Sunday, 13 December 2009

In the Mother City

It is so good to be here. Even if it makes me realise how I have missed it over the past two and a half years.

Details when I am back in Joburg, I promise. Any Cape Town bloggers keen to hook up? Mail me at doodles of a journo at gmail dot com.

Friday, 11 December 2009

If I don't see you before then...


Although I probably will ;-)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Random snatches

I got a lot of stuff done at home yesterday - finished off that freelance project, did some web copy for another client, wrapped my dad's Christmas present from my mom (long story), had Boss Chick and Roo over for tea and ordered a wedding gift from here for friends getting married soon.

Then it was off to visit Louisa to drop off her baby shower present. I figured we would pop in for a little while, but we ended up only leaving at 8pm last night! Louisa and I swam while TSC and Sparrow played endless games of darts, and eventually Louisa's mom invited us to stay for dinner. I felt bad that we stayed so long, but I had an awesome time - haven't laughed so hard in ages. Between Louisa's marvellous sense of humour and Sparrow's mad antics, we were certainly entertained!

Today's been ok so far - had a brainstorming session with a client this morning for the morning job. Champagne and orange juice got the creative juices flowing, although they've also meant that this post has been written in the 5-min comfort breaks in between sections of the meeting.

This afternoon I will hopefully FINALLY lock down TSC's present. I have ventured out shopping to buy it five times now. FIVE. The first place I visited was too expensive, then the next place didn't have stock. The third place had stock, but only in pink etc...

Maddening.

Hope I get it sorted today because TOMORROW WE LEAVE FOR CAPE TOWN!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Exciting news

We have our first booking for the World Cup next year! Yup, TSC and I are renting our spare rooms out and we've had a booking confirmation and request from three folks in the USA. For me, this will be a way of actually getting involved with the whole event. Up till now it's felt like it's been over my head. I'm excited to host guests and show them some of amazing South Africa (have always dreamt of running my own B&B) although I'm also a bit nervous! But being pushed outside of your comfort zone is usually a good thing.

In other news, I am working from home today. Why? Well, Tuesday is the day our cleaning lady and gardener come to do their thing, but yesterday the gardener couldn't make it as he was taking his sick uncle to the bus to go home to Limpopo. They think he may have TB, so he's going home to the family where he can be taken to hospital and visited.

Normally our cleaning lady, Margaret, takes care of Stephen, our gardener, while they're both here on one day a week, seeing she's been working in this house for the past seven years and knows every nook and cranny. But seeing she already came yesterday, I asked my boss if I could work from home today so there's someone around and she agreed. There's really no work to be done, so I don't think she minded at all, although I still hate asking for favours.

So now I am here, in my tracksuit, to make sure Stephen gets lunch. He's a lovely guy, but he's only worked for us on a once-a-week basis for about two months, so I'm not quite ready to leave my house open and trust him completely while I'm away for the day.

Unfortunately, seeing I primitively use the IE feed reader on my work PC to keep track of blogs, I may miss a post or two here at home. But fear not, I shall return tomorrow.

Off to check my work mail now. Just to be proper and all. Have a good one.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Assorted

Last night, having finished up with my freelancing for the day, I chucked together a hasty jambalaya for supper and TSC and I dashed to Cedar Square to see Julie & Julia, which I've been wanting to see for ages.




We both really enjoyed it. Meryl Streep as Julia Child reminded me a bit of my late grandmother for some reason. And it was really interesting to watch a movie where blogging features so prominently.

Amy Adams was far less annoying than in some of her previous roles and I actually warmed to her for the first time. There were some laugh out loud moments too, like where she's trying to cook lobster.

We had a "lovenest" seat in the cinema for the first time. So comfortable to be able to snuggle without an armrest between us! Aside from a technical sound glitch (why does this always happen to us?) that meant the movie had to be stopped for five minutes and we missed a few seconds of the story, it was a perfect evening.


Today I'm hoping to finish off the freelance project, although that all depends on whether I can get the outstanding info I need from the client in time.

TSC is busy painting my folks' garage roof today, so while he's not around this afternoon I will finally get to buy and wrap his Christmas present. I won't mention what it is, just in case he decides to lurk a while (I think he has a better idea of what my blog is after last night's movie) ;-)

Other than that, there is much admin planned for today. Yuck. But at least it's the kind of admin that doesn't require much brain power. Because that is a commodity seriously lacking in my vicinity today. December brain mush has arrived in full.

Off to... wait, what was I going to do now?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Five days!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Holiday in Cape Town with amazing best friends!


CANNOT. WAIT.


The weekend, in short, was exhausting and emotional. On the plus side, I discovered these amazing homeopathic drops for mild depression, grief and tearfulness that will be my new best friend in encounters of the in-law kind. Magic stuff!


I also made enough money at my open day to buy TSC's Christmas gift and presents for his whole family (which did much in putting a stop to the guilt-tripping going on) and my mom and dad.


A further discovery was that I still suck at 10-pin bowling, and that I should not be let loose in company when over-tired, hormonal and angry. Unless I've been doped with my magic drops. Then I'm just peachy.


I leave you with a pic of me and the parentals with Gogo and her family in front of her new house.



Friday, 4 December 2009

Cop out

I actually have very little desire to post today. Too much nonsense going on with the in-laws.
Here are some photos instead, taken at our sushi course.











Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Mood

Description:
Personal storm cloud hovering over head, short temper, twitchy, bags under eyes... kinda like a zombie with Tourettes syndrome, actually.

Causes:
  • Rampant PMS
  • Insane last-minute freelance job with huge workload and ridiculous deadline
  • Having a host of guests for a year-end life group braai who only left at 11.30 last night (not that it wasn't an awesome time - a blast was had by all)
  • Having a house that looks like a whole host of guests trooped through it in last night's storm - muddy floors, wrapping paper everywhere, paper plates in the strangest places...
  • A certain phone call at 6am this morning from the in-laws to ask if they could arrive this eve and stay for the weekend
  • A certain argument with TSC on the above point
  • The knowledge that a certain Doodling Journo will surely be blamed for the fact that the response to afore-mentioned phone request was 'no', despite the fact that said Journo's partner is responsible for most of the weekend engagements and has an interview tomorrow, meaning that there will be no time to actually see the in-laws at all
  • Having to cancel Friday night's dinner engagement because of afore-mentioned ridiculous deadline
  • Stressing about the logistics around a particular Christmas open house this Sat and how everything will ever get done on time
  • Not being able to think of a final bullet point to make it an even number

Plan of action:

Any or all of the following:

  • Beat head repeatedly on desk until unconscious
  • Practise the ancient art of escapism by ignoring problems and reading blogs
  • Collapse in a heap of snot and tears
  • Put on big girl panties and suck it up
  • Vent on blog

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas...

This year, I'm making a little effort to have a greener Christmas. And it really is that - a little effort. But it still makes a difference. Here's a few small tips I'm trying out to make less of an impact on the environment this festive season:
  • Switching my fairy lights for LED ones. They use less energy and, IMO, they are prettier.
  • Not buying wrapping paper. I am re-using wrapping paper, gift bags and ribbons from previous occasions, and wrapping some presents in newspaper with pretty bows tied on and others (the small ones) are being packaged in cute re-useable drawstring fabric bags. I'm also re-using old jam jars, which I've discovered make beautiful jewellery gift boxes once decorated. Maybe I'll be brave and try my hand at the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki (wrapping presents in fabric).
  • Not buying a tree. TSC and I cut some long branches from our laurel tree and made them into a cone-shape to act as a tree. I'm putting it up this afternoon, so I'll post pics soon.
  • Rethinking my Christmas cards. Close family and friends get handmade cards crafted out of scraps of paper, fabric and last year's Christmas cards. Everyone else gets an email card (I still go to a little effort making something pretty and personal to send out).
  • Maximising the romance of candlelight at meal times. Switching off the lights and lighting the candles not only soothes the soul, it saves loads of electricity!
  • Enjoying South Africa's summer Christmas weather. Sipping a cocktail on my veranda or having a game of tennis while we're on holiday means I'm not wasting electricity watching TV or wasting money at the mall ;-)
  • Not doing disposable. Instead of using paper napkins, I use fabric ones when we entertain. They're not only more classy (so long as they're not stained!), they're also greener. I'm also trying to resist the temptation to use paper plates and cups when we have large groups over, although sometimes we just don't have enough crockery to go around!
  • Recycling. Making sure all those extra bags of paper, glass and plastic from the festive excesses get sorted and recycled. And the table scraps go in the compost heap.

Any tips you'd like to add?


Also, here are the long promised photos of my jewellery. Sorry they're not great quality - my little snapshot camera's flash is evil, so I was trying to shoot these at night without using it. Also, this is a very small and randomly picked selection (every piece is a once-off, so if I have to shoot and post every piece I've made it will take six years). Right, now that the excuses are out of the way...


red heart earrings

purple and silver choker


chunky red keychain


gold butterfly and blue sequin chain


chunky gold bracelet with fresh water pearls

Green and silver delicate choker

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

2 for the price of 1

Not really, hey. If anyone had to pay for content here, I'd be out of business. I have no illusions of tackling Google. See, I'm not Rupert Murdoch.


But that is neither here nor there. What is here, are two topics in one blog post.


World AIDS Day. It is today, people. And in the spirit of occasionally providing worthwhile and useful content, I have found six little known facts about HIV/AIDS for you. why six? Because a) it's an even number and b) the lovely Momcat gave me an awesome award which demands I tell you six random things about me, but I reckon this is more beneficial. So here goes:


  • Two HIV positive people in a sexual relationship should still use condoms as re-infection is a possibility.

  • It can take years for people with HIV to develop AIDS. "In some people, the T-cell decline and opportunistic infections that signal AIDS develop soon after initial infection with HIV. Most people remain asymptomatic for 10 to 12 years, and a few for much longer. As with most diseases, early medical care can help prolong a person's life." Quote from here.

  • According to this site, studies indicate that condoms slip off the penis in about 1 to 5 percent of acts of vaginal intercourse and slip down (but not off) about 3 to 13 percent of the time. So using condoms means safer sex, but not 100% safe sex.

  • Use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms as oil- or petroleum-based lubricants (like Vaseline) will cause the latex to break. (People with latex allergies can use polyethylene condoms with oil-based lubricants.)

  • There can be a link between HIV and other STDs. According to these folks, having a sexually transmitted disease can increase your risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. "This is true whether you have open sores or breaks in the skin (as with syphilis, herpes, chancroid) or not (as with chlamydia and gonorrhea). Where there are breaks in the skin, HIV can enter and exit the body more easily. Even when there are no breaks in the skin, STDs can cause biological changes that may make HIV transmission more likely. Studies show that HIV-infected individuals who are infected with another STD are three to five times more likely to contract or transmit the virus through sexual contact."

  • It is possible to get HIV through unprotected oral sex. See here and here for info.

I hope you learnt something.


Now, the second topic. Well, it's not really actually a different topic. See that award from Momcat needs to be passed on to six Gorgeous Bloggers. But I don't want them to feel like that has anything to do with my HIV/AIDS post. So, ladies, feel free to stick to the original meme and post six random things about yourselves before you pass this on. Or feel free to ignore if you're not the blog awards type. K? Right, the list...



  • Kimmi. Coz she's awesome both IRL and on her newly founded blog.

  • Paula. Coz she's back in blogland!

  • Helen. Coz she makes me laugh and then she makes me think.

  • Meriel. Coz she is sweet, thoughtful and funny and let me see her wedding invitation copy before posting it. LOL.

  • Shayne. Because I love her posts and she understands my garden-watching habits.

  • Po. Because I have never met a more entertaining or incredible seamonkey. Or someone who will debate books with me for days in a comments section.

So, you lot, this is for you:



Monday, 30 November 2009

Warning: long boring post ahead*

*but it's more here for my memory's sake than for your reading pleasure. Sorry.


I feel like the weekend skipped me. That tends to happen when you spend the majority of your weekend in a car, I guess.

It all started on Friday afternoon. Remember I said I was going home early, having worked late the day before? Well, our genius *sarcasm* gardener, let's call him Special K, left the pedestrian gate unlocked on his way out. We have a gate kinda like this (except the small gate within the big gate is on the other side, close to the gate motor):



If you leave the pedestrian gate unlocked, it is not only unsafe as anyone can walk into your house, it is also likely that when you press the button on the remote for the gate to open, the small pedestrian gate will swing open, which is exactly what happened when I tried to leave the office. The pedestrian gate swung open and got firmly wedged in the gate motor compartment, meaning that the gate would not open or close and that we couldn't even get the motor open to switch it to manual.

Boss Chick was not at the office, so Roo and I tried to push the gate back. No luck. Being in high heels probably didn't help. I eventually called TSC who had to come and lend a manly hand. He managed to lift the gate off its tracks so we could move it backwards, out of the motor casing (now with a nice big dent in the middle), and close the pedestrain gate, which we then taped shut. Needless to say, I ended up not leaving early.

Then, in a rush to leave home for Pretoria before the Friday afternoon traffic started, with our two cats in tow (we had to take them with to my folks' house so my brother could give Sapphire her antibiotics while we were away), I grabbed the wrong handbag. We discovered this when we'd been on the road for about 25 min. We had to turn back to fetch it, seeing my phone, purse, keys etc were all in the other bag. This wouldn't have been a train smash if one of the cats hadn't decided that now would be the perfect time to have a dump. Thankfully he went in the litter box we'd brought with, but we had to drive home with the stench. Ugh.

We eventually all arrived in Pretoria intact, albeit in a bad mood, to find Gogo's stuff being loaded onto the truck. Sad stuff. I gave her the Christmas and birthday presents I'd brought with for her and realised how much I'll miss watching her open her gifts every year. She always gets so excited.

We had supper at Primi Piatti at Irene Mall and tried to get an early night. Unfortunately the felines would have none of it. They are quite used to being at my folks' place, but in the guest room downstairs. When we stay there, they get access to the veranda, lounge and kitchen, which can we shut off from the rest of the house so that we don't wake up to midnight cat fights between my two kitties and my mom's.

But because Gogo's furniture had been moved out, she was staying in the guest room and TSC and I were sleeping in my old bedroom upstairs. The cats, cooped up in such a small space during their prowling hours, were going beserk - running over the bed, meowing at the mosquitoes and generally not letting us sleep.

Needless to say, when we got up at 6.15am, I was not in a happy place. At 7am, my folks, Gogo and I climbed into my parents' double-cab bakkie (pick-up) and started the trek to Ladysmith. We stopped for breakfast along the way and then met up with the furniture truck at Van Reenen's Pass. We reduced speed so that it could follow us to Gogo's new house.

The house is gorgeous. I am so proud of her and glad that when I'm missing her I'll be able to picture her there. Family members and friends gathered around to help unload the truck, which took all of 20 minutes. I snapped photos and followed Gogo on a tour of the house and garden area (not yet planted because there's currently no fence and the goats will eat anything green within minutes) and listened to her plans.

Her sister's daughter died last year, leaving five children behind. Gogo's lazy sister, Florence, has done nothing to help them, so Gogo has met with social workers to arrange food and clothing, and plans to build a small traditional house for the children on her property so that she can care for them. She's incredible.

Then it was time to say goodbye. 25 years of knowing someone and you have five minutes to say farewell without knowing when you'll next see them. Somehow unfair.

I waited my turn, wanting to be last, because I knew I would need silent time in the car to stop crying afterwards.

How do you tell someone with words about the impact she's made on your life or how knowing her has made you a better person? How do you say 25 years' worth of thank yous, I love yous and goodbye all at once?

I don't think I did a very good job. But we cried together, with her laughing even as she held back tears, and hugged each other tightly. And then I got back in the car and waved out the window as she and her family grew smaller and smaller as the distance grew. As we pulled back onto the highway, I sent her a text message from my phone:

Gogo, I love you and I am so proud of you in your beautiful new house. I hope I see you again soon! I will miss you.

We eventually arrived in Durban at about 2.30 and visited the site where my folks are building their retirement home. It's now half a house and things are moving quickly. The plans have been altered so many times because of city council regulations changing and the house is no longer what they originally wanted, but it's looking good nevertheless.

After that, TSC watched the rugby on TV while I snoozed at the B&B. Then we went out for a meal at Musgrave Centre, which brought back floods of school memories. TSC and I watched Shadowlands, a 1993 movie with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, which we both enjoyed.

On Sunday we had breakfast at the B&B and set off on the road again. We stopped in Howick to see my granddad and Lilly for tea. After that it was back in the car again. We continued for what felt like forever, punctuating our journey with a stop to pick up drinks and then, much later, at about 5pm, a stop in some dodgey corner of Benoni for suspect Chinese food. When we eventually arrived in Pretoria, TSC and I packed up the cats and our bags and got into our own car to drive back to Joburg.

This morning I feel like it should be Friday. I always forget how exhausting doing nothing for hours on end while stuck in a car can be.

Have a good week, all.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Assorted Friday goings-on

  • TSC and I watched dvds again last night to give me some time to make more jewellery. We saw The Hangover and Management. Meh. Management was ok. It was sweet but nothing special, IMO. The Hangover was daft. And long. I still have no idea why everyone told us it was so awesome. I was expecting TSC to enjoy it, but he reckons it was stupid.
  • I spent some time playing Free Rice, the vocab game, yesterday. I don't think I've played in about two years. It's such an easy way to kill time and it's totally addictive, but you can feel good about yourself because for every answer you get right, the site sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to feed the hungry. 10 grains is not a lot, but in about half an hour of playing, I had my total up to about 3 500 grains. There's also different subjects to choose from, aside from vocab and I was pleased to see that in the French language-learning scetion, I did really well and still remember most of the words. The problem is that I don't remember how to put them together!
  • I worked late at the morning job yesterday, so I can leave early today. Woo hoo!
  • I had a monthly meeting with a client scheduled for Wed afternoon at 3pm and he only called to cancel at 3.10pm when I was sitting in the reception area waiting. This is not the first time. I dislike the lack of respect for my time. It also annoys me that I can't finish up his project without clarifying things in the meeting, so now I am sitting and waiting until we can reschedule. Grrr.
  • TSC gave our cats their bi-annual bath yesterday and they are looking all fluffy and clean now. I'm glad he did it while I was out and played the bad guy because when I came home they were so grateful to see me that they were ridiculously friendly and affectionate. They both even slept on the bed last night, which they don't normally do unless it's winter.
  • I'm not looking forward to the long drive to Ladysmith tomorrow, or the farewells. But I wouldn't miss it for anything.
  • There are the coolest environmentally-friendly Christmas gifts here.
  • TSC had to take our little Sapphire cat to the vet today and it turns out she has reacted to the new pellets we've been trying, which disagree with her stomach. She has to have a course of antibiotics, which my brother will have to administer while we're away :-(
  • Next week it's December! *slight panic*
  • I always have to have an even number of bullet points.

That is all. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Christmas fun and games

Good grief this week is dragging on! Maybe it's because it's been so unproductive. The morning job is quiet at the moment, and although the freelance stuff carries on, I'm waiting on info from one or two clients, so my hands are tied on some projects.

At least I've been making lots of jewellery for my Christmas open day on 5 Dec (eeep - so close now). I'm starting to get nervous about that. I just hope that the other crafters coming to sell their wares make good money and that those coming along to buy find something they like.

At the moment, I have my jewellery stall (I'm also selling gift bags, homemade yummies and some kiddies stocking fillers), a lady selling pewter crafts (she's without a job at the moment, so I hope her stuff gets snapped up), someone selling lingerie, a friend with Miglio jewellery and Faithwear clothing and a children's home selling donated wine, photo albums and other bits and bobs (also hope they do especially well).

I was hoping for more crafters / sellers, but I think we'll have a nice range anyway, although there's not much to cater for men's presents. Once again, in a shameless plug... if anyone's keen to come, either to sell or to browse, please mail me at doodlesofajourno dot gmail dot com.

I haven't forgotten that I promised pics of the jewellery. I just need to recharge my camera battery after snapping away at the carols evening.

My head is definitely in Christmas space. I've done about half of the gift shopping. Unfortunately, that was the cheaper half. I have to wait to make some money with the jewellery sales before I can buy TSC and my parents' presents. But almost everyone else is done. I'm looking forward to next week's life group, although it's the final one for the year. We are having a bring and braai social and will do the annual present swap game, which is great fun and totally hilarious. If you're having a large gathering, it's definitely a good ice breaker.

The mad gift swap game

Each person has to bring a wrapped unisex gift costing no more than a certain amount. We've said R50 for our life group (the fact that it has to be suitable for a guy or a girl makes it challenging). Loads of people do boring presents like boxes of chocolates, but there are always some awesome and strange gifts. Last year someone brought a mini basketball hoop with a squishy little basketball. The girls all thought it was ridiculous, but the boys were ready to fight for it!

Everyone then sits in a circle, with the gifts in the middle. The person organising (and refereeing!) counts how many people there are and writes out the numbers on scraps of paper. So if there are 15 people, I'll write out 1, 2, 3... all the way up to 15. The paper scraps then get put in a hat / bowl / whatever and each person draws a number.

Whomever draws number 1 gets to pick and unwrap a present from the pile. The person with number 2 on his / her piece of paper can then either choose another present or steal number 1's gift. If he does the latter, number one gets to pick a new gift.

Then it's number 3's turn. He/she can either steal number 1 or number 2's gift or choose a new present from the pile. The game carries on like this until everyone has had a turn.

The interesting twist is that each gift can only be stolen three times. So the third person to steal it will get to keep it. It gets quite entertaining trying to remember how many times a particular gift has been stolen. And it's always a good idea to have some extra gifts on hand in case someone has forgotten to bring one.

Anyone else have suggestions for party games with a Christmas theme we could try with our group?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My amazing Gogo

Our family has been blessed to have to most amazing live-in domestic worker since just before I was born. Her name is Evelyn, but my brother and I have always known her as Gogo (the Zulu word for grandmother).

She first knocked on my parents' door when they were living in Ladysmith, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal. She was looking for work as her employer at the time was abusive. My mom couldn't believe how little money she was asking for to work fulltime, and how badly her employers treated her.

My parents took her in and were impressed with her work and willingness. When they moved back to Johannesburg a few years later (I was just a baby), she decided to move with them. While my mom worked fulltime at the Johanneburg General Hospital (she's a GP), Gogo looked after me, carrying me on her back like a Zulu baby and teaching me Zulu songs and stories. At one point, I knew more Zulu than I did English.

When my brother was born very, very sick, Gogo was invaluable in keeping things running at home while my parents stressed about operations and hospital bills. She would keep me entertained for hours, letting me "help" her with her cleaning the house while we sang together and she re-cleaned the bits I'd done ;-)

As my brother grew older, she did the same with him - carried him on her back, tickled him into fits of laughter and sang to him in Zulu. I remember him telling my mom when he was about four that he was going to marry Gogo when he grew up.

I have such fond memories of Gogo from different stages of my life - how she would laugh at my brother as he tried to learn to kick the ball and fell on his bum because he was kicking with both feet at the same time. She has the most awesome laugh.

She would break up our sibling fights and shout at us when we'd been naughty. We would cry for disappointing her and she would pick us up, hold us to her ample chest and hum soothing songs to us until we were smiling again.

She's a champion knitter and used to knit the squares for me that I was given as homework for school in about 10 minutes flat, or patiently unravel my uneven scarves to fix all the stitches I'd dropped. When my parents bought her a knitting machine for Christmas, she turned her talent into a business, knitting school jerseys and taking orders for all kinds of knitted wear.

Every birthday, my mom and I would get a hand-crocheted or knitted item. She worked a whole year to make a beautiful crocheted bed cover for my folks and a dining room table overlay for my mom's enormous 10-seater table that's been lugged from house to house with us for as long as I can remember. I had the most beautiful knitted clothes for my dolls from Gogo and my Gran, and even had miniature crocheted handbags that made me feel all grown up. I remember when we were renting a house in Dunvegan, Johannesburg, how she carefully built me a mini washing line with a few loose bricks and a string of purple yarn so that I could imitate her doing the laundry - washing my dolls' clothes and hanging them on the line to dry.

While my mom instilled a love of plants in me, Gogo taught me to value the veggie patch. At each house we lived in, she would cultivate potatoes, marogo (a plant that many people think of as a weed, which is a brilliant spinach substitute), mielies (corn) and whatever other veggies would grow well wherever we were living at the time (she moved with us from Ladysmith to Joburg to Durban to Pretoria... she said she'd move anywhere with my family except overseas).

As I grew older, I began to feel guilty about the fact that she was living so far from her own family (she and her husband split many years ago, but she has children and now granchildren to think about).

One day, I had decided to give her a pedicure and was in her flat painting her toenails when I brought it up. She laughed and said that she was very happy with us. I asked if she didn't miss her home. She said yes, sometimes she did, "But Mommy and Daddy (she always refers to my folks this way when she's talking to my brother or me) are good to me. I have a nice house here, friends, food, money... I get to send money home for my children and I go on holiday and see them. And when they get too much, I come back again." All of this punctuated with hearty laughter.

On occasion over the years, some of her children have visited us. They are all older than me, but I loved meeting them. I remember being amazed when Elsie, one of the older kids, made me a mini Zulu broom out of long grass prettily woven with coloured thread at the top and shyly handed it over. I treasured it for years.

Now that Gogo has two grandchildren, she makes sure to bring us new photos after every holiday to show us how they've grown. She is a good soul and the glue that keeps her family together. She organises jobs (often with my mom's help) for sons, nephews and cousins, mediates family arguments over the phone, picks up the slack in her lazy sister's family and oversees all finances. When her ancient grandmother died recently, she went home and put together the funeral and made sure everyone behaved themselves.

She must be in her early 60s now, although she looks like she's in her late 40s, and last year she told my mom she's building a new house in Ladysmith. We've visited her home before to drop off furniture my parents had given her, and at the time she had three long, skinny houses with sheet metal roofs and the traditional mud walls. But her new house is brick and mortar with roof tiles and framed windows and she's extremely proud of it. Her sister is so jealous that she's apparently stopped speaking to her.

Gogo has been wise with her money and savings, as well as clever in her entrepreneurial ventures, and she's now the talk of the neighbourhood in Ladysmith with her big, fancy house. I'm proud of her and how she has supported her family, but I'm also really sad now because she's retiring this month.

When she told my mom about her new house, she asked when she could retire. My mom said whenever she was ready, so Gogo asked if she could finish last year, work this year, and then when her house is ready, retire.

My parents don't actually need a fulltime or live-in maid anymore - I'm not at home (and I make a big part of the mess), my mom is no longer working and my brother will move out (into Gogo's flat) soon, so they were really keeping Gogo on until she was ready to finish up, so since Gogo's request they've starting getting things in order for her.

The new house in Ladysmith is done now, except the tiling. My parents have bought the tiles Gogo wanted as a Christmas and retirement present and put a large lump sum into a bank account for her pension. They said she can have all the furniture from the flat, so this weekend, my dad has hired a truck and we are going to load up the furniture (which is quite a bit - the double bed, microwave, lounge suite, mini-stove, two eating tables, six chairs, the coffee tables, bedside tables etc...) and drive through to Ladysmith on Saturday morning.

I'm getting all teary thinking about it. Gogo has been such a large part of my life since I was born and I can't bear the thought of her not being around to talk to, hug, swap veggies with, laugh at my brother's antics...

But I'm glad that I'll have the chance to see her new home in all its glory and to see her homecoming. And I know it's not goodbye. She has a cell phone so I can call her and we can SMS each other, and she has told me that when I have a baby she will come to stay with me for three weeks to look after me (but we all know that's not in my immediate plan).

But it's still the end of an era and it saddens me no end. I am thrilled for her that she will be able to retire and enjoy having her beautiful house where she can spoil her grandkids and plant another veggie garden, but I will miss her so, so much. This has come so much faster than I was expecting.

I am so blessed to have had her in my life for 25 years. I will miss seeing her so often.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Deck the halls (and block your ears) - Christmas is coming!

The carols concert was, IMO, totally awesome. Between the cute kids in the church children's band doing a punk version of Silent Night (I was super impressed with the kids playing electric guitar, drums and keyboard) and Colin, the lead vocalist, impersonating everyone from Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson, it was a blast.

Colin broke his foot doing the show last week (jumping off the stage as Angel Gabriel) so he was confined to a barstool to sing and had his injured foot in a festive Christmas stocking. Other church band members had to take up doing his actions. It's always funny for me, knowing these guys IRL, to see them onstage. Totally different!

After the show we headed to Primi Piatti for drinks with Brett, Kim and their mate Mike. After me berating Brett for his bad blogging habits (not posting enough) and all of us listening to Mike's horrible baby jokes for awhile, TSC and I returned home in high spirits, with me singing carols the whole way.

Now that we are only a month away from Christmas, I feel I have licence to continue in that vein. "Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shiiiiiiiiiiining..." Be very glad you don't have to live with me - I try to do the descant at the same time as the melody. Poor TSC ;-)

I am so looking forward to an evening at home doing nothing tonight!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Hello Monday

What a weekend!

Friday night we had some friends around for supper. Sadly, the vegetarian and partner couldn't make it as they were both feeling sick, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the roast veggie lasagne and warm chocolate pudding.

On Saturday morning, we went for our sushi-making adventure. My folks gave me a voucher for two for my birthday, and this is the first chance I've had to use it.

Can I just say that if you live in Joburg, like sushi and ever get the chance, you should do a course at Miya's. It is awesome! Chef Miyamoto is a fully qualified sushi chef (that means five years of training). After he'd explained how year one is spent just training in hygiene and cleaning, and year two is solely about how to cook the rice, I felt a bit bad that here was this group of South Africans all expecting to learn how to make sushi in just a few hours.

But he was really patient with us and his wicked sense of humour made it very entertaining. He was full of fascinating info about the differences between Japanese and South African sushi, how using a different type of rice affects the way you cook it, where the names of the sushi types come from and where to buy the best fish in Joburg. I was astounded to learn that there are only a handful of properly qualified sushi chefs in the country and that in Japan, you don't get wasabi to mix with your soy sauce - the chef just grates the horseradish into the sushi as he makes it.

It was a long morning (9.30am until just after 2pm), but we both had such a great time and really enjoyed eating the sushi we'd made (even though it didn't look as professional as Chef Miya's). Maybe I'll post some pics tomorrow.

After that, we rushed home, did a quick clean-up of the previous night's dishes and then our Zimbabwean mates Sarah and Phil arrived for a visit. I met Phil through my best friend, Nic, at varsity and then TSC became friends with him when he too moved to Cape Town. He was the MC at our wedding and is one of the most lively and entertaining people I know.

Phil introduced us to his sister Sarah and she became a friend too. When we moved to Johannesburg, we got in touch with their parents and now we are friendly with the whole family, bar one sibling (who lives in Australia. We may meet her for the first time in Dec).

We had a good catch-up with the two while we watched rugby as Phil told us some of his bush adventures (he's a professional hunter and photographer) and Sarah told us where she'd been placed for her physiotherapy community service year. It was great fun.

Yesterday we went to the Rosebank craft market again to pick up some stuff my mom wants and then I spent the afternoon making a Christmas wreath and bottles of mint jelly before church.

Tonight we have our church's annual Christmas carols concert at the Barnyard, which is more like a dinner theatre production, actually. I'm lookinf forward to it, although our neighbours who were supposed to be coming with us knocked on the door to tell us they're sick this morning and can't make it tonight, so we now have four empty seats at our table of 12. Anyone keen to come?

Have a good week.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Am I in the wrong hemisphere? And other randomness.

I'm sure this freak cold front got lost on its way to Russia or somewhere that is meant to be cold at this time of year. I mean there's snow on parts of the Drakensberg. In November!!! According to Google, Johannesburg is nine degrees Celsius today (48 degrees Fahrenheit). Usually at this time of the year it's about 25 degrees Celsius! Thankfully for Cape Town, the city seems to be enjoying weather that's a bit more pleasant than up here. Finally.

Now for many of you in the Northern Hemisphere, I know that nine degrees is not very cold. But consider that we generally have no central heating (in fact no heating at all in my office) and that South Africa is not geared towards the cold (it's difficult to even find cold-proof clothing here), and maybe you'll feel a bit more sympathetic. In fact, we had someone visit from Toronto, Canada who said that he'd never been so cold in his life as his winter stay in the Drakensberg in South Africa.

I suppose it doean't help that I have sopping wet hair. But I've never been a fan of hair dryers, so I often go out with wet hair, even in the middle of winter. And it doesn't seem to make me sick. I just wear a nice warm hat. Today it's a purple mohair one. If I had my camera handy I'd snap a pic.

At least it's FRIDAY! Woo hoo!

We have a sushi-making course this weekend. Yay! Can't wait. Except that it feels too cold for sushi. I want hot comfort food. Also, it means we have to be up early tomorrow morning. Blah.

Watched My Life in Ruins last night while making jewellery. Worst movie I've seen in awhile. Made Benjamin Button seem positively riveting in comparison.

Right... off to change my dinner menu for tonight. Was planning a nice summery menu for the new friends we're having over, but I think hot food is in order. Lasagne, perhaps. And warm pudding too. Any suggestions?

Have a fab weekend.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Me on movies again

TSC and I have been spending the cold evenings (what is up with this freak cold front?) watching DVDs in bed while I make jewellery stock for my Christmas open house event. This means that we occasionally find beads or crimps in the bed (not fun), but at least I've been able to enjoy some onscreen entertainment and stay warm while I work ;-)



On Tuesday night we finally got around to watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I'd been putting off seeing the film because it looked long and boring. It certainly didn't disappoint on those scores. Long and boring indeed. Yes, the make-up was impressive, but good grief - how many times did they have to explain that this dude was ageing backwards? We got it the first time! Also the ongoing spats between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and the frequent returns to reality in the hospital room, for no apparent reason. Blegh. I'd give it six out of 10. Maybe. What would you say?


On Monday, we saw Fireproof. It's a Christian movie, and normally I find them quite over the top and not very well made, but this one was surprising in some ways. It had hilarious moments that had us in stitches, and then it had real tear-jerker scenes too. It's about a married couple on the brink of divorce who are just living past each other. He's a fireman who values honour and respect in the workplace, but treats his wife without either at home. She's a PR officer for a hospital and is most concerned with helping her mom, who recently suffered a stroke, and her crush on one of the doctors she works with. The beginning of the film is pathetic and annoying, but for me it seemed to get better as it went on. Maybe it's because marriage is a subject close to my heart, or maybe it's because I am a Christian and don't find the very strong conversion message offensive, as some might. Whatever the case, I quite liked this film, but would be interested to hear what non-Christians think of it.


At sometime or another, we also saw Shark Tale again. I am a sucker for animated movies, and although this one is not on the same level of awesomeness as Kungfu Panda or Shrek, I still enjoyed it. Although I must say that Renee Zellweger remains as irritating as an animated fish as she is as a human actress, while I generally prefer Jack Black as an animation.
I think what I enjoyed most about this film was the attention to detail. In the underwater fish city where most of the action takes place, you'll notice billboards for Coral Cola, Old Wavy and GUP (instead of GAP). As with most DreamWorks animations, my favourite bit of renting the DVD is to watch the special features and learn how the thing got put together. It's always amazing for me to see how the filmmakers had to find ways to do things that we take for granted as we watch the movie - like creating a way of making the Rasta jellyfish twins seem transparent, or how to make the fish seem iridescent like they would IRL, or how soap suds would behave underwater.
I think one of my dreams is to spend some time in a DreamWorks studio to see a film like this taking shape.

Sadly, there seems to be nothing on circuit worth seeing at the local cinema at the moment (Except Julie and Julia - I'm quite keen to see that). And TSC and I have seen practically everything at the video store (apart from all the series - he doesn't like watching series, unfortunately for me). Seeing the weather is still miz and I have lots more jewellery to make before 5 Dec, any movie suggestions for us?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Because I owe you...

...A photo post. I keep promising to show you pictures and then I don't. So consider this a catch-up of sorts.

Absolutely ages ago (sometime in July), I promised I'd show you pics of how we transformed our spare bedroom. So here it is before (at this stage we had moved the furniture out, done a test patch on the wall and covered the floor with drop sheets):


And here it is after. Those pictures above the bed are the ones I created when TSC was away (I also painted the lamp shades. But they're not as pretty, IMO):


Here are the requested pics from my jungle style veggie garden. I tried to take ones where you can't see all the weeds on my pathways (I still have to find some money to get gravel to make proper paths). This pic shows my beetroot, mielies and the mint in the background. There's also baby marrow plants in between, which I'm hoping will climb up the frame.

And this one shows my aubergines (eggplant) in the foreground, the green peppers behind them and right in the background you can see some onions, lavendar and the Peppadew bush.


Lastly, some Just Joey roses from the garden, just because they are gorgeous:


Note: Blogger is buggering around again, so if you saw this post go up without the photos, sorry. It's taken me three attempts to get them to load properly.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I forget what the title was going to be

I was going to blog about the beautiful Christmas present my mom found for my dad, but then I realised that since my father is now an occasional lurker here, I'd better not. Hehehe, my mom says he's always been a bit of a lurker ;-)


I can picture him laughing at that line if he reads it. He thinks the blogging language I use is hilarious... Lurking, blogoverse, blogosphere, blogoversary, trolls, memes... Good stuff.

So now that I am topic-less, I have two choices: quit writing for today or do the blogging thing and ramble about nothing for a bit. Guess which one I choose?


I hate that I'm that predictable. I just thought this email was so cute I had to share it:


This has to be one of the best singles ads ever printed. It is reported to have been listed in the Johannesburg Times.


SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your bakkie, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me... Call (011)885-6420 and ask for Annie, I'll be waiting.....


Scroll down...




Over 150 men found themselves talking to the SPCA!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Things I learnt this weekend


In the tradition of this lovely blogger's weekend posts, I give you a list:



  • Sometimes people will let you down. This is especially true of possible interviewees for magazine stories, who have a tendency to fall off the planet just before the deadline.

  • Really special memories can be made anytime, anywhere.

  • The blueberry cosmopolitan cocktail at Bottega Cafe in Fourways Crossing does wonders on a weary Friday afternoon.

  • Ask (or even mention) and you may just receive. I happened to say that I would like a pair of decent sunglasses, and when TSC went to order his prescription lenses and somes frames on Friday, he got to choose a free pair of Daniel Hechter sunglasses. Seeing he already has lovely glasses, he let me choose a pair instead. Love my man and his amazing generosity!

  • China Mall offers great bargains but also big headaches.

  • Going out on the roads during the 94.7 Cycle Challenge is a bad, bad idea.

  • The Rosebank Rooftop Craft Market is a great place to do Christmas shopping. But you need lots of time!

  • Sunday lunch spent laughing and chatting with awesome friends is the best way to recover from horrible Cycle Challenge traffic.

  • My concentration span is ridiculously short on a Sunday evening.

  • Sometimes it's good to be reminded of the bigger picture.

What did you learn this weekend?

PS: ANOTHER friend of mine from real life has started blogging. So exciting! Please go visit Kimmi (Brettuce Lettuce's other half) and welcome her to the blogoverse.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Christmas wishlists

My mother has asked me for a list of possible gifts for TSC and me for Christmas, which she wants to distribute to the wider family. This is a very organised way of doing things, even if it does take the surprise out of what you might find under the tree on Christmas morning. It may, however, mean that for the first time in three years, I stand a chance of getting something other than hand towels from my grandparents. And I'm all for that!

The thing is, twee as it sounds, I pretty much have everything I need. Of course there are things I would like to have, such as a small garden bench so that I can indulge my bizarre veggie-watching tendancies, tickets to Cinderella on Ice, or a decent pair of sunglasses (instead of the R50 pairs I am prone to buying at flea-markets), but by and large, TSC and I are incredibly blessed. We have an amazing house and garden, two wonderful cats, a car each, food in the pantry, clothes in the cupboard, a computer in the study... We are more fortunate than most people, especially at our age.

This strikes me often as I'm enjoying a late afternoon walk with TSC up to the local Woolworths Food to pick up some or other supper ingredient. I love our neighbourhood, I love our relationship and I love enjoying a Woolies ice cold gingerbeer on my way home ;-)

It's so easy, especially in materialistic Jo'burg, to get caught up in the need to have nice things. Or just to have more money. Because everything costs money. It's not like we can walk 10 minutes to the beach with a picnic lunch and enjoy a free day of entertainment like we used to do in Cape Town (when we had no spare money whatsoever). Here, aside from a distinct lack of beach, everything is spread out across a large distance. So spending a day out usually means driving a fair distance and paying an entrance fee, or hanging out in a shopping centre, the ultimate temptation zone. I am not a fan of shopping centres.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the pace and the variety of Jo'burg, and love the opportunities here. But when I catch myself thinking, "I wish we could afford to go see that show / re-do our bathrooms / buy that blue-ray player", I want to be able to remind myself how very fortunate we are and to re-focus on the stuff that actually matters.

What I really want for Christmas is time out away from the bustle with the ones I love, espeically my aging grandparents. And that is already planned. So for now, all I can think of for my Christmas wish list is a new beach towel (mine is about 1o years old and worn through) and a subscription to SA Garden magazine. And that makes me happy!

Of course it makes things challenging for my mother. We both love to give presents and will happily spend forever hunting for the perfect gift for a specific person. Still, I've been struggling to find meaningful gifts for both my folks for years, so I'm sure the rest of the family can manage ;-)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Yet another veggie-praising post (plus recipe)

Last night I made my easy-peasy fairly healthy vegetarian cannelloni baked pasta dish using fresh spinach from my garden. That pleases me on some deep level. I'm not quite sure why.

In fact, it's quite bizarre and even disturbing how much I love my veggie garden. I rush outside in the mornings before work to check on my seedlings and I want to cry when I see my baby Asian greens have been the victims of a seven-course snail supper.

When I get home, the first thing I do is kick off my shoes and do a garden walk-through to enjoy the green-ness of it all. It's actually a little embarrassing. But my garden just doesn't cease to amaze me. Seriously! Planting seeds and watching them grow into big, healthy plants that give me delicious food is an awesome process indeed.

We have been our house for almost a year now and in that short space of time, my veggie garden has given me the following:


  • Green beans

  • Tomatoes (cherry ones and the juicy big ones)

  • Spinach (two different varieties)

  • Peppadews (before Ches craps on me, the plant was there when I arrived. It was a present from the Peppadew folk. Apparently.)

  • Carrots

  • Mielies (or corn, for non-South Africans)

  • Kale

  • Peas

  • Celery

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Lettuce

  • Asian greens

  • Radishes

  • Assorted herbs (mint, thyme, lemon thyme, parsley, various types of basil, sage, bay leaf, chives, chamomile and fennel)

I have also recently planted baby marrows, asparagus, eggplant, strawberries, beetroot etc, along with lots of non-foodie but useful plants (like comfrey, catnip, artemisia and marigolds) and am waiting (not very patiently) for them to grow up ;-)


But I digress...


The point of this post was actually to write down that recipe for vegetarian cannelloni. So here it is (Tamara-style, which means there are no proper measurements. Sorry):


Forgot to take a picture, but it looks something like this. Pic from here.



Ingredients:



  • Bunch of spinach, washed thoroughly (gritty spinach will ruin the nicest of meals) and cooked

  • Half a readymade box of cannelloni pasta (normally about 8 - 10 tubes)

  • 250 ml tub of fat-free smooth cottage cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • salt and pepper

  • 250 ml tomato pasta sauce (I make my own by cooking fresh skinned tomatoes with a little salt, pepper, spoon of sugar and Italian herbs like oregano, basil and thyme)

  • A little bit of grated cheese to top

Method:


Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Mix cooked spinach with the cottage cheese, nutmeg and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Pop this mixture into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds (I prefer to just use a stick blender - less mess, IMO).


Now, the fun bit: Line up your pasta tubes in an ovenproof dish and fill each one with the spinach mixture (it will be messy, but I find that using my piping bag is the easiest way of doing the filling. Just make sure your spinach is finely blitzed, or it will end up on the ceiling when you squeeze the bag. Trust me on this).


Top the tubes with your tomato-based pasta sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover (either with a lid or tin foil) and pop in the oven. Bake for 35 min. Serve with a green salad and some nice wine ;-)


Yum!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Ella and exercise

My car is in for a service today. Back in the day, that used to be something I dreaded. Mainly because I had an awesome little 2001 Ford Fiesta called Ziggy that I had to take to the most awful Ford service centre in Cape Town.

It was a dirty and sloppy place and because I was but a poor student, the folks there never took me very seriously. I always had to find my own way back to my flat or campus when I'd dropped the car off, because they didn't do drop-offs. Thankfully it wasn't far to walk. Although Murphy's Law being upheld, it would usually rain on those days ;-)

The nasty people at the garage also used to take advantage of my ignorance and do all sorts of things to my car while they had it, at great expense. My poor dad would get a shock when I phoned through to request money to pay for all the extras. I have whined about this before at around the same time last year (far more eloquently, I would add. I'm seriously losing my touch).

Thankfully these days it's a different story. My darling Ella (my little Honda Jazz) enjoys only the best from the fabulous folk at the Sandton Honda dealership, who phone and ask for permission before they incur extra costs. And they also don't mind giving you a lift to the office when you drop your car off, or picking you up to fetch it.

But today, seeing my man is on study leave, I didn't have to use that particular service. TSC and I drove to Honda in two cars at about 6.45am (they open at 7). I dropped Ella off and got into his car and we headed to gym and then had a quick coffee over breakfast before he dropped me off at the office at 8.30.

It's actually been a lovely start to the day.

This surprises me seeing I am NOT a morning person. In fact, that's the understatement of the century. Mornings to me are like garlic to vampires; like red flags to bulls; like Eskom rate hikes to South Africans, like... you get the point. I don't do mornings.

I used to. In fact, when I did my gap year and shared a room with five other girls, I would get up an hour earlier than everyone else. Why? To make sure that I was awake enough to seem human by the time everyone else appeared (also, it was the only way to get some alone time in that house).

I also used to get up early to go to gym with my dad when I was in high school. Why? Because you're more likely to get me to gym when I'm half asleep and can barely remember my own name than when I'm awake enough to argue with you.

That said, TSC and I are now finally getting into a nice space where we have a happy balance between letting ourselves rest when we need to and pushing ourselves to get moving. I love this balance. It is new to me.

Before, I would either compulsively over-exercise or not exercise at all. Now, I'm enjoying being able to exercise outside (either walking around the neighbourhood with TSC enjoying the last of the afternoon sunshine or working on my garden, which is fun and a hardcore workout) as well as doing various hilarious gym dvds in front of my TV (I'm not sure whether I get more of a workout from the exercises or from laughing hysterically at some of the instructors) or hitting the gym for a 30min blast on the cardio circuit.

I also feel the freedom to not exercise when I'm feeling exhausted and have learnt not to beat myself up about it. And, contrary to what a (lunatic) biokineticist told me a few years ago, I don't have to exercise seven days a week.

This is good. Now if I could only learn to apply this theory of balance to the rest of my life!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Beware the power of the internets...

Seriously - internet marketing can be super powerful. It can also crash and burn super impressively. Example...

Yesterday I got this email:

It’s your opportunity to experience the difference! I am proud to announce that our Gary Rom Hairdressing brand, my signature salon group, has taken up the opportunity to be a part of Edgars’ “Top Fabulous Brands” flagship store, which recently opened its doors at Melrose Arch in Sandton.

This Gary Rom Hairdressing salon is located on the cosmetics floor, and shares company with brands such as Chanel, Lancôme, La Prairie, Estée Lauder, Clarins, etc.

The new salon is equipped with a sound-proof cabine, as are all our salons, where our clients enjoy luxurious hair treatments that moisturise and nourish their hair in a quiet, tranquil environment – a truly relaxing experience. Also, clients are able to shop in our retail section where they can select from premium hair care brands which are not normally available in department stores - like Kérastase, L’Oréal Professionnel, Redken, Redken For Men, Pureology and Mizani! And the pièce de résistance is that you have the option of charging your hair care services and product purchases to your Edgars store card!

So what’s the point? Well, I hereby formally invite you to indulge yourself at our new Gary Rom Hairdressing salon at Melrose Arch and experience this exciting new concept in South African shopping. All you have to do is forward this e-mail to 10 of your friends and be sure to copy/cc our GM, Mike - mike@garyromhairdressing.co.za – and you will receive an electronic voucher for a complimentary Kérastase ritual treatment in our sound-proof cabine, as well as a blow dry, valued at over R500!

But wait, there’s more! Once you have redeemed your voucher at Gary Rom Hairdressing at Edgars Melrose Arch, you will automatically be entered into a prize draw where one lucky winner will receive a year’s free hair services and products, valued at over R 40 000.00! This fantastic prize will be drawn live at the Edgars Melrose Arch salon at 6:00pm on Thursday 4 February 2010.

If you want to contact the new salon for any other reason apart from this promotional offer, then please contact: Gary Rom Hairdressing Edgars Melrose Arch Tel. 011 214 5805 e-mail ema@garyromhairdressing.co.za
Take care, Gary Rom

Shortly afterwards, it was followed by this one:

Hi all

Unfortunately, this offer has been over-subscribed. Please refer to
http://www.garyromhairdressing.co.za/apology.htm for more info.

Sorry
Mike


If you click on the link above, it explains that they were expecting maybe 100 responses. They got 17 000. Within the first 48 hours.

It would take 16 years of working for free to get to everyone. The apology is well worded and sincere, but I'm sure the folks at Gary Rom learnt a thing or two about the power of the word "free" on the interwebs ;-)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Of soundtracks, suppers and stress

This weekend was like the damn interval training programme on the step machine - up and down, up and down.

Friday we tried to watch Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs at Fourways Mall. Don't ask me why. It seemed like a pretty boring movie, made infinitely worse by the fact that the soundtrack was warped. The music constantly sounded like a stretched cassette tape. Not cool. We complained four times and when they still hadn't fixed it, had a little discussion with the manager. He tried to tell me it was supposed to sound like that. Whatever, dude. We're not stupid. I think he reckoned if it had been that noticeable, other people would have complained too. But most of the other people in the theatre were about 10 years old ;-) Eventually we got vouchers from him and headed home to watch a dvd instead.

I spent Saturday in my garden, happily planting and trimming. The veggie garden is finally beginning to look like the jungle I want it to be. I'm not one for things planted in neat rows. I like Jane's Jungle Style of gardening much more.

Went to Papachino's at Crowthorne for supper with TSC and my folks on Saturday evening. We had such a nice time! Good wine, great food and enjoyable company. It was probably the highlight of my weekend.

Yesterday was the ushering team thank you function I'd organised. I had specifically asked everyone to be there by 1.30 latest, as the show starts at 2pm sharp and you need time beforehand to order drinks, have your picnic lunch and socialise.

At 1.30, there were two people there aside from TSC and I. In the end, three people still hadn't arrived when the show started and came in during the first half. Two people didn't pitch at all.

The show was excellent and I sang my heart out enjoying all the musical hits I love so much, but I must admit my day was seriously dampened by the stress. I know it's silly, but I felt downright panicky when it was 1.45pm and there were only six of us out of 23 people. Anyway, at least that's done now.

I also had a row (such a quaint word) with TSC about him taking up more responsibility. We supposedly lead the ushering team together but I actually do everything on my own. I think he got my point, so we'll see how that goes from now on. Poor man - he looked so bewildered when I got all upset about it. I think sometimes we women forget that men don't catch our subtle hints - we have to actually spell out what the problem is.

In other news, I've decided that in order to make a little Christmas money, I'm going to have an open house to sell some of the jewellery I make (and various other crafted stuff) on 5 December at my place from 9am until 1pm. So if you are interested in selling your wares or in coming along to do some Christmas shopping, please drop me a mail at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com.

Have a good week, everyone.

Updated, 11.20: THIS is the best post I've read in ages.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Word play on a Friday

Yay for Fridays!

I'm feeling the happiest I've been in almost two weeks, I think. I got a new commission from a magazine I occasionaly freelance to, which is good for my little business, and TSC and I got up early this morning and had a brisk walk around the neighbourhood before popping into Vida e Caffe for skinny cappuccinos, which made for a great start to the day.

It's nice to smile again. It's been a not-so-fun patch and I am not usually a miz person (well, as far as I know), so being so grumpy and unhappy for that long was just blergh. Yeah, that's a word. On this blog, at least.

Which reminds me... I know I have squillions of typos on this blog (for a journo I'm really rubbish at typing) and that I make up my own words (yay for neologisms), but I have been noticing a consistently misspelled word on other blogs that is driving me mad.

The word is "lose". As in, "If you steal my mug again you'll lose an eye."

But almost everyone spells this word "loose". As in, "When you smacked me in the head for stealing your mug again, I'm sure you knocked my brain loose."

Another example, this time using both words: "Seeing certain words spelled wrong makes me lose my temper and I have dreams of setting grammar tigers loose on all offenders."

I should have been an English teacher.

Scratch that. I wouldn't last a day!

Now that my grammar Nazi stint is over for the day (maybe), let me introduce you to some fantastic neologisms from this lovely site:

  • copyrighteous, adj.
    Relating to a feeling of moral superiority based on one's responsible copyright views and actions.
  • bad tongue day, noun
    A day in which a person frequently mispronounces words and stumbles over sentences.
  • mental hairball, noun
    A word or phrase coughed up at random.
  • slackademic, noun
    A perpetual student who prefers the safety and comfort of academic life over the trials and tribulations of the real world.
  • agressocracy, noun
    A society in which the most aggressive members rise to the top.

And some more from this cool site:

  • abstinate (ăb'stə-nāt')
    a. (v.) The act of not giving one's self to anyone, no matter how much they beg.
  • backronym (băk'rə-nĭm')
    a. (n.) An acronym that was clearly thought of first, and the (usually dull minded) phrase was secondarily crafted to fit it. Example: Determined Involved Supermodels Helping to End Suffering: DISHES!
  • camouflush (kăm'ə-flŭsh)
    a. (n.) The unnecessary flushing of a public restroom toilet to mask embarrassing bodily sounds.
  • dark matter song (därk măt'ər sŏng)
    a. (n.) A song of such awfulness that it alone outweighs the rest of an artist or band's body of work.Example: "Shiny Happy People" is REM's dark matter song and "Walk of Life" is Dire Straits'.
  • elbonics (el'bŏn'ĭks)
    a. (n.) The actions of two people maneuvering for one arm rest in a movie theater.

Have a fabulous weekend, all.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Joburg and Commitment (a ramble)

It took me a long time to get used to living in Johannesburg and to actually start enjoying the energy of the city and the good stuff it offers - fast pace, great cultural and sporting events, friendly people, diversity, earning potential etc.

There is, however, something that still frustrates me enormously - the fact that people wear their busyness as a badge and can't commit to stuff.

What does that mean? Well, chances are, if you ask anyone in Joburg how they are, the answers will be busy / stressed / tired / hectic / frantic / various other synonyms. And that's usually the truth - the pace here is insane and most people are working incredibly hard. Living in Joburg can be stressful. You just have to spend five minutes on the roads here to realise that!

BUT...

(of course there's a but)

People use this busyness as an excuse for anything, from being bad at keeping in touch to forgetting a birthday or not arriving at a function. And I am guilty of this on occasion too - I have pulled out of a social event because work got too crazy at the time. It's normal, it's human and it's probably healthy.

BUT....

(oooh... another one)

It's very frustrating to try and organise a social event in Joburg when this is the norm. I recently had to organise our church ushering team year-end thank you function (we're going to see show at one of the Barnyard theatres this weekend). What a nightmare! Trying to get 50 people to RSVP was impossible. After three emails and an SMS to the people who hadn't responded, I gave up.

Then, days after the final RSVP deadline, I had people asking if they could still come. And bring a partner.

I finally bought the tickets (which the church is sponsoring). Of course, I've now had a whole host of last-minute pull-outs, even though this was organised weeks ago. Some people have good reasons (one guy had to unexpectedly fly to Kenya on business, for example), but others don't. One of the guys asked to bring his sister, who is visiting for the weekend, and now neither of them are coming because he hadn't checked with her first. So I have a bunch of tickets that have been paid for and will probably go to waste unless I can find some folks to fill the empty seats at this late date.

Grrr!

I think there's a difference between saying you can't come to a relaxed braai anymore because you have been dumped with a mammoth last-minute project for work and saying you can't come to an event you've committed to where money has already been spent on you because you found something better to do or you didn't plan your time very well.

For example, I didn't mind when someone called me on the night of my birthday party to say he was down with flu and wouldn't be there after all. Poor dude! I did, however, mind when a supposed friend RSVPed "yes" to our wedding and then simply didn't show up on the day, meaning we still had to pay for his seat and meal that had been prepared for him.

Am I making any sense?

I know this is not a Joburg-specific problem, but I do seem to find it worse here than the other places I've lived. If you organise any sort of event here, whether it's a work function or a dinner at your house or a big get-together birthday celebration, chances are that you will have a handful of people calling you on the day to cancel or just not bothering to pitch up because they are "too busy".

And we perpetuate this cycle in Joburg because (consciously or unknowingly) we judge each other and ourselves on our level of busyness, which we somehow think equates to productivity or success.

I know so many people (including me) who feel like we have to be sick or on our December holiday before we can slow down, even for one day. We pack our days with activities and engagements and run ourselves into the ground trying to get everything done.

And eventually we are so exhausted that we end up calling some poor sod who's trying to organise a church ushering year-end function and saying we can't make it anymore, because we are just too busy.

*Sigh*

Diatribe aside, I'm off to try to find some people who aren't too busy to come to a show this weekend.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Nike advice

I'm glad that blogging has become such an ingrained habit. I haven't felt like posting all week, but even getting my frustration out there (instead of in my head) in a really brief post and receiving supportive comments from you lot has helped. So thanks, Nike. "Just do it" works on occasion.



I still don't really feel like blogging though. Everything I think of posting about, even if it's cool stuff (like the lovely Halloween supper we had with friends on Sat) just seems to stick in my brain. The creativity is on vacation, it would seem. It's having a holiday somewhere with my motivation.



I'm not a big meme fan, but they sure are useful things for filling a gap. So here's one Meriel tagged me to do - my desktop (the one at work).



It's a photo I took of the flowers in the fountain at our hotel in Zanzibar. Those few days were pure bliss and looking at this picture reminds me of that time and makes me smile.

I'm not tagging anyone, but please give it a go if you'd like to and let me know.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Brief update

I have money in my account today. I have sorted out the debit orders that bounced. I feel slightly better but still annoyed and stressed.

Lost left his laptop at my house. I have been trying to contact him to get it back to him and pick up the money he owes me at the same time. I have left voice messages, sent text messages, called the guest house where he's staying... nothing. No reply.

I was seriously worried that something had happened to him. But the lady at the guest house says he's fine. So I am giving up. If I don't hear from him, he can go without it. TSC can sell the thing to recoup costs.

Anyone know where the Randburg testing centre is so I can renew my driver's licence? The phone number listed on the web does not exist. Three cheers for efficiency.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Monday

Still have not been paid. Not even in part.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy 2nd blogoversary to me!

And happy Halloween to you.



Seeing the week has got even better *sarcasm*because my boss has not paid me my full salary (she's paid part of it, late, and says the rest will get paid on Mon), I reckon we celebrate both occasions with this yummy cake:



Want a piece?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Lost - episode two

I had the chat with Lost yesterday. It was so hard - I hate confrontations like this! I took some herbal calming pills beforehand and said some prayers.

In between writing yesterday's post and the chat, he managed to frustrate me even further by calling TSC to ask him to fetch him from his business meeting and then not being there when TSC arrived and by telling he'd like to visit some church on Sunday morning (meaning that I would have to take him there).

When I got home, I sat him down and explained that while I don't want to hurt or offend him , I believe in honesty and that if I don't get stuff off my chest, I will end up resenting him , which will ruin the friendship or whatever is left of it. I asked him to give me my turn to speak before he replied.

I said that I find it strange that I don't hear from him for six years and then suddenly he thinks we're best friends and invites himself to stay for a week. I also said that while I had offered for him to stay the night, I hadn't expected that to include transporting him, feeding him, trying to fit him into our social engagements and the various other complications that had arisen.

I underlined that TSC is writing exams and how it's a stressful time for us and said that I actually feel a bit used and taken for granted - that I feel my time is not being respected.

I added that it's not fair on TSC to bring a strange man he's never met into his house for a week with no notice and that the way Lost interacts with me is sometimes inappropriate. The fact that we have both changed a lot since we were last in contact and that things are different now was also a point I tried to underline.

I think I was as sensitive as I could be, but still totally honest about my feelings.

He took it better than expected. He thanked me for being honest and said he wasn't hurt or offended. He did manage to get a few tears and digs in, about the fact that I had invited him in and now was moaning about it (to which I replied that I had invited him to spend the night and hadn't realised that would mean a week of transporting him, lending him money and stressing about how to shuffle my life around).

He offered to clear out immediately if I didn't "want him around" *sniff, sniff* (trying to manipulate me into feeling even worse). I said he was welcome to spend another night, but that I didn't think it would be appropriate for him to tag along to our social function as he had previously said he would (it was WineX - the annual wine tasting festival) because he's a recovering alcoholic. I don't want to be the one that helped him fall off the wagon and I told him that straight.

He said fine and that he'd be seeing a friend instead. Later, when we were all having an early supper, I said if his friend's place was on our way we could drop him off. Turned out the friend lives past Clearwater Mall, which is miles and miles in the opposite direction from the Sandton Convention Centre, where WineX is held. He said he'd take a taxi. I gave him my set of keys, with strict instructions to lock the doors when he left.

When we returned from WineX and coffee with friends afterwards, it was past midnight. As we arrived, I could see that every single light was on downstairs - the ones in the kitchen, dining room, lounge, loo, patio... even the ones we never use. The stair lights were also on and upstairs, his bedroom light and bathroom light were on.

The front door was open. The back door was open. The veranda door was open. His wallet and my keys were lying on the table outside. Very secure!

He was fast asleep upstairs, with a pillow over his head (I wonder if he's scared of the dark?) and obviously hadn't bothered to turn off lights or lock up. It was apparent that he hadn't been out (I now think it's becuase he didn't have taxi money).

This morning I made coffee for Lost and myself (TSC had left for varsity to write a test) and asked him about his plans for today, seeing we leave for my folks this afternoon and I had no intention of leaving him my keys again.

He told me that *sniff, sniff* he'd be moving across to the guest house where he'd be staying for the rest of the time. Refusing to let the guilt wear me down and make me offer for him to stay I simply said, "Ok. Where is it?" In Bryanston. Seeing it's near where I work, I offered to drop him off, which would mean that I wouldn't have to leave him alone without knowing if he'd lock up after himself.

I then told him that I need the money he borrowed back (it's not actually mine - it's from the church to use for an outreach event and was the only cash I had in the house at the time). He said fine, I should just stop at an ATM.

When we stopped, he withdrew money and climbed back into the car. "Here's R180," he said. "But you borrowed R400," I said. "R350 for the cab and R50 extra."

He said that he was expecting money to be deposited into his account today and that I should send him my bank details and he'd do a transfer. Not sure how he plans to pay for his stay at the guest house. I was too emotionally drianed to make a big fuss about thought and just left it at that.

I dropped him at the lodge. And instantly I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I hope I don't have to pay the money back out of my own pocket and that he actually does the cash transfer, but even if I do - at least I don't have a frustrated TSC and a strung-out me anymore!

Have a good weekend, all. It's my second blog birthday tomorrow (and Halloween), so cheers all around!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Horrible week continued

I am in slight shock this morning.

Awhile ago (in my baby rant post) I said someone I haven't spoken to in six-odd years called me out of the blue. Let's call him Lost, because he is rather.

Well, he called again yesterday morning at about 10am and said he was in Joburg. He wanted me to visit him at the airport (which is miles and miles away from where I live). I said that unfortunately I had plans (true - I have some freelance work that's on deadline that I need to finish urgently). I said maybe next time and that he should give me more notice. And off he went.

Then at about 4.45 yesterday afternoon he called and said he had flown back to Durban, but that he was flying to Joburg again (that's right - two sets of flights to the same destination in one day) and that he'd be staying to Tuesday. I said that maybe we could make a plan to see each other at some point. I explained that this is a bit of a mental week as TSC and I had plans for Wed (church small group at our house), Thurs, Fri (going away to my folks), Sat and Sun night, but that I was sure we could work something out.

I then made mistake number 1: asking where he was staying. No idea, he said. I stupidly followed this with mistake number 2: doing the socially correct thing and saying that he was welcome to "crash at our place tonight" if he needed to, although we would be busy.

"Great!" he said. "Can you pick me up from the airport tonight?" I repeated that I had church small group and explained that I couldn't pick him up. He decided to take a taxi.

He arrived during life group, while we were trying to finish up in prayer. He didn't have cash on him, so I had to pay R350 for his taxi. Thankfully I had money on me for a change - I normally don't seeing I use my debit card. He also hadn't eaten on the plane, so I fed him supper.

He keeps acting like we're still in high school (I met him when I was in grade 11, eight or nine years ago) and kicking me in the bottom or nudging me with his hip and alluding to in-jokes that I can't remember from almost a decade ago. To him, it's like nothing has changed. But it has - I've grown up, moved on and have my own life and family now.

Bear in mind that while he and I were never romantically involved (although he was interested, I wasn't), TSC has never met him, so you can imagine how upsetting it is for him to have this male stranger who used to have a crush on me turn up at his house with no notice. Especially seeing that Lost seems to have decided to stay until Tuesday.

He helped himself to breakfast this morning - TSC's lunch. He has no transport, so TSC had to drop him off at the company he's doing business with this morning. He has also invited himself along to the event we're attending with our friends this evening, despite the fact that I booked tickets ages ago and invited a select group of friends I want to spend time with. Now I'll end up babysitting him instead.

I know that I need to talk to him and get things straight. If I don't, we'll be his personal hotel and butler service every time he's in the city. But I do have a history of friendship with him and he is at heart a nice person. He just has no social skills.

I don't want to kick him out on the street, but at the same time, I shouldn't have to be responsible for him - he's an adult and as I've said, I haven't seen him in six years, so I'm feeling really used and abused and it's not fair on TSC.

Lost has no boundaries. He never has. And his lack of respect for my time was not so much a problem when we were kids. But it's not ok now.

I get the shakes when I think of the conversation I have to have with him this afternoon and I feel on the brink of tears. But it has to be done.

I called one of my best friends (who introduced me to Lost years ago and knows him better than I do) and asked her advice on the situation.

She agreed that I need to sit him down and explain the situation and tell him that it's not ok for him to stay. She advised that I make sure I tellit from my point of view and not make out that it's TSC that's upset, becuase he'll just take it that TSC has "turned me against him and ruined our friendship". That's fine by me, because I think I am more upset than TSC is. TSC is just mad. I am mad, hurt, offended and generally not feeling good vibes towards Lost. I just need to be sensitive. Yet unshakeable. Because he will try to manipulate me emotionally.

I think it helped to talk to my friend about it though and have her validate my feelings. Becuase my Catholic upbringing is throwing a world of guilt at me and I haven't even done the deed yet!