Creative Inspiration

What’s Better For Creativity: Alcohol vs. Coffee

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I read somewhere that creativity is our ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in our brain. These connections are controlled by chemicals called neurotransmitters.

One of these neurotransmitters is adenosine, which alerts your brain when you’re running out of energy. When this happens, it reacts by slowing down the connections made between neurons.

Adenosine is kind of like your brain’s battery status monitor. Once your energy levels get low, adenosine starts to slow your brain functioning down. This is why after a few hours of intense work you begin to feel tired.

The only way to recharge it is to take a break. Unless of course you’ve got a secret weapon handy…..

Your brain on coffee

Every coffee drinker is familiar with the euphoric feelings after drinking a fresh cup of java. I know after I’ve had a coffee, I feel more focused. When you’re focused, you create effortlessly + your inspiration is on hyper-drive.

This happens because caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, preventing adenosine from slowing down your brain functioning. Coffee tricks your brain into thinking you have lots of energy, and this all happens within just 5 minutes of drinking it!

When adenosine receptors are blocked, chemicals that increase the performance of your neural activity like glucose, dopamine + glutamate, are allowed to work overtime. So while you may feel that coffee is giving you more energy, it’s simply telling your body that your energy reserves are good to go even when they’re long gone.

The peak effect of caffeine on your body happens between 15 minutes and 2 hours after you consume it. When caffeine from your coffee enters your bloodstream, you become more alert from an increase in the production of the hormones adrenaline + cortisol.

Problem? What Problem?

The problem is, if this over-stimulation of adrenaline + cortisol occurs too regularly, your adrenal glands (which absorb adrenaline to help make you feel energized) gradually begin to require more adrenaline to give you the same ‘pick-me-up’ feeling as before.

When researchers at Johns Hopkins University looked at low to moderate coffee drinkers (as little as one mug per day), they found that even this little amount of coffee can cause your body to develop a tolerance to caffeine + require more of it to get the same stimulation. Because of this, the good feelings associated with coffee are short-lived. Pretty soon you need another hit to feel good again.

Why there are lots of famous drunk artists, but no famous drunk accountants

While caffeine pulls a number on your brain to make you feel like you have more energy, alcohol has it’s own way of influencing your creativity.

After you’ve had a couple of drinks, drinking makes you less focused because it decreases your working memory. You begin to care less about what’s happening around you. But as researchers at the University of Chicago discovered, this can be a good thing for creativity’s sake.

The research showed that a blood alcohol level of 0.07 (about 2 drinks) makes people better at creative problem-solving tasks but not necessarily working memory tasks where they have to pay attention to things happening in their surroundings (like driving a car). By reducing your ability to pay attention to the world around you, alcohol frees up your brain to think more creatively.

It looks like author Ernest Hemingway was on to something when he said:

When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky?

Alcohol produces better ideas

In an interesting study on the topic of alcohol + its effects on creativity, author Dave Birss brought together a group of 18 advertising creative directors + split them into two teams based on their amount of career experience. One team was allowed to drink as much alcohol as they wanted while the other team had to stay sober.

The groups were given a brief + had to come up with as many ideas as they could in three hours. These ideas were then graded by a collection of top creative directors. The result? The team of drinkers not only produced the most ideas but also came up with four of the top five best ideas.

While alcohol may not be the drink of choice when you need to be alert or focused on what’s going on around you, it seems that a couple of drinks can be helpful when you need to come up with new ideas.

Beer for the idea

The best time to have a beer (or two) would be when you’re searching for an initial idea. Because alcohol helps decrease your working memory (making you feel relaxed + less worried about what’s going on around you), you’ll have more brain power dedicated to making deeper connections.

Neuroscientists have studied the “eureka moment”. They’ve found that in order to produce moments of insight, you need to feel relaxed so front brain thinking (obvious connections) can move to the back of the brain (where unique, lateral connections are made) + activate the anterior superior temporal gyrus. This is a small spot above your right ear responsible for moments of insight.

Researchers found that about 5 seconds before you have a ‘eureka moment’, there’s a large increase in alpha waves that activate the anterior superior temporal gyrus. These alpha waves are associated with relaxation which explains why you often get ideas while you’re going for a walk, in the shower, or on the toilet.

Alcohol is a substance that relaxes you so it produces a similar effect on alpha waves and helping us reach creative insights.

Coffee, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily help you access more creative parts of your brain like a couple pints of beer.

Coffee for the execution

If you’ve already got an idea or an outline of where you want to go with your project, a cup of coffee would do wonders compared to having a beer to execute on your idea.

The general consensus across caffeine studies is that it can increase quality + performance if the task you’re doing seems easy to you + doesn’t require too much abstract thinking.

In other words, after you have an initial idea or a plan laid out, a cup of coffee can help you execute and follow through on your concept faster without compromising quality.

Quick tip: If you drink coffee, do so before noon so it doesn’t effect your sleep. On average, it will take between 5-10 hours for the caffeine from a cup of coffee to be removed from your system. Messing up your sleep cycle can have a negative impact on your creative output for days to come.

Always in moderation

If you decide to drink coffee or beer while you’re working, you should stick to no more than 2 cups of coffee or a couple of beers per sitting. And you should only try to do this once or twice per week. Coffee + beer shouldn’t be thought of as magic bullets for creativity. They are ways to create chemical changes that occur naturally in your brain with a healthy lifestyle. Quality sleep patterns and allowing yourself to take breaks by splitting your day into sprints will do the same trick.

But if you do have to choose between coffee or beer, think about what type of task you are about to do + make sure you don’t over-drink!

Too much of either and you’ll lose the benefits of both.

Blog, New York

Prices in New York

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People have been asking me how expensive it is here in New York. I’ve taken the liberty to snap shots around the shopping isles in supermarkets and general stores here, to show you the prices we are talking! For my South African readers, the exchange rate right now is that R10 will get you 1 Dollar. So working on this, here are some interesting prices I noted:

  • A small bottle of water here is around $1.99 which equates to R19.60
  • Rice Krispies = $4.99 = R49.14
  • Pringles = $2.99 = R29.44
  • Toblerone (original) = $3.49 = R34.37
  • A slab of Herschey’s = $2.79 = R27.47
  • Marie Claire = $4.19 = R41.26
  • Women’s Health = $5.29 = R52.09
  • 2L milk = $2.59 = R25.50
  • Loaf of bread = $3.99 = R39.29
  • Packet of Lays (small) = $1.49 = R14.67
  • 6 Pack of beer = between $11.99 and $13.99 = between R118.07 and R137.76
  • 500g mince = $3.98 = R39.19
  • 500g pork = $4.29 = R42.24
  • 200g beef round steak = $2.10 = R20.68
  • 500g beef steak bone-in = $12.59 = R123.97
  • Bottle of Bacardi Rum = $18.99 = R186.99
  • Bottle of Malibu = $22.99 = R226.38
  • Bottle of Absolut Vodka = $26.99 = R265.77
  • Bunch of flowers = $25 = R246.17
  • OK! Gossip magazine = $3.99 = R39.29
  • In Touch Gossip magazine = $2.99 = R29.44
  • Slice of pizza = roughly around $2.75 = R27.08. But there are places in some parts of the city where a slice will be around $1 = R9.85
  • Take-away coffee = around $1.75 = R17.23. But you can get a hot coffee for $1 at a vendor on the street = R9.85
  • Can of coke = $1.50 = R14.77 
  • 500ml Coke = $2.19 = R21.56
  • Nectarine = $2.99 = R29.44
  • Apple = $1.99 = R19.60
  • Banana = $1.29 = R12.70
  • Watermelon = $5.91 = R58.20
  • Metro (subway) ticket = $2.50 = R24.62

Out at the clubs, a glass of white wine can be around $9 which is R88.62! Drinks like vodka cranberry are $7 which is R68.93! The other night I ordered a Malibu and Coke which came to $13 which is R128.01!! Never in my life would I have imagined paying R130 for a Malibu and Coke. I must say, the restaurants and bars here do have drinks specials daily. Nearly every single licensed restaurant and bar will have a “Happy Hour” every day between 5pm and 6pm which offers drinks specials for cocktails. Cocktails are usually anywhere from $9 – $11 (R88.62 – R108.32), and during Happy Hour they become roughly $5 (R50). Cocktails this includes are ones like Frozen Margaritas, Sangria’s, Bloody Mary’s and classic Mojito’s. The most expensive I have seen for cocktails was at a rooftop bar I went to the other night called “Press Lounge” as part of 48 Ink Hotel on 48th and 11th avenue. Cocktails were $16. That is R157.50 per cocktail! What I must say is cheap, is clothing at “H&M“. Beautiful easy sun dresses are $13 which is R128! If I think in Cape Town in popular and trendy boutiques that me and my friends like to get sexy cute clothes at, such as “The Lot” or “Wardrobe” or “Traffic Clothing”, the T-shirts and blouses alone can easily start at R250. Nevermind shorts or blazers or dresses! Whereas at H&M, a beautiful patterned blouse can be only $14.95 which is R147.21. And a nice sexy pair of denim shorts is around R196.45 ($19.95). I better get shopping!

My Life in Africa

Simon’s In Constantia

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Fil & Mom in Cape Town3

I like eating food at nice places with good service, a great wine list and a cosy atmosphere. I recently went to a restaurant here in Cape Town called “Simon’s”. It’s situated at a beautiful wine farm called “Groot Constantiaand during the day, the views of the vineyards are heavenly. My mom and I ordered a steak with cooked veggies and our friend ordered the duck. Together we shared a bottle of Merlot and it was the perfect evening. The food there is very good and I can highly recommend it! For dessert we had a cheeseboard. I must say, it’s my new all-time favourite. It got me thinking about some of the best places I’ve been for dinner here in Cape Town, South Africa. If you live here, here’s a list of places I would recommend (I also include some coffee places that offer light lunches because we all love a good coffee and it’s nice to try somewhere new): 

For Dinner

1. The Brass Bell along the Main Road in Kalk Bay

2. Top of The Ritz Revolving Restaurant  at The Ritz Hotel along the Main Road in Seapoint

3. Aubergine at 39 Barnet Street in Gardens

4. Duchess of Wisbeach at 3 Wisbeach Road in Seapoint

5. Carne at 70 Keerom Street in the City Centre

For light lunch and coffee

1. Jason Bakery at 185 Bree Street in the City Centre

2. Birds Cafe at 127 Church Street in the City Centre

3. Clarke’s at 133 Bree Street in the City Centre

4. Cafe Nood at The Quadrant Square, Wilderness Road in Claremont

5. O’ways Tea Cafe at 20 Dreyer Street  in Claremont


Creative Inspiration

Orange Muffins Are What’s Up!



I have been going crazy for orange anything lately. Papaya, spiced orange hot chocolate, orange muffins, orange cakes!  If it has anything to do with orange, chances are I’ll be eating it. Why this sudden obsession? I have no idea. So what I decided to do was get to the recipe books and find the perfect orange muffin recipe.  The great thing about these is that they are only 322 cal each 😉 

Here it is, Enjoy! 

  • Prep: 15 min. Bake: 20 min.
  • Yield: 12 Servings


  • 1 orange, quartered and seeds removed (with peel)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 Celsius) ; spray a muffin tin (12) with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Put orange quarters in food processor (or blender) along with orange juice and process or blend until pureed.
  3. Add egg and butter to food processor and combine; pour into large bowl.
  4. Combine dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add all at once to orange mixture.
  5. Stir to combine.
  6. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let stand in tin for 5 minutes before removing muffins.


Creative Inspiration

Ordering Coffee for Dummies


Starbucks Coffee

A friend’s breakfast the other morning made me realise that the average person isn’t so aware of what, exactly, all the different types of coffee on a menu actually mean. What is a “Flat White”? What is an “Americano”? A “Mocha”? We all enjoyed the famous South African Wimpy advert with the tagline; “I love it when you talk foreign” – referring to Wimpy’s delicious new range of premium blend coffees. Here is a list of different types of coffee you can order when you go out, and what those names on the menu mean.


This you will often see on the menu as “Café Americano”. It’s made by adding about 125 ml of hot water to a shot or two of espresso. There’s actually a joke around the origin of this coffee – that it was created because Americans weren’t tough enough to drink straight up Italian espresso! History has it that the “Americano” originated in Seattle, USA.

Instant Coffee

Made from pre-brewed coffee beans, this is the kind where you add a heaped teaspoon to a mug and pour in boiling water. Voilà! You can find it in jars and packets in the form of granules (little crunchy pieces), or fine powder. Here in South Africa we can buy some quality instant coffees off the shelves of chain stores such as Pick ‘n Pay. Nescafé is my favourite. 

Filter Coffee

This is created by using ground roasted coffee beans through which boiling water is poured by using a paper or stainless steel filter. In India they use stainless steel filters but in other parts of the world disposable paper is used. The idea is that the liquid is passed through the filter leaving only the fresh brew in the cup. The grounds stay trapped in the filter. We know it as “filter coffee” or “drip coffee” because water passes through the grounds solely by gravity and not under pressure or in longer-term contact. 

In India it’s known most commonly as “South Indian coffee” because the method of making it first began in India. Popular Indian lore says that on pilgrimage to Mecca in the 16th century, Baba Budan (a revered Muslim holy man) discovered for himself the wonders of coffee. In his zeal to share what he’d found with his fellows at home, he smuggled seven coffee beans out of the Yemeni port of Mocha. He wrapped them around his belly. On his return home, he settled himself on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills in Kadur district Mysore State (present day Karnataka). This hill range was later named after him as the “Baba Budan Hills” and one can see his tomb even today by taking a short trip from Chikmagalur

Another interesting fact about filter coffee is that on July 8, 1908, the first paper coffee filter was created. It was created a by German housewife named Melitta Bentz. She wanted to remove the bitter taste caused by boiling loose grounds or using the typical method of linen to brew coffee.

Caffé Latte / Café au Lait

This is a French coffee drink. The French call it a “café au lait” but other names for it are: “caffè latte” in Italy, “café con leche” in Spain, “kawa biała” (“white coffee”) in Poland, “milchkaffee” in Germany, “grosser brauner” in Austria, “koffie verkeerd” in Netherlands and “café com leite” in Portugal. 

An easy way to tell the difference is that the latte is served in a tall glass, whereas a “café au lait” is served in a mug. This happens commonly in Europe – particularly in Scandinavia. It’s a coffee beverage consisting of strong or bold coffee (sometimes espresso) mixed with a lot of hot milk. 

Apparently the French are the ones who introduced milk to coffee. The previous cultures of Ethiopia and Arabia who enjoyed coffee were not milk drinkers, as were the French. A caffè latte (or café au lait) differs from another way of serving coffee… the “latte macchiato”. The caffè latte adds the espresso to the milk, rather than the reverse as in the case with a “latte macchiato”. This results in the caffè latte having a stronger coffee flavor, which is why it is said to be more popular.

Caffè Macchiato

This is an espresso-based coffee, consisting mostly of coffee with a small amount of milk. It’s closer to a straight espresso than the others (s-t-r-o-n-g!) because it contains less milk than a cappuccino. In fact, it really doesn’t have a lot of milk at all, which would explain it’s name. A “caffè macchiato” in Portuguese is named Café Pingado which means coffee with a drop…. the drop here being the ‘drop’ of milk. “Macchiato” in Italian means ‘marked’ or ‘stained’. In the case of a “Caffè Macchiato”, this means literally ‘espresso stained/marked with milk’. So it’s definitely a morning starter!

Café Mocha

This is a variant of a caffè latte. The term “caffè mocha” as such is not used in Italy or France. Like a caffè latte, it’s based on espresso and hot milk, but it has added chocolate – typically in the form of sweet cocoa powder. Mochas can contain milk chocolate or dark chocolate. A “Café mocha” contains the well-known milk froth on top, although they are sometimes served with whipped cream instead. They are usually topped with a dusting of either cinnamon or cocoa powder. Marshmallows may also be added on top for flavor and decoration. A variant is the “white café mocha”, made with white chocolate instead of milk chocolate or dark chocolate.


Ah! Probably the most well-known coffee beverage amongst us, it comprises of equal parts of espresso, milk and froth. A shot of espresso is followed by milk and the top third of the drink consists of milk foam. This foam is often decorated with artistic drawings made with the same milk called latte art. Shaved chocolate, cinnamon or other sweet spices can be sprinkled on top of the finished drink. Here are some glorious ways that baristas around the world can decorate the foam (a barista is the person who makes and serves coffee):


A small shot of very strong Italian coffee! It’s also known as a “short black”. Espresso was invented in 1903 by Luigi Bezzera, the owner of a manufacturing business. He wanted to find a way to brew coffee much faster and one day he added pressure to the coffee brewing process, reducing the brewing time. He went on to invent a machine termed the “Fast Coffee Machine”, which did just that. The coffees it produced were dubbed “espressos” – espresso meaning “fast” in Italian. Not only did his machine reduce brewing time, it made a better cup of coffee! The quick brewing time allowed the best qualities of the bean to be extracted, avoiding some of the unfavorable qualities associated with over-extraction.

Flat White

This is made just like a cappuccino but it has a very thin layer of foam. Made by pouring steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher over a single or double shot of espresso. Flat white is one part espresso with two parts steamed milk, but no foam. It’s richer than a latte and creamier than a cappuccino. Here is an article written by The Independent in 2009 when the Flat White first started rearing it’s scrumptious head in coffee shops all over the country. It was UK’s fastest growing new coffee brew at that time and provided the “perfect antidote to the latte”. The article also mentions that flat white sales grew more than 10 times as fast as the rest of the market at that time and thus brought with it a new identity to coffee in the UK.

Irish Coffee

Hot coffee with Irish whiskey and brown sugar, topped with thick cream.

Iced Coffee

This is a shot of Espresso in a tall glass with cold milk, crushed ice and ice-cream. Yum!

Now for some basic lingo explained

Black coffee is coffee with no milk.

White coffee is coffee with milk.

Baby-cino is a smaller cappuccino.

And just some interesting facts

The United States buys the most coffee; Germany comes in a close second.

People in Sweden drink the most coffee for each person.

In Canada, the United States and Europe, some restaurants that sell mainly coffee are referred to as “cafés” or “coffeehouses”.


South African Interviews

Leon Schuster’s Back

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Drinking my morning Nescafe, I do the rounds of reading about the latest updates in the SA Film industry. As I click through many articles; two words jump out at me again and again. Leon Schuster. It seems he’s come out with a new film.

We all know his most popular movies (Panic Mechanic, Mr Bones, Oh Schuks…it’s Schuster, Mama Jack) and a lot of us look back fondly on memories that saw us rolling around the bedroom floor in hysterics at his characters. Well – more of those moments await us because he has a new film coming out called ‘Bad Buddies’. Schuster says; “It’s about two men, one black, one white who are supposed to be buddies but instead they are constantly bickering, plotting against one another.” Apparently it still has the same formula – simple, straightforward and concentrating on visual gags. Gray Hofmeyr, well-known South African film and television director, sums it up as the ‘funniest we have ever done’ – hmmm, no pressure. More good news – the Walt Disney Company itself has just acquired the Distribution rights! Woah, not playing around.

“I am thrilled by the idea!” Schuster exclaimed in an interview with The Citizen. “It’s definitely a dream come true. But I’m also carefully optimistic because this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an international success. I believe Disney will give the movie more support with their massive marketing machine and unlike working with a local producer, Disney will make sure it gets exposed worldwide.” I say Thumbs Up, Schuster! I hope that an international audience will welcome the film and its jokes as much as we here in South Africa will… I for one love a good comedy.