Santa Shoebox Project … not sure I am getting the warm and fuzzy feeling …

I have decided to take part in the Santa Shoebox Project this year.  I went to the website and selected two children per person in our family – the result is 10 boxes.

I should have done less, as 10 is quite a lot of boxes, and if you average out R150.00 – R200.00 a box it is a bit of coughing at your credit card statement.

I selected two boys in the 10 – 12 year old range – partly because I felt that boys in that age range might not be as appealing as shopping for a 3 year old girl.    I also tried to pick children in the same age range as my kids.  Technically these are Connor’s boxes ….. presently he has no idea we are doing Santa Shoebox, so you can see how involved I have managed to get the family.

Granted, I have not told them, that might be the first problem – but I am a bit of a procrastinator and will spring in to action on the day I am meant to drop these boxes off.

I bought the boys playing cards as “toys” – no idea what else I could buy for a 10 – 12 year old that wasn’t a computer.  I also bought them a pack of underpants each and AXE deodorant as extra – I kept trying to bear in mind that the contents of these boxes really needs to be “fun” but realistically useful, and what do they need after the “joy of Xmas” has passed.  Underpants and deodorant seems like a logical gift that keeps on giving.

I bought all the kids a stationery pack which has pencils, pair of scissors, pencils, ruler, eraser etc – the same multi packs I buy for my kids.  For the older boys I also bought a big pack of “bic pens” – and I will add a reading book each as well to their boxes.

Kennith has helped out and has got 10 good sized shoe boxes.  He has also bought some great things from Cape Union Mart to add, like beanies, little LCD torches, sporks (hey makes sense!!)  and so on.  Really nice things for each child.

Today I went shopping to purchase the toiletries, stationery, sweets, toys and the last of the things so that I could sit this weekend and pack these boxes.

I really struggled to find a toys for the children that fitted in to the shoeboxes and weren’t crap.  I really did not want to put things in that would not last to the next day.  I found a good variety, but at some point I needed to stop myself and say “you cannot buy everything, stick to the list …. or you are never going to stop!!”

The bags are lying at the door, with the pile of boxes, and the wrapping paper and stickers I bought to decorate the boxes.

The problem is that shopping today made me feel pretty bleak and sad for these kids.  I kept thinking to myself “what if this shoe box is the only gift this child gets this year?” and I just felt sad, and sort of tearful in the Checkers underwear aisle.

There is nothing I can put into a shoebox that is going to make a long term change to these kids lives – and then I think of my kids who get pretty much anything they want at the drop of a hat, and that just makes me feel worse for the 10 kids names that I am holding.

I had these visions of putting a letter in for each child.  Telling them that they are loved, and that even though today might look a bit bleak, life does go on.  People do make something of themselves no matter how crap their backgrounds.  There are more kind and generous people in the world than mean ones.  But then I decided that might sound a bit twee, so I canned that idea.

I kept thinking about these 10 boxes I was stocking.  “My” kids are : Thaimile (Boy 6); Wilmie (Girl 6); Kamva (Boy 11); Andile Lubabalo (Boy 12); Jayden C (Boy 4); Anelisa (Girl 4); Sammy Joe (Girl 9); Sange (Girl 6); Kayra (Girl 6); Nicolas (Boy 5).

I think the Santa Shoebox Project was aiming to get 100 000 boxes to 100 000 children.  That means 100 000 children whose only gift this year will be one of these shoe boxes – and what about all those kids who did not make the list?  What are those kids getting?

Overwhelmed much?

I know I should be feeling all Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya about taking part in this campaign, but to be honest it really has made me feel terribly sad today!

Otherwise, how are your Santa Shoeboxes coming on?

The one where Kennith climbs a Mountain!

Kennith is a bit of a lie on the couch, scratch his crotch, and reach for the remote kind of guy – but who amongst us isn’t, right?

But you give him a challenge.  You throw 2 or 3 other people in to the challenge and that gets Kennith moving like a mad man.  That boy does “competition” like no one’s business.

He goes from couch potato to super hero in a moment! Underpants on the outside and everything.

Kennith is always trying to draw me into challenges. “come on let’s see who can…..” but I prefer to operate on my own steam. I do not get all worked up with power high fives, and chest beating when I am hunting in a packc – me I am a loner.  Like to do my sh&t, like to do it alone.

I am not really motivated by group rah-rah-rahs.  But that is where Kennith and I differ on a fundamental way.

I am not sure where the idea of climbing Mt Elbrus came from.  I am fairly sure the blame sits with John Black, who is also known for climbing anything that sits still long enough.  He has also been known to blow aerosole cans apart in fires, but that is the fun that John Black brings.

Kennith did Kilimanjaro back in 2005, and he really enjoyed it – I think the week after the mountain in Zanzibar probably made it all the better, no doubt.  The added “benefit” of a newborn baby at home, was probably more motivation to exit at the nearest border control and head for sunny places where they say things like “Relax ….. and chill……….”

Kennith really got behind the idea of doing Mt Elbrus.   I think he really got behind it from end of last year, like really got behind it!

He hiked, biked and worked out like a man possessed.

Granted he did leave me with three kids whilst he went off to be “challenged” each weekend on a bike ride or a hike, but I am trying not to hold that against him (with the help of weekly psychologist meetings and medication) but you must admire his ability to put his head down and just get on with it.

Kennith started this epic adventure weighing close to 130 kilograms.

He started cycling and took part in The Argus and a few other get-on-your-bike-spike adventures.  This year was his second Argus.  Whilst last year he looked like death warmed up when it was over, this year, he just looked a spot of tired.

Kennith found a trainer and the two of them would get together at the local gym at about 5am to throw kettles around and basically to see if Kennith could rupture his sphincter.  Exercise is not the most stimulating thing in the world, listening to someone else’s rendition of their exercise at about 6:30 am is a bit less than awe inspiring, but anyway, must give the boy his dues.

Kennith cut down on ice cream, cakes, beer and all things good.  His idea of a good meal would include chicken without skin and a salad.  His drink of choice has been water.  Every meal this year has been “what’s for dinner, but it can’t have carbs…” which nullifies my idea of dinner being 4 slices of white bread with 2 inches of Nutella spread on it!

Kennith has been working like a demon and just before he left he weighed in at 98 kilograms!  A very impressive achievement by anyone’s standard.

He flew out on Friday, 22 June and is back on the 16 July.  On Friday (just past) they were making a go for the summit, so I have not heard from him since then.  I heard from him today and he confirmed that they made the summit, which is such an achievement.

Some bits of random information about Elbrus, in the event you are too lazy to google it:

  • Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia, is also the highest mountain in the Caucasus Range in southern Russia near the border with Georgia. Mount Elbrus with 15,554 feet (4,741 meters) of prominence is the tenth most prominent mountain in the world.
  • Elbrus has two summits with the West Summit at 18,510 feet (5,642 meters) slightly higher than the East Summit at 18,442 feet (5,621 meters).
  • Mount Elbrus is perpetually snow-covered with an icecap and 22 glaciers. Three major rivers—Baksan, Malka, and Kuban—arise from the glaciers.
  • Climbers regularly die on Mount Elbrus, as many as 30 a year. In 2004 alone, 48 climbers and skiers died on the mountain. Elbrus is considered one of the world’s most deadly peaks with a high ratio of climber deaths to climbers.

So at the moment Kennith is on his way down Mt Elbrus.  Here are some pictures in the event that you are curious in a voyeuristic sort of way.

Kennith at the airport – all decked out in Cape Union Mart gear.

Kennith and Natalie Black – Natalie by the by is pregnant and has skewed the bar for all pregnant people, now and forever. If you think after this you can lie on the couch and moan about being pregnant, your husband/boyfriend is going to google Natalie’s picture and come and show you how you should look and that you should have an ice pick, as you shovel yet another cupcake in your pie hole.

Who knew a mountain covered in ice could be this much funny?  Nope not me.

And this is a very exhausted looking Kennith.

Could you imagine having that much ice around you, and being that exhausted and having to get your arse down a mountain?  Nope, me neither, but kudos to Kennith.  I would have curled up in a ball, eaten all my snacks and quietly gone to sleep, forever!

What Dexter said when I told him Kennith climbed a mountain …. you get the sense that Dexter is voicing my thoughts “Why the hell would you climb a mountain, just so you can come down it again?  Bitch please!!”

Extra brilliant Yummy Clothing Sale – Cape Town

What with being unemployed, and overdrawn on all my accounts, now probably is not the right time to go cloth shopping.

Probably the worst in fact.

I am not known for my brilliant ideas or plans, so with that in mind I brushed my teeth, put on clean underwear {always wear clean underwear, you never know what might happen, and you want to be prepared, your mom was right about that piece of advise} and headed out to Cape Union Mart at Access Park {Chichester Road, Kenilworth}.

I heard they were having a 50% sale off Women’s Poetry and Old Khaki Clothing.  50% off already marked down prices.  I was suspicious that this would still mean reams of stuff that was still expensive, but decided to take my pessimistic self down there anyway.

I thought I might do a cursory stop by, as I really did not need anything – my wardrobe was still groaning from the last sale.

I tend to opt for two approaches when I shop.  Approach 1 : I am going to purchase the item that I want, and the price is insignificant.  Approach 2 : I pick up an item, and the cost needs to be what I consider “far below what I would normally pay for it” for me to purchase it.

Approach 1 is for items that I am going to purchase regardless of cost, as it is what I want, and really that is the only motivation.

Approach 2 is for items that I don’t actually need, and if I stand and smell them for long enough (I smell items in stores, I am THAT person) then I purchase it if the prices is what I consider a really great price.

I arrived at the sale, resolve in hand, and unfortunately once I started browsing, I loading my arms with as much as I could carry.

I was not quite sure how I was going to pay for this lot, but it appears the g*ds at Standard Bank were good to me, and allowed me to withdraw even more cash against my already bleeding overdraft – but I will need to find another way to pay for petrol to put in my car if I plan to drive it anywhere for the balance of the month.

The flashing light on my petrol guage has decided to stop flashing at me – as it has realised I am just going to continue to ignore it anyway.

I walked out {to clarify, after paying} with 1 very woolly, very warm jersey, 5 shirts of varying type – mostly Poetry stuff – and  1 jersey you would wear over a light vest/shirt {which I am doing today, I do love wearing new clothes straight out of the bag}.

It’s a really good sale – you can purchase stuff for Mother’s Day coming up, which is a win, much rather have a Poetry jersey, or shirt than a crappy heart shaped soap set!!.

The one Poetry shirt was R299.00 retail, it had been reduced to R199, then R150.00 and as this was a 50% sale off sale stock, I paid R75.00.  That is much more in my price range – and makes me all sorts of happy.

Sale runs whilst stock lasts and the sale assistant said they get new stock in each day – so if you have a few rand to burn, pop along to Cape Union Mart Outlet Store, Unit B35, Access Park, Chichester Road, Kenilworth, 021 674 6398.

For sanity sake, leave the kids at home {and the husband actually} – wear a vest, or snug fitting shirt so that you can try stuff on in store rather than having to nip into the changing rooms as there are two and they get a bit manic.

Extra idea : take along an empty shoulder bag where you can drop merchandise in to free up your hands to find more stuff, and that way you have your phone/wallet in your pocket, and bag over shoulder to stuff with stuff to buy, so that you are organised when you get to the till.

Good sale, you can find some yummy stuff for Winter!!  Enjoy!

End of year functions make me cringe … a lot ….

Last Saturday Kennith’s company had their end of year function.  I was thrilled that this year they chose to do a family picnic.

I am not really sure how end of year functions are planner or organised, but I find them generally painful.  My experience usually encompasses an 8 to 10 seater table, people sitting around on addis chairs, and looking at each other, chatting politely and praying it will be over soon.  There may be variations on this theme, but usually that is sort of how it goes.

If you are unlucky there will be a dress up theme involved.  Cringe.

I have already rationalised that end of year functions are not designed for me. But everyone I speak to seems to agree that they are a “necessary evil” but I am still confused who enjoys them.  The evening or afternoon often involves smiling like an idiot for four hours, while you count the hours/minutes until you can leave.

My theory is that I would like to spend social time with work colleagues, but in a relaxed environment over great food and a few glasses of really good wine.  It’s great to sit in a comfortable chair, an exquisite setting and be able to hear each other talk.

Unfortunately I find most end of year functions are karaokes/bad food/loud music/bad loud music/dress up theme/a venue that allows for almost no conversation as you can barely hear yourself think.  My experience is that end of year functions are all of these factors, or a combination of these.

Generally the “rule” is you eat, then you sit for 15 minutes and say “okay, I need to go…” and then do….. This is how “end of year” parties go in my experience.  {I am not suggesting I am the spokesperson for all end of year parties, I am simply indicating this has been my experience … almost to date….}

This year Cape Union Mart opted to hire a location in Sea Point, and invited staff and their kids.

They catered with a braai/salad (Bruce’s Catering I think} sort of thing.  You bought your own drinks if you wanted alcohol.  They organised soccer, a gladiator thing, jumping castle and a slip and slide thing.  No one had to dress up, no one had to sit awkwardly at a table and pray it would end soon.

It started at 12h00 and went on until about 16h00 or 17h00. It was relaxing and cool, that I think it might be classed as one of the nicest Xmas functions I have ever been to.

I have a social phobia, so asking me to socialise with a group of people creates a high sense of anxiety, panic and sometimes poo streaks in my underwear.  But turn it into a family picnic, and then I am much more relaxed, as it does not force me to stand around like a half wit smiling and nodding like a deluded idjut – I can instead look really busy with my kids.  Win!

I got to play gladiator fight with Connor. Connor played soccer, the girls played for hours on the slip and slide or on the jumping castle.  It was relaxed, the sun was shining and I was quite happy to while away the afternoon in this manner.

It was a relaxing day.  The only error was they did not serve wine at the bar.  Rookie mistake.  But someone saw the problem and dashed out to purchase a half dozen bottles of wine, which made me all very happy.

I had a great afternoon with the kids, and I still got to speak to a lot of people while we chewed on a chicken leg, and messed potatoe salad on our respective chins.

Great idea.  Executed brilliantly.  Lovely day out.  Cape Union Mart’s clever people who plan end of year functions scores a 10 out of 10 in my book for a great “end of year function” …..

<< they were also good enough to have a roaming photographer who captured some great moments>>

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Is anyone else as confused about SA Blog Awards 2011 as I am ….

SA Blog Awards is in the public voting stage and this runs until 9 November 2011.

The short of it is, public pops along, reads your blog, or a bit of it and goes, hey that is worth a click.  Clicks on vote button and then they fill in a form that requires 2 lines of information.

They vote.

Vote site sends them a confirmation email, so that it tries to stop one person voting and using a few dummy email addresses.

The one thing they did not say, or possibly I overlooked it is – that one email address counts for one vote (for one blog) per day.

In others words, you cannot vote for several blogs in one day.

You can vote each day.

Again, hats off to ever takes the time (and enery to) organises Blog Awards, good for you.  I would rather sit on my stoep and drink wine, but cheese and rice, at least let us have some information that we can work with.

Anyway ………

On a totally unrelated note.

I stopped at Cape Union Mart in Access Park yesterday.  Access Park is like a “sales” area and loads of businesses have “depot” “outlet” “over run” stores there.

I am not a big fan of sales.

I like to shop and make it feel like a lavish affair, rather than a charity situation where I am scrambling for clothing and elbowing the shopper next to me.  I don’t want to feel like a refugee when I am trying to spend my hard earned money or credit.

Cape Union Mart in Access Park, has women’s Poetry and Old Khaki clothin – already marked down stuff – marked down a further 75%.

To give you an example of what a winner day this was. I bought a jacket for R25.00 which was R499.00 (it was a new jacket, I was not pulling it off a dead guy.)

I also bought Poetry White Linen shirts for  R49.75.  Again, brand new, I think it was originally R299 or R399.00. Of the many things that Poetry do well, they do white linen shirts very well.

So now I have 5 more.

I walked out of the store with:

  • 13 shirts – two short-sleeved, and the balance long sleeve, some linen, and some a blend and so on (so no t-shirts, though one was a golfer)
  • 2 jackets/blazers.
  • 1 x 3/4 trousers.
  • 1 x long pair of linen type trousers.
  • 1 x  Poetry dress
  • 1 x jersey thing that hangs at an angle (love this item!!)

I paid R950.00 in total for that.  It was a box of clothing – and none of the items were things I would not have bought any way.  If you average it out, it means I paid R50.00 per item.

The best part was when the store manager – Smilton – stood on the counter with a pile of blazers/shirts/jackets and started doing his sales pitch: “I have blazers here, for R25.00.  R25.00 only.  They are great for summer, with linen pants.  They were R499.00 but for you – today – R25.00.”

I would not have seen them.

So I took one, and then he looks at me and goes: “Why not take 2, then you have an extra one for a Xmas present!” 

SOLD.  Good man that Smilton is.  Xmas shopping taken care of.

The special/mark down runs until Saturday.

I think it is on Old Khaki and Poetry women’s clothing – so 75% off already marked down things, which are often marked down to 1/2 their original price.  I am not sure if it is Cape Union Mart clothing as well, though there is Cape Union Mart stuff there marked super low.

Its the Access Park outlet (I believe there is one in Woodmead as well), so do not appear at a shop in the mall and wonder why you are not paying R50.00 for a shirt, because if you do, then the sales assistant really should have permission to palm slap you.


Reluctant Mom Shopping Strategy Suggestion : when you go the outlet store, do not take kids, do not take your husband, have your hands free, have a t-shirt shirt on, which allows you to just try on things while you are standing there.  Taking stuff to the change rooms just wastes valuable time you could be spend finding more stuff.

Have a small bottle of water with you, so you do not get thirsty and want to leave the store.

Take along a canvas bag of something over your shoulder, that you can drop things in as you see them and like them.  Gives you more free hands to grab more!!

Shoot off to Cape Union Mart in Access Park and shop up a storm, ideally today but tomorrow is the last day.

I seldom get excited about a sale, but seriously this makes that crappy Woolworths red sale or what ever it is called look like it is standing still and dribbling on it’s bib!

Ask for Smilton, he really is brilliant.

Say his name loudly and then give him a little hug, I think he will like that.  It will confuse and disarm him, but I think it will make him smile.