Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brand names you might not have heard of

One of the hardest things has been finding brand names we can trust here. Most US products are available, but it's quite fun to try a little something new. Here are some brands that sounded funny to us, with a review if we've tried them.

Actually makes more sense than "Gatorade," and it's delicious.

Neither French nor bologna, one brand advertises itself as "pork free." We imagine it's just shredded newspaper held together with pink slime, so we've never had it.

This "good source of energy" is hydrogenated vegetable fat - i.e., Crisco. Yes, it's a good source of energy for your biodiesel car. We use it to grease our potjie pot and our paella pan.

We've got to try this sometime. We hope "steri" is short for "sterile"

How do you make crack more appealing? Add salt. 

We'll try when we can afford a tv. And a TV license.

We realize Cheerios and Oatios and various other Os are taken, but the ad-wizards at Spar really scraped the bottom of the barrel for this one. PS There are no squirrels in Johannesburg, except on this box.

We repeat: Smoooooooooooooooooooth. And also beefy.

Oedipal deodorant. 

It is kind of funny and kind of sad that: 1., you can buy workwear for your "help" at the grocery store; 2. that the brand name is "Ethnix"; and 3. that XXXL is the equivalent of MEDIUM (smallest size is XL)

"Fierce" names are common in cleaners and bug killers here.

Is "kills fleas" even necessary?

Etymology lesson of the day: the latin root "Mort" means death.

Let's randomly choose a three letter name for our product from all the letters of the alphabet...

This stuff smells great, but is oh so easy to make puns from.

Maybe those who wear Ethnix would prefer this brand.

Butch beef?

This is literally only a small section of the chutney aisle.

Our brand (and all of South Africa's brand) is Mrs. H. S. Balls. Delicious. 

How many times do they need to tell you it's "meal"? (Mealies is corn)

We missed a few...
They look like Cheetos and smell like Cheetos but brother, they ain't Cheetos.

Keep the kiddies away from this one

 <--Brothers from another mother-->

Monday, December 24, 2012

Money Matters

FYI: This blog post is going to be a bit more informative, comparative, and less photo-filled.

A few people have asked us about the cost of living here in Joburg, what the money looks like, and if we think it's more or less expensive than the States. We often find ourselves converting Rands to Dollars, and feeling like, "whoa, we are getting a great price"...and then we remember that it doesn't matter because we get paid in Rand. Therefore, how much things cost in dollars has no bearing on our daily life, but here's some comparisons for you folks back home. 

Meat, produce, and wine cost significantly less than they do in the States. Particularly lamb. Speaking of meat, here is Jonah ensuring that he gets the right cut of meat for our Boxing Day Party. Hello pulled pork fajitas. This photo was taken at MaKro, which is similar to Costco in the States. Bulk items, but not exactly 'bulk price'.

When you check out at a store, you're given your receipt, or a 'till slip'. At MaKro, like Costco, someone checks your cart to make sure that all the items in your cart match your till slip. It can be a lengthy process. Especially when your husband thinks the city is going to shut down for 2-3 weeks due to the Christmas Holiday. (And actually, most restaurants and stores do close for at least a week. S. Africans take their holidays seriously)

A few highlights from the til slip below: 
That 12 lbs of pork shoulder? A mere 30USD.
12 pack of tonic: $7.50USD (more expensive)
2.2 lbs of lemons: $2USD (cheaper)
2.2 lbs carrots: $1USD (definitely cheaper)
charcoal (a SA staple for braais): $3.75USD (slightly cheaper)
Our new kettle, Russel: $28.00USD (worth every penny) 
Sales Tax here is 14%, even on food. So US sales tax gripers, get over it.

In terms of cost of living, our rent is comparable to my rent in Syracuse. Our house here is just two rooms smaller than my Fellows Ave house, but we have a fantastic garden and patio area. Going out to eat is extremely affordable here, which is fantastic. The food is also much better quality for the price here. For example, the meal we ate at the Indian restaurant, would have cost ~55-60$ in the States. Here, it was a mere $35 (USD) for a bottle of wine, appetizer, two entrees, and dessert. Yum. Specifically, the bottle of decent red wine (pinotage) cost R115. That translates to approximately 12USD.

Pictured below are a few Rand from our wallets. New money was just printed with Mandela's face on it, and the Big Five are still featured on the other side. The colors are brighter and for someone from the US, it almost seems like play money. I personally like the new blue 100s.

We have this nifty little currency exchange calculator on our computers that tells us the exchange rate each day. Some days, we're impressed (R8,4: 1USD), and some days, we get a little nervous, like when our rate reader reports: Bad number: Bad number. Overall, though, it tends to hover around 8,5R to the dollar.

Homeland Affairs

We know we've been promising videos of the house, but our cameras and bandwidth just aren't up to it. Instead, we're producing some poorly stitched panoramics of each room. Here are the first three, with apologies for the "Picasso Effect".



Living room

We're going more and more native on a daily basis. Behold Russell, our new electric kettle. Much more efficient than the stove (=less blinking of that red light on the meter). This puppy can boil 8cups of water in 90 seconds flat. Kelsey is in love. Saffers will boil water in this, then add it to a pot on the stove where they use it to cook pasta. Thanks for the tip, Cornel!

Until Kelsey gets a job, we'll just have to settle for the hired help we can afford...

Here are our costumes from the department Christmas/grad student going away party. The theme was "South Africa". Kelsey was the box of buttermilk rusks on the right, I was a box of custard.


We've been playing around with local chow. Below is a picture of our Bobotie recipe, basically a curried meatloaf with eggs on top.

And these are Marina's rusks, our favorite local brand of dryyyyyyyyyy cookie. They go with everything, and never get moldy.

Unlike the USA, Mexicans are hard to find here. There's a local company called "Banditos," which brands itself as being "South of Mexico." In our opinion it's somewhere south of "bunk". Instead, we've been making our own tortillas and refried beans, thanks to recipes from our favorite Mexican, Tyler Faith.

(Those are refrieds, not dogfrieds)

Kelsey has also discovered Litchis, a small fruit that satiates her love of berries.

Here's how to eat them:

And finally, what would life be without daal?