LOLcat yearbook

27 09 2011

To quote those loveable LOLcats, it feels like “I cannot brain today – I have the dumb”. But I suppose a person’s just got to push through and keep on working. It is Productive Day, after all!

That’s why I’m going to leave you with a picture from the LOLcat ‘yearbook’. It seems appropriate, since the third school term will be ending on Friday, and then it won’t be long until everyone in Matric (aka Grade 12, the last schoolyear).

One good thing about the school holidays (other than the fact that hard-working teachers will be getting a well-deserved, if short, break): less traffic. Hurray!! 😉

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Dystopian delight

26 09 2011

 

Warning: this will most likely end up being a lengthy blog entry.

I have come to the realization that I take infinite joy in reading dystopian novel(la)s.

[Or should that be ‘novel(la)s that explore a dystopian society/ state/ world’?]

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell; THE LONG WALK and THE RUNNING MAN by Richard Bachman (actually Stephen King); the HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins; the CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness; THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner… the list goes on and on.

‘Joy’ in the opening sentence of this blog entry – quick, go read it again, since I’ve probably distracted you with the list of book titles! – seems to be an ironic word to choose, since people who live in said societies rarely know joy, living in the awful future times and circumstances as they do…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, what is this Dystopia I speak of, you ask?

You probably all know the word ‘Utopia’, which refers to an ideal world or kind of paradise. Greek: eu (good) + topos (place). Compare this to the Greek dys, meaning “bad”/ “ill”, and you’ll see that Dystopia is the complete opposite of Utopia. In fact, I’ve read that it is regarded as “the evil twin” of Utopia.

In a dystopian setting, you usually deal with a society that lives within a social control system – a system under which they are oppressed, controlled, and living in fear of saying a word of protest against the corrupt ruling government. There is great suffering, pessimism and uniformity – the people of those times being manipulated to serve the purposes of those in power, often becoming indistinct through strict presiding regulations. Bubbling far below the surface, there is talk of a revolt, or rising up against the oppressors and building a new society.

Brutality is implemented for amusement; survival a daily hope. Friends are pitted against each other, sometimes having to take sides to ‘ensure’ their continued existing – more of the disturbing sort of amusement that those in power revel in. What could be better than spinning fine threads of false hope, then tangling everyone up in the web of deceit and resulting difficult choices?

Take THE HUNGER GAMES, for example: where the Capitol selects two young people (one male, one female) in each District to compete in what can be seen as ‘the most dangerous game’ – an arena where your survival depends on being the last person not killed. How do you kill other innocent people? How do you kill someone from your own district?? How do you keep from being killed, yourself, having to depend on your own skills to procure food, water, weapons? And all this while the entire world watches your every move, sees every killing, every hardship… and are glad that it isn’t them in there.

Because that’s how the government works: keeping you in captivating horror, making you believe that this is how the world should be and that you are powerless to stop them. The social norms set in these times might be disturbing and cruel, yet the people have been brainwashed to believe that it should be so.

Of course, propaganda also comes into play, making people believe that the government/ state is just, that things are how they should be, that they are being taken care of and that all rules must be obeyed without question…

Queue the hero/ heroin of the story to take a stand, to not give in, to survive and rise up and renew hope for a better world and sometimes even unwillingly rally others to join in the fight.

All of that said, why would anyone enjoy reading these types of books?

Is it because we want to see good triumph over evil? Do we take pleasure in seeing those misusing power get their comeuppance? Are we glad that at least we do not live in such extremely oppressive times? Or is it because we can feel a spark of ‘recognition’ in what is being written – that we can, to a certain degree, relate to what is said?

These novels are set in the future for a reason: they look at social trends we are currently living in, then take them to the extreme, thus serving as a sort of warning by showing us the ‘what would happen if’ situations (i.e. the horrifying consequences and ramifications that today’s world and technologies could have on the future – always with the worst case scenario depictions…)

These books want us to be voyeuristic, to see what could happen to society by injecting bits of the familiar and building it up to uncomfortable proportions. You know how they say familiarity breeds contempt? That’s pretty much what’s happening here.

I could probably make this blog entry run on forever if I start talking about how wonderful I think the HUNGER GAMES trilogy is, how scary it would be to take part THE LONG WALK (mental breakdown practically assured), how I wish things could have turned out differently at the end of the CHAOS WALKING trilogy… but that can wait for another day. I think I’ve loaded your minds with enough noise… errr, ‘information’ to make you not want to think about society and our own corrupt governments (fat chance of that) for quite some time.

But I hope I’ve also interested you in these types of novel(la)s. If I can get more people reading, it will be reward enough for me 🙂

Oh, and did I mention how these types of novels often have an ending where issues are unresolved or you don’t feel satisfied with how things turned out/ are left unexplained/ just don’t ‘feel’ right to you?

Yeah, that’s always lots of fun.





Back to work

21 09 2011

So I’m back in the office today *Non-committal, unenthusiastic hurray*

It doesn’t feel like I was away for two days (though I suppose it did me good, anyway). I’m still pretty much on top of things, and I’ve responded to all my e-mails. Now the wait for responses and further duties.

The joys of being a Project Manager.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. Or… at least, I think I do. I’m not really sure. Sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. (“That’s life” – sing it with me! “That’s what all the people say…”) I’ll talk to you again when we’ve reached the end of December and I’m able to take a few days off for the holidays.

It’s not that I cannot cope with the amount of work I have or with all the extra duties you have to assume along the way. I just hate working with things I don’t feel should be MY responsibilities. Like price fixing. And raising purchase orders. And couriering things. None of these are particularly my cup of tea. It’s not like they are editorial in nature – they’re tedious and make me stress about whether or not I’m doing the bloody things correctly *sigh*

Again, the joys of being a Project Manager.

Have a good Hump-Day/ Whensday everyone – two more sleeps, then it’s the weekend!

*jumps up doing little Snoopy dances* [even if only in spirit!]





R&R in retrospect

20 09 2011

Hullo again, dearest blog readers

I hope all of you have been just dandy – I’m ‘back’ after having a four-day weekend (which I optimistically have called a mini ‘vacation’… spent at the apartment) and I am not looking forward to going back to work.

Why?
Because I spent a good part of my time off thinking about work… and, yesterday,  my own stupidity… because apparently I didn’t fill in a courier form correctly (gonna’ blame it on the migraine I had on Friday) and processes at work have been delayed because of it. Aren’t I just going to feel like what the cat covered up in the litter box when I have to report to my manager…

So much for no worries.

In retrospect, I cannot really say that I feel rested after this extended period of repose. I feel tired. My headaches are worse. I feel listless… I was actually bored yesterday and today… blah, blah, et cetera.

But hey – that’s life.

I’m sure these few days have done me some good, otherwise I would have been working straight through until the end of December without having a breather (not that two leave days really count as being away from work for a sufficient amount of time so as to actually feel a bit more relaxed and less worried, but oh well). I saw my parents, I read a few books, I baked, I cleaned, I took lots of pictures of Smudgy… what more could a girl want? It’s like I said in my last blog post: “As long as I’m able to stay in bed if I want to, read a lot, and be with my Significant Other (and Smudgy!!), my time off from work will be worth it.”

Here are a few pictures showcasing my period of R&R. At least I got in a lot of sleep!

On Saturday, my Significant Other and I bought some materials at Spiro's so we could make a mosaic. I think it turned out pretty well.

Then we spent the evening watching X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

On Sunday we went to see my parents, had a late lunch at Mugg&Bean, and then I had some 'chill time' with Smudgy -- my S.O. spent the evening playing games

Lunch at Caffé Rossini on Monday; I had pastrami & avo on rye

Isn't she cute?? Smudgy spent most of her time with me while I was reading... she was lying around, sleeping

My S.O. and I played some good ol' video games 🙂

Monday at midnight (thus technically Tuesday): Smudgy in her new favourite spot -- the cooler bag!

Tuesday lunch at Pete's Diner - I had bacon, egg & cheese on rye. Not the best sandwich I've ever had.

To stave off boredom (if only for a short while), I baked a carrot cake. Nothing fancy, but it tastes nice

To bring my mini vacation to a (bitter)sweet ending, I bought us some mini cheesecakes for tonight. The choc chip one is for my S.O., of course 😉

I also took the time to read the CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness. They're quite lengthy, but thoroughly enjoyable! If you liked THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, you're sure to like these books!





Some (well-deserved) leisure time

16 09 2011

There are various reasons for me to be happy today.

– It’s Friday.

– The weekend is slowly approaching.

– I got to see my dad this morning.

– My mum sent me some chilli, salsa and guacamole.

– And my Significant Other looked so cute while sleeping in (he’s on medication)!

But one of the best reasons that has put a smile on my face and has increased my happiness – and trust me, I need it! – is that I will be having some (well-deserved, in my opinion) ‘leisure time’…

…because I put in leave for next Monday and Tuesday!

Mini ‘vacation’, here I come 🙂

Time to relax, not think about work (haha), spend some quality time with my Significant Other, get some sleep, feel good, and have no worries (a girl can dream).

Who knows, I might even get around to baking some more, though I know I shouldn’t… and I’ll have plenty of time to read, since my Significant Other still has to work on those two days (at least he works from home)… BUT:

What will I most likely end up doing?

– Cleaning.

– Exercising.

– Thinking about work.

– Checking my work e-mails.

– Worrying.

– Catering to my Significant Other’s needs (because I want to… and yes, haha, I know what you’re thinking when I say ‘needs’; stop being so base *shakes head*).

It’s all good, though. As long as I’m able to stay in bed if I want to, read a lot, and be with my Significant Other (and Smudgy!!), my time off from work will be worth it.





Oats-n-raisins squares

14 09 2011

This is a recipe I got from the Summer 2010/2011 edition of the Sarie Kos (Sarie Food) magazine. I absolutely LOVE these cookies/ squares! They’re tasty, chewy/ fruity, and are a good substitute for breakfast – if, like me, you’re not really into eating in the morning.

I’ll admit that I reduced the amount of raisins called for in the original recipe, since 350 g sounded like waaay too much. Of course, even with my reduced amount, you could substitute about half of it for chopped nuts/ cranberries/ dried fruit, if it tickles your fancy.

[This recipe was originally printed in Afrikaans, so I had to do a quick translation in order to give it to you :-)]

–Ingredients–

200 g margarine, soft

140 g (175 ml) brown sugar

140 g (175 ml) soft brown sugar

5 ml salt

2 eggs

250 g (445 ml) cake flour

200 g raisins

240 g (750 ml) oats

 –Method–

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Take a medium-sized mixing bowl and cream together the butter, brown sugar and salt until it’s soft and creamy.

Add the eggs one at a time and ensure that you mix them in thoroughly.

Add the flour, raisins and oats…

…then mix well.

Line a baking tray with foil/ baking (wax) paper and spray it with non-stick spray.

Spoon out the mixture and place on your baking tray – you can do it with an ice-cream scoop, then press down on the balls so they form cookies that are 1cm thick; OR you can do what I did and spoon everything into your baking tray (note that mine has more depth than a standard tray), then pat it down evenly. If you use this method, try for a thickness of a few centimetres (and make sure that it’s packed tightly together!)

Bake your cookies/ squares-in-the-making for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove the baking tray from the oven and allow the cookies/ getting-there-squares to cool down sufficiently.

If you’re going for the squares option, now would be a good time to cut that big old block into (duh) squares.





On the (interesting) subject of cupcakes

13 09 2011

After I posted the pictures of the rainbow cupcakes on my blog last week, I started pondering: where does the cupcake’s origin lie? Are there any interesting facts about it? When/ where do you serve cupcakes? I’ve probably put more thought into a simple cupcake than most people would give it (other than the obvious fact that it’s ‘pretty’ or ‘tasty’).

So, by doing a little bit of research, I learnt that no one is actually clear about the origin of the treat (its unknown status perhaps adding to its appeal?), but that recipes for the small cake have been in print since the late 18th/ early 19th century. Two hundred years of dainty delights! [NOTE: the Americans claim that they contributed the cupcake to the world of confectionary. Why am I not surprised…] I can just see the women in London during the Season, all a flutter at the treat– fanning their faces, sipping their tea, and remarking on how clever and light these small cakes were:

“How ingenious, my dear Miss Standish, for it could fit in my very teacup!”

“Quite so, Mrs Blake. Indeed they are so pretty to look at, and so small, it might break one’s heart to take a bite.”

“But they are so light and delicate, you see, that they will suit my constitution well – my strength is quite depleted after our journey from Bath, so much that I find myself faint without sustenance.”

“Have another, Mrs Blake, for the bit of sweetness does seem to have brought some rosiness back to your countenance. It would be a shame for you to miss the Duke’s ball tonight.”

“Why thank you, dear child. It would not do for us to be absent… I must ask Mrs Dentley for the recipe of this delightful treat! Indeed, it will be the talk of the ton – I would not be surprised if the Prince Regent himself shows up tonight to compliment her on her excellent taste.”

Okay, I might have gotten a  bit carried away and really stupid, but at least be glad that I didn’t spin a Banbury Tale and have them talking about fairies and mini tea parties *laugh*

What makes a cupcake such a delightful little thing? For one, it usually isn’t very sweet, unless you count the icing (aka frosting) it’s decorated with. One reason why cupcakes might seem and taste ‘plain’ against other confectionary is because the first cakes were more bread-like, i.e. not (very) sweet. [If you think about it, the original dividing line between (cup)cakes and bread is fairly thin, since they use pretty much the same ingredients.] Very basic ingredients – such as butter, eggs, flour – were used, and they only sweetened the cakes up a bit afterwards with honey, nuts and (later) dried fruit.

Oh, and of course they were named ‘cupcakes’ because they were baked in pottery cups, moulds and small bowls. But you probably deduced as much, didn’t you? What you likely didn’t know is that there’s another reason why they were called cupcakes or 1-2-3-4: because the recipe called for cupsful of the ingredients – a cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, four eggs… cups, cups, my kingdom for some cups!

Since a plain cupcake isn’t too sweet, it’s a great treat for people who don’t have a sweet tooth or who might get headaches due to the richness of some cakes. Rich chocolate cake + layers of sticky sweet mousse icing in between + decadently dark gateaux on top = worst. migraine. EVER.

Cupcakes work well for birthday parties, where mom can put a small amount of icing on top, thus reducing the little tykes’ sugar intake (which usually results in a high) and making her job of quieting them down much easier. Cupcakes feature at a kitchen tea/ tea party (where half the fun is ‘ooh’-ing and ‘aah’-ing over the various bite sized nibbles that have been prepared… the other half in eating them); Stork Parties (little treats celebrating the little bundle of joy about to arrive, perhaps signifying how plain and vulnerable it may seem, but what a delight such a sweet little thing can bring); and any other occasion that you can think of.

They are also popular at weddings! Cupcakes are small enough to satisfy everyone, plus the ‘packaging’ allows guests to take them home – it’s not like you need a plastic container to put them in, like a piece of cake, since cupcakes usually come in their own shiny/ aluminium/ paper cups. They are less messy than a large cake, what with people cutting it to pieces, getting crumbs all over the place, smearing chocolate/ icing/ mousse/ gateaux on the organza table runners you hired… you get the idea 🙂 It adds a bit of personal touch, showing that you thought of everyone and that you wanted to ensure that each person would get one (which isn’t always the case with cake; sometimes it even seems like such a bother to hang around waiting for a small slice…)

But enough about that. I promised you a few interesting facts, so here they are:

* The World’s Smallest Cupcake was baked in Great Britain and measured in at 1.5 cm (h) x 3 cm (w)!

* The first cupcakes were covered (‘frosted’) with lard to serve as a kind of gravy… *shudder*

* Winston Churchill suggested that cupcakes should have sweet frosting on top (thank you!!!)

* Apparently Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – by John Lennon – is actually about cupcakes. Huh…

* …and H.P. Lovecraft stated that an overdose of cupcakes led to him creating Cthulhu. Sure, locking yourself in a basement and getting high on the sugar from 12 cupcakes results in weird hallucinations of mythical creatures for all of us.

* There are more than 500 different kinds of cupcakes. That’ll keep cupcakes enthusiasts busy.

* There’s a record for someone consuming 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds. (I wouldn’t want to be his stomach.)

* Cupcakes, along with other baked treats, have been banned from schools in NYC in an attempt to decrease the rising rate of obesity. The sad thing, however, is that some of those kids’ parents are irresponsible and then load them up with as much sugar as their little hearts’ desire (without them getting a bit of exercise or a healthy diet).

* Cats lack the gene that permit mammals to taste sweet things… and yet, my cat seems to like cupcakes (along with other sweet treats!) Guess if you present a cat with something to eat and it doesn’t seem ‘dangerous’ or ‘offensive’, it won’t give two meows about whether it can taste it or not… So keep it all to yourself!! *nom nom nom* [Perhaps now people will stop taking and captioning pictures of cats with sweet treats. The only time it would be ‘suitable’ is if you bring in some irony/ sarcasm. Kitty is not impressed by your cute cupcake. Not. At. ALL.]