Sunday, 28 November 2010

Jo'burg City Life, day 8

How strange it was to wake up in the plush Melrose Arch city centre hotel this morning, I miss showering outdoors with my little Geko from Sabi Sabi already!
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and made our way out of Johannesburg city centre past the Soccer City stadium which hosted the World Cup Final earlier this year into the township of Soweto (short for South Western Township) where we were going on a cycle tour.

I know every country and indeed every city has it poor parts but South Africa doesn't just have poor it has serious poverty and although the government here are working hard to build proper homes for everyone, I can't help wondering how anyone can justify spending these astronomical amounts of money to build sports stadiums and host events like this when there are millions of people with absolutely nothing - no shoes, no indoor toilet, no running water etc. Maybe I think about things too much but that's me.

Soweto is the biggest of Johannesburg's townships, with a population of 3-4 million and is home to both millionaires as well as those in desperate poverty. It's most famous address is Vilakazi Street - the only street in the world which has housed 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Not so long ago Soweto was a scary place to be but we went off on our bicycles to tour the township with Solomon a local lad trying to bring a better view of the place to those who visit.

I didn't get very far - typically! Having been told it was too hot and I was showing signs of altitude sickness (Jo'burg is over 6,000ft) I was shipped back to the backpackers base when I promptly parted company with my breakfast and was told to lay in the hammock with a cold compress on my head and play with the parrot. I was gutted not to have finished the cycle tour, I was really looking forward to it. What I did see however, were happy people - a very tight knit community where everyone watches out for everyone and even though you have very little you share what you do have with your neighbour who has nothing.

Once everyone was back at the backpackers base, we met up with another tour guide who took us to the centre of Soweto to Vilakazi Street where we ate lunch at the famous Sakhumzi Restaurant, just down from Nelson Mandela's house (which is now a museum).

After lunch (which I thankfully managed to digest!) we went on a mini-bus tour.

Our first stop was the Regina Mundi Church, the largest Catholic Church in Soweto. It played a huge role in the community during the struggle against Apartheid where it held political meetings and offered protection during the uprisings. On June 16th 1976 (6 days before I was born) the police opened fire on students who were holding a peaceful demonstration, many fled to Regina Mundi for safety and the police then stormed the church too - it still bears the scars of that day, bullet holes and damaged figures can still be seen.

As we were standing outside listening to the story I became aware of the most beautiful voice singing, I turned around and there was a girl of about 12 walking home from school just singing a hymn to herself. Her voice was so beautiful and clear, it made the hairs on my arms stand on end and made this stop all the more poignant.

Our next stop was the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in the suburb of Kliptown. Walter Sisulu was a delegate at the 1955 Congress of the People and deputy president of the ANC. It was here on 26th June 1955 that the ANC Freedom Charter (the basis to the Constitution) was proclaimed to thousands of people. On the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter in June 2005, a flame of freedom was lit in the monument which houses a huge stone engraved with the Freedom Charter.
As we walked around the centre stone reading the Freedom Charter an elderly man sat in the doorway playing the national anthem on a penny whistle - it was very emotional, reading what the people of this nation were fighting so hard for, things that we take for granted.

Our final stop was in the centre of Kliptown at a project/museum aiming to educate local people and visitors about the past and how to maintain positivity for the future. His stories were endless but his experiences of the past and visions for the future were plain to see. Despite what the people of South Africa have been through, they remain so positive that equality will eventually become the norm and it won't matter what religion you practice, what surname you have or what colour your skin is - you will have exactly the same rights as everyone else in the country.

Goodbye to the bush, day 7

Our last morning of getting up at 5am and after warm muffins (no monkeys this morning!), pastries and tea we set off on our final game drive with Al and Jack. Our first encounter of the day was a small herd of Rhino, followed by something a little more unusual..... male Giraffe are normally quite solitary animals but not today - they had a treat in store for us - 5 of them right in among a group of Zebra! We watched them for ages larking about, the younger group of "bachelor boys" practising their sparring skills by twisting their necks together. My favourite was the older male who wandered on his own closeby to the younger boys - he came right over to us, having a good inspection of our truck and then rested his chin in the "v" shape of the tree!We left the Giraffe and Zebra and wound up the road to a stunning viewpoint for our final stop. After climbing up the rocks to take photos we came down to find Al and Jack preparing the drinks - hot chocolate and shortbread biscuits.

We then moved on passed Earth Lodge and stopped at a watering hole where we could see Hippo basking in the cool water with just their eyes peeking over the top of the water surface.

After our final breakfast, we packed and prepared to leave our bush adventures behind. I can't believe how fast the time has gone and what amazing sights we have seen in the last few days. Our lodge manager Lauren came to say an emotional goodbye and we left with Al to meet Jack at the main gate back to the "real world". One final treat on the way to the gate - we spotted an Elephant having a mud bath to cool himself from the baking hot sun. A perfect end to a perfect experience. We said our goodbyes to Al and Jack and set off on the long drive back to Johannesburg.

It felt really strange being back in a busy city centre as we checked into the Melrose Arch hotel and we went out for dinner at one of Johannesburg's top restaurants "Moyo's" where we all had a bit of warrior face painting done!

No energy for a nightcap tonight, we headed up to bed as soon as we got back to the hotel xx

Right in the thick of it, day 6

Up at 5am again and after the resident monkeys had made off to the roof with the warm muffins we ate homemade pastries, biscuits and tea before meeting up with Al and Jack for our morning game drive - it was absolutely phenomenal! First we had Wildebeast, then more Elephant and to put the cherry on the top of the cake, a Leopard!!!

There's a bit of rivalry among the rangers and trackers as to who spots what and spotting something first is always a talking point over dinner. As the Leopard was the only one of the "Big 5" we were yet to see, the pressure was wasn't long before Jack was jumping down from his seat to point out her tracks, we followed as best we could on the road as just as we turned off into the bush we knew he had found her - there was Jack punching his arms in the air with the biggest smile on his face, and there she was, our long-awaited Leopard lying on a branch high up a tree watching us...

We were the first people to see her in almost a week....

We shared our discovery with the other rangers and it wasn't long before we were joined by another truck. Our gorgeous lady decided to be a show off and came down from the tree and had a good wander between the two vehicles, marking her territory and sniffing us all out, then as graceful as a ballerina she climbed into another tree to rest on a branch. Jack and Al would definately be the toast of the dinner table this evening!

We continued to our coffee / hot chocolate stop and had to wait while a Giraffe wandered through before we got out to stretch our legs and after a quick sighting of Wildebeast on the hillside we were heading back to the lodge for breakfast.

Late morning was taken up by a tour of the other lodges in the Sabi Sabi group: Selati, Little Bush and Earth Lodge. We left Jack behind and Al took us through the bush to the lodges where we were met by the relevant manager, given refreshing drinks and a tour of each site. My favourite without doubt was Selati Lodge, with it's old world decor and traditional feel - I've definately found the ultimate wedding destination (if ever I need it!) and the honeymoon suite is to die for!

On our way from Selati to Little Bush Lodge we came across a little Warthog (a bit unnerving as Warthog is on the menu for tonights dinner!) but bless her she stood still and let us take pictures of her...
Little Bush Lodge is very much like the main bush lodge where we are staying but just on a smaller scale and more modern than Selati.

Al heard on the radio about another group spotting the Lions we saw last night so we made our way across to a grassy hill. We could smell the kill from a long way off (an unfortunate Buffalo) and there was the alpha male looking very well fed indeed ....

We then made our way to Earth Lodge, I expected to love it from the pictures I had seen but on arrival I changed my mind - it's just a bit too modern for me, I'm obviously a traditionalist! It's literally built into the landscape and you can't see it until you walk down into it. The architecture and furnishings are absolutely stunning but I much prefered the other lodges (not that I'd refuse a stay here though!)

We made our way back to our main lodge for lunch and some free time for spa treatments before afternoon tea and our afternoon game drive. We hadn't gone far on our drive when we rounded a corner and almost bumped into a massive herd of Elephant who were heading to our watering hole at the main lodge.

One very curious adolescent male came right up to the front of our truck and literally stared us down, poor Jack sat up on the front of the bonnet - I'm glad I wasn't up there with him or I would have been absolutely terrified!

Just before sundowners we came across another mother Rhino and her calf and again we were off-roading to get a closer look. We then set off in search of more Lions, a group of adolescent males had been spotted relaxing after a kill not far from our rest spot. I don't think any of us was prepared for 7 of them! They were all lolling around, swatting flies off with their tails and generally just lazing but to see them so close up and interacting with each other was yet another unforgettable sight.

On our way back to the main lodge for dinner, we called in on our alpha male Lion as he was still up at the grassy hill. We found him having his dinner too - what was left of the Buffalo head. He sat with it between his front paws and chewed on the nose, we could hear him scraping his teeth against the bone - urgh, but fascinating all at the same time!

It was almost a full moon as we headed back to the lodge and all of a sudden we found ourselves in a herd of Elephant. During the day Elephant are spectacular and I must admit a little scary - but seeing them in the moonlight was just incredible. We immediately pulled over, turned the lights out and the engine off, even Jack turned his spotlight out. Elephant don't have very good eyesight and any bright lights in the dark can really spook them so it's best to stop and let them amble on by. Both Jack and al said it was unusual to see them wandering about at night as they tend to settle down in one spot, they all seemed so much bigger but oh so silent - all you could hear was them munching and pushing through the tall grasses and quietly grunting to each other it was absolutely amazing - and yes, I cried!!

We were back in time to shower and change for dinner and ordered more Sabi Sabi wine to go with our Warthog and Impala. The Warthog was absolutely gorgeous, complete with crispy crackling on the outside, I wasn't overly keen on the Imapala though - it was way too rich and a bit stringy for my liking but you can't say I didn't try!

The boys went off to bed and the girls stayed up with the rangers for a last night drink (khaki fever seeems to have spread to all of us!) it was still an early night by all accounts as we had to be up again at 5am!

The African Adventure Continues, day 5

Up at 5am this morning after our amazing night in the Nkambeni Tented Lodge and started the day with an outdoor shower - I guess that's the closest I will ever get to nature! We arranged with Dwayne to have a bush walk in the National Park before we move on to Sabi Sabi private reserve. He arrived at 6am complete with hand gun and rifle and we set off through the electric fence which surrounds the lodge. It took about 30 seconds for it to sink in that we were now out amongst the wildlife with only Dwayne and his instincts and guns to protect us (quite a nice thought actually - uh oh, khaki fever is setting in!)

We were out for a little over 2 hours and the time absolutely flew by. We stopped to look at flowers (tiny splashes of colour in the bush), trees, plants, insects, more poo and tracks. We learned the history of the area and how conservation is now paramount, as well as employing local people and fighting poachers.

We climbed up a fire break in the woods and made our way down the other side, as we could see the park getting closer it was a strange feeling of disappointment that we didn't see any wildlife but also one of "phew" we have made it back safely. We crossed the electric fence back into the park and as Dwayne unloaded his guns we all breathed a sigh of relief and headed in for our well-earned breakfast. Another outdoor shower to get rid of the dust and check for ticks and we packed and made our way to the main lodge ready to meet our driver for the next part of our trip and as Dwayne and the other rangers came to wave us off we hit the road and headed south to Sabi Sabi.

Arriving at Sabi Sabi literally took everyone's breath away, it is an oasis full of wooden artifacts and stunning wildlife pictures and is built facing a watering hole where Elephants are regular visitors.

After we settled into our suites (squealing at the size of the bathroom and gasping at the view from our terrace across to the watering hole) we headed off to the main lodge for lunch and wow what a lunch it was! Such a variety of hot and cold food, meats, fruits, salads etc etc - definately just a taster of what was to come at dinner!

The afternoon game drive was with our new ranger Al and tracker Jack. The open top truck we had was something new and with Jack perched on his seat on the bonnet we made our way into the bush for some close encounters.

Our first sighting was a herd of Buffalo, we told Al we had seen one Buffalo on his own but not a herd and before we knew it he swung the truck off the road and we bounced our way through the bush right into the middle of the herd, much to everyones surprise and delight (I guess that's another perk of the 5* treatment!) a little further on and we pulled up next to a pair of Rhino who were also in the middle of the Buffalo herd. It was the strangest feeling to be sat in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by Buffalo and Rhino - listening to them, watching them eating etc. The off-roading continued as we moved in next to a group of Zebra (known as a "dazzle") - being so close up was amazing, to see the differences in detail on each animal hide was fab.

Our next up close was a Rhino and her calf and what a little cutie he was - trotting around his mother as she munched on the grass, he was like a little terrier puppy charging about :o)

Definately top of the cuties today was a Mongoose who we came across as he sat in the middle of the road chasing flying Ants. Al said it was quite rare to see them out in the open for any length of time as they're really shy but our little fella seemed unware of the truck full of people who were thoroughly entertained watching him as he jumped about.

We enjoyed sundowners (vodka and tonic for me) and snacks looking down from a viewpoint and got to know Al and Jack a bit more - they promised us Lions, Leopard and even a Chameleon before we left for Johannesburg so fingers crossed!

It was pitch dark as Al swung off the road once more, telling us we were going to see a rare white-tailed Mongoose. We headed across the scrub until we could see the lights of one of the other vehicles in the distance (the rangers keep in constant contact so that they can share sightings, but they keep the vehicles to a maximum of 3, any others have to wait a couple of miles away before being invited to join as another leaves) In the dim spotlight I could see a silhouette, but it was definately NOT a Mongoose of any kind, it was the unmistakeable profile of a male Lion!

Excitement and nerves all rolled into one as we approached quietly, so we didn't spook them (oh yes, there were 6 in all!!) Jack shone his torch on to their bodies. It was absolutely magical until the alpha male decided to go walkabout and then I suddenly felt very exposed but still the adrenaline was tingling! It was obvious they hadn't eaten as they were all looking a bit skinny and were prowling around, fingers crossed we see them again once they have been sated - it might be a bit more relaxed!

We got back to the lodge just in time for dinner, and as we settled into our seats at the boma (outdoor dining area), the chef came out to tell us what was on the menu. Our starters and soup were served at the table and then we went up to the cooking stands for our main course. In the end I settled for an Ostrich steak and a small Kudu steak with salad and some vegetables. We drank the lodges' own fabulous red wine and re-lived the days adventures with Al, who hosted our table.

After such an eventful day we were all shattered so Al escorted us to our suites (rangers must accompany guests back to their rooms after dark as the lodge is not fenced and you might bump into an animal or 2!). Up at 5am again tomorrow for a morning drive, night night all xxxx

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Moving on, day 4

As I woke up in my little round hut this morning to the sounds of frogs and birds calling to each other, there was nothing else to be heard - no traffic, no mobile phones, no chatter etc it was just nature - pure bliss! It had rained really heavily through the night and as we were eating breakfast we were told we would be unable to do our ranger training due to the weather. We were really disappointed but as we met by our new ranger Dwayne he said we would take a longer route up to our new camp at Nkambeni to make up for it.

Dwayne was amazing, stopping the jeep everytime he saw anything, pointing out tiny Weaver Bird nests, showing us tracks and explaining how to distunguish Hippo from Elephant, Kudu from Impala, we looked at poo (loads of it!) but in turn he explained how the animals digestive systems worked and how nature recycles when the Dung Beetle comes long to roll dung balls to take home to his female for her to use as an incubator. I never dreamed I would find poo so fascinating!

All along our route we came across Impala, some lone females with their new born young, and as Dwayne explained as soon as the spring rains come, the pregnant females often leave the herd to "drop" their young and the introduce them a day or so later. We later saw a female introducing her baby to the herd and it was an amazing sight as all the others came up to sniff at it and nudge it along into the group.

The most amazing part of the day was seeing an Elephant herd. We had spotted one in the distance on the right hand side of the jeep and were so busy trying to get a better view through the trees when a whole herd appeared at the left side. I have always loved Elephants and for some reason whenever I see them on tv they just make me cry, they're so intelligent and majestic. To see a herd of wild Elephant out in the middle of the South African bush was just too much, I could hardly watch them through the tears streaming down my face, it was a total dream come true and something I will never ever forget.

After this amazing sighting, we headed off to a new "bush school" being built to help educate children from all backgrounds to understand the bush and the need for conservation. Part of it is up and running now but they are building an accommodation block so that the children can stay. It's an amazing scheme and one which I am going to be part of by buying a brick to help raise money and awareness:

**link to follow**

On the way to our dry riverbed lunch venue we passed more Giraffe, Buffalo, Kudu, Dung Beetles hard at work, Baboons and more Elephants (and tears lol). Lunch was made up of hearty steak sandwiches, fresh fruits and of course an ice cold beer, and again we were out in the middle of nowhere with just Dwayne and 2 other rangers and Amii the German Shepherd keeping watch.
After lunch we spotted our first Rhino and our first (very grumpy) Buffalo as we made our way to Nkambeni Tented Lodge. Oh my goodness, the delight as we saw our accommodation, we are staying the night in a timber framed tent complete with outside shower and jacuzzi!!!! If the frogs were loud last night they're going to be deafening tonight as the river runs right along the bottom of our row!

An evening game drive lead us to another bush braii situated alongside a watering hole with 6 basking Hippo. Another group joined us for dinner of steaks, chicken, fresh vegetables and salads and another delicious pudding. Listening to the Hippo grunting at each other, sipping yet more South African wine and watching the sun go down - life certainly doesn't get better than this!!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Day 3

It was a very early start this morning in preparation for our 6 hour drive up to the Kruger National Park and after a hearty breakfast we set off. The road network here in South Africa is pretty good, despite the rush hour traffic, but what struck me was the amount of people walking - all alongside the main mototway and the well worn tracks across the verges, then I realised it was because most people can't afford cars and so they walk to work / school. That's what's so strange here, on one side of the street there are large expensive properties surrounded by electric fences and on the other is a purpose built shanty town, part of the government initiative to ensure everyone has a safe place to live. The older shanty towns are literally just shacks made from corrugated metal sheeting, whole families live in these small 1 or 2 room "houses", in a lot of places, the government has provided porta-loos while the residents wait to be rehoused into the purpose built villages. I was going to take some pictures but I felt guilty, like I was imposing on peoples privacy. Despite their poverty, everyone is smiling and the children are waving at us as we drive by. The drive passed quite quickly and before we knew it we were at the main gate into the Kruger National Park. Not 2 minutes into our drive to the accommodation at Skukuza Restcamp we saw our first wildlife, away in the distance we spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a Giraffe and her calf! She turned towards us as we stood open-mouthed at what had come to greet us, what a great start!!! By the time we had reached the accommodation we had spotted Impala and Kudu, an amazing start to our game adventure. :o)

Our accommodation at Skukuza Restcamp for tonight is little rondavel huts with thatched roofs, we each have our own little hut and they're all slightly different but you can hear the birds and the insects outside. Below is my little hut, you can see the front door which leads to an "open" kitchen area (it's just surrounded by insect screens) the bedroom and bathroom part of the hut are to the right. It's really rustic and oldy-worldy but I love it!

Once we settled in to our huts, we met on the viewing deck for lunch. Overlooking the Sabie River, we ate while watching a Hippo in the distance and it wasn't long before we were joined by Vervet Monkeys. And what a bunch of cheeky monkeys they were! They jumped up on to the empty tables and started drinking the dregs from cans and coffee cups and eating the leftover chips and fruit (I bet they were hyper that night!)

After lunch we met our guide Nhlanhla and boarded our truck for our very first game drive - only the 7 of us in our truck, our own private drive! Literally within minutes we were again spotting Impala and Kudu and vultures, the various birds and insects singing their beautiful calls as we drove through the most stunning scenery. We spotted another group high up on an outcrop and our fabulous driver, quickly got us up to the same spot to see what they were looking at... a Leopard! He was stalking a small group of Zebra which were over to our right. It took me ages to see where he was but when I did, the sight just took my breath away! There he was, crouched down, such a familiar sight from watching endless wildlife programmes on tv but this was right in front of my own eyes it was amazing and everyone was so excited! As night fell, we finally lost sight of him and made our way through the dusk to our bush braai (barbeque) dinner.

The setting was stunning - pitch dark surrounded us as we headed into a clearing and there before us was a roaring fire and candle lamps lighting the way to an outdoor dining area! Unfortunately the clouds covered the moon and stars but it was no less magical. We dined on steaks and local vegetables followed by the lightest sponge pudding I've ever had with custard all washed down with gorgeous South African wine. Here we were in an unfenced area of the Kruger National Park listening to the calls of Hyenas and knowing we open to everything, it wasn't a scary feeling it was just excitement (but of course we had a couple of rangers with their guns, discretely hidden in the bush). We made our way back to the restcamp and using the search lights, found a Hippo out grazing! She just glanced at us and carried on what she was doing - the perfect end to an absolutely perfect day. Lying here in bed I can hear the insects and frogs chirruping to each other, and I can honestly say I've fallen in love with Africa already xxx

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Adventure Begins (Days 1 & 2)

Hi everyone,
well here it is, my first post from South Africa! We have finally arrived in Johannesburg safely after what feels an epic journey!
I left home at 11am on Tuesday morning, it's now 10pm Wednesday night and it feels amaing to have had a hot shower and now be propped up in a fabulous comfy bed!

I had a quick domestic flight down to London Gatwick where the whole group met up in the Emirates lounge - complimentary champagne and dinner helped the conversations along and we were all chatting away when we came to board our flight to Dubai. I've not flown with Emirates before but the flight was smooth, the food was good and the entertainment the best I've had on a plane. I was in the middle of 3 seats so didn't sleep much but what can you do? 7 hours later we landed in Dubai - I've never seen anything like it, it was more like a shopping mall than an airport, all designer brands, flashy displays and a great place to people watch! Thankfully we didn't have long to wait, only 3 hours before our onward flight to Johannesburg. An upgrade to business class makes all the difference - we were boarded first, given a glass of champagne, a mattress, a plush pillow and heavy blanket for the flat-bed seats and were ready for the off before the economy passengers walked through!

Once I had figured out how to work the seat I was sorted and after dinner I donned my eyemask and set about sending out some zeds.
A little bit of turbulance and a crack of thunder and we arrived into Johannesburg in the middle of a rain storm, the seasons are changing from spring to summer and the spring rains decided to come late and welcome us.

Our first night is in the suburb of Sandton, in the Balalaika Hotel which is a great 3* property with a beautiful lounge decorated in traditional dark wood with oranges and creams (bit like my lounge!). I'm sharing with Katrina from Glasgow, we seem to have the same sense of humour so hopefully we will get along just fine (as long as she has her ear plugs for when I snore!) Dinner was in the adjoining restaurant, a great chance for us all to sit down as a group and find out about each other and so far we seem to have a good group, no-one is shy and retiring that's for sure!

And there you have it, days 1 & 2 already over. It's an early start in the morning as we have a 5-6 hour drive up to the Kruger National Park so I'm off to the land of nod. Night night all xxx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Counting down the days...

Hi All,

sorry it's been so long since I posted, I've just had no time for crafting or blogging lately!
I'm counting down the days until my trip to South Africa, I can't believe it's come around so quickly - I'm off on Tuesday!!

I've had my jabs, paid a small fortune for Malaria medication and so I'm all ready to go, just need to pack (a mammoth task in itself - I want to take everything)

Once I'm back I really need to get cracking on my Christmas cards but I'm not thinking about that yet - I have 5 star accommodation, 4 days safari in Kruger National Pak and dinner at Johannesburg's top restaurant to tackle before then!

Just before I go I thought I would post a picture of my Godaughter Athena in the jumper I made for her - I hope you all agree she's as cute as a button...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Frosty Mornings!

Blimey where did this cold spell come from!?
I love those crispy autumn mornings when the sky is blue, the sun is shining and and the leaves flutter down from the trees. We have had a few days like that but then bam along came the frost! The heating is on and the gloves have been rescued from the back of the cupboard once again - brrr!!

My Godaughter Athena has just come back from her first holiday - visiting family in Athens and I knew she would need a jumper when she got back so I dug out the knitting needles and.....tah dah!!!
It's so cute! And for someone who hasn't knitted anything for years I'm quite chuffed with it - I did need a hand from my Mum but it's 99% my work. Can't wait to catch up with my little Squidge next week to see how it fits.

So it's another dull day here up north, here's a picture of some Greek sun and my gorgeous girl to warm us up.... she get's her love of the sunshine and beach from me!!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Hello again and some fab news!

Hi bloggers

sorry it's been so long since I last posted - netbook problems, back to college and lack of mojo just got in the way!

Over the last few weeks, however, I've dug out the knitting needles and am almost finished a cute little hooded jumper for my Godaughter - of course it's pink! It's been years since I knitted and I've found it really enjoyable and am looking for more projects. I've also been cross-stitching too, again it's been years since I did any but a couple of magazines caught my eye and with the freebies I made these two...

So I can now say I've made a start on my Christmas cards - which I really need to get on with!

Now for my good news..... I was at a tourism dinner a couple of weeks ago with a couple of colleagues, a really good night, all about South Africa. At the end of the evening the prize draw for goody bags was made, followed by a draw for places on the educational trip and I WON! I'm off on 16th November for 10 days all expenses paid. I've not got my itinerary yet but will keep you posted!!

All for now xxxx

Thursday, 2 September 2010

1 Card 6 Challenges!

Hi everyone,

I've not had much crafting time this week and so my one and only card covers 6 challenges! I had made an attempt at a couple more but you know when you're jut not happy with the they are off to my Mum's so she can sell them at the church shop.
I received my QVC Christmas goodies this week so can't wait to get cracking as I have my first order in already!

So, on to my multi-challenge card (above). During my time repping overseas I met lots of lovely people and still keep in touch with some now, one of my old repping friends from Rhodes Sarah had her baby daughter this week. Eleni is so tiny and beautiful and looks just like her Daddy, whereas her big brother Andreas looks just like his Mummy! So yet again it's an easel card (it fits with the challenge so I have an excuse!) and yummy pink and cute!

The challenges I am entering this into are:

The Crafty Pad: #86 simply pearls - I've only added pearls and no gems gasp shock horror!!!

Stamptacular Sunday Challenge: #74 pretty in pink

Pear Tree Designs: #15 sketch

Forever Friends: easel card

Papertake Weekly: #48 just the one - I have used one stamp

Passion For Promarkers: #67 teddy bears

I hope the family like it - I also hope it survives air mail transportation!!

Thanks for looking, laters xxxxx

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Normal Service Resumed (sort of)

Hi Bloggers,
Well my internet dongle thingy still isn't working so still no net access at home, but I managed some crafty time last night and came up with this. I also found my chain - while looking for a charm for this card. Isn't that always the way? Lol
full card view
My card is for my friend Lindsay and her hubby James who have just welcomed the arrival of baby Beau Alexander, he's absolutely beautiful and adored by his 3 big sisters Freya, Annabelle and Darcy!
main panel view

I'm entering it into the following challenges:
Sketch & Stash #42: layout plus "new, never used or neglected stash" the charm on the front of this card is my never used aspect of the challenge.

Cupcake Challenge #105: "blue & green"

Forever Friends: "easel card"

Wild Orchid #4: "make it sparkle"

base panel view

Phew! Loads of challenges with this one so fingers crossed there's a bit of success somewhere :o) Well I'm off tomorrow so hopefully I can get a bit more done then too. Hope the sun is shining wherever you are - it is here today but we're expecting a downpour!

Hayley xxx

Monday, 23 August 2010

No Net Access - grrr

What a stressful weekend! It was my first weekend off in ages and I had allsorts planned and hardly did a thing - how annoying but typically me. I managed to find my glasses, sunglasses and diary which had mysteriously disappeared last week but no sign of my chain :o(

My internet dongle thingy just wouldn't connect and so I couldn't look for new challenges or post my Monday challenge card and I've missed all the deadlines now lol. Here is my card anyway, I used a Dandelion & Daisy decoupage set I've had for ages and some bits and pieces from my stash.I was on a bit of a roll so made this co-ordinating one too:

They are such cute images and backing papers it's easy to get some inspiration. I'm off to check this weeks challenges and hopefully will be a bit more successful this week lol

Bye for now

Hayley xx

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A very special day, 1 challenge card & some BIG news!

What a great day I had yesterday - not only did the sun shine all day (after it's rained all week!) but it was also my Godaughter's christening.

The church service was lovely and Athena behaved so well all the way through. Grandad / Godfather Yannis came over from Athens with armfuls of beautiful gifts including the special baptism candle and headdress used in Greece.

I wasn't happy with my first card I made for Athena but I managed to make another one just in time and was really pleased with this one: I'm getting the hang of making sentiments on the conmputer, just need to get some fancy texts now though!

Athena's Mum, Gemma asked me to make a card for Athena to give to her Grandma as it's her birthday this week and so I thought I would have a go at this distressing malarkey. I usually give up as I never think it looks right but I watched a few tutorials online and I think it turned out ok for a first proper attempt. I'm entering it into 2 challenges:

Colour Create "ivory, duck egg blue & one other colour with optional extra: shabby chic"

Moving Along With The Times "sketch #59"

As always, I hope they love it :o)

My BIG news for today is that I passed my year 2 Accountancy exams! I'm so pleased as I put in a lot of hours revision, now I only have 1 more year and I'm fully qualified - that's when the real work begins!

Bye for now xxx

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

1 card: 6 challenges

Morning all!

well after last week when I got no challenges I finally got my crafty head on last night and made one card that covers 6!!

I love this Miss Anya image and moving away from traditional Christmas colours has given her a totally different look which I really like. I really wish I could shade properly with my Promarkers (I'm useless at colouring - need some lessons I think lol) As usuall there's plenty of glitter (peel off borders, on her coat buttons and on the 3 snowflakes) and I thought the lace would make it a bit girlie too :o)

The challenges I am entering are......

Moving Along With The Times #58 "Christmas"

Anyone for Anya? "Christmas in August"

The Corrosive Challenge "sketch"

The Crafty Pad "Chocolate and Cream"

Wild Orchid "One for the Girls"

Cupcake Crafts Challenge "Lace"

This is my first Christmas card this year - it was quite exciting delving into the Christmas stamps, more might have to follow! Hope she brings me luck, fingers crossed xxxxxx

Monday, 9 August 2010

Exciting news...

Hi all,
wow how quickly did last week fly by? I can't believe it's Monday already.
My exciting news is that I have been asked to be Godmother to my friends' daughter. I've never been a Godmother before so it's something new to me! I have been out shopping for a present but as usual have nothing to wear!!! Anyway, here is a picture of my beautiful Godaughter, Athena...

She's 8 weeks old now and a happy little lady as you can see.

I finally got the adoption cards finished for my work friend, all 12 are here in this picture. I'm really pleased at how they all turned out and not one is the same which I am quite chuffed about too...Unfortunately I've not had time to do any challenge cards but hopefully this week I will, I have a couple of orders to do and of course my Christening card for Athena!

Bye for now

H xxxxx

Monday, 2 August 2010

Challenge Cards

Hi Bloggers

thank goodness I'm off today, not only do I hate Mondays but yesterday was such a busy day I needed today to get things done!

I went to the Gateshead Flower Show with my Grandad yesterday morning. The displays were beautiful and the prize winners were perfect! The picture above is the Gateshead Council entry to the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year which won a silver award. My Dad's guys built the bridge structure which shows the Tyne bridge with the flowers representing the 40,000 runners of the Great North Run.

There were loads of tasty treats on offer and I just couldn't resist and bought us some spicy pork pies, a wild boar & mushroom pie and some yummy cupcakes all of which were devoured by tea time!!

I spent the afternoon catching with with a friend and her hubby-to-be at my parents house before popping round for some baby snuggles with Athena. I can't believe how quickly she's growing, she's smiling all the time now which is so sweet.

So, on to my challenge cards. The first one is for my Dad to give to my Mum for their 36th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I'm entering this into the Meljen's Challenge which is a sketch:

I have used one of Melissa's gorgeous designs (her blog has a freebie download file!) which is also my first attempt at a digital image. I've coloured it with Promarkers (thanks Lou!!) and used papers from the Dovecraft "Eastern Promise" collection with ribbon, paper flowers, brads and fairy dust from my stash. Yu can't reallysee on the picture but I have chalked the backgroundof the image as I thought the white was a bit too harsh.

My second card is the one I am going to give to my parents tomorrow and I'm going to enter this one into the Papertake Weekly challenge which is also a sketch:

The image is a Dandelion and Daisy sticker of "Hawthorn and Bramble" which I have mounted on silver mirri card and then on an embossed mat (done through my Sizzix Texture Boutique) and then papers, gems and sticky borders from my stash.

Ok I'm off to link these up and then I think it's time for some lunch, later xxxx