The Journey Begins (sort of)

Anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of applying for a Schengen Visa will probably not know or understand my pain. Or the absolutely fear (yes fear – it’s progressed far beyond stress) that one can experience in the days leading up to the dreaded “application”. Today was my day to head over to the French Embassy (also know as Le Consulat de France au Cap) and hope against hope that I had all the documents that I needed to obtain that little sticker.

Over the past few weeks there’s been little else on my mind that getting all my documents sorted so I can finally do what I’ve set my mind on… (Re)learn to speak French in Paris. I won’t go into all the details of the laborious planning process, but this morning I was confident that I had everything in place. So I set off for the Consulate, feeling optimistic.

The weird thing about applying for a visa is that I still have a valid visa. The only problem is that my current visa expires 9 days before my return to South Africa and it’s only valid for 30 days at a time, while my trip will span 77. This actually proved to be more of a problem than I thought, so right form the start it wasn’t looking good. However, once the madame was convinced that they could figure something out, another problem popped up. The fact that I was going to study French in France was also problematic, even though I had a perfectly legitimate certificate from the university to state that I was “pre-registered” and accepted. Apparently the French don’t allow just anyone to go learn French, so the lady promptly switched over and started talking French to me, in order to determine whether I do actually speak the language. After assuring her that I had studied French at school and a little at university (in French, of course), she was still not satisfied and asked that I provide her with a matric certificate to show that this was, in fact, true.

Since I don’t really carry my matric certificate with me, I had a little mad dash around town and finally managed to get a copy, which I delivered to them promptly. Success! Or at least I hope so. You never know with these embassy types.

But now I’ve done all that I can do and I can only hope that when I pitch up to pick up my passport in 3 working days, everything will be ready. And then my journey begins. But more about that when I get there.

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Hello Inspiration… Where have you been all July?

So, yet again, I have been neglecting my poor old blog for quite a while now. At first I blamed it on “work”, then “time constraints” and finally I convinced myself that the (perfectly good) reason why I wasn’t writing anything was because I haven’t found anything worth writing about. This excuse has been quite sufficient up until today, when I stumbled upon possibly the coolest thing this year.

Now I’m not heavily into technology and gadgety, webby things. In fact even though I’d heard the name Google Chrome before, I never actually bothered to find out what it is, what it does or how I might benefit from it. In short, it’s a web browser. But play around on it a bit and you’ll find out it’s so much more.

Like today, when I stumbled upon this link to OK Go’s new video… I watched, curious, and immediately followed the directions to their other site, where the video becomes interactive… unfortunately I couldn’t participate in the fun, because I don’t use Google Chrome and hadn’t bothered to download it earlier. So I downloaded it. And what followed was 20 minutes of pure awesomeness. You type in a message, any message and watch as a bunch of leotard-clad men and women recreate your message woth their feet. Sweet! This is what I wrote:
So finally, I’ve found something worth writing about again. It’s a small step, but I’m hoping it’s the start of something new. May the inspiration last this time. Please let it last…

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Made this. Love this. Wrote about this.

*Oh dear. I failed miserably at the whole PostAWeek thing. But instead of moping about it and trying to justify to myself why I am such an epic failure, I’m just going to move on and get on with it. It seems like every time I start blogging again there’s always a whole post on why I am writing again, which is silly. And boring. And not much fun to read. So FYI I’m blogging again and this time I’m not going to commit to X number of posts per week… I’ll just be writing whenever I feel like it and not writing whenever I don’t feel like it. Intro done.

While the past 4 months haven’t exactly been the most exciting of my life, it’s not like I’ve been lounging around doing nothing. Come to think about it, there have actually been quite a few developments in my life in the year 2011 (so far). No, I didn’t get engaged (which a lot of people my age seem to be doing) and I definitely didn’t win the lottery either (damn you Euromillions!). What I did manage to do is something that’s been long overdue… move into my own office. That’s right, I no longer work from home, which means my pyjamas days are officially something of the past. I now get up every morning, dress like normal people do and come to work. Yes I still freelance, so technically there’s no one who checks to see that I am actually at my desk or working. And yes I can still take break whenever I want, have super long lunches and go home whenever I feel like it, but at least I now have some sort of structure to my day.

Another great thing about being in an office for at least 8 hours a day is that I’ve had a lot of extra time (while I’m not doing actual work) to spend on the Internet, which of course has led to the discovery of some awesome websites. The World Wide Web really is an amazing place to procrastinate. One of my favourites at the moment is a DIY collective called Made This / Love This.  It was started by a girl called Indiana Adams, who posts new DIY projects on the 1st and 15th of each month. Once you’ve completed the project, you post a picture of the finished product to the site and look at all the pretty things other people have made. It’s quite fun, actually!

I’ve never been very good at DIY and have always considered myself to be somewhat of a safety hazard with a needle and thread, but I’ve completed the first project and I’d have to admit I was pretty pleased with the result. (So pleased in fact that it actually became a very good friend’s birthday present.)

The first project was a t-shirt scarf, which involved turning an old t-shirt into a funky-looking scarf.  Here’s how I did it:

Take old (cheap, rarely-worn) t-shirt...

(Use very sharp scissors to) cut into little strips...

Stretch out strips (until round and squiggly)...

... and TA-DA! (the masterpiece)

I managed to make this without seriously injuring myself or anyone else, so all in all it was quite an accomplishment. If you enjoy making things out of nothing (or new things out of old things), I suggest you have look at Made This / Love This. In the meantime I’m ready to get my sew on in the next project: Jorts – yes, you’ve guessed it, I will turn an old jean pant into sexy shorts… watch this space!

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A New Year. A New Challenge.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the New Year has started off rather slow. Except for the fact that I have to pack up and move all my worldly possessions within the next few days, there hasn’t been much going on to keep me busy. It’s not that I don’t have tons of stuff planned for the year, it just takes a while to get all the little things sorted, before I can get around to doing them.

For one thing I am dead set on finally editing a novel that I wrote 3 years ago. This will take up a considerable amount of my time and let’s face it: by the time I’m done editing, I’ll probably want to edit it all over again. That’s just how it works.

A far less ambitious task that I’ve set for myself is to be more active on my blog. I haven’t posted anything in over 4 months (eek!) and even though you’d think this means I have lots to write about, actually the complete opposite is true. With every single blog-less day that goes by, it gets harder and harder to get back into it. But that all stops today and with a little help from The Daily Post, I am optimistic that I will soon be back to my old blogging self.

Now since I can’t ignore the fact that I’m a little rusty and I don’t want to set myself up for failure I’ve decided that PostADay might be a little too ambitious for me. Therefore I’ve decided to go with the more achievable PostAWeek option and I therefore pledge that I will try my utter best to do at least one post per week for the rest of the year.  Hey, I’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

So here’s to my first post in 4 months, my first post of 2011 and the first of many more to come.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Why do my dogs refuse to go green?

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not the greenest person on the block (far from it), but when I can help it, I do try to lead a relatively environmentally friendly lifestyle. Unfortunately, my pets aren’t giving their co-operation.

During my final year of college, we did a semester on environmentalism, which introduced me to the world of “green living” and what it means to be environmentally conscious. Then I worked on an ad to promote an over-priced bathroom fitting company’s drip-free taps, where I got to delve a bit more into the importance of saving water (ever since then, I don’t leave the taps running while I brush my teeth, and although I’d love to say I abide by the “If it’s yellow…”-rule, well quite frankly that’s just gross).

I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve read and heard about environmentalism from a variety of sources, but the one who’s had the biggest impact on me, has to be Leonardo di Caprio in The 11th Hour (yes, I’m that shallow). He did such a good job convincing me to be more ”green”, I wonder if I can get him to come talk to my little pups? He shares a first name with one of them, so maybe I’ll lead off with that. Here goes…

I put the Grrrrrrrr in green...

AN OPEN LETTER TO LEONARDO DI CAPRIO

Dear Leo,

So my poodle puppy’s name is Leo and although the two of you are very similar in facial features and temperament (he’s very reserved and doesn’t like people- just like you!), he doesn’t seem to share your passion for the environment.

I’ve had him for almost 2 weeks and ever since I got him I’ve been trying to train him to well, how do I put this… do his business outside. The problem is, he seems to prefer to do it inside, which for obvious reasons is sort of a problem for me. I know you’re thinking: “And why exactly is this my problem?”

Ha! Well you see his little habit of going inside doesn’t only negatively impact me (Do you have any idea how much time I spend cleaning up after him?), it also impacts the environment (Do you have any idea how much toilet paper I use to clean up after him?).

But wait, there’s more… Do you have any idea how many times a day I flush the toilet, just to clean up after him? (And before you ask: No you can’t throw it in the bin, it’s not sanitary, kind of filthy and for lack of a better word gross.)

I make a compelling point, don’t you think? However if you’re still not convinced, here’s the kicker: Leo is not alone. That’s right, there are two of them. And the second one is bigger, makes bigger and goes more often. There.

Oh greenest of all, please help me! This weighs heavily on my conscience and I haven’t slept in days! Surely you can tap into their clever little minds and convince them to do the right thing? Not for my benefit, but for that of the environment. If you can’t I’m afraid I’ll have to strap some eco-friendly bio-degradable diapers on them and then I’ll probably have Peta on my ass. Besides no-one wants to see a poodle in a diaper. I’m begging you.

Yours environmentally,

H

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Straighten up and fly, right?

I am appalled to admit that this morning I spent, nay WASTED a whole hour doing nothing other than straightening my hair. That’s right a whole hour. I took me 60 minutes to get my relatively wavy, not at all curly hair what stylists would call “straight”.

The reason I am so annoyed by this is that even though I knew what a ridiculous waste of time it was, I continued to do it. You’d think that I have better things to do with my time, but no. Let’s see, in the hour it took me to do my hair I could have:

  • Walked the dogs and made their day.
  • Gotten some work done so the rest of my weekend is free
  • Made myself a sandwich (yum) or 4
  • Made 30 packs of 2minute noodles (I’m just illustrating a point)
  • Caught up with an old friend over coffee
  • Updated my blog (although technically then I wouldn’t have had something to write about)

I could go on or ages, I mean the list is really endless…Yet still I decided to spend the hour on myself. No wait, spending time on yourself, like meditating, soul-searching doing yoga and getting massages is good. What I did is spend too much time on my APPEARANCE. Big difference. How did it happen that I (who rarely wears make up and seldom even blow-dry my hair) felt the need to waste precious time on getting my hair done?

And to think there are women (sorry, people) who do this every day? Where on earth do they find the time? They either get up at 5 in the mornings or they have some super-charged turbo straightener that costs the same as a small boat and is only sold in Nepal. Either way, I wish they would stop. They’re making the rest of us normal people, who prefer DOING things rather than GETTING READY to do things look bad.

To be honest, my hair isn’t all that bad when I don’t blow-dry or straighten it. Sure it’s a bit frizzy in the beginning, but everyone’s hair is like that after a wash. Oh it isn’t? Must just be me then. The funny thing is while I was half-way through the process and sporting a serious arm cramp (how am supposed to get to the back anyway?) I actually contemplated just leaving the rest. But I couldn’t. the part I had finished just looked so, well shiny. And pretty. And I figured I’ve gotten this far, I might as well finish. So another few serious arm spasm later I was done and if I do say so myself really happy with the result. Still I couldn’t help feeling guilty for how much time I had wasted, not to mention the damage I just caused my hair. Being “iron” by a scalding hot straightener isn’t exactly my idea of fun. Sorry hair, but you had to be straight. Waves just aren’t cool anymore.

So who exactly was this person who decided that straight hair is so much better than curly hair? I’m pretty sure some marketing director at GHD has been a busy boy, but since I don’t have any evidence I’ll just go head and blame it on society. I can do that, right? It seems like we’ve all become so obsessed with what we look like, we have no problem spending ridiculous amounts of time (and money!) on anything that will make ourselves “look better”. It’s pretty bizarre. But we do it anyway. “All in the name of beauty.”

So straightening my hair has robbed me of 1 hour today, which means I’ll only have 23 hours left to do what I actually want to do. (I shudder to think how short my day would be if I had to add make-up to that equation…) Personally it seems like a bit of a waste and I think in future I’ll leave my hair to be whatever it wants to be and rather spend an hour doing something worthwhile. In fact, maybe it’s time we all had a good long look in the mirror and accept our hair the way it is.

If you ask me, it’s our priorities that could do with some straightening.

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The best thing since sliced bread? Sandwiches!

I feel like I should add a “Doh!” to my title since it seems like such a Homer Simpson thing to say. Don’t worry I’m not going to get lyrical about the magic of the sarmie… There really is nothing magical about bread, butter, cheese, salami, cucumber, mayo or lettuce. HOWEVER this morning I rediscovered power of these ingredients when combined in exactly the right quantities and order, to make the perfect sandwich.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “She’s gone bonkers…” Right? Am I right? And I also know you’re thinking: “Oh no, she’s not doing a whole post about sandwiches now, is she?” You’re probably having flashbacks of the time when Oprah ran out of material and decided to do a whole show on “Wearing the right bra-size”. A sad moment for television indeed. But this is nothing like that. I have lots to talk about (that’s a lie) and tons of interesting stuff to say (lies, lies, all lies), I just think it’s necessary to devote a little bit of my time to the lost art of sandwich-making.

Yes, it is an art. Ask anyone who’s ever had to swallow the wrong combination of ingredients on a slightly stale ciabatta. You see as wonderfully filling as a well-made sub (and I use the word “sub” because Subway has never disappointed… Well except for the one time on Joburg International, nut that’s a whole other story) can be, screw up the ingredients and you’ll have a disaster on your hands. I’m talking stoners-with-a-serious-case-of-the-munchies-wouldn’t-even-look-at-it-twice kind of disaster. I know it sounds a bit dramatic and you’re probably questioning my sanity yet again, but hear me out. As simple as it seems to make a sandwich, there are many, oh so many ways to mess it up. I contemplated writing a list of things NOT to do when preparing a sandwich (1. Never put the tomato next to the bread, 2. Never have the mayo next to the cheese, etc.) but even I could see that that would be a little much.

Instead I have decided to do a simple step-by-step guide to making the perfect sandwich.

Step 1: ALWAYS toast the bread. It doesn’t matter if you’re using white, brown wholeweat, rye, Low GI, baguette or a pita, toasted bread just tastes so much better.

Step 2: Butter the bread THE SECOND it comes out of the toaster. Don’t wait. Have the butter ready. Don’t waste precious time fetching it after the toast has popped up, it will get cold and the butter won’t melt.

Step 3: Add whatever salty spread you most like (my personal favourite is Bovril, but I think Marmite is the more vegetarian-friendly option) and IMMEDIATELY top with cheese. You might actually want to grate the cheese beforehand since the butter rule is also applicable here. Wait too long and the cheese won’t melt.

Step 4: The fresh stuff. Now you add everything that you would usually put in a salad. I always do tomatoes right on top of the cheese, followed by either lettuce, cucumber or both. NEVER put the fresh stuff (especially tomato) directly on the bread as it will make become mushy and your crust will be soggy. Ugh.

An important part of this step is to finish it all off with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Just sprinkle it all over. It makes everything taste better.

Step 5: NOW you will add the meat of your choice. I prefer salami or shaved turkey, but I made a great sandwich with some leftover leg of lamb the other day, so you really can use any meat. Or fish! Tuna’s also great.

Step 6: Man I wish I could do this in 5 steps, it would’ve been so much catchier! Anyway, once you’ve added the meat it’s time for the final touches. Take the other piece of bread (a sandwich usually consists of ingredients sandwiched between 2 slices), add either mustard or mayo (or both) and place it on top of everything, mustard/mayo side facing down, of course.

Voila! You have a perfect sandwich. Follow these steps and you can’t go wrong. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I am to sandwiches what a barista is to coffee. Seriously.

Oh dear, I really did just write a whole post about sandwiches. If Oprah wasn’t cancelled I’d probably be on a plane to Chicago right now. Tyra Banks maybe? It’ll be an emotionally charged show entitled: “My husband left me, because he couldn’t stomach my sandwiches…”

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