Driving me up the wall

Can I chat about traffic for a moment? I recently moved back down to the south and over the past month and a half I’ve realised just how spoilt I’ve been having access to the MyCiti bus. Yes, yes, I complained bitterly on Twitter about the bus, the drivers and my fellow commuters – but even back then, deep down inside, I did get how fortunate I was to not be sitting in traffic in Paarden Eiland. Yes, even that day when our driver slammed on breaks and everyone fell out of their seats like skittles, or that day our driver decided to try squeeze past another bus and opened his vehicle like a tin can. Come to think of it, that may have been the same day…

But still, hugely fortunate. I got a small taste of it when I had to take my car to town a few days in a row a while back and within minutes I was in the throes of a road rage incident. Wait, let me clarify, there were no cricket bats involved, not even any exiting the vehicle. But that bloody woman in the car ahead of me who couldn’t decide what speed she wanted to go, and that hideous bully in the big silver monstrosity behind me who seemed to think I should remove myself from the road so he could get one whole car closer to town… my blood was boiling. I went back to the bus with a happy sigh and limited my Twitter complaints to two a week for a while.

Why does the universe hate me?

Now that I’m back in the south, though, I don’t have the bus as an option. And oh, how I miss it. I tried the train a few weeks back. What a hideously depressing experience. Seriously. Torn seats, graffitied inside and out, little streams of urine trickling through the carriage and windows so filthy and damaged the only way you can see what station you’ve just arrived at is to either peer through the tiny gap, or risk standing near the door, which is problematic because more people get tossed out of trains sans bags and shoes than you’d like to know.

Let’s ignore the petrol costs of taking my car to town and back five days a week, and the fact that I don’t have a parking bay so every day is an adventure – the traffic is completely unpredictable. Used to be that school holidays meant that the roads would be emptier and you could comfortably leave 28 minutes later than usual. Now? There’s just no telling. Colleagues sat in jams for over three hours the other day and eventually gave up and went home. Why? No bloody clue. Maybe it’s just because people in Cape Town are automatically transformed into idiots the moment their engines spring to life. Note: I didn’t say Capetonians, because, while yes, we are some of the biggest culprits, check out the license plates and you’ll see our roads are equal opportunity idiot-makers.

We’re either speeding or aimlessly drifting across three lanes and back again. Forget racing through lights just as they turn red. We laugh in the face of that kind of opportunism. We cruise through with the four cars behind us when it’s already been red for a good 5 seconds. Oh, and we love, love, love to get ourselves stranded in the middle of intersections when the lights change so we completely bugger things up for the people whose lights have just gone green. That’s one of our favourite things to do.

Accurate.

I’m not even going to address people texting and driving, or playing Candy Crush and driving or whatever the hell it is they’re doing heads bowed and one hand (if we’re lucky) on the wheel. Guys, Oprah told us not to years ago, can we just get our shit together and stop already?

Thing is, traffic sucks. Being late because of avoidable fender benders that happened 45 minutes before you even left the house sucks. But we can do small things to make it easier. Don’t be that jerk who waits till the very last second to cross over a solid white line to get into the lane they need – you’re the reason the traffic in that lane is so backed up in the first place. Put your phone down – one bonus is that you’ll give your freemium game a little extra time to replenish your lives, oh, and you won’t kill people. And if the person in front of you is already going the speed limit (if not a little over) don’t be a tosser and ride right up on their bumper, even though you can clearly see there’s a queue of cars in front of them, and them moving will do pretty much zilch to get you to your meeting any sooner.

We’re all in this together, let’s be a team, let’s make everyone’s journey a little safer and easier – but most importantly can you all please be a little less idiotic so I don’t have to start each day with a tantrum behind the wheel of my slowly-overheating Ford?

It really is a Laughing Matter

That ruddy leotard is back… and with it comes the ever-hilarious Alan Committie. His new stand-up show, Laughing Matters, is at Theatre on the Bay until January 14. And whichever way you look at it, it’s simultaneously the best way to bring 2016 to a close, and get 2017 off to a riotous start.

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Directed by Chris Weare, this show once again sees Committie on top form. He’s engaging, hysterical and knows just how to work his audience. From a fleeting jab at the latest Doom debacle to his continuing frustration at the red City Sightseeing Buses, this show is packed full of one-liners, recurring gags and carefully plotted material.

It’s been a rather grotty year for many people, and Committie seems like the perfect antidote. From the safety of a padded cell (the most elaborate, and apt, set I’ve ever seen him in) he hurtles through a variety of topics, dragging his (all too willing) audience with him. His jokes are quick and clever. Some leave you only a second to chortle before he’s dashing headlong into the next. It’s a breathless show and it’s an enormous amount of fun.

From the preposterous amount of roadworks going on in the city over the festive season, to the appalling rise of skinny jeans – his observations are brilliant. In true Committie style he hurries through his material at a dizzying speed, looping back on himself, bounding along tangents and bringing it all back neatly with a manic little giggle. Utterly exhausting, and totally fabulous – I have no idea where he finds the energy.

And of course, what would an outing with Committie be without an appearance by the cringe-worthy Johan van der Walt? The hair, the flapping snorretjie… those teeth! This time he’s on hand with a collection on water saving tips – you might want to take notes. Even the foreigners in the audience screamed with delight.

Speaking of audiences… As with all comedy gigs, you’re bound to find something to be offended by if you’re that way inclined. But Committie’s comedy has never struck me as vindictive. He likes to have a good laugh at us South Africans and it’s a tonic, to be honest. It’s so easy to get all wound up in the seriousness of life, and people like him know exactly where the pressure points are to relieve some of that tension. Even 11-year-old Tatiana in the audience enjoyed his routine, although some of it may have gone over her head (we can only hope).

Whether you’re on a rare excursion from Pinelands, or you’ve trekked through from “Millerton” – Laughing Matters encourages us to laugh at ourselves. It has comedy by the bucket load, a little music, a touch of magic, a sprinkling of theatrics and great deal of festive cheer. Don’t wait, book now.

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Modern Mexican munching

Sometimes, on-the-fly food decisions can be the best. Heading back to the office today after the last bit of admin before my visa appointment I figured a bite to eat would be a good idea. My route passed a bunch of old dependables, but it also took me past Tortilla Modern Mexican in the Icon Building down on the Foreshore. The prices looked good, the logo is pretty cool and there wasn’t a whopping queue at the counter. Win, win and win.

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As with other similar chains you pick your bits n pieces as you go along. There’s the standard burrito option, or you can go with a bowl if you’re avoiding the carbs. Then choose your protein and build it up with salads and beans and sauces. Then they wrap it all up in foil, pop it in the toaster for a moment or two and you’re good to go.

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I went with the burrito, braised beef (marinated overnight in chilli, oreganum and rosemary), lettuce, pinto beans, corn, tomato fresca, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. And because I decided to eat there, they gave me a little bowl with a handful of nachos. Good thing too – burritos are messy. Sauce, everywhere. But it was tasty and filling, and the flavours were fresh. Next time I’ll make sure to add something with a bit of a bite into it as well, I could have done with that lovely tongue tingling burn that goes along with a good Mexican dish.

Price wise it was doable for a weekday lunch as well, and the serving was big enough to keep me going through until supper. I had the “lite” option, I’m curious as to how much bigger the “large” is. Also, there’s a loyalty programme, so future visits will come with discounts – always a bonus.

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My lunch (with added guacamole) cost R49

Super quick. They whipped it up in seconds flat and I gobbled it down at an outdoor table and was on my way again within 10 minutes

Fresh ingredients, nice and saucy. Could have done with a bit more zing, but that’s totally on me for not having opted for the more spicy ingredients

All about the bubbles

Friends, bubbles and glitter – the three essential ingredients for a fabulous day out. Add to that glorious weather and some utterly gorgeous dresses, and you have our outing to Mastercard’s Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival yesterday.

Titled “The Magic of Bubbles”, it really was a fabulous day out. The dress code was “black and white with floral flair” which was thankfully broad enough for me not to have to dash out the shops – I should, however, have found myself a hat. Firstly, it’s the kind of event to which one really should wear a hat, and secondly, I didn’t have R500 to buy one at the event (no matter how much UV protection it allegedly offered). No, it didn’t even have diamante trim or a fake frangipani glued to the side.

I love events where you need to dress up a touch, and there really were some great outfits on display. Nothing too flashy mind, but you could tell people had made a little bit of an effort. This fest feels a little like being in one of the hospitality suites at The Met – but without the horses and  drunken rabble on the outskirts. Yeah, I’ve no doubt there’ll have been a couple of guests yesterday who would have miscalculated how much bubbly they could handle in that kind of heat – but let’s be honest, some people are already drunk when they arrive at The Met.

I’ve been to enough of this kind of event to learn a few things. The most important one concerns sensible shoes. Ladies – stiletto heels and grass do not mix. Well, they do, in that you will sink right in if you forget to walk on your toes for even a moment. I’ll admit to chuckling a little at a couple of women in all their finery hobbling unevenly across the lawns. If you need a little height, go with a comfortable wedge. But considering you’ll be strolling around and adding alcohol for most of the day, a pair of flats are your best friend.

First order of the day was getting our faces painted. Like I said: Glitter is vital. And I was super impressed by the speed and skill of the artists. I wish I had them permanently on hand to add a splash of colour to my look every morning. The only reason I finally cleaned it off last night was because glitter swimming around on one’s eyeball isn’t as fun as you’d imagine.

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And then obviously, because we’re classy, our first stop was at JC Le Roux. Wait, that’s not fair – I love JC Le Roux and they have some absolutely fabulous offerings these days. I’m all about pink and fruity at the moment, and since I was designated driver and wasn’t going overboard, I limited myself to sampling just a few roses. My favourite of the day was also my last – Steenberg – it was also the most pricey bubbly I tasted, but well worth the three tokens. I also popped in at Môreson for a taste of their Miss Molly rose.

Oh, and I finally grabbed myself a Tranquille popsicle from Pierre Jourdan. “Tastes like more” indeed. The first nibble of icy goodness was startlingly sweet, but as I worked my way down the slushy tube, I decided it’s the perfect treat for a blistering day. Between those and the odd refreshing G&T, I’m ready for summer.

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As far as value for money goes – this fest fares well compared to others. The glass you get with your ticket isn’t one of those stumpy jobs that will probably bounce if you drop it in the car park – it has a lovely thin stem and a long flute. Many of the exhibitors were a little more generous than the recommended tasting line on the glass and we ended up handing our cards over to other guests when we headed home so they could use our leftover tokens.

My one criticism was that the Vodacom network issues meant that many people found themselves unable to pay for certain things with their cards or phones. It’s a tricky situation, so I’m not sure what the organisers could have done differently, but I’ve made a mental note to at least take some cash next time, in case.

I’ll definitely be adding this event to my list of Things to Do in 2017. But next year, someone else can drive.

Snail dumplings

So, Snickerdoodles are all kinds of fabulous. I managed to narrow down my list of Things I NEED to Bake Immediately, and whipped up a batch of the cinnamonny treats to take with me to my afternoon function yesterday.

They’re super simple to make, and the only ingredient I didn’t already have on hand was the cream of tartar. But that comes in small packets, so no need to stock up on a big bakkie that’s just going to go stale.

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Full disclosure, I really do think the name is kind of stupid though. Every time I say Snickerdoodle, I subconsciously start humming Yankee Doodle Dandy, and picturing Snickers bars doing a weird chocolately can can (which, now that I’ve seen Sausage Party, is all the more disturbing). It’s a bizarre name for a biscuit, right? And I STILL think it should be a pie of some sort. Anyway, I asked the internet why, for the love of all that is leavened and golden brown, they’re called Snickerdoodles, and… it turns out they may have come from Germany originally, where they were probably known as schneckennudeln (crunchy German cookies sprinkled with cinnamon), and well, you know how people are when they can’t (be bothered to try to) pronounce something properly… “Schniker-what? Snickerdoodle? Yeah, let’s just go with that.”

But guys, according to one online explanation – schneckennudeln means SNAIL DUMPLING! And that’s just perfection. So I think, when I make these again, that’s what I’ll tell people they are.

Speaking of people, the guests at the party loved them. They really are delicious. The cinnamon sugar coating on the outside crisps up nicely, while the inside stays soft and doughy and yum. This is one of those recipes where, when the eight minute timer goes off, you want to jump up and whip them out immediately. There’s no “baking by smell” with these. Timing is everything.

I’ll definitely be packaging up a bunch of snail dumplings as gifts this Christmas. So, who’s on my Nice list? Oh, who’m I kidding – even those on the Naughty list deserve some of these.

Just add self control

There’s this thing I do whenever I’m trying to gain a little control over my diet. I suddenly start finding new recipes, and then I fixate on said recipes. I daydream about going home and whipping up that decadent tart or tasty biscuit. I’d love to say I hold strong and resist temptation, but often, I don’t. I’ll suddenly catch myself in the kitchen rolling out pastry, creaming butter, sprinkling icing sugar. And doing it all with a smile – because baking makes me happy. It really really does.

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But realising that I’ve undone all my hard work (health-wise) of the past year, does not. This time around, my temptation is a recipe for Snickerdoodles I came across completely by mistake (okay, fine, I went looking for it. But only because I’d always assumed it was some kind of pie. It’s not, it’s basically cinnamon sugar biscuits, and the recipe is so so easy, and I have most of the things I need for them already…. And that, folks, is how it happens. EVERY. TIME.)

I don’t want to give up baking, but I do need to set some ground rules. So, here goes:

  1. No more baking, just because I feel like making something yum. Baking needs to be done for a specific reason. And I’m sad/ I cleaned the kitchen/ I didn’t punch anyone in the face today/ I need to check if the oven still works do not count as valid reasons. Acceptable reasons are: I’m going to a party and need to take snacks/ I’m giving someone an edible gift/ Someone has ordered a cake from me and is paying me.

Actually, I think rule number one will suffice. For now. On the plus side… I have a get together coming up on Sunday, for which I need to make some snacks, so hooray for Snickerdoodles! Although, I’ve also been wanting to make shortbread…. and fudge… oooo, and mince pies…

Help.

PS. If any of you are thinking of throwing a party anytime soon, and you need, you know, like, extra numbers… feel free to send an invite my way. I saw this GREAT recipe for key lime pie the other day…

Parched

We’re in trouble, guys. It seems this water thing is kind of serious. Especially if you consider last year’s water restrictions (which we all [me] complained bitterly about) saw us limited to two garden watering days a week, between specific hours, but this year, we’re not allowed to water AT ALL.

I’m not the world’s biggest gardening enthusiast. Not by a long shot. But I am rather fond of our lawn. And I had a veggie garden that I was proud of. I say HAD because, well, it’s a wasteland at the moment. Apart from one determined onion plant and an out of control rosemary bush, everything has died. It’s really sad, and while all I want to do is nip out to the nursery and buy more seedlings, I know I shouldn’t, because watering them enough to keep them thriving will be a problem.

And our lawn? Well…

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Apart from one desperate covert 10 minutes with the hose late one night, during which I felt like an outright criminal, I’ve stuck to the “no hose” rule. A couple of days ago I tried using a bucket. We don’t have the biggest lawn, but it’s far too large to use a bucket successfully. So day by day, the grass is getting more and more yellow/brown/threadbare.

I’ve read articles about “oh, just pave over it – who needs grass anyway?” Two things: We have a dog and imagine how hideous it’ll be for poor Polony to spend summer out on concrete (never mind the resultant dog poo and wee issues). And secondly, is anyone going to volunteer to pay for said paving for us? Sure, I could just let the garden return to sand, but with the wind that whips through our neighbourhood, that won’t be fun for anyone. (And a third thing for free: The little bit of reading I’ve done so far suggests that grass is great for filtering carbon dioxide and other impurities in the air, producing oxygen and improving ground water quality.)

Upshot is, yeah I have to give up on having a wonderfully healthy lawn, but I also don’t want to lose it completely. I need to find a way to both save water and not live in a dust bowl.

A while back when the City sent everyone letters telling them to reduce consumption, we did. Our water bill has been zero for the past five or six months. But it seems not enough people have done the same, or perhaps just telling people to cut back and relying on them to tattle tale on their neighbours is not a good enough solution.

So what else can I do right now, apart from complain bitterly? Well, just like I recycle even though I know my effort alone won’t save the planet, I AM trying to save water. At the moment, that takes the form of much shorter showers and no baths (sob). But I’m also trying to reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain after just one use. It takes a little dexterity, but I shower with a bucket at my feet now and that water (even though it’s not nearly enough) goes onto the grass. And I’m washing dishes in a bucket and pouring that water out onto the garden as well.

I don’t for one second think I’ll have a lush garden again, but at least it’ll be getting a little water over the next few months. If I can just keep it clinging on till Autumn it should be okay.

The thing is, we all need to start taking the water situation far more seriously than we do. We’ve been without water in our neighbourhood for a few days before, and it was utterly hideous. No showers, no coffee, no washing dishes or clothes, no flushing toilets… guys, it wasn’t pretty. And that was just three days. Imagine it gets to the point where we’re without water for weeks at a time…