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

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Se7en Join Free Walking Tours with City SightSeeing in the Center of Cape Town….

September 8th, 2017 · 4 Comments

On our recent vacation, when we decided to take being tourists in our own town to heart and to embrace all that the City of Cape Town has to offer, we decided to spend a day exploring the City with the free City Sightseeing Walking Tours. It was a great decision… we had glorious weather in the middle of winter and a fantastic day out learning all sorts of facts and tweaks of history that we could never have learnt about anywhere else. The tours are fabulous.


Each tour last ninety minutes, they are ambles at the pace of the slowest walker, so kids are quite easily able to keep up and you don’t actually walk too far. Just around the city centre, looking at landmarks and places of interest and hearing all the back stories, and visiting places we haven’t ever heard of. You can find all the details on the City Sightseeing Website here. Also, while the tours are free, the tour guides are paid via your tips, its only fair.


We arrived early in the morning, well early by Cape Town standards, we wanted to be able to do all three tours in a day. this is totally possibly there is an hour or two break between tours, so you can have a break or a snack… or just chillax and people watch. And said we would like to join the walking tours for the day… we were advised to take the History Tour, the Slavery Tour and finally the Bo-Kaap Tour. I am so glad we went in that order… firstly we needed a general history overview to start with and you definitely need to do the colourful Bo-Kaap tour at the end of the day, to capture all the spectacular colours during the golden hour.


The Historic City Walk

The historical tour takes you on a journey through the city of Cape Town’s main landmarks. Your guide will share with you a little about life before the settlers. This is followed by the story of how the Dutch came to settle in the Cape and then how the English came to settle here as well. Not to mention how we ended up with not one, not two, but three capital cities: Cape town – Legislature, Pretoria – Administrative, and Bloemfontein – Judicial.


Lots of interesting snippets were added as we wandered along. After looking at the Parade and the City Hall, a quick walk past Cape Town’s Castle, which was built in 1666, is the oldest building in South Africa. Onto this interesting monument outside the Social History Centre. Way back then when slavery was illegal in Holland, 80% of the Cape population were slaves, working for the Dutch East India Company. On it are lists of slaves at the Cape and their names… If your name mentions a day of the week or a month of the year, then that would have been your arrival day and month, if your name has “van” in it, then it means “from.” Today people with slaves in their ancestry have a proud cultural heritage and it if you suspect that you are a descendent of slaves then you can visit the Social History Centre and they will help you to trace your roots.


The City Hall was built by the British, in 1806 and around this time the Dutch travelled north in ox-wagon. This migration was called the Great Trek and was the start of the Afrikaner nation. Then gold was discovered and that of course led to fighting and the Boer War was fought over a number of years, finally ending in 1810, when a new country, the Union of South Africa, was born.


And then there is Tuinhuis, with the Company Gardens alongside, which were eight times bigger than the original Castle Gardens. This is a mixture of Cape Dutch and later the British added a banqueting hall and a ballroom. Interestingly enough… the first company logo ever, for the Dutch East India Company, is higher on the building than King William of Orange. It was indeed all about the Company, in fact we took a wander through the Company Gardens, not the King’s Gardens… which is a place that is very pleasant and lovely to explore to this day. It is the centre of Museums in Cape Town, the Natural History Museum, the Planetarium, the Holocaust Museum and the Art Gallery among others.


OF course we had to stop by the oldest known “domestic” tree… The Saffron Pear Tree planted at the time of the first settlers, so between 300 and 360 years old, and it still bears fruit every single year.


This was followed by a short wander past St. Georges Cathedral, to learn about Jazz in the Crypt… Live Jazz in the centre of town, in a place where Jazz is taken seriously… Not a spot to talk and eat… you are there for the Jazz apparently…


And down through the city,


Back to the start of the tour at Green Market Square.

We took a mini-break, shopping for a picnic in the city… firmly believe in eat where the locals eat, this is a budget day out and anytime you look like a tourist you are going to pay tourist prices.


The District Six Walk


Refreshed and back to the City Sightseeing Office on Shortmarket Street in time for the next sight seeing tour of the day. At their offices there is heaps of information about every possible tourism activity in the Cape Town and beyond, you can buy refreshments and most important of all there are charging stations galore.


The next tour we took is called the District Six Walk, that focuses on the Apartheid error. It begins on Green Market Square and begins with the Purple Rain Protest, that I remember vividly from the olden days (1989), ten years before my kids were born. This was an anti-apartheid protest that took place on the steps of the Old Town Hall. The picture our guide painted was a vivid one… and it was the first time that my children realised how protest against apartheid was real movement within South Africa. They have heard about it and learnt about it, but because apartheid was the law, it always feels as if nothing could be done about it. It was good for my kids to become part of that protest, if only while they were on tour.


We moved on to the High Court…


While inequality existed throughout history, it was apartheid that made it law. And it was in this court where it was decided what race you were and therefore where you could and couldn’t live. People were forcibly moved out of their neighbourhoods and into homelands or townships. For a white person to sit on a non-white bench meant disagreement with the government and immediate arrest. If you wanted to travel from area to area and i.d. document was required. So many years after apartheid has ended and things are changing, but very slowly. There is not enough available money for a quick fix, and South Africans have had to do repairs one slow step at a time.

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And a walk past the District Six Museum, which if you haven’t visited and you want your children to learn about South African history… that would be a great place to stop by.


In fact, if you want to teach your children about the Apartheid era, then this is the tour to go on. It is enlightening, level headed… opinions from both sides of the law and a fascinating look at the behind the scenes story.


At this stage we took another breather and stopped and bought a snack from wherever the locals shop…


The Bo-Kaap Walk

Our final tour of the day was our favourite… a wander through the colourful Bo-Kaap… at the end of the day it was great to wander up and out of the city centre and enjoy the colours and view of Table Mountain at dusk.


This area of the city, was originally on the outskirts of the city and was where the slave community was housed. It was also called the Malay quarter with slaves from Madagascar, Mozambique, Malaysia and Indonesia. While the slaves were from very diverse cultures and into the same close knit area, but they had one common enemy and that was the free people.


This tour doesn’t just tell you about history, it also tells you about where to get the best Bobotie in town, which is our national dish. They also sell koeksisters of both varieties… round with a covering of coconut, or the plaited variety dipped in syrup.


And that only once a slave had learned Afrikaans he was entitled to wear a hat…


About six thousand people live in this small community, that gets smaller each day. When slaves were freed they were given their houses and with the advent of the New South Africa, so dawned the age of the Rainbow Nation, not to mention the vibrant and colourful Bo-Kaap. Folk that live their now can’t afford to move out, their property is worth so much, so much so that they first born usually moves into the top floor, to keep the home in the family.



All in all it was a great day out and a fabulous way to get an overview of South African history in the City of Cape Town. As usual the City SightSeeing Staff were fabulous and made our day out an unforgettable day for us.

City Sightseeing Walking Tours

→ 4 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings

Se7en of the Best Series for Emerging Readers…

September 4th, 2017 · 4 Comments

There is a whole genre of book that gets far too little press for the works of art that they are… these are written by illustrator/authors with a heart for showing children a love of books. The joy of paging through works of art cannot be underestimated for readers of all ages. Especially for those readers that feel they were pushed a little too fast and too soon. There is a huge difference between loving books and reading, not to mention the difference between literacy and reading skills. While younger children are mastering their reading skills it is important to provide a literature rich environment for them, fill their time by reading to them and by listening to good audible books with them. A child who is learning to read can easily be put off exploring more if they have to read well enough to fill up their own need for a good story. I would rather my children were filled with good stories, even as they acquire those reading skills, rather than left to struggle on their own and then lose heart.


I do believe the focus should be on loving books, rather than getting your child onto the next reading level… Children are very discerning and for all the screen time that is available to them, if time is set aside “a just for books time of day” they will discover books they love and revel in them. The more they enjoy books the more they will be led to read. We all worry that our kids will get something too difficult to read and will crumble, or will get something too easy and get stuck there. It is my experience that children do not get stuck in the “easy reader” category for long, in fact they are chomping to move onwards and upwards. They might plateau there for a while, but their love of stories will see them striving onwards once they are confident in their skills. We have had the full range of readers in our house, from one child who could read everything and did, at age four, to another who only tried to read an entire book for the first time at about age 12 and then devoured The Lord of the Rings in less than a week. Your kids will get there… it takes patience and inspirational books in their lives.

Listening to literature rich stories allows your child to hear the language structure, and gives them ways to express their own ideas. this is a good thing. Children that return to the same book over and over and over again are also teaching themselves literature rich language skills. This all good, never fear the child that appears to be stuck in a rut… just naturally strew some good books about and leave them to it. Eventually they will find something that they love to read and move on to the next reading level.

There is that stage between easy readers and complete chapter books, where a child has the skill, but not the confidence and reading is not yet a natural process for them. At this stage they need amazing illustration rich stories, where there are still more pictures than words on a page… but the illustrations tell a lot of the story for them. It is essential (apparently, according to some very knowledgeable hoods) that the books look like their more grownup counterparts, thicker than an easy reader for sure, real chapter breaks and such like. But the actual story needs to depend on the illustrator to carry the novice reader through. These are a few of our favourite books in this category… they are firm favourites for all of us, whether we have been reading for years or not. A good book is a good book, no matter what age the reader is. All of these books are perfectly readable to a younger audience, or good for the “you read this page, and I’ll read the next” audience or for themselves as their very own reader.

Se7en Series of Books That Your Emerging Reader Will Love

Claude by Axel T. Smith

Claude is quite simply the most adorable pup on earth, a delightful little dog belonging to Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes and his best friend is Sir Bobblysock. The stories all begin with the same few paragraphs, giving the sense of familiarity… the stories are sweet through and through and thoroughly entertaining. They are perfect for reading for the child who is launching out of easy readers… picture rich, in fact dozens of pages with more illustration than words. Fabulous confidence boosters, because there is a collection of them. And perfectly entertaining for the parent sitting alongside to help through those first stumbles or to alternate reading pages or paragraphs together. Great books, that we highly recommend again and again and again. You can meet the author at his website over here.

Ottoline by Chris Riddell

These books are very dear to our hearts, we happen to live with Ottoline, right down to the odd shoes. And when we met Chris Riddell he was so struck by our own Ottoline that he was inspired to create a flurry of artwork on the spot and later a book. Our love for all things Chris Riddell is somewhat unprecedented… his ability to tell a story using illustrations as the means of communication is perfect for eager and readers of all ages and stages. His books transport you into a miniature world, where you can get to know his quirky characters and live alongside them.

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These books also begin with the same paragraph: Ottoline lived on the twenty-fourth floor of the Pepperpot Building. She has a friend, Mr Munroe, a small and very hairy being from a bog in Norway. Ottoline is a young girl, whose parents travel the world and she is left somewhat to her own devises to have the most incredible adventures. She is also delightfully quirky, has an Odd Shoe collection, and of course a post card collection with all the postcards sent to her from her parents’ travels. We love Ottoline in our house, she is delightful through and through… adventurous, full of brilliant ideas and just all round feisty.

Goth Girl by Chris Riddell

If you haven’t discovered the Goth Girl then you are in for a treat… these books are each in their own right perfect gifts. For a start they each come with gleaming, glittery spines… and teeny tiny book hidden in the back cover. The goth girl is all the drama within us, popped into the pages of a book. Just lovely, somewhat whimsical and always clever…

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Goth girl is about a little girl called Ada, who clumps about their manor house in outrageously galumphing boots… her father believes children should be heard and not seen, and this could be a problem for her. Everything about Goth Girl is delightful, you feel as if you are reading a nnnnnnn

Timmy Failure by Timmy Pastis

Timmy Failure is the best for the young reader who is overwhelmed… because Timmy Failure is so funny that you have to relax and just roll with all the funnies. From start to finish he is hilarious… and highly recommended if you are in need of cheering up. Timmy runs a somewhat disastrous detective agency, that he is convinced is the ultimate in precision detective work. It is not surprising that the help he gets is always somewhat useless. If you have a doubtful reader, even a slightly resistant reader then try these first. They are great chunky hardback books that feel like you are reading fat chapter books, with really short chapters, but the word to illustration ratio perfect for the child that is put off by millions of words on a page. A cartoon boy in a cartoon world, with hilarious characters playing along side him. Totally fab… through and through.

The 13 Bazillion Story Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Every year or so, another thirteen stories are added to the Treehouse. We met and interviewed the author, Andy Griffiths, last year. And what a chap, filled with wacky ideas and inspired by his young audience who are all over the world.


Imagine the weirdest most wonderful room you could ever think of, and between the illustrator, Terry Denton and the author Andy Griffiths, they will create it. Really the process is a little magical, because they take all the crazy ideas and manage to create… something so believable and yet insane at the same time… these are pure fun and the series of books that took Hood 5 from reading because he must, to reading for pleasure.

The Diary Series by Richard Platt, illustrated by Chris Riddell and David Parkins

We hope more books in this series come out, really we do… they are pure magic. Transporting you back in time and right into a year in the life of a child’s world of the era they are set in. For the child that loves facts, there are plenty to glean in these stories… but also they are written as a story and so paint a vivid picture of life in those times. The stories take you in and out of the seasons, through the high points and celebrations of a given year and everything in-between. They are great reads and include pages and pages of real live illustrations demonstrating all the details of life in ancient times.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

The idea was that I would read just one of these and my youngest pirate would then be so inspired that he would pick up and follow along where I left off… the truth is they started out a bit rough for me, the viking spirit and all that. But these books totally grew on me and I found myself reading through the entire series… book after book after book. A year of bedtime listening one after the other after the other. We all grew very fond of the hero and his group of friends… they became our friends and our concerns. Honestly our love for the humble, unassuming hero, Hiccup, is immense… these books are pure gold and your newly independent reader will love them, and will love them even more if they can chat about them with someone else who has read them.

If you re still looking for more books to read in this genre, then dash over to What We Are Reading Right Now: The Easy Chapter Book Edition.

Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa, who over time have provided us with these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are as usual, our own.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s September and Your Free Printable Calendar…

September 1st, 2017 · 2 Comments


Welcome to September…

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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!!!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

Se7en+1 Things I Didn’t Expect About Getting Back Into Gym…

August 30th, 2017 · 8 Comments

It is time to talk about gym… I know again. I try not to bombard my feed with workout posts but last night I went for a run on the beach with my kids… and six months ago I could not have dreamed of doing that ever again. An actual run along the beach. Honestly, I thought I would never ever run again, but what I thought was the inevitable knoll of time marching on was really just my absolute lack of exercise. It is exciting, I have no idea where this is going, or what I might be doing six months from now. What I can say is that I am beyond thrilled to find that I am still here, and the person that loves the great outdoors and being active might have been lost for a while, but I am getting me back.


This year I have been blogging my journey to health over on the Sport Science Website and I thought I would pop all the posts I have written over there in one spot over here. It has been a while since my first nervous ventures into the gym, way back in February and it has taken a while for me to get into the swing of a totally new way of life. What can I say… I love being fitter, I love being lighter and I really love that feeling of waking up in the morning because I am finished sleeping. I am a work in progress and there are many miles to go on my journey… What started as a quest to survive the Eight Week Beginner Healthy Weight Programme has turned into a Journey back to health.

Se7en+1 Things I Didn’t Expect About Getting Back Into Gym.

  1. I Never Expected to Lose Weight: My goal was very firmly to move. I wanted to move comfortably. But as I got moving I felt better and better… I had to change my sleeping habits in order to get to gym on time. The better I slept, the better my workouts were, and the better I could move. And the more I moved, the more I started to lose weight… that inspired me to see where I wasn’t eating well and to tackle that little bit by little bit. I don’t eat perfectly by any means… but I am no longer reward driven. I don’t “deserve” edible treats for getting through the day and I don’t want them either. In fact the other day in a moment of frustration I thought, “I really just need to get out and go for a run.” This is huge, in the past I would thought, “I really need a chocolate to calm down!!!” Eating better, definitely means better workouts and remember my goal is to move better. So eating better and sleeping better are right up there with helping me to move better.
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  3. I was in Such Bad Shape: Honestly, I was in bad shape… yes I could go for a hike/walk with the kids once a week… yes I could walk to the store or the library… but I didn’t like it, and I would make every excuse not to need to. It turns out I was avoiding everything called exercise, because I was just so uncomfortable doing it. Hiking up a mountain is a glorious thing, hiking up a mountain when you can hardly breathe and you know it is going to take three days to recover is a lot less glorious. I am no super athlete, but just being in slightly better shape makes everything easier… tying shoe laces, carrying the groceries, playing with kids, walks on the beach.
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    When you literally wear your gym shirt out. Who knew I would love gym so much!!!

  5. Just How Hard it is to find Great Gym Wear: The struggle to find affordable gym gear for plus size moms is real. I have blogged about it before and I am going to say it again… The Struggle is Real. Why is it that shops that sell exercise apparel think all athletes are slim and trim. Even big brand super sport stores go up to a size 18 or at the most an XL. When you mention to folk that this is what you are battling with, they look at you like you are mad. But I took twenty years off exercising properly and I cannot begin to say how many of those years were spent actually pregnant… and even longer nursing. Years of nursing babies and toddlers folks. I need supportive gym wear. It is not that I cannot do a star jump, it is simply that my apparel does not allow for it!!!
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  7. Exercise is not a Habit it is a Lifestyle: When I started working out at the beginning of the year I thought that if I just kept at it then it would become a habit. You know the idea that if you do anything for 21 days it is a habit… and if you do it for longer then you have really got it. Well I can tell you that if someone said to me, “You don’t have to get up today, the gym is closed.” I would be the first person to linger on in bed. Over the years I have changed habits, with micro-steps… just a little change here, and a little bit there. But I was at the stage where only a massive intervention would help. It isn’t a habit to get up and go to gym in the morning, much as I love that post gym feeling, I need to start my workout by getting bed timeously the night before. That isn’t a habit for me at all… that requires discipline. Every night there is a reason for me to stay up a little longer, but I have to just say no and head to sleep. At this stage I find it hard to stay in bed long after five in the morning… my body is used to working out then, but it would be just as easy to get it unused to the idea as well. A couple of late nights could put me right back where I started and I never want to go back to that place… so I am practicing the art of getting to bed on time.
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  9. Give Yourself A Little Grace: Getting up in the morning isn’t easy, but I know that once I am out the door that I won’t turn back… I literally pop out of bed, into my gym clothes and out of the door. Every single morning I tell myself that if I really can’t face the day after gym then I can return to back to bed for a nap later. I can honestly say that I have never actually done that… somehow once I have been up and at it for an hour or two, the idea of winding down again is not so appealing anymore. After gym I am ready to tackle my day!!!
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  11. My Kids need me to Think About Me Sometimes: So this may seem a little crazy, unless you have been a mom for twenty years. I never realised how much I gave my kids… I happily (read hate shopping) go without shoes for years because somebody else always needs a pair of shoes. When I began gym, I needed a pair of shoes desperately… desperately… it took me weeks to get them. Not so much because of the shoes, but because of my mindset. Getting shoes for myself meant “taking shoes from somebody else…” Similarly, one of the biggest things for me to overcome at the start of the journey, was taking time “off for myself” I felt that by taking time off I was taking time away from my kids… less time to be helping around the house, getting breakfast ready, getting their school day started. There is nothing there my kids can’t do and the more they do do, the better off they are.
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  13. Time is of the Essence: I understand mums need time, and I always took my own time for things like blogging, which I love. But I always waited for my kids to be finished with their day before I settled down to work and I would never have dreamt of blogging when I could have been spending time with my kids. It is one thing when your kids are small… small children eventually sleep… but when you have teens who want to chat or need lifts in the middle of the night and small children that are up and ready for the day before dawn… then you have to realise that working when your kids are sleeping is not sustainable. I didn’t realise that and I just kept surviving on less and less. Crazy but true. My kids need to know that I have real needs and fundamental needs. I need to sleep… I can’t stay up chatting all night, or watching a movie with them or reading with them. I have to work, so do they, if we work at the same time together, then we will have time to play together… but I absolutely have to sleep.
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  15. I have no Excuse not to be Healthy: Going to gym is not taking time away from my kids at all… as I thought it would. It is getting me healthy in ways I could never have imagined and my kids deserve a healthy mum… far more than they need a tired cranky mum who wants to spend all day every day sitting. Yes, it takes time, and yes they are all usually sleeping when I am at gym. This time for gym is an investment in my health and is a huge advantage for all of them. Really, the healthier I am the better it is, not just for me but for them too. They are all growing up, they will all leave home (they will!!!) and they will want a fit and happy granny to play with their kids too. I want to be around for them when they leave home, and not just collapsed in a heap saying: “I survived that!!!”

The changes in my life have definitely made changes in our entire family’s lives. Better sleep habits all round, healthier food choices, and a lot more folk taking a pause in their day to do a quick work out or suggesting that we go out for a walk/run. Every single hike we do begins with a steady vertical climb, if not 500 stairs. I used to dread it and only do it for that great feeling of being on top of the world… The fear of the start everytime was huge and any excuse was a good excuse not to go. That fear has moved on and I am eager to get going at a moments notice, much to some of our kids’ despair. Our weekly Park Runs have become a challenge for the whole family together, everyone trying to run/walk a bit better than they did before. It is an onwards and upwards kind of a journey and I am all for it.


Previous Posts in my Journey to Health Series Over at Sport Science

From the start…

→ 8 CommentsTags: Home Truths

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #353

August 28th, 2017 · No Comments

Hay there… Hope you have had a great weekend and you are ready for a fabulous fun week…


We visited the Stellenbosch Park Run on Saturday… and it was just so beautiful to be winding our way through the vineyards on a crisp morning… the joy is that it starts and ends at the Root44 Food Market, and so there is steaming coffee ready for you at the finish.

Lovely Links from This Week

  1. Somewhere to visit: I have been dying to go to Iceland for a while, well Jojoba went for me!!! otherwise… How beautiful is Axum… I think I need to go to Axum if only to see the Candelabra Tree.
  2. Something Curious: Have you heard of crown shyness… its all about the trees!!!
  3. Looking for Math Fun: Then take a peek at E-Explore!!!
  4. Water Restrictions Are A Way of Life: How to stay fresh in a time of water restrictions.
  5. Food for Thought: If nothing else gets you to bed earlier every single night then have some fun with the Lost Sleep Calculator… Turns out since my first child was born I have lost 37 months of sleep, that’s a lot of catching up to do; changed 47 520 diapers, luckily we mostly used cloth; read 2384, I am sure it is much much more; sung 35,520 lullabies… my poor kids!!!
  6. And if you are into Quizzes: Check out the Modern Mrs Darcy’s “What’s your Reading Personality” before she launches her new book…
  7. Water Really Does Make Us Happier: Why Being Near Water Really Does Make You Happier… on CN Traveler.
  8. And Free Stationary Joy: How lovely are these Back to School Printable Notebooks on Poppytalk.

A Blast From the Past:

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That’s us… hope you have a fabulous week!!!


→ No CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en Steps to Being a Tourist in Your Own Town…

August 25th, 2017 · 7 Comments

When it comes to travelling I am an unapologetic opportunistic… this means that if an opportunity arrises to travel then I will be ready and gone in a flash. It also means that months can go by without an opportunity, which is fine, and also we can have a month or two when we are hardly home at all. The things is I realised that we hadn’t had a family holiday for ages. And we needed one, a complete “out of the house, away from all things schools and chores.” When friends, who live in the city, suggested we do a house swap, it was an opportunity that we couldn’t resist and of course we jumped at the chance. We have a long wish list of places to see and visit in the city and we never get to go there… firstly traveling in and out of the city, not to mention finding parking, is a schlepp and secondly we always say we will head into to the city for the day, but we never ever get around to it.


For the folk who read our blog from the far side of the world and are stopping by to look for things to do in Cape Town, Cape town is bigger and expanding faster than most folk can imagine. In fact, it is probably better to think of the City of Cape Town, that has a sprawling community all the way down the coastline, as little town after little town, and each with their own personality. Certainly for us we hardly ever venture further north than our seaside town, meanwhile our City centre is packed with excitement and wonderful things to do and see. So we headed for the city, and remember that there are ten of us… so budget travel is a priority… we are on the hunt for cool things to do… holiday specials and kid friendly outings. The opportunity to spend a week, a kid friendly holiday in the centre of Cape Town, was one that we grabbed with both hands.


How to Up Your Staycation Strategy Anywhere and Especially Cape Town

  1. Accommodation: To make a holiday feel like a holiday it really helps to change location, and even though we weren’t going away, per se, we could change location with a house swap. For us moving location was critical… we couldn’t possibly afford accommodation for ten of us in the city… but we could fit all of us into into a friend’s house in the name of an adventure. For sure. We have in the past had “a week of outings’ and that worked well, but being out of your own space… means none of the usual chores. Yes folk still had to make their beds and clean the bathroom and so on, but somehow chores in someone else’s house are a lot more fun and we kept them to an absolute minimum. The joy was that we were in the city… we could just walk around, or use public transport to get around, with out the normal hour long drive in and out of the city beforehand.
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  3. Don’t Worry too Much About Packing: My kids always pack for themselves… and with a Staycation I didn’t have to worry at all about if they had got it right or not… the worst that could happen is that we would have to drive home and collect something vital. Turns out we only needed a change of clothes… because other folks’ games and books and things to do are always much more interesting than your own. Not to mention we planned to be out a lot of the time… we only had to touch base at our temporary home to recover from one outing in time to head out on another.
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  5. Create Your Wishlist: Nothing like a family meeting to raise excitement somewhat and then give everyone a chance to make suggestions of things you was to see and do. We grouped our list of places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do and see into neighbour hoods. Then we made a list of opening times, ticket prices and any special events or any special deals. As soon as we had a clear idea of places we wanted to visit we were able to plan our days accordingly… we just picked a different neighbourhood each day and tackled all the sights there. Along with the places we wanted to see we discovered a whole lot of new places too… the trick is to schedule a little less and wander a little more!!!
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  7. Look for the Seasonal Specials: We took our break during the Winter school holidays, which is something we wouldn’t usually do… we almost always make full use of the homeschool advantage, that we don’t have to do everything in the school holidays. But Cape Town has some fantastic unmissable specials for kids during Winter. Keep in mind that our winter is very mild compared to winter around the world and you will see from our photographs that we had clear skies and glorious sunshine the entire week. The City Sightseeing Tours have a three for one special, and most places encourage you to buy your tickets online, to take advantage of their online discount. Another tip is to take a visit to a tourist information stand… on your first day. Nobody wants to discover something magical that they wished they had seen on the last day. Collect a couple of pamphlets… and linger a little… tourist offices are a fabulous resource that we often overlook… it is a good thing to be a tourist in your own town!!!
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  9. Free Walking Tours: One of the easiest ways to get a feel for the city is to take a walking tour. Our first day in the city we did just that, getting the lay of the land so to speak. Most cities have free walking tours as a showcase for visitors to the city… Cape Town has a number of them, run by the City Sightseeing South Africa. and they have been on our wishlist for years… we did all of them… and they deserve their own entire blog post. The Walking tours last for 90 minutes, and the centre of town is pretty compact, so you aren’t walking far… it is more of a stop than a walk, as you stop and chat about landmarks through out the tour. We did learn a whole lot of interesting factoids and gleaned a number of tips for visiting our city at the same time. Really these were pretty fantastic… a safe and informative way to wander about the city, and did I mention free!!!
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  11. You can still do your usual stuff: Just because you are on the far side of the city doesn’t mean that you can’t stick to your usual routine. Visit a different library, and the central library in Cape town is fabulous, always hosting great story times… and a fabulous kid section to chill out in and read when you need a break from rushing around. If your family does a ParkRun on a Saturday morning, go online and see if there isn’t a Parkrun on the far side of town… in our case there is.
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  13. Eat Where the Locals Eat: I know, I am a mom of many and so I must love preparing 30 meals a day… at least, every day. Turns out I really rather fancy taking a break from time to time. I certainly did not plan to spend my holiday in the kitchen… really easy meals, nothing too planned or prepared in advance. Just really relaxed feasting and keeping it galactically simple, and hand over all the dinner duties in the kitchen to your kids for a couple of nights… they will relish the chance and as long as they leave the kitchen as clean as they found it, they can do it the next night as well. When we were out and about in the city we found places where the locals eat and bought a picnic… at the Waterfront and in the City Centre there are supermarkets where you can buy regularly priced food to create an instant picnic, something I would much rather do than try and eat take-outs and blow half a years food budget in a week. That being said we do have a splurge once while we are away and I make sure I have a supply of ice-cream money for at least one day. Because lets face it, ice cream makes the world go round.
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  15. Don’t forget Downtime: The entire point of going away is to have a complete break. Really!!! You are taking a vacation, and I have to say that I have never arrived on holiday without being totally exhausted… the first day we scheduled absolutely nothing… explore the massive garden, read and play and watch a movie even unlimited screen time for those of us who need it, which is an unheard of treat. It turned out that the house we were staying in didn’t have working internet… I was planning to blog every evening and head out into the city each day… turns out that there was no internet and so no work got done… I was in bed early each night and refreshed and ready to enjoy the following day with our gang. I am just suggesting that whenever you go away on holiday that you actually just lose the internet for a couple of days… the internet won’t miss you and you will feel so much better for it.

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What We Are Reading Right Now… The Struik Nature Edition…

August 21st, 2017 · No Comments

I have fallen into a rhythm of posting a book reviews every Monday… today I am bringing you reviews of our latest natural factual reads from Struik Nature… I have to say that we loved all these books, for completely different reasons. Take a look and you will see why these books are all fabulous books that can only enhance our great outdoor lifestyle.


Marvellous Mammals

Southern African Mammals Made Simple by Doug Newman and Gordon King: This book is a little gem and perfect size to toss into your backpack as you head out into the nature reserve to do a little games spotting. It is one of those books with a fabulous amount of information, presented in an easily accessible way, packed into a small amount of space. Essentially an encyclopaedia of knowledge presented in handbook sized spotters guide. The book contains a visual classification system, which is perfect for novice spotters… there is no need to know latin names or fancy terms… Step one look at the shape of your mammal and that will tell you which family to look at; on to Step 2, once you have the family, which group will you be looking at… for example if you are looking at an antelope or buck: does it have horns or not? are the horns curved or straight and such like. Once you have determined which family group your animal is in, then you can easily decide from a full colour photograph, which animal you are looking at. Each animal has a photograph and then an annotated colour drawing to emphasise the special features. The name, as well as the Afrikaans, and latin names… the typical dimensions, habitats and habits are included. There is an “at a glance” information box for each animal, as well as a look at similar species if you are unsure of what you are looking at.


So for example, on Friday we were out hiking and spotted a group of eland. Turning to the book we decided that it was an antelope… So we turned to the antelope family. Within the antelope family, we chose the group with straight horns and belly not white. There were five buck in this group, but only one of them was extremely large and that was the eland.



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Another example from our Friday hike was an otter… at step 1 we chose the otter family… a quick glance and we knew we had to turn to page 91 to find the Otters. Otters only have one visual group: they are either the spotted-neck otter or the Cape African clawless otter. From looking at the information in the book carefully we could immediately see that it was a Cape African clawless otter and we could learn a few things about this playful little otter that we didn’t already know.




This little book is a fabulous addition to our wildlife collection and is indispensable in determining which of the buck we often see are which, for instance. There are a lot of extra little snippets of information and fast facts to glean in this book, which makes it the perfect book for dipping into as well.

Stunning Sea Birds

Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa by Peter Ryan: I have always loved everything about the ocean, but my personal interest in seabirds began on a trip to Marion Island a couple of years ago… in a time before kids.


The introduction to the book includes all the necessary tips for viewing seabirds. As well as so many interesting facts about specific seabird topics: their migration, their ability to see underwater as well as why they appear to have a runny nose. There is more on ocean conservation and even photography tips, as well as a section on how to use the book to its full potential. The book is then divided into major sea bird families, making it easy to jump around and identify the birds you might have spotted: Penguins, albatrosses, petrels, skuas and such like.





Each bird has a number of photographs showing the main features of the birds as well as a location map, and a details regarding their conservation status, their biology and breeding habits, as well as feeding habits and behaviour. The photographs are superb throughout and you should be able to identify the bird you have spotted from those alone, but the explanation alongside the photographs and the details in the writing will make that bird unforgettable. Lots of facts and details for each bird have been included in the book. Fascinating facts to keep you reading on and on. For the bird lover, particularly the sea bird lover, this is an absolute must have identification guide to seabirds.

Interesting Insects

Insectopedia: The secret world of southern African insects by Eric Holm: If you live with an insect lover then this is the book for them… It is not a spotters guide by any means, it is so much more. It is a reference guide to everything you ever wanted to know about insects and it is fascinating. The book is divided into twelve chapters and only the last one is an identification guide. The identification guide is well over 60 pages long and full of a number of details about dozens of insects and their family members. The other chapters are on specific aspects of insects… their senses, metamorphosis, locomotion and such like.


The book is packed with excellent photographs, and where you need more than a photograph there are illustrations too. There is so much to learn about insects… and each spread includes boxes with interesting details, and highlighted points of interest. This book goes way beyond a description of insects… it goes into detail on the role of insects, their interesting habits. The photographs first caught our attention and then the amazing feature facts… and then we got reading the details… the more you read this book the more you will want to read it. For example the spread on insect records includes amazing facts like: the longest insects are stick insects and in South Africa they can be longer than 20 cm, the keenest sense of smell goes to the male emperor moth that can sense smells up to 15 km away. This book is an incredible resource packed with all sorts of things that you just never knew about insects. It is very readable chapter by chapter and makes an excellent book for dipping into as well. This book is a keeper and has become one of our essential reference books of the year.

Fabulous Frogs


My First Book of Southern African Frogs by Jeanne Tarrant and illustrated by Sally MacLarty: We have blogged about this series before, many many times… because we use this series almost exclusively for our nature study and nature notebooks. We have reviewed the Young Explorer’s Frog App before, which is the screen version of the book. The book is brilliant, there is a simple introduction to amphibians, and an overview of frogs in general and then how to use the book. Each frog has a page devoted to it, the name of the frog, a brief description as well as a location map, where you are most likely to find that frog, the relative size of the frog and the type of eggs of the particular frog, as well as the track on the CD of the frog.

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Yes! The book comes with a CD of frog calls… and it is brilliant. I have to say that the frog calls really enhanced our frogging experience… when we were out night hiking last weekend we were able to identify the frogs that we found, by listening to their calls. Fun times!!! Like all the books in the series, each frog is beautifully illustrated in full colour, to help with learning how to identify them. Also, each frog has a description not only in English, but in Xhosa, Afrikaans and Zulu, which is great for children learning a second language, or for children, whose first language is not English.


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

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