Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nigella could learn a thing or two...

Well, people!
You'll be happy to know that since the Big Brown Moth cake from a few posts back, things have gone from strength to strength for me in the kitchen. Here's the same recipe, done in a round cake tin, with the same chocolate ganache and real black cherries:

I had originally planned on using marachino cherries, but when I saw these, I simply had to use them. The dark cherries against the ooey-gooey chocolate... Heaven!
Having Best Boy around on the weekends means that I now have a willing and hungry lab mouse to test my cooking and baking on. And I really couldn't be happier!
So far I've mastered a choc-pud for two... (Aaaaaaaaaw!) The look on Best Boy's face when I served it up was absolutely priceless. I'd whipped it up in no time at all and it was scrumptious! And then last week I wowed him with a warm banana tart-tartin (served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream) that had him in dreamland.
And as far as the savoury dishes go, I'm having loads of fun cooking things like:
Various kinds of roast chicken (Moroccan; peri-peri; BBQ spice)
Red Thai Chicken Curry and Basmati Rice
Creamy Garlic Mushroom Pasta
Oven Braised Guinness Beef Stew
Egg Fried Rice
... And much, much more!
I've even made some home made pies using the left over Guinness Beef Stew as filling. That was a really winner, especially if you keep them in the freezer and then pop them in the oven with some potato wedges for a simple, hearty, no-fuss dinner.
I made a tuna / rice casserole that I wasn't too keen on... I'm not sure if that's because it wasn't good, or because I'm BATTLING to find ways to get cheap / high-protein tuna into my body without GAGGING. When it comes to fish, it appears that I unfortunately have very expensive taste! Unless it's sushi or SUPER fresh fish done in a restaurant by a professional chef, I really. Can't. Do it.
I have tried just about everything. The only frozen / convenience fish that I like is crumbed and that flies against EVERYTHING I believe in, as well as my "no-major-carbs-after-five" rule. Oh well. I'm still trying and experimenting. I made some divine fish cakes a while back, but they did take time and I think I was too tired from work to enjoy the messy experience. Maybe if I make them and freeze them over the weekend I'll feel better about it. I make mine with mashed potato and egg (to bind), so they're completely gluten and fat free which is GREAT. It's just that they take time.
Oh! And Best Boy LOVES my heart shaped breakfast muffins on a Sunday morning. Oops. I just realised how naughty that sounded. *wink*
Here I am cooking up a storm in my mom's kitchen last Sunday, being extra silly when my friend Trysten pointed the camera at me!

(And thanks Gail for the pic of the cake... Stunning!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Like OMG, you guys!

I have finally joined the world of... ONLINE SHOPPING!
And my very first purchase was this outstanding cook book by my all time hero, Nigella Lawson. I've been hooked on the "Nigella Express" show for ages now, feverishly typing the recipes onto my cell phone (where I won't lose them) while Nigella deliciously (and effortlessly) shares all her time-saving, flavour making kitchen secrets. So when my best mate Noodle told me that she'd seen the book on an online shopping spot called Take2 I decided to go for it, and make the culinary investment of a life time. Now... Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Jamie Oliver. He's one of my heroes too. His recipes are also quite quick, fuss-free and, of course, packed with flavour. But there's something about Nigella's less-than-10-ingredients, ready-in-10-minutes, but still unbelievably decadent approach that speaks to the "Domestic Goddess" in me. She's the original, no doubt. But, dammit! I'm on my way to being a close second!
And yes... I can feel you from way over here, - feel you wondering WHY it's taken me so very long to join the wicked-convenient world of online shopping. Well, let me first share that I have only JUST started doing the online banking thing. Uh-huh... I have always felt the need to see the FACE of the person that I'm handing my hard earned moolah too, just in case! It's a been a long, winding road that has tested my determination with many a trust-issue inducing speed bump along the way, but I've finally made it. I ordered last week and a week later, the book was on my desk.
If that's not wicked awesome, I don't know what the fuck is!
And I know what you're thinking... This rush that I'm feeling is really just the start of yet another downward spiral into dept and financial ruin. It might be. But, knowing me (and as much as I've always had a weakness for nice things) I've always somehow managed to stick to my means.
Oh my gosh. It feels like Christmas!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Conversations: Coffee Shop

A boy and girl sit close together at a coffee shop. While she sips on her chocolate milkshake and he munches on a burger, she notices the stares they're getting from passersby observing the couple's intimacy.
Girl: ... I don't think these people have ever seen a couple in love before...
Boy: Well. We're not in love.
Girl: We're not??!!
Boy: Nope... We're past that now. We ARE love.
Girl: :D

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Older. Wiser. Fitter.

Kinda like: Simpler, better, faster...
That's the way I feel at 35.
Yes people, Carmen has officially had yet another birthday and turned another year older... and she feels just fine, thank you very much!
Now that I'm hitting the gym pretty hard and feeling slimmer/fitter, I find that I'm sleeping better and feeling good. Those hard-to-hear old cliches about how good exercise is for you are all true, I'm afraid. There really are no short cuts to feeling good. One of the lessons I've learned in my grand old age is that you just have to get off your ass and DO IT ALREADY!
And... after the year I've had, I think I needed the extra surge of endorphins and adrenaline to lift my spirits and clear my head. It's been a year of fresh starts (moving into my own place), adventure (spending Christmas and New Year with good friends in Canada) and sad endings. For a while, I closed the door on a relationship that I thought would be forever, opening myself to a new level of sadness that I'd never experienced before. On the one hand I made wonderful new friends, and on the other extreme I watched a devastated family bury one of those new friends after he decided he couldn't go on any longer and ended it all. His passing opened my mind to thoughts I'd never had before. I wondered just how sad one would have to feel to take one's own life. I wondered how sad I would have to be, and I marveled at the inner strength and spirituality I managed to find, deep down inside, to pull myself through my own sadness. I thought about how, in our modern day quest for independence and privacy we've somehow opened ourselves up to a lonelier, more isolated existence. In my folks' day, by the time you were 35 you were having the 3rd kid, moving into your second (bigger) home and had at least 2 cars in the driveway. Those plurals seems to elude us at 35 today... I was reminded of the wonderful people and things I have in my life, and how I should thank God everyday for letting me know them and have them around. I realised how vain and arrogant we are to think that all the brilliant opportunities that God gives us will just keep coming forever; that we can turn our noses up at those opportunities, thinking they'll never dry up.
After a year of putting on a brave face, this has been a birthday FILLED will spoiling, love and attention and, I must be honest, I reveled in every second of it. I took a few days off, planned one little activity for each day and pretty much soaked up the peace and quiet of my place, my book and my state of mind. Oh! And I got my hair done... YAY.
Two of my favourite kids in the whole wide world treated me to a surprise party in the front yard, as I was leaving for work.

Declan and Astin, thank you so much for my precious card, pretty flowers, mini chocolate muffin birthday cake (with twirly candle), hugs and kisses. The best part was watching the two of you in a MAD scramble, trying to get the surprise ready without me finding out. *pfft*
My folks and brothers spoiled me rotten with gifts and calls from far, far away.
And my cell phone/facebook/email didn't stop with all the messages from friends and family, near and far.
After not having seen each other for ages, Best Boy treated me to a wonderful seafood lunch, showing me that the door hadn't closed, but opened onto a new level of grown up stuff. Thanks, Best Boy. Or should I call you "Mushashi" now? I can't wait to taste some of the Japanese food you're learning to make.
I've even started baking again. It's been the biggest dream of mine to bake up a storm for my loved ones every Sunday, but for some reason in this year of change, I'd never gotten around to breaking in my new oven with one of the thousands of recipes I've been collecting over the years. Somehow, this weekend, it all felt right and I baked a chocolate butterfly cake. Here it is straight out the oven.

And here it is after I'd smothered it in chocolate sauce and Flake.

My mom and I had a good chuckle that it looked more like a MOTH than a butterfly (seeing as it was all brown and stuff), but it was delicious anyway. Chocolate, brandy and coffee: a winning combination. I'll be making another one for book club next week so look out, girls!
Yeah... It's a new year for me. A new beginning. My Chinese sign is Tiger, and next year (2010) is the Year of the Tiger so I'm looking forward to adventure, prosperity, love, happiness, new beginnings... All that good stuff.
Thanks for joining me on this crazy rollercoaster we call Life.
I'm looking forward to the next 35 with an open heart and open mind.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Have you met Easy-Boy?

He's Ella's best friend...
You might remember little Ella from this story.
Well... On Friday morning, Ella informed her dad, Wayne, that Easy Boy (she named him) was really REALLY missing Carmen (me!) and that he wanted to come to the office to spend the day (and some quality time) with me.
So, here he is, hogging my mac:

Easy normally smells like dog breath and toe jam, so I can't tell you how pleased I was to discover that he'd had a bath first before coming over to visit.

Sweet satisfaction!

In a stressful, hectic life that can pretty much be summed up in the above pic (my car being towed to the mechanic) I find that it's the simple pleasures that bring me so much joy...
Introducing my sprouts:

Grown by little ol' me, on my windowsill for my salads.
In just seven days, these little beauties were ready to eat... But almost too pretty to eat.

Not only do I get the satisfaction of growing my own food (however small it may be) but now there's another living energy in my home that gives me such peace...
Watching sprouts grow, - one of life's sweetest, simplest pleasures.

Monday, June 08, 2009

HaikuNunu's "Mukluks"

Introducing: The Last of the True Gentlemen

Men of the world, take a page out of this young man's book and learn how to really treat a lady. His name is "D" and he is living proof that chivalry is NOT dead, but hanging on for dear life through the few good guys left. If you want be just like him, you might want to follow these few simple steps...
1. Be cute. - If you're not cute, stop ready now. There's no hope for you. D has the biggest, sparkliest eyes in the world. Like seriously.
2. Treat a lady, like a lady... NAY like a queen! - D does this by meeting me at the gate with handmade chocolates. (That's one in his little paw in the pic.) If you can't make chocolate and/or meet your lady at the gate after a long day at work with said chocolates, stop reading now. You're a lost cause.
3. Be a sport's legend in the making. - When this young man plays sport, he wins. Every time. No exceptions. If you're not a winner, stop reading now. You're wasting your time.
He's going to be such a little heartbreaker when he grows up...

I remember my first crush. I was in Class 1 (the first grade). His name was "M", and...
He had the deepest dimples and longest, thickest eyelashes and he was the smartest, funniest boy in class. I remember us being silly together. He would play air guitar and I would sing along... *sigh*
Years later, in high school, he hooked up with a chick who really didn't dig me, and we (him and I) bumped into each other at some silly teenage party. He was there as her date and I couldn't tell him how I felt. I wouldn't have even if she wasn't in the picture. Fear? Pride? I don't know. All I do know is that it was quite a lost opportunity to remind him about the air guitar and singing. I wonder where he is now. I wonder if he'd even remember me. I remember, even in Class 1 he liked my best friend and I was just the silly tongue-tied, wide-eyed, clumsy girl in the background desperately wanting him to notice me, but hiding behind my painful shyness.
I've always thought that I didn't have a type but now that I reflect on those heavenly eyelashes, I realise that I've always gone for beautiful eyes.

Would I give it all to be D's age again? To experience those first crushes, first kisses, first heart breaks, first sweaty-palmed hand holding, first love letters, first walk home from school while he carries your books, first secret Valentine's hidden in your desk?
I don't thing so...
I've come too far.
My old heart has been through too much to be as open and free and fearless as D's is right now to enjoy every new moment for what it is.
But, man! He's in for such a journey. Such a rollercoaster ride.
Wouldn't it be great if we could wipe the slate clean and unlearn / forget all the things that have made is the guarded, cautious, scared little people that we are and just... live?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dexter Season One: *****

Is it wrong to be in love with a serial killer?
If it is, just lock me up and throw away the key... For I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Dexter.
I know I'm a little behind time on this one. Everyone watching the series on tv is already on season three, but you've got to understand that with my busy life I often end up missing episodes of my favourite shows, and then I lose interest and stop watching altogether. When you have a busy work life, plus the gym every day, a cat to spoil, a home to look after, books to read, projects to sew/crochet AND still need to find some "me time" is impossible to catch every episode when tv land thinks you should. So being able to get the various series on dvd has completely changed my life. No commercial breaks... No waiting one whole week to catch the next development... Pause-ability for loo breaks... Replay-ability for when you want to watch something again... It's great!
So my brother got my into Dexter when I visited last weekend and I'm so hooked. I basically marathoned the entire first season in 3 nights and I've managed to book season 2 and 3 with a friend of mine who's a bit of a collector. I can't wait, honestly!
The series is well written. The casting is good. The blood looks real.
Do yourself a favour and watch from the pilot episode. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three Quick Reviews

Review One:
And Unfinished Life: ***1/2

If you're an aspiring writer you really want to give this book a read. I can't say that the plot was all that incredible, but the characters were simply amazing. Such depth, detail, honesty and insight! Mark Spragg captures little human moments that we see but don't register or take for granted. There's something cool that happens in your heart when you read a moment like that, recognise it in someone that you know and empathise. Give An Unfinished Life a try. You won't be disappointed.

Review Two:
Confessions of a Shopaholic: Zero Stars

What the fuck was I thinking?
There should be a law against this kind of shit. Movies like this make women dumber by the second. They suck the IQ right out of you through your eyeballs. I was at lest 5 IQ points lighter when I left the theatre. WTF.

Review Three / Contraption Review / "Best of the Internet from Last Week":
The Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator: *****

This little baby allows you to aerate our wine and drink it immediately, instead of having to open the bottle and allow the wine to "breathe" for several hours. On our wine tour in Cape Town last month, the guide advised us that you can actually open your wine in the morning if you're going to be drinking it later that night. I barely have time to remember to pack a healthy lunch, let alone remember to open my wine for that evening. Whatever. ANY contraption that allows you to drink your wine IMMEDIATELY is an winner in my book. Read more here.

HaikuNunu's "Thought Bubbles..."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Completed Projects: Can I get a whoop WHOOP??!!

All my life my mom has teased me about the fact that I start a million projects and never seem to finish. It's not just an accusation. It's a fact really, and the biggest piece of evidence would be a tapestry that I started when I was in primary school. It's still sitting in a plastic bag on top of my wardrobe right now. Half done. Half not done. To be fair, this level of procrastination doesn't come from nowhere. That particular tapestry was started by my mom, when she was pregnant with my brother, Donovan. Don will be 32 this year. The defense rests.
You can therefore imagine my elation when I actually manage to finish a project. You might remember that last year some time I taught myself how to crochet (from the INTERNET, thank you very much) and started a VERY ambitious project of a bed throw. Too big. I should have aimed lower, started smaller and set myself some achievable goals... Right now, the granny square blocks are in a bag at the back of the wardrobe. Not far from the tapestry.
So... I humbly present: Completed Project Number One! The first of its kind in Carmen History, EVER!

It's a baby blanket for little Max my best girl, Maria's, little boy. We didn't know he was going to be a boy until he popped out, so I stuck to neutral colours, buttery cream and chocolate. I'd say it took about 2 months of solid, frantic crocheting. This little baby went with me to the hair salon and even flew to minus 44 in Canada with me.
Completed Project Number 2 is a set of baby blocks for my friend Natalie's little boy, Xavier.

This project took very little time actually. Again, I kept the colours very "baby" rather than gender specific. Natalie also wanted to be surprised and didn't want to know the gender of the baby. I must say that this was a really fun project to do and the 3 little blocks turned out very cute.
And finally (for now), Completed Project Number 3: A sari book cover for my daily scripture book.

The actual cover was just awful and I couldn't bring myself to enjoy my daily meditation when this ugly cover was sitting in my lap. So in a fit of creative energy I cut up an old sari that I had lying around and sewed a cute little cover for my book. This was SO incredibly easy to do and I'm actually thinking of making a few more to hand out as gifts.
I'm getting better with this "completed project" business, as you can see. There's a half crocheted scarf and baby blanket in my crochet basket right now. Not to mention that damned bed throw. I should have just made one GIANT granny square instead of going for a patch-work / quilt type effect. Now I have a million granny squares to block and join. I'll never finish this one. I feel it in my bones...

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's great working in advertising... But let me tell you why.

Don't ask me WHY we thought it would be funny, but a bunch of the girls in the office (in a moment of complete boredom) decided to construct a willy out of a banana, 2 apples and a fake mustache, and place it on one of the guy's desks while he was out to lunch.
What followed for the next 15minutes was complete confusion as we argued over the anatomical correctness of the various willies we'd constructed.
Let's just say it took 4 girls, 4 attempts to get it "right".
Judge for yourself:

I hadn't laughed that hard in ages...

Contraption Review: Fail!

Well... Being the little jet-setter that I am, I can hardly expect my wonderful friends and family to always be around to feed my beloved Beena while I'm away. So I decided to get one of these little feeders from the pet store.
Pretty simple: You simply fill it up with their food and as they nibble from the tray, the holder releases more food into the tray to replenish it.
I was really hopeful about this one, because my Beena is not a big eater and never finishes her full day's feed. So I knew that she wouldn't be liked some pets who gobble up all the food in the feeder and end up starving afterward. For a short trip of 2 days / 2 nights, this feeder would've held MORE than enough food for my little angel!
Unfortunately... The food kept jamming in the release opening and she didn't know how to stick a paw in to shake things around to release more food. :(
Don't bother getting one of these for your kitty / pup. They're just not worth it!
So, sadly we're back to relying on the kindness of others to feed my angel.
I'm off to Johannesburg next month for a few days...
Anyone keen to babysit?

Well, done my fellow South Africans!

Well done for casting your vote and making your voice heard.
Here's hoping and praying that we're all equally and fairly represented in SA's new government.

HaikuNunu's "Flame"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What an awesome way to end Lent and celebrate Easter!

... In the Mother City, Cape Town with my mom, dad and youngest brother, Brendan.

Here's where I get to do my bit for SA Tourism and wax lyrical about what is truly one of the most amazing cities in the world. Mountains, beach, winelands, history, shopping, arts & culture... there's nothing that Cape Town is lacking in, and I'm probably sure I'm missing out a few key categories.
But, here goes...
There's no way I could possibly capture it all in words, so I'm going to let the pictures speak for me, with the odd note here and there to let you know what you're looking at.

This is how early we had to be at the airport. The sun was only just putting in an appearance as I took this pic from the restaurant window. I should mention here that I had been on my fast for Lent for about 40 to 50 days and only had that day (Holy Thursday) and the next day (til 3pm - Good Friday) to go. So while everyone else tucked into their bacon, eggs and toast I had eggs and chips. I'd given up booze, meat, fish, wheat and the obvious ones like chocolate and cake, - all the good stuff, and was left with veggies, fruit, dairy, eggs, tofu and legumes/nuts etc. I knew that I would make it gracefully to the end. I do it every year, but I will say that as you get older and look forward to that glass of wine with your dinner in the evening, it seems to get tougher and tougher not to feel a little sorry for yourself when you see others "indulging". It was also with mixed feelings that I left my beloved cat, Sabrina, in the care of my landlady (Shelley). I knew that she'd do a fantastic job of looking after her, but knowing that Beena's only been living with me for ±8weeks and was still adjusting to her new home, did worry me quite a bit. I knew she'd miss me and that made me miss her even more. I bought her a little radio so she wouldn't feel too lonely, topped up her clean kitty litter and made sure that Shelley knew where to find her food etc.

Well, we arrived in Cape Town without a hitch and met Brendan at the airport (he flew from Johannesburg where he now lives and works), collected our hire car and headed straight for our accommodation in Camps Bay. I'm told that we were blessed with 6 of the most stunning days (weather-wise) that Cape Town has seen in a long time, especially for this time of the year. As you can see, we had nothing but sunshine the whole time. You're looking at pics of our B&B and the views of Cape Town from all angles.

In the many, MANY times I've been to Cape Town I've never been able to go up Table Mountain. Just my bad luck, whenever I've gone the weather has always been a bit dodgy. But this time, clear skies and no wind meant that we could take the cable car up the side of the mountain all the way to the top to take in the breathtaking views, enjoy a light lunch and do a bit of shopping.

If there's one waterfront / harbour place you get to visit in your lifetime, make it The V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. Great vibe, live music on every corner, unbelievably good food, a wide variety of things to do, even seagulls that steal your fish and chips right out of your plate. That's one of them, checking out my chips in the bottom right pic. I bought the most amazing African dresses from the craft market... *happy sigh*

I've been once before, but I was happy to go to Robben Island for a second time in my life to see the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life. (He was incarcerated for 27 years, but 18 of them were on the island and the rest were elsewhere.) A ±45minute ferry ride takes you out there, and then a bus tour takes you around the island and an ex-political prisoner takes you through the prison facility. The bottom left pic is the lime quarry that has left Nelson Mandela partially blinded after years of crushing lime stone for no reason other than punishment. The lime wasn't used for anything after it had been crushed. The bottom right pic is of his 2m by 2m prison cell. The bucket on the right was his toilet and the blankets on the floor were his bed. Failure to fold them exactly as prescribed (seen in the pic) would result in solitary confinement.

That's the ferry that took us to the island (a former leper colony before it became a prison for political prisoners during the apartheid era). Looking at it like this, you would never believe that such pain, torture and suffering took place here. The pic in the top left corner is of an old Taiwanese wreck and the one on the right is the view of Table Mountain from the island.

Cape Point was truly one of the most amazing places I've ever been. It's the southern most tip of Africa where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. I've been to Cairo too, so for me it was really cool knowing that I've been to the Northern and Southern most tips of the continent. In the bottom left pic you'll see one of the many stinky baboons that hang out there waiting for scraps of food that dumb tourists feed them. (READ THE SIGNS PEOPLE! Don't feed the animals! Sheesh.) My brother and I walked all the way to the top in no time at all, but my folks took the little shuttle because it IS a little tough for the older folk to get to the top without being puffed out. The drive there and back to Camps Bay was stunning... Little seaside villages with quaint antique shops and book shops. *sigh* We stopped at a fish and chip place and had the BEST piece of battered fish I've ever eaten in my life... wait for it... FOR TWENTY RAND A PIECE! Practically for free. That's $2 (USD) a piece guys. Buttery, flaky hake in crispy, puffy batter. There are no words, seriously.

On the Sunday we popped into church for Easter Mass. The choir was pretty dismal but we felt good none-the-less knowing that we'd made it to the end of Lent. I had actually broken my fast on Good Friday evening with a double cheese burger and a scotch/soda... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Sweet freedom, you tickle my tongue and warm my belly.

We decided to save the best for the last day and booked a one-day tour of the Stellenbosch winelands, with a guided long walk through the Delheim vineyard, several wine tastings and a stop for lunch at one of Stellenbosch's posh little restaurants. I can't tell you how much I learned about wine, grapes and wine-making in that walk! I have a whole new appreciation for the poetic, philosophical process that is wine making. I love that kind of shit! It's right up my alley. I can now spot a Cabernet Sauvignon leaf from a mile away, or a "Cab Sav" leaf as we wine connoisseurs fondly refer to it. And in the bottom left pic you'll see the Pinotage vines soaking up the sun. Pinotage (just so you know) is a grape variety indigenous to South Africa. in fact it was created in a lab by a bunch of scientists keen to create a grape that would thrive in our climate. A well-known, regular variety that thrives here naturally is Chardonnay, so look out for a good SA Chardonnay when you're out and you won't go wrong! (Delheim's Chardonnay "Sur Lie"... Mmmmmmmmmmmmh!)

And finally some random people pics... My mom, dad and Brendan at the top of Table Mountain in the bottom right pic. Me at the top of Table mountain in the top left pic and Nisha, Shivani and me partying at Cubana for Nisha's birthday on Saturday night.

God, I love that city.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

FRESHLYGROUND at the Durban Botanic Gardens

Ok... So sue me!
I'm probably the only South African out there who really doesn't think that FRESHLYGROUND is "all that and a bag of biltong".
At least I didn't think so, until last Sunday and their awesome afternoon concert at the Durban Botanic Gardens. Haleluia! PRAISE GAHD! I've seen the light. FRESHLYGROUND rocks!
I only pitched up in the first place because two of my best mates were going to be there, and it was either the concert or dvds on the sofa... Bleh.
And I know what you're thinking: A bottle of wine in Durban's blazing Summer sun will make ANY band seem great. Well, just so you know, I'm completely sober these days thanks to Lent - it's a Catholic thing - and I was totally sober the whole afternoon.
There was an hour or so from the opening band, Maisha:

The buffed arms on the lead guy were killer! ROWR! And the music was good too. Very chilled, laid back, African vibe with a bit of reggae thrown in. Lovely stuff.
But there's a reason that FRESHLYGROUND has become one of the most sought-after SA headliners. They came out dancing and rocking and jumping and interacting with the crowd from the moment they hit the stage until they left about and hour later.

That little lead singer chick is AWESOME!

In spite of myself, I got the biggest goosebumps ever when she sang "I'd Like" and hit all the big notes, just right. My mate Lor is a big fan so she was right up front for all the songs, dancing the afternoon away. But it was quite funny when she turned around at one point to find that she was the only one standing there waiting for them to start playing. Everyone else had wandered off after Maisha and Lor was left standing there, staring at the stage until she had the good sense to turn around and head back to our picnic blanket.

That's Lor in the cream top, laughing her ass off... Hah!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Contraption Review: *****

I'm giving this homemade contraption five stars, a kiss and a hug!
Let me tell you just what it does: Stops my kitty cat from climbing the tree and getting stuck in the branches or jumping onto the roof, from whence I will NEVER be able to help her down.

I wanted Beena to be able to play in her new garden and enjoy scratching / sharpening her claws on the massive trees in the yard (just like she used to do back home at my folks' place). But alas! In her nervousness with adapting to a new environment, I found that she would RACE up to the top of the tree at the slightest movement or loud noise, and it would take me FOREVER to coax her down again. Cats also tend to run AWAY from you while you're trying to help them, so I found that she would look at the roof (just a few inches away) and be getting ready to pounce on top, instead of coming to me and safety. At my parents' place, we found a little route that she could follow to get back to solid ground, but here at the new place, there's no such thing. I'd have to get a ladder... And even that won't work because, like I said, cats run AWAY from you when you're trying to help. It would have been a real disaster if she got onto the roof...

So my dad and I devised this cunning plan involving some plastic chicken wire, some washing line wire and a few bits of plastic coated wire to secure it all in place. It basically looks like a wire lampshade that sits around the trunk of the tree about 2meters off the ground. Beena can scratch as much as she wants and climb to a height of 2meters, but once she sees the obstruction, she quickly scampers down again and finds another curiosity to investigate elsewhere in the garden. Phew.

And of course, the tree is not harmed in any way at all and the contraption is barely visible from a couple of meters away.

I beg your pardon. I never promised you a herb garden!

But I've grown one anyway.

You've got to understand what a big deal this is...
My father, who is an avid gardener and lover of all things garden related, has always lamented the fact that my younger brothers and I have never shown any interest in the garden at all. He would often try to inspire us, encourage us and when all else failed he sometimes resorted to outright bribery and finally threats. None of it worked.
Don't get me wrong... I LOVE flowers. Adore them, in fact.
It's the bugs that completely freak me out.
I remember going through a particularly weird (read: "lonely") teenage phase where I decided to adopt a little potted green plant for my bedroom. I called her Wendy and decided that she was going to be my best mate. (If you grew up on movies like Revenge of the Nerds, or anything from that time featuring the Brat Pack, you would also have done weird shit like that. That's what they did in the movies, so that's what we all did. Pet rocks and shit like that.) Well... All went well with little old Wendy for about 2 weeks or so, until the one day I picked her up off the windowsill to "chat" and a giant bug crawled up my arm. I vaguely remember shrieking and FLINGING Wendy across the room. She hit the fridge door and landed in a thousand gritty pieces of wet sand, leaves and stems.
Not good.
And it got steadily worse from there. Once I started work I was determined to join my lady workmates in nurturing a little desk plant with pride and cooing admiration. So I said to myself, I said: "Self, if there's one thing NOBODY can kill it's a cactus; they live out in the desert; they go for months (nay, YEARS!) without water; they're indestructible." WRONG! What followed over the years was a basic mass genocide, a cactus holocaust if you will, as innocent baby cactus after innocent baby cactus perished under my watchful eye. Oh yeah... It was not a pretty sight and not something that I am particularly proud of.
Fast-forward to today and my new living space (with perfect garden area) and a growing obsession with cooking. To be honest, it's been a dream of mine for some time now to have a herb garden, but after my "bad luck" with plants, I was hesitant to add to the death toll. The carnage had to stop!
But lately, as I've matured, I discovered that I was beginning to find the courage to interact with the plant world again. So I got my dad to pot a few herbs for me. Nothing to major. Just some simple stuff to "get my feet wet"... And look!

Almost a month down the line: My basil is thriving. My chilli plant is not bearing yet but growing well. My curry leaf plant is looking good. My brand new parsley seems to be catching on and my sage is hanging on for dear life. My mint was looking good, but now the leaves have gone black at the tips and the thyme didn't seem to want to grow from the very start, so bleh!
Watering them every evening as the sun goes down and Beena romps in the background somewhere, has become one of the most peaceful, happiest parts of my day.