Globes and glasses

A year ago, I acquired a new camera, and since then, I have taken more roughly 250 photographs each month. I thought that I hadn’t taken many photographs that were particularly spectacular, but I have surprised myself.

A year ago, I acquired a new camera, and since then, I have taken more roughly 250 photographs each month.  I had thought that I might celebrate this “anniversary” by picking out what I considered to be my best twelve – one for each month.  I also thought that I hadn’t taken many photographs that were particularly spectacular, but I surprised myself.  That said, there are some that, without having been “doctored” would have been underwhelming.  Like these two, taken last December:

“Arty” choke in a martini glass

Like those photographs, our artichokes weren’t fantastic – entirely my own fault – we literally “choked” them out by planting broad beans around the baby plants.  This year the broad beans were planted, in solitary splendour, next to the peas that trapped beautiful, June dew drops.
Also in June, I began experimenting with light and glasses, taking this picture on a late winter’s afternoon, of a table set for one or other of our dinner parties.
And of glasses, through glass.
Learning from mistakes, this year we have a better, although small, crop of artichokes, the first of which formed part of a Friday lunch platter.  It was done very simply:  boiled with lemon slices and served with a white wine, butter and parmesan sauce (recipe will only come once I’ve perfected it).
The Husband, being a confirmed carnivore, is not a fan of fiddly things and soupçons of flavour, so does not enjoy the ritual of pulling off the outer leaves and dipping them in the sauce, like I do.  The choke or heart, however, is another matter.
Along with a new series of themed posts focused on my year’s better photographs in this category, I’m looking forward to artichoke hearts in salads, among other things.
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

Bloomin’ October

In addition to the bloomin’ heat, October is also the bloomin’ month for beautiful flowers, wind and hayfever (adult onset so very much resented and very ungracefully dealt with). This year, for some reason, the flowers in our garden have been magnificent.

October has always been an odd month, and one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  When I lived in Johannesburg it was characterised by a tension that was hard to describe but which was usually attributed to the dryness of the air and the seemingly interminable wait for the first rain.  Rain up there comes, usually, in the form of spectacular, short and sharp thunderstorms.  A business trip had me experiencing exactly that:  an unseasonal heatwave, exhaustion and no thunderstorm.
Living in the Western Cape, a Mediterranean climate, we rarely have the joy of a thunderstorm at the end of a hot day.  Boy, sometimes I wish we did.  No more so than this week when we had two days of heat which is normally a feature of February:  Tuesday was 37°C (98°) and Wednesday 38°C (100°F) on our shady verandah.
Our outside shower was put to good use.
In addition to the bloomin’ heat, October is also the bloomin’ month for beautiful flowers, wind and hayfever (adult onset so very much resented and very ungracefully dealt with).  This year, for some reason, the flowers in our garden have been magnificent.
We have had a wall of Iceberg roses which a villager enviously described as “revolting”.
They are equally beautiful, gracing the veranda.
Another feature of late spring is that the local fowls produce a surfeit of eggs and as many readers know, I have a penchant for eggs.  My mother introduced me to my first duck egg.  I must have been about five and I’ve never forgotten either the flavour or its colour – the most beautiful, pale, almost iridescent blue.
One of the village smallholders has ducks and had some of their eggs for sale.  Well, I was possibly her best customer.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Beautiful blue and white eggs.  Huge, orange yolks.  Perfect for boiling.
And for poaching, which is what I did for our supper on that really, hot day last week, with a salad (and boiled potatoes in their jackets for The Husband), and served with a simple dressing of yoghurt, a little mayonnaise and chopped fresh onion leaves.
There are a few secrets to poaching eggs (successfully):

  • bring the water to a rolling boil with a good glug of vinegar in it (it helps to keep the white from spreading all over the show)
  • break the eggs into cups or ramekin dishes and dispense them into the boiling water from there (it’s also a good way to rescue eggs with broken yolks and identify less fresh eggs – the fresher the better – keep the less fresh eggs for other dishes like quiches)
  • give the water a gentle swirl before you add the eggs, one by one.  Four is my max at a time (and I use the trusty wok…)
  • don’t be frightened of handling poached eggs – they don’t break as easily as you think, once the white has set
  • remove them from the pan and drain them on a clean dish cloth (I don’t use paper  towel – it tends to get soggy and break up: eggs with paper bits on them are not very appetising) before plating – this way you don’t have poached eggs floating in water, or drowned, soggy toast, for that matter

Along with the end of October came the end of one of the most difficult and stressful projects I’ve worked on in more than two decades of self-employment.
Bloomin’ wonderful, that, along with other bloomin’ wonderful (really) events of this October.
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

Francolins, my dear, don't give a damn!

Last year we had an almost endless supply of gooseberries – notwithstanding the birds. This year, things have been a little different.

Last year we had an almost endless supply of gooseberries – notwithstanding the birds.  This year, things have been a little different.  For two or so months (June and July), there were major disruptions in the village and, particularly, past our house.  Work on installing the bulk water supply for the low-cost housing development has been underway.
On one level, and for perhaps a day, it was interesting.
When the work began, winter had not struck, and it was warm enough, in the late afternoon, to wander up the hill to see the action and to marvel at the monsters at work.
Dusk is such a lovely time of day, and that day was particularly calm.  The light over the leiwater* dam, and over the village, was almost ethereal.
But when we had noise and dust – almost perpetually – for twelve to fourteen hours a day, sometimes six days a week – it did get a bit much.  This machine lurked in the road and around our house for about ten days.  This from the veranda outside my office and, effectively, the view from my desk.

This beast was really quite quiet;  it was the dumpers, tractors and digger-loaders moving backwards (with the perpetual peep, peep, peep) and forwards, and up and down, that really made the noise, accompanied by plumes of dust that found its way into every nook and cranny in the house. Telephone conferences and Skype calls, all part of my day’s work, were quite a challenge.
We were not the only creatures inconvenienced by all of this.  Across the road from us is an open piece of land which you can see behind the trench-digging monster.  Although it is municipal property, it is largely unbothered and home to wildlife.  For whatever reason, it was decided that the earth removed from the trenches for the water pipes was to be dumped and spread there. So now, it looks like this.
Little creatures (and larger, I am sure) have been displaced – their shelter and food – gone.  Consequently, three Cape francolins, have become regular visitors to our garden.
But we have been forced to share our gooseberries with them.
They sneak over the road, and over the fence, trot nonchalantly past the beans, for all the world as though we can’t see them, and then dive into the gooseberry bush, with one keeping watch.
And before they leave, they occasionally deign to join us for a breakfast coffee or a sundowner before flying back whence they came.
However, they don’t share and we’ve been a bit short on gooseberries because, my dear, francolins don’t give a damn!
* leiwater – lead water – into the irrigation channels that run through the village


Updated as an entry into The Earth Laughs in Flowers Garden photography challenge for March: Wildlife in the Garden
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

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People and spaces – II

July is The Husband’s birthday month. Every year, as the appointed day approaches, he is asked what he’d like to do. The answer is usually unsatisfactory to the Cat’s Mother

July is The Husband’s birthday month.  Every year, as the appointed day approaches, he is asked what he’d like to do.  The answer is usually unsatisfactory to the Cat’s Mother who will find any occasion to make a celebration, even if it is not a milestone birthday.  This year, the decision ended up being mostly made for him – and not by the Cat’s Mother!
The Baron rang: “London calling.  Are you and The Husband available for lunch on Friday?”
He and the lovely Baroness, neighbours to the Queen, would be in South Africa:  a flying visit.  Not having seen them since arriving in McGregor, and given who they were, who were we to turn that invitation down?
Work was pressing;  Johannesburg-based Friend-and-colleague was booked to arrive for work on a project – the day after the birthday.
“Shouldn’t I come down earlier and we can sort some of the suff out over the weekend?”
“Yes, but you will have to cope with The Husband’s birthday on Sunday.”
“Oh, cool, I can do that!”  She’s actually quite fond of The Husband and he’s quite fond of her.  All good.
So, from what was to have been a non-event, according to The Husband, we had to a wonderful weekend, celebrating people (mostly him) and places.
A long, delicious lunch with the Baron and Baroness, at Tebaldi’s, during which we were all too preoccupied with years of catching up, to take any pictures, and which ended with just one each, and that taken by one of the staff.
Saturday dawned and The Husband went to fetch Friend-and-colleague from the airport and I did the market, solo.  Not a problem, I had thought, but seemingly a problem for some of my fellow stall holders and some patrons.  “Where is The Husband?”
“Gone to the airport to fetch Friend-and-colleague…”
“Oh, that’s all right, then.”
The Husband duly returned with Friend-and-colleague in tow.  The day moved along with the necessary business addressed; then the birth day dawned.  Although Sundays (actually most days, other than high days and holidays) are The Husband’s days to do breakfast, the Cat’s Mother figured that he “deserved” a day off.  It was, after all, a high day, if not a holiday.
PoachedEggSpinach“What would you like for breakfast?” the Cat’s mother enquired.
No hesitation:  “Poached eggs on wilted spinach!”  Friend-and-colleague was a bit startled, and placed her order.  Spinach was duly picked, the rest of the makings prepared and breakfast produced.
Thus the day began, and after a morning of pottering around the house (with a bit of work thrown in), we adjourned to the husband’s chosen spot for a late lunch: Lady Grey Restaurant at Lord’s Guest Lodge.  It’s a favourite space – not just for the fine country cuisine and the service, but because of the setting.
As we approached the gate, there was an oncoming car:  a pillar box red, convertible VW Beetle – with its top down – heading away from the establishment.  I was certain that I recognised the occupants.
I was right:  the McGregor Russian Brides.  Why were they heading down the hill?
“The gate won’t open!  Don’t understand why – they know us here!”
“No problem:  we’re expected.  Follow us!”
A u-turn executed, the convoy beetled back up the hill and the now-extended-party duly arrived for lunch. In a perfect setting.
Fabulous wine (Lord’s Pinot Noir and Rosé) accompanied brilliant food.  Oh, and for the Russian Brides – local craft beer.
The Husband had been waiting for that Eisbein, all week.  My venison (Impala) was done to perfection.
The desserts didn’t disappoint, either, particularly the traditional South African Malva Pudding.
The piéece de resistance was our table positioned so that The Husband could see forever.LordsViewfromTableJuly2015And that was not quite the end of The Husband’s happy birthday:  a long afternoon followed, in fabulous company, with good food and wine, in an unimaginably beautiful space.
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

Bathroom Bliss

A lovely bathroom is every (virtually) woman’s dream, When we looked at this house, I fell in love with the bathroom.
The Husband sighed.

I have a friend who’s non-negotiable when looking for a new abode, is a “Princess Bathroom”.  A lovely bathroom is every (virtually) woman’s dream and in almost every home I’ve lived in, I’ve tried to make a pretty bathroom.  When we looked at this house, I fell in love with the bathroom (among other things – for another time…).
The Husband sighed.
That bath and the view out and to the Iceberg roses;  the floor and the quirky taps, not to mention the handcrafted ceramic washbasin adorned with geckos, all appealed to me and my somewhat eclectic approach to things.  I had instant plans which began with the “bling” plug chains*, the curtains on black rods and the crystal door handle**.
This is how the bathroom stayed for a couple of years until, one Saturday, as is my wont, I was visiting a friend at her shop in the village.  Clever Girl (she really is) stocks all sorts of things from new, different clothing to second-hand items ranging from antiques to things more modern and “unwanted”.  That Saturday, she had boxes and boxes of stuff to go through:  old and new;  some items so “new”, they had never been unpacked.  One such was the pair of silver-grey, voile curtains.
My bathroom was waiting for them.
A price was negotiated and they were duly installed and tabs were added to the muslin curtains (their second makeover) and, along with the other bits and bobs I’d been adding, the bathroom was taking shape.
I love having a long, leisurely bath after a day in the kitchen or garden and, yes, with a well earned spritzer close at hand.
Bathroom_wine_2015But the light fitting really bothered me:  it was fugly.
Bathroom_light_oldIt didn’t look right and I began thinking that a chandelier might work.  What and how, bearing in mind that although our house is Victorian Style, it’s only about ten years old and is alternative technology.  So, whatever I did needed, to “jive”.  How does one do “alternative” bling?
It took a while, and as so often happens, the answer was right under my nose.  In McGregor we have the very talented African Queen who creates work for local women, and who designs the most beautiful decor and light fittings using seed pods.
I announced that it was one of her lights I thought would work.
The Husband was skeptical, but came with me one afternoon and said light was “commissioned”.
Then the call came:  “Fiona, your chandelier is ready.  Can I drop it off?”
I couldn’t wait.  It arrived and I opened the box to find the jacaranda pods carefully painted and adorned, fixed to a beaded frame and needing to be fitted – immediately!
The poor Husband.
Lucky me.
Installed, the chandelier is beautiful and has turned, as Lorraine says, my “princess” bathroom into one fit for a queen!
*Created by the talented team at Dragon Fly Studio, McGregor
**Sourced by and from Toca Madera Interiors, Paarl
© Fiona’s Favourites

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