Tuesday, 21 February 2017

DIARY: A Song Lost

Today I lost a word document that contained a song - written in one go in a moment of inspiration. As I pressed save after typing the last word - it wasn't even 3 - 5 minutes after starting because autosave hadn't even saved it yet, Word spazzed out and I lost it.

I was so sad - crushed - and didn't know why it hit me so hard! It's just a silly song!
Sitting at my PC now a couple hours later and after an arvo filled with music students and chaos. I have realised why it hit me so hard!

In 2010 I finished editing my first Novel, it took me ten years to write the two books and edit the first of the books - I was, I think, about two weeks from publishing - and had spent most of my pregnancy working on the book up to 10 hours a day.

Two weeks from publishing, I had used a really lovely program called Blurb to do all editing and layout etc. I was about 7 months pregnant and I opened my computer, opened the book file, and it was gone. All of it.

A virus/malware had snuck in and destroyed all of the files that I used the most. A friend tried to access the files and found skulls and crossbones in the coding (I don't know the correct term)
I remember standing up from my computer in a daze, and calling Francis who came out of the kitchen.

I said "My book is gone. It's all gone." and collapsed.

I remember going into shock and having a massive panic attack, I remember lying on the floor with Francis rocking me and calling for my Mom. Ten years of work, months of solid graft and editing every full stop, capital letter, grammar, tweaking story lines... all gone.

I remember bleeding and cramping, and nearly losing Kelsey. The doctor said that I had had a massive shock to the system. I was out of my mind to a degree for about a week.

I put the book out of my thoughts. I focused on carrying my baby to full term which I did. And when she was a few months old, and I could face the prospect without tears. I opened a word document, opened a very old version of my book, and started. All. Over. Again.

There were a few people who helped make my book possible. People who sponsored my book launch at a beautiful Hotel. The media who wrote about it. Friends who bought copies of the book.
And that, is why it hit me so hard. Sitting in Imperial Centre with tears in my eyes over a silly song. 
Maybe I wasn't being so silly xx

Monday, 20 February 2017

CCWFF: Eat Together!


Good morning! 

I was just shown this video and fell in love with the idea.  This is what we will be doing! Sharing,  learning and connecting with each other. -  Sandy Bigara 

CCWFF: Cape Malay Sticky Buns by Fatima Sydow


South Africa is a real mixing pot of cultures and flavours when it comes to food. As the weather is cooling down, it's perfect for getting back into the kitchen to make yummy feel-good puddings and baked treats! 

Here are Fatima's Sticky Cinnamon buns,  please head over to her page and see all of the amazing recipes that she posts! Perhaps there are recipes that you share with the vibrant Cape Malay culture in Cape Town! - Sandy 

Recipe sourced from the Facebook page: Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow. : https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=961487230653342&id=349838085151596


Fatima's Sticky Cinnamon buns

1&1/2 cups of lukewarm milk
1 packet  instant dry yeast
1/4  cup of sugar
1 large egg  
1/2 a cup of melted butter
4  cups of cake flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of nutmeg( optional )

1/4  cup of butter
1/4  cup of brown sugar
1/2 a cup of golden syrup or maple syrup .

2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons of melted butter

For the dough, measure all the ingredients into a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon, turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 90 minutes. 

For the syrup add the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and the mixture is bubbling. Put one side. 

For the filling, stir the brown sugar and cinnamon together and set aside. Have the melted butter ready.
Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle. Brush the entire surface of the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon brown sugar mixture. Roll up the dough from the longer side and then cut the roll into 12 pieces. Place these into the prepared pan, evenly spaced, cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Uncover the risen sticky buns and bake them for 30 minutes, or until they are a rich golden brown. Pour the syrup over the buns while still warm. 

I make a simple lemon icing and drizzle over cooled cinnamon buns. The juice of half a lemon mixed with icing sugar till you get a thick consistency then drizzle with a spoon. 


Photo: Pixabay, Serving suggestion.

Friday, 17 February 2017

DIARY: South African Expats Must Sit Down and Shut Up

After witnessing a situation, where a friend recently moved to the USA and then posted a status about a murder in S.A., she commented about being grateful for the sense of security she feels in her new town. 

And, predictably, as happened to me when I first moved away from S.A. She was immediately attacked by Saffas back in S.A., who told her to stay "humble" and "think of those back home" - as if her expressing dismay over a brutal murder and expressing gratitude for a life without fear (fear of violence that ALL saffas have to deal with, across every racial and social sphere) was somehow prideful and not allowed.

No. Just no. 

You do not ever ever ever have the right to tell an expat what they may or may not post on their own timeline, especially when it has to do with their own personal journey and healing (more so if that have been physically attacked, held at gunpoint, robbed or worse back in S.A.) 

I still reserve the right to bitch, moan and share news about S.A. Good or bad.

Whenever I feel like it. 

I am South African, I am angry at the state that the failing govt has left the country in. I am angry that so many of my fb friends are without electricity, sanitation or water for large portions of each week. 

Do you know that the world really doesn't hear or see much about S.A. in the news? And if they do, it's usually only positive news in sports. At least in my two years abroad, asking people that I meet - what they know about S.A. - usually they know of Mandela, and that they know South Africans living here (I have met every colour and type of South African here by the way, and sung isiZulu lullabies to a sobbing black man in the street. Ordered my meals in Afrikaans at a local venue. Heard isiXhosa in the mall)

Do you know that no one here knows about Farm Murders? Or about genocide between race groups? Or about the feesmustfall debacle? My friends here do, they hear it from me. They celebrate our wins and commiserate our losses with me. The news coming out of S.A. Is so controlled and manufactured. Literally there could be a mass genocide and the world would not know - apart from the shared posts of your expat brothers and sisters.

I wrote this article when I first came under fire for writing about S.A. and mentioning how happy and safe I feel in my new country.  sandyramblings.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/expats-stripped-of-nationality

Monday, 6 February 2017

ARTS: My Journey as a Music Producer

(Please note: some song links are from a dormant sound cloud page, shown here for the purpose of displaying the change in my recording style. My active page is on Reverbnation.)


I was driving home and started to really think back on my music producing history. I believe that every actively creating sound producer has an interesting back story...  well, here's mine. 

When I was about 4 years old my school report read "Sandy is a dreamer, she has a very pleasant singing voice" this became the theme of school reports from there on, some of my earliest memories are of dimming the Lounge lights, cranking up my parents impressive sound system, and thrashing around the Lounge singing to Blondie's "Call Me" and Joan Jett & the Blackheart's "I love Rock n Roll" 

When I was about 6, my baby sister got a small wooden bell action piano - I taught myself to play and devised a method of writing and notating the little classical sounding tunes that I wrote. I still play some of them today. 
One example is one of my later compositions, Esme's Song written in a similar style. The recording is very rough and played back via synth. 

By the time I was 9, I was writing songs. I felt an incredible urge to record them. But being 1989 in a lower income household in South Africa, a recording studio just wasn't something I had available to me. 

What I did have, was a cassette radio player that allowed me to record via a low quality mic inside the speaker. 
Next door, my grandmother had the same radio. 
Double hallelujah. 
The opportunities were endless. I had a small wooden bell piano, clapped sticks and my voice. By the time I was 10 I had perfected this crude method of vocal recording: Lay down the tune (piano) and vocal harmony first. Then play that cassette back while recording on the second radio, while doing rhythm and main vocal line. 
The quality was awful.
But I could record my songs and listen to them. 
I used this method for a while, and started a band called "the Palomino's" when I was 11. We sang rock and roll songs about cats and ponies and things. 

When I was about 14-15 I entered my first big song writing competition in South Africa, it was to write a Jingle for Pick n Pay, the biggest supermarket chain in the country. I contacted a friend to help me and using this two radio method, we recorded a multi vocal multi rhythm song application. 
We came second in South Africa out of thousands of entries. 
Tape Cassette Recorder
Then about this time, I realised that my step dads cam corder could record crystal clear audio. So I would focus it on the wall (or on a plant or something), and record myself singing and playing piano or guitar (I had taught myself to play). The only downside was that I could only listen back on the TV. The upside was that I could do rough edits using the can corder to cut and split the video removing any false starts etc. 
Then the best thing ever happened. 
We got a PC. 
Someone lent me a free software disk (this was 1996/7 we had no internet) with Noteworthy Composer on it. It was a free trial edition with major limitations (they wanted you to download the full version - paid) I was, for the first time, able to compose my classical and choral scores as I learned music theory, and have them played back to me via the software. It opened a whole new world of possible music production for me. 
Noteworthy Composer

Around the same time I was given a copy of a trial version of Cake Walk, I was introduced to looping, and created my own loops to use - I composed imaginary film scores that are now lost, I can still hear them in my head. I also composed a meditational album which a local beauty therapy clinic used to play as their background music in the spa. I was now about 18 - 20.

During the ages 13 - 22 I toured extensively with our National Choir and underwent vocal training - this experience taught me to harmonise instantly - even with songs I'd never heard - if I could hear the key I could harmonise the song melody line without thinking. This skill has been a real gift to me and I will always be grateful for it.
I grew older, and at age 21 I became the Artistic Director of a high school choir, I found a free audio editing program CD called Magix Dancemaker inside a computer magazine.
Magix inspired me to push on with my sound producing - I recorded the track "Why" using this program in 2003.
Magic DanceMaker
I found a free audio editing program called Wave Pad (again with major limitations) and as I moved on to a school teaching Music from ages 3 - 13 I started to use the software along with Magix Dancemaker more and more. I produced my first Electronica album (no vocals) called Traffic Jam Nation with 15 dance tracks. And then continued to use Magix when I moved to head up Music and Drama at a Private school. I produced sound for at least 30 productions (up to 50 tracks per production) in this time period. It was a trial by fire.
Wave Pad 
I found a trial version of Acid - and found the program that I enjoyed using the most. I was able to record demos of songs and cover songs, but still didn't have the right equipment needed to record decent sounding music.
In "The Rose" you can still hear a slight hiss and the treble etc is not balanced. At this point I still did not have a mixer desk, and was recording straight into the headphone jack of a cheap computer.

As soon as I could afford it, I bought the full version of Sony Acid Pro 10, which included Sony Soundforge Pro 10. I bought a better computer and a cheap mixer, I was able to produce better quality recordings, but still not what I wanted! I was able to record a jazz album and here is an example from that - "There will never be another you"

Sony Acid Pro 10

When I moved to Australia, near Sydney, I bought a good mixer, a new laptop, and made sure that my mics etc were better quality. I am nowhere near where I hope to be with regards to equipment but I will have to be patient! I will have my full studio one day.
Sony Soundforge
I have managed to produce my first album "Deity" at age 35, and I am a month or two away from completing my second album "Deus" aged 36.

That's 27 years of recording.

You can hear this track "Speed of Light" from my Deity Album, and "Abrupt End" from my Deus Album due soon, both are available for free download. If you'd like to hear the rest of the songs they are posted here as I work on them, I post works in progress as well as finished tracks.

I just wanted to write this to encourage that one person reading this, the person who knows that they need to do something that seems impossible.

Just do it.

Even if what you produce isn't perfect, it's still YOUR journey. Just go for it and see what the future holds for you!

BREAKING: Former Springbok Captain Joost Van Der Wedthuizen Has Died

Joost in healthier times. Photo: You Magazine 
Please find all information at m.ewn.co.za/2017/02/06/former-springbok-captain-joost-van-der-westhuizen-dies

Our thoughts are with Amor and their children at this tragic time. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

LOOK LOCAL: Peppercorn Park Horses Jilliby NSW

I got to kiss that ear! 
On the last Friday of the Christmas school holidays, we woke up early and dressed for possible horse riding, with much (see: Noise) and (See: Lack of Coffee) we left for Jilliby - our first time driving to the area in NSW, to visit Peppercorn Park Horses. Good Lord bless Google Maps.

The first thing I noticed while we drove there, was that the landscape became greener and more lush the closer we got, my children’s excited squeals with every passing cow, calf, horse or foal was so worth it! There were also a few really beautiful and old cemeteries – if you’re like me and love to walk around looking at the gravestones! Nothing better than a glimpse into history.

We found Peppercorn Horse Park after one very long u-turn (we went to “Jilliby rd” instead of “Little Jilliby rd”) and I was immediately thrown twenty years back in time to my youth where we would live with my grandparents on DiemersfonteinWine Farm in Wellington Paarl, South Africa.  

We drove up the winding road through a few white gates, and as we crested the first ridge we saw the Paddocks leading off into the distance, filled with an assortment of Horses, and one little foal/filly? That we had to stop and see. 

Getting out of the car and seeing this absolute beauty was the first of many exciting surprises in store! 
We saw a double story farmhouse under a canopy of green trees, dappled in shade. All around was a collection of horse riding equipment, barrels for practicing, harnesses and halters hanging on hooks. The smell of horses was INCREDIBLE! 

There is nothing in the world as beautiful as a saddle before a ride ;) 
Such memories of my youth doing riding lessons at the farm in Africa, the feel of the horse’s hair under my fingertips, the weight of the saddle, the jingle of the harness and the chomp and crunch of horses teeth on fresh carrots. The way sunlight highlights their long eyelashes and the depth of their character when you look into their eyes…

 Once I recovered from my nostalgic trip, I rounded up my girls and we made our way into the Farmhouse. The smell of honeyed scones filled the kitchen area and the laughter of little children and chatter of older kids filled the space. 

We felt immediately at home, this was real. A real working farm space, an experience that my children will never forget – and will cherish.

Jane Parnell is no ordinary Horseman, she is the mother of 7 great children, has recently had back surgery, and she is an Opera Singer! One of the first things she said to me with a flourish of her hand was
“These are my children, there are seven of them but some aren’t here right now, this here is my man Wayne the Bull Rider, and I’m Janey the Horseriding Opera Singer!”

Jane is so full of knowledge and history, here she was telling us about her rescued horses. 
I loved it!

Jane and her family started Peppercorn Horse Park three years ago, and they have faced their fair share of battles -  Jane’s daughter Jacinta was diagnosed with Cancer, she has just her second stem cell transplant. The family have really pulled together and are hoping for the best.

This is a family run venue and it's so lovely seeing their children take part in teaching and training. 
The abundance of bird life creates an incredible musical backdrop to all activities at Peppercorn Park and this is a rustic, rugged family establishment, a real working park. Click on the video below to hear the birdsong at Peppercorn Park. 

This family are quirky, true blue Aussies with an amazing family history, the activities at the Park are family oriented, and this is evident on their rugged farm, where customers become friends.

This family sticks together and they have a good solid work ethic.
After being with them for a few hours, I had a glimpse into the real solid community spirit at Peppercorn Park, a beach ride suddenly started forming via facebook and I watched Janey coordinate with her neighbours and contacts to make sure that the horses would be transported safely, fed and watered adequately, that there would be enough assistants on hand to make sure that the riders were safe on the beach. I just wished I could go with them!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have a ride due to the beach ride taking shape, but Janey drove us out to the far field where she selected horses for the ride, handed us their leads and had us walk them back to the farm house. Seeing my daughter Savanna leading a full-grown horse – and doing it well – was so precious to me.

Sav and Kel had never been this close to horses or ponies before. In such a relaxed environment. 
We then had to carry saddles to the fence, and my girls got to feel the weight of a saddle and watched how to saddle up a horse correctly, they then each had a lovely riding lesson as an unexpected treat! 

As My Little Pony Enthusiasts Savanna and Kelsey were blown away by their real horse and pony experiences - Thank you Peppercorn Park! 

They didn’t stop speaking about it for three days! It was an altogether wonderful morning.

Peppercorn Park Horses is open for business on Saturdays and Sundays - Operating hours 9am – 6pm. There are after school riding lessons are available for booking. They also offer Birthday Parties with Pony Rides! 


Pony Parties for your little one's birthday... heck. Your OWN birthday! 
A quick introduction to the family at Peppercorn Park:
Jane Parnell – a trained Opera Singer turned Director of Peppercorn Park Horses divides her time between their Narrabeen home and the Horse Park, while Wayne remains at Peppercorn Park Horses.
Son Josh (23) is a Pilot Instructor in Port Maquarie.
Daughter Jacinta (21) is a real estate agent in Mosman.
Daughter Bella (18) is a Uni student, and she wants to be a doctor, after seeing how Doctors have helped her sister – she is a strong singer like her Mum, and plays the guitar.
Daughter Lucia (14) is a Life saver and school student (and stem cell donor) – she also shares her Mum’s love for singing.
Daughter Gracie (12) is a student and horse rider, known for being a bit of a horse whisperer
Son Clancy (2) is a Sargeant Major in training and loves his Mum.
Son Rafael (10mths) is the family Comedian, full of smiles and a peek-a-boo champion.

They hope to see you there soon!