Monday, November 30, 2009

It was the Weekend, Baby

Sho, every time I post these days I feel like it's for a massive catch-up and it gets a bit daunting and I put it off a little longer. Not the most blog-conducive attitude!

Plus I'm in one of those phases where there's plenty going on in my head but nothing I particularly want to put out here right now ... which makes blogging much harder, I think. I sorta feel trapped in my head with my thoughts at the moment and it means even the things I want to write get a little trapped!

Oh well. So there was a weekend. A fabulous weekend, actually, with loads of lovely bloggy friends :) But first let me just say that Friday was a very quiet evening spent at home still recovering from the office picnic :) I was exhausted. But luckily my bowling-injury had disappeared by Saturday.

On Saturday it was Louisa's squishy-shower. Sheesh I have never in my life seen so many people at a baby-shower before (in all fairness I haven't been to too many). I'm not kidding there were at least 50 or so ladies there. The gift opening must've taken around an hour and a half and by the end of it, it looked like some kind of baby clothing store had exploded in Louisa's lounge. Actually, that's not quite true because she was very lucky to have a few *very* organised friends packing the clothes away by age group ... Lucky because without storing the older ages till she needs them, there's no way anyone would've had enough space for all of it! Louisa, it just shows how well-liked you are and how welcome everyone wants baby Squishy to feel :)

> Follow Louisa on Twitter:

It was also great to spend some time catching up with familiar faces: Angel's Mind, Jackson's Mom, Exmi, LauraKim, Ruby Letters, Jenty ... sorry if I'm forgetting anyone else.

On Sunday it was more of the same, but this time Jackson's 3rd Birthday Party :) Great fun was had by all (lovely to meet you Lettice and Mamameea) with the Champagne flowing (ahem, Sparrow) and a decadent High-tea put on by Jackson's Mom :)

> Follow The Jackson Files on Twitter:

But sheesh after such a baby-filled weekend I'm exhausted ... although I'd be lying if I said not a little broody ;) Ah, the thirtieth, she approaches!

And this morning I woke up in one of those delightful moods :( You know the sort ... the sort where you feel like life is passing you by. I imagine it was the baby-filled weekend followed by the news that a friend got engaged. Where is the life I planned? Who (since it's not me!) is living it? How do I get myself to a place where I can be the one living it? See, all a little deep and depressing for a Monday morning!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Lovely Week

Do I have the energy for this ... ? I know, I know, I've barely blogged all week, but I did warn you, it was going to be a pretty damn busy one!

On Tuesday evening I checked out the Bryanston Organic Moonlight Market. I was amazed at how it's expanded in the last few years. And as always it had a lovely vibe, but I didn't buy anything except dinner. I wish I could find more there to actually buy because I so love the market. But it's always the same old stuff. Although I did pass my eye over the picture frames I love there again ;) The one Mom got me years ago holds a small selection of South African notes from my collection (see photo below).

On Wednesday afternoon (and the reason there was no blog post) I headed off to Emperor's Palace straight after work to meet The Peeb and Button who were up in Joburg for a conference. Was quite awesome to see her actually especially with the recent family upheaval. So she & I went gambling, I couldn't believe she'd never played the slot machines before?! My game plan in a Casino is to load my card with R100 and play till it's spent (or in the unlikely event that you're winning, leave when you're hungry, if you go before dinner, or tired out, if you go after). So that's precisely what we did. Mine lasted a little longer than hers, but we had great fun just trying different machines and blowing our cash.

And then I took her to dinner at Col'Cacchio. All in all a lovely evening. I will say, however, that I was hugely annoyed with Emperor's and aside from that think it's a dreadful step down from Monte Casino venue-wise. Can you believe they wouldn't let me buy or load a temporary card using my credit card. Thankfully The Peeb had spare cash on her otherwise I would've had to wander around to find an atm to give them the cold hard cash the were demanding. I mean really, like it makes a freaking difference :P Can you tell I was quite annoyed?

On Thursday I got to laze in bed a little more than usual, although my body clock wasn't far off! I did a morning gym run and then headed off, dressed all in white, to the Zoo Lake bowls club for our office end-of-year function. We played a few fun rounds of lawn bowls in the sweltering heat (how do the old ducks do it? Daddio's mom was quite an avid bowler actually, sadly I do not seem to have inherited the genes!) and then headed back to the Moyo side for an afternoon catered-picnic under the trees. It was a very awesome way to spend a day and I only ended up leaving Zoo Lake at about 7pm, not long after the sun had set!

For a change Varen was actually home before me :)

Today has felt like a very long work day ... and I seem to have a bowling-injury to my right (bowling) hand. Can you bruise a tendon, or perhaps I've sprained something. I dunno, but although it's not swollen it's very very sensitive :(

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

All About the Food

Not much to report here, but I thought that I'd put up some words while the bunnies enjoy the afternoon sunshine before I head out this evening.

Last night's dinner was delish. I was surprisingly glad to be cooking, properly, off a recipe again. Since we did the detox before Zanzibar, I haven't really been cooking properly ... I've been sticking to some all-veggie staples during the week and I can't even think what else.

I made Gnocchi Supreme. Although, let's face it, there was nothing gnocchi about it ... Woolies didn't have any :P Instead I made it with 4 cheese tortellini and (naturally) left out the olives. And Woolies also didn't have any tinned peeled tomato's so we made those from "scratch" too. And although this recipe requires that you use about every pot and pan that you own (one for the pasta, one for the sauce, one to toast the pine nuts), it is extremely delish! It will be made again soon ;)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Right, the weekend blog post ... Sho, if I can't get blogging back into a routine (like it used to be in the morning) I fear I may stop blogging altogether. Nah, that's not true, I like to look back at my holiday posts too much :)

Perhaps it's really just a sign of my mood. I've been pretty anti-social for the last week or so. And so was the weekend. Friday night I was stuck home-alone while Varen played 2 Action Soccer games. I amused myself online, made toasted cheese & tomato open sandwiches for dinner and started watching the latest season of Grey's Anatomy. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Saturday I was supposed to be left to my own devices yet again (Varen had plans during the day). Well I wasn't really, but my plans got canceled. But sweet boy that he is, he canceled them to stay home with me and cheer me up. It was the *perfect* lazy day. In fact I didn't get out of my pajamas except to get drive-thru for lunch :)

It started with home-made crumpets for breakfast. Yum! And then lots of series watching. In fact an entire day of it. I'm really sort of glad the rubbish weather stuck around for the weekend :) It was just what we needed.

Sunday we headed out for breakfast and I attempted to start on my Christmas shopping. Which was dreadfully unimpressive. I was too scattered, I can't seem to focus on Christmas at all right now. Usually the Peeb is my easiest gift to purchase by far, but no such luck this year yet :(

I forget what else we did on Sunday, oh yes, *attempt* to watch a movie. I dutifully checked the Nu Metro site (a site I loathe and detest, but as I've said before, Brightwater Commons is easily the most enjoyably unattended movie theatre to watch big-screen movies at!) and saw under "What's Showing at my Cinema" that Avatar was listed. So I checked the times and off we went. Only to be told it wasn't showing. When I got back home I checked the website again ... showing in December. What bloody use is that :P I'm specifically interested in Movies *Now* Showing! (And because it didn't have a poster, it didn't have the usually quite obvious "forthcoming attraction" banner across it). Imagine my annoyance.

And now it's Monday, it's going to be a busy busy week. I'm off to check out the Bryanston Organic Market tomorrow evening, The Peeb is up in Joburg for Wednesday evening so we'll be hanging out, Thursday is the office Xmas Party, Saturday is Louisa's baby shower (it's okay, it's not a secret :) ) and Sunday is Jackson's postponed third birthday (bit of a broody weekend, admittedly).

And now it's off to sort-of make Gnocchi Supreme ... except our stupid Woolies did not actually have Gnocchi :P Oh well, here's to experimenting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The End of an Era

So, here's where I finally tell you what's had me twisted up for the week: On Tuesday evening my Mom phoned to tell me she'd asked Daddio for a divorce.

On the 15th December my folks will have been married 30 years. And I get it. When the reality that you've been married 30 years sets in and your realise you probably have another 30 years of life left in you (my folks are in their early 50s) I guess you do some serious evaluating.

I'm not angry, with either of them. I know them. I've never understood what made their relationship tick and I've questioned their likelyhood of divorce since I was in high-school and knew what divorce was. They just never did it so I guess I let my guard down a bit and I'll be honest and say it was a shock. But I don't live there anymore and I don't see their daily interactions, so probably it wasn't much of a shock ... except for the actually going thru with it bit. I think that's always a bit of a shock, even to the person who actually instigates things.

I'm upset. I'm upset about the impact this is going to have on my family and on me. I know they'll both be okay and they'll survive and recover from the pain and the loss of the habit that having someone in your life for 30 years brings. But I don't know if I'll have the Christmases I cherish anymore (esspecially since I was so looking forward to going to Cape Town for one of *my* family Christmases this year ... something I haven't had since 2007). And it's the little things like that that are really upsetting me. The not knowing the upcoming impact on how we've always done things before, when Mom and Dad were a unit.

I'm thinking about the trivial things because the bigger ones make sense to me. I don't have any fundamental issue with the decision they've made. I'm okay with them getting divorced if it'll make them happier. I know neither of them really experienced life before they were married and had me. And I know from the last 10 years of my life how much a person needs that. Hell, I am still figuring things out for myself.

The scariest thing really for me (aside from the general worry about each of them as individuals that they will be okay and are getting whatever emotional support they need - although it's damn hard for a concerned daughter to provide it in this case!) is how it's affected my outlook on things, my life and my relationships. In the space of 48 short hours it's made me question all sorts of things. Things I grant you I was questioning already, but it's brought them to the forefront of my mind, like the need to actually get married at all, and why/how people manage to stick it out "forever" being the top of the list that jump to mind, and based on all of the above how exactly I will end up having children and the life I imagine for myself when it seems so contradictory to how things actually work out! Enough about that tho.

I guess I also feel a little guilty about being upset about it. I mean I've been thru enough break-ups including one where I had to take my stuff and move out of my safe-place, my home (because it wasn't really mine, it was his ... although after 2 years of living there it really did feel like home to me!) to understand how hard this must be for them and how hard even just making the decision must've been. And here I am being upset about how it'll affect me. It's their lives, they're adults, they need to experience and live life as much as I do and if that means it's not together then so be it. It's very peculiar having all these contradictory feelings.

So yeah, a delightful week as week's go.

And if you're wondering why I only told Varen about it 24hrs after I found out a) I didn't exactly want to talk about it (although his parents got divorced earlier this year too) and b) we were still in that "circling" phase post argument where you don't know if things are fine again yet or if you're still not talking to each other and I certainly wasn't talking to him about something like this while we ourselves were in that sort of weird place.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Right. So I should be posting. Trouble is there's nothing I want to say out loud right now. There's stuff going on here. Serious stuff and I'm just not ready to share (as I write this, I haven't even told Varen yet). And no, it's not exciting stuff, it's upsetting stuff.

Cryptic I know, eventually you'll know too, I just need you to give me a little space to breathe before I'm ready to share.

Last night was not an awesome night.

Today is not an awesome day. It's raining, which I like, but the poor bunnies remain relegated to their hutch because bunnies do not like being wet. If only it would ease to a slight drizzle I could let them out and there would be someone, at least, enjoying the day.

I can't promise that tomorrow will be any more interesting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Red Tape and White Knuckles by Lois Pryce

Unafraid of a challenge, Lois Pryce began the kind of adventure most of us could only ever dream of. She put on her sparkly crash helmet, armed herself with maps and a baffling array of visas, and got on her bike. Destination: Cape Town - and the small matter of tackling the Sahara, war-torn Angola and the Congo Basin along the way - this feisty independent woman's grand trek through the Dark Continent of Africa is the definitive motorcycling adventure. Colourful and hilarious, Red Tape and White Knuckles is an action-packed tale about following your dreams that will have you packing your bags and jetting off into the sunset on your own adventure before you know it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think it was especially interesting because I haven't traveled thru nearly any of the places she rode thru (except Namibia and South Africa, but she didn't spend too much time writing about either). That said, it doesn't inspire me to get my bike-license and head up to Cairo or anything ... I have way too little faith in the kindness of random strangers. Still, it's a great real-life experience to read about :) Apparently there's another bunch who are walking thru Africa, might give their books a read at some point too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Food and Great People

Wow, so, the report back on my busy weekend is going to be far less busy (I hope). I tend not to write as much when I see people versus when I do things. Does that make sense.

So on Friday night I grabbed some Ghazal's take out and headed over to DJMike's place. We hung out for a whilt till Varen joined us after his Action Soccer game and we all ended up watching a Derren Brown dvd called Something Wicked This Way Comes, while the storm raged.

Let me just tell you that magic about drives me nuts ... and this is worse! It was pure torture. I have no idea how he did any of those things and it drives me to frustration. I will send out a big round of appreciation tho because he does sort of explain how he did the show-long trick at the very end. But I'm still not convinced it'd work on me (doesn't everyone say that?)

On Saturday I'd decided that I wanted to visit Tangaroa Strawberry Farm so Varen and I headed there for lunch. I wish I could say I was wildly impressed, but I guess my expectations were tainted by a visit to Polkadraai (in Cape Town) many many years ago with their neat rows of Strawberries and the box-ful I came home with that we could hardly eat before they went off.

The setting is quite nice but you don't have a feeling of wide open spaces, there is a border of nice grass to picnic on (their picnic baskets look quite yummy!) around a dirty-but-restful lake with some ducks and the odd duckling. We ate our lunch at their "coffee-shop" which was quite nice and I really wished I'd had more space for dessert (really should tried that Strawberry Salad they have, sounded delish, but I was still planning to keep space for dessert when I ordered!).

And then we wandered down to the Strawberry Fields. It was pretty hard to tell what was strawberry and what was over-growth. I appreciate that it's an organic farm, but that means you shouldn't go with high expectations (or maybe it's just this year - they do have a note on their website noting that their current production is slow). We spotted some awesome specimens but as soon as you turn them over, you'll see the underside is mush or has been feasted on by some insect-beastie. We couldn't take any Strawberries out with us but could go and wander and eat what we picked (which wasn't much seeing that we were full from lunch and it was hard to find any pristine specimens).

I'm glad we went and tried something new, but I won't be rushing back there this season.

On Saturday evening we headed off to Norwood for some Hokkaido Sushi with @saulkza, @nadgia, @tfrayne and friends. Was a great evening with a group I'm very much enjoying :) Sadly tho, I think I must definitely give Hokkaido the thumbs down over Yamada (although @saulkza may have my head just for thinking that!). There is reason to my madness tho ... I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no rhyme or reason to serve 8 items per sushi plate. Firstly, it means you can't try something new because if you don't like that first one, what a waste of the next 7! And secondly, I like variety and if I eat 8 of this sushi-type, there's no way there'll be space for all the other delicious ones too. I ordered far too much and ate more than I should've.

> Follow @saulkza on Twitter:

> Follow @nadgia on Twitter:

> Follow @tfrayne on Twitter:

On Sunday Varen and I were up early to get the week's grocery shopping out of the way and the house cleaned up before our guests arrived :) We had Louisa, RubyLetters, Doodles&TSC and Arkwife&ArkFamily over for a Sunday afternoon braai.

It turned out great, although most of them were quite fashionably late (thanks to the 94.7 road closures). Louisa impressed us with her first (of many, I hope) Potato Salads, Ruby indulged us with some decadent Peppermint Fridge Tart (which we still have half of lurking and tempting me from the fridge!), Arkwife did a show-and-tell braai bread making session for us and Doodles ensured we ate our greens with a yummy salad (and flowers from her garden for me!).

Another group I'm thoroughly enjoying the company of :)

> Follow Louisa on Twitter:

> Follow Ruby Letters on Twitter:

> Follow Arkwife on Twitter:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Because I feel I must

Not much to write today. My tax issue didn't get any more resolved ... but I guess there's always next week. I'm not in such a rush now that there has been all this discussion around it and everyone has pretty much agreed on what went wrong and verbally agreed on how to resolve it.

Am really looking forward to this weekend, it's going to be hectic, I have something planned this evening, tomorrow day-time, tomorrow evening and Sunday day-time. I can't remember the last time I had such a jam-packed weekend scheduled. And although I wouldn't want it to be like this every weekend, because sometimes you just need some time out, I'm really in the mood for catching up with such a variety of people!

Have a good one.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming Together

Erm well, to say it's been stressful since my last post should be a given (as I'm sure anyone who is following my tweets will atest).

I have been backwards an forwards (quite literally with spreadsheets being emailed back and forth with comments by everyone and then amended and updated!) about 4 times today with my "minor tax issue". Daddio got involved too, so between my TaxLady, Daddio and the 2 Accounts Ladies at work, I think we're making progress. It's days like these that make me awfully grateful to have a Dad who is an accountant and is damn good at his job :) Thanks Dad!

It took a while for work to admit any mistake, but they have and are willing to pay a pretty large portion of it on my behalf (none of this has been finalised yet). Which I'm hugely greatful for, since obviously they have actually already paid me this money in error. But I'm wondering how it might end up affecting my end-of-year bonus :P Oh well, we'll have to wait and see, but at least it doesn't seem like I'll be footing the 15K bill myself anymore. Shoo.

So although not finally resolved and my tax return still has yet to actually be submitted, I am feeling a lot better about the situation and that it will manage to be sorted soon and amicably.

And on another very positive note, Doodles put me in touch with a bunny-sitter and I'm so incredibly greatful :) I can't tell you how much I prefer the idea of it being someone I have a connection with thru a friend I trust.

And, today is The Peeb's (my little sister) birthday (and SleepyJane). (Wishing both of you a very happy day!). So tonight instead of debating what I should eat - Varen is having a liquid dinner at Whiskey Live, so I am left to fend for myself and like all girls, I expect (although this may be a gross generalisation on my part?), when I don't have someone else to feed as well, dinner completely slips my mind - I should be heading of to a Family dinner. But I'm not, I'm sitting here trying to justify swinging by a drive-thru something or other because our cupboards are empty except for dry pasta (and one definitely need sauce!). This is the curse of shopping for very specific planned meals ... and forgetting one of the evening meals, because you just assume there'll be something in the freezer for little old you, but in fact it turns out that that was all flattened while you were in Canada ... say, for example ;)

As you can see, I am focusing on all the positives, most especially because I have a fabulous, busy weekend planned with so many very awesome friends :)

30 October: Frankfurt to Johannesburg

The flight to Toronto yesterday was pretty uneventful, although we ended up leaving half an hour late. I did spend most of the flight chatting to the guy sitting next to me - people seem quite fascinated by a South African who has traveled all this far from home (although goodness knows why because it seems as tho every Canadian knows some South African who has immigrated here!). Anyway, it certainly made the flight go a little faster.

The flight from Winnipeg to Toronto was one of their cheap domestic routes so I didn't end up eating cause I thought I'd grab something in Toronto Duty-Free (always a good way to pass the time in an airport!) ... clearly something I didn't really think thru tho because by the time we landed, I only had time to dash straight to my boarding gate. And besides, at 10pm at night, just about everything was closed anyway!

I also, sadly, did not get my passport stamped out of Canada. Weird, I know ... but I guess cause of the late hour and the delayed flight they just checked my boarding pass and ushered me thru (And by that I literally mean 1 member of airport staff standing at a small glass gateway that clearly was not the usual passport control route - maybe they just don't care if you're leaving?). It's annoying really, as someone who relishes their passport stamps.

By this stage tho, I was starving, having not eaten anything since my pretty unsubstantial Tim Horton sandwich at lunch but, at least I did get dinner on the plane! I honestly wasn't sure if we would considering our after 11pm take-off time.

Oddly (because honestly, before this trip I can't remember this ever happening before!) I ended up chatting to the guy next to me (another local Canadian who'd never seen or thought to see the Polar Bears - as my last aeroplane-companion explained to me, their winters are cold enough for them, they'd rather go somewhere warmer!) who was headed to Egypt to join a tour that sounded pretty similar to the one I did in 2006.

I managed to get quite a bit of sleep after my dinner and awoke to fruit juice not too long before we landed (although I missed the muffins they were handing out for breakfast - although it was about lunch time in Frankfurt).

I'm hoping I won't actually get affected by jet-lag at all tho because I managed to get some sleep and am now having my day at Frankfurt Duty-Free and will hopefully manage a little more sleep on my overnight flight to Joburg.

Had brunch at McD's, I tried their Hot Chicken Nacho burger. Interesting, but it wouldn't become a favourite. Okay, I know I'v
e eaten a vast amount of McD's in the last week ... but when on holiday it's safe and cheap and as I've said before, I enjoy trying the items we don't get back home. I spent ages wandering the 2 Duty-Free shops deciding early on what I was buying (perfume for me and whiskey for Varen), and then faffed around reading my book waiting for my flight to show up on their schedule board. It was a long and boring day...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh the Humanity

Now I know why afternoon posting is tedious for me ... last night seems so long ago!

Anyway, so last night was book club, it was J9's month to host but because of various things going on, she ended up hosting at my house instead of her own. So there was a mad panic to get the place clean after the home-made pizza incident (making pizza tends to leave flour all over the place and use plenty of dishes!) and getting the place ready and then a minor altercation with Varen because I wanted to set the TV up to do a slide-show of my Polar Bear photo's and I can never connect to the TV laptop or figure out how to get whatever new software he's installed on the thing actually working (this was like the 5th or 6th time something like this has happened ... and that's probably out of the 10 times I've ever tried to do anything like this! So reason to be frustrated in my book, what use is this fancy system if only one person can use it?!).

And then, happily I get that sorted and J9 get's dinner going and people start arriving ... and then I get a call from Varen (who was still at work) who has misplaced his car keys. So what happens? As all my friends start arriving, I have to leave and race to Varen's offices, drop off his spare keys so he can go and play his Action Soccer match and race back home to Book Club, which is At. My. House. Today I hear it was some idiot in his office who took them as a joke and left without telling him a) that he'd taken them or b) where they were?!? Boys. You can imagine my lovely mood :P (In his defence the poor guy did sms me to ask me if he could come home ... I imagine only partly because of the Book Club girls being here :) )

Luckily the rest of the evening was lovely :)

Today however I received a very upsetting, practically-ill-making phone call. From my tax lady. There is something wrong with something (we're in the process of trying to figure out what?!?) in one of my IRP5's (I changed jobs in the last Tax Year) ... that currently results in my tax return showing that I owe the receiver 15K. yes, R15 000. Oh. My. Freaking. Freaking. Now you can imagine my horror, not simply because it is a huge amount, but also because usually (and I wasn't expecting this year to be any different) I receive a refund. I have every year since I started submitting my tax. And I *am* actually receiving a bit of a refund, you see the money I owe is even more that 15K, but my refund is reducing it slightly ... and I lost a bit on Capital Gains tax (the amount of which was like a quarter of the cash I actually got out of the sale :P Count me annoyed). I'm practically devastated by this news, how could this have happened? That's more than a thousand rand a month over the entire tax year! I'm in a flat panic and I expect shall remain so until this little matter has been resolved (which better be before next Friday, which is when the tax return is due!) I think just typing that has pushed my blood pressure up :(

29 October: Winnipeg to Toronto to Frankfurt

I had another very relaxed morning, getting my bags re-packed for the long flight home and only went down for breakfast at around 8am. Well it was pretty late compared to some of our other days, I think I've been up before 7am every morning of this trip, also always waking up before my alarm! Not too bad if this is all jet-lag means :)

Met up with 2 of the people from our tour group who were still around after breakfast and we spent then top. day wandering Winnipeg. First we went past the Manitoba Legislative Building which has a gold statue of a boy on top. Then we went and spent a good 2 hours in the Manitoba Museum.

Then we wandered down along Portage street looking for lunch - which we ended up having Tim Hortons (a Canadian fast food chain). It's not too bad, smaller sandwiches than Subway tho.

We ended with a warm drink at Starbucks near the hotel, we were pretty soaked from the constant drizzle! And I bought Varen's last Root Beer at a nearby cafe.

I collected my bags from the room and caught a taxi to the airport. My driver was a very amusing Libyan man who was trying to convince me how easy it would be for me to immigrate to Canada ... and then being disappointed cause I have a boyf because he has 2 single sons and also inviting me to his house if I'm ever back in Winnipeg - sorta freaky, really!!

And then I started the first of my long airport waits. Winnipeg is not a bustling duty-free area and it's certainly tedious passing the time! Thank goodness I brought an extra book which I have yet to actually even begin!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Bears

Not much to say ... there's always more to say in the mornings. There was something I wanted to write about but I keep forgetting :(

At the moment things are busy. Tonight is Book Club and this weekend is already full :) And I'm planning more and more before the end of the year filling up our weekends. I'm also on the hunt for a pet-sitter ... anyone used one of those services before? Got any recommendations?

The other thing I'm following quite avidly at the moment is The Ice Bear Project, as you can imagine it's quite close to my heart at the moment. Mark Coreth is in Churchill at the moment and went on a Tundra Buggy Day ... just like I did. And strangely it seems like I almost bumped shoulders with the Obama's there too ;) Probably it's just that my senses are piqued to notice news about Churchill having been there myself so recently :)

> Follow The Ice Bear Project on Twitter:

28 October: Churchill to Winnipeg

Had more of a lazy morning today, having breakfast and getting packed. Then we took a last wander around the town before we were ferried off to the airport and caught our Calm Air flight back to Winnipeg.

I'm amazed that although I thought flying all these miles to Canada for just a week-long trip was quite extreme (and I'm not a huge fan of flying), it's been perfectly fine. I doubt I could've spent even a single extra day in Churchill, we've really done all there is to do and after 2 amazing days out on the Tundra, what more could we need? Wouldn't want a third one only to end disappointed, and I'm not sure much could surpass our experiences so far.

I feel lucky that the flight here (less than a week ago) is already a distant memory, I am ready to head home.

Once we landed in Winnipeg, I said my goodbyes to @clairam and I headed back for my last night at The Fort Garry Hotel. I spent the afternoon "wandering" Winnipeg on their Free Downtown Spirit buses (again ... but there are 3 different routes) in the drizzle.

> Follow @clairam on Twitter:

I was secretly hunting for a fast food snack ... gotta try all the stuff we don't get back home, ya know? But although I had my heart set on trying a Taco Bell, I couldn't find one and I ended up at good old faithful McD's. I tried their Southwest Chicken Burger. It was quite different from anything we get back home: The roll was square and more like a Ciabata bread and I chose the grilled chicken option.

On the way back to the hotel I got myself a Starbucks Hot Chocolate and another brand of Root Beer for Varen.

I came back to my room and had a relaxing bath (gotta really take advantage of the plush hotel while I can!) before heading out to dinner with a handful of the tour group at a local Italian spot called Bombolini's where I had a gorgeous butternut, shrimp and goat's cheese pasta. Seriously, that and the Salmon on our first night in Churchill were by far the best two meals of my entire trip :) Yummy.

The weird thig I've noticed here is that whichever main meal you order, it automatically comes with your choice of either the House Salad or the Soup of the Day to start. It's actually quite annoying when you're not that hungry! But by far my most annoying thing ever over here is the pricing. NOTHING costs the price you see on the shelves or menu. It's always the listed price plus about 12% (They have GST plus Provincial Tax). It is highly annoying. Even our 5CAD phone card cost 5.60 CAD, how ridiculous is that? How do they survive never being able to see what something is *actually* going to cost them upfront?!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Genesis by Karin Slaughter

Someone had spent time with her - someone well-practised in the art of pain...Three and a half years ago former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton moved to Atlanta hoping to leave her tragic past behind her. Now working as a doctor in Atlanta's Grady Hospital she is starting to piece her life together. But when a severely wounded young woman is brought in to the emergency room, she finds herself drawn back into a world of violence and terror. The woman has been hit by a car but, naked and brutalised, it's clear that she has been the prey of a twisted mind. When Special Agent Will Trent of the Criminal Investigation Team returns to the scene of the accident, he stumbles on a torture chamber buried deep beneath the earth. And this hidden house of horror reveals a ghastly truth - Sara's patient is just the first victim of a sick, sadistic killer. Wrestling the case away from the local police chief, Will and his partner Faith Mitchell find themselves at the centre of a grisly murder hunt. And Sara, Will and Faith - each with their own wounds and their own secrets - are the only thing that stands between a madman and his next crime.

Meh, I think I might be moving on from Forensic Crime and Mystery ... I can't remember the last *really* good one I read. This one was okay, it had loads of potential, but in the end I felt like Karin Slaughter was just making stuff up out of nowhere to try and get a twist that I didn't really feel held up to the rest of the story-line. Lacking follow-thru would probably be my best description.

27 October: Churchill - Tundra Buggy Day 2

Note: For the second time, I'm trying the "click on the thumbnail for a bigger picture" approach with the animal photos. I don't really like it as it will take longer for the page to load, but I do feel that these pictures especially deserve it! Plus the "large" version is still only roughly 640x480 (fyi. in case you're worried about clicking on a picture)

I called Varen this morning. It has been hard having no cellphone signal since we arrived in Churchill. You realise how much one relies on simple smses while away (well, I do ... I like to know what he's up to at home and how the bunnies are and it's especially hard to to have been able to gush at him about our fabulous first Tundra Buggy Day's sightings and the dog-sledding!) Oh, the little things we take for-granted these days like being able to keep in touch with a loved one.

Today was our 2nd day on the Tundra Buggy. I really wasn't sure what to expect since it was very misty this morning and after we'd had such a brilliant first day ... Well, one can't help but be greatful that the first day was so fabulous and we weren't entirely reliant on our 2nd day of viewing for some fabulous Polar Bear sightings. I would've hated for that to be the case, imagine you see nothing on the first day-out, what pressure that puts on your 2nd day.

But I need not have worried. Our second day was as brilliant as our first, but in a completely different way. If it hadn't been in a different way, it probably wouldn't have been as good as the novelty of bear spotting was definitely wearing off with @clairam and I coming up with nick-names for all the bear-spotting by midday: Do not stop the Buggy for "Binocular Bears" (the ones that are so far away, you can only spot them clearly thru a binocular ... so you definitely can't get a decent photo of them!) or "Boring Bears" (the ones who are just lying around not moving at all, we'd already seen enough of them). But *definitely* stop the Buggy if you spot any "Baby Bears" (obvious enough!) or "Bonus Bears" (the entertaining ones, moving around, making for good photos). Our 2nd Tundra Buggy day had pleny of the latter two Bear-types ... although we didn't see another Arctic Fox or Hare ... but did apparently spot a Willow Ptarmigan (as opposed to the Rock Ptarmigan from Buggy Day 1). I'll be honest and say the bird was only spotted as we were headed back to the Buggy launch-site (yes, their word, not mine) so I wasn't especially captivated.

Anyway, back to Day 2: It took a little while before we even saw a bear ... and even that wasn't amazing (I guess you see more the further from the launch-site you get, hence it usually takes a while to see the first Bear of the morning) and as I said earlier, it doesn't take long to become complacent about seeing far-away Bears (and at this point I still didn't have especially high hopes for the day considering the misty weather).

But, Pyro-technic Bob heard a tip on the radio (nothing specific as they actually don't radio each other to tell them where the Bears are because you don't want all 18 Tundra Buggies in the same place at one time) and we sped off to another spot and had an absolutely incredible experience with the first cub-sighting of the season. There was a Mother Bear with her two 20 month old cubs (cubs stay with their Mom till they're about 22 months and Churchill is the only place around the world where Polar Bears have more than one cub at a time).

After we first stopped to watch them, they wandered quite a way off from us but then ended up coming right up to the Buggy where I was standing on the outside observation deck! Even with the telephoto lens zoomed all the way out, I was too close to them to fit a whole Bear into the photo frame - how awesome is that?!

We stayed with these three for ages just enjoying the experience. When we eventually moved on, we spotted another Mother with her much smaller 10 month old cub (just one this time), but she wasn't coming anywhere near us with him.

A little later we came across another 3 Bears in close proximity (often when there is a litter of more than one cub, and they're old enough for their mother to have left them, they'll stick together until they reach sexual maturity). One of them was quite the little showman and was rolling around for for ages - incredible to watch! I really need to find some easy-to-use (and free!) stop-frame animation software to put these together so you can watch the full show.

It doesn't sound like much when written down, but it definitely added up to another completely worthwhile day on the Tundra!

Later I popped by the grocery store again so I could try the different flavours of Fanta I'd seen there: Fanta Cream Soda and Fanta Red Tangerine (this is another overseas quirk of mine). The Cream Soda came in a bright pink can and wasn't at all like our Creme Soda (although I haven't had that in years!), it was almost like a bubblegum flavour. The Red Tangerine tasted just like naartjie.

I also managed to find my momento item. I've gone with 2 Polar Bear drawings by a local artist which I'm hoping to have framed with some of the photo's I've taken on this trip because there really are some amazing ones!

We had our last group dinner at the Seaport Hotel. I decided to try the Arctic Char this evening, but it really wasn't up to scratch. @clairam's tasted and looked completely different to mine - although we ordered the identical meal!! But I guess it's tricky preparing a meal for 30 in a town that size. I did try Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale at dinner. I was hoping it'd be a little lighter than normal beer (like cider ... being "pale" and all :P) but it was actually more like Carling Black Label! Made me think of Gum.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Very Quiet Weekend

Blegh. I think I need to figure out a new blogging schedule. Sunday evenings just don't work for me at all!

Friday evening I met up with J9 for a coffee while she picked books for Book Club (which is on Tuesday evening). And then rest of Friday evening was pretty uneventful.

Saturday was equally uneventful. I was woken at midnight by the hectic storm and went to check on the bunnies - since it was loud enough to wake me, I could only imagine what they might be feeling, hearing it thru those giant ears of theirs! And they were quite panic-ed when I got down so I brought them inside and let them spend the rest of the night in our bathroom. But I couldn't sleep very well after that, I got all wheezy and it didn't improve at all on Saturday.

I was awake again around 5am on Saturday morning so decided to give up on sleep, since I could hardly breathe and instead started watching movies. I watched Kung Fu Panda.

Meh, it filled the time and I didn't have to concentrate too hard ;) Actually I don't remember exactly what happened in the end so it's highly possible I fell asleep during it. At some more reasonable hour Varen came downstairs too and then he started watching Beowulf. I slept thru that one completely.

He made us some breakfast and we settled in for a day of nothing. We watched True Blood S2. I have to say as much as I generally enjoy the series, I didn't enjoy season 2 as much as season 1, I think because it's no longer a novelty, some fresh new quirky series. Plus I do find their accents start to grate when I watch too many of them in a row ;) Also, I think they over-did the number of Supernaturals in this season, we've got another Telepathic (or telepathetic as I call them), another Shifter and a Maenad, and that's just off the top of my head. And then there was the whole religious angle, which I know worked for the story-line, but really makes my skin crawl sometimes when it's just sooo cultist. Obviously tho, I'll be watching Season 3 when it airs ;)

And then we started a new Series called In Treatment. Which took a little getting into, but I'm now sort of enjoying :)

Although we spent the day doing very little except popping out to get some food, I really needed one of those nothing days and was feeling awful for most of it. Okay, well not awful, but it really does drain you not being able to breath properly for an extended period of time!

Sunday was an admin day to make up for our lethargy on Saturday. We did the grocery shopping and cleaned the bunny hutch and I *tried* to get a new pump for the fish tank (was hoping to get new fish too, but the Lifestyle Garden Center was selling their smallest koi for R59 ... hello?!) only to get home and realise I have bought *completely* the wrong thing. I want a pump that aerates the water ... what I bought is a pump the pumps water (don't worry, I have NO idea why anyone needs that either?!). I wonder if they'll refund me?

Oh, and I made pizza on Sunday afternoon. The base was 100% to my liking, but I really do enjoy home-made pizza ;) All my favourite toppings in the quantities I like, how can you go wrong?

Friday, November 06, 2009

26 October: Churchill

Spent some time last night getting hopeful about our Niagara Falls trip ... only to have it thwarted this morning :( Unfortunately I can't change my ticket without it costing and extra almost 800CAD (to put that into perspective for you, that's not that much less than I got back from my single supplement that I spent on my new camera, it's roughly R6000 !). So sadly no, I wasn't going to do it.

On the plus side, @clairam is still going ahead with her Niagara detour since it only costs her an extra 150CAD. I am more than a little upset by the ridiculousness of this. Seriously, who understands how these airlines work cause it makes no sense to me! They gave me some nonsense about how I booked a 6-day trip and this would change it to a 5-day trip ... And then of course it was the fact that my ticket was actually Joburg to Winnipeg and back so altering one of the little legs in the middle clearly is just not something they're equipped to handle. But honestly, how can it possibly cost close to R6000? What kind of admin could *possibly* be involved? Besides, the way I see it, I would've actually been doing them a favour ... taking a seat on an earlier flight would've given them longer (24hrs or so) to sell the seat I was giving up. Grrr. For now I'm just chalking it up to "things that don't make any sense to me and still annoy the crap out of me".

One of the pluses of this little investigation tho, was getting to know Doug, the owner of The Churchill Motel (and the official Churchill School Bus Driver) a little better. He's a very interesting guy and made us feel completely at home :) Especially when one needs a little internet fix at 3am (cough, cough @clairam).

It snowed a little last night and the town is now looking as little more white ... like it's been dusted with flour. This morning after breakfast we caught the sunrise at around 8:30am and then headed out on a "Town Tour" (Churchill is literally like all of 5 roads!). So it was pretty boring, as you can imagine and I think I would've rather just spent the time wandering Churchill myself.

Highlights (a questionable description) of the Town tour included:

1. Watching the 2nd last boat (before the Bay freezes over) leaving Churchill (apparently it was en route to Spain filled with grain / wheat or some such similar produce).

2. Seeing the local Inukshuk, which they explained to us ... but which I still don't really understand. Basically it's some kind of marker the Inuit used. It's what's being used as the icon for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (must say it was sorta odd seeing 2010 being promoted everywhere and not for the Soccer World Cup)

3. Learning that the English name Eskimo was based on what the Cree Indians called the Inuit, Eats Raw Meat (Ee-skee-mo). Whereas Inuit means "The People" and is what they call themselves. (After a bit of an investigation on Wikipedia, however, it sounds like this is as much of a sham as the Coriolis Effect on the equator). Oh, and what I also found quite peculiar was that they kept refering to the aboriginals ... and I kept thinking, "Hello, but we're miles from Australia". But it's just the word they use to refer to the native people of the area (generally the variety of Indian tribes and Inuit).

4. A visit to the Anglican Church (yawn). (On the right is a "general town shot")

5. A lengthy stop at the local silos (yawn). As well as some not all that interesting facts about where Churchill ships the most grain / wheat (bushels?) to.

6. A photo stop with some orange lichen (double yawn!). I've seen plenty of it on the granite in Cape Town so didn't even bother getting out of the warm bus for this one.

7. A look across the Churchill River to the Prince of Wales Fort. From where we were it looks like a really tiny wall, absolute miles away. I'm not all that clued up on what all was going on here in Churchill over the years, but I know they were here testing rockets.

8. A visit to the Polar Bear jail. Okay, so this one had the potential to be interesting, but since they don't let you inside, it's less exciting than it sounds. Basically the jail has 30 separate bear enclosures where they house bears that have wandered into town. These bears are kept in the dark and only given water (since out on the Tundra they wouldn't be eating either) and then tranquillised, air-lifted and set free back onto the ice when the Bay starts freezing again. When we were there they had 15 bears in jail. We also got to see the "Bear Traps" which they leave around the town to try and easily capture the ones who wander in (you can understand how dangerous it could be having a Polar Bear wandering in your back yard, luckily they've only had 2 death-by-bear's in our driver, Fred's, memory). The Bear Traps look like really large humane mouse-traps and have a bag soaked in Seal Oil hanging at the back to entice them in.

After that it was back to the Motel for our lunch, which we spiced up with some Chocolate Milk from the one and only grocery store in Churchill. I also bought Varen the first of his 3 bottles of Root Beer and a lot of Toothpaste for Daddio (for some reason he's absolutely mad about Arm & Hammer toothpaste, which we don't get here ... so there are 10 tubes for his Xmas stocking ;) ) - the cashier thought I must've been nuts, haha!

And then we went for a very brief wander around one or two tourist shops (other than the grocery store, I don't think Churchill has any other kind of shop) before meeting back at the Motel to head off for our afternoon of Dog-Sledding with Wapusk Adventures.

We headed of to meet Dave Daley and his troupe of huskies. The dog-sledding experience, although fun, was not at all what I expected. Partly because there was no snow (so how does one sled, you ask) and partly because (the bit I didn't really factor into my expectations), this is what they offer for inexperienced tourists of all ages.

We got pulled by 12 dogs on a trailer-type thing where 8 of us at a time (including Dave and his son who was "steering") were sitting on benches. It also wasn't as fast as I was expecting (I thought it was quite leisurely) and the dogs also didn't look anything like I expected. I was expecting solid thorough-bred huskies (not dissimilar to ones owned around Joburg) but instead they were thin (but helluva strong, don't get me wrong) mixed-breed huskies.

On a very amusing note, we were still out animal-spotting while waiting our turn on the "sled" ... and I spotted what I thought must be an Arctic Squirrel, but what was in fact an Ermine or Arctic Weasel. He was a cute little beast but certainly distracted the dogs as they came upon his smell at the end of our sled-run! Haha. (Luckily he got away, he wasn't pulling a sled with 8 people!)

What I did enjoy a lot about the afternoon was that Dave gave us a very good introduction to his dogs and explained a lot about the attention and care they get. And they all clearly adore him! Another thing he told us more about was his heritage (he is Métis) and after only barely managing to keep up with his brief Canadian history lesson, I'm convinced that their tribal politics are even more complicated than ours!

Today was by far the coldest day we've had on this trip! And after the dog-sledding we wandered the town some more. I popped past the Churchill Post Office and got a stamp in my Passport :) We also visited the Eskimo Museum and saw a display they had on at the Railway Station. Nothing I found earth-shatteringly interesting tho :(

I browsed around all the little gift shops this afternoon and am struggling to find my "Polar Bear memento" tho (I get something on every trip).

Tonight we had dinner at The Northern Nights restaurant. @clairam and I shared the Chicken Parmesan and a Shrimp Fettuccine. It was delish :) The shrimp (prawns) were bigger than you'd get in a pasta dish back home. I also tried a Dr Pepper for the first time ... not especially impressed and I don't think we're missing out on much!

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lovely Boy Foozy

Yawn. Afternoon blogging. Meh, best I get back into the swing of things.

Nothing very exciting to report ... Haven't seen much of Varen this week as he's played soccer on 2 of the nights (Monday & Tuesday) and I had Poker with the girls last night. Which is the reason for the yawn ;) Although I slept great last night ... the night before, however, was a completely different story.

I had weird and awful dreams. Dreams that gave me an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach when I was trying to go to sleep the next night (last night). Dreams that left me exhausted when I woke up. Generally I'm not a big dreamer, but for some reason when I over heat at night, I see to have really crazy dreams that I can remember.

Am supposed to be at gym. I know I should beat gym ... but could the holiday just carry on a *little* longer? Plus I had a 3 hours meeting before leaving work this afternoon ... I needed to just come home and watch the bunnies run ;)

Ps. Yesterday my folks had to put down our 11 year old Border Collie boy (Fizbin - don't ask, the name came from some elf in a flash game! Haha). Love you boytjie.

Now that may not look like such a good photo of him ... being a peculiar angle and all, but actually, it's a *perfect* photo of him. It's him in his absolutely favourite spot, "herding waves", on the beach, in front of our holiday house in Cape Town, where he spent his first 3 weeks with us (he was actually born on the Cape Point Ostrich Farm). He used to make such a racket barking at those waves and get himself soaking wet running into the water to rip up seaweed (dunno if he thought he was saving it or what?), completely exhausting himself running up and down (as long as someone would sit there watching him). *sniff* Good memories.

Update 08-11-2009: Added that better photo of my lovely boy up at the top after Mom mailed it to me. Such a gorgeous boy!

25 October: Churchill - Tundra Buggy Day 1

Note: For the first time, I'm trying the "click on the thumbnail for a bigger picture" approach with the animal photos. I don't really like it as it will take longer for the page to load, but I do feel that these pictures especially deserve it! Plus the "large" version is still only roughly 640x480 (fyi. in case you're worried about clicking on a picture)

We woke up around 6:30am, layered up and then headed off to breakfast (pancakes with bacon and syrup as far as the eye can see is the staple, here in Canada ;) )

Then at 7:45am our "school bus" arrived to take us to meet the Tundra Buggies. We were on Buggy 9 with Pyro-technic Bob driving.

The day was a resounding success! Although it took a while (like an hour & half maybe?) to see our first Polar Bear (and until you've seen them, you really have no idea what to expect or what you're looking for, our eyes being so accustomed to being on the lookout for Lion, Rhino and Elephant).

But over the course of the day we saw quite a few bears ... and we got to spend quite a while watching each bear (which was great because often waiting for them to get up and move about or come and inspect the Tundra Buggy made for the best photos!). It's not that they're lazy (although the big yawn below might have you believe otherwise), it's that they're trying to conserve their energy. They've been without food for a few months now and all they're really here to do is wait out the re-freezing of Hudson Bay. From what I understand, they exit the Bay quite a bit lower down where it thaws last and then walk all the way to Churchill, where it freezes first (see the floating ice as Hudson Bay starts to freeze in the photo on the left), giving them as much time as possible on the ice to hunt their food.

We were especially lucky to also spot an Arctic Hare, Arctic Foxes and Rock Ptarmigan. I spotted the Arctic Hare as we were driving along, must be because my eyes are so accustomed to watching The Boons ;) ps. in case you need it pointed out, that's not an amazing shot of 3 Arctic Hares, I cropped 3 of the shots I got as he/she ran away ... I think it makes for a better photo this way tho ;)

We had 2 separate sightings of Arctic Fox. The first came past as we were stopped watching a Polar Bear. It was interesting to watch how wary the Fox was and although the Bear lifted his head as the Fox ran past, he wasn't too interested.

The second was a brilliant, right-up-close experience. Apparently this Fox was younger, because it wasn't pure white. The foxes fascinated me because I couldn't believe how furry their tails were ... the tail looks almost as thick as their body.

@clairam and I had quite a laugh at the start of the day when, as we were driving along (before we'd even seen our first Bear), our guide pointed out an Artesian Whale. We were thoroughly stumped about what on earth he could possibly be talking about, having never heard of them before and since he was pointing at a pool of water (not connected to any ocean) that was about 10cm deep. It took us a few minutes before we realised that what he had in fact pointed out were Artesian Wells (these were the only parts of the pools surrounding the Bay that had any flowing water, the rest were all frozen over). Ah, accents sure provide for amusement sometimes! And as you can imagine, this became a running joke of the trip to the two of us.

I got some lovely photos with my new camera (sadly I am being very choosey about the ones that I post on here since there really are so many!) and was especially grateful for @tfrayne's telephoto lens! I didn't need the Polarizing lens at all today tho, due to the sheer lack of snow :P

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I'm surviving the chill here (but to be fair I am wearing a pair of fleecy tracksuit pants under my jeans!) and only felt it in my hands a few times when I was leaning out of the window for a while to take photo's.

After our day on the tundra, we relaxed for a bit at The Churchill Motel and then we headed off to dinner at Gypsy's - they've done our packed lunches for our Tundra days which included Hot Chocolate, soup (today was Chicken Noodle which they serve with crackers...), a very yummy sandwich (@clairam and I had the shaved turkey on a Portuguese roll) and a pastry (today's had some sickly lemon filling which I couldn't finish).

I tried Poutine for the first time, which I shared with @clairam (according to her, it's a Canadian standard and had to be tasted at least once this trip - good advice!). It is basically your normal chips / french fries topped with grilled cheese and gravy. It's very rich but was quite yummy! And then we also had a Chicken Cordon Bleu burger each. After the poutine tho, it was just too much food so on the plus side we have half a left-over burger for tomorrow's lunch :)

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