Thursday, September 11, 2008

Apparently, I am Mommy Dearest...sigh

Oh, I already knew that I hated wire hangers. I thought that's where I parted ways with Joan Crawford. Apparently, I have one more thing in common with her...child abuse. Sure, my child is four-legged and furry, but it makes me no less of a monster. Yesterday morning, I didn't see Thor after a certain point in the morning. I intended to do a sweep of the house to check on his whereabouts, but alas, I got distracted and left without checking. I know, I know. This was at 8:30 AM. My husband, Bob, usually gets home around 4 or so. Where was my poor fuzzy boy all day? He was locked in the closet by his cruel and evil human. I actually shut him inside the closet and left him there all day. How rotten am I? I'm pretty rotten, as pointed out to me repeatedly by Bob. Repeatedly. Over. And over. You can be sure that I didn't lock him in there this morning. Really, though, there was no need to check. He didn't venture anywhere near those closet doors. I guess I owe the poor boy some treats. He looks pretty traumatized in that picture, doesn't he?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Oh, please, tell me someone out there actually gets the obscure TV reference in my posting title. I would never admit this to my husband (so let's all hope he doesn't bother reading my blog), but I actually have (*gasp*) too many shoes. Oh yes, I actually said it. Perhaps I have an addiction. I like to think that I just want to be prepared by having a shoe for every occasion. However, with a certain number of shoes, one must become more organized in order to maximize the usefulness of a collection. And that, my friends, has become my downfall. Obviously, a seasonal shift is necessary. I simply don't have the space to keep all of my shoes in one place at one time. I don't have enough room to keep my shoes in my clothes closet! I tend to come home and kick off my shoes in the kitchen. They usually stay there. I end up going back to those same shoes over and over again because it's easy. So, I pose the question, how do you keep your shoes organized? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Back in the Blogging Saddle Again

Oh, it's been so, so long since I've blogged (March, apparently). Why, you ask? Overindulgence, I say! I had one blog devoted to reviewing every book I read. Nice idea, but really, isn't it so much easier with Shelfari? I thought it might be fun to blog about the movies I watch. Considering the number of movies my husband and I sometimes watch, it was actually a pretty daunting task. I found myself longing for a Shelfari for movies. I've been trying out Flixster as a Facebook app. After trying to keep up with too many blogs, I'm cutting back. My theory is that I'll now be able to drop some posts more regularly. Cross your fingers! I still don't have a theme. Or...maybe I do! I'm going for random ramblings. It's a fine theme, yet not at all stifling! To kick off my rekindled interest in blogging, I'll post a picture of my very own LOLcat. Isn't Thor the cutest(he's the one on the left, just in case there was some confusion).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Shopping, Part Three: Craft Markets and Roadside Stalls

Swazi craft market

Generally, I love roadside craft stalls and craft markets. They're fun and I usually find something unique. Well, at least the stuff is unique once I get it back home. Anway, we travelled to several areas that had craft vendors. There were vendors set up at the tourist overlooks along the Panoramic Route of the Drakensburg Mountains. There was a whole craft market in the Ezulwini Valley of Swaziland. OK, pretty much, there were crafts available for sale everywhere we stopped. Here are the important lessons that I took away from our travel experience (be they right or wrong):

  1. You can usually haggle, but don't overdo it. It's sort of fun to dicker over price. It's like a game. Nobody wants to ger ripped off either. Guess what - that includes the merchant. I didn't want to overpay, but if I did, then so what? I don't mean this to sound pompous, but a couple of extra bucks will mean a lot more to the merchant than it will to me. Another part of haggling? Unless you know exactly what something is worth, don't fall prey to the line, "What would you like to pay for this?"

  2. Sure, you/your mother/your great aunt made this rare work of art by hand at your home. Yes, I fell for this once. Sometimes it really is true. Be careful and look around. Are the same EXACT items in every other stall? Then it's probably not a lovingly handcrafted item painstakingly made at the merchant's home. Do you love it anyway? Then buy it, for Pete's sake.

  3. You might not have to be rude, but sometimes you have to be firm. I tried to be nice and greet all of merchants overseeing the stalls that I browsed in. I know that it's their job to sell to me. That's how people make money. It's not as cool when a merchant tries to tug me into their stall. The hard sell got a whole new meaning for me. After a few stalls, I began to realize that I just had to smile, say goodbye, and walk away. Yup, I actually did hear one or two snide comments, but so what? I'm just not going to buy at every place.

  4. Don't take something from the merchant! I learned this lesson in Victoria Falls. A merchant was trying to convince me that his hand-woven basket/charger was truly a work of art. It was nice, but I wasn't even remotely in the market for it. He handed it to me to inspect. I said it was lovely, truly one-of-a-kind, but no thanks, and tried to hand it back. Oops! Unless you're REALLY persistent, if you've touched it, you've bought it. It took about 5 minutes of convincing him to take it back before I got out of there. This was an instance in which I shouldn't have tried to be so polite. I should've just set it down on the ground and walked away.

  5. It's free! See Lesson #4 for info on the persistant merchant. At one point, the merchant told me that the basket was free. It was his gift to me. Sure, it was. I wonder what happens if you just say thanks, and walk away with it? I wouldn't do that, because it's taking money out of his pocket, but I do wonder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shopping, Part Two: So Many Malls, So Little Time

Oh, yes, there were many malls. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go into too many of them. *sigh* Fortunately, I was not deprived of the holy grail of South African malls - Gateway: Theatre of Shopping. Modelled after the Mall of America, this sprawling complex houses a rock climbing wall, science museum, IMAX theater, skate park, a bunch of other stuff, and STORES! It was kind of fun to look at some of the chain stores and equate them to similar American counterparts. Mr. Price sure looked a lot like Old Navy. Number of purchases made at giant Gateway Mall? One - a blue slushie. Dammit. Yes, that's it. Every time I cast a lustful glance at a store, my hubby yanked on my leash and told me to heel like a bad puppy. *sigh* On the plus side, I didn't have to lug any crap back to the hotel, which was probably a mile away. Naturally, I insisted on walking, never realizing that part of our journey included no sidewalks and crossing a highway on-ramp.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town also had many, many shopping opportunities. There were plenty of fine little tourist shops. There were even craft malls. The interesting part of this shopping experience was the high-end shopping. I didn't bother to look in these stores, since it did seem pointless given my proclivity for bargain shopping. I might have made a small exception for the Jimmy Choo store, but it hadn't yet opened for business. It's supposed to open in February 2008. There was even an Aston Martin dealership in the area. Unfortunately, it would've cost a fortune to ship that Vanquish home. Purchases at the V&A Waterfront? Zero. Amount of time spent waiting for the public bus to take us back to the hotel? About 40. The look on my husband's face as he steamed about shopping, public busses, and the heat of the day? Priceless.

There were plenty of cutesy little Mom and Pop shops along the way too. I bought some handmade soap in Knysna. We found a cute little notebook made out of an old license plate for my SIL. Hubby bought some stamps. I think my lack of shopping frenzy was in direct proportion to my lack of excess shopping time. Generally, I need time to case a place before making my purchasing decisions. Since I didn't have a lot of time to shop around, I didn't do a lot of actual buying. Guess I'll have to do more one day when we go back!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shopping, Part One: The Ones That Got Away

I've been frequently questioned about my shopping experiences in South Africa. Since I do take such pleasure in shopping, this isn't a question I feel I can adequately answer in only one post. I've decided to break it down. This one is all about those things that are still sitting in some shop on another continent (or worse, in some other lucky b*'s closet).

First of all, I was a little disappointed that I couldn't buy trinkets willy-nilly as I did in Egypt. Egypt was like a giant dollar store. Honestly, nearly every necklace I bought was $1US. In all of our travels throughout southern Africa, I didn't encounter a single $1 necklace. Things weren't wildly expensive, but still, $5 per piece adds up much more quickly than $1 per piece. *sigh* Anyway...

For months before leaving on our trip, I dreamed of Oudtshoorn and its ostrich-y bounty. I daydreamed about the perfect pair of pink ostrich leather boots. I even looked up average prices for ostrich leather in the area, but deluded myself that I would get a great buy. OK, yeah, the prices were good, but still SKY HIGH! I didn't have a snowball's chance at my delicious boots, since a freakin' purse was $400US. Well, at least the ones I wanted were that much. Dammit. So, no purse. Or boots.

That brings us to the saga of the springbok purse. The day before going to Oudtshoorn, I saw a lovely red springbok shopper-style purse. It was priced at $136US. I've never paid that kind of money for a single purse. Yes, I know I'm cheap. Anyway, I consoled myself (after petting the purse for several minutes) with daydreams of the impending ostrich leather purchases. We all know how that turned out, but hindsight is always 20/20. To use another cliche, a bird in the hand, blah, blah... I spent the rest of the trip looking for the same springbok purse at the same price. Unfortunately, the prices around Cape Town were WAY higher than in this little store in Knysna. Poop. I almost broke down in Jewel Africa, a tony jewelry store in Cape Town. I'd found a similar purse in natural springbok. I was about to plunk down $150US, and that was after negotiating a significant discount on this thing. These purses are super-posh in South Africa. Suddenly, just as I was about to do the deed, I remembered something. I have seen lamps made from deer legs in the US. I have seen deer heads mounted on walls in the US. And this has, across the board, indicated what? Anyone? DING, DING - REDNECK! Now, this lovely purse would be oh-so-stylish in South Africa. In the US? I might as well display a gun rack and Confederate flag in my vehicle's rear window. Still, I long for the lovely red springbok purse. Somehow that had all of the style with very little of the redneck (despite that fact that it was, indeed, red). Dammit.

I wish I had purchased a shirt. I'm not a fan of printed tees. However, I wanted something trendy that would let everyone know I'm a world traveler. I saw a really cute top in Kruger National Park. I thought about it and decided that I would buy it when we came back to the same area later in the day. Wouldn't you know it? Time ran short and we didn't go back to the same area of the park. Crap. I saw another cutie top in Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront. This was the day that Bob, my hubby, was pissier than usual about shopping. When he reaches that level of pissiness, it actually takes the fun out of shopping for me (and that's hard to do). I tried on one top, it didn't fit, and that was that. So, no shirts. Dammit.

We were presented with some shopping opportunities at Shops of Fragile Things. Fragile Things Store One was the Ngwenya Glass Factory in Swaziland. They made all sorts of pretty glass things, but frankly, I don't need stemware. I don't need a cute little glass hippo. I don't need a huge art glass bowl. What did I need/want (whatever!)? It's like they knew my Jack Skellington-loving self would be in their store on that day. There was this weird, funky, white light bulb-looking skull face with a black glass base. I think you were supposed to put a candle or light inside of it and it would glow. It was nice. It was heavy as heck. It was nearly impossible to get home in one piece considering that we were only on week one of a three week trip. Dammit.

Fragile Thing Store Two was the land of the ostrich egg. I wasn't terribly fond of the painted eggs. There were pretty, but not so much my style. I did like the punched eggs though. When lit from inside, they glowed prettily. However, I could only think of two things: how would I get this home, and if I did, how long would it survive my cat? I had to give the ostrich egg up too. Dammit.

However, I did not walk away completely sans ostrich. I took a picture of this very lovely chandelier that was hanging in the lobby of the Chobe Marine Lodge in Bostwana. I wonder how much this would have cost to ship home (not that it was for sale, but you know what I mean).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Geez? What kind of shots did you need for that trip?!

Many have asked me about the health risks and preparations for traveling to South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Keep in mind that South Africa is not a lot different from the US. There are huge cities, medium cities, small cities, towns, rural areas, etc. By and large, it's just as developed a country as the US. I explain this only because some who questioned me thought that we were traveling to a country without any mod cons.

Lots of people have asked me about drinking the water. In fact, we were warned not to drink the water by our local health department. I think they just say that no matter where you go. Yes, by and large, we could drink the water. No, for the most part, it wasn't just in our hotels. Yes, you could drink a tall, iced drink at most any restaurant. We had plenty of iced drinks. It's just as safe as the water at home (however safe that is, but I'm a germaphobe).

No, we really didn't have to get many shots. We both got hepatitis boosters and made sure our tetanus shots were up to date. Most health care professionals recommend those for walking out your front door. We did have to take anti-malarial tablets for a long time, since we started our travel in a risk area and ended in another risk area. One of the less savvy travelers (quit pointing at me!) learned an important lesson about mosquitos. Insect repellant helps to keep them away! Please, it's not like you knew that before I told you. Why is it that in the 20-minute span of time between walking out my door in Vic Falls and running back to the room for repellant, I got 25 or so bites and Bob, my hubby, got none? Go figure. So far, I remain malaria-free. Also, we had lovely mosquito nets in our room in Vic Falls. Each night, someone came to prepare our room for bedtime, shutting the deck door shutters and unfurling the netting around the bed. This is very pretty and romantic with the lights on. Every little girl dreamed of a canopy bed, right? With all the lights off in a really dark room? Nets are weird and creepy, and I was pretty sure things were in the room. Evil things. Ghosty things. I really shouldn't watch so many horror movies.

So basically, traveling to southern Africa required no fancy medical attention. Being a complete idiot and not wearing insect repellant is statistically unlikely to result in the need for fancy medical attention. If I suddenly get flu-like symptoms, I'll be getting myself to the doctor sooner rather than later. Traveling in southern Africa? Just about as safe as traveling at home, which in either case, depends entirely on where you're traveling.