Lizards, Owls and Eagle Encounters

Life has been busy lately so I’ve really struggled to find the time to sit down for a proper catch up on my blog. But we’ve been having lots of mini adventures as a family, so I thought I’d share a recent one with you.


One of our favourite outings since we moved to the Helderberg is to visit Eagle Encounters. It’s just down the road from us so super convenient and the girls absolutely love going there, so it’s often an option when we just feel like getting out the house, but don’t feel like going too far.

It’s a pure delight to go there with the twins, and no matter how many times we go, they always run around with squeals of delight at seeing all the weird and wonderful creatures. The chatter and comments that follow are so entertaining, and IP and I walk around there with a permanent grin on our face at watching the two of them in their element.

Located on the grounds of the Spier Wine Farm on Baden Powell Drive outside Stellenbosch, Eagle Encounters is a rehabilitation and conservation centre dealing with injured birds of prey. They also have a number of other animals there, such as big lizards, snakes and some farm animals, so there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

eagleamy.jpgAG is especially entertaining and I’m so fascinated by her adventurous spirit in getting up close to the animals. She’s completely fearless when it comes to handling them and especially delights in the snakes and big lizards – much to mommy’s horror! We were super proud of her when she happily put the leather glove on her hand in the eagle owl enclosure and held up her arm for the owl to perch on. And then the huge smile on her face when he sat there eating his snack, is one I will treasure forever. HJ, on the other hand, is the total opposite – she’s fascinated by the animals, but firmly keeps her distance from most of them. She’ll occasionally touch one when prompted, but she’s happy to just observe most of the time.

The staff at Eagle Encounters are friendly and knowledgeable and very hands on with the animals, so if the girls are keen to see the snakes or lizards, inevitably one will be brought out its enclosure and we’re able to see it up close. The one time, the handler brought out the black eagle for us to see, and it was a real treat. He was huge and majestic, and it was amazing to get so close, especially when he stretched out his wings in front of us – which resulted in another grin of pure delight from AG. They also have demonstrations with different birds throughout the day, so it’s fun to catch one of these. There’s a little tip box at the exit, so if one of the staff has been especially helpful, please don’t forget to tip them!

We can highly recommend Eagle Encounters for a family outing, and it’s a great cause to support. You can also donate to their cause via their website and find them on Facebook.


We’re moving to the mountains and vineyards

I know I’ve been griping a lot lately about how tough things have been with the girls and this toddler phase. But it’s also been a lot of fun, and we have so much to look forward to in the next few weeks as we embark on a new adventure to a new town.

The anticipation is really building in our house as IP and I have started planning the move and we often fantasise about how life will be in our new house.

stellenboschWe have been so happy in Cape Town and in our current house, but since we’ve had the twins we have started to realise how cramped we are getting here, especially as we don’t really have a garden – and this is something the girls desperately need. So we started thinking about all our options and decided that it was time for a radical change – “Let’s move to Somerset West” I said to IP one Sunday morning. It didn’t take much more prompting than that – the next thing I know we’re house-hunting, and a week later we’ve put in an offer on a beautiful house in an estate just outside Somerset West, and a few days later we’ve sold our house in Cape Town.

Phew….everything happened so fast, it was quite overwhelming. Those who know me, know that I’m not a very impulsive person when it comes to making important decisions – quite the opposite to IP – once he makes up his mind there is no turning back. So I had a few moments of panic once I fully realised what was happening. We were moving away from everything we knew, out of our comfort zone, to the unknown! Eeeek!

But now that most of the legalities are out the way (I don’t want to see or speak to another estate agent or attorney for a long time!!!!) we are starting to get super excited for the big move day. We will be closer to my folks who live in Stellenbosch, which is great as I’ll have some more support when IP travels, and it will also be much easier for IP to get to work from there, as he won’t have all the city traffic to contend with. So it’s a win-win.

But with the move come some big changes for the girls. Our nanny won’t be moving with us so they will be starting play school in January. This is a HUGE deal for me and something I’m struggling to let go of. Even though I know they will be really happy there as I can see that they need something more – more stimulation and more interaction with other kids – it will be a big adjustment for them as they have been at home with either me or nanny for the last two years. So they will totally be moving out of their comfort zone as well, which I’m sure will take a while to adjust to.

My work situation will also improve, though, and I’ll actually get to spend more time with the girls, because instead of working three full days a week I’ll be working five half days – so I’ll be there to pick them up from school and have every afternoon with them, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be so great because now we will also be closer to granny and grampa and we can pop in for tea more often, and my mom and I can go shopping and out for coffee like the old days.

Somerset West is also a very young-ish town with lots of young families and there is so much to do with kids there. From our  interactions with the people there through some of the Facebook groups so far we can see that people also seem really friendly and welcoming – quite a change from the notoriously unfriendly Cape Town southern suburbs where we currently live. We’ll also be slap-bang in the middle of the winelands – surrounded by beautiful vineyards and mountains – and have all the wine farms just a short drive away. The beach is also not far. So there will be lots of exploring in our future – lots of fun family adventures to have as we embrace our new surroundings.

It’s going to be a whole new world for us as a family and the start of a new life. I’m always terrified of change, it’s just part of my nature – I hate the unknown! But I know that this move is for the best, and I’m starting to embrace the change.

I can’t wait! Just a few weeks to go and then the adventure can begin!

But first, the packing…oh boy…wish me luck!

Surviving an international flight with twin toddlers

IMG-20160727-WA0018So we did it – we survived our first overseas holiday with the twins. I’ll admit, I was terrified before we left, but the girls were amazing. They surprised me at every turn, and despite some rough nights of very little sleep we had a fantastic family holiday. The girls, especially, had a blast.

My brother and sister both live in Perth, so we decided that before the twins turned two we would take advantage of the reduced airfare and hop on a plane to Australia. I’ve come to realise that many people thought we were nuts! But there is one thing that IP and I have not done since we had our twins, and that’s let having kids stop us from living life. Ever since they were very little we’ve always gotten out and about on weekends, gone shopping, eaten out at restaurants and had lots of other random adventures along the way. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still always been very strict with our routine with them – we’d have gone mad if we weren’t – but we try have as much fun as we can as a family, and expose them to as many new and exciting experiences as we can.

The thing that terrified me the most before we left was the prospect of having to sit on an airplane for up to 12 hours with two very active toddlers. But, mercifully, it was a night time flight, so promptly on take-off we gave them a bottle and they both fell asleep straight away – giving mommy and daddy a few hours of peace – or at least as much peace as one can have with a toddler sleeping on your lap. We were also very fortunate to travel in a little bit of style – thanks to IP’s frequent flyer miles, we were able to sit in the slow lounge before take-off, so no running around a busy airport after two little monkeys – we could sit back a little in the confines of the lounge and enjoy our free snacks and drinks on comfy couches.

I imagine everyone’s experiences of international travel are different, ranging from fantastic to disastrous, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learnt about flying with toddlers:

If you can, try get the bulkhead seats as this gives you loads of leg room, and when the kids are awake, and provided the seat belt sign is off, they’re able to sit on the floor at your feet and play or read a book, so they’re not confined to sitting on your lap the whole time. BUT – as we soon learnt – the bulkhead is not always ideal because if there is an empty seat next to you in the bulkhead area it’s kind of wasted as you can’t lift the arm rests to let your baby sleep across two chairs because the tray table and in-flight entertainment screen is stored in the arm rest – as opposed to other chairs where these would be attached to the seat in front of you. So even though we had lots of room, we were a bit frustrated by not being able to lift the arm rests.

Don’t drug your kids if you don’t have to. I was not keen to give the girls any medicines to make them drowsy for the flight. We had a two-hour flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg before the main flight from Joburg to Perth, so we decided to test it out first and see how the girls responded to the flight, and especially the take-off and landing. They were absolutely fine – no screaming or obvious pain from the pressure – so we decided not to medicate them for the next flight, and I’m pretty glad we didn’t have to do that, as they were fine. The only real screaming we had was in the last minutes of the flight when HJ got very restless as she had to sit on my lap for landing and she wanted to run around so she was very frustrated.

People will be kinder and more accommodating than you expect. And if your kids need to run around a bit – let them! Toddlers were not made to sit still for so many hours, so they need to get moving every now and then. HJ loved walking up and down the aisle, and it was so sweet to watch her come out her shell and stop to talk to other passengers along the way. The other travellers also seemed to enjoy chatting to the girls and even indulged them with a few games of peek-a-boo.

Pack lots of snacks. We all know that aeroplane food is not the best, but SAA totally outdid themselves in the ridiculous and revolting food department. I pre-booked a kiddies meal for each of my girls. Well, when the food arrived I was horrified to discover it was two jars of purity baby puree! I promptly sent it right back. My girls are almost two and eat what we eat, they’re too old for puree. I was even more horrified on the flight home when the steward presented us with two pouches of FROZEN baby purees. Seriously? Fortunately I had packed lots of snacks for them, and they shared our meal, so we were all well fed.

Before you go, make up a little goodie bag with some new toys and activities for your kids. My girls enjoyed opening the little pouches I put together and exploring what was inside. Include simple things like little cars and miniature books. A magnetic sketch pad was also a great source of entertainment for them. But it was also the simple things, like paging through the inflight magazine, that they really enjoyed doing. Even the emergency information pamphlet was a hit.

Don’t forget to bring along your kids blankie, or binkie, or whatever it is that gives them comfort at home and keeps them calm. In our case, it’s our girls’ taglets, or taggies as they call them. They have these with them every time they go to sleep, and it was important that they had them with them at all times in such an unfamiliar environment.

Be flexible. It can all be very daunting travelling overseas with toddlers, but the most important thing is to be flexible, and you have to develop a thick skin, and not worry about what other people think. Like when your kid is having a whopping tantrum, as AJ did when she wasn’t able to push her own pram through the airport. It’s so hard when you can feel every eye in the airport on you, but you just have to carry on – you just have to smile and wave people, smile and wave!

You have to have patience with your kids, even though it’s so difficult sometimes. You have to realise that they are in a totally new environment. An airport and a plane can be a strange and scary space for a little one, with all the new sights and sounds. So be calm with them, be patient, be kind, and expect the unexpected.

If you’re thinking about an overseas adventure with your kids, just do it! Don’t let fear stop you. We had such a wonderful holiday, and we’re so glad that we took the plunge and just did it!

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our adventures in Perth with you soon, so watch this space!


Wonderful World of Birds

20160605_101347Our girls absolutely love all kinds of animals, especially birds. They always get so excited when they see a bird, pointing up and shouting “dirdie”. So we knew the World of Birds would be a hit, and we were absolutely right. I have never heard so many squeals of delight and exclamations of “wow”.

World of Birds is an interesting place. It’s a wildlife sanctuary for birds and other animals, including monkeys, buck and reptiles. There are some beautiful species of birds to see from all over the world. Some of them are in cages, while others are in open aviaries that you can walk through. They have a number of circular routes you can follow through the aviaries to see the different animals. There is also an open aviary where you can walk through and play with monkeys.

20160605_115440The monkeys definitely stole the show. At first the girls were a bit nervous of them as the monkeys are quite boisterous and jumped all over us. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous of the monkeys myself, thanks to a little traumatic experience of being chased by a group of monkeys as a child while on holiday in KZN. But once we all relaxed it was lots of fun to have the monkeys come sit on our lap and shoulders, and jump on our heads.

The girls just loved seeing all the birds and it was so lovely seeing the look of delight on their faces as we walked around. Both IP and I even felt a bit emotional seeing such happiness on our children’s faces. It was especially sweet that every time we walked out of one aviary into another AG would say “bye bye dirdies”.

Despite the fun, though, I really felt a bit conflicted while walking around there. The place is definitely in need of some TLC. It’s a bit run down and grotty in places and some of the cages and aviaries are definitely in need of a face lift. We’ve often heard rumours that it was even shutting down due to a lack of funding.

On the one hand they are doing fabulous work looking after some creatures that have been previously abused or neglected, but I also felt so sorry for some of the animals there, especially some of the primate species – there were a number of exotic monkeys from other parts of the world that just looked so depressed sitting in their enclosures. They’re animals that are supposed to be swinging free in the jungles of the Amazon or Borneo, not sitting locked up at the bottom tip of Africa.

All in all, though, it was a great family outing, and we will definitely go back to World of Birds soon. Despite my mixed feelings about the place, the girls had a wonderful time, and that was the most important thing. It will be especially nice to see the place in the summer.

You can find out more about World of Birds on their website.


Fantastic day cycling on the Promenade

We recently did something we’ve been wanting to do with the girls for ages – we went for a cycle on the Promenade with them. It was an absolute hit and between lots of giggles and squeals of delight, we know they had an absolute ball!

20160521_105039We hired bicycles from Up Cycles who have a couple of bike stations around the Atlantic Seaboard, including in Camps Bay and at the V&A Waterfront. We hired bikes from the station at the Pavilion on the Promenade and did a circular route up and down the coast heading towards the Waterfront.

There are a couple of options if wanting to cycle with kids – you can hire a bike with a little seat on the front for toddlers or they have these awesome little buggies that two kids can sit in that get pulled behind the bike. We chose the front seat option and the girls loved sitting up front and watching the world go by. To their delight they could reach out and hold the handlebars and often tried to steer – they both even got upset as they wanted to steer on their own.

If you think you get a lot of attention when out and about with twin toddlers, try cycling with them sitting with you on a bike along the Promenade – haha! Just about everyone looked twice as we went by and we attracted lots of stares and smiles. We had so much fun and loved sharing this adventure as a family.

It was such a gorgeous sunny autumn day with the sea sparkling on one side and Lion’s Head looking over us on the other. Lots of people were out and about enjoying the sunshine and it just reinforced for us what we love so much about our beautiful city. We have realised recently that there is so much more to enjoy in the Mother City now that we are parents, and we are making a concerted effort to take advantage of all the great things to do with kids in Cape Town. We are privileged to be able to enjoy such wonderful quality time with our children and this was just the first of many more adventures we look forward to having in the coming weeks and months.
You don’t need to be super fit to cycle on the Promenade as it’s a nice flat route along the coast, so it’s something the whole family can enjoy – granny and grampa too!

We will definitely be back for many more such outings and can highly recommend a cycle on the Promenade for anyone looking for a fun day out as a family.

Thanks Up Cycles for such a great service! If you’d like more info you can visit their Facebook page.