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.

Rock n roll circus party

We had our departmental year end party last week Thursday and as far as office parties go this was great fun and well organised. We went to the Barnyard theatre in Rivonia where the theme was “Rock ‘n Roll Circus”. Everyone got dressed up as either a circus or rock act. It was amusing to see some of the more quiet guys come out their shells. We had one of the actuarial teams dress up as Alice Cooper, two guys from finance came with polystyrene U’s around them indicating U2, there was a clown, Dolly, Katy, Madonna and even the King himself was there.

 

We arrived at 11:00 and received a welcoming cocktail and then went into the theatre where you could choose a table to sit at, each with seven chairs around it. The table was filled with a beautiful picnic basket with an assortment of pâtés, mini bread loaves, a salad and quiches, wine, colddrink and beer. We watched the Big Top Rock concert after starters where circus acts performed while artists entertained us with the wonderful sound of rock music. There were various acts but the most entertaining was the pole acrobatics and the contortion ballet. The show was sweet and short, just less than an hour. Main course consisted of fillet mignon in a balsamic and rosemary reduction with Cajun onion rings served with creamed spinach, chips and a choice of sauces. There was also a vegetarian option for the non meat eaters.

We had a prize ceremony for best dressed. There were a few categories, one was for the person who dressed according to their alter ego, one for the person who dressed opposite to what their personality is at work and then for best team and best overall. The dance floor was then opened followed by dessert, Belgium chocolate truffles, red velvet cupcakes and seasonal fruit kebabs. I left after the prize ceremony as I am not one to party late with work colleagues. I have seen too many stupid people do silly things and then they have to face the people from work the next day. The party was however great fun and I loved the idea of mixing some theatre with good food, music and dance.

Terrific bushveld breakaway

I went with a friend to Mabalingwe Nature Reserve for the weekend and what a fabulous getaway. We took leave on Friday and drove the easy, just over two hour drive to Mabalingwe in Limpopo Province, 32km west of Bela-Bela. We arrived in Bela-Bela and stopped at the Pick n Pay for some groceries and at the Biltong Inn for biltong where I also interestingly got rose pedal jam. We had lunch at the Strawberry Khaya which is on the way to Mabalingwe. It is the cutest tea garden where you can sit outside and the tables have games such as Monopoly, 30 seconds, Scrabble, etc if you are in the mood. I had a mince and cheese vetkoek and the food is not great but it is such a cute place that you are willing to forgive them.

We stayed at a chalet at the Ingwe camp that can sleep six people with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a loft. It has a fabulous big stoep with build-in braai where you can sit and watch some of the animals walk right by. On Friday evening we experienced the longest electrical storm where the sky would just light up with lightning. After probably four to five hours there was some rain but the electricity went out intermittently until there was none and with only a crescent moon it was pitch black. It was very late when there was suddenly a lot of commotion with bakkies with their hazards on flying past. It was only the next day that we learned that the veld was set alight, probably by the lightning and people were trying to get the fire under control which they only managed to fully extinguish by late Sunday afternoon.

Although the reserve hosts the big five, we only saw the buffalo but we had such beautiful days with special and fun moments filled with stunning sunrises and sunsets that it didn’t matter. We saw a few different buck species, hippo, birds and even a snake crossing the road. On Saturday morning we had fun car rally moments while skidding through the mud due to the rain from the previous evening and us driving in a normal car and not a 4×4. In the evening we decided to have dinner at the pub only to find out the pub stops serving food at five and the restaurant had venison on their menu which we don’t eat. By the time we decided to have a braai and buy meat and charcoal from the farm stall it was closed as well and we had to settle on the buffet at the restaurant or yet another samie at home. The specialty dish for the evening was crocodile with head and feet on display. We could barely eat the few chicken pieces from a very dreadful chicken dish after sawing that. The restaurant’s buffet was horribly overpriced and really appalling but the pub lunch on Sunday was good. It was a fabulous weekend and I could have done with a few extra days but after my USA trip in August I have almost no leave left and it is always good to end a holiday on a high note. What a great weekend!

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.