this is a courageous country

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South Africa has endured a turbulent last few months with negative news about the economy and culture.

We love South Africa and while we as a country struggle through this important time, trying to define who and what this country is, we wanted to remind everyone that South Africa also has great aspects. Here is a list of some of our favourite:

  1. We are a nation of entrepreneurs and Heroes

We invented the CAT scan, open heart surgery, barbed wire, Pratley’s putty, Dolosse and the speed gun. Mixed in with these creative people we have heroes like; Nkosi Johnston. He was a young AIDS victim who became a hero and national spokesperson at the World Aids Forum, at the age of 11. As Nelson Mandela once said, “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” For many more examples look at this website: http://www.awesomesouthafricans.co.za/

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  1. We are a compassionate nation

The best example is that the Operation Hydrate (to help deal with the shortages brought on by the drought) broke the record for a donations drive in recent South African history. People from every province donated to this drive. Companies, people, and schools helped to pitch in to help those with no water. We are also the only country to voluntarily dismantle our nuclear arsenal, which is showing compassion for the entire world!

  1. We have some of the biggest things in the world!

The world’s biggest hospital is the Chris Hani – Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. The Rand Refinery is the largest refinery of gold in the world. The University of South Africa (UNISA) is a pioneer of tertiary distance education and is the largest correspondence university in the world with 250,000 students. The Kruger National Park nature reserve supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent. It is roughly the size of Wales, or the state of Massachusetts (USA), which makes it the eighth largest reserve in the world. Home to one of the world’s 6 floral kingdoms, South Africa has one-tenth (23 200) of the world’s flowering plants, of which nearly 19 000 are endemic, making it the richest region in the world in terms of species to area – 1.7 times richer even than Brazil. We have a bigger variety of mammals than North and South America combined; or Europe and Asia together. South Africa also has the longest wine route in the world.

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  1. We have some incredibly unique aspects.

Rooibos (roy-boss), this red tea is the only other tea in the world which undergoes a fermentation process like black tea. Fermentation turns the leaves of rooibos from green to a deep red colour and gives it a slightly sweet note with a deep body. Studies show that rooibos contains comparable amounts of polyphenols to green tea and shows anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity. Rooibos, unlike black and green tea is completely caffeine-free. We have the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and the Mediterranean and we have our very own Pinotage grape varietal.  We have the Nelson Mandela bridge and the fantastic regeneration of areas, like Newtown, previously seen as unsafe.

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Finally, South Africa really is the only place in the world where you shop at the robot. You can get a newspaper, cellphone charger, sunglasses, soft drink, beaded art work, toys, or even watch street dancers perform.

We know this is still an amazing country, let us remember and enjoy it.

bread and butter pudding

It is nearly Easter! We have some great catering tips to help you with the events you host over this period.

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A great recipe when you are stuck with left-over hot cross buns.

Ingredients

  • 8 Eggs
  • 100g Castor sugar
  • 1 Vanilla pod split & seeds scraped
  • 570ml Cream
  • 570ml Milk
  • 1 Orange zest
  • Pinch / 1g nutmeg
  • 200g Dark chocolate shavings (optional)
  • 12 Hot cross buns
  • 60g Butter and a little extra for the baking dish
  • 100g Berry jam (or your favourite flavour)
  • 20ml Hot water

Method

16129-TXT-new-26_05Butter an oven dish. Heat the cream, milk and vanilla pod (seeds and pod) in a pot over medium heat to boiling point, remove from the heat. Whisk together the eggs and castor sugar. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture over the egg mixture, whisking continuously to ensure the egg does not cook. Strain the custard into a clean bowl. Add the nutmeg and orange zest.

Slice the hot cross buns and butter them on one side. Arrange them in the oven dish overlapping to cover the base butter side up. Sprinkle over the chocolate shavings and roasted chopped nuts, if you decided to use them. Pour over 3/4 of the hot custard; leave for 8 minutes to allow buns to absorb the moisture and then top up with the remaining custard.

Bake the pudding in the preheated oven for ±40 minutes. The custard must just set and the pudding will be golden brown on top.

While your pudding is baking, heat the jam with hot water in a small pot on medium heat – it is ready when it has a syrup consistency. As soon as the pudding is ready, remove from the oven and brush with the hot jam.

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Serves: 10 – 12. Preparation time: 20 minutes and 40 minutes for baking

how to prepare for a successful conference

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Organising a conference can be exciting, but intimidating and requires a tremendous amount of forethought and planning. The reality of planning a conference is that, without any experience, you can lose a lot of time over-thinking each little detail while overlooking the more important issues. Nothing compares to a good conference: the atmosphere of being immersed in a crowd of people who share the same passion as you, the lessons you learn and advice you take in and the friends you get to meet and the new ones you make. Attendees should leave a good conference re-energised — full of enthusiasm for their job and full of fresh ideas. What are the key factors between organising a good conference and an average one?

  1. Craft a Vision of Your Conference
    Every event begins with a reason for the conference. Plan out a vision and what you want to achieve then you will need to transform your vision into words and numbers. The vision will make the next decisions about the basics like who, what, when, where and why much easier to finalise.

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  2. Plan, Plan, Plan
    Put as much thought into every aspect as early as possible. Planning needs to be done months before the conference date. Key to this planning is budgeting your event and ensuring you measure costs and make informed planning decisions. Once you have established where and how you want to spend your budget, you can move to – Checklists! these checklists are the secret to planning a conference. Some checklists to create: planning timeline, promoting and publicity (if required), site inspection requirements, food and beverage requirements, speakers to list a few! You must also includes how attendees will navigate the conference, the conference running order, the general layout of each room, and the distribution of food and beverages. The best way to coordinate all of the details is to walkthrough your itinerary as your guests would. Picture how they will think and act at each point in the day to solve any problems before they arise. Think about speakers and venue very early on; their availability may affect your conference! Make sure you also nail down a cancellation policy in advance. You want a clear recourse from the outset to your attendees if they cancel.
  3. The Space
    Once you know your expected numbers, you need to find a venue that can accommodate that in the style you want to portray. While it may seem obvious, your conference location will have a big impact on who or how many people attend the event. Furthermore, when choosing the location for their event, organisers need to choose a venue with good access for various transport types and most importantly, is safe and secure for the attendees.

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    It is important for those who attend not to be too crowded in the room you are considering, nor to feel lost if the function space is too big. There should be a maximum capacity posted in each function room.  Take it seriously since it was approved by the fire marshal of the city and anything over-capacity can be a safety hazard. The different layouts of a room will affect how many you can seat in that space. The venue should inform you of the capacity of each room, but it will not include the additional space you may need for AV equipment, food and beverage stations, stand-up banners, so you must take that into acount when you are doing your planning.Not only should the space be the right size, but it should also reflect the look, feel and brand of the event at hand. You want your event spaces to reflect the conference so that your attendees feel the importance of the conference. Some questions you should ask: How are the sightlines? Is there enough space for social interaction and networking? Is it easy to find your way around and not get caught in dead-ends and corridors that lead nowhere? Meeting rooms need to be able to flex into various configurations. This is especially true as more and more conferences now have breakaway sessions. Does it have tables, chairs and  table linen you can use? If a venue has these items, you can save a great deal of money and effort by using what they have, assuming it matches your theme and ambiance.

    Keep in mind that your venue selection will also determine your catering and audio/visual costs. This is because most conference centres require you to use their in-house services for any on-site events.

    Event organisers also need to be mindful of disabled attendees, and ensure that they are catered for from the minute that they arrive at the venue, ie parking spaces,  lifts vs stairs, seating areas in the venue (will the tables/auditoria cater for wheelchair access) and the restrooms.

  4. Support Staff
    Being on the organising team of an event is hard work: Your body aches from the lifting, squatting and standing on your feet for approximately 12 hours. It’s not uncommon to get up super early and go to bed late (oftentimes the next day). You want to make this whole experience as pleasant as possible. The success of an event largely depends on the event staff and how well they interact and engage with you and your audience; they are the face of your brand for the duration of the conference. Factor in the size, length, and audience of your event. This will help you to determine the ideal number of staff you require, along with their gender, age, experience level, and cultural diversity. It is important to provide them with the necessary information about your company background and product information. Doing so will keep the staff well-informed and prepared to answer any questions. You are only as good as the team you work with, so choose a venue where staff are willing to go above and beyond to accommodate your needs – albeit last minute requests. Research is key! The best option is to visit the venue and test the staff out. Remember, this is how your delegates will experience them – this gives you great insight into how much you can rely on the staff.

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    Being part of an event is fun: The impromptu moments of magic, the laughing fits from being up since 4:00, the unexplained guest queries. Be sure you have a team around you that wants to be part of that experience.

  5. Catering
    Arguably one of the most crucial aspects of a conference – hungry delegates are not happy delegates! For today’s foodie generation, high quality food with healthy options is now de rigueur at conferences. It is important for the catering to fit within the framework of the conference, having an experienced capable team running the catering removes a large amount of stress from your shoulders.  Jugs of water, tea and coffee should also be readily available at all times. The effects of dehydration and hunger can directly affect concentration levels and general performance. Before you book your conference, make sure you have had an opportunity to trial the culinary offerings to ensure you’re satisfied with their catering standards.

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  6. Get feedback
    When the event is finished, send out a survey, perform a post-mortem with the team, and find out what you can do better. Add all those points to your checklist for your next event!

Happy planning!

parmesan and pesto straws

Pesto ingredients:

60g Basil
40g Pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 Garlic cloves, peeled
130ml Olive oil
50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Straw ingredients:

1 Packet (±400g) readymade puff pastry with flour for dusting
200g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 Eggs, whisked
100g Homemade pesto (or to taste)

Method:

In a food processor, finely mince the basil, pine nuts and garlic cloves. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, add the parmesan and seasoning, and process until just combined.

Roll the pastry to half its thickness using flour to prevent sticking. Cut the sheet in half, Cover the one half with the pesto and cheese, then top with the other half of the pastry. Press down lightly with a rolling pin.

Egg wash the whole top. Cut the pastry into ½ cm wide strips. Take each strip and twist each end in opposite directions until it is evenly twisted Lay them well spaced apart on greased baking trays. Ideally leave to chill for 30 minutes. Bake the straws in a pre-heated oven 160°C for 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden.

Serves: 4 – 6
Preparation time: 1 hour

pesto parm straws

Hashtag

Hashtags are a sweet and clever way to round up all the photos guests take at your celebration. If you thinking coming up with a unique hashtag is tricky, you might not have considered getting guests to use the correct hashtag!

 

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The best way to remind guests of your hashtag is beautiful signage. Here are a few of our favourite displays:

 

Chalkboard signage is a very popular way to display not only your Instagram hashtag but even romantic quotes or your menu.

 

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Let guests know where to go and what to hashtag as they arrive – we love this idea!

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While you have your couple’s shoot, have your guests sign your guest book and hashtag any pictures they took during your ceremony

 

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How about displaying your hashtag right next to your cake? A unique point of interest that is sure to make for great pictures!

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How about an ornate frame with a beautifully designed print?

 

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Now this is personalisation to the next level – serviettes with your hashtag, how fabulous!

 

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