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.

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.

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!

Johnny Clegg music concert

Last night I went with friends to see the Johnny Clegg concert at Montecasino and what a phenomenal show. He is a singer/songwriter who has performed for more than 30 years and the man can still sing and dance – maybe not kick as high as he used to in his youth but still impressive. He sang of his new stuff as well as hit songs such as Asimbonanga, Osijeza, Impi, Scatterings of Africa, African sky blue and Great heart from earlier albums which had people on their feet.  There was also an insert from the movie Jock of the bushveld which brought back bitter-sweet memories. His love of teaching is still apparent in tales told of touring, the meaning to songs, words, culture and dance. Some guest artists included traditional dancers and The Soweto Gospel Choir who had the most beautiful costumes. I tried to capture this on my phone but was some distance away.

It was interesting to see some people experience his music for the first time and watch their reactions and it was great to see how something like music can bring people together and breakdown stereotypes because you saw the most unlikely people show up, jump up and dance to the music which just proves again that you cannot judge a book by its cover. You cannot help but feel uplifted and loving after a great show which is why music and sport is said to have done more for transformation than politics. I had the same exhilarating feeling after watching one legged men do the high jump at the Paralympics.

I had an incredible time.

Spring day – 1 September

“Dis heerlike lente, die winter’s verby…”

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and it was a wonderful and sunny day filled with promise of new life as we took extra notice of the changes around us, of colour coming out – patches of green grass and blossoms on the trees. In the morning my friend and I went to the 20th Century masters: the human figure exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery; a collaboration between France and SA that showcases original work of the masters such as Degas, Renoir, Manet, Matisse, Picasso and others. Best of all – the entrance was free!

 

Most galleries in South Africa feature contemporary art by artists from SA or the African continent so it is a real treat to have access to see the work of European greats. We were amazed at the overwhelming attendance which is testament to the hunger for art and also an appreciation of viewing these up close.

We parked in the basement of the Standard Bank Gallery and were surprised at the murals which transform an ugly concrete car park into a beautiful and colourful display of art.

We had brunch at Pata-Pata at Arts on Main and then explored the streets in the Maboneng district and watched some children play in the streets.

 

The day was ended with some good wine, food and company at a dinner party at a friend’s house.

 

Oriental plaza and Prometheus

My friend and I went to the Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg for some shopping. It is just around the corner of Newtown. I haven’t been to the Plaza since I wanted a traditional outfit to wear to a wedding of a friend of mine, who has since gotten divorced which just reminded me how many years it has been, but what a marvellous shopping experience. The Plaza is great and they have a variety of shops. It is filled with aromas of spices and incense. I find they are especially good if you are looking for bargains on quality shoes, curtains, linen, material, some bling and kitchenware. They can custom-make curtains for you or do alterations on the spot. I got winter linen, a duvet and even managed to find a new charger for my netbook to replace the one that mysteriously died a few days ago. No visit to the Plaza is complete without a samoosa from the Samoosa den so we got some and went off to Rosebank Mall for some more shopping and lunch at the Mugg-and-Bean which is a trusted coffee franchise.

I met another friend at Sandton City late afternoon for a movie. We decided to go watch Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott, which is a sort of prequel to the Alien films which he also directed. The movie was entertaining and gripping for most parts but I wasn’t totally crazy about it. It started well but I did not like the ending and some parts felt a bit disjointed and didn’t make sense. I thought the scene in the medical chamber was also a bit much but overall it was okay.