Slices of South African History

A must-stop in South Africa is the Apartheid Museum. As you walk through the museum, the history of 20th Century South Africa unfolds. Even the entrance makes a statement. The ticket to the museum arbitrarily assigns you as either Blanke or Nie-Blanke; and depending on which you draw, you enter through the appropriately labelled door. Thus begins a lesson in history.

Apartheid Museum Entrance

It could easily take days to truly appreciate every exhibit and to read about the many cultures converging on South Africa before apartheid – the Dutch (or Afrikaans), the Brits, the Chinese and others.  Clips from speeches and news casts and stark photographs tell a story that is hard to hear but impossible to turn away from.

Apartheid Museum Taxi Sign

In a small courtyard, stands a replica of the cell (roughly 10’x10′) in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. It was difficult walking through it and daring to imagine nearly a lifetime inside of it.

Apartheid Museum Mandela's Cell

In one section of the museum, countless nooses hanging from the ceiling served as reminders of all who were tortured and killed fighting for freedom of oppression.

Apartheid Museum Nooses

It was eerily quiet as I walked past the solitary confinement cells.

Apartheid Museum Solitary Confinement

Time flew inside the museum. Two and a half hours later, we were on our way to Soweto or South Western Township.

Soweto Sign

We stopped at the Mandela House at 8115 Orlando West Soweto. The house was small but full of history. The house has been restored and converted to a museum. The blemish in the middle of the wood beam in the top left photo is a bullet hole. If you enlarge the photo of the open window (top right), you will see a message inscribed into the brick wall. I love that I captured this photograph of the house just as the sun shone brightly above it.

Soweto Mandela's House

Soweto Mandela's Home Back Entry

‘It was the opposite of grand, but it was my first true home of my own and I was mightily proud. A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.’

Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom

Inside the home turned museum were artifacts from Nelson Mandela’s life. According to the placard, in the early years of his imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was only allowed to write and send one letter every six months.

Soweto Mandela's Letter from Prison

Besides the Mandela House, we stopped by the former home of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Amazing that two Nobel Price Laureates lived a mere two blocks from each other. We also stopped by the memorial to 12-year old Hector Pieterson who was killed by police during a student demonstration. For an interesting recent article on Soweto, read ‘The Nobel Street’ where Mandela and Tutu lived by Alex Court and Diane McCarthy for CNN.

Soweto Hector Pieterson Memorial

While much of the housing in Soweto was modernized, our driver did take us past some of the squatter camps, communities without running water or electricity. If you look closely, you may see an antennae or two above the shacks, possibly electricity being diverted from the nearby train tracks.

Soweto Squatter Camp

We were fortunate to have a few hours to visit the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site at Maropeng, about an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg. Maropeng means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana, the main indigenous language in this area of South Africa. (source)

Cradle of Humankind Visitor Center

Featured inside were the over 1,500 fossils of the Homo Naledi skeleton. What an amazing opportunity to see something of such historical significance first-hand! To learn more about this find, you can read the National Geographic article online.

Cradle of Humankind Homo Naledi Fossils 1

The top photos are close-ups of the Homo Naledi jawbone, teeth and hand. Below are 3D printouts of the reconstructed Homo Naledi foot compared side-by-side to the Au. sediba foot and the foot of a modern human being. (source: museum display placard)

Cradle of Humankind Homo Naledi Fossils 2

Stepping outside, I could see for miles across the South African landscape.

Cradle of Humankind Landscape

South Africa is a place of stark contrasts. We drove past mansions surrounded by high walls and vibrant flowering plants and lush trees, except that each wall was topped by barbed wire or electrified fences. We were told under no circumstances should we walk along the streets unescorted and certainly not past nightfall. This is a country rich in natural resources such as gold and diamonds and where over 17,000 murders occurred in one year (source). Yet it is a vibrant place full of energy and possibility and a rich history. I hope to have another opportunity to return and more time to explore.

Neighbourgoods Market

On a busy trip to South Africa, I managed to squeeze in a few local sights. It’s hard to get to know a place sitting in hotel lobbies and conference rooms. One of those places was Neighbourgoods Market (not a typo).


The market is located in the midst of Braamfontein, a business district in Joburg. Braamfontein stands for “the spring by the brambles” (source). The area has been undergoing some revitalization and Neighbourgoods Market is one example of what draws South Africans to it. There is an eclectic bohemian vibe to the area that also houses the city’s local government and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Neighbourgoods Market 1b

The market was a magnet for families, older couples, cliques of young people – a blending of ages, races and colors. To find the market, you walk up an alleyway with a sign hanging over welcoming you to Neighbourgoods Market. A turn up the driveway into a parking lot becomes an oasis in the middle of the gritty landscape. An entire floor is hopping with cooks grilling their meats and vendors selling fresh breads and offering tastes of biltong (dried meat similar to beef jerky). There was cheese to be sampled and an assortment of marinades, dips, pastries and local wines. This pear-shaped dim sum was filled with minced chicken tucked inside a light cornbread.


The Exotically Divine booth served ital vegetarian dishes from locally sourced fruits and vegetables.


The coconut salesman was busily removing the husks from the fruit with a large machete. You stuck a straw in the fleshy center and drank fresh from the gourd. Coconuts 30 Rand, Happy Coconuts (with rum) 50 Rand.


I watched as the paella was being made. First they simmered onions and garlic. Every time I walked past, a new ingredient had been added – calamari, tomatoes, shrimp – all being stirred together at a light simmer.


The fudge was divine. I nibbled away at a square of this salted caramel version. Oh my. Delicious!


I did not get to sample this lovely lemon meringue – I was much too full by then – but it was so pretty I had to take a photo.


It felt like a fly by but I’m so glad I was able to sample a bit of Neighbourgoods Market.


Yarn in the City

I only had a couple of days in New York City and had little hopes of finding yarn, but yarn I found. I googled “yarn” and Seaport Yarn came up only a few blocks from my hotel. You really have to be looking for it. The shop is on the fourth floor of a large building. You walk in through a nondescript door at street-level and walk or take the elevator upstairs. It’s not a very inviting entry area, even a little scary. Not the kind of place that will get street traffic. Once inside though, the place was bursting with yarn. There were cubbies of yarn practically floor to ceiling.

Seaport Yarn 1

I was the only customer and was able to take my time looking through all the inventory. The proprietor, Tom, was a kind gentleman who seemed to know his yarn. He was very sweet and was watching the shop for his wife. He had spent so much time around yarn and knitters that he was quite knowledgeable about the brands and fibers. Since it was just him and me, we had a lively conversation as I walked around sampling the yarn.

Seaport Yarn 2

I have been on a sock kick of late. For years, I have avoided knitting socks. Not being a patient person, the idea of finishing a project only to have to start all over seemed exasperating. But recently, I saw a photo of a knitter’s sock drawer. It was filled with socks in many colors. I was so entranced that I had to start a pair so I spent quite a bit of time in the sock yarn cubbies. There were a number of options and I finally settled on this Aussie Sock by Oasis Yarn. It’s 400 yards of a fingering weight merino blend called “Blue Dream.”

Seaport Yarn - Oasis Aussie Sock

I selected this sock yarn by Malabrigo for my husband. The skein has 440 yards of fingering weight yarn in subtle greens and browns called Primavera. Primavera means “Spring.” In my opinion, a more appropriate name would have been Otoño or “Fall.” But it’s still a very nice yarn.

Seaport Yarn - Malabrigo Sock

As I paid for my skeins, the proprietor threw in this handy measuring tape and fun pen. I think the funky hair is meant to dust small areas, like a keyboard. While I was happy with my purchases and the great customer service, I did find the store a bit messy. There wasn’t a clear surface anywhere and no place to sit (other than an old couch). It’s not the kind of yarn store where you can take your knitting and sit for a spell but it does have a good selection.

Seaport Yarn - Giveaways

That blue dream skein is already on my needles and I’m almost done with my first sock. I’m enjoying the process more than I thought I would!

Seaport Yarn - Sock in Progress

Seaport Yarn is located in the Financial District at 181 Broadway, Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10007, tel. 212-220-5230.

Toy Shoppe and Needlework

When we took our son to college orientation sometime mid-summer, I had an opportunity to stop by a store I had been wanting to visit for some time. I am so glad I did. Ewe and Eye is as enchanting inside as it is outside.

Ewe & Eye - Toy Shoppe

Stepping inside Ewe and Eye is like walking into a fairyland. They carry the prettiest toys from all over the world. Their life-like dolls are just the right size for swaddling. There is a full array of Paddington Bears from England and all shapes and sizes of hand crafted whimsical fairies in almost every room.

Ewe & Eye - Rabbit

Ewe & Eye - Carousel Horse

Each room has delightful surprises and a curated selection of unique toys.


Just look at this incredible Wizard of Oz collection!

Ewe & Eye - Oz


Now what could be more perfect than a toy store that carries yarn?

Ewe & Eye - Needlework

They carry a lovely selection of yarns including Rowan, Prism and all colors and weights of Colinette, among many others. They even had yarn dolls.


Mr. Jimmy, the Owner and Toy Man Extraordinaire (really, it says so on his business card) was charming and quite knowledgable about the yarn inventory. He can also tell you about every line of toys they carry. After perusing the store and chatting with this delightful gentleman, I selected these skeins to take home with me. Just look at this chunky raspberry gorgeousness.

Ewe & Eye - Raspberry Yarn

This ridiculously soft skein is to become a pair of socks for my husband.


If you are ever in Boerne, stop by Ewe and Eye and say hi to Mr. Jimmy.