the school has has requested specific items for the little girls in the school. They desperately need the following:

Sanitary pads

Roll On


Panties (7-14 years)

Bras (smallish sizes)


If anyone could please help out with a donations of any sorts, it would be greatly appreciates and it will do a world of good.

Kind regards,

Denise Vermaak



And here’s the original request

Goeie dag almal


Ek samel kos en goedere in vir n baie behoeftige skool (Laerskool Kameeldrift). Die meerderheid van die skool se gemeenskap is van 5 plakkerskampe. Die skool gee die kindertjies kos by die skool sodat hulle darem kos kry vir die dag…meeste het nie kos by die huis nie. Die skool het n voedingskema waardeur hulle probeer kos na die huise in die gemeenskap ook stuur.


Die hoof van die skool het n spesifieke versoek met my gedeel. Die dogtertjies benodig die volgende:


Sanitêre doekies

Roll on


Panties ( 7- 14yrs)

Bra ( kleinerige groottes)


As enigiemand asb kan help met bydraes van enige soort sal dit geweldige goed doen.


Vriendelike groete

Denise Vermaak



Freezing, but otherwise fantastic!

13 June , 2014


I wanted to put all the hospital project photos together, but my phone app is determined to stick them in chronologically – so we’ll do that then. 😉

This is from earlier this week, when the mountain of goodies was slowly taking shape. We’ve done the first drop on Wednesday (you’ll see a bit further down), and next week we’re doing the second drop. The excitement from the children was unbelievable! Seriously, a very touching experience being able to do something like this…one of those that just make it feel worthwhile being a human, if you know what I mean?


This getting up in the dark seriously messes with one’s body clock…8 sleeps until it starts turning around again. I. can’t. wait!


We did a fluffy hat day this week on one of the VERY cold mornings. I can’t decide which photo I love more, the yawn or this beautiful bright smile. Both. Yip, I love them both. 🙂


Nicola picked the pink hat for me…I let her, provided I could take some photos.


This was just before we got going to the hospital. You can’t even fit everything into one photo!


A mountain of pillows.


A mountain of food, blankets, nappies and toiletries. 9 secret agents and all of this in one van. It was probably the “cosiest” ride I’ve ever had – hahaha! We were going to take two company cars, but the other one’s battery wasn’t playing along so we squished and made it work somehow.


The CHOC day mother, and one of the coolest little guys I’ve ever met. If he can beat cancer, he’ll be unstoppable. This little man totally owns his illness. Not sure how old he is, definitely single digits anyway, and he informs the doctor that no one will tell him when to come for treatment. It’s HIS body and HIS cancer, and he will tell them what needs to happen next.

He came to alert us that one of the big boys got a little boy drinking bottle. When we swopped the bottles to give him a big boy bottle (no cartoons on and a bit bigger and more grown up looking) this young man almost did cartwheels down the passage and the whole ward celebrated with him. “I am a man! I am a man!” It was a joyous occasion for sure!

One of my colleagues was handing a gift package to one of the boys (pillow, blanket, small bag with undies, toothbrush, toothpaste, face cloth, soap, marshmallows) and he was a little bit out of it. He sort of reacted and said thank you, and she said, “Bless you. I really hope you get better soon.” And she says that he just started sobbing uncontrolably. If that doesn’t get to you, nothing will… 

Thank you every single one of you who helped out on this project so far. We’re not done yet, but we’ve already done so much.


Wednesday night. Cause you know, the moonlight can be a bit sharp.


This is what I found yesterday when I picked Nicola up from school.

Oh, hahaha – I am raising a savvy little trader it seems. I pack a bottle of juice in her bag every day. She doesn’t drink it at school, because they get stuff during the day but she always has it on the way home when she’s super thirsty from playing outside. So it seems that some of her friends are willing to carry her bag from the class to the gate for A SIP of the juice. There’s a little crowd each afternoon trying to get in on the action. It’s really funny to see.


Polka this morning, desperately trying to stay in for the day.


The fuller picture. If you’re wondering about the book, this is apparently THE bedtime storie of choice for little puppies.


Ooh! I definitely need to buy a Lotto ticket tonight. I won the office fund raising raffle this morning! I got the 1st prize…which is a bit of a waste on me, but I’m not looking a gifted/raffled horse in the mouth. A night’s stay for two at a 5 Star hotel at Melrose Arch. What am I going to do, take Nicola to go jump on the beds there? Hahaha, no. I think I am going to gift this to my parents as a thank you for all the help and support they always give me.

Yip, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. 🙂



11 April , 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about secret place (this isn’t an accident…*waves to those watching*).

However, this is something I can write about easily.

As one of our community outreach initiatives we had a cupcake sale for families affected by cancer. It was voluntary and those who wanted to play had to form cross function teams of 10.

Our team decided we’d theme our around breast cancer awareness, and it was a giant success! We had 200 and they sold like hot cakes. We actually had to hold back a few for the big reveal at 12:30. We kept back about 20, but the rest were sold within the first half an hour after they arrived.


A whole back seat full!


Now for a close(r) up…



Sold in pairs, obviously… 😉

We raised a lot of money today, and we had tons of fun doing it too.

Ps! I’m sure people are going to be talking about these cookies for years to come. Standard reactiob was a giggle, with a “those look like boobies”…”Yip. That’s what they are.” BRILLIANT! I want some! Hahaha! 😆


I’m back!

10 June , 2013

Wow…last week was beyond crazy busy. As you know, I was busy on that school project I told you about and out at site every day.

Let me tell you, I hurt in places that I didn’t even know I had places! Up and downing with a brush on a ladder should definitely NOT be under-estimated as a valid form of exercise.

I’m sorry that I can’t publish some of the pictures we took during the process here, but those of you who got involved already have a few of my favourites in a presentation. My personal highlights of the week were:

  • Working on something like this with my secret team was great. Think of it as a week-long drawn out physical labour kind of team building. I had a chance to work with them out of our normal office job comfort zone, and it was awesome.
  • Coming back to the office on Wednesday and receiving a standing ovation from members of my team for getting everything organised and done by the cut off
  • The party at the school on Thursday to hand over their good as new classrooms to them. Every time I walked into a classroom the children (who don’t speak English by the way, only Zulu) would shout, “Cheese!” Mwahaha! I played ball with one of the littlies while we waited for one the other teams to get their ducks in a row for the party, and I got some great shots of the children blowing me kisses while I waited.
  • Friday morning I got a gift certificate from my team for a back and shoulder massage to say thanks. Aren’t they the sweetest? I’m cashing that one in this afternoon and I can’t wait!
  • I don’t know Soweto very well, and have always kind of placed it in a box marked “dodgy area” in my mind. It may or may not be that, but I saw some things this past week which I thought was truly amazing. There is a sense of community there that I have not seen anywhere else! For instance, we needed the children out from underfoot while we gutted their school building and the principal just arranged for them to attend a different school up the road for the days we needed the place to ourselves. Another example, on Tuesday night my dad helped me move the carpet and curtain for the school and we got there quite late. While we were battling to unload the enormous carpet from his car’s boot, a random neighbour walked past and asked if we needed help – next thing you know the neighbours just took over and did the unloading for us (I was very grateful since I couldn’t really bend all that well by this time anymore).
  • When you leave Soweto, you always get a “Go well” send off. I don’t know why this has stayed with me, but it really has. Simple…but good.

Lowlight of the whole experience:

  • The lady who was supposed to do our presentation (let’s call her The-Great-I-am) tanked it…badly. She totally skipped past all of our slides and only focused on what her department did for the school. I was so mad and disappointed, so those of you who know me will probably not be surprised that I gave her a piece of my mind afterwards (a BIG piece). My team worked like slaves on this project and she denied them a chance to sparkle. *sigh* Oh well, at least the children got what they needed and we got a new experience? Yip, going to focus on that and not let her slip-up ruin the entire thing for me.

I really did have a lot of fun on this project. What a challenge! Thank you again to everybody who helped us pull it off. You’re all rock stars in my eyes!


The school project

29 May , 2013

Things are coming along swimmingly. Help has been offered, donations received, funds have been raised, assessments have been done, roofs have been scaled, material has been sourced, endless meetings held with other departments to make sure we’re not duplicating things. It has actually been tremendous amounts of fun for me to help organise this so far (okay, once I got past the initial panic and despair). We have the most jazzed up white board tracking our progress and to-do list up here in the office and now all that’s left to do is the actual work part (which starts on Saturday). I can’t wait to see how it all pulls together!

As we go along we’re going to be taking photos like crazy, because we need some to present back at secret place and of course we would like to send proper thank you’s to all of the lovely people and companies who helped us get there. Most of that I can’t publish here though, other people’s children and so on (that and the thing where I don’t actually tell you where I work or what I do) – but I thought I’d share these two of MeeA with you. She is seriously as nimble as a little monkey! She sailed up on that rickety roof like it was nothing and I, by comparison, am a complete clutz and fell down a flight of stairs the next day delivering fund raiser cupcakes! (I can now obviously also claim that I have given my pound of flesh to this project) 😉


Easy peasy, right?


Look Ma, no hands…


No action shots of my tumble unfortunately, but here is a before picture of the cupcakes at least? Baked by my super mom with her secret recipe and decorated by myself, my mom and my pink terrorist. (These really are the bee’s knees – in a building where people are already quite fund raisered out it says something about your cupcakes when they actually come asking for more after the third sold out batch). No bone breaks or bleeds for me luckily (I should probably say “yet”), I just earned myself a few bruises and a wounded ego. What can I say? I’m really good at falling.

If I go a bit quiet all of next week then it’s because I’m scraping and painting and taking photos. Secret place is giving me a T-shirt, but I think I possible need a hard hat! 😉 It’s all extremely exciting and I owe you a giant thanks for helping me make it happen.  xxx