Friday, 29 January 2016

Book Review: “Behind Picket Fences” by Hend Hegazi

Hot off the press, this is up and coming author Hend Hegazi's second novel, following the publication of Normal Calm last year. Hegazi is an American author currently based in Egypt.

The night before I started reading this book, my husband and I had a fairly heated discussion about what causes seemingly healthy couples to cheat on one another. No, in case you were wondering this had nothing to do with our own (happy) marriage- the very concept of cheating was bit of an enigma to both of us but we had heard of a few stories in our own social circles of marital breakdowns caused as a result of infidelity under circumstances that perplexed us as outsiders. I went to bed that night pondering how fragile marriages can potentially be and what could possibly trigger a complete erosion of a relationship between couples who appear to have it all. The next day, I started reading Behind Picket Fences, which I received for review purposes, not realising that to a large extent, it delves into this very issue. 

The story revolves around four seemingly different couples residing in the same neighbourhood, all of whom seem to have it together on the surface but in fact experience complex challenges in their marital and personal lives behind closed doors. 

Farris has tried everything under the sun to try to put the spark back in his marriage with Sidra. Yet all things point to the fact that she may be cheating. Is all as it seems? Is the person who seems like the 'bad guy' where marital problems are concerned always the bad guy? Mariam and Morgan appear to be happily married until financial problems place a strain on their marriage and Mariam finds herself leaving her young family to return to the workplace. Summer appears to be a typical spoiled housewife with every material pleasure at her disposal but why is she so unhappy? May and Hassan face the ultimate test when chronic illness comes knocking at their door.

I must confess that the book started out feeling a little bit like a stereotypical Bollywood script. However, it definitely does improve as it progresses and it carries some deeply profound messages about life, love, marriage and faith. The book explores the complex issues faced from both a female and a male perspective in a sympathetic and insightful way.

The book has not officially been released as yet but look out for it on Amazon in the near future. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This- 10 of Jozi's Yummiest Dessert Spots

I am trying to eat healthier this year. Some days I am successful. Some days less so. Chocolate is my kryptonite and I am fully aware of this. Today I am craving something sweet and delicious. 

So instead of eating the sugary stuff, I have decided to just daydream about my favourite sweet delights in Jozi and inflict my daydream on you. 

So here goes... in no particular order... my list of the yummiest sweet stuff to be found in Johannesburg.


Yes, there are other branches but this one has an ambiance lacking at the other branches. They are of course, best known for their delicious Lindt brownies (with good reason- they are divine). However, what I love most is their JB's Sundae- ice-cream infused with chocolate brownie, Oreo, caramel popcorn and whipped cream (warning- share this one with someone).


This cute little sidewalk style cafe is dessert  heaven. I was here recently with a friend who remarked on how much it reminded her of her time in Paris. I battled to decide what I wanted as everything looked delicious.Red velvet is something that is done badly way too often (there is nothing worse than a cake that tastes only of food colouring) but I had the red velvet baked cheesecake, which was out of this world. My friend's mille feuille was also exceptional. They are a bit on the pricey side but well worth it.


Formerly known as Jo Bean's Waffle House, this is another sweet treat heaven where you will battle to pick which delectable sweet treat you want. The berry cheesecake waffle was delicious, as was the 'Chocoholics Not So Anonymous'. Their fudge picasso is also the best I have tasted, although the portions of the deserts other than the waffles are a bit skimpy.


Well if you want something sweet, this is the obvious place to go as they have every sweet thing under the sun! I must say, I found their cupcakes a bit too sweet (and I have a high threshold when it comes to 'too sweet' but everything else is good.The good news is they now have a skinny menu of sweet treats too, including Banting and Paleo options.


When I first started working, there was a Fourno's just downstairs from me and I hate to admit it but their chocolate croissants were often all I had for lunch (super healthy right?). Their baklava is also delicious.


In honesty, I have not tried them yet but friends assure me that they have the best desserts in all of Jozi.


While one would not typicaly think of them as a dessert venue, their Lindt Pancakes and their Ferrero Ice Cream Bomb deserve special mention.... non non nom. 


While this one has been around for as long as I can remember and does not look like much from the outside, their cakes and desserts continue to please. However, I must admit that freshness of goods seems to be luck of the draw these days- a pity since their stuff is really delicious when fresh.


With flavours like salted caramel, halva, lemon and basil, peppermint crisp tart and birthday cake to name but a few, can you blame me for daydreaming about this one? You might not notice them since the view of the small store is usually obscured by the crazy queues at Krispy Kreme but you can find them downstairs at  the Zone in Rosebank. At half the price of the Haagen Dazs store upstairs from them, I dare to say, while I like Haagen Dazs, local is lekker and Pauls' is the better tasting of the two!


I know you would typically not classify hot chocolate under dessert, but their 'Chocotelo' is literally like drinking a slab of hot, gooey chocolate.  Mmmmmmmmmm. 

What is your favourite sweet treat in Johannesburg? What have I forgotten or not discovered? Please share!

Friday, 22 January 2016

The Six Golden Rules of WhatsApp Groups

If you are anything like me, you probably get a sinking feeling in your stomach each time you are added to yet another WhatsApp group. My phone feels completely overloaded with school groups, creche groups, a street security group, groups for kids extra-murals, work groups, family groups and random ones started by friends or family to sell or promote stuff (i.e. the ones I wish I did not have but feel too guilty to delete).

Love them or hate them, Whatsapp groups do have a place and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. I have decided to compile a list to make things a bit more bearable for other group users- please share far and wide so that the people who need to see this actually see this!


What is acceptable on one group may not be appropriate on another. If a neighborhood group was started to discuss security issues, do not use this as a platform to discuss the scores of a soccer match, put up pictures of naked women or send religious messages.


Not everyone has access to uncapped data 24/7 and your unnecessary large files are eating up other people's data and phone storage space. Uploading videos might be acceptable on purely social groups (and even then should be kept to a minimum or shared individually and not to groups) but not every parent in your child's pre-school class needs to see the latest funny cat video (even if it is really, really cute and funny). 


If you have something to say to one person in the group and it is of no relevance to everyone else, get a room! Rather direct message the individual.


Unless it is a matter of life and death, only post messages on a group at reasonable hours- nothing after lets say 10 p.m. and nothing before the sun is up. As a severely sleep-deprived individual I do not need further disruptions to my sleep.


Yes, I am talking to you Tupperware lady and sari selling lady that I met once at a function! If you are going to start a group to promote goods or services, be sure that these people are in fact interested in your product or else you will just annoy people. If, by some miracle, people do stick around in these groups, either because they genuinely like your product or they pity you, keep promotional messages minimal and unobtrusive. Oh and definitely do not go around spamming us with your Avon/ Herbalife/ Sh'Zen/ Justine/ Amway/ Forever Living stuff on your child's homework group. 

P.S. If you have groups like these, which you do not particularly like but do not want to delete for whatever reason (eg. a close family member is the group admin and you do not want to offend them) you can turn off notifications so that you still get the messages but do not get alerts when these come through.


You always have that one person who replies to every.... single... comment. Just don't, okay? If you have a group of fifty people and every single one says something about every mundane message, that is a lot of messages- just saying.


Do not say anything on WhatsApp that you would not say in person, especially if you do not know everyone on the group personally. Keep your language clean and the content respectful. You will only embarrass yourself with racist, sexist, religiously intolerant or otherwise discriminatory statements. I cannot emphasize this one enough- racist comments are not any less racist if you write them in Afrikaans (which by the way most non-white people in South Africa understand just fine). 

Respect the fact that people have differing opinions- while you can make your point of view heard, you can do this without being a meanie.

Are there any rules that I have left out? Please add yours!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Moments with Little Squish

The terrible two's have hit hard and they are trying. However, all the cute things that my son says at age twenty-four months more than make up for these inconveniences. 

Here are a few gems: 

(Squish is sitting on the potty. To his dismay, nothing comes out.)

Mommy! Help. My bum bum is not working!

Please can we go for a ride on the tuckshop? (tuk tuk)

I want to drive my Mambogini (he has a toy Lamborghini).

(Pretends to talk on phone).
Hellooooo. I are here. Where are you? What is your name?

Please buy me nice shoes like Mickey Mouse, not stinky shoes like Goofy. 

Please can I have a sweet? 
(I say no.)
Awww, pweeaase mommy. Just one tiny baby sweet?

My least favourite:

(Why do kids pick up only the annoying songs on the radio?)

Watch me whip, watch me nae nae.

The there is another super annoying song on the radio  'I've got bills, I've got to pay'. But he only sings this bit: My shoes, my shoooooooooooooooooeeeeeeees.
Second place for my favourite:

 Big sister often does impromptu 'shows' for us so he mimics this. For his grand entrance, he pops out from somewhere and says...
Welcome... To ... Me!!! 

My ultimate favourite:

Mommy! Missed you soooo, so much!
(He says this every time we were apart, even if we were apart for just a few seconds).

Monday, 18 January 2016

Back to School: Week One

The past week was a week of many firsts in the Jozi Wahm household (or half-week, since the school week started on a Wednesday). Noodle started grade R at the primary school where she will presumably spend the next eight years and Squish had his first day alone at pre-school withoput big sister accompanying him.

Miraculously, we had everything ready- complete with books covered and uniforms, together with an assortment of stationary and other random items requested by the school (liquid soap, plasters, tissues etc) labelled. Pre-school clothes and lunchboxes were labelled for Squish and nappies packed. We were ready!

There was an orientation morning the day before school officially opened and this is when the little ones were split into different classes, given a tour of the school and allocated books and lockers. Sadly, although a few children from Noodle's former pre-school have also started at the same school, as luck of the draw would have it, none of them are in her class.

Noodle was very apprehensive the night before 'big school', with many concerns- some legitimate and some a bit less concerning (from an adult perspective anyway).  

What if nobody likes me? 
What if I don't make new friends? 
What if my teacher doesn't like me?
What if I don't ever see ... (names friends from old school)?
What if I get lost?
What if I can't reach the basin in the bathroom?
What if it rains? 
What if nobody else speaks English?
What if I miss you too much?
What if the work is too difficult and I don't know all the answers? 
What if my shoe-lace comes loose?
What if there is a fire or a flood? 

The list went on and on. After lots of hugs and reassurance (and a reminder that she had managed without us at nursery school for years now and that all the other grade R's were also new and scared just like her), she eventually fell asleep. 

Wake up time was a flurry of activity. getting both little ones ready for school in time for Noodle to make the school bell is no mean feat (although both schools are only about four kilometres away, we do get caught up in early morning traffic so I have to have both kids done early). Squish takes forever to have breakfast so that adds to the delays. Day one was also delayed by the fact that Noodle was seriously unimpressed by her new school uniform, which is in her least favourite colour and is apparently very scratchy and uncomfortable. 

The first day went far better than expected. Noodle gave us lots of hugs and then entered her class with a nervous smile. My heart bled for the few children bawling their eyes out. When I fetched her, she ad a huge smile on her face. She told me that she had been nervous for nothing and that she liked school and loved her new teacher. Noodle has been a bit more anxious on the next few days but I am sure this is a passing phase.
Squish also had hid first day alone at nursery school. You may recall that last year, he was there for about a month and had finally started getting used to his new routine. The big difference this year is that he does not have big sister there with him. On day one he gave me lots and lots of hugs, but refused to let go of me. There were lots of new children in the toddler class and almost everyone was crying and this seemed to be contagious. I left him in tears but he stopped crying as soon as I was out of sight. His teachers assured me that he had a good day and there were pics to prove it! 

So the first few days have passed, without too many tears. I know both little ones are in good hands. This week will see even more firsts, with extra-murals and religious classes added into the mix for Noodle.

How did the first week go for your little ones? Please share!!!