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

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Se7en’s Friday Fun… Se7en+1 Quick Reads…

November 16th, 2018 · No Comments

It is finally, finally happening… a little rebranding and a whole lot of funky features are going up on the blog over the next week or two… In the meanwhile I thought I would bring you se7en fabulous snippets that you need to read…

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It has been a really busy week… just saying… but I have a few blog posts actually waiting to be posted… and you know I can’t just let them rest…

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  1. So the Gang were thrilled to be nominated as Ocean Heroes at the Shark Center… we are going to celebrate with a week of ocean blogging next week!!!
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  3. Sport Science is having a Dad’s and Daughters Day this weekend… sign up quickly!!! And I have been blogging over at Sport Science… its a newsy post about races I have run, goals I have achieved… what’s working, what’s not… would love you to take a look.
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  5. Swimsuit season is upon us… and if you haven’t read Styling You’s annual swimsuit post and you are thinking of hiding in a closet for yet another summer… then this is the post for you. Gear up and get out… this a must read, if you read no other blog post all year, then this is the one to read!!!
  6. We recently blogged about our Beach Cleanup that took us to Robbin Island… and here is a video, of the event by Sustainable Sarah, talking about the Beach Cleanups that we do.
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  8. This is just magical… Can you imagine empowering girls to run through the Serengeti.
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  10. There is a new sign board up at Cape Point and can we just say: HOOOOORRRRAAAAAHHH… they have finally split their prices into local prices and overseas prices. This is such a good thing… making local sites a little more accessible to local visitors. For years Cape Point has been unaffordable to most of the people living in Cape Town, this is a tiny step in the right direction.
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  12. And from the Guardian: The plastic backlash: what’s behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference?
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  14. And a week of high highs and low lows. This week five years ago, we lost our little Hood 9… And I will keep on posting about it, because it is a ridiculously unsung song. People don’t talk about the babies that they have lost, and yet there is no shame in living with a deep and abiding sadness, for the baby that you have loved and lost…

And that’s it for now… Happy Weekending…

→ No CommentsTags: Fabulous Fun

What We Have Been Reading From Penguin Random House Lately…

November 15th, 2018 · No Comments

Just getting your weekend reading sorted for you…

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A pile of fabulous books for you from Penguin Random House, South Africa… one of these books is on my list of books of the year… scroll down, scroll down…

Let’s Start With Picture Books


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Fender Goes to Africa by Veronica Lamond: We are happy to announce that there is a new book in the Landy Series, and this time it is a story about Fender who travels the length of Africa. A travel book, across Africa, in a Land Rover… it really doesn’t get better than this. Fender begins the journey in Cairo; crosses the Sahara desert; on through the Ethiopian Highlands; rescues a baby elephant on the Plains of Kenya; bumped into a famous Southern African explorer, Kingsley Holgate and carried mosquito nets to a village in need; and the final stretch through Zambia and Botswana; and into South Africa…
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Where Fender met a new Land Rover friend, called iLandi; Finally, Fender crosses the Karoo and drives in Cape Town, ready to sail home to the UK. This is a journey that so many Land Rover’s have taken… it is just so much fun that Fender has made it. Of course the illustrations are fantastic, lovely detailed pictures of the surrounding countryside. If you are looking for a cross-cultural book, that you can read in a sitting and enjoy, and also plot on a map and talk about different countries as you travel across Africa, then this is the book for you. If you want to know more about Kingsley Holgate’s humanitarian work in Africa, “Saving and Improving Lives through Adventure”… then stop by his website. Meanwhile, you can take a look at previous books in the Landy series over here, and even more over here. And you can meet the author-illustrator, Veronica Lamond at her website over here.


Angry Owl Written and Illustrated by Kerryn Ponter: If you haven’t met Owl, then it is time. He is delightfully grumpy and really doesn’t do change at all well. Just as he is settling into the season, so the season changes… as he tree travels from Autumn, through Winter, and Spring, and back to Summer… poor owl has to adapt.
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A lovely way to talk about seasons with your little ones… the illustrations are bright and fun, and the pages are not too busy. All in all, despite an Angry Owl, this is a delightfully happy little bedtime read.

Delightfully Giftable



How Not to Be a Twit and Other Wisdom from Roald Dahl: It is the season to be looking for delightful little giftable books… and this is one of those. There are, I am sure special people in your life and not just Roald Dahl fans, who would love to know how not to be a Twit!!!
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This book is filled with whimsical quotes and all that is marvellous about Quentin Blakes illustrations. This has to be my favourite quote, from a house full of lefties… “Meanings is not important,” said the BFG. “I cannot be right all the time. Quite often I is left instead.” From the BFG. Absolutely love it and all things Roald Dahl of course.


Ladybird Tales of Adventurous Girls introduced by Jaqueline Wilson: Another fantastic giftable book and not your typical fairytale stories at all. It is a beautiful hard back book, filled with rich stories of brave and feisty girls. These stories are from all around the world and the illustrations are unique to each story and just incredible. We really enjoyed the stories in this book… fabulous stories for girls and boys to enjoy, it just so happens that the girls in these stories are rather, extremely, incredibly heroic. This is lovely.
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Incredible Illustrators


The illustrations in this book make it quite magical. I am all for fantastical illustrators, so here is a shout out to the illustrators in Ladybird Tales of Adventurous Girls.

  1. Gretal and Hansel, illustrated by Olga Baumert.
  2. Tamasha and the Troll, illustrated by Molley May.
  3. Tokyo and the Sea Serpent, illustrated by Kerry Hindman.
  4. Chandra and the Elephants illustrated by Hannah Tolson.
  5. Sea Girl and the Golden Key by Hannah Peck.
  6. The Snow Queen, illustrated by Holly Hatam.

Tween/Teen Reads


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The Tween/Teen Reads in this month’s review post are both about teens who really struggle in the world around them. In the Girl in the Window our heroine suffers from M.E., but the book isn’t about M.E. perse, which makes it an excellent read… In Rosie Loves Jack, you will be struck by the difficulties that folk that have Down Syndrome battle with on a daily basis. Rosie loves Jack goes straight onto my “You have to Read This Book” list for 2019, though for me, the criminal element in it, pushes it into the teen rather than tween read category.

Girl in the Window by Penny Joelson: In Girl in the Window our heroine, Kasia, suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and is forced to stay at home, she has been indoors for ten weeks and really just too ill to do anything. And then she spots an abduction. She is not sure if someone in the house opposite sees the crime, but she calls the police to report it anyway. This is all in the first two pages. Kasia, is so ill that she cannot find the energy to get up and go down the stairs, let alone investigate an abduction. Especially, since the police declare that no one was reported missing and they are not sure that a crime has even occurred. This is a mystery of note, you want everything to move along faster, but it can’t because ME is a slow, slow illness… and it is all going to just take time. This is an excellent read and perfect for mystery loving tweens and teens. I like that Kasia’s family is a family of Polish immigrants living in the UK, it adds to the tension in the book. It turns out that there are a number of issues in this “day in the life” book and it is not so much about living with M.E., but about human trafficking. The topic is raised in an easy to understand way, just part of the story… with the girl that never shows herself in the window, until the story bit by bit reveals her to us. Kasia’s friendships and her relationship with a boy she likes, as well as her best friend, Ellie’s relationship with a girl in their class… felt a bit like the author was trying to add “just one more issue” to the story. That being said, I highly recommend this book for the way it exposes the issue of slavery and trafficking, in a way that young teens can really relate to and at the same time peak their empathy skills for friends who might not share the same robust health that they have. You can meet the author at her website over here. And, you can read about the author’s experience with M.E. at this link.


Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbou: This is one of those books where absolutely no review will do it justice… this book just has to be read. I have to say that I wanted to read this book because of the absolutely beautiful cover… and from the cover I thought it would be a sweet love story between Rosie, who has Downs Syndrome, and Jack who has severe anger issues due to a head trauma. Well, it is nothing like that… it is a gritty real life novel, about Rosie, who does have Down syndrome, and she is in love with Jack, who does have anger issues. Her parents are not happy about her relationship and when Jack gets sent to the coast to learn how to handle his anger issues, Rosie is bereft.
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He sends her postcards, which are printed in the book (love this illustrative touch) and her father hides them from her. Rosie thinks she will never see him again and that he doesn’t love her anymore and decides to visit him, she leaves her special needs college class and heads out in deteriorating weather, and plans to travel to Brighton on her own, without telling anyone. Rosie is sixteen years old, with a feisty heart… but my oh my, there is a big bad world out there and she gets caught up in a really nasty situation. As you would expect Rosie is really naive and takes everything at face value… Luck is on her side and (spoiler alert) she does get through… but it is hard and your heart will break for Rosie more than once. The book is written from Rosie’s perspective, so you can see the world through her eyes. You can see her determination as she really, really wants to get to Brighton, and her Jack. This book is essential reading, it is not a kids read, in fact the criminal element places it over the heads of my tweens. This book is perfect for teens and anyone who wants to understand what the world looks like for a person who really struggles in the world. Rosie is indeed a true hero and I would put this book straight onto this year’s “Must Read” list. You can meet the author, at her website her here.

Susan Lewis for a Winning Weekend


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A while back I treated myself to a Susan Lewis weekend, her books are comfortable “day in the life” reads. And I enjoyed that weekend so much that I recently gifted myself with another one. I enjoy her reads, they are interesting, light and the perfect book for taking a break. Yes, there is usually some sort of a mystery, and the goings on and ins and outs of small town life. These reads are perfect holiday reads… things happen, social issues are raised, life goes on, curiosity will quickly carry you to the end and you won’t be traumatised by what you read. Light reading for the win and usually a happy outcome.


The Secret Keeper by Susan Lewis: This is the story of Olivia, who didn’t marry her high school sweet heart, but when they drift apart she marries Richmond. On the surface Olivia and Richmond have the perfect life, their pigeon pair and their dream house in a small seaside town. Twenty years down the line and all that is perfect turns out to be far from perfect, her high school sweet heart arrives back in town, and so does her husband’s ex-girlfriend. Olivia is a covering cancer patient, her teenagers are not the easy breezy kind, her husband appears to be spiralling into the business disaster of the age… and is if that isn’t bad enough, things start to go strangely awry. A dinner party becomes a veritable nightmare, her daughter’s friends are not the friends she thought they were and everyone around her appears to be “carrying on as normal.” Everything is so not normal, but who is telling the truth and who can she actually trust.


Believe in Me by Susan Lewis: This is the story of Leanne and her daughter, Abby. What do you do when your husband kills himself, well you retreat to your childhood home, in the hopes of recovering and knowing that you never will. Leanne’s mum, Wilkie, is exactly what they need, she rules the farm and its inhabitants in a special way, she has time and attention for everyone staying there, and especially for Abby. As they begin to heal from their trauma, Wilkie takes in a foster child, who turns out to be exceptional, and not just because his father may well be unable to parent him. The foster child, Daniel’s father in prison for a crime he may not have committed. This is an interesting read, and lots of topics are covered: recovering after a suicide in the family, Brexit, foster care, bullying… a lot of issues are raised and yet the story flows naturally onwards.

Books That We Can’t Wait to Read Next


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The Train to Impossible Places by P.G.Bell illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino and The Trouble with Perfect by Helena Duggan.



Thanks so much to Penguin Random House, South Africa for gifting these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s Guide to Visiting in the Karoo National Park

November 12th, 2018 · 2 Comments

I realised when I started writing about our trip to the Karoo, that it would be a whole lot more than one blog post… I have split it up into three posts: This one, the ultimate guide on what you will need and tips on things to do; The Wild Karoo book review; and The Photo Tour of our Week of Exploring the Karoo National Park.

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Se7en Tips for Staying in the Karoo National Park

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  1. Plan for Down Time: The idea is that you are heading out into the Karoo for a week of hiking… and when you are packing you are thinking: minimal clothing, because hiking/camping; a bathing costume and towel; something warm to wear and a beanie, because the nights are cold (forget chilly); and otherwise a sun hat, because the sun is relentless. So while you are packing you might not be thinking of downtime, but in the heat of the day… you really need to just find a shady spot, and some evenings are just too cold to be stargazing.
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    We didn’t really need to take anything extra, card games weren’t touched and books were hardly read – the excitement of being in the great outdoors was actually enough. We did take our nature notebooks for drawing and making notes, and a fair amount of dipping into the pile of reference books that I took went on… but for the most part, they were content to hike, swim and chatter around the campfire at night… I am telling you this, because the idea is that we plan what to do all day, only to discover that all plans made a day’s drive away are out of context and on the most part kids are happy to roam around and explore, the space they are in, without any extra gear tossed in.
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  3. Take Tons of Water, Wherever you Go: You are walking into an arid land, where the heat is blistering and the cold icy. If you are lucky enough to stay somewhere with a freezer then make sure you freeze your water bottles overnight (don’t fill them to the max before you freeze them, water expands when you freeze it and that will lead to a water bottle disaster). There is nothing better than getting to your lunch break and your water bottle has defrosted and you have some icy cold water to drink. I also kept a packet of tea bags in my pack, so for days that were really cold we could have a hot cup of tea on a hike. I always carry a flask of hot water, you never know when you will need a cup of tea stat or a breakfast coffee.
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  5. Make Full use of the Rest Spots in the Park: On the Potlekkertjie Loop there is a picnic spot at Doornhoek, where you can braai and if you get up for an early morning game drive (and you should), it is the perfect breakfast spot. And after a long sit in the car, looking and looking for game to spot, everyone needs to stretch their legs and make use of the bathroom there. Otherwise, at Bulkraal there is a fabulous swimming pool, change rooms and braai spot… in the middle of a this arid land.
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    It is essential for cooling off, because this is a land of extremes where the cold is freezing and the heat unprecedented. You can expect the vervet monkeys to watch your every move and if you aren’t holding onto your sandwich, then it will do a runner!!!
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  7. Ask at the Rest Camp Reception for Information: Not only can you see where other folk have spotted animals on the day, but you can collect free printout spotters charts: A bird list, a reptile and amphibians chart and a mammals chart. There is also a gift shop and you can buy a couple of supplies, in case you run out of anything and you are desperate. And I say desperate, because you are going to be paying tourist prices here, and you aren’t too far from Beaufort West if you want to dash into town for fresh supplies.
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  9. What to Eat and Where to Shop: After driving all the way up from Cape Town, the last thing we felt like doing was heading to the store. But we stopped in Beaufort West for supplies, before heading into the park and it was the best idea ever. We just stopped at the local supermarket and they had everything we needed to “eat the rainbow” for our week in the Karoo. Plenty of colourful fruit and veg, at really good prices, and everything you could possibly need to braai, you are in the Karoo and local is lekker. Meat prices were substantially cheaper than the prices we pay in the city. While I didn’t take masses of food with us because I planned to shop in Beaufort West upon arrival, I did take our bead machine – a luxury of Fresh Bread daily… and being able to make sandwiches for that day’s hike made all my explorers happy. For a snack I always take rice crispy treats, they define holiday and hiking for my kids and I reckon with all the hiking and great outdoors, they make a fun treat. On any day they also have raisins and an apple/citrus in their backpack… because what is a rest on a hike without something to nibble on.
    Rice Krispie Treats: Melt 250g butter in a pot and add about 500g of marshmallows. When it is completely melted add in a large packet of Rice Krispies. It is really sticky! Place it in a large dish to set, it won’t take long… you have to hide it at this stage. Once it has cooled slice it into chunks and wrap it up ready to put into backpacks.

    Once we had been shopping I didn’t intend to shop again, it is a bout a 60km round trip from where we were staying into town.
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    • Monday: Roadtripping… treats of take outs on the road and supper was a Boerwors and roostekoek and rice with roast tomato sauce and vegetables.
    • Tuesday: Oat crunchies, with seeds in them; Bacon sandwiches for lunch, with sliced pineapple and avocado; Supper was a chicken braai, brocolli and baby pea salad, and baked potatoes.
    • Wednesday: Eggs, bacon, tomatoes for breakfast; Cheese sandwiches, and red/green/yellow peppers and a pineapple for lunch; Supper was braai broodjies: with cheese, tomato, onions, and pork ribbetjies.
    • Thursday: Oat crunchies, with seeds in them; Lunch was pasta salad filled with vegetables from the night before; Supper was lamb chops and mielies (corn) on the braai, as well as stunning vegetable lasagne and watermelon for desert.
    • Friday: All the left overs for breakfast and then we hit the road to return home.
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  11. Feasting in the Karoo: If you haven’t been braaing all your life and you don’t have your own essential list of roosterkoek, Kampfire Koffie, and you want to get the whole Karoo vibe of cooking, then look no further than Justin Bonello’s Cooked in the Karoo. Even on the far side of the world this book will feel like you are hiking through the Karoo.
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  13. Se7en Essential Books to Take to the Karoo
  14. My kids are journalers, they like to pop things into notebooks… some of them just draw, others write and need a few facts to add to them, they are all researchers and I always take a box of books to inspire them and to help them learn about the things they have seen during the day:

    1. Scatalog: You will track a lot of scat, its everywhere… from buck to beasts, you will want to know who has left their trace alongside your path. This book is a gem and slips into a backpack really easily. Possibly our all time favourite nature book.
    2. Southern African Mammals Made Easy: In the Karoo National Park you will encounter a lot of mammals… and this quick guide will help you identify which of the many varieties of buck you are looking at. Another quick reference book that you can pop into your backpack.
    3. Tracker Manual: Is our favourite Animal Book for South Africa, this is a book that you need to read in the evening when you get back from a day of hiking, and you will step out the next morning with renewed enthusiasm… this book doesn’t just tell you about the footprints of the various animals, but it also tells you about each animal’s habits and so the sort of traces that they leave behind… which sort of animal ate from a particular tree, which a particular animal ate, by looking at its scat. This is a fascinating read.
    4. Wildlife of South Africa: Is the quintessential guide to all living things to be found in Southern Africa, there are bugs and birds, reptiles and mammals, plants and insects… everything really. It is the essential guide for quick look ups and there is an app available for it as well.
    5. Kids’ Snakes of South Africa: You are definitely in wild country and you will most likely encounter snakes… this book will not only tell you how to identify the snake you are looking at, but it will tell you interesting facts about the snake… which will help you to remember which snake is which.
    6. Star Maps for Southern Africa: You are going to be in the Karoo, one of the best places for star gazing in the world. There are no city lights to dampen your view. With or without a book you will be blown away by the stars, it will be fantastic to be able identify some of them… and hence the need for a starry guide book.
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    8. My First Book Of South African Wildlife: We adore this series of books and after years of using this one at the kitchen table for school, we were able to take it out into the veld and look at these animals close up for real.
    9. Wild Karoo: In our previous post, this book got a complete review, it isn’t a guide book in as much as it is the back story to the Karoo and a great book to have along for the ride to dip into and to answer those questions that arise as you are driving through a region. “I wonder why…” “When did…?” Who do you think…?

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After a dusty week of driving about you won’t be nearly ready to go home.

Click on the image below to take a look at all our photographs from our tour…

Karoo Tour 2018

That’s it… hopefully this has given you lots of ideas and tips… If you have any questions then feel free to ask away.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Hiking · Outings · Visit Cape Town

The Wild Karoo… a Book Review…

November 10th, 2018 · 2 Comments

Our previous post was a photo tour of our recent trip to the Karoo, a place of unprecedented beauty and wide open spaces. If you need to get “Under and African Sky” and be miles away from anyone, anywhere… then this is the place to go. Earlier this year a book called, Wild Karoo, by Mitch Reardon, landed on my review pile… and I was so excited… because how often do you get to review a book about a place that you are actually going to be visiting.

We cracked open this book and began reading it immediately. This book is not a field guide so much as a story… the tale of our wild wild Karoo. It is very readable and tells the tale of the author’s personal journey of discovery, as he explored the extent of the Karoo.

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The most striking thing, within the first few pages of the book, is that you will realise that the Karoo is a vast wild space, not just a strip of dirt on either side of the highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Karoo extends over the greater part of Southern Africa. And our visit to the Karoo National Park was really only a fraction of the Karoo as we define it.

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Chapter by Chapter


The book is divided into chapters, region by region… including the West Coast and the Cederberg as the Western edge of the region and the forests of Grootvadersbos in the south. There is a chapter for each of the National Parks represented in the Karoo and each of these chapters includes a box with all the pertinent travel information: contact numbers, websites, accommodation available and so on. More than that there are chapters on the plight of specific animals that are endemic to the Karoo:

  1. Chapter 1: Southern Beginnings
  2. Chapter 2: The Langeberg and the Little Karoo
  3. Chapter 3: Karoo National Park
  4. Chapter 4: The Plight of the Springbok
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  6. Chapter 5: From Tankwa Karoo to the Cederberg
  7. Chapter 6: Namaqualand
  8. Chapter 7: The Great River
  9. Chapter 8: In Search of Elusive Beasts
  10. Chapter 9: The Mountains and Plains of Cambedoo
  11. Chapter 10: Mountain Zebra National Park

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The photography throughout the book is exceptional and each photograph has an interesting caption. Just dipping into the book and reading the captions provides an interesting overview, not to mention a font of information. We particularly liked the pages where they focused on things like a page of birds found in a region, or a page on plants.
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The book is packed with personal conversations that the author had in his travels, as well as facts and information that he gleaned in his travels. Each chapter appears to have its own incredible and unique story. For the Karoo National Park, he dives into the ancient fossil records as well as the human history of the region.
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We were intrigued by the story of lions in the Karoo National Park, though they remained illusive and out of site while we were visiting. Particularly the escapee lion, Sylvester, that was mentioned by every ranger that we interacted with, in hushed tones and absolute awe.
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The book includes information about the Quagga Project as well as a chapter on the plight of our National Emblem, the Springbok. For instance, did you know that while a springbok drinks water from available water sources, it can go for months without actually drinking water, simply by nibbling on a diet of succulent shrubs. A whole chapter dedicated to the decline of the Springbok, a commentary on a series of man made interventions that have historically led to a massive decline in Springbok numbers and while large areas are now unfenced to ensure their natural migration and a series other projects have tried to restore Springbok numbers the number of Springbok continue to decline.
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While the book is not a travel guide, per se it does provide useful travel information with each chapter of the book. This book is more for the outdoor enthusiast who dreams of visiting the Karoo, or like us, the lucky travellers who have been there, but really want to know the back story of the region. All those questions that you have about, why they built the road here; who lived on this ruined farm; why don’t we see particular animals here anymore.
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This book is really a fabulous read, and a great keepsake if you have visited the Karoo. The book really gets to the heart of the Karoo… I find that I keep going back to it, to remind myself of a snippet or just to see if there isn’t one more thing I can quickly learn. A great read, very giftable and we highly recommend it.


Many thanks to Penguin Random House South Africa, Struik Nature. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books · Outings

A Photo Tour of a the Karoo National Park…

November 6th, 2018 · 4 Comments

We went to the Karoo for a couple of days… hiking, game driving and all around adventuring. I could write so much… I thought I would begin with a photo tour, and then follow on with a post packed with everything you need to know for a visit there…

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For our followers overseas, the Karoo is a vast semi-arid area in the center of South Africa… a vast and wild expanse that anyone driving across the country has to traverse and most do so as fast as they can. But, when you linger a little longer you will discover a region of breathtaking beauty… let us take you on our adventure with us…
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A Diary Day by Day

  • Day 1: All good trips begin with a roadtrip… and all good roadtrips begin with a coffee. And road trips across South Africa wouldn’t be a a road trip if you didn’t count the windmills… from the emerging spring in the Western Cape… to the arid Karoo, through the Cape Fold mountains… to a place where the weather is predictably extreme… searing heat in the summertime and freezing cold in the winter, we found ourselves between the seasons and so we were in for a bit of both.
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  • Day 2: A Hike to discover the Plant Life, the medicinal plants and well adapted local plants. Followed by a wander along the The Fossil Trail.
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  • Day 3: We spent the morning putting all our book knowledge about tracking into practice, with rangers alongside us to guide us and teach us more tracking techniques. The afternoon we went on a Game Drive through the National Park, where wild animals, particularly buck, thrive.
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  • Day 4: We started the day extremely early, and a dawn game drive is the key to seeing what the park has to offer… exciting times. Followed by an evening walk through the veld…
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  • Day 5: The last day was spent packing up and heading home again, home again, jiggity jig.
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    The Main Features of Our Photo Tour

    1. The Pointer Trail and Lookout Point
    2. The Fossil Trail
    3. A Guided Tracking Trail At Grantham
    4. Potlekkertjie Loop
    5. The Klipspringer Pass Game Drive
    6. A Visit to the Interpretive Center
    7. A Photo Gallery

    The Pointer Trail and Lookout Point


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    Our first hike of the week, was a guided hike along the Pointer Hiking Trail… and our first lesson about the Karoo National Park was that lions roam freely and you may only step out with an experienced guide beside you.
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    On our first real day, we discovered the truth about the Karoo’s extreme weather, expecting a warm day, we were surprised by freezing weather and a brisk wind… that kept us hiking as fast as we could… because if you stopped, even momentarily the cold set in.
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    It was worth the cold climb to the lookout point… from where you can look down on the Rest camp and across the plain to the cliffs of the Nuweveld Mountains.
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    Grey skies and crisp cold weather… we were surprised to see wildlife out and about…
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    Including a lovely tortoise…
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    And this trap door spider…
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    And just there we spotted a red rock rabbit…
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    But the most spectacular thing, in this dry arid land… and did I mention bitterly cold, that can just as quickly become scorchingly hot, was the plant life… rich in abundant plant life…
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    Karoo violets for miles…
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    And all the magic that is a drop of water…
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    And these…
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    And masses of Karoo gold…
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    The Fossil Trail


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    After a quick picnic lunch we went for an amble along the Fossil Trail. It is a really short well contained 300m walk alongside the information center. It is a really quick loop through the veld, with fossils and explanations about them as you walk along…
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    There is lots to see and learn…
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    Fossil remains of plants…
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    And animals…
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    And this curious fellow…
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    Just the cutest…
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    A Guided Tracking Trail At Grantham

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    A walk through the park, with rangers to show us what to look out for when tracking and also to protect us from potentially dangerous situations. In a Game Park with lions you have to take every precaution.
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    A fascinating walk through the veld…
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    We learnt so much about scat…
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    And a lot about creatures in the area,
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    We stopped to explore old ruins, and a family burial ground from days gone by…
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    Potlekkertjie Loop


    Our next adventure was to go for a game drive on the Potlekkertjie Loop and over the Klipspringer Pass. This is a circular drive through the park, that is totally doable for ordinary cars and does not require a 4X4 at all, though it is bumpy all the way.
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    One afternoon we drove the loop clockwise, and the next morning we did a dawn drive. Don’t be misled by the distance, you will crawl along at a snails pace, not wanting to miss anything… and stopping to watch the wildlife, so many birds and the buck on the way. Expect this to take a long time and pack snacks for the duration. We had a spectacular sighting on the dawn drive… you will have to scroll down to see it!!!
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    We weren’t the only ones on the road…
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    So many different varieties of buck… but I think the Gemsbok is my favourite…
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    There is a fabulous picnic spot where you can stop and stretch your legs…
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    We immediately planned to have breakfast here the following day. Driving along, we spotted some scat in the road… and we all knew what it was, from our tracking hike… but we couldn’t believe it!!!
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    Part of the loop drive is the Klipspringer Pass…

    The Klipspringer Pass


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    And then we got to the lookout point…

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    Views for miles…
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    And we got to see a pair of Verraux’s Eagles for the first time…
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    We also stopped to take a look at this lunar looking surface,
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    These dug out bowls are actually an erosion/rehabilitation project… they are dug out in the ground and filled with plant debris from around the park. They provide small piles of nutrition and protection for the soil beneath them and hopefully a start for new plant growth. We did see quite a few buck treating them as a buffet station in the early morning.
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    Interesting things, like this old leopard trap, to discover along the way…

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    And then this… not the clearest picture… but a dream come true… we have been wanting to see these animals for years and years…
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    We stopped to watch them for ages…
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    Interpretive Center


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    The Interpretive Center is an information center close to the Reception Area. It is packed with interesting snippets, in fact so much information, that one visit wasn’t nearly enough.
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    And the only shade for miles around…
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    And a wild bee hive.
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    Our group was welcomed by rangers and guides…
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    Masses of information about local history, wildlife, plantlife and geology.
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    An entire center packed with information…
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    Walls lined with informative posters…
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    This one intrigued us, because we spotted these modern day nomads and chatted with them.
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    Gallery


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    Click on the image below to take a look at all our photographs from our tour…

    Karoo Tour 2018

    We went on this tour with the Cape Town Rangers, if you want to know more about their work then look out for Treehouse Family on facebook.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Visit Cape Town

Se7en + 1 Kids In The Kitchen…

November 2nd, 2018 · 4 Comments

With a family of ten, and a couple of friends over at anytime, you can imagine that keeping everyone fed is really like feeding a small army. It is endless, as one meal finishes and we begin preparing the next one. The task is way too big for just one person. My kids have had to learn to cook as we go along and of course there have been mistakes, we eat those too, and there have been successes, that we thrive on. The one question I get asked a lot is how do I get my kids cooking in the kitchen… the question I have to ask is how do I not? My kids are always hanging around looking for food to eat, and if I am in the kitchen… they see it as an opportunity for something to snack on, and I see it as an opportunity for someone to help me. It’s a win, win.

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In the last year or two I have taken delegating to new levels, basically so that I can go for an evening run, or I can give a quick maths lesson to a neighbour… or work on a blog post. I firmly believe that being part of a family is a team sport, we all have to work together to keep this ship running. Not to mention, that as my kids get older it becomes more and more important that they are able to feed themselves and their families. These are essential life skills and totally worth spending time on. I thought I would share how our kids have become involved in “the food chain.”

Se7en Ideas to Get Your Kids Cooking

  1. Have a Menu Plan: When you have a plan it is easy to slot kids into tasks. The thing is to break your meal plan down into doable tasks. Your children can probably cut and chop vegetables at the table beside you, even the tiniest children will enjoy washing lettuce. It takes a little bit longer to train them, but the pay off is huge. If there is a job you are doing that you aren’t letting your kids do, because you can do it quicker, better, faster… take a breathe, spend an afternoon and train your kids to do it properly. I popped our meal plan below this list, so that you can see how our kids get involved in the kitchen.
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  3. Make it a Right of Passage: When they are small they have small jobs, as they get older they become responsible for entire meals. There are a few meals that I never even think about anymore. Most of my kids started by helping with lunch and vegetable prep. I would top and tail carrots and they would peel them. Even small folk can make a light cross on top of a potato and sprinkle it with salt and a dash of olive oil, a tray of those and boom you have lunch. Once they can do vegetables they can make a salad for dinner, or do all the preparations for pizza toppings. Anyone can grate cheese and they all love making rolls… I make the bread dough, they roll their own rolls. Once they can manage vegetables and salad easily, move on to fruity deserts. Baked apples, simply require coring and a sprinkle of raisins, or even apple crumble. From desserts they move on to main meal. Making dinner is the ultimate goal… I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like at least planning a feast.
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  5. Have a Food Adventure: We always have a cook book on the coffee table, and we all pour over them. Sometimes we even work through a cookbook. We recently reviewed Jamie Oliver’s Italy… we might have reviewed se7en recipes, but my kids are still working their way through the book and trying out recipes as they go. You want to pick a cookbook that has main meals as well as treats… Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks are great for this because he is always teaching and doesn’t assume any previous knowledge. Otherwise look for a fun cook book, DK Books have great cook books that say they are for kids, but are actually filled with fabulous family friendly food. Pick a book, start at the beginning and cook your way through it… you don’t have to cook every recipe, just most of them. If everybody hates something skip it and move on, don’t be precious, it will get splashed on, it will get flour between the pages and it will store up memories.
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  7. Never Underestimate the Power of Tea Time: Clearly I haven’t been baking enough, because my kids recently started Saturday afternoon family tea time. And the point is they do everything. They take it in turns, they pick and choose and change their minds all week long. What begins as grand and expensive plans on Monday is slowly whittled down to something reasonable on Saturday. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, it can be as easy as sliced apples or meringues(!). It really can be anything at all, some kids take all day preparing and others bring a slab of chocolate to the table. Whatever they do is fine… and I just have to get there.
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  9. Breakfast is a Meal as Well: For years my kids ate oats for breakfast. And then they didn’t. NOT AT ALL. So for a while we floundered with breakfast, until I sat down and made a plan: Two mornings a week, Hood 7 (age 10) makes muffins, two mornings a week Hood 8 (age 9) makes pancakes, two mornings a week we have eggs on toast… that leaves one morning for “helping yourself.” So Hood 8 is the master of pancakes… I leave him to it – yes it can be a mess (!!!), but he makes a fine pancake… yes there were flops, but not a lot. I turn a blind eye while he is busy, and really you have to wipe the counters down after you cook anyway, it doesn’t matter much if its a small mess to wipe or a big mess… you still have to clean up. And for muffins, I look out for muffin mixes on special to get my kids started. You know, add an egg and half a cup of oil, and so on… to begin with I measure the ingredients out for them and they just have to put it together. As they get better, they want to include other ingredients and get more adventurous, and they can leave the “mixes” behind. But for now, I have a couple of mixes on the shelf and Hood 7 (age 10), loves to get up first and make muffins for breakfast.
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  11. Get Busy or Break an Arm: The downside of kids in the kitchen is… the mess. But with cooking responsibilities, come cleaning responsibilities arise. The more complicated you get in the kitchen the bigger the clean up!!! I used to think, shame these kids must get to bed, I’ll clean up after dinner. The fact that my teenagers were staying up later than I was, completely slipped past me. Until I broke my arm. That was it, I could do nothing and someone else had to do the job. I have two kids on lunch duty and two on dinner duty and they alternate days. I do check on their cleaning up and I do call them back if the job is not done properly. But it pretty much rolls over and I don’t think about cleaning up after a meal, ever. That being said, I do like to clean up as I go when I am cooking… so all meals begin by filling a basin with soapy water… and we start most of our meals with the prep dishes already washed.
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  13. Your Kids Will Not Starve To Death Ever: There comes a time when you have to just say… you are making dinner and they actually will be able to do that. Like totally. When my kids were younger and we had to go out, remember we have a house full of teenagers now. I would prepare everything in advance and leave instructions and blah blah blah… boring mother person. Now I let them know that they will be doing dinner on a particular night, they can plot and plan it, they can make the decisions and even better, if they don’t like the ingredients that are available, they can actually buy the ingredients they need themselves. Yes, they go shopping for the ingredients (the younger ones with the father person)… because a meal begins long before it lands on the table. You will be surprised with what they come up with… No, I don’t know why nobody has thought of an ice-cream dinner… in fact they always choose to make something healthy and genuinely good meals.

Our Rough Meal Plan in Se7en Days.

So I mentioned in the list above how we do breakfast… and for lunch we usually eat a rainbow of fruit/salad… and bread. We make our own bread everyday. (Until bread packaging improves I just refuse to buy store bought bread.) If it is cold we will have rice or baked potatoes. In fact, we have a thing called rice week… and that’s at the end of some months… when whatever vegetables left over from the month and herbs and well anything really… can be turned into some sort of a stir fry thing. That’s rice week. Everybody knows a rice week when they see it. Nobody complains, they know that it all balances out over time and their tummies will be full.

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  1. Mondays: On Mondays we make a batch of mince, tons of vegis (carrots, cabbage, courgettes, onions, whatever) and tomato cans… a little bit of mince has to go a very long way in our house. We usually create two or three meals from that and freeze two of them. My older kids have all spent Monday nights doing this for the longest time, and right now, it is Hood 6’s (age 12) task.
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  3. Tuesdays: Used to be mac’ncheese night, but over the last year or two it has become Hood 1’s responsibility. I don’t mind what ends up on the table, I don’t even think about it. Sometimes we have fantastic quiches, sometimes parathas. I do like if something green comes with it, some salad just makes it “extra” for me. But he shops, he cooks and we feast!!!
  4. Wednesday: My mom-in-law comes for dinner, she likes her roasts… So I ususualys roast chicken pieces, and then roast vegetables… a tray of plain roast potatoes and a tray of mixed roast veg (Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut and so on). Hood 7 (age 10) makes the roast vegetables… and she gets to make dessert as well, on the only night we have dessert.
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  6. Thursday: We usually try something new, from a cook book we are reviewing or something we have seen in the week that we want to try out. I think it is important to try new flavours and learn new skills… it keeps things interesting and it gets everyone involved in the process.
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  8. Friday: Was burger night for years, but my kids all have activities on Friday night and the cooking in relays, and massive cleanup was not working… now I make what my call “Fake Lasagne.” With a frozen mince meal made on the Monday, I add pasta and top it with white sauce… then they can each take and heat what they want to eat and the last person cleans up.
  9. Saturday: Is a good night for burgers or stirfry, something that the Father Person wants to cook… he likes cooking and I am happy to give him the weekend shift.
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  11. Sunday: Is Pizza night, I make the pizza base in the afternoon when all the big kids head out for church and then I spend the evening pottering until they get home… when we roll out the pizzas and keep them really simple, because with pizzas less is really more, so just a tomato base sauce, mozzarella and something green… basil or spinach or baby tomatoes… some veg on top.

I realised when I started this post that I had lots to write about… ask me questions and I will be happy to answer them. Meanwhile, I am thinking maybe we need a post on super easy recipes that kids can make on their own. That’s it, our feasting game, in a blog post, giving them the survival skills they will need one day when they launch out into the world.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Family Recipes · Organizing Se7en

Se7en’s November and Your Free Printable Calendar…

November 1st, 2018 · No Comments

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And suddenly it is November again… wishing you all the best month ahead full of lots of exciting plans and adventures…

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You are welcome to 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!!!

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→ No CommentsTags: Activity Calendar