A Farmyard Themed First Birthday Bash

We all know my day job is Digital Account Director, and my fantasy job is party planner, right? Well, it’s true. So with Carters first birthday on the horizon I decided to put my hobby to good use and plan him a little farm themed birthday bash at our house this past weekend.

I had the best and worst time making all the decor and baking everything. I say worst because it took forever, and best because, well LOOK AT IT 😉

Thanks Pinterest for the sheep and pig cupcake ideas!

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Luckily Im a massive hoarder so I used old formula tins which I wrapped and decorated, bread boards, platters and containers I had lying around. I also bought a lot of stuff from China Town – like paper lanterns, plates, napkins straws and bottles.

The harvest table

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9 months of Carter, and as my husband so delicately put it: “Glass bottles for small children, fucking smart”.

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The kiddies eating area

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They look more like ‘Angry Birds’ than chickens…but I decorated paper lanterns to make farm animals…sort of. 
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Let’s talk about the cake, shall we. I have never baked more than a vanilla sponge, but was adamant that I would make a 3 tier monstrosity that I found on Pinterest. So I did. It may have taken me close to 20 hours, but the result as SO worth it… and the cake was delicious to boot. I did have some help the day before when two friends came over to help me ice and assemble… and drink several litres of wine in the process.

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Boys will be boys. My dad and Carter having a blast on the jumping castle. 

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Little farm dudes all dressed up 

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The jumping castle we hired came with a free Granny and her assortment of small children

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I scattered hay bales around the garden, and covered them in hessian and checkered fabric. 

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I gave up carbs, booze and sugar for 21 days (and here's what happened)

This is not to say I’m stopping my ‘lifestyle change’ now that I’ve hit 21 days, but I do feel like I’ve reached a bit of a milestone in my ‘Fuck You Fat’ journey.

They say it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. Let me tell you, 21 days is a very long time when that habit is so ingrained in you, and such a part of your everyday life.

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A few weeks back I made a commitment to myself to give up the following for most of January (I say most, because it’s my birthday in a few days, and there ‘aint no way in hell I’m going without champagne, sushi or spaghetti on my special day):

  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • White carbs

So, on day 22, how have I done, and how do I feel?

Emotionally I feel, well, the same. Everyone tells you how wonderful, revived and rejuvenated you will feel. I had visions of bursting through the office doors on a  Monday morning singing about the hills being alive while group high-fiving the entire office and drumming on my keyboard with organic carrot sticks. Alas, this never happened, and I feel none of these things. In fact, I am more tired, lethargic and moody than ever before. This could be due to other factors such as Zuma, my finances, the state of the Rand, work stress, motherhood, traffic or the weather.

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Physically I feel like a thousand bucks. No booze means my skin isn’t blotchy in the morning, and I have absolutely noticed less-puffy bags underneath my eyes. I’ve lost 3.5 kilograms and my tummy doesn’t bloat or ache like it usually does after a meal. I’m back in (some) of my size 10 jeans, and am feeling slightly more confident about my body. I say slightly, because I had to take some before photos for my SleekGeek challenge, and whilst clothed bodies hide a multitude of sins, half naked ones are truthful as fuck.

My diligence has paid off and I train 5-6 days a week, alternating between running, Pilates (which is super hard by the way, jaysus), crossfit &bootcamp style exercises and weights. Getting to the gym some most days is hard, and I often think up every excuse under the sun not to go, but afterwards I am so glad I did. Classes have also kept me accountable – it’s a lot harder to sneak out of a packed Grid class than it is to stop a treadmill run half way.

Side note story: Last week in my Shape class, 3 guys from the weighs section joined the class. I could tell they did it as a bribe or a dare from their buff gym boys, and I kept a close eye on them throughout the hour long session. Because I knew that about half way, they would be begging like orphaned puppies to be let loose and go back to the benches. These guys died. I had one of them ask me for my ‘girl weights’, one of them removed his weights entirely and the other one collapse to his knees half way through a jumping squat sequence. ‘Twas not sweat that fell from their brows, but little pissy man tears. They both made it to the end, but barely. Okes, before you ever judge a ‘girly class’ from outside, come in, do it, then say sorry.

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I’ve cheated twice. Once was when I added 1 potato to a batch of fishcakes I made as we had nothing else in the house, and the other was when I added a tablespoon of curry powder to a dish I was making, only to realise afterwards that it contained gluten.

On that topic – everything you eat contains gluten and sugar. Have you read a label lately? Not even tinned Ratoutille  is safe. It’s incredible just how clean you start eating when you read food labels. I still don’t understand most of what the label says, but I have learnt what I should and shouldn’t have.

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Planning is the most important thing when it comes to not falling off the wagon. It’s a schelp, but that extra 10 minutes you take at night to pack a lunchbox, means you absolutely can stick to the plan the next day. I’ve also found that meals are a lot more delicious and exciting than what you initially think of when faced with the idea of a carb, gluten,sugar and booze free diet. I allow myself brown rice and quinoa once a day. That, along with delicious fruits, veggies, smoothies, eggs and legumes have also meant I’m never bored.

Being accountable to someone or something is key. I mentioned the WhatsApp group I created – a bunch of ladies all looking to change their lives through diet, exercise and humour. Some need to lose 1 kilo, some need to lose 31, we are all different in our approach and style, but at the end of the day we check in with each other, post (gasp!) before photos and keep each other on the wagon in times of trouble (read: birthdays, weekends, kids tantrums and work trauma). The ‘something’ I’m accountable to is my FitBit device. I feel personally responsible for logging my food, hitting my step goal and appeasing this little band on my arm. The data doesn’t lie, and I treat the Fitbit challenges like my own personal Zelda quest.

I can live without sugar. I have never had a sweet tooth, so this was the least daunting approach of them all – and possibly the easiest of the items to cut out. I do still dream about a large pizza or a mac ‘n cheese though (because it takes 21 days to break a habit, not to kill your taste buds entirely). Funnily enough, my biggest craving of all? A donut.

I’m really battling to live without wine. 

So, whilst I’m nowhere near my goal, and whilst I won’t stop at 27 days, I will allow myself to have 1 ‘cheat’ meal a week. First stop? My birthday. That sushi carousel has no idea what’s about to happen to it.

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I’d be very interested to hear your experience with breaking a 21 day habit – please share in the comments below.

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A Walk On The Wild Side

I’m back at work. Which means I’m desperately trying to find my new normal, whilst nonchalantly dressing up my fat jeans and re-learning how to wear a bra that doesn’t have boob flaps in them. To celebrate my last weekend of dedicated motherhood, I did a very un-motherhood thing and went away. This then meant that Carter had his first sleepover, and of course it also meant that my little treasure slept a solid 13 hours. Typical.

Before you start judging and throwing hypothetical rotten tomatoes in my face, please understand that I needed to get away. Because what’s a grief stricken almost-back-to-work mom to do? Drive three hours out of Joburg and drink her body weight in wine, that’s what.

The fabulous folk at the Protea Hotel ‘Ranch’ in Polokwane kindly hosted us for one of their ‘Chefs Tables’. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (I mean, Polokwane??) but reality far exceeded my expectations. The Ranch Hotel is situated on a private game reserve just 25kms south of the Limpopo’s capital city, and from the second you drive in through the gates you feel relaxed. It’s very seldom that the drive up to a hotel reception includes roaming Blesbok instead of bellboys. I already knew that this place was going to be special.

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We arrived, unpacked, jumped on the beds (kidding. KIDDING) drank a sherry and made our way to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I told you, we were wine serious that night. The resort is magical, and I’ve already book-marked it for my next annual girls holiday.

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The dinner, and the main reason for our trip, blew my mind. Hosted and created by ‘Chef Dan’ the food, ambiance and company was superb from start to finish. I loved how we were an intimate table of 10; we were joined by local media, tourism members and a few journalists from Joburg as well as the owner and marketing manager of The Ranch.

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I judge a good meal on the creativity of the vegetarian option (Lord, let me never see another carrot in phyllo pastry again) and Chef Dan and his team quelled my fears with each course.

Our food ranged from Salmon Tartar Blinis, to Gorgonzola Gnocchi, Beef Fillet Bordelaise and mouth-watering king prawns. Dessert was a South African take on a British tea – Rooibos pannecotta and honey gel cubes. Each course was served with a wine, and we drank everything from Champagne to Merlot to Petit Rouge. Not kak.

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Full and happy we stumbled back to the bar for a nightcap (I really cannot emphasise the seriousness of my task here friends). There we sat and chatted about the resorts history and got to know our fellow diners a little bit more.

The next morning we were up at sparrows poep to go and walk with the lions (No, not the rugby team, although some might argue that’s the fastest they’ll ever get. Yes, that’s a thing you can actually do there – and no, apparently sleeping in even when childless is not an option). Sadly, the rain was bucketing down so we we had to ‘paws’ (weak, I know, but this mum dumb brain is lingering) the lion walk. I’m seriously hoping to crack another nod to go back and experience the walk another time.

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All round a fantastic way to wrap up the last 4 months of maternity leave. Although, at the rate I’m going, these work fat pants may be here to stay.

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10 Reasons To Celebrate International Coffee Day

There’s only one thing better than International wine day – which, like Woman’s day should happen every day of the year- and that’s Internationale Coffee Day…which happens to be today. 29 September.

To celebrate this delightful beverage, which is responsible for 50% of my personality on a daily basis, I thought I would share some fun coffee facts with you. So, grab a cuppa, sit down and enjoy.

Whoever made this sign is a liar. Where is Vodka and wine?

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1. Never trust anyone who doesn’t drink coffee. They probably kick small puppies and have severe road rage.

2. According to this legend, Coffee was first discovered by goats – after a farmer noticed his flock eating certain berries and battling to sleep at night – the farmer then gave the berries to an Abbot at the local Monastery who made a drink out of the beans, and found he became a lot more diligent in his after hour prayers…

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3. Need a caffeine boost? Opt for a regular filter coffee over an espresso – it has more caffeine in it.

4. In terms of countries with the biggest caffeine addiction – Finland comes out tops with an average of 12 litres per person per year (granted, its fucking cold) with Peurto Rico coming in last with an average consumption per person of 0.4 kilos of coffee. They must be too busy kidnapping drug mules to stop for a cuppa java.

5. If blooms are your thing, you will be pleased to know that coffee grounds can actively change the colour of Hyrangea flowers from pink to blue, as the coffee changes the alkalinity in the soil. Adding coffee grounds will reduce the pH level and give you bright blue flowers.

6. Coffee beans don’t start out that way. They start out as red berry looking things. The magic of coffee is in how its made. Thanks to the Internet for giving me this:

How Coffee Is Made

7. Medical research has deduced that coffee can help you live longer. My research has confirmed that it also extends the lifespan of a spouse…if they bring you coffee in bed, there is guaranteed to be less blood.

8. You can tell a lot about a person by the type of coffee they drink;

  • Espresso – Impatient. Will often exclaim how awake they are after downing said espresso. Will also sometimes call it an expresso.
  • Cappucino – A freelancer who works in a coffee shop. Enjoys licking milk froth off a spoon
  • Americano – A classic coffee drinker. No bullshit.
  • Decaf – Pregnant or lives in Minnesota.
  • Latte – Hates the taste of coffee, pretends to enjoy coffee by making sure their drink is 98% milk.
  • Riccoffy – A Dumbass.

9. Coffee beans are to the nose, what a sorbet palate cleanser is to your mouth. If you are ever testing a fragrance take a whiff of fresh coffee beans between sprays – it will clear your nose and allow your senses to settle between spritzes.

10. If you only drink coffee for one reason, make it because of this:

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Bottoms Up!

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A Tourist In My Own City

A few weeks back, to celebrate one of my best friends birthdays we got a little’ bit cultural and took part in 2 brilliant excursions – right here in good old Jozi town.

The first was a ‘Coffee Appreciation’ evening in Braamfontein. Coffee, check. Appreciation of coffee, check check. It was held at DoubleShot Coffee & Tea on Juta Street and I found the whole evening to be really fascinating. It started off with our coffee master taking us through the hisroty of coffee, the difference between coffees as well as how coffee is traded and valued. It ended off with several tasters and tests. I felt a right ponce swilling the black liquid under my nose, murmuring phrases like “ah yes, very wheaty old boy” and “The molasses is strong in this one squire”.

We left the event buzzing, and buzzed well into the night…. needless to say at 4 am we were still wide awake. Note to self kids, always appreciate coffee in the morning, your sleep patterns will thank you for it.

One of these is decaf. Clearly not the one I chose. 

Coffee Appreciation in Braamfontein

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Apparently roasted coffee beans don’t just happen. In raw form they look like pistachios, and taste like arse.


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Oh yes, they also sell tea. 

 

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Several weeks back a few of us ran the Soweto Energizer Night Race. As we pounded the pavements of Vilakazi street we fell in love with the look of a restaurant we ran by – Thrive Cafe – and decided to have a lunch there another time, as part deux of Lauren’s birthday celebrations.

The food was simple but tasty and the wine was flowing – the highlight for me was the friendliness of all the staff, and their eagerness to please. I also bought a really funky Madiba print done by a 12 year old boy – which I just love.

 

 

 

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After lunch we walked off our full bellies and explored the area – and ended up in the dodgiest shebeen called “The Shack”. Here we drank quartz and danced to local music. As you do.

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I heart Jozi.

 

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The Rankin Honeymoon Part 1 – Kuala Lampur

Choosing a Honeymoon destination is not easy. You need to think of places undiscovered, places you will probably never go again, romantic places, interesting places, exotic places. Then there’s the other options to consider – budget, time, tsunamis…

Our original Honeymoon choice was Kenya, but after hearing the prices we quickly forgot that plan. Islands such as the Maldives and Mauritius, although beautiful, just didn’t appeal to us – we wanted sea and sun and sand yes, but we also wanted food and photos and adventure and culture. It was only after my parents suggested it, that Malaysia became an option, and then the only option.

Choosing the country was where my involvement ended, and Barry’s took over. He planned the entire thing from start to finish and, if I may say, did a bloody good job!

The itinerary was a surprise until the day we left, and because we managed to fit so much in I thought it best to break #therankinhoneymoon blog series up into bite size chunks.

So here goes; the first installment. Kuala Lampur.

‘I don’t sleep well in pla…’ was about all I managed to get out before I passed out and slept literally all the way from Joburg to Dubai. They will tell you planning a wedding is exhausting and they will tell you, you will sleep. They were right. From Dubai we caught another flight to Kuala Lampur and apart from sleeping most of the time as well we still managed to fit in copious amounts of GnTs – Emirates are not stingy with their cocktails.

Landing in Kuala Lampur you are greeted by…well, nothing. Its 9pm and you’re exhausted so apart from fruit stands selling dessert in egg shells and the striking humidity of the place, it all looks very ‘Joburg’. That is until you see it in the day.

Our first night was a on-event. By the time we managed to get to the hotel, check in and shower it was well after midnight Malaysia time and because we had been flying for around 23 hours we quickly fell into bed. Into a King sized 1000 thread bed at the Majestic nonetheless, but fall we did.

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The Majestic Hotel
The Majestic Hotel

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The Majestic Hotel
The Majestic Hotel

Breakfast at this hotel, and all the others, looked like something out of an all you can eat Malay buffet. Delicious!

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The Majestic Hotel
The Majestic Hotel

Cue day 1 – the official start of Honeymoon and trying to impress me Barry suggests we go shopping. Our hotel transfer takes us to a shopping mall in a district called ‘Bukit Bintang’.

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Bukit Bintang
Bukit Bintang

Sadly for me the cheapest shop was a Louis Vuitton, and apart from browsing and silently weeping at the things I could never afford (apart from a coveted Urban Decay ‘Naked’ eye shadow palette from Sephora, of course) we left and explored the city.

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Shopping at 'The Pavillion' Kuala Lampur
Shopping at ‘The Pavillion’ Kuala Lampur

The comparison between that side of the mall and a few kilometers away is incredible. Not far from the skywalks and air-conditioned malls lies the place we had been dreaming of leading up to the trip. Malaysia’s version of China Town is a heaving, sweating, steaming, foodgasmic mess of people, sights, sounds, cars and energy. Street food markets and massage parlors litter the streets and even though its frenetic and overwhelming, its also incredible to watch as each and every person, shop and stand has its place.

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Visiting Kuala Lampur
Visiting Kuala Lampur

The well known street food market only opens up after 6 pm, so we grabbed lunch and explored some more before heading back to the Pavillion to get ready for our 7 pm Petronas Towers Tour.

A definite tourist trap but a must see – The Petrona Towers are an iconic landmark in Kuala Lampur and the price was semi-worth it to get to the top and get a birds eye vie of this vibrant city.

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Petronas Towers
Petronas Towers

We made our way back to China Town – now having established that we had walked at least 15-20 kilometers that day – and wandered around. I found a luggage store to buy a backpack in and I’m so glad we popped in – there in his dog crate was the sweetest bulldog we had ever seen. His name was Tiger, and Barry and I spent 20 minutes playing with him in the back room much to the shop owners surprised delight.

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"Tiger"
“Tiger”

Dinner in China Town is still one of our favourite meals from the trip. I based everything I ate from there on out on the Tom Yum soup I had and Barry’s word of the holiday became ‘Nasi Goreng meaning ‘mixed fried rice’. We also grew very fond (read fat) of the local beer ‘Tiger’. Alcohol in Malaysia is eye wateringly expensive (as we would soon discover at our next stop) and even a beer at a street market worked out to be R60.

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China Town at night, Kuala Lampur
China Town at night, Kuala Lampur

Feet aching and bellys bursting we returned back to our hotels satiated, sweaty and sleep deprived.

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