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.

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.

Sunday afternoon delight

Yesterday I met friends at Sandton City where we had lunch at the Walnut Grove before going to movies. Walnut Grove has renovated their premises and also extended the restaurant. The improvements are really beautiful and welcoming. They also have a fabulous new menu with many new dishes and interesting cakes. The restaurant has been there since I can remember and they used to have a grand piano with live classical music sometimes being played. I cannot remember if I saw it yesterday but I hope they still have it as I remember that was the first thing that attracted me to them many years ago.  With the stylish renovations, gorgeous décor and brand new menu comes a hefty price tag. They used to be very reasonably priced but they are quite expensive now. The quality of food is however great and the ingredients fresh. I had a prego steak Panini which was R118, a soda is R17 and a freshly squeezed glass of juice is over R30 so this is not cheap but it is still worth it.

After lunch we went to see Hope Springs, a movie with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones and what a fabulous movie. We really enjoyed it. The movie tells of a couple who have been married for 31 years and then decide to go for a week intense training of marriage counselling to try and break routine and get the spark back in their relationship. It was a good movie with lots of funny moments and I enjoyed the more serious side of funny man Steve Carell as well.

Fun day in our capital, Pretoria

Some friends and I visited Duncan Yard in the heart of Hatfield earlier today and what an extremely delightful arty place that is filled with surprises around every corner. It is like a little village with hidden pathways and cute and interesting shops and restaurants. There are little gems such as the Deli which sells the most wonderful looking desserts and freshly baked goodies, Moi for a little French finesse in your home and Papa’s for some real good food where we stopped for lunch while listening to a man play the blues on an enhanced electric guitar made out of an old Ouma rusks tin.

We admired the beautiful Jacaranda trees in the Jacaranda city which are in full bloom before setting off to the Union buildings, the seat of government and the offices of the presidency and the department of home affairs. Although Jacaranda trees are native to South America, Pretoria has more than 70 000 of these trees and there is a belief amongst students that if you walk under one of the trees and a blossom falls on your head you are going to pass your exams. The Union buildings are located on the highest point of Pretoria overlooking the city, the University of South Africa and the Voortrekker monument in the distance. We walked around in the beautiful gardens, smelled the roses and watched the tourists.

We ended the day with a visit to Church Square in the centre of town. It has a big bronze statue of former president, Paul Kruger in the middle and is surrounded by historical buildings. It was a wonderful day!

Isabella’s Country Cuisine

I met my friend for lunch at Isabella’s Country Cuisine in Kyalami and what a great coffee shop it turned out to be. I have never been there and don’t know Kyalami at all except that it has a racetrack so this was such a wonderful surprise. The whole area has a country feel similar to Irene so I would definitely want to go explore around there some more.

I had the quiche of the day for lunch which was really tasty and comes freshly baked in a little pan. It was accompanied by a garden salad and potato salad side dish. We were some of the last people to leave just before the rain poured down but what a fabulous afternoon.

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.

Adventure at Harties/Hartbeespoort dam

I had a great day today. My friend and I decided to go to Harties for the day. We started at Jasmyn which is a big farm stall that sells fresh local produce from the farmers. There was a flea market outside with things sold by the locals. We had lunch at the Windmill Restaurant which is a great restaurant inside a big Dutch style windmill building. We sat outside and what was great was that they had a buzzer to either call your waiter, ask for the bill or call the manager so all the waiters walk around with watches that vibrate and let them know when service is required and at which table – not that it was necessary. The service was great and even the manager came around a few times.

The Windmill Restaurant at Jasmyn

Jasmyn is a treat. I don’t know who came first, them or The Food lovers Market but both are great in terms of the variety of fresh produce they sell. Jasmyn has a bookstore inside on the second floor. The gardens outside are beautiful and especially colourful after the first spring rains with the flowers in bloom. There are little trails to walk around in the garden or have a picnic.

When we left we decided to go around the dam as we wanted to go through the tunnel – a must every time one goes to the dam. On our way, we drove past the Harties cableway and decided that we would probably get a beautiful view from on top so it was time for us to explore the world from up high.I am not particularly fond of heights and I don’t think my friend realised quite how uncomfortable I was with them until she saw me all sweaty and pale but we made it without incident and it is so worth it.

Harties cableway

The view is spectacular! There is a restaurant, shop, Lookout Bar and lots of different trails to go for a walk around. There was a guy singing and some people were dancing on the lookout deck – just fabulous. They fail to warn you of the little drop going down so I don’t know who screamed the loudest, me or some other (also scared) guy in the cart but we had a great laugh after that. We drove through the tunnel and crossed the dam wall where they had the sluices open.

It was a beautiful and memorable day which ended with some rain when we got home followed by the most beautiful rainbow and vivid colours.