Sunday 30 September 2012

Pre-FEAT weird dreams

I always have this weird dream thing going on before big events, especially those that I'm planning. I so don't want to forget anything so I've got lists all over the place and the evening runs on a schedule that is circulated to all helpers so everyone knows what is happening. It's important to me that the evening runs just so and to this end I put in a lot of planning time. Sure, odds and ends can go wrong on the night but I do aim to eliminate as many variables as possible.

Last night I had my first weird pre-FEAT dream.

I seem to have come from somewhere straight to FEAT (the reality is that I spend the day at the theatre!) and instead of being in the theatre I'm told that the audience hasn't arrived so we're in a small room (like a classroom) on the 5th floor of a nearby building. I go up and there are the speakers and maybe about 10 other people. The first talk happens and then I look out of the window and I see about 200 people on the pavement, waiting outside the theatre. I look at my watch and it was only 18h58. FEAT should start at 19h00 so things had been off schedule to start early... (I don't do 'off schedule').

So we all move to go downstairs. I seem to remember some kind of frustration at waiting for the elevator so I went down the stairs (took me a while to find them though).

We go into the theatre and the chairs are all plastic and they were not even set out (in reality I select venues for their tiered, comfortable seats - I prefer bolted seats with arm rests). There's litter everywhere (aaarrggghhh) and there's such a mess on stage with old props and pieces of wood and dust... I seem to think that people got to work setting out the chairs and then fortunately I woke up.

What a nightmare for a list-making, event-organising perfectionist!

I'm sure this Thursday will be a lot different ;)

Saturday 29 September 2012

Five sleeps to FEAT

Golly! It's my 4th FEAT event on Thursday night. All the big stuff is done - just a few little things to wrap up by Wednesday afternoon.

Ticket sales have gone well but the event is not yet sold out. Please tell your friends and, if you haven't already, you can still book your tickets. Don't be a lazy butt - FEAT truly is a wonderful evening. Sure, the talks are put online in the weeks and months after the event, but there are other elements on the night that are audience-only treats.

Tickets are only available online - no tickets at the theatre on the night. You can book through EntryTickets.

I do hope to see you there!

Friday 28 September 2012

Trying to make dried fruit thingies at home

About three weeks ago I saw a new dried fruit product from Safari called Fruit Temptations. They're these bite-sized squares without sugary coatings and they looked like just what I've had in mind. So, I bought them. I went for the pineapple one because I'm not crazy about their other option, apricot (never been my favourite fruit). These Fruit Temptations are presented as being high in fibre and naturally low in fat and containing 50% fruit. They're like those fruit dainties but without the sugar inside and on top. I'm always looking out for nice treats for race snacks.

The only thing that puts me off them are the preservatives and other additives - surely it should be possible to make your own at home?

I've got a food dehydrator and I've been planning to try out some fruit dehydrating. I've read about using dehydrators to make dried fruit rolls from fruit puree. I've had my dad's juicer for about a year and occasionally I make my own juice. I then hit on the idea of juicing fruit and using the resulting pulp to dehydrate into bite-sized squares.

Now that summer is on its way there are more fruits around so this week I bought a bunch and this evening I worked up some combinations.

It's a bit of a pain juicing each one separately but it worked out quite nicely and I've got some tasty fruit juice to drink. The strawberry came out pretty tart and is a good demonstration of how much sugar is probably added to that yummy fresh strawberry juice you can buy...

The juice part: strawberry, kiwi (very thick), apple and ginger. The pineapple juice didn't make it this far; it was down the hatch before you could say, "I'm thirsty".
With the juice all out, I was left with pulp.

Back (L-R): mashed banana, pineapple, apple (it discolours immediately)
Front (L-R): ginger (too fibrous, I used a dash of the juice in one mix), kiwi (it's really just the seeds that remain) and strawberry (divine colour!)
Then I made some mixes, like banana and apple and cinnamon; and strawberry and banana; and apple and apple and pineapple and, an inspired combo, pineapple and quinoa (a grain - actually, it's a pseudograin 'cos it is actually a seed - but that's semantics).

I put the mush mixes on the dehydrator trays. The only thing is that the five mesh-like trays (not good for liquids) come with only one plastic thingamajig, which is for liquids, so I improvised. Testing out plastic bag vs baking paper...

Left tray: strawberry and banana; and, I think, pineapple and banana
Middle tray: apple, banana and cinnamon; maybe strawberry and apple and banana; and a blob of just strawberry
Right tray: pineapple and quinoa; and kiwi pulp (aiming for a fruit roll here - I dumped the seeds in as an after thought)
These have been dehydrating for a few hours and I've turned over most of the mixes on the left and middle trays. Sticking is less on the baking paper and the plastic than the special sheet that comes with the dehydrator. They're all drying very well and I'm optimistic that results will be palatable. I've left the timer on for another few hours. It will be fun to check this out in the morning. I really have high hopes for the pineapple-quinoa mix, which could prove to be excellent race food.

Lookin' good! The mixes all taste pretty decent. They're not as sweet as commercial options.
I peeled the kiwi off the plastic base and it came out well - thin, smooth, shiny and quite tart in taste.

The quinoa-pineapple mix is a bit bland but certainly not offensive. I'll have to work on this. I definitely like the strawberry mixes despite strawberries being a fruit that I don't enjoy eating as is (great in smoothies). I'm looking forward to playing with mango concoctions later in summer.

It is also worth testing puree vs juice-free pulp.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

They're growing! Day 11 since planting

The seeds I planted 11 days ago are germinating! I got back this morning from an excellent weekend in Haenertsburg for the SA Orienteering Champs, which my club was organising. I had an excellent planning and organising team with Garry, Stijn and Brian and the three days of orienteering went fabulously smoothly.

I'll aim to write tomorrow to tell you about a 9-year old girl who nearly ran me off my feet... and the wonderful pleasure of shadowing young 'uns - my first time and definitely not my last.

I've got a bunch of itchy tick bites from the weekend - from marching through the forests putting out dozens of controls. I heard that Nic got a dash of tick-bite fever after making the maps. Well, with an incubation period of 5 to 7 days it would be really bad timing if it zaps me next week, which is FEAT week - in 9 sleeps and counting. Considering I've been bitten plenty by these little guys over the past decade - most notably in Northern KZN - I'm really hoping that I'm past getting it.

On greener topics... This afternoon was 11 days since planting and the two sunflower varieties are definitely the early risers with almost all of the seeds planted looking like they're coming up. I also spotted the tiny green leaves from a butter lettuce and a spinach plant.

In my planting tray the seeds are doing pretty well too. The tray is two days behind yet I can see the sunflower seedlings starting to poke through. The big treat with this whole adventure is the pleasure in checking every day to see which of the seeds planted are coming to the party.

Friday 14 September 2012

Veggie fun

I've been wanting a veggie garden for ages. I don't have much experience with growing veggies but I do enjoy the satisfaction when I have grown stuff - flowers and herbs mainly.

I've been collecting seeds for things like green leafy veg (lettuces, swiss chard) and cherry tomatoes for many months. When I walk past the gardening section at my local hadware store I take a peek to see what is there. As a result I've got quite a few varieties now, including some flowers for companion planting.

In our complex there's a piece of ground at the far end, under powerlines. It isn't used for anything so we've created a bed (thanks to Libia, the complex's gardener). This afternoon I finally got around to putting in my seeds - bring Spring 'n all.

I've been very taken with the idea of seed strips/tape. It makes sense to protect your little seeds in their germination days. How many times have you scattered a packet of seeds only to get three seedlings comes up? Indeed, the seeds get munched by insects and birds and if they're not covered properly they can blow away... so many dangers lurking out there for a teeny-tiny tasty seed.

A while back I made some seed tape for my green-fingered friend. Now, months later, I've finally gotten around to doing the same for myself. Inside each 'envelope' is one seed and a little compost. It is sealed with a flour-water glue. The paper I used is similar to that old style jotter paper; I couldn't find exactly what I wanted.

My veggie garden needed a plan - yes, I couldn't possibly have conceived this without a map. It was totally unscientifically compiled but based more on having an aesthetic appearance (I couldn't resist making it symmetrical) as there are many leafy plants that will have leaves of different shades. I've added a few fun plants like catnip - for my cat and the neighbourhood cats - as well as pretty flowers like marigolds, a dwarf sunflower, a multi-petaled sunflower, blue cornflowers and another sunny-type flower. The circle sizes are based on the planting spacing recommended on the seed packets.

1.4m x 5.5m
It took me far quicker than I expected to mark the planting position of the main veggies - spinach, the two cherry tomato varieties and three types of lettuce - and it was even quicker to get the seeds in. Good thing too as rain was threatening.

Quick photo from my mobile. The colours of the ice-cream sticks don't mean anything - they're just there to mark the planting locations. Note the strips in front of the sticks.
Tomorrow I'm going to build teepees for my cherry tomatoes, in anticipation of big, strong, fruitful plants.

This is a different kind of adventure for me and I'm going to be keeping an eagle-eye on the bed, waiting for little seedlines to emerge in seven to 14 days. It will be interesting to see whether all of my seeds germinate (in theory, they should) and I aim to learn more about growing veggies - like about the space that the full-grown plants take up and yield.

UPDATE: Wooohooo! HUGE storm on Saturday night - tons of hail. Gonna check out my veg garden shortly to see how it fared.

My friend with the green fingers planted the seeds strips that I made for her some months ago. She has only got two plants growing from the five seed strips she planted... Mmm... That's got me worried. If some of my seeds don't grow it will mess up my pattern. So, I've just created myself a nursery. I can replenish the veg garden with viable seedlings, should it be neccesary. I'm hoping too to get an idea of what percentage of seeds to germinate. I'd like to hope that it will be between 90-100%. We'll see in two weeks!

Of course I have a written plan for what is where; for when the seed-strip paper disintegrates. Hahahaha

Monday 10 September 2012

O scouting, tagging and planning

There were two parts to my trip to Limpopo Province this past weekend.

One was to visit a school outside of Polokwane that we've been in contact with around orienteering. I'm busy doing an article for the orienteering website so there will be more on this in that post. The welcome we received from this small school really was overwhelming and left there feeling very warm. Mary invited us back to her home after the reception at the school and there we were treated to an unexpected meal, which Mary, Ephraim and Mary's son whipped up. Talk about royal treatment! Yes, very, very warm indeed.

Mary (an amazing teacher), Garry, Ephraim (our star mapper and award recipient), Jill (keen on orienteering) and me.
The next part was our weekend spent in the Haenertsberg area to scout for an tag control locations for SA Orienteering Champs, which happens in two weeks. Garry and I were met by Brian and Stijn. We spent the whole of Sat and half of Sunday in the forests of the area. Beautiful.

A highlight for me was a patch of indigenous forest that we went through - incredibly beautiful.

Brian grew up in this area and his folks live in Haenertsberg. How is this... Brian's mom went to school with my mom in Zimbabwe! They're the same age and year and were on the swimming and netball team together. Brian's mom also remembers my dad, who she met through her older brother. And I've know Brian for about 10 years - the connection was made when I met Brian's mom on Friday night. She recognised my surname but it was only the next night when we were chatting over dinner that we made the connection with my mom. Isn't this incredible!

Me, Garry, Stijn and Brian. 
Brian, Stijn, me and Garry


In fabulous forest
Left or right?

The Efficient Racer - Go Multi Magazine

The new Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Go Multi magazine is out. In it is my most recent article - "The Efficient Racer". Yay!

Blankie - DONE!

Geezzz... this turned into a bit of a mission. I thought it would be 'fun' to make a blanket with four different sized squares, three different patterns in the squares (normal granny square and two different squares with round middles) and five colours. Let's just say that I won't be doing this again. Single-coloured squares ONLY from now on!

I started this project in December - probably between xmas and New Year. I worked on it for about two months most nights and then about two months ago I picked it up again, determined to finish this project. Arrggghhhh... so many ends to sew in with each square - two ends for every colour change... and I changed colours every row. Doing the border only took three nights and it went quickly. As an idea, for every two of the squares with the circular centre... you're looking at an hour in time. Amazing to consider this if you look at the blanket not in the number of squares but in the number of hours. It is incredible how many late-night hours can be stolen while watching telly or listening to audio books over many months.

I finished this blankie last Thursday night, before heading to Haenertsberg for the weekend to scout for orienteering control locations for SA O Champs, which is coming up in two weeks. I couldn't stand to think of my blankie waiting with only a little bit left for the whole weekend!

Yes, I do have a new project selected (and started - last night). My friend Kyle gave me a whole packet of yarn from his mom. It's grey so I bought an apple green yarn and a sky blue yarn and will turn this into quick and easy ripple blankets for the home where my cousin volunteers.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Forests, running, orienteering, planning

I'm off tomorrow morning and heading North (and then East) for the Haenertsberg area. My club, Adventure Racing Club, is planning SA Orienteering Champs, which happens in two weeks (22-24 September).

This weekend I'll be playing with Garry, Stijn and Brian as we work through the mapped areas - brand new maps (we're hoping to see them for the first time tonight!) - checking suitable control locations.

I'm planning the Long Course. This is my first time planning courses for O events; and SA Champs at that! I chose to plan Long because it is my favourite of all courses to run. I'm hoping to plan a fabulous course that I'd enjoy. I am hoping to run it during SA Champs, but it will obviously be non-competitive as I'll know where all of the controls are located! But I won't get to do the course until Champs as the control locations will only be finalised next week, on computer and from home.

Summer rains hit Jo'burg yesterday and today. As rain comes up from the escarpment I may be presented with the opportunity to wear my waterproof gear. I am hoping not!

Sunday 2 September 2012

Orienteering on a 30-year old map

Today was Rand Orienteering Club's (ROC) 30th birthday event. On every birthday milestone (10, 20, 25 and now 30 years) they hold an event on the original map (and courses) that their first event was run on at Delta Park in Jo'burg. This hand-drawn, five-colour map was drawn in August 1982 and, surprisingly, much of the area has not changed. This was my first time on this old map.

There were three courses (in 1982 and today) - short, middle and long. I did the long 8km course (logged 8.4km in total) and thoroughly enjoyed meandering through the park and checking out the fence, vegetation and other changes. Having orienteered on the new maps - most current was redrawn last year (or was it earlier this year?) by Jeremy - makes it even more fun to be using the old map, especially as I'm generally familiar with the layout of the park. Where the feature on which the control was initially hung has changed, the control is placed as close as possible to the site.

What was also fun about today was that we paid the original 1982 entry fee of R1.50 for adults (80 cents for under 18s), we used punches instead of the electronic timing system and we drew the control locations on to our maps from a master map. When I started orienteering...umm... 13 years ago the events used punches and mostly courses were from master maps too.

Too much time to kill in the start box... The dude hiding his face is Peter Hemer (no-one is safe!) and to the right is Glen Comins, who was our start official. Photo by Eugene Botha (swiped from his FB).
I had a really pleasant run in perfect running conditions - warm in the sun but with a cheeky nip in the air. As it turns out, I won the ladies on the long course. That said, I think there were only another two women on the course... I was 9th overall. There was a runner one-minute ahead of me... When I got to the half-way point to drawn in the second part of the course there were no pens and had to run to get some. That was the one minute for sure! *grin*

Delta is great for running a super down gradient - not too steep - and running across (flat). But what goes down certainly goes up and on the long course we had three long uphill slogs. I mixed in a little walking and a little running... huff-puff!

I ran with a tracker and so I've popped my track on to Quickroute (open source O software) and you can see where I stopped to punch or was walking from the colour of the track. Green is running, yellow is slower, orange and red are slower still. You can see my run-walk clearly on the uphill from 7 to 8 and again from 15 to 16. My lazy ass is so totally busted!

Errors - not much today.

At #6 I went straight for the control and as I was about to punch I noticed that the number on the flag was different to the control number I was looking for (78 vs 65). I really didn't think that I was wrong but thought that maybe I'd misjudged. I could see the double-pylon feature, the bridge across the river... had to be right. I went back to the flag. The fence here has changed and is now in line with the feature. Turns out that there was a number written on the flag (65), which was away from me, and a number stapled on the flag (78) from another event, which was clearly visible and facing me on approach. The control tag had a #6 on it, which I hadn't read on first approach. So, I was right. I turned the flag to show the #65 to the next runner so they wouldn't make the same error.

I was a bit slow going into #11. You can see so on my track, which is red/pink. That pale yellow is marshy higher-than-head-high reeds. It would have been better to run higher, towards the dam wall (past the reeds) and then downstream to the canal thing. I went through more marsh, but minus the reeds, on the way out but it was definitely a more favourable route to 12 than going back the way I'd come.

It was such a lovely event today and afterwards we got ROC 30th birthday cupcakes. Really sweet.

ROC was my first orienteering club, before AR Club got up and running.

ROC - hip-hip-hooray and three cheers to 30 more years ;)