Gangster Invitation

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Just a quick post – this was an invitation recently made by myself for a ‘departmental year end function’, the theme was ‘gangster/mobster’ and only with a supplied date and venue [they couldn’t even give me a time!]. I whipped it up in about 20 minutes, don’t think it’s all that impressive – but I like the way it turned out.

Invite and handmade envelope

Because I thought that printing on an envelope or simply writing on it would be a bit lame, I decided to take a plain white envelope, dip a teabag in hot water until it was mostly ‘drawn’, and then simply took the teabag and wiped the entire exterior surface with the teabag. Once done and dry [I used the hand dryer in the ladies lav], I took a saucer, put some of the ‘tea’ water into it, added a few coffee granules and then used the bottom of my mug as a stamp to achieve the ‘rings’. I then used a blue ‘whiteboard marker’ to write a generic ‘titling’ on the envelope. The invitation was to go into a ‘pool’ as every employee from that department was required to create an invite, that would hence go to some other individual in that department, so it had to retain its anonymity.

Back of the invite

 

 

Honeymoon Adventures (PART 2 – Outdshoorn)

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Honeymoon Adventures (PART 2 – Outdshoorn)

I know – this follow up post has been a long time coming, but thankfully with the year winding to a close, I have somewhat more time on my hands 🙂

After leaving the not-as-nice-as-expected Knysna, the only other place I was adamant to venture to was ‘Ostrich’ country. Having been met by the disappointment that Knysna was no longer genuine ‘oyster’ country – I knew that Oudtshoorn would not disappoint.

Oudtshoorn (pronounced Oats-hu-wern), a little town nestled cozily just before the Swartberg Mountain Ranges and boasting more than just ostriches as its claim to fame – as it is also home to the ‘Cango Caves’. I had no expectations of the town itself, but was really just looking forward to the ostriches and caves. We had no accommodation bookings, because my husband who huddles in a corner at the mention of ‘planning’, said that I should book – and I told him that we should just wing it… which we did. On the GPS we located the nearest guesthouse upon entering the town, stopped – enquired about the rates (which were really good) and then booked in. Having arrived quite early in the morning – we unpacked the car and then set forth.

I had no pre-conceived notions about the place – but this little town sure blew me away. It was entirely reminiscent of what a little South African Town had been like back in the early 80’s (since that’s as far back as I can remember), prior to all the political nonsense and other stuff which so unnecessarily plagues this country’s past. It was simply beautiful! It was clean and the historical buildings had been looked after and maintained in pristine condition. The air was filled with a radiant warmth and welcoming feeling – which made me not want to leave the following day!

Our first stop was the Cango Ostrich Farm, where we enlisted ourselves on the guided tour and having missed the two large tourist busses which had stopped just prior to our arrival – our tour happened to be ‘exclusively’ ours! Just the two of us 🙂 It was truly special.

(Left) Hugging an ostrich never felt so good 🙂 (2nd) Judging by the look on his face, I don't think he enjoyed it nearly as much as I did (3rd) Apparently they can carry quite a substantial weight. NOTE: No ostrich was harmed during the taking of this picture (Right) Let them see the corn.... and it's a whole different kind of crazy!

After a brief intro on how the ostrich ended up here and the lucrative history of the ostrich feather (and that at one point in time was worth more than gold of the same weight!!), we were afforded the opportunity of being able to ‘hug’, feed and ‘sit’ on the ostriches. These rather docile and doe eyed looking sweetie-pies come right out of the dino era, or so we were warned and that when angered can kill a grown man with one fierce forward kick of its two toed foot. Also good to know that they’re right up there with cheetahs as far as land speed and that the best way to avoid getting severely injured by an ostrich is not to run, but to lie completely flat?!?! –  only because this will set you out of its peripheral vision. Another handy tip to note, is that the most valuable asset to the ostrich is it’s eyes!! Those big beautiful eyes, with to-die-for-lashes! They are so protective over their eyes, that they will shy away from any possible threat, so in the event that you wish to move unharmed through a herd of ostriches perhaps, be sure to carry and flank yourself with ‘thorny branches’.

These charming creatures were definitely my highlight! They are truly delightful creatures with such unique personalities…

Such cute harmless looking creatures, who can pack one mighty kick!

They are also very much like swallows in the sense that they “partner” for life – however, in the event of one passing away, strangely the female moves on to find another mate, but in the instance of the female passing…the male will never take another partner!

Ostrich eggs are quite clearly a feat all on their own, as they are able to hold and sustain quite a substantial weight!!

As the day settled into early afternoon, with the lazy July sun wanting to settle, we still had much adventure time ahead of us, I eagerly wanted to get along to the next ‘notch’ on our itinerary… we needed to see how far the Cango Caves were out of town and how long the total trip through the caverns would take us, so that we could establish if we still had enough time to get it done. Even if we had found the time constraints choking the afternoon into evening and hadn’t been able to go cave crawling – the spectacular view and drive more than soothed my restless self. The scenery in the outlying areas are simply stunning and we were blessed by the spectacular sight of the Swartberg Mountains, blanketed in snow! All I wanted to do then, was get to the mountains…

The Swartberg Mountain ranges covered in beautiful snow!!

The above stunning backdrop is what you will experience first hand from the deck of the Cango Caves ‘waiting area’ – we sipped on hot chocolate and took in the scenery, while deciding whether to take the ‘Standard’ or ‘Adventure’ tour… I decided that since neither of us had done the Caves before and considering we were on an ‘adventure’, we weren’t going to miss any bit of it…

The map of the 'inside' of the cave - the green line represents the 'standard' tour, where the red line represents the 'adventure' tour. It may not look like much difference, but that little additional bit of "adventure" which extends past the green bit... is not for the faint of heart

Once again missing the large groups from the same two tour busses as at the ostrich farm, we once again were privileged enough to have been given an ‘exclusive’ tour. So hubs and myself got a super personal tour, which was quite awesome to say the least.

Unfortunately the camera didn't quite do the inside of the caves much justice, because they are far more breathtaking in person!

I wasn’t striking a pose in the above picture, I was ‘limbering up’. It wasn’t my intention to have sore muscles on honeymoon…I was thankful that in the build up to the wedding I had lost some weight and with all the additional cardio – I was in top form, because after the ‘gentle’ stroll through the first part of the cave (which is really quite a sight to behold), the endurance and contortion of my human body were certainly tested.

(1) Ok, I will admit - here I was just posing 🙂 (2) ... and deeper we go - and they call this the 'Tunnel of Love'... (3) My rear end while trying to traverse the 'Devils Chimney' the first time (4) My second attempt at the 'Devils Chimney', this time after hubs made it through first 😥 (5) Through the 'Post box' (6) All hot and flustered after my triumphant walk/climb/run/contortion act!!

After the amazing trek through the caves and the wonderfully peaceful trip back to the guesthouse via the stunningly scenic route with the Swartberg Mountains looming in the background – I needed a shower and clean set of clothes. I’m also think I can safely say that I am possibly the only person who has done the ‘Adventure’ tour in a dress and ‘knitted Beret’. If anything, it just added to the challenge!

For supper we decided to search out a ‘local’ spot and after enquiring with the owners of the guesthouse, decided on a small restaurant offering the finest local cuisine, situated smack in the centre of town on the main street. I will not mention names, but to say that the air outside was crisp and cool – we were welcomed by a crackling log fire and cozy atmosphere. My biggest problem at most restaurants is that I usually play it safe… but figured that because this was Oudtshoorn, I should do something out of the ordinary. After perusing the menu for a period long enough to drink a glass of wine and a mug of hot chocolate, I finally decided on the ‘Crocodile Burger’. I usually settle for a far safer option, like a chicken schnitzel, but for some reason it spoke to me. The evening was blissfully sublime and upon returning to the guesthouse quite a time later, the room nice and warm, the wine having made me somewhat drowsy and the bed so-very-inviting, we called it a night… until just after 2am…

I woke with symptoms associated directly with either food poisoning or death and between violent vomiting and… I won’t share the rest – I decided that there’s probably a reason I decide to select the safer option on restaurant menus. Because when I bit into and ate that croc, I didn’t suspect he would bite back. It cut our honeymoon a day short – but even with the entire experience having ended on such an awful note, I would go back and eat at that same restaurant and possibly retire to Oudtshoorn.

Pirates & Parties… [Part 1]

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Pirates & Parties… [Part 1] ”]

So as per yearly event, the Child’s party looms once more – and with the introduction to Pirates of the Caribbean this year, in the form of Jack Sparrow in Lego form [on X-box – and NO, not because he’s one of those little TV consumed piglets], the theme had been decided upon reasonably early and had been made up months and months prior to the actual event [how’s that for a 5 year old, to be discussing party details in what? Feb? – bizarre].

As it goes, I unwittingly entered the realm of ‘competitive childrens parties’ some years ago without realising it at all – and believe me when I say it is a very ‘real thing’ that occurs/exists and can be the sole cause for your exclusion to other childrens parties or parental circles… and from what I can tell, the unspoken ‘rules/laws [whatever]’, are as follows:

 

 

  1. Ensuring that your childs party is better than any other childs party – which includes really elaborate party favours, speciality cakes, exclusive  venues (which all equal much money spending and psychotic behaviour – the psychotic part comes naturally, however, the money bit, does NOT)
  2. Ensuring that the current event ‘outdoes’ the previous event of same nature… ie, this years party has to be better than last
  3. Try to use a theme that ISN’T currently ‘trending’ so that YOU’RE different…or
  4. If used theme IS trending, make sure you don’t do what EVERYONE else HAS DONE (or YOU’LL become a HAS BEEN)

Anyway… I chose, no wait – the Child chose “Pirates of the Caribbean”, which is unique, because although ‘Pirate Parties’ are trending, my child is the only one who otherwise would have opted for a zombie theme party and proudly, I’m somewhat of a ‘MacGuyver’ when it comes to these sorts of things – only because I don’t have infinite financial resources and because I myself am reasonably ‘resourceful’ – I make the most impact with as little cost as possible, and stun the competitors with my self-made invites and HOMEMADE cake. (of which I take great pride in advising the invited individuals that I made the invites and that I (I, ME, MOI) made the cake, well at least, decorated it).

So with the process having been set in motion, the only thing remaining to do is have the actual event – but in the interim, here are this years invites [unfortunately, and I dare say – I actually forgot about the looming party and had the husband remind me that the invitations needed to be sent out, which I sent out too late, that’s why the date on the invite doesn’t coincide with the actual party date, because I subsequently had to text message all of the invited childrens’ parents – to advise that the date would have to be moved, only because of the ‘lack of attendees’, due to the invite and party falling at such short notice…) As well as the actual invite not meeting with the standards I had previously set for myself, but the Child was thrilled 🙂

“Searchlight” (2011)

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After much time, the wind down of the wedding & honeymoon, catching up on work and life in general – I’ve pulled myself to the computer and decided that blogging, which is actually something I enjoy, I can now finally do once again because the chaos that is my life is somewhat subsiding.

Time, yes – but not enough for anything long. So thought I’d share my most recent painting with you.

“Searchlight” – 2011 [Tam Futter]

Although [and not stroking my ego about it], the picture looks much better in ‘real life’. Although I will admit to being able to paint, for some reason my photographic skills leave little to be desired

[hey, you can’t be good at everything right, lol].

Close Up: I enjoy using texture, and although this time I didn't use any physical texture, I still achieved a textured appearance by use of 'crackle glaze' - which is really awesome, especially in giving a more authentic look to 'aged' or 'vintage' reproductions

When I saw the original image I was quite taken aback. It was a rather dramatic, dark – yet starkly contrasted photo – and myself, generally being an individual who enjoys painting extreme close up images (especially of flowers and the like), in a ‘photorealistic’ manner, and do not like landscapes or seascapes or anything will ‘teeny weeny detail’… This image somehow struck me and I decided that although it was out of my comfort zone, that I should definitely try it out.  The end result was exactly what I had envisioned from the start and I am very happy with the end result.

A close up of the clouds and 'blending/shading' on the lighthouse itself

I love doing skies and especially clouds, with seamless blending/shading in larger areas being a specific favourite thing of mine – the sky and base colouring of the lighthouse was pretty simple, but I got put off by the thought of too much detail work. I had also had somewhat of a ‘parallel’ in mind… thinking how this dark ominous sky was encroaching on a ‘lighthouse’ – I decided to silhouette the foreground, but to add some dimension and a more dramatic ‘texture’, I opted for a base coat of ‘silver’, mixed with a pearlescent white – painted over with a very heavy coat of black (obviously atop of the crackle glaze). So you have this ‘light’ bursting out through the darkness, in this bizarre supernatural manner – forcing it’s way out, even though the sky and world around it is gradually turning dark and grey, yet with the obvious ‘lighthouse’ being a beacon of glowing warmth and strength, superimposed against the oncoming and looming dread.

Tech Hypocrite

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Funny thing this, I never imagined I would ever post anything substantial from a phone, except perhaps a “message” or “status update” on Facebook! But today, yet another thing I’ve just done was to finally join rank with thousands, if not millions – and have myself a Blackberry!?! I believe that this will be the only time I will ever write a blog this way… It’s far too painstaking and have since established that my fingers, the same ones I had previously believed to be quite dainty and agile are not and are seeingly larger and far more clumsy… I’m pretty sure nothing beats an actual keyboard. But, it’s something I can now say I’ve done 🙂

[Please NOTE: Due to my obsessive nature, this post has since been edited from the computer – only because of spelling & grammatical errors, as well as not having been able to appropriately ‘tag’ or ‘categorise’ as I should have.  Listed below however is the post as it had originally appeared]

Funny thing this, never imagined I would ever post anything substantial from a phone, except perhaps a “message” on Facebook! But today yet another thing I’ve just done was finally join rank with thousands, if not millions – and have myself a Blackberry!?! I believe that this will be the only time-I will ever write a blog this way… It’s far too painstaking and have since established that my fingers, the same ones I had previously believed to be quite dainty and agile are not and are seeingly larger and far more clumsy… I,m pretty sure nothing beats an actual keyboard. But, it’s something I can nom say I’ve done 🙂

Dean Koontz and heroism

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I have a profound interest and unnatural obsession when it comes to all things Dean Koontz. He’s just awesome. His mind is fabulous.

Honestly, if I could trade minds with one person, for just one day… it would definitely be his.

I recently finished reading ‘Icebound’ which was re-released and retitled after a previous novella written by the author, under the pen name of David Axton and initially titled ‘Prison of Ice’.

It was reissued because he was inundated with thousands of requests to bring back into print some of his older works. ‘Prison of Ice’ however was in a much rougher form [apparently], and hence was revised by Koontz and updated according to newer technology and cultural references while still trying to maintain the entire plot line and original feel of the overall story.

I enjoyed it tremendously as it was a refreshing change from his ‘normal’ work, but after reading the “Note to the reader” at the back – it was duly noted that this was because he had wanted to pay homage to a man he deemed as ‘the master of adventure-suspense’, Alistair MacLean, who penned The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and Ice Station Zebra. ‘Icebound’ was written using the genre predominantly used by MacLean to see if he ‘could pull it off’. I would say he succeeded, as it was suspenseful and tense – definitely fast paced and contained heavily detailed information on a number of topics ranging from submarines, polar ice caps and communism. The also thorough portrayal of his characters, accompanied by their ‘indepth’ histories [which I believe is one of Dean’s best tools in immersing the reader into his believable characters and hence almost believing that such ‘devilish’ things could possibly exist].

Upon reaching the end of ‘Icebound’, I was profoundly struck by pages 150-151 and feel that a direct quote is in order to convey this message that obviously only Koontz fanatics will have the pleasure and privilege of reading…

…The theme would definitely be heroism. He had come to see that there were two basic forms of it.  Heroism that was sought, as when a man climbed a mountain or challenged an angry bull in one of Madrid’s rings – because a man had to know his limits, heroism sought was important.  It was far less valuable, however, than heroism unsought.  Harry, Rita and the others had put their lives on the line in their jobs because they believed that what they were doing would contribute to the betterment of the human condition, not because they wanted to test themselves.  Yet, although they would deny it, they were heroes every day of the week.  They were heroes in the way that cops and firemen were heroes, in the way that millions of mothers and fathers were quiet heroes for taking on the ominous responsibilities of supporting families and raising children to be good citizens, the way ministers were heroes to dare talk of God in a world that had come to doubt His existence and to mock those who still believed, the way many teachers were heroes when they went to schools racked by violence and nevertheless tried to teach kids what they would need to know to survive in a world that had no mercy for the uneducated. The first brand of heroism – heroism sought – had a distinct quality of selfishness, but heroism unsought, was selfless.  Brian understood now that it was this unsought heroism, not the tinsel glory of either politics or bullrings, that was the truest courage and the deepest virtue.  When he had finished writing the book, when he had worked out all his thoughts on the subject, he would be ready to begin his adult life at last.  And he was determined that quiet heroism would be the theme…

 

You’ve got to love it. How profoundly true is that.

Honeymoon Adventures! (PART 1 – Knysna)

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Honeymoon Adventures! (PART 1 – Knysna)

If you say that word to yourself, “Honeymoon”, it makes not sense.  When you look up the etymology of it, the meaning is also somewhat obscure. However, the general consensus is that…

Originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner ‘full’ than it begins to ‘wane’ – now usually the holiday spent together by a newly-married couple, prior to settling down at home

After our glorious wedding day, the following morning [Sunday, 24th July] was spent waking up far too early, followed by a quick breakfast, a trip to the house to unpack and subsequently repack for the honeymoon and then to go to the venue to clear out the last of our things from the night before. Aside from being tired and our minds still in a haze from how quickly it all ‘went down’, we finally found ourselves ready to embark on our honeymoon – the first two days of which I had booked as a surprise [with the help of my awesome mother, who managed to pull a few strings…] and for the rest… well, we simply decided to take each day as it came and ‘wing it’!

(Left) Me with my little pumpkin a little bit before our 'departure' (Middle) In the car on Monday, 25th July on our way to Knysna (Right) The oddly placed 'speed' camera on the pedestrian walkway which I later discovered was put in place to keep an eye on 'jumpers'

As would be the case, the weather on the day of the wedding had been most spectacularly beautiful… followed by a weather warning for potential cyclones and/or a possible hurricane, with a definite chance of heavy rains, fog and grey skies. Thankfully our first ‘Port of call’ was my mothers guesthouse in Port Elizabeth, which under normal circumstances takes approximately +- 3 hours, and that’s traveling the speed limit. This time however, it took us a staggering 5+ hours. Upon arrival we were greeted with miniature dams of water and a torrential downpour.

It was already 18H30 at that stage, and once we’d eaten our supper, unpacked, showered and warmed up, that brought us to about 20H30 at which point we turned in for the night, because you just have no idea how tired you are after a wedding! Wow. I slept dead and for a solid 12/13 hours. After a lazy rise and slow breakfast, we decided to make tracks. Opting for the more scenic garden route – which took us on a lovely, lush little excursion with many roadside stops, ‘padstalletjies’ (basically meaning roadside stalls/stands) and various ‘touristy’ places – we made it to Knysna at about 15H30.

The Garden Route

A Map of the Garden Route

After arriving at Lightleys Holiday Houseboats, we checked in and were subsequently shown the 10 minute instructional DVD on what NOT to do and where NOT to go in a houseboat, followed by a daunting run of things that could possibly go wrong, tide times to avoid and possible stranding on sand banks in the river, so after we were made to believe that this was to be a terribly scary and difficult adventure… I assured my husband that “he’d be just fine…” With temporary skipper license in hand, we offloaded our luggage and explored the small vessel. After which we went grocery shopping [only to establish the prices on everything to be even worse than in East London], followed by the hunt for the ‘cheapest yet fluffiest’ towels, as the ‘self-catering’ boat only came with 5 Litres of drinkable water and two additional blankets.  Our first evening was spent making ‘breakfast in pita’s’, followed by some reading, coffee, a trip to the ablutions and a fight for space on the ‘not-so-spacious’ double bed.

The following morning after breakfast we embarked on our first ‘boat ride’, towards Belvedere. We were forewarned not to stray off course by an inch, as recent storms had left sand banks in odd places and the whole route hadn’t been entirely ‘secured’ as yet. We insisted that one of the deckhands accompany us on our maiden voyage as I think we both had visions of being out in the water until the tide rose to free us from a sandbank or from us unwittingly ‘sailing’ into an oyster bed!

(Left) Me in My PJ's on our first night, catching up on some reading (2nd) Me standing out on deck on the first morning, drinking some coffee! (3rd) The view of the houseboats from the guests parking lot (Right) Hubby and the deckhand going out on our 'maiden voyage'

Once we returned from our little outing onto the Knysna Lagoon, ruffled by the fresh air and inspired for some adventure… I suggested that we would go in search of a castle. The Noetzi castle specifically. I remember spending a weekend in Knysna during my youth and venturing to the very same ‘castle’ with my mother and father – but all I recall from that trip was much rain, many stairs and a sickly baby brother. Upon arrival at the obscure destination, I had no recollection of what it was supposed to be like or where exactly we were supposed to go – there were however no stairs but a ridiculous decline of a road leading to the beachside… So we first scaled this pathway, only to discover that the ‘newer’ castle had been converted into a guesthouse, and the ‘older’ castle had been abandoned! This prospect excited me muchly!!! So I decided we would pay an ‘uninvited’ visit to the old abandoned place and get some strange pictures… see below!

Pictures taken inside the abandoned 'castle'

It was awesome, between feeling like a ‘criminal’ and getting some really ‘artistic photos’ – we were famished and headed back into town and in search of oysters. Knysna at one time had been renowned for their oysters, but more specifically for harvesting their own fresh oysters from the lagoon, only to find out that they no longer produce oysters locally but bring them in from Port Elizabeth. Disappointing.

There was exactly one interesting shop in the centre of town and an interesting ‘all day’ African wares market, with various crafts brought down from countries such as Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – but when you’ve seen one African mask, you’ve seen them all. The only other point of interest was the wharf. There were some genuinely ‘different’ little shops, interesting sculptures which promoted local industry and trade and far too many restaurants. We had seen this really quaint pub on our drive down to the wharf and after enquiring as to ‘Where the locals hang out?’, it was confirmed as the same place – our late lunch/early supper was divine, the atmosphere relaxed and prices within reason.Which leaves nothing much else about Knysna to visit, aside from ridiculously priced groceries and a surreal sense of quiet and isolation. The ‘locals’ don’t seem to want the tourists around and have thwarted attempts made by industrious businessmen in their attempt to promote the town. On the garden route however, en-route to Knysna, there is much to see – but I suggest that unless ‘dead quiet’ and paying through your nose is what you’re looking for, give Knysna a miss. The houseboating was fun though, but it was too cold (mmm, good weather for a newly married couple to snuggle in 🙂 )  I think for the houseboating to be a true experience, it needs to be a team effort – like a group of friends in the summer, where lazy warm afternoons are spent sunbathing and evenings spent with a barbeque on deck accompanied by sundowners… this would be more appropriate and scene-setting.

By wednesday morning we’d seen enough of the wet, expensive little place, with the all-too-confined sleeping quarters… and so the second part of our honeymoon trip beckoned…

to be continued