girlonashoestringbudget

a girl trying to live as well as possible, on as little as possible

Bon Jovi Concert – part 2

So, we had the tickets and now just had to wait for the actual concert to roll around. (It was kind of funny that I bought hubby’s anniversary present 4 months before our anniversary… and we used it 3 months after our anniversary…)

The concert, strangely enough, was on a Tuesday. Middle of the week. Now, we both work full time so this did pose a slight concern – yet I managed to get off work a bit early as did he. The stadium is in the middle of the city, which is where I work – so you’d think getting there would be pretty easy. You’d think wrong! When there is an event at the stadium, that side of Cape Town shuts down. As in roads closed, pedestrian access only, don’t even think about finding parking close because there just isn’t any. So our plan was for hubby to come through to town, park one car in the garage where I park, take the other car to a public transport depot, hop on the bus and go through to the stadium. Good plan? We thought so… until the bus drivers embarked (see what I did there?) on their annual strike. Now this strike started a good couple of weeks before the concert so at first we pretty much ignored it. With mounting horror we watched as the day of the concert drew ever closer… and the wage talks never reached a conclusion.

Time for a new plan. OK… Hubby would drop me off in the morning and then come fetch me in the evening, thus solving the duo car problem. We would get off as early as possible and hopefully find parking somewhere within reasonable walking distance. This was the plan and we were hopeful…

Now, to explain why we were so worried about this. A good few years ago, before we were married, we went to another concert. One which had been VERY badly organized. We left at 2 pm, and the concert was to start at about 7pm. We arrived at about 9.30, 9.45, just in time to catch the final couple of songs before we left. Needless to say, we were not impressed… and now very worried that the same thing would happen again.

Anyway, we’re stuck in town bumper-to-bumper traffic, on our way to the major shopping centre which is closest to the stadium. We were planning on parking there and then just walking. As we’re driving, we see a tiny little shopping centre with open parkings. On an impulse we turn in there and park. Now, according to the gps on our phones (aren’t they nifty little gadgets?) the quickest way to get there was to walk up to the shopping centre and then cut across to the stadium. We decide to stop on the way at the petrol station and grab dinner quickly – we could eat while we walked.

At the petrol station, hubby sees some cops – namely the BOMB SQUAD. He figures that out of everyone, they should know best how to get there. They tell us that we can go the way we were planning, but occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, they close that section of the road – even to pedestrians. So we’d be better off going the longer way around. He tells us exactly where we need to go and we follow his directions.

So far so good. In our paranoia, we are extremely early, and have no problem with getting to the stadium at all. There was about a 2km walk but that’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things! So anyway, we get to the stadium as the sun is setting. We walk up to the security, get told we can’t take in the leftover sandwich (ah man!) and have to throw it away. Ah well. Such is life. Then we get to the ticket turnstiles and hand over our tickets. Now the tickets have barcodes printed on them, which get scanned and if the ticket is genuine (which ours obviously were) then you get to go through. I go through first – the lady scans my ticket, I go through the turnstile, no problems here. Then she scans Hubby’s. Or tries to. For some reason, the ticket had been printed without its barcode. She looks at it – trying to decide in her mind what to do. THANK GOODNESS we hadn’t separated the tickets before giving them to her – she tore mine off herself and she knew that that one was genuine and hadn’t been a problem. Also, we had the original envelope which the tickets came in, as well as the receipt. She let us through – I could have hugged her! Through my head was flashing – I’m not doing a concert by myself. I’m really not. I’d rather go back outside and sit outside the concert and listen to it from there with my hubby then go inside by myself. What are we going to do???

So the wonderful, kind, sweet, incredible ticket lady let us through. Now we just need to find our seat. Simple, right? Uh… apparently not. On the ticket is printed the area you are sitting in – you need to find that area first, then the row and seat number within that area. On top of each entrance to the seating areas are numbers – the idea being that the numbers signify the number for that seating area. Should be simple to find your seat following this method, right? Hmmm…

On our tickets were numbers starting with a five. All the numbers around the whole stadium started with a one, two or three. No fours, and definitely no fives. We start asking everyone who looks official if they know where these seats are. Each official, sounding very sure of themselves, sends us further around the stadium. Until we got to a fence – no throughfare allowed. Ok. Next step – find different, better officials to ask.

We see someone with a safety jacket on, with ‘safety official’ written on his jacket. We know that, by law, he has to know where every area is in case of an emergency. So we go ask him. He has absolutely no idea where this area is. Now we think, ok, let’s go ask the ushers in the actual seating area. Maybe they know? So we go up a random flight of stairs and ask the very nice usher if he knows where our seats are. He merrily leads us about 50metres away (meanwhile Hubby and I are looking at each other in disbelief – did we really randomly choose the correct seating are?) and then stops – the seat numbers went from about 20 to 4 – and we were seats 1 and 2. He kind of looks at us as if to say, “but it should be here!”. We ask him if this is the area – 542. He says no. He says he needs to find his supervisor – she will know where the area is. So again we follow him as he goes out of the seating area to find his supervisor.

Supervisor consults a little piece of paper on which is written a bunch of 5 numbers (we’re getting somewhere! yay!) and says we need to find some random other area. At this point she grabs one of her colleagues, and asks her if she knows where this other area is. Colleague says no, she doesn’t, but she was told that the VIPS in those areas need to go to the other side of the stadium. Now we’re very confused. a)she just called us VIPS. We don’t have the kind of money needed to pay VIP prices (you may remember that this is girl on a shoestring budget. ) But ok… we’ll follow along. Then the original supervisor sees a woman with a green top on and grabs her. This woman takes one look at our tickets, and tells us to follow her. She seems more sure of herself than anyone else and strides away confidently. We follow (by this time feeling somewhat like ducklings all in a row). She tells us that everyone else we’ve been talking to are all contract staff, and so don’t really know their way around the stadium. However, she and five others actually work at the stadium and so know where everything is.

Now, you won’t believe this. She went to the very first person we spoke to when we walked into the stadium and tells us to go in through that door, in the lift up to the fifth floor (forehead hit moment – number 55th floor) and then walk along the passage until we find 542. We followed her instructions. We pass little lounges which are private – barstools and fridges and food and drink – and are getting very excited. Did we seriously luck into one of those? The answer was no. We didn’t. BUT we did luck into a tiny little seating area, with padded seats, directly in line with the stage, perfect sound quality – really awesome seats considering how little we paid!

still very early...

still very early…

We sat there and people watched for a good long while. Then a family group (about 6 people) came to sit behind us. Now there were three rows in this area, with I guess about a hundred, hundred and fifty seats in each row. That family, who sat behind us, and one other couple who sat behind and across from us, were the only other people in our section. In my opinion – everyone else who had been assigned that area, gave up on trying to find seats and just went somewhere else.

So while everyone in front of us was packed in like sardines (seriously – the concert was sold-out) – we were parked off, all the space in the world, no issues. We even had a private (very larney) bathroom! The concert was, of course, incredible. Lots of rocking out involved!

everyone packed in like sardines

When the concert was finished, we walked back to the car. Now areas which are fine at 5pm – a little bit more dodgy at 12pm. But we got back to our car without any incident… unless you count the random opera singer on the street corner as an incident!

The next day, however, we were both finished! But such an awesome experience – and the next concert we go to at the stadium, we’re going to look for those seats again! :)

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!

GOAS-SB

 

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Bon Jovi Concert- Part 1

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A picture of a rose. No reason – just think it’s pretty!

Last year, in December, the day I got my bonus from work, I went to the mall to buy my husband’s anniversary present. I knew that he desperately wanted to go to the upcoming Bon Jovi concert, but as we were totally unable to afford it, he had put it out of his mind. So, the second I heard that fabulous little sms tone that signalled the arrival of money in my account (on a side note – don’t you find that the tone that signals the arrival of money in your account is somehow happier, more excited, more cheerful and upbeat than it normally sounds?) I went to go buy our tickets.

Now, here in South Africa, we have a central ticket distributor, who sells most of the tickets for any event within SA. Also, this ticket agency has stalls in every outlet of one of the main grocery stores. This was my easiest way to get the ticket as a)I don’t have a credit card so buying online wasn’t an option, and b)that grocery store is closer to me than an actual outlet. Now, I had about an hour to get the ticket before I had to go fetch hubby. (I forget why I had to fetch him… I think we had an event on that night?) So off I go to get my ticket.

I get to the little stall and tell them the ticket I want to buy. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you think it would make sense that if you actually put into the system that you want to buy two tickets, it would automatically select two seats next to each other? I thought so too. Apparently not. The lady at the place and I were clicking on random seats, hoping to find two together. Eventually, time was running out. I had to go fetch hubby. By this time there were two people there, and all of us were staring at the screen with desperation in our eyes. I decided at this point to go fetch hubby, and we would then go to the actual outlet in the mall and get it there. Hopefully their system would work better… ?

I pick hubby up and tell him that we have to go buy his anniversary present now. He is a)extremely surprised, and b)utterly floored, and c)now unbelievably curious. We park in the parking lot of the mall – which isn’t exactly a big help for him in figuring out what he’s getting. And I’m not saying ANYTHING :). (Again – on a side note – am I the only one who loves having a secret – a good secret – and knowing that you’ll be able to tell them soon and they’re going to be so happy!?)

We start walking through the mall. I obviously know where we’re going, but that area of the mall doesn’t hold much in the way of interesting shops. It’s mainly (female) clothing stores, a couple of shoe shops, and some furniture shops. Now the ticket place is (randomly) at the back of a furniture store. I knew that as soon as I walked into the store he’d know that I was heading towards the ticket counter, and would probably guess at that point.

But shame – he was so sweet – he didn’t want to get his hopes up because he knew how expensive the tickets were – so he was guessing things like a normal theatre show (not a huge stretch as we both love the theatre), or one of the cheaper concerts – but I could see the hope in his eyes… and when I stepped up to the counter and asked for two tickets to the Bon Jovi concert… you should have SEEN his face! It was like I’d just given him a puppy! The same problem raised its ugly head, however. Were there any seats left in the stadium that were two together? Together with the (much friendlier) lady at the counter, we searched the digital stadium. Eventually we found two seats together.

Now, as this was our first experience at the stadium, we had no idea what were good seats and what weren’t. We were at this point just glad to have seats together!

Next time… the concert itself! (What an amazing, and somewhat hilarious, experience!)

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Beetroot – rediscovered

So… we’re all back from holiday. The traffic is horrible again and most of us are wondering how soon we can go on holiday again. The heat here in Cape Town has been quite incredible – granted, we do live in AFRICA, so some heat is to be expected… but considering we live closer to the South Pole than Egypt you’d think there would be more snow and less heat. Although to be truthful – I love the heat. I revel in it. I adore it. If it could be summer all year round I’d be happy. I love wearing t-shirts and still being warm. I love waking up in the morning and it’s light outside. I love the fact that it only gets dark at about 8pm. I love the colour of the sky. I really, really, love summer. One thing I do struggle with, however, is cooking in this heat. That’s not so much fun! So we tend to end up eating things like lamb chops and salad. Or chicken and salad. Or… something else with salad. As few pots as possible and as little time in front of the stove as possible = one happy me.

So when we went to a friend’s house for dinner the other night, and she had some homemade beetroot- I was intrigued. I had had some raw beetroot languishing (don’t you think that’s a nice word? I do. La-a-a-nguishing. It even sounds like what it means!) at the bottom of my fridge which I was avoiding cooking, as the thought of having root vegetables boiling in a pot for ages just didn’t do it for me. And for some reason, I thought that beetroot was one of those veggies which are inedible raw – like potatoes. Turns out they’re more like carrots – better raw than they are cooked! Who knew?

Anyway, back to my friend and her homemade beetroot. When she said it was homemade my first thought was that she must have pickled it herself. But no – she told me just grated it and added a couple of ingredients and served. Well. My poor hubby. I think he saw the twinkle in my eye and knew that before the week was out he’d have yet another experiment on his plate. Good thing he’s very open to new things!

The end result was – even if I do say so myself – extraordinary. I grated it, mixed it with five ingredients – including salt and pepper – and then couldn’t stay out of it. I was literally craving it! Which, considering it’s really very healthy, is quite an achievement for me. And I’m already thinking of ways to spice it up or change it in the future.

One small piece of advice: you know that beetroot juice that comes in the jar? That’s naturally a part of the beetroot – even if it’s raw. I had always assumed that the juice would be released during cooking or something like that – but nope, it’s there from the moment you peel your beetroot. And I have the stained wooden cutting board to prove it… ;)

Isn't it pretty inside? Such a pretty colour...

Isn’t it pretty inside? Such a pretty colour…

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 small-medium beetroots, thoroughly washed, peeled if you so wish. (I peeled mine – next time I’ll leave the skin on and see if there’s a difference.)
  • 3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

 

Grate the beetroot. Mix with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the meal, then eat. Do try not to eat it before the rest of the meal is ready – you’ll spoil your dinner!

Notes: Use the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil you can. You’ll be eating them raw and you really will taste them – so if you don’t like the taste of the vinegar and olive oil to start with, you won’t like it in the salad. Also, my mom gave me some of her Pink Himalayan Salt – and promptly got me hooked. That stuff is amazing! Tastes so much better than normal table salt – and is full of minerals and good stuff. So that’s the salt I used – but use whatever you have and/or like.

Variations: This is the starting point for so many good possibilities. Add some chilli powder for a bit of kick. Or add some chopped walnuts/toasted pine nuts and apple for texture and flavour. Use a garlic infused olive oil or add blue cheese. Seriously – the possibilities are practically endless! Only – if you do add something which makes your eyes roll to the back of your head in giddy delight – please drop a line in the comments. I want to try it to!

Have an fantabulerrific weekend everyone!

G O A S-S B :)

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This – This is What Happiness Is Made Of

ImageHow gorgeous do these look? Aren’t they stunning? Do you not want to reach into the screen and grab one? I don’t blame you if you do. They are beyond delicious. I can hear you asking, though, why I made doughnuts when they’re not expensive to buy and there are many places where a bought doughnut is quite delicious. Well… the answer is two-fold. First – Trust me, these are better than any bought doughnut out there. There is nothing quite as delicious as a FRESH doughnut. Straight out of the fryer. And second – I was needing a snack that my husband and a bunch of other hungry men would enjoy, which I didn’t need to buy many ingredients for.

I’d made these guys once before, and wasn’t particularly happy with the result – don’t get me wrong, they were good – I just felt that they could be better. So I did buy one ingredient – fresh yeast. Turns out that that was my problem. So – please make sure that the yeast you buy is nice and fresh – and follow the instructions to the letter. This is the recipe I used: awesome doughnuts. They are from an amazing site called “The Pioneer Woman” – I have made so many of her recipes over the years and they have never been anything but fantastic. I’m not going to repost the recipe here because I didn’t change a thing. Also – The Pioneer Woman took gorgeous process shots which are very helpful when cooking something as involved and complex and doughnuts.

However, I will give you a couple of handy hints and tricks and useful information:

  • Use fresh yeast. Yes, I know I’ve already told you that, but I’m telling you again. Trust me on this one!
  • Make the glaze exactly as she says. It sounds a bit strange – milk and salt in a doughnut glaze – but it’s amazing and is what sends these doughnuts over the top delicious.
  • Make more than you think you need. Make the whole batch. I promise you. I got three dozen doughnuts out of the batch, plus a few extra doughnut holes and some randomly shaped scraps. The next day I had four doughnuts left. That was all. Four guys polished most of the batch off by themselves – so I promise you, they will NOT go to waste.
  • Don’t be afraid of the deep-frying part. One little-known fact is that deep-frying doesn’t actually absorb a huge amount of oil if the oil is hot enough when you first put the item in. If the oil is nice and hot it seals the outside of the batter/dough/skin, so that it just cooks the inside without the oil going in. Which is why some people get a beautiful fried good done properly, while others just get an oily mess. Once you know this secret, you will never make an oily mess again.
  • Get a deep-fry/candy thermometer. They can be a little bit pricey, but they really are worth it. So many recipes work better when you have one of these – and when you’re dealing with hot oil it is a good idea to know just how hot the oil is. Too hot and you’ll have burnt on the outside and doughy on the inside doughnuts. And nobody wants that. Not hot enough and you have an oily mess. (see above)
  • Flipping the doughnuts can be a bit tricky. However, the one place I deviated from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, is I didn’t use a slotted spoon. Mainly because I couldn’t find it. I remembered watching a program where someone was making doughnuts, however, and that person used chopsticks to flip them over. With that in mind, I found an old disposable pair of chopsticks and went at it. What a difference! So easy – and the best part is that the chopsticks don’t collect oil in the same way that a spoon does. Also, I could let it drip into the pan very easily – I just threaded the three I had in the pan at the same time onto a chopstick and spun them a bit – just enough for some oil to come off – then onto the paper towel.
  • I didn’t have paper towels. So I used some paper napkins I had left over. They worked surprisingly well!
  • Please make these? They are amazing and you’ll never see a bought doughnut in the same way again.
  • On second thoughts – maybe you shouldn’t make them.
  • No – I’ve changed my mind again. Please make them. Your life shall forever be enriched.

Enjoy!

G O A S-S B

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When All You Can Hear Are Birds

Husband and I had the opportunity to go on holiday the past weekend. How, I hear you asking – seeing as how I am “girl on a SHOESTRING budget” – how could we afford to go away? I scoured the voucher sites which have become so popular lately, and when I found a deal which fit into our budget as well as being a good deal, I grabbed it. So where did we go? Nyaru Game Lodge, near Mosselbay. For those of you who don’t live in South Africa, Mosselbay is a little town on the coast which is beautiful and uncomplicated and surprisingly quiet.

Before I get into the place we stayed at, let me tell you about how we got there. Because that is quite a funny story.

To begin with, Husband had an emergency at work which he had to deal with before we could leave – meaning that we left almost an hour later than we wanted to. Considering that Mosselbay is a good 4 hours drive away on a very good day, and we had to check in no later than 7, by the time we left I was in flat panic. Instead of leaving at 2, we left at 3. On a Friday afternoon. Not the best time to be driving to a popular holiday destination. Naturally we got stuck behind every single truck there is – but that wasn’t the funny part. This is the funny part – this is the car we were in:

The BEST little car ever!

This is my little darling. I love her to bits. She gives me (generally) 17km to the litre of petrol, which, when I’m driving 50km a day (25km lies between our home and my work), makes a HUGE difference to my monthly petrol bill. She never complains, never falters, just does exactly what I need her to do – and looks cute and sparky and fun while doing it. The perfect package! Husband was a bit nervous about doing a long trip with her – but I convinced him that she’d be fine. I reasoned that if she managed rush hour traffic every day without any issues, she should be fine. Husband took her for her service, made sure that there was extra oil and water in the car (apparently he does this every time we go away. Who knew?) and off we went. We did about 200km when (cue dramatic music) disaster struck. She starts to lose power. We’re going slower and slower… on the national road… a good 30km from the nearest town. Going through both of our heads – we’re not going to get to Mosselbay. Husband’s going to have to call his guys to come out with the  tow truck and we’re not going to get to Mosselbay today. Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow morning.

Husband pulls off to the side, is about to stop and get out, when she starts picking up speed again. Cautiously we pull back into the road, hoping that she was just being a little bit strange. 10km further on, she starts running extremely roughly. Now my little smart car has a three cylinder engine (I found this out at this point), and she started running on only two cylinders. Which is not very comfortable. Husband pulls off the road again, and switches off. Out of the car we get, open the boot, pull out all the luggage and open up the engine compartment. (Did you know that that is where the engine of a Smart car sits? Makes breaking down a bit of a difficult one.)

He fiddles in the engine, pushing this, prodding that, wiggling the other thing – checks the oil (fine) then gets down on his back to look under the car. (I should probably mention at this point that Husband is a mechanic – he knew exactly what he was doing. Thankfully!)

Anyone passing  by saw a little car, luggage on the floor, engine compartment open, and one single female standing outside the car looking helpless. It was at this point that something quite amazing happened – a woman stopped! Can you believe it? Asked if I was ok, if she could give us a lift to town or if there was anything she could do. She was alone in her car, and no one would have been surprised if she had just driven past – but she didn’t. She stopped – and I’m still floored by her generosity and willingness to help. Guess there are people out there who are still willing to go out of their way to help a stranger.

So anyway, some of the prodding and poking seemed to do the trick – little one started to run perfectly and got us the rest of the way without any trouble. And there were a couple of close calls – I didn’t really think it through when I booked at a GAME LODGE… not generally known for their smooth roads and ease of access. We get to the gate (after 500m of gravel road) and it’s pitch black. And I mean PITCH black. The only lights visible were the town’s lights on the horizon and our headlights. And we slowly drove over potholes, up and down hilly areas – the one part was so black to our left it looked as if there was nothing there but a cliff. Turns out that there is a drop there – nowhere near as dramatic or deep as it felt in the dark of night though!

But it was so worth it when we finally got to the lodge and were shown to our little chalet. It is stunning there. Comfortable, cosy, homey, but with all the little things you need to be happy.

I woke up the following morning at about 7 – Husband was still sleeping so I got dressed and went outside. I found there a lounger where I could sit and soak up some early morning rays and read. And greet the resident tortoise that ambled past me. I did that for the next two hours until Husband finally surfaced and we went for breakfast. Breakfast was simple, but good. Cereals, toast and yoghurt available, with a cooked English breakfast as well. Yum!

Then Husband asked if we could go buy him some new shoes – he had literally worn through the ones he was wearing. As he has size 11 feet (eek!) shoe shopping usually isn’t too easy for him. Thankfully we found two pairs for him in the first shop, and not too expensive.

My Sis had insisted that if were going to Mosselbay, we had to go to a little bakery there – de Vlaming – and get their milk tart. Now Sis isn’t usually too fond of milk tart – she’ll eat it but she won’t generally go out of her way to get some. But this milk tart, she tells me, is amazing. So we duly went off to buy some milk tart and took it back to our room.

It was actually hilarious – we didn’t have plates so Husband and I sat, watching an episode of a series we enjoy on his tablet, eating milktart with our coffee spoons from that morning straight out of the pan. And it was DELICIOUS. Thanks Sis! You didn’t steer us wrong… :)

At this point I want to tell you all that I have always wanted a hammock. No ideas why. I just know that ever since we went to a friend’s house when I was very little and they had a hammock, I have had a yearning for a hammock of my very own. So imagine my excitement when I realised that at the lodge there was a beautiful hammock hanging next to the pool. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for me as to how I was going to spend the afternoon. I was most certainly going to spend it lying next to the pool, in the hammock, reading my book. Best Afternoon Ever!

That night we had a fabulous 3-course dinner – for me it was Kudu carpaccio for starters, a venison stew with salad for main, finished with an Amarula mousse/pudding type thing. Husband had frikkadelle (meatballs) for starters, lamb chops for main, and the most insane pudding – chocolate volcano. There was enough chocolate in that pudding to give us BOTH a chocolate fix! I loved my choices for starters and main, but I do think I should have chosen that Chocolate Volcano. It was that good.

Overshadowing the meal, however, was the view. The lodge had decided to put us at a table with a view of the sun setting over the mountains. And my goodness but it was beautiful. And so peaceful! Evening birds were flying around… crickets were chirping… there wasn’t a breath of wind – it was truly an astounding evening. And I had a new experience – I saw my very first fire fly! I had no idea that they were so bright – I always imagined that they were a bit dim – not that they looked like flying LEDs!

The stars that came out that night were amazing. Bright, beautiful – the kind of sky that puts all your issues and problems into perspective. Husband and I stood on the porch just looking at the sky in a sort of bemused wonderment. Isn’t nature incredible?

Anyway, the next day we had to come home. Which made me sad – but I’m still happy I got to experience the beauty of Nyaru Game Lodge. There were, naturally, a couple of things which could have been a little bit better – the shower head was a bit small – although the water pressure was perfect and there was no shortage of hot water. Also, I’m a shorty, so it didn’t bother me – but the head might be a bit low for the giants that walk among us. Then again – short is the right height – so if you’re too tall for the shower that’s your issue. :-P The other issue was that I think we got back to the chalet a bit too quickly for the cleaning crew – they didn’t have a chance to come replace our milk or cups for new cups of coffee. Again – not a huge issue – if we had really wanted I’m sure we could have got some from the main reception area.

All in all, we had an amazing weekend, and I think I need to start saving now so that we can go again! And next time, we’ll take advantage of the activities offered – game drives via horseback or quadbike and a sunset picnic being the top of my list!

Here are some photos of the place – can’t you just see yourself there?

How awesome are these tables? I now want triangular tables in my future (dream) house!

Where I spent most of my afternoon

This was our home for the weekend – and you can see the lounger where I sat each morning.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

G O A S-S B

Disclaimer – Nyaru had no idea that I was going to write a review – I was not paid to write the review – this is my honest opinion.

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Crazy Weeks…

Sometimes things happen in life that you aren’t expecting. And then more things happen. And then… yup – even more things happen. Take the last two weeks for example.

Husband has been so stressed and overworked that his immune system has been at all time low – resulting in him getting pharyngitis (I’d never heard of this before!) and tonsillitis at the same time. The doc put him on some crazy strange antibiotics which he had to dissolve in water before he could drink (say what???) and told him to stay at home. He didn’t. So he didn’t really get better.

On Tuesday I get home from work, Husband walks in and casually announces that my best friend is in hospital with meningitis – her husband let him know. I think I might have discovered some new super-powers as I could swear a cleared 10 feet in my jump off the couch. Needless to say, she was in hospital for five days.

Then on Saturday, my Mom comes through to visit, and (again, somewhat casually) announces that we need to go visit my aunt (who stays about 10km away from us) who has come down with … wait for it… tick-bite fever! Off we toddle to go visit her. She’s staying on her own at the moment so we went and got some groceries for her… at least she’s on the mend now.

On Saturday night, Husband (who’s still not better at this point) starts struggling to breathe. His chest is closed tighter than a bank vault the night after everything has been stolen. So Sunday morning off we go – back to the hospital. Emergency Room, here we come. Doc there tells him he now has bronchitis, prescribes a crazy dose of cortisone and tells him that if he’s not better by Tuesday he must get antibiotics again. Sunday evening my friend is released from hospital, Husband’s chest starts opening, and my aunt hasn’t phoned to ask me to take her to the hospital.

Wednesday morning my mom lets me know that she’s heard from aunt, who is feeling much better. Just as we think we can start breathing again, Wednesday afternoon Husband phones to (again, casually) tell me that his mom went to see a specialist and had been admitted straight to hospital for tests. The same hospital that my friend was in, and that Husband went to on Sunday. It’s so strange – Monday last week I had no idea there was even a hospital where that hospital is – now I’ve been there seven times in the last week and a half! And of course, with all the stress, Husband STILL isn’t well – and is going to the chemist today to fetch his antibiotics.

Moral of the story? Never trust anything which is said in a casual tone of voice. Oh – and things change unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s nice to be in a rut – next time you are bored remember that boredom is restful. Take advantage of it!
Hope your week has been better than ours!

Hugs

G O A S-S B

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

It’s funny how you grow to miss things you never really thought about while they were a part of your life. I don’t mean people in this instance – but random objects, rooms, food groups/food items, etc. For example: When my mom, my sister and I moved country, we didn’t exactly have a lot to work with. Somehow (and it’s only now, as I’m working myself and realising how expensive it is to live, that I realise just how amazing this was) she managed to find us a flat to live in, we had a car (otherwise known as the ‘rust bucket’) and a small amount of furniture. Obviously, as money was an issue, we didn’t walk into a fully-furnished flat. All the furniture had to be bought new as we had literally come across the border on the bus, with whatever we could carry in suitcases. So what were the important things? Kitchen stuff, obviously, beds, and – something my sister and I couldn’t understand – a dining-room table with four chairs.

What Sis and I couldn’t figure out, was why on earth a dining-room table was so important. Surely a lounge suite would make more sense? My uncle had decided that we couldn’t survive without a TV, so they lent us a small TV and a little stand to put it on – but we all sat on the floor to watch for a good few months as there was nothing else to sit on.

However, now that Sis and I both have our own places and own families, we have discovered a surprising desire. All we want is a house/flat which is big enough for a dining-room table. We finally get it. It’s important – it makes mealtimes an event instead of just something which happens. It’s a drawing pin attaching the family to the universal cork board.

Also, somehow we both ended up with husbands who don’t eat onions. Sis’s husband is actually allergic to them (and garlic and chicken and blue cheese – all the good things in life), while mine just doesn’t like them. Do you have any idea how weird it is to start cooking without onions? Onions go in everything, from soups to stews to pasta sauces to stocks. Occasionally I decided that I need an onion for something and he doesn’t really get a choice about it – but then I either cut the onion up so fine that it’s barely noticeable, or leave it big and chunky so that he can pick it out. Again, though, if anyone had asked me if I liked onions before I got married, I would have looked at them as if they were slightly bonkers. Onions just… are. I never thought about them. Now, however, I can truly say “Yes. I like onions. I really, really like onions.”

My sister, on the other hand, has it tougher than I do. She has had to give up not only a family of vegetables, but one of the most versatile meats. Chicken. Now, on the rare occasion that they go out for dinner – everyone else is looking at the steaks, or the lamb shanks, etc – she makes a beeline straight for the chicken. If she’s at my place or our mom’s place without her hubby, we try to make a plan to make sure she gets chicken.

A good few years ago, we were told that we were gluten intolerant. Now gluten has become a catch phrase lately, so it has become relatively easy to find gluten-free stuff. As it turned out, the intolerance was a symptom and not a cause – we sorted out the cause and now we can all eat gluten with abandon. But while we couldn’t, we struggled. Especially at the beginning – imagine trying to make lunches for your kids at school without using bread. There’s no such thing as a meal on the run. You can’t buy a pie if you’re away from home and you need something to eat. You can’t make toasted sandwiches for a quick mid-week meal. Now – every time I can do something like that – I appreciate it just that little bit more.
Am I the only one who has felt like this? Have any of you felt the same way?
-G O A S-S B

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Gardening on a Budget

You might not know this about me, but I’m a bit of a closet tree-hugger hippie type. I love the idea of being able to grow my own veggies/food, stuff which I know doesn’t have pesticides or other stuff on it. However… I’m not very good at gardening. My thumbs are not green. There are a few things I can grow – most notably basil – but apart from that, I’m afraid I’m just not that good.

But why should I let that deter me from trying to grow more stuff? If at first you don’t succeed… kill more plants. Not really. But anyway. The other problem I had with growing anything was a severe lack of space in which to grow anything. Husband and I live in a granny flat which has paving all around it – the only spot of open ground is under the lemon tree – which, as it is a)very shady and b)regularly has lemons falling on it, is not all that friendly towards other plants. So in December last year Hubby and I built a little veggie garden, on top of the existing paving. In hindsight, we probably should have made the bed smaller and taller, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. All excited, I went out and bought some plants. Visions of tables overflowing with fresh veggies filled my mind as we dug and planted all sorts of lovely little plants. The sad thing is that they all grew, slowly, but none of the veggies really got big enough/ripe enough to eat. We had lots of cucumbers… all around 7cm long. We had lots of butternut flowers… but no butternut. Lots of watermelon flowers… but – yup, you guessed it! – no watermelon. The green pepper plants grew beautifully tall! but then the green peppers never got much bigger than a pea. Green peppers may be cute when they’re small, but they’re not good for much. Carrot tops sprouted, but the cats dug them up before they could grow big enough to do anything. (No idea why the carrots were singled out for destruction, but I guess such is life. Or such is death if you’re a carrot in my house.) The only things which grew well enough to be used were my basil plants and my mint plants. Not even my tomatoes did very well!

However – this year shall be different! I’ve had 6 months to mourn the loss of my veggies, do research on why they died – and I think the reason is that they didn’t have enough sun. Veggies like sun – who knew? But I have all sorts of plans on what to do this year… I’m going to try a sort of hanging garden against the vibracrete wall. Will serve two purposes. 1) It will hide the hideousness of the vibracrete. And 2)the veggies should get lots of sun. With the added bonus of not being available as a litter box for my kitties! Everybody wins!

Here, however, is where you all come in. I need some advice. 1 – What should I plant in the (rather shady and shallow) bed which used to have my veggie plants in it? I’m going to do my herbs again – they seemed happy last time – but any other advice? and 2 – what veggies grow easily and happily and won’t die on me? I’m not sure my psyche could handle another mass death of veggies. Thoughts?

Hoping for advice

(Hoping not to be) Veggie-Killer

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Oranges – A Sunny Fruit For a Sunny Day

My sister and a friend of ours are both bloggers, so we hatched a cunning plan a little while ago. We all enjoy cooking, as well as challenges, and love the idea of participating in blogging/cooking challenges. Shocking, I know. So an opportunity came up for our first ever challenge – finger foods using oranges. Oranges are very much in season in our part of the world, they’re cheap and cheerful, and unexpected when it comes to finger foods.

So the decision was made and the Googling started with a vengeance – and it was surprisingly difficult to find finger foods which used oranges as a main ingredient. Eventually I settled on an idea I saw months ago, as well as an old favourite.

Unfortunately, our friend was unable to attend at the last moment, which meant that the great cooking showdown ended up a medium sized cooking showdown between just my sister and I. Not a problem – sibling rivalry is alive and well between us – I’ve spent most of my life competing with her!

So what were my ideas? The first was to make Jelly Orange Boats. So much fun, and so colourful and happy and they just make people smile when they see them.

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Basically, take oranges. Cut in half. Scoop out all the flesh, leaving the empty shell behind.

Make some jelly – I used a red jelly and a green jelly – and pour it into the orange halves. Put it into the fridge and leave until set. Once it is set, cut each half into three, leaving you with gorgeous little jelly wedges. Awesome!

Tips: I only figured this out AFTER I had made them. One – use a muffin tray to keep the oranges upright while the jelly is setting. this has the added joy of collecting any jelly that leaks out. Trust me – you want to do this.

Also – Once you’ve scooped out the orange insides, put the orange halves into the fridge or freezer to get them nice and cold before you pour the jelly in – this will make the jelly set a little bit quicker. Quicker setting time = less chance of molten jelly ALL OVER your kitchen. No, I’m not speaking from experience. Why do you ask?

These are awesome and fun and make them for your kids! (or for you if you don’t have kids… I don’t have kids and I loved them!)

The second thing I made, funnily enough, was the same thing my sister made. We didn’t share ideas – we just ended up doing the same thing. How weird is that? We made candied orange slices with dark chocolate – however while my sis dipped hers in dark chocolate, I chopped mine up and mixed them into melted dark chocolate, which I then spread in a baking tray and cut into squares once it had set. Taste was pretty much the same, just different methods. Head over to her blog to see how to do it! And – take a look at the picture – see those pretty little orange gems in the chocolate? That’s how you know you did it right… when you look at it and just KNOW that it’ll be amazing!

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One of the awesome things about making candied orange peels, is you get an awesome orange syrup when you’re finished. Don’t, whatever you do, don’t throw that away! That’s like bottled sunshine right there. What can you do with it? Well – you can have it on pancakes, toast, muesli/oats, over ice cream… or you can do this:

Iced Tea

How awesome is that? And what’s also fun is that iced tea is one of those things that you make according to your own taste. I made a pot where I used chai tea bags, 1xall spice berry, 5x cloves, 3x cardamom pods and 1xcinnamon quill. Pour boiling water over everything and leave it to steep for about twenty minutes – then take everything out. Chuck it in your garden as it’s all decomposable. Add a couple of tablespoons of the bottled sunshine (otherwise known as orange syrup) and stir to let it dissolve. Then just let it cool and serve with fresh orange slices, or a sprig of mint, or just plain over some ice. So good!

So now you know what to do if you have too many oranges. If you do it you won’t be sorry – promise!

Have an awesome Friday everyone!

G O A S-S B

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How NOT to Clean Seafood

A few months ago, I was watching a cooking show on tv (I know – shocking, right?) and saw a rather famous tv chef (whose name starts with Jamie and ends with Oliver) cook up some sardines. He made it sound so super easy, and it looked amazing – so I filed it into my head under “things to try at some point”. Anyway, I was at the shops and I saw a bag of frozen sardines. Filled with enthusiasm, I convinced my mom to split a bag with me. I told her all about the ease with which these fish were cooked – that all you had to do was brush them with olive oil and then into the oven for about twenty minutes.
Anyway, I got them home and put them in the freezer. A few days later, as I was planning my menu, I suddenly thought… are those fish cleaned? Now, you need to realize that I don’t generally buy seafood. My husband is not a fan of shellfish, and I’m not very good at cooking fish. Or at eating fish. In fact, since I’ve been married, I’ve only cooked fish twice, not including a couple of salmon pastas. So the thought of checking to see if the fish was cleaned didn’t cross my mind when I bought them. I know, silly, right?
So, the first thing I did, was Google the problem. I didn’t feel like watching YouTube videos, so I read lots of descriptions on the net, and felt fairly confident about what I was doing. Again – bear in mind that I have never seen a fish being cleaned. I had NO idea of what to expect. I’ve never even dissected a frog.

Full of confidence, I sharpened my knife that evening, after having the fish defrosting in the fridge the whole day (interesting tip – if you defrost them in a bowl of milk, that super fishy smell doesn’t go into your fridge), I attacked the project. Needless to say – it was disgusting. And the instructions didn’t make much sense when I had the fish in front of me. It was all things like – cut along the bottom of the fish, grab the head and pull it and all the guts will come out with it. That did not happen. Not at ALL. My cats were extremely interested in the delectable (to them) smell that was invading my house – I had fish guts and fish blood all over my hands – it was the middle of winter so I was cold as well – I was not a happy girl. Then, when I had finally managed to get five or six clean, my dear darling hubby asks me “were they scaled?” At this point I figured out what the weird plastic things all over my hands were. I swear I almost burst into tears! Into the sink they went – again – and I attacked them with my scourer. (FYI – that scourer got thrown away that night!) I got most of the scales off, finished cleaning them, and got them into the oven. By this point it was after 8pm, and my husband had already attacked a bag of chips as well as some crackers – and I was fighting back tears. When they came out, my husband assured me that they tasted lovely (the bits that were left… they weren’t exactly the most intact pieces of fish!), and having to take all the little bones out meant that he ate nice and slowly. I wouldn’t know. I felt so sick from the smell and sight of fish guts that I managed about half of one fish and didn’t eat anything else that night.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you’re learning how to do something new, watch a YouTube video. You’ll be happier for it.

How do I know this? Well, I was at a shop about a month ago, and I saw that they had a new seafood section. And in that section, they had soft-shell crabs. These guys stuck in my mind so that it was all I could think of. As I mentioned above, my husband is not a shellfish fan – however, my mom is. So the next time that my man had to work on a weekend, I asked my mom to come over and share an experiment with me. She agreed (bravely!) and I set about the task of finding out how to cook the things. That’s when I realised that I would have to clean them. Oh dear. Oh my goodness. My psyche just took a running jump off a very tall building, and all I could hear was its scream fading into the distance.

This time I was smart. I Googled it – AND watched the YouTube videos. Lots of them. At work – ha ha – my boss was very confused over why I chose to spend my lunch time watching shell-fish being mutilated. But this time I was more confident and was able to clean and cook the little critters with surprisingly little fuss – and with my appetite still intact at the end of it. If you want to know how to – let me know – and I’ll do a recipe post on it in the future. I would suggest that you all go out, find some of the tasty little suckers – Google and YouTube how to clean and cook them – then go forth and cook! Truly. They are that good.

Am I the only one who is apparently that bad at cleaning seafood? I hope not!
Have a great weekend!

G O A S-S B

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