Dog Friendly Accommodation - Eco Karoo Lodge

Monday, 20 January 2020

If you follow me on Instagram you will know we went on our first family road trip across South Africa, from Durban to Cape Town. As Benji is a senior rescue, I wanted him to have the most incredible adventure and it was also our last family holiday as 3 before Baby Airey arrives so we took a slow drive over 2 weeks, stopping at little towns (including some we had never heard of!) and soaking in all the beauty that South Africa has to offer. This was hand’s down one of my favourite holidays I have ever been on! I will do more in depth blog posts about the route we took, tips for traveling with a dog, the hotels, AirbnBs and lodges we stayed at and all that jazz but I wanted to do a dedicated blog post about the Eco Karoo Lodge, as my DMs were filled with questions about where this was and what it was like when I shared where we were. 


A lot of man hours were put into finding the best dog friendly accommodation to stay at. Let me tell you, it was no easy task but all that research paid off as one of the gems we found was the Eco Karoo Lodge. Even though I am a dog owner, I don’t want to stay somewhere that smells like a dog, has dog hair everywhere or has any evidence that a dog before ours was there. Do you know what I mean? And the Eco Karoo Lodge exceeded all my expectations of what dog friendly accommodation can be.


Situated on a family owned farm, Knoffelfontein, is the new Eco Karoo Lodge which is self-catering, 100% off the grid and tucked away in the vast landscape of the Karoo surrounded by mountains and endless semi desert plains. There are only three lodges, each with two rooms and an en-suite bathroom. There is also a shared braai and entertainment area with a fully equipped kitchen and plunge pool. The rooms have been designed to echo the natural surroundings of the landscape with exposed bricks, wood and cement accents, an open fire and an outdoor shower. It is simply beautiful. At night the stars shine brighter here and seem to kiss the earth while all you can hear is the stillness of the night. We witnessed a storm rolling in while sitting on our patio one night and I cannot even describe in words how beautiful it was. There are some things that cannot be put into words, only experienced and there is something about being under the African sky, in the middle of nowhere that is so good for the soul.


WHEN TO GO

I would say anytime of the year as it must be so warm and cosy having the fire going during winter and curling up with a good book or making smores at the fire pit. This would also make an amazing Christmas / New Year group booking if you got a few close friends or family together and hired all 3 lodges.

DOG FRIENDLY

This was a 10/10 according to Benji. He had 4200 hectares of open space and loved going on the trail walks without a leash. He even met a tortoise for the first time. He really was living his best Jock of the Bushveld life here. However, just make sure your dog listens to basic commands and isn’t a roamer as you wouldn’t want them wondering off only to never be seen again so ensure you only stay here with a dog who listens, especially if they spot one of the local buck!


WHAT TO DO

  • Birdwatching
  • Stargazing
  • Mountain biking
  • Trail walks or hiking
  • Relax
Estee and Bert were the most welcoming hosts and one of them will meet you on arrival so you can always ask them if there is anything else you are interested in.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

You are in the middle of nowhere so make sure you bring your own food and drinks. There isn’t much in Luckhoff that we found in terms of food supplies so I would suggest stocking up in one of the bigger towns on your way there.  There is an honesty jar for firewood you might need to use, and Henry is available on site. He is such a lovely chap and will help make a fire for you if needed. As mentioned, there is a fully equipped kitchen with plates, knifes, forks, a kettle etc. so no need to bring those.


TOP TIP

Take a good book, your swimsuit and your walking shoes as there are walking / hiking trails you can go on and if you would rather just relax and do nothing, this is the perfect spot to do that as well.

The Eco Karoo Lodge is now one of my favourite places to stay at and I cannot wait to return one day. Only next time, I will make sure we stay longer! 

Dis-Chem Baby Bag - 2020

Friday, 10 January 2020

If you read my last blog post about Discovery Medical Aid andMaternity Benefits you would have seen one of the perks you can qualify for is a FREE baby bag from Dis-Chem. If you are not sure how to go about getting your baby bag, read this post first with everything you need to know.

I picked up my baby bag from Dis-Chem earlier this week and thought I would share it with you in case you want to know what it looks like for 2020 and what goodies you get.

THE BABY BAG

I must say I am pleasantly surprised with how beautifully designed this baby bag is. Let’s be honest, usually freebies are cheap and no one ever really gets proper use of out the items. However, I love the gender neutral colour combo of dove grey and light beige. It looks chic and not kitsch. The handles are faux leather (great for anyone who is vegan) and the bag itself feels like it is made out of some sort of durable canvas and could easily be wiped down.  The zips seem well made, there is a compartment on the side for a bottle, inside is a net pocket to put any smaller bis and bobs and it also comes with a small grey changing mat, made out of the same canvas type material.  If I didn’t already have a baby bag I wouldn’t mind carry this around at all. I am going to give this one to my mom so that even granny can have a dedicated baby bag which I think will make her feel so special.

Free Dis-Chem baby bag - 2020

WHAT’S IN THE BAG?

  • Pack of 6 Softi maternity pads
  • Pack of 3 Dis-Chem ladies disposable underwear
  • Pair of Pigeon disposable breast pads
  • Sample of Natur Vital Hair S.O.S shampoo
  • 5 new born disposable nappies (I think these are Pampers)
  • Pack of 80 Honey Baby wet wipes
  • Pack of 150 disposable baby nappy bags
  • 60ml bottle So Pure gentle baby laundry wash
  • 50ml bottle Dis-Chem surgical spirits
  • Pack of 10 cotton balls
  • 50ml bottle Palmers massage lotion for stretch marks
  • Sample tub of Bennetts baby aqueous cream
  • Sample tub of Bennetts baby bum crème
  • X1 Tommee tippee dummy
  • Tweezers
Products for mom & baby 


Our Gender-Neutral Baby Shower

Friday, 3 January 2020

The first trimester was the longest. Then I blinked and well hello third trimester! I cannot believe we are going to be welcoming baby Airey into our world in 7 weeks. Somebody pinch me.

Brett and I decided to host our own baby shower as I always find expecting someone ese to do something for you and being the centre of attention rather awkward and he didn’t want to have a nappy braai, (is that something only South Africans do?) so we decided to plan the baby shower ourselves to reflect us rather than tradition. Our goal was to have couples, kiddies and all dogs welcome. The first two groups pitched up, Benji was very disappointed with the lack of dogs though.

Our venue was Brett’s family home which they built 30 odd years ago and it’s one of my favourite places to spend time at with so many memories made there. I wanted this to be a hassle-free afternoon surrounded by those we love rather than a stressful event. So, I roped the moms in to help with cooking and baking (although there were a few store bought treats like macaroons because how does one even make those!) And Brett prepared a fillet on the braai for the non-veggies. I heard the Portuguese rolls he made we phenomenal!

Here is a glimpse into our Baby Shower and all the finer details in case you are planning a gender neutral, DIY baby shower and need a little inspiration.

Our most loved friends & family 

All hands on deck to set up 

Pims master and the Chef

DÉCOR

Italy has always been one of our favourite countries and having had our small, intimate wedding there this place will always be close to our hearts. I wanted to channel a modern, Italian twist into the general décor which was bought to life by my mother in law with her beautiful floral arrangements. She is not a florist although she sure should be as she is extremely talented and arranged the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen! We didn’t play any baby games and rather made this into a summer soiree which we knew we would enjoy more. As we are having a surprise, I just wanted lots of colour so we didn’t have one colour scheme to work with but I think the splash of colours worked out perfectly.

The table decor

My mother in law's gorgeous flowers she put together 

FOOD

  • Bruschettas 4 ways: Strawberry & Balsmaic, Hummus & Carnalised Onion, Mushroom, Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella.
  • Goats Cheese with Honey & Walnuts tarts
  • Harvest board with a variety of cheeses (Woolworths stocks a variety of interesting pasteurised cheeses), fruits, olives, dips, crackers and pitta breads. I love a good harvest board!
  • Spinach & feta quiche.
  • Portuguese Steak Rolls
  • Milk Tart and Lemon Meringue Pie (these are our two favourite homemade cakes)
  • Bar One cake topped with raspberries
  • Macaroons
  • Pasteis de Nata aka “Portuguese tarts” (another firm favourite)
Macaroons

Harvest board with all pasteurised cheeses

DRINKS


  • Pims
  • Six Dogs Gin and Tonics
  • Water jugs flavoured with fruits
  • Lemonade
Six Dogs Gin, bought purely for the packaging

Our first born Benji


DRESS

Maybe the fact that I am wearing blue is a subconscious message but, in all honesty, I just love the colour blue and white together. This dress was designed and made by Bianca Warren. Her brief was “something with a bow” and she come up with this beautiful creation. It started out full-length and as it got hotter, we just cut the hem so I had two looks in one day! I thought I wanted something loose and flowy but Bianca was adamant a fitted dress would be more flattering even though I feel like a little whale but I am so glad I listened to her and gave her full creative licence with this dress because I LOVED it.

Our family portrait 

PHOTOGRAPHY

As much as I love the grannies, I just knew having them walk around capturing the day on their iPads wasn’t going to quite capture this special day and I wanted everyone to be present rather than trying to get pictures so I called on the lovely Maresha Lee from Maresha Lee Photography. Since shooting this day, she has become a full-time photographer and I cannot recommend her enough. She caught the sweetest moments of our family, friends and their little ones. I haven’t shared them on here to protect their privacy but have a squiz through her website to see the beauty she captures.

MAKEUP

I have mentioned Amber-Lea Horne here before and she is now my go to girl for make-up in Durban North. I needed all the help I could get covering the bags under my eyes!

Dress designed & made by Bianca Warren

INSPIRATION

I have saved my Baby Shower Mood Board here for you if you need some more inspiration for a baby shower you might be planning. If you are expecting a little one soon, congratulations! And if you were like me desperately trying a few months ago, know that I am routing for you and sending you all my love and positive vibes. It’s not an easy silent battle when you trying to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen right away, but you really are not alone. So, if it is taking a little longer, hang in there.

The one who first made me a mom

xoxo



Discovery Medical Aid and Maternity Benefits – 101

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

I’ve always found medical aid a bit of a minefield and even more so when I got pregnant. Where did I need to start, what benefits were there to maximise, what birth options did I have available and what did I need to do to get my sh*t together and start adulting properly? If you are with Discovery and pregnant, or know someone who is, then this blog post is for you. *Disclaimer* I am not a medical aid adviser; this is just based on all my research and trials and errors of what I discovered when pregnant and on Discovery’s medical aid. Here’s hoping this helps you too and takes away a little of the overwhelming stress you might be feeling.


Before you get pregnant

If you are planning to get pregnant my top tip would be getting GAP cover BEFORE you fall pregnant. Most medical aid plans do not cover your full hospital bill, they generally cover 100% or 200% but private hospitals charge a lot more than this so GAP cover will cover the shortfall and ensure you aren’t left with a hefty bill at the end. GAP cover is also much cheaper than your normal medical aid (R200 to R300 a month depending on the plan you go for) so for this much it is worth getting to help with the total cost of childbirth which could run into the 1000s. You will generally need to have GAP cover for 12 months before they will cover you so keep that in mind too when trying to conceive.

When to registry your pregnancy with Discovery & Vitality

As soon as your find out. Register your pregnancy with Discovery AND Vitality (you need to register on both separately. For some bizarre reason it is not linked), then tell your friends and family. For the first 1000 days you will be eligible for additional maternity benefits so you may as well get the most out of them during this time. You can register your pregnancy on Discovery’s mobile app or online. Once you have registered, your additional benefits will be activated, and you will also be covered for your first scan / blood work etc. If you haven’t registered your pregnancy by the time you go for your 8 weeks scan you won’t be covered, so make sure you do this.  

Birth Plans & Your Options

I personally would have loved to have a water birth and home birth / birthing centre option but found the red tape and lack of Discovery’s support for anything other than a straightforward hospital birth too stressful and overwhelming to try fight. Maybe this will become more common in future as hospitals fill up, midwives are utilised more and mothers fight for options but as of 2019, I ended up opting for a lovey gynaecologist who is open to natural birth but delivers in hospital because I felt like I was already too overwhelmed just trying to survive pregnancy.

Preauthorization for your birth

You cannot necessarily book your actual hospital bed if you are planning a natural birth as you won’t know when you will go into labour but you can register at the hospital, (we did this at the hospital at 30 weeks), specify your hospital room preference (but this will depend on what is available on the day) and get all your details into the system which can take about 45 minutes and saves you doing this on the day.

To get preauthorisation click hereYou’ll need the following information:

  • Date of admission
  • Name of the hospital or clinic
  • Name of your treating doctor and anaesthetist (if available).
  • You can also call Discovery on 0860 99 88 77 if you have any questions or need assistance
  • It is useful to note that you can currently change your Discover Medical Aid Plan on 1 December so if you need to upgrade your plan to cover the hospital where your gynecologist delivers, make sure you take this into consideration.

Discovery’s Benefits and extra Maternity Perks

Netcells
You can get up to 25% discount on umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cell banking. The discount depends on the payment plan you choose and the Netcells Banking Fee. This year Netcells also had a 50% off Black Friday deal which I took full advantage of and managed to save R10,000 so it is worth checking out their Facebook page and looking out for extra deals around Black Friday and Christmas in case they have more deals.

HealthyCare Benefit
  • You can get up to 25% back on items at Clicks or Dis-Chem with the HealthyCare benefit. This saving applies to mainly baby and maternity products. You will then get 10% off the store you select as your secondary Partner. Once you've activated the HealthyCare benefit on Discover’s website, the Clicks and Dis-Chem loyalty cards will be linked to the benefit using your ID number. Your cashback will be converted into points which will be loaded on to your Clicks or Dis-Chem card. If you want to switch your current HealthyCare Benefit Partner from Clicks to Dischem for example, just follow the below steps, but note you can only change your Benefit Partner once a year.
The main member on your Vitality policy will need to be logged on to change this. Then follow the below steps. 

  1. Once logged into your profile, click on ‘Vitality’ in the navigation strip at the top of the webpage, and then click on Rewards.
  2. Click Learn More under the HealthyCare block.
  3. Scroll down and click Change Preferred Partner on the bright orange bar.
  4. Select your new preferred partner.
  • Once your baby arrives you can earn up to 2,500 points for doing the well-baby check-up at Clicks or Dis-Chem pharmacy each year.
  • Get a FREE baby bag and products from Dis-Chem. To qualify for this, follow the below steps:
o   Signup for a Dis-Chem loyalty card if you haven’t already.
o   Go in store and register your pregnancy and due date or call the Dischem Careline on 0860 347 243.
o   You will then qualify for a free baby bag once you reach your 28th week or more and have met the below criteria.
o   To qualify you will need to earn 1275 benefit points on your Dischem card. When you reach this number of points and are at 28 weeks or more a bag will be sent to your nearest Dischem store. You will be notified via SMS or email (so make sure your details are up to date beforehand). Take your ID with you to collect it. 
  • Get a FREE baby Vitality Baby gift pack and 10% off selected baby products (like prams, car seats etc.) from Toys R Us.
o   Your 10% discount card will include a unique number that will be sent to the address you include when registering for Vitality Baby. This unique card number will be valid until your Vitality policy ends. Once you have activated the benefit, the card number will also be sent to you via SMS so that you can start using the benefit while you wait for your card to be delivered.
o   You will also receive a R100 voucher to spend at Babies R Us and Toys R Us.
o   Log onto Discovery (I found going online easier to find this):
Click on “about vitality Baby” see below then enter your mobile number to be sent a code you can take with you to redeem this Vitality gift. If you are expecting multiples, you will get a Vitality gift for each baby.
o   You can also earn up to 10x more Discovery Miles when shopping at Reggies, Babies R Us and Toys R Us.

HealthyDining

  • This benefit could do with some work as there are many healthy restaurants in Durban for example that don’t feature on here (hopefully that changes!) but for now, below are the benefits you can utilize for “eating healthy” (I say that in inverted commas as I personally don’t think Nando’s is that healthy and I would like to see more vegan / vegetarian options being recognised as healthy).
  • You will get 25% cash back for eating a healthy meal at one of Discovery’s HealthyDining restaurant partners. Simply can your receipt within 24 hours to receive your cash back. Partners as of November 2019 include: Col’Cacchio, Doppio Zero, Mugg & Bean, Nando’s and Ocean Basket.
  • Link your Uber Eats account with your Vitalyty app as you will get 25% as above too!

HealthyFood

  • 25% cashback at Woolworths or Pick n Pay. You will then get 10% off your secondary partner.
  • Earn double points. Pregnant women and new mothers earn double Vitality points for HealthyFood purchases during pregnancy and until your baby is six months old.

Baby Wellness Clinic at Dis-Chem

  • Discovery Vitality members get 5000 vitality points all scheduled vaccinations for your baby.
  • Top Tip if you have a Dis-Chem card swipe it when filling up at Total and you will earn benefit points. For every litre of fuel you will earn 10 Dis-Chem Loyalty Benefit Points.

Sterkinekor
  • 50% off movies at Sterkinekor cinemas.
Being Active
  • Link your health app on your iPhone to your Discovery app so your day to day steps can be tracked to earn your points. No need for a fancy watch if you don’t have one, just utilise this to get your step counts in.
  • You will get double fitness points for every qualifying activity during pregnancy and until your baby is six months old.

Digital Cards:

  • You have a digital card you can access for your health membership and Sterkinekor card in this section