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

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Weekend Reading: Gareth Patterson’s My Lion’s Heart… An Author Interview of Note.

October 11th, 2014 · 2 Comments

When I was asked to review Gareth Patterson’s Autobiography, My Lion’s Heart, I jumped at the task. In the last couple of years we have dedicated so much time to exploring our own local Nature Reserve, it has been such an adventure for all of us. However, like most South Africans we can only dream of seeing The Big Five one day. To be honest I was really excited to read about the life of someone who has dedicated their life to protecting wildlife and specifically lions. If you want to get to know Gareth Patterson then follow the link to his about page.

This first part of the book is really the story of his life growing up in Africa and I have to say that it took a while to read, because I kept having to tell whoever was sitting next to me about what I was reading. Anecdote after anecdote on every page. Crazy escapades, and wild adventures. I didn’t tell my kids that keeping collecting snakes was an actual event and boy did we laugh over the “python with piles” incident… who knew pythons even got piles. Needless to say it was a great read and while I was the reader, reporting back to the kids, it turned out to be great fun for all of us. Gareth Patterson did indeed have a fairly different and often remarkable childhood, that set him up for a very different life and nothing like the one most of us would dream of for our children.

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Photograph supplied for this post by Gareth Patterson.

The Book is in four parts, and the middle two tell us of his journey through life, the trials and disappointments of conservation in Africa. This really is a book that needed to be written. So many wildlife books tell successful stories, this one not so much. It is fairly heart wrenching in places and apart from his life with the lions I shared a whole lot less with my kids. There is so much going on in conservation that really needs to be told, folk should hear about the struggle of environmentalists on the ground. I do believe that an educated public can do so much more to actually contribute towards conservation in a relevant way. This book will be an eye opener for a lot of readers. If you are even slightly interested in wildlife, especially in the African context, then this is a must read.

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Photograph supplied for this post by Gareth Patterson.

Ever present throughout the book is his journey with the lions and what an incredible journey. Living amongst them and training his pack as a parent to them. Gareth Patterson truly does have a Lion’s Heart. The last section of the book flew by far too fast, there is a pretty crushing conclusion to his journey. On the one hand the ending is fairly devastating and on the other, this man is indeed a pioneer, he calls himself a wildlife warrior and he isn’t wrong. He uses his books to bring the message of conservation to the world at large. His writing is eloquent, and gripping, sensitive and emotional… it makes for a very good read. I for one am so grateful for his message and his ability to share his heart with his readers.

Author Interview With Gareth Patterson

In this interview we cover heaps in our Se7en + 1 Questions. You will find his reasons for writing, the writing process, his dream for conservation, even getting kids outdoors. Enjoy it…

  1. You grew up under an African sky and experienced things way beyond the imagination of most people. Did you always know that you would be a pioneer of animal conservation, one of the few in fact, or did you imagine you would be a writer… what was your dream as a child?
  2. No, I did not know I would be a pioneer, but I knew that my heart was for the animals, especially for the lion. Regarding being a writer, since a child, I have always devoured books, especially about wildlife, and so writing my first book, Cry for the Lions, back in 1988, was a combination of my love of lions, my love of books, and seeing writing as a vehicle to create awareness for these animals.

  3. When you started your work there were a number of passionate and inspiring conservationists working in Africa, and now there are less than a handful… How do you think hands-on conservation will change in the future?
  4. This is why I began My Lion’s Heart questioning (somewhat provocatively) whether there are any new wildlife warriors emerging. Happily I end the book mentioning that there are new warriors emerging. But we need many more! I think they will come. Regarding hands-on conservation in Africa, we have to acknowledge and revive African Environmentalism, the original environmentalism that existed (and still exists in ways) throughout this continent prior to colonialism and colonial conservation. This is why I have revived my Sekai African Environmentalism Group ( ‘Conservation’ in Africa did not begin in Africa with the arrival of the white man. It is not recognised today, that going back thousands of years, African’s were the world’s first ‘environmentalists’.

  5. When you are out in the wild day in and day out, you are called to survive. Reading about your incredible escapes and close encounters of every kind, one has to wonder do you have a life skill you rank as the most essential?
  6. It is said that a cat has nine lives. Recently I counted up how many lives I have used, and it is twelve or so! I do not think it is so much a ‘life skill’, but more of listening to the intuition that I have been very blessed with, and that when things happened, it was not my time to go. And that it was meant to be that I had still work to do in my life.

  7. You have written a number of books and by sharing your story you are bringing the plight of the wildlife of Africa to the people, literally. Which comes first the idea for a book as you begin a new assignment or does the book only emerge when you are some way into a project?
  8. I think with each project there is a book in mind, because as previously mentioned, books are my vehicle, my voice, to attempt to create awareness.

  9. What is your writing process like? Do you keep journals as you go, or do you need a keyboard… do you start from an outline or do you hammer away and write your book from start to finish. How do you keep track of your ideas for your book as it grows?
  10. Usually I kept daily diaries, and they are invaluable in the process of writing books like mine. The outline is in my head, then I write, and the book evolves.

  11. This book makes it very clear that there is a lot more to conservation than meets the eye… there is a whole socio-political angle to every conservation decision. And most often conservation, and the very animals in discussion, are the furthest thing from the agenda. This must be beyond frustrating for you… If you could change one thing in nature conservation right now, what would it be?
  12. You are really correct about that. If I could change one thing, it would be to change the entrenched and dangerous apartheid conservation mindset in Southern Africa regarding wildlife, that ‘If it pays, it stays’. Instead, we seriously have to replace this with what the great naturalist/scientist/philosopher, George Schaller, once wrote:

    ‘We should not have to place a value on animals…we should be able to guarantee their freedom solely for their own sake, but man’s thinking has only just began to approach such a level of morality.’

  13. Childhood has recently warped, from your life of running around exploring in the great outdoors, to “planned, supervised time for outdoor activities…” It appears that while the environment is under such pressure future generations of potential environmentalists are being removed from the playing field before they even get going. Do you have suggestions for families that really want to make a difference?
  14. ‘Nature deprivation’ as it termed, can lead to many disorders in children. It is not always easy in these times, but parents (and themselves) must be aware of and promote what I believe is an inherent (though often smothered) wonder of nature in children. The same goes for the disease of loneliness that seriously plagues us in these modern times. For children, and for ourselves, we have to acknowledge and embrace that we are a part of everything around us. We are not alone.

    And the se7en + 1th…

  15. Your work with the lions is far and away one of the most emotional roller-coasters one could ever read about, taking you to the highest highs and the lowest of lows, this is clearly not a job but a calling. When the going gets tough, it gets really tough and through grief and pain you have persevered. It seems crazy that in a world that claims to be so “for conservation,” that on the ground, the job is so hard. Is conservation in Africa a pithy idea or do you think something positive in wildlife conservation in Africa will emerge?
  16. I am optimistic because never before (and in a big part, thanks to social media) in recent history has there been so much global awareness about environmental issues. Civil society has a voice today like never before, and it is vigorously demanding of government and big business that global environmental change must take place. Just this year alone, this was reflected massively by the global march for the lion, the global people’s climate march, and the global march for the rhino and elephant. And this I believe, will increasingly make a difference ‘on the ground.’

    I was given the e-book to read and review, and to prepare for the author interview by Tracey McDonald Publishers. I was not paid to write this review and the opinions expressed are entirely my own. The photographs were given to me by Gareth Patterson to use in this post, if you want to see lots more photographs and read about is life… then head on over to Gareth Patterson’s Website. I could not have written this post without Tracey Mcdonald or Gareth Patterson, so thank you to both of you.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

The Week That Was – #202

October 9th, 2014 · 8 Comments

Forget about the week that was, this is definitely a month that was post. You might ask… “Where have you been?” And the answer has to be “Just getting along…” for some reason the season has been busy and we just dove in and went with it…

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And while the blue leaves on our weather tree, the rainy days, have given way to green leaves, it is still a lot colder than we remember it…

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Weeks of rainy weather have given way to the tepid sunshine of spring…

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GiveAway Reminder

And can I interrupt this post to say this is the last day of our Fabulous Crafty Rhino Project GiveAway… a R500. voucher from CNA… Click on the link, or click on the image head straight over there and enter… this post can wait… click on the link already…

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And back to the post…

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The whales are out…

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And so are the flowers…

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It is great gardening weather, but still chilly… enough to be seeking a sunny spot to read a book…

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Warm enough to start thinking, “hmmm, I wonder if is too soon to take dinner outdoors?”

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We have had heaps of visitors and it has been fun, if not a little crazy (!!!)…

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But we seem to thrive on crazy, not to mention the associated feasts…

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In other news this may well be the summer my boys embrace cooking outdoors with gusto…

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And I may well be out of a job as the family braai-er… but I am still in charge of the marshmallows!!!

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I have noticed little people stealing little moments just for themselves and “all I want to do when I wake up in the morning is play with LEGO” of course while everyone else is still fast asleep.

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In fact it has generally been play, play, play…

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Which is totally different to that thing called school, which we take much more seriously… we learnt some tribal dancing…

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And these are math manipulatives… clearly we are conquering academia…

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And as for these toes I have no words…

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I popped this picture in, just to demonstrate why it would be totally insane to child proof our house and the only reason to hide things on top of the fridge would be to keep them away from me…

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Otherwise, I don’t quite know how this happened but over this past winter we have become park people…

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Every time we see a park we stop and play…

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And if anyone is asking… this is our kids favourite past time in the whole world…

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Gleeful spinning joy…

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Otherwise seesaws, jungle gyms and swings pretty much rock too…

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Parkour is a way of life…

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Projects Abound…

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And don’t forget the great outdoors… “tis the season for fluffy cuteness everywhere…

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And let’s not forget books… and trips to the library…

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And the Book of the Week:

Because you can’t beat a great classic and with tons of visitors it helped to have a read with short hilariously funny chapters that can be read independently… not to mention it is sometimes good to go back and read familiar favourites…

And this is what the Hoods have been up too:

Hood #1: has begun the “quadruple layer, multiple level, never static, we don’t hang laundry anymore” lego storage unit….

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Hood #2: Has been chief entertainment…

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Hood #3: Reading, reading, reading…

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Hood #4: Is our chief project manager and lurches from one grand plan to the next with ease, Otherwise he appears to be growing at an alarming rate… he isn’t alone. Our kids all seem to have stretched somewhat lately…

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Hood #5: No longer walks anywhere…

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And I still can’t get over these eye lashes…

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Hood #6: And this little one…

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May or may not have been reading about Johnny Appleseed for school.

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Not to mention friends… friends… friends…

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Hood #7:

Is introducing a new sport to the family… swirling sock skating… with immense style and finesse…

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Hood #8: And we survived a broken arm…

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And a month without going to the beach even once… just couldn’t face sand inside a cast…

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But we made it through and as dreamy as ever… and a parting shot from the doctor: “For the next month: no jungle gyms, no slides, no skateboarding, no bikes… the list went on…” Seriously, does he know five!!!

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Otherwise… we hope you have a fabulous week, with love from the gang… at se7en + 1…

→ 8 CommentsTags: The Week that Was

And Just Like That Our Celebrity Chef is Ten…

October 6th, 2014 · 8 Comments

I said it was a week of birthdays… after a crazy month of birthdays… Hood #5, our Celebrity Chef, turned ten this week!!!

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To the boy who was exceptionally thrilled to reach double digits…

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ten is huge in the eyes of a ten year year old!!!


To the boy who very rarely stands still…


And never has his feet on the ground…


To the boy who loves hiking…


And the great outdoors…

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Always exploring…

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Always looking for something interesting…


Even in the garden, he is always cooking…


Our chef in training…

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Always trying something new…


Our experimenter of note…


Always busy with a project…


Happy Brilliant Birthday… may ten be totally tremendous…

A Blast From the Past…

Nine was fantastic…


May ten be filled with new and exciting kitchens…


Time certainly flies by so fast…


We blinked…


And you grew!!!


The cutest…


Tiniest… (not the teeniest, tiniest cheeks mind you!!!)


May you always be just as sweet as you are…


And Happy Brilliant Birthday to you!!!

  1. And the Celebrity Chef Turns Nine…
  2. The Celebrity Chef is Eight…
  3. Happy Birthday to the Celebrity Chef, Se7en At Last…
  4. Happy Birthday Hood to Our Celebrity Chef, Hood #5 Turned Six…
  5. The Celebrity Chef Turns Five!!!
  6. Celebrity Chef turns 4…

→ 8 CommentsTags: Home Truths · Our Events

And Just like that Se7en + 1 is Actually Five…

October 5th, 2014 · 10 Comments

Earlier this week… In a week that whirled past full of birthday parties and visitors…

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Hood #8 turned five… FIVE… FIVE!!!

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To the boy who is always observing…

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Who takes trips to the beach very seriously…


And loves it there more than anything…


Who believes ice-cream should be a way of life…


And loves the idea of doing school so very much…


And spends hours on his wonderful work…


Who loves 4X4’s enough to just sit next to them…


Who thinks hiking is a way of life…


In fact living outdoors… is essential…


He is surprisingly good at mini-golf… and outplays all his siblings…


And firmly believes he is as big as all his brothers…

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And that anything they can do he can do too…

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He is probably right!!!

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There is an element of mischief…


Just slightly…


He is our super hero…

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Who never stops making us laugh…


Who totally loves reading…


And spends hours everyday in books…


Blast from the Past

For our boy who never stops laughing…


For our boy who loves cooking…


For our boy who takes feasting very seriously…


For our boy who takes playing to… A whole new and involved level…


For our boy who is growing up way too fast…




Happy Brilliant birthday…


May Five be filled with fabulous fun!!!

You Can Read About His Well Documented Life Here…


→ 10 CommentsTags: Home Truths · Our Events

Se7en’s October and Your Free Printable Calendar…

October 3rd, 2014 · 4 Comments


So October has crept up on us… a month where half the world is turning orange and the other half is bursting with colour. We are longing for some summer sunshine… the time has come for some summer fun!!!

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

Meanwhile, this is October:

1 October: Homemade Cookies Day

1 October 1908: Henry Ford Introduced the Model T

1 October 1924: Jimmy’s Carter Birthday (1924-)

2 October 1950: Peanuts First Published

2 October 1869: Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (1869 – 1948)

3 October 1906: SOS Established

3 October 1189: Richard I (The Lionheart) crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey

3 October 1916: James Herriot’s Birthday (1916 – 1995)

4 October: Child Health Day

7 October: National Poetry Day

7 October 1885: Niels Bohrs Birthday (1885 – 1962)

8 October 1871: Great Fire of Chicago

9 October: First Two Way Telephone Conversation

9 October: Leif Erikson Day

9 October: Moldy Cheese Day

9 October: World Post Day

11 October: Columbus Day

11 October 1884: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962)

11 October 1880: Boer War Began

12 October: National Fossil Day

14 October 1066: Battle of Hastings

15 October: National Grouch Day

16 October: World Food Day

16 October: World Dictionary Day

12 October 1814: Star Spangled Banner First Sung

19 October 1879: Thomas Edison Demonstrated the Electric Light Bulb

21 October: Apple Day

21 October 1959: Guggenheim Museum Opened

23 October 1940: Pele’s Birthday (1940 – )

23 October: Mother in Laws Day

24 October 2009: United Nations Day

25 October 1881: Pablo Picasso’s Birthday (1881 – 1973)

26 October 1836: International Red Cross Organised in Switzerland

27 October: International School Library Day

27 October 1848: Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthday (1858 – 1919)

28 October 1886: Statue of Liberty Dedicated

30 October 1735: John Adam’s Birthday (1735 – 1826)

31 October 1941: Mt. Rushmore completed

31 October: Halloween

→ 4 CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

International Coastal Clean-Up Day… A Quick Report…

October 2nd, 2014 · 2 Comments

We have a thing for beach clean-ups… it is a great family outing and an opportunity to get involved and make a noticeable difference to the environment in a fun way… and the results are instantaneous and obvious. Recently it was International Coastal Clean-up Day…

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And I posted this pic on instagram… but the blog post has been waiting for a little TV exposure…

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Here you have a completely clean… pristine looking beach…

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And here are some of the bags of litter collected, clearly the beach was not nearly as clean as it looks. The most collected clutter… drinking straws, lollipop sticks and ear buds (eeewwww…)

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The tragedy of our beaches, especially for the animals that live in them, is that they look clean from far, but they are far from clean. It is a pretty sad reflection that the world over we are not keeping our natural playgrounds clean… and so well done to the folk that make the effort to clean up and make things ship shape…

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And this beach needed an army of cleaners…

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Really… a multitude of folk…

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The pile just grew and grew…

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And a staggering 290 garage bags later… not exactly the pristine beach you might have thought it was…

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This is Hout Bay… one of our top tourist beaches, cleared of litter for a day. You can read more about the clean-up at the Two-Oceans Aquarium website…

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Yesterday this clean-up was featured on SABC1’s YOTV, here’s the link, Credit: Courtesy YOTV and SABC1 ( and granny… if you are reading… you might want to click on the link and watch all the way to the end)…

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Caring and Sharing · Outings · Saturday Spot

We Made it through Yuppie Chef’s Mastering Meat #2…

October 1st, 2014 · 12 Comments

We are planning to work our way through all of Yuppie Chef’s Cooking Classes for school this year… it has been a lot of fun so far… For the last couple of weeks we have been working our way through Yuppie Chef’s Mastering Meat Course #2.

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Previous Courses We Have Put to the Test

Each Course works in the same way… a fabulous local foodie, takes their online students through a series of video lectures. each lecture is accompanied by printable lecture notes and a quiz to help you retain what you have learnt. And then each video comes with a handful of relevant recipes to try. New and interesting courses are launching all the time and they have heaps of specials available too… so keep an eye on the Yuppie Chef Cooking School Page.

About This Course

So this course is the second course in the Mastering Meat Series… and to be honest we took a little while to get started. We should have dived in straight away, because it turns out that the class teacher, Peter Goffe-Wood, is really, really good at sharing his knowledge. Once we got going this course was so fabulous, the side dishes were amazing and the proof was in the taste. Our experience shows that you shouldn’t be alarmed by types of recipes that you will be conquering the course looked so much more “higher grade” compared to the previous meat course, but the video classes and the step by step instructions meant we could make really impressive looking feasts, with out too much effort.

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The first meat course definitely covered the basics and the second… well the second looked significantly more advanced. The course looked a bit like you feel when you watch the first week or two of MasterChef and they test the contestants to see if they know the basics and then you blink and a couple of weeks into the competition and the contestants are producing meals that literally look like works of art. Anyway one rainy weekend lead to another and eventually we just dived in… watched the video’s read the notes and picked a couple of recipes…

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Once we got going we were pretty unstoppable… fab, fab feasts followed and I am so glad that we did this. I have never really got much further than roasting dinner and this course does indeed take you to new heights. I would never have dreamt of cooking a huge piece of pork any other way than roasting… and while we never got around to making our own bacon… we now know how too. I have to say that this course gave us a lot of confidence in our abilities. And definitely we have stepped beyond just another roast dinner every time we have meat to serve for dinner. What I really like about trying new dishes and vastly different flavours to our usual ones, is that since the kids are doing most of the cooking they are really eager to try the results… fear of new flavours be-gone. These guys are game to try almost anything.

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One thing that really inspired us about this course was the side dishes… they were really great and something everyone wanted to help with… who does’t want to master their mash potato, we might have to invest in a proper masher though, our one is definitely sub-standard and might have been somewhat over extended during the “mastering the art of mashing” process. Also, we haven’t made pasta forever, but Chinese noodles have become a way of life around here – so easy, so quick and so fun. And honestly why have we not had couscous salad for the longest time it is one of our favourites.

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And the Joy of it all is that we have an ever growing cookbook that is filling up with recipes we have tried and tested and notes packed with tips that we can refer back to in the future.

Recipes We Tried and Tested

  1. Coq Au Vin Rouge with Mashed Potato…
  2. Loved the tips for making the best mashed potatoes and we have had just the right weather for huge bowls of mash… comfort food at it’s very best…

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    I am not sure why we never cook meals like this, because everyone dived in and loved it and really so easy to create… cut up your veg, pop it in the oven and leave it while you get on with a couple of other things…

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    We could have stopped here and my gang would have been happy with yummy roast onions and a heap of crispy add ins… I must in fact remember this for roast dinners, this would make a fabulous side…
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    But in went the chicken and wine and stock and a couple of trimmings…

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    This may have been in the oven a little long… but then a little person did break an arm during the creating of this meal – family life and dinner must be served…

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    And there you have a Coq a Vin Rouge… and several happy customers.

  3. Chinese Pork Belly With Egg Noodles and Pak Choi
  4. I love how they say, in the stewing section, that: “Pocket Friendly Cuts Work Best.” I can assure you that we very rarely, maybe once a year, buy pork belly… and it was really hard not to just roast it as usual… and go the extra mile and try something new. I am so glad we did… this meal was literally off the charts good… and well worth doing the course just to grab the recipe!!!

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    It is pretty criminal that we haven’t made pasta for ages…

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    Everybody loves making it and fresh is so delicious…

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    Once the noodles were made we got on with the business of cooking the pork…

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    All sorts of interesting tastes and flavours were added to our biggest pot…

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    And it bubbled away for a time until we were ready to plate up…

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    This was so delicious and we could eat it daily for weeks without any complaint from anyone!!!

  5. Moroccan Shoulder of Lamb with ChickPeas, Orange and Green Olives
  6. We found ourselves in possession of a whole bag of stewing lamb and so we decided to dive in and try another stew from the course…

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    Pan preparation…

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    Adding the lamb…

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    And a heap of stunning flavours…

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    This was a little exotic for one or two little guests on the night, but my guys named it and claimed it… so another stew in our back pocket.

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  7. Couscous Salad
  8. What good would a meat course be without the traditional braai… and wow.

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    What fabulous braai tips there were…

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    Our family loves couscous salad and we haven’t made on about forever so we decided it was time to master a new one…

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    Chopping and snipping…

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    And then the couscous, which is just so easy…anybody can make this…

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    Toss it together and you are done…

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    Who could resist…

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    Yuppie Chef Cooking School

    You can pop over to Yuppie Chef Cooking School and see what’s new and which courses are on special… Each course has the best teacher available for the topic, video lessons, printable notes and tips, printable recipes and quiz questions throughout… we are loving them…

    1. The Art of Baking With Sarah Graham
    2. Mastering Meat #1 with Peter Goffe-Wood
    3. Mastering Meat #2 with Peter Goffe-Wood
    4. French Classics with Franck Dangereux
    5. Quick and Easy Dinners #1 with Kamini Pather
    6. Quick and Easy Dinners #2 with Kamini Pather
    7. Sweet Treats with Sarah Graham
    8. Easy Entertaining with Franck Dengereux

    The next course we are tackling is French Classics, with Franck Dangereux. The gang are very excited about that… I am going to be the one to break it to them that there is more to French cuisine than piles of Crepes. Just can’t wait!!!

    And we have finally updated our recipe page… click on the link for a quick catch up.

    This is not a sponsored post. If you follow us on social media you will know that we love everything about Yuppie Chef. We were not paid to write anything about their courses, though they have given us free entry to them, for us to try and tell you about. The opinions expressed in this post are as usual totally our own.

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