Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bats, bees, babies in trees

I love my job. I’m very happy with my work and find what I do fulfilling and stimulating, and I’m lucky enough to love the people I work with. I just needed to make this all clear before I begin just so we’re all on the same page, ok?

As a teacher, "working outside".

As a teacher, “working outside”.

I’ve always wanted to work outside. I’ve had a few jobs and none of them have involved working outside at all. The only one that came close was when I was a teacher and I took every opportunity I could to teach my classes outside, or I used to spend break outside. There’s something about being outside that makes what you’re doing not feel like work. Even now when I pop out at lunch to go to a shop or if I leave the office to go to a launch, being outside makes e feel like I’m actually on leave. So what would be better than having a job where you constantly feel like you’re not at work?

I’ve put together a little list of jobs I could potentially do if I were to leave my current one (just to be clear: I’m NOT planning on going anywhere and I’m VERY happy here, ok?):

Owls

  • Owl keeper – I’d like to look after owls. I think they’re very pretty and majestic and mysterious all at the same time. I can picture myself wearing a cape and carrying a wand and looking after Snowy Owls, making sure they’re fed and safe. I admit that my picture is ever so slightly influenced by a Harry Potter book I once read, but never-the-less…

bats

  • Bat keeper – While we’re on the subject of looking after animals, I think I might also like to try my hand at looking after bats. I think they’re very cute and remind me of flying puppies. I’d like to get a whole row of bat boxes in trees in my garden so lots of bats could move in. I do realise it probably wouldn’t be feasible for me to keep owls and bats together – one of the species wouldn’t fare too well.

bee-keeper

  • Bee keeper – I do not think bees are cute or that they look like flying mammals of any kind. I do however like the romantic image of a lady bee keeper kitted out in her bee-keeping suit and mesh pith helmet and collecting her own honey. It’s very Victorian. Except I wouldn’t wear an ankle-length dress.

Pinterest

  • Professional pinner – Admittedly this one is a stretch of even my imagination, but since this list is make believe, let me have my fun. I would like to be paid to sit in the garden, preferably next to a swimming pool, and ‘work’ on Pinterest. I want someone to pay me to look at pretty pictures and organise them onto virtual pin boards.
  • Tree planter – I love trees. They’re beautiful and represent something mystical. And I’ve always loved climbing them. So I bought the most amazing present for my baby: a tree in a bag from http://www.growatree.co.za/! Grow a tree is a starter pack that lets you to grow a tree from a seed in a bag. The idea is to grow a tree from a seed to plant in a community area and to come back 20 years later for a hug and a hello. I’m going to grow a tree in a bag and plant it for Holly’s first birthday in the garden of our new house so Holly and the tree can grow up together!
  • Shoe tester – Some shoes are not suitable to wear on different surfaces. For example, bright red patent leather high heels are very difficult to walk in on cobblestone roads. This I only know from experience. If I had the job of trying out different shoes on different surfaces, I would be able to pass on more of these impressive tips.

If anyone knows of anyone looking to fill such positions, I am NOT interested as I’m very happy in my current job. However, I would like to know if any of these positions actually exist. I’m just asking for friend. Also, we found some real women doing real jobs in the great outdoors: a game ranger, a fauna ecology scientist and a fire ecologist. Read about them in our June issue now.

Great outdoors

Two skinny cappucinos, no sugar please

coffee1

I love coffee. But I really am a coffee snob. I refuse to drink coffee that isn’t amazing. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee (or bad wine, for that matter). So every day I begin with a mug of home-made, freshly percolated coffee that I enjoy in my car on the way to work. But, on most mornings, one cup of coffee just won’t cut it. On those mornings, when an extra fix is required, I’ll stop and buy myself and my colleague (who also starts work at the crack of dawn) a delicious cup of piping hot coffee to help get us going. This, however, is not a story about coffee or the merits of drinking it. It is, in fact, a story about service, or rather customer service and the obsolete processes companies make their employees follow.

On one ‘I-need-two-cups-of-coffee-today’ morning, I stopped at a well-known fast-food chain that happens to make a really good cappuccino (albeit small and not cheap). I ordered my two coffees at the window and, when asked how many sugars I’d like with them I responded, as I always do, ‘No sugar, thank you’. I paid for my cappuccinos and drove through to the next window to collect my order.

brown-cane-fairtrade-sugar-sticks-1000

I watched as the woman made the coffee (read: pressed a button on the machine) then went on to painstakingly select three brown and three white sugar packets from her big cardboard box of supplies, and fold them very neatly and carefully along with two spoons in two serviettes. I did try to save her and her company time and money by telling her that I didn’t need sugar, but she ignored me and continued to fold away. Obviously she has a process she has to follow or the world will explode into a gazillion pieces and, regardless of the peculiarities of the customer (not wanting FREE sugar, for example) she will absolutely NOT deviate from any steps in that process.

And as I drove off with my unwanted, FREE sugar, I thought about another service experience I’d had recently where a process was followed despite it being a waste of (my) time. A friend of ours had a baby shower on Saturday and she’d asked that we purchase a gift for her from a large baby accessory shop where she had a registry. Her invite informed me that I need only quote the reference number at any branch and the items she wanted could be accessed. This made me glad as it meant I didn’t have to drive 30km to buy a gift from the branch she’d registered at in Alberton!

Baby-Shower-Clothesline I left work a few minutes early on my way to a launch and stopped in at the shop. And the fun began. I asked six people (SIX) how I’d go about buying a gift off a baby-shower gift registry before I found a person savvy enough to give up in the face of adversity and direct me to the manager’s office. This run around is obviously a major flaw in the process – I wasn’t asking for something strange, like a pair of teal leg warmers for a cat – this is a service they proudly offer to their customers. Anyway, I eventually found the manager who proceeded to telephone the branch where the gift list was registered and asked them to fax (yes, in 2013 people still use fax machines!) the list through. What I was given (15 minutes later) was a page with items typed on it and black lines drawn through the already purchased items. That was how the gift list was updated. Manually. With a pen and a ruler. This meant that if someone forgot to cross off an item, the list would be rendered null and void. Another process that was followed for the sake of following a process that doesn’t really have a point. I got so frustrated with the useless list that didn’t name products by brand, but rather by barcode, that I ended up buying things I had found to be useful for me.

So it appears that people are being taught to follow processes and procedures, because they offer some level of standardisation and are meant to provide security to the store and to customers. But what they serve to do is waste time and irritate customers when they are pointless and outdated. And they waste money. Imagine how much money could be saved by a multinational organisation if every person who didn’t want sugar with their coffee wasn’t given three sugars to throw away? The mind boggles with the possibilities…

Mamma mia

camel

I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom playing with my 10-month-old precious Holly when I heard myself saying to her, ‘Oof. Oof. Do you want to lick the camel?’ Now this isn’t as strange as it might initially sound. Let me break it down for you into regular English words: Holly’s first word is ‘Oof’. What she’s trying to say is actually, ‘Woof’, because she loves the dogs and thinks it’s just fabulous when they bark. And the camel reference means just that: I have a scarf with camels on it and Holly pulled my scarf off its hook and stuck her tongue out in their direction. I had an out-of-yourself, imagine-you’re-watching-a-movie moment, and I thought, ‘I wonder how many strange things moms find themselves saying and doing evry single day?’. So I thought, for Mother’s Day, and as a tribute to all mothers, I’d compile a list.

toilet paper 2

You’re a mom when:

  • You’ve uttered the words: ‘Don’t eat the toilet paper, my angel.’
  • You’ve gone out with baby food in your hair, on your forehead or down your back and thought, that’s ok.
  • Entertaining a baby or toddler has become the norm while you use the toilet, have a bath or pluck your eyebrows.
  • A little bit of wee on the onesie won’t hurt anybody as long as it’s untucked and not flush against the skin. It’ll dry.
  • Hearing other people’s little ones laughing or playing makes you want to rush home to hug and smooch your own baba.
  • Waking up with tiny feet in your face, hands up your nose and no blanket is a normal morning.
  • Sitting on the kitchen floor to have a conversation while your husband feeds the baby is the done thing.
  • Going to bed at 8pm on a Friday night is awesome!
  • Repeatedly shouting, ‘Ahhhchooo! Ahhhchooo!’ is not a sign of impending craziness but rather an attempt to elicit a laugh.
  • You’ve been humming the theme tune to the smurfs for so long now that all your friends find themselves doing it too.

MomAnd you’re most definitely a mom when you struggle to articulate how you feel about your child, because you’ve never felt that way before, but ‘obsessed’ comes quite close. You’ve also probably said something along the lines of: ‘I love you so much my heart gets physically sore when I look at you.’ I think blogger, Claire Bidwell Smith sums this unique mother-child-mother relationship up perfectly when she says, “I often find myself breathless with the realisation of just how much my mother loved me.”

And there’s a corollary to this madness too. You know you have a mom when you’ve heard the following (and recently, not just when you were little):

  • Pull in your stomach, my girl.
  • Do you want to borrow my hairbrush before we leave?
  • Shoulders back, boobs out.
  • I know you probably know this but you must sterilise the baby’s bottles, hey?
  • I know it’s 27°C outside but I really think you must put a vest on the baby.
  • I’m not sure if I like those shoes you’re wearing.
  • If your Mister is being mean to you, you probably said something to upset him. You mustn’t fight with him, you know – you’re very lucky to have him.

Or when you look at your mom and think about all the little things she’s ever done for you, how she made you better when you were sad, how she stuck up for you when you were in trouble, how she was the most beautiful woman in the world when you were little. How she’s still the most amazing woman in the world now. And how she makes you want to be the very best mom in the world too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommies out there. You’re incredible, amazing people and your children love you more than they can say. Even if we don’t say it often enough, our hearts are popping with our love for you. If you’re looking for some inspiration to buy an amazing gift for your mom have a look at our online shopping guide: http://bit.ly/Z868Ho and if you’re stuck for a way to celebrate Mother’s Day, read our review on Piza e Vino and Africology Spa: http://www.essentials.co.za/index.php?p[IGcms_nodes][IGcms_nodesUID]=634521759ea2465986533be0e31e523a.

rainbow

Shopping savvy

Shopping bag

I love to shop. Well, actually, I detest shopping. What I love is getting stuff. It doesn’t even matter what stuff I get – I just love stuff. I like the gentle rustle of the plastic bag as I lift it carefully from the boot of my car, or the warm comforting crackle of a paper bag as I slide my hand in and feel around for the new and exciting buy inside. I like scarves, colourful pantyhose, pretty coffee mugs, sparkly bracelets, handbags (I’m obsessed with handbags), make-up, beautiful shoes, table runners, toys for my baby… anything. I love getting anything. I just don’t necessarily want to be the one who has to go out and get it for myself. For me, the act of shopping is merely a means to an end. I’m just not that into crowded shops and I certainly will not go to a fist-fighting, hair-pulling, shin-kicking sale in order to buy a pair of panties that are too small for me.

online shoppingSo I’ve found a way to shop where I can get stuff without having to venture into any overcrowded shops: online shopping has become my new favourite sport. I discovered the joys of shopping at my desk towards the end of last year. And I used my newly-discovered favourite past-time as a way to buy Christmas presents. I managed to buy almost all of my baby’s presents online; gifts for my husband and mom; and of course a few sneaky treats for myself!

It got to the point where I felt compelled to buy at least
one thing credit cardevery day – it became an  obsession! But I managed to stop cold turkey after Christmas… only to replace it with REAL LIFE shopping. And I call it ‘real life’ shopping because my online shopping was fuelled by the fact that it wasn’t like it was real shopping where actual money was being spent. I reasoned that if I wasn’t handing over cash (I was using my debit and credit cards) and if I didn’t get anything in return immediately (deliveries take a few days to arrive) then it wasn’t like I was actually spending money. It was more like Pinterest. My Mister, however, disagreed with my reasoning.

shop window

So now I like to go shopping with friends from the office. And we’re our bank accounts’ worst enemies when we’re together! We egg one another on to buy absolutely everything our little hearts desire. A typical conversation around a potential purchase might go like this:

Kirsty: Ooooh! I be needing this dress!

Simone: It’s beautiful – it’s so you. Get it!

Kirsty: Ok.

Not an extensive conversation, I’ll grant you that, and certainly not much persuading is necessary. But we do encourage one another.

And then there’s Taryn:

Taryn: (trying on jacket sourced by fashion editor, Caryn) This is so pretty! Maybe I should buy it.

Simone and Kirsty: It’s soooo you – you look stunning! Buy it!

Taryn: Ok.

Again, not much convincing is required. That’s why we’re one another’s worst enemies here in the office. And this really is the wrong industry to be working in when you have getting stuff as a hobby because we’re constantly being sent samples, emails and items to feature so we can’t get away from them. And it’s so much easier just to buy them than not buy them.

Website1

If you have a little bit of a shopping hobby yourself, then have a look at our website at www.essentials.co.za and click on the Shopping Guide tab. Also have a look at the Fashion & Beauty tab to see what’s new. And finally, in the May issue of Essentials, read page 35 ‘Are you a stealth spender like me?’ and commiserate with someone who knows exactly how you feel.