Let’s Talk About Skincare

One of the (relatively) new things I’m enjoying a lot lately is makeup. I’ve never been one of those girls who really know what they’re doing when it comes to this stuff, and up until very recently, I only ever really bothered with the bare minimum in terms of makeup, and then only for big occasions.

But I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of fun to be had and, while I’m still very new to this game, I’ve been having so much fun discovering new colours, trying out new looks and learning new techniques and tricks, and I’m quite pleased with the way it’s all been going, mostly.

Of course, all of this means I’ve got to pay extra special attention to the canvas itself – i.e., my skin. I’m not too far away from the big Four-Oh, and while my skin looks mostly okay, it definitely isn’t as fresh and dewy as it was in my twenties. It’s also pretty sensitive and doesn’t take well to having just any old thing applied to it.

For the past year or two, I’ve been a loyal fan of the IQ Skincare range available from Dis-Chem. Because my skin is prone to dehydration and is very sensitive, I’ve always opted for the DermaQuench range, which is specifically formulated to deal with these two issues. The range consists of:

A Cream Cleanser, which I’ve found to be super gentle and non-drying while still being very effective at removing dirt and makeup, leaving my skin feeling fresh and clean without leaving it tight and red.

A Renewing Serum, which I generally only use in the evenings, straight after washing my face. It leaves my skin feeling nourished and plumped and ready to restore itself while I sleep.

A Night Cream, which is rich and deeply moisturising without causing my skin to build up too much oil – this is important because I’m quite prone to painful break-outs when I put too much product on my skin.

A Toner, which I’ll admit I have rarely used, simply because I generally feel that my skin gets all that it needs from the other products in the range. I do like to use the toner a bit more frequently during the summer, though, or when I’ve spent a whole day or night out with full makeup – it just helps add that extra bit of freshness.

Apart from the fact that these products make my face feel fabulous, I love that the range is locally produced and was developed by a South African dermatologist, who knows and understands the effects of our climate on the skin.

The packaging is beautiful and the overall feel I get from buying and using these products is one of luxurious pampering, even though they are very affordable. I’ve spent a lot of money on premium products in the past that have caused my skin to break out in pimples or have left it red, dry and flaky. Plus, I’ve found that the IQ range easily lasts me up to 3 months, sometimes more.

Best of all, I can just pop into my nearest Clicks or Dis-Chem whenever I need to top up, so I never have to deal with snooty counter girls, or fend off commission-hungry salespeople, which is one of the major reasons I have vowed never to support a certain well-known (and surprisingly popular!) cosmetics chain again.

Are you familiar with the IQ Skintelligence ranges? Have you tried them? Tell me about your favourite skincare products and experiences – I’d love to hear all about it!

NOTE: I was neither asked nor paid to write this post, and have chosen to review the products listed here of my own accord, based on my own experiences. Images of the products were sourced from Google and are posted here purely for informative purposes.

Flat-out or just flat?

So, this morning I had that personal training session at the gym. When Vera, the personal trainer, got in touch with me earlier in the week, she asked me what my goals were, and I told her that I just wanted to start building fitness, toning and tightening up some soft areas. I mentioned that I have very weak arms and zero upper body strength and that my posture could do with some work.

Then I put it out of my head entirely until this morning.

When my alarm went off this morning, the only thing that forced me out of bed was knowing that it would be incredibly bad manners for me to cancel less than an hour before I was due to meet up with Vera. So I threw on my running clothes and started getting ready.

I’ve never been a fan of gyms, primarily because I haven’t the first clue how to use the various different machines, secondly because I am fully aware of just how weak my body is and finally because I’m afraid of ending up on Youtube or as an internet meme for making a complete ass of myself, like these poor folks:

Fortunately, I’m getting over being worried about what other people think, though, so I asked David to do the morning school run and Megan to pack the school lunches and off I went for my 7:00 appointment.

Now, normally, when I go for a run, I don’t really eat anything beforehand because I find that I start feeling nauseous during my run if I do, so I just smashed half a sandwich in my face as I left and figured it would tide me over. Turns out I figured wrong!

Vera started me off on an elliptical machine, on the very lowest setting, for a 10-minute warm-up. I’d never been on one before – I’ve only ever run outdoors or on a treadmill, which I hated!

This was still very different from running on the road but far less awkward than on a treadmill, and I think I may be able to get used to it. I kept a slow, steady pace but still found myself in the “talking with effort” zone by the end of the 10 minutes. At the same time, I wasn’t dead and felt sufficiently warmed -up. By now, though, I guessed that I was not going to manage a full hour of working out.

Vera thought it best (and I concur!) not to try getting onto any of the fancy equipment just yet – I suppose she also wanted to gauge what I could do – so we went into one of the group exercise studios, which are open for use by anyone when there are no scheduled classes running.

So here’s what we did –

    Vera handed me a weighted bar like this one:

And we then proceeded to do the following:

Front barbell squats – 2 sets of 15 reps

Standing front barbell raises – 2 sets of 15 reps

Bent over barbell row – 2 sets of 15 reps

Weighted extended crunches with a 2.5kg plate – 2 sets of 10 reps

This was supposed to have been 3 sets of each, but since I had skipped breakfast and only had that half a sandwich, I started feeling dizzy after the first set and we only did one more.

I was surprised at how unfit and weak I really am! But I’m looking forward to working my way up to actually finishing a workout, and getting fit and strong!

Jim at the Gym

I joined a gym the other day.

I wasn’t planning to, although I have seriously considered it on a number of occasions, because the running just isn’t happening and I see myself softening and rounding and sagging in places where I’d rather not.

Anyway, I did it – I signed up, paid for my access tag and even attended the “New Member Induction” the following day, with both of my teenagers in tow. Nothing special about that.

But I did want to have a small rant about the joining experience itself, which has more than a little to do with why I have not yet been back.

You see, as I mentioned, I was not planning to join the gym. I was, in fact, pushing a trolley full of groceries out of Pick n Pay and heading home to consume a whole bunch of tasty stuff. I happened to be in a good mood at that moment, anticipating all the tasty things to be enjoyed in my almost-immediate future, so when one of those gym guys who hang around in high-traffic areas punting their gym joining specials approached me, I was patient and friendly and didn’t stalk off in a huff at him for even suggesting that I looked like anything less than a fitness goddess.

Rookie mistake.

Anyway, so I smile politely and tell the guy my last gym membership expired before I ever set foot in the gym, and then – like a bloody fool – I ask him what the joining fee is right now.

I know, right?

Right. But then, my ears prick up when he says, “Today, it’s free.” HA! And that was me, sold. So I went in as arranged at 14:00 and proceeded to experience something I was totally not expecting:

I arrive at the gym at the appointed time and ask for the sales guy I’d spoken with earlier – we’ll call him Jim (see what I did there?). He arrives at reception moments later, and off we go to the sales office to complete my application. Of course, we start making conversation, as you do. I mention that I’m really not a fan of gyms but have lost my running buddy, and I jokingly mention my husband’s reluctance to run with me.

Now, I don’t know if mentioning one’s spouse’s disinterest in sports/fitness is some kind of code in the gym world that implies that one is somehow “available” or “looking for something on the side”, but it certainly seemed to be exactly that in the Jim world, if you take my meaning?

The guy suddenly became unbelievably familiar. It seemed innocent enough at first – he asked me what my husband does for a living. So I told him – he’s an engineer. This must have, unbeknown to me, been more code, because he smiled at me then, and made some crude comment about how my husband must be loaded, then. I didn’t quite know how to respond because, in 2018, I kind of assumed that we all know that asking questions or making assertions about a stranger’s personal financial situation is in poor taste?

Of course, I’m a little taken aback and unsure as to how to answer, so he starts telling me about his restaurant in Gordon’s Bay, and my bullshit meter slams into the red zone. I ask him what he’s doing, selling gym contracts, if he has a restaurant in Gordon’s Bay, and he spins me some story about how it’s his inheritance as the once-favourite grandson, on account of his once having played rugby for the Lions, or some such, but he’d rather work in an industry that lets him interact with people. He lets his sister and her husband run the restaurant, while he does what he’s passionate about. I leave it at that, because hey – who am I to say what someone is or isn’t passionate about, right?

Anyway, so Jim moves on and asks me what my goals are in terms of training, and I tell him that I’m just looking to regain some fitness after four kids and being fairly inactive for many years. I specifically mention the four kids because, in my experience, this is usually a pretty strong “I’m not even vaguely available” message. But Jim takes it as some kind of competition, and tells me he has six, and then takes my surprise – let’s face it, six is quite a bit less common than four! – as a sign that I’m mighty impressed by his unparallelled virility. But I miss this, because now we’ve crossed over into the “parent zone”, and as someone who pretty much lives there full time, I relax and begin to feel like I’m on familiar territory. So I ask him if they’re all his own or whether some are step-kids.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Jim launches into a whole spiel about how he’s in the middle of an ugly divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him, and asks me if I’m happy in my marriage, and whether my husband works really long hours, etc. He’s kind of hinting that I’ve somehow implied something of the sort, and I sit there wondering how the hell he came to that conclusion?

Was it the fact that I stopped to talk to him outside Pick n Pay? Was it the fact that I showed up at 14:00, as arranged? Was I somehow saying things in a code I knew nothing about, that kept answering his own coded questions in the affirmative, and thus giving him the impression that I’m interested?

Anyway, I ask for information on class times and who the instructors are, trying to steer the conversation back to neutral territory, and we conclude the paperwork, and I sign on the dotted line, thinking that’s that. Jim promises to forward me the class schedule info via WhatsApp and tells me about the New Member Induction that takes place at specific times, and asks me what time I’ll be there that evening. I tell him that I’m not available in the evenings due to family commitments. (This is the truth, but I also figure it can’t hurt to make it clear that I have a family that matters to me, and I’m NOT AVAILABLE.)

Jim makes a comment to his (male) co-worker about how “passionate” I am about not being available in the evenings and suggests the following afternoon at 15:00 instead. I agree to attend the induction at that time.

I go on my merry way, relieved that this awkward encounter is over. I have not yet started my car to drive home when I get a WhatsApp notification from Jim’s personal number:


I send him a thumbs up in reply, because I’m still trying to keep it polite and not make a big deal out of anything that might just be a misunderstanding on my part.

He responds with:


I don’t respond to this because, really, what is there to say?

But then, about an hour later, he sends me another message.

And then another, an hour after that.

And then, at 21:03, while I’m sitting on the couch with my husband, watching Friends, he sends me another message:

Now, the first two, I figured he was just being nice and letting me know he hadn’t forgotten to send me the information I’d asked for.

But to send me a random text after 21:00 to find out whether I was going to keep the appointment I had made? (No mention or sign of those promised schedules, by the way!)

Had I not kept my first appointment, and arrived punctually?

Had I not made it clear that I’m NOT AVAILABLE in the evenings?

Had I not tried to steer the conversation toward the actual reason we were talking in the first place – i.e. the gym?

Had I not given him a totally neutral, non-verbal response to his initial invitation to chat, and then been silent in response to all his later messages?

So, when I lost my patience after this last text and showed it to my husband, he sent Jim a message telling him that 21:00 was not an appropriate time to be messaging me, and that I had an appointment for 15:00 the following day.

Jim responded with some bullshit about “just making sure our clients get the best service” and FINALLY stopped messaging me.

The next day, I brought my two older kids to the induction appointment with me, so that I could purchase each of them an access tag, too.  I made sure not to look dressy, either, and arrived on time. The appointment was not with Jim, which I was glad about, but he made himself visible as soon as we arrived, and then proceeded to make a big show of fobbing us off on every other staff member he could possibly rope in, not once, but on several occasions.

What had taken less than 10 minutes to do for me the previous day now took close to an hour, because Jim could not find enough other people to ask to “please handle this” for him, before returning to impose himself and his very cold demeanour on me again, before finding the next person to “quickly handle this” for him again.

I don’t know what Jim thought I was going to to do, but he was clearly pissed off with me. And, you know, I get it. He must have felt pretty uncomfortable when my husband sent him that message, telling him to back off.

But, seriously, was I wrong? Somehow, I don’t think I was misreading his intentions the previous day – he wouldn’t be so vindictive about it if I had been.

He’s obviously used to having the women he hits on be much more receptive, and he was clearly sore that I hadn’t fallen for his spiel about playing for the Lions or his fancy restaurant in the Cape.

I was actually relieved when he fobbed me off for the first time, because I figured I could then deal with a different sales executive going forward, but he was clearly out to make me as uncomfortable as possible.

But, you know, my skin’s gotten a little thicker over the years and the older I get, the less inclined I am to be gaslighted, undermined or otherwise intimidated out of a space I have every right to occupy, with the full expectation that my privacy and personal space will be respected.

So, this Friday, I’m cashing in my free session with a (female) personal trainer and I’ll be showing up at the gym. And I’ll be showing up again after that, and owning the service I’m paying for.

Because I came here to gym, Jim. Understand?




This Is 38

I celebrated my birthday last week – actually celebrated it, and had a blast doing it! I rounded up all the usual suspects and hosted a fondue at my house.

We were too busy catching up and chatting and drinking wine and beer to be fussed about eating as soon as the fondue was ready, so the cheese began to set in the pot and we had to “fix” it, so it wasn’t quite perfect. But it was delicious and I wasn’t the tiniest bit anxious about anything. I ate until I couldn’t anymore, and drank cherry cocktails out of pretty cocktail glasses, and danced to 80s music as if no-one was watching.

Much about this birthday has been significant for me, for various reasons – one of which is the fact that this is the age my father was when he died. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s not that I’m especially emotional about it, or anxious about my own mortality.

Another “big thing” about this birthday is, I suppose, its proximity to the next big number (round it off by two more short years and I’m there) – and there’s some serious planning to do for that one because it’s going to be epic!

But what has really stood out for me at the close of this last little jaunt around the sun is how changed I feel.

I’ve made many changes over the past few months, most of which I think are pretty much invisible to all but those who know me especially well. But I feel those changes and I feel how different I am from the woman, wife and mother I was just a year ago.

I didn’t do a “2017 Review” post at the end of last year; I had intended to but found myself rather busy living and being present in my own life and having no time to spare. 2017 Was also a particularly rough year for me, emotionally. I didn’t  catch the sads the way I have around September in most previous years, but I struggled with some big and deeply personal issues throughout the year. I questioned my identity, my quality of life, my personal values, my parenting capacity and just about everything else in between, and I’m still not sure how much of that I want to put out there.

However, it was also a year of tremendous change, as I have said. I quit my job, cut off my hair and started on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that has taken me into and out of myself in ways I cannot describe with mere words.  It has changed my general outlook, a number of my tastes and preferences, my inner dialogue and my capacity for human empathy. It has changed my approach to work and its problems and to raising my family. It has given me a glimpse of what I have the potential to be and I could not be more excited about the future.

This is 38, and I will never be the same again.




On #FlyingSolo – And having awesome kids!

I drove to the airport this morning to pick up my husband, who had been in Lagos, Nigeria, on a business trip for the past week.

Before he left, I think we’d both been worried that it was going to be a tough week – for him because, Lagos, Nigeria; for me, because managing a household with four kids is busy enough for the two of us at the best of times.

As it turns out, he had a much worse week than I did, having to wrangle corrupt customs officials, poor planning and general incompetence at every turn on his trip, and coming home with a massive sinus infection to show for it.

Meanwhile, on the home front, I could not have asked for things to run more smoothly than they did. The kids – all four of them – were surprisingly cooperative and helpful all week, and we settled into a routine that allowed me to get things done while still ensuring that they were all adequately fed and ferried about as required.

I had imagined rushed mornings and general pandemonium, and instead, I had an easy-paced week in which I managed to check a bunch of items off my to-do list. All except one fairly big one, really.  And what makes this even more remarkable is the fact that I was able to manage everyone’s day-to-day, with dinner and bathtime done and dusted by 18:00 each evening. This meant that there were no late bedtimes, and, since we recently reinstated the rule that there is no television or screen time allowed during the week, it also meant that the kids were properly worn out and ready to go to bed at the proper time. Because they’d spent the afternoons playing outside, reading books, climbing our mountain and being kids.

Of course, it’s a huge help that they don’t get homework, and Michael’s exams are over. He’ll also be joining his younger brothers at their new school from next year, so we won’t have to worry about homework anymore anyway, apart from the occasional project.

I’ve also noticed a significant change since becoming stricter on their sugar consumption. The younger boys’ school does not allow ANY sugar in their lunches – no jams or syrups on sandwiches, no sweet treats in lunch boxes; that includes artificially-flavoured juices of any kind, cookies or even “energy bars”.  And I’ve started rationing the number of sweet treats the kids are allowed to have at home, too, and it is paying off in a big way.

It started with their Halloween loot, which I took from them and kept locked in my cupboard. Each child was allowed to pick two items out of his Halloween bag after school every day, and that was IT.  Their sweets lasted right up until this week, and they weren’t all sugar-hyped by the end of every day.

So, yeah. We seem to have hit a sweet spot with our current schedules and routines, and I’m definitely going to try to keep it going this way. Long may it last!


I choose the shoes

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine started a new job. Naturally, she needed to go shopping for some new things to wear to work. And, of course, such an expedition should never be embarked on solo. So, being an excellent friend, I volunteered to brave the rails and mannequins of the retail world and accompany her on the journey. We flattened two shopping malls and came away with a single pair of shoes.

Then, not long afterwards, my mom and I spent a bit of time together one Sunday, ambling around Eastgate shopping centre, looking at shoes and clothes and homeware. We went to a whole bunch of shops I would normally just walk right past because when you’re not looking to buy, it’s easier to grab something pretty off the rail and not worry about the price tag attached.

Of course, I saw a few things during both of these excursions that spoke to my heart, which is a dangerous thing. Why is it a dangerous thing, you ask? What could possibly be the least bit threatening about being surrounded by pretty things, and singling out the ones that capture my gaze and set my imagination sizzling?

I’ll tell you why.

Because, while I traipsed dutifully alongside my friend to several stores in search of the perfect pair of work/play-suitable shoes, without clunky “granny heels” or sky-high stilettos; that aren’t flat but aren’t too high; that would allow the foot to breathe without being too “bare”; that would hug the foot and hold it in place without being too hot; while we scoured every clothing and shoe shop in our path for just such a pair of shoes, there were many, many pairs of shoes that grabbed my attention. And during this time, my mind wandered to the trusty pair of wedges that have been my go-to summer shoes for the past two years, and to the fact that one of the decorative studs on the right shoe has fallen off somewhere along the line. It reminded me that the heels of these once perfect shoes were now scuffed and ingrained with dirt.

The scuffed heels:

It caused me to reflect on how, despite the fact that I rarely walk around barefoot, the inner soles of my favourite pair had developed a black-brown imprint of my foot in each shoe, and that the inner sole was beginning to peel away at the lip of the open toes.

The imprinted inner soles:

The lifting lip:

It drew my attention to the fact that my favourite pair of dress-up/dress-down comfy shoes had probably reached retirement age, and it kindled in my weak, womanly heart that most treacherous and fickle of emotions: desire.

Because, as my mom and I oohed and aahed over blouses, dresses, jeans and jerseys; as we held up mermaid gowns and summery skirts, commenting on the colours and coolness of the fabrics, I happened upon a pair of leggings at Zara that would be the perfect replacement for my favourite black pair, which had recently met its untimely doom at the proverbial hands of a rogue nail that had found its way into my new washing machine. And it awakened in me that wicked craft that all women possess, to calculatedly manoeuvre and justify the acquisition of a coveted item of adornment, even at excessive cost.

Still, you might argue, for a woman to desire and covet something is perfectly natural, and to possess the mental alacrity to motivate for its procurement is nothing to be ashamed of. And were you to argue in this vein, my friend, you would not speak untruth.

But what if, as in the particular case of a certain mother of four, there has been an aberration at play for several years? What if this aberration were manifest in, say, the habitual abnegation of the aforementioned desire and coveting, and thereby also in the abject neglect of the accompanying craft of obtention?

I put it to you, friend, that in such an instance, disaster looms. And I do not postulate such an alarming prognosis lightly, but on the premise that the long-term suppression of a powerful force – such as the natural wile of a woman in the pursuit of her material desires – seeks to stifle and restrain something that is, in effect, uncontainable.

We’ve all studied Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, right? Exactly.

I see that questioning look you’re giving me right now.  Are you asking me whether I’m comparing a woman prevented from shopping to an obscurial? Well, yes. Yes, I am.

You see, much like an obscurial, a woman who suppresses her natural urge to shop for an excessively long period of time will eventually succumb in spectacular and unstoppable fashion to the urge to buy an item whose price tag matches the magnitude of the previously suppressed urge to shop. And when this happens, the woman in question will be completely and utterly unable to do anything but submit and let her nature take its course.

There is no way of telling when this might occur, of course. I mean, some women have been known – renowned, even – for frugality in the face of retail taunting that would have most others grasping for their credit cards before you could say “Marc Jacobs/Alexander McQueen/Versace/*insert-top-fashion-label-name-here*”… But, sooner or later, some trinket or gadget or statement piece of one sort or another will cause a stirring. That stirring will soon become a murmur, building in depth and intensity until, in what seems like a moment, it has evolved into a scream – visceral, primal, and omnipotent, and it overrides all reason and any objection. It simply takes over and, before she knows it, the once-responsible woman finds herself bowing her head in shame while simultaneously sending herself Straight Home to Think About What She’s Done.

This could totally happen. As a matter of fact, I have seen it with my own eyes – just last week, actually.

There I was the poor, unsuspecting woman was, wandering around Eastgate, looking for Zara so that she could purchase a particular pair of trousers and all the while keeping a keen eye out for a suitable pair of wedges to replace her trusty favourites, when I saw the perfect pair of espadrille wedges jumped into view from a shelf right at the back of the Preview shop as she passed through by a shoe shop of no particular description.

Since there’s no rule that says being frugal means you don’t get to look, she stopped and examined these paragons of perfection, and noted with delight that they were on sale before noting with just as much shock that, on sale, they were marked down to R1190*.

Naturally, she left the store then and there, and made her way to her actual target – Zara. Once there, however, she discovered to her chagrin that the longed-for leggings she’d sought to purchase were of the currently-trendy “cropped” or “ankle-grazer” style, which would not do. So, after perusing the shelves and rails at Zara in hope of finding a suitable substitute, she walked away emptyhanded and triumphant in her saving of R500. But unbeknown to her, that stirring I mentioned earlier had already begun.

By the time I had marched into Preview again she made her way past that store with the beautiful, expensive shoes, the stirring had blown beyond the murmur stage and the full-volume scream had calculated that her earlier saving of R500 essentially brought the price of those shoes down to R700. And for quality like that, it was a total bargain.
Even more so when, on closer inspection and after trying them on, they happened to carry the name of a certain sought-after designer. Now, normally, the sheer folly of paying the kind of prices commanded by certain names would cause this particular shopper to smirk at the pretention of those who would pay them. But at R700, the quality and the sheer perfection of these shoes was nothing to sneeze at. So, albeit not without trepidation, I bagged those babies before I could blink she plucked up the courage along with her card and made the purchase.

*Only, it turned out that, in my blind excitement, in her summary initial dismissal of the possibility of paying in excess of a thousand rand for a pair of summer shoes, she had misread the marked-down price, which was actually R1990. For a pair of summer sandals. At 60% off. (Yes, that’s what I said, too.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t long (less than 30 minutes) before the buyer’s remorse gravity of her actions set in, and our friend found herself walking back into that store to return the shoes. At this time, however, she was informed that store policy prohibited the return of sale merchandise, except in cases where the merchandise was defective. However, the store manager would be in that afternoon, and she could come back then to discuss the matter with the manager if she so desired.

And that was when my good sense finally kicked in and I realised that I am actually allowed to buy myself things sometimes. So I kept the shoes, and I love them. So I’m locking that stingy bitch that lives in my head and keeps telling me I can’t have stuff, in a trunk, and slipping sedatives into the half-cup of water she gets with her daily ration of dry toast. Because I am a woman, and I choose the shoes, damn it!

The Shoes: