The Botanist/The Forager Gin Experience

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I've been lured out of my blogging hibernation. By alcohol, not surprising, but ironic that I am coming out of this literal hibernation in the middle of winter. You all have The Botanist, a super-premium artisanal ginhand-crafted on the wild Hebridean to blame (or thank) for that. 

I went to The Forager, a unique pop up concept, presented by The Botanist Gin, which saw a limited number of pop up evening events taking place between June and August in unconventional, secret urban spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg. If you would like to have your own The Forager experience, check out the dates on Quicket.

And as these type of events go, everyone introduces themselves in almost the same fashion as an alcoholics anonymous meeting (oh the irony, it hurts). "Hi, I'm Megan. I used to blog, but..." And then the story of why I stopped would follow. But through all my interactions I was enticed to start writing again (and I did write, albeit not public, the 1000 plus notes on my phone can testify to that).
At the event I chatted to a couple of journos who said that writing was "such a chore" and while it did feel like it sometimes, I realised that it has always been what I lived for, the one thing that I loved more than anything. It took a few cocktails to realise that.

So, The Forager saw three bartenders find their ingredients for three different cocktails in non-urban setups, the veld, the sea, your garden. These three bartenders then had to compete and through a voting system, one of them would win a trip to where The Botanist is made.

Our first cocktail arrives but we're not allowed to drink it until bartender Julian arrives to explain what we are about to taste. I started sucking on a sugar stick in the cocktail. "It tastes like burnt sugar," I said. "No, it tastes like candyfloss," someone else says. I stood corrected. Julian arrived: "It's calendula - like saffron, but cheaper." It was delicious. The Backyard Sours cocktail further consisted of pan-fried lime juice (magic!), cumquats and six different foraged mints. It smelled like a spa! It tasted sort of like a brutal fruit. Julian, if you're reading this, please don't shoot me. It really was delicious!

Second, we were served a cocktail called Rose Gold. It was strong and bold and my favourite. I'm quite surprised I could remember much after the shot-sized drink. It was packed with gin, vermouth and a potent shrub. I really cannot remember much of bartender Dino's presentation, it really was potent.

Luckily we had some flippen lekker snacks, like guinea fowl pot pies and gin eclairs to settle our stomachs and I could gather my thoughts again.

In the background Black Betty starts playing and we are served our third cocktail, A Slow Walk With Margaret. The bartender, Keegan, explains that his special brew contains The Botanist Gin, Rooibos with wild ginger rosemary and jasmine flowers, Toscello bitters and RAW egg white. It made the cocktail thicker, he said. It also made the froth at the top. It looked like beer, it tasted like the kicking cousin of your grandma's rooibos tea. "But it doesn't have too much of a kick," Keegan added. "I want you to enjoy more than one."

"It's the perfect nightcap," my friend Nico said and the table nodded in agreement. Also in the cocktail is something called Ugly Betty Tincture - ties in well with the Ram Jam song, and it was topped off by a lavender flower - foraged on the farm of the old herb sage Margaret Roberts herself.
It was the perfect way to have a mommy's night out and the perfect way to get me out of my shell again.

{Pics by Alessio la Ruffa}

Illo {feature + giveaway}

Friday, August 14, 2015

Every once in a while I stumble upon a South African creative that just sticks with me. When I found illo, I thought it was illustrations designed by someone in far off Scandinavia. I was obsessed and would scroll through the brand's twitter feed, just staring at the intricate details of the hand-illustrated sketches. I had to know more.

How surpised was I when I learnt that illo was started by a Cape Townian, Vivienne van Deventer,
who works as an illustration artist from home. All here illustrations are done by hand with the use of fineliner on paper, then colour is digitally added .


Vivienne, your work is stunning. How did you start and how long have you been doing this?
I have always loved to illustrate, give me a blank piece of paper & a pen or pencil & I am happy! I have a Bachelors Degree in Fashion Design which I obtained from CPUT in 2007. During my final year, illustration was a big focus for me.
I have worked in the clothing - as well as licensing industries where I have gained a lot of wonderful experience. However, I soon realized that the clothing industry was not for me & knew that I wanted to pursue my illustration work.
Last year, a month before my wedding day, I finally said goodbye to the clothing industry for good & around June I slowly but surely started with 'illo' (still finding my feet though). I have never been happier & never looked back!

What sort of products do you make? Do you also provide services?

Currently I focus on my range of art-prints, as well as cards. There will be about two different new ranges every year.
I am planning on adding more products as well & will hopefully soon have products available online. I illustrate by hand & then add colour digitally. 
I am also available for commission based work such as custom illustrations, logos, invitations and things that you generally won't find mass produced in a mall.

3. Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
If you look at my current 'doll' range, you will see quite a strong fashion direction still coming through, due to my fashion past :)
Other than that I love patterns & seeing patterns everywhere, especially in nature & also ethnic patterns. 
I do not plan beforehand how I want my illustrations to look, I usually just start illustrating & patterns just emerge from there. I am currently working on a woodlands theme range which will focus on animals, here you will also see similar patterns coming through.

What are some of the challenges of being your own boss?
Yes, I am :) And pretty new to it. My biggest challenge so far, since I work from home, has been to have self discipline.
Believe it or not, but there can be a lot of distractions working from home. I set myself goals & realistic deadlines & always make sure that I stick to them. 
Always be honest with your clients & be true to your word. If you say you are going to email someone the next morning, then you do it. Always go the extra mile, it's never crowded.

How do you perceive the South African creatives/design landscape?
I can honestly say that I am proud to be a creative living in South Africa. We have an explosion of culture, ideas, incredible individuals & artists here, South Africa is alive with a creative pulse of colour & culture! 
I am born & bred in Cape Town & have also lived & worked in Johannesburg for a while & have met some amazing creative people. There is a hunger amongst people for authentic, unique & handmade goods, people are tired of retail & mass market products.

What is your favourite colour/ material to work with, and why?
My favourite medium is fineliner on paper. As much as I love colour, there is just something clean & classic about a black illustration on white paper.
It stands out strong & beautiful on it's own without the need for colour. Simple, yet striking.
What would you do if you won the lotto?
That would be a miracle, seeing that I have never played it & actually never would, haha :) But if I do somehow win that amount of money I would immediately travel, see the world & experience new cultures! 
When I get back I will buy a farm or small holding where my children could run free, live off the earth, breathe in fresh air & then give, give & give to people who really are in need. This probably sounds cliche, but I honestly would. Giving is something that makes my heart & soul happy, especially when it is from the heart, whether a small gift or just a hug. To give honestly is better than to receive.

Where to from here?
I am planning on getting my current products available in an online shop a.s.a.p, finish my next range & then have some new products available soonest (as well as my website up & running).
What has been your proudest moment since you started?
Having started! It really took me very long to build up the confidence & courage to start. There was a lot of self doubt, yes's, no's & maybe's. But the moment I started I wish I had done so earlier. Never doubt yourself, you have your specific talents for a reason, grow them, nurture them & bless others with them. I have never been happier or more content.

Two lucky The Sun House readers stand the chance to win either a Leah or Rae print, signed by Vivienne. The winner also has the choice of a wooden look background or a plain white background.
All you need to do is to tweet about this post, tag me @waitingformeg and @vivillo8, or share The Sun House's facebook post. Feel free to give Illo some love by clicking and following her on the social media sites below.

 Also please comment on which print you would like, Leah on the left, or Rae on the right.

Willow Feather Farm

Thursday, August 13, 2015

You may have seen this place if your frequent the R21 between Joburg and Pretoria, but you might not have realised what you are looking at. All you can see from the road is a whole line of trees, just after/before the St George hotel bridge. Blink and you'll miss it.

What started as an indigenous tree nursery, the Willow Feather Farm had now grown into a little kid's paradise, with big gardens and a petting zoo and very well protected koifish dams. The little kid in me was awoken by all the critters, including llamas, hilarious gerbils!, baby goats, potbelly pigs and a couple of donkeys.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend that feels like you have gone out to the countryside, then you should consider visiting Willow Feather Farm. For adults, there is a restaurant that serves hearty breakfasts as well as a little curio shop filled with ceramics and candles.

Can I just tell you how obsessed I am with llamas? They are the weirdest creatures, but so cute! On the day that we visited, there was a little baby llama and she jumped around in her pen. It was the cutest thing ever. They had a little list up so that people could write suggestions for the baby's name, and a majority of it was Charlotte - not surprisingly, as it was just after Princess Kate had Charlotte Diana Elizabeth.

The daddy llama, which was simultaneously also the big brother of the baby llama - or perhaps I misread it - was kept in a seperate pen. We couldn't quite figure out if he was antsy because he wanted to be with the baby or if he wanted to kill it. Either way, trying to touch an antsy llama is near impossible and quite scary.

Besides the free petting zoo, you can also stroll their vast gardens and buy a lavender or two. The nursery had the most interesting French Lavender that I have never seen before. I was obsessed. Still going back to buy more. I know the below flowers are violas.

Pack a picnic basket or some braai goodies and head to the Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve just a stone's throw away.

All images are from the Willow Feather Farm website

Stroopsoet.Fotografie {feature}

Friday, August 7, 2015

Photography has always been a passion of mine. It truly is an art, it captures the most important moments of your life, your beautiful surroundings. It tells a story, gives you a glimpse into your past and lasts forever. People all over the world are obsessed with it! And o gosh, if I had the means I would buy the biggest, most complicated camera and fidget with it until I had it all figured out. In the mean time, I live vicariously through the many talented photographers the country has to offer.

One such photographer is Marleen, who started lifestyle and wedding photography company Stroopsoet.Fotografie. This is her story.

Marleen, your  photos are enchanting! How long have you been doing this?
I have been taking pictures ever since I can remember but been doing it professionally for 5 years.

Your images inspire me to pick up my camera and learn the tricks of the trade.
Where do you find inspiration?
Joburg city. People find it strange how I enjoy taking pics there on a "off" day. But I see beauty through my lens in the strangest places.

The local photography scene can be quite competitive. How do you perceive the creative landscape?
Absolutely refreshing. It is growing year by year and I am so grateful that most creatives stick tot local inspiration rather than commercialising their work.
I am so proud to be part of South Africa's creative adventures.
But being your own boss is also challenging. What are you biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge is setting business hours and to disconnect from work. Work just never stops when you have your own business. But, if you enjoy it, you cannot really call it "work".

What would you do if you won the lotto?
Travel to every country possible and buy unlimited polaroid films :)

Where to from here?
We have some awesome adventures coming next year. a Little Stroopsoet baby :) 
I am hoping my photography can take me to different opportunities so that I do not spend so much time away from home over the weekends with wedding. I will never stop doing weddings, beautiful being part of celebrations of love but just slow it down a little bit.

Congratulations! Besides the baby, what would you say was one of your biggest achievements?
Definitely being featured in the awesome indie travel magazine - Slow Drive. I am a wanderlust soul and to capture these soulful adventures have always been a dream for me. 
It was an amazing feeling seeing my name and stories in the magazine with some of my travels to Botswana, Namibia, Transkei and Zanzibar.


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