Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas fifty

In the spirit of the Omnivore's Hundred, the Very Good Taste bloggers bring us the Christmas Fifty and in the spirit of all that is right and good in this world, I'm in! Some research is involved in figuring out what many of the items are, so its quite a lot of fun - if you're a foodie like me (yes, I love my shoes, but I make up for it in being a pretty damn good cook, so there!).

Here’s what to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve tasted.
3) Place an asterisk after all the items you’ve cooked/prepared.
4) Optional: Italic anything you never want to try, or add an exclamation mark after anything your really want to try.

You’re also welcome to post a link to your version of the list at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/.

The VGT Christmas Fifty

1. Crystallised or candied fruits
2. Egg nog (recently had a frozen version, fab!)
3. Bûche de Noël, or Yule log
4. Rum balls
5. Bebinca (!)
6. Roasted chestnuts (!)
7. Cavallucci
8. Tourtière
9. Uszka
10. Port & Stilton
11. Hallaca
12. Roast goose
13. Lefse
14. Sugar plums
15. Romeritos (!)
16. Pinnekjøtt
17. Hot toddy *
18. Christmas cake
19. Tamales
20. Sorpotel
21. Panettone
22. Candy canes
23. Pasteles
24. Speculaas
25. Makowiec
26. Christmas pudding
27. Stollen *
28. Figgy pudding
29. Lebkuchen
30. Turrón
31. Mince pies
32. Wassail bowls
33. Buñuelos
34. Pio Quinto (!)
35. Marzipan fruits
36. Mulled wine *
37. King cake
38. Christmas beach barbecue *
39. Cola de mono (!)
40. Lutefisk
41. Kutia
42. Pizzelle (!)
43. Dominostein (!)
44. Cranberry sauce
45. Pfeffernüsse
46. Satsumas or clementines
47. Pumpkin pie
48. Smalahove
49. Nut roast
50. Brandy butter

Obviously this is a very European heavy list, based on most Christian - orientated countries, but remains interesting. Over here in sunny South Africa, we tend to mix it up with tradtional European recipies and a good old 'braai' (bbq - sort of) and a mass of cold side dishes.

If you post your own Christmas Fifty, leave a link to your post in the comments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas shopping stats

I've recently begun to keep track of the ability of various shoes to sustain extended shopping in comfort. Having a severe allergy for malls during the festive season, I try to get as much gift shopping done as is possible prior to the frenzied crowds descending in their masses.

So, I've had about three days' worth of shopping and only two people left to buy gifts for, all else has been complete. What has become apparent is that levels of comfort, especially in the feet department severely influence my ability to purchase appropriate, special gifts, as opposed to just any old thing as long as the pain ends, soon.

Here's what I've found:

- Gorgeous chinese style full platforms (roughly 4 inch) with lace up detail - sustainability: 2.5 hours
- Drop-dead gorgeous Steve Maddens (as per my New Crush), which I wore unknowingly expecting a nice lunch and not a full on shopping marathon - sustainability: 1.5 hours
- Patent pyhton skin flats- sustainability: 2 hours (I just can't do flats!)
- Kitten heeled gold sandals - sustainability: 1.5 hours (they keep slipping on mall floor tiles)
- Espadrilles with a nice size heel - sustainability: 4 hours +

We definitely have a winner and, thank goodness, can go shopping in style without having to resort to hiking boots or running shoes to ensure that every special person gets a thoughtful, special gift. Oh and should anyone wish their shoes to be road tested - I might know a good test subject...hint hint!

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I'd love to hear from you...what is the strangest / most odd or unusual Christmas gift you have ever given or received?

Friday, December 12, 2008

ZooCaro

I recently received a message from Lisa who works at ZooCaro.com. In her words:

Zoocaro.com provides a simple and safe way to shop, promote products, services and items for free. Take advantage of this service today and find what you are looking for or drive more business your way http://www.zoocaro.com/

I had a look 'round and they certainly do have some interesting stuff - browse around and have a look! Althought I am not a fan of the practise of foor binding, I found these puppies on the ZooCaro site after not much digging and that part of me that loves to find treasures in unknown places wonders what other marvels are on sale there!

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Better late than never


World AIDS day was on 1st of December. This is my contribution, in memory of everyone lost, struggling, ignorant, uninformed or just scared.

Also to Olga, who I think of every day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More ode to shoes

Brilliant parody of an already brilliant parody.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Feet in the sand

Getting toward the end of the year, I am craving a beach holiday. This time last year I was lucky enough to wet my feet in the ocean off the coast of Zanzibar and I would just love to be in the same place right now, but alas, planning left to late and no budget to speak of, I can only dream.

So dream I shall and in the true spirit of the obsessed (shoes, chocolates, anything really), I will indulge in beaches gone by. I will just have to imagine the early morning rituals of sun screen application, picking out the bikini for the day (including sarong, flip flops and bag, of course - not forgetting hat and sunglasses), heading out to the beach for a few rays of sun before breakfast and oh, the exhausting task of lying around sipping cocktails and reading a good book with only the beach, the ocean and the sun for company. Heaven.

Some of my best experiences have been in:



Mahe Island, Seychelles



Barra Loge, island off the coast of Mozambique



Cancun, Mexico



Zanzibar island, Zanzibar

Anyone out there with a beach flat standing empty somewhere, just give me a shout, I have the flip flops ready to go!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ahhh, of course!

Ever wondered where all that spare disposable cash goes when you turn your back? What do you mean, 'what spare disposable cash'?? Well, ok, probably spare disposable credit.

Anyway, someone didn't get it quite right - this should really show credit cards, but hey, its cute and its probably true in some universe...


video

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New crush

I just returned from a trip to Atlanta, Georgia (USA) - still suffering from jet lag, which really feels like a hangover without the party before. Atlanta, in my humble opinion, is not a great tourist city although it has some very interesting spots:

- The Coca Cola Museum (or World of Coca Cola) is quite a bit of fun, walking through the marketing machine's history, one cannot help but to salivate after a tall glass of that fascinating drink - with lots of ice. The really cool bit about this place is that you get to taste Coca Cola company products from all over the world. Quite an experience.
- The CNN centre is another good place to stop off, interesting shops with an unbelievable long (and high) escalator. I wouldn't recommend the tour, unless your thing is watching a few minutes of every CNN channel available while walking through the building - not my thing, anyway.

Managed to rub shoulders with the 'locals' at a hockey game - Atlanta Thrashers are the home team. Quite a culture shock for a non-sports fan such as myself but loads of fun. I thought it'd be easy to follow, you know, aim the puck at the opposing goal, end of story. But they kept switching and stopping and it all went so fast...anyone able to explain this game to me, apply within. To be perfectly honest though, I really was only there for the giant hotdogs and beer!

But my real crush is a new one, thanks to the fab shopping at the Lenox Square mall (Calvin Klein sale might still be on if you hurry!). I was in absolute shoe heaven and found the most amazing pair of heels by Steve Madden who is my bestest most favourite shoe designer of the moment. I was browsing the (extensive) selection at Macy's when my eye caught this pair of drop-dead-gorgeous brightly coloured beauties that look like a cross between f***-me shoes and a pair of old style roller skates - the kind glittery, scantily glad girls would wear in the rink while wearning knee pads and dancing to disco music. They were mine and I would have them and so I did - trying them on I could SWEAR I heard strains from ABBA somewhere.

I'll battle jet lag for those babies any time ...


"...you are the dancing queen, feel the beat..."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Zanzibar 5th avenue

Its not all poverty and squallor here in deepest, darkest Africa you know! For the record, I do not ride a Zebra to work and have never, not once, found a lion in my garden - as fierce as she is, the neighbour's Siamese doesn't count! What we do have, is a very sharp sense of humour and an ability to rip ourselves off better than anyone else can hope to. As proof, I sumbit these pics of beach-front stalls found on the beautiful, serene, magical beaches of Zanzibar (an island off the cost of Tanzania, the country just below Kenya, if that helps).

These arts/crafts/beadwork and occasional jewellery sellers know how to catch the tourists' attention and they also know how to use the internet, be it from what most people would consider a shack somewhere in the jungle with antennas tied to the tops of coconut trees - no seriously, its amazing what people do to get things to work for them. More on the beautiful scenery there another time, for now, enjoy the humour of the people of Zanzibar. Hakuna matata!








Friday, September 26, 2008

Virtual dress up

I don't really know what this site is meant to do, but it is loads of fun!


My first attempt at playing dress up:


Try it at Polyvore

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, I bought shoes

When you travel as regularly as I have been for the past few months, giving in to that 'from me to me' present gets a lot easier. You know, you're spending time away from home (feeling sorry for yourself), missing sleep and missing friends and possibly missing the train at times, with browsing through unfamiliar shops often the only form of entertainment available. No prizes for guess what's on the list of items on the most regular basis.

Had dinner with a friend in the UK & took a new work colleage from SA with. Her first response to my colleage when she heard that we'd been browsing shops earlier in the day - so did you buy shoes too? Oh well, guess one needs to be predictable some of the time!

This was also one of the times I was quite happy that the fashion seasions in South Africa are always (at least) one cycle behind, so we're only going into the spring/summer trends of the beginning of 2008 now. Yes, those same items that can be found on sale in the Northern Hemipshere for next to nothing since the stores are making space for new autumn/winter stuff, soon to be followed by the next spring/summer collections - usually in the dead of winter!

I don't normally think of myself as a fashion slave, but couldn't miss the gladiator sandal trend that was all over the place earlier in the year and what do I find? A lovely pair of brown leather calf high gadiator sandals for....drum roll please...5 British pounds! What a steal, and what an impossibility to pass by. So, getting back to SA, what do I find in all the shop windows? Gladiator sandals of course!

Problem is, I'm not sure if it's as much fun knowing that this is so two minutes ago in the rest of the world...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Healthy travel eating

Leaving for the UK again tonight, already cringing at the guaranteed water rentension from long haul flying and the extra kilos I always seem to come back with after a few days of travel. I have tried (and continue to) many different options to mitigate that - sofar, drinking lots of water and eating fresh fruit as often as possible but at least twice a day are winners. Staying away from the comfort component of food - difficult when you're far away from home and feeling sorry for yourself - also something to pay attention to.



I'm also experimenting with different meal options on the plane. I've tried vegetarian/vegan - very healthy but not always filling, given that often the airline's idea of this type of meal is fruit and nuts (for EVERY meal!). Vegetarian/Ovo-lacto (including milk & eggs) is a better option for this, but not necessarily any healthier than the regular fare, given than potatoes smothered in cheese falls into this category (and are served as well, without seasoning - yuck!). This time I'm trying the Muslim meal option (hopefully this is not disrespectful to the Muslim religion - I'm opting for the health benefits). I tried it on a short haul flight recently and had to wrestle the cabin attendant for the meal - being blonde and not obviously Muslim, he was convinced it was some kind of mistake. Holding thumbs for tonight's flight!

It would seem that I am not alone in this quest, found a blog entry on 101 Cookbooks on the same topic, the entry is short but the comment string offers some great tips - have a look.

On a different matter, perfected foot (hmmm, only just noticed how foot and food are so close, no wonder I love them both!) comfort on my last trip - wore soft suede boots to the airport, really comfortable and you still look good while waiting for the plane. Once on the plane, take them off, store them in the overhead compartment (the suede folds up really easily) and wear the flight socks supplied by the airline for the rest of the trip (do take socks in your bag as some airlines don't supply socks or could not have stock for that flight, etc). Best bit about this is also looking good when stepping off the plane - especially if you have a gorgeous man waiting to pick you up!

Happy flying, someone has to!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Boot-e-licious

I am not the tallest person. At 1.65 m (or thereabouts) some would consider me to be of less than average height. I usually counter this by 'being tall on the inside' as I like to think of it and basically living in heels. Luckily, this often results in me being considered to be quite a bit taller than I actually am, and my er, curvaceous body type can be pulled off. Years of ballet (in my youth) have blessed me with substantial calves which look amazing in a pair of heels. All this background required to get to the point of this - if you have my particular height and body type (and looking around there are definately more than one of me) good luck if you're ever looking for a lovely pair of boots to complete your winter wardrobe.

You either need to have a foot a number of sizes larger (which would usually translate into an exponential height increase), or you need to have the build, appetite and genes of Kate Moss or some other waif-like creature to fit into the gorgeous options on offer. I find this incredibly frustrating and often feel like putting on a pout and whining that this is unfair (which is basically what I'm saying right now).

I know that when I find a pair of boots designed by someone who does not also double up as a horse-shoe designer (and can therefore be forgiven for thinking that all creatures have legs the size of their ankles) I am ecstatic and immediately buy a pair in all the available colours since it will be a long while until I come across this miracle of modern footwear again. When I spot a gorgeous pair that I would love to own and don't see 1) a lace up option 2) a substantial amount of expansion built in 3) suede-like stretchable material, I despair and first look around to see who will see me embarrasing myself by trying on a pair that will refuse to pull up past 50% of my calf. Very often I won't even bother. I mean its one thing to find something that doesn't fit in the privacy of a change room cubicle and you can wiggle and wrestle out of it in your own time, but quite another to be seen trying on a pair of boots and going through similar motions in full view of other customers. (I'm not sure if the amount of calories burnt off during this process is worth it)

Perhaps private cubicles to try on shoes may be an option now that I think of it, considering all the bending and possible exposure of underwear (or lack thereof), badly paired socks, un-pedicured feet, etc. could be done in the privacy of your own little stall with your own mirror that you don't have to wait your turn for. Of course, I'd also like more roomy boots. Please.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

OK, so this is not a food blog, but after shoes and travelling, food and cooking is probably my next biggest 'thing' and can definately be described as a foodie, no doubt! Found this list on a cool foodie blog called Very Good Taste. The list was compiled by the blog's author as his idea of good (and bad) food everyone should try at least once. Thought it worth spreading the idea since its quite a lot of fun.

The instructions and my own personalised list is below (linked items as per VGT to Wikipedia):

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (doesn't seem to work so well on here so just putting (Y))
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I've gone italic as I don't know how to do the cross out bit)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/ linking to your results.


The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison (Y)
2. Nettle tea (but have had Nettle cheese)
3. Huevos rancheros (Y)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (Y)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue (Y)
8. Carp (Y)
9. Borscht (Y)
10. Baba ghanoush (Y)
11. Calamari (Y)
12. Pho (Y)
13. PB&J sandwich (Y)
14. Aloo gobi (Y)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (Y)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (Y)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (Y)
19. Steamed pork buns (Y)
20. Pistachio ice cream (Y)
21. Heirloom tomatoes (Y)
22. Fresh wild berries (Y)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans (Y)
25. Brawn, or head cheese (Y)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (Y)
27. Dulce de leche (Y)
28. Oysters (Y)
29. Baklava (Y)
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas (Y)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (Y)
33. Salted lassi (Y)
34. Sauerkraut (Y)
35. Root beer float (Y)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Y)
37. Clotted cream tea (Y)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (Y)
39. Gumbo (Y)
40. Oxtail (Y)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk (Y)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (Y)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (Y)
48. Eel (Y)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear (Y)
52. Umeboshi (Y)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (Y)
56. Spaetzle (Y)
57. Dirty gin martini (Y)
58. Beer above 8% ABV (Y)
59. Poutine (Y)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst (Y)
65. Durian (Y)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (Y)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain (Y)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho (Y)
72. Caviar and blini (Y)
73. Louche absinthe (Y)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (Y)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Y)
78. Snail (Y)
79. Lapsang souchong (Y)
80. Bellini (Y)
81. Tom yum (Y)
82. Eggs Benedict (Y)
83. Pocky (Y)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash (Y)
88. Flowers (Y)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (Y)
93. Rose harissa (Y)
94. Catfish (Y)
95. Mole poblano (Y)
96. Bagel and lox (Y)
97. Lobster Thermidor (Y)
98. Polenta (Y)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (Y)
100. Snake

80/100 for me - not bad, of course, not meant to be the be all and end all of lists, but interesting nonetheless!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekends away

Highly highly highly recommended. Do at least one weekend away every two months (or every month if you can swing it). Take a drive, an hour, two or three away from where you live into open country and allow your mind to take in and adjust to the shift that occurs when suddenly your eyes can see further than just your PC screen. It really is worth it.

I have been pretty good at the regular weekend away - self-catering so that I can indulge in my other form of therapy, cooking (and more recently baking but more about that another time). Just a few notes for the weekend self-catering packing list:

1) Make breakfast easy and healthy, bacon and eggs may be weekend breakfast food, but you're like to indulge all day, so rather opt for meusli, yohurt and fruit. a) much healthier and you're likely to have more energy to enjoy the rest of your day and b) much less cutlery and crockery which means you'll only need to wash up once a day.

2) Pack pinic type food for luch: salads, cold meats, cheese, crisps, fruit, cupcakes, etc. Pack this into the car (in a cooler bag/box) when you leave to go exploring in the morning, if you decide to stop in a little town and have lunch there, fine, but if you happen to find a magnificant vista you have everything there ready for an impromtu picnic with a priceless view. Don't forget to pack water and a blanket.

3) Dinner is your call, if like me, making food is therapeutic for you, indulge at dinner (keeping in mind that you have limited equipment at your disposal) or opt for a dinner at an interesting restaurant you saw during the day.

The bf and I just got back from a magical weekend, despite the disappointment in the accommodation we booked (also won't go into that now since the booking agent still has a chance to make up for it), the sights around the area in Mpumalanga (a province in northern South Africa) were just breathtaking. Perhaps because of the disappointing accommodation, we made sure we were out early and back after sunset, which resulted in ensuring that we enjoyed the full magnificance of the views on offer. We were in an area referred to as the Panorama route which truly lives up to its name. I knew we were on track when we passed by a giant shoe proclaming 'Shoe caves' close to the Echo caves in the area! Towns in the area include Graskop, Sabie, Pilgrim's Rest and Hazyview if you're looking for something to Google. The Kruger National Park (SA's biggest - or at least one of the biggest - nature reserve and a home for the big 5, no, not Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Versace!) is also quite close by although you will need more than a weekend to explore everything the area has to offer.


We stayed close to the Blyde River Canyon, a huge nature reserve that stretches as far as the eye can see and then some. I'm including links to some random websites for those interested but will leave you with a pic of this place so you don't miss out...

The area also has a number of very pretty waterfalls on view as well as picnic areas where you can indulge in the views of the hills, rivers and water pools around. Despite opting for a restful, relaxing weekend, we managed to hike up a couple of pretty steep rocks just to soak up more of the green and blue spectacles but eventually got smart and opted for a horse ride to access some of the more remote areas which cannot be reached by car.

Having had a stress immunising shot of nature, for good measure we visited the Sudwala caves on the drive back home, apparently the oldest known caves in the world and pretty impressive with massive stalagtites and -mites still growing patiently through the ages. What perspective this gives! Do wear shoes that can stand up to a hike and good at clinging to rocks etc. as this is one type of holiday where a pretty pair of pumps will not only make you look a little silly but keep you from taking priceless mental pictures.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Re-inventing the heel

I have been bad. Radio silence for too long, but I have been revelling in shoe zen. Having found myself stressed and burnt out after too much hassle and too little me-time, I rediscovered the beauty that can be found in the switching-off-of-mind fashion magazines that abound. What wonderful mental popcorn, these colourful images containing trappings of luxury that I could never hope to afford (on the kind of regular basis that I covet). (but isn't that what knock-offs are for?)[who said that?! knock-offs ruin the stability of the industry! What are you saying??]

Perhaps my mental state is slightly more fragile than I had anticipated. (erm....anyway)


In the autumn/winter collections of the masters of the art of fashion (yes, I know the season's pretty much over, but the shoes are still pretty), this year's shoes had the most wonderfully inventive designs ever. Now I don't know if this has all been done before (only having consciously lived in this century), but suddenly everyone is re-inventing the heel, yes, actually. Why have they never thought of this before? I have no idea! It all started during the winter of last year when Prada (at least I think it was Prada) brought to market the lovely spray painted type colouring and slightly more chunky heel than we had seen before. You will now see this gentle shading effect on everything, from blouses to handbags and yes, knock-off shoes. But something was awakened and this season was a feast of architectural wonders. Feast your eyes...

Charlotte Olympia



Jil Sander



Louis Vuitton



Mui Mui



Stella McCartney



Another Stella



YSL



aaaah....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back in the UK I am - having watched the weather, came not too unprepared (15 degrees and raining). Am very proud of myself with having made do with only hand luggage for a two day trip (including my laptop, other electronic paraphenalia, all toiletries and an extra pair of shoes!). Settled on nice soft suede boots and light flat pumps for the travel bag in case the heels become a bit much to wear for 3 straight days. Two days in the UK means almost 4 days' worth of stuff as the flight to and from (11 hours, give or take) requires some planning to keep comfy on too, remember.

Anyway, thought I haven't done well and wanted to share it.

Though no amount of planning ensures that things go smoothly. Take last night, for instance. I had printed out my flight reference as well as the address of where I was catching a taxi to from the airport. Just to be safe, I also copied the information across to my cellphone in case I need to reference it quickly or loose the paperwork. The info had reached me originally via email so it was in my inbox on my laptop as well, but who has time to get the laptop booted up when hailing a taxi from Heathrow?

In an ever further bid to ensure preparedness, I had left the printed docs in my boyfriend's car as he was driving me to the airport and I didn't want to risk forgetting them in my car. He, in his wonderfully considerate way, had taken his car to the car wash earlier in the day of my departure to ensure a pleasant ride. The car wash people, in their efforts to be highly effective, threw out these documents to ensure a clean car! Documents, no more, which of course we only realised as we were heading to the airport.

No need to panic though, I still had it all on my cellphone which would most certainly be on as soon as the plane touched down and which had been fully charged that afternoon. That would have been the case, had it not been for me dunking my phone (accidentally) in the cup of coffee I had with said boyfriend as a last bit of time together. After much drying of phone, all was well except for a speaker that sounded as if the technology hadn't moved on since the 50's. Turning said phone off and hoping a night in a aeroplane would cheer it up (yeah, right), it refused to budge once in London, having decided that its battery is now flat and its buttons are retarded.

Sooo, having done all I possibly could to avoid delay, there I was, hauling out my laptop in Heathrow terminal 1 arrivals area, looking forlornly at the Costa coffee I didn't have time to buy to get the address out of my email, grab a taxi and make it in time.

Murphy aint seen nothing when it comes to airports, that's all I can say.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Shoe myopia - the ultimate travel sin

I'm off to the UK again in a few days' time. I've noticed that even though I don't have a packing list written down yet (I always write them down, too many trips with no underwear packed and you learn...), I have been sub-consciously musing over what I may need to pack.

This is my dilemma - it is winter in South Africa at the moment (which means that in the early mornings it is rather cold (around 4 degrees Celcius) and for most of the day the sun shines (around 20 degrees Celcius). All you really need is something warm to get you from the front door to the car. After that you've got aircon if you're cold, or you can avoid the sun and be quite comfortable for the rest of the day. I am going to the UK, where it is summer, allegedly, which basically means it is around 6 degrees in the morning, there is never much sun, but if there is, its around 15 degrees and then again about 8 degrees at night. OK, I am exaggerating, but in a country where 'bright spells' are actual weather occurances (as opposed to here in SA where we have 'rainy spells' or 'cold spells') and their idea of a nice summer's day is my idea of a duvet day, you can see how I have wardrobe trouble. In addition to that, the English insist on turning up the central heating to its highest level so they can wear those lovely summer fashions we all see in the magazines - since that is the only way they will ever be able to wear them when not somewhere else having an actual summer holiday.

But I digress...my fear is this - shoe myopia (or short-sightedness (its a real medical term , look it up)). Too many times have I packed boots, when a slinky pair of summer heels would have been possible. UK winter weather is easy - no open toed shoes (I don't care what Vogue says) and boots. You can't go wrong there. Summer is a different matter, since you end up with all four seasons in one day and (unfortunately) you do not get four wardrobe changes - would that you could! Summer sandals do not always work with a business outfit - and are damn difficult to manouver the London underground with. Boots are useful, but the sweat lodge interiors will ensure your constant discomfort. A lovely pair of business-like pumps would seem the golden mid-way, but they can look really awful when the rest of the ensemble tries to be summery. Wedges? OK, they can work, now just need to get a pair in every required colour.

Stockings or no stockings, that's another issue - for outside, definitely stockings, but unless you are planning to join the sweat lodge chanting, inside is a no no. How do these people do it?! (O, yes, they don't have to life out of a suitcase). Business and after work dinner/drinks wear also needs to be considered, as does the scrutiny of my UK colleagues so as not to give the impression of being from a 3rd world country, which of course, I am.

I still don't know what I'm going to pack (and yes, even though I travel about once a month, I always have this internal struggle) but I will keep you updated. Any thoughts are welcome and yes, I have considered just buying the necessary when I get there. Where do you think I get most of my current precccciouss er...shoes from?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mexico

Watched Sex and the City yesterday - bet you thought I'd have made reference to it earlier, given the shoe thing, hey? Not bad, true to form, mostly. Not in the mood to review the whole thing. Anyway, the Mexico scenes brought back some memories from a recent trip (Charlotte accidentaly drinks the water there and tummy consequences follow...).

It really is true, DON'T drink the water. NO ONE is Mexico seems to be brave enough to drink the water - including many of the locals I spoke to. Also don't eat anything fresh - at least not anywhere that isn't 5 star. Which isn't really a problem as I came to learn - vegetables are not often on the menu and if they are, think fried onions and whole fried jalepenos (OUCH! Seriously.) Seems weird for such a not-so-backward country, but who am I to talk. South Africa can learn a few lessons from the Mexicalis I tell you. For one, they know how to do tourism - well, they know who their market is (Americans) and they know how to cater to them (include everything and make sure about the Burger King and Starbucks on every corner). I am not kidding. Cancun, for all its beautiful beaches (and they are, pity that every square foot is covered by someone's resort) looks like a little America - its a very confused place, as my boyfriend very astutely observed, they really don't know if they are Mexican, Carribean or resort America. Its quite sad really, given that tourism (to my mind) should include getting in touch with the local culture - then again, I guess I did just that. At the Starbucks, caffe americano (con leche) in hand.

Speaking of which, thank heavens for the Starbucks. If your body is on a timezone 8 hours ahead and refuses point blank to accept the reality of daylight when it wants to go to bed, a grande caffe americano (con leche - if you can make yourself understood) is a godsend. Four or five of those a day and I was hooked. When is Starbucks opening in South Africa?! We have everything else...come on guys!

Anyway, if you manage to get past the Americanisation of the place, it really is quite a trip. Think Mexico City, sprawling with no end in sight (even from the air as the plane descends), vibey (very loud) and filled with lots and lots of colour. A true explorer's paradise (but stay in the safe zones - don't be a naive tourist) with bustling markets (haggle at the silver trader's market in Zona Rosa - its too much fun!), mariachi's for hire (seriously, you can hire one to serenade your loved on at their window) and amazing food (nachos grade at the Spur...pwah!).

Chichen Itza (like chicken pizza, kind of), recently named one of the new seven wonders of the world, takes a while to sink in. It is unfortunate that the Aztec culture has become almost caricatured, with the familiar zig zag lines of the mayan pyramids imprinted on every mind, thanks to Tex Mex as a cultural bridge. As a result, Chichen Itza does not at first inspire and awe - you've seen the pictures a thousand times. But walk amount the countless ruins there, keep reminding yourself that they are hundrends if not thousands of years old and that as a tourist, you only get to see 20% of it all (the rest is unaccesible, still being researched and guarded by the government - according to our tour guide anyway) and after a while the immensity of it all sets it. We think we're so smart, us modern humans. R..i..g..h..t.


But the best thing you can do, if you ever find yourself in Mexico, is to get in touch with nature. Explore a cenote (underground river/lake - you've seen the pictures), travel along a river or snorkel at one of the few places where these amazingly unique underground rivers emerge from the porous volcanic rock that surrounds these regions and you'll understand some of the magic that ruled the ancient civilisations.


I didn't even buy one pair of shoes.




Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Feel the burn!

On the subject of things that are healthy - or at least good for you...

I've been doing a little research and think the following is of great importance in motivating for that all out shopping experience. Take heed...

I thought it may be worthwhile to have a look at the amount of calories one burns for various standard efforts involved in any self-respecting shopping (shoe or otherwise) trip. The activity calorie calculator was of great assistance. You would also bear with me, I am sure, in some license taken in determining these results - there is not exactly a shopping activity index, with most activity calculator restricting themselves to terribly unimaginative excersize types (running, walking, badmington(?!), etc...)

Anyway, getting to the point, here are some suggestions for a full workout while satisfying the emotional connection you always develop with your credit card when faced with a purchase decision:

Walking from your car to the shopping mall: 10.3
Doing the 1st pass (browing around to see what's on offer): 27.2
Doing the 2nd pass (identifying the items you may or may not be interested in): 34.3
Change room activities (think of this as the super circuit of the shopping trip)
Carrying too many items at the same time: 22.7
The 5 minute jeans jumping jig: 31.8
Turning around to see all possible angles in all the mirrors: 9
The 3 minute peeling off the top that gets stuck pinning your arms like a straight jacket without ripping it: 19
The 5 minutes cool down getting over the panic of getting out of the top that pinned your arms like a straight jacket: 6.8
Trying on anything that stretches (think lycra containing items): 21.8

Walking to the coffee shop to recover and get ready for round 2: 10.3

Grand total of calories burnt: 193.2, or the equivalent of 2 glasses of coke, or one and a little bit of a hot dog, or almost a full doughnut...see pictures of what 200 calories look like. Not bad hey? (especially the part about almost a full doughnut!)

My job here is done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Mac index

In this world of poor body image and obese Americans (sorry, but they really are), why are we still using something as commercially blatant and unhealthy as the Big Mac index?

Admittedly, I don't know much about it, except that you can compare the economies of nations by how much it costs to buy a Big Mac in their country - I think it also has something to do with how much bang you get for your buck.

Turns out I'm not so far off the mark (have a look at Wikipedia's entry). Apparently there have been other versions around Starbucks (Tall Latte index - I kinda like that one!) and the Coca Cola map (all details at Wikipedia so am not going to repeat them here). My concern is just that these are all things that are pretty bad for you and I don't think its a great idea that developing countries can afford to eat more Bic Macs! I wonder what the relationship is to that and the healthcare infrastructure of a country - suspect healthcare may not cope when the population suddenly begins eating McDonalds all over the place. (I'm not just ranting about them - watch 'Super size me' and then get back to me if you think I'm making this up)

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is this: Why use bad for you foodstuffs if you could be using feelgood shoes? Think about it - if you covert your purchasing power to 'shoe money', what self-respecting female would not be able to tell you whether you're getting a good deal or not (and a lot of well styled males as well, I'd bet!)? A shoe-index, aside from upping the population's style (and again, let's face it, those US of A people could use some help) also promotes things that focus on shoes, like...er...walking ;) OK, probably not much of an excersize focus, but shopping does burn the calories!

I am digressing yet again. Back to the shoe-index. I know exactly what I need to pay for a gorgeous pair of shoes to be getting a good deal and converting any currency into 'shoe money' just makes so much more sense....
Thinking of spending 4000 pounds on a holiday? Do you know how many shoes you can buy for that?? But you'll get more enjoyment from a week in Ibiza? Go for it!
See, its really easy once you get the hang of it.

Perhaps I need to give this more thought before approaching the Economist on it...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stonehenge

I travelled to Stonehenge yesterday. I drove myself from Milton Keynes (proud to be UKs most modern city/area/shire? who knows what these things are called?!) which was quite an accomplishment given that on this, my, I don't know, 8th(?) visit to the UK, it was my first time driving.

It was quite a pleasant experience actually...no horrible traffic on the famed M25 or any incidents on the infamous M1 and the drivers here are actually quite nice. What a pleasure not have a taxi (all South Africans join me in commiseration) boring down on you at some ungodly speed with your life flashing before your eyes only to zip off into the yellow lane and pick someone up off the side of the highway. After about 20 minutes worth of driving (on the 'motorway', excuse me) I realised that as we South Africans have been pondering for years, taxis are evil and life without them terrorising the roads is infinitely better.

Anyway, so I drove almost 2 hours to Stonehenge, lovely drive and found these akwardly arranged rocks in the middle of nowhere (for those of you wondering where the shoes are going to come in, just a warning, its very likely that they won't...I'm not feeling that creative tonight), I mean, literally nowhere, which totally makes all that energy stuff believable because there is nothing above ground that even remotely suggests the building of a very large pile of stones to mark anything.

They were not as big as I had imagined them (yes I know, you've heard that one before), roughly about 4 storeys high and I suppose very very difficult to build but then again, man is a pretty nifty creature. Throughout the centuries he has proven to be quite wily and can build amazing things out of seemingly impossibly circumstances. OK, I'm not going to be able to resist...some weird shoes for you obsessive people out there... :)

Anyway, it was raining a little and there were quite a lot of people walking around the 'monument' as the parking guy called it and that was really that. They also have a nice little souvenier shop there that I felt compelled to buy from as it prolonged the experienced and proved that I had been there (and no, they didn't sell any shoes). Then 2 hours back on the 'motorway'.

Still, now I've seen them, they're pretty cool but who knows what on earth (or in heaven?) they were supposed to really mark. I do get all the astrological mathematical things, but we don't know what went on in the minds of those people...maybe they were honouring a big Shoe god somewhere? Ok, I also don't really buy that, but its a good a theory as some of them out there.

PS: Wear some wellies when you go, they will be THE thing to wear to the 'monument', promise.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hairdryers

Never pack a hairdryer when you travel - there's really little point, it is guaranteed to blow on your first night and you probably forgot to pack the right plug adapter. On the other hand, be sure to call ahead to confirm that wherever your staying has a hairdryer available for you - and check if you need to pay a deposit to get it so that you have the correct change ready. Oh...and don't forget to check BEFORE you take that shower - there is nothing more horrible (ok there are probably lots more horrible things, but its pretty bad) than having to stand in the queue at hotel reception with dripping hair asking for a hairdryer. This is all of course based on the assumption that you are not staying in a fancy hotel where they have things like telephones and you can ring room service and they have those hairdryers in the room that was clearly designed by a bald man - never anywhere close to a mirror and with a cord long enough to blowdry your boobs instead.

But the reason d'etre for not taking a hairdryer with you when you travel....say it with me - shoes! OK, how do you connect the dots from hairsdryer to shoes? Easy, I say. Hairdryer means extra space and more importantly extra weight. My very thorough examination of hotel room hairdryers (ok I picked up 3 and weighed them in my hand) reveals that a hairdryer weight roughly around 1 and a half pairs of shoes. So given the amount of liquid in your cosmetic bag that you will use up during your travel, that makes for exactly two new pairs of shoes that you can puchase without exceeding your allowed travel weight.

And THAT is just one more way that I find logical (stop laughing) reasoning for indulging in yet another pair (or two) of my favourate things.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Too predictable

Sooo, I'm sitting here, all the way in the UK (freezing even though its meant to be spring - why am I surprised?) supposed to be working on a major cross country project, as well as finishing my first MBA assignment and what am I doing? Browsing shoe websites (Beauty and the Dirt ; New Look ; Net-a-Porter). Yes, so predictable, so what?

Well, I am telling myself that I am browing websites instead of actual stores, which means I can get back to working on my assignment much quicker. Also, if I finish my assignment before the due date, I will allow myself to go into actual stores and shop for actual shoes. Also, I find it keeps me from craving chocolate (my other obsession, well, one of them anyway). Sadly, I'm not really getting a good fix - for some reason every shop seems to have had a shoe buyer emergency (i.e. they all look pretty crap) and not being able to try the odd one that does catch my eye is just not ok.

And then I decided to hit the motherload, yes, you guess it, I perved at Louis again. Tell me these are not perv-worth...go on, I dare you.




I hate to admit it, I am sure it makes me seem like a terribly superficial person with loads of spare cash to throw around - I wish! But this has really cheered me up. They are really so pretty...hmmm. To each his own I say.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why shoes

OK, I don't really know the answer to this - I just know a lot of people don't get, "the shoe thing". So why shoes? Do shoes make a woman feel better about herself - well, yes, actually. Speaking (under correction) on behalf of my tribe, it is very possible for a sexy pair of shoes to transform and entire look and add that extra I-don't-know-what-but-it-works that just amps up everything else. It is also quite possible that the lack of a 'bad shoe day' contributes greatly to the appeal of shoes. There is never a shoe that makes us look fat, or that doesn't fit quite as comfortably as it did a few weeks ago. There is also never a shoe that talks back or doesn't fulfill the purpose for which it was purchased in the first place. Quite possibly, shoes are the closest things to lack of disappointment that we, as females, experience - and it feels damn good!
(more on disappointment at another time)

Your littel girl already walking around the house in mommy's heels admiring herself in reflective surfaces? Starts a shoe fund right next to the college fund. Trust me, its the most caring thing you can do for her and you will eternally be her hero.

And the angels sang

No, this is not a foot fetish blog, please move right along...ok well, maybe it has a slight fetish-like quality to it, but definitely not in a weird I-want-to-lick-your-smelly-shoes kind of way.

More in a I-just-saw-a-real-live-physical-perfection-pair-of-Louis-Vuitton-shoes, um, kind of way. And it was amazing. I immediately called my boyfriend (on another continent and half a world away) to admit to him that I had just had a true shoe porn experience, and that I was sorry, but that I did not feel guilty and it is very likely to occur again - in fact, I am planning to go looking for these experiences on purpose.

I have been travelling quite a bit recently - something that is likely to continue in the forseeable future and I will take my little pleasures wherever I can find them. Anyone thinking that travelling for business is glamorous, please do try it for a while and then get back to me - that is once you're caught up on sleep, managed to catch up with all those friends you had to decline invitations from and gotten on top of everything else. I won't be holding my breath...

Anyway, the point of this ramble is this - life is too short to avoid shoe-porn moments (even if your moment does not in any way contain shoes, which frankly, I find rather alarming but quite unlikely). Hold them close and if you can, find someone with a willing credit card to fund them for you.