Celebrating in style (sort of)

It was my husband’s birthday on the 16th of April. We decided to just have a family meal at home rather than going out or having a party, but since it was a celebration, I decided to make it at least a “fancy” occasion. I had in mind a beautifully set table, romantic candles, a three course meal and of course bubbles…..

On paper, in hindsight, that is exactly how one can describe the evening. Tick all of the above. But, in reality, things turned pear shaped when I made Daniel my co-event planner. His enthusiasm for the task on hand made me the troop taking orders from the general! In Woollies, he chose jelly and custard as a starter which he decorated with a strawberry. He insisted on putting all three our chairs on one side of the table so that he can sit in the middle. He is not yet familiar with the art of serviette folding, so brand new serviettes were given a crumpled look and then dumped on the plate. Cutlery was placed “somewhat near” the plates.

And you know what, it was awesome!!!! When last did you have two desserts as part of a three-course meal? The little man’s excited toast on his dad (with apple juice!) was the best gift received all day. It bonded our family together beautifully in something that was uniquely US, and for my husband it provided a perfect cap on a wonderful birthday.

Image credits: All photography by me

A treehouse anyone?

All these postings about our holiday now have come to an end. Life is back to normal in Johannesburg, although a bit overloaded with work (it is what happens if you gallivant so much just before the VAT returns are due!).

Today I want to share something different. On my various internet travels I came across a Wisconsin tree house, the adult version one. The three-level cottage, with the tree coming through the deck on ground level and on three different spots on the first level, has two sleeping lofts, a library and two decks. They used vintage windows and ladders, reclaimed wood was used all over and they made the chandelier with antlers hanging from a block and tackle.

Now, to only get that tree in my garden to grow big enough!

Image credits: Chicago Home magazine

When in Port Elizabeth ..... Cupboard Love

My last blog on Port Elizabeth is about a shop called Cupboard Love, located in a little cottage at 17 Somerset Street, just a block away from Stanley Road in Richmond Hill. The shop started as a place for local Port Elizabeth artists and craftsmen to promote their handcrafted products. Today the owners still place emphasis on sourcing and developing unique products. So, walking into the cottage, with all the rooms being transformed by the interesting selection of ceramics, glassware, linens, skin products and kids clothes, it does not take long before you find that special, quirky handmade product that is just screaming your name, or to put it more accurately, contains a combination of quality, design and originality that makes it yours in your mind even before you’ve paid for it. 

Cupboard Love
17 Somerset Street
Richmond Hill
Port Elizabeth

Image credits: All photography by me

When in Port Elizabeth ..... Posh Pancakes

At the top end of the trendy Stanley Street in Richmond Hill is Posh Pancakes, a stylish little eatery that, as the name suggests, manages to transform an ordinary pancake into something really special. My Thai chicken pancake was delicious!

I loved the décor of the bistro, everything from the black and white wall paper with its tree motive, to the wood-covered walls and the beautiful chandelier. But the thing that really caught my eye was their extraordinary vertical garden planted in plastic bags each with their own little drip!

32 Stanley Street
Richmond Hill
Port Elizabeth

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography by me

When in Port Elizabeth ..... Masterton's

Heading up Russell Road in Port Elizabeth on our way to Richmond Hill, my friend Korien and I stopped at Masterton’s Coffee and Tea Specialists, a legendary roastery that opened its doors in 1924. Getting out of the car at this quaint corner building, your nose is already in coffee heaven. The smell of freshly roasted coffee beans seems to envelope the building and even the street.

The roastery has been run by the same family since it opened. The founder, John “Jock” Masterton, came from Scotland after meeting a fellow officer from South Africa during World War 1, who persuaded him to move here. He then met the girl (as you do), moved to PE because her family was from there and opened “The Tea and Coffee House." Today you will find his son James Masterton behind the counter, continuing the tradition of roasting, grinding and blending.

The unassuming décor inside with black and white old photos of the shop, vintage coffee grinders, egg trays against the ceiling and coffee bags full of unroasted beans all remind you that somehow this iconic little shop is (and should be) an beautiful example of something that was a good idea to begin with, was done well and with love over the years, and has now combined its core business (still a good idea) with a great story to become something that very few businesses ever achieve: a local legend.

114 Russell Road
Port Elizabeth

You can visit their website here to read more or to order on-line.

Image credits: All photography by me

When in Port Elizabeth ..... Vovo Telo

One morning during our Oubos vacation, I drove to Port Elizabeth to pick up my husband and a friend from the airport. Their flight only landed after lunchtime, so it was the perfect opportunity to spend the morning with my friend Korien, who moved to PE a couple of years ago from Johannesburg. She proudly showed me her favourite spots in the city and it was great to see PE through her eyes.

Korien took me to leafy Richmond Hill and the trendy Stanley Street. I loved it!!! Richmond Hill is one of the most historic parts of Port Elizabeth and just a couple of years ago, a few clever people started to transform some of the dilapidated buildings in the area. Today it is one of the premier restaurant districts in the city, filled with good restaurants, coffee shops and deli’s. Stanley Street is probably the busiest street in this neighbourhood. Korien tells me that the property prices in the area reflect that trendiness very accurately!

We ended up at Vovo Telo (2 cappuccinos each and lots of chatting!), Mastertons (the customers here are so excited about the roastery, lots of coffee-chat in front of the till with other customers who want to share their passion for the coffee), Cupboard love (more talking to the lovely owners) and Posh Pancakes (the two of us chatted so much that we never looked at the time, totally missed the flight and was super chuffed to see it was delayed!). So, as you can see, a perfect morning – lots of browsing in shops, lots of caffeine and lots of quality time with a lovely friend.

Let’s start with Vovo Telo. I’ve shared with you before my excitement when the franchise opened in the Cresta Shopping Centre, where my own shop is located (you can read about it here). The Richmond Hill café is not just another franchise, it is actually the original store. They first opened just as an artisan bakery in an old house in a not-yet-so-trendy neighbourhood. The smell of freshly baked bread started to draw people and later customers started bringing their own fillings for the freshly baked bread that they ate on the stoep. So, a few tables and chairs later with a cup of coffee on offer and as they say, the rest is history.

Vovo Telo
Corner of Raleigh and Irvine Street
Richmond Hill
Port Elizabeth

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography by me

When in Tsitsikamma ..... be Tarzan (or Jane!)

During our stay at Oubos, four of us slipped away one morning to go on the Tsitsikamma canopy tour. The company is based in the charming Storms River Village and it is only a short drive from there to the dense forest and the launch platform. Basically, the tour involves sliding from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor. So, if you have even a slight fear of heights, this is not for you! Sorry Dad.

Our day started with a safety talk. The guides helped us to get into our safety kit, with a harness, pulleys, crash helmet and gloves. Right from the first platform you are already in awe. Most of the 10 platforms are located in the crowns of giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees, some up to 600 years old!! (read about THE BIG TREE here). It is amazingly quiet so high up in the trees, and looking down at the giant fern on the forest floor, 30 meters below you, is just breathtakingly beautiful. But do spare some breath for the slides, the longest one being 91m’s, because screaming is allowed :-)!

Our guides were great. They provided us with interesting facts about the forest ecology with a good dose of South African humour! Our morning ended with a short walk out of the forest back to the vehicle before our breakfast back in Storms River Village.

It was a brilliant way to spend 3 hours! I admire their effort to be as eco-friendly as possible (you will see on the photos that none of the equipment or the platforms are permanently attached to the trees) and I also love the way in which this fully accredited Fair Trade company provides work opportunities for the local community. The breakfast was provided by a catering company run by the local women who now own shares in the company. A crafting initiative is given space to display their goods in the restaurant and a few locals also now make their living taking photos and making DVD’s as souvenirs to take home.

So, I am now the proud owner of a certificate and a “frequent flyer card”. Looking back, however, the highlight of this experience was not the scary zip lines. It was the change in perspective. Up there in the rarefied air, amongst the tree mosses and the forest canopy, suspended above the tangle down below which would have been impenetrable on foot, there is a calmness that makes a bigger impact than the adrenaline. It feels almost disrespectful, that a tree could have grown there for 600 years only to now provide you with a thrill. You feel like you are a visitor to a world that is more ancient than yours, a world in which roots that were planted long ago still enable the smallest branch to seek the sun today. It’s a moss covered, 30 metre high philosophy lesson…

PS. I read that the concept of guiding people through the upper canopy of a rainforest started in Costa Rica, where biologists searched for new ways to access the forest canopy to conduct their research. From there, it did not take long for a few adventurous entrepreneurs to start a new way of eco-tourism.

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography by me