Our spring weather has been veering all over the place with some pretty hair-raising thunderstorms thrown in for good measure; but unfortunately most of them have been full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. So the drought continues. Despite that, the garden has perked up, especially my new “meadow” garden which is full of indigenous grasses, self-sown wild flowers and weeds. I started the meadow by transplanting some grasses and plants from the veld. Of course the weeds moved in and where I’ve left them, the grasses have taken quite well and other wild flowers have sprung up. It looked a bit of a mess to start with but the section of the garden that I weeded has not done so well. It just goes to show that it’s better to work with nature, she knows best!
I have a little booklet called The Wonders of Weeds by Diane Aldworth (a local expert on herbs) and when I return from my travels I’m going to start learning more about these plants. Needless to say, the birds love this patch of the garden and can be seen at all times of the day feasting on the seed heads and flowers. We should perhaps be doing the same, as Tama Matsuoka Wong (a professional forager) advises in her Ted Talk (here).
Well, the countdown has begun – only 2 more sleeps and the great trek north begins. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, we woke up this morning to the disturbing news that the South African rand had plummeted against major international currencies after President Jacob Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene as the Finance Minister. The rand is now at its worst ever levels against the dollar – 1 US Dollar equals 15.00 South African Rand. It’s bloody annoying since we are going to be spending 6 weeks in America but there you are, we have a government that is financially irresponsible, unaccountable and determined to take the country into junk investment status. We just have to remain calm and carry on!
We have been in a flurry of activity; mostly shopping – stocking up my mum’s groceries, and dog and chicken and bird food. We had our last game of bridge earlier this week, followed by a splendid bridge club Christmas lunch. When country folk cater for a function, you can rest assured that you are going to get a mouth-watering array of treats (we take our home economics very seriously here). I must admit I did enjoy the Scotch eggs and mini Christmas puddings.
I came across this recipe for caramelised pineapple in a Woolworths advert and it went down a treat as part of the cheeseboard I prepared for the Christmas lunch last year (fig preserve is so passé!). I was asked to prepare it again this year and thought I should share it.
Honey-and-Brandy Caramelised Pineapple
- 2 small pineapples, quartered with stems and skin intact
- 100g butter
- 200ml honey
- 30ml brandy
In a large wok, heat the butter and honey. Add the pineapple quarters and caramelise on both cut sides. Drizzle with brandy and carefully light to flambé. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, cut into wedges and serve on the pineapple skin shell.
Oh, and I won a prize!! – for the most improved bridge player (pat on the back for me).
I enjoy experimenting with alcoholic concoctions during the festive season. This is a local take on the traditional American eggnog, a delicious bourbon and milk cocktail which I first tasted when we spent Christmas in Miami three years ago. Since we shall be back in Miami this Christmas perhaps I can tempt the “in-laws” with this recipe.
Serves 2 – 4 depending on size of the glasses
- 375ml (1½ cups) milk
- ½ x 385g can condensed milk
- 5ml (½ tsp) nutmeg
- 5ml (½ tsp) ground cinnamon
- 125ml (½ cup) Amarula liqueur
Bring the milk, condensed milk and spices to a gentle boil in a pan on the stove. Remove from the heat, add the liqueur and stir well. Serve warm with an extra sprinkling of spices; or cool completely and serve in tall glasses with lots of ice.
I’ve just finished reading Oliver Sacks’ memoir On the Move. I thoroughly enjoyed it; I love the way it is written and found his story interesting and uplifting. It also made me wish I had paid more attention when I was a psychology student at Natal University all those years ago. All the talk in the book about the brain (Sack’s was a neurologist) got me thinking about how much subliminal stimuli actually affect our decisions and how we should harness this.
On a trivial note, I recently came across a box full of old negatives (film) and, as I had nothing better to do, decided to scan them, save what I wanted and throw out the rest. As I was going through them, I found one of my brother’s girlfriend (now his wife) holding an enamel pot when we went on a camping trip in the Cape over 40 years ago. As I peered at the negative it dawned on me that I had bought an identical pot a few years ago for actually no rhyme or reason. At the time I didn’t need a pot, just something about it appealed to me, and eventually I found a use for it as a container for plants. Had images of that trip, which I had completely forgotten about, been stored away in my brain all these years and did they influence my decision to buy the pot?
Quite a few years ago, before I moved to the farm, I attended a dream mapping workshop run by the Fairy Godmother (yes, seriously). It involved rummaging through old magazines to find images that one was attracted to. After making a selection of images that appealed the most, each participant created a dream board. I stuck mine on my wardrobe door and forgot about it. At the time I had no idea that I would leave Durban to settle in the country after Alex left home, and certainly had no idea of how drastically my life would be changed by that move. But when I found a photo of my dream board recently, I was surprised to discover how many of the things I identified as dreams have been actualised.
As we get older one of our major concerns is to keep our brains active (we all live in dread of dementia, especially those of us whose parents have suffered from it) but we seldom deliberately expose our brains to beauty and positive stimulation. Travel is, for me, one of the best means of doing this – new sights, sounds, smells, tastes. And when you return home, all is fresh and new again, and stored away in the brain are millions of moments that will affect your future decisions without you even knowing it.
In the words of Yoko Ono:
You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.
I’ve made friends with my neighbour’s two donkeys – they are easily won over with carrots.