Thursday, 29 August 2013

Drive Without Your Brakes

WARNING: You may become a less stressed driver and use marginally less petrol

When I was a young driver, I tended to get pretty annoyed with cars that went extra slowly, even when the robot up ahead of me was red or the traffic ahead of me wasn't moving at all. I may or may not have sworn a few times at said drivers of these slow cars...

As the years passed, I have mellowed and become wiser. And I've been educated by my boyfriend on the most efficient and least stressful way of driving. In a nutshell it boils down to this one simple tip: 

"Try to drive without using your brakes."

There are many reasons for this. Firstly, if you don't use your brakes, you're less likely to wear out the brake pads on your car which means you'll replace them less often which means your car will cost you less in the long run.

Secondly, if you accelerate unnecessarily you use up petrol to gain speed which you then immediately waste as soon as you brake to bring you car to a stop. If you see a line of cars ahead of you, a red robot, a corner or anything else which may cause you to need to brake, take you foot off the accelerator rather than putting your foot flat and use your gears to help bring your car to a halt or slow it down. 

I used to be one of those drivers that accelerated up to a red robot to get in front of other cars. This increased my stress levels. So I decided to change my mindset - there is nothing that you can do about the red robot, line of cars etc, so coast up to the stoppage (and avoid using your brakes). Maybe by the time you get to the cause of the stop, the situation will have changed and you will be able to now put your foot back on the accelerator to keep moving. I do this now and I'm much less stressed when driving around these days (and I secretly laugh when I see stressed out people wasting their petrol, accelerating ahead of me towards a red robot or long line of cars).

1000 km odometer

When going on long trips try to drive at a constant speed in conjunction with trying not to use your brakes - speeding up and slowing down uses up more petrol than driving at a constant speed. But also keep in mind that you will use up more petrol driving at 120 km an hour than you do driving at 100 km an hour. The best trade off between speed and petrol efficiency is to drive between 80 - 100 km per hour.

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Remembering A Sister

So, the real reason I drove home, wasn't for my epic Friday night, but rather for a celebratory lunch on Saturday. This celebratory lunch was planned to remember and honour my sister and celebrate the fact that, if she was still alive, she would have been 21 on the 3rd of August.

Family Picture
Kerry, mum, dad and me. I think it was my first
day of "big school"
It was an extremely special lunch, with only close family members. We toasted to Kerry's birthday and short time that she spent with us, then spent a bit of time sharing memories that we had of her. Some of them included the following:

  • She always used to be known and called Mrs Duck by my uncle, but one day she decided that she didn't want to be called Mrs Duck, and would rather be called Mrs Dolphin. To this day he still has a special dolphin picture in memory of her.
  • We only learnt this much later, but apparently at school she used to have a little book where friends had to make an appointment with her to spend one of the tea breaks with her and they would have a "one-on-one" session. During the other tea time, she would play with the whole group.
  • She loved putting on shows and when she was little, she did a rendition of "I'm a brave brave mouse" all by herself. Just because she could.
  • I remember "flying" her above my head on my feet. We both started to laugh, but she was chewing gum... Moral of the story - don't fly your sister on your feet while she's chewing gum if you don't want it to end up in your mouth!
  • She described the trees going up Old Howick Road as "wig trees" because the cars zooming past underneath them gave them that shape.
  • She loved sitting with my dad in the kitchen, closing her eyes and smelling the different spices, guessing what each one was. She was hardly ever wrong.
  • We used to collect snails so that they wouldn't destroy our garden, and instead of stomping on them like we were meant to, Kerry would take them behind our garage and set them free.
  • She would often call up my grandpa to fix her little doll houses, or wooden things for her. Without my mum or anyone else knowing.
  • She had incredibly heightened senses. Her eyes were sensitive to too much sun. Her ears were sensitive to too much noise. She had an incredible sense of smell. And she could name a song and artist after hearing only the first few notes. She used to do puzzles by looking at the shape of the piece, not the picture.
  • She loved to dance, act, sing and be in the limelight. We think she would have pursued a career in something creative. I think she would have studied at Rhodes because she loved to party.
Fun with our cousin
Kerry, me and cousin Taz at the beach
This lunch and time of remembering Kerry was incredibly special. By sharing our memories of her and watching a few short clips of home movies, we could honour and pay tribute to her life and acknowledge the impact that she had on each of our lives. Even though she's gone, she'll be forever engraved on each of our hearts and remembered fondly.

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Monday, 19 August 2013

How To Plan A Romantic Surprise...

Champage to celebrate our friends engagement

I drove 4.5 hours back to my land of mist and drizzle (Hilton) this last weekend, all the time looking forward to having drinks that evening with two special friends, Anks and Zel, and a lovely family lunch the following day. It was always going to be a special weekend. And then Friday night happened and it was made even more epic and special.

I got home and had some champagne with my folks as I've recently become the proud owner of my little 2 bed-room flat.
Then during dinner I got a call from a friend of a friend, Mike. Mike had called me to say that our friend, Willie, was half way to our misty village and I needed to make sure that his girlfriend, Anks, would bar hop with us to a place in town. But instead of going to the place in town, we would go down the hill, then up another hill to a nature reserve overlooking the lights of PMB.

After hearing a bit about the plan from Mike, I promptly messaged my friend Zel to tell her that I had invited Mike to drinks and would be on my way as soon as I had had a shower. I then got millions of messages back from Zel urging me to be as quick as I could, as she didn't know how much longer she last last with the deception.

After a quick shower, I dashed out the front door, calling goodbye to my very understanding folks, and made it to Crossways within a half hour of the call from Mike. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a relaxed, unassuming Anks and an incredibly nervous and flustered Zel. Luckily Anks and I hadn't seen each other for a while, so we had a lot of catching up to do, which left Zel to calm her nerves. 

Mike joined us a little while later, and after a few drinks (somehow I ended up drinking half of Zel's drinks as well, don't ask me how!) we decided that now was the time to go to Frankies. But first we had to go and collect Mike's friend Mark from a braai at some nature reserve. While driving up the hill Mike kept complaining that his car was really battling and a little way after we had entered the nature reserve, he stopped the car and asked Anks to get out and change the tyre. As soon as both her feet were on the ground, Mike sped off, shutting the door as we made our getaway.

Mike, Zel and I drove a little way on and chilled together for a while, taking pictures and getting the champage and glasses ready, allowing Willie time to make his appearance to Anks. 

Pietermaritzburg at night

As Willie approached Anks, she started shouting at this strange man, until she realised it was Willie. The exact details and special time of the actual proposal are a special memory to be treasured by Anks and Willie, but by the time we arrived back, they were both smiling and Anks had a stunning ring on her finger. We had a heartwarming group hug to celebrate with them, and then we cracked out some champers to toast the newly-engaged couple.

While we were all looking over the lights of PMB, Willie imparted some Words of Wisdom to the rest of us.

"The secret to planning a surprise is not really         knowing yourself what the plan is for
the surprise - that way you'll surprise
even yourself."

And on that note, I want to wish Willie and Anks an incredibly blessed future together. It was such an honour to be part of your special evening - and I'm sure it will be an evening that will be recalled and reminisced about in the years to come as an one of mystery and surprise.

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Monday, 12 August 2013

Easy Cheese Muffins

Easy Cheese Muffins

One of my all time favourite recipes is these yummy cheese muffins. I remember waking up over the weekend when I was a kid, to the amazing smell of cheese muffins, usually baked by my dad, but sometimes by my mum as well. They also remind me of my gran on my dad's side (Goko or Goks as she is fondly called by all of her grandchildren). Whenever we went to tea with Goks, she would have cheese muffins and crumpets. She would then mix butter and syrup to make a paste/spread and we would eat muffins and crumpets with butter and syrup - there is nothing more delicious!

So, in memory of childhood and to honour Goks, who unfortunately is no longer able to bake, here's my take on yummy cheese muffins:

Yummy Cheese Muffins

150g grated cheese (or more, if you like cheese)
1.5 cups of self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
Garlic salt and mixed herbs to taste
1 teaspoon English Mustard (the non-powdered variety)


1. Sieve the flour, then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix lightly.

2. Mix all liquid ingredients together (the mustard counts as liquid).

3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together.

4. Use spray and cook, or some equivalent, on a muffin pan that makes 12 muffins.

5. Spoon the muffin mix into the muffin pan.
6. Bake at 180 deg C for +- 30 mins.

* You can sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on top of the muffins once they've been spooned into the pan to give them some extra cheesy yumminess.


Cheese Muffins With Butter

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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cape Town Highlights

Even after living in Cape Town for 4 years while studying, every time I go back I am struck by the beauty of the area and I can never take enough pictures. Here are some pics that are the highlight of my visit there last week

Blue and yellow paragliding

Paragliding off Signal Hill
We decided to go to Signal Hill
And found a bunch of people making the most of
the perfect weather by paragliding off the top of the hill

Girl overlooking Cape Town city

Path with yellow flowers
We decided to make the most of the good weather by
taking a walk down the side of Signal Hill. I had a bit of a
rest along the way and admired the view
of the city below me.
It was a stunning walk and at stages
the path was littered with little yellow flowers, felt a
bit like Hansel and Gretel.

Sea spray off the promanade

Waves spraying

Cape Town Waterfront
We then took a walk along the promenade with
waves crashing around us. Apparently that Sunday
And the Monday after were the biggest waves that had
been seen so far this year.

Arch rock near Wellington
We took a drive out to Wellington and found an awesome
picnic spot. On our way back we stopped at this awesome rock
for some pics. It reminded me of the rock formations
we saw while we were in Utah during our trip around the USA last year.

Val Du Charron palm trees at night
The night time view from Val Du Charron

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Technical Writing

While perusing Facebook one night, I saw that one of my friends had posted an interesting article by Kyle Wiens in the Harvard Business Review. In a nutshell it explores the idea that businesses produce technical manuals that are often riddled with unnecessary jargon and big words. A lot of the time technical manuals contain instructions that the man on the street cannot make sense of. When things don't make sense, more often than not, the job will be performed incorrectly. And that contradicts the idea of having a manual in the first place.

In the artical, Wiens mentions an online book that his company have developed - the Tech Writing Handbook - which is a free guide to writing technical manuals. I've scanned through the site and it offers practical advice on writing manuals that can be understood by everyone.

This site really appeals to me because I like to write and I'm involved in a technical field. A lot of my engineering friends and colleagues have terrible writing skills, down to not knowing how to spell "palletising" (spelt as "pallertising") or "carton" (spelt as "cartoon" by a lot of our artisans). This doesn't bother most engineers, because they usually communicate in graphs and sketches but it bothers me. A lot. However, that's beside the point.

The point is that we don't have many of these manuals in our plant. Recently I've started writing a few troubleshooting guides for my artisans to use so that they don't call my specialists in the middle of the night because a cable has come loose or because an air pipe to a valve is leaking or because a hand valve is closed and the tank isn't filling up. I got called out the other night to help fix a screen. At 12 o'clock. After spending an hour on the phone with my guy (he's new, so he still needs a bit of support) I got to the factory, tried a few things and after about 10 minutes we discovered that the network cable had been unplugged come loose. No one knows how.

On Monday, I'm going to write a technical guide on troubleshooting for screens. I'll use advice from the Tech Writing Handbook to make sure that my guys can understand what I'm saying. Hopefully next time, I won't need to be called out in the middle of the night for a loose cable! And once we have enough of these guides maybe, just maybe, my team will stop getting called for issues that are not ours to fix.

I think the lesson here is that, when writing technically, you need to ensure that your message can be understood by everyone. This will be my aim so that next time an issue crops up, anyone can take a look at the relevant troubleshooting guide and fix the problem, whether they're from my team, finance or a visitor with no working knowledge of our factory.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

American Fudge Brownies - Recipe

So, the side-effect of leaving for Cape Town last week was that I got to visit my boyfriend and all I had to do was present at a GirlEng workshop (which, for a free flight, was completely worth it!)

And since I'm a good girlfriend and like to bake, I made him some DELISH chocolate brownies. And since I was in the creative mood, I took some pics so that you could see how to make chocolate brownies too (and this is probably the best chocolate brownie recipe in the whole WORLD!)

SO, the recipe for American Fudge Brownies (or just plain old Choc Brownies, if you prefer) goes something like this:


250 g margarine (lucky for me it's free!)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 T cocoa
1 cup flour
*you can also add some chopped up nuts

1. Melt the marge so it's soft (it doesn't have to be completely runny, just soft)

2. Cream the marge and sugar

3. Add the eggs and vanilla to the creamed mix and mix it some more, until all the eggs and vanilla is mixed in

4. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt (see below, it looks really pretty when you sift them together like I did!)

Chocolate brownies flour and cocoa

5. Slowly add the sifted ingredients (otherwise you just make a mess of flour/cocoa everywhere) to the creamed ingredients so that you end up with a mixture looking kind of like the image below

Chocolate brownie mixture

7. Put the mixture into a roasting pan (think mine was about a 12x30 cm roasting pan)

Chocolate brownie mixture in the pan

8. Bake up 180 degrees C for about half an hour (this is very dependant on oven type!)

9. When you take the brownies out, don't worry if it seems a little bit liquid (but if it's a lot liquid, leave in the oven for a while longer).

10. Let the brownies cool. Once they've cooled, cut them up and sprinkle icing sugar over the top (if you have some lying around) for an extra bit of yum.

And there you have it. Easy, yummy chocolate brownies!

Chocolate brownies

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Cape Town SAGirlEng Event

Last Saturday my colleague and I had the privilege of going to speak in Cape Town for the Western Cape SAGirlEng event that was held at UCT.

SAGirlEng is a branch of the SAWomEng initiative which was started by Mabohlale Addae and Naadiya Moosajee in 2005 with the aim of encouraging more female involvement in the engineering sector. It's an NGO and has a few different branches:

SAWomEng GirlEng - aims to expose high school girls to the idea of engineering as a career through information sessions, workshops and mentorship sessions with university students.

SAWomEng Conference - university students from across the country come together to participate in team driven projects which cover social and engineering problems and require the teams to come up with an engineering solution to these problems. The students are also exposed to different sponsors of WomEng, meet other females who are actively involved in the industry and network with fellow lady engineers.

SAWomEng@Network - allows practicing female engineers to network and acts as a means of guidance for career development as well as encouraging them to carry on pursuing a career in the engineering field.

Click here to find out more about the SAWomEng initiative.

We were asked to give a presentation at the GirlEng workshop event and included information on the different types of engineering and how engineers fit into our company as a lot of girls at high school don't really know the different types of engineering options that they have. We were able to expose them to the different types of engineers that we use in our company and give them a few details on what the different types of jobs involve. There was also a presentation given by a representative from the CBEm(Council for the Built Environment) which was extremely informative. You can read more about them here. After the presentations there were lots of questions from both the high school girls as well as their university level mentors. They ranged in topic, some were technical, some were general, but all of the questions allowed us to uncover a bit more about engineering, the "working world" and what it was all about.

This was my first interaction with SAWomEng and I really think that this organisation has an amazing idea, so much so that I've just completed my registration with them! Encouraging more girls to enter into a technical degree is something that I feel incredible strongly about - I only wish that I had had proper information on what engineering was about while I was at high school. I fell into engineering through chance and "luck" - imagine how many more people would pursue a career in engineering if they were exposed to it at a high school level!

Take a peek at some of the pics below that I took at the event :)

GirlEng Hat Decorating
Hat Decorating

More Hat Decorating

GirlEng Cape Town
In my pink hat after decorating.
I had a lovely time chatting to some of
the young ladies who attended the event.

SAWomEng - thanks for such a great event!
I look forward to the coming events

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