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 ;-)