Monday, June 7, 2010

Things I'll miss, things I won't, and things I can't wait to do!

I often think about things that I'll miss once we leave South Africa - and sometimes also the things I won't miss... and definitely the things I can't wait to do. I have a feeling this blog will turn into this theme as we start to count down to October!

I miss running. I really miss running with a group. I miss my Team in Training buddies. I miss running for a good cause. I miss having friends to go on a run with. I miss running at a regular elevation instead of a mile high in the sky. I miss having a mostly flat road to run on (although the hills here are pretty incredible).

I'm starting to think a couple things...
(1) Could I really wake up before work and go for a run? Could I? Is it possible to get up at 6:30, go for a quick 20+ minute run, shower, and get ready for work? If I did this just three times a week, how good would this be? I'll be honest: I'm not running now. It seems to me that I am just not getting to the gym as often as I can and after work, we just have to much going on. It would be great to fit in a quick run if I could and it looks like the start of the day may be my best bet.

That being said, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and run at 6:30 and then get ready for work. There. I'll see what its like!

(2) I want to start training for a race for when I return... Whether its a fun 5K in Knoxville one weekend with KTL (Buddy's Race Against Cancer 5k November 14, Jingle Bells Run for Arthritis 5K December 11) or a half marathon later on (Disney Half?)... ideas?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My favorite things: Kitchen edition!

So maybe it took a few months, but here is the entry I promised on my favorite things in the kitchen! These are pieces I use on a regular basis (i.e. at least once a week, if not every time I cook!) and when using them, I always think - I should tell people about how great these things are! So here we go...

Le Creuset cookware: Whether its my dutch oven, my heart shaped pot, or my bakeware (perfect for enchiladas!), I swear by Le Creuset. I love it for the even cooking it provides, but adore it even more for its easy clean up - its ridiculous how easy food comes off these pieces! Bonus: it looks great on the stove! Amazon often has deals on Le Creuset, but you can also check out outlets. At the GA Premium outlets, there is a Le Creuset outlet as well as a Williams-Sonoma outlet that also carries very inexpensive Le Creuset. Its worth every single penny and will last forever!

All-Clad copper core: This set was an incredible wedding gift from my parents. We use these pieces on a regular basis, but are specifically in love with the covered saute pan (which I use to make PW's chicken parm and my family's fantastic beef/kudu/impala stroganoff).

Lodge cast iron skillet
: If you don't own one of these (we have 4 - no jokes), buy one. It may be the best $19 you've ever spent. I love my cast iron skillet - for making caramelized onions (and blue cheese onion sauce), frying up bacon and cooking eggs in the grease, and more. Here's a tip: I love fried eggs, but I've always had trouble flipping them and keeping them in tact. I cheat my breaking them in the pan and then covering them with this lid - the lid will cook them from the top with no need to flip the egg. Easy!

Microplane 4 sided box grater: I use this guy ALL the time. Its a bit difficult to find grated cheese here in SA so its fabulous to be able to grate my own cheese. This grater makes it super easy. I also love my hand held zester for parmesan.

Oxo Salad Spinner: Another item used practically on a daily basis. I am one of those people that even though it says the salad in the bag is washed, I still give it another rinse before using. In addition, its useful for spinning off excess salad dressing if you've overdressed a salad. I also adore this Crate and Barrel salad bowl - super easy to clean and nice, high sides for tossing. We also use this pepper mill to season our salads - we love how it creates a great fine dusting of crushed peppercorns. We also love this olive oil spritzer.

Rice Cooker
: I'm not a big rice eater, but I do love spanish rice, cheesy rice, and wild rice from time to time. I have a tough time making rice on the stove. This microwave rice cooker makes cooking rice a snap! Rice is ready in 12 minutes or less rather than the 24 minutes it takes on the stove top. Its also great for boiling potatoes and green beans as well as steaming broccoli in the microwave.

Martha Stewart citrus press
: Looks like this guy is unavailable, but I love mine. The blue color is fantastic and its so handy to have one of these for squeezing lemons and limes.

Chalk board cheese plate: Love it. Love it so much, I bought a 2nd one.

Electric cordless kettle: I can't live without this. I never used one before moving to SA, but these are in every home here. Its great for making tea and coffee as well as pre-boiling water for dishes. It just makes everything that much faster!

Food processor: One day I'll have a nicer one. One day. But for now, this one is really great. From shredding cheese to making PW's restaurant style salsa and caesar dressing to just having something to cut up veggies, it works great and the price is right.

Pizza pan: Will and I disagree on this one (he hates the holes), but I love this pizza pan. Its perfect for tortilla pizzas - in fact, I think its fairly necessary.

Covered brownie pan: Love it! I use it for more than brownies, whether that's right or wrong - I just love the size! Its also great for corn souffle.

Wine decanter: A must for any wine lover. In SA, wines can be a bit corky - the decanter helps the wine breath and also help catch cork bits that would otherwise wind up in your glass.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Long time, no post

A lot has happened since my last post in March...

We went to Swaziland with mom and dad and had an amazing time. We had our own two-bedroom cabin (complete with working fireplace and wrap-around porch) in the Mlilwane reserve, home to several rehabilitated species that I hadn't seen on other safaris in Africa. We had an incredible safari in the Mkhaya reserve for endangered species. While we didn't see black rhino, we sure did get up close and personal with about 12 elephants and got trumpeted at. Awesome. We bought incredible glass souvenirs, hand-woven baskets, and handmade jewelry. Perfect, incredible trip.

In April, we set the date to move back to the USA: October 20, 2010. There was just something special about 10/20/2010 that it seemed right. We'll set foot on USA soil on 10/21/2010 and probably take a couple weeks off work to figure out where to live, what to do about a car, ahhhhhhhhh. Very scary, but very, very exciting. I will have been gone from the USA for over 27 months. As the song says, "Still in peaceful dreams I see the road leads back to you..."

I traveled to Namibia for work twice - once in April, once in May. I'm wishing we had time to go back, but I'm thinking it just won't happen while we're here unless we take some serious time off work before we head back and I'm not sure that I can. We really wanted to go out to the desert at Sossusvlei, but oh well - it may just not be meant to be for now.

Our buddy Zach is here and we're so happy to have company again! We just got back from a 3 night stay in Cape Town - quite possibly the best trip to Cape Town yet! We stayed at an awesome apartment in Kalk Bay with ocean views, heated floors, and cable TV. Its one of the first times when the pictures on the website look EXACTLY like the place! We ate at Cafe Olympia no less than 4 times - potato & bacon soup, tomato & lentil soup, linguine del mar, scrambled egg breakfast with arugula (why is that so very good???), french toast croissants (sinful), and massive fresh berry parfaits. Yum, yum, yumyumyum.

We did the great white shark trip I've been dreaming of forever and yes, not only did I see lots of great white sharks, I did see one jump out of the water for a seal! And the seal got away - awesome (or not? Ask yourself!)! It was amazing to be a part of the circle of life. Will and Zach got in the cage and took some amazing close-up pics of the sharks. Its surprising how gentle they actually are - its not at all like you see on TV with them munching on the side of a boat. Who knows. The only bad thing was I got terribly sea sick and yammied not once, but twice over the side of the boat. I was too sick to get in the cage, let alone shimmy into a wet suit. The waves were super choppy that day and I don't feel bad as half the people on the boat joined me in hanging over the side of the boat. It was so bad, I stayed sea sick the rest of the day, even after we got off the boat!

We had a full day Monday, which was also Zach's birthday. After breakfast at Cafe Olympia, we visited our new buddy Dragana Jevtovic and bought an insane amount of her beautiful guinea fowl pottery. I now own a soup tureen. So exciting. While there, we got didgeridoo lessons - who knew?

Afterwards, we headed to Lindhorst Winery, for a private lunch and cellar tour with the owner, Mark Lindhorst. They made these awesome steak sandwiches with little soft rolls and a horseradish/mustard sauce, as well as a yumtastic mushroom sauce. The cellar tour was incredible - we tasted straight from the barrel! Very interesting to taste the flavors that start off his amazing wines. We had such a good time, the sun set on us.

We then went to dinner at the 12th restaurant in the world, La Colombe. WOW. It was like southern food meets France. No jokes - we had "pork crackling" served with honey - yes, fancy pork rinds! I had springbok tartare and veal medallions with morel mushrooms (MY FAVORITE) and a yummy zinfandel. The food was incredible! They topped it off with bringing us desserts that said "Happy Birthday" for Zach and "Happy Anniversary" for me and Will. Very special and very fun.

On our last day, we had breakfast at Cafe Olympia and took the drive up Chapman's Peak, which is so stunningly beautiful. We then decided to lunch on the beach at Camp's Bay, finally settling at Paranga for incredible sushi with ocean views. So relaxing, so fantastic, so perfect. I will think on that moment and the subsequent walk on the beach for years to come. Just a perfect, perfect day.

We're back in Pretoria and work is starting to pick up for the end of the FY. Next weekend is USA vs. England (YAY) plus Pilanesberg safari time. I can't wait!