The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Se7en’s Book of the Week: Tidy by Emily Gravett

June 24th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Every now and then a book lands on my desk that instantly inspires my kids to create and try and make their own version… I think it is the natural flow of of admiration for a book well created. We would love to introduce you to Tidy by Emily Gravett, published by PanMacmillan South Africa.


Our love for Emily Gravett and her beautiful books was taken to a completely higher level when we met her a while back. Her books are reliably brilliant. When we saw there was a new Emily Gravett book called Tidy, about to launch excitement rose. We knew it would be good and the artwork would be fantastic, but this book is more than good, it is inspiring.

The story is about a badger called Pete. Of course everything rhymes and the rhythm is great, throughout the story. Pete likes things to be neat, really neat and “tidy,” in fact Pete is just a little obsessive and right down to bathing the birds and scrubbing the rocks. And then… well he lives in the woods with his woodland friends, and a leaf falls to the ground. Endless beautiful autumn leaves come tumbling down. He cleans ALL the leaves and then the trees look scrappy, he takes out the trees and when it rains it gets muddy… even that wasn’t neat enough, concrete was the solution… and here the book gets a little poignant and Pete realises his mistake… and all his friends gather together to put things right, and a happy slightly messy picnic ends it all. Pete had to learn to live with a little mess and disorder in his world. You can meet and learn how to draw Pete in the Guardian, well worth stopping by.

There is a subtle environmental message here, the world needs trees and woodlands and things to be just the way they are. There was another message for the somewhat overzealous mother person, who loves everything tidy… until one day a wide eyed child looked me in the eye and said, “Well what’s the point of playing then?” Just like Pete I had a lesson to learn and our house has been a lot messier ever since.


Professionals would call it die-cuts, we would call it magic… When you open up the cover you can see through to a number of pages behind it… and it immediately reminded me of the view boxes we wold make when I was little. I remember vividly creating fairytale view boxes with a friend and ballet stories for a school project.

Se7en+1 Steps to a View Box


  1. You need a sturdy box, like a shoebox and some card from from a cereal box. We cut the cereal box into rectangles to fit the box, and began planning our scenes…
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  3. We wanted to create bright background scenes and acrylic paints work best for that. We also wanted to create the woodland effect with lots and lots of leaves… so we painted with toothpicks.
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  5. We painted inside the box and cut windows in our scenes as well…
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  7. Next step might require a little help from a grownup, cut a window at the front and back end of the box as well as in the lid of the box… we cut holes between our trees as well… the more light that you can get into your box the better.
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  9. We covered the lid and the back end of our box with transparent coloured paper.
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  11. The scene is set…
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  13. Meanwhile our resident artists created some figures… that we cut out and popped onto toothpicks…
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  15. We cut one or two inch slits in the base of the box, and ten added our toothpick characters to the game. That way you can move the characters around a little bit when you play with your work of art.


And we were done…


Fromm front to back, there is a whole lot action going on in that box!!!


When you hold your box to the light a whole world of play is going on…



Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for the review copy of Tidy by Emily Gravett. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are as usual completely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Book Crafts · Tuesday Art Task

Se7en Steps to Actually Finishing Your Homeschool Year…

June 23rd, 2016 · 12 Comments

I would love to be posting some sort of end of year review of all the marvellous projects we have done… but we appear to be unable to reach the end of the year. I think perhaps dithering is the word. So much is said about getting your homeschool year off to a good start, but not a lot is said about ending your school year… and I have a feeling that is because most of us eventually just fizzle out and then we spend the next while pondering: should we just carry over the work we didn’t finish to the next year, or should we just let it go? For the last three weeks I have been saying, “This is our last week of school.” And still we are kind of dragging on… but after one of our best school years ever (and yes it has taken many many years of practice) I have been battling to finish our school year off. I do actually know how to end a school year… I just need to put it into action.


Schooling all year round is one thing, and in a homeschooling family you will know that it is a lifestyle of learning… so the learning never just stops… but not all learning has to be formal learning and your children do not have to fill in a page of phonics, everyday in order to have a productive career one day. It turns out that we all need to change things up and down, we do need to have hard days and easy days, hard weeks and easy weeks… our brains need the stimulation of variety, it just helps us all think a little better.

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About taking breaks… we need them. Not only do we need a break to refresh ourselves but, and I am sure there are documented studies to prove this somewhere, our kids need a break to put all the pieces of the puzzle together that they have been learning about. Imagine you feed all these facts into a bucket, its fun and you are learning and the facts keep on coming… eventually your bucket fills up and you have to take a break and hang all those facts onto the relevant hooks to connect things together. Take for example reading, slow and steady wins the race and we can practise every day, but when it gets dull and we appear to be stagnating… I stop for a couple of days. When we return we are eager and there seems to be a mental jump to a new level of skill. The last long break we took, two of our readers went from barely sounding out words, to competently plodding through chapter books. There is something to be said for taking a break…

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And yet for some reason we are loath to take a break. I can assure you that your kids will get into college if they take many long breaks throughout their school careers. If they end up pursuing their passion then no amount of cajoling and pushing earlier on in their school careers will equip them half as much as the child who has had lots of free time to explore the things that they want to pursue. The end the school year is upon us and best we treat it with respect and take a break…

Se7en Steps to Finishing Your School Year (And Staying Sane):

  1. Have a good reason to take a break: And believe it. So many of us have a good reason to want to carry on schooling: Firstly, it is fun (most of the time), who doesn’t want to sit around reading books all day; Secondly the rhythm and routine of school days works for us… and we think we can soldier on… push through and all that. And in the world of mass-self-help and get-aheadness we secretly believe that our children will be better scholars if they continue with school work through their summer break or for us our winter break. May I suggest that you find something lovely you would like to do, not your kids because they have plenty of their own plans already, and then get on with it… refresh the garden, work through a book of art projects, take a daily nap, clean out closets, read a series of books… anything that you don’t do during school time… ponder a little bit and then treat yourself.
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  3. Set realistic goals: Now is just not the time to quickly tackle those bits of curriculum that have been sitting on the shelf all year, now is not the time to start a project that you think will be a fantastic learning experience for your kids. Now is the time to be realistic and ask yourself, “When do we want to finish?” and “How much can we realistically fit into that time period. At the end of last week I sat down with each of our kids and I said, “This is what you need to do for your school year to be done.” We made a list, they are tackling their lists and when their work is done, their work is done.
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  5. Stagger the Ending: Folks like to start their school year slowly… slowly introducing the topics that you plan to do all year, a day at a time or a week at a time. In the past I would just roll our school round, when a child finished their math books for the year, I would begin the next ones… and just roll along… turns out that a better strategy for us is actually to finish the math and put it aside. That way their list of daily work does actually get less and less… and the time I spend with them for school is not spent teaching them new things but rather helping finish the work they are battling to finish. Some of my guys love science, they finished theirs weeks ago, and they are busy getting through their history, and the others are the opposite. There is no problem if they don’t do every subject every day, or even every week. If the work is done, then its done… if it isn’t done, then you have to pause and assess: Have you in your enthusiasm plotted and planned too much? Have they actually learnt enough but the list was too long?
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  7. You have done your time: Like most homeschool moms I begin the year with lots and lots of ambitious plans… a rhythm and routine that is completely over the top. Packed with every idea that I have gleaned from reading other folks’ blogs and highly acclaimed books, not to mention taking a peak at what all my friends are doing with their kids for school too. Turns out I need to look at what my kids are doing and what we are doing for school and then get real. We only school in the morning, free play time is absolutely fundamental to our kids’ education. So we can only do so much in a day, and then probably only half of that. Have they been learning all year, have they worked through their curriculum? If they have done their time then they are done. The opposite is true too. If I have a voracious reader and I direct them to a shelf and say these are your readers for the year and they read them all in a month or two, then much as I would like to get ahead (what is this obsession), it is time say, “The work is done, now read what you like.” Turns out, if they have done their work for a particular subject really quickly then they have found something they love and they will pursue it in their free time anyway.
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  9. You don’t have to finish everything: This one is huge for us homeschoolers… you can actually say done is done and be finished. Your children will thank you, you can pat yourself on the back and they will not actually be damaged for life, if a couple of assignments over a whole year didn’t get done. We are often so focused on what we haven’t done that we don’t actually notice what we have done. One of my kids is just finishing up two years of American History, he has made it to the end of World War II. He has done it himself and it is actually quite epic for the kid that only mastered reading a year or so ago. I need to stop hunkering after the last few chapters in the book… he has done enough. He knows American history, in specific detail and he knows it well. I need to just say, “that’s enough.” If your child has never made an electric circuit, that was scheduled, don’t assign it over the holidays, put it on the list for next year and let it go.
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  11. Give your kids something to look forward to: This is not the time to fill in all the things you missed in school… this is not the time to say, we didn’t do science experiments all year and I saved them for the holidays. If your child picks up a science book and decides to do some experiments for fun, that’s one thing. This is actually the time to take a break, not the time to reframe your schooling into another version of more schooling. Trust me if you haven’t done art all year and you leave some inspiring stationary out on the table and intentionally get busy in the kitchen with dishes… your kids will be doing art. I do ask my kids what they would like to do, yes we would all like a round the world trip on a cruiser packed with a library and lego, but realistically we are going to play a few board games, read some books together, bake, sleep in and rest well and recover, not to mention plot and plan and dream about next year. We don’t make wish lists, that is the death knoll to each of those activities… our wish list becomes the list of promises we will never get to keep. Get an idea of what your kids want to do and then go with it… it is so tempting to plot and plan fabulous activities… but very often, your kids want to just sit at home and play with legos.
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  13. Have something you are really looking forward to: We have to stop thinking of the holidays as an opportunity for your kids to learn a million things they never have time to do during school. Now is the time to take a break yourself… if you have always wanted to spend a day on the couch reading a book, for yourself… now is the time. If you always wanted to start a nature notebook, so you get all the materials for your kids, now is the time to start your own one… not in a half hearted way, but with intention. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be for you… give yourself the break you would like to have…. instead of whiling away the hours on extra housework and chores, because everyone else is on holiday. Trust me you will very quickly find your kids emulating you and without having to say a word they will be spending their hours happily along side you, maybe doing what you are doing, maybe working on something quite different, that’s ok, because this is your thing… the thing you have always wanted to do… think about it, make a plan and start.
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    And the se7en + 1th

  15. Just Stop Already: At this stage, what isn’t done is just too bad… it is time for us to stop. The next one-on-one meeting I do with my kids will be to admire the work they have done. Talk about what we have achieved, what we loved and what really didn’t work. Take a few photographs of extra special projects. Ask them what they especially want to learn about in their next school year… it’s worth asking, I am always surprised. Pop their books back in their crates and when we get back to school they will carry on with their math and workbooks where they left off… and they move on to the next shelf of reading books for history and science. That’s is… the big secret to ending your school year without stressing about everything being done 100%, every box ticked and every book read… is to just stop. Enough is enough… let the rest go.


Follow se7en_hoods’s board Se7en At School on Pinterest.

→ 12 CommentsTags: Organizing School · Se7en at School

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #321

June 20th, 2016 · 2 Comments

It’s cold and the rain is pouring down outside… winter has definitely arrived and we are hunkering down with piles of books. And the father person was celebrated as the great dad he is on Father’s Day, he rescued us from being late for church and treated everyone to croissants for breakfast on the run. The perils of wintry days… and piles of late night reading in bed, we all over slept and nobody wanted to get up on such a rainy day…



Lovely Links from This Week

  1. I know half the world is getting ready for summer holidays… but we are settling in for a wintry read and The Read the World Summer Book Club… is going to be a winner!!!
  2. While the father person could be the best storyteller in the world, I am possibly the worst… this post from Kara Fleck is pure inspiration: Storytelling Ideas and Story Starters…
  3. I absolutely love these Infinity Tiles on Babble Dabble Do I think my gang will love making and playing with these!!!
  4. Lonely Planet Activity Sheets… I have been leaving these lying around for my little guys, they have really enjoyed them.
  5. We have been reading a fabulous introductory book to architecture and this project is just fabulous… Architecture Carnival on Krokatak.
  6. And this is totally going onto my dream holiday list: A Week in St. Ives, Cornwall with Babyccino Kids.
  7. And since it is rainy, rainy, rainy… it is definitely the season for audio books and free colouring pages from the inspiring Alisa Burke.

And a gift for you… last week we posted a review of The Rainbow’s Heart a beautifully illustrated book for readers of all ages… and here is a colouring page from it… rainy day treats!!!

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Image credit to Bumble Books and the author, Richard Latimer. Click on the image, it will open in a fresh tag… print it using landscape mode and colour away!!!

A Blast From the Past:

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Book of the Week

A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde, Published by Penguin Random House South Africa: This was a nice easy weekend read that I fitted in between all the vitally important events of birthdays and party and father’s day… so quick and easy. In fact Katie Fforde is excellent for easy reading… just sweet rolling stories. The main players in this book are… Emily, a midwife who needs to get away from it all for a break and heads to her best friend in Scotland, to be the chef on a “working holiday puffer boat;” Alisdair a good looking local GP, is a widower and a devoted single father to the Kate; and Kate who the author claimed to be nine… but living with a number of kids I would say her behaviour and relationships were actually about six.

Interestingly enough, the Puffer is a real live vessel… you can take a look at it here… and that certainly gives the book a little depth. The story goes that Emily, is escaping from the endless difficulties of in-house politics, between being a midwife and delivering babies out of a hospital setting and the local medical fraternity who insist that all babies need medical care and should be born in a hospital. Emily desperately needs a break and heads to the country to help her best friend, who also happens to be pregnant. Emily is single and happily so, she has a job and a career and no need for a relationship at all. Alisdair is single and sought after, more than a few local lasses have their eye on him, but he is not interested in a relationship that will cause any division between him and his young daughter. It turns out Emily and little Kate become friends, over knitting for her teddy of all things.

There are no dramatic surprises, the story unfolds itself, you can see where it is going… there is always the lurking issue that Emily is only there on holiday and will be returning to the city, once her friend has had her baby and the holiday is over. The author waits until the very last couple of pages, to resolve a few of the issues. This book is a nice little break from the world at large and a fabulous easy weekend read.

We would like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of the book for review purposes. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed are as usual, entirely our own.

That’s us… Hope you all have a fabulous week!!!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Happy Brilliant Birthday to Hood #4…

June 19th, 2016 · 12 Comments

Another week and another birthday… Hood #4 turned thirteen…


To the boy who can’t get enough of mountain tops…

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Who loves a good feast…

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He was built for speed…

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And smooth dressing!!!

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To the chap who is always doing some sort of work out…

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Or hiking…

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Or researching…

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In the great outdoors…

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Happy Brilliant Birthday


Our champion feather collector… well anything collector…


Our smartest dresser…


Our master of disguise…


Feet never ever on the ground…


To our lover of style…


And always a ready smile…


Always ready with a good story…


And the biggest brown eyes…


Birthdays from Previous Years…

2015: Hood #5 Turns 12…

2014: Hood #4 Turns 11…

2013: Hood #4 Turns 10…

2012: Hood #4 Turns 9…

2011: H00d #4 Turns 8…

2010: Hood #4 Turns 7…

2009: Hood #4 Turns 6…

→ 12 CommentsTags: Home Truths

Se7en Visit the Montebello Design Centre for a Book Launch…

June 17th, 2016 · 3 Comments

We recently visited the Montebello Design Centre and David Krut Project for the launch of The Rainbow’s Heart by Richard Latimer and published by local publisher, Bumble Books.


The story is about two cousins, Dusty Rhodes and Bob Wyre, who are who go on a wild journey across the African plains in their jeep, packed with everything you can imagine… including a packet of seeds. They are following a special bird called the Honey Guide, who is taking them to meet the Queen bee.


When they finally reach the bees, the bees are starving, a thief has stolen all the flowers… and so the bees are at their very limit, when (spoiler alert) Dusty and Bob arrive with their seeds that magically grow and produce flowers as soon as they are planted… the bees thrive and survive and the cousins head home. Anyone who has ever been on a road trip, or dreams of a road trip… will love this book



While the book has a clear environmental theme and the story has a great feel to it, this book is actually all about the artwork. It is brilliant. And with my not quite reading child, this book would work just as well as a wordless picture book… I am going to say it again the illustrations are quite out of this world.


And you can see why this book launch needed a gallery… for these wonderful artworks.


Isn’t this the perfect page for a pause and as the story suggests a game of eye spy.


Meet the author, an artist and a gentleman…



And a treat for you all…

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Image credit to Bumble Books and the author, Richard Latimer. Click on the image, it will open in a fresh tag… print it using landscape mode and colour away!!!

Montebello Design Centre


Honestly, we have been past Montebello so many times, and we have never stopped in… and it turned out to have exactly the right kind of magic for the launch a beautiful picture book…


I can’t think why, it’s wonderful… and there is bunting!!! Gotta know I love bunting…




And a coffee shop…


And a crafty shop full of all sorts of loveliness…




And of course… baskets!!!


The Greenhouse Nursery


And then there is the Greenhouse Nursery and we fell quite in love with this magical place… take a walk with us…







Thank you so much to Bumble Books for the invitation to the launch. This is not a sponsored post, we were given a copy of the book for review purposes, we were not paid to write this post and all opinions were as usual, our own.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

A Quick Tour of the New I & J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium…

June 16th, 2016 · 2 Comments

We have been waiting and waiting with eager anticipation for the new I&J Ocean Exhibit at the aquarium to open… and open it is. If you haven’t been to the aquarium for years then I can say… these school holidays would be a really good time to head down there. We popped in yesterday evening before the grand opening this morning to take a look around…


The I&J Ocean Exhibit


This huge tank, 6m deep and 1.6 million litres full is ready for viewing. A huge window 9m by 4m letting us take a look at the underwater that world most of us have never even dreamt of exploring.


It has come a very long way from the first day of construction and the small model that was used to explain the events to come, two and a half years ago.


The Jelly Gallery


To the left of the giant tank is the new jelly display… that you enter through a curtain of tentacles…


Into a luminous mirrored hall…


Filled with incredible creatures…


You will be there a while, they are quite hypnotic…


The Tunnel


To the right of the huge tank is the tunnel, a 10 m walk way under the tank…


Turtles swim right above you…


Giant fish right alongside you…


You really can become part of the ocean in here…


While we there there they released some more fish into the tank… it is quite a procedure, while they waited for all these huge fish, that were in a frame within the tank to wake up…


And then they released and they swam into their new surroundings… and their new home.


To save our oceans we need to understand them and a lot of new learning and understanding is going to happen in front of this huge tank… as many hours are spent watching life under the ocean through this window into the watery world…

Previous Two Oceans Aquarium Posts

→ 2 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en Got to Cook With HP and Learn in the Stir Crazy Cooking School…

June 15th, 2016 · 8 Comments

A couple of weeks back I was invited out for lunch by HP South Africa I was a little surprised, it wasn’t the usual type of media invitation that I receive. I am not the most (read not at all) tech savvy gal in the world, and they soon found that out. But I am a mom… and I don’t know a mom on earth who wouldn’t like to play around with a printer and print a pile of photographs of her kids… I can’t even begin to think when last I actually did print photographs. Instagram is my favourite place, photographs speak to me, and yet I never get to print photographs. Every year I say, “This is the year…” And it turns out, this was the invitation I needed. I downloaded the HP All in One Printer App onto my phone and literally printed away. It was as easy as that.


I digress… HP South Africa invited me, and a couple of much more tech savvy guys and gals, out to lunch, and the great thing about it was that we had to cook the lunch ourselves. Yes, I was treated to a day out at the Stir Crazy Cooking School in Hout Bay. I have to be honest when I heard it was a day out at a cooking school I didn’t hesitate to reply and say, count me in. I promised myself that this was the year I would take the odd day off and do things just for me… and it is June folks and I have yet to get around to it, I needed this day off. Anyway, I can totally guarantee you that most of my Monday mornings do not begin looking like this: Stunning view, table set and an apron ready and good to go…


Let’s meet our chef, Brett Nussey…


His inspirational kitchen…


And most of my very serious (!!!) team…


Cooking With HP South Africa

Fresh Spring Rolls

Had I known how easy it was to make spring rolls, I would have done these years ago. I had to go to a technology event to discover that you can just buy rice paper wrappers at the local supermarket… and my kids, all of them… will eat anything wrapped up and called a spring roll. Anything. From this day forward we have entered into a new level of vegetable eating, even for the one person that thinks chocolate, it grows on trees, is the only vegetable. Here you go… Spring rolls in a flash:


Chop and sliver…




Fresh mint and coriander leaves for taste and prettiness…


Then layer on the treats…


This was a real recipe with real ingredients and yet I find my kids will eat anything chopped up and wrapped up!!!


Another layer…


Sweet chilli sauce… and my kids love anything with chilli, so we are winning here…


And fold and roll…




Bourekakia – Lamb in Phyllo Pastry

These look like our local samosas and so my kids think they are… and are thrilled to get these for supper, with absolutely anything wrapped up inside them. They are quick and easy and fun to make…







Eggplant Involtini

This was stunning, and from the house where eggplants grown and there is only so much moussaka that one family can eat, it is wonderful to have a recipe for a delicious dish made with eggplants.




Stuffed Grilled Chicken Breast with Spinach and Feta

And another dish, that I know the father person loves, but I have never tried before, because I thought it would be too tricky… turns out it is not and that our entire family loves it… except for the non-chicken eater of course… but for him there is the vegan eggplant dish.





Apple Tarte Tatin and White Chocolate Creme Brûlée

Well we didn’t make the desert, but isn’t it beautiful… Creme Brûlée is my hubs absolute favourite dish… so winning there.


And that was it… A fantastic meal that I really can’t believe I am able to make… all plated up and absolutely delicious.


A complete break from my everyday life and a beautiful gift to go… Le Creuset, need I say more… and a pile of photographs printed… hot off the press so to speak. I will have two grannies thrilled to know that I have actual real live photographs. All in all it was a complete win of a day for me… learnt new things, tried new flavours… loved it!!!


Thank you so much to HP South Africa for a fantastic day out, and to Stir Crazy Cooking School, my family are thrilled that I spent the day with you. This is not a sponsored post, I was not paid to write it and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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→ 8 CommentsTags: Cook Book Reviews · Monday Munchies · Reviews