10 pictures that will make you want to visit South Africa

South Africa is one of the most naturally diverse countries I have ever been to. The Western Cape offers beaches and mountains, while the inland countryside offers beautiful wine country, while the Southern side offers cliffs and lush forests and the Eastern side offers incredible safaris and animal spotting. With a brief two hour flight you go from million dollar beach front homes in stunning Camps Bay to impoverished villages near the Kruger National Park. Whether you’re looking for an eco-friendly tent camp, a luxurious spa retreat, a mountain camping experience or a food & wine tour, this country has it all. There is so much to do that it is a bit overwhelming. One common denominator among all of the variety though? The people. Oh, the people are just a special kind of wonderful. Especially those who have little to nothing of their own – the kindness, the generosity, the spirituality…it’s something I’ll never forget.

Of course, we couldn’t do it all during our two week vacation to South Africa, but we tried our best! Over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down our trip into various posts – Cape Town (what to do, eat, drink, hike, etc.), Cape Winelands, Road Trips, Hotel Reviews, Safari specifics and more. But for now I’ll leave you with this – 10 stunning pictures to get your heart racing and your soul excited for what’s to come. Looking at these pictures makes me know one thing for sure – I cannot wait to go back!

10 pictures that will make you want to visit South Africa

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The vineyards of Franschhoek, Cape Winelands

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Female leopard feeding on a Kudu

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Giraffe walking through the bush at sunset

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Enjoying the sunset view from the V & A waterfront in Cape Town

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Enjoying the views of Camps Bay from the side of Table Mountain

 

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A killer view of Lions Head from halfway up Table Mountain

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 In the ice cold Indian Ocean about to go shark diving!

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The adorable penguins of Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, ZA

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Watching the clouds roll in over Lions Head, with Robben Island in the distance

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Soaking in the view of the 12 Apostles from the peak of Lions Head

Okay…let’s make it 11. This last one is too exciting not to share. Our first animal spotting on our very first game drive!

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Spotting a herd of elephants in Kruger National Park

 

 

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Our Wedding Part 4: I Do BBQ

Welcome back to the 4th installment of our wedding weekend! You can catch up reading about our hotel, our vision, and our day at the track. I’ve got to say, the energy on that Friday was amazing – the track really kicked off the weekend and allowed everyone to mingle and get to know each other (since 105 out of 112 guests attended!). By the time our Friday night rehearsal dinner rolled around, it felt like new friends were old friends. Is there any better feeling?!

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Last picture as an engaged couple 🙂

Terry & I had one goal for Friday night: a relaxed, fun backyard BBQ. Given that the track day was fancy & our wedding was black tie optional, we wanted everyone to be able to have a laid back evening and simply enjoy each other’s company. The weather was 70 and slightly overcast so it was absolutely perfect for an evening outside. Here are a few things we did to create this vibe:

Our venue, The Museum of Dance, was a private, indoor/outdoor space where we could bring in any vendors of our choice. We set up round dining tables in the large foyer which had high ceilings, large white columns, floor to ceiling windows and french doors opening to a huge courtyard set up with live music, lawn games, a self serve bar and plenty of additional seating. The museum was also conveniently located two doors down from the hotel that 90% of our guests were staying at, so everyone was able to walk over which made it so easy.

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The front of the museum

We opted to rent some items from Rustic Robin, a local company who kindly dropped off the items & picked them back up the day after. It made the process so much easier – I was going for a rustic theme so we opted for bride & groom cornhole, adult jenga & a few assorted frames with twine. We used these to display our travel pictures and to help our guests build our “bucket list” by suggesting places we should travel together. We kept the table decor to a minimum, simply grouping some old wine bottles, baby pictures & candles together. Everyone had fun seeing pictures of Terry & I throughout the years – I love personal touches like this for a rehearsal dinner.

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Our bucket list table, filled with pictures & suggestion cards

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Simply yet pretty table settings – see adorable baby T’s picture?!

Our musician, Rob Pulsifer, provided hours of live music with his guitar & vocals – he stuck to mainly country, rock & classics. Think Tom Petty, Darius Rucker & Lynard Skynard. You could dance, sing along, or just enjoy the tunes. Having live music was a huge plus.

We hired Dinosaur BBQ for our catering. The smells alone drew people in. They set up a huge smoker on the property about 5 hours before the event and they handled every single piece of the dinner, from setup to service to break down. Their barbecue was outstanding – and this is coming from a Southerner! We still hear friends talking about how delicious it was. (If you’re ever in the upstate NY area you must go there for a meal!) Our guests dined on pulled pork, beef brisket, bbq chicken and all of the fixins- mac ‘n cheese, collards, coleslaw & cornbread. We had white wine, rosé, red wine, IPAs, Corona light and, of course, sweet tea. We made sure no guest left hungry, that’s for sure!

Also, we also had some delicious, beautiful cupcakes from Gregg’s (our dear friends are the owners) but we didn’t snap any photos – I think we were all too busy eating them!

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Dino bbq food

This food was to die for (pic via)

Lastly, we kept the formality to a minimum. My matron of honor, Christen, gave a beautiful speech about friendship & love. Terry’s best man, Edward, gave a funny, loving speech regarding Terry’s “pre-Alexis” days & offered some marriage advice. We all spent about four hours eating BBQ, swapping stories, dancing & laughing together.

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My UGA girlfriends, beautiful as always

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Some of Terry’s group of friends that he’s grown up with

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My Atlanta girls enjoying our Polaroid + props table

 

(Y’all know Mela had to make an appearance…jockey outfit and all!)

We ended the night feeling so much love & support from our wedding guests and it was the absolute best feeling to have the day before you’re saying ” I do”. We couldn’t have asked for a better rehearsal dinner and I would do it exactly the same way all over again!

Next up…our wedding ceremony + reception!

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Coffee Tables + Coffee Table Books

Lately, I’ve been helping a few friends who are moving into new spaces with their living room tables. Coffee tables have been an increased topic of interest, as this is typically purchased after their rug & sofa/chairs are selected. It’s often an afterthought of living room decorating but luckily it’s pretty easy to find one that works. With thousands of options out there, I selected quite a few that hit a variety of needs, including a couple for dual usage/extra storage. Typically, I prefer that the table doesn’t match the end tables. For example, try a wood coffee table with a glass end table.

Ottoman-style coffee tables are great for those with children, those with small spaces & those who need a place to prop their feet up (let’s be real). These type coffee tables can also serve as additional seating if needed. I recommending using an oversized tray atop the ottoman to group & level items (i.e. candles, vases, books).

Here is a roundup of coffee tables that I recommend:

{ expandable |tufted | black laquered | leather | round tufted | large wood | reclaimed wood + metal | round glass | acrylic }

Of course, we can’t talk about coffee tables without mentioning coffee table books. I mentioned on Friday that these are a great hostess gift and in fact, I think they’re just a great gift in general. I usually get a few every Christmas to add to my collection. In fact, you may want to go ahead and pick up a few to keep on hand for upcoming holiday gifts – there are a couple below under $20. A small price to make a big impact.Beautiful books can be used in various ways – on table display, to add height, to anchor another item, to fill space in a bookshelf, etc.  A roundup of my current favorites:

{ Tom Ford | McQueen | Southerner’s Handbook | Beaches | Living with Pattern | Styled | Nate Berkus | EOS | Kate Spade | Underwater Dogs | Ultimate Travel }

What’s your favorite style coffee table? What’s your favorite coffee table book?

Life Lately, Vol. 19

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Beautiful Colby Farms sunflowers last weekend!

Loving this article on how to be a good dinner guest! It’s not only funny, but most of it’s true. We’re actually headed to a dinner party tomorrow night and since I’ve only met the couple twice, I want to brush up on my etiquette! In fact, I couldn’t agree more with #1, #4, #22 and #40.

Speaking of being a good dinner guest, I’m in search of a great gift to bring with me on Saturday! My go-to’s are always a nice bottle of wine (guaranteed to please) or a potted plant/flower (as I don’t think fresh cut flowers sans vase are a good idea). Some other options I’m considering are these tea towels, this luxury soap/lotion or this delicious set of olive oil & vinegar. Any suggestions?

Buying a few new coffee table books (also a great host gift!). I’ve got a great collection going but it’s fun to pick up a couple of books here & there. Y’all these are great hostess or housewarming gifts! Books can be used to decorate in so many ways and you can never have enough! I’m loving this book on underwater dogs – I mean, how funny are these pictures? Also love this Vogue one about beautiful homes & gardens – so much design inspiration.

Debating if I should buy a luxury handbag new or gently worn. Over the past three months I’ve been cleaning out my closet and being realistic about what I wear vs what I don’t. I’ve sold many items on Poshmark and donated countless bags to Goodwill. Instead of frivolously spending this money on a quantity of items, I’m saving up to invest in one quality piece. I’ve read about TheRealReal, Vestiaire, Luxury Resale Network & SnobSwap but it’s so hard to know what’s authenticated. Also, is it worth it to save a couple hundred dollars on a used item, or do I just buy new? Would love to hear some opinions on this…

This Week on South End Style:

5 Easy Home Updates You Can Do This Weekend

Our Wedding, Part 3: A Day at the Track

Hotel Review: La Petite Ferme

Life Lately, Vol. 18

What’s on your weekend agenda?

Hotel Review: La Petite Ferme

When in Africa on our honeymoon, we spent one night in Franschhoek exploring wine country. It was about an hour drive from Cape Town (we took uber) and reminded us a lot of Sonoma. We drove right past downtown Franschhoek and ended up at La Petite Ferme.

The property is set on a hill and looks quite modest from the front, but don’t let this fool you. We walked into the quaint, charming lobby and immediately felt at home. The lodge is an adobe style house with doorway arches, natural decor elements, and an entire wall of windows overlooking their vineyard. The entire property had a very quaint, European cottage feel. The decor was full of creams, light blues & green colors. The rooms were full of texture, including our velvet headboard, silk drapes, ornate mirrors & fireplaces, etc. Beyond the vineyard is the mountain range, which provides an absolutely stunning backdrop.

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To the left is the main dining room where we had breakfast and to the right is a bar / lounge / library area. This area has a grand fireplace with a few chairs, a small library with their wine displayed and a bar with 8 high top seats. We were seated here to sign our check-in papers while the bellman took our bags to our room. Refreshing spritzers and salty nibbles were served.

Within five minutes, our butler led us to our room…and I was floored. If I’m being honest, this room is much nicer than it looks online. We walked through a pristine courtyard with a running fountain where a set of French doors opened into our room. We stepped into a stunning library area, equipped with a sofa, two chairs, a wood burning fireplace, built ins bookshelves and an armoire cleverly storing our mini bar & coffee maker.

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From there we saw the powder room and walk down the hall into our master, which just so happens to be bigger than any bedroom I have ever lived in. It was very classic meets cozy, with our second wood burning fireplace (with freshly chopped wood in a basket), a writing desk, a flat screen television, an wardrobe, an oversized king bed and two side tables. The excitement continued when I saw the oversized soaker tub in our bathroom, overlooking our back yard pool. Yup, our bedroom had French doors that led to our private patio and infinity pool, which overlooked the vineyards I previously mentioned. 

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The next morning, we enjoyed the tasty breakfast spread served in the dining room & sunroom (each has a wood burning fireplace). The food was an English breakfast spread of fruit, cereal, pastries, breads, jams, meats (something you’ll see a lot in South Africa). There were also eggs, sausage & bacon made to order.

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I have to just take a moment to brag about the staff. From check in to check out, we were treated by the friendliest, cheerful, accommodating people. The kind wait staff heard that I had food poisoning (not from their restaurant) and so they dropped off some hot tea, extra bottled water & toast for me when they brought Terry his dinner. Our sweet butler even brought us fresh firewood and started a fire for us…twice! We also had a change to speak with the manager a good bit before breakfast and learned so much about the property. The personal touches they provided did not go unnoticed and truly made our stay that much more special.

Needless to say, we were very bummed to leave – I would have loved to stay at least two nights here. The property is stunning, the staff beyond accommodating & the room just exquisite. Everything was outstanding and I can’t imagine a better place to stay in Franschhoek.

 

Thank you to La Petite Ferme for sponsoring this post. Even though our stay was complimentary, thoughts & opinions are my own.

Our Wedding, Part 3: A Day at the Track

Track area

So if you’re just tuning in to this special 5 part series about our wedding, you can read my previous posts about our wedding weekend hotel and our vision. Long story short, our overall “theme” (for lack of a better word) was a lively, loving, all-inclusive weekend where our friends & families could truly get to know each other.

In lieu of a bridesmaids brunch or a groomsmen lunch the day before our wedding, we chose to take all of our guests to the Saratoga Race Track to enjoy a day of eating, drinking, mingling and, of course, horse racing! The city of Saratoga Springs thrives off of this long-standing tradition and during the 6 weeks of the year that the track is open, the charm & beauty is amplified.

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the “paddock” area of the race track

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We loved seeing our old friends becoming new friends

With over 100 guests in tow, we rented the Big Red Spring Tent and stocked it full of beer, wine, water, snacks, etc. We had decorated picnic tables, flat screen tvs and plenty of seating (and shade!). Guests were able to roam between our tent and the track, stopping to view the beautiful horses in between. We spent about 6 hours there and everyone had a ball – we even had a few big winners!

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decorative details…

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all eyes on the t.v. when the race goes off!

It was so fun to see the excitement and surprise on our guests’ faces when they walked into track – it feels like you’ve gone back in time in the absolute best way.

Sear sucker suits, big poofy dresses, floppy hats, mint juleps – you name it, we had it! Loved ones were laughing, high fiving & loving every moment.

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University of Georgia best friends!

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with my best girl friends from childhood…30+ years of friendship here!

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the beautiful women of my family

 We felt so lucky that the vast majority of our guests were able to attend. I think they were all very appreciative that this was a different type of pre-wedding activity – it was relaxed, interesting & fun!

All in all, the day at the track was an absolute success, even more than we’d hoped! It’s a very unique, special event and one that most of our guests had never attended.

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almost Mr. & Mrs…

We love that everyone is still talking about the day and we are so glad that we opted to do it. While it may have been nontraditional, it was the best way for us to blend our two sets of families & friends. It was perfectly “us”!

5 easy home updates you can do this weekend

Happy Monday y’all!

We are having a serious Indian summer here in Boston and it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! Yesterday started with some sunflower fields & pumpkin patches and ended with the beach where it was over 80 and sunny…how lucky are we?! Given the weather, all of my current home projects have been put on hold until my worst nightmare winter comes. I’m sharing a few easy projects that you can do around the house that make a big impact. Bonus: these are applicable for you renters also!

5 easy home updates you can do this weekend:

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Y’all know my favorite thing to do is paint something. This could be bathroom vanity, kitchen cabinets, or even some dated built-ins. Many landlords are okay with this, especially if they’re likely going to update when you move out. (It doesn’t hurt to ask – ours even bought the paint for us!) The above picture is an “after” of a killer transformation. This was a stark black piece that I painted white & updated the hardware. In fact, the “before” was so horrifying that I didn’t even snap a picture (haha).

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Another easy (and fun!) weekend project is to update your walls. What does that mean? Well, you could paint – an accent wall, some stripes, or even some stencil if you’re up for it. You could add some wallpaper (see temporary wallpaper here). Additionally, you could create a gallery wall or add some inexpensive molding. 

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A really great seasonal thing to do is to swap out your textiles. For Summer & Spring: think light fabrics, playful prints & bright hues. For Fall & Winter: try heavier wools & furs, darker fabric colors & more oversized pillows and throws. This is one reason that I always purchase down pillows and covers for them, versus pre-made pillows. You can mix & match between rooms, or simply get some new covers made in the fabric of your choice.

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Of course, no update would be complete without a remix of accessories – y’all know this is one of my favorite tricks in the book. I’ve mentioned it before but “shopping your home” is an easy, free way to get that fresh, new feel you’re looking for. A great example is this “entry way 5 ways” post that I did earlier this year.

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Lastly, try adding a plant to every room for an easy update. how about an indoor herb garden in the kitchen, a jade plant in the bathroom, and a fiddle leaf fig tree in the living room?! Plants bring in a calming nature feel, they freshen the air & add a pop of color. Head to your local nursery to discuss what will work best in your particular space! Shop some cute planters here.

What’s your favorite weekend design project?