Novice Blogging - Note #14 (Disclosure Policy)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
One of the first pages that I've added onto my blog when I first started out was a disclosure policy. And I must admit that you can never be too careful about this.

Being a “published” blogger (posted by me and published by me, lol, but of course, powered by Blogger), your disclosure policy must be clear as to what sort of considerations you accept in exchange for advertisements on your site and product reviews. Remember that if you get some sort of compensation to write a product review, it could taint the readers as to your motives and the opinions that you present on the product.

I got a standard disclosure policy from a website called There is a lot of information on this website with regards disclosure policies and their importance, especially to bloggers and advertisers.

If you haven’t got a disclosure policy on your blogsite yet, go read up and seriously consider getting one. One just never knows.

VTT Postcard - For Anything Else, There's Visa

Monday, December 27, 2010
Another week of absence, another pre-post.

If you are taking a trip to Europe in the near future, you might wanna know what happens with visa applications and such.

It was kinda nerve-wrecking to apply for the visas for my trip. Always thought that something would happen and I would not get the visas I required. I had to apply for 2 visas, namely the UK (to let me into the UK) and the Schengen visa (to let me into all the other European countries).

For the UK visa, I had to set up an appointment online via their website. It was quick and easy. Payment can also be done online. The visa fee for a 6-month visa was GBP70. However, there was a lot of information that they required to accompany the application. I had to bring all the documents to the Johannesburg application centre (@Sandton City) and submit it in with my application. I was given a tracking number so that I could track the status online. It took them 2 weeks to issue me with the visa. I went back to the application centre to collect.

For the Schengen visa, it was slightly tricky. I had to determine where I was going to stay the longest and apply to that country’s consulate/embassy for the visa. In this case, I was staying in Italy the longest and so I submitted my application to the Italian Consulate in Johannesburg (@Houghton). The appointment for the visa was also done online except the payment could only be done at the consulate itself. The visa fee that was charged was roughly EUR52. I also had to bring in a lot of supporting documentation which they took in with my application. I was given a date to come back to collect my visa, which was roughly just over 2 weeks.

My applications were both done about 2 months apart. My trip was in December and I applied for the UK visa in August and the Schengen visa in October (you could only apply for this visa 6 weeks before your trip).

For interest's sake, my UK visa was valid for multiple entries for 6 months from date of issue. The Schengen visa was valid for multiple entries for 25 days from my date of expected departure.Important documents to take with to the embassy/consulate/application centre are:

Passport (most important)
Letter of employment
Insurance policy for trip
Hotel bookings/confirmation

There are obviously other documents the issuing authorities may require and so must be provided. For more information:

Visit the British Visa Application Website for Africa for more
Visit the Italian Consulate for Johannesburg for more

On Christmas Day....

Saturday, December 25, 2010
For all our readers and followers:

My Christmas Present - Surprise Or Not?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Recently I've been hinting (quite excessively) that I wanted a certain Christmas CD as a Christmas present from hubby. Hubby vows that he will buy the CD and give it to me during the holidays. However, I pointed out that as it is a Christmas CD, I would like to get it beforehand so that I could enjoy it. Who wants to be playing Christmas songs in January anyway?

So we made a date to go out and buy this CD. But somehow or other, it just never happened. I started feeling frustrated. I decided that I would have to leave buying the CD up to him. I have already told him what I wanted, it would be kinda weird if I still have to keep reminding (= nagging) him to buy it for me.

The next day after our second attempt to "buy" the CD never materialised, hubby came home with some unusual groceries from the store. Part of the groceries was a weekly magazine that I always read. The magazine was enclosed in a plastic envelope as he gave it to me. I actually thought that the magazine appeared bulky to start with. Imagine my surprise, when I opened the magazine, the CD was inside!

I was definitely impressed! He bought the CD without my help...and nagging, lol. There is yet light inside the tunnel.

In a way, it was a surprise and not a surprise at the same time. How do you react to that? :-)

VTT Postcard - Background

Monday, December 20, 2010
Location: Somewhere in the Winter Wonderland

I am pre-posting this post as while you read this, I am probably already somewhere in Europe. This is just to tide you over until I get back from vacation.

So why “Vanilla Twilight” you may ask? The name actually comes from an Owl City song by the same name. There was a line where it goes “I’d send a postcard to you dear ‘cause I’d wish you were here”.

While driving to work one morning, I heard this song and somehow that one line struck a chord inside me. And after that, it just became my theme song for my planned trip. (Haha! I even have my own theme song; I just need my own reality TV show like Amazing Race now. 8 countries, 12 days, 1 tourist, etc. etc.)

Anyway, each time that I wanted to think of a happy thought, I’d play this song and it would take me to a place where I think I would be in the tour. It’s kinda weird. I don’t even know what I’m gonna see when I get there. Too excited for my own good, I think, lol.

And so the plan was hatched. This blog will be my postcard. And I’m sharing it with all of you because I wish you were here!

Novice Blogging - Note #13 (Watermarking)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Okay, so I haven’t quite perfected this yet but I have been doing this since the start of this blog....well, almost since. Give or take about 10 first photos that went up on this site did not have any watermarks on them.

Whenever I use personal photos for my blog, I stake my claim on them. Here come the watermarks. Watermarks are slightly faded letters on photos that usually state their origination. On most cases, I’ve found that bloggers just either watermark in their website’s name or address onto the photos. This is a good way to actually promote your blog website and such.

Not any different, most of my personal photos contain my website’s details. It is a bit of a mouthful but I usually put them around the edges.

On the internet, you can try Free Watermark Tool. You just upload the photo and select the transparency and the font of your watermark. Type in the words you want on the photo and the watermarks are then stamped on the photo. You get a code for the watermarked photo and you can use this then.

I have mostly preferred to use good ol’ Paint, which comes with Windows. After editing the photos (cropping and resizing, you name it), I quickly pop the photo on Paint, and do my thing. Of course then, my watermarks are not as faded as most. Actually, I tend to use bright colours. But it works for me for now so it’s fine.

Ahoy There! Part Two....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Following the review on the pantomime production, Robinson Crusoe and the Carribean Pirates, I would just like to share what happened at the aftershow party. As if. I am starting to sound like a celebrity, aftershow party indeed.

Anyway, there was an aftershow do. Some of the main characters of the production visited our company’s conference room and enjoyed a few minutes of picture-taking and autographing with us. Well, actually, it was more like a frenzy of young adoring fans clamoring for attention (me included).

I was especially looking forward to meeting and taking my picture with Kim Engelbrecht as I had seen her when she was still part of the Isidingo cast. Isidingo is a daily South African soap opera. I dragged my youngest with, while my eldest tagged along (secretly she wanted to be in the picture with me and Kim, lol!)

Next up was Carlo McFarlane of Backstage fame. Backstage is also a South African soapie and I used to follow it before when Carlo was still part of the lineup. I got to chat to him and told him this little information. He was very friendly. My eldest was so chuffed when she got to shake his hand! (The beauty beside him is SA lovely Tanya van Graan, his love interest in the show)

And lastly, who can forget Marc Lottering? A long line of wait and when we got our chance, it was definitely a bring-it-on moment.

Hubby was not as starstruck as us so he stayed in the background and just took all the photos. Following the family like a paparazzi.

Eldest mentions now that I was actually the only adult in the room that wanted my pictures taken with the stars. It’s true though. And who wouldn’t? I am not shy to admit; I was in my “crazed fan” zone and got a little carried away. Well, I can’t lie about it now when the pictures let it all hang. It was a definite fan day.

VTT Postcard - Preparations

Monday, December 13, 2010
Location: Still in Johannesburg, South Africa packing like a mad woman

My last post about my trip before I actually take it.

Today, I talk about preparations, specifically what I’ve packed for the trip. I must say that I started planning what to pack 2 seasons ago. Winter in South Africa ended around August and so I had to go through all the winter sales at the end of season to pick up some bargains. Not that I bought a lot. I was kinda lazy and missed the sales anyway.

Only time(and a later post on this blog) will tell but I hope what I’ve packed is enough. Here is the full list:

1 x trench coat
1 x leather coat
1 x fleece jacket
3 x jerseys
4 x casual tops
3 x pair of jeans
2 x pair of leggings
2 x boots
1 x sandals
2 x gloves
2 x hats
lots of socks
lots of underwears

Our Little Christmas Tree

Friday, December 10, 2010
mommy momentsFollowing my entry about last Christmas, today at Mommy Moments, we talk about our little christmas tree.

Well, coming from a vertically-challenged family, a little christmas tree actually suits us better. Here was last year's tree with all the presents underneath. You will note that some of the presents appeared so big but is not that the presents are huge but rather that the tree was tiny.

Here is another photo with my kids sitting on the floor, exchanging gifts, so we could squeeze the tree and both of them on the photo.

And this year, we bring you the same little christmas tree....See how tall my child has grown :-)

Unfortunately, this will be my last Mommy Moment for this year. I am taking a vacation and will not be around to post the last few weeks. But don't fret, I will see all of you mommies in the new year!

I wish you all happy Mommy Moments!

Weighing In: Last Two Minutes Before Assessment

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
My second assessment recently came up and my trainer had to measure me to see if I’ve had any changes since I first started seeing her. I knew this day was coming up and so I tried to do some last-minute adjustments. I tried to eat less on the week before the assessment. Of course, this did not work because I started so well on the Monday through to Thursday but on the Friday, I just could not help myself as I down a McFlurry, boo hoo hoo. With this knowledge of my bad behaviour the day before, I decided to attend a Step session at the gym on the Saturday, the day of my assessment. Before actually being assessed. Definitely some big last-minute stuff happening here. Worked out like hell.

After which my assessment came up. My final figures were:

I lost a whopping 0.3kgs. Whoopee??? Is that it?

Overall, my body fat went down by 1%. Total centimetres lost around my body was 9cms.

There is more definition to certain parts of my body but of course, my biggest problem is the bicycle tyres that I carry around my waist. (I am modest so I will not say that they are car tyres, lol! They equal to about 3 bicycle tyres though.)

Anyway, I feel a bit better about my weight although I feel my progress is slow. I will be 70 by the time I get my Jillian Michaels’ bod. Grrr!

I promised to abide by healthier eating choices again and more time at the gym.

A Social Network Butterfly

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Okay, so I am not quite there yet but I feel that ever since I’ve gotten my new “always connected” HTC phone and reviving my blog….I have crossed over that line between just semi-crazed about the social networks (Facebook specifically) to full-blown internet vixen.

I have always been easily influenced by social networks, joining Friendster in 2003 and Facebook, probably around 2004. I just love that whole idea of connecting with people, especially those I’ve lost contact with over the years. And believe me, being an expat, I’ve lost a lot….but social networking has remedied that situation a bit.

I have recently joined the bandwagon of twitter-ers (Yo! A new word?). Much like I hated Facebook in the early years I’ve had the Twitter account but never used it because I didn’t like the way it worked. But since my HTC supports these two networks, I have started tweeting more and more. Plus, my tweets also update my Facebook, showing up as statuses….so you can be sure I will definitely check out how it all gels together.

It’s a toss-up between the computer and the cellphone but I am not shy to admit that I cannot live without my internet connection on both these items.

And why should I be ashamed when the connection has brought me that sense of being part of a revolutionary movement?

Facebook me.

Friend me.

Follow me.

Tweet me.

I’ll be waiting.

VTT Postcard - Introduction

Monday, December 6, 2010
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

For the last couple of years, I have not had a proper December vacation. And although I have tried several times to enjoy what little days I’ve been granted during the festive season, somehow the break does not seem long enough. So I vowed that this coming December will be different.

I have made plans to do a Contiki tour this coming month. I have been planning the tour since June this year and now it is a couple of weeks away. I am literally exhilarated! I want the days to fly!

I have dubbed this tour as my “Vanilla Twilight Tour” (VTT) to make it more special and give it more oomph. But at Contiki, it is simply known as the 12-Day European Discovery (Winter) Tour. The tour will cover the following countries: United Kingdom, Belgium (in transit), the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland and France.

There will be more stories about sightseeing and experiences in upcoming posts. However, there might be a slight delay as I’ll only be able to tell my stories next year when I am back. But don’t worry, I won’t forget a single moment (good or bad). Nothing gets me this excited and not be blogged about!

Unfortunately though, due to some constraints, I am travelling on my own. But I have hubby’s full blessing to go on this trip and I will definitely make it worthwhile.

Gosh, it almost feels like I am taking you all with me on this journey. Blog it all when I get back!

P.S. This is also a Bucket List entry of mine.

Seven Today!

Sunday, December 5, 2010
"I never thought that I'd be so inspired
Never thought that I would find a higher truth
I believed that love was overrated 'til the moment I found you
Now, baby, I know I don't deserve the love you give me
But now I understand...." - Westlife, Something Right

Isn't it just precious?

The way she looks at me, with her big dark brown eyes, like I'm some kind of wonder woman. And in certain ways, and at this age, I am still a superhero in her life. I bandage her pain away and calm her fears down. I strengthen her when she is scared and comfort her to sleep.

In return, she gives me kisses to melt the stress away after a hard day at the office. She hugs me tight like only she could, without knocking the wind out of me. She gives me all the love she can give with so much ease, never faltering....

Yup, as much as I may be the superhero, she is my special power, the crux of why I became a lot less ordinary.

My youngest turns 7 today.

Happy, happy birthday, my little clever cow....

The Christmas That Was...

Friday, December 3, 2010
Last Christmas one family member was missing in action. Hubby went to the Philippines to visit and so only us, girls, remained in South Africa to celebrate Christmas.

I bedazzled my kids with my culinary talent by cooking them pancit (special noodles). I must admit, the food turned out better than I expected (Well, it was edible, which was a plus). My children had two servings each which went to show that it was patok (a hit)! LOL!

And to top it all off, it wouldn’t be complete if we did not wish my hubby a merry christmas while he was far away. I organized a little impromptu christmas carolling and wished him (and others) a festive season. Posted the carolling video on Facebook even for all to see. Thought I would get some pamasko (Christmas gifts) this way.

That was the Christmas that passed. And this is my entry for Mommy Moments as we remember last Christmas. Click on the badge and join us!

mommy moments

Novice Blogging - Note #12 (Blog Counters)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
One other thing that I have added onto my blogsite is a blog counter. Although the main objective of a counter would be to count your blog’s visitors and readership, most of the counters actually do much more than that.

It is always interesting to find out what kind of people you are attracting, where they from, where did they hear of you....

I’ve installed several counters although the most frequent one I use is the one that comes with Blogger itself. On your Dashboard, you should see something called Stats. You can do daily, weekly, monthly and all-time reports. You can even check which pages or which posts gets the most views and where your visitors come from (i.e. America, Africa, Asia, Europe, etc.)

I’ve found this tool very handy in getting to know my audience.

P.S. Do not go overboard and scrutinise every little stat detail! We all love stats but there is a limit to what you really need to know.