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Monday, 8 July 2013

Cheeky

Meet Mr and Mrs Cheeky ....



These two are getting cheekier and cheekier by the day.

Miss J is that one year old cheeky. You know the type - look at me I'm so cute, look at me, how clever am I, look at me, I can stand up in my high chair or the pram or on the chair or anything I shouldn't even try standing up on!! That type of cheeky.

LL, well he's just plain and simple three year old cheeky - answering back, you say do that but I'll do this, I don't want to go to bed, I don't want to eat this food, I don't want to brush my teeth, I don't want to have a bath, I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it, no no no no no and some more no, kind of cheeky.

Both types have two things in common - they are trying and they are tiring.

But at the end of the day they both make me smile as it's all part of growing up, and learning, and pushing the boundaries, and working out who they are.

Plus those cheeky smiles, well they are pretty cute!!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Soupy Kind of Weather

The weather is slowly, slowly, getting chillier around here lately. It is by no means arctic winter conditions but for Bots it's a little fresh. As a result, the winter comfort eating has well and truly kicked in at our place. Soups are a-go-go.

There are two in particular which I seem to be making on rotation. They are easy and yummy and so I thought I'd share.

Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

What you'll need:
750g peeled pumpkin
1Tbsp oil
1 and half Tbsp red curry paste (I tend to a be a little more generous)
2 onions peeled and chopped
2 cups of coconut milk (approx 1 x 300g can)
2 cups of chicken stock

How to do it:
Cut the pumpkin into pieces


Heat the oil, add the curry paste and onions, cook for approx 4 mins, stirring


Stir in pumpkin, coconut milk and chicken stock


Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for about 15-20mins until pumpkin is cooked.

Puree in blender. And enjoy with some crusty fresh bread.

This soup is so good, and even better the next day when it has had a chance to thicken up a bit.

Bacon and Pea Soup

What you'll need:
4 rashers of bacon, diced
50g butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped into small pieces
2 litres of chicken stock
1 cup of frozen peas
250g risoni
2 Tbsp fresh parsley

How to do it:
Put the bacon, butter, onion and celery in large heavy-based pan, cooking for about 5 mins over a low heat, stirring occassionally

Add the stock and peas and simmer covered for 5 mins (I find it takes mine a while to come to a simmer so I up the heat to medium)

Increase the heat and add the pasta, cooking uncovered for 5 mins, stirring occassionally.

Add the parsley and serve.

This is super yummy and like the pumpkin soup is really good the next day once the pasta has soaked up more of the liquid.

Feeling a tad chilly of late?? Give these a go. I promise you won't be disappointed.

What's your favourite soup?


Pizza Night


After an impromptu complex driveway chat on Friday night with some of our neighbours, we decided Saturday night would be pizza night at our house. Mr B makes absolutely scrumptious pizza and every time he makes it, it just seems to get better and better.

Good food, great company, and a couple of drinkies - what more could you want??

Typically, we make the same ol' pizza toppings every single time - ham and pineapple, and either supreme or just meat. Last night we thought we'd branch out and have a go at something different (as well as our usual!).

When Mr B and I lived in Perth many moons ago, pre-Bots and pre-kids, we went to the Little Creatures Brewery down in Fremantle a few times for some lunch and beers. They made an absolutely delicious blue cheese and pear pizza. It was one of those things you always remember; it was that good.

So yesterday we tried to re-create that yumminess here in Bots. I found a random recipe that sounded about right on the internet and we followed that.






The kids were big helpers - LL especially!! Miss J just wanted to be in the mix. Unfortunately it didn't result in either of them eating any pizza as I had hoped, but still it was fun having them help.

The blue cheese and pear pizza came out ok. I, personally, wasn't raving over it as the blue cheese was a little strong for me, but Mr B, and the other husbands all seemed to think it was rather delicious.

We decided to follow the savoury pizzas with something sweet. A dessert pizza! I scoured the internet again for ideas. I was literally salivating as I scrolled through. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate seemed to be the general theme. Due to the lack of nutella in our pantry though, I shied away from the chocolate dessert pizzas and instead stumbled over this - Godfather's Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza. I have a bit of a thing for cinnamon sugar at the moment so I knew instantly we had to make it. And we were not disappointed. It was divine. It was so good I had two, maybe three slices.

Image from here

Unfortunately I don't have any pics of my own to share. It was literally straight out of the oven and into our mouths. Just typing this now makes me want to go and whip up another one. MMMmmmmm.....

It was such a great night; I can feel another one coming on really soon.

An Evening of Books


Tuesday night this week saw me playing host to the lovely ladies of my bookclub for our monthly get together to eat, drink, chat, gossip, laugh, and oh yes ... talk about books.

With all the power outages and load-shedding we have been experiencing here lately in Bots, to say I was a tad anxious about the evening was an understatement. Would we or wouldn't we have power? Would it go off at 5, 5:30, 6, or 6:30pm, as it has been doing most Tuesday evenings. Would I get dinner cooked without interruption or would I have to resort to the BBQ as back up? The whole planning of my menu basically revolved around what I could transfer to the BBQ if needed.

In the end I decided on slow-roasted sirloin, with cheesy potato bake, and a salad. Followed by apple crumble (to which I added about a cup of frozen raspberries just to add some tang) and homemade custard.

For some reason my brain was a little mushy that day, and when reading the instructions for slow roasting the sirloin, I didn't take into account the recipe called for a piece of meat 2-3kg in size. My piece was about half that. So instead of adjusting the cooking time to suit, I followed it word for word. Idiot! Serious idiot!

Fortunately for me I have a food saving husband, and after it had been slow roasting for 4 and a half hours, Mr B realised it was more than done, and wouldn't in fact be needing the last burst of heat for 30 mins as the recipe suggested. I just about lost it. It was ready an hour too early. And upon first inspection it actually looked quite ruined. What the **** was I going to do?? I couldn't serve that up. It looked too dry and really there's nothing worse than dry, tough roasted beef. Arrrghhhhh!!!

To add to this state of confusion, we were in the middle of putting the kids to bed. LL was a bit hyped up due to Mummy having visitors for dinner, and Miss J, who was overfull on dinner and milk, proceeded to do a few power chucks to clear her system all over here sleeping bag. Cue more hysterics.

Some days I am just no good in a crisis. Tuesday was one of them. Thankfully I managed to stay calm enough to clean up Miss J (with Mr B's help), read her some stories, put her down to sleep, not yell at LL for not staying in bed, and welcome my first guests to the "disaster" of an evening. Chaos!

To calm down a bit, while Mr B assessed the meat, I took LL to light the candles for dinner. Thankfully there were a lot of candles, and with a bit of chit chat with some of the ladies, I was finally able to calmly investigate the dinner situation.

Much to my relief I found Mr B in the kitchen confirming that the meat was in fact ok. With some gravy or this sauce, it should actually be quite tasty. Relief; instant relief!

I proceeded to pour myself a glass of wine, welcome more guests, and got on with making the rest of dinner. After all the shenanigans it actually turned out pretty good. In fact the whole evening was lovely. Good food, great company, lots of laughter, some wine, and some chatting about books, it really couldn't have been any nicer.



LL helped decorate the table - he was all over the stickers for the name cards :)
 

 

Cheers!



Bike Riding

Riding bikes in our complex is quite the business with all the kids here lately. And LL is out there in the thick of it, loving every minute.




Today for the first time ever he rode his balance bike with the pedal attachment ALL BY HIMSELF!! Super Star in the making right there!!!




We got his bike about 9 months ago - a JD Bug Balance Bike. He has loved it from the day he got it.

We bought the pedal attachment for the bike off eBay back in February but until today he just hasn't been able to master the whole maintaining balance whilst pedaling thing. It's tricky.

But today after weeks and weeks of seeing the bigger kids pedal their bikes about, he just seemed to get it. And he did it. And we are beyond chuffed.



Best bit though?.... LL's friend Carmen was super excited when she saw him do it and said "Well done Lachlan!!!" Don't you love it when the big kids tell the little kids they did a good job. You could see LL's chest puff out that little bit more :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Madikwe Game Reserve

Back in February when Mr B's parents were visiting us, we were treated, spoilt and indulged by them to a four night stay in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. The four of us, plus Mr B's parents, and his brother Malc, spent an incredible four nights at this place, spending time together, making up for all the birthdays and special occasions we had missed sharing together, and of course enjoying the adventure of safari set amongst Big 5 country. It really was magical.

Madikwe Game Reserve is situated against the Botswana border, just south of Gaborone, in South Africa. It covers about 75,000 ha and is home to over 66 species of mammals, including as I said, THE Big Five - lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo.

Similar to my gushings of our recent trip to this place - our trip to Madikwe was on equal par for excitement and luxury. With twelve luxury lodges to choose from within the reserve, we chose Tuningi Safari Lodge, primarily as they welcomed children of all ages. It was divine. I don't think we could have stayed anywhere better. Our hosts Heidi, Wilma, and our safari guide Gavin could not do enough for us. They were so friendly, so welcoming, so hospitable. I realise they get paid to do that, but it really was like hanging out with friends the entire time we were there. The rest of the staff were also lovely and very keen to play with, cuddle, and tease LL and Miss J.

The lodge was decorated tastefully with comfortable modern furnishings. Nothing was not thought of with plenty of reading materials - magazines and books - to enjoy, and lovely soft cushions to relax in. There was a childrens playroom to entertain the kids with lots of puzzles and toys, some dvds, and scooters to ride. 






LL fell in love with this helicopter. It did not leave his side for almost our entire stay.


The food was incredible - probably just what you'd expect from a five star lodge. Each meal was three courses, and despite being continuously full I just had to try everything.





I had taken my own home-cooked food for the kids as I was unsure how flexible meal times would be. In the end LL ate the lodges' kiddie meals (which included spaghetti bolognaise, burgers and chips, pizza, chicken and veges etc), and Miss J ate the food I'd brought from home. Her routine was all out of whack with all the excitement, which meant she was either asleep or needed to go to sleep just about every meal time. We ended up using a babysitter for all evening meals, who would sit in our room while the children slept, enabling us to eat in the dining area or boma, relaxed in the knowledge that someone was watching the kids.

Our rooms too were lovely. Mr B's parents had generously booked us a family suite, which we shared with Uncle Malc. LL was beyond happy that he and Uncle Malc were sharing a room. I was beyond happy that someone else would be telling him to go back to sleep when he woke in the middle of the night (apparently he did each night, calling out "Mummy?", to which Malc sleepily replied, "nah mate, go back to sleep" - yay for Uncles!!).





Besides all this luxury there were adventures to be had - game drives to be exact!

One of the highlights of our stay for me was on our very first game drive. We had not long left camp, and everyone had their eyes peeled as being the first drive we were all super excited and keen to see some animals. Next minute, before anyone else had seen anything, LL was shrieking out "Raff", "Raff". What? Where? Who? What? Our guide, not having spotted anything was a bit perplexed as to what LL was trying to tell us, and then BAM we all saw the giraffe that was in actual fact right in front of us. Five points to LL! First spotting of the entire trip :)



What do you mean you didn't see it Mum??
Being there for four nights we all got to experience quite a few game drives. Mr B, Nanna, and I took it in turns to stay back at the lodge with Miss J. Being only 11 months old at the time we were unsure how she would go on either the morning or the afternoon game drives. We were nervous she would shriek or cry or make loud exciteable noises as babies do, and alert the animals to her presence as had happened here. My in-laws did book a private vehicle though so LL could join us. There was no way that kid was missing out. He did all the afternoon drives and LOVED it!!!

That first game drive was an overall highlight of the weekend for me. We saw so much wildlife I could have packed my bag and gone home completely satisfied the next day. Not only did we see the four newly introduced male cheetah (I will say these guys were wearing collars and so easier to track by the guides)



but also a family of rhino ... 



and of course we stopped for a refreshing sundowner ... 


Our truck for our stay - these vehicles are so tough!

and we saw some oryx ... 


And then just as it was getting dark and I thought we were making our way back to the lodge we came around a corner only to find these two strolling down the road ...


Amazingly we followed them on their journey for quite a while, watching as they stopped and sprayed their scent on nearby trees and bushes, marking their territory lest anyone should forget it. 


Spot lion and others will follow. The Reserve has a three car limit on any sighting. These two guys could have really cared less that we were all there and following them. I think they were desperately looking for their female companions.


We followed them to the Reserve airstrip, where they then sat and stalked some wildebeest. AMAZING!!



As it was fast becoming dark we made a beeline for what I had assumed was the lodge (again!). But instead Gavin got out his spotlight and started shining it on some dense bushes. What are we looking for, I thought. BAM! It was a lionness and her cubs enjoying the leftovers of a kill. Unfortunately my photos of this sighting are not too great due to lighting and the fact that I was so mesmerised by what I was seeing I actually forgot to take pictures there for a while!!

Wow what an amazing first game drive. How, oh, how were we going to top that??

The next morning I stayed back at the camp with the kids. Whilst we took it easy getting dressed, having a bite of breakfast, reading some books, and playing in the lodge's playroom, the others were seeing sites like these ....






Another highlight of the weekend for me was on my second game drive when Mr B, Malc, LL and I were lucky enough to watch a large herd of elephant come into one of the waterholes for a drink ...



While we waited, these guys came in first ...





Here they come ...


The urgency in which they came in was almost frenzy like. Stopping for a slurp here, a slurp there, until they got to what was obviously their preferred drinking spot, where they stayed and drank and drank and drank.



 I loved the way the little ones really had to stretch their trunks down to get to that water ...



After admiring the elephants drinking style for a while it was our turn. What's a game drive without another round of sundowners ...


Another highlight of the weekend was our first ever sighting of African Wild Dog. These guys are incredible. They also go by the name painted dog - from the pictures I am sure you can tell why ...





These guys run in large packs and hunt if not every day then every other day with the majority of their hunts ending in a kill (roughly 80%). We were lucky enough to witness a chase on our second encounter with these guys. It was late afternoon and we came upon them just as they were going in search of dinner. Moments later we could hear this strange chirping sound, similar to a bird, a call that is made as the pack coordinates its movements in order to bring down its prey. In this case a rather large kudu.






Unfortunately we didn't end up seeing the kill as the pack chased the kudu into extremely dense scrub. We waited in the hope that it would divert back out again, but it didn't happen. Instead the pack enjoyed their meal in private.

The last evening game drive of the trip delivered yet again. I had stayed back at the lodge with Miss J, so Mr B, LL, and the others got to enjoy sights such as these ....


elephants at play in their own "private" swimming pool ... 



And what better way to end the stay with another look at these guys ...





I think this guy thought he was invited for dinner. He seemed to be heading towards Tuningi :)

 
Even though Miss J didn't come on any of the game drives she still got to see some animals. The lodge has it's own waterhole which can be enjoyed from a comfortable deck setting.




As well as this waterhole we were lucky enough to enjoy watching elephants drinking from our private swimming pool. Our family suite, as well as Nanna and Pa's room, was part of the lodge's "Little Tuningi", a self contained area somewhat away from the main lodge. This enabled us to have a little more privacy during our stay, as well as containing LL and Miss J somewhat ensuring they did not disturb other guests.






Wow!, what a weekend. Madikwe Game Reserve certainly delivered in spades. We had been hoping to see leopard on this trip and Gavin, our guide, had searched and searched and searched to no avail. In all honesty though I didn't come away feeling disappointed. With everything we had seen and done how could I? We'd been spoilt by the luxury of the lodge, the hospitality of the staff, and the generosity of my in-laws. We had once again experienced the adventure of a lifetime. We went home feeling very very VERY lucky indeed.

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