Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Tourists on the loose! November 2, 2014

IMG_3483Our final few days in Cape Town we were 100% tourists.  Instead of opting for in-depth, one-on-one experiences like our Table Mountain hike and the Cape of Good Hope excursion, we opted for the Double Decker Hop-On-Hop-Off bus!

With trusty maps in hand, cameras slung around our necks, and copious sunscreen applied, we ventured onto the big red bus. Cape Town has several routes canvassed by the HOHO* Bus.  Our first stop was the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.  It’s a beautiful property, showcasing many specialized florae.  Paths meander through native species, trees, historical plants and medicinal/traditional flora.

Since it was early springtime, many of the trees and plants were not in

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

bloom–likely in a couple of weeks it would be spectacular.  Still, we really enjoyed our stroll through the garden.  Cape Town and Santa Barbara seem to share a similar climate in that we observed Jacaranda, Coral Trees, and many succulents we see here at home.

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

From the garden we rejoined the HOHO Bus route to the legendary Constantia Wine Estates.  This region is as rich in history as it is in its breathtaking scenery.  Groot Constantia has been an important vineyard since 1685, with connoisseurs like Napoleon (he had cases of Constantia wine shipped to him whilst in exile on St. Helena!)

Tasha and I enjoyed a tasty lunch at Jonkershuis–recommended by Albert.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay

Next day, we took advantage of the HOHO Canal Tour–it was a leisurely cruise through the very ohlala waterfront area, home to many celebrities…alas we didn’t see any.

Back on the HOHO Bus, we hopped off at incredible Camps Bay.  You’ll recall that we saw Camps Bay from the peak of Table Mountain earlier in the week, but really to appreciate its beauty, you need to be at sea level.  It has a Malibu feel to it–beautiful ocean, beach and people, great restaurants, high property values etc.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

Our final stop was at Bo-Kaap.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

This historic neighborhood was my favorite part of Cape Town.  Our HOHO tour guide lead an informative and respectful tour through the cobblestone streets and brightly colored homes.  He explained that the homes were originally built for slaves.  Dutch settlers brought Asian slaves to South Africa and gave them homes–so slaves could live as family units, separate from their masters.  After slavery was abolished, these former slaves painted their homes with bright colors as a statement of

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

freedom.  Houses in this enclave maintain these hues as an historic homage to their residents’ story.

Tasha and I both felt somewhat uncomfortable walking through neighborhoods, taking pictures** etc.  However, our Uber driver assured us that residents were very proud of their homes.  They never dreamed that their neighborhood would be of any interest to anyone.  The driver had first hand knowledge of this since his grandparents and parents were born and raised in Bo-Kaap.

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

We also had the great fortune to meet up with our dear friends Pauline and Graham!  We celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary at Karibou.  Congratulations!  And more about Pauline and Graham in the next post!

GOLD!  At Albert’s excellent

Gettin' Down at Gold!

Gettin’ Down at Gold!

recommendation, we spent our last night in Cape Town at a wonderful restaurant called Gold. Per Albert’s suggestion we

Gold Drum Teacher

Gold Drum Teacher

arrived at 6pm to take in the drum lesson.  As super keeners, we were the first to arrive and sat in the front row, center to take full advantage of the instruction!  30 minutes of bliss!  Our teacher was AWESOME!  We were remedial amazing talented fun students!

Following the drumming, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner featuring a tasting menu of African dishes from all over the continent.  Tasty!  Even with my precious Canadian taste buds!

Tasha & "Friend"

Tasha & “Friend”

The pièce de résistance was the troupe of singers/dancers that circulated throughout the restaurant.  I think you would have to be a hunk of wood to not resonate with that lively music!  So, as I chair danced to the rhythm, the troupe pulled me up to join them in a dance.  Full disclosure:  I am a terrible dancer!  However, I gave it 100% effort and as a result, I was invited up a second time!  Tasha was singled out by an admirer!

Albert!  We had the best time and it was the perfect finish to our Cape Town experience!

*HOHO = Hop On Hop Off

** Our tour guide explained that we were all welcome to take photos of the homes, but if we wanted to take pics of the residents, please ask permission first–fundamental manners, really.

 

Catching Up July 5, 2011

It’s been a month since I made the succulent wreath.  What?  How can that be?  I’m sure life is flying by in your world too.

So, let’s catch up!

Garden:  It’s doing well.  Check out the thistle and bee…so cool!  Up close it kinda looks like a sea creature.

I’ve enjoyed the first heirloom tomato of the season (black prince–a russian heirloom).  Very tasty!  We’ve also had a few beans.  Thanks to Lisa and Jim (I raided their garden while they were out-of-town–with their permission!) I had several wonderful meals of green beans and tomatoes–thank you!

I’m planting a third crop of green beans today in the hopes of extending the season into the fall.

The Easter Lily is finally blooming!  It’s simply beautiful, although it does seem confused as to what time of year it is.

Transitioning now into FOOD and Recipes:

Jam season was in full swing a couple of weeks ago…tapering off now till the peaches and passionfruit are ready.  I created a number of different combos using: organic blueberries, rhubarb, apricots and plums.  So far about 4 dozen are packed away.

I tried a new recipe: baked grapefruit (again thanks to Lisa and Jim’s bountiful garden).  I enjoyed this dish last fall at a B&B on Cape Breton Island.  Cut a grapefruit in half and pre-cut the sections for easy eating.  Mix together a dollop of butter, some brown sugar and a dash or 2 of cinnamon.  Place it on top of grapefruit.  Broil the grapefruit to caramelize the brown sugar mixture (about 5 minutes), garnish with fresh mint.  Bob’s Your Uncle–instant impressive tasty breakfast dish! Make sure you put the grapefruit in a pan while broiling–the juice spills over a bit.

Recently we ate at Pizza Mizza in the La Cumbre Mall.  We can all find something we REALLY like at this restaurant, including gluten-free crust for Dennis.  I personally choose the Santa Barbara Mixed Green featuring: Mixed greens topped with tomatoes, chopped pistachios, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese. Served with Balsamic Vinaigrette.  What’s not to love there, right?  My entrée of choice is the BBT (Bacon Basil Tomato): Crumbled bacon, tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese,and our gorgonzola and rosemary white sauce.

Emily and I also checked out Simply Pies.  I’ve had their quiche before, and the strawberry/rhubarb pie was equally amazing.  Although the photo may suggest that I had an entire pie, I assure you, I only had a single slice! Have you tried any other flavors?  I need recommendations for my next visit!

Critters:  3 more lizards have found their way into the house.  All of them have full-grown tails. I’m not sure if it’s “our” lizard coming home to show off his new tail, or maybe he spread the word about our hospitality?  Or perhaps we’re lizard magnets…

Our neighbors have taken an interest in our growing rabbit situation.  The boys created this humane rabbit catcher (they will release the bunnies in a verdant field far far away).  To date, nobody has fallen for it…we live in hope however.  The boys are re-working the concept.  We eagerly await Bunny Trap II.

Books:  3 tomes completed since my last blog.  Agent Zigzag is a true story about a double agent.  It’s a fascinating tale, but I got bogged down in the details.  I believe it would be a great movie though.  Second, I read Unbroken.  Reviewers included words like staggering and mesmerizing.  I must agree with them.  I stayed up way too late reading this book–I just couldn’t put it down.  Finally, I finished Displacement.  It’s a young adult novel written in verse by one of my favorite authors EVER.  Simply put:  Thalia Chaltas rocks!  Can’t wait for her next book!

Other activities:  we enjoyed a guided hike up Rattlesnake Canyon with a small group and 2 docents from the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens.  Our guides were Kiwis (love that accent).  One was a botany expert, while the other was into rocks and formations.  The perfect combo for our outing.  The garden is offering more community events like this.  Check out their website for future hikes/lectures etc.   This photo shows the old Chumash/Mission dam…beautiful!

Well, that’s it for now.  Next post will feature Lake Nacimiento.

Happy Summer everyone!

 

Succulent Wreaths June 5, 2011

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens.  Nursery Manager, Bruce Reed, shared his wealth of knowledge with us–teaching us how to make our own succulent wreath.  I’ve admired these creations for years and was very happy to learn how to craft one myself.

I’ll break it down for you in case you’d like to make one too.

First you need to get some sphagnum moss.  Make sure it’s not milled sphagnum moss.  Place large handfuls of it in a tub of water.  This water-soaked moss will become the hydration source for the succulents as well as the canvas for the “art” of the plant placement.

Next you need 2 wire frames (see them in the background behind the tub of moss and water).  Bruce says you can get them at Michael’s.  Line one of the frames with lots of soggy moss.  Make sure it’s even consistency in height and width.  Don’t be stingy with the moss.

 

 

Then add soil in the middle of the moss ring…this will be where the succulents will eventually create their roots.

This is a good place to mention that you should wear gloves for this project.  Bruce suggested that the moss is kinda picky…wearing gloves prevents irritation to your skin.

After you’ve placed a consistent amount of dirt on the moss, add a second layer of soggy moss.  Again, your goal is an even width and height.  You need quite a bit of moss-remember this will provide moisture to your plants.

Place the second wire frame over the top layer of moss.

 

 

 

 

Wrapping green thin wire (I think Bruce called it Florist Wire) ,again available at Michaels, around the ring helps to hold the moss/dirt/moss together.  It also provides the structure for suspending the wreath upon completion.

 

Your base is complete!  Now comes the fun part–adding in succulents!

I harvested quite a few samples from my garden as well as my neighbor’s.  Bruce offered some of the Garden’s succulents.  It is astounding how many sizes, textures, shapes, colors, smells there are in the succulent arena.  Who knew?

A pencil stabbed into the wreath creates enough space for the succulent to adhere to the wreath–you need at least an inch of “stem” to enter the wreath. 

They can then be secured with a florist pin.  Bruce suggests starting with the largest plants first, then fill in with smaller specimens.

It takes a week or so for the succulents to root in–during this time they’re a little “precious” so handle them carefully.

You can hang them on a wall (preferably in indirect light or partial shade).  They also look really nice on an outdoor table–they make a lovely surround for a large candle.  Wreaths can range from petite to huge.  I made a medium-sized one.  The whole process took about 2.5 hours.

 

Since the wreath is living, it needs care.  Water it as needed and occasional prune to keep it from getting out of control.

Here are the finished products.  Jean (I apologize if I got your name wrong–I’m really bad with remembering names) is holding her creation.  Beautiful!

Jean took the photo of me and my wreath.  Note the cozy sweater, polar vest and scarf I am wearing!  It’s June and we are enjoying a freak VERY late rain.  I actually had to turn on the furnace!  I’m not complaining though–we will take this lovely rain with gratitude!  Melissa, check out the lipstick–it’s the one we got at MAC for the auction–love it!

My wreath is now hanging proudly on the front wall of our home.  Check it out the next time you visit.

 

 

 

Thanks to Bruce and the Gardens.  It was a great afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No new recipes of the week, but I do have 2 food items to bring you:

Diabolical!

If you live near a Trader Joes, you must try this decadent bar of everything that is good in the world.

If you don’t live near a Trader Joes, well, I feel sorry for you.

I’m just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second, Dennis and I went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  I had the Harvest SaladHere are the ingredients:  Mixed greens with roasted corn, dried cherries, crispy bacon and tomatoes in a white balsamic vinaigrette, topped with goat cheese and Cajun pecans.  Frankly, they had me at “dried cherries”…add in bacon and goat cheese…I’m a fan for life!

My photo really doesn’t do the salad any justice.  I recommend checking out their website for a better shot.  And if you ever go to Ruth’s Chris, definitely check it out.

Well, that’s a wrap for CDNPEARLY.  Let me know if you try the Chocolate or the Harvest Salad.  Reviews are always welcome here.

 

Austin, redux April 2, 2011

I went to Austin again!  Lucky me!  Last week East met West in Texas…sister in law Denise flew in from Boston, while Heidi and I flew in from Santa Barbara.  Seanny and Erin live there.  We stayed at a house on Lake Travis.  Our first night we hung out on the dock and watched the sun go down.  Peaceful, warm, relaxing…it was all good.

Grant found it the most relaxing, I wager (if you look close you can see the cutest little drop of drool on his chin)! Sorry Grant, I couldn’t resist including this photo!

Erin and Kara enjoyed kayaking around the lake, while Heidi and I enjoyed the warm temps and lovely breeze.  A perfect afternoon.

We toured around Austin and landed at a fabulous restaurant:  The South Congress Cafe.  The salad I had was simply divine!  If you like “breaded goat cheese medallions, field greens, shaved prosciutto, toasted pine nuts, and maple balsamic vinaigrette” with seared scallops, you will want to order the warm goat cheese salad for sure.  And believe me, you won’t be disappointed!  It is the best salad I have ever had.  Seriously!

After lunch we browsed at the boot store…sigh…I tried on so many beautiful boots!  Alas, I walked out with nothing but this photo of the most interesting embellishments on cowboy boots:  a sterling silver skull!

We also enjoyed Esther’s Follies downtown.  Our seats were front row center!  What a show!  Funny, entertaining, creative, current, classic, mysterious, musical, naughty…it was all good.

We availed ourselves of the legendary Lake Travis sunsets at the Oasis.  This facility claims itself as the Sunset Capital of Texas.  I’d have to agree with this assessment.  According to staff, the Oasis can accommodate 3000 people over multiple floors that offer spectacular views of the Lake.

We enjoyed appetizers like:  Veggie Road Kill and Homemade Chips.  Despite the questionable moniker, it was tasty!  Live music and cocktails added the finishing touches to a memorable evening.

Oh, and while we were waiting for our table, there were tarantulas!  Wait!  What?  Tarantulas?  YES!  I did not make contact with the creatures, but Seanny and Grant did…

We returned to our Lake House and enjoyed Aunt Denise’s Italian extravaganza.  She cooked all day:  chicken parmesan, the famous Downing spaghetti sauce, chicken picatta, antipasta platter etc.  Divine!  Over 50 chicken breasts were transformed into marvelous dishes with plenty of leftovers for Seanny and Erin to enjoy later.

Sunday arrived with no set plans in place…what to do, what to do?  Answer:  pedicures and bingo, of course!

We all agreed that this was the best Pedicure ever!  We got the super deluxe, and it was heavenly! Grant claims to have the “best feet” of the group, and the salon owner seemed to agree…hmmmm…

We stopped for barbecue on the way to Bingo!  So tasty!

And then, we arrived at Bingo!

Have you been to an authentic Bingo Parlor before?  None of us had…thankfully, the regulars took us under their wings and made us feel right at home.  They offered us their colorful daubers, watched over our shoulders to make certain we didn’t miss any of the wild numbers (Thanks Gayle and Misty!).  Although none of our group won a game, we all had a grand time at the Capital Bingo

An interesting side note: it appears that toilet paper theft is a problem here.  I’m not sure if it’s a wide-spread Bingo issue, or peculiar to the Capital only.  There were signs posted stating:  “Please do not steal the toilet paper.  Our police officers will now be watching for anyone taking toilet paper.  We have also installed a  camera at the front door.”

You can’t make this stuff up!

Despite these ominous warnings, we felt completely safe!

Back to the Lake for some final R & R before returning to our respective coasts.  We had a wonderful time!  Love love love Austin!