Kids Gumboot Birthday Parties at Gan Eden Farm in Durbanville (2017-12-09) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 04 JUL 2018

I have got such a massive backlog of photo galleries to post, that there are items popping up now that should literally have gone up a year or two ago – case in point – the girls had such a lot of fun attending Lizzy’s birthday party in December last year.

Hosted by Gumboot Parties on Gan Eden Farm at the back of Durbanville, the children were treated to all the staples of a farmyard party: a pony ride, a tractor trailer drive, feeding the hogs, feeding the horses, collecting fresh eggs from the chicken coop – basically just loads of fun for all our suburban/city kids.

The large playground also meant lots of running around and play time in between all the snacking and cake munching. (Even if we had to wait an extraordinary long time for the latter because Mike couldn’t get the birthday girl’s candles all lit!)

If the weather is good then this is such a great venue for kids birthday parties – so worth keeping in mind if you live in the Northern Suburbs and don’t particularly feel like cleaning up all the mess following a birthday party held at home! ;)

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52899,52900,52901,52902,52903,52904,52905,52906,52907,52908,52909,52910,52911,52912,52913,52914,52915,52916,52917,52918,52919,52920,52921,52922,52923,52924,52925,52926,52927,52928,52929,52930,52931,52932,52933,52934,52935,52936,52937,52938,52939,52940,52941,52942,52943,52944,52945,52946,52947,52948,52949,52950,52951,52952,52953,52954,52955,52956,52957″]

P.S. This was the very first time that Emily was brave enough to go into the chicken coop and collect her own egg. Jessica was super impressed by her little sister for a change!

Related Link: Gumboot Parties | Gan Eden Farm | Durbanville

Pedal Carts and Craft Beer at Dirtopia on Delvera Farm in Stellenbosch (2017-08-27) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 JUL 2018

Delvera (out on the R44 in the Stellenbosch winelands) has now for a long time billed itself as an “agri-village”, a farm estate hosting a lot of little shops focused on arts & crafts, food and kids activities.

Over the years a lot of these businesses have come and gone, but by far the biggest player still left standing in the complex is Dirtopia, the outdoor, off-road event & trail construction company that bases itself out of the Dirtopia Trail Centre at Delvera – which itself was established to provide active travelers with mountain biking, hiking and trail running information (and equipment), as well as serve as a base for permit sales for a range of trails in the Klapmutskop Conservancy.

Dirtopia has also absorbed what used to be known as the Simonsberg Cafe into its operations, renaming the restaurant to Dirtopia Cafe in keeping with the brand. Not that this was the last of their expansions mind you: the team also took over the operation of Oakleaf Lodge, rebranding the lodge to Dirtopia Trail Lodge – so basically affordable country accommodation option for anyone wanting to sleep over while tackling the trails for a weekend then.

Apart from all the Dirtopia operations, there is also Chrisna’s Olives (boutique olive company), the Simonsberg Environmental Education Centre (conservancy), The Vineyard Connection (wine and freight specialist company), Johan Swart Ceramics (ceramics manufacturer), and Polka Dot Party Pants (birthday parties company).

My favourite of the lot though has to be Zebonkey, the cheekily named, family owned micro brewery that produces interesting beers according to the German Reinheitsgebot ( “German Beer Purity Law”) – but always with a twist, like using sea salt water or Buchu smoked wheat!

Anyway, the point is that Delvera is currently super popular with mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners, but if like us you are none of the above, there is still just enough reason to pay a visit – even if it is just to have lunch in Dirtopia Cafe’s wonderfully leafy garden setting while sipping on a Zebonkey craft brew and taking in the stunning Stellenbosch winelands view.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”53290,53291,53292,53293,53294,53295,53296,53297,53298,53299,53300,53301,53302,53303,53304,53305,53306,53307,53308,53309,53310,53311,53312,53313,53314,53315,53316,53317,53318,53319,53320,53321,53322,53323,53324,53325,53326,53327,53328,53329,53330,53331,53332,53333,53334,53335,53336,53337,53338,53339,53340,53341,53342,53343,53344,53345,53346,53347,53348,53349,53350″]

As for the girls, there was only really one thing that they were dead set on tackling during our visit – the pedal carts! (But be warned – there is a LOT of competition to grab hold of one…)

Tip: According to their website, please note that some businesses at Delvera (not any of the Dirtopia ones mind you) are open by prior arrangement only, so it is advisable to call in advance to avoid disappointment.

Related Link: Dirtopia Trail Centre | Zebonkey Brewery | Delvera | Stellenbosch

Autumn Light and the Time for Peace Clock along Strand Beach (2018-04-22) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 JUN 2018

You would undoubtedly have spotted the small standalone clock tower if you have ever driven down Beach Road or walked along the beach promenade in Strand. Erected in 1994 and designed by Danie Pienaar, this structure standing on the sand is inscribed with the name “Time for Peace”, and based on the the plaque, it was a gift to the Strand community from the Strand Rotary Anns, marked as being in memory of one Mavis Mitton.

So the question then is – who was Mavis Mitton?

Well thanks to some Internet digging, it turns out that Mavis Mitton (née Alexander) was one of Cape Town’s first beauty queens, having won the very first (unofficial) Miss South Africa beauty contest organised by The Argus newspaper. (Her friends entered her into the competition without her knowing about it, and this was one of those early newspaper beauty contests where the paper printed photos of all the contestants and the readers sent their vote in.)

According to all the reports, the Cape celebrated Mavis’ victory, a young twenty year old teacher from Montagu, in proper style.

A little while after that, she moved to the Strand and started teaching at the Somerset West Primary School, where she taught for 26 years. Following the death of her husband (shortly after they were married sadly), she became greatly involved in charity work and joined the Strand Methodist community.

After her passing in 1990, Mavis donated all her money to the Strand Rotary association.

In 1993, as the death throes of Apartheid was getting more and more violent with each passing day, one Ann Jacueline Lester argued the need for symbol calling for peace between all – and thus, with the help of the local Rotary Anns, the Strand’s “Time for Peace” clock tower came into being.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”53116,53117,53118,53119,53120,53121,53122,53123,53124,53125,53126,53127,53128,53129″]

And that is that. So an interesting morsel of recent history for the next time you find yourself in the area then.

Related Link: Strand

Music, Fish, and Chips at the Vis Vlekhuis in Laaiplek (2018-03-31) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 25 JUN 2018

Chantelle, the girls and I joined her folks for a weekend up the West Coast back in March of this year, spending much of our time relaxing in the tranquil atmosphere of Jacobsbaai. Monty however very much wanted to show off a local fish and chips stop that they had only recently discovered, which explains then why we found ourselves winding through the small town of Velddrif and ending up in the even smaller town of Laaiplek on a rather warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

Now we weren’t visiting the historically significant port of Laaiplek (so named because it was the loading area for ships from Europe from where goods were then transported into the hinterland) or its adjacent sister Velddrif for their famed bokkoms or view over the Berg River, instead we were on a mission and heading straight to Die Vis Vlekhuis, a popular bar and fish and chips takeaways situated just off the main harbour of the area.

And I’m not joking about its popularity mind you. The venue was packed both inside and out (shame, their neighbours could truthfully have done with some of Vis Vlekhuis’ patrons), and the queue for food was quite the sight. (In other words, the wait time for fish and chips was a bit on the lengthy side).

Nevertheless, we got lucky in that Monty managed to secure an outdoor table, allowing us to then grab some beers, let the girls entertain themselves by colouring in (they brought their own supplies), and enjoy the live music courtesy of the rather talented and very entertaining Jay Jay who was belting out all the hits from next door in the bar area.

The food did of course eventually arrive, and I have to say, the fish and chips were well worth the wait. Generous portions, good flavour – nothing to complain about at all! Hungers were sated, seagulls were fed, and a lazy walk to look at the boats was taken.

(Oh, and a rather pleasant drive down through Bokkom Avenue along the river completed the trip.)

So, all in all a successful first visit to this small but charming in its West Coast way place then.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52114,52115,52116,52117,52118,52119,52120,52121,52122,52123,52124,52125,52126,52127,52128,52129,52130,52131,52132,52133,52134,52135,52136,52137,52138,52139,52140,52141,52142,52143″]

Extra Credit: The team behind the Afrikaans travel magazine Weg put together this short video about fish, pelicans, bakkies and bokkoms in Velddrif. Obviously you’ll need to know some Afrikaans to follow what’s going on, though that said, even if you do have a decent understanding, that distinctive West Coast accent isn’t going to make things any easier for you to follow…

In all honesty, now that I think about it, I don’t believe that I have ever tasted bokkoms. Guess I’ll have to rectify that come our next visit up the West Coast then!

Related Link: Die Vis Vlekhuis | Laaiplek | Velddrif

Seagulls and Beer at the Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay (2018-03-18) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 22 JUN 2018

I’ve mentioned them before, but heading down to the harbour to enjoy some fish and chips at the Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay has become somewhat of a family tradition whenever we all find ourselves up in the area. Thus, my weekend away with the girls, my folks and my brother Ryan back in March this year ended on that exact note.

Situated just outside the main harbour entrance, right across the small Biblia house, the Sea Gypsy Cafe is a lively spot with both an indoor and outdoor eating setup, a place where the vibe is good, the beer always flows, and fish and chips appear all around you.

Unless of course you ordered something else that is.

Historically I’ve always gone for the classic fish and chips, but recently Dad has converted me into grabbing one of their baskets instead, which contains a nice mix of fish, chips, crumbed mushrooms and calamari.

All ready to be washed down with some fantastic Glenhoff beer (that they have on tap). Spoiler alert: it is all rather good.

They have a good view over the bay (Santos beach is just across the water), the food is quite ‘lekker’ and in general it is a pretty good place to meet up with friends and spend an afternoon catching up.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52420,52421,52422,52423,52424,52425,52426,52427,52428,52429,52430,52431,52432,52433,52434,52435,52436,52437,52438,52439,52440″]

And then if you are anything like us – it is back into the car and on the road for the good 4.5 hour long drive home. Which on this occasion was a lot longer thanks to all the stop and go controls in place. (Am rather enjoying the new N2 road surface though!)

Extra Credit: I mentioned the little Biblia house across from the Sea Gypsy Cafe near the start of this post. If you are aren’t familiar with the group, BIBLIA is a Christian non-profit organization that sees to the spiritual and overall well-being of seafarers coming into South Africa. While their home base is the Cape Town harbour, the movement claims to have a presence in every major South African port, meaning that they should be a reasonably familiar sight for you to encounter when visiting any of SA’s larger harbours.

Related Link: Sea Gypsy Cafe | Mossel Bay

Eggs Benedict at Southey’s Family Bistro in Somerset West (2018-03-21) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 19 JUN 2018

Having supplanted Manuka a couple of years ago now, Southey’s Family Bistro is a super popular breakfast and lunch spot for families in the heart of Somerset West, thanks in no small part to their large back garden, outdoor seating and super kid friendly facilities (think jumping castles and slippy slides in Summer).

(The fact that they sport a well stocked boutique wine shop doesn’t hurt either!)

Seeing as this is such a popular spot for families to gather around then, we invited Chantelle’s mom and dad to drive out and join us for a spot of breakfast one March Saturday morning, which they happily agreed to – meaning that we were then left holding thumbs for a windstill, sunny day.

Which pleasingly is exactly how the day turned out to be.

Now we don’t normally go out for breakfast, meaning that on the few occasions that we do actually find ourselves at a restaurant for brekkie, it is always nice to grab something that I don’t normally get to have around the table in the morning – so this time around it just so happened that Southey’s Eggs Benedict kind of tickled my fancy.

Spoiler alert, it was plain, simple, and rather nice.

Anyway, Emily played on the jungle gym, Jessica ran amok with my phone camera, and in general, a pleasant morning was had by all.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52443,52444,52445,52446,52447,52448,52449,52450,52451,52452,52453,52454,52455,52456,52457,52458,52459,52460,52461,52462,52463,52464,52465″]

After breakfast we needed to pop in to CABS to do a bit of ingredient shopping for Chantelle’s baking business, giving me the perfect opportunity to poke my head into the popular new addition to the Helderberg Things to Do with Kids list – the Blades Roller Skating Rink!

I’m pleased to report that it looks rather awesome and that Jessica immediately made me promise that I would take her as soon as another weekend freed up again! ;)

Related Link: Southey’s Family Bistro | Somerset West

PHP: Get the first Key of an Associative Array Tips, Tricks and Tutorials 16 JUN 2018

I am not completely sure about it, but I somehow don’t think that I’ve ever needed to get the first key of an associative array using PHP before. Sure, a simple problem with a simple solution, but seeing as I needed to Google this one, I’m jotting down the answer here for future reference.

So, our example for the day then: Given the following array, print out the first key.

$months = array(
'jan'=>'January',
'feb'=>'February',
'mar'=>'March',
'apr'=>'April',
'may'=>'May',
'jun'=>'June',
'jul'=>'July',
'aug'=>'August',
'sep'=>'September',
'oct'=>'October',
'nov'=>'November',
'dec'=>'December'
);

reset($months);
$result = key($months);
if ($result !== NULL){
echo $result; //this will print 'jan'
}

The important bits are reset(), which moves the internal array pointer back to the first element of the array, and then key(), which retrieves the index element at the current array position (dictated by the internal pointer).

Simple (when you read the documentation).

UPDATE: As pointed out by one of my readers, if you know you have an array with at least one element in it, you could always just use array_keys($months)[0] as an alternative.

Related Link: reset() | key()

Pulled Pork and Brisket from the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw (2018-04-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 14 JUN 2018

I might have mentioned in passing that we had roped in Chantelle’s folks to head out to the Hickory Shack for lunch with us one April Sunday afternoon (Monty was super keen on giving this place a go), but up until now I haven’t actually spoken about the lunch itself. The summary is this then: as per usual it was awesome. Exactly what you would want if you love eating meat.

I think that this was the third time that Chantelle and I were visiting the Hickory Shack, and other than the neat little beer tasting deck they seem to be tacking on, not all that much has changed at this excellent Southern styled pit-master smokehouse eatery.

Texas style beef brisket, pulled pork, belly and colossal ribs (and chicken for those non red meat lovers who get dragged with for the outing) are all the stars of the menu, though that said, I did notice that these days the shack also offers a couple of lighter brunch options for those who pop in whilst on a breakfast run.

Oupa and Ouma were on hand to entertain the girls, craft brews and drinks in jam jars served to slake our thirst (it was a pretty warm April afternoon after all), and the carefully prepared meat, corn and chunky chips were just as mouthwateringly delicious as what I had remembered it to be.

(Plus, the complementary array of dipping sauces were excellent as always. Just a note though, the spicy one really is pretty damn spicy!)

Given all of that, it isn’t all that surprising then to hear that this place gets pretty packed on the weekends, so much so that for a change Chantelle actually phoned ahead in order to book a table. We don’t normally do this.

As things turned out it was just as well that she had – as far as I could see there definitely weren’t any open tables for any casual diners come lunch time proper!

Basically, a thoroughly brilliant lunch get together was enjoyed by all (well not really the girls – this place isn’t really intended for the little ones), and the Hickory Shack remains hard not to recommend given the relatively scarcity of this style of cooking on our local restaurant scene.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52076,52077,52078,52079,52080,52081,52082,52083,52084,52085,52086,52087,52088,52089,52090,52091,52092,52093,52094,52095,52096,52097,52098,52099,52100,52101,52102,52103″]

(And yes, as always I took a photograph of that skull decorated shed. Literally every visit I make, I walk away with the EXACT same photograph! I can see Chantelle shaking her head from here.)

Related Link: Hickory Shack | Grabouw

Books and Soft Serve Ice Cream at Peregrine Farm Stall in Grabouw (2018-04-15) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 11 JUN 2018

In April we invited Chantelle’s folks to come out and lunch with us at the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw. Lunch was as always brilliant, but for dessert I suggested that we take the kids down the road to Peregrine Farm Stall – their soft serve ice cream (from the super convenient Padkos Express outside) and tractor strewn play area is always a guaranteed hit with my girls.

Chantelle agreed, but only because I agreed to look after the girls at the outdoor play area while she and her folks grabbed some coffee and actual proper from the actual Peregrine restaurant inside.

Now I’m quite fond of the outdoor area that Peregrine Farm Stall has crafted over the last year or two. The thing is, as a farm stall/bakery/restaurant they are incredibly popular and thus incredibly busy – literally all the time – meaning that the ability to skip the crushing bustle of inside and rather relax with your kids outside is something I almost always immediately gravitate to. (So much so that I can truthfully say that I’m not sure when last I’ve actually popped my head into the farm stall proper!)

Pleasingly, given the warm weather, the soft serve ice cream that we picked up from Padkos Express was amazing, though that said, neither girl was able to make much of a dent in the huge dollop of ice cream that they each received – meaning that moi had to do some serious mop up work.

Ice cream done, the girls headed off to play, I grabbed a delicious cider from the Everson’s Cider pop-up tasting room, and went browsing, with by far the most interesting find of the day being awarded to Burning Books and its beautiful shiny red truck.

An offshoot of Liberty Books (which I don’t actually know anything about either), Burning Books (perhaps not the best of names for someone selling books) is a clever mobile bookstore – hopping about from event to event in their converted, stunningly pretty, bright red 1955 Bedford Green Goddess fire truck.

(To be fair, given that bit of information, you might now understand just where the bookstore’s name comes from. That said, I’m still not a fan of the name.)

Anyway, it is a clever thing to see, the books are all beautifully presented, and given their closeness to the play area, plenty of moms and dads seemed to be finding themselves dragged by the arm to check things out.

Clever. So, book browsing, ice cream, swings, tractors, shopping and a cider for me. Can’t say that I didn’t rather enjoy this unplanned little visit to what must surely be the most popular farm stall along the N2 highway.

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”52034,52035,52036,52037,52038,52039,52040,52041,52042,52043,52044,52045,52046,52047,52048,52049,52050,52051,52052,52053,52054,52055,52056,52057,52058,52059,52060,52061,52062,52063,52064,52065,52066,52067,52068,52069,52070″]

(For completeness sake, Chantelle and her folks seemed to rather enjoy their little visit as well.)

Related Link: Peregrine Farm Stall | Burning Books | Grabouw