Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unplanned Holiday

So, I have just realised I broke a cardinal rule of mine ... I am on leave and still in Joburg. Usually that *never* happens - unless I'm taking a mental health day (which I don't get to do any more now that people I work with read my blog!). Anyhoo, I gues I'm forgiven cause this was not planned leave at all. Although today and Friday are. But I was still sorta hoping Varen & I would be heading to the farm again, but alas is not to be. He couldn't get today off and we figured waking up at 5am (to get to work by 6, to leave by 3pm) and a 3 hour drive would not be helpful when trying to stay up late to see in the New Year.

Although in the last 2 years it has become a bit of a tradition for us to spend New Years on the farm. This year we are doing something different. But more on that later.

Yesterday I went plant shopping :) It was awesome! As I mentioned, I got a garden shelf from Varen's folks for Xmas (I pretty much picked it out while Varen & I were shopping tho) and I got some money to fill the shelves too. So off I went yesterday and jees did I buy loads :) Lifestyle Garden Center either had a sale on or is generally damn cheap. My shelves are filled to overflowing for only R350 :)

I re-potted the stuff I already had growing for the bunnies too (which is why the Spinach on the top shelf looks so wilted ... but it is back to perky this morning!) As you can sort of see, we've still had to keep this fenced, although the buns can only reach the bottom shelf. I thought I had a brilliant plan (I put a rose and some cactus / succulents on the bottom shelf thinking they wouldn't eat them ... I was wrong, although they've only mostly attacked the rose so far). Anyway, I am thrilled with how it's looking :) I finally have some colour and have such a variety: veggies / herbs for the bunnies (Spinach, brussel sprouts & mint from before, red and green basil, green pepper, black pearl chilies and normal chilies), flowers for colour and some cactus / succulents. I love my new garden :)

I also finally got some pictures printed for some frames that have been empty since my birthday (April!). Don't you just love the bunny-frame my mom got me? Finally I have a good pic of all 3 to put in there.

See, my unscheduled holiday has not gone to waste ;) Yesterday evening Varen & I went to grab a quick bite at CTFM before going to watch Australia (part of the reason we're not going to the farm later!).

Australia is an epic and romantic action-adventure, set in that country on the explosive brink of World War II. In it, an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) travels to the faraway continent, where she meets a rough-hewn local (Hugh Jackman) and reluctantly agrees to join forces with him to save the land she inherited. Together, they embark upon a transforming journey across hundreds of miles of the world’s most beautiful yet unforgiving terrain, only to face the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbour. A cinematic experience that brings together romance, drama, adventure and spectacle.

It was okay - aside from Nicole's annoying British accent. Oh, and the fact that you get 2 movies for the price of one ... just when you think it must be ending, they start up again. Let me tell you, it is a damn long movie! But otherwise, yeah, fine. At least Hugh Jackman is looking good again (generally I only like him as Wolverine, dunno why but he seems to lose all appeal when playing real people ... perhaps it was just Kate & Leopold :P)

Anyhoo, so we got home wa-ay later than we were expecting, which meant our super-duper early start was unlikely at best. And if we didn't get that Varen couldn't leave work at 3pm and if, if, if ... you see, we werethwarted by a series of events. So we have decided to stay home & get started on the long list of things that need doing around the house. Here is a list of some of the stuff, I can't think of the rest right now, but there is more (because I know you are all very interested ... ):
(Note, some are for Varen and some are for me)

1. Varen: Hang my newly photo-ed frame upstairs

2. Varen: Hang my solar powered light above the fish pond

3. Me: Buy supplies to finally make mosaic mirror for downstairs loo (I'm hoping to get started on this today as well)

See, the list is long and generally we don't get round to these sorts of things on weekends. So now is the perfect opportunity. Righto, so I best be off to get started ... plus I have to get some food for this eve. I'm making dinner for us & a few friends who are coming over to play board games to see in the New Year. Have I ever told you that I hate New Years? I do, I prefer not to go to some huge party with masses of people. Ideally I'd ignore it completely ... but generally I, at least, stay up long enough to see in the New Year.

So, yeah ... thanks for reading in 2008. Hope it's been a good year for all of you. I think it has for me ... ? Be safe this evening and I'll see you all in 2009. Have a good one.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spoilt Xmas Weekend

I was supposed to be at work today ... I was at work this morning. I was up at 6:30am and in at work just after 7am. The company is actually closed this week, but I wrangled a deal so that I could try to work back some of my leave (having used up 16 days in November). Was planning on working today and tomorrow. Unfortunately I was locked out, again.

Let me try to explain the office issues we've been experiencing to the best of my understanding. We have access tags that allow us first entry into the actual building and then secondly into our actual office. These doors are not locked, they're held closed with giant magnets that are *supposed* to release when you scan the tag. Seems that for the last few weeks, every time we have a huge storm, the tags stop working and the magnets keep us locked out until someone can switch off the entire office complex's power. It's annoying. Usually there are enough other people trying to get into the offices to actually accomplish entry. On a day when myself and one other person were the only ones there trying to get in, with no idea how to switch off the power and the person supposedly in charge of the office complex only provided a voice mail, I gave up and came home. Sadly Varen is still at work :(

And now, on to more exciting news, Xmas weekend. Varen and I had a fabulous, relaxing weekend on the farm with his folks, sister and BrotherZion as well as his aunt & uncle from The Cheese Shop. We read our books, swam (mostly just me in the little porta-pool they put up), went for a ride on the horses (a new addition to the farm and not my idea of that much fun, really), took the quad bike out to visit the cows & buck and ate ... ate a lot. We also had a fabulous Xmas which meant we had more things to do ... like play darts (the ideal gift that Varen & I got his dad that kept the entire family entertained) and even a little Xbox (which BrotherZion got for xmas). We also took a visit up the road to a nearby farm where they are breeding lions (I won't go into what I think about this ... but needless to say I think animals should generally be free ... or at least not in a tiny cage but rather have some decent run around space).

We had an amazing Xmas lunch, with Gammon, stuffed Turkey and Lamb. Below are two good before and after shots ;)

Me, I was spoilt too ... even tho I wasn't with my family, it was a lovely day. My favourite gifts are by far my cute little black bunny and the plant stand I got from Varen's folks! Finally I should be able to grow some plants out of reach of my darling buns.

And on that note, they were also spoilt this weekend. Before now, there was a bamboo U-shaped enclosure around the lapa & braai which Varen's dad kindly enclosed completely so that the buns could run around safely in there. They had more space than our entire garden! They loved it. And I am completely thrilled to report that since the drive down to the farm (3 hours) which they spent altogether in the little cat-box on my lap (a typical bonding method), they are now all getting on amazingly and are even sleeping in one hutch! I'm so happy about that :) Bell & Coal get on better than I think they could imagine. He follows her around exploring ... Bell was a real little Columbus this weekend, getting out the bamboo fencing 3 times. Luckily she got into another semi-enclosed area where the cars get parked and we managed to catch her. Shoo, was quite scary for a moment there!

Henna was mostly a real little princess, as she is :) But was quite funny when she started thumping when she heard the sheep or horses nearby (outside the bamboo area).

It was a fabulous weekend and now we're thinking of heading back there for the new year's weekend too ... although that time it'll just be me, Varen & the bunnies. Simply because I think it's the only way to really feel like we've had at least a little bit of a break. Anyhoo, will keep you posted :)

Oh, and just while I was busy uploading pics for this post, I heard a loud bang. Seems Coal & Bell had been playing near some wooden planks (the left overs of what we'd used to make the box for their double-storey hutch) and they'd fallen over. Coal was fine, walking around on top of the wood, but I found Bell still under them. So we had a quick rush to the vet and she is thankfully fine. Nothing broken, probably a little bruised so she got an anti-inflammatory shot, but otherwise just a little shaken. Shoo. That was terrifying!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Affluenza by Oliver James

There is currently an epidemic of 'affluenza' throughout the world - an obsessive, envious, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses - that has resulted in huge increases in depression and anxiety among millions. Over a nine-month period, bestselling author Oliver James travelled around the world to try and find out why. He discovered how, despite very different cultures and levels of wealth, affluenza is spreading. Cities he visited include Sydney, Singapore, Moscow, Copenhagen, New York and Shanghai, and in each place he interviewed several groups of people in the hope of finding out not only why this is happening, but also how one can increase the strength of one's emotional immune system. He asks: why do so many more people want what they haven't got and want to be someone they're not, despite being richer and freer from traditional restraints? And, in so doing, uncovers the answer to how to reconnect with what really matters and learn to value what you've already got. In other words, how to be successful and stay sane.

Okay, to be honest, I barely read much of this book before I put it down for something else. It's not a bad book, it's fairly interesting ... but it's not gripping and it's certainly not what I want to be reading while on holiday for the xmas long weekend. Perhaps another time I'll pick it up again ... but really, the concept is pretty easy to comprehend and probably next time I should just skip ahead to the "answer" section that's been promised in the blurb above. Meh.

Have a Good One!

Nothing much to report on this day before Xmas. Had a pretty quiet evening last night just generally getting last minute things done before we head off to The Farm in the Free State this afternoon - although we still have to pack and get the bunnies on board before we can get a move on. Sadly as I type I am still sitting at work ... but we did spend the first hour & half of the day locked out of our offices again. Sheesh. It got pretty close to the 3 of us waiting (us early birds) to decide to just pack it all in and head home. Sadly (as you can see) that was not to be :(

In very annoying news, my eye has not improved much (even with the help of some anti-histamine pills I've taken). Aargh. At least it's not nearly as noticeable as it was ... at least that's what I'm telling myself. It's more just providing me with discomfort as I look down at my keyboard.

So, I hope all of you readers have a fantastic Xmas, if you're celebrating. And if you're not ... enjoy the long weekend :) See y'all next week (I'm planning to work a few of the days to try and regain some leave lost during my marathon November trip!).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday Plus Buns

Last night was another typical Monday. We stayed home ,ate dinner, watched Series (we have loads to catch up on!!). But things are good :) Things with the bunnies are improving rapidly! Bell still chases Coal, but in the same way she chases Henna. We even ended up with all three of them in one hutch for a little while yesterday (This is a huge achievement!). It happened by accident really. Henna had gone in there to lie down & get out of the heat (she had a very lazy day yesterday. Coal sometimes climbs up the ramp and jumps into the hutch ... but he has no idea how to get out again so he was just eating and lying down there too. And then Bell jumped in a little while later to eat some pellets and have a drink of water. Wow.

While we were watching TV I had Coal & Henna snoozing on my lap together ... was sooo cute once they calmed down :) Hen has been getting much less attention lately because a) she doesn't like to be picked up and cuddled as much as the others and b) What with trying to bond Coal & Bell, they've been getting all my attention! So I wanted some time with her. I hope those two will bond well (Bell was left to wander the house which she loves to do ... she's too restless to just snooze on our laps). Almost let them spend the night together in one of the hutches last night, but I figured Hen is probably "waking up" when it get's cooler and then trying to mount him like she does with Bell and he's just too little to be able to get away (Bell will let Henna know if she's irritating her!). And I think that's how he's getting little bits of fur pulled out. So we went the safe route instead. As I said yesterday, I don't think I'll be letting them share a hutch till Coal is bigger.

Other than that, having the buns on my lap last night (shedding) seems to have irritated my eye ... which I then rubbed and rubbed - it was itchy, okay? And this morning I still look like Varen punched me! He didn't ... but I'm all puffed up, only on one side. I feel ridiculous. At least there's barely anyone at work today ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Last Joburg Weekend for 2008

Damn, I wish I could remember what we did on Friday night ... but I'm pretty sure it involved hours of Series watching and some Woolies soup for me (Varen had had a rather large xmas lunch at work and skipped dinner).

Saturday started with a trip to the Post Office. Blegh. Originally I was both looking forward to this ( I was expecting a delivery from Springleap) and not looking forward to this (Varen has lost our post office box key). But on Friday evening I checked my Springleap order (without the po box key, chances were not high that I'd have access to the delivery slip so wanted to take the tracking number along with me) ... and discovered my order had been delivered to Ashwood (which I gather, based on the telephone dialling code, is somewhere in Durban). Not a good omen.

But on Saturday morning, firstly, I discovered the box key in Varen's glove box (yippee) and then I found a collection slip amongst the post we collected. As I suspected, I'd merely been emailed the wrong tracking number. I happily collected my Don't Care Bear Springleap shirt. Needless to say it was a good start to the day :) It is an awesome shirt and I wore it on Sunday ... the only thing I'm a little disappointed with is the fact that the "carebear" text is in silver ... it's so light it's fairly hard to read. But other than that I love the colour of the shirt itself (fairly hard to tell from a website!) and I got a cute little dontcarebear pin too! Well worth it :)

We got some other Xmas admin done before coming home and relaxing with the buns. They're getting much better and we've started letting all 3 out in the garden (always supervised) at the same time. Bell is still sometimes chasing Coal (but she also chases Henna), but she seems much less interested (and even more so by Sunday evening) and the nipping & grunting seems to have almost stopped completely. Things are definitely improving.

But my poor little man is missing some fur so we're not letting him & Henna share a hutch anymore till he's a bit older & bigger ... she may not be the dominant one between her & Bell, but put her alone in a hutch with a tiny little month-old bunny and I'm not so sure. So just to be safe we're still keeping them separated overnight.

Coal's personality is definitely starting to show as he explores the garden & hutches and he's a real cutey. Very curious like Bell :) He was even playing "hide & seek" with Bell on Saturday afternoon ... she was in her hutch and he'd sneak round the back (only he is tiny enough to fit thru there) and stand on his back legs where she could see him and then crounch back on all fours out of sight. Hysterical to watch! On the left is a photo of him watching TV with Varen & I. So adorable :)

On Saturday afternoon I got my final Xmas shopping done ... my gift for Varen :) (not telling since I know he reads this!) and later the two of us put the bunnies to bed and went to watch The Day the Earth Stood Still.

A renowned scientist (Jennifer Connelly) finds herself face to face with an alien called Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), who has traveled across the universe to warn of an impending global crisis. She quickly discovers the deadly ramifications of Klaatu's claim that he is "a friend to the Earth." Now she must find a way to convince the entity who was sent to destroy us that mankind is worth saving - but it may be too late.

It was decidedly just okay. Unfortunately that's really all I have to say about it. I do like the way they "explain" his humanness, but other than that it's much the same as other American armageddon-type movies where even tho the rest of the world is "affected" they don't seem to be involved at all in doing anything to help save the world.

On Sunday Varen & I went to Angel's bday party. Sadly we didn't stay very long as the heat was bringing on another of Varen's headaches and I certainly wasn't in the mood for another trip to the emergency room. We left early and came home so that he could take the meds he got the last time and spent the afternoon relaxing. Me, outside with my 3 boons. (But we were lucky enough to taste her cupcakes! this time she made a delish strawberry one as well as a peanut butter & caramel one ... so delish!)

Below is a pic of my little boy bounding off the stoep. And one of my girl's relaxing in the sun as only girls can - looks like Henna is tanning or something, doesn't it ;)

And that was pretty much the weekend. Officially our last weekend in Joburg for 2008. Sheesh.

Friday, December 19, 2008

16 November: Marrakech to Imlil

Today we had a 2 hour bus ride from Marrakech to Imlil. Once at Imlil, we stored our main luggage and took only our day-packs (with as much clothing as we could carry) on a 45 minute hike up into the Atlas Mountains. I'll be the first to say I was thankful that there were mules to carry our day-packs! Hell, I even contsidered hiring one to carry me but decided I would rather give it a bash - it's been long enough since that dreadful day in Sintra, surely!

The mountains are quite beautiful and there is quite a bit of snow on them which makes for a lovely view. The "hike" was quite nice too. We wandered up paths thru loads of walnut trees, which were all raining orange & yellow leaves down onto us. Beautiful.

We are staying in Gite D'Etape in a little vilage called Armed (said like Ahmed, I think), a small Berber town. We had a lovely lunch and a nice afternoon nap (must be the altitude) and a decent dinner. I will say that once the sun went, it was absolutely freezing here and we have been bundled up in blankets (and layered clothing) all evening. There was a fire going but sadly it didn't heat us up as well as we were hoping! We played some fun card games (similar to bridge) to pass the evening and now it's off to bed early, just to keep warm!

Boons Getting Better

Note: the photo on the left was taken on the day we got Coal ... before Bell started really going crazy about his presence. That pic is probably about as long as the peace lasted ;) But won't it be lovely when they're all friends ... they're so adorable all together!

Okay, so this bonding thing may not be completely horrendous as I first expected. Bell did much better yesterday afternoon. I let Coal run around the garden with Henna for about half an hour while Bell was still in the hutch - I can not believe how cute he is. He runs like a crazy thing ... like a kid in a candy store not quite sure of what his little legs are doing. He also seems to be quite the smart little guy ... he's already managed to jump up from the grass onto the stoep area. It's so funny to watch because he really prepares himself and then does a way more giant leap than is strictly necessary :)

Then I put him into the cage on the grass and let Bell out (I've put up photos with yesterday's post, so you can see what I mean). She ignored him and did her own thing way more than yesterday ... although she is still grunting and biting the bars a bit, it has definitely improved. We're hoping that we might even be able to let them run around all together by Saturday or Sunday. But I do think that as soon as Coal stats running around Bell will chase him. He's very active and Bell seems to have a little bit of Cheetah instinct in her ;)

Other than that, Varen & I had a quiet night at home, watching some Dexter S3 and eating take-out from Simply Asia. We shared some yummy starters, Prawn Spring Rolls & Chicken Satay. I had the
Tom Yum Goong Pla-Muk for mains ... jees but my mouth was on fire, just the way I like my spicy soup :) It was really delish.

Update 09h59: Oh, I forgot to mention that this afternoon's Spain, Portugal & Morocco post will be the last till the 5th of Jan ... I figure most everyone has either already gone on leave or is about to after today and well, it'd be sad if no one read them because of a silly little reason (which I can totally relate to and have done myself on occasion) like they got back to find their rss-reader with 1000+ blog posts and just skipped them all and started anew.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

15 November: Marrakech

Today at breakfast I said goodbye to the 3 people leaving our tour and our leader, Summer. Then I headed out to the Medina and Djemaa el Fna (or Jou ma se al Fna, as Varen and I called it) at about 09h45 and had a good wander around (yes, I did get a little lost but luckily someone pointed me in the right direction again!). I think I've found JofH & YogaCherryl's wedding present and something that will do equally well for the folks :)

I also bought birthday presents for The Peeb and J9-double0blonde. I think I probably over paid but I'm really happy with the purchases (can't mention them yet because The Peeb has yet to receive hers ... but I know J9 loved hers :))

Then, since I couldn't find any of that amazing Moroccan Pizza we'd had in Fez, I decided to head to MacDonalds for lunch (as I said, I do like to try something new off their foreign menus). I had the Chicken Mystic. Not very exciting, but lunch none the less. Now I'm waiting at the hotel for Varen to arrive. It shouldn't be long now :)

Note: That's a photo of the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque opposite Dejemaa el Fna on the right. It's the sister of the one we saw converted into a bell tower in Seville.

21h30: Varen arrived safely at about 2pm. It was fabulous to see him again! We sat around catching up for a while. Apparently the buns are doing well :) I showed him all the photo's I've taken and told him all about my trip so far.

After he'd had a little chance to relax during our catch up, I took him down to the Medina for a wander around. Which was fabulous but exhausting. It's so nice to have him with me too! Then we stopped at the Ensemble Artisanale (basically a place selling all the same things you can find in the Medina but specifically offering hassle-free shopping with almost no bartering). This is where I'd stopped by on my way to the Medina in the morning and seen the best designs of usable tagines (it's harder to find nice looking ones that aren't just for serving in than you'd think!). We bought one for JofH & YogaCherryl's wedding present and I got one for Mom & Dad as well. I like it because it's something useful, for cooking, or just a nice table decoration that is distinctly Moroccan :) I probably should've got one for myself too, but that just would've been too much to try and get home safely!

We've been lucky to be able to store the lamp, sherry and tagines at the hotel till we get back to Marrakech next Saturday :)

Later in the afternoon we met up with the the new additions to our group and our new Tour Leader, Simo (a local Moroccan from Essaouira) and a few of us walked back to the Medina for dinner. During the day, the Dejemaa el Fna is generally empty except for snake charmers (who are apparently awful and do dreadful things like sew the snake's mouths almost completely shut so they can't bite - I slyly took a photo without them noticing and hassling me for a tip), women trying to paint your hands with henna and the hustle and bustle of people (so perhaps empty is the wrong word) but at around 4pm they start constructing stalls which, by sunset, each become a different restaurant
(see day & night shots below). We had dinner at restaurant / stall 42.

I am still glowing with having Varen here with me :)

And So, The Bunny Bonding Begins ...

Aaah :) Today I'm a lot more relaxed ... aside from the having to be at work bit. My brain has definitely gone into Xmas holiday mode.

Had a somewhat more successful afternoon with the Boons yesterday. It's pretty complicated to explain, but would be much easier if my silly camera hadn't needed re-charging (there's always tomorrow!). Basically I took the cage bit off the top of the new double-story hutch and put Coal (I think it's been decided ... just out of habit now, plus I get to call him Cola Bear :) ) inside that on the grass. That way Bell can see him and smell him but she can't actually bite him thru the bars. And he gets to spend some outside time on the grass. It worked pretty well, for the first while she wouldn't leave the cage alone and every time she bite or grunted at him (yes, it's a very weird sound!) I sprayed her with water.

Let me tell you that by the time Varen got home, Bell was pretty soaked. But on the plus side, she didn't bite me at all yesterday :) She also ended up ignoring Coal in the cage and carrying on with her own thing in the garden after about 2 hours (Ignoring each other is a particularly good sign when bonding bunnies, apparently). Sadly Henna couldn't get that close to Coal without Bell chasing her too ... until Bell got bored and left him & the cage alone.

What we've done now is to separate the double-story hutch and make 2 single-story hutches that are right next to each other (as you can see from the photo, we've rather pimped out the new hutch with ramps to make getting in & out easier and a big box for inside so they have some hide-away space). Yesterday evening we put Hen & Coal into the same hutch and kept Bell in the other, to give them more of a chance to bond. And even tho they didn't end up cuddling next to each other, they were eating out of the same food bowl at the same time, which I took as a good sign. But we didn't leave Coal there overnight or today while we're at work. He's back up in the bath. Don't want to overdo things on day 2, you know?

This afternoon I plan more of the same ... although I'll probably let him have an hour of run around time with Henna in the garden and keep Bell in her cage. And tonight we'll put Bell & Henna back together in the one cage and leave Coal outside in the other. Finger's crossed people :)

If anything I'm doing sounds weird to you, or if you are having a similar problem yourself, you can read all about bonding bunnies here.

Last night, while Hen & Coal were hutched-up together, Varen & I went for dinner with his folks and BrotherSwoop & his girlf. We ate at Allora, which is far from my favourite restaurant ... they have *nothing* that appeals to me on their menu (although Varen got it mixed up with somewhere else and change the restaurant we were going to to Allora because of me liking the food there - oops!). But I found a happy solution, I had a pasta but I swapped the sauce. So a very successful meal ;) BrotherSwoop & his girlf followed us home because they're off to Mozambique this morn and had forgotten to get themselves a ZA sticker for the car. We have a magnetic one ... somewhere. Sadly after them driving all the way to our house, we could not find the sticker *anywhere*. But at least we got to give them their xmas pressies :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

14 November: Fez to Marrakech

We left Fez on an early train (08h50) this morning and got into Marrakech at about 5pm.

Am thankfully in the girl's single room tonight at the Hotel de la Menara and I am thrilled. Let me explain the single room: there are an odd number of girl's so we've been "alternating" the single room. This is the first time I've had it ... and the last since from tomorrow I'll be sharing with Varen! And even better, I won't have to move tomorrow when Varen arrives, he'll just move into my room. The room is quite spacious compared to the other's I've stayed in so far.

Am also very pleased to be done sharing with the other girls. I think I've definitely hit my tour group limit with them (think it might've been the entire day's train journey spent chattering about all things Aussie that really did it! Am bored of hearing of their local celebs, tennis players, footy players, TV jingles and how they have the best wine - excuse me?) and am really looking forward to Varen joining. Someone familiar who I trust and enjoy the company of to break up the general Aussie-ness. I always seem to get to this point on tours tho and just need some space generally. At least the older crowd are generally more pleasant and express and interest in non-Aussie things ;)

Went for dinner at Summer's Moroccan family's house. Summer is our Tour Leader. She's originally from California but has been living in Morocco since 2002 and she's married a Moroccan man. Her "Moroccan Family" who we had dinner with is the family she lived with when she first came over to Morocco (I guess imagine it sorta like Rotary Exchange or something?). It's amazing to actually see something genuine and off the tourist-track. The inside of a middle-class Moroccan family home is absolutely nothing like ours back in South Africa! There were 3 stories and we only saw the first 2. On the first was the kitchen, one of the 3 bedrooms (I think there was one on each level?) and a giant sitting room. It had a built in couch (made to order) around the *entire* wall.

Almost all the wall space was tiled and there were pillars in the middle (I assume those were necessary to hold up the floors above!). The 2nd floor had two more similar sitting rooms, both surrounded by counches along the walls and completely tiled. The ceilings were also very ornate and decorated with carvings and painted all sorts of colours (sadly the photo's didn't come out very well because of the lighting).

It was also interesting to meet the family although the language was a bit of a problem with them all except her "sister", who is a teacher. It is such a different life!

After dinner, a few of us went to the Medina for a quick wander. Mostly just to see where it is for tomorrow morning. Varen should land at about 13h15 ... can't wait!

Can We Keep Him?

Went home on Monday afternoon to find Mom at home with a freshly baked cheesecake (Varen's request) and Varen at home sick asleep in bed. So Mom and I went out and actually finished the xmas shopping (except I still haven't bought anything yet for Varen!). And then we went out for dinner (leaving Varen home to sleep & hopefully recover!). Mom was craving pizza as she never eats it at home (Daddio hates Italian food like pasta & pizza) so we tried to go to Lapa Fo, but they were closed :(

Instead we tried a new place in Greenside called Ossobucco. We started with Melanzane alla Parmigiana to share. That was delish :) And then we each had a pizza ... oh, and they do do half-and-half if you ask them. The pizza was fairly average but served it's purpose.

On Tuesday (Day of Reconciliation) Varen was feeling much better and we all went out shopping some more, still looking for a gift for me & Varen. And then headed to the pet shop where Mom and I'd seen some 4-week old black dwarf bunnies yesterday. As I said before, Varen wanted to get me one as an xmas pressie. So we bought one :) See, that's him you can hardly see with all the rest of the wrapped pressies. (Yes folks, we got ourselves a little boy this time)

He's too cute and we let him run around on the grass for a while with Bell and Henna when we got home. Henna seems to really like him, but Bell seems to absolutely HATE him! Bell charged after him like a crazy person. And kept trying to nip him. So, so far we've had to keep them separated. Bell seems to go mad at Henna as well if we put the new little boy outside in the cage roof (handy that it comes off easily and can keep him separated from Bell!). He seems to drive her insane and if she can't get to him she'll take whatever is nearby. Luckily Henna seems to be much faster than Bell. And as soon as we take the little boy back inside and leave the girls outside, Bell is back to normal with Hen.

Sigh, you have no idea how terrified I am. He's quite small compared to them and didn't start out afraid, more curious. But after being chased like mad by Bell, it took him ages to let Henna get up close to him again. We are going to the farm with them in a week & half and I am so worried that Bell will not be getting on with him yet. He's so cute, but he's driving her nuts and I don't know if we should keep him. As a cute tiny little thing, he has more chance of being bought by someone else right now ... but when he gets older and is around their size, we're hoping she won't be able to be such a bully (being that he is a boy). I don't know what the right thing to do is ... sigh. I hardly slept last night with worry. For now he is fine, sleeping alone in our bathroom while the girls stay, as normal, in the hutch outside. I really don't want Bell to hurt him.

She's even started nipping me now! We thought it was cause I smelt of him but she didn't nip Mom or Varen when they held her (after they'd held him). I was scared of her yesterday because she kept lunging for me. Clearly angry at me. It's been quite upsetting, but he's so adorable and I would HATE to have to get rid of either of them :( Sob.

For now he remains unnamed. I'm thinking of Coal, but am not 100% sure yet ... They've all been named after their colours so, if you can think of any other cool names, please let me know!

Yesterday I had to drop Mom off at the airport too ... that sucked. It was great having her here (not just cause of all the cooking she did!). I miss having her nearby. Before she left, Varen & I each had to open a gift from her (being that she wouldn't see us on xmas ... and I actually made her open her surprise gift, a tagine from Morocco, on the day she arrived!). She'd wanted to make xmas this year "small & green" so she'd bought us each something from The Green Shop. Varen is loving his Moppelino man, he's made him do about a million different poses already! And I can't wait to get my Solar light hung :) Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fractured by Karin Slaughter

When Atlanta housewife Abigail Campano comes home unexpectedly one afternoon, she walks into a nightmare. A broken window, a bloody footprint on the stairs and, most devastating of all, the horrifying sight of her teenage daughter lying dead on the landing, a man standing over her with a bloody knife. The struggle which follows changes Abigail's life forever. When the local police make a misjudgement which not only threatens the investigation but places a young girl's life in danger, the case is handed over to Special Agent Will Trent of the Criminal Apprehension Team - teamed with detective Faith Mitchell, a woman who resents him from their first meeting. But in the relentless heat of a Georgia summer, Will and Faith realise that they must work together to find the brutal killer who has targeted one of Atlanta's wealthiest, most privileged communities - before it's too late.

This was a decent mystery book. I quite like the characters being developed and would definitely read another of the series (if in fact there is a series?).

Monday, December 15, 2008

13 November: Fez

Today we went on a long guided tour. Our guide was a local woman called Hakeema and she was great :)

First we visited the Borj Sud and enjoyed a view across Fez and the Medina. Then we went to Art Naji, a ceramic workshop, where we got to see each stage of work. From the piles of rock that sits for 3 days in water to become clay to the men spinning their pottery wheels by foot to the huge kilns (that use olive peat to get the high temperatures required) to the painters and mosaic cutters and designers. It was very interesting and they have some gorgeous stuff for sale! I wish I could've justified buying myself one of their fountains :)

From there we went to the Medina where we tried some Moroccan Pizza (which is divine when fresh!) and nougat (which the bees love) and we walked past many of the doors of the Quaraouiyine Mosque.

Then we visited a weaver's workshop, the silk they get from the cactus is very cool :) And then we went to a tannery (all this is tucked away in little doors off side streets in the Medina). Luckily we only saw the tannery from high above while perusing the leather shop (had to climb loads of stairs to get up there) because the smell is pretty awful even from that far away!
Note: See photo of tannery below. For lunch we stopped at a little stall selling Bessara (fava bean soup), which was okay ... but a fun experience :)

In the Medina, we also got to see some old-style windows to allow the Muslim women to be able to see out (back in the day when they weren't allowed to even leave the house) but no one could see in or see them.

Walking thru the Medina, you're constantly trying to get out of the way of horses and donkeys that are being used to move goods, and often motorcycles too! You also pass loads of meat sellers (they guys selling chicken have them live in cages right there and kill them as needed!), it is quite different from our far more removed supermarkets ... and I think I quite like it like that!

Note: Photo on left is the view of the skyline just above the tannery. Scary, huh?

After that we wandered the Medina a little on our own, starting at Bab Boujouloud (a famous gate into the Medina) and walking down just the one street (so that we could find our way back). I did end up buying myself a gorgeous green pashmina, which I love. But there wasn't much else to be found because most of the stalls in this street we selling current-type stuff (takkies, jeans, socks etc.) and not tourist-type stuff :(

Generally hung out with the group in the hotel for the short time left of our "free" afternoon and then went to a local restaurant nearby for dinner - I had kofta tagine which was good. I am really enjoying these tagines :)

Weekend with Mom

It was a great weekend. It started on Friday night when Varen & I arrived home to a delish home-cooked meal by Mom. She made us an Indian dish called Lamb Saag. It was planned tho cause she had to bring up like a million spices from home that she knew there was no way I'd have ;) And boy was it good! I miss mom's cooking.

On Saturday we were up early and headed out to get the Xmas shopping over with (at this point Varen & I had yet to start!). But first we had breakfast at Europa in Rosebank. What a mistake. Our food took about an hour. And yes they were busy. But when we eventually complained (it was 11 o'clock by now and we hadn't eaten yet!) the waiter told us they'd had a problem with their kitchen staff not arriving ... my first question was surely you mention that to people about to order in a fairly full restaurant. I mean really :P And then about 2 minutes later we saw a tray of egg's arriving ... I wonder what the real reason for the huge delay was! Why can't people just be upfront and honest?

But after we'd eaten and could get on our way, our moods definitely improved :) We managed to get the bulk of the gift shopping done on Saturday and went home to relax for a little bit. Varen had to work on Saturday evening :( But Mom & I went to watch The Women.

This film tells the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer who seems to have it all – a beautiful country home, a rich financier husband, an adorable 11-year-old daughter and a part-time career creating designs for her father's venerable clothing company. Her best friend, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), leads another enviable life – a happily single editor of a prominent fashion magazine, a possessor of a huge closet of designer clothes and a revered arbiter of taste and style poised on New York's cutting edge. But when Mary's husband enters into an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a sultry "spritzer girl" lurking behind the Saks 5th Ave perfume counter, all hell breaks loose. Mary and Sylvie's relationship is tested to the breaking point while their tight-knit circle of friends, including mega-mommy Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and author Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett-Smith), all start to question their own friendships and romantic relationships.

I wouldn't drag any men-folk to see this one. There's not a man in the cast. Seriously. But it's a nice feel-good girly flick. I just have 3 major things to comment on. Firstly, the cameo's. Bette Midler & Carrie Fisher. Even Jada Pinkett-Smith & Debra Messing. Not very crucial roles ... In fact it felt almost like they were thrown in for good measure to try capturing another "girl-type" (Debra the mother to 4 and Jada the lesbian). Secondly, the very typically Hollywood "follow your dream and you'll be amazing and your lying cheating ex husband will want you back". Yeah, sure. Plus, the women in movies who do that always have the money to throw at their passion. If only I had pots of cash to spend my days doing all sorts of things that interested me. And lastly, jees does Meg Ryan look lik Nicole Kidman with her hair straightened. She really should not have had her lips pumped full of botox or whatever either.

But it was still nice to just get to hang out with Mom :) Varen & I are really discussing the move-back-to-Cape-Town idea these days. At the moment, we're actually aiming for end 2009. I'm sorta excited abotu that, even tho I am loving my job up here at the moment ... besides, who knows what can happen in a year ;) But I know that I would love to live in the same city as my family again. I never really planned on being in Joburg for 5 years!

On Sunday we got a little more gift-shopping out of the way (well, Mom & I had also done even more before the movie!) and went home to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon braai. And I got most of the presents wrapped (having them all wrapped and waiting is actually my favourite part! I love to wrap them as soon as they're bought and put them on display) ... and then the sticky tape ran out :(

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 November: Chefchaouen to Fez

Today is the Peeb's birthday :) Happy birthday leetle sis ... hope you got my postcard in time!

We took taxi's from our idyllic Chefchaouen hotel to the bus station down the hill. Taxi's here seem to be Fiat Uno's and really have barely any space for 3 people and their luggage!

Then we caught a 09h30 public bus. Our bus trips to date have been on coaches (like Greyhound). The public bus wasn't too bad, just a tighter squeeze (even more so now that I'm traveling with a lamp!), a slower journey and much more crowded. At least there were no live chickens on board or strapped to the roof ;)

We stopped for a roadside lunch around 1pm. They had sheep handing out in the open and a nearby "braai" type area. I wasn't hugely keen on trying it initially but, lots of people were and looked still looked well enough so I threw caution to the wind and had some of the kofta. It was so yummy, freshly cooked, mixed with spices and eaten with fresh bread.

We continued on our journey and got to Fez at about 15h30. Then took another taxi ride to our hotel, Hotel Olympic. Driving here seems to be as hazardous as in Cairo!

We went for a wander around the area surrounding our hotel (our usualy city orientation walk) and then took a quick taxi ride so we could walk thru the Medina (you can't go too far on your own without a guide in the Fez Medina because it encompasses over 9000 little roads ... they actually stopped trying to count them!) to Restaurant Dar Jamai (interior on left) where we had a 7 course dinner.

I am definitely enjoying the food more in Morocco than in Spain or Portugal! It's actually so nice to see some veggies again :)

The Mommelle Has Landed

The Mom has arrived :) I went to fetch her at the airport yesterday afternoon ... and as much as I think the Gautrain is going to be a big fat waste (and don't get me started on those extra high-way lanes ... by the time they finish, current schedule says that'll be in 2011, they'll need to start on a new idea!) I can not wait for the Sandton to Ort route to be completed because *that* I think will be useful. The traffic was horrendous.

But we got her home and hung out for a while (went thru my all 648 of my holiday photo's & videos), showed her all the cool things we'd bought on holiday & my new laptop and she got to play with the girls (who will be thrilled to get to run around all day while someone is home!) and can't believe how Henna has grown into a little fluff ball since she last saw her.

Then we went for dinner at CTFM in Cresta and was certainly better than our Cape Town Experience. Varen had one of their new Set Menu Type things which looks pretty good - if you have the space for a starter, main & dessert, and mom & I had sushi :) And now I sadly have to work ... even tho yesterday felt like such a Friday!

To all of you who are reading for your last day before heading off on Summer hols, I hope you have a blast and look forward to having you back, avidly catching up, in the New Year. I will be here pretty much all the way thru December (having taken my 3 weeks leave in November) and it will be "programming as normal" at Glad to be a Girl (so schedule like a whole day or two of blog-reading on your return, cause there'll be plenty!). Have a blast :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

11 November: Chefchaouen

This morning Varen went to the Spanish Embassy personally and his visa was denied again. Apparently he left his first application too late (well, not exactly him, it was due to delays on MDS Visa's part!! Annoying or what?) and today they said they needed a minimum of 4 days to process a Schengen Visa. He's flying in 2 days!

Luckily he managed to get hold of our travel agent who got him onto another flight altogether and now he only leaves Joburg on Friday and has a mere 4 hour stop-over in Madrid (don't ask me why she didn't put him on this flight in the first place?!). Can't wait to see him on Saturday :) But is so typical that he can get things to magically still work out at the last minute, that boy is just plain lucky!

Today I had quite a relaxed day. Had breakfast and then headed into the Medina to wander. Unfortunately it was very overcast today so the blues of the buildings weren't quite as brilliant as I think they can be. But I'm very glad to have had the day and night time experience in the town. I ended up buying a Moroccan Lamp I'd seen last night (wish I'd taken a photo of it when I'd first seen it the night before! Instead will post one once we've managed to "install" it above the dining room table - finger's crossed!). I saw some other nice things but, nothing else that screamed "you absolutely have to have me!". I'm still looking for some gifts tho but, it can be quite hard shopping for someone else when everything seems so trinkety. I was looking at getting a stunning tagine, only to find out that the gorgeous ones I was interested in are only for serving and can't actually be used to cook in (something to do with how it's glazed). Is such a pity because buying just for display purposes seems a little wasteful to me.

I ate lunch at an adorable little restaurant called Restaurant Al Kasba (that's it in the photo on the left). I had a nice shrimp tagine. After that I just made my way back to our lovely hotel to relax for the rest of the afternoon.

The hikers got back quite late so I'm completely thrilled I didn't do that! Although, after my Sintra experience, it wasn't very likely :)

I actually ended up having another wander thru the market with Helen when she got back from the hike - hanging out at the hotel is just not really my thing. I visited my friend Abdul again and ended up buying 2 bangles from him. I oddly really just wanted to buy something from him because he's made my visit to Chefchaouen more interesting. I have actually met and chatted with many of the seller's here since meeting him yesterday but, he had a certain charm. I got a photo with him too - naturally he had to dress me up in traditional scarves first but, it was far better than my experience in Egypt!

Good Mood

Sheesh I am tired this morning. After 2 late nights in a row and still getting up at 6am ... and boy are these 5-day work weeks long! But I'm in a very good mood this morning because later I'm fetching The Mom from Ort (the airport ... I fondly refer to it as Ort after it's ridiculous renaming. I mean come on people, renaming for the sake of renaming is stupid, the name "Johannesburg International" never offended anyone!).

Other than that not much is potting. Planning a serious bout of Xmas shopping this weekend ... and I sneakily guessed my probable gift from Varen, a little black bunny :) I am hoping (no offense to y'all) that Joburg will clear out on Friday afternoon and become the blissfully peaceful place it is ever December.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 November: Jerez to Chefchaouen

Last night we wandered down to our private Flamenco Show at about 21h00. We had dinner there (nothing terribly impressive for the amount we paid - there is usually a show price and then a price that includes dinner, they're vastly different. We had no option but dinner-included because the place was basically open just for us and had to make their money's worth I guess).

It was an odd sort of old plain restaurant with lots of 1970's photos on the walls and a stage in one corner. But, once they started the show, it was all worth it. There were 3 women dancing, 1 man singing and 1 man playing the guitar. I have never seen feet move that quickly!

This morning we were up before 6am (and it still looks like night at 07h30!) to get an early start on our long day of traveling.

I have not slept especially well this trip. I think it's a combination of a new hotel bed nearly every night, sometimes eating quite late (like last night) and often dozing during long bus rides. I have also been having dreams (which is unusual for me) although they're not memorable after I've woken up. Still, it is very weird.

First (on our long journey) we took a bus (mode of transport for the day number 1) to Algeciras which was sadly late arriving as well as being a longer bus ride than was expected. So instead of taking another Bus from Algeciras to Tarifa (where the express ferry leaves from), we caught taxi's (mode of transport for the day number 2) and sped there as best we could. Unfortunately it didn't help us as we arrived to watch our 11h30 ferry leaving the harbour. The next ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar was at 13h00 :(

So we spent some time wandering the very surf / kite-surf oriented town of Tarifa. Which was good because I managed to buy some Jerez sherry for mom after all :)

The ferry ride (mode of transport for the day number 3) across was pretty speedy, only 35 mins (which is really all you need, it's not terribly exciting!). Pity the weather was overcast so I didn't get any amazing "crossing" shots. Plus, I was totally expecting some kind of "Welcome to Africa" sign or something ... hello people, you have a potential tourist experience here, why aren't you making something of it ?! Maybe it's just me ;) I was the only one avidly watching our progress across the Strait from the outside area of the ferry. Everyone else seemed quite content to sit inside and chat away as if it was no momentous experience. See, I'm sure it's just me :)
Note: the photo on the right is from us leaving Europe, but it gives you a good idea of the weather!

On arrival in Tangier (finally, another stamp in my passport!) we took minibus taxi's (mode of transport for the day number 4) all the way to Chefchaouen (they tried to fit the last vowel in there at the end but figured then you'd really not be able to pronounce it ;) ). It's about a 2 hour drive and the scenery here is lovely, all green hills.

Chefchaouen is quite lovely and perched high up on a mountainside. And the place we're staying in, Dar Echchaouen, is gorgeous!! After we settled into our rooms, we went for a walk in the Medina. Oh my word, I am in market / shopping heaven! I haven't bought anything yet, nor am I even sure what to buy but, all the colours and the vibe is wonderful. All the houses are various shades of light blue and white and the streets are all quite narrow and it's hard to tell one from the next.

Met a fabulous seller called Abdul who is apparently a Berber from the Sahara. He was showing me necklaces and telling me the stories of how the design was used as a compass in the old days and how it represented the different tribes (Berber, Nomad, Bedouin and another) coming together in the desert. Was amazing and very interesting.

After wandering for a while on our own, we met for dinner. It was lovely. I had a cheese salad to start, followed by a sweetened meat tagine (amazing flavours!) and finished of with pomegranate seeds with honey - yummy!

I am looking forward to a day spent wandering the medina tomorrow (I certainly won't be hiking in the nearby mountains like some of our group). Can't wait for a nice, relaxing day exploring a beautiful town :)

On a scary note tho, Varen smsed earlier today to say that his Schengen Visa was declined (he needs it for his 24 hour pre-Morocco stop-over in Spain!). He's off to the Spanish Embassy in Pretoria in person tomorrow to plead for an emergency visa, he's flying out on Thursday evening (that's 3 days away)! I'm hoping that worst case scenario is that he has to just stay in Madrid airport for that time, since he already has his Moroccan visa. Finger's crossed!! Eep, this is why I *hate* visa's!

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