Our new bedroom

A few months ago, we moved houses and Francois and I finally moved in together! We live in sunny Tamboerskloof in a really old and beautiful home that is super close to all our favourite places. Moving in together also meant getting rid of a lot of things, like my old bed that used to kill his back (old age, hey babe) and his bed that was just way too old. We played a bit of Goldilocks and found something that worked perfectly for both of us.

Our new bedroom doesn’t have built-in cupboards, so we have two gorgeous antique cabinets in a “his and hers” setup. Another thing we really wanted in our bedroom was a television. I know you’re totally NOT supposed to do that, but we wanted to create that “hotel room” feel with a bit of luxury and it is so great to cuddle in bed and binge-watch series. Also – so perfect for winter. When we moved in together we had an extra TV, so in to the bedroom it went! We have our own en-suite bathroom with a shower and a huuuuge bath, further adding to the hotel-room-aesthetic. Our bedroom also has a balcony with a semi-good view of Table Mountain.

Probably my favourite part of our room is our bed and the Balinese drapes which adds some beautiful romance to the whole setup. We got our new bed and headboard from Teljoy (An online retailer for appliances, electronics and furniture) on a month-to-month contract, which means that if we didn’t like the bed or if it hurt Francois’ back then we could just cancel and return it – like that whole rent-to-own setup with the choice to upgrade. You can rent a bed from R169pm and assume ownership after the pre-determined rental period. I downgraded from a King Size bed to a Queen and if I change my mind and want to go back to King, then I can. It also helps that delivery, risk and maintenance is included if anything were to happen to the bed. Check out their bed range here. We’re busy furnishing the Stanford guesthouse so this works out pretty well for us right now.

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Wildekrans, Grabouw, Botrivier and Elgin

Francois and I love to break away for weekends. We both work in tourism and hospitality and really treasure exploring new towns together. I’m going to start sharing these mini holidays on my blog because I get so many requests for recommendations and I want you guys to know about these cool places to stay near Cape Town. Many of our friends are also parents or dog owners, so I’ll always stipulate which places I feel are kid or dog-friendly. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see that we’re usually in Stanford, Gordon’s Bay, Swellendam, Hermanus, Matjiesfontein, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. I’m going to start sharing more great “weekend away” spots at all these places, but today… I really want to talk about Wildekrans.

We have good friends who live in Elgin and another friend who recently moved to Villiersdorp nearby. We planned to stay with our friend Deborah, but we were also itching to stay at this beautiful little place that we’d both heard of before: Wildekrans Country House. Francois had surgery on his knee and ankle recently, so we needed a weekend to really relax, recover and connect with each other again.

We started the weekend by stopping at Peregrine Farm Stall, obviously. If you haven’t been, then drive out there (1 hour from Cape Town) just for that. Get their Springbok Pie, their pressed apple juice, a coffee AND a handful of crunchy apples from their own valley. Right around the corner, we stopped at a place called The Pool Room for wine tasting and tapas. I would highly recommend the chardonnay and their housemade Emmenthaler – which was the best I’ve ever tasted, even when compared to what I tried in Italy and Paris. The place is seriously beautiful.

We drove through Grabouw and stopped at this famous butchery where the ORIGINAL Grabouw wors comes from. You know the ones you see in the shops? That’s not “THE” original Grabouw Wors. Francois explained that the original has an apple tree on the label and is the recipe of the butcher that works there. We also bought biltong (that I thought was a bit too salty) & droë wors.

Feeling super full and quite chuffed with our purchases, we headed around the corner (all of these places are like a 5 minutes’ drive apart) to Wildekrans Country House. They have one big manor house with three en-suite bedrooms, a lounge and a big dining room where breakfast is served. We booked the room with the en-suite lounge, so we had a private breakfast nook in our room, which I LOVED. The main lounge has a really great book selection, a fireplace and a little honesty bar. It was just perfect. Our room and private lounge also had a mini library, private fireplace, patio and gorgeous view of the garden. The manor house has a really impressive contemporary South African art collection (loved the Kentridge pieces) with loads of gorgeous sculptures in the garden. If you’re an art lover, you’ll be in heaven. The owner, Alison runs really cool hikes and guided walks around the property, so if you’re feeling energetic (I was not) then totally check that out.

We checked in to our room, dropped bags then took a taxi to Botrivier – also around the corner. A quick heads up: There are ZERO uber drivers in that area, so if you’ll be having wine with dinner, then use a shuttle/transport company. We used Overberg Transfers and were helped by Adam > +27 79 503 6849. The service is not cheap as they drive through from Grabouw, so just check prices before you book.

Botrivier Hotel is insanely cool. They have a bar there, and it’s so old school. SO old, in fact, that they have two separate bars: One for ladies, one for men. The space isn’t used like that anymore but you can still see the original, separated rooms. Isn’t that crazy? We played cards and had a few drinks while chatting with the locals. When we got back to Wildekrans Country House, we lit our private fire, opened some wine and sat chatting until the early hours. It was so perfect. The next morning, breakfast was delivered to our little dining table at 9:00 am. After breakfast, we climbed back into bed with tea and biscuits and read and napped.

That afternoon, we went to our friend Deborah’s house for a braai. She lives in Elgin and has a beautiful house overlooking the valley. We huddled around the fire and played with her kids and chatted until late before heading back to our guesthouse. The next morning, we slept late again and had another private breakfast. Francois got back in bed and had a nap while I explored the grounds and checked out the estate’s old converted barn, swimming pool, sculptures and rose garden.

I wish that Wildekrans was dog-friendly, but unfortunately, it’s not. It’s definitely (extremely) kid-friendly, as there’s another self-catering, private cottage on the estate that would be great for families. Also note that the pool is enclosed/fenced off (is anyone else AS paranoid about water as I am?) Affordability wise, this country house won’t break the bank because the winter rates for June, July and August are between R625 and R725 per person sharing – including breakfast.

If you want to create a weekend like this for yourselves, then here’s an easy link-map: Peregrine Farm Stallhttp://peregrinefarmstall.co.za/, Grabouw Slaghuishttps://www.facebook.com/grabouwvleis/, The Pool Roomhttps://www.oakvalley.co.za/the-pool-room, Wildekrans Country Househttp://www.wildekrans.co.za/, Botrivier Hotel > http://bothot.co.za/. And the shuttle company we used > http://www.overbergtransfers.com/425116157 

If you’re looking for dog-friendly accommodation in the area, then stay at Galileo Farm nearby >http://www.galileofarm.co.za/ and if you’re traveling as a family or if you want the best ribs in the Western Cape, then rather have lunch at The Hickory Shackhttp://www.hickoryshack.co.za/. If you want any further details or recommendations then please drop me an email. I’d love to help you plan a super fun trip!

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From the future Mrs van Binsbergen.

About two years ago, a friend who also works in PR (hello Sascha) was working on another project and asked me to help one of her other friends (and previous client) with the launch of his new wine. I’m trying to remember how I met Sascha, but it was through social media and other wine events, I’m sure.

Enter: Sascha’s email on the 24th of May, 2016 with the introductions, client brief and this extract on Francois: “He is doing really well with the relaxed, quirky and entertaining spin on his tours – he is a really likable guy – one of those cheeky and charming Afrikaans boys.” A few days later, I met Francois for coffee to discuss the event… and now here we are, almost 2 years to the day from our first meeting (8th of June, 2016). Here are some pictures from his launch. Little did we know!

I’ll never know what ended up differentiating me, or what made him want to commit his entire life, heart and future to me… and to us. The chemistry between us is a beautiful mix of friendship, adoration… and love. What has always attracted me to my relationship with Francois is that I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to be the best person that I can be. Somehow, I had the same affect on him. I grew so much stronger in everything that I did.  Throughout these changes in myself and the way he mirrored on to me, was like we were standing there all alone in the brightest light and really started to understand each other.

If you’ve ever had an experience where a relationship with another human has really hit your core then you will completely understand how incredibly rewarding this kind of bond with another person is. I read something the other day that really resonated with me:

“But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

A person who brings you to your own attention. Isn’t that just so beautiful?

So 657 days after that first coffee meeting, the man who I grew to love as a part of me got down on his knee, held my hands and cried as he asked me to be his partner in everything for the rest of our lives. To be his wife and to share my life with him.

Devastatingly, we lost Francois’ mother in April last year. Shortly before her passing, she had a dream that Francois and I would marry… and that things would happen in March and in November. We decided to have our wedding reception at her favourite place – their family home in Stanford, which Francois purchased last year and is in the process of renovating. We want to feel like she is part of the celebration, so true to her prediction (prophecy?)…  our wedding will be in November this year. Francois proposed to me on Thursday the 29th of March. This picture was taken after several bottles of celebratory bubbly. I love it!

I love telling the story of how he proposed. When Francois and I started getting serious, I always told him that I knew he would propose in the literal worst way. It would be something like… I would open the fridge and there would be a ring in the mayonnaise jar. On our trip to Italy, rumours stirred amongst friends that he was going to propose and I was like “No way – this is not him.” Way too predictable and romantic. He later told me about all the other ways that he’d considered proposing – one of them was to put my ring on a beer bottle. In. A. Grave. Yard. You get the point?

He proposed to me on the street. While I was waiting for my Uber. No really, he literally (actuallllly) went to my uber as I was waiting outside and said to the driver “Sorry, can you just wait… I need to propose to this girl quickly” like… are you joking? It was so unexpected. He had my DREAM ring made by my favourite jeweller and said that he would plan something lovely and romantic for when he gives it to me. He booked a beautiful dinner at the gorgeous Mount Nelson (my favourite) and arranged for us to stay at a guest house for the night. We went for pre-drinks at our favourite bar, and en route dinner he took me to the SAME spot on the same street where he first proposed and gave me my ring. What an idiot. It was perfect. I could not have asked for a more beautiful ring. It is honestly the most gorgeous and feminine ring that I have ever seen. It’s an oval diamond tube-set in a rose gold band and it feels much too fancy for my fingers, but I’m getting used to it. I love it so, so much. He did so good with this.

So right now we’re planning a very special, romantic and sentimental wedding for around 80 guests in Stanford. He’s planning the menu and choosing music and I’m hiring furniture, trying on dresses and sending out invitations. It’s all a big whirlwind and we can’t wait. Please expect a LOT of wedding posts, because we want to do something entirely different… and I really want to share it with you!

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Flying with children

Travelstart asked me to share some tips with them on flying with children. My friends, all I really want to tell you is what NOT to do by telling you a story of what happened to us the last time we flew with the boys. There is a big reason why this was the last time. We actually got those tickets via a Travelstart search, so check their deals on cheap Flights to Cape Town

Three years ago, we flew to Durban on Christmas Day because the flights were so much cheaper. The boys had received toy swords for Christmas (yay) well actually all their gifts included swords, shields, superhero costumes, water guns and erm… handcuffs. Metal ones. Obviously, those were left behind. On the plastic swords, I was just like… “maybe I should just call the airport and check if they can bring them on the flight…” like a good and organized mother, taking all the necessary precautions *pats self on back* It went something like…

Me: Hello Cape Town International Airport?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day)

Me: My sons have these erm, swords. You know those cheap, plastic, kiddies swords?

ASCA: Yes ma’am (probably doesn’t though)

Me: They’re not like, dangerous. I was wondering if the kids are allowed to take them like, on the plane. Just as carry-on? I mean carry-on is probably better. Is that fine? You know those plastic swords? Totally not dangerous

ASCA: They’re not metal?

Me: No-no, they’re plastic. Pretend. Like, for playing

ASCA: Those are 100% fine, they can bring them as carry-on. Yes that’s fine, as long as they’re not metal

Me: You’re really sure?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Oh good, I mean – they just got them today and they’re so excited about them… you know how kids love swords

ASCA: Was there anything else ma’am?

Me: Nope! Thanks so much for assisting! And HEY – Merry Christmas! :))))

ASCA: *click*

So off we headed. Okay no well, wait… They also had these plastic water guns. They’re so cool, you can add a balloon to the end of the (rifle shaped) gun and then you pump water into it. So actually not a gun, a pump!  They’re plastic and I was in charge of packing, so I was like “no man this is fine… it’s plastic, won’t even show up in the detectors… totally cool… I’ll just put them in.” And then the boys each had a backpack of toys and colouring books to entertain them on the plane ride. Check. Best mother ever. All sorted.

Well.

We got to the check-in counters to get our boarding passes. Load the bags. And the check-in lady (CIL) was like

CIL: Where are you flying to?

Me: Durban! And hey! Merry Christmas!! :))))

CIL: The 13:30 flight? (I don’t think she was of religion that celebrates Christmas) (at least not the sort of Christmas where you buy weapons for your children as gifts) (why did I do that again?)

Me: Yes

CIL: Bags please ma’am

Me: Graeme! (I mean really as if I could lift that bag. We’d only packed two bags – a communal one for him and I and a joint one for the kids. Because I’m smart!)

CIL: This bag is 27kg ma’am (HATES me)

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Me: That’s nice

CIL: You’re only allowed 23kg per bag, per person

Me: Yes, but you see – my husband and I put both our things in ONE bag. So like technically, the bag is 19kg UNDERweight.

CIL: No ma’am

Graeme: It’s fine, what do we do now? How much is the charge per kg?

Me: NO! I mean, this is ridiculous. We have an allowance of 46kg between us. That doesn’t make sense.

CIL: You could move some of your things to another bag so that this one is at 23kg

Graeme: That’s fi…

Me: NO! I mean. This is ridiculous. It’s the same amount going on to the same aircraft, you just want us to move it into a different container? I mean this doesn’t make any sense. This is just so ridi…

Graeme: Unzips bag to begin moving things from one bag to another. As soon as bag is unzipped, two water balloon rifles are exposed

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CIL: Ma’am…

Me: It’s fine, they’re plastic. Like, they don’t even have triggers, it’s just to…

CIL: Ma’am. We need to take you to security.

Me: WHAT THE ACTUAL F…

Graeme: Where are they? Do we need to have these cleared? What is the procedure? (annoying how level-headed and rational he is)

CIL: Please come with me. You’ll need to be escorted

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Before we could leave we had to fish through our bags to distribute those golden 4kgs. There is nothing glamorous about diging through your underwear with about 37 people standing behind you in a check-in queue. We had to go to the other side of the airport, the whole family and CIL in tow, with the 23kg bag containing the forbidden plastic water pumps shaped like guns. Very dangerous. Kids are by now all WTF YOU SAID WE WERE GOING ON A PLANE (fine, they did not actually say WTF) The bag needed to go through some sort of special clearance, departments were phoned, we had to wait a while and CIL was very happy to leave us there as somebody else’s problem for the day.

Eventually, they decided what I knew all along: THAT THEY’RE PLASTIC BALLOON PUMPS that can inflict absolutely no harm on another living being or aircraft containing passengers. Like, if someone was (let’s say) trying to hijack a plane with a neon green toy then y’all would be like “sit down”. I know you aren’t allowed to mention plane jackings in airports but like THIS IS MY BLOG AND I’LL SAY WHAT I WANT.

Satisfied and reassured that all our bags are safe and will arrive at the said destination at the same time, we were super eager to get to the boarding gate, maybe have a Wimpy  burger, buy a magazine (all parents going lololol right now) and relax before our flight (more lololol) Yay us! Before we even got to the boarding gate, while we were in the queue, it started again. This time from the Boarding Gate Lady (BGL)

BGL: Ma’am. Excuse me ma’am? Those aren’t allowed

Me: WHAT?!

She was pointing toward the boys’ backpacks. The sword handles sticking out in the centre – too large to be zipped up.

Me: No-no it’s fine, I called the airport and they said it’s cool. Really (trying to reassure her) it’s totally cool! (like really… I wasn’t worried at all) (thinking “shame”, maybe she’s new)

BGL: Ma’am those are not allowed through these gates

Me: Can I speak to your manager? This is unacceptable.

BGL: Step aside please ma’am

By now, the boys are inconsolable, we’re about to miss our flight and Graeme and I are having a full-on argument in the airport. On Christmas day. In front of everyone. The supervisor arrives.

BGL2: What seems to be the problem?

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By now, I am not wishing anyone a Merry Anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even Christmas anymore. I mean, I am such an organized person. I had booked these flights in like October and all our Christmas shopping was done by mid-November. I LOVE administrative detail, being organized and having things go according to plan.

So I explained the whole thing to her, that I’d phoned, that I’d been told the swords are allowed, that well – we’re going to miss our flight and we really need to get going.

BGL2: Who did you speak to on the phone?

Me: I don’t know? The person who answered it.

BGL2: That person gave you the incorrect information

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Me: I’m sorry, but when you call THE AIRPORT which REPRESENTS… our airport and you ask an AIRPORT RELATED question, you sort of expect them to know how things work and give you the correct information, right?

BGL2: You were given the incorrect information. Those are not allowed on the plane. You can go to the security point and put them in with your main luggage. They might give you clearance.

Me: We were JUST there, our bags were already cleared. They’re probably already on the plane. I mean, I can’t do this anymore.

I usually don’t care a lot about these kinds of things, but these were my kids’ Christmas presents that I’d told them they can keep and that I’d already called to clarify and confirm because I was unsure. I mean, they were from Father Christmas, after all. Graeme was SO over it by now, but I was adamant that I was told this was allowed, and BGL2 is obviously wrong. And so it just got worse.

BGL2: Ma’am you’ll have to leave these here

Me: WAIT! I know. I’ll *phone* the airport right now here next to you and you can speak to them and they’ll just clarify everything. I’ll sort it all out right now! *presses redial*

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ASCA: Airport Company South Africa

Me: Hello, YES! Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (still doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day) (basically this whole thing is all this guy’s fault) (not that I’m BLAMING him) (I am)

Me: I spoke to you earlier, about the swords – you know the toy swords? Did I speak to you?

ASCA: *pause* yes ma’am

Me: OKAY!!! So. I’m at the boarding gate. With the swords. And they won’t let me take them on the plane. Can you speak to the supervisor, please?

ASCA and BGL2 exchange words for at least… 7 seconds. BGL2 hangs up. Passes phone to me.

BGL2: Ma’am. You spoke to customer care. They aren’t authorised to make those decisions or to handle security queries. They’re just customer care

Me: That’s odd, cause I AM A CUSTOMER. Is there another number I should have called to get this kind of information?

Graeme: Tash seriously, we’ll leave the swords here, it’s fine. Is there a holding locker or something? Can we collect them on our way back?

We had to explain it all to the kids who by now had forgotten they even had swords they were so over it. I was over it. The airport was over us. Finally, all issues aside, we made our way through the boarding gates. I sighed with relief as nothing beeped when I went through the metal detector. No weapons in my handbag. Laptop all scanned through. I was READY to get to Durban. Christmas, round two was underway! Whoohoo!

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*beep beep beep beep beep*

Wait, what? No really… WHAT? Somewhere behind me, there was an issue with Graeme and the boys and security. No, really. I could see the Boarding Gate Scanner Guy (BGSG) freaking out a bit (whispering and making eye contact) as the boys’ backpacks went through that x-ray carousel thing.

BGSG: THERE ARE GUNS IN HERE

Me: You have got to be…

All other airport folks are now stepping back and staring at my family. Graeme looking at me as if I had just murdered someone. Or farted. The kind of fart that makes you not love someone anymore.

Me: I SWEAR I have nothing to do with… Graeme? they packed their own bags. Oh dear God why did we let them pack their own activity bags?

Noah’s bag contained: One pair of scissors. Two plastic guns. Another water gun. All of which got thrown into a big container next to the BGSG. Ben’s bag contained much of the same, another two pairs of scissors. Fair enough. Eventually, the boys got the backpacks back with wide eyes and renewed respect and fear for the airport system. Grays and I sort of stood around putting things back into bags, sheepish grins as the piled up queue and other parents just stood there watching us. Judging.

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And that was the first 2 hours of our holiday. It was obviously all forgotten as soon as they saw the plane and got lost in the excitement and wonder of flying. Have any of you had airport dramas like this? Of course you haven’t. Because you don’t pack guns and swords into your luggage, and nor do your children!

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<sidebar> Obviously I do not BLAME the airport for not allowing us to take these items on to the plane. It’s just a funny story. If you’re ever unsure of an item that you’re allowed to take on the plane, it’s best to phone ACSA and ask to be put through to the SECURITY department. The airports do a very good job. Please don’t ban us.

Unfortunately, I have to fly with the boys again this year. We’re planning a trip to Johannesburg  because I really want to take the boys to the Johannesburg Zoo. They both love animals and Benjamin wants to work as a Zoologist one day, so it’s going to be a huge treat/surprise for them. Check out TravelStart’s deals on > Cheap Flights From Johannesburg To Cape Town because there are so many deals on right now. I’m also including the infographic on how to fly with children, just so you can be more prepared this holiday season.

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The Forgotten Route

Last weekend I went on The Forgotten Route tour, which is a 2 day excursion in to the Karoo. The itinerary look something like this:

Starting point: Cape Town Tourism Office in Cape Town CBD. You arrive and quickly put your luggage into the tour bus’ vehicle. I don’t want to give too much away as there are some really great little surprises, but the group goes on a short city walk with some fascinating stops and mini history lessons. There is so much that we don’t know about this city! After a few stops (and great photo opps) we head to The Kimberly Hotel for a quick coffee and to receive our passports. The guide (in our case – Riaan) took photos of everyone with a polaroid camera, and these got placed into our passport for the weekend’s stamping!

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We took the tour bus from Cape Town to Karibo Wine Farm in Rawsonville. Our host (and winemaker) Karen le Roux was incredibly charming and we got to experience a private wine and biltong pairing as well as a wine and cupcake pairing. We also sampled some of Karen’s homemade Shiraz ice cream / sorbet that was super delicious.

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After Karibo, we headed to the Worcester station and boarded our train to Matjiesfontein. The train ride was beautiful and scenic. We all had a quick lunch and enjoyed relaxing and soaking up the view. The Karoo landscape is breathtaking and it was such a great feeling to be out of the city and amongst nature.

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We got to Matjiesfontein and were greeted by our guide, Riaan who had driven our bus there while we were on the train. We were welcomed at the station platform with cocktails and music before heading to our accommodation at the Rietfontein Private Nature Reserve. After dropping our bags, we headed to the famous Lorde’s Arms pub (the only pub) in Matjiesfontein and then boarded our bus – the shortest bus tour in the world, I’m sure. Our host, John was incredibly fun and hilarious. If you’ve ever been on his famous village tour then you’ll have a smile on your face just thinking about it. We were in stitches. After the (literally) five minute tour, we headed back to the pub for some honkey-tonk entertainment and singing from John.

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We had dinner at our accommodation – a beautiful Karoo braai, potatoes, braai broodjies, wors and salad coupled with loads of wine and more music. We huddled next to the fireplace while our guide braaied for us and their team prepared the other dishes and set our table for us. After dinner, Riaan took us to the Matjiesfontein Museum which is scary, creepy and fascinating. Their museum houses the largest private collection in the country.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the beautiful Lord Milner Hotel. Here you can choose between a cold breakfast (cheeses, meats, cereals, pastries etc) or the hot a la carte menu. After breakfast and loads of coffee, we boarded our bus and went to the famous graveyard in Matjiesfontein. Here our guide gave us more information on James Logan and his family. We then headed back toward Cape Town via Montagu. We stopped at their local market and shopped for homemade jams, soaps, art, crafts and treats before boarding our bus again and heading for Platform 62 in Asthon. If you haven’t been – this is a great find for a day trip! It’s basically an enormous farm stall with a huge wine, brandy, gin and liquer selection. They offer various tastings and pairings, and have a large restaurant outside with a kids play area, pet chickens and even a pet pig. The food is also really, really good – huge portions at such a good price. After tasting various spirits and wines, we headed outside for lunch before going back in to the tasting room for a really interesting and fun brandy tasting / pairing. We tried various (I honestly lost count) brandies with chocolates, honey, ginger, tonics and even orange juice. I highly recommend this pairing experience if you ever find yourself in Ashton.

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We boarded our bus again and headed for Marbrin Olive Farm in Robertson. Here we got to sample their various (delicious) olive oils and homemade bread. The truffle was definitely my favourite, with the sundried tomato variant coming in at second. We also tried their balsamic vinegars and then a good helping of their famous limoncello – which was a huge hit. The setting is so beautiful and they have plans to expand the property and introduce a restaurant offering. We’ll definitely be back for that.

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After that, we boarded our bus back to Cape Town, merry from the day’s festivities. We’d all bought wine (and limoncello) during the day and at this point we were all sharing and having a little party on the bus – coupled with The Forgotten Route’s very cool playlist. We arrived back in Cape Town at about 7pm filled with great stories, memories and new friendships from our trip. I’d highly recommend this tour amongst friends as everyone had a super great time.

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The tour costs R1850.00 per person and includes everything except your lunch on the train (average R100) and your lunch at Platform 62 (average R150 with your beverage/coffee) so you’re looking at about R2100 all inclusive for a full two-day adventure in the Karoo. This includes your tour, the guide, the bus, your train ticket, wine tasting, cupcake and biltong pairing, Matjies bus tour, Karoo lamb braai, accommodation, breakfast, brandy pairing and olive tasting. For more info > check out their website. Looking for more things to do in and around Cape Town? > Highly Rated

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2016.

I was scrolling through my Instagram last night and couldn’t believe how much has happened this year, and how much everything has changed. And I mean everything. Let’s get real for a minute, because I want to be able to read this again in a year’s time and really remember how this year felt.

In 2016, I started my first year as a single woman. I wanted to say “single mother” but I don’t feel that way at all. Graeme is a great, involved dad who sees them almost half of their time. What I really struggled with was NOT seeing them that much anymore. The first few months, I spent a lot of time at home. I threw myself in to work, which I love. I didn’t want to socialise and spent a few weekends in KZN, visiting my dad and childhood friends. I also watched the entire Sex and the City series from scratch. Then all the movies. Obviously.

I hadn’t dated since 2007. It was all so… weird. I started a life with someone at 23. The adjustment was difficult, but not awful. I missed the familiarity of being around someone who knew me, to be honest. I’m so proud and surprised at how unscathed the boys were by any of it. Noah slotted in to ‘man of the house’ mode and helps me so much. In the mornings, he gets up before anyone else and lets Jack out for his morning tinkle. Those tiny little things make such a huge difference around the house, and he loves any kind of responsibility.

I bought a house. I renovated a house. I found somewhere safe and happy for my boys to live and play and we made it a home – together. We danced in the lounge, we unpacked boxes and we ate a LOT of take-aways. On nights alone, I drank a lot of wine. We moved in to our new home on 1 July and that Winter was pretty tough.

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We had to say goodbye to our beautiful Daisy. Although we tried, our new garden is not equipped for two ‘farm’ dogs. She is a great guard dog, but her barking did not sit well with our neighbours – no matter what we tried. She is with my uncle in Durbanville and has become a friend to their Collie. She’ll always be in our lives and on family outings and camping trips, but we miss her so much. Every day. Losing Daisy was a hard blow on all of us.

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I got really good at filling my time and keeping busy. I tried dating and was pretty awful at it. I know that’s true because I watched a LOT of Sex and The City. I met the most incredible people this year. Kind, wonderful, driven and good hearted men. I also met trash. I’ll write about it eventually. It will have a catchy header like “The 3 Men I Dated in 2016” because I’ve learned that there are exactly 3 in every dating / MAN category. Again – so much educational value in Sex and The City.

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I met someone who is my equal in every way and who I learn so much from. Someone who scared the rabbits out of me. Someone who really loves me. I’m a really happy, lucky girl.

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I lost friends and made friends. I lost a best friend, which hurts a woman’s heart more than any man ever could – am I right? I respected my own individuality, because nobody should ever begrudge another for not conforming to their views or lifestyle. We can’t change or shape ourselves around other people’s expectations, and we need to accept and forgive each other for our flaws and faults. I learned so much about forgiveness this year, and what a gracious act it is. It’s one of the best and kindest gifts that you can give to someone.

2016 told me that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. And that I don’t really care about anything that does not affect me directly. Some people call it privilege, I call it prioritising. I am not going to sit and argue feminism with you for 6 hours on social media when I could be working on a pitch, baking with my kids, running with Jack or drinking bubbly with my wonderful boyfriend. It’s not that I don’t care about women’s rights, it’s just that there is so. little. time. that I’ve learned to direct mine toward my priorities: The people who I love and who need me.

This year I took major steps in my business to give it room to grow. We’ve opened a classroom / training facility which is walking distance to my house. It’s such a pleasure to walk a few steps to the office every day – I really have landed with my bum in the butter here.

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I’ve taken a few knocks, made awful mistakes and really centered my emotions. I was all over the place up until about two months ago. Everything affected me. I found myself wanting to numb my heart with food, series, books, booze – any form of escapism that you could think of. I felt… lost this year. I have the most incredible friends who let me vent, lash out, act weird, be crazy and annoy them for like 10 months straight. A further shout-out to my long-suffering mother who could probably publish novels from our whatsapp threads. I appreciate and love my friends more than I could ever articulate or limit within the framework of words. You are truly beautiful people. I’m going to be a better friend in 2017.

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We ‘solved’ Ben’s asthma. After years of struggling with his tiny lungs, an allergy test saved the day. Also thousands of rands worth of special bedding, sheets, covers, cushions and mattress protectors because our little Bunny Banana is allergic to dust mites. It’s been such a relief to watch him grow stronger every week.

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Noah blew us all away this year with his passion for school, his new friendships and dedication to his schoolwork. He loves school more than anything else, and it loves him.

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That’s a wrap. I’m doing my Xmas shopping today and making the house FESTIVE for my boys who spent way too many evenings watching me work. I can’t wait to just be with them all day without any distractions. I’ll be a better mother in 2017. I’m going to be better at everything. Merry Christmas friends. I hope you have the most beautiful time with everyone who loves you.

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Knysna Oyster Festival 2016

I’ve been to the Knysna Oyster Festival a few times and it never disappoints. I’ve been for leisure, pleasure, work and fitness. From exploring the nightlife and jumping off bridges to running a half marathon, it’s always been some kind of adventure.

BUT, I’ve never gone as a family. For years I walked past the numerous (many) kids play parks, activities and areas with regret and always promised that I’d return with my baby bunnies in tow. Whenever I attended the Oyster Fest, I always stayed at Knysna Hollow Country Estate. It feels like going ‘home’ walking through their doors because the lodge / resort is so homey, welcoming and unpretentious in it’s beauty and surroundings.

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We’re heading off to Knysna Hollow from 1 July for a long, long weekend of activities, adventure and quality time. I already have bungee jumping, paragliding, a forest walk, educational elephant encounter and whale watching in our itinerary. Their spacious family chalets are between R750.00 and R1000 per person on a Bed & Breakfast basis, and kids under 12 years sharing with parents stay free!

Family chalet at Knysna Hollow Country Estate

Accommodation - Knysna Hollow Country Estate Garden Suites

Knysna Hollow Country Estate Garden Suites

The chalets open up to gorgeous lawns with various pools, play areas and a man-sized chess board on the estate. Don’t forget about Charlie, the resident cat. He is definitely my favourite and quite a legend at Knysna Hollow. I have such happy memories edging up to the fireplace and catching up with Keri for hours over bottles of wine and having sundowners at the poolside. If you’re looking for a family-friendly, jovial and festive but relaxed place to stay over the Oyster Fest or any other time on the Garden Route, then this is my highest recommendation. They’ve also launched Superior Eco Estate Rooms that overlook a perennial dam with prolific birdlife. The spacious rooms are decorated in a fresh Scandinavian-style which combines natural wooden finishes with a refined palette of blues and greys creating a calm and inviting space. View all their accommodation options here.

View of the newly built Knyna Hollow Eco Estate block.

Eco Estate Rooms at Knysna Hollow Lounge area with Flat Screen TV.

Knysna Hollow Eco Estate Rooms all have superior bathroom facilities.

See you soon, Knysna. The boys can’t wait! Looking for accommodation in Knysna? Check AccommoDirect for more <a href=”https://www.accommodirect.com/destinations/knysna/“>accommodation in Knysna</a>.

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Sydney and Melbourne highlights.

On 1 January this year, I got on a plane and flew from Cape Town > Johannesburg > Sydney and then Sydney > Melbourne. I’m so glad that I got to spend just over 24 hours in Sydney because it is breathtakingly beautiful. Really, I had no idea. I spent 6 days in Melbourne and didn’t see nearly enough, so I’ll need to go back real soon. It’s hard to decide between the two cities as a favourite, so I’ll let you make up your own mind. I have never really considered myself to be a foodie, but Melbourne has changed my mind on that. I ate some of the best meals of my life in Australia. Eeek, even (much) better than the food in Paris. I was really lucky that my host, friends and relatives in the area directed and treated me to all the right places. If you ever find yourself (or currently live in) Australia, then consider these my recommendations.

In Sydney, we dined at Darling Harbour at a place called Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. It’s right on the water, and has such a great atmosphere. Here I feasted on delicious oysters, seared salmon and wine. Even though it was after New Year’s Eve, there were still firework displays on that evening. Throughout my life, I will never forget standing in the doorway of that restaurant, gripping a glass of good wine and watching the colourful explosions over the harbour. I’ll never forget that evening. I sipped Moet at a trendy harbour club and danced until my feet hurt, finally collapsing in to a Novotel bed at around 4am, happy, content and exhausted.

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In Sydney I also really loved Opera Bar which is adjacent to the Sydney Opera House. I loved the Ice Bar? at Bondi Beach and I really, really love an area called Manly which has a gorgeous little bay with warm water and lots of little sail boats and yachts. I missed the boys so much here, because Sydney is built for kids and families. I imagined my boys playing in the (almost) deserted bays and taking them sailing in the afternoons, letting them jump in to the water from the boat and staying outdoors until 9pm every day, when the sun sets there. Honestly, I left my heart in Sydney. I’ll definitely be back.

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For Melbourne, I’m going to give you just one favourite restaurant, where I had the best meal of my life to date. If you’re ever in the area, then you absolutely should visit…

Mamasita: For the best and most delicious mexican food of your existence. Mexican and Italian are my two favourite cuisines, and dammit this place was good. You can’t book a table at Mamasita, so expect a queue (all the way down the stairs, out the doorway and sometimes down the street) to get a table. And people do queue. Even in heels, like I did. The vibe is just so incredible, and you can tell that everyone is having a super good time and are seriously in to their food. The portions are small, served in a tapas style which is tradition in Mexican households. You get to order loads of different dishes and share them amongst your friends – and remember to wash it all down with a jug of their deliciously sweet Sangria. The highlight for me here were the Plantains which consists of long, baked, crispy banana fingers lathered with their signature salsas, sauces, relishes and guacamole. That would hands down be my “death row” meal if I ever had to make such a decision. Everything here was incredible and I ate until I really just couldn’t anymore.

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It was really nice to get a 9 day break from well, everything. I’m planning another trip for July and I can’t decide between Italy and America. July is ideal because of school holidays and also because I HATE WINTER TO DEATH. The first time I went overseas, the boys really missed me. But now, with the new school schedule, routine and dynamics – they are super in to seeing dad 24/7. So when I went to Australia they *really* treasured the time with him and I swear they hardly noticed I was gone :((( or :))))? So now I’m dead set on traveling a tiny bit more this year.

I’ve grown very fond of traveling alone. I don’t think that I would ever want someone by my side through any of it. I get to read and write and think and spend some good quality time inside my head. I get to internalise what I’m feeling instead of shouting “LOOK AT THAT BUILDING” to someone else every five minutes, you know? I always get home feeling a bit more adventurous, stronger and that tiny bit braver. And like I know this big, wonderful secret that nobody else does… you know? I hope you do.

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I wanted to mention that I didn’t take my ‘big’ camera on this trip, because I found it too stressful in Paris – constantly worrying about it, lugging it around, being physically weighed down. So I relied on my iPhone for all of this because memories don’t need to be perfect, right?

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Guest House in Stellenbosch, Cape Town

I recently stayed at the very charming Vine Guest House in Stellenbosch. Actually, it was my second visit. It’s a gorgeous little gem nestled in the heart of the winelands with pretty views, lush gardens and luxurious finishes. The first thing you’ll notice is how neat, clean and tidy it is. Second you’ll spot the modern, sophisticated yet comfortable decor style. The palette is soft and neutral – think warm greys, natural wood, and crisp white with pops of colour and some greenery. A lot of love, passion and consideration has gone in to the recent re-vamp.

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At the entrance you’ll find a little fountain, a dam with an abandoned rowing boat, tall trees, flowers and an uninterrupted view of the mountains. Vine has 9 guest rooms ranging from Superior to Executive. All rooms have a patio canopied by lush vines and some rooms offer a private terrace. They’re all fitted with air conditioning, flat-screen TV, a safe, hairdryer, bathrobe, Charlotte Rhys toiletries, snacks, wine, pool towels and a fully stocked minibar (even a Nespresso machine!) Check out their rooms here.

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I love this little guesthouse, which is situated on Bottelary Rd, just a stone-throw from Stellenbosch, and close to Paarl and Franschhoek too. This is the perfect spot to stay at if you want a tranquil environment that’s close to all the tourist attractions, cycle routes, monuments and wine farms in the area. Stunning for a stop-over if you’re exploring the winelands and don’t want to drive too far to get back to Cape Town. They serve a mean breakfast, and they’re opening their restaurant in just a few months! I had a sneak peek, and it’s going to be gorgeous. More on that soon!

Vine_Gallery-12You can find more information on their rates and book online on their website. Also check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m going back there again on Wednesday! I might try my hand at some tennis this time! Website here. **All pictures by Vine Guesthouse.**

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Carb free options at Col’Cacchio this Summer

I haven’t done a food post in such a long time, so I thought I’d share this with you guys. I’ve been doing a lot of eating at Col’Cacchio lately. We ate at the Cavendish branch the week before last and last week we went back to take aways. I’m trying to cut back on my sugar and refined carb intake because those food items make me feel pretty gross. Although I’m not a banter, I am always keen to try a carb substitute and kill some calories. Their new summer menu is simple, fresh, healthy and colourful. They’ve added banting ‘pasta’ dishes, and the vegetarian option I had was hands down the best meal I’ve had this year. I am not kidding. It was the Zucchetti pesto, made with zucchetti (julienned zucchini) basil pesto, Italian parmesan and toasted pumpkin seeds. I ate a huge portion and still finished off a caprese salad on my own (oink oink)

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Their new banting ‘pasta’ dishes use zucchetti as a replacement to pasta. Pastas include the Piccante made with zucchetti, pomodoro, chorizo, peppadew piquante peppers, mascarpone, chilli flakes and the Verde Rosso, a combination of zucchetti with chicken parmigiana. They still have their original menu if you’re keen on carbs, but have only added a handful of healthy, carb and sugar free options which they call their ‘banting’ section but should just call the ‘carb free’ option. Check out the Orientale dish below.

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I also tried the vegetarian banting pizza, which comes with a medium side salad and delicious dressing. You can eat a whole cheesy pizza covered in veg and not feel like a fatty-fat face afterwards. A cauliflower pizza base does not taste like a flour based one, but it’s kind of like white bread vs wholewheat bread – tastes good, but not exactly the same. My kids didn’t know the difference and ate the whole thing. I tricked them (and myself) right in to those vegetables.

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They also have banting desserts which I understand as (refined) sugar free? I’m kicking myself that I didn’t try one, but the cheesecake (with macadamia cacoa base) looked so good. If anyone wants to take me to lunch this summer, it will be here. As a side note, they are kid friendly. The kids get crayons to draw on the table cover, and some dough and cookie cutters to ‘bake’ with.

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Price wise, I didn’t write down numbers but when I took the boys: We all had mains, I had a coffee and the kids had a milkshake each. Our bill was R250 so it’s really good. Check out their new menu here > www.colcacchio.co.za for more details.

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