How to Mess Less when Drilling Holes

Over the last couple of years I’ve put up a lot – seriously a lot – of shelving around and about our house. Of course, every shelf requires a multitude of holes to be drilled through the plaster and into the concrete/brick walls, which translates into a lot of fun time spent with my old, inherited Black and Decker electric drill.

Now I’ve come across this tip numerous times in the past, but the point is that it does actually work and thus is always worth mentioning again: How to you create less mess when drilling?

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Well, one of the simplest ways to mess less when drilling a hole is to simply grab a plastic shopping bag and some masking tape and then stick one end of the open bag directly under the spot where you are about to drill.

As simple as that.

The bag acts as  a dust catcher which in turn means more time putting up shelves and less time becoming acquainted with your vacuum cleaner.

(Unless of course you don’t really like putting up shelving and would rather spend some more time with your vacuum cleaner in the first place. I’m not going to judge if that is the case, promise.)

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Anyway, if you want to see how this DIY tip delivered in a funnier, more animated way, check out the always amusing Suzelle DIY and her video demonstration that came out last year:

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Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm (2015-01-17)

The Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm is a CITES registered breeder and tanner of the African Nile crocodile, a crocodile that is a resident reptile in many of South Africa’s game reserves but which no longer roams free in the country – meaning that this is a great spot to see them in real life if you haven’t done so before!

In addition to its primary crocodile farming activities, Le Bonheur (which means “happiness”) also just happens to be a beautiful estate in Simondium, offers catch-and-release fishing, has wedding and conference facilities, and also caters as a children’s party venue.

Oh, and it is one of the few places in Cape Town that you can of course get a delicious crocodile pie.


Always on the lookout for things to go see with the girls, Chantelle and I decided to head out towards Simondium/Paarl one recent gorgeous Saturday afternoon after hearing about this Le Bonheur crocodile farm. It’s a great drive out there if you’re coming from our Gordon’s Bay side of the world, though the last stretch to actually reach the estate itself is a quite a bit of a bumpy gravel experience!

The Le Bonheur setup is such that you can spend the day at the estate without ever visiting the crocodile dams (which is a paid for experience), though if you haven’t yet seen the crocodiles before then of course this would be a rather silly thing to do.


The crocodile ‘tour’ happens every 45 minutes throughout the day, and after paying your money, things are kicked off with a short introductory information session before everyone heads out to the walled crocodile pens.

There you’ll have a bit of an interactive session with some baby crocodiles (we handled six month old crocs, and I have to say, it’s certainly the first time I’ve ever held a crocodile!), before being set free to stroll along the walkway that stretches between the various dams, all containing a multitude of different aged crocodiles.

(Though you won’t find anything much older than three years in there – that’s pretty much the best age for harvesting the leather off the crocodile in terms of it still being relatively easy to do. Anything older and it becomes a major mission because of the thickness of the hide!)


Because this is a working farm, there are a lot of crocodile leather items on display and for sale – but be warned though – a full crocodile hide will set you back R20,000! (After all, this is a luxury leather in great demand over in Italy and some other parts of Europe.)

The crocodile pens aren’t particular large and you’ll breeze through it pretty quickly, but again, if you haven’t seen crocodiles in real life before then this is certainly a good way to go about it.

Needless to say, apart from the nosebleed that kind of spoiled this part of the outing somewhat, Jess did enjoy seeing all these beasts up fairly close – though not enough that she’d actually touch one of course! :)

Outside of the crocodile pens is then the estate itself, and it has a cozy dining area with a kitchen that serves all manner of foods – though if you are first timers like we were then the crocodile pie is definitely recommended.

Chantelle turned out to be not so much of a fan of the crocodile meat, but I have to say that I did actually enjoy it. Very much like chicken in terms of texture and taste, but with a definite, strong venison flavour teasing your palate throughout.


On the bottom level, next to the fishing dam, is a kids’ play area, plus a few scattered eating/picnic spots under the abundant trees, all of which opens up to a lovely grass bank which is perfect to laze about on whilst you watch the eager beavers hire some rods and attempt to catch some fish.

A really relaxing and beautiful venue then in other words.


Jess, Emily, Chantelle and I had a thoroughly marvelous day at Le Bonheur in the end, and if you haven’t been there before then it is definitely worth the recommend – again, especially if you haven’t seen crocodiles in real life before!

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Wall Mounting My Flatscreen TV

So as I mentioned previously, one of the recent purchases I made from Tafelberg was a nice, compact work desk for me to place in the braai room so that I feel like I’m in an actual work area instead of just sitting by the dining room table as what I was previously doing.


For a long time now I’ve been using my 40″ Telefunken LCD flatscreen television as my second monitor, and given the now reduced work space area, I’d finally have to take the plunge and wall mount the thing – a terrifying prospect if you’ve never before entrusted your TV to the wall I tell you!

Anyway, because I needed a simple, flat profile wall mount without any fancy tilt bells and whistles, I opted for the Ellies’ “large flat screen wall mount“, made of powder coated mild steel, which allows for flexible off-center wall mounting, and which retails for just under R500 at Tafelberg.

The unit essentially consists of a flat rectangular metal plate/bracket which you firmly attach to the wall, two metal arms which then screw to the television (most televisions and brackets all conform to the VESA mount point standards) – all of which then “hangs” on the wall fastened plate. The final part of the package is a slim, lengthy plate that slides in behind the mount once everything is up, allowing you to padlock the television in place as a bit of a security feature.


Helpfully, the box contains a huge selection of nuts, bolts, washers and screws, so you shouldn’t have to go out and buy any fasteners for this project. You do however require a 10 mm concrete drill bit to drill the holes for the wall plugs – luckily I already had one (unused) in my toolbox. (It’s not often I drill such big holes. Scratch that, I’ve never needed to drill such big holes before!)

The spot where I wanted to hang the television unfortunately features the main power box into the house (because the braai room is technically my converted garage), meaning that I first needed to pop the lid and make sure no power cables are exiting the box at the top – in my case they weren’t, meaning there was a pretty good chance that I good drill with impunity, i.e. no risk of hitting anything in other words.

Another plus for me was that I was mounting on a solid wall, meaning that I didn’t need to go to the trouble of hunting for studs against which to mount.

One thing I discovered while sinking all six bolt holes was that my house is built with so called air bricks – because every time my drill bit hit a certain depth, there was a sickening thud as the drill smashed into the wall thanks to a sudden lack of material to drill through!

Luckily for me though, with the added depth of the plaster, the holes were still deep enough to safely bolt into, and with the help of my useful ratchet tool, I soon had the back plate securely fastened to the wall with six big bolts.

Then for the terrifying part. With the two arms successfully attached to the mount points on the television, I hoisted up the television by myself (not recommended – it’s best if you are two people to be honest) and hung it.

I held my breath, said a little prayer and stepped back – with the television happily still hanging exactly where I left it!


A few photos later, I slid the little lock plate in, breathed a sigh of relief, and went to bed – particularly pleased to wake up the next morning and not find shattered glass, plastic and concrete dust all over the floor! :)

The end result? Perfection.


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Tafelberg and the Defy Oven Returned!

Back in May 2013 I proudly shouted about our brand new, R8,000 Defy 831 Multi-function Thermofan oven that I had bought from Tafelberg for Chantelle’s baking business. We were very excited about the new baking capacity, but sadly that excited feeling soon turned into frustration.

In little more than a year, the oven broke down four times, meaning four times Chantelle was let down and had to make a baking plan, and four times Defy needed to send out a technician to exact a repair.

Needless to say, Chantelle was less than impressed, and so like a pitbull bereft of its bone, she contacted both Defy and Tafelberg, complained and complained, and eventually got both Defy and Tafelberg to agree to give us our money back in the form of store credit – because there was no way in hell Chantelle wanted another one of these damn Defy ovens!

Although all of this drama unfolded in the third quarter of last year already, Chantelle and I kind of dragged our feet in going out and spending the R8,000, and in fact, it was only after a couple of phone calls from Tafelberg (following up on our credit note) that we did actually go.

Now given the fact that we had in the meantime taken possession of Cheryl Montgomery’s old oven after they renovated their kitchen (our Defy had long since been picked up by Tafelberg), we needed to blow the money on things that technically we didn’t need but would probably be nice to have – in other words, it was like going shopping when you’re not actually the one picking up the bill! :)

First on our shopping list was a new vacuum cleaner to finally replace our broken, second hand machine that has long served us up to now, and in the end we found a pretty awesome 2100w  Electrolux vacuum cleaner that we both kind of liked.

So into the shopping cart it went:


Next up we spotted a beautiful white wooden shelving unit that would be perfect for Jessica’s room for all the toys. Expensive in my opinion, but the perfect man for the job, so onto the checkout list it went!


(It was awesome to see how excited Jessica was when it finally arrived just by the way. She was shrieking in delight and best friend Cara and her pretty much immediately sprang to the task of ecstatically relocating all of her toys into it!)

In addition to the shelving unit, Chantelle and I also spotted a gorgeous wooden, slatted outdoor table, one that has a clever folding out mechanism that essentially allows you to extend the table lengthwise if you have more guests or need more table space than usual.

Although we’ll have to get the chairs (R715 each) paycheck by paycheck, we both quickly agreed that the table was a must buy:


(Sorry, that’s a terrible photo of it. I haven’t removed the wrapping off of it yet because I’m still to cut the ankle high grass where it is intended to stand! Oops.)

Finally, fitting perfectly within our R8,000 spending limit (with a little jiggling from the super helpful Tafelberg saleslady), I picked up some items for my office corner in the braai room – a perfectly sized, proper desk for me to work from (finally, no more dining room table for me!), and an Ellies slim profile television wall mount to allow me to shift my 40″ Telefunken LCD television off from my current work space (because well, my new desk can’t exactly accommodate it – but that was the plan from the beginning anyway).


So a very, very successful Tafelberg shop then I have to say. Yes, it hurt to just spend R8,000 for the sake of spending, but heck, it was kind of fun to shop with such a degree of abandon for a change! :)

P.S. It took a couple of days for delivery from Tafelberg, meaning that while my current office space stood decommissioned (I’m good at jumping the gun like that), I was forced to take my laptop and work off of our kitchen counter – not the perfect scenario, but beer did make it a bit better. Not that I had to stare at the dirty dishes for the whole of that period mind you – a lunch time meeting with Distell at the gorgeous Asara Wine Estate did give me an afternoon vista that looked like this:


It’s a hard life, I know! ;)

Sleeping on Plastic Crates (or rather, a New Bed from Bed City)

Way back in June 2010 Chantelle and I was forced to buy a new bed. Given our weight we wanted something good, no not good, great, and as such we shopped around and eventually ended up buying a fantastic Dynamic Bedding produced queen sized bed from Bed City for R,8500 – a lot of money, but not so bad when you consider that we didn’t yet have children or for that matter our own house!

Anyway, fast forward four years and a couple of months (November last year to be exact), and the bed started to sag. It’s a foam mattress, not a spring one, so there shouldn’t be any problem there, and seeing as we were still within the warranty period, we approached Bed City who in turn sent someone out to look – who then promptly exclaimed that it was unusual, but it would seem that the wood of the base had sagged. So nothing broken then, but definitely a bed that needed to be replaced.

So at no cost to us, the order for a replacement was placed, and before long, we had a Bed City bed installer drive up in their little truck, mattress securely held in the back.

But wait a minute, where was the base?

Well much to my amazement, the wooden bases have now been completely done away with in favour of a new moulded plastic solution, which basically consists of a whole lot of bits that snap together and then get fastened together with screws – the end result looking a lot like a giant milk crate!

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However, the new plastic bases allows for more feet points, meaning that pressure is distributed much more evenly, meaning that in theory the bed should never sag – so pretty much the perfect solution then.

Needless to say, Chantelle and I were not convinced that this flimsy looking plastic contraption could hold the two of us, but with the mattress on top, and the decorative base sheet fitted, I have to say, you can’t even feel the difference – and pleasingly enough, neither Chantelle nor I have woken up off the floor, surrounded by exploded shards of plastic just yet.

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Finally, one nice new bonus is that the new base is a lot higher than the old one, so getting up in the morning is just a matter of swinging your legs over the side and voilà – you’re standing!

So yeah, sleeping on milk crates – who would have thought it? :)

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The Carpenter and Lötter Family Shoot (2014-06-29)

In the middle of last year, my sister Claire went ahead and organised a professional photo shoot for the family. She hired her professional photographer friend Matt McLagan to handle the photography end and together they decided to make use of Claire and Riley’s gorgeous, award-winning garden at the back of their Constantia home.


The brief for the shoot was for blue to be the primary colour of everyone’s outfits, and come the Sunday morning, Chantelle, Jess, Emily and I found ourselves up bright and early, and slightly lost in the Southern Suburbs, trying to locate Claire’s house. (There is this one turn which both Chantelle and I are forever missing!)

Not that being strictly on time mattered that much in the end though, as Matt ended up being held up for a fair bit on his end before making it through to Claire’s place, giving the family plenty of time to play catch up with one another. In total we were a nice sized group. Claire, Riley, little Devon and baby Grayson, Riley’s mom Colleen, Kirsty and Mike, Mom and Dad, Ryan, and of course Chantelle, Emily, Jessica and myself!


The weather played along beautifully, and Matt captured seriously fantastic photos of everyone – some of which I’ve put up in the gallery below. It was loads of fun for everyone (furniture shifting and all), and the morning was ended off with a delicious selection of snacks that Claire had thrown together.

So, what do you think of Matt’s work?

It’s worth mentioning that Jess was totally enthralled by Matt’s setup – and pretty soon he had her pressing the button to take photos, much to her absolute delight! :)


So thanks for organising this Claire – it was definitely worth the effort! :)

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Things to See in China: Guan Yu of Yuncheng Giant Statue

In 2010 work was finally completed on the gigantic statue of the legendary general of the Three Kingdoms period,  Guan Yu – often reverently called Guan Gong (Lord Guan) and Guan Di (Emperor Guan). The colossal statue is situated in the general’s hometown of Chang Ping village near Yuncheng city, part of the Shanxi province, People’s Republic of China.

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The statue was made with more than 500 tonnes of copper and 2,000 tonnes of steel. It is 61 meters tall, to mark Guan’s 61-year life. (Also, the foundation of the statue is 19 meters high, reflecting the fact that Guan spent 19 years in Yuncheng.)

Guan Yu (died 220) was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han – founded by Liu Bei – in the Three Kingdoms period.

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As one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia, Guan’s true life stories have largely given way to fictionalised ones, most of which are found in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms or passed down the generations, in which his deeds and moral qualities have been lionised. Guan is respected as an epitome of loyalty and righteousness.

Guan Yu was deified as early as the Sui dynasty and is still worshipped by many Chinese people today, especially in southern China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among many overseas Chinese communities. He is a figure in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to Guan are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants.

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Oh, and apparently he is even responsible for the Guan Dao weapon.

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Theatre on the Bay: Wild (with Robert Fridjhon)

I’m kind of looking forward to this evening to be honest. Following our recent trip to the always fantastic Theatre on the Bay to catch Alan Committie in his latest hysterical one-man show, Chantelle and I made a conscious decision to make a go at rekindling our “going out and seeing something” spirit which we seem to have kind of lost after having the kids – kicking things off with a trip straight back to Camps Bay tonight, back to our favourite little theatre on the bay! :)

Robert Fridjohn. Wild.

The newly opened show that we’re off to see is called Wild, written by and starring Robert Fridjhon, and directed by Alan Committie. From their own blurb:

“If ever you miss a dinner date with your girlfriend, common sense tells you that you’d better have a good excuse. Which I did … on both counts. And my excuse was outstanding. I was attacked … by a lion … at an office party … in a strip club … in Jo’burg. Well … ok … let me go back to the beginning.”

Multi-award-winning ROBERT FRIDJHON presents a new one-man comedy after a long sabbatical in theatre working with herds of actors. Bitingly humorous, often dark and touching, WILD is a fantastical account of one man’s accidental journey into the otherworldly realm of the animal kingdom where he meets a stray kitten, a herd of wildebeest and a lioness called Eleanor. Through them he discovers that the earth’s creatures know a lot more about him than he ever did.

WILD is based on Robert’s experiences in wildlife during which he was bitten, kicked and scratched (mostly by people), and then educated by lions.

I have seen Robert in one or two theatre pieces before (I particularly enjoyed Boeing! Boeing! from start to finish), and of course I did spot him on the rather admittedly awful Safe as Hausers sitcom that ran on SABC3 a little while back – but I can’t say I’ve ever seen him on his own, let alone him doing straight comedy.

So yeah, this should be fun(ny).

Oh, and as an added incentive to go and catch this while it is still on – Robert is donating 10% of his WILD earnings to the Drakenstein Lion Sanctuary (which we recently visited!).

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Things to See in Russia: The Motherland Calls Giant Statue

The Motherland Calls, or The Mamayev Monument, is a statue in Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, Russia, commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad. It was designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich and structural engineer Nikolai Nikitin, and declared the largest statue in the world in 1967.

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Compared with the later higher statues, The Motherland Calls is significantly more complex from an engineering point of view, due to its characteristic posture with a sword raised high in the right hand and the left hand extended in a calling gesture. The technology behind the statue is based on a combination of pre-stressed concrete (7,900 tonnes) with wire ropes structure, a solution which can be found also in another work of Nikitin’s, the super-tall Ostankino Tower in Moscow.

It is the tallest statue of a woman in the world.

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When the memorial was dedicated in 1967 it was the tallest sculpture in the world, measuring 87 metres from the tip of its sword to the top of the plinth. The figure itself measures 52 metres, and the sword 33 metres.

Two hundred steps, symbolizing the 200 days of the Battle of Stalingrad, led from the bottom of the hill to the monument. The statue appears on both the current flag and coat of arms of Volgograd Oblast.

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