Simply Sam Trading - Antiques.Brocante.Gifts

We stock a variety of vintage, antique and hand-crafted items. Available on our web store or select antiques and beautiful 'proudly South African' hand-made Gift items on sale or to view at VinLee Art Gallery Hilton College Road, Natal Midlands. Hilton off-ramp, N3, Kwazulu Natal

Friday, December 31, 2010

As I look back on 2010 .....

... there are so many good memories. How spoilt I was being whisked off to America for three weeks. I loved San Fransico and New York. I discovered my 'now' favourite shop, Anthropologie (, and how good to see South African artists flying the flag in this shop. It is a shop full of inspiration and quality - I just want to follow in their footsteps for Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts. 

After restoring our home, built in 1893, for the last three years we are almost complete (a year in Provence has nothing on us!), though I think with an old house you are really never finished! One of the highlights of the build was when we gave an old water tank to the Midlands Meander Education Project, which they were able to install in the home of a young woman in Mpophomeni. Her letter of thanks for such a simple gesture really touched my heart and knowing that she now has water at her home, is so meaningful. A little kindness goes a long way, as they say!

At the Pietermartizburg Christmas fair, I took along mainly my new gift stock and I have to say that I stayed true to myself when I realised that almost everything I have selected is proudly South African, either from job creation projects or hand made in this beautiful country. I will continue to source new stock items next year to bring you wonderful choice and if you can't make it into the shop, these wonderful items will all be on our website, available at the click of a button. 

I like to think my shop has improved over 2010, but even more so that of my website. I have already started scaling down my shop hours to be open only Thursday to Sunday from 10-4pm, to combine quality of time with my family in this beautiful area, and business. More and more people are starting to see the value of purchasing over the web. Our web credit card facility should be up and running by the end of January 2011which we plan to launch with a less 50% sale on selected items. Watch this space.

I enrolled on a 'Social Media' course in the middle of the year and, though time (and diligence!) did not permit me to spend as much time as I would have liked completing this course, I have great plans for 2011 to become a 'boff' (so Greg, if you're reading this you have something to hold me to!). I meet people on a daily basis in my shop who balk at even the idea of an sms, never mind Face Book and the world wide web, and often think to myself "well you have a choice to follow their lead or go the whole hog and move with the times" and with young children I really think we don't have a choice. So Simply Sam now has its own Face Book page and if you do a search on Google you will find we are now almost always at the top of the search.

I have lived in South Africa all my adult life, but often say to people that the British flag is tattooed on my heart. So you can imagine how uplifting is was at the Soccer World Cup this year to see my three children being 'British' for a few hours when we went to watch England play Slovenia in Port Elizabeth. And to be surrounded by my 'own' people was simply awesome! Seeing the Gautrain in JHB recently made me realise that the world cup may have been and gone, but it has left us with some fantastic infrastructure we can be proud of in this 'third world' country of ours.

One of the highlights of my year with my family was participating in the Kings School survival day which included eating chicken heads and feet (walkie talkies as they are called in South Africa), crawling through mud, finding marbles in the ice with bare feet, as well as various other 'family bonding' activities. I think the highlight for my family was watching me fall into the freezing cold water of the Dam, as I tried to pull myself across. They obviously knew I was going to fall in, they were just wondering when! We are so lucky to live in the beautiful Natal Midlands and seeing how our family has bonded has made the transition over the past three years more than worthwhile. We are lucky to have the most wonderful schools on our doorstep and happy children. Our best friends moved closer to us, from Pretoria to Hilton, and we have met some wonderful new friends and now feel we are part of a great community. And if all that wasn't enough, to celebrate my 17th wedding anniversary, I booked us into the cave at Antbear in the Drakensberg and my husband got down on one knee and presented me with a diamond eternity ring. Now that's what I call lurve! And the cave comes highly recommended too!

To 'almost' end my 2010 blogging, I have a poster in my shop which was made by a local lady out of bubblegum wrappers which says "Trust in God". It was bought with some of the first profit I made in my new shop, here at the Country Courtyard. When we first moved here three years ago, I used to take our children to Catechism in Cedara, a good fourty five minute drive from here. I had a dream of starting Catechism here in Nottingham Road and it really seemed like such a big deal, in fact quite over whelming. Having had the support support of Carolyn Mielella, Terry Pellow-Jarmin and Veronique Edwardes I am blessed to say we completed our first year of Catechism this year and we pray our Catholic community in Nottingham Road will continue to flourish. 

With my love of writing it has been wonderful to discover the art of Blogging and to be able to snap photographs of things I love, and be able to share them with like minded people 'out there' is very satisfying. We have ended with a bumper month at our shop, Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts, in Nottingham Road, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported my life long dream of owning an antique shop and living the country bumpkin lifestyle. I have had endless fun. I'm hoping in 2011 I will take my dream to the next level by visiting and purchasing beautiful antiques directly from France. So all I can say is, "if you can dream it, you can make it so". 

God bless and see you in 2011.

Sam McDonald

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Aah this website is just gorgeous - dream on .....

This is the website of the authors of the book 'Festive France' which I sell at - I thought the book was stunning, but this website will make you want to hop on the first plane to France......

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Page Boy in the Making ....

Gorgeous little Phillip George wandered into my shop on Saturday with his Mum, just before the Michaelhouse/Hilton match, and was so obliging when I asked him to try on our vintage 'Page Boy' outfit. I had to whip out my camera, because he looked an absolute treat, i'm sure you'll agree.
The large Journal and Ledgers that he is leaning on are over 100yrs old and inside one of the books is a letter, written to the owners of the business, looking for a 'Bantu worker', who they think may have been killed in a train accident... the hand writing is so beautiful in these books that it just goes to show that the one thing people had more of in those days was time!
If you are looking for something unusual for your study or business these Journals and Ledgers will certainly be a conversational piece. We have also just got in a number of volumes of books by Ruskin which will add a bit of vintage style to any bookshelf.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eat, Love, Yawn?!!!

Starved of movies in our side of the country I went along to see Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray at the Midlands Mall, in Natal, with a couple of friends. Crazy to think I only got home after midnight with everything being so far away from sleeply little Nottingham Road! It was a lovely 'feel good' movie though and well worth the sleepy head the next morning. Now i'm thinking where am I going to find the time, money and staff to go follow in her footsteps ..... So many things to do and see, so little time, so little money ......

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mooo - What to do with the kids in Nottingham Road?

A pic of a calf I met at Born in Africa on the R103 made me wonder what there is to do in Nottingham Road and surroundings with kids? So starting on the R103 between Mooi River and Rosetta you have the Africa Adventure Centre where kids will love taking a tube down the river or slipping and sliding on the slip and slide whilst Mum relaxes at the Tea Garden or has a picnic under a tree (picnic supplied). There's also paint ball, obstacle courses and pony rides. Telephone: +27 (0)33 267-7173 or +27 (0)72 219-0387

In Nottingham Road itself, at the Junction, theres candle dipping (033 266-6980), which the kids love, as well as archery which will keep both boys, girls and Dads occupied for a while.

Travel down the R103 towards Michaelhouse and you'll find Lavender Trout with its animal farm, which kids love. They can even try their hand at a bit of fishing, accompanied by a trained guide. Mums will love the antique shop and Tea garden.

My personal favourite has to be Trayci Tompkins of 'Zulu Lulu' at the Piggy Wiggly Venue between Balgowan and Lions River, on the R103. Being a ceramicists herself, and selling the most gorgeous affordable items, she has recently put together a children's corner where they can decorate a piece of pottery in the most stunning outdoor environment with views to die for and Trayci doesn't do things in half measures, so you can be sure to be impressed with what she has put together. With Christmas around the corner, what nicer idea than your children making their very own personalised Christmas gifts for Granny or any other family member for that matter. Gift shops, coffee shop and children's playground. (083 627 3491). 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who's the Cyclist with the Pink Wings?

This was such a special site to see on Thursday, as we drove down the R103 towards Balgowan, two cyclist going full speed, one wearing a pair of bright pink wings, who would have thought that?!!!! We could  only imagine this was a cycle in aid of Cancer, but if anyone knows the real reason, we'd love to know.

Who was the girl in the car park wrapping the wedding gift?

Smiled to myself this afternoon when I spotted a couple in the car park at the Spar wrapping a wedding gift in the boot of their car! With such lovely gift shops in and around the Midlands I wondered why they had decided on the 'do-it-yourself' route. Next time you are looking for a gift, whether it be a wedding, birthday, or some other special occasion, try Simply Sam as we have some wonderful items and will even gift wrap for you. Check them out on,40,69

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Visiting the Natal Midlands this weekend?

I went on a little sojourn this week to check out a couple of relatively new businesses in the Nottingham Road area. The first of my stops was Barbara Zietsmann's place, 'Barbz' Coffee Shop and Deli in Gowrie Village. Barbara has turned this little spot into a vibrant and colourful meeting place for locals and visitors alike with stunning, cheery decor, delicious food and owners with warm personalities, that are bound to give you a laugh with their wonderful sense of humour. Then after you've had your fill of cakes, coffee and 'all day' breakfast you can literally walk through into 'African Queen' a trendy new spot which has opened in the next room to Barbz. African Queen is probably old hat to Joburg dwellers in Parktown,  as they are well known for their creation of wearable functional pieces of art including beautiful hand-made leather hand bags with detailed African beadwork. 'Our' African Queen also stocks stunning items of clothing and select gifts and we now have our very own hint of 'Joburg' in Nottingham Road with a shop that will knock your sox off. Tel Barbz: 033 2666075

Renaissance was my next stop on the R103 towards Balgowan (on the left hand side). This beautiful 'Wethley's' style antique shop, owned and managed by Cheryl Wigmore, has stunning re-vamped vintage and antique furniture as well as new gift items to jush up your interiors. Tel: 033 2344407

My last stop was Born in Africa and, though this is not at all a new business on the Meander, it has gone through somewhat of a revamp over the last couple of months. The Shoe factory that 'Born in Africa' is well known for has moved to a  shed further up on the property and the old shed has been given a face lift into the most stunning wedding venue with its very own Thatched chapel, with views to die for! The whole feel of the wedding venue itself is French with gorgeous statement pieces of French furniture, as well as its very own Parisian 'interior' street, a la 'Monte Casino'. This venue is certainly worth getting married for!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I had a dream ...... of sitting on a bench under a tree and playing my guitar

Yeah, just had my first guitar lesson in my shop! Said I would take up guitar lessons again, once i'd moved here, and it is already almost three years into my down shifting experience in Nottingham Road!  But better late than never as they say .....

The last two days we have had temperatures of around 28 degrees (35 in Pietermaritzburg) and we are just starting our Spring season. But in typical Nottingham Road style, today it is misty, rainy and freezing!

Knowing that the stunning weather will be back, its time to start planning those alfresco lunches. We have just got in some lovely benches, perfect to put under a tree in the garden whilst you wait for your meat to cook on the coals. We are also waiting for a consignment with some lovely long tables as well as ball & claw patio suites ready to be given a make over. Watch this space!

Click onto and browse all those lovely items your thinking of putting in your Home & Garden.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A rocking horse has a very special charm

I acquired a beautiful hand made rocking horse recently, which is for sale in my shop, and I have to say that there is just something so magical about a rocking horse, it just has a very special charm. Can you imagine the wide eyes of the child who is going to be presented with this beautiful gift? But why am I saying child? This would put a twinkle in even a 'big child's' eye - I'm thinking adult - surely they would love this just as much as any child! Link:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vintage Wedding? - "I do"

Nottingham Road has to be one of the most romantic places to host a vintage wedding, what with some of the most beautiful and historical venues to choose from with breath taking views and gorgeous scenery to use as a backdrop to beautiful wedding photos.

At a recent sale I happened upon the most gorgeous little Victorian Coat & Cap which I could just imagine being worn over a new pair of cotton & lace bloomers to dress the little flower girl or paige boy at a vintage wedding. I also came across a pure wool overcoat which would probably fit about a three year old. My mind was doing overtime when I spotted a child's vintage sailors outfit complete with little hat, trousers and sailor top. Though is has slight staining a child would look an absolute treat with genuine 'Shirley Temple' wringlets! To finish off the scene in my head I thought of the vintage silk and lace wedding dressing, circa 1920's, hanging in my shop and the black Tuxedo ......

Crab Apple Chapel is one of the Natal Midlands best kept secrets in the Dargle Valley, surrounded by the natural forests and farmlands. Owned and built by Helen & Barend Booysen, (Tel: +27 (0)33 234-4235 Mobile: +27 (0)82 337-2025) the Crab Apple Chapel was built in 1992 for their local community and is available for your wedding. It seats up to 170 on church pews and the cost is minimal, but book well in advance as this has to be one of the most popular chapels. The 5km dirt road would need some careful planning if you are booking during the rainy season, so bare this in mind.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A heart full of love ....

I have just had a delivery of the most gorgeous little Nguni key ring hearts which will make you always want to remember where your keys are, with your little heart of course!
These come in a range of colours from natural to lime green and blood red and are locally hand-made here in the Natal Midlands. To make them especially African, we also have a black heart made from Ostrich leather.
So if you're looking for a little gift for someone special call into Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts or visit us at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What can you expect to find at the Country Courtyard, Nottingham Road?

Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts began as a tiny little shop in Fort Nottingham in 2007, progressing to Nottingham Road in 2008 to a much bigger open plan shed which has allowed us to stock bigger pieces of furniture and some stunning gift items. The ambiance is both inspiring and refreshing as besides antiques and vintage pieces, we also stock new interior items, all of which are available over our website , so if you are looking for a special gift for someone, you can order it over our website and we will gift wrap and send, together with a little card, to a person of your choice.
The whole experience of shopping at the Country Courtyard Centre, situated around a stone and wrought iron oblisk in a French style Courtyard, is intimate and relaxed where one can enjoy a lunch at the infamous Cafe Bloom with their mismatch of crockery and welcoming environment. Sally Pereira's Country Company sells a whole array of glam and simple interior and gift items as well as a stunning range of adult and children's clothing, you certainly won't want to go away empty handed! For directions and enquiries telephone Sam on 033 2666940. We are situated on the R130 Nottingham Road (next door to the police station). Our opening hours are 10-4pm from Wed to Mon, closed Tuesdays. Our website is open 24 hours a day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Temperatures Drop

Wow it was freezing here today, and that was after souring temperatures yesterday where in Martizburg it was 31 degrees and we didn't do too badly with our heat here either. But today! We were really hoping for snow, but got a bit of rain instead. I made a nice log fire and packed out some of our new items which included a couple of Suzi Cooper Tea sets, which are really lovely, and some EP Retro Tea sets, a couple I quite fancy myself!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It is a stunning day here in Fort Nottingham. Jasmine scents the air, I feel the warmth of the sun on my back and i'm assured that life is really good here in sunny South Africa with the beauty of all that abounds. Today i'm having trees felled at home. Even our little guest cottage was starting to feel the arthritis in its bones from the lack of sun created by dozens of trees that had created their own little forest around it. The smell of the Deodar is just something else. Deodar trees are a type of fir tree and are known for the natural oil which protects the wood. For those against the felling of trees, you'll be pleased to know that all of this wood is going to have a second life as roof beams and furniture which will make its way into Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts. So if you are looking for an alfresco table for those summer lunches on the horizon, let me know.

I have to say that is it amazing to watch these majestic trees fall so swiftly. Just seconds of noise and they're down! We've been told our children can start up a temporary business at the market with the sawdust, as people love to sprinkle this on their veggie patch to stop the snails. So look out for us at the Karkloof market!

The best part of all this for me is that slowly our view is starting to come back into our garden. We live in the most stunning nature reserve and at the bottom of the property my neighbour stables and breeds horses, which we can now actually see as the hills spread towards the horizon. I mean, isn't that why we move to beautiful places like this ..............

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Check out this stunning old Chamber of Justice Table

Fresh off the press - just look at this stunning curved table, which came out of one of the old chamber of justice courts. They are going to come up for sale soon, though I don't have a price yet. If anyone is interested let me know. They would make a stunning display table in a home or even a posh desk!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Feeling lost? God is there for YOU

'The God of all comfort, who comforts us' 2 Corinthians 1;3
God can make you comfortable in the most uncomfortable places. He can pull you out of situations you thought you'd be stuck in forever. He can give you peace, even in the midst of trauma. Before your life is over, you'll live, love and experience loss. Losing some things will actually help you to appreciate the things you still have. It's the taste of failure that makes success so sweet. How can you celebrate victory unless you've known defeat? You'll live each day not knowing what tomorrow holds, but knowing that God holds all your tomorrows. They're not in the hands of your boss, your broker, your partner, or anybody else. Nor are they in your hands to manipulate and control. No, all your tomorrows are in God's hands! So whatever you do; get to know Him, because you'll need Him. And He'll be there for you. He'll be there when everbody and everything else has gone. He'll be there for you in the dark places. His promise to you is,'...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning' (Psalm 30;5 Amp). However long the night, morning always comes and with it His joy. Just think, no matter how dark the night, you've alyways lived to see the morning. Correct? Somehow, His grace has protected you, provided for you, secured you, calmed and comforted you, and brought you through. Times and seasons change, but not God. He's always ...'The God of comfort ...' and He's watching over you today!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New use for an old silver teapot

If you have an old silver pot at home that you love, but can't think of a use, other than for display purposes, how about using it for a toothbrush holder?!!! Silver certainly looks very glam in a bathroom. If you have any other ideas, why not add your comments here....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I love my Shop - why not choose a gift for a friend in South Africa .....

You've heard it said that 'if you find your passion, you will never work a day in your life', and that is me and Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts. I am so lucky to have Sharon Milella working with me at the shop, as this have given me the free time to travel far and wide and source some really lovely items, including some stunning and quirky gift items, all of which can be viewed in the shop (which is looking its best at the moment) or on our website
If you have friends and family in South Africa, why not purchase an item over our web and we will gift wrap, with a card, and post this on your behalf for that special occasion.
Hope to see you real soon.
Sam x

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Travelling from Fouriesburg to Ficksburg we came across the 'Hay Bale Family' just outside Clocolan where there is a great tea garden called 'The Cabin'. I was most impressed with the food, especially  in such an 'out-of-town' place. I definitely recommend a stop there.
Ficksburg is renowned for its 'Cherry Festival' which I think is in Sept/Oct, so we were a bit early for that, so we spent a bit of time in 'Die Blik Plec' which is a fascinating 'junk shop'. Here the owner has made all sorts of tin junk into saleable items including couches from Victorian baths, and even a matric dress which is made from old beer cans. When we arrived there she was giving a guided tour to a bunch of local African school children and educating them on the values of utilising 'junk' to make money.

Soccer World Cup

I really thought I didn't want to be part of the soccer world cup madness and even considered skipping the country for a few weeks, but I have to say it has been great fun. We watched England play Slovenia in Port Elizebeth and the atmosphere was phenomenal. The stadium in PE is awesome, as was the organisation getting us to and from, and we found the most amazing little local restaurant in the street (next door to Julie's cafe) which was great.
To see my team and all their supporters and to watch my children being 'British' for a day was well worth the trip.

What's cool at the Grahamstown Festival?!!

Shows to watch out for next time include 'Girl in the Yellow Dress', 'Eight' (CAPA), Kaput, Mike Sampson Feels Funny, Rump Steak, Khokho's Suitcase & The Adventures of a little Nobody (great kid's show), I have to say that some of the shows were greatly educational for our children, sometimes a bit 'too' educational?
We loved our accommodation on the old Bedford Rd, Hilton House, which was just perfect to accommodate our whole family. Their little pet Meerkat was sooo cute!
We found a little Indian curry restaurant in the main part of Grahamstown which was so authentic, even down to its plastic table cloths. At R18-R25 for a curry, who could argue.
My children were not impressed with the historical 'walking tour' I booked us on and still said they are going to get me back as they considered it 'sooo boring'!!!!

Shire Eco Lodge - Stutterheim

This is definitely worth a blog. I'm not really into eco places, or log houses for that matter, but the Shire Eco Lodge in Stutterheim, in the Eastern Cape (just off the N7), is definitely worth a visit,  if you need a stop over between Gauteng and East London. So much attention to detail and thought have been put into these little 'pods' that I'm adding their website for you to check out, so you can see for yourself. And at only R450 per night, per pod, it is not going to break the bank either. Our kids loved these places and because the 'pods' are close to each other, you could quite easily book your children into their very own pod. I've just realised I still haven't paid for my accommodation which says a lot about how trusting the owners are. Will get onto this immediately!!!! One tip if you are ever in Stutterheim and stocking up on groceries. There are two Spar grocery stores, almost next to each other, and they are worlds apart. When we found the nice one the next morning (too late she cried!) it had the most amazing fresh choice of groceries. Check out the Shire Eco Lodge -

On the road to the Grahamstown Festival

Destination was the Grahamstown Festival, which we'd fortunately booked accommodation for. However, where we were staying getting to and from the festival was another story. I had to go to a couple of places to delivery and collect stock, so this dictated the trip a bit. Anyway we found some interesting places which, if you are ever in remote areas of the Free State or the Eastern Cape, you might like to think of staying at.
Our first was a unique little hide away in the middle of no where, a 200 year old stone 'Kraal', we found in a place just outside Rouville in the Eastern Cape called  Iniklofie Lodge. Our accommodation consisted of a little stone cottage to sleep in, a separate cottage which was the bathroom (with a 'donkey' that had to be lit for hot water), another stone building which housed the quaintest kitchen, and then the old kraal which had been turned into a pub, come games room, with a pool table. Trouble was is was so dam cold that we couldn't wait to build a fire and jump into bed, so no playing in the games room for us! The pipes were frozen the next morning, but the stunning scenery that abounds, made up for the lack of warm water. At least we could boil an electric kettle and have a cup of 'Moer' coffee. The boys loved exploring the next morning and found a dead buck, proof of the wildlife in the area. What a pity we were only staying for one night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hansel & Gretel at Anja's Tea Garden in Lynnwood Road, Pretoria East

Oh what a delight to find this little 'Hansel & Gretel' Tea Garden, Anja's, so unexpected in Lynnwood Road, Pretoria. One of my dear friends, Liza, had told me about it ages ago before she moved down to Hilton in the Midlands and said it was a place she knew i'd love. Well today it was freezing in Pretoria, as snow has fallen some where in the Cape, so we snuggled up in the attic at Anja's little stone cottate, with hot chocolate all round, and deliberated over Beetroot Cake, Baked Lemon Cheesecake and Devils Chocolate Cake, all worth getting fat for!
I can imagine this must be an absolute delight in the summer as the garden looks so inviting, set in the gardens of Willows Country Lodge, which is built on one of the rocky ridges of Pretoria. We wandered through and took a peep at the owners private abode, a stunning, almost Georgian style, stone house which looks like something out of a French decor book. Further along is a huge barn style venue, obviously for weddings, functions and such like.
Anja's has been open for just on a year and is one of those places you just want to keep as your own 'little secret'. High Tea can be arranged for special occasions, or just pop along for a bowl of soup and home made bread. Fathers Day Anja has put together a special menu. Be there!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Family time at the Dragon Tree Challenge

What fun I had at the Dragon Tree Challenge with my family at their school, Kings, on Saturday. It was so tempting to open the shop as so many people were around. What with the Comrades Marathon on Sunday, and other events happening in and around Nottingham Road, but instead I ran a little stall at the festival (and sold a couple of items) and was able to do some real bonding with our three children, my hubby and our friends.

We are ardent fans of Survival on TV, so this was our chance to partake in something similar. First the entire family had to get across a dam on a raft which proved more difficult than it looked and before I knew it i'd crashed right into the water, and the freezing temperatures took my breath away. All in good fun though, as we ran off to continue with the many tasks ahead which included crawling through mud, finding marbles with your toes in a bucket of ice and eating chicken heads! Cooked ones luckily, but very yukky all the same. Apparently our African counterparts love chicken heads and feet which over here are referred to as 'walkie talkies'! I'll stick to Kentucky, thank you.

This week some gorgeous pieces of furniture were delivered to the shop and it is looking lovely. I now have my very own version of a French Chateau, at least until the furniture is sold. I fell down the stone steps just as the furniture was being carried down, so today I had an excuse to put my feet up, have lunch with friends and make it to the school, just in time to see my youngest with ball in hand.dogging every opponent on the rugby field. Now that's what memories are made of ......

Friday, May 28, 2010


Driving home last night the moon was so bright it could have been mistaken for the sun peeping through the clouds. It was so beautiful. Later I looked outside and saw the moon directly above my head, like a great big torch beaming down on me. This morning it was no where to be seen. The earth had turned, and I hadn't felt a thing!

The weather has taken a turn this evening and if feels like snow is on its way. We've had a big roaring fire going to keep the chill at bay. This weekend we have the festival at our local school, Kings, so i'm praying the weather is going to warm up. I'm sure many runners who are participating in Comrades on Sunday are feeling the same way. So to all those runners, keep your head down and don't pick it up again until you see the finish line .... good luck!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dragontree Challenge & Festival at Kings School, Nottingham Road

If anyone is in Nottingham Road this weekend remember the Dragontree Challenge & Festival at Kings School, just off the Loteni Road. It is sure to be loads of fun. I am closing my shop for the day and exhibiting some of my items for sale at the festival. I am looking forward to being in the sun, because my shop is like a fridge in Winter.

Tomorrow is the last of my 2 day stock clearance sale, where all furniture is less 40% to make way for new stock. I have some stunning items on the way. My favourite is a 19thC French Oak Parlour suite, as well as two matching 19thC Flemish Oak Court Cupboards. I'm still trying to decide if the cupboards should go home with me!

See you at the Dragontree Challenge. I'll be the one sinking on the raft at the dam....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm back! At least I think I am . . . .

I've not written since 16th April so I have a bit of explaining to do. I was away in the States for just over two weeks in San Fransisco, New York and Atlanta and I loved it! My favourite shop was Anthropology, by far, and gave me loads of ideas for improving my own shop. I was happy to see Mick Haige & Mud ceramics in this delectable shop, flying the flag for South Africa. Why can't we have Central Park, the New York Met and Starbucks just down the road from where I live, then I could have the best of both worlds!
I was sent this link today which made me think about our own down shifting choices. Have a look, as its well worth a read.

The Midlands looks stunning in its new autumnal and brown outfit and the weather, though cold in the morning and last thing at night, is at its best.This weekend I went on a pilgrimage to a little place called Ngome in Natal and I was given time to reflect on all the things that are important to me. I got to wondering why it is that humans generally take whatever they have for granted, including me, who would rather lay in bed with a coffee instead of  an early morning walk with the dogs. Well guess what? I now get up an hour earlier and I think soon the dogs are going to be so used to their early morning walk, that they'll be scratching at my door and waking me up! I have to say though, watching the sun rise in the morning in this beautiful nature reserve takes some beating!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dalton Private Nature Reserve open day - Eco Saturday

If you're in the Midlands this weekend, the Dalton Private Nature Reserve is open to the public for the first time for the enjoyment of children and families when they have their Eco Saturday on 17 April   
Admission includes Game drives to view Rhino, Zebras, Eland, Cape Buffalo, Oribi and more. Organic food and animal garden, indigenous nursery tours and activities including: Pony rides, guided nature walks, craft demonstrations, Zulu dancing and fresh catered lunch. Price per adult R70, per child R50

As this is an NGO, 5-10% of proceeds will be donated to the Dalton Education Trust

Dalton Private Nature Reserve
Tel: +27[0] 36 352 0100

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hair raising stylist makes a move

Quite a different experience recently to have my hair cut out in the 'open air' on the deck at Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts, as Brian and Rave, of Deco Hair, were in between salons.

Their hair and make-up Salon will be re-locating to the Wine Cellar on the R103 where they will offer hair styling and make up for locals, as well as special occasions such as weddings, as before. Enjoy a glass of wine and a light platter at the wine cellar whilst you wait for your hair to be done. They will open for business tomorrow and can be contacted on 072 215 7559

Thursday, April 8, 2010

People in the Midlands

Lisa Nicholas who owns our local photographic studio, 'Snaps', recently re-located her studio to 'The Junction' in Nottingham Road. She specialises in personal photographic portfolios including family portraits and, of course, weddings. I couldn't think of any where nicer to snap the family album than in the stunning setting of the Midlands and as lisa says in her own words:
The Facts:
· Art is personal, as is style· Each individual has different likes and dislikes.  · Each booking or session is tailored to suit the client.
Photography is probably best described as ‘the art of light capture’. Here’s hoping that you enjoy my style of ‘light capture’.Best regards,
Lisa.  Tel:  +27 (0) 724 555 905
Check out some of her work on

This morning I had Barbara pop in with freshly picked organic lettuce from her farm which, besides other things, she is growing and selling as part of her down shifting experience away from the madness of Johannesburg. What a simple, but lovely gesture, from a neighbor. Its the kind of thing we want to experience in the city, but it just doesn't happen.

Then Elena popped into the shop to say she was collecting her new puppy and my Son, who is crazy about dogs, went along for the ride and arrived at our house with little Zoë who is the most adorable cuddly puppy. Just look at those eyes!

I have to say that I haven't looked back since moving to the Midlands and now, in our third year here, feel this really was the right choice for us. My friend Belinda left the Midlands, after what she says was 'the best year of her life'. She is making plans to return here, once she has sold her Durban based transport business, to pick up where she left off. Her children were the happiest they had ever been, with space to run around and be children and, as she says, life was so simple here, stress just wasn't part of every day life anymore. So if there is anyone out there looking to get into the transport business drop me a line.

Tanglewood Hotel in the Dargle

Easter weekend we were supposed to go away but decided, instead, to explore what we have right on our doorstep. Mainly because when I typed 'Drakensberg' into the google search, many places in the Midlands kept popping up, so I figured we may as well stay right where we are.

I'd almost forgotten about 'Tanglewood Hotel' in the Dargle, a lovely old building dating back to 1885, which besides accommodation also offers meals and is a wonderful wedding venue, so for one of our lunches we meandered there. A couple of years ago this was virtually an abandoned place, which my husband tells me we could have bought, if I hadn't got my heart set on something more Farm like. Anyway the current owners have done a wonderful job of making this very homely and inviting inside, including a lovely pub as part of the old worlde charm. One of the owners is a chef and I have to say that this can be seen in the presentation of the food. My youngest son ordered fish & chips and it was delicious. Definitely going to order that on my next visit. My cajun chicken salad (though missing the cajun and having un-ripe avo) hit the 'healthy' spot, after all those Easter eggs.  We ordered one of each of the puddings on the menu, so we could try them all and, again, besides the wonderful presentation, were all really yummy! Bring me more of that fudge sauce!!!!

The hotel is set back just off the tar road which can be accessed from the R103 Balgowan road, close to Howick, only about 12km on the Dargle/Impendle rd. Close by is the Lavender farm which is a must do, as well as The Wood Turner and Dargle Valley Pottery (one of the founder members of the Midlands Meander).
Contact Tanglewood on 033 234 4366

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Wish everyone the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy Easter!

The Midlands very own Wine Estate

Hey what a discovery today to come across Abingdon Wine Estate, on the Lions River road, in the Midlands. The only one in the area harvesting their own grapes to make their very own estate wine. I know we live here in the Midlands, but we dont' always get a chance to meander, so we didn't know about their little restaurant and wine tasting which has been open for only six months. However today we went to see a property for sale in Lions River, right at the very top of a rugged hill with views to die for (would make a stunning 'hill top' guest house with a bit of imagination and lots of money), and came across Abingdon on the way back. Taste their wines (their Viognier was very good), sample their simple menu, and finish off with delicious coffee in a very simple environment. We'll be back!  

Contact Abingdon on 033 2344 335 or 0834638503

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tshwane City Council all in a meeting?!!!

This is what I find amusing about living in South Africa (and i'm sure it could quite possibly be the same in France, but let me know), I phone through to Pretoria City Council this morning with a query and I am told by the switchboard operator "they are all in a meeting". Is that possible? The only time I could imagine an entire employment force being 'in a meeting' is if the place is burning down! Any comments out there?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peaceful Weaving Studio on the Midlands Meander

The owners of Shuttleworth Weaving were founder members of the Midlands Meander concept and thus the business is one of the oldest running in the area, in operation for over thirty years. In their quiet studio, on a steep forested hill, on the Fort Nottingham road, you will find a wide array of custom made items, including hand woven mohair rugs and carpets, throws, scarves and shawls, all made with natural fibres (mohair, wool & cotton) hand-spun and naturally dyed on the premises. Their products are unique and beautiful and many are exported, again amazingly, from this sleepy little hollow. The family are committed to their workers, making this a really wholesome business.
Andy & Helen Stuttleworth tel: 033 2666 818

I couldn't resist taking this photo of one of the local ladies, at the entrance of Shuttleworth, with calamine lotion on her face, so typical of African ladies in the area with their 'sun screen' applied to their faces.

From a wattle & daub studio in Nottingham Road - destination - all corners of the globe

Don't miss Sally and Mick Haig's exhibition of their ceramic art at their restaurant, Cafe Bloom, over the Easter weekend, as part of a 'rolling exhibition' of local artist in the Natal Midlands.  Sally and Mick produce sculptural Pots and functional art from their tiny wattle and daub studio just outside Nottingham Road and only a limited amount of items are made. 

What amazes me is what Mick and Sally produce from this sleepy little hollow, and the fact that it gets delivered to all corners of the globe. It was only just over a year ago that Mick was having supper with Sir Terance Conran in London, after Terance placed an order for some of Mick's ceramics. The photo on the left is stock, packed up and ready to be delivered to Italy, UK and the US to name but a few destinations. So don't miss the opportunity to view, and possibly treat yourself to some of this stunning art. Contact Michael or Sally on 0725290227. 

Other artist taking part in the 'Rolling Exhibition' include Shuttleworth Weaving, Corrie Lynn and Co, Hilford Pottery, Ground Cover, Ardmore Ceramic Art, Sterlings Wrought Iron and The Wood Turner. The exhibition runs from 2-5 April 2010. Visit for more information.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Breasts at the Karkloof Market

If you are in the Midlands area for the Easter weekend, remember the Karkloof market will be open for business as usual - Saturdays from 7am-11am. How to spend your latest wad of cash in less than an hour, but everything is great, and why shop at Pick n Pay when you can purchase home bakes, cheeses, veggies, local meats, eggs and yummy breakfast fresh from the vendors?

Having been told we had to have a bagel, we headed straight to the Bagel stall. Chalked up on the board outside was what looked like a pair of breasts. A very well to do lady, with a very posh accent, marched up to the owner. "Is that your sign outside?" she blurted. "Yes" said the owners, "is there a problem?". "Well yes", said the lady. "You've spelt delicious wrong"!

I then toddled off to another little table where I usually buy delicious home baked baps. This time they also had mini Portuguese milk tarts which I was told "is an absolute favourite .... in Australia". Is that why the basket was still full in SA? Well I bought one for lunch and it was good. And then, have you ever heard of a 'bean tart'? The man assured me they are not savoury, but sweet, and definitely won't make you fart!

The coffee is 'three cups later' - great, and I was thrilled to beat someone to the last packet of mixed lettuce, fresh from the farm. My weekly veggies cost me only R48! Support the business that sells the biscuits etc. which has the purple label as this is a job creation project and support system for many struggling Africans. As I walked out of the market I saw a gorgeous blonde coming towards me with about eight little children in tow. "Are you from the purple project"? I asked - knowingly not having to wait for the reply.

Make your way to the centre of Howick and take the road leading to the Karkloof area, and its a couple of kms down the road on the right hand side.

High Tea with 'Centre Piece Hire'

How we're spoilt in Africa with stunning homes, lovely sunshine, and high tea on the 'stoop'.....
Stuart Mitchell of 'Centre Piece Hire' hosted a high tea at Kinnord House in Essenwood Road, Durban. What a grand old plantation style home, circa 1910, the perfect location for a party. The occasion was the first (SA) birthday of this stylish events company who specialise in vintage style 'High Tea' parties, put together with such elegance, and they certainly know their stuff after having relocated from the UK where they hosted parties for the 'rich and (in)famous'.

Our Midlands setting is perfect for tea on the lawn! So if you are planning a wedding, baby shower, birthday, etc. they will travel to where ever you are.  Contact Stuart Mitchell on 0848195694

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Umlungu and the Zulu!

I had the most wonderful gardener when I moved here. I called him 'Madala' , which means 'old man' in Zulu, and he was getting on. Most of the enormous trees in my garden he claimed to have planted when he was a boy. He sadly died last year of TB, something that should never happen in this day and age. He couldn't speak English and I, Zulu, but some how we managed and as time went on, he taught me a couple of Zulu words. He would often go off to the Shabeen (local illegal pub) and get steaming drunk. I'd feel like his 'other' wife as he would come staggering home and I'd yell that I'd made his supper over an hour ago and "you've been to the shabeen again haven't you"! His smiling face was a picture.

I love chatting to my staff, but my current maid hardly speaks a word of English. I managed to get a joke across recently when she told me we needed more chicken food. "Are there any 'iliqanda' (eggs)?" I asked, knowing there weren't any. "Well, no 'sebenza' (work), no food" I said. Her hearty laugh assured me she has a good sense of humour. I sometimes get home to the most gorgeous bouquets of flowers that she puts together from our garden. She was re-doing our self catering cottage, and I saw she had put together an equally beautiful arrangement for the guests. Could she be missing her calling as a florist?!!!

I've blogged about my new gardener before, but have to mentioned that I'd asked her what her dream in life is. I was gob smacked to hear she wants to be a dental technician. So if there is anyone out there who thinks they can help in this regard, please let me know. 

On new years day, cycling down my road, I was horrified to see how one of the local ladies was now a shadow of her former self. I thought how lucky I am with good health and this lady looked like a walking skeleton. After enquiring after her health she told me she was awaiting her HIV results, which I now know are positive. I'd not seen her for a while and thought she must have passed away, though recently I saw her again and was so pleased to hear she had managed to get anti-retro viral and is now, in her own words, "number one!".

I'm grateful for the fact that I have been afforded the opportunity to learn more about the Zulus, since moving here, even if its just a few words. In the post office recently, when a Zulu man was standing almost on top of me in the queue, I felt compelled to say something, and not at all in a nasty way. I politely asked him why the Zulus, as a rule, do this and discovered that it is considered a way of letting people know they have nothing to hide, unlike the  'umlungu' (white person) who will stand far away, their handbags grasped tightly to their waist, as they are generally terrified in this crime ridden South Africa. 

I think the language barriers we have in South Africa are one of the biggest down falls. I would love the government to offer free lessons to anyone interested in learning the languages, as it could go a long way in bridging the gap. Although, which one of the thirteen official languages would you choose from?!!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From sun drenched Cosmos to drenched ......

This morning I was all set to tell you about the stunning Cosmos lining our roads (hence the photograph on the right), which reminds me Easter time is just around the corner, and how special it was seeing  one of the locals jogging and her little son, Sam, cycling at her side, such was the beautiful Sunny morning. Instead the build up of clouds in the afternoon resulted in one major hail storm which left the scenery white over as if snow had fallen. Obviously hail being that much heavier, it reeked havoc, and yet now there is just a light patter of rain outside and floods of water inside my shop! I had a customer in my shop, who was held hostage to the weather for a good twenty minutes! Wendy, from Cafe Bloom, tells me the customers had to stand whilst eating their soup, for fear their little feet might get wet from the floods inside the restaurant. All in a days work....

Today is the Michaelhouse/Hilton bi-annual sports day,  which has, no doubt, been rained out. This is where two of South Africa's premier high schools play one another in various sports, primarily rugby and hockey, with the culmination of the day being the main rugby match between the two schools. A friendly rivalry has developed over the years and has a great following with the locals, what a pity about the rain. Though I did read one can walk from one end of the Michaelhouse building to the other without getting wet. Well isn't that just perfect on a day like today!

Hilton college and Michaelhouse are the only two full boarding schools left in South Africa and are both located near one another in our beautiful area. The grounds and buildings are reminiscent of some of the UK's top private schools, a truly privileged education.  

The Midlands is loosely known as the area with four seasons in one day, so to end, the sun shine has returned and we're back to another beautiful day in sunny South Africa.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekend Retreat in the Hamlet of Fort Nottingham

You have to admit that its great to get away when you're living in the city, away from the daily pressures that life demands of us. I am biased, but the Natal Midlands is a stunning area to visit. If you have never visited this beautiful area then you won't know that the scenery is stunning and has some of the most wonderful cycling to be had, that you can fly fish in some of the most pristine waters, that the Midlands Meander is full of the most interesting places to visit including potters, sculptors, country restaurants, gift and antique shops and much much more.
The Hamlet of Fort Nottingham is 15km out of Nottingham Road, surrounded on three sides by mountains in a nature reserve, and has to be one of the most peaceful places to stay for a weekend. Nature includes various buck, monkeys, baboons, various small mammals and the most prolific bird life. Look out for Blue Crane on your way, and for horse lovers you'll love the foals and horses that abound.
Things to do, other than just doing nothing, include stunning walks or cycling up the mountain, lesser walks over the river and up the infamous 'Highland Games Kilted Run', walking through the forest in the nature reserve, a visit to the local grave yard (full of history), a bite of lunch at Els Amics restaurant and a stroll around the Fort Nottingham Museum with its interesting little shops.
Where to stay? Sherwood Forest self catering Guest Cottage, once the home of the French restaurant 'Cafe le Fort', sleeps four in one double and 2 single beds. More appropriate for a young family as the rooms are inter-leading. It is very rustic, yet quaint, and is set in a lovely mature garden within the Fort.
The hamlet of Fort Nottingham is ideal if its peace and quiet you are looking for. Excepting, of course, Saturday 15th  May when you have to don your kilt for the annual Highland Games. An event not to be missed, so book your accommodation early.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sam's having a gas!

The one thing you need to know about me, is that I love cooking and eating, the kind of person who takes cookery books and magazines to bed to read the recipes! So today i'm smiling after the purchase of a new, more sophisticated, gas cooker. Not that there was anything wrong with the old one. No, even when I ran out of gas the other evening, the electric rings in the centre of my old cooker saved the day. But I just couldn't resist the glimmer and attraction of this new one (especially with its convection oven) which I can already picture in our 'new kitchen', the new kitchen which is still only half built!

The other thing you should know about me, is that the property we own, used to house a little (little being the operative word) French restaurant called 'Cafe le Fort' and ever since I have dreamt of inviting friends for supper there, so I can pretend I have my very own restaurant without the strings attached. After reading Susan Herrmann Loomis' books 'On Rue Tatin' (highly recommended for those escapism foodies) I can see myself re-creating something similar to her little cookery school in Normandy, France. One can only dream.

Who of you have watched 'Come Dine with Me' on TV? Well that is my idea of a fun night out. I challenge anyone living in my area to join me in putting together our very own version of this exciting show and girls, watch out for that dinner invitation at Cafe le Fort!

Check out Susan Loomis' website on She does have a blog too, but her website is so much nicer....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recycling and eco friendly environments

Part of down-shifting has to include a nod towards living in an 'eco' environment where recycling should really be second nature to you. In South Africa we are still way behind the rest of the world, but we are at least giving the whole recycling thing a bash. Even before I moved permanently to the countryside we had our different kinds of bins in which to separate our garbage, though now we have Muncipal refuse removal they do tend to just bung everything into the same lorry. I am assured by my friend that people scouting the dumps for things are still happy  to find bags of the same thing which they don't have to sort through.

I also have a huge compost heap, ( nothing quite like spreading your own waste on one's garden) which I love, as well as a little wormery that we keep at the back door (my son's baby). My compost bin, inside the kitchen, is an old recyled pedal bin, painted in the colours of the Union Jack (yes patriotic!) with 'compost' written on it, so there's no making a mistake which bin is which.

Then there's nothing quite like recycling furniture. This is obviously one of my favourite past times. My best recycle of late has to be a matching pair of vintage Barbers chairs which I had recovered in Nguni skin. They now look stunning and could fit into any vintage or modern home.

I have to punt the fact that we sell Wormeries at our shop, though still have't quite figured out how they fit into a Brocante! We have a special on our wormeries at the moment with a discounted price, to encourage recycling in our area. So instead of the normal price of R450 they are now R400 until the end of March 2010. Click here to order

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Davante Living re-opens

Just pasted Rawdons on the R103, going down the Balgowan Road on the right hand side, 'Davante' Living' has just re-opened after a couple years of silence. At Davante, meaning Beloved, you will find a quaint little coffee shop surrounded by bookshelves of books to read or purchase at your leisure, like visiting a library with other perks! Quaint little items are for sale including kitchen smalls as well as furniture. Pop in for a slice of homemade cake and some of the best fresh coffee on the Meander. Tel: 022 2666097 or email:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Out-reach in Africa

I have to say that I do love helping people but my Mother Teresa purpose in life has never really showed itself the way i've thought it would and I have often said to people that I personally don't think I have the humility Mother Teresa must have had, caring for people.

However our new gardener, who started working for us a few weeks ago, has a plight in life that I would like to share with you, in the hope that you may feel inspired to assist. We sometime underestimate the degree to which aids affects people, especially the families left behind, more over when that family is not directly linked emotionally to our own. We can ooh and aah, but then we can go home to our happy little nucleus.

TK, as my new gardener is known, has six children. She is twenty eight years of age. These children are not her own. She has one sister of twenty two and had two other sisters, both of which died of an un-known illness. These sisters left behind six children between them from the ages of five to fifteen, all of which TK is now responsible for. She cannot work for me full time, mainly because of the cost and time involved in getting to my property which is very far away and also because her family rely on her being there for them. She has found herself in a catch twenty two situation with responsibilities far in excess for someone of such a young age. Her younger sister is fortunate to be studying agriculture, but does not yet bring in an income.

In South Africa this situation is familiar to thousands of people across the country and is nothing new. Accepting this young lady is new to me and has crossed my path in life. So I am bringing her fate to you in the hope that together we can do something to help. So what do you think? Obviously financial is the first priority but she could be helped in many other ways. If you are interested to assist, drop me a line. This lady lives near         Howick, so a job offer closer to home is a possibility. So is clothing, food parcels etc.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekends are for weddings ..............

I thought this so appropriate for all those couples getting married, or planning their weddings, because the Midlands has to be the place to tie the knot, such is the romanticism of the area, and we have the most fabulous venues to choose from. 

This wedding was at Lythwood Lodge and Barbara Zietsman, owner and driver of the wedding carriage, said it had been raining all week and she was panic-stricken, only to wake up at 3.30am to see clear skies and stars. She says she slept like a baby after that! 

Sassy Sue, the horse leading the way, is a purebred Hackney. Hackneys are specially bred for carriage driving and are used all over the world. Barbara, the owner says "they are spectacular! I just love her - she has such a sense of occasion!". And doesn't she just. Though you don't look too bad yourself Barbara!

If you are planning that special occasion in the future don't just make it special, make it magical with this horse drawn carriage. You are sure to take everyones breath away. 

Contact Barbara Zietsman directly on 0828545698 or email

p.s Special Offer at Hartford House - Exclusive Getaways are offering a special between now and the end of March 2010 at Hartford House - Bed & Breakfast R560 per person. Only through Exclusive Getaways -  Book now at

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Pretoria to Nottingham Road, with love ......

Cycling to work this morning I passed a couple of Blue Crane with their chicks, a first for me, and I thought back to the days I would take the kids to the Blue Crane Sanctuary in Pretoria, as a way of trying to create a little countryside environment in the city. So hear I am enjoying this peace and tranquility on a daily basis, running my antique & vintage shop, being called by my first name in the bank and where two is a queue at the local post office.  I collect my children from school at way past four o clock, and I am not charged for this privillage, and our children have the freedom to remain children in a relaxed 'family' environment, where they are thriving. The other day I had a real tear jerker when I walked into teacher Caroline's class rehearsing 'Caravan' - a sea of multicultural kids singing at the top of their voices and genuinely having a ball. What a very special site to behold, a memory to treasure.

Yesterday I receive an expected call from a local shop owner who had mentioned she was pulling out her old Lavender bushes, and were being pulled out that day, did I want them? I call my friend Elena (another 'down shifter' from Pretoria) who promptly jumps into her car. Then I get a call, "should I take my trailer?". Then another call "where am I going?". Then another call "you crazy, mad lady, I need a truck to load all this Lavender!" Not having planned for this un-expected call from me, she now has a mound of work to keep her busy. No doubt there will be dried lavender bunches and pot pourie hearts for sale in Nottingham Road soon. And so it goes, this countryside life style, where time really does feel like it can be stored up for a rainy day or any other day for that matter....

Anyone for movies?

I have to share this with you. Living in this sleepy little hollow, the one thing I have missed since moving from Pretoria, was the option to pop in, of an eve, to watch a nice art movie. So last night a group of us got together real early, made the great trek to Pietermaritzburg (an hours drive away for some of us), and had a wonderful light supper and toddled off to the movies to pay for our tickets. Now at some point one of us did mention the idea of purchasing our tickets before supper, even during supper, but somehow we didn't listen and were promptly turned away from the movies with "sorry, sold out", and we haven't watched a movie in months!

If you're in Nottingham Road this Friday Kings School (just off the Loteni Road) are hosting 'Somethings gotta Give' on the big screen, at 6pm. Wine & snacks included, for a nominal fee, with a separate movie showing for the kids. All welcome.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Festive France - new stock just arrived

Our new stock of Festive France has just been up-packed, so if you were waiting for your copy, pop in to Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts soon, whilst we still have stock. This book has been so popular that we couldn't get hold of it and the publisher had to do a re-print. On that note we couldn't believe it when the other day when we actually got an order from the United States for Festive France! Now how's that for global shopping. Visit our website for on-line orders of this book.

The little little Iron house - new home of Exitus Paper & Coffee Connection

Exitus has been making hand-made paper in Nottingham road for years and used to employ as many as fifty people, such was the demand for their product. The advent of the Internet has put pay to most people hand writing letters and thus Exitus has slowed down somewhat, though they still make the prettiest papers in a whole range of colours, perfect for special occasion invitations such as weddings cards.

Recently they moved both the paper shop and  The Exitus Coffee Connection to the most quaint and hidden gem of a place just at the back of the Spar centre in Nottingham Road. Now housed in an original wood and iron building on over 6000 sqm of lovely grounds, with a pretty view and lots of space for the kids to run around. Mounds and mounds of Midlands charm, oozing with ambiance and yet right in the center of Nottingham Road, so you can even nip next door to the local Spar do a bit of stocking up.

Wednesday is market day at the Coffee Connection where fresh produce and home industry bakes are for sale in the gardens, all home grown locally. Margaret, the owner, also makes delicious biscuits and other treats which are for sale daily in her shop. If all that wasn't enough, take time out to visit Claudia in her log cabin for a session of massage therapy and reflexology.

Exitus – call Margaret on (033) 266 6582

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Country Company

Owned and managed by Sally Pereira, Country Company, in the Country Courtyard Centre, has to be one of the most stunning and successful businesses on the Midlands Meander. You kinda don't feel you have been to the Midlands without having stopped and bought something from this gorgeous, decor inspired, shop. Brand new stock has just been un-packed, after the 'end of tax year sale' cleared out the old stock, so hurry along and see what's new.
The Country Courtyard Centre was developed by Sally and her husband Carlos Pereira, centered around a stunning English country garden which was designed by local landscaper Gary Cox. You'll find Country Company, Cafe Bloom, Simply Sam Antique Brocante & Gifts (my shop) and ceramics by the well known Mick Haigh, co-owner of Cafe Bloom. One of the most delightful places to stop, shop and unwind on the Midlands Meander..... children's playground on the premises.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Els Amics Restaurant

If you are in Nottingham road over a weekend, remember Els Amics (previously of Pietermaritzburg) is open Saturday and Sunday for lunch in the hamlet of Fort Nottingham (children over 12 years welcome Tel: 033 2666982). Supper parties are by prior arrangement. Get onto their mailing list for info regarding their regular theme dinners

This little hamlet is really beautiful, built within a nature reserve, and well worth driving the 15km from Nottingham road. The local Fort Nottingham Museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 10-4pm and the Sherwood Forest self catering cottage is available for hire tel: 0726059909

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hot chocolate & La Baguette

Yesterday I spent the day stock taking in the shop. Today, as its turned out, is overcast and misty and verrrrry chilly, so hot chocolate is the order of the day and a good time to finish the stock take whilst there are so few people around. I have received a number of sales over the web which, besides being comforting, says something about being able to work from anywhere.

My friend Liza reminded me yesterday of the French Patisserie & Boulangerie 'La Baguette' at the Green Acres Centre in Howick - tel: 033 3304491). Owned by a number of French speaking friends, this is really a mouth watering place to visit where they not only sell a fabulous selection of pastries, sweets and breads, but also present them in a gift wrapped style that makes your purchase very special - you know you are consuming something worth getting fat for! And as they say on their pamphlet "move onto the French way and come every day."

Which brings me to a point I wanted to make about living in the countryside and owning a business. I just never find the time to do my grocery shopping and I really do want to buy local and wholesome. So yesterday I made a point of finally ordering my bulk meats from a local 'grower' of beef, pork and chicken. Another supplier I found will deliver seasonal fruit & veg, fresh from the farm, and our local dairy will supply our milk which has the most delumptious cream which I scape off to make yummy chocolate mousse. (Watch this space for the easy recipe which will be posted soon.) One of my neighbours kindly gave me a butter churn and my kids were so excited to make butter, though the novelty quickly wore thin.

 We recently planted cabbage and cauliflower and our herb garden has taken on a life of its own. It is so satisfying to pick fresh herbs as and when you need them. We just have to keep everything out of reach of monkeys and chickens who always seem to get to ripe produce, just before we do. Even the freshly laid eggs don't seem to escape the crafty eyes of the monkeys.

Friday night is Pizza night at our house made with the most amazing Italian dough recipe which has Semolina added. The Mozzarella is from a local supplier. Remind me to post this recipe too.
Bon Appetit

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eco Living

Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting to a couple of people in the shop who have interests in Eco Living, and they reminded me of my dream to build a Cob house. The word cob comes from an old English root meaning a lump or rounded mass. In fact bread rolls in some parts of England are referred to as 'cobs'. Cob building uses hands and feet to form lumps of earth mixed with sand and straw, an aesthetic and sensory experience similar to sculpting with clay. Cobbing is easy to learn and inexpensive to build and earth is, after all, God's given gift to us. It has been used for hundreds of years to build housing, even in the coastal areas of England where properties as old as 300 years still stand.
A couple of years ago I donned my pink spotted wellies and headed off to Jill Hogan's Alternative Technology Centre in McGregor in the Cape. My husband, who at the time was a suit and tie man, wondered what I was getting him into as we arrived at this half built 'mud' house in McGregor where we were to spend the weekend, well, building! There was something very grounding (excuse the pun) about squashing mud with your wellies and forming this into something that could be turned into your very own accommodation. Our bedroom had in fact been built by previous 'students' and was actually very nice and even had a built in air conditioning system, so it was warm in winter, cool in summer. We ate food cooked in a solar cooker, which was very basic, but some of the best food I had savored, the ambiance of McGregor adding to this of course.
Cobbing does not have to look alternative either. I read a fascinating article in a UK decor magazine about a couple who had built a cob house (with marble floors), which looked very conventional and was stunning both inside and out. It had cost them (about 6 years ago) Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds to build and once completed was worth three times that price.
Whether my ambition will remain a dream only time will tell. In the mean time I need to get on with restoring our current century old house.
Jill Hogan
McGregor Alternative Technology Centre
Tel: 023 625 1533

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another of Sam's Favourites

If you have already had the pleasure of lazing at Blue Berry Hill , then you'll need no introduction to this stunning gem situated on a hill with the most amazing (and I mean amazing) views over the Natal Midlands and their Nguni and Blue Berry Farm. And if the views, food and art & sculptures weren't enough, their new decor shop is sure to have you re-arranging your home to find space for a piece of something you'll fall in love with. A must stop for anyone visiting the beautiful Natal Midlands. Their wedding venue, due to be operational within the next few months, is already taking bookings. Check them out opposite Fordoun Health Spa on the R103. Tel Liza on 033 2666899

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What are you looking for?

I get people coming into the shop daily looking for the most interesting of things, many of which I manage to source on my travels, if we don't have such an item in the shop. Then I have those people with gorgeous items they want to sell. So what are you looking for?
I have just had a lady in the shop who has an Art Deco lounge suite for sale. So if you're looking for such an item, let me know. Any item I source on your behalf will be sold to you on a commission basis only, as long as it does not come into my shop and is paid for beforehand.

Friday, February 26, 2010

One of Sam's favourites

If you're in the Midlands this weekend, remember St Verde Succulents will be open as it's the last weekend of the month. I love this place!
And in the words of Sharon and Neville  "We have returned to the origins of what gave birth to Saint Verde. The very best of our succulent collection is now for sale along with pots, table and glassware. Guest Artist - every open weekend one or two guests artists are featured along with their work. The Food and Drink - Go hungry because although the menu is small, there is always something special to eat as well as beer, wine, homemade lemonade and St Verde famous coffee & tea.
Call them on 0824491938 or 0332344356 - Open Sat & Sun

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wow what entertainment Ian Von Memerty and Roelof Colyn were last night at the Michaelhouse Theater in 'Handful of Keys'. Yes, this much-loved show was back for the third time at the theater and was entertaining from beginning to end. Its hard to imagine that these guys can play the likes of Bach and yet joke and entertain up there with the best comedians. Add to that the most outstanding singing voices and you have 'Handful of Keys'. This was 2 hours of musical and comical entertainment on two grand pianos, various costume changes in between, and so well put together! Where do they get their energy from? Well done, outstanding performers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cycling, Decorating & my neighbours

I had a lovely cycle into work this morning, though the hills are still a challenge. However, I push myself and grit my teeth when muscles start to burn and I focus on the down hill I know is just ahead. Then, like a female version of 'Superman', in my illuminous lime green jacket, I stand up on my bike and 'fly' down the hill like a raving lunatic, the breeze cooling my burning cheeks. My apologies to all those on the Fort Nottm road this morning who may have gotten a fright!

Cafe Bloom is arguably the most popular stop for refreshments on the Midlands Meander, especially with the parents from the local schools, and I am lucky to share the centre with such a wonderful establishment and people. This morning I popped in to find Wendy's grandson, Jo, eating home-made veggie soup and a freshly baked roll for breakfast. Now that's what I call healthy eating.

A lovely set of ball & claw 'shabby chic' beds have just been set up in the shop, made into a king size bed, though are perfect as twin beds for a child's room. I'm still debating whether to cover the headboards with lively retro fabric, to bring them to life, or to leave them in their pared down French shabby chic style. What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pony, hearts and stunning scenery

Driving to work this morning I am reminded how absolutely blessed we are living in this stunning area. The scenery is crystal clear, like viewing a 360 degree oil painting.What a pity I couldn't cycle into work today.
The shop has been really busy with early morning shoppers and browsers and when I went up to the car park earlier, to load items to be delivered to Gauteng, I see there is an extremely anxious white pony in the garden of a residential home opposite our centre. Have our neighbours acquired a pony whilst I've been away or has this little master jumped the fence of the neighbouring farm? Whatever the answer, he is neighing at the top of his lungs and charging around the garden like a raging unicorn.
Some of my new gift stock has just arrived. I love the excitement of un-packing the boxes. Hand made pottery from the Cape with little pink dotted hearts, reminds me of brail when I run my finger over. Large round platters suitable for cheeses & things, when entertaining, matching dinner & side plates, mugs and then the cutest little bowls which can be used for anything from serving olives, to a breakfast bowl for eating your yoghurt and museli in the morning, perfect as gifts, and it matches my kitchen perfectly! Guess what I'm getting for Christmas!
Talking of ceramics, to end our afternoon I quickly nipped out of the shop to take my son to pottery lessons with Louise who runs a course in Nottingham road (for children and adults alike) at her shop Aladdins Delight. Courses in Stained glass, Raku and other Ceramics are presented and team building workshops are facilitated. (Phone 0332666460 if you are coming especially to meet the artists.) I haven't thrown a pot for years and this was great fun. Even more fun watching my son achieve something in such a short space of time and feel so proud of himself. His smile just said everything.

Check them out at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Op Pad - Johannesburg to Nottingham Road

For anyone hankering over a trip to Tuscany to experience the golden fields of Sunflowers, look no further than our very own Villiers, right on the N3, where fields abound with golden sunflowers graciously nodding their huge faces to the sun. You just have to pull over, have a cuppa, and appreciate the beauty of what South Africa has to offer on our very own doorstep.

One of my favourite places to visit when driving between Pretoria and Natal is Louise's antique shop, Olde Worlde Antiques – in the Bergview Complex, in Harrismith. Besides the lovely array of items to choose from, and there are lots of stunning pieces, her prices are very competitive.

Then there's the smallest 'Roman Catholic church in the world' in van Reenen. A small chapel with only eight seats built by a father in memory of his son. A magical place to visit with the Littlest Church Tea Garden next door, at the top of Van Reenen’s Pass, which has a little Antique and gift shop. Arguably a much more convivial stop for coffee and a snack than the run-of-the-mill road side cafes.