Mont-Marie Restaurant

Another wonderful child-friendly spot in Stellenbosch to add to our world-class repertoire. 

Mont-Marie is situated on the Blaauwklippen Road off the R44. A wooden deck overlooks the farm dam and a fenced-in lawn sports three jungle gyms. My daughter could ride her little scooter around the level playing area, and is a separate bicycle track can host older children. There is no sandpit and no trampoline.

The lunch menu includes light meals priced for “locals” and has a kiddie section. Dinners are more fancy and reflect the chef, Pieter Vlok’s, previous experience at Overture and Rust and Vrede. The wine is deliciously light and the mountain-views are spectacular. 

A perfect spot for breakfast with the kids, lunch with the family, wowing foreign visitors, or a romantic sundowner.



Visit the country more often

Note to self:

Visit the country more often.

Get in the car.

And go.


Saturday morning and we spontaneously throw a few bits and bobs in the boot, buckle in all the children and hit the road.

To the north lie snow-covered mountains. East, the worlds longest wine route and South, the beach. We’re still undecided.

We stumble upon an open-air ‘living’ museum, which proves to be a big hit. All we need for a perfect morning is a big blue tractor, a couple of ducklings, and the shade of a lovely big karee tree. 

We can’t resist pulling over to click the Nikon a few times along the Route 62, before we meander into an art deco style country hotel.  The country air smells sweet. The deserted streets are safe for toddlers to run amuck, and the locals have smiles on their faces. Ah, The Serenity… except for the over-excited city kids vocally indulging in their new found freedom.

Sipping wine under a starry sky was a moment I sucked in deeply and now still recall fondly. And waking to birdsong was glorious. 

The monotony of the home routine had been broken. The coziness was comforting.  And so, I am reminded that less is more. Hit the road and be spontaneous. Leave all the paraphernalia. Just be together, laugh and breathe in the sweet air.

All the planning, packing, and preconceived expectations are for the birds!

Happy road-tripping.


Finding the ‘new normal’ with an infant


Finding the ‘new normal’ with an infant 

Until the moment the baby arrives everything is completely normal.

You know your life is about to change dramatically, but it doesn’t change until the actual moment of the birth. You can hardly prepare and you can barely picture it. There is no easing into it slowly…

The arrival is inevitably accompanied by discomfort, be it the sunroof variety or the more natural kind. Neither comes without a certain amount of pain. But the pain does not end there.

It is followed by the feeding. Almost immediately. Your body takes one battering and exchanges it for another. And it’s on going. Every three hours. Tick tock. Tick tock. Every day. Every night.

Revered silence breaks into insatiable screaming, calling for immediate attention at any time. During the day or night, during a meal or a nap. There. Is. No. break.

The good news is that it is temporary. The shared moments of wakefulness become more interactive. The feeds become more conveniently spaced and the miracle of life is overwhelming.

Holding someone so small, so warm and so vulnerable is beyond description. That someone so perfect can develop from a mere seed is beyond comprehension.

SO bring it on. Infant bootcamp 101 is a small price to pay for a make-or-break-experience. It’s the end of life as you know it. You better strap on your in-the-mood-for-something-new attitude. Go with the flow, cancel all plans and delete all expectations.

And you will fly into the ‘new normal’.

Meandering through the Karoo

3. De Rust

With the holiday season looming, i thought i’d share this gem for those planning a road-trip through the Karoo, or for those who find themselves trapped somewhere along the coast between Mosselbay and Knysna in rainy weather.

After three days of solid rain, we packed the kids in the car and hit the road. The plan was to keep going until we found the sun. What we found enroute was a colonial-revamped cafe in the Queen’s Hotel, Oudtshoorn, called Cafe Brule. The Queen’s Hotel is the third oldest in South Africa and was built in 1880. Cafe Brule, with its checkered floor, serves freshly baked bread and a healthy buffet lunch, and possibly the best coffee in town (lets call it ‘good’ as opposed to ‘great’). But this is not what i’m writing about today. Lets continue.

From here, we followed the road to De Rust, a village of art and old-style quirk. And the sun was shining! De Rust is along the R29 from Oudtshoorn, or the N12 from Beaufort West and a slight detour from Route 62. You can park the car anywhere and pop your head into any one of many little eclectic shops or cafes, since there are only about 6 streets, you wont have far to walk.

We chose the Village Trading Post, admired the collectables on the walls, the art shop in the back and the child-friendly service. A safe place to tick the off-the-beaten-track box and inhale some fresh Karoo air.

If you’re still feeling perky, head for the scenic Meiringspoort as it cuts its way through the Swartberg along the path of the Groot Rivier and crosses over twelve streams (or drifts). Find a secret picnic spot and soak up the serenity.

Happy holidays.

My top 5 joys of Hypnobirthing

I know i’m killing this topic, but with baby due in two weeks, i’m kind of consumed with it at the moment – if i could get-a-life and go for a run, i would! But instead i’m enormous and on a self-imposed bed-rest.

Zen cartoon

I’m reading my Hypnobirthing book by Marie Mongan, as i do before every birth, and this is my third. It gives me the same inspiration every time. No mother-to-be should skip this book, even if the whole hypno thing isn’t your scene, it just gives a fascinating history of birthing and a great sense of calmness about birth that is otherwise so rare in regular conversations!

“Childbirth is not only a physical achievement, but also a spiritual one.”  This is fundamental to the whole miraculous episode, and ties in with the ancient philosophy that birth is a celebration of life!

1. Intimacy:

To me, birthing is as intimate as the act of getting the baby there in the first place. No spectators, no bright lights, and no urgency.

With only my beloved at my side we share in this rare miracle together. His job is to remind me to relax, make me laugh and share his coffee with me!

A caregiver is on stand-by to assist in receiving our baby, she is vital to our peace-of-mind, and shares our trust in the natural process. A room full of positive, joyous excitement.

2. A shorter birth:

Birth moves faster when mama is allowed to relax and focus on good ol’ breathing. It is further shortened with fewer people around, every extra stranger is said to add an extra hour to the labour.

Have you ever seen an animal mother in labour? She seeks out a quiet spot to peacefully meet her young. Often, inconveniently for you, a shoe-cupboard!

The atmosphere is filled with calm anticipation and marvel at nature’s wonder, which is allowed to unfold at its own peaceful pace.

3. No drama:

At the first signs of labour, I simply do ….  nothing & go nowhere. There is no drama, no grab bag, and no hospital admission forms.

There are no rules, I can play music, light candles, go for a moonwalk in the knick. I can involve siblings and drink coffee. Afterwards I soak up the euphoria in my own shower and cuddle back into my own bed.

My husband and other children all share in the treasured moments equally.  We all get to know and love our new little baba together. The result is a truly rewarding birth experience for the entire family.

4. Happy mama = hands-off:

Both Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about birth that “nature is the best physician” and it should be allowed to function without “meddlesome interference”. Birth was looked on as a beautifully orchestrated natural function. (In the absence of fear, the body naturally produces endorphines that are 200 times stronger than morphine!)

In hypnobirthing the mother’s body is respected equally as it would be during any other time… when a doctor says “you’re 5cm dilated” it means somebody has performed an ‘internal examination’. Physically. You-know-where. Now that is not my cuppa tea!

5. Happy baba = warm welcome:

The baby simply moves from a little home in the womb into s new home in loving arms. A comforting welcome by familiar voices.

Not only nutrients pass through the placenta to the baby,  but also emotions. Therefore greater feelings of enjoyment, love and respect affect the baby directly, leading to a serene arrival. Our baba nr1 arrived with a sneeze, and baba nr2 with a smile!

My wish is for every healthy mother to experience this joy designed especially for us!

RIP: Checklists for your off-spring’s guardians

As i enter the final few days of expecting baby number three, my life is filled with checklists. What to buy, what to pack, what to stock up on, what to do before taking a few weeks off. So this list is just another one of those, but one i found wasn’t frequently mentioned in the baby publications i’ve been delving through.

RIP pic

I was recently on a trip with my girl friends and, although, nobody likes talking about it, we decided that it is a good idea to have all our family documents up to date and in an easy-to-access-folder should anything happen to us. A kind of manifesto.

This kind of ‘admin’ resonates with us more when we become parents, and our once fancy-free days are over. Instinctively one of our main concerns becomes our off-spring and their interests. Luckily we inherently become more cautious and risk-averse as we enter the realm of parenthood.

Either way, its a good idea to update all these documents once in a while and there is no time like now.

So, where to start.

Obviously the first thing is to decide who the guardians would be (and let them know).

Next, get the folder out and make sections for all material assets and liabilities with contact details for relevant people as well as account numbers and pass codes. Examples include primary home, secondary home, insurance, medical aid, bank accounts, investments, policies, savings accounts and loans.

The idea is not to have all your bank statements etc on this folder, simply details of the accounts, contact people and a reference to another file containing all the statements. This is just a thin reference file to guide somebody trying to make sense of your affairs.

Make a section for certified documents. All identity documents, passports, birth certificates, and marriage certificates. Children’s vaccination documents (as well as pet vaccinations).

Vehicle registration documents may be useful too.

A list of monthly expenses and term fees for the children is useful, so payments can either be continued or stopped, which ever is appropriate.

Update your will. Most important here is to ensure the assets follow the children to guardians in order to pay for their future expenses.

Finally, should you have a contract with your domestic help, add this contract and all UIF details as well as certified ID’s etc too.

One last useful item could be to identify where all spare keys are kept. Or anything else that you may consider useful.

I have written 6-monthly dairies for my children to keep them up to date on what they’ve been like, their progress and their awesomeness. These will also be included in my folder.

Once this is all in place, you may find some peace and the whole idea might no longer be so daunting.

Do it.

Book reviews – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

This book was a life-changer for me.

A new earth pic

It takes a short time to read, but  a long time to master.

It’ll mill around in your mind, and that is oh-so-satisfying!

Basically it gently guides us to realise who we really are and not who we think we are. It  shows up the ego by making us aware of it. And frees us.

It says we cannot become good by trying to be good, you have to find goodness that is already within us. Do this by becoming conscious of it. Awareness is the greatest agent for change.

To be free of ego we simply need to be aware of it. Awareness and ego are incompatible.

Top 5 quotes from the book:

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”

“Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”



At the beach

A week in Umngazi

I’m a firm believer in the saying “there is a time for everything”.

There is a time to go off-road. There is a time to go by plane. There is a time to embrace luxury. But with two toddlers in tow and another one baking at 34 weeks, none of the above are a serious options.

Today is the time for having meals taken care of, children entertained and putting feet UP.

Enter Umngazi 2013.

In the heart of the wild coast, this magical spot is 90kms from Umtata, where the Mgazi river and the Atlantic Ocean converge. The weather is mild and the water is warm enough for a dip (clothing optional). Except for cows, a deserted sandy beach makes for the perfect daily walk (or jog, if you’re not sporting an enormous baby bump).

Meals include hearty helpings of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea & dinner. The buffet has fresh vegetables & salad (right down to healthy sprouts, olives, avos and home-made dressings, yum!). So eventhough you’re probably over indulging on the delicious desserts, you have the opportunity to off-set the nasties with some goodies. The kids have their own dining room and are very comfortable with their own mini-tables and chairs.

Your only worry is to emerge from your afternoon nap  int time to make to to the tea-time table!

Nannies and endless entertainment complete Paradise-for-mom. There is so much to do that my four-year old fell asleep in the sitting position during lunch! Between arts & crafts, jungle gym, swimming, crab races by torch-light, and bonfires on the beach there is little time to miss mom.

The wine list is fab – all our favourite Stellenbosch labels found their way to the Transkei – but the coffee isn’t exactly Legado quality. Eventhough we are big coffee lovers, we decided its a small compromise and would probably pack our Nespresso machine next time.

Soooo, if you’re entertaining young troops all day and find yourself in need of a rest, be sure to sign up, but do so well in advance, since Unmgazi runs at 95% occupancy and most people renew their bookings annually a year in advance!