Precious moments

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After the incredibly hot and harsh summer, the mellow autumn days are a real treat. We had a very cold snap a few weeks ago, but the days have been beautifully warm and golden of late. Last week I spent some time with the kids in the garden taking photos. Myles will be seven months next week and he is just too delicious for words! An early crawler with two little teeth already, it just seems like time is flying by too quickly. Sometimes I have to force myself to just stop all the busy-ness and savour the moment. Livia’s little friend Matseliso was also here for the day. She is 11 months older than Livia, but they are playing so nicely together and Livia gets so excited when she comes to visit. It’s lovely to see their little friendship develop. Such precious moments!

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Pass the parcel!

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We’ve just returned from a two-week overseas trip to Venice and Istria in Croatia. It was a big family affair organised by my step-father, Charles in celebration of his 70th birthday. There were 22 of us including kids and babies! I was slightly apprehensive to travel with a 7 month old, but my fears were completely unfounded. It was an absolute joy to have Livia with us, made all the more special by the fact that she could spend some real quality time with her grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and her sister Ashley. The kids had an absolute ball and Livia was happy to be dragged along wherever we went. She explored new food and the joys of gelato; discovered her little boy-cousins Tom, Ollie and Alexander; and seemed to love being passed from one adult to another, especially her granny Sussie, her aunty Hannia and her cousin Sibella. She turned 8 months old towards the end of the trip and since we’ve got home her development curve has just skyrocketed! It’s such a joy to watch.

One of the hardest things for me living on the farm is the fact that my closest family don’t live 5 minutes’ drive away, as they have done for most of my post-university life. It is so important to me that Livia has a good relationship with all of her grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins and that she should feel totally comfortable and relaxed in their company. The kind of family time we just spent together is invaluable to cement these relationships and I’m incredibly grateful for it. Here are some of the photos showing what a trooper she was and how much my precious little girl is loved by everyone. A very big thank you to Charles for bringing us all together in such special places and facilitating some very happy family memories. xx

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A lifetime of love

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In the early 1940s, just over seventy years ago, there was a beautiful young art student named Hannatjie Schabort. She left the farm where she grew up to explore the wider world and develop her talent as an artist. Not long after starting her studies, she befriended a group of first and second year medical students from Wits University. They were a spirited young lot, known as the “Sparrows”, who could often be heard serenading young girls in the early hours of the morning with their violins and guitars. Hannatjie was not taken in by their crooning, but she enjoy playing along and teasing them. One day she shouted from her window: “The next time you come I will throw you a red carnation. The one who catches it I will marry!” In due course she did exactly that, but having done it all in jest she never bothered to find out who caught it.

After graduating she went back to the farm for a gap year leaving behind a trail of disappointed suitors. Half way through 1947 she received a surprise letter from one of the “Sparrows”, Koos van der Wat, asking if he could visit her. Thus started a courtship during which he travelled to the farm every weekend to see her while he was studying for his final medical exams. He was charming, handsome and intelligent, graduating as the top gynaecology student in his year. It did not take long for Hannatjie to fall in love!

20 March 1948

Koos and Hannatjie on their wedding day, 20 March 1948

One day when they were travelling back to Pretoria to register for his medical internship, he asked: “So when are we getting married?” She was confused by this indirect proposal, but nothing more came of it. When he did eventually propose and put a ring on her finger, he confessed that he was the one who caught the carnation. He had kept it in his bible for 6 years before proposing and didn’t tell her because he knew she would simply laugh him off! They were married on 20 March 1948.

This is the story of how my grandparents, Oupa Koos and Ouma Hannatjie, met and fell in love. Last week they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary – a lifetime of love and dedication to each other. My grandmother always revels in telling the story of the carnation and how my grandfather, in his quiet and steadfast way, tricked her into keeping her promise! Written in the stars or not, their union has been a true inspiration to their three children, eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. We were extremely fortunate to celebrate another milestone with them last week and look forward to their 90th birthdays later this year. What an amazing example of happiness, faith, grace, style and health they have set for us through their lives.

To top off this momentous year, my grandmother’s career as an artist is coming full circle with a retrospective exhibition of her work from 9 May – 22 June 2013 at the SMAC Art Gallery in Stellenbosch. I can’t wait to be there at the opening! (click here for her past exhibits at the SMAC gallery)

It all started with a red carnation!

It all started with a red carnation!

Oupa Koos in his signature bow tie with his love, ouma Hannatjie.

Oupa Koos in his signature bow tie with the ever-stylish Ouma Hannatjie 65 years later!

My extraordinary mother

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This is an unashamed brag post about my extraordinary mother, Marianne Fassler. She is an icon of South Africa’s fashion industry and has been working her magic ever since I can remember – and that’s quite a long time! I don’t normally brag about her or even tell people she’s my mother, probably because we’re so different and I definitely didn’t inherit her creative genes. After attending yet another one of her brilliant fashion shows last Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa, I just cannot help sharing some of the experience. I took some really bad photos on my phone camera, but I’ve added some links to stunning professional photos of the show and a video of the whole thing, which is worth watching for the frocks, the music and to see the gorgeous models in action.

My mother – an original, intelligent, creative genius.

With a very proud daughter.

Front row seats with Charles, Ouma Hannatjie and Oupa Koos.

My sister Hannia with her daughter Sophia.

Colourful Fassler fans.

The show was called Fassler the Remix, a reinterpretation of classic Fassler frocks from the past few years using fabric off-cuts and recycled material. You have to see the clothes up close and hear my mom describing them to appreciate how much thought has gone into each one to achieve something uniquely African and eminently wearable. For example, one of the stunning black evening dresses was made from woven black plastic bags, but it was extremely sophisticated so you would never realise this from a distance! Leopard print has become one of the Fassler trademarks over the years, but there is so much more to her clothes than this.

Video link – Fassler Dazzles all at Fashion Week.

Eunice Driver Photos and SDR Photos 

For more information and photos of previous collections go to Leopard Frock.

My mom’s shows are always a family affair with my stylish grandparents, Koos and Hannatjie immaculately turned out for their front-row appearance. And there are always one or two grandchildren sharing the limelight in their Fassler frocks. At moments like this it is impossible not to be incredibly proud and admiring of all that my mother has achieved and created over her lifetime and continues to do every day.

Gorgeous models.

Waiting to take a bow with Sophia and Emma.

Taking a bow.

A procession of models.

Kisses for the crowd and a standing ovation!

Happy Birthday Oupa John!

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We took some time out between cattle auctions this weekend to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday in Stellenbosch. Our trip was far too short, especially since it was so cloudy and rainy that we hardly got a view of the beautiful mountains surrounding the town. At this time of the year the Cape is lush and green and beautiful – there couldn’t be a bigger contrast with the brown, dry Free State! Arum lilies grow wild along the side of the roads and it takes some effort to suppress feelings of envy towards the lucky people living in the gorgeous wine lands!

Fortunately we have an excuse to visit every once in a while and this occasion could not be missed.  My dad has lived in Stellenbosch with his wife Barbara and their kids Johnny and Beatrice since I left university in 1997. It has been said that I have a complicated family: five step-brothers and sisters, two half siblings and one real sister… and that is before counting the in-laws, nieces and nephews! Rather than being complicated, I think it just makes life richer and more interesting. I have loved seeing my dad and his “new” family thrive in Stellenbosch over the past 15 years. Visits to the “Fasslers” are always indulgent, full of activity and most certainly never boring! My dad is a gynaecologist who makes his own “garagiste” wine and dreams of sailing the world in his yacht. Barbara owns and manages one of the top graphic design and photography schools in the country, Stellenbosch Academy, which she established from nothing. My brother is a philosophising Divemaster who spends his free time spear-fishing in the icy waters off Cape Town and Agulhas; and my sister is a kitchen goddess with a love of baking to rival Nigella Lawson! I think you get the picture.

The happy Fasslers, John and Barbara.

With my “full” sister, Hannia.

With Johnny and Beatrice.

With Quentin and my Dad.

We had an amazing lunch shared with close family and friends. My Dad unveiled his latest 2011 Fassler Cabernet and we were spoiled with a special tasting of the latest Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Just what one would expect from a birthday lunch on a rainy day in the wine lands! The meal ended perfectly with Beatrice’s beautifully decorated chocolate and pear tarts and a decadent cheese board.

My nieces Sibella and Sophia love visiting Oupa John and Barbara. There is always a menagerie of dogs and cats and lots of young people in and out the house to play with. After lunch we all collapsed in a heap and carried on chatting. The girls eventually convinced my dad to make pancakes for supper – as if we needed to eat one more thing! It was a wonderful, chilled out time catching up with family who we don’t see often enough. Happy birthday Oupa John – hope you have a fabulously happy year ahead!

Sophia with her Bibi.

Horsing around with Johnny.

Hannia and Sibella.

Having a cuddle with 18-year old “Catty”.

Phew, it’s been a long day!

City Highlights

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I spent the past week working in Johannesburg. Since moving to the farm my office stamina has seriously diminished, but it is always good to spend time with my colleagues and to feel connected again. Time in the city reminds me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to move between my two worlds, but it also reminds me how stressed my life used to be. Working remotely shields one somewhat from the relentless day-to-day demands of the office, and of course living on the farm takes one away from daily irritations like traffic.

Below are some photos of central Pretoria from the 20th floor of our building. The big black building on the left of this photo is the South African Reserve Bank.

The Pretoria CBD.

We also have gorgeous views of the Union Building, which is where the office of the President is located. The beautiful sandstone building was  designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1910 to commemorate South Africa’s Union-status.

The Union Building in Pretoria.

After work I am usually busy catching up with friends and family. This week I managed to see quite a few people. The best way to see my sister is to join her on one of her power walks through the suburbs, usually on a Sunday. For added cardio, she usually includes the Westcliff steps in her walk. I love going with her, if only to catch glimpses of the gorgeous views over the city.

Walking up the Westcliff steps with my mother and sister.

I grew up in a neighbourhood called Saxonwold, which has very beautiful tree-lined streets. It is also situated next to the Joburg zoo, which is like a great big park. One can often hear the  lions roaring at night and spot game through the fence whilst walking. The Anglo-Boer War Memorial is situated at the top end of the zoo and forms part of the Museum of Military History. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who was a contemporary of Sir Herbert Baker. He also designed India Gate in Delhi, which looks very similar. The memorial was originally dedicated to the British soldiers who died in the second Boer War, but in 1999 it was re-dedicated to “the men, women and children of all races and all nations who lost their lives in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902”. One of my very favourite views in Joburg is the Angel at sunset. Somehow it always makes me feel at peace.

The Anglo-Boer War Memorial.

Most of my Joburg family live within a 10 minute radius of each other in this area, including my grandparents, Koos and Hannatjie van der Wat, who have lived in the same house in Saxonwold since 1955. My grandparents are truly amazing and we are so lucky to still have them in our lives. My grandmother turned 89 on 2 July and my grandfather will follow her shortly on the 11 August. I had dinner with them at my uncle’s house on Thursday night and I can’t believe how great they are looking. So stylish and elegant. This year they have been married for 64 years! My grandfather only retired from his work as a gynaecologist last year. My grandmother is an artist and she is still painting and exhibiting. What amazing role models to have in my life!

My grandparents Koos and Hannatjie.

Stylish Oupa Koos.