7/13/2009: Black Out, Mexican Night, and New Friend

By | July 20, 2009

Our power went out today around 3:30 p.m., so I had to reserve the power on my phone and only took one photo. We managed to get no pics with the other camera either, as all the batteries were dead and we had no way to charge them.

It seems a substation went down and when the power came back on 30 minutes later, a line was fried here in Irene. It took them almost two days to restore power to our little area of Irene – most of the other houses had power immediately. Bummer.

Anyway, since it was early enough to prepare, I went and bought candles at Freedom Market and a canister of propane (LP) at a garage (gas station) so that we could cook. Our cooktop is electric but there is also a gas cooktop and oven.

So, we closed all the doors in the kitchen to keep the heat in, turned on the gas stove, and cooked up our Mexican food. A colleagure of a guy with whom I went to high school came over and was just pleasant as could be. Adventuresome too, as I informed her that we had no power!

Since we have no heat and it was around freezing that night, we made a bonfire out front. This is the only photo I took the entire night – notice my Boy Scout style fire making? Pyramid/tipi baby! It was a great night all in all, even with no power!

7/12/2009: Mass and Menlyn

By | July 20, 2009

Following schedule, we hit up Menlyn Park Mall after mass today to see into what kind of trouble we could get. Wandering around, we came across Dee Dee (?) from Ben 10. Seems Cartoon Network was on site giving out pens and doing appearances. Nifty – the kids really liked it.

We then went to the playground, where they have installed new equipment and have therefore doubled the entrance price to R20 per kid. That’s expensive when you have as many children as April and I, when you’re just talking about kids running around on a playground!

I snapped this pic for the benefit of all of you who have heard that Mary considers herself quite the princess. Notice how she’s not doing the work?

This poor girl carted Mary all over the playground for about 10 minutes or so.

The kids were pretending that they were “flying to Texas”. I figured everyone would be happy to hear that! Notice how Vin brought along his blue scooter?

7/11/2009: Regularly Scheduled Camel Rides

By | July 20, 2009

It’s Saturday, so we once again hit the Irene Market. Hey, have to keep the kids on a schedule, right? They got to ride the camels again.

Sarah loves to help set the table, but she’s confused as to what exactly we need. In this case, she decided to bring a huge cookie tub to the table.

7/10/2009: Mary’s School Work

By | July 20, 2009

Just a quick example of Mary’s school work. She’s working on math, spelling, and reading. Hey, she’s five years old now, it’s about time she got a job!

7/9/2009: More Food and Drink Photos

By | July 20, 2009

So it seems all we do here is eat omelettes and drink wine, I know. I’m done with the stuff I came here to do, so we don’t really do anything other than what our regular schedule entails. At least I update the blog!

Anyway, the kids watch a lot of cartoons since they have no friends (save a couple of brand-new friends, but they live about 40km away). Here are the cute pics that we come across regularly:

I had purchased a couple bottles of wine to try at the Irene Homes festival a couple months back, and, since we were out of other red wine, I decided to go ahead and try it. April doesn’t really care for white wine – neither do I, and nothing has changed after this bottle of Nuy Sauvignon Blanc 2008!

We did, however, make some serious stir-fry this evening! Chicken with tumeric and frozen veggies over rice – yum!

7/8/2009: Haircut Time!

By | July 20, 2009

All the kids were really needing haircuts (Mary, for example, had to lift her head up to look straight at you since her bangs were completely in her eyes), so April bit the bullet, got out the paper scissors and the baby comb, and gave them all haircuts. John actually sat still and I didn’t even have to lay on him so that April could finish cutting his hair!

Not sure why there aren’t any pics of Vin or Mary getting haircuts, but se la vie. Sarah’s “haircut” was the most interesting, however, as April didn’t actually cut any of her hair, she just combed it and acted like the scissors were working. Sarah was thrilled that she was a “big girl” nonetheless.

7/7/2009: Coooold

By | July 9, 2009

We are freezing. This house was built to stay cool in the summer, so it is consistently several degrees cooler than it is outside. Although the sun is shining, the house does not warm up.

To stay warm, we have space heaters spread around the house, we keep all the exterior and interior doors closed, we wear sweaters, socks, and shoes, and we drink wine. Great excuse!

This is the last gift from Texas chili day – a bottle of Kanonkop Kadette 2004, a dry red wine with “concentrated berry, banana, cherry, and fruit flavours with a spicy finish”. I don’t know how these tasters taste all those different tastes in wine – all I know is that I liked it. Heck, I’m not sure I’ve found any red wine around here which I don’t like! As always, April thought this was a little strong and heady, so I got to drink the whole thing. My evil plan is working…

We made the bacon-wrapped pork fillets for supper (armadillos), put the kids to bed, and retired into the office to watch the Bourne Supremacy. Like I said, it is cold in this house!

7/6/2009: Mexican Monday

By | July 9, 2009

April informed me that she calls Mondays “Mexican Mondays” – for some reason, I thought she made Mexican food on Tuesdays. In any case, here she is making tortillas, beans, and rice in her Bafana Bafana (nickname for South Africa soccer/football team) sweatshirt she picked up at Pick N’ Pay.

Another gift from Texas chili day – a bottle of Drostdy-Hof Merlot 1998. It was good, but April still doesn’t care for Merlot (too bitter).

The fam!

7/5/2009: Centurion Redeux

By | July 9, 2009

We had put off grocery shopping since I had been at Vodacom at the end part of the week, and we didn’t want to go shopping at the Checkers Hyper at Menly Park Mall on a Saturday (for the reason why, see a previous post – it is absolutely nuts, maddening, and crazy). Therefore, we waited until Sunday after Mass to head back to Centurion. The kids, as always, wanted to play, so we took them down to the playground which still has up the blow-up bouncers!

April realized I hadn’t taken a picture of Mary climbing the wall, so here you go – Mary went all the way to the top, got her picture taken, and got a beach ball prize because she did it two times in a row!

Afterward the kids were tuckered out, so we went to the house for naptime. Sarah for some reason decided to grab April’s ear as she passed into sleep.

7/4/2009: Is There A July 4th In South Africa?

By | July 9, 2009

Happy Independence Day everyone! We keep our freedom fighters, past and present, in our hearts, minds, and prayers today (especially my cousin in Iraq).

To answer everyone’s burning question – yes, there is a July 4th in South Africa! 😉

However, since no one celebrates it as a special day, we did some celebrating of our own by taking the kids to go see Ice Age 3 in Real3D. It was sweet. We did this at Menlyn Park Mall, one of the largest malls we’ve ever seen – here are the escalators in the main central area of the mall:

It is so tall it makes one’s legs shaky:

We then found a video arcade we’d never seen before whilst scoping out places to eat. We played zero games, much to the chagrin of the children. This is where we will celebrate Mary’s birthday now though. The full-size bowling area is lit with blacklights all day, every day. Neato!

April was looking for a scarf so that she can learn to do some kind of traditional African head covering, so I kept the kids outside the store to look cute for the passers-by.

We encountered a couple of creepy animal mascot types when walking through the mall. I don’t think that fellow on the right intended to be in my photo, but it was BUSY so he was kind of shoved in…

For supper I wanted to take the family somewhere we’d never been. What better place than something called Cantina Tequila?!? Tex-Mex on the 4th of July – second best to having BBQ.

The nearest (and only) one was in Randburg, close to Joburg, around 40km away from home. We arrived at 6 p.m. and there were still chairs on the tables, and the place is totally a bar, not a restaurant, but we had driven quite a way and the folks there were very accomodating, so we went ahead and got a table.

Bars don’t have baby chairs, so Sarah got to sit between April and I with a loooong cocktail-type drinking straw.

We ordered nachos as an appetizer, and they were actually pretty darn good. And yes, that is guac sitting in the middle of them. Not sure I like the idea of spending R35 for 6-8 nachos, however.

April ordered chimichangas, which were pretty good, and I had a fajita combo. The tortillas were Old El Paso style – tough and tasteless, unlike April’s which are good. The beef was…well, let’s just say that I gave a piece to John and he asked if it was beef jerky. Almost all South African beef is very, very tough. In fact, you can’t buy it fresh unless it is for stew meat – it is almost always tenderized through a machine, cut paper thin, or marinated in a vacuum bag for a month or so (for thick cuts).

That being said, the chicken fajitas were probably some of the most tasty I’ve ever had, as were the veggies. Overall it was quite excellent considering I’ve not seen one Mexican in this country. The big mama doing the cooking looked the part though!

For a sort of post-aperitif, I ordered a Soweto Toilet drink for April and myself. Banana liquer, cream, and chocolate looks nasty but tastes great! I figured that not many people can say that they’ve had a Soweto Toilet a stone’s throw away from Soweto! All in all, it was a wonderful Fourth of July! God Bless America, and especially Texas – we can’t wait to get back!

7/2/2009 and 7/3/2009: Vodacom

By | July 9, 2009

I was up at Vodacom all day both of these days installing some test equipment that the guys in Texas sent to me. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, said equipment is top secret at the moment so I will not be posting the plethora of photos I snapped.

Suffice it to say that everything works exactly as we thought it would, allowing us to go forward on a very lucrative project. Please keep us in your prayers – seems the Man upstairs has been looking out for us so far, I’d like him to continue.

I arrived home at almost 9 p.m. Friday night after a very successful couple of days!

7/1/2009: Shopping

By | July 9, 2009

We went to Centurion mall today to get a few things – I knew I would be heading up to Vodacom on Thursday and Friday, so we needed to get our weekly shopping done a little early. The first order of business was to let April go do a couple errands around the mall while I watched the kids. Thank the Lord above, they had extra-special playground toys available! Tons of blow-up play areas!

Sarah is a bit wary of the lack of sure footing on the blow-up units, so she preferred to stick with the traditional playground equipment:

The other three, of course, went hog-wild, jumping and bouncing to their heart’s content:

I knew I wouldn’t keep them off of this (chaperoned, thank goodness) wall climbing unit. Vin went all the way to the top (one of the adults wraps the rope around his waist and walks backwards in order to pull the child up via a pulley system). John, made it to just about where you see him in this photo, shouting, “I’m scared of heights”. They let him down.

Vin almost to the top!

6/30/2009: Downhill Coast

By | July 9, 2009

Not much happening lately – today we are exactly seven weeks away from leaving South Africa for Deutschland. My company is working on revitalising a product we haven’t sold in several years, so I’ve been focused on doing that mainly. In the meantime, about the only things about which I have to speak are drinking wine and having cute children. Hence this post!

The kids have PB&J or PB&C (chocolate – Nutella) most days for lunch, plus some chippies/crisps/chips. On the PB&C days, they make quite a display of having an enormous mess while and after eating. Sarah loves to pull the sandwich apart and just lick off the peanut butter and chocolate:

Here is a gift that was supposed to be drunk on Texas chili day but made it through without being a casulty, as most people brought their own dop (adult beverages). It is a 1.5L bottle of Kanonkop (cannon hill) Paul Sauer 2005. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, Cabernet Franc 15%, and Merlot 15%. It’s supposed to be aged around four years minimum, so I got it at the perfect time. Let me just tell you, this wine was fantastic. Dry red wine with a nice strong aroma. April didn’t care much for it (too strong and heady), so I drank every last drop, which I do NOT recommend doing in one night. Oops.

6/29/2009: Cute Little Sarah

By | July 8, 2009

Sarah has recently taken to walking around our (cold) house with her hands in her pockets, so I thought I would share the cuteness with everyone:

6/28/2009: Knights of De Gama Chicken Braai

By | June 29, 2009

Being a Knight of Columbus, I have been involved here with our brother organization, the Knights of De Gama (a Portuguese explorer who went around the horn of Africa). Their annual fundraiser is a chicken braai, wherein we serve around 1200 plates of half chickens, potato salad, and green salad. I was on braaing duty by the grills.

The chili day the night before ran a little late, so I arrived shortly after 8 a.m., when I was supposed to be there at 7 a.m. I made up for my tardiness by working until the thing was over (after a two-hour diversion to take the wife and kids to Mass) at around 5 p.m.

That’s Joe there manning the grill, a bucket of raw chicken halves resting on the ground behind him. Let me tell you, Knights worldwide are all the same – I was greeted with chorizo sausage on a bun, a couple of spare ribs, and a cup of Old Brown Sherry, because it “will make your toes warm”. Oh, and the guys were out there drinking beer at 8 a.m. – just like home! It was a fantastically successful event – we completely sold out of chicken!

The event was held at a place that I figure my dad would appreciate, being that he went to Christian Brothers High School. Here we have the entrance to the chicken braai, held at none other than Christian Brothers College in Lynnwood (Pretoria). Small world, no? It just serves as one more reminder that Catholic really does mean universal.

6/27/2009: Texas Chili Day!

By | June 29, 2009

I had invited several colleagues from Vodacom over for some real Texas Chili, and today was the day! I needed to start cooking around 11:30, so I forewent the pancakes and served the kids doughnuts instead. At the grocery store on Friday John approached me and said, “daddy, can we get doughnuts? I know that making pancakes every Saturday must be a lot of work.” How could I resist? It was self-serving on his part but there was some truth to it. In any case, I rewarded him for being clever.

The kids ate the doughnuts and we went to the Irene Market, but there were no camels there this time. We were thinking it must have been to chilly outside – that, or too early in the morning. We let the kids play on the playground, ran a couple errands, and made it back to the house in time to start cooking!

Here is the first batch cooking – the “fake” chili with beans. I made sure to make it mild enough for kids.

And the result:

Here’s the spread we presented – chili with beans, “real” chili without beans but with jalapenos, corn bread, Fritos, guacamole, cheese, onions – you name it. It was fantastic. April and I are flexing our cooking muscles here!

6/26/2009: Family Fun Night

By | June 29, 2009

It’s Friday, and we were going to be doing a lot of prep work for Saturday, when several colleagues of mine from Vodacom were coming over for some real Texas chili, so I decided to get pizza ingredients at the grocery store and let the kids make their own. I had prepared for the next day by getting a case of Grolsch and putting it in the cooler:

Yes, it is outside in the freezing cold and I just open the window to get beer! I’m amazed by my ingenuity sometimes…

The pizzas turned out wonderfully – salami, mince, peppers, sweet chili sauce, cheddar, and mozzerella all on a french roll?! How could it NOT turn out great?

6/25/2009: Daddy Day Care Redeux

By | June 29, 2009

April was heading to Rayton and Mamelodi today to again help Francis with the bead classes/workshop/etc., so I was going to have the kids by myself all day long (again). We needed to leave the house at around 7:15 a.m., so I rousted the kids from bed and stuck them in the car. It was around 2 or 3 degrees Centigrade, so I brought them out in their blankets then covered them all up with a sleeping bag. I couldn’t resist the cute resultant picture!

6/24/2009: Work

By | June 29, 2009

I was heading up to Vodacom today to have some meetings and whatnot, so I started the morning off right by making – you guessed it – an omelette!

Meetings were OK, so I stayed at Vodacom for lunch. Here is what the canteen was offering on this particular day. It was:

Ox Tripe served with Pap and Gravy

Yikes. I’ll just have some BBQ chicken, thanks.

6/23/2009: Daddy Day Care

By | June 29, 2009

Today April was heading to Mamelodi with Francis to help with the bead work classes, so I made myself an omelette (like always). Cheesy!

I was watching the kids all day, so I took Mary to her dance class as well, and then got books at the Irene Library. It was a fun day!