A Rocking Good Time – Rockwood Theatre

Those who have followed us for a while will know we love spending a Sunday afternoon at Rockwood Theatre.

With branches in both Pretoria and Durban, our local theatre can be found inside Sibaya Casino on the North Coast of Durban. The Theatre regularly puts on world class performances with song and dance that will appeal to all ages. The vibe is informal and chilled… with big sound and vibrant lighting.

Being regulars at the theatre, we’ve watched a few shows now, and I can honestly say we’ve never been disappointed. And you may not realize it, but the performances are family-friendly and even little kids would enjoy it.

There is something for everyone, from old school Elvis to modern Lady Gaga, from boy bands to girl power… the cast at the Rockwood Theatre bring the greatest hits to life.

https://twincessdiaries.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/img_0906.trim_.mov

Choreographed to a fault, the dance moves are slick and skilled. Powerful voices have brought the likes of Whitney Houston to Freddie Mercury alive.

I love seeing the look on the Twincesses faces as they watch the dancers and take in the beautiful costumes. I love that they’re being exposed to theatre and live performances at such a young age.

The low down:

Price – tickets usually range from R99 to R130 with pensioners paying half price and kids free on Sundays. There are regular special offers so be sure to follow the Rockwood Facebook page to be in the know!

Food and drink – The is a small but comprehensive menu offering perennial favorites from pizza to platters. You may also bring your own food into the venue, but no drinks are allowed. There are bars offering a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Functions and fundraisers – Rockwood Theatre would make the perfect venue for your function. From year-end shindigs to corporate events, and catering is also available at affordable rates.

For amazing value, and a rocking good time, I’d highly recommend a visit to Rockwood Theatre for awesome family fun!

Hollywood Hits (Music that Rocked the Movies) is currently playing at Rockwood Theatre until 07 April 2019.

Cruising Pros and Cons

Thinking of booking a family cruise? – Here’s everything you need to know.

I’ve recently stepped off a local (South African) MSC-operated cruise from Cape Town to Durban. I was under the impression that cruises are a wonderful, low-stress holiday for families – boy was I wrong! 

Sure, there are some pros to cruising… cruise companies wouldn’t be the profit-making conglomerates they are if everyone hated cruising… but after our first family cruise, I’ve decided it’s not for us. 

I’ve put together a list of pros and cons of cruise holidays below, trying hard to remain as unbiased as possible despite our negative experience. The information below is my opinion, yours may be very different. Also remember that I am solely looking at cruising from a family perspective i.e. travelling with kids. Adult-only groups may also find they have a different experience.

PROs to Family Cruising

 You get to see many places without the hassle of actually traveling.

Lugging around heavy suitcases, using public transport,and figuring out maps in an unfamiliar place are some of the travel hassles that are alleviated when travelling on a cruise itinerary. Your booking will clearly let you know which ports of call are included in your cruise, you get a pre-set amount of time at each port and excursions can be arranged in advance if you want to see a particular historical site at the stop over city. 

 

 All you can eat food – included in your ticket price

Technically, you don’t need to reach for your wallet once you board the cruise. Food is abundant and served almost all day at the ship’s restaurants and snack areas. Drinks are not included. Save for water fountains and coffee in the buffet area ONLY. No drinks are included at the restaurants.

 

 Entertainment – included in your ticket price

From deck parties to quizzes and games, the entertainment staff are there specifically to ensure people have a good time. They urge people onto the dancefloor in the clubs and lounges and facilitate competitions and games during the day. 

The ship’s onboard theatre normally schedules a different show each night and this is usually a highlight for me.

 

 Kids Clubs

Most cruise lines (local MSC included) have different age-appropriate kids clubs that can keep kids entertained, busy and SAFE, whilst parents enjoy some adult time.Our kids flat out refused to stay in a strange place with strange people without us present, and even the thrill of LEGO could not convince them otherwise. So if your children are also a bit clingy, this may not be an option. 

 

CONs to Family Cruising

 Crowds

If you loathe large crowds, I’d strongly recommend staying away from cruises.

Unless you decide to stay in your stateroom and order room service the entire time, you WILL find yourself surrounded by people anywhere you go on the cruise ship.

 

 Endless queues

There’s no two ways about it, if there’s thousands of people getting on the cruise, there’s will be queues to embark, queues to get into the restaurant, to activate your cruise card, to get a drink at the bar, to pay your bill at the end, to disembark etc etc etc 

And maybe your kids are different, but my kids are averse to queues…they just don’t understand why we had to stand in a 30-minute line to get into the onboard restaurant. Come to think of it, neither could we. 

We found queues just about everywhere, and most annoying, long lines at every single elevator. It became extremely frustrating after a while.

 

 Unpredictable weather conditions

When booking a cruise, please remember that you are at the mercy of the weather. The cruise company have significant terms and conditions that wholly cover them if they need to change/cancel itineraries and this can leave you with unexpected costs and lots of strife.

 

 Space

If your “kids cruise free” as cruise companies normally punt, it means your children (2max) will be sharing your cabin with you. Unless you plump for a balcony suite, you’ll struggle with cabin space. It’s shocking really just how cramped you are… imagine opening a large suitcase on the bed while your children and partner try to share the same tiny corridor you’re standing in. I could not cope with the lack of space to shower and dress in. 

 

 Motion Sickness

I think this depends on various factors, the speed the ship is travelling, sea winds, the captain’s skill, and your own body’s susceptibility to motion sickness. I’ve been on 2 Mediterranean cruises and have actually marvelled on how I felt nothing on the ship. The local MSC cruise however was dreadful in terms of sea sickness for me (and several of my family members). We were sick the entire time. The ship rocked and lurched so drastically, I could not stand in my cabin without holding on to something for support and safety. And now, two days since disembarking the ship, I still feel my head spin from that motion. 

 

 Communicating with family – lack of cell signal

One of the biggest gripes for me personally was not being able to send a simple message to our family WhatsApp group to let them know I’m going to breakfast or going to the deck for some sunshine. We were a big group so keeping in touch was a hassle. And looking for someone on a cruise ship is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Parents with older kids might also find this challenging if they needed to easily locate their teenager, for example.

 

 Kids Cruise Free

I mentioned this above but wanted to add this to the ‘con’ list, because even if you love your own kids and want to be around them all day…you most certainly don’t want to be surrounded by hordes of sugar-hyped kids for the entire duration of your holiday. And that’s precisely what I found on our cruise ship. Most people have taken advantage of the ‘kids cruise free’ offer and there were kids everywhere! Kids splashing noisily in the pools, pushing you at the buffet lines, babies crying as you try to read your book on deck…just kids literally everywhere. If you work at a daycare, it might just be your cup of tea, but otherwise…not so much.

 

 Terrible Food

I mentioned above that food is abundant, but what happens when you’re stuck on a ship and the food is just awful? That was my experience on our local MSC cruise. The food looked and tasted like mass produced fodder. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the food due to the delays, maybe the food was prepared for the ship in haste? I don’t know…but the buffet was inedible and I found the restaurant offering was actually just something from the buffet which was plated and brought to your table. I ate hardly anything at all. And to be honest I could not find a single passenger that enjoyed the food onboard.

 

 Price of goods onboard. 

Ok, I expected drinks, spa treatments etc to be quite costly onboard, but even I was shocked that an average cocktail could set you back $6 plus 15% tax. That’s over ZAR100 for a single drink. All onboard charges are in US Dollars which makes it tricky to work out the conversion rates before you charge something to your card. 

A single jumbo-sized photo costs $10, plus an additional $10 for the (single) digital version. I think many people got a very nasty surprise when they got their bills on the last night to realise their few onboard swipes meant they were liable to pay thousands of Rands. 

 

I’ll never say never, but I’d be VERY unlikely to book a cruise for our family again. Besides the nasty experience we had with MSC Cruise Lines (a story for another day), I found cruising extremely stressful and tiring, which is not what a holiday should be. The crowds and lines were impossible at times, and the lack of space was a definite turn off. Add to that inedible food and motion sickness…and well, no thanks!

 

 

 

 

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn & Mermicorns

Show me a little girl who isn’t obsessed with unicorns or mermaids….

PanMacmillan recently sent us some beautiful new books that fit right in with the Twincesses latest obsessions!

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn is a hilarious tale of unicorn named Oscar (you guessed it!) who eats literally everything in sight! This very hungry unicorn has just eaten his stable so he needs to find a new place to live.

But the pirates don’t want him (he eats their ships!), and the fairies don’t want him (he eats their toadstool homes). Even the trolls and the dragons don’t want him.

Poor Oscar is running out of options until he meets Princess Oola, who has been looking for a unicorn forever!! A match made in heaven!

Mermicorns is a gorgeous mix and match book that allows a child’s creativity to run wild. Kids can make hundreds of combinations of mermaids and unicorns (Mermicorns) until they find their favorite. With a sturdy board-book format, it’s perfect for little hands!

The girls had a blast with this book and I don’t see them getting bored of it any time soon!

2019 has kicked off with the girls attending big school… and a stash of books is exactly what we needed! Thank you PanMacmillan for these gems!

Top Ten Toys- Twincess Tested (Part 10: Scruff a Luvs)

It’s the last Friday before Christmas! That means it’s the final post in our Top Ten Toys series. For this last post, we’re deviating slightly in that the toy isn’t yet Twincess Tested. It will be, in 4 days time as I have two of these patiently waiting under the Christmas tree.

Ever since a fellow blogger’s Facebook post went viral, I’ve been intrigued by Scruff a Luvs.

Inside the colorful box lies an animal that is matted and “ugly”, and with a bit of TLC this animal cleans up to reveal a puppy, kitten or bunny that just wants to shower you with love forever.

Quite simply, the concept is something that resonates very strongly with me (and I’m sure most parents will agree). Teaching a child to rescue rather than shop, to look beyond the appearance to what lies underneath… are all wonderful qualities that every child should posses.

The best part is that you are teaching a child that just a little love and care goes a long way and when it comes to rescue animals, will be reciprocated with loyalty and love.

And this lesson is well learned as it comes across while “doing” instead of just getting a lecture about rescuing animals. Kids are immersed in the extreme makeover from start to finish.

I’m in love with the idea of this toy. I can’t wait for the girls to open it on Christmas morning and see their reactions! I’ll be sure to capture and share.

Merry Christmas to all my followers and readers. Thank you so much for supporting our humble online space this year! May your festive season be happy and blessed xx

Top Ten Toys – Twincess Tested (Part 9: LEGO Duplo)

I don’t know a single child that doesn’t love building LEGO. My kids are no exception. Earlier this year I bought them their first LEGO Duplo set after being drawn to the bright colours and large blocks in store.

For those who may not be familiar, Duplo is a brand of LEGO that is specifically designed for preschoolers (1-5 years). Duplo bricks are twice the length, height and width of traditional Lego bricks, making them easier to handle and less likely to be swallowed by younger children. But despite their size, they are still compatible with traditional Lego so your kids are still able to continue enjoying them as they grow older.

I picked up the Duplo number train as the girls were busy learning numbers at the beginning of the year. They really enjoy playing with this set and manipulating the blocks in different ways to achieve different results.

And because LEGO is such a fantastic toy to improve fine motor skills, problem solving techniques and lateral thinking, Santa has bought the girls two new big boxes of LEGO Duplo for Christmas this year.

First up, they will receive the Duplo My Town series which contains sets from popular “city” places such as the airport, office, park, pizzeria etc.

Additionally I also bought them a big box of blocks to ensure their imaginations are never limited.

I’m pretty sure the girls are going to be thrilled with their LEGO Duplo presents.

If you have a fidgety toddler on your hands, I’d urge you to grab a box of Duplo from your nearest toy store. It’s bound to keep them interested and engaged for hours on end!

Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea became popularized in the 19th century when the Duchess of Bedford and her ladies of leisure would sit down with tea and cream scones to fill the long gap between meals. 

Today Afternoon Tea is an elegant experience to be savoured. I have had Afternoon Tea (sometimes referred to as High Tea) at some five-star venues around the world, but for me personally, nothing compares to traditional Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel.

Tea is served at Palm Court, which is the heart of the Oyster Box’s dining scene. The venue is drenched in natural light and surrounded by lush palm trees. Four magnificent chandeliers set the ambience while live piano music cascades and mingles effortlessly with the leisurely conversations. 

The waiters are ever attentive, and that first glass of champagne materializes almost as soon as I sit down.

The palatial surroundings and the beautiful piano sounds just give you a sense of glamour and grandeur. The tables are laid with fine porcelain and a handwritten card to add a touch of personal charm. 

The centre console is laden with mouth-watering pastries, cakes and scones. For those who have less of a sweet tooth, and may prefer the savoury aspects of life, fear not. There are quiches, finger sandwiches, samosas and even sushi on offer.

The atmosphere is elegant and refined, yet totally relaxed. Groups of people enjoy sipping and chatting, not a care in the world. There are people celebrating all sorts of special occasions. 

Indeed, Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box makes the perfect backdrop to celebrate everything from a baby shower to birthday, bachelorette party to graduation. 

Of course, we were celebrating our ten-year wedding anniversary, and were pleasantly surprised with a special cake from the team. 

https://twincessdiaries.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/img_8270.mov

The selection of teas and coffees are as extensive as the food choices. We lingered over cheese plates and smoked salmon sandwiches before moving on to blueberry scones with clotted cream and preserves. 

The experience is a treat in itself, the opulent surroundingsand delicious delicacies will ensure you have an experience to remember. Worth every penny in my opinion! 

I would highly recommend Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel whether you’re a local in Durban or passing through our beautiful city – put this one your bucket list! The experience would also make a special occasion/ celebration that much more memorable.

At the time of publishing this post, the Afternoon tea at the Oyster Box Hotel is R365 per person, and includes a glass of bubbly, tea/coffee selections and the all you can eat buffet of sweet and savoury offerings. I would highly recommend booking well in advance, especially for special occasions. 

 

Sample menu can be found here.

Top Ten Toys -Twincess Tested (Part 8: Disney Princess Dolls)

Has our Top Ten Toys series given you some great ideas for your little ones? I hope it has! Our final 3 posts are bringing you some of our favorite products this year, such as the Disney Princess doll series from Hasbro.

If you have a little girl, these popular dolls are sure to put a giant smile on her face come Christmas morning.

The range includes some of Disney’s most loved Princesses; including Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Tiana, Ariel and Snow White.

The Princesses are dressed in their iconic dresses from the story/movie, which will make them instantly recognizable by your little Disney enthusiast.

We received Snow White to review, and the Twincesses were thoroughly smitten with their doll. They began role-playing almost immediately, although neither of them wanted to be the Evil Witch. Lol

Kids will love playing out their magical story moments with their favorite princess. The price tag on these dolls makes them super affordable too! They retail at approximately R149 in toy stores, but Pick And Pay currently have them on special at just R79!

At that price I couldn’t resist getting a few more to add to the Twincesses’ Christmas presents! Can you guess which ones??

Disney is timeless, and there isn’t a little I know that doesn’t dream of being a Princess. Make her dream come true with these beautiful dolls and watch her imagination soar!

Top Ten Toys Twincess Tested – (Part 7: Hasbro Board Games)

We are nearing the end of our Top Ten Toys series. I hope you have enjoyed reading our personally Tested recommendations on toys that have made an impression on my family this year.

In this week’s post, we wanted to share a perennial favorite across households : board games.

Board games make a great gift! They suit a wide age range… everyone from the toddlers to grandma can get stuck in (depending on the game, obviously), they’re fun and timeless.

Hasbro has the widest selection of games available this year, and you are bound to find something you and your family will love! And what’s more, board games are something that can be kept for years and years, making it a gift that keeps on giving.

Let’s take a look at some classics, and then dive into some newer options available this year.

Monopoly: Monopoly games have been entertaining families since 1935, and people love the roller-coaster ride to success. This year pick up the Monopoly World Édition, where you race around the world, gathering stamps in your passport as you buy up the world’s most famous cities. And while you’re at it, invest in Monopoly Junior, which sees the classic game adapted for younger players.
Little ones can buy cool properties such as the pet store, the candy store, and the video game arcade, and easy rules use single dollar bills for simple transactions.

Trivial Pursuit: I loved playing Trivial Pursuit when I was growing up! Confident in my general knowledge, I just loved the challenge and the eventual win – lol! This year, the classic game gets an edgy update with Trivial Pursuit X, which leaves its mark- literally! The loser is the first to be branded with 5 Xs to the forehead after getting five questions wrong! And for millennials, there’s Trivial Pursuit 2000s with all questions being like totally relatable. 🤣

Some of my favorites are the newer board games Hasbro has introduced, one of which is Speak Out. After watching celebrities attempt this hilarious game on the Ellen Show, I have been dying to play it! Basically, you insert a plastic mouthpiece (which looks as funny as it will make you sound), and then attempt to communicate a complicated phrase to your teammates, which they must guess. Trust me, it it hilarious. This one will definitely be under our tree this year. A gift to me!

From classics like Battleship, Risk, Clue And Twister, to modern games like Hearing Things, PieFace, Don’t Lose Your Cool to Toilet Trouble (yes, that’s actually a board game!) – Hasbro has you covered this festive season!

And to ensure you’re able to play anywhere and everywhere, there’s even a Grab and Go series which sees some of the most-loved board games in smaller, travel-sized versions that can be played literally anywhere (think long car trips).

There’s something for everyone in Hasbro’s arsenal of board games this year. I can’t think of nothing better than whipping out a family favorite after Christmas lunch and getting stuck into the fun and laughter.

Top Ten Toys Twincess Tested – (Part 6: Play Doh)

It’s exactly a month to Christmas guys! The decorations adorn the ship windows, and the malls are belting out Christmas tunes.. it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

We’re in the home stretch of our Top Ten Toys series and this week I wanted to talk about a firm favorite in our household (and most likely yours): Play Doh.

I’ve never met a child who doesn’t luuuurve Play Doh. Have you? The Twincesses have a lot of toys, but bust out a can of Play Doh and the smiles and excitement are second to none!

The beauty lies in the possibilities. What may just be a can of red modeling compound to us, is a rocket ship, a princess castle or a submarine to them.

With Play Doh their imaginations can run wild, creating, playing, and most importantly; learning.

Play Doh has recognized the huge impact they have on helping little ones learn, and have come up with the Shape and Learn series which includes, numbers, alphabets, colors and shapes.

Playing with Play Doh can assist children in growing their curiosity, develop cognitive exploration and enhance fine motor skills by developing and strengthening hand muscles, which encourages pre-writing and other motor skills.

The tactile, hands-on nature of Play-Doh compound can also help encourage development of hand-eye coordination. Play-Doh offers kids a multi-sensory experience allowing them to learn about their world through touch, sight and smell.

Thankfully for parents, the options are endless, and you can choose s can or 2 in their favorite colors for a stocking filler, or opt with one of the larger play sets as a standalone gift. Either way, I can guarantee your child is going to love this gift!

https://twincessdiaries.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/editvideo2-4.mov

Dining Options at The Oyster Box Hotel

The Oyster Box is South Africa’s number 1 Hotel, and as such you’d expect the food and drink at the hotel to be of the highest standard.

During our weekend away to this legendary establishment, we got to experience some of the dining options, and I’m happy to say, it does not disappoint.

Staying at the Oyster Box, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining. Whatever you choose, it will almost certainly be an extraordinary experience.

The Hotel’s two main restaurants are The Ocean Terrace and The Grill Room.

The Ocean Terrace

The Ocean Terrace is famous for casual al-fresco dining, and is family and pet-friendly. As such, the menu offers perennial favorites such as wood-fired pizzas, burgers, and fish and chip. We enjoyed buffet breakfast in the Ocean Terrace and were blown away by the variety of options available.  

The continental breakfast spread was a large table laden with everything you could ever dream of in your wildest breakfast fantasies. Fresh charcuterie, cereals, raw honey, all-butter croissants and a parmesan wheel to name just a few. 

 

 

The hot selection included bacon, sausages, poached haddock and eggs cooked to order. Guests were also able to order from a dedicated breakfast menu, and I enjoyed Eggs Florentine one morning – cooked-to-perfection medium-poached eggs on wilted spinach topped with the creamiest Hollandaise sauce ever; and Welsh Rarebit the next morning – cooked the classic way, with cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and finished under the grill.

 

 

The dedicated pancake and waffle bar proved a hit with kids and adults alike. The cappuccinos flowed freely, and the service was extremely attentive. The perfect breakfast was complimented by the perfect view – looking out across the sparkling pool and onto the crashing waves and iconic lighthouse.

 

 

The Ocean Terrace serves al la carte lunch and dinners, and the incredible Curry Buffet is also on offer which includes and extensive selection of curries (meat, fish and vegetarian options), authentic tandoori chicken, naans and side dishes. The curry buffet is so popular they are usually booked out months in advance!

 

 

The Grill Room

The Grill Room at the Oyster Box is the hotel’s fine dining option and we got to experience a wonderful dinner to celebrate our anniversary. Steeped in history, the Grill Room is elegantly adorned with chic white linen and pristine silverware, which stand out brilliantly against the navy walls and mirror finishes. Beautiful candelabras give an ambience of old-world glamour and the vibe is one of timeless elegance and class, with a splash of luxury.

 

img_8864

 

We were warmly welcomed when we arrived and shown to our table. We marveled over the vibrant artwork and the intimate setting. Our sommelier helped us pick out a lovely white wine from the extensive and well curated wine cellar (we both decided on seafood mains), while our glasses were topped up throughout the night. 

 

 

The classic Gueridon service, where food is prepared and presented at the individual diner’s table and the classic Hors d’ Oeuvres trolley transport you back in time to an era of 1920’s glamour.

 

 

From amuse bouche to dessert, the beautifully plated and delectable offerings were expertly put together and tantalized our palates.

For my starter I had a Cipollini and Parsely Prawn dish: plump grilled prawns floating in a Chardonnay cream topped with caviar. Martin went for the Foie Gras pâté with red wine poached pear.

 

 

For our mains I chose the seared Norwegian Salmon with lemongrass butter (served on the side -so decadent!) whilst Martin explores the Dyad of Lamb: a crumbled lamb shank with minted butter and pan jus.

 

 

We both settled on the dessert tasting plates which included passionfruit and elderflower cheesecake, Chocolate custard brownies, green tea mouse, grape jelly and a raspberry macaroon. Additionally, we were treated to a slice of decadent chocolate cake for our anniversary, which was such a special touch.

 

 

obh

The Grill Room is fine dining at its finest. The service is second to none and the food is exceptional in every way. The partnership of head chef Kevin Joseph and Bea Tollen works like magic to make any experience at the Grill Room one you will never forget. It is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

The dress code is semi-formal and no children under 12 are permitted.

Bars at the Oyster Box

The Oyster Box also boasts 3 bars serving light meals and world-famous cocktails. The Lighthouse Bar makes a wonderful spot to enjoy sundowners whilst watching the waves crash a few meters away.

 

 

Private dining can be accommodated in the famed wine cellar which is sunken just below the Oyster Bar (beneath a glass ceiling!) and makes for a unique setting for dinner parties, corporate functions, tastings or special events and offers a Chef’s Table for up to 10 guests. Bespoke menus are created for every occasion and the resident Sommelier will present a selection of wines from the Diners Club Diamond award-winning wine list, which boasts the finest selection of South African and international vintages.

 

 

As you can tell from my review, I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this impeccable hotel has to offer in terms of food and drink. Experiences are unique and will be fully catered to the individual tastes and desires of each patron.

All in all, the dining options at the Oyster box are many and varied, the only thing that remains steadfast is the quality of the food and drink, and the impeccable service.