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?

Summertime fun so far!

We wait with baited breathe for the sun to come out and the weather to warm up so we can officially call it summertime!! I know, sad really… But one thing could not be more true… Britain (particularly London) is one of the most wonderful places on earth during the summertime and I am happy to be here.

It is a crazy busy time of year as everyone tries to make the most of the good weather by spending as much time outdoors. I saw an advert for a supermarket that read: “Sunshine… Quick!! BBQ” Made me chuckle cause this is really what it is like and we have been no different. It has been a lovely summer so far and these are some of the things we have gotten up to.

DIY Projects
We have been busy in the garden and doing up various bits of the house. Matthew does most of the heavy lifting, sawing, and sanding etc and I am always on the sideline shouting instructions! We have completed our new headboard with left over pallet wood and our pallet furniture for outside is almost complete. We have painted the table in our kitchen and the next project will be the chairs. We have also built a new outdoor table with left over decking boards. It is so rewarding to see the transformation although, I cannot take the credit… Matthew is a DIY machine!

A day on the beach
The weather has been great the last few weeks and we decided to make the most of it! We both took the day off and spent the day on Camber beach in Rye. It only takes about 2.5 hours to get there. We started by having breakfast at The Ship Inn in Rye. They have the BEST French toast. The most delicious door stop piece of eggy bread with cinnamon, blueberries, bacon and syrup. Even though gluten does not agree with me, I made an exception on this occasion.

We then spent the rest of the day basking in the sunshine! Emily, of course, was in her element! Running around on the sandy beach, building sand castles with daddy (her favourite thing to do) and collecting shells. It fills your heart with joy to see your child run around with wild abandon. We ended the day with an ice cream before heading home at which point Emily passed out.

Cycling the Wandle Trail
If you live in South West London, I can highly recommend this trail for walking and cycling. We love cycling and to be able to do it as a family makes it even more special. We don’t head out on the bikes as often as we used to but whenever we feel the need, we haul them out and head off for a few hours of exercise. We love the Wandle Trail and it has been recently redone with new paths and bridges which make your cycling experience that much better. Morden Hall Park is our stop off point where we have a cup of coffee, go for a walk and pick flowers. This park has a number of activities throughout the summer such as outdoor cinema, beer on the river, summer food fares and camping nights with night trails for kids. Check out their website for more details. Put both the trail and the park on your “to do” list for the summer holidays.

Picking Carshalton Lavender
Carshalton is known for its lavendar and every year they open up the fields to the public to go picking. We didn’t do it last year but this year we decided to give it a go. As you walk into the field, you get these little wafts of lavender and with the beautiful surroundings, you really feel like you are away from it all. Emily enjoyed picking the flowers and smelling them. “Mmmm, beautiful!” She says. I love doing things like this with her. We have a strawberry plant in the garden that Matthew bought for her and they would go out every day to see how the plant grew little flowers which then turned into fruit. I feel like it teaches her patience and appreciation for the things around her. What a lovely morning! Of course, we took our pickings home and dotted small bunches all around the house.

So much love for the summertime and while we have a couple months of summer left, we certainly have a few other activities up our sleeve. Some great Summer ideas are:
Udderbelly festival on the south bank
-Visit a “pick your own” farm
-The beach near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
-Camping in the garden/or camping at a camp site
-Local summer festivals (check your council website)
-Do a wine tasting tour
Outdoor Cinema
-Picnic in your local park

There are loads of activities for adults and kids alike. Have a look at your local council and parks for ideas. Make hay while the sun shines and enjoy the rest of the beautiful British summer. Happy long, lazy summer days to you all.

Have you got any great summertime activity ideas?

My 30 day paleo challenge – A new way of life

As some of you may know, I have followed a paleo diet on and off (more off really…) for the past 2 years. It all started with the trouble I had weaning Emily. When speaking to a nutritionist in South Africa, I realised that giving Emily baby cereal as her first foods was causing a whole heap of trouble. While cereals certainly play their part, I personally feel that there are more nutrient dense foods you can give your baby as a first food. Needless to say, Emily’s tummy cramps, sleepless nights and unsettled bed time all stopped the moment I let the baby rice go and started to feed her food that she could actually digest easily. I guess it was on this journey that I discovered paleo.

I posted an issue I was having regarding my skin on the Paleo Britain facebook page and realised that it could be related to a hormone imbalance or intolerance to foods I may be eating. I was then approached by Chloe from Paleo Britain to do their 30 day challenge for free to see if there was any change. I quickly agreed and embarked on my 30 day journey!

What is Paleo?
This page on the Paleo Britain website sums up the paleo diet really nicely. It is a nutrient dense way of eating which eliminates processed foods known to be bad for our health. Paleo has a keen focus on gut health making sure you are getting a good intake of your gut friendly bacteria by eating fermented foods such a sauerkraut. I believe the paleo way of eating to be very personal. While you can introduce other foods back into your diet after the 30 days (such as white rice and legumes), I have found that lentils do not agree with me but white rice I am actually ok with. It is all about what makes you feel good. If anything does not agree with you, eliminate it! It is not good for you!

My 30 day experience
If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail! This has definitely been my experience. Because all of your food is unprocessed and eliminates refined sugar you need to prepare for each day so you are not tempted to go out at lunch time and buy that pesky sandwich. The transition can be hard and the prep time can be time consuming so being organised makes a big difference. Chloe emails you every day to tell you what you can expect to be feeling. From energy loss in the beginning to when you may have cravings and how to overcome them. She provides an exercise plan with suggested workouts you can follow as well as useful information on the paleo diet and the reason for eliminating various foods from your diet for 30 days. She also provides some scientific based information for aspects of the paleo diet for those that are interested. The Paleo Mom is my “go to” resource for everything scientific in the paleo diet. She explains most aspects of the diet right down to cellular level. I find it fascinating and gobble up all the scientific facts but then again, biology was my favourite subject!!

Chloe is literally there, every step of the way. Hints, tips, and advice are all part of the service. Meal plans are provided and a full shopping list to compliment your meal plan is also given. She also tells you where you can source your paleo friendly products (Mainly for UK based customers). The Paleo community is all about animal welfare and the meat you consume should ideally be grass fed/outdoor reared/free range/organic. I honestly can’t fault the support you receive and the wealth of information given to you to help you understand why you are on this journey.

As suspected, I began the first week feeling very tired and I had very intense cravings. Once I hit week 2, I was in much better spirits. I was finding it easier to make good choices as I started to get the hang of preparing meals and figuring out what foods I could enjoy. Week 3, I was almost 3kgs down and felt amazing. My energy levels were up and all symptoms of reflux and painful cramping in my abdomen were totally gone. I normally live on antacids for my hiatus hernia but I took a total of 3 zantac the entire month!! I slept well (due to the lack of heart burn) which meant I felt so much better during the day. I did not suffer from afternoon slump because the protein and fats maintained my energy and sugar levels. I only got one flare up of my skin where it is normally a daily issue… All in all, it was a great month! I detailed my months worth of meals on my Instagram account with the hashtag #essenceoflifepaleo. Do pop in and have a look at some of the meals I enjoyed throughout the month.

I will certainly be staying away from gluten and wheat from now on as this is a big stressor to my gut health. I have also become so much more aware of my body and how it reacts… it’s as if I have finally fallen into step with myself so I can now easily pick up on foods and environments that are not good for me. I really can’t go back now to how I was living. The constant stomach ache and reflux is no way to live your life! For me, this is now really just the beginning. Making myself and my health a priority. Not just for me but for my family too.

Some of my meals:

Here are some of my tips to prepare for the week ahead:
-Boiling a whole bunch of eggs on the Sunday for the week (they last a week in the fridge)
– I found having a BBQ/braai over the weekend and cook a whole heap of meat made meals so much easier later in the week
-Cook extra for left overs, they make a great lunch!
-Pack your lunch box the night before so you are not running around in the morning
-I would blend a head of cauliflower for Cauli rice, cook it and keep it in the fridge.
-Roast a large dish of veggies and store in the fridge. Great in salads, with egg or in a fritatta.

Thanks Chloe and Paleo Britain! My new beginning starts now.

If you feel that the 30 day challenge is for you, you can contact Chloe here. The plan only costs £30 so for £1 per day, I would say it is very reasonable… you won’t be sorry… I promise!

*My 30 day challenge was complimentary

A Salt Dough Garland

We woke up on Sunday morning and felt really disappointed to see the overcast weather and I thought to myself, what am I going to do with a toddler indoors all day today??

I then remembered that I wanted to make salt dough ornaments for the Christmas tree last Christmas, but I just didn’t get round to it. As it requires ingredients in every kitchen, I figured… today is as good a day as any!

Recipe:
1 cup salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup water

Mix everything together to form a fairly wet and sticky dough.

I then scooped the dough from the bowl onto a floured table and let Emily really get stuck in. She absolutely loved it!

Once the dough becomes more workable from kneading and playing with it, you can then roll it out with a rolling pin.

We then used Emily’s choice of cookie cutter, which on this occasion was a whale, and cut out our shapes (Tip: the dough needs to be quite thick)

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We then poked holes into the shapes with a skewer and placed them onto baking paper and baked in an oven (100°c for 2 hours).

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Once they were cool, I strung them up to make a garland and Emily and I walked around the house and garden to figure out where she wanted to hang her new creation.

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With a little persuasion from dad, she agreed that the chalkboard wall was a good place. We were both very chuffed with our creation and luckily, by the time we were done, the sun had come out and we decided to go out for a family walk with Emily on her scooter.

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Of course there are many things you can do with these. You can add food colouring during the dough phase or paint them once they are are dry and cool. I have seen some of them with a dried flower embedded into the ornament. You can also use a twig from the garden to make pretty impressions. Be as creative as you like.

We thoroughly enjoyed our arts and crafts day and hopefully, this will provide hours of entertainment for you too!

Why he is the best dad

We were recently back in South Africa for a visit and we were having breakfast at a lovely cafe in the shopping mall, when Emily said she needed to go to the toilet. Before I could even say anything, Matthew was up and taking Emily to the bathroom. My Aunt “mum” turned to me and said “Sjoe!… Cands, he is such a hands on daddy!”

I am acutely aware of how hands on Matthew is with Em but it was one of those little aha! moments. Realising how much he does for her and most importantly, with her! So, I thought in light of Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I would dedicate this post to Matthew because, he really is the best dad.

When we found out we were pregnant, I remember Matthew did a little “whoop!” in the bathroom and patted himself on the back. I laughed because I knew then that he was so up for this job and that we were both ready. To be honest, it has been a roller coaster ride since then. The first night we were home with Emily, she had not latched on properly yet and was not feeding well. She pretty much cried the entire night. We both just looked at each other with a look that screams “help me!”. We had no idea what we were doing! However, when I look back on that night, there is one thing that stands out… Matthew was by my side the entire time. If I wasn’t sleeping, neither was he. We were in this together and we would figure it out as a team.

This is very indicative of how our parenting style has developed over the years. Constantly walking around with the look on our faces that says “I have no idea what I am doing half the time” but I now look at Matthew and I know that whatever stage we are dealing with, we are in it together.

I never really had a stable father figure as a child. My Aunt and Uncle took my sister and I in when I was 14 (this is whole other story for a different day). My uncle is the most wonderful man you will ever meet. He became my rock and my inspiration and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be moulded and guided by him at such an impressionable time in my life. When I look at Matthew and Emily, I see their relationship going from strength to strength (just like my my relationship with my uncle has grown) and I feel secure in the knowledge that the 2 of them will remain close. Daddy’s girl, as they say!

I love the fact that he WANTS to spend time with Emily. He lets her tie his hair in a hair band, they play tea party and Matthew is the Lego master. She delights in the incredible objects he creates with those little blocks. They love to be in the garden together planting flowers and watching the garden grow. Emily adores the beach and building sand castle is her favourite thing to do with her dad. And as Emily gets older, I can just see Matthew sitting in Emily’s room, looking like a clown with all the make-up she has applied to his face and the both of them screaming with laughter!

Both Emily and I are lucky to have him and we couldn’t imagine life without him so, thanks babe for all the love! And to all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

I wish I knew THAT before I had my baby

For mums by mums

So, I sent a little message round to some of my mummy friends to find out some of the things that they know now that they wish they knew before their bub arrived and this is what they had to say…

London mum of one (Me!!)
The pressure of breastfeeding – 
Every mum to a newborn has felt it! In the UK, you are expected to have a good latch before you leave the hospital. If you haven’t got it right yet you will have a midwife that will visit you the following day at home and explain the importance of breastfeeding and how you need to get it right (As though you have never heard this lecture before). Can I just point out that a lot of new mums DO NOT get the breastfeeding thing right immediately. Needless to say, Emily and I were “one of those” problematic patients that really struggled. Emily, my boob and I were then slightly manhandled to get her to latch on which left Emily screaming and me in tears and my confidence completely shattered! It took 2 weeks for us to get the hang of it when I finally found a lovely lactation expert who was gentle and calming. I was speaking to a mum this past weekend who had the same experience and we both agreed that we would never allow anyone to treat us this way again. We would certainly speak up! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Luckily Emily and I both got great pleasure from breastfeeding once we both knew what we were doing. It can be a wonderful bonding experience if you have the right people supporting you. And if it doesn’t work out… IT IS OK… don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Early weaning (Wait till baby is ready) – So many of my friends were weaning their baby’s early (4 months onwards) and I felt so compelled to do the same. It created such problems! Emily was not ready and with me pushing her she went on a feeding strike and refused to eat. I also tried to follow all of the “weaning guru” books and reduced her milk and expected Emily to be eating 3 meals a day pretty early on. I quickly realised that a baby’s milk is vital during their first year and that they will drop feeds on their own and eat as much as they want. Once I decided to be led by Emily, the process was so much easier. No more sobbing in the corner at feeding time (that was me by the way… I kid you not!)

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London mum of two
Breastfeeding – It can be hard work. Especially if you suffer from infections like mastitis. These infections are incredibly painful and leave you feeling very ill. It is OK to stop when it feels like it is not working for you any more.

Milestones – Don’t worry about when kids reach their milestones (especially if you are comparing your first child with your second). They will reach them when they are good and ready. Every child is different.

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Fatigue – It is a game changer and can make a difficult job even harder! Make sure you take some time to yourself and accept help when it is offered to you. Don’t be shy to ask for help too. If you feel like you need a break, reach out!

Difficult stages – Always remember that This-Too-Shall-Pass… All difficult stages are exactly that, a stage. From teething to fussy eating to tantrums.

South African mum of one
Sleeping routines – This mum read a number of books during her pregnancy and began to stress about small things like a sleep routine so, when baby arrived this was her stressor. Do not feel like a failure if you cannot get your baby down for their allotted naps. All baby’s are different which means their sleep cycles will be slightly different. Also some babies sleep well and others not so well. It is beneficial to get your baby into a routine early but be led by your baby rather than clock watching. They will naturally fall into a routine themselves. Be kind to yourself if things don’t go according to your plans as baby’s have a way of changing the game no matter how prepared you think you are! This mum has found her baby adapts to new environments really well because she is more relaxed.

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South African mum of two
This mum also picked up on the breastfeeding issue and getting the right support.

Antenatal classes – Generally, these only prepare you for the birth which is such a small part of parenting. It would be good if these classes focused on getting through the first few weeks with a newborn as well. She found it a waste of time. I will say that the NCT classes in the UK are also very birth focused but we did cover the first week and the friends that we made, we saw regularly and I have kept in contact with a couple of them so for me, it was great! Look around to find a class that suits you (if you decide it is worth your time and money)

Post natal depression – It is of course easier the second time round but you are so vulnerable when you have your first baby. With nurses/midwives/family members expressing their concerns with your breastfeeding, sleep routines, or simply the way you hold your baby can knock the small amount of confidence you do have. Keep an eye on yourself and how you are feeling. If you are struggling at any point, speak to someone (hubby or a nurse) who can help you. Your physical and mental health are just as important as your baby’s. As they say: “A happy mum makes a happy baby” and I think this could not be more true!!

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I hope this is of some help to you new mums out there!! Do you have anything to add to this list? I’d love to hear your experiences and how hindsight has changed your view on various aspects of birth and parenting.

*Please note that these are the opinions of mums who have gone through their own experiences. These opinions are NOT all my own and that other people’s experience may be different*

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.

Body Shaming – It’s a shame really…

I was looking through my Facebook home page, catching up on the activities of friends and family when I stumbled across an advert for a gossip magazine that said “Hot celebrities that have ugly spouses!!” and there was a picture of Pierce Brosnan and his beautiful wife Keely Shaye… I couldn’t quite figure out who they were saying was ugly?? I soon realised that they were referring to Keely because she has gained weight… I mean, who could love a gorgeous curvy girl like her?? Well the answer to that is very clear on Pierce Brosnan’s Instagram account… He can!! (Yes, I follow him because to me, he is the best James Bond!! But, that is another debate for another day)

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*Above picture taken from Pierce Brosnan’s Instagram*

I felt like I could relate to her a little. Weight issues and being health conscious is something I am constantly struggling with. It is like a thorn in my side and my freedom all wrapped up in one annoying package. When I do well and feel great… Woohoo!! the world is my oyster and anything is possible. When I feel a bit meh and look in the mirror, judging every blemish and roll, I feel terrible. And believe me, no one can say things that I have not already said to myself and far worse! I have come to realise that there is no “destination” as such when it comes to living a healthy life style. You don’t “arrive”. It is something that you work on every single day. Making smart choices and doing your best for you (first of all) and for your family. And although there seems to be a rising-up of people against all this shaming nonsense, I am so acutely aware of the messages I am sending out about myself and woman in general because I want to be a role model for Emily and I want her to grow up feeling confident about who she is and the way she feels about herself.

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There was an advert campaign in the UK for a diet supplement that had such strong reactions against the billboard, the advert was actually banned. Initially, I was shocked by everyone’s reaction but in retrospect, I think many people are tired of feeling like if they are anything less than perfect, they are simply not good enough. Stylist Magazine wrote an article on it which also brought out different views but I think the gist of the backlash was that no one wants to feel inferior any more. And I am not saying that you shouldn’t be realistic! The “This Girl Can” campaign is great!! and it encourages you to get up and get moving. I can see things in myself that do need to change and I am working on it and that is the point… I am working on it. As long as I continue to take those small steps I will see the rewards at some point. It is a journey and I feel grateful to be working my way through it, as frustrating as it can be sometimes. At some point, we all need to be kind to each other and learn to love ourselves for who we are.

Well, at least I know that is what MY hope is for my beautiful, amazing, impressionable daughter.

The Challenge Is On! – A cook off amongst friends

Of course, as South African’s we have a love for all things meat and wine!! So when you get invited to a steak cook off with friends… who can refuse?? It is the perfect combination! Since then we have done 3 further cook off’s and the bug has well and truly bitten.

Our previous cook-off’s have been:
Steak, Burgers, Sosaties (Kebabs) and Meat-on-the-bone

The rules are as follows:
-The couple that wins will host the next cook-off and gets to choose the theme
-You need to bring your own goodies to plate and present your dish
-One couple at a time presents their dish
-We decide the order by picking numbers out a hat
-It is up to the host to decide how the scoring will work
-Enjoy!!

The previous 2 cook off’s have been great because the theme has been so broad that almost anything goes! Matthew and I won the burger cook off so we hosted the sosatie one. It was just before we flew to SA for holiday and it was a great excuse to see everyone before we left.

Team May
Matthew and I went first with a Middle Eastern inspired, chicken thigh sosatie. It had loads of spices, hummus and tabbouleh. I was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe and I was so happy with how it turned out!

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Team Stassen
The Stassen’s did a delicious spicy chicken breast sosatie with freshly squeezed lemon juice to add a bit of punch. Such lovely, bold flavours!

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Team Jooste
A traditional South African lamb sosatie was displayed by the Jooste’s with curry and sweet chutney flavours. Absolutely amazing! This recipe would be even better with karoo lamb which is just unbeatable in flavour but not readily available in the UK.

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Team Breetzke
The Breetzke’s presented a incredibly tender, Thai inspired, chicken breast sosatie. Everything you would expect with the delicious Thai spices and the heat from the lemongrass and chilli.

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The winners that took home the trophy at the end of the evening were the Jooste’s who’s South African sosatie was a clear winner with the wonderful taste of home. They are certainly a formidable team, having won the steak round already and now the sosaties too… We going to have to watch these guys!!

We had our most recent cook off this past weekend and the Jooste’s decided on Meat-on-the-bone as the theme. Now this is an interesting one because you can literally do pretty much anything with this! Fish, ribs, roast chicken, leg of lamb, beef stew… I mean the world is your oyster! Matthew and I really struggled to think of something because there were so many options! I then figured that while the weather is getting warmer, it still feels like curry would go down really well and if you do it well, it is a sure winner!

Team Stassen
The Stassen’s went first with the most delicious, Indian inspired lamb chop spiced with a rub that left a crust around the chop and a tingly taste in your mouth. They cooked it on the BBQ/braai and served it with grilled aubergine and a mint dip. Truly inspired. They were so delicious that Emily ate 3 chops in one go. You just could not hold the kid back!! I knew then that we were in trouble!!

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Team Breetzke
Now, the Breetzke’s decided on a simple lamb chop seasoned well. They decided on a thick cut chop and I cannot express enough what a big difference this makes. They were perfectly seasoned and so juicy, we all had to eat them outside. The thickness of the chop keeps in all the flavour and tenderness. One of the nicest chops I have had in a while!

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Team May
We were next and Matthew and I presented our lamb neck curry that we cooked in the slow cooker over night. We served it with yellow rice and coriander. It was spicy but not hot and incredibly fragrant. I was very impressed with the recipe and I will certainly use it again.

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Team Jooste
The only team that did not do lamb! The Jooste’s presented an American style feast!! Spicy ribs that had been slow cooking for 6 hours, sweet potatoes and American style Macaroni cheese! Such a wonderful way to end. Those ribs people!!! They were so tender you would be forgiven if you forgot to chew! I am telling you… This team is dangerous!!

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Well, this one was a toughy because every single dish was amazing!! In the end, the Stassen’s kicked it out the ball park and took home our tiny roaming trophy. Well done you guys!! So well deserved.

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What a wonderful way to spend time with friends, eat some amazing food and enjoy the lovely weather (for now). Thanks for the lovely day Jooste’s and we look forward to finding out what our next challenge will be once the Stassen’s decide on the next theme!

*Please get in touch if you want any of the above recipes*

Bank Holiday Weekend – Staycation

The bank holiday weekend is here!! Normally, we would try and do something exciting like go away for a city break somewhere but having just come back from a South African holiday; we will be staycationing this weekend. I thought I would include a few things that we plan to get up.

Go for a stroll in the park
This is always a favourite of ours. We have a beautiful park a short walk from our house with a duck pond that Emily loves! It is always wonderful to get outdoors as a family and get some fresh air.

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Go Cycling
This is one of our all-time favourite summer activities… We absolutely love cycling and Emily adores being on the back of the bike. If the weather permits, it is always a great few hours to hop on the bike and set off through some of London’s beautiful forests and cycling routes.

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Braai/BBQ
YES…. For us weather is never a problem when it comes to having a braai and rain or shine, it is a MUST on a bank holiday weekend! This is a great time to catch up with friends and family. Sometimes, Matthew and I will braai just the 2 of us, open a bottle of wine and sit in the garden while the sun sets.

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Do some Gardening
Now is the perfect time to wonder down to your local nursery and purchase a few seasonal flowers to jazz up your garden! Emily really enjoys being daddy’s little helper in the garden and she is such a smart little thing, she has already been asking about buying flowers for the garden.

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Visit your favourite coffee shop
Bank holiday weekends are a great excuse to hide away in your favourite café with a cup of coffee and a book. One of my favourite cafes is Le Pain Quotidien. They have the most delicious food and fantastic coffee!

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Bake something delicious
I really enjoy being in my kitchen and while I am a much better cook than I am a baker, it is a great excuse to spend some time trying out a new recipe. Emily loves to help around the kitchen and the messier, the better.

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So, if you are staying at home for this bank holiday weekend, there are loads of great things to do that will rejuvenate your body and mind. For me, there is nothing more wonderful than spending quality time with my family and friends during my time off work. They truly are my oasis and my life line and I cannot think of a better way to spend my extra time! What are you getting up to this weekend??