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Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Answer...

I hope am not unique when I say that my mood can change very quickly (maybe it's a woman thing). One  moment I am inspired and energised and the next I am despondent and exhausted. Yes, I am going through quite a big change right now - from teacher to writer - and this, I know, is not an easy task but change is what I asked for so change is what I will welcome.

I read a quote the other day that started like this: "Don’t get bogged down looking for a way to persist. Just make sure you’re absolutely clear on why you have chosen to persist". I read this at the exact moment that I was feeling rather overwhelmed and rather 'bleh' about my chosen career path. Even though I KNOW I am doing what I am supposed to do and even though I KNOW that this might take some time, I forget to look at the WHY.

What I love about this quote (and I wish I knew who wrote it) is that it inspired me immediately. I even made it into my desktop background so that as soon as I start writing in the morning it will be there as a reminder. So right now I am going to answer that question and if you are also on the path of change I suggest you answer it as well.

Why have I chosen to persist?
I have chosen to persist because writing is like breathing to me. When I write I feel more alive, more conscious and more connected to who I am.
I have chosen to persist because I believe in myself (even though this is probably the first time I have admitted that).
I have chosen to persist because I want to be heard - I want my thoughts to be heard.
I have chosen to persist because I know that if I don't I will be letting a part of myself die and I might never get that part back again.
I have chosen to persist because I want to - it is so important to remember that it is in fact a choice - no one has forced me to do this and no one is forcing me to persist.

I have chosen to persist because I am who I am and I want the world to know me too.

"It is precisely the possibility of realising a dream that makes life interesting" - Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gift Certificates

According to Wikipedia, a gift certificate was first called a “scrip”. Scrip is an “American term for any substitute for currency which is not legal tender and is often a form of credit. Scrips were created as company payment of employees and also as a means of payment in times where regular money is unavailable, such as remote coal towns, military bases, ships on long voyages, or occupied countries in war time”.

You could receive a gift certificate like the one above and discover it was sent to you from the past by a welder named Klaus. Or the more likely scenario is that you have a voucher to go on the party pirate ship that sails around the Cape Peninsula. It seems like a lot of fun can be had with the making of gift vouchers. I have often thought that in some situations the best thing you can do is make a gift certificate for someone. For example, if a friend has just had a baby I could give her a voucher for one babysit or a home cooked meal – a voucher almost makes that offer more tangible and then they might remember to take you up on your offer.

Gift cards are of course another form of gift certificates. There would be a certain amount of money on the card already and you would have to spend it at the specified store or shopping centre. I think that these are really great, I know that I love getting them (especially if it’s a Woolworths one because then I have to shop there).

And then there are the gift vouchers that no one ever wants to get. Personally, I would not want this one. I wonder if there is gift certificate etiquette...can you pass it on to someone who can use it and just lie to you friend and say that you got the hammer you always wanted? I guess this falls under friend etiquette and then I guess the lying part would be inappropriate. I guess I could always buy a plant at the hardware store.

There are so many different types of gift certificates out there and in this day and age almost every shop has them. I think it is a great way to let someone choose what they want. And if you do get a gift voucher to some random shop like Dumbbells-R-Us then just make the best of it and be grateful for the gift of toned upper arms.


I was curious to know how many presents I would have bought for my immediate family if I lived to be 90 years old. I am guessing that I, personally, started buying gifts when I was 19 years old (before that my parents would have done it on my behalf). So, I am taking 5 family members (my parents, my sister, my husband and my daughter) with each of them receiving 2 presents a year (birthdays and Christmas) over a 71 year period. That is a total of 710 presents. I was hoping for a far more dramatic number like 3254 to be exact, so now I have no idea what the point of this blog is.
Let’s look at how much this would have cost me. Let’s say on average I have spent R200 per present (for my daughter this amount will be more) so that, in total, comes to R142 000...Aha! There’s the dramatic number I was looking for. So in other words, if I want to have a comfortable retirement I need to stop spending so much money on presents.
Unfortunately, I find it very difficult not to spend a lot of money on gifts. I love to spoil the people I love and the things I want to buy them always seem to cost a lot of money. This, however, is not my fault. I had come up with what I thought to be an ingenious plan the other day and shared it with my husband. “What if all over the world there was an immediate decrease in the cost of everything, for example, what if everything was cut down by 50%, all our problems would be solved.” My husband then replied (shattering my clever plan), “But what about salaries?” So there went the master plan – salaries would also be cut down by 50% and then we would all still be struggling but with far less money. Anyway, it was worth a try – I won’t bore you further with my brilliant idea of how to bring bartering back.
The point of my delightful story is that presents cost money – even if you make something it will cost you money, yes, it won’t be nearly as much (unless you make jewelry) but then you have to factor in the time to make all these gifts. The ideal situation would be if you then discover that you are great at making gifts and you start selling them and then make lots of money.
My goodness! I am really not staying on topic at all. It always amazes me that while I write something with a certain topic in mind I sometimes find myself writing something completely different. What I really wanted to say was that gift giving to me is something I enjoy and if the total was 3254 I would be thrilled because it meant that I had had people to love in my life and people who love me. What I also just realised is that the amount of presents you give is probably the same amount that you get (not that this is the point at all). This blog has not turned out the way I wanted it to but anyway, I guess I am a least delivering on my promise to share with you my thoughts as they are “write now”. If you have continued to read this far, I greatly appreciate you sticking through this very random blog on presents.

Wedding Gift Registry and General Gift Registry

A wedding gift registry is the only way that a soon to be married couple can actually get what they want and what they need. Very few people are going to be honest about they want if you ask them but if you have a registry it tells the guests for you.
I can imagine, however, that now a days, with couples already living together before they get married, that some people already have the most obvious wedding gifts such as kitchen appliances, crockery and picture frames. So maybe the wedding registry is going out of fashion. My husband and I stated on our wedding invite that “your presence is present enough but money for our honeymoon would be much appreciated”. We had all the homely items that we needed and frankly, we didn’t have the space for any homely items that we wanted, so if anything, money would be most welcome. And because of this we were able to buy a bed and a braai – in my opinion these are two vital items needed for any marriage.
A wedding registry can only be extremely useful if the couple has not lived together and they are both coming from home (where they lived with their parents) and do literally not own a single thing of their own. In this situation it is, I’m sure, a wonderful way to get all the things you need to get your home all homely.
General gift registry is a foreign concept to me. It would make me feel uncomfortable to have a registry for my birthday. In fact, I have never heard of anyone having a registry for anything but a wedding. I can imagine that it could work for a baby shower or possibly an engagement party (but then surely you couldn’t do one for your wedding as well)...mmm...I’m not sure about this. Maybe it is more for upper upper class individuals who splurge on any occasion and it is just common practice to have a gift registry when you son turns 2 years old.
I am wracking my brain to think on what other occasion you could have a general gift registry. Maybe a 20th wedding anniversary (still I feel this is something for the elite part of society). I guess, however, that the registry doesn’t have to be somewhere expensive. You could have one at Mr. Price Home or Pep or even Builders Warehouse. Then even Mr. Joe Smith could have a registry for his 50th birthday and everyone can choose between garden hose nozzles and braai tools. It could work I guess.
Maybe people would be really relieved to no longer guess what someone wants for their birthday and maybe I am just to shy to tell people, “this where I have a gift registry, go and buy me what I want”. I have never thought so much about gifts registries before and I have never changed my mind about a concept while writing a blog. So, if anything, random gift registries have served their purpose already.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Adventure Gift Voucher and Adventure Bookings

I think that there are very few people who look back at their life and say, “I wish I didn’t have so many adventures”. If anything, people say that they were not adventurous enough. I think that most people also need a little push when it comes to trying out any extreme sport experience. A gift of an adventure gift voucher is a great idea when you have a friend who doesn’t have the guts to take the first step.

An adventure experience I am assuming involves doing an extreme sport of some sort. You get board sports which involve activities such as sand boarding, kite surfing and flow boarding. With motorsports you could do things such as motocross, drifting and motorcycle rallying. Then there are water sports which involve activities such as kayaking and scuba diving. Mountaineering includes ice climbing, rock climbing and bouldering. And finally there is freefall which is wing-suit flying, BASE jumping and parachuting. All the above activities would make great gifts in the form of an adventure gift voucher.

With an adventure gift voucher you can give someone the opportunity to do anything from rally racing to windsurfing and free-diving to bungee jumping – the possibilities are endless when the gift is an adventure gift voucher – and the best thing is that you can choose something that you know the person has wanted to do. Just an idea, but it would probably be best if you join them as well (you can’t tell someone that they will have a great time jumping out of an airplane if you wouldn’t do it yourself).

As well as adventure gift vouchers you can also do adventure bookings for groups. Adventure bookings would be done for corporate teambuilding and tourists or even just a group of friends or family members. I am sure there are few activities that could bring a team (or a family) together like the fear of dying. I can just picture everyone speaking their mind as they plummet towards the ground...on second thought this might do the opposite and tear your team apart. Well, I still think that adventure bookings seem like a swell idea.

I asked my husband what he thought of if I mentioned the words ‘adventure bookings’ and he first laughed, then said, “4 x 4’s, camping, roughing it”. At least now I know to never give him a wing-suit flying voucher. I believe that the aim of these ‘adventures’ is to thrill and excite and to release the following hormones into our blood stream – dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and most importantly adrenalin. Maybe that’s why a corporation would make an adventure booking for its staff – because it will make them all temporarily happy with adrenaline induced happy hormones.

An adventure booking is also a bit risky because you have to take into account that some people are just really attached to being alive and they might not take part as freely as others. Maybe it is best to check with everyone before hand and maybe split into a few different groups. For example, you could have the ‘live long’ group, the ‘when it’s my time it’s my time’ group and lastly the ‘I don’t give a f#%k’ group...yip, that should do the trick.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Microlight Flight

I once saw a man on Hout Bay beach with his own flying contraption. I am calling it a contraption because neither me nor my husband could remember what it was called. We thought of names such as paragliding, no, that’s not it, parasailing, no silly, that’s in the water and then turbo flight; that one we made up. But I have since then been enlightened and now know the correct term for this man’s activity – it is microlight flight.
Thinking back to that moment on the beach, I actually had never heard of this term before so we would have never come up with the correct name anyway – it would be the last name I would have given such an incredible contraption. In my mind ‘micro’ means small and ‘light’ means, well, the opposite of heavy and ‘flight’ is just flight so that is not misleading at all. If I had to make up a name it would be maxiheavy flight – a far more appropriate name I think...
Anyway, according to it is considered to be the motorbike of the sky. This I can believe; it does resemble a motorbike with large wings – quite a novel idea. I think that I am definitely up for a microlight flight experience.
This feels a lot safer than the aerobatic flights I wrote about before, and with the microlight flight experience you actually have an opportunity to look around and admire the view without fearing the next life-threatening 360 degree turn. Can you imaging flying over the ocean and spotting a school of dolphins or even a great white shark? If I am going to go up in the air in a random contraption I want to at least experience all the wonders of flying and one of those wonders is seeing the world from a different angle.
By observing this man do his microlight flight thing over Hout Bay beach, it seemed that it didn’t go that fast either. It wasn’t a Sunday-driver kind of slow but more a this-is-fun-and-I-feel-safe kind of fast. I have to just add that I was in complete awe of this man that, at 4pm, parked his car at the beach, took out his microlight flight contraption, got it ready and off he went. Most people go for a jog after work (most people are still at work at 4pm) but not this guy...he flies.
Who ever thought of this motorbike in the sky idea (and was brave enough to try it out) was a genius. I am comforted by the fact that this contraption has been tried and tested for many many years, so it is now up to us to be like Hout Bay beach man and fly – fly like maxiheavy birds in the sky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolate Tasting

I am pretty sure that there are very very very few women who would turn down an opportunity to do chocolate tasting. Personally, I only crave chocolate first thing in the morning, after a nap or when that time of the month rolls by. But none the less, I would definitely say ‘yes’ to a chocolate tasting experience.
I was recently at a friends house and was given some pure chocolate to try and because I am so trained to think that all chocolate is sweet and tasty, it didn’t even cross my mind to doubt the taste of this ‘pure chocolate’ – surely it would just be even more awesome? Alas, I was proven to be very naïve when it comes to chocolate and chocolate tasting because when I put this piece of chocolate in my mouth I pulled a face that my 6 year daughter would be proud of.
What this person meant by pure chocolate was that it was pure 100% cocoa with no sugar, cocoa butter, milk etc. It was bitter and strong and after 10 minutes of this chocolate tasting I was on a pure cocoa buzz. I did not like it at all but worst of all it made me question what I always considered ‘real’ chocolate to be. Oh, the betrayal! I had to know what was in the ‘normal’ chocolate at the shops and why on earth did it not taste like this pure chocolate.

There are actually far more different types of chocolate than I thought – I will mention a few and no, I did not do a chocolate tasting with all of these. Chocolate liqueur is the basis of all types of chocolate, nothing is added, and it ironically doesn’t contain alcohol. It contains about 53% cocoa butter (fat). Cocoa Butter is the fat that is expelled when chocolate liquor is pressed to make cocoa powder (this gives our ‘shop chocolate’ its creamy texture).Unsweetened chocolate is chocolate liquor that has been allowed to cool and harden and is used for baking. Dark chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor, plus cocoa butter and sugar in varying amounts.

Milk chocolate contains at least 10% chocolate liquor, plus cocoa butter and sugar and at least 12% milk – An EU regulation states that milk chocolate must legally have a minimum of 25% cocoa solids. White chocolate is actually not considered chocolate because it does not contain any chocolate liquor only cocoa butter, milk and sugar. And who, you may ask, makes all these rules and guidelines about chocolate production? I will tell you who...The Chocolate Manufacturers Association...yes, something like that does actually exists. I guess it is quite an obvious association to have, but it would never have crossed my mind

So there you have it – the legalities and ingredients involved the production of chocolate. I know that I will never forget the taste of that pure chocolate and whenever I eat a ‘normal’ chocolate I will be reminded of how far it actually is from the real thing. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing but one thing is for sure...chocolate is amazing and amazing it will always be... (And I so should have done a chocolate tasting of my own while writing this post).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cooking Lessons - Sushi Making

The only thing that I find remotely appealing about sushi is the making of it. Making sushi, I imagine it involves a certain degree of precision. I am a perfectionist and so, visually, sushi appeals to me. Those little rolls of fish, rice and seaweed are like little rolls of perfection. Would I ever eat it? No. Would I taste it? No. But would I like to learn how they make them? Yes.
Cooking lessons in sushi making is something that I would thoroughly enjoy. I think that I would find a great deal of satisfaction when, after rolling up all the ingredients, I slice it and discover that perfect fishy pattern inside. I would then have to arrange all these little rolls beautifully on a plate with some soy sauce and wasabi on the side – oh, the whole process would satisfy every aspect of my slightly OCD personality.
Sushi is described as a roll of fish or sea food with rice wrapped in nori (seaweed). You get two types of Sushi - Futomaki, which is bigger and usually contains two or more different fillings and then you get Hosomaki, which is smaller and contains only one filling, usually fish or seafood, but you could also just use one kind of vegetable. I am beginning to see how easy sushi making can be and how easy it would be to make non-fishy sushi (kind of defeats the purpose, I know) but then I could at least eat my beautiful creation and gain some taste satisfaction as well.
I think the essential item is a bamboo mat (which you place everything onto) but an alternative to the nori could be vine leaves or even spinach or spinach lasagne layers (once they have been cooked). Almost all ingredients could be replaced – instead of rice you could use cous cous or good ol’ fashioned South African pap and instead of fish and sea food you could use vegetables, avocado, chicken, soy mince…the possibilities are endless when making sushi at home...I do realise that it might no longer be considered sushi after all the changes.
Doing cooking lessons in sushi making, I assume, would be more for the person who intends on using the normal ingredients but I think that I will still enjoy the process even if I am not actually going to eat it. And I will enjoy watching the smiles appear on the faces of the people who devour my deliciously flawless little rolls of perfection.

Holiday Activities

When I think of holiday activities I immediately think of how much it is going to cost me. Any activity nowadays that is outside of your home costs not only money but quite a lot of money. During school holidays I am always at a loss as what I can do with my daughter that is not going to make me completely broke.
Possible holiday activities for kids include the Aquarium, going to the movies, watching a show at the theatre, the Scratch Patch, the Clay Cafe or the World of Birds. Taking into account that most school holidays are 2 to 3 weeks long, you can see how this can become quite a costly process.
I have, therefore, come up with a few holiday activities that are not as costly. In the summer holidays there is always the beach or a going to a park – my daughter always enjoys going to Seapoint promenade for a walk and playing on the jungle gyms. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is always another great option but only if the weather is good. Walks in the forest or a hike up a mountain are activities which I enjoy but I often need to do a great deal of convincing before my daughter can get as excited as me.
During winter holidays I find myself completely stuck because all the inexpensive holiday activities I have just mentioned are not possible because they are all outdoors. What is a mom do to? I usually end up doing the lunch and movie outing once but that in total usually costs about R300 (just for the two of us!). would be great if such places as the Aquarium and the World of Birds did not only think of tourists when deciding on their entrance South Africans also like to expose our children to such experiences and we would probably do it more often if it didn’t cost so much.
The one winter holiday activity that I can always count on is the Natural History Museum at the Gardens in Cape Town. Children do not pay an entrance fee and adults are only R30. The Planetarium is also very reasonable and such a wonderful experience for children to have.
I have learnt to be more and more resourceful when it comes to keeping my child happy and busy during school holidays. Art activities at home are another great way to spend an afternoon. Small canvases and craft paints are surprisingly cheap and my daughter always enjoys creating her own masterpiece. Making your own play dough (flour, hot water, salt and food colouring) is always lots of fun and then, of course, there is always baking.
In the beginning of the holidays I always wonder how I am going to keep my daughter occupied but with a little creative thinking and lots of outside-the-box thinking I am always able to find holiday activities that keep both my child and my bank balance happy.

Gifts for Couples and Dinner for Two

The only time I buy gifts for couples is when I am attending a wedding. It makes it a lot easier when couples have a registry or if they are very specific about what they want for a gift - if you ask for money or you specify that you need some things for your kitchen or for your lounge, then it makes the buying of wedding gifts far easier.
Other situations where you would have to buy a gift for a couple would be on an anniversary, maybe a 20th or 50th wedding anniversary. I would think that by then they probably have everything they need and besides money, I think the best way to go (gift wise) would be to give them an experience of some sort – a dinner for two, a couples massage, tickets to a concert or the theatre or even a weekend away (if you can afford that sort of a gift).
I think it is not unheard of that by the time you have been married for 20 years you possibly have a bit of routine as to which restaurants you go to - where you always sit at the same table and possibly even order the same food and wine. Therefore, a voucher for dinner for two at a swanky restaurant may be just what you need.
A house-warming is another occasion where you might need to buy gifts for couples. Here the gifts can be just about anything. At first I thought, “What is the difference between this gift and the wedding gift?” But actually there is a huge difference. For a house-warming you can buy the couple anything from a door-stop to a tumble dryer or a shower mat to a foot stool. Plants are also great house-warming gifts, especially if you know that the couple is thinking of reproducing – I always think it is a rather good test of some sort – if the plant lives then, yay, you will be great parents – if the plant dies then maybe rethink the offspring idea.
This links me to the next occasion where you might buy a gift for a couple (assuming their plant is still alive) – the announcement of a baby. You can either go down the road of buying the expecting couple something for the baby or you can go down the road less traveled and buy something for the couple instead. I think you could have a lot of fun with this one, especially if you yourself is a parent because then you will know what they need and want (post birth of the human plant). Vouchers for home-cooked meals, babysits and massages will be greatly appreciated by the new parents. Personally, I appreciated these offerings far more that a bag of 100 nappies.
All in all, any gifts for couples need to be as personalised as possible. Whether it is an anniversary, a house-warming or a baby shower, you need to look at the kind of people they are as a couple and take into account what they might be going through. When it comes to gifts, I believe that extravagance is not always as effective as thoughtfulness.