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.

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.

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.

Snow white and the Huntsman

My weekend started with movies after work. We went to see Snow white and the Huntsman at Killarney Premier and although the movie had stunning effects it lacked something. It was a tad too long, the acting wasn’t brilliant or rather unconvincing, especially Kirsten’s speech to her army and she looked like Joan of Arc when she was riding in full metal gear to go fight the reigning queen. The story was just a bit strange to me and lacked emotional intensity. I think they tried to tell a different story but in the end they ventured too far away from the original story and actually lost the plot. The scenery was done really well, especially parts in the wood which reminded of Alice in wonderland and Avatar with vivid colours and stunning creatures but then you get the fairies that looked like young Smeagols of the Lord of the rings – just with better hairdos.  The movie was disappointing.

MIB3, HogsHead and Singstar

I have had a great weekend so far. It started with me going to movies with a friend after work on Friday. We went to see MIB3 and it was fabulous entertainment. I loved the young agent K (Josh Brolin) and it was good to see Will Smith again who has been a bit on the quiet side. I enjoyed the movie; it was fun and light with weird monsters and a little emotional connection at the end – good combination.

Yesterday I had a slow morning (still in pyjamas at 11am) when my friend and I decided on an impromptu visit to the HogsHead in Douglasdale. It is a fabulous restaurant and pub that opened towards the end of last year. The place has a real cozy vibe with a lovely deck outside and a real pub feel with their different draught beers on tap including some micro brewery beer like Pumpkin Ale and Grave Digger. The menu has traditional pub style dishes such as bangers and mash, burgers, chicken strips and chips, snack platters and so forth but they also serve pizza and salad. What was striking was to see the use of their QR code throughout the venue; it is on their menu, on a mural inside the pub, outside on the floor at the entrance. I found it real cute how they have managed to incorporate it into their decor.

HogsHead turned out to be a really great place. When we met up at 12.30, we sat outside on the deck as it was pleasant and warm but later decided to move inside, away from the blazing sun. The pub was full due to the Super Rugby but it was not overcrowded or too loud except for the screams when the Cheetahs managed to defeat the Waratahs. The only criticism I have about Hogshead is that they cannot make tea. After a few ciders I decided to have some tea. Yes, I love tea and I don’t care that my friends look at me funny every time we go somewhere and I ask for a pot of tea which is just so old and un-cool. I don’t know where the waiter had to go dig out the teapot but it took almost 15 minutes to bring the tea and it was horrible and the water cold so I decided on a coffee instead.

We had a really good time and it was fun to catch up and just chat as we haven’t done that in a while as she had been busy with wedding preparations for the past few months and I had been busy with work so we never got around to just sit, relax and chat about other things.  Unplanned meetings sometimes turn out to be the greatest fun which was evident when we were still at the pub six hours later and then decided to move to her house for some fun playing Singstar till midnight.

The Hunger Games and Emperors Palace

I watched The Hunger Games movie at Sandton City on Saturday night at 20:30 and was very surprised to see that Sandton was so busy that time of night as I struggled to find parking and the movie was full as well. The movie was good but a little bit long (over two hours and twenty minutes). I felt the book was much better but still enjoyed the movie as the story is very captivating. Even though I was afraid that the movie was going to be too youthful it actually appeals to an older audience as well. It was however very annoying that the people sitting next to us were busy SMS’ing or chatting and my friend lost it when at the end of the movie, right at the climax of the story, the woman’s phone rang – honestly, do people not have respect or manners anymore?

Yesterday I had to take a friend’s mother to the airport and we went to Emperors Palace for lunch which is a casino complex next to OR Tambo airport. I thought I hadn’t been there before (not being a fan of gambling) but realised that I was there last year in November for the Tori Amos Night of Hunters concert (which by the way was excellent!). Emperors Palace reminds a bit of Montecasino with the Italian theme and painted roofs and with a big David fountain in the middle. It has some decent restaurants, Nu Metro cinema, the Marcellus theatre and casino.

Top of Africa and Arts on Main

What a fabulous day I had. I couldn’t sleep and was awake since 2am so watched the movie Another Earth and really enjoyed it. I missed it when it was on circuit last year but a friend told me about it so I was glad I got around to watching it at long last. The movie is about the journey of a girl in search of forgiveness after a night out results in an accident that claims the life of two people and the guilt, depression and anger associated with the people left behind and how they deal with the loss and possibility that another Earth has to offer.

I went to the Top of Africa at the Carlton Centre this afternoon to experience the panoramic view of Johannesburg from the 50th storey of the highest building in Africa and what a great sight! You can park underground and the entrance fee is only R15pp for the 29 seconds it takes the elevator to take you up. It was a beautiful clear day so you could see for kilometres on end. It was fabulous to see how close the FNB stadium in Soweto is, which is maybe better known as Soccer City where many South Africans (myself included) watched soccer during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. It is the biggest stadium in Africa and possibly one of the most interesting designed stadiums as well.

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You can see the horse track in Turffontein, the rides at Gold Reef City and the various famous Joburg landmarks such as the broadcasting towers (8ta in Hillbrow and Sentech in Auckland Park), the Ponte (which is the tallest residential building in Africa), Wemmer Pan, Ellis Park (also famous for sporting events, especially rugby) and The Dome (where I saw Rammstein perform last year) but it was sad to see the lonely mine dump where Top Star drive-in used to be. The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking! We wanted to take photos of the building from the outside but were quickly chased by the security who told us that it wasn’t safe for us to be outside. It is really sad that crime is such a problem and that you can’t walk around in town anymore. I was very diligent this morning and made sure I had no flashy jewellery on, no handbag with only an old cellphone, drivers licence, some cash and my small compact camera on me as to not invite the robbers to target you and do all the things you are told, walk upright with confidence, big steps, always alert but still we were warned twice by different security and decided to leave as a photo is not worth putting your life in danger.

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We then went to Arts on Main in the Maboneng Precinct which is just a stone throw away but most of it was closed today so we only wandered around outside for a few minutes looking at Main Street Life and 12 Decades. I would like to visit it again and maybe catch a show. All in all the day was magnificent!