Monday, 22 November 2010

All sorts of updates

Where do I start? I thought that because my work has slowed down, life would slow down. Hah! It's been busy. So here's a bit of a catch-up.

Jolie (the French-speaking lady who fainted at my jewellery sale): She's fine and says it was low blood pressure. Apparently the hospital did some tests and they're all ok. She looks much better and is up and about as usual. Yay!

My supper club's Christmas lunch went really well, I think. TSC and I were hosting and seeing I love Christmas and I love Sunday lunch, I was determined to make it a really festive event. So now you have to hear about it all, because I need it written down on this blog in case I'm looking for ideas again next year ;-)

I set a trestle table up on our veranda so we could enjoy the summer weather and picked bright pink and blue as the colours. I made little place name Christmas baubles that I tied around the napkins with ribbon, which everyone could take home and hang on their Christmas trees. Here's mine...

I also make Christmas crackers (because shop bought ones have rubbish gifts and are also insanely expensive). Mine were complete with the snappers in the middle and I had pink ones for the ladies and blue for the guys. Each girl got a pretty Chinese-styled patterned pen and a beaded bracelet and each boy got a bottle opener and a bottle stopper / pourer thingey.

We kicked off the afternoon with a Christmas cocktail (very easy: mix two tablespoons of brandy with two tablespoons of Grenadine and one tablespoon of cherry liqueur. Divide between six champagne flutes, top up with rose sparkling wine and add a maraschino cherry to each glass). Divine! I also made devilled eggs (mainly because TSC bought a huge batch of eggs because they were on special and so I needed to get rid of them).

For starters I made the easiest thing in the world that happens to look super impressive. I threaded small wedges of camembert cheese, slices of preserved green figs, rocket leaves and torn pieces of smoked beef onto a skewer to make gourmet kebabs. I made one with smoked chicken instead of beef for our one member who doesn't eat red meat. Then I put each skewer on a small side plate (which I'd decorated with a swirl of balsamic reduction) drizzled with olive oil and served.

For mains I'd made roast pork loin. I rubbed the meat with Melissa's cook's salt with chilli, lime & coriander, and then roasted it in a little bit of orange and ginger wine. I roasted mixed veggies with olive oil, a dollop of honey and a sprinkle of mixed seeds, which served as a side dish, and also made my chickpea curry for the lady who doesn't eat red meat who also doesn't eat pork. Sigh. Everyone had a bit though, so it was worth the extra admin (although it only takes 10 minutes to make, I must admit). I also made a big salad with lettuce, tomatoes from my garden (which somehow taste much nicer than the shop-bought ones), cucumber, tangy green apples, strawberries, spring onions from the garden, green peppers and a dressing of half mayo and half apricot yoghurt.

Dessert was a devilishly rich chocolate cheesecake (recipe from Fresh Living magazine) served with strawberries. I tried to take a quick pic while I was in the kitchen, but I didn't have my tripod handy and I was shooting with my long lens, so I got some major camera shake. Here's a blurry idea of how it looked...

After lunch and recovering in the cool of the lounge for a bit, we did our Christmas present swap. We got M & B, the couple we were buying for, a book called Offbeat South Africa and a bottle of our homemade pickled sweet peppers.

From the couple who were buying for us, we got a lovely bottle of cabernet sauvignon.

I was still planning on writing about a whole bunch of other stuff in this post, but seeing I've babbled quite a bit, I'll leave you with two shots of Angel's divine cupcakes I snapped at the jewellery open house, just because they are so pretty.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Off to Mpumalanga

I'll have to wait to write about the things I wanted to and to post those pics, coz we're off this morning to Mpumalanga to help my gran move some furniture and will only be back on Friday afternoon.

I finally confirmed that we could go on Monday as I had a quiet week ahead with no hectic meetings and projects scheduled. Of course, no sooner had I made the decision, everything fell to pieces and I've spent the last two days frantically managing a client, fighting to get my internet working, rewriting projects that were meant to get signed off months ago and generally cursing Murphy and his law.

But, we're off shortly, so clients and cats will have to cope without me for two and a bit days, which I'm sure they'll manage just fine. Have a good hump day, y'all.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Wrote this yesterday...

...But my internet went down for most of the day. Am posting this from an internet cafe before I head home to fight with Telkom some more. Joy.

It has been a really eventful weekend. I feel completely exhausted, actually. But the majority of the weekend was good fun, so it was worth it.

My jewellery sale on Saturday was pathetic. I made a fraction of the sales I made last year and feel very bleak about it all because it impacts on my Christmas presents and holiday spending money. That said, I feel even worse for the other folks who were selling because they didn't do well either.

I'm not sure whether it was the super hot weather, the fact that it's the middle of the month or whether there were other things happening on the day, but turnout was poor. And then we had some drama too...

One of the ladies who lives in our complex, Jolie, is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and is a French speaker. Her English is quite poor, but between my extremely rusty French and her Pidgin English, we can usually get by just fine and we've become fairly friendly. We'll stop and chat if we see each other, but we're not at a point where we visit each other or have phone details etc.

Anyway, I saw Jolie on Friday and invited her to pop in on Sat, which she did. She seemed fine when she arrived, but said she wasn't feeling well. She couldn't, however, articulate her symptoms and I gathered from her gestures that she felt a bit dizzy or had a headache.

She spent about half an hour browsing through jewellery with one of my neighbours, Rosanna, and tried on various things. Then she said she really wasn't feeling well. Rosanna gave her some sugar water and she said she thought she's better go to the doctor. I followed her to the front door and as she walked out, she collapsed. A friend and I managed to each grab an arm as she went down, so she didn't hit her head on the ground, but we couldn't support her dead weight. Brett, who was displaying his photos, picked her up and carried her to the couch.

Thankfully one of my mates, Shannon, was there and worked as a paramedic for many years, so she knew what to do and propped Jolie's feet up on some pillows and took her pulse, which was racing. I managed to get her to take a few sips of water, but she wouldn’t' eat anything and Rosanna said she apparently hadn't eaten all day. We thought it might be low blood pressure, low blood sugar and the intense heat that had got to her, but she didn't seem to be getting any better and couldn't answer any questions. Of course, all my French went out the window and I couldn't think of how to ask her if this had happened before, if she was diabetic or pregnant or anything else useful.

Instead I jogged down the street in my high heels to her house and asked her domestic worker to wake her husband up as he was apparently sleeping. I'd never met him before, and I don't think he understood the situation as he only came sauntering down the road about 15 minutes later. Eventually, when he arrived, he saw how sick Jolie really was and went to fetch the car to take her to hospital.

Rosanna spoke to him later on and he said Jolie was fine, but the doctors were still trying to figure out what had happened. I don't have their phone numbers, so I'll walk across this afternoon and see how she's doing.

I think that little incident put a bit of a dampener on things too. The good part of the day, though, was getting to chat to the other sellers and visitors. Angel was selling her amazing cupcakes and I'm still trying to decide what's the best thing about them - how beautiful they are or how delicious they taste. I couldn't resist snapping a shot or two. Hopefully she gets some orders from the people who were there.

It was lovely to catch up with her, MJ, who was selling jewellery (totally different to mine, so we got some ideas from each other), Brett and Kim, selling photos, and everyone who popped by to browse. Despite the fact that so many people who said they'd come didn't arrive and I didn't make much money, I really enjoyed the morning.

I have so much stock left over though and I've decided I'm leaving it all unpacked as I have a couple of friends who couldn't be there and said they may come by later in the week to have a look. I'm also looking for other avenues to sell my stuff, so if you have any ideas, let me know.
The rest of the weekend was packed, but awesome, but I'll leave the details and photos for tomorrow's post, if my annoying internet connection stops playing up and lets me post at all ;-)

Hah! How true that last paragraph turned out to be!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Good start

My dad called me yesterday morning to tell me he'd been reading the articles I gave him on the weekend (poor man - I dumped three of my longwinded reports for a business mag with him over the weekend to trawl through). He said he just wanted to let me know that he thinks I'm a very good writer and that he's proud of me.

How sweet is that? It started my day off really well. Never underestimate the power of a nice compliment.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Family, Formula One and irrational fear

While everyone else is rushing madly towards the end of 2010, my work has quietened down a bit as editors wrap up the last bits and pieces for Jan / Feb and even March editions. I've still got enough to keep me going, and it's actually lovely to have time to breathe again.

I've been making jewellery like crazy for this Sat. (as always, give me a shout if you want to come along to shop or sell). Starting to get scared about it. This is the third year that I've run a Christmas jewellery open house and every year I stress like crazy because there are other people involved and where there are people, there are complications. Last year I had a few sellers let me down. I'd advertised that they would be selling various things, and then people were disappointed when they didn't turn up. I've also had lots of no-shows from people who promised to pop in for a look-see, and then I worried that it wasn't fair on the sellers who were expecting a better crowd.

This year, I've been quite blase about the whole thing. If people don't show, that's their problem. I haven't made promises to anyone, so whomever turns up, awesome.

But I'm still stressed. I want the people who are selling their stuff to do well (last year's crowd all seemed to do ok, except the friend selling lingerie, because nobody wanted to be seen purchasing. But everyone took her business card and she got some sales in afterwards). And I want to do well because my jewellery sales determine my holiday spending cash and what I can afford to shell out on gifts.

Thankfully, my mother bought a whole bunch of jewellery from me this weekend for Christmas gifts and it came to the exact amount that I had spent on materials. I went to my fave bead place yesterday and got more glass beads, some beautiful pendants and a bracelet display unit, so I've got to pay that lot back, but from there on it's all profit.

Anyway, jewellery aside, it was a great weekend. My uncle and his boyfriend are in SA for a bit, visiting from Kuwait, so we did a big family supper at one of my favourite Pretoria restaurants, Smoke Cafe and Grill Lounge. I knew it was my type of restaurant the first time I saw that they place the dessert menu first so you can plan ahead ;-)

I had the Chicken Byzantine, which is chicken breast stuffed with fig, lemon and feta in a light cream chicken jus with fresh rosemary and garlic (no - didn't remember that off by heart. Had to copy/paste it from the menu) and TSC and I shared the nougat ice-cream for dessert. Yum on both counts!

Sunday's Formula One race was the second last of the season, and although Red Bull Racing tied up the Constructors' Championship, with one race to go, the Drivers' Championship is still wide open with four contenders ready to fight for the trophy this coming week.

In between family, jewellery and Formula One, TSC and I prepped the remainder of our veggie haul from Fruit and Veg City - almost 5kg of carrots and 5g of tomatoes - for freezer storage. We now have rows of neatly packed bags of steamed carrot portions and tubs of tomato puree, so if we're flat broke in January (usually the case), we can always live on carrot and tomato soup ;-)

Off to buy some labels for the jewellery now. I've run out, which made me happy seeing it means I've got more stock than I expected.

Two pics of flowers in my mom's garden. Not sure what they're called, but thought they were both very pretty...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

More jewellery pics and my kitties

How cute are my darlings? Well, I think they are. You don't have to ;-)

My little Sapphire cat...

My gorgeous Marble boy...

It's been a bland day... rain, updating a client's website with all the press releases I've ever written for them, laundry, invoicing and photographing my jewellery. *yawn* Nothing exciting.

Deep blue necklace with pendant...

Some alice bands. This is the first time I've tried these. What do you think?

Gold sparkly earrings...

This eve is my final photography class. So sad that it's nearly finished :-( I've loved every minute. I'll probably take the Photoshop course too, seeing I now have the fancy software and no idea how to use it. I love being able to keep learning new things. I want to be doing that for as long as I live. That's one of the main attractions of journalism for me, actually.

Before then, I must finish the work I'm busy with, visit the lady doctor (joy), exercise and make supper. So I'm going to say cheers for now and get to it.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Long catch-up post

Sorry I haven't blogged. Here's an update (more because I haven't had much conversation over the last few days and need an outlet, rather than because I think you'll find this interesting)...

I had a great weekend, although it was a bit mental. Friday night TSC and I had a date night and headed to our favourite sushi spot, Best of Asia. We normally only eat there on Tuesdays, because it's their awesome buy-two-plates-get-one-free special. Their sushi was divine, as always, and we came home fairly early and parked on the couch while I made jewellery for my craft sale day on 13 Nov (mail me if you want more info).

On Saturday, we did a whole bunch of errands (picked up the post, paid bills and hit Waltons for some office and varsity stationery) and cleaned house. I sorted out my foodie magazines and organised a neat way of storing them in the kitchen for easy access. Then I headed to Fruit & Veg City to get their amazing special deal (7kg potatoes, box of tomatoes, 3kg baby beetroot, 3kg onions, 5kg carrots and a bag of butternut for R100). Unfortunately half of Johannesburg seemed to have the same idea and there was barely room to move my shopping trolley. It took me forever to get out and I was not in a wonderful mood when I got home. Still wondering what to with all the carrots and beetroot!

Anyway, after doing laundry and pricing jewellery, it was nearly time for the big rugby game between the Sharks and Western Province. Our friends Brett and Kim joined us and we watched the game and had supper (I made a roast leg of lamb with roast veg and quinoa, with decadent chocolate mousse for dessert). Lots of wine later, the boys decided we should play board games, so we hauled out Monopoly and then 30 Seconds. Such fun! They eventually headed home at about 1.30am.

TSC and I did a quick clean-up (basically putting away all the food so the flies wouldn't get to it) and got to bed at 2am. I had to be up at 4.30am to be at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens on time for my photography outing. Despite being absolutely shattered, I had a great time and was happy with my shots. Seeing I'd brought muffins for the whole class, I also made lots of new friends ;-) Who says you can't buy them?

The rest of Sunday was spent cleaning, sleeping, watching a How Do I Look? marathon on The Style Network (my guilty pleasure) and then eventually heading out for a late supper to The Throbbing Strawberry, where we had the most divine food (Bacon and Brie Salad, Campagnola Pizza and Chicken Pesto Pasta) and really crap service.

Monday was fairly productive, but I could feel the start of a bladder infection. I've had cystitis before, so I know the symptoms. I took some Citrus Soda (hurl!), drank lots of water and hoped I'd flush it from my system. Not a chance!


It has not been my year for good health. I woke up at 2.30am on Tuesday feeling feverish, nauseous and desperate to pee. I didn't get back to bed after that... I sat at the PC and got some work done between peeing 13 times, throwing up once and feeling that constant uncomfortable pressure on my lower abdomen that bladder infections tend to bring. So, at 7am, I woke TSC up, phoned our local Intercare clinic (LOVE that they open at 7am!) and made an appointment for a GP at 8.15.

I hadn't met this doctor before. She is totally loopy. Kept hugging me, calling me nicknames and babbling about "f***ing patients" driving her mad. But, despite not being able to give her a pee sample (I can never pee on command), she gave me a prescription for antibiotics and some other stuff and off I went.

I tell you, yesterday felt like it took three days to happen. By 9am I'd already been up for nearly seven hours, but I had to make a couple of business calls and do some work. Tuesday is also the day that our once-a-week cleaner comes, so I was trying to keep out of her way. I managed to get some sleep in on the couch, and then once she'd finished upstairs, I went to bed. But I was woken up by two calls from clients and had to sort out work stuff. By the time it was 5pm, I felt like it was 9pm. Thankfully, we had so many leftovers in the fridge that we didn't have to cook.

My lovely man ran a bubble bath for me and I finally managed to get a good night's sleep, so today I'm feeling much better. The meds are working, I got a great workout in my aqua class this morning and TSC decided to spoil me for lunch at Cafe Blu, which I swear is one of the best-kept secrets in Johannesburg. They do a week-day lunch buffet for R35 per person! Today's buffet included greek salad, potato salad, chicken and rice salad, spaghetti with meatballs, hubbard squash, cottage pie and potato croquettes, with ice-cream, jelly, carrot cake or panna cotta for dessert. Yum!

The service is always good, the food is fresh and tastes like a home-cooked meal and they serve Coke in those dinky 300ml bottles (I think that's the only way it tastes like proper Coke). They also have a jungle gym and a staff member who spends time playing with kids, so it's a great place for parents with youngsters. On weekends they have a breakfast buffet and a Sunday lunch carvery. They also have a lovely a la carte menu. The fact that it's literally about 1km from our house means it's become a favourite hangout for us.

Sheesh... I sound like I'm being paid to write about the place!

Anyway, off to take my afternoon dose now and prepare for tonight's church small group.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Flora photos

Some pics I took at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens this weekend, on our class outing. I had fun, even though I'd only had 2.5 hours sleep the night before and could barely focus.

Will definitely be going back when I'm less exhausted ;-)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Various updates

It's a rainy, dark day in Joburg and I feel like watching DVDs in bed. But TSC is writing his first exam right now and I must get work done. The problem is that my major, hectic, scare-the-living-daylights-out-of-me deadlines are all done at the moment, so all I have left is the admin and routine monthly work. There's just not the same sense of urgency, which is bad because that routine work is the stuff that pays most of the bills.

I can't believe how long that gastro carried on - it's now more than a week after I first came down with it and my stomach is still super sensitive. Last night was the most ambitious thing I've digested in days - spaghetti bolognaise. But it's stayed put, so things are looking up. Finally.

I've felt so washed out after Monday's massive deadline and this nasty bug that I haven't been very efficient over the last two days. I've managed to get some work done, but in between I've napped, made jewellery and generally hibernated. My big outing for the week was a trip to Montecasino to watch The Other Guys with TSC on Tuesday evening, just to get out for a bit.

Blergh. So many people we know loved it, but we both thought it was pointless and not at all funny. I stand by my opinion of Will Ferrell - I just don't understand why he's supposed to be funny. My type of comedy is sharp, witty or sarcastic. Physical comedy that's been done well can also be funny. But this absurd or over-the-top comedy that people seem to love... I don't get it. Ace Ventura, Zoolander and The Waterboy are some examples of "funny" movies that I just don't get.

I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go round, so I'll leave The Other Guys to those who enjoyed it and, if I need a laugh, rent myself a copy of Snatch, Toy Story 3 or even A Fish Called Wanda (which, oddly enough, is actually rather absurd and OTT, yet still funny).

Tonight is lesson four of five of my photography course and I am bleak that next week is the last one. It's such fun and I've been super impressed by my camera's capabilities, now that I know how to operate it a bit better ;-) I'm loving the fact that I can get better photos of my jewellery too. It's making my reconsider the option of starting up a little etsy shop.

I got my business cards yesterday. At long last! They are beautiful. And now I don't have to be embarrassed when I interview someone and they give me a business card and I have to say, "Um, sorry - I don't have mine yet." Woohoo! Now I just need to get my website sorted.

*Sigh* That's a bit of a mission because I want to use WordPress as a content management system (CMS) and set up a site on the domain I've registered that will look and function like a website and not a blog. But my designer has never worked in WP, and doesn't seem to understand what I mean. I may have to find another designer. Which would suck because it means more delays.

Anyway, off to make phonecalls *shudder*. My worst bit of any day. And then to catch up on some blog reading to balance out the chore I hate with something I love.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Jewellery pics

Hello all. Still recovering. It's frustratingly slow.

That said, I have kept myself busy. Been making jewellery for my annual Christmas open house, which I'm hosting this year on 13 Nov. If you're a crafter and would like to sell your wares, or if you want to come along and browse the jewellery for Christmas gifts or just to spoil yourself, drop me a mail at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com and I'll send you the info. For now, here are a couple of pics...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Urgh again.

Still feeling rubbish today :-( I have finally given in and emailed my editor to ask for an extra day for my story that's due on Monday. I've done all the interviews, collated all the info and just need to sit down and write the thing and send it off for approval, but I can't think straight and I keep being interrupted by having to rush off to the bathroom. Let's hope the editor is understanding!

On a cheerful note, my mom popped in yesterday with a massive bunch of flowers for me - roses, lilies, gerberas, alstroemeria... In fact, the bunch is so massive I don't have a vase that fits it properly. When I was feeling a bit better yesterday, I planned to go out today and do the grocery shopping and look for a vase while I was at it, but all I actually want to do is sleep.

How awesome is my mom though? I love my flowers. I will attempt to photograph them this weekend, methinks.

Have a fab weekend, people. I will be back and hopefully in better spirits on Monday.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


I have spent the last day and a half between bed and bathroom with a horrible gastro bug. This is the second time this year! At least it's taught me something - if we ever redesign our bathroom, it should be so that I can sit on the loo and throw up into the basin or bath at the same time.

Sorry for that charming mental picture.

My cats and my husband have been wonderful. TSC has sorted himself out for food (me standing in the middle of the kitchen bent over, trying to control my gag reflex was probably some indication that I was not up to the task of cooking), done the pharmacy run for me, fed me dry crackers and Lucozade (the only things I've been able to keep down), undertaken all chores and generally been an absolute sweetheart. I don't like being crowded when I'm sick, so although his instinct is to cuddle me, he's learnt to give me space.

My cats, the darlings, plonked themselves on each side of me on the bed and put up with my feverish tossing and turning, taking turns to follow me to the bathroom each and every time I got up. They seemed to know I needed their furry distraction, although Sapphire did take it too far at one stage.

I had just showered and washed my hair (not by choice - it had puke in it. Lovely) and ventured into my office to check emails (I have a big story deadline coming up and I was waiting for some responses from interviewees). I suddenly felt very hot and dizzy, so I lay down on the carpet. I still had my towel on my head and Sapphire thinks that all towels are hers, so when I lay down, she promptly climbed onto the towel, on my head, and happily starting kneading away and purring. She wasn't even fussed by the strange noises I was making - somewhere between a moan, a gag and an attempt at a giggle.

Today I'm feeling a bit better. Thank you Lucozade and Petrolyte (an amazing concoction, that besides tasting and looking like banana-flavoured cement mix, worked wonders for my stomach). My stomach is still bloated, aching and generally unhappy, but at least projectile activities have ceased from the various orifices. The fever comes and goes, but the nausea is much improved.

The caffeine from two glasses of Lucozade has given me more of a buzz than my usual morning coffee, and although the head is fuzzy and the body sore, this self-employed chick has got to get back to work, so off I go.

But I thought seeing I've probably grossed you out with this post, I'd leave you with something from my inbox to make you smile:

Monday, 18 October 2010

Can I just say...

I LOVE MY NEW CAMERA. And *ahem* all my new goodies from the Photo and Film Expo.

Yes, after my rant about consumerism, off I went like a true Joburger and bought myself a second lens and a Manfrotto tripod. And PhotoShop Elements (which I could not pass up at the special show price).

I was seriously stressing about spending the money (work funded this not so little spree), but TSC has convinced me that it is an investment.

It is *she says, still trying to justify*. The two lenses I now have, although they are not the biggest or best, give me a good range for a beginner, and the tripod has already proven itself more than worth its price during this week's assignment, where I was lying on the floor to shoot, with the camera upside down on the tripod's centre column to get as close to the ground as possible.

PhotoShop... flip! I forgot how complicated it is. I last worked on it back at varsity. So this one will take a little longer than the others to prove its worth because I have no idea how it works yet, but it is now loaded on the PC and I'm looking forward to experimenting when I have some time.

This photography course is keeping me smiling in between all the stress of work and TSC writing tests and preparing for exams. Yay for a hobby rediscovered!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Joburg ate my work/life balance (and a long ramble about consumerism)

Today is just one of those days where I feel absolutely shattered. I worked until midnight last night to finish a story for deadline today. I sat down at about 7pm and wrote 2 400 words in one sitting on a controversial and complicated subject. And today the work continues. I have another deadline on Friday, along with routine work for my retainer clients that needs to be completed this week.

My brain is numb.

I don't think I'm the only one. I think October in Johannesburg is one of the most frustrating times of year. The sun is out, the flowers are blooming and life beckons us to enjoy the gardens and parks, but the end of the year is near and there's so much work to be done before then that we are all holed up at our desks, working (or in TSC's case studying for exams) and hating it.

I know that people are working hard everywhere, but to me, having lived in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, Johannesburg is worse because life really is a rat race up here. Having chatted to folks who've just moved here from other places, it's something that crops up in conversations often. "Everything moves so fast here", "I've never worked so hard in my life" or "People don't seem to take lunch breaks here" are comments I've frequently heard. It makes me understand why some of our medical aids offer special plans with lower premiums for people who live on the coast.

I know that people work hard elsewhere in South Africa, but to me they don't seem so driven, so hellbent on trying to get up the next step on the corporate ladder (although more often than not, it seems more like a status ladder in Joburg). Ask someone from Joburg how life is and the chances are fairly high they'll say "busy!" It's the standard answer. In fact, if you're not busy in Joburg, people might think there's something wrong with you. Busyness and stress are worn as badges of honour here. The busier and more strung out you are, the more successful you must be.

I have friends working their backsides off in Cape Town. But after work they'll all meet up for a drink at the pub or go for a walk on the beach, because it gets dark much later there than here in summer. In fact, when TSC and I led a small group for our church in Cape Town, whenever we hosted a social, our numbers would double or even treble. People would come out of the woodwork. In Joburg, when we have a small group social, our numbers actually halve. People say, "Sorry - if it's just a social, I think I'll skip it and get some work done." I kid you not.

In Joburg, life is all about money and career success. People judge you on the car you drive, the suburb you live in, the brands you wear, the restaurants you eat at and the bling you can show off. It doesn't seem as obvious as that, of course. People from Joburg are some of the friendliest you'll ever meet and I have come to know wonderful friends here that I treasure with my whole heart. But, here in South Africa's smallest of the nine provinces, which produces roughly 35% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), we don't have a huge variety of free entertainment available. No mountains, beaches or winelands... We have shopping malls. Lots of them.

And what are the hard-working folk of Joburg going to do with the money they earn aside from spending it? Weekends see shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment destinations and even car dealerships packed to the max with people, cash and, of course, credit cards. In this widely accepted consumer culture, it's difficult not to get swept up into thinking, "I need a better car / house / wardrobe / lounge suite /whatever else".

TSC and I chatted about it the other day. When we were living and working in Cape Town, we were barely scraping by. We lived in a tiny flat in a really dodgy area, drove second-hand cars that were nothing special, couldn't afford insurance and once in a blue moon we ate at a cheapish restaurant and then had to re-budget for the whole month. We dreamed of one day having a slightly bigger place with a little garden and of TSC being able to own a bakkie (ute / pick-up / light commercial vehicle).

Now, in Joburg, we live in a house that is three times the size of that flat, in a lovely area, with a beautiful garden, and TSC drives his bakkie, which he got brand new, out the box. All our Cape Town dreams have come true.

But we often catch ourselves saying, "Did you see X's new Audi? Wouldn't it be nice to own one of those?" or "We need a swimming pool! We could fit one in the garden if we took out that bit of lawn". Now there's nothing wrong with dreaming and there's nothing wrong with doing the best you can for yourself and your family. To me, there's just a fine line between that and making money everything. I want to keep on the right side of the line. I want to be able to dream and plan, but to be happy with where I am now and with what I have rather than never being satisfied and always chasing after more.

Maybe it's not so much that people in Joburg judge you on what you drive or wear etc. Maybe it's that living in Joburg, surrounded by this incredible wealth, we start to judge ourselves. We compare what our friends or colleagues have with what we have, and we want more.

What can we do about it?

Sometimes I dream of leaving the rat race completely and going to live in a little cottage in the countryside where I can plant a huge veggie garden and be fairly self sufficient. But I love people and I love the city and I would probably curl up and die if I couldn't engage with people on a regular basis. So that's not an option.

Personally, I think part of the solution for surviving the rat race is to stop looking at what everyone else has and count my own blessings. When I start listing those, I am humbled and grateful. Suddenly, having the latest laptop or this season's fashion acessories doesn't seem like such a priority anymore.

Secondly, I think it's important to give. Whether it's time, money or stuff, giving things away stops you getting over-attached to material goods. Engaging with people who have less than you do, and doing something to help them, is a great way to remind yourself of how lucky you are and how privileged.

Thirdly, surviving the rat race is much easier when you're surrounded by like-minded people who keep you grounded. My family are great like this - although my folks have done well in life, they are sensible with their money and very down to earth. TSC and I also cultivate friendships with people who value the same things we do and recognise that there is more to life than being on trend.

I also keep learning to take pleasure in the simple things in life. Smelling my first roses blooming for the season, picking fresh strawberries from my veggie patch, cuddling with my kitties, having a glass of wine on the veranda with TSC, enjoying a great coffee with a special friend or laughing hysterically at my headhunter pal's list of funny CV errors are all things worth enjoying to the full. It makes me realise that my life is filled with opportunities for joy and that there is very little that I actually 'need' aside from what I have.

TSC and I have realised that the mystical work/life balance is something we have to continually work at and that sometimes it might mean turning down an opportunity or more money for the sake of that balance. To give you a simple example, I turned down a potentially lucrative freelance project last week because I already have a lot (too much) work on my plate and I knew that if I said yes, it would mean missing out on our small group social this evening, supper club on Friday, a church event on Saturday and having to work solidly through two weekends in a row. The money would have been nice, but having a few hours of quality time with TSC and with our friends is worth more.

So, after that very long ramble, let me try to get to the point... While October in Joburg may be frustrating, and while Joburg may be a hell of a rat race, there is so much good in my life here and I am thankful for the opportunities this city provides. It's sometimes hard to keep grounded here, but it is possible and I'm going to keep trying.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Various stuff

A selection of what is going on in my head...

  • Looking forward to camera lesson two on Thurs, which should hopefully be less theoretical and more about taking pics! I'm now the (broke) owner of a new 2TB hard drive for my photos, a spare camera battery, a spare SD card, an SD card reader and a UV filter that fits my DSLR's lens.
  • Having to organise people is a pain. TSC and I lead a small group for our church, which is awesome - such a nice bunch of people. Problem is, we've decided on a social for tomorrow night. Originally we were going to do go-karting, but it turns out that it's a bit pricey. I've given everyone a whole bunch of options and now I have a pretty much even split of people who want to do each option (except Adventure Golf. Seems we're all very much over that). The social is tomorrow night. What do I do? Sometimes democracy is annoying.
  • I have a deadline on a big article for tomorrow. I should be writing it now, but my brain is fuzzy and I can't get it right. It's quite a complex subject, so I figured a little break while I blog might help - often if I go back to something I can't understand a bit later on, it all falls into place.
  • It's so nice to be eating summer food. Last night, neither TSC nor I were keen for hot food, so we had ciabatta rolls with smoked chicken breast, avocado and sweet chili sauce. Not only was it super tasty, it requires no cooking and minimal washing up. Score!
  • I need to invest in a fan for my study. It's a tiny room with big windows that get full sun most of the day, which is great in winter. In summer, however, it's like I'm in a little oven. Even my modem is unhappy with the heat. I've had to stand it on top of a glass to get enough air into the vents on the underside.
  • It's nice to occasionally hang out with new people. We had a great braai on Saturday with two guys we've just met - one who has just moved to Joburg from Durban, and the other whom is only in SA for a month from the UK. There were a couple of other friends with us and we all watched the rugby and chatted for hours. They arrived at our place at 3pm and only left at 10.30pm. It was awesome.
  • A friend of mine is a headhunter and she just sent me a list of funnies from the CVs people have sent to their recruitment agency. They are hilarious, especially seeing these are not some random ones off the internet, but have actually been collated by her company. I may have to post some this week.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Many, many movies

For those of you who've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I am a bit of a cinephile. But, because I am VERY opinionated on the subject of movies, I try not to blog about films too often and bore you all to tears. So here are some very short (one-sentence) totally subjective reviews on movies I've seen recently. Feel free to argue or agree in the comments section ;-)

Despicable Me I thoroughly enjoyed this simple feel-good movie because it kept me laughing most of the way through (especially the fabulous minions).

Outrageous Despite the fact that I find John Vlismas distinctly unfunny, this raucous stand-up comedy film features the hilarious Loyiso Gola, Riaad Moosa and Barry Hilton, among others, and had a couple of jokes that I'm STILL laughing about, about a month after watching it. Note: This is a South African movie, so you probably won't be able to find it if you're not from here. Also... It's not for sensitive viewers.

Although the movie is extremely well made and well acted, it didn't save it from being fairly boring.

The Karate Kid
Aside from the fact that Will Smith's kid is freakily like a little mini version of his dad, I really liked this movie - it will introduce a whole new generation to the awesomeness of The Karate Kid, this time without the bad 80s fashion ;-)

The A-Team
If you're looking for a plausible storyline, don't watch this movie - it's all about big guns, big personalities and big laughs... Fabulous.

The Ugly Truth
The movie that justifies every nasty thing ever said about chick flicks - what a crock!

Old Dogs
Possibly the worst movie I have watched all year, there is nothing charming or funny about this lame rubbish.

The Accidental Husband
It's nothing original or clever, but this fluffy, silly chick flick is great veg-out-on-the-couch-and-drool-in-front-of-your-tv brain candyfloss (sweet but not substantial) - ideal for a Sunday evening or when you're at home with the flu.

Yet another America vs Russia action spy thriller, this one requires you to leave your logic at the door and just try to pretend to believe the possibility of the slick, attractive nonsense unfolding onscreen.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
One of those movies that looks far more interesting in the previews than it actually is, despite its stars' best efforts to inject some life into the film.

Step Up 3D
If you can get past the total lack of plausible storyline and the pathetic acting, this is actually worth seeing in 3D for the dance sequences, which are pretty awesome.

Robin Hood
It had its moments and had me interested for parts of the movie, but overall Robin Hood took itself waaaay too seriously.

I cannot believe that people found this crass, over the top, revolting movie funny - there were bits where I actually left the room to escape it.

I'm not a Keira Knightley fan, although in this long, long pointless movie that revolves around silkworm eggs, she is actually less dull than co-star Michael Pitt.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Shopping and photography

There are only certain types of shopping that are bearable, in my opinion. I love shopping for gifts, craft supplies and, if I have money, for clothes. But I loathe shoe shopping and I could happily do without grocery shopping if someone volunteered to do it for me. I'm also not big on shopping with other people, unless it's my mom or TSC. I've never been one to go shopping with my girl friends. Not sure why.

I try to avoid window shopping most of the time because it just makes me want things I can't afford. But if I do window shop, you'll normally find me looking at certain things - house stuff (furniture, soft finishings and DIY materials), camping gear, garden stuff (I want a water feature!) and camera stuff.

Why camera stuff? Well, I have a beautiful old manual SLR and a few years back I did a creative photography course through the Cape Town School of Photography, which was awesome. I got some really nice shots. My favourite was a series I shot with long exposure times in an almost entirely dark room of TSC fighting with himself (it looks like two ghosts boxing) themed "internal conflict". I didn't have an external flash back then, but I loved the result and actually framed some of the shots in series - they're hanging in our breakfast area.

But film is expensive to process, especially when you don't know whether half your shots are worth printing or not (that said, there is something magical about seeing the photos all glossy and printed for the first time and finding the occasional absolutely perfect image).

I also lent my photography course notes to a friend and never got them back, and without practising, I've forgotten all the ins and outs of my manual camera.

So I've been dreaming of a digital SLR camera for the past few years. Then, for my birthday this year, I got the most wonderful present - a Nikon DSLR D3000. I immediately booked myself on a photography course with the College of Digital Photography and my first lesson was last night.

I showed up with my camera, manual and batteries fully charged, knowing that mine would not be the most expensive camera in the room and that there would be people with a variety of lenses and more advanced camera bodies there.

What I was not expecting was to be sent home with a shopping list! Apparently, I need a UV filter (I have one for my other camera, but it doesn't fit this new lens), an SD card reader (I shouldn't be connecting my camera directly to my PC - if lighting or a surge strikes, it could damage my camera), a spare SD card (I only have the one that came with the camera), an external harddrive (I have one for my work stuff, but should apparently have a separate one for pics) and a better tripod (preferably a Manfrotto, which I could expect to pay up to R3000 for, and that's just the basic one).

Those, apparently, are the essentials. The optional extras include a cable release, an infrared remote, Photoshop Elements (or, if one has R9 000 to throw around, Photoshop CS) and then, of course, a selection of lenses.

Eep! This is an expensive hobby.

There's no way I could ever afford all of these things. Thankfully, because I'm hoping to make photography part of my journalism services (taking the occasional head shot of whomever I'm interviewing), my business should be able to cover one or two of the "necessities". So, this weekend, I will be scouring our local electronics and camera stores for a UV filter, card reader and any good deals on external hard drives.

While I'm not looking forward to spending the money, it will be nice to actually buy something camera-related after dreaming about it and window shopping for so long!

Here are some of my film pics I've scanned in for you (not the best - those are already framed)...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Post no.500

That's right - this is my 500th post on this blog. It's been a long time coming, seeing I'm often not as regular at posting as I'd like to be.

But seeing how I am celebrating this little milestone, thank you to everyone who reads. Some of you I know, some of you I don't, but thanks to all of you. Blogging, I have come to realise, would be far less entertaining sans an audience ;-)

In my procrastination, I've been dipping into my archives and getting all nostalgic looking at some of the stuff I've posted here, from the embarrassing to the emotional and everything in between. The more I read, I more I realise how random this blog is! I've posted about my first deodorant, decided on the colour of my day, gone off about how I don't 'get' steak, ranted about people not understanding my job (back when I was doing PR) and debated the pros and cons of self tan.

Random, yes?

But it's not going to get any less weird. That's a promise. I have too much fun here to change my blog. Although, I must admit that I am about ready for a change in blog appearance. Sadly I am technically challenged and without Photoshop, so new banners are unlikely at this stage. But I take heart in the fact that I cut my hair on Tuesday. I chopped lots of it off. So I am changed in appearance, which will have to do for now.

Ok, enough doodling for today. Have a great Thursday, people.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Awesomeness is...

  • Despicable Me. Hilarious! Steve Carell is much funnier as a cartoon. And I want me some minions. They are awesome. TSC was laughing so hard in the cinema I thought he was going to pee in his pants.
  • Tin Roof Cafe. This restaurant in Pretoria is beautifully decorated, the service is good and the food is AMAZING. We tested lots of it on Sun with the family for lunch. If you go, note that the map on the Food24 site is totally wrong. Best get directions from the helpful owner.
  • The fact that one of my (four) big deadlines is out of the way. It was the most stressful story I've done in a bit because the people I was interviewing messed me around so much. So glad that the only thing left to do on it is to invoice ;-)
  • Nescafe Alta Rica coffee. It's been off the shelves for a couple of months, but it's available again. Yay!
  • Flowers in my garden. Rose, iris, gazania, dianthus, calendula, vygie, gaura, osteospermum, pansy, clivia, scabiosa, hebe, jasmine, yesterday today and tomorrow, Carolina jasmine... they are all blooming at the moment and it makes my heart happy.
  • Twilight. Seriously. I got really sick of people telling me I had to read/see it, so after attempting a few pages and being put off by the six-adjectives-in-a-sentence style, I decided the movie might be easier. And TSC and I thought it was absolutely hilarious - the perfect Friday evening switch-your-brain-off rubbish. When he puts her on his back and runs up a tree... I thought I would die laughing. Ok, I know it's not meant to be funny, but how can you keep a straight face through Bella's heavy breathing (I'm convinced she's actually allergic to vampires).
  • The fact that this is my 499th post.
  • Ending on an even number of bullet points ;-)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Unexpected benefits of blogging

I know I've written lots about how I stumbled into blogging and didn't expect to find a group of wonderful friends, glimpses into other people's lives and a place to vent and share special things that happen. But one of the other amazing benefits of blogging is that this has become a great reference system for me.

For example, I was trying to remember the date when something happened and then I realised I'd blogged about it, so I just typed in a key word in my search bar and voila - I had the exact date I needed.

Also, as Phillygirl has pointed out before, blogging about your holidays or places you've been may not always be thrilling subject matter for readers, but it's a great way to capture the memories so that you can look back on them later. And I can't tell you how many times I search my blog for restaurants when I'm trying to remember my experience of a particular place or if someone asks me for a recommendation. It's the same with movies.

I also really enjoy occasionally going back a year in my blog and seeing what has changed since then. For example, last year on 30 September I had just managed to find a decent gardener and sort my internet out at home. The year before that, also on 30 September, TSC and I were still living in the old place and we'd rescued a little ginger kitten that we homed with our neighbours.

The only thing I worry about is that I ever do decide to have children, they'll one day come and read through all these scribblings. Eep! I think I'd have to delete my blog before then.

What are your unexpected blogging bonuses? And what were you up to this time last year?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Why cats are awesome

I came down with a nasty head cold on Friday. By Saturday I was feeling miserable and that's how I've felt right until today. So the long weekend wasn't quite what I'd planned (although thankfully I didn't have to cook for the whole weekend, and I got to go to the R3 and R5 nursery and spend time with my folks and TSC).

There's no sick leave when you work for yourself, so yesterday was spent working from bed, trying to think through the fog in my head. This morning, I was sitting here in bed feeling sorry for myself because today will be more of the same, and all I want to do is sleep and make my nose stop hurting from being blown so much.

So I was having a little pity party and my cat, Sapphire, who normally flat out refuses to sit on the the bed with me, jumped up and has curled into a little purring ball on my lap. I feel much better already. Margaret Atwood was onto something in her imaginings in her disturbing book Oryx and Crake where she wrote about how purring at a certain frequency heals disease. Maybe my kitty's purring won't cure the head cold, but it has sure made my heart feel better ;-)

I wonder what effect the purr of a little squirrel would have? Yes, it's worth clicking on that link for a serious dose of cute.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

I nearly wrote TGIF

Because tomorrow is a public holiday in South Africa, it feels like today is Friday. Yay for long weekends!

TSC and I will be house-sitting for my folks while they are in Durban. I'm looking forward to sitting next to the pool (even if it's with my laptop to get my big story done in time for Monday's deadline) and just being away from home. It means that I have an excuse not to do all the niggly little things on my to-do list (everything from sorting out my beads and magazines to cleaning out my bedside drawer, which is one of those places in our house where homeless objects like spare batteries and lone earrings seem to collect).

It's not a holiday, but it's a nice break. I was thinking that yesterday and TSC asked me what I was pondering. I said that I was trying to figure out what makes a holiday for me. For him, it's being able to do what you want when you want. I thought about it some more and realised that for me, what defines a proper holiday is:
  • Not having to do the annoying daily chores and admin, like cleaning, phoning clients, answering work emails and sorting out laundry. I enjoy camping and self-catering holidays, but my favourite treat is if we're away and don't have to worry about cooking our own meals or washing up afterwards.
  • Not having any major committments that impede spontaneity or flexibility. This is why visiting my gran in Mpumalanga counts as a break, but not a real holiday in my opinion. I'm constantly thinking about whether she'll be able to enjoy what we're doing, if she'll feel left out if we go somewhere without her, if we'll get in the way of her social activities etc. Ultimate holidays for me are where it's just me and TSC doing our own thing, or when I'm with people who don't mind everyone splitting up when they feel like it. My family are good like that - we all tend to gather for meals, but my grandparents are free to nap while my folks go for a drive and TSC and I play tennis. I hate it where you're away with people and there's no privacy and no chance for solitude. And unfortunately, TSC's family are the type who expect that when we're away with them, we can't even be on our own for 30min, which is probably why we struggle to be together for more than a few days at a time - it's two different ways of thinking that collide.
  • Not stressing constantly about finances. I don't mean I want to be able to just throw money around. I mean that it's difficult to relax when you can't really afford the holiday you're on. Friends of ours recently went to Australia and although they enjoed the experience, they said that they were on a really tight budget, but staying with friends who didn't understand that, and kept expecting them to join them at expensive restuarants or theatre shows. Our friends found it very stressful to be constantly rebudgeting to try to fit these things in. Personally, I'd rather save up for a long weekend and have enough spending money, than go on a week-long holiday where I'm constantly freaking out about the money and not really relaxing.
  • Doing something new. It doesn't have to be exotic or expensive, but doing something new or going on an adventure is part of a holiday for me, even if it's as small as seeing a bushbaby in the wild for the first time (which happened when we went to wonderful Sondela).
  • Having enough time to unwind. I've loved touring all the waterfalls in Mpumalanga, sunset horse-riding in Cape Town, doing a bridge swing in Zambia, swimming with dolphins in Zanzibar, visiting art galleries in Paris and all the other exploring I've been fortunate enough to do, but I also need time to sleep late, drink cocktails by a pool, take slow, wandering walks and generally just chill out. Without the chance to chill, as soon as I get back to work, it feels like the holiday never happened.
What about you lot? What defines a good, proper holiday for you?

PS: My bucket list is up on Being Brazen's blog! Yay ;-)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

You know when...

...You've been looking for something EVERYWHERE and you finally give up and there it is, sitting right in front of you?

If it were a snake it would have bitten me.

In other news, we have booked and paid for all our December stops in our mammoth road trip from Johannesburg to Upington to Durban and back. So, if anyone has recommendations of interesting and/or unusual things to do or see in Keimoes, Kakamas, Augrabies, Upington, Bloemfontein, Clarens and Durban, please feel free to send your suggestions my way!

Have a great Tuesday, people.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Reasons I won't be posting (much) today

  • I have to go to all those annoying meetings this afternoon, so only have two hours to work before I have to leave.
  • I will probably only be back this eve at about 6pm. And I will want supper then. Words feed my head and my heart, but chicken stirfry feeds my stomach ;-)
  • I am bored of my blog. By that, I don't mean that I am bored of blogging. I am just bored of the look and feel of this blog (what do you think of the adjustments?) and the parameters I unknowingly set myself here way back when.
Be back tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Learning on the job

This freelancing thing that I've been doing over the past few years has definitely taught me the importance of editors (by that, I mean editors of magazines). An editor can make or break a publication. So one would think that the editors of successful magazines out there would be brilliant, right? Sadly, it's not always the case, although there are a lot of passionate, knowledgeable and personable editors out there.

I've been lucky to work with a range of editors - really good ones who treat freelancers nicely and run their magazine exceptionally well because they are head over heels in love with it, and shoddy editors who treat everyone badly and run their magazine like it's a toy they've grown tired of.

Here are my thoughts on editors and what makes them good or bad for a freelancer:

Good editor: gives journalist a clear brief, makes sure he or she understands the magazine's house style and gives reasonable deadlines. This means that I feel respected, am more likely to give my all to the piece and get it right the first time and will probably agree to work for the mag in future and tell everyone else about how awesome it is.

Bad editor: gives journalist a vague brief (or no brief at all. I kid you not - this happens to me all the time) and phones the day before the publication is going to print to ask if you can "do a little favour and quickly write this story". This means I feel like the editor takes me for granted, assumes that I have no life or my life is not important, and is bad at time management, which usually also translates into being bad at paying me on time. I try to steer away from working with mags like this, especially those who don't give a decent brief, because they are more likely to come back to you and say it's not what they wanted, and then not be able to articulate what it is they actually do want.

Good editor: has a clear vision of what the publication is about - what content it should and shouldn't cover - and briefs only stories that fit into this vision.

Bad editor: chooses stories based on which friends her or she wants to be interviewed for the mag, or only publishes content if someone will agree to advertise in the publication first. In my opinion, this compromises the editorial integrity of the mag.

Good editor: keeps a handle on what is happening and always knows the status of any story. She is aware of problems early on and provides support to the journalist, including possible solutions. If a story is published and receives a negative response from a reader, the editor takes the rap, because ultimately it is the editor that signs off all content and dictates what makes it into the mag and what doesn't.

Bad editor: does not communicate with freelancers and when issues crop up, shrugs her shoulders and says, "That's your problem, not mine". This editor doesn't do the editing - cutting out stuff that's inappropriate for the mag and ensuring a high level of quality. If a story is published that receives a negative response from a reader, the editor passes the blame to the journalist and essentially hangs her up to dry.

Having said all of this, being an editor is a massive responsibility. Essentially, you are the face of the publication. Everything you say or do reflects on your mag and you will be judged accordingly. When I was at varsity, I always dreamed of becoming an editor of a successful magazine. It seemed so glamourous and prestigious. But they don't tell you at varsity that the editor is often the fall guy when things go wrong and that when it's deadline time, she must pretty much move into the offices to get the mag put together (so, pretty much one week of every month can be written off).

Working with various editors, I have learnt a handful great life lessons, some from the good editors and some from the bad. I'm sure I'll still be learning as long as I'm in this business, but here are a couple of things editors have unknowingly taught me:
  • Don't take it personally. Nobody produces perfection every time round. If my article gets edited within an inch of its life, I just have to suck it up and realise that (generally) the editor knows what's best for the publication and has probably been doing this for a lot longer than I have.
  • Treat people with respect. There is never a reason to throw a tantrum like a child, even if you are dealing with someone else who thinks that behaviour is acceptable. As my dad always says, don't mud wrestle with a pig - you'll just get dirty and the pig will have a whole lot of fun.
  • Shut up and listen. You can learn a lot from other people's experiences - both what to do and what not to do, and you're more likely to get a great interview if you're asking questions, not blabbering on about yourself.
  • You can say 'no'. You are not irreplaceable. If the deadline is totally insane, the subject matter bores you to tears or you know you can't handle the project at the time, walk away. Don't be the person that says yes and drops the ball later, or the person who's picking up the scraps of work that no writer in their right mind would take on just because you're scared to say 'no'.
  • That said, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do. They may seem pointless or insanely frustrating at the time, but you can always learn something from the experience. I once edited a book on mining. I thought it was a total waste of time. A year later, I got a nice big story about mining and had a group of contacts ready for interviews.
  • Finally, no man is an island. Without support, you will not be as effective as you could be. So don't be scared or ashamed to ask for help or to probe for more information if you don't understand something. Arrogance will never get you as far as honesty and humility will.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Photo post

Some pics of our Casino Royale themed games night a few weeks back...

Window decor...

The sign above the blackjack table, before it got dark...

The blackjack table outside (in our newly tiled braai area) with the fairy lights up, before everyone arrived...

The lounge, with our brand new natural stone finish around the fire place, TSC's clever hanging cards on the light fitting and a pair of my handmade dice (used polystyrene cubes) and some giant cards strung on the mantlepiece...

Some more of my dice, this time in purple for the roulette table (we also had some on the veranda, hanging from the lights). Had to laugh... our roulette wheel is about the size of a side plate - so cute!

It was such a fun evening. Everyone looked gorgeous in their formal wear and we had prizes for the person who won the most money (we printed play money with pictures of us on it) and whomever lost their money the fastest. We also played some Bingo and had to frantically change numbers on the cards that I'd photocopied because (genius that I am), I made copies of the same four sets of cards! It was a good laugh, although some of our poker players took the evening a bit seriously ;-)

And here are some pics from our Gautrain outing, which was my early bday surprise for TSC...

The train, at the airport...

Our sushi at the airport (not the best sushi - the chef was about 20 years old and quite sloppy, but at least the fish was fresh)...

TSC having a beer at Punchinello's at Montecasino. I took him for a drink at the new hotel at The Pivot after our bus dropped us off at Montecasino. It was lovely to sit in the sun and enjoy watching the swans swimming around the pond, with water cascading over the mosaic in the fountain. Lovely!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The not fun bits...

Frustration: clients who schedule meetings for me without checking if I'm available, wait for me to then reschedule everything else to make their stupid meetings, and then go ahead and postpone the meeting on the day it's supposed to happen.


Yip, my interviews for this afternoon, which necessitated me dropping all my other committments and making special plans to fit them in, have now, as of five minutes ago, been postponed. And, to make things even easier, they haven't set a new date for the next load of interviews yet. And we only have next week to get them all done because this story is due the following Monday.

To me, that is just plain rude. It's like they are saying to me, "Our time is more important than yours, so f*** you, we'll schedule the meetings whenever we like."

This, my friends, is what I like least about being a journalist. If this weren't a report on a specific company, I would find new interviewees.

*sigh* Off to bang my head on my desk now.

17:35 update: I've just received an email with meetings scheduled by same client for Monday 2-5pm, Tuesday 11am - 4pm and one that will take place "sometime on either Wed or Thurs". KILL. ME. NOW.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Emotionally pooped

Warning: overshare ahead.

I always find that being emotionally exhausted is more stressful than being physically worn out. How about you?

This weekend was one of those where all the issues get brought out from under the rug and poked a bit. Flip, I feel like my issues were tied to the stake and set on fire this weekend.

What is she on about? That is probably the question that people wonder about most but vocalise least when it comes to me ;-)

This weekend started with a heated debate concerning my MIL and ended with a heated debate concerning my MIL. See, my in-laws and I... (how to put this diplomatically?)... have some difficulty getting along.

With my SIL getting married in December, and most of TSC and my conversations over the past week revolving around December holiday plans and his family, things were getting a bit tense. Nevermind the fact that MIL asked me (on my birthday) about when on earth I plan on having babies. Again. After TSC has specifically asked her not to go there.

So, on Friday eve, he had a long, long, long discussion with her on the phone about many, many issues, which ended up with both of them in tears. Maybe this is good for the two of them, maybe not. Who knows.

But it had been a really rough week for me and I had been fragile and needy all day (PMS really sucks). I had just told TSC that I needed some TLC before he went off to make this "quick" phone call. So I was waiting on the veranda with supper, wine, loads of candles and plans for a romatic evening in, while he was having this epic and unheard of discussion inside (his family never ever does deep, confrontational conversations).

Needless to say, the food got cold, the candles spilled wax everywhere, the mosquitoes decided the wine glass was a good place to take a dive and eventually I gave up.

And then he came out and started telling me about all the things MIL had said and that just sent me off the deep end. I am not going to go into details here, but we fought long and hard and only made up late that night, with some issues not really being dealt with properly.

And so, despite having a great time at the Getaway Show on Sat (picked up a great pair of hiking boots for cheap, cheap, plus a load of info about the different places we want to visit), and enjoying the fundraising event we went to (a 70s show called Nite Fever at the Broadacres Barnyard Theatre) with my folks and some friends on Sat eve, there was still some distance between us.

And I hate that. I can handle anything with TSC at my side, but I fall apart when things are crap between us.

We went to The Meat Co. at Montecasino (food was so-so) for a belated birthday lunch for him with my folks and my brother yesterday, and then my mom and dad came to watch the Italian Grand Prix at our house. Then it was church and back home, but I still felt far away from TSC.

Eventually, when we got ready for bed (why is it always when you want to sleep that it all comes to a head?), the unresolved issues reared their ugly heads again and the fight pretty much resumed where it had left off on Friday night.

Thankfully we seemed to work things out a lot better this time. I think he understands my position for the first time (I know it's incredibly hard on him that I don't see eye to eye with his family, but he also needs to realise that it takes two to tango). Although things will still be difficult with them, the fact that he gets where I'm coming from will make a huge difference.

We got to bed well after midnight, so we're both physically exhaused today, but I just feel emotionally drained. Thank goodness we don't have this type of discussion very often - I think I would collapse of emotion-overload.

Here's to a more peaceful, productive week!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Apologies, explanations and updates

I'm sorry for disappearing from the face of the internet. Real life has a way of keeping one occupied to the point that one's head feels like exploding sometimes. Thanks to those of you who mailed me to check that I'm still alive. That motivated me to come and put up a post again. The next step is to try to catch up on everyone else's blogs, although I am honestly not sure how long that will take or when I'll get there.

I missed blogging. I've been very tempted to lift my self-imposed ban on it for the past while, but I know myself - if I have as much work on my plate as I currently do, and I am working on a PC that is hooked up to the net, opening Blogger or WordPress is not a good idea. It's a magical porthole to procrastination paradise.

Thankfully, all 10 chapters of the book I'm ghostwriting are now written, so it's now only the editing that has to happen. Hah! Only the editing... It could take forever. But the ball is not in my court at the moment - the work is all with client - so I can resurface to take a deep breath.

I still have too much other stuff on my to do list for my comfort, but one of the tricky bits of this fulltime freelancing jazz is that I have to make enough moolah now to get us through the very quiet December / January period. So I have taken on more work than I'm sure I can handle, but it does mean that come December I'll be able to take a break without stressing so madly about money.

I'm also working on two articles for a new publication, which keeps things interesting, in between my crazy-making retainer clients, a website and the occasional dry but mammoth projects I do for another mag.

When I'm not sitting in front of this PC, I am scouring my new roadmap of South Africa, trying to figure out how TSC and I can be somewhere nice for our 4th wedding anniversary (16 Dec) and then be in bloody Upington for his sister's wedding two days later (18 Dec). The problems are that a) there appears to be nowhere nice near Upington, b) flights to Upington are insanely expensive and only run on certain days, c) driving to Upington takes eight hours and e) we have a seriously limited budget.

Any suggestions?

In other news, our Casino Royale party was great (IMO). Will put up pics when I can use the other PC (photos have been uploaded to the laptop, which TSC is using at present). I also took TSC on the Gautrain for an early bday surprise last Fri (his bday was this Tues). We did the whole shebang - the bus from Montecasino to the Sandton station, then the Gautrain from Sandton to the airport and then a sushi lunch at the airport before making our way back in the same fashion. It was good fun and he was impressed with his first ride on a high-speed train.

K, that's all I have time for now, I'm afraid. I could happily type away for pages more, but I have some telephonic interviews scheduled now.

Have a fab weekend, everyone.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Yet another catch-up post

Where does time go? It whooshes past at great speed these days and leaves me a bit dizzy.

In the past while, here's what I've been up to:
  • Celebrated my birthday with dinner at Hedwig's restaurant. The food was amazing and the view spectacular. The service was sadly not so great. And neither is the loooong dirt road you have to navigate to get there. But I had a great evening with the family.
  • Got spoiled by the family. Money and garden vouchers have allowed me to dress my lawn and acquire some beautiful succulent plants to adorn the new braai area. My AWESOME new camera (Nikon D3000) from my folks has kept me busy in the few spare moments I have as I try to figure out how it works (very different to my old manual SLR and my little compact digital camera). I will start posting pics once I start taking decent ones ;-)
  • Went to rugby for the whole bloody Saturday. Seriously, we got to the stadium just after 1pm and the game only started at 5pm. And the Boks lost! But it was awesome to be inside FNB Stadium (if that is what Soccer City is now called. I can't keep up with all the name changes) and I enjoyed the game for the most part. Ran into Jeanette on the bus, which was a cool surprise.
  • Recorded my granddad's life story to write his memoirs. I still need more info, but I got a lot from him on Sun and Mon. Such a rich story!
  • Did Sunday lunch with the family. Will miss that so much when my folks move back to KZN next year.
  • Wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote for this ghostwriting project.
  • Had various client / prospective client meetings. Some were very interesting, some were less so.
  • Started serious prep for our Casino Royale themed formal dress games night joint birthday celebration thingey this Sat (if you're in Jhb and want to come along, mail me at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com. Would love to see some of you lot IRL).
  • Got my bum into gear and finally started doing all the admin I've been avoiding (switching ADSL providers, getting our own PO Box (been using my folks' one for ages), letting all the relevant people know our postal address has changed, getting business cards set up etc. Not fun, but a great sense of accomplishment when it's all done.
  • Started planning all of TSC's bday surprises (his bday is 7 Sept). Now that's good fun ;-)
Today I'm at home all day, thankfully. I'm hoping to get lots of work done while our tiler finishes up the last snags outside and puts up the natural stone around our fireplace. Then we really are done with the home project for now.

What are all you fabulous people up to?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Lucky me (it's my bday and the house project is over. For now)

It's my birthday and I've already been spoiled. And it's not even 9am*. I have such cool family and friends, and I'm always surprised by the random people who remember my birthday.

TSC has made me feel like a princess (albeit not a very well groomed one - he woke me up at 5am to give me my presents. NOT a morning person). He spoiled me with two new types of bubble bath. I'm fussy about it - I don't like flowery stuff like Rose or Lavender. It must be spicy, fruity or chocolaty. He got it just right.

I also got the gorgeous bright pink memory foam slippers I wanted from Woolies, a stylish black handbag to replace my ancient and abused one that I bought years ago and the divine Neroli Jasmin eau de toilette from Body Shop.

Le pretty pink slippers...

Very spoilt!

Here, because I promised them to you, are some before, during and after shots of our recent house projects...

Veranda, before

Veranda, during

Veranda, after (with new tiles that don't show all the dirty little cat pawprints)...

Braai area with old, ugly paving removed...

Braai area with waterproofing and concrete-pouring complete...

Braai area, after. New tiles! Now I just have to tidy the area up and put in some pot plants and it will be beautiful.

The guest loo once TSC had removed our old, ugly basin with horrible leaky taps (what a flipping mission - the first replacement basin we bought had corners, which meant that in our pathetically designed guest loo, even though the basins were the same size, the door couldn't close past the corners. We had to swap the first new basin for a second one, and that required some serious plumbing ingenuity on TSC's part as the plug hole was in a different place).

The guest loo with the second new basin (and a mixer tap - no more leaky horrible hard-to-close monster taps. Yay!), the new towel and toilet-roll holders and new listellos (that border of tiles above the old ones). Visiting the guest loo is now a much happier experience ;-)

*Well, it wasn't even 9am, but Blogger took so bloody long to upload my photos!