Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cafe Ole

doesn't this roaster deserve a name?

who cannot adore a two year old who instantly shouted with glee "COFFEE BEEEEEEEEEEEEAANS!" when she saw a 5kg pail of green beans.
Miriam's testing station at Marika's - we got to not only judge but sample....the signature drink was amazing  three shots...a reduction of summer fruits, a shot of a specialty blend (geisha from malawi + pulp natural from zambia) espresso, and a cream infusion of lemon and dark chocolate....finished off with another two sips of espresso to make all the flavours explode in your mouth.  yum.

Wilderness Club Camping Trip

morning, drifting down the zambezi.  zimbabwe straight ahead.
home sweet weekend home
at the hot springs, late afternoon
The point of no return.
Lawrence, our boatman told a great story about the bare spot on the hillside....Apparently the site, which may be from a meteor hitting the hillside or from a landslide has always been (1) bare and (2) vaguely in the shape of Zambia. It's also sacred.  But you can never go there.  Anyone who HAS gone there has never returned.  It is said that if someone tries to go they will walk and walk and walk and it will always be the same distance in front of them, until suddenly, they turn around and it is behind them.  Is it a wormhole? Some wrinkle in the time/space continuum? No one knows....or ever will.

hot springs vegetation.  the water was cool enough that you could touch it but you could not hold your finger in it for more than a second or two.

golden grasses

Zim-Zam, thank you, ma'am.  TJ and the gang on the banana boat. Can you tell we had fun with the 'panorama' feature on the camera?  It's a bit gimicky but also...kind of cool.  The camera takes about 40 photos as you swing 180 degrees and stitches them together for you. I see that it doesn't really translate to the blog format.  too bad.  they are lovely and fun.  but what can you use them for (besides your fb banner?)

Zambezi River, Zambia on the left, Zimbabwe on the right, the last bend before the valley opens up. (as always, am struggling with my horizon line.  there's even a level on the display and I still always tilt 2.5 degrees.  always  2.5 degrees. there must be something medically that can be done about that.)

gigantic baobab
The kids playing in the hot springs.  We visited three geyser sites in this area.

The camp...our tent in the front with the blue cooler.

Morning boat ride.  Who is that anyway?

"I don't need a shower."

Headed upstream, toward the dam, back toward the camp (just on the right)

TJ and that dorky hat. I hate that hat.  But I always want to borrow it.

Tall Trees

The trees come down and the billboards go up.  LSK is suffering at present from what is a ridiculous invasion of billboards.  It's ugly, unsafe and ridiculous. When I drive to school today I'm going to count the number along the 2.5 km stretch of road between our residential neighbourhood and the turn off to school.  (wait for it!) Counted. From the roundabout on the main road (two lanes going each direction  with a median strip in between which has become "billboard row") to the turn off to school there are 78 commercial billboards that I could spot from the driver's seat.  O counted even more than I could safely see -- this is completely absurd, isn't it? 

I sometimes drive with the camera in the car and I never regret having it; there's always something odd, beautiful, unbelievable, annoying but interesting that "would make a good photo." I wish that the camera I have was a little more, uh, subtle -- there's no mistaking when you are in my sights.  For that reason, I don't take a lot of photos like this.

 This scene above struck me as very funny.  The guys noticed me down below and the rest of the photos (that I took while I was driving past the police checkpoint.  totally safe, totally legal, right?) all have the guys waving at me.  I wish that when YOU look at this photo you could enjoy the absurdity of the moment...the kids in the car screaming at me, the guys waving and shouting (E-WAY! ALLoOOOO MADAMEEEE!) and me laughing hysterically.

As we left town on Friday, we drove under this huge pedestrian overpass which hardly ever has a single person on it.  There was one boy on it that day -- a goatherder, and about 150 little goats!  It was one of those scenes....I didn't get a photo but we'll all remember that moment anyway....just wish I could share it.

Field + Hockey. Field hockey.

Don't ask what's going on here.  I only know what i see.  Ref.  Boys. Sticks. Ball. Lots of running and whacking.  Not a lot of yelling b/c they are running so much but also b/c they have mouthguards (aka gumshields)

Small boy, Big deal.

In America, the kid's hair would not stand out b/c until if there is a team, it's likely a girls team.  

Thing 2: he's a little bit...little.
I don't pretend to understand this sport.  It's sure fun to watch.  Hard on the head tho -- landed O at the doctor's office twice in one year...last year for the stitches and last week for a delayed concussion.

The boys are apparently both quite good and absolutely LOVE playing. In O's last game we watched him score 2 goals in 5 minutes.  Finn must have touched the ball on every single play in his first game.  He also narrowly missed getting a head to the face -- but dodged it, 'matrix' style.  Am packing medical equipment incl. steri strips.  (Where is the suture kit, dr. matty?? We may need YOU and it! )

Julia Child & Me: Torte Milanese

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appetit.” (Julia Child)

This is one amazing dish.  I'm sharing the recipe b/c it's so good I want everyone to make it.  The recipe can be adapted; I've never actually followed it.  Basil instead of spinach (I CANNOT / WILLNOT eat cooked spinach), salami instead of ham, whatever cheese I can get, and sundried tomato pesto in addition to or instead of the roasted peppers. I also double up on the eggs and add what ever fresh herbs I can find to the eggs.

I don't make it often b/c I have to make the puff pastry by hand -- but in the 1st world I'm sure you can get/buy perfectly lovely puff pastry in the freezer section of any respectable grocery store.  (i.e. NOT 7-11 or AM/PM.)  We can get it here but it's never made with butter.  (If you are in Zambia and in the mood for this deliciousness, Woolworth's at Levy Junction sometimes has one made partially with butter which I'd use if they ever stock it. And if they don't have any and you still want to make the recipe, use Kellygold or Plugra butter to make the puff pastry.)

There is no chicken-whacking going on in this recipe but you can sure add it.  

Make this with the spirit of Julia Child, don't be intimidated. It's a long but, truly & honestly, totally uncomplicated recipe. Improvise. Do all the prep for for this recipe the day before and assemble it / cook it/ the day you want to eat / devour it.  You won't regret it.

If I was in the emerald city today, I'd be making this for my mom who is in hospital recovering from a nasty fall and surgery to repair some of the many resulting broken bones that resulted.  

Feel better, mom.

1 pound puff pastry, chilled - homemade or store bought.  If using store bought, roll both sheets together for 1 lb, then cut off a 1/4 lb for the top of the torte. Use any scraps to cut out designs for the top, if desired.

For the Eggs
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
8 ounces Swiss cheese or Gruyere, thinly sliced
8 ounces smoked or honey ham, thinly sliced
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt
1. Prepare the pastry: Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set aside. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, leave a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the torte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. If using scraps for cut-out designs, like leaves, place the cut-outs on a separate plate, cover with plastiv wrap and chill in fridge along with top and lined springform pan.
2. Make the Eggs: Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. You want a loose, soft scramble since the eggs will be baking for a little over an hour.
3. Roast the peppers: place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, drop into a bowl…cover with plastic wrap and let steam (I throw them all in a paper or large ziplock bag and seal it shut) for about 20 minutes.  Use your fingers to rub off skin –DO NOT rinse under water, you lose flavor.  Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper and set aside, covered, until needed.
Alternatively, lay the peppers on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler, turning them as each side chars   Then continue to skin and seed them as instructed above.
The peppers release a lot of liquid once roasted. Make sure the peppers are dry (blot with paper towels) before adding them to the tourte. I cut up the roasted peppers because sometimes you end up with big or whole pieces pulling out with each forkful.
5. Cook the spinach: in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture. Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little heavy cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside.  Once it’s coole, squeeze as much liquid out before adding it to the tourte.
6. Assemble the Torte: Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: (quick tip: Sprinkle a little dry bread crumbs or grated Italian hard cheese on the bottom of the raw crust before adding first layer of scrambled eggs to protect against a soggy bottom crust).
  • half the eggs
  • half the spinach
  • half the ham
  • half the cheese
  • all the roasted peppers, laid flat
Continue layering in reverse order;
  • remaining half of cheese
  • remaining half of ham
  • remaining half of spinach
  • remaining half of eggs
With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the torte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.
20 minutes prior to baking; position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
7. Bake the Torte: Place the torte on a jelly-roll pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan and release the sides.  Let cool for 20 – 30 minutes before cutting.  Let it cool for 1 hour before cutting.

The perfect bag

Why is this the perfect bag? I mean besides the obvious: that it's beautiful.

The Shutterbug Bag, all packed up--but with my old camera in there b/c, uh, I had to use my camera to take the photo.
WHY is this the perfect bag?

1) because it holds my entire camera kit + video + chargers

2) because it was custom made for me

3) because it was free

I handed over the design sketches + pattern a month or so ago -- a local leather shop/workshop recently asked for new designs and put together a contest...the winning design would be put into production, named for the designer, etc.

Mine was not a winner -- not such a surprise -- how many people want/need a bag like this besides me? And what business do I have designing a bag?  But GUESS WHAT?  They called the other day to tell me to come pickup my bag.  "My sketches?" no.... your bag!  we made it for you!

Aw, shucks, really?

The coolest thing about being a designer is seeing your designs alive and out in the world.  Typically the work I do is 2D and I get to see photos, postcards, flyers, brochures, billboards or digital output....but the 3D work is somehow such a surprise when it's finally out there in the world.  The cafes and shops and office spaces that were once in my head and on the computer are now real live spaces with real live people in them and using them and enjoying the million small decisions made about colours and textures and materials and where to put this, that and the other thing.

I've been shopping for ages for the perfect bag and when I couldn't find it* I thought I'd just make it.  There are a few companies that sell these camera bag inserts -- cool b/c they basically turn any messenger bag into an instant camera bag. The insert came finally and I was glad to see it's a perfect fit.  (*Actually, I did find the perfect bag for less than $1,000 but it was so far out of any budget scenario that it remained a distant dream). 

If anyone wants their own Village Chicken Shutterbug Bag, I'll gladly put in your order.  They have some beautiful colors (browns, reds, blues) but I wanted basic black) and get it to you.  You too can have a beautiful bag, HAND MADE IN ZAMBIA from Zambian cows, tanned at a zambian factory (this one, in fact!) and stitched at a workshop just up the road.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Le Gioconde

Posing like Lisa Gherardini (The Lady Lisa or....the Mona Lisa) was so tiring even though I only posed for a few minutes.  I can't imagine doing that for hours while Leonardo da Vinci painted.  I would probably fall asleep for I would be too bored and tired.

When we set this photo shoot up I paid attention to:  what clothes she wore, how her hair was, how her hands were (and no, she is not holding a duck in the original like I have seen in some copies!), what her face looked like, where she was looking, etc.  I found out one reason why she looks a bit strange, too.  She has hardly any eyebrow!  Some historians say that during the time it was painted (1503-1505) it was popular or fashionable for ladies to pluck or pull out their eyebrows and eyelashes.  It may have been, but scans done of the oil-on-wood painting in 2007 show that her eyebrows may have been darker before but the painting has been cleaned so many times that they have been cleaned right off.

I wanted to copy the painting as much as I could so...I plucked my eyebrows!  Just kidding. I 'erased' them on the computer.  I didn't notice until after we took the photo that Mona Lisa was wearing a veil over her hair.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first artists to paint imaginary backgrounds and also the first to paint ones like this -- it looks as if she's sitting on a balcony very high up -- the background is VERY far into the distance.

People always say that when they see the painting in person (at Le Louvre in Paris) that they are surprised by how small it is.  I have heard this so I was actually surprised to learn that it is 76.8 cm tall by 53 cm wide, about 30 inches by 20 inches. It is BIGGER than I thought!

While the person in the picture is said to be Lisa Ghererdini, this is not certain.  In Italian the painting is titled "La Gioconda" which means 'the happy one' or 'the jovial one'.  In French it is called "La Joconde" which means the same thing.  In English, the painting is called the Mona Lisa, which back-translated would mean "The Lady Lisa."

This photo we made is called "Le Gioconde" or "Le Giocondini"

For school Y6 is doing biographies, O picked Leonardo da Vinci; they share a passion for inventions.  Because he always tends to cut and paste pictures from the internet without thinking too much about it, mean ole mom made him think of something different and this was a good Sunday morning project.  He's got some other great ideas to make this topic come to life, including comparing his sketches of flying machines with the modern-day planes, parachutes and helicopters, etc. I'll bet we find some ideas that are still waiting to be made reality!