Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Goldiblox Toys

A friend forwarded me an awesome advert for Goldiblox - engineering toys for girls! I'm all for encouraging more ladies to enter the more technical professions, and I absolutely LOVE this concept!

Started by Debbie Sterling, a mechanical engineer by trade, these toys and books encourage young girls to explore engineering concepts with toys that are slightly more attractive than the leftover Lego blocks from my boy cousins that I used to play with as a kid.

Hopefully we'll see these hitting the shelves in South Africa at some time!

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Why Do You Call Your Friends Derogatory Names?

Pink Protea

Dear ladies out there,

I would love to know why you would call your friends (who I'm assuming you love and respect) names like "bitch", "slut", "ho", "bint" or any other number of degrading words that I see when I log onto my facebook account? I would also like to know why you let your friends call you these names?

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I would be mortified to call my lady friends those names and I would hate it if they called me those names. 

I've always been bothered when I've heard any women referring to their friends in such a derogatory manner. "It's only a word," you may think. But that's where you're wrong, they are so much more than just words. No matter how much you think it's only a word, all words have certain connotations that are linked to them, especially words like the ones above.

Let's dive a little bit deeper into this. If you really don't believe me, I'm going to list a few words and I want you to think of what that word means to you in your life.








I hope you took a few minutes to get a few images in your head that are associated with those words. Here's what I associate with them:

I see myself and my little sister sitting at our Goko's dining room table, unable to stop laughing and unable to tell her what we find so funny. I see myself and a friend at a leadership camp, sitting behind a little old lady who had fallen asleep during presentations. Every snore brought forth another fit of giggles that we had to contain so that we didn't disturb the group that were presenting on stage. I see little kids, playing wildly, heads together laughing at some secret, inside joke.

I associate friendship to the faces and actions of my friends through my life stages. The ones from junior school who knew me when I had a sister and who comforted me when she passed away. I see the faces of my high school friends, who became like sisters to me. We shared our secrets, excitement over boys, tea and coffee on my veranda while they bunked out for an afternoon. I think of the boys I studied with at varsity, the late night study sessions before difficult exams where my notes would be photocopied by at least half the group and the way they would apologise to me when they swore because I was the only girl in the group. I see the friends who I don't speak to very often, but who will always hold a special place in my heart. I see the people who I work with, who have shared in the frustrating times and the victories with me.

Imagine sunsets where the sky gets painted a thousand different colours during the change from day to night. Sunrises when you've been pulled out of bed to get an early start to a long day. Inspirational photographs, paintings, art and stories that are all around us. A bride on her wedding day. A look of love that passes between a couple, full of secret meanings and memories. 

I think of my mum and how she's set an example for me. I think of the rest of my female family members and how each of them have helped to shape me into who I am today. I think of the strength and grace that accompanies a woman who has been through a tough time. I wonder what type of women the young girls I know today will grow into.

The ladies that I know are always full of support and comfort and wise words and fun activities. They have grace and love to laugh. They embrace others in their lives. They call their friends beautiful names and make sure that they tell those around them how incredible they are.

I think of a woman who will sleep with anyone. Someone who dresses like a prostitute. I imagine a person who is unsure of her own value. In my mind, she is someone who seeks comfort in physical closeness without emotional attachment. A person out to have a good time on an extremely superficial level.

I think of women who don't have anything nice to say about anyone. Who can't understand why drama follows them around. Women who seek to make sure that those around them are miserable. A negative person who wants to drag others further down than herself so that she can feel superior. Someone who manipulates others and leaves people with a sour taste in their mouth after they've left.

The first 5 words on my list all have more or less positive connotations for me. I'm willing to bet that they have more or less positive connotations for you, the reader, as well. Those words leave me feeling happy. If any of those first 6 words were used in relation with me, I would be completely comfortable with that. It would make me feel close to my friends and make me feel loved and cherished.

Now, lets move on to the last 2 words. If anyone were to link me to these 2 words, I would feel ashamed and degraded. There's no way I would lift my head proudly or walk tall. And if I used these word to describe my friends, even if it was just in jest, I would feel terrible and I'm sure they would too.
I know that a lot of people use these derogatory words to describe their friends or group in a joking way, but I really can't see how those words are meant to show your friends that you love them and care for them.

My plea is that the next time you think of using insulting words to address your friends (or your friends use insulting words to address you), you stop and think of the actual meaning of these words and what connotations they could bring up in the minds of others and instead try to find a more positive alternative. It may not make a huge difference in your life, but maybe it will...

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Saturday, 16 November 2013

It's Not Personal, Just Business

This week my factory colleagues and I went away for an over-night trip so that we could reflect on our year and plan how we can ensure that we set ourselves up for a good year next year. It's been a tough year for the factory, however, we're starting to see a more positive trend and want to be able to carry that trend into next year and exceed expectations by pushing our limits and the limits of those around us.

I got to interact and chat with people that I don't talk to very often. The most rewarding of these chats was during breakfast on the second day. I was sitting with a group of ladies and two of them shared with us painful experiences that were incredibly similar. Their outlook on these experiences and the faith that they displayed while telling the rest of us their stories was incredibly inspiring. They both believe that things happen for a reason and that there's a bigger plan that God has for each of us. Even if it didn't make sense at the time, they've put complete faith in Him and feel no bitterness towards the events from their past.

I came away from that breakfast with new admiration for two women who I don't know very well. It made me realise that even though there are people that I work with every day, there are many people who I know only on a work-related level. This time away gave me a chance to connect with some of my colleagues on a deeper level that we just don't get to do when at work.

Sometimes it's easier to not know someone's story, especially in a work-related environment where it's "not personal, just business". But when you know someone's story, it's much easier to understand him or her as a person. In the end, you're working with people, not robots. Even if you work in a factory full of machines and computers. By understanding the person you'll be able to get that much more out of them by pushing them to achieve in a way that they will understand and react to. If you can get each individual to achieve and push their limits, then the group achieves. And the business is happy. 

So, it may be "just business". But I hope that by pushing myself to get to know my colleagues at a more personal level, I'll be able to do better business that if I knew them at only a superficial level.

Mountain with blue sky and green and yellow grass
Let your colleagues inspire you!

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

What's Your Closet?

Have you ever watched TED Talks? They're short 5 - 20 minute talks given by people on every single topic under the sun. Some of them are scientific. Some are funny. Some display skills that blow your mind and some relate advice for living life and being awesome. They generally leave you inspired and mind-blown! Yesterday I watched one given by Ash Beckham, take a look at it here.

If you're too lazy or don't have a good enough internet connection (the joys of living in Africa) here's a summary:

Ash compares all difficult conversations or situations to coming out the closet. She knows about these difficult conversations, as she literally had to have her own difficult conversation when she admitted to her family and friends that she was gay. She urges people to stop ranking their difficult conversations, trying to out-do each other in "hardness". Difficult conversations are hard, full stop. She recognises that whatever closet you come out of, you will be challenged and you will need to take a dose of courage to do it. She encourages us to sympathise with others, instead of judging them as every single person has their own closet to come out of. 

She shares some awesome bits of advice, that all came to her after an interaction with a little girl at the diner that she worked at. This little girl asked her whether she was a boy or a girl and even though she was ready to go all hardcore lesbian on this tiny little girl, she instead gave her the answer that she was more of a comfy pj's girl than a pink dresses girl. The little girl responds by describing her own pj's and then asking for her pancakes. Easiest hard conversation ever.

And the advice she gives when you have to have a hard conversation of your own?

1. Be Authentic
2. Be Direct
3. Be Unapologetic

I think it's definitely advice we can all relate to. She finishes off by encouraging people to never apologise for being true to yourself. Any expectations that others have of you, are ultimately their expectations of you. And if the reality does not live up to their expectations then they need to manage their expectations of you, as long as your expectations of yourself allow you to stay true to who you are. 

When having difficult conversations of my own, I've found that the easiest difficult conversations have always been ones in which I've followed the advice above (or when others have followed that advice with me). Be sensitive to the way that you convey your information, but don't pussy-foot around something so that by the end of the conversation you don't actually know what the point was - you'll just have to have that conversation all over again.

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Flourless Chocolate Lovers Treat

Chocolate. Yum. I was given a Woman&Home, Pick 'n Pay recipe booklet by a friend a few weeks ago. Last weekend I decided to test out this awesome recipe for a "chocolate soufflĂ©" type dessert since Frosty was around and we were too busy to bake brownies to send back to Cape Town with him. 


60 g 70% dark chocolate
50 g butter or marge (guess which one I used)
2 large eggs, separated
50 g white sugar

Chocolate on top of egg yolk-sugar mix on top of whipped egg whites - ready for a final mix
before going in to the mugs.

  1. Pre-heat over to 200 degrees C and lightly grease your moulds.
    (I used my awesome striped coffee mugs without greasing them, and they were fine - I did put them in my baking tray though, to contain any spillage)
  2. Melt the chocolate with the butter/marge and leave to cool. (I did this by putting a small pan on the stove, with some water in it that was on a medium heat. Then I got a glass bowl, put it over/into the pot and put my marge and chocolate in the glass bowl to melt it)
  3. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Whip the egg whites until firm.
  4. In another mixing bowl, combine and gently fold all the mixtures together, spoon them into your moulds (or coffee mugs) and bake them for 10 minutes.
Flour-less chocolate pudding
The final product - the centre is soft and gooey and the outside is warm and cake-like!

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Friday, 1 November 2013

The Time We Lived In A Snow Globe Town (Part 2)


So, the main reason for our trip to Vail was to work, ski and earn some money so that we could travel the States for a month before coming back to South Africa.

I worked two jobs while I was there. The first was my "full time" job - I worked at the Spa as a receptionist and Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) attendant. I also got a second job at the local cinema, called the CineBistro, after I injured myself on the mountain and had nothing better to do.

More Four Seasons Bears
The Spa was down the stairs on the left, past the swimming pool and through the glass doors on the other side.

At The Four Seasons, when there were no kids to look after I answered the phones

"Thank you for calling the Spa at Four Seasons. This is Cath speaking, how may I help you?" 
was the constant greeting I gave to anyone calling the Spa.

We aimed to answer the phone within 3 rings which is a lot more
difficult than it looks when you've got people standing in front of you wanting to 
check in for appointments, others tying to check out and pay their bills, 
someone wanting to know whether they should buy x or y item from the store
and 2 or 3 different phone lines ringing! 

Don't ever underestimate the power that a receptionist holds to juggle
multiple tasks, all the while keeping a smile on their face.

took bookings, called people to remind them of their appointments, wrote reminder cards for guests at the hotel, gave tours of the ladies locker room and assisted anyone who was interested in buying something from the Spa Shop. I also sometimes had to cover or uncover the loungers by the swimming pool. When it's snowing outside and each lounger cover in literally an ice block itself, it wasn't an easy task! 

When there were kids for me to look after, I got to spend my time painting, playing wii, drawing cartoon characters for kids to colour in, reading books, watching Disney movies or the Disney channel and basically doing cool kids stuff. Sometimes the kids were demanding but most of the time they were lovely. It was awesome being able to be like a kid again.

There were some kids who were very demanding. One insisted we play the same game over and over again - for FIVE hours straight. Then she came back the next day to do the same thing! Another one got very sulky whenever she lost a game on the wii. But most of the kids were good fun and only there for a few hours at a time.

Me and some of the KFAS/Front Desk girls, one of our therapists and
some of the girls boyfriends. All proud Four Seasons employees!
I worked with an amazing team of 2 spa managers, a lot of therapists, a hairdresser, front desk ladies, KFAS attendants and locker room attendants. Everyone else was American, other than myself and some of the locker room attendants, who were South American. 

Everyone at the Spa was very interested in South Africa and what it was like. I was able to show them some pictures of my life and hopefully one day, one or two of them will come to visit me in South Africa! There was one therapist who had been to South Africa and we chatted a lot about the wines that we had to offer, it was awesome to meet an American who knew South African wines and wine farms!

My other place of work - the CineBistro was the most awesome movie theatre I have ever been to! You'll read more about it in a later post. But for now, I'll leave with with the idea of "Dinner and a Movie" all in one. Frosty also got a job there which was a lot of fun as we got to see a bit more of each other.

We had some awesome managers at CineBistro as well. I was a front desk person again. This time my duties included answering the phone, recieving customers and assisting them to buy tickets, giving advice on the movies that were on show (even if I hadn't seen them!), ushering guests into the theatre and showing them their seats, making sure the entrance doors were clean and all the floors were swept and preparing the theatre before hand with menus and cutlery. Frosty mainly ran food to the guests in the theatre and cleaned the theatre afterwards to make it ready for the next guests.

Vail Village Sculpture
This sculpture sat right in front of the CineBistro doors. Since they were
glass, I spent a good few hours looking at this sculpture. At night it lit up and used to
seamlessly morph from one colour to the next.

The perks of the job were awesome as well - free movies for you and a friend, free popcorn and soda any time you wanted and discounted meals!

I worked front desk with one old guy who worked to keep himself busy. I'll always remember his favourite reply whenever anyone asked him how he was doing, was
"I'm just peaches and cream thank you very much!"

There was a lovely Jamaican girl who I also worked with. She loved getting Frosty to come and chat to her and say "ice" because in our South African accent, it sounded just like "ass" to her ear. We laughed a lot over that. 
One of the runners was an awesome South American guy and his little son used to come and visit us quite a lot. He was the cutest little guy and all of us used to fawn over him!

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