Current reading

June 9, 2015

currently reading 090615A screenshot of my current reading.


Know your teenager is one of those books I need to read for work. I’m enjoying parts of it and learning about how to manage adolescents.

Awakening the dreamer by Phillip Bromberg is a self-psychology book for my small psychology reading group. A bit too academic in parts but I’m also really enjoying some of the insights. At the moment Bromberg it talking about bringing in the dreamer to the therapy. He says that whenever a patient brings a dream to therapy his goal as the therapist is to bring the dreamer into the process. An interesting change from focusing on what the dream means to encouraging the dreamer (as a different self-state) to enter the therapy space.

The man who couldn’t stop is a book about OCD. I’m struggling here since there are more urgent books and more enjoyable books that I’m busy with. But it’s well-written and a very accessible and personal book about the writer’s struggle with OCD as well as a general discussion about it.


The Narrow Road to the Deep North (audiobook). Looks like a really good one. Interesting characters and story. But to find the time to really get into it is a challenge.


Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (audiobook). Sedaris is brilliant. Funny, poignant, excellent story-teller. I keep thinking that he will be too frivolous but he’s not.


One Hundred Favourite Poems (audiobook). I’m listening to this in the car and I wish I had a long car journey to savour them all. Great to hear some old favourites and some new poems, read beautifully as well as part of a Classic FM compilation.


Right to the Edge: Sydney to Tokyo by any means by Charlie Boorman. This is my stuck-in-the-car-with-a-sleeping-child book. Charlie’s a likeable chap and, to my surprise, this book actually makes me want to don some suitable clothing and take to the road on a decent-sized (but not too powerful) bike. I’ll let you know if I ever get that sorted!

Which book would you choose for your coffee mug?

May 18, 2015
Penguin classics coffee mugs

Penguin classics coffee mugs

I saw these Penguin classics coffee mugs over on Pinterest and I really want one. Not one of these titles particularly – although I think drinking my tea out of a “Pride and Prejudice” mug would be pretty cool. One title that springs to mind is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. If I want to go with a psychology theme then I would have to choose “The Interpretation of Dreams”, but that’s not a Penguin title. Personalised mugs come at a price though (as do vanity plates) but I think not more than R100. I do think they’re more playful than pretentious. Any thoughts on what you would choose for your daily beverage?

How to eat a raisin

May 13, 2015

One of the highlights of the conference I attended this past week was the “mindfulness of raisin” exercise which the presenter borrowed from Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at Massachusetts University and who founded Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) uses it to give people a first taste of mindfulness meditation. It’s very simple.  Take just one raisin, hold it on the palm of your hand, look at it, touch it between finger and thumb, smell it, chew it with your teeth, taste it on your tongue and then …. finally  ….. swallow it. The exercise takes at least 5 minutes and my fellow attendees agreed that it was the tastiest raisin we’d ever had.

mindful raisin meditationThis exercise was particularly pertinent to me because over the past few weeks I’ve been having tummy issues. I won’t bore you with the details suffice to say that I’ve lost a few kilograms, I had a colonoscopy (clear) and now I am scheduled to see a dietician next week. I have IBS and need to follow a more restricted diet. I’m still working out what my tummy will tolerate but it clearly doesn’t like sugar and dairy for a start. Gluten is an obvious suspect (although I’m not sure). And then other food stuffs which are high in fermentable sugars. At the moment I’m trying to follow a low FODMAP diet but the trouble is that I get bored and so end up trying to eat normally again. I keep thinking that if  hunger is anything to go by, then I’m well on the road to recovery.

One thing I have noticed is that when I’m stressed and anxious then my digestion suffers. Being anxious about my eating certainly doesn’t help! So I’m trying to slow down a bit (not easy with two small children) and savour my food. At the time that things started going downhill, I was feeling really down — right about the time of my 45th birthday. A whole of issues seemed to overwhelm me at once. I was stressed about getting older and not having achieved half of what I would like to achieve. I was terribly frustrated with the demands of parenting small children and never having enough time for myself. I also quit therapy and we were stressed about money. Not to mention feeling the pressure at work and the acquired stress of worrying about my parents. My mom is not always in such good health and my dad, although retired, had a massive work project which was coming to a head.

A month later I’m feeling so much better. I do love my food and so even snacking on healthy things such as rice cakes and bananas and rooibos tea can be enjoyable. I’m certainly not depriving myself, which is why it’s a cruel irony that I should have lost weight whilst other people struggle to lose anything at all.

Today it’s also Leah’s turn to do Bakerman at school and so last night the house was full of the smell of Nutella and Marie biscuits. I should really have taken a picture of the biscuits beautifully decorated with chocolate spread, sprinkles and tiny marshmallows. Completely illegal in terms of my diet but quite delicious! I forgot to take one as I was so busy trying not to eat any while at the same time doing the normal, endless cleaning-up routine.

On the book front I have managed to read a few short stories and I’m almost finished with Ali Smith’s How to be both which I’ve enjoyed immensely. But that can wait for another time. I think it’s time for lunch!

Reading to a 4-year old

March 23, 2015

Here are three books that I’ve been reading to our four-year old recently. They are actually pretty good, apart from the princess pop-up book. Oh boy, do I get sick of those princess stories!

c&l_sizzles_300 dr xargle sleeping beauty pop up

Leah is going through a toilet-humour phase at the moment so I’m seriously considering investing in one of the Captain Underpants books. Yesterday we sang the “Diarrhea song” and managed about 12 verses. It is terribly silly and also quite addictive. Google if you don’t know it – or rather don’t since it may become an ear-worm!

Any other book recommendations for this age group? I downloaded an audio version of Charlotte’s Web but I think she’s too young for that.

As for Tessie, she just wants to rip out the flaps in all her books. I wish she would direct her energy towards something useful such as crawling!

Here’s a pic of the two of them this week. Tessie was not feeling great but she’s still a cute bunny.

Two bunnies

Holiday catch-up

January 28, 2015

tidal pool smallWe’re into the second week of school and I’m slowly adjusting after six weeks off. Sounds idyllic but actually it was pretty hard work with two small ones. A baby who woke up at 5am on the dot (before the blinds – now we get to sleep for an extra 45 minutes) and then the monotony of looking after an 8-month old and a 3-year old. There’s only a certain number of times you can watch The Little Mermaid, print Ariel colouring-in pages and change nappies before you go a little dilly.

We did get down to Betty’s Bay for a couple of days and then to Hermanus. I love being at Betty’s Bay — even when the time is short and we have two little ones to look after. Our trip to Hermanus was a little too eventful for my liking, however. I packed the car – no small feat involving spatial reorganisation and tough decisions about what to leave behind — and then we were all set to go. Children strapped in, house alarm on and the food in cooler bags.  Of course the car which was working perfectly well 10 minutes before now wouldn’t start at all Jump leads? Nothing. Call the AA and prepare to wait for 2 hours. And then in desperation telephone my father-in-law who knows about cars. He says something about the solenoid, tells me to put the car in 2nd gear and try it again. Voila! I haven’t been so relieved since my previous car broke down in a dodgy area on the way to Betty’s Bay.

And then Hermanus. Hot, windy, crowded. But still lovely. Some of my favourite things: early morning walks with the little one in the pram; lunch at a child-friendly wine farm near Stanford with a superb play area for children; and then swimming in the tidal pool near the Marine Hotel.

Leah loved it. There were starfish! And the pool was the perfect temperature even for a cold-blooded creature like me.

We still had a couple of weeks of childcare, home maintenance etc. but at least we were refreshed by our time by the sea.

Today was my first day of taking Leah to her new pre-school. But that’s a story for another day.

Thank goodness …

November 21, 2014
  • it’s Friday
  • for children (the pics are of Tessie with her maracas and Leah as a dalmatian puppy)
  • for audiobooks (currently listening to Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe)
  • for tax rebates
  • for tuna toasties (recipe here)
  • for gardens and irrigation (this is our front bed).

I know I complain a lot but today I’m slowing down, taking a pause and being grateful. I’ll worry again tomorrow :-)

maracas nov 2014 dalmatians

front garden nov 2014 small


How to have an awful marriage

November 17, 2014

When a couple has had the same argument 1400 million times, they can follow it without effort like a train follows a railroad track. Many elderly couples sit side by side in wheelchairs, and even if they don’t have the strength to hit each other they need only say one code word to be able to reminisce and have all previous bad feelings without having to carry out the quarrel. They still have their memories and imagination, even if they hardly have the strength to argue. (Jay Healey, How to have an awful marriage).

I found this article while tidying up (more reading and the occasional recycling than actual good filing) and it brought a wry chuckle. Healey describes the ingredients required to have a really bad marriage. The first two: marry the wrong person for the wrong reason. Add in family tension, the difficulties attached to parenting, some money woes and you’re well on track. Of course children can also bring joy so it takes some expertise to keep the misery going.

Healey describes how an old couple can have an argument in three words. (This? No! Yes! Wife takes product and puts it back on the shelf.) I loved the economy of this and it also makes a refreshing change from some of the self-help books which I read partly for work and partly for myself.

One self-help book which I’m still trying to read is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. This is an excellent book and I’ve found parts of it really useful. But I have a definite aversion to self-help books and will find any reason to avoid reading them. Maybe it’s the air of authority or the preachy tone. There’s also the smugness of the Author, PhD. I’m sure John Gottman isn’t like that but I would much rather be told an interesting story than to be given Seven Principles which I need to try and remember.

Let me just clarify that our marriage is certainly not awful. It has its moments (which relationship doesn’t) and this weekend we were exhausted and a little grumpy, which was certainly not helped by having a vomiting 3-year old. Leah is fine now but we’re still recovering.

Somewhere in the exhaustion of this weekend L found the strength to make a delicious chocolate cheesecake (see below). Once we’d got past the guilt, it was seriously good. And it also served as a good reward to my in-laws for help with home maintenance.

choc cheesecakeWe also watched a couple more episodes of Stella (funny but this series is creaking slightly).

One thing that I am trying this week is the Gretchen Rubin philosophy (from The Happiness Project)  of lessening the critical comments. L and I tend to go round and round on this (criticising each other for being critical) and someone has to exit the roundabout. I’ll let you know how that pans out.


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