30 November 2014

2015, what's your plan?

As we reaching the end of another year, I've been thinking a lot recently about what I hope to achieve in 2015, both personally and for my blog. 

Firstly, the easy stuff - the blog

Engage more with other bloggers
I'm terrible for following a blog, reading, never commenting or interacting with the blogger. I work better with Twitter but I'm determined to get back into commenting, sharing etc.

Set up a paid URL
I've looked into this recently and it's not all that expensive, £10 for 3 years or such for a basic one. It's definitely something I want to do, now just to think of a name. Maybe just Edinburgh Girl? I've check and it's available, although I'm not too sure what kind of 'hits' I may get... 

Set weekly goals
How many times a week to blog? 
Weekly set posts? 'Wednesday Wants!', 'Silent Sunday' 

Work on my photography
We were kindly given a brilliant (and pricey) Canon from Jamie's dad which I would love to get out and use more. I've also go my own Nikon and older digital camera to use. And what's the point in have these if you aren't making the most of them? Also I must buy a photo cube, they aren't exactly expensive. 
I'd also like to find a good location to do 'WIW' or general clothes pics. I live in Edinburgh where there are hundreds of beautiful locations so it shouldn't be too hard. 

Personally it's the same old stuff cropping up with a few new ones. 

Read more
I actually love nothing more than getting into a good book, at last count I had 6 on the go. But that last count was about 8 month ago and since then I've read one full book and that was on holiday. I admit I spend way to much time in the evenings checking my phone, tweeting etc. So I'm going to set aside at least one evening a week where I just sit with my book and co

Driving lessons
We have a nice wee Ford Fiesta sitting outside and when Jamie's away with work it would be nice to have the freedom to just jump in the car and go somewhere. I don't mind public transport or walking but it would be a good perk. Plus I'm sure Jamie wouldn't mind the idea of being picked up from the pub! 

Become a 'qualified' Project Manager
I've been in my job for a few years now Project Manager, Account Manager, call it what you will but I kind of fell into this role and have zero qualifications for it. A few weeks ago I bought an online course for PRINCE2 Foundation (PRojects IN Controlled Environments v2). At the end of my studying I have a two hour exam, passing this won't make me qualified but it does give me what I need to progress to the Practitioner course, after which I would be qualified and have the transposable skills to do contacted work etc, always good practice for the future. 

General fitness & well-being 
In recent months my fitness has been lacking and I'm feeling it in a lot of ways, slight weight gain, lethargic, complete cba attitude and all-in-all it's not good for me, and it's not good for those around me. So, in a bit to be generally more happy, energetic etc it's time to get back to the gym full time, it's time to make programmes fun again not just hours on the treadmill. It's time to get back to weekly PT on a Friday or Saturday, check out Jamie's classes here (not my BF Jamie) and it's time to put back into practice what I used to love, running. And potentially take part in the Skye half marathon. I need to make more time for me. And try not to drop anymore 20kg barbells on my face! 

So that's my 2015 goals & plans, what are yours? Either for your self or for your blog.

28 November 2014

A Personal Post: The Story of Us

So I'm about to get a little soppy here:


Today marks two years since Jamie & I had our first proper date. Well as 'proper' as watching Hearts getting beat 4-1 by Celtic on a cold November Wednesday night can get.

Our first proper meeting (17 November), again at a football game where Jamie have 'conventionally' bought tickets next to my friend Charlene and I, in fairness it was a sold out game but it doesn't stop a lot of people winding him up about it. This meeting went less than smoothly though.

Jamie turned up right at kick-off, with a pretty girl (who now laughs a lot at this story) and I said about two words to him, it didn't really go the way I expected and the next day I gave him a 'get out of jail card' with a text saying if he didn't fancy a drink sometime it was totally cool - no reply, oh dear. I won't lie, I was gutted. Truth was Jamie had spent the night with a bunch of Irish mates downing shots of wine and was barely surviving the Sunday. The next day I did get a text along the lines of 'OMG. This weeks Walking Dead btw!' - I don't think something so simple has made me smile to much. So we spent a few days texting back and forth, and my boss asked me if I fancied his season tickets for the next game as he couldn't make it - free football, yes please. 
So I invited Jamie along.

We met the following Wednesday in the Rutland for a couple of drinks and I'm not ashamed to admit I was nervous as heck. Not as nervous as Jamie who'd already had his first pint before I arrived. The chat came pretty easy, as we walked along to Tynecastle we talked about anything and everything, thankfully there was no awkward weather chat. The game itself, well a 4-1 defeat isn't great, when your freezing cold it's even worse.

After the game we bumped into my friend Claire who'd been there too, now that was a bit weird 'Oh hi Claire, this is Jamie.....'. So we walked from Tynecastle to Elm Row ready to part ways, Jamie said he'd text me, I wasn't sure he would, and then he leaned in for a kiss (soppy I know!). Then I uttered those three little words that Jamie will always remember as he walked away 'Is that it?' 
  Classy Susan, Classy! 
So we had another cheeky little kiss and both went on our ways.

After that there was a lot of evenings of pizza and beer, a steak dinner, Christmas market, introducing Jamie to Illegal Jacks, and on Christmas Day it became 'Facebook official'. Second best present after my Hello Kitty onsie. Four months later Jamie moved in to what is now our flat. Was it too soon? Maybe for some people but for two years it's worked, very well. 
Now we have our little addition Rudi (the cat) who is 8 months old and in the next 6 months we hope to have bought our first place together (or at least before Summer, BBQ anyone!?)

And if I now told you that all this came from one little message Jamie sent me via an online dating site what would you say? It's never been something I've been ashamed or embarrassed about. 
It's given me someone I love madly, who makes me so happy and who I want to share my life with, how can that be frowned upon?

Online dating has become one of the most popular ways to meet someone, it gives you a chance to get to know someone before you meet. No drunken chat in a noisy club, no awkward silences as you already know what to chat about, things you have in common. We spent about a month chatting on POF, Facebook and text so when we meet it wasn't weird (still nerve-racking though), but for me it was one of the most natural "first" meetings I've ever had. 
 We tend to just laugh about the very first one now.

Amongst Jamies' message I did put up with the usual rubbish. The multiple messages from the same guy using a different sign-off name, the downright creepy 'You look like my sister?' as well as finding boys I knew fine well weren't even single. 
There was a brief relationship that almost put me off online dating for life, actually it almost put me off men for a while but giving it 'one more bash' resulted in this.
Jamie's message however, it did stand out, he'd made an effort. It wasn't just a 'Hey, how are you?'. He introduced himself, he chatted about our shared interest in The Walking Dead (& other TV shows), he told me about his latest holiday in the Alps and asked how my holiday in Turkey had been. He'd taken time to actually read my profile and put together a message and that intrigued me, it made me want to get to know him. As well as the fact I was extremely attracted to his cheeky face!

In truth this picture had also made him message me: 

 I guess in a way I'm trying to relay a little message without sounding up my own backside - never give up. Take a chance, not everyone online dating is a complete fruit-loop (there are some though), take the time to get to know someone before meeting. 

If there's a *spark* go for it, you just never know.

10 November 2014

Part 3: Kruger National Park - Mopani, Satara and Pretoriuskop

 

Tuesday 16 – Sunday 21 September

Tuesday 16 September - Madi a Thava to Mopani Camp
We drove from Madi a Thava to the Punda Maria gate of the Kruger, it took us about 2 hours which was great as I was expecting it to take us A LOT longer. We drove from there down to our first camp, Mopani, which took us to 3.30pm ish (about 6 hours driving).

On our first drive through we saw:
Baboon, Elephants, Water Buffalo, Zebra, Giraffe, Water-buck, Harte-beast, Impala (hundreds), Tsessebe, Blue Wildebeest, Nyala, Warthog, Yellow Billed horn-bill and Cape Glossy starling. Not bad for a first game drive.

For dinner we popped to the local café and I had deep friend Camembert in filo pastry and a cheeseburger. Four people each having a starter and main plus two bottles of wine - £35.

Wednesday 17 September
Today we got up at 6am for a game drive. Yesterdays temperature peaked at 39c so 14c this morning seemed chilly – but so nice. The drive wasn't hugely successful – LOTS of elephant – which oddly enough camouflage very well into the bush. However we did see: Hippo, male Kudu, which are very rare, Springbok, which are very cute, Klipspringer, Crocodile, Africa fish eagle and a few other birds.

We're off out again this evening so lets see what we get.

Lunch was pizza & a chicken pancake thingy. The views were spectacular though and we seen massive 10ft crocs.

Tonight Jamie is cooking on the braai – our first one since we arrived – the meat looks AMAZING.

Tomorrow we drive to Satara camp with a few stops on the way. Hopefully we see a lion. Would LOVE to see a wildcat but doubtful.

So our evening drive got pretty exciting! We got a little surrounded by elephants and had to wait for them to make their way up. Once we drove down Jamie's mum spotted something moving and it was lion!! We had heard there were three in the area. I think I MAY have spotted two in the morning but I hadn't realised how camouflaged they could be so just thought it was nothing.
The one we did see was purposely strolling up to a heard of zebra, not set to attack but spooking them into running into some nearby bushes. We think the others may have been waiting there but we couldn't see. Hopefully tomorrow is ever more/just as exciting.




Thursday 18 September
Where were you when the vote for Scottish Independence took place?”

Well we were driving from Mopani to Satara through the Kruger National Park with a stop off at Olifants.

We left Mopani at 6am and drove South to Lataba. Once we reached here we started some game viewing. We seen mostly 'everyday stuff' (elephant, zebra etc). We stopped off at Olifants Park which has the most amazing views of the river. There are literally no words to describe it and even pictures haven't done it justice. We saw hippos, baboons, and elephants. Including baby ellies playing in the water, so cute. It was just super.
We left Olifants to drive 52km to Satara and view some antelope and buffalo on the way. We were almost at the camp when we noticed folk had stopped and that's when we saw a cheetah just chilling under a tree. It was pretty far away so pictures were out of the question but we could see with binoculars.

We arrived at Satara camp around lunch time. This time we had a separate hut each, 2 beds and a bathroom. Plus a fridge outside and communal cooking facilities, although one hot plate, an urn and a sink between 30 huts was a bit insane.

We went to their 'restaurant' for lunch – which was basically a 'spoons. So we opted for a braai for dinner. The place had no cutlery, plates or utensils so it was paper plates and plastic cutlery. Not ideal but it did the job and the braai was brilliant.

Jamie & I were booked to go out on a Sunset Drive with one of the park guides and I'm so glad we did.
Firstly we saw:
Black-backed Jackal, Side-Stripped Jackal, Genet (which looked a bit like Rudi cat), a HUGE heard of buffalo – about a hundred plus baby buffalo which didn't look as angry as the adults.
And the biggie – two lions stalking a buffalo then one chasing it down (it got away), it was amazing to watch.
We also seen a whole pride of lion, they couldn't have been closer, we could have literally reached out and touched them. I got to hold the back search light which was pretty cool.

I'm sure there's loads more but it's 10.10pm and after being up at 5.30am I'm a bit tired.

Gutted we didn't see wild cat after they were spotted two days in a row but never mind – there's still 3-4 days viewing left.

Friday 19 September
We were out about 6.30am today, and by 7.30am we were tracking leopard! Exciting! On our way out we were overtaken by some guy doing well above the 40kpm speed limit, only to come across him a bit further up the road almost crashing into a heard of elephant. Main thing I learned was never split a heard, this was what we had done, and I think he had separated a baby and mother – dangerous!!

Jamie then spotted some leopard tracks and we followed them along the road. It HAD been up a tree with its breakfast but some folk were hanging out their vehicle, spoiling the skyline and scared it off. We sat for a while and went back later but no luck. On our evening drive we saw some monkeys playing, hyena, crocs, two different lizards and sadly a tortoise which had died. We had another braai and tried wildebeest, it was fab.
Jamie and I sat up till 10.20 playing cards and having a few beers, scandal!!

Saturday 20 September
Today we traveled from Satara to Pretoriuskop (140km), we stopped off at Skukuza on the way which was very much a 'tourist' camp and very busy.

On our drive this morning we were very lucky to see another pride of lion just at the side of the road , a baby hyena and my first white rhino. Each camp has a map you can mark where you've seen certain animals, because of poaching Rhino aren't marked. So 4 out of 5 of the 'Big 5' with just leopard to go.

We're in little huts again here but each one has an outdoor kitchen, kettles, toasters, cutlery, crockery and a massive bedroom, decent bathroom and huge bay doors. Really cute and nice.

Totally missing Rudi cat now and looking forward to getting home to seeing him. Not wishing our holiday away.

Our evening drive was good, we saw a family of Rhino, mum, dad and baby, very nice to see that in the wild. We tried to track a lion but no luck. We had another braai tonight, besbok skewers, some kind of sausage and Impala steak. Jamies mum made some stirfry veggies which made a difference to just BBQ'd veg.

Sunday 21 September
Unfortunately we haven't seen any bush babies yet – gutted.
Up at 5.30am and out by 6.30am.
Our morning drive was pretty good, some hyena, rhino and Sable antelope. Beautiful creatures.
Tomorrow we head home, one last drive on the way down then 426km to the airport.

Tonight we have an evening drive with a guide. Still leopard left to complete the Big 5, and I'm holding out for wild cat but I doubt it. Our drive left at 6pm and it was already getting dark.

In all honesty I didn't like our guide, he went speeding about, almost crashing into Rhino, shinning lights into elephants eyes (which unless an animal is member of the cat family you should never do), scaring Rhino, wakening them up – he just wasn't great and I felt a bit uneasy when he parked beside an elephant which was clearly pissed off.

However we did manage to see, white mongoose, scrubhare, duiker, Genet, baby rhino, reedbuck, more hyena and lastly, we saw leopard! Just casually strolling down the side of the road as you do!

Big 5 - African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White rhinoceros
Tomorrow we leave at 6am and drive to Berg-en-Dal for breakfast. From there it's 393km to Pretora and then onto Johannesburg. Our flight isn't until 9.50pm and we arrive in London at 7am and from there it's back to Edinburgh. So we should be back to Rudi cat about 1pm, if he's still speaking to us that is.

Our journey back was an interesting one. Jamie did a lot of the driving down and boy are they crazy!!! It was a little ropey at times. We stopped half way at a Wimpy to have some lunch, kind of miss Wimpy here it was the first that I remember here.
Once we reached Johannesburg airport we dropped off the car and our luggage and headed to the Inter Contiental where Jamie's dad treated us to lunch. It was nice to have fresh fruit and veg, plus two bottles of prosecco went down well. After that we went back to the airport to spend the rest of our spending money. Jamie got himself a Springbok t-shirt and I picked up the standard tea towel.

Home time
Our flight back was pretty decent, it was almost empty so we moved and had a row of 4 seats between the two of us. Both being short had it's advantage here and we were able to lay down for a bit and get a few hours sleep. I watched 'The Other Woman' with Cameron Diaz which was quite good.
Getting back into London took AGES. We'd just come off a flight into security but still had to go through three different check points and it took about an hour. Where as on the way down we didn't have to go through anything between Edinburgh and Johannesburg. Anyway, we got back into London to learn Alex Salmon had resigned and then got our flight to Edinburgh. I felt terrible for the business man sitting next to us, after a 10 hour flight at about 8 hours driving I'm sure we weren't the nicest folk to sit next too. I was glad to get back to Jamie's' parents and pick up the car though, it was worth it but it was a lot of traveling too.

I would absolutely love to go back at some point, and for future I would love to take our kids when their old enough to appreciate it. I think personally I'd go back to Cape Town first as there was so much we didn't get to see and do. Plus to have some more of their mussels in garlic & white wine sauce, yum!

Now how on earth do we top a holiday like that next year??

If you'd like to see more pictures from our holiday you can check them out on Flickr

04 November 2014

Marcos Returns


A few weeks ago I was contacted by Lucy at Hot Tin Roof, a PR agency in Edinburgh, to see if I fancied popping along to the reopening of Marcos Pizza & Pool Hall (previously Marcos Leisure) on Grove Street. I immediately jumped at the chance!

You see, back when I was 19 I worked in the old Marcos part-time and loved it so much I quit my government job a year later to work in Marcos full-time. I was mainly on reception or bar and eventually I ended up doing Little Marcos too, dressing up as Marco Bear and doing the hokey cokey. But it was by far the most fun job I've ever had. Marcos used to host 2 pool rooms (31 tables), a full-size competition snooker table, 2 private snooker rooms. Fitness classes, squash courts, a sports bar, a cafe, Little Marcos and the first free weight gym of it's kind in Edinburgh. I remember one night we had Snow Patrol playing downstairs, KT Tunstall playing upstairs and XFM DJs Paul and Fraser playing in the main bar - not too shabby. 


I was absolutely gutted when the main building was demolished and student accommodation built, I had long since left to pastures new but it was a huge part of my life (cheesy I know) so hearing it was returning was just fantastic news.

So yesterday whilst standing in what was the old kitchen looking into the new bar it was quite surreal. The new bar is nice, clean, fresh, and a decent selection of beer starting from £3 a pint which isn't bad at all for being in town. There's even Goose! 
There's also a good selection of bar food, pizza, nachos, chips, again all reasonably priced. Although I did miss the mini TVs on the bar taps that the old place had, those were ingenious. 


The new pool hall is situation downstairs underneath the bar, make sure you stop for a 'selfie' with Marco Bear on your way down.


And also check out the history of Marcos on the walls. 
Did you know Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen trained in the gym at once!? 

The new hall is hugely different from the old ones, and hugely different from any pool hall I've been in before. 
We had a few games, ending  in a 2-1 victory to Jamie, was pretty cool being the first people to ever play on table #1 though. I think there are about 17 pool tables and prices start at just £5 an hour. So in all honesty, get yourself and your mates along for some eats, drinks and pool stat! 
The official opening is Wednesday 5th November.


One of my favorite parts of the night - this picture. 

I would honestly have a copy in my flat if I knew who the illustrator was. 

25 October 2014

30th Birthday - What To Wear?


I've been scouring the interweb for some birthday outfit inspiration. My actual birthday night out is pretty low-key. It's being held in a local pub with my lovely friends and I'm not making a massive deal about it therefore I want to keep my outfit low-key too. The other thing is Jamie is treating me to dinner, now I know it's in one of three places: The Witchery, Howies or Chaophraya with drinks beforehand at The Devils Advocate, so for that I am looking for something a little more dressy.

So getting the easy ones out the way I thought something like these for my night out with friends, simple and low-key.
 Birthday Night Out




 When it comes to the second part, my birthday meal. I'm at a complete standstill if I'm honest. I've been looking over my old favorites ASOS and AX Paris and so far have come up with the following: now don't even get me started on shoes and accessories.


Birthday Meal

So what do you think? Can you suggest somewhere else I should check out?

21 October 2014

Winter Wedding Dilemmas

In the coming months I have two evening wedding receptions to attend. One of which the female guests were asked to wear a floor length gown, and for which I've chosen this black JS Collections maxi dress. I spotted this dress about two years ago in House of Fraser but with no reason to buy it the £150 price tag made just a little bit pointless. I missed it in the Summer sale and then it hasn't been back in stock since *sob*. 

I did however keep a close eye on ebay and picked in up 'as new, worn once' for £15.95, how's that for a bargain? I do have to get it altered slightly but I would have had to get that done regardless.
Jamie's mum has given me a pair of earrings to wear, they were the first pair she bought when she got her ears pierced so a lovely pair of vintage that look similar to the ones below. 

The red dress I bought back in February in the ASOS sale, mainly because although I have a few lovely dresses there was nothing I could lift out at short notice and with a boyfriend that attends quite a lot of corporate events you just never know. However this one hasn't made it out the wardrobe yet.

I'm trying to be a little thrifty so close to Christmas so have been looking for shoes and a bag I can use for both, Jamie being the only person who will be at both, and have settled upon gold or black. So with the help of Polyvore I've been putting together some ideas for both events.
 

Winter Wedding


To go with the red outfit I've decided to have my hair down and hope to god it will actually keep a curl. I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos and going through Pinterest to get some suggestions and I think it should be OK. I may add in a few extensions just to give some volume. 
For nails & make up I'm going to go light & natural. I think I will DIY French Manicure my nails and keep my makeup to nude shades. 

For the black outfit I'm going to go for a 'messy side bun', which again I've been researching lots. Having fine hair that doesn't back comb well is a bit of a nightmare. But a few lightweight products and plenty kirby grips should help. For nails I'm thinking a deep maroon, slightly 'gothic' vibes that will tie in with the Ghillie Dhu but again I'll probably keep my make up subtle and light. Mainly as my little eyes don't carry off a lot of make up, but I have almost two months so I may practice a lot and see what I can achieve, any advice is more than welcome.

So any fashion bunnies out there, what do you think? Does this work? Black or Gold? Something different altogether? And all you lovely beauty bloggers - HELP!


20 October 2014

Guts, Ghosts & Gore Oh My! Edinburgh Dungeons Review

When I was asked recently if I fancied popping along to Edinburgh Dungeons I absolutely jumped at the chance. I LOVE all things scary (we're currently watching 'Would You Rather' on NetFlix) so couldn't wait to sample the guts, ghosts and gore of Auld Reekie.


Being a local I have been to the Dungeons before but it was a very, very long time ago so I was looking forward to seeing how much it had changed. I wasn't disappointed.  From the first few steps inside I was feeling a little nervous. The ambience, the creepy music, the decor, all fantastic.  

The tour was filled with Scottish history, from Burke & Hare to William Wallace, the Cannibalistic Bean family and much, much more. 
I don't want to give too much away, there were certainly more than a couple of jumps & screams from our group, myself & Jamie included and you have to go in with an open mind because they do pick on members of the audience. Jamie ended up in front of the judge and one of Sawney Beans creepy-as sons wanted me to be his girlfriend. It was a great laugh. The staff were fantastic and it's definitely something I'd recommend. 
Our whole tour lasted about 1.5hrs and with tickets costing from just £9.50 for kids and £10.95 for adults (online pre-booking), there's also special offers for Family and Group tickets - it's definitely worth it. 
After the tour you do have an opportunity to buy some pictures that are taken of you during the tour. We got a picture from the final part of tour, the Drop Dead, it wasn't the most flattering of me but I think it captured exactly how I felt. 
Maybe if enough of you lovely people click through to the Dungeons link I'll share it with you all. Until then it's staying safely on the fridge. 


*disclaimer: I was given two free tickets for the purpose of reviewing the Edinburgh Dungeons. All views are my own and all reviews are 100% honest.

16 October 2014

It's a prawn thing!!


This months Degustabox contained 'Carnation Cook with It', which Nestle claim:

"Made using fresh milk, and with half the fat of single cream*, Carnation Cook with it! is a fantastic, low-fat cooking crème that's great for your favourite savoury dishes – from hearty soups and casseroles to pasta bakes and sauces."

So I decided to rustle up one of my favorite dishes 'prawn thing'. My friend Jen passed the recipe to me and over the time I've been doing it I've tweaked it and this is one of the final forms. Sometimes I add some spinach in at the end too. 


Ingredients: prawns (cooked or raw), 5-6 mushrooms, garlic (as much as you can handle), chilli (ditto), red onion, salmon (optional) and some sort of pasta/spaghetti, (I used chilli linguine that mum had brought me home from Rome) - we love a bit of spice.


This is one of the easiest, but tastiest dishes. Great for when you get home from work and just feel like laying on the sofa. Just a few simple steps. 

1. Pop a pot of water on the boil and add your chosen pasta to cook away whilst you do the 'hard work' 

2. Gently fry the garlic and chilli - top tip, put the garlic in whilst the pan heats, it stops the garlic hitting the pan hot and burning straight off. 

3. Add in the onion and gently fry until the onion softens slightly. 
4. If you're prawns are raw add them now to give them a few minutes to cook, otherwise add in the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes, followed by the cooked prawns (and salmon if you're going the whole hog).

5. Let this cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding your cream, usually I'd use Créme Fraîche but as we're giving the Carnation Cook with It a go I added this. 

6. Lastly, if you're adding spinach now's the time, give it a minute or so before draining your pasta and mixing it through. 

Voilá, you're done. 

And the verdict on the Carnation Cook with It? I couldn't tell the difference if I'm honest. As this can be kept in the cupboard and has a good shelf life I think it's something that would make it's way into our monthly shop. 

This months box came with two of these so I'm keen to try something new, Carnation have a few suggestions on their website but if any of you lovely lot have any suggestions do let me know.

14 October 2014

South Aftica Part 2: Madi A Thavha Mountain Lodge, Limpopo

Friday 12 September – Tuesday 16 September

We arrived in Johannesburg airport to meet Jamie's folks around 11am, whilst we were waiting I had my first Wimpy, remember we used to have those?! I was pretty delicious, although having table service at a fast food restaurant was odd. Yesterday had been the verdict of the Oscar Pistorius trial. Newspaper headlines 'Oscar May Walk', 'Could Oscar Walk?' Headlines we'd never get away with in the UK. 
 
From Johannesburg airport we drove 450km to Madi a Thavha, which is 5km out of Louis Trichardt. We arrived around 6pm, just as the sun was setting, it's pretty spectacular. 

Dinner was prepared at 7pm and it was delicious. Our starter was smoked chicken orange segments, although the orange was a little bitter, almost like a grapefruit but not quite. Our main was beef in a sauce (don't ask me what), roasted veg and potatoes individually roasted with cream and garlic. Pudding was baobab cheesecake, which I may have nicked the recipe too.
There was also rye bread, red wine, rosé wine and it was all amazing. 

Saturday 13 September
We went up for breakfast 8.30. 
Breakfast was 3 courses, yogurt, muesli and fruit followed by pancakes with creme cheese (not like ours) and cinnamon, rye bread & muffins, THEN eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and toast. Also tea, coffee and orange juice. Just unbelievable.  
Jamie's mum and I are going to a craft day out tomorrow so we had a look around the little shop. Madi a Thavha stocks items from local crafts-folk, everything is fair-trade with 100% going back to the people. Some lovely place mats etc but a bit wasted on us when we don't have a dining table yet.  

After breakfast we headed to Louis Trichardt to the local shops and picked up some wine, lunch and we managed to get some Fairview cranberry cheese. I am definitely going to look on line to see if there is anyway we can get it here.  

Jamie and I went for a walk around the reserve after lunch. We seen some turtles, frogs, a erupting spiders nest and Jamie almost stood on a Rock Python – not scary at all. There was lots of animal poo but sadly/thankfully not any animals. 



Afterwards we had some 'sundowners', sparkling rosé, olives and cranberry cheese, and we had a look at each others photos from earlier in the trip. Dinner was butternut squash soup, Thai chicken curry, and pear panna cotta. Again, it was superb. 



Sunday 14 September  
Today was our craft day out and we were taken to see 5 different people by our guide Musa.
We started in Louis Trechanrdt where he drove us around one of their typical town-ships. There were a real mix of 'rich' houses and what the refer to as 'Mandela Huts', what we would refer to as Social Housing. The difference being that people in the local community help build these huts for each other. People pay for their electricity, water and sewage only. The good thing about these is if the owner then gets a job or they earn more money, they can expand on their huts and make them bigger.  

There is still a lot to be done here but it's getting there. Jamie's folks have been going for 20 years so it must be interesting to see the changes. 

Next we went to one of the local markets, most people were selling fruit & veg. A bag of avocado would be about R20 – about £1.30, we pay that for two at home. I hope the profits go back to the seller but knowing large supermarkets probably not. We were taken to a small take-away which was selling cooked cows head (teeth and all) and a full chicken carcass. Thankfully (without offense) we weren't asked to try anything.  

Our first visit was to a chap called David who is a wood carver, all his work is traditional. Jamie's mum picked up some salad servers which were lovely (R90 each) but a lot of it, whilst nice, wasn't to my taste. His work looks great in the lodge where we were staying, and is Jamie's mum & dads house but ours just doesn't have the right look. 

Next we went to see an old lady named Hlamarisa. I'd say at a guess Hlamarisa is about 70 years old. She was born with what I think was a curved spin which over time has worsened. These days something like this would probably be treatable but that long ago there would have been no chance. She does traditional bead work, which was very detailed and very nice. However, personally I felt her family were just wheeling her out to make money. Her daughter-in-law came out with a suitcase filled with items to buy, we watched her do some bead work for about 5 minutes, were shown some pictures then it was awkward silence as they waited for us to buy something. 


Jamie's mum bought me this lovely wood & beaded basket which they asked R500 for, which works out about £30. In itself it isn't much but it would have been interesting to see prices on her items in the lodge. She did give me a little red beaded bracelet as a gift which was nice. After we stopped at a maize mill where woman meet to clean, grind and packet up their maize. All the ladies were working as a team to help each other out and that was lovely to see. We then stopped for our (HUGE) packed lunch at Musa's grandma's house.

After lunch we had three more stops, first was Mukondeni Pottery. This is a cooperative set up for women in the area which I believe was part funded by the Scottish Government (I will need to check my facts on that though). This was built to give the woman somewhere cool to work as working outside, temperatures can sometimes reach 40c+ in the Summer. We were given a pottery demonstration by the lady who happened to be there. It was a Sunday so many people were at Church. It was interesting to watch her make the pot, it probably took her less than 5 minutes, no turntable, just her hands and some pieces of plastic to smooth it down. 
We then went to see the second wood carver Thomas. His work is more abstract. He will look at a piece of wood and decide what it should be. He had some massive pieces carved from one piece of wood, just spectacular. This man has a very special mind. 

Lastly we went to see a lady who does embroidery and bead work. This was definitely 'saving the best till last'. Her work was superb. We met her daughter who was sticking and stitching the panels of material to make the main part of a cushion. Later her mother would add in contrast colour stitching, beads and embroidery to each panel. The colours were brilliant, so vibrant. Jamie's mum picked up a bright green cushion which she'll probably have framed. She bought Jamie and I a tapestry which we'll have framed for our new house and I bought us a cushion cover.
One of the cushion covers in the lodge shop



The work that goes into these, proper hand, hard work, I don't think I'll look at mass-produced things back home the same way again. (Not that I won't buy them but it will make me think)
Dinner tonight was feta, mushroom and leek tartlet, main was fish which a sauce, roast potatoes and spinach. It was a beautiful piece of fish. Pudding was chocolate mousse. Three course dinners and breakfasts, I'll be going home the size of a house. 
 
Monday 15 September
We're now officially a week through our holiday, scary how quickly it's going. Today is our last day in Madi a Thavah, tomorrow we drive to the Kruger for game viewing – exciting!!
We were going to go to a local game reserve today but the lady who runs the lodge explained that the place we were going to go to was very run down these days so she gave us directions to two other places.
The first was to a farm in run by a man named Otis, so we went to see him first and he was lovely. We even had to force him to take some rand for us to take a walk around his land. It was suppose to be R30 each, he said R60 in total, we settled on R25 each.
We took quite a bumpy walk around his grounds, the temperature was about 30c so very warm. Only when we got to the end of the walk did we see a sign warning us that leopard were roaming. Thankfully we didn't see any. Ooops. 
 
We sat with Otis for a while afterwards and he gave us some home-made lemonade, it was delicious. He told us about how he built his house himself, and a bit about his life. He was a fascinating man and genuinely a nice guy. 
 
We then drove and stopped for our packed lunch, again it was HUGE. Sandwiches, wraps, fruit, nuts, juice.We tried to find the second place our host had mentioned but without any luck. So we headed back to the lodge hoping for some red meat for dinner (it wasn't!). Tomorrow we head to the Kruger National Park. Odd to think that this time next week we'll be sitting in Jo'Burg airport waiting on a 10.5hr flight to London.