We are very slowly getting back into our old routine living here in our beloved desert homeland. By slowly, I mean snails pace. I think that may be due to an extended period of humidity which has been challenging, but we’re getting there. What the kids miss most, other than family, are the trees… climbing the trees to be exact. I keep going back to the time when we went to Acrobranch in Centurion, South Africa. If any of our South African readers have not yet been to Acrobranch, please read this post. It is an aerial tree top adventure that caters to the whole family. All ages from children as young as 3 to adults of all ages.
I went there with my three minions, plus their cousin and her mom, and we had such a wonderful afternoon. The kids were climbing for over an hour and we then settled in to The Big Red Barn for lunch. It was truly a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Side note: The next time you find yourself there over lunch do yourself a favour and order the house fries. I may or may not have eaten the entire plate #sorrynotsorry.
“Acrobranch is Kid Heaven! Swinging through trees, dangling from branches, balancing in the air. But wait, Acrobranch also takes care of every parent’s fear and tucks those kids safely into snug harnesses, hooked into secure lines all through the course. It’s all with adult supervision, but the children are encouraged to go at their own pace and move their own clips themselves.
All courses are designed with specific ages in mind to keep your kids entertained…and safe. Check out your desired park for more info on our kids course age and height requirements.” – via Acrobranch website.
Now what I appreciate the most about this concept is the benefit to a child’s physical development. A child is constantly thinking about which hand they need to put where, which foot they need to move first, and which clip goes where. They work on balance, how the brain interprets where the body is in the environment it is in, they need to orientate their whole being to work as one to navigate the course safely, they build core strength, and improve flexibility and reach.
The next time I go, I promise to take more grownups with me, which should leave me hands free to carry my ‘big’ camera and get proper photos, but hey, they say the best camera is the one you have with you, so thank you iPhone.
Acrobranch – super affordable rates and fantastic for kids parties, I can only imagine how much fun it would be for team building too. You can contact them on +27 86 999 0369 or visit their website for more information. I highly recommend it.
If anyone has tried them out and would like to share your experience with our readers, we would love to read your comments below.
It’s been two months. Our South African holiday is coming to an end. It has been a very special time for the kids and I, perhaps a little less so for my dear husband who held the fort in the desert for most of that time. While time flew by for us, I can only imagine how it must have dragged for him.
He will never really understand how thankful I am to him for this time at home. We went on road trips, remember Moolmanshoek and Kiara Lodge? I got to catch up with life-long friends and make new special memories with family. We started building our home here and were there on the day they broke ground. I got to fetch my nephews from school, we went for all our necessary health tests that were long over due, (YAY, I was cleared of lymphoma). I got to be present when my brother launched his very own high-end security company. What a Blessing….all of it!
The hardest part of living an expat life is living away from family, my husband and I are both very close to our families and they add such richness and quality to life.
Two days ago I was there to pay my love and respect to my dearest grandfather who passed away in his bed at home at the ripe old age of almost 89. He was the head of our clan! The patriarch! Strong, wise, funny, a family man, confidant, and kind. These are the qualities I will hold onto when I think of him. A good man who is finally at peace.
We have packed up our big cargo box full of family favorites that you can only get in SA and it should arrive in Kuwait the same day as us. And this weekend will be a weekend of warm wishes and fond farewells.
It’s bittersweet going home. We are looking forward to seeing our international friends again, to getting back to having our own space again, and above all else seeing our beloved little dog again.
This was literally me yesterday trying to go to the toilet by myself:
YES – I NEED MY SPACE!
While my head is getting back in the game and preparing for our long journey home, I’m also trying to silence the heart that has started missing my South African home, family, and friends. I’m so thankful once again for our families who have welcomed us into their homes for weeks at a time, it’s not easy adding 5 extra human beings into any given household, yet you did so graciously.
I have many more stories out of Africa to share with you all and I can’t wait. But for now, I need to get back to packing. We are at the end of our laundry, the kids have zero matching socks and I’m pretty sure they’ve grown a dress size in the last two months as well. We are all looking a little wrinkly and mismatched, but we are happy and content and full of love and life.
As the Northern hemisphere welcomes fall, I come to you from Sunny SA and wish you all:
This past weekend we had the joy of spending an afternoon celebrating a special little girl at this gorgeous venue, Vintage Rose.
What a beautiful venue! In the heart of Pretoria, South Africa, the older homes boast larger grounds and vintage architecture. This old Pretoria home has been converted into a venue which hosts receptions for weddings, birthdays and pretty much anything your heart may want to celebrate. It has beautiful large trees and plenty of grass for high energy children. This child friendly, charming place has an incredible eye for detail. Anyone who knows me knows I have a vintage heart and this heart was not disappointed.
I was in my element. So many pretty things for my eyes to feast on. A self catering venue allows themselves the opportunity to focus on design and detail while the client focuses on food and family. A beautiful afternoon was had by all and love became the true hero of the day. Love for this special child, love for each other, and for me, love for good design.
So if you are in the Pretoria, Centurion Johannesburg areas and you are looking for a beautiful venue full with love and details. I highly recommend this little treasure. After all, art really is in the detail.
Shout out goes to my assistant photographers, Jarod, Dylan and Mia.
On the August 9th, 1956, over 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to protest the ‘Pass Laws‘ during the Apartheid era. The women stood there in absolute silence for 30 minutes and then started singing the protest song, Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)
An adaptation of this phrase…
“You strike a woman, you strike a rock”
…has since come to represent a South African woman’s strength and courage.
National Women’s day has been celebrated every year on August 9th, since 2004.
It was then even more special that I had the privilege of photographing Deolandre: a strong, confidant young lady, on the eve of National Women’s Day as she prepared for her Matric Farewell.
(For our international readers, a Matric Farewell is South Africa’s version of an American Senior Prom.)
It marks the end of her high school career, the ceremonial coming age, the growth of an independent woman, the flourishing of hopes and dreams, the world in the palm of her hands. In South Africa it is a gift longed for by many, yet awarded to only a few. The moment I was tasked with, to freeze in frames for a lifetime. A blessing and a privilege indeed.
Camera: Nikon D4S
Location: Clients home, Centurion
Time: 3 – 4:45pm
Lighting Conditions: A few indoor photos with good natural light, althogh most of the photos were taken outdoors with good natural light but before sunset. No flash.
Kids in tow, but I’m super thankful for the client’s little brother who did a superb job of keeping my 3 minions entertained and out of harms way.
It’s a delight for me to be able to share a few of these photos with you. To celebrate this strong, confident woman and shine a light on many like her who are going through life changing moments. As women we need to lift each other up. We need to be each other’s biggest fans. We need to appreciate our differences, while at the same time enjoying our similarities.
This is one of the greatest parts of the friendship I share with Katie. She is always the first one to offer advice, guidance, and a prayer. She encouraged me even though we were in the same industry, she never once saw a competitor, she saw a friend and ultimately – a partner.
So, if you have a woman on your heart who has played a significant role in shaping the person you are today. Give them a call, give them your words, give them your love. It goes a long way.
This past weekend we had the opportunity to experience CrossFit culture in all its glory. We ventured to the little town of Clarens for the Clarens Winter Games. And what a gorgeous setting it was.
We have close ties to the CrossFit Tiger Valley Box here in Pretoria and it was amazing to not only watch the members compete, but also passionately cheer each other on. As Katie noted in her post Strength and Beauty, it’s not just a physical strength that is at work, it’s very much a mental strength too.
It was hugely inspiring to watch individuals who have trained up to 2 hours a day performing with machine like abilities, and it was equally inspiring to watch the beginners in their first ever competitions leaving all of themselves on the open fields.
Well done to all those who took part.
My biggest challenge of the weekend was trying to photograph the event while keeping an eye on 3 rather needy minions. The lens I favoured was the Nikon, 105mm prime. If I was able to bring my 80-200mm that would have been the ideal lens for this event, but the 105 was a pretty decent 2nd choice. My 80-200mm was simply too big to travel with on this trip.
We had the privilege of staying in self catering units at Kiara Lodge, which was about a 10 minute drive past Clarens itself. This family friendly accommodation is set between the Maluti Mountains and Golden Gate. Another true gem of the Free State. Being only a 3 hour, 30 minute drive from Johannesburg, it really is an ideal getaway for a long weekend, especially with little children who don’t sit well on long road trips.
The kids had an absolute blast at the lodge. They were in kiddie heaven. Giant blow up floor bouncy pillow, large colourful wooden climbing frames, large hanging tree swings, miniature golf, trampolines, and the highlight of the weekend – bunnies everywhere.
Note: If you do make your way there, please take lots of carrots for hungry bunnies, they are very friendly and this little activity keeps the kids busy for hours.
I have come away from the weekend with a greater understanding of the CrossFit culture and a better appreciation for the depth of their passion. I come from a sporting family and have been involved with sports all my life, however I now manage an auto immune disease which limits my abilities and if it wasn’t for this, boy, I’d be right along with them.
If you have ever been tempted to give CrossFit a try, go for it! It will change your life for the better – this I am sure of!
This past weekend we had the absolute joy of visiting the beautiful Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Free State in South Africa.
It is a place where families and friends get together and appreciate mother nature at her finest. This magnificent reserve is nestled in the heart of the sand stone mountain area, and home to over 200 horses. The open bush veld is home to Springbuck, Antelope, Ostrich, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Jackal, and many more of Africa’s beautiful creations.
The bed and breakfast retreat is beautiful and old. With all the original charm of the early 1900’s. It has not yet lost itself to modern amenities like wifi. While the rooms themselves have no cellular connection to boast or wifi availability, the main house does. So while you appreciate the pockets of isolation and being cut off from the rest of the world, calling home and checking emails really is just a little walk away, up to the main house.
It’s at this main house that we were treated to a buffet breakfast every morning, beautiful farm home made soups for lunch with home made fresh bread, and a thoughtfully put together dinner in the evenings. They even went out of their way to accommodate my gluten-free child and my own vegan preferences.
My dad and his wife, Anne, are amongst the fittest people I know. Every morning they went out on their bikes with a few friends and rode through the bush for miles, getting right up close to the reserves wildlife. If they weren’t on a bike, they had running shoes on to see what nature to show them by foot. While they went about their physical explorations of the area, the kids and I went for a gorgeous 2.2 km trail walk, perfect for my 3.5 yr old. The kids loved it. They really felt as if they had the freedom to go exploring the bush on their own trail, yet I knew that it would not be too strenuous for them – it really wasn’t. They really LOVED it! This reserve really has something for everyone, for all ages and all physical fitness levels.
The highlight for the kids and I was the horse riding. On our last night there, we went for a magnificent 1 hour horse ride as the sun was setting. Not to mention the play gyms set up for the kids that litter the grounds with childhood charm.
Yes, Moolmanshoek has something for everyone; for me and the kids and for our family and friends. It gave us precious memories and for those few days we were there, everything seemed right with the world again.
For more information about Moolmanshoek, click [here]
There’s something about going home. Whether it’s just to your childhood house you grew up in or your home country you travel back to.
And then there’s something extra special about coming home to Africa.
The minute I step off the plane, it’s like breathing out. My shoulders get lighter and my troubles seem far away.
It’s winter here now and it’s spectacular. The temps are so wonderfully mild. Our middays are reaching 22’C (70’F), but the mornings bring with them that winter chill I still fondly remember.
What strikes me the most about my first few days here is always the sky. The air is so clean and fresh. Such contrast to the desert life. I posted about our famous dust storms in Kuwait a few weeks ago and how, for the summer seasons, it seems that we live in a sepia world. When I land in South Africa, all my senses come alive, as if every colour is showing off. Every landscape is standing proudly at attention. I hear every single bird chirping, I have no idea what birds they are, but oh boy do they serenade. I smell every flower in full fragrance, the rains on the horizon before they fall, and every earthy grain of sand. Textures are in abundance and the influence the land has over it’s people and local design is unmistakable.
My children are filthy. I’m talking about scrub them in the tub and leaving a dirty ring in the bath kind of filthy. And I LOVE it! They are out the house and exploring their environments every single day and I couldn’t be happier about it.
This past week we woke up to one beautiful misty morning. It was magical. My eldest ran outside to share in my joy and found her very first dew drop.
Aside from the land and her people, being around all our family and friends again is so special. Listening to the cousins playing outside, the familiar belly laugh of my brother and the kind words of my dad. The sweet giggle of my new niece and the warm comforts and hugs from loved ones who truly know you.
By now you know I am a South African girl living in the deserts of Kuwait, raising my children and supporting my husband to the best of my abilities. It’s not an easy journey by any means, but one that is well worth it. On Katie’s post An American Patriot Abroad, she put it beautifully when she said:
“Living the expat life may even strengthen one’s patriotism as we experience life away from all that we know and love.”
One of the joys about living abroad is the luxury of travel. Living here means we get 3 months of school summer holidays. With the temperatures reaching unbearably high, everyone who is able, escapes the country with kids in tow for the bulk of this period.
I have been travelling between countries for the past 11 years. All my children were born in Kuwait and have been travelling since they were at least 3 months old. That said, flying is not something that comes naturally for me, and for this reason I feel I have to over prepare in order to cope. This girls feet prefer to be planted firmly on the ground, but alas, my life story has been written a little differently to what I expected and I have been ever so blessed for it.
Last year we travelled to Portugal and this year we are going home to Johannesburg. We are simply so excited. We have a new little family member to meet, old ones to catch up with, friends to cherish, birthday’s to celebrate and a whole lot of new places to see and plenty of adventures to go on. I am even looking forward to the days where we don’t do anything at all. For the next two months I will be writing to you from a beautiful wintery South Africa.
In December, I made this journey alone with the 3 kids and we made it fine with no real drama to write about. Even so, with a very thankful heart my husband will be travelling with us and escorting us safely home this time.
So to get to Johannesburg from Kuwait we will fly to Dubai (1.5 hours) and catch a connecting flight (8 hours) into Johannesburg (JHB). I choose day flights wherever possible which goes against what most of my friends do (including Katie). I generally, find that the travel is easier on my kids when they have a good nights sleep. We then travel all day and when we get home in JHB I put them straight to bed for another good nights sleep. This way we all wake up the next morning ready to start the day with no jet lag in sight. The challenge then becomes…
How do I cope with and entertain 3 small kids in the confined space of economy class all day long?
Well, here are a few of my top travel tips when travelling with kids. We all know ever child/family is different, but these work for mine.
1 – Travel as light as possible.
2 – Each child over 4 (in my case 2 of them) carries their own little backpack. (As light as possible)
3 – My smallest (3.5 year old) and I share 1 backpack.
4 – My one on board luggage bag with wheels is strong enough to carry the weight of my smallest around the terminal. He loves to ride my bag at the airport and it saves me having to carry him or push an extra stroller as well. The girls are big enough to handle the airport walks and we simply walk at their pace, but my little guy is not. Especially if he has just woken up, or having one of his ‘moments,’ so riding the bag it is.
5 – Kids should be comfortable. I’m talking sneakers and sweat pants when travelling long haul.
6 – Starve them of as much screen time as you can for the week before your journey, those little onboard movies will be a huge hit.
7 – Pack on board luggage carefully and intentionally. Remember, you’re trying to pack as light as possible.
That leads me to some of my go to packing tips:
1 – Bring a ziplock bag full of a few of their favourite snacks. Yes, airlines have great options for kids foods now a days, but especially in the case of my one gluten intolerant child, the little comforts of familiar snacks go a long way. Of course, if I cater for the one, I HAVE to cater for the other two as well. I don’t need to be miles high with 2 tantrums and no where to hide. I traded the fancy lunch boxes for simple ziplock bags to help with the weight issue, I mean something that gets lighter while travelling can only be a good thing right?!
2 – I pack a change of clothes, not just for each child, but for myself as well.
3 – Pack a small toy for each child.
4 – I save yummy fruit gummy’s for landing, if any of them have fallen asleep and I need them to get excited about being awake, a little treat (which also helps with their ears and cabin pressure) is sure to do the trick.
5 – Wet wipes, massively important when going anywhere with kids.
6 – Lip balm, that recirculated cabin air can dry out your lips fast.
7 – Empty packet (or baggie) or two, there’s nothing worse than little wrappers and pieces of tissue littering your seat for hours on end and those poor cabin crew members have more than one family to serve. I find a little empty packet very handy when you want to contain bits of rubbish here and there and it’s pretty easy to dispose of when you need to, keeping your area tidy.
This is the first trip I will be trying out a little travel Play Doh kit from Sensory Play Kuwait. It’s small enough and light enough for the kids to carry, so let’s see what they think of it. I will keep you posted.
In the spirit of being overly prepared I even mentally map out my morning-of routine and make sure that all luggage bags are packed up the night before. One of the key elements of this strategic plan is meal times. The kids will have a bowl of plain yogurt, banana or oats before we leave the house. After we make our way through passport control we will head up to the lounges (or food court) for a second breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages and fruit. Honestly, well-fed kids are happier than hungry ones.
Having said all this, no flight home is ever the same, I am constantly learning and refining this travelling process. I will recap once we have landed and update you all on how things went and what I would do differently. For those of you who pray, please pray for safe travels for us!
I look forward to showing you my neck of the woods. Come along for the ride, it promises to be a colourful one! I’d also, love to hear from you what you think of my country and I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Cheers from the skies,
UPDATE: Our flights went well, the kids were super stars, not much sleep onboard to report but I really can’t complain. It’s a traveling game changer when your kids have their own seats on the flight! (And that only happens when they’re over 2yrs old on most airlines)
Our first morning here is a special one, my middle child turns 5 and we were greeted with a spectacular African sunrise. It’s cold, and it’s perfect.