Wednesday, 30 July 2014

On Being A Bookworm

I have always been a bookworm. Not just your average bookworm, but one who, when she was younger, hardly left the house without a book in her hand.

There's something enchanting about losing yourself in a story. It doesn't matter whether this story is real or make-believe. What matters is the ability to peek into another world, into someone else's story, even if it's just for a part of their journey. This world could be a fantasy world of wizards and dragons. Or perhaps a real-life world of funny veterinary escapades. Or maybe a fictional world of plausible real-life experiences.

Books are the safe-houses of stories. Stories where your views can be completely challenged. You can suddenly realise just how little you thought knew about a particular subject. You can debate with world leaders through the eyes of your narrator in one book and be exposed to an underworld that you didn't even know existed in the next.

I have seen worlds that exist only in one's imagination and lived a thousand different lives, all through the pages of a book. These don't replace real-life experiences, but I think they allow me to experience real life in a richer context.

So, when was the last time you completely lost yourself in a story? 

Some of my favourite days are made up of
extra large coffee mugs, cold weather and a good book.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Practical Cookie Turns 1!

It's been a year since Practical Cookie first started. This is a major milestone. And when I mean major, I mean that I tried blogging in high school and stopped. I tried blogging in varsity and stopped. I tried blogging again in varsity and stopped again. Finally, when I was bored in the evenings in Benoni and Bokburg, I took to blogging as a way of keeping myself busy.

Now that I've moved back to Cape Town I'm no longer bored, however I find myself spending more and more time thinking about posts to share with you. Sometimes I don't post as often as I hope, but at the beginning of this year, I decided to try and post twice a week (or 8 times a month) and I think I've been sticking to that goal, more or less.

I've been told it's good to take stock every now and then, to assess where you've come from and where you're going. My 1 year of blogging seems as good a time as any to do this, so here's my list.

  • Learnt: I had missed writing, until I started writing again. I like sharing my thoughts, pictures, recipes, random ramblings.
  • Achieved: blogging more or less consistently for a whole year!
  • Enjoy: planning my posts, sharing the places I've been, trying to figure out what path I want to take Practical Cookie.
  • Future: Try to blog twice a week, do a bit more blog planning and have a few blog posts "on tap" at any one time.
My Practical Cookie mascot that I designed earlier this year!

I hope that you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have! If you want to keep up with my posts, feel free to go and like my Facebook page. Or follow me on Instagram.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

First Thursdays

The first Thursday of every month, central Cape Town shops,restaurants and galleries keep their doors open until late, to allow people to explore the central city a bit more. This event is called First Thursdays and it's been around for a while, but until a few months ago I hadn't ever heard of it (probably a side effect of living in Joburg and then the southern suburbs!)

An interesting find on our explorings
Last month I went to this event with a group of friends and it was great. It was my first time going and I had such fun! We all met up to say hello and then split into smaller groups while browsing the streets, finally meeting up again for a delicious dinner at Royale Eatery. If you're looking for something fun to do in Cape Town and you're around on the first Thursday of the month, I would definitely recommend this evening out! 

To find out more about the event and how it works click here
To see Royale's web site click here (I would definitely recommend their sweet potato fries!).

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Italy: Cinque Terre

A special meeting that happened while I was in Italy, was to meet up with my friend (more like exchange-sister) Stefy. She came to stay with my family in our Grade 11 year for a term, during the 2006 Fifa World Cup. We watched the final of Italy vs France in our lounge. I remember being cuddled up with blankets because it was a cold evening and when Italy scored their winning goal, I have this vivid image of Stefy quietly but excitedly fist-pumping the air and then giving me a huge hug because her country had won!

In 2010 she came to South Africa again for my 21st, while we were hosting the World Cup and I got to show her a bit more of our lovely country. And this year, I got to travel to Italy and see Stefy during the 2014 World Cup. This time we got to explore some of her country together. 

On my Saturday in Italy, Stefy and I woke up, got ready and then had a cup of coffee and a pastry for breakfast before going to the train station to buy tickets to La Spezia - the starting point of our day out. We had an hour to kill until the next train, so we walked through some pretty gardens a little way down from the train station. 

Me, in front of the gardens near the train station (see the flower beds
in the shape of ships in the background?)

Looking toward the train station. 
We arrived in La Spezia around lunch time and had time for a quick walk around the town and lunch near the harbour before it was time to catch the train to our first Cinque Terre village, Riomaggiore.

Stefy at the La Spezia harbour.

Cinque Terre is a set of five small villages/towns along the northern coast of Italy. They are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and this is definitely a place I would like to go back and spend more time in! After putting my toes in the water, I decided that I would need to find myself a costume to experience this incredibly warm Mediterranean sea before the day was out!  

Riomaggiore Houses

Riomaggiore - Town 1

Cinque - five. 

Terre - lands.

All too soon, it was time to catch the train to our next stop, Manarola. I managed to find myself a lovely blue cozzie in one of the shops, but before I had a chance to try it on, we needed to catch the next train.


Sea bird flying

Manarola - Town 2

We arrived in Corniglia and needed to walk up a rather imposing looking hill to reach the village. Once we got to the top, we heard the irresistible call of some ice-cool gelatos and decided to take a breather and put our feet up for 5 minutes and then heading off to explore a bit more of the village.

Ape little green bakkie pickup in Italy
Corniglia - with a little bakkie that is called an ape (bee) due to it's small size



Corniglia - Town 3
The time passed quickly and all too soon we found ourselves bounding down a set of stairs (that we wished we had known about on our way up) in order to catch the train to our second-to-last stop, Vernazza. After all that exercise, I decided that this was the place for a swim and I spent some lovely time immersing myself in the med - I plan on spending full days in the sea, next time I visit Cinque Terre. Stefy also introduced me to Aperol Spritz. This is a not-so-sweet pre-dinner cocktail that suited sundowners perfectly!

Vernazza Pink flowers and sea view

Sunset over the sea at Vernazza

Swimming in Vernazza
Vernazza (finally, a swim!)

Vernazza - Town 4
Last but not least, we arrived in Monterosso. This is the northern-most village and is definitely the most "touristy". It's also the biggest town, with actual beaches and sand instead of concrete slipways disappearing into the blue. We spent another happy hour exploring the town before it was time to head back.

Monterosso sea and deck chairs
Monterosso castle
Monterosso - Town 5
I would have loved to spend more time exploring Cinque Terre, but you can definitely get to all 5 towns in a day. 

  • Stefy and I spent 1 hour in each of the towns
  • You can hike between the towns if you're feeling outdoorsy and have a bit more time. 
  • If you want to be lazy (or don't have time) I would suggest buying a Cinque Terre day pass train ticket, which is what we did.

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Italy: Genoa

After arriving in Genoa and checking in to our hotels, I took a walk to the Aquarium with my colleagues and we spend a very pleasant afternoon walking down the streets and then hiding away from the hot sun, admiring all the beautiful aquatic life.

I loved all the balcony's with flowers hanging from them

Genoa Cathedral - famous for surviving an attack where the British
shot a bomb into the cathedral. The bomb failed to detonate and you
can see the bomb shell in the church.

Detail from the building below

More painted buildings in Genova
I always find aquariums peaceful places to visit and can spend hours watching the different animals just chilling, playing or bobbing along in the water. The light that comes through and all the different colours, from electric pinks and blues, rich reds and oranges to dull silvers and browns can keep me occupied for hours. 
Pirate ship Genova
Pirate ship, anyone? ;)

Yellow and brown fish (no idea what it's real name is...)

Manatee at Genova Aquarium
The beautiful manatee

My new favourite sea animal

Another yellow and brown fish (different to the one at the top, I think)

Starfish and grumpy brown fish

Sparkly gold fish - reminds me of smart golden dresses worn by celebrities

Pink starfish

The praying (or is it apologetic?) crab

More fishies

Not a fish! But a bright green gekko (I think from South America)

Spotty jellyfish

Jellyfish under UV light

There were many similar sea-creatures in the Genoa Aquarium, but also some unusual ones, like the manatees. I think they're my new favourite sea animal. With faces like seals and bodies of water-heffalumps, their grace is surprising and it was incredible to see them playing together and sometimes waving a fin at their human observers when they swam past the glass.

To see more about my Italy trip you can click here and here.

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Italy: Savona

For those of you that have been following me, you'll know that I recently went to Italy for work. I got to meet some interesting people, explore the towns I stayed in and I got enough of a taste of Italy in order to know that I am definitely going back there when I get a chance! (Anyone feel like sponsoring me?)

Flying over France
Flying from France to Italy - French countryside

Fluffy white clouds in the sky
Can you spot the mountains peeking out?

Arial view of Genova
Flying in to Genova
From the Genoa (Genova) Airport to Savona, we drove through a collection of tunnels whose entrances were covered in ivy and lush-green vegetation which reminded me a lot of the vegetation around Durbs.

Green mountains on a cloudy day
Mountains as we were flying in to Genoa

Genova - Italian city between coast and mountains
Genoa - at the bottom right you can see a white spidery thing.
Now slide your eyes to the middle, you'll see some blue buildings.
That's the aquarium.

Savona Harbour
The harbour in Savona, about a 2 minute walk from our hotel.
The one night we went out to dinner with our project team and drove up these hilly, windy roads that would put the Cape Town back-roads to shame! 

Sea view in Italy
View from our team dinner (the place where we had to drive through
crazy windy roads to get there!)
We took a walk around Savona on the Friday before going to Genoa and walked into some absolutely breathtaking churches where the ceilings were all painted. Incredibly, many of the buildings in both places had painted motifs on their exteriors. From far away, these looked like actual stone pieces, window decorations and relief sculptures. On second glance, when you get closer, you realise that the beautiful architectural d├ęcor has all been painted on, in order to give the illusion of depth. 

Priamar Castle Savona
The Priamar Castle in the middle of Savona is a beautiful landmark.
Concerts take place in part of the castle. There was also a restaurant
and what looked like some type of museum as well. 

Priamar Castle Savona
Priamar Castle

Beach chairs all in a row
Savona beach front - Getting ready for the influx of holiday makers

Savona Beachfront - how inviting does that water look?

Torretta Clock Tower - Savona at dusk
(South Africa doesn't get "dusk" like you do in Europe)

Savona Harbour Lights
Savona - Sculptures on the side of a building

The streets of Savona

Look carefully at all the different paintwork on the side of the building - I love it!

Again, it's not columns you see...

...the details have been painted on!

A beautiful stained glass window in one of the churches we looked at

The scale of some of these churches was incredible!

Detail from the picture above

One of the church ceilings - beautiful!

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