Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The inevitable health update - Part 1

It has been some time since I last wrote anything here... I have been absent on my blog a lot this year and in fact, I have been neglecting my little hobby waaaay too much lately... But, at the doctor's orders, that is about to change starting right now!

I recently wrote about how my life came to a screeching halt and I realized that I needed a bit of help. Well, after the normal medical poke, prod and repeat, we have come to the root cause of my troubles and have devised a plan that will get my life back on track.

So, what is causing this total system shutdown of mine? As previously mentioned, I have PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and some of the symptoms include insulin resistance, depression, insomnia, mood swings, headaches, feeling tired all the time, mind fog and other lovely hormonal imbalance issues... Oh fun! :(

But, the big thing to remember and keep repeating to myself is that it is treatable, although not curable, and many women get through this same trouble every day. But that still does not take the sting away from thoughts that I might end up getting diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the near future, I might never have any more children (Not that I was planning any, but I like to keep my options open and could see myself with a little curly haired daughter some day when my son grows out of my arms...) or that I have to limit my diet to things that I despise, and cut out all the things that I love. But perhaps the worst part for me, is having to remember to take the seemingly endless amounts of drugs... Metformin to keep my insulin balanced, Omega 3 supplement to prevent inflammation, Iron supplement for energy, progesterone cream to keep my hormones in check, the list goes on and on!

Right now I am struggling with the change in diet - Dairy free, Gluten free, Soy free, Sugar free, Low GI. I am learning about things like rice milk (I despise the taste of this stuff), 100 ways to cook greens (Umm stir fry and stir fry?), exchanging coffee for tea (NOOO WHYYYY MEEEE??? Oh, thank you, I would LOVE a cup of rooibos tea without milk and with 6 drops of stevia - I am praying that this stuff does not kill me...-  while you have your double cream Lattè!) and eating protein at every meal and snack. Then, of course, eating like a Hobbit is tough for me since I am so forgetful these days that I need to write everything down or lose it two seconds later...

It seems like when those things have all been implemented in my diet, I have been turned into a very forgetful rabbit! So I guess that is where my Sylvanian Families come in...

I spent the past two weeks repairing some of the code on my website that made it display incorrectly on some browsers - I find that burrowing myself into the endless lines of code makes me forget about the urge to nibble. Especially when I have to find the problems that beginner-coder-me created way back when!

Now that is finished, I have to start updating the pages that are already created, but are still stuck in limbo... At least all new pages will be created in the correct format! I write it off as a learning exercise - How NOT to change the layout of your website... O_O Next time, I will start from scratch and go from there!!!

After that, I still have to update the endless list of items that are not even featured on my website yet - yes, I now have a list! Some of their photos have already been taken, but most still need a little editing and watermarking. It is a big job, but it is a very nice feeling once something is actually completed. (Even though I can't see any changes yet, I know they are there!)

Love, hugs & Sylvanians.
Santie - LadyLollipop

Monday, 23 March 2015

The tiniest traveller.

Just a day before my birthday , I received a parcel slip in my mailbox...

Since I am still waiting for parcels from Ebay sent in December, I did not find this strange at all, and instantly set off to collect it.
The parcel was a small brown envelope without a return address, and it took the post office staff quite a while to track it down between the large parcels overflowing in their small sorting room.

On my way home, I could hear soft whimpers coming from inside the parcel...
I thought to myself that I must be imagining things and set the parcel down in the study to attend to other things first.

But when I returned, the parcel had moved a whole two inches from where I had left it!
Obviously, whatever was inside, wanted to come out very badly... O_O
So, gathering all of my courage, I carefully opened the parcel to reveal what was inside.

First, a piece of white paper appeared, as though being pushed from inside the parcel! Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a note. The note was just as mysterious as the parcel itself, stating no place of origin or name of sender. It was a happy little note that instantly brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

Swept up in all of the emotion, I totally forgot that there must have been something else in the parcel too... After all, that note didn't pop out of the envelope by itself!
As I set the note down again, I saw that the tiniest little traveler had climbed out and was now standing on top of the parcel!

And she was gorgeous!!! :-)
My very first Sylvanian mole! And all the way from the vintage (1985-1989) line of Japanese Sylvanians too.

She introduced herself as Hayley McBurrows and we had a nice chat over pre-birthday caramel tart and tea since the long trip and the awfully long wait in the post office sorting center was almost too much for this little critter to bear. She told me of the amazing village that she comes from and asked about my own critters living here in Rooibosch Hill.

Afterwards, I took her to my village and introduced her to the Clearwater vole family, who will be looking after her until I can find her real family. Little Hayley looks very happy in her new village and Sybil enjoys having a little one to care for again.

To this day, little Hayley's arrival is a mystery to both me and all the villagers of Rooibosch Hill.

***Little Hayley was a special gift from a friend abroad and reached me at a time in my life when it felt that the dark clouds were once again getting too much to bear. She was so unexpected that I woke the next morning feeling as though the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I immediately started working towards chasing those dark clouds away again!***
**Oh, and the last little bit is not true... just call me Nancy Drew!**
*Hayley is not her official name - baby sister McBurrows is called Mo... Now you also know why I changed it!!! *

Friday, 20 March 2015

It's the small things in life that get you back on track.

Back in January I made a resolution to complete my website this year by doing a little every day. This resolution was cut short after the first week because of a family tragedy. Before we were completely back to normal after that, we were hit by "load shedding", our government's desperate attempt at stabilizing the power grid. These planned and sometimes (read mostly) unplanned power cuts wreaked havoc with cables and transformers and ended up damaging a lot of equipment, which made it even worse and after some time we were stuck without both water and electricity in my hometown, due to the water purification pumps failing. Things were tough, but TIA - This Is Africa, so we just kept going until things settled down again and returned (mostly) to normal.

Then, of course, while this chaos was brewing, we had a country-wide postal strike of nearly a year long which created an enormous backlog of mail items when the post office finally managed to sort things out - to the extent that I am still waiting for parcels to arrive from all over that were mailed out in December... This is not even considered a long wait at this stage, since the average waiting period seems to be six months by now. I have parcels that I need to send out as well, but my local post office is not taking international mail every day at the moment - to try and lessen the burden and clear some of the parcels out first... (It's not working...)

This year also marked the first time that my son attended "big school", since he is now in grade "R" and his days are suddenly filled with maths and reading instead of playing and running all day. We initially had some difficulty with the first school that he attended, since within the first week I was told that he is impossible in class and needs Ritalin because he most certainly has ADHD! A lot of tests, angry words, mommy tantrums and a change of schools later and he is now a little star student. But while we were tackling the problem, it felt like the end of the world was upon us and I felt like the worst mother in the world on most days.

I started alienating myself from my friends and even from my online friends, but still found some solace in my Sylvanian collection. I managed to at least do a lot of the research that I needed for my website, but during this time I found myself visiting some of my most familiar online haunts, the ones that I still had bookmarked from when I last felt lost and alone. Places with names like Sycamore Springs; Mystique Valley and Sugarbush Valley. I found myself spending hours on Hayley's website and Mel's Website just to pass the time. But before long, I inevitably started following the broken links back to websites that I knew so very well from the start of my collection - some completely abandoned, some still valiantly holding on to their little space in cyberspace, some of them with messages of collectors moving on in life - the online ghost towns of Sylvania.

As I wandered through the now-forgotten streets of Carrot Creek (On Youtube of course!) I found myself at the bottom of a pit of despair that I had not known for a very long time. It was too much. Everything was just too much. The thought of how pointless it all is came to me more than once and I found myself on the verge of giving it all up, of packing up hundreds of little critters and their little lives into plastic boxes and forgetting about their existence - the same critters that I so lovingly admire every day. I thought about deleting the seemingly endless strings of code that make up my website - the same site that I have so lovingly spent years developing. And these thoughts struck me as odd! It was not like me to not feel at all. I was usually the one to cry at soppy movies, halfway through romance novels and at all manner of inappropriate times. the one who stops to pick up strays...

So, I made a list of the things that I needed to change, saw a doctor, who confirmed that my PCOS was back in full swing and that I needed some medication to get my hormone levels balanced again, because I was suffering from mild depression. I stopped listening to the "trained professionals" and followed my mother's instincts to get my son into a different school. Life was returning to "normal" , but I still had the huge, cute, fuzzy obstacle to get over. My collection was a mess! I have not been adding my new purchases to my displays and in stead some of them were put away in my study closet, others in the cabinet under my display case and still other critters were sitting in unopened parcels on my desk because I didn't have the heart to open them and see what the yellow post office repackaging tape hid underneath... My website was a mess - so many pages couldn't be updated, because the information was unobtainable or because the critters were still stuck in the postal system somewhere.

So, this week, as a birthday gift to myself, I started opening the parcels one by one and I was astonished at what I found inside!!! Some of the items were my own - Ebay purchases long overdue, others belonged to a good friend of mine whose husband won't let her buy off Ebay and still others were not even expected! Gifts from friends who know me better than I know myself, little notes added to parcels, handmade trinkets and even big surprises! And suddenly the joy came flooding back all at once. Not joy over opening parcels, or receiving gifts, but at the knowledge that at some moment in time, someone thought of me.

I decided there and then that I would continue the tedious task of updating my website on a weekly basis - that way I could do a little each day and upload it all at a dedicated time each week. I managed to write some stories that need to be uploaded soon and I even got things ready for a weekend of photographing critters! I remembered why my collection took off so steadily in the first place. It was not the cuteness of the critters or the constant joy of getting "new" things, but rather the personal connection with people who understood me. The friends that I have made over the years collecting Sylvanians, the amazing people who all fight their own battles, just like me, and win! The ones that inspire me to keep going when life gets me down and who make me believe that anything is possible just because they live it every day and keep coming back for more!

Thank you to all of my friends for helping me to find my passion again. Thank you for the moments you all took to write me a little note, to send me a card or even to send me a little gift! Thank you all for checking in on me via email, pm or even connecting on Facebook when the only way for me to get internet connection is on my tablet with "Wimpy's" free Wi-Fi! You all helped to save me from a very dark place and I feel honored to be able to call you all my friends!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

We have our winners!!!

In my last post, I announced that I will be hosting a photo competition on my blog.

I know that the winners were already announced on the Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters Community forum, but I felt that they needed to be placed on my blog as well.

We received such lovely entries and the decision was a really hard one! But, it was still fun to judge the photos with my best friend and fellow collector who braved the hour-long drive just to get to me so that we could chat about Sylvanians and decide on the winners. I also have to thank my darling husband and mother both who gave some input on the entries and to my two anonymous judges who could not make the drive down to me, (You know who you are) thank you for being the tie breakers. ;-)

Our winner is PaigeLeeann with her lovely little romantic sunset dinner. 

The judges loved the dreamy sunset feeling that this photo has and overall it is super romantic! :-)

Our runner up is Kyraja with her wonderful little Snow-Warren grandparents having their fondue picnic.

The judges loved the grandparents being so overly cute having their picnic in the park! 

I have to admit that there was very stiff competition and in the end we were glad that the judging was over. If I could have my way, everyone would be a winner in their own category! The hardest part for me was that the photos all came from different people of all ages with different levels of skill and different outlooks on the theme.

Our winners have both been contacted and arrangements made for their prizes. 
I hope that I will be able to host another competition again next year!

Just for pure enjoyment - the other entries are posted below. You can enlarge the images by clicking on them. ;-)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sylvanian Families Valentines Photo Competition!!!

That special time of year is just around the corner... Everywhere you look there are hearts and roses and everyone around seems just a little happier. You guessed it, Valentine's day is drawing near!

And what better way to celebrate this glorious occasion than with a little photo competition!?

The Rules:

  • The competition is open to everyone from all around the world, just as long as you are also a member of our Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters Community forum. If you are not yet a member, go sign up now! :-)
  • Your photo must be of original Sylvanian Families and/or Calico Critters.
  • Your photo may contain items from other toy lines for decoration etc, but the main focus has to be on the Sylvanian Families / Calico Critters.
  • Photos must fit the theme of Love / Valentine's day.
  • Photoshop effects are allowed, but please don't overdo it! The idea is still to have a photograph when you are done, not a whole digitally drawn image that once was a photograph...
  • You are allowed to enter a maximum of three images.
  • Entries have to be sent to me via email - (I will reply to your message to let you know that I have received it.
  • Entries have to be sent in any digital format and need to be at least 800x600pixels big.
  • Closing date for entries is 14 February 2015.
  • Prizes will be drawn as soon as all entries have been received.
  • The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges - these judges will not be allowed to enter in this competition!
  • The winner will be announced on 15 February 2015.

The Prizes:

  • The winner will receive a Sylvanian Families Harvey Cat Family.
  • Second prize will receive an Easy Buy dressing table. (Figure not included)

So go dust off those cameras and get your creative juices flowing!!! It is time to celebrate the month of love! <3

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Champagne Breakfast for grandmother Hazel.

Rooibosch Hill recently received a brand new critterzen! Hazel Dappledawn has decided to move from the busy city of Sylvania to spend her retirement in the serenity of the countryside. Of course the esteemed ladies of Rooibosch decided to celebrate the new arrival with a lovely champagne breakfast in Dove Dale's garden. Maurice Chantilly did a wonderful job with the catering and all of the old ladies enjoyed the outing immensely.

Hazel and Rihanna are my first two members of the Dappledawn family! I think that Hazel is just very cute and looks oh so hip with her bright pink shawl! ;-)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Visiting the Diaz Museum - Part 2

The grounds of the Dias Museum Complex are filled with a collection of fynbos and other plants that occur naturally in the Mossel Bay area. Most of these plants were used for shelter, food and for medicinal purposes by the European settlers and indigenous people alike. The museum keeps samples of these flowers from their botanical gardens in vases at the entrance of the complex so that visitors can study the plant samples while they read about them in the exhibit. 

There is also a Braille trail that makes the gardens accessible to visually-impaired people so that they can read about, feel and smell the wonderful collection of plantlife. 

The Dias Complex also includes a shell museum with a small aquarium, which Shelly and Sandy were very excited to explore. There are a number of fish tanks with various sea creatures inside the museum, as well as large shell exhibits. Shelly was particularly fond of this little fellow who hid behind his rock every time we tried to snap a photo of him.

But she was a little unsettled to stand in front of the lobster tank! 

Everybody loved the little Octopus on display and we enjoyed watching him eat his lunch. 

Then we found these bright little spiky starfish. Aren't they pretty!?

The shell museum has lots of beautiful shells of all shapes and sizes on display. The children enjoyed looking through all of the lovely displays and we all loved picking our own favorites in each display. 

Shelly decided that her favorite display was the shell house diorama. She promptly decided that she wants to live in a shell house just like it one day. 

In the center of the shell display, we found the biggest clam shell ever! 

On the top floor of the shell museum, there is a whale and dolphin information section with information and identification charts and dolphin models. 

As you leave the museum, you are greeted by these friendly fellows! It took some coaching and pleading to get all of the kids back down the stairs to the exit, but we thought that these guys were an awesome ending to our tour of the Dias Museum Complex.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Visiting the Diaz Museum - Part 1

While we were on holiday in Mossel Bay, we visited the Bartholomeu Dias Museum Complex and, of course, my furry friends were quick to join in on the fun! The Neptune family posed for some photos so that we can give you all a tour of the facility - you can also read more about the complex and its history on the Dias Museum webpage.

Bartholomeu Dias de Novais was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488 and was the first European known to do so. The museum complex is built on the very site where the European explorers first came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people.
There are also five National Monuments on the museum grounds, four of which dating between 1830 and 1902.

Inside the maritime museum, we found a big hand painted mural of the Portuguese land and sea trade routes. Some of the many items transported along this route, included silks and spices like ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and coriander.

They also have scale models of ships on display in the museum, one of which shows an example of how the decks are arranged inside a ship. Caspian found this very interesting and posed for a photo with one of the models.

They even have a scale model of the ship that Bartholomeu Dias used for his exploration missions around Africa. It is called a Caravel and is a small, fast and highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century. Because of their size, they had limited capacity for cargo and crew, but their smaller size and shallower keel allowed the Caravel to sail upriver in shallow coastal waters.

If the scale model of the Caravel was not enough, the Dias museum also has a full sized replica of Bartholomeu Dias' Caravel on display! The ship is 23,5 meters long and was launched on 14 June 1987, she sailed from Lisabon with a crew of 16 and arrived in Mossel Bay on 3 Fabruary 1988 - the 500th anniversary of Dias' landing. She then sailed to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Port Edward and Durban as part of the Dias88 Festival, before arriving back at her permanent home in Mosselbay, where she was dry docked and the building closed up around her.

The kids were a little afraid to walk over the wooden bridge to board the ship, so we had to take all of our photos from the walkways around her! Caspian, however, was willing to pose for a photo on the railing and all of the other guests waited patiently for us to finish our mini photo session before boarding the ship again. 

There are also some very interesting items on display all over the museum, one of which is this replica Backstaff. The Backstaff (Or Back Quadrant) is a navigational instrument that was used to determine latitude by measuring the altitude of the sun in the sky.

Nestled between some of the antique and vintage items on the top floor of the museum, we found this very old bicycle. We all had a very good laugh at the thought of having to actually go anywhere on it though!

One of the monuments in the museum complex, is the postal tree. (Only a branch is visible on the top of this photo because the tree is so big!) The tree is a Milkwood tree and is considered to be over 500 years old. In 1501 the navigator Da Nova found a message that warned him of rough sailing near Calcutta, in a sailor's boot under this tree. This tree is considered to be the first post office in South Africa and since Da Nova was so grateful for the message, he built a small stone hermitage to be used for religious purposes - the first religious building in South Africa! 

This is the post box under the Old Post Office Tree, where you can send out postcards and letters. A special frank is used on all outgoing mail to commemorate that South Africa's first post office was this tree. The letterbox is shaped like a boot because the first letters were placed in a sailor's boot under the tree...

Unfortunately when we visited the museum, the postal strike was still going strong and we were advised not to send out postcards from the postal tree at that time. :(

P.S - I only realized today that yesterday's changes to my website were not as easy to find as I had thought they would be! I apologize for the confusion that I have created and have now updated the home page of my website to point to the "Updates" page that shows what changes were made and when. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, it totally slipped my mind!

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Neptune's Holiday

I recently acquired the Neptune Sea Otter family and as I was packing and getting ready to leave for our December holiday, I accidentally let it slip that we would be spending some time at the coast...
These little critters just begged me to take them with me and after seeing their little pleading faces, I just couldn't resist! ;-)

These little cuties accompanied me (Safely wrapped in a big washcloth, tucked snugly into my camera bag) everywhere we went for the whole holiday. Sadly, we had a lot of very cloudy weather and conditions were not ideal for taking photos.

On our way to Mosselbay, where my husband's parents live, we stopped by another collector friend who gave me a wonderful little surprise....

Little Lucy Huntington has been transferred from the orphanage in Sugarbush Valley to the Timbertop Orphanage in Rooibosch Hill, where nanny Timbertop hopes to find her family soon.

I have been looking for Huntington bears for quite some time now, and although I have a trade for another baby pending, (Thank you post office... :(   ) his little critter is a very welcome surprise! 
For the time being little Lucy will be staying with her cousins, the Honey Bears.

The drive from our house to Mosselbay can be anything between 14 and 17 hours, depending on the amount of time spent stretching legs, the number of fuel stops, traffic, potholes and roadblocks.
For us, it was a little closer to the 17 hour mark this time and after only having cookies, crisps and candy to eat for most of the day, we decided that it was time to have a late lunch at the Three Sisters fuel station.

The fuel station has the name three sisters, because of the three distinctly shaped hills (locally called "koppies") nearby. These hills are topped with dolorite and look nearly identical. Because of the flat Karoo scenery all around, the three sisters stand out and have become a very well known landmark.

Being the mommy, I was of course tasked with taking the little one for a bathroom break. Upon my return, however, I found Shelly and Sandy Neptune happily munching away at my bacon and cheese hamburger that hubby was so kind to order for me! I didn't see much of my pink milkshake either, but at least we had two happy little sea otters for the rest of the way. 

Before we got back into the car for the last stretch of our drive, we had just enough time to take a picture of the famous Three Sisters Weather Forecast Apparatus. This apparatus is 100% accurate at any time of the day or night and requires no electricity, batteries, sun power, wind power or anything else to operate. 
It really is VERY high tech, extremely rare and crazy expensive!

It is also, essentially a rock... A really BIG rock, suspended in the air by a rusty old chain that hangs from three wooden poles that are cemented into the ground and held together with rusty nails. Comparing the weather stone to my previous photos taken in 2012, the addition of binding wire has been made in recent years (possibly as some sort of attuning mechanism for better accuracy?) where the rusty nails have now failed to keep the massive stone in the air... :-)

To help the common person to get some use out of this amazing weather stone, there is a sign post with instructions next to the stone.
It reads as follows:

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

Today marks the official one year anniversary of our Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters forum!
It has been a great year on the forum and I have been amazed and awed with the creativity of our humble collecting community. I am very grateful for the friends from all over the world that I have made on the forum and all of the support that you all have given me through both the good times and the bad over the past year. But I have also learned so much from all of the amazing members who so graciously share their ideas, knowledge and skills.

Happy 2015 everyone! May this year be filled with lots of love, hugs & Sylvanians. 


***If you have not yet signed up on the Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters forum mentioned above, please feel free to do so. We have a lot of members from all over the world and we have people from all ages and all walks of life chatting together. It doesn't matter if your English isn't good enough according to your own standards, and it doesn't matter how big your collection is - we love meeting and chatting to collectors young and young at heart both.***