Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

WHAT IF our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours until day becomes night and night becomes day? 'It is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophies are always different - unimagined, unprepared for, unknown...' What if our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours, until day becomes night and night becomes day? What effect would this slowing have on the world? On the birds in the sky, the whales in the sea, the astronauts in space, and on an eleven-year-old girl, grappling with emotional changes in her own life..? One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself. 

It took me a while to read this, due to timing and the general slow pace of the book. But I did enjoy it generally, from a What If perspective, it was interestingly written. The sub-plots and whatnot (so probably the actual plot and storyline then) were wasted on me. They were pretty average, except that they were set in this fascinating landscape. Really,  I reckon that'd be the only reason to read this. And I really did enjoy that aspect of it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

No more than Passing the Time

Hmmm, it's been a weird weekend. Am feeling that blue and out of sorts feeling again. I am not a fan. This mood particularly makes me not appreciate all the good things and opportunities in my life :(

Anyway, the weekend wasn't all bad, in fact it wasn't at all bad :P See what this mood does, it sours perfectly normal day-to-day living. #sigh.

On Friday evening, The Trucker & I headed off to Greensleeves for a friend of his' farewell. We've actually been planning to go for a while, The Trucker had never been and I went in probably my first year living up in Joburg, with Bean. I'll be honest, most of the people there with us hadn't been before despite living in Joburg their whole lives. Guess it's like me not having done much in the way of Cape Town touristy things? In fact the couple who we were saying farewell to had tried to organise it for his birthday a few months before, but not enough people were interested in going.

I'll be honest and say I won't be going again any time soon. Maybe in another 10 - 15 years? It's not a great experience. We were there a little late due to some filming closing a road en route. We got our costumes (R90) .... I always feel like everyone else manages to look amazing and pull it off while I feel like a bit of an idiot. But the frenzy in the clothing room and trying to find a gem on the hangers freaks me out and I generally go with the first thing I grab.

Then we headed thru to the venue. Look, it's not a bad evening, I just felt it was far too long. It cost us R395 per person (we were at the King & Queen's table so not sure if that's extra?) and we only ate at 22h15. That is far too late for me. Yes, there was some toast and pate when we sat, and a platter of finger food arrived with enough for just one bite of each thing for everyone. And that was quite fun, finger feeding your partner. Mostly you just drink while you watch the show. Which is entirely scripted and doesn't seem to leave too much room for how the audience are reacting (again, just my opinion). It dragged on a little long for me.

I wasn't very hungry by the time the mains arrived, I can't really eat after 9pm at night. I'd lost interest by this point and both The Trucker and I were more than ready to leave by the time dessert (ice cream with berries) arrived. So we paid for our drinks (it's an expensive evening!) and headed home at about 23h30. Yawning our heads off. Nope, I won't be going back any time soon.

On Saturday we were up early to head to the Bayberry Kitchens showroom. I'm excited about my kitchen, but it is going to be far too expensive. I've asked for a quote with some extra gadgety type things (swivel things for the corner cupboards and a pull-out pantry cupboard). I figure since the kitchen is so tiny I need to make the most of the space I have.

After that we went and did more house type stuffs. I bought new down-lighters for the lounge, along with LED bulbs and new light fittings for the 2 bedrooms from Lighting Warehouse. We popped into Easy Life Kitchens and I'll have to bite the bullet and pay the R300 to get them to come and measure & quote next week, I think. It sounds like they'll be cheaper.

Then we went to Builders. We looked at paint colours (for the main bedroom), I bought a geyser blanket and a timer switch. I've drawn up a plan for things to buy each month with the money I'm not spending on my car repayment, in the hopes that then I will finally get all my house stuff done over time without breaking the bank! Hopefully November's thing will be getting the Electrician to now install all these lights I've bought ;) Here's to saving on the monthly electricity bill too!

After that The Trucker had to head to work ... for an hour or so, he said. So I went grocery shopping since we'd planned to do homemade pizza's for dinner on Saturday evening. He's been craving them for a while now. 7 hours later, he finally came home. #sigh. I know, there is nothing he can do either. But it left me at a bit of a loose end. Especially with the mood that was brewing. I hung out at home, read my book, napped and watched some TV.

In the evening we made the pizzas - yummy as always :) And watched Safety Not Guaranteed. It was quite a sweet movie with a bunch of unknowns ... but I thought the ending left a lot to be desired.

On Sunday we had a lazy morning and went for breakfast at Mugg & Bean. The Trucker napped & I faffed for the afternoon till he headed off to cricket.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I finally got my Rhinose :)

See, I think being at a loose end is the trigger of this mood. I dunno. I think it is also triggered by me feeling weirdness in my relationship with The Trucker. We did have a bit of a disconnected weekend. He's much better at disconnected than me, in fact I think it's his preferred state. Either way, this week is gonna be crazy so I don't have time to be blue anymore! Haha. Looking forward to my brief trip to Cape Town for The Bookmarks tho :D

Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple Things

Okay so I didn't really intend for it to be as quiet a week as it has been ... but trust me, I'll be making up for it next week, in spades!

This week was quiet tho. First week back at Boot Camp. I'm pretty much exhausted. The weather in Joburg has warranted hibernation. So my evenings have pretty much all been spent at home, having dinner with The Trucker and just generally relaxing. Not even that much TV or Series watching, actually ... I'm running low ;)

Some interesting thing that did happen tho, I went to a talk by a friend of mine, @tfrayne who is now an Eco-Auditor. Now if you don't know what an Eco-Auditor is (like me before her talk), it means she is now qualified to come to people's homes and do an inspection on your energy consumption and the like and give you tips and pointers and advise you how you could improve. This is particularly handy in this day and age, even if you're not particularly "green", simply because our Electricity bills are likely to increase exponentially in the next few years (16% a year for the next 5 years to be exact). I, for one, am not at all thrilled by this realisation. So anything, particularly the simple, low effort things that don't cost me, I can do to alleviate that expense and get into good habits before I'm paying a fortune, I reckon is a good thing.

She's almost qualified to offer the same services to businesses too. I would highly recommend getting her to come round to your house or to get her in to do a talk at your offices. This information is too valuable right now to miss out. So yes, this week I've started to do a few things differently and this weekend I'll be going out in search of a geyser insulator and timer switch.

We were supposed to go and watch one on The Trucker's friends Roller Derby practice on Tuesday evening (so I skipped SCM), but a storm came down and the practice venue lost power so that idea got postponed. I am fascinated by Roller Derby, ever since I watched Whip It. But I'll admit I'm too terrified of the hurt to try it myself. Apparently there'll be a proper "show" sometime in Feb. I'm super keen for that :)

What else? Oh yes, I got my kitchen plans, I tweaked them, I got the quote ... and now I'm crying. It's 40K. A bit steep, to be fair. But hey, I keep reminding myself, it's only the first quote I've got. At least I've got the design/layout pretty spot on with what I want. We're still gonna go check out the show room and chat about the expense and changes tomorrow morning tho. I also made a list of everything I want to do around the house ... and then I cried some more.

I won't lie considering all these things and spending this money terrifies me in this economic climate ... How does one ever decide to go ahead and spend that kind of money. Weirdly, if it were on a 3 week holiday, I wouldn't be batting an eyelid. Go figure :P

Oh yes, and in other exciting news, on Monday I heard that I'm being sent to Cape Town next week *surprise* for The Bookmark Awards. Super excited about that, what a novelty: getting all dressed up, going to an awards ceremony and being put up in a hotel :) The down side is I could've stayed in Cape Town for the weekend, but I already booked and arranged for a group of us girls to go to Dirty Dancing next Friday night. And I've been looking forward to that for ages.

But the up side is I'm flying down a day early and spending Wednesday night with the fandamily :) I'm not too fussed since I'll be there 2 weeks later again for The Peeb's 30th.

So, it's been a quiet, but pretty awesome week, in fact the next 8 days promise to be great fun and crazy busy :) So here's to being grateful for this quiet week beforehand!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Shew. I did not want to go to sleep last night and let the weekend end :( Time is feeling very fast lately ....

On Friday after work I headed to Rocket for drinks with some of the girls from the office. Would you believe we hardly see each other at work anymore. Plus 2 of them have moved on, so always good to have some after-work catching up :)

Then The Trucker decided he wanted to head to Cedar Square for our favourite sushi spot and the new Bourne movie.

I won't lie, I napped during the chase scene (it is pretty close to the end). It's long. And I haven't really watched any of the Bourne movies since the first one. He didn't seem to enjoy it much, because he loves the Bourne trilogy ... and this wasn't quite the same, or on a par apparently. It's fine enough, I think, if you go in with no real expectations.

On Saturday I was up a little earlier than expected. The guy from Bayberry Kitchens was coming over to measure my kitchen (eep, should be getting the quote today or tomorrow!) and he was early! Haha, managed to be showered and dressed in time at least because he had to phone for directions because he couldn't find me on his gps! Shew. That was quite fun, I have high hopes for getting my kitchen done in the new year! The Trucker & I then headed off separately, him to work and me to buy ingredients for our Dinner Club Starter. Then when he got back we went to have a browse at some new tiles ... brought home 2 samples to test the feel of. We are both overwhelmingly in favour of one of them so far :) It is hard to tell from just one tile tho, I'm still nervous that it's a bit too dark.

Then we went to his office to get some paper work done (faster with 2 of us) and then it was home to relax for the afternoon. In the evening we headed off to @Toxic_Mouse's place for Dinner Club. What an awesome evening!

We had made @Tamara0h's Rocket, Black Forest Ham, Brie and Fig Preserve skewers, drizzled with Balsamic Reduction and Olive Oil. They were perfect. Such divine taste combinations and nice and light as a starters ... hate when you're too full for mains after a starter!

For mains we had Nasi Goreng, which is basically Pork-Fried Rice, served with some scrambled egg omlette. Sprinkled with peanuts, Indonesian Soy Sauce and chili. Eaten out of Shrimp Chips, with a gherkin to cleanse the palate. I was skeptical when I saw the "sides" of peanuts, gherkin and shrimp chips on the table thinking these were the most unlikely combination of foods and flavours, but I cannot praise our meal highly enough. It was truly delish. Yum yum yum.

@clairam & @obitadicta had brought a Woolies Ice Cream Chocolate Mousse cake for dessert. It all went down so well :) Along with a 2002 bottle of red wine The Trucker had brought from his cupboard.

Sunday was pretty lazy. We headed to Doppio for a late breakfast (and I managed to finally stick to the eating plan while at a restaurant!). We did a little grocery shopping and then The Trucker headed off to cricket and I went to @meiraputerman's birthday picnic. Was held at a friend of her's absolutely gorgeous house and was good to catch up with a few people I hadn't seen in a while :)

Watched a dreadful movie over dinner tho .... Red Lights. No, do not watch this. It makes little to no sense and although sounds interesting and has some nice big names (Sigourney Weaver & Robert de Niro) it is totally boring and at the end you're just so glad it's over you don't even care it barely made any sense at all.

Eep, Boot Camp starts again this evening ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Life as Usual

Ah, sweet Friday :)

So it's been a pretty quiet week. Dinnering-at-home with The Trucker Monday to Wednesday. And then last night I went to The Raj for dinner with @jarredcinman. I don't think I've been there before. It was quite nice, I had their chicken korma ... but I would still pick our local Mumbai Brasserie or Ghazals over it again anyday.

Aside from that, I had my monthly catch-up with my nutritionist ... and I was down again. Nowhere near as impressive, but I've had a lot more cheat meals and alcohol with all the socialising than in the first 3 weeks. But, I was still down, and even if it's slow, that's what counts :) Although I did try on a pair of shorts while shopping the other day and I seem to be in that awkward place between sizes now. And I'm too nervous to buy the tighter smaller size ... and too worried that I won't be able to wear the larger size for long enough to warrant the expense. So no new clothes for now.

My car also went in for it's annual service. Eep. They quoted R6700 !! Because it's apparently a Cam Belt Service. Luckily tho, I'm dating The Trucker and he's gonna take my car on Monday and do my cam belt and brakes for me instead. Awe, I am a lucky girl ;)

I don't think there's been any other exciting news ... except that the Peeb's 30th birthday gift is ready for collection. I am so excited. She knows what it is, she requested it. Because it's her 30th I told her to think of something she really wanted but thought was too expensive to buy for herself or that'd she'd love to have but wouldn't spend money on herself. And she picked an Embosser. I know, it sounds weird, but I'd seen them before and thought of her actually. So we've had one custom made and ordered for her (she's approved the design I did for her). I'm super excited.

I'm also super excited cause I submitted my photos for my Photo Cushion. I had never heard of them before a Groupon special, but I thought it was a great idea. The Peeb & I bought one together as an Xmas gift for my gran. And I bought one for myself to put my holiday photos on. Sheesh, Good thing I did it now, they *just* fit! Haha. Can not wait to see how they come out.

I think that's about all. I've had a week off Boot Camp before the next one starts. Although I've been absolutely loving the break, I did manage to make it to the gym for a swim this week. I don't think I've swam at the gym since I was dating Varen! Was lovely, but I only managed 12 laps before I exhausted myself. I think perhaps I need to try doing this on my Boot Camp off day. (I won't lie, it's hard racking up gym visits for Vitality now  that I'm Boot Camping and Discovery doesn't count that :( )

Monday, October 15, 2012

Quiet Week, Busy Weekend

So last week was pretty quiet. The Trucker was struck down with a tummy bug so I hardly saw him. I did have a very nice dinner at Doppio with @scottjorton, his soo-to-be baby-mamma, @clairam and @obitadicta.

On Friday evening, The Trucker was back to better and we headed off to the Lyric for Trevor Noah's new show, That's Racist, with @clairam and @obitadicta. Loved it. He has yet to disappoint. I think he may currently be my favourite South African stand-up ... now that John Vlismas is becoming tedious and tiresome.

On Saturday, The Trucker & I decided to have a rib braai at his house with some friends. Great success :) And so yummy. He made his truly delish Potato Salad with bacon and we all ate plenty.

On Sunday I managed to tick 2 more house-type stuffs off my list :D Finally got some photos of us printed and put into a frame I've owned nearly forever and The Trucker hung it for me above my bed. I love it, it looks awesome :) Such nice happy photos of us together! And I also finally bought myself one of those sugar-water bird-feeders. Am absolutely loving my garden at the moment. Definitely my happy place with the bunnies playing on the grass and bird cheeping in the trees <3

That afternoon The Trucker started LMS cricket again and I went to Wanderers to watch the Chennai Super Kings against the Sydney Sixers with @clairam, @samanthaperry and @obitadicta. All in all a good afternoon. Although 20-20 cricket is more boring than  I remember - don't think I've been since I dated Bean! Maybe it's because it's these weird teams and I have no interest who wins or loses.

The Trucker came over in the evening and we relaxed in front of the TV. Huge error in judgement as we decided to watch Snow White and the Huntsman. I'd heard it was bad but I do like to make up my own mind. I'd never even have bothered, but The Trucker seemed keen to see what it was like. And so we watched. I could've given it up at any point and I did suggest it in the first 30minutes. Yawn. Seriously biggest waste of time ever and lost absolute appeal for me as soon as I realised it stared Bella :P Wow that girl can't act. And someone please tell me why they keep trying to remake the same old stories ?! Skip this. Seriously.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Seriously ... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?

I was looking forward to this. Although I don't ever watch Ellen, I quite enjoy her humour (I think). I kind of mildly enjoyed this book. Most of it was a little tedious. But there were laugh out loud moments. Anyway, this book was neither here not there for me. I thought it'd be a fairly quick read, but since it is pretty disjointed, it wasn't really. Anyway, I'll leave this one entirely up to you to decide about ....

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. This is the terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games .

Can Katniss Everdeen win the final fight against the Capitol? Against all odds, she's survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she is still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no-one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12... 

Okay, so I decided to review these two in one ... since I read them one after the other, they tend to blur. I'll admit I had no idea where the 2nd book was going when I started it. And I didn't see the Chapter 12 twist coming.

After the 2nd book I went straight onto the 3rd. Ordinarily I don't do this. Or rather, I don't like to. Because one does end up a little confused about where one book ended and the next began. I think I actually preferred the 3rd book to the 2nd, but I'm glad the series is over. And if you're just starting out. Enjoy the first book, and skip the rest. Way to drag out a story.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Well this morning I am smiling. I had a fabulous weekend. From start to finish it was exactly what I needed to counter my mood when I posted on Friday morning. All it right in the world again :)

Friday evening didn't feel like it was going to provide any sort of balm. But The Trucker messaged me and asked if we were doing something for dinner. And while we were doing our usual back-and-forth over I dunno what I feel like and where can we go on such short notice on a Friday evening, he planned a Surprise Date Night and gave me 45mins notice. Adore this boy.

He actually took me to a little spot I had on my Date Night list, The Good Luck Club (actually I had it on my list from before it had a name). He had it on his list after a rave review frfom @Toxic_Mouse. And omg we *will* be going back :) They managed to squeeze us in without a booking and our dinner was so delish. We started with their chicken, avo and mozzarella Spring rolls, their prawn, coriander, mint, cucumber and glass noodle Summer Rolls and their chicken Dim Sum. We followed this with 2 mains to share, honestly I couldn't tell you which I prefered. Both were so good! I (mostly) had the Beef in Satay Sauce and The Trucker (mostly) had the Red Chicken and Prawn Curry. Superb.

Dinner was a little rushed because we only had a little over an hour to eat before apparently we were off on Phase 2 of Surprise Date Night. The Trucker took me to see Searching for Sugarman. Well, that was the intention. Unfortunately that was completely sold out. So we saw The Flowers of War. OMG it was quite hectic. But I enjoyed it. Always nice to go see something out of the ordinary and as a surprise. Can't remember the last time I went to Cinema Nouveau either.

On Saturday we actually slept late (yay for not much weekend admin demanding attention!). And then went and queued at a Post Office (the most archaic of inventions) to buy a fucking stamp (pfft, how do we not have stamp vending machines yet?) to send a stupid SARS form that apparently has to be an original. There is nothing quite as soul destroying as needing to step into a Post Office, except perhaps working at one, but whether or not that ever actually happens, remains to be seen :P

Then it was breakfast at the Chilling Thyme Cafe. Nothing spectacular, but I did get to visit their bunnies and remind myself that now is not the time to get myself a bantam. I do, however, want a tortoise. A lot. I grew up with pet tortoises, I want one. I have dutifully mailed the zoos (Johannesburg and Pretoria) and no one has responded. Does anyone know how to effectively get a pet tortoise (and by 'pet' I really only mean one that will live in and enjoy my garden) or have one looking for a good home?

Then we relaxed away the afternoon. I gardened while The Trucker watched South Park and then I got my turn with the remote ;) We went to watch the rugby at the Dros. Which was quite nice, probably would've been more fun if we'd won tho :P

In the evening we made ourselves a yummy dinner and watched What to Expect When You're Expecting. Would you believe The Trucker was totally fine with this movie choice?! I generally enjoyed the movie. The only part I believed as true to life was Rosie & Marco.

Sunday was another pretty relaxed morning. We had breakfast at home and then got the week's grocery shopping out of the way before heading North to Pretoria. After Taste, and on my quest for a decent Dim Sum experience after China, I looked up Padbok. It was in Pretoria, and it was offering a Dim Sum Sunday special. Initially we wanted to take the Gautrain, but unfortunately the busses apparently don't run on weekends, so the additional 40min estimated walk by Google Maps from the Hatfield station ruled that option. Disappointing, Gautrain, disappointing.

Anyway, we decided that while we were there, we'd give Searching for Sugarman a second attempt at Brooklyn Mall, across the road. Our dim sum was alright, not amazing variety. The sushi was nice enough, but I'm not really a fan of sushi without mayo. It was a nice lunch, regardless, but I wouldn't schlep out there again for it. Even if it was closer. Sadly they were all out of the Japanese Gyoza we'd tried at Taste :(

Would you believe that after wandering the mall to kill time, the power in the whole centre went out about 5mins after we sat down in the cinema, as the movie was about to start. #sigh. We drove home. We now believe we are simply not meant to watch this movie ;)

We had a very lazy rest of the afternoon at home :) True bliss, all weekend.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Comparison is Bad for Your Health

Yeah, my mood is less than spectacular this morning. It hasn't been a very bad week tho (relaxing evenings at home, boot camp, SCM Dinner and Bookclub). I dunno, I can't seem to snap out of this blue feeling and I just feel like the weight of everything is squishing me. And then things I could just brush off in a happier mood are annoying me or weigh me down more. I dunno, this real life thing is over-rated.

There, that. exactly that. I should just stay off Facebook. Every day someone new is pregnant or someone got engaged, every weekend someone got married. Well, everyone except me. That's how it feels anyway.

I don't really know what I want from life at the moment. Yes, one day, I want ye olde typical wedding and babies, although honestly the reality of these things (being with someone forever and being responsible for another person) still actually terrify me a little. But somehow I have ended up with someone who doesn't really want for these things. Someone who after 18months I'm still not living with, which I know is not an indication of anything necessarily. Someone who I'm probably not going to be living with in the next year either ... But see, aside from that, the right here and right now is generally good. If I can get past my need to know where things are going. He doesn't need to know. He's quite happy with everything the way it is for right now. Me, I suck in the here & now :P

Somehow every other single person in the world seems to have got it right except me. And if only the logical part of my brain could win out, I would know that's not true. I know plenty of girls older and younger than me who haven't even dated someone in the last year. I have a wonderful boyfriend who I generally adore and who does actually care about me (although I don't always feel like that). Why doesn't knowing that make me realise that there are probably some people out there thinking I've got it all together and a great life (much like what I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself and thinking about other people too). I don't know why, but it doesn't help one single bit.

I have loads to be grateful for. I know that. But it's just not helping to snap me out of this malaise. I feel left behind and disconnected from people and life.

I think it's that pyramid thing of human requirements. The better your life is, the smaller the things that get you down and you turn them into problems in your head. How ridiculous are we? It all sounds so petty. Mine are not *real* problems. What they are is things around me making me feel bad about myself. And they shouldn't. Maybe that is a real problem. Maybe it's just exactly what the quote says. Maybe it's just that time of year.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Taste of Joburg 2012

On Saturday afternoon, we went to my favourite annual Joburg event. And I haven't missed a year yet! This year the food was a little disappointing :( It wasn't so hard to find the things I really wanted to try ... Usually I struggle terribly to narrow it down.

But the weather was far nicer this year, not so sweltering hot so we could enjoy the entire afternoon there. And the stands were laid out very nicely this year, making for a good walking circuit. I didn't feel terribly crowded either, which is good :)

So, I started with the Moroccan flavoured spring rolls, stuffed with braised oxtail, spicy cous cous, julienne vegetables, served with a chilled apricot, lime, fresh coriander and yoghurt salsa from La Cuchina di Ciro. I liked it, pity the spring rolls were so tiny tho :(

Later in the day, we also tried their Rich dark chocolate brownie topped with a Zabaglione gelato & caramelized almonds. Now this was delish!

Then we were side-lined by the Fine Brandy tent, where they were offering a cocktail with a taster plate of food. The food wasn't really my scene, but I did have a taste of the Wild Mushroom Risotto, which The Trucker got with his Oude Meester Franklin cocktail, which I didn't like at all, too bitter for me. And then I had the Klipdrift Gold Julep, which I really liked. And I tasted a little of the Pomme Puree and Fruit Chutney that was served with the slow roasted Pork Belly.

Next we moved onto the Gyoza (Japanese fried dumplings) at Padbok Thai and Sushi Restaurant (that may be the worst website I've seen this year! Visit this one instead). I completely loved these, with soy sauce :)

Then, going entirely against my no mushroom rule, I tried the Deboned blue cheese & mushroom stuffed chicken served on Emmental & Gruyere croquette with mushroom jus infused with black truffle paste from Sel et Poivre and Le Petit Sel Bistro. It was quite nice, but the chicken skin was a bit weird ...

Later, I also had a Belgian Trio of Macarons from them. I've never actually had a macaron / macaroon before. They're a bit weird, I don't quite understand the fuss. They're much like meringues. But they were nice enough. Very mad colours! Haha.

We ended our mains circuit with the Crispy deep-friend sushi with spicy salmon tartar from Yamato Japanese Restaurant, which I think was my least favourite dish of the day. The deep-fried sushi seemed to just be rice that was far too crunchy and didn't complement the salmon at all! We should've shared this dish instead of getting one each, but it sounded so interesting.

And the Melanzane Parmigiana Aubergine tomato bake with mozarella and parmesan from Al Dente, which was superb. I do love my Melanzane and this was perfect.

The mains were not the highlight of the day for me, which is unusual. This year the desserts won hands down.

We started with the brownie mentioned above and moved on to the Double Chocolate Passion Fruit Brulee, served with almond biscotti from Piccolo Mondo at The Michaelangelo. I'll admit I'm a sucker for Creme Brulee, generally. And I was super curious as to how it could be Double Chocolate as well as Passion Fruit. It was delish!

I had the Macrons and then we shared the Tiramisu Marscapone cheese, Savoiardi biscotti with a hint of cafe espresso & Marsala from the Mastrantonio Group. I am not a huge Tiramisu fan, but The Trucker was keen to try this and I quite liked it actually :)

We ended our tasting of the official restaurants with the Chocolate Chilli Baklava with mixed nuts, cinnamon and honey from Prosopa. Now I am definitely not a fan of baklava generally, but the chilli chocolate made this a must try for me. Wow, it was delish! Really liked it :)

We also tried a few fabulous things from the exhibitor stalls. By far my favourite (which we only ate later in the evening), was my Rose & Pistachio cupcake from Sublime Cupcakes. The Trucker had the Key Lime cupcake which also tasted delish.

I also really liked Naughty's but Nice Belgian Chocolates. They did a special range of 7 Deadly Sins Truffles for Taste. I tried the Lust truffle, Red Velvet. Delish :) Wish I'd had space to try a few of the others!

We, of course, had to try a yard glass of Margarita's from the Original Cocktails stand. Money well spent :) And then there was an awesome Polish Butchery stand (unfortunately I forget the name & can't find anything useful online) with some tasty cabanossi and smoked carpaccio.

An all round excellent way to spend an afternoon :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

12 August: Siem Reap to Johannesburg

I did not sleep well so, our last day was not off to a good start. Lingering annoyed moods ruined, at least, the start of my day. But, our tuk-tuk arrived at 5am and off to Angkor Wat we headed. We bought ourselves a Single Day Pass (you can get 3 or 7 day passes as well) and our tuk-tuk dropped us off right in front of Angkor Wat before the sunrise. We started snapping away from across the moat.

We waited and watched, continuously taking photos as the sun moved. The sunrise was pretty gorgeous, but I always find it far less eventful than sunset. Once the sun had risen above the Angkor Wat towers, we headed into the temple. It's pretty big and takes quite a while to wander. Let me tell you that we were already hot and bothered and sweaty by the time we finished here and I'm sure it was before 9am!

Then our day, which already hadn't started well, but was now on the mend mood-wise, took a turn for the annoying: we couldn't find our tuk-tuk driver. You rent them for the day and pay extra for a sunrise start. We wandered around the parking area for about 20 mins, staring at drivers and peering into the hammocks of sleeping drivers. No recognition from them or us.

I was mildly freaking out (unnecessarily as it turned out) about what we might miss with this delay. We'd booked a late check-out at the hotel, but we still had to be out of our room before 16h30. It's hardly an ideal system: a billion-million tuk-tuks that are all mostly the same but are all slightly different (the chairs, the cloth, the paint desgins, but who pays attention?) ... now try searching for the one you last saw bleary-eyed in the dark. A large part of tuk-tuk drivership must surely be to recognise your passengers for the day. Ours failed to emerge

So, we rented a new one and our driver was Mr. Tom. He turned out to be an absolutely fantastic and attentive upgrade on our previous driver. And we weren't being overtaken by *everyone* else like before either! I was very happy with the switch.

After Angkor Wat, we followed the Small tour Circuit backwards around Angkor (to avoid the masses, according to Tom). We went to Banteay Kdei and then on to Ta Prohm. I had higher expectations of Ta Prohm (where part of Tomb Raider was filmed), but there is a lot of reconstruction going on all over Angkor. I did really find the trees growing over the walls quite spectacular tho.

Then it was on to Angkor Thom to visit Bayon (photo below), which I think was honestly my favourite temple of the day. I loved the hidden faces. It was gorgeous. We walked (melted) around Angkor Thom for a bit after that and then took a much needed drinks break. I think we each went thru about 3 litres of liquid at Angkor.

When we were feeling a little cooler and rested, we decided that since it was only 10am, we'd spend the extra dollars and do the Grand Tour Circuit now instead. I don't know how long people normally take exploring Angkor but, I think we might've been quite fast owing to a) our discomfort in the heat b) it being crowded but apparently nothing close to High Season c) not having anything more than a beautiful setting interest in the place (ie. no religious significance or Hindu/Buddhist understanding of the meanings behind things) and d) having started out at 5:30am.

So, off we headed to Preah Khan and then to Ta Som (which has an awesome big buddah head with a tree growing over the walls around it). Then we finished up with a climb to the top of Pre Rup (photo to right). It was all pretty cool and I'm certainly glad we spent the extra time and money to see the additional temples.

On our way out, we passed thru Angkor Thom again so that I could walk past the Terrace of the Elephants again (when you walk thru Angkor Thom, the route takes you on top of the Terrace so you can't really enjoy the Elephants as easily as walking along the road). And then we left thru Angkor Thom's South Gate (photo below), which was stunning!

Travel Planning tip: For more information on planning a visit to Angkor Archaeological Park visit Canby Publications' website which had all the information I wanted before arriving. I actually printed and took their maps along with me :)

By the time we got back to our hotel, we were pretty exhausted. It was just after 1pm and we'd been on the go for about 8 hours already! We took a much needed shower and made the most of our late check-out in our air-conditioned room and it's room-service for lunch.

At 4pm we checked out and headed across the road for a 90 minute Mekong Massage. Yes, please! My feet were absolutely killing me after our morning. What better way to make the most of our last remaining holiday hours.

The massage was lovely and as we finished, a massive downpour hit Siem Reap. Awesome. Luckily it was gone before our flight left! We got our taxi to the airport which caused some trouble. See, when we'd arrived yesterday, we caught a taxi from the taxi desk at the airport and the driver was lovely, friendly and well-spoken. He. naturally, tried selling us more services. So we'd ended up booking our return airport transfer with him too. We'd also booked our tuk-tuk to Angkor with him.

There was much fuss when a third driver (not the original taxi driver or the tuk-tuk guy) collected us for the airport. His English wasn't as good (nor was tuk-tuk man's) and he (and his company) were very annoyed with us (since they missed out on payment and they said their guy had been waiting at Angkor for us all day). It involved The Trucker chatting on the phone with someone (they all call each other "my brother") and us paying in a portion of the fee.

It was really a not nice way to end our time there and I'd highly advise against using these taxi's for more than the trip from the airport to the hotel! Also, they all drive unbelievably slowly (and that is saying something in Vietnam or Cambodia!).

Our flight to Bangkok left a little late, although we were in no hurry. Thankfully we managed to check our luggage straight thru to Joburg and get our Boarding Passes for our 2nd flight, even tho they were not the same airline (Bangkok Airways to Bangkok and Thai Airways to Johannesburg). When we arrived in Bangkok, we discovered that our flight to Joburg had already been delayed by an hour. #Sigh

After being awake for 20 hours, I finally got a little sleep on a couch before we boarded. It was actually all part of the plan to enforce homeward-bourd-aeroplane-sleeping and it worked!

Well, I woke up around 4am Joburg time and decided to get in some movie-watching (otherwise it does feel a little like the international flight has been wasted!). I watched The Five-Year Engagement. Perfect aeroplane fodder. Very light entertainment. And as much as I like Marshall from HIMYM, I found the girl-lead's accent terribly annoying.

I then tried to watch The Hunger Games, you know, since I just loved the book and all ... The Trucker had watched the movie on the flight out. I didn't get to finish it, and I'm not at all fussed or bothered by that. The book was so much better. So much better. Ooh, and I did not like the girl actress in this at all. Seriously folks, skip the movie, read the book :) (Like you've never heard that before!)

But the fun and games didn't end there. We were queuing for Passport Control after we landed and it was a damn long queue for 07h30 (okay so now we're onto the 13 August, which is when we actually arrived home). And yes, they still have those funny fever scanners and we were joking about them because, honestly I've never seen one go off. And I then continued to joke with The Trucker that we'd get to see just how sick I actually was now (because he'd started off with a little bit of a cold during the trip and used all the medlemons and sinutab I'd packed and then I promptly got it from him and there were no meds left but with only a few days till home, I wasn't too bothered ... except, of course, about teasing him for giving it to me in the first place - haha).

Oh yes, and I'm sure you can see where this is going, I got stopped. It red-lighted me!? I was whisked away to the Port Authority Health Control booth where I had to fill in a form. We're light heartedly joking about swine flu (which weirdly enough my cousin had while I was in Vietnam ?!) and the lady says no, it's used more for Ebola these days! OMGWTF. Anyway, she wasn't too worried when we said we'd come from Vietnam & Cambodia and after a simple more-accurate ear-temperature measuring, I was free to go. Damn, I thought I'd at least get off work. Haha. Anyway, at least the drama meant Murphy wouldn't catch us going thru customs ;)

In other holiday-related news (sort of) I picked up a can of Fanta Fruit Twist at the Spar up the road from me (when we did a quick shop before going home). I liked it, but it is definitely not a South African regular. Shew. And that was our holiday. It was amazing :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

September Long Weekend in Lesotho

This was a totally awesome long weekend, I highly recommend it to those of you with a 4x4! It wasn't a super cheap escape tho, but we got dinner, bed & breakfast in both the places we stayed, which I'd say is pretty imperative when traveling in Lesotho (unless you are self-catering).

So, we started out on Friday afternoon, leaving Joburg a little later than we expected. We didn't have far to go tho because we spent the night in Reitz with The Trucker's mom & gran. Was nice to see them again and The Trucker made us a delish pasta dinner :)

We headed out on Saturday morn and had breakfast at Wimpy in Bethlehem. Which was quite cool for me because I don't think I've ever been there, but it's one of the small South African town's that my grandfather was magistrate of, it's where one of my Uncle's was born and it's where Daddio started school.

I didn't see much of it, tho and soon we were at the Caledonspoort / Butha-Buthe border crossing. I will say that these Lestoho-South Africa border crossings were both an absolute breeze! Easiest & Quickest border crossings we've had :)

The fun really started on the Mafika-Lisiu Mountain Pass to Lejone! There was some serious cloud cover as we headed up, up, up. Eventually (we didn't realise it until after but pretty much right at the top), we stopped. The Pajero was struggling with the uphill climbs. And we were right in the middle of a cloud. We could barely see 10m in front of us! It was freezing, but we hung around here on the side of the road at the Bokong National Park sign, waiting for the engine to cool.

When eventually it did, it wasn't a long drive till we were out of the cloud again and headed for our first view of the Katse Dam.

Shew, Katse Dam is freaking huge. We crossed over it and then drove thru some more mountains before meeting up with it again near Thaba-Tseka and heading to Katse Village. We arrived at the Orion Katse Lodge at about 3pm and after checking in we took a walk to the nearby Botanical Gardens (R5 entry).

They are not quite what you expect from Botanical Gardens, but if you find yourself with time to spare at Katse, I recommend it. It's quite a walk tho because the gardens are growing on the side of the hill, so while the down is quite pleasant there's a serious up that follows. They have an area with medicinal plants. But my favourite was their national plant, the Spiral Aloe. Stunning!

I think the walk was just what we needed after the lengthy drive. We relaxed in our hotel room before dinner. The hotel has one of those weird old-South-African hospital feels. Reminded me of a hotel I'd seen before near Gariep Dam, which also had that old-hospital feel. The sound carries and echos and  the ceilings are high and the windows are pretty small. That said, our room had quite a nice view of the Dam if you looked out.

The dining area and lounge has quite a lovely balcony area with some lovely views. The food was okay, again, I'm not a huge fan of buffet style eating.

The next morning we had breakfast (also buffet, breakfast buffets are normally much better than dinner ones in my opinion) and then headed to the Katse Dam Information Centre for their 9am tour (R10 per person) around the Dam. They do a talk on the Dam and then you get to head down to the Dam wall (in your own vehicles). It is absolutely huge. You get taken for a bit of a walk inside the Dam wall (no photos allowed) which is interesting ... having never been inside one before. And then you head around to drive across the wall itself. I'd recommend it!

And then we headed off to Sani Pass, via Mokhotlong. It was a long day of dirt road driving (although The Trucker didn't use his 4x4 at all). We even spotted some snow that hadn't melted yet, which came in super handy for cooling down the Pajero on the uphills again ;) Unfortunately supplies were running low and we literally ended up sharing a packet of Lemon Creams for lunch because they had hardly any of their shops open on a Sunday (and we're talking more the spaza type shops than anything we'd be used to in any of the small towns in South Africa!), but we eventually found one, and that was all they had that didn't require any preparation on our part. So much for hoping for a quick toasted sandwich or something. I'd bring more driving-snacks if we went to Lesotho again!

We got to Sani Pass Border Crossing after 4pm and the Sani Mountain Lodge is right there. It was freezing. I can't imagine how cold it is when there is actually snow there! Haha. We had booked a rondawel to ourselves and after unpacking, took a brief walk to enjoy the view down into South Africa. Stunning. We spent our evening in the Highest Pub in Africa chatting to some fellow South Africans (who had, oddly, both been to The Trucker's high school, but about 5 years ahead of him) and a girl from New Zealand (a geologist who'd been in SA doing a tour of some of our Platinum Mines).

We'd booked dinner, bed & breakfast again, which I was quite sorry about. They have, what looked like, a menu with some nice options (I'll admit I was craving a burger). But we had another, very similar, buffet dinner.

They lit a fire in our rondawel, but we were still freezing. I didn't even bother with a shower the next morning because The Trucker showered and found it cold (although the gas heater was working fine, obviously it just couldn't heat the water up enough from outside) ... and he likes the water even colder than I do!

After breakfast we got our passports stamped and started down the pass. Man, I am glad we were heading downhill ;) It was great fun tho :) And to my complete surprise there were people cycling *up* it! Crazy.

At the bottom of the pass, you get stamped back into South Africa. And then it was just a straight drive back home on the highways via Howick. Was not a spectacular drive home, mood-wise, as I've mentioned. But it hasn't ruined my memory of an awesome weekend in Lesotho, one I would highly recommend :)

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