29.6.12

Be grateful

It’s the all too familiar situation that you see in South Africa. A man, woman or child standing at a traffic light asking for money, food or a job. The sad thing is that you see so many of them you kind of become accustomed to just ignoring them and half the time you don’t even realize they are there. 

Every now and again you see one with a sign written with a sense of humour, like “Help, need money to bail my dog out of jail,” “Wife kicked me out, need money for an apology gift,” or “Please help, I need money because he ninjas stole my dog.”

This evening however I saw one that really tugged at my heart strings. I was driving home after having had a wonderful dinner with friends and standing at one of the traffic lights was a young man with a sign, “Please take me home with you.”

It is currently winter here in South Africa so everyone is wrapping up in numerous layers and here I sat in my car with the heater on and this poor person, didn’t even have shoes to wear. He is always at this particular traffic light as every time I drive past I give him some money. Tonight however it just made me realise more than ever, how grateful I am for my nice warm house, warm clothes, money to buy these warm clothes with and warm food to fill my stomach with.

So not too sound like a preacher, but do be grateful for what you have and those who are around you, who give you love and attention. The next time you choose to complain about not having the latest gadget or fashion trend just remember that there are those out there with nothing at all.  

27.6.12

Go to meal

I have so many favourites when it comes to meals, drinks, deserts or snacks. The type of mood I’m in and the season determine which favourite I end up eating or drinking.
I thought in today’s post I would share my all time favourite go to meal (for lunch or dinner) when I really don't know what else to make. 

Smocked trout spaghetti, with white wine sauce


Ingredients
85g spaghetti
Salt
2tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup cream
2tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
114g smoked trout

1 onion, chopped (or shallots)
Pepper

Method

  1. Boil water on the stove, salt it with 1 Tbsp of salt for every 4 quarts of water. Once the water is boiling add the pasta to the pot. Leave uncovered, on high heat and let cook with a vigorous boil. Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package says is appropriate for al dente (cooked but still a little firm).
  2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a large skillet heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add white wine, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp of lemon zest. Increase the heat and let boil down by half. If you want a slightly creamy sauce, add the cream and let boil a minute more.
  3. The sauce should be done about the same time the pasta is done. If you get done earlier with it than the pasta, take it off the heat.
  4. Once the pasta is done, and before draining the pasta, scoop out one cup of the pasta cooking liquid and reserve. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the sauce. Add the smoked salmon, toasted pine nuts, parsley, and the remaining lemon zest. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

25.6.12

Pressure that causes relaxation

So it was my birthday last week Monday and this year I got so spoilt. My family and boyfriend know me so well; they all gave me vouchers for a full body massage at my favourite spa.
I did a beauty course a few years ago and learnt how to do a full body Swedish massage. It was really interesting and I enjoyed learning all the different methods used, but I do have to admit I prefer getting massages versus giving them. Here are a few interesting facts about massages for.


The top ten most popular massages are:

Swedish massage
Aromatherapy massage
Hot stone massage
Deep tissue massage
Shiatsu
Thai massage (only go for this if you have a high pain threshold, it’s a very painful massage)
Pregnancy massage
Reflexology
Sports massage
Back massage

Massages help with circulation. Joints can become more flexible and have more range, the immune system improves and a feeling of exhaustion will become less. Massages have been known to help feel less alone.

Full body massages are not the only type of massage that is beneficial to the body. Your feet can be a useful place to massage and heal the body from certain pains and aches. The feet are the map of the body, each point on the foot is directly linked to a certain area of the body.


So next time you hear someone say they are going for a massage, you’ll know that it’s not just for the relaxation aspect but also for the health benefits. 

22.6.12

The travelling bug

I absolutely love to travel. Getting to learn all about other people’s cultures, customs and their ways of  everyday life, it’s all just fascinating.

So far in my young life I have been to London, Washington, New York, Orlando Florida (Disney World), Amsterdam, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lucerne, Lyon, Monaco, Nice, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Macau (admittedly only for a day).

I visited the European countries and towns when my sister and I went on a 14 day Contiki tour in 2005. Below are a few photos from our trip, let’s call it the highlights reel. I wished I could show you all of the photos but that would unfortunately take more than a few blog posts.

This would be the trip that changed our lives. We happened to met three other South Africans (Candy, Marco and Rob) who were part of our group. What made it even more coincidental is that we all happened to live in Johannesburg. To this day we are all still friends and get together on a regular basis. What makes it even more amazing, is that Candy and Marco were the ones, who introduced my sister to her future husband. So it was indeed a trip well worth taking. 

When you start your Contiki Tour, specifically a European one, all the people on your tour meet up in London and from there your exciting adventure begins.

Our first visit was to Amsterdam where went to exciting places such as Gassen Diamonds, Heineken Beer factory, Anne Frank's house and a cheese and clog factory. 

We then went to St Goar and walked along the Rhine Valley, we did a wine tasting, saw the biggest cuckoo clock in the world, oh and visited a few local pubs (because its not a Contiki tour without some drinking). 

Next up was Luzern where had a proper cheese fondue. 

While we were in Luzern we stayed in the highest hotel in Europe St Pilatus. This of course meant...SNOW! Needless to say we had snow fights, we tried (unsuccessfully I might add) to build a snow man and despite it being freezing and the snow melting through our cotton gloves, we had the time of our lives. 

Next up was Innsbruck, where we drank lots of  schnapps (that made the next morning on the bus a very quiet trip). We ate some real bratwurst met brood and visited the beautiful Swarovski museum.

We went to Venice, which is just as beautiful as they make it out to be in the movies. It rained the whole time we were there (as you can tell from the photo), but that didn't stop us, as we even went on a gondola ride.

Rome was amazing! All those ruins and history, I had one of those surreal moments when I found myself standing in the Colosseum. Words alone can not describe how huge and beautiful it is. 

We went to the Trevi Fountain, were I tossed in my coin and made my wish. I cant remember what my wish was, so I'm not even able to tell you if it came true...lol! The Pantheon was another stop we made while in Rome, did you know the hole in the roof of the pantheon is so big a bus can fit through it! We were also fortunate enough to be in Rome when the Pope made one of his rare public appearances.

The leaning tower of Pisa...and boy does it lean...lol! 

Ah...Monaco, where rich people drop so much money at the casino,  you would think the world is going to end sometime soon. 

The Louvre, what can I say...so much art and yet so little time! You need to dedicate a full three days to see it all, we unfortunately only had half a day. Before you ask, I have no idea what my sister and I were doing in this photo but hey it looks like we were having fun!

Of course we went to the Eiffel tower, its not a proper visit to Paris unless you've been to the Eiffel Tower. We learnt a very valuable lesson that night. While going up in the lift we were chatting away in Afrikaans (as South Africans do when you're in a foreign country) and the people behind us starting giggling along with us. Yip, they were South Africans as well, from Pretoria non the less...the world is indeed a very small place. 

Oh and Moulin Rouge, the show blew my mind! It was way beyond my wildest expectations. The funniest was one of the guys saying he couldn't concentrate on the actual show, because there was way too many boobies (all the female performers are topless). 

Well, that is our Contiki tour in a nutshell. I would highly recommend that you do one before you turn 35 (the cut off age). You meet so many different people, its an awesome trip from beginning to end and its the experience of a life time.  

There are so many more places I would still like to visit and yet I find myself wondering when I will have the time for all this travelling in-between working, paying bills, settling down (you know the grown up things).

20.6.12

Square knot bracelets

Today’s post is another bracelet tutorial. I just love nice creative things like this, that I can make myself. I know that when it comes to the final product I will be so happy with it, because I picked out everything myself.

What you’ll need:

A roll of chinese cord or thread
Charm, connector, or whatever you chose to have in the centre
A cross stitch needle
Cello tape
Scissors
First cut two 76cm lengths of cord, two 51cm lengths of cord and one 26cm length of cord
Take the 76cm length of cord and loop it through the charm or connector, this will be the base of the bracelet base.

To do the square knots, take the 51cm length of cord and place it on its half way mark under the base cord. Fold the right hand side of the cord over the base cord and then under the left hand side of the cord. Pull the left hand side cord under the right hand side and the base cord, then through the loop on the right hand side. Pull to tighten the knot and slide it right up to the charm or connector. If you’re confused look at the photo to see exactly how it’s done.

For the second part of the square knot, fold the left hand side cord over the base cord and under the right hand side cord. Pull the right hand side cord under the left hand side and base cords, then through the loop on the left hand side. Once again look at the photo for an exact guide as to how it’s done.

This process will continue until you have the amount of knots you would like on your bracelets. To tie off the knots and secure then, take your needle and thread the cord back through the last three knots. As illustrated in my photo. Repeat these steps on the other side of the charm/connector.

To finish off your bracelet and to be able to make it either smaller or bigger, you need to make a sliding knot. This is done by folding both sides of the bracelet over one another in a circle. Use the cello tape to hold the cords in place. 

Take the 26cm cord and place it centre of the two strands. Start doing the square knots exactly like you did on the base cords.

The two halves can now be adjusted to fit your wrist size. Take the ends of the cords and tie them in knots to prevent the bracelet from coming undone.

Your bracelets should look like this. Hope you find this as fun as I did. Now you can make these for friends for birthdays or Christmas.  

18.6.12

Its my BIRTHDAY!!!

Another year has passed and I’m one more year older. I must say I don’t feel my age but then again one never does.

Every year on my birthday I always find myself looking back over the years at what I have done with my life. It’s never a case of “oh I wish I had done that” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” I believe you should rather look back at your life and think, “I’m glad I did that” or “that turned out great,” so because it’s my birthday I have decided to share some photos of my early years. Let’s call it Vintage Mel…

Oh and feel free to laugh, I know I do every time I see these

This was my second birthday. My mom thought she would be clever with this cake, she took a cardboard box, shaped it like a house, covered it in icing and then stuck all different types of cookies to it, because all little kids of that age seem to eat are the decorations or icing and not the actual cake. 

My third birthday was held in our garage (which seemed to be a trend at some point), this was a joint party with my friend Jaco, who's birthday is eight days after mine. You will note as well that my sister and I are wearing similar tracksuits, my mom enjoyed dressing us either in matching outfits or similar outfits, even though we are two years apart in age!

For my fourth birthday, my cake was Minnie Mouse, that was my fascination at the time. Its hilarious to see the different phases I went through in my younger years, as it always seemed to have reflected in my birthday cakes. 

It was fun sharing these memories with you. I am now off to eat some more cake as on your birthday calories don't count...oh how I wish. 

15.6.12

Family love

Today's blog post will be a short one, as my parents are in town for a visit.

So to keep you entertained I will share some family photos. 


The original four...back in the day.

Family trip to Dubai in 2007


By then, the original four had grown though....to the super six (yes, my nicknames are lame)

My sister's wedding

To this day, we still don't know what they boys were up to...lol

13.6.12

Carrot delight

I absolutely love baking. If I had things my way, I would be baking all day every day, unfortunately though that’s not the way things are (day job you know).

Yesterday I planned to do some baking, now usually when I bake I prefer to do cupcakes as you can decorate them all these funny and cute ways. Instead of cupcakes I went with a delicious carrot cake. If any of you are familiar with making a carrot cake, you will know that the carrots need to be finely grated…this exercise left my fingertips orange (it was a rather funny sight).

For me the best part of a carrot cake is the icing, delicious icing made with cream cheese. Now, if it weren’t for the calories or the thought that I might turn into a diabetic, I could easily eat a whole tub of it.  

Ingredients
250ml sugar
200ml oil
3 eggs
380ml flour
2ml salt
10ml baking powder
15ml cinnamon
500ml raw grated carrots
125ml pecan nuts

Icing
250g cream cheese
250ml sifted icing sugar
125g margarine
5ml vanilla essence


Method

Combine the sugar, eggs, oil together

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, carrots and chopped pecan nuts.

Bake for 45 minutes at 180 in two separate cake tins.

Combine the icing ingredients together and spread between the two sections and on the top and sides of the cake.  

The best part of baking for me is that throughout the whole process of combining the ingredients it all never really looks like much. But then it comes out the oven and it looks perfect (well most of the time) and delicious.  

11.6.12

Being clever when money matters

This morning I ventured off into the cold to go do the monthly grocery shopping. I have to chuckle at myself every time I go shopping for food and cleaning products, as I am always shocked as to how expensive stuff can be. The price of living just seems to go up and up.

When I do the monthly big grocery shop I prefer to go to Pick ‘n Pay as they mostly have everything I need, all in one trip. I swipe my Smart Shopper card when paying so I can accumulate those shopper points. A monthly shop like this earns me a good hand full of points. I love the benefits of the Smart Shopper card; along with earning points, one can also be part of the exclusive monthly, sometimes weekly promotions where you get bonus points for certain items or vouchers to use when shopping.

Another points card which I am a huge fan of is the Woolworths Rewards card. There are often promotions where you as a rewards member can get 10 to 20% off certain items. I prefer to do my weekly shop of the everyday consumables such as bread, milk, fruit and vegetables at Woolworths, as I can buy the small packs of mixed seasonal vegetables and it won’t expire before I am finished with it. The milk also seems to last longer than that of any other store. The problem with living alone and purchasing food is that you have to buy everything in small amounts as chances are certain items will expire before you have finished consuming them. This is frustrating as not only is it a waste of money but the item always seems to expire just when you would like to use it for a certain recipe.

I prefer the points system as having accounts with stores, is just one way to build up debt very quickly. The best policy when it comes to any kind of shopping is to pay it off right there and then, that way you won’t have to worry about not having the sufficient funds for it later.

I have for the past few years been using a spreadsheet on Excel for both budget purposes and so I can learn to manage my money in a more responsible manner. With the petrol price going up and up, living expenses are not getting any cheaper. It is therefore always a clever idea to be fully conscious of where your money is going, so that you are aware of areas where you can improve or cut back. Another clever idea is to plan ahead for the week and know exactly what you will be eating for dinner each night, that way when you do go shopping you know exactly what you need and won’t buy any unnecessary items.

8.6.12

DIY bracelets

I just love making creative things such as birthday cards, picture frames, paintings, scrapbooks, jewellery you name it and I love it.

I was therefore so delighted when I found these DIY friendship bracelets online. They look so easy to do and they are so colourful that I just couldn’t wait to give it a try.

I did however notice a few hitches in the original directions:
They don’t tell you that for the first three to four rows it’s going to look like complete chaos and the knots take a while to get the hang of.

That said though, it is a lot of fun to make them and when you're done they look spectacular.
Here is my attempt at these friendship braclets.

What you’ll need:
Cross stick threads in various colours
Cellotape/safety pin
Scissors

You can use a variety of colours. For mine you will see I did four different brackets 
with four different colour combinations. Cut two 60-70 cm lengths of each colour, depending 
on your colour combinations or just ensure that you have 12 lengths of thread in total.

 
Tie a knot at the end to secure the threads together.
Secure the knotted threads with either the cellotape or safety pin to a surface 
to stop it from moving all over the place while you are making the bracket. 

 
Separate the threads like above and make sure the 
colour order are mirror images of one another. For example if your order from the left is 
blue, beige, pink, green, yellow and purple, then from the right it should be 
purple, yellow, green, pink, beige and blue. 

 
When making the knot always ensure that the outermost colour loops over the top of the inner colour and then back under the inner colour and through the loop (in the direction of the outside towards the inside). The outer most colour should knot with all the colours. For example, blue knots with beige, pink, green, yellow and purple; then beige knots with pink, green, yellow, purple and blue and so on. Remember to do two knots each time and then the outer most colours when the end up in the middle they should be tied to one another to bind the left and right side together.

 
A few rows in your bracelet should start to take form like this. 
Don't be alarmed when at the beginning it looks like chaos, 
it takes its proper form by the fourth or fifth row. 

 
When completed your bracelets should look like this. The best part about these DIY bracelets 
is that you can make your own colour combinations, which makes it all that more personal and your own style. 

Hope you enjoy making these bracelets as much as I did, also depending on how quickly you work, each bracelet takes about two to three hours to make. 

6.6.12

Organising your space

I recently decided to redo my bedroom. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do I would browse the web for some ideas. I got some really great ideas and inspirations.

I was also faced with the problem of where I would put my necklaces and my summer scarves and my handbags, as my drawer space is a little limited.

I wanted my room to remind me of a relaxing environment and therefore decided to decorate it with mainly with neutral tones. I did however add a pop of colour so that the room wouldn't be too dull.


This reminds me to laugh at least once a day.
The "laugh" is from Mr Price and the "heart" is from @Home

A creative yet decorative way to hang your accessories
The heart hooks are from Mr Price

A pop of colour to lighten up my room
The chair is from Mr Price and the cushion is from @Home

Not only is it a way to hang my scarves but it also serves as some wall decor
The wall mount is from a little boutique store in Melville

These colours remind my of the beach and the sound of the waves
The "Love" is from Mr Price, the white crafted photo frame is from Woolworths, 
the white frame with pansy shell is made by me and the crafted love with heart 
was made for me by my boyfriend

My cupcake jars hold some of my things such as perfumes, sunglasses and make-up
The cupcake jars are all from Woolworths

I put a few hooks up behind my door, so now my handbags wont get neglected 
and its easy to swop them for each outfit.

I hope I gave you some creative and easy ideas for not only your room but also what to do with a lack of space. 

I particularly like:
Lauren Conrad's Interior Design piece
Sarah's Thrifty Decor Chick
Nicole Balch's Making it Lovely