Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Christmas Cupcakes

For my church small group's last meeting for 2011 tonight:

Not nearly as professional as those made by The Cupcake Lady or Yummy Mummy, but they'll have to do.

I went with blue and red instead of green and red just for a change from the Christmas paraphernalia. They have caramel hidden centres. They took me forever - I forgot how sticky plastic icing gets. I've only worked with it once before (for my Rubix Cube cake). Now I remember why!

Looking forward to this evening - great company, food, wine, crazy Santa present swap, games... It's going to be fabulous :-)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Frustrated on a Friday...

...By people who think I work for them when I don't.

I swear I have a sign on my head saying "Expect me to do your job for you".

Grrr.

That is all.

Have a good weekend. I'm going to find some wine.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Right now...

...All I want to do is something creative. It's like the annoying mosquito bite on my ankle - an itch that just won't stop. I've made heaps of jewellery, but I'm looking forward to a point in time when writing gets less hectic so that I can wrap some presents, make some cards and do some general "prettifying". I also need to do a little sewing and baking. If I can just hold out a bit longer!

I've decided as of today that I'm not taking on any more work for this year. I have enough to keep me busy until 15 Dec, which is my last day before we leave for holidays. As a friend pointed out over lunch, what's the point of being self employed if you can't decide when to say 'no' to work?

Easier said than done though. I need someone to hold me accountable and to remind me I decided to say 'no'. Any volunteers?

Off to finish up the last article for today and then I'm going to practise this 'no' business by turning off my PC and ignoring my emails until tomorrow.

Bye!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Happy 11/11/11

I am so glad the week is over, although the weekend looks pretty exhausting too. I need to do some work and sort out my tax documents for my accountant (blergh) and we also have lots of social stuff planned and then quite a serious meeting with some of our church elders to discuss some niggles on Sunday afternoon (not looking forward to that).

What I am looking forward is spending 11/11/11 eve with my uncle, whose bday is today (pretty cool date), and the rest of my family. And I'm looking forward to seeing two friends for coffee, catch-up and jewellery browsing on Sat and Sun mornings.

TSC is miserable at present because he has to pay a few speeding fines (tsssk tsssk) and replace his car's tyres, which are more expensive than he expected. And seeing he had to replace his Blackberry last week after losing his on the mine, it's been an expensive few weeks.

Today has been an interesting day. I presented a small social media workshop this morning for a business looking to tackle its online marketing. And I have Victoria with us for the first time.

Victoria is a lady who sleeps on the grass outside of our complex every week day. Most home-owners in our complex thought she was a lazy drunk, but she's actually a very hardworking lady who just needs a place to get some shut-eye.

Victoria works a night-time cleaning job at an advertising agency in Bryanston, but she lives right on the other end of Johannesburg in what us Gautengers call the Deep South (not the same one as in the US of A, obviously). She can't afford the time or the taxi money to get home every day, and she hasn't been able to find a daytime job or one closer to where she lives, so she sleeps on the grass verge outside our complex during the day and works every night.

Our homeowners actually complained at the AGM this year and asked if someone can't "move her elsewhere". It broke my heart because she's just trying to make a living and she's not causing anyone any harm or even bothering people. She leaves for work around the same time as most people are getting home.

It's been tugging on my heart for awhile, so two weeks ago I approached her and introduced myself. I asked her name and found out more about her. She's such a dear, with a big friendly smile and an open personality. I told her that I'm generally home on Fridays (which is when my domestic is here too) and invited her to use our bathroom, washing machine and spare bed if she needs to do so on a Friday.

She was so, so grateful and she immediately offered to do my washing up and ironing in return, but I've told her there's no need. I was incredibly humbled that such a small thing can make such a big difference to someone.

Today was the first day she's come - last week she was away at a funeral. I don't know her well yet and obviously there's a risk when you let someone into your home, but she's been incredibly polite and sweet. She washed herself, washed her clothes and has spent most of the day sleeping and chatting to our domestic worker.

I must admit that I was a bit nervous to extend an invitation to her, but so far I'm glad I did. She's desperate for a fulltime daytime cleaning job anywhere, so if you know of anyone who could help, please let me know.

I'll keep you updated on how things go. Until then, have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Multimedia Post

First, you HAVE to watch this super awesome music video made with jelly bean stop-animation (yes, you read that right):



Friday, 4 November 2011

Long overdue catch-up post

It's that insanely busy time of the year where freelancers are trying to make enough money to get through December and January, when the industry goes dead for two months. This means I've been working every hour that is sent and still struggling to fit everything in. Hence the lack of blogging.

Thankfully my huge 6 600-word report is done and dusted. Now it's just the client amendments and editing bit (my worst stage, actually). Hopefully the client meets his deadline, which is Monday.

I have a big business meeting tomorrow I still need to prep for, so I'll try to keep this brief, which means bullet points :-)

  • Cape Town was awesome. It always is. I love it so much, even when the wind is crazy (it made the wedding interesting - all the men were wearing kilts seeing the groom is Scottish). Here are a few random pics:
Squirrels always make me think of Cape Town. Little little guy was spotted in the park right next to where our friends Matt and Nicola stay. He was quite friendly too.


On Friday, TSC and I spent most of the day exploring Franschoek - one of our favourite parts of the Cape. This extremely tame rooster was intent on sharing our breakfast at Cafe Bon Bon.



This is the view from Dieu Donne, where the wedding was held on Saturday. I managed to snap a shot just before the weather rolled in. We had thick fog and pounding rain - I think the Scots brought the weather with them!

  • We discovered some lovely new wines. We tried to stay away from the "known" estates, many of which we've visited before, so we headed to Franschhoek Cellars (easy-drinking, affordable wines. Delicious cheeses too!) and Glenwood (most divine chardonnay!). Surprisingly, despite both of us being red wine drinkers, our favourite finds of the day were white wines.
  • We got to catch up with friends. We did drinks with my varsity friend, Meg, on Friday eve, and on Saturday we had breakfast with Matt and Nic before the afternoon wedding and walked along Camps Bay beach. Definitely some of my highlights. Our flight was delayed on Sun morning, but seeing we were on the same flight as friends from Gauteng, we all had coffee together and caught up on news, which was lovely.
  • Since the CT trip, it's been panic stations to get everything done! I've been asked to do another social media workshop at a company related to the one where I presented the last two, which will be fun, and I've had press launches, media releases, articles, web copy, brochures, reports and proposals to write, so it's been frantic. In between, I've been making jewellery to sell for Christmas money. I've decided not to hold an open house this year, but rather to invite people to let me know if they'd like to pop in to have a look. I'm also happy to take the jewellery to meet people where it suits them. I think that way there's less stress and emphasis on one day. I'm considering posting pics and prices here. What do you think? Is that a bit tacky?
  • It's definitely the silly season in terms of social events - everyone is scrambling to see each other before the year ends and our weekends are jammed packed until the holidays. This weekend I get to see my uncle, who's here from Kuwait, with my family tonight. Then tomorrow it's a business meeting and TSC's project team year-end function (which means I'm missing out on a friend's hen party, unfortunately). Sunday we have our supper-club Christmas lunch, a church leaders meeting and then church in the evening. Thankfully next weekend is slightly less crazy!
  • That's about it really. I've got lots I've been thinking about that I would like to blog (from thoughts on the R12 a day challenge to plans for Christmas presents, dealing with difficult people and a summary of 2011), but I have to take one thing at a time, and unfortunately right now I have to get my paying work done before I get to that stuff. Maybe soon :-)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Forget Halloween...

...It's my fourth blog birthday today.

That's right - four years ago on 31 October, I randomly decided to start a blog. And it's been some ride.

Thanks for reading. Will be back with a proper post as soon as I get a chance to breathe. So much I want to blog about!

Enjoy your trick or treating.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 4

This is my last day of doing the challenge because we fly out to Cape Town this evening (woo hoo!) and we'll miss the final day of R12 a day tomorrow.

Last night's dinner with our small group went well. They all brought their R4 and we served soup with bread and then jelly for dessert.

For the soup, I bought a sachet of Creamy Chicken Soup powder. I fried up the one and a half big onions we had left in a bit of marge until they were tender, then added the two remaining punnets of patty pans, diced, with the soup powder mixed with a litre of water and half a packet of cooked spaghetti. I let this simmer for about half an hour, added a bit more water and then blitzed it with a hand blender to make a thick, rich soup.

We bought one packet of low-Gi brown seed bread, which meant that there was enough for two slices for each boy and one and a half for each girl. We had jugs of tap water with ice on the table. Everyone had enough! In fact, we even had a piece of bread left over, which I put into TSC's lunchbox today with his soup.

Nobody was expecting dessert, so the jelly went down a treat. I'm not really a fan of jelly, but I had a few bites, just because I was craving something sweet and I couldn't pass up the chance for a little variety :-)

Tonight, seeing we still have a little bit of the maize meal, I think I'll make grilled pap toasts and serve them with poached eggs and spinach, instead of just having the spinach omelettes. This has worked out well, seeing a friend is giving us a lift to the airport and I've offered to give her supper too. The eggs I have left won't make enough omelettes for three people, but with the pap toasts and the spinach, we'll have enough to poach eggs for three.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about the R12 a day challenge. I've found it hugely beneficial in gaining perspective, realising just how blessed we are and experiencing new compassion for the poor.

Will check in when I'm back from CT. Have a good one.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 3

I have new empathy with those who live on less than R12 a day and have to visit the shops. Last night, I went in to PnP to buy a sachet of mix-up juice powder, which we decided would be better than tea (seeing we haven't budgeted for milk). They cost R2.50 and make 1litre of juice.

It was before we'd started cooking supper (homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce) and I was hungry. And now I understand just a little bit of how hard it must be to only have enough money on you for a loaf of bread, but to be standing among these shelves filled with delicious ingredients and smelling the hot food and the bakery. Wow. My heart is really starting to ache for the poor, which is the point of this whole exercise.

I've just finished my leftover gnocchi and let me tell you - hunger is a great chef! I picked my mom and gran up at the Gautrain Sandton Station today and we went to Sandton City to Nino's so they could grab a bite to eat (my gran wasn't feeling great). My mom ordered a succulent chicken breast and my gran had chicken strips with sweet chilli sauce. It smelled amazing! I had water. By the time I got home, I was ravenous. And I really enjoyed my leftovers.

Here's the recipe for the gnocchi. It's super easy to make, absolutely delicious and goes really well with bolognese or a bacon and tomato sauce. Or any sauce you like, really. I make this fairly regularly because the gnocchi are much fluffier and lighter than the shop-bought stuff. This is a recipe from one of the first editions of Fresh Living magazine and it has served me well. I just change the cake flour to self-raising flour because it aids the fluffiness.

Gnocchi
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • Salt (I use about 1 tspn)
  • 1.5 cups of self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash coarsely. Using a large spoon, rub the mashed potato through a sieve. Mix in egg and salt. Add the flour and mix to make a dough, but don't over-mix. Roll the dough into long 2cm thick sausages. Cut each roll into 3cm lengths and press each piece lightly with a fork. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until they float to the top. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and serve with your sauce of choice.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

R12 a day: Day Two

One thing I forgot to mention about the R12 a day challenge yesterday is that I'm so grateful that I'm married to TSC and we can each have R12 a day. This challenge s really tough for single people. We've encouraged members of our small group to club together so that they can get a greater variety of ingredients. According to the rules we have to cost for whole items. In other words, you can't buy half a packet of rice - you have to budget for the whole packet. So, if you're only going to use half a packet, it makes sense to split it with someone else and share the cost, leaving you more money to spend on something else.

Here's our shopping list and costing for the week:

  • Mealie meal - R5.80 (1kg)
  • Margerine - R6.99 for a tiny Rama block (much as I hate cooking with marge as it breaks down into farmful fats when heated, we're doing just that this week as we can't afford cooking oil)
  • Sugar - R3.49 for 250g pack
  • 2min noodles - 2 x R2.49
  • Onions - R2.81 for two large onions bought loose (used half an onion with last night's soya mince. The rest goes to tomorrow night's soup)
  • Spaghetti - R6.80 (used half a packet for last night's supper. The rest will go into the veggie soup to bulk it up a bit)
  • Soya mince - R8.99 (Beef and Onion flavour, PnP)
  • Patty pans - R10.00 for three punnets at Fruit & Veg City
  • Oranges - R10.00 for a 2kg bag at Fruit & Veg City (another lifesaver - now we can have two fruits per day, which is great seeing TSC gets hungry in the late afternoons)
  • Bananas - R6.71 (five loose bananas)
  • Potatoes - R10.81 for three absolutely massive ones bought loose
  • Tin of braai relish - R5.49
  • Flour - R5.49 (500g self-raising)
  • Bread - Still have to buy tomorrow for soup night. Probably about R10.99 (I will buy a low-GI loaf)
  • Powdered soup - R2.99 sachet (creamy chicken flavour)
  • Jelly - 2 x R3.29
  • Eggs - R7.99 for six (I hate not being able to afford free range!)
  • Spinach - R2.00 (I'm taking it out of my garden, but accounting for the price of production)
  • Salt and pepper - R1.50 (the only thing we're allowed to work out per quantity rather than as a whole bag)
Total: R101.43 (without the bread I still need to buy)

Between the two of us, we have R12 each for four days, which comes to R96.00. Then  we've asked our small group members to each bring R4 (a third of their daily allowance for a soup supper tomorrow evening). We have six people (aside from TSC and I) confirmed, which means an additional R24.00. So we have R120.00 available in total, which means that once the bread is bought, I should have about R7.50 to spare. Hoping I can find a small packet of tea for that price!


Notes on yesterday's R12 a day experience:

The bag of oranges I bought had one in it that was off.  I was more annoyed than usual by this (normally I would just chuck it away and think nothing of it) and I realised how tough it must be if you have so little money and the food you buy ends up being rotten :-( Eye-opening.

2minute noodles are definitely not low-GI. I was hungry again an hour after eating mine for lunch (although I did give some of mine to TSC as he needs more food than I do).

The soya mince, patty pans and spaghetti for dinner was actually not too bad at all and very filling. When we lived in Cape Town, we had very, very little money to spare and had soya mince quite often. For last night's meal, I fried up half an onion (chopped finely) in a teaspoon of marge, and added the water and "mince" to that, just to give it a bit of extra flavour. I steamed the patty pans, which went very nicely with the mince sauce and pasta. We have oodles leftover for lunch today (which will be a far more satisfying meal than 2min noodles) and enough pasta left over to bulk up tomorrow night's soup too (always a good idea with a hungry group of people).

So far, so good. Although I must admit, a cup of coffee would go down well right now ;-)

Monday, 17 October 2011

R12 a day: Day 1

I'm doing the R12 a day challenge. If you'd like to know more about how you can do the challenge or if you want to donate money towards food for those in my church living below the bread line, please mail me at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com.

Here's the menu for the next few days:

Today:
Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: banana
Lunch: 2min noodles
Supper: spaghetti with soya mince and veg (specifically, I found a special at Fruit & Veg City for 3 punnets of yellow patty pans for R10)

Tuesday:
Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: orange
Lunch: leftover spaghetti with soya mince
Supper: homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce

Wednesday:
Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: orange
Lunch: leftover homemade potato gnocchi with tomato and onion sauce
Supper: vegetable soup (using the other two punnets of patty pans) with bread with our small group (we are asking each member to bring R4 - a third of their daily allowance)
Dessert: Jelly. (No custard, I'm afraid)

Thursday:
Breakfast: mealie meal porridge
Snack: banana
Lunch: leftover veggie soup and bread
Supper: spinach omelettes

One of the biggest eye-openers for me is how hard it is not to be able to buy something I crave. Often, I'll say to TSC, "What do you want for supper tonight?" or "I feel like roast chicken". Having to stick to a set menu is hard, and I can't imagine how tough it must be for those who really live under the bread line - they don't have the luxury of planning ahead what they'll eat. R12 a day is an average - not something you can bet on. So someone living in poverty might be able to earn R30 doing an odd job on one day, but then earn nothing for the next three.

Also, living on R12 of food a day is tough, but for people living in abject poverty, their meagre income, whatever it might be, has to cover ALL their expenses - transport, medicine, education... everything.

The biggest challenges for me so far:
  • Trying to plan a menu that isn't just starch-based; one that includes fruit, veg, fats and protein too.
  • Only drinking water. No coffee, no cold drinks, no tea, no alcohol. This is much tougher on TSC than on me (my terrible gastro meant I have only had two cups of coffee in the last two weeks. He, on the other hand, is used to five cups a day).
  • Trying to think about how to turn this challenge into something helpful in the long run. Yes, it will help me to build empathy with the poor, but how can that change my behaviour for the good of those in need? And no, I'm not talking about regular hand-outs - that's not how I think we can help. 
(PS: We leave on Thursday night for CT and will be staying with friends, so won't be able to do the final day of the challenge).

Friday, 14 October 2011

R12 a day challenge

My church has issued a challenge to its members to feed ourselves each on R12 a day from 17 to 21 October. Here's a bit about the R12 a day challenge:

Why R12 a day?  The World Bank defines ‘extreme poverty’ as living on less than US $1.25 or R12 per day.

In support of ‘World Food Day’ on the 16TH October and ‘International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’ on the 17TH October. 

1.4 billion People on our planet, and over ½ a million in Johannesburg survive on less than R12 a day for EVERYTHING.

Here are some stats:

South Africa
• SA is the most unequal society in the world. The richest 10% of the population receive
almost half the income and the poorest 10% receive a mere 0.2% of all income.
• 15% or 7.45 million people in SA live in ‘extreme poverty’.
City of Johannesburg
• Over ½ million people in JHB live below the poverty line of R12/day (this is for everything –
not just food).
• 45% of the 3.8 million residents (1.7 million) people live in what the SA govt terms ‘Absolute
Poverty’ ie on less than R800/month.
• Almost 20% of the population lives in informal dwellings (shacks). Many live in hazardly
dilapidated and overcrowded buildings.
• 19% of the population is illiterate.
• Approx 5% of the population (200 000 people) have no access to water, sanitation, refuse
disposal or electricity.
• 6% of children in Gauteng are severely malnourished.
• 350 000 children in JHB will never go to a pre-school as government doesn’t have sufficient
resources.



The Challenge to our congregation:
1. Live on R12/day for food and refreshments for 5 days starting on Monday 17th October.
2. Encourage colleagues, friends and family to join the ‘R12 a Day’ Challenge.
3. Donate what you would have spent on food and drink that week (money goes to food
parcels for GodFirst Tembisa members who actually live on R12 or less)
 

The purpose of the Challenge is to:
• Acknowledge world food and poverty day along with the rest of the world.
• Empathise with the poor as we experience, in a small way, part of their daily reality, and in
doing so allow God to break our hearts with compassion for the poor.
• Provide food for those in our church and city to whom this is a reality.


I'm busy drawing up a menu and a budget and this is tough! Anyone care to join me? Or to donate? You can find the rules here. There are also recipe ideas and other resources on the website.


Our church small group will be sharing a meal on Wednesday night together, pooling R4 from each of our R12 budgets for that day. I'm thinking veggie soup?


I'll try to blog about how it's going next week. I think this is going to be challenging, but it will certainly give us more empathy with South Africa's poor.




Thursday, 13 October 2011

Still here

It's just been... manic, sad, hard...

I've been quite sick. I had terrible gastro. It started last week Tuesday morning. By Friday, I thought I was better, until I got on the bus for the Coldplay concert on Saturday and threw up again. Sorry to everyone who was on that bus with me. They all probably thought I was drunk. In actual fact, I think it was the smell of all the booze and smoke that set me off. Thankfully I am always well-prepared with wetwipes, tissues etc and I sorted it out very quickly. Still felt bad for everyone else though.

Anyway, my stomach is STILL sensitive. I wake up most mornings with cramps and get patches of nausea if I eat anything remotely creamy, rich or acidic. I've always loved Provitas. I think I'm over them though.

I've also now had this insane headache for three weeks. Not normal. The doc has given me muscle-relaxants. Not helping. I think it's stress and spending so many hours a day in front of the PC. I'm going to make a plan to have my eyes tested.

Coldplay. My favourite band in the world. They were amazing! Pity the sound in our cheap seats was absolutely pathetic. In fact, you could hear them better from outside the stadium than from where we were sitting. Still, I'm glad I got to see them live. It just reinforces for me how talented they are. Not only is Chris Martin a great vocalist, but if you take away the vocals, the music is still fantastic - the melodies, the rhythm... I love them.

Work has been crazy. That is all I will say on that score. Oh, except that today is International Plain Language Day. I wish some of my clients would se use plain language even just for one day instead of corporate poppycock, which seems to be their language of choice.

It's been sad. We had Jennifer's memorial service last Friday. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was heart-wrenching. One of my friends asked me what the point is of having a memorial for someone who wasn't even born yet. I had to choose my words carefully in answering her without getting upset. Jennifer may not have taken a breath in this world, but her parents knew her and loved her for nine months. Her dad spoke at the service about the three games he used to play with her while she was in her mom's tummy. We all sobbed.

What else is news?

We discovered that our fabulous new shower is leaking through the downstairs ceiling. Joy. We can't quite find the problem though. *Sigh* That means lots of tinkering and testing this weekend.

On a happier note, my garden is beautiful right now. I take a few minutes out to walk through it a couple of times a day. My irises and roses are in full bloom. They smell heavenly.

We saw The Help on Tuesday, just to get out of the house for a bit. It's a good movie, in my opinion. I laughed and cried and thought about it lots afterwards. It's not a particularly deep look at issues, but hopefully it gets people thinking about them. It was nice to see a good movie, after watching Friends with Benefits, which was possibly my least favourite movie all year.

My nicest bit of news is that we're off to a wedding in CT next weekend. I cannot wait. I really feel like I need to get away from Jhb for a bit. It's been a tough month so far and it's that time of the year when everyone is grumpy and tired. I'm looking forward to seeing two of my best friends, catching up with a few other friends I haven't seen in years and just being able to walk on the beach again. I still miss it.

Sorry, I know this post is disjointed, but there's lots I want to say and I don't have the energy right now to try to say it any better.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

RIP little Jennifer

My heart is crushed today. Two of our dear supper club friends were expecting their little girl - their first child - to arrive this week. We had dinner with them on Sunday afer church and laughed together about nappy duty and our nicknames for her.

Less than 24hours later, baby Jennifer died after a tight knot in her umbilical cord cut off her blood supply.

Her poor parents are broken. My heart aches for them.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Was it something I said?

Where did you all go? Seriously. Am I talking (writing) to myself?

Don't reduce me to begging you for comment love. Please.

I'll try to be more interesting, promise. I'll write about sex, drugs and rock n roll. No, I won't actually. I'll continue writing about my cats, my work and other (apparently not very) scintillating aspects of my life. Whether you comment or not.

But comments would be lovely.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Stuff

  • There are a lot of birthdays in September. All the New Years' babies... Flip. You're bankrupting me, people!
  • We have a charity ball tonight. I can't wait. It's themed too. I love dressing up! Must remember to take my camera.
  • It's a busy weekend. We also have a friend's 30th bday bash tomorrow (the third this month) and then our church small group is refurbishing a room at the children's home we support on Sunday. Plus it's the Singapore F1 Grand Prix.
  • I am tired. It's been a crappy week. I had a client who misbehaved rather badly and it totally threw me. I tend to work with people who share the same ethics as me, so when I come across someone who doesn't seem to care about morals, it always shocks me. Thankfully it doesn't happen very often. And this person is now out of my life.
  • Situations like the one I've just mentioned combined with a general feeling of being on the brink of burnout have made me question what I'm doing for a living. With the amount of crap I've put up with this week, I might as well have been a plumber. It definitely pays better. Thankfully there are good people out there too. I enjoy working with them and they appreciate my work, so I've been reminded that aside from the odd imbecile I'll encounter, I generally do like freelancing. I even love it sometimes. So it's ok if I have days of hating it once in a blue moon. It's normal.
  • The things that are making me smile at the moment are spring-time weather and gardens; my cats (we've discovered how entertaining it is to let them chase BB-gun bullets around the house... hilarious); the weavers that have built their nests in my silver birches to house their little chicks; delicious light summery food and having TSC home this week when I was expecting him to be away at the mine.
What's up in your world?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Perfect weekend

This weekend was one of those rare occasions where we managed the perfect blend of socialising and chilling. We haven't had a non-frantic weekend in months, so we really enjoyed it.

Supper Club was at our house on Friday night and I made a few things from one of Jamie's 30-Minute Meals menus, expressly ignoring his advice to not mix and match menus, and then put together a few of my own creations.

We had Woolies' spicy nachos as a snack, with homemade guacamole. Then supper was Jamie's spinach and feta phyllo pie, with pesto tamato salad and a cucumber and mint salad. I made a chicken tray bake with honey, thyme and lemon juice (I love having fresh herbs and lemons from the garden to play with). Desserts were mint milkshakes with whipped cream and sprinkles. Yum.

I do think I used almost every piece of crockery and cutlery in the kitchen though. And my dishwasher is stll broken (six weeks now!), so when Louisa and Nicola arrived for coffee the next day, Louisa was forced to eat her words after she'd refused to believe that my house looked like a bomb had hit it.

We took our coffee and muffins outside and spent a lovely morning enjoying the fresh air and the sun, once it had decided to grace us with its presence. We chatted for ages and I just loved the chance to catch up with Louisa and see Nicola so happy. If ever I become a mother, I want to be a Louisa kind of mom - the lie-down-on-the-grass-and-tickle-your-kid-till-you're-both-out-of-breath kind of mom.

When TSC arrived back from racing his concrete boat across Germiston Lake (varsity assignment), he watched the rugby he'd recorded and I planted my bulbs and napped.

Later on, we headed through to Cresta, where I got to spend my very generous birthday LaSenza voucher from Ruby. Thanks again, lady! We had a pretty good dinner at Founders Grill and shared a creme brulee (I hear the Hallelujah chorus when I think of it) for pudding.

Then it was off to see Crazy, Stupid, Love at the movies. I wasn't expecting much, but we both loved it! It's the best romcom I've seen in ages. It started off pretty slowly, but by the time it got to the height of the comedy, I was in stitches. Great casting, really.

Sunday started with a pilates class, which always makes me feel like I'm at peace with the day. Then we decided to have brunch somewhere outside where we could enjoy the spring weather, so we headed to De Ouwe Werf at Broadacres (can't find a link), where we had a good, simple meal (great value for money) in the beautiful gardens. Looks like an amazing venue for those with kids - they have a jumping castle and a great enclosed playground.

After that, it was a quick visit to the shops, a nice snooze at home and then church and a Sunday evening meal of leftovers on the couch with a glass of wine

It really was a perfect weekend.

How was yours?

PS: My wedding story is up over at Angel's Weddings today.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Spring flowers

Snapped in my garden this week... I hope to spend some time there this weekend. Have a good one.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A rant on writing

I love writing. I really do. Sometimes I forget this (usually when I'm 3000 words into a report on a boring subject like mining legislation and have lost my sense of humour a wee bit).

Writing, however, really is a weird job. There's a whole bunch of people who think that anyone can be a writer and can't see the need to hire someone with a journalism or copy writing qualification to do the work.  Then there's another bunch of people who think writing is some mystic creative gift that God endowed on a chosen few. And there's a few of us who are somewhere in between. We believe that words have currency and a good wordsmith is worth a good fee, but that writing's not rocket science or religion either. And not every article can be a masterpiece.

*sigh*

What has brought on this musing? A thread of discussions on the professional writers' forum I subscribe to, about the fact that sometimes writing is really boring. One of the members posted a comment about the fact that he's completely bored with his work, whether it's journalism, copy writing or communications consulting. Sometimes I feel the same. After awhile, words get stale. This is particularly true in certain instances. Like press releases. I hate writing press releases. IT's all the same stuff. Different product, same spin. But I could do press releases in my sleep. It's easy and it's a good way to make a quick buck. But it's not fun.

Another catalyst for this rant was the reaction of the guy who came to check out my complaint about my mattress (which has a 20-yr guarantee but is lumpy after five) when he asked what I do and I said "freelance journalist".

When people ask me that question and I give them that answer, their eyes light up and they inevitably say something like, "Ooh! That must be interesting!" And sometimes it is. There are certain jobs that I love doing - writing that fits into my interest areas. I used to get to do theatre pieces for a lovely lifestyle magazine. It meant I got comps for all the new shows. I loved writing those pieces.

But the writing that actually pays good money tends to be corporate stuff. And while some corporate stuff can be fun, some is decidedly not.

People also don' tunderstand that there are totally different types of journalism out there - investigative, news, political, lifestyle...

When I say "freelance journalist", people don't picture me sitting behind my laptop, typing away at a brochure about hydraulic hose (yes, I actually did write a brochure about hydraulic hose. Fun stuff). They see me with a camera and a notepad in the middle of some obscure African country's latest war zone, dodging bullets and frantically scribbling down tales of human tragedy that will promote urgent action by the masses. I could never be a hard news journo. No bullets for me, sorry.

Or people see me dressed in a power suit, electronic dictaphone in one hand, cocktail in the other, as I interview some or other fabulous celebrity for a profile piece about the contents of their handbag, their thoughts on ageing and the rumours of their latest fling. I could never be an entertainment journo either. I have zero interest in most celebrities.


There are occasional moments of glamour in my job (definitely not when I'm crying my eyes out on my carpet, surrounded by tax documents and tissues). Sometimes I get to meet someone impressive. Sometimes I get to go to glitzy events. Very, very occasionally, I get free stuff (but hardly ever the nice kind). I promise you that none of these things happens very often (and that the food at press events actually tends to be fairly revolting on average).

I am not in this for the glamour. I'm not in this to save the world (but if I can get more people to recycle I'll be extremely happy). I'm in this because it's something that I can do. (I think. Sometimes.) And because when I'm not writing a 3000 word report on mining legislation (for real), I actually do love writing.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Itchy feet

I don't know if it's as a result of being stuck in my house while the renovations took place, or if it's just that time of year, but I am desperate (DESPERATE) for a break. Like everyone else I guess.

It does not help that we've been invited to a destination wedding in the very furthest part of the Kruger in December and I've been checking out pics of the camp on the web. It's going to be awesome. Hot, but awesome. It's right on the border near Mozambique and my travel-hungry heart jumps at the thought that maybe, just maybe we could pop over the border into our neighbouring country. I've never been to "Moz" before.

*Sigh*

It's very unlikely, seeing we really don't have the money. But a girl can dream, right? And travel is all I'm dreaming about at the moment. A friend asked my advice on where to go for a December bush break near Cape Town and I spent an hour procrastinating on the interwebs, seduced by the pictures of luzury tents and the Big 5.

I have no advice for her though. When we lived in Cape Town we were far too broke to afford anything more than a day trip to one of the beaches (I still miss the Llandudnot boulders and Camps Bay sundowners). So if any of you know of somewhere, please let me know and I will pass along the info.

She's also looking for a nice weekend getaway spot that's not too expensive or too far from Cape Town. Any ideas?

As for me, I may resort to pitching a beach umbrella in my lawn this weekend, sprinkling some sand on the grass and pretending I'm on the coast.

Have a fab Friday. And enjoy the rugby if you're that way inclined.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Before and After

It's taken me long enough, but I can finally show you some renovation pics!

Bathroom:

When our house was built, the owners at the time decided to change the plans for the en-suite bathroom in the main bedroom. They were elderly and didn't want a bath, so they built a wall in the middle of the room that would be the bathroom and installed only a shower, toilet and single basin, using the other half of the room as a walk-in cupboard.

The spare bathroom, on the other hand, has a bath and no shower. In winter, being cold-blooded, I find that the only way to get warm is to immerse myself in piping hot water. We would often use the guest bathroom to bath, but when we had guests staying with us, we were stuck with our shower, which had a broken sliding door that needed to be forced closed and still let cold air in because it wouldn't shut properly. The guests, on the other hand, were stuck with the bath, which is difficult for people like my 85-year old granddad to use.

So we installed a hand shower in the guest bathroom, broke through part of the wall that had been built in the bathroom and used what was the walk-in cupboard as a spot to install a lovely bath.

We found a way to fit in our new bathroom without moving any major water points. We added an extra basin and an extra shower (inside the existing shower). That last bit is one of my favourite things... Now TSC and I can shower together and he can have his luke warm water and I can have my scalding hot water. I've been explaining the necessity of this to everyone who has seen the bathroom: I believe all serious marital discussions should ideally take place in the bath or shower because it's very difficult to fight with a naked person ;-)

Anyhoo... Here are the pics...

Before


If you look closely here you'll see the towel rail lying on the floor. We tried fixing it on numerous occasions and it just kept falling off. So glad we have nice new, sturdy towel rails!


It may look innocuous, but this non-closing shower door was evil.


The walk-in cupboard

During
Here's where we broke through the wall from the existing bathroom into the walk-in cupboard...




After
Now we just need more stylish laundry bins!



Still can't believe this was the walk-in cupboard!


The Bedroom:

Once we'd put a bath in what was our walk-in cupboard, we obviously needed to find a new storage solution, which meant installing new cupboards. We also had to replace the carpet, which was worn through in some spots, and the skirtings. You'll see why when I show you a pic! The ceilings had pulled away from the cornices, allowing dust from the roof to pour into the room and make TSC's allergies a million times worse than usual, so we fixed the ceilings, rhinolited over them and put in new cornices and a new light fitting. While we were at it, we installed a vanity for me so I don't clutter the new bathroom with my make-up and hair accessories, and we also replaced the curtain rods.

Photos...

The revolting skirtings. We've now replaced most of these around the house with Meranti wood ones. The originals were made of a substance that was almost like cardboard - you could pull the things apart with your bare hands!

You can also see how worn the carpet is here - it's actually threadbare under the skirting on the left side of the pic.

Fixing the ceilings and prepping the walls...


This pic shows where we built up the old doorway to the walk-in cupboard and the rhinolite, stillwet and patchy on the ceilings.


New paint, fixed ceilings, new cornices and a new light fixture...


The finished room:


I LOVE these cupboards (thanks Louisa for the recommendation). They run the whole length of the wall and one of them opens up as the entrance to the bathroom (the one you can partially see on the far right of the pic)


The new cupboards opposite the bed, along with my dresser and the new curtains.


I'm so chuffed with the way my heart-art headboard substitute worked out! Our old headboard was too big for the room. We actually had to take it apart to get it out once the cupboards were in!



So that, my lovelies, is what I have been preoccupied with over the last six weeks. I'm very glad it's all finished and I am supremely happy with the end results. But now I want a break from home improvements for a bit ;-)

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my amazing TSC. We didn't finish the renovations before my bday, but I'm glad we did it before his.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Flip!

Can the world please slow down? Just for a second?

I just need a second to stop for breath.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

It's been a week already...

...Since I last blogged. Crazy.

Here's a quick update of what's been potting:

It was my bday on Sat and I got spoilt rotten. TSC surprised me with my gift (for almost the first time ever - usually I know exactly what I'm getting). He gave me this:
He already got us Cold Play tickets awhile back, seeing they are my fave band ever, so I feel very blessed with my "bonus" present Jamie book and can't wait to get cooking. I just have to fugure out what some of his British slang words mean!

We had a lazy morning and then headed to Zebbies so I could pick out my bathroom light fittings (weird way to spend one's bday, I know. But there was no other time to do it). Then I picked Lucky Moo in Atholl Square as a lunch venue. Meh. The service was fabulous, but the food less so. My fault entirely though - I should've stuck with somewhere I know. I felt like a change.

We had an afternoon nap (bliss!) and then made a quick stop at the nursery, where I picked up some pansies and a third variety of primula to add some instant colour to the garden. I got my hands dirty planting them while TSC watche dthe rugby. Then we had a bubble bath and got ready for my birthday supper with my folks and brother at Royal Thai. It was divine! Great food, lovely family time and I got spoiled some more... nursery vouchers, money, beautiful cards that made me teary and my favourite perfume...


All in all, a good birthday. Especially supper, which is a wonder, seeing I usually end up picking a restaurant that leaves at least one family member (if not all of them) unimpressed.

The renovations are at last (and thank goodness) nearing their end. The cupboard guys are busy right now. They've taken longer than they were supposed to, but they seem to be doing a really thorough job. They'll finish on Monday and then we can hopefully move back into our own bedroom! And I can show you pics :-)

Now it's just doing the final bits... skirtings, the shower door, putting up the bathroom towel rails etc. Which is great, seeing TSC and I have been working through weekends and every evening to fix the bad job the tiler and plumber did, as well as touching up on the paint work and doing small niggly things like siliconing around the basins etc.

If journalism doesn't work out, I can always start a handyman (handywoman?) business!

I am slowly transforming back into a nicer version of the winter me as the weather warms up. As the little buds on my plants blossom and the tiny leaves on my frees unfurl, so my temper lengthens. And I will be a decent person for the few short months that it's warm.

Have a good wekeend, everyone.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Bullet point updates

Hello! Been desperate to blog all week and catch up on my reading, but it's been more of the same manic pace, I'm afraid.

So here are some quick bullet points:

  • It's my birthday tomorrow. Renovations were supposed to be complete by then, but alas it was not to be. The cupboard guy's materials were delayed, so he can only come on Thursday. But the new carpets are in and they look amazing! And they feel good too. Who knew carpets could be so exciting? And yes, I realise I sound like a total loon, but I find them so awesome that I want to take a leaf out my cats' book and roll on them.
  • I got rid of my accountants and found a new firm. Yay! The old ones were not very reliable in terms of communication and didn't take me seriously at all, so I'm glad to have found someone who is willing to answer my (probably silly) questions.
  • My garden is coming alive again. I love it - spring is on it's way, at last! I'm enjoying peas, carrots, spinach, rocket, Asian greens, herbs and spring onions from my veggie patch, and the gorgeous primulas (two types) are in full bloom, making for pretty bursts of flowers all over the show.
  • I took my brother out for coffee yesterday (had the most divine chai freezo at House of Coffees in Menlyn). I'm so loving getting along with him for the first time in my life. At long last, we can chat. And not just about jokes and the weather - about real stuff too. Without jumping down each other's throats! It's fantastic. Makes me very happy.
  • TSC and I have settled on a theme for usual joint birthday bash. We're having a bring-and-share gyspy-themed picnic in our garden. So excited! Gypsy decor is such fun and virtually free. All I need to buy is a big bag full of gold coin chocolates ;-) We thought of having a picnic at one of the lovely parks, but I worry that it will rain (usually happens when I have picnics) and I'm not keen to put my friends through the traumas of the public loos (our favourite local park only has a port-a-potty). Also, I worry that if people want to drink wine, they'll get in trouble in the public parks. So our garden it will be.
  • I cannot wait to show you renovation pics. Hoping by next week it will all be done. And then I'll post some before and after shots.
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Never been happier it's a Friday

What an admin week! Goodness.

Not only have we been running around trying to manage builders, plumbers, tilers and painters while still getting some work done, but I've also been sorting out tax stuff (hate, hate, HATE) and we've switched our insurer. Finally.

In between, the dishwasher has stopped working, the expensive Floor Wizard mop (or whatever other euphemistic name it has been given) fell apart and my remote control for the gate broke. Our phone line has also stopped working. This not only means that people can't get through to me for business calls (it sounds like it's ringing from their end, but doesn't ring on my end), but also that we can't let our visitors (including the myriad renovation subcontractors and repair men) in through the front gate, which operates through our landline. All of this, of course, happened in a week with a public holiday in it. Which means that getting anyone to fix anything has been unlikely since everyone other than us is on holiday. Or that's how it feels, at least.

Just to make life rosier, I've had to go into the bank twice and spend a few hours there on each occasion. Had to pick up two cards (old ones expire end of this month), extend my internet banking transfer limit to be able to pay the deposit for the new cupboards, update my FICA (what a frikking mission. Might have been easier to let them keep thinking I still live in Cape Town) and I wanted to apply for a credit card. Didn't think this would be a problem, seeing they have my personal, business and investment accounts and know exactly how much money I have at any given moment.

Hah! Should've got a credit card before I became self-employed. They don't want to give me one unless I get a letter from an accountant saying how much I earn every month. I don't have an accountant, so I told them I'll apply through Discovery (where all they need is three months' bank statements). The joke is that a telesales person from my bank has called me twice in the days since to offer me a credit card. Grrrr.

I'm seriously over this week. TGIF. For real.

That said, it hasn't all been bad. I really enjoyed Women's Day on Tuesday. TSC and I slept in late, had scones and coffee at The Tea Room at Crabtree & Evelyn, took a long walk through all of Lonehill's little footpaths, shared a vanilla milkshake from Milky Lane (been craving one for weeks) and chilled at home watching episodes of Glee. It was divine.

Glad I had a day off, because tomorrow morning is a big business meeting and the rest of this weekend we'll have people working in the house. I'm really, really hoping that by next Saturday (my birthday!!!) it will all be done.

On that note, any ideas for birthday parties? TSC and I do a combined one every year as our birthdays are three weeks apart. We've decided we can't host one at home this year, but I'd like to something a bit more exciting than hooking up for drinks at our gloomy neighbourhood pub. I'm open to ideas! But seeing all our money is currently being spent on light fixtures etc, it can't be expensive.

Anyway. Have a fabulous weekend, all.

Friday, 5 August 2011

I'm in the wrong generation

Aside from obvious things like the fact that I would rather listen to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles or The Platters than Rihanna, The Parlotones or The Black Eyed Peas (or the fact that I can't even think of more current bands to mention here because I refuse to listen to most radio stations because "it all sounds the same to me") there are certain things that make me suspect I was born in the wrong generation.

I'm not talking about the fact that I would rather sleep than go clubbing, my intolerance for bad manners, or how I believe in God, marriage and other concepts that many my age seem to think are passé. Right now I'm talking about attitude.

I'm supposedly part of Generation Y. And I can see some of those Gen Y traits in me... independent, entrepreneurial, lifestyle-centred, fairly media savvy and often anti-establishment. What I don't have is that Gen Y confidence when it comes to career and social media stuff.

There's this guy of my generation (I think he's three years younger than me) who is also a journo. He covers all sorts of stuff, from politics to music, and he has hectic opinions on everything, which he broadcasts to the world at large through his articles and social media.

He gets equally hectic comments in response, but he carries along quite merrily. I admire him for his writing skills and his guts. But sometimes I also read an article he's written and think it's really immature or just overly dramatic for the sake of being dramatic.

I still feel wet behind the ears in the media world. I've only been writing for five years. Some hacks out there have been doing this for five or six decades. They know everything about everything. It's awe-inspiring. And I have deep respect for the experience of age (another factor that makes me think I'm in the wrong generation).

I could never just hold forth on serious matters like news and politics and expect everyone to listen. This guy does. And people do listen. People take him very seriously.

And I feel both jealous of him and extremely relieved that I'm not him. It must be lovely to have such influence, but what a lot of responsibilty! Although, as a Gen Y dude, he seems happy to assume that the effect his work has on other people is their issue to deal with.

Another very non Gen Y trait in me is that I am suspicious of social media. Yes, I use it. I'm on Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn and even (grudgingly) on Facebook. I enjoy it (except Facebook, which I pretty much ignore). But I don't trust it. I am very cautious about what I say (maybe not so much on this blog, but definitely on Twitter).

I cannot tell you how many times I have started a Tweet and then deleted it halfway through, because in my mind the internet is forever and I'm not sure I want that trivial Tweet to be around forever.

Friends and colleagues my age Tweet about all sorts of things, some of which I would never dream of mentioning IRL, nevermind online (another characteristic of older generations). They blab about their jobs, their bosses, their sex lives, the annoying things their kids and partners do... I won't go there. I won't even go near there. In fact, I suffer from acute post-Tweet stress disorder.

As soon as I've posted a Tweet, I start to wonder what people will think when they read it (I'm sometimes like this with blog posts too and will come back and edit a few times after publishing). Will they think I'm making light of serious issues? Will my clients judge me on my opinions? Will my sense of humour offend someone?

And, much as I wish that I had the confidence to Tweet in peace, I would also rather be OTT about protecting my friends' and family's privacy and my business reputation than become a fun-to-read-because-it's-just-so-inappropriate fount of useless TMI fluff. And that is what convinces me that I should actually be 45 years old.

Well, that and the fact that I choose Women & Home Magazine over the mags targeted at my age group and have recently taken up knitting again.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Renovations & Recommendations

I'm big into social buying and am signed up to Groupon, WiCount and now Daddy's Deals. They're having a competition where you can win a fab adventure for you and three friends along with loads of other cool prizes, so if you want to enter too... click this magic button:

Daddy's Deals — with love from kulula.com


Ended my work day well today - got a phone call from a potential new client. She was given my number and a recommendation by one of my current favourite clients.

It's awesome to get people phoning wanting to offer me work at any point, but it's especially awesome when it's thanks to a recommendation from a client. And it's even more fabulous when it's my favourite client.

Yes, a good end to the day. Which is lovely, considering all the mess and foolishness in my house at present. At least we have a new plumber!

Friday, 29 July 2011

General Chaos et al


General Chaos and his troops have invaded our house. Major Mess has taken up headquarters in our spare bedroom while Private Breakdown was allegedly crying in the downstairs toilet, although there is no hard evidence to substantiate this rumour.

Yes, renovations are on the go, despite our plumber failing to show up yesterday as agreed and our tile-remover dude being three hours late today. Still, at least the process has begun. Now we just need to find another plumber and somehow stick to deadline and budget. And I must learn to be able to think in a house filled with noise and dust.

Simple.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blogging as reward

I can't believe it's only been a little over a year since I've been fully self-employed. I can believe, however, that my blogging has been way less regular since then.

Blogging used to be part of my morning ritual... Go to work. Check emails. Blog. Work. Have coffee with boss and discuss any urgent jobs for the day, etc.

But working as a freelancer means there's not much of a routine. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes it's frenetic. There are times when I work on the same project for weeks and times where I tackle six different jobs in a day.

The way I try to work now is to lay out a schedule of what needs to be done and then blog as a reward for finishing something. It's a healthier incentive than chocolate ;-) But it's also frustrating because for the past few months I've been so busy that I never get to the end of my to-do list and there's always something more urgent to do than write a blog post.

There are so many things I've wanted to blog about - movies I've seen, funny things my clients have done, personal news, restaurants I've discovered and the bloody cold weather.

I've missed catching up on everyone else's blogs regularly and I've missed writing daily here. But it is what it is, and it's unlikely to change until things slow down. If things slow down.

So I will continue to reward myself for work completed by blogging and blog-reading, but occasionally (like now) I will also bend my rules and stop by to post something quickly even though there are so many urgent jobs needing to be tackled, just because I need to blog.

And I will try to stop apologising for the less frequent posts because a) it's annoying to read and b) it's the way it has to be for now.

K. Now I really do need to go and do some of those urgent jobs. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Assorted updates: count down and cat warfare

I'm so glad last week is over. What an insane few days! Presentations, deadlines, power plays and boundary laying... Not so much fun.

That said, there are things to smile about this week:

Renovations! Commencing in T minus 2 days (or 3, depending how quickly we get our upstairs packed up). It's going to be hell, for sure, but I am SO looking forward to the end result. Note to self: Must remember to take BEFORE pics this evening.

Thus far, we've moved most of the furniture out of our bedroom and into the spare bedroom (except the bed and my gas heater) and most of the clothes have been moved out of the cupboard too. Thankfully the spare bedroom is ridiculously big, so we've managed to fit its furniture and our room's furniture in there, albeit in wobbly vertical towers.

Tonight we'll do the last moving and sorting and try to get the study (which is tiny) kitted out to use as the laundry room and mini-spareroom (with a single bed in it) for the time being.

It's strange though because our room looks so empty. And messy. I was shocked when I pulled my small drawer unit off of the table where I do my make-up to discover that it's left dirty marks against the wall. I'm very much looking forward to painting over the white walls with a shade that won't show the dirt so much!

Things are obviously chaos at present. I woke up wondering where I was this morning. The cats are loving it though. They feel like they have a brand new obstacle course that's been set up just for them. Little brats. Much as I love them, they do test my patience at times.

This morning, while I was trying to work, they decided to interrupt my concentration by doing repeated time trials around the obstacle course, making as much noise as possible as they went. The pitter-patter of little cat paws is surprisingly loud at high speed. Especially when accompanied by the sound of their bells and the taunting meows they throw out to each other as they race (worse than cricket sledging, I tell you).

They were having a grand time trying to outpace each other and drive me insane.

Until I joined in.

They were not expecting me to jump up from my computer and hare after them through the boxes and piles, challenging them at the top of my lungs with my own meow.

They stopped for a split second to give me a look of absolute terror and then fled in opposite directions.

Marble ended up under the spare bed (wedged between my shoes and other newly stored items), watching me suspiciously with wide eyes and trying not to show just how unsettled he was.

Sapphire, on the other hand, quickly scaled the mattresses piled against the wall (she mistakenly thinks there's safety in height). As I rounded my final corner, however, and let out a whooping victory cry - the bloodcurdling sound of an unhinged writer driven to the edge, which could unsettle even the bravest army veteran (or so I imagine) - she got such a fright that she backed right off the side of the mattress and made an undignified and rapid descent, noisily hitting each and every metal strip of the Ventian blind on her way down.

(She's fine, by the way. Just embarrassed)

Satisfied, I returned to my PC. Silence reigned once more.

It goes to show... that old adage is true: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Works for me :-)