Wednesday, 30 September 2009

I have a new ADSL router!

Which means home internet is up again. Which means that after a busy, rubbish day yesterday, I am calmer today.

And my tickets to Taste of Joburg ARE for Thursday. I was right the first time. Not sure how I ended up convinced they were for today. I think it's because I thought it started on Thurs, then found out it actually starts tonight, so assumed that our tickets were for the first day. *sigh* Senior moment.

Feeling a little down today (probably the weather and lack of sleep), so thought I'd list some of my reasons to smile:
  • It's pay day!
  • I just discovered that Neurofen makes a nice uber-strong period pain pill. That should assist in lifting the mood at certain times of the month.
  • I have a new router. I know I said this already, but now it's a Telkom one, so if I have problems and call their help line, they might actually know how to help me (as soon as they hear you have a private modem, they're not interested).
  • We're going to Taste of Joburg tomorrow and we can make life group tonight. Planning on showing the group an interesting DVD, so glad we won't miss the discussion. And popcorn!
  • Our new once-a-week gardener is brilliant! He works hard and does a neat job so I can do the things I enjoy in the garden on weekends instead of the hard work (which I was doing with the previous gardener who hardly ever lifted a finger).
  • I sent out my invoice for the big project that was stressing me out so mych a few weeks ago, so should get paid for my efforts soon.
  • Roo is back today (she was off for a religious day yesterday) so the office is less deadly quiet.
  • I have the most awesome husband I could wish for - despite my foul mood yesterday (I was so snappy with him when he was trying to "help" me set up the new router), he still agreed to come with me to the church new members' evening and work onmy laptop in the background, just so we could have a bit more time together. And when we got back, he ran us a hot bath and helped me clean up. He is truly the best.

Yay... feeling a bit better just reading all those things.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Rainy days and Mondays... were fabulous for a change!

Yesterday was great. It didn't start that way, but it was. I got home from the morning-job at about 14.30, spent quite a long while on the phone with various Telkom folk trying to figure out why my internet is still not working (my router is probably the problem, seeing it's a piece of crap that always gives problems). The lights on my router are all on, the configuration hasn't changed, but after six months of being fine, something has gone wrong somewhere and Telkom says it's not them.

With the internet still down, I couldn't get any of my freelance work done. Frustration! But, seeing TSC was home from varsity, we spent the rainy-day late afternoon hours cuddling in bed. Bliss! We only left the house briefly to get pizza and a DVD. The evening was spent in candlelight, with strawberries and a silly flick. It was awesome to catch up and have "us" time.

Today, however, I need to do yesterday's work and today's work, drive through to Centurion to borrow a Telkom router from someone (not shelling out to buy one until I'm sure the problem is actually my router), prepare everything for tomorrow's life group meeting (have asked someone else to lead, still at our house, because we're going to the awesome Taste of Joburg, which I was convinced was on Thursday) and have now been asked to help out at our new members' eve for church tonight. Grr! So not in the mood to be nice to people. Or to go out in the cold (having a lovely rainy spell in Jozi that should be spent in bed, IMO).

I wish every day could be like yesterday. Or that I could photograph the whole day in some interactive format to relish the moments over again. If that makes any sense. It would be a great invention.

Right... off to heat up some left over pizza. That's something to smile about ;-)

Monday, 28 September 2009

No brain power today

Is it just me, or is that end-of-year feeling setting in already? I know we're only just about to hit October, but I've booked our December holiday flights to Cape Town and my brain thinks it's time to be on a beach.

Or maybe it's just the fact that I've had a few days off. And without internet. My home internet line went down on Wed and has not been working since. Blegh. Have spent much time arguing with Telkom about this with no luck.

At least it meant I was forced to take a break, seeing I couldn't work. So good times were had, despite the fact that TSC was away. Highlights...

  • On Thursday I planted new flowering summer plants, cleared the weeds (including the gazillions of cherry tomatoes that just grow on top of anything else we plant) from the veggie patch, created a new no-dig bed for more veggies and created an artwork to hang on one of our many bare walls (debating whether or not to post a pic).
  • On Friday I went through to Pretoria to see my folks. We had lunch at Papachino's in Midrand (yummy toasted spinach, feta and bacon for me) and in the evening saw Earth. Wow - BEAUTIFUL footage. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It should be compulsory school-viewing, IMO. I was sad to see how empty the cinema was. I know it's a documentary, but it's a really special film.
  • On Sat, my folks and I flew to Durban to see the work on their property (they're busy building their retirement house in Westville). Not much has been done yet. Just the trenches for foundations are done, but they should pour concrete this week, so things will get moving soon. Visiting the area always brings back a flood of childhood memories. I heart KZN. In between the site visit and exploring the tiles shop, my folks spoiled me with lunch, new shoes and a cute outfit. I felt like a kid again. Before flying home that eve, we met up with one of my best friends and her brother at the airport for coffee and a catch-up. I haven't seen either of them since my wedding (nearly three years ago), so it was awesome to swap stories and pick up where we left off, especially since she's been in Canada for the past year.
  • On Sun, I drove home, washed my car, did the laundry and headed off to Angel and Glug to watch the GP and enjoy a braai with Wenchy and Noid, whom I'd never met. What a great bunch of people! Despite a relatively uneventful race, I had a fantastic time. And Angel introduced to me to Strawberry Cape Velvet. Yum... It's like alcoholic Nesquik. Dangerous stuff! I eventually headed home at about 6.30 to find TSC curled up on the couch, fast asleep. I woke him gently, but after working straight through the night on Fri and Sat, the poor boy was so bushed he didn't have a clue where he was. He thought I'd arrived at the surveying camp ;-)

It's so good to have him home. I missed cuddling up to him and waking up with his arms around me. The cats aren't impressed though - they quite enjoyed having his side of the bed to themselves ;-)

I'm off to do some serious catching up on blog reading - that's something else I missed over my long weekend! Have a good one.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Nothing rhymes with orange skin

Now that the warm weather is officially here, I have embarked on one of the less-enjoyable summer rituals... getting my legs skirt-ready. This involves frequent shaving, exfoliation, moisturising and toe-nail maintenance to ensure my lily white leggies are ready to bare in public (I find that shining them up nicely and enhancing their reflective capabilities also makes for an incredibly effective weapon... something like Scott/Cyclops' from X-Men's optic blasts, only better).

And so I come back to the annual and eternal conundrum... to self-tan or not to self-tan.

See, my skin doesn't understand the concept of tan. It's like trying to explain colour to a dog. There's just black and white. Or in my case, lobster sunburnt red or pristine white (I make milk look tanned). So for-real tanning is not an option. Unless I want skin cancer to be. Which I don't. Obviously.

And as for self-tanning... I'm just not sure about it. Sometimes I convince myself that the fact that it's a) expensive, b) smells odd (not bad, just... odd), c) often goes horribly wrong (see below) is enough reason to stay away from the idea.

Plus, I'm a carrot-top. Orange hair + orange skin = major fashion FAIL. And I figure that if I were meant to be tanned, God wouldn't have given me skin that can't tan.

BUT... on the other hand...

These blinding white limbs of mine are just not fashionable, you see. Yet every season without fail someone pityingly tries to convince me that "pale skin is in again". Not since the Renaissance, sista! I should have been born back then, I tell you. I'd have been deemed a goddess... short, curvy and deathly pale - the antithesis of modern beauty, but everything Michelangelo could've wanted in a wife. Or wait, wasn't he gay?

Anyhow... My husband tans deep bronze within five minutes of being in the sun and never burns. So my glow-in-the-dark skin is even more obvious when we walk next to each other. I could just make him walk on the other side of the street, but that self-tan is starting to look appealing.

Being the only glow worm on the beach among the squillions of tanned bikini-clad babes is not fun. Especially when I'm not particularly bikini-confident in the first place. Of course, being a streaky-legged unnaturally orange glow worm would also not be cool.

But you should see how my ivory skin photographs under a camera's flash. People could submit the pics as one of those weird and unexplained "ghosts just show up as glowing white blobs in photos" kinda things. Or vampires. It would explain why I'm not a morning person and don't like garlic.

Self-tan would also make buying make-up foundation easier. I could go for a colour that normal shops stock. Not one that you hardly ever find in store because the manufacturers generally only sell it to Asian drag queens and traditional mime artists.

Maybe I just haven't found the right product. I mean, I've only tried like six gazillion or so (slight exaggeration). Creams smell, sprays streak, mousses apparently dye your arm hair more than your skin and there's always the chance of orange palms unless you wear gloves. Perhaps filling a baby pool with bronze paint would be more effective?

Advice anyone?

Monday, 21 September 2009

The non-weekend and other stuff

This weekend passed by in a total blur. We saw My Sister's Keeper on Friday evening. Blegh. The book was so much better. The movie ending was just not the same.

Saturday I left the house at 8am to help my mom out at a charity fete. I was in charge of the temporary tattoos / stickers / face-painting stall. It was a LONG day. I only left at 4pm, so Saturday felt like it went on forever, but at the same time lile I totally skipped it, if that makes any sense. TSC was at Germiston Dam, racing his concrete boat. His team won "most original boat design", but didn't get far in the heats as their boat is shaped like a paddleski and none of them could stay on the thing (which floated really well). He was there from 7am to 3pm, so he was also pretty exhausted.

We chilled at home and watched The Boat That Rocked - a sincerely strange film. Great moments, but wasn't sure what I thought of it as a whole.

Sunday we had brunch on our balcony - farmstyle omelettes and home-brewed lattes - and then cleaned the house and prepped for a church meeting we were hosting. After that (at 5pm) we left for church, got back, had supper, did TSC's studying (I teach the theory to him, which seems to help. I know all about the construction methods of dams, bridges and tunnels now) and fell into bed at 11pm, dead tired.

And that was the weekend over. I've been given Friday off (Thursday is a national holiday in South Africa) as my boss figures nobody will be around, so I have a very long weekend. I was hoping to go camping with TSC, but he's away on a varsity practical week from tomorrow till Sunday, so I'll be on my own. I guess I'll get some house stuff, freelance work and craft projects done. My only plans thus far are to watch the F1 with Angel and Glug on Sunday.

I need to go and write a motivational 35-minute speech now for my boss to deliver at some conference next week. Coz I'm so good at being motivational. Huh.

Friday, 18 September 2009


  • It's Friday!

  • I have the Jason Mraz album playing instead of Roo's usual blaring pop radio station.

  • Went to a great new restaurant last night, Arzoo, serving "Incredible Punjabi Cuisine". They unfortunately don't have a website, but if you're keen to try their AMAZING chicken tikka marsala or lamb gosht badami, they're in the Bryan Park Shopping Centre and their telephone number is (011) 706 9345/6. The food is great, the lighting is... unusually and amusingly kitsch and the service is by far the best I've had in years. New favourite!

  • I have finally decided what I'm going to buy with my Kalahari voucher from Angel and Glug. Thanks again, guys!

  • I won tickets to Taste of Joburg from the competition on Glad to Be a Girl. How awesome?! I am so excited that I could jump up and down at my desk. Instead I'll just bounce on the exercise ball I sit on at my desk like a five-year old on a sugar high. Wheeeeeeee!

  • Some of my favourite bloggers have been saying nice things about me and giving me awesome awards. Yay!

I got this pretty one from Angel and Louisa...

This one from Helen, for all the *ahem* honest scrap on this here blog thing...

And this specially-made one from Paula...

Thanks, guys! You really boosted my spirits!

I know I'm supposed to pass these all on, but I can't keep track of who's got them already, so I'm just going to dish out Paula's awesome "blog I read with my morning coffee" award to: Phillygirl (I know you don't do awards, but yours is one of the blogs I read first every morning), Slyde (I have a feeling you're also not an awards-fan, but tough) and Louisa (I smile every time I see your blog in bold in my reader).

I'm also supposed to write 10 random things about me, but I write random things every day (almost) here, so I'm going to skip that bit and just say...

Have a rad, fab, mad *insert other three-letter adjectives here* weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

No Guest-Bloggers Allowed

Ahem... contrary to the heading, today's post is from my first-ever guest blogger, Damaria. This is her take on sites that don't allow guest bloggers...

I recently asked a blogger if she would host me as a guest-blogger on her site, as part of my online promotion of Kwanda, the community makeover show. She flatly told me “NO.”

No, she didn’t object to me personally. My content is really harmless, and we’d never “met” on the blogosphere, so I’ve never had the occasion to offend her.

The reason was that she had been let down by bloggers too make times. They’d come on her site, make promises, and then disappear from the face of the earth. So she decided she would no longer host guest-bloggers.

Practically speaking, I couldn’t argue with her position. It is her site, and she can do whatever she likes, and if she doesn’t want to have guest bloggers, that’s cool.

But I also felt sad for her, because she must have been disappointed many times to come to that decision. And if you have been on the Internet/blogosphere long enough, you know what I’m talking about: good content sites shut down seemingly overnight, because the hosting fees are climbing higher due to increased traffic, and the site consumes so much time to update and maintain, and the owner is not getting advertising revenue to keep the site going.

Or a blogger gets tired; wonders if he/she still has something to say. Decides he/she doesn’t, and shuts down a popular blog.

Or my very favourite, which happens a lot among writing blogs: the blogger is inundated with client work. Most of us writers just hang out at our blogs to make friends, have fun and have a platform to occasionally vent to people who truly understand what you’re going through. So when you have to slice up your 24/7 to your priorities, sometimes, paying work trumps blogging. Because blogging is just a fun activity [unless you do it for the money etc].

So I wondered if I would I ever be so tired of being disappointed by bloggers [for the above reasons] that I would decide not to have guest-bloggers anymore. Would blogging be just as rewarding for me?

And what about you? Are you comfortable having guest-bloggers on your blog? Why/not?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

People don't understand my OTHER job either!

Ages ago I wrote a post about how people don't understand my morning PR job. I mentioned that there's nothing complicated about journalism, which I see as my real job (see that's what I do in the afternoons, evenings, weekends and all other possible working hours. Sometimes). I figure people should understand that "journalism" bit, even if they don't get public relations at all.


You have no idea how many times I get asked what I do (that is the Joburg conversation starter) and reply with my well-rehearsed line, *smile nicely* "I work mornings at a PR company as a writer and then I'm a freelance journalist in the afternoons," only to be met with a blank stare and a line of drool rolling slowly down a cheek. On other occasions, I get The Gush, which goes something like, "Oh WOW! That must be like SUPER exciting!!! How awesome!!!"

Yes, dear friends - I can even hear the additional exclamation marks tagged on the end of that sentence, which is usually quickly followed with one of these remarks:
  • So have you met anyone famous?
  • Did you get to cover the Brangelina / Michael Jackson / Caster Semenya / *insert other popular celeb or news topic here* story?
  • What newspaper do you write for?

Firstly, as far as I am concerned, celeb stalking is not news. I really don't think that endless stories on which celebrity is trying to adopt a third world orphan next should be front page headlines. And I am totally clueless when it comes to the rich and famous. I didn't know who David Guetta was until yesterday, for Pete's sake. So no, I didn't cover whatever Brangelina story it is you're talking about. And no, sorry for you - I don't have the inside scoop from Heat or People magazines. What are those, by the way?

Now I have the utmost respect for news journalists, but I am not one. And will probably never be one. News journos get sent where the danger is, where buildings are blowing up or governments are being overthrown. They inform the public, mobilise change and occasionally save the world. They also, however, get sent by miserable editors to sit in month-long court cases and have to interview outraged citizens and slimy politicians. None of those things appeal to me, I must admit.

But it's not even the subject matter that put me off pursuing news journalism... it's the way you have to write. As you know, I can go on and on and on and on. And there's no room for that in news. Or for interesting descriptions and poetic language, of which, believe it or not, I am actually a big fan.

I hate disappointing people by not being a news journo. I always feel like when I try to explain that I prefer feature writing, I'm sort of telling them that there's no Easter Bunny (What? Really? Who was that giant rabbit in my yard then?) and that I must hang my head in shame.

But it's the truth. I enjoy magazine feature writing. And I'm proud of it. Not really. But yes, I love getting to explore a topic and learn about something I may never have thought of before. I love asking people for their professional opinions, not just the facts. I love that occasionally I can include my own thoughts and not just the "objective" truth.

I enjoy that I have a double-page spread or more to fill, not just a tiny box on a broadsheet filled with other boxes. I love seeing my name printed on glossy pages in full colour. It's very satisfying to see women flipping through a magazine I have contibuted towards in a supermarket, even if they don't buy it.

That said, I wish I did more of this kind of work. Maybe that's why "The Gush" gets to me. Because I know that most of the stuff I do is definitely not "SUPER exciting" or even semi-exciting. In fact, a lot of it is about as dull as can be.

I write corporate crap for companies who spout business cliches at impressive speed, like "our employees are really our greatest assets", "At White Male Execs 'R Us, BEE is not just a numbers game - it's the right thing to do" and, my personal favourite from the many dreary employees I interview, "I love my job - it doesn't feel like work to me" delivered in a zombie monotone (hint: I'm not going to tell your boss you said that, so sorreee for you - no extra brownie points today).

I write website copy for people who think that html links are the devil. I even do some basic advertising copy when it comes my way to pay the bills and build up cash for when I can eventually do this stuff fulltime. That's my funniest story, actually. I called someone on behalf of the ad agency I was writing for to get some product info and said to the receptionist, "I'm the copy writer." She replied, "Cool. So what do you copyright? Like new inventions and stuff?"

For real, y'all.

Anyway, I'm off to do some PR, write some fascinating case studies on variable speed drives (whatever those are) and not cover the Patrick Swayze story now. Have a good one.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Flowers to lift the spirits

Inspired by Jeanette's recent post, here are some of my pics (not nearly as impressive, I'm afraid) of the flowers that soothe my soul when I get home to my garden...





And finally, my new loot from the Lifestyle Garden Centre on Sunday...

Yay for green things to keep me (semi) sane!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Good times

I can't believe it's Monday again. It's a horrible way to spend a seventh of one's life ;-)

I'm actually in a fairly good mood today, despite it being Monday, probably because I feel like I eeked out every bit of weekend goodness.

Friday afternoon, I got home from work and picked the peas that were weighing down the plants in the veggie patch. I had enough to give five bags away. Pretty impressive. I also picked some spinach, cherry tomatoes and cabbage for my folks. I can't send them on holiday to Zanzibar like they did for us, but I can keep their fridge well stocked with green things!

TSC arrived home shortly afterwards and we got ready for supper at Die Boomhuisie (translated as the little treehouse) in Krugersdorp with Phillygirl, Varen, Louisa, Yvette and her hubby and little baby Sienna. I wish their website was working so I could show you some pics and the menu!

We had such a good time. What a hilarious, lovely bunch of people and what an awesome place - the decor, food and service were all great. I highly recommend the lemon condensed milk cake. Mmmm...

On Saturday we were up early to get through to Pretoria. I dropped TSC off at my folks place, dropped our year-end financial documents at our accountant and then met one of my best friends, Toni, at the Irene Village Market.

When we got home, I got busy in the garden while TSC worked on varsity stuff, planting some wild irises I got from my mom and digging some straw, compost and bone meal into the one patch where the soil is like clay. Good workout, I must say.

We headed to our great friends Brett and Kim for Brett's birthday braai. Such legends. We couldn't stay long because TSC had so much work, but it was good to catch up a bit and meet some new people.

On Sun, TSC was up early again and on the PC. I slept in for a bit and then we went to Lifestyle Garden Centre for the first time and had brunch at Primi Life. What a different experience to the pathetic service at Primi Extreme! The coffee was brilliant, the service and food were really good and we enjoyed sitting in a patch of sunlight enjoying the Sunday spring weather.

We then headed to the nursery where I stocked up on some new plants - vygies, gazanias, osteospurmums, purple alyssum and some more pansies. Big thanks to Phillygirl for my birthday voucher for Lifestyle Garden Centre, which introduced me to one of my new favourite places in Joburg!

We got home just in time for the F1 race at Monza, which was interesting from start to finish, despite the fact that my team (McLaren) didn't do very well. Kovalainen disappointed once again, finishing sixth. He just doesn't have the winning spirit. And Hamilton may have too much of it - he pushed so hard that he dropped it on the last lap and crashed out of the race, losing the six points he would have won from third place.

Sutil of the Force India team moved up into fourth place. I was chuffed for him. For those of you (most of you) who don't watch, Force India has always been one of the least likely teams to be anywhere near the front, so the fact that they had a driver on the podium in the last race (who is now driving for Ferrari) and in the top half of the points-paying positions this week (drivers up to eighth place scores points) is like... The Pumas beating the Blue Bulls, Sharks and Lions (in other words, a Disney-movie type of "underdog wins against all odds" situation).

After the Grand Prix, I planted all my new flowers, trimmed, dug and generally tidied up the garden (which took a couple of hours and gave me blisters on my hands to match those on my feet). Tired but happy, I cleaned up and TSC and I headed off to church to end the weekend.

How was your weekend?

Friday, 11 September 2009

I want to SCREAM!

I have just had THE most frustrating client meeting of my life. It's a wonder everyone who was present is still alive and in one piece.

Do you know that feeling where you're so angry you start shaking? I had to grip my pen and pad really tightly to a) stop the client from noticing that explosion was imminent and b) stop my hands from grabbing him around his neck and shaking him until he turned blue.

I have met with the lady before (lovely dear that she is), let's call her Em. She set up this meeting to discuss the plans with her fellow head honcho and me today.

Em briefed me to rewrite the organisation's website copy and make recommendations as to how they could improve their "completely outdated and hideous" website (for example, stop using an off-red colour for all the text). She said the organisation has a web developer that can implement the changes and that she hates the site and wants to start by removing the sponsors names (they feature prominently on every page of the site and detract from the actual copy). I agree with her recommendation and add it to my list.

In preparation for today, I came up with homepage copy and some recommendations, which were to keep the site template pretty much the same but move certain elements (from the random right-hand navigation bar to the left one and get rid of the right-side nav bar to allow for more white space and less clutter (they currently have four navigation bars. Super confusing!).

I present this to her and Mr I-think-I'm-God at today's meeting. I can tell he's going to be difficult from the minute he walks in and starts crapping on me because the map to my offices (that everyone else has used without issue) is not to his liking.

He stops me about one-second into the conversation to tell me that I was contracted to write copy, not redesign their entire website. I calmly explain that I understand this and that I have not redesigned the site, but just made the recommendation of moving some elements to another place in the template. I have not suggested we delete pages, create new ones or scrap the whole site and start again. I also explain that part of my brief was to recommend how to improve the site's flow.

I try to continue.

He interrupts again, telling me I have "not fulfilled my mandate" and that I basically don't know what I'm doing... That my recommendations will mean they have to change their website. "Yes," I say. "I was told that you have someone who can do that who works for you." He tells me that they don't plan to demolish their site and start again. I once again explain that this will not be necessary - the site design will remain almost the same, with a few elements shifting from one side of the page to the other.

This conversation happens a total of seven times during the hour.

Em, who is also taking a bashing from Chief Moron, is trying to hold back tears. She keeps saying she's sorry she ever got involved with this project, that she washes her hands of it, that I must bill her for my time and that she's sorry to have wasted my time.

Poor dear.

He keeps telling her that he's not saying they shouldn't do this project, but that there are ways of doing it and that this is not the right one.

I think I came closest to losing it with him and smacking him on his bald, stupid head with his own teacup (especially seeing having requested tea, he ignored it and didn't touch it once) when he started telling me that he is in the business of web development and everyone knows that it's best to have all your company's information on the home page becuase people don't click on links on websites.

According to Dipstick, having a looooong homepage where people have to scroll for ages is far superior to having a short, uncluttered homepage with clear navigation options that will take people to the specific info they want without them having to spend years searching for it.

He also doesn't believe in having lots of webpages. When I said that the more pages you have, with quality content on them, the higher trawlers will rank you, he told me (patronisingly) that my point might be true, but only if you're interested in attracting people to your site who haven't been there before.

Uhhh... and you're not interested in that, Bright Spark?! That explains a lot.

Every time I tried to make a point or bring him back to letting me explain the copy I'd written, he told me "There's no need to get defensive about it, Tamara."

In the end, Poor Em apologised for the millionth time and closed the meeting by simply standing up to leave. I stood up too and Ego Maniac grudglingly halted his lecturing and finger-wagging(easiest way to piss me off) and left without even greeting me.

I would so like to hit something (well, a particular someone) right now. Thank goodness for blogging, hey?

And for Fridays.

Woosaaaa, Tamara. Wooosaaaaa...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Me on movies

Just realised my driver's licence expires in a few weeks time. Bah! Anyone know an easy way to get it renewed that doesn't involve paying bribes or standing in queues for six years?

I feel like watching movies today. Seeing I have to be at the office instead, I'll just blog about them...

Saw District 9 last night. I must disagree with Ches, who hated the movie (although he does make some valid points). Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting much, but I thought it was pretty damn good. Generally, when people rave about a movie I end up hating it and there was quite a bit of hype around this flick so I figured it would disappoint. But it didn't.

I think it's a great movie. But that doesn't mean I enjoyed it. Let me clarify... there are movies that you can admit are totally brilliant without finding great pleasure in watching them. The same goes for books. Like JM Coetzee's Disgrace. I don't deny it was clever, well-written and worth studying for high school English. Doesn't mean I liked it though.

District 9 was, IMHO, well filmed with good actors, nice fast-moving action scenes and effective special effects. Yes, there were a few cliches and some bits that could easily have been left out (the last sequence seemed a bit protracted to me), but overall, it was well directed and edited. What surprised me though, was how much I was moved by the film.

I left the Il Grande cinema in a sober, pensive mood. I knew District 9 would touch on issues of xenophobia, but it really, really got to me. It was so gritty and dirty and South African and... real. It wasn't an idyllic, romanticised, pretty picture. I liked that about it.

The only thing I truly didn't like (aside from the fact that the main character only seems to know one expletive, which he uses about six times in every sentence) is the portrayal of Nigerians in the movie - they are shown as being completely devoid of human empathy and moral standards. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

If I were Nigerian, that would piss me off no end.

But all in all, a good film in my opinion. What are your thoughts?

TSC and I also watched Coraline on DVD the other day. Let me start by saying that I am absolutely fascinated by stop-motion animation. I think my dream job would be to build sets and props for a film like this. The puppets, sets and art direction are amazing!

Ok, maybe the storyline was a little... odd, but even if I didn't find the plot particularly gripping, I was impressed by the colours, characters and even texture of the film (does that make sense?).

I know this movie was released in 3D, but I'm glad we saw it on DVD so we had access to the special features showing the making of the film. Like Transformers or Nightmare Before Christmas, this is a movie I believe you can appreciate more once you know what the production entails.

Basically, there are 24 frames per second of film. In stop-motion, you have to film each frame one at a time, readjusting the puppet and set so that when you string all the frames together and speed them up, it flows like a normal movie. It can take an animator days or even weeks to film a few seconds.

It is enormously labour-intensive to shoot stop-motion and Coraline was no exception, with around 450 people working on almost 150 sets with characters no taller than a nice new pencil. The clothes are hand-stitched, the fires are hand-drawn into scenes after filming and the puppets have over 200 000 facial expressions that need to be hand-created by the animators and designers. The work is phenomenal!

If you want a feel-good, easy-to-watch animated story with a nice storyline, rent out Finding Nemo. If you want to watch a beautifully-designed stop-motion work of art, plus all the in-depth features, Coraline is worth a look. and if you do watch it / have seen it, please let me know what you thought.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The REAL signs that spring has sprung

The reasons I know that spring is here have nothing to do with the fragrant jasmine in bloom, the sun staying out a bit longer in the evenings, the fact that I have a sudden craving for crunchy salads or the realisation that I no longer need a hot water bottle to survive in my office. These are the REAL reasons I know spring has arrived:

  • TSC killed the first mosquito last night. The war has resumed.

  • My cats are shedding more prolifically than usual. Everything black in our house is covered in white cat hair and everything white is covered in black cat hair. Sneaky buggers.

  • Magazines are all running their annual "get bikini-ready in 5 easy steps" type of nonsense articles.

  • You can smell meat on the braai (BBQ) on weekends again.

  • My Northern Hemisphere blog friends are moaning about the onset of winter.

  • People are showing their Lily-white legs (mine are unfortunately always that pale, even in mid-summer).

  • People are phoning me earlier in the morning.

  • My colleagues are wearing brighter colours.

  • My heart is pining for Cape Town more than usual.

  • The cats have stopped sleeping on the bed with us.
The shedding culprits, in all their cuteness...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Random bits again

I have no logical stream of thought today (do I ever?), so here's bits of what's going on...

We finished off TSC's birthday with supper at Coco Bongo at Monte Casino. Having browsed around on all of Phillygirl's restaurant posts, I was planning on taking him to Soulsa or The Attic, but both are closed on Mondays.

I'm glad we ended up at Coco Bongo though. It was the best choice for my meat-loving man. He's long been raving about the "perfect steak" that he had nearly three years ago on our honeymoon and how no steak has ever matched up to it. Until now.

I had a bite, and I must admit (despite the fact that I don't ever order steak out - too many other more interesting things on the menu)... It was really good. So were my prawns (the Monday and Tuesday night 1kg of prawns for R100 special). The service was also really good, so despite the fact that it's inside Monte Casino (not my favourite place with its OTT Tuscan theme and permanent twilight), we will definitely go back for a second visit.

In other catch-up news, the weekend was full of highs and lows. Lows first...
  • Had to trek through to Pretoria on Friday in horrible traffic to sign-off our company's year-end financials. When TSC and I arrived at the office, it was deserted. They forgot to tell us they'd moved, so we had to get back in the car, head back into traffic and trek through to the other side of town. Grrr!
  • Fell down a full flight of stairs at Menlyn shopping centre on Saturday. My useless shoes that have no grip let me down. The whole right side of my body is a mess. I pulled a muscle in my back, hurt my elbow pretty badly (still sore even to the lightest touch), skinned my ankle and knee and ensured that my whole hip area is now a painful and violent dark blue in colour. The worst bit? I sleep on my right side, so I haven't had a decent night's sleep since Sat.

The good bits win through though:

  • Friday night we had a birthday supper for TSC with my family at a new restuarant in Brooklyn, Pretoria. Kream is very swish... It has gorgeous decor and an interesting menu featuring things like Avocado Crayfish or Bone Marrow as starters and Duck Confit or Sirloin Aubergine as mains. I must say that my duck was way too salty, but everyone else's food seemed good and the service was superb. The best things, however, are the desserts. The (dark) chocolate mousse is a treat and the Blondies & Brownies are absolutely excellent. I had worried that the place would be a bit pretentious, but we had a great time. Thumbs up for Kream.
  • Getting seriously stuck into our home office. I bought us a beautiful secondhand corner desk that we can both work at together (so we don't have to fight for legroom anymore). On Saturday we moved it in and sorted through the various craft, work, varsity, admin and other crap that had made the place almost impossible to get into. It looks like a new room! Now if I can just get TSC to pack away his neatly sorted piles of paper into some sort of filing system, I can take photos to show you.

Must go follow up on useless clients now. Have a great afternoon, all.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Happy bday to my hubby

TSC turns 25 today, and even though he never reads this blog, I am going to use the chance to gush about him while I have a good reason to be soppy.

Feel free to gag.

TSC and I met six years ago and couldn't stand the sight of each other. Since then, we have both changed a lot and I have come to appreciate the good bits about him. And there are a lot. Here are 25 of my favourite things about my husband on his 25th birthday:

  1. He stuck with me through some of the darkest times in my life, even when I was horrible to be with and totally ungrateful for his support.
  2. When he holds me, I feel totally safe and at peace.
  3. Because I am a social being, he has learnt to be one too. Despite not being big on groups, he has moved from sitting in the corner sulking (he did this at the first bday party of mine he attended) to being a fantastic host and someone who's easy to chat to.
  4. He has the sexiest backside in the world, IMO.
  5. He gets on with my parents and tolerates my brother.
  6. He takes care of me when I'm sick / stressed / upset. If he knows I'm unhappy for any reason, he'll run me a hot bubblebath and pour me a glass of wine. Who wouldn't love someone like that?
  7. Although his family has never been big on birthdays / Christmas / present-giving in general, he knows that mine has and makes a concerted effort to be good at a) giving me bday presents I will treasure, b) getting excited about presents I give him.
  8. Over the years, he has learnt to say 'sorry' after a fight, sometimes even if it wasn't his fault.
  9. He's ready to fight for me if necessary.
  10. After a long day of dealing with difficult clients, I need to vent and he lets me. He even tries (although not very successfully, I have to admit) to remember which client is which and get upset about repeat offences with me.
  11. He thinks I'm gorgeous. And even when I feel hideous, he tells me that.
  12. He smells good, even when he's not wearing his aftershave.
  13. He makes me laugh.
  14. We can have fun doing anything together, from painting the spare bedroom to reading the paper on our veranda like old folks, chatting as we drive, watching DVDs on our couch, grocery shopping or even working out a budget on the back of a serviette.
  15. He has learnt to have an argument with me, rather than bottling things up and never sorting them out.
  16. I think his family still blames me for the fact that he lives far away (even though as far as I'm concerned, that was his own choice in the beginning). While in the past he has not stood up to them for me, he has now made it clear that although he will always be their child, he has a family of his own now.
  17. He feels the same way I do about having kids - not ready to think about it yet.
  18. He hates gardening, but because he knows I love my garden, he diligently mows and waters the lawn for me.
  19. He can cook. And when I can't make supper (like last week, when I was working on that insane deadline), he steps in and cooks for us.
  20. He has the cutest laugh.
  21. He's ticklish, which (seeing he's double my size) gives me an effective weapon against him when he picks me up and slings me over his shoulder ;-)
  22. He never knows the lyrics to songs, so he makes up his own.
  23. We generally agree on movies - what's good and what's not - with a few exceptions. On the other hand, we DO NOT have the same taste in music. At all. But he'll usually agree not to play music that he knows I hate if I'm in the car with him.
  24. He does a lot of the icky chores in the house - taking out the dustbin and sorting out the catbox, for instance.
  25. He's so different to me. We complement each other and balance each other out.

OK, gagfest done.

Friday, 4 September 2009

10 random thoughts on a Friday

  1. While fruit salad may be the healthiest breakfast option, my body is wired for wanting carbohydrates first thing in the morning. Can't seem to convince it otherwise.
  2. Having volunteered to write the newsletter for the complex where I live, I have met with the trustees to discuss and now have a sinking feeling that my visions of designer formatting and entertaining snippets will be overruled by the trustee's wish for "pick up your dogs' poop" instructions. *sigh*
  3. Law of client probability: the likelihood of all the bits of a project NOT being signed off before deadline is directly proportional to how much crap I will get into if the deadline is missed.
  4. Saying "no" to potential freelance work, even if it means saving myself hours of sweat, blood, tears and possible suicide attempts is really difficult. Especially when the pay would have been good.
  5. Walking through our neighbourhood with TSC, ice-lolly in hand, on a spring evening in the sunshine, marvelling at the gorgeous blossoms on the trees, satisfies my soul at its deepest level.
  6. There are many clients that make me why I picked my line of work, and one or two who make it all worth it.
  7. There are some people who deserve a degree in talking crap they are just so good at it.
  8. I am always slightly terrified at pressing the "delete all" button on my digital camera, even if I know that I've saved my photos to three different locations.
  9. I secretly fear that I will never want to have children. And that it makes me a bad woman. Also, if I were to be unable to have kids for any reason, I think my mother-in-law would see it as the biggest possible failure.
  10. Sneezing annoys me. I wish it didn't. I know people can't help sneezing. But I HATE it. The worst is when I have to sneeze. It puts me in a bad mood. Thank goodness I don't suffer from hayfever.

That's what's going around my head this morning. What are your random thoughts?

Have a fabulous Friday and an awesome weekend!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

I feel like a new person

My big freelance project is almost over. I have done my bit and the work is now with the 20-odd people I had to interview. While making corrections from all these people and following up so that I can get final copy to send to the magazine will be a royal pain, at least I know the writing is done and the ball is now no longer in my court.

*huge sigh of relief*

Also, things appear to be more stable at the morning job, which is good, seeing I haven't known if the company would survive beyond this month until now.

All in all, I am feeling infinitely better. TSC and I had a relaxed braai at home last night with a bottle of good red wine, my fabulous strawberry and avo salad and some chilled music. It did me the world of good to not work until late in the night and actually unwind a bit.

Now I can concentrate my efforts on preparing TSC's birthday present for Monday. I LOVE organising presents and spoiling people I care about. Oh, and I can also give some attention to my other clients, who have had to take backseat for the past three weeks.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Rocking our leggings and side ponytails

What a weekend! Friday and Saturday flew by preparing for our 80s event on Saturday evening, which was a total blast! Aside from a few no-shows and last minute cancellations (grrrr), it was fabtastic.
My Rubik's cube cake turned out quite nicely, along with the neon decor. See below. The punch was also a hit.

I painted big stars on a piece of polystyrene with neon fabric paint and spattered some on a black plastic tablecloth. We borrowed a UV light, stuck some glow in the dark bits on the windows and this was the oh-so-80s result...

Here's me in my 80s kit (pity you can't see my leggings, rah-rah skirt, luminous pink legwarmers and uber-long glitter false eyelashes in this pic)... I borrowed the glasses from some-one else for the photo. I reckon I should've kept them - they're so cute and sparkly ;-) Those long-dangly earrings were also glow sticks.

Sunday was spent tidying up. It's weird how people always find really odd places to stash their empty beer cans. We found wine bottles in the garden, paper plates in our kitchen sink, bottletops in the guest loo and general mess all over the show. But the cleaning went more quickly than expected, so we were ready to work our double shift at church on Sunday evening. My poor feet are aching after all that rushing around the whole weekend long.
One of my darling best friends spent the night on Sunday so she could help man the phones in the office on Monday while everyone else was out at a tradeshow. It was great to catch up with her while I worked before dashing off for the usual Monday meetings. Blegh.
Worked till 9.30 last night on a big deadline and off to do more of that now. Ticking bits of this project off my list helps me to lower the stress levels slightly and avoid meltdown.
Have a great week, people.