The Great Trek, to a New Country

Tala Game Drive

After moving back to South Africa four years ago (from the UK) we’ve decided through a year of deliberation that we’ll be moving countries. Again…

This time very far south, also maybe known as the “arse end of the world”, to the North Island of New Zealand.
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This process will take place over the next few months, as Hubby Dave has gone over to Auckland ahead of me and Abi to get the ball rolling in NZ, while I wrap up the SA side of things (including selling our house, bleh!)

The excitement on one hand is good, but on the flip side, the overwhelming list of things to do before we move (including moving Pippa, our 2 y/o Beagle over with us) is growing by the day.

Then, there is a whole other process of “leaving South Africa behind!”  While reading the”expat” forums, one of the first points I have seen from those who have left, is they created a list of things they didn’t like about South Africa, or “reasons why they chose to emigrate” to refer back to when the honeymoon period after the move has worn off…  Because lets face it, emigration is tough, and it’s not for the faint hearted.

I’m hoping I won’t need to refer back to this very often, and that settling into the NZ way of life will come easy to us (me), but I know the first year or two is going to be a big adjustment and a culture shock.  So, I set about creating two secret Pinterest boards, one named “Why we left South Africa” and the other named “New Zealand”.

Whenever I see an online article highlighting a negative point of South Africa, (such as this taxi driving down the wrong side of Fields Hill, a road I use every day,) I pin this, and whenever I see an online article I like about NZ, I pin that too. I know those connected around me (online of course) get a bit of insight into the process I’m working through.  They see some of these online articles thanks to Facebook likes/comments, and may be offended by the negativity (toward South Africa). In fact, I’ve been warned by a friend not to alienate myself because she is very happy running a business, and raising her family in South Africa after returning from the UK. That’s great, but we’re walking a different path, and that includes moving to a new country, and having our own reasons for why we’re doing this. I’m not going to feel ashamed about my choices and my views on why I’m leaving.

Although South Africa has its area’s of concern, South Africa will always be part of us and our heritage!  We do not despise the country, or feel bitter about having lived here, and we are not leaving with the premise of never coming back.  We’re leaving in search of new opportunities, and experiences, and for what we feel will be a better and safer way of life for us.

Having said this, we’ve been getting out to experience South African heritage with Abi, so she can have these memories with her through her new travels and the life she chooses to live in the future, be that in New Zealand, South Africa or the UK, (she is also a British Citizen).

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The people around us, and who’s opinions and relationships are important to us, are the people who understand why we have chosen to leave, and are supportive and understanding of the process we are working through.

Now, even though it’s more American heritage than South African heritage, we’ve just booked tickets to the Trick or Treat Dolphin Show at uShaka Marine World taking place on 31 October, so I’m off to create a new Pinterest board named “How to make a red dragon Halloween costume”…

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The Capture Site

Abi and I found ourselves with a bit of time on our hands before attending a 2pm birthday party at the Pietermaritzburg Model Engineering Society on Saturday. After a bit of thought, we decided while being in the area, to take a short drive up to Howick to view the Nelson Mandela Capture site.

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There is a small exhibition showing the Long Walk To Freedom history, as well as the amazing and iconic sculpture situated at the bottom of the site.

It is so good to see how big Abi’s heart is for “Melson Mandela” as she calls him, and as we were leaving I heard her whisper to heaven “Bye, I love you Melson Mandela”.  I told her his heart would have been so proud to hear her words.

View details for the tickets and the exhibition here.  It’s only a small monument, but there is a restaurant and a few other craft/trade stores on the site too.

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Glittery homemade play dough {DIY}

This afternoon was rainy and wet so we were indoors. This was a good opportunity to try out a post I pinned recently on a glittery homemade play dough.
Glittery play dough
The ingredients are mostly available from the kitchen cupboard and the craft cupboard, listed below:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup fine table salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
  • 1,5 cups of boiling water
  • An assortment of food colouring and matching colour glitter

Method:
Mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl, then slowly add the oil and rub the dry ingredients and the oil together using your finger tips and palms.

Add half of the just boiled water to the dry ingredients/oil mixture and mix with a wooden spoon till it becomes a very sticky paste.  Add the rest of the water and continue to mix with the wooden spoon. You’ll notice the dough starts to form a more solid texture, lumping around the wooden spoon, at this point empty the dough out onto a clean surface and let it cool for a minute. When still warm, work the dough with your hands kneading it until the texture looks and feels like store bought play dough.

Split the dough into 5 sections and roll each one into a ball. Take one ball and roll it flat then add in a 1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) of liquid food colouring and 1 teaspoon of the same colour glitter to the middle.  Work the food colouring and glitter into the dough using your hands until it’s an even colour all through.  Repeat this with the remaining balls using different colour food colouring and glitter.  I left one ball white just adding sliver glitter.
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Part of the fun was getting my little one to do all the mixing and prep, and after the dough was made, she had even more fun rolling and cutting shapes with cookie cutters and adding accessories like buttons, beads, and googly eyes to the cut out shapes.
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The original pin was from this link below, Happy Hooligans, who did a Christmas play dough activity tray post, http://happyhooligans.ca/christmas-play-dough-activity.  I did get the play dough recipe from The Imagination Tree, http://theimaginationtree.com/2012/04/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe.html, where it really did take around 4 minutes to make the play dough.

Anna from The Imagination Tree says this play dough can last up to 6 month in an airtight container, in more humid climates it may need to be kept in the fridge or out of direct sunlight.  We have yet to see how long our’s will last, but this one use was well worth it for a full afternoon of indoor fun.

Enjoy.

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White Washed Plywood Flooring {DIY}

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As the journey of home improvement continues, the next big project we’ve tackled is a flooring solution for our bedrooms and passage.  After deciding tiles weren’t an option we had a look at various laminate, vinyl and hardwood floor options.  The laminate is practical, easy to install and also cost effective, but we wanted something different…  The vinyl and of course hardwood flooring options were better looking, just not a good fit for our budget, cue Pinterest!

I had seen a few (USA) DIY tutorials on plywood flooring, and after two months of investigation, managed to put together a plan for our own plywood DIY flooring.  Have a read below to see the process and finished look:

We started off with screeded cement floors painted with a floor paint.  As we didn’t want to go through the expense and trouble of putting down a wood floor sub-base, we went with the option to glue the wood straight to the cement floors.  We found a chemicals manufacturer in Westmead, Pinetown called the Pekay Group who had a two part glue that would work on bonding wood to cement.  This is normally used to glue down parquet flooring.

After measuring up dimensions of the area and deciding how wide we wanted the wood strips, BoardPrep in Pinetown cut our flooring strips from sheets of 9mm thick pine plywood.
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A sheet of ply is 1220mm x 2440mm, and we cut the planks 147mm wide, so got 8 lengths, allowing 3-5mm for the blade size to ensure that all 8 lengths of wood were near to the exact same width.

You’ll need to prepare the area you are wanting to lay wood onto, make sure it’s been vacuumed and wiped down with a damp sponge, then completely dry.
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We used 5c pieces as our floor spacers between each length of ply.
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Use a tooth 6mm tiling trowel fitted with some duck tape to reduce the tooth size to 3mm (or a 3mm trowel if you can find one), to spread the glue onto the floor.  Just do the glue one length of wood at a time because it’s quick drying.
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On the underside of the wood, cut 3mm deep score marks across the width so the wood doesn’t bow, this also helped to adhere the wood to the floor.  Once the first few rows were laid, we put bricks onto the ply wood after glueing them down to keep resistance on the wood while it adhered to the floor.  We didn’t mind too much if the bricks dented the wood as it gave a distressed look when finished.

We left the floor to dry for 48 hours before sanding the whole area down with an Orbital sander.  Vacuum and sponge down the floors before putting down the first layer of white washed paint.  We used the Dekade range, Quick-Primer paint for the white washed mix, 1 part primer paint to 2 parts water. After applying three layers of paint leaving 6 hours between coats, we left it to dry for 48 hours..
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Once the floors were completely dry, we applied three coats of Rystix Timbacare Interior ArmaFloor clear sealer.  Dave took to the floor with steel wool after the second coat had dried. This gave the floor a sleeker, smoother texture, before applying the final coat.  All we need to do in these rooms now is add the skirting boards, and we’ve got ourselves a new floor.

Voila, a uniqe DIY flooring solution with a lovely look and feel, no matter what colour you paint it.

This is the USA website tutorial we based our installation on:
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Will you be giving it a go?
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A Road Trip – Western Cape

The month of October has come and gone before it feels like it even started!  For me this must have something to do with the following statement – “how time flies when you’re having fun” because we went on a road trip to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape.

As there were a 6 of us (5 adults and my 4 y/o daughter) we hired a van.  We also did this because the plan was to bring some glass mosaic mirrors back with us when we returned.

We had two days planned of driving to get to our destination, so I whipped up a Road Trip activity bag for my little one. Take a look at some of the idea’s I pinned while deciding what would work best for us.
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The firm favourites were the cupcake printable by VOL25 and a little Go Fish magnetic game I made out of paper clips, a magnet, some twine, washi tape and dowel!
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I did secretly sort through her toy box to make up small activity sets like grouping all her plastic farm animals from all over the house into one tin, as well as all the ‘jewellery & make-up’ into a little pouch, and pulled out her finger puppets she hadn’t used in a while, so her Road Trip activity bag was like a little treasure chest of goodies. The drive in the car was not nearly as bad as I had imagined, she did very well considering.

Outings up to George and Knysna on day 2 were amazing. We had lunch at a lovely restaurant called East Head Café, spent some time on the beach, browsing decor shops and taking in the lovely sights of the area.
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Day three we drove up to the Karoo and spent the morning at the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm, a working farm open for tours to share information about the Ostrich trade and wares. Did you know that 70 tons of Ostrich feathers are exported annually to Brazil, the biggest global consumer of Ostrich feathers, for their annual Carnival?
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We spent the afternoon at the Cango Caves where at least two of our group were very happy to get out of there at the first opportunity, but I must say I enjoyed it.  We didn’t do the full tour, just the easy walking tour which is only about a 1/3 of the way down into the caves, no crawling through small spaces or tight squeezes for us.  It’s one of the places I wanted to visit on my bucket list (tick.)
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While in Mossel Bay itself, we visited a few local spots, vintage shops, Cape St Blaize Lighthouse and Delphino’s, a great place for sundowners right on the point.

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The last day on the way out we drove over the Robinson Pass and what a view.
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And now that we are back home after having had a lovely time away, I would like to plan a few more road trips around South Africa, what a lovely way to experience the beauty that can be found right on our own doorstep.

Next week I’m looking forward to receiving my order of photo books I ordered online from Burble Pix.  I’m giving one of the books as a thank you gift and can’t wait to see the look on the recipients faces when they see it.
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School holiday outings in Durb’s

In the past month and a half, I’ve been visiting places that are perhaps not as popular as they once were, but are still quite entertaining for little ones.  Here is a recap of where we have visited:

The Umgeni River Bird Park

The first outing was to The Umgeni River Bird Park, see previous post details here.  The bird park was a lovely experience, including activities like feeding the Swans and the Lorikeets, a bird show where we got up close to a very large Vulture and then had a light lunch at the Cockatoo Cafe which includes a play area for kids.

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Entrance:  R50 for adults, R30 for children (4 – 12 yrs)
Location:  Riverside Road, Durban North
Visit their website here.

Butterflies for Africa

In September, we visited Butterflies for Africa.  I actually found a Groupon deal for this trip, so decided to book it and check it out. They are located in not the best looking part of PMB, near the silo’s of Tiger Brands, and because of the lack of rain at the time everything was very dry and dusty in the area.  But once we got in, the temperature dropped in the butterfly house enclosure, and the butterflies, other insects and creatures kept my little one intrigued.  There is also a cafe, a shop and small gallery there.

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Entrance:  R38 for adults, R24 for children (3-16 yrs)
Location:  Willowton Road, Petermaritzburg
Visit their website here.

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While in the area visiting Butterflies for Africa, not far up the road is a lovely place called House of HEART Emporium, please pop in to view their lovely collection of local and hand made treasures, visit their garden nursery and feast on the delicious treats at the Flavour Cafe with kids play area. Visit their website for details here.

Mitchell Park and The Blue Zoo

This is a firm favourite for many a parent who needs to get out of the house on a weekend.  Funny enough, we bumped into one of my little one’s friends when we were on the way out from our visit.  The 100 year old Tortoises are still there, and we got to see a Crocodile, Marmoset’s, Guinea Pigs, Peacocks, Ducks, Duiker and Rabbits.

After visiting with the animals, we had a coffee and the most delish fresh baked cream scone at the Blue Zoo Restaurant in Mitchell Park.

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Entrance:  R10 for adults, R7 for children (Mitchell Park Zoo)
Location: Morningside, Durban
Visit this website here for details on Mitchell Park Zoo, and visit Blue Zoo Restaurant website here.

The Natural Science Museum

I’m not even sure how I got to reading up about the Natural Science Museum, I think it may have been on a mailer from KZN Kids that I found the link.  It was a good place to visit on Heritage Day.  I was quite surprised as how well the museum has been maintained considering it’s been around for years.  The smell of the old building, the huge carved wooden doors and the plush red carpets up the marble staircase had a certain grandeur.

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Entrance:  FREE
Parking is available for R15 at the parking garage next to The Playhouse Theatre.

Location:  Durban CBD
Visit the website here for further details on The Natural Science Museum. 

I hope this guide of what I’ve been up to with my little one in our City will help for the school holidays next week.

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Glass Cake Stands {DIY}

For the recent Birthday Brunch (check out the details in this blog post here), I decided to make my own glass cake stands.  Here is the DIY post on how I made these.  They were made from upcycled items I picked up from the local Highway Hospice charity shop.  I also did a cute drinks tray with a chalkboard tray centre.

My charity shop basket included the following items:
2 Sundae Glasses
1 Sherry Glass
1 Candle Holder
1 Pie Dish
1 Round Shallow Bowl
1 Flat Round Plate
1 Glass Plate Square

DIY extras:
Pattex Epoxy Glue
White acrylic spray paint
Chalkboard paint in colour of choice

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I started by turning the plate/bowl/pie dish over and marking out the centre on the underside.  I then glued the Sherry glass to the underside of the pie dish, the Sundae glasses to the bottom of the flat round plate and the round shallow bowl, and the candle holder to the underside of the square glass plate.

The Epoxy glue is a bit tricky as you need to ‘activate’ it by mixing equal parts of the glue and activator together.  Then using the supplied spatula to put a ring of glue around the rim of the glasses and putting in place on the undersides of the plates.  I let the glue dry overnight.

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The next day, I sprayed two of the four stands in white spray paint.  I added three light layers of paint to get an even finish, leaving 45 minutes in between each layer to dry.

The finished result, not the best picture, but you can see how they turned out.  I also sanded then spray painted a metal tray and ceramic server I bought.  Once the spray paint had dried on the metal tray, I painted the centre with two layers of black chalkboard paint to use as a “Drink Me” drinks tray.

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Here are some photo’s of the finished cake stands on the day.

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Easy done.  Give it a go, and let me know how your DIY glass cake stands turn out.

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A French Themed Brunch

August is Birthday Month for me, and this year I decided to do something a little different for my birthday, to have a birthday Brunch, with a French Theme!

I started by creating a Pinterest board for ideas, click the image below to view all these lovely pins I found!

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For the decor, I made some paper flowers in blue and red tissue paper, as well as some pages from a French book I picked up, and cut a few hearts out of the French pages too. Then I decorated the wooden spoons for the muesli and yoghurt with some washi tape.

French word hearts Paper flowersWooden Washi Spoons

I had high hopes after reading a few tutorials and watching a few YouTube Video’s of making my first batch of Macaron’s, the perfect delicate French inspired treat…

Well, that didn’t work out too well.  They made lovely meringues, but they didn’t get ‘feet’ so technically they couldn’t be called a Macaron!  Not going to stop me from trying again though.

Here are a few photo’s of the treats that did make it to the breakfast table.

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My home made recipe inspired by ‘In Good Company’ for chocolate croissants was so good, I didn’t even get a chance to take any photo’s of these.  As soon as I popped them on the table fresh out the oven, they disappeared.

The big success for me personally was the blue ombre layer cake, finished off with piped icing roses and a bit of edible glitter for some glam!

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For the table card printables, and another freebie printable I found online for the baguettes, download here.  I’ll also be posting a little DIY on the cake plates I made out of upcycled glasses and plates that I picked up from the charity shops later this week, so please come back for a visit.

Thanks

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Mini Chocolate Croissants {Recipe and tutorial}

Its ‘Birthday Month’ and I’ve been pinning a few ideas on a birthday party theme.  I quite like a French Theme Brunch, so I’ve created a board and I’m busy filling it with ideas. Click on the image below to view.

French Theme Brunch

As a good host should always do, if using a new recipe, try it out first before the big event to avoid any surprises on the day.  I’ve done just that with a quick ‘cheat’ recipe I’ve found for mini chocolate croissants (and I had a little pâtissier assistant help me too…)

Apart from pinning a few ideas on quick croissant recipes, I also found this idea while paging through In Good Company‘s ‘For Good Times’ book.  I received this as a sponsored gift at the June 2014 Etsy Craft Party hosted in Durban by Nadia van der Mescht.  More details on this lovely and inspiring book can be seen at www.forgoodtimes.co.za.

For Good Times

First is the list of very simple ingredients:

1 roll of puff pastry
A jar of Nutella chocolate spread
An egg
A dusting of flour

Utensils:

A rolling pin
A sharp paring knife
A teaspoon
A pastry brush and cup
A baking tray
Non-stick cooking spray

Prep time 10 mins
Bake time 15 – 18 mins

We started by lightly dusting the work surface and rolling out the puff pasty.

Rolling pastry
Then cut the sheet directly in half down the middle top to bottom, then in three rectangular pieces from either half.

Cut the pastry
To get the triangle shape, cut each of the 6 rectangles diagonally from top left to bottom right corners.  Then add a little cut in the middle of the widest part of each triangle.

Blob a half a teaspoon’s worth of Nutella just below each cut.

Add Nutella
Gently roll each piece of pastry from the widest part with the Nutella blob to the narrow part, tuck the end underneath the croissant and place on a non-stick baking tray (I also added some Spray ‘n Cook to the tray, to be sure they wouldn’t stick).

Crack your egg into a cup, mix and give it a little dash of water, then egg wash the tops of the croissants with a pastry brush.

Egg Wash
Place the baking tray into a pre-heated oven at 180°c and bake for 15 – 18 minutes.  When the tops of the croissants start to brown, they are ready.  If you leave them in too long, the underside of the croissant will burn.

Serve immediately and enjoy the chocolatey gooeyness!

Baked goodies  Chocolatey

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The Umgeni River Bird Park

It was a popular school outing venue in Durban when we were kids, and I’ve not visited the Umgeni River Bird Park since my childhood, but after a colleague visited last weekend, I thought it would be a good place to spend a Sunday morning, and, we were not disappointed…

After looking around the website www.umgeniriverbirdpark.co.za to confirm they were open on a Sunday, I also checked the times of the Free-Flight Bird Show (11am and 2pm) before heading ‘down the hill’ from Hillcrest.

Entrance fees are R50 per adult and R30 per child between 4 and 12 years.  We also purchased one R5 tube of Swan food and one R5 tub of Lorikeet food and moved through the park following the duck ‘foot prints’.

The variety of birds is amazing.

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The Lorikeet enclosure is an experience, those birds are not scared at all as long as you have a tub of food in your hand they come in to land from all directions.  At one point, Dave had 5 birds on him.  Here they are enjoying a morning snack.

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The Free-Flight Bird Show was entertaining and informative, and included one very large Vulture among other birds…

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After stopping at the Cockatoo Cafe for a reasonably priced light lunch of toasted sarnies, burgers, hot dogs and hot chips, we wondered through the rest of the park at our own leisure.

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Thanks to a bit of uneven paving though, my right slop met an untimely death, leaving me barefoot and on the receiving end of a few dodgy stares (and newly pressed duck poo’s…) while walking through the rest of the bird park…

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Altogether, the morning was a pleasant one.  The Umgeni River Bird Park is well run, and the animals are well looked after.  It was a good few hours of entertainment for my little one too (4yo), the highlight for her was most definitely was feeding the Swan’s.

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