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 ;-)