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Three girls, a candle and a coffee shop. This is the best way to describe last Saturday morning/afternoon. Oh, and add endless chats, laughter, amazing brunch and decor to the mix and you have a pretty good time!

I met up with Tamzin from Femmegypsy and Ali from Seams and Silhouettes at the new Forest Hill Shopping centre in the middle of nowhere (ha, really, it is on the outskirts of Pretoria) to check out the newly opened Bay Tree Decor.

Now let me tell you about this mall – it is bigger and more confusing than an airport with time indicators of how long it will take you to reach a certain point. No lies, there was a sign that noted that I am still a whole minute’s walk away from the toilet. Firstly, this mall is your best friend if you want to get fit, but secondly, it is your worst enemy if you have a weak bladder. It took me a little while to find the shop, but once I found it, I was right at home. I adore the French style decor that this little shop has to offer and if I could redo my entire house, it would be a combination of Parkhurst meets quaint French village.

When I walked into the store, the beautiful quilts first caught my eye. I am a little obsessed with quilts – the hours of work that went into it, the metres of fabric. It is a true art form that not too many people appreciate.

I also met franchise owner Ruth, who opened the second shop in the country. Bay Tree Decor was started by Alan and Yvonne Pearce five years ago in Pietermaritzburg. On their website, they describe their shop as a marriage between a passion for home decor and a talent for producing high-quality handcrafted and painted furniture. See these headboards in the pictures below? It is their own handcrafted creations. I am in awe.

Now, what made this place supergreat is that it is not only a decor shop, but it is also a coffee shop! We were treated to a delicious menu, and I settled for the french toast (there is a definite theme here) with nutella! Nutella rules the world, just so you know. Ali opted for the same, while Tam enjoyed a scrambled egg brekkie. It was beyond delicious. Beyond!

After breakfast we prodded around and smelled all the amazing candles, tried the creams, oohed and aahed over the pitchers, jars and jugs. We all wished that we could take the entire store home.  

I will definitely be popping in again for a delicious breakfast, or perhaps even a High Tea with some friends. Thank you Ali and Tamzin for making this a very special morning!

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I like second hand books. Not because they are cheaper than the brand new ones, but because of their condition.


It pains me to start reading a new book. I realised this as I was sitting in an Exclusive Books today.  I was waiting for Flip after work, for a sushi date. I levitated around the shop, read a white greeting card that had ‘Grow old with me…the best is yet to be’ printed in bold American typewriter font, then drifted along with the Jazz music – could be old Blue Eyes crooning – to a section with baby books. Curiosity only kills cats, not 26-year old married women. 

This is where I found the pristine, just  unpacked, still white, still fragrantless copy of ‘The Fault in our stars’. I wanted to read pieces of it, after I saw the movie, but I was too scared to bend it, to flip through its pages. Next to it, ironically, was the author’s newer book Paper Towns. But, this book had been read. It had a fold on the top right corner, it had the telltale backfold of a reader opening and pressing it down, the manhandled browning of the pages, the book smell. Do books only acquire a smell after it has been touched by humans? Do books have different smells?

I love books that have been lived in before I start reading it. Perhaps it has a tear stain from that unbearably heartbreaking departure of a friend; perhaps even tears of joy? Maybe it has a little chocolate smear, because the previous owner couldn’t resist eating a chocolate while reading about her new best friend’s trials and tribulations. Will she kiss the guy or not?

Perhaps the reader soaked in a bubble bath and accidentally got a little water on the bottom. 

These are the books I love. Books that tell a story before the first page has even been turned. 

Picture: We Heart It
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It is 10:35 PM. Winter had ensconced itself outside, its frigid grip on Joburg tightening; inside I’m ensconced on the couch with three terrier companions. I can’t sleep, somewhere inside me is an endless source of energy. A message from my husband asks me to “come to bed”. He is only six metres down the hall. “I’ll come to bed now,” I shout back. But then another message comes through. “Mouse trapped:)”. This time from my tenant.

Mice are only pests when they are in your house and eat your cables, food and clothes, I believe. In my mind, if I can catch the little buggers that have been taking over our house and driving my dogs insane, and release them in a nearby veld, then they are not pests, just cute little animals. Have you ever seen a mouse? Have you seen how tiny and cute they are? How can you kill something like that? I would never forgive myself if I put traps down that lures them in and SNAP! You’re dead!

It isn’t their fault that they are in my house. If winter hadn’t come along, like it should, and took away their food sources; if my house wasn’t warmer than outside; if humans didn’t feel the need to burn down all the velds in the area when it gets colder (why are there now laws against this?) then I wouldn’t be sitting with mice.

Obviously my anti-killing campaign lead me to find more humane ways of apprehending these tiny cute little thieves. Enter Vastrap –  a glue that is more sticky and more dangerous than super glue. The idea is to place some of this glue on a pvc pipe or a piece of cardboard with food. The mouse runs for the food and then they get stuck. Easy peasy.

Little did I know that this would almost be worse than a trap that snaps their necks. The glue directions doesn’t mention anything about what you are supposed to do after the mouse has been caught. I’m thinking that you are supposed to leave it there and let it starve to death. How cruel is that?

This won’t happen either. Next thing I know, I’m prying the poor caught mouse loose from the glue and am bitten in the process. Fuck, that hurts!

I spent the next hour washing the poor mouse. First in warm water, which won’t remove the glue. Okay, so it must be petrol soluble – I have turpentine. Have you ever washed a mouse in turpentine? I have. Poor thing. But I can’t just leave the turpentine on it. Next up, it gets another bath in warm water, then a towling down. Poor, poor thing.

It’s late and I probably should go to sleep. I can’t let the mouse go, I didn’t just go through this process for nothing. So I grab my rusk jar (a tall one made of glass – no mouse can escape from it), tear up toilet paper, add a toilet roll and throw in some food. I want the mouse to be comfortable, not cold and not dead. He should be fine for the night. Tomorrow, I will release him in the veld.

The next morning I check in on my guest, first thing.

He is gone.

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Picture from here
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He talks fast and a lot when he has been alone for a long time, like he needs to get the thoughts out of his mind as quickly as possible. It rushes out of him like a word avalanche. I have to ask him to keep quiet just so I can gather enough thoughts for a response. With new people, he is dead quiet.

He tried making coffee once, but it was so horrible that it ended in a fight. Yet, despite his inability to make coffee, I love him.
His patience is astounding. I can say the most horrible things about him and he will just find a way to love me over it, or around it. There is no limit to his forgiveness. He is a man who can see the bigger picture, unlike his narrow-sighted wife.
I am utterly selfish when it comes to him. I want him all to myself. We fight awful, nasty fights, but cannot live a day without the other. 
He is my telephone. I can tell him my soul, he knows my darkest secret (this is not just some cliché), he brings peace when I am worried, joy when I am sad. I love laughing with him.
He loves to spoil me. Whether it be with flowers, or muffins or just a nice home-cooked meal. He is always there, ever present and I love him for it. 

I love his hands.

Today is my husband’s 29th Birthday.  Happy Birthday Flip! Even though the weather isn’t playing along, I hope you are covered in the warmth of the love from the people who surround you. I love you more than anything on this earth and am ever grateful to our God who lead us to each other. You are my light, my love, my best friend. I know that we can challenge life head on, as long as we are together. Yours forever, M xxx

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Picture: Kikitography
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There is a little town in South Africa that has only about 200 residents, where you are greeted with a signpost that its children, dogs and horses run free – it is the only place in South Africa where wild herds of horses occur, with the closest other place in Namibia.

This is Kaapsehoop. Or Kaapschehoop. 
It has a bit of an identity crisis.
About 35 kms from Nelspruit, the only telltale sign that there is a little dorpie in the rocky koppies is the roadsigns. I asked Flip to stop about one kilometre outside the town to take pics of the koppies and I didn’t even notice it.
The dorpie was started when gold prospectors found some of the precious metal, but it wasn’t as abundant as nearby Pilgrims Rest or Johannesburg. Could you imagine if you Johannesburg was situated here?
Upon arrival we settled in the garden of the Bohemian Groove Cafe, where owner Andrea Fourie told me all about the pleasures and gripes of living in a little dorpie. We enjoyed a few hurried drinks, as the sun was setting and we still wanted to see some of the town, and the cold was tiptoeing its way over the horizon. The fact that it is some 1 468 m above sealevel means that it can get real cold – but is also a good thing, as it keeps the mosquitoes at bay in the malaria-ridden Mpumalanga. Andrea’s American Bulldog Pablo invited us in with his charm and was a sweet treat for me, as I am a huge dog fan and was already missing my furries at home. He was very happy to see us.
Funny story: I went to use the ladies when we arrived while Flip got us a table. When I walked outside, I saw the dog first and then the very handsome stranger. I was approaching the stranger to ask him if I can play with his dog when I realised that this handsome stranger was in fact my husband. He wore a hat, which I’m not used to. 

With plenty of charming little guesthouses, I think this dorpie will make a brilliant little weekend breakaway, as it isn’t too far from all the picturesque attractions in the lowveld. {More on these attractions to come in the next few weeks}, I was just in love with the crisp, clear blue sky, the autumn-red Sycamore trees that coloured the dusty streets, the little ticky tacky houses on the hillsides, the air-so-fresh it burns your lungs, the people and the art. It was like a little piece of heaven.

It is true that dogs roam free in the streets, as we were surrounded and accompanied by all the town’s dogs on our walk. I can only dream of retiring in such a fairytale setting.

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Who wants to read about Lady Chatterley’s Lover over Tuc’s crackers and wine spritzers at a book club, when you can blend your own wine, experience a new restaurant and scrumptious food every last Tuesday of the month? If you choose the book club, say I.

Not many I’s right? Last night I learnt about the great wine club that is Savvy Sisters. Their website describes them as: “A monthly wine club meeting, for ladies only, where we discover and taste new South African Wines according to a theme set out, for example Organic Wines. Savvy Sisters meet at different venues around Johannesburg for a fun, girly evening”. Local is lekker!

I was invited by the super fun Paula, from Hey There Paula, and we were treated to a talk by Elsabe Lategan from Babylonstoren at Toni’s Pizza in Craighall. We learnt about all the blending of wines, such as Petit Verdot – the salt in wine; Cabernet Sauvignon – the deep dark chocolatey tasting wine; Merlot – the sweet sister, with red cherries, red berries, everything red; the Cabernet Franc – which is flat on your tongue (if memory serves me right); and one other wine I cannot recall. We put our best alchemist hats on, which produced a wine called Smitten and placed third out of six teams, so we were spectacularly average.

 My camera’s batteries went flat, so I had to take pics with my phone.

Savvy Sisters really is a brilliant idea, as it connects ladies from all over the city – people who normally would not have known about each other – and introduces you to all walks of life.  It is held at a different restaurant every time, with different meals, but as we were at a pizza parlour last night the obvious meal was pizza. We had five different flavours that were oh so good!  No complaints here. Pizza is my favourite! We were also treated to a yummy salad, parma ham and a spinach pastry. Yum, get in my tum!

 Above picture on the left was taken when my camera still worked. Right is from Toni’s Pizza.

Paula and I had such a laugh, with quotes such as “this wine tastes grapey” being thrown around.
Thank you Toni’s Pizza and Savvy Sister for a great evening!
EDIT: Paula knows the restaurant pretty well and recommends their Belgian Chocolate Pizzette, so if you are ever in the area, you must give this a try. Let me know if you try it! 
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Travelling the weekend before pay day is not wise, let met tell you. It is budget this and budget that – no, you can’t have that chocolate, because not only will it make you fat, you will probably need that R10 for toll money. We had to turn around before a toll gate because I forgot to withdraw money and for some reason my card wouldn’t swipe anymore.

1. Don’t fall into tourists traps. Oh, did we fall into them! We did every single touristy thing while we were in Mpumalanga, we bought all the curios, felt sorry for a certain restaurant in Graskop that had not clientele – a sign that we shouldn’t even have gone in – and paid a hefty fine for bad food.

2. Make sure you have enough money for petrol. You want to arrive at your destination – all the tourists traps – and home without having to stall next to the road and not have to walk to the nearest petrol station. (this didn’t happen to us, luckily)

3. Pack your own food. Instead of having to pay an exorbitant amount of money at a restaurant for shitty food and also having to then leave a tip for the shitty waiter, rather pack your own food. You then at least know what to expect from your food –  because you made it – and your wallet will thank you for it.

4. If you want to go on Safari, take your own car. Don’t go on guided game drives or safaris if you have your own car. These are usually only two hours long and are pretty expensive. Budgeting for petrol also comes to play here. If you are planning on driving six hours in a reserve, you better have petrol. If you don’t have petrol or money for a safari, then walk around your lodgings if you are in the veld. You might not see rhino or elephant, but you will still see some wildlife.

5. Do all the free things. There aren’t a lot of things that are free anymore, but playing a tennis match with your other half, going for a picnic somewhere between the trees, jumping on a trampoline, hiking and bicycling (provided you have your own bike) are free or cheap alternatives.

6. Look for specials or coupons. Groupon always has some sort of spa day somewhere. If it is in your are and you area really keen on a massage, then make use of such opportunities. Also, we saw some activities that were cheaper on Mondays, such as river rafting or horseriding.

7. Drink free water. South Africa’s water is pretty clean, one of the cleanest in the world, so instead of buying that damn expensive bottle of sparkling water, just grab an empty bottle and fill it with tap water. (I should listen to my own tips, but I just like sparkling water so much more than tap water)

8. If you are an international tourist, rather use buses or other forms of public transport than a cab or renting a car. These can be very expensive.

9. Travel in the off seasons. Right now it is autumn/winter, which makes accommodation so much cheaper. As for the rest, it doesn’t change much.

10.  Really broke? Remember that friend who borrowed money to put petrol in his car, pay his rent, etc? Well, it might be time to contact that friend. Or your parents. (T&C’s apply. Not recommended.)

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Picture: Blyde River Canyon
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