Life after lockdown

by Tilly Smith Dix

As a novice DIY diva, I found ordering supplies from the hardware store rather tedious during lockdown. Trying to work out the names of certain products online proved tough at times, but I got it sorted, eventually.

So, where did I dash to the moment shops reopened for the public? Fashion boutiques? Hair salon? Shoe store? Wrong! Bunnings! Armed with my new power drill, curtain rods, curtain hooks, and a selection of screws and hooks that will make a decorator salivate, I headed into the store’s nursery section too.

I needed colour in my new garden and was set on acquiring indigenous plants to attract butterflies, bees, and native birds. Mission accomplished! Butterflies are arriving and I’ve already spotted a red wattle bird in my young bottle brush trees.

Just learning to fit the drill bits in the drill proved an education and luckily, I had my kind friend Rika around, who smartly reads the instructions in detail! Always a good idea. NOBODY was injured in the process and all my fingers are intact. I also did not fall off the ladder, yay.

The lengthy lockdown clearly, affected so many people, often not in a good way. I’m rather grateful I had so much to do during that trying time. It kept me too occupied to ever feel sorry for myself. Loneliness, stress and a general feeling of alienation during those long 260 days seem to have been rife and so many people will struggle with the aftermath, not to mention financial struggles.

We need to be mindful of this as those feelings of desolation don’t simply vanish once the ordeal is over.

On one of my trips to the shopping mall post-lockdown, a woman, who was tearful and seemingly distressed, skipped the queue when needing to pay for parking at the pay station. Nobody standing in line at the pay point said a nasty word. We simply looked at her kindly from behind our obligatory masks. It was obvious this woman felt agitated and overwhelmed.

The parking attendant assisted the woman, with great care, looking at the rest of us with pleading eyes. Once the customer felt her problem had been attended to, she seemed calmer, and then realised she’d jumped the queue.

She turned to me, as she’d pushed in front of me, and had tears streaming down her face, apologising profusely. I assured her all was okay and I was so relieved she had help and it also clarified the paying process for me, as this was my first visit to the centre.

It felt so good not being angry and the fact it might have restored the woman’s faith in humanity, improved my mood even further for the rest of the day. Humanity has not completely lost the plot.

This incident reminded me of women who support women. This mindset is close to my heart. Women who appreciate and admire other women are my kind of tribe.

When my talented friend Chiz designed my fashion Instagram logo for Sixty_is_the_new_40, my reason for choosing the title was poignant for me. Friends in this age group, who were superb in their jobs, were being put on retirement to make way for a younger generation. The lucky ones got to consult as someone had to train these young future stars of business. Smart companies retained many over-60s as they realised their value. Many did not…

So, my mindset for the Insta handle was simple: Over sixty does not mean over the hill.  Forty seems a good, relevant age. Not too young. Not yet ‘old.’ For me, personally, I felt a shift when I turned forty. I started a new life, moved back to the big city, embarked on a new career path. My attitude attributed plenty as I felt I’d come into my own at the time.

So, when I turned sixty, I felt slightly adrift but not lost. How did that happen so fast? The world saw us as ‘older,’ and often, ‘over.’ Sadly, some people accepted this and sat on the porch counting cars and became depressed.

I’m not trying to be forty. I’m establishing the fact that we are as relevant now as we were at forty. We start new lives. We are sexy. We come into our own. We start new businesses. We pursue new hobbies. We are fabulous. We pursue life at our own pace and on our own terms. We matter.

This mature age group is the new warrior tribe going forward. We have knowledge, confidence and make the most of our appearance as we are proudly ageing and making this not only a new chapter, going forward to our seventies and beyond, but creating a whole new era. Never doubt how amazing this tribe is and what we are capable of achieving.

So, whilst I’m not there yet, when I hit 70, I’ll be changing the title. I’m thinking Sixty+Beyond_is_the_new_fabulous – or simply, Sixty+_is_the_new_era – any ideas? Let’s talk.

Be kind to each other, learn from each other, respect each other, don’t judge each other. Want to have invasive surgery to look younger, have botox, do whatever it takes, go ahead. Don’t wish to succumb to the needle or the knife to chase everlasting youth? Our choice. I don’t do botox and fillers. I don’t colour my hair either. However, this is my choice. We are free to choose. We just need to know where to draw the line.

If we drop or need to fix a bad stitch of this tapestry of life, it simply makes us more interesting. There is a space for us all, especially for authentic women supporting women, and men supporting women. Misogynists and narcissist are not welcome. Scoot off.

Trouble with the Neighbours

Things get a bit tricky when you live in a unit, where you share common property, like the roadside and parking spaces, with strangers. We can’t always pick our neighbours.

One or two of these neighbours have toddlers and are flushing baby wipes, yuk, down the loo.  After the heavy rains in recent weeks, these offending wipes block the common sewage system and plumbers are called out, mostly at weekends, it seems, to remove the offending obstructions in the flow of things. Reality can be a stinker.

When the body corporate manager again failed to respond to my email in distress, I took matters in my own hands. I’d had enough as after only a week or so in my new home, housecleaning wipes had blocked the system, this time used by the previous owners, who believed such wipes were indeed flushable. The manufacturers said so, after all.

Anyhow, I decided to pen an anonymous note to all the other tenants, requesting they be mindful of the rest of us.

This is so unlike me, to be anonymous. Be honest and straight, that’s my motto. However, when asked by a dear friend why I did not reveal my identity, I retorted I had a fear of unknown neighbours – I did not wish to start a war.

My other fear, said neighbours may just throw their babies over my fence, demanding I clean their bottoms without flushing those stinky wipes. One just never knows what folks will do when cornered, right?

Then, a much-loved neighbouring cat spent a night with me. He was the best one-night stand a girl could wish for. Excellent bedside manners, housetrained, well-mannered and adoring. I suspect he snuck out while they were preparing to depart for a few days, not realising he had gone. Probably a self-feeding system and plenty of kitty litter were left for him.

My one-night stand, Ollie. He stayed, he ate, he charmed, he slept, he left…sigh…

I’ve not told them he spent a blissful night with me. They must have been relieved to have him back home too once they returned and found him missing. He heard them return and after a brief goodbye, similar squeaky voice to my darling departed Cathy, he hopped my high fence with the stealth of a panther to return home the following day after a delicious lunch of tinned sardines.

I’ve spotted Ollie once since then, welcoming his adoring little blonde human home from school. The cute little girl once told me he was her best mate and does not leave her side if she is sick.

I think Ollie is cautious about leaving the house now, for fear of his humans leaving him again since lockdown restrictions were lifted. My ego is not crushed – maybe just a little. The upside? I’m hoping the neighbours and Ollie will be more careful going forward.

Dine, wine and embrace good times

Always a keen cook, I must admit I became rather bored with my own food after 260 days in lockdown. After all, dining out is an occasion. It is also a time to spy on good chefs and try to recreate their dishes at home. Ordering in is just not the same.

Well, I’m recreating nothing culinary at present. I’m sampling and getting busy on TripAdvisor to promote local eateries offering delicious cuisine and gracious service. My new job, chuckle…this cook is off duty for a while.

Meeting my friends to dine out is a delicious regular pastime again and never have we appreciated breaking bread and chewing the fat, washed down with tasty bubbles, more than now.

Lilo, in Mornington, is pure delight and catching a glimpse of the ocean adds further joy.

A great spot for breakfast or lunch and I’m told they are working on a license to serve alcohol. For now, the chai tea latte is nectar of the gods – for brunch.

My friend and I decided on ordering two different dishes to share so we could enjoy several different flavours. The choices of fritters and croquettes, with bacon and a poached egg, proved scrumptious. My choice, the sweet corn fritters with smashed avocado and bacon on baby spinach and the sweetest tomatoes. We could not fault it!

A scenic drive to Martha Cove afterwards, and an easy stroll to Pebble Beach, proved an ideal way to walk off our ample brunch.

      

The Baths Restaurant in Sorrento is one of my favourite dining venues on the planet and a cold rainy spring day did not deter two good friends from tucking into the always delicious food and captivating ocean views of the ferry.

The mouth-watering Loaded Seafood Chowder, Flash Fried Japanese Calamari, Grilled Humpty Doo Barramundi served on new season asparagus, and Grilled Prawns served on warm soba noodles and enoki salad, enhanced by citrus wasabi, ticked all the flavour boxes. Not a morsal left on our plates.

Yes, life is beautiful here on the Mornington Peninsula and a restaurant my lovely circle of friends has grown to cherish, is Waves on the Beach in Frankston. If we were any closer to the beach we’d be sitting in the water.

Calling ourselves the three musketeers, we celebrated a good life here, and as our eyes, as always, were bigger than our proverbial stomachs, we ordered a starter for three to share, followed by our individual mains.

Walking in Martha Cove, watching marine crabs chase shadows, and dining on scrumptious prawns and barramundi at The Baths with vistas of the ferry on a rainy day in Sorrento – welcome to the Mornington Peninsula.

Suffice to say, the Spanish Prawns, cooked in smoked paprika chilli oil with chorizo and sourdough, was finger-licking-delicious! Dipping our bread in the remaining sauce was as fabulous as dining on the best tapas somewhere in Spain. Just better, with our panoramic azure sea vista.

My Lamb Shank, served on Linguini, was succulent and oh so tender. Trish’s Pan-Seared Barramundi, topped with scallops, toasted nuts and seeds with chat potatoes, green beans, and lemon caper butter, was perfection on a plate.

Rika declared her choice of Bengali Lamb Curry, slow-cooked in aromatic spices and served with black mung bean dhal, rice and pappadum, a veritable feast.

How could one be dining so close to the sea and not enjoy a delicious champagne? Our choice of the Varichon et Clerk NV blanc de blank cuvee from Savoie, France, was simply delicious. Priced the same per glass as a local prosecco, there was no contest. The French won this round. We support local, but seriously…

Just to show we have no beef with the Spanish, in fact we like their beef, a meetup with another lovely friend in Mornington proved another delightful interlude.

Sue had been locked out of Victoria whilst on holiday in NSW and she had no complaints. Her partner and cute silky terrier also had fun on the beach, away from the madding crowd, for several months.

We met up at Casa de Playa in Mornington for Spanish tapas and it was a treat. Ole. A huge thumbs up for this vibey eatery…

Having missed all three birthdays of the three pixies in my family, having them around to visit after such a lengthy separation was pure heaven.  Heaps of hugs, stories, sugar and giggles, not to mention them being happy with their respective belated birthday gifts, kept a smile on my dial for days afterwards.

Affairs of the sofa

I thank the gods of television entertainment for keeping sanity intact during our forced incarceration. Sharing some of the gems that caught my fancy and kept me amused…

The Judge – 2014 on Netflix. The sterling cast includes Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton. A riveting binge and some catchy one-liners. Duvall, as always, is superb, whilst Downey Jr delivers the performance of his life, as far as I’m concerned. I’d watch this one again.

Old Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies. My parents used to go to the cinema once a month. We’d go to a Milky Lane, have a burger, fries, and milkshake. In summer, I’d have a Cream Soda float. Heaven! Then, it would be a an early evening movie. I now find myself drawn to those old classics, which were easy on the eye, witty and nobody was brutally assaulted or killed. The ending was always happy too. I like that.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime, what a treat! I became addicted and binged shamelessly on the first three series. Hoping Season 4 is in the bag, soon! Midge Maisel, brilliantly played by Rachel Brosnahan, is a woman ahead of her times in the Fifties. Susie, her gritty agent, is hilariously portrayed by Alex Borstein, whilst Abe Weissman, Midge’s father, is a larger-than-life character, portrayed by the ever-entertaining Tony Shalhoub. The entire cast is brilliant, and I developed a soft spot for the Lenny Bruce character, played by the enigmatic Luke Kirby. Get the snacks and cocktails lined up. You won’t want to leave your sofa and your laughter lines are bound to multiply.

Bond, James Bond, and Mission Impossible. Confession time. I love action flicks with style and happy endings, where the bad guys die. I loved the previous Bond movie, Spectra and will be watching the sequel, No Time To Die, in a cinema near me, where I’ll enjoy a glass of something delicious, not stirred, and a snack of crumbed calamari. Watch this space. Can’t wait…

As for the last Mission Impossible flick I watched, MI-4, whilst I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise, I savour the locations, action and visual splendour of these movies. So, Ethan and Bond now share a French actress… she is something, that Lea Seydoux. Mysterious. Unique. French. However, Paula Patton gets my vote. She just brings it home in MI-4. Pure escapism. One or two olives? Ah, decisions…

Speaking of martinis, Daniel Craig was never my favourite Bond. Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan ticked the boxes for me. However, I never skip any Bond film. Mia culpa. After watching Knives Out, though, starring Daniel Craig, I changed my mind. I now dig this guy. Okay, so I’m fickle but honest… more olives, anyone?

A movie I found entertaining and visually pleasing, was Blind, also on Amazon Prime, starring Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore and Dylan McDermott. Sensitive and believable. I thought this a superb screenplay by John Buffalo Mailer of a story written by Diane Fisher. No doubt, Alec has serious acting chops. So does Demi. No contest. It is deeply disturbing and tragic, the recent shooting on Alec’s latest movie set. One can only hope the truth will set them free and justice will prevail.

The Love Punch. Take a mature British couple, delightfully portrayed by Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson, a divorced couple, deciding to unite in claiming what is rightfully theirs. Now imagine them in the South of France, where an enchanting caper unfurls. The locations are sheer escapism and I’m so chuffed to say I’d been to most of these places. The final scenes in Paris will have the most hardened heart purr with hope. Think of me…

Ah, then there are those Christmas movies. Some are just too sweet to be real, then then are the ones that help us believe in fairy tales again, such as A Castle for Christmas on Netflix. I am a huge fan of Brooke Shields. I love how she is ageing naturally and graciously. I also love Cary Elwes’ work. Seriously, I’d make him the next Bond. Picture a magical location in Scotland, which I adore too. A white Christmas. A castle. A dog called Hamish playing cupid. Perfect. Happy Christmas.

Style, video tapes and no lies

Fashion and styling my timeless wardrobe remain visual and creative therapy for me and when a delightful, uber professional and kind content scout approached me through my Sixty_is_the_new_40 fashion Instagram page, I was suspicious. After all, there are just too many scammers out there, thinking we are idiots simply because we celebrate one of the many facets of our personas, style!

Well, the gorgeous Francesca turned out to be the real deal and I was booked for several hours of pure fun and entertainment, working with the highly skilled video crew at my new home. The focus was to demonstrate that women of a certain age are coming into their own, communicating with other likeminded people through social media and establishing themselves as an authentic brand.

As a proud silver sister, I had a blast! As soon as the link is released by the ad agency for their client, I’ll share. For now, I’m teasing…the reason? This entire experience is a testament to WHY I started my blog and WHY I launched the fashion Instagram account: to have fun and establishing myself as a woman who is true to herself, who will never stop learning and will enjoy fashion, style, and all the joys of nature and life, for as long as I live and breathe. Viva, we are OLDER, not OVER! Cheers to not sitting on our porch counting cars.

During filming, I also illustrated the process of planning my outfits for my fashion shoots and thoroughly enjoyed showcasing my ageless, often classic, as well as vintage, style, which features in living colour in current fashion trends. My motto, buy only outfits and accessories that will withstand the test of time as true style will always return to the fabulous canvas of ageless, gorgeous fashion.

Style over fashion, any day. Spot the basic pieces, styled in different ways to suit any occasion or mood. The hero items for me, French linen shirts, including that fabulous black halter top, personify timeless Aussie fashion at Country Road and Witchery. We had some nippy days in spring, hence the images in the top row, sporting a cashmere coat with faux fur, a fitted leather jacket, and suede pants with matching jacket, all from my vintage closet acquired in South Africa a long time ago.

Whatever your spiritual belief, here’s wishing you and yours Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Joyeux Noel, and Geseende Kersfees – joy to the world. May we all embrace kindness, understanding, respect, gratitude, and compassion, a universal language. Here’s wishing you plenty of it. Cheers to the good life…

Life’s a beach

by Tilly Smith Dix

Lockdown level 4 has been a grind and people, especially kids, are struggling with the strict confines and home schooling. Melbourne is now known as the city with the longest lockdown restrictions in the world.

Fortunately, when one is moving home, it is regarded as an essential activity and it was during this time I changed my address, moving from the verdant Yarra Valley on the city’s outer East to the Mornington Peninsula, similar in distance from the city but located closer to the bay.

Again, I declared the next time I move house, it will be in a box to my permanent home of the spirit world, chuckle. I said that once before and ended up moving to another country. Never say never…another chuckle.

So, I had the move planned with precision. One needs to do that to maintain some level of sanity as it is a task not to be sneezed at, moving house. I was systematically, meticulously, moving items after thoroughly cleaning the new house, so as to have as little disruption as possible in the process.

Keep the bare essentials at the old house until the day of the final move, and cart the lighter stuff in unsealed boxes to the new address, unpacking where it would be utilised, then returning to the old home with the now empty containers. This was the plan.

I felt in total control. Then something bizarre happened and I realised I needed to hightail it faster to my new abode. If I’d known this would happen, I’d have had time to arrange a nervous breakdown. However, I had no time nor the resources to allow such frivolity, so I could hardly afford dropping the basket. I switched into energiser-bunny mode and packed like a demon to speed up the process.

My incredible family and a friend who is now like family, pitched in, which was allowed under the circumstances, loading their vehicles with me as the project manager and chief packer. Apparently, they were astounded at my energy, strength, and determination. I had no time to ponder this, as I just needed the job done! Woman on a mission, beware!

On the final day, the removalists arrived to pack up the heavy items, and fridge, bed, washing machine, furniture and garden furniture were relocated without a glitch.

Still, I remained in that highly charged, altered state of unpacking in, and organising my new space. Until an injury to a big-toe nail slowed me down. I guess I needed that, alas, could have done without the agony, as I needed to slow down after a month of energiser madness.

I slept for 10 hours, unaided by champagne. This is when I realised whilst the spirit is willing and the body keen, there is only so much one body can take before it needs to be recharged. Well, Rome, as the saying goes, was not built in a day and I became kinder to me.

Having always prided myself on having an excellent memory, which served me well as a journalist and then as a publicist, I haven’t the foggiest clue how I managed this great trek so fast.

It has to be said though, without the emotional support of said loved ones, not to mention my special tribe around the globe, I’d have cracked like Humpty Dumpty. So, cheers to never being too old to make yet another big move and never forgetting how lucky I am to have these special, caring souls in my life. Thank you from my heart’s bottom, said whilst blowing kisses of gratitude. Namaste.

To crown my joy, living in this new tranquil space, a loving couple of spotted doves built a nest in my small private garden, from where I have taken enormous pleasure observing the dedication and care with which the male and female are tending to the nest. I feel privileged they chose my tree from which to launch their new family.

Of course, I miss my sweet Cathy as she’d have loved this quiet space but for now, I have the doves cooing their contentment. She was way past her hunting days and would have simply moaned at the doves and complained to me about allowing these feathered beasts to nest within spitting distance of her favourite throne at the foot-end of the bed, from which she would observe them through the window…

        

My freeloading tenants, spotted doves nesting.

Living mere minutes from the sea is a bonus. I grew up near the sea and loved sailing on an estuary with friends as a teen. Whilst the Mornington Peninsula does not have the majestic mountains of the Western Cape of South African, there are aspects of the region that trigger happy memories of my years on that glorious coastline and making new memories in my beautiful surrounds is sheer bliss.

I’ve managed to meet my friends for walks in Frankston, where a stroll along the long white beach and along scenic Kananook Creek, a takeout coffee and toasty seemed like a glorious holiday. Lockdown has given us all a new appreciation for the little things that bring plenty joy.

I’ve also had to visit scenic Mt Eliza nearby to attend to essential business and savoured every moment of the 20-minute drive along the beachfront, return. Grabbing yet another takeout coffee and gazing at the moody ocean, with Melbourne depicted as some faraway Gotham City, again felt like a gorgeous escape from lockdown. Yep, silver linings abound…

For those feeling adrift during a pandemic, reach out to others. Often, we discover our problems are miniscule compared to those of others. In the quaint words of my beautiful friend of so many years, living faraway in Florida, we must embrace our lives as being, “tickity-boo.” Thanks for the smiles from so far away, Angie.

Sofa spud binges in lockdown

Harry’s Law is not just another law series.  Kathy Bates gets my vote as a middle-aged lawyer who gets fired from a big law firm and starts up her own practice with a diverse legal team, in a shoe store in a Cincinnati ghetto. Created by David E. Kelly, I’m disappointed the series was cancelled by NBC after Season Two, even though it was the most watched series on the network, according to the entertainment media! Something to do with Paramount owning the rights. Politics, sigh.

Having had plenty legal matters to deal with in the past almost two years, watching this series made me realise my problems were small! I love quirk and some of the unusual cases, not to mention befriending seemingly dangerous gang members who often tend to have a soft side, the often-unorthodox situations proved thoroughly entertaining. I’d gladly give this series 4.5 stars.

Pan Am is not just about pretty flight stewardesses and handsome pilots. Well, there is that but far be it from me to say I don’t enjoy looking at beautiful people, especially captains in uniform, wink-wink. The stellar cast includes the gorgeous Aussie, Margot Robbie, feisty Christina Ricci, lovely Karine Vanasse, enigmatic Kelli Garner, and handsome Mike Vogel. The layered web of romance, espionage, and stunning locations for great story lines, proved a delightful diversion.

This series takes place in the early Sixties and the war was still raw in many minds. Jack Kennedy built political bridges, declaring, “Ich Bin Ein Berliner,” which did not resonate with everybody. Five stars for the fun of this series.

Somehow, watching Pan Am reminded me of the late Seventies when I fancied myself as a flight attendant. Instead, I got bamboozled into a film test. Couch casting was offered after my two small movie parts.  I refused. No regrets. But I missed my chance to fly. However, I got to travel on my own terms eventually.

Travel back in the day seemed so much more glam. Sadly, 9/11 and Covid-19 diminished the gloss of travel but, once the world is back on a more normal track, all will be forgotten, and dreamy destinations will lure us to distant shores again. For now, I’m happily ensconced in armchair travel and savouring magical memories of travels of old…

On a more serious note, a movie gem I came across on Amazon Prime, based on true events during WWII, is A Call to Spy. Director Lydia Dean Pilcher and a stellar cast, including Stana Katic, of Castle fame, Sarah Megan Thomas, Radhika Apte and Linus Roache, tell the story of how Winston Churchill ordered his spy agency to train women to undermine the Nazi regime in France.

Not always comfortable to see these events unfolding, but we must never forget. Directed with sensitivity and style. I highly recommend this movie and gladly give it 4.5 stars.

The Only Living Boy in New York. Take Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon, add a nuance story, laden with intrigue and surprises, and you get a sophisticated hidden gem on Amazon Prime. The soundtrack is so New York, I could smell that city of many layers. Watch it. This one deserves five stars.

Summertime, and the living is easy… and travel choices abound in South Africa

Luxe safari at Tau Game Lodge

Getting away from it all, to a place where the living is easy, the ambience understated luxe, the food is wholesome, and the spa overlooks the verdant bush…

Add lazing around two pools, one with infinity features, both overlooking a waterhole always frequented by game, or sipping cocktails in the privacy of one’s room deck, or reclining on the main hospitality deck, all with too-close-for-comfort vistas of the waterhole. No stress, visitors are safely surrounded by security fences to keep the predators at bay, while game roam free as they own the location.

This is just some of the magical safari aspects at Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve of the North-West, bordering Botswana.

Early morning safaris are spectacular, offering magical light for photography, with a pitstop for tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and delicious buttermilk rusks in the bush, whilst game rangers always keep a vigilant eye on game – got to keep the paying guests safe…

        

Tau Game Lodge, five-star understated luxe…great memories.

Current rates:

Special daily rates start at R 4,800 per person sharing, valid until 20 December 2021. After 20 December rates will be R6435.00 per person sharing – contact reservations for weekly and monthly special offers and packages at  +27-11–4668715 or check specials at www.taugamelodge.co.za

The Cherry Steam Train Festival at Sandstone Estates

In celebration of newly relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, narrow gauge steam trains, restored heritage transport and farming equipment, magnificent vistas of mountains, and simply in celebration of life and the tradition of the age-old cherry harvest, just north of Ficksburg…

This getaway is set to put the ‘wow’ back in life on 19 and 20 November. The Cherry Steam Train Festival at Sandstone Heritage Trust Estate in the Free State of South Africa is designed to thrill all ages – a magical, fun getaway for the entire family.

Steam fun for all ages at Sandstone on 19 and 20 November 2021.

One of the many highlights of the event will include Sandstone’s latest restored steam locomotive, the 1968 Johannesburg built NGG16A number 155, which will haul trains for the first time in 21 years!

Call Mariette on 064 752 3852 or 051 933 2235 or visit www.sandstone-estates.com for further details.

Fashion therapy

Spring has shown her true colours, albeit sporadically but how one appreciates her when she bedazzles the senses!

Layers just work during this trans-seasonal time and frankly, I like it, as we simply have to get creative. Wearing a silky camisole, layered with a linen shirt and perhaps a cashmere wrap, or cardigan, styled with loafers or heels, whatever the mood happens to be, creates a sophisticated, yet versatile style for any body shape.

I believe in investing in good basics for any season, which will transcend trends over many years.

Feeling overweight or just not comfortable with the body shape at present? Use a basic dark colour. Black or navy always works. Now style it up with perhaps a slightly lighter colour and finish the outfit with a pop of bright colour, perhaps around the neck, to highlight your face and detract they eye from body parts you wish to keep hidden for now…

 

I’ve always loved white. For any season. It works with layering and will do the job every time as a basic palette.

I’m loving the boho vibe for summer and have hauled out my scarves and kaftans to update any basic dress, pants, or skirt. If I can’t travel to the Riviera for now, I’m going to do my best to create the vibe in my own back yard!

Cheers to the good life, it’s not always perfect but we simply have to create colour and shine. The rest will follow…take care of you!

Losers and winners

By Tilly Smith Dix

This tapestry of life will often throw us an unexpected cross stitch, just to show us we are not in control, even when our intentions are good and our attitude positive.

Never have I realised it more than in recent weeks, when my devoted little shadow, trusted confidant and foot-warmer, fell ill and I had the choice to keep her comfortable for as long as her deteriorating body and now fragile disposition would allow.  She was not to suffer or endure pain just to keep her with me for selfish reasons.

The vet agreed this was the best choice for Cathy. He prescribed antibiotics to at least clear up her bladder infection. She deserved a dignified passage onto the Rainbow Bridge when she was ready.

Brave, feisty, pretty Cathy, who lived rough for some time until the day she decided to take me up on my offer of a haven. Always a remarkable communicator with her favourite human, she made it clear on the morning of 26 July 2021 that she wanted to end her journey on this earth. She was now in pain and she was losing the use of her front paws. Her head would also unexpectedly quiver.

In the wild, she would have chosen a bush in a quiet corner in which to fall into that quiet place, where pain would shift her into that outer body elevation, so she could simply float away to escape a condition that was irreversible. Stage four kidney disease.

         Pictured above, eastern spine bills, crimson rosellas, and plenty more colourful bird species on view through the window, where Cathy would spend her winter days on a warm bed. In summer, she’d stroll in the garden with me. The feather on her face floated down from a tree, where a juvenile rosella was expressing its glee. Cathy found it entertaining to play with that feather.

Instead of that bush, she chose to no longer eat and made it clear she wanted to crawl under her favourite blanket in the sun on the bed but she did not wish to see daylight. She wanted the dark of the blanket over her head.

Cathy always had a healthy appetite and until a few days prior, I could still bribe her with some extra cooked chicken, brown rice and sweet potato, in which I could camouflage her arthritis meds.

Now, she merely wanted to be warm and comfortable, after briefly looking out of the window, as she did most days, moaning at the birds outside one more time, before her choice of bush could be crept under.

I respected that and called the kind, caring veterinary team at Coldstream Animal Aid, where the staff had become accustomed to her grace as well as her excellent communications skills. She’d also made it clear to them, especially over the past weeks, she would tolerate certain procedures and prodding only if her trusted human could be with her. They respected that.

And so, after several weeks of palliative care, when the electric blanket was kept on low to keep her comfortable 24/7 to ease her arthritic aches during a cold wet winter, she made it clear she had no more fight left to remain by my side.

She had been on a natural product for arthritis for some years but as she was eating so little towards her final days, she could not consume enough food to absorb the prescribed dosage to ease her body aches.

I promised Cathy I’d not let her suffer when she had had enough and she soldiered on, albeit now walking in a geriatric, unbalanced manner, shaking her little head as if she had Parkinson’s disease. Never fond of being picked up, she now signalled she needed my helping hands to lift her onto and off the bed.

For several weeks, this smart little cat seemed grateful for the step I’d built for her with shoe boxes to ease her ascent and descent from the bed. No longer did she want to utilise her own beds, strewn around the house. She wanted the human bed she shared most of the time, where it was warm and her view through the window into the garden was unhindered.

Even on her final day on this earth, she showed dignity and wished to walk to her litter tray to do her business. However, she had stopped grooming herself and the sad smell of death started to not only emerge from her breath but from her rapidly declining little body. Even then, she was still a beauty.

Staying with her during her departure from pain and disease, assuring her of my love and gratitude for her intelligence, devotion, love, and often straight talk, was no walk in the park for this human. It took all my determination to speak to her calmly, lovingly, and reassuringly until she let out her final sigh with her little face in my hand after that second, lethal dose of anaesthetic. It broke my heart but hopefully, it eased her journey, knowing she would always be loved and never be forgotten.

Palliative care is tough on us humans. We ensure our pet is kept comfortable and happy. However, observing their deterioration, day by day, is heartbreaking. A fellow animal-loving friend said, “our pets don’t know they are sick. They only know they are loved.”

On a sunny day, after some torrential rains on the country estate where I lived in South Africa almost ten years ago, she arrived on my doorstep and requested permission to enter. I invited her in and from that moment, the wild, seemingly feral cat and I shared an amazing bond of trust. I’d watched and tried to coax her to take shelter in my home during those heavy rains, when she got flushed out of the drain where she had been living for some time. It took several days for her to think about my offer and come to my door. She proved to be a highly intelligent and well-mannered little diva.

However, she did not like being touched, her trust in humans had obviously been tested and she was adamant. I respected that and we just conversed.

She would rub against me, and lick my feet with gratitude after I’d fed her. She seemed proud of her achievement when I showed her, once, how to use a kitty litter tray. I told her how smart she was for catching on so fast as this adult kitty had obviously never used a litter tray.

Exhausted after living so rough and being abused by local farm workers, who believed cats were sent by witches to cast evil spells, which I tried to educate them about as being old-wives’ tales, Cathy would sleep all day in the soft little bed I provided for her in the sun in the bedroom. At night, she’s sleep close to me on the bed.

Late afternoon she would stroll into my home office and often sit on my desk. She seemed fascinated by the computer. In fact, she seemed fascinated by most things I did. I was her chosen human, and she was going to observe my every habit, it seemed. Even the girly things, like doing my hair or make-up, getting dressed, taking a bath, seemed to intrigue her.

I’d brush my teeth, and she’d jump on the bathroom counter, and attempt to drink water from my glass or, her personal favourite, straight from the dripping tap.

When I took her to the vet for a check-up and her required shots and microchip shortly after we adopted each other, it was discovered she had indeed been someone’s pet as she had been spayed. The vet agreed, her fear of being touched could have stemmed from being physically abused. However, by now, she was comfortable with me picking her up and stroking her.

Having her ears and chin scratched resulted in amplified purring. She was also gracious in allowing the vet to go about his business touching her when I was with her and talking to her.

The stories about Cathy are endless as she had a large personality and never failed to show her appreciation for being given a loving home. She used to take walks with me, her choice, and stay at my side. She’d find twigs and drop them at my feet. I’d throw them and she’d chase after them, like a little dog. If she sensed danger, in particular a dog that was on the loose, she’d dash straight home and await my return.

Not keen on strange humans, she was inquisitive, though, if I was conversing with people. So, she’d join in and acknowledge they were welcome if I approved. The neighbours miss her interaction, with me and Cathy on the porch, chatting over the fence with them.

These are the neighbour’s she’d also ignore if I was away for a few nights and they’d feed her. On day one, she’d pop from the bedroom to welcome them. However, once she realised it was not me, she’d return to the bedroom. After that, she’d only eat the food they’d leave for her in the kitchen once they’d mad their departure. Awkward, right?

Eating chicken without her quietly appearing in the hope of a treat, which she always got, is torture. However, how to deal with grief? Keep doing those everyday things that so poignantly remind us of our loss. Eventually, the pain lessens but the memories never fade.

The very hens next door she wanted no part of, would cluck away when I’d deliver some of my fresh food scraps. Cathy would wait at the neighbour’s gate for my return and complain about my chatting to the chooks. I’d then stroke her, she would seemingly reprimand me for interacting with the enemy, I’d reassure her, and we’d have a companiable stroll back into the house. This little cat has left a huge void.

Cathy also had a keen eye for footwear. She made no secret of the fact that my new discounted bunny-face slippers were not meeting with her approval. She’d stare at them, look up at me and march off. I’d replace them with my trusty old wool slippers, would stroll up to her, and she would rub her little face against them. Ever the clear communicator.

I also had several gifts of stunned juvenile snakes, which she would drop at my feet in my office during those early years! Luckily, they were in shock or pretending to be dead, so I’d scoop them into a kitchen container with some ventilation, until I could deliver them back to the bush by early evening, when they’d start showing signs of life!

Brace yourselves, there will be plenty more stories about this incredible, brave, determined little cat and I’m also working up the courage to add chapter two to the initial story from Cathy’s assumed perspective, which was published on this blog under Tales from Home some years ago…

I had looked forward to moving to my new home, where I hoped she would spend many a day napping in her private little garden space, but the angels had other plans for this little trouper, who lived to age 16 or 17, the exact years of which the vets were uncertain.

Cathy had survived a tough life, abuse, a move across the waters with me, chronic pancreatitis, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), for at least 7 years, arthritis, a 10ft fall from the sundeck (by rolling off when snoozing some years ago), the extraction of three teeth, several catfights to defend her home, where neighbours’ cats came to pick on her but sadly, the sudden onset of stage four kidney disease could not be reversed.

The first indication of the disease was frequent urination, drinking more water than before, and having two seizures, apparently brought on by the advanced stages of kidney disease.

Sadly, that devastating storm in June caused Cathy enormous stress. She seemed okay after a few days but a week later, we had wild winds again and that seemed to be a catalyst as the next day she had her first seizure, which seemed like a stroke. For several minutes she could not move her left front leg and looked at me pleadingly.

I called the vet and the blood tests revealed she was sicker than we suspected. The vet indicated the results were unexpected as Cathy still behaved in a robust manner.

Feeling helpless and wishing I could have done more to help this loving little pet, I am told, is normal. It is part of the grief and loss we suffer when we lose something so dear to us. Eventually, I will only remember the joy and love this devoted little cat brought into my life. Getting playful and rolling at my feet with joy when I listened to music that made me sing or dance.

Acceptance is often difficult. I miss our walks around the garden, with her chatting and me responding. Her sniffing the heated mat under my desk, indicating she was feeling the chill and I needed to turn it on. A creature of habit and a fast learner. I complied with all the love and care she deserved.

Cathy did grant me enough room for my feet, though, after spreading herself comfortably on that heated mat. Whilst enjoying the finer side of life, she was always ready for a chat and to show adoration and gratitude. A happy girl but never keen on other animals.

The welcome I got after a brief trip to the shops or running errands, was heart-meltingly sweet. Running to me, chattering, rubbing, and insisting on my hands scratching her under her chin. Ah, and did she love getting groomed! That soft brush, at first seemed suspiciously threatening to her but within seconds of our first grooming session, she was hooked on the tender care.

So, to now help me through this journey, I imagine my old Tiger, a large, robust, yet gentle cat I had the honour of spending 16 years of my life with before his body succumbed to kidney disease, arthritis, and cancer, to guide her and show her around that magical garden in the sky. To chase butterflies but never harm them.

Not simply a part of my past but a part of me, Cathy’s ashes will accompany me to my new home, where I am certain her feisty and communicative spirit will guide me to the spot in which she would like to be remembered in years to come.

My gratitude to my wonderful friends, fellow cat lovers, who have gifted Cathy’s individual cremation to me as a token of their caring hearts, and my family, and dear friends and neighbours who knew her and sent flowers to celebrate her vibrant personality, is endless.

At first, on arrival in that special place for our pets in the clouds, Cathy would have been cheeky with Tiger, I’d imagine, as she did not enjoy the attention of other animals but, being the gentle giant and charmer he was, I bet he now has convinced her of his genuine affection and devotion, as they had both basked in the light of my devotion.

I was lucky enough to have been honoured by their love, loyalty, and strong personalities.

So, even when we have a good life, we still need to deal with loss. This is my way and I hope my story will help you when you need to do the same.

Memories of Cathy come flooding back, constantly. The day a neighbour’s chook (hen) came strolling into the garden and walked straight past her. The look of total consternation on Cathy’s expressive little face was priceless. I could not stop laughing. She did not approve.

That look changed to pure fury when I spoke to the hen and picked her up to return her to the neighbours’ yard. Miss Cathy did not like to share her human with other animals.

Music has the power

It was during this labyrinth of grief I flicked channels to find a distraction and came across Echo In The Canyon, a documentary about the musicians who created amazing sounds when living in Laurel Canyon, California, during the hippie era. A place I visited and found fascinating years ago.

Featuring Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan, and directed by Andrew Slater, I loved this authentic journey of a time when some of the most poignant music of our times was written and produced.

Be ready for an epic musical treat, which reverberated across the planet, by such iconic performers as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas & The Papas, and the like. Interviews with Ringo Starr, Jackson Brown and Michelle Philips will entertain you, I bet.

So, this is how I came to discover Jakob Dylan, a musician-songwriter, and actor in his own right. I am now a devoted fan. So, to Cathy, I dedicate Goin’ Back, performed by Jakob Dylan and Beck, and Go Where you Wanna Go, performed by Jakob Dylan and Jade, originally performed by The Mamas and The Papas.

If you remember some of these musical geniuses, you’d love Jakob’s videos on YouTube…

I bet you’ll also enjoy Dedicated to the One I Love, such sweet echoes from the past…

Say cheese

A brief relief from lockdown resulted in a scrumptious lunch and vistas of the Yarra Valley’s verdant hills, green pastures, and cheese-producing goats at the Yarra Valley Dairy.

The cheese and charcuterie platters have not lost their charm and the local wine choices did not disappoint.

Ask for the cheese hotpot, on this day, it was gruyere with onions. So French, so delicious and the fresh bread was irresistible. So was the duck terrine. The goat and dairy cheeses, bottled calamata olives and other delicacies from the bijou deli won’t disappoint either.

Sofa spud

My latest sofa TV binges comprise The Leisure Seeker, with superb acting by Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Suffice to say this is a bitter-sweet, deeply moving film about an ageing couple. Have the tissues ready.

I became so engrossed in Late Night, starring the incredibly versatile Emma Thompson, I cheered when things turned out right! A feel-good binge, you’ll thank me later.

For Leonard Cohen fans, the sensitive documentary on his love for Marian, Marian & Leonard, Words of Love, will touch your heart. No spoiler alerts. A beautiful love story indeed.

Series I’ve enjoyed whilst escaping the realities of lockdown and depressing world news, include The Good Witch and Virgin River. Catherine Bell, whom I enjoyed watching in JAG years ago, will bewitch you, whilst every woman I know would love to marry James Denton, whom we all secretly crushed on years ago when he was the male lead in Desperate Housewives.

As for Martin Henderson, true blue Kiwi actor as Jack in the Canadian production of Virgin River, he gets my vote as leading man this round. Hoping Season 4 follows soon!

Travel plans

Never has travel seemed more alluring than now, after seemingly endless lockdowns and feeling imprisoned in our homes.

Local travel beckons, whilst many of us are reluctant to travel abroad for now. However, planning a local getaway and being a tourist in our own countries, is healing therapy.

Travel in South Africa is always a treat and while most international travel would be on hold for now, this means locals get to experience the best of the best – and reduced rates!

Pictured above, endless fun for all ages as well as corporate team building facilities at Sandstone Estates in the Free State of South Africa.

Steam, heritage tours and a walk in the country

The Sandstone Walking Tours have proven an ideal getaway for visitors in need of the fresh, mountain air and magnificent surrounds of the Free State. Starting at the Waenhuis Café, small groups adhering to social distancing rules proceed on a walk down memory lane, which includes viewing:

Military vehicles, the tractor display, an ox wagon shed, steam and vintage sheds, vintage machinery, the vintage workshop, the main workshop, the stationery engine museum, a rolling stock shed, and the Sherman tank shed.

From Corporate team building to executive getaways, product launches and weddings, to year-end functions, television, video and photographic location shoots, Sandstone Estates cater for a myriad of interests. Some of the most recent group visits have comprised student, club, and tourist group outings.

Fancy a scenic trip to the Lesotho border in the BSA Rail Car, a 1910 classic Edwardian Rail Car, or perhaps the Wickham Rail Trolley, depending on numbers in your group…or perhaps an ox wagon or military vehicle ride afterwards?

Affordable accommodation for 32 guests, with options ranging from camping facilities, complete with an ablution block @R380-00 per stand per night, to six self-catering Victorian Cottages, which sleep 4 guests in twin-bed rooms, offering fully fitted kitchens and shower-bathrooms @R1,980-00 per cottage per night, including VAT. Railway cottages @R425-00 per person per night. Braai facilities are also on offer.

Call Mariette Palmer on 064 752 3852 or 051 933 2235 or email: mariettep@sandstone.co.za  for enquiries and visit www.sandstone-estates.com for further details.

Safari bliss at Tau

Waking up to the sound of a lion’s roar, a jackal barking, a cacophony of birdsong, or elephants trumpet…

Feeling chilly? Nothing a hot cup of chocolate, a rusk or muffin, perhaps with a dash of a warming Amarula Cream, won’t fix.

This is how a morning safari starts at eco-friendly, family-friendly, malaria-free Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, only hours from Johannesburg. 

The five-star lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in guests being subtly fenced in, while game roam free. This is also a birder’s paradise.

See the mesmerizing Tau live webcam at http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

Current rates:

Special daily rates start at R4,800 per person sharing, valid until end September 2021 – contact reservations for weekly and monthly special offers and packages –  +27-11–4668715

Rates include:

One night, 3 meals and 2 safaris, as well as refreshments on safari drives.

www.taugamelodge.co.za

Style it up

Winter has been long, cold, and often wet here in my verdant Yarra Valley. However, I’ve always loved winter as one could layer up, style up and do plenty with some basic outfits.

Spring, I hear, is on her way but for now, she is hiding behind the late winter chill, giving me plenty reason to snug up in some of my vintage and more recent wardrobe choices, especially mohair and woollen coats.

Pictured above, styling old with new. Acquiring current styles but understanding the versatility of a garment, will result in longevity. Much of the styles utilised above are from my vintage closet, with some new additions of soft corduroy pants and mohair knits. The image at the bottom features current stylish pants at Witchery Fashion, and an elegant longline white blazer from Zara.

Cheers to the good life, dear friends. It may drop a stitch or sadden us at times but in the end, there is plenty to lift our spirits – starting with nature, fashion and the love of those folks who truly care, and our animals. Oh, and don’t forget the bubbles…

Eye of the storm

by Tilly Smith Dix

It is said there is a price for living in beauty. Well, after my experience of last week, the price for living in a beautiful region could be exorbitant.

At first, after watching the news, on which the goddess-like blonde weather lady on Channel 7 advised us of the strong winds to be expected from Gippsland, I thought it just another storm in a teacup. After all, the weatherwoman seemed so cheerful during her seemingly delighted delivery of this expected weather event!

Having experienced three big storms, in which one of my trees landed on a neighbour’s roof, trees fell in my garden and even bigger trees fell on my road and surrounds, I became concerned when that quietly ominous wind started its sweeping carnage.

You see, we’d had a lot of rain as winter is our wet season here in the beautiful Hills, the gateway to the Yarra Valley, which leads to the Victorian high country, where the ski slopes beckon.

Why does the rain worry me in the eye of a storm? The eucalyptus trees, whilst growing impressively enormous, have a shallow root system. This results in these giants toppling so much easier when the ground is wet. Imagine sweeping hills and valleys, and you get the picture, trees falling downhill and wreaking havoc with powerlines, roads, houses, vehicles…

This storm, the worst in 40 years, the news anchor said, was different and far more forceful than its predecessors. It started off quietly, but determinedly. Then it built up to a crescendo, which sounded like a large plane flying around and over the house, non-stop, for approximately eight hours. It may have been seven, but I lost track of time.

The first loud bang, like a gunshot, went off behind the bedroom wall, where the cat and I were holed up under the covers. That was the power, gone. I looked through the window and saw a tree on fire. The tree that hit the powerline. I saw my neighbour running around his garden with a torch. I called him on the phone as we would not be able to converse in the noise outside and I was not going out there! I wanted him to get out of harm’s way! He wanted me to know he was calling SES – State Emergency Services.

Luckily, because of all the rain earlier, the tree hanging on the powerline did not burn for long but the damage was done.

Then there was another loud bang, this time, the powerline on the corner of my road, outside a neighbour’s house, exploded. A massive tree branch hit that one. The entire village was now in darkness.

I must have drifted off into some kind of slumber, or trance, and awakened sometime later, when it felt like the earth moved. Still, that drone of a Boeing flying around the house continued but it was no plane, it was the wind, now coming from the south.

This time, I grabbed the torch next to the bed as I heard voices and heard my name, when someone said, “it’s Tilly’s!” I thought perhaps my car had been overturned in the driveway. I stumbled to the lounge, to see what the commotion was through the large windows. Then I realised the view, albeit in darkness, was different. Why? Then it struck me, the massive tree outside my kitchen, where I have spent many happy hours observing and photographing the daily steady stream of prolific birdlife, was no longer there!

Pictured above, the devastation of a storm – in my garden and my neighbours’ home. Then the beautiful, unapologetic sky after…

I again became aware of my neighbours with torches, yelling in the wind, which was travelling at 125km an hour, still. What I saw in their collective torchlight clarified the panic in their voices, the canopy of that enormous tree had smashed through my neighbour’s roof. I was frozen. I could not move. I could not scream.

Finally, I called my neighbour again on his mobile and he confirmed the worst but, at least, nobody was injured. They were simply trying to move their furniture out of the rain pouring through the gaping hole that was their roof no more.

They could seek shelter elsewhere in their house and at least had gas for cooking. However, they now had no water. None of us had power.

They could stay with relatives the next day and their insurance company has put them up in a hotel since then. They remain sanguine throughout. Respect.

The unspeakable damage to homes, cars, powerlines, roads, not to mention the trauma suffered by everyone, not forgetting their animals and the wildlife, is heartbreaking. It will take weeks for folks closer to Mount Dandenong, nearby, to get power back on. As for rebuilding homes and overcoming the emotional shocks, those will take much longer.

A few days later, I received a call from a man named David. He is an arborist and heard about my tree and the neighbour’s damage. He clears trees at no cost for people in difficulty. There are angels on this planet.

After a discussion with my neighbour, we agreed, there are folks in peril who need this Good Samaritan’s services far more than we do at present. We have insurance. Many don’t.

If anything, in the eye of a devastating storm, the light shines bright on these beautiful souls, whilst resilience remains key.

As for that blonde operational meteorologist on TV, she honestly needs to take a turn in a drama school to fine-tune her news delivery style. Just saying.

Winter warmers

Winter is a celebration of whatever warms the soul, in my book anyway. If it warms the cockles of the heart binging on good movies, just do it. Love good music? Turn it up and dance as if nobody’s watching! Curling up with a good read and be transported into another life, go to it. Prefer to travel if you’re allowed and go on a gin tasting safari? Go!

If this past year and the pesky pandemic have taught us anything, it’s an appreciation for special moments, folks, and the good stuff that make us happy and grateful.

From spectacular sunrises to our faithful pets and the abundance of nature around us, life ain’t half bad.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a ‘special persons day’ at my little prince’s kinder. Seeing life through the eyes of a 3.5-year-old, him showing me all the amenities and serving me banana muffins baked by the teachers and parents, like a little gentleman, was a delight. Nothing melts the heart faster than the sound of children singing. I realised he might become an actor or performer as simply singing with the rest was not for him. While singing, he moved around, owning his space. Adorable.

Afterwards, I took him to his favourite café, set in parkland, which houses a petting farm, where children are allowed to feed chooks and goats at Edendale Community Environment Farm in Eltham. My little man Ashton was such a joy, and I was grateful for spending this quality time with him. These are the things one appreciates so much more now. Last year I missed so much of his and his two equally delightful sisters’ development during lengthy lockdowns. Carpe Diem.

What’s your poison

I saw a social media post recently that resonated with me, deeply. As a result of our personal experiences and horror stories from women we know, and the news, a new ugly monster has reared its multi-faceted head, namely, man-bashing.

The moment someone writes about the bad behaviour of a man, or men, many women hop on that noisy wagon, adding poison to the ghastly wound. This often is a result of their own, or someone close to them, having been treated badly by a man. We found our voice and we are using it.

I do believe, at times, I’ve been guilty of that too. A little wiser now, and less inclined to believe that every male is a bullying, misogynistic narcissist, this is a shoutout to GOOD men. They deserve to be celebrated, respected, and adored. And, yes, they DO exist. I know several and have seen others with my own eyes and it is always heartening to see how those men’s partners flourish in their caring lovelight.

Long may they live, and it is our job to shine a light on their kindness and pure, old-fashioned respect for women.  I remember manners being drilled into our minds, as children. My late dad was a stickler for handling others with respect, especially women. He instilled such behaviour in my brothers too, starting during their formative years. And, if dad was at work, Mom made sure the mutual respect between the sexes were adhered to in the household. Simple rules.

The fact that some men are rotten and think it their satanic duty to abuse and stalk women, even on the internet, where they believe we position ourselves purely for their sick pleasure, cannot be denied. However, we cannot, in our hurt and annoyance, allow these vile bottom-feeders to blind us to the goodness of other men. Cheers to all the good men. And to the rotten apples, take a moment to learn from these gods. Oh, and advertising the size of your manhood or what you would like to do to us does NOT impress.  If that is your poison, scoot over to dial-a-tart-dot-com to find your own kind. Leave the decent women alone. Voetsek – it’s in the dictionary…

Gin’s the word

Armchair travel is my thing for now and, frankly, I’m deeply green with envy as my halcyon day memories of luxe safaris in South Africa are plentiful and everlasting. So, discovering that South Africans are travelling locally at highly reduced rates to five-star safari lodges, such as Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, stoked my enthusiasm!

Gin tasting and winter specials abound at five-star Tau Game Lodge in South Africa.

Having visited that gem, where the game wanders free and the humans are safely contained within the lodge camp, Tau’s June special for gin tasting, overlooking that verdant waterhole, where the magical wild things gather for their own tasting 24/7, is pure safari heaven. Go to www.taugamelodge.co.za to go gin-gin! Out of Africa does not get better…

Staying close to home here in beautiful Victoria near Melbourne, I’ve not been short of delicious food and bubbles either. Lockdown is easing, and I’m off to support my local restaurants, cafes and wineries as we speak…

Pictured above, a typical Maling Road schene; below, left to right, winter street scene; egg, smoked salmon and avocado on sourdough at BetweenUs; new developments depicting the old facades on Maling Road.

So many delightful eateries, where service is friendly and efficient, the food delicious, the local wine pure nectar of the gods. Locations, from scenic city to panoramic Yarra Valley or picturesque Mornington Peninsula scapes, we are simply spoiled for choice.

My local dining maatjie (mate, great friend), and I have explored and often been pleasantly surprised. After an expedition of my surreptitiously looking at properties for sale, my current obsession, we met up for a quick, casual bite in Frankston, at Frankston Waterfront restaurant overlooking Kananook Creek.

The proprietor was about to close for a break before the dinner session but kindly served us anyway, and promptly, as we were ravenous. The crisp, golden crumbed calamari was tender and sweet, attractively plated with fresh, peppery baby rocket, drizzled generously with olive oil, and complemented by plenty aioli and fresh lemon slices. The local bubbles proved a perfect tipple and we promised, like Arnie, to be back, soon! Check them out, you won’t regret it.

Another favourite eating haunt, closer to the city, is Maling Road. I’ve written about the food often but strolling along that delightful community, where the vibe is happy and old world, I was particularly chuffed when I saw newly built office and apartment blocks reflecting the historical façade of most of the older buildings along that road! Hats off to the developers for paying homage to the old, yet, celebrating the new, with updated, gorgeous spaces.

Sofa binge

Filthy Rich, streaming on 7+ with Kim Cattrall. New Orleans. Christian Television network and all the drama and billions attached. Sadly cancelled after one season due to Covid restrictions and production costs. Hope it gets picked up again later by Fox. True escapism. Kim is sensational. Charismatic evangelism at its OTT best!

One of my many passions includes ballet, and the transforming music of composers focused on dance, such as Tchaikovsky. Years ago, I worked with dancers, musicians, actors, and opera stars. I savoured every nuance of their respective crafts. The dancers I particularly enjoyed interacting with at the time, included two highly acclaimed stars, then dancing in New York, Natalia Makarova, who had defected from Russia, and Ivan Nagy, who escaped from Hungary. Sadly, Nagy is no longer with us, and I now discover he retired from dance aged only 35, subsequently directing film and television, including episodes of CHiPs. He was married to Australian ballerina Marilyn Burr when he died. With a riveting noble stage presence, he was one of America’s most highly acclaimed dancers. He had, in fact, danced with Dame Margot Fonteyn as well.

Natalia Makarova was tiny, beautiful and frankly, born to dance as she floated across the stage like a gossamer butterfly as you could not hear her touch the stage floor! As we had similar measurements at the time, I did the preliminary fittings for her costumes, designed by my friend, sadly also no longer with us, Dicky Longhurst, who became a successful fashion designer.

Makarova and Nagy came to dance a world premiere of Swan Lake in South Africa. I was in dance heaven. Her performances set new standards of artistry in the West. Still beautiful at 80, I believe she still choreographs her passion, ballet.

A few years after working with them, they returned to South Africa and whilst I did not work with them at that time, I managed to say ‘hi’ at a favourite eatery on the Sea Point waterfront, La Perla, and I was immensely flattered they remembered me! Well, I guess you don’t forget a company manager (just an assistant PR making sure the stars are happy and arrive at rehearsals on time in those days), who took them gliding for entertainment! We all sang or whistled Windmills of Your Mind, during that quiet flight. If you are old enough to remember the original Thomas Crown Affair, starring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen, you’ll get my drift.

These vivid, magical memories came flooding back when I watched a documentary on Netflix of the magnificent Rudolph Nureyev. Seeing him described, at that time, as a dancer with animalistic charisma, does not surprise me. Beautiful, poised, and with a dark side stemming probably from beatings by his cruel Tartar father and the tough life they had when captured by Russia. I believe his emotional traumas inspired much of his relentless dance techniques, and an ability to embrace the art as a virtuoso as well as classical dance god.

I highly recommend this riveting documentary. His personal relationship with Dame Margot Fonteyn is not depicted in depth, mostly in dance, but there is an indication they loved each other deeply. Kindred spirits in dance, which in the artistic world often leads to romance. Such relationships are complex but I do have a deep understanding thereof. They were, indeed, magic on stage and his respect for her never dwindled, even when she left the stage to take care of her womanising husband, Tito,  Roberto Arias, when he became disabled. She died in Panama in 1991.

Another binge includes the finale, Season 3, of The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas. He has aged like a fox and frankly, I enjoy his work more now that he is a silver fox. Sensitive, funny, poignant, this final series had me glued to the sofa for the weekend! Prepare to laugh, be outraged, and cry like a girl. I did.

Spotlight on style

Fashionistas abound and nobody could be more thrilled with the feminine, gossamer, floaty designs, reappearing in our midst, reminiscent of the Halston era, than me. Pure mastery, it was, except for his JC Penny era…

Watching all five episodes about this iconic fashion designer, who’s life sadly spiralled out of control because of drugs, drink and fast living, was riveting. Brilliantly cast and directed, the series on Netflix had me spellbound.

Ewan McGregor nails it in the title role, whilst Krista Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, Bill Pullman as David Mahoney, Gian Franco Rodriquez as Victor Hugo, and Rory Culkin as Joel Schumacher were all brilliant.

The fashion and elegance of the era, where plenty hedonistic action took place at Studio 54, currently a Broadway theatre in New York, which I spotted on my last visit to New York. Gosh, it was certainly an eyeopener what went on in that club – since 1927! I remember seeing pictures, in my early twenties, of Bianca Jagger riding a white horse into the Club on her birthday! This was a typical Halston era moment, I’d say.

My older sister, 16 years my senior, was a tall, movie-star model beauty, who always looked elegant. Some of my earliest memories of style and grace are of the cool elegance of Rina. She would have been a perfect Halston model. She is still a beauty.

A kind friend, returning from the US, brought me a frothy evening dress, designed by Halston in the late 70s, as well as the perfume. I felt like the queen of style, dancing at Raffles in Cape Town back in the day. I was invincible in that creation and the scent of a woman lingers on…

Now in the chilly throes of winter here in panoramic Victoria, I’m loving the feather-soft, snuggle-friendly mohair, alpaca-merino wool blends and cosy comfort of being wrapped in luxe coats from my vintage closet. As for hats, any excuse, especially when it’s raining, and a bad hair day is threatening to overthrow any serious attempts at looking respectable in the hair department. A hat, a wise person once said, is making a statement without saying a word. Not talking hats with corks to keep flies at bay. Not all of us wear those here in Aussie…especially not in winter, when the flies head to warmer pastures, perhaps Queensland, as everybody seems to be ducking off in that direction, chuckle…

Here’s a taste of some of the current trends I’ve been featuring on my fashion page on Instagram – for more detail, pop to Sixty_is_the_new_40 for some winter style inspiration. While you are there, take a peep at some of my spectacular followers – those gals know how to shine their light on style, all over this fabulous fashion world of ours…from spring to summer, fall to winter, every season offers new beginnings and ways to refresh an ageless wardrobe…I call it therapy! They are also incredibly supportive of each other. A magical tribe.

Cheers to a good life, choose joy, gratitude, and stay safe…

A Winter’s Tale

By Tilly Smith Dix

Well, just colour me in autumn shades of blissfully happy. Why, say you, when so many folks are already complaining about the colder season setting in?

This is the time for comfort food, cosy log fires, scenic drives, delicious cake, hot chocolate and my favourite, layering up for cosy comfort.

Cooking also becomes more fun as one does not feel like a slave in a hot kitchen. Rocking a full apron over comfy woollen sweaters, the scene is set for some hearty soups, warm puddings (date pudding is my favourite), and delicious casseroles.

Yes, I know in other parts of this blue planet others are now entering spring and I’m happy for them – new beginnings! Changing seasons is a beautiful thing and Mother Nature remains a marvel, in spite of too many humans doing their utmost to mess her up…

I’ve often featured the myriad colourful bird species gracing my garden with their presence. I, however, never take for granted the sweetness and peace of doves. I currently have a honeymoon couple canoodling on my deck daily, looking at me as if I’m a voyeur. Love makes them bold, I guess…who could blame them as the sunrise spectacular playing out over the Yarra Ranges certainly creates a profound sense of owning the panoramic views.

A childhood memory of me nursing an injured dove, giving it warmth in my bed, springs to mind. The poor creature was wrapped in soft old towels in no time, in its own bed, an open shoe box, as I ended up in the bath, pajamas, sheets and all, as the poor bird was covered in lice, which took a quick liking to the taste of my five-year old skin! I do remember my parents stifling giggles, shame on them, I was mortified. Happy ending, the dove survived and could be set free after a few days.

Lovey dovey on the deck at sunrise over the Yarra Valley.

Cathy, me and the sofa

Speaking of trends, I’m kinda bored with the endless violence, loud music, space-age speed and unrealistic and often hard-edged contents of most movies and have decided to take a sabbatical from new movies, unless they come highly recommended. Call it my new therapy. It’s like wearing an old, comfortable pair of slippers. You know their flaws, but you know they’re going to keep your feet warm and toasty.

I might get shot at dawn for this criticism, but I honestly was bored watching the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cast, I never tire of the story and visually, it was magnificent. However, Kenneth Branagh really made a meal of promoting brand Branagh, I fear. I worship Dame Judi Dench and adore Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Lucy Boynton and Willem Dafoe, not so keen on Johnny Depp anymore, but that’s personal, savvy…

I was addicted to Agatha Christie stories from my teens right up to my late twenties. Could not get enough. Mystery, glamour, always catching the bad guys so elegantly.

So, last night I watched the 1974 movie again. Directed by the late, great writer, producer and director, Sydney Lumet. The cast, similar to the most recent production, was very much a who’s who in Hollywood too, with the amazing and now sadly deceased Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery and the still fabulous Jacqueline Bisset, whom I had the privilege of interviewing when she visited South Africa in the early 1990s. She was modest, gracious, and so natural and easy to converse with. I remain a fan.

As for the other late luminaries cast, such as Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, John Gielgud and Ingrid Bergman, all I can say is some current stars and directors have enormous shoes to fill.

The music by Richard Rodney Bennett was sweeping and sophisticated, fitting for a grand event such as the Orient Express.

I did, however, find a delightful more recent movie on Netflix, titled Boundaries, starring one of my all-time favourite actors, Christopher Plummer, who sadly passed in February, with the beautiful and always authentic Vera Farmiga. I highly recommend this movie, a true gem. There are some telling lessons here and several great laughs. The one-liner that had me howling with glee, causing Cathycat to look at me with deep concern, was Plummer’s character telling his daughter, played by Farmiga, she was the Pied Piper of mange!

Vera’s character attracts stray dogs in need of physical and often emotional help. This movie gives one some quirky ideas about overcoming family drama and old grudges. I may watch it again.

Yep, it’s just dawned on me, many of the stars I admired greatly for so long are now dead. My late dad used to say you knew you were getting near the finishing line when most people you admired are dead. Scary but, in my defence, these folks were all plenty older than me…just saying.

That being said, life is for the living. The past is there only to draw good memories and valuable lessons from. Otherwise, the present is now, and we should savour every moment. Yes, we must plan and dream about a good future but the here and now is going to be in the past tomorrow! Deep, right? Simple, though.

Friends with benefits

Yep, that got your attention! Sorry, no sexy stories here, only good vibes about friends and family who have our backs, as we should have theirs.

Never, in my lifetime, has there been a time when I have felt more grateful than now. Given this pandemic, causing suffering and loss in so many ways, from physical and mental health, to financial disasters, having our tribe in our corner, is key.

With loved ones offering emotional comfort and some even financial assistance where needed, it has to be said, silver linings are more evident than ever. Never underestimate how much we need each other in good as well as bad times.

My sweet late mom believed in putting out caring energy. She often said the people at which you direct the much-needed comfort very often might not be the ones to return the favour when you need it but that in the end, the Universe equals it out. Now I hear a tune by The Beatles, The End, in which the lyrics end with: “And in the end, the love you make, is equal to the love your take….” Somehow, that works for me. More so than when I bought that album, my only Beatles Album, Abbey Road, all those years ago.

Feeding the beast

Ah, food, glorious food, so many choices, such eclectic choices and, joy of joys, we are able to eat in restaurants, drink wine and fix the world with the folks we adore spending time with.

I’ve reviewed Between Us on Maling Road, Melbourne before. However, I had a dish there recently, which was so spectacular, I simply have to mention it again. Next time you’re in Canterbury, try the crayfish tail, prawns, poached egg, sauteed dill spinach and sourdough bread. Washed down with a glass of delicious bubbles, and the world is hunky-dory, darlings!

I’ve just discovered where the term hunky-dory comes from, thank you, Professor Google! Apparently, it’s from a street called Honcho-dori in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors coming ashore go in search of all the things sailors on shore-leave go looking for. So, there’s your sexy story, happy now?

Scenes from Waves on the Beach Restaurant, Frankston. Top right, prawns, chorizo and sour dough, lamb cigar, and golden fried calamari.

Another delicious meal consumed in the good company of my lovely tribeswoman Rika, was at Waves on the Beach in Frankston. Can’t fault a restaurant with great service, ocean as well as city views, and scrumptious food! Ah, and then there is the French bubbles, which, to our delight, happened to cost less than a glass of local. Go figure…

As usual, our eyes were too big for our stomachs after a scenic drive around the Mornington Peninsula. Ocean air will do that to you.

Crayfish tail, baby spinach, prawns and hollandaise on sour dough at Between Us.

We picked three small dishes, to enjoy tapas style, and this proved a resounding culinary triumph. Lamb cigars, golden-fried calamari, and king prawns and chorizo bowl. I’ve not been to Spain as Italy and France always had a stronger draw for me but this kind of dining may lure me there! Hook, line and sinker, I’m a new fan of Waves on the Beach. In the words of Arnie, “hasta la vista, baby – I’ll be back…”

Book worm

Receiving a book to review is always a challenge as I’d like to deliver a glowing review but what if it stinks! As I honestly try to remain authentic, I tell all the collaborators who liaise with me I’ll not give a bad review of their product or books. However, if I don’t like it, I’d rather advise them and return their gift.

So, when I received a book from Smith Publicity in the US, written by Eugenia Zukerman to review, Like Falling Through a Cloud, I was captivated from page one.

           

A poignant book of poetry about her trying journey with Altzheimers, by Eugenia Zukerman, Like Falling Through a Cloud. Available on Amazon.

This is a lesson in learning to deal with early onset of Altzheimers with grace and dignity. I cried and laughed. Eugenia’s creative mind refuses to give in without a challenge, painting her journey with poetic prose, often outraged. I salute this incredible woman and her courage is an inspiration. Some of her musings reminded me of my late mom’s struggles when her memory started to fade during the onset of Parkinsons, as well as my adored Melbourne relative’s current struggle with dementia. I highly recommend this book and if this does not bring poetry back on literary trend, I’ll eat my hard copy.

I could not have summarised it better than my favourite cellist, Yo-Yo Ma: “Eugenia Zukerman reminds us of the delicate balance between human fragility and resilience.” Indeed. Respect.

Fashionistas unite

I’m besotted with the new fashion trends for winter as it is so reminiscent of my youth. Feminine, sometimes edgy, flowing, or boho elegant. In fact, anything goes. You love Audrey Hepburn’s elegant style from Breakfast at Tiffanies? Got it. You like the trendy style so colourful and sassy back in the day when Carnaby Street was top of the pops? You’re in!

Never a follower of specific trends, especially if I thought they did not suit me, except for those enormous shoulder pads we wore in the Eighties, which only looked okay if we were 6 foot plus and stick skinny, cringe.

Layered up for autumn. Much of the above featured items are from my vintage closet – slow fashion is my forte. Okay, I’m a sucker for good quality that lasts. The vibrantly coloured jumpers as well as the check knit are current, ranging from Seed Heritage to Country Road to Witchery, great Australian designs to complement any revived classics. Detailed descriptions and tags are available on my Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 page – locations for the shoots featured above are at home and at The Loft in the Mill, Olinda.

By now, my male readers are losing interest as we all know, most of them love the feminine form to be displayed with very little left to the imagination. Do not fear, my good chaps, we will not be wearing shapeless cheesecloth and caftans covering every inch of our female form. We are simply leaving more to the imagination, in a classier style. Move over burlesque, fabulously elegant is back.

From trend-setting leather and suede trousers to snug blazers, to comfy coats, wear it with panache. Confidence is feeling fabulous.

Cheers to the good life and to all the amazing people in our lives…happy autumn or spring, wherever you may be – just choose happy!

Sweet Easter surrender

Ever had a dream within a dream? It could be amazing or a nightmare. I guess Freud would have had an explanation for it but I believe our subconscious manifests our dreams, feeding on our fears, expectations, and, I am told by some, flashbacks from past lives. One could lose your marbles trying to debate which is which, so, I prefer to dissect dreams and turn them to my advantage. Got to stay positive, right?

While contemplating how to spend the Easter weekend, starting with Good Friday, a message from my sister appeared on Whatsapp, and it just seemed so apt:

The Irony of Life: it takes sadness to realise what happiness means, chaos leads to appreciating silence, and absence leads to the value of presence. Food for thought.

Don’t get lost in love – stay true to you and if love is worthy it will stay. I wish I could say this to folks on the train, when I cannot help but overhear their conversations. Okay, I do have great hearing and find it intriguing. Mia culpa!

One such conversation, a while back, took place between two thirty-something women. One was advising the other on the way she always fell in love. It seemed the one telling her story was compromising and not always showing her authentic self. This reminded me of what a classic actress once said about being divorced so often, the fact that men went to bed with one of her sexy, romantic characters, then seemed disappointed when they woke up with her.

I believe this is something many of us are or have been guilty of. Is it because we don’t think our true self is good enough? One of the many things I like about ageing is a better understanding of what makes me happy and who I am. We need to appreciate who we are. Finding too many flaws? We are the masters of our souls. We are good enough. If someone makes us feel like we are not their first choice, smile, shake hands, and walk away.

I see plenty flirtations on social media. Many of these people are married or in a committed relationship. Why does the grass always seem greener on the other side? Often, it’s simply because we are not watering our own lawn. If we treat our loved ones as if they don’t matter, they will behave as if they don’t matter.

Enough with the agony column, on with what was a much-deserved long weekend!

I believe long weekends are sent to rejuvenate us when we need it the most. I plan weekends and cherish at least one quiet day to regroup, potter, listen to music, and have peace.

It is a privilege to have my adorable little family nearby. Nothing is more joyful than watching kiddos hunt for those sweet delights, getting hyper-active on all that chocolate, then crashing early when Mom and Dad are in need of a respite, bliss, I’m told.

My pixies are lucky as they have a balanced upbringing, with plenty crafting to develop their imagination, reading, outdoor activities and occasionally, a movie to get them to relax before bed. I got my fix of plenty hugs, delicious food I did not have to prepare, bubbles, chocolates, great company, giggles and catching up with my adored family and their friends on Sunday. I sang in the car all the way home as it made my heart soar, these precious moments in time!

I did not hunt for Easter eggs but as my lovely neighbours are away, I’m collecting fresh eggs daily from their chooks, as those hens get all my leftover scraps. A fair deal, I’d say… but I must also mention how fond I’ve become of those feathered darlings. We have lively conversations.

Dining pleasures

After the lengthy forced abstinence from dining out, namely lockdown, my friends and I are making up for lost time. Things we took for granted for too long are now so much appreciated. Just being in the company of caring friends who support each other, is now a treasured occasion. Thank you Covid, you got something right…

Whenever I venture to the Mornington Peninsula, sweet friend Rika takes me on a grand tour of the beautiful surrounds as a prelude to lunch. So, when she visits to explore more of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, I am more than happy to return the favour as I love this region of plenty.

Our recent lunch at the Healesville Hotel was scrumptious and we opted for the alfresco experience, dining under the trees and umbrellas on a perfect late-summers day.

The thinly beer-battered, generous portions of fish, chips, duck croquettes, crab and avocado salad, washed down with some local Yarra Valley bubbles, were sensational.

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left: avocado and crab salad, beer-battered fish and chips, outdoor dining, the road to Healesville, and the duck croquette at The Healesville Hotel.

The drive back to my village, through the back of Healesville, past the Tarrawarra Art Museum and vineyards, green pastures, paddocks with healthy livestock and rolling hills, where kangaroos usually appear before sunset, proved yet another sweet distraction and we agreed, we were both ready to address life head-on again.

Did I mention alpacas are also popular livestock here? When they are not actively bred for their luxuriously soft wool, they also serve a vital purpose, protecting lambs from foxes, as alpacas stomp and foxes are not stupid.

On another occasion, we took one of my favourite drives in the world, up there with Big Sur in California, Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town, and the Garden Route of South Africa, Mount Dandenong Road to the charming village of Olinda on top of the mountain.

Dudley’s in Olinda was buzzing with good cheer and the delicious mezze and sizzling haloumi cheese with olive paste did not disappoint. In fact, we loved the Helen’s Hill bubbles served with our meal so much, we traversed back to the Yarra Valley to purchase a few bottles from their cellar door, which is not far from where I live.

Another delectable lunch with my South African tribe living in Melbourne was at The Beach Café in Seaford. My BBQ Ocean Prawn salad was simply delicious. Pity they are not licensed but they are working on it, I’m told.

During my recent visit to the Peninsula, I revisited The Rocks in Mornington, which is great value. You can’t find a better seaside location, right up there with The Baths in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.

The Rocks restaurant overlooks the yacht basin of Mornington and is conveniently situated in the Yacht Club. This just always brings back happy memories of my teens, when I lived in a sailing community overlooking an estuary in South Africa.

Again, the food and service at The Rocks were sterling and the conversation effervescent between three good friends. Nothing beats bonding further over a delicious meal, sipping something heavenly and savouring a panoramic vista.

My linguini marinara was laden with plump prawns and succulent mussels. The chef even obliged by omitting the tomato at my request. We’ll be back!

Dining at Bond Store in South Bank in Melbourne proved a less enjoyable experience with my friends, though. An extremely rude waitress with a French accent put a dampener on our lunch.

However, the manager was extremely apologetic and compensated generously for his staff member’s bad service and shocking attitude. I’d give the restaurant another go as I believe regular staff are now returning to their old posts as Job Keeper has run its Covid course. It’s a charming location in the city, close to the Yarra River, where old architecture meets modern skyscrapers in this still most liveable city.

I know I’ve mentioned my neighbours owning a dream wedding event destination, surrounded by verdant vineyards, rose gardens and a lake in a previous, in fact several, blogs. Last year was a disaster for that industry because of the lengthy lockdown, as we know only too well, but it is heartening to see business picking up again.

On weekends, when there is no wedding party in progress, Immerse, in the Yarra Valley, is open for lunch to the public – always good to make a reservation as the food is fabulous and the restaurant is popular.

What I love about Helen and Stephen Myles, is not only are they good friends, they seemingly read my mind too. I was indecisive as everything on the menu was calling my name! So, they suggested we order several smaller portions to sample and enjoy between three.

Their bread is a treat, and I’m not a lover of bread! Served with the chef’s choice of dip, olives, parmesan oil and Murray River salt flakes, it is pure sour-dough heaven.

We relished the confit duck arancini with pear and fig relish, parmesan, pickled vegetable salad and pomegranate; the chorizo and manchego croquette, chickpea, corn, roast pepper salad and smoked paprika aioli hit the spot; and the kuro prawns, soba noodles, edamame, radish, cucumber, coriander, roast sesame dressing and renkon proved a sensation.

I’m no longer a dessert fan but again, my arm was twisted easily and sharing the lemon meringue tart with passionfruit sorbet, blood orange puree and yuzu syrup, plus blueberry cheesecake with lychee, cream and glass shards, as well as a sinful chai and almond panna cotta with vanilla tuille, coconut and mango sorbet with pistachio crumble, proved the perfect finale to a superb experience.

Of course, I’ve always been a fan of Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay and I was not shy to indulge on this day, again…I did find the energy to report my experience on TripAdvisor as it was the very least I could do after such a glorious spoil. Then I had a late afternoon snooze…

Dining at Immerse in the Yarra Valley, pictured clockwise, from top left: views of the gardens from the restaurant, setting up for a wedding dinner, raspberry cheesecake, and a symphony of flavours in: confit duck arancini with pear and fig relish, parmesan, pickled vegetable salad and pomegranate; kuro prawns, soba noodles, edamame, radish, cucumber, coriander, roast sesame dressing and renkon; and chorizo and manchengo croquette, chickpea, corn, roast pepper salad with smoked paprika aioli.

On the couch

So many choices of sofa bingeing and when in doubt, I tend to return to old favourites as I’m looking for a happy ending, just common old feel-good viewing of a story that feels like a comfortable blanket, almost like a home-made quilt, not always perfect but cosy. Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond and Greg Kinnear, is one of those indulgences. I still love the soundtrack too – evergreen.

Speaking of security blankets, How to Make an American Quilt, with the late and forever inspiring Maya Angelo, Winona Rider, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft and Dermot Mulroney, still gives me that warm, cosy feeling.

Recent releases that have proved enjoyable, with staying power for me, include: The Dig, with the adorable Lilly James and Ralph Fiennes; and Yesterday, again with Lily James, Himesh Patel, featuring Ed Sheeran in a cameo role. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, both from a British sitcom I used to take great delight in, The Kumars at No. 42, are good value, as always. Get ready for sweet, happy tunes to get good memories flowing. Especially if you are old enough to remember The Beetles, (chuckle).

Sleeping Beauty

Health, beauty and fashion cannot be ignored as, after all, it is the very essence of my expanding Instagram following. It simply goes to show starting a hobby with stuff we are passionate about, we will be rewarded, somehow.

One of the many rewards is the support and inspiration most of the Insta tribe members I interact with offer each other. It is a joy and, especially during these trying times of lockdowns, illness and struggles, they are there for each other. So many people get lonely and sad, and this is a great way to offer some solace, albeit from a distance.

One of the many thrills of my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page is the fact that I get to collaborate with some incredible people, who produce superb skin and beauty products, not to mention glamorous fashion!

I wish to remain authentic and will not test, wear or promote anything unless I have tried it for a while – or the design fits my form. If it does not come up to par, I will report this to the product representatives.

The highly professional and courteous publicist for i-On Skincare contacted me several weeks ago. We negotiated and now, after having put the Age Disrupting Skin Cream and Age Disrupting Total Performance Eye Cream to the test, I am delighted to share the news of my rejuvenated skin.

Featuring DII technology, a proprietary age-disrupting technology that safely removes excess iron from the skin to prevent formation of free radicals, which produce lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and uneven skin tone, commonly known as ageing skin, I’m now convinced @iOnskincare is delaying the ageing process in my skin.

Founded by Dr Xi Huang, one of the world’s leading researchers on the correlation between iron levels and health, the publicist informed me the product would reduce the appearance of wrinkles rapidly.

The range contains the latest scientifically advanced anti-ageing ingredients, whilst it also, in the case of the Eye Cream, reduces dark circles under the eyes. After several weeks of using the products continuously, I see a visible improvement in my skin and am in total agreement with these claims.

Key ingredients include: De-ironizing Inducer (D.I.I.) – a blend of reducing agents, such as vitamin C, and high buffering capacity clearing agents, such as pearl powder, which removes excess iron from ferritin in the skin to prevent the formation of free radicals; Key Peptides – includes acetyl tetrapeptide-11, which helps skin look and feel healthier, and tetrapeptide-9, which restores the skin’s natural support system and stimulates collagen production for smoother, firmer skin; Portulaca Oleracea Extract – a herb with anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties to benefit sensitive and/or allergy-prone skin; Different Molecular Weights of Sodium Hyaluronate – two super-charged forms of skin-replenishing hyaluronic acid formulated to provide deeper and longer-lasting hydration; and Fucus Vesiculosus Extract – a heme oxygenase-1 inducer, which acts to degrade hemoglobin, thereby reducing dark circles.

After the first application, I awakened with my skin tingling, but in a good way. I knew I’d not see results after one night but checked in the mirror anyway. No rash, no allergy, a great start.

I can honestly say that after several weeks of applying the eye and skin cream daily, my skin seems plumper, and the fine lines I’ve been dreading seem to have gone undercover!

I highly recommend @iOnskincare and would happily continue using it. We all say age is just a number, and to defy it, not deny it. So, for now, this over-sixty gal is feeling extremely lucky as my skin is positively glowing.

See more at www.ionskincare.com – tell them Sixty_is_the_new_40 sent you! You’ll thank me later…

 

In the mix

Autumn is slowly winding her way through the final throes of summer and I could not be happier. Layers, mixing, matching, not working up a sweat, totally my thing!

I’ve always enjoyed autumn colours as they are warm and seem to complement my skin. However, I’ve had such encouragement from my Insta fashion gang about wearing pastels and pink, I’m clinging to it as there is no rule for colour and seasons. I’m loving the jewel colours coming into the fold again, gone for so long, and I even see some of those colours reflected by the fashionistas across the waters, now entering spring.

Someone recently said, the trick was to be the trend, not to follow the trend. I like that as I believe we should wear what brings us joy. To many of us, clothes are an extension of our personality as well as a mood-changer. When we feel good, we act good.

Dressing for oneself is so much more rewarding than dressing for others. One of the many things I love about ageing, I don’t care what others think of me. I know who I am, I know what makes me happy, and I try to avoid anything or folks who make me unhappy. Simple. Easy.

So, cheers to us owning who we are, and cheers to a good life, darlings, we only live once…twice, if we are really lucky!

Run, Charlotte, run!

by Tilly Smith Dix

This is an email I’ve sent to this scammer, who stole my images off Instagram and my blog to create a fake US passport card as well as fake online dating profiles to scam elderly, lonely men.

How did the victims find me? They used Google’s photo reverse tracking to find the origins of my images once they became suspicious of my likeness, known as Charlotte Shaw. To all the real Charlotte Shaws out there, report this thief for stealing your identity! Don’t be abused.

Why did this despicable person steal my photos? I live in Australia and they probably thought my pictures would not be recognised in the US. They underestimated this South African – and the power of the internet. So, this is what I sent to one of their known email addresses. I also have their phone number…want it?

Above, photographs stolen from my Instagram fashion page by the fraudster to create a false US ID and online dating profiles to defraud lonely older men!

Email to a fraudulent thief:

Charlotte – we know this is not your real name and international crime investigation is on it now.

You call yourself Charlotte, amongst other names I’m sure, defrauding lonely older men on dating sites. Yes, some of those people were smart enough to find me to report your actions to me, using MY images! How DARE you!

You have messed with the wrong person by stealing my photographs to create your fake ID and profiles to scam people. I used to be an investigative journalist. Your crime is a federal offence around the world – from Nigeria to the US!

Your actions have been reported to international internet fraud government divisions. We now have all your contact details and images used in your disgusting scams, with your digital ID. It is rather exciting.

Today I am going live on the internet with your fake IDs and images used of me. I believe it is going viral.

I suggest you start deleting my images and running back to the dark hole you obviously come from – vile bottom-feeders like you eventually go to jail. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun there, meeting others just like you.

I have blind copied several authorities herewith. I look forward to taking this to the next level. International law is an exciting field.

Keep doing this and simply dig a deeper hole for yourself. You are now in the spotlight.

You can run but you cannot hide.

TILLY

Lemons, tequila and lemon meringue pie

by Tilly Smith Dix

So far, I’ve managed to ease into this new year with quiet resolve, mostly…

We’ve had a pretty good run with this pesky virus since the Holidays but we ended up in a five-day level-4 lockdown after a scare in a quarantine hotel, with international visitors returning to Melbourne.

The new cases were identified and isolated, so, for now, we are back on track, able to travel beyond 5km from our homes, kids back at school and shops and businesses operating again.

Sadly, so many shops have had to close their doors since this chaotic pandemic took hold of our world and I’m making it my mission to support local businesses and local brands. Got to reach out to those with the determination and resources to continue earning their livelihood and creating jobs for others for a fighting chance.

Someone posted on Facebook some time ago how tired they were of all the pearls of wisdom others were sharing as it seemed so cliched. I beg to differ. Proverbs remind us of good, simple old values, often. Actually, I don’t beg at all.

Valentines Day came and went and several folks seemed sad as they either had no Valentine or they were stuck with the wrong Valentine. My pearl of wisdom, to quote a message from one of the greatest songs ever written, sung by the great George Benson and then by the late great Whitney Houston: “learning to love oneself, is the greatest love of all.” Amen to that, darlings.

Years ago, a friend suspected her husband, whom she regarded as her soulmate, was having an affair. She was crushed and whilst she had no concrete proof, she felt he was not as present as he’d been in their first 15 years together.

I advised her to send herself a bunch of roses every week from an anonymous admirer. Yes, she knew she’d sent them but receiving those beautiful blooms with a card that read, “you are loved, never forget,” gave her joy!

At first, her husband seemed amused. By the second week he got antsy. By the third week he had a total freak-out. Her response, “I have no idea who it is but gosh, it’s nice to know somewhere in the world someone is thinking of me with such admiration.”

By the fourth week, her husband started sending her roses. Now, almost twenty years later, they are still together and happy. I think it was the flush of joy on her face that got to said husband every time she received the ‘anonymous,’ blooms.

A further proverb to annoy those who don’t appreciate them, see the worry in my eye, baby, is, ‘when life gives us lemons.’ What to do? Decide what your poison is, whether you prefer to make lemonade, margaritas, or lemon meringue pie. Can’t decide? Feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Take your sweet time to decide. Start by taking quiet time, just for you. Breathe. Look at nature. Detach from the stress. Get lost in a silly movie or a sad one, whatever. By escaping reality temporarily, the mind gets a break and soon, it becomes easier to tap into our inner wisdom – and instincts. This is the gold that seals the cracks in our fractured lives. Be kind to you. It DOES get better, (note to self)…

A walk in the hood

Living in Victoria is pure joy. Spoilt for choice to walk, hike or get serious about physical endurance-testing, it does not get better than this.

One of the trails I enjoy strolling in, in my steady, easy pace so I can still stop to smell the sweet, clean hilltop air, or chat to a kookaburra gazing at me with an inquisitive eye, is the Lilydale Warburton trail. The old rail track is ideal for walkers and cyclists.

Pictured above, scenes from the Lilydale-Warburton trail. A kookaburra quietly focused on lunch…

I don’t enjoy crowds when I’m communing with nature and it never seems crowded on this trail. My most recent meander was on a cool Sunday and it was quiet. The few folks passing me would greet, smile, and move along.

I heard a rustle in the tree above me and looking up, there was a juvenile kookaburra quietly waiting for something in the bush to present itself for a tasty Sunday lunch. I’m not insulted that said kooka ignored me quietly chatting to it. Focus on the prize…and free lunch! Much to learn from kookaburras.

Just driving to my family a mere 35 minutes away is like a holiday. My preferred route is through Wonga Park to Warrandyte. Horses, livestock, alpacas, kangaroos, it is always a panoramic treat.

Pictured above, driving between Lilydale and Warrandyte, clockwise, from left, kangaroos relaxing before sunset, healthy livestock and pretty horses.

Bonding with the sofa

A friend recently messaged me that he was going to propose to his sofa as it is truly his best mate.

My most recent indulgences from the comfort of my trusty sofa include: The Undoing, starring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman. Riveting stuff with an unexpected twist.

I got hooked on Big Little Lies, also starring Nicole Kidman. There’s a scene where a narcissistic husband loses the family fortune. However, he salvages something that is of importance to him, at enormous cost. I don’t want to spoil the scene but think of me when the wife’s preferred choice of weapon against the offending treasured toy is a baseball bat. I’ve always wondered what such action would feel like and boy, it looked good…

The location, Big Sur, is a region I fell madly in love with during my visits some years ago. In fact, I spotted Doris Day, then still alive, walking her dog and her smile was just as bright as when she was a young woman. So, it was a little trip down happy memory lane, watching this captivating series.

Another series I’ve really enjoyed, is Firefly Lane. This is a sensational comeback for the talented Katherine Heigl, who is also part of the production team. The always captivating Sarah Chalke needs more PR. The enduring friendship between two polar opposite friends seems so true to life and I am hooked. An Aussie star making headlines in the US, Ben Lawson, does a great job in his role as a self-absorbed TV producer.

Watch documentaries at your peril. Most of them are quality viewing. However, watching the life of Jeffrey Epstein was not ideal viewing before bedtime. It shook me to my core, again being reminded how this sick individual, now gone, and his female companion, who’s name I cannot bring myself to even type, ruined the lives of young women not yet old enough to have been called women. How does a woman do this to other members of her species, especially young girls, or anyone, for that matter? I hardly slept. May justice be swift.

If you appreciate diamonds in the rough, and a saga of ranchers experiencing plenty hard knocks, peppered with some booze, romance and plenty laughter, flick to The Ranch on Netflix. Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliott, Debra Winger, are included in this sterling cast. Warning, you won’t stop until you’ve seen the satisfying finale.

Remember the beautiful Katherine Ross from The Graduate? She is married to Sam Elliott, my quintessential modern cowboy. He is even more craggy now but still ticks the boxes as an actor and grumpy good guy. Loved him in The Ranch. Salt of the earth.

Fabulous food

Driving to the Mornington Peninsula to have lunch with my best South African maatjie in Aussie, (friend in juvenile Afrikaans), is always special and getting a fix of the azure bay, heady sea breezes and relaxed vibe of the region is food for the soul.

This time, we visited Mount Eliza and I was delighted by the old-world charm and refreshed town centre, and location. As it is mostly a residential village, it was not heaving with holidaymakers.

We had a mezze feast at 1001 Nights, an authentic Turkish restaurant. The service, atmosphere, Covid-safe operations, and food made for a superb lunch. I’ll be back!

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left, my lovely Instagram friend Sue, Turkish mezze platter at 1001 Nights in Mount Eliza, outdoor dining Mount Eliza, salmon eggs at BetweenUs on Maling Road.

My first taste of Turkish cuisine was at Sofra in St Christopher Place, London. Not a tourist in sight, even though it was a tiny Turkish hop from Selfridges but tucked behind the bustle of Oxford Street, with quaint cobble-stoned roads to picturesque mews homes.

It became a favourite haunt of mine during my visits to that bustling city, where I could meet friends, family or even dine solo, observing locals going about their business, especially the view of the deli next door selling scrumptious treats.

Joyful memories of similar eateries around the world and feeling welcome in a place where most folks seem to know each other’s name, truly enhances the dining experience for me. Not apologising for that little quip from Cheers. If you’re old enough to remember the series, cheers, mate.

I also had a delicious catch up with my lovely friend Sue, who spends her time between homes in Hawthorn and Sorrento, lucky little fish, and her adorable silky, Midge, at one of my favourite eateries on Maling Road, BetweenUs. I’ve reviewed the restaurant often over the years and still enjoy the location, service and cuisine.

The historical architecture of the building, refreshed with a modern dash of style, makes for a convivial ambience. In the 1900s it was home to a dentist, which my aged relative used to visit. When she was still firing on all cylinders, she would remind me of this memory from her youth.

Once Covid-restrictions were eased to visit our elderly folks, I popped in to see her and it was so sad to see her dementia having taken hold of that feisty spirit.

Well, suffice to say my sadness about her deteriorating mental condition was brightened by the fact that she still has an eye for the obvious and a tongue that speaks her mind. As I bid her goodbye, trying to hide my sadness about her confusion in general, I overheard her asking a fellow resident, at the top of her voice (she is rather deaf now), “how on earth does Tilly walk around without falling over in those high heels.”

I was about to enter the lift and burst out laughing and continued to giggle until I reached my car. It made my day. She still has spunk and dementia ain’t taking it from her. Silver linings.

When it comes to delicious food, my cousin Jason is a corporate, corner-office magician during the week. Weekends, he offers his gorgeous wife Helen, who juggles husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat and 4 hens, not to mention the wildlife in the garden, a break by doing the cooking. I’d hire him out but he is kinda busy.

The most recent Sunday BBQ was, again, a masterpiece, with J producing the most succulent deboned lamb, perfectly pink in the middle, as their eldest, beautiful, smart Cameron, attested.

Never a dull moment with my adorable family, especially around the dining table. Ashton, now aged three-and-a-half, has some incredible stories to tell. He informed us at table that he had been to the moon. When asked how he got there, he informed us in all seriousness, his sister took him there in a rocket but forgot about him! Intrigued about where this would go, we all wanted to know how he got back home!

Without any hesitation, he retorted, with big baby blues, “it was Batman!” We all cheered that amazing super-hero for bringing our boy home safely.

The imagination of children. We all need to tap into our inner child for some pure escapism and never have we needed it more than now.

In my skin

I don’t often share my beauty regime as, quite frankly, I take for granted that most women know how to take care of their skin.

A kind follower on Instagram recently asked me to share some tips.

My beautiful late mum was not big on make-up, talcum powder, a wet finger to shape her naturally arched eyebrows, a tiny pinch on her cheeks to get them all rosy, and a rose-coloured lipstick simply enhanced her glowing and age-defying skin.

Pictured above, clockwise, from top left, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, Clarins Extra-Firming Lotion, Clarins Double Serum, Lancome Micellaire Water, Aspect Hydrating Mask from Skincare Doctor, Lamcome Cleansing Milk.

She did teach me that we have one skin. Once it is ruined, it cannot be saved through lifting and expensive skin treatments. It is the foundation of our appearance and her simple skin regime consisted of cleansing with Ponds cold cream, then washed with warm water, followed by cold water to tighten the pores before applying Nivea moisturiser over her entire face and eyes, as well as neck and decolletage. It worked for her!

Of course, she also believed in drinking plenty water and eating a balanced diet. Low carb, high protein.

Sadly, my skin regime is more complicated but Mum enjoyed it when I’d be home for holidays to pamper her skin with facials and gifting her with my lotions and potions on her birthdays and at Christmas.

So, here goes. I never go to bed without cleansing my face. Cleanse and feed, I say. I prefer cleansing milk, to be rinsed off and Lancome has always done me proud, my preferred cleanser being, Lait Galateis Douceur.

My preferred gentle eye makeup remover remains Lancome Bi-Facil, non-oily and ideal for sensitive eyes.

This cleansing method is followed by a gentle wipe with Lancome Eau Micellaire Douceur – the miracle express cleansing water for face, eyes and lips.

I then rinse my face with warm water and tone with rosewater after drying, or with my favourite toner of many years, Sukin hydrating mist-toner.

My night-time facial pamper is Clarins Double Serum, for age control, accompanied by Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate. Why? I believe in feeding my skin at night and lifting it by day.

The morning beauty routine includes rinsing my face with warm water, then splashing it with cold water before toning and applying Clarins Extra-Firming Treatment Essence for bounciness, followed by Lancome Renergie Multi-lift crème and its multi-lift eye cream sister.

If my skin feels a tad tired from stress or lack of sleep, my magic potion for many years has been Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – it brightens and tightens, and the skin feels and looks rejuvenated.

Every two weeks I use a gentle enzyme mask, sent to me early last year from the Skincare Doctor Direct and it is pure beauty alchemy. The Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask smoothens and soothes. Once it is rinsed off, I tone before applying the Aspect Hydrating Mask for overnight pampering, accompanied by my night-time eye cream and always a lip balm.

On alternate weeks, I use a gentle exfoliator instead of the enzyme mask. Clarins Fresh Scrub works best for me, and again, followed by a simple rosewater toner before applying an eye cream and the Aspect Hydrating Mask.

The sun is good before 10am but after that, I never go out without a sunscreen and a hat.

We also need to feed our skin from within and Nature’s Way’s collagen chewable gummies are amazing! Two of those babies a day, and they taste delicious too. I could see a visible improvement in my skin, hair and nails within weeks! Woolworths had a special on this product recently, so, I suggest we stock up with these yummy super gummies.

I also believe in treating my neck as kindly as I treat my face, so, whatever goes on my face, applies to the neck and chest – they are all closely related, so, treat them as one, needy family. When applying skin cream, use upward strokes as it stimulates the skin – and it prevents stretching skin in a downward motion. We don’t want that!

Glow on, lovelies! You deserve to take care of you. We are so worth it. Hope this was of some use.

Fashion fix

Last, but certainly not least, our love of fashion sustains us on my Instagram feed @Sixty_is_the_new_40 – not only do we share style ideas, but it is also a superb network of women supporting each other. Yes, you get some silly buggers who don’t take the time to peruse our bios, and shamelessly ask for dates, kisses and further inappropriate favours but the middle-finger, commonly known as my social media blocking finger, gets some exercise. Frankly, at my age, I should feel flattered, chuckle!

My diverse list of clients publicised over the years included the School of Etiquette, in which the first course focused on how we present ourselves to the world. The rule was very much about dressing for the position you wish to hold when going to your place of work.

  

Pictured above, clockwise, from left: a classic wrap dress from Poetry, in Hydepark Sandton, of about 7 years ago; classic straight pants at Country Road, about 3 years old; A big white shirt over a linen Country Road dress for layering; woollen ponchos are forever, same as faded blue jeans from Jeanswest, about 5 years old; a classic cashmere blazer from Queenspark, Sandton, about 24 years ago; a linen-knit dress from Country Road about 5 years ago; delicious ice cream pink linen dress at Country Road, still current in blue; pussy-cat tie blouse from Witchery two years ago; a classic pencil skirt from Witchery, still current, teamed with leopard-print bovine skin heels at Pink Inc at Myer; classic straight-leg jeans of about 13 years ago from Zara, London; all Trenery, classic, of about 10 years ago, except the wedge sandals at Midas Shoes, and handbag from Wayne Cooper at Myer; flared pants of about 20 years ago, teamed with a denim blazer from Decjuba two years ago and still current. Ageless style serves our closets well…

Old school, some might say, however, this always worked for me as I regarded dressing for success as showing respect for myself, the workplace as well as the folks I interact with in the workplace.

Some industries don’t require formal dressing, which is fine. However, even when relaxed attire is in order, a clean, neat appearance will make a better impression.

Now that we’re dressed up and ready to attend meetings and business lunches again, some sound advice given by an employer years ago, was to be nice to people you meet on your way up the ladder. Fact, you’ll need them when the next best thing tries to topple you from the top of the business ladder.

So, after this quick lesson in basic business protocol, enjoy feeling fab and caring enough to look your best for any occasion. I honestly believe we tend to feel as good as we look.

Of course, I’m super chuffed that I get huge discounts, receive fabulous vouchers and gifts of gorgeous fashion. The fact that my friends and family also spoil me with such gift vouchers for Christmas and my birthday, is a testament to them respecting my devotion to the finer things in life.

Cheers to the good life, life is (often) longer than we think, death is short… I heard that somewhere and liked it. Double cheers to that!

Pictured, clockwise, from left, wonderful attractions around the world at the moment: the Get a Grip of the Grind Festival in Bright taking place this weekend to encourage women to shine in their careers in Australia – http://www.getagripofthegrind.com.au; waterhole dining at Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, South Africa – http://www.taugamelodge.co.za; the Sandstone Easter Steam Festival 2021 in the Eastern Free State, South Africa – http://www.sandstone-estates.com

Ends.

From travel in South Africa to Getting a Grip in Australia…

by Tilly Smith Dix

The past year has certainly shown us how to appreciate silver linings. Seeking joy during a trying time. Doing whatever gives us hope – and having the smarts to be safe and forge ahead.

Never has the time been better to reflect, examine our lifestyle, careers, travels and options for a happy, healthier way forward.

From riding on steam trains to going on a sublime safari, South Africa offers plenty hospitality.

Something that grabbed my attention here in Melbourne, is the upcoming festival in Bright, guiding women towards living their most fulfilled lives.

Cheers to the good life…here’s to living our best life.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA:

Get A Grip of the Grind Festival 26-28 February 2021

Living a life we choose. We have a choice. We are able to change our mind. Set boundaries. Create me-time. Stick with people who elevate us. Negative thoughts can be changed. Mindfulness is key. The outdoors clears our mind. Exercise in nature.

These are factors that are important in creating a life in which we are happy and fulfilled. We cannot help others or nurture them unless we are able to do so for ourselves.

Mental fatigue creeps up on us and we feel overwhelmed. Detached, yet bound to our stress. It becomes a shield. We feel like victims and cannot deal with the tsunami of life. The past year certainly threw those curveballs long and hard and they still keep on coming…

Three years ago, Get a Grip of the Grind Festival was launched as the antidote for working women wanting more from their life, and their career. This is the remedy to ceding to conventional career and parenting pressures, in addition to societal expectations, which are driving women towards burnout.

The brainchild of Dr Eibhlin Fletcher (pronounced Evelyn, she is of Irish origin after all), and a team of maverick female role models, the Get a Grip of the Grind Festival takes place in Bright, Victoria.

The purpose of the festival? Assisting women to be their boldest, best self to take control of their lives. Inspiring and exhilarating conversations, riveting speakers, complemented by outdoor adventures in the sublime beauty and tranquil spaces of Bright, women are given the courage to explore their full potential to set in motion positive, lasting change.

Eibhlin has broken barriers in some of the most prolific male dominated industries. As a change agent in Civil Aerospace Operations for Rolls Royce, she was responsible for production improvements on the iconic Trent 900 engine, which is now on the wings of the Airbus A380. She has a PhD in Catalysis.

Dr Eibhlin Fletcher in action with women finding their tribe to shine at a typical Get a Grip of the Grind Festival in Bright, Victoria, Australia, clockwise from top left.

She is also an avid adventurer competing in some of the most gruelling 48-hour adventure races. She has rock climbed the world-renowned Snake Dyke in Yosemite National Park in the US and represented Ireland in the World Duathlon Championships.

Says Eibhlin, “We are inviting women to plan an unforgettable weekend with their girlfriends, colleagues, mothers and daughters in the verdant High Country of Victoria. The purpose is to help women live the life they choose.”

The Get a Grip of the Grind Festival weekend:

Programme to include:

  • Workshops, adventures, inspiring female speakers, evening picnic, adventure film under the stars, networking soiree, dinner on a private estate, fireside discussions.

The Focus:

  • How to unlock performance blockers and fearlessly exploit your own emotional strengths
  • Deepen awareness of self-limiting mindset and behaviours, and unmask personal motivational and behavioural patterns
  • Unleash courage and confidence, with challenging outdoor adventures (rock climbing, abseiling and mountain biking)
  • Connect with like-minded women and share their daring effervescence

Tickets are on sale now at $250 per person for the weekend – Corporate Group packages available @ $5,300 for a minimum of 6 on a twin-share basis.

Email info@getagripofthegrind.com.au

Phone +61 (0) 437 194 745

For further information, see www.getagripofthegrind.com.au

FB @getagripofthegrind

SOUTH AFRICA

Sandstone Estates 2021: Summer and Easter Steam Festivals

February 26-28 and April 2-5 2021

Unforgettable. Unique vintage cars, farm equipment and trucks. World-famous 2ft narrow gauge vintage steam railway on 30km of track. Unique location. Panoramic surrounds. Majestic Maluti Mountains. Sandstone Estates is a marvel for steam enthusiasts from all over the world. Working oxen with wagons. Just north of Ficksburg, the cherry capital of South Africa. Authentic railway stations. Cosmos fields. Corn fields. Sunflower fields. Pristine farming estate.

This is how visitors to the Steam Festivals at Sandstone Estates in South Africa have described their experiences over the past twenty years.

Walking tours of the movie-set friendly farm, complete with 30km of narrow-gauge rail track, remain part of the timeless attractions of this highly productive farm.

Sublime vistas of the surrounding Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, a unique vintage steam and heritage museum, and highly productive farmland, toiled by a team of 36 working oxen, are just some of the many attractions to be embraced by all age groups.

Bookings now open for:

  • 26 to 28 February 2021 Sandstone Steam Festival – highlights include: Train rides all day from 10am
  • 2 to 5 April 2021 Sandstone Steam Festival – highlights to include:

     Train rides all day from 10am.

     The Mountain Wanderer train to run daily, at 15h30, duration two

     hours…

Entrance fees comprise:

R230 per person, R145 per child under 12 years of age – includes all train rides, starting from 10am daily.

Call 051 933 2235 for enquiries and visit www.sandstone-estates.com for further details.

Fun with steam at Sandstone in the Eastern Free State, South Africa, above.

Easter and Autumn safari in unpretentious five-star style

Autumn, for many, is a special time of year. Days are cooler and evenings call for delicious hot toddies and much conviviality around safari log fires.

This is also the time when the visibility of game enthralls visitors to Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve. Game is less inclined to seek shade after the summer heat has gone.

For 26 years Tau Game Lodge has hosted visitors from around the world. Guest reports have always been along the lines of their having visited many safari lodges, some very swish, but the welcoming team and comforting hospitality, paired with sublime game viewing and a waterhole visible from every room and hospitality deck, will beckon them to return time and again.

Safari game drives with sightings of the myriad game, including the Big Five, followed by sundowners in the bush before a magical dinner, listening to a lion’s roar and elephants trumpet are just part of the magic of Tau – the place of the lion…

The five-star family-friendly lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the spectacular birdlife.

The Tau Easter and Autumn 2021 packages @R16,000 per couple, include:

  • Accommodation for 2 nights in one of the 12 newly renovated Luxury Standard Chalets as an introductory offer
  • 3 meals per day
  • 2 game drives per day
  • Drinks and snacks on safari drives
  • Tau Spa Oasis African Foot Ritual (30 minutes) per adult: Allow your feet to be pampered by our therapists in a soothing footbath to drain away tiredness. Next your feet are pummelled and massaged with an aroma-therapeutic based scrub to remove all dead skin followed by a true African warming foot massage.

This rate is exclusive of the following:

  • Park Entrance fees of R180.00 per person (Subject to change)
  • Tourism Levy of R10.00 per person per night (Subject to change)
  • Bar, Mini Bar, Laundry and all other extras
  • Rhino Conservation Levy of R165.00 per adult per night
  • Easter egg hunt for kids applicable for families in Deluxe and Family Suites – please contact the lodge for rates

To book this special package, please quote: TAU EASTER 2021

The culinary team’s delicious and healthy meals are served a-la carte and tables are spaced apart at an appropriate distance, as per Covid-19 regulations to keep guests safe.

The highly addictive Tau live webcam will keep you mesmerized on: http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

Safari magic at Tau Game Lodge, in the eco-friendly Madikwe Reserve, mere hours from Johannesburg.

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from newly renovated Luxury Standard & rustic Standard Chalets, to Family Suites. Family-friendly, with a Tau Cubz Club for children, the Tau Spa Oasis, and a Conference & Events Centre. Eco-friendly. Malaria-free.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.za 

www.taugamelodge.co.za

The mother of all years

by Tilly Smith Dix

January 2021

Plenty inspirational messages have crossed my screens in the past 24-hours, all with one message in common: be safe, learn from the year that was, embrace the lessons, and welcome the New Year with passion and joy.

My message to me is simple: Do the right thing and stop pursuing what we can’t control. What, pray, is the ‘right thing?’ An action that will be the least harmful to man or beast. An action that shows we will not accept bullying and dishonesty aimed at us, at any other person, or creature. To speak out, ‘do the right thing,’ and instead of turning the other cheek, walk away once we have ‘done the right thing.’

Then, to trust in the Universe to be fair and hear us. Of course, one is always tempted to call in forces stronger than us and better equipped at dealing with narcissists and other greedy humans. Sadly, I simply cannot afford Nikita, or, my latest vigilante hero, Peppermint, to do the job, so, for now, I rely on my imagination – and karma.

Last year I threatened 2020, saying I would be coming for it. This year, I’m waving it a jolly goodbye.

As for 2021, I’m clinking a glass or two, welcoming it with quiet resolve to deal with whatever it serves. My wish? To bring us good health, honesty, happiness, success, humility, kindness, clarity, joy and all the love we could possibly need. My word for this new year? Hope.

Dining in style

It was the season to be merry and catching up with people we were unable to see during the long, hard lockdown was pure bliss.

I did not need any coaxing to drive to the scenic Mornington Peninsula to celebrate my dear friend Rika’s birthday at Stillwater Restaurant at Crittenden Estate in Dromana. Not only was the food scrumptious but the vistas of vineyards and the tranquil lake, complete with weeping willows and happy ducks, made for an idyllic day.

Feasting at Meletos at Stones in the Yarra Valley…

My entrée of fried scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti, with crispy bacon crumbs, was a triumph. My main, succulently fried duck, (hopefully not from the verdant pond), with a melody of beans and crisply roasted potatoes, was sensational.

Rika and her lovely friend Trish waxed lyrical about their respective dishes, which included crispy crumbed quail and barramundi. Washed down with the delicious Crittenden bubbles, the mood was festive.

My birthday turned into a three-day feast, never to be forgotten. It kicked off with a delicious barbeque with dear friends, who are like family. I got to meet their new pets, which now comprise four cats and two very large guinea pigs. The fluffy menagerie seemed pleased to meet me too. Yes, I’m the loon who talks to animals as if they understood. Of course, they do!

After a delectable meal with my little family the next day, where the three impish pixies sang to me, I then had lunch with my Aussie bestie at Meletos at Stones of the Yarra Valley.

What a joy to finally return to this exquisite restaurant in this glorious wine valley. I have to mention that my gorgeous friends Helen and Stephen joined me there the Wednesday prior. So, in reality, I was spoiled rotten for almost a week. How lucky can a gal get.

The Meletos menu remains a thrill. My lemon caper butter scallops, with pea puree and apple tarragon, followed by Cape grim beef striploin, asparagus, beetroot, and fondant potatoes was delectable. On my next visit, I savoured the gin-cured salmon. Sensational! A glass or two of the delicious local Domain Chandon bubbles, and we had no worries, mate. Life is good.

Maling Road in Canterbury has always been one of my favourite spots in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I love the old architecture and beautiful old residences, enhanced further by the established leafy green avenues and boulevards.

Clockwise, from top right: views from Stillwater at Crittenden on the Mornington Peninsula; Maling Road at Christmas; salmon avocado eggs at Between Us in Maling Road; avenues of Canterbury; succulent duck at Stillwater; scallops on a bed of saffron spaghetti at Stillwater.

Between Us has been a preferred eatery for me and I always have a touch of whimsey when I dine there as my elderly relative, who grew up in nearby Surrey Hills, once told me the restaurant used to house her dentist some 70 years ago! If those old walls could talk, right?

My preferred choice for brunch on this lovely day during the Holidays, salmon eggs, smashed avocado and bubbles. Heaven.

Christmas arrived all too soon and it was heartening being able to spend time with my two respective families. Christmas Eve, now our little family tradition since arriving in Aussie, is a veritable feast. Again, the munchkins sang and honestly, seeing Christmas through their eyes and conjuring up stories of how Santa was so tired after the long lockdown, he dropped some presents at my house as his sleigh team simply could not make it over more hills and tall trees to the pixies’ house, almost had me believing my own blarney.

As we do every year, the kids helped me trim the pavlova and I have to say, I’m flattered that my boy munchkin, now old enough to understand and able to wrap his smart tongue around the word, pavlova, loved it.

Christmas Day, spent with my Aussie family proved a feast, again. Surrounded by children finding joy in every nuance of the festivities, delicious food, and superb local wine, in true Aussie tradition, was a veritable feast. The mouth-watering menu, starting with steamed king prawns, was followed by succulent gammon, golden crisp smashed potatoes and fresh garden salads. The pudding was the proverbial cherry, with brandy, on top!

Actually, given this trying, strange, yet oddly educational year, I’ve decided to hang on to the Christmas feeling for a while longer – the tree will only come down in February, maybe… my Christmas music continues to extend the good cheer, so, the smooth sounds of Michael Bubble, Steve Tyrell and the late great Al Jarreau will keep me jolly for further weeks to come.

On the sofa

My latest couch binge includes biographies. I certainly enjoyed the life and times of Frank Sinatra, a bad boy, JFK, also a bad boy (when it came to women), and Jackie Onassis, who I’m delighted to see, had a truly loving, caring and faithful partner in Belgium-born American businessman Maurice Tempelsman until her death.

However, the story that captured me, for several personal reasons, was about the late Franca Sozzani, who edited Vogue Italia until her death from cancer in 2016. I had the privilege of meeting her, briefly and unexpectedly, during a press visit to Milan in 2003.

Before my December Holiday travels, I would schedule meetings with top travel media in countries I was visiting every year, and having always had a soft spot for Italy, this time, I decided to meet with some of the travel editors of the Conde Nast Publications, based in Milan. The crème de la crème.

Well, let’s just say, as with fashion, the Italians have the warmth, glamour, style and attitude to charm the world at will. Not only did the stylish, charming team welcome me with open arms, they also arranged for me to meet with travel editors at other publications, based not far from their offices!

The British travel media as well as those kick-ass editors in New York were always welcoming and helpful too, I must add. However, it seemed the Italians simply loved South Africans and its tourism destinations, not to mention how everyone knew about the magic of Cape Town and luxe safaris in the bush.

While I was drinking coffee and feeling immensely flattered that these elegant editors were being so kind to me, yet another striking woman, dressed in black, popped her head in the door, and simply and briefly, introduced herself as, Franca. She apologised she was on her way to a meeting, otherwise she’d have chatted to me. She happened to comment on my soft, fitted black leather coat, asking if it was Italian. I had to admit it was made in South Africa, to which she responded with, “I love South African street fashion!” Her charming Milanese accent sounded like a purr.

I was positively aglow and when she departed, I asked my hosts who this graciously charismatic woman was. They seemed surprised I did not know: she was the editor of Vogue Italia! Their queen, so to speak, at Conde Nast!

I was still gulping like a guppy, inwardly, whilst working hard on maintaining some gracious composure whilst picking up my jaw off the floor, when they took me on a tour of their historical building, located on the Piazza Cadorna, which is a mere minute’s walk across the road from Sforza Castle in Sempione Park.

The architecture and ornate frescos, not to mention a sweeping staircase at the entrance, reflect romance and history. Their offices offered contemporary, practical work spaces and Google now tells me it was recently refurbished further to reflect Fashion Week 2019.

The neighbouring castle, built between 1360 and 1499, has been a museum since 1862, embracing treasures such as Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, and other masterpieces by the likes of Titian. If you are keen on ancient musical instruments and Egyptian artefacts, Sforza Castle will delight you as much as it did me.

So, watching this touching biography on this immensely talented, gracious and beautiful woman felt deeply personal to me. No surprise to see the admiration with which the great Helmut Newton spoke of her, declaring, “she is the woman who lasted the longest in my life.” I highly recommend Franca, Chaos and Creation, produced by her talented son on Netflix.

A series, also streaming on Netflix, that I felt at home with, is Virgin River. I got totally hooked as it is a perfect escape package. A believable storyline, stunning leafy Northern California location, a stellar cast, great direction and some eye-candy in the gorgeous form of Kiwi heartthrob Martin Henderson, make for a great binge. It’s like slipping into a comfortable chair. Gather your snacks and tipple as you don’t want to let this one go. Can’t wait for series three.

Tricksters at large

I have always been suspicious of dating sites and my fears have been realised. In fact, the only time I ever went onto such a site was to prove a point, the point being, anyone could spin a yarn and mislead you. I guess, these tricksters spoil it for good folks simply wishing to meet someone nice…

When I received an email from a woman in the US, advising me someone on a dating site called Zoosk, had assumed the identity of one Charlotte Shaw, and she had lifted images from my blog of about two years ago as her online identity photographs, I was obviously concerned! The trickster had conned the sender’s lonely father!

Naturally, I was suspicious of the woman emailing me but when I saw what she had to say, I took notice and did some sleuthing of my own.

In brief, this grifter had honed-in on a lonely widower in Covid lockdown – and probably several other gullible, older, lonely men too. ‘She,’ was so believable, this normally intelligent man was looking forward to meeting her –  all her online profile images were of me!

This poor, lonely man sent her $4,000 too!

How did the gentleman’s daughter discover the true identity of the woman in the images? She got onto Google and did a reverse search, using the images of me used by the con on the site. This resulted in her finding my blog. The upside, I now have a new follower and keen reader of my blog. Downside, a sweet, gullible, lonely man got conned.

I reported this to the site, and my new follower’s dear dad managed to get the trickster’s profile shut down on the dating site. However, someone else’s images might now be used under a different alias by this vile person, who, it has been alleged, might not even be a woman – and might even be operating from another country. Frightening.

So, if you see old pictures of me pop across your screen, don’t send the police to my house – but let me know. I’m thinking of liaising with the FBI, the CIA, and possibly Nikita. She’ll get the bugger. Capiche?

Style at any age

My inspiring, fabulous tribe on Instagram agree, fashion, and luxe lifestyle online bingeing, has been our therapy through a long, often lonely, lockdown 2020. What pesky COVID-19 has done, though, is prove how immensely powerful social media is, and what a thrill it is in the time of a pandemic, when used positively.

Winter was long, wet and chilly but I had no complaints as one could hardly go anywhere anyway, so, it was great weather to stay home, work, write, photograph fashion, the cat and birds in the garden, whilst playing with my ageless closet. I also enjoyed playing smooth jazz and often danced in the lounge. Anything to lift the mood…

Style it up or down, pretend to be back in Paris, escape to whatever takes your fancy with fashion therapy – full details and brand tags on Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 – from vintage to boho to Riviera style…be YOU!

Some brands were extremely generous as this was a lucrative online sale opportunity for them and this older but not over gal ain’t complaining as I managed to upscale and bring several old fashion items up to current trends with a new addition here and there. Accessories are key, ranging from classic styles to the new boho chic, which is happily reminiscent of the late 70s, and animal prints.

A quick dab of leg-bronzer, a dollop of sunscreen, summer dresses, hats, culottes, frothy blouses, and now it is a brand New Year. Hope.

Be safe, take care and don’t forget to have fun – life is too short not to feel fabulous and joyful…cheers to the good life, darlings!