Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Distractions

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Tulip

Yikes! It sure has been ages since I last posted! As always, I’ve missed my sunny scrapbook. Here’s why I’ve been quiet:

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Home at last

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Hello there friends!

I’m back at last, finding a new normal with my Ninja and the fuzzies in our brand new home. Thanks for your patience while I was away; I’ve missed reading your blogs and sending out some cyber scribbles of my own 😉

Wow, what an adventure the past few weeks have been! Moving house sure is messy, whether you do it all in one go or bit-by-bit over many weekends like we did. Towards the end we were sleeping on just a couch cushion on the floor, with no furniture or appliances left except a tiny bar fridge that held only a few meals’ worth of groceries, and clocking hundreds of kilometres driving back and forth between the two homes on weekends. Exhausting.

Read more…

Valentine’s cake and stargazing

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Valentine’s Day sped by in a blur this year. Remember last year’s fanfare? Well, this year was quieter but still fun, and I used the celebration to work on two more of my goals: #22 (bake another cake) and #30 (visit a planetarium).

We went to the Johannesburg Planetarium for their Valentine’s Day show. It was really funny being in a crowd of about 150 couples! The show was cute, and one could opt to screen a personal message in the stars. This is what I wrote for my man:

Ninja

You are strong, handsome, godly, funny, loving and an incredible husband. No matter what happens in life, always look up!

With love, respect and stars in my eyes,

Zest

All together now: “Awwww!” 🙂

As I mentioned, I also managed to bake the fourth of five cakes on my 22nd goal: a fresh raspberry cake. The recipe for this treat (and all the credit!) for the cake can be found here: http://bakingbites.com/2013/06/fresh-raspberry-cake/. (The only thing I changed was using 1 t lemon juice instead of 1 t lemon zest.) Here are my pics to whet your appetite:

Fresh raspberry cake

Fresh raspberry cake

The batter only fills part of the tin

The batter only fills part of the tin

Then you dot in the raspberries

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

And bake till it's lovely golden colour

And bake till it’s lovely golden colour

I can’t imagine this cake with any berries other than these tart red delights, but of course you could try other berries if you wanted to. Next time I make this I might experiment with using less sugar, as a whole cup seemed like a huge portion, but otherwise this was fantastic and gobbled up by all those I shared it with. (FYI: I did notice that it’s probably best eaten fresh, as the longer you keep it the softer the berries will become.)

Thank you, Baking Bites, for sharing this recipe with us! The sweetest side of baking is in the sharing 🙂

Highveld storm season

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The start of a storm

The start of a storm

That’s not a nuke test you see in that pic; that’s a typical exquisite cumulonimbus building up in preparation for a storm. Actually, that’s just a small part of the cloud formation – it was all I could squeeze in the frame.

We’ve been seeing quite a few clouds like that one now that Johannesburg’s summer storm season has burst upon us in full force. Allow me to share with you the adventure of a Highveld summer storm…

…oOo…

It usually starts with a blazing hot day in the middle of summer. You’ve barely started work and your skin is already shiny before the clock hits 9 a.m. You’re based in an airconditioned office, though, so at first you don’t notice that the temperature is still rising.

At midday you pop outdoors for your lunch break and wham! the sun fries any part of you it sees. The shade isn’t even a relief anymore. You treat yourself to an ice cream (maybe) because, well, isn’t it just a gorgeous day… but your discomfort sends you back to the artificially cooled office pretty quickly.

By about 2 o’clock you look out the window to observe that huge white clouds are bubbling up into the sky, shining a blinding snowy white in the baking sunshine. The sky is still blue, but a bit of a breeze has picked up, and subconsciously you know what’s coming.

Around 3 p.m. the tension in the air outside has infected everyone. The wind is gusting more strongly now, and the pretty puffs of white have become ominous towers of grey and black. People start hurrying without realising it, just as the birds swirl and dive for shelter. It’s still hot, but you can feel the heat is about to break.

You race to your car the moment work ends, muttering how everyone (else) throws their driver’s licence out the window when the weather turns exciting. Join the queue of traffic and you sense a communal ripple through the hive: people hurrying to fetch their kids from school, wondering if they left the washing on the line, nervous about reaching shelter despite the comfort of their modern cars.

Then suddenly – splat! – a big fat droplet plops on your windshield. Splat! Splat! And whoooshhhhhhh! – the faucet opens full blast. The heat snaps, the visibility is zero, the air is warm and wet. Wiper blades swish and lights barely break through the waterfall as you crawl along on your homeward route.

And the thunder! Rolls and cracks and splits in the sky; lightning snaking out for the nearest hill or high point. A smash of thunder right above you makes you yelp. The heat of your breath mists up your car windows, so on goes the fan, since you can’t crack open a window without getting splattered.

If you’re lucky you might miss the hail this time (or it might miss you). If not, you’ll be stuck in your tin can in stop–go traffic with the hard white stones hammering down on you. Poor pockmarked car.

But the hail, like the heavy rain, doesn’t last that long. Within half an hour it’s over: the shower slows to a patter and the thunder rolls off to the horizon. Finally you make it home in one piece, thankful that you remembered to unplug all your valuable electronic goods the night before…

…oOo…

The great thing about Jo’burg’s summer rain is that it’s not like the stifling muggy humidity of Durban, where the warm Indian Ocean smothers the coast in low grey cloud blanket that traps the moist heat. Nor do we have the hot, persistent winds of Cape Town’s summer or the endless drizzle of their winter. No.

Jozi’s storms are electric and dramatic! They build up and blow up and often do damage… and then just as suddenly the clouds fall flat and float away, leaving behind sparkling sunshine and rainbows.

The world smells fresh and clean. The warm wet roads are left steaming after the downpour. Leaves and petals and bits of debris have been blasted against walls and windows, but the foliage that’s still intact twinkles with a thousand raindrops. The heat is gone and so is the tension of those enormous clouds. All the dirt of city life is washed away, and the evening draws to a close with the songs of crickets and frogs filling the air.

Goal #26 – Done!

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Goal #26 – Participate in a 5km run/walk – is DONE!!! Today my best friend and I finally checked this fitness goal off our lists, and if I may say so, I am inordinately proud of myself for succeeding! 😀

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women's Race

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women’s Race

You see, I’ve never, ever excelled at anything physical. I’ve rarely even participated in anything physical. I’ve just always felt clumsy and not 100% at home in my skin; I don’t take part in sports, I can’t throw or catch, and I’ve believed everything people told me through the years to affirm that I’m ‘no good’ at physical activities.

Occasionally it’s bugged me that that aspect of my self has been left undeveloped for decades, but usually I forget about it because most of my living is in the emotional, intellectual and relational spheres. That’s the stuff I’m good at, so of course that’s what I’ve channeled most of my energy towards.

But then along came two factors that set me on a path to working on what I lack – and that path led me to today’s race.

The first factor was a very negative influence: a job that robbed me of everything that mattered to me (or, I let it do so). Months of erratic overtime and constant stress made it all too easy for me to compensate with feel-good foods, quick-fix dinners and zero time for exercise. In short: I got fatter and unfitter than I’d ever been in my life. This negative factor pushed me to to a place where I was desperately ready to reverse the damage and improve my physical health.

The second factor is a very positive influence: my best friend. It was her idea to do this race at first, but the more we chatted about it the more I realised that I actually really wanted to do this for me too. I wanted to do it precisely because every voice in my head was arguing that it’d be too tough and I’d fail and I simply wasn’t made for this kind of thing. I wanted to do it because I’ve spent my whole life avoiding physical challenges, which is just ridiculous!

So I had a push factor and a pull factor that got me through today. I was running away from something – from being overweight, from disrespecting my body, from making unhealthy choices, from the labels of ‘lazy’ and ‘unfit’. And I was running toward something – a physical challenge, a body I’m more comfortable in, a special achievement with my sister, new labels of ‘growing’ and ‘willing to try’.

Being among those thousands of milling women of every shape, size, age, colour and fitness level, I came to accept that there’s no need to be as hard on myself as I have been in the past. Sure, I’ll never be a pro runner; I don’t aspire to it at all. I’ll never look that way or train that way or try to fit into that mould. But hey, I can still run for fun! I can still set goals that involve hard work and physical fitness. I can still deliberately choose to challenge myself to become better for as long as the Lord grants me breath.

Today was amazing 😀

One tiny 5k race for Jozi, but one enormous leap of growth for me!

What’s hot and what’s not about life in Johannesburg

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Living-in-Joburg meme

When the ‘what I’m really doing’ meme themes were all the rage a while ago, this one was one of my favourites (can’t recall now where I sourced it though :/). I discovered it again on my PC the other day and thought to write a post about living in Jozi.

What’s hot about Jo’burg

  1. Johannesburg’s weather is mostly pleasant all year. Being the sunflower that I am, I thrive on the fact that we have an average of 3182 hours of sunshine each year 🙂 Divide that by 12 for a 12-hour day and you get approximately 265 sunny days in the year.
  2. Jozi is green. I mean, for a big bustling city on the dry continent of Africa, this is one leafy CBD! We have millions and millions of trees of all shapes, sizes and colours filling the sidewalks and gardens and parks of Johannesburg. It’s beautiful. And I’m proud to say that in her own small way, my mom was involved in planting street trees in our old neighbourhood many years ago. I’d still love to plant a tree of my own one day too…
  3. This central city of the Gauteng province is a good place to live for another practical reason: it’s where the jobs are at. There’s a massive concentration of industries and workers in Jo’burg – I guess things haven’t changed much since it began as a gold-mining town back in 1886.
  4. Johannesburg is a multicultural melting pot. We have citizens and visitors from all around the world, bringing their cultural influences, cuisine and languages to this busy city. Go to any shopping mall on a given day and you’ll hear almost all of our 11 national languages spoken, as well as many others such as German, Portuguese, French and so on. In other words: you don’t need to travel far to meet someone interesting!
  5. And last on this shortlist, Jozi is a central location leading to other great spots in South Africa and in the neighbouring countries. Our OR Tambo International Airport is one of the largest on the continent, which makes sense considering that Jo’burg is second only to Cairo in the bid for the largest African city. Land at OR Tambo and within a few hours you can be out in the bush (think Kruger National Park) or on your way to the coast at Durban. It’s a gateway to exploring other parts of Southern Africa.

What’s not so hot about Jo’burg

  1. Uppermost on every Joburger’s mind of late is the new e-toll policy that the government is trying to force on the residents of Gauteng province. Just google ‘Johannesburg e-toll news’ if you don’t know what I’m referring to. On top of rising petrol costs and all the other taxes and dues we pay, the government has decided to charge us for using the most useful highways around the city. We’re all still waiting to see how this one plays itself out…
  2. Sometimes the disadvantages to something are just the flipside of the advantages. In Jozi we have an exciting cultural melting pot, but that can quickly become a boiling pot when cultures clash. Again, google ‘Johannesburg xenophonia attacks’ if you’re curious.
  3. Being the biggest South African city goes hand in hand with overcrowding, poverty, illegal dwellings and townships. Tourists often think Soweto (our largest township) makes for an exciting tour, but it also represents some of the most desparate circumstances some Jo’burg residents must live in.
  4. Jozi started with the gold rush, and now both the gold and the rush are the foundation of this city. Joburgers are known for being materialistic, pushy, hard and rushed. Ninja and I grab every chance we can get to break away from the rush and try to live an anti-city life with a bit of margin in it.
  5. Finally, the classic bad news linked to Johannesburg, South Africa: it’s among the most dangerous cities in the world. Figures vary for just how dangerous it is compared to, say, places like Honduras. But Jozi remains full of crime and shady characters, with so much murder, rape and other violent crime that it’s too depressing to contemplate.

Thankfully, Ninja and I know that no one place is any more or less dangerous for us, because we’re always in the same place: in the protective hands of our Heavenly Father. If His will is to keep us safe even in Jo’burg of all places, or if not, we can trust that He has us exactly where He wants us 🙂

Quick pics

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Hello there! It feels like an age since I last posted here… life’s been getting in the way a bit lately 😉 Summer has hit Johannesburg at last and the heatwave has been surprisingly draining. Ninja and I have been very busy with everything from work to trying to get fit for my first 5km run. My to-do list is overflowing, and often that’s meant that blogging drops down a rung or two. Sigh. I do miss my days at home when I was a full-time blogger, baker and bookworm!

Anyway, for now I have a moment to share a few recent pics of our ratties. They’ve been here for almost a month now and they’ve taken over the home :mrgreen:

Open that cage door and a mass exodus ensues

Open that cage door and a mass escape is inevitable

I’ve tried taking a few nice photos of them and have entered a few into a competition hosted by our rat club – which means I can cross off Goal #64: Send in a photograph to a contest 🙂 Would be so great if one of my shots got picked! But for the most part I have dozens of not-quite-awesome-yet-still-quite-cute pics…

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

It’s not easy getting good pictures when the rats are on the go all the time, so I also try to catch them unawares for sweet sleeping shots. Here are some of my favourites:

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon: rolled into a ball

Moon: rolled into a ball

Knight: absolute innocence

Knight: absolute innocence

So far it seems our first impressions of the boys were pretty accurate. Their personalities are quite distinct and a joy to discover.

Moon (nicknamed Rover) is still the curious adventurer, who’s often awake when the other three are asleep and vice versa. He’s gentle and fast but in some cases still a little unsure of his place. You know how in big families you often find the one quiet kid who’s easily overlooked in the mayhem? Sometimes I think Moon is that kid, though his odd circadian rhythms do make it easier for us to give him special attention 🙂

Knight (nicknamed Tiny) is still very sweet; he’s bold with his brothers but gentle and trusting with humans. He only has one fault: he is sooooo squeaky!! He squeaks for anything and everything, be it a thorough grooming from his brothers or an unexpected poke from a playful human. It’s definitely not pain related – it’s all attitude and noisy protest from the baby of the bunch 😛

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Vodka (nicknamed Voddy – I know, it’s lame, but sometimes the good nicks only come after a while) is the bright spark: I’ve been teaching the rats to leap from the open cage onto my shoulders when I ask them to, and Vodka was the first to catch on and make the jump. All the boys know two commands already: ‘Up’ for standing on their hind legs to receive a treat, and ‘Jump’ for leaping onto me or whichever surface I tap.

Mishka with a banana chippie

Mishka with a banana chippie

Of all our lovely rats, Mishka consistently steals the show. Not only is he the biggest and boldest; he’s also the only dumbo so he keeps catching our eye with expressions we’re not used to after our succession of standard-eared ratties. My friends go all mushy when meeting him and even Ninja admits there’s no denying Mishka’s charisma.

As for me, well… this boy is rapidly achieving ‘heart rat’ status. I always said Muesli was my heart rat, as he was my first, but I’m learning that the heart is big enough to hold more than one special furry object of affection 😀

I think what gets me about Mishka is that he has different sides to his personality. Ninety percent of the time he’s the big forceful alpha rat who ‘power grooms’ his cagemates and shoves human hands aside to get to what he wants. But then there are those odd moments when he suddenly turns sensitive. He’s really earned his nickname of Teddy Bear.

Mishka's heart-melting look

Mishka’s heart-melting look

The pic above was taken after I’d disciplined Mishka for nipping my fingers instead of taking the food from them. From the look on his face you’d swear I’d whipped him with a cane or something! All I did was squeak at him and tap him on the nose (trying to mimic a ratty way of saying ‘That’s enough!’)

Well, it crushed him. He backed up immediately and shot me this devastated look. Flattening his ears against his head, he dashed upstairs and leapt into his Sputnik. And there he stayed, refusing to be comforted or bribed with treats; just giving me the ‘Mommy how could you?’ look for over an hour. Oh my goodness! How to make a rat mommy feel like rubbish! LOL

So that’s the kind of thing that’s been keeping me busy… but I do hope to have more opportunities to blog more regularly. I’m itching to bake something new or take a day trip or do something creative again. As soon as I do, you can be sure I’ll share it here 🙂

What do you collect?

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Do you have a hobby or tradition of collecting something interesting? I used to love collecting items when I was a kid… from stickers to old perfume bottles (which gave off such a collective heady pong that I eventually scrapped that!)… I’m not a fan of too much clutter, but I do like meaningful collections 🙂

About two years ago, Ninja and I suddenly decided to start a tradition of collecting fridge magnets from our day trips and other travels. We don’t have a massive collection, but it’s colourful and unique and grows a little bigger each year.

Our magnets so far

Our magnets so far

The first magnet with the dangling metal skulls was what started it all: a souvenir from our trip to Sterkfontein Caves at the so-called ‘Cradle of Mankind’ just outside Joburg. The next was from a romantic long weekend we took to a log cabin in Dullstroom (briefly mentioned here).

The next five magnets are all from highlights of our last long holiday along South Africa’s West Coast: the Butterflies for Africa butterfly sanctuary, the Durban waterfront, uShaka Marine World and the birds and crocodiles we saw at CrocWorld.

In the next row you can see magnets commemorating our trip to the Montecasino Bird Gardens and the South African Lipizzaners. The tiny bird magnet is from the Sasol Bird Fair, and the ratty is from the World of Dogs and Cats (WODAC) pet expo this year.

The rat club stand at WODAC sold the cutest ratty magnets, so of course we got the whole set :mrgreen:

Rat magnets

Rat magnets

In case you can’t read the text on them, the sayings are:

  • A balanced person has a rat on each shoulder
  • GGMRS – Gotta Get More Rats Syndrome
  • Rat addiction is not fattening
  • My rats live here, you don’t
  • The rat race is over. The rats won!

So, what do you collect? 🙂

A slight delay

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Some disappointing news, folks: our new ratties’ flight has had to be postponed. Sigh… I was so ready to scoop up four bundles of fluff today! But we’ve been assured that they’ll be on next Saturday’s flight, so Lord willing all will go smoothly and we’ll meet them then 🙂

In the meantime we’ll put the finishing touches on their new home and their cardboard castle, and of course give Flea plenty of attention as usual. And maybe in a way it’s a good thing they didn’t arrive today, coz boy is it freezing in Joburg! And so windy. Tomorrow’s supposed to be Spring Day, but it looks like winter wants to give a last (belated) bite 😕

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated of course… since I’ve strung you all along in suspense about these rats for so long! 😉

 

Classic Cars Show 2013

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I bet you can guess why it’s been so quiet at the Sunshine Scrapbook for the past few days 🙂 I’ve been practising daily with my beautiful new camera and analysing the shots to learn from them and generally just practising what I preach! Then this past weekend there was a Classic Cars Show in Johannesburg, which proved to be a great day trip with friends and my first public, lengthy use of the beastie.

Here are a few of the pics, along with my thoughts. Just for the record, I barely know my Vauxhall from my Volvo… so please bear with any automotive slurs I might make 😉

There was a large crowd attending the show, which meant that most of my shots were inevitably photobombed by random strangers. In order to have some ‘clean’ shots, I took quite a few close-ups of details on the cars.

Classic Cars Show 01

There were modern muscle cars, such as this super hot GT…

Classic Cars Show 02

…and old classics such as this enormous Grande Parisienne:

Classic Cars Show 03

The Classic Cars Show was held at the well-known Nasrec showgrounds in the south of Joburg, a venue that provides both indoor and outdoor exhibits for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Classic Cars Show 04

The changing lighting conditions meant I had to keep an eye on my ISO settings as I moved about from shade to sunshine. It was good practice, and thankfully my D7100 has a comfortable viewfinder that displays all the exposure info clearly.

Classic Cars Show 05

The friends with whom I attended the show helped point out which aspects of which cars I should try to capture – such as the iconic badge and spoke wheels of the Corvette above.

Classic Cars Show 06

Almost the only car I recognised for sure: I can say with confidence that the engine above is from a Cobra :mrgreen:

My eyes are naturally drawn to little details (it must be the editor in me), so I tried to capture items of interest besides the cars themselves. Here I focused on the classic furry dice dangling from the mirror:

Classic Cars Show 07

One lesson I learnt from the beastie during this photoshoot was that even though my lovely Nikon AF-S 50mm prime can open up all the way to f/1.8, it’s not ideal or desirable to shoot that wide open all the time.

For example, in the pic below it would have been better if I’d increased the depth of field to include the many interesting trophies stacked in this car’s boot (trunk), rather than just focusing on the badge. I blame it on my excitement at finally having a lens that creates that bokeh effect… but when I get over that I think I’ll take better pics!

Classic Cars Show 08

Another lesson I learnt was that the experts were right: a polarising filter would’ve been king for this sort of photography. Polarisers are used to cut glare and reflections, which would’ve been a boon considering all the cars were polished to a high sheen.

Classic Cars Show 09

The show included a few motorcycles too. I would’ve liked to have seen a few more bikes, and a wider variety of them, but since this show grows in popularity each year I’m sure that will improve in time.

If I thought my camera was a beast, check out this mean machine! That’s one fat tyre!

Classic Cars Show 10

Speaking of the beastie, I was amazed to discover that the weight of the camera and lens barely registered in my mind. I held the camera most of the day and my comfy Lowepro backpack carried the rest of the kit. The adventure of taking photos soon overtook any concern I’d had about the D7100 being particularly heavy.

Classic Cars Show 11

The chrome Boulevard above was one thing, but I was taken aback to see the following bike there!

Classic Cars Show 12

I didn’t notice this at the time of the show, but when I reviewed the photographs on my PC later I realised that I’d framed many of my shots quite poorly. While I deliberately cropped in close to pick out badges and other details, I struggled to get properly framed pics of whole cars.

Classic Cars Show 13

In most cases it was because there were too many people crawling all over the vehicles, and of course the most popular cars had the most admirers hanging around. So I ended up with dozens of weird compositions such as this:

Classic Cars Show 14

Looking back, the only ways around this would probably have been to get there much earlier to beat the hordes, or to stand by one vehicle until the masses had moved on, or to include random strangers in my pics. Which would you have preferred?

Classic Cars Show 15

Another reason the framing was difficult was that on a crop-sensor camera such as the Nikon D7100, a 50mm lens behaves like a 75mm lens. So you constantly find yourself backing up (usually into something or someone!) to try to get the whole vehicle in the frame.

Classic Cars Show 18

There were many big American-type trucks and cars, which may not seem rare to you but were eye-catching to me. The green beauty above is a 1946 Hudson. Inside it was cutely Elvis themed…

Classic Cars Show 19

The huuuuuuge American cars left a big impression. But I don’t want to know what this monster costs to fill up!

Classic Cars Show 20

All in all, it was an unusual and exciting day out. I learnt loads about operating my new DSLR and enjoyed the effort and care people have put into maintaining their classic vehicles.

Classic Cars Show 22

Thanks for coming along for the ride! 🙂