The Villains of Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD
[Partner Content] 05 MAY 2016

Fourteen years after the fall of the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Council in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a rag-tag group of rebels unite aboard a freighter starship called the Ghost, and conduct operations against the Imperial garrison on and around the planet Lothal.

If you recognise that premise, then you’ve obviously been watching the action-packed Star Wars Rebels, the animated follow up by Lucasfilm Animation to their successful Star Wars: The Clone Wars series.

star wars rebels season 2 screenshot 4

Of course, the Galactic Empire is the primary villainous force of the story here, but naturally it is the agents on the ground that will provide the biggest thrills and threats!

Season 1 had Ezra and the rest of the rebels being relentlessly chased by Agent Kallus, a high-ranking agent of the Imperial Security Bureau and skilled rebel hunter. Kallus eventually goes on to serve Darth Vader and work alongside the Inquisitors. He is particularly adept at spotting rebel traps and setting up his own, and as highly trained hand-to-hand combatant, Kallus also carries a rare Lasat bo-rifle which he personally pried from the dead hand of a Lasat Honor Guard when their homeworld fell to the Galactic Empire.

Then there are the insidious Inquisitors – force-sensitive agents of the Galactic Empire, armed with gyroscopic double-bladed lightsabers, and used by Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine to hunt down the remaining Jedi.

star wars rebels season 2 screenshot 5

The first season introduced us to The Grand Inquisitor, tasked with hunting down any Jedi who survived Order 66, as well as luring any Force-sensitive children the Jedi in question take as their Padawans to the dark side or destroying them if they refuse. Particularly strong and adept at combat using his unusually lethal lightsaber, The Grand Inquisitor is easily superior to Kanan and any of the other rebels – thus making him by far their most immediate threat!

Season 2 also introduces two new Inquisitors into the mix, The Fifth Brother and The Seventh Sister. Eager to take the place of the Grand Inquisitor, these two Inquisitor partners are particularly energized in the carrying out of their mission of bringing down the rebels.

That said and done though, you can’t talk about the villains of Star Wars Rebels without mentioning the infamous Darth Vader. Pulling many of the strings and inflicting the heaviest damage against Ghost and her crew, the legendary cyborg Sith commander is at his imposing best, front and center in the fight against the rebel scum!

star wars rebels season 2 screenshot 6

Related Link: Star Wars Rebels | Disney XD

Occupational Therapy for Jessica at Et Al in Somerset West Jessica 04 MAY 2016

Shortly after the start of Jessica’s Grade R year, her teacher Diane Matthews raised some concerns regarding Jess’ progress at school. Chantelle and I gave it a term and a bit to see if things would approve, but as it turned out, the concerns remained and in the end we decided to take Jessica for an occupational therapy evaluation on recommendation from Diane.

IMG_20160503_132952 et al therapy and learning centre in somerset west

We made contact with the Et Al Therapy and Learning Centre in Somerset West, the same place where Jess went for physiotherapy with Stephanie Halford back when she was still a toddler.

There we got in touch with Nicola van Zyl, a young occupational therapist who then took Jessica through a lengthy (but fun) evaluation, the report of which we’ve now just sat down and discussed with Nicola.

As suspected, quite a couple of weak points were identified (i.e. in terms of being on the level considered normal for other five year old children), things that include the likes of weak postural and core muscles, bilateral integration issues, and motor planning difficulties.

Of greater concern (in terms of school progression) though is the many visual perception difficulties that Jessica also seems to have (she scored quite low in the fields of visual discrimination, memory, form-constancy, sequential memory, figure-ground and closure), which will need to be rectified sooner than later if she wants to keep up with her friends at school.

So, starting Thursday, Jessica will now be doing an occupational therapy session twice a week. (Sigh, my budget just can’t get a break this year. Goodbye Biokineticist, hello Occupational Therapist!)

Luckily though, Jess seems to like Nicola (not to mention all the cool swings and equipment in the class), so I don’t think she’ll mind all these fun new outings after school!

Related Link: Et Al Therapy and Learning Centre

Playing at Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay (2016-05-01) Photo Gallery 03 MAY 2016

Last weekend was a long weekend, thanks to Worker’s Day being celebrated here in South Africa. The glorious weather we enjoyed on Sunday was literally begging me to take the kids out to the beach – and so that’s exactly what I did.

IMG_20160501_114705 kids looking out at bikini beach in gordon's bay

Bikini Beach is of course our little Gordon’s Bay beach that continuously earns itself a Blue Flag Beach status.

IMG_20160501_114929 jessica and emily play in the sand at bikini beach in gordon's bay

If you are not familiar with it, this tiny beach (rumoured to have received its name from the bikinis worn by female students from the the University of Stellenbosch) lies at the foot of the Hottentot’s Holland mountain range, tucked up against the Gordon’s Bay harbour wall – making for a wind sheltered, safe bathing spot.

It’s popular with both the locals and overseas visitors, and I’ve even done a bit of karate there back in the day!

IMG_20160501_123520 sail boat on the horizon at bikini beach in gordon's bay

As you might expect, despite the girls still being terrified of getting too close to the water, both of them thoroughly enjoyed their play time in the sand and sun.

(I on the other hand found the soft sand a little too challenging for my weak knee, meaning that I got to stretch out on a bench looking out over the beach for most of our stay!)

And yes. The phone camera once again got a decent workout on the day:

Related Link: Bikini Beach Blue Flag Status

Facebook (Android): How to Cancel Stuck, Failed Uploads Tips, Tricks and Tutorials 02 MAY 2016

I wanted to upload a quick pic of the indoor braai that I had started to ring in the end of the long weekend to Facebook, but for some or other reason, the image upload failed, or rather got stuck in its attempt to upload to the social network’s servers. This means now that every time you open the Facebook app, you watch as it futilely tries to reassure you that your post is STILL being created, even though deep down inside you know that it is a lost cause.

Actually, this happens relatively frequently, and with seemingly no method for cancelling the infinitely in progress upload, it is quite a frustrating problem to sit with.

IMG_20160502_174345 country mews indoor braai fire

As I mentioned, opening and closing the app won’t solve the problem. You could go extreme of course, and uninstall, but that’s a little bit on the overkill side. Instead, probably the easiest way to resolve the stuck upload issue is to simply log out of the app via the menu. Log back in, and by magic, your stuck upload should be nowhere in sight.

I have no idea why this works. It shouldn’t, but it does.

Maybe one day Facebook will fix their Android app and allow us to cancel stuck in progress uploads in a more natural fashion!

The Paper Town Copyright Trap Science, Technology & Curiosity 01 MAY 2016

Producing things like maps, dictionaries, encyclopedias and the like take a lot of work if you do everything from scratch. Of course, you could cheat and just build off of someone else’s work, or simply copy them outright. To protect against this, some creators insert what is known as fictitious entries into their work, to act as literal copyright traps. In map making this process is often known as adding in Paper Towns.

Wendover Productions put together this great little video explaining this idea in a bit more detail:

It’s clever, I’ll give them that, but in the same breathe also a little annoying, particularly when you need to trust a map in getting somewhere – i.e. when you are desperately counting on that petrol station being there when you arrive!

paper cityscape

Related Link: Wikipedia | Mother Nature Network | Youtube

Travelling through Tradouw Pass to Barrydale (2016-04-15) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 APR 2016

Continuing the trend of this being the year of weekends away as a result of my lack of mobility throughout December and January (February was Jacobsbaai, and March was Mossel Bay), April saw us head out to Warmwaterberg Spa near Barrydale – one of the oldest hot spring resorts in South Africa!

IMG_20160415_171030 hyundai accent in front of the beautiful scenery of tradouw pass in south africa

For us, the best route to get there is the N2 and then cut across the R324 to hit the R62 – in other words, we get to cross the magnificent Tradouw’s Pass in the process!

IMG_20160415_170123 beautiful scenery of tradouw pass in south africa

Originally opened in 1873 and built by the famous South African road and pass builder Thomas Bain, the Tradouw Pass (which more or less means Women’s Path in Khoi) is a 17 kilometer mountain drive through the rugged Langeberg region. It connects Swellendam with Suurbraak and Barrydale, and is by far one of the top tarred passes in the Western Cape in terms of beauty and engineering.

The road offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas, and numerous lookout points have been added over the years to make the most of this.

That said, this route has suffered severe flood damage in its 130+ years of existence, with several rebuilds occurring during its lifetime. 1974 was one of the big ones, with the pass being almost completely rebuilt, widened in places and a couple of hairpin bends removed for good measure. It was also completely tarred in the process, and to add an element of landscaping to the project, 4000 aloes and 2500 indigenous trees and shrubs were also planted!

Mountain Passes South Africa has a great informational video showing off the pass and its story up on their website:

Naturally, we stopped at more than just one lookout point to admire the view (and take a few phone camera snaps!) – after all, the last time that we tackled this pass was literally at the dead of night!

Related Link: Tradouw’s Pass

Lunch at Southey’s Family Bistro in Somerset West (2016-04-09) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 27 APR 2016

At the start of April I treated Chantelle and the girls to a Saturday afternoon lunch out at Southey’s Family Bistro in Somerset West (formerly known as Manuka).

It’s a great outdoor restaurant/garden setting for families to sit and enjoy a meal together, with a good jungle gym and jumping castle setup to keep the little ones entertained!

IMG_20160409_124901 chantelle lotter at southey's family bistro in somerset west

Everything is nice and shaded, and more importantly, their food is really good.

IMG_20160409_124911 jessica and craig lotter at southey's family bistro in somerset west

Naturally, the camera phone was put to good use!

Related Link: Southey’s Family Bistro

Kids at Play in Pollock Park, Gordon’s Bay (2016-04-08) Photo Gallery 21 APR 2016

Autumn weather here in Gordon’s Bay is almost always pleasant, because for the most part the wind actually stays away! Of course, this means plenty of opportunities to get up to something after picking the girls up from school in the evening, like these play trips to one of our favourite parks here in GB – Pollock Park.

IMG_20160408_172650 jessica and emily at pollock park in gordon's bay

There is now a big wooden jungle gym addition to the park – which the girls absolutely love – and the work done by the volunteer Pollock Park Restoration Group is definitely bringing back a lot of shine to this great green space in Gordon’s Bay!

IMG_20160408_174138 emily in a car tyre at pollock park in gordon's bay

And as always, it annoys the girls to no end when I whip out my phone and start bombarding them with photo requests!

Related Link: Pollock Park

An Easter Egg Hunt and an Easter Friday Lunch (2016-03-25) Photo Gallery 20 APR 2016

This year we had our Easter Egg hunt a little early, setting the girls loose in the garden on Friday the 25th instead of the normal Easter Sunday. This was not intentional mind you – both Chantelle and I had completely forgotten when Easter Egg hunts are actually meant to take place! (No wonder no one else on Facebook were talking about Easter Eggs on the day!)

IMG_20160325_083934 emily and jessica hunting for easter eggs in gordon's bay

Nevertheless, the girls thoroughly enjoyed their early morning hunt in the garden, which is just as well as we had gone to great lengths not to actually HIDE the Easter Eggs. Little girls are TERRIBLE at finding things – even if said thing is literally lying out in the open!

(Also, we decided not to go big on the number of Easter Eggs handed out this year. A change of tactic which instantly yielded results as for a change, no one actually suffered a chocolate overdose over the Easter period!)

We followed up the morning’s egg hunt with a trip through to my folks’ place in Oakglen, Bellville, where we joined Mom, Dad and Ryan for a delicious traditional Easter Friday lunch of homemade pickled fish.

IMG_20160325_114839 ronnie and ryan lotter on the roundabout with emily and jessica at the park in Oakglen, Bellville

And because there was plenty of free time before lunch, Dad and Ryan took Jessica and Emily to the big park for some playtime, whilst I hobbled on behind! (At this point I was still walking with a fair bit of difficulty, so I eventually just parked myself down on a bench and let the rest of them play!)

Coffee at Lorenzo Marx in Paardevlei (2016-04-08) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 20 APR 2016

If you are looking for a nice quiet spot to enjoy some good coffee and simple food close to the hustle and bustle of the Somerset Mall area, then Lorenzo Marx coffee bar in Paardevlei (right next to the Cheetah Outreach project) certainly hits the spot.

IMG_20160408_142659 craig lotter at lorenzo marx coffee shop in paardevlei, somerset west

Paardevlei at the moment is a bit of a hidden gem, which means that you get beautiful surroundings and not much hustle and bustle to go alongside it – thus allowing you to truly take your time and soak in the dappled sunlight whilst enjoying an excellent cup of coffee at one of Lorenzo Marx’s comfortable outdoor tables.

IMG_20160408_150440 lorenzo marx coffee shop building in paardevlei, somerset west

The coffee shop/restaurant is relatively small and intimate, but comes with excellent service and great food. Certainly a stop that both Chantelle and I enjoyed!

Related Link: Lorenzo Marx

Kidz Corner Indoor Play Center in Strand (2016-04-02) Photo Gallery 19 APR 2016

A nice surprise was the relatively recent opening of Kidz Corner in Strand (near the Gantz Center), an indoor play and party center for children – in other words, a great option for when the weather is perhaps not so great and you need your kids to burn off some of that excess energy!

IMG_20160402_125237 emily lotter on slide and ball pit at kidz corner indoor play center in strand

The small factory space is dominated by a giant, three story, mesh protected jungle gym, fitted out with a variety of obstacles and ended off with some fun slides that deliver the kids into a big ball pit.

There’s also a jumping castle and trampoline, and loads of freestanding toys like hula hoops and balls.

IMG_20160402_125253 play area at kidz corner indoor play center in strand

There is always someone keeping an eye on the kids, and all in all, the brightly coloured Kidz Corner is perfect for the little ones.

IMG_20160402_131240 emily and jessica hula hooping at kidz corner indoor play center in strand

There are a few tables set out for the parents, and you can order some coffee, cake and snacks for you and the kids – most likely sourced from the nearby Smiling Oven. Kidz Corner also hosts kids birthday parties, but seeing as we only visited them for a play session, I can’t quite comment on that.

The girls had an absolute blast and were completely knackered that evening, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be paying Kidz Corner plenty of visits this upcoming winter!

IMG_20160402_200757 chantelle reading to a tired out jessica and emily

Related Link: Kidz Corner

The Paardevlei Farmers Market Relaunched (2016-04-02) Photo Gallery 19 APR 2016

After being closed for a bit thanks to problems with leases, liquor licences and who knows what else, I’m very pleased to see that our local Paardevlei Farmers Market has recently (and super successfully) relaunched – and I am happy to report that it is great to have them back in action!

IMG_20160402_113947 the new paardevlei farmers market shed

I had paid a visit to the Paardevlei Farmers Market at its old location once or twice before, and ultimately despite the great buzz and atmosphere that it brought to the table, I came away disappointed with the cramped and dark nature of the Triggerfish building it was housing itself in.

But all that has now changed with the new location, a massive, easy to find shed that retains that vintage, industrial feel of the first incarnation, but this time with more than enough space and light to actually make this Saturday morning market feel more welcoming and definitely prime it for some excellent future growth!

IMG_20160402_114557 vegetables for sale at the paardevlei farmers market

There’s not a massive amount of traders on the floor just yet, but I’m sure that will change pretty quickly, and besides, they pretty much have all your needs covered – fresh produce, warm and cold drinks, decadent delights, and of course pancakes.

(Sadly though, the pancakes on offer are from Pure Pancakes – who still haven’t got their recipe right, meaning pancakes with too much bicarb and thus a horrible aftertaste/texture on the tongue!)

IMG_20160402_114147 entering the paardevlei farmers market shed

Nevertheless, we loved the vibe, the music, the atmosphere, and am definitely excited to watch this farmers market grow!

Related Link: Paardevlei Farmers Market

The KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden (2016-04-12) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 APR 2016

Surprisingly, Pietermaritzburg, capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa doesn’t feature a huge amount of tourist attractions. However, it is home to one of the oldest botanical gardens in South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden.

IMG_20160412_144720 magnificent trees making up the plane avenue in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden

Situated along Mayor’s Walk, in the western suburbs of Pietermaritzburg, the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden was first established back in 1874, with the garden being home to cultivated plants from both eastern South Africa and the Northern Hemisphere.

A member of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the garden features a century old lane of plane trees, leading northwards from the entrance, and a forested hillside with a number of footpaths. The Dorpspruit, a tributary of the Msunduze River, flows at the base of the hillside.

IMG_20160412_145618 water filled vlei in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden

Other attractions include the Insect Hotel, Clivia Dam and theme gardens including the popular Zulu Demonstration Garden, Cycad Garden and a Permaculture Garden. It also boasts a Children’s Play Area, is one of only a few SANBI National Botanical Gardens that has braai facilities. (There is also a small restaurant on the premises, as well as a weekly Farmers Market that occurs on the grounds.)

IMG_20160412_151208 tree-lined walkway in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden

As you might imagine, the is a lot of bird life to be spotted in the garden, with something like 180 species already noted as being present!

(One of the most interesting things that I saw in the garden was the so-called paper tree, with bark literally the texture and softness of damp paper!)

IMG_20160412_145742 signage in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in the garden as what I might have liked to (I was after all, only in the area due to a business meeting earlier that morning ), but this lush, green and shade soaked botanical garden is most definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area and crave a moment of peace and tranquility!

Related Link: KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden

So What’s The Deal With Online Casinos? Are They Safe?
[Unclassified] 17 APR 2016

I’ve already dedicated a blog post to online gambling in South Africa, which intrigued me to find out more about Internet casinos that have proven attractive to millions of people worldwide. Even though the legal status of such casino sites in our country isn’t as clear as it should be, we’re allowed to spend our money at gaming destinations based outside South African territory. Obviously, this can be a really bad idea if you provide your personal and credit card details to a scam site, which could later use them against you. However, I did my fair share of research and found tons of interesting stuff about online casinos as well as helpful facts about safety when playing casino games for real money online. Believe it or not, over R1 Billion has been won at online casinos and it turns out that numerous fellow South Africans have felt the blessing of hitting a juicy cash prize; not only they managed to score a winning combination, but they were also paid their winnings.

online casino 1

So, what’s there to be known when it comes to safety and security at online casinos that accept players from South Africa? Well, first of all you may want to stick with well-established operators whose reputation says enough about their trustworthiness and reliability. I’ve found sites that provide valuable and honest reviews as well as sites that let visitors to share their experience at a particular online casino; these are very helpful, especially to rookies that have no idea where to start. My experience so far has shown that top rated gaming destinations never disappoint since the competition is strong and they can’t risk ruining their good reputation.

Another thing I’ve found to be a reliable sign of safety is the gaming license the casino holds. Before explaining this further I must warn you to never, and I mean NEVER, join casinos that don’t hold any gaming licenses. So, the most popular licensing bodies in the world obviously are the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, Gibraltar Gaming Authority and Alderney Gaming Control Commission. Some other less popular, but often used nonetheless, authorities are the ones working on behalf of Curacao, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Even though most of these licensing bodies can react only if the player is a citizen of their country, getting an approval from them means that the gaming operator meets high safety, security and fairness standards.

Similarly, there are certificates that guarantee players a particular online casino is perfectly safe and secure. Some of those certificates are eCOGRA, Norton and McAfee. Having tested a site and checked its SSL encryption, these independent auditors give their approval only to gaming destinations that can be trusted.

online casino 2

I hope I didn’t bore you with this pretty confusing information to people that have never played at an online casino before. But, the truth is, I found myself playing several times so far and I enjoyed every single session. However, I did spent lots of time researching how to stay safe while gaming online and I believe this should help you pick a reliable site without getting overwhelmed by doing the same research I did. In this busy modern life sometimes it’s hard to escape everyday stuff and relax, but that’s exactly what gambling online offers. I am certain that’s one of the main reasons why people decide to give it a try and I can’t say they’re wrong to do so. Casino games are thrilling, easy to learn and fast-paced; plus, you can win some real cash and that beats all free games out there.

I would like to remind you one more time before I end this post to follow the tips provided above and make sure you join a safe casino site. Also, playing with real cash means that you can lose the uploaded amount and hence I strongly advise you to manage your budget and avoid spending more than you can afford. Other than that, all I can do is wish you all the luck in the world on your new adventure.

Visiting Redberry Farm in George (2016-03-12) Photo Gallery 10 APR 2016

I’ve already mentioned that back in March, Chantelle, the girls and I enjoyed a brilliant weekend away break with my folks at their holiday place in Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay. What I haven’t yet talked about was the great Saturday afternoon outing that saw us enjoy a leisurely, scenic drive out to George, where we paid a visit to the tourist friendly Redberry Farm.

IMG_20160312_124203 chantelle lotter with teddy at redberry farm in george

Redberry Farm is both a commercial strawberry growing farm and a popular family entertainment venue and as such makes for a perfect family outing if you’ve got a bunch of little ones running around.

There are loads of activities for the kids to do, including pony rides, bumper and paddle boats, bubble orbs, jungle gyms, and even a mini Redberry Express train, which takes kids for a quick spin around the maze.

IMG_20160312_124149 kids play area at redberry farm in george

Talking about the maze, Redberry Farm is also home to the Hedge Maze, the largest permanent hedge maze in the Southern Hemisphere! Grown from over 30,000 Syzygium Paniculatum plants, the maze consists of seven strawberry stations, a 25m underground tunnel and a look-out point to be found within 10,000m of pathways.

Oh, and don’t forget about the strawberry picking either!

IMG_20160312_125119 inside the farm stall at redberry farm in george

The premises also include a fantastic farm stall and tea garden, as well as the Red Shed Coffee & Berry Bar, which serves a variety of treats.

As you may well by now imagine, Jessica and Emily had an absolute blast of an outing, and I have to say, so did I. A genuinely fantastic family outing spot that I’m sure I’ll be visiting again the next time I find myself up in the area!

IMG_20160312_144551 onboard the strawberry express mini train at redberry farm in george

Some more photos from the excursion:

P.S. The food on offer was pretty good as well!

IMG_20160312_132938 jessica making her own ice cream sweets treat at redberry farm in george

Related Link: Redberry Farm