Wednesday, February 10, 2016

South Africa: Mabula Game Lodge

I kept repeating lyrics from Under African Skies by Paul Simon pretty often during our weekend in the Limpopo province of South Africa. I have always liked the lyrics specifically and the song in general, but being a perpetual sky watcher I get it when people talk about walking under certain skies.

His path was marked
By the stars in the Southern Hemisphere
And he walked his days
Under African Skies

This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

I think everyone is proprietary about having the prettiest sunrises and sunsets under their own particular sky, and our game driver was no different. She was proud of her South African skies, and I don't blame her. One of my favorite things about vacation is seeing the sunrise and set in a different location. See the sunrise in Cape Town was on my 40/40 list, but I actually did it here instead and it was glorious:
Sunday morning we flew from Cape Town back up to Jo'Burg, then boarded a bus for a little over two hours to the Mabula Game Lodge. Our flight was a little late leaving Cape Town, and we had a frazzled get luggage get lunch board the bus get the hell on the road early afternoon that left us feeling a little drained. We basically had time to go to the bathroom upon arrival before heading out for our first game drive.

Mabula is a 30,000 acre wild game preserve in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province. The closest town is Bela Bela. It is not completely open like Krueger National Park is. It is free of malaria. We went on two morning game drives, leaving at 4:45 a.m., and two evening game drives leaving at 4:30 p.m. It has a nice lobby with seating areas, a bar area that can be quiet (aside from the insane frogs making their presence known at night) or lively depending on who is bellied up to it, one large dining room (okay food), and rooms off the main courtyard that is sometimes inhabited by funny little warthogs. The rooms had high ceilings, thatched roofs, and large/cool bathrooms. The air had a hard time keeping up and the nights were pretty hot.
To be honest, I could have seen  no animals and still have been happy just riding around in the open air rovers for two days enjoying the wind on my face, the green everywhere, the cool trees, and the glorious skies. The early morning and early evening drives and open air cars with covered roofs kept it from being too hot, being in a malaria-free zone made it much less arduous than a typical safari, and I expected to take more pictures but I was honestly content to sit back and relax and enjoy the rides.
Of course, we did see animals. My favorite elephants were on a tree tearing down rampage high up on the hill so we didn't see them in their full glory, and the lions were sleeping as they are wont to do 20 hours a day so we saw elephants and lions at a distance. Otherwise we saw zebra, crocodile, hippos, rhinos, kudu, impala, ostrich, cape water buffalo, giraffe, warthogs, wildebeests, baboons, and many birds, including the endangered ground hornbill. I'm sure MFD could name some more as he's Mr. National Geographic. No leopards or cheetahs were spied.
We did have some time to relax, which we spent partially by the pool and partially in the spa. I had the best massage I've ever had in my life there. No lie.
MFD also used his free time after our last game drive to go on a horseback safari. The man has never ridden a horse and came back looking like Clark Griswold after he walked across the desert in Vacation. It was HOT there. LOL. He did well though and enjoyed it.
I used the last day spare time to shower extra long so I was not the source of BO on the flight back, put on an eye mask, pack my shit, and mentally prepare for the 2.5 hour ride to the airport (in what turned out to be a bus leaking diesel fuel), the two hour flight way and security fuckery at Jo'Burg airport, the 18 hour flight back to D.C., and the 3 hour drive home to Philly. I had memories of beauty and freedom and African skies to sustain me.
This is going to do it for the South Africa posts. If you missed them, here are links to Cape Town and the Peninsula Tour. Thanks for travelling along with me.

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Linking up for Wanderlust Wednesdays with Kate, Emily, and Kerri

Wanderlust Wednesdays

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Show Us Your Books - What I Read in January

Linkup Guidelines:
This link up happens the second Tuesday of every month.
The next one is Tuesday, March 8, 2016. 
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & me
2. Please display the button (need it? let me know) or link back to us on your blog post
2. Please visit a few other blogs who've linked up and get some book talk going!

Here's what I read since the last linkup

Engrossing Reads

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf - I read this from beginning to end in a few hours. It was one of those. I hated the wife/narrator, but really liked the story even though it creeped me out a little.

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins - This is one of my favorite types of books: the book written many years ago with no shits given for political correctness; a tale of business and fortune, luck and rich people. It was a little Kane and Abel-ish.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz - ARC from Netgalley. I liked the writing and the plot and despite anything that happened, rooted for the main character. I also liked how the book was laid out and the sequence in which the author passed on information. The end felt a little rushed and anti-climactic but not enough to take away from my overall feeling on the book.

Passed the Time Just Fine

Tampa by Alissa Nutting - This is about a female pedophile. It is totally fucked up and insane and hard to read given the subject matter - but it's damn good writing. It might be the most fucked up book I've ever read as it basically shows you the mind of a pedophile and she is a total nightmare sociopath to boot, but these things do exist in our society. Given its graphic nature, this novel will never ascend to Lolita type levels of fame and I could probably talk for a while about what that means in regards to gender roles, but I won't. If you can stomach it, go ahead.

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye - This almost read like a play to me. Or a soap opera. I liked it - the speed, the writing, a lot of the characters, and the plot. Worth the read.

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell - I liked this but it had a lot of inconsistencies that I thought were a little too far fetched...and I'm not one who is unable to suspend belief. Still I sailed through it.

Hollywood by Zachary J. Ferrara - For a while I wondered if it was going to amount to anything other than smoking cigs, drinking, drugs, and feeling young and invincible and thinking too much and being angsty. This reeks of early 20s angst and I probably would have identified with it a lot more then. 

Hard No
I tried to read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Has anyone read the first book in the Neopolitan Novels trilogy? People rave about it but I find the look back into childhood really fucking boring and hard to get through. 

Non-bloggers, what have you read recently? Let me know what you recommend and what to stay away from. Bloggers, link up your posts below.



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Monday, February 8, 2016

TWTW - the one where shit got done

Last week was a bag of dicks. I sought solace in solitude, fleece lined leggings, Lori's left behind slides that are now mine, peppermint tea with milk and sugar, and blueberries I shared with los perros. It was a good time to open the winter Fab Fit Fun box I've ignored for a month. These two items are keepers.
To put it mildly, I have majorly slacked on purging and organizing and putting things away in general for a good seven months. It started with my summer fuck it phase, then got pushed to the backburner by shore house things, holidays, travel...you name it, it came before organizing. I mean, I pride myself on organizing, but this is how life is. Sometimes things that are important to you take a backburner for a while. Luckily it's a long life and Saturday was a long Saturday. If I'm planning to take on my whole house, I like to start from top to bottom. So most of my day Saturday was spent on the top floor of the house, purging and organizing shoes, clothes, travel items, beauty products, etc. I also vacuumed under the beds and on the closet floors and packed up some stuff that needs to be moved down to the shore house.
It was good to go through and touch every single thing I own upstairs. No, I did not talk to my items. But I did evaluate them, make sure they all had a place, and trashed (one bag) or donated (five bags) everything that was no longer useful to me, beautiful, or loved by me. Once I purge, I need that shit out of my house immediately in order to truly enjoy the effect, so I dropped the bags and my wedding dress at Goodwill, went to Giant for five things and came out with eleventy billion because I was starving, painted my nails (Sinful Colors Frenzy and another one I forget), and finished Broadchurch and watched some episodes of The Office. All without someone picking my trash because MFD was away for the night. LOL
Sunday while the dogs were snoozing I was doing all sorts of things: sorting mail, changing sheets on our bed and the spare bed, washing everything in the house, putting laundry away, vacuuming inside the ottoman, cleaning soap trays, changing shower curtain liners, answering emails, calling the pharmacy, yada yada yada. All the little adult shit that I haven't had time to do lately.
Weekly food prep: egg muffins with sausage, green onions, and mozzarella cheese for breakfasts; poop soup and oatmeal for the dogs; a spiral ham (not pictured); ham bone soup from the (you guessed it) ham I cooked for dinners and a few lunches; power breakfast muffins to freeze; breakfast burritos to freeze (not pictured); and iced tea with some blackberry honey from our Yellowstone trip. Snacks are celery sticks with PB and blueberries.
This weekend was just what the doctor ordered in regards to me feeling caught up on life again. I was by myself most of the weekend as MFD had a commitment Friday night, was out working Saturday and Sunday, and had an overnight guys' trip Saturday night. It was glorious and it was spent fully in lounge attire.

I spent the last part of Sunday laying around and reading. Speaking of...

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Tomorrow! 


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Linking up with Biana at B Loved Boston for Weekending

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Is it possible to have a beautiful garden when you have dogs?



I was actually thinking about my spring flowers in the shower on Wednesday morning. Given that we'll be down the shore a lot this spring, when will I plant them? And given that we'll likely be down a lot in the summer, how will I tend to them? I crapped out on them last year as it was. Something I go back and forth on every year is what to do in the back yard given that it's dog land back there. This sponsored post talks a little about that. I won't lie, I'm intrigued by easier clean up.

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Dogs are great, and are so fun, loving and cute that there is no question, if you asked a dog lover which they would choose out of their dogs and a perfectly manicured garden what they would say. However, there is something of a revolution going on in domestic garden design that may prove interesting to dog owners: the use of artificial grass.

There was a time when artificial grass was largely just associated with golf clubs, tennis courts and leisure centres, but these days, artificial grass is big news in design. This is probably because the technology has advanced so much that high end artificial grass by some of the leading names like Grono is virtually indistinguishable from very well kept live grass. Now, rather than looking unnaturally green or plastic and strange, artificial grass looks as good as a live lawn – better, in fact, when you consider that there are very few things that can mess it up and you don’t have to mow it to keep it neat!

Why This is a Great Option for Dog People
The garden can be a great place for your dogs to play and run free – and to spend time with them in the warmer months playing fetch or just hanging out! Unfortunately, however, dogs do tend to mess up even the best maintained lawns, creating big divots of turf with their claws as they run, jump and dig. While at first the dogs may seem suspicious of an artificial lawn because it doesn’t smell the same to them as natural grass, this is more likely to make them curious than anything, and the soft feel of the slightly springy surface – even when the weather is dry and normal lawns would feel dry, scratchy and hard – usually appeals as a great place to play, sunbathe or do whatever your dogs love to do!

The resilience of an artificial lawn means that it is very hard for them to affect how it looks, so no matter how boisterous your furry friends are, the garden will stay looking perfect – and artificial lawns last for as many as 20 years!

Keeping It Clean
Artificial lawns absorb and drain moisture efficiently, so your dogs’ ‘number ones’ are no more of a problem than on live grass. When it comes to their ‘other business’, it is actually much easier to keep the lawn clean, as once you’ve removed the evidence you can rinse the grass with detergent or a natural vinegar solution.

Some Other Benefits
As well as being great for keeping your lawn looking good when you have pets, artificial grass also saves you a huge amount of time on garden maintenance, and is also eco-friendly – you will save gallons of water every year because it never needs to be watered, and you won’t need to use any pesticides, weed killers or fertilizers.


There are of course other ways to have a nice looking garden when you have playful pets, but if you love the look of grass, an artificial lawn can give you the look you want without your canine friends messing it up or tracking muddy paws through the house after a session out playing!
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How do you maintain your grass and flowers with dogs around?


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Friday, February 5, 2016

Briggs & Riley Luggage - Discover the Most Advanced Way to Pack


via Briggs & Riley

On our recent trip to South Africa, I finally came to terms with the fact that I suck at packing my carry on. I carry all manner of just in case crap that I never use. And I'm not using a great bag for it. In addition, my big mama suitcase is showing signs of extreme wear. Reevaluations are in order, along the lines of the sponsored post below.

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Packing for an upcoming trip is more than just remembering to take enough clothes and personal care items. Instead, you also need to consider the type of luggage that you’ll use to carry all of your valuables. The last thing that you want is to place everything in suitcases that aren’t secure or strong enough to protect your belongings, or that will be difficult to carry.

Thankfully, the experts at Briggs & Riley have thought of all of the best pieces of luggage, giving consumers a new and more advanced way to pack everything they need. Keep reading to learn more.

A Unique Expansion and Compression Feature
One of the most innovative features of the Briggs & Riley brand is known as CX Expansion Compression technology in the Baseline collection. This basically gives you maximum capacity to pack everything you need, all while meeting the carry-on size restrictions for airlines. You can pack more, compress it down, and still have a great carry-on bag that’s easy to take with you because it doesn’t weigh too much either.

Instead of the typical wrap-around zipper that’s common on the majority of luggage out there, the Baseline CX has a ratchet-up style handle that gives you roughly one-third additional packing area instantly. Once you’ve finished packing, all you have to do is reverse this process. You do so by popping the mechanism down again to compress the bag to its original size. And the best part is everything is firmly held in place.

A Variety of Collections to Choose From
In addition to the Baseline collection, there are many others, including the Torq, Transcend, and @work lines, all featuring their own unique suitcases for work and play. This gives consumers a variety of choices to suit all of their needs.

A Lifetime Warranty
No matter where you purchase your Briggs & Riley luggage from, you can rest assured that you’ll have a product that comes with a lifetime guarantee. In the event that your suitcase is ever damaged or broken, even if an airline causes the damage, the company will repair it at absolutely no cost to you. It’s really simple, as the warranty will cover the cost of repair for every functional part of the luggage, for the entire life of the luggage.

The warranty doesn’t, however, cover things like cleaning, stolen bags, lost bags, or cosmetic wear. Regardless, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever really need to have your Briggs & Riley luggage fixed because these suitcases are extremely sturdy and built really well.


To get your luggage repaired, all you have to do is take it to any authorised repair shop, or you can instead mail the luggage to the Briggs & Riley repair centre. 

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What are your carry on musts and out of those musts, what do you actually use?
What type of bag do you use as a carry on?


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