Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cannot believe I did that…

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A couple of weeks ago I left you hanging at the end of my last dream camera post regarding the possible cons to choosing the new Nikon D7100 as my first DSLR camera… but this is not that post.

The beastie

You see… I did something totally crazy and out of character today. Despite the sensible budgetary advice of my dad and mom playing in my head, despite my initial good intentions of waiting for the ‘right‘ time, despite my long-standing notion that anything worth having must be earned through long hard toil… I just went and straight up bought the D7100.

Yup. I just bought the D7100. Today. Just like that.

Whoooohoooo!!!

I still cannot believe I did that!!! *cue hysterical laughter* 🙂 It’s just not like me at all! 😀

It’s hands down the most expensive item I’ve ever paid for. And I don’t part with my money easily. Ninja had to patiently convince me that buying it now or buying it in a few months’ time would not really make a huge difference in terms of saving – either way, we’re going to have to do a lot of careful saving and frugal living this year!

Perhaps the main reason I’m still a bit gobsmacked by my own behaviour is that I don’t actually have the camera yet. So reality hasn’t hit home yet. They’ll only be delivering it tomorrow evening, so part of me will only be convinced it’s real when I finally physically own the machine. But it’s a done deal: the beastie is mine 🙂

I am so humbled and blessed and excited and surprised! It felt as though it happened so quickly, yet it wasn’t a rash decision. I have been researching this for months already. I have been pushing my current little Fujifilm superzoom camera to its limits to prepare for this. I have been watching so many vids and reading so many articles on the various functions of this camera. So when I first handled the D7100 in the shops today it no longer intimidated me; I flicked through the buttons and menus as if I knew them by heart.

When I handled it today, I realised two things at once. One, this is by far the biggest and scariest purchase of my short life. And two, it won’t be wasted on me.

Some people have warned that the D7100 is ‘overkill’ for newbies and ‘wasted’ on beginners, but that’s only if you’re happy to stay stuck in the beginner mindset. I want to be challenged and I want to excel. I know I have tons to learn, but I’m keen. And I’m not competing against anyone other than myself. I don’t have aspirations for professional photography, but I also don’t want to be stuck with entry-level dinky toys forever 😉 The D7100 is my middle ground, and Lord willing it will be with me for many years to come.

When Ninja and I prayed about the purchase beforehand, I found myself praying for a balance of wisdom and the courage to live a little. I’ve always been Ms ÜberCautious with money; I hate credit cards and debt (thankfully those didn’t feature in this purchase) and I shy away from large luxuries. But today, with Ninja’s counsel, I realised that risky spending can have its place.

Sometimes in life – only a very few times – Nike is right, and we should just do it.

Yet I still cannot believe that I did!

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Flea

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Flea sitting in her dinner

Flea sitting in her dinner

It’s been a busy few days for us, just tying up loose ends in life, so I just have time for a quick picture post on Flea. She’s healing well and going strong. Not sure if you can see it clearly in the pic above, but patches of fur are growing back where she was shaved for her op. For this pic she amused me by sitting right IN her food bowl, haha! :mrgreen:

Nesting

Nesting

This has been a fairly mild winter for us in Johannesburg so far, but when Flea starts feeling the cold in the evenings and missing the warmth of her sister, she doesn’t waste time in tearing up the paper in her cage to fashion a comfy little nest. I can’t wait until the new boys come and we can introduce some companions for her.

Pimpin' the cage

Pimpin’ the cage

We’ve been collecting items to start pimpin’ out the rat cage, not just in preparation for the new bubs, but for Flea to enjoy right now. The black and grey objects in this pic are very clever plastic ‘Sputniks’, which can be hung from the cage roof or stood on the cage floor. The blue and yellow tube is a ferret tunnel that will comfortably fit plenty ratties squishing together!

An alien has landed

An alien has landed

Flea took to the Sputnik straight away. Sweet girl 🙂

Resisting temptation

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Temptation

Six days left of the 21-day sugar detox, and I’m quite proud of my progress. I’ve managed to avoid sweet and carby temptations for over two weeks now – though it’s not so easy when they get handed to me on a platter!

The cute vanilla and white-chocolate cupcake pictured above is from a work colleague’s birthday tea. My friend and I who are doing the 21DSD each took a cupcake… not to eat but to freeze at home, in readiness for this coming Sunday when the detox ends.

Shew. I haven’t been so close to sugar in weeks. I held it close and inhaled the sweet creamy scent…

But since I’m so close to the end I didn’t want to spoil my good streak. So I snapped a pic and hastily stashed away the cupcake in the freezer.

A marvel of self-control.

:mrgreen:

Seriously though, this detox hasn’t been as hardcore as I expected it to be. In fact, once it’s over I think there are quite a few lessons I can take away and principles I want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

For example, I’ve discovered that I really don’t need sweetener in my tea. With the possible exception of some rather earthy herbal infusions, most of my teas are palatable enough without honey.

I’ve also realised that although carbs do have a place in my normal diet, I can happily reduce the amounts I eat and still feel full. So I can enjoy a warm bowl of oats on a winter’s morning – but it doesn’t have to be a big bowl, or every morning, or sweetened overly much.

I’ve learnt that there are many other fine flavours to be enjoyed other than just ‘level-10 sickly sweet’! So I’ve started looking at sweet treats with new eyes now. I feel drawn to flavourful, healthier, freshly baked, homemade treats rather than store-bought ones packed full of unnecessary extras.

I’ve been surprised at my resistance to my old cravings. I think the beauty of the 21-day sugar detox is that by telling your brain that ‘it’s just a detox, not a diet’, somehow your body relaxes and doesn’t feel so deprived anymore 🙂

On the downside, though, I would be happy not to see meat for the next month. Cutting out carbs has made me increase my protein portions, which isn’t so appealing to someone who was never much of a carnivore in the first place. Hmmm… methinks that once this detox is done, I should give that month of vegetarianism another shot…

The waiting list

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After much discussion and debate, Ninja and I have finally decided on a way forward with our rat owning. As I’ve mentioned before, we were concerned that Flea might get lonely being an only rat. It really is preferable to keep rats in pairs or groups, but of course life isn’t always as clean-cut as that…

Flea enjoying some oranges (Please note: never feed oranges to male rats!)

At first we considered getting a neutered male of Flea’s age to join her as a companion. After inquiring with our fellow rat club members and discussing it at length, however, we realised we may as well begin the process of getting the new young male rats we were hoping to get one day when Coffee and Flea had passed away.

And so we’ve taken the first step in purchasing a pedigreed fancy rat (or four!) :mrgreen: We’ve contacted a reputable breeder (the same lady who raised our amazing agouti badger husky rats, Scribble and Muesli) and asked to be placed on the waiting list for four boys from two litters she has planned – two boys each for Ninja and I.

We feel ready, after having owned five rats in total so far (I’m also counting Mizu, our very first rat from years ago; a little petshop rescue who opened my eyes to the joys of rat owning), to now have more than one rat each. No doubt it’ll be quite an adventure! 🙂

The idea is that we’ll get four young boys and keep them separate from Flea at first. Then we hope to have at least two of them neutered as soon as they’re the right age (between 2 and 6 months old, I believe). Neutering has several benefits apart from allowing males to live with females, including avoiding testicular cancer and reducing excesses of aggression. Often it keeps the boys’ fur softer as well, with a chance of a bit less oily ‘buck grease’ forming on their backs.

Once the month-long ‘safety window’ has passed for the neutered males to be rendered infertile, we can begin the process of introducing them to Flea. If all goes well with that and once our budget has recovered, we’ll hopefully get the other two males neutered so we call put all our ratties together. It’s something we’ve never done before, but many other rat owners have done it successfully, so we’re going to give it a try. At least then our old lady Flea will have some toy boys companions to cuddle with 😀

It’s all sooooo exciting! And I thought it might be interesting to blog about it as the process unfolds, for those of you who are curious or who may still be a bit wide eyed at the idea of going to so much trouble for rats! 😉

South Africa’s National Zoological Gardens: Pretoria Zoo

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This past weekend was a long weekend in SA, so Ninja and I took advantage of the slower pace and headed off to Pretoria to visit the National Zoological Gardens. Here are a few of my favourite pics from our lovely day out 🙂

We were amused at how fussy this elephant was while eating its breakfast of beets. The veggies were strewn across its sandy enclosure. After selecting a piece of beetroot with its trunk the elephant carefully shook off as much soil as possible before depositing the beet in its mouth.

Picky eater

Picky eater

The shy Knysna turaco has been on my list of must-snap birds for a long time now. Unfortunately for this shot the birdie wouldn’t stop hiding among the twigs, but hey… I’ll take it!

Shy turaco

Shy turaco

A dassie (pronounced ‘duss-ee’) is a South African rock rabbit or rock hyrax. Very cute critters who always start the day by warming up in the sunniest spot they can find.

Sunbathing dassie

Sunbathing dassie

This dassie pair looked especially daft sleeping bum-to-bum atop their small hut!

Mirror image

Mirror image

South Africa’s national animal also made an appearance…

Springbok

Springbok

… as did Australia’s.

Comical kangaroo

Comical kangaroo

I liked the expression of this ‘smiling’ hippo calf as it lounged by the pool. Hard to believe it’ll grow up to be a fat monster like its mommy! Hippos are Africa’s most dangerous creatures, killing more people than any of the continent’s great hunters. But for now this little one looks sweet and innocent.

Happy hippos

Happy hippos

In the farmyard section of the zoo, Ninja and I met this friendly little goat who nimbly leapt out of his enclosure and onto the wall. I don’t think they designed this as a petting zoo, but his pelt was amazingly soft to touch.

Farmyard escape artist

Farmyard escape artist

The Pretoria Zoo is enormous and there’s something new to look at around every corner. We felt it was a much more rewarding and interesting experience than that of the Johannesburg Zoo. The grounds are clean and well tended, the animals’ enclosures are generally larger and better laid out, and there are many more animals to see.

Manmade beauty

Manmade beauty

In the aquarium section of the zoo I found this pale pink miracle: the upside-down jellyfish. Designed that way just because the Creator can 🙂

Upside-down jellyfish

Upside-down jellyfish

The grey crowned crane is always photogenic:

Striking a pose

Striking a pose

The Cape vulture has long been a symbol of vulnerable and endangered species here in Southern Africa:

Vulnerable vulture

This spotted hyena was giving us puppy eyes 🙂

Spotted! Hyena

Spotted! Hyena

I liked this juxtaposition of a massive dusty rhino next to a dainty colourful peacock:

Beauty and the beast

Beauty and the beast

I’d never before seen the curious ‘forest giraffe’ or okapi in real life. They are striking herbivores with coats that look velvety soft. These two were sweet and affectionate with each other.

Okapi

Okapi

It was incredible to watch and hear this lioness calling out. She used all her strength to heave the deep sounds from her belly and out across the zoo.

Queen of the jungle

Queen of the jungle

The star of the zoo was definitely this alluring white tiger with his piercing pale eyes. Ninja and I thrilled to watch him closely through our binoculars… wish my camera could’ve done him justice!

Top attraction

Top attraction

The neighbouring bengal tiger was equally beautiful and positioned a little closer to his adoring fans on the other side of the fence.

Fierce beauty

In the end, it was the bengal tiger who gave me my shot of the day:

Timeless tiger

Sugar-free gluten-free coconut crumpets

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This 21-day sugar detox has been a surprising experience so far. Until I began this detox, I had no idea such a thing as coconut flour even existed!

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Of course once I discovered it, I immediately wanted to try making my favourite food with coconut flour :mrgreen: As you know by now, my favourite food is crepes (called pancakes here in South Africa), with crumpets (called pancakes overseas) following a close second.

The various recipes I browsed through seemed to suggest that crepes would be a bit tricky (though not impossible) to get right with coconut flour, so I decided to try out a recipe for crumpets/pancakes instead. I came across this recipe, which seemed simple and used ingredients I had on hand.

I adapted it a little because I can’t have honey or other sweeteners while I’m on the 21DSD detox, so this is what I used:

Ingredients

4 whole eggs

1/4 C coconut flour (finely sifted to remove all clumps)

1/4 C plain full-cream yoghurt

1 t vanilla essence

1 t mixed spice

Butter/oil/coconut oil for frying

Coconut flour pancakes

Ingredients

Most of the info I read about coconut flour referred to how quickly it absorbs liquids. Since I didn’t want these crumpets to soak up too much butter, I only used a little butter and fried the pancakes in a non-stick pan. It was perfectly easy:

Method

1. Mix all ingredients to make a batter.

2. Fry spoonfuls in a little oil/butter on a medium to high heat.

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

3. Carefully flip over when the bottom has cooked and bubbles start to form around the top edges.

4. Once golden brown and cooked through, remove from pan and drain (if needed).

Make sure both sides are golden brown

Make sure both sides are golden brown

5. Serve with your toppings of choice.

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

These turned out pleasantly delicious, but I did miss the sweetness I’m used to. To pep up these healthy crumpets, I enjoyed them with my daily allowance of one green apple, as well as some pecan nuts and desiccated coconut.

Not a bad way to make it through another sugarless day 😉

For Father’s Day

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Great dads are a dying breed, it seems. So the ones that do exist deserve a special tribute this coming Father’s Day 🙂

Now I wouldn’t want you to call me a ‘daddy’s girl’ – I dislike that term as much as ‘mommy’s boy’ or ‘teacher’s pet’ – but I really love my dad. He’s an irreplaceable part of my life. None of my friends’ fathers ever made me think, ‘I wish my dad were more like him.’

My dad, who I nicknamed Daz, passed along many of his best traits to me. His love of reading, his care with money, his desire for peace and order instead of chaos. In fact, his perfectionism is so much a part of me that I can make a living from it (as a pernickety proofreader)! Our sense of humour and delight in wordplay are also shared characteristics, so we’re quick to tease. On the other side, our thoughtfulness and moments of melancholy help us understand each other too.

Throughout my childhood, my dad was our reliable rock. We could always trust him to provide for us and protect us, no matter what sacrifices it called for. He adapted to each new stage of his children’s developement and looked ahead to find ways to meet our needs. He spent hours around the house fixing our cars, designing our home security system and repairing whatever broke next. His sensible budgeting and careful spending provided for us more comfortably than we may have realised at the time. You know how it is: kids rarely appreciate the motives behind their parents’ decisions until they grow up 😛

In contrast to the wild go-getters and live-for-your-dream type of men who are admired today, my dad is a different kind of hero. He’s the man in the background who faithfully serves the Lord, meets his responsibilities and cares more about his family than his own dreams or treasures. I’ve no doubt that he has aspirations of his own, but he never chased them to the detriment of his family. And though he may not have said it in as many words, that was his way of showing real love.

Growing up, getting married and moving out from under my father’s roof was bound to bring some changes in my relationship with him. But in his wonderful way, Daz simply broadened his care and concern to include Ninja as well. Instead of interfering in our business, he just let us know that he’ll always be there if we need him. Both Ninja and I have enormous respect and appreciation for this man in our lives.

My dad is well read, smart and gifted in many areas. He’s brilliant at designing practical solutions to problems, and I can recall many happy hours spent chatting with him in his garage while he worked on some or other project. There’s not a spot in my parents’ home where you can stand without seeing evidence of my dad’s hard work around you. He’s made his own tools, serviced vehicles, overhauled engines, sorted electrical wiring, fixed plumbing, painted walls, varnished furniture, tiled floors, hung doors… you name it, Daz our handyman could do it!

All that on top of a full-time job with difficult shift work. And the part-time job of being our school teacher.

Yes, that’s right. In addition to everything else on his schedule, my dad homeschooled my brother and I for about a decade. His shift work allowed for it and his orderly approach was perfect for it. He provided the ideal balance of discipline and reward, and we excelled because of it. Together, he and my mom worked tirelessly to give us the best upbringing they knew how.

So just how do you express enough gratitude for someone who’s done so much for you?

At first I wasn’t sure what gift to get for Father’s Day, but when I saw the old Herbie movies on DVD, I snatched them up:

For Father's Day

For Father’s Day

I fondly remember watching this movie ‘back in the day’ and laughing along with Daz at the funny antics.

That’s just one memory out of countless others in a lifetime of being the very blessed daughter of the very best dad :mrgreen:

The 21-day sugar detox? I must be nuts!

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Ohhhhh boy. What was I thinking?

Today I began 21 days of no sugar and no carbs – read: pretty much no comfort food of any kind – and I did it voluntarily. In winter. For twenty-one days!

Detox

Day 1 and I feel a bit lost, really.

Me without sugar is like a sunflower without the sun. I run on sugar! Sweet treats are my staple source of glee. At restaurants I peruse the menus backwards, starting with the desserts. And in winter I gravitate towards breads, pastas, grains and rich sauces.

I guess that’s exactly why this detox is a good idea for me 😛

I was introduced to it by a friend at work and we’re tackling it together, so I’ll have support. This is her second time on the detox, which is a good sign: she survived the first one!

The basic premise of the program is that our bodies are clogged up with an overload of unnatural, refined, processed carbs and sugars and that this lifestyle is bringing on mood swings, tummy troubles, weight gain and a host of other unpleasant effects. As the author of the program, Diane Sanfilippo, puts it, ‘Somewhere along the way, we stopped eating real food.’

All things considered, I’ve coped with the first day better than I expected to. Here’s what I’ve nibbled so far:

  • One semi-ripe banana with lashings of full-cream Greek yoghurt, mixed with vanilla essence, pumpkin seeds, coconut and cinnamon
  • Celery sticks with cheddar cheese
  • A carrot
  • Two cups of unsweetened herbal tea
  • A serving of savoury mince with mushrooms and tomato
  • A handful of salted pistachio nuts

That’s a lot of nibbling. And I haven’t even got to dinner yet.

But I am still so hungry! Clearly I’ll have to increase my portion sizes of the allowed foods…

The nice thing about this detox is that dairy is allowed – as long as it’s full cream. Proteins are allowed too, and so are most veggies. The only things I’m cutting down/out are grains, starchy vegetables, fruit and sweet treats. In other words, it’s not total deprivation.

I’ll let you know how it goes :mrgreen:

Brave little warrior

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Our Berkshire ratty Faith (better known as Flea) had two tumours removed from her little body this past week. Because one of our previous boy rats (Scribble) passed away during such an op, Ninja and I were very nervous about sending Flea in.

But she made it through, and now Flea has proven to be quite a fighter! I’m so proud of her :mrgreen:

Been through the wars…

She was understandably grumpy for the first few days. Just like us, she’s been suffering from the loss of her sister Coffee this week. From what I can tell, she’s also been in considerable pain from the op… and on top of it all I’d venture to say that it’s been an affront to her dignity that she was shaved for the op 😉

But she’s recovering well, eating a lot to get her strength back up, and fighting her meds with a big show of squeaking, hiding and resisting. She’s finished her course of painkillers and antibiotics now, so in a few days’ time she’ll go back to the vet to have her stitches removed. (Not that she hasn’t already tried to remove them herself!)

What a determined little ball!

What a determined little ball!

In a way I feel that Flea’s personality was sometimes overshadowed by the exuberant forcefulness of her sister. Now that we’re spending time with her alone, her own sweet nature is really shining through.

We’re in a bit of a pickle now, though, because ratties aren’t meant to live alone. They need the company of other furries to keep them from getting lonely and depressed. Plus it’s winter now, so Flea probably misses the warmth of a shared hammock.

Our options are limited at the moment. We only want male rats from here on in, so we can’t get her another female as a friend. And we’re also not ready to book our hoped-for baby boys until it’s clear that Faith is getting very old. So the only option we really have is to adopt an adult, neutered old boy to live with our single lady.

For now we’ve decided to wait until Flea has completely recovered from this op, and also to see how she’s doing by her 2nd birthday, in August this year. It’s only two months away (still a long time for a rat, I know).

In the meantime we’re taking the best care of her that we can. We’ve upgraded her cage with some interesting new toys and I’m boosting her diet with the healthiest ingredients I can find. Plus we’re giving her daily runs outside the cage (which will last longer once her stitches are out and she’s able to climb and run like before). I’ve also been spending extra time with her napping next to me for warmth and companionship, and in the evenings I position a hot water bottle nearby to keep her snug in her cage.

She sure is a brave little warrior, and her hopeful spirit is encouraging to me 🙂

A rose to the living

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I’m grateful not to have experienced much death and loss in my life so far… only a few people I’ve loved have passed on, and a few pets. When I remember them and the joy of knowing and loving them, I always call to mind the words of this beautiful poem:

Rose © Sunshine Scrapbook

Rose © Sunshine Scrapbook

May it encourage you today to appreciate and cherish those you love – be they animal or human – while you have the gift of another day in which to do so.