My Favourite Things

Everybody has them… those little things in their lives that bring them so much joy. That piece of jewellery, that item of furniture that you bought that you love or the handbag that you spent a months salary on. These are MY favourite things.

My bed
This sits at the top of the list for good reason…some wise person told me that the majority of your life will be spent at work or in bed, make both places great places to be! This is so true!! When we bought our house we decided to buy a really good quality mattress which we love. I adore our White Company, Egyptian cotton linen that feels so cool and luxurious. We have a down duvet and pillows and the most decadent aspect of our bed is our down mattress protector from The White Company. This was a gift from my sister in law and it is thicker than our duvet! Getting into bed at the end of the day is like a beautiful, feathery hug! What more could you ask for really…

Artwork from our travels
We always try and purchase a piece of art when we travel. We have recently hauled all the paintings out from their storage place and decided to display them. I love how artwork turns a house into a home and each piece has a story. I look at each of them and I am reminded of some of the wonderful places we have been to and the memories we have created there.

My fragrances
I have many fragrances but these 3 are my favourite. The Davidoff, Cool Water is my “go to” summer fragrance. It is cool, fresh and floral. Dolce and Gabbana, The One is my winter/evening fragrance. It is warm and exotic and suits a cold winters day or an evening out, perfectly. My Clarins, Eau Ressourcante is my every day fragrance. I love this fragrance because it is subtle enough for everyday use and I have been known to actually wear it underneath other fragrances. These 3 are the ones I use the most… as you can see by the almost empty bottles!! (at least my birthday and Christmas is coming up! *hint, hint*)

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Charm bracelets
I received my own lovely bracelet as a gift from my bestie on my 30th. At the time, I had spoken to her about my mothers bracelet and how wonderful it was and how I wished I could get it back (long story…). When I opened my little box and saw the new bracelet with the “C” on it, I immediately got all teary! Since then, I have managed to get my mothers bracelet back and my sister and I chose which charms we wanted. I have now given her our mother’s original bracelet with the cleaned and polished charms that she chose. The remainder of the charms will be put on a new bracelet and worn by me with pride and joy. Its amazing how one small item can produce so much emotion.

Our garden
So much hard work, love and attention has gone into our garden. Matthew has done most of the work and I love him for it. I don’t have very green fingers but I love beautiful spaces so when I told Matthew what I saw our garden looking like, he turned what I had in my head into reality. Honestly, this is the best “room” in the house.

The Nespresso machine
I am a lover of all things coffee but I am quite fussy. I like freshly brewed coffee and the stronger the better. Our Nespresso machine offers us the opportunity to have fresh coffee at our finger tips. We love this little wonder and can’t remember our pre-Nespresso days… No instant coffee here, people!!

Of course, there are so many more favourite things, I could go on for days. Emily’s bedroom with all her little trinkets is such a happy space, some of my books including Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and the Ken Follett collection.

Other special pieces of my late mother’s jewellery that remind me so much of her. My beautiful Carol Boyes serving spoon and salad servers. My lovely big dining room table for family meals and dinner parties… the list goes on. It is great to look around you and feel appreciation for the lovely things you have worked hard to buy, the memories that some items bring back for you and the beautiful pieces that are passed down from generation to generation. What are your favourite things?

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10 things I LOVE about Rome

I have the wonderful privilege to work for a global company that allows me to manage events all over the world. One of my most recent accolades is my company’s contribution to an international congress that took place in Rome and Florence. I was lucky to visit Italy twice before the event for site visits and meetings with suppliers and we even managed to piggy back off one of these visits, to have a very quick family city break! Both hubby and I fell in love with Rome. It is a wonderful, colourful, vibrant and extremely friendly place to be! I have collated 10 of the top things that we loved so much about this amazing city.

1) The weather
It is the small things that count! We were there in November as a family and normally, in London, you would be wrapped up snug with hats and jackets but we were actually walking around in shorts and sandals! As a South African who dreads the gloomy London winters, it was so lovely to be outside, basking in the sun like a rock lizard! See those blue skies for yourself at the Spanish Steps!

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2) Gelato… of course!
Not sure if I even need to say anything about this really because not only is the gelato WONDERFUL, it is Italy at the end of the day… what else would you eat in Italy???

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3) The food
So… of course, there is more to Italian food than pasta and pizza but really this is what I was most excited to experience and it didn’t disappoint. Naturally, there are other fantastic foods to enjoy like parma ham, various Italian cheese and the wine… oh my… the wine, it is too delicious to even explain! Needless to say, we drank our fair share of the wine too.

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4) Caffè Taza D’oro
I was introduced to Caffè Taza D’oro when I was in Rome on a site visit to pick the hotel we would use for the event. It is nestled in a side street just off the Pantheon. I was taken here by our event agency for a quick coffee break and instantly fell in love! With no seating area, it is typically Italian. You get your coffee, stand at the bar and drink it. We decided to have the iced coffee. It is strong, cold and creamy. It was so delicious, I took hubby back on our visit and it was as good as I remember. Would definitely recommend this little gem.

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5) The St Regis hotel
In the end, this was the hotel that was chosen and might I say, It was a good choice indeed! Honestly, one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. It is a truly beautiful hotel and in a wonderfully central location with one of the main shopping streets in Rome just around the corner. The service was impeccable, the food amazing and the rooms outstanding!! They were so wonderful with Emily that they left a few gifts in our room for her.

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6) Colosseum and surround
I don’t think it is any secret that the Colosseum is of course one of the most famous Roman landmarks. It is truly something to behold. The surrounding area is equally beautiful. You cannot believe how the area has been preserved! Angie from SilverSpoon did a post just this week on the Aroma restaurant. It looks like a wonderful place to treat yourself to a beautiful dinner with the Colosseum as your backdrop.

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7) The Vatican
The cathedral is amazing. I felt completely overwhelmed being in the Sistine Chapel. That ceiling was so amazing, I had to just stop and be quiet and enjoy what I was seeing. Emily of course could not fathom the immensity of what she was experiencing so spending an entire day (Which you could easily do) was out of the question so we saw the major points and then headed off for some lunch. Definitely worth your time.

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8) Shopping
This is Rome. Of course the shopping is amazing! Not just the abundance of leather goods on offer but the shopping in general is great. There is something for everyone and of course, who wouldn’t indulge in a Italian designer handbag while you are there?!

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9) Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
We hosted our drinks reception and dinner at this amazing venue. It is steeped in history which you can find on their website. With it’s Baroque style in interior design and the array of galleries, you can so easily be swept away with it all. It houses the most amazing tapestries, paintings and statues. Truly a fairytale evening with many delegates talking about it for days afterwards!

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10) The Fountains
You will find fountains on almost every corner. It is an absolute delight and makes you want to discover more and more of the city. Of course the most famous is the Trevi fountain which is truly amazing but I was more taken with some of the smaller ones on secluded Piazza’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a welcome retreat and for some reason, being around water always calms me, centres me and makes me feel rejuvenated. The drinking fountains have clean clear drinking water so take an empty bottle with you and drink spring water to your hearts content!

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This is an amazing city and one of my favourites so far. I would love to hear your favourite bits of Rome if you have been. But for now, I am going to look forward to my Italian dinner tonight (In London) and dream of my long, warm days in Rome.

Ciao for now.

The Robertson Wine Valley

This area of my beautiful country has very quickly become one of my favourite places on earth. It could be the fact that wine is available on tap at literally every corner or maybe it’s the fact that my lovely sister and her hubby live in this wonderful town but I think it also has something to do with the soul of the place… Not only is it absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful, the people are some of the most wonderful, down-to-earth, friendly, warm and welcoming people you are ever likely to meet! It truly is a very special place indeed!

We first encountered this amazing place in 2010 when we road tripped around the country for a month. On this occasion, we stayed at the beautiful Fraai Uitzicht wine farm which has a guest house attached to it and an award winning restaurant. We realised very quickly that we had stumbled upon a jewel within our own country!

My sister then moved to this area and got married here. Can you think of a more beautiful place for a wedding?

We now make a point to come to this valley every time we are home for a visit. I mean, this is your view in the morning!!

We took a drive to the top of a small “koppie” (hill) that has been set up for some great entertaining which boasts an enclosed boma, which includes a covered braai (BBQ) area, seating, hammocks and a deck. It was built by the farm owners and anyone living on the farm has access to it. We decided to go for some sundowners and all I can say is WOW!!!  Well, look at the view for yourself!

Of course we had to take full advantage of the various wine farms while we were there and we indulged in wine tastings every day! Unlike wine farms in Cape Town, many of the wine tastings in this area are for free. We just passed through some of the wine farms and at others, we spent a good couple hours, tasting the different cultivars and partaking in some vertical tastings (this is when you taste the same cultivar just different vintages). If I am speaking gibberish, let me break it down for you…

Cultivar: This refers to the grape variety such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinotage etc. when you talk about the cultivar, you talk about the type of grape used to make the wine, hence the wine’s type.

Vintage: This refers to the year that the grapes were harvested hence the date on the bottle

So if you are doing a vertical tasting, you are trying the one type of wine (Merlot) but trying the different years (2012, 2013, 2014). Each year yields a different quality and quantity of crop which means each year the wine will taste slightly different.

Some of the wine farms we visited were:
Arabella Wines My brother in law and I LOVE Chardonnay’s so it is always a given that we will taste at least one vintage of this but at this wine farm we also tasted the Shiraz Viognier Reserve and the Pink Panacea. I bought a bottle of the Pink Panacea and we all enjoyed it later that afternoon while watching the sunset.

Rietvallei Wine Estate Here we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz 2012 and the red muscadet which, might I say, was sublime. We bought a bottle of the Shiraz at the wine farm but we enjoyed a few bottles of their Merlot (very easy drinking, simple and delicious) which we bought in town.

Springfield Estate We love this wine estate and the staff are wonderfully friendly. The last time we were here, Emily was just a baby but it is a wine estate that we keep coming back to. My Aunt adores the “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc so we picked up a bottle of that for her while we were there. We also bought a bottle of the “Whole Berry” Cabernet Sauvignon and brought that back to London with us. This will be enjoyed on a summers evening in our garden. We were also privileged enough to try the Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is produced  from grapes harvested from some of their oldest vines. It is aged in barrels for 2 years and then a further 4 years in the bottle before release. It is simply out of this world!! You MUST try it!.

Graham Beck Wines and Esona Boutique Wines deserve blog posts of their own as we spent more time at each of these estates. I won’t go into these wine farms now but further posts on each of these wine farms will be up on the blog soon.

My tips on wine tasting:
You do not need to be a wine expert to enjoy wine tasting. If your sense of smell and taste are in good nick, you will enjoy the experience just as much as anyone else.
Enjoy responsibly. Use the spittoons provided and make sure you keep up with your water. Know your limits…
Try the different cultivars, even the ones you think you don’t like. I never thought I was a Chardonnay person until I did a number of tastings.
Let the staff guide you on the wine, they have the knowledge and experience.
Don’t be afraid to politely say you are not that keen on a particular wine. Everyone’s palette is different and this feedback will give them the information they need to move you onto a wine that is more suited to you.
Ask questions. Every wine farm has a special story and they are always eager to tell it.

I feel I have not even scratched the surface of what this amazing valley has to offer! There is more to the valley than wine but actually, wine is what ties the community together, it is their passion!

So much to see, so much to do and so much wine to sample!! With the beautiful surroundings, what more could you ask for, really??!!

Johannesburg – a family’s playground

If you thought Joburg was not a great city for small children, you couldn’t be more wrong!

It has been a while since I have posted anything. I had every intention of blogging while I was away but once I arrived in sunny SA, the quality time I was spending with family and friends simply became my priority. With that said, we managed to fit so much into our trip that my mind is bursting with blog post ideas!

We began our holiday in Joburg so Emily and I could spend time with my side of the family. I still needed to make Emily’s learning and development a priority and as the weather is so lovely, we could have really stayed at home and swam in the pool every day but I wanted her to see and do things that I remember doing as a child and Johannesburg has a lot to offer small children, more than you think…

Lifestyle Garden Centre
This is truly a wonderful place to be with children. We actually came here a few times during the holiday and Emily absolutely LOVED it here. While it’s primary purpose is a nursery with a vast selection of plants and gardening paraphernalia, they also have a wonderful home décor section as well as a large bookshop called Readers Warehouse that has an excellent children’s section and they host a number of kiddies activities in the bookstore throughout the year.

I have very vivid memories of spending many Saturday afternoons here when I was a little girl. This centre truly is a kid’s paradise!! The Silver Birch Restaurant is a multiple award winning restaurant that has pizza making facilities for kids.

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Parents can enjoy a cup of coffee while keeping an eye on their children with the jungle gym right next to the outside seating area. They also have a small funfair called Playland which has a variety of rides for children. So if you are in the Northern suburbs of Jozi, do pop in!

Joburg Zoo
Emily  is such a little animal lover and has developed a small obsession with the film Madagascar. This gave me the opportunity to show her some of the animals from the film up close and personal. The zoo is enormous and Emily’s little legs could not get us to every corner of the zoo but she was delighted with the animals we had the chance to see.

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They have family days, tours, events and dedicated feeding times for animals so the children can get involved. They also have a strong conservation and breeding programme and offer the opportunity to volunteer or adopt an animal.

One of the most popular activities is the Evening Encounters. This is to give you the chance to encounter and study the nocturnal animals in the zoo and it will certainly be on my ‘to do’ list with Emily next time we are back in South Africa.

They also have large dedicated areas for you to have a family picnic in the shade, to allow you time to recover from the South African midday heat. The Joburg Zoo, still to this day, is a wonderful day out for any family.

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Don’t forget the sunblock!

The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve “The Nearest Faraway Place”
This nature reserve is nestled in the Cradle of Humankind which is considered ‘The Home of our Ancestors’ due to its breakthrough discoveries, in this area, in the search for the origins of humankind. This in itself is another great day out for families but the nature reserve was the focus of our attention for the day. The main reason for our visit was to cuddle with the lion cubs which we had the privilege of doing. This park, in particular, is famous for its work with white lions.

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You can come with a packed picnic lunch or use their Braai/BBQ facilities at the park at no extra cost. They offer everything from restaurants, The Neck and Deck restaurant is popular amongst the avid off road cyclist as a pit stop, 4×4 experiences, game drives, and feeding times for the big cats. There is a children’s play park area for a bit of a run around and there is the animal crèche where you can encounter some of the younger animals

The park also has accommodation for those bush lovers and they will allow you to outsource activities like hot air ballooning or abseiling into the wondercave.

Once you drive through the gates and see the beautiful Springbok, Wildebeest and Zebra roaming around, you truly do not feel like you are a short drive from the busy city. It certainly is the nearest faraway place indeed.

There are so many amazing things to do with children in Johannesburg. Some restaurants offer play area facilities which are staffed so you can enjoy your meal knowing your children are being looked after.

We didn’t get to do everything but that’s ok because it means we have left a few things for next time… some of my top child friendly places for our next visit.

Jozi has proven that it is truly a city to enjoy with small children. There is plenty to see and do so… go on!! Get outdoors!!

Flying with a toddler – It’s gonna be great!

Don’t be scared – Be prepared!!! I would definitely say that is my motto when travelling with Emily. I believe the key to flying with children is to prepare with NASA type precision!

Lists, lists and more lists… they have truly become my best friend when embarking on any journey. I keep the lists on my phone so as soon as I think of something, I put it into the list so I do not forget about it later. I also have a large bag that sits on the dining room table the week before we fly. As I open cupboards, linen closets or buy things for the holiday, it goes straight into the bag to be packed in the suitcase.

The biggest stressor is the flight. Any flight longer than 2 hours, for me, requires a lot more thought. Toddlers in particular are very active little beings and need an outlet for their energy. This can pose a problem when you are confined to an aeroplane for 11 hours. The only way to get through those hours and keep your sanity is to have a few tricks up your sleeve to distract, entertain and soothe your child, aaaaaand Relax. A stressed parent, means a stressed child. I thought I would include some of the things that I will be including in Emily’s on-board bag…

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Distraction tactics
These are the type of things you will use if your toddler gets board or begins to fuss
-puzzles
-books
-sticker books
-snacks

Entertainment tactics
These are the type of items that you know your toddlers loves and sparks his/her interest
-play dough
-colouring-in book
-ipad apps and preloaded videos as your last resort… (Yes!! I am THAT parent)

Soothing tactics
These are the things you will need to soothe an upset toddler/baby who is either tired, crying or has earache from the cabin pressure
-favourite or familiar toy (For Emily, it is her white bunny)
-dummy and dummy clip (a dummy clip is important so you don’y have to spend your time picking up a dummy off the floor)
-paracetamol (make sure it is under 100 ml)
-gro bag (this will help your little one to sleep better as the blankets will not keep falling off)
-milk (I find filing the bottle 3/4 of the way to the top the easiest. The stewardess can top it up with hot water, add the toddler formula powder and voila!! sorted) If you use cows milk, the cabin crew will happily warm it up but will take a bit longer so be prepared for that.

Airport Security
If you have never flown with your child before, this can be stressful to think about. Always check with your airline carrier but most of them will allow you to check in a car seat in addition to your child’s luggage at no extra cost.

You will also be allowed to go up to the boarding gate with a fold down buggy. It will then be folded and placed in the hold. Some airlines will have the buggy waiting for you when you disembark, some will send your buggy to baggage reclaim.

You can take food and milk through security but be prepared to sample it. You can also buy formula in the terminal just check with the airport website to pre order your formula to be collected. They may also scan the buggy at security as well. Security have been nothing but lovely with me when I am with Emily so hopefully you will have a good experience too.

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Holidays are supposed to be exciting and wonderful. If you prepare for every eventuality, you WILL be fine on the road trip/flight/journey. Preparation is key. There are so may great blogs and websites with more information so spend some time looking around the internet for ideas and inspiration. I’d love to hear from you if you have any other “must have” items for travelling or any questions.

Happy holidays and Bon Voyage!!

For the love of Slovenia

I have the privilege of travelling to some wonderful places for work and for leisure. One such place is Slovenia. I travelled to Slovenia with our agent Absolute Corporate Events for a site visit.

It it is a very unassuming country that, for most, is not a dream destination. I cannot begin to express how incorrect people are to think this. It is truly one of the most wonderful, amazing countries I have ever had the privilege to see.

There were so many highlights to my visit and we got to see most of what this little country had to offer but I have decided to point out my favourite bits.

1. Otočec Castle

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This is a castle and hotel that sits on a small island in the middle of Krka River, just outside Ljubljana. The walls of the castle are said to date as far back as 1252 and the interior has been beautifully restored. The interior had the feel of a castle with the exposed stone, dark furniture, high back chairs and circular chandeliers… It truly is a magical place! We had the most wonderful lunch. We also sampled an array of Slovenian wine which is surprisingly good. While I do not consider myself an expert on wine I certainly drink enough of it to know when I am tasting a good one and the Slovenian wine is delicious!!  

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2. Lake Bled – The Alpine Region

This place makes you feel like you have landed on a set for a fantasy film because it simply cannot be real! The Bled Castle sits on a hill above the lake and the views from the castle have the ability to take your breath away (see the very top pic)…The lake surrounds Bled Island which has a long history and dates back to around 1400. You access the island by electric boat or a traditional gondola type boat called a Pletna boat. A Baroque stairway consisting of 98 steps brings you to a little church. Certainly a good workout! The church is popular for weddings and it is considered good luck for the groom to carry the bride up the stairs and ring the bell at the top. I was ready for my strong cup of coffee and sweet Slovenian delights waiting for us in the coffee shop on summiting this little island.

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3. Piran – Mediterranean Region

It wasn’t Piran as a town itself that grabbed me but rather just the area as a whole. It is incredibly close to Croatia. In fact many people living in Slovenia, have a house in Croatia as a holiday home. It is also a 2 hour drive from Venice which makes it a wonderful holiday destination to go exploring!! Besides… Look at that view!!!

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4. Zemono Manor

We had the wonderful opportunity to eat in one of Slovenia’s top restaurants. We were welcomed by the amazing Tomaž Kavčič himself who is one of Slovenia’s famous chefs. He has previously been presented with an award for best restaurant in Central and Eastern Europe.

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We were greeted with an array of canapés which included truffles, salmon and Slovenian ham. To say that it was an experience is an understatement. The food was almost theatrical in nature, with each course giving us something new to discover. It was an evening to remember!

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Slovenia has so much to offer!! From skiing in the Alps in the winter to the warm Mediterranean climate and beaches for the summer. You have Croatia and Italy on either side to discover and some of the worlds most wonderful natural spa’s to enjoy. It truly is a destination for everyone. So… where will your next holiday be?