Monday, October 31, 2011


So today is Halloween, but this is not a Halloween post. Why? Well, mostly because it is Halloween and I am sitting at home in bed with a black cat at my feet rather than being out partying in Chungdae with Amy and Jess and the Korean people who are likely at Buzz right now. But also, it being the last day of October means that tomorrow is the first day of November. And November is going to be insane. Why you might ask? Let me give you a quick rundown of the things that I have to do in November.

1. Face tomorrow - billing run. The first of the month is always hellish with people discovering that, yes, they are still being charged for the services that they neglected to cancel. It's not that I think this month's billing run is going to be particularly bad or anything, I just suspect that its going to be a billing run, making my day tomorrow, well, hellish.

2. Team Building - this Friday is my company's first team building, or at least the first one that I will be taking part in. It is mandatory, it involves colourful t-shirts and, from the questions that we were asked to fill in last week, it is likely to be embarassing. It could, of course, be fun. This is not a possibility that I am ruling out. And, on the plus side, it will be followed by a braai and much booze provided by the company. Still, not seeming like a start to a productive weekend.

3. Photo shoot - hey! I didn't say that the month was filled with things that I wasn't looking forward to. Just that there is much to be done. My photo shoot with Debbie is one of the things that I really am looking forward to. I want to take my camera out for a field-trip. It's been feeling a little lonely in its camera bag recently.

4. Website - I am really hoping that this will be the month. I am going to be giving my designer a deadline in the hopes that he will stick to it. Of course, this means a lot of work on my part too, getting photos up, working out prices and writing up content.

5. Speaking of writing... NaNoWriMo - Yes. I am. Totally. 50 000 words, here I come. This will be the year!

6. Packing - Oh, right, that's right. This is the last month in our old house before we move to the shiny new one. But, this does involve packing up all of the stuff here first, hiring a trailer and lugging it to the new house. Oh, and hiring a trailer also involves finding a car with a toe-hitch to attach the trailer to. Fun times if I may say so myself!

7. Cleaning - Moving out of the old house means that there is going to be a lot of tidying to do. It's not that this house is a dump but, well, a lot of furniture hasn't been moved in the two years that Grant has lived in the house and I suspect that when we do move it, cobwebs are going to be flying, and I am going to be avoiding them like the plague because you know that with cobwebs come those dreaded eight legged creatures that I hate so much.

8. Moving - the adventure of moving into the new house will hopefully be starting in the last week of this month. Which means that packing has to start before then. It will also mean that when the day comes to move (01 December, which also happens to be a Thursday) we won't be lugging too much of our stuff and can perhaps even manage just taking half a day off work instead of a full day (something that I still need to book... bugger).

Birthday celebrations - Finally, and possibly most importantly, this month is Grant's birthday. Which involves a lot of planning on my part, simply because he always makes my birthdays incredibly awesome and I tend to suck at getting gifts that he might appreciate. This year, I am hoping, will be different. I have gone through every effort to find a gift that he will enjoy and appreciate, and then topped it off with two more gifts (and a third implied gift). It is a long story, which I will need to explain after the 11th, but basically, Grant's birthday celebrations will be taking up space in my mind for the first half of the month.

And this is why, November is looking like a fun-filled and particularly busy month. My God... I have exhausted myself just thinking about it. Off to bed I go now for an episode of Dollhouse!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Drug Addict!

Hello, my name is Lara and I take drugs. Not just any drugs, of course. I take Eltroxin for my thyroid problem. For my hypothyroidism to be precise.

People often don’t know what this means, and I don’t blame them. Hell, if I hadn’t grown up watching my mother and grandmother popping pills for this very problem, I wouldn’t have known myself! But thankfully, I did grow up knowing what hypothyroidism is, which meant that I realised that I had it pretty early.

So, what are the symptoms? First of all, there is the exhaustion. And when I say exhaustion, I do not just mean tiredness. I mean waking up tired, spending your day tired, coming home tired and collapsing on the bed not wanting to move because you are so tired. The tiredness seeps down to your bones and makes your body ache all of the time. Waking up tired is usually a sign that something is wrong, whether it is a thyroid problem or something else, and if it is the case that you are getting the right amount of sleep (not under- or over-sleeping) and are still waking up tired, you should look into getting some tests done.
So the tiredness is one of the most obvious symptoms, but there are more. You may experience mood swings. I know that I did. So much so that I thought that I might have been bi-polar. I would be laughing one minute and crying the next without knowing how I got there. I was constantly on edge and looking for something to upset me or looking to get into fights without realising it. It was as though my body didn’t want me to be happy.

And talking about my body, another of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain. Your metabolism does not function properly, which means that your food is not digested the way that it should be and this can and often does lead to weight gain. If you have hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, you will experience many of the same symptoms, only instead of gaining weight you will lose weight at a ridiculous rate. More specifically, it will be almost impossible for you to put on weight because your metabolism is in overdrive. While this may sound like a wonderful thing (I know it does to me – eat anything I like and never put on weight) it also leaves you vulnerable to heart-attacks and has other symptoms that are not so fun.

The trouble with these symptoms is that they can also point to a number of other conditions, including a B12 deficiency, iron deficiency or diabetes. However, if you are experiencing the systems, you should really go and get yourself tested. It amazes me how many people I talk to about this who go, “Oh… but I have been experiencing that and thought that it would just go away.” It won’t. Whether it is your thyroid, your vitamin levels, your sugar levels or your blood, it is something that you should have looked at.

So, how do you find out if you have hypothyroidism? Go to your GP and request a blood test. It is likely that if you discuss the symptoms with your doctor, he/she will recommend doing a number of other tests at the same time to rule out other conditions. In my case, knowing the symptoms and knowing that thyroid conditions are hereditary (if your mother/grandmother has it, it is highly likely that you do too or will develop it) I was fairly sure that was it. However, I also found out that I had a B12 deficiency which was also affecting my body and making me even more tired than usual.

If you do have hypothyroidism, I am afraid that you will be on pills for the rest of your life. If you have hyperthyroidism, there are treatments available and diets that supposedly help you maintain a healthy lifestyle without pills, but there are no such treatments or diets for the hypo alternative. Your dosage will differ according to how bad the condition is. This means that your levels will need to be tested via a blood test every 3-6 months. I started on the lowest dose of eltroxin and, over the last couple of months, have had to increase the dosage. The pills are small and easy to take without liquid and thankfully don’t taste too bad, but it is essential that you take them every morning to ensure that your levels stay the same. There are also specific types of food that you should avoid if you take eltroxin because they tamper with levels and prevent the medication from being effective. One of those foods is soy, and you should avoid soy products as much as you can. Many people say that wheat also affects the intake, and I think that this is true, though I have had trouble staying away from wheat, which possibly affected my levels and is part of the reason for my increased dosage. But I can’t guarantee this.

I hope that readers take this to heart and if they have experienced or are experiencing any of the symptoms that they will go to their doctor and get tested. Hypothyroidism may not be a fatal condition, but it is one that can easily be rectified and, once the medication becomes effective, can better your quality of life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fiction vs. Reality

Sometimes I pick up a book and wonder why that can't be my life. Sometimes I watch a movie and find myself wishing that I was that girl. Other times I thank my lucky stars that my life is as good as it is, but it doesn't take away from the fact that sometimes fiction is just better than reality.

I have brought out the notes again and have been considering trying at writing my Korean story down once more, not for the first time and probably not for the last. This time around it has been inspired by a friend of mine publishing a book. This friend is not a close one, and is not someone who I would have thought of as an author. She has never shown an interest (as far as I know) in writing a novel, and the fact that she got there before me makes me, well, helluva jealous. But then, she clearly wasn't like me in terms of the procrastinating and struggling to get her story out.

Anyway, now that I am considering writing again, I have been considering a new angle to approach the story from, and that is one of fiction. It would certainly fix a lot of the dilemmas that I have been considering about writing my own story in that it wouldn't affect the privacy of the people that I met and came to be friends with overseas. It would be fiction, and though I might draw from experiences or stories that I had and heard while I was in Korea, it would for the most part just be made up of the things that I wanted to do while I was there. My imagination could run wild and I could have a lot more fun with the writing of it.

Of course, so far it has been difficult. Even drawing from personal experiences and fictionalising them has been difficult. Take for example a part of the first chapter where the heroine of the book is having a fight with her boyfriend at the time because she is leaving. The fight itself never happened in my life, though it is based on a number of conversations that were had with my boyfriend and I before I left as well as the worries that I never voiced, but had in my mind before leaving. After writing that particular section, my emotions were all over the place and when Grant came home from work, I was close to tears because I felt like we'd had a real fight.

I am hoping that it is going to pan out this time. I am hoping that this isn't just going to be another of those fruitless attempts that end up going nowhere and just sitting on my harddrive for years. I have so many of those that I keep looking at and considering picking up again, but I think that my Korean story needs to be told before any other. It is a personal one, and if there is one that I am going to finish, this should be it. If I can't finish this, I have no business writing fiction. At least to my mind.

Anyway, that is all for today. I have wasted far too many words writing up a silly blog about writing. Words that could have been written into my new novel. Alas. Back to the grindstone I go! Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book with a Suggestive Title

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It sounds like it's supposed to be elusive, mysterious and exotic. The object of having such a title of a book is obviously to perk interest and arouse intrigue.

Except that a girl with a dragon tattoo is hardly intriguing. Isn't a dragon one of the most common tattoos along with hearts, roses and Chinese symbols? There are certainly hundreds of girls out there with dragon tattoos. Wait, hundreds is probably UNDERestimating. Thousands at least. So what makes this girl special and what makes this book special?

Well, not very much to be perfectly honest. At least, not in the case of the book. I will admit that the character of Lisbeth Salander is interesting and, I suppose, special. She is not your typical detective. The main surprise regarding her character, however I didn't find at all surprising. Unfortunately, you would have to read the book to find out what that is. Which I wouldn't stop you from doing.

I am not saying that the book is terrible. What I am trying to say is that it is not the amazing piece of literature that people make it out to be. It is a mystery novel, and for a mystery novel I found it quite difficult to get through. The first half of the book drags quite a lot. It is a description of the lives of Lisbeth Salander, a freelancer working for a security company who tends to dig into peoples lives and is particularly good at it, and Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just been found guilty of libel and is about to spend some time in jail. Salander is hired by a lawyer to run a background check on Blomkvist, as the lawyer's client is interested in hiring him for a special job.

The job is where the story starts to get interesting, and is only really mentioned (aside from the prologue) about a quarter of the way through the novel. And it still takes another quarter for the job to get interesting. Sure, there is a suspicion of murder which draws the reader's attention, but then another quarter of the book is spent detailing a past of the family involved, a past that, while it has interesting moments, is not all that interesting overall, I found.

And then, halfway through, the drama really starts with discoveries of information, heart attacks and Blomkvist finding out about and meeting Salander. From halfway through the book, I struggled to put it down. I really started enjoying the novel and finding it interesting, and it is because of the second half that I am not completely against the reading of it. I would just recommend being prepared to trudge through the dregs to get to the good part.

So overall, the book is only half good. Whether that is good enough to justify the great press would be up to you to decide. I don't think so. Tons of people do. If you've read the book, let me know what you think!

Ignorance was bliss

A friend of mine wrote the following blog post and asked me to publish it in my blog. Since I tend to agree wholeheartedly with her assessment of the situation, I didn't hesitate to say ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY! And so, without further ado...

Ignorance was bliss

You know what I’d like? For the world to be fair. This morning I arrived in town for work and decided to go for breakfast at a lovely little café near to my office. This was idyllic, until I made the mistake of picking up a newspaper.
This newspaper informed me that, at this very minute, South Africa’s esteemed president,  Mr Jacob Zuma, is having his houses and offices revamped to include, amongst other things,  a steam room, a dressing room, wooden window frames and doors, and  a larger swimming pool. The reported amount that will be spent for this varies, but it hovers around R190 million. I kid you not.
YOU are less important than me.
This for the man who, more than anyone, has a responsibility to be aware of the situation in which the majority of his constituency find themselves; jobless, homeless and with no prospect of any help from the government. It was pointed out in the article that the money spent on the revamping of two already far-from-modest houses could have been spent on thousands of RDP houses for the millions of South Africans living in deplorable conditions in shacks, wendy-houses, or on the street. People who have had their names down on lists for these aforementioned houses since the dawn of democracy (ha ha) in 1994, but who have been told that there has been no money nor manpower to build the houses. And yet, for our dear president and his who-knows-how-many wives and mistresses (yes it’s a cheap shot, but bear with me) it seems that the money, builders and chandelier-fitters are in abundant supply. And let’s not pretend it will take fifteen years for this job to be done.
On the next page, we have ANC Youth League President Julius Malema, the county clown, spewing yet another racist insult, this time at Indians. Heck, at least the boers get a break. Oh, wait, what? No, it appears he found time in amongst the speech-making to sing a little song about killing white folk. Phew.
But poor people are just so BORING.
This isn’t the first, nor the last time that Juju has poured forth about how much he hates…well, everyone who doesn’t look like him, really. Remind you of something beginning with N and ending in P? Julius’s job seems to be to go out into areas of greatest need in South Africa, tell the people what they’re missing, rile them into a frenzy of anger (it’s understandable; they live, undeservedly, in squalor), tell them what they deserve, equip them with a sense of entitlement and rage…and then leave. After all that mud slinging, a vindicated Malema heads off back to his none-too-shabby abode and eats something expensive, while the frustrated people sit outside their shacks, still poor, still hungry, still jobless, and even more frustrated. Malema has told them what they already knew, but repeatedly fails to address any of the problems, even when he seemingly has the influence, power and finances (how many designer suits?) to make a change.
Shame. He doesn't know who he is.
My wish for these two, and indeed anyone who abuses their powerful situation, is for them to be regressed. Remember when you were a child (think back, aged ones) and you got a bit uppity, or tried to bully the smaller children? What happened? Someone bigger than you, presumably your parent, teacher, or the weedy kid’s scary older brother, gave you a klap. Or detention, or the cane, or a stern talking to, depending on how lax corporal punishment laws were when you were young. Either way, you emerged feeling rather sheepish, rather sore, and rather disinclined to do it again.
But when one is at the top of the proverbial food chain, no effective structures exist for discipline. Who is there to klap the greedy head of state, the potty-mouthed Youth League leader, the insane dictator (yes, Mugabe, I’m talking about you) or even the abusive Man of the House? Perhaps by the time they have reached that lofty perch, it is too late for them to be brought down. Perhaps in this case, prevention is better than cure. So if you happen upon a child shouting down his smaller friends in the sandpit, remember; your hand might just save the nation. Just try and explain that to his mother…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unspoken Rules for Women in South Africa

I read an article this morning entitled "Unspoken Rules for Women in the United States". I was pointed in the direction of the article by two friends, one of whom wondered out loud what a South African version would look like. I started wondering the same thing, and decided to try and write one up.

"Welcome to the South Africa, little girl! We are so glad you have arrived. Here is a list of rules to live by, just to get you started:
  1. Your race is going to dictate where you end up in life. People will try to tell you that Apartheid is over, but the ramifications that come from years of suppression are still very real. Your race will determine which Universities you are able to attend and which jobs you are able to get. If you are black, coloured, Indian or oherwise non-White, your race will make you 'previously disadvantaged', and you will be given preference for any positions available.
  2. Technically you may wear what you choose, as long as what you choose is what society chooses for you. Short skirts are both encouraged and out of the question. Wearing one will certainly put you into the "sexy" category, which is strongly encouraged by society, but at the same time will advertise that you are open for business so to speak and by wearing one, you will be asking to be raped.
  3. Your weight is not your personal business - it is public domain. You can expect to be judged for being too big, too small and too average. In fact, you can expect to be judged for pretty much everything that you do. It is the tendency of society to judge.
  4. Your sexual preference is not your personal business either. Though you have a right to your sexual preference, the public will assume that they have the right to try to change you. This process can take on a number of forms, from social pressure to rape, all of which may be seen as either acceptable or deplorable according to the society that you are a part of. Either way, these reactions are often unlikely to lead to any action being taken in your defence.
  5. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are not raped. It is your responsibility to dress appropriately, speak appropriately, have the appropriate sexual preference and live the appropriate lifestyle of a woman. Should you choose not to follow these appropriate guidelines and end up being raped, it will be your fault for wearing a short skirt, flirting, being a lesbian or going out in public while wearing, saying or being any of the above. Should you contract a STD from such an encounter or fall pregnant due to such an encounter, this is also your responsibility.
  6. Should you decide to take advantage of the education that you are offered and the workplace opportunities that are open to you, you will still be expected to maintain a healthy sex life, have children, cook, clean and do your womanly duties. Having a job is no excuse for neglecting the job that you were given at birth.
  7. The fact that you are female also determines that you are 'disadvantaged' and jobs in companies will be set aside just for women. Congratulations! You will be allowed to work in a company where you will be treated as disadvantaged and, despite working just as hard as or harder than your male equivalents, you will always earn less money and garner less respect than they do.
We hope that this helps! Good luck out there!"

And yes, this did come out a little more cynical than I had intended, but for the most part, it is rather accurate. What would you add or remove?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe Review: Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

A whirring sound fills my kitchen, drowning out the voices in the lounge and every other sound in the house. I wince as I see liquid seeping from the ancient blender and hear the ice rattling around unscathed by the blades. It's quite possible that I filled it too high, but it's equally possible that this machine just can't handle ice cubes and frozen strawberries like it used to. It was my grandmother's after all, and I am fairly sure that it is older than I am. Before I know it, my kitchen is a pink, sticky, alcoholic mess. But that's okay! We weren't planning on spending too much time in there anyway!

The idea for the cocktail evening came about a few months ago when I went out with Kath, Rosa and Emma for some cocktails at the Yellow House (which has an awesome selection of truly amazing cocktails) and found that we would need to pitch in about R100 each for two cocktails. Totally not worth it! It would be far better, we decided, if we were to pitch in about R50 each, go out and buy ingredients and then make our own cocktails. It took a few months to find a night that suited people, but it finally happened and it was most fun and awesome, although we didn't end up having as many cocktails as we would have liked as it was the middle of the month and we were all broke.

No matter, I decided that I was going to spend the last of my cash on the ingredients for frozen strawberry margaritas. Why this cocktail specifically? Well, I'd bought frozen strawberries quite awhile ago in an attempt to be healthy and make supremely awesome smoothies for breakfast on a daily basis. Sadly, this never happened, and I got left with a bag of frozen strawberries living in my freezer, taking up space and annoying my housemates. So I decided to finally do something with them. I looked up how to make frozen strawberry margaritas and found the following recipe:

1.5oz Silver tequila
1 oz Orange liqueur (or Triple Sec)
1 oz Lime Juice or Concentrate
1 cup Frozen or fresh strawberries
1 cup Ice cubes

I went out and bought the tequila (though we ended up buying white rather than silver since I don't know the difference and I don't really think that it matters considering that we were mixing it with other alcohol rather than having it straight), Triple Sec and lime concentrate as well as some Rosé wine just in case, which came to a total of R225. You may be looking at that and thinking: "Good God! So expensive!" But then you should also consider that I ended up making 7 cocktails, and having a ton of alcohol left over. The only reason we didn't make more is that the strawberries ran out. Boo!

So, how did they turn out? Aside from them having pretty large bits of ice (occasionally whole ice cubes) or frozen strawberry (which I completely blame on the ancient blender described at the start of this post), I thought they were pretty damn good! Strong, but good. Messy, but good. Overall, a success! I would recommend finding a good blender to make them with, however, and I know that I will be doing just that next time around.

The rest of the night was spent watching Bridesmaids (again) at Kath and Emma's request, drinking frozen strawberry margaritas, snacking on rice crackers, cucumber, celery and dip and playing board games. The boys arrived back from Oktoberfest celebrations around midnight to find us playing 30 Seconds, and then insisted that their team of 3 could kick our team of 4's ass. Which we quickly disproved. Mike then insisted on trying to kick our asses 2-to-4, refusing to let any girl join his team to make things a little more even. Needless to say, he was put to shame. He then finally relented, letting Kath become and honorary boy and a final game ensued, which Vicky, Emma and I won in any case. Because we rock. So does Kath, but that's not the point.

The girls (and boy) finally decided to call it a night around 1am and we all decided that this was an event that was going to have to become monthly. Which is just fine by me, especially since I have half a bottle of Tequila and half a bottle of Triple Sec that I don't intend to get through any time soon! So watch this space for more information on another girly evening coming soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


To me there is nothing worse and more self-damaging than being by myself. I don't know when this started, but I have the sense that it has been going on for longer than I have been aware of it.

I hate being alone. I hate shopping alone, I hate being by myself in the office and I hate being alone at home, even when there is a housemate upstairs being pretty darn quiet and a cat at my feet. I am not comfortable being alone and all it leads to is stress and worry for me. I know that for a lot of people, alone-time is personal time, is time to relax and be by yourself. I am happy to take 30-45 minutes a day to have a nice long bath and have my personal time there, not worrying about work or moving or any of the stresses of everyday life. But, when I am by myself for longer than that, it is all that I can think about. Those stresses and more.

I think that it is because I have never really been alone for a long period of time. I moved from a house with my parents to a house with 70 other girls, to a house with 4 housemates. And then I moved to Korea, and for the first time I was really and truly alone. There was no one I could turn to for the first few months and I had no friends. I was utterly miserable until I started hanging out with Jodie and then Patrick and then Geri and Neil and Amy and Jess. Slowly I started making friends, and in between, when I was lonely, there were Skype chats with my mom, my grandparents, my sister, Grant and just about anyone who was online at the time so that I just did not need to feel so alone. Unfortunately, at 10:30 at night, there are not too many people online to chat to.

Now, when I find myself "alone" (that that is in inverted commas since there really is a guy not more than 100m away from me and a cat lying on my feet, which I might mention, is rather uncomfortable considering the heat) all I think about is work and what I feel I have been doing wrong, all the money that needs to be spent on moving (money that I do not have), the fact that I do not have money, and the fact that I am missing all of my friends insanely much.

It is times like these when I truly feel alone, not just in the house, but in the city and the world. I start wallowing and it never leads to anything good. I start thinking of the great friends like Amy and Jess and Jodie and Robyn and Ashlea and wondering why the hell they cannot be here with me in Grahamstown! It would certainly make life a lot easier. I could just phone one of them up and say "hey, I'm lonely. Bring some wine over and let's make a party happen!" I can totally picture Amy and I doing that, probably because we have done it so many times. But here, I do not have a person that I can do that with. I can invite friends over for dinner or drinks or cocktails or a girly night in, but I cannot call someone in the middle of the night and say "I'm bored, let's do something!" I really wish that I could.

Don't get me wrong, I have friends here. It's a similar situation to what I found myself in when I was in Korea. I would often phone Grant up in tears because I felt friendless. The loneliness hits and I just forget about all the good things in my life and I tend to need to have someone remind me of those. Grant tends to be really good at that, but he is out playing Darts at the moment as he does every Wednesday night.

So what does this boil down to? Well, I miss my friends. Also, I need something to do on Wednesday nights to stop me from moping about the house feeling sorry for myself. Jestine? Kath? Any ideas, since you guys are the closest friends that I have in this little town?


The rush of the unexpected taste fills my mouth and makes me salivate involuntarily. For a moment it is all that I can taste before it mingles with the saltiness and sweetness, becoming a good halfway between the two, muting them and bringing them together at the same time.

I love lemon. I am not one of those people who can eat it straight, biting into it. My taste buds are far too sensitive for that. But I certainly love cooking with it, and find it to be a good ingredient to cook with. I tend to use it often, probably too often for the liking of my housemates who have to endure my cooking!

One of my favourite things to do is to replace oil with lemon when I am cooking chicken. It works just as well, but gives the chicken a lemon flavour and is far healthier. What I tend to do is squeeze some lemon juice into a pan, sprinkle in a fair amount of Italian herbs and then fry the chicken up with the herbs and lemon, leaving out the oil bit. Forget Nando's chicken and herb. I far prefer my own :) Once the chicken is "fried" I either roll it up in a tortilla with lettuce and tomato, or I add some veggies into the pan and make a quick stir fry. Each way provides healthy alternatives to the regular chicken dishes that I used to cook. Plus it is far tastier.

There is also another recipe that I have not tried since my uni days, but used to work well enough then. I would place some lemon juice into a bowl and marinade the chicken in the juice before placing it in the oven on grill for 10-15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes ago. What I ended up with was lovely juicy chicken breasts, bursting with flavour and perfectly tender. I usually served that with either baked potatoes or mash.

You can expect to see quite a few of these kinds of food tips over the next few weeks, since I am now participating in a challenge issued by one of my "Korean" friends (aka. friend who I met in Korea who is not actually Korean) involving a healthier lifestyle in terms of both cooking and exercise. I am not convinced about the exercise, since I can hardly get myself to cook when I come home from work being utterly exhausted and all, but I can certainly try to cook as often and possible, and when I am not the one cooking, I can get Grant to do the cooking for me, and get him to cook as healthily as possible.

Unfortunately, I already see a problem day in the horizon, since the girls are coming over on Saturday night for home made cocktails, and you know that is going to involve more than a few calories. I only found out about the challenge after I had arranged the cocktail evening though, and it is something that I have been trying to arrange for at least a month and a half, so there can be no backing out now! Oh well, cest la vie!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bridesmaids Review

When Bridesmaids first came out, I heard really good things about it. I heard that it was like the female version of The Hangover, and having loved that movie, the idea of a female version thoroughly appealed to me. I finally got hold of a copy this week and decided to watch it on Wednesday night.

For those of you who may not have heard about Bridesmaids, I will offer a quick explanation of what the movie is about. A single woman, reeling from a recent breakup and the collapse of her business, is invited to be the maid of honour for her best friend's wedding. The two have been friends since they were little, and so she naturally is thrilled at the honour. She then finds out that the friend is marrying into quite a wealthy family and a wealthy society and that all of the bridesmaids are part of this society. She therefore needs to help plan a wedding that involves a lot of expenses to herself including bachelorette parties, bridesmaid dresses and general wedding-like expenses, all while being surrounded by women who are far wealthier and are all in supposedly healthy, happy relationships.

It sounds like a typical rom com, right? It sounds like it has potential. However, the movie ended up being a rollercoaster ride of emotions from awkward to hilarious to disgusting and heart-touching with many stops in between. There were moments that I loved about the movie, but there were also moments that I hated. There tend to be parts in movies where I cringe because I am so embarassed for the protagonist, usually because I can put myself in their shoes and just know that this is not going to work out the way that they have imagined it in their heads. I have what I like to think of as foresight. In any case, during this movie, there were moments where I cringed in that way, but there were also moments where I was just plain tempted to turn the movie off and stop right there.

I will explain in slightly further detail one of these moments, and I apologise for any spoilers that this may provide. However, I take it that if this specific scene puts you off, you probably wouldn't have enjoyed watching it anyway. There is a moment in the movie where the protagonist in an attempt to impress the other bridesmaids without spending a vast fortune decides to take the girls to a genuine Brazilian restaurant that she has found before they go for dress fittings. The place looks like a dump, but the food is supposed to be amazing. So they go to the restaurant and have a lovely lunch which they all enjoy and then they make their way to the dress fitting. While trying on ridiculously expensive dresses, each and every one of them suddenly comes down with a bad case of food poisoning and there is rushing for the toilets in every direction. By the time this hits the bride, there are no bathrooms left, and she is in a ridiculously expensive wedding dress. She therefore makes a run for the place across the road that does have a bathroom and can't make it, therefore falling down in the middle of the road in a wedding dress and... well... you can guess from there I am sure.

As I said before, there were horrendous moments, but there were also sweet ones, and it's one of those situations where your sense of humour will decide for you whether you go to watch the movie or not. All I can say is that it certainly was no female version of The Hangover, and the humour in it was not up to the same standard in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So I just watched Bridesmaids, and while I am sure that there is going to be a movie review coming up about it soon enough, I wasn't really in the mood for writing one right now. Right now I am in a reminiscent mood and wanting to write about all of the girl friends that I am feeling really out of touch with.

And so this is going to be a very quick post just to say that Ashlea, Gina, Rachel, Natasha, Robyn, Amy, Jess and Jodie, I am missing all of you most insanely and wish that you could all be with me here now. Love you guys!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Consuming and Protecting (one person's rant)

Since it is something that I have been dealing with a lot at work recently, I thought that I would write up a quick blog on the Consumer Protection Act and how it affects us as both customers and suppliers.

For those of you who don't know what the CPA is, it is a new act that came into effect earlier this year governing the way the small businesses are run and protecting the consumer from businesses that may be trying to swindle them. I am not sure how laws look in the States or other countries, so I wouldn't know what laws are in place there to protect the consumers when dealing with small businesses, but this was a fairly new thing in South African law. The ethics behind the law had essentially been in place prior to it being passed, but the Act sets everything in stone and sets a guideline for legal action against companies that do not comply with it. Oh, and I am sorry if my legal jargon is a little off. I did not study law, but I have studied the Act itself and have tried to make the best sense that I can out of it.

The reason why I have had to study the Act so hard is because my company, as it is considered to be a small company (as opposed to, you know, Telkom and such companies), needs to rewrite all of our contracts to comply with the new Act. What does this mean for us? All waivers of liability go out the window, all force majeure and disclaimers go poof. Our contracts have to be rewritten entirely to ensure that none of the clauses go against the CPA, because if even one does, our entire contract goes up in flame and cannot be binding.

What this means for the customer is that the buying power is in their hands. It means that they cannot be taken for a ride by a supplier who sees someone who knows nothing about a product and therefore tries to fob it off for a ridiculous price. It means that buying and selling of products needs to be fair, open and honest, and if a customer finds that their service is not fair, they can complain and there is now an avenue to go through for the complaint that will lead to an outcome rather than getting stuck in court for years on end.

I think that the new Consumer Protection Act can be a great thing for the consumer. I also think that it can be a horrifying thing for the supplier. While the Act protects consumer's rights, it also takes away a number of the rights of the Supplier. It makes them liable for problems that they may not have been liable for before and that larger companies are not liable for.

Let's use an example. Let's say that the company I'm working for has a problem with the Telkom line at their servers. This would lead to a number of problems with the servers and may lead to a large number of clients not being able to access their services. Previously, our contracts would have protected us, as they included a clause holding us unaccountable for loss of data that was caused by a problem beyond our control. We can no longer say that. We now need to be held accountable for loss of data or loss of business caused by that problem with our servers. You would think that we would then be able to hold Telkom accountable, but they are a big company unaffected by the CPA and we can't. This means that we would be losing a large amount of money and there would be nothing that we could do about it.

Now, I may be completely wrong about all of this. As I said, I have only read the CPA and have been trying to adjust our contracts to comply with it, but I know that it has its pros and cons. It has its pros for the consumers who need this kind of set procedure for dealing with problems. But it also has its cons for small businesses that are not trying to swindle, not trying to be unfair, closed off or dishonest, but are merely trying to keep afloat.

I suppose I will just have to keep reading the CPA and keep writing the contracts until something changes and hope that we never have to be on the receiving end of a CPA lawsuit.