Best of November.

Happy December!

I used to have a cat named December. We found her in December so of course that was her name.

She was a total ass. She regularly terrorized my older cat even though he was 25 lbs of  ‘Wegie and she was just this slight, skinny black and white creature.

When you looked into her eyes it was like she had no soul. Seriously. I know that’s a weird thing to say but that’s how we all felt.

I once brought a stray kitten into the house before finding its owner and this kitten read December like a book. It was fine with Corny and Spider. They even trilled at each other a few times. As soon as it saw ‘Cem, it broke out hissing and spitting, fighting in my arms to be let down and out of the house.

She was something else…she could be sweet too. To humans. She was tiny but if she lay on you, she had this way of stretching herself out so that she was this long ribbon of cat. She liked to ride on shoulders too…

She died young of kidney failure and hers was the first “pure” animal death I was a part of. There was no guilt or questions. It was all so clear. She was suffering, I couldn’t see her suffer and so she didn’t. I grieved for her but it was a sweet sadness, a balm for my soul. I knew I’d done right by her, in life, illness and death. 

Ha! So now that you’ll all been educated about my cat: Are you excited for December?! I am. This is our last month of 2018. I’m excited about the holidays -Solstice and Jolabokaflod in particular- and a fresh new year. 

Let’s say goodbye to November 🙂 

Best… Holiday Cheer! I’m not a Christmas person but I’ve read so many news articles these days about how people who decorate for the holidays early are happier than those who don’t. I’m all about being happy so:

Witchy “Wreath”

Slightly Cockeyed Ikea Vinter Lamp
Bringing the outside in … and adding some sparkle!

Best Selfie:

Miss Sassafras is very adept with technology. When we had her over for a visit the first thing she did was grab my phone and start taking photos. She insisted on this one and I don’t know whether or not to be impressed or horrified about the whole thing.

Best dinner out:

My man and I have taken to going out for appetizers every few weeks. Most places have a “Happy Hour” during the week so it can even be economical if you time it right. Our best time this month? Appy at Brown’s Social House 

We had nachos, yam fries and Korean chicken.

The nachos were fairly standard, everything was fresh. There were a ton of toppings and nothing was soggy. That’s a huge win!

The yam fries were perfectly seasoned and came with the most delicious chipotle dipping sauce that was my favourite part of the whole meal!

The chicken was mildly spicy and tasty. Hubs said it was a bit dry and my complaint was that it didn’t hold its crunch the whole way through but to be fair it was drenched in sauce so that’s probably just the way it is. We liked it, at any rate.

They even made me a unique yet recognizable Dark and Stormy even though there was some confusion as to what that was at first. Everything was hot, fresh and tasty. Service was good and I got to enjoy a weeknight out with this guy:

Best Idea I Had This Month:

I love the feel of clean sheets. Is there anyone who doesn’t? I have a friend who changes her sheets every other day and I used to think she was nuts but; the other day I climbed into bed and was so grateful for the fresh bedding that I decided then and there to change the sheets every four days instead of every seven. I feel so self satisfied like I just invented something amazing or finally gave myself permission to really live, ha ha, Its the little things in life!

All in all, November treated me most kindly. I’m still alive and kicking 🙂

How was your month? What are you looking forward to in December?

Western Family Crème Brie & Apple

Save On Foods had something that caught my eye the other week:

I like chicken. I like cheddar. I like apples. I like brie. I like cranberries…it was on sale, so I picked one up! I used to buy similar products all the time when my Hubs and I were first married. They were a good way to enjoy a “fancier” meal on a budget. That was really important to me, in my poor ass life and even now I still think its important for people to enjoy food that not only fills their bellies but their souls as well. 

Eeesh! Look at the sodium count.  

ANYway, here it is, still frozen:

And into the oven it went, only to come out like this:

Booo! I HATE it when that happens! All the stuff leaked out. I was starting to feel like this was going to suck. I understand there’s going to be a little leakage but geesh, this seems excessive. 

It looked alright otherwise. Nice colour.

The leaky stuff actually looked kinda pretty once I scraped it on top…

The inside:

Forgive me this photo.

As you can see there was very little filling on the inside but it didn’t really matter because the filling added absolutely nothing to the chicken. Instead of brie flavour there was just basic creaminess that could have come from any cheese. Don’t sell me on brie and then fail to deliver. And there was zero evidence of cheddar. I didn’t even know it was supposed to be present until I read the box whilst preparing the photos for this post!

There was a tartness but it could have been from vinegar for all I know because I got no cranberry flavour at all. Were those red bits even cranberry? Who knows! And there were these strange bits if unidentifiable gelatinous white things throughout. Onions? OH! Apples, according to the box. I couldn’t tell. Gross. I should never have to wonder what’s in my food.

Wonder I did not when it came to two things: Was salt added? and was this product frozen? , because those two elements were the only flavours that really shone through, sadly enough.

It wasn’t horrible. I ate it but I’m not sure I’d buy it again. There are better options out there. 

Have you tried such a thing? How was your experience? 

Salty, Fizzy & Sweet.

Somewhere in my interweb travels, I came across this southern ( as in American South ) treat.

Salted peanuts in Coke.

As a lover of many combinations the masses find strange, I was all over that!

The idea is to take a few swigs of your Coke, pour in your sleeve of salted peanuts and “Bottoms Up!”

Purists say it must be in a glass bottle to get the full experience. The only glass bottles of Coke I could find were diet and I’m morally opposed to diet anything, so my Coke was in a plastic bottle.

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My verdict? It was really good! Not weird or strange at all! Whoever invented this was fucking brilliant. The salty peanuts and their rich creaminess really cut through the sugar of the pop and complimented that signature caramel essence. The fizzy burn came through for a satisfying ending. I’m a total fan.

It was really filling. This would make for a meal. In fact, I think part of the lore is that farmer’s would eat this (drink this) “on the go” for lunch during their busy days.

Have you ever tried this combo? What did you think?  Do you have another combo that others find strange? Tell me all about it! I’m always looking for interesting new things!

 

 

Ngorongoro Crater

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast after our visit with the Maasai before hitting the road to our next destination, the Ngorongoro Crater.

We ate lunch at the top, took some photos, watched the Instagram girls with their boyfriends and their posing and had ourselves a chuckle, then it was down,down,down into the crater.

My favourite memory of this day – and a lot of others – was standing up in the Land Cruiser with the hot sun blazing down on me as we raced through the wind down bumpy, dusty roads. The air felt different. I felt different. So relaxed and aware of everything. Absolutely brimming with life and attention. Both myself and my surroundings. Nothing but magic.

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We saw a rhino for afar. Well afar. Even our best camera was unable to get a photo but we were so excited! A rhino! The rarest of the rare! Even Grace was excited. She squealed and laughed right along with us. We had to squint through the binoculars to make out its shape but saw it we did. A real life Unicorn, I don’t care what anyone says. And then – this seriously happened!- we saw its mate! Across the road and a few miles up! Two! Two Rhinos/Unicorns! That really got our Grace going. She has such keen eyesight to spot anything in the tall grass, never mind a rhino. She quickly made a U-turn and drove up as close as she could along the road so we could get our look. It was still so far away rightfully wary and elusive. We took turns with binoculars and even managed to get photos!

My photo:

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Ha Ha.

And Monica’s photo:

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A much better shot!

Seeing a rhino at all, in the first place is the rarest gift. Being close enough to photograph one is like that, times a million. We were in awe and then immediately sobered because we all knew the reason for the rarity of this moment. There are thought to be only 11-15 black rhinos in the crater and between 5,042 and 5,458 of them in the world, due to poaching.

It was quickly closing up on 6pm so we had to skedaddle out of the crater. Tonight’s lodgings were at Sopa Lodge, a beautiful resort on the edge of the crater.

We all freshened up and then met up for a buffet dinner in the gigantic dining room. It was pretty good, something for everyone but the star of the show was their Chocolate Torte with Salted Caramel. Twas SO good, we suggested Kate go back up and bring us back whatever was left on the plate. She did, ha! After making sure there was another one for the rest of the guests. ( We’re not complete assholes 😉 ) I’ve been working hard at recreating it for home and need to make some tweaks but in the meantime it’s just, chocolate ganache in a graham crust, with a salted caramel glaze atop. It sounds so ordinary but there was just something about it…

After dinner we needed to be escorted back to our rooms by staff. Why? Well sometimes the buffalo like to come up to the rim and chase guests around. Ha. And in the warmer months, staff often find them splashing around in the pool 🙂 Veronica and I didn’t see one our walk back but Kate, Monica and Janet did. So cool!

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We drifted off to sleep excited for our next adventure, hiking, with an armed escort!

Belgium Waffle Breakfast Sandwich Review.

So, Tim Horton’s (Or Tim Hotton’s, if you’re in India) has a new menu item that I was intrigued by: The Belgium Waffle Breakfast Sandwich.

We were out and about early to pick up the granddaughter so that’s what I chose for my breakfast!

This is what it looks like on their website:

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This is what it looked like in my lap while driving (sorry, its blurry) :

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Pretty much the same, right? Not a total lie like Amarula. 

The first thing we noticed as we (Hubs and I) unwrapped them, was the smell. Solid maple. Oooooh. Then we took our first bites.

Solid sugar! Which I guess is to be expected but I was a little confused because there was no real maple flavour.

Weird, but OK.

The next thing I tasted was that pepper. I think it comes from the sausage which other than the peppery tastes was pretty much non-existent flavour wise. The egg was also there but not there and thank Goddess for the cheese because I really think its fake salty creaminess cut through some of the sugar taste. I appreciated the cheese! The waffles themselves were not entirely crisp all the way through, only so at the cross hatches. I liked that, the hubs did not. It wasn’t falling apart soft, just sort of mushy in spots and the whole thing held together well. There was an over all texture of sugary graininess. It was like eating a breakfast sandwich made between two doughnuts. It was like someone had dipped the waffles in a grainy simple syrup.

In the end, the Hubs said ,

“It’s not horrible.  I imagine its hard to keep the waffles crisp when you’re cooking for so many customers”

I liked it. I’d eat it again, if for no other reason than to see if Tim’s is consistent. I wish it was less sweet and less peppery with a more savoury profile but I thought it was good. I really liked the crisp bits at the crosshatching and the way the cheese cut through the whole thing.

I kinda wanna make my own version. Maybe watch for that here!

New Wrinkles in Tanzania.

Let’s continue with our Tales of Tanzania!

The whole point of why I was in Tanzania was because I had bought and paid for a guided trip with Wild Women Expeditions. I’d done this once before, in Peru, when I hiked the Inca Trail. Wild Women Expedition is a travel company catering to women (ALL women) and it really gave me ease and comfort in travelling alone, back in the day when I was SO afraid to do so. This time, I wasn’t afraid but knew from experience that I’d meet the coolest people and have a great trip. I was not disappointed!

After leaving the great care and hospitality of Korona House, I made my way to the Arumeru River Lodge to meet the ladies. Wow! What a group! We gelled pretty much instantly and made a tight group of five. I wish I could explain how effortless it was and maybe it was just me, but it was like we’d known each other and travelled together for years. How does that even happen?! It was the first magical event of the trip.

Who are we? Myself, my roommate Veronica, Monica, Janet and Kate.  More on them later. They deserve their own post.

Our guide was an amazing woman named Grace. Now here’s the thing about guides in Tanzania. There are around 400 guides in the place. Of those 400 guides, 10 are female. 10! In a climate like that, how many of those women get a chance to be lead guides? Not very many! Pretty much never, although we couldn’t be 100% sure. The fact of the matter is, its unheard of. Our group was making history in Tanzania, with Grace as our guide! And the fuss we made…the reactions we got…well that was a WHOLE thing!

Our first event was a trip to the village of Mulala on the slopes of Mt. Meru, to visit the Agape Women group and experience one of their cultural programs.

What a hoot! We were greeted by Mama Anna and there was much dancing, singing and carrying on. My face hurt from smiling and laughing. I came home with new laugh lines and this was the day that started them off!

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I am in love with this building .That colour! It housed a small gift shop and the cheese house. They are also adding on guest rooms so one can stay in the village for a total immersive experience.

 

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Carrots

 

After tea and an introduction to the program we went on a nice walk through the village. It was carrot season and that top picture is a field full of carrots. It stretched up the slopes of Mt. Meru and there were many, many more like them. They were also planting green beans and corn!

The amount of work that goes into farming like that…I was in awe. Much respect. I know my own little garden is hard enough, I can’t imagine growing on that scale, on hills and having to lug water, tools and if you’re lucky, the harvest up and down and then on to market. WOW!

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Beans

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Corn

 

 

 

See that stuff on the left? Justin ,Mama Anna’s son-told us it was like marijuana but not actually. It only looked like it.  He said if you crushed the leaves-just a small bit!-and gave it a sniff, it could be used to treat headaches. So of course we all had to try that! It was really neat! The smell was most appealing, sorta minty…and it went straight up your nose, ha ha, it was like smelling eucalyptus or something, not skunky like actual weed.  Veronica said it did indeed cure her headache. I loved the smell so much I wanted to keep stuffing it up my nose. Justin cautioned us that too much would make us dizzy and want to lie down and sleep!

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I do aim to try to figure out WHAT that stuff was though. It smelled SO good. From photos it looks like it might be Artemisia herba-alba- White Wormwood. It sure does look like Cannabis Sativa…I don’t know. It’s a bit thin and leggy, maybe its the third kind of cannabis. ANYWAY. This is taking me down a rabbit hole and you can be sure I’ll have an answer for you at some point! If YOU have an answer for me, please share. It was neat stuff.

After our walk along a narrow dirt path-where were learned about the elders and other plants and fences and magic words and had our own little parade of cute kids amongst all that green and flowers of every imaginable kind-we found ourselves back at Mamma Anna’s for lunch. A traditional lunch!

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I am ALL about the food.

 

Oh my, what a feast! On my plate is the lovely kale and onion dish I so enjoyed at Korona House, rice with potatoes, dried and rehydrated peas cooked in pounded maize, beef stew with peppers and a rich, peppery gravy and the biggest, bestest, giantest French fries. I have no clue what they were coated in but they were delicious. Watch for them here soon as I try to recreate them.

We also enjoyed some smoked gouda, as made by the Agape Women Group, watermelon and tea and coffee. (The tea also deserves a whole other post.)

After lunch, we got to see how coffee is harvested, roasted and ground by hand!

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The grinding.

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Amazing Grace with the end result.

The amount of work that goes into this stuff!? WOW! First they have to pick the beans which are just tiny little berries. Then they dry them in the sun, then there are different layers of dried skin they have to get off, then it’s roasted over a fire, in a pot, then they pound it by hand into a powder. I have a bag I bought from their gift shop but I almost don’t want to use it! I will but still…every sip is a sip to be grateful for.

 

Grace grew up in a village not far from Mulala and she spent her days doing this very thing! No wonder she was such a natural! We all had our turns, it was hard work but so fun to give it a try!

We learned about cheese making-Sorry. I stopped taking photos because I was so immersed in the experience and visited their gift shop and then it was time to go home. It was an exhausting day! But the best kind. The kind of exhausting that tires you out and leaves you feeling happy and content. The kind of day that had I been forced to go home, right then, I would have felt happy and totally satisfied with my Tanzanian experience. Can you imagine? And we hadn’t even seen animals yet! That comes next!

 

 

 

Hospitality Galore

As the lone guest at Korona House Bed and Breakfast, I was treated most kindly with great care.

“What time would you like breakfast?” Oh don’t you worry about me! I’ll figure it out on my own. I can’t guarantee I’ll be awake for breakfast.

Well, that just wouldn’t do. They WOULD worry about me and I was to be up and ready to eat for 9am. I tried, oh how I tried to get them to leave me be but as I’d soon come to realize, my loosie goosy, relaxed introverted, independent ways were NO MATCH for their hospitality.

At 9 am I was greeted promptly and escorted to the breakfast room where I was introduced quietly and formally to everything and had my coffee freshly made in a French press.

 

 

So I sat. And I ate. And I took photos on my phone because those potatoes? Most delicious!

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I don’t know what the chef did with them but wow were they ever good! I thanked him when he came in to check on me (every human there came in to check on me at one point. The service was most personal) and am kicking myself for not asking him for the recipe. As far as I can tell, they were potatoes in coconut oil-maybe-with bits of crispy red onion and carrots. Nothing fancy it would seem but incredible all the same. I’ll try to recreate them and share the end results at some point!

After breakfast (and much chit-chat with various staff) I was escorted back to the lobby. The introvert in me cringed at this-did they think I’d get lost along the driveway beside the house?-but in time I came to see it as plain old, old-fashioned service. I expressed interest in some of the plants and birds and was promptly given the names of everything and had my gaze directed to the many lemon and coffee trees that lined the property. Have you ever smelled a lemon leaf? Divine. I really appreciated that every single human being there, cared enough to make sure my stay was comfortable and safe. They really went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

Still exhausted from travel, I went and had a bit of a rest in my room and then before I knew it, it was time for lunch! (I swear, all I did was eat my way through this country!)

The escort process was repeated but this time I was seated under an umbrella in the courtyard, allll byyyy myseeeelf!

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Where I was served the daily special:

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To start this Avocado Salad. Isn’t this a thing of beauty? I’ll be trying to recreate this one too!

And then:

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That’s chicken stew in the top-complete in a clay pot-and coconut rice with kale and raw carrots in a tangy dressing with coconut. Very filling and very fresh.

For dessert:

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Fruit salad!

I have never eaten as many fruits and vegetables as I have in Tanzania. Meat is really just an accessory. I felt so light and healthy! Not only was the food great here but I really feel like my meals went a long way to help me recover from the airplane food. I am eternally grateful.

I had another conversation with a staff member-who all told me their names,I just suck and didn’t retain them in my tired state- before making my way up to the front verandah. There was a church across the road and wow were they having a time! I don’t know if they had loudspeakers or what but the WHOLE neighbourhood could hear the service. It was lovely. I really enjoyed the singing. The staff apologized for it but it didn’t bother me one bit. I hope if anyone else experiences the same thing, they realize it for the gift that it was and enjoy it too.

Just one of many songs! The service went on for hours and seemed to be mostly singing.

I sat up there til sunset-after a short afternoon nap-and enjoyed every minute of writing in my journal and watching the world go by. I didn’t even eat dinner-much to the horror of my hosts-because I was just too full from lunch. When the bugs started to bite I went in to my room and settled under the mosquito netting, excited about what was to come.

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Tired, content and ready for my next adventure!