An almost endless summer

I’ll try to be brief but will warn you if you don’t like the family slide show after vacation, you may want to skip this post! Our summer was full of hot days with weekly swimming lessons, camping at the lake and playing at the beach. I love to travel but I will brag to anyone that my home region is one of the most beautiful places in the world… in the summer.

We started off the summer with E’s 9th birthday: it was a girls extravaganza with tie-dying, scavenger hunt and…IMG_2665 IMG_2673

a big screen movie – at home! IMG_2684

We love the beach and spent many lovely afternoons exploring tide pools and building sandcastles.IMG_2792 IMG_2798 IMG_2857

With Dad’s work keeping him busy this summer we explored our area more in one day vacations. This was a fun day spent going up Grouse Mountain in a large gondola

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and seeing the grizzlies!

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We also really enjoyed the lumberjack show which highlighted the skills and dangers in the job of felling trees. It was a lively program with lots of rivalry and humour. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend it!

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We went camping a couple of times this summer with family,

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and friends.

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We had the opportunity to attend a special event for our Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative party that was happening in our area. E and I spent a lot of time discussing the 3 main political parties and what they are known for. We also talked about left-wing versus right-wing politics and fiscal policy such as discussed in the Prime Minister’s speech to his party members

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It was a great learning experience and the kids were thrilled to shake his hand and meet such an important person to our country.

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Some of the things we did this summer were insider gigs. The salmon run has been good this year so many people have been taking to the rivers to fish. We asked Papa the resident fishing expert and boat owner in our family to take us fishing. When we got to the river it was so crowded with fishermen that we gave up and found a quiet-ish back channel to have a picnic. The local sights were bald eagles soaring over the river, hazy mountains in the distance, fish surfacing in the river and dirt bikes and atvs ripping around everywhere. It wasn’t quite my picture of an afternoon enjoying the great outdoors but the kids rather enjoyed the entertainment 🙂

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We extended our summer into September taking a week of family vacation to Vancouver Island. The weather was glorious, the island was peaceful and we spent some wonderful days with friends and family while also enjoying the natural beauty of the island. I haven’t uploaded the pics yet but will try to edit this and add them in soon.

Summer is my favourite time of year, but now that it is really and truly September this blog will be updated regularly again and life will take on some structure for the next 10 months. Ahhh… let the craziness begin!

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The Road Less Travelled

 

Hello World, in words of the Whos, “we are here, we are here, WE ARE HERE!” Back in Canada that is after an appallingly long blog absence!. I have a million excuses but rather than tire you with them let me tell you what we’ve been up to in the meantime!

 

We made our final tour of this country at the end of March with long drive through the Karoo Desert to Cape Town (CT). The iconic image of this drive is the many windmills one sees scattered through the dry scrub. IMG_0915IMG_3177We spent 5 days in CT we exploring the Cape of Good Hope, (the southern tip of Africa, next stop Antarctica ), Boulders Beach full of African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals at … the Scratch Patch at the Virginia & Alfred Waterfront and Kirstenbosch Gardens.IMG_3306IMG_1199IMG_1106

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From CT we drove through the beautiful Stellenbosch wine farm region and stunning mountain passes toOuntshoorn. Ountshoorn is famous for two things: Ostrich Farms and the Cango Caves. Our primary purpose in stopping here was the latter and so we put on geology hats and explored these extraordinary caves. E’s first comment was “I can totally imagine the Hidden Cave now” (reference to the Jonathan Park audiobooks). We had the most wonderful hands-on science lesson as we observed century old stalagmites, and stalatites. We discussed geological time scale and earth science chemistry of solvents. E and D learned how water flows over the rock/solute picking up/ dissolving calcium. This calcium-rich water/solvent passes through the rock layers into a cave. As the water drips from the ceiling of the cave the H2O evaporates dropping some calcium to the floor while the remaining calcium is left behind in the water drop shape eventually forming the stalagmites and stalatites.. They learned the words, dissolve, solvent, solute and how ratios apply to the process of crystallization.IMG_1610

Next stop on our adventure was a night in a tree-house! This wasn’t any ordinary treehouse though. We had two bedrooms with real beds, a full kitchen and bathroom, dining area and even a braai all up in the soaring branches of Teniqua Treetops. It was a very novel experience and although I personally do prefer luxury hotels, 😉 this was a lot of fun!IMG_1634

From the treehouse we headed down to the Indian Ocean for a two days of beach combing at Knysna. We were in a beautiful guesthouse with our own apartment on the edge of the water. Knysna is a beautiful bay which is guarded from the open sea by a narrow entrance called the Heads. At low tide almost the entire bay is emptied and you can wander for ages looking at anemones, hermit crabs and snails.

After a lovely stay in Knysna we headed north to Kenton-On-Sea. We chose to say in Kenton-On-Sea for two reasons, this picture:(Shelley’s Baii) IMG_3152and the Sibuya Game Reserve. We opted to visit this game reserve because we were able to book a private, guided game drive to see the animals with ALL the kids. In our various game reserve experiences to date, small children are not generally permitted in open vehicle game drives for safety reasons. It began with an 8km boat ride upriver ending up at the main lodge in time for lunch. Following our delicious lunch we got in the landcruiser and went to visit the elephants, lions, buffalo, and various other fabulous animals! It was great letting the kids see the animals up close while still being in the wild! We had a very knowledgeable ranger who stopped to show us everything we could possibly want to look at as well as a fascinating lecture on the different digestive systems of herbivores or ruminants.IMG_7084

After consulting many friends we decided to drive through the politically charged area known as the Transkei. This is an interesting area both geographically and historically. It is hilly, lush countryside winding through rural villages and two larger towns. Politically this area was known as a bantustand or homeland to the Xhosa people. As such it was set aside by the Apartheid government for Xhosa inhabitants only and there was no outside development of infrastructure during that era. Since the end of Apartheid in 1994 the government has been working to rectify the situation bring the basic necessities to the area such as municipally regulated electricity and running water. It is a credit to Nelson Mandela and the new national government that this kind of technology and governance is now available throughout South Africa.IMG_1970

The end of the Transkei brought us to the South Coast of Durban. We spent a lovely day at the beach in Southbroom then we headed into Durban/ Umhlanga for another trip to the fabulous Ushaka Marine World.IMG_3475IMG_3189

One of the big events of the last couple months include a certain little boy turning 6 years old! We were very priveleged to be able to celebrate with D’s best friend J in Ballito and a few new toothy friends at the Crocodile Farm! IMG_2022 IMG_2080 IMG_2172We spent our final week in Ballito with our friends swimming, beaching and generally enjoying life together.

IMG_2195One of the cool things we go to see on this trip was a rugby match where a team with mostly Zulu players entered the playing field singing and dancing in traditional warrior manner. It was amazing to see the translation of traditional war intimidation to the modern arena of rugby!IMG_2202We arrived back in Joburg on April 19th leaving us just 10 days until our flight to Canada on April 29th! We were able to keep up some work on our core subjects with time on Math and English each morning. However, the rounds of goodbyes and packing were overwhelming as we had to face the final days of our adventures in Africa.

We spent a day in Pretoria with good friends and visited the Voortrekkers Monument.IMG_2343 This is an amazing tribute to the history of SA’s Afrikaans pioneers. A marble bas-relief tells of the major events of the great trek from the Eastern Cape to the interior of the country.

IMG_2261We were blessed by the opportunity to gift our extra belongings to an orphanage in Pretoria before we left. I will write more about that in my next post. Our amazing knitting Oma had sent 20 warm hats with us to Africa to give away and we were so thrilled to hand them out personally to the children. IMG_2382 IMG_2394

We went to one last picnic at the botanical gardens, hosted a braai for our close friends and attended a baby dedication tea and an Easter braai complete with Easter egg hunt!.  IMG_3722 We finally redeemed an invitation to a boat cruise on Hartebeestport Dam.IMG_3759 We even squeezed in a combined family science lesson on structures!IMG_0329 IMG_0330 It has been an amazing journey and although we are caught in the pangs of goodbyes and yearnings for “home”. We’ve been asked many times if we’ll be back and the answer is emphatically YES, we just don’t know when yet. What we do know is that adventure and freedom are always calling and we will follow God’s plan for our lives and this less travelled road wherever it may lead us.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 

Metamorphosis

How do you respond to changing seasons? We are experiencing change in many seasons right now; the weather in SA  is shifting from summer to autumn, our family is preparing to return to life in Canada and our children are changing and growing in so many ways. I have to admit, I’m not always good at change. I love going new places, meeting new people and having new experiences… within a controlled, predictable and generally reliable context. For example going on a holiday to the beach, staying in a nice hotel and eating great food is always a fun change. However, I know I will come back to my known life at the end of the holiday. As we begin our transition out of SA back to CA, I am faced with the great  unknown again. I have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends we’ve made, the beautiful country and the warm sunny climate. I am excited to return to family and friends but also nervous about re-entry into our life there. The kid’s friends will have new social dynamics, my friends will have their own routines and we will be coming back to rainy days and a big house to clean. First world problems entirely, but this blog is where I share our joys and struggles and we are at a bittersweet time right now caught between changing worlds.

We are always ready to go out and enjoy the local fauna and flora. This is a local Cheetah breeding project. We went on a tour of the Cheetah enclosures and listened to the tour guide tell us about Cheetah breeding habits and what factors most seem to determine their survival and ability to thrive in the wild.IMG_0300 The beautiful King Cheetah is a  rare recessive genetic colour pattern. We found out that the reason they are so rare is twofold; first of all they only occur when a mating pair each carry the recessive gene, and secondly this pattern does not actually camouflage as well with the landscape so consequently they are usually unable to hunt as well or are more easily spotted by other predators such as hyaenas.IMG_0292To compare the two here is a typical cheetah colour pattern.IMG_0305D has been taking tennis lessons much to his delight.IMG_0278He loves the activity and even more, loves his friends K and C who are in the same class.IMG_0282 We made our monthly rounds of the zoo for E’s honey badgers program. It was a cold rainy day this week so we spent a bit of time hiding under the umbrellas at the cafe…IMG_0359 …with hot chocolate of course!IMG_0332Despite the rain the animals were out and about and we had some great viewing of animals we don’t always see on sunny days.IMG_0382E’s s group stayed mostly indoors learning about bats and doing more paper-based tasks.IMG_0391E practised her reading aloud with some story time for the younger kids.IMG_0412Our beautiful sweet potato vine is finally living outdoors in a pot.IMG_0442This is the jungle gym  at our house and in all this rain we have to get out and play whenever the sun comes out for a few minutes.IMG_0452

We have been so blessed in our time here in SA. We’ve connected with a vibrant and diverse homeschooling community with many social learning opportunities as well as just making great friends. We did an art co-op with another family this week.IMG_0518 Who doesn’t love to play with finger paint??IMG_0525 IMG_0529 Tying into our pioneer/voortrekker theme we have been working on an multidicipinary project; a paper quilt using symmetry, geometry colour, pattern and line. I explained to the children that pioneers were very frugal and because they couldn’t always buy new things they learned to make most items for themselves. They used small scraps of fabric to make quilts out of whatever they had. The use of pattern was a way to beautify their simple, rustic homes and express their own creativity. It also gave them an activity to fill their time during long evenings or days indoors during winter. IMG_0533 We went to our last homeschool skating time 😦 IMG_0543 One of the highlights at skating is hot chips with lots of tomato sauce or as we would say in Canada; fries smothered in ketchup!IMG_0547 Ending our week we had a joint dinner with two families who have been dear friends to us here. Between our families we represent, British SA, Afrikaans SA, Italy, England and of course Canada.IMG_0557 The 3 musketeers!IMG_0578 And what dinner party would be complete without Kareoke? C rocked out the Afrikaans alt/country beat!IMG_0592 Sweet A singing a beautiful rendition of Norah JonesIMG_0614 Me pretending to a be an 80s rock star with Summer of 69, LOL!IMG_0615A mother-daughter moment with Abba!IMG_0621 These times together have been rich. full of laughter, heart sharing, growing and simply sharing our lives together. This morning we slept in after the late night last night and I watched E and her dad cuddle at the breakfast table  with a full heart. This life I have is so good! How can I measure the value of these days? The answer is that I simply can’t, these moments are priceless. Today is Sunday and I am counting the 1000+ gifts in my life and feeling profoundly grateful. IMG_0639Change will happen and we will adjust and choose gratitude wherever we find ourselves.

South African Favourites:

I realized I hadn’t updated this section of the blog in awhile and sticking to our international theme and time in SA, I thought I’d add some our favourite recipes from this part of the world.

Milk Tart (serves 8)

This was our first introduction into South African dessert and it is such a nice end to any meal in any weather.

Ingredients(8-10)

  • 1 packet  tennis biscuits or  graham crackers
  • 1 litre full-cream milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250 ml  white sugar
  • 50 ml corn flour
  • 25 ml  cake flour
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling over

Method:

1. Microwave the milk and vanilla seeds together in a large heat-proof bowl for 3-4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, crumble the biscuits into thumb-nail size pieces and use to generously cover the base and sides of a 23cm diameter shallow tart plate.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar thoroughly together. Add both flours. Add this mixture into the hot milk, return it to the microwave and cook for 10 minutes, whisking regularly to ensure a smooth thick sauce.

4. Pour the sauce gently and evenly over the biscuits to fill the tart plate.

5. Set aside to cool down to room temperature, sprinkle generously with ground cinnamon and refrigerate until firm enough to slice into wedges.

Hints and Tips

  • Slit the vanilla pod down its length, and with the knife tip, scrape out the seeds which resemble gritty black paste. Store the empty pod with your sugar to impart a vanilla flavour.
  • This tart keeps well covered in the fridge for up to 5 days

 Malva Pudding

Ingredients:

30ml (2T) Butter/Marg
125ml (1/2 C) White Sugar
1 Extra Large Egg
15ml (1T) Apricot Jam
5 ml (1t) baking soda
125ml (½C) Milk
250ml (1C) Cake Flour
Pinch of Salt
15ml (1T) Vinegar
Sauce 
125g Butter/Marg
185 ml (¾C) White Sugar
65ml (¼C) Water
185 ml (¾C) Cream
5ml (1t) Vanilla

Method:

Pudding

  1. Cream butter and sugar together, beat in the egg until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the apricot jam.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk.
  4. Sift the flour and salt together and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
  5. Lastly stir in the vinegar.
  6. Pour into a deep round dish about 19cm diameter. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and then bake for 1 hour at 180°C.

Sauce

  1. Bring the butter, sugar and water to the boil and simmer, stirring all the time for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from the stove and then add the cream and the vanilla. Pour over the hot baked pudding.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Another post after weeks of absence and time to regroup! We have been touring this beautiful country again this time with some intrepid grand-parents from Canada. IMG_9520We went to visit the Rhino and Lion Park again: a hungry lion/ ngonyama approaching his dinner.IMG_9220 we so enjoy these incredible views of some of the harder animals to see in the open veld/bush. Cheetahs are such graceful animals and I think they might be my favourite 🙂IMG_9248We found this baby leopard tortoise/ mfutsu crossing the road. We gently helped it safely clear the road and held it for a few minutes.IMG_9363Elands are the larges antelope in SA and are called impofu – the humble one.IMG_9289

Although in captivity, these rare white lions are protected and breeding well in this park. It is with mixed feelings that we participated in the “pet the cubs” creche. The cubs are being hand reared and are regularly exposed to human contact. They are not likely to be released into the wild so the impact of this contact is probably negligible. The wild territories these animals once enjoyed are restricted now to game parks with limited capacities.

I enjoy zoos and aquariums so that my children can experience animals they might never otherwise see so closely. In the wake of recent media attention and the documentary Blackfish,  I have become more concerned about the prioritization of feeding the public appetite for such things over the well-being and general health of the animals. This is my current dilemma as we try to teach our children about God’s beautiful creation and how to be good stewards in caring for our environment and the many creatures within. How do you respond to the questions of viewing/ supporting facilities that keep animals in captivity?IMG_9393From the Rhino and Lion Park we picked up Daddy and drove up, up, up, into the mountains. To show our BC family that Africa too has some respectable mountains of it’s own! We drove through rain and fog beside frightfully unknown drop-offs following the taillights of a taxi ahead that seemed to know the way. We arrived in the dark and woke up to a blanket of clouds so instead of our planned hike to a scenic lookout, the kids went horseback riding instead!USER0938IMG_9487 Later the clouds cleared a little and we went for a short hike to the waterfall pools. We got to see this troop of wild baboons/ imfene(s) along the way, (from a safe distance of course 🙂IMG_9538 Sunrise the next morning was a riot of colour and beauty!IMG_9546 The Drakensberg mountains are stunning in their full glory and we soaked in the serenity and majesty of the landscape!IMG_9552IMG_9553IMG_9566One of the great things about touring SA by car is the opportunity to see these traditional Zulu villages scattered over the hillsides.USER1051Cars also provide some important family memories as we let the kids take turns on various laps while on game drives. (*** We only allow this on game drives as we are inside a park with speed limits of 20km per hour or less and little to no opposing traffic).IMG_0205The reality of another road trip and visiting with special people was that a little less bookwork got done. However, life is a learning journey and as the kids grab onto their field experience with both hands we are seeing them really develop a strong knowledge of South African flora and fauna! We are continuing our quest to learn the Zulu names for every animal we see and try to use only Zulu names when spotting game in the bush. If you would like to learn more about the interesting cultural perceptions of different animals and associated idioms go to this page: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-2-1-animals-name-18978.html (if that link doesn’t work then google Zulu names for animals). D is especially quick to remember the names and seems to have an aptitude for language. E remembers more complex info about the individual creatures such as their proper classification and habitat details. She can tell you how many muscles and elephant has in its trunk, (40,000), why it has such wrinkled skin (helps trap water and make it evaporate slowly thereby cooling the elephant off) and how elephants / indlovus communicate.

A very full croc/ ngwenya relaxing on the shore. I love the zulu name for Croc since my sister is named Gwen and after reading the zulu idioms about crocs I am choosing this one for her: “kuva ngwenya emtini” -to be a champion fighter 🙂IMG_0191Southern Yellow HornbillsIMG_0208FrancolinIMG_0217European Bee-EatersIMG_0220  Herd of Indlovus at sunsetIMG_9717 African fish eagleIMG_9813 Snorkeling with Papa in the Indian Ocean.IMG_9884 We don’t know if this is an albino or natural colour variation of a rare Samango monkey. IMG_9924 Normally they look more like this:IMG_9913Rare Canadian monkeys at the seaside in Febrary 🙂IMG_9937 Baby vervet monkeyIMG_9963 Mother and baby, in any species this is always beautiful!IMG_9991

Science experiments in the garden are always a favourite! We learned about fat solubility and tested out a variety of liquids the kids suggested to determine what would happen with different ingredients. Milk produced the most satisfying result!IMG_0222IMG_0224IMG_0229as we prepared to say goodbye to Nana and Papa, we went out to an African themed restaurant with face painting and live music.IMG_0263IMG_0267IMG_0272We all enjoyed the exotic meals of roasted Springbok Shank, Oxtail Stew and Ostrich steak and the kids were pretty willing to be adventurous too. E had a few qualms about eating the national animal, (Springbok), IMG_9298but D decided that it tasted pretty good!

Parenting is not for cowards!

As usual we are up to our normal antics of finding exotic animals to play with. We went to a monkey and bushbaby sanctuary. It was a lovely facility with a natural forest crisscrossed by wooden walkways and bridges to minimalize impact on the environment and to allow the monkeys a natural habitat.IMG_9198 Technically this is a non-interactive facility, however, the guides do not prevent the monkeys from climbing onto you if they want to. It turned out these were very friendly monkeys who are ingenious at opening zippers and sealed packets. They really like phones and snacks so best leave your bags and empty your pockets into a locker before you go on this tour. IMG_9186These rope bridges are fun for humans and monkeys!IMG_9163The mountains in this area are rich in natural metals, especially platinum. It was really neat to see chunks of metal sticking out of the rocks!

IMG_9154The sanctuary really embraces the concept of environment conservation and so has recycled bits of the old mining machinery into the new features on the property.IMG_9150We have been working on a plant unit and D has been learning about roots, stems and leaves. These fig roots reaching down the cliff into the gully as they search for water were a lovely example.IMG_9176‘in the midst of all these  fun experiences we have been doing lots of school with math and our spelling every morning and D is really tucking in to our new routine! (most of the time 🙂 E is delving into a ready-made unit on Nelson Mandela from the What in the World links as well as research on the Voortrekkers (South African pioneers) and reviewing Zulu names of African animals. D is proving to be especially proficient at Zulu and loves using those names for the animals over English.

E’s card for a dear family friend:IMG_9016  She looked in her bible and chose a verse that she thought would be encouraging to him.IMG_9018  We have been looking at plant growth cycles and parts of plants over the past 2 terms and we finally have a measurable experiment to share!IMG_9008  D really enjoys pattern blocks, magnetic letters, peg boards and all other forms of kinaesthetic learning!IMG_8994 And finally a craft kit revived at Christmas allowed for some art time and fine motor skills.Photo on 2014-01-08 at 3.55 PM #2

We have been up to a few other outings as well with  a trip to the zoo homeschool program, ice-skating and  a lovely picnic at the Botanical Gardens with our homeschool group.IMG_5937 IMG_6024IMG_6033 IMG_6035

Today we took a trip to a local farm complete with pony rides and bouncy castle. E met a new friend and D happily chummed around with different buddies and even his sister. The excitement of the day though was when the worker brought out the tractor and a train of little wagons to take the kids for a ride. He brought it up then went to collect money from everyone while the kids started climbing on. Mistake #1) He left  mistake #2) it was running, mistake #3) he parked facing the tractor slightly downhill mistake #4) He either didn’t put the brake on or the brake failed. RESULT: the tractor, pulling all the wagons full of children began to head down the hill with no driver in sight. A couple of parents closest to the wagons started pulling kids off but as it picked up speed it became impossible and so I did what any crazy momma would do, I sprinted for the tractor to try and jump on and put on the brakes. I tripped and fell and was actually run over by the rear tire of the tractor then it hit a fence post and caught so that I managed to jump up and pull the keys and the choke to turn it off! It was a bit harrowing and I can only thank God that no one, including myself, was seriously hurt in the incident.

Life is all about these moments where you find out what you’re made of. Today it was 1 part courage and 5 parts crazy gut instinct to save my kids. Love those babies!

Holidays, Holy Days and Resolutions

Happy New Year! What brave new worlds lie ahead for you in 2014?IMG_8206

We have just come back from a fabulous holiday around the central and east part of SA. December was a whirlwind of activities and explorations. We enjoyed a mini-week at a reserve called the Pilanesberg where game sightings were abundant and our family was able to spend some quality time together. IMG_7692 IMG_7762 IMG_7770 IMG_7772 IMG_7805 IMG_7832Then Christmas was spent braaiing (outdoor BBQ meals), playing in pools and visiting with friends. It was a blur as we returned from the Pilanesberg on the 22 and then had to finish getting ready for Christmas. We began a new tradition this year with the children making their gifts for each other. E found and printed  pictures of characters from a game D likes on the internet. She then painstakingly glued them to cardboard, cut them out and decoupaged them into action figures D could play with. D browsed the internet with me and selected the idea of creating a Horse sock puppet for E. He helped sew buttons on for the eyes and yarn for the hair. It was great practise for his fine motor skills and creativity!IMG_8992 On Christmas Eve the children all acted out the Christmas Story for the adults. They did a very good job with E and her friend C actually creating a script from their bibles that included a portion of the magnificat. E was the angel Gabriel and took her role very seriously. IMG_8109 IMG_8106The boys were sheep and shepherds and although a bit silly they managed to do their part. Boxing day we packed our car and after a delay waiting for AAA to come and give us a boost, we were off to explore the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. IMG_8214We enjoyed some lovely hiking, gourmet meals, swimming in the Cascades which is a series of natural pools and low waterfalls and capping it off with a night at an historic site from the Anglo-Boer War called Spionkop. This battle is of particular interest as it was a phenomenal failure of the British and a false victory for the Boers. There were also several prominent historical figures present such as; Winston Churchill who was there as a courier and war correspondent, Robert Baden-Powell, a commander, and Mahandas Ghandi who was a stretcher-bearer! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Spionkop)IMG_8307IMG_8342

We spent our last morning in the mountains at the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project on the Nambiti Private Game Reserve.(http://www.cheetahinteraction.com) The program director explained that Cheetahs are actually more endangered than rhinos. Sadly they are killed for their beautiful fur and are suffering from encroachment on their natural habitats.IMG_8422

There was also a tame meerkat on the property that named Zulu. She was very friendly (especially to girls) and spent quite a bit of time cuddled up with E and I.IMG_8471

The really funny thing about Zulu though, is that she helped foster a wounded cub in the breeding program. The cub, named Yakira, had been stepped on by her mother when she was 4 days old which broke her shoulder. As Cheetahs rely on their speed and agility to hunt, she could never survive in the wild so the program hand-raised her and she is now their tame mascot. I don’t know if there has or ever will be again a cheetah that behaves like a meerkat but this was definitely a sight to behold! 🙂IMG_8477

She was a very calm animal and although we didn’t let little S wander about on his own, she was purring and enjoyed being petted by the visitors. IMG_8480

From the rainy, cool mountain heights in the “Berg”as it is affectionately called, we drove around the edge of Lesotho and descended 1600m to the Indian Ocean. IMG_8519We spent 4 wonderful days with dear friends in Ballito playing at the beach, trying local cuisine and most importantly reconnecting with these special people. We celebrated the New Year with them, eating, laughing, swimming and dancing the night and the old year away. IMG_8546It was a poignant moment at midnight to be with these treasured friends from our past singing Auld Lang Syne together and welcoming the promise of a new year.IMG_8545We reluctantly repacked our car to head out on the final leg of our journey. Our destination was Hluehluwe/ St. Lucia, the oldest game reserve in SA, located in the northern Natal, also called Zululand. Unfortunately, Hluehluwe was a bit of a bust with mediocre accommodation, expensive park fees, and difficult terrain for game spotting. Our final day at St. Lucia, however, was incredible. We signed up for an all- day safari that included game drive through the wetlands, snorkelling at Cape Vidal and finished with a Hippo and Croc boat cruise in the estuary. It was a truly epic day and redeemed our frustrating time at Hluehluwe. St. Lucia is a laid back holiday village filled with B&Bs, self-catering cottages/ apartments and restaurants. It is also a world heritage site with an estuary and inland lake that stretches for 350km and is home to literally thousands of Nile Crocodiles and Hippos. (http://www.isimangaliso.com/index.php) The governments of  SA, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe(?) have agreed to create a new protected corridor by 2020 extending from ISimangaliso Park north to Mozambique and Zimbabwe which will allow indigenous animals to migrate from the dry savannah to the coastal regions and back again. It’s inspiring to hear the pride in the rangers voices as they talk about this ambitious project and I can’t help but be proud of the African people for showing this commitment to protecting their beautiful land and animals!

Painted Reed Frogs:IMG_8614 Giant KingfisherIMG_8685  SnorkelingIMG_8646 IMG_8672 Can you spot the crocs?IMG_8987IMG_8828These are hippo teeth!IMG_8824A gorgeous tropical sunset.IMG_8906My final day in St. Lucia started with a walking bird safari at the crack of dawn. We have all developed an interest in birding since being here and are amazed at the diversity and beauty of the birds we have seen. This is a Southern Red Bishop Weaver:IMG_8239Blue-Cheeked Bee-EaterIMG_8978Brimstone CanaryIMG_8990We are now settling back into our house and routine and are moving boldly forward into whatever the new year brings. We have resolved as a family to keeping better track of our working time and to be more mindful of the way we speak to each other. We also intend to be more disciplined in our health routines and achieve a better lifestyle in the coming year.

Do you make resolutions? What is your greatest success story?