On almost being halfway to 50.

So I’m on the brink of turning 25. On the one hand it comes across as pretty daunting – “quarter life crises”, being 1 step closer to 30 and being halfway to 50 and all. On the other, well, I still feel quite young. That counts, right?

And so I was pondering this whole “getting older” thing, and came to the conclusion that I don’t feel very old at all (this might change on birthday morning). I’m still chirped of being “so young” at work, so I guess that is ok. I started thinking what have I done in my life? Broad, and perhaps too retrospective, I know. I mean, did I even do anything mentionable in the last year? And where do you start. You could say how “unaccomplished” I am. I’m not a bustling business woman with a towering empire. But when you really put things in perspective, I’ve achieved a lot in 25 years and when you really think about it – no milestone is too small.

  • Learning to move, support your entire body, walk and talk. (Oh how we’ve progressed from being actual babies!)
  • Learning to count, read and tell the time (I can’t even remember not being able to do these)
  • I’ve literally learnt all the things I know. Which I assume is so much, I can’t even begin to quantify it.
  • Lived roughly 9125 days (give or take those leap years)
  • Getting through 12 whole years of school (that ranges from colouring in and learning to count, to working out scientific equations in matric!)
  • Traveling to Israel for 4 months in grade 10, my entire gap year and a honeymoon funded entirely by us.
  • Learning to drive.
  • Getting an entire University degree
  • Being an intern.
  • Getting my first job (and subsequent second job!)
  • Found a significant other, dated, gotten engaged and subsequently married.
  • Successfully transitioned from baby – toddler – child – teenager – adult. I think.

25 years sure has felt like a long time (and by long time, I mean my entire life). We thought school was a long time and that was “only” 12 years. So I guess there really is so much to look forward to. Who knows where I’ll be at 50? I like to think we’d had a family by then, have a pretty awesome career, or having worked on some cool things, worked with cool people, made new friends, learnt SO many things. I guess I need to celebrate all the achievements.

Maybe I’m being optimistic, but hey, I’m feeling good about turning 25.

26, well, that’s another story (and next year’s problem).

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My first ever massage experience: Happy Feet

Around when we first started dating Greg kept telling me about this place he’d gone to for a foot massage called Happy Feet. “Eeeeewww, I don’t want people touching my feet! Gross!” I just couldn’t get to grips with the idea of a stranger touching my feet, and paying them to do it (I mean, shame for them, right?). Now we’re considering going for a spa day for our 2nd wedding anniversary, so it seemed like at some point I’d need to get used to the idea of this massage business.

So for my most recent birthday (last year), Greg gave me a little voucher (i.e a piece of paper stating) that he’d treat me to a foot massage at Happy Feet whenever I want. Well, we finally found a time last Monday (only a little bit after my birthday. About 6 months as a rough estimate). We booked for 9pm which we figured would give us enough time to get home from work, make and eat dinner, and head out on our way.

Well, first let me recommend that the person taking you knows where they are going. Walking around Thibault square in circles in the dark did not have me feeling the safest. Eventually we found the sign outside some Chinese restaurant and some hotel. Going up into a lift that smelt like cigarettes (I chuckled at the “no smoking” sign) and walking into this Asian themed area and directed to our designated little room.

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The couches were the comfiest I’ve sat on, if that counts for anything, but the rest of it seemed a little brothel like to me (or what I’d imagine a brothel to look like). I shuddered to think of the activities that go on there after dark (Greg and I were debating whether any of these actually happen). He then assured me, no, promised me, that it seems a whole lot less dodgy in the day time. Point for next time: go while the sun is still shining.

In comes the Asian masseuse ladies (who don’t seem to speak much if any English), with the most powerful little hands I’ve ever felt. This was my very first professional massage experience at all (clearly not girly enough to be considered female, am I?) and I found it, interesting. I spent most of the time watching what she was doing to my feet (trust me, they have some fancy moves), and I kind of wished I’d had a copy of that reflexology chart located on the door.  Sometimes, she’d press too hard into my little foot, and I’d kind of wince and smile all at the same time. We’d kind of smile at each other awkwardly in understanding, and she’d press a little less hard accordingly. I was tempted to take photos, but figured that could have been pretty awkward too.

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I’ll be honest, it hurt a little (or a lot sometimes), but was oddly relaxing. It felt sinful to actually walk on solid ground again afterwards. I came out having enjoyed myself, but with mixed feelings – I’m a teeny tiny bit apprehensive about this spa day situation, in case I come out hurting, but Greg assures me we’ll find something suitable. Either way, it was a great night out, especially different to the norm (night in, on the couch, watching Survivor) and a pretty cool “date night” (which we totally don’t do enough of). So remember, if you do go, do so during sunshine hours. And don’t think of brothels, whatever your do.

As a side note, if you have any wonderful spa recommendations in Cape Town, please send them my way 🙂

How to host a Murder Mystery Party

I don’t remember when I last hosted a birthday party (and my 22nd/surprise/engagement one doesn’t count) so to celebrate turning an extra year older, I figured why not. And whlie we’re at it – let’s do something entirely different. So we went and hosted a Murder Mystery party filled with gossip, goals, objectives, friends, dress-up, awards, and well – murder. I think it went down really well(if I say so myself). It was so much fun, and everyone really came to the party (excuse the awful pun) when it came to playing their parts and acting in character.

If you’d like to find out how we went about it, I suggest you continue reading.

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1. Decide on the number of guests

Murder mysteries can accommodate a number of people, ranging from small parties of 8 – 10 people to larger ones of 25. You need to know how many people you’ll be having so that you can pick an appropriate mystery, and this really is one of the ways that actually helped me narrow down my options. If need be, having a limit will also help you get a bit ruthless in cutting down when your numbers seem to get a bit bigger than you can actually handle/afford.

2. Buy an awesome kit

You need to give up on finding a good quality Murder Mystery online for free (well, I tried and came out empty handed). The ones I found were mostly in a similar price range, which I was happy to pay – it just came down to choosing the best and most professionally put together piece. I found Playing with Murder on one of my many google searches and am so impressed with what I found. They have so many different mysteries to choose from that you can really lose track of time going through each sample pack (I spent a lot of time debating between a zombie and Manhattan theme).

The file comes with a 160+ page document which includes how to run the mystery, all the character sheets (which gives a character description and goals and objectives for each half of the game), name tags, clues and even certificates for you to print out. Also – you get audio files to use. Ours came with babbling cocktails party sounds (background chatter) and of course, the piercing shriek of the murder itself.

I must mention how incredibly helpful they were as well via email. I literally sent one saying “I can’t decide on a Murder Mystery, please help be choose from the following” (not quite in those words) and they responded shortly after with an explanation of the different games and how each could be suited to what you’re looking for. Any time I had a question I sent it through and was answered very quickly. You wouldn’t quite think of this as a service, but that’s exactly what it was, and they really excelled.

As an added extra, they have a really awesome pinterest account which can help you with ideas for decor, food etc according to your chosen Murder Mystery. And as an extra extra, if you like their Facebook page you can also get a 10% discount (which with our poor currency, means a lot!)

3. Decide on a host

I’m sure if it’s your birthday you’ll be the host of the party, but if you’re me and not the greatest in terms of hosting (beyond setting up and making food) you might want to grab a wonderful +1 (such as my own Greg) who is wonderfully funny and warm to run the game. We also decided he would be the host so that I could actually take part in the game. While I did know who the murderer was (it’s preferable that only the host knows) because I did a lot of the other grunt work, I didn’t know where he had hidden the clues, so I got to partake in that as well. I must be honest I found it quite difficult to play the game and actually be literal hostess for the night. While I tried to scramble to read my character sheet and interact, I was also constantly worried that everyone was eating and the food was out and ready.

4. Read through the 160+ page document. Seriously.

You really need to know how the game works, especially if you’re going to be running it. The game is split into 2 halves: the first, where everyone mingled in character, fulfilling certain goals and objectives and trying to find out certain information from other characters. During this half you can also serve food (I recommend finger food as I mention below). Then the lights go out, and the murder happens. Then there’s a short break where everyone is handed out their character sheets for Act Two, with another sheet of goals and objectives. During this half characters are also sent on a sort of scavenger hunt to search for the clues.

We stuck each envelope on the wall when each clue was found, and then we all sat around waiting for the evidence to be revealed. One by one the envelopes were opened and someone presented the different evidence before putting it up on the wall for review. There was some time for questions, theories and accusations, which was really fun, especially because each character had gleaned a different piece of information regarding the murder. Then there was a vote – voting sheets were passed out and the results were tallied before we handing out awards!

The document really explains things so well and simply. So read it.

5. Assign characters

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One of the suggested options for this party is to let guests choose their character on a first-come-first-serve basis when you initially email them. You could also go about this the random way, but I felt I wanted to try take into account people’s personality types. You should email people first to see if they will be available on your selected date, and only once everyone has verified their attendance sit down and assign characters.

I wouldn’t put a painfully shy person as a very prominent character. I started by assigning randomly as a guideline, and then went ahead to make sure people’s characters were relatively suitable. I have friends that struggle with reading lots of text, so made sure to give them characters with fewer goals and objectives. I tried to give prominent characters to bigger personalities where I didn’t want quieter friends to be overwhelmed with big roles (especially as there was dressing up involved).

I must be honest – people sure can surprise you! Some quieter people really took the whole experience very seriously and really took their character to heart. Some came dressed up, did their thing and hung out “out of character” for some parts, which was perfectly ok too. Others didn’t as much where I thought they would, so you can’t get the character profiling 100%, but as long as guests have fun, that’s really whats important.

6. Party food

Because there was going to be a lot of interacting and conversation going on, especially in the first half where people would be referring to their character sheets, I wanted to try finger food. We settled on soup out of little mini cups, mini mac & cheese and pizza. Also mini salads skewered onto toothpicks. I think they all went well. The soup was a huge hit. The mini pastas – word of advice – don’t use spaghetti, it won’t hold as well and will fall apart. I used screw noodles and they held quite well I guess. Thanks pinterest. The pizza was delicious, (wholewheat of course, and so was the pasta) and Greg as the “Head Caterer” character went around bringing it to people. It became a bit complicated logistically as obviously you want the pizza to come out hot from the oven and then to serve, but the oven can only take 2 pizzas at a time… so I think you can understand why I was pretty focused on making sure the food was ok. Truth be told, everyone was so busy in character it seemed like the food was somewhat of an afterthought to the evening. But hey, what is a Jewish host without trying to overfeed her guests.

7. Any extra prep

Print out all the character sheets and put them in envelopes for each half (85 pages and 20+ envelopes later). Set up your playing area (for us it meant moving some things around to widen the playing area/s). Make sure your food is ready to go. Our game also involved clues and a bit of a scavenger hunt, so that meant cutting up the clues, putting them in envelopes and hiding them sneakily away. I also strongly suggest you read your character sheet. I was so caught up in preparing for the party, I kinda ran out of time to really prepare for my character.

Let the good times roll!

The night was so much fun. I think it was everyone’s first Murder Mystery party. We’d all heard of them, but never been to one. I am so glad that everyone had such a good time and really took their character to heart – and oh, the dressing up! I’m really glad to have such great sports for friends.

 

It’s August: Eeeeeveryone wins a birthday!

It’s the 1st of August. I hate to sound cliche and note how quickly the year as passed, yet here I am, doing just that. Twitter has been ablaze this morning with “birthday month!” tweets. It seems as though all the (cool) kids were born in August (Me too, just btw). That, or their parents had tons of fun in their December/Christmas/January/New Year holidays.

In years past I used to have lists of things I wanted. I figured it would just make life easier for people and friends. I’ve been a bit slack of recent, as thankfully there’s nothing I really felt I need or want (aside for travelling, but that’s not a gift anyone can buy me). Sometimes though I feel the best gifts are the thoughtful ones, it’s the things that speak to your quirks. The things that you just wouldn’t quite buy for yourself because you have so many other things your hard earned money needs to go towards.

So I came across this giveaway on a local blog, where you can win some awesome goodies from local online store I Heart This. I really have such a deep love for the goodies on these local online stores, including the likes of Utique and Hello Pretty. So while entering this competition, I had a good browse through I Heart This’ website, and there are just so many things to love.

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A speech bubble mirror? YES! Just imagine the fun SELFIES!

Isn’t this ring dainty?

Such beautiful earrings. Not that I wear earrings, but they’re lovely.

Have I really become so domestic that I love a bread board??

Owls!

I secretly LOVE the concept of wall decals.

All this browsing makes me want to browse some other local online stores, but I really don’t have time for that. I’ll leave you with one of my favourites, this time off Hello Pretty designed by Bokke & Blomme:

How can you not want this displayed in your home?

Happy birthday August babies!

(Don’t forget my birthday is the 13th. Kthanxbye)

You never know how much something means to you until it’s gone.

I turned 21 not too many years ago. I happened to be running a school camp, possibly not the most ideal location for turning the big 2-1, but I was with all my friends and Greg, which was what counted. As a side-note, I also turned 21 wearing braces – true story. Anyway, I digress.

I got from Greg the most beautiful charm bracelet. I always had a thing for charm bracelets. I even had a charm styled watch until I lost it. He wrote me a beautiful letter to go with it, explaining why he had chosen each of the charms – a heart, a dolphin, a strawberry, a “chai” (it’s a Jewish symbol meaning “life”, I think) and an oval charm with our initials “LL & GG” engraved on one side, and my 21st birthday date on the other, with a heart cutout. I don’t actually have a picture of it, as it was before the time of smartphones, instagram and over-sharing our lives. But it was beautiful.

Now I’m not a girly-girl. I don’t wear or accessorize with jewellery. I’m the type who has certain (sometimes meaningful) pieces they just stay put, and I don’t take off. These include: the aforementioned bracelet, my engagement and wedding rings, and a necklace which has my name in Hebrew. Even the bracelet Greg bought me for our 1 year anniversary I don’t wear every day – I have the tendency to take it off while I work, and I’m just too scared of losing it.

We went out to friends on Friday night for dinner, it was great and so was the company, as usual. I was getting changed before going to bed – and my right wrist was bare. My bracelet was gone. My right wrist is never bare. My heart broke. Literally it felt like it was cracked in two, and I moped myself to sleep. Poor Greg had to deal with a very sad Lee-Ann.

I’m happy to say that this story has a happy ending. It turned out that the clasp had come undone at dinner. My friend found it on the floor under the table and gave it back to me at shul the next morning. I literally almost cried from happiness when she gave it back to me. The sigh of relief, the weight lifted off my shoulders. I was about to ask Greg whether he could replicate it for my birthday coming up. Goodness was this girl happy. We’re going to get the clasp fixed/replaced hopefully this week.

I’m not the most sentimental person. I don’t think I’d ever thought how I’d feel if I’d lost this little piece of metal. When people ask what you would run back in to salvage if your house were burning down, I always thought it would be my harddrive. I mean, aside for the series etc there are just so many pictures. Dating back to 2005. Pictures from holidays, from school, from my gap year, all our years of dating, our wedding… Greg’s harddrive crashed recently. He lost over 100G of magic DVDs (the guy’s a magician, this is a big, big deal). He was so heartbroken. When we realised it would cost about R8k to recover the data and buy a new one, we gave up. I don’t know if the giving up helped him get over it, or if he realised he could get a lot of it from friends.

Memories are the things you can’t replace. I guess if I lost my harddrive with all my photos, I’d be heartbroken too. I’m trying to make photobooks every year (our “2012” book is still 95% finished, as it’s been from about February), who knows, maybe that could replace the fear. Or maybe I should kick it old school, and back stuff onto DVDs.

So I know that in the grand scheme of things – this may have been only a bracelet. It really means a lot to me, and goes beyond the memories of the day. I mean, what is turning 21 anyway in South Africa. I am already legal to drink, as well as drive a car. It doesn’t mean anything but it was a really special present. If I had lost it, who knows, maybe I would have gotten over my sadness, and Greg probably would have replicated it as best as he could for y birthday next month.

But I’m so glad he doesn’t have to.

Pretending to be grown ups.

It was quite a busy weekend as we geared up for hosting Greg’s birthday party this Sunday. Neither of us usually have big parties, the last one he had was his 21st (ahem, 5 whole years ago!). We decided to be sophisticated and host a cheese and wine do at our flat, because we like wine, and we like cheese. So it seemed fitting an appropriate. A friend did pose the question: “If you’re hosting something fancy as a cheese & wine party for your 26th – what do you do the next year?”.

We set a budget like responsible adults, and overspent it like the children we clearly are. We’ve never catered for 40 people, let alone cheese and wine for 40 people. Also – where were we going to fit 40 people in our flat?! All worked out well and things looked really pretty (all those hours on Pinterest sure paid off). Cheeses were labeled with little handmade flags (if only we had a printer, they could have been much fancier a la pinterest), we brought out a fancy heart shaped cheese board and I even served flings in a vase. Oh yes I did.

It was really so much fun. Everyone fitted nicely. We actually had enough wine glasses (thanks to my parents who lent us 25 – why would someone need so many wine glasses?!). The table looked pretty. Everyone mingled nicely, and there wasn’t even too much to tidy up afterwards. We had a really great time, and times like these make you realise how great your friends and friendships are.

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Birthdays, presents, and cake – of course.

I woke up very excited about Greg’s birthday yesterday morning.  It must be known that I’ve been a very bad wife the past week, spending my Sunday shopping for gifts and every night in the kitchen doing some form of baking, and then came the gift wrapping and card writing. So I’ve been kinda MIA and was very excited to finally share all this birthday goodness with him. I had to call his name a good couple times to wake him. (Side note a) this is because he sleeps with earplugs. Sidepoint b) 99% of days he’s up before me, so waking him is an infrequent occurance). I started singing in my best “happy birthday” voice, promptly stopped because it sounded terrible and bombarded him with my little package of presents.

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Birthday boy with his gifts. And AWESOME wrapping paper. Which I bought in January. (it is now April…)

I got him some really sweet gifts. A game of rummikub (rummy – the game. I always said how much I sucked, and he joked he’d buy it for my birthday, but I guess I got to him first :P), a set of cuff links (because I think guys look good in cuff links. I think Greg looks good, hence, he needed a set of cufflinks) and a little book of home made vouchers. Strangely, I think he liked that one the most – and it cost me nothing. Shows how you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to give someone a great gift they’ll appreciate.

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Birthday biscuits and some samples from the coupon book.

Later when I got home there was cake. And candles. And singing (ok, maybe I didn’t sing). I was pretty secretive about the cake – but he loved it! He always asked if he’d be allowed in the kitchen in case he should see what I’ve been preparing. I’m no Martha Stewart, or Cake Boss’ buddy (please, far from – that cake looked like a royal flop before it got iced!) He (not-so-)secretly is loving all the attentions from me, I can tell. But hey, the kid deserves it. It was a plain vanilla cake covered in a cream/caramel treat/peppermint crisp mixture, biscuit around it reading “Greg is 26”, complete with Happy Birthday candles. I was very proud of myself. And omg did it taste delicious (2 slices later!)

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Birthday cake – surprise!

We went out for supper afterwards, after all the cake I had no idea how I was going to manage it!. But we did. We actually tried new things on the menu, and even managed to fit in dessert of deep fried ice-cream (deff not the healthiest, but it was a birthday treat. We’ll gym on Sunday :P). It was really such a great birthday, even though it was a work day so we didn’t actually even see each other for most of it. But what we did – was good. I was very satisfied, and felt as happy as if it were my own birthday.

Happy birthday my Groggery 🙂