Also by me...


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spa Vouchers

When I resigned from teaching I was given a spa voucher as a farewell gift. I am not a lady of leisure so any kind of pampering (in that form) is completely foreign to me. I know pampering that comes in the form of a glass of wine while my husband makes dinner or a night out with my husband or an impromptu  shoulder massage  or when I let my six year old daughter do my make-up – make no mistake, these are things I love and thoroughly enjoy. But when it comes to pampering in the form of a spa treatment, I am a complete novice.
I will be honest and say that the whole concept of letting a stranger massage my entire body was slightly unnerving. The spa voucher stayed on my bedside table for about 3 months before I actually used it. I decided to use it two weeks before I got married; it seemed like a perfect pre-wedding activity. I had also quit smoking (again) and was feeling very healthy – these two factors resulted in me making the call and going in for my first ever full-body massage.
The day before, I prepared myself by shaving and washing my hair, straightening my hair and selecting an outfit. I realise that this may all sound unnecessary but I wanted to make sure that nothing in my appearance would give away the fact that this was not the world I lived in. The world of spa vouchers, manicures, pedicures, weekly massages, champagne lunches and Prada hand bags was not (and is still not) my world.
On arrival at the spa I was greeted with a smile and they even knew my name. I waited for a while in the waiting lounge reading a magazine. All I could hear was running water and all I could smell were scented candles and aromatherapy oils – I would recommend going to spend a few hours in the waiting room of a spa; even that experience was pretty relaxing. After handing them my spa voucher I was lead to the changing rooms.
I had my own locker key and inside this locker I would find my robe, a very very tiny pair of panties (that could have been mistaken for a hair-band) and some comfy slippers. I was told to change into the robe and slippers and then make my way to the couches by the candles.  This specific spa treatment center was made to look like a cave. The walls were only made out of large rocks and behind me were stairs leading down to, what looked like, underground rock pools. This place was heavenly.
As I was gawking, mouth open, at this amazing place, a woman came up to me with a bowl of warm water and said that she was going to wash my feet. I almost said that she didn’t have to (to me it felt like such a degrading act, you know, to wash someone else’s feet) but I stopped myself. This is what these people do for a living (and I know how much that spa voucher cost) so I sat back at let the pampering begin.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and I would love to do it again. But I am also so grateful that this is not a regular part of my world because then I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much. Every woman deserves to be pampered and treated like a queen once in her life, so if you are looking for a wonderful gift for a woman, this is definitely the way to go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wine Tasting

In my opinion, there is one essential thing that is needed when doing a day of wine tasting. You absolutely need to have a designated driver. I am not saying that is essential that you drink so much that you resemble a drunken sailor but we all know that even after four tastings you might be over the legal driving limit. So find someone who (for some bazaar reason doesn’t drink) and head off to nearest cluster of wine farms.
I would think that twelve o’clock is a good time to start. Make sure you have had a big oily breakfast of bacon and eggs and then get going. I say twelve o’clock because that seems to be the socially acceptable time to start drinking and because then, after a few wine tastings, you can buy a bottle (or two) to share with your friends while enjoying a wonderful lunch at a beautiful vineyard.
There are some wine farms that suggest you spit out the wine after tasting. You first swirl the wine around in your glass, then you take a sniff, then you take a sip and then you spit. After all of this you need say something intelligent like, “I can taste the fruit under-tone and even a hint of lavender” and then the person pouring the wine will nod and smile at your impressive knowledge of wine.
There are many types of wine that you will be trying on your wine tasting excursion. Let’s start with the white wine – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer (never in my life have I heard of that one but it sounds like the hangover might be bad), Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Reisling and Sauvignon Blanc. Personally, I like a good Chardonnay, my favourite being Zonnebloem but I have been known to dabble in a little Sauvignon Blanc once in a while.
Then we get the red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Shiraz are the names that sound familiar to me but the following I know nothing about - Cabernet Franc, Chianti, Barolo, Barberesco, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec, Tempranillo, Grenache, Bordeaux, and Côtes du Rhône. The only red wine I will gladly drink is my dad’s (he has a vineyard at the back of his house and makes only red wine). Generally, red wine’s dry after taste reminds me, for some reason, of chalk on a chalkboard. So unless it is my dad’s Klip Huis Wyn (Shiraz) I am not likely to try it, even at a wine tasting
All in all, I would say that there is quite a lot to learn on a day of wine tasting. You learn about wine, you learn about the area that you are in and about the vineyards. And most importantly, you get to have a great day out with your friends and I am sure that the more you drink, the more you will learn about them too.

Cooking School and Culinary Classes

I am not a natural cook or baker. I have a few standard recipes (mostly taken from the meals my parents used to cook for me) and some that I have invented on my own. I do not know what spices go with what food or what sauce will make a certain dish taste awesome. I just don’t have that natural cooking instinct. Baking makes me anxious because I never know if it is going to turn out OK and the messiness of baking doesn’t work well with my obsessive compulsive tidy gene.
If anybody should take culinary classes it should be me. Show me exactly how to make something and show me that the end result will be tasty and then I will be able to reproduce it at home. Reading recipes from cookbooks or magazines doesn’t work for me because I am so sure that I will miss a vital step and then instead of making potato fritters I end up making extra warm mashed potato.
Cooking school is unfortunately not a cheap way of learning how to cook. I think you need to actually have a passion for cooking to attend an actual cooking school – you need to be one of those people that feels that cooking as an art, that it is a creative process. I find nothing creative about the process of cooking, my language might get quite creative when I mess it up, but other than that it is just one of those things I need to do in order to make my tummy happy. Cooking, for me, is purely an act which results in me and my family being fed.
I wish I could be a culinary genius and have an endless amount of recipes in my head at any given moment, but right now I can only think of these – potato bake, quiche, lasagne, grilled vegetables and cous cous, pasta with creamy mushroom sauce and braai food (yes, that does count). It is not a bad start, but I think that some culinary classes will definitely be beneficial.
I must admit that baking has become more enjoyable now that my daughter gets involved. Her happiness becomes my happiness and I tend to worry less about the flour and the eggs and the sugar and the baking powder spilling on the counter and the floor and on her clothes and the dishes that keep piling up and…OK, maybe those things still bother me…but I am trying to let go and rather just experience it through her eyes. Cooking school for kids would be a great idea; Kayla would love to go to culinary classes, I would love that too - she could teach me instead.
The Collins dictionary states that to cook is “to prepare food by the action of heat, as by boiling, baking, etc, or of food to become ready for eating through such a process.” If only it could be that easy, but alas, it involves ingredients, creativity, functional taste buds and most of all the ability to enjoy the task of cooking. What I have definitely learnt (in my 7 years of cooking for myself) is that an angry cook makes yucky food but a happy cook makes delicious food, no matter how mediocre it may be.

Aerobatic Flight

When I first saw those words, aerobatic flight, I pictured a young woman in a red sparkly leotard jumping into the air, doing a summersault and landing on a tight rope. And then I Googled it…I found out that I was very very wrong. Aerobatic flight is not an acrobat flying but rather a small bi-plane that does ridiculously dangerous turny things while flying.

The website,, describes aerobatic flight as a “neck- numbing, adrenaline-inducing roller coaster of thrills 2000ft in the air”. Anything that gets described as neck-numbing is not OK with me; who on earth wants a numb neck? Not me. According to them “it is the best seat in the house of the best view in the world”, I beg to differ – how much of the world do you think you are going to see when you are turning and rolling and feeling nauseous  and closing your eyes out of pure “neck-numbing” fear?

In an attempt to entice you even more, they state that "from the front seat of the open-cockpit bi-plane you’ll even get a chance to do a loop and roll before you head home". Oh wow, how kind of you.  And then they have the nerve to suggest that you "fly the plane yourself! Indulge your childhood fantasy," definitely not my fantasy, "and take control of an aerobatic training aircraft. Strap yourself in", thanks for the safety tip,"for the ride of your life". I feel dizzy just writing about this.

Wikipedia states that “aerobatics is the practice of flying maneuvers involving aircraft attitudes that are not used in normal flight”. I agree, aerobatic flight seems rather abnormal to me. It goes on the say that “most aerobatic maneuvers involve rotation of the aircraft about its longitudinal (roll) axis or lateral (pitch) axis. Other maneuvers, such as a spin, displace the aircraft about its vertical (yaw) axis”. Roll, pitch and raw – terms I have never heard before and terms I never wish to hear again.

Now, what are the aerobatic flight safety measures? Wikipedia offered this ‘reassuring’ comment, “in some countries, the pilot must wear a parachute when performing aerobatics”…mmm…only in some countries, why not in all? Surely all countries love their citizens, surely all countries frown upon splattered human beings in their suburbs? I guess not.

I have witnessed this craziness in the air before and I will admit that it is impressive and entertaining. But I will not be impressed or entertained if I am personally doing the rolling and the pitching. I am pretty sure that I will feel like I am dying and some or other survival instinct will kick in and, praying that I am in one of the countries that believes in parachutes, I will close my eyes and then jump.

My wonderful sparkly idea of aerobatic flight has been shattered into a million little pieces and I am now left feeling nothing but light-headed. I don’t know why I feel more comfortable with the thought of human beings flinging themselves into the air, but I will have to go with my gut (because I love and appreciate all my internal organs) and say that aerobatic flight is not for me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Corporate Gifts and Corporate Incentives

I have never been part of the corporate rat-race and I don’t think I ever will be. There are parts of it that intrigue me and parts of it that I know I could never put up with. I think that I enjoy my quality of life too much to sit behind a desk from 8am to 5pm. I need to be moving around, doing different things and to top it all off, traffic is my least favourite thing. I also like knowing when my work day ends my family day starts, I wouldn’t want any over-lapping; work cannot come home with me.

What does intrigue me, however, is the thought of being super important; the 30-story-building-corporate-level important. I want to walk into the building and everyone greets me and holds the elevators for me and I just have to nod and smile at security and they let me in. That kind of importance is hard to find as a teacher or a writer. Corporate importance is a whole other ball game.
I also have a strong need (that must still be satisfied) to wear a power suit - a ¾ tight grey skirt with a white shirt, an awesome tailored jacket and black heels. Yip, I can see myself already. Something else that is rather splendid, when it comes to working for corporate companies, are corporate gifts and corporate incentives.
Corporate gifts can range from chill-out stress balls to a USB Coffee warmer, and mini-me paper clips to a shoe shine kit. Not sure what kind of a message you are sending your employee when you give him stress balls and a shoe shine kit but the other gifts are rather great. Oh, what I would do with a USB coffee warmer. Then there are puzzle clocks, Who-Am-I ID holders, Rubik’s memory sticks, bling memory sticks, golf umbrellas, cyberspace travel sets, and my personal favourite, a pill and plaster dispenser. So, not only do you get to wear your power suit and befriend the security staff, you also get random, but very useful gifts.
According to, 'The Maslow theory on motivation stated that you cannot motivate a person - motivation can only come from within.  You can however use persuasion to motivate a person by either threats of dismissal or a reward.  Threats can have the opposite effect and increase stubbornness and a "don't careless attitude", which is counter productive & obviously not good for your business profits.' So this is where corporate incentives come in. It looks like these incentives are threats with pretty bows tied around them. “Jonny, if you get us this client I will take you and your wife on my yacht for the weekend.” But we all know that if Jonny doesn’t get the client he won’t be going on the yacht.
Corporate incentives, I imagine, do work wonders in the work place, maybe even more than money does. I think that if I had a very well paid corporate job and was asked if I want to go skiing in Switzerland or have R50 000 I would opt for the skiing; an experience over money. Having said all of this while pretending to be a corporate woman, I now have to return to reality and simply cheers all you ladder-climbers (with my cheap chardonnay) for living a life of corporate gifts and corporate incentives and possibly even a corporate cat.

Quad Biking Adventures

It has been described as the most exciting thing on four wheels. I have not had the thrill of quad biking before so I do not know if this statement is in fact true. What I do know is that it appeals to me.

Due to a couple of very unnecessary minor car accidents (none of them my fault), I have become quite a nervous driver. Especially when it comes to stopping at robots or pedestrian crossings; I always fear that the person behind me has not seen me stop and that they will come crashing into me. Having said this, though, I do enjoy driving fast and on certain roads (the ones I know well) I have mastered the act of going around bends at, what I feel to be, a rather speedy pace.
Knowing the above about myself, I think that a quad bike might just be the most exciting thing on four wheels. I mean, what are my other options? A car, unless you drive a sports car, is not what I would call exciting. There are not very many types of vehicles that have four wheels...actually, cars are it. So then, yes, I guess a quad bike is the most exciting thing on four wheels. Well done quad bikes!
From what I have read, a quad biking adventure involves the driving of quad bikes (with a helmet) on dirt roads, dunes and other treacherous terrains. I am not keen on bungee-jumping or white river rafting or bridge swinging so quad bikes might just be the thing that satisfies that need for something remotely thrilling.
Understandably, with any extreme sport, there are dangers involved. I just read an article that stated that by 2002 more than 4200 people were admitted into hospital in the UK due to quad biking accidents. I was relieved to find out that these injuries only occur when quad bikes are driven too fast by inexperienced drivers or children. Obviously it is tragic when these accidents happen but at least I now know that safely precautions are essential and it is vital to know what you are doing.
You have the helmet, so it is fairly safe in that sense and if you stick to sandy roads even a fall (if at a slow speed) will not be fatal. I can picture myself quad biking on a lovely summer’s day with the beautiful natural scenery whizzing by me as I drive up and down small hills and dunes. It looks like all I need to bring is sunscreen, sunglasses, sturdy shoes and a big smile and luckily for me I own all of those items.
I think that with the correct training a quad biking adventure is the perfect experience for someone who wants to do something exciting but the thought of flinging them selves off a bridge isn’t at all appealing. So here’s to saving up, finding the time (and a willing partner) to enjoy the most exciting thing on four wheels, a quad bike.

Anniversary Gifts

A wedding anniversary, whether it is your 1st or your 25th, is always something to celebrate. How you decide to celebrate your anniversary depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of couple you are. Some may want to have a quiet weekend to them selves and others may want to throw a huge elaborate party with all their friends and family. And then somewhere in the middle (or on the far outskirts) you will have the couple that goes bungee-jumping.
I am not a traditional gal but just out of curiosity, I was wondering what traditional anniversary gifts are supposed to be. Thanks to, I am now fully educated in the field of good old-fashioned anniversary gifts...and some have proven to be rather hilarious.
For you first wedding anniversary, the traditional gift would be paper (oh, how exciting!) and the modern equivalent is a clock. I will be celebrating my 1st anniversary next year and I think I will opt for a nice clock (I will start dropping hints immediately).
The traditional gift for your 4th anniversary is either fruit or flowers and the modern alternative is an appliance of some sort. This is where your man better know you very very well because either way he might go to bed without his anniversary “gift”. I know that I would definitely prefer a lovely bunch of flowers and a watermelon. A blender or an electric turkey-baster will not make me want to celebrate anything.
If you had to choose between a gift of candy and iron or wood, which would you choose? These are the traditional and modern gifts suggested for your 6th wedding anniversary. Candy is not bad, I might go for that...iron I am not quite sure of, maybe they meant an iron and in that case I will have to go for the wood. Maybe a nice wooden chair or a bench or even wood in its simplest form, as a tree, would be awfully romantic.
Now, for your 10th anniversary (ooh, this is a big one) the traditional gift would be...wait for it...wait for it...tin or aluminum. Yes, nothing says “I love you and thank you for loving me for 10 years” quite like a tin of KOO baked beans served on an aluminum tray. But thankfully the modern gift for your 10th anniversary is diamond jewelry; this seems far more appropriate and will most probably help in getting your marriage to the 20 year mark.
Another “big one” would be your 50th wedding anniversary and both the traditional and modern gift suggestions are gold. All I can say about this one is “I like it”. From this point onwards, the gifts get steadily more special (and expensive); pearls, sapphire, ruby and emerald. Not bad, my future is looking very shiny and sparkly.
Now for the perfect traditional gift for your 100th wedding anniversary. Personally, I know that I won’t get there (am 27 years old now) and I am pretty sure that no one ever has. But anyway, what they suggest you buy your 130 year old spouse is a 10k diamond. Maybe they made it so elaborate because no one ever gets the opportunity to get it any way; they could have said “for your 100th anniversary it is essential to buy you spouse a small island off the coast of Mexico”, really what difference does it make?
So there you have it. Anniversary gifts 101 (in my opinion) and I must say that I am definitely going to let my husband read this in order to ensure that the right gifts are given at the right time. I do not want to end up 130 years old with lots of appliances, a truck load of iron, aluminum and KOO baked beans living aimlessly on my small island.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses

Only a few things come to mind when I think of F1 racing; the colour red, Italy, black and white checked flags and Ferrari. The most upsetting of these things is the copious amounts of champagne that gets sprayed everywhere...what a waste! As you can see, my knowledge on F1 racing is limited, so when I heard about F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses I was surprisingly curious.
The first website I went on asked me this question – have you ever wanted to “control and drive a Reynard single-seater racing car that pulls 450 BHP/per tonne?” I do not have a clue how to answer that question. Firstly, what on earth is a Reynard? And secondly, what are BHP’s and is 450 a lot of those?
I quick visit to Wikipedia answered my questions. Reynard “was at one time the world's largest racing car manufacturer” and BHP, otherwise know as Brake Horse Power  “is the measure of an engine's horsepower before the loss in power caused by the gearbox, alternator, differential, water pump, and other auxiliary components such as power steering pump, muffled exhaust system, etc.” Mmmm....ok, yes, I completely understand now....I think.
Either way, I am guessing that they are simply saying that Reynard goes fast and asking “do you want to go fast?” And my answer would have to be...”I don’t know”. F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses have never crossed my mind before. I want to say “yes” but a big part of me (the very much alive part) says “hell no”.
I can imagine that a first date might be well suited for this sort of activity. Imagine being asked out for a day of speed and excitement – a day of F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses. I am sure it can reveal a lot about a person. For example, on the man’s side, he could find out that the woman looks really good in F1 racing gear (or she looks like a stuffed sausage). He might discover that she is a terrible driver and he makes a mental note to never let her drive or he may realise that she is a really good driver and he decides he can’t handle the competition.
From the woman’s side, she might catch a glimpse of his, ummm, package, in the tight racing suit and either be impressed or disappointed. She might also realise that he is very competitive and when telling him her concerns he might just say, “Oh, come one, its just racing, its not going to kill you, toughen up”.
Not a bad idea, I think, a F1 first date, it looks like a lot can be revealed in the world on F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses that might not be revealed sitting in a restaurant discussing your favourite wine.
With my brief but interesting run-in with the world of F1 racing I must say that this might be on my top 10 things to do when I die, yes, I wrote “when”. Then I don’t have to worry about what I may look like, or dying and I can just enjoy the thrill of the ride, or should I say the thrill of the BHP. F1 Self Drive and Driving Courses might be for some but for now I am quite happy with my lime green Chevy Spark, aptly named, Shrek.