A quick reminder:
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16 August -
Mark and Annika had been discussing building a forge. He thought it would have to wait until we moved to a more permanent location. Until he realized he could build a small one in our back yard- right here, right now!
With the assistance of our Chinese friends and our driver we got all the necessary materials (Mark even had an iron table built at our nearby metal market).
Mark wants to create knives.
Annika wants to make swords.
Me? I'm going to wait and see how it goes for them and then decide to give it a try.
Now, if you're curious- the base is an iron table that Mark had custom built at our local metal market. The fire bricks were purchased by our driver (who must think we're completely NUTS). One of our friends helped by the fan (and probably other pieces). Mark built a little "oven" that is fired by coal or charcoal. The fan helps keep the fire blazing hot. It NEEDS to be HOT in order to work the metal. You stick your piece of metal into the forge (the oven), let it get red hot, pull it out with tongues and then work on pounding it with a hammer on the anvil (while holding it FIRMLY with a special gripping tool). You can only pound it a few times before the piece cools down. Then it's back into the fire for another round. Right now it's just a matter of trial and error for us - we're experimenting to see what works best.
What ever will we create???
14 August 2014-
We arrived back in Beijing YESTERDAY (13 August) and TODAY (14 August) the girls are back in school (actually, they missed the first day of school).
This is a year of BIG changes.
Annika is in Grade 6. That means she's now in secondary school...and in the Han Building. She's now with the Big Kids! Yikes! Things are dramatically different between grades 5 and 6. (for one thing, the secondary school isn't the best at keeping the parents informed. Grrrrr....) It's a good thing Annika appears to be ready for this big change.
Ava is in grade 3. The same grade Annika was in when we moved to China! Wow. Time is flying by too quickly. She's moved up to the second floor of the primary school building. (with the Small Big Kids)
27 October -
Yesterday I went to the large veggie market, Ti Bei, with my Chinese teacher, Lia. I've been curious to try new (to me) vegetables but the trouble is - how to the heck to prepare them? That's why we took our Chinese lesson to the veggie market.
By the way, I have tried on my own to ask what things are called in the market and I've even tried asking how to eat them BUT until yesterday I wasn't able to understand the answers.
We spent one hour walking around the veggie market- barely scratching the surface. So many unknown veggies, not enough time!
I bought a few varieties to try: fresh bamboo shoots (zhu sun) along with mushrooms, taro root (yu tou), water chestnuts (bi qi), winter squash (chang nan gua), and some greens (no idea what they're called; I think they're sweet pea shoots...tasted like it anyway).
I didn't manage to take any photos at the market: not enough hands! (busy shuffling between taking notes and managing my purse)
Here's what I bought at the market...like I said there are TONS of veggies to try; I just sampled a few:
I was told to peel and thinly slice the bamboo shoot and stir fry it with some mushrooms or meat. I bought mushrooms along with the bamboo. I did a little reading on the internet on bamboo shoots and I read that they're supposed to be cooked thoroughly due to an acid so I decided to peel and boil it before adding it to the stir fry. Along with the mushrooms and bamboo shoot I also stir fried cubed tofu. It ended up a quite tasty dish!
Water chestnuts:I would have never guessed these are what water chestnuts start out looking like! They always come in tin cans. You wash & peel them and you can eat them raw or stir fry them (chao yi xia). We tried them raw- crunchy & not our favorite. I think next time we'll add them to stir fry.
Small taro roots:
I was told you're supposed to first wash these, then steam them (unpeeled) until soft (when poked with a chopstick). Once they're soft they easily pop out of their skins. Slice them and eat with a little bit of sugar. It's got a weird texture (it's VERY starchy; read: slimy) but it's nice with the little added sugar.
Here's chang nan gua (or at least that's what I think they called it). It's one of the MANY kinds of winter squash they have here. They just don't seem to have any pumpkins! This particular variety you buy by the kilo (they cut off how much you want...I'm pretty sure this variety of winter squash is the kind that grows HUGE.
They told me to slice the squash and steam it. I don't remember what seasoning I was supposed to use. Lia also told me it makes an excellent soup (tang...which is also the same word for sugar- so imagine my confusion when we're talking about how to prepare the veggies).
I have bought and used this winter squash variety before- I've baked it. It's a nice replacement for butternut squash. Yum!
Here are the greens I bought:
See? Don't those look like pea shoots? They do to me and they taste like it too...although my ayi disagreed. I didn't quite understand how to prepare them (I think you're supposed to quickly cook them). I ended up doing a super quick stir fry (chao yi xia) with a little garlic (suan), sesame oil and soy sauce. Yummy!!!
July 14 -
The boat harbor cruise is finished and there's still day light left...so...what else can we go see?
There is an aquarium we can go see (it's close to closing time but we can still squeeze in a quick visit) to the:
Yikes! The sharks in the tank are called ragged-tooth sharks. I was kind of hoping (even if I'm paranoid about them) to see a great white but luckily there weren't any (or is unfortunately?). These look scary enough as it is!
WOW! Loved the aquarium. It was nice to just browse through all the exhibits at our own pace and enjoy all the fish. We could have stayed there for HOURS but we're getting hungry!
It's time for dinner and all of us are ready for food (it's been a long, full and very awesome day). Where to go eat?
We're looking fro a restaurant along the V&A Waterfront (that's where we caught the harbor boat cruise). I'm positive we'll find something good to eat among the dozens of restaurants lining the walkway.
I want to eat something that you can only get in South Africa...here's a restaurant called Karibu that states it has lots of South African dishes. Yes! Let's try it!
Out door seating...with a beautiful view of Table Mountain in the background.
After dinner I decided that we should order many nearly all of the desserts to try. Oh man. I can't decide which one is my favorite! Bummer...I've forgotten the names of most of these (although I do remember Debbie telling me I have the recipe for one of these in the cookbook she gave me....hmmmm...I think I'm going to go look for it RIGHT NOW).
It's getting dark and cool (it's winter here...I know it doesn't LOOK like winter but it is). That doesn't stop from the girls from smiling (I think they're smiling because they just got to eat all kinds of desserts without being asked to eat a huge dinner first. ;-)
While we were eating our fabulous dinner there was a group of men singing South African a capella music for us diners. I enjoyed it so much we bought their CD!
After our journey up the mountain we realized we had lots of time to go check out something else in Cape Town. We decided to journey down to the harbor and walk around.
Check out this extra tall guy (and there's a ferris wheel in the background):
14 July -
Annika and I definitely have colds so look at what we're going to try taking this morning (with a cup of hot water):
I will say - the cinnamon oil makes it taste nice...and strips away your taste buds at the same time! (as I'm typing this post in October I've got a nasty head cold and I think I'll crack open the bottle I brought back from SA.)
13 July -
Today we're heading off to Stellenbosch (very well known for its vineyards). We finished our lovely breakfast at the rooibos farm and now it's time to say good bye to our hosts, Annette and Chris.
On the drive to Stellenbosch we had to drive through several road construction sites (and stops because of the road construction). At one such stop a small passenger came screaming in front of us and to a sudden halt. One of the passengers from that truck stumbled out of the truck and somehow managed to crater into and fall over a barrel standing next to the road. The other passengers and driver in the vehicle didn't get out of their truck to help but drivers and passengers from other other vehicles got out to help this man. It looked like he was VERY drunk. Extremely drunk. With some help he got back into his truck and they drove off. WEIRD!
Views from the road:
Driving to Stellenbosch we close to a town called Ceres. I've heard of this name before as it is a brand of fruit juices we can buy here in China. (The Ceres brand juices ARE from Ceres, South Africa and they're some of the best juices out there).
Croydon helping Juandre climb through the fence to get a sample of one of the plants:
We made it to Stellenbosch. According to the GPS our guest house is just down this road:
At Groenvlei Guest Farm:
Lovely green yard for Ava to run on (that's our rental house Ava is running towards):
Very pretty rooms and decor. There is only one space heater available and sadly there is no central heating system here (just as we've seen in other places in SA). It's a little chilly but at least the beds have heavy, warm blankets on them).
Here's Annika standing in the car park...our little rental house is on the left:
Debbie and I went grocery shopping at the local supermarket for breakfast supplies and I picked up some cough and cold medicine for Annika and me.
Check out this bag of charcoal I saw in the store:
We've decided to go out to dinner tonight. Just in case I haven't been clear - today is Sunday. As we're driving around Stellenbosch (it's getting dark now) we're realizing that very little is open. We found ONE restaurant open. Why oh why are things shut down on Sunday???? Does that make sense?
Here's a quick peek at part of the menu. Have you ever heard of Dros sauces....how about monkey glands???
No, we did NOT jump into the ocean. I'd rather not have that numb feeling that comes from being too cold.
Croydon took this photo of us at the beach....in the dark...because we could!:
It was a great day! It's time to call it a night and crawl under our warm blankets. Tomorrow we're heading up to Table Mountain. Yippeeeeee!!!!!!
12 July -
Wow. Today is such a mix of emotions. On the one hand, Mark is flying back home to China, so we will miss him. On the other hand, we are very excited that the rest of us get to head out on an exciting new adventure to Cape Town.
It's early morning when we say good bye to Mark (I sure hope he has an excellent flight home!). We're heading the Johannesburg airport to catch our flight on Mango...yes, you read that correctly....Mango. As in the fruit. It's also the name of an airline in South Africa. Cool beans!
So...check in at the airport was a little amusing- remember how Croydon's wallet was stolen? The credit card he used to purchased our plane tickets was also stolen. Unfortunately, you need to show the credit card you used to make the purchase the plane tickets at check-in. It took a while and a few phone calls but at last they let us check in.
That was a quick flight to Cape Town!
Today we're packing up and heading back to Jo-burg...but we'll go on a four-hour hike first and get some dinner on the road before we get there.
That house served us well!
First stop this beautiful crisp morning is at the Sabie Valley Coffee Company. Mark and I really want coffee!
We bought several bags of coffee to take back home with us.
Time to set out on the Matumi Hiking Trail...off we go!:
Hi! Remember me? I know it's been a *cough, cough* looooong time since my last post but I'm back. For now anyway. ;-)
I'd like to continue sharing with you photos from our incredible trip to South Africa. I still continue to be amazed at the fact that we actually went to Africa!
Today we're driving into Kruger National Park in Debbie's van. For some reason I had it in my head that the only way to visit Kruger was through a special safari company and in safari trucks. NOT TRUE. It's like most national parks in the USA - you can drive on the roads in your own vehicle (you do have to pay an entrance fee). The one advantage to those safari trucks is that you're sitting up high- and you can see out above the tall grasses.
Debbie and Croydon have suggested we stop at rest stop in the park to cook and eat our breakfast there. Sounds like a great idea!
Oh, and Croydon has given us an incentive- the first person to spot a large animal (upon entering the park) gets 20 Rand (about $2). You're on!
Hey, girls! See anything yet???
Our first animal is a........
Guess who spotted it first????
(me, me, me...that's who!)
Actually, there are TWO giraffes!
Debbie and Croydon asked the groundskeeper at the rest area to loan them a propane powered grill (with a curved basin). Debbie brought along bacon, eggs and toast for our yummy breakfast.
While some of the adults were busy making breakfast happen the kids saw wart hogs off in the distance. Naturally they tried to creep up for a closer look at these funny looking beasts:
Walk slowly and quietly towards the family of warthogs (sure hope they won't charge at us!):
Another giraffe. I never get tired of looking at these tall beautiful creatures. Oh, did I tell you what Debbie's friend asked the girls to do on the first evening we arrived in SA? She told them they HAD to find and take photos of giraffes as they're her favorite animal. The girls were adamant that we take photos of all the giraffes because Fransie had told them to do so. (on a side note, I'm very grateful to Fransie for suggesting this as it kept my girls engaged and interested in sight-seeing from the car (spending hours and hours in the car driving can be boring...especially to kids).
It felt nice to get out and stretch out our legs but it's time to get back in the car....
I sure love zebras. Debbie told us that they often travel with the giraffes. (apparently for protection)
The only thing we haven't seen yet (that I was hoping to see)...are elephants. It's nearly the end of the day and we have to be out of the park at a 5:30pm (gate closing).
After a full day of driving we're not in the mood to do any cooking for supper tonight. Debbie and Croydon have suggested we eat a restaurant called Spur. It supposedly serves "American" food. Hmm....curious to find out what American food is!
Although the logo appears to be a Native American I didn't see any Native American dishes on the menu. Doesn't matter! The food was good and we didn't have to cook or clean up after ourselves.... :-)
Tomorrow we're heading back to Johannesburg via a short hike in Hazyview. Can't wait!