The past two weeks…and a bit

I can’t believe how time flies. It all started with my cousin’s youngest 2nd birthday party on 1 December where family and friends were invited to celebrate. While the children were outside decorating their mini pop cakes, Samantha (not allowed to call her Sam because that is the cat’s name) was inside in front of the bookshelf reading a book oblivious to all the fuss made about her birthday.

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On Sunday I joined friends to watch the new Bond movie, Skyfall which we all enjoyed which is extremely rare as we have such diverse tastes so definitely worth a watch on the big screen.

Tuesday, 4 December we had our team CSI project at work. We are involved with the Johannesburg Cubs which is a project that involves boys aged 12-17 from the townships and boys from the affluent areas and private schools to mingle and get to know each other while playing sports.  Some boys from the townships who may be orphans or come from desperate circumstances are bright and hardworking and get scholarships to the fancy private schools in Johannesburg but they found that the boys just don’t fit in and rebel until they eventually get expelled. This program teaches them life skills and helps them make friends with the wealthy kids so that they understand each other’s worlds. We played with the boys doing various cricket and ball exercises with their coaches which was a lot of fun and created many laughs. Afterwards when the rain broke out we had something to eat and drink and gave each one a gift for the holiday season.

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Saturday the 8th I had Christmas dinner at friends’ house. It was a good time to catch up with friends seen long ago and also to reflect on the past year. Some of us had a great year while others had a sad year especially where deaths of loved ones were involved. We played secret Santa and exchanged gifts and got an extra surprise when a friend bought us each a lotto ticket with the understanding that if anyone won it was to be shared with the group of course. On Sunday I met my friend for lunch at Ga Rouge restaurant in Centurion which is an old farm house from the late 1800s which has been declared a heritage site. They serve a Sunday buffet or a la carte. It is always special to visit with my friend and share our lives. I also got to see their new house as they recently moved.

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On Tuesday I went with friends to the Bryanston market again where we had boerewors rolls for supper as we were drawn to the braai smell when we walked in. Thursday we had a team breakfast at the Mugg & Bean in Sandton. Initially we were going to have a day outing but it is our busiest time so in the end it meant a 7am breakfast which was rushed because of a meeting back at the office at 9am. There was however some time to catch-up on the dress of our boss, who was getting married, discuss strategy for next year and find out about all the children of the mothers and how people were spending Christmas.

In the evening we had Christmas dinner at a friend’s house. Like me she is not the most talented or versatile cook so she asked if we minded a pasta dish as it is almost the only thing she can properly make. Good food is good food so no one minded not even when it came out that she had to call in the help of good old mother to cook and deliver the dish as we were so busy at work. The evening was great fun and she did take a lot of trouble to beautifully decorate the table.

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This past weekend I went to Magaliesburg for the weekend. It is about an hour’s drive outside of Johannesburg and although I had many plans of things to see in the region, I just relaxed, slept a lot, played some games and had a great time. We stayed just outside of Magalies on a farm so it was great to wake up to beautiful sunrises, horses that bolt, cows that moo and breathe in the fresh air. On Sunday we went to Askari game lodge where you can watch the elephants play in the dam while you are having a luscious lunch. The buffet is really great and reasonably priced. The one thing I was disappointed about is that I forgot to pack any of my camera chargers and both batteries were dead. I did mange to take some photos with my phone.

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I also watched the movie Bel Ami with my friend on the 17th and it was really boring. It had a fabulous cast but unfortunately it didn’t help much in the end.

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A week of fun

This is a busy time of year with people trying to finish off work before the summer holidays hence my lack of time spent here. Last Saturday morning I went to help my friend with her Corporate Social Investment (CSI) project. She started this project a few years ago where she offers free MS Office training to people less fortunate and what is great is that our company has embraced it and offered the training rooms over the weekend. Another company sponsors training material and people from work offer their time on Saturdays to come train. The courses finished for the year and I oversaw the pupils writing their tests.

 

Afterwards we met up with friends at the German Christmas market which was held at the German Country Club in Paulshof. It was overcast with a few showers so we couldn’t sit outside. There weren’t very many stalls so we were a bit disappointed and ended up having lunch at a favourite restaurant, Fillet where we introduced our one friend to the fabulous beef trinchado they serve there.

 

On Sunday we all got back together to watch the end of the Twilight saga. Although this has not been one of my favourite movies and I haven’t read the books, I was looking forward to the series finishing and after the dismal storyline in Part one of Breaking Dawn I was expecting great action. I was so very disappointed and actually extremely annoyed. This has now moved to one of my Top 10 worst movies ever. The acting was the worst I have seen, even Michael Sheen seemed like he didn’t care. Nothing was explained in the movie as my friend was telling us all the meanings of the different things that were in the book and I honestly hated every second of the movie and the super triple cheese galore soppy ending was the worst I have seen in my life.

 

Tuesday we had a baby shower for a friend at work. It was great fun and she received some stunning gifts. After work I went with friends to the Bryanston Organic & Natural Market which has a night market every Tuesday for the month leading up to Christmas. It is a stunning market with original and interesting goodies and food. It was so full that we could not find a table to sit at to have supper so we went to Luca’s Pizzeria in Sunninghill which is an Italian restaurant. I had the butternut panzerotti which was magnifico!

On Thursday we had our supplier year end function at the Morningside Country Club where we invited some of the agencies we work closely with for a day of fun at a Grand Slam party. Everyone was dressed either in Wimbledon whites or with hats and sunglasses ready for sports. There were tennis and volley ball matches and if you did not feel up for a game you could sit by the sideline and watch or camp out under a tree or an umbrella. It was a fun day out although the food was extremely disappointing.

Wits Choir 50th birthday celebration

It has been ages since I have been out till 2am on a week night and I will probably feel the effects for the next few days but what a fun night. I went with a friend to see the Wits Choir 50th birthday celebration at the Wits Great Hall. The Wits Choir, although linked to Wits University, is not exclusively for students and welcomes all people from all ages. I have a friend who has been a member for a long time so over the years I have come to know a lot of them personally so the night was one of great song and reunion.

 

As part of the 50th birthday concert the Wits Choir invited all alumni going back to 1962. Each era presented their memories of the choir at that time. It was interesting to see the transformation in music and choristers through the years.  They also had a guest choir performing, the Samro Choir, under the direction of Emeritus Professor Mzilikhazi  Khumalo. He is 80 years old but still going strong and a legend in the field of arranging, conducting and composing having composed the first African opera.

 

The Wits Choir performed a medley of songs from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s and surprised the audience by performing traditional pop songs such as Someone like you by Adele and Viva la Vida by Coldplay before breaking into their traditional songs singing in the many languages of South Africa and dancing to its rhythms. Like they say, music transcends all boundaries and brings people from different backgrounds together and even if you don’t understand the words, you can feel the spirit of the music and be moved by it.

After the concert there were drinks and snacks before the choir and friends set off to the choir house for a party. I enjoyed the evening tremendously!

Bukhara restaurant, Sandton

Our boss is moving to Hong Kong so today the team had a farewell lunch with him at Bukhara restaurant at the Nelson Mandela square. Bukhara is an Indian restaurant that serves mostly North Indian cuisine. It has an open kitchen so you can watch the chef and staff create succulent dishes. We had a three course set menu that consisted of a variety of chicken, lamb and vegetable tandoori and curry dishes which we enjoyed with naan and some wine. The food was absolutely divine. Some interesting dishes that I have not eaten before were Palak Paneer (homemade Indian cheese cooked in spinach) and Chicken cheese (chicken marinated with cheese and cooked in a tandoor). I wasn’t crazy about dessert, the Carrot Halva was a bit too spicy for me and although the Indian bread and butter pudding was interesting it was too soggy for my liking. All in all it was a wonderful experience filled with memories, crazy stories and lots of laughs.

Col’Cacchios Pizzeria Benmore Gardens

Last night we went to Benmore Gardens to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Although Benmore is only a few blocks from work it took a while to get there as Sandton traffic was horrid due to a roadblock. While I understand that Metro Police thinks peak hour traffic is the ideal time to look for offenders who will be gridlocked and won’t be able to make their escape once they spot them, it is very annoying as people get very aggressive.

Benmore is a shopping centre that you tend to forget about because the mighty Sandton City is almost around the corner from it. We had a fabulous time at Col’Cacchios that serves great Italian inspiring food. I do not usually venture away from the pizza or pasta I like but last night I decided to be bold and try something new that I would not normally have. I had the Greco pizza which consists of seven hour lamb stew, pickled red onions, tzatziki and mint sauce. It was really yummy!

The table cloths have a sheet of brown paper on top should you want to have a special message to someone and obviously as the evening progressed some had the crayons out and were playing games like naughts and crosses or hangman on the table which was most fun. It was a great evening.

Lazy weekend

I had a fabulous but super lazy weekend. I spent Friday night at a friend’s house where we watched the Spanish movie, The skin I live in. What a bizarre movie. I always wonder how people come up with such strange ideas. All I know is I was never bored during the movie, it had some unexpected twists and the ending felt justified.

 

Saturday I read a book and in the evening had dinner club with some of my new colleagues from work. It seems all of them are really great in the kitchen so I don’t know what I am going to do when it is my turn as cooking is not my forte, it basically ends with me being able to make a decent sandwich or breakfast, anything more than that will leave you disappointed. Maybe I will have a picnic brunch.

 

Today I took my mother to lunch at the all new Tei Avon (previously Mi-Vami) in Victory Park. They make some of the best shawarmas. I had a Moroccan shawarma with lamb, couscous and yoghurt which was great. I spent the evening quizzing my friend who is busy studying for an exam this week. We used to be study buddies in Varsity and although I changed courses and have long since forgotten anything we suffered through together in Varsity I have great admiration for her determination to finish and become a fully qualified actuary because you must want it bad. There are no short cuts – you just have to put in the hours. Her dream is to qualify, then quit her job and go tour the world for a year with friends and family that can join her on any part they want. This is a great motivation and fabulous idea!

Magalies meander

It is long weekend and yesterday a friend and I decided to have a little road trip and explore the bushveld along the Magalies meander. We didn’t have anything definite in mind but was geared with the Garmin and the names of few places we thought we could try. Our first stop was the Lesedi cultural village which is on Malibongwe Drive and about 30km from Johannesburg.

Lesedi means light and the people of Lesedi take you on a cultural experience where you are introduced to some of South Africa’s ethnic groups: the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa, Ndebele and Pedi. You are welcomed to the village by the sound of the marimba, shown some history from a short DVD presentation before going on a guided tour of traditional tribal homesteads in the African bush where you learn more about their culture and traditions. Some brave souls also tried a bush delicacy in the form of mopane worms (actually a caterpillar) at one of the stops. I prefer my protein in the form of a steak so I passed on this one.

Overnight accommodation is also available in any of the villages. The tour ends in the Boma with a blend of song and dance to the rhythmic beat of African drums. After the tour you can have a true African feast in the restaurant or roam around in the Ndebele village where you can buy beautiful African curios. The tour was really informative and fun.

We decided to have lunch at the Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij in Skeerpoort where I had traditional Dutch kroketten. They have various activities such as picnics, biking, horse riding, hiking and birding. There is also a children play area outside and some farm animals. The farm has a great farm shop that sells delicious goodies, homemade cheese and wine – a great treat.

On our way home we drove through Krugersdorp and stopped at the Silverstar Casino. We had supper at a fabulous restaurant called Steak and watched the musical fountain display outside. The fountain is apparently the biggest in Africa and second biggest in the world. It was a spectacular show!