Dog Friendly Accommodation - Drakensberg (Winterton)

Monday, 12 October 2020

Tucked away between the rolling hills of the Drakensberg, just outside of the small town of Winterton you will find the Tugela River Lodge and Hideaway, perfectly situated on the banks of the Tugela River. It is a pet friendly, self-catering, eco lodge and almost halfway between Durban and Joburg which makes it the perfect getaway or halfway stop.

If you are looking for a place to escape to with the whole family (including the dogs), then this is the place to go. I have searched high and low for beautiful, pet friendly accommodation in KZN but I am often underwhelmed with options and most accommodation that is dog friendly, is better suited for small dogs. However, this place really is great for any size dog or families with multiple dogs.

There are four self-catering cottages that range from an 18 sleeper to a 4 sleeper. They each have their own fenced in garden for doggies to safely enjoy the outdoors without wondering off while you are at your cottage and there are also dog friendly trial walks along the river. If you don’t have a dog, there are also hikes and trial runs you can do through the game farm. We stayed at the River House which is the only cottage with WIFI but other than that, all cottages are completely off the grid. Powered solely by solo energy and gas you get to turn off and experience a truly sustainable getaway. They have recently built a chicken coop and you can buy fresh eggs from the happy hens. They are also in the process of building veggie patches and animal pens so kiddies will be able to feed the animals and you could buy fresh, organic produce for your stay. This honestly sounds like the dream to me!

Pack your swimsuits as you can go tubing, borrow the canoes or go fishing along the river. And as there is no aircon this is the way to cool down on a hot summer’s day!

Top Tips

If you have a baby pack a picnic blanket and umbrella as you can spend the day fishing down by the river. Which is also a hit if you have a dog that loves water.

The small town of Winterton isn’t too far but I would suggest bringing your own food rather than hoping to find it all in Winterton.

Best dog friendly places to stop along the way:

  • The Windmills is a great place to stop if you need to refuel as they have dog areas for your dog to have a pitstop and stretch their legs. There are also a number of little stores to explore or you can pick up a snack for the road. The coffee is average though. Rather stop at one of the places listed below.
  • Blueberry Café (best suited for small dogs)
  • Village at Yard 41
  • The Old Mushroom Farm (they have their own dogs on the property so only go here if your dog is good with other dogs)

Modern Day Cloth Nappies – Your Questions Answered!

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Social media can be a wonderful thing, so wonderful in fact that this is where I met the lovely Innes. When I was pregnant, I stumbled across modern day cloth nappies Innes’s Instagrampage. It was Innes who helped get me started with cloth nappies and she has been my go to trusty source of knowledge ever sense. She is a seasoned expert having two little ones in cloth nappies and I thought there was no one better person to invite over to my blog to help answer all your cloth nappy Q&As. So, let’s get started…

Pim Pam nappy, Image by Innes Vautier

From Innes...

Getting started with cloth nappies can be daunting, but once you get going it’s often a lot less scary than it seems! To help you on the way, Meg has asked me to answer some of your most common questions. If you’d like more help, you can head over to my blog where I’ve got plenty more blog posts on cloth nappies. I also always recommend getting some personalised help. The best way is to see if you have a local nappy library, or you can contact one of the many retailers that offer personalised advice. My favourite is The Nappy Gurus (probably because I am one of their nappy gurus!)


1.     How many nappies do you need for full time?


Most modern cloth nappies are ‘one size’ or ‘birth-to-potty’, which means that you can generally use the same nappy from around 3.5-16 kg. You’ll need around 20 daytime nappies for full-time use, if you’re washing every other day. You can choose to have fewer nappies and just wash more frequently. In addition, you may need a few special nighttime nappies (more on that later!). Generally, having 4 night nappies is a good idea because they’re slower drying. 


If you’re planning to use cloth nappies from birth, you may need a set of newborn nappies, especially if little one is on the small side and is unlikely to fit one size nappies from birth. For the first couple of months babies need changing much more frequently, so 25-30 is a good number if you want to be sure of not running out. You also won’t need special night nappies for newborns - more on that below!


2.         What do you do at night?


Newborn babies poop through the night (lovely!) until they’re at least 2 months old, so until that stops you can use the same nappies at night as you use in the day. Once baby is sleeping longer stretches, it’s a good idea to use a super absorbent nighttime nappy that will last the full twelve hours. 


Using cloth at nighttime takes a bit of trial and error, so generally it’s a good idea to get daytime sorted before you think about nights. Some people even choose to continue using disposables at night, which is a totally valid option!


Once you’re ready to tackle nights, most people use a fitted nappy, which is essentially an absorbent piece of material in the shape of a nappy, with a waterproof cover over the top. This is the most absorbent kind of nappy so is very reliable for lasting the whole night.


Other people use their daytime nappies at night but add more absorbency, though this option only tends to work for babies that are lighter wetters. Some nappies (known as all-in-twos) have the ability to switch out the normal absorbent insert for a more absorbent nighttime version. Other nappies can be made more absorbent by adding extra layers of material, known as boosters.


3.        Can you use nappy creams with your nappies?


Yes you can, although you’ll need to use a nappy liner for lots of them. This is because creams can coat the fibres of the nappy and affect their absorbency. Some creams are safe directly against the nappy. My favourite cloth-safe option is the Weleda Calendula Cream, but coconut oil is also fine and is lovely and natural.


*hey it’s Meg jumping in here* - Pure Beginnings and Oh Lief are available in South Africa and are cloth nappy safe


4.         What do you do with dirty nappies?


Used nappies can be stored in either a large waterproof bag, known as a wet bag, or in a bucket lined with a mesh bag. Before babies are weaned, all their dirty nappies can go straight into the bag or bucket. However once babies start eating solid food, you need to remove poop from the nappies before they go into the bucket. 


Using nappy liners can be really helpful for this. Disposable liners can simply be lifted out of the nappy along with any poop, and binned. With fleece liners, you simply shake the liner over the toilet so any solids fall in, or hold the liner under the toilet flush so that the clean water gives them a good rinse.


When your nappy’s been rinsed, pop it into your bucket or bag to await wash day. There’s no need to soak or boil nappies as your mum or grandma might have done!


5.         Do the dirty nappies smell?

It’s important to leave your bag or bucket open a bit so that the nappies don’t smell. It sounds counterintuitive, but using an airtight bucket will make them smell because they won’t have any airflow. Leave your storage open and you shouldn’t have any issues with smells. In fact, lots of people have said to me that this is one thing they love about cloth - no more stinky nappy bins!

6.          How do you wash them?


When it comes to wash day, you take either your wet bag or the mesh bag from inside your bucket, empty it into the machine and add the bag itself.

You will need to put your nappies through two washes - pre-wash and main wash. 

Pre-wash: Empty your nappy bucket or bag into the machine and put it on a 30-60 minute wash cycle at 40°C (warm), with half a dose of detergent as specified on the packet. Don’t confuse this with the pre-wash setting on your machine - it needs to be an actual cycle.

Main wash: Before you put this wash on, make sure that your machine is ⅔ to ¾ full by adding small pieces of clothing, hand towels and tea towels. Just make sure that the things you add are white or light coloured, to avoid colour run. Then put your machine on its longest cycle (at least 2 hours long) at either 40°C or 60°C (warm or hot), with a full dose of detergent as specified on the packet.

Pim Pam Cloth Nappy, Image by Innes Vautier

7.         How often do you need to wash them?


It’s a good idea not to leave your nappies too long between washes. Most people wash every 2-3 days. Regularly leaving them dirty for longer than 3 days can damage them.


8.          What’s the best detergent to use?


Most detergents will work fine, though eco-friendly or all-natural detergents sadly tend not to have enough cleaning power to work properly on nappies. Go for a good mainstream detergent and you shouldn’t have any trouble. Just make sure it doesn't contain any fabric softener as this will affect the absorbency of your nappies. 


9.         How do you avoid blowouts?


One of the best things about cloth nappies is that they are incredible at containing leaks. When I used disposables when my first baby was born, we’d get blowouts pretty much weekly. With my second, who’s been in cloth from birth, I’ve never yet had a poo leak! The experience is the same for the vast majority of cloth nappy users. Because cloth nappies have proper elastics that fit nice and snug on baby’s back and legs, there’s no room for leaks. If you’re particularly concerned about leaks, then going for a nappy with a double gusset is best. Double gussets have two rows of elastic, so there’s two lines of defence against the dreaded poonami.


10.       How do you cope with it all?


I have two little ones and I’d say that using cloth nappies is far from the hardest thing I do as a mum! Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, it very quickly becomes second nature. Getting help at the start from blogs or friends, or an advice service like I suggested is really vital to help support you through the early weeks. But once you’re past that, it’s just habit. Having a baby brings more washing anyway, so you’ll find you get into a rhythm of doing regular washes. Doing the nappies just becomes another one of those!

The biggest thing for me is that a little extra work is worth it for the sake of the environment and my children’s future. You will get through so many nappies before a child is potty trained, which can be such a huge burden on the planet. Switching to cloth is really rewarding and so worthwhile. I really hope it’s something that you love as much as I do!

It's Meg again here, I hope that has helped you. If you have any questions please pop them below! And if you aren’t already following Innes head over to Instagram and give her a follow. You’re going to love her!



Introducing your fur baby to your new baby

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Let me start by saying I am not a trained animal expert. I am just a new mom. But first and foremost, I am a dog mom. This is my personal experience and tips which might help you if you are bringing a new baby home.

I had big dreams for Benji’s and Chloe’s first meeting. I have seen all the cute videos on YouTube, you know the ones where the family dog is so excited about the new baby and the baby is licked and adored. It’s love at first sight. Yeah, well it wasn’t like that for us!

When we bought our baby girl, Chloé, home our little jack Russell, Benji, was less than impressed. He didn’t want to sit near her and he would always turn his back to her so not to look at her (I can only laugh at this now!) But at the time I wasn’t sure if he was ever going to like her. Slowly but surely, he warmed up. It took about two weeks for him to feel comfortable enough to look at her and now four months later, he adores her and even sneaks in a lick or two when he thinks I’m not looking!

These are my top tips for introducing your baby to your dog:

1.       Start as you mean to finish. What I mean by this is set the expectation now before you have your baby. If you usually allow your dog on the bed but do not want them on the bed when the baby arrives, start training them now so they have time to get used to their new “normal”. The last thing you want is to make your dog feel replaced when the new baby arrives by always shouting at them to move off a spot they were always allowed on before.


2.       Take something home from the hospital. I had always heard this advice, but I am not sure this really made a difference in all honesty. Brett took the baby’s blanket and a few used clothes home and gave it to Benji to smell the day before we got home from hospital but Benji still didn’t like her. It’s worth doing if you can. Perhaps not the end of the world if you don’t.


3.       Give your dog space. I never put our new baby right next to the dog. I would let Benji decide when he wanted to come over or sit next to us. It’s a huge adjustment for the whole family so let you dog get used to the new addition in their own time without forcing it. Don’t put your baby on them, don’t put the baby up to the dog’s face.


4.       Don’t leave your dog out. If your dog has always been taken on walks, allowed on car rides, joined on family outings, been played with etc. than make a conscious effort to continue doing that. When Chloe was a few days old I went for my first walk with her in the pram. I was on my own but I made sure to bring Benji along. It might feel chaotic at first, but you will get used to having a pram and a dog I promise! If you have a larger dog or feel overwhelmed with both ask your partner or family to help. Exercise and metal stimulation are so important for your dog and their behaviour. If you do not want them acting out, make sure you keep up with their routines.


5.       Watch your dog’s behaviour.  It’s important to recognise common sign of distress in your dog. Perhaps they might shake, pant, cower away. If they show signs of distress / discomfort remove them from the situation. For example, Chloe cried a lot in those early days. It was stressful for us as new parents, but I think even more stressful for Benji. You see Benji is a rescue. He was a victim of fireworks so is petrified of storms / loud noises / bangs and I could see he was uneasy and pacing when the baby was hysterically crying. So, taking the baby into her own room, closing the door and giving Benji some space let him get used to this new noise. A few months down the line and Benji now sleeps through her crying! (I think he’s the only one getting sleep in our house).


6.       Teach your baby to respect the dog. Chloe is only four months old but she already loves watching Benji and tries to reach out to him. Even at this young age I tell her things like “we pat Benji gently like this” to encourage and show her how to treat animals. I also don’t let her lie next to Benji when she starts kicking her legs or swinging her arms around in excitement. No one likes to be annoyed, dogs included. Your dog may tolerate it for a bit but allowing a baby to kick, hit, grab, poke, sit on a dog is cruel and they will most likely eventually snap at the baby. Rather avoid these situations and create a respectful relationship.


7.       Give your dog some time. You will all need some time adapting to life with a baby! If you are feeling overwhelmed having a dog and a new baby don’t be afraid to ask your family or friends for help. Or hire a dog walker, take your dog to a doggy day care every second day, hire an expert trainer.

Dog Friendly Accommodation - Clarens

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

On our recent road trip from Durban to Cape Town we discovered this dog friendly gem! It’s hard to find luxury dog friendly accommodation in a good location so when we stayed here, I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

The Windmill Cottage

Situated in the Freestate, just outside of Clarens, is Ridge Road Estate. There are three accommodation options and we stayed in the self-catering, Windmill Cottage which sleeps six people. This place ticks all the boxes: Karroo charm, beautiful interior, fully equipped modern kitchen, enclosed garden and a braai area, 'sinkdam' styled swimming pool with the most beautiful views and daily visits from their own resident pooches! They have a Jack Russell and Irish Wolfhound.

Inside the Windmill Cottage
We checked in for two nights, unpacked our bags and made ourselves right at home. This place is a perfect escape from the city and is well worth the roadtrip from Joburg or Durban. It feels remote but safe, as there is a security guard who walks around the premises at night which also puts your mind at ease.

The braai area

BEFORE you head to Clarens

Stock up on supplies and take these with you or stop in a big town before you get to Clarens! You can pick up a few fresh baked goods in Clarens but not much else. There is no Spar, Woolworths or good quality grocery store in Clarens. We only realised how limited our options were when we got there and then had to travel an hour and half to a grocery store to buy fresh produce and a few other essentials.

The beautiful views & resident Irish Wolfhound meeting Benji

Driving to Clarens from Durban

We drove this scenic route to Clarens which I thought I would share with you as it was such a gorgeous drive and there are places you can stop if you need to let your dog out for a break along the way.

  • N3 Northbound until Escourt. Stop at The Windmills for a coffee, snacks, to refuel and let you dog out. This is on the N3 Nottingham Road offramp, Exit 132
  • R74 through Wintertin, Bergvile and Sterkfontein Dam (I highly recommend stopping at one of the look out points here)
  • R712 to Clarens

One of the three rooms

What to do in Clarens

I found eating out in Clarens rather disappointing and the food was generally below average. So, I would recommend you eat at your accommodation and rather venture out to walk around the town, grab a coffee, have a drink and hit the shops. Clarens is a cute, little arty town and dogs are welcome almost anywhere. Just make sure they are well behaved and on a leash as there are a few local dogs that roam the streets too, (we had a few follow us and then looked like “those crazy people” arriving at a restaurant with six dogs but only one was ours. The rest Benji had made friends with and invited along the way!) If you are looking to pick up a piece of art, then Clarens won’t disappoint. For a small town, they had a number of art and craft stores and we picked up our first piece of art at a more affordable price than we would have paid in Cape Town for example.  Here are a few of my other favourite stores.

  • Purple Onion - they have a little bit of everything
  • Highland Coffee – pop in for your caffeine fix
  • The Courtyard Bakery - they have fresh bread, rolls, baked good, sauces, koeksisters, cookies, cheeses pies and all sorts of home-made goodies!
  • Art & Wine was my favourite place for art

  • Culture – visit the local museum and other Boer War sites
  • Adventure – there are a number of outdoor adventures to be had! Horse riding, hikes, white water rafting and quad biking to name few

Benji deciding which painting to buy from Art & Wine

Top Tip

During the week Ridge Road Estate offer specials! This place also makes the perfect New Year’s Eve getaway with your dog as there are no fireworks.