2022: Our Year in Review

How are we already at the start of another new year? I think we are getting older so much faster now – the years are just speeding by.

Well, it has been another year of highs and lows. Where the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest low in 2020 and 2021, 2022 didn’t hold back and brought some unexpected blows. It was another tough year, but also a year with some new firsts. Let’s look back at the past year.

2022 - Garies Girl

Happy New Year – Welcome 2022!

Our South African friends from North Carolina were visiting over the holidays and we were happily spending time together at home. It rained a lot during that time, but we found ways to keep busy. Between board games, tennis (when the sun came out), drives and even seeing an ice hockey game, we had great fun together. After they left to go back home to Wilmington, NC, we got the Christmas decorations cleaned up and soon it was time for Simon to head back to College in Statesboro. Sidney was back at school and busy with her friends and her after-school job and for Pieter and me it was business as usual with our own jobs.

Simon left his teenage years behind and turned 20, spending his first birthday away from us and away from home. A first for us and a sign of the way things are now. They are grown-ups now.

February gave us our one day of snow for the season and we spent it braaiing outside with friends. Not even snow can keep a true South African from his braai!

2022 Snow - Garies Girl

It was also time to simplify our lives and finances a bit and we made the tough decision to let our RV and Pieter’s truck go. He found new owners for both on Facebook Marketplace. We will have two kids in college soon, time to do a bit of growing up ourselves.

In early March we toured Sidney’s top choice for college – Georgia College in Milledgeville. A smaller college with roughly 7000 students, it was the perfect fit for Sidney and her future plans. It isn’t close to home, but not as far as Statesboro either. I just know Pieter will have a very tough time letting her go in August!

2022 GC - Garies Girl


April rolled around and it was time for a road trip to Nashville with Cornelia. We attended the SAWITU Gala Weekend and made some new friends and overall had a blast. I so hope they do it again in 2023!

Nashville SAWITU Day 2 - Garies Girl

We hosted Easter at our house and celebrated with family and friends. I love having a nicely decorated table for everyone to sit together and eat good food. And we did have great food – Pieter grilled some leg of lamb and it came out great. The weather was great for sitting outside and getting covered in confetti from the dyed eggs Carmen brought.

2022 Easter - Garies Girl

April meant it was also time for me to visit my family in South Africa. I haven’t been back in three years (COVID) and a proper visit was long overdue. My brother-in-law joined me on the Istanbul leg of the journey. We were able to leave the airport and explore downtown Istanbul, a first for me. You can read all about my Istanbul Layovers here. After the layover, he went on to Portugal and I flew to Cape Town.

I had such a great time back in South Africa. This time I stayed with my parents and got a good look at how they were coping with my mom’s health issues. It was amazing to be spending time together. My visit also included catching up with Pieter’s mom and dad, and more family and friends. And I managed to get my passport application in before I had to leave. I was fortunate to be present for my sister-in-law Willet’s 40th Birthday Surprise Party and spend Mother’s Day with my mom. South Africa Trip – May 2022 (Part 1) and South Africa Trip – May 2022 (Part 2)

SA May 2022 - Garies Girl

After 18 days in South Africa, it was time to fly back to Istanbul and then on to Atlanta. I met up with David again in Istanbul and we squeezed in a quick Turkish breakfast during this layover. Shortly before boarding our flight to Atlanta, we received the news that Pieter and Ilse’s mom had a stroke and was in the hospital. We didn’t have much of a choice and boarded the Atlanta flight. When we arrived home that evening, both Pieter and Ilse had flights booked that were leaving the very next day.

As soon as Pieter arrived in Cape Town and saw his mom, we decided it would be best if both Sidney and Simon could travel back to Cape Town as well and see their Grandmother. It would mean missing the last bit of high school for Sidney, but we were able to make arrangements and had them on a flight out the very next day. So yes, within a 5-day span, I travelled back to Atlanta from Cape Town and my husband and kids travelled from Atlanta to Cape Town.

2022 Elaine - Garies Girl

I spent a week home by myself, after being gone for three weeks and it was a strange time, to be honest. Pieter’s trip was planned for one week only since he had a non-refundable trip booked for the 31st of May. But COVID finally caught up with my little family and he was the first to get sick and was not allowed to fly back to Atlanta as planned. In the end, Sidney took an earlier flight back and was home in time for my birthday. Pieter had to wait another week for a negative COVID test to be allowed to fly back.

Luckily, Pieter made it back in time for Sidney’s graduation at the end of May. We only had him home for a couple of days before he had to leave for the airport and South Africa again. The graduation was a much different event than Simon’s from the year before. By now most of the COVID restrictions have been suspended and it looked and felt normal again. I was so proud of Sidney and for how she managed to wrap up her high school career.

2022 Graduation - Garies Girl


Al the while, Simon was still in South Africa. He started an internship in April and worked remotely, which meant he could work from anywhere. He ended up extending his South Africa trip and was able to join Pieter and Colin on their June adventure. Pieter was kind enough to write a guest post and you can read all about their highlights in Sharing my South Africa – Part 1 and Sharing my South Africa – Part 2

South African Trip - Garies Girl

In the meantime, Pieter and his siblings moved his parents into a different Senior Living Community so that she could get the help and assistance they now needed. His mom was doing better than expected but it was now clear that she will not make a full recovery. Unfortunately, not long after the move – and about five weeks after Pieter came back from South Africa – she had a second stroke and after a week in the hospital, she passed away.


Whether we wanted it to or not, life moved on. August rolled around and it was time for us to move both kids into their new homes away from home. Simon moved into an apartment with two of his friends and Sidney moved into a dorm room with a good friend from High School. I started the preparations for their moves back in June and it was just a matter of packing everything and making the trips to Statesboro and Milledgeville.

2022 College - Garies Girl

And so we ended up with an empty nest for the first time. So strange how you know these things are going to happen someday, and then someday arrives and even though you wanted to be prepared for it, you just can’t wholly be.

It was also at this time that Pieter decided we should go to South Africa and be present for his niece’s wedding celebration in September. He found flight tickets and bought them on the same day that Simon bought his own to also travel back to South Africa. We discussed it with Sidney and decided it would be wiser for her to not miss 10 days of her freshman year so soon into the semester. This was a quick trip – we left on the 11th and returned on the 21st. The wedding weekend was outside of Durban, so we all travelled together and got the chance to explore a different part of South Africa.

2022 Durban - Garies Girl

Back in Cape Town, the rest of our days were spent catching up with family and friends in both Paarl and Strand before flying back home way too soon. Simon was on the same flight back and we travelled via Amsterdam back to Atlanta.

2022 Strand - Garies Girl

October is all about Halloween over here, and this year was no different. My decorations came out of storage and went up all over the house. And even after all these years, the black paper silhouettes in my windows are still my favorite! I did splurge on some new plastic bats and used them around my fireplace and foyer. And bonus – they created spooky shadows on the walls when our lamps were turned on.

2022 Halloween - Garies Girl

October also brought cooler temperatures and more opportunities for outside gatherings. We were the hosts for a South African braai and had the pleasure of putting up gazebos on the front lawn and enjoying a Saturday afternoon and evening together. We met some new South Africans and had fun around the fires.

The end of October also brought the dreaded dead leaf cleanup process. You can ask all my friends – this was a weekend To Do item that stayed on my list for the longest time. I’m sure they all got tired of hearing me talk about it. What can I say? We had a lot of leaves this year (I think even more than last year) and somehow it always rained over weekends, when I had the extra time to work on them. In fact, it was already very cold outside when I finally got a good weekend to clean that up.


I’m always excited about this season and look forward to it all of the summer. I just love the colder weather and hunkering down indoors. Red wine, log fires and cosy blankets for movie nights – what is not to like?

Now that Halloween decorations have been removed it was time to look forward to Thanksgiving and having everyone back home. This was the year of our first turkey, well first time cooking the turkey ourselves. We’ve had a lot of Thanksgiving dinners with our friends the Gilleys, but 2022 was our chance to host and display our cooking skills. I don’t decorate the house for fall or even Thanksgiving, but I usually try and put together a nicely decorated table.

I’ll keep it short – just know that dinner was a huge success and as usual, we had a lot of food and leftovers. Sidney had fun making her favorite Thanksgiving staple (pumpkin fritters) and even the boyfriend got roped into helping. And how do we end feasts like these? With a couple of rounds of Uno – the aggressive, trash-talking version of course!

December and Christmas

With Thanksgiving 2022 a memory, it was time to decorate the house for Christmas. Where I took my time last year, I did it all in one weekend this time around. I wanted to get to the “enjoy my decorated house” phase, so I got it done fast. Instead of decorating all the rooms I did last year, I focused on the foyer and family room this year. And I added little touches in the kitchen and half bath.

This was also the first year of “baking with friends”. Cornelia and Gayle brought their favorite cookie recipes and ingredients and together we had a fun day in the kitchen. Afterwards, we divided the baked goods and vowed to do it again soon. Simon arrived that afternoon and with both kids now home for the holidays, Pieter and I were ready for family time.

December is also the start of our birthday season. Sidney’s 20th birthday was celebrated with a quiet Sunday at home and dinner out with family. Cannot believe we don’t have a teenager in the house anymore!!!

The Christmas weekend brought a deep freeze to Atlanta and frozen waterpipes to our house. We spent the Saturday morning defrosting a section of pipe where it enters the house, and while working right there the pipe going to the outside faucet sprung a leak and burst. It was all hands on deck to stop the water. Luckily that section of pipe has its own shut-off valve and could be isolated without turning off the water to the rest of the house. We have an outside water heater, and of course, the pipes froze here too. Pieter spent the rest of the morning and afternoon defrosting, cleaning and reinsulating those pipes out in the bitter cold.

A day like that deserved a normal ending and we had a nice evening in front of the fireplace. We rearranged our furniture so we could have the table there and the five of us had a fondue while enjoying the heat from the fire. And we were able to watch a movie at the same time!

Christmas lunch was at Ilse and David’s house, with lots of cooking and food again. Did you pick up on our celebration patterns? The week between Christmas and New Year’s was quiet but we ended the year with a big party – again at David and Ilse’s house. We welcomed the New Year with old and new friends and family.

Happy New Year friends!

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