Monday, May 30, 2011

Taking wrinkles to the (Steam) X-treme

The power is out... Oh well, instead of getting wrinkled with frustration I choose to rather ponder on some more of my favorite things :)

A few people commented on my last post (Hung out to dry) that ironing wasn’t quite their “thing”. I didn’t have to think long and hard to know what my next post would be about.

I used to feel the same until I bought my Steam X-treme! It was the first product that I ever bought – that I can remember – after seeing it advertised on television. I am not a marketing consultant’s dream come true. I don’t believe the “If you buy this all your problems will magically disappear” mumbo-jumbo, I don’t merely buy an item because it is eye level on the shelf and, because I’m so tall, I can usually reach the item I want even if it is out of reach of the average height shopper (which has been the case on the odd occasion). I am not a “go with the flow” type of “gal” either; I like to make up my own mind – makes me feel empowered to make decisions. Sometimes I stand amazed at the nonsense people will fall for that makes other people billionaires. If you’re not strong I suppose it pays to be smart... or sometimes – should I say – sly. Beautiful can also work... ;)

But the Steam X-treme... it was everything it said it would be and I love it!!

The box says: “Better than ironing! Faster, safer and easier...” – Crease free clothes in seconds – Effortless (no pressing required) – Perfect for corduroy, tweed or wool – No salt required – Won’t burn or scorch delicate fabrics! – Ready to use in seconds – Doesn’t leave that “iron shine” - - and all of it is true!!

You can use it on an ironing board like you would a normal iron, OR – and this you can’t do with a normal iron – you can steam something on the hanger. Needless to say the brochure warns against trying to iron someone while you are wearing it; the steam might burn you. Some people confuse humans with coat hangers. You can never be too careful or someone might just sue you ;)

Finally I was able to iron seems on my pants that needed it (whereas before I always ironed my clothing inside out. Finally I was able to steam those items that I would never, ever put an iron to – no more worries about delicate fabrics, but neither did I have any hassles with tough materials such as jeans. I’ve even helped a few friends move house and we could steam curtains on the rail!

A few years back I bought mine for R60. At one time it was advertised for R200. It is clear that it didn’t work out well from seeing it priced again at R150 just this weekend.

The only way I think they can ever improve this product is if it were to be cordless!

A well travelled friend of mine gave me some interesting advice a while ago which is based on a similar concept. If you travel and you don’t own one of these magnificent “magoodies” it helps to hang your outfit on a coat hanger in the bathroom while you shower. The steam will help de-crease your outfit so you won’t have to look like you’ve just climbed out of a suitcase. Gee! Why didn’t I think of that?

If all else fails there is a model available on Amazon (Italsteam) that is adapted for electrical outlets around the world and in a compact shape easily squeezable into a suitcase without causing you to have to leave your favorite pair of shoes behind. Now you can look good from head to toe, whether suitcase or closet!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hung out to dry

I am not the world’s most eager house keeper but when it comes to doing laundry... I am more pedantic than anyone I know. I firmly believe that how you take care of your clothes determine how long you will be able to enjoy your best looks.

One of the ways to take really good care of your clothing is determined by how you iron it. Did you know that ironing it on the outside can cause the color of your garments to fade, and how many people do you know who have a story about a burnt garment?

My ironing ‘allergy’ has caused me to fall madly in love with coat hangers. YES, coat hangers! Anything that can dry on a coat hanger does! This has several benefits, so listen and learn boys and girls ;) (1) The clothes keep their shape better – don’t you just hate a stretched (especially) t-shirt or top that pulls a funny face? and (2) If it dries this way it automatically require less ironing, so depending on the fabric clothes can be hung away as soon as it’s dry. What an awesome time saver, right? And you don’t have to look like you’ve crawled out of a laundry basket either. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Hangaway.

Before I discovered the Hangaway I was a big fan of the ironing hook – a triangular metal hook that fits over the top of a door. The problem with the hook is that without a door you’re lost, but the Hangaway stands alone, so you can put it inside or outside. You can use it to dry clothing on, or you hang your ironing on it. It comes in really handy on a rainy day when you still need to do some laundry. Tomorrow doesn’t wait for the sun, you know. A girl’s got to dress fabulously, come rain or shine; This girl anyway ;)

Another wonderful benefit is that it can hang thirty coat hangers; this beats the ironing hook hands down and it doesn’t even have to take up a lot of space when you’re not using it. The Hangaway folds away into something small enough to hide in your broom closet, or behind a door or a corner in your scullery. Can anyone out there be as excited as I am over a Hangaway?!

This one, I’m glad to announce, can be found anywhere in the world thanks to Amazon!

What is the story behind this one? If you’ve read my post Cold feet, a beanie bag and a sizzling hot affair then you know about my road trip with a friend a few years ago. His mother was a real sweet lady with some awesome ideas! You can only imagine what I did the moment I got home ;)

If you live in SA and you’re interested... visit a Boardmans. If you can’t get to one of those or you’re one to shop around and compare... then visit Amazon...And you’re welcome. It’s a pleasure ;)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cold feet, a beanie bag and a sizzling hot affair

If you had to walk through your home tomorrow and you could only pick a handful of items that you wanted to take with you out of everything you own: What would you pick?

I watched an Oprah episode once where she had a bit of a ‘show and tell’ for all her favorite items/products. Each member of the audience received a hamper with one of each in it. What a lucky audience! Some of the items were really great!

Unfortunately I was not in that audience, but I’ve had to pick a handful of items from my home a few months ago. Recently I’ve had a look at those again and realized just how much of it actually tells a story. So I’ve decided to do a few posts on my favorite things.

It’s official: We are undoubtedly on the downhill slide toward winter, or so my cold feet inform me. Every year around this time my beanie bag and I have a sizzling hot affair.

You heat the bag with the beans in the microwave for three minutes and then cover it in the fleece jacket so you don’t get burnt. It’s hot and it beats the conventional hot water bag by far (if you ask me), PLUS, it is safer.

The other thing I love about it is how you can drape it any way or shape you want to or need to. Heat can work wonders to sooth pain. Although it is not guaranteed to sooth all kinds of pain in the neck, it works beautiful for the physical kind by draping the warm bag like you would a swim towel (for example).

So what’s the story behind it? A few years ago a friend and I took a road trip. We stayed at his mom’s for a few nights and, you’ve guessed it, it was winter, it was c-o-l-d. She warmed her bean bag for me - it was love at first sight! The moment I got back home I had to have one. She had a chocolate brown fleece cover, but I preferred the blue :)

I noticed it in the shop after our visit, but had she not had one I might not even have noticed it on the shelf, even if it jumped out and bit me. So almost every time I warm it up I think of that trip, that chocolate brown bag that kept my feet warm and the good memories of that adventure that I will never forget.

How do you stay warm in winter?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top up 'n bail

In some ways I don’t think we always realize how much we have to be grateful for in South Africa - third world country or not, we have someone pouring our petrol for us at the pump.

During my recent visit to the US I was very intrigued with the concept of self service at the gas station. There each person pumps his own gas and then goes to pay inside the shop. I asked the lady once what stops people from filling up and simply driving off; do you merely trust in their good nature – that they will be honest? She smiled and said, “How far can you go? And I know where you live.” It was a very small town, you see.

My next question was ‘What about larger cities?’ Then someone explained that they first have to swipe their card and then pour. The pump cuts off at the swiped value. Hmm... makes sense.

Today I stopped to put in some petrol and saw a sign on the pump saying that, due to fuel theft, the petrol attendant is now obligated to take your car keys while pouring petrol for you. The lady explained that they’ve had several occasions where people fill up and then speed off. How sad is that? I wouldn’t recommend the self help service in South Africa. Yes, some people call it cheap labor, but for some people it is a job; an income.

I kept thinking about being dressed corporately in suit and high heels and reeking of petrol when you’re done filling up your car. Ever noticed how difficult it is to get that smell off your hands?

The second perk I think we are very spoiled with in South Africa is the car wash – another self service in the part of the US where I was. Personally I prefer my car hand washed – and I don’t mean my hands ;) You have less risk of scratches (I think). Drip dry never used to work for me – I like white cars and it stains the paint. Polishing it has not been my favorite past time, but every now and again is fine. Also, having it vacuumed on the inside and polishing the dash and trimmings, leaving you with that clean, perfumed smell when you drive off really works for me. Any car is more beautiful if only for being cleaned inside and out! If you take good care of it, it will take good care of you!

Then again, isn’t that true for all things – well, mostly anyway... :)

These are some of the older pumps in the small town of Marquette, Kansas. If nothing else, it's pretty and colorful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bumbling ducks on the Dancing Stage

Dancing Stage Max – what fun (and a good workout)! Haha

How does it work? It is a Playstation game which requires a mat instead of a joy stick and, following the arrows on the screen, and in step with the music, you are required to step on the corresponding arrows on the mat. Whether one would call it dancing... hmmm – that’s debatable! Haha Maybe it has something to do with playing it in socks (as to not damage the mat)... Who knows? ;)

Catering for beginners to the more advanced the game offers a wide variety of levels and rhythms to step to, and, whether you have two mats or just one, it can make for endless hours of fun in a group with family or friends. And, if you’re really good, you can even sing along, but sometimes the mouth and the feet don’t quite want to co-operate.

I used to be quite the sore loser when I was younger. M-A-N, it sucks the fun right out of everything, doesn’t it? When you’ve heard it a few times, “Remember, winning is not everything”, you tend to start thinking, “YEAH RIGHT!! Then why does the winner look so happy, huh? (huh? huh?...)”

Hey, show me someone who likes to lose ;) It is not exactly a warm and fuzzy feeling, is it? Luckily, as I grew older, I realized that, yes, winning is not everything. Having fun while you kick but is more important! Haha (...and yes, not taking it personally when it is your but being kicked... ;) Sometimes it takes courage to be willing to look like a fool, but if you’ve given it your best shot... hey, there are times when it matters more that you tried, right?

Two things to remember: (1) Do your best, and (2) don’t give up. (Then again, don’t wait for your but to be kicked till you have a shiner (blue eye)... haha Try long enough for you to realize what your strengths and weaknesses are, but try to at least hang on to your dignity. Haha

And... if you have fun you tend to naturally fare better at something than when you’re not. Don’t forget to laugh.

Hey, sometimes working up a good sweat is perfect camouflage for tears, but today would have been tears of laughter as we peddled water like bumbling ducks to the beat of Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – all awhile desperately trying to hold on to at least some of our dignity and most of our coolness ;)

For someone who's not 'big on' Playstation and computer games this was the most fun I’ve had in a while :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Grey's Anatomy musical and gravity

If you don't wear your seat belt and you smash into the back of a stationary truck gravity will do things to you that you won't like. In a different way humans also gravitate - emotionally - creatures created to relate.

How often do we go through life facing challenges and feeling alone; yearning to know that we are not? I’m slowly drawing the conclusion that, because of this need, we find ourselves continuously gravitating toward that which we feel we can relate to, that which we feel identify with us (or us with it) at any particular point on our journey, whether it is a friend, a book, a poem, a passage, a song... Something that says what we don't know how to say, or something that echos what we are saying, or something that describes how we feel.

I have heard a thousand songs and some even many times over. Yet I still find it odd how the meaning of a song can change depending on the context in which you hear it. Tonight I watched Grey’s Anatomy. From what I understand there is two episodes in season 7 which are musicals and tonight was the first one. I was so impressed by the cast! What a bunch of talented actors – there’s some beautiful voices there – my personal favorite being Dr Calliope "Callie" Torres played by Sara Ramirez.

My two favourite songs I have heard many times before but they’ve never really caught my attention. However, after they were used in the Grey’s Anatomy musical – in context with the story line that is currently playing out – it really made the songs come to life for me. For the first time they actually told a story and for the first time I really heard the lyrics. I don’t think I’ll forget them easily now, even if only fondly remembering them in a show that I think is one of the best ever!

I’m gravitating toward that which makes me feel strangely comforted/encouraged now... I’m not alone... someone out there (probably many other someone’s) have felt the way I do at times... and it’s going to be ok...

Just a little bit of background: At the end of episode 17 (season 7) there is a pregnant doctor, a marriage proposal and a car crash. Episode 18 deals with the injured, pregnant doctor and how the battle to save her and the unborn baby affects everyone’s lives. It is also about her own fight for survival; her will to live, and why it is a fight that is worthwhile. These are my two favorite songs from tonight's episode:

Just Breath (originally sung by Anna Nalick)
I was made for you (originally sung by Brandi Carlile)

Do you have any songs that you’ve heard a hundred times and then – one day – it was as if your heart suddenly heard them; opened up to them for the very first time?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

American Idol: create or imitate?

Haley Reinard, the American Idol who tried something new tonight – an unreleased song by Lady Gaga. This was going to be interesting... So what did the judges have to say?

All three judges agreed that it was rather risky to try something that no one has ever heard before. What does that mean?

So no one well known has sung it and made it famous. That means no one knows what the song is supposed to sound like and therefore they can’t judge how well it was imitated. Is that accurate? There is nothing to compare it to...

Sometimes it would seem that they are not looking for new creative ability but rather a younger Whitney Houston, Madonna, etc. - looking to see how good you imitate rather than create.

I have not watched most of the Idol competitions before, but often, when I eventually heard the winner sing on the radio, he or she sounded like most of the other voices that you hear on the radio today. In fact, unless someone draws my attention to the fact that this person was the new Idol winner, I would have confused them with someone whom I’ve been hearing for a long time already.

Now maybe, on the one hand, it says something about how well they sing – that I could confuse them with an experienced artist. On the other hand it also says that it is nothing fresh, except that it is younger talent.

Then again... how many unique voices are out there? Maybe it is also combined – in a big way – with personality, appearance, stage presence, the particular song, genre, etc.

The public definitely have their role to play, I’d say; the voice of the masses. At least now the choice is not up to the chosen two or three. I’d say it makes it fair, but even so, I can’t help but wonder.

Does the public vote because someone sang one of their favorite songs, or was it because they think the chick is good looking or the guy is sexy? Do you vote for someone because you like their outfit or...

Do they vote because music is artistically and skilfully delivered?

Is that even the right reason...?

Oh, who knows... what do you think? Point is, SIXTY MILLION of the American public voted after the last program... five contestants left. At this point it is getting hard to choose... there’s some awesome talent there for sure!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Movie review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The first time Alice visited Underland she was only six years old. Thirteen years later a young woman – troubled by a recurring dream, struggling with the loss of her beloved father and running from an unwelcome marriage proposal - finds herself down a rabbit hole once again. This time the fate of Underland is in her hands. She is to slay the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky and restore the White Queen to power. Question is, does she have the courage to be the champion?

We get to meet all her friends from before: the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Dodo, the twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar and the Mad Hatter, to name but a few. View this link for a more thorough review.

Now usually I would try to find something good to say, but today... Don’t hold your breath; this is as good as it’s going to get: I can well understand that the movie won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design but for the rest of it... I was not impressed :( I had to start the movie over two or three times before I got as far as seeing the ending and I was sorely disappointed.

Firstly I found it rather ridiculous that we went from a marriage proposal to falling down a rabbit hole. Somehow the idea of a nineteen year old (almost woman, rather than girl) falling down a rabbit hole just seemed somewhat ridiculous. Who proposes to a (basically) grown woman, who claims to see cartoon bunnies in overcoats with stop watches running around? Innocence is one thing, but children should really not be getting married. It seemed a little too ridiculous for me.

Secondly, the story was totally predictable. From the point where the scroll is revealed which shows Alice with the sword and confronting the Jabberwocky it basically plays out exactly that way. For me the whole movie from there was basically a display of the costumes and creative ability of the creators of the movie. No wonder I battled to stay awake.

I don’t believe I’ve seen the original Alice in Wonderland, but somehow I had an expectation for a greater ending. Alice goes from a grown woman seeing cartoon bunnies, to falling down a rabbit hole, to returning to the real world, giving everyone a piece of her mind, getting on a boat and sailing the seven sees like some apprentice / entrepreneur wannabe to establishing oceanic trade routes to China. Hello?

My final thought... HUH??!! Is that IT?

For starting the movie over three times...? Left me with a bit of a feeling like “crashing into a tree and rolling the credits through the rising steam of a seized engine under the crumpled up hood”... Does that make any sense?

Maybe they are trying to demonstrate the point of an Alice transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly, just like her caterpillar friend from Underworld... If so, then that moment was one of the few that I did find meaningful.

Have you seen Alice in Wonderland? Did you like it or not, and why?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sprite a la Gucci

We went there to buy Sprite (cold drink) and we left with Gucci (eau de parfum)!

The local fish and chip shop turned out to be much more resourceful than I would have ever imagined. One moment we were piling the counter with chips, chocolates, ice cream and cold drink, the next the cashier had a little tin out with tiny blue tubes. It took a few seconds (and a few sniffs) for me to realize that they were miniature perfume testers. Who would have thought eau de parfum at a fish and chip shop?

I think it is fair to say that I’m sniffing my inspiration from a perfume bottle haha.

So there we were, like a bunch of kids in a candy store, crowding the counter, passing the little tubes to each other, smelling, crunching up our noses and comparing ‘notes’ :) For a moment there the candy stash on the counter was completely forgotten.

After smelling, smelling again, and just once more to make doubly sure we reached a conclusive decision about the best fragrance. Now the smell of salt and vinegar reminded us again where we were.

We went into the shop stinkies. We came out of the shop smelling like twinkies :) ...oh! almost forgetting the cold drink on the counter... the whole reason why we went in the first place ;o)

Thanks to my friend I’ll be smelling like a twinkie for a while to come still :o)

When last did you go shopping for one thing and left with something you didn’t quite intend to buy? What did you get instead?